Ask Emily: How Do I Tell My Partner I Don’t Like Something?

Dear Emily,

I’m having a problem. My partner and I have, overall, fantastic sex…but. He’s not the world’s best kisser. It’s a little slobbery? And I’m always wiping my mouth in what I think is a pretty obvious way, to indicate “yo your spit is all over me,” but that hasn’t changed things at all. I feel like I need to be more direct about it but don’t know how to do it in a way that’s tactful. What would you recommend?

–WTF (Wet in The Face)

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Dear Wet in The Face,

I’m so glad you wrote in to ask me this! A) because kissing is such a big piece of foreplay, but also because B) this gets at a larger issue that’s incredibly common: giving our partners feedback, on things we don’t like during sex.

A loooong time ago, I was so afraid of giving my partners any type of feedback at all, so I slid into performative sex mode: doing all the “right” sounds, making all the “right” faces, but it was a show. I wasn’t actually feeling that ecstasy. This is a rut so many of us get into, because we’re afraid to be radically honest about what we like and don’t like. If you’re a recovering people-pleaser like me, then it’s easy to let this kind of stuff slide…until it hardens into incredulity or resentment. “I keep wiping my mouth – why aren’t they getting the message?”

But here’s the thing: you can say your piece in a way that’s compassionate, rather than judgemental. And you can also make it sexy! Try this:

The Compliment Sandwich

You might be familiar with this one already, but this is a straightforward communication technique: tell them something you love, first. Next, offer the feedback. Finally, end with something else positive. Here’s an example:

“It’s sooo hot when you hold my hips during foreplay, when we’re just getting started. And when we’re kissing, could you try it with a less open mouth, since I think mine is smaller than yours? Can’t wait to see how that feels…during foreplay and during the rest of it, too.”

Show rather than tell.

Another way to ask for what you want is to show them yourself. Next time you’re about to kiss (during foreplay), ask them: 

“Hey, can I show you how I LOVE to be kissed? You just relax – and I’ll demonstrate.”

I’m thinking the problem here is a pretty simple function of mechanics: they’re opening their mouth wider than you are. But this technique applies across the board: you can use it to show them the kind of touch you like during bed, the erogenous zones you want them to pay attention to, etc. 

Back to kissing, though: you can use this “demo” as a way to set the pace and tone of the kiss, asking them to mimic what you do. 

Set aside time to express what you both love.

Drawing from my Three T’s Guide, you can also pick a time and neutral place (not during sex: say, chill time on your couch) to chat about things you both love – and want more of. See if you can find a way to reframe the slobbery kiss problem into an opportunity, to try out a new kissing technique. “I’ve been thinking about our foreplay, and I want to experiment with different ways to kiss as we build the tension. Maybe no tongue at first? And keeping our mouths just slightly open, as we first start out.”

Go for the kill.

My last suggestion is to simply be forthright and honest – no beating around the bush. 

“I love it when you kiss me with a slightly smaller mouth,” for example, and then when they do, use lots of positive reinforcement. “That’s perfect,” “Exactly,” “I love it like this” are all kind, sensual responses you can offer when they do it how you want. 

Telling your partner you don’t like something isn’t as scary as it sounds if you think of it as a way to ask for more pleasure. Think of it: you’re greedy for them! That’s hot as hell, for you and them both. So see if any of these tips help you express your desires out loud, reframing the critique as a request. Good luck!