Do You Ever Think About Your To-Do List During Sex?
Living in a fast-paced, connected society makes it difficult to be mentally present. Smartphones, TV, Slack messages and social media keep our minds in motion at all times. The incessant notifications and reminders create a life full of to-do lists, and over the course of the day, taking time to turn off, relax and be present can be difficult. For many people, their sex lives aren't spared.
Your headspace can be affected due to focus issues, work life, sexual chemistry or even the location of where you're having sex. There are many situations that can contribute to the kinds of wandering thoughts you may experience during sex. But you're not alone.
"It is highly common and very normal for people's minds to wander during sex," said Gina Senarighi, Ph.D., a clinical professional counselor and couples therapist. "Some of the most common thoughts people have are about performance anxiety, body shame or worries about others seeing or hearing them. These folks are usually very excited about their sexual connection and relationship, but that excitement turns into sexual pressure."
Here, four people explain what causes their mind to wander during sex and what remedies, if any, propelled them back into the moment.
David, 34, director in the entertainment industry
While visiting his family with a former girlfriend, David couldn't keep his head in the game while performing cunnilingus.
"She was moaning pretty loudly, and I became a little concerned and started to feel weird thinking that my parents could hear her," he admitted.
David said he was pretty quickly distracted by the idea of getting caught and his worry about what might happen made him lose focus.
"It brought back the memory of my parents walking in on me masturbating in the bathroom on a family vacation," he said, "and I started to laugh."
When David wasn't able to shake the juvenile flashback and focus on his task at hand (mouth?), his partner lost interest.
"I felt bad for embarrassing her. I told her all this, and she was pretty understanding," he said. "But it definitely took her out of the moment."
Jo, 42, nanny
A lack of sexual chemistry between partners can be a factor for people to start thinking about other things (and people?) instead of the body in front of them.
"Basically, it happens when I'm not into it," Jo said. "I've mostly just waited for it to be over and then didn't have sex with that person again because sex usually makes any nonsexual thoughts go away."
Jo, who's now in a long-term relationship, said that realizing someone's mind is elsewhere during sex can be a major turn-off for her.
"I completely notice if my partner is having wandering thoughts," she said. "It's a very weird feeling because turning someone on turns me on more than anything. And I feel like I'm not doing that if their thoughts are wandering and it totally kills the mood for me, both when I've asked about it and when I haven't."
Laura, 35, communications professional and music journalist
Some people can't seem to clock out after a long day at the office. Laura's looming work deadline, mixed with a lack of chemistry with her partner, contributed to her lack of focus.
"My mind started to wander thinking about the promotional copy I had to write to launch Microsoft 365 to our company," she said. "I ended up writing all the copy in my head, while the sex was happening. I got up the next day and wrote it word for word at work."
Laura didn't mind that she was totally out of it while getting laid, and since her partner didn't notice, either, it ended up being a win-win situation.
Morgan, 31, librarian
For Morgan, most of her struggles with focus and sex are when she's been half-asleep before she and her partner start getting into the act.
"I'll start to think about what I have to get done the next day or what happened on the 'Real Housewives,' something completely dumb, and then I have to remind myself to focus," she said.
Morgan, who is currently in a relationship, also noted that her partner doesn't seem to notice. She added, "I've read enough research to know that the best way to ensure you both have a good time is to focus on the task at hand and not all of your to-do list for the next day."
Although her mind does wander during sex and other tasks, Morgan noted that it is something everyone does on occasion, especially in long-term relationships.
Don't worry if your thoughts wander a bit during sex
It's not unusual for people to have invasive thoughts during sex, like having an image of a delicious sandwich pop into your mind or suddenly thinking of a family member.
"Our minds do funny and surprising things sometimes," Senarighi said, "and unless the thoughts start coming more frequently or interrupt your ability to connect with your experience or your partners', I wouldn't let it trouble you."
The next time you find your mind drifting, try some tips from Senarighi:
Recenter yourself by breathing in and exhaling deeply.
Focus on what is happening in the moment and hone in on how sex makes you feel.
When you feel something pleasurable, communicate exactly what you're enjoying to your partner.
Listen to the sound of your breathing or heartbeat.
These tips aren't a guaranteed solution—sometimes, we just have way too much on our mind. If distractions are getting in between you and your partner's sexual relationship, talk to them about it. There are ways to work through it and enjoy your sex life— wandering thoughts or not.