5 Fixes for Saying the Wrong Name in Bed

Dear Em & Lo, 

I like this man so much. But I called him my ex’s name when he was going down on me and I wasn’t even thinking of my ex or anything! I was with my ex for 2 years and this guy 3 months. I’m done with my ex but the new guy is mad. It’s been a couple of days, but I notice things are different now. I’m scared he will leave. 

— Shoe Eater

Dear SE,

We feel your pain. And so do a lot of other people! It’s a common mistake many people make with new partners, especially if they’re coming off a long-term relationship. Here are 5 fixes for this kind of fuck-up, some of which are inspired by our own readers’ responses to previous advice questions on this exact topic:

1. Put yourself in their shoes. As one reader of ours, Diz, asked, How would you like it if they called you by their ex’s name while you were doing it? It would suck! So sympathize with them, validate their feelings, and understand their need to distance themselves a bit. Don’t get defensive or be dismissive of their hurt. 

2. Emphasize the meaninglessness. Reassure your partner that this was simply a case of misfired synapses, not a Freudian slip. (You can mention that Freud was a creative crackpot whose theories have mostly been debunked.) You were in the moment, you weren’t thinking clearly (you weren’t really thinking at all!), and it just popped out like an old habit or muscle memory. Press upon them that there is no hidden meaning here, you weren’t thinking about your ex, you’re not still hung up on your ex, you weren’t comparing your current partner to your ex — it was just a stupid brain fart. 

3. Keep it light. While you should apologize, reader Evan suggests you don’t need to act like you got caught cheating or took away their ice cream cone. It was a silly mistake! If your partner has a decent sense of humor, then making a joke out of it is usually a good way to go. Another commenter of  ours, Marty, did just that: “Realizing what had just happened, I started rattling off other girls’ names, with each one getting a punch in my shoulder [from my girlfriend]. Then she grabbed a pillow and started in [on me] by name 30.  [Finally, she] giggled and started laughing. I survived and was in better standing than ever before.

4. Stroke their ego. Convince your partner that you are totally into them and only them. Make it clear that they are better than your ex in every way. Be present and mindful in your relationship from here on out. And don’t just do this in the moment — in fact, as reader Hannah suggests, you may want to hold off until you’re out of the bedroom to avoid appearing like you’re protesting too much — fluff them up throughout the entirety of your relationship (good advice whether you’ve blurted out someone else’s name or not). 

5. Implement a No-Name Policy. If you really don’t trust yourself to use the right name in the heat of the moment, at least with a new partner, then make a habit of not employing proper names; instead, use generic nicknames like “Baby.” As commenter Epiphany told us, “‘Oh God’ seems to work just fine.”


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  1. I think there’s only one way out of this… the ol’ run-with-it: “Oh yes… Oh yes, MIKE… WAS SO MUCH WORSE AT THIS THAN YOU! Yeah, that’s the ticket! My stupid ex Mike. He was so bad at giving head! But you’re the best. Don’t stop.”

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