Disagreements about sex are common in relationships. We also often lack necessary skills when it comes to talking about sex, due to a lot of the myths we have likely been raised with, such as, “Sex should be natural and spontaneous. It’s not natural to talk about sex,” or “Sex is bad/dirty,” or “Talking about sex takes the romance and mystery out of it.” We feel scared, unprepared, and awkward, and the outcome is often avoidance or defensiveness.
Variations about sexual wants and desires are common. The main key is to learn to talk about these issues in a way that is not angry and defensive, but supportive and positive, so that couples can get past whatever issues are plaguing their relationship and sex life and start enjoying not just sex again, but each other.
First, let me dispel the myths for you. Our lovely media industries would have you believe that great sex just happens naturally. I am here to tell you that great sex can happen with communication and cooperation. We are not mind readers, nor are all women the same. In actuality, as sexual beings, our expressions of and needs for sex are as individual and unique as we are. If everyone is unique, how can anyone possibly know what to do all the time? Via communication, of course! But how you communicate is the secret to a great relationship.
The key to a great sex life starts with a sweet word. Arguments, defensiveness, and avoidance, whether it is about sex or not, sends a message to our partner that we are not interested in their well-being, and that we are only interested in protecting our feelings. It’s one-sided and it’s not genuine.
So, here are the seven steps I recommend to start talking your way to a better relationship and sex life today. Whether the conversation is about sex or about who is going to do the dishes is not important; it’s how you say it that really matters.
- Learn to calm and relax yourself. If a conversation is making you angry, anxious, or frustrated, learning to self-soothe is key. If you respond from an angry place, or if you are anxious, nervous, or scared, you are likely to say things you don’t mean, things that are hurtful, point blame, and/or criticize. Practice breathing. Take long deep breaths and count to 10. Go outside for some fresh air. It’s okay to say, “I will be right back, I need a break.” Practice breathing often, not just during a heated conversation, but while driving, while at your desk, even while relaxing. Breathing is at the core of becoming calm. And the absolute best time to talk is when you are calm.
- Be nonjudgmental. Shut your critical and emotional mind off and really listen to what your partner is saying. Empathize by putting yourself in your partner shoes, if you need to.
- Use positive “I” language. This is also about remembering to avoid blaming, pointing the finger, criticizing, and judging. Instead say things about your feelings. For example, instead of saying, “You don’t even try to please me,” try this: “I really feel unsatisfied with our lovemaking these days.” Focus on using “I feel” and avoid using “you” in the sentence.
- Employ active listening skills: Summarize, paraphrase, or repeat what your partner has said. This is an easy way to let your partner know you have heard them and can, often, diffuse an angry situation. If your partner says, “I am angry and sexually frustrated these days, and you don’t seem to care about sex.” Instead of responding defensively, which might be your inkling, this is a great opportunity for you to make the conversation productive. You can respond by saying, “It sounds like you are feeling dissatisfied with our sex life. Perhaps we could find a solution.”
- Touch while talking. Holding your partner’s hand or putting your hand on his/her knee can remind you and your partner that you are on his/her side, and that you two are in this together. It promotes intimacy.
- Provide compliments. Compliments are a big part of positive talk. It’s important for our partners to feel recognized, and appreciated. I recommend a minimum of three compliments a day. The best way to catch a bee is with sugar.
- Avoid blaming language and certain behaviors, such as:
- Words like “should” or “need to,” sound like you know more than your partner, are judging their actions, and are giving advice. These types of statements can lead to feelings of resentment and power struggle. The key is to maintain balance in the relationship.
- “Why” questions, such as “Why does it take you so long to orgasm?,” or “Why don’t you ever initiate?” Instead try, “I would love it if we could take turns initiating.” Practice using questions that start with “what,” “who,” “when,” “where,” and “how,” for example “What would you like me to do to you?”
- Talking right after sex. Instead, find a quiet time when you are not rushed or too angry to have a calm talk about each others needs.
- Absolute statements, such as “never” and “always.” For example, “I never have an orgasm with you.” This may be true, but it creates defensiveness. Many of these statements are exaggerations. Instead try, “I would like to find a way for us to achieve orgasm together.”
© Copyright 2011 by Mou Wilson. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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