Speak up WITHOUT hurting his feelings.
By Jenna Birch
Even a strong and assertive woman can find herself inexplicably quiet in the bedroom. Why is it so hard to tell him that he’s just not hitting the spot?
According to psychologist Kristen Carpenter, PhD, Director of Women’s Behavioral Health at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, we don’t speak up primarily because women aren’t often taught how to voice their feelings about sex.
“It’s an incredibly sensitive topic, and women are afraid of hurting their partner’s feelings or insulting them,” Carpenter explains. “A suggestion often feels like a criticism—and we’re not socialized to talk about sex in that way. In Sex Ed, there was never a conversation about pleasure or how to obtain it, or what happens if something goes wrong—aside from getting pregnant or an STD.”
This type of thinking is what leads to loads of women who are unsatisfied in the sack and unable to express themselves effectively—just sort of falling into their sex lives. Doesn’t exactly sound thrilling, right?
Fortunately, a ho-hum sex life doesn’t have to be your fate. Here’s how to start the conversation about likes and dislikes, how to convey a clear message in the moment and spare feelings in the process. (Let’s talk about sex, baby.)
Outside the bedroom...
Start with a check-in.
Carpenter says discussions about sex should come up in the course of normal couple conversation—even if it’s not your usual thing.
“If there’s a real problem or something you really didn’t like, talking about it outside the bedroom is best,” she says.
What you don’t want to do is voice a qualm to your guy while he’s “in the afterglow,” so to speak, which is supposed to be a time of positive vibes. So sleep on it and bring it up when you’re both out of the moment. Maybe over a glass of wine at dinner the next night or while you’re on the couch, catching up on Netflix.
Be direct about what you do like.
There’s an old joke about men along this sentiment: if you tell a dude you like something, there’s a good chance he’ll do it over and over and over. So, why not be clear about what turned you on? Be direct about the positives, and don’t be shy, says Carpenter.
“Talk about the positives the next day,” she insists. “Say, ‘I love that we took it slow last night.’” And if you’d rather he stop something, if it was uncomfortable or displeasing, just sandwich the negative between a couple positives (compliment sandwich, anyone?).
Bottom line: most men looooove when they are personally responsible for your sexual satisfaction. A caring partner wants you to enjoy yourself. So, focus on those moments when you did—and (hint, hint) hope to again in the future!
Another bonus? The more you tell him what you like, the more likely he’ll ruminate and focus on those things. You may just crowd out the stuff you don’t like, naturally, in the process.
Between the sheets...
Continuously flag the good.
Subtlety can work wonders as you’re in the throes of action—and the benefits should build over time the more you strategically speak up, says Carin Goldstein, LMFT, a marriage and relationship therapist in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
“It’s so easy for men to feel like they’re doing something wrong, but it’s not about right or wrong,” she explains. “It’s about being in sync, and all women’s bodies are different.” So, when he does something you really like? Say it. Right there. “Just flag it,” Goldstein says. “Keep it very actionable, but in a positive way.”
Work on redirecting, not criticizing.
Now, for the not-so-good. If he keeps reverting to a move or position you don’t like? Redirect his attention as you move through the paces, says Carpenter. Use complimentary language as he pushes the right buttons, not criticizing or complaining words if something falls flat. Don’t leave him hanging on a negative.
“Avoid saying things like, ‘Please, don’t do that, do this instead,’” Carpenter says. “In the moment, it should be more of a transition or deflection toward the good, reinforcing the behaviors that are working for you.”
Make it a point to build this sort of open conversation into your sex life, in and out of the bedroom, and everything will start to flow so much better between the sheets. It’ll be natural and normal to talk about sex, rather than an awkward ordeal.
And the clear upside? Well, you can picture that part for yourself.
This article was originally published at Self. Reprinted with permission from the author.