Have you grown so distant from your partner that sex seems awkward? Here's help to begin the talk.
The amount of patients I see that are unhappy with their sex lives is beyond what anyone could imagine. Many of these couples have been married for five, ten or twenty years and they report that they are awkward and dissatisfied with the type and frequency of sex they have. Our society leads us to believe that it is women, not men, who are more uncomfortable when talking about sex, but this isn’t true. Men are usually the ones who initiate counseling when they are feeling emotionally distressed about the sex in their relationship. Some of the discomfort comes from a sex life that has never been satisfying, and the person is afraid of hurting their partner by bringing it up. Couple often grow distant physically and became involved with their kids, personal interests, and work, and then stop having sex. Suddenly the kids are gone, their career goals have changed, they have more time, and they may find themselves sitting on the sofa with their spouse watching the news and wondering, “Is this all there is?” They miss the closeness, the excitement, and the pleasure sex brought them.
Books such as “The Sex Starved Marriage” offer advice and validation for the person who misses and wants sex, but has a partner unwilling to participate. However, what do you do when you have been an equal participant in letting your sex life grow stale, and find yourself wondering how to get it back? How do you approach your spouse to talk about this issue without them feeling criticized or overwhelmed when it has been a year or longer since you last had sex? Couples talk about sex frequently when dating and engaged. This conversation usually becomes less frequent the longer couples are married. Other issues such as buying a house, working, having kids, or decorating the house replace sex talk. This is unfortunate because keeping an open dialogue about sex, what you like, and how much your partner pleases you helps build a strong foundation for your marriage. Kids, houses, and work stress couples out and leads to anxiety. Sex decreases anxiety, depression, health issues and reportedly provides a sense of togetherness and well-being. This enhances a marriage and leads to marriage longevity.
The most difficult part of communicating with your partner about sex is how to begin the conversation. This article will provide the initial conversation opener. I recommend you print this and write in the margin, “Can we talk about how we can connect more sexually?” Put it in a place where your partner will see it. Then, without pressuring your partner, watch for their response. We all communicate, although not directly at times. Watch your partner’s non-verbal behavior as they read the article. Avoid being accusing or passive, but be sure to state your desire to learn better ways to communicate sexually. Below are a few other suggestions that may help you break the ice and have a good “sex talk.”
1. The bathtub is a wonderful place to have a conversation dealing with sex. It is warm, smells good, and you have face to face eye contact. It is difficult to feel defensive in the water. Usually bath time presents as being time for you. Water is calming and familiar from our beginnings in the womb.
2. It is best to begin by telling your partner you miss them sexually. Ask them how they feel about sex and then listen. Complaining or demanding your needs will make your partner withdraw. It is important to be aware of any resentment that may be underneath not having sex. Resentment can kill both the libido and relationship.
3. Start out by touching again. Ask your partner where they like to be touched and then touch them. Ask them for feedback.
4. You will have more success if you plan at least 15 minutes of each day to talk about your sex life.
5. Don’t expect your partner to read your mind. If you don’t like the way they touch you in a certain area of your body, guide them to an area that feels better.
6. Watching love stories or listening to music together while lying in bed or on the couch presents a wonderful way to begin the conversation in regards to your own sexual feelings.
7. Men place a lot of value on their ability to please their woman. Women should take note of this and explore other areas that may feel good. The underside of the upper arm is very sensitive to touch. Beginning here may be a good alternative and less invasive than touching the breasts.
8. Talk about how you feel about your body as you have changed through the years. You may have felt your partner didn’t find you attractive, when it was simply a matter of awkwardness on your partner’s part in being sexual after a long while without engaging.
9. Talking about the kids, the house, or work is not advisable when exploring your sexuality. Talking about happy memories or silly things is much better. Laughing makes sex talk easier and makes sex better.
10. There is nothing wrong with not having a strong sex drive. Many couples have sex once a month and are happily married. The problem arises when one partner has a strong drive and the other partner doesn’t. Negotiate. Sex is more than intercourse; feeling loved and desired is important to all of us.
A healthy couple understands that being unbalanced at times in your relationship is actually healthy. Sometime kids do take precedence. Jobs are all consuming at different times, as well as buying and decorating a new home. However, when life becomes so consuming that you continually put sex on the back burner you are jeopardizing the health of your marriage. Couples need to connect and enjoy one another sexually. In a healthy marriage no one should ever have to apologize that they desire and want sex with their spouse. However, the way in which that need is communicated usually predicts if and when sex happens. –Mary Jo Rapini
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