Sometimes it may seem that the one sexual issue in the relationship is at the root of our arguements, anger, frustration and resentment that seems to be building in the relationship. Yes, this in fact may seem true, especially when sexual issues can be really hard to talk about.
I've found, however, that while disagreements about sex may seem to be the hang up, there are often underlying issues and feelings that are circulating over and over in the relationship that seem to get caught up or stuck when it comes to the sex stuff.
On the one hand, I definitely think that as a society we were never schooled with the right techniques, or information for that matter, when it comes to sex and how to talk about it and deal with sexual issues when they come up. And on the other hand, I don't think we ever really truly are taught how to communicate with each other, in general. I think that we are either too polite and not assertive enough, which leads to not stating our needs enough, or the other extreme, being overly self-oriented or self-indulgent. It's hard to strike a balance.
So, I've gathered up the top communication techniques most therapists consider to be the best kept secrets in the field. Whether it be about sex or something else, in the end these techniques can lead to more satifying personal and intimate relationships, sexual and/or not and may make giving and recieving much easier and fulfilling. And in terms of sex, you'll have to get the education elsewhere. But do get educated on sex, and do so with your partner if you have to. I have many articles on the subject of sex on this site so feel free to peruse them.
With that said, disagreements about sex is common in relationships. Due to a lot of the myths we have likely been taught or raised with such as, “Sex should be natural and spontaneous. It’s not natural to talk about sex,” or, “Sex is bad” (or “dirty”), or, “Talking about sex takes the romance and mystery out of it,” we also often lack the skills when it comes to talking about sex. We often feel scared, unprepared, and awkward when talking about sex, and the outcome is often, unfortunately and to the detriment of our relationship and lives, avoidance or defensiveness when it comes to talking about sex.
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 in the process.
First, let me dispel a few myths for you. Our lovely media, television and movie 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 like good old Prince Charming appeared to be in Cinderella, nor are all women created equally, which Cinderella suggests by her passive acceptance of his gallant gestures. This is a sweet fairy tale, but obviously one-dimensional. 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 any Prince Charming possibly know what to do all the time? Via communication, of course, but furthermore, how you communicate is the secret to a great relationship.
Arguments, defensiveness and avoidance, whether it is about sex or not at all, send a message to our partners 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 found and now recommend to start talking your way to a better relationship and sex life today. Whether the conversation be about sex or about who is going to do the dishes is not important; it’s how you say it that really matters.
1. The first technique I always suggest learning is self-soothing. 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, that are hurtful, that point blame, and /or criticize. So do 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 to get some air.” 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 relaxing. And, the absolute best thing to do is talk when you are calm.
2. Be non-judgmental. Shut your critical and emotional mind off and really listen to what your partner is saying. Put yourself in your partner shoes, if you need to.
3. Use positive “I” language. This is also about remembering to avoid blaming, pointing the finger, criticizing and judging, and instead saying 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.
4.. 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 quite easily 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 the inkling, this is a great opportunity for you to start the conversation about sex. You can respond by saying, “It sounds like you are feeling dissatisfied with our sex life. Perhaps we could find a solution.”
5. Touch while talking. Holding your partner’s hand, 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.
6. Avoid language and behavior such as:
Blaming, and criticizing. A quick way to remember this is to avoid saying “you,” and to instead focus the statements on yourself and your feelings, and being positive. “I would like to….” “I feel unattractive lately and worried about our sex life.”
Words like “should” or “need to” which could sound like you know more than your partner, are judging their actions, or that you 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?”; “Why don’t you ever initiate?” Instead try, “I would love it if we could take turns initiating,” or “what,” “who,” “when,” “where” and “how”; “What would you like me to do to you?”
Talking right after sex. Find a quiet time when you are not rushed, or too angry to have a calm talk.
Absolute statements, such as “never” and “always,” such as, “I never have an orgasm with you.” This may be true but it creates defensiveness, and quite often these are exaggerations. Instead try, “I would like to find a way for us to achieve orgasm together.”
7. 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.
The thing to remember is to be positive, supportive and non-judgmental. And, if this doesn’t work it’s a good idea to contact a mental health professional or sex therapist to help guide you on your way.