We all hear about how important it is to communicate our needs to our partners, but it’s not always easy to know exactly how to. Expressing your sexual needs can be even more of a challenging task. Sexual communication is a skill, and it’s a skill that’s learned; it’s not innate. And like with any skill, you need to practice to feel like it can come more naturally and with less anxiety.
The topic of sex can be emotionally loaded so it may feel different from other conversations. As with any intimate conversation, staying calm focused, and managing your emotional reactions is essential. It can be challenging when discussing a sensitive topic such as sex with our romantic partner, as feelings of shame, embarrassment and anxiety may arise. It’s important to slow down when expressing your needs and desires while remaining calm and grounded when listening to what your partner says. It’s easy when we get emotionally fired up to make assumptions and put words in their mouths to infer intent that may not be there. Therefore, make an effort to slow down the pace of the conversation and ask questions. Make an effort to understand what your partner is really saying before thinking about how you’d like to respond.
Learn to Express Something About What you Desire
In thinking about having a conversation with your partner about sex, a common unhelpful scenario that many couples get focused on is what is problematic in their sex life. It can become a habit to focus on the negative and tell our partner what we don’t like. We may also find it easier to focus on our partner’s needs or react to them instead of ourselves. Learn to express something about what you desire rather than something about your disappointment. This will make it much easier for your partner to stay in the conversation with you and not get defensive.
When thinking about having a conversation, the first and most crucial step is to look inside and figure out what’s really true for you. What turns you on. Figure out what you think, feel, believe or desire. Focus on what you do like, what you want, what you long for. This might be something you miss that’s happened in the past or something you’ve never experienced before, but you’ve thought about or fantasized about and are curious.
Know What You Want
What is your intuition and these questions: What do I want? What makes me happy at a visceral level? Not what I think I should want but what my body wants at a deep level—Check in with your body and notice what is happening for you. Then boil it down to something concise. If you want to talk about oral sex, for example, stay on that topic. It’s not helpful to bring in other topics during this conversation, such as how you feel about your penetrative sex or your interest in opening up the relationship. Just pick one topic and stick with it until you feel like you’ve made some progress. You can always address the other topics as another point.
Figure out a way to express yourself that isn’t dramatic and is much more about you and your preference than about your partner and their failings—no indictment of their character and no global statements. State your feelings, desires and requests in a matter of fact manner. After you’ve shared, stay open and curious about what might be going on with your partner. Ask them if they have any questions or what their thoughts are. You want to know what could be going on with your partner that might cause a block to the sexual activity that you’re hoping for. Practising this communication process will help build up trust in each other so that you can then engage in the fun, sexy behaviour you want to enjoy together.
Many couples come to therapy because they have challenges with sexual arousal and desire. They believe that they should be turned on and don’t understand why they are not, or want to be turned on and don’t know how to create that energy. This can cause conflict in the relationship. Read this recent article to learn more about how you can cultivate turn-on and turn-offs in your sex life.
If you are interested in learning more about Couples and Sex Therapy, please get in touch and book your appointment with Dr. Kristin Zeising here.