5 Tips to Improve Your Sexual Communication
An awkward glance between the two partners. A shift of the eyes to floor. The flash of a nervous smile. A giggle or two.
These are some common responses I’ve noticed when asking couples “So how do you talk about sex at home?” If you are like many of my clients, talking about sex with your partner(s) can feel awkward, confusing and downright anxiety-provoking! Even those of you who have been married for a decade or more, may still struggle with tough conversations. You may be too scared to tell your partner what you want or need. You are worried about hurting his feelings. You are nervous that she will judge something you want to try out. Perhaps you feel like you have been doing the same thing for so long, you don’t know where to start to try something new. While it is natural to be anxious talking about a “taboo” topic, the truth is, things don’t get better if you ignore them! Like with any anxiety, the best way “out,” is to go through! So instead of avoiding the conversation, use these tips to have a productive talk with your partner about sex.
- Talk at an unsexy time. You may be sitting there thinking that all communication about sex should happen in the bedroom. While it is critical to communicate during sex, many people find it helpful to also talk about their intimate relationship outside of the boudoir. Whether watching mindless TV on the couch, making dinner or taking a long car ride, find a neutral time to debrief your sexual relationship. It can sometimes be easier to learn how to be clear and assertive when you are not in a vulnerable position (i.e.naked)! It also can be fun and exciting to set aside a special time when you will “compare notes” and talk about likes and dislikes. As an added bonus, talking about sex during one part of the day can build some fun anticipation for getting together later that evening.
- Learn together. If you feel like you want to “spice up” your sex life but don’t know how, do some research as a couple. Follow some sexual health gurus online, read a book on sex at the same time and compare notes, or even make a game out of trying new ideas. I once encouraged a couple to make a jar of “things to try.” They wrote down different ideas they wanted to try on slips of paper and anytime they were going to engage in romantic or sexual activities, they pulled a paper out of the jar, decided together if they wanted to go for it and tried it! If you see sexual exploration as something you can do together, you will build continued trust and intimacy, while also keeping things lighthearted and fun. Humor is a great antidote to anxiety.
- Practice assertiveness outside the bedroom. Start paying attention to your preferences, needs, and desires outside the bedroom. Are your shoulders sore? Ask your partner for a back rub. Tell them exactly what pressure you want, where to massage, and ask them to try different parts of your back and types of motion until you find the most pleasurable experience. This practice will help you and your partner create the habit of giving and receiving instructions, as well as helping you pay attention to your own body for cues.
- Lead with the positive, but don’t be afraid to correct. Telling your partner “I love when you…” or “It feels great when we…” lets them know exactly what you like. It’s just as useful however, to tell them what you don’t. Try saying “That doesn’t work for me, can we try…” or “I prefer if we did this instead” and show them what you’d like them to do!
- Communicate clearly. Remember to always check in with your partner and get consent for your activities, no matter how long you have been together or how many times you have engaged in a certain act. Never ass-u-me. Positive sexual experiences rely on clear communication both verbal and non-verbal and require all partners to be attentive to each other.
Keep in mind, communication, particularly about a “taboo” topic like sex is not easy. However, like sex itself, practicing communication will only help you improve your skills. If you need help talking to your partner or re-opening the lines of communication, couples therapy can be a helpful tool to open the channels of communication and work out any kinks in the relationship. (Pun definitely intended!)
The content on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat, it is for informational purposes only. Please call our office at 404-618-1040 for an appointment or contact a mental health professional in your local area if you are seeking treatment.