Many couples admit that they have problems talking about sex – whether it is before, during, or after sex. This is often due to their negative attitude about sex, their fear of a negative reaction from their partner, or more commonly, just their lack of confidence broaching the subject.
Here are four steps to better sexual communication, and hopefully with some practice and time, authentic conversations involving the topic of sex will become easier for you:
1) Decide what it is you want to say
Do give some thought to what exactly you would like to communicate. Are you in pain during sex? Maybe you are bored with routine? Or do you just know that sex would be better if only…?
I always say this: You don’t get if you don’t ask. You can’t ask if you don’t know what you want. You don’t know what you want if you don’t know you. You need to own your body, your experience, and your sexuality. Don’t just sweep your sexual pleasure aside, hoping that with time, things will get better – they may not.
2) State your intention
When you have figured out what you want to say and managed to get your partner’s full attention, what do you do next? Cushion any fallout by first stating your intention. In short, figure out: Why are you sharing this? Why is this important? And why should he pay attention?
Perhaps you just want to know why your partner does a particular something, you might reveal: “Sweetheart, I have been meaning to ask you….” (You are curious.)
Or if you feel sex has become an issue, you could admit, “Darling, I am nervous sharing this with you. However I feel it is important for me to be honest because I know I would want you to be honest with me….” (Your intention is to come clean.)
Heard of the phrase: It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it? I would suggest worrying less about the exact phrasing, but focusing more on the intention and hence the way your words sound (or your tone of voice). The clearer your intention, the more likely the meaning behind your message will come through.
Another tip: Nobody can ever refute how you think, feel about something, or sense in your body, because they are all your experiences. To avoid blaming or pointed languages, use “I” statements to own your experience. Start with: “I feel…”
Besides setting the correct intention (including your tonality) in your opening, you could incorporate open or close ended questions.
Examples might include: “What do you think?” (Open-ended); or “Were you in pain?” (Close-ended). You might want to avoid leading questions such as, “Do you agree?”
Even if your first attempt does not go as planned, you are already a winner for making an effort to push through your fear of speaking up or speaking about sex. Regroup. Think about what you meant and what your spouse thought you meant. How could you be clearer? Were you too forceful? Check if you were nagging? Sometimes less might be more.
Having planted a seed, this idea or thought requires time to germinate. Also some situations, it takes time to break a pattern of behaviour. Gentle repetition should help your point of view sink in. If all else fails, what you could consider is a third party like a marriage counsellor to help you two work on communication, or a sexologist to tackle your sexual concerns head on. However first make the effort of reaching out. I hope this has given you some ideas.
By Dr Martha Lee
Dr Martha Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching in Singapore. She is a certified sexuality educator with the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists. She holds a Doctorate in Human Sexuality from Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, as well as certificates in practical counselling, life coaching, and sex therapy. She provides sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conducts sexual education workshops and speaks at public events in Asia.
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