Let’s talk about sex. YIKES!
Disclaimer: For the purpose of this post, I am going to be addressing sex in the context of committed relationships, as this is the context of my personal and professional experiences. Whether you are in a committed relationship or not, there is still great value in having conversations about sex, so read on!
Here we are about to enter into this topic that most people do not even talk about in the privacy of their own home. Why is sex so difficult to talk about? It seems like most couples choose to ignore these conversations and have a “fingers crossed” mentality- hoping that things will just magically work themselves out.
So sorry to burst your bubble, but MAGIC wont change your sex life. You cannot wish for a better sex life, you cannot simply dream it up and hope for it to change. YOU have to put in the work and it starts with a conversation.
Time and again couples will come into my office knowing things are not working in the bedroom. This is one of the TOP issues that couples tend to struggle with. I am going to put the next sentence in capital letters, hoping that you will hear it and believe it…
IF YOU ARE STRUGGLING IN YOUR SEXUAL RELATIONSHIP THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU!
Whether it is a personal struggle with sexual shame or a couple’s issue with compatibility, the need to seek help is all so “normal”. Not every couple struggles with sexuality in their relationship but, in my experience, that it is because they have worked through some of the common issues that I list below. There are always variables that contribute to a couple struggling with their sex life but these seem to stick out as common messages I hear:
- He wants more sex
- She doesn’t give me enough affection
- No sex life since having kids
- The other never initiates
- We don’t have time/Always tired
- I just don’t really care about sex that much
Did you find yourself in any of these areas? It can be hard to face this topic head on because it can be filled with so much baggage and grey areas. It forces us to look at what seems to be happening within ourselves instead of quickly blaming someone else for why things might not be working. Hello, VULNERABILITY!
Sex is a two-way street. Each person has areas to improve on in order to make it work. This is more than just getting the mechanics right-it is about getting your hearts right.
Intimacy is not just a three-letter word
Intimacy is not just about sex. When I ask couples how the intimacy is in their relationship, they are quick to assume that I mean, “how is your sex life?”, making them squirm in their seats a little. What I am really asking is: How well do you communicate with each other? When you get in a conflict, do you land on a resolution? Do you feel known by one another?
-Intimacy is the backbone of a healthy sexual relationship-
Ask yourself (and your partner) these questions and see what comes up:
- Do we have meaningful conversations outside of daily life tasks?
- Do we know how each other experiences love?
- Do we trust each other?
- Do we feel safe with each other?
- Is there anything that keeps me from fully trusting?
These are great conversation starters. Whether about sex or other aspects of your relationship, these questions can help send you down a path of deeper intimacy. Deeper issues with your intimate connection are more likely the underneath causes for your fears and anxiety about sex. Taking the risk to talk about what is happening relationally with your partner, allows you both to be more vulnerable and the idea of sex becomes less intimidating.
“A study of married couples identified the top reasons couples sought therapy. Tied for number one were both communication-based reasons: “emotional affection” and general “communication”. Under “emotional affection” issues like “lack of love” and “affection/intimacy” emerged. Likewise, under “communication” a “lack of understanding” as well as not “discussing problems” emerged.”– Sean M. Hornan Ph.D. (PsychologyToday 2013)
Learning each others’ Language
We know the phrase “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” is all so true for the different ways men and women function in everyday life. But in the bedroom, men and women speak very different languages when it comes to sexual intimacy. Sometimes there are exceptions to the rule but for the majority of couples, these ways of thinking ring true.
Think about how eager and willing he is to take care of things around the house after a night of great sex. Think about how willing she is to have sex after you took the time to ask her thoughtful questions about her day during dinner. This is not a coincidence my friends! These are CLUES about what your partner needs to feel intimate with you.
Lets break it down into a simple equation:
For Men: Physical Affection = I am desired, wanted and respected
For Women: Emotional Connection= I am desired, wanted and respected
Men tend to feel respected and desired through physical intimacy (sex, touching, general affection). Women tend to feel respected and desired through emotional intimacy (quality conversations, time spent together, emotional attunement). When we meet our partner in these simple ways, the door is made more open for serving one another sexually.
Listen to your partner. Ask them what makes them feel that you care for them. It may be the back rub after a long day or the willingness to get the mail without being asked, literally ANYTHING GOES! Find out what language your partner speaks.
Caught in the Act
Talking about sex is just as important as talking DURING sex. Hollywood has ruined the perception of what “good” sex looks like (and sounds like). We are made to believe that we are supposed to know what our partner wants and be really good at it the first time around. Our clothes will just fly off in a fit of passion and all the moving parts will be in sync. Hate to break it to you, but this is not REALITY.
Sex takes work.
Good sex, takes a lot of work.
If you are not talking to your partner about what feels good and what does not, then you are missing out on an opportunity to truly be in sync with one another.
PASSION COMES AND GOES- BEING FULLY KNOWN LASTS FOREVER
Roadblocks to communication:
“I don’t even know what I like”
“Its so awkward to talk about sex in the moment, I just want to get through it”
“I don’t want to offend my partner and tell him he is doing a bad job”
“I’m so self-conscious during sex”
“Shouldn’t I just instinctively know what to do?”
If you have said or thought these things, take some time and reflect on what your current state of sexual intimacy might be saying to you. What are the things you can start working through to have a healthy perspective on communicating about sex?
Breaking out of the Shamefulness of Sex
This is a tough topic. I get it. Sex has become more than just an act between partners. It has taken on the power to identify people- locking them in shame. Talking about sex in your current relationship cannot only alleviate the pressure it can also set you on the right path to breaking free of the lie that “SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH ME”.
If you struggle with sexual shame ask for help. It does not have to hold you down anymore. Start talking with your partner or call a therapist in your area and find the freedom to fully express yourself in this special area of life. Do not let this just be a 90’s song by Salt-N-Pepa, tell your partner, “Let’s Talk about Sex, Baby!”
March 3, 2019- Toni Greco M.A., LPC