Learning to Talk About Sex

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If you’re engaged, you’re probably planning about a hundred different things right now, from the guest list to the cake to the honeymoon. At the same time, your thoughts probably often return to the big, exciting life decision you’ve made. At moments, you may even feel a little nervous about the commitment.

For instance, those annoying little habits of your partner’s may suddenly seem like more of a big deal. (Am I going to have live with the way he throws his dirty socks on the floor FOREVER?) And any nagging disagreements the two of you have, whether about family, money, or whatever, may now appear a bit more, well…permanent.

Sex: One Piece of the Marital Puzzle

You may also be experiencing some mixed feelings, anticipation, or uncertainty about the idea of sexually committing to your partner for the rest of your life. Depending on your personal values and beliefs, sexual intimacy may be something you’re familiar with, or it may be something that you have yet to experience.  Regardless of your situation, after the wedding, every married person will be in the situation of needing to find contentment with his or her spouse. And to do that, you will need to make sure you learn to sexually communicate.

What does it mean to be able to communicate sexually with your spouse? Put simply, it means that the two of you are able to be open with each other about what does and doesn’t work, what you do and don’t like, and what you might like to try.

Having the Conversation

This may sound simple, but couples will attest that it often isn’t. The idea of talking about sex may make us feel vulnerable, embarrassed, anxious, or at risk. We may feel that we should “just know” what to do—and if we don’t, it means there’s a problem.

But this isn’t true. As much as we may love each other, most of us aren’t mind readers. Yet when couples fail to communicate in this area, frustration, distance, and lack of emotional and physical intimacy can result. On the other hand, according to research, couples who communicate more in this area are more sexually satisfied and typically report overall greater satisfaction in their relationship. For this reason, learning to communicate your sexual needs is key.

But what if you really don’t know how to get started? Here are some tips from experts and sex therapists.

--Take the first conversation out of the bedroom.

It may be better to have the first conversation about sexual intimacy in a more neutral “zone,” especially if you’re nervous or if there are problems or concerns. Make sure both of you feel comfortable first. Would it help to light some candles and pour some wine?

--Don’t make assumptions or get offended.

Each person is an individual—and what you think might feel good, or what another person has told you felt good, may not feel good to your partner. This issue has nothing to do with anyone “not knowing” what he or she is doing in the bedroom.

--Once you’ve talked things over: ask your partner to show you what he or she likes.

Sometimes, there’s nothing like seeing something in action. Though this step may be difficult if you feel shy or inhibited, it can make a big difference. And at times, it’s much easier and sexier to “show” rather than “tell.”

--Be honest.

At times, it may be tempting to “fake it” or pretend everything is fine in order to avoid hurt feelings, but this is a bad idea. Your partner won’t know what you truly enjoy if you confuse him or her by pretending to enjoy something you don’t. And you won’t get a chance to be truly satisfied if you don’t make your preferences known.

--Respect your partner’s boundaries.

If there is an activity someone is not comfortable with or does not enjoy, don’t brashly push the issue. Many people have histories of abuse or assault that can make certain sexual experiences unpleasant for them. If this is the case for you or your partner, it may be helpful to work with a therapist or sex therapist.

--Check out the many resources available.

There are many great books and websites written in a respectful and clear manner for couples who want to improve their sex lives. Helpful resources are available for couples of various religious backgrounds as well as those with no religious beliefs. You may find it extremely helpful to locate an expert who comes at this subject from a similar “place” as you.

Keep communicating, and keep trying.

Sometimes it takes a while for a couple to learn to truly communicate sexually, but that’s okay. You have a lifetime together to work on this. Enjoy.

By Carol Church, lead writer, SMART Couples, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, University of Florida

References

A Place to Talk. (2011). Self-help: Communication in sexual behavior. Retrieved from http://www.aplace2talk.com/selfhelp_communication.html

Rogers, P. (2014a). How to talk to your partner about sex. Retrieved from http://healthtools.aarp.org/health/healthy-sex-partner-communication

Rogers, P. (2014b). How to talk to your partner about sex: Part 1 of 3. Retrieved from http://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sex-partner-communication#Communicate3

Pappas, S. (2012). Talking about sex during sex is good for sex. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/22934-talking-about-sex-satisfaction.html  

Shpancer, N. (2014). Why aren’t we talking to our partners about sex? Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/insight-therapy/201403/why-arent-we-talking-our-partners-about-sex