Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sex & Communication

It's been discussed in multiple texts, media, and thousands of therapy sessions, and yet couples still have trouble communicating in the bedroom (or living room or where ever you choose to be intimate!) So why do we still have so much trouble talking about our sexual wants, needs, and concerns? Asking our partners what they want? Processing embarrassing moments?

Numerous historians have analyzed the development of sexuality since the founding of the United States. I'll skip to the point: the general attitude perpetuated has been one shaming both physical acts and personal self-exploration of sexuality, especially before a marriage - which is assumed will always be heterosexual. 

If you believe in waiting to have sex until marriage, that's not a problem. (Neither is having a different-sex partner!) The issue is thinking that people are essentially asexual until marriage, and then *poof* they're suddenly able to access and feel comfortable with their sexuality and communicating these feelings to their partners. The choice to remain sexually abstinent may be separated from a personal reflection and development of sexual attitudes, beliefs, comfort levels, and the ability to talk about such things.

Maybe you're not abstaining; maybe you're married, maybe you're not. Plenty people still have trouble communicating to their partners, whether they be the first or the latest, a spouse or a new lover. If you're having trouble getting the communication flowing, there are some tricks and tips you can try:

  • Don’t be a mind-reader! People don’t know what the others are thinking - it’s up to those others to speak their minds! Sure, easier said than done... but think of the last time someone - friend, lover, whomever - did something you found unpleasant. You didn’t say anything because you didn’t want to hurt their feelings? Now think about what YOU would want. Do you really want your partner to stay quiet if something you’re doing is making them uncomfortable? Speak up, and encourage your partner to do the same. 

  • "I-statements" are often used in conflict management, but it can be used as a general tool to aid communication. An I-statement looks like this: "I feel uncomfortable when we have sex with the lights on,” or “I really enjoy it when you kiss my neck.” I-statements help you express your own desires and thoughts without putting your partner on the spot: “You make me feel awkward when you keep the lights on,” etc. Even saying “You always know what I like” might not be true for your partner - maybe they’re just making lucky guesses! Try it out when you’re worried about protecting your partner’s pride.

  • Active, reflective listening involves two parts: active listening, in which you are physically engaged (think eye contact, facing bodies) AND mentally engaged (focused on hearing not planning your answer) with your partner. “Reflective” listening means you repeat back what your partner said to show them you heard. It helps to paraphrase instead of directly quote, so they know you understood their meaning and aren’t sassing or mocking them! Feeling heard helps us lower our defenses and really truly communicate with one another. 

  • The above are just some favorites of many strategies - numerous books and films have been created on the subject of sex partner communication. Browse the internet or library and see what comes up - it’s best to check to make sure the author is trained in the field, of course.

  • Come in for therapy! I see both single and partnered clients. We start with an initial assessment, after which I assess how long our work might take, we chat, and then get down to it! My hours are Monday through Friday, 10am-7pm. Call (314) 588-8924 and feel free to leave a message!

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