Whether you are in a brand new relationship or have been married for forty years, when it comes to talking with partners about sex, panic can often set in. This is true when what you want to say is that you want to try something new. It's even truer when the conversation is about a sexual complaint or problem. Here are some tips on what to think about beforehand and how to have those hard-to-have conversations about your sex life.
- Clarify the Issue for Yourself
Sex is complicated, your feelings may have as much to do with your own baggage and sexual history as with your partner. If something is on your mind, sit with it for a while and clarify what doesn’t feel right. Some people find that writing is a helpful way to do this; others will talk with close friends. The point of this is not to start complaining to others or placing blame. Instead it's about giving you a chance to think about how you feel, so you can better explain it to your partner.
- Try to Write it Down
Don’t worry about floral language or grammar. Writing down what you want to talk about may help clarify your issues for yourself and practice the way you might communicate it to your partner. Some people actually write their partner a letter, and end up giving it to them at a later point. Letter writing can be a powerful way to communicate your thoughts and feelings, and if used along with talking it can increase intimacy in a relationship in surprising ways.
- Practice the Talk
This doesn't work for everyone, but if you’re nervous about talking it can help to practice. If you have a good friend you can do this with, great. If not, going through it on your own can help. Before every major "talk" I’ve ever had to do, I sit down in front of my computer screen and practice. If my monitor could talk, it would probably tell me to get a life, but it’s a great tool for me (and I’m pretty sure my monitor is too old a model to be talking).
- Consider Your Timing
One of the most important considerations is when to talk. This will depend a lot on what you are talking about. If you want to raise the idea of trying something new in bed, then raising it just before you’re about to be intimate with your partner is probably not a good time. Ditto for raising your dissatisfaction with the frequency of your sex life minutes before your kids are due home (or your in-laws are coming over).
- Choose Your Location
As with timing, location can make a difference. Bringing up sexual dissatisfaction in bed can be a bad move as it may create an association of negativity in your bed. Both you and your partner may also feel more vulnerable in bed than you would having the conversation fully clothed and sitting in your living room.
- Allow Time for Processing
Remember that your partner may be surprised by what you are saying. Give both of you the time and space to respond honestly without having to feel rushed or pressured. You may not be able to completely resolve the issue, or even talk about all the aspects of the issue in one sitting. Think about sexual communication as an ongoing process, not a one-shot deal.
- Be Generous
No matter how hard it is for you to bring up your sexual concerns consider that it may be even harder for your partner. If you can, try to be generous with your partner and try not to place the blame too heavily on either of you. There are two of you in the relationship, and ultimately both of you need to take responsibility for what is happening.
- Check In Afterwards
Sometimes we can make ourselves so anxious about bringing something up with a partner, and then it goes not quite as bad as we thought, and we’re relieved, so we want to just move on. Give yourself permission to bring the topic up again. Don’t do it in a nagging way, but make it clear that your partner that you care about how they feel and you want to check in with them about how the conversation went.
- Keep in mind that every situation is different. These are general tips and your situation may call for many additional considerations.
- Remember that your imagination can be your worst enemy when it comes to taking risks like this. The reality is that the response is almost never as bad as you think it will be, and talking openly about your sexual feelings, desires, likes and dislikes, can not only improve your sex life with your partner, it can improve other aspects of the relationship.
- You may want to consider laying down some ground rules if you anticipate the conversation to be very difficult.