Research shows that couples who rate themselves as having a good sex life also tend to talk about sex. But for many of us conversations about sex with a partner can feel quite difficult. This can be especially true when we need to let our partner know that things could be better, or that something they are doing leaves us cold, or is unwelcome. So here are three suggestions on what to do to communicate effectively with your sexual partner, so as to convey your needs, and understand theirs.
1. Find the right terms
The language we use to talk about sexual activities and sexual body parts can itself be problematic for some people. Some words may seem cold and clinical, while others can feel obscene or offensive. Couples who communicate well about sex have found a vocabulary that they are both comfortable with for different conversations. A way to check this out is for both partners to make a list of their preferred words for the different activities and body parts that are involved in their sexual activities. They can then share their lists and agree to avoid any words that either partner dislikes.
2. Turn Generalized Criticisms into Specific Requests
If we have let time pass without voicing our needs, or letting our partners know when something they do is unwelcome, we may find ourselves thinking in terms of generalized criticisms:
‘You never give me enough oral sex’
‘Why do we always have to have sex the same night each week, in the same position?’
‘All men ever want is sex’
These thoughts are often indicative of long-term resentments. So if we find ourselves thinking generalized criticisms like these, it is worth stopping to think what is the desire that is hidden behind that resentful criticism? By working out what we actually want, instead of sitting with our generalized criticisms, we are then in a position to make a specific request:
‘Tonight, could we try some positions that might make you able to give me oral sex for longer?’
‘This week, I’d love us to have sex with you on top, and find time in the afternoon instead of at night.’
‘This time, I’d really like it if you would kiss and cuddle me afterwards.’
3. Make it Personal
Some people talk about sex in an impersonal way: instead of showing desire for their partners, they let it be known that they are ‘in the mood’. This can be playful and raunchy, but can also leave their partner feeling as if they aren’t desired specifically, only that sex is desired. As an invitation to sex, one woman regularly used to say, ‘I’ve been feeling horny all day.’ Her partner wanted to hear her say, ‘I’ve been horny for you all day’. Most people indicate that they find being desired one of the greatest aphrodisiacs, so making the statement specific to your partner is more likely to stimulate their own desire.
And remember, as well as talking there is a great opportunity for listening: developing the habit of having conversations about sex from time to time can bring couples closer, as they trust each other with more intimate information.