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Talking about Sex

Possibly one of the most important things to remember when talking with your partner about sex is that fear, guilt, or shame may be present.  Fear, guilt, and shame voices might sound something like this:

  • "Saying no to having sex with my partner is wrong. I should want to when they want to."
  • "My partner will pull away from me if I don't have sex when they ask."
  • "When my partner says no to having sex with me, I think I'm not lovable, not attractive, not good enough."

When you talk to your partner about sex, remind yourself that fear, guilt, or shame may be present.  Knowing this, approach the conversation with extra kindness and gentleness.  You can help each other stay grounded and secure by beginning with reassurance.  Reassurance might include affection or words that express love and acceptance of one another. 

Next offer support for each other's choice and autonomy regarding sex.  Find your authentic willingness to tell your partner that you truly want them to express what's right for them and not wanting choices to be made from fear, guilt, or obligation.

Then make space for empathy.  Just hear each other's feelings and needs without crosstalk or problem solving.  Keep your language free from judgment and accusations and focus on feelings and needs.

Lastly, make a plan for exactly how to communicate a "no" in way that you each can hear and stay connected.  Here are a couple of examples:

  • I love and care about you and right now I am noticing that my need for rest is present.  I wonder if we can have a slow start Saturday morning for connecting and making love?
  • I feel sad that I don't have an impulse toward sex at the same time as you right now, because I really do enjoy sex with you.  Could I let you know when I am ready?

Let's look at a possible dialogue:

Pat: I would like to connect around what's going on for both of us regarding sex in our relationship. Would you be willing to take an hour or so now to express what's up for both of us and see what we both want?

Chris: I feel nervous because I want acceptance and understanding and not pressure or blame. Would you be willing to stop and restate something if I say I am experiencing pressure or blame?

Pat: Yes. I want to reassure you that I am not feeling angry or reactive.  What's most important to me is that each of us is taking care of ourselves in our relationship. I support you in doing what's best for you. Can you tell me what you heard?

Chris: Yeah, you're not mad and you support me in doing what's best for me. And it's important to you that we are taking care of ourselves in our relationship.

Pat: Thanks, I am happy to have that heard.

Here's what's up for me regarding sex. I notice it has been a little over a month, since we have had sex, and I am feeling sad, missing that connection and closeness with you. Can you tell me what you heard there?

Chris: You want to have more sex.

Pat: Thanks for telling me what you heard. What I am really wanting you to hear is my sadness in missing a closeness with you. Would you be willing to try again?

Chris: You miss feeling close to me.

Pat: Thanks, yeah. I am also feeling curious and wanting to understand your world. What comes up for you when you think about us having sex?

Chris: I feel tense. I have a "should" which creates even more tension. If I am not feeling relaxed, connected, and trusting, it's really hard for me to access sexual desire. What did you hear there?

Pat: I am hearing a should and tension comes up for you. You have needs for relaxation, connection and trust. When you are tense it's hard to access sexual desire. Is that right?

Chris: Yeah, I don't know why I am so tense and why I am having trouble trusting. It's really frustrating for me.

Pat: Huh-uh, feeling frustrated and you would like some clarity about where that tension and mistrust comes from in you?

Chris: Yeah.

Pat: It seems like we could take our time here see if any clarity pops up for you.  Perhaps I could just sit here quietly and offer empathy as something more comes up.  Or we could talk about what we can do differently to help meet needs for relaxation, connection, and trust. What's most alive for you?

Chris: Right now, the second request is most alive. I have given some thought to what might help with trust and connection.

Pat: Yeah.

Chris: Just letting me know you accept me as I am by acknowledging my feelings when I am upset or worried rather than giving me advice or telling me not to worry about it. Just saying something like: 'Yeah, that's scary for you, or Yeah, I can see how that would be hard,' goes along way for me.  You know, like you are doing right now. Would you be willing to focus on doing that for the rest of the week?

Pat: Yeah, I would like to do that. I know when you are upset, I just want to make it better so I try to solve it or console you and I am hearing that that's disconnecting for you. I commit to just offering this empathy for the rest of this week. Can we check in about it on Friday after dinner?

Chris: That would be great.

What I am hoping you get from this dialogue is that hearing each other at a feelings and needs level requires several exchanges.  Creating connection first sets up any dialogue up for success.

The point of engaging these steps is not to talk a certain way, not to talk just like Pat and Chris in our example. The purpose is to create connection. One of the easiest ways to do this is just to listen for and reflect back feelings and needs whether your partner uses feelings and needs vocabulary or not.  Rather than becoming distracted by a particular way of talking, you can keep your heart focused on the truth that each of you is just trying to be happy.

Take a moment now to reflect on your own relationship to sex with your partner.  Identify the feelings and needs present for you as you reflect on this.

Next Gem
Empathy: Meeting the Jackals
Previous Gem
Sexual Expression: Discerning Needs & Strategies

1 Response

  1. May 08, 2014

    Awesome LaShelle, I like both the articles. Were so messed up about sex in our culture, I'm glad your including it as a topic in your Gems. Thanks for all you do. Hugs

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