Couples often do not know where to start a conversation related to their sexual wants and needs. Who can blame any of us for struggling to talk about a topic that is so socially loaded with innuendo, myth, shame, taboo, smoke, and mirrors?
As I am writing this first paragraph, I reflect on my own marriage. My husband is 60 years old, and I am 55. We have been enthusiastically married for 15 years and have known each other for 30 years. We are intentional in serving the many layers of our relationship as husband & wife, co-business owners, family leaders, friends, lovers, and life-partners. I am a Sexual Health Nurse, Certified Sexuality Counselor, and Sex Educator. Despite all that, even my husband and I can have a hard time asking for what we want, and don’t want, sexually.
We have few places in real life to practice safe sexual health conversations. The messages we most often receive is that sex is shameful, secretive, and not to be discussed with others except in whispered voices. Women are sometimes willing to talk about the reproductive functions of our sexual body, but rarely do conversations delve into thoughts about pleasure or desire. Men are willing to have sexually boisterous conversations filled with bravado but become silent when topics of relational intimacy and connection are mentioned.
Recently, on a relaxing fall Saturday with no tasks on the schedule, my husband and I watched the first episode of a Netflix series while eating brunch. It was hot. The show I mean. It was hot in a mental and physical way, for both of us. It was like a portal had opened between us. Throughout the day we would share brief reflected thoughts. Explorations. Curiosities. This led us to an online survey about our sexual styles, which led to more shared laughter, surprise, enticement, and playfulness. The day was fun. We talked openly and shed our armor, which allowed the safety to seek a deeper dive into our shared sexual intimacy.
In a busy life, these opportunities are rare, and I am so very grateful that we took the TIME to focus on us and found the courage to speaking openly. It was hot.
In my head, I chided myself for feeling any level of sexual inhibition with my husband, yet I was slow to dive in initially. I am a sexual health professional for goodness-sakes. I will say that by mentally moving toward my husband with courage and getting outside of my head was powerful and pleasurable.
Here are 3 conversation tips that might help you:
1) Timing. Timing. Timing. You want to share thoughts, express needs & wants, and explore curiosities. Couples should seek to create an environment that fosters a sense of privacy, calm, and relaxation.
- We do not want to feel pressed for time, distracted, or rushed through this conversation.
- A couple who takes the time to understand any negative messaging either may have internalized about their body, or fears of being judged for their desires, or shame they carry around sexuality, will be able to create sexual intimacy as they feel protected and accepted in their vulnerabilities.
- We should never have intimate sexual conversations right before, during, or immediately after a sexual experience.
Instead of trying to tackle all things sexual in one conversation, break it into more frequent short conversations. This allows a couple to build trust and a self-confidence over time.
2) Communication about sexual desires, turn-on’s, turn-off’s, fantasies, and such, require a high level of relational intimacy, compassion, and trust. Some couples rush a sexual conversation ahead of these basic relationship building blocks and then wonder where it all went sideways.
- Those who are inexperienced with sexually intimate conversations may feel they lack the language to express themselves without sounding silly, dirty, or clinical. I would encourage the couple to seek information together through reading, taking an online class, or seeking the guidance of a sexual health professional to help you navigate to the place you are seeking.
- Start and end each conversation about sexual intimacy from a positive perspective. Using judgement statements such as, “you never”, “you always”, will create a defensive feeling in your mate and the conversation will no longer be an opportunity for growth.
3) Give each other permission. Permission for each partner to explore the pleasures of their own sexual body. Permission to explore and enjoy each other’s bodies. Permission to feel curious about ways to share sexual pleasure together. Granting permission to each other opens the gateway of imagination that can flex and evolve over a lifetime.
I hope you and your partner have been able to establish confidence and pleasure in a sexual conversation. If you feel the assistance of a sex positive professional could help you find this comfort, I would love to support you on the journey!