Communicating about sex can be vulnerable
The truth is, communicating openly about sex can be a vulnerable- and sometimes tough- thing to do. For some, knowing where to start with these conversations can feel confusing and overwhelming. Because sexuality is such an important part of our identities and our relationships, being able to practice sitting in the vulnerability and have these open conversations with your partner is crucial.
Research has shown that couples who talk about sex have better sex- so much so, that 91% of couples who can’t comfortably talk about sex aren’t sexually satisfied. Communicating your wants and needs with your partner not only enhances your sexual experience, it also opens up space for more understanding, connection, and support — bringing you two closer together.
My 7 tips for communicating your wants and needs in the bedroom will help make these conversations a little bit easier.
Start off on the right side of the bed.
Relationship researcher John Gottman has found that the outcome of a conflict conversation (good or bad) can be predicted with 96% accuracy based just on how the first 3 minutes of the discussion goes. Starting off gentle and kind from the beginning will set you up for success. When talking and listening during this discussion, speak to your partner like you would speak to a friend: with kindness, openness, and curiosity.
Kick ‘Mind-Reading’ out of the bedroom.
Expecting our partners to ‘mind-read’ is something we can all fall into sometimes, but this can be a risky habit — especially when talking about sex. Mind-reading is the expectation that your partner should ‘just know’ what you are needing and wanting, because they love you. However, we can’t truly expect someone to know our wants and needs when we do not communicate them. Start this conversation off by clearly and kindly stating what you are wanting from your partner.
Speak to your own experience.
“I” statements will help you share your experience in a way that will avoid eliciting defensiveness, and it will create space for vulnerability. Vulnerability invites closeness. This kind of intimate self-disclosure will actually bring your partner closer to you. When starting off this conversation, use an “I” statement with a feeling word, then feel free to explain your wants and needs further. This can look like: “I feel excited when ___,” or “I feel uncomfortable when ___.”
Use soft emotions.
Certain emotions pull our partners closer to us, and some emotions push our partners farther away. Deep and more vulnerable emotions such as joy, fear, sadness, shame, and loneliness are softer emotions — these are called primary emotions. Using these to describe your experience will help create closeness and connection between the two of you. Everyone feels primary emotions somewhere in their body, such as sinking in the stomach or a heaviness in the chest. If you are having trouble identifying the softer, more primary emotion you are feeling, tuning in to where you are experiencing it in your body will help.
Keep it realistic.
It is one thing to have a conversation about your wants and needs, and another to implement it into your life. It is so important for this conversation to translate into a reality, therefor keeping things like your schedules, budgets, and physical limitations in mind will ensure your wants and needs do not get left behind in your everyday life.
Make this convo part of your routine.
Couples that talk about sex have better sex. Make this conversation a built-in ritual for you both. This will not only increase your connection, but will increase your sexual satisfaction too. The more you practice it, the more comfortable it will become. Create a ritual for sex talks that is consistent, predictable, and non-threatening, such as on Sunday evenings over your favorite glass of wine.
Call up a therapist.
Therapy is a great way to practice having vulnerable conversations in a safe place. If the previous steps feel too hard at this time in your relationship, all of us at Estes Therapy are here to provide support for you along your path of creating deeper sexual satisfaction and understanding in your relationship.
Congratulations for taking the steps towards deeper sexual satisfaction and understanding! Keep in mind that this will look different for every couple, what is important is finding out how this conversation works for your relationship. This may change as you and your partner move through time together, too. Being intentional about keeping this conversation a consistent part of your relationship will help create continued closeness and connection for you both.
About Jackie Wielick
Jackie has worked at The Gottman Institute in Couples Services for four years, where she received significant exposure, training, and understanding of Gottman Method Couples Therapy. She also received training in Couples in Addiction Recovery, a program designed to target the needs of couples where addiction has come into their life, and Art and Science of Love Program Educator training, aimed towards training professionals in hosting the world-renowned Art and Science of Love Workshop.