For many couples this is not a difficult scenario to imagine. Your interests in the bedroom just don’t quite line up and it causes friction, and not in a good way. When this happens, It’s hard to find common ground to make both people feel like their needs are being respected without pushing their partner too far. Truth is, it’s tricky. Sex is not something that most couples feel comfortable talking about anyways, so when situations like this come up it quickly becomes a major factor in lack of connection and satisfaction. Research shows that couples that talk about sex have better sex lives overall, including more desire, arousal, and orgasms (Mallory, Stanton, Handy, 2019). So, how do you start that conversation?
Ultimately, no means no. Pressuring, nagging, intimidating, whining, begging, etc. are not turn-ons. And if it leads someone into having sex when they really didn’t want to, that’s coercion. If you force it, that’s rape. Yes, even if you’re married. Coercion and rape are NEVER ok. This might sound obvious, but some people may need that extra reminder. Good sex is fun, it’s hot, it makes you want to say YES. Getting to a YES is what we want to do.
Sex can be difficult to talk about because we are all taught different values about sex. Growing up in different parts of the country, cultures, faiths, and families mean that we are each likely to have very deeply ingrained feelings about sex. Understanding what your partner thinks and feels about sex will help you to understand their sexual desires. Sit down with your partner and take turn answering and asking the following questions. Remember, you need to be a good listener to allow your partner to open up. If you are dismissive or critical of their answers, they will lose faith that they can trust you and shut down.
If you’ve never had a full conversation about what it is your partner likes and doesn’t, then today is the day because it can be life-changing. You might know they don’t like X or Y, but maybe they’d be open to parts of it or other things you didn’t know about. Being open is a very vulnerable experience, so again you absolutely need to be respectful of what your partner’s interests are or you risk shutting the conversation down, and shutting you out, for good. An easy activity is Always, Sometimes, Never. Take a piece of paper each and divide it like the picture shows. Look at the list of sexual behaviors and divide it into each column (this is not an exhaustive list, simply the most common behaviors I see). Always are things that you’re always game for when you are in the mood for sex. Sometimes are things you may have to be in a special mood for, or might be interested in on certain occasions, but may not be interested in every single time you’re aroused. Never is something that is a hard limit. You are not interested, you cannot be persuaded. There might be things on the list that intrigue you but you have never tried. If you decide you want to try it, put it in sometimes. If you change your mind later, simply move it to Never. If you tried it and liked it, it can stay in Sometimes or move to Always. Now compare your lists. What commonalities do you see? How can you make that work for both of you?
Sex is about a physical expression of an emotional connection and is only one important piece of a relationship. So even if your partner isn’t down for Y behavior, remember that they are more than just sex and look for connections in other areas of your relationship. You have found your overlap and can look at making a great sex life based on that.
If you are unsatisfied even after talking about it or were unable to manage the conversation, it’s time to seek help. This is especially true if either partner has any kind of sexual trauma as that severely impacts sexual desires. Some people see it as embarrassing to see a sex therapist. But honestly, what’s more embarrassing: seeing a sex therapist and working through your issues to have a good sex life and improved relationship OR letting a relationship suffer and potentially fail because you didn’t want to talk about it? It seems extreme, but sex is only 10% of a relationship until it’s suffering, then it’s more like 90%. Sex is a physical way to emotionally connect. Book an appointment with me today or seek a sex therapist through the AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists) website.