NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

How to Talk to Your Partner About Sex - Part 1

Let's face it--talking to your partner about sex can be hard, especially when you're not satisfied with your sex life. But the basis of any good relationship is good communication, whether it's about sex, money, changes in your life or anything else that's significant (see my articles: Have You and Your Spouse Stopped Having Sex?,  What is Sexual Desire Discrepancy? and Overcoming Sexual Desire Discrepancy).

How to Talk to Your Partner About Sex

You know that not talking about the problem isn't going to make it go away. If anything, this problem usually gets worse because your needs aren't getting met, the dynamics aren't changing, and you're probably becoming increasingly resentful about the problem.  

Since the problem isn't going to go away by itself, it's better to address the problem instead of avoiding it, as many couples do. If anything, talking about improving your sex life can bring the two of you closer together.

Talking to Your Partner About Sex: Do's and Don'ts:
  • Be Sensitive to the Timing of Your Discussion: Don't talk to your partner about problems in your sex life during or after sex. Bringing up a discussion about the problems in your sex life either while you're having sex or just after you have sex is bound to make your partner feel defensive and hurt.  Instead, find a time when you're both getting along--possibly over dinner if you have privacy or some other neutral time.
  • Don't Start Out Angry, Criticizing or Blaming: One of the worst things you can do when you want to talk to your partner about sex is to start out by accusing your partner of not loving you, blaming your partner for sexual problems (after all, there are two people involved) or accusing your partner of having an affair (unless you have good reason to believe this and then this should be a separate conversation).  If you start out angry, blaming or criticizing, as many people do out of their own anxiety about the topic, you're not going to resolve the problem, and you will probably create even bigger problems. 
  • Don't Throw the "Kitchen Sink" Into the Discussion: Limit your conversation to your sex life. Now isn't the time to list all your grievances about the relationship. Not only is that counterproductive to getting the problem resolved, it also complicates the discussion with too many problems to tackle at once.
  • State the Problem in a Positive and Tactful Way: Instead of saying something like, "I think you don't love me anymore because we hardly have sex," state the problem in a positive way, "When we have sex, I feel closer to you. What can we do to have sex more often?" This doesn't mean that you demand sex when your partner is exhausted or has had a bad day. That will, rightfully, come across as selfish and uncaring. Instead, part of the discussion might be the best times for the two of you to have sex when you're both ready for it and have the privacy for it.
  • Take the Awkwardness Out of Talking About Sex: If you feel comfortable enough with your partner, instead of approaching your discussion in a stiff and constricted way, depending upon what the problems is, you can be seductive. For instance, if you want your spouse to kiss you in a certain way, you can suggest it in a playful, seductive way, "I just love it when you kiss my neck. It really turns me on.  Can we try that?"
  • Take Responsibility For Your Part in the Sexual Dynamic: There might be aspects of your sex life that your partner isn't pleased about.  So, when you open a dialogue about your sex life, be open to hearing things that your partner might want to change. Don't get defensive or angry. Just be open and curious to listen to what your partner tells you.  
  • Be Aware That There Can Be Physical or Trauma-Related Problems Involved: Sexual problems aren't always about a lack of desire. Sometimes there are physical problems that might need to be addressed.  For instance, some men have a low libido due to low testosterone levels, which might need to be addressed medically.  Similarly, some women experience sexual intercourse as painful for a variety of reasons, including: problems with lubrication or vulvodynia (painful intercourse due to yeast infections or pelvic inflammatory disease). A history of sexual abuse for either partner could also be a factor. If there are physical issues that either you or your partner haven't addressed until now, seek medical or psychological help.
  • Be Aware That Talking About Sex Isn't a "One and Done" Discussion: If you want to have a good sex life with your partner, having open and honest communication about sex is an ongoing dynamic.  Even if you resolve your current problems, things change. This doesn't mean that you have to talk to your partner about sex everyday.  But having a discussion about sex periodically can make it easier to talk about sex.  For instance, you or your partner might want to try something new in your sex life, like adding sex toys, different sexual positions, and so on. As mentioned earlier, the two of you might even find fun and sexy ways to talk about sex that will spice up your sex life.
  • Be Aware That Religion, Culture or Family History Might Be an Obstacle to Talking About Sex: In many religions, cultures and families, sex is a taboo issue.  If your partner was raised in an environment where it was considered wrong to talk about sex, you'll need to be aware of and sensitive to this.  You might even preface your discussion by acknowledging that you're aware that your partner was raised to believe that talking about sex is taboo.  Even if your partner no longer believes that sex is a taboo subject, s/he might still feel some guilt or shame about talking about it.  It's better to acknowledge this so you can get it out in the open. Then, you and your partner can try to find a way to talk about your sex life in the context of being in a loving relationship and wanting your relationship to succeed.  
In my next article, I'll provide a clinical vignette to illustrate some of the problems mentioned above and to show how these problems can be resolved (see my article: How to Talk to Your Partner About Sex - Part 2).

Getting Help in Therapy
Some couples are unable to resolve sexual problems in their relationship, and they need help to be able to talk about sex.

An experienced couples therapist can help you to improve your communication about your sex life.

Rather than avoiding the problem, seek help with a licensed mental health professional who works with couples.  

Resolving problems in your sex life can help you to have a more satisfying sex life and a happier relationship.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing therapist and Sex Therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples (see my article: What is Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) For Couples?).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.