If you’ve chosen to be sexually involved with another person, you may have encountered the following scenario: Things are getting hot and heavy between you and a partner. You think to yourself, Please do that thing I like. The thing. Do the thing. Please just read my mind, and do the thing. Your partner doesn’t do the thing. Instead of saying out loud, “Hey, can you do that thing I like?”, you just hope that they remember to do the thing next time. The experience is overall okay, but it would have been better if they did the thing…
Ugh. Wouldn’t it be nice if our partners could just know what we wanted and when we wanted it? Then we wouldn’t have to go through the awkward process of asking for more of what we like. But what if it didn’t have to be awkward? What if you could say, “Next time we have sex, can you run your fingers through my hair more?”, as easily as you can say, “Can you remember to take the trash out when you leave for work?”
Importance of Sexual Communication
The ability to communicate openly with your partner(s) about sex can have far-reaching effects. In the above imagined scenario, it would have allowed you to experience more pleasure. The sexual encounter could go from a mediocre guessing game to a mind-blowing experience tailored specifically for you. Sexual pleasure floods our bodies with feel-good hormones, giving open communication the ability to bring you more joy. You may feel less judgmental of your partner because you realize they are more than willing to do that thing you like once they know how much you like it.
Good sexual communication also has the ability to positively impact a relationship. Your partner(s) might seem like mind-readers when they do that thing you like at exactly the right time (because you told them on a previous day that you, for example, want them to tug on your ear while they kiss you). Sexual experiences in which you seem to just know what each other wants can help you feel connected on a deeper level. Your partner may feel more confident because they know you’re enjoying the experience that much more.
Barriers to Open Communication
So, what stops us from experiencing more pleasure, more joy, and deeper connections?
Often, difficulties in talking about sex are rooted in shame. (For a deeper exploration into sexual shame, see To Be Explicit – Sex and Shame.) Shame is something that we need to work through on a personal level and, once it is released, can help us finally open up to our partner(s). Sometimes these difficulties can come from a place of discomfort. Perhaps even saying the word “sex” or “orgasm” is a struggle. Another common place for difficulties to arise is in knowing our own interests. How can we tell our partner what we like if we don’t know ourselves? We also may wonder how our partner will react if we tell them what we like. It can be a real barrier, especially if your partner has been judgmental in the past.
How to Overcome Barriers
Now we know why it is important to communicate openly, and we know why it might be difficult to do that. So, how do we overcome those difficulties and do it anyway?
Seek the help of a therapist. A therapist can help you rid yourself of shame, explore deeper insecurities, and learn positive communication skills. Therapy may be individual or with you and your partner(s), depending on the presenting issue. This is a specifically tailored way to get the feedback and exploration you need to communicate more openly.
Start small. If you want to request something more adventurous in bed, but feel hesitant to do so, you may want to test the waters by requesting something smaller or less daunting.
Talk to yourself. Literally. Practice what you want to say out loud to yourself. This will make it easier when you say it to your partner.
Release defensiveness. Your partner may have an initial reaction that you don’t like. Remember that their reaction does not mean anything about you, but instead reflects something they may be struggling with. If you have concerns about how they will react, pursuing couples therapy may be a safer way to explore your desires.
Figure out what you like. Take some time to yourself to touch yourself in different ways. Touch different parts of your body with different pressures and different sensations (grabbing, scratching, pinching, rubbing). Pay attention to what feels good, and what feels incredible.
It may be helpful to look at some examples of what open sexual communication may sound like. In the following examples, I use specific requests to normalize a range of sexual interests, but you would, of course, substitute the specific request for whatever it is you are looking for.
“It drives me absolutely wild when you spank me during sex, and I would melt if you did that more often.”
“It’s always been a fantasy of mine to have a threesome, and I want to talk about the possibility of incorporating that into our sex life. I know that’s a big ask, and I don’t want to do it if it makes you uncomfortable, but I’m wondering if you would take some time to think about it so we can talk about it at our dinner date this weekend.”
“I was hoping we could save some time tonight to cuddle before we have sex. When we get to lay together beforehand, I feel so much more connected to you.”
“I found this resource on BDSM, and I am really interested in trying it out. Could you take a look at it too and let me know what you think? I’m okay with taking it slow and having lots of hard limits until we figure out what works best for us.”
“I was just thinking about the last time you went down on me and used the vibrator at the same time. Think we could do that again? That was unbelievable.”
It is no small feat to be open about our sexual desires, and communication on that level takes practice. Be kind to yourself when opening up sexual communication with your partner(s). A more pleasurable life is waiting for you– all you need to do is ask for it!
Perspectives Therapy Services is a multi-site mental and relationship health practice with clinic locations in Brighton, Lansing, Highland, Fenton and New Hudson, Michigan. Our clinical teams include experienced, compassionate and creative therapists with backgrounds in psychology, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, and social work. Our practice prides itself on providing extraordinary care. We offer a customized matching process to prospective clients whereby an intake specialist carefully assesses which of our providers would be the very best fit for the incoming client. We treat a wide range of concerns that impact a person's mental health including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, low self-worth, life transitions, and childhood and adolescent difficulties.