Talking about sex with your spouse is hard. It may be marginally more attractive than, say, 48 hours of natural labor followed by an emergency cesarean section, but maybe not. You may have great communication skills within your family or work life, but freeze in the bedroom. If so, you’re not alone. Dr. Valerie Davis Raskin offers some help!
The challenge all parents face
Unfortunately, while “Don’t ask, don’t tell” may have been a perfectly good system in the early passion-filled days, maintaining a happy sex life is a major challenge for many new parents. For couples affected by the sexual blah’s after kids are born, better sexual communication is the foundation upon which change is built.
Approach sexual communication as a learnable skill. Like anything new, it’s bound to feel awkward in the beginning. Practice will help. Keep at it, and not only will it get easier, you’ll see results. Many women underestimate the importance men place on being sexually pleasing to their partners. Better sexual communication is win-win.
Seven tips for better sexual communication
1. Set the ideal time and place
Empathy and generosity flow from strength, and both spouses will be more receptive when starting out on solid ground. Some specifics:
Start a discussion about sexuality only when there is no chance of interruption, especially by children. Consider talking on the phone, or in the car when you’re both looking forward. Taking out direct eye contact may reduce self-consciousness as well as aggression. Set a time limit. After five or ten minutes, negativity often escalates. It’s far better to stop too quickly than too late. Establish the right to bail out. Stopping a specific discussion due to discomfort or an awareness of high emotional reactivity should not end the general conversation. Reschedule, and proceed with caution, but do proceed. b>2. Talk to your husband like he’s company
Be polite, be generous, be open, be gentle. All too often, our partner is the only person in the world to whom we fail to extend customary courtesy.
3. Make a good opening move
Anxiety about sexual communication may contribute to a harsh opening statement, making you seem angry when you aren’t.
Consider one of the following strategies to get discussion started:
Give him written information as an opener. Send him e-mail. Many couples find that e-mail is a terrific way to defuse hot button topics. Consider sending him the link to this web page. Write him an old fashioned pen and paper letter. This reduces the anxiety or unintended hostility that can make it hard to initiate a difficult conversation. You can write and re-write your letter until you’re satisfied with how and what you’ve said.
4. Notice the good stuff
You catch more flies with honey. Praise the effort, praise the outcome, praise him. You may be so angry that you don’t feel much like applauding what you’ve missed for so long. Try anyway, lest you win the battle but lose the war. Staying authentic without being smarmy allows you to reap the benefits of praise without feeling like he got away with something. “That felt great last night when you gave me a back rub and I fell off to sleep,” will be more effective than “Thanks for not pushing sex last night, for a change.”
5. Try nonverbal praise
You can also heap on the praise non-verbally. While “moaning” during sex may conjure up images of being outrageously unladylike or primitive, consider something along the lines of a pleased murmur or sigh. Keeping your mouth closed, make the same sound in your throat that you would when enjoying a bite of double chocolate ice cream (“Mmm…”). If you’re worried about the kids hearing, put a white noise machine (such as a fan or humidifier) or a radio turned low just inside your door. Then make that sound when your husband is doing something that feels great, and he will repeat it.
6. Plan ahead
Planning specific words to use in advance will help you find courage. Figure out what you want him to hear, then work out how to say it. For example, if you feel rushed, try, “Let’s make love really slowly tonight.” If you want to stop before intercourse, try, “Can we pick this up right here another time?” If he’s missing the right spot, try, “I’ll be putty in your hands if you just move an inch up.”
7. Go first
Demonstrate good listening. One of the most effective ways to communicate is to set the example of receptivity to constructive input. Model what you’d like for him to do: “What feels best — this, or this?” Ask him, “Is there a way I could touch you that would feel even better for you?” Or, “When I’m doing something you really enjoy, would you let me know?” Taking the first step can be a powerful invitation for him to respond in kind.