Apply Your Teamwork Skills
What is the best way to communicate with your intimate partner about matters of the heart – particularly sex? It’s helpful to remind yourself that you already have a well-developed suite of adult problem-solving skills you use at home or at work. When you have something important to decide, you probably discuss it with your partner or other team members. Then you figure out the approach that feels the best to everyone. You’re already doing this to some degree about questions on how to parent your kids, where to go for vacation or dinner, or how to stretch the finite resources of your household to do the most good. So you’ve been practicing already.
Sexual desire and intimacy needs are just another example of the things all couples have to figure out. It is possible to talk about sexual desire and intimacy needs openly and directly, and employ your adult problem-solving and teamwork skills to craft a workable approach. The problem is that most of us have never witnessed another human being doing this in the realm of sexuality and desire. We didn’t see our parents or other adults work on this when we were growing up. There can be a learning curve as you explore how to do this.
It helps to talk at a calm time, away from the bedroom. Plan to talk about it more than once. It’s important to tell your truth and listen carefully to your partner’s truth. Love and kindness and sensitivity are always useful. Give yourself credit for trying. Seek help if you get stuck. It’s useful to focus on goals, get agreement there, and then hammer out the details of the approach to your shared goal.
First Steps in Improving Your Intimate Communication
A useful exercise is to take some time with your partner to lay out what you want. Do this when tensions are low, so you can both take in what is being communicated. Take turns making a statement to your partner that begins with the words “I want…” Don’t overthink it. Don’t worry about being organized or articulate. Just say what is on your heart. It may be tempting to say what you don’t want (that’s easier), but push yourself to express as clearly as you can what you do want. Take the chance to say what you really want!
When we do this process in my office I tell my clients this is like being a kid making a Christmas list. You put what you want on the list, with great specificity (Xbox One Special Edition) yet you know you probably won’t get everything you ask for. But still, it’s useful for Santa to know these things.
This can be a profoundly important activity. Expressing what you want is a way of honoring your deepest self. It takes a lot of energy to pretend you don’t want something that is really quite important to you. Take the chance to speak what you want in your intimate relationship. You may be surprised how possible it is to uncover unexpected areas of agreement.