(or anything else you're kinda scared to talk to them about)
Talking to your partner about your sex life (or lack thereof) can be difficult for so many reasons. Here are 5 tips for making the conversation more productive.
1. Give yourself some time to figure out how you’re feeling and what you want to say before you initiate a conversation.
This is so important. You can’t ensure the conversation will go well, but you can ensure that you go into the conversation feeling relatively calm and centered and prepared to talk. So take the time to get your end of things in order before you do anything else.
Ask yourself: what are the circumstances? What is it that’s going on that you want to talk about? Be honest with yourself and be specific in your assessment. If the issue is that there have been changes in your sex life, get clear on what those changes are… without minimizing the situation or blowing it out of proportion.
Then ask yourself what you’re thinking about the circumstances. Maybe you’ve developed a whole storyline in your head about why your sex life has slowed down – perhaps you’re imagining your partner isn’t attracted to you anymore, is planning to leave you, is trying to deprive you of pleasure, etc. Notice if you’re creating a narrative about what’s going on and then remind yourself that you have created this narrative, and it may not be an accurate reflection of reality.
Check in with how you’re feeling. Are you angry, scared, nervous, hurt? Sit with those feelings and allow them to be present. Often, we try to avoid feeling uncomfortable emotions, but these feelings contain important messages. If we try to push our feelings away, we don’t have a chance to receive the messages. If you can’t readily identify what you’re feeling, ask yourself why the idea of having this conversation feels difficult for you and see what answers arise.
With awareness of the circumstances and your thoughts and feelings about them in mind, figure out what you want to say to your partner. Get clear about what you want to convey. What do you want them to know? What do you want to find out from them? What are you hoping will happen as a result of this conversation?
2. After you’ve gotten a sense of what you want to say, find a time and place for the conversation that feels safe and relaxed for you and your partner. Put in the request to have a conversation in a non-threatening way.
Maybe try: “I’d really like to find some time for us to talk without interruption. There are a few things I’ve been thinking about that I’d like to share with you.”
Maybe be more specific: “I know we’ve talked about our sex life before, and I know the conversation didn’t go too well, but addressing this is really important to me, and I’d like to try to talk about it again.”
This may sound ridiculously obvious, but bombarding your partner with a statement along the lines of, “Our sex life is terrible and we need to talk about it now!” immediately after they walk in the door after a long day of work is not going to lead to anything good. But sometimes we say and do things like this, because we’re nervous or scared about having the conversation, and our anxiety dictates our actions. That’s why step number one is so important: deal with your own state of affairs before you talk to you partner.
3. Begin the conversation by establishing trust, then speak your truth without shame or blame
When you have the conversation, establish a sense of comfort and safety by stating or reiterating what you’d like to talk about. Ask your partner if it’s okay for you to share what you’ve been thinking and feeling, and tell them that you want to hear what they have to say, too. Remember that each of you may feel vulnerable in this situation, and look for ways to be kind and considerate… even if you’re upset with them and really upset about the state of your sex life.
Tell them what you want them to know. Remember that you have a right to feel what you feel and want what you want, and that it’s important for you to be brave and honest about your feelings – even if what you say may ruffle their feathers or lead to an uncomfortable discussion. That said, there’s no need for honesty to be brutal. Speaking hard truths for the sake of improving communication - and hopefully your sex life - is different from listing all the ways in which you feel aggrieved for the sake of making a point.
Keep your comments as efficient as you can. It’s not a lawyer’s opening argument, after all.
4. Then ask them what they think about what you’ve said and how they’re feeling about your sex life these days. And LISTEN to what they have to say.
They may have things they’ve been wanting to share with you, too, and may be really grateful that you’ve initiated this conversation. Or they may have strong responses to everything you’ve just told them. Do your best to be receptive to what they tell you, even if their comments provoke uncomfortable feelings on your end. If they say things you don’t understand or agree with, practice taking a breath before you respond, and work on getting curious. Sometimes when people say things we don’t like or don’t agree with, we respond defensively. If you notice yourself feeling reactive, try asking questions instead of making statements.
Maybe the conversation goes really well, and you head right to the bedroom… or wherever your preferred location of sexual congress happens to be. Maybe the conversation does not go well, and both of you feel sad or hurt or pissed off or whatever.
5. No matter how the conversation goes, thank your partner for engaging in the discussion with you.
Communication within intimate relationships can be excruciatingly difficult.
Communication around sex can be even more so. Give yourselves credit for showing up for each other and making the effort. Give yourself credit for everything you feel you did well in the conversation, or leading up to it. Give yourself credit for making the effort to learn and grow.
A slightly more in-depth version of this piece can be found here in Medium.com.