One challenge that we frequently discuss when doing pre-marital counseling and relationship therapy, especially when couples or polycules see us for sex therapy, is sexual satisfaction, or rather sexual dissatisfaction. Communication plays a vital role in preventing this issue, and helping resolve it when it inevitably arises. Anxiety often accompanies us when discussing the topic of what we do and don't want from our sexual relationship with our partner (or partners), however there are strategies that can make these discussions at bit easier:
1. Choose an appropriate time.
It may be helpful to set a time aside in advance so your partner doesn't feel caught off guard when communicating about topics like sex. Given the many stressors and distractions we all experience in our daily lives, coming to the table with the right mindset will help the conversation to be productive and non-judgemental. Choose a time when both partners feel they have enough energy, when they're sober, when there is plenty of time to talk, and when there won’t be distractions (ie: phone & tv off).
2. Use "I" statements.
“I” statements allow you to express what you're experiencing, what you want, and what you need without blaming your partner(s). Speaking from your own experience make it more likely to be met with compassion and empathy rather than defensiveness. Tell your partner what you need - not what they should do.
3. Encourage your partner's efforts and convey your interest.
Clarify what your partner is saying by asking questions. Reflect your partner's feelings and statements back to them to be sure you understand what they mean for you to hear. Validate your partner's feelings, efforts, and actions. Show respect for your partner's intentions. Restate and summarize the basic ideas and feelings expressed by your partner to show that you understood. Help your partner to feel safe in the moment, which will pave the way for necessary future discussions that will also be difficult and vulnerable.
4. Help your partner to feel comfortable and comforted throughout the process.
Understand your partner’s wants and needs, asking them questions and encouraging them to ask you some as well. It's important for each of you to view this as a positive experience so that, yes, the talk was difficult but you both made it through to a better outcome. Prove to each other through practicing these tough talks about sex that you're can navigate them together better than you had before.
Need help talking about sex? Many of us at Clarity are sex therapists in Seattle who help couples and polycules each day to learn to have these tougher talks. Please reach out if we can help!