Sex. It can be a hot and heavy wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am, or even a distant memory. But one thing sex is not is “talked about.” At least not easily or frequently enough.
And yet, when couples improve communication about sex in marriage and long-term relationships, satisfaction skyrockets in the bedroom. Your overall relationship also improves along with your sex life.
According to renowned relationship expert John Gottman, only 9 percent of couples who have difficulty talking about sex actually feel satisfied sexually. The other 91 percent suffer the disconnect — physically, emotionally, and relationally.
With so many benefits to a vibrant, frequent sex life within a marriage, why is the topic so taboo on the communication front? Why is it that expressing your sexual needs feels like tip-toeing off to find your hidden stash of chocolate in the middle of the night?
Consider some of these wonderful mental and physical health benefits of frequent sex:
- Reduced stress
- Increased bonding and emotional intimacy
- Better sleep
- Better cardiac function, including lowered blood pressure
- Increased physical fitness
- Release of life-enhancing hormones like oxytocin, prolactin, and DHEA
- Improved immune function
- Improved brain function
With so much going for it, you would think couples would be on the constant ready to improve communication about sex.
But if you aren’t sure how to communicate with your spouse in other, less-vulnerable areas of your relationship, how are you supposed to talk about sex?
Believe it or not, it doesn’t have to be that difficult. And the sooner you weave sex into your communication repertoire, the more natural it will feel. If you can talk about finances, kids, and meddling in-laws — trust me — you can talk about the “Big Bang” theory in your marriage.
Here are some basic guidelines for improving communication about sex in your marriage. Notice that they aren’t much different than improving communication about any area in your marriage.
Here are 8 steps to improve communication in your marriage that will lead to a better sex life.
1. Commit to being kind and positive. Always.
The topic of sex is a loaded one. It sweeps into its fold a lot more than a fun romp in the hay. There are issues like self-image and performance expectations that are silent eavesdroppers on the interlude.
So, be careful not to criticize or judge your partner.
Getting your needs met isn’t going to happen if you are criticizing, accusing, or blaming your lover. Instead, kindness inspires couples to build a mutual desire to please each other and invigorate your relationship.
2. Don’t have “the talk” in bed.
Maintain a sense of sanctuary in the bedroom, especially in your bed. You don’t want to create any negative subconscious connections to crawling between the sheets.
Whether you approach the bed to sleep or to make love in, it needs to remain a completely positive and safe space.
Instead, talk about your sex life in a neutral place. Take a picnic to a park, or make reservations at a romantic restaurant where you can talk but still have privacy.
Whatever you do, keep everything that happens in bed a safe, positive, and validating experience.
3. Don’t have “the talk” right after sex.
No one wants to fear being evaluated on their performance right after the final bow. In the same way that you choose a neutral location to talk about sex, choose a neutral time.
Sex is the ultimate expression of vulnerability. So, the topic needs to be treated with great care and respect.
There’s a time and a place for everything.
4. Go slowly and be patient.
If communication about sex has been hush-hush in your relationship until now, don’t attempt to blow it out of hiding in one conversation. Start slowly.
Focus on things like intimacy and your emotional connection. Build a cocoon of safety around the topic by tending to some of the “peripheral” topics first.
Every person brings a unique history of experiences and feelings to a relationship — and most definitely to sex. By going slowly, you are more likely to pick up on little pieces of information that can make a big difference in the bedroom.
Remember, you are seeking to be more aware, tolerant, understanding, and empathetic.
5. Use “I” statements.
As with any other topic of communication, avoiding criticism relies on self-containment. Describing what you want is far different than telling your partner what they’re doing wrong.
“I feel so loved when you kiss me on the shoulder as you pass by me in the kitchen.”
“I loved it when you gave me ‘the look’ from across the room at last night’s party.”
Think of what that approach will inspire in your spouse, compared to, “You never touch me unless you want sex.”
6. Don’t expect mind-reading.
You may feel uneasy describing exactly what you want in the bedroom. But improving your sex life starts with improving your communication about sex — and that means getting comfortable with the details that you crave during sex.
Start small and honor your own comfort level, as well as that of your spouse. The important thing is that you don’t expect your spouse to “just know” what you want.
Sometimes, it’s the tiniest shift or enhancement that makes all the difference. Two minutes more here. Longer kisses there. This position then.
Share your desires and needs in a positive way from an “I” perspective. Doing so will allow your spouse the opportunity to match your vulnerability with their love for you and desire to please you.
Freeing up the mind-reading space will liberate you and increase your mutual sexual satisfaction.
7. Avoid surprises that imply expectations.
An unexpected delivery of flowers is one thing. But clicking on the TV to a pre-set porn flick and handing your spouse the “gift” of a sex toy is another.
Acting on presumptions or on your own hidden fantasies will almost always backfire. If you want to improve your communication about sex, you have to commit to being on the same page.
8. Keep the conversations going.
Talking about sex isn’t a one-time deal. Bodies change. Responsibilities change. Energy levels change. Interests change. Desires change. What turned you both on in your 20s may not even exist in your 40s.
So, instead of risking disappointment, complacency, or grudges, build the topic of sex into your regular communication. You will set yourselves up for new discoveries and new approaches to satisfaction.
Sex may not be everything in a marriage. But when it’s non-existent or unsatisfying, it has a way of becoming everything.
Learning to improve communication about sex will create a seemingly magical inflow of satisfaction and emotional intimacy in your marriage.
Suddenly, last night’s orgasmic tryst will be trickling over into all the other areas of your relationship. And what once wasn’t “everything” will now be making everything better.
This article originally appeared on YourTango.