Why Is Sex So Difficult to Talk About?
I see it time and again in sex therapy. One of the biggest barriers to having a fulfilling sex life is being able to open up and talk about sex. This is sometimes about communication and problems with communication in the relationship. However, it’s also about the personal issues that people have relating to sex.
To talk about sex, people have to be open with themselves first of all. This may sound like common sense, but people often avoid being open with themselves about sexual desires and needs. This is especially true for people in relationships. When I ask people about sexual desires and goals, I often hear this answer: “my partner would never want [fill in the blank].” The question itself wasn’t even answered–“What do you want?”
Sometimes we’re taught to have so much anxiety about our partners’ acceptance that we don’t even think to openly talk about what we want when it comes to sex.If your relationship is harmed by you simply considering what you want, you have much deeper issues in your relationship. The most obvious being trust and acceptance.
Obviously, I’m not saying that both people can have everything they want and should ignore partner boundaries. The truth is that many relationships assume boundaries rather than discussing them. Trust can come from learning about your partner’s desires, where that comes from and how you can support each other. This may or may not include changes in relationship structures, sexual interactions and dynamics. Even more importantly, it’ll create trust, understanding and openness.
Things that deserve your special attention:
1. Sexual issues represent problems with power and control.
Everyone has different relationships with power and control. Some people can’t get enough and that can range to those who prefer to have zero control and worry. These dynamics come out in how we have sex with partners, but also in how we deal with communication and compromise surrounding sex. Stubborness, avoidance, and other ways of interacting with each other are impacted by our own relationships with power and control.
2. Our relationship insecurities can come out in our sex lives.
We all have insecurities and these insecurities always come out at some point in our relationship. These things can be about our worth, our fears, etc. We often look for validation of these insecurities in our relationships. But without awareness, these insecurities can lead to passive aggressiveness and game playing. This can make it extremely difficult to negotiate around anything including sex.
3. Unfinished business can impact our relationships and sex.
Sometimes we need to do some individual work on ourselves. Life happens to us. At the same time, we live busy lives, so it’s easy to just carry on with our lives after difficult things occur. Relationship issues, deaths, traumas, and other things can really impact us. When you don’t focus on healing some of these wounds, they can come out in how you communicate and negotiate. They can impact your motivation and how you feel about yourself. Getting support is crucial in helping you enhance your relationships.
4. Most of us aren’t nearly as good at communicating as we think we are.
“Who needs help communicating better? Not me!?” I’ve heard this happen with so many of my clients. They come in believing that their partners have major communication issues. Many times they are right! But the truth is that everyone can benefit from improving communication skills. Especially listening skills.
5. BS messages about how easy sex should be.
Finally, we have a lot of messages about sex and many of them are bullshit. People often think that they shouldn’t have to talk about sex for it to be something connective, meaningful, and pleasurable. I’m here to tell you, we don’t talk about it enough. It’s important to have ongoing communication about it. Not doing so puts the relationship at risk.
Considerations for Change
1. Identify and build awareness.
To share how you feel you have to be able to identify the feelings. Building awareness of your emotions and narrative are critical in sharing this with your partner. Focus on naming emotions and identifying how they feel in the moment. Pay attention to what you feel and notice in your body. What happened outside of you that led to these feelings? Why do you think that led to these feelings? This will give you a lot of insight.
2. Practice vulnerability and shame resilience.
To make changes, you have to be willing to take some chances. If you do everything in the same way, nothing will change. This can be scary. Sometimes it also doesn’t work out and you can end up feeling shamed. Learning about vulnerability and shame and how they impact you can really go a long way in moving your relationship in a meaningful direction.
3. Talk (but watch for projection).
Talk about stuff, but practice being aware of your part in the problem. If you’re only blaming and criticizing, you likely have work to do.
4. We are all responsible for our own sexual fulfillment.
We are taught that our partners should just hit the right buttons. The truth is that you’re responsible for turning yourself on. Your partner may be able to help you with this, but it’s not all on their shoulders. Learn how to communicate in a way that enables your partner to do this!
Listening is the hardest skill of all. We often want to be heard, so we focus a lot of our attention on sharing our stories, rather than listening to someone else’s. Listening and understanding are wonderful gifts of connection. Learn how to do this and you’ll be well on your way to rebuilding sexual connection that permeates positivity into the rest of your relationship.
If you’re in the Dallas area and you’re looking for a therapist to help you with these situations, feel free to contact us.