A healthy marriage needs two people who are committed to good communication. And good communication requires good listening skills and healthy, assertive discussions. But when it comes to talking about sex with your spouse, the personal, private and vulnerable nature of the topic can, if not handled well, cause a conversation to feel more like a stress test than a good discussion.
Today’s conversations about sex are on display next to the candy in the grocery store checkout aisles, in every form of entertainment, and regularly in the news. In today’s sex-saturated, self-help, airbrushed world, spouses need healthy ways to talk about sex with each other.
There are lots of reasons to talk about sex. Here are just some of the reasons a healthy couple will want to have some open conversations:
- Sexual abuse in the past
- Sexual history that a spouse is not proud of
- Things that a spouse is afraid to talk about for fear of hurting the other
- Things that a spouse enjoys and wants more often
- Understanding what turns on and what turns off a spouse
- When the tried and true becomes rote and boring
Do any of these things make your list of topics you need to discuss? When the subject is sex, everyone feels vulnerable. Sex goes to the very core of masculinity, femininity and identity. But it’s a discussion worth having and can lead to sexual intimacy.
So as you work up the courage to take your short list of issues to your spouse, consider these tips that might help the conversation go better:
1. Don’t bring up the subject when emotions are already high.
If you’re dealing with something stressful, don’t throw this topic on top of it. Find a time when things are calm and heads are cool to get the best from both of you. And be gentle while treading lightly. You may be bringing up issues or touching on topics that are very sensitive, even for reasons that you cannot understand. Step lightly as you gain your footing in the conversation.
2. Start with a promise.
When you raise the issue, reassure your spouse that you do not want to hurt or tear them down, but want to build a better sexual relationship together. If you can both promise each other to be committed to that, you’ll open the door for deeper and healthier discussions.
3. Ask questions…often.
Instead of telling your spouse, “I don’t want you to do this or that anymore,” which may feel like a threat or an accusation, try to frame it as a question. For example, “Would you be willing to let me share something that is difficult for me when we make love?” It can disarm your spouse without putting either of you on the defensive.
4. Don’t ask yes or no questions.
Any good conversation needs dialogue, not just a series of true or false questions. Help your spouse open up about the issues you’re discussing by asking open-ended questions, like “Why don’t you describe that for me?” or “What do you mean by…?”
5. Promise to listen completely before responding.
Listening is critical to good conversation. If you look like you’re just waiting for their lips to stop moving so you can say something, you’ll not have an effective or constructive dialogue. Better yet…don’t respond. Sometimes letting your spouse get something off their chest without a response is exactly what they need. Consider just thanking them and offering to just think about the conversation and respond later, especially if a tense issue arises.
6. Ask what he/she has always wanted to say about your relationship but never has.
Give your spouse permission to say something that they are afraid to say. Invite them, make them feel safe and assure them you’ll hear them out.
7. Have a sense of humor.
Sexual intimacy can be embarrassing, serious, silly and sometimes just a funny topic. Being willing to laugh at yourself can lighten the mood and open the conversation. Having a sense of humor makes people feel safe.
8. Focus on the future, not the past.
Don’t focus on who is to blame for whatever may be troubling the relationship. Focus on understanding each other. Spouses who focus on blame are too wrapped up in looking backwards. If you can keep your focus on understanding each other and being understood yourself, you can keep the focus forward on the future.
9 Don’t use sexual intimacy as a weapon in the conversation.
I’ve blogged before about this but using sex to punish or manipulate your spouse is not productive or trust building. Sexual intimacy, when used as a weapon, drives couples apart. A healthy relationship is built on trust and both spouses focusing on the needs of the other. Threatening your spouse is not the best way to do that.
I hope you and your spouse will be willing to tackle this sensitive subject together. The art of conversation is sorely needed in our homes, and especially in our bedrooms, if we are to have marriages that will be all they can be.
Are you seeing that your wife regularly doesn’t want sex? Find out the reason why.
What are some other tips you have learned about handling this topic with your spouse? Share your lessons with our readers in the comments below.