Communication in Sexual Relationships
Personal relationships deteriorate when what is needed and wanted is not expressed; the resulting frustrations build up and result in increasing anxiety and upset. This is particularly likely to occur with sexual relationships, when problems or disagreements about sexual issues are not discussed openly and honestly. If this is the case in your personal life, then here's how to go about improving matters. Note, this is an exercise to do with your sexual partner. Of course, many of the principles apply equally to any sensitive issue.
Break The Ice
- Talk with your partner about why it's hard to talk about sex.
- Share earlier experiences with talking about sex.
- Begin by discussing less threatening topics such as birth control, sex education, etc.
- Gradually move toward discussing more personal feelings and concerns.
- Read and discuss material if it seems easier than spontaneously talking about personal matters.
- Share your sexual histories including such areas as sex education, first experience with sexuality, etc.
Listen and Provide Feedback
- Active listening helps to show you are interested in what your partner is saying. Ask questions and make brief comments to help increase your understanding of what is being said.
- Maintaining eye contact displays caring and validation.
- Reflect back to your partner what you have understood them to say. This conveys active listening and an interest in understanding.
- Be supportive of your partner's efforts to communicate.
- A statement of appreciation or thanks can go a long way to strengthening a relationship.
- Express "unconditional positive regard." Convey the sense that you will value your partner regardless of what they communicate to you.
Discover Your Partner's Needs
- Ask open-ended, clarifying and extending questions to gain the most information about your companion's desires. Your partner will probably appreciate your concern.
- If the subject you are interested in is particularly sensitive, try self- disclosing first. Self-disclosure will model trust and a willingness to take risks.
- Compare notes on sexual preferences. This can be an effective way of learning about what does and doesn't stimulate your partner, and is certainly more efficient than trial and error.
- Give your partner permission to talk about his/her feelings.
Learn To Make Requests
- Take responsibility for your own pleasure. Realize that people are not mind readers and genuinely communicate your needs and desires.
- Make requests specific. This will increase the chance that your wishes will be understood and granted.
- Use "I" language. Although it is sometimes difficult to personalize requests, it is often the best means of getting a positive response.
- Be aware of your motivation. Is it based on on a constructive desire to make your relationship better?
- Choose the right time and place. Try not to be critical when anger is at it's peak. Give your partner a choice about when he/she would like to talk. Be aware of your partner's needs when choosing a location.
- Temper criticism with praise. This will reduce the likelihood of your partner responding in a defensive or angry fashion, and increase the chances of him/her accepting what you have to say.
- Nurture small steps toward change. Be generous with your support and encouragement of change. Realize that it is normal to revert back to comfortable patterns which have developed over time, so don't be too discouraged if there is some backsliding.
- Avoid "why" questions. They tend to be perceived as attacking and hurtful. Better to say 'I don't understand...'
- Express your anger appropriately. Direct your anger toward your partner's behaviors, not his/her character. Don't forget to remind your partner that you appreciate them as a person. Take responsibility for your anger.
- Your partner cannot make you feel angry, you choose to respond that way.
A reader asked this important question:
"How would you know that the feeling you have developed for the opposite sex is true love and not just a mere feeling of lust?"
If it’s simply lust then it's associated only with your body-mind, and it’s likely to be accompanied by feelings like jealousy and wish to dominate and control, that come along with the human animal. Our animal nature is based on underlying survival fears.
Our spiritual nature, on the other hand, is based on love. Spiritual love then is accompanied by feelings that are qualities of spirit, like compassion, understanding, empathy and acceptance. There may be the animal lust in place as well, since we are both spirit and animal, but the thing is to differentiate the two - to be mindful, in other words, to be a witness. To let the body do its thing (otherwise humans could never reproduce), but to value more highly and identify with the spiritual connection, the truly loving relationship. Then the physical becomes a pleasure on a higher level, because it is accompanied and elevated by the spiritual connection.
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