Quality, honest, and open communication is absolutely crucial to the health and survival of any relationship. Whether you’re having sex in a committed romantic relationship or casually, you’re going to need to talk about what you want, need, and expect, as well as what your boundaries and limits are. This means not only saying “yes” or “no,” but exploring desires, challenging beliefs, and negotiating.
Okay, I know this sounds a bit like a movie about a middle-aged couple reconnecting or an article for newlyweds in Oprah Magazine, but that’s because it’s true.
Communication isn’t just for devoted couples to bare their souls to each other, it’s what we use to be able to say, “That thing I saw in porn… I want to try it.” It also takes you from saying, “I don’t want to have sex today,” to, “I am really attracted to you, but today I want some time to myself.” Communication can go from, “I don’t like getting head” to “I feel uncomfortable passively receiving pleasure.”
Communication not only serves the immediate need of, well, communicating, but it also allows you to go deeper into the “why,” the “how,” and become more intimate with your partner. Communication can deepen or cause more distance in your relationships depending on how efficient it is. Some people are naturally skilled at communicating and some need a little more practice. Regardless of where you or your partner fall on that spectrum, there are some tools and guidelines that can help make things easier.
1) Pick the right time and place
The week your partner has a final or a paper due is not the right week to tell them that you wish you were having sex more often. The moment when your partner is running off to work is probably not the best time to inform them you don’t actually like that thing they do with their tongue. Casually doing the crossword at a cafe on a Sunday is not the time to decide to spill the beans you’ve been wondering what a prostate massage might feel like.
Pick a time when you have no other obligations or distractions and where you can focus on having a conversation. Pick a time when neither of you are arguing, angry, hostile, exhausted, or fragile. Give yourself time and private space to hash out a real conversation. There’s nothing worse than misconstruing what someone meant and having to turn it over in your head all day.
2) Be honest, but kind
Lying or even just truth bending is only going to lead to frustration and resentment on both parts. It might be hard to ask for something or to spill a desire, but you’ve set aside time to talk – so talk. If you can’t ask for something, you won’t get it, period.
How you choose to say something is crucial, though. For example, “I think sex with you is boring,” is a much different statement than, “I was looking at some stuff from the sex store – this ______ seems like fun.” My rule is, you can’t complain about something unless you have an alternative solution to propose.
3) Be willing to listen
Hearing your partner say they want something different or more or less or they want to try something new can be uncomfortable. You might think it means you’re not good enough or sexy enough or thin enough or your appendages are too small; however, try looking at the fact that they can discuss sensitive topics with you as an honour.
Take a deep breath and listen. Don’t think about what you’re going to respond with – just listen. If they’re stumbling with their words, ask questions to try and figure out what they mean. “I was thinking of trying an open relationship,” could be followed by questions like, “What about non-monogamy is appealing to you?”
4) Be gracious with one another
Remember that you like each other and you like seeing each other naked. If you flip out when your partner asks if you would be into anal, they’re going to have a hard time trusting you to be accepting and won’t come to you in the future. Do whatever it takes to help you keep calm: a little kissing break, grabbing five minutes alone, or going for a walk. This person is your friend and you’d like to keep it that way, so act accordingly.
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