How to fix your sex life. What if sex is not good?
As a Sex Therapist in Calgary I talk to people every day about their challenges in the bedroom. People are struggling, often for a very long time. They often feel very alone.
Every couple, every person has a different story, but there are common patterns.
When a couple is talking to me about struggles in bed, I'm listening for:
Is this a relationship challenge? (we've been fighting, or feeling so distant, of course I don't want to have sex. Or maybe, I want to, but we need to re-connect first.)
Is this a desire problem? (I just don't want to have sex, I have no libido, no desire, I'd be fine if we never had sex ever again.)
Is this an arousal problem? (I want to have sex, but my body just doesn't respond, or I feel pain, or it's uncomfortable)
Or, the problem is that sex is not very good for me, so I don't really want to do it, and I also don't know how to tell my partner.
What if sex isn't very good?
In this post I will focus on the last point. Sex is just not all that good. How do you tell your partner after a year, 5, 10, 15 years, that sex hasn't been very good and that's why you have been avoiding it?
I don't think that's where you start. While there are people who love radical honesty and appreciate honest feedback, majority of us would be hurt after hearing this. Also, understandably disappointed. "Why didn't you tell me earlier?"
Why can't we talk about it?
And that's a good question. Why didn't you? For most people - we just don't know how, we don't want to hurt our partner's feelings, we hope it'll get better. We never see it - no romantic movie involves giving your partner directions. It's always magical, without anyone asking for what they want, or asking for what their partner wants. Assumption is - "we'll just know." That's an interesting assumption. And then we realize we got ourselves into a trap - you can't bring it up anymore because it's been so long.
Or maybe we tried, maybe on multiple occasions we tried to talk about what's not working, only to get our partner defensive, resentful, hurt, or shut down. Or maybe they say "ok, sure, let's do something else" - but it never happens. You both might be very eager, but you just don't know what else to do. Or, a conversation about intimacy predictably turns into a fight, and you don't want to fight anymore, so you stop talking about it.
So what do we do? I have a solution, based on the work of sex and relationship expert, author of many books, Dr. Tammy Nelson.
Step 1. You start by telling your partner what works well, what you love, what you enjoy. And you mention it often, genuinely, and with gentle and positive emotions. You are enthusiastic, encouraging and kind.
I so love it when you touch me like this
I love being close to you
I love snuggling next to you
Step 2. You mention something that is already working well and you want more of. And so you ask for more of it!
I love how you hug me, I want this every day
I love it when you touch me like this, don't stop
You know how you kiss me before you leave for work? I want more! I want you to kiss me like that and not just because you are leaving for work, I want you to just kiss me. Makes me feel loved
Step 3. You mentions something that is working well and ask for a tweak that will make it even better.
I love how you touch my lower back. Can you just hold your hand there for a moment? When you pause, I melt.
I love it when you kiss me, and I want you to hold my face gently when you do. That would feel heavenly.
When you touch me like this, go even slower. Like that! Perfect!
What the first 3 steps do:
It trains your brain to focus on what's working and not just on what's not working. Our brains are funny. The more it focuses on the negative, the more discouraged we get, then we stop trying, then it gets worse - and then we focus on the negative even more. Self created downward spiral. We reverse the spiral, we look for something that's good. That's working!
It also helps your partner relax. We all love hearing compliments, appreciation, recognition of what we do well. We naturally want to do more of that.
It normalizes talking about intimacy and asking for what you want. You might be surprised how many people have never said anything like this, or maybe they said it once or twice and given up.
And now we are ready for the next step:
Step 4. You ask for what you want.
You ask for something new or different that you've been wanting. Focus on one thing at a time, be specific, give your partner a chance to practice. Give them time, give them plenty of positive feedback. Don't give up until you get the touch you want. The 3 minute game might be an excellent practice to ease into this, to learn how to ask, how to give and receive.
It gives you parter useful information. If we say "Oh, I don't like this", "Don't touch me like that", "Not there" "Not like this" - it tells them nothing of what we want. So instead, we are asking directly - we are giving them a map.
What do you think? I know it's not as simple as that. Well, it's actually simple, it's just not easy.
If you need more help, I am a Sex Therapist and Couples Counsellor in Calgary, AB. I am available for sessions online, and would be happy to support you. You can book your free consultation here.