Let's Talk About Sex!
Sex is something I talk about with every first responder couple I see. I also talk about it often with my husband.
And you know what I found out? Not many couples have meaningful or detailed conversations about sex.
Dr. John Gottman in his book “Eight Dates” shared how his research has shown that when couples talk openly about sex, not only do they have more sex, but the women in those relationships have more orgasms.
So I am here to help you have the conversations to help make your sex life incredible! One that BOTH of you will enjoy.
But before we start these conversations, we need to get clear about something.
Sex is not just intercourse. And foreplay is not just when you hit the sheets.
That is only part of it all.
In fact, there are actually four stages of sexual satisfaction:
- Desire – this is when you are feeling sexy, wanting to be with your partner. Some professionals refer to this as the “libido” stage.
- Arousal – this is when your body gets into it, and you start to get excited about being sexual with your partner.
- Eroticism – this is when it gets hot and heavy, and this stage is often what people refer to when they talk about sex. But like I said, this is only part of it all.
- Satisfaction – this is after you have gone through all of the previous stages, and feel good about what happened in it all.
Make sure both of you understand this before you have the conversations about your sex life.
Now, let me set a few ground rules for these conversations.
- Allow humor to be a big part of the conversation. Not sarcastic, insulting humor. But this does not have to be a serious conversation (in fact, that can be unhelpful here). Be light-hearted and enjoy talking with each other.
- It’s okay to feel awkward. It can be difficult to talk about it, but the more you talk about it, the more comfortable you will be, and the more fun and passion you will enjoy.
- Negativity does not have a place when talking about sex. This is not a report card where you talk about your A in English and your D is Geometry. You don't get to compare your partner to previous partners here. When you bring negativity into these discussions, shame is not far behind. And shame can be one of the biggest barriers to having a healthy sex life.
- Focus on understanding. Focus on understanding yourself and what you enjoy in your sex life together. Focus on understanding your partner and what they enjoy in your sex life as a first responder couple. What to do cannot be figured out if you do not understand first.
- Be specific. If you are vague, it will be confusing for your partner. The more specific you can be, the more your partner will be able to understand what you are trying to express. And if you don’t know what your partner is trying to say, if you are confused, then ask.
- Be open-minded. There is no place for judgement when talking about sex. Judgement brings shame, and shame will kill the passion. It can be helpful to think of it as “Yes, and…” instead of a “Yes, but…” mentality.
Alright, now that we have all of that cleared up, let’s get to the fun part. Let’s talk about sex!
Conversation #1: What does sex mean to you?
We need to talk with our partners to understand what sex actually means to them. What they mean when they say the word “sex”.
Is it simply the act of intercourse? Is it the foreplay leading up to intercourse? Is it all of the flirting and sexy talk during the days leading up to date night?
If I think that saying “sex” is just talking about intercourse, but my husband thinks it also includes the foreplay, our conversations can be really confusing. And when first responder couples already have a challenging time connecting with crazy schedules, this just enhances those challenges.
Remember, when you ask each other this question, it is not about you being able to share what you want to say. This is about understanding your partner and what can help them enjoy your sex life more.
Conversation #2: How can we build the desire and passion throughout the week?
HERE! WE! GO!
This is such a fun conversation to have.
What are the things that help you to feel that little spark of desire? To feel interested in sex with your partner? How do we enhance the excitement and anxious anticipation for making love?
For some folks, it is the flirty texts. Do you feel excited, feel the spark of passion, when you get a text from your partner saying how sexy they think your body is? Or maybe it’s when your partner wears those jeans that make their butt look good? Is it when you put on those tight and sexy underwear your partner bought you? Could it be absence making the heart grow fonder?
My personal favorite is the tender and passionate kisses. In his book “Eight Dates”, Dr. Gottman talks about the world’s largest study of love with over 70,000 people in 24 countries. That research showed how kissing passionately for no reason at all was a major factor in experiencing a great sex life in the relationship.
So the next time you are walking by your spouse, whether it is as you are talking off your Velcro vest or as you are walking out the door for your next 48-hour shift, stop and kiss your partner passionately for 6 seconds. Not the peck on the cheek. The kind of kiss that would make your children yell “Ewww!” or your brothers would say “Get a room!”
Trust me. Your partner will thank you.
Conversation #3: What can we do to create connection and intimacy when you don’t feel in the mood for sex?
Here is the thing: you do not always have to say yes to sex. Your partner does not always have to say yes to sex.
Forced intimacy is unhealthy for a relationship.
And giving a guilt trip, or throwing a fit, or rejecting your partner because they are not saying yes to sex when you make a move, that’s not going to help your sex life. In fact, a negative reaction to your partner not wanting sex will actually decrease the frequency of sex in your life.
So when your partner doesn’t want to have sex, don’t take it personal.
That is where this conversation will help. Find other ways of creating that intimate connection.
Maybe it is cuddling together, just holding your partner under the sheets without feeling them up. Maybe it is watching a movie together and just leaning into each other. Or maybe it is giving yourself or your partner some alone time, giving you space to get your head clear after a rough shift.
Talk about it and find out together.
Conversation #4: How can we communicate the desire to have sex in a clear and open way?
Being rejected when you make a move on your partner can really feel like crap.
Because we fear this feeling of rejection, we often will become subtle and sly with how to initiate sex.
But guess what? That isn’t always helpful for a fulfilling and enjoyable sex life.
So let’s talk about it! Think about the ways you like your partner trying to initiate sex with you. Ways that you can receive well, even if you are not in the mood. Share those positive ways with your partner.
And be open, understanding, to the ways your partner wants you to initiate sex.
Maybe it is a text at lunchtime saying, “I really want to do you tonight!” Maybe it is through gentle touches when you get home. Maybe it is asking, “Do you want to have sex?” after the kids fall asleep.
Talk about it so you both know what ways are helpful.
Conversation #5: What do you like when we are making love?
In this conversation, you really want to be specific. And use whatever language you feel comfortable with when referring to anatomy or acts during sex.
Talk about the times you have had sex that you really enjoyed. What about those times made it so enjoyable? Was it the act of intercourse? Was it all the anticipation and build up before actually making love?
Talk about touch. A LOT! Talk about the ways and places you want to be touched. Listen, really listen, to your partner as he/she tells you about the types of touch your partner enjoys the most.
Conversation #6: What can I do to help you enjoy our sex life more?
This is where you really need to have an open mind.
In this conversation, we want to talk about what to do in the future, what we want our sex life to look like.
Do you want more romance? Do you want to try using toys? Do you want to try out a fantasy?
Just because you talk about it in a conversation does not mean you have committed to do it in the future. So keep an open mind on what your partner is sharing. And don’t reject or shame your partner because of something they want to try.
Sex is such a fun and wonderful and special part of a relationship! Being with a partner who accepts us and loves us when we are most vulnerable, it is a gift.
When talking about sex, you need to be the most accepting, loving, caring, and safe person for your partner to talk to.
And here is the thing: if you love your partner, and genuinely want to enjoy your relationship together, then this mindset needs to be a priority for your relationship.
If your partner does not feel loved and accepted and safe in your relationship, then you won’t have an enjoyable sex life.
And now, I have a homework assignment for you.
Do everything but having intercourse for 5 days.
Have these conversations throughout that time or before you start the timer. But during these 5 days, begin trying out the different ways you and your partner have said increase the intimacy and connection other than intercourse.
This is such a fun exercise for couples to do! And I really love seeing what happens after couples have done this.
After you have done everything but intercourse for 5 days, send me an email or a message telling me what you thought about it all! I love hearing what couples enjoy and what ways we can alter these tools and tips to help couples enjoy sex and talking about sex even more!
If you want to have more conversations around sex in your relationship, get your FREE DOWNLOAD 10 Questions to Spice Up Your Sex Life! All you have to do is sign-up for our wellness newsletter and enjoy connecting with your partner in deeper and more exciting ways!
Take care, friends!
Alisha is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California. She is also the Director and Co-Founder of Code 3 Counseling. Alisha specializes in working with first responder couples. You can contact her through our website.
*This does NOT apply to people in domestic violence relationships. If you or your spouse are being put in physical/emotional danger, you need to seek crisis support services, such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
If you find that this exercise or these conversations brought up some stuff you are struggling with, either individually or in your relationship, please do not hesitate to reach out to us for help. We are here to support you, and we understand that this can be a challenging issue to face.
Remember, it may be your battle, but you don't have to fight it alone.
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