Lots of times, intimacy doesn’t feel intimate at all. It feels awkward at best and sometimes painful or embarrassing. It feels like giving up power, servicing someone else, being used. It feels like doing “it” and not about receiving anything that speaks to them - on any level.
If this is you, keep reading.
You love your partner and you’re best friends. Everything is great in your lives except the sex. Maybe you’re already married, maybe you’re not. But whatever your situation, it’s not enough for you. You know something’s missing but you can’t seem to fix it.
You have a big life filled with stress. Working from home has been tough with the two of you rattling around the apartment all the time. You do your best to fight the toxic attitudes at work. Sometimes you think you should quit and start something different - like a small consulting firm to get out from under all the pressure. Your families have drama. Your friends are cool but they have their own issues. But the two of you are solid. You love each other. You have each other’s backs.
Until the topic of sex comes up.
The topic of sex brings up all sorts of unwelcome thoughts and feelings.
You wonder if his previous lovers had been easier to turn on. You want to like sex, but even though you try to relax, it's hard to let go. You’re not sure if you’ve ever had an orgasm. Maybe once on that trip to Italy. And the whole thing has become so fraught that sometimes you’d rather just skip it altogether - like for your whole life. Weeks and sometimes months (even years) go by without sex.
How will you ever have kids if you can’t figure the sex thing out now?
You want to have kids someday, but at this rate you have no idea how that’s going to work.
Everyone says that after kids, the sex is worse. You have no idea how your sex life could possibly be worse than it is right now, because right now it’s just horrid. And you hate it when your partner brings it up - usually when they’re already pissed about something that’s happened - maybe they tried to hit on you, or maybe it’s one of the dreaded days - like your Anniversary or Valentines Day.
When you try to talk about it, it usually goes something like this:
Your partner: Well, there goes another month without sex. What the hell?!
You: I’ve been really busy. It’s been crazy around here.
Your partner: You sure have time for volunteering at the shelter.
You: That’s different.
Your partner: Why? We just have different priorities, that’s all. I care about our sex life and you don’t.
You: I care about it too.
Your partner: Wow. You care about it? I doubt you ever even think about it.
You: I think about it.
Your partner: Doesn’t seem like it. What do you even want? I have no effing idea. Do you even have a sex drive?
You: I don’t know what I want. If I knew, I’d tell you.
Your partner: Honestly, I’m so tired of feeling rejected. I give up. You let me know if you ever want to have sex. I’ll be waiting.
You: I feel bad about it. I really do. I just don’t know how to fix it.
Your partner: Yeah, right. Let’s order takeout. I’m starving.
If so,I have a suggestion that’ll help you. You be the one to bring up the sex issue. This may seem counterproductive, because if you’re like all the womxn I talk to with this concern, talking about sex is the last thing you want to do. Getting a root canal might be a close second.
But, believe me, when you take the initiative and bring up the topic of sex using the tools below, you’ll give your partner a lot of hope that things are going to get better. They’ll settle down a little bit. They’ll be incredibly happy that you’re actually thinking about it. Maybe they’ll give you a bit of grace. Trust me. This is worth a try.
Here’s how to make The Talk less painful
1. You take the lead and make a plan to talk
Tell your partner how much you love them and that you want to make things good in every area of your relationship - including in the bedroom. The Talk about sex is often stressful. And usually, the person who wants more sex asks for The Talk. That can feel really threatening. When YOU bring it up, you’re already on better footing. Take the lead.
2. Choose a time that’s good for you instead of getting ambushed
When you’re trying to talk about something as tender as your sex life, you need time. And privacy. It’s crucial that both of you feel heard and loved - even though you’re both probably defensive and worried that The Talk won’t go well. You may have had lots of sex fights in the past. Studies show that sex fights are much more difficult and stressful than any other relationship conflicts. So, please make sure that you have plenty of time and plenty of privacy before you start talking.
3. Let your partner know how vulnerable you feel
Sex is a very tender topic. And even one comment can make you feel terrible. Be kind to each other. Focus on the purpose of your conversation - to feel closer, to have an authentic and intimate relationship as a couple. Tell your partner that you want to have a great sex life just as much as they do, that you are interested in figuring out how to please each other but you just don’t know what to do right now. Let them know when your feelings get hurt or you feel embarrassed during the conversation.
4. Try to be open instead of defensive
I know it’s super triggering when your partner starts on you with The Talk again, but try to be open. There may be a few things that they have in mind that could be fun for you. And anyway, whatever they say, you could be one step closer to understanding each other. Keep an open mind and you’ll have a better chance of better sex.
5. Set a timer for The Talk
I suggest that you limit the time you spend talking about sex to no more than 20 minutes. This is because your nervous system is likely to become dysregulated when you talk about something potentially triggering like this. And make sure that you both drink plenty of water. If you feel triggered, try taking some deep breaths, notice something in the room that is pleasant and let your eyes land there. If you start feeling very uncomfortable, take a time out. Set up another time to keep talking. Get the help of a trusted sex positive professional if you feel like you need the support.
That’s it for now.
When your sex life is off track it’s hard to feel romantic. But if you do the 5 things I suggested above, you’ll be that much closer to what you really want - a relationship that’s fluid, fun and authentically intimate.