It's Not Always Easy to Ask for What You Want in Bed
We all know the cliché: Communication is key. It may be overused, but it's important to talk to our partners, whether in a casual relationship or a marriage, about everything. This includes what we want in the bedroom.
Of course, you may not know exactly what you want or how to best articulate your desires in a way that makes you feel confident and safe. You may find it especially difficult to work through your own uncomfortable feelings about sex, particularly those instilled by a religious upbringing.
Undoing what you've been taught
"The first thing to understand is that sexuality, like every other part of our body, is one that we need to explore—an arena for evolving growth," said Alexandra Stockwell, M.D., the California-based author of "Uncompromising Intimacy" and host of "The Intimate Marriage" podcast.
When you've been raised in a culture of purity or have otherwise been taught that sex before marriage is "bad," your wedding day isn't going to instantly counteract all of those influences. "Suddenly, you now have to be fully present, passionate and enjoy touching your partner and being touched by them," Stockwell said. "These things take time, and it's essential to be persistent and patient."
Shawndrika Cook, a licensed professional counselor in Birmingham, Alabama, understands how people struggle with sex conversations due to past religious beliefs, among other barriers.
"I've come to understand how these things kept me from seeing the fullness of who I am as a woman," she explained. "We must realize, though, the motive behind these things was to create a place of wait, but that wait turned into fear and hesitation."
Work on yourself first
It's not uncommon for women to reach adulthood without fully knowing their own anatomy. Confronting that fact and trying to educate yourself can be difficult, especially if you've received negative messages about sex. "The first place to start is with a mirror and a drawing of female genitalia, so you can identify the parts of your body there," Stockwell said. "Take your time becoming acquainted with yourself."
If you hold certain values about sex, your relationship should have room to accommodate them, but make sure they're not harming your view of sex itself. Intentionally question and train your thinking by asking yourself:
- What do I want out of sex?
- Is the goal of having sex to overcome fear or to prove my worth to myself and/or my partner?
- What part of sex makes me uncomfortable?
- What triggers my old and negative views of sex?
Separate these views into myths and facts and try to create a new narrative. Never hesitate to work through your feelings about sex with a therapist.
Communicating with your partner
Couples who talk about sex tend to have a better sexual relationship. But how exactly do you articulate what you want in the bedroom? Here are three ideas to consider:
1. Don't talk about sex while you're having sex
Your conversations about sex shouldn't happen when you're naked, Stockwell said. To make it more straightforward and less vulnerable, try to not even be in the bedroom. Take a walk, head to a coffeeshop with a quiet corner or have the conversation at the kitchen table. Don't hesitate to bring in a little humor to diffuse the tension, she added.
Before discussing an area of sex that could be better for both of you, begin with what's going right in your relationship and why you love them, Stockwell advised. Ask if they're open to hearing more, and if they say yes, bring up your needs.
2. Make it about them
When talking about sex, Cook recommended asking your partner what makes them feel safe. This information can help guide you in approaching the conversation from their perspective and not your own.
"Trust is something a lot of people forget to take into consideration when approaching their partner about new things, especially sex," Cook explained.
Make sure you're on the same page and you're addressing unresolved issues.
"The worst thing you can do is compare who you once were with who you are," she continued. "The goal of a relationship is to explore the growth you do together and know this growth comes when seeing each other in the present."
3. Have a counselor help you out
Don't be afraid to seek counseling, whether it's together or on your own.
"Having a mediator to help you process things from an unbiased perception helps you to gather a clear and better picture of who you all are as a couple, individually and collectively," Cook said.
Sometimes you just need an unbiased third party to unload your baggage from your past. You may be close with your partner, but it can be tricky to heal from your own insecurities and effectively communicate to your partner exactly what you need in your relationship. Getting help from a licensed professional can help you navigate conversations with your partner.
Your relationship (and your sex life) will thank you.