Updated: May 10
When things go wrong with your sexual relationship, it feels bad in a very special way, one that makes both of you feel very vulnerable and so makes it hard to address the problem. I want to make it easier.
God forbid that I should oversimplify what can be a complex, difficult area for many couples. There are so many ways a couple’s sex life can go off track, so many problems that can come up. The last thing you need is to feel like dopes because you find things so challenging.
So I’m not offering a panacea here or even a shortcut. I just want to offer an approach for couples who are not happy with their sex lives to be able to talk about it and begin to make progress. A modest goal. Modest enough to be achievable in most cases.
And note the key ingredients. Being able to talk. Being able to make progress. That’s all, but it’s a lot.
Here’s what you do.
You each write down:
“Three things I’d like more of in our sex life...”
“Three things I’d like less of in our sex life...”
“Three things I’d like to be different in our sex life...”
Please: take your time coming up with things for your lists. What works for some people is to write down everything you can think of and whittle it down to the top three.
One rule is that these have to be things that have a chance of changing. If, for example, your partner has clearly shown for a long time that they don’t want to have sex very often, it doesn’t make sense to say, “I’d like to have more frequency in our sex life.” You could instead say, “I’d like to have a more open discussion about our different sexual appetites and how to work with them.”
The other rule is to be specific. You can’t say, “Be more affectionate.” Sure, that’s how you feel. But it’s not likely to be particularly informative for your partner. What would your partner do that would constitute being “more affectionate” to you?
Then once you have your lists you make time to talk about them. A good long open time when you won’t be interrupted. At least an hour.
What will you do during this time?
You will, most of all, try to really understand what is on the other person’s lists. What are they saying? What are they asking for? What does this mean in practice? How will this actually play out?
Remember: if you’re not being really specific, you’re not really getting down to business.
But also remember: initially you are just trying to understand.
In fact, at this point, understanding is all you need to accomplish.
Where do you want to end up?
You are not looking to solve all the problems in your sexual relationship. The fact is that you have low-relationship-self-esteem because of this sexual component, so what you’re looking for is just one thing you can do more of or less of or differently that’ll help make things better. Just one possible improvement.
And you have a chance of getting this because you haven’t said a word about the past or about who has or hasn’t done what to whom. You’ve just been forward-looking. And somewhere in your lists of more-of’s and less-of’s and different-from’s you’ll find one or more seeds for improvement.
What about the more challenging items on your lists?
Come back to your lists and look for one more thing you might pick from them that would be worth trying. Build up from the easiest or most likely to work and see what happens. After all, this is first aid, not major surgery!
But lots of couples report that the communication process this opens up, and the sexual successes it produces, make the more challenging problems much easier to deal with than you might have imagined possible.
And the tools in Why Couples Fight should help a lot too!