I have been married for over 10 years, but my wife and I have an increasingly hard time communicating about sex. She seems fine about it, but I am not. I always thought we would grow sexually over time, but our sex life just seems to get smaller. She has so many dislikes, like receiving oral, she says it will never happen. I just don’t understand why. Could you help me/us. I’m new to this getting help thing. You’re my first attempt.
Thanks for taking the courage to reach out and find ways to open up the dialogue and experience in your sex life. Many couples suffer from the problem of leftovers in their sex lives- which is the few behaviors that are left over from all of the avoidance and fears that often grow instead of lessen the longer we are with our partners.
Equally common is the diminishing conversational ability that we have about our erotic selves. Many people can’t even use words like masturbate in front of their partners, let alone share in the act together. If we don’t embrace and work to love our fears about our sexual selves, they end up putting us in a small cage where physical intimacy shrinks to try to stay within the lines of our fears.
To be fair, these fears and inability to even know our erotic selves are trained into us early. Looking back in history, this negative sexual training was brutal with the most outrageous of “medical” equipment used to keep boys from any erection at all. Many religious institutions still relate physical pleasure and sin. Our culture is practically schizophrenic in it’s approach to sexuality with the youngest of girls sexualized in media of all kinds and yet a total inability within many families to acknowledge the emerging sexuality of our own children.
Asking questions is the best first response. Giving yourself permission to want to know about your sexual self and cultivating a real curiosity about what is pleasurable for your partner is a healthy ground to build on. Of course, you cannot force anyone to respond but inviting them into a conversation and be willing to listen to their fears and internal judgments is often the first step to thawing out a space that can be frozen in time.
The sexual health space is full of amazing voices that offer a range of therapeutic ideas and practices. My favorite include Tammy Nelson, David Schnarch, Ian Kerner and Debby Herbenick. All of their titles are available online. Sometimes adding some other expert voices in your exploration can dispel the biggest fear that most people carry around that their desires aren’t normal. Becoming willing to explore our erotic selves is a leap we make when we feel safe in our relationships and in ourselves.
There might be other parts of your relationship like sarcastic communication habits or unwillingness to show up for each other that is inhibiting your sex life. Remember that an expanding intimate life is usually a reflection of what is working in your relationship.