Today I am beginning a five week series addressing common conflicts most couples encounter in their relationships and what can be done to help ease the pain of these fights. For week one, let's go big and talk about sex.
Sex and intimacy is a top concern most couples have when it comes to disagreements and unmet expectations. One partner tends to have different needs and wants than the other partner and eventually someone ends up being disappointed, frustrated, angry, or even seeking out another sexual partner. Below are some steps to take if you see your relationship heading in this direction:
Talk to your partner. This might be a scary conversation to start, but if one or both of you are unhappy, it will not get better on its own. Try using a gentle conversation starter like, "Hey, it's been a while since we've had sex" or "I really miss when you touch me like that". When having this discussion, try your best to avoid blaming or attacking your partner or making excuses and just come from an understanding and caring perspective. Using "I" statements rather than "you" ones will help with this tactic.
Be honest about what you want. If you are not satisfied with the current state of your sex life, say so. Your partner is not a mind-reader and can only assume the way things are going are perhaps how you want them. If you want to be intimate more than once a week, talk about what that would look like. If hugging and holding hands in public is uncomfortable for you, bring up this concern. The more open and honest you are, the more your partner will understand you.
Go slow. If it's been a while since you and your partner have been intimate, there may be built up anxiety about jumping back into it. That's totally normal! You don't have to go from doing nothing to rounding home base out of nowhere. Start slowly. Try long hugs, six-second kisses, back rubs, or hand holding. Physical contact and intimacy does not always have to involve intercourse. You might even find interacting this way feels more like it did when you were dating and could ignite that spark in your relationship again.
Let go of expectations. If you are just starting to increase your intimacy again, know that you don't have to always culminate in intercourse or orgasm to have a good time (even if this is what you did before). Foreplay is just fine. As is manual and oral stimulation. Take a cue from step three and slow things down to see what feels good for you and your partner. Talk it through while you're interacting to see what feels better for each of you. If you have sex, great! If not, no worries!
Seek professional counseling. If you have tried working through these steps together and still aren't able to improve your sex life, maybe it's time to get outside help. Trained couples therapists can aid you and your partner in recovering your sex life as well as any other aspects of your relationship that may not be in sync.
Next week's topic: the almighty dollar