Sometimes people aren’t on the same page when it comes to their sexual values, ideas and preferences. This is why communication is so important. If your partner has different sexual preferences, you will have to negotiate to figure out where the common ground lies. Most people view negotiation as bargaining between two people but it’s more than that. It’s an honest discussion about feelings, beliefs, comfort zones and limits.
Timing is everything. Many people talk about safer sex, birth control or their sexual boundaries when they’re intimate and just can’t put off the conversation any longer. This isn’t ideal. Try talking with your partner when you aren’t having sex – that way there’s no pressure or risk that you’ll get carried away because it feels too good to stop. By the way talking about sexual preferences and boundaries can be a real turn-on. It builds intimacy and respect that are foundational for a healthy relationship.
Tips for Negotiating Safer Sex
It’s one thing to know about safer sex and a whole other thing to ask your partner if he has a condom in the middle of some heavy petting. Here are some tips to help you negotiate safer sex with your partner:
- Talk with your partner about safer sex before you are sexually entangled. Sometimes people get carried away when they’re turned on and don’t have the willpower to stop and have a conversation about condoms. Listen to your partner. Hopefully they’ve also done some thinking about safer sex but don’t count on it. Give your partner some time to think and listen respectfully to what they have to say.
- Learn as much as you can about safer sex so that you can have an informed discussion with your partner.
- Rehearse what you want to say. Being prepared builds confidence and eases any fears or feelings of embarrassment ahead of time. Practice how to bring up the topic and what you want to say with a friend or family member or just visualize how you want things to go in your head.
- Keep talking. Talking about safer sex is not just a onetime conversation. It’s important to keep the dialogue going as your relationship evolves. Communication builds intimacy and a healthy relationship.
- Talk about it when you’re both sober. People take chances they normally wouldn’t when they’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You definitely don’t want to make a mistake that could affect your entire future.
- Carry a condom. This advice applies to everyone. Don’t assume it’s your partner’s responsibility to bring protection. Carry your own condoms so there’s no excuse not to have safer sex. Besides, who wants to go out looking for the nearest drugstore that’s open after midnight? When you buy condoms, check the expiry date on the package and store them in your purse, wallet or coat pocket. Avoid carrying them somewhere warm like in your pants pocket because heat can break down the latex (and if your condom has actually formed a ring that shows through the outside of your wallet, it has been there too long!).
- Be clear about your boundaries. Respect your partner and respect yourself. Think about what sexual practices you’re comfortable with and what your limits are before you get sexually involved. Talk about your feelings and listen to your partner with respect. Open and respectful communication will build trust and intimacy.
- Keep a sense of humour. Safer sex is a heavy topic sometimes but it doesn’t mean that you can’t laugh and have fun with it. Sometimes a bit of humour helps to break the ice and makes everyone more comfortable.
Talking About Sex
Good communication means that you’re able to talk about yourself and how you feel about your sexual relationship.
This requires you to be conscious of your feelings, and then to share your thoughts and feelings with someone else.
We know that talking honestly and openly about sexual issues can be hard. Lots of people feel shy or embarrassed to ask for what they need sexually even if they’re in a loving relationship. There are lots of reasons for this:
- They grew up with the message that sex is “dirty” or that it is impolite to talk about sex;
- They don’t want to seem sexually promiscuous;
- They’re worried about hurting their partner’s feelings;
- They’re concerned about how their partner will react;
- They’ve been with their partner for years and don’t know how to bring it up.
It’s normal to feel nervous when you talk about your sexual feelings and needs. Acknowledge your fear and take a risk anyway! Being vulnerable is part of building intimacy and trust in a relationship. When you share your thoughts and feelings, it gives your partner permission to do the same. Express yourself and you may be pleased to find that your sex life improves dramatically.
Listening to your lover
The other half of good communication is listening to your lover with full attention and presence of mind. Show your partner that you are listening by:
- Making eye contact;
- Nodding your head;
- Asking appropriate questions; and
- Listening without interrupting.
Listening builds trust and lets your partner know that what they say is important.
Conversations about sex inevitably contain sexual terms and sexual language that can be loaded up with all sorts of underlying messages about identity, power and values. When people are not comfortable talking about sex, they often use slang words or vague phrases to communicate with others. This can lead to bad feelings, miscommunication and disagreement.
For instance, some people prefer to use proper sexual terms like “sexual intercourse” and “oral sex”, while other people find this sounds too clinical to turn them on. Some people prefer slang terms like “fucking” or “blow job” but their partners find these terms demeaning or degrading. Sometimes phrases like “do you want to hook up” or “get together” are too vague and cause unnecessary confusion about expectations. What’s the answer?
Talk about it! Be clear and find a common language that works for both of you. Be creative and come up with language that is just for the two of you – how intimate is that! (Note: This is okay for adults but children really need to know the proper terms for body parts – see “Parenting — talking to your children about sex”).
A lot of sexual communication happens through body language. We flirt with our eyes, express our feelings through touch and use sounds to let a lover know what feels good. If you don’t want to tell your partner what you find sexually pleasing, you can always show him. Guide her hand or communicate by changing your own body movements.
Ideally a person’s body language and words should be consistent but this is not always the case. Sometimes your partner might say one thing but their body is telling you something different. If this happens to you, stop what you’re doing and ask your partner if they want to continue. For example, you can say something like, “I know you said you want to have sex but your body feels tense. Why don’t we just lie here and cuddle for a while?” When in doubt, stop the sexual contact and open up the lines of verbal communication.
Being A Good Lover
Being a good lover means feeling comfortable with your body.
In North America, we are bombarded with messages about sexuality – what we should look like and what is sexy. It’s hard to live up to such narrow and unrealistic standards of beauty and, as a result, many people find they can’t relax and embrace sexual pleasure the way they deserve to. Have no fear! Your powerful mind is ready to reject these false images and reclaim “sexy” as something you define for yourself. Forget about trying to look like a Barbie doll or a muscle-bound body builder – be happy with your body just the way it is. There is nothing sexier than someone who is comfortable with his or her body regardless of size and shape. Being a good lover is knowing how to relax and enjoy all the physical pleasures that your body has to offer. See Sexuality and the Body section.
Being a good lover means understanding your own sexual needs, boundaries, preferences and desires.
Your lover is not responsible for fulfilling all your sexual needs. Think about your beliefs about sex, the messages you grew up with, how you feel about your sexual identity, what you like and don’t like and what you want in a sexual relationship with your partner. Understanding your own sexual needs and expectations will help you to communicate them to your partner. It takes a lot of pressure off your lover to “just know” and opens the door for more trust and intimacy.
Being a good lover means respecting yourself.
There is nothing sexier than someone who has self-respect. When you love yourself, it gives others permission to do the same. It sets the tone for what’s expected in the relationship and what you’re willing to give. People who respect themselves are in a position to give love freely to others. They don’t need a partner because they are happy with themselves.
Being a good lover means respecting your partner.
This sounds obvious but sometimes people don’t treat their partners well. There is an underlying assumption that a partner will understand and forgive behaviour that’s not acceptable in other situations, i.e. “She knows I love her”; “He knows what I am like”. It’s helpful to remember that being in a relationship is a choice. This person is someone you choose to be with so let your partner know how much you love them. Respect is the foundation of a strong and healthy relationship.