Dr J's Sex Facts

Fun sex facts and accurate information from a clinical sexologist for a hotter and more fulfilling sex life.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Talkin’ the Talk

“Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation”
Judith Martin (Miss Manners)

It’s tempting to engage in an orgy of self-improvement projects at the beginning of the New Year. That’s why many of us turn to magazines with articles like, “Tell Him Your Every Desire” and “Are You the Strong, Silent Type?” which encourage us to work on communicating better in our relationships. We discussed this last year, and it was such a compelling topic that it bears a re-examination.

Close that Bathroom Door!

First off, it’s very important to resist that urge to become so cloyingly close to each other that there’s no longer any “you”—there’s only “you two.” This just in: if you must tell each other absolutely everything about yourself and you share every intimate detail you can conjure up, then after a few months, guess what you’re left with? A roommate. Sure, a fun person, fabulous to share with, but…sexy? Which sounds sexier to you: Mystery or Familiarity? Remember, too much closeness can eventually lead to frumpy flannel pajamas, bunny slippers, sharing the bathroom—and worse, all of that together at the same time! Oh the horror! Remember that for most of us, familiarity is the enemy of eroticism, so leave a little in the tank and resist the urge to share your entire life.

Women are particularly vulnerable to this temptation because we’re socialized to be emotional caretakers (read: endless processing and sharing). Of course the flip side of this is the male social role (“I don’t wanna talk about it”) in which feelings are consciously or unconsciously suppressed and avoided at all costs.

Go to Your Room!

And guess what? Caring about someone is still no guarantee that you’ll have effective communication. Why? Because our parents provided most of us with our earliest models for how to communicate. And how did our parents resolve conflicts or disagreements? Did you ever see or hear them employ the artful skills of reasoned negotiation? Exactly! For that reason most of us just didn’t have any role models for our own conflict resolution because our parents tended to hide this from us (and probably still do) out of a misguided attempt to “protect” us. Or—just as scary—we heard them yelling from behind their bedroom door; and, being kids, we imagined the worst (and we all know that kids have very active and vivid imaginations when it comes to imagining the worst).

A Little to the Left and Higher

If everyday communication is difficult, imagine how much harder sexual communication is for most of us. Why? Because we had no one to teach us that, either (“Now Heather, here’s how you tell your partner where you like to be touched”). And how about a sexual vocabulary? (“I, ummm, want, ummm…”). As if! Put these together, and what do we get? Most of us feel extremely vulnerable about sex (“I’ll just be devastated if s/he doesn’t like the way I kiss”). And it certainly hasn’t helped that most of us grew up in cultures that teach us that sex is an inappropriate topic to discuss or even think about. Remember being told “thinking is the same as doing”?

Fairy Tale Endings Anyone?

So into this nightmare of inadequacy and discomfort we stumble, hoping against hope for that magical person who just knows what we like and how to drive us wild with pleasure.

Let’s do some rehearsing, shall we? Beginning next week, we’ll look at some examples of how we might talk with a partner about a sexual issue, feeling or desire.

Comments or questions? I see that the pilot has now turned on the over-sharing sign, but lucky you, I’m open for business.

With Pleasure,

Dr. J

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