One of the many problems with the Romantic view of relationships is that it expects our partner to be the perfect friend, accountant, housekeeper, maintenance person, counsellor, parent, chef, event planner, and sexual entity. How one person is meant to fulfil all of these roles is beyond me and it seems inevitable we can only be left feeling disappointed. Especially the idea that our partner will start off as, and continue to be, our best sexual mate. They are expected to “just know” what pleases us, what evokes our erotic desire, what are fantasies entail, or what we find uncomfortable or awkward doing. Even more so, they are meant to “just know” how these things change over the years, as our sexual needs and desires mature or change. Romanticism sneers at open and honest communication because surely if they really loved you they would just know.
If you accept that this seems a tad unfair then perhaps, like all other aspects of a good relationship, continual discussions about your sex is in order. But again, for our partners to know and understand us we first must know and understand ourselves.
One of the key assumptions that destroy relationships and douses the erotic fire is the belief that you already know everything about your partner. You don’t. You can’t. Most people don’t even know themself very well so I can almost guarantee you don’t know all about them. People change, grow, and have new and different experiences which change their desires over time. Don’t be complacent in your beliefs about your partner.
Here is a list of questions you might like to reflect upon and, when ready, I would invite you to discuss and explore with your partner. It can be an interesting exercise to first guess what your partner’s answer will be before allowing them to agree or update your answer with their own reflection.
- How is sex meant to happen? Is it meant to be spontaneous? Can it be planned and organised? Why?
- How is sex initiated? Is there a place, setting, or time of day when it happens? Who is meant to initiate it and why?
- How easy do you find it to talk about different aspects of sex with your partner (e.g., your fantasies, your fulfilment of a sexual activity, your expectations of frequency, discussing engaging in new activities, etc)?
- Can people in relationships watch porn? Does it have to be together or separately? If you watch porn, does the other person in the relationship need to know?
- Do you like the idea of being more dominant or more submissive? Do you also hold other beliefs that make it difficult to come to terms with your desires (e.g., a female who likes to be dominated but also feels conflicted because she holds beliefs about what it means to be a “strong” woman; a male who likes to dominate but also doesn’t want to come across as “pushy”; a male who likes to be submissive but also holds beliefs about what it means to be “a man”).
- What is something you would want to do sexually that you don’t believe your partner would?
- What is something you believe your partner would want to do sexually that you wouldn’t want to do?
- What is one of your most pleasant and memorable sexual memories? What was it about the experience that made it so pleasant and memorable? Can you purposely recreate some of the circumstances that made that experience so nice?
- How was sex discussed in your family of origin?
- What were the messages you received from your family about sex and how do you think that has influenced your beliefs and experiences of sex?
Hopefully, these questions have been able to evoke some introspection about your beliefs regarding sex and perhaps open some discussions with your partner. The next series of questions are designed to specifically discussed with your partner. While you may be able to reflect on them by yourself, they will be even more useful with your partner.
- Can you describe a perfect night (or morning/day/afternoon) of sex where the sole purpose is to satisfy you? Where would it start? What would we be doing? How does it progress? What do we use along the journey? What would be done to you? What would you be in control of? How would it peak?
- What do you think is the most attractive part of your body?
- What is the type of fantasy you do, or would, masturbate to?
- What is something you would like to try, but have found difficult to do, with regards to sex?
- What aspect of inviting other people into the bedroom (i.e., having a threesome or swapping partners) do you find most difficult to come to terms with? What is the most dominant emotion when thinking about such an experience and what might that say about you (i.e., excitement about trying, anxiety about being naked in front of or intimate with others, jealously that your partner finds other people attractive, shame that you want to try even though you love your partner, etc).
- If you wanted to be intimate without having penetrative sex, what might you do?
- If you’re not in the mood for sex, what helps you get there?
- What is something your partner might get wrong about you, with regards to your beliefs and desires about sex?
- If you could put on hold your current sexual orientation, who of the same/opposite sex would you have a sexual experience with? What would happen?
- What is the riskiest sexual experience would you have (e.g., this could be using something, in a particular place, with someone, or because it might not strictly be legal)?
I hope some of the questions and ideas in this post allows you some interesting introspection and opens up a useful conversation with your partner.
Dr Daniel J Brown