Couples Sex: 5 Levels of Sexual Communication

couples sex

Sex is a form of communication—an expression of feeling, desire, longing, a sharing of ourselves through the language of eroticism and sensuality. This communication may involve words, but it doesn’t have to. In fact, the life of Eros is often manifest through the wordless expression of our body-self. At times our body’s unique language will take center stage, making words pointless and, at times, even obstructive to what is seeking expression in the non-verbal realm. When this occurs, body-speak takes precedence over word-speak.

Then there are times when verbal communication is indeed helpful—and too often, couples fail to communicate about their sexual needs and preferences. Moreover, there are those times when couples do talk about sex only to find that their communication efforts fall flat or end up leading to some type of breakdown in communication.

Sex talk isn’t easy, even for couples who feel secure and have an established relationship. Why is this the case?

To a certain regard, we’ve been programed not to talk openly about sex—for many, our first sexual experiences (whether masturbatory or with another) are cloaked in secrecy and confusion. Fueled by the ignorance of youth, we may brag to friends about our amazing sexual aptitude but the truth is our early sexual discoveries are more often than not shrouded in misinformation, confusion, self-consciousness and feelings of inadequacy. For some, these early struggles accompany us into adulthood where they act as potential barriers to sexual communication, even with our spouse or partner.

Let’s now turn our attention to the different approaches couples take when talking about sex.

Couples Sex:  5 Levels of Sexual Communication

1) Hey, you in the mood?… To Have Sex or Not To Have Sex, That Is the Question

This type of communication is an invitation to the other to have sex. This might occur because your desire for sex has been intensifying or it may be that you or your partner are starting to feel that you “should have sex” not out of desire but simply because it’s been “too long.” Another possible reason is that one or both of you want to feel the emotional closeness that is fed through sexual intimacy.

A couple’s sex life frequently grinds to a halt because of the way in which sex is initiated. How you initiate sex or how you approach your partner about sex matters. This invitation should help set the erotic stage rather than turn your partner off. In other words, a little thoughtfulness and effort can go a long way here (rather than simply asking, “I’m horny, you want to do it?”).

2) Is this okay? How was that for you?… The Sexual Check-in

Feedback about what is and isn’t working sexually, as well as what might need adjusting, is an important part of the sexual communication process. This is how we learn about our partner’s sexual needs; about what s/he enjoys and wants more of; and about what items should be retired from the sexual menu. The importance of this type of communication also underscores the fact that your sexual relationship is dynamic and evolving rather than static and one-dimensional.

This type of communication is also important for establishing and maintaining the conditions of safety necessary for meaningful intimacy (whether sexual or emotional). For more information about the importance of trust in sexual intimacy, check out No-Sex Marriage? A Lack of Trust May Be the Cause.

3) How would you feel about us trying… Journeying into the Erotic Unknown

Couples fall into ruts of all kinds, including sexual. Routinized sex (the same location and activities that almost seem to follow an oft-repeated script) is not uncommon and, for some, this level of consistency is emotionally comforting. And for others, it’s erotically deadening. Sexual variety involves exploration—co-creating a sexual playground where different activities and under-explored ways of being are considered.

This type of communication-sharing brings potential risks. Whenever you or your partner express the desire to experience something new together, or if one of you allows a sexual longing or fantasy to be known by the other for the first time, the possibility of rejection is born—a possibility that keeps so many from sharing their inner world with another. The alternative, managing your fear through the suppression of your sexual-self, comes with its own costs.

4) Talk dirty to me… The Eroticized Improper

In his book, The Erotic Mind: Unlocking the Inner Sources of Sexual Passion and Fulfillment, psychologist and sexologist Jack Morin, PhD describes how the “naughtiness factor” can act as a strong aphrodisiac for many people. When a sexual longing/fantasy is experienced as edgy or somewhat risqué, a subjective experience of “I shouldn’t but I really want to…” is created—an experience that creates a dynamic tension between the desired and the forbidden, the wanted and the taboo.

Stepping closer to this edge can ignite an erotic charge that has the potential to energize a couple’s sex life. To get to this place, however, a deep sense of trust must be in place, a mutual confidence that allows for the relinquishing of self-consciousness—a temporary release of the self-constraints that can be barriers to fulfilling sexual expression. For this freedom into the daring to be realized, you can not be vigilantly assessing whether or not your partner is judging you.

5) How do you really feel about sex?… Assessing Shared or Conflicting Sexual Attitudes

Do you know how your partner feels about his/her sexuality and about sex? Have you asked recently? When you do have sex is it usually for the same reason that your partner wants to have sex?

While most of us are pretty certain we know our partner well, this knowledge-of-the-other doesn’t always transfer into knowledge about the other’s erotic world. For too many couples, unspoken assumptions about sex abound.

Conversations about what sex means to each of you can go a long way in creating an atmosphere of greater understanding and compassion. Exploring each other’s sexual attitudes and any struggles that may still linger from childhood or past sexual experiences are discussions that are frequently lacking in the lives of couples. And if and when they do occur, these conversations shouldn’t be a one-time event since your attitudes about sex may be evolving along with your marriage or relationship.

When couples conceive of sex as a form of communication, listening is prioritized. A listening to your own sexual needs as well as a listening to the needs of your partner. This listening occurs at two levels, the verbal and non-verbal. Short-circuiting communication on either level can interfere with the degree of sexual intimacy you and your partner may desire. For this type of listening to occur, you and your partner must make communication about sex a top priority while also realizing the ingrained resistance to these discussions that you each may have internalized.

And don’t forget that deep listening is essential to the establishment of trust and emotional safety—conditions that must be in place for self- and other-sexual exploration to become a regular part of your relationship.

(Featured image courtesy of Stockimage at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)