Sexuality, sexual needs and physical desires are essential to a healthy relationship and a full life. Why, then, do we often struggle to discuss sex?
exuality is a very private and sensitive topic in most cultures. Different circumstances also have an effect when people talk about sex: among friends it is often easy to joke about it, but in intimate relationships, it can be difficult to discuss the more serious aspects of sex.
Research shows that even for healthcare professionals, sex is one of the most difficult topics to raise with patients (alongside spirituality and death). It has been mentioned numerous times in previous articles that communication is probably the most important aspect of a healthy sex life following a spinal cord injury (SCI). This includes discussions with a partner, prospective partners or with healthcare professionals to ensure healthy and satisfying intimate relationships.
So why do we sometimes shy away from the topic?
Sex is an act where people can express themselves without necessarily having to talk, which is fine when there are no problems. However, a major life event (like a SCI) could bring about many changes – and talking then becomes important.
Another reason is that a sex discussion involves a degree of vulnerability, accompanied by the fear of rejection or judgement. Putting your concerns and needs into words is an exposing and potentially uncomfortable experience.
The aim should be to have a conversation about sex, not a monologue. This means that both parties have an opportunity to talk about their needs, preferences or fears. Intimacy is about two people having a fulfilling relationship, and therefore the needs of both parties are important.
It’s important to create a comfortable context. Choose a place where you can both be relaxed and a time where you won’t be interrupted. It could be helpful to arrange a time in advance with your partner, so that they are not caught off guard. Stick to the topic and be completely candid with each other – nothing should be off limits.
If you find it difficult to initiate the conversation, why not include an objective, professional third party, like a psychologist or sex therapist, to participate in the discussion? Th ey can guide the conversation and ensure that each person has an opportunity to express themselves fully and effectively.
Danie Breedt is a passionate scholar-practitioner in the field of psychology. He divides his time between training future psychologists, research and clinical practice. Danie works from an integrative interactional approach in therapy dealing with a wide range of emotional difficulties. He is currently working as a psychologist at numerous physical rehabilitation hospitals across Gauteng for Charis Psychological Services where he does supportive counselling as well as sexual education for patients with disabilities. Column courtesy of Charis Psychological Services.