Discussing what you enjoy in the bedroom might seem like an uncomfortable conversation, but it is very important
Most people find it difficult to talk about sex at the best of times. Add an SCI into the mix and it becomes even more difficult. The easier but often ineffective alternative many people choose is to avoid the subject altogether. The danger of putting your head in the sand is that it could lead to resentment between partners.
By far the biggest challenge of talking about sex is to get the conversation started. Partners can communicate about sex in and out of the bedroom. You may find the latter is easier when discussing sexual difficulties and concerns, while keeping the bed associated with pleasure and warmth. It is important to approach the subject with tenderness and appreciation, as it is possibly just as sensitive to your partner.
Make it your mission to understand their preferences, concerns and difficulties before putting your own needs on the table. In this way, your partner will experience emotional closeness and would likely be more willing to mirror this when you share your thoughts and feelings.
A simple trick that can make conversations about sex easier is to develop your unique “language” that refers to the different aspects of intimacy. This creates a sense of connectedness between the two of you and breaks down the discomfort that is often associated with some terminology. The language people find acceptable when talking about sex varies greatly. If you are able to communicate your needs and difficulties in words that your partner is comfortable with, the content of your message will likely be clearer.
It is helpful to spend some time thinking about what your sexual preferences and difficulties are in order to know what it is that you want to communicate when discussing them. This way you will be able to articulate the message clearly and minimise possible misunderstanding.
Be assertive in what you enjoy, but also in terms of what makes you uncomfortable. This creates clear boundaries for you and your partner so that enjoyment is not at the expense of either partner.
Boundaries create emotional safety in a relationship and helps couples feel connected. Being tuned in to your partner’s sexuality can further aid that connection. Be attentive to his or her verbal and non-verbal communication about what they enjoy, especially during sex.
Finally, the most important aspect of sex is that it is meant to be fun. It is adult play and if this element is forgotten, intimacy runs the risk of becoming mechanical. Sharing jokes about aspects of sex with each other inside and outside the bedroom can serve as a reminder that it is supposed to be enjoyable for both parties.
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.