By Rebecca E. Blanton
My mother, a therapist with over three decades of experience, is fond of saying, “Sex may only be ten percent of a relationship. However, when the sex is not working, it affects the other 90 percent.” If you have been, or are, in a relationship where the sex is not what you want it to be, you probably felt this.
You may think that your sex life is of little importance. You may have learned that talking about sex with a partner is not appropriate, or means you are a ‘slut’, or you never learned how to do this. Chances are, you grew up never seeing adults model good communication about their sex life and their needs. When you need to communicate about your own needs, you are probably unsure of how to proceed.
Identifying your physical needs and learning how to communicate those needs is a form of self-care. You show yourself love by meeting the needs of your mind and body. You cannot fully meet these needs without exploring your sexuality.
Learning how to express these desires to a partner is a form of relationship self-care. Openly discussing sexual desires and needs deepens a relationship. Learning safe and effective ways to talk about sex with someone else gives both of you a gift.
Why Should I Talk About Sexual Needs?
Everyone has sexual needs. It is an innate part of being human. You are born with a body which produces hormones and has a brain which desires intimacy, touch, and sex. The only way you can meet these needs in an appropriate way is to discover what those needs are and learn how to express those needs.
Learning what you need sexually and how to ask this of a partner is a form of relationship care. Your partner is not a mind-reader. They cannot possibly know what you want and need without talking about sex. When you take the initiative to talk about sexuality and self-care, you give your partner permission to do the same.
How Do I Know What is Acceptable?
You may fear that exploring your sexuality is not acceptable. You may experience a lot of shame around embracing your body and your sexuality. Do not worry, this shame is very common. Self-care means addressing the shame around your sexuality and learning to embrace who you are fully.
You may fear that your sexual desires are inappropriate. You may think what you want sexually is either too weird, or too much, or not enough. These are messages you internalized from your culture and your family.
If your desires involve another adult who is fully consenting to the activities, you are engaging in healthy sexual behavior. This can look like many things. For you, it may involve rose petals on the bed, a lot of candles, and a long time kissing each-other. For you, it may involve a leather corset, a pair of handcuffs, and a safe word. As long as you and your partner are both consenting to the behavior, it is okay.