Today we're going to be talking about how do you talk to your husband about sex without hurting his feelings. I get that question asked a lot. In fact, I have seen so many women come through the Wanting it More program having never really talked to their husband about how they're truly feeling. Some women have been forcing themselves to have sex like three times a week and when they come into the Wanting it More program, they're like, "Uh, surprise. I've never really wanted it and I've never really enjoyed it," and it's a big shocker. Especially if you've been married for a really long time.
My name is Janna Denton-Howes, if you don't know who I am. I am a sex coach for women married to men, who don't love or enjoy sex very much. I help you increase your desire in a way that feels so comfortable and so safe and so great for you.
What would you want to communicate about? This is painful. Can you get me some breakfast? I have low blood sugar before we have a sexual experience. Can you please slow down a little bit? Can you please stop? Please don't grab my butt. I don't like being called sexy. Let's change positions. And also, I'm not in the mood. There are many things that you would want to communicate clearly and effectively to your partner, which you're not going to do if you're worried about hurting his feelings.
You thought you might read this blog and think, "Janna's going to give me the technique, the perfect phrase, the thing I can say that will guarantee I won't hurt his feelings. He won't feel rejected, and then," here's the kicker, "I won't risk anything. I won't risk feeling bad myself or feeling abandoned or not important myself."
When I finally talked to my husband
Let me tell you a story. This was about 10 years into our marriage. I had gone to counsellors and coaches and workshops and read tons of books about how to increase my libido. I thought I was the one with the problem and so I needed to fix it, whether that was physically or mentally, emotionally, whatever it was. I needed to fix it so we could get on with having a healthy sex life, which I didn't feel like we did, because I just didn't want to have sex with him. I enjoyed it once it got going, but there were no revved up feelings, rarely.
I got to the point where I knew that I could just never have sex if I didn't want to anymore. It was incredibly emotionally painful for me and it was causing such a rift in our relationship. I sat him down, I pulled out my script and I just read it. It basically said, "My darling husband, I love you very much, but I can never have sex with you again unless I really, really want to." I said it kindly, I said it compassionately, and he had some feelings about that. His brain had some thoughts that created some emotion, which led me to be sleeping at a friend's house that night and also really was the only time in our marriage where I thought, “Gosh, this might not work.”
Luckily it was a really brief period of time, we got some SOS help from a counsellor and I just continued on my journey. But that became a pivotal moment in our relationship, one that my husband thanks me all the time for having the courage to say something that he didn't know I needed to say. He wasn't in a position at that time of his life where he could actually help me with that.
Communication for the long term health of your relationship
Fast forward to this morning, my husband and I had a sexual experience. The last sexual experience we had was very similar. Mine often vary ... there's a lot of variety to them because I'm a sophisticated woman and things change all the time and that's okay. But last time we had done a little debrief and I had asked him to just remain a lot slower and when I was having an orgasm for him to stop completely. That debrief was then, but fast forward to this morning, we were in almost exactly the same scenario. And wouldn't you know it, he was able to stay slow and do the things that I really talked about earlier in a frank, open and honest way. I had a better experience and he had a better experience.
Now, he forgot to stop when I was having an orgasm and so I just said, "Stop," and I held his chest. If I was worried that I was going to hurt his feelings, I would never have debriefed with him in the first place and I would have never felt like I could just say “stop”.
When you're communicating about sex, you really have to think about it being a longterm game. Yes, he might have some feelings in the short term, but his feelings are going to be way more hurt if you guys can't have a healthy, happy, wonderful, regular sex life. That's my first point, you really have to think about the long term health of your relationship when you are communicating.
Facts and feelings
Point number two. There is a fact that takes place, and that fact is something that is said or done. Everybody can agree on it. Let's take my example, “stop”. Janna said stop. I can agree on it. John, my husband, can agree on it. Just a fact, right? Now, what we think about facts create feelings.
I said stop and perhaps my husband had a feeling around it. There could be many feelings that come out of that stop. It could be, "Oh, I'm so grateful that I have a wife who can communicate directly with me and feel safe enough with me that she can be direct and honest and frank. I'm so grateful that I do not have to read her mind." So the feeling could be gratitude. The feeling could also be rejection and awkwardness and hurt, right?
What's the variable here? Well, the variable is what he thought about the fact, right? I said stop. That's the fact. And the thought he had this morning was, "Oh, yeah. Janna knows her body the best and I'm just going to listen to it," and that ended up with a feeling of gratitude, "Wow, we have a relationship in which we can be honest with each other and look at our sex life, it's amazing."
Your husband is responsible for his thoughts. The point number two is that it's safe for him to have feelings. It doesn't mean that you created them, right? Because that's the fact, he's welcome to have as many thoughts as he wants, and he's welcome to have as many feelings as he wants.
The worry that we have is that if he has a feeling of rejection or hurt, then he will retaliate, he will say something or do something that will lead to a feeling that we don't want to feel, which is often abandonment. It's so scary for us women. Going back to cave days when we were in the little cave home and our husbands were out, what would have happened if they didn't come home with meat or they just didn't come home at all with their protection and their spears? We would die. So the feeling of abandonment is so terrifying for us, but again, we need to control our thoughts about it.
Let's say that my husband had a different thought when I said, “stop”. That different thought led to a feeling of hurt or rejection and he said something like, "Whoa, you don't have to be so harsh," right? He got defensive. I could have lots of thoughts about that. I could have a thought that, "Oh, it's safe for him to have feelings and he's just getting a little defensive and it has nothing to do with me," and on I go with my pleasure. I let him have his experience and move on from it.
I could have another thought that says, "Oh, I'm not safe here and my pleasure is gone," right? This is about radical responsibility. Taking it for yourself and also giving it back to our husband. Letting him have his own experience. It's safe for him to have feelings, it's safe.
Honesty is necessary
But the last point I want to make, is that you have to see that honest sharing is absolutely critical for intimacy. There's just no way around it. You can be loving, but you have to be frank.
You're in this for a lifetime of closeness, togetherness and connection. If you are constantly walking on eggshells or worried that you're going to trigger your husband in some way, that's not intimacy. That's not vulnerability. That's not being a team. That's not a partnership. That's not being friends. I really encourage you to actually not worry about hurting his feelings or think, "Man, he could potentially have a thought that leads to a hurt feeling right now or we could have the rest of our marriage in which we're not open and honest with each other." That would be such a travesty. That would be devastating to have a relationship with that.
I have the absolute honor of watching hundreds of couples come out of that, come out of hiding and keeping things to themselves and really micromanaging each other people's thoughts and feelings. They start to be honest and vulnerable.
Of course it can be rocky in the beginning. Intimacy is not for the faint of heart, but it is incredibly rewarding. After you get through that little bit of rockiness, just like we went through that little bit of rockiness, on the other end is the connection that you're really craving. It's the safety, the closeness, the teamwork, the mutual support. Oh, marriage is just so good. I just love marriage so much.
I hope that inspired you to share, to be honest, and to not edit yourself. And that way, you're going to have the relationship that you truly want and also the relationship that your husband truly wants as well.
Please let me know if you have any thoughts or questions. I love having conversations about this through email or through a comment on here. If there's anything I can do to encourage you to start, just start. You're not going to do it perfectly. You're going to make a ton of mistakes, but you can do it kindly and compassionately and take ownership of what you need and of your feelings. I mean, it goes without saying, but just stay away from blame. Okay? Just don't dip into blame and don't dip into criticism. Just be very direct, "Stop. Please don't grab my breasts anymore.” or “ Can you get me some water? I'm parched." That directness will go a long way.
I'll talk to you next time, bye.