Show Transcript for Episode 12: Talking

Laurie Watson: Hi, it’s time for Foreplay. I’m Laurie Watson, sex therapist and author of, Wanting Sex Again. And I’m here with my co-host psychotherapist, Tony Delmedico. We are here to talk about all things sexual and intimate and help you get the most out of your sex life.

Tony Delmedico: You can check us out on the web at ForeplayRST.com. Visit us and send us an email if you like.

Laurie Watson: That’s right. We’d love to hear from you.

Tony Delmedico: Sex talk with Laurie and Tony. Laurie, today where is Foreplay going to lead us?

Laurie Watson: So, Tony, today, let’s talk about how couples can really talk about sex. How do they do it? Because it can be such an awkward thing to talk about.

Tony Delmedico: It seems so simple on the surface. Can’t you just go home and talk about it? People come and pay you hundreds and thousands of dollars to help them.

Laurie Watson: Don’t overestimate it.

Tony Delmedico: Hundred. Not hundreds of thousands.

Laurie Watson: Okay.

Tony Delmedico: To come in and down the walls of these barriers of being able to just say, what feels good and what doesn’t. So, I think that the conversation while we’re starting on the surface, I think it’s really thick, really quickly. I think it’s a lot harder to talk about sex than any of us really imagined or lend credit to, you know.

Laurie Watson: I mean, I noticed just as co-host and co-therapists, I mean as we’ve started this podcast, I mean, there’s been moments of awkwardness. And trying to, you know, what do I say? How do I say it? How do we talk about this in a way that’s helpful? You’re a man, I’m a woman. I mean, there’s even awkwardness here sometimes. Yeah. We’re learning.

Tony Delmedico: Without any vulnerability, it’s awkward.

Laurie Watson: Exactly. Yeah. I mean, it’s such a tough subject to talk about. Whether you’re talking about it professionally and I think there’s a lot of fear for people to come in and talk about it with a sex therapist. That sounds so scary. You know, “Oh, my gosh, you know, what is that going to be like and what is that person going to suggest?” And I think it’s a conversation we never ever have with hardly anyone. Oftentimes not even our partner. Much less a helping person.

Tony Delmedico: Right. Well and the fear is that you’re exactly right. If you’ve been in the relationship as the one that’s not doing something right, there is a fear that now that’s going to be two against one that my partner is actually right. And I’m in the wrong. Or admission that, “Hey, we don’t know what we’re doing here. And we need some help.”

Laurie Watson: Or the fear that I’m going to be shown up as I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m sexually inadequate. And I’ve been inadequate for so long. I mean, there is real terror, I think, Especially in a long term relationship to start to talk about something that maybe never got off the ground in terms of, you know, this was a regular part of our sex life, a review, or you know, a debrief or some way to have regular conversation. You know, some people just get in bed and do it.

Tony Delmedico: They do. And most of us try not to talk about what we’re doing. And we are just hoping that it all goes well. And as you were talking, I was thinking about in so many of our other episodes we’ve talked about where we’ve learned what we learned. So, we either learn it from our family, we either learn it from the culture, and I’m trying to rack my brain in terms of movies or incidences where you’ve seen two adults sitting and talking about what they like and don’t like in bed in a movie. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard that conversation mirrored back. I certainly didn’t see it in my family. But the culture doesn’t say, this is how we talk about sex. This is how we have a sex talk. And you know, and I think one of the things that can trigger if you sit down and try to have a talk about sex with your partner is some of us had the awkward moments as teenagers where our parents came in, a parent or both, and tried to sit down and have the birds and bees talk.

Laurie Watson: Yeah, the one talk.

Tony Delmedico: The one time.

Laurie Watson: The one and only talk.

Tony Delmedico: And I think maybe as couples listening to the show today, to try to take some pressure off of that. Maybe get the idea of having the talk out of your mind and just beginning to have an ongoing dialogue about things. So, you just open it up in the ability to have a conversation back and forth is just as simple as, “Hey, I like the eggs a little more done today versus a little runnier.” And there’s not a lot of shame or fear in those barriers. Even if you break down the wall once and have the conversation. We can very quickly build the wall back up. And as a couple trying to figure out a way just to have this nice easy flow around, “Hey, that that was different last night. That felt really nice.” Or, “Oh, you know, don’t do that again. That didn’t — I went there once and I might try it again. But that was a little too much.” And not having that be shaming, but just informational.

Laurie Watson: Yeah. I think oftentimes I find in couples that one of the partners is more willing to have this conversation than the other. You know, the person who I call the sexual pursuer, maybe who feels easier about sex, less inhibited, wants more sex. Perhaps they’re often wanting to discover what their partner likes and doesn’t like. Like tell me, tell me your fantasies, tell me the touch that I should do that turns you on forever.

Tony Delmedico: He or she is the agenda driven one. That’s what you’re saying?

Laurie Watson: Usually. Usually. And I would say for the person who is the sexual distancer or the person who maybe likes sex but doesn’t necessarily want it as intense or as often. Or has more reservation about it. Sometimes these conversations feel like, “Ugh, again. We’ve got to talk about it. Can’t we just do it? And you feel like you enjoy it and kind of give me a thumbs up. It was great. I was sexy.” Done. You know, and then let’s move on. and go about our week or whatever. And I mean, that person I think sometimes feels that, if I have to talk about it, especially if it, if it’s a woman who is the one who is more reserved. And she has to talk about it at a time that she’s not aroused. It can just, I mean, it feels invasive to her psyche. You know, during the time that she’s not aroused bringing back up the subject. Like you, you just talked about it. And I think for you it’s very natural. But kind of the breakfast debrief. You know, let’s talk about what happened last night. Oftentimes for these women, I think, you know, it just feels like too much. They have lost the moment. They’ve moved on. And then for him, oftentimes, and I hate to be stereotypical because sometimes it is a gender reversed. But for the person who is more sexually pursuant, you know, talking about it is sexy. It can be fun. And they learn something. And they really do want to please their partner. But sometimes it can feel critical. You know, “Wasn’t it good enough? Why do we have to talk about it?”

Tony Delmedico: Right. And I think that gets to how do we have a sex talk as a couple? How do couples have a sex talk? And I think the first question we very quickly come to as timing. So, Laurie, when do you recommend couples have a talk about sex? Is it during? Is it in the heat of the moment? Is it the next day? Is it over dinner a week later? I mean, how do couples begin to approach the barrier that’s between them? What do you recommend?

Laurie Watson: Well, I think we have to take the temperature on the relationship. You know, if sex is a hot spot, and you fight a lot about it. Then you have to know that talking about it going to be loaded up, you know. So, giving your partner a heads up. “Hey, I’d love to take you out for coffee on Saturday afternoon. And I really do want to talk about our sex life. This is my agenda. I want to know how to make it better for you.” And I want to know, I know that this is a dicey conversation. You know, let’s go to the safest place. Maybe it’s at the park, you know, have a picnic there. Or maybe it is, you know, in a coffee shop where there’s all this noise and you know, your partner isn’t going to get angry at you. So, that feels safer. So, I think first take the temperature on the coupleship. And second, set up a situation, a scenario, if your partner might be reluctant, so that there’s a win.

Tony Delmedico: So, you’re really saying avoid the ambush.

Laurie Watson: Yeah.

Tony Delmedico: Right. This is not a setup for us to have another sex talk and that.

Laurie Watson: Or have an argument.

Tony Delmedico: In other sessions, we’ve talked about treating the relationship as a third thing. And this is another way that you can nurture the relationship. “Hey, for the sake of our relationship, I’d like to try and have a conversation about sex. And when would be a good time to do that?” And that brings us to the next point, which is, “I’m hoping that when we have this conversation, you don’t feel attacked or I don’t get defensive or it becomes a very unproductive thing.” And I think that’s one of the reasons we tend to avoid it because of that fear.

Laurie Watson: Yeah, absolutely. People say, you know, “I’m married or I’m in committed partnership, you know, I have to be honest.” And I’m like, “No, actually that is the last place you want to be brutally honest. You want to be tactful, especially with sex.” I mean, to me, think twice and then think again about how you’re going to talk to your partner about issues between you sexually. Because I think our sexual egos are so fragile. All of us. I mean, how we look, our attractiveness, how we perform sexually. That is the dicey area of our life. And so, I think, please, please, use as much tact as possible.

Tony Delmedico: And there’s tremendous insecurity too. If one of you have had previous partners or both of you have, there’s always the ego always wants to measure, you know. Have you been with somebody better than me? Am I adequate enough? You know, in all areas. Am I pleasing you enough? Why are you really with me?

Laurie Watson: Yeah. I mean, this conversation is fraught with anxiety for us. The comparative element. I mean, I also think people are anxious about if let my partner in on what’s in my head, in my fantasies. They are going to think I’m perverted. You know? And I think the social pressure is we talk about over and over for women, they’re going to think I’m sexual. You know? And as a woman, I’m not supposed to be sexual. I’m not supposed to want. And so, if I let my partner hear all this of what goes on in my head and what I really do want, that’s just frightening, at a double message of fright, you know, to my partner. And then just the exposure as a woman who’s a true sexual being.

Tony Delmedico: Yeah. So, it’s risky. I mean, we’re talking today about, “Hey, let’s get together and have a sex talk, an ongoing conversation about sex.” But it’s risky. And now we’re starting to talk about some of the risks that come forward. So, we have egos that can be damaged. I think very quickly you begin to unearth a lot of unexamined and unwritten rules that maybe were given to us from the time that we were little about sex.

Laurie Watson: Our childhood influence.

Tony Delmedico: Yeah. Whether their religious beliefs or what we were taught about our own body parts, whether that we were taught to explore them or stay away from them or respect them or neglect them. So, and very quickly that opens up a lot of space between a couple.

Laurie Watson: Yeah. Yeah. I think that that sense of what’s normal often comes up and people use that in an argument. It’s normal and suddenly this conversation becomes, you know, something that we’re trying to justify what we think the sex life ought to be. And bring in the third party. “Well, you know, my other partner did it this way and was better than that and I never had any trouble with him or with her.”

Tony Delmedico: That gets back to tactic versus honesty.

Laurie Watson: Oh, Lord.

Tony Delmedico: Yeah. It’s probably not going to be helpful in the conversation.

Laurie Watson: Right. Well, let’s come back to this and talk some more about how we talk about sex and how we can make it more comfortable as a couple to talk about it.

Tony Delmedico: Great. This is Foreplay Radio, Sex Therapy with psychotherapist, Tony Delmedico.

Laurie Watson: And sex therapist, Laurie Watson.

Tony Delmedico: We’ll be right back.

Commercial: Wanting Sex Again, how to rediscover desire and heal a sexless marriage by certified sex therapist, Laurie Watson. Each chapter is designed to fix one of the problems that caused low libido from early marriage through the childbearing years, even all the way through menopause. I’ve also had men read it and tell me that for them it was the most helpful thing they read about resolving sexual problems. Look for Wanting Sex Again on Amazon.com. You can also talk to Laurie Watson for therapy in person or via Skype. I offer couples counseling and sex therapy and I think about both aspects of the relationship, emotional intimacy, and sexual technique. And that combination together helps marriages be happy. Improve your sex. And improve your relationship with awakening center for couples and intimacy. Find out more at AwakenLoveandSex.com and sign up for their next couples retreat weekend hosted by Laurie Watson. AwakenLoveandSex.com, awaken what’s possible.

Tony Delmedico: Welcome back to Foreplay with sex therapist and author Laurie Watson and psychotherapist Tony Delmedico. Today, we are talking about how to have sex talk with your partner, Laurie. And the first half of the show, I think we both agree that it’s a lot tougher than most people give credit for. So, I’m glad we’re taking the time to talk about this today. One of the things that came up and thinking of over the break was some of the perils and pitfalls of having the talk. So, you’re uncovering old wounds. Sometimes with a couple of you may actually be uncovering old trauma.

Laurie Watson: That can happen too. Absolutely.

Tony Delmedico: So, I think with partners being aware that having this conversation may be very, very tender ground, that you may be brining up. And at some point, if that old wounding is traumatic, if there’s rape, if there’s child molestation, you might be helping your partner or the both of you get some counseling around that. But again, all of this I think is in service of a healthy relationship and bringing you closer together. And oftentimes, if we’re avoiding those things, they can sit in the corner and fester. So, I think better to have the conversations sooner rather than later.

Laurie Watson: And like we don’t want it to be our, the childhood talk, where it’s a once and done. We want this to be an ongoing conversation. I would also suggest, you know, sometimes maybe don’t have, you know, three things to talk about. Talk about one tiny part of it in a way that’s safe. You know, also bring up the things you do like about what your partner does in bed. And how they approach you and things that are positive. I mean that old technique of sandwich, a positive with a negative criticism with a positive Nevermore necessarily, you know, then putting this between the sheets of the positive right now, the negative criticism.

Tony Delmedico: Well said. Yeah, yeah.

Laurie Watson: You know, it is a task that young couples in early relationship should handle. I mean, being able to figure out this, how to talk is something that is super important and should be done really within the first year of partnership. You know? But we don’t really know that. And we don’t get any instruction on how to do that. So, a lot of times couples get in 5, 6, 10, 20 years. And they don’t really have a way and a language to talk about it.

Tony Delmedico: Well, and I think you’re talking about even just the myth, or the fantasy, or the fairy tale of how wonderful the wedding night is going to be. Couples don’t have a lot of conversation around how they want it to be specifically. We’re both imagining into, it’s just going to be amazing. And in fact, you hear some of the horror stories about drinking too much or falling asleep or all sorts of things that get sideways on us on an evening. But that speaks to the couple being able to have that conversation about their unwritten fantasies.

Laurie Watson: Yeah. And the wedding night is also a very symbolic night. I mean, if you aren’t married and you’re going through a ceremony, I would highly recommend that you talk about what your expectation is for that wedding night. I do see a lot of people for faith reasons or cultural reasons that have not had sex before they get married. And oftentimes, there is this high expectation of what it’s going to, you know, it’s just going to be bliss. And either they don’t know anything about it, or they don’t know anything about each other. And oftentimes, you know, it’s a disaster. And more than anything else, people remember the honeymoon story. You know, my husband got sick. You know, he threw up. I was in a nightgown in Jamaica on the terrace. And I come in and my young handsome husband is puking in the bathroom. And ironically, she feels rejected. I mean, she can’t separate out her expectations of the sexual fantasy of the honeymoon from what actually happened. You know, it was just a virus, right? But sometimes those honeymoon memories carry through. And they need to be sorted through and understood because they carry so much import into our expectations for the rest of our sex life.

Tony Delmedico: Right. And that sex talk is all part of that. How do we distance ourselves from the fairy tale and talk about what it felt like for me? What it felt like for you? What are current hopes and dreams are? And I agree with you earlier about the negative pieces. I think we talked in the first half of the show about how fragile our egos are around this. And I think, just taking that one or two things that you really liked from the night before or from last week and saying, “Hey, you know, that was kind of fun. I really like that. Let’s have more of that.” That’s a lot easier to stomach. Then you know the negatives. So, minimizing those. It’s strange. The psyche remembers if I tell you 10 wonderful things and one thing I didn’t like. The only thing you’re going to remember is the one negative thing. And I think we all sort of work like that. We’re always picking out the thing that doesn’t do. And that’s evolutionary as well. But more so when we’re talking about what goes on between the sheets.

Laurie Watson: Yeah. I think couples need to talk about three important parts of their sex life. And the first one would be, who initiates? And why? And what the expectations are about balance in that? And the second thing, and we can talk about all of these.

Tony Delmedico: Sure.

Laurie Watson: But the second thing, I think they need to talk about what they’re going to do in bed. You know, what is the range of sexual acts that they are comfortable with. Maybe willing to try. Maybe less comfortable with and still willing to try. And you know, what is totally off limits. And then the third thing is how do we talk about it? What language specifically do we use? Because I mean we’ve kind of kidded around and struggled in this podcast about what, you know, what language do we use when we describe body parts and sex acts? And are we going to use technical or the scientific language or are we going to use more slang? And you know, what’s comfortable here and as we’re trying to help people and you know, what would be more natural for couples in bed. You know, sometimes one of them really does feel more comfortable with scientific terms. And the other feels more comfortable with slang or talking dirty and the other one is offended. You know, maybe we start there. I mean, how can we help people with language? I’m learning to kind of match up.

Tony Delmedico: Yeah. No, I would agree. I think all of those are absolutely fabulous.

Laurie Watson: Yeah.

Tony Delmedico: I was just thinking, it would be fun to do an entire episode just on the names for body parts, just for fun. The names. The euphemisms. And just for fun. Have people call in and tell us the names that they use for things.

Laurie Watson: We will see, Tony.

Tony Delmedico: I’m always hearing a new name for a body part. Yeah, through the years. So, there is a small book to be had in that and of itself. Yeah, you know, how can we talk about this in a way that doesn’t offend you or get your defensive.

Laurie Watson: Or shut you down.

Tony Delmedico: Or shut you down, right. Can we have this conversation that it opens some more space so that the conversation flows. All of those things are important. The timing, the place, whether it’s loaded or not. Focusing as much as you can on the positive, noting where your wounds are, and then finding terms that you can use that are fun and easy for both of you.

Laurie Watson: Right. I had one client who he liked kind of slang and dirty talk. It was a combination and I think those are very different. But his wife was less flexible. She was very anxious and so she preferred more scientific terms for everything. And you know, I coached him. I said, “You’re the one who wants more. So, why don’t you use, kind of, don’t go as far. Use less of the language that you want in the beginning. Kind of match where she’s at.” And you know, he really resisted me. It’s like,” Oh my gosh, I’m here so that I can have more. And now you’re telling me that I’m going to get less.” And I’m saying, it’s a process. I mean, that’s what I do with a couple in the room. If a couple in the room comes in and they’re very prim and they only use sort of scientific terms, that’s all I’ll say. But if a couple of uses euphemisms and pet names and slang and you know, they say cum instead of orgasm, then I’d go ahead and say that.

Tony Delmedico: So, you meet them right where they are at.

Laurie Watson: I match them. You know, and I think with a partner, if you can match them, particularly if you’re helping to enlarge their world, it’s probably best first met with a match. And then later even talked about, you know, how do you feel it when I say this? You know, what goes through your mind? Does it shut you down and why does it shut you down? And I think sometimes language can be different at different stages in the sex act. You know, for instance, in the beginning, maybe only romantic language is acceptable. But particularly for women as they get aroused, their inhibitions drop and then they might be more open to other kinds of language use. You know, that’s more graphic or more, you know, even dirty, or more intense. I think that that can be helpful to know that arousal changes how we hear even words.

Tony Delmedico: Right. No, I would agree. As we’ve been talking, throughout both of these segments, I keep thinking, you know, a lot of this is very practical how and when and what language to use. But what we’re getting at underneath this is the process, what’s going on between the couple, while they’re having the conversation. And tracking that actively. I mean, it’s a lot to say, are these words shutting you down? Or it’s a lot to say in real time, “Hey, you know, when you use that word, you know, now I don’t even want to be sitting at the table with you.” So, tracking your own, I don’t know what the right word is, lay term. But just tracking your own, the flow of your own conversation in real time is really important when you’re having that conversation. Is this okay having the talk? Do you feel the barriers coming up? I’m feeling embarrassed. How is this for you? Sort of this mutual check-in that you begin to chip away at that wall, that taboo wall of not talking about sex as a way of sort of staying engaged as you get to the content of what you like and don’t like. You know, it’s hard to have that conversation.

Laurie Watson: It is. And I think one thing that resonates with me, Tony is when you talk about being present in the sex life. And I think even being present in the talk, you know what? Talking about sex can be awkward. And we don’t need to shame ourselves secondarily by saying, “Oh, but I wish I were not awkward. Or I wish I weren’t ashamed of this. I wish I could be this.” Forget all that. If you feel awkward, you feel awkward. If you feel embarrassed, you know that’s okay. This is not something that we’ve grown up usually really comfortably talking about.

Tony Delmedico: An having some mutual empathy for that, that we’re going to have a conversation and it, who knows what’s going to come up. And being with your partner through that again brings you closer together.

Laurie Watson: I have a girlfriend who says, you know, that one of her partners asked her at one point, “You know, what do you like? Tell me what to do to you all this”. And she’s like, it was a fairly new relationship. And she said, you know, “If he had asked me in the bathtub and we’d had a glass of wine, you know, that would have been a way better ask. You know, because I would have been able to tell him. But just point blank, I couldn’t.” So, you know, I would say my tip of the day is, you know, have this talk maybe if you can in a sexy way, in the bathtub, glass of wine, you know, if you’re not always disrupted over sex. If sex is going pretty smooth, just to enhance, you know. Then you can make it sexy and talk about it. That glass of wine can help.

Tony Delmedico: That’s a great tip, Laurie. My tip, thinking about talking about sex is just go slow with it. And remember, it’s a very, very sensitive topic. The walls are very big. And they run very, very deep. So, just a lot of forgiveness and compassion for yourself and for your partner as you fumbled through it the first few times. And I promise if you can begin to have these conversations as an ongoing way of being together, it really leads to a whole lot more foreplay and a lot more intimacy. So, thank you for joining us today on Foreplay Radio, Sex Therapy.

Laurie Watson: Thank you. And I’m Laurie Watson, sex therapist and author.

Tony Delmedico: And I’m psychotherapist, Tony Delmedico. We’ll see you next time for some more Foreplay.

Commercial: Hey, help us stay on top here at Foreplay. We’d love it if you would subscribe and share it with your friends. And please take one sec and rate and review us. Thanks so much.