Communication about one’s needs is one of the most important foundations in a relationship. The belief that the partner should read our needs without our participation is risky, because it means that we delegate the responsibility to the other person. A partnership relationship is an equal relationship, that is, one in which both parties are responsible for what happens (or does not happen) in it. This includes the part of responsibility that consists in taking care of one’s own needs and informing the other party about them.
When talking about the couple’s sex life, there may be additional difficulties in communication. One of them is the fear of rejection. It may be experienced differently by each, e.g., ideas about devaluing expressed needs may arise. In the context of psychoeducation about feelings, it is important to know that fear is our subjective idea about the future. Thoughts are not facts, so we should remember that we can distance ourselves from their content when they arise. Accept that they are just one of many versions of reality that can occur. But not the only one.
When anxiety arises around issues related to sex and needs, it’s worth answering the question: does keeping my sexual satisfaction quiet lead to more closeness or more distance in my relationship with a partner? If it is important to us to build closeness, but at the same time we are afraid of rejection, the method of slowly introducing words we associate with sex into the relationship can be helpful. For example, say them slowly and gradually more and more often in everyday conversation. In every relationship, the degree of openness to intimate topics and the degree of fear to talk about sex can be different, so we introduce the simplest and shortest messages in the beginning. For example, after sex, we say in one sentence what it was like this time to signal that it can be different every time we do it. Or when we watch a show with a love scene, we say what we think of it (we like it, we do not like it, we would like it or not). Then we start to develop new associations when we talk about sex with a partner, and at the same time we normalize this topic in the relationship. We do not give it the status of a “serious topic” that we talk about with the tensions that come with it. Over time, it becomes as commonplace as other everyday topics in a couple’s life.
However, when it comes to topics related to sexual needs and fantasies, it pays to talk to yourself first and then to your partner. Words uttered in a relationship with another person cannot be taken back, and in intimate matters they can hurt feelings of safety and trust. For example, if someone has a fantasy about having sex with a friend, sharing this information will most likely not do any good for the relationship with the partner (it can create a sense of threat of losing the permanence of the relationship). Fantasies are a safe basis for exploring one’s sexual needs. Like dreams, they can symbolically tell us what is important to us. And just like dreams, we can interpret them indirectly. Another example is a rape fantasy. It does not necessarily mean that someone actually wants to be raped. One interpretation of this fantasy could be that the partner is taking the initiative and needs to be relieved (not only during sex, but also in everyday life). It is worth getting to know fantasies and needs for oneself first, and only then answering the question of what consequences it has for the relationship to express them in the presence of the partner What changes do we hope for and are they achievable? After all, if one of the two dreams of anal sex with a blonde with big breasts and is in an everyday relationship with a brunette with small breasts who does not like this form of sexual activity, sharing this fantasy cannot change much in the relationship. From this, a hypothesis can be made about the need for variety or novelty, and this need can be met, for example, by bringing some variety into this person’s relationship. Explicitly expressing this fantasy in conversation with your partner may not lead to changes that improve the quality of sex for both of you because the other person does not have the opportunity to fulfill that particular fantasy.
Every relationship has its boundaries, although these boundaries may be different in each relationship. In long-term relationships, they are clear and shaped by a variety of shared experiences. In relationships that have only been in existence for a short time, the boundaries are just beginning to emerge. As the relationship gets longer, there may also be a need to change the boundaries, for example, if one of the partners has a fantasy about sex in a triangle. The willingness to change the boundaries of the relationship must be present on both sides, because it is about what they create together – their bond. The answer to the question of how they will handle these differences, when one partner wants to try something new and the other wants to stay with what they have, lies in the couple’s decision making. Crossing boundaries in a relationship without the partner’s consent is a form of violating those boundaries. It can be considered a betrayal. In every relationship, there is a different partner norm, i.e., a certain way of fulfilling sexual needs that is recognized by both partners. There are no universal partnership norms. In one relationship, sex on a business trip is considered to cross the boundaries agreed upon between the partners; in another relationship, it is not. Therefore, there is no universal list of behaviors that might be considered cheating. In every relationship we will find a different image of cheating and a different image of fidelity.
News, gadgets, variety should be considered as a possibility that can stay with us, but does not have to. With changes it is important to observe their effects on the sexual satisfaction of both. Mistakes, errors and disappointments in sex also happen. They do not mean that we are doing something wrong. They are simply part of human life, just like our other activities.
Normalizing the sexual sphere as another sphere in our lives is extremely important for the smooth flow of communication and for avoiding catastrophes, i.e. cognitive distortions that consist in exaggerating the consequences of a certain situation (“it’s over”, “we ruined everything”). Sex is a joint affair of the partners, and communication about it is the responsibility of each of them.