Exclusive Excerpt: Tongue Tied
Most of us have been there — caught somewhere between expressing our own needs and suffering in silence. It isn’t easy to talk to someone you care about, especially if the it’s about a sensitive topic, like finding new heights of passion in the bedroom.
According to Marriage.com, poor communication is the third most frequent reason for divorce and in a study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, it was found that communication and sexual satisfaction can independently predict marital satisfaction. However, if the communication was bad, sexual satisfaction did not contribute to a relationship’s overall health and success.
And that does not only apply to the married couples. Having solid communication skills is imperative to a person’s success in life, in work, and in the home. We’ve all read the articles, taken the advice, filled out the surveys, read the self-help books that promise you a solution, only to let you down when it comes to practical application. That is where Stella Harris, certified intimacy educator and sex coach, stands out from the crowd. She is not only informative and emphatic, but provides sound advice for improving communication skills in the home, with partners, and in kink play. But, even better, her advice has real applications in every type of relationship from love to business.
Below is an excerpt from Stella’s new book, Tongue Tied: Untangling Communication in Sex, Kink, and Relationships on one important key factor in communicating with your partner: setting apart time to have serious conversations in a safe space.
WHEN TO TALK: MAKING TIME TO TALK
This might sound silly, but we don’t always take time to talk to the people who are the most important to us. Maybe you chat about your day, what’s going on at the office, or the movie you just saw, but when did you last talk about your feelings?
Or maybe you and your sweetie(s) don’t get to see each other that often, and you feel reluctant to “ruin” date night by having hard conversations. You just want to enjoy your time together and not risk derailing the evening.
Either way, sometimes the most important things are the hardest to bring up.
Whether you’re simply giving your partner a heads-up that there’s something you’d like to talk about and asking if it’s a good time, or actually scheduling time to talk, it’s important to differentiate “talks” from simply chatting about your day.
You need to be in a different headspace to really share—and hear—heavier stuff about how you or a partner are feeling. That’s why it can be helpful to have a scheduled time on the calendar to talk about how things are going. Depending what your organizational style is, you can even make an agenda for these talks.
Whether you set these talks for once a week or once a month, it can be helpful to know that you’ve got a time coming when you can raise any concerns you’ve been having, set your shared schedule for the coming week or month, and make sure you’re on the same page about the relationship.
If you’re a note-taking type, like I am, you might even keep a running list for yourself of things you want to talk about at the next meeting. Putting something on the list and knowing you’ll get a chance to sort through whatever it is can help take it off your mind in the meantime.
When you have your first scheduled relationship talk, set some ground rules about how you’d like it to go. Are you agreeing on an agenda together? Are you each getting equal time? Are you tackling one big topic, then each adding your own smaller items that have come up since the last meeting? Knowing how the talk will go can be as important as the talks themselves.
Another thing to consider is location. Some people will be most comfortable doing this at home, and for other people having these talks in public is easier. Sometimes being out in the world is a good backdrop to keep things on an even keel, if you’re afraid the talk might get tense or emotional.
The bottom line is figuring out what it takes logistically to make it most likely that you and your sweetie(s) will get what you need from these conversations.
At a minimum, give your partner a heads-up when you want to have a difficult conversation, and check in about whether it’s a good time. Sure, sometimes things come up in the moment that have to be addressed, but if the issue isn’t immediate, you’ll get the best results if you have the conversation when everyone is in the right head space for it. It’s also another way to establish a consent culture within your relationship, by letting people opt in to serious talks rather than being surprised by them.
With clients, I often call these State of the Relationship talks. Just like oil changes, software updates, and putting air in the tires, everything requires ongoing maintenance, and relationships are no exception. Once you’ve decided to have these regular talks, here are some things you might want to cover:
- Needs and definitions around sex.
- Household logistics, chores, etc.
- Vacation planning.
- Big personal topics that affect everyone—job changes, moves, etc.
- Your schedule for the coming week or month, depending how often you have these talks.
- Scheduling date nights.
Sometimes just knowing that you have a built-in space coming up to raise issues can make things feel less urgent. Often it’s not knowing when or how to bring something up that causes the most stress. When you have these talks already on the schedule, you’ll also have a built-in time for bringing up new kinds of sex you’d like to try, or a fantasy you’d like to tell your partner about.
Most people think that figuring out how to start the conversation is the hardest part, so if you’ve got time to talk built in already, you’ve already done the hardest part and you can focus on the information you want to share, rather than worrying about how to bring it up.
Tongue Tied is available for purchase at all major retailers in print and digital formats. Or feel free to order a copy at your local independent bookstore!
Amazon iTunes Barnes & Noble Google Play Kobo