I am so excited because this topic is one that people just don’t talk about. I love talking about things that are on your mind, they’re in your heart, they’re in your spirit, and you don’t even have a language for them. The topic: having a sexual voice. So many times people step into my office—both men and women—and they don’t feel like they can talk about sex, they don’t feel like they can be heard about sex, and they don’t feel like they’re even connected to their sexuality.
I often sit in my office with someone who’s flown in from far away for an intensive counseling course, and we have to talk about sex. Of course we talk about dating, we talk about communication, and we talk about money, but we have to talk about sex because this is one of those places where people have challenges. They don’t know each other’s sex language (and if that’s you, check out the 5 Sex Languages book; I definitely recommend that for the whole sexual conversation).
When I talk with couples, I need to encourage at least one of them to have a sexual voice. How do you know if you don’t have a sexual voice? You don’t bring up the topic of sex. You feel uncomfortable when sex is discussed. You might try to shut your partner down if they want to talk about sex. One of the people in the marriage will say, “I want to talk about sex, and every time I do that, my spouse says that’s all I want to talk about—but I haven’t brought it up in 5, 10, or 15 years.” If you’re trying to shut down the other person’s voice, it often means you don’t want them to be heard, or even that you don’t want to have a voice either.
If you don’t feel like you have a voice, then you don’t feel like you can articulate your sexual desires, your sexual thoughts, or your preferences. You can’t have the conversation of how often you want to have sex and what things are acceptable to you and what things are not acceptable to you. If you don’t have a sexual voice, your spouse cannot determine who you are sexually because you’re not letting them into that door of communication. They’ll never know that you like soft touch, or you like things differently, or you like different speeds, or you like to have different things going on at the same time. When you don’t have a sexual voice, it’s like you’re saying to your spouse, “I’m not sexual.” That’s not fun for the spouse because most people want to communicate about sexuality: “Am I doing a good job? Does that feel good? Are you pleasured? What can I do to help you more? What would you like?”
These are conversations that are very normal and healthy inside of a marriage. Take a minute and think to yourself, “When was the last time I talked about sex inside my marriage? When was the last time I initiated a sexual conversation?” Until you can have those beginning conversations, it’s going to be hard for you to suggest something that might satisfy your sex language, or to have a creative idea and feel like you’re going to be accepted, or to allow your spouse to have any creativity and have a voice. I’ve had couples that don’t even talk during sex. There’s no voice, and yet sex is supposed to be communication, communion, a sacred place where you can have open connection and nurturing communication so that both of you are encouraged, strengthened, and wowed—not only by what’s going on physically but wowed by what’s going on verbally.
It’s an amazing thing what two partners can do for each other verbally during sex. I don’t mean dirty talk. I mean talk about how much pleasure you’re enjoying. Talk about what you enjoy about your spouse. This is a fun thing to do. But if you don’t have your voice, sex will make the other person feel alone and rejected. If you never talk about it, they might feel that sex is not important to you, even though it could be very important to you.
Could you imagine never talking about your kids? Could you imagine going 15 or 20 years and never talking about your children together? How to raise them, what you think about it, what would be best? How about your family or your family origins? Imagine going 15 or 20 years and never talking about money. Couples actually do that. There are couples who have no financial conversation. Neither has a financial voice. Sexuality is so critical because there’s only one person you can talk to. I can talk about my money to my financial adviser. I can talk about my children with a counselor or a friend or another parent. But who else can you go up to and say, “This is my sexual voice and I want to be heard?”
If you’re the person who doesn’t speak up sexually, write down a few things you would like to talk about—and then talk about them. “I would like to talk about the frequency of sex. I would like to talk about the different types of behavior in our relationship. I would like to talk about how I want to express my sexuality. I would like to pursue you instead of always being pursued. I would like to ask instead of always being asked. I like this pre-sexual behavior or I don’t like this pre-sexual behavior. I would like to try this pre-sexual behavior. I would like to invite you in this way or that.”
If you don’t speak up sexually, you’re operating out of a child place, not an adult place. All of us are born sexual, and we’re sexual all the way to death. It’s a beautiful part of our humanness and it’s the part that we can give and share and interact with our spouse. This is a fantastic gift that we have, and it’s unique for each person. No two people’s sexuality are alike and their sexuality is always growing and maturing. Sexuality is kind of like finances: its grows over time. When you get married and you’re making minimum wage and you’re trying to just meet your bills, that’s a financial start. But when you’re 40, 50, 60, or 70 years old, you hopefully have saved up tons of money in your retirement accounts. You’d have some assets that you’ve acquired—land, properties, etc. You’ve invested and you’ve done well and you’re financially mature.
If you’re 60 years old and you’re still getting paid minimum wage and you have no savings or investment or retirement, you didn’t do so well. There’s no shame in that. You can always mature and grow anytime in your life. The same is true sexually. Anytime you want, you can start having a sexual voice. You might need to practice by yourself. Sometimes I’ll tell men or women, “Listen, maybe it feels intimidating to talk to your spouse. Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to sit here in a chair. Pretend that’s your spouse sitting in that other empty chair and practice having that conversation. Go ahead and talk to your spouse about sex. I’m just going to sit here and listen.”
Then we talk about it. I ask them, “What would you like to say?” Sometimes, people are so disconnected from their sexuality that they can’t even feel their sexuality. I tell them, “Close your eyes and let yourself just feel sexual. Just be sexual.” Sometimes it takes minutes for people to connect to their sexuality. if that’s you, I would strongly encourage you get the 5 Sex Languages book. You want to know your sexuality so that you can communicate it, and you can’t communicate what you don’t know. If you engage your sexuality—engage your voice in your relationship—you’re going to feel better. You’re going to feel like you’re heard. If you don’t say that you don’t like something, or that you would like to try something differently, you can build resentment toward your spouse because they can’t read your mind.
Women are much more guilty of that than men, generally speaking. But even as a man, if you don’t have a sexual voice, if you feel shut down, if you feel like your wife won’t let you talk about sex, that’s going to build resentment. If you feel that your spouse is so mechanical sexually, or you can’t have any kind of relationship or connection during sex, or you want to talk about that and you can’t, then you’re going to feel stifled and shut down. If that’s you, then start with yourself. Then try the empty chair exercise. Then talk with them in person. If you can’t, then talk to a counselor. If you need help, call my office at 719-278-3708. We help people through these conversations all the time.
It’s important that you feel that you have a sexual voice, because it’s a powerful part of your relationship. If there’s open communication, then there won’t be imaginary stories about your spouse that can hinder you. You can actually find out what they like and want, and you can be connected to it. It can be about the sexual environment or any stage of sexuality—the initiation phase, the foreplay phase, the actual act, or afterward. Any of those could be something that you and your spouse can talk about. I really encourage you to find your sexual voice. Let your voice be heard in your marriage so that you can enjoy that level of communication and enter into better love and sex today.