This post aims to help you to cultivate your personal, intimate life.
First, we will look at the connection between communication and intimacy
You will share tested tips on how to have a conversation about intimacy.
Then we will look in detail at how to talk about intimacy. You will learn the following:
- How to improve your intimacy with a single habit?
- How to learn more about the other person?
- How to talk about problems?
Finally, I’ll share one exercise which can help you and your partner to explore each other’s boundaries and ways to give and receive pleasure.
Why is communication important for intimacy?
Deep and honest communication creates intimacy. It broadens the perspective and allows more meaningful interactions. However, effective communication is challenging and takes patience and sincere curiosity about another person.
Communication isn’t just about words. It’s about your tone of voice, gestures and facial expressions. There are many elements, and we can categorise most as verbal or non-verbal communication.
How carefully you listen and how you say things also matter. But more surprisingly, why you say things matters even more.
Sincere interest in the other person will make the conversation flow. All the cerebral noise will fade away as you get into a rhythm.
For most people, it’s easy to talk about themselves. Of course, it’s essential to say your part, but equally important is to be interested in the other person.
Think about when someone showed a genuine, sincere interest in something you enjoy. Same as when someone listens carefully to you when you speak about something very dear to you.
In conversations with your partner, make them feel like this.
It may be hard to listen and ask questions from a place of curiosity, especially when discussing intimacy, but there is something you can do
Here is a good general guideline for such conversation:
- Find a good time and place. When you’re angry or in a hurry is not a good time.
- Come with an open mind and heart. Be ready to hear things you may not like.
- Seek solutions, not problems.
- Don’t compare yourself or your partner with other people.
Meaningful communication is less about speaking and more about actively listening and creating a space for your partner to express their feelings, concerns and ideas.
After your partner finishes their sentence, try not to rush by saying something else right away. Instead, intentionally be silent for a few seconds after the person you speak with finishes. Make sure they told you all they wanted to say.
If you follow these tips, your conversations about intimacy will be more easy-going and rewarding.
Let’s zoom in a bit more.
How to have a conversation about intimacy?
These are three valuable tools and strategies to help cultivate healthy communication in a relationship. Remember that this isn’t set in stone. You can change things, so it sounds like you.
Make it a habit
This takes work for most people, but it’s well worth the effort.
Together with your partner, schedule time to have conversations about intimacy regularly. Set this in a calendar or create a reminder for a regular time. Try to stick to it most of the time.
A 60 to 90-minute chat every two weeks is a good place to start. Find a sweet spot with your partner. You can always finish earlier, but give yourself enough time, so you don’t rush.
Set some ground rules. It’s good to agree that you will not criticise each other or get mad. These can be safety precautions and things that help you get going.
You can flip a coin to decide who starts or take turns. You can talk about your relationship, the joys and struggles, what you want to change, what you enjoy in bed or what you want to try. You can follow a guideline or freestyle it. Get creative.
If you need a place to start, here is a place to start.
- Something the other person did that you enjoyed or want to see more.
- Something the other person did that you didn’t enjoy. It can also be something they didn’t do.
Words are important for intimacy, but when it comes to the actual act, it’s more about feeling than talking. So it’s common for people to struggle to find the right words when talking about intimacy. Try to use this wording:
When you do _____, it makes me feel _____.
(When you touch my lips, I get horny.)
This may seem rudimentary, but it makes the latter point sound less violent. Instead of saying:
Your breath was disgusting last night.
we can say
When you smoke, I don’t feel like kissing you.
Start small and be patient. Set aside a regular time to talk with your partner about intimacy and see what happens after a short time. You can always adjust something or decide not to continue.
Use open-ended Questions
What is an open-ended question? Any question gives you more than a “Yes” or “No” answer. For example, say:
Did you have a good day?
The answer will likely be Yes or No.
On the other hand, asking
How was your day?
You will get a more detailed answer.
Let’s look at a short example of dialogue with an especially non-talkative partner that started with close-ended questions and unfolded because of the follow-up with open-ended questions.
A: Did you enjoy what we did last night?
A: What were the things you liked?
B: I like all we did.
A: What were some things which you would like to do again?
B: I like that we took our time before jumping to penetrative sex.
A: What were some things which you enjoyed less than others?
B: We didn’t spend enough time on me last night.
A: What are the things that I can do next time?
Although partner A learned something they might not like, they are aware of it now. Notice that B didn’t start proactively sharing but answered eventually. If you and your partner make your intimate conversations a habit, you won’t be as stubborn as the person in this example.
How to talk about problems?
This part will help you to talk about potential problems in a less aggressive way. Note that this advice is in the context of conflict resolution and not an exploration of self-love or self-focus.
Using the right words when communicating will have an enormous psychological influence on your relationship. First, let’s look at what is in linguistics called “I” vs “You”.
“I-statement” is a way of communicating your feelings and beliefs and taking focus away from the actions and behaviours of your partner. Instead, the focus is on how these actions make you feel.
It makes sense because the only thing that you can influence is the way you feel or react. Therefore, using the I-statement correctly removes the accusatory tone and allows you to express your concerns or feelings without arguing with your partner.
Here are examples of the same sentences in the You vs I form. Notice the difference it makes.
You never call when you are running late!
I feel worried when I don’t know if you are safe.
You care more about your work than us!
I feel lonely and neglected when I spend every night alone.
You never help with cleaning the house.
I feel frustrated and stressed when the house looks like a mess, and it is always up to me to take care of it.
A common mistake when using I-statements is when people use them to assign blame or judgment. For example:
I feel like you don’t listen to me.
Despite using the “I feel” statement, in the beginning, it follows up with blaming the other. Instead, focus on your emotions, how the action made you feel, and what the solution can be.
Using the above example, you can say:
I feel sad when I have to remember all the arrangements we discussed. I would appreciate it if we could come up with a plan that helps us to share these tasks between the two of us.
By definition, a relationship is an association between two or more people. Therefore, focusing only on you and not paying attention to your partner’s needs is a relationship killer and can lead to anxiety and depression. (Zimmermann et al., 2013)
The scientists found that frequent use of first-person plural pronouns (we) in a relationship was associated with commitment and closeness. (Agnew et al., 1998)
Therefore, it is good to think about how we will do it when trying to resolve a conflict. It does not always have to be you or me. It feels great to connect the forces and find a solution together. Remember, two of you are against the problem, not “you against me”.
At this point, you understand that communication is crucial for intimacy and know how to work towards healthy intimacy in a relationship.
Exploring pleasure and growing within the relationship should never feel like a chore. Instead, it should be fun and kind. So here I have an exercise that allows you to explore each other’s boundaries and intimacy.
You will start by using your partner’s hands as the body part to practice on. Why do we begin with hands? The hand is a neutral place (more neutral than the neck, chest or hips area). It will be easier for you to learn this activity on a neutral body part.
- Set a timer on your phone for three minutes.
- Start by asking your partner, “How do you want me to touch your hand?”
- Your partner will explain how they like their hand to be touched. The more details, the better.
- If they don’t know how they like to be touched, ask if you can experiment. And if they say yes, ask them to say “stop” whenever they feel uncomfortable.
- Go ahead, and start touching your partner’s hand but keep checking with them each time you change the way you touch their hand. You can ask, for example, “Is this still the touch you want to receive?” or “How can I make it even better for you?
You and your partner should only allow strong “yes”. If any form of touch doesn’t feel right, even if it’s within the boundaries, immediately say “stop”.
When the time is up, follow up with questions to figure out what was not OK and how to do it differently. Then you can switch the roles and repeat the exercise with some modifications.
The experience will feel very different with your eyes closed or when you keep looking each other in the eyes. Alternatively, only the receiving partner can have their eyes closed. Finally, you can keep taking turns, starting with hands and gradually working up to more sexually charged body parts.
You can do this exercise regularly as a way to cultivate skills in a relationship or just once.
Communication is a skill. It takes time and consistency to learn how to communicate well. Set aside a regular time to talk about intimacy in your relationship.
It takes two to communicate and listening is as important as talking. To learn to communicate better means to learn to listen.
Be prepared to hear something you might not like. When it comes to problems remember that it is the two of you against the problem and not you two against each other.
Make it playfully yours. Try out the exercise from the last chapter to practice communication about intimacy and explore each other’s boundaries.