As a sex educator often I spend more time talking about communication than about vibrators, condoms, and anatomical function put together. From what I have experienced, it seems that the biggest indicator of whether or not you will achieve your sexual and emotional desires is largely dependent on how good of a communicator you are. Take a look at the various sources relationship advice. It may be phrased differently but I guarantee you that the majority of advice out there boils down to three things: communication, talking more, and communication. So there it is, your magic bullet. That said, if it is that easy why are people still hesitant to be open and honest with each other about what they want and need?
Seemingly Good Reasons for Keeping Your Mouth Shut
Sometimes we don't actually know what we want. Maybe we are trying to make a difficult decision. Maybe we are having confused feelings about the situation. Often we haven't given ourselves the time we need to sit down and just think about what we want. Regardless of the reasons for procrastinating, we probably still have seeds of unmet desire popping up in us and our partners. Know what I mean? Have you experienced the feeling that something is on your partner's mind but you don't exactly know what. They say something weird here or there but not weird enough that you actually ask them, "what's up?" These are the classic signs that there is something tugging at their mind that they are not vocalizing so it is coming out in other ways. Ignoring strange feelings and vague longings will not make them go away. Often the feelings will just get bigger to let you know they don't appreciate being ignored. The bottom line is that you need to know what it is that you want in order to be able to communicate it to a partner. If you are having vague feelings it is best to examine them. Know thyself and all that.
Sometimes we know very well what we want but we are wishing that it wasn't what we wanted. You know that breakup that you really didn't want to initiate even though you wanted to break up? You know that fetish that both thrills and scares you? The phrase, "I wish it could be different" comes to mind. We may know what we truly want but we know it is going to totally suck getting there. If only we wanted something easier. Sometimes we are afraid to admit our true desires to ourselves. Even when we know we want something, saying it out loud to another person can make it so much more real and scary than when it is just kicking around inside our heads.
One of the biggest fears of communication is the fear of how our partner might react. Nothing makes the words stick in your throat like the feeling that this news is not going to go over well. Maybe you have had similar talks with a partner that have not gone well. Maybe you have to say something that is actually pretty scary. Maybe your partner just has a sarcastic wit and tends to call you on your bull shit. The fear of the unknown reaction can be really quite scary. This is totally legitimate. The fear of rejection weighs heavily on us all.
Combined with this is the fear of seeming needy, silly, jealous, petty, pervy, insert your own fear here. So many times it seems that being honest will be less flattering to us than feigning an aloof and unflappable exterior. Who wants to expose all those messy, irrational, completely human reactions that we all actually have in our heads? Much more attractive to be the cool, silent, James Dean type, right?
Fear is the Mind Killer
Sensing a pattern? Most of the reasons for keeping quiet have to do with fear. Either fear of partner rejection or fear of having to face something within yourself that you might not like. Unfortunately, communication is likely to always carry an element of fear. Honesty is scary. Letting people know who you truly are, faults and all, is one of the scariest things I can think of. But when it works out well it also carries one of the largest rewards, Being loved and valued for who you are and getting lots of the things you want most is worth the discomfort of facing your fears. So what might be some ways to make communication less scary? Hmmm.....
The "Really Great Advice" Section of the Article
If you believe that you deserve to be fulfilled you will be able to ask for the things you find fulfilling. A fortune cookie told me something like that once. But really, if you have thought through your wants and needs you will have a better understanding of them and be better able to communicate them. This requires a good level of self acceptance. When you are asking for something from a partner it helps to believe that you actually deserve what you are asking for. Value your own happiness as well as your partner's. Know yourself well enough to accept your quirks and your human fallibility. We all have our things....own yours.
While the squeaky wheel gets the grease, the buttered up muffin gets eaten more often. What I mean by this is that you need to ask for what you want but the way that you ask often determines the answer you will get. So learn how to communicate in ways that will make your partner want to help rather than putting them on the defensive. If you travel with a pack of cynical post modern smart-ass friends like I do, irony is God and sincerity is for suckers. "I statements" and similar communication techniques may be the butt of everyone's jokes but damn if they don't work a hell of a lot better at getting you what you want than arm punches and sarcastic comments. So suck up the hipster points you will lose and read some good books about communication strategies. And I mean GOOD books. Do not go get the latest pop psychology gender stereotype sound-bite friendly piece of garbage that is selling a billion copies right now or I swear I will find you and punch you in the arm.
The flip side of finding good ways to say what you need to say is learning how to be good at hearing what your partner wants to tell you. Communication isn't a one way street and if you want to be listened to you need to do some listening yourself. If you and your partner can cultivate the ability to give each other the benefit of the doubt and assume goodwill you will find that difficult subjects are tackled more easily. Again, those books about good communication will be your best friend on this one.
Still wishing you could just nod and smile rather than starting the conversation? Take a minute to think about what the likely outcome is for avoiding whatever topic is on your mind. What are the probable consequences of not talking about this with your partner? What would be the best possible outcome from bringing it up? How do these possibilities weigh against each other? Regular honesty in relationships begets more honesty. Regular communication makes further communication easier. If you make communication the standard rather than the exception to the rule you will see the benefits in many aspects of your relationship. So have an awkward conversation today so that it doesn't become a hurtful explosion three months from now.
Write the Author: Laura Rad