The Sex Education You Missed
Think back to your sex education classes in school. If you even had a class, it probably focused on abstinence education or the body mechanics of reproduction. Perhaps you are having a flashback to images of body parts being drawn on the chalkboard while the students around you giggled. Maybe you were even lucky enough to be taught a little about healthy sex and not just persuaded to avoid it all together. Whatever your experience was during those formative years of your life, there was probably one key question that went unaddressed: how do I have healthy and lasting relationships and sex?
Understanding the mechanics of the body is important for a healthy and satisfying sex life, and good sex is important in many relationships. However, it is equally and sometimes more important to understand the mechanics of relationships themselves. The brain is the most important sex organ, and learning how to stimulate and operate it will undoubtedly lead to more pleasure in the bedroom. If you are in a relationship, or you hope to be someday, here are three principles that can improve your relationship in and out of the bedroom.
1. BE POSITIVE AND KIND. This one might be seem obvious, but we break this rule in relationships and daily life all the time. There is substantial research that shows in order for a relationship to work there must a ratio of five positive interactions to one negative interaction. Every interaction matters — a smile, a wave, a hug, a frown, the tone of your voice. Keep in mind that it is better to say something if you are uncomfortable about a situation than to say nothing at all. However, if you are going to speak up, framing it in a positive way will yield optimal results. For example, you might want to tell your partner during sex, “I don’t like it when you bite my lip.” This is negative feedback and probably makes the other person feel discouraged about being a lover. Instead, try redirecting them in a positive way. “It makes me feel all tingly when you kiss my right ear.” Even better, say it with a sultry smile.
2. SCHEDULE UNINTERRUPTED TIME TOGETHER. Most of us have busy lives, however there is one phrase that I often hear from couples that should be addressed: “We didn’t have time for sex/intimacy/romance.” If you ever hear yourself or your partner say those words, take a moment to reflect. The truth is that we make time for what is important in our lives. If you want to get better at a sport, you practice. If you want to improve your relationship, it also takes practice. Schedule time in both of your calendars to spend with each other. Ideally, there would be at least 10 minutes each day to check in and a 2-hour span one day per week where you both agree to put down the smartphones, turn off the TV, get a babysitter, and just be with each other. You can schedule an activity together or even just go for a walk. The important part is to make it a positive experience to reconnect. If at all possible, this should also include some time for cuddling, sex or just holding hands while watching a sunset or a movie together.
3. PRACTICE RELAXATION AND SELF AWARENESS. This last suggestion is something more targeted to an individual, but you can also work on this as part of a couple. One of the biggest problems that couples face is not knowing how to relax or walk away from an argument due to the lack of awareness of emotional trigger patterns. Ninety percent of the emotion during an argument is really about one’s own childhood and history. When your partner says something that reminds you of your mother scolding you, or they behave in a way that reminds you of how helpless you felt during a past relationship, all of those old feelings are brought up and projected towards your unknowing partner. Learning how to identify your triggers, their origin, and communicate those experiences in a relaxed manner can not only save your relationship but also heal those old wounds. This allows for discord in a relationship to become an opportunity to build intimacy instead of break it. The next time your partner says something that triggers you, instead of responding with a snarky comment, you might say, “When you use that word, it reminds me of how my father used to yell at me as a child and I feel this rush of emotion come back up. I’d like to find a different word to use. It would make me feel so much closer to you knowing that you understand this trigger for me and are willing to work on it.”
Imagine the impact on the divorce rate, childhood trauma rates, and general relationship satisfaction overall if sex education included training and awareness on nurturing better relationships and communication. Start a discussion and share one thing with your partner that you learned about relationships from this article. Even making one small change can create a chain reaction that substantially improves your relationship, your sex life, and your overall satisfaction as an individual.
David Helfand, PsyD, is a relaxation and relationship coach who offers private retreats for people who want to dive deeply into themselves or their relationship. He has spent more than 10 years studying ways to calm the nervous system through meditation, yoga and neurofeedback, as well as helping couples communicate and build intimacy. Contact David at (844) 354-4050 or visit www.DrHelfand.com.