Are You a Good Negotiator in the Bedroom?
Yes, there are some rules when it comes to sex, and negotiating is one of them.
There is nothing like a partnership to bring out the best and perhaps the worst in us. When we are called on to work with someone, this is when our true colors often become evident. Our tendency to be selfish, bossy, childish, big-hearted, or to display our savvy people skills often comes to the fore. Marriage is no different. It is a union that certainly tests our mettle in the area of compromise and there is perhaps no greater place where this is played out than the bedroom.
Yes, great sex often means that we have to attempt to master the skills of negotiation if each party is to be left happy and smiling all the way to the sexual bank. But what really is "sexual negotiation" and why exactly is it critical? Sexual negotiation speaks to our need to strike a happy balance between what we expect sexually and what we are actually experiencing. So we may need to negotiate how much sex we’re having, as well as what type of sex we’re having.
Negotiation in marriage assumes that sexual satisfaction is not a one-way street, but should be contingent upon what a couple is able to emerge together. Inherent to the idea of negotiation is the ideal of give and take or compromise. If a couple is to be happy despite any glaring sexual differences, then starting and maintaining a healthy dialogue is critical to the negotiation process. Negotiation demands honest communication and a willingness to explore the issues surrounding a couple’s sex life. The following should point us in the right direction for successful sexual negotiation.
Explore sexual motivations. Exploring why we want sex isn’t something that we necessarily do because we tend to take sex for granted. The truth is that we’re really not always motivated by the same things when it comes to sex. Some of us have sex because we’re in planned-parenthood mode and sex in this context can become regimented, purposeful and fairly specific. Then there’s special event sex, where the focus is on celebrating achievements like anniversaries, birthdays or Valentine's when we really pull out all the stops. Acting-out sex occurs in response to stimulation like porn, erotica or some external sensual arousal; while make-up sex is had when we’re trying for reconnection after an argument. Maintenance sex, perhaps the most boring of them all, is the sex that attempts to at least maintain the status-quo to the tune of "we’ll have sex because this is what married people do." While great-desire sex reflects a healthy response to the love and passion we genuinely feel for our spouse, it is not necessarily always all that, since life often intervenes. Then there’s autopilot or humdrum sex, which most of us can do with our eyes (and minds) half closed, especially after a tiring day at the office or a round of feeding the babies.
While absolutely nothing is wrong with being motivated by different things, where this becomes problematic is where we experience disappointment at how our sex plays out. And of course there’s the added complexity of overlapping motivations. The woman who is steadfastly trying to get pregnant may be focusing on calendars, her ovulation cycle and having sex the right time of the day, and might pay scant attention to the lingerie her husband may be fantasizing about. Because we have these varying motivations, our expectations and experience of sex can vary and cause us to feel a sense of disconnection or even anxiety. This is why communication as a vital aspect of the negotiation process becomes essential to a couple’s sexual journey.
Discuss sexual expectations. Varied life scripts, including how we were initiated into sex, and differences in personality, can often lead to differences in expectation. This issue was explored in a popular romantic comedy series where one of the characters wasn’t willing to go "south of the border," but believed that it was natural for his woman to "serve" him in this way. Obviously she was incensed. This can be a significant deal breaker in marriage when one party expects to receive and give oral sex and the other only expects to receive with no intention of giving. It is necessary for couples to clearly articulate what they expect of each other sexually, particularly as their desires and preferences may change naturally over time.
Admit your sexual comfort zone or rituals, but be willing to move beyond. It’s quite ok to have sexual preferences that are different to your spouse’s. You are your own individual and no matter how much in love you are, you are not clones of each other. In this context of individuality, many of us develop "arousal rituals," which we come to depend on. While some may be known to our spouse, some may also be quite private. These may include positions, music, toys, thoughts or anything we have learned to rely on when getting our groove on. While this individual sexual identity may be good, in a marriage, it’s also important to emerge your own "couple rituals," which are based on mutual compromise and a desire to bring each other maximum pleasure. This may mean stepping outside the bounds of the familiar and of the tested-tried-and-true. This should be done not just for your spouse's pleasure, but also for your own personal growth. Such movement is actually an integral part of the negotiation cycle.
Be compassionate towards a reserved or conservative spouse. This means not being hard on your spouse when he or she does not immediately capitulate to something you may want. It also means genuinely working on building up other aspects of the relationship and chances are there will be some spill over into the sex department.
Admit your fears or emotional limitations. Sometimes we are reticent about trying something new because we fear we may suck at it. At times we may just need to take the plunge, as experience often breeds expertise. In other words, the only way we’re going to get better at something is by repeatedly trying it despite how we feel. Use this time to confess your fears but also to learn, love and laugh together.
Don’t expect perfection. Sometimes, Hollywood feeds us the idea of a perfect sexual scenario and we fall for it hook line and sinker. Life and sex is, however, often very messy and not perfect, which the movies represent. If we can learn to wrap our minds around this, we can then relax and just go with the flow instead of trying so hard to perform for the invisible, figurative cameras.
While nothing is wrong with looking after our own needs, like any good negotiator, we should also be willing to place our partner’s needs before our own. If each of us adopts this philosophy, then it’s definitely a win-win in the bedroom.
"Denise J Charles" is an educator, counselor, relationship-coach, published author and blogger. She holds a Masters Degree in Education and is a qualified trainer-of-trainers. Denise is Executive Director of "Better Blends Relationship Institute," a counseling and training entity founded by herself and her husband Gabriel. Denise’s blog on sex can be found "here". Denise’s new book is "How To Have Mind-Blowing Sex Without Losing Your Brain."