Improve your love relationship by talking about sex


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Noah Clyman LCSW-R & Drs. Julie & John Gottman

I recently had the pleasure of attending a 3 day workshop with couples’ therapy experts Drs. Julie & John Gottman who are world renowned for their work on marital stability and divorce predictions. You may recognize them as the authors of the New York Times bestseller, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert. I learned their innovative theory about how to make relationships work, along with research based skills for a great sex life, improving friendship, and resolving conflict. There are so many pearls of wisdom and this blog post will touch on the importance of talking about sex.

According to Drs. Gottman, there is no more stable and replicated result in the sex field than this: being able to talk comfortably about sex is strong related to satisfaction. Not just with sex, but with the whole relationship. And the results are not weak, they are dramatic. Quantity as well as the quality of the talking about sex, are strongly correlated with a couples’ happiness. Statistically speaking, only 9% of couples who can’t comfortably talk with one another about sex say that they are satisfied sexually, as well as satisfied in general with their relationships. On the other hand, over 50% of couples who can (and do) talk with one another openly about sex are satisfied sexually and are satisfied in general with their relationships. That’s a difference of forty-one percent! Amazing.

Research on sexuality strongly points to the importance of being able to talk intimately with one’s partner to enhance the quality of sex in your relationship. Yet having these conversations is very difficult for American couples from an African, Anglo-Saxon, or East European cultural background. Drs. Gottman–who have been analyzing videotapes of couples talking about their sex life in their “Love Lab” for decades–found that most couples have a great deal of trouble being clear and specific about what they want and don’t want in the bedroom. There’s an enormous fear of rejection which comes from a lack of trust and openness with each other.

Interestingly, this isn’t true of many heterosexual couples who are Latino and haven’t been made to feel guilty by strict religion. In some ways, these cultures support direct and frank non-defensive conversations with one’s partner about sex, romance, and passion. (This is not to say that all Latino couples are comfortable talking about sex. Many are not). Drs. Gottman discovered these facts about Latino cultures in America during a national survey they designed for Readers Digest. They also found that the same was true of gay and lesbian committed couples, in a 12-year study they did with Robert Levenson. Generally, Latino and same-sex couples didn’t make assumptions about eroticism. They considered it their responsibility as lovers to know what their partner did and didn’t find erotic.

To facilitate the process of conversation about sex, romance, and passion for couples who may feel uncomfortable with these intimate topics, it is important for couples to learn how to how their partner basic questions about sexual preferences, and then remember the answers. Remember: if you know your partner’s preferences, you will be able to create more excitement and pleasure for your partner. I look forward to helping couples improve their relationships from resolving conflict, to deepening friendship, to having great sex.

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