Asking for what you want from sex or talking about sexual/body hang-ups can feel excruciating. You may feel vulnerable, disconnected and like there is a huge brick wall between you - even if you're lying naked, entwined together. Talking about what is concerning you can make it feel more real. But as the saying goes: it is, for the most part, better out than in.
Communication can be a massive gateway to intimacy. I don't mean every time you have sex you must have an hour discussion about your likes, dislikes and worries. But more dialogue about sex, whether before, during, after or in between liaisons could make expressing any concerns much easier. You can feel you are part of a team and can find out what the other person actually thinks rather than guessing.
Please note this feature is a general guide. As with reading any sex advice piece, listen to your instincts.
Before sex, telling people what you've liked or not liked with previous lovers could lead to jealousy and be a turn off. Most of us have something about our body we would like to change and pointing these out could affect the mood. Also giving people a list of dos and don'ts could be quite paralysing for them - sex becomes a tick sheet and less spontaneous. So be selective with what you say.
If you feel better for sharing a hang up - whether it's a preference, a body issue, a worry, or a medical condition - then saying it before hand could help take the tension out of sex. You may feel you need a toy with you, you only climax during oral sex, you prefer not to doggy, you need lube, and you sometimes lose your erection or come too soon, hate being fingered, have sensitive nipples or are worried nerves will impede your performance. Whatever it is, if you feel it could impede your time by worrying about it, it might help saying it.
Some people love having sex without talking. They feel they can switch off their thoughts and focus on sensations. Others can find it harder to stay in the moment; they can worry about what the other person is thinking or even go over their day or tasks they need to do.
Talking or making sexy/positive noises can be a great way to bring yourself back in the room. You could ask the other person if they are enjoying themselves, say if you're having trouble relaxing or give compliments - it doesn't all have to be negative. You could let out an "mmmm" or a "Yes." If you want to ask for something different a compliment followed by your request can work well: "love that, a bit to the left would be amazing." Once you get used to talking, making suggestions about what to do in bed can feel easier - especially if there is no pressure to do whatever it is you wish to do.
If you feel like something has gone wrong during sex lying in silence next to the person you've had sex with can feel very lonely. One of you may not have climaxed or finished too soon, it may have hurt, it may have brought up negative feels, or you may have felt nervous. As a result you may want to roll over and pretend to sleep or get up leave. You may also apologise and feel bad, feel resentment for the other person, worry that they like you or whether they were satisfied. If you feel unfilled you may fear that you and your partner will never have good sex.
Remember that if you feel bad, the chances are your partner has picked up on this feeling too. How we react to difficult sex times really affects the chances of a repeat performance whether you're having sex with this person or someone else. Asking them if they are ok, saying how you feel about them can help. The bed is never a great place for in depth conversation or criticism of someone's sexual prowess but breaking the silence could help bring you back together and help you feel less alone.
IN BETWEEN LIAISONS
If you are in a couple, having a dialogue about your sex life can help create positive sexual tension, disperse any negative sexual tension and create a space where people can talk about their worries. Flirting and saying what you want to do can be fun though do check that the other person doesn't feel pressured by this. Even if it's just telling them if you enjoyed sex and asking them how they find it, you are setting the seeds for better communication and greater intimacy.
Of course talking doesn't always help and sometimes you need to be prepared for negative feedback or someone not being as understanding as you might hope. It could be that you come across defensively, demanding or needy. Maybe they don't agree there is a problem or feel the problem is insurmountable. This is the time when you can evaluate your relationship either together or on your own. Do you agree with their concerns? Do you think you can overcome or manage the issue together or is it time to call it a day? Trying to discuss this can help an amicable break up or recovery. Sometimes extra help can help.
As a therapist, when I see couples that have issues with their sex lives, a large part of my job is helping them to communicate with each other. I facilitate, moderate, give advice and can use different programmes and theories to help. I'm not in the job of keeping people together who don't want to be. If a break up is on the cards and can help this be as amicable as possible.
People are sometimes surprised that I'm not a hands-on therapist watching them have sex or even getting in on the act. But no greater intimacy really can be forged and sexual problems can be managed or overcome just through greater communication.
So if you feel you have a wall between you, talking can be a lot better than fretting and having sex that makes you even worse each time. So when you're ready take a deep breath and a leap of faith.