If you've encountered challenges in expressing your desires and needs in the bedroom, you're certainly not alone. Many individuals find it difficult to offer feedback because they may feel uncomfortable communicating their needs or have concerns that their partner could potentially feel embarrassed, criticized, or become defensive. Additionally, some people might hesitate to provide feedback to their partners because they may not be prioritizing their own pleasure adequately.
Regrettably, many of us enter sexual experiences with the belief that our desires, our satisfaction, and even our boundaries are somehow less important or secondary. In such situations, we may not feel entitled to seek pleasure or acknowledge our desires fully.
Failing to communicate your desires can result in missing out on the fulfilling sexual experiences you truly desire. This underscores the significance of mastering the art of providing constructive feedback to your partner. Here are six effective strategies for effectively communicating your wants and needs without resorting to criticism.
Choose Words That Resonate with You
Expressing your desires can be a challenge for many of us. Sometimes, finding the right words to convey what you want can be tricky. You might not feel comfortable articulating your desires or using explicit terms like "pussy," "clit," "penis," "vulva," "cock," or "anus."
In many cases, our upbringing plays a significant role in how we approach discussing sex. Growing up in households where sex was a taboo subject, where words for genitalia were whispered or avoided entirely, can make broaching the topic feel awkward, shameful, or even improper.
If certain words make you uncomfortable, it's perfectly acceptable to use alternative language until you become more confident in being direct. For instance, if you're unsure how to request a specific type of clitoral stimulation, you can focus on describing factors like speed or pressure. Additionally, you can guide your partner's hand and simply communicate, "That spot feels great.
Express Your Desires in the Moment
Even if you have the vocabulary to convey your desires, knowing when to communicate them can be a challenge.
It's particularly crucial to provide feedback in real-time if something is causing discomfort, whether it's physical or emotional. You should never endure discomfort just to please your partner.
To avoid making your partner feel embarrassed or criticized, a sexuality educator and researcher suggests using statements that begin with positive feedback followed by a request:
"I love/like it when you do __, but __ makes me feel (or doesn't make me feel) __."
"I love/like it when you do __."
"Can we try __?"
Employ the 'Appreciation Sandwich'
Expressing a need or desire can be challenging, especially if you're concerned about hurting your partner's feelings. To avoid making your partner feel bad about something that isn't working for you, it's helpful to cushion your request with two positive aspects.
Sex and relationship educator LiYana Silver suggests a strategy called the 'appreciation sandwich' for check-ins and feedback during sexual encounters. This approach involves three parts, like the layers of a sandwich:
State what is working.
Request an upgrade.
An example of the appreciation sandwich in action could be:
"I love the way you're using your tongue on my __."
"Do you think you could do it a little higher and add in some sucking?"
(After they have made the adjustment) "Ahh, yes, that's it!"
Have a Post-Sex Debrief, Emphasize What You Enjoyed
After a sexual encounter, engage in a post-sex debrief, focusing initially on what you both enjoyed. Share your favorite moments, any delightful surprises, and express your desires for what you'd like more of in the future.
Shift the conversation to your partner and inquire if there were aspects they didn't particularly enjoy. Make it clear that you're seeking feedback, not criticism, because, like everyone, you can't read minds.
Your partner may reciprocate by asking if there was anything you didn't enjoy. If they don't, kindly express your intention to share some insights they might not be aware of and inquire if it's a suitable time for such a conversation.
Explore Yes, No, Maybe Lists
Another effective method for providing feedback to your partner is by completing worksheets that outline your boundaries, likes, and dislikes. One popular tool is the "Yes, No, Maybe" list, which allows you to share your preferences and discover your partner's as well. It facilitates the identification of interests you might not have been aware of while clearly establishing boundaries.
Using lists or worksheets provides a structured and non-confrontational way to give and receive feedback, particularly outside the heat of a sexual moment.
A productive approach to initiate a discussion about desired changes in the bedroom is by mentioning this article. You can inform your partner that you came across an article suggesting the idea of a post-sex debrief and inquire about their thoughts on trying it. If they initially express reservations, validate any concerns or hesitations they may have, and give them the time and space to reflect or even discuss with a friend if they feel the need.
How to Offer Feedback When You're Unsure About Your Desires
Some individuals hesitate to provide feedback because they are uncertain about their desires. Here are four strategies to consider if you're unsure about what you want:
Request Something Different: Even if you don't know precisely what that something else might be, it's entirely acceptable to ask to try something different. You can communicate your discomfort or the desire to stop by saying phrases like, "Could we explore a different activity? This isn't working for me," or "Can we pause for a moment?"
Collaborate with Your Partner: Be transparent with your partner about your uncertainty regarding your desires. You can say something like, "Can we experiment with something new? I'm not entirely sure about my preferences, but could we figure it out together?" Then, engage in joint troubleshooting to discover activities that both of you find enjoyable. You might ask questions like, "What feels pleasurable for you?" or "Could you touch my ___ so we can explore how it feels?"
Recall What You Did Enjoy: If you wish to suggest an alternative to your partner, try to recollect a moment during the encounter when you were enjoying yourself, even if it occurred earlier. You can then request to revisit that specific activity. It's acceptable if what you want to do is entirely different from your current activity.
Experiment with Masturbation: If you're uncertain about your preferences, self-exploration through masturbation is an excellent way to discover what feels pleasurable for you. Pay attention to the pressure, speed, and motion that you find enjoyable. Understanding your body's preferences during solo moments can offer insights into what you might enjoy with a partner.
For those with partners, mutual masturbation can be a helpful approach when you're unsure about your desires. This allows both of you to observe each other's preferences and provides a non-verbal way to understand what feels good, especially if you find it challenging to verbalize your desires.
Throughout our lives, we often receive messages that discourage open discussions about sex, label our desires as "taboo," or prioritize our partners' pleasure over our own. It's crucial to remember that you always deserve to experience pleasure, and it's entirely acceptable to express your desires. To prevent your partner from feeling criticized or upset, aim to initiate feedback with positive comments before making requests. If communicating in the moment is challenging, consider post-sex debriefing and maintain space for ongoing feedback within your relationship.