Fostering an environment of emotional safety between partners is of key importance both to make the relationship healthy, but is also essential to support the presence of a passionate, high quality sex life. Imagine what partners have together as of being like a precious ring; their love expressed for each other daily is the setting; the most pleasureable, intimate moments are the jewel. Good sex is maintained by all that is loving outside the bedroom; to endure, it must be protected from outside stresses and strains.
The boundaries that exist between partners emphasize the reality that each of us is separate, even though we unite in the union of a relationship. This paradox is acutely true when we are sexual; the boundaries of separateness must be honored carefully in the bedroom because by doing so, the protection safeguards the possibility of sexual merging. Establishing clear, well-defined boundaries keep partners safe from potential hurts, such as unmet expectations, disappointments and misunderstandings.
Well-established boundaries keeps the sexual arena protected from fear and anxiety, as well as other uncomfortable emotions which easily de-rail the highly-prized smooth flow of passion during sexual moments. Forming agreements and understandings about the way partners communicate and relate creates the emotional safety. To do so may be challenging; many people are uncomfortable talking about sex, which truly is less uncomfortable than experiencing the disappointment of poor sexual experiences. If partners can depend upon each other to take full responsibility for his or her own sexual experience and satisfaction, then the connection between partners becomes much simpler and thereby easier to successfully negotiate.
When you and your lover are sharing pleasure, how do you balance your desire to please your partner with getting your sexual needs met? How are your requirements communicated? If a different kind of touch or attention would be better, are you likely to tell your lover, or hope that he or she properly interprets your facial expression and thereby gets the hint? If one of you gives instructions, is this likely to cause hurt or conflict? The potential for a negative incident during a sexual session injects an unwelcome visitor into your play in the form of tension and anxiety, the enemies of deep closeness, high excitement and high pleasure.
To increase the chances that each encounter will be awesome, build an understanding with your lover that says: I will speak about my needs and I trust that you will speak about yours. That if I want a particular pleasure, I will ask for it. Promise to ask your partner questions about his or her experience instead wondering powerlessly and risk proceeding unsuccessfully based on tenuous assumptions. Agree to communicate kindly and carefully. Make the promise that if you desire a specific attention or pleasure, you will ask for it. Give permission to provide the other instructions about your body and pleasure, but also discuss how those instructions are to be shared to avoid hurt.
Such agreements do initially challenge the comfort of some couples, especially those who avoid talking about sex. The roles into which partners habitually gravitate, such as sexual-event leader or passive follower, may be shaken up by these practices, but this cost is well worth the increased potential for pleasure and satisfaction. Without these rules, disconnection, negative assumption, conflict and disappointment are hiding just under the bed in every intimate encounter. Andrew Aaron is a sex and relationship therapist practicing in the New Bedford Seaport.