Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sex as a Conversation Part Two : The Gottman Guide to Intimate Talk

For Inhibited, Shy People:

     --Start with eye contact and audible sounds. Let your partner know how you are feeling. Try heavy breathing. Or try moaning like you mean it. (Maybe hold off on screaming, but it’s okay to try if you want). Get vocal. When your partner asks, “oh, do you like that?’ say “mm, yes, it feels so good when you do it like that.”

     --If your partner doesn’t ask you, ask them “do you like when I…?” or “do you want me to…?”  Starting to ask questions and responding with openness and no judgment is a great beginning.

Now that you’ve got your mouth working, whenever you’re ready, you can take it up a notch.

Intimate-talk, the next level:

      --You’re now tuning into your lover’s responses. You are letting your lover know what you like. That’s good. Also, you’re getting comfortable with intimate talk, and you’re turned on enough to start asking for what you want and taking suggestions.


       --Now try saying things like, “I want to be on top of you,” or, “Do you want to feel my tongue?” and other things that may seem a little risky. Think of this: You are making yourself vulnerable, and that kind of exchange is likely to be reciprocated.


For Those Comfortable with Intimate Talk: 

       -- You’re at the point where you can ask your man to keep sucking your clit and not be in a hurry, or can suggest a rim job to your wife. You’re reciprocating. Mixing it up, having fun. It’s now time for fantasyland. Sharing sexual fantasies takes a lot of trust and requires a willing and safe environment in your relationship. It is also okay to gently tell your partner when something is not acceptable to you, but be gentle, not judgmental. Most people have no idea why some fantasies are so appealing. The mind is the greatest source of the erotic so try opening your mind to possibilities. Pretending is fun.


        --What are those things that you only imagine, but that you want to make a playful reality? It’s game time. Ask your lover what his or her sexual fantasies are, and start playfully making them happen in the privacy of your own lives. One couple in our research, for example, met periodically in a bar and pretended to pick one another up. Others secretly wrote scripts and pretended to be double agents, or surgeons, or students and professors, and so on. Later in the evening they went home together or went to a hotel.


The Highest Level of Intimate Talk:

       --By the time you get to this level, you’ve noticed significant changes in your relationship. You’ve become closer. Sex is more personal. You’re sharing with each other more openly about all topics, not just sex. Not only that but you’re also more confident in your partnership and more successful in initiating and refusing sex in a positive manner. You are cherishing qualities of your partner that make him or her unique.


       --Your passion is back. You’re excited about each other physically and emotionally. There’s more respect in the relationship.


       --Now that you’ve erased any residual embarrassment or discomfort from your sex life and gotten down with your kinkier, sexier, more reciprocal selves you can look forward to a rewarding passionate sex life that’s as open to change as you are.


All for now,
The Gottman Institute

Friday, July 29, 2011

Sex as a Conversation

Sexy young couple in bed discussing great sex life.


We’re all comfortable with the term “body language,” but how comfortable are we actually talking about our bodies? In the sex department, Westerners seem more comfortable with SHOW than with tell. When it comes to expressing how our bodies feel and what works and doesn’t work for us—sexually—our language skills are limited.

Try it out.

Imagine your lover/wife/husband. Now imagine looking into their eyes and saying, “Can you go down on me for longer?”, or “Do you like when I play with your nipples?” Or “It’s uncomfortable when you tug on my testicles.”

Can you say testicles or balls without laughing?

The good news is, it’s okay to laugh.

Maintaining a sense of humor about sex is healthy, and productive, so long as you’re not laughing from embarrassment. Being shy doesn’t have to stop you from opening up about what you want; especially if you’re in a loving, committed relationship.

The more comfortable people are with each other outside the bedroom, the easier it is to talk about what’s happening—or not happening—in bed.

Think of sex as a conversation

Intimate conversations about sex are best when both people are comfortable and engaged; when they flow easily from one topic of conversation to the next; when people are learning new things; and when the conversation is done and both parties are still thinking about what was said—when they want to talk more.

That’s what sex should be like. It should keep you on your toes, or on your back, or in the air—wherever you want it—it should NOT become scripted and boring.

If you always stick with the same prescribed things, eventually even the most interesting sex will become boring. Instead of an exciting exercise in companionship and discovery, sex turns into a routine. Not that routines are necessarily bad, but sometimes they can become dull and uninteresting.

How can a couple who’ve fallen into a rut get out, and how can a couple who are concerned about this prevent it from happening?

The answer to both of these questions is: Open Communication.

Start by creating a “Sex Love Map” of your partner’s preferences, thoughts, wishes, hopes and fantasies.  A “Sex Love Map” is like a road map to your partner’s inner sensual world so you can better know who your partner is sexually, and sensually. This involves asking questions and memorizing the answers, like with our “Sexuality Questions” exercise featured in our last post. Make sure to try and suspend judgment and criticism as you do this.

If you’re thinking, “no that’s not for me,” or “my partner wouldn’t like that,” then the following information might help change your mind.

In a recent study, researchers Hatfield and Rapson interviewed a large number of married couples about sexual intimacy and found that while both men and women ‘wished their partner would be more brave and tell them EXACTLY what THEY wanted sexually’ these same men and women were ‘reluctant to tell THEIR partners what they wanted’1… How unfortunate!

Try to keep an open mind. Think of talking intimately as just a fun flirty way to give someone instructions. Lack of communication is the only thing coming between you and coming. You’re only a few words away from a body-shaking-toe-curling orgasm.

What do you want? How do you want it?—Softer, harder, anal, outdoors, romance?—Do you just want a better blow job?

Play show and TELL with your partner. Using intimate talk is a great way for people to put their desires into words and to build confidence and intimate trust. When you make a request and your partner is able to fulfill it and vice versa, it increases closeness and encourages reciprocation.

On the other hand, mutual reticence to communicate has greater effects than just lessening frequency of sex; failure to communicate can cause an ever-widening chasm to form between partners. Resentment builds because there is an expectation for each partner to intuit what the other wants, and the less information they have to go on, the more often partners fail in their attempts to please each other.

Over time emotional, not just physical communication is essential to maintaining a satisfying sex-life.

It’s a fact of life that people change. Interests, likes, and dislikes are in constant flux - nothing should be assumed. By focusing on each other, and respecting each other as evolving beings in an evolving relationship, passion is much less likely to wane.

According to Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D.— a well known sociologist and sex expert—couples who communicate openly, in an egalitarian partnership, “share more positions and experiment more…because they have a relationship in which both partners have the power to suggest, innovate, and break out of role expectations”2 Talk as much as you play. Talk while you play. By expanding your erotic vocabulary you’ll also be tapping into your erotic imagination—bringing fantasies and previously hidden or unknown aspects of your sexual self to light.

You and your partner will have fun getting to know new parts of each other physically and emotionally. These conversations and flirtations are opportunities to give voice to your kinkiest thoughts… Aren’t you tired of sitting around in the shallow end when you know amazing sex is attainable?

Psychologist and author David Schnarch says that because couples are unable to articulate the changes they desire for their sex lives, they resign to their current state and over time, ‘sex becomes pedestrian’3.

Why is that the case?

As over-saturated as the media is with sexual imagery and messages, there is still a pervasive underlying shame. Sex is ‘sexiest’ when it’s made to seem intimate, or explicit. This can cause confusion in how we discuss our own sexuality.

We want to be sexy. We want our partner to find us sexy.

We want to be desirable and we want our partner to find us desirable, and (sometimes) even irresistibly, devastatingly attractive. These are universal truths. Ultimately we want an active lover who shows us how much we are desired.

Herein however lies a paradox, because we have also been fed the messages that men marry ‘good girls’ and women want a man who ‘knows what he’s doing’.

These mixed cultural messages leave us tongue-tied in the bedroom. Women don’t want to be perceived as unfeminine or slutty for being direct about their desires, and men don’t want to look perverted for wanting to try new things—or worse, incompetent because they haven’t tried something already.

When it comes to exploring sexuality, many people worry about how their partner will perceive them if they start changing in bed. How can a quiet person become more assertive, or what about a dominant person wanting to take a passive role? Over time couples get used to what their sex is like and as a result change can feel threatening.

Most people have a certain style they’re accustomed to and maybe it’s good, but the intensity that was there in the beginning has often fizzled into something more pleasant than invigorating.

In many areas of life, sameness and consistency works well. Sex, however, isn’t necessarily one of those areas. Not if you’re longing for heat and spontaneity—statistically speaking there is nothing more likely to kill passion between partners than habituation.

Intimate talk allows you to make room for the element of surprise in a safe space. You’re gaining your partner’s trust and curiosity. Don’t worry about your partner seeing you differently. What’s sexier than showing your partner a sultry piece of you that the rest of the world will never expect?


Check back soon for advice on how to start changing in small ways




References
1  (Love, Sex, and Intimacy. New York: Harper Collins College, 1993. Pg. 92)
2  (How Peer Marriage Really Works, LOVE BETWEEN EQUALS, The Free Press, 1995. Pg 72)
3  (David Schnarsh, Constructing the Sexual Crucible New York: Norton, 1991)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Open and Effective Communication



Welcome back to the Gott Sex Blog!

Thanks for joining us and again, feel free to check out our website – www.gottman.com - for more information on our research-based methods and how we are able to teach couples like you to have incredible relationships both inside and outside the bedroom.

We have been getting a lot of mail recently from people who are curious about the upcoming content of this blog and our Gott Sex Series.

You asked… “Will we be giving sex advice by doing a “kiss here… suck over there, all right, now bite over there” play-by-play kind of thing? Are we going to be writing racy stories and providing demonstrative images to accompany them? What about reviewing the latest and best sex toys?”

Unfortunately, the answer to these and other similar questions is…

NO

Remember that all the information we are about to share with you is 100 percent research-based, learned through 40 years of careful observations of thousands of relationship successes and failures.

On that note we have decided that in this blog, rather than recommending specific sexual techniques – which are preference based – or giving you advice about the “sex act” itself, we will instead be focusing on how you can enhance the internal components of your relationship in order to better foster passion. We can’t stress enough just how important it is to do this!

Ignoring these internal components and trying to have a satisfying sex life is like trying to lose weight by eating only chocolate cake, which may feel good at the time but ultimately, wont exactly get you the results you want.

Fact:  Couples that are satisfied with their sex lives have a lot of depth in their relationship

Even from the relatively small sample of people who have taken our “sex satisfaction poll” on the right hand side of this page, you can see that a good deal of respondents feel some level of dissatisfaction when it comes to their sexual relationship. What is sad however is that this is true of millions of people both here in the US and all over the world.

Why exactly is sexual dissatisfaction such a widespread problem?



Well, it’s not the fault of our bodies. Physiologically speaking, the penis and clitoris are quite simple and well-suited for each other. If sex were left up to these two then there would be no problems and they would have a fantastic carefree romp. Their relationship is wonderful and pleasure-giving. They ‘get’ each other.
  
What you have probably figured out already, and what actually makes sex “complicated”, is that it in addition to our physiology, there are also two brains involved. As a result, a good sex life requires talking, touching, and knowing one’s partner romantically, and establishing and maintaining an emotional connection that makes both people want to be excited, or carefree, or playful, or open, or vulnerable, or erotic with one another.

The good news is that great sexual relationships become a whole lot easier if we are able to talk to one another about sex.

Talking: The First Step
Happy elderly couple telling secrets and discussing their sex life.

Here’s a question for you. How well do you actually know your partner’s sexual desires?—likes and dislikes?

On the surface this may seem like an easy question to answer. Most people have at least a rough idea of what their partner would say, but what about when it comes to such topics as masturbation, libido and orgasm, the actual specifics? Are there certain “taboo” subjects that make you feel awkward and perhaps intimidated to talk openly about with your partner?

Well, we certainly don’t want you to feel like you are limited in any way, so let’s try an exercise designed to help you begin facilitating open and effective sexual communication.

This partial exercise from our upcoming “Gottman Sex Kit” deals with building “Love Maps” of your partner’s sexuality so you can better know and respond to their personal needs.

Give it a try, ladies first:

*Sexuality Questions to Ask a Woman*

1) What do you like about your body? What about your body do you feel good about?

2) What makes sex more romantic and passionate for you?

3) What is it like for you when you have an orgasm? What are the physical sensations? What do you feel?

4) After orgasm do you feel satisfied or fulfilled? What do you need from me? Do you need to feel tender and close? Are you sleepy? Do you feel energized and wide-awake?

5) Many women say that they have lower sex drive than their partner. Is that true for you? If so, is that a problem?

All right, guys your turn:

*Sexuality Questions to Ask a Man*

1) Many men say that they want and expect that ALL sexual contact will lead to intercourse and their orgasm.  Do you feel that way?

2) What do you find most erotic and arousing?

3) What can I do to improve the arousal and the experience of orgasm for you?

4) Some men say that they have higher sex drive than their partner. Is that true for you? If so, is that a problem?

5) How do you prefer to masturbate? Can you show me?

There are no right or wrong answers here. Remember this should be fun and enlightening with the goal of this mini-exercise to get you to know your partner better.

The Power Of Talking

According to our research, fifty-percent of women who say they discuss their sexual feelings with their husbands are very satisfied with their relationship. Compare that to a nine-percent satisfaction rate among women who do not discuss their sexual feelings and you begin to see the power of talking.

Talking is huge. While it’s not the only thing that successful couples are doing, it is a fundamental part of getting to know one’s partner intimately. You must be able to have open discourse in order to establish and maintain the emotional connection that makes both people feel desired/desirous.  And if you do have open sexual discussions, you’ll begin to feel more playful and erotic with one another.

Join us next time as we delve further into the subject of talking.  We’ll explain to you the four skills necessary for all types of intimate conversations, including sexual. In addition, we will also begin sharing tips on how to improve another fundamental part of a good sex life - maintaining a close, connected and trusting friendship.

All for now,
The Gottman Institute

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Let's Talk About Sex

Welcome to the Gottman Institute’s Sex Blog, a publication created exclusively for people like you who want to enrich the quality of their intimate lives.

If you are reading this then hopefully you already know who we are and how we teach people to have amazing relationships. If not we want you to know that everything we do at The Gottman Institute is based on 40 years of research by Dr. John Gottman. Feel free to check out our homepage for more information, www.Gottman.com

 Before we start we have a question for you…

Why settle for good enough sex, when you could be having great sex?

Hmm... Anybody?

 Personally we don’t think you should have to.

That’s where we come in.

Join us each week as we delve into dynamic, research-based skills and advice from the world’s foremost relationship experts on how to powerfully enhance your intimate lives.
If you’re familiar with the Gottman Institute’s research and products you’ve got a head start! But don’t think you know it all quite yet.

In this Blog we’re going to be going in depth (no pun intended) and breaking down the exact secrets of a fulfilling sex life, secrets that we learned over the years from observing thousands of real couples in our famous Love Lab… Don’t worry, it’s not what you think it is.

We are going to be turning these secrets of couples who are “Masters” of passion into practical advice for real people, like yourselves, who want all aspects of their relationships to be fulfilling.

This summer we’re ready to turn up the heat with the following topics:

  • Developing open and effective communication skills for talking about sex
  • Nurturing the most important part of your relationship – friendship
  • Changing your attitude about what “sex” is
  • Giving you fun, sexy things to do together that will really bump up the thermostat

Here at the Gottman Institute, we strongly believe that the key to a satisfying sex-life is open communication between partners. If that idea seems obvious to you then great, you’re already on the right track!

How we make this stuff work so well is not magic and it’s by no means revolutionary. It’s just about opening up. And that is right where we are going to start next time.

Have a naughty week ;)