As the saying goes, “hindsight is 50/50.” Bearing that in mind, one of my recent podcasts should have simply been titled, “Let’s Talk About Sex.” Cue Salt n’ Peppa, Marvin Gaye, whatever gets you in the mood, but in all seriousness, when it comes to effective parenting and optimizing the well-being of our family units, it’s time to get down and dirty.
The problem, of course, is that honest discourse about intercourse is still practically taboo. We all have questions, concerns, and challenges, but few of us are able to own and operate the functions of our sex lives. Ultimately, the real shame comes from our inability to navigate the conversation alone, as well as with those around us. Open dialogue about sex, masturbation, orgasms, etc., has the powerful potential to connect us with our authentic selves and our partners. Shame-faced silence results in tension and trouble that spills over into the larger family dynamic. Sound familiar?
Is there a solution?
Well, there’s no one-size fits all solution for any one person, couple, or family. However, what I have for your consideration is five quick tips to take your conversation from taboo to topic #1.
Tip #1 - Own the Obvious
Yes, let’s just acknowledge the naked elephant in the room. Talking about sex, for most of us, is uncomfortable. The reasons for this are vast, but often rooted in some sort of shame surrounding what is simply a natural part of life. Pleasure is our birthright. So, go ahead and blush for a hot minute, but then get to the nitty-gritty of what is and isn’t working in your sex life. If necessary, rehearse what you want to say to your partner alone until you can do so with calm confidence.
Because the relationship between you and your partner is the foundation of your family. Need I explain the threat posed by cracks in a foundation?
Tip #2 - What Do You Want?
Before you can make any progress with this candid conversation, you have to isolate what it is that you want from your relationship. Understand your role in this partnership; in other words, keep the blame game out of it. Begin your conversation with “I” statements. For example, “I think it’s important that we have a rich and vibrant sex life;” “I think we deserve to have more sex on a regular basis,” or “I think we should talk about how to make our sex life a priority.”
If you must address a concern with your partner, leverage the “sandwich technique.” Start with something positive, even if that is just a desire, ie., “I want the fire that we used to have.” This is far better than saying, “You never initiate sex anymore.” No one responds well to attack, especially not when the subject is already a sensitive one. From that initial positive tone, you can illustrate a negative experience or example, but make it clear that you are only doing so to demonstrate your point. Once that point is made, slap the lid on that sandwich with something encouraging and hopeful.
Tip #3 - Communicate, Don’t Control
Even if you have to practice what you want to say beforehand, do not come to the table with an agenda. Your goal here should not be to control the conversation, but to communicate effectively -- with kindness -- about what is at stake. Acknowledge that these are awkward topics, which might result in uncomfortable or uneasy feelings.
Unfortunately, hurt feelings might be inevitable. No one likes to be criticized, no matter how gently, particularly about bedroom performance. Acknowledge any potential for bruised egos and be clear that the intention is not to injure. Ladies, we know we tend to talk more. Make a concerted effort to practice listening and avoid interrupting or overriding your partner’s chance to express what he or she is feeling. Doing so kills the conversation and challenges future communication. Think of a snowball gaining in size… stop it while it’s only a few little flakes.
Tip #4 - Hone in on Your Homeground
What built your relationship in the first place? What values, aspirations, and guidance do you embrace for your family? If you can hone in on your homeground, you can celebrate your strengths, acknowledge your weaknesses, and make the shared choice to move forward, happily and confident in your ability to prioritize your relationship, while parenting effectively. After all, the best thing you can do for your kids is to model a solid and happy relationship. Your family began as a couple. Putting your relationship first is not selfish, but smart for the sake of your growing family.
Part of that process involves protecting that homebase. How so?
Keep it simple and consider the basics. Have you and your partner set clear boundaries with respect to your shared space relative to your children? In other words, does your door lock securely? Are you children taught to respect locked doors by knocking before entering? Are you co-sleeping with your children? If so, have you imagined a timeline for when they will embrace their own sleeping environments? In the meantime, how and when do you address your own needs?
Your ability to answer these questions and establish the boundaries necessary to protecting your private relationship will prove crucial to how authentically, soulfully, and happily you present to your children.
Tip #5 - Good Work is Often Work-in-Progress
Listen, no one masters this overnight.
Any balancing act takes skill, determination, and perseverance. No sooner have you figured out how to parent one child while protecting and prioritizing your relationship with your partner, that you find out you’re expecting your second. The one thing all kids have in common is their ability to highlight the differences between you and your partner and to bring things into focus that you might otherwise want to look past or beyond.
Banish the blinders. Be clear-sighted, confident that you can take on these challenges, and, in times of struggle, communicate the need for help; first, with your partner and then, if need be, with available support from a professional.
The bottom line?
Getting busy begets better parenting because it benefits you and your partner. Shore up any cracks in your foundation by getting the support to strengthen your home from the ground up.