IMPROVING SEXUAL COMMUNICATION: The Key to Rekindling Romance and Passion

It’s Valentine’s Day.  Beyond the hearts and flowers, it’s important to understand that the day means different things to different people.   For those intoxicated by infatuation, Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love and sexual passion.  ( Actually, the thrills of infatuation are not love.  They are sensations caused by dopamine, phenylethylamine and norepinephrine.)

Many older relationships are more sober. The initial chemical rush has run its course and the blush of new love has calmed down.  Their experience of Valentine’s Day can be different. Indeed, for many, Valentine’s Day can be awkward. Ironically, as the media raises expectations for romance,  for a lot of folks, the flames of passion have died down or even gone out.

Fortunately, even though passion may have waned, it can be reignited.  Valentine’s Day, then, can be an opportunity for couples to reflect on their love and talk about ways to add more sexual excitement to their relationship.

Unfortunately, many folks find talking about sex difficult, especially with their partner. To be clear, sexual communication is necessary to revive sexual interest and enjoyment. If your sexual communication needs some help, here are some tips:  Tips for Talking to your Partner about Sex | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (

— What is sexual communication?

Communicating sexually is just like regular marital communication except it is about sex. In other words, couples communicate effectively when each can honestly express what they feel and want.  The problem is that many folks beat around the bush and don’t say what they really feel.  Sexual Communication with a Partner | BCM  Intimate Communication

Sexual communication requires honesty and directness. You also must understand that neither you nor your partner can read each other’s minds.

In other words, couples need to be explicit.  They need to say whether or not they are in the mood to have sex, where and how they wish to be touched or stimulated and how and where they don’t.

Unfortunately, many couples have great difficulty being specific or telling each other what they really want or enjoy sexually.  Even worse, many hesitate to express what is not exciting or doesn’t feel good. It’s amazing how many partners suffer in silence about things they don’t like including physical pain during sex.

In that light, sexual communication requires getting over embarrassment. Having good sex also means being open and talking not just to your partner but also to your doctor. Just as you don’t feel embarrassed to talk to your doctor about a sore throat, it is important to let him/her know about any physical or psychological sexual concerns.

All of this advice is easier said than done. Understanding why talking about sex is so difficult can make it easier to do.

— Why sexual communication is so difficult.

     1) Guilt and Shame

It’s no secret why folks have trouble talking about sex; It’s embarrassing. Most people were taught to feel guilty and ashamed of their sexual feelings and desires. The idea of talking openly about them goes against cultural and religious taboos.

Even though embarrassment may be deeply rooted, it can be overcome.  All it takes is a little practice to realize that the sky does not fall when people honestly share their sexual feelings.

     2)  Ignorance, Unrealistic Expectations and Myths:

Despite sex ed courses, the general level of sex education in our society is very poor. Sadly, myths often take the place of scientific facts. As a result, many people have unrealistic expectations about what is normal concerning sex and relationships.

A particularly misleading myth is that sex is natural.  This belief interferes with good sexual communication in a couple of ways. If sex is natural then there is no reason to talk about it. It just happens.  Conversely, if it’s not happening, nothing can be done to fix it. Talking won’t help.

Although the initial phase of a relationship is naturally passionate, after the infatuation stage, great sex does not just happen. Our interests and desires are affected by many factors including physical health, stress, fatigue, interpersonal resentment, conflicts and past trauma.

Thus, repairing and maintaining desire requires direct, honest communication. Great sex is the result of increased understanding and compromise which communication makes possible.

Communication is also suppressed by the discouragement that comes from believing another ageist myth: Sexual excitement inevitably diminishes with age. This false belief inhibits conversation. It assumes that passion wanes because it is inevitable and irreversible.

As Dr. Ruth Westheimer used to say, passion flags because of medical, psychological, and/or relational problems.  Most importantly, in many cases, if problems are addressed, passion returns.    Sexual joy can be a life-long entitlement.

     3)  The Overlooked Context and Non-Verbal Emotional Subtext.

Apart from guilt and false beliefs, a third obstacle to good sexual communication is not paying attention to the context in which words occur and their underlying emotional subtext. In other words, understanding our partner requires more than just hearing the words. Indeed, intimate communication is different than talking to a cashier at the bank.

To complicate things even more, the context and emotional subtext may alter the literal meaning of the words.  For example, when a wife comes home from having her hair done by a new stylist and asks “How do I look?”, she is not really asking a question.

Listening to the context and underlying emotional subtext is an important way to decode what has been said.  Using the context and subtext as a guide exposes her anxiety and need for reassurance.

When it comes to sex, decoding can be even more complicated. Many partners are reluctant to be honest or direct about their feelings.  A good way to deal with sexual messages is to notice the non-verbal cues. Non-verbal messages are sent through things like body posture, facial expressions, voice volume, tone and touch.

Non-verbal messaging is like a stoplight. It’s red, amber or green, i.e. stop, caution, or proceed.  The way a person sits, how they hold their arms, the tone and volume of their voice or the expression on their face indicate whether they are open and receiving or closed and rejecting.

Likewise, you can tell what a person really feels by the way that they touch or react to being touched. Problems occur when there is a conflict between the spoken words and the non-verbal messages. It is important to realizeThe non-verbal level conveys the honest feeling.

Talking about this contradiction, however, can help uncover and resolve the tension.

To Summarize:

Remember, your love doesn’t have to be new and you don’t have to be young to experience the joys of sexual intimacy.  With a little practice, dealing with embarrassment, bursting myths and paying attention to non-verbal clues, talking to your mate will become easier and increase your understanding of each other. Happy Valentine’s Day !

Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow AAPC           2 14 2024