Dear Patrick: I would like to be less inhibited with my husband. He admitted two days ago that he sometimes has trouble figuring out what I want him to do when we make love. This is upsetting to me because he gives me a lot of pleasure. I was a virgin when we got married. I was so fearful of sex and had no idea what to expect. I asked him to please be patient and gentle with me, and he promised that he would if I would trust him. He has opened up a whole world that I never knew about before. I love having sex with him. How can I make sure that he knows I appreciate his touch?
Many women feel self-conscious about expressing their sexual feelings. You are probably pressuring yourself to create a performance worthy of Shakespeare. But your husband would probably be frightened by that much drama. Something as small as a warm smile, squeezing his shoulders, or a whispered, “Oh, yes” may be all that he needs.
Does the thought of talking during lovemaking make you fearful? Take a sheet of paper and write down your specific fears. That list could include things like, “I am afraid I will look silly,” “I don’t know what terms to use,” or “Nice girls don’t behave that way.” Each fear can be addressed by a few exercises or experiments you can create and do on your own, in private.
For example, if you masturbate, keep a hand mirror by your side. From time to time, take a peek at your face. Instead of a contorted mask, you will probably just see a happy woman with sparkling eyes and rosy skin. Your hair might be a little mussed up, but that is actually quite hot. It means you have more important things to pay attention to than your hair or makeup. If your internal critic tells you that you are not pretty, don’t listen. That voice is not your friend, and it is not telling you the truth.
Talking dirty is something that a lot of couples enjoy. But it’s important that you don’t copy the sound track of a porn movie. Verbals are a turn-on if they are authentic. It might be fun for you to ask your husband to teach you some of his favorite sex terms. Does he like to hear you talk about his cock, or does he prefer the term dick? If you don’t want to be that explicit, there are ways to talk about sex that don’t require you to use “dirty” terms. “You’re so hard,” “I feel so empty, I need you right now,” “I can’t tell you how good that feels,” “You drive me crazy,” “I have to touch you”—none of those phrases are X-rated, but they send the right kind of chill down the spine.
The 21st century is a hard time for straight men. They are often confused about what women want from them. They are told to stop being sexist pigs, but if they are not conventionally masculine, the women in their lives may be very critical of them. In the bedroom, a decent man wants to please his partner. But your anatomy is very different from his own. Where does a straight man go to figure out how a woman’s body works—especially since every woman is different? You are his school, his textbook, and his laboratory. Tell him, “I never knew that sex would be like this,” “I love looking at you,” “Sometimes I can’t stop thinking about having sex with you, and it seems like I will have to wait forever until I can be with you again.” These are great messages that emphasize he is on the right track. Requesting a specific technique or a touch on a specific part of your body could make his arousal soar to new heights. “Will you take my nipples in between your fingers and roll them around?” “Touch me just a little harder, please.” “I love it when you kiss me between my neck and my shoulder.”
If you feel that you need more practice, there is nothing wrong with having a dress rehearsal. Look at your mirror while you masturbate and describe what you see. Talk about how you feel and what you want to have happen next. Do you fantasize about your husband? What is the first thing you want him to do? Are there things you want to do to him? Describe what they are and how much you need to do them. This may sound silly, but it is really important to start developing your own vocabulary of sex. Just getting used to the sound of your own voice in a sexual situation can ease a lot of your nervousness.
You don’t have to rush into making big changes. Set reasonable goals. “I need to say at least three things to him tonight.” Remember that you don’t have to make up a big story or produce a script. This is just about the two of you. It’s private. Two married people who maintain a good sex are going to have a better marriage. If you feel at a loss for words, stick with the truth. Admitting you are anxious can be sexy! Giggling a bit and saying, “I feel so nervous. Like I might do something that was really naughty, and then what would you think of me?” That gives him a conversational hook that he can use to flirt with you and lead you on to greater revelations. Even saying, “I don’t know how you do it, but you just take me to a whole other level, I feel so free and joyful with you” is great.
If this seems overwhelming, I should also mention that a lot of sexual communication requires no speech. Breathing that speeds up, a little hiss, biting your bottom lip, a wiggle in the hips—all of these are achingly arousing, nonverbal cues. But your husband may not know that when you give that little hiss, you are thinking, “I hope he keep doing that.” He is probably worried that you are actually telling him he is hurting you. To help him decode your body, make a flustered little confession. “I get so embarrassed because when I am really, really excited, I can’t stop myself from doing _____________ [fill in the blank].” Not only does he get to reassure you, which makes a guy feel big and manly, but it also gives him a road map to your gratification.
It is so nice to get a letter from someone who is madly in love and having great sex with a considerate partner. I think this “problem” will be pretty easy to solve once you let yourself open up a bit. In a few months you will be wondering how you ever kept quiet in the bedroom.