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How to Say No to Uncomfortable Sex

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A healthy sex life is one important ingredient to a committed, monogamous, and intimate relationship. But what happens when one partner's desire to experiment doesn't gel with your idea of healthy sex?

reluctant woman in bed with husband

Dr. Wendy Walsh: First of all, you should know that a healthy sex life can involve a wide range of choices, behaviors, and fantasies. It could involve toys, stimulating visual media, verbal fantasies, and yes, for some, even the addition of another partner or two.

There are three factors that define sex as healthy:

1. It occurs between adults only.
2. Both parties are fully consenting.
3. It is physically safe.

That leaves room for plenty of personal tastes, and finding a common ground where both of you feel satisfied can sometimes be tricky. Crucial to a healthy sex life is good communication. Learning to make sexual requests in a kind, rather than critical, way is quite an art. Hint: Talk about sex in the vegetable aisle, in the car, at the ball game, but never during the act. There is too much room for explosions when someone feels cornered in bed.

But what do you do when your partner is asking for a style of sex that doesn't feel right for you? First of all, recognize that this happens to every couple. It is impossible to be sexual clones. And, know that this doesn't spell the end of a relationship. So, thank your partner for being brave and honest enough to voice such a request. Then ask for some time to think about it.

While you're taking that time, look inside yourself for the reasons for your discomfort. There could be early childhood trauma related to a certain act. It could be that the moral conditioning you received in your formative years runs counter to this request. It might be that you feel insecure about your own body, and this particular request might make you feel too self-conscious. Or, perhaps it causes anxiety because it creates fears that your partner might have learned this thing somewhere else. If you are able, I also suggest that you talk to an empathetic therapist about your feelings.

Every conflict in a relationship is an opportunity to grow closer. The next step, once you've identified the reasons behind your decision, is to express them to your partner in a loving, non-defensive way. Hopefully, this will open up a conversation about sex that will create new avenues for you as a couple. Maybe there is a compromise. I like to say that talking about sex is half the fun! Perhaps in this conversation you will come to a new understanding of your partner and he/she will know you better. This can lead to closer emotional intimacy, which is the real glue to all relationships.

Finally, if your partner is attempting to coerce you through threats of infidelity or other pressuring tactics, you might want to rethink the relationship as a whole. No one should ever participate in coerced sex.

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7 comments so far | Post a comment now
brianna August 4, 2009, 11:18 AM

how can monogamous sex involve bring other partners into the mix? please explain, dr. walsh.

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