If you knew me before I was a marriage counselor, you would have known how the word “sex” used to make me blush. I grew up in a conservative home and like many of my southern friends, our sex education either came from each other (the least reliable source ever) or from a book awkwardly handed to us by one of our parents. Maybe one of our parents even said, “Let me know if you have any questions,” while secretly hoping with all of their heart and soul that we wouldn’t.
I recently listened to the audiobook Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life by sex educator, Emily Nagoski, Ph.D. I’ve been talking about sex ad nauseam for the past 10 years and still, the perspectives in this book drastically improved my understanding of healthy sex. I’ve heard many couples who have read it say it helped improved their sex life. I’m going to highlight some ways Emily’s book will change the way you think about your sexual relationship, and then, I suggest you read it for yourself.
- You will get more comfortable with sexual lingo.
This is one of the reasons I liked listening to this book on audio rather than reading it. Emily talks about sex openly and scientifically. Not in the rap lyrics kind of away, but rather, in a non-shaming, “Why wouldn’t we talk about our bodies and sex this easily?” kind of way. It will make you more comfortable talking to your partner and potentially even your kids when the time comes.
2. What you are experiencing is normal.
I hear couples describe many of the same struggles session after session, and like Emily, I want to make sure they know one important thing—this is absolutely normal and common. Thousands of other couples experience this, too. Sexual ease is not a given over the longevity of a marriage. Hard time getting aroused? Normal! Hard time having an orgasm? Normal! Hard time feeling desire, therefore never initiating sex with your partner? Normal! Having a hard time getting your partner aroused? Normal! Used to be easy and now it’s uncomfortable? Normal! One of you has a high sex drive and one of you has a low sex drive? Normal! It’s all normal!!
This doesn’t mean you stop here, this just means you stop shaming yourself or your partner. Understanding that what you or your partner is experiencing is normal helps you both start to learn what helps you and/or your partner get aroused, have an orgasm (however, completely normal for some women to never have an orgasm), create desire, and experience pleasure with each other.
- The sexual problems in your marriage are not shameful.
In fact, I wouldn’t even label them as problems per se, but rather the disconnect between the sexual preferences of you and your partner. What you may view as a sexual problem are often traits about your sexuality that are common for many others, easily explained by science and biology, that differ from your partner’s sexual preferences. Shifting your perspective of the “problem” can change everything in your sexual relationship. It’s not a problem, it’s a normal and unique feature of your and your partner’s sexuality that both of you can learn and understand in order to intimately grow together.
- You have a sexual accelerator and sexual brakes.
Ya’ll, this is fascinating. The science backs it up. We all have cues, circumstances, behaviors that accelerate our sexual desires and those that put the brakes on our sexual desires. If you want to save you and your partner a lot of time and heartache, learn what those are. Hint: They change over time. This is the kind of conversation you will want to revisit many times in your relationship, especially after a major life transition, i.e. a move, new baby, job promotion, a death. Further, using this terminology is a wonderful way to talk about sex with your partner. Instead of saying, “ugh, that makes me cringe,” you can say “that actually seems to put on my sexual brakes.”
- Sexual shame is BS.
Reading this book pissed me off at times. Nothing that Emily said pissed me off, it was the way her scientifically-backed perspectives and non-shaming views of sexuality contrasted so drastically with the sexual messages we get in our society, from places like media and ill-informed friends or family. It actually made me angry that we are more likely to be exposed to sexually harmful material than sexually healthy material. When you expose yourself to healthy sexual material, you will see what I mean.
- This biggest problem in a couple’s sex life is the embarrassment and shame that accompanies whatever sexual hiccup they are having.
When couples experience a sexual disconnect, it is easy to go down the rabbit hole that “Something is wrong with us.” Experiencing a sexual problem as shameful, embarrassing or abnormal does not allow couples to freely, openly and collaboratively share and brainstorm together to grow more intimately in their sexual relationship. Instead, they are more likely to not talk about it, stay confused and hurt, and prolong and exacerbate the problems. When couples experience sexual disconnect as expected, normal and common, they are more likely to say, “Oh, this is happening to us. I hear this happens to a lot of couples. No big deal! But since we love each other and care about our sex life, let’s sort it through. Together.”