“Can we talk?”
You know the situation: there is something difficult or uncomfortable that you wish you could talk about with your partner, but the time is never right or you are unsure of what will come from the conversation. These conversations can be challenging, and sometimes even intimidating, to initiate…especially when you are talking about sex.
Unfortunately, when issues in a relationship stay bottled up and not discussed, they can turn into feelings of resentment, anger, sadness, or other painful emotions. We may decide to not talk about difficult or uncomfortable things for a variety of reasons, such as not wanting to ruin the mood, not knowing when the right time is to bring it up, or believing that our partner(s) may not be able to handle what we have to say. It can be challenging to push past these objections, but life happens and days turn into weeks and months. All the while, these feelings fester under the surface and come out in unintended ways within the relationship. When we talk about things, however, especially the hard topics, it lessens the stress of not being heard, and can increase the closeness in the relationship and improve the understanding each partner has of the other.
Being open and honest can bring a myriad of other issues up, ones that may need more than one conversation to work through. Here is where a therapist can help. By coming to therapy to discuss the hard stuff, your therapist can help you and your partner navigate these difficult conversations and get to a place of mutual understanding and connection. This may mean changes that can improve the relationship and each partner’s functioning in the long run. Couples may find out things about themselves and their partner(s) that they may have not been aware of which may help strengthen the relationship.
What if there is a negative reaction, or the relationship goes down a path not intended when the new information is shared? It happens and it can be upsetting. In these cases, your therapist can help you navigate the difficult conversations and resulting thoughts and emotions. Sometimes it means making difficult decisions or changes. A therapist understands that this may require additional care and support. We know that each individual and each relationship is unique, and that means creatively exploring what your particular relationship needs in order to work through the issues.
Another concern that comes up at times is whether or not it is “too late” to work on issues within a relationship. The short answer is, it’s never too late to address concerns. We never know the outcomes from addressing them, but not addressing them can make things worse overall. The goal here is to increase satisfaction in life, relationships, and interactions.
What happens when a partner does not want to open up? While we cannot force someone to talk about relationships and sex, it can be addressed in individual therapy. Individual therapy can help support the partner who wants to find ways to improve things, even with a partner who is reluctant. Your therapist can help find ways to communicate, or set boundaries that feel comfortable for you.
Talking about relationships and sex can be difficult. That being said, it can be rewarding and help you find a healthier and more pleasurable place in your life and relationship. So, can we talk?
–Meagan Thomas, MS, LCMHCA
Meagan Thomas, MS, LCMHCA is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor Associate in North Carolina, and is currently accruing hours toward full licensure. To schedule an appointment with Meagan or any of the therapists at Carolina Sexual Wellness Center, call 919-297-8322.