This piece first appeared on The Online Citizen.
In previous pieces, I have covered how sex is not a one-way experience (in ‘Don’t Lie Back and Think of England’), as well as how sex can be like an elephant in the bedroom when it comes to communicating any problems that might be occurring. This week, I would like to suggest ways in which we can get feedback from our partner after a sexual experience. And when I say sexual experience, I am not limiting it to just penetrative sex.
You can begin asking your partner what the sexual experience was like:
“Sweetheart, how was it for you?” or “How was it just now?”
If feedback is restricted to one-word answers or not forthcoming, you can elaborate by saying: “Ok… You know, I would really like to hear what you like about it and what would make it better. Could you share more with me?”
An open-ended question allows for your partner to communicate as little or as much as desired.
Breaking the questions down might be easier:
“How was it?”
“What was good about it?”
“What would make it better?”
Remember if you ask, be emotionally and mentally prepared for the answer – whatever it may be. If you appear defensive or react negatively, you are effectively being counter-productive and shutting out your partner at a critical time.
All of us will do well to bear this in mind: Don’t take it personally. There is no right or wrong answer. We are different physically on a day-by day basis – depending on our fitness level, what is going on in our lives, and how it affects our mood. What doesn’t feel right or good on one day could well feel quite different on another day. The feedback you receive is not a judgment of your character, or sexual prowess. There is always room for improvement and a large part of it comes from understanding your partner, from their likes and dislikes; turn on and offs; as well as needs, wants and desires – and it probably has very little to do with you.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Constant, open and authentic communication will bring you closer.
All of us would have inadvertently said something to hurt someone. Hence, when you try to get sexual feedback from your partner, their own fears of hurting you will come into play. They are not just worried of potentially hurting you, but also have a disbelief that you are genuinely willing and open to hear from them. It will take a while before your partner will begin to talk more openly about their sexual experiences.
If you have limited success with open-ended questions, don’t give up. This is where you move onto closed-ended questions such as:
“Did you notice when I did…..?” (Yes or No)
“Did you like it when I did it?” (If your partner does not remember, you could imitate what you did previously.)
“Was your orgasm the same, less or more intense than the last time?” (There is only one answer.)
This is where you can encourage further dialogue by reverting to a few open-ended questions:
“That’s interesting. Could you tell me more?”
“Really? Why (gently) do you think that is so?”
If your partner asks you why you have recently begun asking so many questions after sex, you could reply:
“I really want to learn more about you, what works and what would make it better… and I think one of the ways to do so is talking about it. I really want to know because I care about you.”
“I want us to be able to talk about sex and our sexual experiences. This is how one way we can learn more about each other. Is it okay?”
This is not an interrogation. There is no point pushing it if your partner is clearly uncomfortable talking about sex. Try again the next time, and the next. What you want to do is begin to open more dialogue about sex, and stopping that dialogue when your partner wishes to do so is a part of it. You will notice that with each attempt to discuss your sexual experiences, it will become easier. It takes time and it is well worth it to go slow.
Dr. Martha Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching. She is a certified sexologist with a Doctorate in Human Sexuality. She provides sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conducts sexual education workshops and speaks at public events. For more, visit www.eroscoaching.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.