My last several blog posts have focused on how to make discussing relationship difficulties with your partner easier. I talked about how using “I” language and confronting yourself first can demonstrate to your partner that you are willing to take responsibility for your part of the work. Let’s turn now to another important skill when working with your partner to improve your sex life: remaining flexible.

Ask for what you want without expecting that you will get it. It is important to advocate for yourself and talk about your desires. But your partner is a different person with different and equally valid desires. Make room for the validity of your partner’s experience, too, and consider his or her wants as you offer your own. You may receive pushback when you make a request of your partner, and that’s ok. Making sure you keep the subject on the table is even more important than bringing it up in the first place. Be prepared for some pushback or procrastination from your partner as you start talking about improving your sex life. If you are serious about tackling the topic, your partner will read that in you. They will either step up and engage with you, or they’ll dig in harder and refuse to address it. Your determination matters. No matter what response you get from your partner, make it clear that you’re not willing to ignore it anymore.

As you are talking about your disappointing sex life, keep in mind that at least one of you probably feels sad, believing they are broken or inadequate. The root cause of avoidance of sex is unmet expectations. Something hasn’t been going well, and avoidance has become the way to deal with it. As you move into the next steps of improving your sex life, give yourselves permission to get rid of all expectations about what sex should be. Embrace the new rules of the court together so that you can take pressure off the process. Understand that any sexual dysfunction you are dealing with might change what you can experience in sex, at least in the short term, and let that be okay. Figure out what’s possible for now and learn to enjoy that. Freedom from expectation means you can be free to play again. Once you’re reconnecting in your sex life, sex often becomes easier and some of the problems might disappear. And in fact, once you have addressed your role in the sexual issues, you’ll likely find that your other relationship issues get better, too. Improvements in sex ripple out to the rest of your relationship.

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