You're out with a friend talking about the usual stuff when he/she brings up his/her latest sexual escapade: "Last night, we tried ______. Ever done it? No? Don't know what you're missing!" So you rush home, your lust giving you speed and courage - but as soon as the lights turn down and clothes are off, you suddenly lose your nerve. And as you're lying there afterwards, your physical need satisfied but your previous desire left unrequited, you find yourself mentally kicking yourself and asking, "What happened?" Why didn't I say something? I'm such a loser!" Well, the good news is that many people, even the most confident of lovers, get a little antsy about asking for what they want. Whether it's a fear of being viewed as selfish, hurting their lover's feelings, or of receiving a resounding "NO!" to their request, voicing their desires is just about as embarrassing as listening to that horrid "birds and the bees" story from their parents. Unfortunately, since our lover's can't read our minds, the only way we can get what we want is to ask - but naturally, it's a lot easier said than done.
The first step to developing an open and honest sexual relationship is to build it upon an open and honest personal relationship with your partner and yourself. According to Dr. Sandra Scantling, author of "Extraordinary Sex Now: A couple's guide to intimacy" (1998), that sense of safety and confidence that allows you to be sincere with your lover is only created if you're absolutely clear about what you want and enjoy, and what you don't - both in and out of the bedroom: "The first vital connection that must be made is the one inside ourselves. Once that has happened, the connection between you and your lover can realistically occur" (p.203). Of course when it comes to physical intimacy, unless you're honest and open about what you want, lying there and hoping that it will happen likely won't bring that particular desire to fruition. Dr. Scantling states it simply:
If no one asks for a different kind of touch or reveals a special wished-for fantasy, there's little risk of emotional exposure, rejection, or embarrassment. [However,] without emotional exposure, there's little emotional connection. Without risks and requests, intimacy fades. (p. 212).
So what can you do to reduce the embarrassment of asking for what you want? Proclaimed sex expert Anne Hooper offers three helpful tips: encouragement, give-and-take, and assertion training. If your partner does something you enjoy but you want him/her to go a little further, lead your request with some praise and encouragement ("Wow…that feels great"). This not only builds your partner's confidence, but makes it more likely that he/she will be more comfortable initiating something new the next time around. Another route you can take is to give a little of what you want in order to get it in return. For instance, if you enjoy sensual massages, why not offer to give one to your partner? Chances are that he/she may just return the favor. If, however, you just can't seem to strike up the courage to put your desires into words, you may benefit from a little assertion training. By building up your confidence step-by-step, you'll feel much more courageous and comfortable expressing yourself as well as your needs.
Very few things in life are obtained by crossing our proverbial fingers or hoping that somehow, others will read our minds and simply know what we want. Although there is the chance that your sexual requests may not bode so well with your partner, you'll never know unless you take that chance and ask. Remember that it may take two to tango, but only if one asks for a dance!