Photographer: Barbara Nitke
Many women and men feel uncomfortable expressing their sexuality, what they want, or what they're willing to try. I talk with a lot of couples who want greater intimacy and excitement in their relationship, but who say "no way" when I encourage them to explore their sexual fantasies. For lots of people, it's difficult to acknowledge their deepest sexual desires to themselves, let alone out loud with a partner. If this is the case in your relationship and you or your partner are feeling stuck, just remember: "No" may not mean "never."
Instead of giving up on the journey of sexual discovery altogether, think long-term and start with some smaller compromises. For example, it your partner is suggesting a threesome, and you're not willing to go there because of the emotional and physical risks, you might be open to roleplaying that another lover will be joining you later, making that titillating bit of imagination part of the foreplay. This way, you can try it out in your head first, with none of the risks involved with having another person actually present.
There are lots of other ways to test sexual boundaries, even for the most hesitant or shy partners. Now is the time to find out more about yourself and your partner. First, decide together that you would like to reinvigorate your sex life. Next, have a sexy date night with wine, candles, soft music, or whatever atmosphere gets you and your partner in the mood. Ask about each other's fantasies, or if talking about them out loud is too much, write them down and then compare lists. Talk about what you are and aren't comfortable with, and don't be afraid to label certain things as "too far."
Think big, and don't take it too seriously. Laughing together over suggestions is a great way to diffuse nervousness. Would you try having sex outdoors for instance? What about videotaping yourselves? Pick a couple of characters from a book or movie you both like, and come up with a role play scene where you play them. Does one or both of you have a bondage fantasy? How so? Be sure to use established rules so that no one feels violated, and always practice safe play. Adding a little more mystery and a twinge of danger to your sex life can be so exhilarating.
Having a deeply buried fantasy fulfilled by your partner, one that you thought was unfulfillable, can really reinvigorate not only your relationship but your entire life.
Once you feel comfortable enough to start exploring our own sexual fantasies with someone we know well, even if you're only taking baby steps, it will deepen the way you care about and trust them. When we get to reveal desires and fantasies we've been harboring for a long time, perhaps that we haven't even been able to reveal altogether to ourselves, we show great vulnerability to our partner. And, when they accept us for who we are and are excited to engage and fulfill the fantasy, we not only gain the novelty we crave but experience a deeper and closer form of intimacy. In those moments, our partner will see a perhaps less socially acceptable side of us and respond with acceptance, encouragement, and love.
You must also be ready and willing to do the same for your partner. That doesn't mean we have to fulfill every fantasy our partner has, but it's crucial to build an atmosphere where each person feels comfortable enough to open up about their inner desires free of judgment.
And, throughout this journey of discovery, don't worry too much about the pace. You and your partner can take the tiniest baby steps for the rest of your lives and you may never even come close to buying a pair of handcuffs, but as long as you both feel fulfilled, challenged, and are committed to finding deeper intimacy with one another, you're doing it right.