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Here’s a conversation I have frequently, primarily with women:
Her: “My partner doesn’t pay attention to what I like. They don’t touch me the way I want to be touched.”
Me: “Have you told them how you like to be touched?”
Her: “Of course! We’ve been together for a decade, how could they not know?”
Me: “Have you said to them, ‘This is how I like to be touched?’”
Her: [Long pause…]
Her: “I tell them through how I move and the sounds I make.”
Me: “But that’s not the same as telling them in words. If you don’t tell them what you want and then you get mad at them for not giving it to you, you’re setting them up for failure.”
But imagine this scenario:
You walk into a restaurant and the server comes to the table. They ask what you want for dinner.
You casually glance at the menu, letting your eyes rest briefly on the name of the dish you want and make a small humming noise in the back of your throat.
The waiter has no idea what this means. They have not been trained in your language of glances and hums. But in their own culture a head tilt means the customer wants the waiter to choose the best items and bring it to the table. So the waiter walks away and puts in an order for all the things THEY THINK you’d like.
Ridiculous, right?!? We would not expect a waiter to read our minds.
When we sit down at a restaurant we tell them not only what entree we want, but how we want it prepared, with what sides, how we want our drink mixed, and when we’re ready for dessert.
But in sex we do the same thing – we give subtle hints about what we want, but we don’t say it in a way that our partner can understand. So our partner does the things they THINK WE WILL LIKE (or the things they like best), and we get upset because they’re not listening to us.
Her: “Oooooooh. I guess you’re right. But it’s scary.”
YES! And here we are at the crux of the issue – we don’t say the words because we’re scared.
We’re scared of making ourselves vulnerable to our partner and then feeling rejected. So we send some low-key signals and get upset when our partner doesn’t run with them.
As little girls, many of us were socialized to get our needs met by being pretty, docile, helpful, nurturing. We were not taught to get our needs met by ASKING FOR THEM TO BE MET.
It’s SCARY to break through that conditioning.
But here’s what I know: it’s possible. I know because just a few years ago I was TERRIFIED to ask for what I wanted – so terrified that I convinced myself that maybe I didn’t actually want anything. But now I ask – often. I’ve turned it into a point of pride for myself.
It takes a pinch of bravery. It takes a bucket-full practice (and continued practice over time – this isn’t a “do it once and you got it!” deal; this is a “you keep building the muscle over time until it’s deeply ingrained” deal…and I’m still in the practicing phase too!)
I love turning things into a game because then I feel like there’s less pressure on me to “perform” and “get things right.” So I was thrilled a couple years ago when I learned about The Three Minute Game. It’s a quick and easy game that you can play with your partner that lets you practice asking for exactly the touch you desire in a safe and fun way.