It’s a tried-and-true basic of successful relationships that partners ask each other what they want and need. But when it comes to making love with your partner, it may seem sterile, awkward, or even selfish to say, “I need this” or “I want that.” It also feels a bit vague, or maybe even insecure, to ask, “How was it for you?” It can be hard to find the right words to ask for what you want, and to be sure you’re giving your partner what he or she wants. So how can partners be certain they’re getting and giving what they each want in their lovemaking? The answer is basic, but not necessarily simple—listen with your heart.
Compassion—seeking to understand how a person is feeling, imagining how it feels to be in their shoes, and taking action to comfort or help—is a key component to listening with your heart. Expressing one’s needs in lovemaking requires a tremendous amount of vulnerability. This type of vulnerability can be uncomfortable and make you or your partner feel uneasy. To help ease these feelings and facilitate comfortable, open communication requires careful and attentive compassionate listening.
In listening with your heart, compassion is twofold, calling on you to listen to not only the words of your partner, but also their actions. When your partner suggests you try a new technique, make their request a priority and communicate while experimenting by asking questions to guide you. You may ask, “like this?” or “is this it?” Putting your partner’s desires first and showing a real effort to understand their needs—being compassionate—builds trust.
If your partner does not verbally ask for what she or he needs, listening with your heart is also noticing what they are asking for nonverbally. You have to listen to your partner’s energy, emotions, and body language—in essence, you must read between the lines to fully appreciate and understand their needs. When your partner says she or he is tired, or too tired for sex, it probably means they are not only physically tired, but also emotionally drained. You might ask your partner if you can do something for them in that moment, like rub their back. Your understanding shows your partner that they matter to you, even if you’re not getting what you want.
Over time, as trust and comfortable intimacy deepen, partners can feel more confident asking for physical techniques as well as actions that fulfill their emotional needs. Your partner may request that you hold them or look into their eyes. Meeting your partner’s emotional and physical needs strengthens your bond as a couple. This deep trust and strong bond enhances relationships in and out of the bedroom. Your relationship as a whole will be richer!
- Listen to words. When your partner states what they need and want, remember that with that request comes vulnerability. Listen carefully to what they want and try to achieve their request by asking gentle questions to help you understand the request and respond in the most pleasing way.
- Listen to actions. If your partner enjoys giving you pleasure with a physical technique or emotional gesture, you can probably assume that she or he would like the same technique or gesture from you. Remember, you partner may feel selfish asking verbally for what they need. So go ahead and mimic what your partner does for you, and directly ask what you can do to fulfill their needs. Once the conversation is started, it’s easier to keep it going!
- Listen to yourself. Tune into what makes you feel connected to your partner by reflecting on the moments in your life when you felt happiest as a couple—both sexually and emotionally. If you can pinpoint those moments, take time to determine how and why you felt so connected to your partner. Knowing what you need is half the battle to being happy in your relationship—the other half is knowing what they need—so listen with your heart!