3 Things People Fear About Anal Sex

Two Men After Anal Photo

There’s a lot of fear when it comes to anal play and yet, there’s still much curiosity about it. I was reminded of this idea when a young straight lad came into one of the stores this evening and asked a few questions regarding anal – despite the fear there’s still an abundance of curiosity regarding this type of play. More so, as we slowly move beyond the idea that sex is purely for reproduction and instead focus on the more sex positive attitude that sex is for pleasure as well.  This article is about breaking down the fear of anal play and we will do that by first acknowledging those fears, stripping them back and then talking about the ways to engage in anal play in a safe and comfortable way.

Anal Sex’s Ick Factor

There’s the whole shit on the dick thing. We’ve all heard the story about that one time when so and so’s friend had that awful experience when it came to that one night. This fear is fairly common, and it stems from our upbringing. The studies have shown that when a small impressionable child starts curiously playing with their genitals, and they’re told that that’s a dirty thing to do – then obviously they associate that feeling with their genitals. Some people grow out of it, some do not, and as a result whether we acknowledge it or not, our relationship with sex, sexuality and our bodies stems largely from our upbringing and the way those around us deal with issues of sex.  Our relationship with anal is largely because many individuals associate it with part of the human waste system. It’s an out not an in, is a common phrase which reinforces this idea. Let’s debunk this. Unless the body is just about to pass waste, or has recently done so – then there is actually very little chance of the dreaded shit on the dick factor. The anal cavity actually has a very thorough self-cleaning system which works really well. Yes, there are some risks if you’re playing rough, or you’re dealing with long toys or dicks, but in general the risk is actually quite small. The more you know!

Anal Sex’s Gay Factor

Butt sex, ass play, has long been considered the domain of gay men. There are countless ‘help me’ articles in magazines from concerned girlfriends who are worried that they’re beautiful boy is suddenly about to turn into a drag queen because he likes a bit of finger action. I’m not too sure where this one started, but anal play is not the domain of gay men. What might even surprise you, is that there are a lot of gay men in the world that don’t enjoy anal sex.  In an article by the Journal of sexual health and medicine, a study involving 25,000 gay and bisexual identifying men, stated that over 75% of participants responded with that their most recent sexual encounter involved the receiving or giving of oral sex. Contrast that with 36% of participants responding with their most recent sexual encounter involving anal play. In fact, mutual masturbation, kissing, genital and genital contact is a far more frequent occurrence among gay men.This is actually an issue which is fading over time. As people are becoming more in tune with their bodies, more comfortable in their sexuality and their openness about sex and sexuality – the stigma about anal play is slowly being broken down. Considering that prostate play is some of the most intense orgasmic experiences that a male can feel and massaging the prostate has benefits – then there’s a lot of people missing out on great sex because they think it’s a bit gay. The thing is, that anal play is not synonymous with a sexuality.

Anal Sex’s Ouch Factor

Anal sex can hurt. In saying that, there’s usually a few very select reasons as to why it hurts. One of the main reasons as to why it hurts, is because you think it’s going to hurt.  Consider the first time that you had sex, the awkwardness of it, the way it hurt a little and the way that it might have been over in just a few minutes. Very few first times are awesome, and what happens is they might have a bad experience which tarnishes any future experiences towards anal play. What we generally find, especially with younger partners, is they might rush through anal play for the first time, and this in turn can cause discomfort. Anal sex is not like other variation of penetrative sex. It requires patience, lubricant, and a recognition that the body might take time to adjust. There’s a myriad of different factors that need to be considered, but the main one that’s often ignored – is the fear. The anxiety. Which in turn affects the body’s ability to relax and you’ll tense up and it will hurt.

Couple In Bed After Anal Photo
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Tips for Anal Sex

Anal sex is not necessary. You’re not obligated to add it to your sexual to do list, and quite frankly, the best way to have anal sex is to want it. When you want it, when you’re curious, when you’re relaxed and able to enjoy it is the best time to have anal sex. And, if I’m being honest, when you’re horny as all hell.  This combination of things is going to make anal play so much easier.  Once you’re used to it, you’ll find it much easier to add to your routine.

Patience. Patience is necessary when it comes to anal play. The muscles are involuntary, therefore it will take time for them to adjust to having something there which is not normally so. Lubricate some, put more lubricant on, and breathe.

If you’re really worried about some mess, then you can use a douche to help prepare. But one following the instructions on a douche you will need to wait about an hour before having sex. Also, don’t use that one hour to travel to your playmates house as the water needs to dry up and could end up on your favourite underwear. Douche, wait half an hour, and then start moving.

Follow these tricks will help you in riding that pole like a pro.

About the author: Stephen is a consultant from Oh Zone Adult Lifestyle Centres

 

 

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An Educational Primer on Pet Play

Men Dressed In Dog Mask Photo

Pet play is an incredibly unique and increasingly known sub culture within the BDSM, D/s and Kink lifestyle. To put it simply, and before we get into the complexity of animal play, it simply refers to one or more people acting or roleplaying as a particular animal. You are pretending to be a particular animal, and you are taking on the qualities of that animal with animal like tendencies. Typically, the animal will play a submissive role within a D/s relationship with the dominant being a human trainer or master, but there are variations of this. Most notably within situations where an animal is lacking a trainer, and ‘plays’ with other animals or by themselves. This is very common within puppy play, where a group of puppies will form a ‘pack’ and play together with or without a human trainer.

The common animals that you will see within animal play are ponies, puppies, pigs, and kittens – though there are variations of this and anyone can play a particular animal that they associate with. Bunnies, cows are less often seen within animal play, but still exist.

Why do people enjoy animal play? Again, there are several reasons for this but we will explore the two most common reasons here.

Firstly, the idea of role playing an animal is seen as a form of escape. You can escape the role of being a human, escape the daily struggles and simply revert back to the mentality of a particular animal. Take for example a typical puppy. The only concerns that they have is food, play time, and enjoying time with their owner and these are the attributes that will be carried through when role playing a puppy. If you are seen as a cute and snuggly puppy or kitten, you don’t have to make sure that the bills are paid, or be responsible for cleaning the house. You can focus and relax on the responsibility of being a ‘mindless’ pet.

Secondly, an animal is seen as being less than human and in some cases it can reinforce the relationship between a dominant and submissive. Non-human pets are owned and are completely dependent on their owner. The owner decides when they are fed, the owner will buy their toys, and the owner will decide if they need to wear those adorable little outfits from the pet store or not. A non-human dog can’t drive themselves to the veterinarian when they need medical treatment, and they must rely on their human owners to do such things for them. The same can apply to human role playing pets and animals. It is the dominant, or the master which decides for them. There is also an aspect of humiliation within this type of play – being something less than human and being forced to potentially eat from a bowl and be led around on a leash can be humiliating for some and there might be some arousal in that.

Of course these two reasons can be separated, or they can be united. A person which views puppy play as a form of escape from the world might not be keen on the idea of a D/s lifestyle and only view it as a form of play and escape. It might not even be sexual in nature. However a person that enjoys the Dominant and Submissive aspect might play once a weekend, every once in a while of they might be more regular in their play. From there, they might be required to eat like a pet, or they may be allowed to sit at the table as a human. The possibilities, the engagement and level of being an animal varies. As it is with any form of activity within kink and BDSM – the level of engagement varies between individuals, couples and the community.

 

Person Dressed In Horse Costume Photo
Photo: Horse Play

 

Firstly, in order to get started on the adventure of being a pet within pet play, is the most important step. You need to let your partner, significant other know that you’re interested in the idea of pet play. We’ve just read about about kink and introducing kink to your partner, so you might be able to get some ideas from that – but to do that, you’re going to need to work out precisely why you want to engage in this type of play. Do you need it as a form of escape, or are you really turned on by the idea of being dominated or having your partner submit to you? You need to have a lengthy conversation on what that’s going to entail and how you’re going to negotiate through that. This will be very helpful if you’ve already played with kink and the idea of bondage and submission, as Pet play is only a short, hop skip and a jump to the next aspect. However, if you have never engaged with kink before, then you might have a little trouble introducing it to your partner – this is why it’s important to identify the exact aspect of pet play that you’re interested in and then build stepping stones to that. For example, if you’re looking at it for the domination then you might want to consider you or your partner becoming dominating within the bedroom without the aspect of pet play. Allowing your partner to become accustomed to that role before moving on to the next step of maybe introducing some pet play toys, or by introducing a pet play character that you can both play around with in the bedroom. This will make the transition much easier to handle than anything else.

For the most part pet play will involve someone playing the pet, and the other person playing the master and dominant. There are variations within this, especially when there are multiple pets (specifically puppies), but this might mean that you’re not going to have a very successful time. It’s dependant on your community, friends and network. Once you have reached the point where you want to discuss pet play, take it slow. One of the main things that you want to come out of the discussion is the expectations of what you both want out of play time. Does the animal/pet want to lounge around and be pet-like, or do they want to be active and annoying like an over excited pet all the time. Do they want to be ignored and left alone for the most part or do they want all your attention and devotion on them?

It’s absolutely fascinating to discover this journey, because once you strip away the human responsibilities of an individual, you will be surprised at what lies beneath. Their personality will change when they assume the role – a serious and proper girlfriend might become rambunctious and over the top as playing a kitten, and a quiet and tame boyfriend might become the life of the party when he’s playing in a puppy. The journey itself is amazing and varies between people – however it’s important to note that the lines of communication are left open as the role will change overtime, your engagement to the role will change over time and there’s going to be moments in life where you will both need to take a break from role playing because there’s just too much going on in life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtWbJ4btI2E

About the author: Stephen is a consultant from Oh Zone Adult Lifestyle Centres

 

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The Desexualisation of Sex Education

Sex Education Photo

It’s in our nature to take many things in life for granted without even realising it. Privilege, is a concept that is rarely recognised until it has been taken away from you. Privilege is applied to many situations in life – but the most common reference to the notion of privilege would be the concern surrounding male privilege; the ‘battle’ between patriarchy and feminism. I’ve talked extensively about that in previous articles, so we’ll be skipping that topic today.

Today’s article will serves as a follow up from my previous article on Intellectual Disability & Sex, I’d like to explore the discourses of sex and sexual privilege outside the realm of heteronormativity, and able-bodiedness. There were parts of my previous article which concerned Intellectual Disability that deeply resonated with me. Since that article, I had explored and thought about my approaches to sex and sexuality and ultimately, I was placed in a position of questioning; both in terms of my own experiences and life, but also when taking into consideration the experiences that others go through.

Most notably, when it comes to sexual health and education, there is a strong emphasis on assumed knowledge and assumptions concerning sex and sexual activity. These assumptions have led people with I.D to be labelled as asexual, or perceived to not have any form of sexual desire and/or arousal. Where does this stem from though and why are we in a constant state of desexualisation and hyper sexualisation? Today we will explore these assumptions and this article is going to look at sexual privilege how it entwines between sex, sexuality, and gender, as well as how it manoeuvres through disabilities.

From the moment that our genitalia has been identified our privilege is assumed. If we are a woman, it is assumed that we will grow up and bear children, and if we are a male it is expected that we will produce children. It is worth noting that this is partly why so many people have issues with same sex relationships – because that kind of relationship bypasses the supposed biological ‘need’ to procreate. Indeed, in the past, any lack of ability in producing children was frowned upon, with barrenness being a condition which would result in isolation and/or disownment. It is these gendered expectations that defines our formative years, and it is implicitly, or explicitly reinforced as we traverse through sexual education during schooling.

Sexual Health and Education focuses on the biology of sex that being; penis in Vagina intercourse results in ejaculation releasing sperm which travels up the tube to fertilise the egg. Nine months later a baby is born. In most cases, that is the basic level of knowledge given to children and teenagers, though it should be noted that there are a lot of teenagers and indeed, even adults that lack this basic information. From there, knowledge may be given in regards to the prevention of STI’s, or the prevention of pregnancy through contraception. Sexual Education rarely accounts for discourses surrounding sexual pleasure or even the social and emotional reasons for sex.

 

Sex Education Twitter Image
Image: Sex Education Twitter Quote

 

Masturbation as a form of pleasure is also rarely discussed resulting in a failure to explore the interpersonal meanings of intercourse and sexual activity which can often manifest itself into feelings of guilt, embarrassment, and awkwardness. Sexual activity is simply referred to as a biological function for the purpose of reproduction devoid of any sentiment, pleasure, and enjoyment. Is it little wonder then that both males, and females, during their adolescent years can experience such anxiety as a result of the confusion surrounding the changes occurring to and in their bodies, the development of feelings and emotions, and combating hormones. Why? They’re taught that sex has a function, they’re not taught that sex can be a recreational activity.

Throughout their upbringing their sex and sexuality has at all times been both reinforced and assumed through popular culture, media, everyday discussions and a lack of sex positivity in their micro worlds. For someone that fits into mainstream society, for an individual that identifies as being heterosexual and cis-gendered – then all the assumptions that have been made in regards to your identity and sexuality have contributed to your understanding of the world. Your privilege in this identification has resulted in far less confusion. Now, pause to consider someone who does not fit into the above mainstream spectrum; someone who may identify as homosexual, asexual, or even someone with disabilities where their sexuality and sexual needs have been infantalised into non-existence. Straightness is ‘inherent’, heterosexual sex is assumed and taught- with homosexual sex being ignored.

I have never been in a classroom (excepting a sexual health centre) which would recognise the value of oral, or anal sex or non-penetrative sex. With this in mind we can begin to see the confusion;  not only do they have all the normal ‘teenager’ things that they have to deal with, but they now have to deal with these things in a context which doesn’t necessarily apply to how they feel, or how they behave.  It can be particularly troubling for where people exist in an odd contradiction – where society has desexualised them. For example, people with Intellectual disabilities which we discussed last week, and also the desexualisation of people with physical disabilities.

Young women especially are often taught that the value of being female lies within their sexual attractiveness; if you have a condition which challenges the idea of attractiveness, where does that leave you? For many people it results in sacrificing a part of themselves obsessively chasing something seemingly unattainable – resulting in often risky sexual behaviour in an attempt to please their partners. ‘Love’ in this instance can become a warped, and self destructive behaviour where one participant is continually seeking affection and reassurance and not particularly achieving that. People will often compensate by making themselves into something that they are not, and they do this to cover their own insecurities, the issue is that this makes you feel worse on the inside as you recognise that you’re not being true to yourself.

The issue behind the majority of this is the way that we approach the teaching of sex, and sexuality. Schools shift it to parents, and few parents want to discuss it and shift it back. What results is a medical and biological explanation of sex, which is all well and good, and indeed necessary, but it bypasses the emotional aspects of sex and sexuality, it skips the reasoning’s behind sex and results in a clinical stripped back variation and mentality. Sex is an important aspect of life, and the way it is being taught to youth now is detrimental to the general well being of today’s youth.

 

Sexual Health & Education with Intellectual Disabilities

Intellectual Disability Photo

We’ve discussed before the inadequacy of Young Adults accessibility to information regarding sex, sexuality, sexual health and education. We’ve discussed before how the education system shifts responsibility to the parents, where the parents shift the responsibility to the education system. Often, what’s left is small under funded by the government organisations which are left to fill in the gaps. But they’re not working. What remains is a system of peer based discussion, access to pornography, and a befuddling conversation with parents, teachers and what’s mandatory teaching in the school Physical Education classes. It’s clear, report after report, that young adults are vulnerable in terms of the lack of information that’s given to them when it comes to sexual health and education. The thing is that sexuality is an important part of humanity, humans are one of the few species on the planet which has sexual relationships for pleasure as opposed to solely reproductive purposes. Concepts such as pleasure, consent, masturbation, and sexual experimentation are often left behind when it comes to sexual health and education. More so when the young adult has an intellectual disability. People forget that individuals with intellectual disabilities have the same capacity to experience the same spectrum of sexual behaviour as those without intellectual disabilities. We’re talking about concepts such as sexual thoughts, sexual attitudes, feelings, desires, fantasies – all of which can be experienced by individuals irrespective of their intellectual capabilities. If the reports are indicating that mainstream young adults are not receiving adequate information regarding sexual health and education – then how it is the support mechanisms for those with Intellectual disabilities?

What is an Intellectual Disability?

There are many misconceptions when it comes to Intellectual Disabilities (I.D) – as many people categorise it to individuals which are incapable of self-support. This is incorrect and people with I.D can still be functioning individuals within society. Intellectual Disability is a term which describes a reduced capability to grasp and understand new and complex information. Essentially, I.D can be defined as ‘difficulty learning or understanding things’ (Survey of Disability, Ageing, and Carers). It is, for the most part, further characterised by an IQ below 70, and is associated with minor to significant difficulty with daily living which includes things like communication, safety, and self-care. Disabilities within the spectrum include; FXS, Down Syndrome, Developmental Delays, PWS, FASD and can be present from before birth, or brought on during birth and as a result of other environmental factors from birth. Australian statistics indicate that in 2012 2.9% of Australians (668,100) had an intellectual disability, which signified an increase from 2009 which saw 2.6% of the population diagnosed or 565,000 people. It is inevitable with the growing population rate that there will be a continued increase to people having intellectual disabilities. Breaking this down further from the 2012 results, 567,000 individuals with I.D needed assistance with at least one activity throughout their daily life and as a result needed either a carer, or family member close by.

What does this have to do with sexual health and education though? What’s frightening is that these statistics aren’t the scary ones. Reports vary wildly but research suggests that one in six women will survive a rape or attempted rape encounter but for women with an ID, that number jumps considerably. One in four women with ID whom has been referred to a GP for birth control has reported a sexually violent incident. Other research and reports claim that the number is actually higher – reporting that almost half of individuals with I.D will or have experienced at least ten incidents of sexual abuse in their lifetime. This number can be considerably skewed by the research demonstrated by a 2015 Study published in the Journal of Sexual Research. This study concluded that women with ID have great difficulty/simply don’t associate pleasure with sex and rather will willingly play a passive role which sees them far more inclined in directing pleasure to the penis of their sexual partner forsaking their own pleasure. Furthermore, after sexual activity they are far more likely to exhibit feelings of depression and guilt. Where the Journal of Adolescent Health reports that 10% of women will experience an STD, the numbers jump in comparison to a cognitively impaired female with the percentage sitting at roughly 26%.

 

Intellectual Disability Photo
Photo: Intellectual Disability

 

It’s clear that not only is there a significant increase in instances of sexual abuse, but also greater risk of early pregnancy and STD’s with individuals who had an I.D. The question is why? Now, many people will automatically assume or blame the individual because they feel that they can’t control their feelings, emotions or behaviours. Whilst this is true to a certain extent the World Health Organisation (WHO) identifies different primary contributing factors. WHO, as well as other reports on I.D all identify that adolescents and adults who are classified as having an I.D are far more likely to be excluded from Sex Education Programmes.’ (WHO, report). WHO in its report, doesn’t identify specifically on this trend in much detail, it has been speculated elsewhere as to the reasoning’s behind this thinking. These include:

  • The perceived desexualisation and application of Asexuality towards individuals with ID at the hands of other people, IE educators, carers etc.
  • The reluctance of parents exposing children with ID to talks of a sexual nature out of protection, or out of desexualisation.
  • The mentality that carers view an I.D individuals sexuality as something that is feared and needs to be controlled.
  • Misconception of Medical Professionals who perceive people with I.D not to be sexually active which results in a profound failure to offer sexual and reproductive health information and services.

Indeed, in the United Nations Convention on the Right so Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the report notes that even though in many countries there are legal prohibitions, there are still many cases of forced and/or involuntary sterilization used to prevent the reproduction of some people with Intellectual Disabilities and that this sterilization is almost exclusively confined to women. Sex education and accessibility to sexual health information is an important process in the development of positive experiences of sex and relationships that occur with individuals with I.D. Further from this, appropriate relationship behaviours also need to be taught to people with I.D so that they are better able to identify inappropriate behaviour and respond accordingly. Often, people with I.D miss out on the opportunity to mix with other people socially and as such will struggle to develop a relationship with someone else. Reasons for this include;

  • A lack of privacy. Having a carer around constantly.
  • Dependancy on others for daily living
  • Lack of confidence
  • Profound lack of social development due to being excluded from mainstream classes young
  • Limited social experience

What this can result in is inappropriate sexual expression and behaviour and therefore it is clear that any individual with an intellectual disability will need additional support during their teens and developmental years in order to develop coping and behavioural mechanisms to support their exploration of their sexuality and develop relationship skills.

It’s therefore clear that people with an intellectual disability can no longer be excluded from sexual health and information courses. Indeed, people with I.D may need further education when it comes to health and sexuality which entails an education which includes:

  • Teaching individuals that people with disabilities can have sex lives and sexual relationships
  • Cover issues that may be associated with their particular disability that is delivered in an age appropriate manner.
  • Teaches and explains social rules which include differences between public and private behaviours.
  • Is delivered and taught in a way that works with an individuals level of understanding.

It is an important process for parents and carers to go through as well. Carers need to understand appropriate ways in which they can allow the individual under their care to flourish in social relationships which may or may not be of a sexual nature. The educational process needs to facilitated by schooling, parents, and peers in order for it to be effective teaching. Many of the issues are derived from misconceptions regarding people with I.D and this is where social awareness regarding I.D will come into play. It’s a delicate balance that needs to be approached from multiple angles in order to correct this oversight in society.

Adult Lifestyle Centres proudly support and cater for persons with physical and mental disabilities.

 

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Sparking Passion through Effective Communication

Passion & Effective Communication

So far in our various articles here we have acknowledged in relationships that the passion can often die down. We have pointed out that the relationship itself may not be a negative relationship and that there is no reason to throw away a seemingly lack luster relationship because it’s currently missing the passion. Many people become disillusioned when they feel that their partner isn’t their ‘soulmate’, and they become unhappy and what will often happen is one of two things; either they will live with that unhappiness and stubbornly refuse to fix it, or that they will neglect a potentially good relationship in favour of chasing down the spark with someone else. Perhaps I’m a little bit cynical, but I’ve never bought into the whole soulmate idea. A soulmate generally implies that there is someone out there which completes us, this reinforces an idea that we are somehow incomplete without our soulmate, and it’s why couples, friends, and that annoying Aunt Mary will sometimes look at their single friend/family member with a touch of pity or despair.

Many years ago when I watched Sabrina The Teenage Witch, I saw the finale and scoffed at the literal metaphor of soulmates. Sabrina had spent the entire series searching for the second half of her soul gem, only to find out in the last three minutes that Harvey had the second piece to the gem. Whilst I love and adore romantic comedies, and chick flicks where, for the most part, the couple end up together, I understand that this is a construction to make us feel better in a way about being single, about being alone. But happiness is something that’s so unique and individual to us – that not everyone understands it. That’s why I’m off a second opinion in which a partner does not complete us, but rather, a partner complements us. They can offset our little quirks, balance out the crazy parts of us, and together we make a perfectly good team of two unique individuals. Whilst i acknowledge that sometimes in life two people will drift apart, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the end of a relationship and that you should throw it all away. The thing is that when you sit down together and you’re both saying things like ‘our relationship just feels empty’, or a tell-tale classic ‘We still love each other, it just feels flat’, then don’t despair, there’s still hope.

 

 

One of the main reasons that people often feel disinterested, or disconnected is through a lack of communication. Throughout this site, we have explored various ways of reigniting the spark of passion in a relationship. We have continually mentioned having conversations and talking, but what we haven’t explored is that idea in depth, and considered the specifics of how to communicate, and talk to your partner. Sometimes, relationships are not easy fixes and sexual intimacy are little more than a band-aid to a relationship plagued with the absence of passion, and you need to reboot the relationship. That’s where we come to this article, how do we reboot that with communication and talking? For some people, they need that intimacy of talking, feeling close with their partner and their partner’s thoughts before they can engage with physical intimacy.

Talking is an important part of any relationship, and has the potential to deepen and strengthen the relationship. Contrary to popular belief, research suggests that small talk plays an important and integral part of a relationship. Indeed, John Gottman and Janice Driver, studied small talk and concluded that for the most part, small talk is actually a bid for an emotional connection. These bids have been categorised into varying aspects within the list below.

  • Bids for Attention: ‘That’s an adorable cat sitting in the window’.
  • Bids for interest: ‘Doesn’t your mother’s cat look like that one there?’
  • Bids for enthusiastic engagement: ‘We should think about getting a cat’
  • Bids for extended conversation: ‘Have you heard from your brother recently? Last I heard they were moving for a new job’
  • Bids for play: (Tickling your partner or playfully poking them) ‘I’ve been considering doing that all afternoon!’
  • Bids for humour: ‘That cute cat we saw earlier reminded me of a joke. So a cat and a dog go into a bar’
  • Bids for Affection: (Reaching for partner’s hand, or holding on to their arm etc.) ‘It’s been a rough day, I need a hug’
  • Bids for emotional support: ‘You know, I’ve just been so worried about work recently. I really hope that I don’t lose my job’
  • Bids for self-disclosure: ‘What kind of pets did you have when growing up?’

For a conversation which involves any of the above, the listening partner can respond in three ways according to Gottman and Driver. The first way is by responding in the desired way through some form of acknowledgment. This can involve a verbal, or non-verbal response and can either be a short response, or an extended response. This is referred to as a ‘turning towards’ response and will result in a positive feeling for both parties. The second is referred to as ‘turning away’ responses, which includes ignoring the conversation prompt by their partner. The third and final option is to ‘turn against’ the conversation starter by reacting in an angry or irritated way. Gottman and Driver go on to suggest that reacting positively to small talk between partners will actually go a long way in the development of tools and communicative strategies that will assist couples when going through conflict.

By now you should understand the importance of small talk within a relationship. There is not the scope or room in this article to demonstrate small talk conversation starters – not only is that unique to your interests, and experiences as a couple, but in most cases it would be counterproductive to give you all the answers into establishing small talk. What we can tell you, is that even though it may seem mundane and small to you, simply talking about a particular moment during the day when you arrive home to your loved one, will demonstrate an ability to open up, and restart communication. If they reciprocate with their own story, even better! But sometimes, especially for people that aren’t that articulate or struggle to share their thoughts, it may take a while for them to start sharing. So be patient.

Conversely, if you or your partner in talking, then the other partner will be considered to be listening, and there is a good way to listen, as well as ways of listening which can be detrimental to the process of talking and having one open up. On reflection during the research for this article, I came across a terrible thought. I’m an atrocious listener, and because i’m an atrocious listener it means that I am often unable to hear myself or partner communicate and what that communication actually means. Henning Mankell wrote in his article, The Art of Listening, that since humans have two ears and one mouth that we should spend time listening twice as much as what we speak. But it’s something that not a lot of people do. Listening involves not only listening to your partner, but also listening to yourself.

 

Passion & Effective Communication
Photo: Couple Talking

 

The brain, interestingly, has the capacity to speak X amount of words per minute, but it has the capacity to listen to 5-10 times that number. As such, when ‘listening’ we often get distracted, focusing instead on plans for the next day, considering our surroundings, the weather anything really except actually being in the moment and actively listening. You might hear the concept of active listening being bandied about a lot, and it’s the kind of concept that if you can master will have broad and far reaching implications not just within your relationship, but also in how you conduct yourself in, and go through, life.

Many people don’t necessarily understand what listening is. Listening is simply an activity in which you listen, you’re not simply waiting for your turn to speak, because what will happen in this situation is that you will hear key words, and tones, and your brain will be distracted by formulating a response to that. What it will miss is understanding the body language of the speaker, what it will miss is picking up the sub-text of the conversation. The trick is not necessarily to respond to the speaker, ask yourself ‘What is the speaker asking for with this conversation?’ By having this question on your mind while they speak, means that you are making a conscious and deliberate effort in trying to understand what your partner is saying, and why. The why part is important here, and it directly relates to the idea of bids of emotional connection which we discussed earlier in the article. By exploring this concept, instead of focusing on ‘your turn to speak’, you will be able to more effectively understand the point of view being expressed and what thoughts, feelings and emotions are being conveyed to you. By considering a conversation this way, if conflict is brought up, it will not resort into a counter-argument which is one of the least productive ways of communicating. This form of ‘communication‘ will often dissolve into two separate conversations where each party is trying to get their point across to the other, it demonstrates that neither of you is listening to the other. The end of the argument will ultimately conclude on a negative note. If you have listened effectively, you should be in a position to either paraphrase what they have said to you back to them through the lens of understanding – the first step in listening is to understand what your partner is saying. Understanding is the paramount thing, even before responding. If you’re struggling to understand, paraphrase back to them and ask them if that is correct. If it is correct then the listener should let the speaker continue, if it is incorrect, ask a question in order to clarify the situation. From here you need to listen until the other person has expressed their ideas and opinions and then respond accordingly. When people can actively demonstrate that they understand their partner, their partner will actively invest energy and time in trying to understand the other. If you don’t feel understood, you will defensively argue that why should you try and understand them. That’s why during conversations you need to have the ability to understand yourself, and be aware of your own listening. We’ll refer to this as the evaluation of your conversation filters. Some people will enter conversations with a point and a purpose, or maybe you have already developed a predisposition towards the other person – the point you’re trying to convey, or any judgments or predispositions that you have towards the other person is going to result in a filtering of the conversation. What will happen when you’re filtering a conversation is that you’ll automatically decides something ahead of time. What this will result in, is that no matter what is said, heard or conveyed, will distort the words/message into what you are already feeling. This contortion of words will be in such a way that even the best communicator in the world will be unable to ‘sway’ you because in your mind you have already arrived at a position that fits in with your belief of the situation.

Through reading this you might find yourself in a state of reflection, wondering if you are a good listening and communicator. It will help if you simply follow these three questions

  1. Are you giving your partner your complete attention?
  2. Are you understanding what your partner is telling you?
  3. Do you understand what your partner is wanting from you in this situation?

If you’re answering yes to all three questions, then congratulations – you’re well on your way to establishing yourself as a practiced and effective listener. By being a better listening, you will have the ability to be a better communicator, and by being a better communicator you will be in a position to more effectively deal with any issues within your relationship, develop the ability to open up within your relationship, and bring forth a level of intimacy and closeness which you may have been struggling to obtain. Through understanding each other you’ll be able to focus on flaming the passion through physical closeness now that your minds are intimate. You’ll find that when you’re feeling close to your partner, when you’re feeling understood and loved, that sexual activity will feel far more in the moment and it’ll be a strong step to rekindling passion, or even developing passion in a new relationship. By utilizing the art of effective communication is an incredible way to kick start a relationship which you thought was on the verge of ending.

About the Author: Stephen S is a consultant from Oh Zone Adult Lifestyle Centres