4 Ways to Talk to a Partner About Sex AnxietyJan 09, 2022
Let's face it, anxiety sucks. It can make you feel like a prisoner in your own head and as if there is no escape from the ever-present worry. In fact, sometimes talking about our worries to someone else can be just what we need to remind ourselves that we're not alone in these experiences and feelings.
If you're looking for ways to talk to your partner about how they are feeling anxious, here are four suggestions:
1) Ask them to plan a time together to do a mental health check-in for both of you
This way you know that every partner is fully engaged and ready for the conversation. Sometimes our anxiety presses us to address a concern right away, and that totally makes sense. However we can’t force a partner to have that conversation if they’re not ready, nor does it do your anxiety or your relationship a service to discuss this under duress. It’s best to allow partners time to gather their thoughts for the check-in. The check-in doesn’t have to be an intense process if you don’t want it to, you can treat it as a casual conversation in bed. The point is to set aside uninterrupted time for you, your partner(s) and your relationship.
2) Be honest about your feelings without blaming the other person
This is where Non-Violent Communication comes in handy. It’s best to remember to speak from your own experience. Anxiety can activate our threat response and go to fight-or-flight response. It can be incredibly hard to be clear-headed in these moments of heightened anxiety. It’s best to try to center yourself with some breathing exercises or a walk before the conversation so that you can be as grounded as you can to be present in the conversation without blame or accusation. Just let them know how you’re feeling and ask for them to hear you out. This can help with your need to feel heard and understood.
Make sure to offer the same. This can be during the same conversation or during another time if one or all of you are needing time to rest between discussions.
3) Share with them a time when you were anxious and tell them what helped calm you down
This can help with the need to be concretely supported. Sharing with a partner a time that you were able to soothe your anxiety can help them understand what your anxiety looks like in the moment, and what they can do to support you.
4) Make sure they know that it is ok for them to ask how you are feeling
If this is true for you and doesn’t overwhelm you, it can be important to let a partner know that they can check in on you. Sometimes partners of anxiety feel like if they bring it up it will “make things worse” when that might not be the case.
It’s really important to keep the lines of communication open, even if it's hard or uncomfortable.
Anxiety can be a complicated and overwhelming feeling to manage, but it's important to talk about the way you feel. If you've been struggling with anxiety around sex or dating, I would love for us to connect! As a sex therapist with over ten years experience, I'm excited to offer an online group where men can come together and learn how they too can navigate their sex and dating anxiety while being supported by other men who have similar experiences. Learn more about my upcoming groups here!
Learn about how sex anxiety shows up and other ways to talk about it in my mini-course!
Hearts and Handbags,
David Khalili, LMFT
Bio: David Khalili, LMFT is a sex therapist and couples therapist in the San Francisco Bay Area. He works with individuals and relationships via telehealth focusing on sex and anxiety, multiheritage couples, and burnout. David enjoys spending time with his fam, watching trash TV, and exploring his new found “outdoorsy” self.
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