How to Apply the Principles of Nonviolent Communication to Your Sex Life
The 4 part process of Nonviolent Communication is meant to help people communicate more compassionately, but also more effectively! If you’re anything like me, hearing my someone tell me that I am always doing something or that I am (insert judgment word like “lazy” here) sets my hackles up and makes me less likely to be interested in doing what it is the speaker wants me to do. Through the use of nonjudgmental language, specific observations (rather than generalizations), and a focus on our own feelings and needs, we are better able to communicate to others in a way that they can hear without feeling attacked and shutting down. Nowhere is this more important than in romantic relationships, and especially in the bedroom!
Imagine a scenario in which a couple is struggling with mismatched libidos, in which one partner desires sex more frequently than the other. One partner feels rejected and the other feels badgered– a likely setup for hurtful comments and communication that only serves to widen the sexual and relational divide.
“You’re so frigid.”
“You never want to have sex.”
“You must not want me anymore.”
Notice how these statements use judgmental language (negatively labeling a person), generalizations (words like always are frequently inaccurate), and assumptions (interpretations of the behavior), and notice the feelings in your body as you read these, imagining your partner was saying these things to you… it makes you clench up and go on the defensive, right?
The NVC process is a not just a new way of communicating, but of thinking. NVC asks us to take ownership of our feelings as being part of the story we tell ourselves about someone’s actions. Our feelings are a product of our interpretation of what is going on around us in combination with how well our needs are being met at the time. Have you ever overreacted to something you wouldn’t have otherwise because you were exhausted, hungry, or even horny? This is what I’m talking about. Our emotions are our responsibility, and we have some measure of control over them when we advocate for our needs and make decisions that align with our values.
The NVC process involves making an observation about something that is not serving your well-being using both specificity and nonjudgmental language, describing how that thing makes you feel using actual feeling words rather than intellectualization (“it makes me feel like you aren’t listening” isn’t a feeling), what needs are not being met, and then expressing a request.
When I notice W, it makes me feel X because Y need is not being met, would you be willing to Z?
Going back to our scenario with the couple struggling with mismatched libidos, imagine that instead of accusing the partner with the lower sex drive of being frigid, of never wanting to have sex, or of no longer desiring them, the higher sex drive partner had approached the situation using the Nonviolent Communication method:
“Honey, when I noticed that you withdrew from my touch twice this week, I felt frustrated because I value the sexual component of our relationship, and my need for connecting with you intimately is not being met. Can you let me know how you feel about me saying this, or what was going on for you in that moment?”
This example uses specificity (both in examples and frequency) without resorting to assuming why the partner has withdrawn from touch initiated by their partner this week, making judgments, or generalizing. It also clearly expresses how the high libido partner feels about the situation (frustrated), what needs are not being met that makes them feel that way (sexual connection), and what they would like from the interaction (more information).
Communicating in this manner elicits compassion in the listener, which makes them less defensive and more willing to consider the speaker’s request. This formula can be used for so many relational and sexual scenarios, and not just for conflicts! Have you ever wanted to try something a little risque in bed that you think might shock your partner? Try phrasing the fantasy in the NVC formula:
“Honey, when I think about being tied up and restrained, it really turns me on because I think giving up my power for an evening would feel really vulnerable and I want to share that with you; would you be willing to consider exploring bondage with me?”
Are you having trouble communicating your feelings and needs around intimacy to your partner and need some help? Contact me to set up a free consultation call to discuss how I can help you integrate this style of communication into all aspects of your relationships!