Tuesday, April 8, 2014



I'm writing this blog for the people out there who are in a relationship of some kind, whether just living together or married, and for those who are even considering a relationship.

No doubt you've heard or read about the importance of communication. I can't stress that enough. I've been happily married for almost 44 years and we've always communicated pretty well. Truth be told, I could be even better at it than I am. At the very least, I could improve my listening skills. I don't care how old you are, there's always room for improvement.

That said, I want to borrow from a recent article in Psychology Today entitled Awkward Silences - The Dismal State of Sexual Communication. The author presented some fresh  insight to the failure of couples to talk about sexual matters, and proof of the benefits of communication.

"Sex," says Dr. Noam Shpancer,"seems to be everywhere…" except in candid conversations between couples. Sex is used in our culture to attract, to scare and entertain, and to sell products, but most of the actual dialogue concerns gossip and other people - not ourselves. But why do people find open discussion difficult?

He suggests that perhaps the problem lies in discussing large existential problems in general, like death.  We all have sex and we all die, so it's a shared situation, a shared concern. Why can't people go there?

Mostly, he thinks we're just afraid of embarrassment; of being unmasked as foolish, ignorant or depraved. We don't wish to offend and we worry about being rejected. And so, we fail by avoidance. We say nothing, we ask nothing and we are rewarded with ignorance about the other person's desires, fantasies, etc. Wonderful.

But here's some encouraging news. A study involving Latino adolescents at Cal State University found that communication led to delayed first intercourse. 

Two other studies done by the University of Kentucky and North Carolina found that better communication led to more responsible use of condoms and (as expected) poor communication was linked to lower rates of condom use.

Another study by Iowa State University revealed that disclosing sexual information was positively linked to satisfaction and closeness.

I will again remind everyone that other developed countries kick America's ass when it comes to teen pregnancy and abortion. Our teen pregnancy rate is over four times that of the Netherlands. Our teen abortion rate is 50% higher than that of the Netherlands. Our overall HIV incidence is six times higher than Germany's and three times higher than the Netherlands. Those numbers alone should be sufficient to get the attention of any intelligent adult, especially parents and politicians.

But how do they achieve such impressive statistics? It ain't rocket science, folks. Governments support massive, consistent, long-term public education campaigns, through the Internet, television, films, radio, billboards, discos, pharmacies, and health care providers. Youth have convenient access to free or low-cost contraception through national health insurance.  Educators provide accurate and complete information in response to students’ questions. Families have open, honest, consistent discussions with teens about sexuality and support the role of educators and health care providers in making sexual health information and services available to teens.

In these European countries, adolescents have the right to balanced, accurate, and realistic sex education, confidential and affordable health services, and a secure stake in the future.  Society accepts that they have a responsibility to provide young people with the tools they need to safeguard their sexual health and young people.

As things now stand, a young adolescent finds it difficult or impossible to inquire about protection before first intercourse with his partner, a dating couple is afraid to confide in each other about their sexual wishes and worries, and a long married couple is destined to remain unaware of each other’s deepest desires and dislikes. 

Perhaps it’s time we start talking about it.

Now, I was fortunate to have married a woman who is a strong communicator. Don't interpret that as meaning,"she talks a lot."  She talks when she has something to say, and she's usually not afraid to say it. 

Both during our dating period and the first year of our marriage, we were very open about everything. In dating situations, people of every age want to find out about the other person; their likes, their dislikes, their favorite food, color, music, movies, books, etc., etc., because those are all fairly safe and easy topics for discussion. But all too often, people find themselves having sex without ever really talking about sex. 

Let me just ask you this:  wouldn't it be better to risk a relationship failure up front or early on, rather than to find out down the line, years later, that you have some rather significant incompatibilities? 

I would think you'd certainly want to know if you had any serious philosophical or spiritual disparities. Surely, you'd want to know if the other person had any serious health issues - physical or mental - any substance abuse problems or history of violence.  So why wouldn't you want to know about their sexual psyche and identity?  And if you did initiate that conversation and they had serious difficulty with it, wouldn't that be a concern?

Think about it. Talk about it. Share this information.

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