Sexual Negotiation: What Happens When You Have Different Desires?

What do you do when you aren’t on the same page as your lover about your sexual values, ideas and preferences?

I hear the same complaint from my clients over and over again: their exes simply didn’t know how to get them off or they were reluctant to experiment sexually. 

Do you know what else I hear a lot when I ask them if they communicated their desires and needs? A big fat “NO”. 

As ever, I’m tooting the horn for communication as a cornerstone of any healthy (sexual) relationship.

This week’s blog is all about the art of sexual negotiation so that both of you come out as winners. Get ready to have an honest discussion about feelings, beliefs, comfort zones and limits if you want to have the best sex of your life.

4 Ways To Start Negotiating Your Sexual Desires

Discover how you want sex to make you feel

If you thought I was going to start with how to get your partner to give you more oral sex, starting here might seem a little fluffy – but stay with me!

Seriously, why do you want more oral sex (aside from it feeling all kinds of awesome)? Do you want to feel connected, excited, surrendered, in control, wild?

If you find it challenging to know how you want to feel, take a moment to check in with your body. Take a few deep breaths and allow yourself to relax. Allow your mind to wander across past sexual experiences or fantasies that feel good to you right now. What is the emotion they have in common?

Perhaps you liked feeling powerful/powerless or desired/objectified? Maybe it was the relaxed and slow pace or the energised intensity? Reflect on the emotional commonalities between the things you find erotic and make a note of the feelings you are most drawn to.

Once you know how you’d like to feel, it is a good idea to reflect on the kinds of activities that get you to that place. Be specific. If you want to feel powerful and in charge, what is it that gives you that feeling? Is it being called a particular name? Is it controlling your partners orgasms or giving them a spanking? Is it being served lunch or brought gifts? Whatever the feeling you are going for, try to unpick what activities give that to you and the dynamic that they work best in for you.

Knowing how you want to feel, and the kinds of sexual, erotic or intimate activities that bring you those feelings, is a great place to begin a conversation with your lover. Simple questions like ‘how would you like to feel?’ and ‘how can we create experiences that will entwine the things we would both like to feel?’ are a good starting point.

Share your yes/no/maybe list 

I often recommend my clients create a yes/no/maybe list to find areas of sexual compatibility with a new partner. 

A yes/no/maybe list is simply an inventory of sexual or kink activities that you can indicate your interest or disinterest in. You can make it as kinky or vanilla as you like, and there are lots of lists online to choose from.

What to include on the list? Think: anal play; nipple clamps; spankling; threesomes; group sex; mutual masterbation; lapdancing; dirty talk; role play; erotic massage; watching porn. The list is endless!

Each of you starts with a copy of the same list, and you note whether a particular activity is a yes, no or maybe with the other person. It doesn’t matter if your lists are identical or completely different, the most important part of the exercise is, of course, communication. 

Go into detail about why something is a yes and exactly what that looks like. Does being tied up mean silk ties and being stroked by roses? Or are we talking heavy-duty rope here? Get specific! Where would you like to do it? How would you like to do it? If something’s a “maybe”, ask your lover why – go deeper and explore as there may be more common ground than expected. 

Play with the wheel of consent 

Many people have a level of discomfort expressing sexual needs, desires and boundaries. Which is why Dr. Betty Martin is a true Godsend! A legendary sex educator, she designed The Wheel of Consent and says about it, “In any instance of touch, there are two factors: who is doing and who it’s for. Those two factors combine in four ways (quadrants). Each quadrant presents its own challenges, lessons and joys. The circle represents consent (your agreement). Inside the circle there is a gift given and a gift received. Outside the circle (without consent) the same action becomes stealing, abusing, etc.”

Effectively The Wheel of Consent pulls apart any instance of touch into two axes. The first is about who is doing the touch, the second is about who the touch is for. This separation helps us to see touch as occurring in some really different dynamics so that we can work out what is happening in our sex lives, and what we want more and less of. 

The most obvious way to use the wheel of consent is to play the three-minute game. This involves asking and receiving two questions: ‘how would you like to be touched for three minutes?’ and ‘how would you like to touch me for three minutes?’. 

Most people have a ‘quadrant’ of the wheel of consent that feels most like home. Frequently, people also have a preference for one of the dynamics: either serve/accept or take/allow. Spend some time working out what your most comfortable quadrant and dynamic is, and explore erotic ideas in that area. You can stay in your comfort zone, and also explore different things within that dynamic.

Then find a pleasurable activity in your least comfortable dynamic – not only does this open you up to experiences that you may love, but you’ll also learn how to communicate more effectively to make sure it feels as good as possible. Playing with the Wheel of Consent can build up greater trust, intimacy and communication of each other’s boundaries too. Take it slow, be respectful, and have fun exploring!

Consider giving each other the freedom to explore other options.

So how about if you have spoken about desires, shared your yes/no/maybe list but still find that you have different sexual needs and it has become clear that you are not interested in compromising to have more sexual activity within the relationship?

There are plenty of different ways to compromise out there, so if it feels like you and your partner are struggling, don’t be afraid to try something different.

Scheduling sex. Schedule in time to ensure you have this sacred tome together. A lot of people find it difficult to find time in the week, so perhaps the weekend works better for you or how about moring sex before your day kicks off?

Meet the experts. Whether you are into sensual massage, BDSM or perhaps for you the first step is to remove shame around sex? Whatever your needs there is an expert for that. If you and your partner are open to exploring outside your relationship why not go and see a professional dom for example?

Could non-monogamy be for you? Open relationships often start when one or both partners desire sex with people outside the relationship. Let’s face it, keeping the sexual spark alive in long-term, committed relationships can be challenging, and people I talk to don’t want to end the relationship or stray from it by cheating

The options are truly endless, but it’s essential that before entering into any alternative arrangement, that everything is on the table for discussion and should be talked about, consented to and agreed by all parties involved. 

Exploring what turns you on with a partner can open new levels of intimacy and sexual intensity. This is not for the faint of heart, though; it can feel risky and vulnerable to share this side of your sexual self. Remember that open communication and mutual respect are vital. 

Asa Baav is a dating coach, relationship coach and matchmaker on a mission to help single Londoners over thirty to find love and sexual compatibility. Don’t leave love to an algorithm, join Tailor Matched today. 

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