Today’s AWAP Wednesday video comes from a question I received from a fellow ChronicBabe:

How do I talk with my partner and ask him to initiate the lovin’ and everything in between, when his attitude is “don’t touch the fragile flower lest it hurt her”? I’m so tired of it feeling so one-sided, it makes me feel like he’s not into me.

Watch today’s video, in which I get… well… pretty specific with my recommendations:

*AWAP = As Well As Possible

Now it’s your turn:

How have you handle the sex conversation(s) in your relationships as a ChronicBabe? What’s worked? What hasn’t? I want to know! Join the conversation in the comments below, and share your experience.

Want to watch more videos like this? Check out our AWAP Wednesday video playlist, which has more than six hours of guidance, advice, and bloopers.

Is there a question I can answer for YOU? Add it to the comments below, or shoot me an email.

Until we meet again: Be AWAP! Smooches!

(Rough) Transcript:

Great question! I’ve experienced this before, and I likely will again, as I suspect many of you have. When we have a partner who sees us in pain, suffering, it can be hard for them to relax and initiate—and participate in, with gusto—sexual activity. It’s common for our partners to be concerned that they may hurt us.

This requires, in my experience, a gentle conversation beforehand.

In this conversation, I usually express how I’m feeling that day. And I get specific, saying things like “I would love to make love to you, but I am having a lot of gastrointestinal pain, so no penetration, OK honey?” Or: “I really want to be close to you right now, and I feel pretty good, but I think it might be best to not be focused on achieving orgasm today because I took some meds that might impede it.” Or: “My skin is feeling extra sensitive today, so while I want to be intimate with you, I need you to shave your face first so your stubble doesn’t hurt my skin. Could you do that for me please?”

When you couch these conversations in the framework of “I want to connect with you… I want to be intimate with you… I love you…” it makes it easier for your partner to hear you and understand, and to comply.

Timing is also an issue.

It might feel like it’s breaking the mood if you’re making out and then you start to take your clothes off… and then pause to explain your needs. But you’ve got to do it! The alternative is NOT explaining your needs, getting even more hot and heavy, and then having to stop mid-session because your partner accidentally did something to hurt you. That would suck.

Consider this your chance to start an ONGOING conversation with your partner.

Not a one-time conversation, not a once-a-month conversation… but an ongoing one, in which you both discuss what you like, don’t like, what’s working and what’s not.

I encourage you to have small conversations during times when you’re both feeling generally OK, rested, calm. These conversations are NOT best when you’re already super flared-up and feeling upset, if you can help it. What you want to do is create a general atmosphere of openness and acceptance.

Ask your partner what his or her concerns are. Give them a chance to explain their fears or to talk through past experiences that have shaped their perspectives and attitudes. When you give them a chance to elaborate, you’re creating an atmosphere of openness and acceptance, and fostering deeper emotional intimacy.

Avoid emphasizing things they’ve done “wrong” in the past. You might be tempted to say things like “When you touched me that way, it hurt.” That can cause your partner to feel attacked—remember, we’re in intimate conversation territory here and they’re feeling vulnerable, too. If you can instead say something like “I feel good when you touch me like this” or “I’d like to focus on this kind of technique, instead of that one” you can minimize the chance of your partner feeling critiqued.

Remember, this is about creating intimacy, and bringing clarity to the situation.

It’s your responsibility to explain what’s going on with your body, what you want and need.

It’s not your partner’s job to read your mind or body for signals all the time. So while it may feel awkward, you need to start speaking up about what works and what doesn’t. It’s not a personal failing if your partner doesn’t understand yet. The more clear you can be with him or her about what works and what doesn’t—and on an ongoing basis, day to day as appropriate—the more they’ll learn.

And when I say ongoing, I want to emphasize that your needs will change over time, so you might need to speak up about those changes. And your partner will likely feel the same way! You may have a year when you don’t want to have any penetrative sex—then things might change, you try a new medication, you do some physical therapy, whatever—and suddenly penetrative sex is back on the table. Be flexible.

Mistakes will be made.

No matter how much you discuss the parameters, your partner will inevitably make a mistake. Don’t freak out. Give them some forgiveness and love. We all need space to learn. I’m sure you’re not perfect at all the sexing, either.

Find a sex-positive therapist.

If they repeatedly make the same mistake, that’s a different thing altogether; they’re not respecting you. In that case, you need to either dump the jerk or decide to work on it, and I suggest you seek out a sex-positive couples therapist. The American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists offer great advice on finding counseling.

Keep that dialogue open, honest, clear and accepting, and I believe you CAN achieve a great sex life in spite of illness.