Vanessa Marin has dedicated her career to discussing the most private details of other people’s sex lives. But, for a long time, she had difficulty talking about herself.
In a new book, “Sex Talks: The Five Conversations That Will Transform Your Love Life,” a 38-year-old sex therapist admits she faked orgasms for 10 years because she couldn’t bring herself to tell her partner Could know what she likes. Things improved when she met her husband, Xander Marin, now 37, but once the initial euphoria wore off, the pair found themselves in front of an expensive couples’ counselor, trying to figure it out. struggling with why her sex life sometimes feels hopeless.
Today, Marins has lauded her radical honesty and relatability in a business centered around sex education, with a popular podcast, a suite of online courses, and more than 300,000 followers on Instagram. Ms. Marin describes herself as someone who, despite her professional credentials, often feels awkward and unsure in the bedroom. Mr. Marin, who is not a physician, says he offers a non-expert perspective on what is needed to feel more comfortable talking about sex.
“Many of us feel alone when we are struggling with sex,” explained Ms. Marin. “Like, I should break down; I must be the only person going through this; Everyone else has a great sex life. So it’s important to me to lead with vulnerability.”
The book, which Marins co-wrote, is based on a simple — and, they admit, well-meaning — conceit: Many sex problems stem from poor communication. Yet people rarely get specific and structured advice on how to have those conversations, the Marines believe. The book’s five sex talks are centered around acceptance (“sex is a thing, and we have it”), connection, desire, pleasure, and exploration.
“I’ve never been in a relationship in which I talked about sex as openly, honestly, or as frequently as I do with Xander. I’ve also never been in a relationship in which sex was so deeply intimate and wildly was as satisfying as it is now,” Ms. Marin writes. “I don’t think those two things coincide.”
Here’s what Ms. Marin had to say about why it can feel so difficult to talk about sex with our partners and how to start.
The questions and answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.
You write that most of us don’t talk about sex very often, if at all, with a person who regularly sees us naked. How do you suggest people start those conversations?
One big mistake guys make is they either never talk about sex, or they admit it when there’s a problem, so you’re having one of those “we need to talk” conversations. sit down to do. We tell people that talking about sex has to be included in our lives on a regular basis. We suggest you start with a compliment.
Try complimenting your partner about their physical attractiveness or the attraction you feel for them throughout the day. It could actually be something like: “You look great today” or “Your eyes are really beautiful.” You can even offer some kind of compliment about the connection you feel. If you’re hugging them or saying goodbye, you say, “It feels so good to be in your arms.”
Complimenting is an easy way to open up about sex. Those conversations have no goal. You are not trying to achieve anything. You are not making a request or raising a complaint. There’s a bit of flirting in it.
You write a lot about the importance of flirting and trying to build a sense of anticipation towards sex. Why is it so important, and what if that kind of flirtation is no longer a part of a couple’s relationship?
Many of us have the expectation that we should spontaneously feel desire out of nowhere, at the exact same moment our partner does. But that’s not how it works in real life. We write about an idea called the “sex drive simmer,” which is about finding ways to maintain some sense of tension and anticipation that can occur throughout your early days.
One thing a couple can do is exchange flirty text messages, and that doesn’t mean you’re constantly texting back and forth. It can be something as simple as “Looking forward to meeting you later.” Another thing we love asking couples to do is create a playlist of songs that get them in the mood. Even just having it playing in the background can be a great way to keep that tension alive.
Part of the book focuses on building a foundation of sexual self-awareness, so people become aware of what they enjoy and can eventually share it with a partner. What’s a good first step?
I think one can think about the question: What does good sex mean to me? Try to be as detailed as you can about it and try to answer as many as you can.
You can trace the arc of sexual experience in one way: What is it that you like to feel leading up to sex? (Like, I love it when we’ve already spent some quality time together that day.) This might involve how you like to initiate sex. This can include what kind of environment you like to have sex in, and what energy you like to feel during sex. Is it sentimental? Is it intimate? Is it safe? silly? what do you like later?
It’s so easy for us to focus on the problems and frustrations with our sex lives and not turn around to ask: OK, what is it that I really want?
You write a lot about satire. For example, you tell people who worry that it will feel weird to start having sex again after a dry spell, that it probably will. And you write that awkwardness is the price of admission to the fairer sex. Why?
When you see sex portrayed on TV or in movies, everything flows, everything looks beautiful and perfect. But sex is a strange thing. Maybe you try a new position and it doesn’t feel great, or you just can’t figure it out. We really like to turn this on its head and say that it’s nothing to be afraid of or ashamed of, it’s something to embrace. If you anticipate awkwardness, it takes some of that pressure off.
There’s no way to grow up without some amount of sexual embarrassment. We all face embarrassment about sex. There are some areas of our sex life that we don’t want to talk about. In this sense we are all in the same boat together. But it can make such a huge difference in your life personally and in your relationship, if you can just face it.