(CNN) — The timeless advice to couples about the importance of communicating about your sexual preferences might be as old as the act itself.
“It’s in almost every article; it says you have to talk about sex, but that’s it,” says Vanessa Marin, 39, a marriage and family therapist specializing in sex therapy and co-author of “Sex Talks: The Five Conversations That Will Transform Your Love Life“, which will go on sale this Tuesday.
Marin and her husband, Xander, 37, set out to write the definitive book on how to talk about sex with a consensual partner, with the goal of “creating the sex life of your wildest dreams,” and decided to make themselves vulnerable.
In its instagram account, which has more than 314,000 followers, the Californian couple shares many things, like their dreams of being unfaithful and tips to break the drought. (Hint: don’t say a word about how long it’s been since you last had sex.)
“I had a feeling that being able to take initiative and be vulnerable in the first place would help our audience,” says Vanessa, who was initially hesitant to reveal the intimate details of their relationship on social media. “And I realized that our sex life just got better.”
Their followers began to tell the Martins that what they shared facilitated communication with their own partners, which brought them closer in bed and beyond.
“Sex Talks” similarly moves away from vague and generic advice on communication and sex to dive deeper into how to talk about it, addressing these five conversations to have with your partner: recognition, connection, desire, pleasure and exploration.
“The topic of communication and sex is huge, so it was important for us to narrow it down to something manageable in these five conversations,” says Vanessa.
Below, the Martins offer their tips and strategies.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Terry Ward: Couples often wonder if they are having enough sex and how much is enough. Is there a magic number?
Vanessa Martin: In the book we talk about frequency, it is one of the questions we are asked the most. Sex is very complicated for most of us, and it’s very tempting to want to boil it down to something quantifiable. People say, “Give me a number. If I do it twice a week, is everything okay?”
There is no magic number that works for all couples. I have worked with couples who have had sex a few times a year and felt satisfied and connected, and with others who had sex several times a day and felt disconnected and unfulfilled.
Xander Martin: Focusing on a number takes you away from the grayer side of things, and that’s the quality of the sex you’re having. Because then you would have to talk about it, and it can be scary. When you focus on the quality of the sex you’re having rather than the frequency, you’re more likely to fall into a frequency that feels good to both people.
Ward: Can scheduling sex be a good option, or is it something that ruins the mood?
Vanessa: Many of us have the idea that sex should be spontaneous and come out of nowhere. If you look at the early stages of a relationship, there is a lot of planning involved. Dates are scheduled, meeting times are set, a lot of time and energy is invested in getting aroused and preparing for the date.
Not that it was a magical, spontaneous, effortless moment. It is that then we were enthusiastic about the effort we were making. I think programming sex is about finding ways to get that emotion back.
Of course, if we schedule sex the same way we schedule a dentist appointment, no one is going to be thrilled. If you just put it on your calendar, and there’s a feeling of fear, “Oh, God. It’s Wednesday at 7… I have to do this,” then of course it’s not going to be fun or exciting.
Sometimes it’s as easy as twisting the words: calling it “date night,” as it was at the beginning of the relationship. That may seem much more interesting and exciting. Many people who have been in a relationship for a long time say that their relationship is boring, that it is not exciting.
We always encourage couples to get that illusion back and strive to have fun times together. If you put that energy into scheduling sex, it can be much more pleasurable.
Ward: What are the two different types of sexual urges that you describe? If a couple does not agree on that aspect, is there a solution?
Vanessa: In virtually all relationships, partners have different sexual drives. Most of us feel that our sex drive should be spontaneous and come out of nowhere. There are many people who label themselves, or are labeled by their partners, as having little or no desire, when the reality is that they are the receptive rather than spontaneous sexual desire type. These are the two different types of sexual urges, and you need to approach things differently for each one.
It all comes down to where you feel the desire first. The spontaneous ones get mentally aroused, while the receptive ones need to feel the desire in their body first before their mind catches up. A classic receptive sex drive type reaction is when you get to the end of sex and think, “Wow, that’s been so much fun, why don’t I want more?” We talk a lot about these two types of sexual impulses.
Xander: If you know what your partner’s type is, then you know the best way to initiate sex. If you’re the spontaneous sex drive type and you know your partner is receptive, and they’ve already discussed it, then you’d know it’s probably best not to initiate sex by saying, “Hey, do you want to do it?” Because you know that your partner needs something to respond to. So it might be better to start with something physical, like a make-out session or a massage, rather than trying to start all at once.
The hard part is when you are in a relationship with different types of sexual desire, but they have never discussed it. The general assumption in society is that sex should be spontaneous. If you assume that it must be spontaneous, but in reality one of the two is not, that’s where the problems begin.
Ward: How do you think men have been misunderstood when it comes to sexual desire?
Xander: I think the idea that men always want sex wherever and whenever is perpetuated. I think it’s a harmful idea when a man’s partner has that thought. In the case of men, we grow up believing that this must be true; we joke that men always want it. When we feel that we don’t want it, we end up thinking that something must be wrong with us; then it can lead to performance anxiety or lack of confidence and the whole thing spirals.
Vanessa: There is this idea that male sexuality is so plain and simple, and female sexuality is complicated, and that hurts both genders.
Ward: They are a cisgender and heterosexual couple. How did you manage to make your book inclusive?
Vanessa: Of course, our sexual orientation impacts how we view the world. But inclusiveness was important to us when writing the book. We filled the couples book from all orientations so everyone felt welcome and included. If you have sex or sex is important to you, this book will bring you something. Maybe you’ve discussed it with your partner before and it has gone horribly wrong. In the end we will convince you that talking about sex is the best thing you can do for your sex life. Everyone deserves hot sex and great love.
Source: CNN Espanol