Originally posted in the Eden Center blog.
Mazal tov! Your child is engaged and amidst the hustle and bustle of choosing gowns, wedding hall, flowers and caterer, you want to be able to talk to your son or daughter about the upcoming marriage – not just the wedding.
If the topics of relationships, intimacy and sexuality have been part of the overall dialogue in your home, then speaking freely and openly with your children as they embark upon their married life will feel comfortable and natural. If you have not established an easy and comfortable language for discussions of this nature, don’t worry, you are not alone. Regardless, now that your child is getting married, there are many important facts about sex and relationships that you will want them to know. Here are a few that are important to emphasize to a couple as they embark on married life:
- Love yourself and be assertive. As the Irish poet Thomas Moore wrote “Intimacy begins with the self. Only when one knows himself, his desires and needs, and is able to communicate them, can he expect to communicate effectively with the other.” Be confident and assertive and communicate what you like, want, and need, or, you will end up being passive-aggressive, which is a toxic barrier to intimacy.
- Really listen to your partner. Studies show that feeling listened to, understood and cared about improves relationship satisfaction. Sometimes your partner just wants to vent without listening to advice on how to fix.. Saying something like “wow, Hon, that sounds really hard” lets them know that you ‘get it’. Discuss with your partner how they prefer you to react when they have a problem they want to talk over with you and to tell you when they want you just to listen or when they want advice. Most people want their partners to listen and empathize.
- You aren’t responsible for your partner’s mood. If your partner is in a bad mood, don’t assume it is because of you and don’t become defensive. Remember it is his or her mood, not yours. Assume this has nothing to do with you, and stay curious and available to talk about what is bothering them if they want.
- Say please and thank you, speak nicely and watch your tone of voice. Gratitude, kindness and good manners go a long way in allowing each other to feel valued and not taken for granted.
- Sex is not an entitlement, a reward, or a punishment. Sex should be mutual, consensual, pleasurable and private. It will take time to learn what you and your partner like. Don’t set goals and expectations, or make it feel like work. No one has no know if you ‘managed it’ on the first night or after several months. Take your time and enjoy the learning experience.
- Fight right and make-up: All couples will have disagreements and arguments. What is important is to know how to fight, and how to recover. If you are feeling defensive, say so, and if you feel too angry or reactive, request a time out. Make sure you initiate a follow-up discussion when you are calmer, then use ‘I feel” statements rather than blaming, shaming, or criticizing. Allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to say, “I think I may have upset you” or, “Let’s resolve this, I don’t want to fight anymore.
- Be affectionate: (and not only when sex is on the agenda) There are many ways to value touch. Cuddling, hugging, stroking and massaging adds to your feelings of bonding and attachment
- Continue to date: Just because you are married doesn’t mean you should stop doing fun things together. Make sure to create space for quality time and recreational, fun activities. Once children start coming, continue to value and invest in your quality time.
- We are still your parents: If you want advice, assistance, feel overwhelmed or anxious, you can both still come to us. If you are having difficulty with physical or emotional intimacy, there are people who can help.
- Be there for each other, be one another’s friends, lovers and confidants. May you experience passion, intimacy, love, compassion, trust and commitment in your journey together.
These guidelines form the basis for loving relationships, and provide tools for creating and ensuring healthy intimacy. By providing this advice to your engaged kids, you are giving them the gift of permission to grow, separate, and experience pleasure and love in their future married lives.