Let’s talk about sex, baby. Specifically, let’s talk about the words we should be using more often (both in and out of the bedroom) for healthier, happier relationships. We tapped Rosara Torrisi, PhD from the Long Island Institute of Sex Therapy, about the words she wishes couples would use more often (and the ones they should put in the vault).
Two Words Couples Should Embrace
The word ‘maybe’ can open up new conversations and possibilities, Dr. Torrisi tells us. Let’s say, for example, that your partner wants to introduce some roleplay into your sex life. “[By] saying ‘Never, no way!’ you close off your partner and some potential enjoyment and growth,” says Dr. Torrisi. But the word maybe “allows for a conversation about why they’re interested, why they’d want to do this with you and for you to explore what you might enjoy about it as well.” And hey, it’s totally cool if it turns out that play pretend is just not your thing. But by having a conversation about it, you could learn something about your partner and maybe even find something new to enjoy together.
Truth be told, we had never heard of the word ‘compersion’ before but we love what it means: the opposite of jealousy. “Compersion is about feeling love for your partner as they enjoy something or someone else,” explains Dr. Torrisi. This word is used regularly by the polyamory community to describe how you might feel when your partner shares time and sexuality with someone else, but its meaning can actually extend beyond the bedroom. “We often experience compersion for our partners when they are enjoying time with their best friend or as they beam with excitement after winning a soccer game,” explains Dr. Torrisi. This feeling of joy for another person often occurs quite naturally, but it’s also a skill that can (and should) be cultivated. So rather than lean into jealousy or envy the next time your partner is enjoying something that isn’t about you (whether that’s watching an episode of Cobra Kai or talking to a beautiful barista), try practicing compersion—you’ll both be happier for it.
Two Words Couples Should Avoid
‘Always’ and ‘never’
“Always and never are barrier words,” says Dr. Torrisi, adding that “they don't allow for deeper and richer communication.” These words can be harmful because they’re usually unrealistic (does your partner really never do the dishes? Are you really always the one who initiates sex?) and don’t allow for any nuance. Most importantly, if you’re looking for change (like asking your partner to up your sexual frequency or just take out the damn trash), “telling someone they always [or never] do this thing doesn't allow them room for growth.” In fact, these words tend to lead to arguments rather than meaningful conversations. Instead, try explaining to them why what they’re doing is hurtful or something that you’d like to change, or what you would rather they do instead.