Dr. Jess on Sex: Five relationship-killing conversations that couples need to manage


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Too many practical discussions will detract from passion and intimacy

We’ve all seen that couple eating their dinner in silence at a restaurant. Uptowners Emi and Jim were petrified that this would be their future. After eight years of marriage, they’ve honed their communication skills when it comes to expressing their needs and resolving conflict, but they’ve developed some very bad habits with regard to their daily conversations.

“It feels like we’re running a business instead of a family,” says Emi. “I’m afraid if you take away work, the kids and the in-laws, we’d have nothing left to talk about and really grow apart.”

This is a valid concern. Though no conversation on its own will ruin a relationship, reducing your communication to practical discussions alone is sure to detract from the passion, intimacy and eroticism most couples crave.

To keep the passion alive, talk about your big dreams, greatest fears, philosophical quandaries and topics that get you all fired up. And make an attempt to limit the conversations that have the potential to cause more harm than good. Here’s a run down. 

1. Agenda-setting. Conversations that help you set and keep an agenda are essential to daily interactions, but they do nothing to enrich your relationship. You can’t eliminate these discussions, but you can relegate them to specific times and platforms. For example, you can avoid having them in intimate spaces like the bedroom or dinner table or opt to have agenda-setting conversations via text.

2. Other people’s problems. Unless you’re really looking to learn from their unfortunate situations, stop! Research suggests that your tendency to describe others in positive terms is an indicator of your own happiness, kind-heartedness, likability and emotional stability. So if you’re inclined to talk about other people, do so from a genuinely positive perspective.

3. Complaints. Aim to limit complaining to a few minutes per day and your life will change! You’ll also have more sex. I promise.

4. Work. If work talk dominates your time spent together, you need to shift gears. This is a struggle in my marriage, so we have two strategies. We limit it to the main floor, and if one of us brings it up at night (or in the bedroom), the other responds with a sports reference (e.g., “How about those Raptors?”) as a reminder.

5. Kids. You love your kids, but you don’t want your relationship to be reduced to your roles as co-parents. Don’t let your date night conversation centre on your children! Instead, muse on your retirement plans or use an app like Hypotheticals to inspire more engaging and sometimes ridiculous dialogues.

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Jess O’Reilly is a sought-after speaker, author and sexologist. SexWithDrJess.com.

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