Empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another” (thanks, Google!), so sexual empathy would be understanding and sharing the sexual feelings of another, particularly your spouse. Yes, you can certainly do that to great effect outside the bedroom, but what about inside the bedroom? What if during a sexual encounter, you simply asked yourself this question: If I were my spouse, what would I want to see, hear, know, feel?
That question might alter your approach just enough to improve the experience for both of you!
What Would S/he Want to See?
What you each want to see during lovemaking can differ according to gender, personality, current struggles or desires, or any number of factors. So, consider your own spouse: What sights would appeal to him or her?
Wives, you may want to wear lingerie he likes or his button-down shirt with no buttons fastened. You could position yourself in bed so that your shape or erotic zones are inviting to him. You could simply turn up the lights, so that your hubby can actually see you and what’s happening. You may even be worried about what you look like during orgasm, when it’s actually an exciting sight for him (see Forget What You Look Like While Making Love).
Husbands, you may have a wife who wants a romantic setting, so you could dim the lights or use candles. She may be visually inclined, but in a different way—enjoying the view of your muscular arms or soulful eyes. She may want to be face-to-face during at least some of the lovemaking, to remind her of the binding intimacy of this act.
What Would S/he Want to Hear?
What do you hear when you’re having sex? What would your spouse want to hear? One interesting study suggests that sexual satisfaction increases when couples engage in verbal and nonverbal communication during lovemaking (see 4 Research-Based Tips for Better Sex). But it’s good to know exactly what kind of verbal and/or nonverbal communication appeals to your beloved.
Husbands, many wives want to hear reassurance that they are beautiful, desired as a whole person, and that the sex itself is about intimacy. They may also want to hear words of arousal, excitement, and sensuality—though usually more flirty than dirty. And a fair number of wives enjoy having music on during lovemaking and/or using a white noise machine so the kids won’t hear exactly what’s happening.
Wives, guys want reassurance too, especially that you desire your husband, appreciate his body, and enjoy the sexual experience. Many husbands also say they want their wives to let go and make some noise. In fact, one study suggested that men climax more easily when their sexual partner moans, groans, shrieks, etc. You shouldn’t fake that, of course, but be willing to express yourself, knowing that’s something he likes to hear.
What Would S/he Want to Know?
“What would my spouse want to know?” may seem a little vague, but it’s an important aspect. Think about what struggles you or your spouse have had regarding sex and the underlying issue, and then speak to that. For instance, does your extensive premarital sex background make her wonder if you’re comparing? Let her know you only have eyes for her. Has your lack of interest in the past made him wonder if you really want to engage in lovemaking? Let him know you want to be there.
Husbands and wives, what your spouse wants to know is specific to your situation, your background, your personality, your spiritual walk, and much more. Perhaps the best place to start is to simply ask your beloved what would make them feel safe and loved during sex.
Or you could pull out two sheets of paper, two pens or pencils, and complete the assignment for each of you to finish this question with as many answers as you can come up with: If I knew that ______, I would want and/or enjoy sex more. Then discuss your answers—calmly and respectfully—with the goal of determining how you can help your spouse know, deeply know, what they need to engage in healthy, hot, and holy sex.
What Would S/he Want to Feel?
As designed by God, sex is a feel-good experience. Husband and wife get to touch, kiss, caress, arouse, and satisfy one another in ways that may be best described as ooh la la. But that only works if you actually enjoy the sensations you’re getting.
And even if you and your spouse do enjoy them, could you increase pleasure by asking what your mate wants to feel?
Husbands, given that women have thinner skin (literally, not figuratively!), women tend to like a lighter touch, especially at the beginning of lovemaking. They also typically prefer an outer-to-inner approach; that is, starting with head, neck, hands, legs and working your way in to the breasts and vulva. Even then, an outer-to-inner path from the exterior of her vulva and eventually to her clitoris and vagina is often appreciated.
Wives, not surprisingly, men with their thicker skin (literally, not figuratively!) tend to like a firmer touch. While they also enjoy kissing and tenderness, they are often ready for you to touch their penis and/or testicles much sooner than you’d want your husband in that same area on your body. If you’re willing, you might also want to kiss or lick the head, shaft, or frenulum of his penis (see What Does He Mean by “Oral Sex”? (It May Not Be What You Think)). And many husbands enjoy having their perineum (the area between the scrotum and anus) stroked (see Making the Most of His Manhood).
What Do You Want to Do?
After all of that, you may answer “What do you want to do?” with “Have sex with my spouse!” But what I mean by that question is that you, as a couple, need to figure out what you want to do to make the sexual experience wonderful for both of you.
Now, none of this means that one spouse is regularly catered to over the other. Rather, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). Showing sexual empathy—putting yourself in your spouse’s place and providing what they want to see, hear, know, and/or feel—can power up your lovemaking.
Talk about it, take action, and make such actions a habit.