Tell-Alls and Say-Nothings: Differences in Sexual Communication Styles | Guest Post by Isadora Alman

This is a guest blog post on the theme of enhancing relationships, to celebrate the launch of Keely Kolmes’s upcoming monthly Relationship Skills Workshop. The first workshop will meet on Saturday, April 11th. The second one, just for singles, is May 16th. You can sign up here for newsletter updates. Those who receive the newsletter will get bonus videos and tips!

Tell-Alls and Say-Nothings: Differences in Sexual Communication Styles

Every time James’ wife came home from her Book Club, faced flushed and happy from the walk, her husband questioned her about what lover she was with and the details of her assignation.  James was 85 and his wife a pretty and youthful 74.  Theirs had been a monogamous union for more than 25 years and he would have sworn to her fidelity.

Nonetheless, he was eager to hear about her sexual adventures, real or imagined.

Whenever Lila’s wife returned home in the evening she was greeted with a perfunctory kiss and a rather cold “I hope you had a nice time.” Lila and her wife had an open relationship and her wife had, in fact, been meeting her other lover.  Their agreement was no overnights and no sharing of details whatsoever.  Each woman demanded and received her privacy.

James was a Tell-All, even if all there was to tell was a fantasy or a long ago memory. Lila was a Say-Nothing, with no asking, telling or sharing of sexual outside events.

These classifications are the result of a small study I did years ago into the agreements couples make about sex outside their relationship for my Master’s Thesis. I’m sure you have encountered people like this.

As long as all people in a relationship have the same communication style – wanting to share and hear about sexual events or fantasies or keeping one’s mouth shut about such things – there is unlikely to be a problem.  If one wants to talk about them and the other not to hear or even know, there is likely to be discontent or even blow-ups. Identifying these styles won’t solve the disparity but it does help to know that each has an individual preference. Acknowledge this, and work on setting boundaries around this issue. If you need help, a psychotherapist with experience working with open relationships may be able to assist you.

ISADORA ALMAN is a California licensed MFT, a Board certified sexologist,  and author of several books including Doing It.  Her syndicated sex and relationship column Ask Isadora ran in alternative weekly papers worldwide for more than 20 years. Web surfers can find her on Psychology Today Online or her online or her free interactive Sexuality Forum at  She conducts her private psychotherapy practice in Alameda.

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