The Power of Pillow Talk

Fluff up your communication and intimacy with this critical end-of-day practice.

In a painfully unscientific study on how my previous significant others have behaved before bed, let’s just say the setting has been far from communication-friendly: I’ve survived instant body twitching, waiting for hour-long primping, immediate freight-train snoring or the pungent whiff of heavy intoxication.

My current squeeze and I, though, have made a promise to toast the mystery-laden universe of sleepyland with pillow talk – known as quiet talking before bed, after sex, or both – a practice, say experts, that can bring lovebirds together and make a difference in how a day’s debriefing shapes your shut-eye.

Among those experts is
Dr. Scott Conkright, who has been providing psychotherapy services for more than 15 years and has served as president of Atlanta Group Psychotherapy Society. He says couples that have trouble dedicating time to communication at any time, let alone just before bed, should focus their communication on each other.

“How do you find time for each other that’s dedicated to the task of intimacy? Pillow talk is a great way to do that.” He says. “It’s about saying to each other, ‘The time now is not about watching TV; not about whether we should get the roof redone; or any of those sorts of things. I want to know what’s going on with you, what you’re feeling, what your week’s been like.’ You want to know let each other know what you’ve been thinking about.”

Conkright says men in particular – of all persuasions, gay or straight – tend to shy away from naming their feelings.

“Gay couples are not that much different than straight couples,” he says, adding that men are often the great offenders. “Most guys do not learn that the ritual of communication needs to be there. And for two guys in a relationship, they can both have busy careers and sometimes use it as an excuse for not connecting. Even the most sophisticated, highly educated guys who come into my practice have an incredibly small vocabulary for their emotional life. They have only a handful of words, and 90 percent of the time they’re not even sure if it feels good or bad unless it’s on the scale of really, really bad or really, really good.”

That very well may be changing, though, particularly if you look at where we’ve come in the past few generations. If we are in a shift in the way we discuss and dissect feelings and relationships (with
EquallyWed as a product of evolving attitudes) just look at the way “Pillow Talk,” the feature film starring Rock Hudson and Doris Day, was promoted as “the most sparkling sexcapade that ever winked at convention,” and, “it’s what goes on when the lights go off.”

By today’s standards – where Lindsay falls out of limos and
Britney flashes her hoo-hoo to the tabloids – it seems positively puritanical. The film was made in an era when a frank, literal interpretation of the concept of “Pillow Talk,” wasn’t viable; most of it takes place with both lead characters talking coyly, spinning the twisted cords of rotary-dial telephones. The movie also has become an odd precursor to Hudson’s revelation that he is gay, complete with him pretending to be gay while playing a skirt-chasing straight man while secretly leading a gay personal life.

You might need a scorecard for that one. If our society has moved leaps and bounds beyond “winking at convention” – which seems so “Little House on the Prairie” – our interpersonal customs, including pillow talk, should catch up. Conkright says all couples of all stripes should make best efforts to exclude distractions.

“Turn the damn Blackberry and TV off,” he says. “From say 8:00 to 10:00 p.m., there needs to be no electronic gear on – no iPhones or getting online.”

That’s certainly a tall order in my household, but one to which we can all aspire. A casual kiss, a TV shut-off, a pull of the shades, a sleeping-position adjustment, and… a debriefing from the day. Try out some of these practices and discover the softer side of communication.

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