How to Talk About Sex With Your Partner
Sex. It's a part of any romantic relationship, and learning how to talk about sex with your partner is a worthwhile endeavor.
It might be a little awkward at first, but the benefits of open, honest conversation are worth getting out of your comfort zone.
To Start, Why Is It Worth Talking About Sex With Your Partner?
Discussing sex with your partner is important for more reasons than one. Couples who have strong sexual communication typically report more satisfaction with their sex lives. It gives you space to address problems, explore desires and get to know each other on a deeper level.
Talking about sex carries over to other aspects of your relationship as well. If you're comfortable enough with each other to have a frank discussion about a touchy topic, you're likely to be more comfortable communicating openly about other tough topics as well.
In the long run, the practice of communicating both physical and emotional needs will foster a stronger sense of trust and intimacy.
Talking About Sex With Your Partner Should Start Early On
If you're comfortable enough with someone for sex to be on the table, you both should be mature enough to talk about it. Sex can mean something different to everyone. Discussing sex early on in a relationship helps to avoid any misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
It's also important to clarify the nature of your sexual relationship. Are you exclusive, or is it an open relationship or friends-with-benefits scenario? Your health and safety are top priorities, so discussing boundaries, expectations, testing and safe sex is a must. No one likes asking these uncomfortable questions, but the result of not asking can be much, much more uncomfortable.
After the basics are out of the way, continuing to discuss sex sets a precedent for direct communication and honesty — both elements that are needed for any type of sexual relationship.
So what if you've been together for years and still haven't talked about sex? It's better late than never. Try pretending you've never met. Go on a date, and get to know each other all over again. Ask questions you haven't thought of asking in years.
You might be surprised at the answers, and rediscovering your partner on a deeper level is more fun than you might expect.
Which Topics Should Be Up for Discussion?
Beyond the basics, nothing should be off the table when it comes to talking about sex with your partner. Possible topics could be:
- Making more time for intimacy
- A need for more quality time or more affection
- Family planning
- Changes in libido over time
- Wanting to spice things up
- What's working and what's not
Like we said, nothing is off the table. If there's something on your mind, share it with the class. The class being your significant other, of course.
Approach the Subject Gently
While you should always feel comfortable sharing your feelings and needs with your partner, there's a time and a place for everything. Don't wait until an issue has been bugging you for months before dropping a bomb on them.
Part of what makes sex such a special experience is that it's such a vulnerable one. That also, however, means that discussions about it, particularly ones about frustrations or problems, should be treated delicately.
Save the conversation for the right time, and start with some positive feedback before jumping into what you'd like to change.
Set Aside Time to Talk Outside the Bedroom
Talking about certain topics right before or after doing the deed makes sense. Sharing fantasies can add to the mood, and your partner is likely to be more receptive to new ideas when they're already turned on. It also might be easier to open up about your desires with fewer feelings of shame. Which shouldn't be there in the first place, we might add.
For most other sexual discussions, however, it's better to talk about it when you're not already in an emotionally vulnerable space. Find a time in a neutral location, like sharing dinner at home or somewhere else private and comfortable, to bring up the topic.
If it's about a sex-related problem, give them a heads-up beforehand.
As Hard as It Is, Don’t Be Shy and Get Specific
If you're not comfortable being straightforward about your own likes and dislikes in bed, you're not alone. Only about half of people interviewed in a study by Dr. Justin J. Lehmiller, as discussed in detail his book "Tell Me What You Want," had shared their fantasies with their partner.
You might feel like your fantasies are out there, but considering 97 percent of fantasies fall into one of seven common categories, odds are good that they're totally normal. Opening up about fantasies builds a sense of connection with your partner. Imagine how it would feel if you knew you could tell your significant other anything and know that they won't judge you in the slightest. If you're with the right person, that's how sharing your desires can feel.
It's also important to communicate your likes and dislikes before, during and after sex. Ladies, the days of faking O's are behind us. Tell them what works for you. If you don't know, take some time to figure it out. We'll leave the logistics of that to your imagination.
Keep 'The Talk' Positive
If you have a long list of constructive criticism you've been holding back, don't worry. You'll have time to share it. The way in which you share it, however, makes a huge difference.
Try using "we" instead of "you." For example, say, "I would love it if we could spend more time together. That really helps me feel connected to you and feel like initiating more often." That feels so much better than, "Why would I be in the mood when you never spend any time with me?"
You can still air your grievances, just in a way that supports your partner and your connection with them rather than one that tears them down. Don't forget to share positive feedback, too.
For every request, share something they already do well to make them feel appreciated and wanted.
Have Fun Together
Like we said, talking about sex with your partner isn't just about sex. It's about the connection between the two of you. Try new activities together, whether it's a new restaurant or bar, a new sport or something really out there. Did you know axe throwing is a thing now? Give it a go.
Keeping your relationship playful and fun will get your mind off any "problems" and remind you why you're together in the first place. Presumably, because you love who they are.
What could be more of a turn-on than that?
If You Remember Only One Thing, Remember to Listen
Talking about sex requires being vulnerable. If you've ever shared an embarrassing confession or opened up about something personal, you know that heart racing, hold-your-breath feeling of anxiety as you wait for the other person to respond. When you're on the receiving end of that, consider it a privilege and respond with care.
Even in lighter conversations about sex, make an effort to listen more than you speak. It's tough not to react emotionally, but try to put your emotional responses on pause while you ask your partner, "Tell me more." Take time to adjust and accept what they're saying, because in a relationship, your perception isn't the only one that matters.
Plus, when your partner feels heard, they're more likely to listen to you in return. It's a win-win, creating a healthy back-and-forth dialogue in which both of you get your needs and wants met, and everyone feels comfortable talking about intimate topics. Even the uncomfortable ones.
If There Are Deeper Issues Coming Between You and Your Partner, Consider the T Word
Yes, we said it. If something between you and your partner isn't clicking, either in the bedroom or elsewhere, consider trying couples therapy.
Therapy can help identify deep-rooted causes of more complex relationship issues, including some you might not even be aware of. Sex therapy is also an option, and it's not nearly as racy as it sounds. It's a form of counseling that helps couples to get past sexual challenges, and the homework is way more fun than the kind you were assigned in college.
The bottom line is that sex is a very personal, intimate experience, which makes communication around it all the more important. Don't be afraid to lay it all out there with your partner. Verbally, that is.
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