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How to Talk to Your Partner About Sex

Let’s face it: talking to your partner about sex can sometimes feel liberating–  and other times it can feel really awkward and uncomfortable. Sex is not an easy subject to navigate, which is why talking about sex with our partners can seem downright daunting.

Fortunately, communication isn’t necessarily all about talking. Non-verbal cues like moving your body or your partner’s hand when certain touches begin to feel uncomfortable is a good way to start communicating your sexual boundaries and desires. Non-verbal communication, however, is not a substitute for clear and concise communication about what you like, what you don’t and everything in between. 

Plan, plan, plan

But before you spark the conversation, you must plan! It’s best to schedule time to talk with your partner about your sexual desires and preferences before you’re ready to get intimate. Ideally, this conversation takes place outside of the bedroom in a non-sexual environment. While it’s true that talking about sexual desires and preferences with your partner can be a huge turn-on, the heat of the moment could make you both less inclined to be open and honest with each other as well. 

Set your intentions for the conversation and make sure you both are on the same page. Failing to inform your partner of your intentions for the conversation in advance can also make your partner feel vulnerable and cause them to resist the conversation altogether.  

Take it one thing at a time

Another mistake to avoid is trying to address all of your sexual concerns, desires and preferences with your partner at once– all in the same conversation. Talk about feeling overwhelmed! It’s important to take things slow and start with one talk at a time. For example, if you want your partner to take more initiative in the bedroom but you’d also like to introduce sex toys to spice things up a bit, don’t try to have both of these conversations at once. Stick to one topic per conversation. Using the scenario above, I’d recommend having two separate conversations with your partner. Those conversations could possibly look like this:

The first conversation could be about how aroused you felt the last time your partner took initiative in the bedroom and during this conversation, you could encourage them to do that more regularly. The second conversation should be a separate conversation (at a later date) and it could be about a new toy you found online that you both could use to bring increased pleasure in the bedroom. 

Keep it positive

Notice that both suggested conversations above, end with potential solutions to the concerns at hand. Dissatisfaction is a lot easier to swallow when remedies and solutions are readily available. If you have a complaint that you’d like to raise with your partner, also think about a few solutions you could suggest. For example, if you’re concerned because your partner suffers from erectile dysfunction, possible solutions to suggest could include scheduling an appointment with a doctor or urologist, taking medication, or being more thoughtful and intentional about foreplay.

If you’re fearful that your suggestions for improvement may not go over well with your partner, try using the “compliment sandwich” method. Give your partner a sincere compliment then tell them about one area that could use improvement. Follow that statement up with another sincere compliment or affirmation of your love for them. That’s what I call the “compliment sandwich,’ and it’s really useful in helping to keep the conversation positive, relevant and blame-free.

So how do you get the conversation started?

If you’re in need of motivation and guidance for talking to your partner, here are three methods I’ve found useful when working with women focused on increasing intimate communication: 

  1. Yes/No/Maybe Worksheets
    It may be easier for you and your partner to communicate your desires and preferences using a “yes, no, maybe” framework. That’s where Yes/No/Maybe lists come in. A Yes/No/Maybe worksheet lists a variety of sexual acts that are then marked with a Y for “yes,” N for “no” and M for “maybe” to indicate your interest in participating in that particular activity. A good Y/N/M worksheet will include options for giving and receiving, plus an area for specific comments, notes or strong reactions. I suggest each partner complete a Yes/No/Maybe list like this one alone first. Then schedule time (perhaps over dinner) to share your lists with each other and discuss.

  2. Spoiling Sessions: Another way for you and your partner to learn more about each other’s pleasure preferences, is to schedule designated “spoiling sessions.” A spoiling session is a finite period of time that you and your partner set aside to devote yourselves completely to pleasing each other. For each spoiling session, one partner will assume the role of the Spoiler and the other will assume the role of the Spoiled. 

    These sessions don’t have to lead to or even involve sex. You could start by scheduling a 10-minute session that is limited to how you like to be held, touched or kissed, and gradually progress from there. It is imperative that the spoiled partner consistently and clearly communicates their desires during these sessions.

  3. Watch Steamy Flicks Together
    Watching romantic moments, erotic scenes, and even pornography together can help begin the conversation about sexual desires and preferences. If there’s something new you’d like to try, watch a movie that features that activity. This will help you get a better understanding of your partner’s current perspective and could give you a boost in starting the conversation.

Know it’s a journey

Regardless of how you start the conversation, it’s important to have an open mind and avoid judgement of your partner or yourself. Creating an emotional space in which you and your partner feel safe opening up, being vulnerable, and expressing yourselves honestly, is key. 

Remember, sexual pleasure is a journey not a destination. Talking about sex shouldn’t be a one-time conversation. Your body, likes, desires and fantasies will change over time. This is completely normal and should be expected. What’s essential to a thriving sexual partnership is the ability to communicate safely, clearly and often.

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