If you are immediately met with anxiety at the thought of talking to a partner or spouse about sex it is okay, take a few deep breaths and remind yourself that sex is not a bad word and wanting to improve your sex life does not make you a bad person.
Talking about sex with a partner can be scary and sometimes uncomfortable. However, as humans we are constantly changing, growing and learning about ourselves thus it would stand to reason that our sexual wants and desires would also change and evolve. Fostering a safe and open dialogue about sex in our relationships can increase the longevity and overall satisfaction in a relationship.
For many people sex is an important part of their relationship, however it can be the most difficult topic to talk about. This can because because of the emotions wrapped up in sex, attachment styles, the beliefs and values a person is taught in their up bringing related to sex, a persons own self worth and ego development, desire discrepancies amongst partners, trauma, and more.
For the purposes of this article we are going to be taking a how to approach with moments for you to ponder questions and explore. If at any point you notice yourself becoming triggered or experiencing an uncomfortable emotion, this may be a talking point for you to bring to a therapist or even your partner if it feels like the sharing of the emotion or trigger would be helpful. It is also important to note that the topics related to sex are vast and if the language or situation you are wanting talk about is not in this blog post it does not mean that it does not belong or is lesser than.
- Identifying your preferences. Take a moment to reflect back on and journal about your most enjoyable sexual encounter and a not so great sexual encounter; including the context of the sexual encounter, what turned you on/off, emotional state, current life stress level, location, etc. (these encounters can be with any past or present partner). Reflect on why the enjoyable sexual encounter was enjoyable, where you in a new or familiar environment, did you go to dinner before hand, play a game or talk that allowed you to connect emotionally, was there more foreplay?
- Getting Specific. It is important that you know what it is you are wanting to talk about with your partner. Take a moment to think about or journal what about sex you are wanting to talk about. Use your journaling from step one to help you find the important points to bring forward in your conversation with your partner.
Try to get as specific as possible here. Do you want the frequency of sex to change? Did you happen upon a toy you would like to try? Is there a fantasy you would like to explore? Has something happened in your own life that has changed they way you experience sex? Are you able to orgasm during solo sex but not during partnered sex? Is there something your partner is repeatedly doing that turns you off or make you adverse to engaging is sexual activity? And the list goes on.
- Practice. Once you feel confident in the topics or concerns you would like to share with your partner it is time to practice. I know it sounds silly but hearing how the words sound coming out of our own mouth once or twice can help us stay more grounded and regulated when having nerve racking conversations. Practice using “I statements” and speaking from your own experience. Try to avoid making assumptions about your partner’s experience or emotional state. Use descriptive language of the situation rather than “you statements” or accusatory language. Below are some examples to spark some ideas if you have not idea how to start the conversation; adjust your language as needed.
Structure: I have been feeling (emotion/feeling), because of (describe the situation). I need/would like to (state need or desire*).
Examples: I have been really stressed lately which has been affecting my ability to enjoy sex. When comments are made about my lack of excitement or desire for sex I find myself even more turned off. It would helpful if you could give me some time to get excited about sex and help with dinner so that I have more time to decompress from my day.
I have been enjoying our sex life but I would like to explore the use of different toys with you. I find that I enjoy (insert preferred sensation or stimulation here) and I think the use of a toy could make this more enjoyable or amplify the sensation. Would you be open to exploring the use of more toys with me?
*Use a positive need rather than a negative, something your partner can do to help you instead of telling them what not to do
- Setting up your Space. In general, it would be best to find a time when everyone’s stress levels are at their lowest. Most people are not able to take in new information when they are in a state of hyperarousal or agitated after a stressful day. Additionally, make sure you are in a comfortable, neutral space. If you have a space that you typically come together in after a long day or place you have conversations (ie, the couch, or the kitchen table, floor cushions) this could be a time to use that space. Have other items of comfort like a beverage (ie. water or tea) to sip on if you need to re-ground or take a pause. No not all of this is necessary but it can help ease nerves and set your conversation up for success but eliminating as many outside stressors as possible.
- Share with your partner. Take deep breaths, go slow, and talk with your partner. Set an intention for yourself so that you take that energy into the conversation with you. For example, go in with the intention of care, sharing, growth, or any word that feels meaningful to you.
- Following up. Yes, following up because this is not an easy one and done conversation. This is a continued conversation about sharing wants and needs as they relate to sex and anything that influences your sexual desire. Make a plan with your partner to have follow up conversations about the adjustments you are making to improve you sex life. Remember that our bodies are going to keep changing thus our sexual needs will continue to change and that is perfectly normal.
Below are some of my favorite (therapist and client approved) books, games, and more for helping you and your partner continue to get to know each other on a deeper level. The card games below can be a fun way to continue conversations about sex or even be used for date night. Don’t be afraid to also seek out a couples or sex therapist to help you and your partner to gain further understanding of your relationship and sex needs. Happy exploring!
13 week Couples Journal
Ideal for couples who want to grow their love and become better partners
Games to increase understanding, spark meaningful conversation, and increase connection
Intimacy After Dark
Books to gian a deeper understanding
Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life
She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman by Ian Kener
Carnal Knowledge: Sex Education You Didn’t Get in School by Zoë Ligon
Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Ester Perel
Paired (to gain a deeper understanding of each other in general)
Coral (more specific to sex and intimacy)