Sex. It can be euphoric, awkward, empowering, intimate, shallow, life-changing, and so much more. Sex is a unique experience with each partner, but when you start going steady, the dynamic can change. Whether it’s with an intimate friend, casual relationship, or your person, eventually your sexual interests and appetites will change.
This can leave you needing more (or less) sex than you’re having. You may not want to disappoint a partner with a higher sex drive; on the other hand, you never want to pressure your partner into sex if they aren’t feeling into it. So how do you meet your needs and keep a healthy sex life? By actually talking about it.
For some of us, talking is easy. For others, it can feel more vulnerable than getting naked with someone. Either way, couples who talk about sex openly end up feeling more comfortable with each other, ultimately improving their sex lives and their relationship overall.
Why talk about sex? Dissatisfaction doesn’t go away over time. In most cases, it festers and worsens, meaning your mild sexual hang-ups can turn into fights, emotional distance, or even an eventual breakup.
But you shouldn’t talk to your partner about sex because you’re afraid of what might happen if you don’t. Instead, you should talk to them about sex because it’s been shown to increase relationship satisfaction, and you both deserve the best relationship you can have.
More than half of women want to have a conversation about sex but choose not to because they’re embarrassed, uncomfortable with the details, or don’t want to hurt their partner’s feelings. According to one study, approximately two-thirds of women in lesbian and hetero relationships said that they initiated emotion work to minimize boundaries between partners. Compared with men in same-sex relationships, lesbian couples view emotional intimacy with great importance and are considerate as to how it contributes to positive sexual interactions.
Sex talks build intimacy and trust, but they aren’t always easy to initiate. So how should we talk about sex? We’ve got you covered.
Avoid Comparing Your Relationship To Others
First off, it’s important to remember that your relationship isn’t the same as anyone else’s. You’re not the same as your family, friends, the sickeningly all-too-perfect couple down the hall, or anyone else.
So never compare your relationship to others. What you and your partner(s) have is special and unique, and what works for you might not work for everyone. Instead, focus on the aspects of your sex life that you want to change.
Find The Right Place & Time
Like any conversation, there are right and wrong times to discuss sex. For instance, dropping the bombshell right before you go to bed likely won’t lead to a very productive conversation. Some people find it’s best to have the talk after sex, while others find that it can be more embarrassing and difficult to open up when they’re half naked and vulnerable.
It’s best to find a time when you won’t be distracted, stressed, or busy. For example, you can plan to talk about it on a Saturday morning over coffee or go for an afternoon walk somewhere you can talk privately. Both of you need to be attentive and fully engaged with each other if it’s going to be productive.
Make A Plan
Some people are great digital communicators, and the sex talk can feel safer behind a screen. If you or your partner don’t like to communicate over text, plan to talk in person.
Try not to make it anxiety-inducing – don’t just say, “we need to talk,” as that can be terrifying. Instead, let them know that nothing is wrong and you simply want to find a time to talk about sex together. This gives both of you time to think about what you want to say and how you want to say it.
Feel free to start the conversation with a question. Asking your partner how they feel about how often you have sex can change your perspective. You might be having more sex than you want because they believe that you want it, or less sex because they feel you aren’t interested.
Regardless, you need to hear and empathize with them if you want to reach a solution that satisfies both of you.
Keep The Conversation Comfortable
Use the special aspects of your personalities and relationship to facilitate the talk. For example, a friend of mine – let’s call her Stella – said she was able to overcome the awkwardness with a game. She and her partner would lay in bed with Icees and give themselves brain freeze whenever there was an awkward silence. It was adorable and quirky, making the situation less intimidating for both.
If you need an icebreaker or an incentive, take something you both enjoy and embed it in the conversation. A good example is granting your partner’s request, like getting their favorite drink or watching a movie they choose for every piece of information they share and vice versa.
Validate Each Other’s Feelings
On the other hand, be careful with humor. Many of us use jokes to lighten the mood and distract ourselves from serious topics. This can be a great way to help you and your partner open up, but never make a joke out of what they say. Sex is a vulnerable topic, and turning their words into a joke can make them feel invalid and uncomfortable sharing with you.
If your partner opens up about how often she wants to have sex, acknowledge her feelings by saying something like, “I appreciate that you feel comfortable enough to share this with me.” If you assumed wrong about how your partner feels, don’t be afraid to admit your mistake. “I’m sorry that I misunderstood. I should have listened more carefully when you told me how you felt.”
In the end, what matters is that you understand and validate each other’s feelings and that you and your partner(s) do it on your terms.
What Comes After The Talk?
All right, so we’ve covered how to have the talk. But where do you go from there? Whatever you and your partner decide will depend on your own personalities and needs.
For some of us, this means spicing things up in the bedroom with sex toys or trying out new kinks. Others might need to put more effort into passionate foreplay or start setting aside dedicated time for sex in their busy lives. It might sound tacky, but it’s absolutely okay to schedule sex with your partner. Set aside weekly time for each other – just like many of us do with date nights or our favorite shows – and keep that time for intimacy.
Others might find that there are interpersonal issues or emotions that are affecting their intimacy; if this is the case for you, you’ll need to talk through those as well. Sometimes this means seeking help from a professional or working on issues that seem unrelated to sex.
But if you or your partner want different amounts of sex, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with either of you. It’s normal and healthy for our sex drives to shift throughout our lives – the important thing is that we communicate with our partners and respect each other’s needs and boundaries.
A healthy sex life is attainable for everyone; we just have to talk about it.