How to Talk to Your Partner About Sex

Two people talking over coffee with only their hands visible
Published on
July 21, 2023

Sex can be an awkward conversation to have, especially if you grew up in an environment in which the topic was considered taboo or even “wrong” to discuss. Even if you were raised in a house where sex was an open topic, our culture is riddled with sex negative messaging that can make people feel really uncomfortable when it comes to talking about it.

It’s important to talk to our partners about sex for a wide variety of reasons. Some of that includes to help them better understand what works/doesn’t work for you and vice versa, to explore ways to enhance your sexual experience, to discuss safe sex methods such as birth control and STI testing, to define limitations/boundaries sexually, to help you both feel aroused, and more. Additionally, talking about sex in a way that is open, non-judgmental and curious can exponentially improve a person’s sexual experience and connection to their sexual partner(s). So while it may feel uncomfortable, having the conversation can be a way to help overall improve your sexual experience as well as that of your partner(s).

1. Consider your goals for the conversation. Are you looking to better learn about your partner’s desires or what’s pleasing to them? Do you want to help your partner understand how to better please you? Do you want to discuss the frequency with which you have sex? Getting a clear sense of what you want to talk about is an important first step to feeling more confident going into the conversation.

2. Make some bullet points for yourself of what you want to convey. You don’t need to write an essay on the conversation you wish to have, but having a few notes to help you stay on track and to refer back to if you start to feel overwhelmed can keep you grounded and on point.

3. Practice the conversation out loud. Saying certain sexual words/phrases can be uncomfortable for a lot of people. By practicing the conversation out loud, you can start to desensitize yourself to those words/phrases before sharing them with your partner.

4. Find a time to chat with your partner. This is going to look different for everyone. Some people like to give their partner a heads up and schedule the time to chat. Others want it to be less planned and more in the moment to decrease the awkwardness of it. Just know that if you don’t specifically plan it, you should think of a way to hold yourself accountable to having the conversation. That might look like telling your partner via message first that you’re looking to have a conversation about sex, it could be telling a friend so they keep you accountable, it could be scheduling a date of some sort where you both can connect/relax so you feel more comfortable/confident sharing. Whatever you do, set the intention for yourself to find a time to chat with them. Give yourself a deadline if you must!

5. Have the conversation. The easiest way to start this off is by talking about yourself. That could look like:

  • "I've been thinking about our sex lately and I noticed..."
  • "How have you been feeling about our sex lately? I'm happy to start..."
  • "Remember last week when we did _____? I loved that. I was actually thinking of other ways we could spice things up...."

6. While in the conversation, while we cannot control our partner’s reaction, we can at least control our own which will help guide future conversations. Remember not to yuck someone’s yum. Try to remain neutral and ask questions to show that you care about their interests. But importantly, validate them before asking questions. We don’t want our partner(s) to feel like we’re problem solving their sexual interests. We just want them to know we’re open to further discussion. This could look like:

  • “Thanks for sharing that - I’d love to think more about how we might incorporate that into our sex together. Is now a good time to discuss that?”
  • “Okay - I hear that’s interesting to you. What about that do you find hot?”
  • “That’s been a fantasy of mine too! What do you find most appealing about that?”
  • “I can understand that you would like to have sex more often. That feels a little challenging for me at the moment but I want to explore this further with you…”      

7. Use prompts if you feel stuck. Card Deck by Gottman is a free app with “decks” of intimacy questions. Alternatively, there are physical decks of intimacy cards you can purchase online that will give you prompts to ask one another. Sometimes this can take the pressure off and you can blame the card if there’s an awkward question

The more often you practice having these conversations, the easier they will become. If it helps, schedule them on a bi-monthly/monthly/quarterly basis so that you are accountable to checking in with one another about your sexual connection. This way you can continue to practice the skill and grow together.

If the conversation goes poorly, take a break. Sometimes stepping away and returning can help you both to reset and gain a new perspective. If it continues to feel gridlocked, consider seeking the help of a sex therapist to aid you in processing what the stuck points are and to help you both move forward.

At the end of the day, communication should allow you both to feel more confident in your sexual connection and should allow you to stay in touch with your sexual self. Though it might feel intimidating, it’s quite likely your partner is also wishing you both would talk about sex so take the leap by opening up the conversation.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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