Let’s be clear: people who enjoy a thriving, satisfying, fulfilling sex life — talk about sex ongoingly.
It’s not about asking the dreaded “was it as good for you as it was for me?”.
It’s an approach in which talking about sex is fully on the table. It’s normal, it’s expected, it’s vital for the health of the relationship.
But for many people, talking about sex is a no-go zone.
I remember the days that I felt uncomfortable: back then, talking about sex made me feel nervous to the degree that I pretty much avoided it altogether.
And even when I did summon enough courage to bring the topic of sex up, the conversation itself was yuck. On top of feeling bad during the conversation, it actually didn’t make much of a difference. And my partner and I had a lousy sex life, to say the least.
A few years ago, when hosting the Women’s Sexuality Online Conference, I asked one of the speakers, an acclaimed relationship and sex therapist, how to bring up the topic of sex with a partner.
Her response showed me she had no clue why it would be difficult.
In her world, people talk about sex in the same way they talk about their weekend plans.
Over time I came to realize that for some people, the topic of sex is a complete non-issue. While for others, it’s almost incomprehensible that sex can be talked about in an open, mature, loving way.
And there’s not much in between: people either talk about sex easily or they hardly ever talk about sex at all.
So if you feel uncomfortable talking about sex, but you want to overcome this hurdle because you recognize how important it is, here are a few principles to get you from point A) which is feeling uncomfortable to bring the topic up to the degree that you avoid and ignore it to point B) which is simply talking about sex with no apprehension.
Before we get to the “how” bits, I want to make something clear.
Being able to openly, maturely, boldly discuss the topic of sex does not guarantee that you will get what you want from your partner.
However, being able to openly, maturely, boldly discuss the topic of sex will serve two things: first, you will know for a fact how your partner feels about what you want (as opposed to guessing and hoping).
Second, becoming more open, mature, and bold when talking about sex will accelerate your sexual growth, both yours and your partner’s. The more you practice talking about sex, the more open, mature, and bold you become in your sex life generally. Gradually, wishes that seemed too far-fetched to ask or to consider, start to look reasonable and even attractive. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll come closer to each other on the sex front.
And if you don’t come closer sexually? Then at least you know where you stand.
At least things are out in the open, which is a better place for them than under the rug.
Principles to keep in mind before talking about sex for the first time.
There are a few principles that are important to understand when only starting to talk about sex.
Only one request at a time:
Don’t bombard your partner with every single thing that’s on your mind.
Decide in advance which thing it is you want to bring up at this specific conversation and don’t diverge.
They have a better chance to remember what it is that you talked about if you make it simple for them. Please remember that the conversation is not easy for them, too, so keep it at one request.
Oh, and make sure your request is actually a request — not a deal-breaker demand. Let them know what you want (it really helps if you can explain how it would make you feel if they’ll respond positively) and always remember that they have the right to refuse.
There are a few things you need to accept.
You need to accept that talking about sex openly is new to you. That you’re probably nervous. And that your partner is probably nervous, too.
The conversation is not going to be comfortable to start with.
But, the entire idea is to make sex a topic that you talk about ongoingly. This means that even if the first conversation goes bad, you’ll have another go. And another one. Eventually, talking about sex will become easy.
Accept that it won’t be perfect to start with. Accept that you might even fail miserably, and maybe more than once.
And since you accept it, it’s better if you allow yourself to be fully vulnerable with your partner. Let them know you’re nervous and that you might stuff it up. Accept that your partner’s reaction might not be ideal, and it might not be the reaction you are hoping for.
The only thing you shouldn’t accept is a partner that is repeatedly unwilling to even try.
If your partner’s reaction is disrespectful (which might be the case if they are super nervous!) and they are blind to it even after you point it to them — this is unacceptable. If this is the case, you either need to leave or at least seek professional help as a couple.
It’s a good idea to come to any conversation with your partner that might be charged, with appreciation in your heart and mind.
Think of all the good things that your partner does, in bed and outside of bed. The more the merrier.
If appreciation is your baseline, you will be more gentle and loving as a result. Your partner will feel it and will respond from a space of being appreciated as opposed to from a space of feeling under attack.
The entire conversation will be more like a team finding a solution, and not so much like a trial with an accused and a prosecutor.
And since you are already appreciating your partner in your heart, why don’t you also let them know?
I love the “feedback sandwich” approach: you start with a genuine compliment, continue with a request, then move on to another genuine compliment.
Another approach that helps your partner feel appreciated is keeping the 5:1 ratio. Dr. John Gottman observed that happily married couples maintained a ratio of 5 positive cues to one negative cue during conflict. Positive cues could be non-verbal and simple, such as looking into your partner’s eyes, touching them gently, or even just smiling. Something for you to remember when having a potentially nerve-racking conversation.
I promise you that one day talking about sex will be easy and fun and won’t require a second thought. Until that day comes, though, you should schedule your sex talk with your partner.
In fact, I would recommend you schedule any conversation that is likely to be difficult with your partner. Make sure to schedule it for when you both have enough time and head-space to conduct such a conversation.
Don’t #1: Don’t have any difficult conversations when you’re in the car! You both need to be able to sit facing each other. The peripheral vision is wired for detecting danger, and can even trigger an automatic alert response.
When you’re driving and can only see the person in the passenger’s seat from the corner of your eye, they can be conceived as a threat. I hope I don’t need to explain why this is not good.
Don’t #2: Don’t start a major conversation about sex while having sex. Or just before you’re about to have sex.
Sure, if there’s something urgent you need to tell your partner (say, if you need them to stop doing something they do), say it immediately. But do not evolve this into a full-blown serious conversation.
This last don’t only applies during those stages in which talking about sex is a daunting task. Later on, when talking about sex becomes natural and easy and fun, then talking about sex while having sex can simply add to that fun.
Make it fun:
Easier said than done, right?
How can you make such an excruciating topic for conversation fun?
There are actually a number of ways.
- Adding a physical element to the conversation.
This could be done by physically demonstrating to your partner what you want them to do and how, but it could also be done just by playing a silly rough game just prior to your conversation. Or play catch with a ball. These physical movements elevate your mood, make you feel a bit less serious, and distract you from feeling so awfully embarrassed.
- Playing a role.
Pretend that you are already a super-confident person that talks about sex all the time. And take it to the max: dress up, use a different accent, a different tone of voice. This way you will feel a bit more playful and a lot less stressed. Plus, it’s a great reminder that this confident person you are pretending to be — is actually already a part of who you are. You just need a bit of practice to let them out into the open.
- Create a different ambiance.
You can have an awkward conversation in a relaxing atmosphere to set a calmer tone. How about doing it in the bubble bath? Or maybe just put some incense or add a few candles to the room you’re sitting in?
- Just add a smile!
No matter how uncomfortable the conversation gets, adding a smile makes a huge difference to how you feel and how your partner feels.
So much effort just to talk about sex?
Yes and no.
Starting this conversation might be tremendously confronting, but it’s worth it.
This is not a one-off conversation we are getting ready for.
It is a transformation of our entire sex life.
This is the first step into a realm in which sex is something to relish and cherish.
It’s an investment that will pay off in the years to come, when sex is a topic you look forward to talking about, as it enhances your sex life and makes it even more delicious, precious, and outstanding.