How to Talk to Your Partner about Sex

Written by Pamela Rogers, MS, PhD | Published on July 21, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on July 21, 2014

How to Talk to Your Partner about Sex

Sexual communication is often one of the more challenging aspects of a relationship. However, people are not always equipped with the vocabulary they need to express themselves.

There are three common roadblocks to healthy communication about sex. Often, people are have a hard time navigating formal terms and sexual slang. But you shouldn’t laugh if your partner uses a term that seems silly to you; to them, it may be the easiest way to discuss a potentially uncomfortable subject.

Negative or shameful feelings about sex may also contribute to a lack of communication. You may enjoy a more fulfilling sex life if you feel less guilty about what turns you on sexually.

A third sexual communication roadblock is fear of hurting someone else’s feelings. If a person believes that they are a good lover, they may react negatively to a critique or suggestion.

A Widespread Problem

Reluctance to discuss sex openly is not limited to sexual partners. Often, healthcare practitioners are reluctant to discuss their patients’ sexual concerns. This is viewed as an impediment to comprehensive wellness care. 

Without the tools for communication about sex, people may engage in sexual activities they don’t really enjoy. Sexual satisfaction depends on your ability to express what arouses or interests you and what doesn’t. Often people feel embarrassed about expressing their desires for fear of what their partners will think or how they’ll respond. For example, one study determined that up to a quarter of men and half of women fake orgasm on occasion. Sometimes this is an excuse to end the encounter, or a way to avoid hurting the other partner’s feelings.

People tend to assume their partners know what they like in the bedroom. Often, to please a partner, people give no feedback about their experience during sexual relations. The partner is left believing that whatever he or she has been doing is pleasing, and keeps doing it. This can result in sex that is repetitive, mundane, or boring.

Communication Is a Turn On

One of the best ways to make sexual communication easier is to take the conversation out of the bedroom. Here are some guidelines to get you started.

  • Make sure both people are ready to discuss their needs.
  • Tell your partner what you need to feel safe. This could be anything from no laughing at suggestions to a requirement that the kids be asleep.  
  • Agree on confidentiality.
  • Tell your partner about, and show appreciation for, behaviors and actions you enjoy.
  • Respect differences in sexual interests. You do not need to agree to do any particular activity, but neither should you dismiss your partner’s stated preferences out of hand.
  • Listen without interrupting.
  • Mirror what your partner is saying. This is just repeating what you heard your partner say. “I hear that you would like to try…”

You also can increase your sexual pleasure by learning how to have a conversation in the bedroom. Here are some guidelines.

As you touch your partner, ask for feedback. Each time you ask a question and do something different, wait for your partner to answer. You can also allow your partner to guide you. This way you’re able to avoid negative criticism about what you’re doing.

Finally, it is important to respect your partner’s communication and guidance. This will help build trust between you. As your sexual communication skills improve, so will the overall quality of the relationship.

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