Do you ever look at your partner and feel disconnected both physically and emotionally? We all know that building a connection takes time and effort. It also requires a willingness to open up and be vulnerable with each other.

With our lives being full of endless to-do lists, work duties, and family responsibilities, you might be wondering how you’re supposed to carve out time in your schedule to work on your relationship. We have two words for you: pillow talk.

“Pillow talk is an intimate, authentic, unguarded conversation that occurs between two lovers,” explains Alisa Ruby Bash, PsyD, LMFT.

Bash says this type of safe, loving, genuine connection and communication usually occurs in bed or while cuddling. It also may happen before or after sex with a partner, but sex doesn’t have to be part of the equation.

Allen Wagner, LMFT, who specializes in couples and relationships, says these conversations often don’t involve eye contact, which allows you to speak more unconsciously, unaware of the nonverbal cues of your partner. One of the reasons pillow talk works, he says, is because it allows for more in-depth conversations without self-censorship.

For some people, this type of conversation might occur naturally, but for others, it might be tougher to open up. We’ll give some guidance on how to get the conversation — and intimacy — flowing.

While talking dirty during foreplay and sex can lead to a heightened experience and more intimate time with your partner, it’s not the same thing as pillow talk. “Pillow talk is more emotionally intimate and vulnerable,” explains Wagner.

You’ll experience pillow talk most often before or after sex when you and your partner are relaxed and comfortable. Bash points out that the focus of pillow talk is on positive and uplifting communication that brings people closer.

“It’s much more about enhancing emotional intimacy and creating a safe environment, which can enhance sex as well,” she adds. Bash explains that when both partners feel emotionally safe, understood, and connected, sex becomes more loving, and better, in general. Although it can be sensual or based on sexuality, Bash says pillow talk doesn’t occur during sex.

Talking dirty is strictly used to enhance sexual activity and is often more explicit and sexually charged and exciting. “Talking dirty can enhance the act of sex, if and when both partners are comfortable and aroused by it,” says Bash.

If your sex life doesn’t seem like it’s happening lately, you might be wondering if pillow talk can help boost your activity in the bedroom. The short answer is yes, it can.

“Pillow talk ultimately makes both partners feel like they can put their guard down and feel closer, which increases love for each other as well as self-love,” says Bash.

Since most pillow talk happens when you’re lying down, relaxed, and cuddling, Bash says it’s common to experience an increase in oxytocin, the bonding love hormone. This hormone naturally helps two people feel close and connected and helps foster feelings of being in love.

Ultimately, says Bash, pillow talk helps stabilize a relationship. “It can be the bridge between casual sex and falling in love, since our emotional connection is ultimately what makes a couple stay together and feel in love with each other,” she adds.

But it’s not just the before-sex pillow talk that enhances a relationship: What you do and say after matters just as much, if not more. In fact, a 2014 study showed that snuggling, talking, and caressing all contribute to better sex and a higher rating of relationship satisfaction.

Still not sure what pillow talk involves? Our experts share some examples that you and your partner can use as starting points:

  • talking about what you love about each other
  • sharing dreams for the future, travel and adventure, and things you want to try as a couple
  • recalling special moments, like when you first fell in love
  • talking about fears that need comforting
  • reminding each other of your love
  • sharing positive attributes and gestures that can help your partner feel safer and more confident
  • recognizing the importance of things from your past

To get started, Wagner says that couples need to sometimes plan for these things. “As a couples counselor, I often suggest a planned conversation for 10 minutes, where you cannot talk about issues with your relationship, your job, your friends (or their relationships), kids, other family members, politics, social media, etc.,” explains Wagner.

He sees this as a time to go back to who you used to be and figure out what moved you, what fed you, and what you aspired for as a couple.

Although intimacy can be scary for some people, especially in the initial stages of a relationship, Bash says it’s the most important way we maintain long-lasting relationships. Some ways to help are to:

  • touch
  • look into each other’s eyes
  • hug
  • laugh
  • reassure the other person

Also, Bash says that revealing our own insecurities can be a great way to begin.

Even though pillow talk can do amazing things for a relationship, it’s also a good idea to have other tools to fan the flame.

  • Spend more time touching each other. Wagner says couples should be more tactile. “A conscious attempt to touch your partner can trigger emotional safety and allow for more vulnerability,” he explains.
  • No electronic devices in the bed. Smartphones and the ability to stream live 24 hours a day isn’t helping our love lives. Rather than going to bed with your phone for entertainment, why not grab your partner instead?
  • Massages can also be nice. Both experts agree that couples massage is a great way to bring you closer together.
  • Holding hands. Wagner says something as simple as holding hands can make a big difference in how you feel about each other.
  • Communicating your needs. Bash says that spending time talking about what you like or want to try sexually can help you feel closer as a couple. This includes listening to our partners and trying new things outside the bedroom as well.
  • Sharing your feelings. Creating a safe space for you and your partner to express emotions is the ultimate expression of emotional intimacy, says Bash.

Making a commitment to spend more time engaged in pillow talk with your partner can help boost your relationship, bring you closer, and create an environment that fosters intimacy. Plus, it’s something you can work on together, and the more you do it, the easier it will become.