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It’s been said time and time again: communication is key for relationships to work. But while talking about your feelings or coming to a compromise may not be too much trouble for you, sometimes being open about sex with your significant other is way easier said than done.
“Nothing makes opening up harder than fearing rejection, ridicule or repulsion,” Dr. Laura Deitsch, Vibrant’s resident sexologist, tells Bustle. “Our culture has drilled into our heads what is acceptable and what is deviant and we haven’t created a lot of space to bridge that gap.”
Unfortunately, we live in a culture that still shames having sex for pleasure. As Sunny Rodgers, a clinical sexologist and certified sex coach tells Bustle, that’s created fear over sexual communication in relationships.
“Clients I speak with have shared with me that they don’t want their partners to judge them for their sexual desires in case their partner thinks their request is strange or out of character,” Rodgers says. “A few others feel intimidated about sex in general and can’t fathom discussing it with their partners. People will avoid talking to their partners about what they want in bed because they fear embarrassment and/or rejection.”
But while we may have those fears around sexual communication, research shows how important it really is. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy found that talking about sex with your partner is positively linked with relationship satisfaction. Another more recent study published in the Journal of Sex Research also found that long-term couples who practice sexual communication have better sex and manage to keep the spark alive.
It’s also important to keep in mind that your individual tastes and preferences can change over time. So if you’re in a long-term relationship keeping the lines of communication open is important, especially if you want to keep having amazing sex. So how do you get to that point?
Here are some of the best ways to open up and practice better sexual communication with your partner, according to experts.
1 Trust Your Partner
Fear over being judged can make you hesitate. But as Dr. Holly Richmond, certified sex therapist and Head of Advisory Board for Ella Paradis, tells Bustle, “Don’t be shy! Trust, respect, and openness should be at the foundation of your relationship, so telling your partner what you want sexually can be an honest process without fear of judgement.”
If you can trust that your partner won’t judge you in any other aspect of your life, it’s important to trust they won’t judge you when it comes to sex.
2 Approach It With Curiosity
An easy way to introduce the topic is by staying curious, Richmond says. You can say something like, I’m curious about how you think our sex life is, and if there is anything you’re missing or want to try. “Coming from a place of curiosity will help them to be forthright rather than defensive,” she says. “If they say something that rings true with you, that’s an opportunity to connect and share your own preferences and desires. Most of the time this conversation prompts another fantastic chapter in a couple’s sex life.”
3 Bring It Up In A Neutral Location Like It’s NBD
Sex and relationship expert, Dr. Megan Stubbs tells Bustle that you should just go for it. “It’s as simple and as difficult as that,” she says. Strike up a conversation in a neutral location like on a car ride, while grocery shopping, or while walking the dog. That way no one feels pressured to answer in a certain way. If you bring it up in the middle of sex, for instance, the added pressure on your partner may make them uncomfortable.
“Keeping the lines of communication open regarding sex ensures that everyone is on the same page and feels safe enough to voice their opinions when things come up,” Stubbs says. “Remember, your partner is not a mind reader.” So don’t be afraid to just go for it. As she says, it doesn’t have to be a big deal.
4 Use A Checklist To Share Your Fantasies
“Sharing fantasies and desires is the best way to keep the spark alive,” Deitsch says. “You will have much better sex if you actually know what a partner wants, doesn’t want and isn’t sure about.” If you need guidance, she suggests using a checklist like this one.
Healthy communication is key to spicing things up while maintaining safety, she says. Jealousy and insecurity can emerge if we don’t do a good job of knowing ourselves and our partner. For instance, if someone has been cheated on and still hurts from it, swinging probably wouldn’t be the right suggestion. But maybe reading erotic literature or watching a sexy video together in bed can spark a new interest.
“We all get into routines and patterns and if we never pull from our imaginations, someone is bound to get bored,” Deitsch says.
5 Find Fun And Creative Ways To Bring It Up
If using a checklist, such as the one above, isn’t your thing, Deitsch says there are plenty of other ways to spark a conversation about likes, dislikes, and interests. For example, watching a movie or your favorite show together and asking your partner what they think about a certain scenario can help shed light on how they feel about certain acts. Playing a sex game or using position cards can be fun, light ways to start talking. You can even create a coupon book to give to your significant other filled with ideas you want to explore and include some blank ones for them to fill in.
6 Always Use Positive Words, Especially When You’re Working Out An Issue
Opening up about fantasies isn’t the only reason to talk about sex. If you have trouble climaxing with your partner, it’s important to bring that up as well. If you want to open up communication because of a critique or an issue, Rodgers says it’s important to emphasize the positive. Instead of focusing on what they’re doing wrong, focus on what you want.
“As a basic rule to try is to use a compliment sandwich whenever you are discussing a potentially delicate subject,” she says. You can trying saying something like, I love the way you touch me. I’d love it if you touched me more. You’re great. “Try to offer solutions and always keep things positive. This is your intimate partner after all and beneficial sharing can make your relationship even better.”
7 Give Each Other Permission To Share Without Judgment
If you’re openly expressing what you want to try or what you want more of in bed, it’s important to let your partner know that they can — and should — do the same.
If want to have better sexual communication in your relationship, Rodgers says you should give each other permission to share without judgement. “This is the most important step because it will allow for the process of sharing,” she says. “Permission is a powerful thing.”
Opening up about sex is a process, and it doesn’t need to happen overnight. But as long as you say the words and follow through with actions, there’s no reason your sex life shouldn’t reap the rewards.