Most couples do not talk enough about their sexual relationship and when they do, their conversations can feel uncomfortable, threatening, or embarrassing. Timing, setting, and context of conversations dealing with sex are of vital importance. Sometimes the best times and places are outside of the bedroom, fully clothed in a neutral private setting with an expressed and shared intention to talk about your sexual relationship. This is not to say that you shouldn’t discuss things when you are being intimate in bed, but the degree of vulnerability and sensitivity that many of us feel at those times can cause us to feel defensive or reactive to anything our partner says that can in any way be construed as judgment or criticism.

These conversations are vitally important and most couples don’t have enough of them. These guidelines will help you to set the conditions that enable you to have an effective exchange of communication with your partner, about this most important subject. It may take years; it’s likely that it will take longer than we think it should. Have patience!

Here are some useful guidelines in regard to creating a meaningful and productive conversation about sex with a partner:

Conditions and Practices that Promote Great Sex

These are some of the conditions that will support having fulfilling sexual experiences:

  • Intentionality. Having a clear commitment to the kind of experience that you seek to have.
  • Safety. Feeling free to be physically and emotionally vulnerable!
  • Trust. Having a sense of mutual comfort, reliability, and respect.
  • Time. Don’t rush. Have enough time to take your time.
  • Non-distraction. This refers to seeing to it that no external factors (people, phone, T.V., electronic devices, etc.), or internal factors (unresolved differences, obsessive preoccupations, and unfinished business) intrude on the experience.
  • Presence. Bringing full awareness to the present moment.
  • Responsibility. Each partner is aware of and expressive of their own power to influence the situation.
  • Honesty. The willingness to respectfully tell the truth about what is and isn’t working. Emotional honesty is speaking from your experience about what you are feeling and needing, rather than offering your opinions, advice, or judgments.
  • Sensitivity. Being attuned and responsive to each other’s desires and feelings.
  • Vulnerability. Being non-defensive and unguarded
  • Self-awareness. Being attuned to your inner experience
  • Full body attention, rather than an exclusive focus on genitalia and orgasm.
  • Reciprocity. Mutual cooperative interchange that involves giving and receiving.

Guidelines for Effective Communication about Sex

  • Announce your intention at the beginning of your conversation in order to minimize the likelihood that your partner might feel defensive or worried that you just want to blame her or make her wrong. For example: “I asked you to join me in this conversation because I enjoy our sex life and I think that there may be ways that it can become even more enjoyable for us both than it is now. I have some thoughts on that and I’d like to hear yours so that we can see how we can accomplish that. How does that sound to you?”
  • Don’t interrupt your partner when he is speaking to “correct” him if you disagree with something he said. It’s important that he feel heard by you before you react to his words. Resist the temptation to try to get him to hear your side of things until you are both clear that you have heard and understood him.
  • Try to avoid criticism. Instead, speak in terms of what would work better for you and what you desire.
  • Keep the focus and intention of your conversation on how the two of you can enhance the quality of your sexual experience together.
  • Focus more on what you can do to improve things rather than what you think your partner should do.
  • Make requests, not demands: For example: “I’d really like it if we could spend more time cuddling rather than going straight for the genitals” rather than “Why does it always have to get sexual whenever we touch each other? You always have to make it about sex!”
  • Let your partner know that you really want to know what she would like from you that would enhance the quality of her experience and thank her whenever she tells you.
  • Let your partner know whether or not you need to orgasm whenever you have sex and whether you need to have them orgasm in order for you to feel satisfied and complete.
  • Talk about the logistics of having sex, like the frequency, times of day, locations, and circumstances that work best for each of you.
  • It should go without saying but for many people, it doesn’t: Unplug, turn off, or eliminate any and all electronic devices during any intimate acts. Don’t even think of answering your cell phone during sex.  Believe it or not, according to a recent study over 20% of the young adult population take calls during sex!
  • These are just a few examples of the kinds of things that you might want to talk about or keep in mind when you have these conversations. Feel free to add anything else to the possible topics that you might want to bring to the table, or to the bedroom!
  • In closing, keep in mind that it’s always a good idea to thank your partner for joining you in this conversation and letting them know that you appreciate their desire to join to make an effort to create the most mutually satisfying and fulfilling sex life possible.