For many couples, talking about sex can feel like a daunting task. Yet, it’s an essential part of maintaining a healthy intimate relationship. On a positive note, sex talk doesn’t have to be awkward or uncomfortable. In fact, it can be liberating and fun!
In this article, you’ll learn why talking about sex is important and practical tips for talking about sex with your partner that will make the conversation easier, more open, and ultimately more enjoyable.
Want to learn about the importance of intimacy in relationships and how to build it? Check out our comprehensive guide on intimacy in relationships to learn more.
Why talking about sex is important
Good communication is the foundation for any healthy relationship. But when it comes to discussing matters of intimacy and sex, many couples often shy away. Yet, these conversations are essential and have many benefits.
Here are three research-backed reasons why it is important to talk about sex with your partner:
1. Greater sexual satisfaction
A 2009 study found that long-term heterosexual couples who were more open about discussing their sexual preferences reported higher levels of sexual satisfaction. 1
A more recent meta-analysis from 2019 supports this, finding that talking about sex is positively related to sexual function. The results showed that open sexual communication is especially beneficial for women’s sexual desire and orgasmic function. 2
While men also benefit, women, in particular, seem to have more frequent orgasms when they communicate openly about their sexual likes and dislikes. 2
So, talking about sex can help you both have more enjoyable and satisfying experiences. Discover how communication can save your sex life!
2. Greater relationship satisfaction
When partners actively engage in open discussions about their sexual needs, preferences, and concerns, they’re doing much more than just paving the way for a more satisfying sexual experience. They are also enhancing the overall quality of their relationship. 3
A study from 2017 found that when partners talk more openly about sex, it not only enhances their sexual satisfaction but also leads to greater relationship satisfaction. 3
Discussing sex with your partner is a great way to open up lines of communication that can benefit both partners physically and emotionally.
3. Sexual consent
Ensuring mutual consent is a fundamental aspect of any sexual relationship, and open communication is key to achieving this. 4
Consent is not just a one-time agreement but an ongoing process that involves active and explicit approval from both parties for different sexual activities.
By fostering a climate where sexual discussions are encouraged, both partners have the opportunity to clearly express their boundaries, comfort zones, and preferences.
8 tips for talking about sex
Understanding the need for sexual conversations is one thing; knowing how to have them is another. It’s common to feel a bit hesitant or awkward when talking about sex with your partner - especially if you’re not used to having such conversations. The good news is that with a few tips and some practice, it will become easier.
Here are eight practical tips that make talking about sex with your partner easier:
1. Choose the right time and place
The setting and timing can significantly impact the quality of your conversation about sex. Ensure that both you and your partner are in a comfortable place, away from any distractions. Make sure that it’s a time when neither of you feels rushed or overwhelmed.
A study from 2013 examined how romantic partners communicate about sex. Many participants found that discussing sex was easier at night, especially around bedtime. 5
However, it’s important to remember that everyone is different. The most important thing is finding a time and place that works for both of you. If you’re unsure, ask your partner when they would feel most comfortable.
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2. Be open and honest
When talking about sex, it is important to be open and honest. Being upfront about what you like, don’t like, and what your boundaries are helps you both understand each other better.
Research has shown that open and honest communication contributes to building trust and maintaining intimacy in relationships. 6
So, the more open you are, the better your relationship will be, both in and out of the bedroom. You don’t have to share everything immediately. Start off with small things that you feel comfortable with, and then gradually build up from there.
Here are tips for talking about sexual fantasies with your partner.
3. Stay away from judgment and negativity
Conversations about sex can sometimes bring up sensitive issues or insecurities. That’s why it’s so crucial to create a non-judgmental and positive space for conversations about sex.
Avoiding judgment and negativity, especially when discussing things like sexual performance, can make these conversations much more comfortable for both parties. 5
Results of a qualitative study underscore the role of a non-judgmental and positive atmosphere in facilitating comfortable and productive conversations about sex. 5
Being positive and offering compliments or reassurance can also help in maintaining a sense of respect and understanding, making it easier and more comfortable to talk about sex.
4. Ask your partner to share their thoughts and feelings
Open dialogue is a two-way street. When you share your thoughts and feelings, it’s equally important to invite your partner to do the same.
Ask open-ended questions like “What do you think about…?” or “How do you feel when we…?”. Doing so can help both of you get a better understanding of each other’s feelings and perspectives.
Also, people are more willing to openly discuss their sexual preferences when they feel that their partner is also sharing.
Research highlights the importance of reciprocal sexual self-disclosure in making individuals more comfortable sharing their own sexual likes and dislikes. 7
In simpler words, when both partners share their thoughts and feelings openly, it makes it easier for each partner to talk about their individual sexual needs, wishes, and fantasies.
5. Actively listen without judgment
In conversations about sex, listening is just as important as speaking. Active listening means fully focusing, understanding, and responding to your partner in a way that makes them feel heard and understood.
When you listen actively, and without judgment, you’re not only showing respect but also fostering a safe environment for open dialogue.
Active listening helps maintain intimacy in relationships by fostering greater understanding between partners. 8
Especially when it comes to talking about sexual fantasies or desires, it’s important to listen without passing judgment. Doing so will make your partner feel comfortable enough to communicate more openly - leading to a stronger physical and emotional connection between the two of you.
Here are tips on how to be an active listener.
6. Be empathetic
Empathy goes a long way in any conversation, but it’s especially critical when discussing something as intimate as sex. Empathy is crucial in order to create a safe space where both partners can openly discuss their boundaries, preferences, and desires.
When it comes to topics around sexual dysfunction, empathy becomes even more important. Be considerate of your partner’s feelings and think how your words may affect them.
The right words offer reassurance, validate experiences, and convey respect. Remember, it’s not just about expressing your viewpoint but also considering how your words might impact your partner.
Here are helpful tips for developing empathy in romantic relationships!
7. Respect boundaries
Respecting boundaries is crucial when having conversations about sex. It’s important to understand that each person has their comfort zones and limits when discussing intimate matters.
If you notice that your partner feels uncomfortable or hesitant to discuss a certain topic, don’t push them to discuss it further.
Forcing your partner to talk about things they’re not ready for can make them feel uneasy, and it could lead to your partner shutting down or avoiding conversations about sex altogether.
When talking about sensitive topics, it’s also a good idea to ask your partner if they are comfortable talking about it before going into more detail. Doing this shows your partner that you respect their boundaries and care about how they feel.
Discover the importance of healthy boundaries in relationships and how to set them.
8. Use humor to reduce awkwardness
Talking about sex can sometimes feel awkward or uncomfortable, but here’s a secret weapon you can use: humor. Adding a touch of light-heartedness to your conversations about sex can make a world of difference.
Humor acts as a bridge, helping partners connect more easily and making discussions about sex feel less daunting. It allows you to express your thoughts and feelings about sex in a more playful way.
Research has shown that humor, such as playful communication and joking banter, is frequently used by partners to make discussions about sex more comfortable and enjoyable. 5
Using humor doesn’t mean you’re avoiding serious conversations; rather, it’s about creating an atmosphere that makes everyone feel more at ease.
So, don’t hesitate to sprinkle some laughter into your conversations about sex—it’s a wonderful tool to make this potentially awkward topic a little less intimidating.
Communication is the cornerstone of any strong relationship. Talking about sex is just one of the many important conversations partners should have in order to maintain connection, understanding, and respect. Here’s our complete guide on effective communication in relationships!
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Montesi, J. L., Fauber, R. L., Gordon, E. A., & Heimberg, R. G. (2010). The specific importance of communicating about sex to couples’ sexual and overall relationship satisfaction. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 28(5), 591–609. doi.org ↩︎ ↩︎
Shulman, S., Tuval-Mashiach, R., Levran, E., & Anbar, S. (2006). Conflict resolution patterns and longevity of adolescent romantic couples: A 2-year follow-up study. Journal of Adolescence, 29(4), 575–588. doi.org ↩︎
Reis, H. T., & Shaver, P. (1988). Intimacy as an interpersonal process. In S. Duck, D. F. Hay, S. E. Hobfoll, W. Ickes, & B. M. Montgomery (Eds.), Handbook of personal relationships: Theory, research and interventions (pp. 367–389). Oxford, UK: Wiley. ↩︎