7 Ways Grownups Can Talk About Sex

Get closer physically AND emotionally

It’s a good bet that you remember the day your parents sat you down (or trapped you in a moving vehicle) and gave you the “Sex Talk.” Though the topic was mentioned, specific details were probably scant. And, for many people, that was the first and last time they had a sit-down conversation about sex.

But, relationship experts say it’s healthy – even necessary – to talk with our intimate partners about our sexual desires, needs, feelings and fantasies. Not only does that kind of grown-up conversation develop a deeper connection between partners, but it also leads to a more fulfilling sex life.

“Our conversations are the lifeblood of our relationship,” says Les Parrott, a marriage therapist, author and co-founder, with his wife, of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University. “And this kind of conversation is like a transfusion for physical intimacy.”

It can be difficult and embarrassing to talk about sex. But it doesn’t have to be. Here’s how to make the conversation a little easier so that it strengthens your relationship, builds intimacy, and creates a more satisfying time between the sheets — or anywhere else.

1. Set the framework for an open and ongoing dialogue with your partner.

Though the discussion may center around sex, the conversation is really about how to be supportive of each other and the relationship, say marriage counselors Bob and Lori Hollander, of the Maryland-based Relationships Work.

From that place of support, start the conversation simply by saying: “I love you and enjoy the time we have together and I want to talk about how we can make our sex life more amazing for both of us.”

Then, be open and curious. “I want to know what makes you feel good, and I want to tell you what makes me feel good.”

2. Get educated.

If you don’t know exactly what you want or like, or, if you feel like your relationship could benefit from some new ideas, consider taking a class together from a reputable sex or marriage therapist. Reading a book or watching a DVD together on the topic can also be fun and a way to infuse your sex life with energy and ideas.

“When it comes to sex it must be emotional, erotic,” Lori Hollander says. “We are responsible to our relationship to nurture that erotic part.”

3. Write down your thoughts.

Still feeling awkward about getting the conversation started? Parrott suggests couples write notes to each other. Sometimes, as we’re learning to talk about these intimate details, it’s easier to write down what you’re feeling or what you’d like to try, rather than talking about it. Another conversation starter can be a quiz or an exercise where both people are asked the same question and then share their answers.

4. Don’t talk details in the heat of the moment.

The best time to talk about sex is usually NOT during or immediately after the act itself. Certainly, don’t broach the topic in the middle of an argument. Also, avoid phrases like, “Honey, there is something we need to talk about...” because that puts partners on high alert.

So, when is the best time to talk about sex? Often, when you’re relaxed and enjoying each other’s company, maybe even over a glass of wine.  

5. Be specific. Talk mechanics.

Our bodies are different and what works for one person will not always feel good to the other. Yet, partners usually want to please each other. Ask your partner what he likes and be clear about what feels good to you.

Try phrases like: “Honey, I think this would really turn me on...”
Or “How does this feel to you?”

6. Get honest.

If you’re not in the mood, or feeling uncomfortable between the sheets, share that. Tell him when you’re feeling flabby or out of shape, insecure or afraid. Too often people simply withdraw from their partner, leaving their lover to imagine the worst and question what’s going on. That can cause anger, hurt and other hard feelings, says Katie Hendricks, Ph.D., relationship expert and chief executive officer of The Hendricks Institute who, along with her husband Gay Hendricks, co-authored Conscious Loving: The Journey to Co-Commitment.

Instead, share your feelings honestly. Be vulnerable and authentic and in the end that kind of honest communication will result in greater support, understanding and connection with your partner.

7. Laugh a little.

Finally, if you can’t shake the awkwardness or embarrassment, share that too. Laugh together and use humor to diffuse the embarrassment. Shared humor and laughter is just one more way to build intimacy and draw couples closer.

“Sex springs from our very humanness,” Bob Hollander says. “If you meet in a genuine place, emotionally, the sexual encounter will take care of itself.”    

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