How to talk to your partner about sex

Let’s talk about sex!

talking about sex


Having trouble talking about sex with your partner? Whether it’s to communicate your needs and wants to your partner, a sexual problem/concern you have, or just interested in finding out what your partner’s likes and dislikes are, being able to talk to your partner(s) about these issues is important for your health, well-being, and relationship satisfaction. A recent study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that people who believe that sexual satisfaction comes from hard work and effort (sexual growth believers), which includes learning how to communicate with your partner about sex, were more likely to experience higher sexual satisfaction and have partner who were more satisfied than people who believe sexual satisfaction is mostly about finding the compatible partner (sexual destiny believers) (1).

As scary as it may be, most partners are open to talking about sex and will appreciate that you were brave enough to start the conversation. They may have been having trouble talking to you so, being the first to say something may be extremely welcomed. It can feel awkward to initiate a talk about sex with your partner,  but the more open you are with addressing sexuality in your relationship, the better your sex life will be.

Things to consider before you start the conversation

  1. First and foremost, decide what the main topic is going to be and stick to it throughout the conversation.
  2. What is your intention in starting the conversation? Is it to help your partner better understand you/your wants/your dislikes? Do you want to feel closer to your partner? Are you looking for an apology from your partner? If you are feeling very emotional, choose a time when you are feeling more stable to bring up a difficult or uncomfortable topic. Think about your intentions carefully.
  3. What is the main message? What, specifically, do you want your partner to understand?
  4. How do you want your partner to feel after the conversation? Do you want your partner to feel closer to you? Do you want them to feel positive about your relationship and your future together?
  5. What are your boundaries? If you disagree on certain topics like condom use, sexual positions, etc. know what your boundaries are before you talk so that you know where to draw the line.

Do’s and Don’ts when starting a conversation

  1. Use “I” language. Avoid using “you” in the conversation so that your partner does not feel attacked or blamed. Using “I” will help them focus on you and what you are saying.
  2. Avoid attacking. Focus on talking about your feelings on the topic and what you are looking for.
  3. Avoid being defensive. Stick to the topic and talk about what is important to you.
  4. Be sure to express what you appreciate about your partner more than focusing on the negatives. Point out what you love about them throughout the conversation to avoid making it only about the problem.
  5. Be as straight-forward, confident, and honest as you can be.
  6. Avoid talking about sexual concerns during sex. Talking about things beforehand will help you avoid uncomfortable situations where your boundaries may be tested.
  7. Choose a “safe place” for your conversation. Your partner may be uncomfortable talking about sex so choosing a place that feels private and safe for them is important.
  8. Telling your partner what you like is just as important as telling your partner what you don’t like. Talking about likes can be done during sexual moments when you are both in the mood.
  9. Don’t talk about difficult topics when your partner is hungry or tired
  10. Avoid talking right before or right after sex

Conversation starters when talking about sex

“I really care about you and our health. I’ve decided to get tested for STIs and I think you should as well.”

“Having sex with you last night was way more fun than going to the movies, can we do that again?”

“Did you think that was hot?” or “would you ever try that?”

“I love it when you…”, “It feels so good when you…”

“Could you touch me like this?” and actually show them when you are having sex.

It seems like a lot to take in if sex is not something you are used to talking about. Don’t worry about remembering everything, just find a comfortable time for you and your partner and know what you want to talk about. The more you get used to talking about these topics, the better at it you and your partner will be. The benefits to your relationship and your sexual growth as a couple will be worth it!

Written by: Mayte Parada, PhD



Maxwell, J.A., Muise, A., MacDonald, G., Day, L.C., Rosen, N.O., Impett, E.A. (2017). How implicit theories of sexuality shape sexual relationship and well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 112(2), 238-279.