Let’s talk about sex
A lot of people struggle when it comes to talking with a partner about sex. It’s a topic that makes many of us feel really anxious. But communicating about sex is as important as communicating about any other part of your relationship.
Some people find it embarrassing and aren’t sure of the right words to use. Some worry about upsetting their partner or hurting their feelings. Some believe that, if they and their partner are truly sexually compatible, they should be able to understand each other’s sexual needs without talking.
Some of us grow up in families where, for lots of reasons, talking about sex in a healthy way is not encouraged. Very often, what we learn as children we take with us into adult relationships. Breaking away from old habits of not talking can sometimes feel harder than ‘having a go’ at talking together. Sex therapists often see clients where a sexual problem has got much worse because one or both partners have kept everything crossed and just hoped the problem would sort itself out.
Unfortunately, whilst this can happen, usually people end up feeling resentful and rejected because their needs are not being met.
For some, feeling bad about our bodies and that we don’t quite ‘measure up’ in some way makes us reluctant to talk openly about sex. There is so much pressure on us to look perfect, keep an erection for hours, have multi-orgasmic experiences and generally want sex all the time that we can quickly start to feel inhibited and unsure of what to do and how to ask for things we want.
Perhaps where things have changed, maybe illness and surgery have made it difficult to accept that we might remain sexually attractive to a partner. Communication that was good enough before may no longer feel sufficient to get through what has happened. Either way, if we have previously been able to talk or maybe never felt it was OK to do so, the good news is: it is possible to learn how.
Sometimes, honesty really is the best policy. If you’re finding it difficult to talk about sex, one of the things you might find most useful is to sit down with your partner and say just that.
Choose a good time and space. Not just before you’re about to have sex, or worse, during sex. Don’t do it during an argument or when you’re already feeling emotional.
And, as with any sensitive topic, it’s as much about how you say things as the things themselves. Saying something like ‘I really didn’t like what we did last night. It felt terrible’ may not go down well. Perhaps something like ‘I usually have such a nice time, but last night was a bit different. I was hoping we could talk about it’, might help your partner to start listening and not feel blamed.
It’s about acknowledging that there’s something important and you want to share it with your partner. Very often, the relief at realising that your partner may have been feeling the same but was too anxious to say anything about it either can really start you both on the path to creating positive sex talk together.
In most relationships, sex ebbs and flows. Life events, life stages, illness and issues with your partner can all have an impact on our sex lives. Sometimes, when we’re feeling anxious or upset, we might want more sex, as it helps us to feel loved and comforted. Some of us might feel unable to put our worries to one side so that sex becomes a chore and no longer feels intimate and connecting. Either way, if for whatever reason sex isn’t working, having a go at talking about this may be a start to getting things back on track. Talk openly and sensitively – tell your partner what you do and don’t like, what you need and don’t need, but be mindful of how the information is likely to affect them. Try to phrase things positively and constructively.
Once you start, many people are surprised at how much easier talking about sex really is. Getting into the habit of a regular ‘MOT’ on your sex life can help make sure that whatever happens, as far as possible, you’ll both be in charge of it, rather than the other way round.
But if you’re finding things really difficult, do consider seeing a Sex Therapist. Therapists can help you to explore and understand what you want and how you can get it in a way where both of you feels OK.
Want more support?
If you want to talk to someone about sex or you’re looking for more information, we can help.
- Talk to a trained counsellor for free via our Live Chat service.
- Find out more about Sex Therapy and how it can help.
- Read some of the most Common Problems people have with sex.
- Book an appointment by calling 0300 100 1234 or searching for your nearest Relate.