Sex—it’s something that all couples do, but something that few couples talk about. Why is that? Perhaps, much of the reason we’re hush hush when it comes to conversations about sex, even with someone we’re intimate with, is because it’s been impressed upon us to act this way by society. Thankfully, we’re living in the 21st century and we’re becoming more open about all things—sex included.
But conversations about sex are important. As Stephanie Buehler, MPW, PsyD, licensed psychologist and AASECT-certified sex therapist at Hoag for Her Center for Wellness in Newport Beach and Irvine, California, explains, it prevents assumptions and misunderstandings that could potentially ruin a relationship. “While it would be nice if the person with whom we share an intimate act could be so close to us that they could read our mind, the fact is that no one can tell with certainty what someone else is thinking or experiencing,” she says. “If something in the bedroom isn’t working, many hurt feelings and sexual problems can be avoided by having a face-to-face conversation about sex—and not in the bed, after sex!”
If you’re in a committed relationship, here are the conversations about sex that experts say all couples should have.
What turns you on and off
Imagine having been with your partner for five years and only just finding out that he hates when you do that thing that you always do during sex because you thought he loved it! You’d probably be shocked and understandably a little hurt that he didn’t tell you after all this time. Sadly, this is not an unusual situation, according to Dr. Buehler. “Couples need to talk about what they enjoy during sex—what parts of the body they want touched and how; if they’d like to share fantasies or not; whether or not they want the lights on; and so on,” she says. “They should also create an agreement that it is okay to ask for anything, but also okay to turn it down, or to agree to try something new and then reject it.”
How often you should be having it
One of the most common problems that Buehler sees in her practice is the issue of couples having mismatched sex drives. In other words, one partner (could be male or female) wants it more frequently than the other. She urges couples to not only address this issue, but to talk about it in their conversations about sex. “The high-desire partner needs to talk openly about their frustration and the lower-desire partner needs to share his or her difficulty of feeling as if he or she is always a disappointment,” she explains. “If the two partners can empathize with each other, they may also be able to stop fighting and have a rational discussion about how frequently they can try to have sex.”
Your favorite sexual experience together
If you’ve been together a while you’ve probably already discovered the fact that not every time you have sex will be as wow-worthy as the time before. That’s why it’s important to stop and reminisce about some of the better sex you’ve had. “It put you both in a positive and nostalgic place where you remember a memory that was really special,” says Diana Sadat, couples counselor and sex therapist in Vancouver, Canada. She suggests starting the conversation by discussing your favorite memory and letting your partner respond. You never know if talking about it might spark a repeat!
Birth control and family planning
While it might not be the sexiest conversation, it’s an important one worth having, especially seeing as nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned. “Of course, unplanned is not the same as unwanted, though, and most couples will embrace a surprise pregnancy, but in some cases one or both partners really don’t want to have a baby, yet they are using inadequate or bothersome birth control, e.g., the ‘withdrawal method,’” she says. “Especially for committed, long-term partners, they should discuss family planning, including what should happen if an unplanned pregnancy occurs.”
What is considered cheating
Again, not a conversation about sex that you want to be having, but it’s important that you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to what qualifies as cheating. “In one case, a woman reported that she ‘couldn’t care less’ if her husband looked at pornography, but she drew a line at talking with women on live cams,” says Dr. Buehler. “Some partners take things much further, discussing whether or not it is okay to socialize with people of the opposite gender, at or outside of work.” While it may not be possible to heed off every situation, Dr. Buehler explains that having an understanding before a problem arises can go a long way toward finding a resolution.