A couple hugging in front of a tent in the forest.
Illustration by Marta Pucci

How do I talk about sex with my partner?

Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Katherine Hertlein,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness
Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Laura Vowels,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness

Start with you

If you’re not in the habit of talking about sex, sexual words and ideas might feel a little wrong in your mouth. Pushing past that discomfort can make it a little bit easier to start using these words in front of someone else.

When you’re alone, have a go at saying out loud words or phrases you struggle with. What do you find hard to say? What words do you prefer for your body, or your partner’s? What comes more easily? You might spot patterns around what feels good or bad to say; it can be worth questioning where these might have come from and if they’re still serving you now. 

Bringing in your partner

Unless you’re keen to, you don’t have to start by just laying out a fantasy over breakfast. Start meta: ask your partner how they would feel about the two of you talking about sex more. See how they respond and talk about what you would find helpful about it, and also what feels a bit scary about it. You might find that there’s a lot to talk about here without even getting into the specifics of sex itself. If your partner is on the same page with talking about sex more, that can go a long way to reducing any worries you might have about it. They might’ve been feeling the same way as you!

Get the timing right

When is a good time for you and your partner to talk about sex? Some things might be obvious: out of earshot of the kids or your poor Uber driver, for example. It can be tempting to blurt out something difficult right before one of you goes to work or out for the evening, because then you’ve said it but don’t need to deal with what might come next! But in the long run, this is more likely to lead to misunderstandings and a limited opportunity to truly know each other. 

Scheduling to talk about sex is weird, but it works

Think about the time you spend together and what might feel comfortable for you, but also what might feel right for your partner. Some people find right after sex to be a great time to discuss it; a lot of people feel too vulnerable after sex. There may never be a ‘right’ time to talk about something uncomfortable, but a bit of thought can reduce the chance of picking a bad time. 

One way to make talking about sex easier can be to do it digitally. Texting might feel easier than a face to face conversation, but the lack of tone, nuance and facial expressions could mean messages come across as cold or blunt, and the pauses could be helpful or very uncomfortable! Your partner could just be distracted but a delay in the conversation can be nerve-wracking if you’ve just revealed something really sensitive. It will depend on you and your partner. 

Low stakes

You don’t have to start by talking negatively about how your sex life is life now and what it could be like. Reminiscing about sex you’ve had before can be a great way to remind the two of you of more positive times and offer a space to say *why* that sex was good for you. It might also help you understand any changes that have happened since then. 

Or maybe it’s never been that great for you, that’s ok. Start by saying what you might like to try to make things better.

Another way to reduce the stakes in conversations where you’re talking about a new desire is to take trying it off the table for a while. You can talk freely and throw some ideas around without anyone feeling like they’re committing themselves to something they don’t feel certain about yet.

Remember, this doesn’t have to be a scary and serious conversation, you can keep it light and playful while respecting each other’s feelings. 

Recognise your contribution

Let’s face it: nobody’s perfect. In the course of this relationship, there may be times where you or your partner are not in sync with each other. For example, you might not feel as turned on as your partner in that moment or vice versa. There may be times where either of you, with all good intentions, participated in sexual activity when you really didn’t want to. This may leave either one of you feeling nervous about future sexual encounters, embarrassed or like there is something wrong with you for not feeling the same desire as your partners, and perhaps ashamed. These feelings can interfere with your ability to communicate together about your sex life for fear having these notions reinforced. Each of you might be afraid that the other will respond with: “Yes, there IS something wrong with you.” In recognising your contribution to the way that the sexual relationship has evolved, you can actually empower yourself to make changes that are better for both of you. 

Response-ability

So you’ve decided to talk to your partner about the sex you have or would like to have. You’ve laid the groundwork with them, picked a good moment and you know what you’d like to say. How do you deal with how they might respond? 

If your partner is feeling nervous or vulnerable (and that’s ok, and not something to be discouraged!) they might not actually respond in a very helpful way. They might project things you didn’t mean onto what you say; this isn’t necessarily a reflection on you or what you’ve said. The important thing to remember is that if they respond in a way that’s confusing or upsetting, to ask what’s behind that. 

You can also take space from the conversation after the initial chat to process their response and understand your feelings about it. If you feel upset, it’s important to let them know this and explain why. It’s possible your partner didn’t realise that what they said wasn’t ok, or that this was a moment of vulnerability for you. Starting with an assumption of best intentions may help to diffuse the situation. 

Be kind

Sharing our feelings about something as sensitive as sex is a two-way street. We want our partners to be open, compassionate, understanding and non-judgemental when we’re telling them about our desires; can we do the same for them? 

Your partner might share things that do not feel ok. They might have desires or ideas about sex that seem strange or even morally wrong. It’s absolutely fine for you to not be into the same things they are. But when they first say something that may have been really vulnerable to share, see it as an opportunity to get to know your partner. You can ask why they like it, or what got them interested in it. Take a pause, perhaps even ask your partner if you can have a think about what they’ve said and come back to them, so that you can talk calmly through your feelings. 

This is an ongoing journey for you both. If you’re feeling more accepting of your own sexual preferences and not being judgemental of yourself, you’re much better placed to do this for other people. 

Ultimately, your goal is not to tell your partner every fantasy you’ve ever had so you can get down to making them a reality. It’s about opening things up - saying more, exploring together and trusting each other. 

Still feeling unsure? It might be time to visit the insecurities or get some language in talking to your partner from a professional…..

In conclusion

You don’t have to go from nothing to overtalkative sex influencer in terms of your comfort with talking about sex. All you have to do is start small, and have conversations little and often to keep the important communication going in your relationship. Check in with each other, and you’ll find the more you do it, the easier the dance becomes. 


If you feel ready to get back in touch with sex again, check out how with the Blueheart app here.

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