A person hiding under the bed sheets covering up their face up to their forehead because they are ashamed to talk about sex
Illustration by Marta Pucci

Why is talking about sex so hard?

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

Talking to our partners about sex: on the one hand, you’d think it’d be easy to talk about sex with the person you’re having it with. On the other - it can be one of the hardest things to do. A lot of us will put up with sex that makes us unhappy for quite a while before we’ll raise it with a partner. 

There can be a very particular discomfort around talking about sex inside a relationship. It might feel like something that should be happening naturally, like a dance everybody just magically knows how to do. If it needs to be discussed, then something must be wrong. It feels like cheating if we discuss how sex is going with our partner. They should just know, right? 

This really isn’t true. Like other dances, we have to learn the rhythms of our partners, the steps, and what works best for the two of you together. At some point, most people need to learn to dance with new partners - either through instruction, or practice, or both. This means it is important to verbally bring something to the awareness of our partners, because we’re not mind readers. Acknowledging that something needs to be worked on in a relationship can be intensely stressful, often because serious romantic relationships have a lot tied to them (being with ‘the one’, financial or housing considerations, children, pets, etc.) - but without raising it, it’s likely to get worse. 

What are some of the barriers to talk to our partners about sex?

Upbringing 

You may have grown up in a family where sex was never ever mentioned, a lot of shame and embarrassment can surround sex and you don’t really get much practice in talking about it at all. On the other hand, you may have grown up in a super sex-positive family where your parents walked around naked all the time and you also find it difficult to talk about. That’s because it depends on you as a person and how you react to different contexts and situations.  

The talk

It’s extremely common for couples to have been together for years and have never discussed sex at all. Think back to the time when your parent, teacher or caregiver gave you “the talk” about the birds and the bees. It was likely quite weird and uncomfortable and you all went bright red and prayed for it to be over as soon as possible. If that’s your only or at least first example of talking about sex it’s unlikely to make you ecstatic about doing it ever again. Talking about sex with your partner does not have to be anything like this, you can create a safe space together and you’ll even be allowed to giggle this time. 

Your past 

You may have tried to have conversations like this in the past either with your current or previous partners and it hasn’t gone well. Maybe arguments started, someone got offended or upset. That’s normal it’s a difficult subject to navigate, hopefully, we can introduce you to some techniques to help it go better the next time. 

What do you want? 

One starting point for communicating desires (and dislikes) can be knowing what you want (or don’t want!), when you want it, what it looks like and what is likely to affect your interest in it. But what if you don’t have this yet? Even if you’re not new to sex, you might be new to your current partner (meaning the context for your desires has changed), or the desire or dislike may be new and still quite known to you. If the context of your life shifts (a new baby, a busier job, an illness or physical change, etc.), you’re contending with a whole new context in which to understand your sexual interests. They could change quite radically several times over your life, and often do so when we least want or expect them to!

Figuring out what you do and don’t want is going to be something Blueheart will help you with, but you don’t actually have to know exactly what works for you and turns you on to talk to your partner about sex. Read on!

B*d w*rds

We may know what we want, but we might not know how to say it. Our society does not have helpful words for sex. Most of the words we use for sex, genitals and the like are considered rude in many contexts and saying them at work, in school or with your family could get you into trouble. And when you put that to one side: a lot of our sex and anatomy words are just not that great.

When you have the choice between the correct but clinical language of vagina, vulva, penis, testicles or words like c*nt, pussy, dick, cock, willy - it’s fair that you might just opt for the mysterious ‘down there’. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make things any easier when trying to explain exactly which bit you like to be touched. 

You want to do what?!

Maybe you know what you want and how to say it, but actually telling your partner is a whole other kettle of fish. What will they say? Will they think something bad about you? Will things be unavoidably weird afterwards? What if you hurt their feelings because you don’t want to do the thing they want to do? What if a live studio audience appears and it’s all been a reality TV game show the whole time and now everybody knows? It can feel like a minefield. 

Other reasons why it's hard. 

  • You feel ok about it, but you’re just not sure how your partner will respond
  • You’re just not used to talking about sex, with anyone or maybe just your partner

Both of the above are totally normal.


Now we know why it’s hard, let’s learn the ways to make it easier. If you feel ready to get back in touch with sex again, check out how with the Blueheart app. An essential part of our sex therapy program is communication, and we have exercises on how to talk to your partner about sex. You can get a free trial for up to 14 days, so why not give it a go and see if your communication about sex improves.

Learn how to talk about sex
Blueheart has helped many people reduce their anxiety and stress around sex with touch, communication and learning sessions. We teach you how to communicate about sex.
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