Research has found that couples that talk about sex have more satisfying sex lives, but what if you’re feeling shy? Most of us grew up with parents who rarely if ever mentioned sex, and in movies and porn, it often seems to happen with little dialogue. Many of us don’t have a model of how to talk about sex, and some people even consider it a turn-off.
The Shy Person’s Guide to Talking About Sex
But there’s no denying that talking about sex is key to improving the kind of pleasure you’re having.
Break the ice and talk about what you like and what you don’t like, and your partner gets to know the real you, instead of using guesswork to find out what gives you pleasure. Talking about fantasies can also be the first step to bringing them into reality.
Here are some tips to help the shyest lovers get talking to each other.
Decide on Your Goal
What is it you hope to gain from your conversation? Do you want more sex, less sex, or a different kind of sex? Do you want to open up about issues such as trauma, or changes in your sexuality after childbirth or medical procedures?
Self-love coach, Sarah Adefehinti, says that the first step is to get clear on what you want from the conversation. She says:
"Knowing exactly what your needs are and why they exist will help you get to the root of the issue and help you better communicate with your partner. What do you need exactly to make sex a better experience? Think about this from all angles - what could you personally change to make things feel better? What could your partner do differently that would help? Whether it's foreplay, slowing down, or a different type of technique,. Often our experiences in sex are affected by our wider relationship with our partner and with ourselves. Does something need to change outside of the bedroom, within yourself or your relationship?"
One way to prepare for your conversation is to journal your thoughts on what you hope to get out of the conversation, what you might say, and your ideal outcome.
Read: Sex Communication 101
Dealing With Your Own Feelings
There’s no easy way to begin talking about sex if you aren’t used to it. You may have been avoiding it, because of the uncomfortable feelings that come up, even at the thought of speaking up.
It can be helpful just to own the feelings, and be honest. Sex and relationship writer and coach, Stef Osofsky, recommends that you ‘’own your own humanness. If you’re nervous to talk about it, say so! Being courageous enough to tell the truth gives everyone in the arena permission to do the same.’’
Osofsky suggests opening with something like:
"Hey, I’m working on being more direct when it comes to talking about sex. It still makes me feel a little nervous and vulnerable. Can I share some things I’m thinking with you?"
To Plan or Not to Plan
Sexologist and co-founder of Sextopedia, Robert Thomas, says that we should plan carefully when to have the conversation so that it happens at the right time and place.
"Make sure you don’t catch your partner off guard. It may make them shut down completely or go into defense mode."
However Myi Baker, Sexpert and founder of Lady Luxxxe, recommends a more casual approach. She says:
"Sex is a normal part of adult life, there is little need to set the stage before starting. Making a huge ordeal or saying "we need to talk" can make for a very apprehensive and anxious partner. Find a time thats comfortable for you both, such as pillow talk in the morning or on the couch watching TV."
Go with your instincts about what you know about your partner and the kind of setting that might be best to bring up the conversation.
Be Sensitive to Your Partner’s Feelings
Talking about sex may bring up strong feelings in your partner. Perhaps they’ll worry about their performance, or feel triggered.
Kayla Lords, sexpert for JackandJillAdult.com, suggests that if you’re new to talking about sex you could try it during a post-coital cuddle, ‘’that way you’ve both got sex on the brain.’’ This can be a time to focus on the positive and what you liked, which can be a gentle road into talking about other fantasies you’d like to try or things you’d like to do differently.
One thing that can help, according to Adefehinti is to voice your thoughts in terms of your own experience and feelings rather than blaming a partner. She says "For example, you might want to say 'when we have sex, I often don't feel like I get as much pleasure as I'd like because I need a bit more time to warm up' as opposed to 'you never make me orgasm because you go too fast.'"
Listen and Keep Your Mind Open
You may have come to the conversation with a certain agenda about what you want, but having broken the silence around sex, you may find that your partner has their own set of wants and needs that they’d like to talk about.
Osofsky recommends involving your partner in the process of opening up, by asking them questions. She says:
"Be the creator of the kind of free, open environment for communication that you want to inhabit. Get curious about the person you’re with and invite them to share their desires, thoughts, ideas, preferences, fears, etc. This way it’s a two-way thing; a conversation with talking and listening rather than you just focusing on what’s not working."
Read: How to Get Better at Sex
Talking about sex is a two-way street. It's about sharing what’s going well and what you’d like to change about your sex life. When asking for your needs to be met, it’s important to respect your partner’s boundaries.
Adefenhinti says, "If you're wanting to try something kinky or new with your partner, remember to request rather than demand that you try this new thing. A request is a question where hearing 'no' is an accepted option."
Whatever you say, think of your conversation, as a beginning. Things might not be instantly solved, but it can be the first of many conversations, so you can bring a more ongoing, open dialogue into your sex life.
Kate Orson is a freelance writer, and author of Tears Heal: How to listen to our children. She writes, about self-help, parenting, and more recently, sex! She is currently working on a memoir; A Cut in The Brain, about her experience of having the LEEP procedure, and her recovery from side effects that doctors didn't warn her about.