Day 4: Talking About Sex

Isn’t it funny that we sometimes find it easier to have sex than to talk about sex? It feels vulnerable to share with your spouse what your experience is like making love. It can also be a very intimate move to be honest and open about your preferences, what your experience is like, and what your hopes are.

But if you never talk about the kind of sex you’re having, it’s hard to build a great sexual relationship.

We pick up much of the anxiety about talking about sex from the homes we grew up in. And then you bring that into your relationship by default. Early in our marriage we had a hard time talking about sex. In fact, I think we blushed if we said the word “sex” or other words with a sexual theme, so we used euphamisms like “intimacy” instead. (and for the uninitiated, intimacy and sex are different things! But more on that later.)

It can be especially difficult to talk about sex if certain sexual topics or themes are triggering to you. I hope to offer a few tips today to make talking about sex better.

  1. Be respectful & get curious. When your spouse opens up about their sexuality, we need to treat their feelings and thoughts with tenderness and the utmost respect. Just because they’re expressing their thoughts, feelings, wishes, and experiences doesn’t mean you have to adopt them or act on them right away. It can be a courageous way to love your spouse by opening up, and just as courageous to allow them the space to process and express their sexuality. If you feel uncomfortable about something they bring up, try really hard to get curious instead of defensive or judgmental. I think curiosity is the opposite of being judgmental in this instance. What about what they’re saying is important to them? Find out!
  2. Pay attention to the meanings you attach to sex. There’s “sex” as in the physical act which is always neutral, and then there’s “sex” as in what we interpret that act means to us. So why does this particular sexual behavior mean what it does to me? What does it represent? Does it remind me of someone? Does it feel disconnecting in some way? Or is it something else, such as it brings up fears I have about our marriage and relationship?
    By paying attention to the thoughts or meanings we attach to sex we will be able to more easily talk about it without judgment.
  3. Try conversation starters or a Yes / No / Maybe List. Some couples need a little help on where to start. The Intimately Us app has a section full of conversation starters to give you ideas of what to talk about. There’s also the Sexploration List, which gives you a list of ideas where you can each mark “Yes”, “No”, or “Maybe” to over a hundred intimacy and sexual themes and behaviors. The app will show you how you answered, and you can compare those notes.

Learning to talk about sex is a skill that gets easier the more you practice. Learning to be open, vulnerable, and listening without judgment is a stepping stone to developing a great sex life.

What other ideas and suggestions do you have to share about talking about sex? What helped you and your spouse talk more openly about your relationship? Let us know in the comments below!