Talking about sex with your partner, couples counseling San Francisco, 94102

How to talk about sex with your partner in a more authentic and open way

Over time sex can dwindle in a relationship.  However, there are some steps you can take that will help keep your sex life alive.  

How to be more open about sex

Talking about sex with your partner can be a scary thing.  Often times we’ve been raised in households where sex is not talked about at all.  If sex was talked about, it was often clouded with morality and judgement.

In order to have a more open conversation about sex with your partner, there has to be a level of safety.  You have to feel safe bringing your true self into the conversation. In order to prevent your sex life from dwindling into nothing, you’ll have to find a way to be brave and have uncomfortable conversations.    

Having a sex positive conversation can help pave the way for a safer venue for discussing sex.

Sex positive

What do I mean by sex positive?  The Women and Gender Advocacy Center at Colorado State University describes sex positive as “simply the idea that all sex, as long as it is healthy and explicitly consensual, is a positive thing.”

Different relationship structures

There are many different types of relationship structures out there.  On one end of the spectrum you have monogamous relationships and on the other end you have consensual non-monogamous relationships.  And there are many options in between.

With sexual identity, most people are assumed straight unless they give reason to indicate otherwise.  The same can be true for relationship structures. In our culture, many people assume that a relationship should be monogamous and that non-monogamous relationships are somehow less real.  This is, of course, an unfair and judgmental point of view on the topic.

Be open (with your conversations)

Even if you and your partner both want a monogamous relationship, it can be helpful to explore the reasons for that decision more closely.  Did you ever have a conversation about monogamy, or was it just assumed? By practicing uncomfortable conversations, you will begin to acquire the skills needed to have more of them.

Having uncomfortable conversations about sex

In order to maintain a rich and full sex life, you need to be able to talk about difficult things.  Shame is a sticky emotion and it can permeate conversations around sex.

As an example, think about someone who struggles with telling their partner what they like in bed.  It can be uncomfortable to give feedback around something so intimate.  But if you’re not able to express your needs and wants, there’s more of a chance your sex life will dwindle overtime.

We can’t read our partner’s mind and without feedback it’s hard to get your needs met.

A thought exercise

Pretend you’re a gay man (if you’re not already) and imagine that you wanted something different in terms of ass play with your partner.  If you would feel uncomfortable bringing that up and coaching him, then take that as a sign you need to have more open conversations around sex.

If you feel ashamed to ask for what you want in bed, you need more practice having uncomfortable conversations around sex.

Shame and sexuality

In the gay community, we learn to hide parts of ourselves from an early age.  Once we come out, the hiding doesn’t always stop. We find different things to feel shame about and sex often becomes one of those things.  

When thinking about the topic of shame, Brené Brown’s work comes to mind.  According to her research, it’s crucial that we shine light on the areas that we feel shameful about.  If you feel shameful about asking for more ass play from your partner, you’ll probably feel less shame once you talk about it with them.

Shame around sexual kinks

Talking about sex is hard enough, before you add sexual kink into the mix.

The first line in Jesse Bering’s book Perv, the Sexual Deviant in all of Us, is “you are a sexual deviant.  A pervert through and through.” While he’s being a bit sensational, he’s pointing out that we all have unique and different things that turn us on. And that’s ok. More than that, it’s human.

It’s important that we explore what turns us on, as it will be slightly different for each of us.  Once we understand our sexuality, it’s crucial that we can communicate that to our partners. Your sexual desire is not something that you have to be ashamed about.

Kink is fun, exciting and perfectly normal. It provides a way for you to explore more of yourself. As long as you’re talking about consenting adults, the sky is the limit.

Exploring your own shame around sex

In order to understand how shame affects your sexuality, I encourage you to spend some time in self reflection.  Below are some questions that can help you dig deep on the topic.

  • Are there things you hold back from your partner? Perhaps you’re in a monogamous relationship, but you are excited by the idea of other people watching you have sex. Maybe a specific type of sexual kink, like bondage or water sports, turns you on and you feel nervous to bring it up with your partner. Holding back could be a sign that you feel shame about parts of your sexuality.
  • Are you having performance issues or feeling bored in bed? When you have sex, are you caught up in your head and does it become difficult to stay present in the moment? Maybe you feel self-conscious asking for what you need. Maybe you’re worried too much about pleasing the other person.  Sexual arousal is so much more than just genital stimulation.
  • After you’ve had an orgasm, do you feel guilty? Guilt is a warning sign that you may have unresolved shame to contend with. If you’re gay, think back to before you came out. Did you ever suffer from guilt after an orgasm? We can tap into our guilt and allow it to inform us about topics that need more personal exploration.

Practice having uncomfortable conversations

The more practice you and your partner(s) have around having uncomfortable conversations, the easier they will become.  Honor your differences and use them to spice up your sex life. The more comfortable you can be talking about what turns you on, the better your sex life will become.  And if you’re struggling with this, seek out couples therapy to help you move the needle. Don’t wait until your sex life has dried up before you give it some attention.

Tom Bruett

Tom Bruett

Tom Bruett, LMFT is a licensed psychotherapist with an office in San Francisco, CA. Tom feels passionately about helping people have better relationships. The purpose of this blog is not to provide advice or to take the place of working with a mental health professional. For more information please visit the homepage.