How to talk to your partner about sex
You would think that our romantic partner would be the one person we’d be most comfortable talking to about our sexual wellness. Turns out 55% of women make a choice not to talk with their partners about sex - even though they want to.
Some women are trying to avoid hurting their partner’s feelings. For others, the details of sexual topics themselves can be embarrassing to talk about - even after decades of marriage. A lot of the time, the lapse in conversation comes down to a lack of information. If we don’t fully understand what’s going on with us, it can be difficult to put it into words for another person.
Whether you grew up in a community where talking about sex is unheard of, or you can’t seem to verbalize what you want to say, we’ve got you covered.
Welcome to our guide for talking to your partner about sexual wellness.
If you’ve never talked about it before
So you’ve never talked about sex before - or maybe you’re just really, really uncomfortable with the idea. A great way to break the ice? Keep the conversation about sex centered around your health.
If you’re dealing with physical symptoms affecting your sexual health like dryness, pain, or atrophy, treat it like you would a medical issue. Just because it’s in an area that many view as sensitive doesn’t mean you have to talk about it differently than you would your arm or your leg.
The main difference between your vagina or vulva and your arm? Because of the often invisible nature of problems in the pelvic region, your partner might not ever know you’re dealing with something painful until you bring it up.
A conversation about issues related to sex doesn’t always have to lead to physical intimacy or even allude to it. If the idea of talking about pleasure makes you uncomfortable, there’s no need to include it.
If you’re worried about a bad reaction
Bringing the conversation about your sexual wellness to the forefront is the best defense to preventing a negative response from your partner. When physical symptoms like vaginal dryness never get talked about, it leaves the cause totally up to your partner’s imagination. If your partner connects natural lubrication to physical attraction, they’ll be more likely to jump to the conclusion that your dryness means you’re no longer attracted to them. This can create a feedback loop of stress and misunderstanding that only feeds their insecurities - potentially driving a wedge between you and your partner. Being transparent about your symptoms is necessary for avoiding that kind of disconnect.
As important as it is, we can’t promise that it’s going to be easy to talk about. When your partner is self conscious about their role in your sexual wellness, it can be more difficult to hold any conversation that even hints at being related to sex. There’s a risk of them taking it personally, which isn’t a good environment for fostering an open and honest talk.
If you need to discuss physical or emotional symptoms related to your sexual health, it’s crucial to have the conversation outside of a sexual context. If your partner has a tendency to take things personally, it’s best not to bring sex up right before or after getting intimate.
Be clear with your partner about what you’re going through. And if they have questions - answer them! Keep the conversation grounded in what you feel physically or emotionally.
If your partner gets defensive, try to be gentle and kind with them. But if defensiveness turns to anger - for either of you - take a step back and approach the conversation when you’ve both had time to cool down.
And if you truly can’t find the words?
Write it down. Putting your thoughts on paper can help to organize them and make them a little less abstract - and potentially easier to share.
When you’ve had a shift in libido
A change in your libido often means it’s time to talk with your partner. Even though the amount of sex you want very rarely has anything to do with your feelings for your partner, it can lead a couple to drift apart if it isn’t discussed.
Talking about potential causes for your lower libido with your partner - psychological issues such as depression or anxiety, hormonal imbalances, or even physical pain - can help the pair of you work together to find solutions and work with what your body is prepared to handle.
If you’re experiencing vaginal pain or vaginal atrophy or even clitoral atrophy, the strategy for managing the lowered desire for sex could be simply making room for forms of intimacy that don’t include penetrative sex.
If you talk to your partner about your lowered libido, you create an opportunity for your partner to support you in your sexual wellness journey.
If you’re embarrassed
Symptoms that are nothing to be embarrassed about: Persistent vaginal dryness. Incontinence. Postpartum prolapse.
Be that as it may, the normal course of aging and life can cause the above symptoms, and many more, that women don’t talk about - even with other women going through the same experience.
Some of the embarrassment comes from the perception that these health conditions somehow make you less sexual or less of a woman. But these difficult symptoms happen to a huge portion of people. At least 50% of post menopausal women experience vaginal dryness. 45% of all women experience incontinence. And at least 35% of women experience postpartum prolapse.
So the best way to talk about sexual health issues that embarrass you? Give your partner the numbers. Come to them with the knowledge that a lot of women go through what you’re going through, and let them know that it bothers you.
By taking the (not actually) risky step of speaking with your partner about these issues, you might just gain the emotional support you need to move forward with consulting a pelvic floor physical therapist or another specialist that can help you manage your symptoms.
If you feel like you don’t know where to start
There’s a lot of information out there about sexual health - while the internet can be a fantastic place to find answers, it can also be a little overwhelming.
If you’re looking to learn more about what could be going on with you, try checking out one of our favorite resources:
Dr. Barb DePree’s MiddlesexMD Blog
We also provide continuing education here at Tabu. Our inbox is always open for any questions you might have about your own sexual health - don’t hesitate to send us a message!