Why Don’t Couples Talk about their Sex Lives?


Think for a minute about what you know about your partner. I imagine most of us can name our partner’s favorite foods, movies, TV shows, preferred conversations, political leanings, and hobbies. However, not very many of us really know the details of our partner’s preferences in the bedroom. While sexual issues are among the most common issues in relationships (at the top with financial issues) they are frequently not discussed in much detail, if at all. Generally speaking, when things are going “okay” in a couple’s sex life, they aren’t discussed. And unfortunately, couples often don’t discuss their sex life issues even when things are not so okay! Specifically, issues about sex are usually off limits, unless it’s about having it or not.

Even high-functioning couples who say they’re happy and have a good sex life don’t routinely discuss the subject, although it’s certainly a focal point in almost every relationship. Even if your sex life is good, why not make it better?

As mentioned above, sexual frequency is often the most common sexual issue that is discussed between couples. Although it’s definitely an important one, there’s a decent chance that the quality of your sex life might be what’s affecting the frequency. If the experience isn’t pleasurable and satisfying for one or perhaps both partners, it’s understandable that sexual interest would diminish. Overlooking or ignoring the importance of quality in your sex life can impact the quality of your overall connection.

While sexual compatibility seems fundamental to any lasting relationship, emotional distance can make the subject very difficult to discuss. Sometimes one’s family upbringing, or past (relationship) experiences, has made sexuality a taboo topic. Most couples find it much less threatening to talk about disciplining their children, dividing household chores, or planning a family budget than discussing their sex lives.

An ability to share the intimate preferences of your sexual needs and desires requires a deeper connection, and a willingness to become much more vulnerable with your partner, than a discussion on how to divide household chores. Without that connection and a willingness to be truly vulnerable, it’s much too scary to confront this highly sensitive topic. There may also be an underlying fear: “What if we both make the effort, but the quality of our sex life is not better?” Couples who are not connected emotionally are simply not ready to share any details of what they want in their sex life.

Consider the following list of steps to help you “break the ice,” and discover ways to improve your sexual relationship:

1. Examine the level of your connection to determine if you’re ready to take the leap and can respectfully communicate with each other. Without this closeness, it will be hard to go any further in the process.

2. Express the desire for a discussion. Together, pick a good time and place to talk in privacy – not before or after sex—and away from the bedroom.

3. Use “I” statements instead of accusations or insinuations that you know how your partner feels. “I want to make our sex life better” is a good conversation starter.

4. An exercise to try (maybe even before your talk): On a blank sheet of paper, have each of you draw your own body and mark the places you like being touched, as well as where you don’t like being touched. Unless you’re a talented artist, this approach can add humor and help keep the conversation lighthearted. Be willing to laugh at yourselves, and enjoy learning more about each other.

5. “Let’s practice and experiment and schedule a good time to learn more about what we like,” or “let’s see what works for us and what doesn’t,” are nonthreatening, introductory statements that encourage respectful communication and mutually-benefiting attitudes.

6. Don’t make this initial conversation a one-time event; plan to revisit the topic every few months to make adjustments. Remember: Change naturally occurs in every stage of our lives, including our sexual preferences. Stay flexible and open to your partner’s suggestions.

If the above ideas seem too uncomfortable to manage on your own, couples counseling can help implement the needed steps to effectively communicate with your partner. It’s well worth the long-term investment. Why not have the best sex life possible?

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