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How to talk to your partner about your sexual needs

It’s always best to communicate with your partner when you feel your sexual needs aren’t being met

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in life

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Sex can be a difficult subject for some people, and the idea of talking to your partner about sex might make you feel awkward. It can feel even more difficult when talking about what your sexual needs are, especially if you feel they aren’t being met.

However, being open about your sexual needs with your partner is a sign of a healthy relationship, and communication is a part of sex. It’s also normal in any relationship to find that you need to have this conversation. Problems with sex and intimacy are probably more common than you think.

If you want to have this conversation, here are some things to consider so that both you and your partner can be comfortable discussing this issue.

Picking the right time

While the temptation might be to have this conversation as soon as possible, it’s best to think about when the right time is and where the right place might be to talk about this.

Try and pick a time when you know there will be few distractions, and avoid trying to talk about it right before bed. It’s not a good idea to discuss these problems before you’re about to have sex or after you’ve just had sex.

Where to have the conversation

It’s better to keep conversations about sex out of the bedroom or any other places where you are normally intimate with your partner. Try to think of somewhere neutral where you can talk about this.

Consider going for a walk to somewhere quiet where you can talk privately, or sit down in a room other than the bedroom. Try to make sure there won’t be any other people around, because it can bring the conversation to a halt if someone else is there to hear what you’re saying.

How to start the conversation

Once you’ve decided to discuss this with your partner, it’s a good idea to think about how you’ll approach it.

Make a plan

Try not to spring the conversation on your partner, because they could be thrown off if they’re not expecting it. Instead, you could tell them that you’d like to talk about your sexual intimacy and ways to make it better for both of you, and suggest a time, such as “tomorrow after work”. That way they know what to expect, and they’ll be prepared to talk about it. This might make them nervous, so reassure them that it’s nothing bad, you’ve just been thinking about ways to make things better.

Start with the positives

Instead of jumping straight into what you feel is wrong, try to tell them what it is you like about your sexual relationship, and ask them what they like about it. For example, you could tell them that you love being close to them when you’re intimate together.

Avoid blame

The conversation is not likely to go anywhere if you try to blame the other person for these problems. Acknowledge that you’re both in this together, and you can find a solution together.

In any difficult conversation, it can be helpful to use ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ statements to avoid making the other person feel like they are being blamed. For example, instead of saying “you never seem to care about what I want to do”, you could instead say “I would like it if we could try doing some of the things I like when we have sex”.

Listen to what they say

Try to really listen to what your partner is saying when they respond to what you’ve told them. It can be easy to get carried away in your head, especially if you feel that this is a difficult or uncomfortable conversation for you. This is a two way street, and they may have some issues that they would like to bring up with you, so it’s important to be open and to pay attention.

Read about how to be a good listener, and keep that in mind for your conversation.

What to talk to your partner about

You may already have an idea about what it is you would like to change or discuss with your partner. On the other hand, you might be unsure about what the problem is, but you just know a conversation is needed. Here are some topics that you might want to discuss with your partner.


Everyone is different, and many partners might feel differently about how often they would like to have sex, if at all. This can be difficult to navigate, but if you talk to one another, you will be able to find a solution.

If you would like to have sex more often, ask your partner how they would feel about this, and what you could do to help them feel more comfortable. See if you can come to a compromise - being sexually active does not mean having penetrative sex all the time, and being sexually active can mean something different for each individual or couple. Make sure your partner is comfortable with the idea of trying something different.

If you would like to have sex less often, try to frame the conversation in a positive way. Let them know that you like to be close to them, but that you don’t have the same sexual drive as they do. You could try suggesting how often you would prefer to have sex or be intimate, and see if you can come to a compromise.

Talking about what you like and don’t like

Is there something your partner did in the past that you really enjoyed, but they haven’t done since? Is there something your partner always does in bed that you don’t really like, but never really told them?

Talking about your likes and dislikes when it comes to sex can feel awkward and uncomfortable at first, but if you are open about what you want in bed, you will both enjoy sex a lot more. Part of this is about communicating during sex by giving a verbal or physical reaction that tells your partner if you like something. Another way to approach it is to sit down and say what it is you would like, and ask if you could try it next time. The more you communicate, the easier it will be to discuss these things.

Dealing with differences in what you like

You might find that you and your partner have differences when it comes to what you like. This is normal, because not everyone is the same. You can try to use a metaphor to understand that not everyone likes the same things, for example: “Sex is like food - I like liquorice and you don’t. It’s okay to like different things.”

Try to be open about what your partner likes, and be curious about it. Ask them why they like something and how it feels. This could help you to find a compromise. Always make sure your partner is fully comfortable with whatever decision you make.

Setting boundaries

If you have a very clear idea of what makes you uncomfortable, communicate that to your partner. They may do something that they don’t realise is crossing a boundary for you, so explaining to them clearly what those boundaries are means they can respect that. If they constantly cross a boundary even after you have told them not to, then this is an issue of consent.

Being in a relationship with someone does not mean you are entitled you to sex with your partner. No one should be made to feel guilty for not wanting to have sex with their partner either, or feel like they have to do something they really don't want to do just to please their partner.

Learn more about setting sexual boundaries.

Sexual health and protection

Having a conversation about sexual health with your partner is really important. Sexual health is about having a positive and respectful attitude towards sex, and feeling like you can have a pleasurable and safe experience with your partner. It’s also about both partners giving their full consent to any sexual activities.

It’s really important that both partners feel completely comfortable in whatever they’re doing. This includes what type of protection a person wants to use when having sex. Condoms can help to prevent the spread of STIs during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Dental dams can protect against STIs during oral sex. Getting regular STI check ups can be important, and it's something both you and your partner can do together.

If there’s a risk of pregnancy but you don’t want to use condoms, discuss other forms of contraception with your partner and make sure that you’re both on the same page. Knowing that contraception is covered can help to make everyone feel more comfortable.

Saying no to sex with your partner

Remember that it’s okay to say no if you don’t feel like having sex, and your partner should always respect that. If you are saying no, there are a few things you can do to help your partner understand that you generally want and like having sex with them, but just not now. This helps to keep your communication open.


Explain why you don’t feel like having sex in that moment. For example, “I am very tired and I just want to sleep” or “I’m feeling really stressed out about something that happened today and I don’t want to right now”.

Suggest another time

If you don’t want to have sex in that moment, suggest another time that you might like to. For example, you could say “I don’t feel like it now because I’m too tired, but how about tomorrow evening/at the weekend”.

Suggest another way to connect

Not wanting to have sex doesn’t mean you can’t still connect with your partner. You can suggest to cuddle, give them a massage, or even just sit with each other and chat. Let them know that you enjoy spending time with them.

Being open and communicating with your partner will lead to happier and more enjoyable sex lives for both of you. Talking about sex is not just helpful, it is also a lot of fun and allows you to develop good intimacy. Remember you can also talk about sex for fun, even when you don’t have an issue to discuss.

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Published Novem­ber 9th2018
Tags relationships sex sexual health APcontent
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