How to Talk about Sex with Your Partner: Advice from Psychotherapist Esther Perel
We all bring different perspectives to the table in relationships.
And one place where we may be coming from a different background than our partners is an area where we’re bound to be the most intimate — the bedroom.
Expressing ourselves about sexual fantasies, trying something new in bed, and our own sexual satisfaction can be challenging at times – whether we grew up in a home where sex was never discussed or, even worse, it was looked at as a wrongful act. There are many reasons why sexual conversations are hard to start.
But one thing is for sure. If you want a thriving sexual relationship with your partner, you need to start talking about it. Open communication is a pillar of any healthy relationship, and that includes sexual communication as well!
If you’ve had trouble bringing up your intimate desires with your partner, you’re in the right place.
This article is full of helpful tips for opening a dialogue about your sexual desires, developing meaningful conversations, and intimacy advice from world-renowned relationship expert and psychotherapist, Esther Perel.
How Can You Express Yourself Sexually Through Open Communication?
We’re going to address the elephant in the room right away: Everyone expresses themselves differently in the bedroom.
You should never feel shame about what you find sexy, what turns you on, and what turns you off sexually (as long as it’s between consenting adults). If you’re in a relationship where your partner makes you feel ashamed of your sexual desires, you should evaluate more than just your sex life to determine if the entire relationship is healthy.
Now that we’ve settled that, let’s talk about how you can express yourself to your partner and how to effectively communicate about your sex life.
1. You Need to Be Honest About What You Want
Honesty is the best policy when it comes to talking about sex. You may be nervous about bringing up a new fantasy or trying something new, but that shouldn’t keep you from being honest with your partner.
For example, if you have something that you really enjoy or want in the bedroom, express that to them. And the same goes for things that don’t work for you sexually. Your partner will have no idea what isn’t working for you if you aren’t open and honest with them.
Don’t be afraid to say, “Hey, I like it when you kiss me on the ______.” Or, “______ wasn’t my favorite thing. Would it be okay if we didn’t do it again?”
Something to keep in mind while you’re being honest with your partner is that you also need to be sensitive about how you bring it up. Remember that if you’re nervous about bringing up the things you want to bring in or leave out of the bedroom, your partner is probably in the same boat.
2. Allow Room for Feedback from Your Partner
Effective communication is a two-way street, and if you want to have great conversations that lead to great sex, you need to let your partner actively add value to the conversation.
Always remember to keep your partner’s feelings in mind as you address things you want to try or change in the bedroom and that some of us have spent our entire lives being told not to bring sex up in conversations. So it’s best not to push for feedback.
Instead, allow your partner the space and time to think about what you’re telling them in the moment. Your partner could be open to the dialogue immediately, and if that’s the case, keep the conversation going!
But if they seem reserved about the subject or don’t have much to say, don’t be quick to assume that they have a negative view of what you’re addressing. It may just take a little longer for your partner to process that information and find a way to express how they feel about it.
As long as you’re staying open, honest, and allowing room for feedback — you’re on the right track!
3. Timing is Everything When Talking About Sex
You don’t want conversations about sex to be fueled by other circumstances.
For example, if the two of you are lying in bed right after you’ve finished making love, it’s not the time for a detailed critique of your activities. This timing only opens the floor for hurt feelings and risks making your partner withdraw from the conversation.
Instead, choose a neutral time and place to talk about sex together. It may sound a bit clinical, but scheduling an at-home lunch date or setting aside some time to discuss sex outside of the bedroom can be an effective way for you and your partner to be open about your desires.
Long car rides and road trips are also great times to openly talk about what’s been on your mind in the bedroom — or most things for that matter. Since you’re in the car, there are fewer distractions, and the pressure of making eye contact is lower, which can help make the conversation flow better.
4. Don’t Force the Conversation
As a general rule, forcing an issue is never a good thing — this is especially true when bringing up new ideas about sex with your partner.
If you want to bring up pursuing a new fantasy, trying a different technique, or finding new ways to play in the bedroom, it’s never good to try to coerce the other person to participate.
Rather than trying to persuade your partner or make them see things your way, find ways to bring the idea up with curiosity and interest. Instead of flat-out telling them, “Let’s do this because I think I will like it.” Say, “I really love how we do _____ while we’re playing around. It could really be fun if we add _____ to it.”
Finding ways to pique interest and create a sexual adventure you both want to take is key to having successful conversations about sex and trying new things in the bedroom together.
5. Show Your Partner What You Want
We’re not saying to hop on Google and start pulling up videos.
But sometimes, you need to show your partner what you mean while discussing sex. It could look like you physically showing them where or how you want to be touched, demonstrating what you want by doing it to their body, or just getting creative with how you can physically share your fantasies with them.
Just keep in mind that comfort and safety are the top priorities here. If both of you are happy to escalate the situation, don’t be afraid to keep the conversation going, move it to the bedroom, and continue experimenting.
This step will obviously not be your leading tactic, but it’s a great way to close a conversation about sex.
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Integrating Eroticism and Self-Care Into Your Relationship With Esther Perel
Conversations with your partner about sex can be challenging for many reasons.
You may find that your sexual desires are on entirely different wavelengths, they may want things sexually that you feel you can’t fulfill, or you may actually find that you don’t know what you want in the bedroom.
Psychotherapist and relationships expert, Esther Perel, dedicates her life to helping people find freedom through a deeper understanding of who they are and unlocking their full potential by embracing their erotic nature. According to Esther, eroticism isn’t sex; it’s “sexuality transformed by human imagination.”
And at its core, imaginative thinking begins with one person — you.
This way of thinking doesn’t mean that you’re constantly looking for new ways to be sexy or finding a better way to “get the job done.” It’s a way of learning how to practice self-care and truly love yourself instead.
From that place of self-love, you can begin to explore what you desire and what frees you sexually.
Loving Yourself Helps You Become More Open Sexually
When Esther meets with couples who struggle to communicate their bedroom wants and desires, one thing usually stands out to her — they prioritize getting the job done instead of unlocking the “why” behind it.
You may know that doing “X” turns you on. That could be playing with toys, participating in roleplay, or specific things your partner may do to/for you.
But instead of going deeper into our psyche and learning why those actions arouse us and being able to communicate them clearly, we prefer to make sex an exchange of actions that achieve the final goal of climax rather than loving the journey.
That refusal to dive deeper could stem from a multitude of reasons, but a key one is that we rarely take the time to truly love ourselves. We see our flaws and inadequacies. And as a result, we become too critical of our desires and shut ourselves off from sharing our inner erotic nature.
Allow Yourself to Be Curious and Receptive to Trying New Things
A key to open communication in the bedroom and exploring your erotic nature is to be willing and open to trying new things.
According to Esther, understanding your inner desires doesn’t mean you say “yes” or “no” to every possibility. Instead, it starts by allowing yourself to be influenced, receptive, and curious.
When you allow yourself to be curious, you open the possibilities of reframing how you view desire. Instead of looking at it as a job you must complete, approaching sexuality from a place of exploration helps you free yourself from critical self-evaluation.
Always remember that you deserve to make yourself feel good and try new things. The more you allow yourself to be receptive to pleasure and desire, the easier it will be for you to be open to trying something new with your partner.
Learn More About Communicating Your Desires to Your Partner and Yourself
Yes, talking about sex and vocalizing your desires can be challenging. It takes a willingness to be vulnerable, the desire for open communication, and the time to allow your partner to respond with the same level of openness.
However, when you can let your guard down and approach your sexual conversations from a position of self-love, amazing things can happen!
If you’re curious about introducing more openness into your relationship and unlocking your inner desire, check out Esther’s blog, where she covers all things relationships. Whether you’re looking for better ways to integrate more communication and connection with your partner or wanting to introduce more play in your relationship, Esther has your back with expert advice and meaningful insights into the nature of intimacy.
We hope this article will help you foster a deeper connection with your partner, allow you to be honest with one another, and hopefully open the door for curiosity and exploration in the bedroom.
And always remember, you have the built-in tools to unlock greatness in your life — sometimes it just takes a bit of work to access them!