There’s always more you can learn about your partner, yourself, and the relationship you share. The key is asking the right questions and listening to the answers without judgement. This is especially true when it comes to sex — fear of being judged can stand in the way of desire, which lead in turn to sexual lives that aren’t what they could be. Chalk it up to our society’s generally puritanical ideas about all things sex, but what couples need is an approachable, constructive way for talking about intimacy — sex questions for couples are a great way to do that. Only in asking can you understand what your partner really wants and desires.
We reached out to a variety of sex and relationship experts and arrived at this list of eleven questions partners can ask one another. Ranging from the simple (“What does intimacy mean to you?”) to the more specific (“Will you show me what you like?”), all of these sex questions for couples are intended to make obvious what might be unspoken. Because when you speak plainly about your sex life and without judgement with one another, everyone is happier and more satisfied in the bedroom and beyond. And isn’t that what we all want?
1. “What does intimacy mean to you?”
Much like a love language, we each have an intimacy language. For some, intimacy means having every inch of your body caressed in the glow of candlelight. For others, it’s a quickie followed by snuggling while watching Rumble in the Bronx. Both are valid expressions and, according to Jackie Golob, sex & relationship therapist at the Center for Sexual Wellness. “One partner might want longer foreplay, focusing on emotional arousal, while one partner might prefer the physical side,” she says. “We’re not robots. There’s no button we can press and be instantly turned on.” Asking this question in different ways — both general and specific — is, per Golob, key to establishing connection with your partner.”
2. “How important is having an orgasm?”
Sure orgasms are great and it’s important for both partners to feel satisfied in the bedroom. But they’re certainly not the end-all, be-all for everyone. Yet we put a lot of unnecessary weight on them. “For many couples, the emphasis on orgasm takes away from the pleasure they could be having,” says Sarah Hubbell, Licensed Associate Marriage Family Therapist. “If orgasm doesn’t happen every time, you are perfectly normal. In fact, research shows us moving the goal from orgasm to pleasure leads to a more satisfying sex life overall.” Having a discussion about this helps couples understand what’s important and will open up more conversations.
3. “When do you feel closest to me?”
Chances are, this isn’t a question that most couples have asked one another. That’s a shame because you might be surprised to learn that your partner feels closest to you not when you’re being intimate but when you’re simply looking into her eyes and holding her hand. “This question is important because it taps into the erotic energy between partners,” says Isolde Sundet, a licensed mental health counselor who works with a variety of couples in the areas of intimacy. “Don’t confuse eroticism for being exclusive to sexuality,” she adds. “For some, eroticism lives in feeling safe, feeling seen, or having an intellectually stimulating conversation with a sexual partner.”
4. “What do you need from me when we have sex?”
“As a therapist one theme that arises in my practice often is one partner feeling obligated to have sex and subsequently developing resentment towards their partner,” explains Sundet. “Resentment kills libido and eroticism and, when it is not expressed, can lead to anger and depression.” To avoid planting seeds of resentment in your intimate communication, dig deep and unearth what your partner really needs to thrive. “Try thinking deeply about what you need from your partner before, during, and after sex,” Sundet suggests. “Then ask them the same question. You may be surprised at how similar your answers are.”
5. “What have been some of your sexiest encounters?”
We know. This is a prickly topic, and a question that seems beyond certain to backfire. But, according to Sundet, sexual hindsight is 20/20, and a respectful discussion of past liaisons can lead to greater intimacy. “This topic may not be for everyone but if you’re comfortable and feel safe talking to your partner about past sexual experiences, this is a great way to learn more about your partner,” she says. “It can also actually be a great turn-on technique before sex. Ask your partner what was one of their best sexual experiences?” Why? As you bravely divulge details, consider what it’s like to share something thought of as so largely taboo with someone you unconditionally love and trust, and how your intimacy can grow exponentially from the experience.
6. “What makes it difficult for you to be fully present during sex with me?”
Being distracted isn’t exclusively an intimacy thing; it’s a human being thing. Whether you’re having trouble transitioning from your work day, feeling performance anxiety, or concentrating on that ouroboros of a to-do list, being distracted from intimacy is a two-way mood killer. Hubbell advises starting at the source, and working through the distraction together. “Is your partner running through a checklist of distractions instead of being in the moment? Help him or her check off some of the items,” she suggests. Even though talking about a workday or list of errands isn’t super sexy, the airing of distractions can be sexually and intimately freeing. “You’ll put your partner’s mind more at ease,” Hubbell adds, “and allow him or her to be fully present and genuinely engaged in the moment.”
7. “How exactly do you want to experience pleasure?”
Part of intimacy and sexual satisfaction is dropping your guard. You have to be vulnerable in order to communicate what you want and don’t want in a sexual relationship, and doing so will help your partner feel safe doing the same. “Get descriptive,” advises Golob. “Your partner isn’t a mind reader. So, if you don’t share what you prefer, they may never know.” These discussions Golob stresses, are important so sex can be prioritized. “Think about it like a stop light – red means stop, yellow means maybe, green means go.” Talking with your partner in those terms can help you accurately embrace the quality of your shared intimacy.
8. “Will you tell / show me what you like?”
“This is a great question to facilitate trust, communication, and physicality in the moment,” says Golob. “It’s perfectly okay to ask for what you want when it comes to sexual stimulation and pleasure. In fact, if you feel comfortable, you can even show your partner what techniques you prefer — like when you masturbate – so they can use them on you.” The less you or your partner have to guess, the more connected you’ll become.
9. “What turns you off?”
To know what you like, you have to know what you don’t. “Most people start in the opposite direction, asking their partner about their turn ons,” explains Hubbell. “In reality, there are both a sexual accelerator and sexual brake pedal. The brakes tend to get less attention, but can have more of an impact on your overall sex life.” Turn offs aren’t personal, either. “It could be something as simple as being exhausted from the day, or your kid sleeping in the next room that kills the vibe,” adds Hubbell. “The point is, knowing what hampers your partner’s sexual appetite can help you to reverse engineer a solution.”
10. “Do you watch porn?”
This question is intimately important for two specific reasons, says Sundet. First, if your partner has had trouble with getting and staying aroused it may be related to how much and what type of porn they’re watching. Secondly, the types of porn we choose to watch may or may not have anything to do with what we actually want in the bedroom, but it can be fun and interesting to learn about what your partner likes to watch. The key with this delicate question, he says, is to remember that it’s not meant to evoke judgement on either side of the relationship. “Lead with genuine curiosity,” he suggests. “This is a question that may not feel safe for everyone, but it requires vulnerability and trust, which are always helpful for building intimacy.”
11. “What do you wish we would try?”
“Most of us feel shame about our sexual fantasies because culturally we’ve been socialized to believe that the topic is embarrassing,” explains Sundet. “Because of that, we often expect our partners to know what we want. Ultimately, that leads to disappointment or frustration.” While this question isn’t a guarantee that your partner will be on board with all of your sexual desires, according to Sundet, it’s a great way to open the door to intimate discussions that can ultimately add emotional honesty and closeness to your relationship.