“Healthy couples don’t actually make a big deal when talking about sex,” says Jackie Golob, a mental health counsellor and sex and relationship therapist at the Centre for Sexual Wellness, “The key to good sexual communication is consistency. Foreplay begins the moment we wake up in the morning. We have to communicate our needs in ways that help us compromise, as couples, to please each other, make each other feel safe, and encourage us to look forward to the next sexual encounter.”
Cay Crow, licensed professional counselor, certified sex therapist, and certified sex therapy supervisor adds that one of the benefits of keeping up this dialogue is that when any issues might occur, there’s no awkwardness in bringing it up.
“Good sex doesn’t just happen,” she says. “Couples need to put effort into keeping the flame alive through prioritized healthy communication. If sexual desire wanes, healthy couples will address it. They might see a doctor to check themselves out physically. They might address specific areas of need through therapy.
Carol Queen, PhD, and staff sexologist at Good Vibrations, adds that successfully communicating about sex is a skill, and that honing it will inevitably lead to better overall communication in your relationship.
With their help, here are six things all couples who are good at sex talk about.
1. They Talk About Their Sex Life Regularly — At the Right Time
Healthy conversations about sex should be regular occurrences. It’s important that couples talk about everything from desires to more specific matters related to intimacy. And, as Queen emphasizes, when you have them is important. “It’s not just what you say, but when you say it,” she says.
In other words, you need to know when it’s right to discuss sexual matters. Because such conversations will only work well when both partners are in the right mindset.
“Good communication means making sure your partner has the emotional capacity to talk intimately,” she adds. “If they don’t, scheduling a later time can allow a couple to focus more positively.”
When having the discussion, attentiveness is essential. “Active listening lets couples check in with what they heard their partner say and make sure they’ve understood what was meant,” Queen says. “If something is misinterpreted, it can be caught right away, rather than leading to a destructive rabbit hole.”
2. They Put Sex on the Calendar — And Talk About the Upcoming Date
“When we come up with excuses like, ‘I’m too tired,’ or ‘I’m too busy’, our partner becomes less of a priority,” says Golob. “It’s healthy to write down dates and plan times to have sex.”
Importantly, couples should sit down and discuss days on which your combined workload is usually lighter, and you anticipate enough free time to really engage. Then, put it on the calendar, set some notifications, and use the days leading up to the deed to heighten the anticipation.
“Healthy couples can tease each other leading up to the actual sex,” adds Golob. “They share what they’re looking forward to, and their minds can daydream and wander throughout the week.”
Scheduling sex increases communication about the upcoming sex, of course, but also naturally increases communication about sex overall.” Plus, it beats a week of cold showers.
3. They Talk About Their Likes and Dislikes Openly
A sexual wish list is great. It can lead to deeper discussions and exciting new bedroom rituals. But, it’s not a legal document that you or your partner is obligated to fulfill. Communicating that reality, per Crow, is essential to a healthy sex life.
“Each partner needs to feel safe, secure, and calm,” she says. “Sex is adult play — imaginative and free flowing. Healthy couples communicate by showing up as who they are, and now who they think their partner wants them to be. From there, with a little creativity, it becomes easier and more natural to approximate their partner’s desires.”
Healthy sex, she adds, is a celebration of the relationship. “Improper communication regarding what you do or don’t want to do can introduce negative energy into the relationship, which will only shut down both of your desires.”
4. They Talk About Their Triggers — And Don’t Shame Their Partner
“Anyone can have tender spots in conversation that bring up past vulnerabilities or issues,” explains Queen. “Couples who communicate successfully are not blindsided by those. Instead, they recognize when such topics come up, own the responses, and get past them without placing blame.”
For any sex discussion, placing blame should absolutely be avoided at all costs, because it unfairly turns our problems into our partner’s. “Using language like, ‘You always…’ or ‘You never…’ shows that we seek to make an issue the sole responsibility of our partner, instead of accounting for our own role as well,” she adds.
5. They Talk About a Sexual Menu
Healthy couples know how to classify their personal sexual prowesses and preferences based on comfort level, boundaries, arousal, and curiosity.
“You don’t own your partner’s sexual preferences,” explains Crow. “Just like food, you or your partner can be in the mood for different things at different times”
She regularly advises couples to communicate by coming up with three columns of sexual activity. The first column contains what you like and will do. The second, what you might try. And the third, what you absolutely won’t do.
Because the definition of sex can vary so widely, this exercise is a great way to strengthen communication if your signals have become unclear as well as for gaining a better idea of what your partner likes during sex.
6. They Talk About and Validate Each Other’s Sexual Strengths
Validation is essential to any healthy relationship, including a sexual one. Humans, per Golob, are programmed to think negatively, and sex is often an area of communication in which specific phrases can have lasting impacts.
“For every one negative thought or comment we hear, we need 3-5 positive ones to rewire our brain, and rebuild its neuroplasticity,” she says. “Healthy couples understand and validate each other. They make sure to address everything, while focusing on positives and allowing their partner to share as well. And during these discussions, they’re open, honest, and engaged.” Learning what specific phrases, types of questions, or rewards (sexual, or otherwise) make your partner feel more confident will boost your ability to communicate as a couple in and out of the bedroom.