I’ll let you in on a little secret of mine: I used to be terrible at communicating with my partner. Introverted by nature and a little shy, I didn’t know how to ask for what I wanted. I barely knew what it was I even wanted, and I hesitated to admit it for fear that it would make me seem inadequate somehow. I wanted to be perfect for him. I wanted to be perfect, period.
It didn’t take long for me to realize something wasn’t right, though it took me a bit longer to pinpoint exactly what that something was. The problem wasn’t really my lack of expertise—it was that I wasn’t allowing myself to trust in my partner or our relationship enough to open up to him about something that, though it felt private to me, was deeply affecting both of us and our time together. Relationships, of course, are built on trust—and the only way to build that trust is through open communication.
And yet, communicating can be a little bit scary. It’s unnerving for many of us to lay our cards on the table and allow ourselves to be that vulnerable. I get it. But with time, patience, and a little practice, you can get better at it—and enjoy a stronger, more fulfilling sexual relationship as a result.
Communication is the secret to success in any type of relationship, but it is especially important in sexual relationships. For one thing, it’s been scientifically proven to increase satisfaction on both sides of the equation—numerous studies, including a recent analysis from the researchers at Temple University, have found that openly communicating about sexual needs and health appears to be a strong predictor of feeling fulfilled in a relationship, both in bed and in general.
But the value of verbal intercourse goes beyond making the two of you happier. Important though satisfaction is in any sexual relationship, discussing your wants and needs with one another has other important emotional benefits. It brings you closer, making you feel safer and more secure in your relationship. It helps you both feel more competent and, as a result, more confident. You no longer have to guess what the other person wants and wonder whether or not you’re doing it right—and neither of you has to “fake it” and pretend to enjoy something rather than speaking up for fear that you will be ridiculed or hurt the other person’s feelings.
It’s also vital, both for the health of your relationship and your own personal well-being, to be able to talk about physical concerns, including disorders, disabilities, or other medical concerns that may affect your sexual function. It’s far better to bring such issues up as soon as possible to ensure both your safety and your partner’s. Even if neither of you currently has any specific medical or physical issues to consider, simply being able to communicate what feels good and what does not can go a long way towards preventing sex-related injuries and infections.
Being on the same page in terms of play styles and toys is important for emotional and physical health, too. If one of you is into more hardcore sensual play involving spanking and leather whips while the other doesn’t like to get more adventurous than trying on a soft satin blindfold once in a while, your solution should not be to “suck it up” and pretend to enjoy your partner’s kinks—nor should you try and force your partner to be into yours. Communication means being open to one another’s interests and needs and finding solutions to sexual conundrums that will help you both feel more satisfied, in and out of the bedroom.
Of course, communication isn’t simply a matter of opening your mouth and speaking. In order to make any difference, you have to know how to articulate your feelings clearly and lovingly—and how to listen and respond to your partner’s desires with attentiveness and compassion.
The first step in learning how to communicate effectively is figuring out how to start a conversation in the first place. Know that the timing may never be perfect—and trying to wait until it is may keep you procrastinating long past the ideal window of opportunity. That being said, trying to broach a tricky bedroom topic during an incredibly inopportune moment can be just as bad.
Finally, if you need a little extra help getting started, consider using an online survey on sexual preferences to break the ice. Answering a survey and comparing your results can be a fun, non-confrontational means of getting to know each other (and yourselves) better while somewhat subtly introducing the idea that talking about what you do and don’t like in bed isn’t as taboo a topic as it can sometimes seem.
Once you’ve got the conversation going, the next step is to keep it going. When you’re the one doing the talking, these communication strategies can help keep your conversation (and the health of your relationship) on track:
Just like your relationship, your conversations should be a two-way street. Be sure to let your partner know you value their thoughts and feelings as much as you want them to value yours by keeping these three tips in mind:
It isn’t always easy to talk about sex, to delve into topics that may make one (or both) of you uncomfortable, and to risk being vulnerable enough to be totally honest with one another. Even if you’ve had years of practice at it, it can still be a little unnerving at times to admit to certain things or discover unexpected kinks in someone you thought you knew everything about.
But I speak from experience when I say that it’s better to speak up than to keep your mouth shut. It took my husband and I some trial and error, and even now we don’t always get it right. Sometimes I still bottle things up. Sometimes he doesn’t know the right thing to say. But knowing that the bedroom door is always open, and that our bed is a safe space in which we can feel free to express ourselves and be true to our own desires, is a source of great comfort and relief to us both.
It’s tempting to procrastinate, to put off talking about important relationship matters and let things simmer until they reach the boiling point rather than face things we fear might drive us apart. But proper communication actually tends to have the opposite effect, and can bring you closer together than ever before.
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How does that old phrase go?: Cleanliness is next to godliness, and whatever else you do, be certain to clean your sex toys. I think that’s it.
Properly cleaning sex toys isn’t hard work, but it is serious business. The consequences of not cleaning your sex toy are more significant than you might think. Sex toys come in a huge range of shapes and materials, and that will affect how you want to go about cleaning them. But there are some general tips to keep in mind, as well as specific instructions for individual materials.
A well-stocked bedroom is like a well-stocked bar. You need to have more than a pack of condoms, just as you need more than a case of Natty Light.
It’s not enough to have walls and a mattress. There are times you’re in the mood for simple, and times you’re in the mood for complex. There are times you want pure pleasure and times you want a hint of pain. Are you stocked for it?