On Abraham Maslow’s (1943) hierarchy of needs model, sex is grouped with air, food, water, clothing, and shelter as a fundamental human need for survival. Despite sex being a critical component of human behavior, it is often one of the most unapproachable, uncomfortable, taboo, and anxiety-inducing topics we encounter. In even the most stable, loving relationships a discussion of sex can introduce feelings of awkwardness, confusion, shame, or even fear. Fortunately, given the right tools, conversations regarding sex can be honest, frank, and even fun and have the opportunity to further strengthen the bond between partners. There is more to healthy conversations about sex than “what do I like?” and “what do you like?”. Often neglected conversations about HIV- and STI status, fetishes, desires, dislikes, contraceptive methods, and willingness for exploration among many others are just as important as establishing the bases in one’s sexual life.
“There is more to healthy conversations
about sex than ‘what do I like?’
and ‘what do you like?'”
Being open and honest with your partner or partners about anxiety and discomfort is the first step in opening up a regular dialogue that can gradually diminish these feelings and will allow for greater trust and awareness within the relationship. It is never too early or late to initiate an honest discussion about sex with a partner, but how can we start this conversation? In an ideal world, every aspect of our sexual person, from our desires, fantasies, and curiosities, to our turn-offs would be discussed before the first sexual encounter with another person. Obviously, circumstances rarely allow for this. However, it is important to note that conversations about sex can take place before, after, and/or during sex. Sexual conversations can even be a lead-in to sexual activity.
One need not share every aspect of their sexuality with their partner, however one must also remember that partners are not mind readers. No two individuals have the same sexual interests, which makes it essential for partners to communicate their needs and wants to one another. This improved communication allows for a more diverse and rewarding relationship and can help one broaden their understanding not only of their partners’ sexuality, but also of their own.
In my free workshop, Intimate Dialogue: Disarm the discomfort when talking about sex, I provide ways to initiate these topics with your partner, quell the fears around discussing this vulnerable topic and provide a framework for all future discussions about sex.
Matt Sutera, MHP, provides counseling services at Thrive Therapy in Burnsville, MN. His experience also includes providing therapy and skills services to families with a variety of presenting concerns, such as abuse and neglect, reunification, community violence, substance use/abuse, grief and loss, and sexual concerns.