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How To Talk to Your Partner About Your Sexual Issues or Concerns

When it comes to talking about sex with our partners, it can be easy to panic, whether we’re in a fresh, new relationship or have been married for forty years. Here are some suggestions on how to bring up certain hard-to-talk-about topics.

  1. Take a personal assessment of the situation.

    Sex is a touchy subject, and your emotions may be affected by your own baggage and past as well as those of your partner. Sit with what’s on your mind for a while and figure out what seems off. Some people find that writing is a good way to do this, while others prefer to talk with close friends. The goal is not to whine or point fingers at others. It’s all about you and how you feel about this activity.

  2. Write it down.

    Don’t worry about flowery wording or grammar. Writing down what you want to talk about is an excellent way to clarify your concerns and practice communicating them to your partner. Some people even write a letter to their partner and then give it to them later. Letter writing can be an effective way to express your thoughts and feelings, and when combined with the conversation, it can deepen closeness in a relationship in unexpected ways.

  3. Practice the conversation.

    This isn’t for everyone, but if you have a fear of talking, practicing talking can help. If you have a close friend you can do this with, that’s fantastic. If not, going through it alone can be beneficial. I sit down in front of my computer screen and practice before every important “talk” I’ve ever had to give. My monitor would definitely prompt me to get a life if it could talk, but for me, it’s a great tool (and I’m pretty sure my monitor is too old to talk).

  4. Pick the right timing.

    When to speak is one of the most important questions. It depends a lot on the topic at hand. If you want to bring up the topic of trying something new in bed, it’s usually not a good idea to do so just before intimate intercourse with your partner. Likewise, it’s not a good idea to bring up your dissatisfaction with the frequency of your sex life right before your kids come home (or the in-laws come to visit).

  5. Choose an appropriate place.

    Like timing, location can make a difference. Bringing up sexual dissatisfaction in bed is a bad idea because it can create a negative association with your bed. Plus, you and your partner may feel more exposed in bed than you would during a late-night stroll in full gear.

  6. Let your partner process your thoughts.

    Remember that what you say may surprise your partner. Allow time and space for both of you to respond honestly without feeling rushed or forced. You may not be able to fully resolve the issue or even discuss all facets in one session. Think of sexual communication as an ongoing process rather than a one-time event.

  7. Be understanding.

    Consider how difficult it is for you to address your sexual concerns when you are the only one doing so. If you are the only one doing this, it may be even more difficult for your partner: try to be generous to your partner and avoid putting too much responsibility on either of you. You are in a relationship with another person, and you both have to take responsibility for what is going on.

  8. Don’t avoid the issue after bringing up the topic.

    We can be so upset about bringing something up with a partner, and then it turns out it’s not as horrible as we expected, and we’re relieved, so we want to move on. Give yourself permission to bring it up again. Make it clear to your partner that you care how they feel and that you want to check in with them to see how the conversation went. Don’t do this in a nagging way.

Additional tips:

Remember that each circumstance is unique. These are general guidelines, and your case may require many more considerations.

When it comes to taking risks like these, keep in mind that your imagination can be your worst enemy. The reality is that the answer is almost never as terrible as you expect, and having a frank conversation about your sexual feelings, desires, likes, and dislikes with your spouse can improve not only your sex life, but other elements of your relationship as well.


Amie Dawson, Ph.D.

Amie Dawson, Ph.D.

As a certified sex educator and sex toy reviewer, Amie has spent her career empowering individuals and couples to embrace their sexuality.

With a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality and an ever-growing collection of over 200 vibrators, she's got the knowledge and experience to guide you on your pleasure-seeking journey.

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