How to Introduce Sex Toys Into Your Relationship
Recently, a friend introduced sex toys into her relationship—after eight years. It was interesting to hear her thoughts and the challenges she faced when talking about bringing sex toys into her relationship.
Anything you introduce to a relationship has the potential to initiate change and growth. Change for many people, though, can be scary and uncomfortable.
Why is it so difficult to talk to your partner about sex?
"Sexual communication can be super uncomfortable for couples for so many reasons. It can feel awkward and weird if talking about sex is not something that the couple does regularly," said Rachel Smith, M.F.T., C.S.T., a licensed marriage and family therapist at Infinite Intimacy in Cooper City, Florida. "It also requires a high level of vulnerability, often leaving us feeling exposed and at risk of judgment or rejection. When we approach these topics, it’s helpful to do so in a kind, loving, caring, gentle and compassionate way."
While open communication around sex has increased in recent years, it can still be incredibly difficult to discuss.
Communicating your wants is not only an important skill, but it can help you better grow together as a couple.
People who have issues communicating their sexual needs and desires also report having more problems, more frequently, in bed, as indicated by a 2019 study. Thoughtful communication with your partner is an important skill to develop.
Here are a few tips to help you approach your partner about introducing toys into your relationship, especially if you are years into your connection.
Try the sandwich approach
It is important to be mindful of your partner’s feelings without letting your own feelings, needs and desires fall by the wayside. One helpful way to address touchy topics is with Smith’s sandwich approach, a version of the widely recognized compliment sandwich.
Using this approach, communicate with your partner something you loved during your recent sexual experience with each other, then explain clearly what you might not have liked or how you think the next time's experience can be improved.
"Even for couples who openly talk about their sex lives, suggesting something that has never been discussed before can feel threatening," said Genesis Games, L.M.H.C., a licensed mental health counselor in Miami. "My advice for the partner suggesting is that you introduce the topic by explaining why this is so important for you or the relationship. Help your partner understand the value toys, in this case, will add to your sex life and your relationship overall."
Ensure clarity around the discussion
As difficult as it might feel to approach the topic, check in with your partner to confirm that you both understand how to move forward after the discussion happens.
If there is ever a moment that you feel confused or concerned with how your partner may react to something you said, ask clarifying questions. "Forgive me, but what did you mean when you said [this]?" It's a simple way to make you understand each other.
Toys aren't meant to remove a sexual partner. They are used to add to the experience and create further intimacy.
Remember that you are showing an interest in your partner and in making sex enjoyable for both of you. Try not to make any assumptions when asking these questions. They can often push your partner into defense mode instead of leaving them open to a vulnerable and understanding conversation.
Communicate that this change isn’t about inadequacy
It’s normal for someone to feel like their talents in the bedroom may be falling short if their partner is asking for a change—especially years into a relationship.
One minute, you may think you have been having the best sex of your life, and the next, your partner indicates that they may want something different. But this is true for any switch-up in the bedroom, not just toys.
What's the difference? Toys prey on our insecurities. Vibrators and similar technology are faster, perform longer and are often several times more stimulating than human reproductive organs.
No one has 15 different rhythm modes and a variety of speeds built into their sexual organs.
"The most common misconception around using sex toys is related to a feeling of inadequacy," Smith said. "Many people think that toys are a 'replacement' of sorts for sex or a sexual partner. This thinking is problematic for several reasons."
Getting to know your body helps you feel more comfortable and more informed when you're with a partner.
That's not the case in many relationships. Toys aren't meant to remove a sexual partner. They are used to add to the experience and create further intimacy.
"In partnered sex, toys offer more of an enhancement to the sexual experience rather than a replacement, especially because roughly 80 percent [of women] are only able to achieve orgasm through direct clitoral stimulation, to which sex toys can be a great aid," Smith said.
Sex toys aren't just for people who consider themselves kinky. We still battle outdated thought patterns that induce shame around sex.
Make sure your partner knows they are not inadequate. This is just another form of sex you’d like to try—with them.
Start with the standards
"If you’re ready to start exploring the expansive world of sex toys, starting with a standard vibrator or pocket rocket are a couple of great options," Smith said.
There are plenty of options for a couple looking to try something new. Smith recommends a toy called the Tiki. She said it is soft and made with water-resistant silicone. Simple and sleek, it's good for beginners.
In addition to the Tiki, the dual-action couples’ massager TIANI Harmony by LELO is an alternative you and your partner could also consider.
If you are more into clitoral stimulation, the SONA Cruise by LELO is also an option for starters.
Another way to dip your toes into the sex toy world is with low-tech options such as anal plugs, gentle restraints and even multi-sensory lubricant options.
Explore erogenous zones
"Erogenous zones are great places to explore. However, if you are newly introducing a vibrator, I highly recommend starting low and slow," Smith said.
Sex toys are good for your physical and mental health. Getting to know your body helps you feel more comfortable and more informed when you're with a partner. But exploring your body alone also increases your chances of intimacy with your partner. Knowing what you need and actively communicating that can enhance your connection and further fortify your intimacy and sexual connection.
"First, feel how the different vibrating sensations feel on the palm of your hands and fingertips," Smith said. "When you find a comfortable speed, you can further explore by bringing the vibrations up your arms, down your legs, around your neck and then down your torso to experience the sensations throughout your entire body."
Exploring the sensation in all areas of your body is just as important solo as it is while working with your partner. This way, you can dig into your own desires and offer them some suggestions as you start to get acquainted with new facets of bedroom life.
Most importantly, make your partner feel safe
Most partnerships are—and should be—built on some degree of safety. Maintaining that sense of security and comfort through change is so important.
"Create a safe space for them to share how they feel and any concerns they may have," Games said.
Remember, though, not to internalize your partner's initial reaction too heavily, as they are processing a lot of different emotions. Once you both feel grounded and safe to explore sex toys as an option, consider the beauty in the privilege of this exploration.
"Novelty, exploration and excitement are good feelings to experience within your relationship," Games said. "Over time, in mature relationships, we can lose the sense of novelty, excitement and exploration. Introducing change is an attempt to bring those feelings back or strengthen them."
A partner who opens up these discussions has overcome their fears and anxieties in the hopes of amplifying the relationship experience for both parties. That, in itself, is a statement about your connection that speaks volumes.
The bottom line
If your chat takes an unexpected turn, comfort your partner through a slower-paced conversation. Provide plenty of reassurance.
Change can be challenging, especially for people in a long-term relationship. Communicating your wants is not only an important skill, but it can help you better grow together as a couple.