A Healthy Sex Life Includes Communicating With Your Partner
When you go to get a haircut and your hairdresser asks, “What would you like me to do today?”, you typically don’t reply, “Go crazy and do anything you want.” Even if you don’t have a complete mental picture of what you want done, you might tell them what you like or what you don’t like, and you’ll definitely let them know what will not be OK. (Mohawks are so 1980s!)
Your sex life should be no different.
No means no
Communicating consent is something important you need to be very clear about.
To keep with the helpful hairdresser analogy, you wouldn’t let just anyone chop your gorgeous locks. You decide who cuts your hair and provide that person with specific guidance as to what you want.
Whether you just met someone or have known someone for years and have been intimate with them, you should always have the option to say no to any sexual activity.
Sometimes people may feel as if they have led someone on by accident and have sex out of guilt. Other times, someone may initially want to have sex but change their mind for any number of reasons and then feel too intimidated to take back their original “yes.”
However, let’s be clear: No means no. Even after a yes, even after drinks and even after years of knowing someone.
Even if you’ve been in a relationship for years and just aren’t feeling in the mood one night, saying no doesn’t make you a bad partner. Even if you change your mind while you’re actually having sex—you may have been in the mood when you started—there should be no question that you and your partner should put sex on hold until you’re ready.
It’s all OK because consent should be seen as a continual act, meaning it’s not one-and-done. If you ask your partner to stop in the middle of intercourse, they should do so immediately, without getting angry or trying to guilt-trip you.
The only healthy relationship is one where consent is communicated openly and enthusiastically.
And if you’re feeling nervous about communicating with your partner, that’s OK, too. Try asking about their sexual likes and interests. Having them open up first may help you to be honest about what you like and dislike, and what past experiences have shaped your approach to sex. The more you know about each other, the more likely you are to understand each other’s preferences, leading to a healthy, enjoyable sex life.
Uncomfortable but OK
Another part of sexual communication is discussing safe sex. Individuals in every relationship should have one of these conversations, and maybe more, especially if you have an open relationship or find that circumstances have changed since you originally got together.
Despite feeling awkward, these questions are vital:
- What is our goal when having sex?
- What birth control method (if any) makes sense for us?
- What kind of birth control do you like best?
- Have you been tested for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
- Did you test positive for any STIs, and were you treated for them?
These questions are a starting point. Odds are, as you learn more about your partner, you’ll think of more questions. Don’t be shy; ask them as they come to you.
Be upfront, even if what you like is unusual
You can’t expect a new hairdresser to know what you want and get it right with no direction, no matter how much experience they have. A bad haircut is disappointing, and sex can be, too, if communication is lacking.
Whether you’re in a new sexual relationship or you’ve been with the same person for years, it’s good to keep an open line of clear communication—what you liked once might differ from what you like now. Starting with a good communication pattern now can make it easier to change your tendencies at a later point in time.
If you’re new to sex and aren’t sure what to communicate to a partner, you have an easy and enjoyable way to find out: masturbation. Experiment on your own, so you can pass the information along to future partners. How much pressure do you like? Does one particular spot send sparks flying, or is there somewhere else you want to be touched? Is there something that turns you on more than anything else? Letting your partner know the answers to these questions will benefit both of you. Chances are, they’re worried about pleasing you just as much as you’re worried about getting it right with them.
You’re up for this challenge
Communicating about sex is challenging. Your partner will always want to know whether they’re doing a good job, and the point of talking through it is to have them improve. And the last thing you want to do is hurt anyone’s feelings. Just think about how you’d feel if you were doing something and someone told you bluntly you weren’t doing it well.
When communicating during sex, be gentle. Nonverbal communication is a great way to direct your partner without having to say anything. Try guiding their hands and fingers to places you’d like them to be, show your partner what you’d like them to do. With encouragement, your partner is capable of playing you beautifully, like a musical instrument.
Remember, everyone is different. If your partner sets a boundary, respect it. If there’s something you think you might like or want to try, be open and honest about it. You might discover you and your partner both enjoy preferences that would never have come up without an open conversation.
Communication is best when established at the very beginning. However, if you find yourself in the middle of a relationship and you haven’t discussed sexual preferences, it’s never too late to sit down with your partner and have a conversation about it. Chances are, you’ve both been withholding vital information that could help you make each other much happier in bed.
Keep the lines of communication open and your relationship will prosper. And that’s a guarantee.