People like sex; that much is a given. But for many of us, it’s easier to think about having sex, and actually have sex, than it is to talk about it. Even though it’s the most intimate act we can share with another person, it makes us so freaking uncomfortable to talk about — even when we’re talking to our partner or a close friend.
But communicating openly about sex is extremely important — we all like and want different things, after all. It can feel scary and vulnerable to talk about such a personal and intimate thing, but it’s important to be on the same page as our partner. And just like anything else in life, the more you practice it, the easier it becomes to be open about such a personal subject.
Michael Salas, a sex therapist certified with the American Association for Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT), makes his living talking to couples about sex, and there are a few key things to remember when it comes to having a healthy, satisfying sex life:
1. A great sex life takes work.
The first thing to realize, and probably most important, is a good sex life does take work — not something a lot of us want to hear. We want it to be fun, easy, and super hot just like it is in the beginning of the relationship when you can’t get enough of each other. But it’s not realistic. Salas says this is a hard pill for many couples to swallow because, at one time, sex felt effortless. When it gets a bit more complicated, it’s easy to lose interest and crave that spark again — but all the more reason to put some effort into sexy time with your partner.
2. Don’t complain.
Salas goes on to say, “whining, pouting, or getting passive-aggressive” is not the way to communicate effectively with your partner. These behaviors are manipulative, and they turn almost everyone off,” he says. There’s nothing that kills the mood faster than someone hanging their head and complaining, instead of asking, “What can I do to spice things up?” Now, that’s hot because it shows you care and want to keep that magic alive.
3. Own your satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) in your sex life.
Another mistake a lot of couples make is to blame their partner for their lackluster sex life. And while you can’t change your sex life by yourself, you can take responsibility for your part of it. Discuss your concerns with your partner — just remember: no blaming or pouting. You can be open and honest about your feelings and needs without making your partner feel like it’s all their fault.
4. Sex is so much more than having intercourse.
Salas reminds us there are so many other pleasurable things we can do for each other that go beyond genital-to-genital contact. “Many don’t realize we have places of arousal all over our bodies,” he says. Talk with your partner, experiment, or have one night when you make a deal you aren’t going to have sex, but are going to please each other in other ways. What better way than to really get to know what turns each other on? Maybe they love their neck being kissed, or their inner thighs massaged. These are small gestures you can do throughout the day to get them in the mood for later too. When foreplay starts in the morning and lasts all day, sexy time can be explosive.
5. Talk about your fantasies.
Ask each other questions, and talk about things you might like (or not like) to try. It doesn’t mean you have to do them, or your partner will want to do them. Salas says having an open mind during these discussions is key — no one wants to feel shamed because they might be interested in experimenting in a way you are not. We need to feel safe with our sexual partners.
6. Spicing it up will not always fix bigger problems.
Salas emphasizes the importance of doing more than just adding sex toys or sexy lingerie. When couples are struggling in the bedroom, it’s a sign something else is going on. “There are underlying stories, resentments, and narratives that are impeding great sex,” he says. We need to remember sex is very emotional. If we are feeling angry, shameful, or betrayed, it’s very hard to let our bodies open up and let another person in. In order to enjoy and share fantastic sex, Salas recommends trying to fix (or at least manage) the other problems, too. Sex toys can be fun and sexy, but they will not help trust issues or other emotional struggles.
With some communication, work, and a lot of talking (in and out of the bedroom), your sex life can stay strong. It’s important to note we all go through dry spells, and there is no “right” amount of sex we should be having — that’s up to you and your partner to decide.