How to talk about sex

By Kristen Mark, Ph.D.

So much sex advice out there revolves around communicating with your partner. What many people don't realize is that there are different types of communication. There is non-verbal communication, where you can tell what your partner is feeling just by catching a glimpse of her facial expression from across the room. There is verbal communication, where you talk directly about everyday issues. And then there is also sexual communication. No, I don't mean talking dirty between the sheets.

Sexual communication has been a widely ignored extension of verbal communication. That's a shame, since it could seriously improve the sex lives of countless couples. The good news? Researchers are paying more attention to this approach. In fact, one recent study from Indiana University found that sexual communication is a more significant contributor to sexual and relationship satisfaction than non-sexual verbal communication. But there's one problem: Not everyone feels comfortable talking about sex, especially when the talk happens outside of a sexual context.

Here are some tips to help get you talking:

Polish your vocabulary: One of the greatest difficulties couples have when it comes to sexual communication is an inadequate sexual vocabulary. Some of us may never have had anything more than locker-room talk to discuss sex. Start by learning the proper words for body parts. This might seem too clinical at first, but it offers a way to talk about sex when you're not having sex without offending anyone with slang.

Ease in with texting: A great thing about technology is its ability to allow us to say things that we may not feel as comfortable saying in person. You can type something, think about it for a bit, decide if you've adequately captured your thoughts, then hit send. Try sending your partner a text that lets them know something about your sexual preferences. For example, say, "When you do ____, it gets me in the mood for sex." Or, think about an issue you're having, come up with a solution in your mind, and then express it using positive sexy terms via text. By doing this, not only will you get them excited to see you later, but you'll also be practicing sexual communication and letting them know what you like.

Use the phone: If texting just isn't your thing, try using the phone to talk to your partner about sex. Randomly call and communicate what your favorite sexual position is and why. This doesn't have to turn into phone sex, in fact it shouldn't. If you're shy, call your partner and tell her that you had a really sexy dream about her and describe what you want in very sexy terms as though it was part of the dream. If you're introducing something taboo, you can always blame your subconscious!

Practice with each other: This might be a little bit awkward the first time you do it, but it's worth it. Sit down and practice using your newfound vocabulary with your partner. Talk about sex outside of the bedroom in a non-sexual setting and practice getting comfortable using sexual communication as a way to converse. You can still make the sex talk sexy by expressing your desires in positive, sexy terms.

Once you can communicate your sexual needs and wants to your partner you'll be one step ahead of the many couples who expect their partners to understand their sexual thoughts through mind reading or subtle non-verbal cues. Research shows that couples that can communicate openly about sex are more sexually satisfied. This has also been shown to impact their overall relationship satisfaction, with couples that successfully communicate about sex showing higher levels of satisfaction than those who don't. So go forth, learn some new sex words, bring them out of the bedroom, and practice the art of sexual communication!

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