Talking About Sex in Marriage

With Our Guest, Hailey Weller

It’s common for couples to avoid talking about sex, because with this conversion can come expectations and assumptions of what sex in marriage “should” be like, and a lot of strong emotions.

But trust me, as sensitive and vulnerable as talking about sex in marriage can be, it’s so worth it.

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Talking About Sex in Marriage

1- How do I start a conversation about sex with my partner and what does that look like?

Talking about sex in marriage can seem really vulnerable, and it is! Especially if it’s something you don’t talk about often.

  • Make sure you start a conversation in the right setting. Make sure that neither of you are ‘hangry’ (so maybe don’t start talking about sex right before dinner), or tired (so maybe not right before bed either). Don’t bring sex up if you are arguing about something else. Choose a calm moment when you both are feeling levelheaded and will not be interrupted.
  • Use “I” statements. Things like, “I feel…” or “I need…” help you to take responsibility for your feelings and not push them on your partner. If you make things about what they are doing, you’ll probably leave them feeling a bit defensive and this will just add tension.
  • Use “the Oreo approach”. Sandwich your concern between two positive statements. First, let your partner know how much you care and what they mean to you, then address your concern, and finish with another loving statement.
  • Remember that this conversation is totally worth any awkwardness or fear you might be feeling in anticipation. You’ll feel so much better afterwards!

To learn more about good communication skills, read my post, 10 Ways to Have Good Communication in Your Relationship!

talking about sex, sex in marriage, healthy relationship, relationship advice, sex advice
Photo by DANNY G on Unsplash

2- How do we make talking about sex less awkward?

Do you remember being a pre-teen and hearing about puberty for the first time? If you were anything like me, you probably squirmed around at the thought of it. Periods? Wet dreams? Pubic hair? I thought it was so weird that I didn’t want to think about it.

Yet, as time went on, and changes did occur, those things became normal to me. It was no longer weird to talk about cute bras with friends or to ask if I could borrow a tampon. It just became the usual!

It’s the same thing with talking about sex in marriage. If you’re feeling awkward talking about sex, you probably haven’t normalized it yet.

Some solutions to making talking about sex less awkward are:

  • Talk about sex more! Rather than watching an episode of Netflix, set a timer and talk about sex for twenty minutes. The more you do it, the less awkward it will feel. The end goal is to be as comfortable talking about sex as you would talking about what to make for dinner.
  • Educate yourselves! Here are some great books you could read togethers a couple to ‘normalize’ the topic–they even have some pretty good homework ;). Knowing Her Intimately, The Act of Marriage, Sheet Music, And They Were Not Ashamed. Note: Each of these books carry some Christian themes, but are researched-based and contain healthy principles for non-religious couples and couples of other faiths!
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3- How do we talk about our sexual likes and dislikes?

This one can be kind of tricky. Do you bring it up in the heat of the moment, or wait until it has passed?

My personal opinion: Bring it up in the moment. If your partner is doing something you really like, make sure they know it. You could vocalize it, “I really like that”, or use your body language to show that you like it.

I guarantee your partner will be over the moon to know that they are doing something you like, and if you mention it in the moment, you’ll be turning up the heat a notch.

I think it’s perfectly appropriate as well to mention dislikes in the moment, but, use your words carefully. Rather than saying, “I don’t like it when you do that”, you can make suggestions to try something else. If it’s something they are doing with their hands, you can gently guide their hands somewhere else.

Later, when you’re in the afterglow phase of sex (while you’re cuddling or pillow talking), if you feel like your partner didn’t understand that they did something you didn’t really enjoy, you could mention it then. But make sure to use the Oreo approach as mentioned in Answer #1!

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4- How do I turn down sex without hurting my partner’s feelings?

In each relationship, typically one partner has a higher sex drive, and the other has a lower sex drive. This will probably not stay the same throughout your whole relationship; you can both fluctuate.

Because of this, it’s important that you both learn how to say no at times.

  • But don’t just say, “No thanks”, and move on. One good answer is, “Not tonight, but how about on (said day of the week here).” This takes off a big load of the rejection that might be felt and also gives both you and your partner something to look forward to. When you know that sex is set on a calendar, you can prepare a bit more.
  • Or, let your partner know that you currently aren’t wanting to have sex, but could commit to something smaller with no strings attached. This could be anything from making out to spooning while watching your favorite TV show. This could help your partner get the connection they are craving without you having to agree to sex. Who knows? Maybe with a bit of this kind of time, you might find yourself turned on and agree to having sex in the end. BUT MAKE SURE your partner knows you don’t want to feel any pressure of having strings attached. There should be NO expectations when you agree to something smaller. It would completely defeat the purpose if they expected sex afterwards.

5- How do I tell my partner I want sex more often? 

First, if you find that you are the higher-drive partner, read Answer #4 to understand a bit of what the low-drive partner may be feeling. Second, refresh yourself on Answer #1 to understand how to go about having a vulnerable conversation. Thirdly, just be honest with your partner and let them know straight up how you feel.

  • If you find this is a common argument in your partnership, try switching off every week or so on who is in charge of how often you have sex. You might find that you start wanting sex a bit less while your partner starts to want it more! I almost like to think of it as a reset button on sexual frequency in a relationship.
  • Or you could try deciding on certain days you both commit to having sex. Maybe it is Tuesdays! Maybe it is Tuesdays and Saturdays! Talk together and put it in your calendars. Remember, relationships are all about compromise. Don’t expect that when you express this desire to your partner, they will automatically want sex as often as you do. You’ll probably need to compromise.
  • Mood-setting can be a helpful way to get more “yes’s” from the low-drive partner. It’s possible your partner doesn’t agree to sex because they don’t feel emotionally connected in the moment you ask for it. Ask your partner what you can do to ignite that spark for them. Maybe they want to be cuddled or kissed first, maybe they’re stressed about getting the house clean and you can help with that first. By showing your love in other ways first, your partner is more likely to be in the mood when you ask.

To learn more about igniting more passion in your relationship, read my post, 7 Steps to Reignite the Spark in a Relationship!

6- How do I tell my partner I want to try something new?

First, return back to the principles found in Answer #1 of having a vulnerable conversation! Second, be really upfront with your partner.

Recognize that when both of you came into this relationship, you each brought your own preconceived notions of what is and isn’t okay sexually with you. Many of these notions were shaped by your family, peers, religion, and culture. These can be things like, “Anal sex is not okay”, or “Lingerie is absolutely necessary for sex.”

Chances are that your notions won’t line up perfectly with your partner’s. Don’t believe that your notions are permanent, because they are definitely changeable. In fact, they should change as you create your own healthy sexual relationship with your partner. But you need to respect your partner’s beliefs as well.

  • So, if you bring up something new that you want to try, and your partner just isn’t comfortable with it- accept that. You are a partnership and should make and agree on decisions, especially pertaining to your sexuality together.
  • Don’t assume that your partner will instantly shoot something down- it never hurts to ask!
  • If you are the partner that finds you are saying “no” more often than not, evaluate your own preconceived notions and think about maybe changing them. Some good questions to ask yourself are: Would this help me to cultivate a healthier sense of sexuality? Would this strengthen my relationship with my partner? Why is it that I don’t want to try this? If after contemplating these questions you still feel uncomfortable, then let your partner know! You should never feel forced to do something you feel uncomfortable with.

7- We had a bad experience the first time, now my partner doesn’t ever want to have sex. What can I do?

One of the biggest problem starters in sex is expectations.

I don’t know why exactly your first time was bad, but I’m guessing part of it was that there were unmet expectations. The first time can be a bit awkward, and because a lot of first-timers aren’t always sure how sex works, it can also be painful!

  • Let go of all of your expectations about sex in marriage and encourage your partner to do the same. Let your partner know that when you do have sex again, you don’t need to have any expectations (Side note: having an orgasm should never be an expectation for male or females). Just let them know that you will be there for them when they are ready.
  • Try starting small and doing intimate things together. Maybe choose to give each other naked massages or take a bath together. Simply become more comfortable with each other’s bodies. Slowly build that trust with your partner again.
  • Take the time to learn more about sex as a couple to help lessen any anxiety around sex. Refer to Answer #2 for some great book suggestions!
  • Talk about the bad experience with your partner. Ask questions to better understand what left them feeling like they didn’t want to have sex again. Express your desire to be intimate with them again, and ask what would help them have a more positive sexual experience.
  • See a therapist! First of all, every couple should go to therapy, it is so wonderful! Therapist have trained and studied their whole lives just so they can help couples and individuals in situations like these. A therapist might better help you facilitate a conversation like the one mentioned in the previous bullet point.

The Truth About Sex in Marriage

The truth is that your sexual relationship as a couple is personal and unique. The conversations and choices you make about your sex life is up to you and your partner! What’s important is making these decisions together.