Needs and Sexpectations: How To Talk To Your Partner About Sex

18 February, 2023

You know it’s coming. The signature move. The one he does every time because he thinks you like it. As he’s going to work, you’re trying to decide if you want to binge Bridgerton, Jane The Virgin, or Grace and Frankie. When he’s rounding out his specialty, you throw in a couple of moans and decide, definitely New Girl.

Have you been there? If you find yourself adrift during sex or wishing “it’d be over already,” it’s time to talk. Intimacy should be exactly that—intimate. It should be a time when you and your partner connect. Sex should be fun, not an item on the checklist. Which is why you need to establish what we call—sexpectations. These are the expectations you and your lover have about intimacy. Some common sexpectations surround initiation, sexual play, positions, duration, and connection. When sexual desires or needs go unmet, oftentimes, it’s because they’ve gone unvoiced.

A fulfilling sex life matters. Healthy sexual relations enhance your emotional, mental, and even physical well-being. That is why your sex life shouldn’t be left to chance. You have the power to make it great—one conversation at a time. Even if you’ve never communicated about sex before, it’s never too late to start.

“When sexual desires or needs go unmet, oftentimes, it’s because they’ve gone unvoiced.”

How To Talk To Your Partner About Sex

1. Don’t Make It A Big Deal

Talking about sex doesn’t have to be a big to-do. Much like how we discuss other aspects of everyday life–careers, finances, schedules—we need to get used to talking about sex. Sure it might feel awkward at first, but the more you practice open communication, the easier it will become. The goal is simply to get the convo started.

Some sex convo starters could be…

—What do you remember about the first time we had sex?
What are three of your favorite things we do in the bedroom?
—What are some of your favorite places on your body to be touched or kissed during lovemaking?
—What would your ideal sexual experience be like?
—I’ve been thinking about our sex life. Would you be open to trying some new things?
—Recently, I read that couples do a thing called “sexpectations.” I thought that might be fun to talk about.

2. Pick The Right Time

Timing is everything. While this convo doesn’t have to be hyped up, it still needs to be given importance. If your partner is about to leave in 5 minutes for work, that’s not a good time to have any conversation, especially setting sexpectations. Bring it up when you’re both able to give each other undivided attention like at dinner, during a long car ride, or on a walk.

3. Share Sexual Needs

Sexual needs are the non-negotiables. Those are the things you have to have in a sexual encounter. When the needs aren’t met, the sexual experience will be lacking. Some sexual needs examples are mutual satisfaction, affirmation, physical connection, responsiveness, frequency, taking turns initiating, and romance. Give your partner examples of what you need and allow them to tell you their needs. Talk about your sexual appetite (how often), define what is and is not romantic, express what gives you each pleasure, work through sexual routines that are growing predictable or dull, and address emotional factors that are affecting your sexual wellness (illness, weight gain, mental health challenges).

4. Compliment First

Before you bring up any dislikes or things you want to change, compliment what you like first. “I really like it when…” After you tell them what you enjoy, then it’s okay to address things you would like to do differently or try. But make sure to keep your tone and words positive. Instead of saying, our sex life is boring, you could say, “I love when we have sex missionary style because I get to look into your eyes and kiss you. And you’re a great kisser. It really turns me on. You know what else I think could be fun—if we try out some new positions. Would you be up for that?”

5. Explain and Listen With Love

Your partner only knows what you tell them. You need to explain your likes, dislikes, and expectations. If you don’t like their signature move, you have to tell them. But you can say it in a way that isn’t cruel. Don’t say, “I hate it when you go down on me.” That doesn’t help and will likely make them defensive or hurt. Instead, share why you don’t enjoy something, and then demonstrate how you would rather do it or what you’d like to do instead. You can treat it like a game. For example, “if you don't like how your partner kisses, show them your ideal kiss and ask if they can show you theirs as well. Then try all different kinds of kissing until you figure out what you both like.” Not only do you need to explain with love, you need to listen with love. Sex is a two-way street. If you’re feeling that something is off, they’re probably feeling it too. So, allow them to express their own concerns or desires and listen attentively.

“Not only do you need to explain with love, you need to listen with love. Sex is a two-way street. If you’re feeling that something is off, they’re probably feeling it too.”

6. Set Boundaries

Define “what is and is not” okay. If something makes you uncomfortable, your lover needs to know that. Otherwise, they might cross a boundary unknowingly. If you’ve discussed boundaries and they continue to push over the line, this is an issue of disrespect. No one should be forced to do something they’re uncomfortable with. At this time, it’s important to involve a sex therapist or counselor to reinforce boundaries. You have a right to say no to things that you’re not okay with.

7. Share Your Fantasies

This goes hand in hand with boundaries. Fantasies are fun as long as they do not force a partner past their boundaries. Having said that, it is okay to share ideas when it comes to foreplay, sex, and other forms of intimacy. You and your partner can make a “Yes, No, or Maybe List.” On your personal list, write all the things you’d like to explore. Then switch lists with your partner and write next to their ideas—yes, no, or maybe. This will open the door to discussion of fantasies in a low-pressure way.

8. The Better Way To Say No

Sometimes, we just aren’t in the mood. When that happens, it’s a good practice to explain why you don’t feel like having sex so that your partner doesn’t feel rejected. For example, “I’ve had a hard day at work, and I’m exhausted” or “My stomach feels off, and I’m not feeling sexy right now.” It’s good to be transparent about your whys because it will help them understand. Another thing that helps ease a no is if you suggest another time for sex. For example, you could say “I don’t feel like it today because I’m too tired but could we raincheck for tomorrow night?” Saying no is okay, but taking your partner’s feelings into consideration shows love.

We all want explosive, curl-your-toes, sexual experiences, but more times than not, those don’t happen by default. Sex usually takes work and great communication. We have to practice new positions. We have to learn what gives our partner pleasure. We have to discuss and agree on how many days a week we’re going to have sex. We have to create a safeword for when we’re trying out a fantasy and things are getting too close to a boundary. It’s okay to be practical because it allows us to know each other’s sexpectations in order to meet them. When you build the right sexual foundation, those unexpected moments of spontaneity and even the planned ones will be more glorious.

In the words of Salt n Pepa, “Let’s talk about sex, baby. Let's talk about you and me. Let's talk about all the good things, and the bad things that may be. Let's talk about sex.”

“We all want explosive, curl your toes, sexual experiences, but more times than not, those don’t happen by default. Sex usually takes work and great communication.”

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