Whether you believe in having sex before marriage, talking about it before tying the knot is important. All healthy relationships must include honest conversations about sex and any other topics related to intimacy, according to Andra Brosh, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist who specializes in love, marriage and divorce.
These talks help couples work through any sexual issues and set the tone for how they’d like to connect, she said.
Sex is a significant part of marriage. “Knowing the other through sexual intimacy deepens everything in the relationship, and it can reduce tensions that might pop up in other areas.
“If things are good in the bedroom, other minor issues don’t seem as important.”
“For most people sex is the place they feel most relaxed, most intimate, or most authentic,” said Sari Cooper, LCSW, a psychotherapist and sex therapist who helps couples overcome emotional, psychological and sexual issues.
It’s also a place partners feel most vulnerable. So it makes sense why many don’t even bring up the topic.
Others do talk about it, but it may not be a helpful or healthy conversation. For instance, some couples blame each other for what they’re not getting from their partner, or shame each other for the types of sexual activities they like, she said.
Sex is a sensitive topic. Not surprisingly, it’s not an easy talk to have. Here are some expert tips on the best ways to navigate this conversation.
1. Be curious about your partner’s preferences.
Cooper encouraged couples to be curious about what their partner likes. This can give you ideas for what you’d like to incorporate into your relationship.
She gave this example: “If a man watches a certain type of porn, his girlfriend can ask what is it about this scene that really gets you turned on besides the obvious way she looks…?”
It might be how the woman initiates intimacy or dominates the man, she said. “Then [couples can] discuss how to bring those qualities into their sex life.”
2. Talk about your turn-ons.
Brosh suggested talking about your fantasies, what feels good to you, what positions you prefer and what arouses you. Also, talk about the sexual behaviors that intrigue you or turn you off, Cooper said.
“The more transparent couples can be about their needs and desires, the more connected they will feel,” Brosh said.
3. Be compassionate.
Again, it’s important to avoid shaming or blaming your partner. “[The conversation] needs to be navigated gently and mindfully, always considering the other person’s feelings and using compassion as a guidepost,” Brosh said.
4. Talk outside the bedroom.
“Talk about what behaviors you’re curious about watching, talking about or actually enacting outside the bedroom,” Cooper said. This way, your sexual experiences aren’t filled with anxiety or analysis, she said.
5. Figure out your priorities as a couple.
“A healthy sex life incorporates most of the ingredients that both partners deem to be their priorities,” Cooper said. For instance, one partner might prefer more romance while the other “likes a good easy lusty exchange.” So the couple compromise and include both preferences.
Sex is an important part of marriage. “Sex in a relationship is the fertilizer for growth. Without it most relationships whither and die over time,” Brosh said.
But it’s not exactly an easy topic to broach. If you’re having a difficult time navigating this part of your relationship, try pre-marital counseling, she said.