Sex in a committed relationship is an easy way to show if that relationship is healthy or not.
Are they having endless sex? Too much sex? Is that a thing…? A very sexualized couple may simply be infatuated with each other rather than fully committed or they may be having sex to avoid talking about more serious issues.
Are they not having enough sex? What even is “enough?” This may be a sign that a deeper division is occurring in the relationship, one person may not be very sexual, or there may be traumas preventing someone from engaging with their partner.
If there’s one thing that we know, sexual intimacy draws you closer to your partner and it is a vital aspect of any romantic relationship. Sex can be a way for you and your partner to show unconditional acceptance, love, and tenderness, it can be a way to enrich each other as people (Hunt and Hunt, 2013, p.63).
However, only you and your partner can be the judges of determining what success in your sexual intimacy looks like (Hunt and Hunt, 2013, p.66). And sometimes, as much as we want it to, sex doesn’t flow as smoothly as it’s portrayed in the media.
Things can be awkward as you adjust to a new person or get to know a person again, likes and dislikes need to be discussed, and you need to discover things about yourself that you may have never had the opportunity to explore. Your desires and wants can change over time, especially as you’ve been with someone for so long.
Whether you’ve been with your partner for years or you're just beginning to navigate the sexual side of your relationship, what things need to be discussed when it comes to your sexual relationship?
1. What are your concerns?
Even though sex is a natural experience, that doesn’t mean that it comes easily.
Discussing your concerns up front can help you navigate what is happening in the bedroom (or kitchen, living room, car, etc.). Concerns can vary based on the couple, but the important thing is to keep an open mind to trying new things so that everyone is accommodated.
For example, some people may experience pains associated with medical disorders or medications that mix with the natural functions of our bodies (less lubrication, not being able to get an erection, etc.).
One common concern is that some women may experience pain with penetration, so navigating how you and your partner can still experience pleasure while taking into account the concern can be a challenge. A challenge that should be laid out on the table and dissected together, without shame or embarrassment, and with full acceptance.
Some men may struggle keeping an erection due to age, medial issues, or during certain positions. Discovering what adaptations can be made being open about it rather than shamed can help things go smoothly during your sexual encounters.
Questions may include:
Do you have any concerns when it comes to sex?
Is there anything I should be aware of that I haven’t been taking into account?
What can I do to help you while you navigate your bodily changes?
Reassuring each other during these conversations can help with the confidence in knowing that both of you belong together, no matter what is creating challenges for you in your sexual relationship.
2. How do you feel about contraceptives and protection?
Condoms, douches, birth control pills, PrEP pills, needles, surgeries, fertility trackers, the pull out method… the list goes on with all of the options for contraceptives and protection for sexual relationships.
If you’ve been sexually active, you’re most likely used to the use of condoms. However, once couples are together for a while the use of condoms goes away and the conversations about further contraceptives need to begin.
Some questions that should be explored are:
Are you currently using any contraceptives/protective strategies? What are the pros and cons?
Are you wanting to stop using protection? Try a different strategy?
What happens if you have an unwanted pregnancy?
Do you fully understand the side effects of using birth control? Does your partner understand?
If you don’t want birth control, what are the other options? Do we trust these options?
This conversation will most likely need to occur multiple times as you adjust to what you and your partner need to make your sexual relationship healthy for both of you.
3. What desires should you open up to your partner about?
Learning what your partner likes and dislikes is a large part of making your sexual relationship healthy. Beyond likes and dislikes, learning what they desire can be a great way to keep things exciting and spicy.
However, keep in mind at times sexual intercourse and pleasuring will produce extreme ecstasy and a tremendous sense of oneness and mutual satisfaction. Other times it will be comfortable and satisfying - without being prolonged or unusual. No one outcome is correct (Hunt and Hunt, 2013, p.66).
It’s not that you need to do anything that you yourself aren’t comfortable with, but broadening your horizons and being open and accepting to your partner can help them feel more open to sharing.
This is also a great way for you to explore desires that you may have blocked out of your mind due to not being in a comfortable sexual relationship before.
Some questions you may want to discuss include:
What are your sexual fantasies?
What turns you on the most? What turns you off the most?
What makes you feel sexy and desired?
Are you open to using toys? Have you ever used toys? If so, which ones? If not, why not?
Have you ever used lube? Do you like it? Which types do you like?
Remember that just because you or your partner have certain desires does not mean they have to happen. This is just a baby step to potentially opening the doors to new shared experiences with your partner.
4. And…Sexually Transmitted Infections?
At this point, it’s almost rare to meet someone that doesn’t or hasn’t had some form of STI throughout their lives.
It’s stated that 80% of Americans have oral herpes, and one in six have genital herpes. The majority of people have some form of herpes without even being aware of it and can even have it without ever having participated in sexual activities.
Beyond herpes, there are a multitude of other sexually transmitted diseases that you should be aware of before entering into a sexually active relationship.
Some questions to ask yourself and each other are:
Are you wanting to get exams together before you enter into your sexual relationship?
If your partner opens up to you about an STI is that something that you’d end the relationship over?
What types of STI’s have they had in the past? Does this affect how you feel about them?
These things can be difficult to be open about, but it is important to be aware about infections that can affect you for the rest of your life.
5. How are past experiences or traumas affecting you?
It’s estimated that about every 68 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. This means that the likelihood of your partner having some sort of sexual trauma in their past is pretty high.
Some people work through their traumas relatively “quickly” while others will deal with the ramifications of someone else’s actions for the rest of their lives.
These ramifications will most likely include how they experience sexual relationships even when it’s with someone they love.
Once you or your partner open up to each other about past sexual experiences and traumas a few good questions to ask each other may include:
How do you feel this experience affects your sexuality now?
Do you feel like your desires are fueled because of that experience or in spite of it?
What helped you overcome/work through that experience?
What can I do/not do to help ensure that you feel safe in our own sexual relationship?
Entering into a sexual relationship is thrilling and scary. It’s a time for both partners to be accepting and vulnerable. Unfortunately, just because we’re biologically wired to engage in sexual relations doesn’t mean that this will always feel natural.
Set a time to dive into these conversations together as you reconnect sexually or begin to explore each other for the first time.
And most importantly, enjoy.
Hunt, J., & Hunt, R. (2013). Growing Love In Christian Marriage Third Edition - Couple’s Manual. Abingdon Press.