Sexual communication is an important part of a healthy and satisfying sex life. Understanding yours and your partner’s ideas and preferences about sex can support you in having a more intentional and mutually-fulfilling sexual relationship. Consider using this Valentine’s Day (or, any day!) as an opportunity for a sexual check-in.
Understand Your Ideas and Beliefs About Sex
How do you define “sex”? For many people, “sex” is narrowly defined as a particular sexual act (e.g. sexual intercourse) with a particular outcome (e.g. orgasm). The way you define what sex means to you can impact what “counts” and “doesn’t count” as valid and satisfying sexual activity. When we think about sex as an “all-or-nothing” experience, we undervalue sexual acts that may be satisfying on their own and we put pressure on what “good sex” has to look like.
Can you broaden your definition of sex to include other forms of sexual activity? Can your definition of sex include what we typically only consider as “foreplay”? What difference would it make for you as an individual and for your relationship to identify and potentially re-define your understanding of what “counts” as sex?
You can experience eroticism, sensuality, and sexuality in a wide variety of ways. They can be experienced through solo or partnered sexual activities. Whether it’s through self-stimulation, flirtation, kissing, a massage, or oral sex, all of these acts count as valid ways to access your sexual needs and desires.
Understand Your Preferences and Sexual Boundaries
Take the time to reflect on your own sexual preferences and boundaries. Sex can feel much more satisfying when you are clear about your likes and dislikes.
Self-reflective questions for identifying your likes and preferences:
- What do I need in order to tap into my sensuality and sexuality? What do I need enjoy sex with my partner? What do I need to enjoy solo sexual activities? Do I need time to get into a sexual headspace? Do I need to feel an emotional connection with my partner?
- When do I feel most interested in having sex or being erotic with my partner?
- What do I need from myself or my partner to feel grounded and present in the sexual experience?
- How do I prefer to initiate sex with my partner? How do I prefer my partner to initiate sex with me?
- What physical sensations do I enjoy experiencing? What feels good to me? What body parts do I enjoy having stimulated? How do I like those areas to be stimulated (e.g. with a sex toy, my own hand, my partner’s hand, etc.)
- What sexual dynamics do I enjoy experiencing with my partner? (e.g. power dynamics)
- What forms of sexual pleasure do I enjoy providing my partner? What do I like about pleasing my partner in this way?
- Is there anything my partner can do or change in order to make sex feel more safe, pleasurable, and satisfying for me?
- Is there anything that I want to explore with myself or my partner, but want to learn more about before trying?
Self-reflective questions for identifying your dislikes and sexual boundaries:
- What physical sensations do I dislike?
- What turns me off?
- What sexual behaviours, dynamics, or experiences are off the table for me?
- What do I need from my partner when I communicate that something that they enjoy sexually is not something that I enjoy?
- When do I feel least interested in sex?
- If I am not in the mood for a particular sexual activity, how can I check in with myself about what sexual activity I might be in the mood for? Sex doesn’t have to be an “all-or-nothing” experience.
- Is there anything that I have previously enjoyed during sex that I no longer enjoy?
Once you have spent some time reflecting on your own sexual preferences and boundaries, dedicate time to share these learnings with your partner. Recognize that communicating one’s sexual likes and dislikes can feel very vulnerable. Ensure that you are supporting your partner in feeling heard, respected, and safe.