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What’s a good way to tell your partner if there are things they could be doing better during sex? I’m always so afraid to ruin the current or future mood or hurt their feelings, but I’m also kind of tired of becoming uninterested halfway through and faking it.

This is such an excellent question; I love your desire to communicate with your partner and improve intimacy and pleasure in your sexual experiences. We don’t always “just know” what to do in the bedroom, and even if the act of sex feels intuitive, learning how to give and experience pleasure is not. The truth is, satisfying sex comes down to honest communication. Here’s how I’d suggest approaching the topic:

1. Plan for the conversation 

Frame [the conversation] as an invitation to discuss growth in your physical relationship.

Don’t surprise your partner with this talk. Instead, tell them you’ve been thinking about sex and ways to increase intimacy. Frame it as an invitation to discuss growth in your physical relationship. Then set up a mutually agreed upon time to have the conversation.

Bonus: If you feel comfortable, exploring self-pleasure before the talk can help you pinpoint the specific areas and type of touch you like most. You know your body best; your partner can’t know what you need unless you tell them, and vice versa.

2. Have the talk outside of the bedroom

There is a chance your partner may feel vulnerable by your requests, so a neutral environment is helpful. Plus, there is no mood to kill when you’re clothed and sitting at your kitchen table. And who knows? Maybe it will actually set the mood! Communication is sexy, and expressing your needs can be incredibly arousing.

3. Use plain and honest language

Honesty doesn’t necessarily mean assigning blame or using hurtful words.

When communicating with your partner, what’s most important is that you’re honest—but honesty doesn’t necessarily mean assigning blame or using hurtful words. “We” and “I” language feels more gentle but is just as powerful in asserting messages. For example, “I’m not aroused when you touch [insert body part] like that” can seem accusatory. That sentence is also lacking context or instruction for your partner.

Instead, be specific about what you need and why. Something like, “It feels great when my [insert body part] is stimulated using this motion and amount of pressure.” This teaches your partner something about your body and gives them instructions to work with.

4. Extend the invitation further dialogue

Don’t end the conversation without asking your partner about their needs. Perhaps they have similar requests. Listen to their wants and desires with equal enthusiasm. Then extend an invitation for further dialogue. Sex is ever-evolving, just like every part of a relationship. I’d encourage you and your partner to continue having discussions about sex and intimacy—both inside and outside of the bedroom. Consider trying these mindful sex tips together. This can improve trust and communication, as well as the physical pleasure you share. 

Don’t end the conversation without asking your partner about their needs. Listen…with equal enthusiasm.

As a final note: You and your partner deserve to have satisfying and meaningful sex, and I wish you the very best in these conversations. Remember, sex is a journey, one in which we’re constantly learning and growing. Practice communication and offer grace along the way—to your partner, but also to yourself. x

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Kayti Christian (she/her) is an Editor at The Good Trade. Growing up beneath the evergreens in the Sierra Nevadas, she returns to California after a decade split between states—including three years lived abroad. With an MA in Nonfiction Writing, she’s passionate about storytelling and fantastic content, especially as it relates to mental health, feminism, and sexuality. When not in-studio, she’s camping, reading memoir, or advocating for the Oxford comma.