How to Talk to Your Partner about Intimacy Issues: 17 Reasons Past Conversations have Failed

A couple holds hands on their lap. Only the hands are visible. | How to Talk to Your Partner about Intimacy Issues: 17 Reasons Past Conversations have Failed

At some point, you’ll experience an intimacy issue. What a downer of an opening, right?! 😉 It happens to even the most sex-positive and confident people. From body changes to the stress of a pandemic, new life situations or new desires, there’s so much that impacts your sex life. Ideally, when this happens, you’ll find yourself asking the question, “How can I talk to my partner about these intimacy issues?” 

If you find yourself there, congrats! You’re already ahead of the curve. But then comes the talk itself. Ideally, it goes well. Far too often though, it either doesn’t happen or goes poorly. Maybe you find yourself frustrated that you and your partner can’t seem to figure this -ish out. That you always end up fighting or someone’s feelings get hurt or the talk doesn’t lead anywhere. 

If so, you aren’t alone. And, it can be helpful to understand why talking to your partner about intimacy issues can be so damn hard.

17 Reasons Why Talking about Sex has Failed

  1. You aren’t talking about it. You can’t fix what you aren’t aware or talking about. If you struggle to even get the conversation going, click here for 11 conversation starters you can use to start talking about intimacy issues. 
  2. You only talk when there’s intimacy issues. This is a common pattern that Kait sees in her sex coaching and couples counseling practice. And while, yes, it’s important to talk about what’s not working, that means the only energy you’re giving your sex life is negative. It’s equally as important to focus on what’s working too!
  3. You aren’t having them regularly. Similar to above, you randomly talk about your sex life but it’s not something that’s part of your routine like, say, meal planning (however formal or informal that looks for you). 
  4. You try to talk about too many things at the same time. You wanna talk about that new thing to try in bed, how you need more time for foreplay, and and and and… 
  5. You aren’t clear on what you want/need. You know something is off but you aren’t clear on what you want, what it is you’re asking for. 
  6. You don’t make a clear ask. Maybe that’s because you don’t know or maybe you can’t find the words. Which leads us to…
  7. Shame. Living in a sex-negative world like ours, we all inherit sexual shame. Yours might be more or less depending on what religion you were raised in and/or still practice, your gender identity, your sexuality, your race, or your ability
  8. One (or both) of you is in a bad mood/super stressed at the start. Vulnerable conversations, like those about intimacy issues, are hard enough as it is. You want to stack the deck in your favor, not start it from a space of already not feeling connected.
  9. You don’t take time to reconnect and shift out of “doing” mode. Especially if you’re trying to have these at the end of a long day of work, childcare, volunteering, etc, 
  10. You always end up fighting. You haven’t figured out how to talk about this without hurt feelings and defensiveness getting in your way.
  11. Rejection. You’re used to hearing no…or saying it, sometimes without much of a discussion. Read More: What to Do if You Try Something New and They Don’t Like It
  12. Nothing changes and it goes nowhere. You think, “what’s even the point?” Maybe this translates into being less understanding or present during the conversation, or…
  13. Assumptions get made. Things go unsaid, reactions occur that don’t necessarily match what’s happening, and, sometimes, the conversation spirals.  
  14. Your feelings (or theirs) get in the way. Someone ends up yelling, feeling attacked, or otherwise trying to talk from a place of hurt, pain, and/or shame.Read more: How to Fight Fairly
  15. You get choked up or embarrassed, or lose your words. You can thank our old pal shame for this one. Shame literally thrives in silence and makes it hard to access your language. 
  16. Someone’s feelings get hurt. From a misplaced laugh to insensitive words, vulnerable conversations like this are ripe with opportunities for hurt feelings.
  17. The convo ends abruptly. There’s no conclusion, no decision about next steps, no plan for follow-up. 

As you can see, there are many reasons why talking about sex can go south…er, not work out the way you hope. Luckily, every. single. one. of those reasons also has a solution.

How To Talk To Your Partner About Intimacy Issues

Now that you know why conversations about sex tend to fail, you’re probably wondering how the heck to change that. If so, you’re in the right place. 

In Six Strategies to Fix Failed Conversations about Sex, you’ll learn practical but powerful, evidence-based ways to talk about sex openly and without judgment—so that you can start having the intimate, exciting, and fulfilling sex life you crave.

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