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We might have all heard the common phrase stating that “communication is key” when it comes to relationships. As cheesy as it sounds, it has been found accurate for a lot of contexts including one’s sexual life.

Sexual self-disclosure is the degree to which individuals are open with their partners about sexual preferences such as talking about likes and dislikes in sex. According to research, it is evident that there are many reasons why sexual self-disclosure has an impact on the overall relationship context. So, the following listed are 3 reasons why talking about sexual preferences with your partner matters:

  1. Leads to greater sexual satisfaction: Partners can differ from one another in their preferences when it comes to sexuality. Despite these differences, some couples find a way to maximize and maintain their sexual satisfaction even within a long-term relationship. This in fact is not a coincidence. Studies have shown that sexual self-disclosure facilitates the development of sexual knowledge about oneself or one’s partner which leads to higher levels of sexual satisfaction.
  2. Positively affects relationship satisfaction: Sexual self-disclosure is an intentional behavior that boosts intimacy, adding to overall relationship satisfaction. With greater sexual self-disclosure, couples are able to create shared meaning in their sex lives through communication. When couples talk about their sexual preferences, they are able to determine how their sexual life plays a part in their relationship and positively affects relationship satisfaction.
  3. Plays a protective role in sexual problems: Communicating about sex and sexual problems have a two-sided relationship within a couple. Research has shown that the partner’s lack of knowledge about one’s sexual preference might lead to sexual problems. It has also been found that when there is a sexual problem in one or both of the parties within a relationship, failure to communicate about that problem could exacerbate distress, which in turn might lead to more sexual or relational problems. Thus, greater sexual self-disclosure could promote positive sexual health outcomes and play a protective role in sexual relationship.

Despite the evidence showing that sexual self-disclosure can be an important contribution to the relationship, it is not an easy task for many people since the sexual subjects might be seen as taboo. So, here are some tips that you might follow to talk about sexual preferences with your partner in a healthy manner:

  1. Develop realistic sexual expectations: When it comes to having a satisfying sex life, there is no “ought to be” rule. With the influences of the media, some might develop an idea of how a “great sexual partner” should be but in reality, everyone brings their own preferences to the table. So, developing realistic sexual expectations which you and your partner potentially implement in your sex life is the first step.
  2. Choose the right moment to talk: Especially if sexual topics are not easily discussed in your relationship, you might want to approach sexual subjects with precision. So, you might want to avoid the times when you or your partner is tired, agitated, moody, or distracted.
  3. Be open to each other’s feelings, needs, and preferences: Even in long-term relationships, partners might not know everything about each other’s feelings, needs, and preferences. Thus, getting to know your partner’s sexual needs requires openness and honest communication.
  4. Discovering and negotiating sensual and sexual options: After communicating about sexual preferences, you might want to negotiate which of them you might want to include in your sex life. Keep in mind that, finding a common ground in sexual life that suits both of you takes time.

Remember, communicating about sexual preferences is an important step in increasing overall relationship satisfaction and enriching your sexual life.

If you think your sexual relationship will benefit from some professional support, you can find help here.

Seray Soyman is a Psychology graduate from Turkey. Currently, she is working as an intern at Willingness and doing her master’s on Clinical Psychosexology at Sapienza University, Rome. Seray’s research interests are sex-positive behavior, sexual habits, LGBTQIA+ studies, and reproductive health.

References

Brown, R. D. & Weigel, D. J. (2018). Exploring a Contextual Model of Sexual Self-Disclosure and Sexual Satisfaction. Journal of Sex Research, 55(22), 202-213.

MacNeil, S. & Byers, E. S. (2009). Role of Sexual Self-Disclosure in the Sexual Satisfaction of Long-Term Heterosexual Couples. Journal of Sex Research, 46(1), 2-14.

McCarthy, B. W. & McCarthy, E. (2009). Discovering Your Couple Sexual Style: The Key to Sexual Satisfaction. Routledge.

Rehman, U. S., Rellini, A. H., & Fallis, E. (2011). The importance of sexual self-disclosure to sexual satisfaction and functioning in committed relationships. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 8, 3108-3115.