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How to Have a Sex Check-in

When you start any kind of talk therapy for a specific issue, one of the main functions of the first few sessions is understanding where you're getting stuck and what keeps you there. In sex therapy, the most common reason why couples get stuck in my experience is not knowing how to have meaningful or productive conversations about sex. It's not a stretch of the imagination to guess why this happens for people when we struggle as a society to really talk about sex in ways that are non-judgemental, informed and supportive. This is a core reason why I got into the field to begin with.

For many of us, sex is a topic loaded with shame, secrecy or judgement. For many of us, we also don't have many spaces where we can talk about it and this compounds our feelings of shame and isolation. What's that saying? "Shame dies when stories are told in safe spaces." - Ann Voskamp

This also has a significant impact on our sexual relationships, regardless of being casual or committed. Not feeling able to have meaningful conversations about sex with your partners means you may not feel like you can voice what you want or need, you may not even know what you want or need because you've never been asked, you may not feel like your experience matters, or you may feel like it adds more pressure on you to perform. None of these set up for a great, potentially even consensual, sexual experience.

It's well-known and probably even common sense now that couples that talk about sex have better sex. That comes down to open lines of communication, often not taking sex too seriously and knowing that mind-blowing and expansive sex doesn't just magically happen. It is something that needs to be continually worked at and maintained.

One great way of doing this and developing this skill of talking about sex is having regular and ongoing sex check-ins with your partners. Check-ins require everyone involved to take an inventory of what's working well and what's not, and for us to collaborate and dream up how we can keep prioritising and growing our sexual connection. What's hotter than that? This approach also shares the responsibility and keeps us grounded in what's really important - pleasure, enjoyment, exploration, expansion. It also stops and challenges the cycle that is so common for many long-term relationshippers to just have sex that follows one specific script we've created out of convenience and ease.

I can also report that it does get easier with time. I've included some example questions that you can use as a guide for your sex check-in, then over time you might find yourselves doing it on your own, developing your own vocab for it and then being able to do it on the fly. It all starts with intentionality and practice.

Questions for your sex check-in:

  • What are you savouring about our s*x lately? 

  • What do you want more or less of? 

  • What does pleasure look like for you lately? 

  • How can I help you get out of your head and into your body more? What will you do? 

  • Is there anything you want to work on? 

  • Is there anything you want that you’re not getting? 

  • Is there anything new that you’d like to try together? 

  • Do you have any stressors coming up? How can I help?

These are some tips for setting the scene:

  • Always have the conversation outside of the sexual experience

  • Remember the intention is to connect, work and dream together

  • Have regular questions and some to rotate through

  • Specificity in your answers is key for growth

  • It’s a conversation, not an interrogation

  • Schedule them in and set the scene (snacks, music, drink of choice) 

  • Wrap up with an actionable task and a smooch

Normalise putting effort into your sex life because if you don't, who will? As Esther Perel touches on, which I will butcher and paraphrase here, there are rarely any other areas in our lives where we have this set-and-forget mindset that we bring to sex. We expect it to just work without support, effort or fine-tuning, yet we would never dare think that of our families, our businesses, or our health. If we put half as much effort into growing our relationships as we did our businesses or social media, we'd be a lot better off.

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