Talking about sex can be nerve-wracking. The act itself can be awkward, and when you start thinking about how much you are—or aren’t—having, it can bring up some anxiety. And while thinking about it may be stressful enough, talking about sexual frequency with your partner can seem even worse.
“Sexual contact is an integral part of the foundation for a healthy relationship,” Dr. Stephanie Zeman, a clinical sex therapist and educator, explains. “It combines intimacy, romance and connection, which are the identified main components of love—each of which must be present for a successful relationship.”
Still, so many factors can influence how often people have sex. Relationship status, health and age can all . a role, according to the International Society for Sexual Medicine. So can the length of the relationship; it’s not uncommon for people to have more sex at the start of a relationship and for the rate to slow down over time.
Instead of focusing on what’s “normal,” focus on what makes sense for you and your partner—and understand there are plenty of ways to bring it up.
Communicate Openly—and Often
Open and honest communication is not only a main component for the relationship—but also before, during and after sex, Zeman notes. “A conversation regarding sex, sexuality, gender roles, fantasy and arousal should be a topic of sex at least once a week between couples or intimate partners,” she says.
She suggests initiating conversation regarding sensual . with a reflection of the last intercourse. For example, “I really enjoyed being with you last night, and here is why…”
According to Zeman, the more often partners talk about sexual topics, the more comfortable and open each partner will be. “It may be slow and steady, but you’ll be surprised how quickly your partner will feel comfortable talking, engaging in frequently and even asking for more sex,” she says.
Time the Talk
Find a time when you’re not busy, stressed, preoccupied or otherwise unable to give your all to the conversation to talk about sex, Raffi Bilek, a couples counselor and director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, suggests. “Sit down together where you won’t be interrupted (don’t forget to turn off your phones!) and just open up the topic: ‘Honey, I was wondering if we could talk a bit about our sex life—here are some things on my mind…’”
It probably won’t be the most comfortable conversation you’ve had in your life, but that’s OK. “You can both be uncomfortable together knowing that you are doing it in the service of your relationship,” he says.
Listen to Your Partner
It’s perfectly OK to ask your partner, “How are you feeling about how often we have sex?” At this point, it’s important to listen to what your partner has to say, Zeman notes. “This can lead to more understanding about what’s going on for the partner with a lower desire,” she says.
“Many times, it’s about the context that can take a team effort to work on,” Zeman adds. “It’s likely fatigue, stress, conflict in the relationship and, especially if it’s the woman with lower desire, these factors are central to her being open to sexual encounters.”
It’s OK to Schedule Sex
Scheduling sex can be a great solution for many couples, Deborah Fox, a certified sex therapist, offers, adding that “the anticipation can be very enjoyable and a lot of fun.”
She’s found the best way to approach planning sex is to pick out a couple times each week the couple suspects they’ll be in the mood. “This allows couples to work on the context,” she says. “It might be: ‘OK, Wednesday night is our chosen time, so we’ll pick up dinner out…and hop in bed way before we’re tired.’”
Fox suggests taking a low-key approach to scheduled sex nights. “If events of the day interfere with any date night, then agree to discuss a specific rain check date,” she says. “This prevents a drift from happening and keeps you focused on prioritizing your intimate time together.”
Remember, every couple is different. What works for one may not work for another, and there’s no magic number that means you’re living your best (sex) life. Step up your communication skills, and you and your partner will most likely have better, more frequent sex.
Originally posted on SheKnows.