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Allan Findlay, a Toronto-based couple and family therapist, says the best thing a couple can do is to be honest right from the very start. "It's important for every couple to have an open and direct conversation about sex before they make a commitment to spend their lives together," says Findlay.
But what if you're well past the early years of your relationship? Findlay shares five effective tips for getting the conversation about sex started, no matter how long you and your partner have been together.
1. Do not blame or criticize
Never, ever place the blame for a sex life gone sour solely on the shoulders of one partner. "A reluctant partner is probably already self-conscious of your beliefs, and they may be worried that you are going to accuse them of having a low sex drive or worse," says Findlay.
Avoid getting angry or broaching the subject at a time when you feel stressed out, he advises. Instead, try to choose a neutral time that works for the both of you and where you can calmly discuss your options for overcoming any intimacy issues you might have.
â€¨2. Think about your partner's feelings
Anticipating your partner's reaction can help you approach the subject in a gentler manner than if you leap ahead without consideration.
"It's wise to think about how your partner may be feeling about the issue you are about to raise," says Findlay, so put yourself in his or her shoes before you start asking questions. "If you anticipate that their reaction to your question about their disinterest in sex is related to a busy life and exhaustion, begin with an empathetic statement," he says.
Try starting with something such as: "I know you have been really run off your feet at work, and that home has not been calm either." That way you can put your partner at ease before delving into a potentially touchy topic.
Page 1 of 2 -- Learn three more helpful ways to talk about sex with your partner on page 2
3. Be an understanding partner
Be understanding during difficult times that could have an impact on your partner's sex drive. "The most common time for couples to have issues around sex is in the months and years following the birth of their children," says Findlay. "Men often feel the loss of their wife as a sexual partner, and women are often exhausted," he explains.
When you start to feel the passion and playfulness slipping away, talk about it with your partner. Through open communication you can find ways to keep the spark alive that work for the both of you.â€¨
4. Think of the long term
"Sex is a very sensitive topic for many couples," says Findlay. "An unhappy partner whose spouse has shown little interest or refuses sex often questions whether they are desired, sexy or even loveable."
These feelings of rejection, shame and hurt can often build into anger. It should come as no surprise then, that extramarital affairs are more common in couples who have never talked about their sexual dissatisfaction, Findlay explains. Always keep in the back of your mind the long-term results of avoiding your intimacy issues. If you don't want to lose your partner, make the effort to correct things now.
â€¨5. Be proactive
Because many people would rather avoid the conflict or rejection that may arise from talking about sex, they often leave any issues until they are at the breaking point.
"It is a good idea to seek help before the absence of a satisfying sex life leads one to realize the passion is gone," says Findlay. "Couples who once had a satisfying sex life can retrieve it with help." The key is to be proactive in your relationship. When you feel the intimacy starting to fade, find out if seeking professional help will work for you.
â€¨"The reason sex is such a huge issue with unhappy couples is because it's usually the first thing to falter in the relationship," says Findlay. "It's a sign that a couple is losing an emotional connection with each other."
Don't let a lack of communication stand in the way of the loving relationship you worked so hard to create. Take these steps to find ways to communicate with your partner in a manner that works for the both of you.
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