How do I make my partner talk about sex?

Hi. I have been going out with my girlfriend for about a year. Actually we have this commitment thing going and we really love each other. The thing is that she feels very uncomfortable talking about sex related topics or even talking about kisses. I kind of get frustrated sometimes but never let it out because I understand. What I actually want to ask is how can I make her talk about sex? How can I end this uncomfortableness in her? Please know that she fully confides in me and truly trusts in me as well. Your help will be really appreciated. Thank you.
Sarah replies:

Learning to communicate with partners about any topic can be tricky. But working out those conversations about sex can be even more difficult. It's really good that you want to discuss things and be open with your partner!

Here's the thing though, you can't make someone talk about anything they truly do not wish to discuss. And if you push the issue too much, you are likely to simply push your partner away rather than become closer to her. It takes two, willing participants to have a conversation. Keep in mind as well that this is not just about you, it's about both of you. If you feel frustrated by her not wanting to talk about sex, imagine how uncomfortable she must feel if you push the issue. No matter how much a person trusts us, there are sometimes topics that will they may not be ready to discuss at a given point in time. Remember too the fact that our culture broadly (on whole) does not encourage women to talk openly about sex (especially with opposite gender partners). Further, in some other cultures or sub-cultures, anybody talking about sex is totally taboo, period. Obviously, this is not the best for our physical or emotional health, but it is important to remember that many people have to overcome these obstacles before they are ready to talk about sensitive issues with anybody.

All of that said, there are a few things you can do to make the situation better:

  • Tell her that you are willing to talk about intimacy when she is ready. You want to leave the door open for communication about sex and any other topic.
  • Both of you agree that you will not engage in any sexual activity that you have not discussed beforehand. One of the biggest contributors to sexual readiness is the ability to communicate with one another about sex. Everyone in the relationship needs to be able to express their needs, establish barriers, etc. So until you can have those conversations together, the best thing to do is to abstain from all sexual activities. This sort of agreement takes the pressure off both of you.
  • Direct her to some pertinent resources. Sometimes people don't feel comfortable talking about sex because they feel like they don't know enough about the topic. By suggesting a few resources, you can allow her to explore on her own as she processes her feelings. You might suggest that she visit Scarleteen or that she read S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College.
  • Don't push the issue. Continuing to push the issue when your partner is clearly unready to discuss the topic will just make the situation more uncomfortable. She needs to have the time to process her own thoughts and feelings and to become ready. This may take days or weeks, or even months or years. While this may be frustrating for you, it is only fair to allow her to become ready in her own time.
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