Many articles in women’s magazines start with questions like this one or similar, e.g. “are you sexually satisfied?” or “do you know what turns him on the most?” While these might sound a little corny, people like them as they’re non-committal and fun to read. Also, while these topics can be difficult to broach in conversation, people still find them interesting: sex is an important part of any romantic relationship and something you should be able to talk about.

Your relationship might be great in this regard and you might not see the need to talk about it. However, there need not be a problem to talk about sex. It’s about being able to openly say what we want and gain a better insight into our partner’s desires in order to foster closeness and make your relationship more enjoyable. However, you need to pick the right time and the best way to do it, and know which issues can be dealt with in private and which will require the help of a professional. In this post, Dr Stefanie Redón, head of the Dexeus Mujer Sexuality Unit, gives us a few clues:

When to do it: You should ideally pick a time when you’re alone together, in good spirits and when you feel close and connected, for example an evening where the plan is to watch a movie and chill on the couch, in the morning before breakfast, or on the weekend or during the holidays, when you’re feeling nice and relaxed. It’s also important to do it at a stage in your relationship where you’re feeling reasonably settled and you know each other well enough for this conversation not to feel “weird”.

How to do it: Be yourself and keep it lighthearted. It shouldn’t sound like a difficult conversation or a big deal, so please do not start with “we need to talk” or “there’s something I need to talk to you about”. Instead, make it sound spontaneous, by saying something like: “there’s something I’d like to try that I haven’t done before”, or “I had a sexy dream the other day where you and I…”, and see how your partner reacts. Or: “I woke up horny today and I was thinking that…”, “is there something you like or that’s a big turn on for you?”

What to discuss: Let the conversation flow, so that each one of you knows that they can say what they need to, and that the other person is listening. If there’s something you’re concerned about, try not to be abrupt and bring it up in a positive manner. You can broach the subject without making things uncomfortable. For example, if you would like to have intercourse more often, tell your partner that sex has been on your mind a lot lately and that you feel like doing something special or trying something new, like doing it in the shower or somewhere else that they might also find exciting. The key is to approach it in a positive way, to arouse their curiosity and make them feel especially sexy.

What not to say: there are some “red lines” that shouldn’t be crossed, e.g. very private questions that shouldn’t be asked. Never force the situation. Everyone has the right to keep secrets, provided that this isn’t an issue or something that might have a negative impact on your relationship. If you suspect that your partner has gone through some negative experiences, it is important that they know that they can rely on you, and that you will respect their needs and be supportive. And if they need professional help too. It’s also important to avoid comparisons and talking about the sex you used to have with your ex, whether good or bad. Every relationship is different, and we also act differently depending on the person we are with.

When it comes to sexual fantasies, should you tell them everything? This is a tricky one, because if your partner’s greatest fantasy (or yours) is a threesome with your best friend (or their best friend, in your case) for example, you’re better off keeping it quiet as it isn’t going to do much for your relationship. And if their biggest turn on is your biggest turn off, you might walk into a tricky situation that there’s no way back from. This is one of the main reasons why it’s difficult to be open about sex in a relationship, as someone’s feelings could get hurt. That said, if you want something to improve, it’s good to talk about it, which is why certain problems should be discussed with a sex therapist or sexual health specialist.

If there are problems, they should be dealt with had on. Many issues aren’t talked about, which can end up making things awkward or have a negative impact on your relationship and your sex life. Maybe you wish your partner were less proactive, or on the contrary, that they would initiate sex more often. Or maybe they want to do things that you don’t like, or you’re bored of always doing the same things in bed. In this case, it’s best to seek the help of an expert who can tell you what to do and help you make positive changes. Professional help is essential to fix the situation and get some perspective.

Essential changes: all couples go through stages in their relationship where they have less, or less satisfying sex. If you’re going through a sexual dry spell, be it due to having recently had a baby, having small children, the menopause, stress, etc., don’t think that things will never be the same again or that they aren’t going well. Changes are a normal part of life and it’s necessary to adjust to new situations. What matters is to make the relationship work and that you’re both willing to do something to improve it. Positive communication is especially useful in such cases. Telling your partner how you feel or sharing your concerns is a step in itself, and if necessary, you can give yourself some time to address the situation. Getting professional help is also an option.

Forget about the clichés: Many sexual problems are due to preconceived ideas and myths that are completely false. Erotic films have us believe that sexual gratification is immediate and desire uncontrollable, that it’s normal to reach climax quickly and that orgasms aren’t as good if you and your partner don’t come at the same time. They also suggest that men like to take the initiative and that women prefer to be seduced to making the first move, but everyone and every relationship is different. The main thing is that your relationship matters more to you than the expectations you might have set yourself, since, as mentioned, these are often unrealistic. What’s necessary from there on is to boost passion and desire and each do your best to enjoy the experience together. Closeness is essential.