Tips to Explore the Unknown in Bed: How to Talk About Trying Something New
Have you ever wanted to try something new in bed but didn’t know how to mention it to your partner(s)? Maybe felt anxious about bringing new things to the table?
Sometimes sex and feelings of anxiety are a duo that’s difficult to deal with…
Here are some tips on how to start that conversation 😉
Spoiler alert: communication and clarification are key.
WHAT to say
First of all: Try to have a clear idea of what you want.
Before going to your partner, try to clear up the idea, fantasy, or new practice that you want to discuss with them. Maybe do some research — check out our previous blogs, and you’ll probably find what you are looking for — there are also plenty of educators out there (you may wanna check out @queersextherapy, @sexwithemily, @sexwithlexa, @lexxsexdoc, @drrachelallyn) that talk about all things sex and sexuality you can draw from if you wish to be more informed, and sometimes even asking/ talking with a friend about it can help you articulate what you have in your mind and shape your ideas.
HOW to say it
Once you have a clear idea, try to think of a nice way to communicate it to your partner. HOW we say things is one of the most important aspects of actual communication. Find the words you want to use, a simpler way to explain things, and always try to express yourself in a positive way. I.e. “I read that some people find it relaxing to be tied up or to tie people up during sex. I’m curious if I’d feel the same way.” According to Verywell Mind, BDSM practice can actually reduce the levels of cortisol in your body, in others words, practicing BDSM can result on “decreased levels of stress”.
In our Carnal Theory episode with Erotica Writer Peekaboo Collins, you’ll find different ways to start the let’s-try-something-new conversation with your partner(s) as well as ideas for how kinks can be brought to the table through literary examples.
WHEN to say it
Choose wisely WHEN to start the conversation, maybe right before having a sexual encounter isn’t the best option. Doing so could provoke they accept your request or proposal because they want to please you, without really having enough time to process their emotions around it — it might feel like you are putting pressure on them.
Have in mind that your partner(s) probably wants to think about your suggestions, you don’t want to rush them into new and unknown practices.
According to Clinical Psychologist Lisa Firestone Ph.D. on Psychology Today a few things to consider in this process are:
Don’t start the conversation with “YOU never…” for it feels violent and accusatory, especially if one of you deals with mental health issues or is simply going through a rough patch, being kind to one another is the way to affront situations of change or misunderstandings.
If you feel frustrated about something your partner(s) aren’t doing, try switching the conversation to something more like “Hey, I’ve noticed you don’t kiss me while we have sex — is there a reason behind this?” While this might not be about trying something new, it might be about bringing back an old practice you had and might require you to explore together why have things changed the way they have.
Other important aspects to keep in mind:
Understand your partner(s) needs and boundaries. It is always a possibility that they are not ready to try something new. If you get a “no” from them, don’t push the subject — respect their “no,” this is consent 101. Be open to hearing what they have to say, maybe you won’t get to do exactly what you have in mind, but you can meet them halfway.
Create a safe environment to explore
Make sure your partner(s) knows they are safe with you — and make sure you are safe with your partner(s) — and that you have a judgment-free space to experiment with new sensations or different ways to have sex. Part of creating this safe space is fully honoring everyone involved’s “yes” and “no,” and aiming to get from partners what’s known as Enthusiastic Consent.
Dive deeper into Enthusiastic Consent by watching our Carnal Theory episode with Caritia!
Give yourself and your partner(s) space to change your minds
Maybe you thought you wanted a threesome, but after talking about it many times you’ve realized this is not what you want anymore — that’s okay. You are entitled to withdraw consent at any time during your sexual interactions, even if you have suggested or stated otherwise before, and so are your partners.
“The best way to ensure that all parties are comfortable with any sexual activity is to talk about it, check in periodically, and make sure everyone involved consents before escalating or changing activities.” - Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), What Consent Looks Like.
Think also about the positive What Ifs
It’s easy to get anxious when all you think about when entering a new situation is everything that can go wrong, this line of thinking can often link to — or stem from — anxiety. Thinking about the many things that can also go right and feel satisfying when trying this “new” experience might be a good way to identify what your real feelings are — beyond the fears you might experience.
If Your Partner is Dealing with Their Mental Health…
Trying something new can be especially scary to people who struggle with their mental health (and for those who don’t struggle with mental health too, as mentioned in this Verywell Mind article). You cannot help who you fall for, and if that person happens to be someone who’s dealing with mental health, according to the Kentucky Counseling Center, here are a few DOS to help them out.
Inform yourself about mental health.
Your partner(s) is not the only person dealing with mental health issues. Do your own research about how to help; there’s plenty of material on the subject to help you understand what they may need or what could be helpful for their specific case.
Encourage your partner(s) to seek therapy.
It’s important that your partner(s) knows you are there for them, that you can listen and support them, but you can’t forget one thing: you are not a therapist. If you try to put yourself in that place, you may end up emotionally drained and unable to help.
Find a therapist for yourself.
You don’t need to deal with mental health issues to start going to therapy. We can all benefit from expressing how we feel in front of someone who might know better how to deal with it and is willing to listen without giving biased advice, and oftentimes, a therapist can give you really good advice on how to be of more help to someone struggling with mental health issues.
If after this read you still find yourself unsure as to what words will you use to bring this conversation to the table, take a look at this template by Sexologist Caitlin V, MPH:
“There’s something I want to talk to you about. It’s a new thing I want to try in bed, is now a good time? [If they say yes:] I’ve been nervous about bringing this up because_____ (I’m afraid what you’ll think/I don’t fully know how to make it happen/my last partner shamed me, etc). Okay, here it goes, I really want to try _____ (a threesome, bondage, prostate massage, sensation play, bringing a vibrator into bed, etc). Please don’t feel that you need to answer right away, I want you to take your time and process this, I’m here if you have any questions or want to talk it out. Let’s set a time to revisit the subject once you’ve had a chance to think about it.”
Part of having a fulfilling sex life is exploring the unknown if you’re feeling like it.
There’s no harm in having a curious conversation with your partner(s) about new practices you read about, saw or just thought of and wish to try, as long as you respect everyone’s boundaries and autonomy.
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