FAQ: Partners & Trying New Things
You asked and we’ll answer.
Question 1: How to communicate with a partner who doesn’t want to try anything new
This will depend on why your partner doesn’t want to try anything new. There is a difference between someone who feels satisfied with their current sex life and is unconcerned about the experiences of their partner – aka, the “selfish lover” – and someone who feels insecure, shy, or has experienced sexual or religious trauma and therefore needs some support in having these conversations. The following assumes that your lover needs support in navigating something that is new for them and how to get them feeling more comfortable.
- Safe space
Establish a safe space for expressing concerns, feelings, and desires in a way that doesn’t leave you or your partner feeling judged. You can develop common agreements around scheduling time for these thoughtful conversations and how to handle responding to what is shared, including mismatched desires. For example, space to validate without agreeing to unwanted activity can look like, “Thank you for sharing that this is something you enjoy/would want to try. I don’t feel comfortable with/interested in trying X [right now] but we can look into ways to satisfy your desires.”
- Identify what’s going on for them
Support your partner in understanding what’s causing their reluctance. They may have fears, insecurities, or past experiences that are influencing their mindset. By understanding these concerns, you can address them compassionately and find common ground. If they have experienced past trauma, read Intimacy After Trauma for some tools.
- Mix up the dynamic
If you are used to expressing interests that your partner has rejected or shut down, invite them to consider their own desires. This can look like (1) showing them some yes/no/maybe lists to expose them to ideas they can choose from or, (2) if they use erotic materials, asking to learn more about their genre choices to better understand their preferences. Even if your partner claims to have no interest in any other activities, inviting them to discuss what they like about what you both know they enjoy might help open them up to further inspiration.
- Offer educational resources
People can feel a lot of pressure to respond to a partner’s requests in the moment. Relieve that pressure by letting your partner know that there is something that interests you and that you’d like to give them more information about it so they can take solo time to learn more. Then, agree on a date for answering questions, discussing what comes up for those involved, and potentially exploring more resources together or trying it out.
- Seek Out Support
No matter how amazing we are at communication techniques and how much care we offer, tensions can arise. If you feel yourself coming up against a wall, consider seeking out professional guidance. Coaches and therapists can facilitate discussions between you and your partners in a way that is challenging to do on your own.
Question 2: How do I get my partner on board with using a toy?”
First is understanding why partners might fear using sex toys in the first place. Below are two fears that can help you understand your partner to better use the advice from Question 1 to introduce this new activity.
- Fear of being replaced
A vibrator, dildo, sleeve, cock ring, etc. can’t replay a human because it has a different function from us. Toys offer physical stimulation while people offer companionship, care, support, warmth, and more. Let your partner know that the toy is a tool to be used with them, not a way to get rid of them.
Make sure that your partner gets to be involved when a toy is being used. This might look like you holding a vibrator against your clitoris while they suck on your nipples and scratch across your back or them controlling the toy and teasing you with it (among other examples). Let them know what you want from them to heighten the experience – especially activities that a toy won’t be offering.
- Insecurity about one’s sexual abilities
Sometimes naming what one fears can help make it less scary so let’s be honest: toys can do things people can’t. A toy can often last longer with a consistent rhythm and offer, in some cases, more intense stimulation than human body parts. Wanting to use toys that enhance one’s sexual experience isn’t a reflection on one’s skillset but rather on one’s openness to maximizing pleasure for all. Make the conversation about the potential for pleasure rather than about deficiencies.
Keep your questions coming! We’re eager to answer.