How Can I Get my Partner to Open Up About Their Kinks?

If there is one thing that has the potential to make a person clam up quicker than butter melts on hot toast, it’s conversations about sex and kinks. Many people have never had the opportunity to learn what healthy conversations about sex look like. Most experienced a lack of proper sexual health education, sex being viewed as an inappropriate topic, and general sex negativity. Even if a person did experience a sex positive environment growing up, conversations between partners about sex were done in private.

But all is not lost. Like many things in life, learning how to communicate about sex, and kinks, is a skill that can be learned.

There are a few things to think about before jumping full on into the kink conversation. First, what do your conversations about sex currently look and feel like? Does it come easily for both of you? Or does it maybe feel awkward or embarrassing? If it currently feels like a struggle, it may help to take time to explore the feelings behind the awkwardness and embarrassment. It could be from upbringing, feelings of shame, or even trauma. Being open and honest with each other about why it is difficult to talk about sex in the first place lays a solid foundation for deeper conversations. If you feel you already have a solid foundation, fantastic!

Next, it is important to recognize a few things about kinks. One is that kinks can feel deeply personal for some people. It may be something they have never shared with anyone at all. It is a level of vulnerability that they may feel deeply uncomfortable with. Two, some people may have shared kinks in the past and were met with ridicule, disgust, or kink shaming. Having had such a negative response in the past will prevent them from feeling comfortable with being open about it now. Third, for some, sexual exploration may have been discouraged or just something they never did. Whatever the reason, it is completely normal and OK for people to not have kinks. Finally, kink means different things to different people. What one person considers kinky, another may consider ‘vanilla’.

Before having THE conversation, it helps to have a conversation about THE conversation. Indicating ahead of time that you’d like to have an open conversation about kinks will help you gauge whether your partner is open to discussing them. This conversation should be approached with compassion, empathy, respect, mutuality, and a willingness to listen, even if the response is no. If it is a no, a possible follow up question is “I’d like to understand better, may I ask why?” Give your partner the time, space, and undivided attention they need to share, if that is what they choose to do. Healthy communication is just as much, if not more, about listening as it is sharing.

If your partner responds positively, this is a good time to discuss what you both want the kink conversation to look and feel like. What does your partner need to feel safe to discuss their kinks when you do get to that conversation? Are you both prepared to respond to each other with non-judgement if something comes up that makes either of you uncomfortable? You will also want to discuss when to have the conversation, where, what the space needs to look like, how you will ensure there are no interruptions, and so on. You may also want to talk about boundaries, what will and won’t be discussed, and how you will work through any big feelings that might come up.

So, it’s time for the big conversation. You’ve made the space feel comfortable, minimized distractions, and are ready to listen. There you are, sitting in front of each other and…nothing. Despite all the preparation and having the conversation about the conversation, it may still be difficult to get the words out. Here are some tips to reduce some of the nervousness. Sit side by side to talk. Sometimes it is really difficult for people to have conversations, especially ones that are vulnerable, face to face. I personally am more successful when I can look around, rather than watch someone’s face as they respond to what I am saying. Make it fun. Laugh, joke (when appropriate), smile, be playful. Laughter helps calm nerves and creates some good chemical flow in the brain, so it knows it is safe proceed. Ground yourselves, whatever that looks like for you. It can be taking some deep breaths, shaking it out, a quick meditation, jumping up and down, stretching, whatever it is that will help both of you feel more connected to your bodies and the moment. Go into it with no expectations. The pressure may feel pretty heavy already, no need to add additional pressure by having set expectations on top of it.

During the conversation, be sure to be flexible, listen, and give yourselves grace. It may feel clunky or weird at first, but responding in love and kindness will promote connection and comfort. Remember, the brain is going to send up all kinds of red flags because it is going to think this is not safe. Doing all you can to create a sense of safety will help your partner to know you love and support them, no matter what. Finally, when the conversation is over, do some after care. It can look like hugging, going for a walk, cuddling, or whatever your partner needs in the moment. Moving forward, make time to talk often with your partner about sex and kinks. Desires change, people change, it’s a fact of life. Regularly touching base on where each of you stand with your sex life will create more connection with each other.

Some additional notes to keep in mind. If just talking feels like too much pressure, there are various creative ways to help open up some dialogue. Doing a yes/no/maybe list, both separately and/or together can be a great way to see what various interests may be. These can be found by doing a quick search online, or you can create your own. This one, created by William Lynch, is a good place to start. Places like The And have created card decks like Honest X to facilitate deeper conversations.

When it all comes down to it, conversations about kink should be approached with an open mind, no judgement, compassion, support, and gentleness. For some it can feel like being cracked wide open, and how one responds will determine how the conversation plays out, now and in the future. Building connection, in and out of the bedroom, will be key in laying the groundwork for these deeper conversations. If you would like additional information about communicating about sex, check out my guide Communicating Confidently: A Guide to Getting What You Desire. Still need more support? Reach out today to set up a free consultation with me. You can find a link to the inquiry form HERE.

Carli Guzowski is a Certified Sex Coach, Clinical Sexologist, Sexual Health, and Wellness Educator, and Pleasure/Kink Activist. She is owner of Unwinding Pleasure, where her main mission is to spread messages of peace, love, pleasure, and acceptance for all. She supports her clients in recognizing the role pleasure plays in leading a more fulfilling, empowered, healthy, and joyful life. She offers Sex/Intimacy Coaching, and Sexual Health/Wellness Education and Workshops. In her free time, Carli enjoys gardening, fast cars, adventures with her family, and sparkly boots.