How Not Expressing Your Needs in Bed Harms Your Mental Health

Published on: 22 Aug 2018
Two wooden figures with lightbulbs for naughty bits "turned on"

Noted hip-hop philosophers Salt-N-Pepa once sang, “Let’s talk about sex baby / Let’s talk about you and me / Let’s talk about all the good things / And the bad things that may be.”

They were definitely onto something. Talking about sex isn’t always easy, but seldom does the best sex happen without some sort of communication. Now, for a lot of people, asking for what they want in bed is no walk in the park. But ask someone who has pushed through and communicated even if they felt awkward doing so, and while they may say “yes,” they’ll likely also tell you it’s well worth it.

Why Healthy Sex-Talk With Your Partner is Important

There’s no denying sex is a significant facet of many relationships, no matter if a couple is new or years into a partnership.

For many [sex is] the cornerstone of intimacy within the relationship,” Talkspace therapist Rachel O’Neill, Ph.D., says. “Being open, honest, and vulnerable is important to the long-term success of the relationship. It’s not fair to expect your partner to read your mind.”

In addition to depriving yourself of maximum pleasure, having unfulfilling sex with your partner can put a damper on your relationship. And if there’s a damper on your relationship, it’s probably going to affect your daily life.

“Feeling inhibited sexually can put a strain on your emotional and mental well-being,” O’Neill explains. “When you’re comfortable discussing sexual needs, it’s generally reflective of having a stronger relationship with your partner. Individuals who feel sexually unfulfilled may notice that they are more irritable and frustrated with their partner.”

Using Communication to Eliminate Frustration and Resentment

Studies show that there’s a correlation between romantic relationships and overall well being. It’s not just about being in a relationship, though. It’s about being satisfied with the relationship’s quality, and yes, that includes being satisfied with the sex you’re having.

You should also ask yourself how comfortable you are communicating with your partner in general about topics other than sex, because great communication is absolutely essential in relationships. While you may be able to easily “read” somebody the better you get to know them, there’s no substitute for clear, specific verbal communication when it comes to sex or other topics.

“Over time, frustration and resentment might build within the relationship. It’s possible that not feeling comfortable communicating your sexual needs may be reflective of a larger relationship concern,” O’Neill stresses. “How comfortable are you discussing sensitive or potentially uncomfortable topics with your partner? Do you shy away from deeper discussion in favor of more surface-level conversations?”

She adds, “Individuals who are reluctant to communicate their sexual needs may also be reluctant to communicate about other relationship needs too, which may in turn impact other aspects of the relationship.”

Learn to Understand Your Partner’s Sexual Needs and Limits

The saying “different strokes for different folks” has another, very literal meaning when it comes to sex.

What works in bed for some certainly doesn’t work for others. Some people have “hard-nos” when it comes to sex, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to be willing to perform every sexual act, live out every fantasy, or try out every kink your partner is interested in. But you do have to talk about it all if you want to make it work, even if you feel a little (or very) embarrassed talking about your likes and dislikes in the bedroom.

“It’s okay to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed talking about sex. Many individuals are raised to view sex as taboo. Generally, the more you talk about your sexual needs, the more comfortable you become with the topic,” Rachel O’Neill urges. “If you’re too embarrassed to begin the conversation you can start by writing down your thoughts and asking your partner to read them.”

“You can also start small and work your way up to talking about larger needs,” O’Neill continues. “For example, you might begin by talking with your partner about a new position you’d like to try or a role-play that you’re interested in acting out. Once you open the door to having more honest and straightforward conversations around sex, you might find you’re more comfortable discussing other sexual needs.”

Hey, who knows, you might also find you’re more comfortable talking about your future, your fears, your dreams, and everything in between!

The Next Steps to a Healthy Sex Life With Your Partner

Now that you’ve got these tips, why not get started tonight? Open dialogues will lead to open doors in your relationship, and improvement in your overall well being. Sometimes, communication can be just as sexy as sex.

A partner who knows what they want and how to talk about it? That’s hot.

If you’re having trouble communicating with your partner, or need a neutral party to roleplay the conversation, an individual or couples therapist can provide solutions to help you reclaim your healthy sex life!


Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.

Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.

Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to in the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.

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