Many times, the advice that sex and relationship experts give to anyone who wants to have a great relationship or sex life boils down to one main principle: communication. People have to ask for what they want out of a relationship and/or sex, and then keep talking to their partner about how to make that happen. But how do you ask for what you want if you're not really sure what that is?
It's easy to say that you should know how you want a partner to treat you and what types of sexy things you want to do together, but it's not as easy to actually figure it out. Yet, knowing what you want (and making sure you get it) is essential to having a healthy relationship, according to the National Coalition For Sexual Health (NCSH). The NCSH released five action steps to good sexual health, one of which stresses the importance of knowing your sexual standards and holding your partners to them.
But, before you can hold your partners accountable, you need to educate yourself, says Shan Boodram, certified sex educator and host of Facebook’s Make Up or Break Up. "If you want to get good at anything, if you want to understand what your strength is in golf or what your strength is in math, then you have to go and learn about that thing," she says. She's not advocating a "practice, practice, practice" mentality to sex and relationships, though. When you don't know much about sex or relationships, planning to just dive in and figure it out could go badly, she says. You have the potential to hurt yourself or hurt your partner.
Instead, Boodram suggests learning what you want by reading and talking to other people. Read about things like love languages and kinks, watch responsible and feminist porn to see what turns you on, masturbate to learn how your body responds to certain types of touch, and talk to your friends about what they do or don't enjoy from sex and relationships. Essentially, you need to give yourself the sex education that you never learned in school. We don't live in a society that encourages exploration of sexuality, Boodram says, so it's important for us to develop a language for talking about sex and relationships on our own. "We're [told], 'No, no, no, don't learn about that. You don't talk about it,'" she says. "Then all of a sudden, when you're of age and society deems that it's okay for you to be having sex, you're supposed to be perfect at it."
But you can't be perfect at anything that you haven't been told how to do (and btw, there isn't really a "perfect" when it comes to sex and relationships). So, don't go into your first sexual and romantic relationships with too many expectations. But, do take the time to think about what you want from sex, relationships, and love so you feel prepared when it happens. Because you're much more likely to have a happy and healthy love life if you know how you want to be treated.