There are a lot of factors that go into establishing and maintaining a loving, healthy relationship and a fulfilling sex life. For instance, there needs to be mutual respect between those involved, as well as a willingness to prioritize your partner’s needs to the same degree you do your own. However, communication is the most important thing of all.

Far too often, people are afraid of offending or embarrassing their partner when it comes to certain things. Important topics and potential issues may wind up ignored and allowed to escalate out of control as a result. Here we’ll take a closer look at some of the most critical talks all couples should have, as well as explore how to approach them.

  1. The “Have You Been Tested” Talk

It isn’t just important that you have this talk with a partner. It’s important for both your sakes that you have it before the two of you get sexually involved. In fact, the best time to have it is when you first realize there’s a mutual attraction that will probably result in sexual activity sooner or later. (This is the case in regards to both AIDS tests and general STD tests.)

Instead of waiting for the other person to bring it up, try sharing your own history first in a friendly, casual manner. “I’ve been tested since I was last with someone. How about you?” Stick to the subject of testing and sexual health only though. You don’t need to share your “number” or ask the other person theirs.

  1. The “What Turns You On” Talk

Some people don’t have any issues with discussing their turn-ons and turn-offs, but don’t sweat it if you do. A lot of people are in the same boat. However it’s important that you have this talk regardless. You want to avoid surprising your partner with such things when you’re “in the moment”. Plus, talking frankly about what you are and aren’t into is the best way to help your partner please you.

Open the conversation with a positive. “Sex is amazing with you, but I’d love to try ____.” Help your partner understand how you like to be touched and treated in bed as well as which kinds of sex toys you like and which you don’t. Then ask them to share their turn-ons and turn-offs with you as well.

  1. The “How Often” Talk

Everyone is a little different when it comes to how often they like to get it on. Some people are satisfied with a couple of times a month while others prefer to have sex multiple times a day. Naturally, sex drives that differ drastically can cause issues in relationships, so it’s important to talk it out.

Understand that there’s no “right” number of times a couple should be having sex. However, compromise is definitely key, especially if your preferred frequency differs a lot from your partner’s. Many couples find it helpful to keep a sex schedule that both people agree to. Don’t underestimate the importance of other types of intimacy in between times either. Showering together, cuddling, and massage are all great examples.

  1. The “Tell Me Your Fantasies” Talk

While fantasies are certainly delicious enough when kept to yourself, sharing them with your partner comes attached to many benefits. To begin with, it allows him or her a chance to get to know you better. It gives them the opportunity to bring those fantasies to life at some point as well. The result is a closer, more intimate relationship over all.

Open the conversation by making a mutual “no judgment” declaration. Then consider creating a fantasy map together. You can take turns discussing fantasies (or write them down separately if you’d rather). Then compare notes. Make it a definite point to try the ones you’re both curious about and compromise on the others.

  1. The “What Counts as Cheating” Talk

This is another point where everyone differs, so it’s critical that you and your partner have this conversation sooner rather than later. Don’t wait until something goes wrong. This sort of talk is better had when it isn’t triggered by suspicion or hurt feelings.

Start by each making a list of the specific acts that constitute cheating in your eyes. Be clear about where the lines are between acceptable and unacceptable. (For instance, is dancing acceptable, while other types of touch are off limits?)

You’ll also want to make sure you cover topics like tech, social media and so forth. Are passwords off limits or will you be sharing them? Are friendships and social media connections with exes acceptable or off limits? Be specific and discuss everything.

  1. The “What Makes You Feel Loved” Conversation

Everyone is different when it comes to what their “love language” is. Some people feel most loved when their partner gives them gifts or performs acts of service. Others prefer quality time or like to be complimented verbally. It’s important that you and your partner understand each other’s preference and use that information as a guideline when showing love or affection.

Again, sitting down together and sharing itemized lists of acts that make you each feel loved can be a helpful way to approach the subject. You should also each consider how the other person behaves when they’re trying to be nice or show love. More often than not, people love others in the ways they’d most like to be loved themselves.

  1. The “Just Checking In” Conversation

None of the talks detailed above are “set it and forget it” conversations. People’s needs change as time goes on. What worked for you or your partner when you first met may no longer be working once you’ve been married for years and that’s OK.

Again, communication is the key. Make it a point to check in with your partner once in a while to make sure they’re still happy with the way the two of you do things as a couple. Be proactive about expressing your own needs as well, as opposed to hinting around or waiting for your partner to ask. Your partner (and your relationship) will thank you for it.