Do You Still Talk About Sex with Your Friends?


Married sex is hard to... discuss?

by Meg Keene, CEO & Editor-In-Chief

friends talking together

There are some things I knew I’d miss when I grew up and got married (which was always somewhere in my hazy future plans). I knew I’d miss sleeping alone, spread-eagle on a queen-size bed (check). I knew I’d miss having my own room (check). I knew I’d miss nights out with my friends whenever I felt like it (check).

But it turns out there were a few things I didn’t see coming about my particular brand of adult life. I didn’t realize just how much I’d miss the lazy weekend mimosa brunch after we had kids. (Sometimes when I look at people having an 11 a.m. relaxing brunch, it feels like I’m looking at another planet.) But most of all, I didn’t realize just how much I’d miss talking about sex.

As a teen and twenty-something, talking about sex was a pretty routine part of my friendships with girls. Hell, it was a pretty routine part of my friendships with guys, though in a less earnest and more joking way. But as we were all feeling out our sexuality, and sexual expression, discussing it was just a natural part of conversation.

But then something shifted. I got married, and more and more of my friends were also part of established couples. And suddenly, gossip about our sex life no longer seemed to be an appropriate part of the conversation, and I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe there is a societal taboo about talking about married sex. Maybe it’s that you don’t want to know about the sex life of your friend’s spouse, who you see on play dates. Or maybe it’s the knowledge that marriage is our primary relationship, and hence the most protected. Or, hell… maybe people are just not having such interesting sex these days? (God knows with two tiny children, getting any at all can feel like an uphill battle waged by the exhausted.)

In short, I don’t really know why it happened. But it’s undoubtedly true that I almost never get involved in the slightly scandalous, “Wait, who did what, when?” and “OMG, you tried what?” conversations that filled more than a decade of my young life. And I miss it. Those eyebrow-raising whispered conversations are fun, and bonding. They’re also funny, and sometimes push me to try something new.

But this is grown-up life, I guess. Or is it? Does it have to be?

Do you guys talk to your friends about YOUR married sex life? If so, how do you bring it up? If not, do you miss it? What conversations do you wish you were having?

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • Margie

    I miss those talks! I’m single but all my friends are married. It feels weird that the sex talks have become so one sided but who else can I share with?!

  • Reminds me of this amazing Amy Schumer sketch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtB_bOzTNA8

  • Mary Jo TC

    I think the reason I don’t talk much about sex with friends is that it feels like a betrayal of my husband’s privacy. Like the things we do together are confidences he entrusted to me, and so I don’t feel right telling others about that. Maybe there’s no need for me to be quite so secretive, maybe he wouldn’t mind, especially with a couple of my closest friends who he sees incredibly seldom.
    Also, my friends don’t often tell me about their sex lives either, so I don’t want to be the one to take the conversation there if they aren’t interested in sharing that part of their lives.
    The one exception has been when we have had physical problems that are no one’s fault (a result of childbirth), and our sex life was suffering as a result, and I wanted a little support. I told I think 3 girl friends and my sister(each separately, 2 of them over email). And I think I only told them after things were starting to look up, not when we were in the thick of it. I think I felt ok talking about that because it mostly concerned my own body and if anything it reflected well on my husband because he was being really supportive about it.

    • Sarah E

      Yeah, I agree with you. My husband is a much more reserved guy. Though I could have a talk with my very closest BFFs about it, I wouldn’t chat about much more than jokes and generalities with anyone else. I might blab stuff about myself that’s highly personal, but it’s not just my stuff, and it’s not an anonymous date or romantic partner that my friends may not ever know.

      And I’m with you on feeling out the waters of sex talk with friends. It took a while to get comfy with that shit with my college bestie (one accidentally overheard phone conversation and the bubble was burst, though), and not everyone wants to chat about that stuff. Kind of how not everyone is into fart jokes and bathroom humor. Funny enough, I find with my work friends who crack up over bathroom humor, it’s much smaller jump to talking sex. . .

    • LJ

      Totally. I am the first person/couple to get married in my social group despite being in my late 20s (I live in a liberal city with a lot of friends who don’t dream of 2.5 kids and a picket fence, but are more into being hippies and poly and all that, lots of Burners in my area) and people still talk about sex a lot at parties – but I’ve realized that, in the past 2 years (been together with my fiancé for 6 years, cohabiting for just over 4, engaged for 8 months) I have not wanted to participate in these conversations. It seems like what happens between us is between us – and I am ALL for girls nights of “what trick works in this situation or have you ever tried this and did it work?” – love those – but I am SO OVER the “never have I ever” tell-all mentality that these chats can become, as I don’t WANT to tell everyone what I am doing in the privacy of my bedroom. The “truth” of “truth or dare” has no appeal in that field for me…. it’s no longer juicy gossip but something that my partner and I share and should choose to share with others as a team.

      • ISS

        Uhhh… not a fan of what I’m seeing as the conflation of hippies/poly/Burners… as a poly person who has been married for several years (was the first of my friend group too, at 23) and is planning on trying for children within the year. I don’t see that it has to be either/or…

        • LJ

          Yes, dear, not all Burners are poly and not all poly are burners. They’re still both communities known for having a more liberal approach to sex and when I hang out with people in one camp or both camps, sex comes up more. Do you feel better now? I think you’re being a bit nitpicky.

    • A

      I feel similarly. In fact, I tend to be pretty quiet about the fact that I’m on the asexuality spectrum, partly because it’s not something I’m super comfortable talking about, but also because I feel like it tells people about our sex life (or, at least, they make assumptions and think it does), which isn’t mine to share about. Figuring out exactly where that boundary is, between an aspect of my identity and our shared private lives, is something I’m still working on. In the meantime, I talk about it with my spouse and occasionally a couple of really close friends, but always about my identity and how I felt about sexuality stuff before this relationship, pretty much never about current events.

    • TheOtherLiz

      Yeah, this sounds right to me. It’s a matter of privacy EXCEPT that I have vulvodynia (painful sex). My close friends and my mom know of my battle, and all the doctor’s visits and physical therapy. So those close friends and my mom asked me the wedding night went. And it wasn’t “give me the juicy details!” it was genuine care and concern that I would have a fulfilling sex life. And I gave hubs the clear to tell close friends, because we figure that the more people who talk about this reality – that sex is sometimes painful but chronic sexual pain is NOT normal – the easier it will be for affected women to find help and support. Our sex life is private, but this medical condition is not a shameful secret.

      • KPM

        “Our sex life is private, but this medical condition is not a shameful secret.” This is a super powerful line and a great way to think about it. I don’t know much about vulvodynia but hope you continue to get the treatment you need and that sexy times get more sexy and fun!

    • Lizzie

      I think that’s a key point, and I’d add – there’s a difference between talking about SEX vs sexuality in general; our holistic sexual selves are so much more than just sexual interactions with partners!

      I talk reciprocally with my friends about sexuality a lot–how we’re feeling about our bodies, if our libidos are crazy low or crazy high, if we’re frustrated with (or super into) how much / how little we’re getting it lately, etc.

      BUT, like you said, I don’t talk about my husband’s sexuality, or explicit details about the sex I have with him–that’s part of the “not for me to share” category.

      • Sarah E

        That’s a great distinction.

  • anon for this

    Haha! Nope. Never talked with my friends about sex before I got married, and I certainly don’t do it now. To be clear, I enjoy sex and have enjoyed and continue to enjoy an active and satisfying sex life (currently, with my GGG husband). It’s just never been something I had any interest in discussing with even my closest friends. When I was younger I did have a couple of friends who like to discuss their sex lives with me, but … I don’t know … I guess I just never found those conversations to be very interesting? They always seemed a little brag-y and overshare-y. Like “Ooo, this guy and I did this sex thing, isn’t that scandalous.” “Ummm, not particularly?” Soooo, no. Not I’m not sorry that I rarely find myself in conversations with friends about sex these days.

    • Jess

      Same! Other than when I actually had sex for the first time, at which point I told my friend it had happened because I wanted someone to know, I have only really talked about sex in the abstract, sometimes to offer advice to a friend (eg, a friend who had been waiting until marriage and asked for some expectations).

      The details are just something I didn’t want to know about other people, or didn’t find nearly so salacious as they did.

    • Sara

      I only had one friend that I kinda discussed stuff with and it was more her oversharing and me listening. My friends weren’t ever really into talking about sex lives.

  • ruth

    I relate to this so much, but to me it feels more like a difference of being in your 20s vs being in your 30s/40s, rather than a single vs married difference. Because my single friends who are older are no more forthcoming about their sex lives than my married friends! Personally I do like talking about sex – not in a braggy way but as a discussion of real intimacy, which I think fosters intimacy between friends. I still talk about sex with my close friends that I’ve known for a long time – with new friends it’s more challenging, but I find if I summon up my nerve and broach the subject first often they’ll open up as well and the conversation will move from chit chat to a more honest discussion (or sometimes this backfires, they look at me like I have 2 heads and I’m like ‘well this is awkward’ lol!) But honesty is worth the awkwardness if it leaves you better friends

  • Amy March

    I’ve never been much of a one for discussing sex. It feels like a betrayal of an intimacy, and I def don’t want to hear it from my married friends.

  • Her Lindsayship

    I don’t really talk about sex with any of my friends, although I agree with @RuthVS:disqus that the difference might be more of an age thing than a married life thing. It’s also of course dependent on personality! But I’ve found that with my sisters, we actually talk more about sex as we get older, and a younger me would’ve found this so awkward but I’m really loving it. It’s good to have close sisters!

    • A

      Yeah, I never ever used to talk about anything related to sex with my sister, but we have been more recently. Both of us have realized over time that we’re at slightly different points on the asexuality spectrum, which is the main place those conversations start, but they move on from there. Even as much as five years ago it would have been absolutely unthinkable for us to talk about, but it’s been good recently.

  • Alexandra

    Dishing about sex is not a thing my friend group does, and we’re very close. However, I have had discreet conversations of the “we’re not having sex and I’m not sure what’s wrong” variety one-on-one with my married girlfriends. Those conversations can be very helpful for everyone. It’s nice to know that everyone goes through dry spells and also get recommendations of good books/counselors/strategies to see about it. Makes it less stressful and more normalized. This is a conversation I would only have with really, really, really close friends.

    Sex isn’t a magical unicorn once you’ve been married a while; not the way it is when you’re young and single. Those days had their place, but I don’t miss them. I’d rather talk about sex with my husband :)

    • Kara

      YES. Discreet, one-on-one conversations especially when experiencing something “strange” or a lack of libido, or needing validation that someone else has experienced what I’m going through (or friend is going through). Otherwise, it’s just . not. shared.

    • Lisa

      This is sort of how my friend group operates, too. We have one friend who has been very… vocal… about hers since becoming active in her early 20s, but the rest of us usually only discuss things one on one if we talk about it at all.

  • Jessica

    For my friends who are in long-term-coupledom, it doesn’t get much farther than “it’s happening” or “it’s not happening, help me talk it through.” We are a pretty close friend group with a lot of different personalities, and I just don’t need to know wha these folks do in bed. Also, unless they are trying out new ways to express themselves sexually, it tends to not be that interesting after awhile.

  • Anonforthis

    I used to talk sex with friends a lot more when it was a lot of casual sex that was new and experimental.

    Things we now discuss: issues with sex. Anything from “childbirth was a month ago and I still feel like I got punched in the clit is thay normal??” (Answer: yes, it goes away after another few weeks) to “wtf am I ever gonna get any again??!” (Answer: it depends on a whole lot of things, but if you try to make time for it when you’re not exhausted chances are better).

    Things I’m seriously not bringing up: anything kink-related… because the last thing I need my friends wondering is why the pregnant lady is all bruised. The answer is “because it felt really good”, but that’s not something people need to be thinking about during play dates with our kids, yknow?

  • Rowany

    I think I try to be sex-positive (talking about how I experience things and what worked for me) without going into too much detail to give my husband some privacy. I find that being open myself makes other people more willing to talk. It has to start with someone, might as well be me!

  • Rebekah Jane

    For a while, I even worked for a company that sold items of an adult nature and essentially got paid to write about sex on the Internet for a while (hilariously, that’s where I met my fiance). One of the most important points I would stress on a weekly basis in the blog I was in charge of was communication between partners. But there is another level of communication that I think needs to happen for women and that’s the discussion of sex with their female friends.

    My best friend has been married our entire friendship and there were several years of that time where I was single. We talked about our sex lives all the time, with the caveat that she would talk in more of the abstract than the literal, out of respect for her husband/because I am close friends with him as well. But we would still talk about how things were going, if we were frustrated or blissful, and it gave me a view into marriage that I would have never seen otherwise.

    Even now, as I’m engaged, we absolutely toss back a bottle of wine and discuss our sex lives! And I have to say – it’s so nice to talk about it with a flesh-and-blood person who knows you and understands you, someone you can work through a concept with without having to apply it directly to the person you’re talking to. It has truly helped me more often than not, whether I was single and confused by a partner’s preferences or now in my relationship, learning to understand the valleys and mountains of frequency. These talks have helped reassured me that other long-term couples go through similar phases, taught me a few new positions, helped me to deconstruct my feelings in a safe environment and, most important, given me some exciting new ideas.

    So yes, I’d say I would miss those talks and no, unless you’re offering graphic detail, I don’t think it’s disrespectful to your partner. My fiance knows I discuss our sex lives and he understands that, as an extrovert, I process verbally best. Also, it makes me happy to know that my best friend in the world is getting it and getting it good and I know she feels the same.

    • LJ

      “with the caveat that she would talk in more of the abstract than the literal”

      This is a great succinct way of phrasing conversation that is respectful to those we are intimate with but still a good discussion.

    • ruth

      YES! Thank you for expressing this! I have always felt the exact same way about these conversations with my best women friends! (And funnily enough I met my hubby under kind of similar circumstances)

  • Anon for this

    Oh man, I miss talking about sex with friends so much! The sex talk definitely seemed to end once most of us were coupled up and/or not dating around as aggressively as we’d been doing in our early 20s. I think part of the reason we don’t talk about it anymore is because, when you’re married or long-term monogamous, you can no longer say stuff like “this one time I did this thing with this one guy” and keep the guy in question anonymous. Another reason is definitely that many funny/embarrassing sex stories come in the wake of bad dates or short-lived relationships, which recede farther into the past the longer you’re married.

  • Anon

    Talking about sex with my friends is particularly difficult right now because I’m trying to conceive…which is at least 5-10 years away for most of my core group. I think they’re fascinated by the idea of actually *wanting* a positive pregnancy test instead of having a total meltdown at the sight of it, but they can’t really relate beyond, “We’re rooting for you!” (which is all I can really ask for, I know)

    Not that I want to compare cervical mucus notes or anything (though sometimes I kinda do because wtf), but occasionally it would be nice to have friends who “get it” more if I mention when sex is starting to feel like a chore or when it feels especially intimate because we’re embarking on a journey together, etc.

    • raccooncity

      Some sex-related (not fertility related) problems cropped up during my time conceiving that sort of threw me for a loop, and another friend was doing the trying for baby thing and I mentioned it and it turned out her and her partner were having the same issues. It was actually the first time I’d talked about the mechanics of my sex life in a bazillion years, but it’s funny…when I saw this article I remembered that conversation and how much it made me realize I missed talking about sex with people.

  • EF

    the thing i’ve noticed is the mutual friends. i never really talked to mutual friends of me and any boyfriend about sex, but i would to *my* friends. but now partner and i have loadsss of mutual friends, and it seems weird to talk about it then? that said, i still do talk about it with the friends that will always be mine over my partner. and i think it’s good to have someone to talk to about things. for instance, a conversation between the (male) bestie and i some months ago:

    him: ‘i’m thinking of taking girlfriend on a vacation. but we’re both really tired. i don’t want to hike and camp for 6 days anymore.’
    me: ‘bro, just pay for an all-inclusive stay somewhere. you both need a break.’
    him: ‘you mean we should have a nice hotel with a beach and not have to cook?’
    me: ‘yes.’
    him: ‘but…what would we do with all the free time?’
    me: ‘bro.’
    him: ‘YOU MEAN TO TELL ME ALL ADULTS DO IS TAKE SEXCATIONS?’

    sometimes adulting isn’t so bad…

    • LJ

      Bwahahahha that’s golden.

      My friends who like to go hardcore backpacking enjoy mocking me for my style of camping – I like car camping. My fiance and I will drive a car into a state/provincial park camp site with a picnic table and a fire pit. Pull out cooler full of beer, wine and foods cookable on open flame. Set up our giant air mattress with nest of comforters and pillows. And then eat, drink, and “be merry”…. we’ll do short day hikes and explore the area for sure, but sometimes just getting out of the city and frolicking together in nature is the best vacation.

      I can’t say I’m envious of those who sleep on a thermarest and have to dig a hole as a toilet while they live out of their backpacks for days (but to each their own). My camping is similar to your sexcation hahahaha…..it’s always lots of fun and we both come back refreshed and rejuvenated.

      • KPM

        Ah, unforch my husband prefers the serious camping and I love car camping. Over the weekend he actually suggested a car camping trip (since we need a vacay together but want to save money) and I’m so excited!

        • LJ

          Wonderful! My fiancé loves backpacking but respects that it’s not my jam (done it pretty much every 3 years since I was 15 and been miserable every time…. hoping I won’t have to do it again in the future, last time was a mandatory work retreat). He doesn’t mind car camping so we have fun :) enjoy!!!

          • EF

            yeah actually, i’m about like that too — partner loves backpacking etc (and overnight kayaking trips, overnight cycling trips, etc). neither one of us drive so the car thing isn’t really an option. but! we are finding middle ground in that england has many, many old country houses turned into hotels, with excellent hiking and cycling all around them. which means i get my comfy bed and shower, and he gets his outdoor time. everyone wins!

  • ANNA POWELL

    What shifted for me was that I realized I didn’t want my husband talking about our sex life with his friends. It
    made me feel weird, wondering if the guys I was having a beer with over trivia knew details of my sex life. I didn’t think it was right to put a restriction on him that I didn’t apply to myself. However, I will say my husband and I have discussed who of our very close friends we would feel comfortable with each other talking to if we do ever find ourselves in a situation where we do need to talk to someone outside of each other. They are people who we feel are close friends with good judgment and would provide good council and encouragement. So the option is open if we need it.

  • anon with dr.

    I also no longer talk about my sex life with girlfriends for the reasons mentioned all over this thread; but holy hell sometimes I miss it. My fiancé is a general/trauma surgeon who takes call many nights and weekends and is thus, obligated to answer his phone whenever it rings. The number of times this has happened during sex is, to me, equal parts hilarious and frustrating. Equally hilarious are the stories of his partner who cannot quite, ahem, calm himself down enough during said phone calls. Luckily I think that we have gone undetected thus far.

  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    I do discuss sex with my friends but very specific and very trusted friends. So maybe like 2. It’s 100% about protecting our relationship and I generally tend to be pretty selective about what I share and with whom.

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  • Anon

    I guess I’m in the minority, but my girlfriends and I talk about sex a lot, I mean the conversation has changed (very few gossipy stories about hooking up any more) as has the frequency (we all see each other once a year rather than every day for almost every meal- but we still email daily). But I think the purpose is the same, which is to share our lives, and sex is a part of our lives. I don’t view it as exposing my husband’s privacy (we’ve talked about what we are comfortable sharing and with who), but I find it really sad to think that I wouldn’t hear that my friend who has been married for 5 years is going through a rough patch and subsequently that they got over it and how, or that my single friends are dating people and having great sex (or that the sex is finally good after a few months), or are trying to figure out how to broach certain topics with their significant others, or that kids did change their sex lives, but not in the way they thought. I would be just as sad if we weren’t talking about professional accomplishments or troubles. I just never thought about not talking about it.

  • Loran

    I don’t worry about not talking about sex after marriage (the specific details might be left out and that’s ok), but I do worry about not talking about sexual histories… Like, my married friends, people who I have met or come to know after they’ve gotten married – I have no idea if they ever dated anyone before they got married. And, really, it doesn’t matter and is none of my business, but this being about me and not about them, I worry that one day I will be defined by my relationship to a husband or wife, and all those experiences that helped to make me who I am will no longer be part of how I’m seen. It’s like I assume they have no experiences or knowledge from outside their marriage, and to talk about inside their marriage would be intrusive. But why don’t we talk to married people about their pre-marital sexual encounters? Is it gauche? Is it rude? Is it natural? Is it a good thing? Is it a clean-slate? Is it imprisoning? Do others worry about this? Sex is such a big part of how I express myself and process emotion and connection that it seems bizarre to me that we don’t talk to married people about it more. It’s almost like we assume they have nothing to add on the subject – which feels backwards to me.

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