How Important Is Sexual Compatibility? 7 Questions to Ask Your Future Partner

You don't have to always agree, but communication is the key.
woman and man smiling together while lying on bed
Sveitkd/Getty Images
elizabeth ayoola headshot
Elizabeth Ayoola
elizabeth ayoola headshot
Elizabeth Ayoola
The Knot Contributor
  • Elizabeth contributes a range of lifestyle content to The Knot.
  • She also works as a full-time writer at NerdWallet and contributing writer at ESSENCE and POPSUGAR.
  • Elizabeth has a degree in Environment, Politics, and Globalization from King's College London.
Updated May 02, 2022

Sex can be an extremely uncomfortable topic to openly discuss, especially if you weren't raised in a sex positive way. However, sexual compatibility is an important element of a committed relationship, so it's important that both you and your partner talk about your needs.

If you're wondering how important it is, sexual compatibility could be the difference between being sexually satisfied and sexually frustrated. A Goop survey found only 37% of people feel they have great sex with their partner. The remaining respondents wished their needs were met and they could ask for what they want more often.

What Is Sexual Compatibility?

Sexual compatibility is when you and your partner have a shared understanding of your sexual needs and desires. Rafaella Smith-Fiallo, a therapist and owner of Healing Exchange who specializes in relationships, sex and trauma therapy says sexual compatibility is more about communication than having sexual preferences in common.

She says, "It could be related to, 'oh, these are my turn-ons', 'I desire sex this many times a week', or 'these are the types of positions I like', and all these things that make up the sexual experience. But I find that couples who actually can have this conversation about what's working for them, what's not working for them and their desire to talk to check-in, to make changes, to be curious and not [be] stuck or rigid in their sexual exploration, that increases their compatibility."

On that note, Smith-Fiallo, shares the best questions to ask your partner and the types of conversations you should have to increase your sexual compatibility.

1. How Do You Like Sex to Be Initiated?

    Everyone likes sex to be initiated in a different way, so ask your partner what their preference is. If you're not initiating in a way that makes your partner feel connected, desired or valued, you might be met with the cold shoulder, Smith-Fiallo says. She adds that this question is important to ask in case your partner has experienced sexual trauma.

    "I work with people who have experienced trauma and you know, someone could touch a body part of yours, or you could say something a certain way, and that can be triggering," she says.

    She continues, "And if it's not triggering, sometimes it can just be a turnoff. Some people don't like certain types of dirty talk, while others love that."

    2. What Are Some Sexual Practices That Don't Align With Your Values?

    There are millions of sexual acts out there and you likely have your preferences. Sometimes these sexual preferences are tied to values, and when they're different from your partner's, it could make you feel as though you're sexually incompatible.

    For instance, if your partner enjoys threesomes but you don't because you think sex is sacred and should be exclusively with a partner, you may be at odds about it.

    Have a discussion about sexual practces that are a hard no for you and talk about why this is the case. Also, explore the values your beliefs are rooted in and make sure it's one that truly represents who you are and not one you've inherited.

    3. What Does It Mean to Have Sex and One or Both of Us Don't Climax?

      Some people think orgasms are the hallmark of good sex, but is this always the case? Smith-Fiallo says ask your partner how they feel when one or both of you don't orgasm. If your partner is only satisfied when they orgasm and you aren't, perhaps, see if you can compromise by finding other ways to find satisfaction outside of orgasm. Smith-Fiallo also explains that taking away the pressure to orgasm every single time you have intercourse or sex gives both of you the chance to explore the possibilities.

      4. What Does Intimacy Mean and Look Like for You?

        Intimacy is often synonymous with sex, but it doesn't have to be. Find out what intimacy outside of sex looks like for both you and your lover, says Smith-Fiallo.

        "Take that part of the word out [sexual] and just focus on intimacy. So what does it mean to be close, to check in with one another, to know about what's going on in each other's day in life?" she says.

        She says this could be as simple as touching when you pass one another in the kitchen. Smith-Fiallo explains that when couples she works with don't have any type of touch at all during the day and then their partner initiates sex during the day, it can make them feel unwanted. So, speak to your partner and see what they need to build intimacy, be it Netflix and chilling, forehead kisses or holding hands frequently during the day. Creating intimacy beyond sex could improve your sexual compatibility.

        5. What Are Some of Your Fantasies?

          Sexual fantasies can not only spice up your sex life as a couple–they can also make you feel closer to your partner and more sexually fulfiled if you explore them together. Have a conversation and explore one another's fantasies, but also keep in mind, they can remain just that, says Smith-Fiallo.

          "They don't have to be something that we are trying to bring to life. And in fact, a lot of fantasies that people have may even be impossible to do. It's just the fun and the feelings that come with playing with imagination, because it's a form of play [and] we know that play is really good for us."

          She recommends focusing on the positive aspects of fantasies as opposed to worrying about how they'll negatively impact your relationship.

          6. How Often Do You Like to Have Sex?

          A 2017 study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior monitored the sexual behavior of 26,000 indivudals between 1989 to 2014. The study found the average couple has sex an average of once a week. Be honest about how often you'd like to have sex and find out how your partner feels about it too. If you have extremely different libidos, this doesn't have to be a dealbreaker–consider exploring alternatives.

          For example, if you have a higher libido than your partner, you could decide that instead of having penetrative sex more often, you'll up the foreplay or buy sex toys and masturbate as an alternative.

          Also, remember neither a lower or higher sex drive is wrong, it's about empathizing with one another and finding a way to ensure you're both satisfied.

          7. How Do We Talk About Things That Are Going Well and Things That Aren't?

            Regular talks about how your sex life is going is a way to ensure you and your partner are on the same page. Smith-Fiallo says you should think about how to do that which includes agreeing on cadence and what aspects of your sex life to check-in about.

            "That could be regarding wanting to switch things up, right. That could be talking about what we did do. Maybe something happened during and after the fact." she says. Ultimately, sexually compatibility is about understanding what both of your sexual needs being open enough to meet at least halfway.

            Up Next
            • Couple embracing each other and smiling.
              Is Our Relationship Just Physical? Here's How to Tell