It’s hard to think about your wedding without fantasising about the wedding night. After all, we’ve got hundreds of Bollywood movies and dozens of iconic ads telling us what is likely to ensue. In all probability, you’re going to be sitting on a bed of roses—literally—wearing all your finery, with a glass of milk in your hand. And as your spanking-new husband enters your bedchamber, the temperature starts to soar and your sizzling chemistry makes the night one to remember.
If that’s how you imagine your first night as a married woman, then we’ve got news for you sister: that’s not very likely to happen. Both of you are either going to be too tired to make anything happen or just be too awkward. That’s why, before the big night is upon you—you need to talk about sex with your partner, even if you’ve been in a relationship with each other for a while now.
Yes, we know talking about sex is awkward, especially if you are entering an arranged married or if you haven’t been sexually active before. That’s why we are here so that you can get the discomfort out of the way and build a bond that lasts forever.
You’ve gotta talk about sex baby, and here’s how you can do it
“Young people in India are having more and more relationships before marriage, they’re dating and having sex,” says sexuality educator Karishma, who goes by ‘Talk You Never Got’ on Instagram. “That’s why it is important to talk about sex before marriage because people are coming into this with many preconceived notions,” she says.
Especially when many people still believe that sexual activity is best kept for when you’re betrothed to somebody for life, talking about sex should be like any other crucial conversation—like finances and living arrangements—you might have before tying the knot.
Now, we might be preaching the agenda a bit too much, but it also goes without saying that you can’t possibly cover all the bases in one conversation. And you want that talk to be organic and free-flowing, so just remember these pointers and see where it takes you.
1. Talk about your sexual history
“In India, women are still expected to be virgins while there is no ‘bleeding in the sheets’ expected from men. And since that is a problem, a patriarchal one at that, it can sow seeds of distrust in the marriage. So it’s important for couples to have a conversation about the relationships they’ve had in the past,” explains Dr Niveditha Manokaran, who is a venereologist and sexual health physician based in Sydney.
Of course, you don’t have to delve deep into the details, but letting them know whether or not you have been sexually active in your past relationships is a good place to start.
2. Marry history with biology and broach the topic of STDs
We understand: it’s never easy to talk about sexually-transmitted infections. But it is perhaps one of the most important things you should discuss before entering any long-term relationship— especially so if it’s marriage we’re talking about.
Says Dr Manokaran, who is more popularly known as Dr Nive Untaboos on Instagram : “You might be in the most understanding relationship on the planet, but having a conversation about STIs while you’ve been in it for a while is bound to put you in an awkward place. So if you and/or partner have been sexually active in the past, it’s only practical to get an STI panel done before getting married.”
And if you’re looking for an organic way to bring up the topic, then our resident expert suggests sneaking it in while you’re talking about your sexual history. “Talking about your sexual past is easier than talking about STIs, so segue it in,” she says. Another tip to help the conversation go down easier: don’t put it across like a mandate; make it a joint decision. For example, you could say something like this: “Since we’ve both been sexually active in the past, do you think we should get ourselves tested for STIs before we get intimate with each other?”
Now, before you give in to the urge to dismiss this suggestion, here’s a fact to consider: studies suggest that STIs like gonorrhoea and chlamydia don’t show symptoms in as many as two-thirds of the cases. Add to that the fact that these infections can lie dormant for years before flaring up, you’ve got a dicey situation on your hands—because you or your spouse could very well get infected months after being exclusively intimate with each other, putting your time together under the scanner.
3. Talk about contraception
You mustn’t dare skip talking about this one if you don’t want children soon after marriage. And since the burden of birth control falls on women (another win for the patriarchal world we inhibit), you must also be brave enough to ask your to-be husband the pertinent question: will he wear a condom?
“If your husband is somebody who may not want to use condoms, talking about contraception before you get married will help you figure out your options in time,” suggests Dr Manokaran.
Moreover, this is also a good time to establish what you are comfortable with. “You need to be really candid and clear with your partner about what your expectations are when it comes to contraception,” says Karishma, adding: “Don’t be afraid to lay down boundaries.”
4. Set your comfort zone and boundaries even if you’ve been sexually active with your partner before marriage
You and your partner might have been together for a long time, but sharing a living space together is a whole different ball game. Having the sex talk will not only help you set expectations but also allow the both of you to be on the same page. Says Karishma: “Couples should have an ongoing conversation around what they’re comfortable with, what they want to do, and what they don’t.”
5. If you haven’t had sex before, set the tone for the first night
Getting nervous about your sexual debut is understandable. But instead of letting the unbearable suspense of the first night get to you, how about you discuss your preferences with your partner.
“Your first time doesn’t necessarily need to be penetrative or organismic. If you haven’t had sex with each other or at all, it’s more important for you to find a connection,” stresses Dr Manokaran. This becomes all the more crucial if you have concerns about getting physically intimate with your partner.
If you are worried about pain or are just not comfortable having penetrative sex on your wedding night, let your partner know. There are plenty of things you can do instead to set the stage for intercourse in the future, including exploring each other’s bodies, making out, holding hands, and even cuddling.
6. Lastly, understand the different nuances of consent before you get intimate
Consent—well, it can really make things steamy in the bedroom. And violating it can turn things ugly faster than you can imagine. “Marriage doesn’t mean you have a license to have sex,” says Dr Manokaran. “Consent is important even when you’re married.”
Consent can be both verbal—spoken in yes and no and many other iterations—and non-verbal, like your partner waiting for you to sleep before coming to bed. And it’s important for both of you to understand it and respect it.
If you’re still struggling with the awkwardness of talking openly about sex, consider these parting words from Dr Manokaran: “Once you initiate a sexual conversation, the intimacy and closeness of any individual increases.” Your conversation may start with snippets from your past, getting screened for STIs, and talking about birth control—but remember to also infuse the little things to build intimacy. From what you prefer in bed to your wildest fantasies, the sky is the limit.