For most of us, stripping down means really stripping down — baring your body means baring your soul, too. Such raw vulnerability often brings a little anxiety into the bedroom: Will I be able to orgasm? Will he think he’s done something wrong if I don’t? Does my body look how I want it to? Does he like what I’m doing down there? The cyclone takes off and it takes your voice with it.

We’ve all been there.

The “importance of communication” has been beaten to death in the world of sex and relationship advice. But there’s a reason for that! Without communication, we risk being stuck in our heads rather than present in our bodies and present in the moment. Trust me, your partner can tell.

What makes it so difficult to come back down?

Let’s take a look outside the bedroom for a moment. Women’s desires and sexual needs are often considered taboo, or worse – claimed not to exist at all. We’re made to feel shame; oftentimes, the backlash that comes from standing up and speaking out can be overwhelming. On the other side of the coin, media and advertising constantly shove those unattainable ideals of female perfection into everything we watch, read, or purchase. It’s a game with no winners.

It’s no surprise that we don’t come equipped with the language skills necessary to express our needs and our desires. We have to learn them. How many of us know the frustration of being unsatisfied by a lover who admittedly tries his best, but just can’t get you there? How many times have we been afraid of “ruining the moment” by asking for a change? How many of us want to avoid making our partners feel inadequate if we tell them it’s not working?

I don’t know about you, but in my experience, faking it has never been worth it.

It all comes back to communication. The best way to truly empower your sex life and to reach deeper intimacy in your relationship is to express what you want and how you want it. If you feel nervous breaking the ice, you’re not alone. But teaching yourself to overcome those nerves will make all the difference – and it can even be sexy as hell.

  1. Start Outside the Bedroom

If you’re worried about killing the mood before the party even starts, don’t worry. Bringing up your sexual needs can happen anywhere you and your partner are comfortable: cuddling, showering, winding down from the day, or even on the couch with a little Netflix (it’s Netflix and Chill for a reason, right?). Ask yourself how you two usually initiate sex: are you the type to appreciate a direct approach, or do you prefer it subtle? Better yet, do you know how they like you to communicate your desire?

The next time you’re in the mood, brush up against your honey and ask them, “how would you like me to let you know that I want you?” You can use this segue as a way to offer your own preferences, and just talking about the ways you broadcast your interest to each other can set up a sultry atmosphere.

  1. Communicate to Warm up Your Foreplay

If whipping out your darkest fantasies on the fly isn’t your cup of tea (or if you’d like to work up to that eventually), there’s a stepping stone to dirty talk that just might do the trick. Try picturing a particularly spicy encounter the two of you enjoyed and use the memory to let your lover know what you like. When things are already heating up, a simple “I can’t stop thinking about that night you…” or “It really turned me on when you took control and…” can lead to a stunning repeat performance, and teach your partner which elements of sex are your favorites.

  1. Use Nonverbal Cues

There’s nothing wrong with letting your body do the talking! Pairing nonverbal cues with communicative language can seriously ramp up our intimate connections. It can also let your lover know what he’s doing right. If it feels good, moan. Arch your back. Let your breathing get husky. He’ll keep doing exactly what he’s doing.

Do you like having your hair pulled? How about getting your ass grabbed? Take his hands and put them there. Adding a little physical encouragement after you’ve told your partner what you like will undoubtedly reward both of you.

  1. Be Clear & Be Positive

When your sexual chemistry is roaring like a summer bonfire, the intensity can make you feel like you and your partner are beyond connected. In these moments, it’s easy for you to feel like they should know exactly what you need – but maybe that’s a little selfish? Your partner is not a mind reader, and it’s important to be crystal clear when you don’t want your desires misunderstood.

Letting go of that little bit of ego will bring more positivity and empathy into your intimacy. And isn’t that the idea? Talking about sex during the act is an important step in communication, but there’s a difference between criticism and encouragement. Is your partner touching you and you’d like them to do something a little bit different? Do you feel like you might find more pleasure if you switched positions? Try suggestions like “I love the way you feel right now, but do you know what would make it better…?” and “I want more of you; I think this position would drive me absolutely crazy.” Never underestimate the power in making sure your partner feels confident and sexy!

  1. Learn to Laugh

This one might be my favorite. Listen; learning to open yourself up to sexual communication is just like learning any other skill. It takes practice. You’re never going to be good at something on the first try, and you better believe that you’ll run into your fair share of awkward moments. Something that sounded sexy in your head might come off stiff or overdone. You might find that you have to repeat yourself or change up your instructions in the middle of things. And we can’t forget all of the strange and interesting noises our bodies can make when they’re tangled and twined.

The best answer? Laugh it off. Laughter is a release of tension! Brushing off those uncomfortable moments will show your partner that it’s going to take more than a little awkwardness to ruin what you’re experiencing together. I guarantee you that it’ll boost your self-confidence in the long run, too. Who can resist a gal who doesn’t sweat the small stuff when it counts?

Here’s what it comes down to: it’s your body, it’s your orgasm, it’s your desire. Expressing your needs to your partner and learning theirs in return might not always be easy, but the results are worth every awkward moment. You’ll end up avoiding all the anxiety, frustration, and sexual dissatisfaction that comes with keeping quiet. Are you ready to reach intimate depths you weren’t sure were real? Let’s get to talking!