Why is it that we can talk about sex over brunch with our girlfriends, but when it comes to communicating with the person that’s seen us naked, we completely freeze? Whether things are going swimmingly, substandard, or have become downright stale in your sex life, it’s important to talk things out (and not in that funny girl-talk way you might be used to).

But first: why have the talk at all? No matter how you would rate you partner, chances are the two of you may have very different thoughts about your sex life. You might feel totally in sync (mentally as well as physically), but there’s no way of really knowing what the other is thinking unless you ask. Maybe there are things you wish you could change about your time in the sack, but your partner’s busy patting themselves on the back — or vice versa. Laying it all out on the table will not only ensure a better sexual experience, but a healthier relationship in and outside the bedroom.

Ahead, five tips for initiating and carrying on a productive sex conversation with the person you really should be having it with: your partner.

Mind the setting
While you might not care about (or even notice) anyone eavesdropping on your all-girls brunch, a crowded restaurant is not the place to have the talk with your lover. Instead, set aside a few minutes to connect in private, whether that’s over a homemade dinner, on a long walk, or in the bedroom. When you’re completely alone, the two of you will be able to speak freely, without having to worry about keeping the conversation PG for prying ears.

Have one topic in mind
Come prepared with talking points, but stick to a single topic on the first go. Whether it’s about birth control, getting tested, or if you’re just looking to try new things, sticking to a single subject will keep you on track and ensure that the issue at hand gets addressed. Too much too soon can be ineffective and cause feelings of hostility. If you have more to discuss, consider making this a regular occurence — you may both begin to look forward to it more and more each time.

Bring suggestions
Sex can be a sensitive topic for some partners, and complaining about something they’re doing will only hurt their feelings. Think about it: imagine someone you’ve just slept with telling you everything you did wrong in bed — trust us, it’s best to tread lightly here. Instead of pointing out everything they’re doing wrong, suggest things you might like to try. Now is the time to tell your partner what turns you on: share suggestions about foreplay, fantasies, things you like about them, what they do that makes you feel sexy, and how often you like to be intimate. Just remember to give everything a positive spin.

It takes two to tango, so chances are your partner has some suggestions of their own for you too. Now that you’ve shared yours, ask how you can become a better lover in return. This’ll help you be more in sync than ever before, and there’s nothing sexier than that.

Play a game

If talking about your likes and dislikes in bed doesn’t come naturally to you, consider turning the conversation into an activity. Jot down general questions and take turns answering with your partner. Some ideas to start: what turns you on? Do you have any fantasies? How often would you like to have sex? What’s your favorite position? Have you ever been tested for an STD? What’s your preferred form of birth control? What would you never do in bed?

But above all, make sure you’re being completely honest in your responses and requests. Depending on the topic and how long you’ve been together, things might feel awkward at first, but in the end, you’ll be glad you had the talk.

Stephanie Montes is a Los-Angeles based fashion, beauty and wellness writer. Her work has been featured on Elite Daily, Brides, Well + Good, Hello Giggles, The Zoe Report and more. She loves traveling, trying new beauty products, photography, and cuddling her two dogs and husband. Follow her on Instagram at @stephanie_montes.