I’ve mentioned in this blog before that while sex isn’t the most important part of a loving relationship, it’s certainly a vital component. Sex brings couples closer on a physical, emotional, and even chemical level and lets partners express their intimate affection for one another. Yet in spite of its importance, many couples find it hard to talk about, even if they’ve been together for years. In fact, some people find it easier to discuss sex frankly with close friends than with their actual sexual partner.

This may be in part due to the desire to protect a romantic partner’s feelings. Maybe you think that you and your partner have fallen into too much of a routine, but you worry that your partner will think you’ve lost that loving feeling if you ask to do something differently. Or maybe your partner has a habit of doing something that you don’t like, but you don’t want to bring it up for fear that it will sound like a personal attack. The problem is, neither you nor your partner is a mind reader, and your sexual relationship won’t get better unless you tell each other what you want.

It is possible to discuss sex—and even to discuss changing or trying new things—without creating a conflict between you and your partner. Try the following tips to have a healthy conversation about sex with your significant other.

Houston Relationship Counselor Offers 4 Tips for Talking about Sex

Pick an appropriate time. As with any serious or personal conversation, you should save your discussion about sex for a time when you and your partner can sit down alone and be fully receptive to one another. First thing in the morning, right after you’ve both gotten home from work, or during sex are probably not the best times to offer constructive criticism. Instead, ask your partner if you can talk about something important when you both have some free time.

Don’t place blame. If there’s something you don’t like about your sexual relationship, don’t bring it up in a way that makes it sound like you’re blaming your partner. When you do this, they’re more likely to interpret what you’re saying as a personal attack and will become more withdrawn from the conversation. Instead, talk about your own experience and what you want.

Let your partner talk about what they want. If there are certain things you want out of your sexual relationship, you can bet that your partner has things they want out of the relationship too. Give them a chance to talk and listen carefully to what they have to say; you might be surprised to learn that you’ve been making incorrect assumptions about your partner’s needs.

Approach the conversation with an open attitude. Your conversation will be most productive if you and your partner are open to what each of you has to say and willing to work towards solutions that will make the relationship more satisfying. As long as you treat each other with respect and really listen, your talk with be positive and productive.