Many things factor into having the kind of relationship that's so joyously happy, sometimes you even annoy yourself when you talk about it. And yes, sex is often a major player in creating that kind of blissed-out connection, but that usually doesn't happen by accident. If you're in it for the long haul, maintaining a good sex life takes work, and knowing the answers to these 13 key questions can help you out.
1. How important is sex to each of you?
The issue that launched a thousand divorces (let's be real, it's contributed to many more than that). Every relationship deals with sexual ebbs and flows, but open communication is essential to staying on top of how much sex matters to each of you, how long you each think sex should last, and how often you want to have it.
2. Past-partner counts: fair game or off the table?
Some people want to know, some people don't. Both are fine. But if either of you is even remotely curious about the other's sexual past, you'll have to figure out a balance of what information is need-to-know and what information you'll play on a loop in your mind, drinking vodka until you cry.
3. What is their past sexual experience like?__
This is a major part of the framework you need to understand your partner sexually. It encompasses whether they've been sexually fulfilled in past relationships, whether they've dealt with sexual assault — and are ready to talk about it, because of course that should never be pressed if they're not — and maybe even taking it back to what their first time having sex was like.
4. What are you two doing for birth control?
Part of having a happy relationship is not having to freak out about being pregnant (if you don't want to be). Figure out which birth control option is right for you and make sure you both understand the basics of how it works. Also, since we're on the subject of sexual health, you should absolutely know each other's STI history.
5. Which sexual activities are non-negotiably off-limits?
If, for example, you will lose your sh*t if anything gets close to your butt, that's something they need to know.
6. Are you down with each other's kinks?
It's always helpful to know what you each think of as outside-the-box territory and what you consider vanilla. (As luck would have it, this conversation can go hand-in-hand with the previous question.)
7. Which fantasy do you each find so hot that thinking about it basically melts you into a puddle of nothingness?
There's nothing like having your partner's ultimate fantasy in your mental back pocket for the times your sex life could use a little boost.
8. What are the ground rules for surprises?
Consent is sexy. Supposedly, so is doing things like waking each other up with oral sex. Yes, that can be great if it's what you're into, but it's still important to know whether your partner is open to such surprises before going for the gold.
9. Which sexual words, phrases, or actions makes your skin crawl off your body?
Maybe every time a past person has delighted in how "moist" you are, you had to resist the urge to hurl. Perhaps when your partner licks your earlobe, you astral project back to kids giving you wet Willies on the playground and your sex drive shrivels like a raisin. Whatever turns you each off, know it, commit it to memory, and avoid it.
10. What's each partner's post-sex M.O.?
This will help you not unwittingly steamroll over their emotions because you don't like to cuddle after sex, or vice versa. Always nice to head an I-want-to-share-my-tender-heart-feelings-and-you-always-fall-asleep fight off at the pass!
11. How do you each feel about porn?
Do you refuse to watch it or do you want to explore watching porn with them? Will they consider it cheating if they find out you watched some? Are you both really into Pokemon Go porn right now? Pressing questions.
12. What are the rules re: having sex with other people?
It's not automatically cheating, after all — maybe you two are in an open relationship or have some sort of other arrangement. That's great as long as you're both in on it.
13. What makes you each come the hardest?
Like, that holy orgasm grail that leaves you ravenous, exhausted, and forever changed on a fundamental level as a human being. Of course, there's the caveat that orgasm isn't always possible/easy to reach/even the goal, but if it is for you two, learn what it takes to get on that level.
This article originally appeared on SELF.