What To Do When Your Partner Is Kinkier Than You

By Dr. Justin Sex Tips take some time to learn about your partner’s kink in more detail

As a sex educator, I’ve received a lot of questions over the years from people who have just discovered that their partner has a kink they didn’t know about before. Sometimes, the kink comes to light early on in the relationship; other times, it doesn’t emerge until decades into a marriage. Oftentimes, the kink is discovered inadvertently. For example, maybe a partner forgot to close a porn tab on a shared computer, or perhaps a fetish object was found in a drawer while cleaning. However, I’ve also heard from folks who discovered it after snooping through their partner’s computer, phone, or belongings, as well as those who learned of the kink because their partner chose to disclose it. No matter how they learn of the kink, the immediate reaction is often one of distress. Sometimes, that distress centers around the fact that they don’t share the same kink. This is usually coupled with concern over how they’ll ever be able to share a healthy sex life again if they have different interests. Other times, the distress stems from a feeling of betrayal because their partner was keeping secrets. So, what can you do in a situation like this? Can you still make the relationship work if your partner is kinkier than you? Here’s what you need to know.

Start By Processing Your Feelings—And Engage in Some Perspective Taking

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all answer here because every situation is going to be a bit different. But the starting point is processing those immediate emotional reactions. What comes to mind for you? Are you angry or upset? Do you feel betrayed? Are you confused and bewildered? Are you afraid you’re no longer “enough” for your partner? You may be feeling a mix of these and other emotions.

Take stock of what’s going on internally, but also take time to consider what your partner might be feeling. For instance, they might feel some guilt, shame, or embarrassment. They might also be angry or feel betrayed if you snooped through their things. Recognize that there can be some very complex emotional dynamics at play here that are not easy to work through. So, take some time with this step so that you’re prepared and composed for the next one.

Then, Have a Conversation

 The next step is to start talking about it so that you can each learn more about how the other is feeling and where you want to go from here. It’s important that you don’t approach this conversation in a blaming or shaming fashion. Instead, think of it as a non-judgmental learning opportunity. If you’re struggling with how to approach this, I highly recommend Stefani Goerlich’s book “With Sprinkles On Top,” which offers a deep dive into how to make relationships work when partners have different sexual interests. In the first chapter of this book, Goerlich describes an “Empathy Interview” exercise that provides a set of structured questions you can use to facilitate the conversation, including the questions you should ask your partner and the questions your partner should ask you. The goal of it is to help each of you to really understand the other’s perspective. For example, how did it feel for your partner to hide this aspect of their sexuality? And how do you feel having learned about it? Likewise, why did your partner fear sharing this information with you? And now that you know about it, what are you afraid of? If you can approach this conversation with curiosity and empathy, you’ll be well on your way to the next step.

It’s Time for Some Sex Education and Self-Exploration

More often than not, a good portion of the distress that’s felt upon discovering a partner’s “hidden kink” stems from not really understanding or not being very familiar with it. So, a helpful step is often a bit of sex education. What is a “normal” sexual fantasy or interest anyway? People often look at this through a very narrow lens because what they’ve been taught about “normal” when it comes to sex is quite limited in scope. A handy resource for this is my book “Tell Me What You Want,” which explores the vast diversity and variability that exists in the world of sexual fantasies. It turns out that many of the things people think of as rare, uncommon, or unusual sexual interests are actually surprisingly common—and perfectly healthy. Resetting our ideas about what’s “normal” can help us to stop viewing ourselves and our partners as being “strange,” “weird,” or “abnormal.” Also, take some time to learn about your partner’s kink in more detail. What is it specifically that they enjoy? What about it is arousing to them? And is it just a fantasy, or is it something they want to explore IRL with you?

If it’s something they want to act on but you’re not into it, don’t dismiss it entirely. Discomfort often stems from unfamiliarity. If you learn more about it, maybe you could be into the fantasy too, or at least some small part of it. For example, if your partner has an elaborate BDSM fantasy that’s far beyond your comfort zone, is there some portion of it you might be open to exploring, such as trying a blindfold? It’s frequently the case that sex—just like food—is something where we often don’t know quite what we like until we try it. At the same time, if you already know that something is a hard pass or you’ve tried it and didn’t like it, that’s okay. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do.

Breaking the Impasse

By this point, some people will have found that there are ways that they can mutually enjoy the kink. Or maybe if it’s just a fantasy, they can learn to accept it. However, some will have reached an impasse: one partner wants to explore the kink, and the other does not. There are several potential solutions here. One is to determine whether there’s still enough common ground for you to enjoy a healthy sex life together that doesn’t include the kink. Depending on the situation, this might work. Perhaps you can continue to enjoy the kind of sex you previously had, while your partner might only pursue their kink in a solitary way (e.g., through fantasy and porn). For some people, kinks and fetishes are just “bonuses” or enhancers to sex, not strict requirements for sexual pleasure and enjoyment. However, if there’s not a lot of common ground, but you still want the relationship to work, it might require a relationship transformation. For example, sometimes people open up their relationships precisely because they have different interests that they can then explore with different partners. Of course, while open relationships can work, they aren’t for everyone. But if there’s a lack of common ground, sex is still important to each partner, and an open relationship isn’t a desirable or workable solution, the answer may be that this isn’t the right relationship for either of you. Sadly, not all partners are sexually compatible. If you find yourself at an impasse and are really struggling to resolve it, consider speaking with a certified sex and relationship therapist who can help you work through it.


If you discover that your partner is kinkier than you, know that you’re not alone. This happens a lot, and it can pose a serious relationship challenge. However, it’s not a hopeless situation. There is much you can do, and it starts with processing your emotions, building empathy through communication, expanding your sexual knowledge and self-understanding, and exploring creative solutions.


Goerlich, S. (2023). With sprinkles on top. Sounds True.