She asks: "How many women have you slept with?"
You answer: "Thirty-six."
Why that's a mistake: Uh, hello, McFly, she wasn't really asking how many women you've slept with. She was asking if you've ever been tested for sexually transmitted diseases. But now that you've answered truthfully, she'll be sure to hold it against you.
What to say instead: "I'm not really into keeping score, but if you're worried about STDs, I was tested last month"—or whatever the reality is—"and if it'll make you feel better, I'll see my doctor next week." Then go. The more proactive you are, the more comfortable she'll be and the better the sex will be. "The only way you're going to enjoy sex is if you get this talk out of the way," says Logan Levkoff, a sexologist and the author of Third Base Ain't What It Used to Be.
The Birth-Control Talk
She asks: "Did you bring a condom?"
You answer: "Why don't you go on the Pill?"
Why that's a mistake: You think you're being honest and direct. She thinks you're being selfish, and isn't that just typical. Anger ensues. Sex doesn't.
What to say instead: "Do you like how sex feels when I'm wearing a condom?" You do have a shot, because most women prefer sex au naturel, too. Take her answer as a jumping-off point to share your preferences. She's not likely to say, "What a great idea. I'll see my gynecologist tomorrow." So be willing to shelve this discussion for a few months—and to try various types of condoms—while she determines whether you're Pillworthy.
The Where's-This-Going? Talk
She asks: "Where's this going?"
You answer: "Back off, man trap."
Why that's a mistake: You think she's asking why you haven't proposed. But she's just wondering if you see her in your short-or long-term future. You feel cornered and storm out. She shatters a vase on the wall.
What to say instead: "Can we talk about this on Saturday?" You need to think about where the relationship actually is going. On Saturday, put all your thoughts and concerns on the table, says Janet Surrey, Ph.D., coauthor of We Have to Talk. Don't worry about having all answers. She just wants you to think about the question. The one exception: If you don't want the relationship to go farther, say so. She's prepared for the worst, so she'll take the news pretty well.
The Sexual-Desire Talk
She says: "Let's just snuggle tonight."
You answer: "Why don't you ever want to have sex with me?"
Why that's a mistake: Guilt isn't hot. Neither is selfishness. "Don't make it seem like you're only interested in getting what you want, even if you are," says Surrey. If you become frustrated, she'll become frosty.
What to say instead: "How would you like a massage?" She'll know what your motive is, but since you're putting her pleasure first, she's more apt to overlook it. If she still wants only to sleep in your arms, let her. Then initiate sex in the a.m. Her testosterone spikes in the morning, and cuddling increases oxytocin, a hormone that makes her feel more amorous.
The Money Talk
She asks: "Do you like my new shoes?"
You answer: "You really need more shoes?"
Why that's a mistake: No, she didn't need another pair of shoes, just like you didn't need an iPhone. But she's modeling them for you now, so get over it.
What to say instead: "They look great on you." Then gently remind her about that trip you're both saving for. "What leads to fighting is not being clear about financial goals," says Sharon Epperson, author of The Big Payoff. If you haven't agreed on what you're saving for yet, take this as a sign you should start. Go over your budget at the start of every month, suggests Epperson. Along with long-term goals, it needs room for pleasure purchases like shoes and iStuff.
The Room-to-Breathe Talk
She says: "I need some space."
You answer: "Have a nice life."
Why that's a mistake: When a woman asks for space, she's not dumping you. She just wants a few days to herself. Or . . . she's testing you to see how invested you are in the relationship. If you bolt, you fail.
What to say instead: "Take as much space as you need." Chances are she'll clear her head, miss you, and end up calling within a week. During that time, put your thoughts about the relationship—the good and bad, and where you see it going—in a letter. "Writing it will allow you to gather your thoughts and convey to her how you truly feel," says Surrey. Send the letter. She may not come running back to you, but at least you'll have started the conversation.