This post written by Dr. Brian Willoughby–Marriage and Family Researcher, expert in healthy sexuality in relationships, and Professor at Brigham Young University.
Alright I’ll admit it, that title’s a bit misleading. What you won’t find here are three sexual positions that will wow your partner or the latest sexual craze from last month’s Cosmo magazine. However, the title isn’t a lie. Often we assume that good sex must be about the position of our bodies or the intensity of our body movement. The truth about good sex is very different. When it comes to sex, there is such a thing as trying too hard and often couples who focus solely on trying to physically pleasure their partner suffer from less sexual satisfaction.
While most people understand the sex is a physical act, many fail to understand that it is also an emotional act…or perhaps most accurately it is a relational act. Sex can be “good” for many reasons. I can feel physical pleasure when I have sex (physical “good”), experience increased positive emotion like happiness (emotionally “good”), and feel more bonded and committed to my partner (relationally “good”). The best sex is good at all three levels (and often ranked in that order, with relational good sex being the best). Sometimes when we focus too much on the most basic level (physically good), we fail to realize that sex can actually be so much more with our partners. Why settle for only one aspect of “good” when you can have all three? Let’s briefly talk about each and some practical tips to having good sex in all three ways.
Physically Good Sex
This one is the easiest and the one we focus on the most. We don’t want to pretend like it doesn’t matter. Take a quick glance at any local bookstore (if you can find one), or the internet and you’ll quickly be bombarded with information about the best positions, best foreplay maneuver, or secret hip movement to drive your partner wild. Yet good physical sex if often less about a specific move and more often about what our partner enjoys. Everyone’s body is wired differently. If you want physically good sex, don’t read a magazine, talk to your partner.
Emotionally Good Sex
Sexual intimacy can bring about a flood of positive emotions. However, sexual research is clear that not all types of sex result in positive emotions whether it be directly after or days after a sexual encounter with a partner. In fact, there is a strong body of research that suggests that sex between partners who have no long-term commitment to each other or among those who engage in unwanted sexual behaviors often experience regret, depression, and/or shame long after the sexual encounter. What does that mean for having emotionally good sex in your relationship? It means make sure sexual intimacy is tied to positive experiences and that sexual acts are based on mutual respect and love. If you don’t feel comfortable doing something, don’t (and don’t expect your partner to do things they are not comfortable with either!).
Relationally Good Sex
Sexual intimacy is first and foremost a bonding experience. Whether you see sex as a spiritual encounter or an evolutionary act, sex serves to bond us together with others. Research suggests that the couples with the best and most satisfying sex-lives view sex as a way to connect with their partner on the deepest level. Ask yourself, is sex just an act I do because I can or feel like I should do in my relationship? If so, think about reevaluating what sex means in your relationship. Try making sex and all the behaviors before and after the sexual act about togetherness and bonding. Cuddle with your partner. Make small talk with your partner before and after. Laugh with your partner. Sex that is relationally good often leaves partners satisfied for days beyond the actual act.
If your sex life has become a drag or isn’t as satisfying as you want it to be, consider reevaluating if you are having good sex on all three levels. If not, work with your partner to improve this area of your relationship.
To find out how you and your partner are doing in this area of your relationship, take the RELATE Assessment today!