The Three Secrets to Satisfying Sex

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Satisfying sex is about a lot more than technique. In fact, you and your partner can be highly skilled at lovemaking and still have an unfulfilling sex life.  

To be sure, some knowledge of technique is important, but it’s fairly easy to come by. It can be gleaned through exploring one of the many popular books on the subject.  

However, over the past 30-plus years of helping couples I’ve observed that far more important (and far more challenging) than technique is creating the kind of relationship in which satisfying sex is most likely to occur.  

I’ve discovered that there are three secrets that will help you to create this kind of relationship so that you can enjoy a maximally fulfilling sex life. Now, I’ll share them with you.  

1. Insight: The first secret to satisfying sex is secure connection.  

In order to be sexually responsive, each of you must feel emotionally secure with the other.  

According to Dr. Sue Johnson in her book, Hold Me Tight, “Secure, loving partners can relax, let go, and immerse themselves in the pleasure of lovemaking. They can talk openly, without getting embarrassed or offended, about what turns them off or on (p. 194).”   

Tip: Create secure connection by expressing acceptance and commitment to each other.    
By acceptance I mean you and your partner favorably receiving each other’s thoughts and feelings, hopes and fears about all aspects of your lives, not just the sexual. By commitment I mean being pledged to stay in your relationship and to be fully present to each other, not just physically but also emotionally. It’s important that you and your partner verbally reassure each other from time to time of your acceptance and commitment:  

“I love you just the way you are.”  

“I’m here for you and always will be.”  

Doing this will help you to create secure connection, the first secret to satisfying sex.  

2. Insight: The second secret to satisfying sex is intimate knowing.  

To know each other intimately, you must learn to confide in each other about your emotional and sexual needs.  

It’s best to start with the emotional. If you and your partner can share your emotional needs outside the bedroom, then you’ll be better able to share your sexual needs inside the bedroom. Emotional needs include affection, understanding, comforting, touching, holding, soothing, reassuring, and affirming. Sexual needs during lovemaking include the needs to be touched (and not touched) in certain ways and to proceed at a pace that is comfortable.  

Confide!  

Tip: Each evening, spend some time sharing with each other about your day and about your current emotional needs:  

“Today my boss really berated me. I’m feeling worthless and I need you to reassure me about how much you value me.”  

“All day long the kids were out of control and now I’m feeling tense. I need you to hold me, stroke my hair, and soothe me.”  

Tip: Now and then when not making love, share frankly with each other about your sexual needs.  

“When we make love, I need you to slow down and spend more time in foreplay.”  

“The next time we make love, I’d like you to join me in the fantasy that we are doing it outside, under the stars in the middle of a pine forest.”  

Disclosing sexual needs to each other is a challenge for most couples. However, you and your partner will find it easier to do if you are also regularly disclosing to each other your emotional needs. Doing both is necessary to creating intimate knowing, the second secret to satisfying sex.  

3. Insight: The third secret to satisfying sex is empathic attunement.  

By empathic attunement, I mean focusing on each other during lovemaking and being alert to nonverbal cues about immediate sensations and desires. These tend to shift from moment to moment, so it’s important to monitor them continually.  

While tuning into your partner’s sensations and desires, it’s also important to pay attention to your own.  

Tip: Create empathic attunement by verbalizing the meaning of your nonverbal cues. After all, you’re not mind readers.  

Here are two examples of how to verbalize the meaning of nonverbal cues during lovemaking:  

“When I sigh like that, it means keep on doing what you’re doing.”  

“When I touch your hand with mine, it means slow down.”  

Making the implicit explicit is particularly important at the beginning of your love life, when the two of you are just getting to know each other sexually. It’s also important later on, because needs can and do change over time. Paying attention to each other’s nonverbal cues will help you to create empathic attunement, the third secret to satisfying sex.  

Secure connection, intimate knowing, and empathic attunement: they’re all essential to you and your partner enjoying a fulfilling sex life.  

Of course, these three secrets alone will not guaranty complete sexual fulfillment, because many additional factors can negatively impact your lovemaking including stress, health issues, and medication side effects.  

In addition, long-standing sexual dysfunctions can get in your way. These include low sexual desire, premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction in males, and inability to experience orgasm in females.  

Sex therapy, offered by many couple therapists, can help greatly.  

Also, discord in your relationship can inhibit satisfying sex. This is because negative interaction patterns tend to disrupt secure connection, intimate knowing, and empathic attunement.  

Therefore, if you and your partner are frequently fighting and/or avoiding each other, couple therapy can not only increase your overall enjoyment of your relationship. It also can significantly enhance your sex life.  

One final thought. Sex at its best is an expression of love. There’s a huge difference between making love and just having sex.  

To sum up, when it comes to satisfying sex, the three secrets are: secure connection, intimate knowing, and empathic attunement. Working on these will help you and your partner create the kind of relationship that is conducive to maximally fulfilling sex.

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