Physical intimacy is an important part of a romantic relationship and in many partnerships, one person’s primary love language is often physical touch. Having a healthy and satisfying physical relationship is an ever evolving opportunity to grow closer and bond as a couple. It takes time, effort, practice and open communication to forge a level of understanding and comfortability to create a more fulfilling sex life. Here are some proven ways in which you and your partner can cultivate a more enjoyable sexual experience:
Zero Pressure Playtime
A common reason for increased stress and performance anxiety is getting hyper focused on ensuring you or your partner is able to reach orgasm. However, sex is about more than “finishing.” Sex can be a multifaceted experience that brings playfulness, fun, connection, or intimacy, as well as physical pleasure. Thus, sex includes activities that may or may not be penetration or genital related. When a couple focuses on achieving a specific outcome during sex (e.g. orgasm), research shows this has negative effects on both your mental and physical health. The goal of having an orgasm lowers your ability to create natural lubrication, and creates problems with becoming erect, both of which make it more difficult to achieve orgasm.
Instead, create a goal of NOT reaching climax: Practice engaging in sensate focus activities with your partner. In these activities, genital touching is “off limits.’ Take turns designating which partner will be the “toucher” and the “receiver.” The goal of the activity is to experiment with touching your partner in different ways that feels pleasurable, without physically stimulating their genitalia. This could include activities such as massaging different parts of the body (e.g. ears, neck, shoulders, etc.), or using different sensations (e.g. a feather, ice cube, etc.) The “receiver” is encouraged to communicate what they like and dislike, and even prompt changes with speed and pressure.
Stay Focused in the Present Moment
While being intimate with your partner, how often do you find yourself criticizing your body, worrying how your partner will perceive your body, or feeling anxious about your ability to perform? When this happens, you shift out of the present moment and into your head. This emotionally disconnects you from the situation, yourself and your partner, inhibiting your ability to have an enjoyable and pleasurable experience. Remember, you don’t need to prove yourself. Your partner is already excited and wants to be with you. If you or your partner struggle to feel secure, calm or focused during sexual intimacy, refocusing your attention on this present moment can help. This is called being mindful.
Tip for increasing focus in the moment: Refocus on your five senses in your body. Be curious about what you are hearing, smelling, touching, tasting and seeing in detail. Try to imagine this is your first time having a sexual experience with this partner. What are you noticing and feeling with fresh eyes? Also, tune into how your partner responds emotionally, verbally and physically to you. What do they seem to like the most?
Communicate what you Like and Dislike
Couples often feel hesitant to communicate their sexual wants and needs. However, this is counterintuitive when it comes to pleasure! One way to guarantee you’ll create an experience your partner will like is to ask them about it and co-create it with them. No one individual is the same as another when it comes to what is mentally, emotionally, and physically stimulating. Have you ever thought during intimacy, “This is really nice, but WOW, if they tried____ it would be even better?” or “This one spot feels great!” These are examples of the perfect feedback to give your partner. Keep in mind, however, that communicating dislikes is just as important, as it allows for a productive conversation on what your partner is not willing to to consent to.
Tip for practicing communicating interests: Play a game (e.g. Intimacy Deck) or take a quiz and talk about the results (e.g. Erotic Blueprint or the Want/Will/Won’t list).
Laugh Often at Yourselves
Sometimes when you’re trying new communication, techniques or locations regarding intimacy, things will not always go according to plan. Give yourselves the permission to find the humor in mishaps. Remember, sex is supposed to be playful, connective, and FUN! This will help strengthen your emotional bond (and may even provide a couple of inside jokes as well!).
Tip for learning to find humor in the bedroom: Be your silly, goofy, and genuine self! Try not to focus so hard on being “sexy” or who you think your partner wants you to be. Real life sex is nothing like the way porn and movies presents it. It’s awkward, complicated, and sometimes even a little messy! Sexy is whatever you make it! Even if that means making dad jokes in between switching positions.
Focus on Quality over Quantity
Avoid putting pressure on yourself to be sexually intimate with each other for a specific number of times each week. The status of your relationship is not determined by how many times a week you were able to have sex. When we begin to focus on the quality of the sexual encounters over the quantity, it makes the experience more enjoyable, rather than pressure, or feeling forced to check an item off a “to do” list. However, for some couples, it can be helpful to schedule in playtime to ensure they have time to enjoy each other’s company.
Tip for focusing on quality over quantity: If you’ve felt dissatisfied with the frequency with which you’ve had sex, communicate your sexual interest and desire in your partner. Remember the butterflies you felt when you were first together? You may consider doing something romantic or putting together a special date or outfit to get each of you in the mood. Try not to use “shoulds” when considering your sex life. While frequent sex can be wonderful, so can infrequent sex! Each positive experience you have with each other will foster increased safety and interest in the next sexual experience with each other.
At Sage Wellness we provide couples counseling in Gainesville, Florida to help people just like you apply these techniques and create a healthier and more satisfying romantic relationship.
Written by Mattie Bogoslavsky, MS and Jen Martin, PhD