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The Ingredients of Great Sex

What is great sex and how do we get it? Research gives us some (not so) surprising findings.




I thought the 8-blog series on sex was done but I just couldn’t resist writing another after a colleague sent me an article about the Magnificent Sex study.


Researchers at the Ottawa University of Canada have been trying to answer the question, “What is great sex?” by asking a whole host of people and aggregating the data to distill the universal elements. This article gives a brief description and their book Magnificent Sex: Lessons from Extraordinary Lovers tells all.


If you have read my previous blogs on sex, the results of the study won’t surprise you because it falls in line with how we have been linking great sex to good communication, ownership of your individual sexuality, and safety and connection with your partner.



The researchers found three main commonalities across all the participants: 1. Total Absorption in the Moment 2. Deep Connection with your Partner 3. Openness and Willingness to take Emotional Risks

Let’s break down each and every one:


1. Total Absorption in the Moment


This means that when you decide to have sex, you are ALL IN. 

The house might be dirty with laundry to complete, you may have work to get done, and you might be tiffing with a friend but sex is not something you deserve only after completing all the items on your task list or only when life feels settled and calm - for some of us, life never gets like this!


Sex is something you deserve … especially when life is messy and busy. You deserve pleasure - period.

And taking the time to engage in pleasure for yourself and in your relationship will often give you the boost in energy, endorphins, and optimism needed to get back to the (never-ending) task list called life.


To help you stay present focused, it might be worth adopting some form of mindfulness practice. More on this in future blogs but let’s just simply state that the more you practice being able to focus on the thing at hand, even when others things are calling for your attention, the easier it will be to apply this skill to sex.


So the next time you’re washing the dishes, just wash the dishes. Notice the feel of the plates and cups against your hands. Notice the temperature of the water and the sensation of moving your hands. Notice the bubbling of the soap and the way it washes away.


Then apply this to sex. When you are touching your partner, be fully immersed in the sensory experience of touching your partner. When your mind wanders, gently guide it back to something it can see, touch, taste, smell, or hear. Engaging in your senses will help you maintain your attention on the current moment - and will likely lead to greater enjoyment of the task at hand.


One small exercise I guide couples through in therapy is to have them each touch their partner’s hand in two ways:
The first way to touch is for their partner to receive pleasure
The second way to touch if for them for their own pleasure

The same activity - touching a hand - can be a very different experience depending on mindset. Play around with this during sexual activity (much broader than just intercourse) and touching your partner’s hand, face, back, etc. can be a whole new experience.



2. Deep Connection with your Partner


Sex is not a transaction - it is an experience and an opportunity. 

The experience is something you are sharing with someone else and the opportunity is for connection. Sometimes when couples fight or disagree or are going through a rough patch, their sex life takes a hit. This shows us that sex is deeply connected to all the other aspects of connecting to your partner.


However, the feedback loop works both ways. What I mean is that while wanting to be sexual with our partner can wane during times where we are angry at or upset with them, so too can connecting through sex help us feel closer to them. Talk to your partner about what helps you feel connected to them before, during, and after sex.


Staying present (#1 above) helps you be tuned into yourself. This ingredient helps you stay connected to your partner.



So watch how your touch is received by them. Notice them throughout the experience. Adjust as you go along to adapt to what is happening in the moment. Rather than getting into a mechanical mindset, this requires presence and perception. It takes more work. 

And yet, it gives us a lot in return. 

You might also practice telling your partner how nice it is to connect to them. You can say it with words, with actions, or both.


This is sacred time set aside for the two of you.


3. Openness and Willingness to Take Emotional Risks


The entire series has been discussing this. When we open up to talk to our partner about our wants, needs, fears, and fantasies, it takes a tremendous amount of courage. It’s a risk. And yet, it also allows us to experience something we might not have if we hadn’t taken that risk.


Possibilities open up.


First and foremost, see yourself as someone who can adapt and adventure. It’s in your very DNA as a human to change. Lean into that.

Our partner cannot (and should not) make us be this way or that way. We have to decide to take risks. That could mean allowing your partner to give you pleasure without reciprocating (can be very hard for some people) or engaging in something outside the “norm” of what has been familiar to you. It might be to experiment with speaking erotically to your partner. You get to define what erotic is!


Remember, sex is play for adults and in play, we free ourselves up to trying something new.

It helps to bring a sense of humor into things. Not everything we try is going to land and that can be okay. Can we give ourselves the permission to try without having a guarantee that it will work? To even let go of caring whether it works and to just be more IN PROCESS.


If so, sex can teach us so much about life in general.


- - - -


I hope these tips help give you some peace of mind that great sex is more accessible than we think because it’s not about having the “perfect body” or being a gymnast in bed. It’s about being present, staying connected, and adventuring. Sounds simple enough but it requires intention and vulnerability.


This is the last blog post of the year .. goodbye 2021. Hello 2022!!


Looking forward to sharing more with you all in the new year.


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