A previous version of this article Blood + Milk. This article has been updated with current information.
There are a lot of articles purporting they have the secret for how to have good sex. Usually it’s some position or toy that promises instant arousal and mind-blowing orgasms.
This is not one of those articles.
In fact, if you’re looking for a quick fix to have more intimate, exciting, and fulfilling sex, you may want to stop reading now.
If you’re still with me, first know that those other articles aren’t wrong. Trying new positions, techniques, and toys adds adventure and newness to your sex life. They help you figure out what turns you on and what you don’t like. That’s all important—but it isn’t the whole story, or even the most important part.
MOST OF WHAT IMPACTS YOUR SEX LIFE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SEX ITSELF
Sex is only one part—like health, job, or family—of your beautifully full life. That means what happens in any of those other areas impacts your sex life and vice versa. This is why athletes abstain before a big event (despite research showing that sex may boost their athletic performance). It’s also why my partner and I fight more if we’ve stumbled into a dry spell—yes, even sex educators have them!
While this expansive view of sex might sound overwhelming at first, it has two practical and pleasurable impacts for you.
FIRST, YOU CAN USE SKILLS FROM OTHER PARTS OF YOUR LIFE IN THE BEDROOM
Whenever you hit a sex roadblock, take a deep breath and examine at the situation. What’s the underlying issue? Have you dealt with something similar in another part of your life? How do you handle it there? Can you use one or more of those skills for sex, too?
This happens a lot with sexual communication. Have you ever had a vulnerable conversation with a partner, friend, or co-worker? Great! You already have the skills to talk about sex.
One important note: skills doesn’t translate perfectly. For example, the adage,“it’s easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission” might lead to change at work but is violent when it comes to sex.
SECONDLY, YOU HAVE SO MANY MORE WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR SEX LIFE
You’re no longer limited to adding in sex things.You can add deep conversations, self-care rituals, and a walk on your lunch break. You can say no to that after-work event you didn’t want to go to anyway, media that makes you feel like shit, and negative self-talk. You can establish better work-life balance.
To illustrate this, let’s use one of the most common complaints I hear from my counseling clients: low desire. The solution isn’t only to incorporate foreplay throughout your day, but also to reduce stressors, work on your body image, and set boundaries around your work and personal time.
WHEN YOU IMPROVE YOUR LIFE, YOUR SEX LIFE IMPROVES WITH IT
You gain confidence. And get more done at work. You rediscover a hobby. And you sleep better.
And you have better orgasms, a deeper connection with your partner(s), and more intimate, exciting, and fulfilling sex.
FEEL OVERWHELMED ABOUT THIS HOLISTIC APPROACH OF HOW TO HAVE GOOD SEX?
Take a deep breath and try the tool below to help you explore how to have good sex—and figure out where the heck to start.
This exercise is inspired by Emily Nagoski’s Come As You Are a.k.a. the sex bible that you MUST read if you have or love someone with a vulva. I’ve adapted it here with her permission.
What You Need:
- A pen
- A journal or notebook
WHAT TO DO
- Think about a satisfying sexual experience that you’ve had—solo or with a partner. What happened? Where were you? How did you feel before, during, and after? Write about it in as much detail as you can. If the first experience that pops into your mind has a negative association, let it go and reflect on something else.
- Reflect and write down what about the experience made it intimate, exciting, and fulfilling. Here are some ideas to get you started
- Your wellbeing: your physical health, body image, mood, anxiety, presence, worry about sexual functioning, etc.
- Your partner’s characteristics: their physical appearance, physical health, smell, mental state, etc.
- Relationship characteristics: the trust, power dynamic, emotional connection, feeling desired, frequency of sex, etc., between you and your partner
- Setting: were you in a public or private place? Was it distance sex (e.g. via phone, chat)? Did you see your partner do something positive?
- Other life circumstances: what else was going on in your life at this time? Were you dealing with a lot of work- or family-related stress? Was it a special occasion (e.g. holiday, anniversary, etc.)?
- Sexy things you did and experienced: fantasized by yourself, fantasized with your partner, talked dirty, oral sex, hand sex, intercourse, anal play, etc.
- Body parts: which body parts were stimulated? Which weren’t?
- Anything else?
- Repeat this process for a total of three positive sexual experiences and three less-than-satisfying ones.
- Read through all the things that made sex great and not-so-great. What patterns do you notice? What contexts make for great sex? Not so great sex? Write them down in two lists.
- Based on these lists, identify five actions that you and/or your partner(s) can do to more easily create the contexts that help you have intimate, exciting, and fulfilling sex. Keep in mind that some of these things may be in the negative (e.g. remove work stressors).
- Be as specific as possible.
- Rank each item on a scale from one (lowest) to five (highest) on the following factors:
- How much impact does it have?
- Is it easy to do?
- How soon can you do it?
- Choose two to three things that are the right combination of impact, ease, and immediacy.
- Write out a to-do list of all the actions that need to happen to make the change happen. Be specific and concrete.
- Choose one change to implement within the next month—and do it!