Having Really Good Sex is Harder than You Think

By Edwin A. Locke Ph.D. and Ellen Kenner, Ph.D.


Carrie and Carl thought their sex life would improve once they married and were more relaxed with one another. But three months after the wedding vows, both felt disappointed. Carl expected sex daily, to relieve stress. He also felt he wasn’t man enough without it. Carrie felt shy and a bit guilty about sex. She initially complied out of duty, but soon tired of sex done in Carl’s impersonal way. She became adept at finding excuses to avoid sex. Privately she knew that she had never fully discovered how to let herself enjoy sex. They both knew there was something missing emotionally between them.

With the frustration that hung in the air around sex, both felt resentful and invisible to one another. Communication became superficial or rife with subtle, or not so subtle, put-downs. Marriage only intensified their frustration, leaving both feeling sexually unsatisfied. Why is having really good sex harder than Carrie and Carl thought?

For a clue, let’s travel back in history to the Victorian Age. In that era sex was not something one talked about and not necessarily even enjoyed, especially if you were a woman. At best it was a guilty pleasure. Carrie unwittingly still held some of these Victorian ideas.

Less than hundred year later things seemed to change. Instead of being hidden, sex was flaunted, hooking up for the night was commonplace, and the physical pleasure was soon forgotten leaving emptiness or shame in its place. Carl’s notion of romance was too focused on his physical pleasure and tension reduction; it was lacking in emotional intimacy.

The upshot for both: sex was neither romantic nor satisfying.

What is the essence of really good sex?

  • Really good sex has no guilt or shame attached.
  • Really good sex is not just based on relief of tension or anxiety but entails positive motions such as love and emotional intimacy.
  • Really good sex arouses feelings that last much longer than the range of the moment. The afterglow can last for hours or days.
  • Really good sex is experienced at a much deeper level than sex that is casual. It has meaning because it is tied to important values.
  • Really good sex is mutually enjoyable, not a one way street. Each partner takes selfish pleasure in both getting and receiving.

How can Carrie and Carl work to improve their sex lives—or more importantly, how can you attain good sex with your loved one?

  1. Make sure you both value yourselves so that sex expresses real self-esteem rather than creating pretend self-esteem through conquest.
  2. Make sure your partner shares important values with you so that you are attracted deeply to the whole person, not just one trait such as appearance. Support each other’s values.
  3. Make sure you have a strong emotional connection through good communication, emotional openness and making your partner feel visible for their character and good qualities.
  4. Learn the ins and outs. Learn to read your partner’s moods and what affects them. Communicate about sex so that each knows what the other likes and does not like. (Guys: learn about the clitoris if you don’t already know about it). Ask for feedback about what was pleasurable and what was not; be tactful and supportive.
  5. Beware of guilt-inducing doctrines such as that sex outside of marriage is immoral, or that sex is only for procreation. Sex is for pleasure but it is much more than animal pleasure.

If you expect good lasting sex and romantic intimacy to “just come naturally”—you will doom yourself to feeling woefully disappointed. However, armed with the relevant knowledge and skills, you can have really great sex as a key part of a really great romantic relationship.

Copyright 2011