(2) Embrace the risk of vulnerability in being close and sexual.
Know that by taking the risk to be vulnerable and asking for what you want, sensually and sexually, you are creating the highest level of interpersonal intimacy possible with your partner. So many of us grew up in families where we learned that it was not safe to need, that it was not safe to ask for what we want. (http://sexsmart.com/solvingproblems.htm) Let go of the belief that if you need to ask for something, it's not as good as the other person spontaneously offering it, so it's not worth doing. In fact, it's the opposite. When you allow your partner to know what you need and to pleasure you, it builds trust in both directions. Besides, sexual mind reading doesn't work. Don't confuse the movies with real life.
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(3)Think of sex as communication, not a contest.
Intimate partner sexuality is a very high form of communication. Yes, we can communicate in words. But the non-verbal communication that we do when we safely and lovingly touch our partner the way he or she wants to be touched is more powerful than anything we could express in words. Words are essentially a shorthand for deep feelings. They're limiting. Sex is a profound way of communicating your complex and deep feelings of love for and trust of your partner. When you want to be as close to your partner as you can humanly be, strive for "connection sex," and your message of love will come through.
(4) Let go of your internalized, judgmental recipe for perfect sex.
Sometimes I wish that several brilliant sexologists had never published their description of the "normal" human sexual response cycle. William Masters and Virginia Johnson in the 1960s published some of the first scholarly studies of human sexuality. Those studies found that sexual response proceeds in four different stages, beginning with excitement—erection in men, engorgement of vaginal and clitoral tissue in women—proceeding to orgasm and finally to "resolution," in which tissues return to their normal state. Dr. Helen Kaplan then added in the concept of desire, and she said that desire had to precede sexual arousal.
The way couples respond to the idea that there is one, normal model of being together sexually, you'd think that having a perfect version of the sexual response cycle guarantees intimate, eyeball to eyeball, unbelievably gratifying sex. Aint so! It's possible to have sex that hits all of these theoretical marks, but which lacks feelings of love and connection. As a couple, you can have "perfect" empty sex. Have you ever had the "perfect but empty" experience? And it's possible to have sex where there are various, theoretical flaws in what happens,( e.g. the man does not orgasm, let's say, or the woman was aroused and then got distracted and lost the arousal) and the couple still feels wonderful and close, and the sexual activity still has emotional, magical, delicious moments.
Trust me, these times create some strong glue between the two people. I can make a good case that having loving and enjoyable "imperfect" sex can be more intimate than sex that meets the perfect sexual response cycle criterion. There is great intimacy in being imperfect together.
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What screws sex up, when it doesn't perfectly fit the theoretical model, is the couples' reaction to the "imperfection." The disappointment, the shame. Maybe a person feels sad about their own "poor performance." Or maybe the partner feels that things went awry because he or she is not sexy enough, not masculine enough, not feminine enough, etc. If there is distress that one of the obligatory stages was not reached, often there is a disturbance in the interpersonal relationship. Blame. Resentment. Anxiety. These irrational feelings of inadequacy are painful. Often people can't talk about them to their partner. (That's why they come to my office.)They're also isolating, because people don't talk to their friends enough to know that everyone is in the same boat. We're all having imperfect sex. Some of it's pretty damn good, too.
So here's what makes "imperfect" sex stressful. Our reaction. Not the "dysfunction." There is nothing erotic about angst. If the sexual experience is difficult, we'll avoid it. So go back in this article and read the list of what makes sex safe, and make having consistent safe, erotic connections to eachother your goal.
As I've been preaching for the last decade, go for Connection, Not Perfection.