Great sex

How to have it & what you’re missing

Written by Jennifer Hanson

There are plenty of people out there who think sex is just about what you do during the act. In reality, there is so much more that goes into intimacy and having great sex before getting physical.

Feeling close to yourself, your partner, and communicating your mutual needs are some of the most vital parts of building a deep sexual experience, but there are even more ways to get there. So, here are some specific tips on how to have the great sex you want!

Connect & confide

The first step to having great sex is trusting your partner. There are many different ways to inspire trust in someone, but the most important part is not being afraid of vulnerability. Be open with your partner about what’s on your mind, whether it’s emotional issues, turn-ons, or passions. Notice when they open up to you, and make sure to praise them when they do.

You should be able to connect with each other on this level without fear of judgment. These little things tend to be the most endearing parts, since vulnerability is usually kept private. Research has also shown that the less you communicate with your partner, the less sexually satisfied you tend to be regardless of gender.1 Not only will having this awareness of each other inspire deeper feelings, it will also inspire both of you to try new things and express yourself authentically in the moment.2

Love your body

It may sound abstract to love yourself, but it’s actually one of the most crucial elements of having great sex. In the same way that you know your partner, knowing yourself helps you express yourself sexually. This can be as simple as knowing what turns you on, or what kind of lingerie you’re most confident in. Confidence in your body specifically can completely change the sex you have.

If you aren’t confident, you might not be very assertive with your desires in the bedroom. This lack of confidence will show in your body language and can rub off on your partner, making them think something is wrong. Women who feel good about their genitals tend to have more orgasms and take better care of their sexual health,3 so it’s no surprise that confidence will help both of you be better lovers!

If confidence is a weak area for you, try strutting your stuff when no one is around. Put on something (even if it’s just underwear) that you feel confident in and pump yourself up about your best features. Do this a few times over a week and see how your confidence improves the next time you’re with your partner. They should at least accept these flaws, if not love them so you can see what you’re missing! Everyone has areas and shortcomings they are self-conscious about, but that should not get in the way of having great sex.

Prepare for greatness

Just like overall confidence, setting the mood for great sex is a must. Although it may not seem that important, self-care in general is sexy and a form of self-expression. Hygiene is key, and knowing you are clean and smelling good for your partner is a boost for anyone. Also, make sure you’re hydrated because there’s nothing worse than a nasty leg cramp in the moment.

It’s easy to set the mood by changing the ambience too. Candlelight is a great choice and gives a romantic feel to the encounter. If you want to use any toys or lubricants make sure they’re within reach. You may not know who will initiate sex, but you’ll at least know you’re ready for it.

Do it often

It’s no secret that some people don’t have sex very often once they get comfortable, and lack of sex can cause a problem. This may be surprising, but one key to great sex is having it often! One study found that great sex once a week seems to be the sweet spot. Any less than this and the lack of sex impacted happiness negatively.4

Maybe you really liked something your partner did last time, or they thought of a new idea for next time that sends tingles down your spine. Making a conscious effort to have great sex, even when you have to pencil it in, is an important way to keep these feelings consistent. More frequent sex can also help you minimize the consequences of neuroticism,5 and thus reduce negativity.

Be spontaneous

There are certain times it’s a good idea to prepare for great sex, especially when you’re adhering to a schedule or want it to be extra romantic. However, there is something exciting about spontaneity with your sexual encounters. Sometimes both of you are ready to go, so why not have a quickie in the living room? A short break between travel plans can lead to an exotic view in your hotel room. Or if you’re really feeling frisky, you can always find somewhere semi-hidden from view to see if your partner is into exhibitionism.

Partner novelty has been proven to boost desire, arousal, sexual function and orgasm,6 and spontaneous romps inspire those thoughts. New and kinky ideas, even if you’re unsure about them, have the possibility to get your partner’s juices flowing, so next time try suggesting them in the moment!

Praise them

Compliments give us gratification and the guarantee that we’ve done something worth talking about. It’s good to praise your partner later on, but it can really drive them wild in the moment and lead to great sex. Do they have you arranged in such a way that you’re seeing stars from intense pleasure? Don’t be afraid to let them know in a candid way.

Noises and moans can do the trick, but this is actually the first step to talking dirty. Putting into words what they’re doing to you can give you an extra back and forth on top of what your bodies are doing, and this makes things twice as steamy. 63% of men reported dirty talking during foreplay or sex,7 so don’t be afraid to try it if the mood strikes!

Define sex broadly

This idea might seem vague or counterintuitive, but it’s something to think about. As we age, our ideas about what constitutes great sex, not to mention our bodies and needs, will change. This is true for all humans, and it’s important to both recognize that about yourself and your partner. Problems arise when there are copious expectations about what you should both be doing or feeling sexually.

The solution? Don’t put so much pressure on performance or expectations. Orgasm-centric sex may not be ideal at some point, while a sensate approach (focusing on sensory stimulation and closeness) can be just as rewarding.8 The more aware and communicative your relationship is, the easier it will be to adapt when things change.

Learn or try something new

Assuming you and your partner are open to communicating about what makes great sex, there are plenty of ways to add some zest if things have gotten dull. According to a sexual adventure survey,7 sex with the lights on and sex outside the bedroom were the two highest-ranked mutual turn-ons for both men and women. Additionally, 89% of women reported wearing lingerie to spice things up. All of these are simple ways to surprise your partner and try something new without pushing too many boundaries.

Extend foreplay

Most heterosexual men only spend about 13 minutes on foreplay, when both men and women report desiring about 18 minutes.9 In the case that maybe foreplay isn’t a priority in your situation, try to initiate this change. Slow things down and don’t let your partner go further right away. This can apply to kissing, or maybe not removing clothing as quickly. The point is to tease your partner and build anticipation for great sex so that you both enjoy it like crazy when you get there.

Pleasure them first

It’s always nice to receive pleasure, but sometimes giving it can be even better. Next time you and your partner are getting intimate, switch things up and put them on the receiving end. Oral sex is an excellent idea for this, since you are chiefly in charge of their pleasure. Acquaint yourself with how to give cunnilingus or a blowjob if you’re feeling a little nervous. Pay attention to how heated they get under your touch and how much you work them up. If you’re lucky (and practiced) the patience will pay off and they’ll have an explosive experience.

When all is said and done, everyone deserves to dream about the great sex they’re having. Sometimes it’s just a matter of figuring out how to communicate with your partner about what you both want, and sometimes it means trying something new. Great sex results from combining the two, so don’t be shy about talking and initiating!

  1. Kristen P. Mark & Kristen N. Jozkowski (2012): The Mediating Role of Sexual and Nonsexual Communication Between Relationship and Sexual Satisfaction in a Sample of College-Age Heterosexual Couples, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, DOI:10.1080/0092623X.2011.644652
  2. Prager & Roberts (2004). Deep intimate connection: Self and intimacy in couple relationships. Handbook of closeness and intimacy.
  3. Debra L. Herbenick PhD, MPH (2009) The Development and Validation of a Scale to Measure Attitudes Toward Women's Genitals, International Journal of Sexual Health, 21:3, 153-166, DOI: 10.1080/19317610903149692
  4. Muise, Amy & Schimmack, Ulrich & Impett, Emily. (2015). Sexual Frequency Predicts Greater Well-Being, But More is Not Always Better. Social Psychological and Personality Science. 7. 10.1177/1948550615616462.
  5. Russell, M. V., & McNulty, J. K. (2011). Frequent sex protects intimates from the negative implications of their neuroticism. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2, 220-227.
  6. “Role of Partner Novelty in Sexual Functioning: A Review.” Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, vol. 41, 15 Sept. 2014,
  7. Mark & Kerner (2013). Valentine's Day Survey. Good in Bed.
  8. Avery-Clark, Constance, and Linda Weiner. “Sensate Focus in Sex Therapy and Sexual Health: The Art and Science of Mindful Touch.” The Journal of Sexual Medicine, vol. 14, no. 5, May 2017, pp. e254–e255., doi:10.1016/j.jsxm.2017.04.256.
  9. S. Andrea Miller, and E. Sandra Byers. “Actual and Desired Duration of Foreplay and Intercourse: Discordance and Misperceptions within Heterosexual Couples.” The Journal of Sex Research, vol. 41, no. 3, 2004, pp. 301–309.

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