How to have great sex in a long-term relationship?

Nude_couple_lockedThe media is certainly telling us that we should expect passionate, hot sex at all times. This expectations extends to even long-term relationships. And if we don’t have this great sex, something must be wrong with us.

Messages from TV, movies and porn reinforce that good sex should be “expected,” even after the first excitement of the relationship has moved into a flannel level of comfort. And if we are ‘functioning’ properly, it just should happen … naturally, without effort. Too many couples who come into my office feel like they are “missing out” on the great sex everyone else seems to be having.

But, is this a realistic expectation? What is great sex in long-term relationships?

Do we even know what “great sex” is? It could be one thing to one person and something completely different to another. (Hopefully these two are not paired up).

Peggy Kleinplatz et al. (2009), has done important research. She looked to what works for people who report having “great” or “optimal” sex.  After interviewing 64 people, she found common elements that were found to be associated with “great sex.” She then asked 25 sex therapists to weigh in on the subject to further define what makes lovers feel like they are having optimal sexuality.

What she found was that optimal sexuality comes from elements that are not associated with “sexual function” at all. Instead, the important elements don’t look outside of the person, but instead focus on internal feelings and interactions with a partner.

What makes for “great sex” in long-term relationships: 8 elements that make up optimal sexuality:

  1. Being present and embodied.
    This was the most commonly reported element of optimal sex. Focusing in on the sensation of your body and being aware of your partner were key elements. Being free from distraction, and focusing in onto the body, partner and/or the experience.
  2. Connection with a lover.
    A feeling of being “in sync” with a partner was described.  Whether that person was new or long-term didn’t seem to matter. In almost all cases there was a feeling of connection, of a merging of two people together. Boundaries felt blurred between the lovers.
  3. Erotic Intimacy.
    Placing a high value on personal and erotic intimacy was also described. The lovers felt a closeness or intimacy with their partner. A deep caring and respect for your lover was crucial to have this intimacy. A value and respect for their lover was prominent.
  4. Communication.
    This includes a heightened empathy, where you can create a language that does not challenge feelings of safety.  An ability and desire to listen and respond to your partner. Both verbal and non-verbal communication, with touch being a primary way to convey meaning.
  5. Being genuine and authentic.
    The ability to be yourself in the presence of your lover. Feeling uninhibited and accepted as you are. Losing a self consciousness (about body or performance) and being almost “selfish” and impulsive.  Truly being yourself in the presence of another.
  6. Taking interpersonal risks and having fun
    This includes a playful atmosphere that most of us forget to adopt during sex. Sex is play for adults. It is supposed to be fun and lighthearted. Full of pleasure and. But they also found that this was associated with taking risks (like children do in their child play).
  7. Vulnerability and openness.
    Surrendering to the experience or your partner, being vulnerable and open to newness were all described.  A sense of feeling secure, especially to be genuine and to express your authentic self.  Letting go to be put into your partner’s hands.
  8. Transcendence, peace, healing, transformation.
    This one was the most difficult to describe.  It involves being open to the idea that this experience could be bigger than yourself. Feeling a “high,” bliss or awe.  Allowing yourself to be transformed by sex, as a growth or healing experience.

If you or your partner would like to find ways to enjoy great sex again, try bringing more of these elements into your sex life.

While not all of these elements are easy to achieve, they can be a starting point of where to focus, instead of the more external or performance-oriented goals, such as “getting hard” or “lasting longer,”  we are used to aspiring to.  These 8 elements will be the faster, more direct route to get the true pleasure you are seeking.

Ask yourself, how can I  get the skills and experience these things for my partner.


What to know more? Email me with questions or if you would like to make an appointment to find out how you can best get the sex you want.


Kleinplatz, P. J., Ménard, A. D., Paquet, M. P., Paradis, N., Campbell, M., Zuccarino, D., & Mehak, L. (2009). The components of optimal sexuality: A portrait of” great sex.”. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality.

Kleinplatz, P. J. (2010). Lessons from great lovers. Handbook of clinical sexuality for mental health professionals, 2, 57-72.