How to Have Great Sex: Start with the Right Questions

How to have great sex in marriage

Francesca raised her hand with a sense of urgency, clearly eager to ask a question. The couples’ seminar on how to have great sex in marriage had just gotten started; I had given the participants an idea of what we’d be discussing. “But it’s not like sex can be reduced to a series of how-to statements,” she said. “I mean, it’s all so personal, right? So unique to the individual.” I agreed that that was indeed the case—there is no one-size-fits-all approach to sex or to intimate relationships in general. “So then how can the same information help us all?” she asked, glancing around her at her fellow workshop attendees.

The answer to Francesca’s concern lies in acknowledging certain truths about human sexuality while leaving room for the unique (and often fluctuating) nuances of an individual and a relationship. And another important skill that every couple should learn in order to have a great sex life: asking the right questions of your partner and yourself.

The first truth to keep in your awareness is that you and your partner are sexual beings. With that said, it’s important to realize that you have a sexual self that may need certain external conditions to come alive…you are a much more complex vehicle than your car, say, which will come to life with a simple turn of a key, the same turn-of-the-key each time. Couples can run into rough spells when they assume that sex should just “happen,” and if they need to do more than turn that proverbial key, that must mean that there’s something amiss between them. Nothing could be further from the truth! Great sex begins with a deep, honest awareness of your own sexual needs and desires (and the conditions that allow those to bloom), as well as awareness of your partner’s sexual needs and desires.

Francesca breathed a sigh of relief at hearing this. She admitted that she had been laboring under the “key-turn” assumption of sex with her husband Matt, and had been worried about the fact that sex didn’t happen effortlessly, the way it seemed when she and Matt were dating, twelve years before.

While Francesca took notes (with Matt beside her), I led the participants through some vital questions that everyone interested in a healthy sex life should consider. (Note: these are not static questions to be asked once and then ignored. Rather, they are questions you and your partner should revisit often. Many people even keep them in the back of their minds on a routine basis. Look at it this way: as long as you’re alive, you are growing and changing as a person. Your tastes, beliefs, and dreams have changed through the years. It’s no different when it comes to intimacy. Your desires will most likely shift [sometimes subtly, sometimes more dramatically] as you continue to engage with yourself, your partner, and the world at large. Therefore, it’s important to be open to your own desires, as well as your partner’s.)

How to Have Great Sex in Marriage: Start Communicating about Sex

What gets you in the mood?

“Oh, that’s easy,” Francesca quipped. “Having my mother take the kids for the night.” Laughter rippled through the gathered attendees, and some nodded in understanding. “Seriously, though,” Francesca added, “I guess that’s part of it, having some alone time in place for the two of us. But if I thought about that question more, I’d say I get in the mood when Matt gives me a special kind of attention. Like if I make the effort to be sexy—wearing a new outfit or trying something different with my hair—and he notices and comments on it, it encourages me to give him some special attention of my own.” She elbowed Matt playfully. He cleared his throat and tried to smile, but looked slightly embarrassed. “Sorry, honey,” she whispered, picking up on his embarrassment.

What drives you wild with desire?

“Anticipation,” Francesca said with certainty. “Anticipation drives me wild.” She turned to Matt. “Right, Matt?” But he had chosen that moment to leave his seat and refill his coffee cup at the back of the room. “Anyway,” she went on, “I love the days when we know we’ll have some alone time that night. We exchange flirty, teasing texts or emails or phone calls throughout the day, and that creates a sense of building anticipation that accumulates and eventually drives me wild.”

What gets your partner/spouse in the mood?

“Hmmm, that’s a good question,” Francesca said pensively. She glanced at Matt, sitting beside her once again, peering into his coffee as if for something to rescue him. “I guess asking him about this in public doesn’t turn him on.” He laughed uncomfortably, but in agreement. I explained how important asking each other about what you each need is (though most people, like Matt, would prefer to talk about that in private, obviously), though it’s also important not to pressure or bully your partner into talking. Often, but not always, women are more verbally communicative and more comfortable in articulating their specific desires, but even there, timing and comfort level are key. Creating an atmosphere of openness and acceptance is crucial to any healthy sex life.

“So I think,” Francesca went on, determined to answer the question, “that Matt is very visual and therefore turned on by what he sees. I think I’m more likely to daydream my way into being the mood—you know, imagine things—but he is more likely to get aroused by seeing me in a daring outfit or, better yet, me sending him a picture of myself in that outfit while he’s at work.” Matt, blushing even more fiercely, seemed to indirectly agree. (And several other males in the room seemed to feel Matt’s “pain” regarding the public exposure, as well as connect with his need for visual stimulation. One man even leaned forward and patted Matt on the shoulder in a gesture of camaraderie and solidarity.)

What drives your spouse/partner wild with desire?

“That’s easy,” Francesca said, grinning slyly. Matt covered his eyes with his hand. “But you won’t get me to say that in front of all these people,” she added. Matt exhaled and slumped in his chair with apparent relief.

You and your partner might have some desires in common with Matt and Francesca, or your answers to the above questions might be totally unrelated. The point is to keep the questions in mind and be open to discovering the answers as a couple. While reflecting on these questions, try to challenge yourself psychically by going beyond your first knee-jerk responses. This will help you remove any potential blocks that might be standing between you and your deepest desires.

And remember: knowing your own desires is as important as knowing your partner’s desires when it comes to building a healthy, fulfilling, exciting sex life.

Featured (top) image credit: Eskimo Kiss” by Tela Chhe under CC BY 2.0