Our culture loves a quick fix. Conditioned by an educational system to become gold-star addicted, our self-worth is attached to achievement. Our medical system seeks to eradicate symptoms instead of investigating root causes, teaching us to reach for medication to solve everything from headaches to anxiety. So, it's no surprise we sometimes start to think happiness is a result of chasing the carrot, and change is a result of following prescriptions.
But it's not true. Real, sustainable change comes from nourishing our physical bodies, learning to process our thoughts effectively, and attending to our emotional lives with compassion. In other words, lasting change happens when we adopt a holistic approach to healing—one that requires daily commitment and a true desire to engage with the ongoing, multifaceted, mysterious, and ever-changing cycles of our lives.
You might be wondering, "What does ANY of this have to do with improving my sex life?" Well, we're sold the promise of instant happiness by magazines and the Internet—if only we try this one sizzling technique or take that miracle pill.
Before I launch into these suggestions for holistically improving your sex life, I'll jump to the punch line and give you the one fundamental key to great sex: connection and emotional safety. Great sex is about connection to yourself and to your partner. This isn't about emulating what you see in Hollywood or comparing yourself to anyone else.
It's about where the open field in me meets the open field in you—where, with trust and vulnerability and practice, loving partners follow an improvisational dance that has no defined steps and follows no order. It's simply where openness meets curiosity.
As Sue Johnson writes in Hold Me Tight, "Secure bonding and fully satisfying sexuality go hand in hand; they cue off and enhance each other. Emotional connection creates great sex, and great sex creates deeper emotional connection."
Along these lines, here are seven suggestions for improving your sex life:
1. Let go of the expectation of perfect sex.
(Or perfect anything.) As soon as the word "perfect" enters your vocabulary, you know that you're trying to achieve an externally imposed outcome.
2. Let go of the belief that great sex is about frequency or simultaneous orgasms (or any orgasms).
Again, as soon as we begin to focus on quantifying or achieving, we're buying into the model that encourages us to let someone else's standards determine how we interpret our own experiences.
3. Expand your definition of sex.
Sex is kissing. Sex is touching. Sex is lying down naked together and looking into each other's eyes.
4. Connect to your own sexuality and vitality.
It's not your partner's job to light your fire or turn you on; that's your job. Connected sex naturally happens when two flames spark with each other and create a bigger fire than either one could create alone.
5. Learn to lovingly attend to your physical body.
Our hormones, sleep patterns, physical activity, and diet can have a powerful effect on our sexual desire or lack thereof.
6. Learn to work with your thoughts.
Sex is mindfulness in motion and is most connected when we can be fully present, without judgment or commentary. For many people, especially women, this requires beginning a mindfulness practice outside of the bedroom.
7. Most importantly, maintain a loving connection with your partner.
When trust and safety are strained, the body shuts down. A satisfying sex life requires that we're vulnerable in every realm of self—physically, emotionally, cognitively, spiritually. If any of these realms have been hurt intra- or interpersonally, it will affect your sex life.
And that's the point! The sexual shutdown is the clue that something else in yourself and/or in your relationship needs attention. When we drown ourselves in the shame and self-judgment of "not enough," we fall down the chute of despair. But when we shine the light of curiosity on these places, our intimate relationship becomes a hotbed of learning, healing, and growth.
Then, and only then, can we step out of the external model of comparison and achievement and instead soften into the intimacy and endless learning that arises when two bodies and hearts share a life and a bed.