Sex. The word itself piques our interest, whether or not we admit it. How can we not be sensitized to sexuality? Suggestive images are ubiquitous in advertising, and there’s no shortage of sexy characters jumping into bed on television and film. All around us, the message is clear: Everyone’s having really great sex.
“It shocks us how many couples report that nothing’s happening in the bedroom,” says Kate Feldman, a psychotherapist and codirector of the Conscious Relationships Institute. “Of the ones who report having sex, it’s often mediocre and unsatisfying.” Kate says statistics suggest that 50 percent of married couples and more than 60 percent of unmarried couples experience sexual dissatisfaction or dysfunction.
“When people take our workshops, one of the big ‘ahas’ is that they’re not alone,” says Kate’s husband, Joel, a certified relationship coach and codirector of the Conscious Relationships Institute.
Married nearly 30 years, the Feldmans offer tools such as breath work, massage, yoga, and meditation to help couples find greater pleasure and intimacy in their sexual relationships. They say, however, that there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for a good sex life. “It’s your job to find your own style, what works for you,” Kate notes.
But the Feldmans have pinpointed three components necessary for fulfilling sexual partnerships:
- Talk. Discussing your needs and desires openly is key to a fulfilling sex life, but many couples find this challenging. “There’s an epidemic of silence around sex in this country,” Kate says. Joel adds, “You can’t create a great sex life by guesswork. You need to talk about what you want—in the bedroom and outside of it.” Some couples might discuss their desires at a time when they’re not being sexual; others might choose to do so in the heat of the moment, so to speak; and some debrief afterward to explore what worked well and what didn’t. The important thing is to communicate.
- Touch. While erotic touching is an obvious entrée to sex, the Feldmans say that non-demand touch like embracing or holding hands is actually the more important prerequisite. “Non-demand touch means touch without a sexual agenda,” Kate explains. “The only agenda is pleasure and connection.” While non-demand touch has no sexual agenda, it’s still a kind of foreplay because it engenders feelings of warmth, well-being, and bonding, which seep into the bedroom. “If you’re not feeling loved in your daily life together,” says Joel, “then how can you be loving in the bedroom?”
- Teamwork. The Feldmans say that couples must recognize that sex is a team sport. If one person has an issue affecting the sexual partnership, like menopause or erectile dysfunction, it’s a “we” problem that needs to be addressed as a team, Joel says. “It’s not, ‘You go fix yourself and then we’ll have a good sex life.’ That’s not a turn-on. It’s a whole different picture when you feel like you’re a team.”
Being present in the moment, relaxing, playfulness, and knowing your role in a sexual encounter (giver vs. receiver) all help to heighten a couple’s enjoyment of sex, according to the Feldmans, who say that sex is “gigantically important” in a fulfilling romantic partnership. Contrary to the myths we’ve been fed, though, they emphasize that most of us have to expend some energy if we want our sex lives to be truly satisfying.
“It’s not always an easy thing to do,” Kate notes. “It’s a high art.”