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Real Intimacy Is Harder Than You Think
By Edwin A. Locke, Ph.D. and Ellen Kenner, Ph.D.

Carrie and Carl thought their sex life would be great once they married and were more relaxed with one another. But three months after the wedding vows, both felt disappointed.  Carl expected it daily. He also felt he wasn't man enough without it.

Carrie felt shy and a bit guilty about sex. She initially complied out of duty, but soon tired of Carl's impersonal way. She became adept at finding excuses to avoid sex. Privately she knew that she had never fully discovered how to let herself enjoy sex. They both knew there was something missing emotionally between them.

With the frustration that hung in the air, both felt resentful and invisible to one another. Communication became superficial or rife with subtle, or not so subtle, put-downs. Marriage only intensified their frustration, leaving both feeling sexually unsatisfied. 

For a clue as to why this area is so difficult, let's travel back in history to the Victorian Age. In that era, sex was not something you talked about or necessarily even enjoyed, especially if you were a woman. At best it was a guilty pleasure. Carrie unwittingly still held some of these Victorian ideas.

Less than a hundred years later, things seemed to change. Instead of being hidden, sex was flaunted, hooking up for the night was commonplace, and the physical pleasure was soon forgotten, leaving emptiness or shame in its place. Carl's notion of romance was too focused on his physical pleasure and tension reduction; it was lacking in emotional intimacy.

What is the essence of really good sex?

* Really good sex has no guilt or shame attached.

* Really good sex is not just based on relief of tension or anxiety but entails positive emotions such as love and emotional intimacy.

* Really good sex arouses feelings that last much longer than the range of the moment. The afterglow can last for hours or days.

* Really good sex is experienced at a much deeper level than sex that is casual. It has meaning because it is tied to important values.

* Really good sex is mutually enjoyable, not a one-way street. Each partner takes selfish pleasure in both giving and receiving.

How can Carrie and Carl work to improve their sex life-or more importantly, how can you attain good sex with your loved one?

1. Make sure you both value yourselves so that sex expresses real self-esteem rather than creating pretend self-esteem through conquest.

2. Make sure your partner shares important values with you so that you are attracted deeply to the whole person, not just one trait such as appearance. Support each other's values.

3. Make sure you have a strong emotional connection through good communication and emotional openness, and make your partner feel visible for his or her character and good qualities.

4. Learn the ins and outs. Learn to read your partner's moods and what affects him or her. Communicate about sex so that each knows what the other likes and does not like. (Guys: learn about the clitoris if you don't already know about it). Ask for feedback about what was pleasurable and what was not; be tactful and supportive.

If you expect good, lasting sex and romantic intimacy to "just come naturally," you will doom yourself to feeling woefully disappointed. However, armed with the relevant knowledge and skills, you can have really great sex as a key part of a really great romantic relationship.

Copyright 2011.
Edwin Locke, Ph.D., a world-renowned psychologist, and Ellen Kenner, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and host of the nationally-syndicated radio talk show, The Rational Basis of Happiness®, have co-authored The Selfish Path to Romance: How to Love with Passion and Reason. Both are experts on Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. For more information visit Permission granted for use on
Tags: Dating, Husbands, Marriage, relationship, Relationships,, Strengthening marriage
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