Insight Is 20/20

Exploring the pervasive, and unperceived, patterns that govern our lives

Sex Rules: Four Things You Should Always Do During Sex

Follow these simple rules to make sure that you have a healthy sex life.

Sex is a delicate act that requires open and direct communication between two partners. Yet a healthy sex life isn't just about communicating with your partner. Why? Because you also need to make sure you're communicating honestly with yourself, which means listening to your thoughts and feelings. Follow the four rules below to ensure that you are taking inventory of your sexual needs, being mindful of your partner's needs, and ultimately having a happy and healthy sex life.

Rule # 1: Consciously ask yourself if you truly feel like having sex before you start the sexual interaction.

If only this rule were silly or ill-informed! However, far too often, men and women alike end up having sex when they don't want to. The most common reason why people have sex, even if they don't want to, is to avoid an argument with their partner. The problem is that obligatory sex is never truly satisfying, and often leads to shameful feelings that come from swallowing your own feelings.

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Rule # 2: Ask yourself which sexual behaviors you feel like performing, and which behaviors you don't, during each sexual interaction.

Men and women frequently feel coerced into performing a sexual act even though they don't necessarily want to engage in a certain behavior. One of the most common problem areas involves performing oral sex, as some women don't feel comfortable giving oral sex to men and vice versa. While no one should ever  do something sexually they don't want to do, men and women alike should consider the fact that performing oral sex could bring their partner pleasure, something that should be important to everyone in a relationship. In other words, trying something once in a while might be good for your relationship.

Rule # 3: Be flexible about the length of the sexual interaction.

Men and women would have sex more often with their partners if they didn't feel that the sexual interaction didn't have to be such a time-consuming interaction. During the week, especially, everyone's busy and overloaded with a packed to-do list. But the truth is that a sexual interaction doesn't need to always be a long, drawn-out affair. The point is to be flexible and to check in with your partner during the interaction. Ask, "do you feel like trying [insert behavior] tonight, or do you just want to [insert behavior]?" Asking such questions shows that you're flexible and open to simply being together sexually, rather than walking into the interaction and thinking that you'll only feel satisfied if the interaction meets certain set, prescribed criteria.

Rule # 4: Accept the fact that no one needs to have an orgasm in order for the sexual experience to be considered a good one.

Having an orgasm should not define a sexual experience, though some people — er, millions upon millions! — struggle with this rule. The danger in putting such a strict condition on sex is that it causes the sex to turn into a competitive event and eschews real intimacy. The goal is to be open to orgasms if the mood and timing are right, and to approach sex overall as a natural, go-with-the-flow experience.

Each of these rules should be followed to make sure that you have sex for the right reasons and approach sex from an open-minded perspective.

PLUS: Check out my book, Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome, about how to stop repeating the same bad patterns in your romantic relationships over and over again. If you're single, there's a better relationship waiting for you!

Seth Meyers, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist with the L.A. County Department of Mental Health.

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