- Setting goals for sex can be counterproductive.
- Pay attention to the sensations of sex, not the number of orgasms or frequency of intercourse.
- Those who are curious and accepting during sex often feel more sensation and create deeper emotional connection with their partner.
The new year is all abuzz with goal-setting and ambition. Goals may help athletic performance[i], business productivity[ii], financial gain[iii], or even initial motivation to make changes in your life[iv]. But is goal-setting helpful when it comes to sex? Probably not, unless your goal is to be more connected with your partner and develop more balance within the sexual experience. When it comes to our intimate relationships, it’s best to leave the goals at the bedroom door.
I remember a man who attended a class I taught on sexual mindfulness. He insisted on knowing how often he and his wife should be having sex. I tried to help him understand that there was no quota to meet, no ideal number to aim for, but what mattered was creating connection and tenderness between them. I suggested to him that maybe sex didn’t even need to include intercourse each time. Maybe cuddling was in order. Maybe a few quickies this week and a long romantic weekend the next would bring his relationship the most happiness. He wasn’t satisfied. He was goal-driven. When I finally relented and told him what the average frequency of sexual encounters was for couples, he had his ammunition. His wife wasn’t meeting this quota, and—although I’m sure this wasn’t the only point of contention—after another year together, they divorced.
Setting goals or expectations for sexual intimacy isn’t productive. In fact, it creates anxiety, which is the biggest enemy of arousal[v]. Instead of aiming for a certain outcome or frequency, try a little sexual mindfulness. One activity that is sure to create some intimacy is taking five minutes and looking into each other’s eyes while laying side by side. Don’t talk. Just feel each other’s presence. Take in this person you’re sharing your life with. How did they get to this point? What changes have they made to grow closer to you? How do they fit into your life and development? Breathe in and ponder their worth. Breathe out and close the distance between you created by each busy day. There is no goal here. Just be present. After five minutes of this, talk about what you felt. Touch each other and draw into a close embrace, and notice how this vulnerability opened a space of deeper emotional, spiritual, and physical connection.
New research is regularly coming out that shows the value of slowing down the sexual process so that couples can feel each sensation, notice physical arousal, and connect emotionally instead of rushing into orgasm[vi]. Be attentive to how you feel during slow sex. How do touch, smell, sight, and sound impact your experience? Sex doesn’t need to be slow every time, just often enough to help you become more aware, more accepting, and more able to describe to your partner your experience.
If you must make a goal, make a goal to let go of stress and expectation through increasing mindfulness. This goal can help you be accepting of your body, your arousal, your thoughts, and your feelings during sex. Make a goal to be more curious about how sexual mindfulness may give you space to really enjoy sex. Invest in yourself and your partner by letting go of goals and giving sex an infusion of mindfulness.
[v] Pyke, R. E. (2020). Sexual Performance Anxiety. Sexual Medicine Reviews, 8(2), 183-190.
[vi] Leavitt, C. E., Maurer, T. F., Clyde, T. L., Clarke, R. W., Busby, D. M., Yorgason, J. B., ... & James, S. (2021). Linking sexual mindfulness to mixed-sex couples’ relational flourishing, sexual harmony, and orgasm. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 50(6), 2589-2602.