Table of Contents
- What Is Sexual Satisfaction?
- Gender Differences in Sexual Satisfaction
- Characteristics of Female Sexual Satisfaction
- Characteristics of Male Sexual Satisfaction
- How To Increase Sexual Satisfaction in Your Relationship
- Get Comfortable Talking to Your Partner About Sex
- Try Out Your Fantasies at Least Once
At the beginning of a relationship, sexual satisfaction often isn't an issue. During the "honeymoon phase," the body surges with hormones that encourage bonding and increased attraction. However, at some point in the relationship, usually around 18 to 24 months, the body produces fewer hormones, and the rush of new love begins to fade.
After the honeymoon phase, it may take more work and commitment to remain sexually satisfied. With that initial spark burned out, it takes more intention to keep you and your partner excited about the sex. Sexual satisfaction and healthy relationships overlap more than you may think.
What Is Sexual Satisfaction?
Every person's definition of sexual satisfaction may be slightly different. However, a 2014 analysis of lay people's definitions of sexual satisfaction revealed two common themes: personal satisfaction and relationship satisfaction.
Personal satisfaction is about feeling positive emotions around sex, such as attraction and arousal. It usually involves knowing what gets you aroused and how to achieve orgasm without feelings of guilt. It may mean feeling comfortable expressing your sexuality or trying out sexual fantasies. Essentially, it's about knowing what you like and not being afraid to ask for it.
It turns out that sexual satisfaction and relationship happiness go hand in hand. Ensuring that your partner is happy and healthy relationship leads to a more fulfilling sex life. Even if you aren't in a long-term relationship, knowing that your partner is having a good time makes you more likely to feel sexually satisfied. After all, is there anything sexier than knowing your partner is into you?
Obstacles to Sexual Satisfaction
How to get sexual satisfaction depends on the individual and the relationship. However, a few primary conditions need to be met to achieve a sexually satisfying relationship.
Avoid Pain During Intercourse
Sex, especially penetrative intercourse, has the potential to be painful. Ensuring that sex is comfortable for you and your partner is the first step to sexual satisfaction. Have an honest conversation with your partner about whether they've ever had pain during sex and, if so, what you can do to address this.
In most cases, the size of your genitals doesn't affect pain all that much. However, there are cases when a large penis and a small vagina or anus can make penetration difficult or painful. A good lubricant can do a lot to make sex more comfortable for both partners. It makes penetration more manageable and reduces friction.
If you are someone with a vagina who has trouble with penetration, there are stretches you can do by yourself or with a partner to work on relaxing your muscles enough for penetration. Medical conditions, such as vaginismus and endometriosis can cause sex to be painful. It is best to seek out a medical professional for help in these cases.
Sex should always feel good (or mind-blowingly fantastic). Talk with your partner about your physical needs, and don't settle for uncomfortable or painful sex.
Resolve Complicating Factors
If you and your partner have unresolved issues that you refuse to talk to each other about, this can often come up in your sex life. Resentments, grudges, and jealousy can all get in the way of being attracted to someone, which can often be unconscious.
Take a step back and think about any buried negative feelings toward your partner and address them. Your sex life will improve as your communication improves, trust us.
Gender Differences in Sexual Satisfaction
People with vaginas and people with penises often experience sex differently. For heterosexual couples, this can often lead to tension regarding the frequency of sex, duration of sex, and positions favored.
Characteristics of Female Sexual Satisfaction
Experiencing sexual dysfunction is more common for women (43%) than for men (31%). People with vaginas may also have more varied sexual desires than people with penises. Menstrual cycles can affect appetite throughout the month. Pregnancy and menopause can also change or reduce appetite.
However, sexual satisfaction in women tends to increase with age.
For women, sexual satisfaction with a partner often depends on taking time for foreplay. Foreplay can increase vaginal lubrication and reduce the risk of painful sex. And since not all people with vaginas can experience orgasms from vaginal stimulation alone, it is often essential for them to receive clitoral stimulation.
Women's sexual attraction is also more dependent on emotional context than men's. Women often feel more attracted to people they share an emotional connection with, ultimately leading to more sexual satisfaction.
Characteristics of Male Sexual Satisfaction
The sexual performance of people with penises tends to be more visible, leading to more significant anxiety about pleasing partners. This pressure increases as men age, and they are more likely to have trouble achieving or maintaining erections. Men have more prescription options available to help with these issues since they respond better.
Men do tend to have higher sex drives than women. In addition, sexual satisfaction for men is often more straightforward, as it is based more on physical attributes than on emotional context. People with penises often have an easier time communicating clearly about sex than with more subtle emotional cues that a partner is in the mood. Enthusiasm toward sex, less emphasis on sexual performance, and positions that don't require physical exertion can all help people with penises feel more sexual satisfaction.
To help reflect on you and your partner's sexual satisfaction, we've gathered a couple of gender-specific resources. For women, try out this quiz about how to achieve peak sexual pleasure. For men, try out this quiz on sexual compatibility.
Whatever your partner's gender, communication about your preferences is key to understanding each other and finding sexual satisfaction together.
How To Increase Sexual Satisfaction in Your Relationship
Since sexual satisfaction is so dependent on the mutual attraction with a partner, your relationship is an essential factor in making sure you have the best sex life possible.
Get Comfortable Talking to Your Partner About Sex
Talking with your partner about sex is one of the best ways to make sure it's great. Work on your relationship until you both feel comfortable telling the other what you liked and didn't like about a sexual encounter. It may feel taboo, but it is the best way to ensure you are both having a good time. Don't be coy — be specific about what things you want more of.
Try Out Your Fantasies at Least Once
Some of the things that look good in our heads don't always feel good in practice. Still, if you and your partner are up for trying one of your fantasies, go for it. Make sure to have a conversation ahead of time about the details to ensure you're both comfortable.
As relationships mature, sexual satisfaction starts to take more work to maintain. The feel-good hormones that come with new love fade, and it takes communication and adaptation to maintain sexual satisfaction in relationships. In addition, for both men and women, age can affect sexual desire. However, research shows that your partner's sexual pleasure can heighten your own. Having a consistent dialogue with your partner about sex is the best way to achieve sexual satisfaction at every stage of your relationship and life.
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3 Exercises That Can Make Sex Less Painful, According to a Pelvic Floor Therapist. (September 2018). Health.
Dyspareunia: Pain Having Sex. (January 2021). Patient.
Biology of Female Sexual Function. (Accessed April 2021). Boston University School of Medicine.
Sexual Satisfaction in Women Increases with Age. (January 2011). Elesvier.
Sex Drive: How Do Men and Women Compare?. (August 2013). WebMD.
Ready, Set, Score: Fix Your Sex Life. (Accessed April 2021). Dr. Bat Sheva Marcus.
Quiz: Are You Sexually Compatible?. (Accessed April 2021). Men's Journal.