We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions will remain anonymous.
Q: I’ve been in two long-term relationships that fell apart because we stopped having sex. I know that chemistry fades in a relationship, but each of these relationships went through drastic sexual drop-offs. I ended the relationship each time, and even though they were hard decisions, I was proud of myself for realizing I needed more. Sex is an important part of a relationship for me! Now that I’m starting to date again, I’m wondering if I should be changing my dating strategy to find more suitable partners. My question is: how can you know if you’ll be sexually compatible with someone in the long-term?
A: Thanks for the great question! I’m glad you’ve been able to give yourself some validation for making tough choices in your dating life. There are so many people out there who are afraid to end a relationship because they’re not compatible, and as a result, we have lots of sexually incompatible relationships out there!
Sexual compatibility can be a tricky thing to gauge, especially when you’re talking about your ability to be compatible in the long-term. It’s sort of like deciding if you want to marry someone. All signs could point to a great partnership, but you never know what life is going to throw at you. Since it’s impossible to tell if someone will always want to have sex three times a week or always be interested in rough sex, I think it’s most important to look for certain characteristics. Here are six things to look for when determining how compatible you might be.
There’s An Immediate Spark Between You
This one should sound totally obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many people stay in relationships where there’s no chemistry whatsoever, even from the very beginning. It takes time for two people to get familiar enough with each other’s bodies to have great sex, but you should be starting from a place of “good enough.”
You’ve Each Already Explored Your Sexuality On Your Own
It’s hard to know what you’re looking for in a partner unless you’ve have some experience under your belt. You don’t need to have slept with a ton of people (or any, if you’ve been waiting for someone special), but having a couple points of reference can help you get a sense of your compatibility with new people. Now that you’ve had these two relationships, you may feel more clear on what you’re looking for in a partner and what good chemistry feels like between you and another person.
I think it’s also important to have experience with yourself, by exploring masturbation, your fantasies, and your relationship with your body. Being single is a great time to focus on your relationship with your own sexuality!
You Have A Similar Relationship With Sex
Part of those sexual explorations is getting a sense of what kind of role you want sex to play in your life. Some people don’t care all that much about sex, while other people think it’s the most important part of a relationship. You want to be on roughly the same page about what you want from your sex life together. In your case, you want to look for someone who is as open as you in stating that sex is a crucial part of a relationship.
Once you start dating someone new, have a conversation or two about what sex means to you and what you get out of it. What do you each feel after you’ve had sex? Some people use sex as a way to feel connected. Others use it as a way to be silly and playful. Other like constantly exploring new things in the bedroom. Some people only have sex because they think it’s what they’re “supposed” to do. Others avoid sex due to past traumatic sexual experiences. If sex means love and intimacy to you, but your partner sees it only as a release, it’s not likely to work out in the long-run.
They’re Good At Communicating
Communication is a necessary part of any healthy relationship, but it’s especially important when it comes to sex. You need to be able to communicate about consent, your boundaries, and your desires. You need to be able to give feedback to your partner, and be able to accept feedback from them. You need to be able to talk about awkward or uncomfortable moments, and about the good times too! If the two of you aren’t able to talk about sex openly and honestly, it’s not a good sign of things to come. It can take a little while to develop the trust necessary for good communication, but you want to look for partners who don’t seem to shy away from talking.
They Make An Effort
Keeping your sex life hot over the course of years (or even your entire lifetime!) takes a LOT of effort! Great sex is created. It doesn’t just happen naturally. Perhaps the single most important characteristic to look for in a sexual partner is their willingness to put effort into keeping your sex life interesting, romantic, and intimate. Even in the beginning, do they ask what you like? Do they suggest new positions?
You also want your partner to be active about addressing problems. Even the most sexually compatible couples are going to argue about sex from time to time. And every couple is going to have to deal with life challenges and stresses that negatively impact their sex life. You want a partner who will make an active effort to keep making room for your sex life, even when it feels like it’s the two of you against the world. Admittedly, this is a tricky one to get a feel for in the early stages of a relationship, but you can ask questions like, “what has it been like for you in the past when the honeymoon stage of your relationships ended?” Or you can share about your own relationship history, and see how your new person responds.
They’re More Focused On Quality Rather Than Quantity
One of the most frequent questions I get asked is, “how much sex should we be having?” I understand the tendency to compare yourself to the Joneses, but partners who are truly compatible worry more about having great sex than having frequent sex. If you’re having quality sex, the regularity will naturally fall into place.
You also want a partner who respects your needs and your pleasure. Things are going to happen over the course of your relationship that make it harder for you to have sex as regularly as you used to, but if you have a partner who cares about your needs, you won’t feel neglected. A compatible partner cares just as much about your pleasure as they care about their own, and they’re invested in making sure you enjoy yourself every time.
You’re never going to find a partner that you’re completely compatible with, but that’s OK! Small incompatibilities aren’t going to harm the foundation of your relationship in the same way fundamental discrepancies will. If you and your partner can acknowledge and respect your similarities and your differences, you’ll be set for a happy relationship for years to come.