The greater the challenge, the more room for growth. Have you ever heard that perspective?
If so, I invite you to look at how differences, compatibility & similarity make us appreciate the skills of an intimate partner. Or how can we use them to assess if someone is “good in bed.”
Difference brings challenges. Familiarity brings comfort.
In the long run, intimacy needs both challenge and comfort. It cannot last without either of these.
At times, the challenges and obstacles we face (and the frustration, upset, or worry that they may cause) in appropriate doses can fuel our growth & vitality.
This is usually visible at the beginning stages of our relationships. That’s when we enjoy and explore so many new things and go through different emotions and situations. The enthusiasm, adventure, or the unknown feeds and enhances the pleasure we feel when with someone new. The novelty, most of the time, is fascinating and appealing.
At those times, the (seemingly) small obstacles we encounter motivate us to go even further. Sometimes we are so excited and attracted to this person that we minimize the challenges itself – not a very strategic thing, but surely we all made this choice at some point in our lives. So much courage and pride can give us a new attraction: we are stronger or bigger than any obstacles in our way.
For many people, much of this initial enthusiasm and inclination towards the new person fades over time. Gradually, we don’t try so many new things. In time, we don’t like the many differences between us. If we are lucky, however, this transformation takes years – as opposed to months or weeks. We are increasingly looking for comfort, the known, and to the familiar.
There’s nothing wrong with that. High-quality intimacy cannot be based only on adrenaline. Our bodies and our nerves cannot sustain this type of intense interaction indefinitely. Also, we would need to invest considerable effort and time to come up with new, exciting, and amazing things every time we have sex. For most of us, this is not possible. In sex, too, we need a certain level of familiarity and comfort.
At the extreme of its spectrum, when the level of comfort and familiarity is too high and thus stays too long, we risk losing the spark altogether. That is, instead of feeling good, tender, affectionate, understanding, and loving, our intimacy can sometimes turn into routine, boredom, habit, or even duty. Or worse: sexless intimacy. We all might reach this place eventually, but it’s vital to get out of it fast and keep our sexual intimacy flowing.
Extremes – either too much difference, challenge, and action, or too much similarity, familiarity, and routine – are, in most cases, not constructive to long-term sexual intimacy.
What level of challenge is, however, constructive in sexual intimacy?
As we might have imagined, intimacy needs a balance between difference and familiarity. But if we thought the ideal ratio would be 50%, we might be disappointed.
Truth be told, there is no specific report that suits us all. Because we are simply too different as people and as expressions. Yet, I will say that the level of challenge (given by our differences) must be lower than that of the level of familiarity (provided by our similarities).
Everyone has boundaries. Although some of us might think they’re limitless, in physical form and in bodily experience, we are full of limitations. It’s our human nature. Our existence is conditioned by external factors and by the environment. In other words, to function properly, we need certain external conditions (air, water, temperature, food, climate, etc.) Similarly and in sexuality, because we express ourselves through the body, we need a level of pleasure, and if we want orgasms, then we need a very high level of pleasure. That is why sexual intimacy requires long-term enjoyment – and this may look different for each body.
The most valuable ingredient: compatibility.
In the relationship between the challenges given by the differences and the familiarity provided by similarity, it makes sense to look at the buffer zone between them: compatibility.
Even if we don’t like the same things (for example, we don’t all have the same need for control, but rather a compatible approach: some of us love to give up control, others have it), we must meet somewhere along the way. Compatibility does not mean similarity.
The more things that are compatible, the higher the buffer between challenge and familiarity, thus, the less likely for us to fall into harmful extremes.
How could compatibility look like?
To understand compatibility, it makes sense to give up value judgments and “right” or “wrong” perspectives.
Most often, compatibility comes from the intensity, speed, duration, impact, and sensitivity. And from our ability to feel what works for our partners and us.
Does anyone like to plan sex encounters in detail? (yes, some people like this!) A compatible partner is not a spontaneous one, but one who loves to be surprised or left in someone else’s hands.
What is fast for one person might be too fast for someone else or relatively slow for another person. A particular touch can be intense for someone, not enough for someone else, or interruption for another person. Exciting things for one person could be completely unattractive to another person.
The same reactions might occur breathing: some people need to hold their breath at certain times, while others need to breathe as deeply as possible. Or for sounds: some people like them, while others can’t be present due to distracting noises. For touches, accessories, or any other sexual stimulus we might imagine. Each body reacts differently to the same things.
Does anyone like being spontaneous and doing things on a “spur”? A compatible partner is one that can be aroused by the unknown and surprises – especially when he or she does not initiate them!
Does anyone like to take the initiative and control the situation? A compatible partner is the one who can keep up or be on the same intensity of emotion, in the game built by someone else, without feeling like they’re losing identity or magnetism. The art of pacing in emotions and experiences is also called empathy. In sexuality, “empathy” requires self-confidence and trust the person who uses it.
So how do we know we’re good in bed?
Realistically speaking, we never know for sure. Realistically we can say that any person could be good in bed with certain people, less great with other people or so and again with other people.
As beings with sexual instinct, we are far too different in needs, preferences, and expressions to expect to be “good in bed” with absolutely everyone. There is no generally valid appreciation, nor does it make sense to look at ourselves or other people and expect us to be universally valid. We would lie to ourselves or others if we believed or said we were “good in bed.”
Also, the biggest mistake we could make in sexual intimacy would be to expect our partners to work under the same conditions as we do – or as former partners.
This expectation of similarity is not only unrealistic but one of the most catastrophic approaches we could have in sex. We can’t all work in the same way. The sooner we see and accept this reality, the more chances we have of understanding and harmonizing our intimate relationships.
If we looked at compatibility as the organic way of being good in bed with someone, then we could become good at bed when we seek to understand and harmonize in expressions, needs, or preferences with someone.
We could still be in bed with someone, especially when we took the time to observe the person. When we get to feel his way of being in sex by the way he behaves in different contexts. In other words, when we “smell” the sexual personality of someone we are interested in.
If we are not so good at feeling the nature of others, then questions can be another way to find out how compatible we are or how we could harmonize with someone. As long as we manage to keep the magic by asking, it is absolutely okay to ask. With tact and moderation, with haste and precision, courage and simplicity… each with its own style. We only need to ask.
In conclusion, the more differences we can accept mentally and the better we harmonize in physical expression, the more chances we have of being “good in bed “with our partners.
In the sexDOJO™ for women, I offer support and hold space. Women work on their pleasure, do practices, and take care of their sexual wiring. Together with me, women build and embody their vision for their sex life.