Why Establishing Sexual Compatibility Isn’t A One-Time Thing
April 28, 2021 by Justin Lehmiller
One reason that many couples have sex early on in a relationship—and well before the prospect of marriage might ever come to mind—is because they want to know whether they’re sexually compatible. Sex is a very important part of most relationships, so if you and your partner aren’t clicking in bed from the very beginning, that’s often taken as a sign of trouble ahead.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to establish sexual compatibility in the early stages of a relationship (and, indeed, there can be benefits to this)—but there is one common mistake people often make when it comes to doing this: they think that once they’ve established compatibility, they’re good to go for the rest of their relationship. In other words, if you start out having great, mind-blowing sex, you’re always going to have great, mind-blowing sex.
Here’s why that line of thinking is wrong.
First, in the early stages of a relationship, people are in the throes of passion. The sex is bound to be exciting because it’s a novelty for everyone and those feelings of passion make everything more intense. So it’s fairly easy to be compatible when passion is present.
However, passion tends to be short lived—it’s usually measured in a matter of months, or perhaps a couple of years. This doesn’t mean that passion necessarily has to die or disappear after that, though—it’s just that following the initial phase, it takes work to sustain. This is why introducing novelty is so crucial to keeping passion alive. Continually trying new and different things in bed (or wherever you like to have sex) is a potent way of keeping excitement and intensity high.
In light of this, something you might want to look at in a new relationship beyond “is the sex good?” is whether your partner is willing and open to trying new things. If they’re not game for mixing up your bedroom routine at least once in a while, that may be a sign that you’re going to have a little more difficulty keeping the spark alive once the initial passion wears down.
Second, what people want from sex changes over the course of their lives. For example, I’ve previously written about how our sexual fantasies tend to change with age—and sometimes they change in different ways for different people. So what turns you on now might not be the same thing that turns you on in 10, 20, or 30 years—and the same goes for your partner.
Related to this, what feels good and pleasurable when it comes to sex (and also what is physically possible) can shift over time, due to age-related changes in the body, chronic illness and disability, and other factors. What people want from sex (e.g., physical release, emotional intimacy) can shift as well.
For this reason, it’s important to avoid looking at sexual compatibility as a one-time thing that you establish and then forget about. In other words, don’t think about establishing sexual compatibility, think about maintaining sexual compatibility.
This means checking in with each other regularly about your sex lives. Do you want different things than you used to? Do you want a different amount of sex than you did before? Have your fantasies changed?
Staying compatible for the long term is something that requires some effort and an ongoing conversation. It’s not something that you just set and forget.
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Dr. Justin LehmillerFounder & Owner of Sex and Psychology
Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.Read full bio >