Sexual Compatibility Takes Work To Maintain
April 11, 2022 by Justin Lehmiller
One reason some partners have sex early on in a relationship is because they want to know whether they’re sexually compatible. Sex is an important part of most (but not all) relationships. So when partners aren’t clicking in bed from the beginning, that’s often seen as a red flag.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to establish sexual compatibility in the beginning stages of a relationship. And there can certainly be benefits to this, especially if it turns out that you have totally different, non-overlapping sexual interests. However, there’s a common mistake people often make when it comes to doing this, which is that they think once they’ve established compatibility, they’re good to go and compatible for life. In other words, if you start out having great, mind-blowing sex, you’re always going to have great, mind-blowing sex, right?
Here’s why that line of thinking is all wrong.
First, in the early stages of a relationship, people are in the throes of passion. The sex can be exciting simply because it’s a novelty for everyone involved. Plus, those feelings of passion can make everything more intense. So it’s fairly easy to be compatible when passion is present and you don’t have wildly different interests.
However, passion tends to be short lived—it’s usually measured in a matter of a few months or a few years. This doesn’t mean that passion necessarily has to die or disappear after that, though. It just takes some work to sustain. This is why introducing novelty is crucial to keeping passion alive. Continually trying new and different things in bed (or wherever it is that you like to have sex) is a potent way of keeping the excitement alive.
In light of this, beyond simply asking yourself “is the sex good?” you should also ask 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, this may be a sign that you’re going to have a little more difficulty keeping the spark alive once the initial passion starts to wear 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 seem 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 from now. The same goes for your partner(s).
Likewise, what feels good and pleasurable when it comes to sex (and also what is physically possible, practical, and comfortable) can shift over time, due to age-related changes in the body, chronic illness or 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 never revisit. In other words, you don’t set it and forget it. So stop thinking about establishing sexual compatibility. Instead, think about maintaining sexual compatibility.
This means partners should check in with each other regularly about their 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? Are the things that used to feel good not working for you anymore?
Staying compatible for the long term is something that requires a bit of effort and an ongoing conversation. It’s not something that you just set and forget. And the sooner you start working on maintaining compatibility, the quicker you can tap into the benefits and keep passion alive.
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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 >