Weddings

The Secret To A Great Sex Life, Revealed

08/21/2017 05:03pm ET | Updated September 15, 2017

Do you want a great sex life? Of course you do, silly! Who wouldn’t? Lots of scholars have studied the matter, and writers of all kinds have opined on the issue. Funny thing: even when we have the data (and all those experts!), the way to a great sex life isn't clear.

In their new book “The Normal Bar,” the authors disclose the results of an online study of 70,000 people in 24 countries. They report that people who have a great sex life in every time zone on the planet generally do the same things. Highlights include:

  • They say “I love you” every day and mean it
  • They kiss one another passionately for no reason
  • They are physically affectionate, even in public
  • They cuddle
  • They make sex a priority, not the last item of a long to-do list
  • They can talk comfortably about their sex life

John Gottman of the Gottman Institute cites this worldwide study to confirm what he has previously observed: "Building a great sex life is not rocket science." His advice: Get busy knocking out the items in the above list and, voilá, you'll have a great sex life. But hold up, Johnnie — a great sex life may not be rocket science, but it isn't Lincoln Logs either. No one builds a great sex life by cuddling with someone who hates cuddling.

Let's take a step back and channel our inner high school science teacher by repeating a key lesson: Correlation is not causation. In other words, just because people who have a great sex life generally do something, like say, drink tea, this doesn't mean that drinking tea has anything to do with a great sex life.

Logic is another pesky little detail. Couples who report that they regularly perform the activities on the above list "generally" have a great sex life, and those who don't, well, they don't have a great sex life — generally. There are exceptions, and the exceptions matter because of another concept: diversity. We all like what we like, not what we should like, and none of us likes exactly the same stuff.

What the data clearly reveals is that there are generally two groups of people. For the vast majority, high levels of affection, prioritizing sex, and romance are part of having a great sex life. But there's another group of people who just aren't interested in all this. So there are two camps, and we all need to know where we’re pitching our tent before we start deciding to brew some tea. Intimacy (cuddling, playing, relating) makes for a very hot cup of tea. Some of us want to drink it; the rest feel like it’s being thrown in our face.

Some of us have no use for intimacy and prefer a sex life based wholly on titillation. Outside of just banging it out, these folks find all that talking and cuddling annoying. They are not going to grow out of it; accepting them means accepting that is how they are. But be careful here, because this group can fake it to get some sex — or to get the security a relationship offers.

The takeaway here: No matter what you want, you really don't want the other. Take your time and really pay attention. It may be hard to imagine, but there are those who don't see the world like you do.

So if you intend to share some tea, try to find someone who likes it hot. Or not.

Got questions about sexuality you’d like marriage and family therapist Steven Ing to address in a future column? Tweet @StevenIngMFT or email askING@stevening.com.

This column originally appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal.

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