The Secret to Great Sex

Good Men Project, Lion Goodman, The Secret to Great Sex, Sex, Sexuality, Sex Advice, Guide to Intimacy

Lion Goodman explores one of the most important but ignored keys to intimacy

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I finally figured out something about my relationship with women that my Dad never taught me because he didn’t know it. It’s something my Mom didn’t know either because she likely didn’t understand it about herself.

You can create a deep and passionate relationship by learning and practicing this simple and important secret. In the process, you’ll discover that a lot of your confusion about women will get cleared up. Without it, your relationships may continue to be frustrating and confusing.

Here’s the secret: Your woman needs the exact kind of care and attention you need, the same care and attention both of you needed as children.   

Here’s the reality: All newborns need and want one thing from their mother (or primary caregiver). We call it love but to an infant, love is a very particular experience.

Here’s what it should look and feel like: You cry. Your mother picks you up, and holds you close to her body. She looks down into your eyes with love and care, saying in a sweet, soft voice, “It’s okay, honey. I’ve got you. I’ll keep you safe. You can relax now. Someday, you’ll learn how to take care for yourself. For now, you can count on me to make you a priority whenever you need me.”

When a mother consistently gives her child this gentle touch, soft voice, and reassuring eye contact, the baby feels safe and secure. It allows the baby to relax. For the baby, this is love. It’s what love feels like. This feeling of security is a primal bond that the baby can trust.

So what does good sex have to do with the nurturing of early childhood? Everything. The new neuroscience of love shows that none of us ever outgrow this need to depend on someone to hold and care for us. The same feeling of deep trust and secure attachment is needed in your current relationship. If it’s missing, the anxiety of insecurity is in the way—for one or both of you.

For adults, insecurity acts as a passion thief. Many women can’t open their body or their hearts when they feel unsafe.

Most men can be sexual without opening their hearts because we’ve been culturally programmed to be strong, independent agents that “don’t need nobody.” Many men are unaware of the sublime bliss that comes from secure, deeply committed partnerships.

My mother wasn’t very good at providing me with this feeling of security. The reasons were numerous:  Her parents didn’t nurture her because they weren’t nurtured much by their parents. As struggling immigrants, they couldn’t afford the luxury of coddling their children. The American dream they bought into was based on fierce independence, which devalued needs and feelings of dependence on other people.

Like many stay-at-home wives of her time, my mother was busy taking care of my siblings and my dad, not to mention her domestic responsibilities. Taking care of my needs was just one more thing on her To-Do list.  She was never taught how to love nor how to mother.  Mom did the best she could, but she didn’t know what I really needed as a kid with a budding psyche.

In the Victorian era, children were supposed to be seen, not heard. In the 1930s and 1940s, baby care called for strict schedules and carefully doled out affection.  In his 1928 book, Psychological Care of Infant and Child, Dr. John Watson advised against kissing your baby, rocking its baby carriage or even holding your baby on your lap.

This destructive advice doomed multiple generations to insecure attachment, the psychological term for infant insecurity—the state of anxiety that comes from being disconnected from a primary caregiver and the inability to trust that they will be cared for.

Every baby tries out different behaviors to see what works and what doesn’t in order to get what they need.  Through experimentation, babies create a set of strategies to optimize their survival.  We call these strategic patterns your LoveStyle™.

During the past two decades, thousands of research studies have identified two major patterns that children adapt:

1. Avoid the pain and discomfort by focusing internally.  Give up wanting to be cared for. Turn away from the uncomfortable feelings by turning inward toward the self. Learn to take care of yourself.  (The Insecure-Avoidant LoveStyle™)

2. Avoid the pain and discomfort by focusing externally.  Become preoccupied with whether, when, and how much you are cared for. Watch the behavior of others, and reach out for connection whenever possible. Escalate when necessary. (The Insecure-Anxious LoveStyle™)

When I was young, I went with Option #1.  By not depending on Mother (or anyone) to care for me, I didn’t have to feel the constant anxiety and pain that comes from rejection and neglect.  By staying inside my head, I could avoid the discomfort that came from having unmet needs.

Fast-forward five decades. I had learned a lot about myself, about women and about relationships, but still found myself repeating a familiar pattern in my romantic relationships:  whenever something triggered me, I withdrew. My withdrawal triggered her into an unending series of escalated reactions.  I kept asking the same question: When she’s upset, why is it that no matter what I do, she’s not satisfied?

Then, I met my beloved Carista. A specialist in early childhood bonding, she urged me to study the neuroscience of attachment to clear my confusion about love. I was amazed to see how closely my intimacy dynamics reflected my insecure bonding style with Mom.

It finally dawned on me what my partner wants: safety and security. She wants to feel held when she’s upset. She wants to be nurtured and cared for—not like an infant, but as a grown woman. It’s remarkably similar to my own needs and to those of a child’s—needs we never outgrow.

I began to practice reaching out for her when she got upset (instead of pulling away). I practiced caring more deeply (rather than giving up in frustration). I practiced holding her body and heart with care (instead of running in the other direction). And a miracle occurred . . .

As she felt safe and secure in our relationship, she opened up to deeper level of love, which opened up her desire for me. Her desire opened my heart, and our energy and connection grew exponentially. Love and passion grew together.

Did either of your parents tell you that security is the foundation of amazing sex? Did they mention that no one feels safe opening themselves up when insecurity is at the core of the relationship?

Trustworthy love opens the space for the ultimate turn-on: an open heart.

Treat your partner the way you want to be cared for now, the way all of us needed to be cared for when we were infants. Reassure her when she needs comfort. Hold her with tenderness when she feels insecure. Love her through her anxieties, and delight in her glory. When both of you feel deeply accepted and cherished by each other, it will rock your world.

The secret of great sex is the style of your love.

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image credit: Flickr/marras roberto

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About Lion Goodman

Lion Goodman is the co-founder of Luminary Leadership Institute (http://www.luminaryleadership.net), an accelerated initiatory program for leaders of businesses and organizations. With his partner, Carista Luminare, Ph.D., he developed a program to help couples transform old patterns of insecurity and trauma into a secure and passionate relationship: Confused About Love (http://www.confusedaboutlove.com). Lion is a co-founder of The Tribe of Men, an initiatory program in Northern California, and he served as the Director of Men’s Programs for The Shift Network, where he produced the Ultimate Men’s Summit, attended by 20,000 people around the world. He is the author of three books: Creating On Purpose (with Anodea Judith, Ph.D.), Transform Your Beliefs, and Menlightenment: A Book for Awakening Men. He resides in the San Francisco Bay Area, but considers himself to be a world citizen.

Comments

  1. Great article! Thank you!!

  2. Oh gosh I cant even tell you what a lightbulb moment reading this was for me. Its helped me understand where Ive gone wrong with my relationship, shown me that I can make peace and let go of what has happened and gives me hope that I can heal and not make the same mistakes in future. Ironic given I follow attachment parenting methods and yet couldnt translate this to an adult relationship.

    • Thanks, Kiddo. I felt the same way when I discovered the simple, yet profound, truths about secure attachment, and realized that most of my previous relationships were built on a foundation of insecurity. I thought it was normal! And once I got the message, I realized that what I had been seeking all along was that feeling of security I could never find – because I was creating, and supporting, the feeling of insecurity.

  3. Niels Valentin says:

    Sometimes the most simple obvious things has to be emphasized.
    One thing I cameacriss is, that you say that most men are tought to be strong, thus being able to have sex without opening their hearts. I think there’s a level more in this: Biology. We’ve come no further as Humans than biology still has us all programmed to be different sexes. Look around anywhere else on this planet and one will find, that males of larger mammals spread their genes, fecundating several females. Females are more the caring part. This, I think, can still be seen in the modern human, even if we like to think and feel otherwise.
    Where I come from, Denmark, boys are taught to be strong only, but we still see the same problems you adress here. To me there’s an old genetic string in us, dictating sexual behaviour for both sexes.
    I totally agree in having a safe harbour, opens up so many emotions, and the feeling of being cared for opens ones heart. There are so many examples of where the opposite, not loved, not cared for, not emotionally safe people end.
    It’s obvious, that you’re right, but it’s still so difficult to modern western society to act this way between adults.
    Best
    Niels

    • The problem that comes with declaring that humans have evolved to have sexually dimorphic behaviour is that it doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny.

      Firstly, you ask us to look at “other large mammals” – yet this isn’t a tremendously helpful comparison. Other species have evolved under different selection pressures to us, so their life histories can be wildly different.

      Secondly, if we do look at our evolutionarily closest cousins, we find bonobos, whose sexual extravagance is well documented. These are animals where we find the overwhelming majority practise both opposite- and same-sex behaviours.

      Further to this, if the behaviour you consider to be innate in humans (male promiscuity, female monogamy) was an evolved response, we’d see it consistently applied in our species regardless of culture. Actually though, we don’t find that. As global homogenisation sets in an Western culture dominates ever more, we see less and less diversity, but ultimately we must recognise that this Western behaviour is culturally driven, not biologically. Humans show remarkable sexual plasticity in response to their environment, and this plasticity is advantageous.

      What it means is that we have humans with a variety of sexual preferences and orientations from Herero-homo-sexuality to mono-poly-gamy.

      Even if we were to accept that males were driven to seek multiple partners without affection, that would not mean that women are evolved to be monogamous or faithful. You would have to demonstrate that that same drive, to have extra-pair relationships, would be deleterious if present in women. Instead what we find is that women can maximise their evolutionary fitness by having multiple partners, thus ensuring that they carry the genes of the most successful males while having a social partner to raise those offspring with her.

      In short, when I see people try to use evolutionary biology to back up their views on human sexuality, inevitably what I find is someone simply using “evolution” as a trump card to try and defend their pre-existing views of sexuality. In reality, evolution (and sexuality!) is more complex than that.

    • Neils and Susanne: You’ve both made excellent points. Our biological imperative, our instinctual drives, are just one factor in our sexual behavior. There are at least three major brain centers active in romantic relationships: One that focuses on security, one that focuses on love and attraction, and a third that focuses on lust and excitement. The big win is when you can find all three in one person, but the most common pattern, based on statistical research, is a partner, plus “cheating.” More than 55% of woman and 60% of men in relationships have had affairs outside their pair bond. That’s in the U.S. In Europe, it’s closer to 65% and 70%. So the majority of people in relationships also have a little excitement on the side. So it’s clear that we seek security, and we also seek heart/love/attraction, and we also seek sex/lust/excitement. Because PEA (phenethylamine), the “love neurochemical” lasts only about 6 months, it’s important to have more than lust/love, because the glow will fade after about 6 months — long enough biologically to get a female pregnant, and long enough socially to form a multi-faceted pair bond. This is why you see so many people switch partners every six months or so – they’re looking for the love high, and when it fades, they don’t have anything else to rely on. Our program, “The Keys to Secure and Passionate Relationship,” teaches techniques to keep long-term relationships fresh and exciting, secure AND passionate. Both are required. (Program details: http://www.ConfusedAboutLove.com).

  4. FlyingKal says:

    I began to practice reaching out for her when she got upset (instead of pulling away). I practiced caring more deeply (rather than giving up in frustration). I practiced holding her body and heart with care (instead of running in the other direction). And a miracle occurred . . .

    As she felt safe and secure in our relationship, she opened up to deeper level of love, which opened up her desire for me. Her desire opened my heart, and our energy and connection grew exponentially. Love and passion grew together.

    I actually think that most people do want, and strive for, to have this kind of connection within a relationship.
    I think that mistaking, or second-guessing, what your partner is actually missing, and thus providing the “wrong” kind of safety or security, is far more common than actual lack of trying.

    • FlyingKal: Can you describe what you mean by “providing the “wrong” kind of safety or security”? We’ve found that the “right” kind of safety and security settles the brain’s limbic system. There’s a visceral “letting down” or settling, from feelings of nervousness and anxiety to one of calm and ease. That’s evidence that you’ve provided the “right” kind. It may take some experimentation, and in our course, we teach people how to determine what are the right things to say and do. We call the verbal signals “Security Codes.” For example, your partner may want to hear something like “I’m here for you, and I’m not going away.” Another person may want to hear, “I really want to hear and understand what you’re feeling.” One person may want to be held tightly, and another may want to be touched very lightly. You can have this conversation in advance, when you’re both sane, and then pull the codes out when the person is in limbic fire-alarm. At that moment, they are literally out of their mind – or at least, out of their thinking cortex. You have to settle the emotional brain first, before trying to talk about the situation intellectually. Trying to talk to someone who is upset emotionally is a failing formula, because the cortex is off-line when the limbic system gets activated. Check out our course for a series of practical techniques that provide the “right” kind of safety and security for you and your partner.

      • FlyingKal says:

        Hi, just found this, and I’m really sorry I missed to answer your question.

        I think your given examples are excellent, that people who are upset need different things to feel reassured and calm down. But trying to figure out exactly what one person need in the heat of just that moment, is nigh on impossible and most often counterproductive, along the line of
        “-Tell me what you want!”
        ” -If you don’t already know that, I sure as h@ll ain’t gonna tell you!!”

        But I guess there’s also a lot of people who doesn’t know themself very good, so trying to have a conversation in advance may not prove very useful either.

        I think I was thinking along the line of “The 5 languages of love” in my original comment.
        That someone who is upset and want help with a solution to a problem, but the partner is insisting on just listening and confirming the situation…

  5. This is an excellent article and a philosophy I can completely vouch for. I know what it is to be safe and secure in a relationship and feel truly cared for, loved and accepted unconditionally and I also know the opposite. And while I’ve had no sexual hangups, consistently, through both types of relationships, the sex in the healthy and nurturing relationship is, by far, way more phenomenal; I’m talking deeply mind blowing intense and passionate. And, FREQUENT. My man starts making love to me (simply by being kind and by doing many thoughtful, loving little things) at the start of each day and sometimes we can wait until the end of the day to make love and sometimes we can’t. ;) A little love, tenderness and kindness goes a LONG LONG way.

  6. What an excellent article Lion. It reminds us about the simple yet obvious and foundational truth of life – that all of us want to love and be loved. This has been my life’s healing journey and I have certainly found that it is love – the feeling and security in knowing and believing that I am fully accepted, that heals my wounds. When I am vulnerable and able to open up to this healing truth I move forward.
    As I continue to heal I find new strength in opening up that same love back to my wife. I have learned about triggers – hers and mine and about what makes us both feel safe. This article was very timely and I look forward to a deepened opportunity to giving and creating this secure place for my partner that she may also continue to heal.
    Thank you – Thank you – Thank you!
    Always Be Kind
    Keith-

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