Stop Saying That You’re A Great Lover

Photo: Flickr / brotherM

Photo: Flickr / brotherM

The title of “Great Lover” is one you earn, not one you claim for yourself. And it can take work. Very fun work.


I cannot count how many times I have heard someone say, “I’m a really great lover.” Almost as many times as I’ve heard someone say,  “I don’t want to have to teach someone how to make love.” And every time, it confuses me. Assuming you know what to do with every lover you meet, or assuming every lover you meet is going to know what works for you, is a recipe for unfulfilling sex. Pretty much every time.

Simply put, the phrase “I’m a really great lover, ” has no meaning, for several reasons. It is not up to you to decide if you’re a great lover. “Great” is not universally agreed upon, we all like different things. Making love – or having sex, or screwing, or doing the horizontal cha-cha – is generally something we do with partners, and as such, it’s different with every set of partners. So just because your last partner (or partners) loved it when you licked their belly-button, doesn’t mean that trick will work with everyone. (I HATE having my belly-button touched, in any way.)

Conversely, there are things you like that are probably not intuitive to your partners. The only way they’re going to know that you like them is if you tell them. And if you don’t, it’s not fair to hold them responsible for not reading your mind, or your body.

And, of course, you can’t rest on your laurels. One lover who responded to you and said “you’re the best ever,” is still only a data set of one. You know those people who, say, won the state championship in the 400 meter dash, and then you see them years later and they can barely walk up the stairs? And they still say, “I’m a great runner.” Nope, they were a great runner. That one time.

So let’s break this down, in the hopes that you will be a great lover, to the people who matter.

Great Sex is Very Specific

There is no single universal truth about what makes sex great. If you look around any room, the people you see will all like sex in different ways. Some like it gentle, some rough. Some quiet, some loud. Some simple, some elaborate. Some alone, some with one partner, some with lots of partners. How we like sex, on an emotional level, is as widely varied as every other variant in our species.

It would be nice if the physical acts of sex were more simple, but really, they are not. Regardless of whether you’re sleeping with men or women, some of us like our nipples played with, some don’t. Some like lots of friction, some don’t. Some like lots of pressure, some don’t. Some like penetration, some don’t. And, of course, how and where we like to be penetrated is different also.

So, the phrase “great sex” really has no meaning. It’s not like a temperature you can take to declare it “hot” in any universal sense. Not only are there too many variables about what is sex, there are infinite combinations of what people think is great when their lovers do it them. And even those will change with a different lover. Or at a different time.

Before anyone raises their hands to say, “but, orgasms!” let me stop you. Not everyone has orgasms. Not everyone likes orgasms. Not everyone cares. Trust me. For many people, the pressure to have – and give – an orgasm takes a lot of fun out of sex.  Besides, if that’s all we’re after, most of us can take care of that on our own. When we have sex with other people, it’s because we want something more than what we can do alone.

Great Sex Is Not About You

Leaving masturbation out of it, when we have sex with other people, we need to all be involved and responsible for the outcomes, for ourselves and others.

While you might be able to identify what you like sexually, you are not going to be able to guess what someone else likes and magically get it right. You might meet someone new, exhibit mastery of all the things that you personally love, and not manage to do anything that they love. Which is not the sign of a great lover.

Conversely, you may find a lover who wants dearly to please you, but doesn’t know what that takes. So they’ll put a lot of energy into doing what worked with their last partner. It is, frankly, pretty selfish of you not to tell them that they’re wasting their time and their energy, which would be better spent doing that special thing that you like. When I hear someone say that their lover just can’t figure out how to please them, I hear, “I am too lazy and cruel to tell my lovers what I want, I just let them flounder instead.” Needless to say, I don’t have a whole lot of pity for the unsatisfied complainer who isn’t willing to communicate what they want.

Great Sex Is Rarely The Same

Even within committed relationships that have a history of great sex, there will be lots of natural variety. What we like and how we like it can vary from day to day, depending on mood, and health, and myriad factors.

So too, our sexuality evolves throughout our entire lifespan. The sex I have now, in my mid 40’s is very different from the sex that I had in my mid 20’s. Although the details of then and now are wholly moot, I can say that the sex I have now is much more fulfilling, because I have learned to tell my partner what I want, and listen to what he wants. And because I am more secure in who I am, I am less afraid to try new things, or things that I might have once thought were “wrong” for whatever reason.


Sex, it seems, is harder than just practicing a few well-executed stunts and getting a prize.  So, how do you have sex such that your partners will think of you as a great lover? (Which is a laudable goal, mind you, as it means you are giving your lovers pleasure!)

I have always liked Dan Savage’s 3 Gs: Good, Giving: Game.   But, if there is no universal way to define “good,” that really doesn’t do us much, well, good. So I was trying to think of sexual attributes that make sure we are in the moment with our lovers and truly meeting each other’s needs. Which gave me 4 Cs.  Cs that are attributes and also action items, unlike “great” and “good,” which mean nothing

1. Communicative: You have a right and a responsibility to discuss your sexual needs with your partners.  Tell your partners what you want and need, and listen to what they want and need. That, more than anything, is the key to “great sex.”

You also want to communicate in the heat of the moment. Let your partner know that you like what they are doing. “That feels sooooo good” is always a welcome phrase. Let out the moans and groans and gasps of joy. That’s like applause for a job well-done, and sex is a great time to receive a standing ovation!

2. Compatible: No matter how well-intentioned you are, you and your partners have to be compatible. You can love each other, respect each other, want the best for each other and be totally hot for each other, but if your sexual needs are incompatible, then you are not a match for each other. And that’s okay.

The beauty of letting go of something that doesn’t work is that it creates energy and space to find something that does.

3. Curious: Life is long, your sexuality is ever evolving, explore it. Sex is, at it’s best, a reaction of sorts, between all the ever-changing ingredients in your life. You never know what you’ll discover. So, try new things. Especially in long-term relationships! If you’re bored, chances are good your partner is bored too!

But, as with any experiment, take precautions. Clear dialog about how you’re feeling – good, bad or otherwise – is the biggest safety precaution there is when it comes to exploring your sexuality.

4. Compassionate: Remember that sex is for everyone involved. Take your partner’s feelings into account, almost compulsively. Remember that we are all only human, and our emotions vary widely, even if we sometimes wish they didn’t. Sex is a journey, and sometimes the roads are smooth and predictable, sometimes they’re not. It’s okay. Just be in it together, and at every turn, focus on finding joy.


If you nail those 4 Cs, so to speak, there’s a damned good chance that your partner is going to walk away thinking that you are a great lover. Which is awesome.

The final step is the trickiest for some. You know how good it feels to know that you brought your partner joy by being a great lover to them? You have to let them do the same for you. By telling them what you want, and that they are bringing you joy, you let them feel the rush of being a great lover too.

It’s a win-win, because when you’re all happy with your sex, you gonna have more happy sex. And more happy sex is just, well, great.

About Alyssa Royse

Alyssa is freelance writer, speaker, fitness trainer and personal coach living in Seattle with her husband and their 3 daughters. They own Rocket CrossFit where she spends most of her time training men and women in ways that are as much emotional as physical. She can also be found on her eponymous blog, where she pontificates about food, family, politics and the Seattle rain. Yes, she would love to speak at your event, host a workshop or write something for you. Just ask.


  1. In general, people that boast about themselves in the sak, or anywhere else, sound like they’re more concerned with convincing themselves or you, or both, that they are great, which is just unappealing and almost pathetic. Nothing is more convincing than modesty self-imposed imo.

  2. Heres how to be a great lover:

    1. Be creative
    2. Be generous and unselfish
    3. Prioritize your partner over yourself
    4. Get rid of all your stupid squeamish sexual hang-ups and self-imposed limits

    • Absolutely 100% spot-on! 😉

      • Theorema Egregium says:

        Remember that sex is for everyone involved.

        So you wrote. But maybe that was a mistake and what you really mean is that sex is only for your partner, and never for you? Prioritize your partner, be unselfish, that is 100% spot on.

        You know, I prefer that my partner and me enjoy sex equally, but I guess that makes me a horrible lover then.

    • Theorema Egregium says:

      No, just no!

      3) Prioritize your partner over yourself? So you mean the way to be a great lover is to have no fun yourself, right? Like, be a self-sacrificing white knight type?
      4) So if you feel uncomfortable with something, just go ahead regardless? So basically a great lover is someone who lets him-/herself be raped? That’s fantastic.

      But I would assume you only expect men to be unselfish, think only of their partner, and ignore their own limits. Of course you don’t mean women, because then it would be viciously misogynistic, wouldn’t it?

      • So just to clarify, NOTHING I said suggests the things you are complaining about. In several places I mention that ALL parties need to discuss what they want and need, and are responsible for being clear about it. That was the first point. The point immediately following it was that you have to be compatible, meaning that your wants and needs have to align. If they don’t, then all parties involve deserve to find compatible partners. Then I said you have to listen to your partner and taking their feelings into account, which would mean NOT doing things that hurt them and they don’t want.

        But, perhaps most importantly to me, I never said anything about gender of anyone involved, and I never would. In fact, gender is never mentioned even once in this entire article.

        Do not do something you don’t want to do. Do not expect your partner to do things they don’t want to do. Find compatible partners and communicate clearly with them.

        But yes, as your sexuality evolves and your relationships change, do go forward and explore your sexuality openly, with compassion, communication, curiosity AND CONSENT.

  3. It starts with a great coach.

  4. I have never said it and I figured I would not even agree to it unless I am told several times. Fortunately I have but I still don’t say it.

  5. Joanna Schroeder says:

    I love this SO MUCH.

    I have never in my life been with someone who declared themselves a “great lover” who did anything other than put on a big show in bed featuring only moves seen in porn that are guaranteed to be totally unsatisfying in real life.

    • TOTALLY. EVERY TIME someone has told me that they are great in bed, and I took them up on the offer to find out, I have been disappointed. (It didn’t take long before such a declaration was enough of a bad sign that I didn’t bother to find out.) But those guys who listened, who shared their thoughts – no matter the subject, did both those things – those guys have turned out to be the best lovers.

      It’s interesting, but as i got older, when a potential lover would ask me what I liked sexually, I would realize that I didn’t even have an answer, really. I would tell them that I have never had sex with THEM, so I don’t know what will feel good with them. Even what I am into changed. There are a few things that I know I either do or don’t like, but everything else as been REALLY dependent on the partner. (Except my belly button. I really do not like having my belly button played with.)

      • Theorema Egregium says:

        Franly, Alyssa, I don’t get it: Why do you make statements in the comments (here, and below as reply to Will) that blatantly contradict the message of your very good article?

        When I hear someone say that their lover just can’t figure out how to please them, I hear, “I am too lazy and cruel to tell my lovers what I want, I just let them flounder instead.”

        And now here you write how you basically are that very person, refusing to tell your lover how to please you.

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