A researcher named Peggy Kleinplatz and her team conducted a qualitative study on what makes for “great sex”. In her article, “The Components of Optimal Sexuality: A Portrait of “great sex”” she outlines her findings. The qualitative interviews were coded into categories with general themes. What she found was that the two components of “great sex” that we are told through popular media, movies, and people everywhere were actually lowest on the list compared to 8 other components.
Those two “minor” components are: 1) Intense physical sensation, orgasm and, 2) lust, desire, chemistry, attraction. Her research argues that we are missing a huge part of human sexuality by only focusing on these two minor areas. This might be why, despite behavioral and medical/prescription interventions, you still are not having great sex!
Previously, I’ve addressed the first major component of great sex, being present. In this blog post we will look at Kleinplatz’ second major component: synchronicity and merger.
‘Synchronicity’, a term coined by Carl Jung, refers to the harmony created in fluidity. It is defined as, “the simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection”. ‘Merger’ is defined as, “a combination of two things into one”. In the domain of relationships, merger is the inability to tell where one person ends and the other begins.
Kleinplatz et al. found that participants in their study:
[D]escribed the feeling of connection as a merger with another person: “Inside my body I’m the other person’s body and we’re just kind of all one together at that moment.“
They go on to state that:
Intriguingly, individuals capable of such merger noted that being centered in oneself and feeling respect from the partner allowed them to expand their limits. Participants offered that “good” and “clear boundaries”, “self-knowledge” and “self-acceptance” were essential to entering into an all-encompassing, erotic union.
Let’s take a pause, reader, and really let these words sink in. Synchronicity and merger are major components of great sex. They allow for the attunement of bodies and the fluidity of coming together as one–of being lost in each other.
To experience synchronicity and merger in the sexual sphere, we must have clear boundaries, self-acceptance and self knowledge!
Knowing yourself while being with a partner who is accessible, receptive, and sensitive to your boundaries expands erotic desire and allows for the merger of your two bodies.
An argument might be made here that synchronicity and merger sound a lot like “sexual chemistry”. And, yes, of course this is a component. Sexual chemistry is essentially the attraction of one person to another. But what I am pulling apart from the Kleinplatz study is that synchronicity and merger are truly born when you are open and receptive to your lover. This means that you feel your partner is responsive and receptive to your boundaries (physical and emotional), and that you can be completely naked (literally and figuratively) in their presence.
I think we all know this intuitively. The painful part is that it is easier said than done. So many things can get in the way of our being receptive to our partner, and they to us. A past hurt, for example, can get in the way. Like last year when you put on a piece of lingerie and your partner did not become aroused. Or maybe the deep wound of wanting to be intimate with your partner and trying to initiate over and over again but being turned down. Possibly you were the one being asked and it felt like a bombardment of demands for sex making it difficult to feel receptive now.
These responses can easily create a negative feedback loop to sexual intimacy wherein even when you want to have great sex, you have barriers of self protection and wounds to heal first. It can seem insurmountable!
To illustrate, consider Leroy’s story. Leroy and his partner were in a difficult and distressing negative pattern when it came to sex. Leroy was a high functioning individual who regularly spoke publicly in his career. He did fine with presentations, social gatherings, and amongst family. But when it came to intimacy Leroy was very anxious about his performance. For him, pleasing his partner was paramount to his sexual experience. But over the last 5 years he had experienced increasing difficulty with his performance in both his ability to become erect and the duration for which he was able to sustain the erection.
When he was unable to become erect he felt a great sense of shame and embarrassment. He was avoidant of sex and his partner tried intermittently to initiate. But Leroy started actively avoiding sex altogether because even if he became erect, he worried he would lose it and disappoint his partner. Even with prescriptions drugs to help with the erection, he still felt overwhelmed that he could not satisfy his partner.
In this case, the anxiety he felt around sex was closing off his receptivity to his partner’s desires as well as his own. His partner, in turn, was so hurt at Leroy’s avoidance that there was little in the way of feeling open and receptive to a painful sexual experience that was bound to happen.
Our work in helping Leroy have a more satisfying sex life began with a close look at the presenting issues of anxiety. Leroy first needed to address where his anxiety was coming from, what messages had been integrated into his negative narrative, and his own education about healthy sexuality. He needed a therapeutic environment to open himself up and acknowledge the insecurities and vulnerabilities. And he needed to work on the negative sex cycle laterally with his partner.
For Leroy to heal, his partner had to be involved in the dialogue and the change.
Sex therapy assisted Leroy and his partner to heal the old wounds of interpersonal barriers. Through changing the process of their communication, they built a new foundation of safety, accessibility and receptivity to each other. Through behavioral interventions between Leroy and his partner, they were able to rewire old patterns together and build new experiences of sexual intimacy. Leroy went from a rigidly restrictive experience of sex to an expansive one where sex and sexuality were opened up, and he found space to calm his worries, hear his partner, and engage in what felt good to him.
In my office I often see couples who are closed and unreceptive to each other because one person has a higher desire for sex than the other. Desire discrepancy often makes one person feel like they are stressed by being asked for sex, so much that they are no longer receptive to their parter or themselves. Or the other partner is stressed at the constant rejection that they lose their receptivity and vulnerability.
Something you can do at home to build synchronicity and merger into your relationship is to know you are not alone! Knowledge that synchronicity and merger are not always spontaneous in a relationship, that it can go away if it was once there, and that it can be created if it never has been there is essential to creating it. Talk with your partner about working together or with a sex therapist to cultivate the synchronicity and merger that are key to great sex!
Next: We’ll look at ‘Deep Sexual Intimacy’, your next step in 8 days to great sex.
A sex therapist has training and knowledge to assist people in conceptualizing, understanding and putting words to the most intimate and often misunderstood parts of their whole self. Sex therapy isn’t about how to improve your technique (although that is great too!).
Sex therapy is about your whole relationship integrated with your whole self and deeper intimacy with all you are.
For more information or to work with Angela, give a call at (408) 442-1551 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.