What makes a sexual encounter good? It’s all in the meaning we make of it.
Good sex isn’t the result of a particular sequence of events. Good sex is all about how the participants interpret that sequence of events. What might be a distressing and bad encounter for one person could be perfectly enjoyable for another, depending on how they attach meaning to the experience.
Imagine a sexual encounter in which neither partner achieves orgasm, but rather just wind down as they get tired. For one person, this might be seen as a failure. What’s wrong with us? Am I bad at sex? Does my partner not care about my pleasure? For another, this might be a perfectly satisfactory and enjoyable experience. They could enjoy the sensation of being close to their partner, physically and emotionally, enjoying the shared intimacy of the moment.
Or imagine a very short sexual encounter. One person might think, What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I last longer? That was so embarrassing, while another might think, What a fun quickie. There are infinite possible variations of this idea. Think of anything that could “go wrong” in a sexual encounter, and you’ll see how much depends on how the participants interpret it.
Being attached to an overly rigid model of how a sexual interaction should unfold almost always becomes a problem sooner or later in a relationship, because our bodies are complicated and don’t always behave in the way we want. For that reason, if your measure of success for a sexual encounter is some particular activity, like penis-in-vagina (PIV) penetration to orgasm, at some point you will probably be disappointed. What meaning will you make out of that moment? If you’ve had this experience before, what meaning did you make then?
Consider this: what do you really want to get out of sex? Is it a particular kind of activity? Or is that activity a symbol for something more important–intimacy with your partner, trust, love, pleasure? How can you get what you REALLY want out of the interaction, and release attachment to a particular sequence of events?