Illustration by Sophi Gullbrants

Being intentional means that you’re directing your actions and mental state toward a specific object, person, or situation. And when it comes to sex, being intentional matters. It is one of the greatest things we can do for our sex lives because it makes us really focus on our pleasure and on a partner in a more direct way. It takes away the uncertainty and gives what we’re doing a new purpose.

Being intentional can manifest in different ways. It can look like breaking bad habits such as faking orgasms, letting our minds wander during sex, or being in a mindset that positions penetration as the “big finale” of any sex session. Intentionality puts us in a headspace to really indulge in ourselves and to focus on every single feeling we’re having. It levels out all sex acts, making the pleasure you’re feeling the center of everything.

Here’s what you need to know about bringing intentionality into your sex life.

How intentionality can improve your sexual relationships

Even if a couple is happy, that doesn’t mean they’ve maintained their same level of new-love oxytocin forever and always. That just isn’t realistic. “It’s well-known that after the initial ‘honeymoon’ phase when you can’t keep your hands off each other, the feel-good hormones decrease,” explains Lucy Rowett, a clinical sexologist. “Then it’s all too easy to let sex fall off the radar because life gets in the way.” Everyone is tired, stressed, and has a lot on their plate. There will always be things taking up time and energy. That’s life, plain and simple. 

This is why being intentional is so important. It keeps sexuality at the forefront of your brain. Create time and space for your sex life, rather than just expecting things to sort themselves out. Be aware that this is an important aspect of your relationship.

This may sound a little odd, but, sex therapist Angela Watson says that in order to “fully harness the power of intentionality in your sex life, you need to separate your true logical desires from your base physical responses to certain situations.” 

What does this mean? Well, examples of your true logical desires might include pleasing your partner, having everyone come away with a positive feeling after sex, and to have lots of fabulous pleasure. In contrast, base physical reactions might include pulling away during oral sex because you don’t want to “put your partner out,” making excuses when you don’t have an orgasm or “perform” in a certain way, or focusing too much on where you’re going, rather than where you are. “If you can fully focus on completing your logical desires without letting your physical responses get in the way, intentionality is your friend,” Watson explains.

Be clear with your goals 

Watson suggests creating a list (yes, like on paper) of what you’d like to accomplish in your sex life. Whether it’s staying grounded during oral sex, giving more oral sex, or having tons of orgasms, concrete goals can set you on the right path. “From this list, you can then figure out practical ways to accomplish these items with a little room for improvisation as called for,” she says. 

When planning a sex date with your partner, use that focus you’ve harnessed to create a positive experience, from start to finish. Rowett suggests “setting an intention” before you go into a sex session, thinking on the ways you’d like to explore your sexuality and intimacy with your partner. This can look like anything from being more present, to being authentic, to having fun, or letting go and giving into pleasure. If you set the positive intention, you’re more likely to fulfill it.

Nix the “obligation sex”

It’s not without merit to note that some sex can have a hint of the obligatory attached to it. We need to stop framing sex as some exhausting thing we have to do in order to make our partner happy. We need to realign our thinking using intentionality. 

Sex should not be seen as obligatory, but rather an opportunity to explore intimacy with your partner. Don’t just bone to fill a “requirement.” Rowett suggests trying a mini-sex meditation, wherein you’re breathing into your body to stay grounded during any erotic experience. “Notice yourself whenever you’re spectatoring (observing yourself rather than being in your body),” she says. “Keep coming back to what you really want and what would feel good to YOU and your partner.” 

If your intimate moments with your partner(s) doesn’t result in sex, but rather a sense of closeness, there is nothing wrong with that. “Intentionality doesn’t have to be directly sexual,” Watson explains. “If your goal is to make your partner feel included and like their opinions matter, the same rules apply. Carefully listen to your partner so you can word your responses in a way that shows you have a deeper understanding of what’s being discussed.”

Go forth with your intentions and be willing to create the sex life you and your partner want together. There is no right or wrong as long as everyone is putting in the effort.

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