There’s another by-product to goal oriented sex — anxiety. Once you have a goal, you begin preparing yourself to achieve it. You begin thinking about how you must act, or perform, to achieve your goal. For example, a man may establish achieving an erection as the first part of his goal, so that he can “perform” the sex act. Man and woman affectionate in bedPeople who view sex as a performance are very likely to feel anxious. But anxiety and sexual pleasure do not go together. When your body is tight and controlled (as it would be in anticipation of a performance), rather than relaxed and open (as it would be in looking forward to experiencing pleasurable sensations), you are not able to feel much sexual pleasure. In other words, it’s just damn difficult, if not impossible, to be turned on when you’re feeling uptight about performing sexually.

Another negative aspect of goal-oriented sex is the idea that all sexual interactions must lead to intercourse, to “going all the way.” This idea, that once you get on the train, you’ve got to ride to the end of the line, is an unwritten rule for many couples. This rule affects a couple’s sexual relationship in more ways than one. First, it limits the couple’s ability to have a flexible, changing sexual relationship. A myth that relates to this is that “sex should be a process of continuously increasing excitement and passion; the sexual arousal must continue to build.” Because of this myth, the idea that sex can be leisurely, with breaks for resting, talking, laughing or whatever, is foreign to many men–and to many women too, for that matter.

Flexibility, change, and unpredictability keep a long-term sexual relationship alive and exciting. For many couples, a sexual experience consists of a few minutes of foreplay, a few minutes of intercourse, all of which culminates in orgasm for the husband and, sometimes, for the wife. Time after time, they follow the same sequence. But who says sex has to be this way? Why can’t there be a little touching, intercourse, back to touching, some intercourse, orgasm, and maybe some more touching, particularly if the woman wasn’t fully satisfied through intercourse? By mixing up the usual sequence, numerous combinations can be created to keep the sexual experience varied, so it doesn’t become just “the same old thing” which you do over and over again.

The unspoken rule that any sexual interaction must move on through all of its stages to orgasm also discourages expression of affection on a more casual basis. We often hear wives complaining that if they are affectionate with their husbands outside of the bedroom, their husbands automatically jump to the conclusion that it’s time to make love. Both spouses end up assuming that physical affection must lead, to sex. The result is that physical affection becomes limited to a kiss when the two people see each other at the end of the day. But why not expand this to a little petting and necking with the mutual understanding that all this is but an added luxury to whatever other sexual activity you might want to enjoy at another time of the day? Affection is a nonverbal way of expressing love and caring in an intimate relationship. And if this channel of communication is closed, the marriage partners have one less way of expressing their loving emotions for one another.