A common trap that many couples fall into after several years of marriage is, “goal-oriented” sex. Our culture’s obsession with achievement pervades our sexual lives. We strive to perfect the ‘product–orgasm–and ignore the pleasures of leisurely love.

Man and woman playfully wrestling each otherA goal-oriented person focuses on the future instead of the present. It’s like climbing a mountain and only focusing on getting to the top, without taking the time to smell the flowers or to check out the beautiful view along the way. One who focuses only on the destination misses the pleasure of the journey.

The term “foreplay” demonstrates how completely goal-oriented sex has become entrenched in our thinking. Foreplay, of course, is the word we use to describe sexual activity prior to intercourse. It is not an end to itself, but one step in a series of steps whose purpose is to move toward a goal. You do this activity before you do something else. Most married couples engage in sexual foreplay with a purpose or goal in mind: To arouse themselves to the point where they can engage in sexual intercourse. It does not occur to them that foreplay is a pleasure in itself that can be enjoyed with or without intercourse or orgasm.

The goal-oriented nature of foreplay is reflected also; in the fact that its duration shortens the longer a couple is married. When two people first begin having sexual relations, they usually spend most of their time touching, kissing or petting. Whatever you call it, “making out,” “necking,” or “foreplay,” this activity is highly pleasurable and an important sexual activity. Depending on the couple, these activities might be brought to a climax in intercourse or the couple might be satisfied with the foreplay alone. This all seems to change once a couple gets married. Before they were married, they might have spent fifteen minutes touching and caressing each other, but after marriage they may spend only five minutes, and those five minutes are clone with a “hurry-up-let’s-get-through-it-so-we-can-already-really-get-it-on” kind of attitude. Thus, what was once a pleasurable activity that a couple spent quite a bit of time enjoying becomes just something to get through so they can get on to the “real thing”.

As the two people develop the attitude of sexual goal orientation that is, foreplay for a purpose, their sexual relationship breaks down into a hierarchy of stages. Foreplay leads to intercourse, finally resulting in orgasm. Once these stages become established, the couple’s sexual relationship becomes rigid, predictable, and boring.

When you focus on the goal of orgasm, you focus on the future, and this limits or dulls your experience of the sexual stimulation you are receiving in the present. The intensity of your experience along the way becomes much diluted. A good example of how this becomes a problem can be seen in what happens with a woman who is striving very hard to have an orgasm. She’s so busy worrying about whether or not she’s going to have an orgasm that she misses the pleasure of the sexual stimulation that normally builds to that sensual peak.