Here's the thing about sex advice: It's often focused on you and what you get. How to have bigger, better orgasms. How to be more satisfied. How to feel sexier. How to expand your repertoire and try new things.
You are familiar with these kinds of titles, right? *Raises hand guiltily*
There's nothing wrong with pursuing pleasure. Or any of those things. Actually, we encourage it. But this approach also misses something. Something that, rather than looking for something more, involves taking a deep, appreciative look at what we already have. And, hey, let's face it; we don't just neglect to consider this in our sex lives - it's easily overlooked in our lives in general.
Call it gratitude. Or appreciation. Or just plain, old thankfulness. Of course, you've heard of it, but how often do you really sit back and, like, do it? How often do any of us take the time to appreciate our partners, their bodies and the qualities that make them unique? And, for that matter, how often do we take the time to be grateful for our own bodies and their ability to produce pleasure?
"Gratitude is really about mindfulness and creating relationships that are mutually beneficial and take into account the well-being of everybody involved," says Laura Jean Mcguire, a sexologist and consultant who focuses on consent education and sexual health.
Want to inject more gratitude and giving into your sex life? Here's why it's worth considering.
It Allows Us to Appreciate Our Bodies
What if sex began with a deep appreciation of our bodies? When I began interviewing experts for this piece, I was focused on how to be more grateful of our partners. I never really considered the idea that we could also be grateful for ourselves. In fact, in a day and age where just about every form of media tells us how much better, prettier and sexier we could or should be, this is actually a pretty radical idea.
"Sex starts with being grateful for our bodies and how they work," Mcguire says. "It's easy for us to be critical of how we perform sexually or to compare ourselves to other people. So gratitude really starts with appreciating ourselves and our own unique abilities."
We know, of course, that how we feel about our bodies during sex has a profound effect on how good we feel. Plus, you know what's a lot better than hating on your hips or boobs or butt? Appreciating all the things you do like about your body - and the fact that it's alive and able to experience pleasure.
"People tend to have a lot of questions and expectations around how to make things better and where you can go next and how to push your boundaries. And I think that has a purpose and a place, but that should not be the whole focus. We don't stop and say, what do I already like? What am I already blessed with?" Mcguire says.
It Reminds Us to Appreciate Our Partners
Just as we often point a critical eye at ourselves during sex, it's easy to turn that eye to our partners as well.
"When I work with couples, I often tell them to turn to each other with an eye of gratitude," says Nina Sonovia Brown, a registered psychotherapist in Coloarado. "By appreciating our partners, we create the energy to also be appreciated."
It also allows both of you to exist in the moment, rather than dragging in past grievances or expectations. And, as you may already know, those two can be major mood-killers.
Being More Grateful Allows You to Be More Giving
If you've ever taken the time to steep yourself in a sense of gratitude - about anything - you know that it creates its own kind of energy; the kind that lights you up inside and allows you to give a lot more to the people around you - including the people you have sex with.
"Every lover we have is completely unique and completely different," Mguire says. "That's something really special. We don't want to be so focused on what our expectations of them are that we don't appreciate what they already are."
Plus, one of the main indicators of intimacy within a loving relationship is putting our partner's needs above our own, according to sex and relationship coach Colby Marie Z.
"In the spirit of reciprocity, our lovers are more likely (although, be forewarned, this isn't guaranteed) to respond to pleasure being given to them by providing pleasure to us," Marie Z. said. "If we demonstrate that we are willing to go above and beyond to provide pleasure to a lover, they may feel a sense of gratitude (or obligation, to be honest) in providing us with an equal level of pleasure."
Gratitude can lead to more passionate, spontaneous sex. Read: Just FUCK for Fuck Sake!
But, Like Anything, Gratitude Can Be Taken Too Far
In asking about how we could all learn how to be more grateful - and more generous - in our sexual interactions, I did have one major concern, though. Abuse. After all, couldn't gratitude just become an excuse for accepting bad behavior from our partners?
"This isn't about doing whatever your partner wants and not checking in with boundaries," Mcguire says.
In fact, Sonovia Brown told us that finding a sense of gratitude in her own body provided a sense of healing - as well as the strength to get out of a not-so-good relationship.
"When I was able to be grateful for myself and explore myself, I was able to learn to enjoy sex to the full capacity," Sonovia Brown said. "It was through masturbation that I became aware that this other thing existed. I knew that when I masturbated, it felt amazing. So I knew something different was out there. I taught myself to be appreciative of my body and what I deserved."
"It's so easy to find all our faults. So create a practice where you look at what you do have," Mcguire said.