Disappointment. It’s a universal emotion. We’ve all experienced it and in all likelihood we all will experience it again. It is bad enough to be disappointed in a much anticipated movie, family vacation, or Christmas present. But what about disappointment in the area nobody wants to talk about… sex? How do we make sure we have fun and exciting, and not disappointing, sex?
While disappointment may be a widely understood concept, many people don’t realize that it has less to do with the actual event, activity or gift and more to do with our expectations leading up to it. The trick to having great sex and avoiding disappointment are the same principals that apply to almost any situation: learn to manage your expectations and communicate clearly and openly.
Whether your sex-life is fulfilled with one, full time monogamous partner or you entertain a lifestyle of Ethical Non-Monogamy (ENM), communication and managing your expectations are the keys to a great time and enjoyable sex.
My husband of 25 years and I recently decided to open our marriage to some other sexual partners and experiences. Having been high school sweethearts, we were each the only one the other had ever been with. We had fantasized for years about having sex with other people but it had all been in the realm of pure fantasy. Until recently.
Leading up to this decision, we had been playing with friends for several years in a style many people call “soft swap” meaning oral sex was allowed but no penis in vagina (or anus) penetration. Finally we decided that we were ready to take the next step in our sexual journey and scheduled our first “full swap” weekend in which anything was now on the table. Years of fantasies were now able to be fulfilled.
Prior to this weekend, my husband and I talked a lot about our fantasies and our expectations. We have amazing sex, he and I. And I wondered if it was worth trying it out with another guy. After all, we’ve spent most of 3 decades learning what each other likes and doesn’t like. How good could it possibly be with a new partner the first time? Was it even worth it? We agreed that chances were pretty good that the first time with the new partner would likely not be earth shattering for the quality of the sex itself, but would be worth the experience and the fun.
I think these conversations are the reason why our first experience set us up for wanting more rather than leaving us feeling like we might as well just stick to pleasing each other. The sex itself was fun, exciting and enjoyable, it was not the caliber of sex we experience alone, together.
After the initial adrenaline high was over, and all the hormones were settling, I was beginning to feel the first niggling of disappointment rattle in my brain. So many years had been spent sharing sex with only one man, and in one weekend we changed all that history. And it was – an enjoyable time. Not earth shattering. Not world changing. Honestly, I don’t know what I expected, but it was certainly that somehow something would feel different.
But taking a few minutes to think about the conversations my husband and I had previously had, and realize what we had overcome in ourselves to get us to that moment, I had a new appreciation for the experience. It was a wonderful time and an opportunity to learn so much about myself and about my husband. And the sex was certainly fun, even if it wasn’t world changing.
Since that weekend, we have talked about our other fantasies and had the opportunity to fulfill some of them. We’ve had other play experiences that might have been “disappointing” to one of us had we come in with too many expectations, but we’ve chosen to look at them all as good experiences.
Half the fun of planning a new experience is the fantasy. But most of us know by now that reality rarely mirrors fantasy. So how do we manage to enjoy the fantasy without feeling disappointed in the reality?
Managing your expectations is really hard. Half the fun of planning a new experience is the fantasy. But most of us know by now that reality rarely mirrors fantasy. So how do we manage to enjoy the fantasy without feeling disappointed in the reality?
First, it is essential to be able to separate fantasy from reality. We need to be able to delve into the fantasy for the fun of it and fully envelope the sexiness and the feelings it opens for us. It can even be exciting and helpful to think about and discuss what about the fantasy really turns us on.
Second, we need to take the time to discuss our expectations and logistics with our partner in a non sexual environment. Forgetting that some fantasies are physically very impractical in their “pure” fantasy form often leads to disappointment. Discussing the fantasy, what about the fantasy is a turn on and what can be done to make the fantasy more practical and doable is key to making a successful experience.
Third, be honest in your plans and desires. Discuss what constitutes a successful play experience. Do you consider it successful if everyone has an orgasm? If everyone has the opportunity to explore whichever other partners they are interested in? Do you desire your primary partner to finish with you or another partner, or does that not matter to you? You don’t have to decide all of these things ahead, but it is good to have a discussion so you can think about situations and know beforehand what may cause feelings of disappointment. Open communication doesn’t just include your spouse. It’s helpful to have conversations with play partners about your expectations and desires. Additionally discussing boundaries for the experience helps set the stage for success. It gives everyone some goals and plans while also offering additional ideas to keep things going. We want spontaneity, but since everyone tends to have ideas in their own minds as to what the play session should look like, having conversations gives the best opportunity for satisfaction. Besides, talk can be very sexy and can definitely be some fun foreplay.
For people navigating open marriages, you often hear the phrase “go in with no expectations”. This is a wonderful ideal. But if you are at all like me, you may be very uncomfortable with “no expectations”. This is why I prefer the idea of managing your expectations. I’m a planner. I know things will change and I’m willing to allow them to, but I am most comfortable with some sort of plan, something to expect. For me, managing my expectations looks like the following scenario.
My husband and I had set up a playdate with a single guy we knew. We planned to meet and play at our local club. The agreement ahead of time was that this evening was about me. We had previously had some play experiences that were about him, and we had set this one up to be about me. In each experience we were both engaged and having a good time, but in the previous experience I had been an auxiliary participant, helping my husband fulfill another woman’s fantasy. Knowing my role for that experience kept me focused and having fun and not feeling left out when the action was on her, that was the plan and the goal.
However, this experience was supposed to be about me. We had set up a date to provide me the fantasy fulfillment of having a single guy join us. I could have gone in with the mindset that this was the only plan, the goal and the mission, unwilling to entertain any deviation. However, if I had held that mindset, I would have missed a great opportunity to fulfill a second fantasy. While playing pool at the club, I connected with a girl I liked. When she propositioned me, I started to turn her down, because I had expectations of a play experience with our single guy friend. Fortunately my husband and our friend quickly made me realize that I needed to adapt my expectations to the situation in front of me. I gladly did and took full advantage of the opportunity to enjoy some new, fun, sexy experiences with some new people.
I didn’t go to the club with “no expectations.” I went expecting to play with a friend. I knew that no matter what happened with him, whether the play went to full intercourse or just some fun, sexy play, my husband was prepared to make sure I was satisfied. I had managed my expectations to know that sometimes things don’t click like you might expect and sometimes sex with new partners is more fun than it is spectacular. I adjusted my expectations when the new opportunity presented itself. I still played with my friend and enjoyed some hot fun with a hot woman.
As we are preparing ourselves for new sexual experiences, it is very easy to build the entire event up to a level where the actual experience cannot possibly be as good as the fantasy. What’s more, sometimes circumstances get in the way of the plan. In every experience, we have the opportunity to look at the bad, or the things that didn’t go as we’d expected, and focus on those. I’ve had plenty of those experiences and opportunities. Times when I’ve looked at the disappointment, and let it ruin the entire experience. Times when I felt it wasn’t fair, it wasn’t what I wanted/expected. In the past I’ve let these frustrations overtake my good experiences. But I’ve recently come to the mindset that experiences that may be uncomfortable aren’t necessarily bad. Something that might not be as “spectacular” as you expected might still be enjoyable in it’s own way.
Choosing to look for the lesson and the pleasure and the enjoyment in each play experience creates better experiences in the future. It helps you to begin to identify what you really do want, and isolate it from the fantasy of the situation. Knowing what you want and being able to openly communicate that with first your primary partner and subsequently with any secondary play partners will help you to get the amazing sex you desire. And managing your expectations beforehand will help you walk into a situation with a mind open to experience the pleasures available to you at that moment in time without the baggage of past failed experiences or the weight of unattainable expectations.
Managing our expectations helps us to learn to be in each moment and each experience more fully, and to more fully enjoy the sensations and pleasures each different experience has for us.
How do you manage expectations when exploring new sexual experiences? What works for you, and what doesn’t?