This is the decisive factor for good sex (not only in long-term relationships) 

There are countless stories about bad sex. Be it on Tinder dates or after fifteen years of marriage. However, to keep sex in long-term relationships exciting and one-night stands memorable, it takes a bit of effort. But we're not talking about special technique or muscle power, but efforts of a completely different nature. 

David Schnarch was a renowned sex therapist and relationship expert known for his work in couples counseling and therapy. In 1997, he first published his thoughts on "Passionate Marriage. Love, Sex, and Intimacy in Emotionally Committed Relationships". One of his central theories is the concept of "degree of differentiation" or "differentiation". This concept played a crucial role in his approach to overcoming relationship problems and promoting fulfilling intimacy in long-term relationships. 

The idea behind the term "degree of differentiation" can be broken down into a few points. According to Schnarch, they are crucial for good sex - even in short-lived relationships.

1. individual independence: The degree of differentiation refers to an individual's ability to maintain their individual identity, values, needs and desires within a partnership. It means having a strong sense of self and self-confidence without losing oneself in the relationship or allowing oneself to be dominated by the needs and desires of the other person. But beware: it's too easy to interpret this to mean that only your own perspective is decisive or that you should keep as much emotional distance as possible. The opposite is the case. 

2. autonomy in the vicinity: A high degree of differentiation enables people to be emotionally close to each other in a close relationship or partnership without giving up their independence. This means that you can enjoy closeness and intimacy in a relationship without fear of losing your own identity.

3. self-regulation: Differentiation also includes the ability to practice emotional self-regulation. This means being able to deal with your own emotions without projecting them onto your partner or engaging in unhealthy behavior. It's about taking emotional responsibility for yourself. This means not adopting a victim mentality in which I am dependent on the other person's reaction to fulfill my expectations. It means being there for myself, practicing compassion for myself. That I can make decisions without needing validation from others and give myself confirmation that I am good enough. 

4. conflict resolution: In differentiated relationships, the ability to deal with conflict ismanagement often higher. Partners can discuss differences of opinion and conflicts openly and respectfully without falling into destructive patterns. This includes having the strength not to feel attacked as a whole person when criticized and to immediately take a defensive stance. Instead, listen to the aspects calmly and decide for yourself which points could contribute to further development and which could not. When it comes to conflicts, a high degree of differentiation also means that I don't avoid them, but that I engage intensively with the issue, with my counterpart and with myself. Active hard work is required here, also on your own parts. 

These points together make up a person's level of differentiation according to Dr. Schnarch. And they are the decisive factors that influence the degree of sexual intimacy and therefore the enjoyment of the experience.

Relationships in which all participants have a high ability to maintain their own identity independently of the other, in which autonomy can be allowed despite emotional closeness (which is truly the hardest part!), in which everyone can regulate their own feelings and does not depend on external confirmation, and in which conflicts are dealt with as constructively as possible, make the best sex possible. 

Because a cold fish who just bluntly reels off whatever technique and is otherwise absent with their head and heart is less fun than a person who has the courage to experience and feel the moment as a human being. This requires the courage to be an independent personality during sex and not just a body. It requires the courage to establish emotional contact as well as physical closeness. And it requires the self-esteem to stand by your body as it is and not hope for excessive validation from the outside.

In his book, which has since been published in many countries and languages (in German under the title "Die Psychologie sexueller Leidenschaft"), Schnarch emphasizes that developing your level of differentiation is a lifelong process. So please don't put yourself under pressure. In couples or individual therapy, for example, you can work on strengthening your individual level of differentiation and taking relationships to a deeper and more fulfilling level. By developing the ability to differentiate, singles and couples can achieve a healthy balance between closeness and individual autonomy, which may be rewarded with good sex.

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