I ask my clients about their best sex ever because I can learn a lot about them from this memory. Usually they don’t tell me about a specific experience. Instead, they tell me about their favorite lover.

Being an incredible lover is a terrific goal. Why? Because it’s bigger than sex. Folks who are sexually satisfied tend to feel happier in their romance and more intimately connected to their lover. Plus, sexually gratified people tend to feel more satisfied in life more generally. But all this isn’t to minimize the exquisite thrill of a great lay.

In my therapy room, I often ask people about their best sex ever because it tells me a lot. It’s a rare person who doesn’t have an immediate response to that question, though they usually don’t tell me about a specific experience. Instead, they respond by telling me about their favorite lover. And while they can’t always articulate precisely why this person was such a sexual rock star, it’s not too difficult to read between the lines.

Being a great lover involves practice–sexual skills are cultivated over time. Just like most expert violinists weren’t born virtuosos, I’m quite sure that most of the people I hear about weren’t born that great in bed. Instead, it’s much more likely that they were simply so interested in sex that they practiced their art as much as they could.

Being a good lover is much more than your sexual “technique,” or how you touch your partner’s genitals. It’s more than communicating about your likes and practicing consensual, safe sex. Based on my unofficial research, here are some things you can do to earn the distinction of an exceptional lover:

  • Be comfortable with big emotions–your own, and those of your lover. Don’t be afraid to show your excitement. Passion is a bold emotion, and your lover will likely resist going there alone–it just feels too vulnerable. Your comfort with big emotions and your willingness to amp up the intensity between you communicates that your lover doesn’t have to feel self-conscious about how they move, look, or sound. They don’t have to be self-contained–you can handle whatever they dish out. This gives them permission to go deeper into their own experience.

  • Touch in a bold and confident manner, as opposed to hesitant and careful. If you are too polite in bed, you risk coming across as passive. Most people don’t appreciate passivity in a lover. Your lover won’t go to their sexual edge if they believe, consciously or unconsciously, that you aren’t strong enough for it. People avoid surrendering to a weaker sex partner, and for many people, the sense of surrender is critical for amazing sex. People know that if their lover is too passive, sex won’t be that juicy.

  • Be present with your lover. Make eye contact, talk sexy to them, let them feel seen. When people feel sexually seen and valued, they are so much more likely to let go. Communicate not just that you are having sex, but you are having sex with them. It implies that you want your partner and that they turn you on. This helps them feel confident and creates enough safety that they’ll be more willing to play on their sexual edge–that line where risk amplifies passion.

  • Take the lead–people love having sex with bold sex partners. In fact, one of my most popular blog posts is about exactly that–Why dominant sex partners are so compelling. People crave sex with a partner who knows what they want, and who is willing to make it happen. Rather than my explaining it all here, check out the post.

  • Be both generous and selfish. Being generous with your lover communicates that they are more than just a vehicle for you to get off, but generosity alone gets boring and it can even be interpreted as a need to perform for you–like they have to get off to make you feel good. In this situation, you’ll come across as needy when you are trying to be awesome. I’m guessing this is more common than you realize, cause I hear about it a lot from hetero women. There is such a thing as being too generous in bed. Instead, selfishness in the bedroom is extremely erotic when paired with moments of generosity.