Advice

What’s the key to having a really amazing night with someone you’re seeing? We asked tons of people that question—with very surprising results.

Pretty much everyone — single or taken, straight or gay, rich or poor — sure wouldn’t mind being good in bed. But what does that mean, exactly? Is it a gift you’re born with or something anyone can learn? Does it boil down to technical skills or just a super-confident or sensual vibe? To find out, we asked single people to pinpoint what makes for an unforgettable night. And guess what? None of these principles involve contorting yourself into pretzel-like positions. Here’s what truly makes a difference:

 

Go ahead and get personal
“One girl I dated did one simple thing that made sex so amazing, I still think of her to this day. Whenever she got really into it, she’d softly whisper my name. It was incredibly hot—it brought a whole new element of intimacy to our sex. We had just started dating, and things were moving pretty fast. When she said my name in the heat of the moment, I felt really connected to her… It made me feel like a king!”
—Len, Washington, DC

 

Have a laugh
“Sex can be an awkward experience: When two people are naked and sweaty, strange things are bound to happen. So, in my mind, the ability to laugh at yourself is crucial. It makes things so much more comfortable and intimate.”
—Cate, Providence, RI

 

Stop obsessing about your flaws
“A woman can make sex unbelievably hot if she exudes confidence. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a perfect body. The sexiest woman I knew had what most people would consider a less-than-perfect figure. But when she stood in front of me and slowly took off her clothes — without worrying about whether the lights were off or she was hidden under the covers — she convinced me that she was the hottest woman on the planet. I wish more women were like that.”
—Brendan, Boston, MA

 

Speak up if something’s not working
“I love when a woman lets me know what does — or doesn’t — feel good; to me, that makes a woman good in bed. If she doesn’t speak up, how else will I know? I love hearing that I’m making her feel good, and there are also nice ways to say something isn’t working. One girl I was with flat-out said, ‘It’s just not happening right now. Let’s try again later.’ We took a break and just cuddled, then started kissing, and she guided my hands to where she wanted them. I was so impressed that she wouldn’t fake her pleasure for a guy’s ego.”
—Michael, New York, NY

 

Add some spontaneity
“Being spontaneous adds tons of excitement to sex. The last guy I dated was so creative in bed that everything seemed brand new every time we slept together. For example, he would jump in the shower with me, when I had ten minutes to get ready. Or when we would be sitting at a restaurant, he’d sit right next to me and rub my leg and give me a light kiss on my neck. I never knew what he was going to do next, which heightened all my senses. It was great!”
—Rebecca, Oak Park, IL

 

Don’t be too goal-oriented
“Being good in bed means being free of pressure. I appreciate it when a guy cares about my pleasure, but sometimes it’s not going to happen, and guys should learn to live with that and just enjoy sex and getting to know each other’s bodies.”
—Eliza, Spokane, WA

 

Tap into your sensual side
“Being great in bed means taking your time. To keep things interesting, my fiancé and I will occasionally abstain from sex from time to time: We’ll make out for an hour with all our clothes on, but we won’t go all the way. We’ll focus on our breathing, and how our skin feels against each other, and we get totally into the moment. That sensual approach takes sex to another level for me.”
—Corey, Boston, MA

 

Ask for feedback
“To me, great sex means great communication, and my girlfriend definitely has that down. She always asks me what feels good, and what I’d like her to do. When we first started dating, it felt a little strange, but now it’s totally natural for me to say, “Yes, do it like that.” I love that she’s so open to hearing what I like.”
—Ben, Elmira, NY

 

Try something new
“I think being open to new ideas is crucial to being good in bed. It’s important to want to explore new experiences and sensations. Instead of zeroing in on the typical hot spots, I love it when a woman turns her attention on ground that’s rarely covered. I love having my ears, nape of my neck, even the backs of my knees kissed. My last girlfriend had me close my eyes while she kissed me on every inch of my body. It gave me chills in places I didn’t think were possible.”
—Tim, Fairfax, VA

 

“He was uptight and couldn’t carry on a conversation”
“I showed up and he wasn’t even smiling — not a good sign. We’d met online and his emails were fairly engaging. But in person, he stared at the floor and couldn’t think of a thing to say. When he finally coughed up a couple of questions a few minutes later, one of them was, ‘Why’s a lady like you still single?’ I think he thought it was a compliment, but I was uncomfortable with him jumping into a question like that.”
– Mary Ann, 38, Baltimore, MD

 

Tip: Focus on making your date feel comfortable. That means smiling, relating to her and asking questions…as long as they are the right kind of questions. Ask about her interests and passions, but don’t pry or ask anything that will make her squirm.

 

“He brought up an ex who’d done him wrong”
“In the first few minutes, he said it was important to let me know that his last girlfriend treated him badly and that he ‘might be a little gun-shy with all this.’ What do you say after that? He then tried to smooth things over and change the subject, but my first impression was of this wounded bird that was definitely on the defensive and carried too much baggage.”
– Laura, 36, Washington, D.C.

 

Tip: To make a good impression, ax the word “ex” from your vocabulary. Face it: “Ex” is a loaded word. There is no way to bring it up in small talk on a first date without creating an awkward moment. If you’re friends with your former paramour, she’ll have questions about your boundaries or whether you’ve really moved on. If you slam your ex, she’ll assume you have “issues” that are best dealt with in therapy or with your buddies, not on a date with her.

 

“He made zero effort with his appearance”
“If he’d just been unshaven for a couple of days, it would have been fine. An unshaven guy can look hot if he’s tended to other aspects of himself, like his clothes, hair and shoes. But my date showed up unshaven at a nice restaurant in cut-offs, hiking sandals and a sleeveless shirt. I was wearing a dress and had gone out of my way to get a manicure and my hair done. It was a bad move on his part.”
– Marlene, 35, Boston, MA

 

Tip: Men and women both judge books by their covers, especially on first dates. So make an effort in your appearance and, if there’s any question about attire, check in with your date before you meet so you’re on the same page. For lots of dos and don’ts, read Undateable by Ellen Rakieten and Anne Coyle. These ladies cover just about everything obnoxious or lame that a guy can do to sabotage a first impression.

 

“His smart phone was glued to his hand during the entire date”
“At first, he kept checking his phone. I asked him if he was expecting a call and he said no. Then during dinner, he thumbed through his emails constantly. I kept thinking he was either arrogant or uninterested in our date. Neither was a good option, so my first impression was also my last impression. I left dinner as soon as I could and he seemed puzzled as to why I did it.”
– Linda, 34, Richmond, VA

 

Tip: Keep your technology toys hidden. Trust me, being a slave to some device won’t impress her or make you look important in her eyes. If you’re worried that you might miss an important message or call, let your date know that beforehand and take care of business as soon as possible so you can refocus your attention where it belongs — on her!

“He was late and kept me waiting in a crowded restaurant”

 

“We agreed to meet at a restaurant, but at the appointed time, he wasn’t there. I dislike waiting for a guy, especially one I don’t know. And I really hate waiting for a date in a crowded public place, especially when I’m stuck there alone. By the time he showed up full of excuses, it was all about him, his demanding job and the slow cab ride. He was cute, but his lateness without calling made a terrible impression and ruined the date for me.”
– Theresa, 32, New York, NY

 

“The way she walked into the room bowled me over”
“A girl’s overall style makes a huge impression on me. When I met my girlfriend, I noticed how she carried herself, walked, talked and the energy she gave off. I just remember all of it making a big impact. Sure, I noticed her hair, body and other physical attributes. But my friends and I agree that a woman doesn’t have to be a supermodel. It’s her looks plus how she comes across.”
– Ted, 27, Washington, D.C.

 

Tip: It’s not just what you look like that attracts men. How you show off your attributes matters, too. If you’re feeling satisfied that you look your best, your confidence will radiate and attract others to you.

 

“She just wanted to date someone; she wasn’t really interested in me”
“In the first few minutes of our date, it was clear she hadn’t even read my online dating profile. She knew nothing about me. If you want to make a great impression, then be interested in me. Simple, right? I took the time to pay attention to what she’d noted in her profile — her travel history, work and hobbies. She didn’t do that. Worse, she didn’t even ask me any questions.”
– Michael, 31, Baltimore, MD

 

Tip: If you’re meeting an online match, make sure you paid attention when reading his profile and come prepared with a few relevant questions. During your conversation, hone your skills as a good listener by asking follow-up questions. “Men judge a woman less on her looks and more on how they feel around her,” says Evan Marc Katz, author of Why He Disappeared. If you pay attention to your date’s individual quirks, he’ll know you’re interested in him and not just bored and wanting to get out for a bit.

 

“She showed up in yoga pants looking like she was ready to hang out on the sofa”
“From the neck up, my date was tarted up with lots of makeup. But from the neck down, she looked like she was going to the gym. The fact that she put so little effort into how she looked for our date was a total turn-off. The way I see it is this: if she won’t make an effort to look as good as she can on our first date, I can only imagine how she’ll look a few months down the road when we’re hanging out and more comfortable with each other.”
– Jim, 34, Los Angeles, CA

 

Tip: It’s important to dress up for a date unless you’ve agreed to engage in some athletic activity on your first meeting. But dressing up doesn’t necessarily mean “tarting” yourself up. Looking a little glam is good, but try to avoid the makeup-spackled face and lacquered hair look.

 

“She didn’t look like her photo”
“When I showed up to meet her, she was much heavier than her pictures suggested and definitely several years older than her stated age. That made a terrible first impression. All I could think was, ‘this lady is a liar. Who is she kidding?’ If she’d lie about her appearance and age, what else would she hide?”
– William, 44, Durham, NC

 

Tip: A picture is worth a thousand words, and you don’t want your date’s first impression to be an essay on why he can’t trust you. There’s a big difference between lopping off a decade and forgetting to update your online dating profile when you turned one year older last week. Your photos should be current and your profile truthfully up-to-date.

 

“She was too intense”
“I walked into the restaurant and she jumped into conversation, was loud and aggressive, and talked to me with her hand on my arm like she was confiding in her BFF. In the first five minutes, I didn’t need to hear a condensed version of her last therapy appointment. I don’t know if she was just lonely or eager, but either way, her intensity made a bad first impression.”
– Jerry, 29, New York, NY

 

Memorize your lines
“Do you ever dream about taking a test you’re totally unprepared for? Scary, huh? That’s how terrifying first dates can feel if you’re equally unprepared. Most of us think of dating as something that should be natural and easy, but we don’t factor in that some of the most seemingly ‘natural and easy’ acts are the ones that are rigorously prepared. Even spontaneous ad-libbing comedians and actors have spent years polishing their bits. So take a cue from Tinseltown: Practice your best lines and anecdotes on friends, family, or even in front of a mirror so that you can pull them out when you hit an awkward silence or just want to make an impression. Just knowing you have these lines at the ready will give you more confidence and assurance the whole evening.”
—Kathryn Lord, author of Find a Sweetheart Soon! Your Love Trip Planner for Women

 

Consider options other than dinner
“My best advice for a first date is to avoid the talk and chew. Stop wasting time over dinner conducting an interview. That’s boring—been there, done that. I prefer to have some fun on a first date and do something that’s interactive and childlike. Some first dates that I love include playing Frisbee in the park, followed by a walk around for some people-watching. You’re not just auditioning each other, you’re having fun. Other great dates include test-driving cars or going to open houses. This creates instant bonding and gives you something to talk about when you have the follow-up call. Works a lot better than, ‘Wow… I loved the way you chewed your steak!’”
—David Wygant, author of Always Talk to Strangers

 

Don’t ignore the awkward moments
“The best first-date move that a guy ever used on me was when, at the second we were about to kiss for the first time, he said, ‘On an awkwardness scale, how would you rate this moment?’ It totally broke the ice and warmed us up to each other. I call this a ‘conscious conversation,’ where you openly acknowledge any uncomfortable moments that crop up. First dates are always anxiety-provoking on both sides, but when you can talk about that elephant in the room, it breaks the tension.”
—Nancy Slotnick, author of Turn Your Cablight On: Get Your Dream Man in 6 Months or Less

 

Keep it short
“Make your first date no longer than 45 minutes, max. That’ll keep the investment relatively low for both of you, which is really important if one person isn’t feeling it. And, if you’re both attracted to each other, it’ll stoke anticipation for your next date, which is the one where you’ll really get to know each other. Stick to this rule no matter how much chemistry you feel with the person—I’ve broken this rule in many of my 300-plus dates in the last five years (‘She’s amazing… why not just suggest that we grab dinner?’), and I have always regretted it.”
—Ron Geraci, New York-based dating coach and author of The Bachelor Chronicles

 

Ditch the three-day rule
“If you had a fantastic first date, call on the way home to say, ‘Thanks for the great time’ rather than waiting a few days. Tell your date that you know that you’re breaking all the first-date rules, but you wanted to call anyway. This simple move shows you’re not into playing head games, which will wow a first date.”
—Liz H. Kelly, author of Smart Man Hunting

 

Reach out and touch someone
“On a first date, a little physical contact is a very good thing. So try ice-skating. You’ll have to hold hands because one of you probably doesn’t know how to skate. But even if you do, that ice gets mighty slippery! In the mood for warmer pursuits? Why not go to the park and swing? When you push each other and touch each other’s backs, it sparks chemistry. Or go to a county fair, where you can snuggle on the Ferris wheel or clutch each other on the roller coaster. This human contact creates instant, effortless connection that never feels forced.”
—Patti Feinstein, founder of America’s Dating Coach

 

Take the focus off me, myself, and I
“The best first date move for a guy is: Make sure she’s comfortable. That’s it. That’s all that matters. If she’s comfortable with you, she’s going to let down her guard and trust you, which means you’re both going to have fun. So how do you make her comfortable? Chivalry helps. Opening doors, asking questions, and paying the check are all ways of ensuring that she feels special. Taking care of those details shows you’re interested in her as a person (as opposed to a hunter after his prey) and this puts you way ahead of most men that she dates. Same advice for women: Think of him first. After all, it’s easy to focus on what you get out of the date; try considering what your date gets out of the date. Make him feel interesting. So smile, laugh, touch him on the arm—any positive reinforcement will do. Guys just want to know that they’re on the right track. If you ensure your date is having a good time on date one, you’ll generally be asked out for date two.”
—Evan Marc Katz, author of Why You’re Still Single: Things Your Friends Would Tell You If You Promised Not to Get Mad

 

Let’s face it: Pretty much all men and women face moments in the bedroom when their hearts flutters, their cheeks blush—and they feel less than 100 percent comfortable. Maybe it’s when you first strip down in front of someone… or when your bedmate seems to be guiding your hands away from what you figured was a good spot to be caressing. We all have those awkward moments, but you can minimize them. Here, a few simple tips for kicking your confidence up a notch or two.

 

Dare to bare all
Taking off your clothes, especially in front of someone new, can make anyone feel less than bold. It especially makes many singles worry about their less-than-perfect proportions. A small

 

reality check, however, can easily calm your jitters. That’s what Corey, from Boston, MA, has used to stop obsessing about her bust size. “I’m not crazy about my body because I’m not too well-endowed on top,” she explains. “I’ve found it helps to think about things rationally: He knows you don’t have huge breasts when he meets you, so there won’t be a big shocker when you finally undress.”

 

Another tactic to increase your ease is to merely be in your birthday suit more often, which Ellie from Virginia Beach, VA, has done with great results. “Being totally naked used to make me feel so exposed,” she says. “I trained myself to feel more comfortable in the buff by sleeping in the nude. That helped me become more relaxed about being unclothed in front of a boyfriend.”

 

If the prospect of taking it all off still scares you silly, do what Adrienne, a New Yorker, does and cheat a little. “I like leaving something on — like a camisole, or a bra — just in case I’m not loving my body that day,” she says.

 

Get over your size anxiety
Men also grapple with body image issues that can undermine their sexual confidence. Just ask Michael from New York City. “My fear is a common one: that I’m not as endowed as her last boyfriend,” he admits. “Of course, it’s a pointless concern, because there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. Still, it’s always a thought that runs through the minds of many guys.” If this concern strikes a chord with you, instead of worrying about your body, focus your attention more on pleasing your partner in bed. The compliments you’ll get on your sexual ability should help relax you.

 

Another easy confidence boost men can try — and that Michael says helped allay his worries — is putting a little effort into presentation. “A bit of grooming down there can appear to add inches since there’s less hair covering things up,” he says.

 

Don’t worry about how wild you are in bed
Some people think they have to prove how creative and free-spirited they are in bed, lest they be deemed boring. Beth, from Greenland, NH, admits, “I was not confident that I could rock my new boyfriend’s world, so I overcompensated by suggesting all kinds of ways to spice things up. He looked a little surprised and said, ‘Let’s just get to know each other’s bodies first.’ That’s when I realized that there is no reason to try to go all out to impress him during sex. He’s just happy to be with me!”

 

What Beth learned — and you should, too — is that great sex doesn’t come from fancy tricks and toys. It comes from caring about the person you’re with, and tuning in to your own pleasurable sensations and your partner’s.

 

Don’t beat yourself up if the Big O doesn’t happen
Some people think that if their partner doesn’t have an orgasm, then that means they are failures in bed. This concern, while common, can shatter one’s sexual confidence, as Brendan, from Portland, OR, can attest. “Like a lot of guys, I felt that the end result of sex must always be orgasm,” he explained. “So it was hard for me to understand how the same couldn’t be true for a woman. Much less, I figured she wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less! I’d get frustrated with myself, thinking it was my fault that she wasn’t satisfied.”

 

But the truth is, the absence of a Big O shouldn’t undermine your confidence, since it could be due to many things that have nothing to do with your bedroom abilities. “My girlfriend explained to me that for many women, it’s just not going to happen every single time,” says Brendan. By realizing that it is not his responsibility to “make” her have an orgasm, he reduced his anxiety and stopped calling his prowess into question. So if you find yourself in this situation and feel bad about it, try asking your partner, “I’d really love it if you had an orgasm. Is there anything I can do to help?” He or she may make a suggestion of what could work or say it’s fine to just cuddle up and get some sleep this time out. Either way, you two will be communicating honestly about the situation rather than ignoring it… and that’s a vital step along both your paths to sexual confidence.

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