What makes a great lover?

O.K. So you think you’re a great lover.

Take this test:

1. Where exactly is your lover’s clitoris?

2. What is its purpose or function?

3. How far behind a man’s arousal is the average woman?

4. What usually indicates a woman is aroused and ready for penetrations?

5. How do you tell if a woman is having a real orgasm?


1. Above the urethra.

2. Pleasure-stimulation.

3. About 20 minutes.

4. Vaginal lubrication.

5. Sex flush on the chest & body hair erects.

Well, even knowing all or most of this unfortunately won’t guarantee that you are a great lover, but at least you show an interest in matters sexual, and that is a good base.

The truth is that we guys can be a great lover with one woman, and less so with another, or even on occasion with the same one who usually makes us feel great. Yet we want to be perceived as a good, even great, lover. It makes us feel warm all over if we know our partner respects our lovemaking and generally is open to, and eager for, us.

To be or become a good or great lover takes dedication, and an acceptance that while our sexual drive is inborn or innate, how we express that drive is a learned skill. To learn well requires an open mind, and in matters of love, an open heart.

Unfortunately, ingrained in the male psyche is the notion that men need to prove themselves sexually. That is a sad truth. Sad, because it creates pressure on men to perform.

I say to all my patients: sex is not a performance; it is adult play, and a (potentially) profound form of communication.

I say to men: if you feel the need to prove yourself sexually, you are then either with the wrong partner, or with the right partner at the wrong time. The ideal would be for a man (or woman) to go to bed with a partner and not to know whether their loveplay will lead to intercourse. They will flow with the moment and enjoy whatever unfolds.

In my view, the essence of being a great lover is the same as what makes a person a find, mature human being.

Among the important ingredients are: authenticity, congruence, empathy, communication ability, creativity, spontaneity, playfulness, and self-confidence.

These are not qualities we are necessarily born with. Nor do we really reach an endpoint where we say O.K., now we have arrived, “we’re great.” It’s a process rather of becoming, evolving toward these objectives. And, by the way, the same qualities apply whether you are a man or a woman.

Let’s briefly look at these ‘greatness’ ingredients…

Authenticity implies the ability to be real. This is hard to define, but people in contact with you have little difficulty sensing it. An authentic person seems solid, well-grounded, secure. It is the opposite of the poseur, the image conscious cool man, or woman, pre-occupied with how they come across. The authentic person rejects the popular saying ‘image is everything.’

Congruence is a cousin of authenticity. It means that you talk the talk, and you walk the walk. Your mouth and your body say the same thing. You act in accord with your feelings, and you are in touch with those feelings you are expressing.

Empathy is a crucial attribute of mature functioning. Your ability to feel what another person is experiencing, or has gone through, enables you to be a moral person. This helps one to make right choices. Without empathy, morality and thus civilization could not exist.

The ability to communicate is fundamental to nurturing relationships. This applies especially to feelings, and unfortunately is again not a ‘natural’ ability of every man or woman. Yet, we have feelings all the time, but the ability to identify, label and express them can take a lifetime to develop. Certainly, those lucky enough to have had parents or teachers who listened and validated feelings through their growing-up years are very fortunate.

Creativity is a welcome attribute in many human endeavors, and sex is no exception. Unfortunately, many of us growing up don’t get enough support or encouragement to be creative. Indeed, school and life often teach that conformity is the safest way to get by, if not ahead. Further, it does not help that the most readily or easily available models for sexual activity come from porn. These materials, produced factory-like by actors paid to perform on cue, are regrettable and at times harmful sources of ‘sex education.’ Yet, I see many men (and some women) whose sole access to sexually explicit information came from porn videos and magazines. There are better quality, yet still explicit, materials emerging that validate male-female intimacy, and downplay the ‘sex is a performance’ notion, but they are still rather hard to find. A helpful resource on the Internet is drsommers.com.

Spontaneity and playfulness can be considered together. They are the salt and pepper of a good intimate/sexual relationship. With this attitude, lovers can go beyond set times and places for playful erotic interactions, thus creating an atmosphere of surprise and the thrill of the unexpected.

Joanne, an attractive, 35-year-old executive, came to see me with a common problem — she wanted to be able to orgasm with a man. Her last relationship — a 5-year marriage, ended when her husband left her with the complaint: I can never satisfy you. But, she says she actually liked having sex and never complained — yet her husband remained unhappy. He needed to know that he made her come, and thus feel he was a good lover. This attitude is regrettable. Joanne was, and is, an intelligent, sensuous woman who can turn many a man’s head. Of course, the more pressure she felt to come, to perform to expectation, the harder time she had to surrender to her feelings and experience orgasmic release.

So guys, let’s lighten up. We’re not, nor should we expect our partners to be, trained seals, or sex machines with a variety of buttons to be pushed. In truth, no one can make anyone else ‘come.’ Each person allows ‘it’ to happen. If not, this too can be learned.

Now, Joanne, after some treatment, has developed the ability and confidence to have one or more orgasms. She recently met a man she finds very sexy. After a number of dates, she felt comfortable to invite him to stay the night. He was, she says, hungry, a bit “like a bull in a china shop.” With her newly acquired knowledge and confidence, she gently started to guide his hands and convey to him clearly how and where she found his touch most pleasurable. Since she found him open to her feedback, even (wisely) thankful for her guidance, she found the whole initial lovemaking attempt satisfying, though she did not orgasm. No matter. She learned not to become a prisoner of expectations, hers or her lover’s. She now knows that good, gentle guidance, and open communication is the way to establish a mutually satisfying intimate relationship.

The situation with men is no different. Stan, 26, was a stud and proud of it. Tall, slim, athletic, he wore a winning smile and had the gift of the gab. Women were drawn to him and his major problem was whom to choose as his bed companion after an evening out with his buddies at a well-known neighbourhood singles bar.

When I saw him, he was strikingly handsome, but not smiling. In fact, he was downcast, almost crying, as he complained about his failure to perform one night with a ‘hot number.’ He felt devastated and desperate. “Why did this happen to me?” he asked, and “will it ever come back?”

Based on experience, I was able to reassure him that if he goes through treatment and conscientiously does my assignments, he’ll regain his ability to function. But I made it clear that our aim was not to make him able to perform as a stud. Eventually, he came to realize that his previous behaviour was rooted in basic insecurity, which constantly needed reassurance.

Going through the treatment program, Stan learned to realize his potential as an intelligent adult lover able to give up the compulsive need to prove himself, and to live up to some perceived ideal. He became more selective, and was surprised to find sex much more enjoyable.

So, after 30 years of treating couples and single men and women with sexual difficulties, it is clear that sexual health is a complex interaction of physical and psychological factors. Neither can, nor should, be neglected. For example, no matter how considerate a partner you are, how well you communicate, if your personal hygiene habits leave something to be desired — forget it.

What makes sex so fascinating is that it is the ultimate mind-body experience. Sometime, experiment and explore. Touch your lover’s face as you look into their eyes and try to breathe in tune with them. Another time, make complimentary remarks in a low, murmuring voice, such as “I love the way you smell (move, etc.).” Try to make a point of sharing your feelings with your partner, and encourage them to do the same. Above all, remember that developing an exciting sexual relationship can, and usually does, take time. And once you achieve it, it takes tending to, nurturing.

Those without a partner now need to use this valuable time as preparation to become a great lover. Develop those attributes in yourself that will make you a mature adult, and thus a desirable love partner. By doing this, you will send out signals that will attract more suitable, complementary partners. Then together, you will embark on one of life’s most joyous, rewarding activities. You will be dancing among the stars.

One final point to ponder. There is only one organ or body part in females (and none in males) whose sole purpose or function is pleasure. It is called the clitoris. Great lovers never forget this.

– Dr. Frank Sommers