Why Great Sex Is Never Enough

February 19, 2015



Have you ever been in a relationship where the sex was amazing, but most everything else sucked?

You know … as long as you were physically stuck together, everything was great. Meanwhile outside the bedroom you couldn’t agree on much (unless it was to have sex outside the bedroom).

I broiled in the fire of such an experience for five years during the longest and most significant intimate relationship of my life.

Our sexual chemistry was finger-licking delicious. Always. In five years, we probably had less than a 3-pack of condoms worth of bad sex moments.

Even those were still pretty damn good.

But with our clothes on, we were a disaster. We saw too many things differently, and after a few months together we didn’t really trust each other. She was sure I wanted to be with other women (I didn’t) and I was sure she was always trying to hurt me emotionally (she was, but only because she was in a lot of pain herself).

When things got too tense, I would run away and she would fight harder, which just made me run farther. I always came back once things calmed down though, in large part because the sex was addictive. I would have never stayed around in all that chaos if the sex wasn’t so good. (good thing I stayed around, too, because that relationship has taught me countless massive lessons that I get to turn around and share with others now)

I was 36 when it ended, and clearly still completely ignorant about how to create a relationship that works. Rather than learning how to make it work well, I only knew how to make it exhausting.

Which brings me to the point:

Great sex is never enough.

I know it may already be crazy obvious to some people, but it isn’t obvious to everyone all the time. It’s certainly not obvious to the one who’s caught up in a sexually gratifying but turbulent relationship experience.

The sex was divine.

The other 23 hours of the day were stressful – I even had nightmares about it while I slept.

I tried everything to make it better: couples therapy, self-help books, personal-growth workshops (together and solo), going to a spiritual church and praying to whomever, running away, staying put, and plenty of other curious things I thought might finally bring us blissfully together on all levels.

Nothing worked.

Nothing worked because we didn’t have all of Dr. Pat Allen’s 3 C’s of relationship:

1) Chemistry

Oh, we definitely had that one! At least sexual chemistry. Anytime. Anywhere. Any way. Our bodies just fit. Our pheromones flickered bright and brilliant between us like a Las Vegas light show! Chemistry was never a problem.

2) Compatibility

We were missing this one in some seriously fundamental ways. Although we had enough compatibility to live in the same apartment, it seems we didn’t often live in the same universe.

Here’s a simple example: She was very private and hated it when I shared openly with other people what I was struggling with, particularly if it involved our relationship. I was a budding young writer and life coach. Sharing my struggles in service to both learning and teaching was foundational to how I would offer my best service to other people struggling in their own lives. In fact, I often reflect that I could not do the coaching work I love to do today, or write the way I love to write, if I was still in that relationship.

3) Communication

We didn’t have this one, either. In my coaching work, I’m finding that many couples struggle with communication. While modern culture is trying to teach us how to communicate more effectively with each other, many of us still lack the skills to communicate well.

Further, we rarely explore the differences in how masculine-oriented people and feminine-oriented people communicate. Which is tragic, because that’s what intimate relationships essentially are: interactions between the very different expressions of masculine and feminine being (which are independent of sex organs).

People who consistently express more masculine energy (man or woman) tend to communicate more at the level of thoughts and ideas. People who are more feminine-oriented in their expression (man or woman) tend to communicate at the level of feelings and emotions.

Ignorance of this dynamic causes great strain in relationships. I was always trying to meet her at the logical “level of complaint” while completely missing the emotional body that her words were often pointing at. In other words, I was so intellectually focused on the details of her complaints that I failed to hear her yearning for emotional connection with me. That largely ruined us.

This is a common strain I see among the people I coach. It’s not something we’re taught in our masculine-oriented culture, yet it sabotages us constantly.

Of course many couples do have great communication skills that help them navigate through inevitable storms. Good communication is essential for great relationships.


Great sexual chemistry is wonderful, but it can be so overwhelming that it’s easy to overlook compatibility issues or stressful patterns of communication.

Without compatibility and communication, those thrilling bedroom fireworks can set your whole life on fire, leaving you wrecked and distraught and addicted to a physical love with an awful hangover.

Or, once the physical novelty wears off, you’re left staring at a partner with whom you can’t really talk to or do the things you love to do.

Either way, great sex alone just doesn’t work out well in the long run.

Can you recall how missing one (or more) of the 3 C’s played out in your past relationships? Your current relationship?

Please share your story in the comments below. I’d love to know which C you were missing or affected your relationship the most.

You never know who you might be helping by sharing your experiences and vice versa.

**(Dr. Pat Allen talks about these 3 C’s of Relationship in her book, “Getting To I Do”)

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  • Yep… And sometimes you can have the Compatibility and Communication but the Chemistry is lacking. Somehow it managed to sustain me for way longer than I would have expected but now that he is gone, you can be sure I will be working on having all three C’s in my next relationship…

  • We had the chemistry and one you didn’t mention, profound love that spanned lifetimes. The communication we had to work very hard at, and it has continued to grow and deepen in skill throughout our relationship. The compatibility piece is something that has also been a very difficult piece for us, but because we were so committed to the love and to the relationship as an entity, we have worked hard at that one as well.
    What resulted thus far, after 25 years is that we have both grown in ways we never would have imagined, have experienced many relationships within our one relationship as we change and transform as individual and relational beings over time, and our love has deepened in breathtaking ways.
    We are more compatible in some ways now, but the ways in which we are not compatible serve to entertain us and elicit deep appreciation for the unique ways of being we each bring to the relationship.
    Our communication skills almost drove us apart several times, but rather than take the easy route out, we chose to study communication skills and practice them with each other. The communication piece taught us that our differences are the perfect places in which to nurture and deepen a lasting compassion and a more potent unconditional love, willingness to give at more selfless levels and an intimacy I would not trade for anything on this earth.
    Thank you for writing about this, as it’s given me great food for thought. I always appreciate your wonderful writing and provocative topics.

    • Oceana, this is deeply inspiring. I love that you’ve been able to take those areas of incompatibility and learn to appreciate them for the diversity they bring to your experience. That’s profound. As well as the communication and unconditional love stuff. Your sharing inspires me to really see even more nuance in all the amazing ways relationships can play out over a lifetime. Thank you! Bryan

  • You know? I think I’ve run the gamut with this idea and been in various relationships where to one degree or another, a different one of these was missing each time. Most recently, though, I was in one similar to yours and the word addict describes it best. The chemistry was awesome, it made the stakes feel SO high. In reality, we weren’t sharing openly emotionally which is what actually raises the stakes in a relationship, legitimately. I was stuck worrying about when I was going to get my next fix from someone who was so emotionally closed off, he couldn’t give me anywhere near the kind of partnership I needed, but I couldn’t even see it. One thing I learned though is that Conversation is not Communication. Not on the integral level you’re talking about. This guy and I could talk til all hours of the morning about anything. Funny stuff, serious stuff, gross stuff, you name it. I loved talking to him and I thought that meant we were compatible and had GREAT communication. The reality was we could talk about anything under the sun EXCEPT what was going on between us, what we needed from one another, and essentially anything REAL. It was heartbreaking for a moment when it ended but then surprisingly easy to move on from. I think when you’re in the moment that chemistry feels like it’s EVERYTHING, but when it’s standing alone it really is all smoke and mirrors. In fact it’s maybe the easiest to get over, of the three. Just my experience, but I found your entry to be really accurate and valuable! As always, thank you for making me think!

    • Hi Chelsea 🙂 “Conversation is not communication.” Brilliantly put. I never quite put it that way to myself, but you’re so right. Chemistry is so delicious, and I insist on it, but without that REAL communication, it just doesn’t hold up for long. Well, actually, in my case it held up for about 4 or 5 years; but I know I’m not capable of living that way anymore … at least not for longer than a few weeks … ok maybe a few months 😉 Thanks Chelsea. With love, Bryan

  • Wow! Finally someone has written about what I have been thought for a very long time! He kept trying to tell me that our connection must be “meant to be” since the sex was so amazing. Hogwash! Feeling majorly validated! Thank you, thank you, thank you!! 😉 mikayla

  • You are absolutely right! I was in a relationship for three years, the chemistry could ignite a fire. It did, it set our whole off-balance relationship on fire. Finding the right balance between the three C’s was a challenge for me. I have just done a one year detox from my toxic ways in romance. It’s been the best thing in my life. I feel those three C’s within me now, and I know that I’ll recognize them in someone else, your post put the C-cubed idea into a nice tidy package.

    Also I like your stuff, I tip my hat to you sir.

  • The exact same thing happened to me but what I can’t understand is our supposed “incompatibility”. My ex is a combat vet and since he left the marines, he has been in decompression mode: drinking too much, sleeping around and working as a bartender to continue the lifestyle. I couldn’t be more opposite from that: I’m in graduate school, I don’t drink or sleep around, etc. However, I come from a family of veterans so I do understand a little about decompressing and the effects of war. Who am I to judge someone’s dark past? Especially if the person wants to better themselves and leave the negative behind.

    When we met he said that something about me inspired him to want to be a better man and for a while he was. We had amazing passion. He worked for the forest service instead of the bar and we spent a lot of time outdoors exploring. It was wonderful. He said those days were some of the happiest times for him in years. When we returned to the city for me to go to school, he began to “change”. He returned to work at the bar and it’s like he reverted to form. I found myself trying to keep up with his drinking, he flirted openly with his coworker in front of me, his friends were crass and didn’t seem to have his best interest at heart. He became crass and disconnected but only after working a shift at that bar. It was like a negative energy force field would surround him and I would have to find a way through it. I tried to get him to stop drinking. It turned him into an aggressive, irritable person and I was not equipped to handle it. I broke up with him through a long, vitriolic letter in which I listed all his crimes against me and flaws (I wanted him to understand my pain and to feel it. I was desperate. It was immature and hurtful.) Within 30 minutes of reading my letter he was at the bar drinking with that coworker he flirted with in front of me.

    After two weeks, we got back together but he continued drinking and devolving. He began to devalue everything he loved about me to begin with. He said I was too pure for him and that I liked work too much. He mocked my job opportunites, saying I was going to be another cog in the corporate machine and a part of the “herd”. The worst of it was he started saying that the flirtatious coworker understood him. He said she was his real friend because she poured him a drink when I broke up with him. He said I was trying to change him. He went from wanting to change to be a better man in the beginning to I want to change him… Finally we broke up for good. He immediately jumped into a relationship with the coworker who claims to “understand veterans” and “love his darkness”. They’ve been together now for seven months. I’ve been a wreck.

    We had so much passion. We were so happy once. Is this incompatibility then?

    • Aloha ER

      please tell me you are well beyond that point TODAY!

      and EVERY one else here reading what you shared has got a crystal clear undrstanding of the dynamic.

      I am so proud of you for standing what you knew in your gut to be Right.

      I’m sorry if it seems my reply is simply niceties, but the truth is – I could feedback alot more behind each statement that you shared. You are being spared .

      I pray that you continued 5 years ago (when you posted?) on your path – being more exactly who you are : strong, wise, passionate, and beautiful!

      Bless you,

  • Just Extracted myself from this exact situation. HANGOVER INDEED. The biggest reason I stayed is I thought ide never have sex like this again. WRONG. I had a sexual and oxytocin addiction to a man who was horribly wrong for me. Thank goodness it was only 18 months ….now I have to reclaim self.

  • I’m reading every article with such a sense of familiarity I could have written them from my heart if only I could articulate as well as you. I have experienced much of what you express in your beautiful words and I thank you for containing my ever expanding thoughts on love and the constant need to understand the dynamic in relationships I have had with men I have adored and lost. I breathe a sigh of relief and feel a sense of calm now I have read you work . Thank you xxxx

  • I am grateful for this article, Bryan. Very helpful.
    In most of my relationships with men was great sexual chemistry. I thought that this was “love”, when there is chemistry, it is the right man for me. So far, the sexual energies, the sex had worked, I kept sticking to the relationship. It was a big hook. Sexual attraction was very important for me. I cannot help.
    However, it turned against me: for women -the bonding through oxytocin through sexuality. The addiction.
    There was not much emotional connection in those relationships, not very deep. The sexuality was greatly technical (the guys must have read all the books, they were proud of their sexual, erotic or romance whatever competence: -which was partially true), like without anything deeper. Besides the bed, it was stress for me. In one relationship, I am sure that I met a person with narcissistic personality disorder: they are usually good at bed, but it is all they can (beside induce emotional and other harm).
    It was an interesting experience, but this was never what I wanted. I wanted a loving relationship with chemistry.
    If I were not cheated and manipulated into believing in the love and care of those men and strung along in there, I would have not stayed, neither there would be probably any or not much sexual “life”.
    I became scared of the sexual attraction, scared that I get it wrong again and it will take me years to get out of the “sex-control”.
    Find a nice friendship was never an option for me, it would and had never happen.

    • Aloha dear Marie,
      Two things.
      1. I am so sorry to hear of your pain and past disatisfying experiences.
      2. Wow! I am so inspired by your sharing. You are doing amazing to be so self-aware now, and to describe those experiences objectively.

      Bless you, I know you are on your path now to living even fuller the wisdom that you are (which you shared with us – and was evident – here)

  • Compatibility & Communication!! The “Chemistry” is amazing. Communication: He thinks he knows what I’m going to say and talks over me resulting in frustrated tones until hes silent and let’s me finish a statement (and of course he claims I do the same thing to him when I bring it up). I feel he listens but he doesnt actually HEAR what I’m saying. As for compatibility, there isnt much. I’m a single mother of 4 doing it all on my own; that’s a hard lifestyle to “match” energies and goals with. He doesnt have the daily responsibilities that I have. I fight against any female energies I have (no time for emotional outbursts) and 2 strong masculine personalities is a challenge.

    • Aloha SMom4,
      Isn’t life amazing. I came here, after reaching out to Bry about counselling for meself & my partner of nearly 10yrs.
      Soo juicy every single feedback comment already.. am absolutely complete just taking these in, alone. Then I read yours, which I could literally have written years ago (nearly 9 years ago, I suppose), except that I perhaps didn’t fight against the feminine side in me.
      My beloved was/is also 20yrs younger than me.
      He tried his best to support, but in the end has chosen to be in relationship with me, except doing what he feels he must do, in England, while meanwhile I remain in Ireland.

      These days being acutely sensitive to instant gratification, disposable (and narcissistic) society, one is at the core averse to severing ties in our intimate relations..

      However reading these past comments (and of course, the original writing from Bryan), I must wonder again, did I simply remain in a codependent relationship for too long?
      Wondering, wondering, wondering ..

      The thing is, of course my 2 youngest sons (males again!) grew up with my partner – since they were 4 and 5 years.of age. We’ve all had such tremendous moments of depth and beauty.. and healing.

      The one last factor is that my beloved was/is (trigger warning) a sex addict. Like an eating disorder, it can be intensively epiphanal, and then infrequently, it can be blatantly missing in action.
      The particular mechanism in his story was/is internet porn. And from that (and vice versa) to video game addiction.

      I worked as a Waldorf Early+ Years Teacher and in Counselling settings, especially with re . to addictive compulsive life patterns. “Living the dream (?!!)”, one might say.

      There is no doubt we enhanced each others’ lives immeasurably. But hand in hand with that, we dragged each other thru the coals of codependent coma tide.

      Perhaps twas all just a chapter in learning how to love ourselves without exception and with absolute precision at the end of the day ?

      Hope I haven’t wrecked your head, oversharing ~

      More love to all,


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