Deep Dive: Do More Partners Make You a Better Lover?
There’s nothing more anxiety-provoking than sharing your “number.” Whether it’s still in the single digits or creeping towards 100, you might wonder if yours is normal and if it has any correlation with your ability to please a partner. It’s said that to master any skill, you have to do it 10,000 times. By this logic, the more sex you’re having, the better you are at doing it. But does that sex need to be had with multiple partners? Can you reach what author Malcom Gladwell calls “the magic number of greatness” with just one partner? Join us as we take a deep dive into the question: do more partners make you a better lover?
Cover Photo: Seb Oliver (Getty Images)
Quantity Is Not Quality
People who’ve had more partners have had a lot more “first times” than those with fewer partners. And as you might have realized by now, first-time sex can be awkward and unsatisfying. It’s more about not embarrassing yourself than it is about mutual pleasure or learning what your partner likes. By this measurement, more partners doesn’t necessarily translate into better sex. It might just be that more sex is more sex.
Fewer Partners = Smaller Repertoire
If you’ve only had sex with a few people, even if your relationships with those people lasted months or years, your sexual repertoire might be limited. Couples tend to find what works for them and repeat it over and over. Those who’ve experimented with many different partners have likely been exposed to diverse preferences, predilections, and kinks, so they might have more moves to draw from than those who’ve had fewer partners.
Don’t buy into the myth that there’s only one way to become a better lover. There are plenty of ways to learn about sex that don’t have to involve having sex. Talking to sexually active friends, watching porn (in moderation, and ideally of the ethical, feminist variety), or reading books, magazines and online info about technique can all be great ways to school yourself in the art of sex without actually getting your hands (and other body parts) dirty.
Intimacy Is More Important Than Moves
If someone has had fewer partners, but the sex they had with those partners occurred in a committed, loving relationship, that person might be more tuned into their partner’s needs and desires. Intimacy is the key to great sex; when you feel safe, close, and comfortable with someone, you’re more likely to have a satisfying sexual experience. Learning how to be intimate with another person (in and out of the bedroom) is much more difficult than learning how to get the angle right in reverse cowgirl, for example. And those who know how to be intimate have a leg up (ahem) when it comes to being better lovers.
Communication Matters More Than Your Number
If you don’t know how to communicate with your partner, the sex is going to leave someone unsatisfied. Being able to converse about what you each like, how to achieve orgasm, and what doesn’t feel good is essential to mind-blowing sex. Communication isn’t necessarily a skill you learn by having more partners; in fact, if you’re having lots of one-night-stand sex, you might miss out on these crucial conversations.
Compare, Don’t Despair
Once you’ve had a lot of partners (especially bad ones), it might make you appreciate when a good one comes along. If you’ve only had one or two partners, you might not know right away if any one person is a good match for you in bed. You might even put up with subpar sex because you think this is as good as it gets. But by getting out there and tasting all the flavors of the sexual rainbow, you might be more likely to identify your favorite.
If You’re Marriage-Minded, Keep Your Number Low
If your goal is to get married someday, you’d be wise to strap on that chastity belt until you meet “the one.” Why? Because studies have shown that the happiest marriages are between those who have only had one sex partner (i.e. their spouse). As the numbers of partners increase for either the bride or the groom, the less likely they are to report feeling satisfied in their relationship. Why this is isn’t necessarily clear, but it might have to do with the fact that people who have only slept with one person haven’t had children with anyone other than their spouse and/or they may share religious beliefs that ground them in a state of gratitude.
There are a lot of elements that go into making a good lover – technique, communication, caring, chemistry – and they aren’t all dependent on racking up a laundry list of people you’ve slept with. Besides, every couple is different; you may have great sex with one person, but someone else might have a lackluster experience. If you have a small number, don’t be ashamed; it doesn’t mean you can’t rock her world. And if your number is nearing the triple digits, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about there, either; but it might be time to try a different kind of experimentation: staying with one partner long-term and seeing how good the sex can get once you really get to know each other.