If you were zip-lining through the forest, but weren’t sure your harness was properly attached, would you be feeling as much freedom and exhilaration as if you knew you were securely fastened? According to renowned couples therapist Susan Johnson, bestselling author of Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, good sex operates in the same way: partners need to feel safe in order to fully enjoy sex.

“In a loving relationship, we use a feeling of safety to go out into the world and explore, and that includes sex,” Susan says. “Sex is a safe adventure.”

In this video, Susan explains how fostering strong emotional connections—or a “secure base”—allows partners to enjoy sex openly, honestly, and without judgment. What’s more, Susan adds, waning sexual desire between partners usually isn’t due to overfamiliarity, but emotional disengagement.

“In today’s world, we’re surrounded by impersonal sex,” says Susan. “We’re regularly told that sex in long-term relationships is almost always ‘vanilla,’ bland. But hundreds of attachment studies show that thrilling sex is about being secure enough to surrender to the moment—to let go and see what happens.”

Susan Johnson

Dr. Sue Johnson is an author, clinical psychologist, researcher, professor, popular presenter and speaker and a leading innovator in the field of couple therapy and adult attachment.  Sue is the primary developer of Emotionally Focused Couples and Family Therapy (EFT), which has demonstrated its effectiveness in over 30 years of peer-reviewed clinical research. Sue Johnson is founding Director of the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT) and Distinguished Research Professor at Alliant University in San Diego, California, and Professor, Clinical Psychiatry at the University of British Columbia, Canada, as well as Professor Emeritus, Clinical Psychology, at the University of Ottawa, Canada. Dr. Johnson is the author of numerous books and articles including Attachment Theory in Practice: EFT with Individuals, Couples and Families (2019) The Practice of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy: Creating Connection (3rd edition, 2019) and Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy with Trauma Survivors (2002).