It is so important for every adult, especially those who have been in­volved with porn, to learn to give and receive sensual pleasure with a partner in a way that does not have genital arousal and orgasm as its immediate goal. Being sensual with a partner can heighten physical ful­fillment, allow your partner to feel appreciated for being herself, and encourage both of you to be more curious and open to trying new ways of being together.

The “Sensual Pleasuring” exercise we describe in this section pro­vides a step-by-step approach to finding and enjoying new pathways to pleasure with another person. By going slowly and not touching with the intention of initiating sexual interaction, you both have time to really tune into what you like and can learn more about each other than you’ve ever known.

Couples we have counseled like this exercise a lot. They get a chance to integrate intimacy skills they have already practiced, such as giving each other honest feedback and helpful direction, requesting changes in how they like to be touched, and looking at each other with love in a lei­surely and relaxed manner. Because actual sexual interaction is not part of this exercise, you and your partner can follow your natural curiosities spontaneously, free from feeling you need to perform or behave a certain way. Sensual pleasuring helps you move away from rigid—and perhaps boring or porn-influenced—approaches to sex and find new ways to turn each other on.

While the skills you develop in “Sensual Pleasuring” can significantly inform and enhance your sexual activity, it is important, at least initially, to practice these skills separately from sex. You and your partner may want to start out with a clear agreement you’ll both refrain from initiat­ing sex during the exercise.