Tag Archives: romance

At What Age Does the Romance Peter Out in a Marriage?

“Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series

For all the talk about menopause and the fear many men and women have that it will impede their sex lives, it’s the husband who usually determines how long a couple’s sex life lasts. I wanted to share an excerpt from Joe Beam’s Blog on sex in later life because this fact was a surprise to me, and it might be for you as well. (Joe is a national best-selling author who has been interviewed on many TV news programs.

“My friend Dr. Barry McCarthy is not only a brilliant expert in matters of sexuality, he also is really nice guy… Barry first opened my eyes to the fact that men are as complicated as women when it comes to sex. Early in my sexual studies I was this naive, “Well, guys are guys. We don’t have to worry about them, so let’s focus on helping the women with their sexuality.” Barry gently corrected my thinking on that.

Then he told me that for most couples it is the husband who determines when their active sex life ends. He says that 1/3 of men quit having sex at age 65. Another 1/3 at 75. He didn’t talk about that last 1/3 but I imagine we can just call them “men who die happy.”

Experience with couples affirms Barry’s knowledge. (Of course, Barry’s knowledge is based on scientific research and long experience, so they didn’t really need affirming.) By far, no matter what the age, I am asked by more women than men about how to get their spouses to be sexual again. These are women in their 20s through their 80s. (One 80-year-old caller to my radio program told me that she had outlived five husbands and the guy she is dating now is in his 50s. When she asked if I’d like to see her picture, I replied that I DEFINITELY would.

So, guys and gals, at what age in life should we cease being sexually active?

Death.

Before that, no matter what the age, it contributes to the health of husband and wife, to their bonding, to their fulfillment, and to their relationship. Thinking that stopping sex is the thing to do because you are now XX years old is wrong. You can have sex into your hundreds.

Just be careful that you don’t break a hip.”

So whether you’re in your 20s or your 80s, Joe’s admonition gives us motivation to keep the romance blooming throughout our life-long relationship. Does it surprise you that men seem to determine how long their sex lives lasts in most marriages?

Related Link:

This article by the Daily Mail in the U.K. discusses how several couples maintained passion-filled lives after 60, and why they and several experts believe that is the glue that keeps a marriage together. “The Kinsey Sex Institute states that the average 18 to 29-year-old has sex 142 times a year; 30 to 39-year-olds 86 times a year; 40 to 49-year-olds 69 times a year; and the over-50s have sex 52 times a year. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Growing older in a committed relationship doesn’t have to mean a slow slide into celibacy and slippers.

Photo courtesy of Stockvault by Christian Steiniger

Can lack of thoughtfulness and romance lead to affairs?

I was impressed with the romantic nature of a soon-to-be groom who worked with the Washington Post crossword puzzle editor to have a proposal for his girlfriend worked into the weekend puzzle. Knowing his girlfriend enjoyed the crossword puzzles each Sunday, he carefully planned a proposal that was perfect for her. Truly a romantic gesture. (See story on CBS.)

Most of us are already married, but if we took a bit of that ingenuity and used it in our gift giving or surprises, that could really spice up our lives. Maybe your sweetheart always goes to the same coffee shop in the morning, and you could arrange to have the server give her flowers with her morning cup of Joe. Or maybe your marathon-running hubby could be greeted at the finish line with a large group of friends and family to celebrate.  For a special anniversary, you could run an ad in the paper or post a tribute on their favorite blog.

I admit I’m not so creative in my own life. Even brainstorming these ideas is making me tired. The last nice thing I did for my husband was buying him a special griddle pan he wanted for cooking steaks indoors. And letting him sleep in, which is a big one for someone who often works nights.

The gift of sleep isn’t such a bad idea, even if it’s not so creative. So many of us are regularly exhausted that it’s bound to detract from the energy we give each other. So, perhaps thoughtful efforts are a close second to those ultra creative ones—picking up dinner on a busy night, offering to help with the kids’ or bedtime routine, or offering to run some errands.

In a recent article that uncovered why women cheat, a male writer went undercover (with his wife’s permission) and joined an online site for married cheaters and pretended to seek out women for an affair. I won’t share the link simply because it shares way too much information that would be helpful to would-be cheaters, and that’s not what this blog is about. However, I’ll share a few insights about what cheating women said were lacking in their marriages that led to their cheating. (To be clear, research shows more men than women cheat in their marriages, and far more men join online cheating web sites. It just so happens that this male writer did an expose on female cheaters.)

One interesting aspect of the article was that the writer found himself feeling more than a little tempted when he actually met with attractive, successful women who were willing to cheat. His own wife became jealous that he even “fake” wined and dined several women (individually) over lunch. After all, when had he shown her such attention lately? The project caused a major marital fight, because even pretend cheating feels an awful lot like cheating, doesn’t it?

This brings us to the more important conclusion of the piece, which is that many women are seeking attention from others because they believe they are not getting it from their husband. Even when they have no intention of leaving their marriage, they feel they “need” to get that attention from someone. Some women were willing to flirt online and didn’t take it further than that. Others were willing to meet in person and pursue real relationships. Most often, women told him that they had lost the passion in their marriages, that their husbands no longer pursued them and showed interest in them. Granted, these are women who are capable of lying and cheating, so their husbands may actually be doing all they can on their end. However, the writer felt it was an important enough conclusion to pass along to men to remember their wives are women first, spouses and mothers second.

My take is that no wife or husband can justify an affair because they feel as if they are not getting enough attention. Infidelity is one of the most difficult issues a couple can face, although it can be overcome. Trust is a precious commodity in a marriage. Neither should men or women simply just accept a loveless relationship in which they feel ignored. Many more useful solutions exist, beginning with honest communication about the seriousness of one’s feelings. Loneliness inside a marriage is a major burden.

How did a post about fun tips on how to be thoughtful and exciting turn into one about cheating? I didn’t plan it that way, but it does underscore the importance of putting a little excitement, passion and thoughtfulness into your relationship.

Right now, put three things on your calendar to do for your spouse within the next month that are romantic, thoughtful or exciting. Try to keep your spouse’s specific desires and interests in mind. If you need simple ideas, read 6 Tips to Make Romance Easy & Automatic. Have a happy Easter to all those who celebrate it!

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.com

Resurrect Romance in Your Relationship

 “Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series

Romance is a state of mind. If you have the right mindset, you can make cleaning the bathroom romantic; if you have the wrong mindset, you can turn a moonlit stroll on the beach into a fight.”

I couldn’t agree with Gregory Godek more than this intro to 1001 Ways to Be Romantic. When we consider how to keep the romantic fires of marriage burning, we may be looking for a quick fix or a list of three things to do. And with the right attitude, those three things might make a big difference, but the key is the heart we put into our actions. I’ve shared hundreds of tips on this blog, but the tips themselves aren’t the secret, it’s what you put into the tips that can elevate your love to new heights.

If a man brings home flowers once a month because his wife convinced him that this is an obligation of marriage, the romance may not be present. If a husband brings home wildflowers cut from a field or a book from his wife’s favorite author because he was thinking about her and wanted to do something special, then she will feel the romance.

Even so, Godek says some obligatory romantic gestures should always be followed by spouses—celebrating his or her birthday, getting a gift for Christmas (if you celebrate that holiday), and remembering and celebrating your anniversary and Valentine’s Day. He says these are important must-dos and should be overlooked. Just because they are obligatory doesn’t mean we can’t do them with love!

The fun “optional” romance includes everything else you might do—big or little surprises, candlelit dinners, sharing a bottle of wine on the deck and making a toast to your future, planning a getaway together, sending a card, giving a massage, writing a love note (sticky note or long love letter), buying flowers just because, drawing a bubble bath for two, lighting candles and cooking a special meal, greeting each other at the door each day as if you’ve been apart for months, or any other sweet gesture you can think of.

Romance is a balance of two concepts, says Godek: 1) Actions speak louder than words. 2) It’s the thought that counts. These are two sides of the same coin.

Romance is worth the effort because it will improve your relationship. It will make you feel more loved and secure, and it will make your spouse feel more loved and secure.

Read Celebrate each day in your own way for more on living with an attitude of celebration and romance.

We are one-fourth of the way through the year. How are you doing with planning romance and celebration into your life and marriage?

Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress.com

6 Tips to Make Romance Easy/Automatic

“Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series

Most of us intend to do nice things for our sweethearts, but few of us get around to doing these things. I think the key is to make it as easy and fast as possible.

For instance, I know lots of men “forget” that their wife needs loving notes or touches through the day. If you have a smart phone, you have no excuse to forget. Just as you schedule important client notes or work deadlines, simply program in brief reminders into your week.

  1. For example, Monday morning at 10 a.m. set a reminder to text or email your spouse about something positive from the weekend.  You can even put the reminders in code if you don’t want them to know, but make it easy. Then do it right away. “Had a great time Sat night” or “That lingerie was a hit” or “Thanks for putting up with my extended family this weekend.” Done.
  2. Wednesday at lunch, set a reminder to call and say you were just thinking of him.
  3. Thursday remind yourself to mail a sweet card that you have stashed in your office.  Buy these cards in bulk, pre-address them, and put love stamps on them. Always ready to go. If you don’t want to mail it, hide the card in a briefcase or leave where it will be seen.
  4. Saturday, set a reminder to go hug your wife. She won’t care if the hug comes after your phone buzzes.
  5. Sunday, set an alarm to leave a short sticky note or small gift somewhere they will find it, such as a favorite candy bar or a candle or scented lotion.

 For those who are willing to put a small fund toward creating romance, you can even automate your gift-giving. The first idea came from 1001 Ways to Be Romantic by Gregory J.P. Godek:

  1. Place a standing order with a friendly florist, giving him or her a list with birthdays, anniversary, Valentine’s Day, or “just because” days. Provide a price range and your floral likes/dislikes. Leave your credit card number and a request to send these orders on the selected days, or to call you and go over the orders together a few days ahead of time.
  2. Join a beer/wine/cheese of the month club that allows your guy to get a monthly surprise.
  3. Your husband might even agree to a monthly lingerie allowance to surprise him. Select multiple items at once to save you time.

The key is to make daily romance automatic and easy. If you can’t make time for a two-minute task each day to maintain a romantic atmosphere in your marriage, your lover may not be high enough on your list of priorities.

What is your biggest obstacle to romance—time, creativity or money? Your answer will help me determine what kind of tips to share here.

Related Link:
The 50 best marriage tips ever from YourTango.com.

ABC News reports a good kiss can seal a relationship, while bad kiss can kill it. The video has more research on kissing.

Photo credit: ©Melissa Schalke/PhotoXpress.com

Three Steps to Great Sex

“Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series

 

Thanks to Julie Sibert for today’s fabulous Guest Post:

My husband and I learned early in our relationship two vital pieces of information – he doesn’t like to be hungry and I don’t like to be cold.

Armed with these tidbits of wisdom, we have dodged more discord than I can recount. I would never initiate a lengthy conversation 45 minutes before dinner, when insanity from low blood sugar has settled into my husband’s brain.  Likewise, my beloved knows full well that if we were ever to buy a new car, I would look at no other option beyond the seat warmer.  Literally, this is what the salesperson’s voice would sound like to me: “Blah, blah, blah. Seat warmer. Blah, blah, blah.”

Obviously, it wasn’t too hard for us to weave this information into our marital fabric.  But not all pertinent information comes so easy, does it? Like how to have great sex.

When we were first married, we were pretty clueless as to how to sexually satisfy each other (naked and in love, mind you, but clueless nonetheless). It’s not that we didn’t know what sex was.  We both had had sex before we met each other.  We just had never had sex with each other until our wedding night.

We weren’t naïve about this lack of knowledge.  On our wedding night, we closed the door of our hotel room well aware that we were about to embark on some awkwardness.  Not all couples, though, have such an “eyes wide open” approach.

I am convinced that one of the most perpetuated fallacies ever to befall married couples is that amazing sexual intimacy is natural – that it won’t take effort, time, communication, and lots of trial and error (with a fair amount of humor as well).

So many couples journey years (and even decades) of married life never really experiencing great sex.  Some of you reading this right now are well acquainted with that scenario. It drapes across your marriage bed with heaviness. For you, sexual intimacy has been boring at best, and mere obligation at worse. Maybe it’s even caused overwhelming tension in your marriage.

By “great” sex, I’m not just talking about orgasm, fun and passion.  All very nice elements, I might add.  I’m referring instead to really knowing each other sexually – knowing how to turn each other on and experience mysterious oneness. It’s about more than intercourse. It is instead about the little nuances, touches, techniques, intentions and words that add up to sacred sexual knowledge about each other.

Do you genuinely know what it takes to bring your spouse to the edge of intense pleasure, and then lovingly and powerfully push them right over that edge into unabashed ecstasy?   Do you know how to allow your spouse the privilege of doing this to you? Both are essential sides to the same coin.

While the reasons that thwart great sex are many (and some quite serious), for some couples it is more of a matter of indifference. Sex just fell by the wayside, lost beneath the responsibilities of paying the Visa bill, keeping milk in the fridge and washing soccer uniforms. Life happened, and sex disappeared faster than baby socks in a clothes dryer. Or maybe you never nurtured intimacy in the first place. Hot newlywed sex? Pure myth for many people.

If you can identify with any of this, you’re not alone. It’s not that you don’t love your spouse or value your marriage.  It’s not that you’re opposed to sex.  It’s just that sex falls way down on the list (somewhere between organize your 7,000 digital photos and clean the basement floor drain).  In other words, you never get to it. Or you make love so rarely that the likelihood of really knowing each other is…well… highly unlikely.

Are you ready to change those patterns in your sexual intimacy?

Here are three tips to move sex out of the “ho-hum” category and into the “wow!” category:

1. Call it like it is. If your intimacy has stalled or is non-existent (or is just plain boring), then get courageous and draw this into the light. A conversation starter can be as simple as this: “I know sex hasn’t been the greatest for us, and I am wondering what together we can do about that.”  If it causes you too much anxiety to start a verbal conversation, consider writing your spouse a note. At any rate, take a step to lovingly express that you want sex to be a priority.

2. Start with your hands.  For all the focus put on our genital regions, I think there is a lot to be said for the role our hands play.  Touch is powerful.  If you and your spouse have just been going through the motions – quickly getting to the main attraction of intercourse – you are missing out on a full-body experience.  Learn to caress each other. Vary the firmness of your touch, and take your time.  Some areas of particular arousal can be the neck, ears, head, upper arms, inner thighs, chest, behind the knees and across the lower back. Extreme sexual pleasure is built upon a foundation of being aroused.  Touch isn’t just the opening act; touch is the headliner, too.

3.  Try at least one new thing. I’ve never been a big fan of “variety for variety’s sake.” I am, though, a fervent champion of variety that endears a husband and wife to each other sexually.  A married couple is afforded tremendous freedom to pleasure each other sexually, so break out of routines and learn new ways to please each other.  Try at least one new thing (new position, oral sex, making love in a different room, etc.)  Sure, it will feel awkward at first, but together you can discover depths of pleasure you may have never known.

My last suggestion is this: resist the urge to give up too soon. Within sexual intimacy, we are at our most vulnerable emotionally, physically and spiritually. When we feel vulnerable, we are more likely to retreat if things start to feel difficult.  If you do that, though, you won’t break through to information that could significantly improve your marriage. You do want that kind of breakthrough, right?

Sure, my husband knows I don’t like to be cold. And I know he doesn’t like to be hungry. As beneficial as that information has been, it pales to what we know about each other sexually.

I’d love to write more.  But I need to go push a certain someone over an edge.  If you know what I mean.

Julie Sibert writes and speaks about sexual intimacy in marriage.  You can follow her blog at www.IntimacyInMarriage.com. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband, their two boys and one rambunctious German Shorthair Pointer puppy. © 2011 by Julie Sibert. 

Photo Credit: @PhotoXpress.com

Researchers Share How to Improve Sex Life

“Keeping the Sparks Alive” Series Post 3

Most of the readers of this blog already have the top two ingredients for good sex (according to researchers)—love and commitment.

The Archives of Sexual Behavior released the findings, based on a study of 544 sexually active college students. (So, we’re not talking about married couples here.) Read a summary in Discovery News. The motivations for having sex that were most highly correlated with sexual satisfaction were love and commitment. So, if you and your mate have those two things, consider yourself fortunate.

OK, maybe you have love and commitment, but you still see room for improvement in your sex life. The Journal of Sexual Medicine has some advice for you, which was shared in USA Weekend. (Is it me, or are there a lot of scientific journals focused on sex? It’s apparently a popular field of study.) Scientists reviewed the results of a clinical trial in which women were given erectile-dysfunction pills or a placebo. While the pill was deemed ineffective, more than one-third of the placebo group said their sex lives significantly improved after taking what they thought was medication. The placebo, it turns out, was quite effective. Why?

First, participants were all highly motivated to improve their sex lives. Second, they were asked to have sex at least three times a month during the study and fill out questionnaires. Perhaps placing their attention on their sex lives, along with their desire to improve that area of their lives was responsible for the improvement, suggest researchers. The bottom line is that if you want to improve your sex life, give it your attention and focus.

I’m sure some readers are saying, “I want a better sex life, but my partner doesn’t give it the same priority.” This is a sensitive subject to be sure, and one about which we could have experts commenting for many months. The Generous Husband offered some New Year’s suggestions for men who are hoping to have “more sex in 2011” with their wives. Paul Byerly suggests that making too big a deal out of it may imply that all you care about is sex—and may appear manipulative. Instead, he suggests discussing your sex lives at a carefully chosen time—not when your mate is tired or busy. Approach it in a gentle and positive manner, such as, “I want sex to be even better for both of us.” Getting the topic out there may help open the door for future discussions. You might offer a few suggestions if your partner is open to discuss, but work on the issue gradually, so as not to overwhelm your partner. Focus on helping your spouse enjoy sex more, and you will likely improve their interest in it, he says. Ask your partner what would make sex more enjoyable for them, what would make the bedroom more pleasant, etc.

In addition–and this should not be an after-thought–women (and many men) want to feel loved, touched and appreciated outside the bedroom to encourage more romantic thoughts and ideas. A spouse who is not feeling the love during the day will probably not be “in the mood” that evening.

Whether you’re both in the mood or not, sometimes you need to prioritize sex to keep your marriage strong. In addition, there are many physical health benefits to sex, including stress relief, burning calories, promoting cardiovascular health and reducing prostate cancer risk. Read the details here.

Do you think this research gives you any new, useful information, or is it just confirming what you already knew?

Related Links:

If you find your life is just so busy and chaotic, you don’t have much time for a sex life, consider this Wall Street Journal article in which a woman describes taking time away from her job not for her children or aging parents, but to “extend the honeymoon period” in her marriage. It also suggests some less-dramatic solutions, such as coming home 15 minutes early each day to gain 1.25 hours with your spouse a week.

Interesting quote from sexpert Ian Kerner on CNN this week: “I don’t care what anybody says, real sex with a real person is better than porn any day of the week.  At Good in Bed, we believe that porn is the equivalent of professional wrestling: phony and superficial. It’s like subsisting on a junk-food diet of Gummi bears and Gatorade when you could be having a gourmet meal.” Kerner says the increasing prevalence of porn has created a phenomenon called Sexual Attention Deficit Disorder, in which men become bored or unable to focus on real sex with a real woman. Hmmm, that is SADD.

Photo credit: ©Dmitri  Mlkitenko/PhotoXpress.com

Sex Resolutions and How Much Sex is Ideal?

As promised, this is the first in my Friday series called “Keeping the Sparks Alive!” in which you’ll receive links and suggestions from various experts on how to keep the sexual part of your marriage union in top-notch shape.

While it’s true every marriage has its ebbs and flows as far as sexual excitement (early parenthood being a recognized low for most couples), sexual intimacy should not be placed on the back burner for too long, or the marriage could be irreparably harmed. Remember that while many of the tasks you provide for your family can be outsourced, only spouses can (or should) satisfy sexual needs and desires. It’s a critical component of any marriage.

I’ll begin this series with some resolutions to consider for 2011 from sex and relationship expert Ian Kerner. Joy Behar on CNN interviewed him to ask for some sex resolutions to assist couples. He advised the following:

  1. Have sex once a week. (See note below regarding how to determine the ideal frequency for your marriage.) Make time for it, and get in the mood. Sometimes you have to put your body and mind through the motions before you feel in the mood. If you wait until the stars align and the laundry is complete, it may never happen.
  2. Have a positive relationship with positive interactions if you want to have a sexy marriage. Don’t call your partner names or complain about work, chores or the bills when you meet at the end of the day—then expect your partner to feel amorous.
  3. Invest in your relationship. Kerner says while many couples cut back on date nights and vacations last year due the recession, it’s time to put the investment back in these important activities. After all, he says, divorce is even more expensive.
  4. Cultivate intimacy outside the bedroom. A 30-second hug helps women raise their oxytocin levels (those feel-good hormones released during sex or breastfeeding). For men, it takes a 60-second hug to have this effect.

Those sound like realistic goals, no? Regarding the ideal sexual frequency for couples, author and marital therapist Michele Weiner-Davis says this is a common area of conflict for couples. She says in case you are wondering, the average American couple has sex 1.5 times per week. However, what works well for one couple doesn’t work well for another. The right frequency is whatever works for you both. The problem lies when one spouse has a much higher or lower sex drive than the other. What’s a couple to do?

The worst thing they do is argue about “who is right” and “who is wrong,” she says. Don’t debate it, but do discuss how you might meet in the middle and attempt to meet both people’s needs.  Maintain ongoing communication without being harsh to one another.

Interesting links this week:

I also promised more links this year to other posts. This one by Laura Munson at Huffington Post is a nice follow-up to my first happiness post. Laura found new freedom after letting go of suffering and choosing happiness. Read Laura’s article Living the New Year moment by moment.

Fox News featured Alisa Bowman’s 7 Ways to Fix a Marriage.

The Generous Husband generously posted a guest post by yours truly called 7 Ways a Man Truly Loves a Woman. He also had an interesting idea to come up with three things you each want to change about your marriage this year, one easy, one medium difficult and one that would take effort. Read it here.

Neuroscientists are discovering any time we feel safe, warm, loved, and cherished, we activate the release of small doses of oxytocin in the brain. And oxytocin is the brain’s direct and immediate antidote to cortisol (the stress hormone). If you’re interested in a scientific explanation of how oxytocin levels cancel out stress, check out this article The Neuroscience of Resilience. I especially liked the last few paragraphs.  

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