Tag Archives: romance

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.  

Photo credit: ©PhotoXpress.com

For a Happier Marriage, Date Your Spouse

With the stress of daily life, work and family responsibilities weighing on you, Lindsey Rietzsch, author of How to Date Your Spouse, suggests changing your lifestyle will make your marriage more fulfilled.

Thinking back to before you married your spouse, there was a period of courtship. Each of you presented your best selves, groomed and dressed as attractively as you could muster. Chances are, you each listened more intently, tried to be funny, and in general were enjoyable to be around. Rietzsch says keeping these behaviors going is how you date your spouse. She breaks it down to seven factors:

  1. “E” for Effort—Arranging a special date night or focusing your attention fully on your partner shows effort. So does making sure the car is tidy, your legs are shaved, and you look your best.
  2. Earn Interest—Ask interesting questions; listen as if you are hearing your spouse for the first time. Look at things from his/her perspective. Appreciate your partner for who they are now. Be interested in your partner’s hobbies, job or interests.
  3. Ignite the Romance—Think about activities for your dates that allow you to be physically close, such as dancing, ice skating, swimming, taking a walk or getting a massage. A woman needs to be romanced and made to feel special. Hold hands, compliment your partner, and make time for intimacy.
  4. Dress to Impress—Make sure you smell good and look good, especially when you go out on dates. Maintain a healthy exercise regimen to give you self-confidence and energy. Wear something attractive to bed.
  5. Build Mystery—Plan some large or small surprises to keep your spouse wondering what’s next. Also, give yourself alone time, time for hobbies or friends, so you are rejuvenated and building interests.
  6. Fuel Excitement—Plan some new and exciting activities together to keep things from getting mundane. Take a trip, go kayaking, sailing, hot air ballooning or something that gets your adrenaline pumping. Even an amusement park or game of football can trigger youthful feelings.
  7. Flirt—Touch your partner throughout the day, say or text sexy things. Praise your spouse publicly and privately.

Rather than making date night a once a month or once a week ordeal, make dating your spouse a lifestyle decision.

What do you find most challenging about maintaining a dating lifestyle, versus getting caught up in the busyness of life and its challenges? For me, it’s making my marriage a priority and carving out regular time to invest in it.

Don’t Take Your Spouse for Granted

“Hug your child every day,” is the often-repeated command of heartbroken parents who have lost a child—wishing they could have just one more opportunity to share their affection. My heart goes out to them when I see them on TV after their tragic loss. It’s a painful reminder that we should not take for granted each day with our loved ones.

Those who have lost something valuable often have important, yet simple, wisdom to share. A widowed neighbor of mine says she advised all her friends after her husband died, “to be sure to tell your spouse every day that you love them.”

Yes, tell them. Then, show them with your attitude, kindness and support. Don’t take them for granted. Don’t argue about petty, unimportant stuff that won’t matter in a week. If you want to go further in demonstrating your love, check out these ideas to show your love.

What would your life be like without your partner? Tell him or her what you appreciate and love about being married to them.

Love-Building Exercises Part I

Is it possible to increase your closeness or feelings of love by using scientifically tested techniques? Robert Epstein, PhD, thinks so. “There is a definite fix for our poor performance in romantic relationships,” he says. The psychologist and longtime researcher is writing a book on how people can learn to love. He recently shared some proven techniques for deliberately building emotional intimacy in a January/February 2010 magazine article for Scientific American.

Epstein says so many marriages fail in large part because we have poor skills for maintaining relationships and “highly unrealistic expectations.” He warns that physical attraction is sometimes confused with love, creating unsuitable unions. So, be careful with whom you share these techniques!

Epstein studied other researchers’ results on love builders and carried out some of his own. He plans to teach others how to use what is known about how people learn to love one another. The key to many of his recommended strategies is that they increase feelings of vulnerability, and that increases intimacy levels. Other intimacy builders include sharing adventures, secrets, personal space and jokes.

Here are the first three techniques. I’ll try them if you will. Maybe plan one of these activities on a date night, and let me know how it works for you. Keep an open mind. I’ll provide some of his other suggestions in a future post.

1. Two as One. Embrace each other gently. Begin to sense your partner’s breathing and gradually try to synchronize your breathing with his or hers. Epstein says after a few minutes, you may start to feel as if you have merged.

2. Soul Gazing. He reports excellent results with this technique, even with perfect strangers. One caveat is it must be mutual gazing; staring at someone doesn’t count! Stand or sit about two feet apart. Look deeply into each other’s eyes, trying to look at the very core of your beings. Do this for about two minutes, and discuss what you saw.

3. Monkey Love. Sit or stand fairly close to one another, then start moving your hands, arms, and legs any way you like—but in a fashion that perfectly imitates your partner. Epstein calls this fun and challenging.

See Part II with more techniques.

Share your experience if you are brave enough to try these. What do you think about using psychological techniques to increase your love and intimacy? Do you believe they work? Have you tried them?

Celebrate good times with spouse to strengthen your bond

Tough times don’t necessarily bring a couple closer, but the way you celebrate big and small successes can strengthen your bond. A study by the University of California-Santa Barbara, reported in this January’s Redbook that couples who celebrate together–everything from completing a home project to earning a promotion or reaching a small goal–have the happiest, most trusting, and most committed relationships.

“When your partner receives bad news, the best you can do is try to ease his pain,” says the study’s lead author Shelly Gable, PhD. “But when you share in his excitement, it boosts happiness becasue he feels like his joy is yours too.”

While you should try to be supportive during the bad times, look for small successes to celebrate in your day or in your week. Celebrate even movement toward a goal, and especially accomplishment of a goal. Friends have a way of enthusiastically supporting one another, but sometimes with a spouse it is easier to become mundane about hearing the minutia of their day or the mini-steps toward their professional or personal goals. Instead, listen for things you can celebrate together. Make a toast. Cook a special dinner. Give a big hug. Mail a card. Send an email. Plan a date. But don’t let the sun go down before cheering on your sweetie.

Speaking of things to celebrate as we enter 2010, I’m happy to report more than 1,300 readers visited LifeGems4Marriage in December and approximately 8,000 people visited the blog since its inception. Thanks for reading and for helping me celebrate what marriage can be.

Happy new year! Don’t forget to read 10 tips for making 2010 less busy and more productive.

How Well Do You Know Your Spouse’s Needs?

Are you sometimes so focused on getting your needs met that you forget that your spouse’s needs may be very different from your own? The successful couples I have interviewed say that by focusing on the needs of their spouse, they have received more than they expected or needed in return.

Barbara Rainey featured a circulating email in a recent article. It’s title: How do you romance a woman?” Answer: “Wine her, dine her, call her, cuddle with her, surprise her, compliment her hair, shop with her, listen to her talk, buy flowers, hold her hand, write love letters, and be willing to go to the end of the earth and back again for her.” Most women would agree with that.

When the question followed, “How do you romance a man” the answer was succinct. “Arrive naked. Bring food.” Clearly men and women see things a little differently.

Ask your spouse how you are doing at meeting his or her needs. Ask if your spouse feels like a priority to you. Even if you both have full-time jobs and a house full of children, your spouse needs to feel like he or she is number one in your life. If your spouse voices concerns, hear them out and take some time to think about how you might address them.

Even if things are going well, make the time to plan something special for next week. Write it on the calendar. Make a date to build some anticipation. Put some romance back in your life. What do you do to keep the spice in your marriage?

Is Love a Decision or a Feeling?

What does the word “love” evoke in your mind? Is it your love affair with cheesecake or warm chocolate pudding? Or an image of you and your sweetie having an afternoon picnic? When you were a child, you probably loved your teddy bear or your parents. As you grow older, your understanding of love should grow and evolve, just like your understanding of everything else. Too often, we have a shallow understanding of love, concluding as long as two people make each other happy, that’s love.

Love has lots of definitions. The most common are 1) a deep feeling of affection or attachment, 2) sexual affection or 3) a strong liking or predilection for something.

I would suggest that none of these definitions encompasses what mature love involves. In my interviews with long-time married couples, their view of love is not the fly-by-night romantic view. You might be surprised to learn the romance and affection is still there even for older couples, but there is something much more, something that happened along the way to make the love richer and more permanent.

What these mature couples have developed is a view that love is an action—a decision—not a feeling. The fact that they have been married a long time doesn’t mean they didn’t face serious obstacles. What it means is that they found a way through the obstacles. They didn’t always feel loving toward one another, but they decided to love anyway. One couple who faced tremendous difficulties including a marital affair early in their marriage, talked about how this decision to love one another changed their perspective. They found that if they led with loving actions, their feelings soon followed. In other words, after they started acting lovingly, they felt more in love. They transformed their entire marriage more than 30 years ago to an extraordinarily loving one that continues today.

Anyone who has children knows that children don’t always act in ways that deserve love, but good parents decide to love them anyway. You can’t say you love your children while you neglect them. Similarly, you can’t say you love your spouse if you neglect him or her and refuse to act in a loving manner when your spouse doesn’t “deserve” it. For example, if your spouse is having a bad day, do you contribute to it, or do you provide encouragement? If you’re having an argument, do you sometimes choose to give in, or do you dig in your heels?

The bottom line is that you have to decide whom to love and how to love. Use your behavior and choices to lead your feelings, rather than allowing your daily feelings to determine your behavior. That’s mature love.

 

To love is to choose.–Joseph Roux