Thoughts To Live By…

Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Category

Beginning a relationship is generally the easy part; it’s maintaining the connection that gets a little tricky. That’s why a growing number of twosomes (whether or not they’ve tied the knot) are going into couples therapy as a preemptive strike against the tough times that will inevitably hit… and to learn how to keep the good times flowing. To give you a leg up in your love life, we asked the country’s top relationship experts to share the most crucial things they’ve uncovered over the years — from big-picture philosophies to little gestures that go a long way. These practices will help keep your union in a happy, healthy place.

1. Act Out of Character. Couples develop a particular dynamic: the way they relate to each other that repeats itself over and over. If you break that pattern and act against type — in a positive way — you inject new life into the relationship. For example, if you always get angry at your guy when he doesn’t follow through on some chore, try addressing him in a nicer, more friendly tone, then thank him when he does a good job. It works every time. — Toni Coleman, psychotherapist and relationship coach in McLean, Virginia

2. Get in Touch a Lot. No doubt you hug and kiss each other. But simple acts like stroking his arm while you’re watching TV and taking his hand when you’re walking down the street are also ways to bond. Touching your partner throughout the day triggers your feel-good hormones, which reinforces your affection and makes you feel closer on an instinctive level. — Psychotherapist Barton Goldsmith, PhD, author of “Emotional Fitness for Couples”

3. Take Turns Talking. To make sure you both get a chance to state what’s on your mind during a disagreement — and get your points across — alternate playing reflective therapist, where one listens while the other talks. — Psychologist Diana Kirschner, PhD, author of “Opening Love’s Door”

4. Find the Intersection. When making decisions together, try to find common ground. You each should write down exactly what you want. Let’s say you’re angling for a vacay in San Francisco to see the sights and hit up the cool shops and restaurants, while he wants a tropical getaway where he can veg out by the pool and sip drinks with umbrellas in the glass. Now that your desires are clearly laid out on paper, you can pick a place that will satisfy both your needs. A cool city, a little sun… how about Miami? — Paul Dobransky, MD, author of “The Secret Psychology of How We Fall in Love”

5. Be More Positive Than Negative. There’s a more effective way to air grievances than to file an angry complaint. Sandwich your negative comment between two positives. If you want to complain about how he’s always late, for example, try something like “You know, I love that you’re so laid-back and easygoing, but it really bothers me when you show up so late. I’m sure you can still be the fun guy I adore and also be on time.” — Los Angeles psychologist Yvonne Thomas, PhD

6. Echo Each Other. When you and your man are having a serious relationship talk, it’s easy to get so caught up in how you want to respond that you’re not really listening to what’s being said. That’s why it’s important for both of you to repeat each other: so you know you’ve been heard and you feel understood. — Yvonne Thomas

7. Take a Time-Out. Neither of you is perfect, and the quirks you both have are here to stay. So rather than let those annoying traits work your last nerve, try to get in touch with the upside of those particular flaws, even if it’s not immediately recognizable. Instead of getting annoyed when he starts screaming at the TV, for example, remind yourself how much you love his passion. Or if his shyness with new people bugs you, think about how refreshing it is to be with a chill, genuine guy rather than a blowhard who needs to chat with everyone in the room. — Denver psychologist Jennifer Oikle, PhD, dating coach for Coupling Connection

8. Have His Back. You might not agree with your guy when he’s had a riff with a friend or he thinks his boss is being unfair, but you should always be on his side… and vice versa. Otherwise, you’ll both feel like you can’t count on each other. That doesn’t mean you have to take the “you’re so right” route all the time. Just hear him out, and let him know that you’ll support him no matter what. — New York City psychotherapist JoAnn Magdoff, PhD

9. Spend a Little Money on Each Other. You don’t have to wait for a special occasion to give small presents to show your love. In fact, gifts are more fun — and meaningful — when they’re not expected. Try to get into the habit of exchanging sweet tokens of appreciation for no particular reason. Don’t go and blow your paycheck though. It’s not about being extravagant; it’s just a way of showing that you really get — and think about — each other. Maybe you buy him a tee of his favorite band that you saw on sale or he gets you a pair of pajamas in your favorite color. — Barton Goldsmith

10. Be a Good Date. Face it, no one can stay fascinating forever. After being together for a while, the initial excitement fades, and your guy can start to get kind of boring sometimes. Hey, don’t think you’re off the hook — if you’re feeling a little ho-hum about him, the feeling is likely mutual! To combat the blahs, take turns coming up with an interesting date idea every month. Keep the time and details to yourself, and try to think outside the box — dinner and a movie is not exactly innovative. An awesome concert or a snowboarding lesson, for example, is a much less predictable treat. — Jennifer Oikle

Every married couple faces concerns that can cool the hottest love life. Here’s how to keep sex fun and fulfilling.

By Sarì Harrar and Rita DeMaria, Ph.D.

The Reality of Married Lovemaking

When writer Miriam Arond and her husband, psychiatrist Samuel L. Pauker, M.D., surveyed hundreds of newlywed couples across the nation, they discovered that 85 percent had made love before tying the knot, yet the frequency and quality of unmarried sex had little to do with the reality of married lovemaking. Nearly half said that after marriage, they didn’t have sex as often as they’d like; 20 percent of new wives reported low sexual desire. For a fourth of the wives, sex meant painful intercourse or elusive orgasms, while 1 in 10 husbands experienced premature ejaculation, and 1 in 20 had erection problems.

What ever happened to athletic, swinging-from-the-chandeliers, “did-the-earth-move-for-you-too?” prenuptial lovemaking? The deep, mystical, Tantric communing of two spirits? Hours of Hollywood sex complete with mood music, flickering candlelight, and satin sheets?

Sex Guide for Newlyweds
Balancing a sense of intimacy and safety and security with a sense of unpredictability.

“The excitement of getting married gives couples a hit of dopamine — a feel-good brain chemical that increases sex drive. For a few months after marriage, things may stay hot,” says marriage and sex therapist Pat Love, Ed.D. “And while you still love each other and feel passionate about each other, the dopamine does settle down. You’re back to real life. Your normal sex-drive set point kicks back in. Your expectations about married sex take over. It’s the perfect time to do the delicious work of deepening your sexual bond.”

“The challenge for couples is balancing a sense of intimacy and safety and security with a sense of unpredictability and creativity and eroticism,” says Barry McCarthy, Ph.D., a psychology professor at American University in Washington, D.C. “When sexual intimacy is strong, making love plays a healthy 15 to 20 percent role in energizing your marriage. The paradox is that when sex is problematic, it plays an inordinately powerful, negative role in new marriages.”

Understanding the real sexual issues that newlyweds face can help you keep sex fun and fulfilling — now and for the rest of your lives. Experts say these hidden concerns can cool the hottest love life in the early days of marriage:

Mismatched sex drives. “When your sex drive returns to its normal level in the months after you get married, couples start to notice a frustrating desire discrepancy,” Dr. Love says. “It’s perfectly normal. You’ve just got to work it out.”

Testosterone, the hormone of desire, fuels sex drive in men and women. But, Dr. Love says, relatively low levels of natural testosterone mean that two-thirds of all women don’t walk around thinking about sex all the time. “For these women — and I’m one of them — you don’t feel like having sex until you’re already having it,” she says. “That’s perfectly normal. It just means you have to approach sex a little differently. You have to make time for touching, time for sex. You can’t rely on being aroused to get things started. You have to start with relaxed touching and kissing to raise your arousal level.”

Clashing sex-pectations. On the last night of a romantic two-week honeymoon, Priscilla and Greg Hunt bumped up against a radical difference in expectations and desire. “We had been making love three times a day on our honeymoon,” Priscilla recalls. “It was wonderful, but we were about to go back to real life. To work and school and doing the dishes and responsibilities. I had to say, it’s time to talk about moderation.” Says Greg, “Sexuality was a real issue. We were both learning about it in our college courses, but experiencing it firsthand was strikingly different. My testosterone levels were extremely high. We were not evenly matched for libido. We had to work hard to communicate. Sexuality is a very sensitive issue — you have all sorts of feelings and insecurities wrapped up in it.”

Say Hello to Pleasure!

Their solution? A fluid, flexible compromise: “There were times he wanted sex when we didn’t have it and times I didn’t want sex but we did. Thankfully, there were more times when we both wanted to make love. There’s been a natural ebb and flow. It’s something we still have to talk about,” Priscilla says. “This is the reality for every couple: You’re wired differently. If you have enough sexual experiences together that are positive for both of you, you’ll be able to work out the differences.”

This is an issue for many couples who’ve enjoyed a lusty sexual intimacy before marriage and/or during the honeymoon but who settle into different rhythms during day-to-day married life. The solution? Talk it out so that you don’t feel rejected, frustrated, or bored.

First Base, Revisited Don’t wait for all that sexy dopamine to wear off. Using the heat, passion, and “let’s jump back into bed now” sexual urgency of your first months together to explore and expand your repertoire of touch. “The first two years of marriage are critical for building a sexual style that includes shared pleasure and deeper intimacy. Aim for that. Otherwise, sex problems can become the focus of your relationship,” Dr. McCarthy notes.

The sexual prescription? First, go back to first, second, and third base — touching for physical pleasure, not necessarily orgasm or intercourse. And get past old-fashioned man/woman sex roles that stand in the way of an emotionally close and erotic sex life. “Men are often socialized to value performance more than intimacy or pleasuring,” says Dr. McCarthy. “Women are taught to value relating and to see eroticism as the realm of wild, crazy women — not wives.

“Not all pleasurable touching can or should lead to intercourse,” he notes. “When a couple becomes comfortable touching inside and outside the bedroom, they’re building a closer, more solid sensual and sexual bond that will make them feel happier, closer, and even sexier now — and help protect against sexual problems in the future.”

Emphasize pleasure, not just the big O. “Exploration and touch without the expectation of intercourse or orgasm helps couples get to know each other’s bodies and needs — you learn what kinds of touch are pleasurable as a giver and as a recipient,” Dr. McCarthy says. Pleasure and affection keep you close even when you don’t want sex.

Nurture emotional intimacy too. Feeling understood, supported, and valued will make you both feel closer and therefore more receptive to physical closeness.

Plan ahead. Sex-drive discrepancy? Busy schedule? Put s-e-x on the calendar. It’s a fact of life: Most of us married someone who wants sex more often or less often than we do. If you wait to feel turned on before you have sex, you’ll miss out on lots of great moments together. Let touching turn you on rather than expecting to feel aroused first. This may seem totally unnecessary during the hot-and-heavy exchanges of the Passion stage, but experts say it’s the best way to ensure you’ll still be enjoying great sex when your life is complicated by kids, a house, stress, reduced sex drive, and times of conflict.

Low sex drive? Consider saying yes anyway. “People freak out when I say this,” Dr. Love confides. “But if you make time for love and romance and try to say yes when your partner wants to make love — provided you’re not dealing with a compulsive or sex-addicted spouse — you will have a better sex life. Let your partner’s drive get you both into bed, or wherever you’ll make love, so that you can be touched and turned on. Why get into the habit of not doing it?”

Think of life as foreplay. “I found out early on that relational issues that seem to have nothing to do with the act of sex itself make a huge difference to my wife and to her interest in intimacy,” Greg Hunt says. “I learned to pay attention to things I wasn’t naturally good at. If I’m ignoring her and also not paying attention to things like chores around the house, she’s not going to feel cozy and intimate at bedtime.”

Don’t use sex as a bargaining chip. Angry? Say something — don’t grunt or “hmph” and roll over. Withholding lovemaking when you’re upset turns this deep, vulnerable connection into a nuclear weapon for power struggles. Adding layers of resentment to your feelings about physical intimacy is a surefire way to make sure neither of you will be in the mood.

Have realistic expectations. And in particular, dial back on multi-orgasmic, transcendental expectations. Even for the most happily married couples, more than 10 percent of sexual encounters aren’t even pleasurable for one or both spouses, Dr. McCarthy says. An off night — maybe the sex is hurried, you’re tired or distracted, or simply uncomfortable — doesn’t mean you’ve got a big problem. It’s life. Don’t expect perfect sex every time — or wait for the perfect moment to pounce on your mate. Just connect!

Make it eye-to-eye, soul-to-soul. You’ll feel more vulnerable — but couples report they also feel sexier, more attractive, more in-the-moment, and closer when they look into each other’s eyes during sex.

Never underestimate the power of a quickie. You won’t always have all the time in the world for making love — and maybe you don’t already. Don’t overlook fast sex. It keeps the two of you in the intimacy loop, so you don’t jeopardize the compassion, happiness, romance, and understanding that sexual closeness can bring.


The surprising, enlightening, and sometimes hard truths we all face after we walk down the aisle — and how they teach us about what love really means.

“…And they lived happily ever after.”

You’re smart. You know life is no storybook. But admit it: Somewhere deep in your subconscious lurk romantic visions of Cinderella, or maybe Julia Roberts. The images may be sketchy and a little outdated, but you can still make out the silhouette of the bride and Prince Charming riding off into the sunset.

In real life, sometimes your Disney fairy tale ends up feeling more like a Wes Craven horror flick — and you’re the chick who keeps falling down and screaming for her life. I’ve been there. Let’s face it, marriage is not for the faint of heart. You want to believe your pure love for each other will pull you through. And it does. But it ain’t always pretty.

That may sound grim. But here’s a secret: Sometimes it’s the least romantic parts of marriage that have the most to teach you about yourself, your partner, and the nature of love. Read on for some simple truths that will unlock the surprising treasures and pleasures in your imperfect, unstorybook, real-life love.

1. You will look at the person lying next to you and wonder, Is this it? Forever?

When you get married, you think that as long as you pick the right guy — your soul mate — you’ll be happy together until death do you part. Then you wake up one day and realize that no matter how great he is, he doesn’t make you happy every moment of every day. In fact, some days you might wonder why you were in such a hurry to get married in the first place. You think to yourself, This is so not what I signed up for.

Actually, it is. You just didn’t realize it the day you and your guy were cramming wedding cake into each other’s faces, clinking champagne glasses, and dancing the Electric Slide. Back then you had no idea that “for better and for worse” doesn’t kick in only when life hands you a tragedy. Your relationship mettle is, in fact, most tested on a daily basis, when the utter sameness of day-in/day-out togetherness can sometimes make you want to run for the hills. That’s when the disappointment sneaks in, and maybe even a palpable sense of loneliness and grief. It’s not him. It’s just you, letting go of that sugarcoated fantasy of marriage that danced in your eyes the day you and your beloved posed in all those soft-focus wedding photos. You’re learning that marriage isn’t a destination; it’s a journey filled with equal parts excitement and tedium.

Waking up from a good dream to face the harsh morning daylight may not seem like a reason to celebrate. But trust me, it is. Because once you let go of all the hokey stories of eternal bliss, you find that the reality of marriage is far richer and more rewarding than you ever could have guessed. Hard, yes. Frustrating, yes. But full of its own powerful, quiet enchantments just the same, and that’s better than any fairy tale.  Full article

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July 2020


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