Love isn’t dead, but every so often we read something that makes us think it might be comatose.
As the Internet dating world has exploded, with more than 40 million Americans having profiles on at least one of the key dating personal Websites, there is another kind of dating site that has popped up that just makes our blood boil.
Now, there are Websites that cater to married people who are seeking to have affairs with others. These sites guarantee anonymity and discretion and they create a feeding ground for people who have no problem with infidelity. What’s worse is that the founder of the most popular site — the Ashley Madison site with 13 million members around the world — is trying to defend the practice of having extramarital affairs as an aid to couples who are having marital problems.
To those of us who make a profession out of helping people solve their relationship issues, it’s like Charlie Sheen telling kids that drugs are good for you. So, if you have a moment, please allow us to dispel some of these inane arguments before they begin to take root and make some people believe that having an affair is just the shot in the arm their marriage needs.
Noel Biderman, the former lawyer and sports agent who founded Ashley Madison, has been making the interview rounds to promote his site. In one interview, he stated that non-monogamy has always been a part of traditional marriage, dating back to polygamists from the African tribes to the early Mormons. This is a false comparison, because that style of non-monogamy was consensual. Women who married men with multiple wives in those cultures knew they were marrying a man with multiple wives. They had full disclosure. An affair is an act of deception, which involves a married partner in a non-consensual act. They did not have a choice in their partner having another romantic partner — it happened without their knowledge of permission. So, that argument is a crock of ca-ca.
In another interview, he tried to indicate that infidelity is good for marriage, because it’s all about sex. His contention is that someone who wants to have an affair because he or she is dissatisfied with their sex life would be selfish to forego the affair and just get a divorce. His idea is that marriages are often also about raising children and life partnerships, and sex is just one dimension. So, why get a divorce over the sex issue alone? Just have an affair and keep the family together.
There are so many things wrong with that argument, we barely know where to begin. First of all, an affair creates a breach of trust, which many families never survive. And if you don’t think an affair will never be revealed, ask Tiger Woods or Arnold Schwarzenegger how that concept worked out for them. Further, if the sex life is unfulfilling, that creates tension that children will see, making them unhappy, too. Moreover, there is another option other than having an affair or getting a divorce. It’s called working with your partner on increasing the quality of your marital sex life. I understand there are even counselors out there who can help them with that. We know a couple who seem pretty good at that, too.
The last argument he makes on the benefits of affairs is that they are actually good for a marriage because they can bring couples together. His viewpoint is that the affair acts like a wakeup call for a couple in crisis, and gives them the ability to come together to fix what’s wrong with their marriage.
What’s wrong with that marriage is that the trust has been broken, and repairing that trust now becomes the focal point of the work they have to do, not their sex life. In fact, many marital sex lives have a hard time recovering from an affair because the image of infidelity is very difficult for partners to overcome. It’s not that it can’t be done, but a couple that chooses instead to work honestly on fixing their sex life has far less work to do than a couple who must work on trust issues before sex can ever even happen again.
Our advice to married men and women who are contemplating an affair is to stop, take a breath, and examine what it would take to fix what’s wrong with your marriage first. If you can make it work, you should. If you try hard, but just can’t make it work, you should separate. But don’t sacrifice your integrity for a fling that will ultimately change your life for the worse.
In our culture, sex is something we think about often, but rarely actually talk about
According to a recent Ohio State University study, men think about sex about 18 times each day, while women think about sex 10 times a day. What the study didn’t indicate, however, was how many times couples — who between them think about sex 28 times every day — actually talk about sex with each other.
Our culture uses sex to sell cars, beer, snack foods and even household cleaners, when sex should actually be used to bring our relationships closer and heighten our intimacy and enjoyment of our relationships.
No, really. Don’t believe us? Watch a romantic comedy film. ANY romantic comedy. Here’s what you’ll see:
- Boy meets girl (usually Jennifer Aniston).
- Boy gets girl.
- Boy has massive misunderstanding with girl because they communicate like they’re talking on cell phones with spotty signals.
- Boy’s deadbeat, drunken, loser best friend concocts stupid plan to reunite boy with girl
- All hell breaks loose.
- Boy gets girl despite various stupid human tricks because — wait for it — HE TALKS TO HER HONESTLY.
- The End
So, let’s get over it and look at some ideas on what we all need to do in order to talk openly with our partners about sex.
- Expand Your Vocabulary – Words are a really key part of communication. The problem is that there are some words used in discussions about sex that aren’t really good “out-loud” words, and many of us never learned how to use them properly outside of when we yell at drivers who cut us off on the highway. But, if you’re going to really talk about what you want, you need to use all the words that both you and your partner understand. Pointing and gesturing isn’t enough.
- For Better or For Worse – Many times when people aren’t getting what they want out of sex, they focus on the things they don’t like about their partner’s style or actions. That’s never a good place to start. Instead, begin with the things you like, and accentuate the positive. “I like it when you do this. I’d like it if you did that more, and maybe you could add doing that and the other thing, too.” It’s better to gently guide your partner, instead of making demands. Laying in bed with your partner as they make love to you while flipping through the cable channels and mumbling, “No, a little to the left. No… not there yet… softer.. no teeth! I’m not a chew toy… I wonder who’s on Leno tonight…” is probably not going to get you what you want, and it may leave your partner traumatized. Work from the things they do right, and you’ll be able to eliminate the things they don’t do right with a lot more ease and without hurting their feelings.
- Set the Mood – When you want to talk about sex, don’t do it as you’re cooking dinner, with the kids chasing the dog around the house. Use your quiet, private time together for that conversation. Kill the lights, light some candles, and make sure you do it early enough that neither of you are too tired from the day to talk and then try out some of the things you’ve talked about. You’ll get much better results that way.
Talking about sex is not the easiest thing to do, but remember you can change things, if you’re willing to make the extra effort.
This month, as Cal Exotics Sexperts™, we were sent another great product to review. Just a reminder, each product is rated, by our testers (2 couples), using The Love Bird’s Feathers Rating Scale™:
1= “Not so hot” to
5= “VERY, VERY HOT!”
“The hotter the product is, the more feathers it will take to cool you off!”
The new product we received is called the Phil Varone Little Black Heart™.
This micro-sized, heart shaped stimulator is part of Cal Exotic’s Sex, Toys and Rock and Roll Collection and is featuring Phil Varone on the box. For those of you who don’t know who he is, Phil Varone is the former drummer of Skid Row and Saigon Kick. He has also toured with Vince Neil and Motley Crue. He reportedly is a legendary rock star and ladies’ man who has rocked the world of thousands of women while touring.
The Little Black Heart micro-stimulator has push button vibrations. It is also removable from the heart and is waterproof. It can be used alone or with the fully adjustable and removable waist and thigh straps. Thus, you can wear it under clothes, etc.
It is 1 and a half inches long and requires three watch size batteries which are included. In fact, it comes with three extra batteries. Cleans with soap and water or, like we recommend, a sex toy cleaner. The manufacturer also recommends using a water-based lubricant with this toy.
The manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $16.99.
So, how did our testers rate the Phil Varone Little Black Heart™? Watch the video below to find out!
It’s impossible to know where low self-esteem begins.
Maybe it’s during the awkwardness of being a teenager, not really feeling like you fit in. Maybe it’s from a series of failed relationships. With others, it could be the unfair words of a parent or role model. There are literally millions of places where low self esteem begins, but only one place where it can end — with yourself.
Low self-esteem is one of the silent plagues of our time. There are no real statistics for it, because many who suffer from it won’t recognize it to others. They’ll say they are just fine, and suffer in silence.
But we know it’s out there. As counselors, we see it all the time, and in terms of relationships, low self-esteem can be that ticking time bomb of self-fulfilling prophecies that ultimately doom the relationship and most any new one that comes after it.
But knowing where it started cannot be tantamount to finding the blame. Most negative and self-defeating beliefs are the ones we create ourselves. We may not have control over other people’s thoughts or many of the events in our lives, but we definitely have control over our own thoughts and beliefs and what we choose to say to ourselves.
So if you feel you might suffer from low self-esteem, or know someone who does, here are some ideas that can help turn the tide:
- Be Aware – You can’t fix a problem until you become aware of it. Think about some of the negative and self-defeating things you may say to yourself or others. There is a difference between self-deprecating humor as a means to show humility and self-deprecating statements that tend to reinforce feelings of self-esteem. Realize that these thoughts are not helping you. They are only holding you back from feeling positively about yourself and keeping you from all you deserve in your life.
- Challenge – Once you have targeted these negative thoughts, challenge them. To help you with this, imagine what you would say if your child or best friend was saying these hurtful things about themselves? Remember, YOU deserve the same gentle care and love that you so freely offer to others.
- Think Again – If you find during this process that you’ve spent a lot of time with negative thinking, maybe it’s time to think again. Make a list of positive and healthy self-affirming thoughts and read the list often. List your talents, things you enjoy, things you are good at, good deeds you have done for friends. Basically, act as your own attorney and build a case for how cool you really are. If you set to that task, you might be surprised how many good things you may find. You may not even believe them all at first, and that’s okay. This is a process. You are just planting healthy new seeds. It will take time for them to grow.
- Be Grateful – Before you go to bed, create a gratitude list. Make a list of everything you appreciate and are grateful for about yourself and your life. Again, you’ll surprise yourself at how many blessings you have to count.
- Make it a Habit – Once you get through the initial process, keep it up every day. Just like working out, you get better results the longer you do it. Everyday, challenge yourself to look for the positive in all things, including yourself, people, and situations.
Think of these tips as important exercises to help you build your self-esteem muscle. Remember to do them everyday…you deserve it!
Tightening the belt can squeeze your relationship, but it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, sometimes, it can be a good thing.
According to a study, compiled by the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia last month, the recession has both “stressed and strengthened” American marriages. The report stated that while the recession has put “considerable stress” on many American couples, it has also made some relationships stronger and brought people together.
The results are based on a nationally representative sample of 1,197 married Americans ages 18 to 45. The findings, based on information gathered in December and January, offer a recent snapshot of how the current economic climate is affecting married couples in the United States.
The data revealed:
- 82 percent of respondents reported being “very happy” or “happy” in their marriages.
- Among men and women with no financial stress, 87 percent reported being happy or very happy in marriage.
- Only 84 percent who reported one major economic worry said they were happy or very happy.
- Only 67 percent of those who had three major economic worries reported that they were happy in marriage.
- 30 percent of the respondents reported that the stress of the economic downturn had actually “deepened” their commitment to marriage.
While some of those figures are understandable, that last stat was downright encouraging, so we thought we’d chime in with some tips on how to keep the economic stress from souring your relationships.
- You’re in this together – Remember that you are not the only one feeling the pressures and stress in your relationship. This is the time to hunker down and support each other. This is what they meant when they said “for better or for worse.” When times get tight, working together can help make them easier to survive.
- Your relationship is still Job 1 – Even though many couples wind up taking several jobs to make ends meet, don’t let those busy schedules take their toll on your relationship. When you are home, when you are together, remember to make your relationship a priority. Take time to focus on each other and nurture your relationship.
- Make time to communicate – When your work schedules don’t match up, the little things can fall between the cracks. So, schedule a specific time to talk about your day, your plans and other necessities. Just make time to talk, even if it’s just to hear the sound of each others’ voices. Talking is good, no matter what is going on.
- Don’t forget the fun – Make time for fun and enjoy each other. Be creative. Fun does not have to cost a thing. A picnic in the park, a walk through the neighborhood or just sitting on the porch and having coffee can be just as romantic as an expensive meal.
- Don’t forget what you have – There’s a great line in Sheryl Crow’s song “Soak Up the Sun” — it’s not getting what you want/ it’s wanting what you’ve got. Focus your attention on the positive things in your life and relationship. Remember to have gratitude.
If you feel you need help with “stress-proofing” your relationship, please feel free to contact us to schedule an appointment or, feel free to call us at 813-769-9039.
We all know at least one couple who make us sick. Usually, they’ve been together since Michael J. Fox was a child actor and act like they are still on their honeymoon. They holds hands, make the goo-goo eyes at each other and act so sweet to each other that it makes the rest of us reach for the insulin.
But we’ll tell you a secret about them that you may not know. From time to time, they’ll argue. All couples have disagreements, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise. We’re all individuals, and we all have our own opinions and every so often, we’ll disagree on something. It’s a mathematical inevitability. However, not all disagreements have to turn into fights. If you know how to argue in the right manner, there is no reason why disagreements can’t be positive things for your relationship in the long run.
But how do you do it? Well, first, you have to understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy communication. Most people proceed from false assumptions on this front, so let’s get a few things straight. Here’s a list of all the bad assumptions we hear from our clients about their perceptions on communication:
- Agreement = good communication and disagreement = bad communication.
- My partner would agree if he/she would JUST listen to me.
- Yelling, or raising my voice, will make my partner listen better, which will then help them understand and agree with me.
- Name calling or use of threats is the ONLY WAY to make my partner take notice of me and listen, which will then help them understand and agree with me.
- It is better to not talk about difficult things with my partner so we won’t disagree and cause conflict.
- The concerns or problems I have will just go away on their own.
Any of these sound familiar? If they do, read on. It’s time to unlearn what you know and start approaching communication from a different perspective.
Let’s start here:
- First, before you jump right into a discussion, we recommend that you check in with your partner to see if it’s a good time to talk. For example, if your partner just finished a 12 hour shift at work, it’s probably not the best time for a serious chat. Just because something is eating at you does not mean your partner is up for discussing it at that very minute. That doesn’t mean you should wait until your partner takes a day off from work to talk. Just let your partner settle in a bit and let them know you have something you want to talk about.
- Focus on ONE issue or concern at a time. Often people start with one issue and then start adding in other issues including things from the past that are sometimes not even related to the main issue. Be careful and mindful of this…it’s a very slippery slope. When you start bringing up issues from the past, especially if they had been resolved, you’re not working toward solving the problem. You’re working toward trying to be right. You have to ask yourself whether it is more important for you to be right or to solve the problem. Most of the time, these are two different experiences.
- When bringing up an issue or concern to your partner, use “I statements”. This allows you to own your feelings and decreases the chance of your partner becoming defensive. For example, say “I felt ______ when you said or did________.”; instead of “YOU made me so (angry, sad, etc)!” No one “makes” you angry. You make a choice if your partner does X, you’re going to be angry. And being angry never solves anything. Ditch the anger and get to the heart of the disagreement instead.
- If the issue or concern has to do with your partner, focus on their behavior that is problematic. Please do not attack them as a person. After all, if your partner was so bad, why are you together?
- Make requests for change, not demands.
- Try to discuss issues and concerns as they come up or in a timely manner instead of bottling them up and using them for an attack later.
- Remember that everyone has their own beliefs, thoughts, perceptions, feelings, and “truths” regarding an issue or concern. So, when listening to your partner, get curious about their “truth” instead of trying to convince them that your “truth” is more “true” or important. More often than not, you’ll find you’re both saying the same things, just in different ways.
- When listening to your partner, remind yourself that you did not (and cannot ever) cause your partner’s feelings. Thus, there is no need to get defensive. They are just revealing and expressing their perceptions, feelings and “truths” to you. Don’t invalidate their feelings by telling them they have no reason to feel that way. The fact that they feel a certain way is enough for it to be valid.
- Ask questions, if needed, to help you understand your partner’s perception of the issue or concern.
- Then once you understand, sum it up and let them know you got it! Remember, understanding their perception and “truth” does NOT mean agreement on your part. You just want to make sure you have it straight.
Practice using these tips on daily basis with neutral conversations (i.e. your day at work, your dreams in life, where you want to go for dinner, etc.). Please do not wait to try them out during your next argument. Remember, practice makes perfect, and helps you form good communication habits. If you communicate in a positive fashion all the time, disagreements will be much easier to handle.
When we look around, we’re noticing something odd. People aren’t happy.
Not everyone, at least. A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management made it clear that Americans are having problems balancing their home life and their work life. In our profession, we refer to that experience as the “work/life balance” — and according to the statistics, it’s looking like an uneven teeter-totter.
The study revealed:
- Among the 89 percent of Americans who say work/life balance is a problem, 54 percent called it a “significant” problem.
- 57 percent of workers think that their employer is doing enough to address work/life balance issues; 43 percent
- 51 percent of workers say their work/life balance has not changed because of the recession.
- 38 percent of workers say their work/life balance has worsened because of the recession.
- 37 percent of those who do not have adequate balance say time with family is the first thing that suffers;
personal time spent reading or relaxing followed, at 22 percent.
- 44 percent of men ages 34-54 say they do not have adequate work/life balance.
So, if you’re wondering why you’re feeling stressed out, you’re not alone. But there is a way to combat it, if you’re willing to try. From our experience with our clients, here is a list of the top relationship excuses, with some ways to eliminate them from your life:
We don’t have enough time — We hear this far too often. We act and behave based on our values, thus what they are really saying is, “We are choosing to make other things (kids, work, etc.) a priority, and not our relationship with our partner.” We recommend sitting down together with a piece of paper and a pen and taking a look at your monthly schedule. That means all the soccer practices, poker nights, work trips — everything. I think most people will find when they do this that there are items here and there that can be eliminated in favor of some time together.
We are too tired — This is definitely related with the above excuse, but a little more complex. Today, people are so busy with everything else, they are not slowing down long enough to recharge their own batteries, so to speak. As you look at your schedule, don’t look just at how many things you have to do, but how draining of your energy some of them can be. More than that, if you find a way to ensure you’re both getting between 7 and 8 hours of sleep every night, you’ll be able to better handle everything you have on the plate.
You shouldn’t have to work on relationships — Whoever said that originally needs to be hit in the head with a rolled up Sunday New York Times. Are we the only ones who find it ironic that in ever Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy, she always figures it out in the end, but in real life, her average relationship lasts less than the movie’s running time? Life is not like the movies, folks, and relationships do take effort to achieve a balance. Maybe “work” is a term that doesn’t sit well with people, but you can call it what you want. If you want any partnership in life to work, you get out of it only what you put into it. And it doesn’t take much. A little thoughtfulness and extra effort can go a long way with someone who already loves you.
Why bother, he/she won’t change — This excuse is putting all the power and responsibility on the other partner to change, which by logic, means that you’re relinquishing your own responsibility. Sometimes in a relationship, someone has to put on the grown-up shoes make the first move. It’s like being the first to start dancing at a wedding reception. Unless you dance like Elaine from Seinfeld, others will eventually join in. If you make a few healthy relationship changes, it can help motivate your partner to do the same.
We don’t have the money — Well, you got us there. If you want to have a stable relationship, you really do need to finance it. In fact, we think banks should offer “relationship loans,” so people can actually afford to fall in love and be together. Sound silly? Well, that’s because it is. The public park costs nothing, so take a short ride or a walk with some sandwiches you can make with the food already in your fridge. Ride a bike, talk a walk, or just sit out on the porch and laugh at the people who are out jogging. They’re listening to their iPods. They won’t hear you. John and Paul were right when they wrote Money Can’t Buy Me Love, nor do you need it to maintain love. All you need is the time together, no matter what you are doing, to nurture your relationship back to a healthy balance with all the rest of the have-tos you have in your life.
What excuses are currently holding you back from having the kind of relationship you want to have? If you need help challenging these excuses, please feel free to contact us.
As always, wishing you deeper connection and passion!
There is nothing better than a good bedroom partner, and there’s nothing worse than a bad one. The irony is that it could be the same person, just on different days.
And with all the media focus on sex and sexuality, you’d think that couples would talk about it more than they do, but our experience is that they don’t. Honesty in the bedroom is not easy to come by. But the cliche of our profession is “communication.” We are constantly stressing to couples they need to communicate better, but there are more ways to communicate than just through conversation. Non-verbal communication can be just as effective, if not more effective, than talking. With that in mind, we’d like to offer five tips to help you get past the chatter and enjoy yourselves more as couples in the bedroom.
- Flirt – During your courtship, you would flirt all the time with your partner, but once you became a couple, that ended. Why? Just because the initial courtship is over doesn’t mean the romance or playfulness has to be over. Flirt with your lover. Leave a note on the pillow telling them you’ll miss them when you go to work. Make your partner feel wanted. If you know your partner is having a rough day, send them a flirty text. Sexting is perfectly legal and should be encouraged among adult couples. It may certainly help that insurance seminar go faster!
- Be Creative – One of the pitfalls of being an established couple is that you both get a sense of how to satisfy the other. That’s a good thing, but being slavish to those tactics can also make your bedroom play more routine. So, mix it up. Most people use the senses of sight and touch during sex, but you have five senses. Use them all. Scented candles, ambient music to drown out the neighbor watching the zombie movie marathon, flavored lotions or even something as simple as a new negligee can add enough spice to keep your bedroom play from becoming routine.
- In the Mood? – In caveman days, a common way for a man to advise a woman he was feeling amorous was to club her over the head and drag her to his cave. In our experience, that method hasn’t evolved as much as we would like. When you’re in the mood, try some new ways of initiating sex instead of just saying, “hey, you wanna?” If your partner has had a bad day, and you figure sex won’t be on the agenda for the evening, you can turn it around. Pamper your partner with a prepared meal, a soothing massage, and some alone time. If you have kids, send them out to the movies for the night to break the nightly routine a bit so you can focus on your partner. Sometimes, the key to romance can be as simple as having an empty house.
- Try Something New – When we’re kids, we would get all excited about birthdays and the holidays, because it usually meant new toys. Well, now that we’re adults, we can still have the same excitement, because they make toys for us grown-ups, too. Take a trip to a local couples store or surf the Internet. Things have changed in the last few decades, and adult toys are far more mainstream than ever. They advertise them on television now and there are even a few cable shows that review them late at night. Look at them together and explore.
- PLAY! – Aristotle once wrote that there is nothing so serious as a child at play. Well, as sexologists, we can tell you that adults can be darn serious about their play, as well! Remember that sex can and should be fun. It’s something you do together for each other’s enjoyment and fulfillment. It’s okay to laugh in the bedroom (though, laughing and pointing is a no-no!). Accept that there may be interruptions from time to time — the phone ringing, the baby crying, the dog needs to go outside — and deal with them. Heck, when they play baseball and have a rain delay, they still finish the game when the rain stops. Why should sex have to stop completely just because the neighbor wanted to borrow a cup of sugar. Give them the sugar, and get back in the bedroom and re-establish the mood. Make it Game-On instead of Game Over.
If you follow even one of these guidelines, you will breathe more life into your alone time together.
Yours in Romance –
Chuck and Jo-Ann