Choose a Partner You Can Be Playful With

CHOOSE A PARTNER YOU CAN BE PLAYFUL WITH

Hannah Eaton

As children, many of us were encouraged to play and create as we took in the novel world around us with a sense of wonder and awe. Our playful and frolicsome spirits were often celebrated, delighting caregivers and strangers alike and bringing a bit more joy into their worlds.

As we grow older, more often than not, we are encouraged to subdue playful tendencies and to replace them with a more serious and professional air, as we strive to have it all figured out. We are discouraged from climbing trees, swinging on monkey bars, building sand castles, messily finger painting nonsensical artwork, or dancing freely when the music moves us. Our culture conditions us that publicly pursuing childlike activities may run the risk of appearing foolish or unprofessional. We are taught that you only dance when it is appropriate, like during dance classes, in a club, or at a wedding.

And yet, deep down, I believe we all yearn to experience that deep sense of joy and delight we often see on the faces of young children, when they are creatively playing, or dancing freely anywhere they hear music.

I can’t help but to think back to a conversation I had with my dad as a senior in high school, as I was preparing to leave for college the following year. “Life will be really difficult at times,” he said, “which is why it is so important to choose a partner who can be playful with you, and will make you laugh. This element of our marriage has brought your mother and me through some difficult seasons.” While my life had not been all that difficult up to that point, I was fully aware that my father had experienced many family tragedies, so I must have ingrained these words deep into my subconscious.

As an “adult,” I have been fortunate to find a partner who embraces this sense of playfulness in our relationship. Through the inevitable ups and downs of our relationship thus far, we have understood the value of pursuing some “childlike” characteristics. We seek to see the world with a beginner’s mind, delighting together in the novelties of everyday life. We pursue activities that are playful and nourishing to our minds, bodies, and spirits, deliberately encouraging one another that “it doesn’t matter if people give us weird looks.” We support one another by fostering the artists within each other, even if that involves exploring means of creative expression which don’t fit the traditional box of “art.”

Dancing together has been one such powerful means to help cultivate this culture of novelty, play, and creativity in our marriage.

Novelty, or the Beginner’s Mind

In going through the grinds of daily life and the inevitable high and low seasons, it is healthy and nourishing to find new, shared activities as a couple. As children, there is excitement in the abundant novelties we are surrounded by, but as we get older and may feel we have a better understanding of the world around us, we may lose some of our ability to see the world and our experiences from a beginner’s mind.

However, there is great power and potential in strengthening your beginner’s mind as you seek out novel experiences as a couple, or engage in familiar experiences with a fresh set of eyes. Dancing can do this naturally, as every step is a new, endless opportunity.

Research has shown that engaging in novel experiences as a couple activates the brain’s reward system, which can produce favorable benefits for couples. Dr. Arthur Aron and his colleagues conducted experiments and revealed that couples who go on “exciting” and novel date nights, or engage in fun and challenging activities, have higher relationship satisfaction. Such novel experiences release dopamine and norepinephrine, the same chemicals which are released during early romantic courtship.

As a couple, one of the beautiful and powerful elements of dancing with your partner is that you have the opportunity to continually experience novelty together as you learn more about dance in general, and your unique dance as partners. This process can help deepen your friendship and sense of shared meaning, both of which Drs. John and Julie Gottman indicate are key to happy and healthy relationships.

Play, or Twistin’ and Groovin’

As you engage in new experiences or forms of dance as a couple, it gives you abundant opportunities to play and explore with a sense of wonder. During our dance lessons at Flow Studios, we learn new techniques or concepts each week, and then we are given the freedom to play with the ideas and one another as we make the dance our own.

During a recent lesson, our dance teacher, Michael, encouraged us to bring out more of our playful sides. “I want to see you flirting with each other more!” he shouted over the music.

After a long, somewhat stressful day, this type of playful connection is just what I needed. As we began to “flirt” and playfully explore our movements together, I could feel any remaining stress and worries melt away.

Throughout our dance, we continued to make bids for this type of playful and joyful connection, and we had abundant opportunities to choose to turn toward one another in a spirit of childlike play. We may have looked somewhat foolish as we giggled and ruthlessly spun one another in circles, but these types of playful interactions are endlessly freeing.

In recognizing the joy and freedom that comes from dancing, we have been purposeful to take this type of playful connection outside of the dance studio and to move together wherever the music moves us. While our bodies may feel the urge to dance when we hear fun music, we have had to train our brains to let them know that it’s okay, and actually liberating, to dance like children in public at city parks or on the beach.

Creativity, or the Blank Canvas

Dancing as a couple also opens you to a world of endless creative possibilities. Your dance, like your relationship, is unique and an ever-unfolding artistic process. The dance floor is your blank canvas, and you, as a couple, are artists purposefully collaborating and creating something that has never been done before.

This creative process is one you can choose to explore and embrace as a couple. It does not have to be perfect, flashy, or entirely graceful like the dancers we see on “So You Think You Can Dance,” or “Dancing with the Stars.” In fact, your dance may never be so polished. But if you can let go of the notion that art is “over there” (in museums, on TV, on stages), you may begin to see yourself and your partner in this artistic light.

Instead, you can choose to recognize that moving together through space, moment by moment, is a continuously exploratory form of artistic expression as a couple. You can purposefully move across the dance floor or in public parks or, really, anywhere for the sake of creating and pursuing beauty together.

When we shift our perception of art, we have limitless opportunities to create together.

Since we have been taking dance lessons, it has provided us the weekly opportunity to pursue and strengthen a culture of novelty, play, and creativity in our marriage. We eagerly look forward to those evenings where we purposefully let go of the expectations and pressures, learn new tools to navigate life together with creative beauty, and literally alter our brain chemistry for the better.

And, as a bonus, we get to dance.

9 Sexiest Foreplay Tips You Can Ever Use in Bed!

9 SEXIEST FOREPLAY TIPS YOU CAN EVER USE IN BED!

Sarah Summer

Is sex turning boring or predictable? Try these 9 sexiest foreplay tips for men and women and you’ll feel like a frisky horny teen all the time!

Sex is fun and exciting.

Well, it is, at least for the first few months.

And somewhere along the way, it starts to get just a little predictable and just a little boring.

And when you get there, and still don’t do anything to keep the sexual frenzy on a high, it’s only a matter of time before it starts to feel a chore!

Sexual foreplay tips for men and women

You may not realize this, but sexual intimacy is just like romance.

It’s always heart pumping at the beginning, until it runs out of steam and turns predictable and less-than-adrenalin-inducing over time.

And just like you’d rely on gestures and surprises in romance, you need to keep the excitement alive in bed too, by constantly recreating the wheel of sexual passion.

When you’re making love for the first time, as you place your lips on your lover’s body, the sexual tension feels electric. And all you’d need to do is slip your hands into your partner’s shorts to see that they’re all ready and raring to go.

It’s all fun and dandy the first few times, and you won’t have to rely on fancy foreplay to arouse your lover.

But as time goes by, and both of you start to feel just a little more numb to each other’s sexual touches, it’s time to rekindle the passion by arousing the sexual tension straight in each other’s minds.

The right way to sexual foreplay

Remember, as much as it’s worked before, foreplay isn’t just about slipping your hands over your lover’s strategic regions and letting it wriggle about for a few minutes!

If that’s your idea of foreplay, you’re definitely not doing justice to the deed that follows, especially if you’ve been in a relationship for over a few months.

In a seasoned relationship, sexual foreplay is the art of arousing your lover without even getting your hands anywhere near each other’s privates.

If you can master that art, you’d always have the mojo to arouse your lover and keep sex just as exciting as it was the first few times.

The 9 sexiest foreplay tips to burn the sheets in bed!

Does the thought of foreplay in bed stress you out? Or do you wonder what you can do to stimulate your lover and experience the mad rush of passionate sex like a horny one night stand?

Try these 9 foreplay tips, and you’ll see that these tips are not just easy, they’ll explode your mind with sexual ideas and naughty thoughts every time you’re in bed with your sexy other.

#1 Outside the bedroom. Sex is predictable when it’s initiated within the walls of the bedroom. Every now and then, initiate sex outside the bedroom. You don’t have to sit close and slip your hands into your lover’s shorts out of the blue. That’s just predictable again!

Instead, get closer innocently and sit down for a few minutes while watching the television together. Just stroke your lover’s hands or play with their fingers, and when you feel the tingle of love, kiss your partner or cozy up under a blanket. Before you know it, both of you would be having spontaneous sex without even realizing it.

#2 Shock each other. It’s easy to feel sexually desensitized when you see the same package or pair every day, all the time, and at times, even in the most unflattering of circumstances *toilet?*. But by doing something unique and sexually risqué, you can change the numb sensation into a sexual frenzy instantly.

Show your assets off, but shock and awe your partner while doing it. Give your lover a sneak peek in public, sext each other, grind each other on the dance floor, or undress yourself slowly and ask your partner to make love to you while you’re leaning against your bedroom window!

#3 Learn to kiss passionately. Those quick sparrow pecks of goodbye kisses may work while saying goodbye and rushing to office in the mornings. But in bed, that’s one of the biggest sexual turn offs.

Take your time. Even if you’ve kissed your lover a million times, a slow and sensual kiss can still feel just as intimate and sexy as a first kiss. Close your eyes, place your lips on your lover’s lips and play along, while moving your lips softly, slowly and purposefully. Breathe into each other slowly, and just experience the sensation. After all, there is nothing that feels as sexy as a perfect kiss with a lover who knows to kiss you just the way you want to be kissed.

#4 Explore their body. Don’t be in a hurry. As you kiss your lover, run your hands along their back or over their arms or shoulders. Penetration doesn’t have to be the only sexy thing you do in bed. Gently kiss your partner’s neck, their arms and the rest of their body. If your partner moans or relaxes their body, they probably like what you’re doing.

Let your hands linger all over their body, but as you do that, close your eyes and run your lips over the rest of the body. Just experience the way your lover’s body feels against your lips. It’s sensual and arousing, and it’ll surely make both of you feel really horny!

#5 Dirty talk. This is one of the sexiest things in you do in bed. And the best part about dirty talking in bed is that it can help you talk about your darkest sexual fantasies without the fear of being judged by your lover. It’ll bring both of you closer, make both of you feel more intimate, and it’ll open a new door of sexual bliss that’ll make sex feel as exciting as the first time, all the time.

You can talk dirty anywhere, in bed or even in the living room. Just talk about something naughty, be it an incident or a fantasy of yours. All it takes is a few sentences before both of you feel stiff around the loins!

#6 Use a mirror. It’s surprising just how many people find mirrors exciting and fun. Prop a long mirror horizontally on the bed, right next to the both of you. Get naked and play with each other’s bodies while watching each other in the mirror. Just watching your partner getting stroked and teased in the mirror is a huge turn on that’s definitely worth experiencing. And having sex while watching yourselves in the mirror? Well, that just gets even better!

#7 Watch a movie. Sometimes, the stress of foreplay can make sex feel awkward and forced. You know you have to indulge in foreplay, and your partner knows it too. And all the drama and the stress of foreplay can just make you dislike it. So try something else that’ll play the part of good foreplay.

Watch a good porn movie, with a plot that both of you would enjoy. Just slip under the blanket, watch the movie and run your hands against each other. And at some point in the movie, both of you would be more than ready to do the deed yourselves. And then, you get to have sex, watch a sexy porn movie, talk about the acts they’re doing on the movie, and orgasm on a crescendo all at once. Isn’t that just perfect?!

#8 Enact your fantasies. Foreplay is fun for both lovers only when both of you enjoy it. And if you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, you may end up hating foreplay and start avoiding sex just to skip the foreplay.

So try something that you know will excite you and your lover at the same time. Do you have a sexual fantasy that makes you feel horny each time you’re alone? Talk about it with your partner, or enact it with them. It could be something sexually taboo, or a role playing idea or something that you’ve always wanted to do in bed. Talk about it with your lover while stroking each other, and try it. As long it arouses both of you, it’s something that’ll help both of you experience a sexual fantasy and make sex more exciting at the same time.

#9 Naughty games. There’s nothing like a bit of fun in bed to take the stress off sexual foreplay and make sex feel naughtier, kinkier and a lot sexier. Don’t focus on foreplay, and don’t think of sex. On a lazy afternoon or evening, just get into bed, and play a few dirty games. And once you start enjoying these games, you’d want to play them every single day!

Sex can truly be the sexiest thing on earth, even if you’ve been doing it with the same person for several years. All it takes is a few naughty twists to make it as exciting as the first time, every few months.

And if you use these 9 sexual foreplay tips for men and women the next time in bed, you’ll realize how dirty and naughty each of these tips can really be. And you’ll learn just how easy it is to improvise on these 9 ideas and create a new personal sexual foreplay tip yourself!

Couples Who Play Together, Stay in Love Together

COUPLES WHO PLAY TOGETHER, STAY IN LOVE TOGETHER

Kyle Benson

I want you to meet Mr. Rubber Ducky and Mrs. Fabulous Flamingo.

Play is the air that keeps their love inflated.

Without it, both partners would deflate emotionally and feel stuck in a flat relationship.

Dr. Gottman’s research states that 70% of a relationship’s satisfaction is determined by the couple’s friendship. This is true for both men and women.

The couples who found ways to play together at every stage of their relationship stayed together. The couples who didn’t eventually separated or endured an unhappy relationship.

Play makes emotional connection easy and enjoyable. It invites both partners to open up emotionally. Play is a form of intimacy, because it requires an intimate knowledge of your partner’s inner world. A playful friendship with one another creates a strong relationship.

Maybe you grew up struggling with the concept of play. I know I did. I always felt that it came second to winning prizes or achievements.

Your play style is a reflection of the emotional security you were offered as a kid. It remains true for adults. Couples who create an emotionally secure relationship are often more playful than insecure couples.

Couples who lack trust or commitment tend to be kidnapped by their insecurities, thus blocking the part of the brain that activates play.

Learning to play well with each other is also what helps us fight well. Stan Tatkin, PsyD states that “secure couples know that a good fight stays within the play zone.” In other words, the conflict isn’t allowed to get nasty. Since both partners are committed to each other for the long haul, they are able to keep their walls down.

Part of cultivating an Intentionally Intimate Relationship is creating a culture of play.

Here are 3 Ways to Increase Play in Your Relationship:

#1 Try New and Unfamiliar Activities: Psychologist Arthur Aron recruited 53 middle-aged couples to study novelty and boredom in long-term relationships. The couples were asked to do one of three things: (1) engage in activities that were familiar and enjoyable, (2) change nothing about their routine, or (3) to find something new to do together.

After ten weeks, who do you think had a better relationship?

You’re correct!

The couples who did new and unfamiliar activities had a much higher satisfaction in their relationship than the couples who spent their time doing familiar things.

Here are some ideas for you:

  • Take a walk in a different part of town or venture to a new park together.
  • Visit a new restaurant in town.
  • Try a new activity such as indoor rock climbing, roller skating, bowling, or mini golf.
  • Take a day trip. Get in the car and drive. Stop whenever you feel like getting out and exploring.

#2 Reinvent Date Night: My partner and I recently tried a date night box called “Night in Boxes.” The theme was called “blind date.” We were asked to create an obstacle course, and then lead our blindfolded partner through the course using only verbal instructions.

It was a great way to connect and be playful with one another without leaving the comfort of our home. I highly recommend it!

Here are some other ideas:

  • Get dressed up and take a class together, such as salsa dancing, or a paint and wine workshop
  • Bike to a coffee shop to sip warm drinks and chat
  • Take a tour in your hometown that you’ve never been on

#3 Participate in the 7-Day Emotional Connection Challenge: I’m taking a select group of couples on an exciting seven-day virtual adventure—but in the comfort of their own home. Get ready to reconnect with your partner in a very playful way! Check your email tomorrow for more details.

Play is essential to making love last. It is created by both partners and requires intentionality as an adult, since it might not come as naturally as it once did when we were children. Like scheduling sex and date night, we need to schedule time for play, exploration, and adventures. These activities revitalize our love life and deepen our emotional connection.

Without play, partners tend to drift apart from each other, making it impossible to sustain emotional intimacy.

To prevent this, Mr. Rubber Ducky and Mrs. Fabulous Flamingo tether to each other with a long rope. That way if they drift too far apart, they can intentionally pull each other closer and reconnect through playful activities and adventures. Shouldn’t you do the same?

14 Tips to Get Your Partner to Open Up about Sex

14 TIPS TO GET YOUR PARTNER TO OPEN UP ABOUT SEX

Christopher Villa

Do you want your partner or spouse to open up and talk about sex, their interests and the things they want to try in bed? Well, here’s the right way!

Are you having a hard time talking about sex with your partner?

Sometimes, talking about sex is always an awkward moment, especially if you’re in a new relationship.

And at other times, you could be in a seasoned relationship and still feel uncomfortable discussing sex because you’re afraid you may be judged.

If you want to take an initiate to talk about sex, but your partner seems too embarrassed to discuss their ideas and thoughts with you, fret not.

14 tips to get your partner to open up and talk about sex

You can turn even the most prudish of lovers with locked up secrets into a serial confessor using these 14 tips on how you can get your lover to start talking about sex.

Start slow, and take a few baby steps using these tips.

And before you know it, you’ll feel closer to your partner.

And your sex life will feel more awesome and fresh with every passing day!

#1 Past experiences. Don’t confess about your past experiences, especially if your partner doesn’t know just how sexually liberated and active you’ve been before you met your lover. Surprisingly, most partners prefer to stay in the dark instead of hearing their partner’s confession about their kinky past.

If you’re sure your partner would be able to handle your past, slip a few details now and then and watch how they react to it over a couple of weeks.

But if you want your partner to open up about sex talk, let your lover know that you’ve had partners before, and that you’re open to trying new things if it could make both your sex lives more interesting and fascinating!

#2 Avoid the serious talk. ‘We need to talk about sex’ is the last thing you should say if you want to broach the topic of sex and sexual fantasies. Well, that’s unless one of you say something that offends the other.

The best time to talk about sex is when both of you are in bed. The second best time to talk about it is when both of you are just fooling around or relaxing around the house. The third best time to talk about it is when the opportune moment crops up, either because of something a friend said or something you saw on the telly or in a magazine *or in Lovepanky!*

#3 Speak in third person. If you’re feeling terribly awkward about the impending sexual conversation, talk about a *friend of yours* who likes a particular fantasy or has indulged in a particular sexual act.

It’s easier to talk in third person, and if your partner likes the idea, you can always smile sheepishly and confess that you were talking about yourself!

#4 Naughty questions. Want to explore sexual ideas and fantasies without feeling awkward about it? There’s no better way to do that than by using our list of dirty questions. Try them, and you’ll see just how much both of you can learn about each other’s sexual interests in under an hour!

#5 Don’t push it. Don’t go overboard while trying to please your partner, or to prove that you love their idea even if you don’t. Just because your partner enjoys something doesn’t mean they expect you to enjoy the same things. Sometimes, it takes a compromise between sexual interests. And at other times, it has to be a complete no-no.

Talk to your partner about your sexual interests, or hear theirs out. Take some time for the ideas to sink in, and if it’s something you just can’t do, be frank and tell your lover about it *without making them feel judged!*

#6 Delay penetration. What do you do when you get into bed to make love? Do you rush into the act because you find your lover irresistible? Well, stop and take it slow the next few times you’re in bed with them.

Taking it slow in bed, and talking about things either of you enjoy can be a revelation that can make your sex life a lot more interesting. Take time to explore each other, talk about things both of you enjoy and try new things that feel good in bed.

#7 Start the conversation with a confession. But don’t go overboard just yet. If you’ve been trying to ask your partner what they enjoy, and your partner just blushes coyly or pretends like they’re interested in nothing but the missionary, don’t push them on.

Instead, make a small and calculated confession. Brush the surface of something you enjoy and tell your partner about it. And see how your boyfriend or girlfriend reacts to your little confession. Taking it slow can help your partner test their own boundaries without assuming you’re a sexual deviant!

#8 Talk dirty in bed. Dirty talk kicks butt, especially when both of you are completely comfortable to explore each other’s sexual minds without feeling inhibited by it.

If you want your partner to open up to you and talk about the things they enjoy sexually, just start talking about something naughty or dirty while having sex with each other. One thing would lead to another, and before you know it, you’ll unleash a wildcat. And oh yes, the sex will blow your mind too!

#9 Don’t clam up. Don’t judge your partner. Just because your partner says they’ve fantasized about having a threesome or that they like the idea of public flashing doesn’t make them a bad person. All of us have our own sexual fantasies, and as tame as yours may seem to you, there’s a big chance you’ll shock many with your own imagination!

If your partner trusts you enough to share their deepest, darkest fantasies with you, the least you can do is let your partner know you accept them for who they are. On the other hand, if you clam up and appear shocked or annoyed, your partner may feel ashamed and never ever open up to you again!

#10 That annoying feeling. If something your partner says bothers you or pricks you hard, sit down with your partner. Calmly and cautiously, tell them how you feel, all the while reassuring them that you’re not judging them but just trying to understand their sexual side better.

On the other hand, if your partner’s sex talk or sexual fantasies arouse or interest you, ask your partner to elaborate so you can add your own dark experiences and interests into the conversation.

#11 Sex suggestions aren’t criticisms. Understand this well, and remember it. If your partner tells you something in bed that offends you, even for a moment, you need to realize that your partner is revealing it to you only to make both your sex lives better. And your partner isn’t saying it just to hurt you or make you feel humiliated in bed.

Accept criticisms in bed gracefully, or even laugh about it. But make sure you remember it so your partner can feel comfortable enough to share their secrets with you in future too.

#12 The right time. Don’t say the wrong things at the wrong time. If your partner talks dirty or shares a fantasy that you don’t particularly appreciate while having sex, don’t stop the to-and-fro midway and stare at your partner with a shocked expression. And talking about something embarrassing or awkward immediately after having sex isn’t advisable either.

If you really want to go into details about a particular fantasy of your lover’s, talk to them about it a while after they mention it, so they don’t feel judged or insulted by your question.

#13 Be open to the conversation. Ask open ended questions when you’re talking about sex secrets with your husband or wife, and try to see things from their perspective before making judgments.

Discuss things both of you enjoy, and take baby steps into the world of exploring sexual fantasies and dirty ideas together. If it works and something makes both of you super horny, well, good for you guys! And if it doesn’t excite you or your partner, move on, there are enough sexual ideas to set your sexual passion on fire! And it all starts with communication.

#14 Don’t be a prude. Look, if you want to talk about sex and kinky ideas, you might as well throw prudishness out of the window, and prepare yourself for a wild ride of sexual exploration. Reveal your fantasies, get kinky and start by telling the truth about the things you enjoy and the new things you want to try in bed.

Holding your sexual thoughts close to your heart and expecting sex to magically get better with each passing day as the infatuation wears off is like asking for a miracle every time you have sex.

Open your mind, and explore the world of sexual fantasies and dark desires together. And as kinky or as naughty as you may think an idea is, believe me, it’s all been said and done by someone else before!

Use these 14 tips to get your partner to open up and talk about sex effortlessly. And most importantly, you have to remember that we live in a world full of sexual fantasies and deviant thoughts. And as freaky as you think you are, your fantasy isn’t as unique or shocking as you think. So don’t be ashamed. You’re never alone!

10 Tips to Help You Open Up About Your Kinky Side

10 TIPS TO HELP YOU OPEN UP ABOUT YOUR KINKY SIDE

Team Lovepanky

Telling your partner about an unusual thing that turns you on may be disconcerting. But it doesn’t have to be, when you’ve got these tips on hand!

Before you start spinning all those negative thoughts in your head, take a deep breath. A kink isn’t the end of the world – far from it. In fact, it may even bring you closer together. When you’ve got trust in your relationship, you can be pretty sure that your partner won’t just pack up and leave once he or she knows about your particular kink. On the contrary, opening up about something that you find difficult to talk about may even strengthen your relationship!

How to open up about your kinky side

When you’re at your wit’s end when it comes to telling your partner about what turns you on, these 10 tips will help you out!

#1 Change your frame of mind. Try to focus on the positive aspects of telling your partner about your kink. Don’t think about a kinky confession as something that is going to tear you two apart. Instead, think about it as something fun and exciting that you two could explore together. Imagine if you heard a really good band – you’d want to share that experience with your partner, wouldn’t you?

If you approach your kink as something that you’re ashamed of, it will be cast in a negative light. Your partner may even wonder why you seem so negative about it… does it go deeper than they think? But by showing it in a positive, friendly light, you reinforce the fact that it really isn’t a big deal. It’s just something that happens to be a part of your personality… the personality of the person that they like and love.

#2 Practice what you’re going to say. Stand in front of a mirror and rehearse your words. Obviously, you aren’t going to be declaring your kink in front of an audience, but practice helps. Not only will it relax you, but it will also show you that really, in the scope of things, this isn’t that big of a deal. A lot of times we work ourselves up for nothing.

Try to think of the questions that they might ask – however outlandish. Doing this will reduce the amount of fear and uncertainty you feel, because you’ll feel as though you’re prepared for anything that they throw at you.

#3 Set aside some time in a private location. Atmosphere matters. Don’t spring your kink on your beloved in the middle of a crowded dining room or before he or she runs off to work. Instead, a cozy, romantic evening at home can be the perfect time to explore your sexuality and explain what really makes you tick. A good, full discussion of your sexual future may take up to two or three hours. It’s better to schedule more time than to be cut short and let your partner leave with unfinished thoughts weighing upon their mind.

#4 Be as specific as you can be. Once you let the floodgates loose, you may start tripping over your words or trying to rush through things. You may take a quick “affirmative” from your partner, and end the conversation prematurely. You may take a quick “negative” from your partner and then try to play it all off as a joke. Don’t do this!

Here’s the thing. You’ve spent a lot of time thinking about your kink, right? Well, your kink is going to be as much of your partner’s sex life as it is a part of yours, and they’ve had absolutely no time to think about it. Their mind is going to be racing. Don’t let their mind race off on a journey alone. You have to be very specific about what you do or don’t need.

Make sure that you discuss the difference between a kink and a fetish. Kinks are just things that, to put it delicately, rev up your engine. They don’t always need to be involved in your sex life – it’s just more fulfilling if they are sometimes. A fetish is something that has to be involved in your sex life all the time – and that’s usually considered unhealthy. Many inexperienced partners, when confronted with a kink, may worry that it’s a fetish! Make sure that you specify!

#5 Don’t get too defensive. Some people have preconceived notions about kinks. Society places a lot of ideas in a person’s head about the “proper” ways to have sex. Don’t be discouraged if your partner initially laughs or thinks it’s funny. They may not realize just how you feel. Getting defensive will only make the situation worse!

But by the same token, don’t be afraid to defend yourself if your value as a person is questioned. “That sounds weird!” is a somewhat understandable comment for someone inexperienced to make. “You are weird!” is not. Don’t let anyone shame you regarding your kink. As long as it isn’t hurting anyone, there’s nothing to be ashamed of!

#6 Give them room to ask questions. A one-sided conversation isn’t a conversation at all… it’s just a speech. Ask your partner to ask any questions that they have and don’t treat any question as stupid or silly. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, and what may seem perfectly ordinary to you may be something that they simply haven’t experienced before.

#7 Test the waters a step at a time. Remember that you can’t just throw someone into a kink that you’ve had your whole life and expect them to swim in the deep end. Test out the waters slowly at first, and always let your partner know exactly what you’re doing – no one wants something unexpected sprung on them in the heat of the moment, even if it may seem more passionate that way!

Introduce it to them in small stages, and discuss it with them beforehand. “Maybe next time we could…” is a good way to start this conversation. And be open to them saying that they need some time or if they have any suggestions to make them feel more comfortable.

#8 Make your partner feel comfortable. After you have tested out your kink, you need to discuss it with your partner. Don’t just assume that because you’re on the path that you wanted to be on, that everything is OK – there could be a lot going on in the undercurrents.

Find out if there was anything that made them uncomfortable or anything that intrigued them. Let them know how much you appreciate them by being on board with you, and that you know how lucky you are to have a loving partner.

Everyone deserves a healthy sex life, but that doesn’t mean that a partner owes it to you to do these things – they do it because they love you. This is especially true if your kink is something that your partner just isn’t into at all.

#9 Don’t forget to reciprocate. Usually, opening up a discussion about kinks will also lead to your partner opening up about their own sexual needs! If it doesn’t, make sure that you’ve made it clear to your partner that you want to know what will make them happy, too.

But don’t be surprised or confused if your partner doesn’t have a kink. It can be easy for people with kinks to assume that everyone has one and that they are just hiding them. Some people really don’t have any kinks and that’s fine, too.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that they don’t have a preference. A person without a kink likely prefers “vanilla” sexual experiences – so those shouldn’t be neglected in the bedroom either.

#10 Know when to let it go. Some partners can’t deal with some kinks. And you know what? That’s OK. It’s certainly not ideal, but it’s your partner’s prerogative to decide what they find fulfilling in their sex life. You can’t change how a person is or what makes them uncomfortable.

Of course, if your partner demeans or belittles you regarding your kink, you would know that they aren’t the right person for you after all. You’ve just dodged a bullet, and it’s good that you did it as early as possible. But if your partner and you simply can’t see eye to eye regarding your sexual needs, then it may just not have been meant to be.

Revealing your kink to your partner can be scary – but hiding it is even worse. The last thing you want to do is create a strong relationship built on a lie, however slight that lie may be. Sex is an important part of any healthy relationship, and dishonesty about what interests and excites you in bed will only make it harder for both, you and your partner, in the long term. 

5 Tips to Stress-Proof Your Marriage This Holiday Season

5 TIPS TO STRESS-PROOF YOUR MARRIAGE THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

Kyle Benson

When I was a kid, I was giddy when the holiday season came around. I opened presents, ate candy canes, and snuggled with my dogs near the fireplace.

But as an adult, the holidays come with a fair amount of stress. I found there was less fun and more planning, like how you’re going to visit family, what food you’re going to cook, saving money for gifts, going shopping, and so much more.

It’s not uncommon for couples to feel overwhelmed or disconnected during the holiday season, especially if one or both partners feel triggered by certain events. The added stress can create tension and highlight relationship difficulties during a time when it is important to stay connected and feel loved.

But there is a better way through the holiday season, which is getting through it together.

Having a plan and sticking to it is one of the most effective ways to eliminate stress and spend more time having fun and enjoying each other’s company.

Take the Stress out of Holiday Preparations and Decisions

The holiday season can leave a partner feeling unappreciated or resentful for doing all the shopping and cooking, or it can lead to another partner feeling pressured into doing things their partner’s way. But the holidays are a time to come together as a team and create a sense of balance. Try to follow this template toward creating a holiday plan:

1. List out all the chores and responsibilities that require attention. This will give you an objective view for determining who should be in charge of what.

2. Add three columns to the list: one for you, one for your partner, and one for both of you.

3. Read the list together. Talk about each other’s perception of how holiday responsibilities were handled in the past, and discuss how you would like them handled this year.

4. Go through the items that are easy to assign this year and choose who is responsible (you, your partner, or both), check the appropriate task and partner on the list, and set aside the tasks that may need to be talked through for later.

5. For the items you didn’t assign, take the time to ask each other open-ended questions about the task and the difficulties associated with it. Truly listen to what your partner likes and doesn’t like, which is an opportunity to learn something new about your partner and their preferences and concerns.

Then, after both partners feel understood, determine how you’d like to proceed this year, and compromise when needed so that both of you feel comfortable with your plans. You can cover a lot of different kinds of tasks, including cooking and cleaning duties, shopping, travel plans, and holiday traditions that you’d both like to include in your festivities.

ListPartner A’s ListPartner B’s ListTogether List
Warping gifts X 12/22/17
Organizing the grocery list X 12/21/17
Call family & see who is bringing what for dinner X 12/22/17

The goal here is to find win-win solutions that put your partner’s needs on par with your own. Your partner may agree with you or may suggest something else.

Sometimes you may have to do a task together, but that can be helpful if both of you don’t enjoy something that still needs to get done.

Work together to find a solution for this year that satisfies both of your needs. Then decide who is responsible, assign the task, and note the date that it needs to be completed by.

Now you have a better idea of who does what and when, which should already relieve a great deal of stress.

Dr. John Gottman’s research discovered that a purely equal division of tasks isn’t what matters (keeping score can lead to resentment), but instead that each partner feels like responsibilities are balanced. And, of course, modify plans if necessary. If your partner feels overwhelmed, then see if you can help out by taking on some of their tasks, and remember to support each other.

De-stress with Your Spouse

Throughout the holidays, try to take time to have a Stress-Reducing Conversation, which allows you talk about your stressful feelings and thoughts without actually discussing your marriage or any issues you may have with your partner.

Ask some open-ended questions about how they’re feeling this holiday season, but don’t try to problem solve. Instead, truly listen to your partner’s concerns and express empathy.

If you have this conversation every day this season, it can’t help but make your spirits bright.

Verbalize Appreciations

Another way to relieve stress is to offer compliments, gratitude, and appreciation to your partner, which can help your partner stay connected to you.

Make an extra effort to notice the small things your partner does such as grocery shopping, wrapping gifts, taking out the trash, or making time for just you, and verbalize your appreciation. Small acts of gratitude will help uplift your spirits.

If you cultivate an attitude of gratitude around your partner and loved ones during the holidays, everyone should feel more comfortable, appreciated, and emotionally satisfied.

Do the Small Things Often

As Liz Higgins reminds us, “Marriage is Not a Big Thing, It’s a Million Little Things.”

Take a few moments this holiday season and plan three little surprises for your spouse. This could be:

  • A short and sweet love note slipped into their wallet or purse
  • Filling up a hot bath for them to relax in at after a long stressful day (bonus if you join)
  • Dance to holiday music in your home

Take Time to Connect with Your Partner

Most importantly, try to schedule some time for just you and your partner to connect. It may be difficult to get away from family and friends during a busy holiday season, but making intentional efforts to spend a few hours or an evening together will help you feel more loved and stress-free.

Maybe you:

  • Sneak off to give each other a quick massage.
  • Find a mistletoe to passionately kiss under
  • Give each other personalized gifts before the holiday.
  • Snuggle while watching a holiday movie
  • Hold hands while taking an evening walk

If you follow these tips throughout the holiday season, it may bring you closer to feeling that sense of fun, excitement, and wonder that I once felt as a kid. While planning isn’t as fun as decorating and opening gifts, having a solid plan you can rely on enables you and your partner to spend less time stressing and more time enjoying the holiday season.

How to Fight if Your Marriage Matters

HOW TO FIGHT IF YOUR MARRIAGE MATTERS

Kyle Benson

Tough marriage conflicts can turn into a perfect storm.

They can flood the streets of love with the sewage of personal attacks. From what I’ve learned, beating up a loved one is never a fair fight. You know their deepest vulnerabilities, their most important values. This gives you the power to structure what you say in a way that cuts them down with a machete of words.

Have you ever wondered why we do this? Why we intentionally hurt the one we love? Have you ever wondered why we shut down and become “emotionally unavailable” to our partners when they confront us on something that could improve our marriage?

The problem with intense conversations is that they confront the beliefs we hold about our relationship, ourselves, and our partners.

So when something threatens to contradict the beliefs we hold about how things are, our bodies flood with chemicals that increase our heart rate. Our bodies prime to run away or fight and defend our point.

This Happens in Three Stages

Stage 1: We feel shocked by our partner’s comments, actions, or lack thereof. Maybe they are blaming us or accusing us of doing something we didn’t. Either way, our bodies become tense as we experience something we didn’t expect.

Stage 2: We can’t calm down. As our insides flood, we become anxious. We feel as if our life is at stake. The more flooded we feel, the more likely we turn into a reptile. Emotionally flooded people and reptiles have two characteristics: they lack a sense of humor, and they eat each other.

Our heart rate skyrockets and our automatic instinctive reactive emotions take control of our thoughts and actions. The notion of “choosing” is erroneous because the section of our brain that chooses, our neocortex, is no longer in control. The idea of fighting fair is abandoned because reptiles never fight fair.

As we are emotionally hijacked, we become deaf to any positive things our partner may be saying. The narrator of our minds may take on a negative story of us. We blame our partners for the problem. We find flaws in everything they say or do.

And we tell them so.

Stage 3: Emotional Shutdown
If we continue to become flooded without resolve, we eventually become numb to our hurt. It becomes so overwhelming that we block it out completely. According to John Gottman’s research, men tend to become emotionally hijacked easier and stay flooded longer. Since we struggle to soothe ourselves and calm down, we withdraw and go ice-cold to protect ourselves.

From my own experiences, doing so has brought a sense of relief in the heat of a fight. The only problem is that shutting down only makes my partner’s heart rate increase, causing them to flood more. This only escalates the conflict.

Emotional flooding is a major reason why humans suck at tough relationship conversations. In fact, John Gottman’s research indicates that repeated flooding in marriages is a predictor of divorce. Flooding again and again, changes The Story of Us causing us to start to see our partners in a negative light. That light guides us towards the path of betrayal or singlehood.

So how can we not lose it during relationship conflicts? Here are the six steps I use and teach my clients:

The Marriage Conflicts Peace Treaty

Step 1: Awareness. I become aware that I feel like I am under attack by my partner. Sometimes I use the Instant Heart Rate Iphone App to notice how elevated my heart rate is. During emotional flooding, our heart rate can jump up to 20 or 30 beats per minute. My average heart rate is 65 BPM,1 so if my heart rate jumps to the 80’s while I am sitting down and having a conversation, I know my body feels like it is in a war zone.

You can also feel this in your body. You’ll feel overwhelmed. Anxious. You might desire to attack your partner. Be aware of how your body feels.

Step 2: Assert my Flooding. Once I have the awareness I am flooded, I tell my partner that we have to stop talking because I feel like I am going to start attacking her. This isn’t easy to do, but it prevents me from eating her vulnerabilities alive. You can say things like, “I’m losing it.” “I’m flooded and want to attack you.” “I’m getting upset.”

Step 3: Schedule a time to continue the conversation. This is vital if my partner brought up the argument. When I first learned to assert my flooding, I would get the space I need, but I would avoid the conversation next time I saw my partner. Over the following weeks, she would stew over her unresolved problem and tension between us would increase until we fought about it again.

Committing to your partner to continue the conversation allows them to calm down and realize that you can’t control your emotions in the present moment. But they know when you can, you want to solve the problem at hand.

Step 4: Non-negotiated distance. It’s your responsibility to calm yourself down and take care of your flooded state. This is non-negotiable with your partner. You need your space, otherwise your words and actions are going to nuke the love right out of the relationship. John Gottman’s research states that we should take a 20 minute break and emotionally distance ourselves from the conflict.

I go on a 25-minute walk while listening to my favorite songs. Other people play video games or find challenging tasks that consumes their cognitive awareness.

During this time, it’s vital that you think good thoughts about your partner. It’s very easy to stay in your defensive state and stew over feeling righteous, replaying wounding words your partner said, or allow yourself to feel like a victim. The problem is this only escalates flooding. Instead, ask yourself what is good and true about your significant other. Focusing on the good will not only soothe your emotions, you’ll also realize that they are not out to eat you alive!

Step 5: Note triggers. Ask yourself what caused yourself to turn into a reptile. Was it a word your partner said? A way your partner moved? By noting the triggers that cause your flooding, you can help them learn how to discuss uncomfortable topics without drowning you in your own emotions.

FYI – If you know your partner’s triggers, it’s your responsibility to not be a dick. Don’t push those buttons.

Step 6: Soothe each other. Before you bring up the topic of discussion, talk with your partner about what caused you to flood. Thank them for allowing you to take space to keep the relationship intact.

“I’m thankful you let me stop before I said things I regretted.”
“I felt triggered when you mentioned that you needed more space. I think I fear being abandoned by you.”

Battling and becoming aware of our instinctual reactions that cause a perfect storm in love is not easy, but the more times you practice the six steps above, the easier it will become. The healthier and happier your relationship will become. Remember, when emotions become tense, love becomes nonsense. If you want your marriage to last, give it the space it needs to breathe when the fire gets too hot.

  1. For reference. The average 30 year old man’s heart rate is 76. It’s 82 for women of the same age. 

Meaning of Safe Words & How to Use Them When You’re Playing Rough

MEANING OF SAFE WORDS & HOW TO USE THEM WHEN YOU’RE PLAYING ROUGH

Natasha Ivanovic

You know people use safe words but haven’t tried it yourself. Why do you even need a safe word? We’re going to share the meaning of safe words.

If you’re like me when I was younger, then you may not completely understand the meaning of safe words or how to use it. That’s okay because that’s why I’m here.

Up until a couple of years ago, I never used a safe word. I didn’t actually know they existed. In my head, I thought that when you said “stop” it meant to stop. Or when you push someone off of you and say “ouch” that’s a decent sign that what just happened caused you negative pain. I was so vanilla back then. I knew very little about the BDSM community and that’s actually where the whole concept of a safe word originated.

The meaning of safe words

A safe word is a word that you and your partner choose pre-sex, that either partner can use when they feel that the experience is becoming too much. The minute you say the safe word, all sexual activity stops. The dominant partner stops what they’re doing to their partner. It’s basically like a sexual time-out.

Having a safe word provides the submissive partner the opportunity to express to their partner if the pain becomes uncomfortable. Of course, if you’re dominant, you may not exactly know the strength you have. When you’re in the power position, you can get carried away. It happens to everyone.

But now, the concept of a safe word has reached past the BDSM community, making its way into mainstream culture as many couples now have a safe word for when they’re in the bedroom. You don’t have to be tied to a bed or having wax poured on your back in order to know when you’ve had enough.

The great part of a safe word is that it allows you to have fun and explore your sexual boundaries while giving you the opportunity to stop at any time. You basically create an exit that gets you out of the situation. Plus, by using a safe word, you’re free to say whatever you want, even if it’s “that hurt” or “stop.” Because your safe word is usually something non-sexual that you would never use in the bedroom.

But do safe words actually work in real life?

Listen, there are some instances where using a safe word will be difficult. For example, if your partner has gagged you, you’re not going to be able to speak properly. Though, just because you cannot verbalize your safe word, doesn’t mean you cannot create a gesture which means stop. Many people found different ways to show their safe word when unable to say it.

Now, if you’re not into BDSM, that’s cool. You can still use it effectively for consent. During sex, sometimes it can get a little rough. For many people, instead of saying stop, they feel uncomfortable and just wait until it’s over.

I understand why people do that, they feel bad saying something. But with a safe word, you’re nicely telling your partner the boundaries in a way which doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable. You don’t need to explain anything, you simply say your safe word. They stop. So, yes, a safe word actually does work in real life.

How do you choose your safe word?

Now that you know the meaning of safe words and the reason they exist, you may be curious how to find a safe word. Well, there are a couple things to consider when thinking of a safe word.

#1 Use one word. You don’t need a safe word that’s going to be two or three words long. You need one short and strong word that indicates to your partner that they’re going too far. It’s easier not only for you, but also for your partner. You want them to be able to clearly hear and understand the word.

#2 It can be a random word. You do not want your safe word to be something that can be used in the bedroom. In other words, don’t make your safe word “yes” or “no” or “spank me.” Choose a word that no one would hear in a sexual encounter and something that sounds so out of place, your partner notices it right away.

#3 Make sure it’s easy to pronounce. If you cannot say it properly while you’re jogging, then you shouldn’t use it as a safe word. Remember, you want your safe word to be easily audible as that’s the whole point. Make sure you can clearly say it.

#4 Tell your partner the word. You cannot just have a safe word and not tell your partner the word. You need to tell them the word. Make sure they understand what they need to do once they hear the word. Does it mean that they completely stop? Does it mean they continue but be gentler? You decide and then tell them.

#5 Use a common safe word. There are a couple common safe words that many people use which seem to do the trick. These words follow the suggestions above. So, they’re quite effective at what they’re supposed to do.

The most common safe words to use

Not feeling inspired to choose a safe word? Don’t worry, here are some of the most common safe words people use during sex.

#1 The traffic light system. This is an easy way to alert your partner of what they need to do. You say ‘red’ to stop, ‘yellow’ for your partner to slow down, and ‘green’ for them to keep going. All three words are short and sweet to say, plus, everyone can relate to them easily.

#2 Safe word. This is a great safe word when you simply don’t like any of the other safe words, but, can’t come up with your own. Safe word is pretty dull, and well, it’s very clear as to why you’re saying it.

#3 Apple. Well, it’s a pretty unsexy word, in general. So, that’s probably why it’s so popular. If your partner hears ‘apple’ during sex, they should know it’s meant for them to stop.

#4 Vanilla. This is associated with having vanilla, non-kinky sex. If you say vanilla, it’s a cute association that you want your partner to ease up on you and take a gentler route.

#5 Pineapple. I guess this is truly a word you’d never use in the bedroom… unless you’re into pineapples. If so, don’t use this as your safe word. But, pineapple is actually an extremely popular safe word as it’s highly unlikely that they’ll mix it up with anything else.

#6 Unicorn. Yeah, you were probably getting used to all the fruit safe words, but don’t get too comfortable just yet! Unicorn is another common safe word. I guess the odds of you seeing one during sex is pretty rare.

#7 Banana. Unless you refer to your partner’s penis as a banana, I’m pretty sure this is a good a safe word to use.

See, the meaning of safe words doesn’t have to sound serious. You can have fun choosing one and use it in a way that doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable when telling your partner that you’d like to stop.

How to Find the Perfect Man (or Woman)

HOW TO FIND THE PERFECT MAN (OR WOMAN)

Marc Chernoff

This morning, over coffee, one of my good friends spilled her guts to me about all of her failed attempts to find the perfect man.  Although her story is about her unique personal experiences, I couldn’t help but feel like I had heard the same story told by others in completely different circumstances a hundred times before.

It’s a heartbreaking tale about the endless quest for perfection that so many of us are on…

The Perfect Woman

Once upon a time, an intelligent, attractive, self-sufficient woman in her mid-thirties decided she wanted to settle down and find a husband.  So she journeyed out into the world to search for the perfect man.

She met him in New York City at a bar in a fancy hotel lobby.  He was handsome and well-spoken.  In fact, she had a hard time keeping her eyes off of him.  He intrigued her.  It was the curves of his cheek bones, the confidence in his voice, and the comfort of his warm, steady hands.  But after only a short time, she broke things off.  “We just didn’t share the same religious views,” she said.  So she continued on her journey.

She met him again in Austin a few months later.  This time, he was an entrepreneur who owned a small, successful record label that assisted local musicians with booking gigs and promoting their music.  And she learned, during an unforgettable night, that not only did they share the same religious views, but he could also make her laugh for hours on end.  “But I just wasn’t that physically attracted to him,” she said.  So she continued on her journey.

She met him again in Miami at a beachside café.  He was a sports medicine doctor for the Miami Dolphins, but he easily could have been an underwear model for Calvin Klein.  For a little while, she was certain he was the one!  And all of her friends loved him too.  “He’s the perfect catch,” they told her.  “But we didn’t hang in the same social circles, and his high-profile job consumed way too much of his time and attention,” she said.  So she cut things off and continued on her journey.

Finally, at a corporate business conference in San Diego, she met the perfect man.  He possessed every quality she had been searching for.  Intelligent, handsome, spiritual, similar social circles, and a strong emotional and physical connection—absolutely perfect!  She was ready to spend the rest of her life with him.  “But unfortunately, he was looking for the ‘perfect’ woman,” she said.

Everything We’ve Ever Hoped For

As human beings, we often chase hypothetical, static states of perfection.  We do so when we are searching for the perfect house, job, friend, or lover.

The problem, of course, is that perfection doesn’t exist in a static state.  Because life is a continual journey, constantly evolving and changing.  What is here today is not exactly the same tomorrow.

That perfect house, job, friend, or lover will eventually fade to a state of imperfection.  Thus, the closest we can get to perfection is the experience itself—the snapshot of a single moment or vision held forever in our minds—never evolving, never growing.  And that’s not really what we want.  We want something real!  And when it’s real, it won’t ever be perfect.  But if we’re willing to work at it and open up, it could be everything we’ve ever hoped for.

That Imperfect Man (or Woman)

The truth is, when it comes to finding the “perfect man” or “perfect woman” or “perfect relationship,” the journey starts with letting the fantasy of “perfect” GO!  In the real world, you don’t love and appreciate someone because they’re perfect, you love and appreciate them in spite of the fact that they are not.  Likewise, your goal shouldn’t be to create a perfect life, but to live an imperfect life in radical amazement.

And when an intimate relationship gets difficult, it’s not an immediate sign that you’re doing it wrong.  Intimate relationships are intricate, and are often toughest when you’re doing them right—when you’re dedicating time, having the hard conversations, compromising, and making daily sacrifices.  Resisting the tough moments—the real moments—and seeing them as immediate evidence that something is wrong, or that you’re with the wrong person, only exacerbates the difficulties.  By contrast, viewing difficulties in a relationship as normal and necessary will give you and your partner the best chance to thrive together in the long run.

Again, there is no “perfect.”  To say that one waits a lifetime for their perfect soulmate to come around is an absolute paradox.  People eventually get tired of waiting, so they take a chance on someone, and by the powers of love, compromise and commitment they become soulmates, which takes nearly a lifetime to perfect.

This concept truly relates to almost everything in life too.  With a little patience and an open mind, over time, I bet that imperfect house evolves into a comfortable home.  That imperfect job evolves into a rewarding career.  That imperfect friend evolves into a steady shoulder to lean on.  And… that imperfect man or woman evolves into a “perfect” lifelong companion.

Now, it’s your turn…

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think of this short essay.

What resonated?  Any other thoughts on perfectionism’s harmful role in relationships?

I’d love to hear from YOU.  🙂

How to Reconnect With Your Partner After Having Kids

HOW TO RECONNECT WITH YOUR PARTNER AFTER HAVING KIDS

Christina Caron

First things first: This is not another article that simply tells you to “go on a date night.”

Nothing against date nights. The best ones can remind you why you fell in love with your spouse or partner in the first place.

Or they can involve staring at each other in a sleep-deprived haze over an expensive meal while intermittently glancing at your phone for updates from the babysitter.

If date nights aren’t working for you, or if you’ve been struggling to maintain intimacy for months — or even years — after having children, here are some different ways to stay close to your spouse or partner, despite the stresses and frustrations of parenthood.

Try not to become complacent.

Just as there was never a perfect time to have children, there will rarely be a perfect time to rekindle a connection with your partner.

It’s easy to push your romantic relationship to the side: “Let’s get through sleep training first.” Or: “As soon as I get back into shape.” Or: “Maybe when I’m less tired.”

Then winter arrives. “Everyone’s sick again? Let’s wait until we get better.”

But if you keep waiting, experts say, regaining intimacy can become increasingly difficult.

“It seems to have been the norm for so many couples to say to themselves, ‘Now that the kids are here, we’ll focus on the kids. Our day will come,’” said Michele Weiner-Davis, a marriage and family therapist whose TEDx talk about sex-starved marriages has been viewed more than 5 million times. “But here’s the bad news from someone who’s been on the front lines with couples for decades. Unless you treat your relationship, your marriage, like it’s a living thing — which requires nurturing on a regular basis — you won’t have a marriage after the kids leave home.”

Couples may start to lead parallel but separate lives — and discover they have nothing in common.

“They’re looking at a stranger, and they ask themselves, ‘Is this the way I want to spend the last few years of my life?’” Ms. Weiner-Davis said. “And for too many couples the answer is no.”

But all of that is preventable, she added.

“It’s absolutely essential not to be complacent about what I call a ho-hum sex life. Touching is a very primal way of connecting and bonding,” Ms. Weiner-Davis said. “If those needs to connect physically are ignored over a period of time, or are downgraded so that it’s not satisfying, I can assure people there will be problems in the relationship moving forward.”

Slow down and start over.

If you had a vaginal birth, you and your partner may expect to begin having sex as early as six weeks after the baby is born, if you have been physically cleared to do so.

For some couples, that signals “the clock is now ticking,” said Emily Nagoski, author of “Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life.”

But a lot of women simply won’t be ready that early. And that’s O.K.

“After the postpartum checkup, I didn’t feel like myself, I didn’t feel physically ready to have sex,” said Emily Stroia, 33, who lives in Los Angeles. “In terms of libido, I didn’t really have one.”

Ms. Stroia, the mother of a 10-month-old, eventually starting having sex with her partner once a month — but before she became pregnant, they had sex nearly every week, she said.

“I still kind of forget that I’m in a relationship,” said Ms. Stroia, who is struggling with sleep deprivation. “I have to remind myself that I have a partner.”

After any potential medical problems are ruled out, Dr. Nagoski advises couples to “start over” with one another by establishing a sexual connection in much in the same way they might have done when they were first getting to know each other: making out, holding each other and gradually moving in the direction of bare skin.

That’s especially important if there’s a birth parent involved, she added.

“That person’s body is brand-new,” Dr. Nagoski said. “The whole meaning of their body has transformed.”

It also helps to remember that “intimacy isn’t just hot sex,” said Rick Miller, a psychotherapist in Massachusetts.

“It’s steadfast loyalty, a commitment to getting through stressful times together and, most importantly, enjoying the warm, cozy moments of home together,” Mr. Miller said.

Put on your life preserver first.

Taking the time to nurture your individual physical and emotional needs will give you the bandwidth to nurture your relationship, too, so that it doesn’t feel like another task on the to-do list.

“When you experience your partner’s desire for intimacy as an intrusion, ask yourself, ‘How deprived am I in my own self-care? What do I need to do to take care of myself in order to feel connected to my own sexuality?’” said Dr. Alexandra Sacks, a reproductive psychiatrist and host of the “Motherhood Sessions” podcast.

That might mean going to the gym or talking to your partner about decreasing the invisible mental load that is often carried by one parent.

Enlisting the support of your family (or your chosen family) to take some time for yourself or discuss some of the struggles that accompany parenting can help you recharge.

“Relying on others is an indirect way of working on intimacy,” Mr. Miller said.

This is especially important for gay couples, he added, who may not typically share vulnerabilities “because the world hasn’t been a safe place.”

Practicing self-care as a couple is equally important.

Dr. Sacks recommends making a list of everything you used to do together as a couple that helped you feel close, and thinking about how those rituals have changed.

Is your toddler sleeping in your bed, spread out like a sea star between you and your partner? Have you stopped doing the things together you used to really enjoy like working out or going to the movies? Dr. Sacks recommends thinking about how you’re going to make an adjustment in order to create physical and emotional intimacy with your partner.

For example, if you always used to talk about your day together and now that time is completely absorbed by caregiving, the absence of that connection will be profound.

“You can’t just eliminate it and expect to feel as close,” she said.

Think about what turns you on.

According to Dr. Nagoski, one way to nurture intimacy is to remind yourselves of the context in which you had a great sexual connection together.

What characteristics did your partner have? What characteristics did your relationship have?

Then, she said, think about the setting.

“Were we at home with the door locked? Were we on vacation? Was it over text? Was it at a party in a closet at a stranger’s house against a wall of other people’s coats? What context really works for us?” Dr. Nagoski said.

When doing this exercise, and when thinking about your current libido (or lack thereof) it’s also helpful to remember that not everyone experiences spontaneous desire — the kind of sexual desire that pops out of nowhere. For example, you’re walking down the street and suddenly can’t stop thinking about sex.

Millions of other people experience something different called responsive desire, which stems from erotic stimulation. In other words, arousal comes first and then desire.

Both types of desire are normal.

Create a magic circle in your bedroom.

Dr. Nagoski suggested cordoning off an imaginative protected space in your mind where you can “bring forward the aspects of your identity that are relevant to your erotic connection and you close the door on the parts of yourself that are not important for an erotic connection.”

With enough focus, this strategy can work even if the physical space you’re using contains reminders of your role as a caregiver.

It can also help to think of your bedroom as a sanctuary, advised Ms. Weiner-Davis.

For couples who have spent years co-sleeping with their children, that can be somewhat difficult.

“I do believe there comes a point where it’s important to have those boundaries again,” Ms. Weiner-Davis said.

Don’t bank on spontaneity.

It’s easy to forget how much time and effort we put into our relationships in the early days: planning for dates, caring for our bodies and (gasp) having long conversations with one another.

“People feel sort of sad when they get that news that yes, it does require effort to build a connection across a lifetime,” Dr. Nagoski said. “You don’t just dive in — you don’t just put your body in the bed and put your genitals against each other and expect for it to be ecstatic.”

Karen Jeffries (a pen name she uses as a writer and performer to protect her privacy) said her sex life with her husband is better than ever after having had two children. They’ve always had a strong physical connection, she said. But they also plan ahead and prioritize.

“There are times where I’ll text him and I’ll be like, ‘We’re having sex tonight,’ and he’ll be like ‘O.K.’ or vice versa,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll send him a picture of a taco and he’ll send me a picture of an eggplant.”

Ms. Jeffries, 37, a fourth-grade dual-language teacher in Westchester County, N.Y., is the author of “Hilariously Infertile,” an account of the fertility treatments she endured to conceive her two daughters. Her children, now aged 6 and 4, are on a strict sleep schedule with a 7:30 p.m. bedtime, allowing for couple time in the evening.

Think of building good sexual habits just like you would develop good eating or exercising habits, she advised.

“Sex begets more sex. Kind of like when you go to the gym,” she said. “It takes you a while to build that habit.”

Then, she added, “You’ll notice little by little that it becomes more and more as opposed to less and less.”

Consider therapy.

A small 2018 study found that attending group therapy helped couples with low sexual desire as well as those who had discrepancies in their levels of sexual desire.

Individual or couples therapy can also be a good place to start.

For many parents, however, and especially those with young children, finding the time and money to go to a therapist can be challenging.

Esther Perel, a psychotherapist whose TED talks on sexuality and relationships have been viewed by millions, offers an online course, currently $199, that includes a section called “Sex After Kids.”

Ms. Perel also hosts the popular “Where Should We Begin?” podcast, in which couples share the intimate details of their troubles during recorded therapy sessions.

number of other podcasts also offer advice to couples, including “Marriage Therapy Radio” and “Relationship Advice.”

Regardless of what steps you take to rebuild a connection with your spouse, experts say it’s important to take action as soon as possible.

“The child is not going to take up less space over time,” Dr. Sacks said. “So the question is: How do you carve out space for your relationships around the child, as the child continues to develop with different but continually demanding needs.”