When You Haven’t Had Sex with Your Partner in a Long Time

I’m attracted to him, but I haven’t been able to get closer.

My husband and I have not had sex in a year and a half. We’ve had sex maybe 10 times in the last five years. I am a sexual trauma survivor. These two things are directly related, but it’s taken me years to make the connection.

Our sex life wasn’t always like this. For the first six months of our relationship, we had sex all the time. Passionate, mind-blowing sex, in fact. Knock-your-socks off sex. So you can imagine my husband’s confusion when I suddenly seemed to lose interest.

It was around the time we moved in together, and I didn’t know what was wrong. We thought it was hormonal, and I switched birth control. We thought it was related to some major life changes, so we waited it out. We thought it was a difference in libido, so we tried things like taking sex off the table for a month. We tried hooking up but not having intercourse. I started going to therapy. The problem only got worse.

My husband began to feel like I wasn’t attracted to him anymore. He stopped trying to initiate things. He grew resentful. We talked about options like opening our marriage. We had a lot of conversations about the fact that this wasn’t fair or what he wanted in a relationship. Since I have also been interested in women, he questioned whether I was attracted to men at all.

Meanwhile, I felt despondent. I felt detached and numb. I knew I was attracted to my husband, because I felt it. But I didn’t want to have sex. I wanted to kiss and cuddle without it leading to anything else. Sometimes I’d give into some form of sexual activity, but I always felt empty and used afterwards. There was always an elephant in the room. It felt like it was between us when we got into bed at night.

What’s funny is that I’m a certified rape crisis counselor. I can talk about the effects of sexual trauma on sex until I’m blue in the face. But I couldn’t internalize it and apply it to my own life. I was sure that there was a different problem. I swore that my trauma hadn’t affected me to that level. And for years, I used sex as a coping mechanism.

In the years leading up to meeting my husband, I found myself joining the “sex positive” movement. I wore it like a badge of liberation. I was determined to take back my body. I found BDSM and kink, and I jumped in with abandon. I thought I was free. It’s only now, with clear vision, that I can look back and see that I was not in an emotionally healthy place to be making these kinds of decisions. At the time, I viewed a lot of these activities as consensual but I recognize now that I was not emotionally healthy enough to be consenting. It is absolutely possible to participate in fully consensual BDSM. But for me, at that time, I wasn’t capable of it and I didn’t realize it. And the result of this is that it traumatized me more.

That all came to a head for me when my husband and I moved in. What I know now, that I didn’t know then, is that all of this is normal. What I know now, that I couldn’t internalize then, is that I was coping in the best way I knew how. And it’s because of the safety that I finally felt with my husband and in our relationship that the symptoms of my trauma finally shone through. And now I’m left undoing not only the harm that other people have done to me, but the harm I caused myself under the guise of sexual liberation.

Today, my husband and I are seeing a wonderful counselor. What we’ve learned, together, is that it’s normal for sex to be great at the beginning and to taper off when the survivor begins to feel “safe.” My dissociation and numbness around sex are also normal. It was hard for him to understand at first, because dissociation doesn’t look traumatic to someone witnessing it; it just looks like lack of enthusiasm. Which is why, for so long, my husband thought I just wasn’t into sex with him. As we, and I, start to work through this stuff, I get triggered. It gets hard. It gets uncomfortable. But I choose to think of it as progress, as a sign that I’m beginning to move through the numbing phase and onto the healing phase.

We both know that we have a long road ahead of us. We know that we won’t go back to having wonderful, consistent sex tomorrow, or even next week. But now that we’re both on the same page and the problem is clear, we feel a freedom and a closeness that we haven’t felt in a long time. The fact that we’re tackling this together brings us an intimacy that we lost when we stopped having sex. And while having regular date nights and finding activities to do together doesn’t bring quite the same intimacy that sex does, we’re taking steps in the direction of healing and we both finally feel hopeful that one day, we’ll have sex again.

Curated by Erbe
Original Article

Christmas Proposals: Private or Public

Planning a marriage proposal is awesome, especially if it’s on Christmas Eve.

While holidays can be special times to become engaged, Christmas proposals must be carefully orchestrated to avoid hurt feelings and awkward embarrassment no matter what the woman’s answer may be. When planning a Christmas proposal, the first consideration is which day to pop the big question.

Christmas Eve or Christmas Day

Man Presenting Golden Ring In Box Against Decorated Christmas TrFor some families, the majority of the celebration occurs on Christmas Eve with a traditional dinner, gift exchange, church service, or other annual ritual. In other families, the true holiday begins on Christmas morning. If you want a private proposal, the best bet is to opt for the day without the larger celebration, while a public proposal necessitates the day when everyone is gathered. Another consideration is where you will be that day – traditionally, a public proposal should occur with the bride-to-be’s family, and that consideration should take precedence over which day you propose. If your beloved is not close to her family, however, other arrangements are acceptable.

The Proposal: Public or Private?

Christmas celebrations invariably involve family and friends. If you want to propose during the holiday season, specifically near either Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, you must consider whether a public or private proposal would be more suitable.

Public Christmas Proposals

A public proposal is one that involves family members who may or may not be in on the secret. There are several ways to make a public proposal around family members and future in-laws:

  • A holiday toast asking the important question
  • Opening a gift that contains the engagement ring
  • Dressing up as Santa Claus but giving an engagement ring instead of a candy cane
  • Opening an “anonymous” holiday card with the question inside
  • Visiting Santa at the mall together to ask for your Christmas wish

If you do opt for a public proposal, be sure you have carefully judged your sweetheart’s reaction before asking the question. She may prefer a more private, intimate proposal followed by a public revelation. Furthermore, while a new engagement can add more significance and joy to a holiday celebration, a public rejection can awkwardly taint the holidays for everyone present.

Private Christmas Proposals

If you are uncertain of her answer, or if your girlfriend prefers a more intimate setting, a private proposal is the best option, followed by sharing the news with family and friends to add to the celebration. When proposing privately during the holidays, there are many ways to infuse the joy of the season with the romance of the ultimate question:

  • Viewing holiday light displays and asking for her hand amid their twinkling glow
  • Offering a private “special” gift that you want her to open early
  • Hanging the engagement ring on the Christmas tree and pointing it out so that she finds it
  • Arranging a unique seasonal excursion, such as a sleigh ride or ice skating
  • Watching a snowfall and remarking that not all ice is cold as you give her a diamond ring

A private proposal will not likely remain private for long because friends and family are visiting during the holidays. You can quickly spread the news of your engagement and add to the seasonal joy. If, however, the proposal is rejected or she needs time to consider her answer, a private proposal spares both individuals the embarrassment and awkwardness of public pressure.

Telling Friends and Family

Once you have proposed and she has accepted your offer, it is time to spread the news to family and friends with engagement announcements. Of course, a public proposal does this automatically, but you still need to contact the absent relatives via telephone, e-mail, or written note before they find out from other people. If you do choose to spread the word through the mail, never send a formal announcement, particularly to close relatives or friends. Formal wording will seem cold and distant, particularly during the holiday season when they were not privileged to be a part of the event.

After a private proposal, you can inform people of your new engagement through a holiday toast at dinner, or simply by making the announcement at a party. If you are not able to make a group announcement, sending holiday thank you cards is the perfect way to inform everyone of the change in your relationship. Likewise, telephone calls and e-mails are also perfect announcements.

The holiday season is filled with magic, wonder, and joy. Many couples choose to add romance to that special feeling by becoming engaged during the season. Whether you choose a public or private Christmas proposal, the special moment when she says “yes” will always be a treasured holiday memory.

Curated by Erbe
Original Article

10 Sex Secrets to a Happy Marriage

Writer Brian Orme says, “I’m 41 years old, and have been married to the same beautiful woman for almost two decades. Over the years I’ve had to work through some myths and misconceptions about sex.

Many of these misconceptions started early, before I was married, and they’ve taken years to straighten out. If I could send 10 sex and intimacy tips to myself before I was married, this is exactly what I’d say.

Sexual intimacy doesn’t happen like it does on TV or in the movies

Much of what you know about sex comes from advertising, TV and the movies. In other words, sex looks like a spontaneous, flawless connection of love-making filled with romance, music and candles in windowsills. Sexual intimacy does not work like that. Don’t be disappointed — real sexual intimacy is different than the movies, but it’s much better in the long run.

A note on frequency. Brace yourself.

Right now you’re thinking marriage is filled with sex almost every second of the day and thousands of times a week. You should live in this dream world for as long as you can and ride your trusty unicorn into the Skittle-stained sunset where you pet your wild Ewok and cross the Bridge to Terabithia. Stay there. As long as you can. That is all.

Sex is like fine wine — it gets better with age

Sexual intimacy is something you get better and better at. It takes communication, practice and time. Right now you think your sex IQ is at a genius level, but you really don’t know everything.

Sex is not just about getting, but giving

Are you laughing? I’m serious. Sex is something that requires both of you to give. And it’s good to give. Don’t be a taker all the time. Sexual intimacy is a great place to model sacrifice and service. If you get that into your head now, the getting will be even better. There’s great beauty and mystery in the giving. Be generous.

Men and women don’t think about sex the same way

For you, sex is wrapped up in physical attraction and it’s very visual and instantaneous. However, you might want to sit down for this one. Women think about sex in terms of the relationship, their security and how much they feel loved and pursued. For you, sex is like a light switch without a dimmer — you’re totally ready at any moment. For her, sex is like a crockpot that takes a good part of the day to come to a simmer. You will both be frustrated by this. That’s okay; it’s part of God’s wiring to bring you together on a deeper level.

Sex doesn’t complete you

Right now, you are putting a ton of stock in the power, importance and value of sex. Let’s be honest, you think about it constantly. You need to know sexual intimacy is fantastic and satisfying and incredible in so many ways, but it’s not meant to be an idol. You will need to fight this and work to keep sex in proper perspective — as a gift from God to be enjoyed in marriage.

Sex can be fun and funny and playful

There are many angles of sexual intimacy, and some of them you’re totally unaware of right now. You think of sex in one dimension — serious pleasure. However, sexual intimacy done right is a form of vulnerability and authenticity, and when you totally love someone and have nothing to hide — and I mean nothing — you are free to be your truest self.

Be romantic and pursue her

Make sure she knows you want her in more ways than just the physical. Pursue her mind. Pursue her heart. Pursue her in every way possible. Remember, she doesn’t think about sex like you do — you’re all skin and eyeballs, and she’s all heart and soul.

It’s more mysterious than you think

Again, right now your thoughts about sex are pretty simple. You’re stuck in the physical, but God designed sexual intimacy to be way more complex than two bodies finding their way together. It’s hard to explain and I don’t fully understand it, but something magical happens in the act of sex, something cosmic that links you to her in a way that’s soul deep.

Sex in marriage is a form of worship

Most of your thoughts about worship are confined to religious places. So, when I say sex is worship, you probably think I’m nuts. But soon you’ll get a bigger picture. It’s a fun point in our spiritual journey. You can have unashamed, unabashed, unadulterated sex as often as you want with your partner.

Curated by Erbe
Original Article

Why I Swipe Right for Divorced

Divorcées may not all know exactly what they want, but they have a much better idea of what they don’t want.

“Never married,” two of my least favorite words, whether they’re apart or together. And yet, they can be found at the top of probably over half of the profiles I come across when I’m online dating. Why is “never married” such a selling point? Am I supposed to take this statement to mean you’re unscathed, that you have no baggage? Well, I’m not buying it, and for me, it’s less a selling point and more a reason for me to swipe left.

The first thing I did after getting out of my three year monogamous relationship was hop on all the dating sites and apps, making myself a bunch of clever, witty profiles with WAY more written words than any interested party would ever desire to read. And it worked! I went on date after date. It became my new favorite hobby. I started telling people I was a professional dater. Men, women, couples, and everyone in between, I was dating them all and having a blast! I think the only reason I was able to have so much fun going on terrible date after terrible date was because I wasn’t looking for love or anything remotely resembling it. This is also the reason I considered everyone as an option, even those with “divorced” in their profiles. Since beginning this open-policy dating journey, I’ve found one common thread that surprised even me: the only single people I really enjoy in the dating world have gone through a divorce.

I realize that this sounds at the very least a bit strange, and to some completely off the mark. The way most see it, a divorced person who is dating is trying to jump into something that they failed so miserably at that courts had to get involved. This is true, but here’s the kicker, everyone who is good at anything has failed at it. Think about it, athletes practice endlessly for years and years before becoming professionals. A stand up comedian has to bomb a joke to realize how to rewrite it into something people laugh at. And how many times do babies fall on their faces before taking more than two steps in a row? A lot, and if you don’t trust me on that one, there’s plenty of evidence on Youtube. My point is practice makes perfect. And a divorced person is basically ready for Carnegie Hall.

I’m honestly more excited to hear someone has divorced than I am to hear someone has gotten married. This isn’t because of some sick fetish of enjoying people’s pain, although those baby falling vids can be hilarious. It’s because I know that someone who’s divorced has typically learned a lot about who they are and who they want to be. Divorcées are not only people who are intelligent enough to recognize that something needed to end, but were also brave enough to have let, or even make, that end happen. But there are more aspects to a divorcées personality besides bravery and intelligence that make them ideal candidates.

The recently divorced typically have more insight and better communication skills. This is because many who have called it quits went through counseling before doing so. Believe it or not, even when counseling doesn’t help the current relationship, it can really help future ones. Therapy can teach a lot about how someone is communicating, or not communicating. By seeing a relationship through someone else’s eyes, a person can realize they have needs that aren’t being met, and can also discover that their partner has needs they haven’t been meeting. What’s more, a lot of people discover that this is why they’re arguing, rather than leaving their nail clippings on the floor. Counseling can provide clues into how to be better in the future, whether it’s with their current partner or future ones.

Divorcées may not all know exactly what they want, but they have a much better idea of what they don’t want. I’ve dated a lot of people who were on a seemingly endless path to nowhere, perhaps because in the past I’ve dated a lot of comics. But there are a lot of people out there, besides comics, who have no idea what they truly desire out of a partner, a career, or even life. Divorced people don’t necessarily all have a clear answer when asked what they want, but they know at least one thing that didn’t work for them in the past, and many recognize how to avoid this in the future. This means that if they’re dating you, it’s probably because you do things differently than their ex (unless, of course, they’re a masochist who loves repeating negative patterns).

There’s also a maturity that comes from someone who was once legally bound to another. Chances are they shared finances, maybe even purchased a home with someone else. No matter how entwined their assets became, they’ve at the very least had some experience with “what’s mine is yours.” This is a huge step up from the eternally single dudes and gals I was used to dating, the type who haven’t committed to anything more than how much ketchup to put on a burger.

And finally, divorce can be quite humbling. There’s a certain cockiness to the single person that a divorced person often loses along the way. They know they’re imperfect. In fact, many of them have had these imperfections pointed out a bit too much so go easy on ‘em, huh? Even those who honestly believe their relationship failed solely because of the other person involved still know it failed, and live with the knowledge that even they couldn’t save it.

So I suggest the next time you see “divorced” in a profile, you give them a chance. And if you’re divorced, be proud that you made a choice that you’re probably happier and healthier for! Wear it like a badge of honor, because there are people out there, including myself, who will always pass up the “never married” for the more seasoned divorcées.

Divorce Lawyers Share What to Do to Stay Married

The best source for marriage advice? Divorce attorneys. Before you protest, just think about it: Every day at work they see the types of marital problems that lead otherwise happy couples to split up.

With that in mind, we recently asked 11 family law attorneys to volunteer their best love and relationship advice. See what they had to say below.

1. A sustainable marriage is not about love, it’s about tolerance.

“Can you tolerate all your partner’s quirks? Even the ones that you don’t like, are they tolerable? Don’t marry your partner thinking that any of his or her quirks are going to change, improve or wane. As we get older, your partner’s quirks will only magnify. So if you can’t tolerate it now, you for sure are not going to be able to tolerate it in the future. Tolerance may not be romantic, but it is the key to a long lasting marriage.” — Melissa B. Buchman, an attorney in Beverly Hills, California 

2. Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. 

“Unfortunately, many couples I see going through a divorce ascribe bad — or sometimes terrible — motives to everything their spouses do. What is the harm in assuming or presuming the best? Even if you’re wrong, it hurts no one. And it may be the start of a better relationship.”  — Randall M. Kessler, an attorney based in Atlanta, Georgia

3. Don’t be afraid to feed your spouse’s ego now and then.

“Silly as it may sound, your spouse wants to feel strong, sexy and attractive. I have seen spouses cheat because someone else showed them attention and made them feel good.” — Christian Denmon, an attorney in Florida 

4. Put your spouse before your kids. 

“This may not be the most popular piece of advice, especially for parents, but after watching countless people get divorced because they allowed themselves to slowly drift apart over the years, I honestly believe it’s true. We are all busy these days. It’s far too easy to put your job, your house, your activities and your kids before your spouse. Don’t do it! While many people believe that their kids have to come first, if they don’t put their spouse first and their marriage eventually sours, it’s not going to be doing the kids any favors. If you value your marriage, choose to put it first.” —Karen Covy, an attorney and divorce coach based in Chicago, Illinois 

5. Don’t wait until it’s too late to work on your marriage.

“Work on your marriage while it’s still a good marriage, don’t wait until there’s a problem. ‘Work’ does not have to mean counseling, it can simply be having a set date night once a month.” — Carla Schiff Donnelly, an attorney based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Millions Trying Open Marriage

For many couples, the idea of monogamy is evolving. Is it open season on sex outside of commitment?

For the first time in history, more Americans are single (50.2 percent) than married. But for those who do tie the knot, the general idea is still the same: You’re now emotionally and sexually exclusive with your partner. Even if you never marry but have long- term relationships, monogamy is usually part of the unspoken agreement.

That’s starting to change. “Monogamy is no longer going to define marriage,” predicts couples therapist Tammy Nelson, Ph.D., author of The New Monogamy: Redefining Your Relationship After Infidelity, who says she’s seeing more couples experimenting with open relationships (in which a couple decides what sexual activities outside their relationship are fair game) and polyamory (having actual romantic relationships outside a primary commitment). It’s not cheating or “looking the other way,” but having relationships or encounters with the consent and support of your partner.

While it’s impossible to know exactly how many U.S. couples are consensually nonmonogamous, estimates range from 1.2 to 2.4 million, Elisabeth Sheff, author of The Polyamorists Next Door, wrote last year in Psychology Today. Couples have made “agreements” since marriage was invented, but as open relationships become more established in popular culture—some Hollywood couples have talked about theirs; two of last summer’s indie comedies (The Overnight and While We Were Young) featured subplots centered on nonmonogamy—more people are comfortable coming out about their lifestyle.


It sounds counterintuitive, but many people practicing nonmonogamy see it as a way to preserve their relationship, not implode it, says Esther Perel, marriage therapist and author of Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence, whose TED talks on marriage and infidelity have been collectively viewed more than 10 million times. “Many people in their 20s and 30s are children of divorce, and they want a different code of honesty,” she says. “The idea of consensual nonmonogamy is in service of the longevity of the couple: ‘With this, we can avoid lying, cheating.’ They’re taking the concept of sexual freedom inside the marriage.”

Below, three happily married couples in open relationships explain how they, well, do it.

The Modern Family

The Couple: Nicole Sharette, 38, and Luke Sharette, 35. LOCATION: Eugene, Oregon.

Status: Married for 12 years.

Kids: Six.

Our Arrangement: “I’m a stay-at-home mom. Outside of our sex lives, we’re a traditional family. Luke has casual hookups; I have long-term relationships. I’ve had one boyfriend for eight years, another for three, and I’ve dated a couple for four. We go out anywhere from every three months to three times a month.”

How It Began: “I’ve always wanted to do this. When we first got together, Luke was very vanilla [sexually], and that slowly changed. I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy this with others?’ He came around to it, then we talked for a year. First I just dated women, and Luke realized that I wasn’t going to leave. When he had his first experience, he saw that my feelings wouldn’t get hurt.”

The Rules: “We used to have rules about who we could and couldn’t sleep with (like, I didn’t want him to hook up with my best friend). Now we don’t, except that we have safe sex with everyone else. Luke doesn’t tell me how often I can go out, and I don’t tell him. We just respect each other.”


Jealous Much? “I like the feeling. Jealousy excites me.”

The Good: “We don’t get bored with each other. It makes us communicate and grows our trust, love, attraction, and appreciation for each other. It also keeps us both feeling young, which is hard when you have a lot of kids.”

The Bad: “We have kids in their late teens. When they were younger, they saw Luke out with another woman and thought he was cheating. We explained that we love each other but we have other friends. They get it now. They’re also very monogamous and paranoid about cheating.”

The Poly Partners

The Couple: KC, 34, and Marissa, 31.

Location: New York City.

Status: Together for three years, married since September.

KIDS: Zero.

Our Arrangement: KC: “We have a circle of polyamorous friends. We have sexual interactions with them at parties, either together or separately. Or we’ll have friends over and one thing will lead to another—but then they go home.” Marissa: “We don’t have other romantic partners.”


How It Began: Marissa: “KC and I have both tried open relationships, but this is the first time it has worked out well. We started our relationship like this. Going from monogamy to nonmonogamy is very difficult, especially between people with disparate levels of relationship experience and insecurity.”

The Rules: KC: “I wouldn’t want either of us to hook up with someone who expected more than what we’ve offered.” Marissa: “Or if we know they’re emotionally unstable.”

Bilateral Support: Marissa: “I’m bisexual, so I still get to explore that. KC might say, ‘You’re talking about dudes a lot lately. Do you want to make some calls?’ “KC: “People have different sex drives and ways of connecting. If you thrive on that, to shut off that part of yourself can be suffocating, even if you have a good sex life with your partner.”

The Good: KC: “You can be yourself and not constantly self-monitor.” Marissa: “You’re not afraid that the other person is going to stray. Why would they?”

The Bad: KC: “I’m not out to my family. When I tried to talk about being in an open relationship, it got dismissed: ‘Oh, it must not be serious.’ If we’re not romantically involved with others, my sex life isn’t my parents’ business.”

The Lawmakers

The Couple: Susan Coates, 43, and Taj Moore, 40.

Location: Denver.

Status: Together eight years, married for four years.

Kids: One.

Our Arrangement: “Taj sees someone every week and talks to her daily. She’s married and has a child. I also have a weekly date with someone who has another partner and kids. I see other partners intermittently.”

How It Began: “When we first met, I had been in a relationship steeped in jealousy and wanted to explore an open relationship. Taj said, ‘Yeah, I’m curious, too.’ We sat down to check in before his first date. I said, ‘I’m OK if you give her a kiss.’ Afterward, we did a play-by-play. It took quite awhile before I was OK with him having sex with another person.”

The Rules: “Taj and I check in before each date. At the beginning, this was very lengthy. Now it’s just a text: ‘Are there any parameters?’ If our relationship is struggling, we’ll simmer it down and not date much.”

Terms of Disclosure: “When I’m out with my other partner, we talk about Taj a lot. There might be an intimate moment that feels special with someone else, but if it feels like I’m withholding from Taj, I question why.”


The Good: “I learn a lot about myself, because relationships with different people bring out other parts of me. If there’s something my primary partner can’t give me—maybe I’m drawn to someone with a different sense of humor—I don’t have to compartmentalize.”

The Bad: “Since what we’re doing is generally taboo, we’ve lost friends because there’s a lot of judgment. We don’t hide, and there are people who seem pretty uncomfortable when they find out.”

Curated by Erbe
Original Article

Top Questions to Ask Before You Say I Do

When it comes to marriage, what you don’t know really can hurt you.

Whether because of shyness, lack of interest or a desire to preserve romantic mystery, many couples do not ask each other the difficult questions that can help build the foundation for a stable marriage, according to relationship experts.

In addition to wanting someone with whom they can raise children and build a secure life, those considering marriage now expect their spouses to be both best friend and confidant. These romantic-comedy expectations, in part thanks to Hollywood, can be difficult to live up to.

Sure, there are plenty of questions couples can ask of each other early in the relationship to help ensure a good fit, but let’s face it: most don’t.

“If you don’t deal with an issue before marriage, you deal with it while you’re married,” said Robert Scuka, the executive director of the National Institute of Relationship Enhancement. It can be hard to keep secrets decade after decade, and reticence before the wedding can lead to disappointments down the line.

The following questions, intimate and sometimes awkward, are designed to spark honest discussions and possibly give couples a chance to spill secrets before it’s too late.

1. Did your family throw plates, calmly discuss issues or silently shut down when disagreements arose?

A relationship’s success is based on how differences are dealt with, said Peter Pearson, a founder of the Couples Institute. As we are all shaped by our family’s dynamic, he said, this question will give you insight into whether your partner will come to mimic the conflict resolution patterns of his or her parents or avoid them.

2. Will we have children, and if we do, will you change diapers?

With the question of children, it is important to not just say what you think your partner wants to hear, according to Debbie Martinez, a divorce and relationship coach. Before marrying, couples should honestly discuss if they want children. How many do they want? At what point do they want to have them? And how do they imagine their roles as parents? Talking about birth-control methods before planning a pregnancy is also important, said Marty Klein, a sex and marriage therapist.

3. Will our experiences with our exes help or hinder us?

Bradford Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, pointed to research his organization has sponsored that indicated that having had many serious relationships can pose a risk for divorce and lower marital quality. (This can be because of a person having more experience with serious breakups and potentially comparing a current partner unfavorably with past ones.) Raising these issues early on can help, Dr. Wilcox said. Dr. Klein said people are “hesitant to explicitly talk about their past” and can feel retroactively jealous or judgmental. “The only real way to have those conversations in an intimate and productive way and loving way is to agree to accept that the other person had a life before the couple,” he said.

4. How important is religion? How will we celebrate religious holidays, if at all?

If two people come from different religious backgrounds, is each going to pursue his or her own religious affiliation? Dr. Scuka has worked with couples on encouraging honest discussion around this issue as the executive director of the National Institute of Relationship Enhancement. What is more, spouses are especially likely to experience conflict over religious traditions when children are added to the mix, according to Dr. Wilcox. If the couple decide to have children, they must ask how the children’s religious education will be handled. It is better to have a plan, he said.

5. Is my debt your debt? Would you be willing to bail me out?

It’s important to know how your partner feels about financial self-sufficiency and whether he or she expects you to keep your resources separate, said Frederick Hertz, a divorce lawyer. Disclosing debts is very important. Equally, if there is a serious discrepancy between your income and your partner’s, Dr. Scuka recommended creating a basic budget according to proportional incomes. Many couples fail to discuss sharing finances, though it is crucial, he said.

6. What’s the most you would be willing to spend on a car, a couch, shoes?

Couples should make sure they are on the same page in terms of financial caution or recklessness. Buying a car is a great indicator, according to Mr. Hertz. Couples can also frame this question around what they spend reckless amounts of money on, he said.

7. Can you deal with my doing things without you?

Going into marriage, many people hope to keep their autonomy in certain areas of their life at the same time they are building a partnership with their spouse, according to Seth Eisenberg, the president of Pairs (Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills). This means they may be unwilling to share hobbies or friends, and this can lead to tension and feelings of rejection if it isn’t discussed. Couples may also have different expectations as to what “privacy” means, added Dr. Klein, and that should be discussed, too. Dr. Wilcox suggested asking your partner when he or she most needs to be alone.

8. Do we like each other’s parents?

As long as you and your partner present a united front, having a bad relationship with your in-laws can be manageable, Dr. Scuka said. But if a spouse is not willing to address the issue with his or her parents, it can bode very poorly for the long-term health of the relationship, he said. At the same time, Dr. Pearson said, considering the strengths and weaknesses of your parents can illuminate future patterns of attachment or distancing in your own relationship.

9. How important is sex to you?

Couples today expect to remain sexually excited by their spouse, an expectation that did not exist in the past, according to Mr. Eisenberg. A healthy relationship will include discussion of what partners enjoy about sex as well as how often they expect to have it, Dr. Klein said. If people are looking to experience different things through sex — pleasure versus feeling young, for example — some negotiation may be required to ensure both partners remain satisfied.

10. How far should we take flirting with other people? Is watching pornography O.K.?

Dr. Klein said couples should discuss their attitudes about pornography, flirting and expectations for sexual exclusivity. A couple’s agreement on behavior in this area can, and most likely will, change down the line, he said, but it is good to set the tone early on so both partners are comfortable discussing it. Ideally, sexual exclusivity should be talked about in the same way as other day-to-day concerns, so that problems can be dealt with before a partner becomes angry, he said. Dr. Pearson suggested asking your partner outright for his or her views on pornography. Couples are often too scared to ask about this early in the relationship, but he has frequently seen it become a point of tension down the line, he said.

11. Do you know all the ways I say “I love you”?

Gary Chapman’s 1992 book, “The 5 Love Languages,” introduced this means of categorizing expressions of love to strengthen a marriage. Ms. Martinez hands her premarriage clients a list of the five love languages: affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. She asks them to mark their primary and secondary languages and what they think is their partner’s, and discuss them. Mr. Eisenberg said that a couple needs to work out how to nurture the relationship, in a way specific to them.

12. What do you admire about me, and what are your pet peeves?

Can you imagine the challenges ever outweighing the admiration? If so, what would you do? Anne Klaeysen, a leader of the New York Society for Ethical Culture, said that couples rarely consider that second question. Ideally, marriage is a life commitment, she said, and it’s not enough to just “click together,” as many couples describe their relationship. A marriage must go deeper than that original “click.”

13. How do you see us 10 years from now?

Keeping the answer to this question in mind can help a couple deal with current conflict as they work toward their ultimate relationship goals, according to Mr. Eisenberg.

Dr. Wilcox said this discussion could also be an opportunity to raise the question of whether each partner will consider divorce if the relationship deteriorates, or whether they expect marriage to be for life, come what may.

Curated by Timothy
Original Article

Here’s How a Happy Marriage Can Be Simpler Than You Think

According to a new study published in the journal Personal Relationships, the key to improving a marriage is to show a little gratitude.

It seems like every other day, another study comes out promising to give us the key to a successful marriage. Why not? After all, those of us who want to be married want to stay married. In fact, a 2011 Pew Research survey found that 36 percent of adults believe that having a successful marriage is “one of the most important things” in life. While I don’t really believe that relationship success is dependent on one major “key,” and that it’s more of the right combination of the little things, a new study shows saying two small words can actually strengthen your marriage. Ready for them?

“Thank you.”

According to a new study published in the journal Personal Relationships, the key to improving a marriage is to show a little gratitude. Researchers from the University of Georgia conducted a telephone survey of 468 married individuals and asked them questions about their finances, their communication tactics, and how they express gratitude to their spouses. As the study found, expressions of spousal gratitude were a significant predictor of marital quality.

“It goes to show the power of ‘thank you,’” said Allen Barton, a postdoctoral research associate at UGA’s Center for Family Research and lead author of the study. “Even if a couple is experiencing distress and difficulty in other areas, gratitude in the relationship can help promote positive marital outcomes.”

The study also found that couples who showed higher levels of spousal gratitude were less prone to seek divorce. When couples express gratitude or show appreciation for each other, it can counteract or buffer the negative effects of conflicts. According to researchers, feeling appreciated and believing that your partner values you have a great impact on how you feel about your marriage and your commitment to making it last.

“All couples have disagreements and argue,” the study’s co-author Ted Futris said. “What distinguishes the marriages that last from those that don’t is not how often they argue, but how they argue and how they treat each other on a daily basis.”

In short, it’s the little things that matter.

Saying those two small words can do your relationship a bunch of good. But sometimes, expressing gratitude can go beyond a simple “Thank you.” Because of that, I talked to Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist and author of Should I Stay or Should I Go: Surviving a Relationship With a Narcissist, on how you can express gratitude to your partner each and every day.

1. Reach Out

Set aside time each day to reach out to your partner and listen to them talk about their day. As Dr. Ramani tells Bustle, “They may not be able to respond, but it becomes a touchstone, and lets them feel heard.”

2. Take Initiative

“Do something for them that they do not like to do without asking,” Dr. Ramani says. “But do it without making lots of noise about it. For example, take the car in for an oil change, clean the toilets, or weed the garden.”

3. Surprise Them

“This does not need to be big. It can be dinner on the table, making the plans and just whisking them away to something you know they like. Even try giving them a small gift that shows up in a briefcase at work,” Dr. Ramani says.

4. Compliment Them

“I know it seems small, and likely should be happening every day. But we often forget that those little words about your partner’s work, a new dress, or their smile put a swing in our step when we get them from strangers,” Dr. Ramani says. “But they can be profoundly impactful from our partners.”

5. Ask About Stuff

Don’t just listen, but engage in conversation. If your partner tells you something that happened at work, ask a follow up question the next day (i.e. “Whatever happened with that guy at work you told me about yesterday?”).

As Dr. Ramani says, “It shows not only that you were listening initially but that it is sustained. Few of us are heard any more in such a distracted world. To hear someone listening to us is a fantastic way to show gratitude.”

6. Again, The Little Things Count

Don’t be afraid to say “Thank you” or “I’m grateful” or “I noticed what you did.” According to Dr. Ramani, while those words are simple enough, they show that we notice the effort that our partner puts into the relationship and that we’re grateful for them.

Curated by Erbe
Original Article

How to Tell if It’s Time to Get Help for Your Sex Life

Relationships have sexual ups and downs — and that’s normal. Factors, from stress to busy schedules to hormones, can get in the way of intimacy and make our sex lives feel less exciting than they likely did at the beginning of a relationship.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your bedroom problems, it may be time to consider calling in some professional backup and seeing a sex therapist. “There are always one-offs here and there, such as stress, lifestyle, and hormones,” says sex therapist Kat Van Kirk, PhD, “but the real indicator that you need someone to address your issues it is to look for a pattern.”

Sex therapist Vanessa Marin agrees, pointing out that waiting to solve an issue can be unhealthy for your relationship. “Too many couples put off sex therapy and the problem snowballs,” she says. “If you’re in crisis mode by the time you land in a therapist’s office, you’re going to have to spend more time trying to address your anger and resentment than you will addressing the original issue.”

Here are seven signs you might benefit from sex therapy from Drs. Kat and Marin.

You’re Constantly Fighting With Your Partner

If you find that you and your S.O. are bickering more than usual, don’t get too alarmed. “What you have to do is make sure the fighting is constructive,” Dr. Kat says. If you feel like your arguments are getting unproductive and repetitive, a therapist can help you walk through exercises to turn your fighting from nasty to constructive. Dr. Kat, for example, works with couples “on getting them aware of what their triggers are, what the signs are in their bodies [when they’re reaching to triggers], and what their negative self-talk is.”

Once patients are aware of why they’re feeling what they’re feeling during a disagreement with their partner, Dr. Kat helps them with tools for managing their emotions and getting out of “fight or flight” mode, which encourages people to get defensive or abandon a discussion altogether.

“This can involve breath work, verbalizations, eye-gazing, advocating for two-minute breaks to regroup, counting to 10, or even reaching out for body-to-body contact in order to switch up the energy of the interaction,” she explains. “Also, having established ‘fair fighting rules’ can be helpful. What works can be different for every couple.”

You Can’t Orgasm

Let’s say you’ve been having sex with your partner for a while, but you haven’t orgasmed from it yet. While orgasm isn’t the be-all and end-all of your sex life, it can be a great part of it and you deserve to figure out what’s going on. Take a look at what’s happening in your life and your relationship: Have you been feeling more stressed than usual? Have you been communicating your desires to your partner? If it’s been a while and you still don’t know why you haven’t been able to come with your partner (and that’s an experience you’d like to have), it’s time to think about sex therapy.

And what if you’ve never had an orgasm — like, ever? Seeing a sex therapist is a great step. “The main issue is that women are made to feel guilty for not knowing how to orgasm, but they’re never given the opportunity to learnhow to orgasm,” Marin says. “They feel really lost about what they need to get there, and it’s hard to find accurate information.”

Sex therapists can be like detectives, working with you to pinpoint what’s holding you back from maximum pleasure and giving you action items, such as masturbation techniques, to help you get there.

Why to be Selfish in Your Marriage

A couple sat on my couch the other day telling me how bland and stale their marriage had become. Neither of them could understand how their marriage had gotten this way. They both talked about how in love they were at the beginning of their marriage and how they would do so many different and fun things together. Lately, though, things were just … boring. Even their sex life had become passionless.

As we talked more in depth, they felt like they were doing everything right. They were doing a date night whenever they would get a free night together; they spent lots of time together as a family going to the kids’ plays, soccer games, etc.; and they both still enjoyed making love with each other (though, they admitted it didn’t happen as often or as enthusiastically as they’d like). Things were going well. They couldn’t understand why things didn’t feel like they were going so great, though.

Sound familiar?

This couple isn’t any more uncommon than most couples that sit on my couch for marriage counseling. In fact, this couple isn’t more uncommon than most of my friends, either. Even my wife and I sound like this sometimes.

But, the truth is, the reason their relationship had become bland and boring was because they weren’t doing things for themselves anymore. While they talked about doing things together as a family and even things together as a couple, they didn’t say anything about stuff they liked to do individually for themselves. Any hobbies, interests or pastimes they liked to do for themselves had completely stopped.
Yes, you may have children and a spouse now, and your priorities have had to change. But when you stop doing things you love for the sake of your marriage, you’re going to see problems in your marriage.

Why We Choose a Big Wedding When We Don’t Want One

Do you want to have a ginormous wedding, or have you seriously considered eloping just to avoid the chaos? Did you have the kind of wedding that you and your fiancé wanted, or did you cave to somebody else’s wishes? I always find it fascinating to learn why brides and grooms have chosen the kind of wedding they’re planning.

Although the wedding day is supposed to be about the couple formally expressing their love, and making a commitment to one another, all the things you can have and do for your wedding often eclipse the main point of the day. It can be overwhelming and not that much fun for the couple if the bride or groom doesn’t enjoy being the center of attention at a large gathering.

Most of the brides who moan and groan to me about how they didn’t want to have a big wedding will blame it on their parents. I only believe that up to a certain point – I think brides and grooms get sucked into a competitive spirit when all their other friends are getting married around them.

Dr. Jane Greer, relationship expert and author of “What About Me? Stop Selfishness from Ruining Your Relationship” has some interesting insight to share on this topic. She says lots of couples cave under parental pressure.

“Sometimes they do it because their families have a certain social obligation and standing – perhaps they have a vast array of friends and want to include all of them,” Dr. Greer explains. “The wedding becomes an event for them and their social happening, as much as it is for the actual bride and groom. If they’re comfortable paying for it, they figure, what’s the big deal? They want a big wedding and they’ll pay.”

This underscores another theory I’ve had that many couples who say they don’t want a big wedding really mean they don’t want to PAY for a big wedding. But if somebody else is picking up the entire tab, they’re okay with it. It would seem selfish to me except their parents are getting what they wanted, and nobody’s upset about the outcome. It isn’t that they don’t want to be part of a big wedding, but they’re not willing to incur the expense.

Not everybody wants a small wedding, and those choosing to throw extravagant affairs have their own reasons as well. As I said before, weddings can inspire competition. Couples whose friend-group are all getting married, too, may feel additional pressure to throw the biggest and best party in their crowd.

There’s also peer-pressure, from friends who’ve already been brides, and from single friends who just want to help, but really think you MUST do this or that, or your wedding will be incomplete. Brides and grooms who plan their own weddings without input from the peanut gallery find themselves considerably less stressed than those who have put things to a vote. And the professionals agree with me.

Through Thick and Thin …Your Biggest Argument Before and After the Wedding

There is one fight that all couples have before they tie the knot.

Mike reared his wide eyes toward Julie. “That is NOT the reception budget that we agreed on last week!”

Julie, dumbfounded, blinked back at her red-faced betrothed. “We’ve discussed this at least three times already. You always go back on your word about these things.”

Lacy: “Which color do you like better for the boutonnieres, pink or teal?”
Robert: “Sure. Whichever. I really don’t care.”
Lacy: “Why can’t you act like you care about this wedding for five seconds??”
Robert: [Blank stare]
Lacy: “Pick your own colors. I’m done.”

Jake: “You do realize that once we’re married, you can’t go to your parents every single night for dinner.”
Josh: “Um, dear, you knew you were marrying my whole family when you said yes.”

It is the fight for control

Although this fight is usually subdued, it can be emotionally reactive and masked by the denial of both partners. Engaged couples are especially at risk of mishandling this pattern because greater issues are often disguised as wedding planning stress, or the conflict is avoided altogether because of the myth that premarital couples shouldn’t fight.

Behaving in controlling ways – either overtly or covertly – gives a person a semblance of certainty and comfort, usually as a way to manage their own insecurities about the relationship or their own self-worth. In the moment when we should team up with our partner and share our vulnerabilities with them most, we wall ourselves off to emotionally protect ourselves.

Marriage is about bringing two completely different worlds together to create a shared experience of life and love. It makes sense, then, that this transition often consists of friction, disagreements, and a normal resistance to change – like a “my way or the highway” mentality.

Underneath all fights for control are deeper questions of:

“Can I really trust that we are a team? That you will stand up for me to the rest of the world above all else? Do you really, truly GET me? Will you still love me, even if I completely disagree?”
Dr. John Gottman’s research revealed that couples wait an average of six years before seeking help. So, what can you do to tackle the pattern of control before it starts?

Do not wait until things get worse to address them. Learn how to manage these patterns in a healthy way for your relationship right now.

Here are some ways to avoid getting caught in the fight for control:

1. Don’t sweep it under the rug

Avoidance will only prolong conflict and make it messier and harder to deal with the next time. When you are experiencing frustration, resistance, or insecurity with your partner about something, bring it up by using a softened startup. A trap that couples often struggle with is the “I was waiting for you to bring it up first” paradox. Be assertive, be brave, and be respectful of your partner’s otherness when it comes to conflict and differences.

Control is about winning. If 69% of the things couples fight about are completely unsolvable, then the goal should be less about being right and more about understanding, validating one another’s point of view, and maintaining respect.

2. Know yourself

Become aware of how you tend to fight for control. Do you put others down, shame your partner, or shame yourself? Do you play the victim role or manipulate through blame or entitlement? Do you hide your emotions from your partner but feel lonely, disconnected, or anxious about certain aspects of marriage?

Self-awareness takes mindfulness, vulnerability, and a willingness to accept responsibility for your part in the conflict. It is not your partner’s job to uncover your tactics. Accountability will allow you to be more assertive and honest in those moments when you want to shut down or lash out the most.

3. Check your connection

How are you doing at staying connected to each other? Feeling validated by your partner through the thick and thin of wedding planning holds so much value. Dr. John Gottman’s research has shown the importance of maintaining intentional connection by creating shared meaning and responding to your partner’s bids for connection. Prioritize date nights and quality time together with no wedding talk allowed.

As marriage and family therapist Terry Real, author of The New Rules of Marriage, says: “control is just an illusion.” You will never be able to control, change, or know with complete certainty that your partner will be there for you and show up for the relationship at all times. There is no guarantee that your marriage will last. This is the risk of being in a relationship.

What you can guarantee is your own willingness to show up, to resist the need to be right or to control your partner, and to turn towards the opportunities to address your differences in order to build a strong foundation toward lasting marital vitality and success.

Curated by Erbe
Original Article

Arranged Marriage – Time to Bring It Back?

News Flash: Life is not the movies. Marriage is extremely difficult and unnatural. You have to constantly work on yourself.

My father was working as a math professor in Sydney, Australia in 1976. He was one of the very few Indian immigrants there at the time. Like many of us, he turned 30 and all of his friends started getting married. Out of options, one of his friends suggested he take a trip back to India to try and meet someone, because that’s what was done – in fact, it still often is. He decided to go back home to New Delhi and summoned his mother for help. She alerted the troops and was able to find him 21 girls to go on dates with. Impressive numbers, 20 years before mainstream dial-up. The 21st girl was my mother. He was 31, she was 24. He proposed to her on their first date. (My mother will say the 20 girls before her rejected his proposal, he will say she is the only one he asked – the jury’s still out.) She was looking for three things: someone intelligent, someone that lived outside of India, and someone that wouldn’t beat her. He checked all the boxes, (fingers crossed on the last one). Two weeks later they were married.

Two strangers starting a life together in a foreign country. It sounds like a bad reality show. He had told her he was all set up in Sydney, had a great job, awesome place, friends, etc. She arrives to find out that he was more eccentric than she had thought. Dad was living in an apartment that was completely unfurnished and sleeping on a green yoga mat. He had equations written on the walls and had one pot in which he made franks and beans every night for dinner. He was giving all his money to literally anyone that asked and had $100 in savings, which contrary to your suspicion still wasn’t a lot in the late ‘70s. His best friend was a man named Ernie, who lived off the Sydney Harbor on a tiny patch of land the size of a bathroom where he and my father would boat out to and get trashed. This was NOT what she had hoped for.

Somehow, they managed to put in 15 solid years of work into the marriage. She helped him balance his life. She gave him two daughters that adore him. She taught him countless things like dental hygiene, how to save and invest their money, how to eat properly, and even how to swim! She saved him from himself.

He was nothing but an unpublished assistant professor when they met, paper after paper rejected. He worked tirelessly and with the support of my mother has now been published in every major mathematical publication worldwide, has won countless awards, and serves on the Nobel Prize Committee. He has given her a life she had never imagined. European vacations, property ownership, and the best lesson of all, that a glass of wine every night won’t kill you. (they’re drunks!)

It appears that when you start at rock bottom, things can only get better. As if this wasn’t enough, after 15 years, they fell in love. They now have been married for 37 years.

News Flash: Life is not the movies. Marriage is extremely difficult and unnatural. You have to constantly work on yourself. It’s almost impossible to be head over heels in love with someone, every day, forever. You fight, you make up, you change, you grow, you fight, you make up, you change, you adjust and then eventually you are too old to give a shit and then you die.

If your first marriage fails, statistically your second marriage has a higher percentage of failing, and third even more so. Why? Because it is impossible to obtain 100% of your happiness from another person. We set the bar so high, and then are disappointed.

What my parents have managed to do is to try and focus on the good the other person brings you, versus the things you can’t stand. If you only focus on the good, you are setting yourself up for success. Example: He doesn’t take out the trash, but HE DOES work hard all day, earn a good living, and hates sports!

There is no such thing as the perfect man or woman, it’s a myth. Even if you were to find the perfect someone, you would be over him or her and bored in a matter of time – these are the facts.

Once you accept that he’s not going to fill your wine glass when it’s low (the #1 quality I look for in a man), you will have an easier time. Whether it’s easy or not, I will say this: there IS something special about sharing a lifetime with only one person. Maybe it’s time for our generation to start from scratch with someone, rather than go into a relationship expecting compatibility and perfection. Grow together; it’s a gamble on both sides. What makes you think you’re so great?

How Many People Have Stayed with a Partner for Financial Reasons?

If you ever needed a reason to make your own money, and not depend on someone else, here comes a compelling stat:

A survey conducted earlier this year of 2K people in the U.K. revealed that 16% of Brits have stayed in a relationship because of financial reasons in the past. In the present, 28% of Brits are staying in relationships due to financial reasons (though that may not be the only reason).

Some of the aforementioned financial concerns are that 35% of respondents said they couldn’t cover living expenses without their partner’s help, and 10% said their partner paid for luxuries.

I have some questions about methodology here: We don’t know the age ranges of the respondents, or how much they make, among many other things. We can’t extrapolate to see if this is true of any other countries.

Sexless? Here are Remedies for a Reboot

Stuck in a sexless marriage? You’re not alone.

According to data scientist Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, the top-searched marriage complaint on Google is “sexless marriage.” (What’s more, searches for “sexless marriage” are three and a half times more common than “unhappy marriage” and eight times more common than “loveless marriage.”)

Many of those searching for answers are women struggling to understand why their spouses aren’t reciprocating their desire for sex. We reached out to marriage therapists and sex experts to share the advice they give women stuck in sexually unsatisfying marriages. Read what they had to say below.

“Many women are the ones with a higher sex drive in their marriages but women commonly don’t discuss this dynamic openly with friends. Also, the media portrayal of relationships makes women think that males have a constant high level of sexual desire. On the contrary, many women struggle in sexless marriages. Outside of therapy, I’d say that finding a support system can be invaluable. There are forums online where women share their experiences, such as the Dead Bedrooms forum on Reddit.” — Samantha Rodman, psychologist and couples’ counselor 

“It may not be you, so stop beating yourself up. It is no indicator of how sexy you are as a woman if he is initiating or not. Many times men stop initiating sex because they are stressed or they are experiencing some kind of erectile dysfunction and they’re too afraid to tell you. Men define their sexuality by their ability to perform and if they cannot achieve an erection upon demand they may withdraw. Keep being affectionate and let him know there is no pressure to get to the ‘finish line.’ Let him know you still want to cuddle and be close and then if you still want a ‘happy ending,’ well, frankly, you can take care of it yourself. If he wants to participate, he might find himself more turned on than he thought himself capable. Don’t wait for him to take charge. It is OK as the woman to be the driving force of your sex life.” — Tammy Nelson, certified sexologist and sex therapist and the author of Getting the Sex You Want