Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What is the Gott Sex Series?

The Four W’s…

What? The Gott Sex Series is an upcoming web based video program designed to help couples like you learn the skills necessary to have and maintain great sex lives, all from the privacy of your own home. It differs from other sex programs you may have seen because, like everything we do here at The Gottman Institute, it is entirely research based.

Whether things are going great between you and your partner, or you have stopped having sex altogether, this series will help make sex more passionate and personal for both of you.

The Gott Sex Series will be primarily video-based and will consist of nine modules, each with its own downloadable exercises designed to get couples to start communicating about sex in an open and effective way. It will, however, do much more than that.

To be as comprehensive as possible, we will be including a huge amount of additional content, resources, interviews with real couples, and extras to help you get your sex life exactly where it needs to go.

When? Mid October. The good news is that we have been hard at work for the last month, shooting and editing. Things are moving ahead quickly and we should be ready to launch shortly. A little closer to the date, we will be providing more information about how to become part of this program.

Why? We constantly see couples who are unhappy with this area of their lives, and we know it doesn’t have to be like that. Although we update our Blog as much as possible and genuinely want you to succeed, there is simply too much information to post it all here. Soon this Blog will become part of a larger online community in order to better serve your needs.

The problem when it comes to sex advice is that it usually involves superficial solutions to complex problems.  For example, go to any large bookstore and you will find a section of books about how to make sex better. Usually these books suggest various ways of rubbing, caressing, sucking, and licking the penis and the clitoris.

These are all very good ideas, and they create excitement, engorgement, lubrication and erection as couples prepare for sensual play and/or intercourse. But books like these will ultimately come up short if certain fundamental pieces of your relationship are not in place. The fact is that you can’t make your sex life better in the long run just by learning new sexual tricks.

We think we can do better than these books. What’s more, we think great sex really isn’t that complicated. What makes it tough for some couples is that it requires talking, touching, and knowing one’s partner romantically. It involves establishing and maintaining the emotional connection that makes both people want to be excited, carefree, playful, open, vulnerable, or erotic with one another. All that becomes easier if we are able to talk to each another about sex.

Which in a nutshell is exactly what the Gott Sex Series is going to help you to do.

All for now,
The Gottman Institute

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Gott Sex Series

video

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Don’t let it come to this


Talking in Bed


By Philip Larkin

Talking in bed ought to be easiest,

Lying together there goes back so far,
An emblem of two people being honest.

Yet more and more time passes silently.
Outside, the wind's incomplete unrest

Builds and disperses clouds in the sky,

And dark towns heap up on the horizon.

None of this cares for us. Nothing shows why

At this unique distance from isolation

It becomes still more difficult to find

Words at once true and kind,

Or not untrue and not unkind.

(Philip Larkin, 1964)





Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Power of Touch

 Given that touch is such an important part of love and sex, it is sad to discover that we are, unfortunately,  a low-touch culture. Compared to French, Italian, and Latin couples, American couples are just not very outgoing when it comes to expressing physical affection.

Take, for example, a fascinating study conducted by the psychologist Sidney Jourard. In his study, Jourard decided to observe how many times couples made physical contact with one another when they were out to dinner. He did this in several different cities around the world and his results were, well, astonishing.

 Jourard found that in Paris the average number of times couples touched each other in an hour was around 115. In Mexico City that number rose to a whopping 185. In London, on the other hand, the average was 0, and in Gainesville, Florida the average was just 2.

While words of love are great, they are simply not good enough for establishing intimate trust; there must be a physical connection as well. (Intimate trust, as you will recall from our earlier post entitled Friendship & Intimate Trust, is about nurturing the reality (or fantasy) that your partner is special, unique and to be cherished. It is at the heart of all happy, successful relationships.)

Why Touch? The Physiological Effects

 University of Miami psychologist Tiffany Field developed an interest in touch after giving birth to a premature baby. This experience led Field to develop a set of “touch institutes” to study its effects.

One of her studies involved newborns in hospitals. Field noticed that usually when babies were born prematurely, they were kept isolated in incubators away from their parents. Hospital staff prevented parents from touching them at all.

 Curious as to how this affected the babies, Field invented an incubator that made it possible for parents to affectionately touch and massage their newborns. This incubator turned out to have wonderful implications both for the children and the parents.

Not only did parents feel more “connected” to their newborns, but the babies who were massaged gained 47% of their body weight in just 10 days! These babies were able to leave the hospital and go home much sooner than babies who weren’t touched by their parents.

Massage and other forms of touch aren’t just powerful for babies, however. Field also discovered that 15 minutes a day of massage by the husband of a woman who was suffering from post-partum depression was as powerful as antidepressant medication. Furthermore, even though about 50% of people stopped taking antidepressant medication after a year (against medical advice), couples did not stop the massage.

The massage was literally able to keep partners “in touch” after the baby arrived and build an emotional connection that enhanced their intimate trust.  Field’s recommendations became a central part of our Bringing Baby Home workshop for maintaining intimacy and reducing conflict among parents who had just had a baby (See our website www.bbhonline.org and our book And Baby Makes Three - http://www.gottman.com/51166/558683/Books-Lectures-and-Tools/And-Baby-Makes-Three.html).

All for now,
©The Gottman Institute 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Creating a Ritual for Initiating and Refusing Sex




If you read our previous post then you know that the reason communication about sex is often fuzzy or murky is because people want to save face and avoid outright rejection. It is a scary prospect for people to hear, “No” from their partner. They feel hurt.

Instead of asking their partner directly to make love, many people tend to make indirect bids for sex, and then hope that their partner will somehow pick up on their subtle initiation request…

However, research indicates that among couples in committed relationships, clear bids for affection and sex are highly more likely to be accepted, especially if they are personal (I desire you) rather than impersonal (I’m horny). Research also shows that in couples when one person clearly asks the other for sex, the answer tends to be,  “YES”  a whopping 85% of the time.

This information is worth talking about, so in this post we are going to help you come up with a ritual for initiating and refusing sex.

By a ‘ritual’ for initiating and refusing sex, we mean a way of acting that is very clear to both of you. A ritual for initiating sex is a clear way of saying, “I want to make love to you.” A ritual for refusing sex is a clear AND GENTLE way of saying, “I love you, but right now I am not in the mood to want to make love.”  It’s a way of saying “no” without destroying our partner’s personality.

The following is a list of sample ideas for you to use, to help you and your partner arrive at an agreement for how to directly initiate sex:

1.     Simply tell your partner that you want to make love.
2.     Kiss your partner’s neck and say, “I really want you right now.”
3.     Leave your partner a note, email or text saying that you want (or desire)  them tonight.
4.     Tell your partner that you find them devastatingly attractive right now and that you want to start kissing them and see where it leads…

Talk it over. Use our ideas as suggestions and come up with some ideas of your own. When you have had a chance to do that, it is time to create a ritual for gently refusing sex for when you’re not in the mood. Work with some of the following ideas:

1.     Use a scale from 1 to 9 on how amorous you feel, with a 1 being “not at all amorous,” 5 being “I’m convince-able,” and 9 being “I’m very amorous.” For example, if you don’t want to make love, you might say, “Right now I’m a 1.”
2.     You could say, “I usually would love having sex with you, but I need to take a rain check. Right now I’m really not in the mood, but I still find you very attractive.”
3.     Or say, “I’m sorry honey, but it’s not the right time for love making or any kind of sex for me right now. But I still love you a lot, and you are very attractive.”
4.     Or you could say, “Sorry, I’m just not in the mood. But can I do something to help you come?”

Ultimately we would like you to arrive at your own rituals. Look over our list of suggestions and select a few that you like and discuss them with your partner. See if you can come up with at a ritual that works for both of you. Give this exercise a try this weekend and comment on how it goes.

All for now,
©The Gottman Institute

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sex Myth #3 Part 2


... This, however, wasn’t the case when we studied gay and lesbian couples talking to their partners about how to improve their sex lives. Altogether they were much more direct, far less embarrassed and much less defensive. For instance, one man we interviewed said to his male partner, “Who do you think initiated sex this morning?” His partner said, “Before we begin you know that your body isn’t the kind I find most attractive, right?” He answered, “Yes, I know that, but who do you think initiated sex this morning?” 
Can you imagine a heterosexual woman saying something like this to her man, and him saying, “Before we begin you know that your body isn’t the kind I find most attractive in a woman, right? Now, Judy, that neighbor of ours, is really sexy, not like you.”  Now imagine her answering, “Yes, I know that, but who do you think initiated sex this morning?” No chance! He’d be flying out the window.
(Just to be clear, we are advocating SOME OF this kind of directness for heterosexual couples. This example may not be appropriate for all couples or situations.)
Open and effective communication about sex was also not a big problem for many Latino-American couples.  We learned this from doing a large national survey for the magazine Reader’s Digest.  In our survey, most Latino couples reported that they kept sex a priority even when children came along, and that they talked to each other about how to improve and keep improving their sex lives. 
In addition, many said that they actually talked to one another during sex, and about their lovemaking afterwards. As a whole they were much more satisfied with their sex lives than any other population of couples that we surveyed. 
It looks like we have a lot to learn from the Latin cultures. Latino couples from all socioeconomic backgrounds seem to have made the sexual part of their relationship a top priority. Latino guys don’t feel masculine unless they know what pleases their women, so they ask, and they listen. 
Here’s another cultural difference. Most other American heterosexual couples typically tend to communicate indirectly about their amorous feelings for one another. They send out small “probes” to see if their partner is in the mood, and they say these indirect things in a coy way. 
For example, if one of them wants sex then he or she may flirtatiously say, “Is it a little cold in here sweetie?” Suppose their partner says, “No. Not at all cold.” Then the response of the amorous partner might be, “Let me check that stupid thermostat.”  This kind of response would save face. It pretends that the attempt to connect didn’t really have a sexual overture. 
The reason that people ask indirectly for sex is because it is hard for most people to say, “Would you like to make love?” and then hear their partner say “No.”  This is because when they hear “No,” it feels like their partner is saying something like, “Make love to you? No way. I’d rather walk the dog.” 
The rejected one  takes it personally.  So rather than risk hearing this, he or she prefers instead to ask indirectly or just not ask at all. 
Accordingly, we want you to try not to ask indirectly for sex. Instead, agree with one another that you will ask for sex when you are in the mood, and then find a way to gently refuse it when you aren’t. How do you go about doing that? Our next post will address exactly how to create a ritual for initiating and refusing sex.
All for now,
The Gottman Institute

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sex Myth #3 Part 1


 Welcome back to the new and improved G-Spot.  We have some exciting news to share with you!

As part of our upcoming Gott Sex Series, we recently took to the streets of Seattle with a camera crew and a list of racy questions and interviewed anyone who was willing to talk to us about sex.

Specifically, we asked people questions about their intimate lives and what they did to keep the passion, romance and friendship alive in their relationship. Let’s just say we have some interesting footage that we are excited to share with you. More information on the Gott Sex Series, as well as actual video footage coming soon. For now, let’s take a look at another myth about sex.


Myth #3: Asking directly for sex will kill romance

Our Advice: Make sure to honor the wishes of your partner but ask directly when you want sex and make it a priority in your relationship


Take for instance a woman we know who we’ll refer to as Mary. Mary recently gave birth to two children. Mary says that she is happier with her sex life now than she was before she and her husband had their children.

Why? Well according to her there is more openness in sexual communication now. She says that because there isn’t as much time to connect sexually, she and her husband are forced to talk openly with one another if either of them want to make love.

Mary never did this before she had children; in fact she said that she actually had trouble being open with her husband in sexual discussions. If he wasn’t interested in sex and she was, she thought, “He must think that I’m unattractive.” Even when she was in great shape she was still insecure. However now that they talk openly about their feelings Mary takes it much less personally when David isn’t interested. 

For many years in our ‘Love Lab’ we recorded heterosexual couples talking about their sexual issues. In general, most heterosexual couples seem embarrassed to talk about sex with one another. Conversations were often fuzzy or murky. From the actual content of these conversations it was very hard to tell what people were really talking about.

Here’s an excerpt of one of these conversations:
He: So we’re going to talk about this?
She: I guess so. So do you think it’s gotten better?
He: Well, sure, it’s gotten better, but there’s still a long way to go.
She: You don’t like it?
He: Sure I like it, but there’s a lot we can still do.
She: Well at least we’re not like Paul and Diane.
He: I never said we were. I don’t know how he puts up with her.
She: He’s no picnic either, I can tell you that.
He: I know that, I don’t know how they put up with each other.
She: So we’re okay?
He: Sure we’re okay. But we could be better, right?
She: I have been trying.
He: I know you have, and I appreciate that.
She: Good.

See what we mean? This couple is uncomfortable asking directly for what they want. Maybe you’re thinking that this is because a camera and a camera operator were present, but in fact that isn’t the case. Even when couples were home alone, using personal audio recorders that they had become used to, they were still vague and unclear about what they needed. They were very worried about rejection in the sexual domain... 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sex Myth #2 Part 2


Let’s take a look at the second part of this Myth: 

   …Harry avoided Helen because he felt bad about having a secret from Liz. But Harry and Liz didn’t get the opportunity to repair their emotional distance. So the next time Harry and Helen talked, Harry was even lonelier. Harry and Helen very quickly got back to that place again where Harry was opening up, and this time Harry gave himself permission to touch Helen’s hand and gaze into her eyes.

   He realized that she was quite attractive, and that he had feelings about her. He got scared and ended the encounter quickly. This time he was certainly not going to tell Liz about Helen.

   Harry felt so awful about holding these secrets from Liz that Harry and Liz finally discussed the feelings they were most reluctant to share with one another, feelings like being attracted to other people, and feeling lonely. It was a little bit of hell for a while.

    But Liz had somehow known something was going on all along. Harry was surprised that she actually felt relieved to hear about Helen. Angry, but also relieved. She had also been attracted to men and had felt lonely. Their conversation was difficult, but it drew them closer. Harry set up boundaries with Helen. Walls and windows were reversed to their original state.

    Without discussing these feelings, gradually emotional distance builds up. It is a slow progression and very natural. Loneliness can leave people vulnerable to other people. Walls and windows can quickly become reversed. Yet it does not mean Harry is an evil person or that Liz is a bad partner, or Helen a home-wrecker.

  Only by understanding this process can we start to heal from an affair if it happens. Only by understanding this process can we prevent and affair from happening in the first place.

  Believe it or not, most affairs are not about sex. They are about finding someone to talk to who finds you interesting, amusing, listens to you, who laughs at your jokes and wants to spend time with you. Some of this process of bonding with a stranger is hormonal.

   The hormones oxytocin and vasopressin are secreted by the pituitary gland in our brain when, we affiliate with and feel close to someone, particularly a potential sexual partner.

   Oxytocin is also the hormone associated with the milk letdown response in lactating mothers. In mammals both genders create oxytocin and vasopressin, and they are the hormone of affiliations and pair bonding. Men secrete these specific hormones when they make friends and become closer to another man; women also secrete these specific hormones when they make friends and become closer to another woman. 

   These specific hormones facilitate emotional bonding, so part of what is happening to Harry is hormonal. By letting himself get closer to Helen, even innocently, his brain begins easing the process of bonding. 

             Over the years the Gottmans have treated many couples that are recovering from an affair. People often tell themselves that no one will be hurt as long as the affair remains a secret. They think that if their partner doesn’t know, they can’t be hurt.

             But one thing we have learned over the years is that even if an affair remains a secret, the person carrying the secret is hurt. That person’s ability to be close and free with the partner has been irrevocably damaged. And unless they can talk about what happened, this damage will not ever be healed…  

The process of recovering from an affair involves a lot of willingness to talk, to answer questions, and to get over the trauma of betrayal. The process of recovering from an affair often involves changing the relationship so that both partners can talk to one another when it is most difficult.

Some powerful ideas to think about,
The Gottman Institute

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sex Myth #2 Part 1

Let’s take a look at another myth about sex:

Myth #2: Conflict will kill romance. Never complain and never fight.

Hmm… Instead of shying away from conflict, we recommend that you:

Discuss your innermost feelings and don’t avoid conflict.

This piece of advice may seem very hard to actually follow at first, but it is absolutely critical to trust. The late psychologist Shirley Glass had the deepest insights into extra-marital sexual affairs. 

She is essentially the one who took infidelity out of the pulpit, and showed how natural it can be.  She explained how in many cases there is a natural progression into an affair. 
 
Here’s what she found typically happens. After the baby arrives it is very likely for both partners to neglect one another.  Sex declines, and even conversation goes down dramatically.  It is very common for both people to feel unappreciated, and a bit lonely.

So let’s take one of our couples, Harry and Liz, and explain their story. Harry was feeling exhausted, neglected, horny, and a bit lonely. One day Harry had a very interesting conversation at an office party with one of his coworkers, Helen.  He and Helen laughed together, they told one another the stories of their lives and they had fun talking.

Harry complained about how difficult life had become since the baby arrived. He complained that Liz was now so absorbed with the baby that there was no time for him anymore. Helen was very understanding. Harry felt much better. Nothing physical happened between Harry and Helen. There was no touching or hand-holding or kissing. But Harry found himself thinking of Helen, not Liz on the drive home.

As Harry drove home he thought to himself, “Liz and I haven’t had that kind of fun time together in a long time. I should go home and tell Liz about this conversation I just had with Helen. I should tell her that I am worried that we aren’t having that kind of fun with each other anymore.” It seemed like a good idea but then Harry imagined Liz’s reaction.

He knew that she would be furious with him, and she’d be right. Harry felt guilty. Liz would call him a big baby and tell him to grow up. He might even agree with her. She would tell him that life with a baby was no picnic for her either.

He knew that when she said these things, he would feel even more awful and guilty. So, he thought, “The hell with it, I just won’t say anything. Nothing really happened anyway. What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”

But then Harry had a secret.  He didn’t tell Liz about Helen and in doing so he compromised his intimacy with Liz. What she didn’t know actually ended up hurting him. He was now protecting his secret friendship with Helen.

Usually there are walls in a relationship to keep the world out, and a couple looks out the windows together at the rest of the world. But now that had changed for Harry. Now Helen had a window into Harry and Liz’s relationship, and there was a wall shutting Liz out of Harry and Helen’s relationship. A boundary had been crossed. A small one not a big one, but a boundary nonetheless...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sex Myth #1

Let’s start today by debunking one of several myths that many people believe about sex, romance, and passion.

Myth #1: Romance Will Never Ever Change If It Is Real... 

WRONG. On the contrary, we think that it is necessary to: 

Accept that in a long term relationship things will change

It's a fact that couples who are doing well intimately, have accepted that certain things in life are going to change as they live their lives together. Life is a moving target, one that requires adaptation. Just because things change between you, doesn't mean that there is something wrong with your relationship. On the contrary, change can be good.

For example, those of you who are parents know how "different" things become once your baby is born. It's a fact of life that having a child will drastically affect sex, romance, and passion. Couples usually aren’t too thrilled about this prospect, but the smart ones are able to cope with it and accept the changes that come home along with their new baby. 

They hang in there. 

They don't blame the relationship itself. They realize that everyone goes through these same thing once a baby arrives and they actively search for new ways to connect with one another. As a result they become a better team. They share their feelings and frustrations with one another. They talk to other couples who also have kids and learn that everyone is truly in the same soup. Ultimately, they come to understand that it is life with a baby, not a flaw in their partner/relationship, that is responsible for a decreased sex life. 

Weight gains are also common in life, especially during pregnancy, and many women feel unattractive after giving birth. One woman in a study we did said that she felt about as sexy as a potato after giving birth. 

The humorist David Barry said that when your wife asks you if she looks fat in this dress, the only thing you can possibly do is fall on the floor and pretend you’re having a heart attack. Any other response will get you into trouble. 

Our data on couples whose sex lives are going well after having a baby actually supports David Barry’s advice. Even if her body has changed, or if he just thinks that it has changed, the man needs to keep his mouth shut. He needs to not comment on weight gains. He needs to avoid suggestions that she work out, or eat differently, or be more like him. He needs to be understanding and patient.

Our Advice Regarding Change: Accept the inevitability of change in your relationship and work with it. Never comment adversely about your attraction to your partner. Just keep your mouth shut  and instead, continue to be affectionate and appreciative of all the things that you do find attractive about you partner. Remember, all appreciations are foreplay. 

The Gottman Institute

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fun, Sexy Things To Do Together


Affectionate couple enjoying a sunny day laying in the grass.


“Variety is the spice of life” – William Cowper

While we’re on the subject of intimate trust, let’s take a look at some fun and sexy things that you can do with your partner to help heighten the romance in your intimate lives.

A quick word of caution, though, before we begin; trying to fix the problems in your intimate life by focusing purely on external ‘solutions’ is like trying to look thinner by sucking in your belly. It’s a superficial fix.

Unfortunately, if you ask most couples what they think they can do to make their relationships more romantic in the next two weeks, guess what they will say? They will talk about all the external things they can do to make their relationship more romantic. They will give examples such as a candle-light dinner, soft music, a lovely drive in the country, a picnic in the summer, and so on. But none of these things will work by themselves; in fact, they will be a big disappointment if the fundamental parts of the relationship - such as love maps, intimate trust, and fondness and admiration for your partner - are not in place.

Fact: None of these external ways of building romance will work if the basic parts of the couple’s friendship aren’t working.

To illustrate this point, imagine a suggestion for building romance between two heterosexuals. Say that a man decides to send his woman a rose a day for twelve days. Will this add more romance to the relationship? It depends on how he treats her at other times.  Let’s take a look at how he behaves in three scenarios:

Scenario 1. She comes to a party late, and she finds her man engrossed in conversation with another person. He senses her presence, his face brightens, he eagerly gets up, comes over to her, kisses her, and then introduces her to the person he is talking to.

Scenario 2. She comes to a party late, and she finds her man engrossed in conversation with another person. He senses her presence, he looks up and gives her an “eyebrow flash” greeting (a brief raise of both eyebrows) and then continues eagerly talking to the person he is talking to.

Scenario 3. She comes to a party late, and she finds her man engrossed in conversation with another person. He senses her presence, his face darkens and he frowns as he continues eagerly talking to the person he is talking to.

In which scenario do you think the rose a day for twelve days is going to do anything? Right, only in scenario #1, where it is a fulfillment of the friendship already built in the relationship.  Read through our posts on friendship, intimate trust, and sex love maps for advice on how to foster the internal components of your relationship.

10 Fun, Sexy Things To Do Together

Doing fun and sexy things together can be as simple as having a pillow fight, sitting in the back of the movie theater and making out like you are teenagers again, or taking turns giving each other a massage with scented oils. Or it can be as intricate as dressing up and salsa dancing at home, getting some champagne and going on a hot-air balloon ride, or leaving town for an overnight romantic get away.

Pick one of the items from our list – whatever tickles your fancy – and try it out sometime in the next few days:

1) At the end of the day greet each other warmly and have a kiss that lasts at least six seconds.

2) Catch your partner doing something right and convey your appreciation or admiration.

3) Download or Rent an X-rated video and watch it together.

4) Give each other a foot massage.

5) Try a new sexual position and talk about how you liked it.

6) Help your partner masturbate to orgasm while you watch.

7) Buy or make your partner a CD of your favorite romantic music and listen to it together.

8) Read an erotic book out loud together.

9) Go for a romantic overnight, just the two of you.

10) Send your partner a love letter or poem.

Or even better, share some of your own ideas below in the comments section for others to enjoy!

Have an affectionate week,
©The Gottman Institute

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Friendship & Intimate Trust

Sexy couple enjoying a day at the beach.


Welcome back to The G-Spot. We covered a lot of material over the last week so let’s recap:

• We discussed the idea of open and effective communication and explained why it is so important to your relationship.

• We talked about how to have an effective intimate conversation, and gave you a list of specific questions to ask your partner so you can better develop Sex Love Maps of each other.

• We posed some tough questions that women had about their relationships to Dr. Julie Gottman.

Hopefully you were able to take away some practical, research-based ideas from all this great content. It’s time now to take a look at another fundamental part of a good sex life: maintaining a close, connected and trusting friendship.


Intimate Trust & Friendship

Here at The Gottman Institute we are interested in helping couples create personal romance, personal passion, and very personal and intimate sex.

What do we mean by these vague terms? Defining “romance,” and “passion,” scientifically isn’t easy, but let’s try. We define “romance” as the state that follows an agreement made with one’s partner to nurture acts and thoughts that cherish qualities of each other as special, unique, and irreplaceable. We define “passion” as nurturing communications of strong, and at times almost obsessive, interest in, curiosity about, desire for, and attraction to one’s partner.

Our definitions are designed to make these aspects of intimacy in a trusting relationship very personal. They clearly involve cherishing the positive qualities of our partner and elevating them to a high degree in our minds, and feeling gratitude for being blessed to have a special friend in our lives.

These definitions involve our partner’s thinking positively about us, even when we’re not together, and vice versa. For some people, they even involve nurturing a fantasy kind of "halo" about our partner. How do you really think about your partner?



A Key Enabling Factor That Allows Great Friendship To Exist Is Trust

Trust, we claim, is all about believing that our partner has our interests in mind by behaving, as if we believe it, even in disagreements. Our partner has our back. Our partner is there for us.

Intimate trust takes that idea one step further. It nurtures the reality (or the fantasy) that our partner is unique, special, and to be cherished. This is a totally do-able state of mind. For example, Paul Newman was so handsome and attractive that people often asked him why he had never had an affair. He once replied, “Why should I eat hamburger outside the home when I can get steak at home?”

Nurturing these ideas is what made his marriage to Joanne Woodward so happy. They celebrated their Golden anniversary in 2008. Lore has it that it remained romantic, passionate, and trusting throughout their lives. Newman once joked on David Letterman’s show, “I don’t know what that woman puts in my food.”


Great Friendship Is Strongly Linked To Intimate Trust

For example, take a study we did of couples after they had their first baby. We discovered that for couples whose sex life was going well three years after their baby arrived (compared to those for whom it wasn’t going well), intimate trust, friendship, conversations that create emotional connection, and good sex were all interrelated.

Our research data is not unique. Our friend, the late sex therapist Bernie Zilbergeld conducted a study with 100 couples. All of them were 45 years old, or older. Half of the couples were selected because they said that they had a good sex life, and half were selected because they said that they had a bad sex life. Zilbergeld was interested in which techniques couples used to create a satisfying sex life, and how they dealt with the problems of aging.

His overwhelming finding wasn’t at all about sex techniques. What distinguished the two groups of couples were only two things. Couples who said that they had a good sex life more often than couples whose sex life was poor consistently mentioned: (1) maintaining a close, connected and trusting friendship, and (2) making sex a priority in their lives.

At its core, we believe a fulfilling sex life is all about creating and maintaining a deep personal connection/friendship with your partner, and developing Intimate Trust. Check back soon for ways to enhance intimate trust and overall friendship in your relationship.

All for now,
The Gottman Institute

Friday, August 5, 2011

Another round of tough Q&A with Dr. Julie Gottman

Question 1

Dear Julie,

After divorcing from my husband in a marriage where we had an “alright” sex life, I became addicted to using a vibrator. I am currently dating again but sex with my new man just isn’t fulfilling for me, what can I do to change this?


It looks like your sexual organ, that is, your beautiful brain, has been trained to only respond to intense mechanized stimulation. When we consistently pair a stimulus with a given outcome (like an orgasm), our brain learns to trigger an orgasm only in the presence of that stimulus, and it takes awhile to change that pattern.  It's like moving to a new house.  When we've driven home by one route over and over again, we'll inadvertently follow that route back to our old house again unless we're paying close attention to our new route home. So be patient.  Focus on the sensual with your new man.  Try taking turns being the giver or the receiver, where one of you does the touching while the other simply receives.  Experiment with different kinds of touch - lighter, more firm, more textured with feathers, cloth, and lotions, or motions.  Just enjoy each other. The rest of our lives are typically so goal-oriented that we forget that lovemaking is for pleasure, not for performance.  Talk with him about what he likes, and what you like.  Then sit back, relax, and just enjoy yourselves.  The rest will come in time.

Question 2

Dear Julie,

I tried to forgive my husband for having an affair but truthfully, our sex life has never been the same because I am still mad. When I try to speak with him about it, he tells me that I just wont let it drop.


No wonder you're struggling.  It sounds like you forgave him too quickly, before the hard work got done.  It's not easy to recover from an affair.  A very wise American psychologist, Shirley Glass, noted that most of the betrayed women she treated suffered from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  So let me ask you....Do recurring images of your husband with the other woman pop into your mind unbidden?  Do flashes of anger or pain trouble you?  Do you catch yourself watching for signs that he may be cheating again?  Is your sleep troubled?  Do you sometimes feel down for no good reason, or at other times, just feel numb? These are all signs of post-affair PTSD.  Here's what's needed for your recovery and the rebirth of your marriage.  You may need to do these steps with a counselor, as they're very difficult to do on your own.  You need to revisit the affair - both of you.  You need to be able to ask your husband any question you want to, like when did it start, how did it start, etc.  I'd caution you not to ask him to detail the affair sexual activities, however, as these can burn indelible new traumatizing images into your brain that are hard to get rid of.  Instead, focus on the when's, where's and eventually, the why's.  You also need to express every feeling you've had about this affair.  That may mean getting angry over and over. He needs to listen, answer honestly, and empathize with your feelings. A counselor can support both of you while you thrash it out.  Then you need to deeply talk about what you both need to rebuild a new marriage.  The trust may never be the same, but that doesn't mean you can't build a different kind of trust and an even better marriage - one that is based on complete honesty, openness, and responsiveness to each other's needs. Try reading Shirley Glass's groundbreaking book,
Not Just Friends. It can help to guide you both.  Marriage #1 is gone, but with some good hard work, you can build marriage #2 into an even stronger and more loving union - one that is based on both of you not being perfect but being deeply beautifully human with strengths and flaws, too.


 Check back next Monday for more updates.
All for now,

The Gottman Institute 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tough Q&A with Dr. Julie Gottman

Today let’s take a look at some tough questions that women have for Dr. Julie Gottman about their intimate lives;

Question 1

Hi Julie,

I am sad to say that I no longer feel attracted to my husband. The intimacy along with the close personal connection that we once shared is gone. What can I do to get things back on track?


Ah, an age-old story.  Our passion burns hot and heavy during those early years but dwindles to embers with the day in, day out mundane moments of everyday life.  I imagine in the beginning, he wooed you with candlelight, flowers and the anticipation of kisses to come?  So how about reversing the tables? It's time to embrace your own feminine power. Try inviting him to a romantic picnic, right on your parlor floor.  If there are kids, send them to the houses of friends, then lay out a tablecloth, cook a lovely dinner, and put on some sultry music and bewitching perfume.  He'll be so surprised.  Ask him those deeper intimate questions to open up conversation. Use questions from our Sex Love Maps exercise or try these:  What is one dream you still wish you could fulfill?  What are you most proud of in yourself?  What do you consider your greatest success of the last year?  What legacy do you wish to leave behind?  Questions like these unlock our minds and hearts.  Share your answers, too.  The resulting connection you hopefully make may blow some much needed oxygen into that last ember, and hopefully rekindle it anew.  Enjoy!

Question 2

Julie,

I gained weight after giving birth to my child and have a negative image about my body. What can I do to help improve my self-esteem?


 You sound like yet another victim of the "twiggy" era.  Though the tiny model's fame peaked decades ago, we are still slaves to the "skinnier is better" phenomenon.  Did you know that body image standards wildly vacillate, depending on whether or not you are living in a land of feast, or famine?  I'll never forget traveling in India and gazing in wonder at 15-meter tall billboards that revealed gorgeous Bollywood stars with rolls of fat!  They were luscious in their sensuality, absolutely breathtaking.  These days in the U.S., advertisers are finally catching on.  Beautiful larger women grace our magazine pages.  Look at Jennifer Lopez, she reigns supreme with all her lovely curves.  Try this: first, cut out a picture of a shapely voluptuous star and park it next to your mirror.  Next, get active.  Celebrate what your body can do.  Try walking, jogging, swimming, yoga, anything that puts you in touch with the power of your body.  It helps to focus on your strengths rather than just appearance.  Feel the power in your legs, your arms, and your back.  The more you love what your body can do, the less appearance matters.  And remember, you are the one who delivered those beautiful children.  Talk about strength! You are woman.

Question 3

Dear Julie Gottman,

I was content with the way things were going with my marriage until an old boyfriend contacted me on Facebook. Although we only met for drinks, feeling sexy and excited made me want to take things further. We are both married with children and although the last thing either of us wants is a divorce, could rediscovering my sensual side enhance sex with my husband?

 Goodness, no!  Nothing like a little betrayal to completely destroy a marriage.  Your old boyfriend may be looking for something on the side.  But can you honestly say that your husband would appreciate your experimenting with your ex?  Our research shows that affairs, one way or another, are almost always discovered.  And when they are, the entire marriage crumbles. Trust forms the cornerstone of marriage - and usually that trust involves monogamy.  So how about experimenting with your husband instead?  Try changing up your intimate life.  Make love in the shower.  Inject some fantasy play into your passion.   Surprise him with new lingerie, new music, a weekend away, a sexy video. There are lots of ways to reclaim your sensuality without breaking the marriage in the process. Just use the sexiest tool of all - your imagination!


Responses by Dr. Julie Gottman,
Check back soon for more tough questions and their answers.

© The Gottman Institute