Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sex Feedback: Reinvigorate Your Relationship

A couple hold hands while sitting in chairs on the beach.

Day 14: Talk about what feels good sexually and how to make it better.

        Talking about sex is a scary prospect for many couples. However, there is considerable evidence that talking about sex is related to overall happiness in couples’ relationships. One study tested the correlation between open communication and sexual satisfaction in women. Fifty percent of the women who said that they discussed their sexual feelings with their husbands were also very satisfied with the relationship. Only nine percent of women who did not discuss their sexual feelings with their husbands were equally satisfied. These results show women who were in relationships with open lines of communication were four times more likely to have relationship happiness than their tight-lipped counterparts.

        When talking about sex, make sure to focus on the positive. Always tell your partner what you like in bed, not what you don’t like. This keeps the conversation positive and avoids sounding like a critique of sexual performance. Compliment one another freely in these discussions and reminisce about your best sexual experiences. Gently tell your partner where you like to be touched, what kind of touch, what positions turn you on, and so on. In return, listen to your partner’s feedback with an open mind. Instead of taking their feedback as a personal rejection, remember this information will make you a better lover and make your sex life more pleasurable. These honest discussions will also build intimacy between couples and, like the women in the communication study, bring more happiness to the relationship.

Until tomorrow,
J. Fuller
TGI Staff 

(Gott Sex? Module 5)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Gender Differences: Reinvigorate Your Relationship

A couple laugh and share a romantic embrace.

Day 13: Slow down sex.

        There is not one perfect way to have sex. Every person has different sexual preferences and every couple needs to blend each partner's individual desires for a harmonious sex life. In most heterosexual relationships, this involves understanding the gender differences in sex. For women, sex is a slow buildup whereas it is more of a quick release for men. Men turn toward women for sex once they’re aroused and erect; he is almost instantly ready to go like a microwave. On the other hand, women usually need to warm up to the idea of sex. Her sexual drive is more like a Dutch oven that heats up slowly.

        Sex works best when men slow way down, talk first, caress their women, and let them know how much they are loved and seen as beautiful. Slower sex intensifies pleasure for both men and women. It gives you more time to explore each other’s bodies and bond deeper. Certainly some quick, microwaved meals can be quite tasty (Quickies), but we tend to enjoy slow-cooked gourmet dinners more. So start turning on your Dutch oven and savor your sexual experiences. The results are delicious.

J. Fuller
TGI Staff

(And Baby Makes Three, pp 169-70)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sexual Fantasies – Part 2: Reinvigorate Your Relationship

Happy couple playfully enjoy the park on a sunny day.

Day 10: Act out your sexual fantasies.

        Not all sexual fantasies are meant to be put into practice. A threesome, for example, is a very common fantasy among males and females, yet most couples in our highly monogamous culture would not feel comfortable with sex acts outside of the relationship. That is not to say you should never act out your mind’s carnal concoctions. Fantasies can be a highly erotic experience that keeps your sex life burning.

        In general, men’s fantasies tend to be more visual, brief, and action-oriented. Women’s fantasies tend to be longer with more narrative and emotional content. Fantasies may include stories of scandalous seduction by teachers, Mrs. Robinson, doctors, police officers, animals, and so on. Costumes and props for role-play can get crazy. There are scenarios involving no control, all control, and everything in between. Maybe you’re interested in public sex, bondage, or new sexual techniques. And these are just a few of the countless possibilities! Talk with your partner to find fantasies that are right for you.

Days 11 and 12 (over the weekend): Explore other new sexual scenarios to spice up your sex life.

        What if even your tamest thoughts are still too intense for your lover? Or, what if you have already lived out your sexual fantasies and need new ways to add variety to your sex life? Dr. Yvonne K. Fulbright recommends creating a shared fantasy where you write your own erotic story together. This sort of fantasy does not need to be something you have always desired; rather, it is any new sexual experience both you and your partner are open to living out. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
  • Play a game of naked Twister. Distract your partner by kissing, licking, and tickling all different parts of their body. Last person standing wins.
  • Read an erotic book out loud together. Imitate the characters' words and actions. Follow the book to its conclusion or “rewrite” your own ending. 
  • See how many different places you can make love this weekend: the shower, the floor, the car, the closet, the kitchen counter-top. Anywhere and everywhere is fair game.

A hearty TGIF from the TGI Staff,
J. Fuller
(And Baby Makes Three, p 174; Salsa Cards)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sexual Fantasies – Part 1: Reinvigorate Your Relationship

A couple share a romantic kiss while laying in bed.

Day 9: Share your sexual fantasies.

        Couples with healthy sex lives have rich and imaginative sexual fantasies that they talk about and live out. Everyone has special images and wishes; they form the landscape of our inner erotic world. Problems arise when couples do not share this inner world with each other. It is like your erotic roadways are flooded and you have no way of finding your partner. To safely traverse your sexual landscape together, even as it is constantly shifting and changing, you need to keep talking about your fantasies.

        Doing so requires courage and trust. Many people, especially women, have been shamed for even having sexual fantasies. Before you share your deepest desires, your relationship needs to be an environment of security and support. Lovers need to be able to withhold any judgment and make each other feel accepted. It helps to start with milder thoughts so you can gauge your partner’s reaction. Some couples find it is easier to share their fantasies through writing. If you are still uncomfortable, try framing your fantasy as a sexy dream you had last night.

        It is important to remind your partner that sharing doesn’t mean you have to make your fantasy a reality. Simply talking and using your imagination increases arousal. However, realizing your fantasies can lead to spicier and more passionate sex. Tomorrow we will further discuss how to act out your sexual fantasies.

J. Fuller
TGI Staff

(And Baby Makes Three, p 173)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Quickies: Reinvigorate Your Relationship

A couple share a steamy kiss in the shower.

Day 8: Have a quickie.

        Yesterday we emphasized the importance of bringing more foreplay into your everyday life. The value of broadening your definition of foreplay is twofold; it makes romantic sex more personal as discussed yesterday, but it also keeps the embers of passion burning constantly. We understand life has a way of interrupting romantic time together. Couples with children especially, but everyone knows how work and other responsibilities often limit the amount of alone time you have with your partner. Sometimes we only have time for a quickie. Luckily these short encounters do not have to be unromantic. If all positive interactions are foreplay, there will be enough built up passion to make your quickie pleasurable.

        Happy couples find surefire ways for her to climax, like oral or manual clitoral stimulation, and sometimes his just having the orgasm is fine, too. Maybe this quickie will be like “a sexual gift”, where only one partner is sexually satisfied, and then next time they will return the favor. The puzzle to solve with your partner is the best ways to feel close to one another in a short period of time. Verbal and physical affection along with sustained daily foreplay is what will provide the spark for your quickies.

Happy hump day!
J. Fuller
TGI Staff 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Everything is Foreplay: Reinvigorate Your Relationship

A couple snuggle closely and toast their hot chocolate outside on a snowy day.

Day 7: Compliment your partner.  

        What comes to mind when you hear the word “foreplay”? You probably thought of kissing and touching, maybe dirty talk or sex games. These are all great interactions to physically and emotionally warm up for sex. However, confining your ideas of foreplay to the bedroom is doing your sex life a disservice. The Gottman Institute recommends you start viewing all positive interactions in your relationship as a form of foreplay.

        Here’s what we mean. Foreplay is taking an evening walk together and talking over the morning newspaper. When you take out the garbage when it’s not your turn because your partner looks tired, that’s foreplay. When you sincerely tell your partner how beautiful or handsome they look, that’s foreplay. When you listen to each other after a stressful day at work or take care of the baby so your partner can rest, that’s foreplay, too. When you think of everything positive you do or say in a relationship as foreplay, you will start having more passionate and personal sex. You can’t expect fireworks without a lit fuse and you likewise can’t expect spicy sex without ample foreplay. Compliment your partner today for hotter sex tonight. 

J. Fuller
TGI Staff

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pillow Talk: Reinvigorate Your Relationship

A same gender couple enjoys a sunny morning while smiling happily in bed.

Day 6: Say “I love you” after sex.

        Clinical psychologist and marriage counselor Dr. Randi Gunther recognizes four main stages of romantic sex: courtship, sexual arousal, orgasm, and pillow talk. This fourth stage, when couples are in the afterglow of lovemaking, is an important time to nurture deep affection and build emotional intimacy. Couples often experience a heightened sense of connectedness following sex and can use this time to discuss bedroom performance, share sexual fantasies, or exchange expressions of love.

        It is not realistic to expect deep and meaningful discussion after every time you have sex. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. But whether it be a few minutes or a few hours, it is important to allow time for post-coital bonding. A simple “I love you” or other loving gestures may be exactly what your partner needs. Verbal and physical affection is a way to savor your sensual connection while extending the passion of sex into your everyday life. So from now on, save some time for pillow talk! Remember that cuddling, intimate conversation, and sweet nothings are an important part of the sexual experience. 

Hope your week is off to a sexy start,
J. Fuller
TGI Staff

Friday, January 20, 2012

Direct Communication: Reinvigorate Your Relationship

A couple smiles happily in front of a moss covered wall.

Day 3: Ask each other for sex.

        Even in long-term relationships, couples are typically indirect about their amorous feelings. They send out little probes to one another, scouting out if their partner is in the mood. While this roundabout approach prevents bruised egos, never directly asking means never directly rejected, it also prevents a fulfilling sexual relationship. Being more open about sex and creating an environment in which couples feel free to share their desires leads to greater sexual happiness.

        Try to be more direct when you’re in the mood and ask your partner for sex. However, always make sure your partner’s boundaries are the first priority; sex should never be forced on your partner when they don’t want it. Remember low interest is not a personal rejection.

Days 4 and 5 (over the weekend): Develop and agree upon a system for initiating and refusing sex.

        To help foster more open communication about sex, couples often develop their own code words or signals. Dr. Lonnie Barbach suggests that couples talk about sexual interest in terms of a nine-point scale of amorous feelings; a “nine” means you feel extremely lusty whereas you’re not in the mood at all when you’re a “one”. Then one of you can say, “Honey, the kids are asleep and tonight I’m a seven. How about you?” The reply could be a gentle “No, sorry, I’m a two tonight” or “I’ve been a nine all day. Let’s go!” This sort of dialogue helps couples to communicate how they are feeling about sex at the moment without either partner feeling personally denied.

Happy Friday!

J. Fuller
TGI Staff

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sex Preparations: Reinvigorate Your Relationship

A beautiful, exotic couple smile happily.

Day 2: Prepare for sex like in the beginning of your relationship.

Remember all the effort you made early in your relationship to make sex as pleasurable as possible? Maybe certain perfume, lingerie, music, or candles really helped set the mood. As your relationship progressed and the two of you became more comfortable in your sexual routine, perhaps these special preparations fell by the wayside.
It’s time to bring these preparations back! Talk with your partner about the elements you would like to incorporate into sex and try them out. It could be something tried and true from your early dating days or something completely new. Pay particular attention to what your partner finds most exciting, and plan to use these often. Learning to make love to someone is much like learning to give the perfect back rub. You start off using techniques that you would most like to receive, but with experience and feedback, you make adjustments and use techniques your partner likes best. Your partner’s feedback should be viewed as useful information, not rejection. Learning what turns your partner on is what makes a great lover and makes sex as pleasurable as it can be.

J. Fuller
TGI Staff

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ritualize Lovemaking: Reinvigorate Your Relationship

A couple laughs playfully while sitting on the hardwood floor in front of a white wall, reinvigorating their relationship.

        For the next month, The Gottman Institute invites you to take our relationship challenge, 30 Days to Reinvigorate Your Relationship. Every weekday we will share one easy tip to strengthen your relationship and heat up your sex life. Are you and your partner up to the challenge?

Day 1: Plan a time to have sex.

        Many people believe sex should be spontaneous. They think any sort of preplanning kills the mood and takes all the sexiness out of lovemaking. Unfortunately, a couple’s life can get so busy with work, family, and other obligations that unless they plan a time to be together, the sex never happens. This is why Dr. John Gottman recommends couples ritualize lovemaking to ensure that it happens regularly. 

        Find out if there is a specific time of the day or week when the two of you can plan to be alone together. Maybe it’s Thursday evenings when the kids are at soccer practice or on the weekends when you’re free from the pressures of work. Can you arrange similar lunch hours for mid-day lovemaking? Spontaneous sex is by no means a bad thing, but you shouldn’t get swept away by the unrealistic romantic ideal that all good sex has to be impulsive. Don’t let your lack of unstructured time be a drain on your love life. Make sex a priority!

        Planning ahead can even make sex more pleasurable by building anticipation of what is to come. If you and your partner arranged alone time tonight, send a sexy text telling them how much you can’t wait. This delayed gratification builds desire and could make tonight’s sex session the hottest one of the year so far.

Have a great week,
J. Fuller
TGI Staff

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Shared Common Goals: Weekend Homework Assignment

Couple playfully sleds down a snowy hill on old wood sleds.
        Hope that you are enjoying your weekend! We’re two weeks into the New Year; how are you feeling? How are your New Year’s Resolutions coming along? Unfortunately, twenty percent of people who made New Year’s Resolutions regarding health and fitness will have quit their diet and exercise programs by now and over half will give up by the end of the month. Similar statistics hold true for quitting smoking, better money management, and other big lifestyle adjustments. Making changes is hard and what seemed like a reasonable goal January 1st now looks like an impossible task. Discouragement, setbacks, and lack of confidence in their own ability to change are why many hit the snooze button this morning instead of hitting the gym.

        Luckily, setting and keeping relationship goals doesn’t have to be this hard. Shared goals can be bedrock for relationships; they can give us a purposeful pathway that enriches our lives with meaning. Partners can offer encouragement to each other while building confidence. They pull each other out of “resolution ruts” and back on the path to a better relationship. The key to this successful support system is shared common goals. To find out if you and your partner are on the same page, sit down together this weekend and answer the following questions:

  1. How can we keep or bring back the fun in our relationship? 
  2. How will we spend more quality time together? 
  3. How can we build intimacy, both sexually and non-sexually? 
  4. How open are we to trying new things in bed? 
  5. How will we let each other know about our sexual needs? 
  6. How will we handle jealousy, resentment, or competition toward one another? 
  7. How will we handle fights and bring them to a healthy resolution? 
  8. How will we communicate and "check-in" with each other daily? 
  9. What is the most important thing to us about our relationship? 
  10. What is something we can both do to improve our relationship?

A couple discusses their goals while sitting on the couch.

        If over half your answers match your partner’s, you share many common goals and are looking to get the same things out of your relationship. You’re on the right track to accomplishing your relationship goals together this year.

        If less than half your answers match your partner’s, you could use more dialogue. Which areas do you agree with and which areas do you disagree with? Can you form a compromise on the areas of different opinion? Most importantly, reread Question #10 with your partner. Find one aspect of your relationship where you and your partner share similar goals and discuss how you can both work toward it this year.

        Dr.Stephen Covey said, “If you don’t know where you’re headed, it doesn’t help to try to go there any faster.” Before embarking on this year long journey to a better relationship, make sure you and your partner agree on the same course. Together you can take small daily steps to improve your sex life, build intimacy, and strengthen your relationship.

Until next week,
J. Fuller
TGI Staff

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Language of Touch

Beautiful couple gazes out into the distance on a clear day.

Touch is one of the most basic forms of human connection. It is an important tool in requesting emotional bids and responding to other’s bids in return. To continue this week’s theme on simple resolutions to improve your relationship in 2012, today’s post will help you learn the language of affectionate nonsexual touching and how to speak it with your partner.

Everyone craves affection and the feeling of connectedness with others. Touch creates an emotional bond between people, such as a father kissing his son’s bruised finger or best friends hugging after an extended time apart. In romantic relationships, it can be a nonverbal way to communicate attachment to one another. Psychologist Sidney Jourard studied touch by observing couples dining out in various cities and counted how many times they touched each other over an hour. He found Parisian couples touched each other 115 times during dinner, while the average was 185 times in Mexico City (that’s over three times per minute). On the other hand, couples in London didn’t touch each other at all and Gainesville, Florida faired only slightly better at twice an hour. There’s a reason they don’t call Gainesville the City of Love!

Jourard’s study merely confirms what we already know about American culture; Americans do not like to touch. We leave an empty seat in the movie theater, warn our children to keep their hands to themselves, and avoid public displays of affection when out to dinner with our partners.  This hands-off culture is not doing dating Americans any favors. One researcher found a woman’s touch was a powerful courtship tool. A woman’s use of touch was proven to be significantly more influential in attracting men than her physical appearance. Unfortunately, an absence of touching in public often reflects little physical intimacy in private.

This year, resolve to affectionately touch your partner every day. Touch will help your significant other feel more desirable, more cherished, and more emotionally connected to you. Touching does not have to be over the top; the Parisian couple did not exchange 115 passionate kisses over dinner. Rather, a gentle touch on the arm or a caress of the cheek conveys the message that “I want you”. Touch is just one of the many ways we can express the three As for one another: affection, appreciation, and admiration.

A couple experiments with touch playfully laying in bed.

Why not end today by giving each other a fifteen minute deep massage? It will help you both relax after a long day and affectionate touching will build emotional intimacy. And what if your massage leads to something more? That’s not a bad way to start off the New Year.

Have a great week, 
J. Fuller
TGI Staff 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Making New Year's Resolutions for your Relationship

Two champagne glasses with a happy couple in the background.

        For many people, the start of a new year is a time for looking back to the past, and more importantly, looking forward to the coming year. It's a time to reflect on the changes we want (or need) to make, and the resolve to follow through on those changes. A new year guarantees a fresh start, an opportunity to leave the negative in the past, and to focus on the positive in the coming year. 

        According to a recent USA.gov posting, popular New Year’s resolutions year after year include broad goals like eating healthier, quitting smoking, exercising more, and managing stress better. While these are all very important and respectable aspirations, they can be hard to achieve without careful planning. Before you overhaul your eating habits and exercise regiment, think about more specific aspects of your life that may require some extra attention this year. Have you been the best partner possible to your significant other over the past year? Even if you think you have been, you can always do more to strengthen your relationship. In today’s post, we would like to help you make attainable New Years resolutions for your relationship. 

        If you have been meaning to change something about your relationship, but just haven’t had the time to get around to it, now is the time. Remember, your relationship is constantly evolving as you and your partner spend more and more time with one another. Your individual likes and dislikes may change more than you think. Reassess the state of your relationship, paying particular attention to how you both felt about your relationship over the past year. What aspect of your relationship was most satisfying? Most frustrating? Were you sexually satisfied last year? If not, what would you like to see changed?
A happy couple toasts to the New Year.

        Communication is extremely important when discussing these topics, as feelings of discontent may elicit a defensive response. Take turns letting each other speak, uninterrupted. Once you have each had a chance to voice your opinions, respond to each other’s comments. Do not make targeted suggestive attacks like “I don’t like the way you…” or “You need to...” Instead, make the conversation about your relationship as a whole by using positive statements like “I think we could…” or “We need to...” When “you” is changed to “we,” the conversation involves both parties. Before making resolutions for your relationship, here are three tips to consider: 

  1. Set realistic expectations: Do your best to think about the things you'd like to change as well as what a realistic change would look like. If you and your partner have been struggling, don’t expect change to happen overnight. However, making a long-term commitment to each other is the first step in getting your relationship to where you want it to be. Talk to each other about where you want your relationship to be in two months, six months, and by the end of the year.
  2. Set both specific and holistic goals: Good resolutions focus on specific details as well as the bigger picture. While having a stronger relationship may be your ultimate goal, improving the way in which you communicate about your day at work or the way that you decide which TV show to watch at night make for specific goals that are extremely attainable. Relationships are already incredibly complex. Break your resolution down into smaller goals and it will seem a lot less daunting.
  3. Focus on the means, not just the ends: One of the best ways to set New Year's resolutions is to focus on the means of getting to where you want to be, not just focusing on where you want to be. Improving your relationship is a constant process. Enjoy the process of getting to know your partner on a more intimate level.
        Now that you’re prepared to make resolutions for your relationship, what exactly do you want to change? Here are five New Year’s resolutions from the Gottman Institute designed to improve the overall experience of your relationship, with an emphasis on improving your sexual happiness and healthiness. Choose some of these or develop some of your own. Whatever your decision, what is most important is that you are both equally committed to achieving the same end goal.

  • Make it a priority in 2012 to talk openly about sex with your partner. Intimate conversation builds emotional connection, leading to more passion in your lovemaking.
  • Make it a priority in 2012 to communicate more openly with your partner about your sexual needs and desires, specifically the way in which you communicate during sexual intercourse.
  • Make it a priority in 2012 to pay more attention to your partner’s bids for emotional connection.
  • Make it a priority in 2012 to develop love maps of your partner’s erotic inner world. What really sends them through the roof?
  • Make it a priority in 2012 to develop effective strategies for initiating and refusing sex so that neither partner feels rejected. 

All for now,
M. Fulwiler
TGI Staff

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Learning from Porcupines


        Happy new year! We want to start the year off with a reminder of just how important emotional connection is to a fulfilling sexual relationship. In a video clip from his couples’ workshop The Art and Science of Love, Dr. Gottman shares his story about porcupine mating rituals. What can porcupines teach couples about building intimacy in their sex lives?

        The male porcupine has a unique problem among all other mammals. He cannot mount the female porcupine at his will; her quills quite literally get in the way of sex and could seriously hurt the male without proper precautions. To prepare the female for intercourse, the porcupines first engage in a long session of foreplay. Both porcupines sit down facing each other where the male will then place his paws on the female’s face. She closes her eyes while he rubs and massages her face until her quills go down. Only at this point does the male porcupine mount the female for copulation.

A happy couple embraces in bed on a sunny  morning.

        Emotional communication is the key to successful porcupine sex and should be the same in human relationships. Anglo-Saxon, heterosexual Americans are notoriously uncomfortable talking about sex thanks to our deep-seated Puritan roots, but this shame is detrimental to sexual satisfaction. Chances that both partners won’t have their needs and desires met increases when lines of communication are closed. Shere Hite in The Hite Report, A Nationwide Study on Female Sexuality, found only 13% of women orgasm vaginally. The vast majority of women received the most satisfaction from other forms of stimulation. However, the women in Hite’s study felt they couldn’t share these desires with their partners, fearing the men would feel ashamed or rejected. This creates a cycle of sexually dissatisfied women and relationships that don’t reach their full potential of erotic intimacy. Communication removes the layer of mystery covering sexual desire and unveils a more fulfilling sex life.

        Be like the male porcupine who takes time to understand his partner’s needs; or be like the female who confidently expresses her own sexual needs. Open communication builds intimacy and fosters a stronger relationship.

The Gottman Institute