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2020 might be the year everyone wants to escape from and/or forget for so many reasons. This means we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that many of us are looking for ways to escape the pain and fear. One of the escapes that has seen a dramatic increase in use during the coronavirus pandemic is porn. 

A variety of sources report a 16 to 30% increase in use in the U.S. since March. India reports a 95% increase. Pornhub, the world’s largest pornography website, reported an 18% increase in users after making its premium content free for 30 days. 

To give you some perspective, check out these porn usage statistics from 2018 tabulated by Webroot Cybersecurity:

  • Every second, 28,258 users are watching pornography.
  • $3,075.64 is spent on porn every second on the internet.
  • 40 million Americans regularly visit porn sites.

Let those stats sink in for a second. Staggering to say the least.

Coronavirus and Porn

In a Psychology Today article, Dr. Justin Lehmiller explains that the coronavirus pandemic is affecting not just the amount and type of porn being produced. It’s also affecting how much porn people are consuming and what they’re searching for on major sites. According to Lehmiller, people are not just searching for porn, either. In one month’s time there were more than 9 million searches for coronavirus-related or pandemic porn, as in people wearing masks, surgical gloves and gowns engaging in sex.

He explains that porn searches are up, in part, because a lot of people are at home with more time on their hands than usual. But, he and other experts say there are other potential reasons for increased porn site visits. Some of those reasons include using sex as a coping mechanism for dealing with fear of disease and death, plus loneliness and the dramatic increase in experiencing anxiety, stress and negative emotions.

The Impact of Porn Addiction

So what about this “gift” that Pornhub has given to people, married, single or even teens, in the midst of COVID-19? The truth about porn is, most people don’t realize how pornography reaches out and grabs people. Research shows that when a person sees pornography, the brain releases endorphins that are 200 times more potent than morphine and more addictive than cocaine. They also give you an enormous false sense of well-being. Fight the New Drug likens it to eating junk food. It seems like it is really good and satisfies you in the moment. However, it actually leaves you wanting more and never feeling full.

Additionally, research consistently indicates that pornography use can hurt a couple’s relationship. This is especially true when one person is frequently viewing pornographic images online.

In an open letter discussing the dangers of porn, Drs. Julie and John Gottman argue that intimacy for couples is a source of connection and communication between two people. But when one person becomes accustomed to getting pleasure from porn, they are actually turning away from intimate interaction. Second, when watching pornography the user is in total control of the sexual experience, in contrast to normal sex in which people are sharing control. Thus a porn user may form the unrealistic expectation that sex will be under only one person’s control. Third, the porn user may expect that their partner will always be immediately ready for intercourse. Pornography can also lead to a decrease in relationship trust and a higher likelihood of affairs outside the relationship. 

Here are some red flags that may indicate your spouse is involved in this highly addictive activity.

  • Is their body language open and does he/she respond appropriately when you ask questions? Does your spouse look you in the eyes when he/she talks to you? One lie often leads to another. You may ask a simple question and get a very complicated answer or an answer that was different than the day before.
  • Does your spouse have appropriate boundaries? They seem to live in drama and chaos all the time. They may ask you to record yourself or take pictures of you getting out of the shower or at intimate moments. 
  • Does your spouse use lots of sexual humor and innuendos, even when the conversation has nothing to do with that subject?
  • Is your spouse preoccupied with sexual behaviors? Is he/she constantly wanting to push the boundaries and experiment sexually in ways that make you wonder where they got the idea from? 
  • Does he/she exhibit inappropriate anger? This anger appears to come from nowhere. For example, if you ask about household cash flow or what time they will be home, he/she explodes. 
  • Have they lost interest in you sexually? Or has their demand for sexual activity increased, although they seem to be “elsewhere” in the midst of sex? If so, sex at this point is not about intimacy. Instead, it’s about control and power and what he/she can get you to do. 
  • Do you seem to constantly have money problems? No matter how much money you have coming in, there just is never enough to cover the expenses.   

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic and people being quarantined, many have commented on how they really didn’t realize how much they really needed in-person, face-to-face experiences for their emotional wellbeing. The research is clear: while a person may be using porn as a coping mechanism, the thirst for it is insatiable. And it still leaves them feeling empty, unfulfilled and needing more.  

Helpful Resources

If you or someone you love is struggling with porn addiction, the Fight the New Drug and The Addiction Center sites may help you determine best next steps.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

I have good news for you: an exciting sex life is salvageable and well within your reach for you and your spouse. 

Here are three ways you and your spouse can take your sexual relationship from mundane to mind-blowing:

1. Don’t make fun the point of sex.

Wait, what? Did he just say that? Isn’t fun the problem? Yes, I did, and no, it isn’t! It seems counterintuitive and requires a change in your thinking. Zack Brittle, certified therapist and blogger for the Gottman Institute, says sex isn’t just about the act itself (or at least it’s not all about the act), but rather it’s about sharing the body, mind, and soul as a couple. Sex is about connecting, bolstering intimacy, and exercising vulnerability with the one you’ve chosen to love the most. It’s a part of your relationship that’s meant to strengthen your relationship.

If the attention to your sex life with your spouse is centered merely on fun, you forget the overall essential role sex plays in your marriage, and the irony is that fun becomes a casualty. Focusing on connecting with your spouse in your sex life goes beyond the fun; it makes sex better

And here’s where it becomes even more ironic: when you do focus on connection, sex becomes a lot more fun, adventuresome, and playful!

2. Dedicate to communicate.

Say it with me: Communication affects the sex. (Doesn’t that rhyme nicely?) Couples who struggle with communication struggle with other areas of their marriage, including their sex life; it’s all connected. But those who work on better, healthier ways to communicate thoughts, feelings, and needs with each other experience more connection, friendship, and intimacy. And this, as we’ve learned, is directly correlated with healthy (and fun) sex!

There are many resources out there for improving marital communication (see the links below for some great advice), but what I would emphasize to you here is frequency and depth of communication. Strive to communicate on a daily basis with your spouse, and aim for deeper levels of conversation than simply small talk. Work on communicating your opinions, dreams, ideas, needs, and emotions with each other—and listening to those of your spouse without value judgment. Simply listen to understand and draw closer to the one you love the most.

One more thing needs to be said about communication and sex. Working on your marital communication is vital; however, marital sex is even better when you work on talking about sex. According to marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman, only 91% of couples who can’t comfortably talk about sex with one another report sexual dissatisfaction. (So, Salt-N-Pepa had it right when they rapped “Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby…” back in the 90s.)

Talking with your spouse about what turns you on, your interests and preferences, vulnerabilities, and sexual playfulness can be uncomfortable for many. But the good news is that it’s a learned skill that can greatly increase your comfort level. In her book, The Sex-Starved Marriage, therapist Michele Weiner-Davis says the right way to approach conversations about sex with your spouse is very much akin to approaching healthy conversation all around: Pick a time you both feel ready to talk; don’t talk when you’re tired, angry, or in a bad mood; pick a safe, comfortable environment; use “I” messages and talk about what you want rather than criticize. The more you wade into the discomfort of talking about sex, the more comfortable and natural it quickly becomes.

3. Super-glue your marriage—including your sex life—to the top of the priority scale.

This is crucial, especially if you have children (of any age) running around your house. Life is busy, schedules are hectic, money is tight. Attention to your marriage and your spouse must supersede these potential speed bumps. A wise person once said, “Show me your calendar and your checkbook, and I’ll show you what’s important to you.” 

Set reminders on your phone to leave love notes. Schedule date times. Adjust your monthly budget to include some funds—even if it’s a small amount—toward nicer dinners (alone) or romantic gifts. ☆ Pay attention to your spouse’s love language—how is it that they feel most loved? Work out childcare with family or neighbors so you can get two hours alone with your spouse. Trade babysitting services with another parent—you’ll watch their kids one night and they’ll watch yours another. 

Prioritizing your marriage doesn’t take doing anything elaborate. It’s the small things that build and grow a marriage. But it has a direct and powerful impact on your sexual relationship. Foreplay doesn’t begin in the bedroom; rather, the turn-ons, attractions, and mood-making happen during continual moments of boosting your spouse to the top of your priority list.  

Fun, playful sex is within the reach of you and your spouse, and you can bounce boredom out the window with some simple, intentional strategies. So here’s your assignment: Pursue your spouse. (No, not in a creepy, follow-them-around-all-day kind of way.) 

  • Remember when you were first dating, and there was nothing in your focus except this person? 
  • Remember how things were fun, but that wasn’t the point—you were just wanting to be together and get to know them better? 
  • Do you remember how you talked and talked, and actually listened with interest? 
  • And remember how you set the time and energy to be with that person, and it didn’t matter that you had to wake up early the next morning, or that you were tired from the work day, or that you barely had any cash in the account? 

Pursue your spouse like this, and watch your marriage—including your sex life—be rejuvenated and energized. 

Great articles for improving your marital communication:

Also: 

10 Things Every Couple Needs to Know About Sex

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

It’s the taboo subject nobody wants to talk about, but many think about it… a lot. What is it? Sex. 

Sex and marriage—the questions are endless. For the sake of time, I’ve boiled it down to 10 things every couple should know about sex.

Here we go…

1. The quality of your sex life often has more to do with what happens in your relationship outside the bedroom.

First and foremost, for you to keep your sex life going strong you must remember that foreplay begins long before you make your way to the bedroom. Look for ways to continually reconnect with each other throughout the day. Happy, stable couples have hundreds of ways they connect. Think about all of the creative ways you came up with to flirt when you were dating and do the ones that got you the best response. These types of activities create positive, warm feelings toward your spouse and in turn are building intimacy in your relationship. 

2. Anticipation and preparation stoke passion.

Typically, couples enjoy frequent sex in the early years of marriage, but once children come into the picture and the level of intensity increases at work, sex seems to get kicked to the curb. Consider this:

Passion = S2 I – Two sexual beings joined by intimacy 

Dr. Pat Love, in her book Hot Monogamy, makes this point. If you only have two sexual beings and no intimacy, you cannot have passion. Did you know, two-thirds of women have “sexy brains,” which means they don’t desire sex until they are in the midst of doing it? The majority of men have “sexy body brains,” meaning if their heart is beating they are interested in sex. Interestingly, men need two to three times more touching than women, and most men are touch-deprived. This is important information for couples who desire to increase passion and intimacy in their marriage. You have to do your homework. 

  • Know what arouses you—it can’t be a mystery. 
  • What is it that your spouse does that is such a turn on?   
  • What are three activities that make you feel close to each other?   
  • When do you feel closest and most connected to your spouse? 
  • When do you feel most loved? 

Tell your spouse the answers to these questions. This sets the stage for passion and intimacy to grow in your marriage. Communication is a huge part of great sex. Research shows that talking about sex during the first year of marriage is correlated with high marital satisfaction for men. Discussions after the first year are highly correlated with female satisfaction in marriage. As you talk and discover what brings closeness, guard it with a vengeance and practice it faithfully. Pat Love calls these activities “gateway activities” because they usually lead to opportunities for connectedness, increased intimacy, and lovemaking. Be courageous enough to love your spouse in the way he/she needs to be loved. Whether you are a “sexy body” brain or a “sexy brain” person, you might be pleasantly surprised at the results.

3. Talk about it.

Yup, I said it. Talk about your sex life, what you like, and what you don’t like. Are there things that make you uncomfortable? Are there things your spouse could do that might make it better? What brings you sexual fulfillment? How often would you like to make love?

4. There is no set amount of sex every couple should have in order to have a great sex life.

Obviously, it’s personal, but a lot of people want to know what is normal, so to speak. Keeping in mind, what is great for one couple may not be for another couple, research involving 2400 married couples that was published in 2015 found the more sex a couple had, the happier they were. So, the question for you as a couple to answer is, what is your magic number?

5. Teach your kids that your bedroom is your bedroom.

While this may sound totally unrealistic, you might be surprised how well it works once they get used to the idea. Think of your bedroom as your sanctuary. An escape from the craziness of the world and the place where you share meaningful intimate moments with the one you love.

6. Novelty Gets Your Attention

What changes do you need to make to keep sex fresh, fun, and adventuresome? A peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day gets old real fast. If you always approach sex in the same way, do the same things in the same place, you can find yourself feeling bored, unsatisfied and in a rut. Find different ways to delight your partner by doing the unexpected. 

7. Be intentional about keeping your energy and focus on your marriage.

The number one reason couples grow apart is they turn their interest and energy away from their relationship. Regardless of what your spouse is doing right now, you have to decide what kind of spouse you are going to be. Take responsibility for what you are doing that makes it difficult to have passion and an active sex life in your marriage. 

8. A little less talk.

Let me explain. Based on research by Drs. Steven Stosney and Pat Love, when women talk about their feelings, it is soothing to them. However, sharing feelings can make men physically uncomfortable or can cause them to withdraw. When men listen to women talk about their feelings, there is more blood flow to their muscles and they get fidgety. Women respond by thinking they are not listening, and things go downhill from there.

Here’s what Stosney and Love are not saying. They are not saying you shouldn’t ever talk about your feelings around issues in your marriage. They are saying, choose your time wisely. During your most intimate sexual moments, may not be the best time to talk. After lovemaking when you feel connected, men may want to talk more and women may need to talk less. The key is to meet somewhere in the middle.

9. Show physical affection without words.

Make physical nonsexual contact in an affectionate way. A hug, pat on the shoulder, tap on the behind, or squeeze of the hand can all say “I love you” without ever saying a word.

10. And, the super-secret sauce is… CONNECTION.

The more connected you feel to your spouse, the more you will enjoy sex with them. So many movies lead us to believe that sexual attraction, passion, and feeling close to your partner just happen when you are madly in love. The truth is, marriage has plenty of ups and downs, and sometimes heightened stress and anxiety can impact how we feel about our spouse and our energy level for sex. ✶You have to consistently make an effort to not let things creep into your marriage that will steal the passion, sexual intimacy, and closeness you desperately want from and with your spouse.✶

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Image from Unsplash.com

What if I told you that there was a number—a magical number—that defined the exact rate you and your spouse should have sex each and every week so both of you experience wonderful, marital, sensuous bliss that will last over the entire span of your marriage, “until death do you part?” 

Well, do I have news for you… You won’t find that magic number recorded anywhere! 

While research does suggest that couples that have sex at least once per week are happier than those who have sex less than that, it still doesn’t provide a solid answer to the question of how often a couple should have sex. All we know is that once a week is the average rate for couples who are happy. 

But before you click the X and stomp off in frustration, hear me out. Because while determining the magic number is about as elusive as Bigfoot riding a unicorn, there may still be a number that produces a little magic. 

If you do some research, what you will find are experts who say that there is no prescribed, scientific, formulaic number of times a couple should be having sex, but the magic number is what you make it. Raffi Bilek, a couples’ counselor and the director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, tells Health, “The truth is that whatever is comfortable for you and your partner is your normal. You don’t need to be having sex any more or less than you’d like.” 

This is all well and good, unless, of course, you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement on what is “comfortable” and “normal.” (Which probably describes a majority of couples out there.) 

So then, how do you move forward with this touchy subject? 

The truth of the matter is that the magic number is one that you and your spouse have to determine for yourselves. It’s your magic number. And here are some steps to move toward that: 

You’ve got to talk about it.

Start the conversation, and approach it with a great deal of respect for the other person’s feelings and opinions. Discuss with each other: 

  • Are you someone who can get turned on before you have sex or do you have to be well into the foreplay before you are actually in the mood?
  • Do you need to have sex to feel emotionally connected to your spouse, or do you need to feel emotionally connected to your spouse to have sex?
  • How does stress affect your desire for sex? 

What turns you on about the other person? Is seeing particular behaviors or attitudes more likely to get your motor running? (E.g. I love it when she is in a good mood, I’m really attracted to him when I see him being an active father, She really steams up the room when we watch a great football game together…)

More than likely, you’re not going to hammer this out in one sitting. It’s an ongoing process and conversation to find a mutually satisfying rhythm to your sex life.

Determine an actual, magical number for your relationship.

This is your mission, should you choose to accept it. Why is this important? It gives you a goal and informs each person in the marriage  what they can expect. 

You may need to compromise and meet in the middle.

Now, the person who wants sex more may get it less. And the person who wants sex less may get it more than they want. But let’s be honest: no one has ever died from not getting as much sex as they wanted. And if you are the one who wants sex less, you may need to be willing to give in a little more than you’d like (with healthy, reasonable expectations, of course). However, you both may find your comfort level increasing with the magic number, especially if you…

Pay close attention to each other’s intimacy needs.

Some people need to feel emotionally secure and close before they’re willing to even think about sex. If that’s your spouse, you have a job to do—find ways to meet their emotional needs (and not just because you want to have sex). 

Other people feel emotionally secure by being physically intimate. If that’s your spouse, you may need to spice things up a little more than you’re used to. If you keep each other’s pathways to connection in your sights, finding that magic number can come more easily than you expect. 

One more thing to keep in mind: Magic numbers can change. Life goes through seasons. Children come into the picture. Or they leave the house. Health issues arise. People take medication. Temporary periods of stress or exhaustion come into the picture. All these things can affect how often the magic happens. The key here is to continue to be sensitive to each other’s needs and feelings and to continue to communicate. 

Magic numbers don’t have to be as mythical as unicorns, and it’s possible for things to be magical in the bedroom for both of you in your marriage. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Image from Unsplash.com

COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR SPOUSE SHOULD BE FULFILLING, NOT FRUSTRATING.

With the right tools, you and your spouse can have the best communication ever!

This easy-to-use virtual 5-day course guides you and your spouse to have the best communication you’ve ever had! This course includes exclusive access to:

  • 5 downloadable relationship-enhancing PDFs
  • Videos full of easy-to-use communication tools
  • Questions to ask each other to spark a deeper connection
  • Fun activities to guide you through each of the concepts discussed

ADD TO CART

I probably drive a little faster than my wife is sometimes comfortable with (and she’s not afraid to let me know). On the other hand, she is more cautious on the road (and I don’t dare say anything from the passenger seat). 

My wife is definitely a beach person. I’m much more of a woods-and-lake kind of person. 

I binge on books. My wife binges on Netflix

Differences are often what makes marriage interesting. But there’s one difference that often shows up in marriages that causes all kinds of awkwardness, quarrels, and misunderstandings. 

That’s right: pizza toppings. 

Just kidding. The answer is sex. And more specifically, sex drives. More often than not, one person wants it more than the other. And many couples struggle to find an answer to this marital difference that seems to be as old as time. 

What do you do when your sex drives aren’t in sync? 

Marriage therapist and author Dr. Pat Love (yes, that’s her real name!) provides some insight into this question in her book Hot Monogamy. 

She introduces the concept of people who are either “sexy body” or “sexy brain” kind of people. Chances are, if there is a difference in sex drive in a relationship, then one person is more of a “sexy brain” while the other is more of a “sexy body.” 

“Sexy Body”/”Sexy Brain”

“Sexy body” people have a body that’s always ready for sex. They typically desire sex on a daily basis. Even when stressed out, they can easily be aroused, and sex even makes them feel better when in a state of stress or anxiety. “Sexy body” folks can even desire sex with their spouse in the middle of being upset with them. 

This is all a complete mystery to “sexy brain” people. And it’s easy to label those “sexy body” people as horn-dogs. But before we begin throwing labels around, it’s important to remember that, for “sexy body” people, sex is a way they feel the closest to their spouse. It’s how they connect on both a physical and emotional level. It’s a major pathway through which they experience love. 

“Sexy brain” people, obviously, are a bit different. It’s difficult for them to be sexually aroused if they are feeling stress, anxiety, or fatigue. And for many people, this equals the majority of the time. And if they are upset at their spouse, well, chances are nil that anyone is going to experience any kind of hanky-panky. 

“Sexy body” often people don’t understand this at all, and quickly jump to the conclusion that their spouse is prudish, frigid, or just plain abnormal. But not so fast. “Sexy brain” people simply have to feel a sense of connection, security, and calm in order to be more open to physical intimacy. Emotional engagement with their spouse is a prerequisite for desiring sex. 

This does not mean that “sexy brain” people don’t enjoy sex. In fact, they do. However, clearing the to-do list, getting enough rest, and feeling an emotional attachment to their spouse makes sex easier to desire and more enjoyable. “Sexy brain” people are still, well, sexy

What “sexy body” people need to remember

  • Understand that your “sexy brain” spouse is perfectly normal in how they think about sex; it’s just different from you, and differences aren’t bad. 
  • Be reasonable with your expectations. Let’s be real: you could be up for sex every time your spouse changes their socks. But this simply isn’t how your spouse operates, nor should they be pressured to operate that way. (As a matter of fact, the more “sexy brain” people are pressured to have sex, the less they want to have sex. The pressure equals stress, and stress equals no sex.
  • Learn about your spouse’s preconditions for being in the mood. How can you connect with your spouse emotionally? How can you help alleviate stress for them? And can you do these things in a way that’s sincere and not because you want to have more sex?

What “sexy brain” people need to remember

  • You have to make time for sex. Physical intimacy is an important part of the marriage relationship. Therefore, taking care of yourself means not allowing stress to become an overwhelming factor in your life. You maybe even ask for help in order to alleviate some stress and be sure you get sufficient rest. This helps in making sex more enjoyable for you. 
  • Understand that if you consistently say no to your “sexy body” spouse, it causes them to wonder if they are unattractive to you. A “sexy body” person needs to know that their spouse still thinks they’re hot stuff. And when you show them they are (at least to you), then it makes a huge difference in their esteem and confidence. Not to mention, it makes the connection between you as a couple stronger. 
  • Ask yourself, what is it your partner does that is a real turn-on? Sometimes the stress and fatigue you feel blur the attraction you actually have for your spouse. They are blockades to getting turned on. Asking this question can bring what it is about your spouse that gets your blood pumping back into clarity. 

Finally, think about this: the needs of “sexy brain” and “sexy body” people actually can work together to become more in sync with each other’s sex drives. 

Here’s what I mean. When a “sexy brain” person lets their “sexy body” spouse know they are desirable, attractive, and sexy (either by telling them or showing them by being more open to having sex), they might find the pressure to have sex is toned down.

And when the “sexy body” person is sincerely intentional about connecting on an emotional level frequently, they may find that their “sexy brain” mate is more easily aroused and able enjoy sex more. 

Wins all around. 

The key is to talk.

Communicate about your differences. Put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Seek to understand what makes them a “sexy brain” or a “sexy body” kind of person. Become a student of your spouse. You just may find that your differences bring you closer together, and you can begin to work on other marital questions like what toppings you’re going to order on your pizza. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.**

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How do you know if love will last? Some say you don’t, that it’s just luck of the draw if your love lasts over time. Many believe that the more a couple has in common, the more likely they are to be compatible over time. Others say, not so fast.

With more than 40 years of love and relationship research under their belt, The Gottman Institute says that whether love will last is more about how couples address their differences and support one another’s needs and dreams. And it all starts with these 8 conversations for couples.

In studying successful couple relationships and couples whose relationships fail to thrive over time, The Gottman Institute found that people connect and fall in love by talking. John and Julie Gottman and their co-authors, Doug Abrams and Rachel Carlton Abrams, MD, discovered eight crucial conversations that couples need to have.

These conversations can either help couples know that love will last or help rekindle love that has become lukewarm. The authors made the crucial conversations for couples into dates in the book, Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.

These conversation-based dates have the potential to help couples increase understanding and commitment regardless of how long they have been together.

The topics for discussion include:

  • Trust and Commitment. Trust is cherishing each other and showing your partner you are reliable. Choosing commitment means accepting your partner exactly as he or she is, despite their flaws.
  • Conflict. Conflict is a part of every healthy relationship. There is purpose behind it and it is an opportunity to take your relationship to a deeper level.
  • Sex and Intimacy. Romantic, intimate rituals of connection keep a relationship happy and passionate. Couples who talk about sex have more sex.
  • Work and Money. Money issues usually aren’t about money at all. Instead, they are about what money means to each person. Learning what money means to each person can help take your relationship to a totally different place.
  • Family. It is not unusual for relationship satisfaction to decrease after the birth of a child. The decrease often continues with each subsequent child. Couples who maintain their sexual relationship and learn how to manage conflict in a way that builds up their relationship can avoid this drop in relationship happiness.
  • Fun and Adventure. People are often so busy “adulting” that they underestimate the importance of play and adventure in their relationship. They are vital components to a successful and joyful relationship. While couples may not agree on what constitutes play and adventure, learning more about the one you love can be part of the fun.
  • Growth and Spirituality. The only constant in a relationship is change. How each person in the relationship accommodates the growth of the other partner is key. Relationships can be more than just two individuals coming together. They can be stories of transformation and great contribution and meaning to the world.
  • Dreams. Honoring each other’s dreams is the secret ingredient to creating love for a lifetime. When dreams are honored, everything else in the relationship gets easier.

The Gottmans contend that every strong relationship is a result of a never-ending conversation between partners. This book will guide you through how to talk and how to listen in a way that will benefit you as an individual and as a couple.

This article was originally publishedin the Chattanooga Times Free Press on February 10, 2019.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Image from Unsplash.com

COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR SPOUSE SHOULD BE FULFILLING, NOT FRUSTRATING.

With the right tools, you and your spouse can have the best communication ever!

This easy-to-use virtual 5-day course guides you and your spouse to have the best communication you’ve ever had! This course includes exclusive access to:

  • 5 downloadable relationship-enhancing PDFs
  • Videos full of easy-to-use communication tools
  • Questions to ask each other to spark a deeper connection
  • Fun activities to guide you through each of the concepts discussed

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Research says that young people who “sext” are more likely to have sex, and that dating violence is on the rise. 

So, picture this scenario: Your child sits down at the dinner table and asks, “What is sexting? What is sex?” or “How do babies get inside their mommy’s tummy?” 

In response, would you:

A. Laugh and change the subject?

B. Get irritated and tell your child that those questions are not appropriate at the dinner table?

C. Thank your child for asking such a great question and either seek to answer it or tell them that you will talk with them about it after dinner?

Just thinking about answering these questions has and will cause anxiety for many parents. When asked about talking with her children about sex, one mother replied, “My parents didn’t talk with me about it. I think I would just die if I had to talk with my son about it. He’ll figure it out.”

Let’s consider that statement for a moment.

When young people are left to figure things out for themselves, the results can disastrous. Parents can help their children/teens understand that relationships based on sex aren’t healthy or cool by talking openly with them about topics such as sex, love, lust and romance. It’s also an opportunity to help your child think about how certain actions now can impact their goals for the future.

If you are on the fence about talking to your children about sex, sexting and the like, consider the benefits.

  • Children develop an accurate understanding about their bodies, and about sexuality, instead of getting inaccurate information from friends or the media.
  • They learn that talking to you about sex doesn’t have to be embarrassing.
  • You equip your child with information they need to make wise choices for the rest of their life.
  • You are teaching them life skills like self-discipline, problem-solving and planning for the future… skills that will help them move toward productive living.

So, here are some helpful tips for taking the plunge and starting that conversation with your kids:

  • Be an askable parent. Encourage open communication. Tell them it is okay to talk with you. If you don’t know the answer, find the answer together.
  • Don’t overreact. The number one complaint from teens is that parents jump to conclusions when they do ask questions. The goal is to keep the dialogue going.
  • Take advantage of teachable moments. The latest sexting research, the pregnancy of a friend and television sitcoms are teachable moments.
  • Listen. Sometimes the best thing you can do is listen as your child shares. It is a great way to learn what they are thinking. Hint: If you want to know what is really going on, do carpool duty and keep your mouth shut.
  • Less is more. State the facts, be honest and keep it simple and age appropriate.
  • Share your expectations and values, too. Whether it is sex, drugs, alcohol or something else, tell your children what you expect. Be clear about your family values.

The best way to protect young people is to educate them. Are you an askable parent?

In his song Too Cold at Home, Mark Chesnutt sings, “It’s too hot to fish, too hot for golf and too cold at home.” Even if it’s boiling outside, it can be cold at home when it comes to your marriage.

Over time, many people seem to be willing to let sexual intimacy fly right out the window. Yet experts tell us that healthy intimacy is foundational to long-lasting, loving relationships.

In a letter to Ann Landers, a woman wrote about how her parents could not afford a honeymoon so they made a promise. Every time they made love, they would put a dollar in a box and on their 50th anniversary they would take a honeymoon trip to Hawaii. In spite of hard times, they never took money out of the box. Some nights the husband would come home from work exclaiming he had a dollar in his pocket. His wife would tell him she knew just how to spend it!

When each of their children married, they gave them a box and shared their secret. The couple took their 50th anniversary trip to Hawaii for 10 days and paid for everything from the money they saved in the box. As they were leaving on the plane, the husband turned and said, “Tonight we will start working on a trip to Cancun!”

Many pieces of recent research cite how much humans crave intimacy, but many married couples experience a void in this area due to hectic schedules, children (young and old), jobs, stress, etc. Whether you have been married a few months or many years, sex can be exciting, adventurous, fun and creative. 

You may be asking yourself how that couple made and kept intimacy in their relationship a priority for 50 years…

Well, here are some things relationship experts encourage you to think about:

  • Do you always make love in the same place, at the same time in the same way? If your answer is yes, consider doing something different to spice things up.
  • Describe what a romantic time with your spouse would be like. What would be your spouse’s description of a romantic time together? If you don’t know the answer to this question, do some detective work and find out.
  • Does your spouse do romantic things that you really like? If yes, tell him/her so. If not, help him/her to know what you like.
  • Consider sending love messages to your spouse during the day. Stick-it notes in the wallet, voice mail, e-mail, lipstick messages on the bathroom mirror, a special delivery, flowers with a message, a snail mail letter, or a note on the dashboard are all great ways to communicate “I love you,” “Let’s get together,” or “Looking forward to this afternoon.”
  • People find all kinds of creative ways to flirt when they are dating. Think about some of the ways you used to flirt with your spouse. Consider resurrecting those that worked best. The outcome might pleasantly surprise you!

According to Dr. Paul Pearsall, author of Super Marital Sex, “The marriage comes first. All other people and events come after the marriage. Children, parents, work and play all benefit most by marital priority instead of marital sacrifice, because the marriage is the central unit to all other processes. If it is true that we reap what we sow, then marriages are in big trouble – if we put as much time in our working as we allow for our loving, we would end up unemployed or bankrupt.”

If the temperature on the thermometer outside is not reflective of the passion level in your marriage, get creative. Be adventurous and take it up a notch. Even if the passion in your marriage is nonexistent, it can get good. And if it is good, it can get even better!

 

 

Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

FIVE areas a person should know about another person before marrying them:

1. Make sure you have taken the time to get to know the person you are marrying.

Get to know them, their family, what their conscience is like, compatibility potential, relationship skills and previous relationship patterns.

2. How do you know you can trust them? 

As you get to know a person based on the areas above, you shape a picture in your mind of what this person is like. From that picture comes trust. 

3. Are they reliable? 

As you really get to know a person, you look to them to meet certain needs that you have. People prove they are reliable over a period of time.

4. What is their level of commitment? 

As a relationship grows, it goes through different definitions. Each definition is a level of commitment. Friends have a low level of commitment, whereas best friends have a higher level of commitment to each other and soul mates have the highest level of commitment.

5. What role does physical touch play in your relationship? 

If you base your relationship solely on physical touch, you can easily deceive yourself into believing there is more to the relationship. Ask yourself: If physical touch was not part of your relationship, what would your relationship be like?

Read more about this in How to Avoid Falling for a Jerk or Jerkette by Dr. John Van Epp or visit www.lovethinks.com.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Over the last several years, attorney Courtney Bullard has advised on or participated in more than 150 sexual assault investigations on college campuses across the country.

“I specialize in working with colleges in matters involving sexual misconduct,” says Bullard. “I conduct external investigations, oversee investigations and provide legal advice on how to ensure colleges are complying with laws that dictate how they respond to allegations of sexual misconduct. What keeps me awake at night is the fact that we are not educating our kids about these issues before they set foot on a college campus. The hook-up culture is rampant. Teens don’t know the definition of consent. Nor do they understand the realities of what they might face in college if they find themselves accusing someone of rape, or being accused of rape.”

The media has certainly brought to light some of these cases, including the Vanderbilt University case where a guy on the top bunk witnessed the rape but pretended to be asleep because he was afraid. He was found guilty, along with those who participated in the actual sexual assault.

“What people see on television is a very narrow picture of what is going on on college campuses across the country,” Bullard says. “What I typically see are two students getting wasted and having sex. One believes they were raped; one believes everything was completely consensual. Neither fully remembers the entire encounter. Both of them are forever impacted.”

Before you stop reading because you think this would never happen to your child or to your grandchild, Bullard strongly urges you to think again. Most of the cases Bullard sees involve freshmen. And, it doesn’t matter if they: are going to a small faith-based institution, planning to live at home, are strong-willed and would probably never put themselves in that situation or understand consent. It could happen to your family member, even if you think these things only happen to other people. 

“I have sat across from so many parents sitting next to their child in tears saying all of these things,” Bullard says. “I have sat across from young women who can no longer finish school because they are unable to recover from what happened. I have sat across from young men whose dream of going to medical school, law school, graduate school, etc. is over because they have been found responsible for sexual misconduct and their transcript is forever marked. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard ‘I did [fill in the blank – smacked her butt for example] because on TV that’s what girls like.’ These are not criminal cases/investigations, they are investigations and findings conducted by college campuses.”

Bullard believes parents and teens can do a better job of preparing for college life by educating themselves on these issues. Students should familiarize themselves with their college’s sexual misconduct policy and definition of consent. Parents need to talk with their teens about the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships.

“For all the parents out there saying, ‘I lived large at college and I turned out okay,’ I would strongly encourage them to recognize that this is a different time with many variables that were not in play back in the day, including social media.”

Bullard also believes teens could benefit from taking bystander intervention training so they know what to do if they see someone in a potentially dangerous situation.

“This is one of the most powerful tools we have to make a difference when it comes to dealing with sexual assault,” Bullard asserts. “Make sure your teen has a strategy ahead of time for dealing with potential risks. Teach them how to be good citizens and do not downplay the seriousness of this issue.”

Although Bullard is not a counselor, she is absolutely passionate about making sure teens have the necessary information to help them make wise decisions when they get out on their own. You can email Bullard at [email protected] to learn more about getting this information into your teen’s hands.

“So much of the pain I deal with on these campuses is preventable,” Bullard shares. “We really owe it our kids to give them the information they need in order to have a successful college experience and future.”