How Is Your Post-Valentine Relationship?

man-roses-mainOkay; so the yearly annual red roses hype has ended. The flowery words in cards of red and white have been stashed away by vendors until next year. Some of you may be out of pocket by a few bucks depending on how seriously you adhere to the Valentine’s Day tradition. Whatever the case, another special occasion for the expression of love has passed. So what’s next in your significant relationship? Although a die-hard romantic who loves romantic gestures, I’m always inclined to think that the true state of a relationship is tested outside the marketing hype of any special holiday. Romance must not be viewed as an act or posture we assume because it’s popular or because it will hopefully get us some sex. It should also never be used to manipulate the one we claim to love. Am I purporting that we should get all cynical and boring and ditch the roses? Of course not! But what is our relationship really like the many mornings after Valentine’s has passed? Is romance just a seasonal thing with us? Do we really value our partner and do we let him/her know it? Seasons and special days are important because they should allow us to creatively affirm our love. They should provide a context for our partner to feel special. Maintaining authentic expressions of love and appreciation outside of these times is, however, also imperative. If we’re to really make our relationships strong for the long haul, then we must engage in positive acts which demonstrate that our love is more than mere talk. In a classic case of putting our money where our mouth is, putting the love we feel into action should demand our willingness to spend our time, money and resourcefulness. For those who may think this is complicated or for those who may feel fresh out of ideas, the following tips provide some great tips for improving your relationship post-valentine’s and beyond.

  •  Cook your partner’s favorite meal and do a special decorative layout of such; this can be especially meaningful on a regular day when it’s totally unexpected
  • Do an at-home massage or spa treatment complete with scented candles and oils to create that setting which says that your loved one is truly special.
  • Send your partner to a classy spa for a full day of expert handling and relaxation.
  • Volunteer to babysit the kids so your wife can go shopping or simply hang out with the girls.
  • Pre-purchase tickets for your guy’s favorite game.
  • Buy your partner that special electronic toy or gadget which you know he’s had his eyes on for the past couple of months.
  • Send flowers when there’s no special occasion.
  • Give your spouse the time to work on a special project or to pursue his/her passion by holding down the fort at home.
  • Take over a regular at-home chore for which your partner is primarily responsible.
  • Wash your partner’s car.
  • Surprise your partner with a new book from his/her favorite author.
  • Write your lover a letter or e mail which itemizes why and how much he/she is loved.
  • Send a special love-song request via the local radio station.
  • Buy your lover a bottle of her favorite wine and make some time to share it.
  • Massage your partner’s neck, shoulders and or feet after a tired day at the office; especially without being asked.
  • Make a cup of coffee, hot chocolate or blend a favorite cocktail or health-drink for your spouse.
  • Plan a surprise romantic getaway weekend or trip for you and your spouse.
  • Buy that sexy lingerie or those crotch-less panties you long go see your woman in and do all kinds of hot things to her to let her know just how much of an effect she’s having on you.
  • Arrange babysitting if necessary or get away from home and plan to get it on with your partner with a night of steamy, uninhibited lovemaking.

 

How to Grow Your Relationship

holding_new_plant_o4i8I have to admit that I am no green thumb. Plants under my care tend not to thrive. The truth is that whenever I have had a young plant, I usually begin with loads of enthusiasm which tends to peter off as time goes by. If we think about it, many of us treat our significant relationships or marriages like this; we begin with enthusiasm only to allow them to languish in neglect.

And a relationship is like plant. It’s a living, breathing thing which requires loads of attention if it is to grow and thrive. If, however, we pursue our relationships on automatic pilot instead of with thought or intention, then we run the risk of missing valuable “growth-moments”. When that plant becomes dry and withered because of a lack of water, sunlight or nourishing soil, then it will take some pruning, watering and overall care to get it back to a healthy state.

If our relationship is suffering with neglect and needs an injection of life and renewal, then the following  pointers should help us maximize growth.

  • Utilize confrontation wisely: If we are constantly unhappy with the up-turned toilet seat, or with our partner’s propensity to be a workaholic; if we are bored stiff with sex or hate the fact that we have virtually no romantic couple time; then now is the time to open our mouths wide and speak. Suffering in silence or being a relationship martyr is dis-empowering and self-destructive. Practicing the fine art of loving confrontation with disarming ‘I feel’ statements, as opposed to harsh accusations, can go a long way towards improving relational quality.
  • Take responsibility for your own happiness:  Ensuring relationship growth is a two-sided deal because both partners share equal responsibility. While one may be responsible for outright change, the other is equally responsible for facilitating that change. Admittedly, it is very easy to blame someone else for our own misery. It is, however, equally important to look within to see where we have let ourselves down. Very often we can internalize our life-disappointments and project this unhappiness unto our spouse. Taking responsibility for our own peace of mind may mean deliberately letting go of past hurts in our relationship or previous ones.
  • Practice self-love: As women we want to be loved and told that we are beautiful, sexy and desirable. Amazingly, some of us can’t stand the best bone in our own bodies. We are filled with self-loathing and self-rejection every time we stare at ourselves in the mirror. If we are unable to say to ourselves “girl you look fine”, then why on earth would we expect our man to tell us this. Low self-esteem and self-recrimination are tangible states of being which affect the way we carry ourselves. This negativity can be reversed through daily declarations which affirm that we are indeed beautiful.  If there is anything we do need to change, then we can actively pursue this while understanding that our worth is not tied to our looks.
  • Pursue dreams: Some of us have been taught that it is vain or even self-serving, to focus too much on ourselves. As a consequence, we usually place the needs of others before our own; ALL THE TIME. Of course I wholeheartedly believe that there is a juncture in our lives when this is entirely necessary. When we have babies and small children we learn about this all too well and this is perhaps as it should be. But there is nothing wrong with also pursuing what makes us happy or fulfilled; as long as it’s legal and no one is being hurt. Women, who constantly sacrifice their dreams and goals and never share such with their partners or children, run the risk of becoming angry and resentful. On the other hand, when we feel happy and fulfilled, we bring a positive energy to the relationship which is infectious.
  • Shed unrealistic expectations: Falling in love does not mean finding a perfect soul-mate who will meet our every emotional and sexual need; this is a myth. There can be a sense of purpose or even destiny in partnering with someone who does share our vision and values. No one, however, is perfect. We should therefore shed unrealistic expectations. These can include beliefs that our partner should anticipate our every need, read our minds even before we speak, know exactly what we mean when we do speak, be the perfect lover, kisser, gourmet chef, provider, leader, handyman, disciplinarian, planner and the list can go on. While there may be such men somewhere out there on Mars, I haven’t met many of them. Accept that neither one of you is perfect and determine to improve together.

So Men Just Aren’t Sex Machines After All!

Just when I thought we could no longer be surprised by sex research, a new study by the Kinsey Institute for Sex Gender and Reproduction yielded a set of unusual findings. Contrary to popular opinion, this new study found that men, who kiss and cuddle, are three times more happy than those who don’t. Imagine that. In other words, men who were more in touch with their kinder, gentler, “coochier” side were more likely to experience satisfaction in their long term relationships. These men who made it a practice of smooching with their wives or significant others, were in fact found to experience greater levels of sexual satisfaction than those who didn’t.

What does this tell us girls? It confirms what we’ve known instinctively since Adam was a lad; that sexual satisfaction is much more than the straight-forward thrusting of a penis in a vagina. There I’ve said it! It goes a lot deeper than the length and breadth of the penis, or the depth of the vagina for that matter; never mind what Cosmo says! Sexual satisfaction also definitely extends beyond the latest tricks or is more than those impossible gymnastics’ positions highlighted in the Kama Sutra.

If what we understand about this study is correct, then we can gather that intimacy means a lot more to men than they have traditionally let on. If you remember anything about the movie Pretty Woman, starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, then you would recall that the prostitute played by Roberts, had a distinct difficulty with kissing her clients. She admitted that it fostered attachments and created a sense of intimacy that she didn’t exactly want to encourage in her line of work. Both women and men recognize that there can be nothing more intimate than breathing each other’s oxygen. Maybe this explains why some men subconsciously decide to lay off the smooching after they have landed their catch; perhaps it’s a means of maintaining some level of control; you know, like protecting themselves against too much vulnerability. Unfortunately, however, holding out in the intimacy department actually leads to less relationship fulfillment.

Not that I’m suggesting that most men don’t like to kiss, but other studies have shown that the more stale a relationship gets, the less kissing there often is. As sex becomes routine, several couples admit to simply honing in on what they see as the important hardware for sex; mainly the genitals. With kids to get off to school, pets to feed and jobs to get up and go to, kissing can become relegated to the trash-heap of a relationship. Whether intimacy dies because there is a lack of deep kissing or whether it is that the death of intimacy means that we no longer want to kiss and cuddle, this study confirms that relationships which are satisfying do thrive on something more than just straight-up sex.

What was even more astounding was that this cuddly stuff was more predictive of male happiness than it was of female happiness in relationships. Hmmm. Now that was a stunner. We women have been conditioned into seeing ourselves as soft, mushy, emotional and in need of lots of non-sex affirmation; that is, hugging and the like. While I do believe that this is still very true, it is also true that as women grow older, they also become more in tuned with and comfortable about expressing their sexual needs. In other words, we become more sexually complex. A woman in her late thirties, forties or fifties is more assertive in requesting what she wants from her spouse, than a woman in her twenties, who’s more concerned about how she looks in bright light.

As confirmed by one sex expert, as we women grow older, we come into our own sexually. A woman’s sexual peak tends to take place after thirty five and really takes off when she hits her forties. Men on the other hand, tend to peak in their early twenties and keep up a lot I believe through social expectations and the consumption of Red Bull (just kidding). Not that I’m suggesting that men lose interest in sex, but there is a known difference in our sexual peak points. (I honestly believe that this see-saw effect is genetically engineered to allow us to get on with other aspects of our lives; imagine how the world just might stand still if men and women both peaked at the same time; nothing else would ever get done; balance is always good)

Of course being in love and being committed in a long term relationship, will affect a man’s libido to a great extent. Consequently, what this study also reveals is that men in stable relationships are very concerned with pleasing their partner sexually; it’s more about connection and less about competition. After all it takes a class act of a man to learn his woman’s body very well and know how to keep it humming as her sexual needs change. But these findings all fit together quite nicely. As men become more settled with one woman, their desire is to be more intimate with her and this is strengthened as they kiss and cuddle and allow that attachment hormone Oxytocin to do its work. Women, on the other hand, as their relationships lengthen, experience a greater yearning for hot, steamy sex with the one man to whom they are committed. And this is of course in keeping with a woman’s rise in sexual assertiveness. These male-female differences in need, are in fact complimentary and represent a wonderful dove-tailing of cuddly warmth and hot passion.

These findings to my mind are a great plus for the institution of marriage, which has wrongfully taken a beating and the blame for many a failed sex life. There is a lot then to be said for long term relationships and the commitment which allows couples to grow sexually together.

And it’s nice to know that it’s finally official; guys are a lot more than automatic sex machines.