Bad Relationship Signs in Oprah.com has an article titled “Dating Deal Breakers: 8 signs We All Overlook.” The author, psychologist Terri Orbuch, wrote a book called “5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great.” While I don’t agree with all her eight signs as being deal-breakers, I do agree with one.
In my over 30 years working as a marriage and family therapist with couples, I have found that if couples don’t listen to each other, and really hear what their partner is saying, it is a prelude for disaster.
Many men will hear a woman complain about some problem she’s having, perhaps at work, and rather than showing empathy for how she’s feeling about it, they just want to quickly come up with a solution to fix it. While well-meaning, this is not helpful and not a good pattern to start off with in a relationship. If a guy is doing this on the first few dates, it’s probably not going to get better.
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It’s a lovely spring evening. You and your Significant Other have been out for a relaxing dinner, and now you’re back home sipping a glass of wine on the couch. Your affectionate cat Fluffy is rubbing against your legs (or your adorable dog Buster is lying on your feet) while your man starts to lavish you with luscious kisses. As the kissing gets more heated, you move to the bedroom, and clothes begin to come off.
You’re in bed and really into it now and actual sex starts. It’s good but for some reason you feel distracted. Your mind is not completely focused on the sex act – but you don’t really know why. Afterward you curl up together but somehow feel slightly dissatisfied. You wonder if you’re having some sort of sexual issue as a couple and what you should do to fix it.
If you were to come to me as a therapist, one of the first things I’d check on is whether Fluffy or Buster came into the bedroom with you. Even if your pet stayed off the bed (which they often don’t) if they are in the room during sex it can definitely impact your experience. This is especially true for women who tend to be a bit more aware of their surroundings and let their minds wander to other issues if things present themselves (like crying children or fire engines howling outside).
Why does this matter? Because our pets are part of our family. You wouldn’t want your five year old to stand in the doorway and watch you having sex. You wouldn’t want your mother or father there either. Strange though it may seem, your pets fall into the same category. The difference is that you may not think about it – it’s more of a sub-conscious thing, which is why couples often don’t realize that this is what is lessening their sexual enjoyment.
When I have discussed this with dozens of couples, what surfaces is that one (or sometimes both) partners feel a little embarrassed, not completely at ease, and not totally in the moment which always makes for the best sex. Even if you’re into voyeurism and like to be watched, you don’t want your family members in that position. So if you have a pet, put them on the other side of the door and close it.
You may be surprised at how uninhibited you become!
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