3 Dating Deal-Breakers: How to Know if He or She is the One

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.

2015-09-28-1443402645-1352840-imgres3-thumbIn 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.

Continue reading here via The Huffington Post

3 Ways to Put the Fun Back Into Your Sex Life — One May Surprise You!

Let’s get back to how to put the fun back, and the first way is what I like to call:

1) Planned Spontaneity

This means that you actually find some time in advance that you are both going to be available for something spontaneous. The reason I say this is that life doesn’t just stop because you’ve decided to go fly a kite.

Dr. Phil, in his book Love Smart: Find the One You Want, Fix the One You Got lists qualities in a man’s personality that may be important to a woman looking for a good relationship. One of these is being spontaneous. Dr. Phil describes this as someone who can live on the edge, pick up and go on the spur of the moment. He says this quality is important to him because he thinks too much planning takes all the fun out of having a good time.

I agree that over-planning feels confining and takes the surprise element out of spontaneity. However, if you come home from work and want to whisk your partner off for a romantic dinner picnic at the beach and a walk holding hands with the waves rolling over your feet, you may find that you’ve forgotten something. He may have a late meeting that he stayed for, not knowing you had anything planned. You may have forgotten to make arrangements for someone to take your children to sports events they had to go to, or a sleepover.

By sitting down together on a regular basis, and mapping out some common time over the coming week or weeks that you will both be available for spontaneous fun, you will ensure that these problems don’t arise and you can actually be together.

I recommend that you each take a turn, going back and forth, at being the one who will “plan” the spontaneous activity. This makes it a real surprise for the other person, and in that sense it is spontaneous. Also, you won’t feel neglected, because you will know that next week or in two weeks it will be your turn.

Germaine Greer said “the essence of pleasure is spontaneity.” I would just add “planned.”

2015-06-30-1435707740-2835052-1428991059852-thumb

2) Become your partner

I want you to try and actually pretend to be your partner. Plan an activity together, something sexy and fun, as if you were him doing the planning. Don’t think about what he would like, instead, become him and think what he would do for you. This takes a little work, as we have a hard time letting go of who we are to be able to really see things from another’s perspective. Sitting quietly for 10 or 15 minutes picturing him and what goes on in his head sounds silly, but is worth it. Remember, you ARE him. What you plan from this perspective will definitely be something that you will like, although if you’re really good at this, you may end up planning something he thinks you would like that is different from what you’d expect to like. You may find something new you really enjoy that you hadn’t tried before.

To read the rest of the article click here – via The Huffington Post

3 Ways to Put the Fun Back Into Your Sex Life — One May Surprise You!

(Sampled from my official Huffington Post blog)

Sex is about a lot of things, sometimes different things to different people. Despite many years of working with couples of all ages, races, and personality types, I am still amazed by how much the meaning of sex can vary from person to person.

2015-06-30-1435707740-2835052-1428991059852.jpg

That being said, most people seem to want some similar outcomes from their sexual relationships. Jordan Gray, a relationship coach, says that all people want to feel loved and to feel safe. He believes a war is being waged against women’s self-esteem, sexuality and safety from a very young age. I would agree with him.

Because women have so many dis-empowering messages being sent regarding their sexuality, they need to have a safe space where they feel they can trust their partners.

While I believe that men also need to trust, because they are generally the aggressors in our society they feel less of a need for safety.

Mr. Gray also feels women need to feel seen, to know that you hear them and are aware of their emotional states. Men need to understand that this doesn’t mean they are asking to have you fix their problem, but just to understand their feelings. Of course, women want to feel sexually desired. Men want this as well…..

Click HERE to read the full blog post –

He Said, She Said…What’s More Important, Being Right or Being Happy?

All of us like to be right.  It seems to be a built-in instinct in humans, this strong need for affirmation of our rightness.  With couples in relationships, it often takes the form of discussions that dissolve into arguments starting … Continue reading

Single or Married – Do Women Have a Choice?

There is a new book out (which I haven’t yet read) by Kate Bolick called “Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own”.  The author’s background is impressive.  She is a contributing editor to The Atlantic, a freelance writer for Elle, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. Also, she is single.

I read an article about the book in The Washington Post and a couple others as well.  What I found so interesting is that this woman who is clearly very successful and quite attractive has found it very difficult to make a choice to be single.  I completely understand this, as it is a topic I indirectly deal with in my book, “Sizzle”.  I believe that our culture, even in 2015, still puts heavy pressure on women to grow up, find a man and marry, and then to have children.22696026-Break-up-ending-relationship-between-husband-and-wife-Couple-in-divorce-crisis-Man-woman-unhappy-hol-Stock-Photo

While this is a perfectly acceptable route to take if it is what one wants, my experience as a psychotherapist has taught me that many women, if not most have never really chosen this.  They followed the path shown to them by family, friends, Church or Synagogue, and society at large.  Few women I have come across at any age have really examined their own lives and feelings to determine what they felt was best for them.  Many marry and then a few years later, or in some cases, many years later, come to me saying they feel empty and unhappy and not in control of their own destinies.  They look back to the time they married, and feel they had no choice.  They would have been looked down on, ostracized, for picking a future as a single woman. They cite fear of a future by themselves and pressure as the reasons they married.

Many women have told me they fell in love with their husbands, but now realize that they could have lived together for a while and then gone their separate ways.  They did not have to make a lifelong commitment and end up angry and unfulfilled.  They say that they wanted to travel, see the world, and explore different parts of themselves that the boundaries of married life and children did not allow.

 Ms. Bolick tells us about five women from literary history that were her inspiration.  Each took her life into her own hands and pursued her own dreams.  She discusses how single women have changed their role in society’s order, and how much this role is determined by political, economic and cultural conditions in the society at any given time.

imgresI am not seeing enough independence of thought and decision among women today and it bothers me. While they have made great strides in the workplace, expectations for them by men and our culture seem to be stuck where they were a hundred years ago.  There is clearly still a stigma to being an unmarried woman into your thirties and beyond.  People try to “find someone for you” and encourage you “not to give up” as though your singleness is an illness or a blot on your desirability.

People seem unwilling or unable to recognize that this might be a choice a woman has made because she wants the freedom of this kind of lifestyle.  They also don’t seem to understand that choice is a fluid thing, not stagnant.  You can choose one thing at one point in your life then choose the opposite later.  There are also many choices in between.  A woman can be married, single, live with someone else, live alone but be in a relationship, or she can have an affair.  I am not making any judgments about these choices, merely stating that they exist in the real world.  They are options apart from marriage.

The choice (or lack of it) about marriage is closely connected to choices about sexuality.  Women have allowed themselves to be put in structured roles as to their sexuality.  As a result, I see many very confused women who are embarrassed, ashamed or angry with who they are sexually.

We are sexual beings.  It is a major part of our identity.  If we are taught to deny it, how can we feel like complete human beings?  How can we have the confidence to give ourselves to someone else physically?  How can we feel really free?

Finally, it’s not about being a single woman or a married woman.  It’s about having the freedom and strength of character to make your own choice.

Art Imitating Life or the Other Way Around?

I saw a very lovely movie Sunday night – 5 to 7 – written and directed by Victor Levin.  In addition to being really well-written (always a joy to a fellow writer) it was a very interesting and somewhat personal movie for … Continue reading

Do You Feel Eyes On You?

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.Frisky

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!

Older Women, Younger Men: A Short-Term Trend or a New Definition of Relationship?

In this post, I’d like to explore a few different aspects of relationships between older women and younger men.

For many people, the first thing they think of is the term cougar.  Courteney Cox brought this term into the mainstream with the title of her TV show, Cougar Town.  As a relationship specialist, I was very interested in seeing this show when it first began, but I’m sad to say I was very disappointed.  Rather than tackle any real issues of substance that these kinds of couples face, the show was just another superficial comedy.

In a New York Times article by Sarah Kershaw back in 2009, she wrote about “Rethinking the Older Woman-Younger Man Relationship”.   “The term cougar raises hackles among women who say the image of a wild animal, however sleek and beautiful, prowling for victims – or an army of Mrs. Robinsons on the march for men young enough to be their sons – is demeaning.”  Demi Moore who was married to fellow actor Ashton Kutcher for many years, was often described as a cougar, but so have sex-starved women slinking through bars for young men to satisfy nothing but physical needs.

Director Sam Taylor and Actor Aaron Johnson have a 23 year age gap in their relationship

Director Sam Taylor and Actor Aaron Johnson have a 23 year age gap in their relationship

Ms. Kershaw gives us many more details about cougars, from the Urban Dictionary definition to what sociologists are saying.

I believe that the time has come for all of us to recognize the value in these kinds of relationships.  Older women have lots of life experience, are often more financially secure and have achieved many of their professional goals.  They don’t need a man to take care of them; they can take care of themselves.  Younger men appreciate and respect that, and also often feel that these women can teach them much about life.  The older women appreciate the enthusiasm and spontaneity of younger men, who often pull them along to try new things and take risks they might otherwise not take.  They also are usually less competitive with women than equal or older age men tend to be.  This is from my experience as a therapist working with these kinds of couples.

In her web site EmpowHER, Pink Wrangler states that a young man, Michael, 28, when questioned about why he was attracted to older women said, ” women in their twenties are a) quite boring, b) quite unintelligent, c) only wanting to settle down into some kind of marriage situation, and d) really not bringing much to the table.”  She then asked him the top three things that appealed to him about older women.  His response -“Sexually, they know specifically what they want.  That helps a younger cub that is not necessarily inexperienced but may lack direction and confidence in terms of how to please a woman.  A younger woman in her twenties probably doesn’t know herself or what she likes so she wouldn’t be able to communicate it”.

These kinds of relationships can work – they just may take more effort than many traditional relationships.  Also, the men and women need to understand what they are likely to have to deal with.  Friends, family and society may make things difficult, trying to make them feel guilty or wrong for caring about someone when there is a large age difference. 

103805-mariah_carey_nick_cannon_617_409

Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon

Many celebrities have made these relationships work.  Check out Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon, 11-year age difference, or Robin Wright and X-Men actor Ben Foster, 14-year difference.  There’s Tina Turner and Erwin Bach, 16 year difference, Hugh Jackman and Deborah-Lee Furness, 13 years apart.  There are many more, including lots of briefer relationships that Hollywood’s A-list actresses such as Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Anniston have had. They claim that the relationships broke up for reasons other than the age difference.

Based on the couples I have worked with as well as lots of new data, I believe that the older woman – younger man is going to become a much more common and accepted kind of serious and committed relationship and is here to stay.