2 of the Most Serious Problems in Your Marriage (And They Happen Before You’re Even Married)

There are the difficulties of developing relationships with your new in-laws and learning how to handling fighting with your soon-to-be spouse. The list goes on and on but I want to get back to my 2 concerns.

The first, and to me as a Marriage and Family Therapist for many years, the most serious, is about expectations. If I had a dollar for every time a young woman or man or an older woman or man said to me, “My wedding is going to be the best day of my life” I’d have an awful lot of dollars.

I’d like to break this sentence down. “My wedding (a single event) is going to be the best day of my life.” If that were to turn out to be true, and based on what couples tell me after their weddings are over, it almost never is true even at the time, then what does that say about your hopes of happiness for the rest of your life? Apparently, these people think it’s all downhill from the wedding. Putting such pressure on a single day, a single event causes tremendous stress on everyone to try and make everything perfect, and we all know nothing is ever perfect.

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According to GoodTherapy.org, quoting a book by R.S. Miller (2011) called Intimate Relationships, couples site constant pressure, criticism and opinions from others as sources of substantial stress when planning a wedding. They also indicate that finances, and expectations for perfection (unattainable) are equally stress-producing per H.T. Reis, Rusbult, C.E. (2004) in his work “Close Relationships: Key Readings. N.Y. Psychology Press

Why does this concern me? Because when perfection is not achieved, depression and self-criticism often sets in. I see couples come in and feel deflated. They had such high expectations for their wedding day and then there were problems. The band wasn’t as great as they’d thought. The food was too cold. The flowers were wilted. The guests didn’t seem to have much fun. And even when all these things went really well, many couples feel let down after the day itself. I believe this is because reality has now set in and the real work of being married and learning to live with someone else and be committed to that person forever feels overwhelming. So many brides and grooms feel doubt. Did they pick the right person? Why aren’t they feeling all tingly and excited anymore? Can they really stay with only one person for the rest of their lives? Coming from such a high as the perfect wedding expectation back to the real world is a roller coaster ride and can be quite devastating. If couples had realistic expectations for their wedding day it would make for a much smoother transition.

 

Continue Reading Here Via My Huffington Post Blog

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.”

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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

One Sure Thing Guys Can Do to Make Sex Better

Yes, there really is one thing that is a surefire way to make your sex life better. And the surprising thing is that it doesn’t have to do with sex at all.

Unlike my other posts where I refer to different experts and references, this post has only one expert …me! As a state-licensed therapist with over 30 years experience, I have given this piece of advice often and seen it work with thousands of individuals and couples who have come to me.

Are you ready for this secret magic tip? Pay attention – here it is!

Be creative out of bed. Yes, sounds like a simple thing to do and it really is if you’re willing to put a little time and thought into it. To help you understand what I mean, I’m going to give you a few examples I’ve suggested to couples and have seen work wonders.

Think about the first place you kissed your partner (this works equally well with girlfriends and spouses). Maybe it was at your local beach at sunset. Go back to the beach and find a lovely shell. Clean it up and take it to one of those frame places where they can place it in a clear acrylic box (it’s glued in place) with some sand you’ve brought back from the beach. When it’s done, you have a lovely paperweight to give her as a reminder of that first kiss. You will score many brownie points for this.

Continue Reading Here via the Huffington Post

Is it Going to be Women Against Men in an Apocalyptic Future?

I saw Mad Max tonight and it started me thinking.  If we destroy our world as we know it (which unfortunately seems like a possibility), what would the future hold?  Clearly, it would be very bleak.  No trees, no grass, … Continue reading

Are You Really Depressed or Just a Little Down? 12 Signs That Let You Know If You Need to Get Help

All of us have bad days, sometimes those bad days can merge into bad weeks or even months, but normally, we get over whatever is bothering us and move on.  Many things can cause temporary depression, the kind that isn’t … Continue reading

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!

Is It All About The Tie?

Fifty Shades of Grey hit the movie-going public like a tornado last month.  Even though there was some optimism that opening weekend would go well (based on the over one hundred million books sold worldwide) no one in the movie industry was prepared for the over ninety-five million in box office the movie took in over Valentine’s Day weekend.

Why am I doing a blog about this?  Because as a sex therapist, I am interested in what such an interest in a story about bondage means.  

2000px-BDSM_acronym.svgBDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism, Masochism) are aspects of sexuality that have been around since our species figured out that two bodies together kept warmer than each one alone.  There has been much debate about whether Fifty Shades is about two people role-playing and having fun with sex and with full consent, or whether there is a darker side to this, one that is perhaps troubling to people worried about women’s safety and their rights.

Emma Green, the assistant managing editor of Atlantic.com writes that fantasy is both an escape from reality and an expression of a hidden desire.  She tells us that in culture, it both reflects who we are and shapes what we become.  

imgresViolence and sex walks a fine line …we need to be very careful not to let it spill over to a point where there is no control for both people.  Some guys get turned on by violence during sex, probably a throwback to the days when they had to grab their woman by the hair and drag her into the cave for sex.  Some women like it too, possibly enjoying letting go and feeling the strength of the man running the show.

As a therapist I believe that for people who enjoy this it is crucial to talk about it first.  Make sure BOTH people are really into it, and decide what is acceptable and when to stop.  

Sex is about vulnerability which means, especially for women, you need to be able to trust the man and know that you’re safe. Then you can make room for the openness that lets in intimacy and connection.  So go ahead, enjoy the tie, but don’t overdo it!

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. 

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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.