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Archive for 2019

Date #3 . . . Let’s Get It On: Sex and Intimacy

Monday, March 18th, 2019

“I admit it, I am a receiver, not a giver”.  

He nodded with a playful smirk on his face.

We were on our third date from the book Eight Dates:  Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. Date #3 is Let’s Get It On:  Sex and Intimacy.

The scene of the date had been planned a few months prior.  Happy Hour at a cool Portuguese wine bar, followed by Little Shop of Horrors at a local repertory theater. 

Not exactly the candlelit dinner recommended in the book.

But, that’s not us. We both prefer a more casual vibe, so a noisy wine bar was the perfect backdrop for our date.  And I must say, the spicy batatas and spinach artichoke gratin were excellent.

The book suggested dressing in a way that your partner found sexy.   I put on my new high waisted, wide leg jeans and chunky suede sandals with fringe. My husband noticed.  He said I looked like Marcia Brady, a total compliment for this 70s girl.  I was feeling groovy.  

What does a great sex life look like?

As we sipped and noshed, we began discussing the chapter we read earlier in the day.  We talked about The Normal Bara book referenced in Eight Dates.  The authors conducted a study about and sex with 70,000 participants in 24 countries. 

They found that couples who reported having great sex lives did a baker’s dozen of things to keep their love and passion alive, such as saying “I love you” often, public displays of affection, romantic dates and vacations, and talking about sex comfortably.

They also give each other back rubs.

I had to admit I was a receiver and not a giver.  It’s a long-standing joke for us, hence the smirk.

We were pleased that we could check off many of the 13 behaviors cited in The Normal Bar but we made a pact to work on kissing passionately for no reason at all.  We give six second kisses frequently but want to improve on the “for no reason at all” part. 

Let’s talk about sex . . . .

Moving on to the Open-Ended Questions section, the first question is about sharing your favorite sexual memories with each other.  

Hmm, we both had to reflect on that for a bit.  Interestingly, we cited many of the same memories.  

We laughed hysterically about one particular memory from our dating phase.  We both recalled our first romantic trip together to the mountains of New Mexico.

And then there was the conception of our son.  When we were trying to get pregnant I was ovulating and my husband, who is a pilot, was in another city.  I hopped on a plane and surprised him.  We will never forget that crappy Holiday Inn that changed our lives forever.

It seems that the times that stood out were more about our connection than erotic pleasure.

I like that about us. 

We didn’t make it through all of the remaining questions at Happy Hour, so we talked some more on the car ride home.

Question 4 is “What’s your favorite way for me to let you know I want to have sex?”  Research shows that 70 percent of couples ask for sex in indirect ways, but as relationships mature, the bids get more direct.  

My husband couldn’t have been more direct when he gave his Little Shop of Horrors inspired answer.

“Feed me Seymour”.

I couldn’t help but laugh. Gottman says that “every positive thing you do in your relationship is foreplay”, and that includes humor.

For us, it’a all about the connection.

Date #2: Exploring Anger

Saturday, March 2nd, 2019

“I see you Jake Sully”, my husband said.

I burst into laughter.

We were working through our second date from Eight Dates:  Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love.  The topic was Agree to Disagree:  Addressing Conflict.

His response was perfect. Jake Sully was the protagonist in the movie Avatar.  In the movie, the Na’Vi tribe greets one another by saying “I see you”.  In a spiritual sense it means ‘I see who you are and I understand you’.  

Mutual understanding, according to John Gottman, is the healthiest and most productive goal of all conflict discussions.

It was Sean’s turn to plan the date.  Per the book it suggests that the couple find a park, beach or restaurant to talk privately. He opted for the at-home date suggestion of walking around the neighborhood since we have had a hectic social calendar the last few weeks.

We put on our sneakers, which cued our dogs it was time to walk.  When we stepped outside it was 52 degrees and a bit drizzly.  I let out a sigh of disgust.

Since we are talking about conflict I need to say, cold and I are bitter rivals and we broke up a long time ago.  Despite my chilly Pennsylvania roots, this Texas girl had to put the kibosh on that plan. 

After the frustrated dogs settled down, we made a pot of tea and sat in the same location as Date #1. This time Sean answered the questions first.

The issue we chose to talk about was differences in expressing anger.  I have always been comfortable letting off steam, whereas Sean viewed anger as a dangerous emotion.

Having been together 25 years, processing many fights and going to couples therapy, this wasn’t our first rodeo with discussing our differences in expressing anger. But the truth is, each time we have talked about it a new layer was uncovered.

This time was no different.

I knew the story of a defining moment with anger in his life.  It left him with a sense that anger is a dangerous emotion that causes a permanent strain on relationships.   

What I didn’t know until I asked the questions in the book was how I could best support him when he is angry and how he likes to make up.

THIS WAS HUGE!

Knowing how to repair is the ultimate skill in marriage. Arguments are inevitable and actually healthy when processed at a deeper level.  By listening and being gentle with our partners we create a safe environment for deeper meanings to be revealed.

Having this discussion as a scheduled date conversation rather than processing a fresh fight helped us to get to this new layer.  The best time to talk about conflict is not while you are in the middle of a conflict. It allows for some time and distance to explore more deeply, rather just knee-jerk reactions.

When it was my turn to answer questions, I talked about how my Italian family was very expressive with anger, but they made repairs with humor or food.  Both worked equally well.  

Despite their fighting, nothing bad ever happened like it did with Sean.  Their fighting was unpleasant and loud, but our home and their relationship were stable.  My parents fought, let off steam, made up and life went on.

As I shared my story, he listened intently and I could see the wheels turning.  

“I see you Jake Sully”, he said.

I burst into laughter. “I see you too Jake Sully”.  

He poured another cup of tea and we shared a piece of Italian cream cake.  It was very comforting to know that he is learning the power of humor and food.

Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love . . . Date #1

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

With bellies miserably full of Thai Beef and Noodles, he washed and I dried.  Alexa was playing Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran in the background. 

When your legs don’t work like they used to before
And I can’t sweep you off of your feet
Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love
Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks

“We’ll start our low carb diet tomorrow.  This time for real” I said with conviction to my husband, Sean.

He nodded in agreement. 

He’s heard it before. But he knows my weaknesses after 25 years together, noodles being at the top of the list.  I overeat and then complain. Instead of judging me, he grabs a bottle of wine and some dark chocolate (more weaknesses . . . this man really knows me) and sits down at the table to continue our quiet, stay-at-home Valentine’s Day celebration.

“So, who wants to go first?” he asks.

Earlier in the day I told him I wanted to have the First Date from John and Julie Gottman’s new book, Eight Dates: Essential Conversations for a Lifetime of Love

“I do!” I said, not giving him a chance to respond. 

Date “1” is Lean on Me: Trust and Commitment.  After reading that chapter earlier in the day, I had compiled a list of things I cherish about Sean.  While there were many things on my list, there were ten that stood out.  I envisioned sharing in David Letterman Top 10 List fashion.

Cherishing and Commitment

When we cherish our partner, we have a deep feeling that they are irreplaceable.  We simply cannot imagine our lives without them, even when times are rough.  We find ways to tell them that we appreciate them, and do that often.  Cherishing and commitment go together, but they are different.  Commitment is really a verb because it is the actions we take daily to let our partner know we are with them, that we make decisions with them in mind.  

When we choose commitment, we resist temptation to betray our partner. We create trust and safety by turning towards them to work out our differences.  Gratitude is nurtured by knowing what we have rather than focusing on what we don’t have. There is no gossiping or trashing of our partner to others.  

Commitment in Action

Sean and I have had our share of difficult times, that’s for sure. When our son was a colicky infant we leaned on each other for support despite being sleep deprived and cranky with one another.  When my mother and beloved dog both died in the same year, I had a hard time shaking off my depression.  We argued more than ever and found ourselves in couples counseling. Despite these and other challenges, we never gave up on one another.

The incident that sealed the deal for me though was when I had a health crisis 12 years ago.  My mysterious illness had the medical community stumped and I was terrified.  Our lives were turned upside down for months on end with scary symptoms and no treatment. My life and my outlook were forever changed.  It wasn’t until I got a diagnosis and learned to manage my chronic symptoms that I could reflect on how it changed us as a couple.

I had been too absorbed in my own fear to recognize how my husband was scared too.  His life was also forever changed.  But instead of complaining he expressed cherishing and commitment by supporting me through my illness in ways that I took for granted at the time.  He rubbed my back when I was scared.  He drove me to the Emergency Room in the middle of the night on countless occasions. When I had to change my diet, he joined me.  He developed a patience with me that had not been there before.  He was less quick to anger over small stuff and he started leaving love notes for me. 

While he never came out and said it, almost losing me made him realize how much I meant to him.  I felt loved and cared for. We now joke that my near-death experience is the secret to our long marriage.

As I compiled my Top10 List I realized I was describing our everyday life.  Playing and laughing together, and that we get each other’s sense of humor.  Raising a child and dogs together, a connection that is precious to us but was often fraught with stress, cleaning up bodily functions and money we could have spent in far more fun ways. Being comfortable to be myself with Sean and having my faults and bad habits accepted. And that includes bingeing on noodles knowing full well I will complain about it afterwards.  

The song was still playing as I started reading my list.

So honey now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
I’m thinking out loud
Maybe we found love right where we are

Yes, I believe we have found love right where we are. And I could hardly wait to tell him.

Pucker Up . . . It’s Kiss Day

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

Who knew?  The day before Valentine’s Day is now known as Kiss Day.  That’s the prefect prelude to love and romance.

Kissing, that wonderful, sloppy, sensual act is the gateway to a great love life.  Remember the scene from The Notebook, where Ryan Gosling and Rachel Adams were mugging down in the pouring rain?  Who wouldn’t want to be loved like that.

Kissing has special powers that stimulate our senses.  Our uber-sensitive lips send signals to our brain to create a cocktail of hormones that make us want more.  Dopamine activates the pleasure center.  Oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone” generates feelings of connection and bonding.  

Yes, a little kissing leads to more kissing.  And more kissing can lead to sex. Passionate sex.

In the book The Normal Bar, authors Christiane Northrup, James Witt and Pepper Schwartz describe their relationship research.  They surveyed 100,000 people around the world and found habits related to happiness in relationships.  Of the people who reported being extremely happy, 57% shared a passionate kiss several times per week.

Among the couples that reported enjoying sex with their partners, 85% of them kiss passionately on a regular basis.

So, if you want a bit more happiness and better sex, pucker up and start smooching.  Sex without kissing is focused on orgasm.  Kissing before, during and after sex leads to better connection.

But don’t just think of kissing as foreplay.  Kiss often throughout the day.

Couples often give a quick peck when greeting one another or parting.  John Gottman says instead of just a perfunctory kiss, try making it last for six seconds.

One.  Two.  Three. Four.  Five.  Six.

Now that’s a kiss with possibilities.  

A six-second kiss feels different than a peck.  It gives the brain a chance to feel the sensation on the lips.  You can smell and taste your partner.  You can feel the softness of their skin or their stubbly growth.  It is long enough to say “I can take time out of my busy day to focus on you.”

If the passion is waning in your relationship and you long for a better sex life, start by giving your partner six seconds of your time.  And then six seconds more.  And six seconds more.  Even if you giggle while doing it, do it anyway.

Then move on to the longer, more passionate kisses of your earlier relationship.  The Normal Bar reported that passionate kissing often declines in longer term relationships.  But you don’t have to fall victim to that.  

Start now and give your Valentine a kiss to remember.


Couples Counseling and Psychotherapy Associates provides service to Kingwood, Humble, Atascocita, Porter, Fall Creek, Summerwood, North Houston and surrounding areas.

Couples Counseling & Psychotherapy Associates

2330 Timber Shadows Drive
Suite 106
Kingwood, Texas 77339
Ph: 281-812-7529

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