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The eight deep discussions that can save a dying relationship

John and Julie Gottman have devised dates for ailing couples – but how many are ready for this level of openness and sincerity?

By Emine Saner

How often do we really talk to our partners? About the big stuff, not about childcare arrangements, or what the funny noise coming from the fridge means? According to a study at the University of California, Los Angeles, couples with small children, and who both have careers, talk for just 35 minutes a week, and mainly about errands. That study, says John Gottman, “alarmed” him and his wife, Julie. “It seemed like couples who had been together a long time were not taking care of the relationship – their curiosity in one another had died,” he says.

Gottman, the renowned relationships researcher known for his work on divorce predictors, and Julie Schwartz Gottman, a psychologist, have been married for 32 years. They founded the Gottman Institute, which conducts research and trains therapists. Their Gottman method is an approach designed to repair and deepen relationships, concentrating on three main areas – “friendship, conflict management and creation of shared meaning”. They have also written many books, together and separately. Their latest book, which they wrote as a couple, is Eight Dates. It guides couples through eight conversations – to have on dedicated dates – on the big issues such as sex, parenting and how to handle conflict. It was partly sparked by the rise of online dating and to provide new couples with a roadmap to navigate tricky subjects, but mainly to give long-term couples a project to steer their relationship to a better place. “Couples who have been together for quite a long time create a relationship that grows stale with time, and they lose track of one another,” says Julie. “People evolve over time. They change.”

The categories – trust, conflict, sex, money, family, fun, spirituality and dreams – came out of the Gottmans’ years of observing the flashpoints in relationships, and they sent 300 heterosexual and same-sex couples out to test the dates. The dates have suggestions of places to go that fit the category – for instance, for the trust and commitment date, choose somewhere that is meaningful to your relationship – though they also have suggestions for meaningful dates at home, and open-ended questions to ask each other. Amazingly, they report that only one couple had an argument on one of their dates. But might disagreement be a danger for readers of the book? “It’s possible, but what we like to do is give people preparation in case conflict arises, so each chapter includes a bit of that,” says Julie. “But also we very carefully tailored the questions so that people were encouraged to self-disclose as opposed to comment on each other’s thoughts. And when you self-disclose, that’s really the antidote to creating conflict as opposed to judging the other person for their point of view.”

Each category has exercises and prompts to think about before the date – for instance, in the money and work section, you are encouraged to think about your family history with money, and complete a questionnaire on what money means to you, then bring these to the date to share, along with suggestions for discussion including: “What do you appreciate about your partner’s contribution to the wealth of the relationship?” and: “What is your biggest fear around money?”

Many of the questions will encourage you to confront your own prejudices and ideas of what a relationship should look like, probably influenced (for good or bad) by your parents’ relationship. “People tend to role-model after their caretakers,” says Julie. “Those are hard to step out of. It takes knowing what the alternative is and then practising it, making repairs when you do make a mistake and trying again.”

I can see the point of all of the dates, but some fill me with horror (talking about sex, mainly – I am British, after all). And my boyfriend would probably rather abandon his family, change his name and leave the country than have a date during which we try to have a serious conversation about growth and spirituality (sample question: “What do you consider sacred?”). How can you get your partner on board if they’re resisting? “Start with the chapter on sex,” says Julie. “I think it depends on what the objections are. If somebody is afraid of having a deeper conversation, you could say this is not about being judged. This is not meant as a sadistic torture for your partner, it’s about having a fun conversation and being able to have a jumping-off point. People are so caught up in the day-to-day tasks, they rarely have time to sit and reflect on: ‘What do I not know about my partner that I want to know?’” So many people in our culture are “broadcasters”, says John. “They think the important thing in a relationship is to be interesting, rather than to be interested.”

Which are the most important dates? Julie chooses trust and commitment, and dreams and ambitions. “When people talk about that, they have a chance to plumb their own depths, to see what really matters to them and what they really value, and how they want to give their lives meaning. Those are things that change and evolve over time.” She turns to John: “How about you, honey?” He smiles and says: “Fun and adventure, and sex.” They laugh and Julie says something about him being a typical man and kisses him on the cheek. “It was really sad that more than 70% of couples said that their lives had deteriorated in the bedroom,” says John, of his research. “They weren’t having much fun with one another. The things that really draw people together, that enhance living, wind up being put on the garbage heap. It’s certainly easy for relationships to become drudgery.”

John and Julie met in a coffee house in Seattle in 1986. John had recently moved to the city and was getting to know his new home: mainly, he says, by answering personals ads in the newspaper. “I dated 60 women. In three months.” Julie laughs and says: “He made a job of it.” Julie walked into the cafe and he invited her to join him: “Julie was number 61.” They were married within a year. How did they know each other was the right person? “We’d had other relationships so we had a lot of negative comparisons,” says Julie. “We’d made so many mistakes, and you really learn from your mistakes. Lo and behold, here’s this beautiful person who thinks you’re funny and cute, and whose eyes light up, and with whom you know you’ll never be bored.” They have worked together for much of that time. Even when they were newly married, they would go out “and we would ask each other these big open-ended questions, just like the ones in the book”, says Julie. John would bring a notebook on their nights out and make notes.

Both agree on the most productive category for them – dreams. Each year they take a holiday together (they call it a honeymoon) and discuss three things: what was bad about the previous year, what was good, and what they hope for the year ahead. “We really take some time to take a look at our lives and figure out how to make it better,” says John. Julie adds: “That’s where the dreaming comes in.”

They seem happy and connected. What do they wish all couples knew? “If your partner is having one of the negative emotions – fear, anger, sadness – you approach it with interest and curiosity and really communicate: ‘I want to know what you’re feeling, I want to know what’s going on with you,’” says John. Julie laughs and says it says a lot about their relationship that John focuses on listening when she chooses the opposite. “My thought is related to the speaker – there’s a lot of responsibility for the health of the relationship from how you bring up issues,” she says. “What I wish all couples knew is, when they have a concern or complaint, they need to describe themselves, not their partner.” It’s the difference between “I’m feeling hurt” and “you’ve hurt me”.

They both still get it wrong, says John. “We’re all facing the same kinds of problems and we need these blueprints,” he says. “We’re not experts on relationships, we’ve taken these ideas from real couples that we’ve done research on. It’s the data that’s informing us, not our own expertise: we don’t really have that, we’re like any other couple, we struggle with the same things.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Overcoming intimacy challenges after 50

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By Julie Pfitzinger

Confidence: “The quality or state of being certain.” That’s the Merriam-Webster definition, but for many people who are starting to date again after 50, confidence can falter and it can be difficult to be certain about anything.

For those who have lost a spouse or partner to death, divorce or a break-up, a feeling of being vulnerable may begin to settle in, leading to concerns about finding intimacy, as well as about when and how to fully open up to another person.

In the Dating After 50 series on Next Avenue, we’ve covered several topics including online dating and dating etiquette, which have provided tips and suggestions for the “how” on ways to start dating again.

But there’s another kind of how — how to make yourself emotionally, and physically, available to someone new. Taking a risk to share yourself and everything you have to offer at this stage of your life. Accepting and acknowledging what potential partners are offering you. Being confident about what will happen next. And knowing that even though it might not be easy, you are certain that you are genuinely ready to find fulfillment and happiness with another person.

Are You Ready to Move On?

Experts like Lisa Copeland, an author, speaker and dating coach in her fifties, say the first step to tackling that feeling of vulnerability and to start building confidence is to properly grieve the end of a marriage or relationship, whether through a break-up, divorce or death, before you even think about moving on.

For those who have divorced, Copeland says the best way to tell if you are truly ready to date is to gauge if “you’re feeling fairly neutral about your former partner.” She notes, “If you don’t feel that way yet, you are going to bring that [experience] right into the new relationship.”

The situation is different for widows or widowers. “If they had a good marriage, they are wanting to repeat the same relationship with a different person,” Copeland says. The lost spouse is also often brought into a new relationship, but that person frequently becomes “like a saint,” she says, which can be counterproductive to establishing an authentic connection with another person.

Before opening yourself up to dating, start by building a new social circle. The first step, says Copeland, is “to get out of the house.”

“Make friends. Take classes. Get involved with activities. When you are involved in doing things you love, you will light up,” she explains.

Taking that first step to put yourself out there can be uncomfortable. Copeland is a big fan of Meetups, which she says are “an amazing way to connect with others.” In her view, going into a Meetup gathering with a mindset of simply making new friends is best.

“If you meet someone, that’s just a bonus,” she says.

Different Ideas About Sex

Fast forward a bit: You’ve met someone, the two of you have found common ground and the relationship is progressing well. But what comes next could produce the biggest crisis of confidence you’ve had, well, in years: the thought of a sexual relationship.

“People often approach sex with very different ideas,” says writer and speaker Walker Thornton, who is in her 60s and the author of Inviting Desire: A Guide for Women Who Want to Enhance Their Sex Life. “The basic question most everyone starts with is: ‘Am I going to get naked with this person? And then what do I do?’”

The first roadblock is often body image, which Thornton says is typically more of an issue for women than men, although men are definitely not immune to concerns.

“Women are more concerned about sags and folds,” she says. “But men are worried about getting an erection or about satisfying a woman.”

When it comes to sex, Thornton encourages women “to share the valuable information” they have about what they like and don’t like with a partner.

“What we desired at thirty is different from what we desire at fifty,” she says, adding that she understands that for many women, the conversation about likes and dislikes is uncomfortable.

“But if you can’t even ask [a partner] about sex, how are you going to do it?” Thornton wonders.

The Myth of STDs and STIs

One particular conversation that is vitally important is around the topic of STDs and STIs, explains Thornton, and it really is non-negotiable.

“Here’s the simplest way to couch that conversation: I care about your health, so I will be tested. If you care about my health, I ask you to do the same,” she says. “Offer to send him or her a copy of your test results and ask them to send theirs in return.”

The conversation shouldn’t stop there. Thornton goes on to say that if a partner is unwilling to use a condom, for example, “they aren’t showing you that they respect your health and well-being.” If that is the case, Thornton says, “be prepared to say ‘No’ to sex, and say that this refusal makes you question their commitment to being in a relationship.”

It’s a myth that older adults don’t get STDs or STIs such as syphilis and gonorrhea; condoms can protect from genital herpes, which while not life-threatening, can be very uncomfortable and more so for women than men, says Thornton.

Make a List of What You Need

Other health issues may also come into play in sexual relationships between older adults. “Sometimes, you have to broaden your definition of sex,” says Thornton. “Focusing on pleasure, in ways inclusive of orgasm or not.”

Chronic illness can be an issue, as can cancer treatment, which often results in hormonal changes; other challenges may include fatigue or muscle/movement problems. “That can lead to a discussion about a time of day that’s better for sex, or accommodations that are needed for a bed,” explains Thornton. “Again, the best way to address all of these issues is through conversation.”

Thornton, who most frequently speaks to groups of women, often suggests making a list of just what you are looking for when it comes to a sexual relationship in midlife and beyond.

“If you have sex with someone, do you anticipate that this will be an exclusive relationship? Or if your partner decides he or she doesn’t want a sexual relationship, is that okay? Maybe it is,” says Thornton. “For you, is sex merely a goal or a natural progression of becoming intimate with another person?”

‘You Have More Freedom’

Copeland, who has been divorced twice and is now in a relationship, says there is often healing to be done before people are ready to fully open themselves up to a new person. Still, she adds, it’s vital “to know your value and know that you are worthy of someone.”

“One thing that’s often overlooked when it comes to dating after fifty is that you have more choices. You have more freedom than you did when you were younger,” she says. “You can have companions or lovers, or be in a committed relationship.”

However, Thornton — also divorced and in a relationship — understands how some might not perceive this place in life as a place of freedom.

“If we think our time is limited, we can feel more vulnerable,” she says. “But it’s really all about going into dating with an open attitude. Be willing to take the risk.”

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Not tonight!

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Why men are not always in the mood for sex

By Marjorie Brennan

A leading researcher challenges the belief that all men have higher sex drives than women. Many feel under pressure to initiate intimacy and would prefer greater equality in bed.

It is one of the most famous phrases in the English language but it is doubtful that Napoleon ever uttered the words “Not tonight, Josephine”.

However, it remains a humorous standby precisely because of its ‘nudge-nudge, wink-wink’ unlikelihood. What man ever turned down sex when offered up to him on a plate?

However, it could be that this isn’t as unlikely a scenario as we think, according to Canadian relationship therapist Sarah Hunter Murray, who has carried out extensive research on the subject of male sexual desire. She has delved beneath the stereotype of the man who is always ready for sex, finding that many men don’t always feel ‘up for it’ and are uncertain and fearful about how to raise the issue with their partners. As a result, relationships and intimacy are at risk.

In her book Not Always in the Mood, Hunter Murray aims to debunk the myths that surround men’s sexual desire. She says that we have been culturally conditioned, through songs, films, television and advertising, to view men as having an insatiable sexual appetite.

“As a sex researcher, I started studying women’s sexual desires, which were complex and nuanced, with so many factors impacting whether women were in the mood or not. I started to notice there was a counterpoint. In the research, there was this implication that men’s desire was always high or they were always in the mood, and would never turn down sex,” she says.

Over the course of 10 years, Hunter Murray interviewed 237 men of all ages and backgrounds in an attempt to discover whether this was really the case.

“I started by interviewing men without knowing what I’d find… it wasn’t long before they showed they wanted to discuss a more complex narrative than the one we had heard.”

While in initial interviews, the subjects would suggest they had higher sex drives than their partners, when Hunter Murray probed deeper, a different story began to emerge.

“With the in-depth interviews, we would talk for an hour, and they started opening up. I’d ask ‘is there ever a time you’d say no?’ and they’d say ‘if I was sick, or tired’, and I felt the more space men had to express their experiences the more I’d hear stories like ‘my wife and I aren’t really on the same page, we’re emotionally disconnected, I’m not always so turned on, sometimes my wife will suggest having sex before we’ve had a chance to talk and I feel pressured to say yes’.

It struck me that those interviews would begin with men following stereotypical descriptions of their desire — and how we rely on those first minutes and those stereotypes.

Hunter Murray’s book is an attempt to change the conversation around sexual desire, from a male and female perspective.

“What I mostly see is that women either presume men’s desire should be high, so that if their partner has lower desire than them — which is quite common — they take it personally, that he’s not attracted to her or there’s an issue with the relationship. They can also feel frustrated if their male partner does have a high level of sexual desire but they feel ‘he’s just a horndog’ and it has nothing to do with attraction, that he just wants to experience the physical pleasure.

“But I also hear from men in my research that sex is a really intimate way for them to connect and when they initiate sex they can feel quite vulnerable. In addition to physical pleasure, they want some emotional connection.”

Sexual politics has become a hot-button topic, with the advent of the #MeToo movement, and an increasing awareness of sexual harassment and violence towards women. The rise of social media has also seen an exponential rise in the availability of often violent porn, as well as the disturbing advent of the ‘incel’ — men who see themselves as ‘involuntarily celibate’, who express their desire in online chatrooms to punish women for their rejection. How does Hunter Murray see such issues as affecting the portrayal of male sexual desire?

“Women have experienced a lot of harm from men, whether through power or sexuality. But I am hearing a lot of men saying ‘that’s not my experience, that’s not how I want to be’. The men I interviewed were all in [heterosexual] relationships, while the incel is all about not having a girlfriend, so that’s a different subset of men.

“With a lot of the men I spoke to, they were aware of the idea of what men should be, this more traditionally masculine approach to sexuality — being in control, providing pleasure, not being the one who’s desirable or receiving sexual advances, being in the dominant position but what I’m hearing from men is that they question how many people that really fits.

“I’ve spoken to men who say ‘how can I refuse sex, isn’t that going to upset my partner?’ or ‘am I a real man if I don’t do this?’. It’s important to put it out there that the idea of what masculinity means can change over time and we can question what fits, what’s healthy and what no longer fits.

“A lot of the men I spoke to said they enjoyed their female partners initiating sex, when she expressed her desire and her attraction to him, when she flirted, when she touched him sexually or romantically. They said they enjoyed this egalitarian approach to sex rather than the pressure being on them to be the initiator.”

Hunter Murray’s research also found that while on a case-by-case basis, there may be men with higher sex drive than women, men are not statistically likelier to be the partner with a higher sex drive. She stresses the importance of men and women challenging sexual stereotypes and norms.

“Women have been brought up in a culture training them to be demure, or gatekeepers, but a lot of women have higher sex drives which they quash because their male partners haven’t as much of an interest — they feel they shouldn’t step into a dominant sexual role.”

While stereotypical attitudes may not reflect the real picture when it comes to sexual desire, Hunter Murray says that lifestyle factors can also affect men’s sex drive in a way that is not acknowledged.

“We’re aware of how motherhood, child-rearing and running a household can take a toll on a woman’s sexual desire. But we also need to take into account the changing role of the father in society,” says Hunter Murray. “In the past, the dad went to work and wasn’t as involved with his children as much, whereas now we see a lot more involvement for the most part and there are more stay-at-home dads. These are normal stresses and distractions but they can have an impact on men the same as women. Men also talk about wanting to support their family, and that’s also a pressure.”

Hunter Murray believes the link between men’s greater role in family life and their decreasing interest in sex is not reflected in research because much of it is based on university [student] samples.

Much of her research, she says, is reflected in her clinical practice as a relationship therapist, where she sees many men who, as they get older, panic that they are suffering dysfunction when in reality, what they are experiencing is normal.

“Men come in, in their midlife, concerned their sex drives are not as high. They have financial responsibilities, they’re taking care of kids, they’re not getting enough sleep, they have ageing parents. It’s about normalising such experiences — it makes sense that sex drive wouldn’t be as strong. But a man may jump to erectile dysfunction just because he’s not in the mood quite as often. That’s what made me want to write the book — it resonated not just in a research context but because quite a lot of men and women are struggling with these issues in their relationships.”

Ultimately, it is about connection and communication with our partners, says Hunter Murray.

“It takes our strongest version of ourselves to say ‘I want us to connect, I want to be close to you, I want sex to feel good’ — that’s a very vulnerable thing to do — ‘I care about you and am putting myself out there, do you care about me too?’.”

Men want to be desired

Hunter Murray found that in relation to levels of desire, about one-third of the time men have higher sex drives, one-third of the time women have higher sex drives, and the rest of the time it’s about even.

She also found that many men wanted to feel desired by their partners, to receive compliments, to be told they were sexy. “The more that happened the more validated they felt, and it wasn’t just sexual, they felt love and affection.”

Men in their late 30s and early 40s were the ones who identified being most aware of (and sometimes the most distressed about) their desire not being what it used to be.

Desire naturally changes and decreases over the course of a relationship. Companionate love, where our partner feels more like a companion and not our sexual partner, is normal and healthy.

One New Zealand study researching the female partners of men who took Viagra, found the women actually preferred the fact that their partners had softer erections as they aged, as they found Viagra-induced ‘rock-hard’ erections painful.

Murray Hunter’s research found that being sick was the main reason for men saying no to sex, with being tired in second place.

Complete Article HERE!

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5 Signs an Open Relationship Could Be Right for You

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(and 3 That It’s Probably Not)

Sometimes it’s good to shut the door on monogamy.

By Zachary Zane

Here’s a universal truth we generally don’t discuss enough: It’s totally normal to fantasize about other people even when you’re so happy in a relationship that your heart almost bursts every time your partner wrinkles their nose right before laughing at one of your terrible puns. That definitely doesn’t always mean that you want to act on those urges—that might seem like a bad idea for a variety of reasons. But in some cases and for some people, acting on these thoughts with the blessing of their partner is a really attractive idea. Enter: non-monogamy.

Non-monogamy refers to relationships that allow people to have sexual and/or emotional intimacy with people besides their primary partners. People who may be interested in non-monogamy include those who want to explore multiple facets of their sexual orientations or who don’t feel as though it’s natural to only love one person romantically, for instance. Fortunately for people who are interested in pursuing something like this, relationship models beyond monogamy are rising in mainstream visibility, which is where open relationships can come in.

More people are visibly warming up to the idea that it’s OK to want to have sex with more than one person for life. (Forever is a really, REALLY long time.) But knowing that open relationships are a thing doesn’t help much when it comes to figuring out if one might be right for you.

Since every relationship has its own strengths and weaknesses, there’s no One Easy Trick that will reveal if an open relationship could be great for you and your partner. However, there are various tip-offs that can indicate if your relationship would thrive or crumble after opening it up. To help you figure out where you fall, we reached out to experts in ethical non-monogamy (as in being non-monogamous without being an asshole). Here are the signs they say can hint at when it might and might not make sense to consider experimenting with an open relationship.

Here’s when it could make sense to have an open relationship.

1. You’re both genuinely interested in non-monogamy.

As the founder of the educational platform Unscripted Relationships, Stephanie Webb, Ph.D., often gets the question, “How do I get my partner to agree to an open relationship?” That’s completely the wrong way to go about opening up a relationship, says Webb.

“You don’t ‘get’ them to,” Webb, whose Ph.D. is in communication with a focus on nontraditional relationships and who has personally practiced ethical non-monogamy for over a decade, tells SELF. That kind of phrasing implies that one partner is interested in an open relationship and trying to bend the other’s will, which definitely isn’t a healthy relationship dynamic for introducing non-monogamy (or just in general).

“Many people do not want to be in an open relationship and forcing a [partner] is not a way to approach it at all,” Webb says. “Instead the interest can be raised, but not pushed. If the [partner] draws a line and wants monogamy because that is what was initially expected in the relationship, it should be respected or the relationship should end.”

With that said there’s a huge difference between a partner who makes it clear that they would never want any form of an open relationship and a partner who is interested but may need time to understand how an open relationship would manifest.

“Fears and insecurities about a new type of relationship style are typical,” board-certified clinical sexologist Rhoda Lipscomb, Ph.D., tells SELF. Experiencing these emotions at the thought of opening up a relationship doesn’t automatically mean it’s not a good idea. “This can actually help the couple so long as they are able to communicate well about what the fears mean and move forward at a pace that works for both of them,” Lipscomb says. That brings us to our next point.

2. You’re ready to communicate your ass off.

A healthy open relationship does not start after a single talk. “Opening a relationship takes so much time and work,” Webb says. Properly navigating this new terrain requires a series of ongoing conversations where you and your partner discuss what you’re looking to get out of the new relationship dynamic along with any rules you need to follow to make that happen.

Perhaps in order for you both to feel fulfilled and safe in your open relationship, neither of you can have sleepovers, play with friends, tell each other details of your trysts, have sex with other people without protection, or have sex with others inside your shared home.

Discuss emotional boundaries too. Are you both only interested in having sexual connections with other people? Or are you OK with polyamory, which allows for emotional connections and even loving other people too? Making sure you both agree upon these types of boundaries is key.

3. Your relationship currently stands on a foundation of honesty and trust.

Every expert quoted in this piece made one thing abundantly clear: Successful open relationships can require even more honesty and confidence in your partner than monogamous ones.

When a couple has this foundation, it’s a lot harder for non-monogamy to harm their bond, Lipscomb says. But without that trust or ability to be completely truthful, it’s much easier for an open relationship to exacerbate your relationship issues or create new ones. For instance, if you don’t trust your partner as much as possible, will you believe them when they say they’ll always use protection? If you feel like you can’t be honest with them, will you be able to share what about an open relationship makes you feel most vulnerable—which is the only real way you can get reassurance for those fears?

It’s necessary that both of you feel comfortable discussing questions and concerns you might have even if you’re a little nervous. Otherwise, your open relationship could implode pretty quickly.

4. You and your partner have mismatched libidos or kinks.

“Some folks have a partner who is uninterested in having a sexual relationship but still desires an emotional connection,” clinical psychologist and American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists–certified sex therapist Kelifern Pomeranz, Psy.D., tells SELF. This may happen when one partner falls on the asexual spectrum, is taking medication that stunts their libido, is too stressed from work to want much sex, or for any number of other valid reasons. On a similar note if one of you is all about a certain kink and the other has absolutely no interest, allowing one partner to practice that kink with others might offer a solution.

Of course these types of situations still require honesty, trust, and thorough communication. Those are nonnegotiable in any good relationship, especially open ones.

5. You’re in a mixed-orientation relationship.

If you’re in a mixed-orientation relationship, you may already know that term for it, but just so we’re on the same page: A mixed-orientation relationship means that partners have different sexual orientations.

Here’s when opening up your relationship might not be the best idea.

1. It’s in direct response to infidelity.

One of the worst things you can do after a partner cheats is immediately open the relationship. That’s not to say you can’t open it up if one of you has cheated in the past, but there’s that trust issue again: You both need time to work through infidelity as a unit before bringing anyone else into the mix, even if it’s no longer in secret.

“Open relationships of all kinds require trust, knowledge, consent, and emotional (and sometimes physical and spiritual) labor,” says Webb. “Infidelity breaks trust; opening the relationship when this kind of trauma has occurred is not impossible, but it does not set anyone up for success either. I recommend doing the work to rebuild the relationship and then approaching openness from a foundation of trust.”

2. Your relationship is already on the brink of ending.

Opening up a relationship in a desperate attempt to stave off a breakup isn’t a great idea. Without the strong, healthy bond that’s necessary for an open relationship to work, introducing non-monogamy might just push you over the breakup precipice.

People who try an open relationship as a last-ditch effort to avoid a breakup typically already have one foot out the door, Lipscomb says. “They do not have a strong connection and want someone—anyone—other than their primary partner,” she says, but they might be staying because of children, a fear of what their family will say, comfort, worries about hurting their partner, social stigma around divorce, or other reasons. An open relationship might seem like the perfect compromise in these cases, but it won’t work as a bandage over fundamental relationship issues or unhappiness.

3. One or both of you can’t handle jealousy.

It’s a misconception that people in successful open relationships never feel jealousy. The difference is that they know jealousy can happen, respect boundaries in an attempt to avoid it, and deal with it in a healthy manner if it arises anyway.

None of this is possible without—say it with us, folks—honesty, trust, and communication. That essential combination is what allows you to say something like, “Hey, I don’t know what it is, but I get wildly jealous when I know you’re seeing that guy.” It’s also what allows your partner to accept this kind of statement from a loving, empathetic place and reassure you as necessary.

Issues besides jealousy might come up when you’re in an open relationship, just like they would in a monogamous one. Bottom line: “Partners need to be able to listen to one another with compassion and not defensiveness, communicate their wants and needs, express themselves honestly, and take responsibility for their actions,” says Pomeranz.

Complete Article HERE!

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How to have a polyamorous relationship…

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because it’s more complicated than just casual sex

Being in a polyamorous relationship is more complicated than just casual sex. We spoke with Sophie Lucido Johnson, author of “Many Love,” on what you should know about polyamory.

By Elizabeth Entenman

“In a city like New York, with its infinite possibilities, has monogamy become too much to expect?” When Carrie Bradshaw uttered that rhetorical question during a 1998 episode of Sex and the City, little did we know how common polyamory would become. Carrie was never in a polyamorous relationship, but if the show premiered today, the topic would probably come up in her column quite often.

Polyamory (or “poly” for short) is the belief that you can have an intimate relationship with more than one person, with all partners consenting. Being in a polyamorous relationship is not, as many people wrongfully believe, an exotic trend or an excuse to sleep with as many partners as you want. It’s an alternative to monogamy for people who don’t see themselves being with only one partner, emotionally and/or sexually, for the rest of their lives. Some research suggests that about four to five percent of people in the U.S. are polyamorous.

Polyamorous relationships (also known as consensual non-monogamy) require a lot of honesty and communication. To get a better idea of what it’s really like to be in a poly relationship, we spoke with Sophie Lucido Johnson, author of Many Love: A Memoir of Polyamory and Finding Love(s). She opened up about challenges, offered advice for maintaining strong communication, and shared important safety precautions for exploring polyamory. Read on if you’re curious about what it’s really like to be poly.

HelloGiggles: Is a polyamorous relationship the same thing as an open relationship?

Sophie Lucido Johnson: I describe it as being like squares and rectangles—you know, how every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square? Every polyamorous relationship is an open relationship, but not every open relationship is a polyamorous relationship. Polyamory requires enthusiasm, knowledge, and consent from all people involved.

HG: What are the basic communication “rules” of being in a polyamorous relationship?

SLJ: Every poly relationship is different, so the rules will absolutely depend on the people participating in the relationship. In my relationship, it’s 100% communication about everything all the time. Defusing the tension around talking about my partners’ other relationships has taken away the power there. For me, that works really well. I very rarely experience jealousy anymore, and when I do, it’s a great opportunity for my partners and me to talk about where it’s coming from.

HG: How can people in polyamorous relationships set boundaries?

SLJ: Once again, every poly relationship is different. Every person has to establish their own boundaries and communicate about them; their partners have to listen and honor those boundaries. But I’m working on a book right now where I asked a therapist about boundaries, and he said that boundaries are tricky because it’s hard to know where yours are until they’ve been crossed.

HG: What’s the biggest challenge of being in a polyamorous relationship?

SLJ: The biggest challenge is also the biggest gift: Polyamory asks for its participants to get in bed with their uncomfortable emotions. You can’t push away feelings of fear or jealousy or anger; you have to go into those feelings, pick them apart, and try to understand them. This is hard work, but it’s profoundly rewarding, too. Polyamory and radical honesty are closely linked, in my opinion. The truth isn’t always pleasant and lovely and comfortable. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t tell it.

HG: Are there any safety precautions people should take?

SJL: All the precautions. My brand of polyamory is not super sex-focused—I’m more interested in emotional intimacy with some kissing on the side. But when I do engage in sex with people, it’s always protected, except with my husband, with whom I am fluid bonded. Ask people when they last got tested; ask them if they’ve been with anyone since then; ask them what they feel is important to share about their sexual history. Always check the expiration date on your condoms and dental dams. Use condoms on sex toys and invest in some sexy latex gloves for hardcore finger play.

And then beyond that, work to de-stigmatize sexually transmitted infections. Most of them are relatively harmless (meaning: they’re not going to kill you, although they’re unpleasant). We have ideas about STIs that are way out of line in comparison to the way we look at other chronic infections. They’re not grosser because they’re on your genitals. Sexual health is just health. It is crucial that we begin to talk about it that way.

HG: How can someone bring up the subject of opening their relationship with their partner?

SLJ: Don’t open up your relationship because something inside your relationship is broken. Opening it up is not going to fix the broken thing. Work on the broken thing first and establish whether it can be fixed. If one person wants to be open and the other person really doesn’t, then that relationship is probably not going to work in the long run. Honor each other’s realities. If both partners are eager and excited to pursue other relationships—versus, say, terrified or desperate—then establish what rules and boundaries make the most sense for you.

I have personally never met a couple who has made a parallel polyamorous situation work out for more than a year, but the internet swears that it’s possible. Parallel polyamory is the sort of don’t-ask-don’t-tell version, where you and your partner date on the side but don’t tell each other details. I’m a big advocate of telling the truth. The difficult conversations are the ones that bring us closer.

HG: What’s the biggest misconception about polyamorous relationships?

SLJ: That polyamory is all about sex. For me (and tons of poly people I know), it’s about two main things. One: accepting and embracing that relationships do not stand still and will change over time, and committing to a partner or partners that everyone is going to communicate, constantly, about those natural changes. And two: shifting priorities to embrace friends, chosen family, and non-sexual romantic relationships, where traditionally our social priorities have been around a single partner. None of that has to do with sex. Assuming that polyamory is all about orgies and millennials three-way kissing in bars does the culture a tremendous disservice and excludes a ton of people who are asexual or sexually transitioning and are uncomfortable with sex.

Complete Article HERE!

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Nonmonogamy Is Not The Answer To All Your Relationship Problems

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By Effy Blue

Nonmonogamy is becoming more recognized as a legitimate relationship structure with more people talking openly about their practice. Although it certainly is not for everyone and definitely not the “easier” option, it is piquing the interest of plenty of people for many reasons.

For some people, monogamy or nonmonogamy is an orientation on par with sexual orientation. It’s a part of who they are. For others, monogamy or nonmonogamy is a choice. It’s in line with what they want to create in their lives and in their relationships. It’s a reflection of their value system. Some people may value security, safety, and stability, and those may opt for a monogamous relationship, while others may choose nonmonogamy because they value multiplicity, sharing erotic energy, or exploring broader sexual orientation.

In an ideal world, partners are on the same page: They either decide on a structure at the beginning of their relationship, or they decide to shift into a different structure later on in the relationship with a consensus, through open communication.

Actively and consciously designing your relationships, including deciding on whether you want to be monogamous or not, can be a very powerful force for your relationship and set you up to thrive as a couple in the long run. However, if you’re currently in a monogamous relationship and considering opening it up, it’s important to note nonmonogamy is not an effective strategy to solve your current relationship problems or alleviate the boredom you associate with it.

When nonmonogamy doesn’t work.

Because I am a relationship coach specializing in consensual nonmonogamy, so many people come to me thinking an open relationship will fix their relationships. They come defeated, disconnected, and dissatisfied while still feeling very attached to each other. It soon becomes obvious they are reaching out for a life raft in the shape of nonmonogamy. A desire for nonmonogamy turns out to be a bid for space, a bid for attention, a bid for autonomy, a bid for a solution. 

But despite all its potential benefits and excitement, opening up your relationship is not a “solution” or a way to “fix” a relationship that feels negative, stale, or otherwise off.

The best relationships to open are healthy and thriving ones. A healthy relationship of any kind—but especially a nonmonogamous one—requires a foundation of vulnerability, open communication, and trust. Kindness, compassion, mutual respect, and joy for one another along with a desire to address and resolve conflicts create the ideal environment for people to thrive in nonmonogamous relationships. It’s essential for partners to feel heard and their needs highly regarded. If I were to be listening in to a relationship with a stethoscope like a physician to gauge the health of it, I’d be listening for thank you’s and I’m sorry’s. The more genuine gratitude and heartfelt apologies, the healthier and stronger the connection.

Monogamous relationships that lack these fundamental qualities and skills likely wouldn’t be able to withstand the transition to nonmonogamy. If you are finding yourself in the same arguments over and over again, exclaiming “I want an open relationship” as you slam doors; or if you have a closet full of desires that you’ve decided cannot be satisfied by your current partner, and you are not willing to talk about it; or if you feel you are drifting in a haze of sameness and can’t figure out how to break out, nonmonogamy is not the answer.

If you are in a sexless relationship and you aren’t able to have conversations about it; or if you feel chronically lonely in the relationship and aren’t able to restore frayed connections; or if you feel either unheard, unappreciated, uncared for, dissatisfied, smothered, or trapped, and you can’t find words to express these feelings to your partner, nonmonogamy is not going to save you.

Similar to any big change, be it moving to a new state or deciding to have kids, opening up a relationship will shine a sports-stadium-sized spotlight on the issues in your current relationship. Unresolved arguments, hidden resentments, ignored boundaries, delayed conversations, shelved desires, and unmet needs will all come to light and will demand attention. Without well-practiced tools and skills for communication, negotiation, and conflict resolution, nonmonogamy will only apply further tension to the relationship.

Further, if you do open up your relationship with current issues unaddressed and unresolved and start dating other people, you’ll be dragging unsuspecting new partners into your dysfunction.

Do some soul-searching. Are you saying, “I want an open relationship” because you can’t bring yourself to say, “I want to break up”? Are you running away from real or perceived conflict? Have you checked out of the relationship but you feel you can’t leave? If the answers are yes, I recommend you either get support to resolve these issues or find the courage to end your relationship in a kind and compassionate way.

Doing the work.

The truth is “wherever you go, there you are.” If you think the relationship or your partner is the problem and you are trying to get away to have something different, chances are you’ll only have more of the same. We are the common denominators of our lives.

Start with yourself. If it’s available to you, spend a period of time in personal therapy. Also invest in some personal development in the areas of sex and relationships. There are some excellent books, workshops, and online courses and communities dedicated to pleasure-based sex education for adults and communication skills. I also strongly recommend working with a professional, be it a couples therapist, counselor, or coach to address the relationship struggles. Make sure the people you choose to work with are open-minded to the idea that ultimately you may want to move to a nonmonogamous structure.

And last but not least, spend some time focusing on your relationship rather than running away from it. Find ways to have those unresolved conversations. Schedule time to reconnect in line with the way you show and receive love, be it a sensual massage or a picnic in the park.

Here’s the thing: There is no relationship free of conflict or struggle. It doesn’t mean you have to address everything before you can even begin to think about opening up your relationship. Research does show people in consensual nonmonogamous relationships are “more satisfied with and committed to their relationships,” suggesting nonmonogamy can absolutely breathe new life into a relationship. When practiced consciously and ethically, it can be an agent for new energy and connections, self-expression, adventure, discovery, and community.

Nonmonogamy can be a part of a creative, solutions-based approach to making sure everyone gets what they need in the relationship. It requires a goodwill effort to address the relationship as it is today, to hear and attend to the needs of the people in the relationship.

When will you know you are ready? When you feel you can approach nonmonogamy with curiosity and a spirit of exploration—not as a cure-all or an escape.

Complete Article HERE!

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14 Sex Questions To Ask Your Partner

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To Ensure Sexual Consent

By Stacie Ysidro

Get comfortable talking about sex.

Before getting intimate with your partner, there are a few consensual sex questions that are worth asking.

Over  the last 10 years of coaching and connecting, I have worked with mostly men and couples. I started out with tantra and sacred sexuality focusing on premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction.

I have helped men connect to get out of their heads(quiet thoughts) and into their bodies(feel sensations), harness and control their sexual energy and orgasm. I have helped them get to know women’s bodies and women’s sexual response.

They have gained confidence and knowledge that helped them have more sex and importantly more satisfying sex.

Along the way many men have opened up to me about their concerns and fear around dealing with masculinity and understanding women in and out of the bedroom. Men either feel like aggressive entitled jerks or passive pushovers stuck in the friend zone.

Men need an assertive safe zone.

In the wake of this ‘Me too’ movement there has been a rise in fear around masculine energy. It has been framed as toxic and detrimental.

Not every touch, compliment or glance is an assault. Not every woman feels like a victim. The toxic masculinity frame has harmed men as well as women! The time has come to bring the conscious divine masculine to clarity and shatter the toxic masculine image!

Instead of taking sides let’s come together and communicate in a healthy, loving way.

Fact is, we have a lack of sex education in our country and most of the world. We are not taught communication skills in general. It is clear why we have so much miscommunication or lack of communication about sexuality.

Women and men have been taught opposite messages around sexuality. It is time to unlearn these harmful ideas, attitudes and beliefs.

Always talk about sex before diving in. If you are not comfortable talking about it, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

Here are some helpful questions everyone can use, for having sexual consent conversations with your partner/partners or a potential partner.

Say out loud and agree up front: there are no judgments or expectations and nothing will be taken personally, this is all just information.

What to say, what to ask:

1. Do you want to be in a monogamous relationship?

2. What does monogamous mean to you? 

3. I’m really into XYZ are you comfortable with that?’

4. I recently saw this type of play and I am interested in experimenting.

5. How do you feel/what do you think about that?

6. Would you like to try XYZ with me?

7. Tell me if I am using too much or too little pressure.

8. Does XYZ feel good to you?

9. Would you like more pressure than this or less?

10. What are your boundaries in the bedroom? What is completely off the table?

11. What do you find pleasurable?

12. What is not pleasurable to you?

13. What are some things you would like to experiment with?

14. What is you definition of kink? what is taboo to you but is a turn on?

Always keep in mind that in the heat of the moment a yes can become a no but a no can not become a yes. The last thing you want to do is break trust.

You can always have another conversation and create new boundaries for next time. Better to take it slower and be conscious than to have remorse later for crossing a line in the heat of the moment.

A little bit of communication even if it feels awkward, can guarantee a more satisfying experience for you both. Keep in mind the more you have these conversations the more comfortable they will become.

Complete Article HERE!

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I Swear By Scheduling Sex in Relationships

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Sex can be as important as any meeting.

By Gigi Engle

If you’ve ever been in a long-term relationship, this might sound familiar: You and your partner tumble into bed at the end of each day completely exhausted, promising yourselves you’ll have sex tomorrow. Then that tomorrow-sex rarely comes, pun fully intended.

As a certified sex coach and sexologist, I often hear about how difficult it is to make time for intimacy while leading hectic lives. It’s why I swear by scheduling sex in relationships. This is exactly what it sounds like: sitting down with your partner and marking sex dates into your calendar.

Many of my colleagues in the sexual health space and I call this “maintenance sex,” which…doesn’t sound sexy, I know. But for some people, scheduling sex is critical for maintaining a healthy relationship, hence the moniker.

“It definitely feels like we’re closer now than when we’d wait for ‘the mood’ to just hit us. Without it being scheduled, we were like two ships passing in the dead of night,” Melissa B., 28, who’s been with her husband for eight years and scheduling sex for just over a year, tells SELF. “Either I wasn’t feeling it, he was working late, or we honestly [were] just too exhausted.”

Why I’m a fan of scheduling sex

Even though sex is typically so, so vital for relationship happiness, people often let it fall by the wayside in long-term couplehood. Scheduling sex is an amazing way for partners to keep intimacy and satisfaction alive.

If sex feeds your bond, it isn’t just some extra fluff you should try to work into your day if you have time. When it’s part of the glue holding you together, it deserves some respect and dedication. But there’s this very pervasive and annoying myth that sex should just happen. For a lot of people, sex in long-term relationships generally doesn’t work that way. And that’s fine!

“[Scheduling sex] has helped our sex life. Having to plan it into our lives gave us both a bit of a reality check that we need to make the time,” Brook W., 24, who’s been with her partner for eight years and scheduling sex for the last nine months, tells SELF.

How to actually schedule sex

1. Figure out a day and time that works for both of you.

It sounds obvious, but you can’t schedule sex without this bit. I recommend that couples sit down together and carve out a time that works, whether it’s a standing sex date or something you need to decide anew each week. It feels like a more intentional step towards intimacy than scheduling via text and the like. Technology is great, but there’s really nothing like IRL face time.

Don’t just think about when it logistically makes sense, also think about when you might feel most emotionally and mentally engaged or turned on.

“I suggested scheduling sex because my partner preferred late night sex and I’m such an early bird, and both our lives were pretty packed. We started scheduling late-afternoon and early-evening sex when we both had good energy,” August M., 40, who’s in a four-year relationship and has been scheduling sex for three years, tells SELF.

2. Actually put it in your calendar.

When you write your scheduled sex down, you’re granting it the same weight you’d give any other important appointment. So be sure it’s on both of your calendars. Even give it a designated color. I suggest hot pink or red. (You can guess why.)

“We noticed that the only day of the week that seemed to allow us to both have free time was Tuesday afternoons. We both [take] late and long lunches that day, allowing us to slip back to our apartment for one-on-one time,” Melissa says. “It’s something in my schedule that I protect at all costs. I mean, even my admin at the office knows not to schedule any meetings on Tuesday afternoons. I just always have a block on my schedule for that chunk of time.”

3. Be flexible about what kinds of intimacy are involved.

Having a sex schedule does not mean you need to have intercourse every time (or ever). This isn’t really about sex. It’s about intimacy. Many—but not all—couples often do experience this through sex, while others don’t.

The point is scheduling time to engage in whatever activities make you feel more closely connected. Perhaps it’s a make-out session. Maybe one week it’s oral sex and the next you spend time playing with your partner’s hair and talking about your fantasies.

This level of flexibility respects the fact that life happens. For example, I don’t expect you to toss aside a fight simply because sex is on the schedule. This flexibility also acknowledges that some people experience a more responsive form of desire and really only become aroused after seduction and sexual touching have begun. Scheduled sex is not about mandating a specific command performance, but creating a space where sex can happen if it’s right for you both at that time.

So, talk about what scheduling sex really encompasses. Be willing to compromise so both of you are satisfied. What’s most important is setting aside time for you two to be together and focus on your relationship.

4. Do your best to stick with the schedule.

One of the biggest issues couples have with this process is not following through. It’s really up to the two of you to decide how committed you are to this schedule based on everything else going on in your lives.

I often have clients who note there is a sense of pressure when they first start a sex schedule, which can scare them away. For some people, that drops off once they get used to it. But it may also take some playing around to land on a version of scheduling sex that works for you.

“We tried putting sex on the calendar for Saturday mornings, and it was so exhausting,” Britt K., 28, who’s been with her partner for four years, tells SELF. “I would feel so needy and terrible because Saturday would come and she wasn’t into it. That isn’t fun.” Instead, Britt and her partner decided to designate Saturday as their standing weekly date, which is a more natural way for them to have opportunities to connect physically. “It’s just us, but no one feels pressure,” she says. “So far, it’s been good.”

5. Lean into the anticipation.

Look, I get that “scheduled” can sound synonymous with “so dull I want to cry.” It’s not. While this tactic won’t work in every relationship, scheduled sex creates anticipatory excitement for some people. It sets the sex date into your routine along with the opportunity to explore new sexual terrain.

“[Scheduling sex] might seem boring, but scheduling a date, party, or vacation doesn’t make it less fun,” August says. “Doing so can add to the enjoyment because you can put more thought into it and benefit from that spicy anticipation. On top of all of that, occasional spontaneous sex rather than your typical scheduled sex becomes even more exciting because it’s so novel.”

Long-lasting sexual excitement is built on the unknown, the new, and the exploration of fantasy. Capitalize on that here. You might think of a different, intriguing sex position or pick up some cute new underwear for the occasion. You can even text your partner something like, “I can’t wait for our Monday night date. I bought something for us to try.” Then, when your partner gets home, they get to meet your new vibrator, set of anal beads, or whatever else has piqued your interest.

With all of the above said, if scheduling sex doesn’t work for you, don’t get down on yourself. It doesn’t automatically mean your relationship is over or in trouble. It might not be your jam. This advice can still serve as a blueprint for becoming closer: Sit down. Communicate. And draw up a plan for quality time that might work better for you both.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sex on the first date is the perfect dating filter

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By Rebecca ReidFriday

Conventional dating wisdom tells us to play hard to get.

You shouldn’t message someone back straight away, you should never say yes to a date if it’s requested less than 48 hours in advance, and of course you can’t have sex on the first date.

All of which, it turns out, is total bollocks.

According to research from IllicitEncounters.com, who surveyed 2,000 people, 58% of men and 56% of women have had sex on the first night that they met their long term partner.

So over half of the times when sex happens on the first date, it turns into a relationship.

Telling people (women, mostly) not to have sex on the first date is a long held way of policing our behaviour.

It uses the prospect of a relationship as a sort of carrot, dangled in front of a woman to bribe her into being chaste until she’s in a serious relationship. This theory seems to rather miss the point that not all women even want to be in relationships.

But for those who do want to settle down, we’re taught to use sex as a bargaining chip rather than something to enjoy.

It’s a bribe to be given in exchange for commitment, a reward to give to a man who allows himself to be trapped into commitment.

The idea that men want sex and women want commitment is outdated and sexist.

Plenty of blokes secretly lust over a house in the countryside and a pack of chubby cheeked children, and plenty of women want to live in a converted warehouse in central London, smoking Galois and taking ten lovers a week.

Which is why it’s so nice to see this research disproving the theory that sex on the first date ensures that you’ll never hear from them again, let alone become their long term partner.

It comprehensively proves that commitment is not a reward for chastity.

But perhaps there’s more to these statistics than just proving that sex on the first date doesn’t prevent a relationship from forming.

Maybe it’s the first date sex that’s the reason for the relationship.

I have always believed that sex on the first date is the perfect way to filter out dickheads.

It’s a bit like asking whether the person you’re on a date with is offended by vegetarian Percy Pigs, or whether they still listen to Gary Glitter. An easy insight into their moral code.

Anyone who respects you less because you have had sex with them is not a person you should be forming a significant attachment to.

There is nothing morally wrong with having sex – quickly or after a long courtship. To suggest that you are in some way more or less valuable depending on how much sex you’ve had is completely illogical

So, if you sleep with someone on the first date and they lose interest, or judge you, you’ve done yourself a favour. They’re out of your life and you have no need to deal with their nonsense. Easy peasy.

Plus, first date sex is a valuable research mission.

Sex is an important part of a relationship, so it makes sense to try it out.

Bad sex isn’t a reason to write someone off automatically, but it does give you an insight into their character.

Are they bad in bed because they are over enthusiastic and nervous? Or are they bad in bed because they are selfish, or applying the exact same moves to you that they’ve done on everyone else they’ve slept with?

The former speaks highly of their character. The latter suggests there might be bumps in the road.

People who condemn sex on the first date claim that it takes away any mystery from the future of your relationship. But do you really want to go out with someone who requires you to be mysterious in order to hold their interest?

Does it really make sense to have to play complicated mystery games to convince another human that you’re worthy of their attention?

Shouldn’t the kind of person you want to build a life with value you whether you had sex on the first or the fifteenth date?

If you’ve got a date this weekend and you find each other attractive, why not give first date sex a go? Best case scenario it’s great and you’ve found something special. But if not, you’ve used the first date sex dickhead filter to save yourself a whole lot of time.

Complete Article HERE!

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Taking back control…

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You don’t owe anyone sex or a relationship

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Movie after movie, scene after scene, we see men and boys refuse to give up on the girl. Had a big fight? Give her a big speech about how she’s the only one! She told you to leave her alone? Go to her house with a bunch of flowers! She broke up with you? Never take no for an answer!

Once you put some music behind it and get Richard Curtis in to direct, of course it all seems unassuming – romantic, even. But real human emotions are much more complex, and coupled with a fundamental misunderstanding of what people want out of relationships, it can all lead to some seriously unwanted advances, or worse.

The fact remains that a man’s behaviour towards women doesn’t have to be violent to be aggressive. If you’ve ever met a boy who thinks he’s the star in a rom-com, you’ll understand the fear and dread that comes with having to confront him when he shows up at your door with a heartfelt poem yet again, after you’ve said ‘no’ more times than you can count on your fingers.

“God, I’m just being nice,” he’ll say – the words that boil my blood. I’ll say it loud for the people in the back: if you do something nice for someone, they don’t owe you anything, and they certainly don’t owe you sex or a relationship.

But well-meaning young men who just won’t get the message aren’t the whole story.

There are real women – and let’s be frank, there are also men as well – out there who face real, physical violence for rejecting unwanted advances. Actress Jameela Jamil has opened up about her personal, harrowing experiences with this, but those of us who don’t have an adoring fanbase and a huge online platform go through it too.

Furthermore, in a society where women still get asked to hide our skin at school and work, for those of us who aren’t in the public eye it’s easy to just shrink away and accept that there’s nothing we can do but cover ourselves up and hope for the best.

But there’s so much we can do! We don’t just have to wait for the world to change around us. You can shout that boys and men need to learn “not to rape” but let’s be honest – most of them bloody well know that already, and the ones who don’t are the ones who never will. So protect each other, stand up for your fellow woman, believe that you deserve better than someone who doesn’t respect you. And most importantly, don’t let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn’t have been wearing.

So, to the woman who puts up with leery co-workers; to the teenage girl who doesn’t know she’s allowed to tell her boyfriend “no!”; to any and all of us who’ve had a #MeToo moment – know that you are in control of your destiny.

Regardless of what gender and sexuality you identify as, it is never too much to ask to not face violence for not being interested in someone romantically.

Learn to say no, and learn to protect yourself. Because with a US President who brags about “grabbing women by the pussy,” it doesn’t look like the world is going to change in the forseeable future. It’s time to take control.

Complete Article HERE!

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Five things I wish I’d known about sex and relationships in university

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By Simone Paget

Fun fact: During my first year at the University of Toronto, I was in a student film appropriately titled, Sex and the University. Before your mind travels too far down the gutter, it was a sweet romantic comedy that parodied the famous HBO show of a similar name. The irony being that the film didn’t contain a single sex scene. However, the title of the film couldn’t have been more on-point for that era of my life.

Like many people, my late teens and early twenties were a time when I was exploring my sexuality, all the while trying to get a grip on relationships and other adult responsibilities, often with confusing, painful results. The university years are an emotional minefield. Whether you’re wrapping up first year or your collegiate days are long behind you, there are probably a few things you wish you’d done differently.

Here’s what I wish I’d known about sex and relationships when I was a university student.

1. Prioritize people who prioritize you.

One of my favourite quotes by Maya Angelou is, “never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.” I had this taped to my mirror in university, but I often failed to take heed. I spent a lot of time chasing after partners who (in retrospect) didn’t prioritize my feelings or time. People who really want you in their life, will make it happen. Letting go of lopsided relationships will give you more time to hang out with your friends and allow for better, more deserving people to walk into your life.

2. The only person keeping track of how many people you’ve slept with is you.

I used to spend a lot of time worrying about my “number.” I was always worried that I was having too much sex, while my male friends were concerned they weren’t hooking up with enough girls. Hello, sexist double standards. Long story short: none of us were truly living our best sex lives.

When it comes to the number of people you’ve hooked up with, there’s no right or wrong answer. As long as you’re protecting your health, engaging in consensual encounters and treating the people you hook up with respect, the number doesn’t matter.

3. If you have a bad experience, help is available. Take it.

Within the first two months of university I was sexually assaulted. Six months later, I had another bad experience with someone I was dating. I honestly can’t explain why I didn’t get help at the time (it took me until I was in my thirties to finally see a therapist). I think part of me thought I could handle all of the feelings on my own. As a result, the aftershock of these experiences seeped into nearly every area of my life over the next decade. Even if you don’t think what’s happened to you is that serious, go talk to someone. It’s worth it.

4. You can have a safe, healthy, satisfying sex life.

The underlying theme of the sex education I received in high school echoed what the gym teacher says in the movie Mean Girls: “Don’t have sex because you will get pregnant and die.” The fear associated with sex held me back and caused a lot of undue anxiety. However, if you use safer sex methods and get tested regularly (which is essential for your health and peace of mind), you can protect yourself and still have a healthy, fun sex life.

5. It’s okay to experiment.

In my early 20s, I had several opportunities to date and experiment with other women (gorgeous, smart, cool women), but I never followed through. Now I wish I had. I think at the time I was scared, but of what I’m not really sure. Once again, it took me until my thirties to explore this part of my sexuality. Stop worrying about what other people think. Whether you’re gay, straight or somewhere happily in between, you’re not required to define your sexuality for other people. You deserve pleasure. Give yourself permission to explore.

Complete Article HERE!

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Here’s How To Decide On A Safe Word

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No matter who you’re sleeping with, how long you’ve been sleeping with them, and what type of sex you’re having — if you’re not feeling it anymore, you’re allowed to tap out at any point, for any reason. While it’s important to discuss consent and knowing what you and your partner(s) are comfortable with before turning up the heat, knowing something like how to decide on a safe word can be a great way to keep everyone safe and comfortable during sex.

“A safe word is a word selected by sexual partners together that when used indicates one partner would like to pause sexual activity for any reason,” McKenna Maness, sex educator and former education and prevention coordinator at The Santa Cruz AIDS Project (SCAP), tells Elite Daily. “Perhaps sex got too intense, or the partner is physically uncomfortable or in more pain than they would like to be, or roleplaying crossed into something less desirable for that person, they’re overstimulated— in any of these cases, the partner who would like to stop can say their safe word and the other partner would know that it is time to stop immediately and check in!”

Although having a safe word can be a tool for communicating with your partner(s), it it no way means that partner(s) are allowed to skip the boundary convo or try something new without first getting consent. “It should not be your goal to make someone use their safe word. A safe word exists for reasons of safety. Boundaries are made for a reason and not everyone likes theirs’ pushed. At the same time, it does not make you weak to safe word out,” Lola Jean, sex educator and mental health professional says.

“Safe words” have roots within the BDSM community and are often associated with more kinky types sex. Additionally, expressing when you’re not feeling something or need a time out, can be useful in all types of sexual activity — from bondage and role play, to gentle spooning and basic missionary. Whether you’re going at it and your legs are in a weird position so it kind of hurts, or you want to check to make sure your contraceptive is in place, a “safe word” is nothing more than a signal that you need to stop and check in.

“You always have the right to stop whatever you and your partner(s) are doing to each other for any reason — communication is key and safe words facilitate that!” Maness says. If you just got your IUD replaced or you’ve had the worst day ever and can’t stop thinking about your terrible coworker Shannon, you may not realize that you’re not trying to have sex tonight until you’ve started to have sex. Safe words, then, are like an immediate “eject button” from sex, without feeling pressure to explain what you’re feeling in the moment, before winding down the physical touching or expressing everything on your mind to your partner(s).

When choosing a safe word, it may be helpful to pick a universal phrase — like traffic light colors. “It’s easier to remember the difference between yellow and red even when in the depths of sub space,” Jeans says. “You can add words like ‘Red Stop’ to end completely as opposed to just “Red” to stop what you are currently doing.” If your first grade teacher ever used a paper traffic light as a public-shame discipline system (I’m triggered) or if you’ve ever been in a moving vehicle, it’s easy to remember that “Red means stop.” Words like traffic light colors, that hold deep cultural significance can be great choices for a safe word, as you’re unlikely to forget them.

If you’re not a big talker during sex or a verbal safe word doesn’t feel comfortable, Maness suggests incorporating a physical “safe word” or a physical signal that you need a time out. Yet, like a safe word, a physical tap-out should be a motion you wouldn’t otherwise do during sex. “Maybe tapping your partner’s shoulder or winking, a peace sign or crossed fingers — as long as they will see it and understand it,” Maness says.

If you’re someone who likes to laugh or joke during sex, it may be a good fit for you and your partner(s) to choose a funny safe word. “My safe word is ‘Mike Pence’ because that would make someone stop dead in their tracks during a scene to question what was going on —plus I do like a safe word that makes me giggle,” Jean says. Although humor may play an important role, Jean also speaks to the importance of finding a word that’s memorable and literally easy to say. “When choosing a safe word, it’s important that it is something you can easily remember and say. It should be a word that would likely not come up within play or a word you don’t say very often. (I rarely would use Mike Pence’s name in my sexy times.) Mike Pence is also an easy two syllable punch.”

Maness too agrees that choosing a safe word ideally means picking something unforgettable. “It has to be something you will absolutely be sure to remember during sex. If you are single or non-monogamous, you can choose one just for yourself and communicate it before sex, and if you have a partner you consistently hook up with, whatever that looks like for you, you can decide together what to use,” Maness says. “It could be parachute. It could be persimmon. It could be shovel. Just make sure it’s memorable and you both/all know what it means.”

Maness also suggests thinking about a word you wouldn’t otherwise say when having sex. Something completely random like an inanimate object, an inside joke, or something otherwise unfamiliar to the communication you and your partner(s) typically have during sex. Though it may feel right to have your safe word be something silly or totally random, using it is a serious move. “Using a safe word — even with a long term partner — has a certain weight to it that other words do not. A safe word means business. It means slow the f*ck down and check in with your person,” Jean says.

Of course just like finding the right safe word for you, understanding exactly what your safe word will mean is another important conversation. “It’s important to set forth what the safe word or signal means too— usually it means ‘stop now’ but you could also ask your partner to give you physical space when you use it, or tell them you want comfort and aftercare at the point where you use it,” Maness says. “Using a safe word is revoking consent in that moment. Your partner shouldn’t take offense, or be upset or hurt. You aren’t necessarily ending the sex permanently, although if you are that’s fine too.”

If using a safe word means your boundaries were crossed, you may want to further discuss with your partner how you’re feeling and what you need to feel comfortable and safe when having sex. Your safe word could mean anything from, “Your knee is knocking into my hip and it kinda hurts can we switch positions” to “I don’t like where this is going, we need to stop”. Having an open dialogue with your partner about what your safe word means and how it will be used is just as important as choosing the right word for you. “It’s a great tool that just requires honest/open conversation,” Maness says.

If you are thinking about the right safe word for you, take time to ponder your personal boundaries, preferences, and the types of sex you do and (maybe more importantly) do not want to be having. During any sexual encounter — a LTR, one night stand, or super hot orgy with ninety people — the most important thing factor is active consent. When it comes to deciding on a safe word, you get to choose how it’s used, when it’s used, and what it means.

Complete Article HERE!

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Do long-term, no-strings sex arrangements ever work?

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Can you have sex with someone for years without dropping the L-bomb or calling what you have a relationship? For some people, the answer is yes, yes, yes

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It is 30 years since the release of When Harry Met Sally. Nora Ephron and Rob Reiner’s genre-defining romcom had so many hilarious, timeless lines, from: “How long do I have to lie here and hold her before I can get up and go home?” to: “When I get a new book, I read the last page first. That way, if I die before I finish I know how it comes out. That, my friend, is a dark side.” But one line that does seem to have aged is arguably the most famous, and the premise of the whole film: “Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.” It is not just the heteronormativity that feels outdated; three decades on, speaking to some of the Harrys and Sallys of the millennial generation, the question now is less can they just be friends, and more, can they just have sex?

For Rachel, a bisexual woman in her early 30s, the answer is an enthusiastic yes, yes, yes! For about five years, she has gone through periods of regularly having sex with a friend she met at university, “with the agreement that we wouldn’t develop a deeper relationship,” she says. “We didn’t contact each other frequently in between dates or ask for the sort of emotional support you’d get from a partner. I cared about him, but I wasn’t dependent on his affection and I didn’t feel responsible for him beyond how you’d feel about a friend. And we’d have really good sex.”

Rachel always felt she knew exactly where they stood, because they talked about the nature of their relationship, discussing the limits of what they expected from each other. “When you are in an arrangement like this, you have to talk about things rather than make assumptions, and I really enjoyed how honest we were both able to be. I found it incredibly freeing that he didn’t ask anything from me.”

As someone who has never had this sort of relationship, I found it difficult at first to get my head around it – not because I felt judgmental, but because I felt admiring. I think you have to be quite emotionally mature to be able to accept something for what it is, without trying to turn it into something more, or denigrate it for not being something it is not.

“Relationships like this,” says Rachel, “where you are enjoying sex for what it is without making it represent something deeper, ask you to think about how sex usually functions in society.” She describes how, if you have sex with someone and get into a relationship with them, you are turning something that started off as a fun encounter into something that completely changes your life. You might end up spending most of your time with this person, making decisions about your life based on their input, using them as your main source of emotional support. “People assume that’s the natural trajectory, and sometimes that’s great – but sometimes it’s nice to just have sex with someone you like without those assumptions and expectations,” she says.

I ask her if there are any downsides: “Probably not.”

It may sound too good to be true, but for psychosexual therapist Kate Moyle, it does not have to be. “If both parties are really busy in their jobs, their social lives and family lives, and don’t have the available emotional space for a relationship, why isn’t this the perfect solution?” she asks. “You get to have sex with the same person, which can typically be quite satisfactory because you get to know each other and each other’s bodies, and there isn’t the emotional dependency and stress of dealing with someone’s feelings. You don’t lose your independence.”

She believes this kind of less demanding relationship is on the rise because of the lifestyles of young people. “We are a generation who seem to work such long hours, with the complete dissolving of nine-to-five because of technology.”

That is part of the appeal of sex-only relationships for Laura, in her late 20s, who began seeing her then-colleague Mark four years ago. “I have a busy life, a demanding job, and this situation works for me,” she says. “I don’t even know how I would go about getting into a relationship with someone right now, the time and energy you have to devote to that. It’s convenient to be able to say to someone at 11pm, ‘Are you around?’ You can’t really do that in a normal dating situation.”

Mark says: “It’s a bit like a relationship-lite. We usually see each other once a fortnight maximum, and the vibe is always quite intimate – even though it is understood that it will never be any more than what it is.” He adds: “At times, when I’ve felt unsure or anxious or worried or sad or lonely, it’s been incredibly comforting. And then at other times it’s just been really good fun – we do get on really well, and we have amazing sex.”

For Laura, “It’s always a bit more exciting, because you don’t fall into the same repetitive boring patterns of being in a relationship. You never get past that honeymoon period.” It also means she can avoid dating apps. “I don’t like modern dating – I don’t like sacrificing an evening to meet someone I’ll probably know instantly isn’t someone that I have any connection with, and then have a drink and be polite or whatever, for an allotted amount of time, before I can leave.”

But for Laura – unlike for Rachel – there is a downside. “There is something weirdly arrested about the whole situation. If you can never get past a certain point of closeness because you’ve imposed rules – verbally or non-verbally – on how close you can get, then there are going to be times where you feel that barrier.” You start wondering, she says, why don’t I know about all of your life? Why don’t you know my friends? It is not that this kind of relationship is better or worse than more traditional monogamous relationships, “but the nature of the thing is that it has its own limitations,” she says. “It’s also not something you can explain to friends and family. I’m seeing someone and it’s been going on a really long time but we’re not together – you can’t explain that to your mum, can you?” She laughs.

Things go wrong, in Moyle’s experience, when people change, or when they do not stick to the boundaries they have established at the start. “Difficulties tend to come up when one partner meets somebody new, or if they decide to end it. There is a sense of a relationship even if they want it not to be a relationship, because we have a form of a relationship with anyone we are regularly connecting with.”

This is what Mary found. She is a mother of three in her early 40s who divorced five years ago, and she has been having regular sex with a male friend. But it is now proving more complex than she had hoped. She has developed feelings of attachment for him, and he for her. This might sound like a Harry Met Sally happy ending, but, as she explains, it is not. “We weren’t supposed to. It’s complicated because he wants to spend more time with me, and I don’t want the same – I don’t want a relationship, as I am concentrating on my girls. It has been draining, as it’s getting in the way of our friendship. I think you have to lay down rules at the beginning and stick to them – or someone will get hurt.”

There is a name for two people having regular sex with each other on the understanding that it will not grow into a loving, committed relationship – in fact there are several names. “Friends with benefits” is one, “non-relationships” another. But, for the people I spoke to, none of these terms accurately encapsulates what is going on. For Emily Witt, the author of Future Sex, a book about contemporary sexuality, the name is important. “If you don’t have a name for what you’re doing, if you don’t have the words to describe your own reality, it increases your sense of alienation,” she says.

The best term she has found is “erotic friendship”, and, she says, erotic friendships have value. “In popular culture maybe they’re seen as cheap or disposable or a waste of time, but I think they’re places where you can learn a lot. You get to learn somebody’s sexual quirks and the diversity of what turns people on and what they want, you practise communicating your own desires and don’t just assume the person can intuit them. That experience really is worthwhile.”

Yet, Moyle says, these kinds of relationships have traditionally been stigmatised: people such as Rachel, Mary, Mark and Laura are depicted as people who don’t want to or can’t commit, people who want it all. “I guess it doesn’t fit with the historically expected monogamous model, therefore it’s considered ‘other’,” she says. “But we don’t have to conform to the traditional heteronormative model of man meets woman, they get engaged, married, have kids.”

This rings true for Rachel. “We still hold on to this idea of romantic love as a kind of happy ending for women,” she says. “If I’m sleeping with my friend whom I care about and who is kind to me, and I’m not in love with him, or making plans around our bond, I don’t think anybody’s being shortchanged – it just feels like a way to have fun together and enjoy closeness and human connection.” That idea of romantic love is what provides the happy ending of When Harry Met Sally, but, as Witt says, “that Hollywood thing, where any close friendship between people who might be sexually attracted to each other ends up in true love – that’s just not how it is”.

Perhaps if there were less stigma, and we knew more stories like Rachel’s, more single people would find themselves saying the film’s other most famous line: “I’ll have what she’s having.”

Complete Article HERE!

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The Bored Sex

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Women, more than men, tend to feel stultified by long-term exclusivity—despite having been taught that they were designed for it.

The “distracted boyfriend” meme gets reversed.

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Andrew Gotzis, a Manhattan psychiatrist with an extensive psychotherapy practice, has been treating a straight couple, whom we’ll call Jane and John, for several years. They have sex about three times a week, which might strike many as enviable, considering that John and Jane—who are in their 40s—have been together for nearly two decades. Based on numbers alone, one might wonder why they need couples counseling at all.

But only one of them is happy with the state of play. And it isn’t Jane.

“The problem is not that they are functionally unable to have sex, or to have orgasms. Or frequency. It’s that the sex they’re having isn’t what she wants,” Gotzis told me in a recent phone conversation. And like other straight women he sees, “she’s confused and demoralized by it. She thinks there’s something wrong with her.” John, meanwhile, feels criticized and inadequate. Mostly he can’t understand why, if his wife is having sex with him and having orgasms, she wants more. Or different.

Despite “fears of seeming sex addicted, unfaithful, or whorish” (Gotzis doesn’t like these terms, but they speak to his patient’s anxieties, he explained), Jane has tried to tell John, in therapy and outside of it, what she’s after. She wants to want John and be wanted by him in that can’t-get-enough-of-each-other-way experts call “limerence”—the initial period of a relationship when it’s all new and hot. Jane has bought lingerie and booked hotel stays. She has suggested more radical-seeming potential fixes, too, like opening up the marriage.

Jane’s perseverance might make her a lot of things: an idealist, a dreamer, a canny sexual strategist, even—again channeling typical anxieties—unrealistic, selfish, or entitled. But her sexual struggles in a long-term relationship, orgasms and frequency of sex notwithstanding, make her something else again: normal. Although most people in sexual partnerships end up facing the conundrum biologists call “habituation to a stimulus” over time, a growing body of research suggests that heterosexual women, in the aggregate, are likely to face this problem earlier in the relationship than men. And that disparity tends not to even out over time. In general, men can manage wanting what they already have, while women struggle with it.

Marta Meana of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas spelled it out simply in an interview with me at the annual Society for Sex Therapy and Research conference in 2017. “Long-term relationships are tough on desire, and particularly on female desire,” she said. I was startled by her assertion, which contradicted just about everything I’d internalized over the years about who and how women are sexually. Somehow I, along with nearly everyone else I knew, was stuck on the idea that women are in it for the cuddles as much as the orgasms, and—besides—actually require emotional connection and familiarity to thrive sexually, whereas men chafe against the strictures of monogamy.

But Meana discovered that “institutionalization of the relationship, overfamiliarity, and desexualization of roles” in a long-term heterosexual partnership mess with female passion especially—a conclusion that’s consistent with other recent studies.

“Moving In With Your Boyfriend Can Kill Your Sex Drive” was how Newsweek distilled a 2017 study of more than 11,500 British adults aged 16 to 74. It found that for “women only, lack of interest in sex was higher among those in a relationship of over one year in duration,” and that “women living with a partner were more likely to lack interest in sex than those in other relationship categories.” A 2012 study of 170 men and women aged 18 to 25 who were in relationships of up to nine years similarly found that women’s sexual desire, but not men’s, “was significantly and negatively predicted by relationship duration after controlling for age, relationship satisfaction, and sexual satisfaction.” Two oft-cited German longitudinal studies, published in 2002 and 2006, show female desire dropping dramatically over 90 months, while men’s holds relatively steady. (Tellingly, women who didn’t live with their partners were spared this amusement-park-ride-like drop—perhaps because they were making an end run around overfamiliarity.) And a Finnish seven-year study of more than 2,100 women, published in 2016, revealed that women’s sexual desire varied depending on relationship status: Those in the same relationship over the study period reported less desire, arousal, and satisfaction. Annika Gunst, one of the study’s co-authors, told me that she and her colleagues initially suspected this might be related to having kids. But when the researchers controlled for that variable, it turned out to have no impact.

Many women want monogamy. It’s a cozy arrangement, and one our culture endorses, to put it mildly. But wanting monogamy isn’t the same as feeling desire in a long-term monogamous partnership. The psychiatrist and sexual-health practitioner Elisabeth Gordon told me that in her clinical experience, as in the data, women disproportionately present with lower sexual desire than their male partners of a year or more, and in the longer term as well. “The complaint has historically been attributed to a lower baseline libido for women, but that explanation conveniently ignores that women regularly start relationships equally as excited for sex.” Women in long-term, committed heterosexual partnerships might think they’ve “gone off” sex—but it’s more that they’ve gone off the same sex with the same person over and over.

What does it all mean for Jane and the other straight women who feel stultified by long-term exclusivity, in spite of having been taught that they were designed for it and are naturally inclined toward it? What are we to make of the possibility that women, far from anxious guardians of monogamy, might on the whole be more like its victims?

“When couples want to remain in a monogamous relationship, a key component of treatment … is to help couples add novelty,” Gordon advised. Tammy Nelson, a sex therapist and the author of The New Monogamy and When You’re the One Who Cheats, concurs: “Women are the primary consumers of sex-related technology and lubricants, massage oil, and lingerie, not men.”

Of course, as Jane’s example shows, lingerie might not do the trick. Nelson explains that if “their initial tries don’t work, [women] will many times shut down totally or turn outward to an affair or an online ‘friend,’ creating … a flirty texting or social-media relationship.” When I asked Gotzis where he thinks John and Jane are headed, he told me he is not sure that they will stay together. In an upending of the basic narrative about the roles that men and women play in a relationship, it would be Jane’s thirst for adventure and Jane’s struggles with exclusivity that tear them apart. Sure, women cheating is nothing new—it’s the stuff of Shakespeare and the blues. But refracted through data and anecdotal evidence, Jane seems less exceptional and more an Everywoman, and female sexual boredom could almost pass for the new beige.

It’s not uncommon for women to let their straight partners play in a “monogamy gray zone,” to give guys access to tensional outlets that allow them to cheat without really cheating. “Happy ending” massages, oral sex at bachelor parties, lap dances, escorts at conferences … influenced by ubiquitous pop-cultural cues, many people believe that men need these opportunities for recreational “sorta sex” because “it’s how men are.” It’s how women are, too, it seems.

Women cannot be pigeonholed; the glory of human sexuality is its variation and flexibility. So when we speak of desire in the future, we should acknowledge that the fairer sex thirsts for the frisson of an encounter with someone or something new as much as, if not more, than men do—and that they could benefit from a gray-zone hall pass, too.

Complete Article HERE!

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Age Doesn’t Determine Whether A Person Is Ready For Sex.

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Here’s What Does!

By Nichole Fratangelo

First-time sex has a lot of logistics attached to it—like where it happened, when it happened, and who it happened with. For most of us, it’s the “when” that holds a ton of weight. As a society, we tend to place so much importance on how old we were when we first shared that intimate moment with someone else. We rarely even consider if we were mentally, emotionally, and physically ready to do it. Now, new research shows your age really isn’t the only thing that matters when it comes to sexual readiness; there’s much more in-depth criteria that includes physical, emotional, and psychosocial well-being.

A study published in the journal BMJ Sexual and Reproductive Health questioned 2,825 people between ages 17 and 24 about their first sexual experience, including the nature of their relationship with the person they had their first sex with, both of their ages, and how much sexual experience their partner had. The researchers also asked about their socioeconomic status, their education level, family structure, ethnicity, and how and when they’d been taught about sex.

What does it mean to be “ready” for sex?

Rather than focusing on age as a key factor, the researchers used four distinct points to gauge how ready each person was based on the World Health Organization’s standards for sexual health. WHO defines sexual health as “a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality,” which includes a “positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.”

Only those who met all four criteria were considered “sexually competent”—that is, ready to have sex—at the time they first did it.

“The concept of ‘sexual competence’ represents an alternative approach to timing of first sexual intercourse, considering the contextual attributes of the event, rather than simply age at occurrence,” the researchers wrote in the paper. “This departs from the traditional framing of all sexual activity among teenagers as problematic, and recognises that young age alone does not threaten sexual health, any more than older age safeguards it.”

Here are the four main criteria:

1. Contraceptive use

Are you using birth control of some sort? A person who isn’t willing and prepared to use contraception during sex is not mature enough to be having sex. That’s why researchers included it as such a major point, especially for those doing it for the first time. Of those surveyed, most people did use reliable contraception, but around one in 10 did not.

2. Autonomy

Are you having sex because you truly want to do it, or does it have to do with peer pressure or drunkenness? Sex should always be on your own accord and not because it’s something everyone else around you is doing.

3. Consent

Here’s a crucial one: Did both parties verbally and physically agree to have sex? If not, neither party was ready to do the deed—one person was forced into it and experienced sexual assault, and the other person assaulted someone, which is the furthest thing from sexual competence. The researchers excluded instances of forced sex from their study, but they noted that almost one in five women had reported not being in charge of the decision to have sex for the first time.

4. The “right” timing

Do you feel like this is the “right time”? Participants reported whether they personally felt like they’d picked the appropriate time in their lives to start having sex. Though the study didn’t specify, there are many personal reasons why it is or isn’t a good time to start having sex; they weren’t ready to have sex—you might be struggling with stress or insecurity and don’t want to complicate it by introducing intimacy in your life, or you might be very erotically charged and have a lot of free time, so why not? Other factors like finding a partner they feel attracted to and comfortable with could factor into this question.

More women than men felt their first sexual experience did not happen at the right time—40 percent versus 27 percent, respectively. This was the most commonly reported negative feature of first-time sex.

Complete Article HERE!

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