Category Archives: Sexual Exclusivity

How to Rekindle Sexual Desire in a Long-Term Relationship

New research shows that couples who are responsive outside of the bedroom have more interest in sex

long-term-relationship

By Elizabeth Bernstein

How can a couple keep their sexual desire going strong for the long haul?

Be nice to each other.

New research shows one way to keep desire strong is to be responsive to your partner’s needs out of the bedroom.

People who are responsive do three things: They understand what their partner is really saying, validate what is important to their partner, such as his or her attitudes, goals and desires, and care for or express warmth and affection toward their partner.

“Responsiveness creates a deep feeling that someone really knows and understands you,” says Gurit Birnbaum, a social psychologist and associate professor of psychology at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), a private university in Herzliya, Israel, who is the lead researcher on the new studies. “It makes you feel unique and special, and that is very, very sexy.”

In the beginning of a relationship, neurotransmitters such as dopamine push the partners to have sex as much as possible. Scan the brain of someone in this early, passionate stage of love and it will look very much like the brain of someone on drugs.

The addiction doesn’t last. Research suggests the chemical phase of passionate love typically continues between one and three years. Desire fades for different reasons: the chemical addiction to a partner subsides; people age and hormones decrease; emotional distance can cause passion to drop.

The new research—by psychologists at the IDC, the University of Rochester, Bar-Ilan University, in Ramat Gan, Israel, and Cornell Tech in New York, published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology—consists of three studies of more than 100 heterosexual couples each. In the first, partners rated each others’ responsiveness and their own feelings of desire after a back and forth in an online app, where one person described a recent experience and thought his or her partner was responding. It was really a researcher.

In the second study, researchers reviewed videotapes of couples as one partner told a positive or negative personal story and the other responded. Then they were told to express physical intimacy. Researchers coded the subjects’ responsiveness and their expressions of desire.

In the third study, couples were asked to keep a daily diary for six weeks, reporting on the quality of the relationship, how responsive each partner felt the other was, and their level of desire. The participants were also asked to rate whether they felt their partner was valuable that day—someone others would perceive as a good partner—and how special he or she made them feel.

The studies showed that both men and women who felt their partner was more responsive felt more sexual desire for their partner. But women were affected more than men when their partner was responsive, meaning their desire for their partner increased more. The researchers believe women’s sexual desire is more sensitive in general to the emotional atmosphere than men’s.

The new research contradicts a decades-old theory that psychologists call the Intimacy-Desire paradox, which proposes that desire drops as two people become more emotionally intimate. It purports that people seek intimacy in a relationship, but desire thrives on distance and uncertainty.

Dr. Birnbaum says that certain types of intimacy are better for your sex life than others. Impersonal intimacy—familiarity without an emotional component—does kill desire. Think of your partner shaving in front of you or leaving the bathroom door open. But emotional intimacy that makes the relationship feel unique can boost it.

Tips to boost desire in your relationship by being responsive:

Start now. It is better to prevent a decline in desire than to try to revive it when it is lost, Dr. Birnbaum says.

Listen without judging. Don’t interrupt. Don’t spend the time while your partner is speaking thinking about how you will respond. “Most people want to give advice,” says Dr. Birnbaum. “It’s not the same as being there as a warm and wise ear.”

Pay attention to details. Look for ways to show your understanding and support. Does your wife have a big interview coming up and need solitude to prepare? Take the children out to dinner. Is your husband’s team in the playoffs? Don’t ask him to clean the garage right now. Being responsive is often expressed by behaviors, not just words, Dr. Birnbaum says.

Talk about your desire. Share your fantasies. Watch a sexy movie and talk about what parts you liked best.

Complete Article HERE!

Sleeping with other people: how gay men are making open relationships work

A new study says non-monogamous couples can actually be closer, even as critics of open relationships argue humans are unable to separate love and sex

Non-monogamous relationships can lead to a happier, more fulfilling relationship, a study found.

Non-monogamous relationships can lead to a happier, more fulfilling relationship, a study found.

By Spencer Macnaughton

Hugh McIntyre, a 26-year-old music writer, and Toph Allen, a 28-year-old epidemiologist, are in love and have an “amazing” relationship of two and a half years. One of the keys to their success: sleeping with other people.

“We wouldn’t change a thing,” says Allen, who lives in New York City with McIntyre. “We get to fulfill our desire of having sex with other people. We avoid cheating and the resentment that comes in monogamous relationships when you can’t pursue sexual urges.” Their relationship is not unusual among gay men. In 2005, a study found that more than 40% of gay men had an agreement that sex outside the relationship was permissible, while less than 5% of heterosexual and lesbian couples reported the same.

McIntyre and Allen say the strength of their bond is built on clear and open communication. And while that assertion will be perplexing or even taboo to many monogamous couples, a new study into gay couples in open relationships suggests that this skepticism is unjustified. In fact, the study says, non-monogamous couples can actually be closer than their more faithful counterparts.

In June 2015, Christopher Stults, a researcher at The Center for Health, Identity, Behavior, and Prevention Studies at New York University, launched a qualitative study of 10 gay couples in open relationships. He conducted 45-minute, individual interviews with each of these men and their partners, who ranged in age from 19 to 43.

The study, funded by the Rural Center for Aids/STD Prevention at Indiana University, had multiple aims. “We wanted to see how these relationships form and evolve over time, and examine the perceived relationship quality, relationship satisfaction, and potential risk for HIV/STI infection,” says Stults, who finished coding the interviews this week at NYU and hopes to have the study published early next year.

So far, Stults says his finding is that non-monogamous relationships can lead to a happier, more fulfilling relationship. “My impression so far is that they don’t seem less satisfied, and it may even be that their communication is better than among monogamous couples because they’ve had to negotiate specific details,” Stults says.

And open relationships “don’t seem to put gay men at disproportionate risk for HIV and other STDs,” Stults says. “To my knowledge, no one contracted HIV and only one couple contracted an STD,” he says.

But despite Stults’s findings, there’s stigma associated with these kinds of relationships. In 2012, four studies from the University of Michigan found that participants’ perception of monogamous relationships were “overwhelmingly more favorable” than of open relationships.

“Gay men have always engaged more often in consensual non-monogamous relationships, and society has consistently stigmatized their decision to do so,” says Michael Bronski, a professor in the department of women, gender and sexuality at Harvard University.

McIntyre and Allen say they’ve experienced the stigma themselves but that an open relationship is the most honest way for them to be together. “We’ve run into gay and straight people who have assumed our relationship is ‘lesser than’ because we’re not monogamous. I think that’s offensive and ridiculous,” McIntyre says.

So what makes an open relationship work? Participants in Stults’ study emphasized that success is predicated on creating rules and sticking to them. For McIntyre and Allen, two rules are key: “Always tell the other person when you hook up with someone else, and always practice safe sex,” Allen says.

For David Sotomayor, a 46-year-old financial planner from New York, sticking to specific rules is fundamental to the success of his open marriage. “They’re built to protect the love of our relationship,” he says. “We can physically touch another man and have oral sex, but we can’t kiss, have anal sex, or go on dates with other guys,” he says. “We attach an emotional value to kissing – it’s special and unique.”

But sticking to the rules isn’t always easy. Sotomayor has broken them multiple times, which has caused conflict. “It creates a sense of doubt of whether someone is telling the truth,” he says.

Critics of non-monogamous relationships argue that humans are unable to separate love and sex. “Sex is an emotional experience,” says Brian Norton, a psychotherapist who specializes in gay couples and an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s department of counseling and clinical psychology. “There is emotion at play, and even in the most transactional experience someone can get attached,” Norton says.

Further, Norton believes that going outside the relationship for sex can lead to emotional insecurity. “I think it is a difficult pill to swallow that we cannot be all things to our partners,” he says. “A relationship is a constant balancing act between two conflicting human needs: autonomy and the need for closeness,” he says.

But Allen thinks it’s more complicated: “It’s true that love and sex are intertwined, but they aren’t the same thing. Love is about so much more than sex. [There’s] intimacy, friendship, mutual care and respect.”

That gay couples are leading the way in sexually progressive relationships shouldn’t be surprising, according to Bronski. “Because they’ve been excluded from traditional notions of sexual behavior, they’ve had to be trendsetters and forge their own relationship norms,” he says.

Norton believes the facility with which gay men engage in open relationships may be related to a fear of intimacy. “The experience of coming to terms with your homosexual identity can often be associated with emotional abandonment, shame and rejection,” he says.

“So our experience with love and intimacy at an early age is often broken and compromised, so when someone tries to get close to us as an adult, defenses get close,” he says. “It’s human nature to avoid revisiting feelings of abandonment, and open relationships may be a way of keeping a distance between another man.”

But Allen says that being open has strengthened his relationship with McIntyre and brought the couple closer together. “I feel a greater sense of connectedness with Hugh because I get to see him explore his sexuality with other people and I feel gratitude to him for giving me the same leeway,” he says.

Complete Article HERE!

Are We Doomed?

Name: Tench
Gender:
Age: 27
Location: San Francisco
Dear Dr. Dick: I read your response to someone having trouble making gay friends. You said casual sex tends to be the norm for making friends in the gay community. I actually agree, but I wish that weren’t the only answer. My boyfriend and I have been happily together for over a year and a half. We lost a lot of “friends” because we are in a monogamous relationship. It seems they were friends to the extent they had a chance of sleeping with (or dating) either one of us. So now we have significantly less friends, which tends to happen I suppose when a couple takes the time to grow together and bond. But now we want to re-emerge to the social scene, go out more often and have fun. We don’t want to make friends vis a vis threesomes or on open relationship. Are you saying we’re doomed to never have gay friends again unless we put out? Honestly, that’s how it often seems in SF, and frankly, it’s not acceptable. I’d rather just be with my boyfriend. Thanks!

What an interesting predicament you present. Would you mind if we examined things a bit closer? You’re tellin’ me you guys used to have friends before you got together in the sexually exclusive relationship you’re currently enjoying, right? Then these former friends…and I think it’s pretty safe to assume these were mostly single friends…began to drop away when they realized they no longer could compete for either of your affections, right?

ERECT PENIS

Well, do ya blame ‘em, darlin’? I sure don’t. I mean why would any self-respecting single gay man stick around? Just to enjoy your little nesting experience from afar? Gee, no thanks!

If these former friends were also suitors to either you or your current husband, why would you want them to hang in there? You are making such a big deal out of the exclusivity of your nest, wouldn’t these others just be unwelcomed 3rd wheels, as it were? I believe these other, not so exclusively encumbered as you, gay men would be much better served by taking their leave of you and your current husband and trying to find their own nesting situation. On top of the sexual tension that would continue if they did stick around, they’d also not be positioning themselves very well to find their own mate. Would you not agree?

So, ok I hope we cleared up that part. Now you say that you and your current husband are through with the first stage of nesting, the really exclusive part. And you now want to increase your circle of friends. Ok, that’s not a particularly tall order to fill! You’d probably do well to look to other couples for these new friendships, right? I mean, what would you old married guys have in common with single queer men…other than your youthfulness?

Good luck

You want me to do WHAT?

First Name: Beth
Age: 52
Gender: Female
Location: New Jersey
Your question or comment: My husband and I have swung in the past and have had an open marriage for a short time about 5 or 6 years ago. We have, for the most part, been monogamous for the past few years. He now tells me that the only thing that will make him interested in having sex with me is if I find men to have sex with and send him pics of myself in the act with other men. I have no desire to do this but am considering doing it if it will help my sex life with him. I have read about Candaulism (a sexual practice or fantasy in which a man exposes his female partner, or images of her, to other people for their voyeuristic pleasure) and am beginning to think he may be a latent homosexual or bisexual and trying to fulfill his desire to be with a man by living vicariously threw me. He says that the torment of knowing that I am with another man is exciting to him and I don’t understand how that can be a healthy thing for him. I am desperate for guidance in this area. Your thoughts??

Well then, Beth, things are gonna get very interesting in your life real soon, huh?

2477075029_d8e7e288c4Before I get to answering your query, let me ask you some questions. You say you and the hubby used to be swingers and even had an open marriage for a while some years ago. Why, after all that nontraditional relationship stuff, did ya’ll go back to sexual exclusivity? Did you both agree to go back to the straight and narrow, or did one of you decide for the both of you? This is an important point. If one of you decided for the both of you, the one tagging along with the decision may not have been totally on board from the get go. And when that happens, what looks like domestic tranquility is actually nothing of the sort.

It appears to me that your marriage has somewhat of a cyclical pattern to it. You guys have vanilla periods and kinky periods. Would that be an accurate representation of the dynamics? If so, let me ask a few more questions. Who or what determines the swing, you’ll pardon the pun, from vanilla to kink? Is it a boredom thing? And who determines the swing back to vanilla? And does that have anything to do with fear and jealousy? Do you guys discuss the transition before hand? Or is the migration from vanilla to kink and back again more of a follow-the-leader sort of thing? And who leads whom into kink? And does the same person lead out of kink back to vanilla? These questions are all very important and I would want to know the answers before I suggest a path forward.Candaulism

Now I know you are not here to answer my outstanding questions, so that means I need to punt. From what you tell me, I discern that the hubby is in need of a little spice. And maybe he is the one who traditionally leads the marriage out of vanilla into kink. You appear to be resisting this migration for whatever reason. Maybe that’s your traditional role in the marriage. I’m also guessing that you guys don’t talk things through before a momentous change is in the offing, but ya should. A lot of the heartache and misdirection could be avoided if you did.

I also think your husband is not veering into particularly dangerous or uncharted waters with his Candaulism. Seems to me you’ve been there already, at least in spirit, with your periods of swinging and open relationship. It also occurs to me that your hubby has a big fat cuckold fetish that he is trying to itch. And in terms of fetishes, this is a relatively harmless one, especially if everyone involved is on board for the fun and games. Check out my How To Video Library for some swell movies on that theme.

mr-honmaIs his cuckold fetish latent homosexuality? What a funny question to ask considering your relationship history. Isn’t it more likely that he might have a bisexual streak? And the fact that you are puzzled by all of this suggests, at least to me, that you guys don’t know each other very well. And that’s astonishing considering what you’ve been through together.

What I’m getting at though all of this is, if you want to restore some balance and harmony to your marriage, the answer is not simply hanging out at the vanilla end of relationship spectrum because it’s comfortable and safe. At least not until there is consensus on the part of both you and your husband. The big mistake many couples make is to assume that if one person is along for the ride, just to make peace, there is consensus. That’s not consensus; that’s conciliation.

Again, because you guys aren’t here to discuss this stuff with me, but I’d still like to help, let me turn you on to an exercises that will facilitate the open and honest discussion you need to have with your man and he with you. What follows comes from a workshop I developed called; The Gospel of Kink. I’ve also conveniently packaged this workshop into a workbook with the same title. You can find the book HERE!

GOK small cover

Both the workshop and book are designed to help people, like you and your husband, develop the skills they need to effectively communicate with one another and improve their problem solving skills. The workshop and book, as the title suggests, are specifically geared toward folks in kinky, BDSM, and alt-culture relationships, but even vanilla couples will find what I present very helpful.

Even the strongest relationships go through periods of distress and turmoil. Disagreements, misunderstandings, and personal foibles can cause contention and conflict. So let’s see if we can come up with some practical tools and techniques to 1) handle common alt relationship related issues, and 2) successfully navigate our relationship conflicts.

EXERCISE 2 — Tools and Techniques for Navigating Alt Relationship Conflicts

Begin by jotting down a half dozen or so key words or phrases that identify the issues and problems you’ve encountered in your alt relationships. And then see if you can come up with a list of a half dozen or so key words or phrases that suggest possible solutions to those issues and problems.

Once both of you have completed your lists you’ll need to set up a time for a formal discussion of those lists. With a little luck, this exercise will help you identify the stumbling blocks that both of you see and help you develop a strategy to overcome them.

Of course all of this will depend on how well you listen to and absorb the message coming from your partner. Need help with that too? Never fear, The Gospel of Kink has exercises for that as well.

Good luck

The Lady Is A Tramp

Name: Paul
Gender: Male
Age: 32
Location: Seattle
I recently discovered that my GF has been cheating on me. She wants me to forgive her but it’s been really hard. Just dealing with the fact that it happened is overwhelming. It feels like I could never forgive her. I don’t know if there’s a solution or not. I know I still love her but the truth is I feel dirty being around her. It also makes me feel stupid for putting up with this and letting it happen in the first place. I feel like a total sap. I’d love any advice you could give me.

Before we turn to chastising your vixen girlfriend for her behavior, let me make a quick observation about you, Paul. You sure are a ball of contradictions, aren’t you, darlin’? How can you say that you love a person who makes you feel dirty and stupid? Simply put, you are deceiving yourself about one or the other of these emotions. And pardon me, but there’s no way that what you describe here can be love. An obsession, heart sick, wounded pride, sour grapes…absolutely. Love…ahhh, not so much! So stop saying that you love this woman, Paul, it’s just adding to the confusion.

your cheatin' heart

Here’s a tip for us all. Let’s, each of us, promise, right here and now, to save the “L” word for those feelings that are a little less desperate and debilitating, OK? Because if we don’t reserve the “L” word for feelings that are uplifting and life-affirming then we will bandy it about, like Paul here.  Let’s try not to over-use the term  to describe any and all our fixations. If what we are experiencing tears us down instead of building us up, then it ain’t love no how, no way. Period!

Ok Paul, I ’m gonna try not read too much into your brief statement, but there appears to be some important information here that we should consider. When you say your girlfriend…“is been cheating,” that suggests to me that her indiscretion may have been ongoing. Because you could have said…“she cheated on me,” which would imply a one-time thing.

And what an interesting word choice “cheat” is in this context. This makes fidelity sound like some kind of sport, or that you own something of another person. I don’t think fidelity is sport, nor do I think it is always a genital issue. Lots of couples are faithful to one another even though they have open relationships and/or multiple sex partners. But I digress.

Since you can’t supply me with more of the gory details, Paul, I’m gonna go with the first option. I’m gonna assume you’re telling me that your GF has been doin’ you wrong and it’s not a simple…“Whoops, I don’t know what came over me. One minute I was like all normal, and the next there I was with my dress over my head and some guy, other than you honey, was bangin’ me like there was no tomorrow”…sorta thing, OK?

Since I don’t know how deep or exclusive your relationship with your girlfriend is or was supposed to be, I can hardly advise you on what you ought to do next. I can, however, point out that a secret ongoing affair suggests the trouble with your relationship runs pretty deep. Maybe your girlfriend has you pegged as a sap, and she knows that you will tolerate her indiscretions. Which in turn, gives her permission to do carry on in whatever manner she might like. Maybe she doesn’t think that your relationship with her is all that substantial in the first place. Who knows!

Hey, I don’t suppose you have a cuckold fetish, do you?  Imagine the fun you could have with that.  But again, I digress.

If you’re not a total sap, and you’re serious about reigning in your wayward GF, you’d better come up with a clear, unambiguous message about what you will and will not tolerate in the future. Until you do that there’s no point in even imagining there might be a future.

If, on the other hand, the two of you did agree to live in an exclusive relationship, and she’s still taking her business elsewhere, then I suggest the bond between you is pretty busted. Is there something salvageable here? Your guess is as good as mine. What is perfectly clear is that both you and your girlfriend need to step back and take a sober look at yourselves. There is a reason for her behavior, just like there’s a reason for your response. To get to the bottom of all of this both of you will need to invest a good deal of time and energy, most likely with a professional therapist, and hope that the bank of goodwill between you, if indeed there is a bank of goodwill between you, is enough to carry the day.  However, if I had to guess from the tone in your message, I’d say there was precious little goodwill left. If so, why not be a man about it. Just call it quits and move on. No recriminations necessary.

Good Luck