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the indomitable human spirit

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Happy Solstice, sex fans!

I know I’m supposed to be on holiday, but I just couldn’t resist sharing with you this correspondence that typifies the season. It is a true celebration of the indomitable human spirit.

Name: Roman
Gender: Male
Age: 22
Location: Kansas
I’m a 22 and I have cerebral palsy. My girlfriend has CP too. You say you have experience working with people with disabilities. Do you know about how CP and how it affects our balance and muscle control? Me and my GF have difficulty having sex. Our bodies don’t move like other people. Most of the time we are in wheelchairs and, while sitting is ok, our stiff legs make conventional sex impossible. We have invented ways to get each other off, but when it comes to intercourse we are stumped. We’ve tried different things, but we can’t get the angle right. We’ve looked for ideas on the internet, but nothing.

Kudos to you Roman, and your plucky girlfriend. You kids sound like you’ve got it gonin’ on, I’m really impressed. You’re right, I have some experience with people with disabilities, particularly around the issue of sexuality. And I am familiar with the affects of cerebral palsy on one’s balance and muscle control. So I think I can help you. However, I want you to help me too. I think you could help me and my audience understand and appreciate your situation a bit better.

Here’s why I think this. It’s not often I hear from such an articulate fellow in your particular circumstance. So I want to ask you a few questions. (Any one else out there in my audience who wants to chime in on this, please do!) In the past, most of the people I’ve encountered who have disabling conditions, like CP have been at the mercy of those who care for them at home or in assisted living facilities. So would it be correct for me to guess that you and your girlfriend are living independently? It sounds that way to me. The reason I say that is, one of the most troubling problems folks, like ya’ll, have is finding private time and space for any intimacies of whatever kind. Families and assisted living facilities are notorious for not giving or respecting a client’s privacy.

If you are in an independent living situation and you have enough privacy to engage in intimacies that can get you off, short of intercourse. How do you do you get one another off? Is this done while you’re in your chairs? If you’re actually getting naked with each other, and I hope you are, do you need assistance from someone to achieve this?

Here’s why I’m asking you this. If you are having a person assist you as far as getting out of your cloths and into the sack with each other, would it be out of the question for either of you to ask this person to help you get into position for fucking? I ask this because on one very special occasion a couple I knew some years ago asked me to assist them in their love making. At first, I didn’t know if I was up to the task. Not because I would be freaked out gimps gettin their groove on — not at all. I was concerned that I wouldn’t know what to do, or how to do it. My friends, the couple, told me not to worry, that they would direct me if I helped them manage their limbs and coordinate their movements. I was honored by their request, so I accepted their invitation.

We were all really nervous, me especially. They asked if I would be comfortable being naked with them. This put me on the spot, for sure. It’s not that I was uncomfortable being naked, that’s rarely an issue. But I was strangely uncomfortable being naked with them. Was it professional pride? Did I feel more secure being clothed, less vulnerable that way? Hell, I don’t know. They explained that they didn’t want this to be some kind of clinical thing where I was being a therapist, albeit an unconventional therapist.

In the end I relented. And after a few minutes of feeling really awkward, we lost our inhibitions and got down to business. Just so you know, my friends were right. Had I kept my cloths on, the experience wouldn’t have been the same. While I tried to be as unobtrusive as possible, I was remarkably able to experience, in a most intimate way, what it must be like to live in a body that doesn’t respond like my body does. I felt like my friends’ bodies were extensions of my body. And they said they felt the same way; that my body was an extension of their bodies. It was a communion like no other.

My friends kept cracking jokes. Every time I’d topple over trying to get the two lovebirds into position they’d say something like: “is that what it’s like having an able body?” BITCHES! No doubt, the humor and giggling help take the edge off for us all. I know it helped me overcome being so self-conscious. I confess I was a bit embarrassed to be the only able body person present.

What struck me most in all of this was the determination of my friends. I’ve never met anyone more dogged and tenacious…and all to get a little nookie. God bless ‘em!

We tried several positions. Luckily, my friends had upped the dose of their muscle relaxant medications so they were a bit more pliable. One position that seemed to work particularly well was having my friends lying on their sides facing each other. I helped the woman swing one of her legs over her guy. I was then able to scoot their pelvises together and guide his dick into her pussy. Then all I needed to do is bounce them a little. It was brilliant, even though it was the hardest I ever worked for a fuck — and it wasn’t even me who was doing the fucking.

We were all completely exhausted by the experience. My friends were enormously grateful and I was blissed out. It took them days to recover, but at least they achieved what they so desperately wanted. Did they ever attempt intercourse again? I don’t know. They may have discovered that fucking, especially if it takes that much concentration and energy may not be worth it. Maybe they realized that full-on fucking is not necessarily for full-on sexual enjoyment. I mean my friend was expert at eating out his girlfriend. All I had to do is help him in into position. And she got off on it big time…oh and so did he…the randy little bugger!

So, Roman, I didn’t mean to go on and on like that. Sorry if I got off topic. I just wanted to tell you that story because I thought it might suggest to you and your girlfriend the idea of having someone help you guys fuck. It’s worth a try, right?

Good luck

Sex Work — The Principle of Supply and Demand

No podcast today; instead there’s this…

Sex workers and their consumers are two sides of the same coin; the operative word being coin. Few things are more troublesome to the social hierarchy than the notion of sex for money. And yet, as the saying goes, there’d be no supply if there weren’t a demand.

I travel a lot for work and often get really lonely on long trips. I don’t go to bars, because I don’t drink. The idea of looking for sex in a bathhouse or sex club puts me off. Lately I’ve been thinking I should just hire an escort, but I wouldn’t even know where to begin. It must be a pretty common phenomenon thought, because I see tons of ads for escorts on line in every city I go to. Any suggestions on how I might proceed?
— Gabe

I presume you’ve ordered out for food while traveling for business, right? Finding a satisfying “order-out” sexual adventure is not all that different. In the case of an escort, the commodities are charming company, erotic massage, and possibly a little sex, instead of potstickers, mu shu pork and Kung Pao Chicken. (Now if only someone would devise a marketing plan to combine the two—erotic massage and mu shu pork? We’d all die from an overabundance of bliss!)

Not all order-out is created equal. Just as there is bad food, there are also unsavory escorts. Do your homework. You already know there are scads of escort or rentboy sites on the net. There are also plenty of review sites, where customers of the provider leave their comments regarding levels of satisfaction and the like. Most escorts, particularly the really good ones, immediately call your attention to the reviews they’ve received. It’s like having the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval stamped on your ass.

Start by interviewing a few working boys. This can initially be done via email. Ask for further information about services and rates. Many escorts have photos of themselves available to send to prospective clients, so you might respectfully request those. If at all possible, include a photo of yourself—or at the very least, an accurate description.

When communicating with a service provider, NEVER suggest that you are offering money for sex; in most jurisdictions, that’s against the law. While most clients hope to get a little sex in the encounter, the money exchanged is not for the sex. It is for the provider’s time and expertise. This may sound like splitting hairs, but if sex happens it is by mutual agreement by consenting adults during the time you’ve arranged to be together.

Finding the right escort for you is your task. Know what you want and know how to ask for it. Don’t waste your time or that of the provider by beating around the bush. If you are new at this, say so. The rentboy, if he’s any good at all, will be familiar with this territory and help you though the initial conversation.

There are different levels of pros out there; each will have his own fee structure for services provided. If you’re looking for something kinky, be ready to pay more. Never bargain with the provider. If he’s out of your price range, move along. Or come right out with it and say, “Listen, I have X amount of money to spend. Are you available?” This gives the provider the option to see you at the discounted rate. You’d be a fool not to insist on safe sex, but there’s a shitload of fools out there.

When arranging an outcall to your hotel, there may be an additional surcharge for traveling cost. This should be agreed upon before the deal is struck.

Not all prostitutes are prostitutes because they want to. But most guys turn pro because they’re good at what they do. And most enjoy the accompanying lifestyle. The truly successful provider will have a string of regulars, men they have a somewhat more intimate connection with. Kinda like finding a great Chinese restaurant and becoming a regular there. The proprietor might just offer you something not on the menu as a way of acknowledging your preferred customer status. Get it?

Some johns use the service of an agency, which can be a reliable way to go at first. However, I believe the hard-working independent entrepreneur is often one’s best bet.

You’ll also find among the independents a unique phenomenon—Gay for Pay. These are ostensibly “straight” (and I use that word in quotes with great intent) guys who will have gay sex with gay men for money. In the old days, we used to refer to them as trade. And like we in the business say, “today’s trade is tomorrow’s competition.”

Remember, a wise and informed consumer is happy and satisfied consumer.

I’m just out of college and have a ton of bills and no real job prospects at the moment. A friend suggested I do some escorting to make ends meet. Guys tell me that I’m hot and I like sex, but I don’t know if I could pull it off. Suggestions?
— Kevin

Being hot and liking sex are great assets if you decide to turn pro, but you’ll need a whole lot more than that. Being a sex worker is not like having sex for love, or even recreational sex. You will be exchanging sex for money and that makes it a business proposition. You’d be wise to approach this with as much forethought as you would any other profession. It is, after all, the world’s oldest.

You’ll need the physical fortitude to have sex with a wide range of people; some who may not be attractive to you. And when there’s an exchange of money, the john becomes your customer. And all pro sex is client-directed; it’s not about you even when it looks like it’s all about you.

You’ll also need the emotional distance and psychological resilience to cope with the intimacy issues this line of work creates. This is precisely the point where most fledgling sex workers flounder. They either give too much, or not enough. Some actually resent their clients for sustaining them; go figure! A lack of clarity on this issue will cause troubling boundary issues for both you and your john.

A cheap street hustler turning tricks to support a drug habit and an expensive rentboy who is attending the rich and famous face many of the same pitfalls. A lot of sex workers are self-destructive or have huge unresolved sex issues that they are trying to compensate for by making people pay them for what they usually give away.

If you still think this is a line of work for you, know that your mind and body are your greatest business assets. Take care of them. Keep them clean, fit and toned. Hygiene, both physical and mental, is a must. Improve your mind. Make yourself interesting. Stay abreast on current affairs. Develop other skills like massage and bodywork. Self-awareness, not the narcissistic type, and safe-sex practices are your frontline defense against STIs.

Stay clean and sober while on the job. More sex workers get busted for drugs than hustling. Know how to handle a drugged-out client. You’ll probably see a lot of those. Also know they can take forever to get off, and can sometimes be paranoid and dangerous.

Be fiscally responsibility. Plan for the lean times…and there will always lean times. You’ll probably be a hot property at first; the new meat phenomenon, don’t cha know. Don’t let this go to your head. There will be cuter, younger, hotter competition getting off the bus tomorrow. Try to cultivate a number of regular clients. Have a thought to how and where you will market yourself. And I encourage you not to do this full-time. If you find it difficult to pay the rent, you’ll be tempted to do more and more risky things just to make ends meet.

Sex work is often more about being psychologically present than a sexual performance. Your clients will often be more lonely and isolated then they are horny. Always treat them with respect.

You should have at least one trusted friend who knows your whereabouts at all times, or who has access to your appointment book. Never make a date with anyone who won’t share his/her phone number with you. And always make a call back before you head out. Keep an appointment book, in code if you must.

Have a travel bag prepared with all the basics you will need: condoms, lube, massage oils, handi-wipes, an extra shirt, toys, mace (or other protective equipment). Have that bag ready to pick up and leave if there’s trouble.

Finally, I suggest that you connect with other sex workers in your area. There is strength in numbers. Other rentboys will provide you with essential information about troublesome clients and help you get the lay of the land, so to speak.

Good Luck

Nights In Black Leather

Hey sex fans,

It’s Product Review Friday and we’re all a buzz because today we welcome a very special new manufacturer to this review effort. Allow me to introduce you to Fetish Home Factory. And what a terrific company this is too.

Allow me to add a brief editorial comment before I turn the floor over to today’s reviewers. Fetish Home Factory is unique. Not only did they invite me to pick the items to review, from among their vast array of handmade fetish clothing and BDSM gear. But once I made my choice, they took a week or so to assemble the kit before they sent it to me. And that was astonishing to me. In a world of mass-produced products that have little or no individuality, it is so refreshing to find a true artisan who still makes his products by hand in his own factory.

Ok, without further ado, here are Dr Dick Review Crew members — Gina & Kevin

Leather Bondage Set — $ 49.88

Gina & Kevin
Gina: “We really scored with this Leather Bondage Set.”
Kevin: “Totally! But when Dr Dick sent us an email offering this kit to us for review, both Gina and I rolled our eyes. We thought for sure it would be more crap marketed to the novice kinkster. The Review Crew has already reviewed a bunch of that stuff and all of it was junk.”
Gina: “Yep, that’s what we thought alright. Neither one of us even wanted to make a special trip to Dr Dick’s house to pick up the Leather Bondage Set. That is until he told us we would be pleasantly surprised.”
Kevin: “He was right! This is the real deal. The set is handmade!  Can you believe that?  And it’s made of real leather. How cool to find a manufacturer that doesn’t treat his customers like they were children.”
Gina: “It’s true! And if you don’t believe us just check the Dr Dick’s Sex Toy Reviews site and search for ‘fetish’. You’ll see what we mean about packaging fake fetish stuff to the unsuspecting customer.”
Kevin: “So we finally got some good stuff and I am happy to sing it praises. Oh, and by the way, the photo to the right doesn’t do the kit justice; just sayin’.”
Gina: “The Leather Bondage Set is actually four pieces of handmade leather fetish gear — a whip, a collar, a wrist cuff and a mask. Each one is decoratively adorned with metal studs. Very cool!”
Kevin: “And it’s a unisex set. It looks as good on me as it does on Gina.”
Gina: “We’ve already been to two Halloween parties this year and we both had a chance to wear the Leather Bondage Set as part of our costume. Kevin looked totally hot last week in just a black jockstrap and boots, the cuff, collar and mask, with the whip hanging from the waistband of his jock.”
Kevin: “It’s not a big whip, just about 22” from the hilt to the tips of its 8 leather stands, but it has this very nice detailing, including a finger or belt loop. And you should also know that this diminutive flogger will deliver a stinging beating if put to the test. I invited Gina to apply it to my back before we went to our first costume party and I had some very nice stripes to show off at the gathering.”
Gina: “At that party I was the dominatrix and Kevin was my submissive. There was this other woman there who thought Kevin’s stripes were makeup. She blanched when she discovered my little whip made those marks. We both loved her reaction. I’m like turning into this slutty little exhibitionist and the Leather Bondage Set only eggs me on.”
Full Review HERE!

ENJOY!

The Open Relationship Model

Podcasts will resume next Monday, September 6th.

Deviating from the norm. Is it worth it?

Since the launch of the Sex EDGE-U-cation podcast series in early 2009; I’ve been hearing from a lot of people who are considering opening their relationships to include additional partners to augment their primary relationships. People point to the increasing media attention polyamory is garnering as a way of justifying their interest.

It’s true; polyamory is enjoying an efflorescence in popular culture these days. But this mirrors the spike in interest that swinging had a couple of decades ago. This suggests to me that there is a fissure at the foundation of the dominant relationship model of the monogamous heterosexual, reproductive pair. All the sociological underpinnings of why our culture promotes this paradigm aside, I think it is undeniable that there is a level of dissatisfaction on the part of many who initially bought into this model as the only way to live, love and raise small herds of children. But is it?

People may feel trapped in the traditional expression of a committed relationship. But while they may be second-guessing the party line, they are equally wary of throwing open the doors in a haphazard way, and rightfully so.

I’ve been reading a lot about polyamory lately. It seems it’s the topic du jour in all the women’s magazines. Do open relationships really work?
—Cameron

For starters, the viability of an open relationship depends on the maturity level of the people who are considering opening up their sexually exclusive relationship. And how much they’re willing to work at communicating with one another through all the little details that such a decision entails. One thing for sure, I am willing to go on record to say that the devil, in this case, really is in the details.

That being said, there are a few things us sex researchers know for sure. In most cultures, people claim to practice sexual exclusivity, which is commonly referred to as monogamy. Although I think that’s a misnomer. Monogamy literally means having one union, which as we all know tells us nothing about the sexual expression either or both partners are supposedly sharing in.

Lifetime sexual exclusivity (being sexually involved with only one person for one’s entire life) is rare. Serial sexual exclusivity (having a series of exclusive relationships over one’s life) is much more common. And despite knowing that we humans do not mate for life, we continue to presume that sexual exclusivity, or monogamy is the only legitimate form of coupling.

This, unfortunately, leads to our culture’s obsession with cheating—that is, having sex with someone outside of a monogamous relationship. And frankly, what I know about humans, human relationships and human sexuality; I can say for certain that fidelity is not necessarily a genital issue. One can indeed be faithful to someone else and still have the freedom to express him/herself sexually with others. It happens all the time. In these cases, fidelity is to the relationship and the agreements, parameters and boundaries mutually agreed upon by the partners. Which gets me back to my opening comment about the need for communication. Of course, it’s much easier to presume that everyone in a relationship is working under the same rubric, but that kind of presumption is a fool’s paradise.

Another shortcoming of setting up sexual exclusivity or monogamy as the only legitimate type of coupling is that it diminishes all the other types of relationships that flourish, albeit in a more covert way. And here I’m talking about an array of open relationship models—and polyamory. The fact that we’re only now hearing about these non-traditional relationships shouldn’t suggest to you, or anyone, that they don’t exist; or that they aren’t practical alternatives to the traditional monogamous model, or that they aren’t practiced by a lot of people. They do and they are! It just means that most people in non-traditional relationships know not to go public in a society that would denigrate them for their lifestyle choices. That’s how things are here in the good old US of A; and I’ll wager it’s also true for the rest of the world. Am I right, or am I right?

Open relationships and polyamorous relationships work because the people in them adhere to some basic tenets about how to conduct themselves.

First among them is the notion that these alternative relationships must be chosen; they can’t be mandated. If one or another of the persons considering an open or poly relationship is being pressured to go along with the flow, or is fearful that he/she will be alone if he/she doesn’t comply with the will of the other(s). That kind of emotional duress will not work.

Each person in the relationship needs to take responsibility for the choices he/she is making. If you’re not up for the task, or if this kind of arrangement is not compatible with your personality type, don’t attempt to override that. You will only jeopardize the relationship for the other(s) involved. However, if the idea appeals to you, give it your best shot. I can guarantee that it will be a learning experience. Just remember, exploring something and having it carved in stone are two very different things.

Second, communication is key. The more complex the relationship structure, the greater the need for open lines of communication. Know your boundaries and express them clearly. Ask questions; never assume you know something when you don’t.

Third, know yourself! You must be able to deal with your emotions, particularly jealousy, in an up-front, adult way. This is often much easier said than done. If you need to be the center of attention just so you can feel good about yourself, or you have serious territorial issues—this is mine, this is mine, and THIS is mine!—then alternative relationship models are probably not for you.

Know what keeps you even keel in terms of what you need and what you are able to give. There has got to be a healthy tension between these two things. If you’re the kind who gives too much and resents not being rewarded for your gifts, stay away from alternative relationships. Or if you are so needy that you can’t stand it when someone else is enjoying his/her time in the sun; open or poly relationships are decidedly not for you.

You should also know that alternative relationships, of whatever stripe, are, for the most part, on the fringes of what society will accept. And some are outright taboo. This doesn’t mean you will have to slug it out on your own in a vacuum of support. On the contrary, you will, no doubt, find that the people who are living contrary to the expectations of the popular culture are often a whole lot more generous with their support and compassion then those following all the rules.

You will find that your support system will shift from more traditional sources like traditional family, church and community to alternative sources like clubs and social groupings of other like-minded individuals as yourself. A common mistake made by those in non-traditional relationships is to take their problems and issues to their traditional support systems. This rarely works because the traditional support system will inevitably blame the non-traditional relationship setup for the problem. This is not true, of course, but how would those in traditional relationships know otherwise.

I always suggest that those in non-traditional relationships bring their issues to a non-traditional support system. Here you are less likely to encounter judgments about your life choices and more help with overcoming the problems at hand.

In the end, it’s your call. Are the potential rewards as well as challenges associated with an open relationship worth taking more than the voyeuristic peek behind the curtain that the women’s magazines provide you?

Good luck!

Fighting Fair — a Tutorial

I have just the thing for all you folks out there who are in a relationship. If you’re like every other couple I know, you have your share of tension. And let’s face it—tension leads to fighting. And fighting, if not done fairly, can lead to hurting your partner—even if that’s not your intention.

Here are Cheryl and Vern; they have a problem:

Doc,
We’ve been married for 11 years and have two great kids, ages 4 and 7. We both have full-time jobs, so family life is at a premium. Lately we’ve hit a rough patch and we seem to be fighting more than usual. We still love each other very much, but the sniping and bitchiness is getting us down. I know this is not specifically a sex question, but do you know how we could cut down on all this bickering or make it so we don’t lose it with each other?

Every relationship has its bones of contention. And it’s natural and healthy to want to hash things out. I think it’s so much better to get things out in the open, rather than let them fester all bottled up inside. Of course, there is a danger of exploding and letting things just fly in every direction. Someone is liable to get hurt. But if you give your venting some structure—fair fighting technique, for example—you’ll be more likely to get your point across with out bludgeoning one another.

First thing—we tend to fight more when we’re irritable. Stress and sleep deprivation make us cranky. And from the sound of it, you guys are definitely stressed, if not also sleep deprived. Your lifestyle is setting you up for confrontation. So no amount of fair fight training is gonna make a difference until there’s some change in your lifestyle. In fact, I suggest that you not even attempt to embrace these techniques if you’re not serious about integrating them into your lifestyle. It would be like committing to non-violence while you’re stocking up on guns and ammo.

Let’s take a look at some of the basics. The way you word a complaint will make a big difference. For instance, avoid “you” statements as much as possible. “You” statements tend to make your partner feel like he/she is to blame. “You make me angry.” “You don’t trust me.” “You’re not making sense.” “You never take the time to compliment me anymore.” “You are always to busy for me and my needs.”

I suggest that you use “I” statements instead. “I” statements reflect the way you feel. “I feel angry when I hear things like that.” “I want you to trust me.” “I don’t understand what you are saying.” “I don’t hear compliments from you anymore.” “I feel like I’m not important to you anymore.”

You see how in the first instance, the “you” statements blame your partner. They also assume he/she should know better, and that they’re doing this to you on purpose. The problem with assumptions like these is they only make things worse. They also put your partner in a defensive posture. “No, I didn’t.” “That ridiculous.” “I am, too!” “You’ve got to be kidding.”

In the second instance the “I” statements are more open-ended. They invite a response without putting your partner on the defensive. This is also a useful way of soliciting your partner’s feedback. “I’m not trying to make you angry.” “I want to trust you too, but how can I?” “Let me put it another way.” “I know I should try harder to compliment you.” “I’m so swamped; I have a difficult time prioritizing everything these days.”

Another basic to fighting fair is giving concrete examples of what you are talking about. Let’s say you’re talking about money matters. That’s always a big bugaboo in any relationship. Use “I” statements along with an example: “I felt like you just blew off the family budget when you made that purchase. I know you were thinking of the whole family when you bought it. It’s just I would really like some input on major expenditures like this. How are we going to adjust the budget for next month to pay for this?”

You see how the concrete example demonstrates your concern without clobbering your partner? You also suggested that you understood why the thing happened. And, most importantly, you offer a solution—that the two of you pull together as a team to resolve the budget crisis.

You know how sometimes you know exactly what you want to say, but it doesn’t come out right? This is more likely to happen in the heat of an argument. To short-circuit this dangerous hazard, I suggest that before either of you launches into a tirade against the other, you take the time to plan out what you want to say. Jot down some notes, bullet points, if you will. This, of course, also creates a natural cooling off period. The goal of fighting fair is to make the situation better, not worse.

If you guys are prone to fighting, I suggest that you take a cue from those in the kink community. In negotiating a BDSM scene, the participants always agree on a safeword before the scene begins. This safeword is a word that will be out of the context in the scenario, or in your case the argument. This safe word is used when someone is reaching his/her limit in the scene, or in your case, when your fight is veering toward emotional violence.

For example, let’s say you guys decide on the word “pickle.” You find yourself in a spat; things are heating up. You are dangerously close to saying some very hurtful things, things you know you will regret later. This is the time to employ the safe word. Or, let’s say, you are being browbeaten and harangued and you feel emotionally vulnerable. You don’t want to react or turn up the volume, so you use the safe word. If you commit to a safe word and one of you uses it and the other one ignores it, then that person is not only breaking the rules of fighting fair, he or she is guilty of domestic violence. And that ought never be tolerated. Get it? Got it? Good!

Here are some other things to consider when structuring your arguments so as not to devastate your partner. The time to commit to fighting fair must happen before there is a row. So I suggest that you sit down one quiet evening and pound out your own guidelines. You’ll also need to give these rules teeth. If there are no consequences for breaking an agreed upon rule, then what’s the point?

1. Pick the right time and place for the fight. Don’t bring up problems when you don’t have time to talk about them (like right before you or your partner has to leave for work). Don’t fight when you’re drinking. If things are coming to a head, but there’s no time for a fair fight, commit to a concrete time later to take on the issue. Be sure you honor that commitment and not just avoid the fight.

2. State your feelings honestly, without sarcasm or insults. Jot down the points you want to make. Delete anything that is intended to hurt or humiliate your partner.

3. Stick to the issue at hand. Don’t go bringing up things that happened in the past, even to make your point.

4. Fair fighting is not about placing blame. It’s about solving problems.

5. Stick to “I” statements and stay away from “you” statements.

6. Avoid words like “always” and “never.” “You always do that.” “I never get what I need.” This will help you avoid criticizing your partner’s entire personality.

7. Don’t mind-read. If you don’t know how your partner feels or what he/she thinks, then ASK.

8. Incorporate positive statements and compliments along with your complaints. Make a sandwich: complaint—compliment—criticism. Like this: “You’re a lying sonofabitch!” “I love your shoes!” “You should eat shit and die!”

Okay, I’m kidding on the last part up. But you could say something like: “I sometimes feel so alone. I know you’re trying to be more present. Is there any way we can work it that we have more quality time together, to love and nurture one another?” This sandwich technique will soften the blow of any complaint and your partner will be less defensive.

Remember, you are not alone. All couples have their share of problems. No couple will see eye to eye on everything. But if you know how to fight fair when fighting is called for, you’ll be able to structure your arguments so that you can resolve the issues without damaging your partner’s ego.

Good luck!

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