Is Your Sex Life Like McDonalds?

Is sex like fast foodIs your sex life like McDonalds? Filling, but full of empty calories? Satisfying, but nothing special? Let's face it, we all go to McDonalds occasionally, but if you eat nothing but a plain hamburger every day, you probably need to branch out to something more appetizing, like a Double McRib sometimes. If your sex life also seems like an old, stale cheeseburger, maybe it's time for  you to review what's going on in your relationship sexually. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. I enjoy sex with my partner on a regular basis; it is always a pleasure and never feels like a duty I must fulfill.
  1. Experimentation and play are key elements in my sexual expression.
  1. My partner and I make time for sex and don't allow it to be put on the back burner.
  1. I am affectionate with my partner, knowing that loving touch increases levels of oxytocin, the "bonding hormone"- and encourages lovemaking.

So, looking through all of these statements, what did you answer and how does your relationship measure up? Let's look at these ideas individually. . .

  1. Enjoying sex with your partner on a regular basis is a must for healthy expression and satisfying relationships. What you have to define for yourselves is what "regular basis" looks like within your relationship, not anybody else's. Having sex because it is your "duty" doesn't help you or your partner foster intimate connections. And if you are looking at sex as just another box that needs to be checked off of your "to do" list, you are missing the point of the intimate connection.
  1. Experimentation and sexual play are like putting frosting on a cake- not entirely necessary, but really adding some sweet, intense elements to an already delicious endeavor. If you have not experimented lately, find something new- like toys, lotions, or a game that is mutually acceptable and give it a try. You will be surprised at how exciting things can turn out.
  1. One of the complaints that I  hear most from my clients is that having to schedule sex takes the spontaneity and fun right out of it. Yes, having to schedule sex can sound rigid, but the reality is that most people have such busy lives; if it doesn't get planned it doesn't happen. While putting a little afternoon delight into your day timer isn't spontaneous, what you do with  that time can be. So, don't put sex onto the back burner, because you will not get to it on a regular basis.
  1. Oxytocin is known as the hormone that helps with feelings of closeness and contentment, and can be released through skin to skin touch. Being affectionate with your partner, touching and bonding will encourage the feeling of desire and arousal.

So, while McDonald's is filling, eating there regularly is not going to give you a vibrant, healthy experience. Try branching out to a "Happy Meal" once in a while and see how your relationship thrives.

Married or Buried?

Married or BuriedLet's talk about sex and marriage- they do go together, don't they? No, there are many sexless marriages today, and if I take stock of the clients in my office, the number of marriages that have infrequent or no sex is increasing. According to some studies this is not a phenomenon- in a 2005 Family Circle national survey, 21% of married women considered their sex lives to be boring and routine, and 21% reported that they had no sex life  at all, almost 50% reported no desire to have sex with their partner. And remember, these are only the women that responded- there are many, many more out there that seem to feel the same way. So where are all of the sexually confident women- and why have they disappeared? As a single woman, we had our confidence, style, longing and attraction.   We worked for years to find the groove that would bring us sexual fulfillment and everlasting desire. Many of my women clients considered themselves to be a sexual goddess in their single lives-what has created the changes that are going on in the American marriage?

Sleeping next to the same partner night after night, wondering where desire has gone and if it will ever return, many women(and men) may give up and decide that their unfulfilling sex life is the norm, the price paid for security and stability in a relationship.  Your partner is no longer pursuing you as they did when you were dating; your feel that your body is ugly from child birth or aging, the sexual routine that you have fallen into is as dry and tasteless as an old piece of toast. Where's the butter!

There are many reasons that women have lost their sexual confidence- let's explore two of the main issues; your body and your mind. After all, who can feel beautiful with a post partum body- complete with stretch marks, flabby tummies and a chest that has gone south? Many women use excess food as their drug of choice to medicate these feelings of emotional pain, comparing themselves to the air brushed models that are everywhere.   Let me tell you something that I am 99% sure of- as a result of working with hundreds of couples and knowing the men's perspective.  Men do not care about your post partum body- what they do care about is your sexual expression. Men are attracted to a woman who is sexually confident with themselves- not how your body looks.  So turn off the lights, light a candle and know that your husband wants to be there with YOU, not the air brushed model.

How about your mind? Many women who have families, work full time and maybe even go to school are simply exhausted at the end of the day. If your idea of a blissful evening is Chinese takeout, paper plates and being in bed at 8pm, you are not alone. We can let our minds rob us of sexual confidence, or we can find some other ways of making it work for us and finding the energy and desire again. No doubt about it, finding time for sexual expression while having a family is difficult, but not impossible.  Take a look at your schedule- yes, I know that it's busy, but there is somewhere in that schedule that you can devote 15-20 minutes to your husband, and to yourself.  Don't you both have to take a shower in the morning? What a good bonding opportunity- and you can find others at midday, creating a lunchtime rendezvous with your partner that will make the rest of the afternoon go by in a flash. If you are an evening person, just make sure that you leave some time for each other before you run out of gas.

Marriage is hard work, and so is keeping your sexual confidence. Remember to butter that toast in the morning!

Time Perspective Therapy

Say the words "therapy session" and many people will picture an hour spent on a couch dredging up unhappy childhood memories. A different approach suggests that redirecting the focus onto the present and future can make people happier, healthier and lead to better relationships.

The method, called Time Perspective Therapy, involves figuring out which of six different outlooks a person has:

  1. past-positive (you love the past);
  2. past-negative (you have regrets and bad things happened in your past-or things that you now exaggerate as bad);
  3. present hedonism (you enjoy the present and like to reward yourself);
  4. present fatalism (you feel that events are beyond your control, so why bother?);
  5. goal-oriented future (you plan ahead and weigh the costs and benefits of any decision);
  6. Transcendental future (you live a good life because you believe the reward is a heaven after death).

The best profile to have, says Philip Zimbardo, psychologist and professor emeritus at Stanford University, is a blend of a high level of past-positive, a moderately high level of future orientation and a moderate level of selected present hedonism. In other words, you like your past, work for the future-but not so hard that you become a workaholic-and choose when to seek pleasure in the present. Dr. Zimbardo, an influential thinker in this field who lectures widely, administers a 56-item questionnaire to determine a patient's profile.

The worst time-perspective profile to have is a high level of past-negative coupled with a high level of present fatalism. "These people are living in a negative past and think nothing they do can change it," says Dr. Zimbardo, co-author of the book "The Time Cure." They also score low on present hedonism and have a low future orientation. People who are clinically depressed or have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder typically have this profile.

Our individual time perspective is influenced by many things, including family and friends, culture, religion, education and life events. As very young children, we were all pretty much purely hedonistic-focused on getting what we wanted when we wanted it. Some, but not all, of us become more future-oriented as we get older.

The good news is that people can change their time perspective.  Raise a past-positive score by focusing on the good in your past: create photo albums, write letters of gratitude to people who inspired you, start an oral history of your family.

Your future orientation can get a boost by organizing your calendar or planning a family vacation, actions that get you to envision and plan for a positive future. And volunteering or becoming a mentor can help you see that your actions can have a positive impact. And you can increase your present hedonism-selectively!-by doing something to balance your mood, such as exercise or a nature walk. Also, reward your hard work with an activity you enjoy: dinner with a friend, a massage, an afternoon playing your favorite sport.

To lower your past-negative scores you can work to silence your pessimistic inner critic by meditating or keeping an ongoing list of all the good things in your life right now. Think about what's good in your life now, rather than what was bad in your life in the past.

And you can reduce your future fatalistic perspective by learning a new skill or hobby that allows you to see your change, and doing it with a partner-it's less isolating and the other person can give you positive feedback.

By making some small changes in your perspective, you can help yourself now and in the future!