Normal Couple Changes that Initially Cause Anxiety

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Normal Couple Changes that Initially Cause Anxiety

Have you been in a relationship for a while and you’re worried that you are growing apart? Normal couples go through changes that can initially cause anxiety but are in fact common and are of no actual cause for concern. So if you are afraid that your love is fading or that he or she just isn’t as attracted to you as they once were, read on to see if there is any real trouble brewing or if you are merely going through one of these transitions.  First, if you are physical together, the intensity and frequency of hopping into bed together may slow a bit once you reach that more comfortable stage. This is normal. But some people believe it means the attraction is dropping off. Two to three times a week is average for most couples. But find out what is normal for you two.

Have a conversation if you think there is a problem. And of course, couples who have been together a while need to spice things up sometimes. So recognize when you’ve fallen into a rut and figure out what needs changing, and what spicy and steamy things you’d like to explore together to keep the spark alive and take things to the next level. Have you noticed a drop off in cuddle time? How often do you cuddle? Sometimes we and are partners are on different schedules, are busy and tired at night and fall into bed exhausted, or just get used to climbing into bed and going to sleep. Why not initiate cuddling if you miss it? Do so when you two have a little time, like on the weekends. Or go to bed ten minutes earlier to get in some much needed snuggle time.

Has your texting frequency fallen off? If you used to text each other throughout the day little sweet nothings, steamy sexts, or just things that occurred that you want to share, but this phenomenon has dropped off, why not start it off again? Some couples save things to talk to each other about when they get home, or for dinner table conversation. Also, when you slip into a deeper, more comfortable phase, you don’t need the constant texting to reassure each other. So have a conversation if you feel that this is missing from your relationship. But don’t take it as a sign that the end is near. For in fact, it’s pretty normal for this to occur. When you are doing something fun, do you look for your partner? And do you feel their absence when they’re not around? This is normal in a new relationship. But as time wears on you won’t look for that person to be there every time something amazing happens. It’s a normal part of developing together.

Did you two used to do everything together and now even though you love your partner you want to experience certain hobbies, social events and other things on your own or with your friends? This is a perfectly normal sign your relationship has moved on to a more comfortable phase. Has your date planning dropped off?  That’s normal. Why not have a date night? If you used to brag about your significant other every chance you got, but found this dropping off, it’s okay. You are just used to the relationship. It’s good that you want to take a measure of where the relationship is every so often. That is normal and healthy and means you care about this relationship. Don’t stress. Instead, keep in touch with your partner. Understand who they are, their needs and desires and your own. They may change over time. People change and they either stay the same, grow together or apart. But if you are in love, communicate well, get along and care for each other there is no reason you shouldn’t grow together. For more advice read, Should We Stay Together? By Jeffry H. Larson, Ph.D.

How do you know if you’re Just Settling?

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How do you know if you’re Just Settling?

When we first get into someone there’s that tingly, rush of excitement we get down deep in the belly. We get caught in this electric net whenever we see them, or get a call or text message. But after a while a long-term relationship gets comfortable. About four or five years out experts say is when a lot of trouble begins. We all get caught up in our routines. Sometimes a relationship gets old and needs a little spicing up. At other times we are discovering our partner more deeply and with it more incongruities arise. They need to be dealt with or new channels of modes of communication are required in order to keep things moving when we get stuck on thorny issues. This can get tiresome. But then there are times when we are with someone where things don’t really fit. We put up with it because we want to be in a relationship or appreciate the person’s finer qualities, but just can’t get past this certain thing or set of things about them. So how do you know if you’re just settling or if this is a relationship that needs a little tweaking? How do you know when things need a little more work or you’re just settling?

Sometimes it’s a good idea to get away from your significant other, even if it’s just for a short time so they are not influencing you. If you can, spend time with yourself, clear your mind and try and see the relationship from another angle. Others like to talk to close friends or a mentor and get a beat on what they think. Sometimes a little insight from someone close to your heart is all you need to refresh your outlook. Then there are those people who simply draw a line down the middle of a sheet of paper and list the good qualities of the relationship on one side and the bad qualities on the other. Evaluate how you feel generally with this person. Are they difficult to be around? Does respect dwell here? Is this relationship fulfilling most of the time? Does it make you happy? Is it weighing you down or lifting you up? Do you see no way of bringing it back? A relationship should bring out our best, not force us to seek solitude in work or other pursuits. If you feel more comfortable away from this person than in their presence, this is your sign.

What about your habits of mind? Are you constantly saying to yourself that your relationship isn’t that bad, and citing worse ones? Have you tried and tried again without any impact? What about the other person. Have they been trying to change and to communicate better to help bridge the gaps between you? Do you think if you wait it out, someday your partner will have a clue? Wishful wanting without any clear indication from the other partner is one of the symptoms of settling. Do you feel sorry for your partner? Usually, the person we love is one we respect, even admire. It’s hard to love someone you feel sorry for. There are those who stay in bad relationships simply because they are afraid of being alone. But then they have their own issues to work out which are coming through into the relationship. Today, we don’t have to stay with someone we don’t love. There are so many options no matter what your age, deal or preferences. Women especially may be prone to the settling syndrome. According to evolutionary anthropologists, women in the Stone Age settled because they may not have had the chance to mate again, being hunter-gatherers wandering in small bands. But in the modern age we have eHarmony and Tinder. So evaluate carefully. But realize that the answer may come, as all important ones do, when you least expect it. If you do decide to go down that road after healing read, How To Get A Date Worth Keeping: Be Dating In Six Months Or Your Money Back by Henry Cloud.

Talk about Sex before you Get Married

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Talk about Sex before you Get Married

Planning a wedding can be a whirlwind that scoops you up and carries you along. There are so many things to plan and do. But one of the most critical parts of a marriage, your sex life, is often swept aside. Yet, it plays a crucial role. Not only is your sex life important, but the intimacy that stems from it can fuel your relationship and keep it intact for the long haul. But a lack of intimacy can sap your marriage.  Most people expect their married sex life to be phenomenal throughout. Though married people often register higher numbers on sexual satisfaction surveys, the truth is one’s sex life ebbs and flows throughout a marriage. Psychotherapist and sex specialist Vanessa Marin says that those couples who do talk about sex before they get married are more successful overall. It is important for any couple that wants decades upon decades of happy sex ahead of them to discuss it, and come to an understanding about the matter with their partner. Schedule a time to sit down together. It doesn’t have to be stuffy. You can set a romantic mood, get wine and light candles. Or you can just sit down on the couch together and start talking about sex. It’s really up to you, and what style you have as a couple.

The first thing to consider is to ask what your sexual strengths and weaknesses are. Talk about your favorite memories together. Share what the best sex you ever had was. What was it about that time? How did it make you feel? What about it made you feel that way? Ask what theirs was and why. What do you both really enjoy doing together or to one another? What really works for you? Over time, usually couples get better. They get to know each other’s likes and dislikes, and trust builds. Each person should ultimately feel free to open up and express their needs, wants and desires. This will build a great sex life together. It will help build your relationship, as it provides immense intimacy to be able to shed guilt or shame, open up, be understood and accepted, and ultimately be fulfilled by your partner. Ask yourselves how to make intimacy a priority. Marin writes in an article in Psychology Today that she always shares this with clients. They need to set aside time for intimacy. Those clients usually respond by saying, “we didn’t know we had to do that…” Having a fantastic married sex life requires a little bit of care and effort. Schedule date nights, get a sitter and get some special alone time together each week.

Talk about how you feel about the inevitable changes in your sex life throughout your marriage. Are you planning on having kids? You can’t imagine how that will change your time in the bedroom. Menopause and lots of other things will change it too. Discuss how you plan to keep the spark a towering inferno of passion throughout your life together. You don’t want things to get boring. Talk about interests and fantasies together. Marin suggests each person making a list using red, yellow and green lights. “Reds are the things you know you don’t want to try, yellow are the ones you’re unsure about, and greens are the things you feel perfectly comfortable with. Making these lists can be a fun way to keep the chemistry going,” she writes. Talk about what you will do if you ever have a fight about sex. Marin says it is inevitable. Do you have a communication strategy in place? Will you decide to see a marriage counselor or sex therapist if you have to? Know each other’s feelings on these sorts of things. Think about how each of you can nurture your individual sexualities. Lastly, talk about your honeymoon with your soon-to-be spouse. What are the expectations? What will you experiment with? Does the sex take precedence or other honeymoon activities? For more on how to have great sex with your now or soon-to-be spouse, pick up a copy of Marriage And Sex: Marriage Advice On Spicing Up Your Marriage And Marriage Tips About Sex For Married Couples by Suzie Holmes.

Can Marriage and Lust Coexist?

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Can Marriage and Lust Coexist?

It is a common misconception that people who have been together a long time inevitably see their passion fade. So can marriage and lust coexist?  In fact, research has shown that married people are having more sex than their single counterparts. For instance, a 2010 Kinsey Institute survey found that three out of five single people went without sex last year, as opposed to one out of five married people. In another study conducted by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth which studies families, married 25 to 59 year olds were more likely to have sex two to three times per week than their single counterparts. Usually couples have sex often in the early phase of the relationship but frequency slows down as time goes on. What often happens is people get caught up in the demands of a career and raising a family and so have sex less often. But studies have shown that married people enjoy it more. Laura Carpenter, a sex researcher from Vanderbilt University says, “While people get older and busier, as a relationship proceeds they also get more skillful—in and out of the bedroom.” Still, couples often blame dry spells on their marriage. It’s usually certain aspects of the marriage such as an all too familiar partner, arguing or household chores and the politics that can come with them.

Science can’t help us here. There are few studies that have looked into what a normal sex life looks like in mid-life. There is no recipe therefore on what can keep sex hot and lust going in a marriage. Still there are indicators. The eminent John Gottman, a pioneer in the field of couple’s research and head of Seattle’s Gottman Institute says that when men and women share their lives, they are more likely to engage in sex. Men who share in the household chores and childcare had sex more often than those that didn’t, Gottman’s research found. Other researchers have also found that the more a couple shared, the more sex they had. Other research has shown that it doesn’t matter who is the breadwinner. No matter the financial situation, long-term couples had the same frequency. On another front, it’s important to see a certain psychological paradigm that exists and how to overcome it, or balance it out. Our sexual feelings are filtered through our culture. Rules and norms on desire, fantasies and arousal lock us in to what researchers call “sexual scripts.” These are the roles, desires and fantasies we allow ourselves to take part in. University of Washington Sociologist Julie Brines thinks the trouble is we are still stuck in traditional sexual scripts. Even more problems occur when we are between scripts.  “I don’t think we have newer alternatives to traditional sexual scripts in marriage,” she said. Since couples relate differently in and out of the bedroom perhaps our sexual scripts should reflect this new dynamic. But one has yet to settle in.

Psychotherapist Esther Perel says the issue of losing passion in a marriage comes when we are too focused on our need for security. It comes to dominate our competing need for novelty. Perel says that, “couples who describe themselves as loving, trusting, and caring complain that their sex lives have become dull and devoid of eroticism.” What Perel does then is show couples how to, “reconcile our fundamental need for safety and security with our equally strong need for adventure and novelty.” It’s worth noting that her 2013 TED Talk has five million views on YouTube. Some suggest using one’s sexual imagination to explore what is interesting and novel to the couple themselves. Gottman found that desire was present most in couples who responded to each other’s feelings. Those that were adversarial shut down desire. These were the sexless marriages. Gottman also found that sex didn’t take a back seat to other things on the couple’s agenda.  “Couples who are going to have a lot of sex end up somehow being able to communicate to one another that it’s a priority,” the researcher said. “It is not going to be the last item on the infinite to-do list.” When one person wasn’t in the mood in these marriages Gottman said one would give the other person an alternative to intercourse. This is done so as to show love and concern for the spouse and their needs. Lastly, to keep the spark alive, Gottman said that sexual imagination needs one very important thing, a free and comfortable atmosphere conducive to play. For more on keeping the novelty in your marriage read, Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel.

Should you Forgive Infidelity or Get a Divorce?

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Should you Forgive Infidelity or Get a Divorce?

Your mouth runs dry and your heart skips a beat when you find out. Maybe you had a hunch. You searched all over and finally your suspicions were confirmed. Or you could have heard it from a friend. Some just stumble into the wrong thing and the secret is out. Then there are those who are confronted by their spouse and told straight out about the affair, often to relieve guilt and ask for forgiveness. It’s difficult to evaluate whether or not you should forgive infidelity or get a divorce. It’s a question that changes depending upon every couple, and their situation. Most couples don’t survive an infidelity. One study found that 20% of married couples were stronger afterward. It was a wakeup call that shook one or both parties out of their sleep and showed them what needed to be changed in order to reconnect with their relationship. Some people will say “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” Others believe it’s not that clear cut.

The first thing to do is allow yourself to feel your emotions. Grieve for the pain, the sense of a loss of innocence, the deceit and the treachery. One poll showed that men are more bothered by physical infidelity, while women are more disturbed by emotional infidelity. Sometimes you will feel confused and lonely. Your bond of trust has been severed. If the relationship is to survive it must be re-established. There will be a lot of work to do. But no relationship lasts long without resting on a firm foundation of trust.

Don’t make any decisions early on. But do understand that you must make one. You should see if your partner feels bad for what they’ve done. Do they empathize with your situation? If they do then see if you can empathize with them and the reason that they strayed. There are lots of reasons. A fear of commitment or a need for validation are some reasons. Others are not feeling sexy, attractive or desirable anymore to one’s mate. Sometimes couples lose their connection. They drift apart. At other times it’s revenge for some terrible transgression, or even as revenge for a spouse’s cheating. If you decide that there is enough to salvage, consider marriage counseling. Learning how to communicate is so important. Sometimes people just get so wrapped up in their jobs and other priorities that they forget what’s really important in their life. Some couples don’t even talk about sex, or what they want in the bedroom. Those who are saved by infidelity usually say that it helped them wake up to the crisis that has occurred in their relationship. Some don’t want to forgive their spouse for cheating. But they want to come to understand what forces led them down that path. They don’t have to forgive but must come to accept the paradigm that caused this phenomenon to occur.

Whether or not you stay with your spouse after an affair is a very personal decision. No one can make it for you. But if you make the wrong one you will have to live with the consequences. Don’t rush it. Take your time. Do some soul searching. Once the pain clears, find out what you really have in this relationship. If this is a wakeup call that the relationship is unfulfilling, than perhaps it’s best to get a divorce. But if there were extenuating circumstances that have to be worked out, if you truly love each other and trust in one another but for this one tangent, and if your problems can be worked out and you do see a far more successful marriage down the road, than perhaps it’s best to try and work things out. Don’t stay together for the children’s sake. You’ll only make yourself and, in consequence, them dreadfully unhappy. Plus, what kind of love lives will they lead, modeled after yours? Financial reasons have a lot of people staying separated long-term today. It’s important to know the financial and legal outcome of that decision. Take your time. Reach deep down inside yourself and your answer, and the way forward, will come. If you know that you want to stay together be sure to pick up a copy of the book, Intimacy After Infidelity: How to Rebuild and Affair-Proof Your Marriage by Steven Solomon, Ph.D. and Lorie Teagno, Ph.D.