Tag Archives: advice

Have More Than a Fling: How to find (and keep) the love of your life

With all the dating apps out there, how are you supposed to pick a partner? There are so many choices nowadays, how do you know he or she could be “The One”?

People date based on attraction and chemistry. You find someone attractive, you feel a spark, and you hope your relationship lasts. Unfortunately this approach doesn’t work in sustaining a healthy and happy relationship.

If you’re ready to find love, you can’t miss this event! In this three-hour workshop, you will learn Anita’s “Date to Find a Mate Method” that will teach you:

• The biggest mistakes singles make (and how to avoid them)
• How to create your “dating blueprint” to find your best match
• The must-haves for dating & relationship success (they’re not what you think)
• Online and offline dating tips & tricks – for both sexes

You will leave the workshop more prepared to create amazing opportunities for love. Finding your mate will be an important – if not the most important – decision in your life. Get it right the first time.

This event is open to women & men. Bring your friends! Limited space is available so be sure to get your ticket early to reserve your spot. Wine will be served.

Relationship Reality The Truth about Premature Ejaculation

The Truth About Premature Ejaculation 

The truth is, the assumptions and myths of one’s sexuality are set incredibly high. And although no one likes to talk about it, premature ejaculation (PE) can be a heavy burden to bare when you don’t know if you actually have it after that late-night WebMD search or those flashbacks to that one awkward night in College.

So, we’re going to bust those myths and get to the truth of PE.

First, What Exactly is PE?

Premature (also called rapid or early) ejaculation is defined by the DSM V as: a persistent or recurrent pattern of ejaculation occurring during partnered sex within 1 minute of vaginal penetration AND before the individual wishes it, for at least six months and present in 75-100% of sexual activities, causing significant distress, and isn’t due to other significant disorders/stressors in the individual’s life. Premature ejaculation (PE) can be lifelong or acquired. For the intents of this article, we will focus on acquired PE, which means the disturbance began after a period of relatively normative functioning sexually. While 20-30% of men report being concerned with their sexual longevity, only 1% actually qualify for the diagnosis. Premature ejaculation (PE) can be lifelong or acquired.

What Should I Look Out For?

Other factors to consider are if the PE is happens every time or only sometimes. Acquired PE can occur due to any of the following: neurological, genetic, physical illness, drug side effect, psychological distress, relationship distress, or psychosexual deficit skills. While this list is not exhaustive, it is a start in considering where to begin when dealing with premature ejaculation.

Who Should I Contact?

When starting with a client that reports experiencing PE, I recommend having him visit his doctor and/or a urologist to rule out that there could be a biological/physiological component to the disorder. Once all medical options are ruled out (or diagnosed and treated concurrently), the client may also need to be assessed psychologically about his PE. How long the problem has been a problem, who defined it as a problem to begin with, what his stroke/thrust number is (measured in strokes from entering the vagina until ejaculation; can also be measured in minutes), if any of this differs from when he masturbates, what is foreplay like for each partner, and what are the expectations that he has for his future sexual performance. A man struggling with PE may also be struggling with anxiety or depression, which can be addressed within the problem as well as life itself. How a man copes (or doesn’t) with stress, feeling down, or being anxious can be very telling.

Busting the Myth

Men are fed multiple myths that create the notion of these impossibly high standards that he must strive to meet as a man, especially sexually. No man is a 12-inch rod of hot steel that stays hard all night and makes a woman come just from pounding into her repeatedly. First, the average sexual experience is around five and a half minutes, from entry to end (Journal of Sexual Medicine 2005). Most women come from clitoral stimulation, not vaginal. Sex is also not just a penis in a vagina. Sex can be a multitude of definitions and ways to express desire and intimacy. Men need to know that there are other things that can be done for the experience to be considered fulfilling for both partners. As for size, well…. the average American male has a penis size of five inches erect, give or take.

Dr. Zilbergeld (1992) recommends that men spend time documenting these mistaken beliefs about sex and the negative flak he gives himself in response to not living up to those fictional standards. Part of the process of treating such things like acquired PE require getting the mind right and in line with the goals the man has for himself sexually. Low self esteem and/or lots of negative self talk will not enable a man to physically achieve his goals. The mind’s thoughts help create how people perceive the world. So, if thoughts are similar/equal to reality, negativity will only perpetuate the problem.

What Are Some Treatments?

Self love (masturbation) and partner love (sex) will also be critical components of treating PE. Be prepared: this conversation is very detailed and most find it embarrassing. Things to consider are: stroke, direction, grip, porn (or not), lube (or not). What about this is similar and different from sex with a partner? Learning about the variant levels of arousal and how quickly he goes from being soft to climax are vital pieces of information to pinpoint where to focus on learning how to extend those times/experiences. The goal is going to be keeping him between levels 4-7 range until he is ready to climax. He will need to practice how to stay in that range before bringing his partner into the treatment. However, while he is masturbating to learn to extend his longevity, he can find various ways to keep his partner happy too.

Think about where the sex life is. What is foreplay like? Does either partner have fantasies that could maybe be introduced to the repertoire? Start expanding the sexual horizon within the couple. Maybe he has great oral sex skills. Perhaps the couple has sexual interests that have never been addressed that draw the focus away from the longevity of penetration and can bring them enjoyment in other ways, such as toys or kink. Also, find out what his refractory time is, and if sex can be attempted right (or soon) after the initial ejaculation. Typically, men with PE have lower refractory periods and can go another round soon after.

And Remember

This only provides an overview of acquired PE, and is by no means meant to be a substitute for treatment. If you (or someone you know) may be suffering, get him to talk to a doctor or a therapist. If he is distressed, he doesn’t have to live within those constraints forever. Treatment is available and can be quite beneficial. Check out aasect.org or psychologytoday.com for a list of therapists in your area that can be of assistance.

By the time most of my couples come and see me, they report feeling unappreciated, disconnected and out of love. Some don’t even know if they even like their partner anymore! Usually they stopped doing things that would’ve nurtured their love and connection for each other.

Here’s a list of 15 things you should keep (or start) doing in your relationship to keep it strong:

1. Compliment. Your partner may know how you feel about them or that you find them attractive, but it’s great to hear it. Point out what you admire, appreciate and simply really like about your partner. Plus studies indicate that the person receiving these compliments is more likely to succeed in achieving his or her life goals.

2. Validate. You won’t see eye-to-eye with your partner on everything. Validating their perspective and what’s important to them goes a long way in making them feel respected and accepted for who they are. You don’t have to make it your goal to agree, but to understand where they are coming from and acknowledge their viewpoints as valid.

3. Give the benefit of the doubt. With infatuation at the beginning of a relationship, it’s easy to give your partner the benefit of the doubt. Of course you don’t think that they would hurt you! But as the relationship progresses, it’s more difficult to stop some of the negative thoughts and assumptions about them. Give the benefit of the doubt and if necessary, see #4.

4. Speak up. If you’re upset or hurt, speak up in a respectful way. Most of the time couples don’t intend to hurt each other, but as hurts go unaddressed, resentment and distance grows. Your partner also can’t read your mind, so when something bothers you, address it with them so they have the opportunity to make appropriate modifications.

5. Plan consistent dates. Whether it’s once a week or once a month, setting aside couple time is critical to connection. It’s easy to get bogged down in daily responsibilities and duties and not give as much effort to the relationship. With consistent dates, you’ll have time to reconnect and continually learn about each other.

6. Play together in new ways. When you first dated, getting together was all about fun and trying new things or activities together. Don’t lose that sense of variety! Take a class together or go explore a different part of your city or community. Novelty helps keep the passion alive.

7. Kiss passionately. One way to keep the romance alive and improve your health is to put some passion into your kissing. French kiss, make out, whatever – just do it!

8. Show love your partner’s way. Some people feel loved by getting hugs; others by having their partner do nice things for them. Talk with your partner about how they feel most loved and the closest to you, and show them love in these ways.

9. Have regular sex. One of the best ways to ensure an active sex life is to have it often. It’s as simple as that.

10. Talk about sex. You can prime your sexual connection by talking about it (when you’re not doing it). Tell your partner what you most enjoyed about last night, or what you’re looking forward to next. Talk about how you like sex to be initiated or how you’d prefer to be turned on. It’ll keep you feeling closer to each other.

11. Touch more. Touch releases oxytocin, and it’s a key chemical associated with feelings of happiness, closeness, and joy. Sometimes couples associate touch with sex, and when one isn’t in the mood or has the lower sex drive, the touch drastically decreases too. Having routine touching without the expectation of sex will keep you feeling close to each other.

12. Go out of your way. Couples can sometimes take each other and their feelings for granted. Do something special or put in extra effort to show your partner how much they mean to you. This can be something like picking up your partner’s favorite takeout dinner, running an errand for them or planning a spontaneous trip.

13. Create rituals. A ritual is an interaction or activity that is repeated and significant to both of you. It has to have emotional meaning. Rituals can be done however frequently you and your partner want them to be to feel connected. Eat dinner together, share morning coffee, hug and kiss every time you get home, and celebrate special occasions.

14. Apologize. When you make a mistake, own up to it. Sometimes a genuine “I’m sorry” is enough to help your partner move past an issue.

15. Put in the effort. Some of my clients have told me, “Anita, I just thought the love would always be there” or that “love should be easy.” Love isn’t enough to sustain a relationship. Sometimes you’re going to have to do things that you don’t want to do because your partner and your relationship needs it. This list is a good place to start!

As first posted in Time Out Chicago:

“You can’t find love during summer in Chicago. People just want to hook up.”

Have you ever heard this, or perhaps even said these words yourself? As a dating coach, I frequently hear this from my clients as summer approaches. In the nation’s third largest city, people don’t seem to believe they can meet someone who actually wants a relationship when it’s warm out.

Here are four reasons why Chicago summer is one of the best times to find love.

1. You can meet people you’d otherwise never meet. Winter can be brutal, and some people will not leave their homes unless they have to. Some singles won’t go online because they want to meet someone organically. Summertime in Chicago is the ideal for meeting a winter cuddle buddy. There’s so much to do, from lakefront events to weekly festivals. More people outside equals more people to meet.

2. More doing, less talking. Dates during the winter usually consist of drinks and dinner. Summertime events and activities give you amazing opportunities to learn about your date and see them in various contexts. Of course a first date can be simple like coffee or drinks to make sure there’s a mutual attraction. But drinks and dinner over and over again can be a snooze fest. In the summer, you can bike along the lakefront, go kayaking, learn each other’s tastes by going to concerts and art fairs and test each other’s comfort zones with an outdoor trapeze class.

3. Less clothes, more confidence. Forget the shapeless sweaters and puffy coats. Summer is the time to bare a little (or a lot) more skin. Are legs your best asset? Sashay in that short skirt. Been working on bulking your arms? Wear that tight tee. How you look in the clothes you wear can boost your confidence, and that makes you super sexy.

4. Experience a better kind of blues. The shorter days and longer nights in the fall and winter can make you feel down. People tend to lack energy, and don’t bring their A-game on dates. This isn’t the case during the summer. You’ll feel happier, energetic and more like yourself. People are attracted to positivity, so use the summertime to sell yourself. You can use this to go on more dates or try something new that you haven’t done before.

Dear Anita,

I was dating this guy for almost a year and he just dumped me. It took me by surprise and now I’m struggling. I think my friends are tired of hearing about him. It’s been three months since the breakup but I can’t get over it. Can you give me some tips to get over him please?

– Julia in Chicago

 

Hi Julia,

Being dumped by surprise can be one of the worst feelings. You can’t focus at work or school, you become obsessed with memories of your ex, and you lose your appetite. When my clients come to me in these kinds of situations, I find that tips with specific actions are extremely helpful. Here are a few to get you started:

 

  1. Date. I know it’s sometimes the last thing people want to do after a breakup, but there are so many men out there for you to go out and have fun with without the expectation of a serious relationship. Just be upfront about your intentions. You can tell your potential dates that you’re casually dating or wanting to explore the city, but aren’t looking for anything serious. Those who have similar intentions will stay in the game.
  1. Fill your time. If you used to make dinner with your ex every Sunday night, plan an activity that you’ll look forward to until the pain of Sunday nights subsides. Get together with your friends, volunteer, take a class, or catch up on your favorite shows. Fill that time that you used to spend with him doing something fun or productive. Some of my clients know when they’ll have idle time so they ask their friends to hang out – and promise not to bring up the ex!
  1. Plan for weak moments. You’ll have your weak moments when you may want to contact your ex. Have a go-to plan in place – exercise, call a friend, distract yourself with work, pick up a book, etc. And whatever you do, don’t cyber-stalk! You’ll be upset if you see something you don’t like or can’t explain – “Who is that girl in that photo with him?” Even better, unfriend him on Facebook if you haven’t already done so and if necessary, block him so you won’t sneak a peek. Also, allow your friends to take your phone away at times of weakness.
  1. Keep count. If you’re an “out of sight, out of mind” person this won’t work. But if you’re not, use a calendar to keep track of the days you’ve gone without contact. Having a visual reminder can also keep you from reaching out.
  1. Remember why you broke up. Visual reminders can be extremely helpful. Keep a list or use sticky notes with the reasons why you broke up in the first place. Leave them in your purse, put them on your nightstand or hang them on your fridge. Were there any red flags that you missed? Write those down and look at them often. If you had friends who disliked your ex, this would be a good time for them to remind you how much they disliked him.
  1. Avoid your relationship haunts.It’s ok to avoid your usual hangouts until you feel better. It doesn’t mean your ex has power over you, it means you’re paying attention to your emotions and doing what’s best for you in the moment.
  1. Get out of routine. Getting out of routine can elevate mood. Whether it’s taking up a new hobby, trying different restaurants, or taking a trip to a place you’ve never been, these little and big ways can make you feel happier, which can also give you hope that you can happily move on.

Although time can heal all wounds, it’s what you do with that time that can be a key difference to you healing more quickly.

 

A blog about why marriages don’t work by Anthony D’Ambrosio has been popping up in my social media news feed over the last couple of days. You can read it here. His stance is that nowadays people are not equipped to handle marriages. While that may be true for some couples, it doesn’t mean that marriage as a whole doesn’t work. I’m a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and my practice is solely devoted to love – from helping singles find it to helping couples keep it (and make it awesome!).

 

Anthony has a limited perspective, almost an all-or-nothing take on relationships. It’s not as simple as falling in love and sharing your life with someone (if that were the case, I’d be out of a job). One of the messages I make clear to my clients is that love is not enough to sustain a relationship. If it was, the divorce rate wouldn’t be as high as it still is. My couples do love each other, so why isn’t that enough?

 

I’m a huge advocate of marriage education and teaching couples the skills they need to make their relationships the best they can be. More and more research shows that marriages can last, and they can remain passionate and intimate – and not miserable and phony as Anthony thinks. People need knowledge and skills to be better equipped to handle the current stressors battling modern marriages. I often ask my clients, “Who taught you how to have a healthy marriage? Your parents? Hollywood?” We all don’t have stellar examples or role models, but we can learn things to be a better partner, a better communicator, and have better intimacy.

 

Anthony’s points can be addressed and worked through, especially with some solid marriage counseling, research-based self-help books, marital workshops, etc:

 

  • When working with couples, sex comes up a lot in my line of work. Yes, Anthony’s point is right that it is an important component and can be one of the most intimate things a couple can share. I’ve worked with sexless marriages and it’s not as simple as his take that couples simply neglect it; there are so many reasons couples don’t have sex. I often see mistaken beliefs that the passion is supposed to last without effort, you should only have sex when you’re in the mood, or you should never schedule sex. Some of my clients who are parents are scared that their child will walk in on them – something a lock on the door can fix. For other people, there is a lack of an emotional connection, which couples have to work on every day, even if for brief moments, since our busy, stressful lives get in the way of that. Some partners stop asking for sex because of the fear of rejection; it’s not that they deliberately want to neglect it. And if you think it’s easy, ask your partner for sex every time you want it and see how deeply vulnerable it makes you.
  • With his point about finances, yes they can be a major stressor. Fighting about money, such as disagreeing to what degree money should be spent or how it should be spent, can slowly chip away at positive feelings and cause disconnection. But money and the stress around it can be managed to protect positive feelings and keep a couple connected – it’s what I frequently help my couples with. And you don’t have to spend a lot of money on gifts or vacations to feel loved and cherished. It’s not always about the money but about being thoughtful. I’ve worked with a lot of women who have said, “Anita, he could buy me a single rose and make me the happiest woman in the world. Just knowing he was about me is what matters.” What’s the cost of a single rose? $2.99? Have one less Starbucks latte and you’re good to go.
  • For some of my couples, technology keeps them more connected to their partner. Being able to text throughout the day and stay updated on each other’s lives deepens their connection. For others, Anthony makes a solid point about feeling disconnected; my clients do tell me that they feel neglected and alone because their partner’s phone seems to be an extension of their arm. This can be worked through. I frequently talk with my couples about the importance of being intentional in their relationship or marriage. I encourage them to set aside time to talk with each other every day, to plan date nights and celebrate special moments in their lives. It can even be as simple as making the bedroom an “electronics-free zone” to carve out time for each other. If it’s not intentional, it’s easy to get caught up in family demands, work deadlines, general fatigue or other obligations.
  • Social media is here to stay, and posting on Facebook or Instagram doesn’t mean you’re craving fame, that you won’t be satisfied with attention from only one person, or that your marriage can’t be sacred because everyone sees what you had for breakfast. I think we all look for validation, don’t we? And who doesn’t expect to get some kind of validation from their partner? He or she is the most important person in our life! But if we look to social media for that instead of asking or getting it from our partner, that potentially could be a problem. However it’s up to each person to decide the impact social media has on them and their relationship, to determine what’s healthy and what’s not, what works and what doesn’t. We’re all impacted in different ways, and that’s where effective communication is important, which can be learned if it’s a problem in your relationship. And as for keeping your marriage sacred, you can still post your photos while on vacation, where let’s say….you are renewing your wedding vows. What a hopeful thing for the world to see.

Love isn’t something that is self-sustaining. It has to be nurtured. It’s ok to get stuck and ask for help – whether from each other or a professional. We are wired to connect with a special someone. We want a loving bond full of trust, commitment and an intimacy that differentiates it from other relationships. And that, my readers, is something that is attainable for each and every one of you. Sometimes we’ll just need to get some extra knowledge and tools to get that, but marriages today absolutely work.

I know, I know…some of you are rolling your eyes at the title of my blog. Seriously, what can The Bachelor teach us about love? When the first season aired in 2002, I too thought, What are these women thinking? Where’s their self-respect? But when I watched this season’s episodes, I had a different take on the show. It’s not because it’s any different now than 13 years ago, but because I’m different. In 2002 I was still in college. Now, I’m a dating and relationship coach who has spent the last several years specializing in love and researching what makes relationships work. It’s been my job to help my clients figure out why they act like they do when it comes to love. Are people truly crazy and irrational, or can behaviors actually make sense? In the context of love and our need to connect with a person, the bachelorettes’ behaviors seem pretty reasonable. Here are 4 lessons from The Bachelor that can be applied to your love life:

  1. The need to feel special.

During one of his guest appearances, Jimmy Kimmel made a joke about how many times the word “amazing” was uttered this season. But really the key word should’ve been “special.” Every woman on the show wants to feel special. It’s what the rose symbolizes–I choose you, you are different than the others.

Britt, after getting a rose on the stage of a Big & Rich concert, was sure feeling pretty special to Chris. But in the next episode she confronts Chris when Kaitlyn gets the rose over her. Britt wanted to know that she’s his top choice and said she literally asked and begged Chris for validation. She added that she doesn’t want her husband to see her as a second, third or fourth choice. We all want to feel special, to know our date or partner only wants us. We may focus on behaviors that show we’re unique, like how much time we spend together or the compliments and affection we receive. But how did social media spin Britt’s desire for this feeling? That she has a “meltdown” and “breakdown.” Although she could have picked a better time to be vocal, knowing the rules of The Bachelor isn’t enough to stop the heart from wanting what it wants.

  1. The importance of security.

During every episode I love to read the Twitter feed about the show. One word that pops up a lot is “crazy.” In the context of the need of feeling secure, the women’s behavior makes sense. The women do what they can to increase their feelings of security with the Bachelor–they pull him away from other women, sneak time with him, ask him where they stand, wondering if he reciprocates their feelings, etc. There’s nothing crazy about this. We all have the need to feel secure with the object of our desire.

Maybe you’ve had times in your love life when you haven’t been as sure that your date or partner likes and cares for you as much as you do. Maybe you’ve wondered about exclusivity with your partner–wondered about what the next step is, felt anxious about it and the uncertainty of not knowing. All of this is perfectly normal and to be expected. My female clients sometimes tell me that the man they’re dating or in a relationship with calls her “crazy.” Some women worry that they’ll come across as being too needy or desperate if they ask for reassurance about the relationship or seek affirmation of his feelings. But we all have the need to feel secure, and the more we feel this security with our partner, the stronger our relationship.

  1. The need to be vulnerable.

When Chris dismissed some of the bachelorettes, he said that things just hadn’t progressed as far as with the other women. I believe it. The women have mentioned having their guards up and not wanting to be hurt. In the episode when Kaitlyn was let go, she stated that the feeling of profound hurt she was experiencing was exactly what she had wanted to avoid. But being hurt is inevitable–none of us can avoid that. And being vulnerable is scary but a necessity in order to get your date or partner to truly know who you are as a person. Hopes, dreams, fears, the skeletons in our closet–when we share these things and get acceptance and support from our partner, it makes us feel closer. You have to take the risk. Without risk, deep intimacy is harder to come by.

  1. There’s more than one good match.

When there were 3 women remaining, Kaitlyn, Becca and Whitney, the Bachelor told the host Chris Harrison, “I’m down to three really excellent women that I can see myself spending the rest of my life with.” And he probably could make a lifetime work with each of them. The Bachelor has often said that a lot of the women on the show have various qualities that he would like in his future wife. The thing is, for all of us, we have to pick which ones are more important and be able to accept and work with the rest. Looking for “The One” can keep you single. There’s no way you can meet someone who sees eye-to-eye with you on everything. Many people can be a good fit, but you have to believe that in order to make it work with one person.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Some thoughts from Karen Washington, AMFT, Sex Therapist:

Following all of the recent hype around the release of the 50 Shades of Grey movie, and its related products (i.e. OPI released the 50 Shades of Grey nail color line, Sephora has a few 50 Shades of Grey makeup packages, your local sex shop has a variety of toys and accessories as seen in the book/movie), I got to thinking about Valentine’s Day – about couples, intimacy, and sex. 50 Shades had women (and probably some men) all over the world contemplating their current sex lives, and the sex they were reading about. I wonder – Why not go one step deeper this year?

Media and retail tell the same story every year at this time – chocolates, dinner, and lingerie. It is all very basic. I can be a huge fan of the basics, as they provide a great foundation. However, this Valentine’s Day, I would like to challenge our readers to venture behind the veil of their current sexual play and explore new levels of intimacy.

Have you or your partner ever expressed sexual desires or fantasies that have yet to be attempted? Have you or your partner been promising to do something sexually, but it just keeps getting postponed? If you answered yes, then this is for you… Why not this time? Think of it this way – if you try it for a holiday and it doesn’t work out so well, you at least tried it and have broken the proverbial ice for future endeavors. While not everything is for everyone, sometimes, practice just makes perfect. Let this Valentine’s Day be a chance for experimentation to see what you can add to your sexual repertoire.

Here are three suggestions to help you and your partner step beyond the norm and add a new twist. Some are going to be more beginner level, some will be a step into new territory, and for others this just may be a reminder of ways to spice things up.

Lingerie

Instead of hitting Victoria’s Secret up this year for another teddy or garter skirt/corset combo, have you considered dressing up for role play? A very naughty chef/server serving dinner, or a man in uniform delivering flowers could be a great way to introduce a little role play fun into your life. Maybe you both want to be in character – explore some of your fantasies and find some overlap, or a scenario that you both don’t mind participating in and see what happens. Or, perhaps you could pretend to be strangers at a bar meeting for the first time all over again.

Dining out versus Staying In

I take inspiration from all sorts of places. If you happen to want to stay in but want to add some flair to the meal, try one of these two scenes. #1. Pretty Woman – Julia Roberts had room service waiting wearing nothing but a tie she picked out for him and stilettos. ‘Nuff said. #2. In the Book of the Courtesans, there was an excerpt about a woman – she had dessert prepared on her body, and was wheeled out to the dinner table to her man. He was provided no utensils. While you may not have the funds to have a chef prepare dessert on top of you and then staff to wheel you on a serving tray to the dinner table, you can be creative here. Turn yourself into a small buffet. No utensils necessary… just hands and mouth.

Kink

Kink is defined as a person’s sexual tastes; a taste for sexual behavior that is considered unusual. I firmly believe in kink being accessible to all levels of people’s sexuality. Again, not everything is for everyone. However, different levels or varieties of kink can appeal to most people. While I would never encourage my readership to go so far outside their realm of comfort that he/she can no longer find it enjoyable, I do ask you all to challenge yourself just a bit. You never know what you might find enjoyable…. I am saying that if you two like toys, or have maybe had some exposure to them, perhaps you can try out a new couple’s toy for the holiday. Lelo makes a Bluetooth capable vibrator that works wonderfully for couples. The vibrator slips inside a pocket in the included underwear, and it can be controlled from any smart phone with Bluetooth. Great for staying in and playing around the house…. Or for the more advanced couple, perhaps wearing it out to dinner to increase anticipation until you two return home might be more fun.

For more sex toy ideas, visit: http://www.kinkly.com/sex-toys/couples

Whatever your hearts’ desire, whether it be new positions, enacting fantasies or a new toy – Make this Valentine’s Day about actually trying new things to take your intimacy to the next level.

– Karen Washington, AMFT

I received a question from a reader:

 

Dear Anita, I’m always single. I read advice online and my friends try to help me. What advice would you give me? I’d like to find love in 2015.

– Single in San Antonio

 

Dear Single,

 

I frequently get asked about my top tips to singles when they go on a date. Here are a few:

 

  1. Do be prepared for the date. Think of open-ended questions to ask your date, and brush up on current events. Although you don’t want to come across as interviewing your date, being prepared can help lessen anxiety and make you feel more at ease, which will help the conversation flow more naturally. Also, try to remember fun facts from their profile, any funny stories or places that they travelled to or any hobbies they have. This will help break the ice and build commonalities between you two.

 

  1. Don’t talk only about yourself. A date is a two-way street. Sure, you want to “sell” yourself, but your date also needs to know about you. Be aware of how often you talk about yourself and how many questions you ask your date. Showing interest can be a turn-on!

 

  1. Don’t dismiss your date too quickly. I’ve heard from many of my clients that they haven’t given someone a second chance because their date seemed “awkward” and “weird.” In reality, they seemed nervous. A first date can be an anxiety-provoking experience – give people a break! Sometimes people aren’t awkward, they’re just shy or socially anxious. It may take them another date to feel more confident and secure. If you’re attracted to them and had some fun, give them another chance.

 

  1. Don’t have a marathon date. Sure, it’s great to be having so much fun and chemistry that you want to have a 9-hour first date. Don’t do it. Leave room for mystery and leave your date wanting more.

 

  1. Don’t ask your date to accompany you to a big event in your life, like a wedding or other family event. This will freak them out! It’s too soon and puts too much pressure on your date. Wait until you’re exclusive for that kind of commitment.

 

  1. Don’t be intrusive. Asking your date how many people they’ve slept with or how much money they make is inappropriate. The first date should be about having fun and getting to know the basics. Keep things light. Feisty and healthy debate can come later in the relationship.

 

  1. Do make your date feel special, if you’re interested. Keep eye contact, smile, don’t check your phone, and don’t talk about exes. Keep your focus on the person in front of you and getting to know them better. Be appreciative and say “Thank you” if they pay for you. Be in the moment with your date.

 

  1. Don’t stalk them before the first date. Your view of your date can definitely be skewed if you “Google-stalk” them beforehand. If you check your date’s LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, and like what you see, it can lead to the belief that your date “is perfect on paper.” You can then ignore or minimize red flags because of a pre-conceived idea of who your date is. Also, I find that people are too picky when it comes to dating. I’m constantly telling my single clients that they have to pick what they can live with, because they won’t get that perfect person. So if you Internet stalk a date beforehand, and find one thing you don’t like, you could be turned off and think, “This would never work.” In reality, what you found is only a small snapshot of your date. And if they were amazing in other important ways but you didn’t give them a chance, you could miss out on an opportunity for love.

 

One evening my boyfriend came over, and stopped at Chipotle on his way to bring me some dinner. He texted me to see what I wanted. My brief responses of “chicken taco” and “you know what I want” apparently didn’t help him too much, because he didn’t get my order right. I wondered, “How could he not know that I prefer corn over flour tortillas, and that I love sour cream with my Mexican food?!? We’ve been dating for almost 8 months!” When I asked him, he then threw down the gauntlet – “What do I like at Chipotle?” Without missing a beat I recited his usual order and he replied by putting his hands up in the air and saying, “Ok ok, you proved your point.”

 

I wasn’t upset with him that he didn’t know my order because, well…it’s something I’m highly aware of because of what I do for a living. As a relationship therapist, I work with my clients on the importance of increasing attentiveness to their partner and being attuned to what’s going on in their world. It’s what happy couples do since it increases feelings of closeness and security and it feels good knowing that your partner “gets you.”

 

And it goes beyond knowing your partner’s favorite foods. What are your partner’s current stressors? What do they worry about most? Who do they admire most? What are they sensitive about? How has their childhood and past relationships influenced who they are today? The more you know about your partner and vice versa, the deeper your friendship will get. A strong friendship is a necessary component to a lasting relationship – it’s a buffer against disconnection that plagues couples and is a leading cause of divorce.

 

The good news for you is that you don’t have to be a relationship therapist to turn this into a positive habit as well. Through practice it’s become second nature for me to file information that my boyfriend shares with me that I’ll use later to brighten his day, or show him how much he means to me. It’s not “work” for me, it’s a habit. Maintaining feelings of connection doesn’t happen automatically because you love each other. It takes effort and a conscious awareness of your partner and their world and then following through with actions, whether it’s planning a surprise, just listening or being present in the moment.

 

You can also strengthen your connection with your partner by sharing your opinion and being open. Sometimes people want to appease their partner or “go with the flow,” or don’t want to bring up hurtful past experiences, but you miss out on prime opportunities for your partner to learn more about you and use this information to strengthen your bond. For example, if you’re sensitive to feeling excluded because of a childhood experience and your partner is aware of this, they can make that extra effort to have you feel like you belong at parties or events by including you in conversations, introducing you to people and telling you how much it means to them that you came with them. These are small acts that can make a big difference.

 

The daily stuff matters, too. When your partner asks, “What’s wrong?” don’t say, “I’m fine” when you’re not. Again, you’re preventing the opportunity for your partner to know what’s going on in your life. Although my boyfriend didn’t know my Chipotle order to a T, he is very attuned to my emotional states. He can always tell when something bothers me or if I’m feeling “off,” and asks about it so that he knows what’s going on. It shows me that he not only pays attention, but that he cares about my well-being, so I make sure to open up to him. Talking to him about stressful things and having his support and understanding increases feelings of trust and safety for me. Talk with your partner about what it does for you.

 

The more details you know about each other, from the silly to the serious, the more likely you’ll make your relationship last.

 

And the next time my boyfriend brought over Chipotle, he didn’t forget the sour cream.