Excerpt from Real Sex for Real Women
The sex and intimacy cycle
Sex and intimacy are closely linked in our brains, but men and women respond differently to intimacy. Many men can't feel intimate with their partner unless their sex life is satisfying, but many women can't enjoy sex without intimacy. For men, sex feeds intimacy, and for women, intimacy feeds sex. These sexual differences can be disruptive to your relationship, so it is important to nourish your sex life with intimacy.
First love to familiarity
When you first met your lover, chances are you were overwhelmed with sensations of excitement, bliss, and smoldering desire. When you fall in love, your brain releases chemicals such as serotonin, adrenaline, and oxytocin. These chemicals create feelings of excitement and passion. As time goes by, and you become more comfortable together, your desire wanes and you stop having as much sex. This phase also tends to involve a loss of spark.
This happens because, over time, your brain becomes accustomed to these chemicals and requires more hormone to create the initial high. In other words, ongoing intense sexual excitement in a loving relationship goes against our biological instincts. This means you have to work at keeping the intimacy and attraction between you.
Obstacles to intimacy
When you or your partner are having a hard time—for example, at work—your poor mood will affect you both. Similarly, if your sex life is floundering, you will both feel the effects in all parts of your relationship. To keep intimacy in your relationship, you need to have a fulfilling sex life, and vice versa. Nourish your intimacy levels by making sure that you keep a physical connection alive—touching, kissing, and even talking will enhance your bond and intimacy.
The deepest and most fulfilling intimacy springs from the closeness of a long-term relationship and time spent keeping passion in your relationship. But if you have been with your partner for a long time, you may discover that you no longer have a high sex drive or get that little "zing" every time you kiss him or he touches you. There are many ways to reignite this spark and keep your sex life intimate and passionate. So get comfortable and keep reading.
Doing it all
The trouble with women is that we pride ourselves on doing it all. Even though we excel at working a double shift—holding down a full-time job then coming home to housework, cooking, and raising children—we find it hard to relax and enjoy life. To make matters worse, we often refuse help because we believe only we can do it right. Even when given the opportunity to relax, we often choose to spend the time packing lunches, answering emails, or writing a mental to-do list.
Life-enhancing time off
It might not be your partner or children that are stopping you from making time for sex—instead, it might be juggling commitments at work, at home, and with friends. Time for yourself will reward you with greater productivity and improve your relationships with colleagues and friends. Whatever its source, lack of sleep, stress, and a busy lifestyle cause many women to experience fatigue, weight gain, moodiness, and low sex drive. So the next time you're running ragged all day, don't be surprised if you head to bed feeling as sexy as a turnip.
You might not be sure where or how discovering your sexuality is supposed to fit into
your busy life. But accept that you need time to rest and recuperate. If, like many women, you place sex at the bottom of your to-do list, it might be time to review your priorities and make time for sex. In order to have the best relationship and sex life possible, start by following the three Ds—delegate, decrease, and disengage—to overcome stress, and find time to enhance sex and intimacy with your partner.
Delegate: extend your time
Mounting, nagging to-do lists drive us—and our partners—crazy, and we aren't doing anyone any favors by trying to do it all. Our bosses and coworkers are deprived of a calm colleague, our kids of a relaxed mother, our partners and our friends of spending quality time with us. We are deprived of energy, liveliness, and rest.
Prioritize your tasks. If you have a to-do list that includes more than five or six items, it is time to take stock. Put dates against tasks, and stars against anything you cannot delegate. Cross out non-essential tasks.
Your delegation operation might involve a monthly cleaning service. Housekeeping services are quite affordable, so let go of the reins and hand over the mop. Meanwhile, you will have gained an hour of rest and recuperation, which will boost your mood and your libido.
Use technology to make your life easier. Order your groceries, birthday presents, and household items online. Save shopping trips for when you want to choose some sexy new underwear.
How do you decrease? Take a deep breath and let go of perfection. Okay, so there are crumbs on the kitchen table—the world is not going to end. Barring a major bug problem, it should be safe for you to go to sleep at night without sweeping up every crumb in the house.
Make your life easier wherever and whenever possible. From dishwashers to pre-packaged meals to self-cleaning shower gadgets, there are a large number of products that will save you time and sweat. Some of them might be costly, but if they save you time in the end, they are worth it.
You will also have to learn to say "no" more often. Set up boundaries to protect your emotional and physical well-being. Cut back on the number of committees you join, and don't agree to host every family function or holiday party at your house. Most people will respect your decision. It is nice to feel needed, but resolve to trim down your social obligations, and save yourself for only those that you truly enjoy. The same goes for your kids' activities. Save your, and their, energy for the events they can't live without or give up. Use the time to relax with your feet up. To reclaim your sex life back you need "your" time back.
Disengage: reconnect with you
Have you ever booked a massage then spent the time worrying about the weird noise your car is making? Or desperately wanted to go to sleep only to find your mind racing because you aren't able to turn off the adrenaline rushing through your body? For many women, a lack of time isn't the only problem—we find it hard to relax, too, even when we do have a few moments to ourselves.
This is where exercise is helpful. A brisk walk, a session in the gym, a swim, even digging in the garden will get your heart pumping and your hormones flowing. The result is that you'll feel energized and relaxed. If that sounds like too much activity, yoga is a less energetic relaxation tool. While doing the exercises, you are only able to think of the poses at hand—and not the million things left on your to-do list. Any type of exercise that encourages you to slow down and focus on your breathing will help you relax. When you focus on controlling your breath, you are too preoccupied to focus on mundane worries.
Take five minutes every day to sit calmly, breathe deeply, and calm your mind. Breathe in through your mouth and out through your nose. Use this deep-breathing technique to relax your body and mind whenever you feel stressed.
We are always seeking perfection, whether it is in our looks, our careers, or our families. We want to rest and relax—but only after everything else in our lives is perfect. Have you ever thought to yourself: I will spend more time on my marriage when the kids are in college. I will devote myself to my own needs once my finances are more settled. I will get into shape when the children go to school—the list is endless. What are you waiting for? What personal fulfillment are you delaying for perfection? Now is the absolute best time to seek your own happiness.
What does this mean? It means stop living for the future and live for today. It means you don't need to be thinner and more toned to have a fantastic sex life with your partner. And don't delay your happiness until some non existent utopia finds you. Focus on the present, and enhance your time and life now rather than always working toward tomorrow.
Rediscover your single self
This doesn't mean you should leave your partner. It means you should find time to reconnect with the woman you used to be—the one your partner fell in love with. Make time for old interests, forgotten girlfriends, and grooming rituals. Take long walks through the woods or along the shore. Have a spa or beauty treatment. Look at photographs of yourself and your partner and reminisce about when you first met. Lie down and daydream about having sex just the way you want it. Activities such as these recharge your independence and reconnect you to your femininity—things we often lose track of in the stress of day-to-day life.
Share the load
Talk to your partner about sharing a few of the household chores—maybe he won't do them as you would, but the laundry gets done and the beds made. Delegate a few home responsibilities to your kids, if you have them. Most children like being given responsibility. Simple chores like setting the table, dusting, and pairing socks, are easy ways to get the whole family involved in the business of running the house.
Danielle, 35 years old, is an insurance agent for a large organization, and her husband, Frank, 37, runs a computer business. Danielle works up to 60 hours a week and, apart from the time she took to have children, she's never had an extended break from work. She also works hard at being a mom. Before having children, Frank and Danielle had sex four or five times a week.
Danielle and Frank were locked into arguments, usually about money and time constraints. Frank wanted Danielle to cut back on her hours at work, but Danielle felt they wouldn't be able to manage on less money. Danielle had lost all interest in sex. "After I gave birth to Jessie and then Mark, my interest in sex plummeted. Between a full-time career and caring for the kids, the last thing on my mind was sex."
Frank felt he was getting more and more detached from Danielle because she never had any time for him. He told me: "I miss Danny and I miss sex. Danny thinks she has to do everything-work, kids, housework-I wish she'd let go a bit."
I talked at length to Danielle about her priorities in life. We discussed her attitudes to work, her kids, and Frank. She began to realize that time spent at home with Frank and the children would be more valuable to her than money in the bank. As a first step to solving her relationship problems, Danielle decided to cut back on the number of hours she spent at work.
For their couples' assignment, I asked Danielle and Frank to plan a romantic getaway. Like so many parents, Danielle and Frank had not been on a kids-free holiday since Jessie and Mark were born. Although family trips build great memories, parents also need adult-only breaks in which they can get out of parenting mode and back into being partners and lovers. I hoped that Frank and Danielle would rediscover each other as individuals.
Last but not least, I asked Frank and Danielle to spend "alone" time together every day. This could simply be sharing a glass of wine or talking over a meal. I told them not to worry if sex didn't happen right away; my main aim was to get them sharing and connecting emotionally again.
Frank was delighted that Danielle reduced her working hours. They both made a commitment to take more care of their relationship and they strictly honored the "alone" time ritual. Danielle's desire to have sex developed slowly as her emotional bond with Frank grew. Having an adult-only break definitely helped their sexual reunion. They even made a pact to have sex once a week, whether it be a quickie in the morning before the kids got up, or a longer session on the weekend. And for the rest of the week they worked at creating a sexual spark. "Even a long goodbye kiss on the lips can make us feel special," said Danielle.
Dedicated "us" time
If you lead a hectic life, make the effort to spend a little time each day connecting with your partner. Even if you're not in the mood for sex, lie down and cuddle or have a light-hearted, teasing conversation. Don't fall into the trap of talking about work or domestic issues.
How to get more pleasure from your sex life