Laura Berman: The 3 Things You Need for a Rock-Solid Relationship
At O You! 2012, Laura Berman knocked our socks off with her straight talk about love and sex. Here are our favorite takeaways from her session.
Photo: Ben Rose
Healthy Relationship Requirement #1: A Strong, Healthy Body
I'm talking about muscle strength. You have got to do your kegels—several hundred a day. Walking around in high heels is also good for your pelvic floor—a group of muscles that holds up your reproductive organs. Having muscle strength there can do wonders for sexual response.
Healthy Relationship Requirement #2: A Creative Spirit
What's so powerful about 50 Shades of Grey? It's not that it's inspiring the libido, it's that it's inspiring women to action by exercising our fantasy muscle. One of the things that's most erotic about the series is the idea of surrender. So many of us are alpha women: We’re working so hard outside and inside the home—we're overtaxed, overstressed and we don't know how to give up control. There's a frustration and a desire we identify with in the book—Anastasia surrenders to Christian Grey because he knows what he's doing. He has her best interests at heart, and he's willing and ready to take control. The way to turn your man into Christian Grey—without the helicopter and a billion dollars—is by surrendering to him.
Look, there are really only two things men want in a relationship: a partner who's going to be engaged with them sexually, and to be doing a good job in the relationship. When we get stuck in the hamster wheel of our lives, we focus more on what he's doing wrong than what he's doing right. Go on a surrender date, where you let him make every decision—what you're going to wear, where you go, how you get there, what you're going to order. What you'll find is that he's much more capable of stepping up than you've given him credit for.
Remember, you can have all the power you want, but you don't have to have all the control. The creative spirit is about not only exercising that fantasy muscle but also making room for it in your life.
If 50 Shades isn't your cup of tea, try the fantasy box. Write down all the things you'd like to try with each other—and make an agreement that neither of you is going to judge. Next, sit down and discuss them, agree on the things you both want to try, get rid of the ones you're not comfortable with—and then pull things out of the fantasy box when you need a little extra spice in the relationship.
Be open to toys as well. Women over 40 need added stimulation, and men shouldn't feel threatened by that. While no human can compete with a machine, I can promise that especially for women, our main sexual organ is our brain. It's the context that stimulates the arousal. Toys are simply a way to keep the passion alive and explore new frontiers together.
Next: How to learn your partner's love language
Healthy Relationship Requirement #3: An Open Heart
The key is being brave enough to open your heart despite the stories you're telling yourself. Think about that special someone, and think about something they say or do that makes your heart close. And now, without having any thought, imagine your heart opening like a flower. Imagine your chest becoming expansive and filling with light. I do that in my own relationships 20 times a day at least. You have a choice every moment of the day to open yourself up. When you do that, it opens the channels of love, joy and, especially, sexual energy.
You also have to learn to speak your partner's language of love. It's scientifically proven that men who do housework get more sex. When he's helping around the house, it's a sign that he gets it, that he sees how hard you're working, that he knows the nest is important, and that makes you feel connected to him. On the other hand, men achieve a sense of emotional closeness through the physical act of sex. There's a yin and a yang to life and in relationships, and it's about learning what nourishes your partner. Everyone's different, which means we have to stop trying to love our partner the way we want to be loved and instead learn the way they want to be loved and share the way we want to be loved.
Here are the three things you can start doing today to maintain passion in your relationship:
1. Give your partner three genuine expressions of appreciation a day. It can be appreciation for things they always do for you or for something special, but make sure you say it out loud—and you mean it.
2. Make an appointment two times a week to spend 15 minutes—with no technology other than music—kissing and cuddling and talking, with sex completely off the table.
3. Make a commitment to having sex at least once a week. Twice a week is better. Don't go more than two weeks without it, because it's is the fuel in your long-term relationship. When sex is working with a couple, it’s a small part of a larger relationship. This is really about letting go of the fear and opening yourself to your partner—and releasing the sexual goddess inside you.
Advice to Keep Your Relationship Thriving