Wake Up or
Break Up

Are You "Mr. Ever-Ready?"
Are You Still Attracted to Your Partner's Imperfect Body?
Can a "Player" Become a "True Partner"?
The Crucial Spark They Don't Teach in Sex Ed
Did You Know the "Honey Do List" is the Beginning of Foreplay?
Do Married and Committed Couples Stall have Solo Sessions?
Do You ever Surrender Your Ego?
Do You Prefer Intimacy or Sex?
Do You Remember to Breathe in Bed?
Is it Permissible to Call "Time Out" in the Middle of Lovemaking?
Just One Clumsy Comment
The Loving Gift of Being Fully Present
Smooth Out the Initiation of Intimacy
Were You Told Sex is Holy or Nasty?
What do You see in the Mirror?
What Relaxes Your Stressed-Out Partner?
What to do When You're Tempted to Stray
When You Have a Higher Sex Drive Than Your Partner
When Your Partner Has Trouble Reaching a Climax

The Crucial Spark They Don't Teach in Sex Ed

I had read many books and taken many courses in order to become a therapist for counseling couples on their sexual issues. But it wasn't until I actually became a practicing psychologist that I heard from numerous female clients a crucial secret that had never been discussed in any of the sex ed books and lectures.

The secret of what causes most women to feel sexual again after a lull is quite fascinating. It sounds a little strange at first, but it makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Here's what it is:

A woman was sitting in my office 14 feet away from her husband, who was complaining that it had been 10 months since they'd made love. The husband turned to his wife and asked, "What the heck do I have to do in order that you won't just say no like you always say no." She looked back at him and answered, "I have no idea. Life isn't fair, is it?"

It looked like their sex life was going to remain deader than Elvis. But I wasn't ready to give up just yet. So I asked her, "Based on what you know about what has made you feel sensual or cuddly in the past, is there one thing your husband could do this week that might make you feel a little bit open sometime in the next few weeks to being sensual with him again?"

The wife took a moment to think about the question and then she replied, "There is one thing that always seems to make me feel close to my husband again. It sounds strange to say it, but this is a therapy session. I might as well be honest."

Then she took a deep breath and admitted, "The thing that makes me feel like a sensual woman again and a little bit interested in making love again is when my husband fixes things that are broken around the house."

The husband looked at her like she was crazy. "What are you talking about?" he asked.

"I'm serious," she replied. "When you make the extra effort to take some of the load off of me and to help out and to show that we're teammates and we're there for each other, it makes me feel connected to you again. And when I feel connected to you and I sense that you're helping out and I don't have to do it all or be your mommie, I do get sensual again."

She was not the only woman to comment that a boyfriend or husband changing a light bulb or fixing a broken drawer or cleaning out a messy storage shed is somehow connected to making love. In fact, during the past 24 years as a couples counselor I have heard thousands of women tell me a very similar phenomenon: when they feel cared for and helped out by a man who doesn't have to be begged to fix the things that are broken in the house, she often feels sensual and connected again.

Why don't they teach this stuff in sex ed? Why doesn't anyone say, "The beginning of foreplay is the 'Honey Do' list that she's tired of begging you about and that means so much to her sense of being ignored or being cared for...

When you think about your own sex life, has it occured to you that your partner tends to be more cuddly and sensual when she feels you are helping her and lightening her load. Or that she tends to be turned off and short-fused when her 'Honey Do' list keeps getting longer and longer because you just can't seem to get around to it.

This mystery can solve a lot of the sexual problems in long-term relationships. It's no guarantee of sex, but it dramatically increases the odds from 1,000 to 1 for those men who don't pitch in at home, versus 3 to 1 for those men who do help out without being begged.

Try it yourself and see if all these women are revealing a sexual secret that is rarely known by men. To make sure your partner feels loved and cared for is the key to warming her up. That long-neglected light bulb or that mess on the side of the house is possibly the obstacle between you and a lovely roll in the sheets. It's also the difference between a partner who feels appreciated and a partner who feels like snapping at you over and over again. It's your choice, dude. You decide which way you want your partner to feel.

Do You Remember to Breathe in Bed?

It may sound strange to be asking if you are breathing during your passionate moments in lovemaking. Obviously, if you weren't breathing at all, you'd be dead.

But there's an important difference between breathing fully and breathing partially that can significantly affect your lovemaking. Here's what I mean:

  • If you or your partner tend to breathe in a shallow or restricted way during lovemaking (either because you're anxious, tired, trying too hard, or feeling distracted) the sensations are lessened and the orgasms are much less pleasurable.
  • Specifically, if a man learns how to breathe in and out deeply and fully during lovemaking, it will bring his excitement up from his genitals and let it spread throughout his entire body. It will also allow a much longer lovemaking session because the turn-on will be felt all the way from his feet to his fingers, to his chest and the top of his forehead. When he finally does have an orgasm, it will be experienced as a full-body orgasm rather than a limited release of genitals only.
  • If a woman learns how to breathe in and out deeply during lovemaking, it will send much-needed oxygen to her pelvic area and allow greater pulsations, contractions, and releases than if she barely breathes during lovemaking. She will also be experiencing a full-bodied connection to the lovemaking, rather than being stuck in her thoughts or her anxieties.
  • If a couple slows down their movements during their lovemaking every so often and just breathes together for a few minutes, it can be extremely intimate and passionate. As Faith Hill says in her hit song, "Just breathe!"
  • If a man wants to become a better oral lover, he can do so by breathing in and out slowly and smoothly for as long as he goes down on his partner. Many men can do an extended in and out breathing (that doesn't go too fast or cause hyperventilation) that lasts for 20 or 40 or even 60 minutes while their partner is taken to oral heights of ecstasy.
  • If you want to become a better breather and a more expansive lover, practice right now by taking a deep connected inhale breath that rises from the bottom of your feet to the top of your head and then exhales back down again like a waterwheel which flows from the top of your head down to your feet and back up again in a circular motion.
  • If you do this too quickly or aggressively, you will begin to hyperventilate and feel dizzy, which can be dangerous. So just make the waterwheel a medium-sized flow of breath that rises from your feet to your head and back down again in a smooth and gentle motion. Be sure to keep the waterwheel flowing smoothly and evenly, because if your brain locks onto a thought and you forget to breathe you might experience some cramping or dizziness. If this happens, just relax and take in another smooth inhale and exhale until the waterwheel of breath is flowing again. The cramping and dizziness should disappear quickly if your breathing is smooth and gentle.
  • Some yoga and Tantric Sexuality teachers say to inhale through your nostrils and exhale through your mouth. But for many people it works just as well to inhale and exhale nose-nose or mouth-mouth in whatever combination makes you feel comfortable and pleasurable.
  • These breathing techniques have helped many of my counseling clients to become less focused on their brains and genitals during lovemaking, while being far more able to feel the pulsing enjoyment that is moving through your entire body, mind, and soul.

If possible, imagine during lovemaking that the waterwheel of inhales and exhales is connecting you and your partner. If you and your partner listen to your breathing and enjoy the flow of the waterwheel, you will experience the powerful sensation that you are more than two bodies in bed together. You are connected to the infinite pulsing of the universe, the winds and ocean waves as well as the pull of the moon and the warmth of the sun. To experience that strong a sensation with someone you care about deeply is one of the greatest highs in life.

What to do When You're Tempted to Stray

I have never met a man who wasn't tempted at one time or another to have an affair. It doesn't matter if you're in a great relationship or a difficult relationship. Or whether you have a great sex life with your partner or a nonexistent sex life with your partner. The urge will surely visit you sooner or later.

The good news is that this urge to stray doesn't mean you are a bad person or that you're necessarily going to be acting on the urge and creating drama in your life. All it means is that you're alive and curious.

Based on what I've seen during 23 years of counseling can work most successfully for men who are in a committed relationship and who have the occasional urge to stray, here are 4 things to consider:

1) Use the excitement and curiosity you feel about a new person to recharge your excitement and curiosity about the partner you have started to take for granted. That means as soon as you get an urge to flirt with or jump on the bones of someone outside of your primary relationship, you simply need to take a breath, catch yourself, and say, "If I were meeting my long-term partner for the first time at a seminar or a party, what would I find fascinating about this unique individual? What would I find sensual and attractive? What would I find intriguing and mysterious? What would I find to be solid and substantial and of high integrity? What would I find to be a great reason to pursue this individual (who happens to be your long-term partner)?" In other words, use your curiosity and imagination where it can do the most good--by focusing on the person who is already your partner and not by acting out a temporary crush on someone you don't really know in depth.

2) Use the urge to stray as a wake-up call that you and your partner need a tune-up or a major overhaul in your relationship. Just as every garden and every car will need occasional maintenance, so does every relationship. You and your partner might need a vacation together, a date night that hasn't been arranged for too many months, a chance to create adventures and teamwork again. The urge to stray (especially if you don't obsess about it) is a wonderful wake-up call that says, "I need some newness and vitality in my life again. What can my partner and I do that will make us feel young, creative, and energetic again with each other?"

3) If you are a spiritual or religious person (or even if you're not very spiritual or religious), use the urge to stray as a chance to feel gratitude for being alive. In the mystical tradition of Judaism, there is a wonderful prayer that a man is told to say to himself when he finds himself briefly turned on by someone other than his partner. The prayer is, "Thank you God (or creative Source) for all the beauty that you've brought into this world." By quickly turning the urge into a reminder that all of life's beauty comes from a higher Source, it frees you up to make good conscious choices about what is your true purpose in life. Is your true purpose in life to have a messy affair which will probably cause tremendous pain and loss of trust for your spouse and your kids? Or is your true purpose to appreciate the beauty all around you and then to make sure you handle your sexuality in a caring and responsible way?

4) If you find yourself unable to stop thinking about someone with whom you are tempted to stray, make sure you seek counseling to find out what's going on inside you. Many men discover in counseling tremendous wisdom about themselves after an urge to stray. Some find that they are afraid to be truly known by any one person and so they run away from long-term partners in order to try out their moves on someone new who doesn't really know them. Other men find they have had trouble sticking with things in life and this is one more chance to see if they are able to learn how to stay-the-course at something profound and important. Other men find out that they were raised in such a restrictive or guilt-ridden home that they feel rebellious and sneaky about sex, which can destroy any good relationship unless they seek help to break that habit. Other men find out they are still trying to make up for the lack of sexual success they experienced in junior high or high school, which isn't fair to your spouse or your kids who really shouldn't suffer for the fact that you couldn't "get any" when you were younger. Other men discover they have trouble appreciating themselves or others and are always looking for "something better." Whatever your particular reason for wanting to stray, it can be the source of tremendous personal growth if you take these urges to a therapist rather than to a motel.

Do You Prefer Intimacy or Sex?

In casual conversations, I've found that most men say they would prefer just uncomplicated sex with a partner. But when men truly get honest during a counseling session or even when a colleague or friend discusses his personal life in a deeper conversation, I often find that most men actually long for intimacy.

What's the difference? Here are some clues to help you sort it out and decide which one you would like to make happen in your life: Sex is when you're performing and worrying about whether you're good enough.

Intimacy is when you and your partner care about one another at such a deep level that all sorts of awkward and graceful, bold and wonderful things can happen during your sensual moments with each other and neither person is judgmental or impatient.

Sex is when you're trying hard to get to the finish line.

Intimacy is when you surprise yourself and you surprise each other by all the exquisite detours, quiet moments, noisy moments, and caring gestures that show up along the way.

Sex is when you're turned on by a specific body part that seems detached from the whole person.

Intimacy is when you're amazed that you can connect so deeply with another human being and have so much pleasure from just being with each other.

Sex is when you feel finished and ready to shut the other person out immediately after you're done with the heavy breathing.

Intimacy is when you feel like lingering or embracing or talking or resting in each other's arms because the outside world has disappeared.

Sex is when you feel like a conqueror and you've "gotten some."

Intimacy is when you feel as though you checked your ego at the door and you've entered a whole different level of existence where you are no longer separate or alone, but rather at one for at least a few moments with someone whose soul and your soul have a mysterious connection.

Sex is when you keep score of who's doing what to whom.

Intimacy is when you can't keep track of who's doing what to whom because you both receive as much from giving as you do from receiving.

Sex is when your hormones are flowing but your heart isn't fully open.

Intimacy is when your heart is flowing and each breath opens you up even further.

For many people, sex is safe because you know all your moves and how to stay in control. But intimacy is more risky because you finally allow yourself to be fully present and vulnerable and real with another human being.

Sex will sometimes leave the two of you feeling distant and removed afterward, which can eventually drive you toward a breakup.

Intimacy will often leave the two of you feeling amazed and grateful afterward, that two unique individuals can become so close and build up so much trust and mutual respect.

Sex is what a 15 year old longs for.

Intimacy is what you realize at a certain age has been missing from your life and you are finally willing to make it happen.

Which have you been choosing lately--sex or intimacy? Which would you like in the future?

Can a "Player" Become a "True Partner"?

Some of the men I have counseled in therapy are great at courtship in order to have sex, but they don't seem to be able to succeed at a real relationship. Does that sound like you or anyone you know? Do you sometimes find all the energy and excitement goes into the early pursuit but then boredom or crankiness occurs soon thereafter?

There are 3 steps you might want to consider if you sincerely want to stop the roller-coaster ride of falling in love and then falling out of love with one messy breakup after another. They include:

1) Decide whether you are looking for someone to service your sexual needs or someone who will be a terrific partner for life.

If you are unsure of whether you are looking for the first or the second, my guess is that you have been looking for the first--you've put all your energy and efforts into finding someone who will be a sexual thrill (or a visual trophy) but you haven't begun to figure out what might be the key qualities of a person who will be an excellent partner for life (including someone who is capable of fascinating conversations, profound trustworthiness, great shared decision-making, the ability to work through problems without tirades or silent treatments, as well as a delicious sexual partner).

If you have been a "player" for many years, hoping to score with eye candy that will make you feel triumphant, you may not have even cared that you keep picking partners who aren't great in conversations, or who make lousy decisions, or who aren't trustworthy, or who don't know how to resolve disagreements without explosions or long silent treatments.

But sooner or later, most men realize they can't afford the emotional and financial side-effects of chasing after eye candy. They realize it's time to open up to a more complete human being. Have you reached that point yet? Are you open to someone who might not be 100% your physical fantasy but who is an exquisite person for going through the ups and downs of real life?

2) Be willing to let go of eye candy that you know would not make a good candidate for a long-term relationship. This is a difficult step for most men who are fascinated by or addicted to the search for the partner with the perfect body or the perfect sexual moves.

But if you sincerely want a sane life and a quality partner, you may need to go cold turkey on eye candy partners who promise you everything but who turn out to be trouble sooner or later.

Are you strong enough to say no to an enticing come-on from a gorgeous looker? Are you willing to let go of a fantasy sexual encounter in order to keep your heart and mind open for a genuine relationship? Are you man enough to say no to dramatic sex in order to find true intimacy and genuine trust with another human being?

3) Recognize that even if you do find a good partner who has all the qualities you are looking for in a long-term relationship, you will still be tempted every so often to go back to eye candy or dramatic enticements.

These are the moments when you will find out whether you are being run by your higher wisdom or your lower appendage. Can you breathe in slowly and say to yourself, "That would be an easy fantasy detour, but no way. I'm in a new chapter of my life. I'm seriously able to stop being a dog who sniffs at everything that passes by."

I realize it's not easy to make the shift from searching for sex and start searching for a genuine, imperfect, and wonderful human being that you can trust and build a good life with. But I hope you will find strength from somewhere deep inside your soul or your heart to make it happen. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing you've overcome your own self-sabotage and you're living a profoundly intimate and positive life.

Were You Told Sex is Holy or Nasty?

One of the saddest things I've ever heard from a counseling client is when I was told by a young man in his 20's that his family drummed into him that sex is nasty. The resulting sense of guilt, shame, sneakiness, and dishonesty around his sex life ever since had severely hampered his life and relationships.

In a similar vein, you might recall Colorado Senator Gary Hart who was running for President in 1988 but was put out of the race when he was discovered having an affair with Donna Rice. He said afterward that one of the reasons he couldn't stop himself from having an affair (and harming his marriage and political career) was that he was raised in a very strict household where sex was considered nasty and secretive (which made it all the more compelling and hard-to-resist for him).

I raise this issue of holiness or nastiness because it seems to make an impact on so many men and women who want to enjoy the beauty and closeness of sensuality but who are filled with thoughts and images that sex is bad or guilt-ridden or sinful. Does that sound true about yourself or someone you care about--were you raised with negative images and harsh ideas that sex is wrong or bad or sinful?

Sometimes you hear people say that these harsh ideas about sex come from the bible. But nine years ago I researched and wrote a book called "The Ten Challenges" about the deeper meanings and original Hebrew wordings of the Ten Commandments. For instance, even the original Hebrew words for the Ten Commandments don't say the word "commandments." The original biblical words from Exodus 20 say "Ahseret Hadibrot," which mean "the ten things" or "the ten words." You can sense immediately that those translations read more gently and lovingly. In the King James version the Hebrew words that got mistranslated into Greek then got mistranslated into English as harsh "Thou shalt nots" and rigid commandments. But it's quite possible that in the original version they are more like profound and wise principles for living rather than harsh "thou shalt nots" for which you get struck down if you mess up on one.

I spoke with hundreds of experts, scholars, linguists, and clergy from a number of religious and spiritual traditions about how they translate The Ten Commandments, especially the ones about sexuality, such as Do not commit adultery, Do not covet your neighbor's partner, Do not steal (which literally means "lo tignove--do not be sneaky or trick someone with a false impression of who you are"), Do not bear false witness or lie or gossip to create a false advantage.

What I found out is that the original Hebrew word for sexuality is "ya-da" which means to know someone fully. Rabbis and scholars explained that if you keep your sexuality superficial or focused on body sensations or getting your way with another person, you never really get to know someone fully and you never get to be known fully. So what holiness is about with regards to sexuality is to let yourself be fully honest, vulnerable, and trustworthy with another human being--to get to know and accept each other's deeper selves, including their complicated sexual selves.

Several Christian, Muslim and Buddhist scholars and clergy also agreed with this sense of sex as holy in so far as it lets us fully know the richness of God's gifts to us. To appreciate the beauty of the body, the beauty of a deep relationship, and the joy of connecting with someone you love is a holy act. When it becomes sneaky, manipulative, dishonest, or exploitative, that is when it becomes nasty.

In other words, sexuality is one of the greatest opportunities for finding your way into the powerful holy energies of the universe--but it has to be treated carefully and in a deeply honest relationship with someone you truly know and appreciate at all levels, because otherwise it can easily slip back into sneakiness, dishonesty, manipulation, or exploitativeness which go against the awesomeness for which sexuality is intended.

Whatever your religious or spiritual beliefs (or even if you are completely allergic to religion altogether), I urge you to examine whether you are carrying guilt-ridden or shame-filled thoughts into your sex life. If so, you are much less likely to be able to deeply enjoy these holy moments of fully being at peace and in a state of joy and surrender with another human being. If your mind is filled with desires to conquer, manipulate, score, or trick someone, you are very far away from the pleasure of being fully known and fully appreciated for who you are.

If you start to view sexuality as a holy and wonderful part of life that gives you awe about the greatness of God's creation (or the beauty of nature if the word 'God' is uncomfortable for you), you will probably find it enhances your sensuality and the strength of your relationship. Instead of feeling like a "bad person" who is about to get caught and punished, you will begin to experience sexuality as a "good person" who is growing closer to your true essence through your exploration of profound intimacy with another person.

Do You Remember to Breathe in Bed?

It may sound strange to be asking if you are breathing during your passionate moments in lovemaking. Obviously, if you weren't breathing at all, you'd be dead.

But there's an important difference between breathing fully and breathing partially that can significantly affect your lovemaking. Here's what I mean:

  • If you or your partner tend to breathe in a shallow or restricted way during lovemaking (either because you're anxious, tired, trying too hard, or feeling distracted) the sensations are lessened and the orgasms are much less pleasurable.
  • Specifically, if a man learns how to breathe in and out deeply and fully during lovemaking, it will bring his excitement up from his genitals and let it spread throughout his entire body. It will also allow a much longer lovemaking session because the turn-on will be felt all the way from his feet to his fingers, to his chest and the top of his forehead. When he finally does have an orgasm, it will be experienced as a full-body orgasm rather than a limited release of genitals only.
  • If a woman learns how to breathe in and out deeply during lovemaking, it will send much-needed oxygen to her pelvic area and allow greater pulsations, contractions, and releases than if she barely breathes during lovemaking. She will also be experiencing a full-bodied connection to the lovemaking, rather than being stuck in her thoughts or her anxieties.
  • If a couple slows down their movements during their lovemaking every so often and just breathes together for a few minutes, it can be extremely intimate and passionate. As Faith Hill says in her hit song, "Just breathe!"
  • If a man wants to become a better oral lover, he can do so by breathing in and out slowly and smoothly for as long as he goes down on his partner. Many men can do an extended in and out breathing (that doesn't go too fast or cause hyperventilation) that lasts for 20 or 40 or even 60 minutes while their partner is taken to oral heights of ecstasy.
  • If you want to become a better breather and a more expansive lover, practice right now by taking a deep connected inhale breath that rises from the bottom of your feet to the top of your head and then exhales back down again like a waterwheel which flows from the top of your head down to your feet and back up again in a circular motion.
  • If you do this too quickly or aggressively, you will begin to hyperventilate and feel dizzy, which can be dangerous. So just make the waterwheel a medium-sized flow of breath that rises from your feet to your head and back down again in a smooth and gentle motion. Be sure to keep the waterwheel flowing smoothly and evenly, because if your brain locks onto a thought and you forget to breathe you might experience some cramping or dizziness. If this happens, just relax and take in another smooth inhale and exhale until the waterwheel of breath is flowing again. The cramping and dizziness should disappear quickly if your breathing is smooth and gentle.
  • Some yoga and Tantric Sexuality teachers say to inhale through your nostrils and exhale through your mouth. But for many people it works just as well to inhale and exhale nose-nose or mouth-mouth in whatever combination makes you feel comfortable and pleasurable.
  • These breathing techniques have helped many of my counseling clients to become less focused on their brains and genitals during lovemaking, while being far more able to feel the pulsing enjoyment that is moving through your entire body, mind, and soul.

If possible, imagine during lovemaking that the waterwheel of inhales and exhales is connecting you and your partner. If you and your partner listen to your breathing and enjoy the flow of the waterwheel, you will experience the powerful sensation that you are more than two bodies in bed together. You are connected to the infinite pulsing of the universe, the winds and ocean waves as well as the pull of the moon and the warmth of the sun. To experience that strong a sensation with someone you care about deeply is one of the greatest highs in life.

What do You see in the Mirror?

Most men I've counseled have trouble looking at their bodies and realizing what a miracle it is to be a man. They usually focus on some aspect of their physique that they worry doesn't measure up. Or they have a little too much homophobia and they are afraid of admitting that the male body is beautiful. Or they compare their current receding hairline, expanding belly, less virile penis, or other age-related features to what they think they looked like years ago during their buff days.

If you want to enjoy your sexuality and your aliveness, it would help if you began to experience a more positive and energetic sense of your male body. Or do you believe, in the slightly-modified words of Groucho Marx, "I could never be comfortable with someone who is hot for this imperfect body."

What about you? Are you able to appreciate the strength, passion, warmth, tenderness, and intensity that can be found in the muscles, tendons, organs, and specific features of your male body? Or are you reluctant to look at or appreciate this imperfect human self that you bring into every relationship and interaction?

If you want to improve your body image and see if it intensifies your attractiveness to others and your ability to enjoy your sexuality, here are a few places to start:

1) Take ten to fifteen minutes each morningor afternoon to do some exercise that allows you to feel your body becoming more alive and strong. If you sense the increase in oxygen, strength, and flexibility that occurs when you exercise at least three times a week, you might begin to appreciate this amazing gift you've been given of a body that can do so many things.

2) Talk to a counselor, friend, trainer, or coach about where you got the notion that there was something wrong or defective about your body. Even if you don't look like the athletes in Men's Health Magazine or the unusually-structured bodies in sex films, there is still something profoundly strong and brilliantly intricate about the way your muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, arteries and blood cells do what they do. Rather than continuing to find something to criticize about yourself, what if you spoke with this counselor, friend, trainer, or coach about how much strength and potential they see in your physical capabilities.

3) One day while you are making love or masturbating, consider for a moment how incredible it is that your blood circulates as well as it does, that your brain, heart, genitals and circulatory system are all connected so beautifully. As you build up to an orgasm, experience at least a few moments of gratitude that your body works as well as it does. If you are a spiritual or religious person, offer silent words of gratitude to the mysterious life force or Creator that has given you such an outstanding vehicle for joy and intimacy.

4) When you are picking out clothes to wear or getting yourself ready to go out in public, take a moment to appreciate that even though you might not be Brad Pitt you are certainly an attractive individual. For just a moment, recall in your mind the individuals who have felt or said that they find you hot or alluring over the years.

5) When you are doing some physical work around the house or carrying a baby in your arms or playing a physical sport, take a moment to appreciate how many complex systems are working together to make this particular action possible. Focus on the fact that your body is an outstanding combination of information impulses and physical components to get the job done.

Rather than finding fault with your body, begin to appreciate how much you are able to accomplish with this physique you have been given and that you've been taking care of all these years.

6) Then when you are out with your spouse or lover, or when you are starting to get each other excited sexually, take a moment to appreciate that you are an alive and very sensual being. Rather than focusing on some imperfection, let yourself feel a sense of strength and appreciation for the passionate physical being your partner is going to enjoy being with. My goal is not to make you conceited or self-obsessed, but rather to bring more aliveness and spark to each of your sexual encounters.


Do You ever Surrender Your Ego?

A man showed up in my office a few years ago to work on the fact that his wife is a very sexual person and even though he likes to be sexual sometimes, in general he's extremely focused on his work. He admits, "I love sex and I can perform extremely well, but my wife goes to a mystical and holy place in lovemaking that I simply don't seem to be able to go to." 

His story reminded me of many men I have counseled. They're good men, caring and kind. They like to get hot and heavy during lovemaking. They like to please their partner. But there's a certain way that these individuals (and most men) simply won't surrender their ego during lovemaking and their partners are intuitive enough to sense the withhold. 

Does that sound like you? Are you a good performer in bed, but some part of you is still held back and unable to surrender?

I'm a man and I know how difficult it is for us men to let go and fully embrace the passion, love and closeness that sexual intimacy can take us to if we are willing. So please know that I am not judging you or criticizing you for being a little reluctant to go "all the way" into a mystical connection with your partner. But just for a moment, consider what it might be like: 

--Have you ever been so in love with someone that at certain moments of passionate lovemaking you were willing and able to let go of all your separateness, isolation, and rational control to become one with this other soul?

--Did you ever feel at the end of a lovemaking session that you had transcended the limits of your body and connected in a way that was spiritual or mysteriously profound but beyond words?

--Did you ever have the sense of being totally safe, totally accepted, or totally at home after a passionate lovemaking? 

Quite often men who are unable to go to these profound places of joy and surrender have been hurt by life or by certain individuals. As a result, they are quite skeptical and quite cautious about ever surrendering to anyone. I don't blame them for that. If you have had your heart broken, your trust betrayed, or your safety attacked by someone you thought was a loved one (whether it's a family member, friend, lover, or business associate who burned you), it's no wonder you feel hesitant to surrender ever again. 

But what about the person with whom you are in a relationship right now? Is this someone you can trust? Is this someone who is more mature, more decent, or more compassionate than the person who once betrayed you? Is this someone who might have occasional selfish moments but at a core level this person would never try to hurt you?

Quite often I ask male clients in counseling, "Have you chosen wisely this time? Have you picked someone who at the core is a good soul and doesn't want to do you harm? Have you set up the possibility that this time you can have moments of surrender and not get burned?"

Surrendering for a few moments during and after lovemaking doesn't mean giving up all control and all reason. It just means going to a profound and beautiful place of intimacy and at-one-ness with a person who is equally beautiful in a physical, emotional, and spiritual way.

If you happen to be lucky enough to have found a person who is worthy of your trust, please don't hold back during lovemaking. Let this person know you are willing to love deeply, to surrender your ego and control for at least a few moments. See what happens and if you truly feel loved, accepted, and at home with this person, be extremely grateful. You have reached a high moment of life that is unlike any other.


Do Married and Committed Couples Stall have Solo Sessions?

One of the controversies I often discuss with couples and individuals in counseling is whether masturbation helps or hurts a long-term partnership. Before I pass along a few suggestions from successful couples in my counseling practice, let me first ask you what's been your lived experience on this issue:

--Have you ever felt guilty or uncomfortable for taking matters into your own hands and not telling your partner?

--Have you ever felt resentful toward your partner because you or your partner felt the need to masturbate rather than having sex together?

--Have you ever discussed the possibility of masturbating with your partner's verbal encouragement or actual physical assistance on nights when one of you is too tired or not in the mood for sex?

--Have you ever argued with each other about whether one or both of you is masturbating too much, or is addicted to porn or Internet sites?

While very few couples talk openly about their solo sexual moments, in fact a non-attacking conversation about the presence orabsence of masturbation can have a major impact on the success or failure of your relationship.

Here's what I mean:

1) Men who masturbate only on the nights when their partner is not in the mood tend to be more patient, loving and resilient than men who refuse to masturbate and turn each sexual turn-down into a whining plea or an angry battle.

Many women find it to be a relief to know that their husband can take care of his own business on nights when she's tired or stressed.

2) Women who masturbate at least once or twice a month tend to learn a lot about what they enjoy in lovemaking and are better able to teach their partner what brings them to a great orgasm.

If a man wants to be a caring lover, he should listen closely when his wife or partner describes what pillows, vibrators, bath faucets, finger motions, or other methods give her the most wonderful pleasures.

3) Men who are addicted to porn or who actually prefer the predictability of masturbation to the complexity and riskiness of making love with a real-life partner tend to create a lot of arguments and emotional distance in their relationships. I strongly recommend that if you and your partner have been clashing about porn because of religious values or a sense that porn is getting the way of real intimacy, you may need to try a 7 day or 30 day sabbatical from porn to revive your interest in real human-to-human contact.

4) Many healthy couples utilize masturbation as a way of increasing the closeness and intimacy of their relationship. For example, in my book Wake Up or Break Up: The 8 Crucial Steps to Strengthening Your Relationship, I describe a real-life example of a couple where the husband takes the pressure off his wife by masturbating on nights when she is too tired and she gets to enjoy watching him and embracing him afterward.

I also describe a real-life example of a couple where the wife unwinds after stressful days by masturbating in the bathtub that has been lovingly prepared by her husband who also gives her a relaxing neck rub before letting her have thirty minutes of private, uninterrupted time for herself.

5) Quite often when one partner is too tired to make love and the other partner offers to do "most of the heavy lifting solo," it turns on the tired partner who then decides to join in the fun. While there is no guarantee that this kind of intimacy will lead to a lovemaking session together, it certainly increases the odds from 0% to close to 50% that both of you will be rolling around in the sheets in a little while.

Is it Permissible to Call "Time Out" in the Middle of Lovemaking?

Some people get angry or upset if a partner stops in the middle of a passionate lovemaking session and wants to discuss something. Is that true for you or your partner? Do you prefer a non-stop progression from kissing to touching to genital contact without much conversation, or do you enjoy occasional check-in conversations as part of your intimacy?

Based on 23 years of counseling couples, I've found there are 2 important things to consider regarding the issue of "time outs" during lovemaking. They are:

1) In general, it's best to have an occasional how-to or choreography conversation during a quiet, relaxed moment when you're not making love. Even if you've been together for a while, there is always a lot to learn and improve about how to respect each other's sensual preferences and individual likes and dislikes.

The best time to teach each other about what kind of kissing, touching, orgasms, and afterglow you each prefer is when you're taking a walk together in nature, when you're having a phone conversation about how much you're both looking forward to your next time together, or when you're having a relaxing conversation before or after a hot-and-intense lovemaking session. 

One of you can say, "I've always wanted to show you my favorite way of being kissed." Or you can suggest (without any criticism or harshness), "The way I most prefer to be touched when we're making love is..." Or you can confide to each other, "The secret recipe that seems to bring me the most amazing orgasms is when..." Then gently and cooperatively brainstorm about what you each like or dislike during lovemaking. 

I've found that the couples who take a few minutes each week or each month to exchange a few non-judgmental comments about their lovemaking preferences are continually expanding and improving their closeness and intimacy, while the couples who never talk about sex are usually falling into a repetitive rut.

2) However, if in the middle of lovemaking, one of you has something important to clear up that is causing you to feel pained, uncomfortable, distracted, disrespected, or emotionally distant, it is a very good idea to call a brief time out to get back on track. Simply say in a non-attacking tone of voice, "I just need a minute to tell you what's going on with me. I promise things will be even more enjoyable once this gets cleared up." Or calmly tell your partner, "I need a quick time out so we can improve something that would make this even more wonderful."

Then in a supportive way, explain what was making you feel pained, uncomfortable, distracted, or shut down. I've found in hundreds of couples that these brief, cooperative time-out conversations can quickly resolve problems that would otherwise turn into messy resentments or disastrously bad lovemaking. In fact, if you and your partner are able to clear things up in a few seconds by having one of these non-critical, non-attacking brief time outs, you will be amazed at how it adds to the intensity of your lovemaking. Rather than spending minutes or hours feeling distant or uncomfortable about something, you will now have the freedom and trust to improve whatever needs improving in a matter of seconds.

The first key to making one of these sexual conversations successful is for the partner who is offering a suggestion to do so in a loving and non-judgmental way. Don't say, "You never this or you always that." It's much more effective to say enticingly, "There's an important secret I've always wanted to share with you. Here's what I think will make things even more exciting for both of us..."

The second key to making one of these sexual conversations successful is for the partner who is receiving the suggestion to listen non-defensively and to realize your partner just wants to improve things. If your brain or your ego starts to feel defensive and you find yourself wanting to say in a testy voice, "Well, there are things I wish you would do differently, too," stop yourself and remind yourself, "The only reason my partner is giving me this suggestion is to make things even hotter between us. Listen up, dude, and if you're smart you'll pick up on this important clue to what your partner desires." 

For example, if your partner tries to tell you or show you exactly how she likes to be kissed, don't get all defensive and say, "But my ex thought I was a great kisser." That would be the quickest way to turn this brief time-out into a long and ugly clash. A better option is to say to yourself, "Pay attention and you will learn exactly what warms up this partner and what she's always wanted you to figure out without any clues. Thank goodness she's finally telling me the precise kissing style that she finds most exciting. This brief conversation is going to pay dividends over and over again if I can replicate exactly the kind of kiss she loves the most."

When your partner summons up the courage to tell you what's working and what's not working about the lovemaking you've been having together, it's not an assessment of whether you're a good person or a great lover. It's a chance for two unique human beings to become even more intimate and more passionate than they've ever been before.

What Relaxes Your Stressed-Out Partner?

For many couples there is a basic disagreement about which happens first--sex or relaxation. In many relationships, one partner tends to think sex is the way to unwind from a stressful day. The other partner thinks sex is out of the question unless you somehow are able to unwind and feel sensual first.

In your own relationship, do you and your partner sometimes clash over whether relaxation is the afterglow of lovemaking or the requirement that must happen BEFORE lovemaking can occur?

Does one of you say, "C'mon let's make love so I can unwind," while the other says, "No way. I need to feel relaxed and a lot less stressed before I can even think about the possibility of making love."

Here's what you can do to prevent the arguing and resentments that often occur:

--Start by supporting the partner who needs to be relaxed in order to feel sensual or intimate. In fact, let this partner win the debate because there won't be any sex at all if you keep insisting that your partner should adopt your preference for sex-even-when-stressed.

--Then help your partner unwind more successfully without any strings attached. Maybe offer to cook a meal, or clean up afterward, or put the kids to bed, or give your partner a foot rub, a neck massage, or a half-hour of non-interrupted listening while your partner discusses the stresses of the day. There is no guarantee that sex will follow, but the odds rise from 0% to 60% or maybe even 90% if you consistently help your partner unwind and if you show what a considerate and loving person you are.

As I describe in my new book Wake Up or Break Up: The 8 Crucial Steps to Strengthening Your Relationship, "If you've got a higher sex drive than your partner, the worst thing you can do is whine or make demands or criticize or complain.

Pretty soon your partner will be completely turned off to ever making love with you again.

But if you pitch in and help out to lighten your partner's load, you will be amazed at how quickly you find yourself with a grateful and appreciative partner who is beginning to want to cozy up and roll around with you in the sheets."

--If your partner is frequently stressed and has trouble unwinding or feeling sensual much of the time, sit down and have a non-accusatory and non-attacking conversation about, "What could I do at night after you've had a stressful day that would allow you to feel relaxed and cared for and sensual again. Teach me your secrets." Your partner might not know immediately what she needs in order to unwind, but if you brainstorm together some possible options for helping her make the gradual shift from "On Call 24 Hours a Day" to "Finally Having Some Time to be Pampered," it can help enormously.

--Some partners say they feel sensual again after a bath, a shower, a massage, a chapter of a favorite book, a crossword puzzle, or a foot rub.

Others say they feel amorous again when they sense day after day that you are a caring and considerate teammate. Others say they feel like making love after they've had some time to unload their frustrations from the day and they find you to be a good listener who doesn't interrupt with advice but rather listens with your heart and says, "Wow, you've had quite a day. What can I do to lighten the load for you over the next few days?"

--If you are naturally good at listening or giving a massage, that's going to help a lot. But if you are like most people and you find yourself becoming impatient when your partner needs a caring listener or a gentle foot rub, you may need to remind yourself, "Don't blow it, dude. Show up and be a patient, considerate, loving person here. If you want the sensuality to return to this relationship, don't let impatience or tiredness ruin a great chance for renewed closeness."

--In addition to learning the secrets of what relaxes your partner after a stressful day, make sure you also figure out what works for you as well. Do you need a shower, a bath, a favorite book or video game, a jog, a foot massage, or a favorite TV show in order to feel like a relaxed human being again after a very hard day. Explain to your partner, "If I can just have this 30 minute or 60 minute sabbatical I will definitely be able to be the kind of patient, caring, and supportive partner you deserve."

--Teach your partner how your own unwinding process works as a way of bringing the two of you closer together, not as a competition or as a debate. I've found the most successful couples are those who co-design effective ways to be "Relaxation Teammates" at night while respecting and supporting each other's different ways of unwinding. If each of you can identify, ask for, and make happen just 30 or 60 minutes of decompression each night, you can then reconnect as friends, partners, and hopefully lovers. 

Are You Still Attracted to Your Partner's Imperfect Body?

Let's be honest. In every relationship there are likely to be times when your partner's body no longer looks like it did when you first met. Or that it no longer looks as physically arousing as some of the eye candy walking down the street. Or that your partner can't possibly measure up to the surgically enhanced and trainer-obsessed bodies you see in films or advertisements.

What's a decent man to do?

Here are 4 steps that have worked successfully for hundreds of male counseling clients who have been honest enough during my 23 years as a therapist to tell me how they deal with this common dilemma:

1) When you think of your attraction or arousal regarding your long-term partner, think about some of the most amazing sexual and non-sexual moments you've shared together. If you flash across the movie screen inside your mind some great highlight reel memories of passionate lovemaking, beautiful vacations, cherished family moments, and intimate conversations, you will probably be just as aroused as you were when you first set eyes on your partner.

2) Rather than focusing on the parts of your loved one's body that have changed with time, focus at first on the specific areas that always make you feel appreciative, excited, turned-on, and intimate. For example, if your partner has new padding, stretch marks, lines, or increased gravity pulls that don't turn you on, what about the areas that are still so sensual, so soft, so remarkable, and so in need of tender kissing, stroking, and nuzzling. At a beautiful buffet of delicious treats, you don't need to get bent out of shape by one or two dishes you tend not to enjoy. Yet you can feel excited and happy about the aspects of the buffet you know you will be enjoying in the near future. 

3) If you then want to be adventurous and extremely erotic, begin to spend some caring time and loving attention on these age-related spots that are still connected to your loved one's beautiful soul. Have you ever run your fingers along a very sensual and possibly ticklish stretch mark? Or a part of the body that participated in the miracle of bringing a new life into the world? It can also be very arousing for both of you if you were to lick, massage, or nibble gently at an area that used to be tight or thin but is now flexible and fuller.

You might find it enjoyable and quite intimate to be making love to the vulnerable spots of your very-human partner. We live in a society where over 90% of women feel either "too fat" or "unattractive." Clearly, someone set the bar too high in order to sell a lot of beauty and makeover products. But don't let that block the intimacy for you and your partner. Enjoy and be sensual with all the delicious possibilities that your partner presents to you, not just the ones that the fashion police say are acceptable. 

4) If your partner is uncomfortable or insecure about any body parts for which your partner feels self-conscious, don't worry. Just be gentle and accepting of even the insecurities that your partner brings to the bedroom. If your partner needs the lights turned down so that you won't see any imperfections, simply enjoy the lovemaking in the dark. Or if your partner is willing to slowly let you demonstrate how beautiful and sensual every physical aspect of the body can be, that is another option that might lead to more light and more lovemaking.

One of the great joys of being with a partner long-term is to truly feel accepted and appreciated for all your humanness. When you feel that amazing sense of being known in all your complexities, it can be extremely arousing and intimate.

Did You Know the "Honey Do List" is the Beginning of Foreplay?

There's a crucial secret about female sexuality that I didn't learn in high school, college, or even graduate school. They didn't teach it in any sex therapy courses that I took after I became a licensed psychologist. Nor will you read about it in any standard textbooks on the subject of sexuality. But it's a make-or-break secret that can mean the difference between a wonderful sex-life with your long-term partner or a bitter wall between the two of you.

We all know that most men get turned on quickly. All it takes is a visual stimulus--a glimpse of an undergarment or a gentle touch in the right places. Or just one erotic thought passing through his mind and he's ready to roll in the sheets.

However, most women warm up much slower and in many cases not at all. The secret to female sexuality that was revealed to me several hundred times by couples I was counseling in my office is the following:

--Most women need to see a partner pitching in around the home and then she slowly will beginthe gradual process of feeling loved, feelingcared for, and feeling intimate.

Or as one female client explained to hermhusband several years ago in my office, "Dude, didn't you know that the 'honey do list' of chores is the beginning of foreplay? If you help out with child-care or cleaning up after a meal or changing a light bulb, I start to think of you as a great protector, a loving partner, and a reliable source of strength. That usually starts my sense of intimacy to begin heating up a bit, especially if you pitch in voluntarily BEFORE I have to beg or get all bitchy and fed up, which invariably shuts down any sexual feelings I might have been starting to build."

If this is the first time you've heard about the mysterious connection between the "Honey Do List" and the beginnings of foreplay, or if you don't believe me, please go ask the women in your life. You will find that several or most of the women you ask will admit to you that when a man pitches in lovingly, she feels like being warm and cozy with him. On the other hand, when she has to beg, whine, yell or scream in order to get him to change a light bulb or fix the leaky faucet in the baby's bathroom, she finds herself shutting down and preferring a romance novel rather than the uncooperative lump of flesh with his remote control clicker on the couch.

Since most couples sooner or later have a major disparity between how often he wants to make love and how often she has the energy or inclination to make love, this precious secret of female sexuality needs to be taken quite seriously. It doesn't guarantee that two light bulbs, one faucet, and changing the baby's diaper will get you lucky tonight. But if night after night you consistently show your caring, your consideration, your tenderness, and your warmth toward your spouse and kids, you will be amazed at how much the sexual wall between you and your mate will start to melt. If you and your partner have differing sex drives, don't argue or fight about it. Just look around and see what needs your help and considerateness around the house, and pretty soon you, too, will be convinced that the quicker you complete the items on the "Honey Do List," the more likely you will be to have some wonderful lovemaking again with your beautiful but frequently tired partner.

Good luck!

Are You "Mr. Ever-Ready?"

Growing up as a man, I thought it was important to be "Mr. Ever-ready." If someone wanted to have sex and this person seemed interesting or attractive, "Mr. Ever-ready" was supposed to say yes. Or so I thought.

But there's a cost to trying to turn oneself into "Mr. Ever-ready." For example:

  • Have you ever found yourself in bed with someone you didn't really like?
  • Have you ever hurt someone you love because you were flirting or getting sensual with someone else?
  • Have you ever created problems in a good relationship because your eyes kept following the eye candy walking by or your sexuality got distracted by someone who was not really a candidate for a real relationship?
  • Have you ever felt unable to say to your partner, "Not tonight," because you thought it was unmanly to admit you're tired or stressed, or that you need to resolve some miscommunications first before you're willing to get fully vulnerable again with this person?
  • Have you ever pretended to be in the mood and then had a frustrating or lousy encounter with your partner? But if you had admitted you weren't in the mood for sex right now, the two of you might have had a wonderful time doing something else together?

There are dozens of excuses men tell themselves as to why they act like "Mr. Ever-ready." In the new movie "In Her Shoes" with Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette, there's a fascinating scene that reveals the dangers of being "Mr. Ever-ready" at the wrong moment.

Here's what happens: The character played by Toni Collette is a wise and caring lawyer who is starting to fall in love with a man from her law firm. She has a misunderstanding with him, however, and he feels horrible because he really likes her and wants to pursue the relationship with her.

So the guy shows up at Toni Collette's apartment with flowers to win her back. But Toni Collette isn't home and her younger sister, played by Cameron Diaz, shows up at the door with a shirt barely covering her pink undies and her naked legs. Several minutes later Toni Collette walks in to find the guy in bed with her sister.

She never forgives him, even though he insists, "I am truly sorry. When I was in high school I was chubby and I still have trouble believing today that a great-looking woman wants me." To which Toni Collette comments, "I don't care how fat you were in high school...I could never trust you again."

Now here's the question for each man to answer about whether you are being run by your "Mr. Ever-ready" Self or by your inner wisdom:

If you were very attracted to a terrific person with whom you were building a quality relationship, and then suddenly an extremely stunning sibling or friend showed up half-naked and tried to seduce you, would you be able to say no? Would you be able to put a budding relationship (and a person you care about) ahead of an easy wild encounter with an extremely hot diversion?

In addition, would you be able to say to your partner in a long-term relationship, "I want to make sure that if you're not in the mood to make love, we'll respect that. Or if I'm ever tired, stressed, or unresolved about some issue between us, I promise to be honest with you and not to pretend I'm always Mr. Ever-ready when I'm not."

Do you want your relationship to be about trust and honesty, or about gamesmanship and pretense? These are the questions that most men never talk about with their dads, their best friends, or even themselves. They are the questions that can make or break your personal life.

Just One Clumsy Comment

One of the fascinating things about sexuality is that it's so fragile and unpredictable. You can be having a wonderful day or night with your partner, be ready for a wild time in bed together, and then suddenly one clumsy comment sends you back to "Start" with little chance of passing "Go" or collecting the riches.

To prevent your next sexual encounter from turning into a disaster, it helps to know who you are and what you sometimes say that is a joy-killer for your partner. For instance, do any of the following sound familiar:

  • You like to be honest, but sometimes your honesty sounds a bit critical and as a result your partner feels like putting up a wall between you (which causes your sex life to suffer).
  • You spent years learning how to be assertive and ask for what you want, but sometimes during lovemaking your requests sound a little bit harsh or insensitive, which causes your partner to shut down or say, "What am I, chopped liver?"
  • You tend to want to get things done and be efficient, so sometimes you bring up household issues or logistical details right at the moment when your partner is starting to feel relaxed, intimate, and free of the burdens of the day. Timing, dude, timing!
  • You try to be kind and caring, but sometimes (instead of saying something gently right at the moment when you have a legitimate concern about something) you stuff your concerns inside for so long that they burst out in an explosion right at the wrong moments.
  • You have a strong desire or a hormonal motor running inside you that wants things to happen during lovemaking more quickly than your partner does. So instead of waiting or letting your partner guide the pace, you jump in with an impatient or demanding comment such as, "C'mon already. How long does it take to fix your hair." That one clumsy comment can ruin the sensual connection for hours, days, or even weeks.
  • You want your partner to look great and you sometimes make the mistake of being too much of a critic or a judge of your partner's clothes, body, or physical insecurities. Unfortunately, just one clumsy comment that causes your partner to sense that you are disapproving or disappointed physically can cause weeks, months, or years of sexual frustration because your partner doesn't want to let go and open up in your presence if you might be a critical or judgmental person about looks.

Please note: I am not urging you to walk on egg shells or be phony in your encounters with your loved one. But I am strongly urging you to take stock and notice if there are a few things you tend to do or say that almost always ruins the intimate moments or delays the sense of one-ness with your partner. If you stop and think for a few moments, you probably know what you've done in the past (probably unintentionally) that has put a dent in your sexuality. You can try to blame your partner for "being too sensitive" or "saying something clumsy first." But in fact the only person you can change is you and this a wonderful place to make some changes.

If you can identify and prevent the few clumsy comments that have been causing tension, fights, or a sexual shut-down with someone who loves you, that could be the most important thing you do to revive or strengthen your sexual connection.

Then the next time you are starting to heat things up sensually with your beloved partner and a critical remark or an impatient comment starts to enter your mind, you can quickly catch yourself and say, "Don't go there. This is not a good time to be a jerk."

You might be amazed at how much your relationship will improve if you simply eliminate a few clumsy remarks that have been causing trouble for a long time.

Good luck!

When Your Partner Has Trouble Reaching a Climax

One of the great mysteries of life is why some people find it so easy to reach orgasm while others find it so difficult. Several decades ago there were psychoanalysts who arrogantly insisted that the slow-to-climax partner was "frigid." Thankfully, most therapists today know a lot more about the diversity of human sexual response and very few professionals today would ever use the inaccurate and insulting word "frigid."

So what's the deal? Why is it that with one partner you can engage in several minutes of oral sex or intercourse which leads to an explosion and heartfelt thanks, while with another partner you can perform the exact same quantity and quality of oral sex or intercourse and the response might be, "Why are you slowing down? I'm barely getting started here?"

As a couples counselor for the past 23 years, I've found that a huge number of couples suffer a lot of guilt, arguing, frustration, and emotional distance as a result of the mysteries of the human orgasm. In order to resolve these common dilemmas or even prevent a break-up with your partner, a few topics from my new book, need to be discussed ahead of time. For example, on a nice day off when you and your partner are taking a walk, or you are having breakfast or dinner together, it might be a good idea to bring out your sense of humor and talk about "The Mystery of the Big O." It's a lot more fun than watching golf or poker on television and can generate some extremely important breakthroughs in your sex life. Here are some questions you can discuss with each other in an open and non-defensive way:

-- What do you know already from your own experience are the best ways to shut down or ruin an almost-orgasm? This humorous and insightful conversation topic can be a crack-up for both of you. Is it the sound of your kids running down the hall and pounding on the bedroom door that takes your body from bliss to terror? Is it when your partner mentions a certain upsetting topic or difficult person that brings you crashing back to reality? Is it when one of you says something critical or gives some advice to the other person? Is it when you feel rushed or pressured by an impatient partner who seems to be saying or implying, "What the heck is taking you so long?" Is it when the physical sensations are happening too fast or too slow? Is it when your partner seems to be losing interest in your responses because he or she is focused completely on his or her own orgasm? Having an informative and helpful talk about what interrupts intimacy and orgasms can be a terrific starting place for the revival of your closeness as a couple. Especially if you talk to one another as caring teammates, rather than as competitors or rivals, you will find this exploration of the "Mysteries of the Big O" to be a wonderful chance to get to know some of each other's most private thoughts.

--What do you know from direct experience or from your own readings on the subject that might be the missing link for you between a difficult search for the big O versus a beautiful journey to the land of release? It's been stated by various researchers that somewhere between 60-80% of women either prefer or absolutely need oral stimulation in order to have an orgasm. It has nothing to do with being frigid and in fact it's quite normal for a woman to find it much easier to reach orgasm from oral sex than from even the most prolonged and well-positioned intercourse. In fact, in most surveys and in one-on-one counseling sessions, the majority of women admit that they find a favorite vibrator, a well-choreographed set of fingers, a very-talented tongue, the flow of a bathtub faucet, or some other well-traveled path to be much more likely to lead to an orgasm than intercourse. Many women are afraid or embarrassed to admit that they are in the 60-80% of women who don't prefer intercourse as their favorite route to orgasm. But it's the truth and if you want to have a more successful sex life you might as well start with the truth. At the same time, there are many men who find their best orgasms arrive as a result of certain exciting extras that they might be shy or unwilling to communicate to their partner. It might be a specific finger-pressure on the sensitive area behind the testicles. Or a secret spot at the opening of the anus (but only if his partner is comfortable and careful with this delicate opening). Or it might be a certain way of stroking the penis by hand or through oral sex. Or it might be some other wonderful series of actions that take him over the moon if only he would let his partner know the secret.

--Please don't judge or criticize each other for having extremely different methods or lengths of time that you need in order to fully open up and reach your best orgasms. If you were to interview a few thousand individuals about exactly what they enjoy and what they don't enjoy when they are making love, you will be amazed at the diversity and uniqueness of each individual. Not only that, but you will find in most cases what feels great one day for a person might not feel so great on a different day for the same individual. That's why you and your partner should be extremely patient and compassionate with each other as you keep discovering new insights into the complexity and uniqueness of each other's sexual responses. It doesn't matter if your current beloved is different or more complicated than someone else you've been with before. All that matters is that the two of you find exquisite ways to deepen your love and intimacy without judging, mistreating, or disrespecting one another.

--Be willing to admit to each other what you worry about regarding your orgasms. Some individuals diminish their own enjoyment of sex because they are afraid they are too loud or too soft when they have an orgasm. Many fear that they are taking too long or that they are not taking long enough to reach orgasm. Others fear they are not as dramatic or extensive in their orgasms as what they've seen in porn films or heard from the boasting of others. Still others worry about whether they have an odor, a secretion, an unusual spasm, or emit strange sounds when they are fully engaged in having an orgasm. Each of these partners will need reassurance from a caring and non-judgmental partner who explains what a precious gift it is to share all the diverse aspects of who we are with someone who treasures us and respects us fully.

--Design with your partner a choreography or a turn-taking sequence that maximizes what you know about yourself and the other person. For example, if you know that you have a habit of ejaculating too quickly if you are having intense intercourse, you and your partner can design various ways to stop when you start to get too close to the edge. You and your partner will want to read up on the squeeze technique, the Kegel muscle exercises, and the Tantric breathing methods that are described in various sex books on how to stop an ejaculation that might be quicker than you'd prefer. Or you might want to design a turn-taking sequence that allows one partner to orgasm from oral sex first and doesn't require the other partner to last as long during intercourse. Or you might want to have a humorous phrase you can say to your partner if you are getting too close to an ejaculation and you want support in lasting longer, something like "Time to breathe or this might be over too

soon'' or "Whoa darlin' we gotta cool down this engine or it's gonna explode." Instead of feeling insecure or remaining silent about the complexities of orgasm, this kind of teamwork and mutual caring can deepen your sense of intimacy and playfulness.

--Also be willing to have a conversation about when it’s o.k. to not have an orgasm with each other. Many couples find that the pressure to have an orgasm each and every time becomes an impediment to intimacy and spontaneity. What if you consciously decided every so often to kiss, touch, caress, and roll around together lovingly without any orgasms being allowed. The delicious tension build-up and the wonderful physical sensations will surprise you! Or what if you made a shared decision to interrupt your oral explorations or even to interrupt intercourse in order to slow down and breathe in deeply the turned-on feelings that would otherwise be dispersed by an orgasm. Like Faith Hill says in her song, "Just breathe!" Instead of rushing to orgasm, you can deepen your intimacy by looking into each other's eyes or holding each other tenderly while the heat and the excitement is still pulsing through your body.

--Be honest with each other about when one of you feels like working hard toward an orgasm while the other partner feels like taking it easy. Especially on nights or mornings when one of you is feeling very energetic and the other partner is tired or stressed, you can take turns being the one who does the heavy lifting and the one who takes a more passive or relaxed role.

For many couples who grew up thinking "We must have simultaneous and equally intense orgasms or else," this ability to respect the different levels of energy you both are feeling on any given day or night will be a nice change of pace. The partner who wants to exert a lot of energy can volunteer to be "the hard worker tonight," or to masturbate solo with the other person nearby or snuggling closely. This allows the less-energized partner to enjoy your excitement vicariously "while I just relax here and do a lot less exertion." Clearly, there needs to be some balance where every few days or weeks you switch roles - the hard working partner gets to relax and be passive, while the often-tired partner gets to show some passion and exertion every so often as well.

--Treat each orgasm not as an obligation, but rather as one of many wonderful moments on the journey of connecting as lovers. When two partners start to enjoy every delicious moment of rolling around together or exploring each other's highly-sensitive bodies, the quest for orgasm becomes less of a burden. For most couples who become less orgasm-obsessed, a new and much deeper level of intimacy emerges. I have learned from couples in my office who described to me,

"There's such a beautiful sense of trust and closeness that occurs when we simply enjoy each other" aliveness and we don't pressure ourselves or the other person to have the ultimate orgasm each and every time." Others have described it as "A chance to enjoy the entire process of lovemaking and if the orgasms happen, that's even more of a treat."

When You Have a Higher Sex Drive Than Your Partner

For some strange reason, almost every relationship has moments when one partner has a much higher sex drive than the other partner. Is it because God has a sense of humor? Or because one of you takes only a few seconds to warm up while the other partner needs several hours of everything going perfectly before the kindling starts to catch fire? Or because one of you has been thinking about sex all day while the other person thinks about sex almost never?

As a couples counselor, I've been fascinated for over 23 years watching well-dressed and strongly-in-love couples enter my office and tell me how much they argue or build up resentments because one partner is hot to trot far more often than the other partner. In most cases, the high-sex-drive partner tries a few methods that truly don't work. See if any of these sound like you or someone you know:

Whining: For centuries most men and some women have resorted to whining and complaining in the hopes that it might cause the other partner to warm up and want to roll around naked in bed. Some high-sex-drive partners whine by saying things like "But you promised" or "It's been so long" or "You never seem to be in the mood" or "This is our only chance now that the kids are finally asleep" Or they whine by sulking, complaining, or getting angry when the partner says "Not tonight. I'm much too tired" As one of my therapy clients once told me, "If only whining were a major turn-on, I'd be getting a lot more sex than I do lately."

Citing Math Statistics: Other high-sex-drive individuals think that pulling out facts and numbers will turn on their partner. They say things like, "For crying out loud, it's been six days!" or "It's been two and a half weeks!" Or they say emphatically, "The average couple has sex 2.5 times a week" (a made-up figure that has been used by millions of high-sex-drive individuals but has never once caused a lower-sex-drive person to get naked or feel sensual). Based on what I've discovered from counseling thousands of couples, I have yet to see a lower-sex-drive partner look into the eyes of the person citing these math facts and say, "Oh, yes! Oh, yes! I get so turned on when you give me numbers like that. Don't stop, lover! Don't stop!"

Warning of Medical Disasters: Finally, there is the ultimate ploy that most men learned in high school or college and that rarely if ever works. He says to his partner, "I'm going to get blue balls if we don't do it." Or as my college friend used to call it, "I'm likely to get D.S.B., Dangerous Semen Backup." Maybe one out of fifty partners will be gullible enough to believe that there is such a thing as Blue Balls or Dangerous Semen Backup. But forty nine out of fifty will know that there is a 100% likelihood that the high-sex-drive person will take matters into his own hands and the threat of Blue Balls is pure bluff.

Exactly What Does Work? Now that we've covered the whining, number-crunching, and medical horror stories that don't work, what in fact does work to help bring couples closer when one has a high sex drive and the other doesn't? Here are a few options that I've seen work wonderfully and that are described in detail in my new book. To save or improve your sex life, you might want to experiment with one or more of these:

The No-Pressure Guarantee: Many lower-sex-drive partners have a wall up because they have experienced so much pressure, whining, anger and verbal abuse from their higher-sex-drive partner, or from various other demanding people over the years. This is especially true for good-looking women, who have been pressured and pushed to have sex ever since she first developed a figure at age 12 or 13 or 14. So the best place to begin to repair the damage and start anew with your partner is to sit down and promise the pressuring is over (and to really mean it, dude). You can write a note, send a card, have a face-to-face conversation, or even get down on your knees and say, "I'm sorry I've been a bit intense about this. I realize now that pressuring you is not the way you deserve to be treated. From now on, I promise there will no more pressuring about sex because unless both of us are in the mood it's not good for our relationship if one of us pressures the other."

The Enjoyable rainstorming Walk in Nature: Many couples also achieve a breakthrough in their sex lives when they set aside an hour every few weeks or months and take a relaxing walk in nature (along the water, in a beautiful park, on an attractive tree-lined street, or in some other favorite spot). When the two of you are feeling relaxed and open, start the brainstorming conversation by saying, "I would love to learn more about what makes you feel cared for and appreciated, versus what makes you feel over-stressed or taken for granted. For just a few minutes, would you be willing to teach me what are the things I could do that would make you feel loved and supported and good about our partnership. I can't promise that I'll do a perfect job at everything on the list, but I do want to learn what makes you feel loved." In nine out of ten cases, this type of non-defensive brainstorming conversation opens up the possibility of renewed trust and intimacy. When you listen to your partner describe exactly what warms this unique individual up, you will have some important clues about what will bring back the closeness and passion that has been drained from your relationship.

The "Teach Me Your Subtle Clues and What HelpsYou get in the Mood" Conversation: In addition, there is one more brainstorming conversation that can cause breakthroughs even when there has been a sexual-shut-down for weeks, months, or years between the two of you. At a meal or a walk or a relaxing time when you are together, ask your partner, "I would love to learn what are the subtle clues that you are in the mood or not in the mood for being intimate, and what are the steps that allow you to slowly get in the mood for making love. For instance, what are the clues that maybe you have been giving out every so often and that I didn't pick up on that you were a little bit in the mood and you would like me to gently make a pass and see if it develops into something more? Or what are the clues that you are truly not in the mood and you don't want to have any pressure put on you? Or what are the clues that you are a little bit tired or not quite in the mood, but if you got some support from me and if you let me do most of the energetic fire-building at first you mightslowly feel ready to make love?"; If you are a good, non-defensive listener as you let your partner talk about what causes sensuality or lack of sensuality between the two of you, you will learn extremely valuable clues about how to warm up your partner and when to back off.

The "Show Me How You like to be Kissed and Touched" Conversation: Rather than having a fight during or after a failed love-making session, it's much more effective to ask your partner at the beginning of a love-making session for a short tutorial. Simply ask, "I know that we&'ve been together for a while and sometimes I think I know how you like to be kissed or touched, but maybe there is a way you like to be kissed or touched that you haven't quite told me yet. For just a few minutes would you be willing to teach me what you enjoy and what you don't enjoy when we're kissing and when we're warming each other up." This short tutorial not only allows your partner to be the respected teacher rather than the pressured or pursued object of your desire. It also will give you extremely valuable information about what feels good and what doesn't feel good to this unique and fascinating individual, whose sensuality is slowly being revealed to you as the relationship develops.

The Slow Down and Breathe Techniques: Finally, there is something extremely important about the speed and attitude with which you warm up your partner that can revive or ruin your sex life. If you are rushed, grabby, or too focused on orgasm when you begin to kiss or warm up your partner, there is very little chance that your less-sexually-driven partner will feel safe or sensual. On the other hand, if you remember to slow down, breathe deeply in and out, and let your partner know that you care as much about the gradual intimate moments of connection as you do about the orgasmic release, you will be amazed at how much better your lovemaking becomes. Quite often a partner who has felt pressured, rushed, and judged in the sexual arena will open up to a new sense of freedom and teamwork once you successfully slow down and stop being so demanding or goal-oriented during lovemaking.

But Is It Fair?

For most couples where one partner has a higher sex drive than the other partner, the complicated feelings and slower steps of the less-sexual partner need to be taken very seriously in order to revive the intimacy in the relationship. But if you are the higher-sex-drive partner, you might be feeling or thinking, "This isn't fair. Why does the lower-sex-drive partner get to have more than 50% of the control over when and how we do it?" While that's a legitimate question, the truth is we're not talking about fairness here, dude, we're talking about what will get the kindling started on those cold and lonely nights where there hasn't been much heat lately. Letting the less-sexual partner call the shots somewhat will help this person open up and bring down the frustrating wall that has been blocking any chance of intimacy for a very long time. Good luck!

Smooth Out the Initiation of Intimacy

I conclude with two additional fine points of lovemaking that I've seen help shift couples from a so-so to a spectacular love life. The first is something that I often hear good and decent men wish could be improved about their relationships. As most men and some women have explained to me in counseling sessions, "It's difficult to always be the one to do the initiating. It's frustrating to be the one who gets turned down time after time, but when I ask my partner if she would be willing to take the risk and initiate sex once in a while, she rarely does."

When it comes to your own relationship, is there one partner -- male or female -- who usually does the initiating or the asking, or who makes the risky first move? Has the situation become so one-sided that one of you has started to get resentful?

What I recommend is not to fight or bicker about this imbalance, but to have a creative and non-attacking conversation instead. A relaxed and playful talk about how to bring more mutuality and teamwork to your love life is bound to be more effective than a rant or a tirade. The best solution I've seen is to set aside twenty minutes on a good day or night every few months to clarify:

What are some of the subtle or obvious clues that your partner is comfortable giving you which would let you know ahead of time that he or she is sufficiently interested and will probably say yes?

What are clues that your partner is willing to give you that he or she is a definite no for today or tonight?

What are the clues your partner tends to give you that he or she is possibly interested, if you coax gently or warm him or her up?

Admitting to each other in a relaxed and nonjudgmental conversation how to read each other's clues is essential if you want to break out of the rut of "I always initiate and you don't" that happens in many relationships.

"I Don't Like to Come Out and Say, 'I'm in the Mood!'"

One of the couples I counseled recently are Brenda and Stephen, who have been together for almost ten years. They've watched their sex life change from hot and sweaty before they had children to "he's still asking but she's almost never saying yes" for the past two years.

When Brenda and Stephen took a romantic walk along a hillside trail near their home and admitted to each other what clues they each tend to send out that tonight might be yes, no, or maybe, they were each amazed at how often they hadn't known what to look for from their long-time partner.

Stephen was surprised to find out that Brenda often put her hand softly and lovingly on top of his hand at dinner on nights when she was feeling a little bit affectionate and was hoping he'd coax her with a first move and a gradually accelerating intimacy. Stephen commented, "I was so surprised to hear that this was one of Brenda's major clues that she might be feeling amorous. I always thought when she put her hand on my hand it meant she wanted me to stop talking or to lower my voice in the restaurant."

Brenda explained, "I don't actually want Stephen to have to be the initiator all the time. That's not fair to him and I wouldn't want to be in his shoes having to get turned down so many times. Yet I'll be honest -- I don't envision a time when I'll be the vocal, uninhibited partner who says, 'Hey baby, let's get it on.' That's just not my style. However, I will continue to send out signals and now I'll even let Stephen know ahead of time which signals mean yes, no, or maybe if you gently get me warmed up."

As a therapist I have heard about similar conversations where the partner who usually doesn't initiate does in fact reveal in these heart-to-heart talks the subtle clues that tonight might be a good night for affection. Some women put on a special piece of clothing or lingerie that signals, "Try me tonight -- the stars and the moon are in alignment." Other women and some men say they tend to make especially strong eye contact or they brush up gently against their partner once or twice to signal, "I'm waiting for you to make a move in response."

One woman said, "I don't like to come out and say, 'I'm in the mood!' but it's not hard to read my number one clue that I'm starting to feel a bit amorous. I usually walk up to my partner when he's doing something in the kitchen, the living room, or the bathroom. I gently brush my breasts against his back and wait to see if that gets his attention. What I didn't realize is that my partner has been told no so many times by me on the nights I'm not in the mood that he didn't understand the breasts against the back actually means it's safe again to ask. If we hadn't had this twenty-minute heart-to-heart conversation to clarify the clues, I think I'd still be sending out my signal and he'd still be assuming I'm not interested. Now he knows that when he feels my softness brushing up against his back or he sees me stroking his arm while he's talking, it means the odds are in his favor and he better make a move before the winds change direction."

This question of who initiates and who doesn't may seem inconsequential, but it's not. If year after year there is one partner who gets rejected often and isn't sure what might lead to a yes, then there will eventually be some escalating emotional distance and resentment in the relationship. On the other hand, if you and your partner can give each other a few clues that reveal when you would like to be coaxed into lovemaking (and when you don't want to be coaxed), you will prevent a lot of disappointing moments and hurt feelings. All it takes are a few playful conversations that clarify, "Here's my way of expressing my sensuality without having to blurt it out." Then enjoy the resulting intimacy.

What About the Afterglow?

There's one final important choreography issue that has helped hundreds of long-term couples feel more loving, passionate, and satisfied with each other year after year. For many couples, there is a huge difference between a good relationship and a great relationship, depending on how you each handle the afterglow -- the quiet, vulnerable moments of connection and bonding that happen (or fail to happen) right after the two of you have reached orgasm or completed your lovemaking.

With your current partner, does that tend to be a moment when the two of you feel extremely close and at peace with the world? Or does your lovemaking frequently end with one of you drifting quickly off to sleep, or one of you taking a phone call, or one of you getting swept away by thoughts about work, money, stressful topics, the kids, sports scores, or domestic chores?

Instead of having one partner longing for closeness while the other partner has gone on to other things, are there alternatives that might help each of you get what you need during the afterglow? Here are a few ideas from my counseling clients. Talk these over with your partner and see which feel right for you and your particular style of post-orgasmic connecting:

A heterosexual couple told me they like to "spoon" after making love.

Another heterosexual couple said they usually have only a few minutes after lovemaking until one of them falls asleep, so they maximize these few minutes by making sure they gently kiss each other several times. Sometimes they talk briefly about how grateful they are for the caring, the passion, and the warmth of their lovemaking.

A lesbian couple told me they feel like the best of teammates at these times.

A gay male couple told me they prefer silence after lovemaking, and to drift back into the everyday world slowly without words.

One heterosexual couple included a male partner who simply couldn't stop himself from falling asleep immediately after climaxing. His partner said she often felt "lonely" and "abandoned" at those moments. So her partner offered to give her something the day after they'd made love, such as a flower, piece of chocolate, romantic note of gratitude, or warm morning kiss, to make sure she knew that he truly did care about their intimate moments.

Finally, another couple told me they have very active young children who sometimes pound on the locked bedroom door moments after the parents are done making love. According to this couple, "At that moment when we hear the insistent shrieks and fists of our beloved younger child, we look at each other and smile. We're like co-conspirators enjoying the fact that we had some great sex without getting caught. Then we put some clothes on and quickly open the door to hug our insistent child."

Sometimes it takes a bit of creativity and innovation to come up with an afterglow style that works for both partners in a particular situation. Don't judge or attack your partner for needing to sleep after lovemaking or for starting to think about work, food, finances, or the kids. Simply explore with your partner, "What can we do to prolong the closeness and warmth just a few moments more? Can we find a way to give each other reminders of our affection and our appreciation for one another before we move on to our responsibilities?"

As a leaf falling into a pond sends out hundreds of small ripples, so the smallest gestures of caring right after lovemaking can send reminders of your love into your hearts and strengthen your closeness in the hours and days ahead. The beauty of the afterglow of making love is that you can look into each other's eyes for a moment and realize how miraculous it is that you have found someone to love and someone to share life with. Even if you have very stressful lives, those few moments together can become a peaceful sanctuary that revives and renews the two of you.

The Loving Gift of Being Fully Present

What would it be like if you and your partner became excellent listeners on a daily basis? For example, think back through the months or years you have known your partner and recall the times when the two of you talked like best friends who truly cared about each other. What did it feel like to have a soul mate who was 100 percent there for you? Wouldn't it be great to have that sense of deep connection again in your conversations?

You may have had moments in your relationship when you both made sure to set aside time each day or each week to catch up on what was happening with each other. Do you remember what that was like, and do you know why you've stopped making your moments together a high priority?

You may have had moments when you felt completely understood and appreciated by each other, when the two of you felt like passionate co-conspirators facing the obstacles and challenges of life together. Did you fall in love because you could appreciate one another's visions and vulnerabilities better than anyone else?

I bring up these questions to help you and your partner remember how amazing it feels when you are absolutely in the current moment connecting with your loved one. Yet to be fully present with the person you love deeply is not easy to accomplish. Not only do we have busy lives and lots to deal with, but we find it risky to open up and be fully known by another human being. On a stressful day when your brain and nervous system get battered and fried, how do you show up and be there 100 percent in the current moment with a partner who might also be exhausted or agitated?

Ways to Create Heartfelt Listening

No one sets out to be a lousy listener. I doubt that you've ever heard at a wedding or commitment ceremony the partners pro- claim in their vows, "I promise to be a mediocre listener to you. I vow to show condescending signs of impatience or say things like 'So what's your point already?' when I come home from work and you're trying to describe the ups and downs of your day." Yet even if you're highly respected as a good listener in your job, you might still need to overcome the tendency to wear your "I've got no listening left" face when you're at home with your long-term partner or your kids.

There are three things you can do to master the art of heartfelt listening, even on a stressful day: the Daily Decompression Exercise, the Twenty-Minute Daily Check-In, and Giving Each Other Three Appreciations.

The Daily Decompression Exercise

It's going to take more than good intentions if you want to be fully present for each other after a stressful day. That's why I recommend a remarkable tool called the Daily Decompression Exercise that I've seen work for hundreds of couples. Instead of going on automatic pilot when you're at home and slipping into impatience or grumpiness, you can use this exercise to manually adjust your focus and breathing at the moment your beloved partner needs you to be fully present. Instead of getting distracted, you can become the exquisite listener that a great partnership requires.

Here's what to do:

Before you try to have a quality conversation with your loved one, take five or ten minutes to "decompress" from the day. You might want to stop a block or two before your street and take five quiet minutes to remind yourself, "I'm not at work any longer. I'm about to enter a different atmosphere where my loved ones are hoping they'll have the good listener this time instead of the cranky, impatient, burned-out basket case they've had to endure too many times."

Or go into the washroom and rinse your hands and face as you say into the mirror, "This is a crucial moment when I'm either going to be a great listener or an impatient jerk. The quality of my relationship depends on whether I show up right now with an open heart or a closed mind."

During your five- or ten-minute decompression, you may also meditate or say a prayer to reconnect with that calm place deep inside yourself. You could say something like, "Please help me open my heart even though my body is tired." Or you could imagine that you're an astronaut or a scuba diver who needs to regain normal breathing now that you're coming back to firm ground after spending time in an alien environment. If you came back suddenly to normal oxygen after a journey to outer space or the ocean floor, you would begin by breathing slowly and calmly as you said to yourself, "I'm entering a completely different world than where I've been the past several hours."

Whatever approach you utilize, make sure you take a moment to feel your body and your mind shifting out of the "get to the point already" tone that might be normal at work but disastrous at home. Breathe deeply as you envision yourself turning back into a loving partner-and a caring and patient parent if you have kids at home.

As you walk up to your front door, stop for a moment to make sure you're ready to approach your loved ones with your most compassionate self. The moment before you say "Hello" or "How are you?" to your loved ones, take a deep breath and remind yourself, "The person I'm about to talk to is more important than any client, customer, boss, colleague, or phone caller I've spoken to today. I better show up fully available for this next conversation because nothing else is as important as these precious moments together. " You might even want to put these few sentences on a note card that you keep in your wallet in case you need to read them to yourself after an especially stressful day.

Even if your partner or your kids start right in saying something you've heard before, remind yourself that you can still be a calm and patient listener. As your partner begins to speak, if you notice that your impatience, irritability, or desire to interrupt is welling up, be sure to catch yourself and say silently, "Don't be a jerk. Don't be the lousy listener who can ruin a good relationship. Right now I'm definitely tired, but I'm still capable of listening with a completely open heart. This is the moment to prove whether I'm a great partner or a cranky burden for my loved ones."

Please don't underestimate the importance of this decompression portion of your day. What you say to yourself to unhook from your stressed-out mood is up to you. I've listed here a few possibilities, but feel free to change these statements into your own words. The key is to find a way to decompress so you won't stir up a fight or disappoint those who look forward to seeing you when you come home. Because if you talk to your partner or your kids the way you talk to someone you are disciplining at work, your loved ones will be thinking to themselves, "Oh, great, here we go again. The agitated commander in chief is home again and we're all supposed to take orders. Get me outta here!"

©2008, Leonard Felder

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Leonard Felder is a licensed psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles. As a popular lecturer and recognized expert on how to improve personal relationships, his books have sold more than 1 million copies. His latest book is Wake Up or Break Up: The 8 Crucial Steps to Strengthening Your Relationship He has appeared on more than 200 teleivsion and radio programs, including Oprah, The Today Show, The Early Show, CNN, AM Canada, NPR, and ABC Talkradio. He and his wife, Linda, have been together since 1980, and they hare the parents of a 12-year-old son, Steven. E-Mail or www.wakeuporbreakup.com

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