Category: Relationships

Re-ignite you! February 4th, 2017 9-4, Ottawa! Four great speakers!


Give yourself the gift of re-igniting and rebuilding your relationships. It all starts with you!
Allow yourself to work from the outside in and the inside out and get clear about what you want in your future.
Empower your sex life! Find out how to increase your libido, ignite the passion, and discover your authentic sexy self.
Got money questions? Re-vamp your money plans, re-think your spending and make sure you are in charge of your credit and cash flow.


“You have to find what sparks a light in you so that you in your own way can illuminate the world.”

-Oprah Winfrey

In a fun and exciting environment; give yourself the gift of this amazing opportunity to ignite your inner change and connect with others who want to rebuild, restore and refresh.

Diane Valiquette

Do you know why you do the things you do? Do you know what your patterns are in relationships, why they exist and how to change the ones that are just not working? It all starts with you! With Diane’s help you will learn why you do the things you do in relationships, why you pick the partners you do, and how to empower yourself to create the best relationships possible.

Sue McGarvie

Good sex is part of a healthy and abundant life and is an important part of the human condition. Food tastes better, the sun shines brighter and great sex is the glue that sticks relationships together. Find out how to increase your libido, ignite the passion, and discover your sexy self. We will explore new models of relationships, learn about the five things you need to understand before meeting a new partner, and make your intimacy magical.

Pierrette Raymond

Going through transition and starting over can be very difficult. In this session Pierrette Raymond, life makeover specialist, will guide you through a powerful experience of getting clear about what you want for your future; how to let go of what no longer serves physically, emotionally and psychologically. Pierrette will help you move forward and live your life to the fullest. This session will leave you feeling empowered knowing that you can do it, you can create the life that you want, your way.

Judith Cane

Money – one of the most powerful forces in the world. Do you understand it all? Judith Cane, Canada’s Money Coach does and she’ll share it with you through a dynamic, engaging presentation. Got questions? Ask. Answers? Judith has them. Plain-talking, point-making, educational and entertaining, Judith Cane, will help you to re-ignite your money plans, re-think your spending and make sure you are in charge of your credit and cash flow.

My clients get a 2 for 1 rate! Bring a friend and make the change! $50 for the day is great!
Click here for yours! What a deal!!!

New date night ideas! Pick a suggestion and make a sexy date happen.


So it’s late summer and the schedules are irregular. Life is good but there are lots of family, and social obligations and chores to be done. Planning a date night with your partner may have gotten lost in the shuffle. It’s definitely time to pick a few ideas and plan something before homework and football games take over.

1.Try a honey tasting! As a beekeeper and honey sommelier I definitely eat my share of honey. Honey has been known for its medicinal properties for thousands of years. Honey not only is an excellent sweetener, will never go bad, and can prevent wound infections it also can boost the immune system, relieve seasonal allergies, and improve gut health.
Honey also tastes amazing and has unique flavours based on the geographical location, types of flower nectar sourced by the bees and how the beekeeper has harvested the honey. Time of the year impacts the flavor of honeys. Autumn honeys tend to be darkest and most full-bodied but crystalizes the most quickly. This is the time of year that it is most flavourful and has the most aphrodisiac properties. Buy a few different local honeys (honeys from the grocery store is often cut with other ingredients or pasteurized- killing the healthy enzymes). Blindfold your partner and pour some honey into a glass. Using a clean spoon have them taste the honey and describe the taste. You can kiss them and let them nibble a little green between honeys to cleanse their palates. Have them pick their favourite. Then you get to spread it on you and have them continue the tasting….

2. Send them text bombs or random questions. Make them into paper airplanes, leave them on the bathroom mirror or in their wallets. It’s a fun thing to do if you have some time and want to find something out about your partner you don’t know.
`What’s something you always wanted to do as a child but never got to do it?
`If you were in a witness protection program, what would be your new name and where would you go?
`If you could get away with a crime, would you? If yes, what would it be?
`Who was your first celebrity crush?
`What’s the worst thing you ever did as a child and what was your punishment?
`What is one thing you refuse to share?
`What are two things you would do if you woke up to find yourself completely invisible?
`If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
`If you could be on the cover of any magazine which one would you choose?
`What song would you sing for your American Idol audition?

3. Find the country fairs! Check out the homemade pies, look at the 4 H club livestock judging, go on a merry-go-round, and take in a local band. This is the time of year and there is one on every weekend.

4. Star gazing with foods you haven’t tried before. We like to try mystery fruits. Things like dragonfuit and lychee
and look up at the night sky. This is the best time of year to do this because there aren’t any bugs. You can also do a tailgate picnic in the evening and watch the sun set.

5. Take one of the couple’s cooking classes. Around here the Loblaw’s cooking schools or LCBO classes are fabulous. There is also one every Tuesday night at the Independent at Bank and Somerset where you get a $10 gift card for the $10 class. Loved their pizza making. Playing with dough was sexy.

6. Make a drive-in movie. Lots of people have those projectors that show off computer screens. It can project easily to the side of your house or even a sheet on the wall. But the fun is doing it outside. Run a “drive-in type movie”. Think Indiana Jones, Grease, or The Martian. Sit in the car and make out during it. There is a reason why drive-in’s never go out of style.

How Facebook and Gaming impact your relationships

We are all guilty of it. Reading Facebook posts, answering emails, or hitting the next level in Candy Crush while our partners are trying to get our attention. We knew it vexed them. Now it has been shown to make your spouse feel like they are not as nearly as important as another few minutes of gaming or of liking your neighbours garden pictures.

We all know how we feel when we are standing in a store and the sales person answers the phone from another customer while you are looking for service. It makes us feel devalued. But how does it really influence relationships? According to the research, recently published in Journal of Family Economic Issues, wives typically use social media more often than their husbands, but that imbalance does not necessarily correlate with marital dissatisfaction. However, when husbands spend more time on social networking than their wives, they are more likely to report marital conflict and so are their spouses. Gaming, too, seemed connected with marital dissatisfaction. If either the husband or the wife was spending more time playing video games, it was associated with higher conflict, lower satisfaction and higher perceived instability in the marriage.
So is the answer simply less technology?

It turns out one of the best markers to deal with increasing speed of life and more social media and phone interruptions is to schedule date nights. Check out my new list of new date night ideas for late summer early fall. Or if you are local join our fun, zany date night group called The Ducklings that is the fastest growing social group in the city. It’s somewhere between Rotary or Church groups and crazy swingers and is all about being sexy but safe with your partner. Connecting with your sweetie takes work, time and mindfulness. Do something with your partner today that makes them feel important. And do it without technology.

How to work with relationship deal breakers

What are relationship deal breakers?

I was polling a group of single Duckling women recently and asked them what they could and couldn’t live with in a potential partner. I had the usual answers like “no substance abusing”, “gainfully employed”, and “doesn’t live in his parent’s basement and talk into a pretend communicator”. But there were also more nebulous ones like “I need him to be sexually open and a little kinky”, “he can’t want to move in- I need my space”, and “I need him to have his own teeth and be able to get it up occasionally without duct tape and popsicle sticks.”

In a Psychology Today article (October 2015) they cited a poll from a singles dating site and the list included; Disheveled appearance, lazy, too needy, lacking a sense of humour, bad sex, too much tv or video games, blunt, doesn’t want kids, and low sex drive.
I think I would add to the list, poor oral hygiene, selfish in bed, no sense of humour and has that “smell of desperation” about them as disastrous in a dating situation. Even if they appear initially attractive.
There are many factors that lead to the creation of deal breakers. Some people are turned off by simple things like a walking style while other factors are complex such as double dealing.
You should ask yourself the following questions before dealing with problems so as to get an overview on what your deal breakers are.
1. What are the most common deal breakers for men?
• Health – some people are not hygienic and have bad smell and other suffer from STI’s.
• Dating behaviors – this involves being with multiple partners or pre-existing relationships.
• Negative personality traits – most avoid people who are untrustworthy, are abusive or uncaring. Men seem to have trouble with overt drama, meanness, lack of interest in sex, talking too much, and indecisiveness. As I tell women who are wondering what men want, they want a kind woman who looks good, who rolls with situations and who likes sex and is sexually open.
2. How can we deal with the relationship breakers when meeting a potential partner?
• Know what you want.
Most people know the deal breakers in advance while others don’t recognize them until they encounter the hurt. Know what you can’t tolerate, “set the bar” above this and settle for nothing less. Grow from the lessons leant from past experience.
• Understand expectations
Set your hopes high and go into a date with an open mind. Understand that nobody is perfect and there’s a difference between being impossible to please and being picky.
• Take time to know the other person first
Learn to acquaint yourself with the person before becoming romantic; it can save a lot of frustration.
• Talk to a therapist
When it comes to understanding what is important to you in a potential relationship have a look at why previous relationships haven’t worked? Are you clear about how you want to be treated? Can you teach partners how you want to be treated? Do you have a list of what’s important and your values when choosing a potential mate? If you are having trouble, or are constantly attracted to the wrong partner it may be time to get some help. I see lots of both men and women who are struggling to find love and keep hooking up with Mr. Bad Boy, or Ms. I-Hate-Sex. If you aren’t clear about what you are looking for and your absolute no-no’s then you may be destined to keep making the same relationship mistakes over and over. Send me a note (suem at and let’s talk about quick and effective therapy to get you matched.

Coping with deal breakers can be very frustrating but it is difficult to avoid them. Many people mesh while others don’t. As long as you stay cool, know what you want and be patient, you will finally get your match.
But what happens if some of these qualities are not initially apparent? Relationship deal breakers in existing relationships are things like being passive/aggressive, being dismissive of your feelings, or controlling your access to your friends and family. If you are in a relationship and the relationship isn’t working for you it may be time to ask yourself if any of the following list of qualities applies to your relationship.

• You are the only who is unhappy
• To make the relationship better, you work harder to make things work. You restrain your personality to avoid any conflict from arising.
• He/she hardly meets your needs while you meet theirs.
• You do away with all your friends just to make your partner happy
• Your partner cares less on how you feel and is not remorse about anything dealing with your needs.
• He/she never listens to whatever you say and sees you as a product of their fantasies. He/she finds it difficult to see you as your own person with feelings, thoughts and own motivations.

So if you have been unhappy in your relationship for longer than the last six months and if any of the above list resonates with you it may be time to really look at how well you are being treated in your relationship. Dealbreakers are just that. Things you can’t live with. The best thing to do is stop burying your head in the sand and address it or get out of it. What I do know is that partners who are behaving this way will not magically improve. It’s your life, and you need to teach people just how you want to be treated.

deal breakers2

Getting space in a relationship

spaceYou know those marriage ceremonies where they blend two candles into one symbolizing the couple becoming one entity instead of two separate individuals? Well it makes relationship therapists cringe. People are individuals. And healthy relationships need two committed but independent people pulling in the same direction and who share commonalities to flourish. Having the same interests and values are great. Feeling like you’ve lost your individuality is toxic to a healthy relationship. For many couples the reason that the passion and heat has waned in their relationship is that they are overly connected. What you say? Being too close can lead to a lack of intimacy, passion and sex. There is no mystery or spark. As Esther Perel says in her brilliant book Mating in Captivity, “fire needs air”. What Perel means is that you need space, tension, and a bit of unpredictability to create serious heat in the bedroom.

Harris O’Malley, the nerd love guy has this to say about space in relationships; “One of the things that people often don’t understand about relationships is that everybody needs their space at one point or another. We have a tendency to treat relationships like being The Defiant Ones: once you’ve agreed that you’re in a relationship now you are shackled together for all time, never to be alone again and the only thing you can do is learn how to work around it. You’re no longer an individual, you see; you’re now officially a couple – a gestalt entity forming feet and legs, arms and body that somehow still has a hard time agreeing on what to watch on Netflix, never mind agreeing which of you forms the head. This is especially true when you are young and/or new to relationships in general – spending every waking moment together is seen as proof of just how much you love one another and why you’re so perfect together.

Except… that’s not how people work. You don’t subsume your identity into the collective Matrix that is your union, exchanging your sense of self for a cutesy portmanteau couple-name that even TMZ would gag over. Just because you love somebody doesn’t mean that your need for time to yourself goes away, and wanting time to do your own thing by yourself and with your friends doesn’t mean that your love is any less “real” or “true”. For that matter, spending every single minute of every single day together doesn’t mean that your relationship is wonderful and all cartoon birds and rainbows and hot and cold running blow-jobs. In fact, by not making room for having some “me” time, you’re actually hurting your relationship.”

I couldn’t agree more. So how do you find some space amidst kids, cooking together and sharing a bathroom?

It starts with carving out time. I know it’s hard when life is as busy as it is. I really do understand crazy schedules. I’ve written in past blogs about how my amazing husband makes Monday Night Football evenings extra sexy by upping the foreplay before the half time frolic. We set that Monday evening aside for each other. Sometimes as a therapist the first thing I do is talk about child care. You have to make the relationship a priority or something will ALWAYS get in the way. Your kids are programmed to get between you and your partner. It’s your job to find that balance. And it takes consistent effort.

Once you have found time together, then you need to find time apart. Cultivate your own friends, do things that make you interesting (and allows you to have something to share at the end of the day). Find things that you are passionate about. Engage your brains and your enthusiasm. Then share that with your partner. You are far more likely to be enraptured by your sweetie if you are interesting and have a unique perspective.
I also believe that you need to reign in feelings of jealousy to give your relationship a healthy perspective. Jealousy isn’t just one emotion, it’s a whole bunch all rolled into an ugly green monster. It’s feeling threatened, being fearful, being worried about being abandoned or replaced, thoughts of loss or just plain anxiety. But it is your own mind messing with you and these thoughts can be managed or controlled. So let your partner go out with the boys or have a “girl’s night” at the bar. Encourage your spouse to have friendships with other people who have similar interests. It reflects positively on you and gives you the space to continue to choose each other.
Men and women often perceive the same situation completely differently. Moreover, no two people share the same need for togetherness. Neither would they require the same levels or intensity of intimacy. Balancing space in a relationship is an art, as fostering intimacy requires both togetherness as well as separateness. It is the magical formula we all keep striving for.

The last piece of the puzzle is the worry that if you are too individual then you might drift apart. That’s a real fear and can be managed by making sure you do things together. I’m a big proponent of adventures and finding something that bridges you. If the joint activity gets your adrenaline up, then it’s even more positively impactful. I just heard recently of one couple that does karate together and spars with each other. They both have busy jobs, and it’s their chance to mock fight, feel connected and do the “Mr and Mrs Smith dance” where they try to best each other. She’s been doing karate longer, but he’s stronger. They say that everyone stops to watch the match. And then he kisses her in the middle of the dojo.

Finding a balanced space between “joined at the hip” and “too distant” is a challenge for most couples. And relationships take work. But when they work, and you can find that happy medium, relationships can be absolute magic. So grab your sweetie’s hand and go find that sweet spot.

Why love is simply not enough to make it.

I tell my clients that simply “being in love” isn’t enough to fix all of their problems. Unfortunately, love doesn’t conquer all. With a 52% divorce rate in this country, couples needs more tools besides love in order to make relationships sustainable. Things like attraction, similar interests and values, support systems, courtesy and acceptance. You can go to your grave loving someone but if you can’t live with them them relationships are doomed. So what can you do? There is a great article by Mark Manson ( talking about why this adage is oh-so-true.
Manson calls them three harsh truths about love:

1. Love does not equal compatibility. Just because you fall in love with someone doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a good partner for you to be with over the long term. Love is an emotional process; compatibility is a logical process. And the two don’t bleed into one another very well.

2. Love does not solve your relationship problems. My first girlfriend and I were madly in love with each other. We also lived in different cities, had no money to see each other, had families who hated each other, and went through weekly bouts of meaningless drama and fighting. Unsurprisingly, that relationship burst into flames and crashed like the Hindenburg being doused in jet fuel. The break up was ugly. And the big lesson I took away from it was this: while love may make you feel better about your relationship problems, it doesn’t actually solve any of your relationship problems.

3. Love is not always worth sacrificing yourself. One of the defining characteristics of loving someone is that you are able to think outside of yourself and your own needs to help care for another person and their needs as well.

But the question that doesn’t get asked often enough is exactly what are you sacrificing, and is it worth it?

I used to teach a pre-marriage course with the United Church of Canada. I spoke of the 5 reasons that most people get divorced. They are being absent (physically, emotionally, workaholic), sex and sexual infidelity, conflicts about money, division of labor (read: housework), and interfering or conflicting extended families. never was that the couple in question didn’t love each other.

There is nothing more exciting than a new relationship. That love-sick feeling lifts you up and sends you spinning. But as I remind people in new relationships “it’s simply chemicals and you mustn’t make any life altering decisions for the first 9 to 15 months.” So enjoy the feelings. We are all envious about the excitement. But find a selection committee and listen to them. Do some due diligence. Investigate this relationship. Because listen up, love is simply not enough to make it.

8 things you can do to improve the frequency of sex in a long term relationship

lust1There is a great article in this month’s Psychology Today called Love and Lust about the things you can do to let passion thrive in a modern relationship. It’s well argued and a great read if you are interested in the Psychology of intimacy. With that theme in mind, I have compiled the eight best things you can do to increase to chance of getting horizontal and naked with your spouse this summer.

1. Do some housework together. Seriously. Most people calm down in an uncluttered environment. Dr. Gottman of Seattle discovered that men who do housework get significantly more sex then men who don’t. Sharing chores help couples stay connected.

2. Keep some mystery. Esther Perel in her book Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence talks about couples who often find sex dull the closer and more aligned they are. Build in some mystery dates. Try some erotic adventures that are outside of your comfort zone. I have a list of 50 erotic date ideas you may want to try. Reach out and I’ll send it to you.

3. Increase the playfulness. Sex really is adult play. And if you go into it with the attitude that you are “playing in the sandbox” rather than making the encounter serious the odds of it repeating go up significantly.

4. Lock the bedroom door. I think a door lock should be mandatory to anyone who has kids. Kids need to know that parents have alone time together and that it is to be uninterrupted.

5. Make sure you have a minimum of 3 hours every week of connected, intimate time. I just did an article for the Citizen that said “if you can’t set up adult-only time in your week where you discuss things beyond work and kids your relationship is headed for the rocks. It goes further than that. I suggest a sensuous date night weekly, a weekend or overnight away quarterly, and an annual kid-free holiday. It’s not important, its essential.

6. Think about a sex contract. I think contracting areas of conflict is a great idea. I write up sample agreements on all kinds on domestic issues from how you are going to deal with your in-laws to a “threesome contract”. You need to negotiate the amount, variety and type of sex you need. You can’t hit a target you can’t see, and if you and your partner are both shooting for different targets in terms of sexual expectations there is bound to be trouble.

7. Sex doesn’t necessarily mean intercourse. I often suggest a “medicinal hand job” or mutual masturbation with a battery operated romance item instead of sex. What most men miss in the process is that sex can be intrusive. Goo runs down the inside of your leg, you need a shower, and there is a sweaty person on or inside you. If you are not in the mood and have used your words, try suggesting an alternative.

8. Be gracious. If you stomp off and say “FINE” when sex is rebuffed, it causes a major disconnect between couples. One party feels guilty, not worthy, and continues the cycle of them not wanting to have sex. The partner who has been pushed away spends an inordinate amount of brain space thinking about how they won’t have sex, along with feelings of rejection and unattractiveness.

As the Psychology Today article put it, “the paradox is that we expect more from our marriages but feed them less. Take some time out this summer to feed your relationship.

That awkward conversation about sex…between couples

If you’ve been together for awhile, you may be comfortable discussing sex with each other. You no doubt have chatted about contraception, know each other’s favourite positions and you may have even ventured into the potential minefield of past lovers.

But most couples stall when it comes to the talk about what to do when their sex life gets dull. If sex for you is Saturday night, lights off and missionary position it may be long past the time to heat things up. Even if it’s more frequent with an interesting repertoire, an inventive sex life can still become routine. Have you tried anything new in the last year? Have you planned a sensual date night? Have you ever had a truly honest talk about sexual fantasies? Do you know what your fantasies are? Or what are the most common fantasies for your gender? Have you ever role-played?
What if you really want to try something that may seem a little out there and are too terrified to bring it up to your spouse? Where do you find the skills to discuss and negotiate sexual play in a culture where you never talk openly about sex? Most Canadian homes can discuss politics, neighbours or pop culture around the dinner table. Very few dinner tables are open enough to joke about or have any kind of sexual conversations.

The inner place we inhabit sexually is one of our most personal and intimate places. Most of us are afraid to show off our sexual selves as it leaves us too open and vulnerable. This personal sexual seclusion often forces us to exclude the partner we share a household and life with. We may worry that our partners will find us perverted if we share our secret selves. Or worse, laugh at our sensual desires. The truth is that most people name having a terrific sex life as one of the fundamental requirements in having a great marriage. For a majority of people having good sex is a priority. So why are so few couples having what we call “mind blowing, toe-curling sex?”
We decided that the need to learn sexual communication skills is fundamentally important in relationships. Men and women often need to collectively contemplate new sexual ideas before they decide whether or not a potentially new kind of sexual play is interesting to them. So we designed this course.

It is a workshop for couples and singles who want to be able to find their voices when discussing their sexual desires. It’s for people who want to avoid the landmines when speaking up about acting out their desires. It’s also for people who want to know what’s going on in a stuffy, government town like Ottawa. Most people want to make sure that their neighbours aren’t having hotter, more interesting sex than they are. With speakers that include Ottawa’s leading Dominatrix, an intimacy and tantra leader, a burlesque performer, and a local lifestyle couple, this course is about acquiring knowledge and communicating around it.

Hosted by Ottawa sex therapist and talk show host Sue McGarvie and her husband Blaik Spratt, it’s more than a series of information lectures. It’s therapy on learning to communicate and understand your sexuality in relation to your partners. It’s more than the mechanics of sex, more than what’s out there, and safe enough to allow you to hear where other participants are in the process of finding their authentic sexual selves.
The course begins Sunday, April 13th, 2014 at the Masonic Temple in Westboro (Byron and Churchill). It is from 2:30 to 4:30 and continues five consecutive Sunday afternoons. Find out more by contacting Sue and Blaik at 613-355-1786 or will also give you an outline.

Ideas about increasing the passion in long-term relationships

One of the questions that I ask people when they come in to see me as a sex therapist is “tell me about the best sex you’ve ever had. “ Men usually base their answer on their sexual performance. Or the time when they acted out the Kama Sutra and did 10 positions in the same love making session.
For women I often get one of two answers. They talk of high school when the foreplay was long and extended, and there was a denial of intercourse. Maybe it was because most of the action took place in your parent’s basement or in the backseat somewhere. That tentative touching was so hot. When was the last time you had three hours of nothing but petting? There was also a newness of sexual feelings that were supremely powerful. Alternatively, women describe mind-blowing sex in a hotel room, having beach sex, or in the bushes by the golf green. Sex anywhere but in the bedroom.
I think desire needs newness, mystery, and a sense of adventure to really combust. You may think that is opposite of what relationship counseling preaches. And you would be right. Couples therapists suggest increasing the connection, the closeness and the communication. Relationships thrive with touch, and mutual interests. Those are all good things. And that closeness works for some couples. But intimacy only sometimes begets sensualuality. For some couples the closer and more loving you become, the less heat that is generated in the bedroom. For many people the “crazy monkey sex” needs space between individuals to flourish.
Ethel Perrel in her book Mating in Captivity has this to say “ Ironically, even the closeness generated by good sex can have a boomerang effect. Many couples experience their relationship as a dance in which great sex brings them close but then this very closeness can make sex difficult again”. It can be difficult to generate the nuances of passion between cooking, cleaning, laundry and child care. For many couples the mystery is long gone.
So if this year’s New Year’s Resolution is to crank up the heat in the bedroom to get through those cold Ottawa nights, I’m suggesting there is more to do than lying back and suggesting your partner “can have a go at it”. Look for both newness activities (I’ll have a list of then next month for Valentine’s Day) and adventurous interludes. Take a class, try out a new image, and do a couple of things separate from your partner. And initiate sex somewhere besides the bedroom . You might be able to re-kindle some of that heat you felt when you first made out on your parents couch.

How Monogamy is changing, and changing fast.

A reporter recently asked me “what is the current hot topic in relationships these days?” I said it had to be the question of monogamy and how it is changing for couples. With a 54% divorce rate across the board in North America, you may come to the conclusion that monogamy is a failing experiment. And you may be right. Whether it’s couples who have lost that loving feeling and find themselves drifting into thoughts of others that may be threatening their monogamous relationship; the urge to wander seems to be rampant. I’m hearing daily of many people trying more sexual experimentation (individually or together) outside of their marriage. This question of curiosity or desire to step out on a traditional relationship has seem to become far more vocal over the last year. Monogamy it seems, is an institution under threat. How to negotiate or contract changes to a monogamous relationship is the hot topic de jour in my practice. So what does negotiating monogamy mean? How is Monogamy defined by couples? Is there a well articulated understanding what each partner expects and desires in terms of changing monogamy and in terms of the sexual life they want to have?

There is a great Ted Talk on Huffington Post this month by the sex therapy guru Esther Perel talking about the Passion Paradox. She asks the questions:
Why does good sex so often fade, even in couples who continue to love each other as much as ever?

– Why does good intimacy not guarantee good sex?

– Can we want what we already have?

– Why does the transition to parenthood so often deliver a fatal erotic blow to the couple?

– And why is the forbidden so erotic?

– When you love, how do you feel, and when you desire, how is it different?

Love and desire, they relate but they also conflict. And herein lies the mystery of eroticism. How we straddle our drive for connection and closeness with our quest for separateness and freedom is at the core of reconciling intimacy and sexuality, otherwise called the domestic and the erotic.”

It turns out that Perel thinks its modern life that’s to blame. We want our partners to give us stability and passion, a sense of belonging and while having a respect for our individuality. I say that “it’s impossible for one person to meet all of your needs”. It’s too much to ask of anyone. But can one person meet all of our sexual needs? Maybe, if we are on the same page sexually. The challenge comes when couples have differing sexual appetites for amounts, variations, and what they find erotic. In a modern North American culture, we still are trying to find a way to have that one person fit that ever-changing box of desire. From an evolutionary biology point of view that isn’t how we evolved. I try to explain that men are biologically attracted to newness and are trying to impregnate every women they come across. Women put out bonding hormones when they are sexually active and need to have a emotionally secure primary relationship in order to even contemplate sexual variation. I tell women that in 25 years as a therapist I have met only five women that I think can have inconsequential sex without getting their emotions in play.

The argument is that we have higher cortex functioning and can stop ourselves from wanting what we can’t have. I think we can do it for awhile but sitting on our hands becomes increasingly difficult if fundamental sexual needs aren’t being met. I liken it to dieting. If you go without food for awhile you can guarantee that you will gorge on high fat food at your first opportunity. And if needs aren’t being met sexually, catch ourselves increasingly thinking about meeting those sexual needs. I tell people that I am in the needs business. And if your needs aren’t being met you can white knuckle it for awhile, but sooner or later you’ll want to binge. Walking-not sprinting headlong into infidelity, or sexual adventures but finding a way for both parties to be secure is a whole new area of sex therapy. So what do you do? If partners love each other and don’t want to end the relationship, how do you “color outside the lines of conventional monogamy?”

It takes communication, coaching, and contracting. We may be coveting our neighbors wife but can we act on it without blowing up our relationship? The short answer is yes, but it doesn’t happen easily, lightly or without a fundamental shift in thinking. It’s that shift that allows us to clearly and maturely understand our needs, our partners needs and how to walk through this minefield with integrity. Watch, you will be reading more about changes to monogamy as partners look for solutions to infidelity, become more self aware or simply ask themselves are my neighbors having wilder sex than we are?




Top 8 new ways to connect with your partner.

Happy October! The time of year when I obsess about this year’s Halloween costumes, eat too much turkey and sadly close the cottage for the season. It’s also the time when schedules settle in for the school year and Monday night Football starts up again. Given the time we spend simply living,  we may not be spending the necessary time on date nights  or intimacy that we may have during those long days of  summer holidays.

So as such, I’m offering up some new date night ideas, and ways to connect with your sweetie this fall. Check them out and make a commitment to do something on this list. The Research out of the University of New Mexico says that “working on having a connected relationships is one of the top 5 things you can do to have a happy life”.  Pick one, and make doing something nice for your partner top your priority list. I promise it will pay dividends.

1. Paintball and laser tag. I’m not kidding. Anything that bumps up your adrenaline as a couple bonds you, creates heat and pits the two of you against the world. Check out the Groupon for local paint ball (a la Big Bang.)  Fall is the time to try it.
2. Exaggerate your gender roles. Being hyper masculine, square jawed, broad shouldered, with a 5 O’clock shadow makes men look more virile. It also makes women want them more.It says to us that ” their boys can swim and they make good genetic choices for our ovaries”. Those qualities have women thinking about baby-making (or at least practicing) in our primitive or limbic “we-want-to-have-monkey-sex” brains. The opposite is also true. Feminized women who smell nice, are pink, cute, and sway their hips are also trigger heat from their partners. There is something about playing those exaggerated roles of masculine and feminine that has our primitive brains hard wired for sex.  So go buy some lingerie or put the razor away for the weekend and see what happens.
3. Mail him/her a card to work. Many people (especially men) are visual. They feel loved by what they see as well as by feel. For those verbal love signs (that’s Me!) a loving voicemail will have them listening to it over and over. And try making a commitment to say I love you every day.
4. Set the alarm 20 minutes early to have some uninterrupted “snuggle time”. It’s the men in my office who talk to me about the little things. Most of the time they mean time for sexual activity but it also means safe ways to feel close. Flirt, kiss them on their necks and tell them that you would pick them all over again.

5. Take a shower together. Any time you groom your partner, paint their toes, shave the back of his neck, or pour them into a bubble bath strengthens your bond.  And makes you cleaner. Smile.

6.  Happy endings. Massage with a bang. Grab the baby oil and give your sweetie an orgasm without expecting one in return. It’s very sexy and should cause them to think about how they can reciprocate.

7. Take inventory. I call it a mission statement. We update ours a couple of times a year. It’s the macro “big picture, what are our goals and what do we want to accomplish with our lives kind of discussion”. I think you can’t hit a target you can’t see. And if you don’t have a game plan, or something to look forward to life can drag. Pulling together in the same direction is critical.  Send me an email at if you want an example of a couples mission statement.

8. Develop a “togetherness ritual”. Spif rubs my feet every morning while we are drinking our smoothie on the couch.  It allows us to check in on our day and allows us to check in with each other. I teach couples to try daily non-genital touch, or make a point to always cook together. Whatever your ritual is, make it consistent and personal to you.

The prescription against divorce. 3 hours of connecting time a week and put down the cell phones.

Like most people I communicate all day long by email, text and social media. I have over 4,000 facebook friends (I’m feeling the love.!..) and I try hard to stay on top of my correspondence. It’s hard not to use the same technologies in my intimate communications despite the fact that I preach snuggling, date nights, and regular face to face snogging. There was an article this week in a UK magazine (Sourced London University) that reminded me of the challenges of social media. Apparently, text flirting, facebook, and online adultery sites were cited as being responsible for 60% (Agh!) of divorces in 2011.

Time and the challenge faced with work/life balances is the theme for most of the lunches with my girlfriends. Finding time for personal contact with friends amidst work kids (can’t WAIT for school to start!), and personal time. I gave a controversial quote in my interview with Glow magazine last week. I said that “if couples can’t find 3 hours of uninterrupted intimate time each week for conversation, sensuous touch and a general positive check in of the relationship they won’t make it.” With a divorce rate over 52% for first time marriages, traditional marriages can be viewed by some as a failing experiment. I tell couples that of they can’t regularly carve out that 3 hours a week for conversation beyond “what’s for dinner”, then partners feel taken for granted. And with marriages, the truth is that they take real work and transparency with your communication. I often ask couples if they would be able to exchange phones for the day. If you have flirty emails that you might not want your mate to see, maybe its time to look at an exercise in what I call “open-minded communication”. It’s about  really testing the limits of your comfort zone and honestly asking your partner to meet some of your intimacy needs. It’s scary stuff.

So what can you do without going through a therapist led facilitation?  I suggest two things.  The first is to do a “couples mission statement”. Think of it as a life plan, paragraph of values and New Year’s Resolutions all rolled into one. Write out what’s important to you as a couple, your one and three year life plan, and the things you want to aspire to be in your relationship. Guys get it because its linear, and offers up a target they can hit. Women like it because its intimate and building a future.  The second it to schedule a weekly date night, block of time, parking appointment whatever you like that allows you 3 hours of time together. Find a time when the kids aren’t around, put a lock on your bedroom door, and make your mate the priority for that time. You will be amazed at how effective that it. If you can’t implement those two, drop me a line. I’m can give you a boot camp before you need to look for lawyers.

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