Category: Dating

Best date ideas for 2018. Why keeping it romantic is worth the effort.

Why surprising your partner (even when you are super busy) is essential for great relationships.

I try hard to consistently do and suggest great date night ideas. My friend Angela sends me ideas every quarter for activities in the Nation’s Capital (Dec/Jan’s are posted below).
But for those of you who don’t live in Canada’s most beautiful city my team has come up with some of the best new date suggestions for 2018.

Feeding each other at a food truck.
Even when it’s cold the food trucks make some of the best tacos, chips, and beaver tails around.

New Year’s fireworks. Most communities have firework displays (or inexpensive fireworks) to ring in the New Year. Find a good spot (hint: try the top level of a parking garage), and gaze at the spectacle. Bring along some sparklers and warm beverages in a thermos to make it more fun.

Geocashing. Geocaching is the ultimate scavenger hunt. Using a smartphone and GPS coordinates, participants search for hidden objects. Just sign up for a free Geocaching account and download the app. Then pick a geocache near you and start hunting. It’s a great togetherness activity.

Have you considered ice fishing? You can bring a deck of cards and stay out on the ice in rented fishing huts. Check your local outdoor store for details.

Stargaze. Pack some blankets and dust of those festival chairs. There are lots of stars that you can’t see in the summer and it’s worth some cuddle time on a cold night. Once the stars come out, search for constellations and identify them using an app or book. Make a game of it: Whoever finds a specific star, planet, or constellation — or the most of all three — wins.

Play strip chess. Learn to give great massages.

The list of activities in Ottawa:
Skating through the Forest – Discover the enchanting site of Skating Through the Forest next to the vast Gatineau Park, at 45 minutes from Ottawa. Savour the pristine experience of ice skating on a natural 3km open air ice path in an incredible landscape and sheltered from the wind. Non-skaters can spend some time snowshoeing or walking on our designated paths. Can you spot our friendly wolf “Loupie”? After discovering the ice, join us in our chalet for a hot drink and a snack. (opens officially Dec 15th!)

Alight the Night – Starting Friday! EASTERN ONTARIO’S BIGGEST OUTDOOR LIGHT FESTIVAL. Bundle up for an evening stroll through this picture-perfect postcard setting! Close to one million lights adorn the heritage buildings, trees and fences of Upper Canada Village creating a one-of-a-kind magical backdrop for its annual Alight at Night Festival – a
true winter wonderland!

Rideau Hall Skating Rink – The outdoor skating rink was originally built in 1872, during the mandate of the Earl of Dufferin, Canada’s third governor general. Along with his wife, Lady Dufferin—who quickly became a keen skater herself—he organized many skating parties during his stay at Rideau Hall. Today, you can step back in time and go for a skate on this historic rink which is also now refrigerated. Saturdays and Sundays, from 12 noon to 5 p.m. (without reservations).

8. Christmas Lights across Canada – Ottawa sparkles and shines during the Christmas season with Christmas Lights across Canada. From early December to early January, thousands of colourful lights illuminate the National Capital Region’s winter landscape. The 33rd edition of Christmas Lights across Canada will take place from December 7, 2017 to January 7, 2018. Hundreds of thousands of dazzling holiday lights glow throughout downtown Ottawa. Parliament Hill is a must-see stop on any tour of the lights, with tens of thousands of bulbs lighting its historic buildings.

Also from December 7, 2017 to January 7, 2018, a winter lightscapes multimedia show is projected onto Parliament Hill’s Centre Block. Inspired by Canada’s nature, climate and culture, this 13-minute fairy tale runs nightly in a loop, from 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
10. Christmas in the Byward market – Complimentary wagon rides and Christmas Choirs. Saturday and Sunday on the George Street Plaza from noon – 4 p.m. Choirs: Saturday, December 16 12:00-2:00 Northern Stars Saturday, December 16 2:00-4:00 Ottawa Gay Men’s Choir, Sunday, December 17 12:00-2:00 Chinese Alliance Church, Sunday, December 17 2:00-4:00 Ottawa University

Christmas in the ByWard Market – Wagon Rides & Christmas Choirs

Ottawa Art Gallery Lit Up – We’re taking art outside for one night!
Join us as the Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) celebrates two new commissioned works in the front courtyard of the soon to be opened OAG Expansion at 50 Mackenzie King Bridge. The night will include the spectacular projection artwork Of Buffalo, Bears, and Indian Scouts on the facade of the new OAG cube by Bear Witness and an accompanying DJ set by the JUNO winner. We will also be celebrating the large-scale, interactive light installation Ascension by The Latest Artists which will soon be mounted on the Mackenzie King Bridge wall. So much to celebrate! Heated tents, festive food and drink, participatory artwork and much more will help to mark the occasion. Admission: Free. 50 Mackenzie King Bridge (at the intersection of Waller Street), front courtyard
13. Tim Hortons on the Hill – December 14, 15, 16, 17, 30 and 31. 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Warm up and refuel with free coffee and hot chocolate from the Tim Hortons truck on the Hill!

14. Inuit experiences with Nunavut Sivuniksavut December 16 and 17 on Parliament Hill. 11:15 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., 2:15 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Join Inuit youth from the Nunavut Sivuniksavut
college program for choral singing, group dancing from the Western Arctic, throat singing, drum dancing, a sharing of their history, culture and
language through education as well as a demonstration of Inuit Games such as the Muskox, Leg Wrestle and High Kick.

Date nights and being playful as the summer ends….

So fall is coming fast and furiously. And with that (at least in our house) we starts thinking about dressing up. While I’ve had my Halloween costume since January I just saw the costume display set up in Costco for Halloween! It’s the chance for everyone to dress up as their favourite superhero or villain and not take themselves too seriously. For me, the opportunity to have fun is something I value in my life and I certainly try to walk the walk in my relationship. Talks on humour and playfulness are showing up in more Psychology conferences of late as one of the best ways to stay connected. A sense of humour and a willingness to be playful is listed as one of the five characteristics of couples who have great relationships. I was asked recently by a new counseling student what I emphasize to improve relationships between couples. The ability to have fun with each other is one of the first things I suggest. It has one of the fastest impacts to connect couples who are feeling out of step with each other.

Humour can keep things exciting, fresh, and vibrant. When you laugh with one another, you create a positive bond between you. Laughter evokes strong feelings and bonds you as a couple. It also helps push away depression and feelings of powerlessness. The doom and gloom you feel when you listen to the news or read a paper can be wearing on even the most optimistic of people, so I encourage you to think about ways to be playful this fall. It pays dividends. It’s doing things with a sparkle in your eyes, and having belly laughs with your sweetie. We try to take in comedy monthly and are a member of the free Sunday Night funnies group on meetups. It’s celebrating distraction and taking a break from the humdrum of everyday life.
Having fun also increases confidence. You stop worrying what others will think. And doing it holding your partner’s hand makes everything better. I describe it as embracing “childlike” with wonder and rapture. Borrow a kid if you need help finding that space.

Schedule a play date. Here are some suggestions:
It’s the time of the year to go to the Halloween stores and try on costumes. They will be open in a few weeks! They usually have giant change rooms and don’t be afraid to try on something zany.

Have a pillow fight. Walmart has $6 pillows if you don’t want to wreck one of the ones from your bed. Go to the park and have your partner push you on the swings. Or slide down the slide like you still want to. Make some bubbles. Bubble baths, bubble blowing, and bubble gum blowing contests.

Make a playlist together. It’s reminiscent of the old 80’s make-out tapes. Put some music on it that reminds you of when you met. Go get ice cream. Have your partner close their eyes and have them guess the flavor of as many samples as they will let you try. Dance in the rain, go see the fall leaves, take pictures of each other’s funny faces and see how long it takes for your partner to laugh.

Go play at the toy store. Come out with us on a Ducklings sexy date night and laugh! (
Try strange, experimental cooking (or a new martini recipe). We love this new Dragon Fruit martini.
• 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) ice cubes
• 3/4 cup (175 mL) cubed peeled dragon fruits
• 1/2 cup (125 mL) guava or guanabana nectar
• 3 oz (85 g) vodka
• 1/4 cup (60 mL) coconut milk
• 1/2 tsp (2 mL) lime juice
Simple Syrup:
• 3/4 cup (175 mL) granulated sugar
• 3/4 cup (175 mL) water


Simple Syrup: In small saucepan, bring sugar and water to boil; simmer, stirring occasionally, until clear and syrupy, about 2 minutes. Let cool completely.

In blender, purée together ice cubes, dragon fruit, guava nectar, vodka, coconut milk, 2 tbsp of the simple syrup and lime juice until smooth and frosty. Pour into cocktail glasses. Reserve remaining simple syrup for other cocktails.
Whatever you do HAVE FUN TOGETHER!!!

Local date night suggestions. Ottawa area things to do to keep relationships connected

couples3333Keeping Things Hot as the Temperature Drops
As the leaves fall the temperatures dip, it can certainly be difficult to find a good reason to leave the warm comfort of home. Luckily enough, The Capital offers a multitude of fun date night activities, making it a little easier to forgo your typical night of Netflix and takeout for an evening of romance and excitement!

Complimentary Oysters at Luxe Bistro
Every Tuesday evening from 4:30-6:30pm, Luxe offers a complimentary Oyster Happy Hour, where guests who order a drink and food are welcome to as many little creatures as their hearts’ desire. I’ve been known to eat upwards of thirty in one sitting! The delicious food, modern décor, and relaxing ambiance all make for a truly luxe-urious experience. And hey – oysters are said to be aphrodisiacs! While the science may still be a bit hazy on whether certain foods can actually stimulate sexual desire, there’s no denying that a romantic date night at one of Ottawa’s poshest restaurants is sure to get anyone in the mood!
A Night in Old Ottawa South
Old Ottawa south doesn’t get nearly the recognition it deserves. Just over the bridge from Lansdowne and the Glebe, this little gem is home to a fabulous selection of pubs, restaurants, and wine bars. Begin your date-night at The Belmont, a neighbourhood haunt specializing in unique small plates and creative cocktails using only the freshest ingredients from local farms. Afterwards, go catch a flick at The Mayfair, Ottawa’s oldest active movie theatre, operating since 1932. Inside, there are four faux-balconies, stained-glass windows, and wrought ironwork that will make you feel like you’ve been transported to another era for the evening. After the film, cap your night off at Quinn’s, a cozy little pub just a stone’s throw from the theatre.

Explore Gatineau Park
There’s nothing more romantic that an escape to the Gatineau Hills in the fall. The Champlain Lookout, best known for its stunning bird’s-eye views of the hills over the Ottawa Valley, is the perfect place to sit back, relax and enjoy each other’s company. Breath in the crisp country air on a hike along the 1.2-kilometre hiking trail surrounding the lookout. On your way back to town, take a stroll through the charming streets of Old Chelsea, where you’ll find plenty of little cafés and specialty shops to enjoy. The Cafe Chat Siberien and the Chelsea Pub are two of my favourites!

Cooking and Wine Classes at La Bottega Nicastro
La Bottega Nicastro in the Byward Market offers cooking and wine tasting classes led by various guest chefs and wine experts from the region. As you sip on fine Italian wine, you and your date will be guided through the preparation of a gourmet three-course meal that you’ll get to enjoy along the way. Check out their website for upcoming classes and registration:

A Night at the Museum

Come party with the creatures of your planet at Nature Nocturne. Every month, the castle-like Nature Museum is transformed into Ottawa’s best dance party. It’s a fabulous opportunity to dress up, let loose, and discover the Museum after hours. The event combines DJs, live music, mingling, dancing, food stations, bars, and fascinating exhibitions.

Thanks to B for all of these. Watch here for more of her ideas and thoughts.

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.

The male unicorn. Why guys over 35 aren’t interested in settling down.

There is a concept in modern sexual culture about unicorns. The term is used to describe an attractive single woman (who isn’t crazy and likely to boil your bunny), and who would be delighted to join a couple for a threesome with no strings attached. That combination, while not being impossible is extremely difficult to find. Hence the term unicorn as they are almost a mythical creature.

Lately there appears to be another class of individuals that women are lamenting don’t exist. The title of “unicorns” can also be given to men who are between the ages of 35 and 60, who are smart, professional, heterosexual, sexually potent, successful, attractive, and confident and who are looking for a long term, monogamous relationship. These are the “happily ever-after guys”. In the dating pool these men are becoming increasingly rarer. It’s not that men are being body snatched, turning gay, or dying off in droves. It’s just that social expectations are changing and changing quickly. I’ve been talking about the culture of sexuality in North America for over 20 years. And I am always surprised at how quickly the sexual norms can change. In 20 years we went from monogamy being the only option to it being one of many options men are considering for the second half of their lives.

Canadian men are becoming increasingly gun-shy of being locked into an exclusive commitment. Single men over 35 who are available in the dating pool are often recently out of divorces. And like most divorces, these guys were beat up through the process. Breakups are emotionally draining and often very expensive. I’m seeing these men as clients of my sex therapy practice. The marriages these men are coming out of were sexually unsatisfying (or sexless), and these guys felt trapped by expectations, kids, and social conventions. And once the upheaval and heartache of a marriage breakdown is over the last thing these guys are interested in is getting back into an exclusive relationship. Many men felt that they couldn’t grow within the confines of the relationship they just left. And for many men that includes growing sexually. They are still interested in women and certainly still interested in sex but they aren’t interested in trying the storybook ending anytime soon. These men want to play, date, kick some tires and look at models beyond monogamy. They have played by the rules and found themselves unfulfilled.
I don’t think it makes them players (unless they aren’t being transparent about their intentions to date a number of women), but they realize that going back to sex with only one woman isn’t very appealing. The men I’m meeting are stand up guys. They take care of their kids, will buy you dinner and will treat you well. They want intimacy but find themselves very guarded about women who want to pin them down.

I’ve long believed in the idea that “men don’t fall in love with a partner; they fall in love with how that partner makes them feel.” And for men to feel relaxed enough to fall in love they have to know that their new partner isn’t trying to shuffle them towards the alter. They are looking for kind women who look good and who like sex. Creative, “hang from the chandelier sex” so much the better.

What’s also happening at the same time men are becoming more skittish is that the whole issue of monogamy has come under scrutiny. With an over 53% divorce rate, monogamy’s track record has been less than stellar. And more and more people are talking about swinging, polyamory, or some kind of friend with benefits arrangement while maintaining a primary relationship. It’s been much more common in Europe with an acceptance of transparent mistresses, but “outside the box” relationships are starting to become more commonplace in North America. All this doesn’t mean that marriage and long-term relationships are dead. It just means that the dating rules are changing again. Up until the last few years I would have encouraged people to try some of the conventional dating sites like Match and Plenty of Fish. Now I see online dating as more fraught with hucksters and more insincere people than it has ever been. Prudent daters can still find great people online but more caution and work is required. Groups like meetups, dating coaching, matchmakers, and community clubs are taking up some of the slack. Meeting face to face seems to be on the upswing. Everyone is still looking for love, but it may not be the exclusive love of your parent’s generation.
Neil Strauss in his new book The Truth has this to say about modern relationships.

“We expect love to last forever. Yet as many as 50 percent of marriages and even more remarriages end in divorce. Among those who are married, only 38 percent actually describe themselves as happy in that state. Unfortunately, it’s only getting worse. Thanks to technology, we now have more dating and hook –up options than at any other time in human history, with countless desperate men and women just a click or swipe away, making fidelity-or even committing in the first place-yet more of a challenge. In a recent Pew research survey, four out of ten people believed that marriage was an obsolete institution.”

So what’s a conventional single girl to do? How do you date in the modern world without getting your heart broken?

I think it starts with letting go of the fantasy of how things should be, and start looking at what you really want. Modern women have their own jobs, houses and cars. What they want is positive male attention and companionship. Women in the dating world need to be better educated about what life could be not what Walt Disney has fed them over the last few decades. That means embracing independence, but still wanting to need and be needed. It means reading books like The Ethical Slut, Why Men Love Bitches, and Mating in Captivity to see if anything resonates. And more than that it means being able to roll with the fact that modern love may open up new possibilities for love and intimacy. If the men can play the field, then so can women. And while I believe that few women have the makeup to be Samantha from Sex in the City, most have a little Carrie in them. In the end, I recommend you shouldn’t have so many lovers you can’t keep track of them, but you can be a modern girl about town and entertain a few men of quality. So go out and find your Mr. Big. And be open to men who are more than a little gun shy. And remember, unicorns need a delicate touch.

Casino Royale with the Ducklings! Dress as your favorite Bond character!

Update! While this event has passed (and it was epic) we hold three events a week. Come be a Duckling!
We are a group of people trying not to turn into their parents, have fun, and stay sexy. We also have built a community of safe, kind, fun friends. Come join us!

Shaken not stirred.
We are having a Casino Royale style party in January to pretend we are all out of a Bond movie. We will get dressed up, play blackjack and roulette (with monopoly money), win prizes and drink sophisticated drinks, and dance like crazy fools (as Ducklings like to do) all while pretending to have gadgets on our watches. Save the January 23rd, 2016 date. We sorting out a special Duckling martini with Lutz, the Duckling bartender! The location is just east of Parkdale between Gladstone and Wellington.

Where else do you get to wear long gowns and gloves (with nothing underneath) or pretend you are the villain Jaws and show off your silver teeth. You can always dig up the tuxes if you have them and be the best dressed guy in the room.

It should be a blast! A great way to work out the winter blahs. This is a 3.5 duck event. Tickets will be $20 each and available on the site at We will sell out and you NEED TO BUY YOUR TICKET! RSVP’ing yes isn’t enough. Website, Email transfer (and in a few pre-arranged cases you can pay at the door).

The Anti-Valentine’s Day Movement. Or how to celebrate your singleness.

anti1There is a growing movement of people who want to say “shove it to Valentine’s Day”. Singles have long felt left out of the sappy “let’s connect” roses and chocolate messages of the holiday. Now Anti Valentine’s parties are all the rage. These are parties decorated with dead roses. The have rules like: You must not bring any chocolate, wine or champagne to the party. Black things such as Guinness or a cake with black icing are preferred. Or heart shaped cupcakes with knives through them. Black is also the color theme for clothing. Anti V-Day songs like Roxette’s “It must have been love”, or “Love hurts” by Gram Parsons are the anthems. The Anti V-Day movement is to celebrate being single and loving it! Or to at least have friends around when you draw horns on your ex’s picture. It’s also about loving oneself, wherever you are in life.

So what can you do to feel powerful if you aren’t hooked up as part of a couple? Well you can get in the mood of the Anti V-Day celebrations by making your own voodoo doll for all the ex’s who need to be prodded with a sharp pin. Or you can go with the theme of many of these parties “Love stinks, so let’s drink”. But I’m advocating a more positive approach and coming up ways to announce your awesomeness to the world.

There are a few ideas to embrace your singleness. I do a vision board exercise with my Women’s Body Image and Sexuality Workshops that I run. Check out the Ducklings site for ongoing information. Powerful statements of self-love like “You love when you are ready, not because you are lonely” or “because good enough isn’t good enough for you” can become mantras.

Do some things you can’t do if you were in a relationship. I’m not advocating sleeping with the football team, but go crazy doing something unconventional that is hard to do when you are with somebody that makes demands on your time. Like take a spur-of-the-moment trip. Update your profile to single and loving it.

Make business cards and hand them out to cool people with your fun (and safe) email address on it. Start a gratitude journal. There are lots of things you can do to really embrace your life as it is right now. If you have enough like-minded friends have an Anti V-Day party. Get everyone to dress up as cupids gone very, very bad. Think naughty and armed angels as sexy as you want to be. Sounds like fun. And if you really want to be in a relationship then make a vow that 2015 is going to be your year. Be the interesting person that people want to get to know. Deal with some of that lingering baggage (therapy can help) and get rid of that “poor me, pity party stuff”. Life is too short to be needy.

So whatever your take is on Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to embrace it. Whether it’s couple love, group love (those polyamorous people shouldn’t be excluded) or self love then make the most of this February 14th. If you are struggling with singleness and want to finally do something about it then I can help. I’ve helped hundreds of people find love and I am no-nonsense, cut-to-the-chase when I do therapy for finding love. Reach out, I can help.

Some New Valentine’s Date night ideas 2015

So Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. It’s the day in the year when we celebrate all things romantic. We tell our sweetie that we would pick them all over again, and make an extra effort to be creative in showing our love. Or if you find the whole thing cheesy and commercial then it’s the day when you may want to embrace the growing movement of Anti-Valentine’s Day. Either way February 14th is a moment to be mindful about the need for love in our lives.
If you’ve followed my newsletters for anytime, you’ve heard me preaching about the importance of date nights. A regular check-in is one of the main criteria for couples who stay together. The other factors include kindness, generosity of time and responding positively for your partner’s need for emotional attention. Read the brilliant article that had me upping my game with my husband.

But what are the hot new date ideas?

Here are five you can use this February to try and raise the romance bar:
1. Try Ice fishing. There was even a local Groupon to rent an ice shack. Bring plenty of snacks and hot cocoa, make sure the fish shack is warm, and you have fish-biting music.

2. Think about creative sweets. Give your partner 3 sealed envelopes and ask her to choose one. Each envelope has a different dessert destination in store. Or, try pulling out a couple of dessert recipe cards and take your sweetie to the store to buy the ingredients together then head home to make it together.

3. 50 Shades of Grey premiere. It opens Valentine’s weekend. The Ducklings are going en mass on Sunday the 15th if you want to do a group date night. (see below for details).

4. Take me to Paris! Think French music, French hat, get a baguette, French wine and cheese and have a carpet picnic. You could also do Take me to Jamaica, Greece etc.

5. Create Your Own National Holiday. So why not create your own national holiday, mark it on your calendar and celebrate it each and every year? How about “Make-out-in-a-car-day? Or “Go Commando day?” These suggestions or (insert yours here____) could be fun to act out on a date night.

PS. Here are the details about the Ducklings. We are doing a group date/movie night on Feb 15th in Ottawa if you want to join us! Send me an email!

The Duckling manifesto
We are the Ducklings. We are proud, kind, flirty and fun. We try new things even though they give us butterflies. We accept everyone as friends and equals. Drama, aggressive and mean people have no place here. We laugh out loud, suggest group adventures and are gentle with each other. We cautiously go (often holding another duckling’s hand) where we haven’t gone before. Integrity, connections, and friendship is our mantra. We are sexy but safe. Activities done with friends are not as overwhelming. So join us for guided, pressure-free, sensuous outings. Referrals and friends are welcome but they need to buy into our philosophy. Being a duckling enhances relationships, increases intimacy and builds community. Wouldn’t you like to be a duckling too?

How we evolved
Over the last few years we have been teaching courses to couples and singles who want to spice up their sex lives we called “Loving Hedonist classes.” Our courses were an introduction to what is out there sexually. The courses were to offer information on what is possibly out there for you to walk the walk in a way that was comfortable for you. We went on a number of field trips from burlesque shows to a visit to Easter Canada’s most famous dominatrix. By going places and learning things together, and by sharing the experiences the events became fun instead of scary. We stared to gather (and quack a bit) and we were described a “ducklings”. The name stuck.

How to fall in love (for the first time or again) this Valentine’s Day

fallingHave you noticed that love is in the air this month? It’s that time of year when grocery stores and shopping malls are full of chocolate hearts, red roses and unconditional love seems to be on everyone’s mind. Why is love something that we seem to practice only when Hallmark tells us to? How do we make time for relationships when we are so busy trying to get through work, homework, housework, parenting, elder care, and errands? For many women, it seems like all work and no play. Where did the fun and intimacy go when we fell in love and couldn’t wait to see our partners?

Someone asked me recently what I thought was the secret to great relationships and maintaining the “in love” magic. I said that I thought “it was three hours a week of intimate time where there is sensuous touch, eye contact and conversation that isn’t about work and kids”. I’ve been pushing sensuous date nights for a while with my marriage-counseling clients. It turns out that conversation, touch, and eye gazing really are the secrets to falling (and staying in love) according to the study by Arthur Aron that is getting loads of airplay this Valentine’s season. Aron did a study in 1997 that paired 33 students (who were open to the possibility of falling love with a stranger) and had the couples ask each other 37 personal questions followed by four minutes of eye gazing. The couples in questions felt a tremendous amount of intimacy towards their previously unknown partner. One couple who met during the study actually got married.

So is it that simple? For women, conversation is huge. I used to use random questions from If… the Book of Questions as an ice breaker during my singles and couples workshops. Things like “if you were a carnival ride, which one would you be and why?” Or “What dessert would best describe your personality?” Asking personal questions of someone quickly creates intimacy between individuals and is one of the best ways to rapidly get people talking. And it turns out the type of question you ask helps find the type of relationship you are looking for.

A study by found more casual questions such as ‘Do you like the taste of beer?’ were more likely to lead to a one-night stand than a long-term relationship. Questions about kids, pets, and favourite books are far more likely to help you find a partner that sticks. So if you are single, make your first dating contact letter full of interest and questions about the other person. That and lots of eye gazing by the third date and you will no doubt stand out from the crowd of many possible suitors.

So what are the elements of great relationships and how do you sustain them? While people have been trying to define love for millennia, as a sex and relationship therapist, in my opinion love is a mix of the pragmatic and the nebulous. I think that in order for love to sustain itself beyond the first year of honeymoon “in love hormones” and to endure, there needs to be a connection in four areas. First there needs to be chemistry. It’s an elusive quality, poorly defined, but critical for great love. Scientists would argue that it is a mixture of pheromones relating to a good genetic match and something else that makes your heart flutter. Secondly, love has a physical component. You need to find that person physically attractive. They don’t need to be body perfect, but there must be some features that really appeal when you see them. There also needs to be a lifestyle and intellectual match. The guy next door or someone most like yourself who becomes your best friend consistently offers the best chance for happiness and longevity in a relationship. Look for someone you have tons in common with even if they don’t seem like “your type” at first glance. Finally the emotional connection of same values leads into bonds that stick even when the going gets tough.

So meet people with commonalties of values, intellect, and lifestyle. You meet a number of them and with one of them the chemistry will hit you between the eyes. For couples who have been together awhile, work on or re-introduce those things that brought you together. Then stir up those cooling embers with intimate conversation and absolutely make time to look into each other’s eyes.

Forget asking for chocolate and flowers. Uninterrupted time, proximity, personal conversation, and face to face touch will pay the biggest dividends this Valentine’s Day.

How to Celebrate New Year’s With Your Partner

New Years is simply around the corner, in fact it is enough time to create your resolutions (be it more steamy sex, or to get him or her to agree to start trying wilder and crazier things in bed). Most lovers want to move away from the hectic schedules of their life and unwind on New Year’s Eve. In case you are considering about surprising your lover, it is now time to book a fresh Year’s Eve hotel (whether you pay by the hour, or they give you those majestic matching robes).

The easiest method to make your beloved feel special is by focusing on the details. I do invites for romantic evenings with my sweetie. Or, I break out the party panties, the new bottle of massage oil, or just make sure I spend the time looking my best. Lots of people go all out, but I think its paying attention to romance and celebrating the strong emotion between the two of you (eye gazing, hand holding, declarations of love) that make a night like New Year’s memorable. Try to remember to take photos and make videos together which would be considered a joyful memory. Do not forget to kiss at midnight, and mark the early morning hours of the New Year with champagne and sex (maybe get horizontal in your New Years hats)!

I also encourage you to watch the drinking. I used to hate New Year’s Eve because it was just a big drunk. As one friend said, “why do women think they are sexy when they are slurring their words and stumbling around?” Too much alcohol is one of the factors in regular erectile dysfunction. Women can have a couple of drinks to increase your testosterone levels, and help put you in the mood (it really is a panty remover), but too much impairs things for both of you.

I also encourage you to talk together about what the next year looks like for the two of you. I think traditions are important and what holiday days do is to remind me to take a moment and be grateful. And express that love and gratitude. I say that about Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, and I even do it around Halloween (my favorite time of year). New Year’s is a time to ask if we are pulling in the same direction. Read my blog on couple’s mission statements and give it a try this New Year’s. You make be surprised about how impactful it may be.

If you want to explore more date nights in your area check in to whether or not there are some of the Duckling events near you! The fastest social groups of safe, fun, connected communities. Read about it.

The 10 things you absolutely need to know about to attract a life partner of quality.

At any given time in your community approximately 28% of the people out there are single and looking for love. You may be one of them. Or you may know one of them. Or you may be wanting to leave a relationship and become one of them. And if you haven’t been on the dating market for while you may be struggling with knowing how you should act or where you should start in the quest for love. Finding love takes work and clarity. You need to know what you are looking for in order to do the steps necessary to bring in the kind of person you will be compatible with. But the truth is that there are plenty of singles out there with whom you can create magic. Someone asked me this week about the road map for what they need to do in order to land a lover of the highest quality. The tricks of the trade so to speak.

There is no one size fits all in relationships (and the minute I start thinking that people fit into eharmony boxes of sameness then I am dead in the water). However there are some evolutionary biology rules that see to apply to us as a species. And the anthropologists have tried them out in a variety of different cultures with similar success. So here is the list of what potential partners find attractive.

1. People are attracted to, and remember strong emotion. Present something or develop something truly interesting about yourself. Raise chameleons, learn to play the ukelele, or take them to a haunted house. Your date will remember you. Anything that gets your adrenaline up is a great first date. Strong movie, ziplining, lasertag.
2. Ramp up your masculine or feminine features. If you want to create heat cultivate that day old stubble (if you are a man), or find those pantyhose with the seams down the back if you are a woman. The more you can exaggerate gender roles the hotter you will appear to be.
3. Show your neck. Both men and women find it sexy and it is also a sign of trust and trustworthiness. Also make excuses to touch their arm or shoulder. Study after study emphasizes touch as necessary pack ritual in picking a partner.
4. Make eye contact. The opposite sex (especially men) needs 11 contacts with eyes and smiles to make a solid connection.
5. Be vulnerable and self deprecating. I tell people to not to brag. Mention what a bad golfer you are, not that have a house in an exclusive neighborhood or drive a cool car.
6. Figure out a way to let a potential partner either wear your jacket or carry your jacket. The pheromones you put off will be concentrated and they will feel closer to you for the action.
7. Be happy, positive and interesting. This goes without saying but being positive and clean (think great oral hygiene) are two of the most significant qualities people want from a mate in the survey done at the University of Arizona.
8. Everybody is a Big Deal. What this means is that everyone wants attention. They want you to notice them and not be on their phone when you are spending time with them. Make whoever you are with feel important and special.
9. Play love songs in the car or house when you are entertaining a new person. bribe the staff at the coffee shop if you have to. Love songs makes us feel more romantic and connected to the person we are with.
10. People don’t fall in love with a person, they fall in love with how that person makes them feel. Meaning, work on being gracious and not too needy. Let a potential partner do things for you, and don’t think about all the things you can do for them.

So you are still single? New ideas on meeting the right person. How to win at in-person and online dating.

I was recently asked about the best way to meet, fall in love or at least in lust and connect in a real way. Help Sue, where do you meet someone to love?

It’s fall, time of pumpkin pie, crisp apples and sheering myself hoarse at football games. But if you are doing it by yourself, those things are not nearly so much fun.

So where exactly do you meet someone who gets it? How do you find someone who thinks your collection of Star Wars figurines are cool, or who knows how to make a incredible creme brule? Where is YOUR person to be found?

I think online dating is still a great way to connect but there are plenty of pitfalls. I know tons of people who are now happily married after meeting online. Even the basic free sites like plenty of fish (the site that I call “the Kmart of dating sites”) can work to find a kindred spirit. I also know two women who had long conversations with men who turned out to be Nigerian scammers looking for laptops and money. The good, the great the bad, and the scary are all online. Dating via the internet allows you to correspond safely, google someone in advance to be sure of their authenticity, and at least know that they can spell. Things you can’t find out when you meet at a bar. But safety and prudence are important.

I think if you are strategic, prepared to do the work you can meet someone special online. The work I mean is time consuming emails, and regularly changing your profile, spreadsheets to keep track of who you are talking to and meeting different people for lots of coffees and “so what do you do” conversations. You need to kiss a number of frogs before you meet someone who rocks your world.

There are a couple of new interesting sites like, zoosk or our time.

I liked the founder of marriageminded’s thoughts on being the kind of person you would want to date:

“If you have succumbed to watching Netflix from the couch while eating fast food and you want a partner who is physically fit you had better run not walk to the gym.” Be interesting. Do not put your life on hold or defer happiness until you meet The One? Take that trip overseas, become a homeowner, get a new hobby or entertain more. It will eliminate the smell of desperation and make you a much more interesting and confident person.”

There are lots of articles and blogs about finding love online. I’ve written a couple of them so have a read at

But where else can you meet these days? Stella Ellis, the plus-size sex maven who is the muse of the design world says she meets men sitting in outdoor cafes. She always has something interesting on her table and then makes friends with everyone around her. If you aren’t so naturally outgoing come up with your own schtick for meeting prospects. I advised one client, a sales rep who worked lots of trade show to keep her bag stocked with Hershey’s kisses when working the floor at trade shows. She then asked attractive men “if they wanted a kiss”. She said she gives out chocolate and gets phone numbers. Or a friend of mine who helps his grandmother sell her knitted scarves at craft fairs in November. He spends time with his favorite Nanna and she acts likes the world’s best wingman talking him up to any woman in earshot.

Try places where the opposite sex congregate. I have struck up more conversations with hunky guys in tool belts at Home Depot then I can count. I also like beer tasting, playoff parties, and political events for meeting men. If you want to meet women, try wine pairings, lectures, and anything with chocolate. I’m convinced that all women are sugarholics. And international chocolate day is next week. Find an event in your city. And simple be passionate. Go to places where people are passionate about things they believe in. Animal rescue groups, save the river, or support your local city counselor. Just get out there and put your best foot forward. Your person is out there waiting for you.