We all want to keep our relationship passionate and connected, and there are ways to both create and destroy your connection that all take place out of the bedroom. What’s most important is not to let sex become the last item on a very long to-do list, the final obligation you turn to when you’re both exhausted. There are concrete ways to ensure you have a great sex life.
In a study of 70,000 responses from 24 different countries, Christianne Northrup and Pepper Schwartz and James Witte, in their book, The Normal Bar, reported the results of their extensive study about love and sex. Couples who have a great sex life:
- Say “I love you” to their partners every day, and mean it
- Buy one another surprise romantic gifts
- Compliment their partner often
- Have romantic vacations
- Give one another back rubs
- Kiss one another passionately for no reason at all (85 percent who love sex also kiss passionately)
- Show affection publicly (hold hands, caress, kiss)
- Cuddle with one another every day (only 6 percent of the non-cuddlers had a great sex life)
- Have a romantic date once a week that may include dressing up, dinner out, massage, and lovemaking
- Make sex a priority and talk to one another about sex comfortably
- Be open to a variety of sexual activities
- Turn toward your partner’s attempt to connect with you
Furthermore, the more couples do these things, the better their sex life is. The champion countries were Spain and Italy. The bottom line: Great sex is not rocket science. It’s very doable, but you have to talk about it and you have to make it a priority in your relationship. CBT can help.
Practice exercise #1:Re-read the list above and identify 2-3 items you could do for your partner. Set an intention to do them this week.
Practice exercise #2:Pick 2-3 items you would like your partner to do for you. Share the list, and ask them.
Noah Clyman, LCSW-R, ACT
I recently had the pleasure of attending a 3 day workshop with couples’ therapy experts Drs. Julie & John Gottman who are world renowned for their work on marital stability and divorce predictions. You may recognize them as the authors of the New York Times bestseller, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country’s Foremost Relationship Expert. I learned their innovative theory about how to make relationships work, along with research based skills for a great sex life, improving friendship, and resolving conflict. There are so many pearls of wisdom and this blog post will touch on the importance of talking about sex.
According to Drs. Gottman, there is no more stable and replicated result in the sex field than this: being able to talk comfortably about sex is strong related to satisfaction. Not just with sex, but with the whole relationship. And the results are not weak, they are dramatic. Quantity as well as the quality of the talking about sex, are strongly correlated with a couples’ happiness. Statistically speaking, only 9% of couples who can’t comfortably talk with one another about sex say that they are satisfied sexually, as well as satisfied in general with their relationships. On the other hand, over 50% of couples who can (and do) talk with one another openly about sex are satisfied sexually and are satisfied in general with their relationships. That’s a difference of forty-one percent! Amazing.
Research on sexuality strongly points to the importance of being able to talk intimately with one’s partner to enhance the quality of sex in your relationship. Yet having these conversations is very difficult for American couples from an African, Anglo-Saxon, or East European cultural background. Drs. Gottman–who have been analyzing videotapes of couples talking about their sex life in their “Love Lab” for decades–found that most couples have a great deal of trouble being clear and specific about what they want and don’t want in the bedroom. There’s an enormous fear of rejection which comes from a lack of trust and openness with each other.
Interestingly, this isn’t true of many heterosexual couples who are Latino and haven’t been made to feel guilty by strict religion. In some ways, these cultures support direct and frank non-defensive conversations with one’s partner about sex, romance, and passion. (This is not to say that all Latino couples are comfortable talking about sex. Many are not). Drs. Gottman discovered these facts about Latino cultures in America during a national survey they designed for Readers Digest. They also found that the same was true of gay and lesbian committed couples, in a 12-year study they did with Robert Levenson. Generally, Latino and same-sex couples didn’t make assumptions about eroticism. They considered it their responsibility as lovers to know what their partner did and didn’t find erotic.
To facilitate the process of conversation about sex, romance, and passion for couples who may feel uncomfortable with these intimate topics, it is important for couples to learn how to how their partner basic questions about sexual preferences, and then remember the answers. Remember: if you know your partner’s preferences, you will be able to create more excitement and pleasure for your partner. I look forward to helping couples improve their relationships from resolving conflict, to deepening friendship, to having great sex.
I am a workaholic. While on vacation last week, I became cognizant of the benefits of r&r and was inspired to write a blog that might help my fellow workaholics to address this issue. Do you find it difficult to disengage from work? An imbalance between your work life and your personal life may be behind of myriad of other problems, such as anxiety, depression, or insomnia. Are you obsessed with working to the exclusion of other things in your life? Some people work as though they were addicted to working. Have you convinced yourself that you have to work harder than everyone else? At your place of work, are you always the first to arrive and the last to leave? Has anyone ever accused you of being a workaholic or a perfectionist? Do you feel as if you are addicted to work? Work and your professional identity may be overly tied to your self-esteem so that you over-allocate time to work pursuits. Do you feel badly about yourself when you are not doing work? Do you view non-work activities as a waste of time? Do you believe that any idle time should be filled with some useful activity towards a goal? Have you come to devalue activities done for the sake of leisure or rest? If so, here are some cognitive and behavioral therapy techniques for you to try:
- Ask yourself, Why am I the exception to the rule that human beings need rest and relaxation? In other words, challenge the idea that you do not require rest or pleasure in your life—all human beings do.
- Imagine what would happen at work if you were incapacitated in some way. Would the business cease to exist, or would it find some way to make up for your absence? Challenge your tendency to overestimate your importance at work. Paradoxically, people who take breaks and recharge are often more productive at work.
- Experiment with putting some rest and pleasure into your life and taking away some of the time currently allotted to work. For example, if you are working more than eight hours a day, commit to leaving work at an earlier time this week. Spend extra time doing something enjoyable.
- Shorten your to-do list this week to essentials only.
- In your own personal currency (i.e., in your mind), consider increasing the value of moments of pleasure and decreasing the value of accomplishments.
- Create a “Buffer zone:” about an hour before getting ready for bed, begin to transition away from your “active self” by restricting your activities to those that are relaxing and enjoyable to you.
- Say no to at least one request this week.
- Think of the needs of people who currently depend on you. Now think of your own needs. Is your list of needs shorter? If so, why? How are your needs different from theirs? Why are you an exception? What is missing from your list of needs? Add to your list of needs and make time to de-stress and unwind every single day.
In summary, like any other human being, you need time for rest and relaxation. Far from being wasted time, making a conscious and consistent investment in “self-care” will help you be happier, more self-aware, calmer, and more productive throughout your days.
Author: NYC-NYC staff therapist, Mike Comparetto, LMSW.
CBT Therapists have lots of tools to teach our clients. But I often think, what if I had to pick just one to share with people? My answer, without hesitation, would be mindfulness meditation. It is the most powerful and transformative tool that I have ever come across, and these days we have ample studies to prove it. If you are a skeptic (as you should be), just Google “medical research on meditation” and you will find results from Harvard Medical School, Time Magazine, Mayo Clinic, the CDC, etc. showing a vast array of benefits both mental and physical. Here is just one article from the APA listing many of them.
What is Meditation?
This question is simultaneously very simple and very complex. Let’s start with the simple, and we can save the complex discussions for another day. There are many types of meditation, but for this article I will only be referring to Mindfulness Meditation. The officially accepted definition of mindfulness, penned by Jon Kabat-Zinn, is “…awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” Mindfulness can be practiced while doing just about anything, but when we say meditation, this usually refers to practicing mindfulness in a seated position. There are ways to do walking meditation, standing meditation, and other forms of moving meditation, but seated meditation is the most common, and that’s what we will be focusing on here.
What is the Aim of Meditation?
If I could boil the aim of meditation down to one thing, it would be switching our frame of mind from conceptual to experiential. Meditation allows us to tap in to our lived experience, and let go of the stories we tell ourselves about it. These stories often magnify (or in some cases manufacture) the pain and difficulty in our lives. Mindfulness also reminds us that we never have to endure our experience for more than one moment at a time, which is quite freeing. All experiences are impermanent, and meditation brings this into direct focus.
If you learn how to effectively manage your mind, your thoughts and actions start to lead you away from suffering and towards happiness. This is why we practice meditation- to end suffering.
“Mindfulness helps us get better at seeing the difference between what’s happening and the stories we tell ourselves about what’s happening, stories that get in the way of direct experience. Often such stories treat a fleeting state of mind as if it were our entire and permanent self.” –Sharon Salzberg
How to Meditate
There are so many different ways to meditate that it can be overwhelming. A Google search on “how to meditate” returns 258,000,000 results. I think when you are starting out, it is important to just find a style that is accessible to you and do it. Later on, if you find that that particular style or tradition doesn’t really resonate with you, you can do your research and find the one that does. In the beginning though, any meditation is better than no meditation.
Since this article is about the bare basics, let’s establish some guidelines for just about all types of meditation:
1) Meditating for 5 minutes every day is better than meditating for 1 hour once a week. Developing the discipline to cultivate a daily practice is extremely important, and doing it every day creates the momentum needed to get results. If that means starting with only 5 minutes, then do what you can.
2) Try not to judge your meditation. You may have some meditations that leave you feeling great, some that leave you feeling tired, discouraged, or indifferent. They are all equally valuable. Nobody is bad at meditation- it is a constant practice. Each time you redirect your mind, you are building new neural pathways in your brain.
3) Don’t seek out particular states of mind or experiences. As a beginning meditator, you will most likely not have the ability to sit down and immediately cultivate the exact mind-state you are looking for (if you can, let me know your secret!). Meditation is about observing what is arising in the present moment- it is not about creating an alternate reality to dwell in. Remember that mindfulness is meant to cultivate a non-judgemental mind. That is absolutely critical. The goal of meditation (you will not always achieve this goal and that’s ok) is to meet each moment without adding your own commentary, opinion, interpretation, or sense of like or dislike to it. Yes, it’s as hard as it sounds, but that’s why we call it a meditation practice.
4) Have compassion for yourself. You will quickly find that the mind can sometimes be, well, kind of a jerk. The last thing you ever want to do is make things worse by beating yourself up when you can’t focus for more than half a second, or when your mind won’t stop repeating the same thoughts over and over. This is all a part of meditating, and even advanced meditators experience a mind that is uncooperative at times. It’s all about how you relate to those experiences. Try to use it as an opportunity to observe what it’s like to be in a busy mind (or an angry mind, a sad mind, etc).
5) Develop patience. I don’t know how to break this to you, but you are not going to achieve enlightenment after your first meditation. You will most likely see some immediate results, but the real benefits come weeks, months, years, and decades into the practice. As a bonus, you can use your meditation to observe the mind’s compulsion to want instant gratification.
6) Don’t worry what anyone thinks about it. If your friends think you are weird for meditating, or you fear that your co-workers will never speak to you again, just let it go. Nothing is more important than finding true peace and happiness. Be yourself, be free, and do what makes you happy.
Keeping those guidelines in mind, use the resources I have provided at the end of this blog to try meditation. If you are absolutely brand new to meditation I suggest starting with the Headspace app, or this guided meditation.
I hope meditation can be as powerful and transformative for you as it has been, and continues to be, for me. Supposedly the last words the Buddha ever spoke were, “Strive on with diligence.” May you strive on towards liberation and well-being.
Get in touch with us to book a session:
Meditation for Beginners – Jack Kornfield
How to Meditate – Pema Chodron
Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation – Sharon Salzberg
Against the Stream – Noah Levine
At NYC Cognitive Therapy, our staff are trained in two NEW and HIGHLY EFFECTIVE short-term treatments: Behavioral Activation for Depression and CBT-i for Insomnia.
To schedule an appointment, call 347-470-8870, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BEHAVIORAL ACTIVATION WHAT IS IT:
A powerful, empowering, and highy effective treatment for those suffering from major depression and other forms of depression. Behavioral Activation (BA) works by helping clients reengage in those aspects of their lives that bring the greatest meaning and pleasure.
WHY DO IT:
BA is a proven and powerful behavioral approach that is often more effective in treating major depression than use of anti-depressant medications, and is one of the most powerful psychosocial treatments available today.
WHEN DO IT:
Ask your therapist about BA if you score mild, moderate, or severe on a depression inventory. Click here to find out Am I depressed?
To schedule an appointment, call 347-470-8870, or email us at email@example.com.
COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY FOR INSOMNIA (CBT-I)
WHAT IS IT:
CBT-I is an effective treatment for chronic sleep problems. It is as effective as sleep medication in the short term and more reliable and durable than medications in the long term. CBT-I includes strategies to retrain the body to sleep, reduce factors interfering with sleep, and increase sleep drive to resume the body’s natural rhythms.
WHY DO IT:
Evidence suggests insomnia is an important target in improving overall mental health. Improves sleep in 70-80% of patients.
WHEN DO IT:
Ask your therapist about CBT-I if you have been experiencing sleep problems for at least one month.