Great Sexpectations - Parents as Lovers - Part II of II
In the follow-up to Part I, Ann Douglas asks sex educator Trina Read, author of the recently published Till Sex Do Us Part, for the lowdown on scheduled sex, sex and body image, and how flirtations can impact on a couple's relationship. Here are the highlights of our interview.
AD: We're back -- and I thought we'd start out by talking about something really practical: scheduled sex. What's your take on that whole issue: couples making dates to have sex? Act of desperation or smart solution?
TR: Scheduling sex is the easiest way for a couple to keep their sex life on the radar. It may not seem romantic and a couple usually feels like failures because they can no longer have spontaneous sex; however, chances are if they don't schedule it, it's not going to happen.
AD: One of my friends (who shall remain nameless, so that she will still be my friend after today) insists that scheduled sex saved her marriage.
TR: Scheduling sex takes away any negative feelings about who is going to initiate sex; or walking around on egg shells wondering if tonight is the night when I'll have to have sex. Research proves that couples that schedule sex have more sex that is mutually satisfying.
AD: Let's move on to another hot topic. What can couples do to get past the body image trap? She may be struggling with her body image after baby or maybe her partner has made some comment about her post-baby body that she has taken to mean that she's no longer attractive. Once that comment, however slight or unintended, is out there, it can be hard to erase it from her brain. And, of course, there are all kinds of comments that she might make that could be equally devastating to his sexual self-esteem. Sometimes we women have been known to joke about things that men would sometimes rather we not. And as for what we speak heart-to-heart to our girlfriends about.... [Zipping lips.]
TR: Body image is such a tough topic to cover because it is an intellect versus emotion issue. When I lecture about body image, intellectually women nod their head and agree with what I'm saying. Emotionally though, when she looks in the mirror and zooms in with what is wrong with her body, it's game over. Emotion will win every time. I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle.
It's been my experience that when men don't find their female partner attractive anymore due to weight gain, the men are usually just as overweight. Women tend to be a lot more forgiving about his weight gain. Of course, men are a lot more visual [when it comes to sexuality].
Partners need to look at their current lifestyle choices and as a team with the team part being the key to this equation. Start doing things to become healthier like going for walks together. Doing a shared activity will create an alliance and deepen intimacy.
AD: A lot of parents go through a lonely time at some point during their relationship as a couple and as parents. It might be right after the baby is born. It could be when they aren't seeing eye-to-eye on parenting issues and other things are going wrong in the marriage (maybe fights about money, arguments about sex, work-life balance struggles: you name it). At times like this, it's easy for someone other than your partner to look like Ms./Mr. Wonderful. So here's my question: what kind of effect are flirtations (both online and in real life) having on couple relationships? What advice do you offer to couples who want to have fun connecting with others, but who don't want to torpedo their own relationships?
TR: I would suggest never do anything outside of your relationship in secrecy. It's only going to blow up in your face, even if what you are doing is perfectly innocent. Secrecy is seen, justifiably, as lying. My best advice is this: if you can't tell your partner what you're up to, then don't do it. If you can chat easily about the flirtation then it should be okay.
Every [couple] has its own value system around what constitutes an acceptable flirtation. You need to have a conversation with your partner with what is acceptable and not acceptable. If you can chat easily about the flirtation then it should be okay.
AD: We've covered a lot of ground here. Thanks for speaking with me so frankly and openly. (Then again, I guess this is all in a day's work for you.)