Play time!

There is a story that is often told of Gregory Bateson, an anthropologist and the husband of the Margaret Mead. He was asked to come observe a group of otters that seemed depressed to their zookeepers. Otters, if you didn’t know, love to play. You can watch them for hours as they leap, swim, wrestle with each other and get up to all sorts of antics. These otters, however, seemed listless and lethargic.

 

After watching the animals for a number of days, Bateson dangled a piece of paper on string into their habitat. Before long, an otter came over to the string and began to bat at it. Very soon after, another otter joined in and then both otters started to play with each other. Even when Bateson removed the paper on the string, the otters continued to play.

How did two otters – creatures that are playful by nature – stop playing? Simply put, they got bored.

 

It is very easy for couples to get bored and, by extension, stop playing with each other when they have been married for years.

 

I was recently chatting with a client, and she mentioned that her husband liked to pull out a stuffed animal, put on an alter-ego voice, and make silly comments. She didn’t have a clue how to respond. Naturally a very serious person, this activity seemed very confusing to her. When I suggested that she make a silly comment in return – something fun and playful – it made her stop and think because it had been so long since she had been playful in their marriage.

 

Are you playful together? Believe it or not, this can be one of the most effective tools to making your relationship last. If you are having a lot of fun together, it makes it much harder to split up.

 

What are you doing to be playful with your spouse? Do you need to introduce something new into your environment to remind the two of you how to play again? What will that something new be? (as a suggestion: you might want to try something different than a just piece of paper on a string!) How can you make your spouse laugh this week? Can you surprise your spouse with something that will completely delight him or her?

 

As you think about those questions, let me leave you with a video of two otters, taking a nap at the Vancouver Aquarium. They are holding hands so that they will not float apart.

Remember: Playfulness not only combats boredom, but it also engenders intimacy.

Failure Doesn’t Equal Success…but it can get you there!

Last week, my daughter bombed a math test. Flunked. Failed. In a big and mighty way. So big, in fact, that the teacher called me into the classroom to show me the test.

Later, when Riley and I were talking about it, she began to tear up.

 

“Are you saying that I made a bad grade?” she asked as her lower lip quivered.

 

I hesitated for a beat and then said, “Yes, Baby Girl, you made a bad grade.”

 

A lot of parents would be horrified with me. I can hear them saying, “What?! You don’t use the term bad when talking to a child!” I could hear them complain that I was going to scar my child or permanently damage her self esteem.

 

In our society today, we have become so concerned with the emotions of our children that we will lie, cheat and steal to keep them from feeling badly. The theory goes that if we can organize a world where they feel safe and secure and loved and comfortable all the time, then surely they will become confident adults.

 

The problem with this approach is that it simply doesn’t work. An obese child who is told that she is fine just the way she is will still grow up with be an adult with chronic health problems. A child whose bullying behaviour is overlooked because he is having problems at home that are not his fault will not learn how to care for those around him. A child who thinks that a failed grade is actually good will never learn how to succeed.

 

And so I let my daughter feel the full weight of failure.

 

And then I gave her the tools to succeed.

“You see, Riley, a bad grade tells us two things: 1) You don’t understand the material and/or 2) You did not practice enough before the test. However, both of these things are fixable. We can make sure you learn the material and give you lots of practice so that when you will not make this grade again.”

 

The rest of the weekend, we worked hard. It was obvious that Riley was missing the foundational pieces to the concepts and so we made sure she got them. Then we built on the foundation until she was grasping math which was much more difficult than the concepts on the test.

 

She got it. She grew confident. She asked to practice so she could show us what she had learned. And she learned how to turn failure into success, a life lesson that is exponentially more important than a math grade.

 

Many of the couples I meet struggle even admitting that there is failure in their relationship. They dance around the subject, trying to project an image that is perfect. They hope that I don’t ask any questions that might poke that delicate exterior and expose it for what it truly is.

 

But, just like Riley, if we do not take an honest appraisal of our work and if we do not acknowledge places where we fail, we will never be able to move past failure to success. Admitting you have a problem, as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, is the first step to a new life. The brilliance of taking this first step is that you can make changes, fix the problems and move to a place of health and true happiness.

 

What do you have in your relationship that is not working?   What is failing?

 

Once you have taken an inventory, begin to make changes. Need some help? You can book your coaching session with me today.

The Quickie vs. Making Love Debate

This past weekend, I was speaking to a group of pastors and their spouses on The Essential Elements of Sex. As I began to talk about the concept of making love versus having a quickie, one woman called out, “Sometimes you just need a snack!” The room dissolved into laughter and even the most shy in the room were giggling in approval.

As a coach, one of the common complaints that I hear is that the woman wants to “make love” and feels that her husband just wants to have “a quickie”. The former evokes images of a couple looking into each other’s eyes and kissing deeply while the latter conjures up the picture of getting pinned against the wall and being taken right then and there. Both can be deeply passionate, just different forms of expressing the passion.

 

Sometimes, sex will be a deep, soul-connecting intimacy with our spouse. Other times, it will just be a way to experience pleasure together quickly. Sometimes it will be a two-hour experience; sometimes it won’t last ten minutes. Sometimes it will be long and luxurious; other times it will be fast and frantic. Sometimes both spouses will walk away having experienced orgasm; other times the focus is on one person alone.

 

Difficulty arises, however, when couples fall into a rut of believing that it has to be one or the other… all the time. I have seen husbands refuse to acknowledge the need to make love and I have met wives who insist that each and every sexual encounter must be “making love”. A dogmatic adherence to one or the other undermines true intimacy. A steady diet of quickies denies the concepts of exploration, creativity, and deep communication because, amongst other reasons, there is simply no time to venture into those areas. On the other hand, if couples only have sex when they have time to make love, they might never get to it out of sheer busyness!

 

Both types of sex build intimacy if they are done in balance. Sometimes you need a gourmet meal; sometimes you need a snack.

 

Which one do you need to work into your sex life to regain balance?

Bikinis for 7 year olds!?!?

I am the mother of a six-year-old and despite the subject matter that I speak about, write about and research for my day job, we are extremely conservative at home. Just the other day, my daughter chastised me for using the “D” word. It’s probably not what you think…I had commented that something was “dumb”.  And, for the record, the word “stupid” might as well be cussing in our household.

 

When it comes to my own profession, I also realize the prudence in speaking openly about sexual questions that come up. A few have with Riley…although not as many as I was expecting by this age. When she does broach the subject, I ask for clarity on what it is she is trying to learn and why, so that I can answer the question simply and truthfully but not answer too much. (There’s the old joke of the Dad who went into a lengthy explanation about sex to his child who asked “what’s sex”, only to find out that the child had been told by his mother that “dinner would be ready in a few “secs”.) I try to balance healthy candor about the subject of sexuality with the fact that we hold pretty conservative values as a family.

 

So, I was horrified to learn that Abercrombie & Fitch has just marketed a bikini for 7-year-old girls with a PUSH UP TOP.

Really????  Seriously!?!  Are you kidding me!!???

 

We are facing an epidemic of little girls growing up believing that their bodies are inadequate because of the ridiculous amount of media pressure to be a perpetual size 0, and yet they want to send a message to our 7-year-olds that their pre-pubescent chests are inadequate? It’s ludicrous.

 

But, as CNN’s LZ Granderson points out, companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch would not sell such items if there were not parents who buy them. Companies have increasingly pushed the boundaries on what is and what is not appropriate for teens and children for years, and have been allowed a ridiculous amount of latitude from parents. As parents, it is our duty to make sure that our children wear items that reflect a healthy amount of self-respect rather than just what is the latest fashion. As Granderson says,

 

I don’t care how popular Lil’ Wayne is, my son knows I would break both of his legs long before I would allow him to walk out of the house with his pants falling off his butt. Such a stance doesn’t always makes me popular — and the house does get tense from time to time — but I’m his father, not his friend.

Thank you, LZ for making the point that is so often lost on my peers. We did not give birth to children so that we could have life-long buddies. When we chose to produce off-spring, we were making a decision to train these little beings how to love themselves and how love others. Decisions that fall within these parameters do not necessarily make us popular with our children, but they do make us good parents.

 

Because of my job, I get asked all the time how to talk to kids about sex.  There are lots of opinions on that subject – when to start, how much to share, what’s age appropriate information.  But I don’t even have to broach any of those points to get to the basic premise here: Talking to your kids about sex includes how you let them dress – or how you choose to dress them.

 

That’s my take-away for this blog post.  But in the interest of fairness, I should say that Abercrombie & Fitch have agreed to remove the term “push up” from the title in favour of the less incendiary “striped triangle”, but have continued selling the padded bikinis.

 

What are you thoughts?

Practice Makes Perfect (even in sex)

Right now, I am in the middle of fairly intense media training. My assignment is to shoot 5 one-minute videos each day. That’s not so difficult. However, later that day, I have sit down with a team of people while we all watch and critique the videos. And believe me, there is a lot to critique.

The team tackles issues such as gestures, phraseology, eye movements, expression, emphasis, content, lighting, makeup, and wardrobe. Yesterday was a particularly spectacular day because I wore a sweater that blended into the background and made me appear as though I had no arms.  Seriously, every person watching the video laughed out loud, pointed and said, “you have no arms!!” or “wardrobe malfunction!!”

It sucks.

I am deriving very little pleasure from this process.

All my insecurities and perfectionist tendencies are coming to the surface.

I want to run and hide every time the team meets.

I cringe every time a new video starts.

And yet, I am keenly aware that if I want to accomplish some of my goals for 2011 this is exactly the type of training that I need. I will only develop this skill set by completing my assignment each and every day and then learning how I can improve – not just through my own eyes, but from the perspectives of others too. It helps that when I look up from my computer to the list of goals that hangs on the wall across from me, I am able to remember the reasons why I must press on despite the fact that I am miles outside of my comfort zone.

But it still sucks.

As I ponder what I am doing, it occurs to me that it is not unlike one of the principles that I teach my coaching clients.

If you are going to become a better lover, you must practice. I don’t just mean have sex more often; I mean have times in which you consciously lower your expectations of each other. I find that we put enormous expectations on our sexual relationships. They have to be good, all the time. There is very little room for “practice sex”.

In practice sex, the two of you decide that you want to get more skilled in a particular area. Perhaps she has never had multiple orgasms before, and you want to see what it takes to get her there. Perhaps he would like oral sex as part of your foreplay, and you are completely intimidated by this concept.

Set aside time when the two of you agree that you are going to practice. By agreeing ahead of time, you ease the pressure of performance. Then, allow for mistakes (and possibly even mediocre sex) during this time.  Remember that it’s okay to not be great when you are practicing!!  The goal is learning how to become better!!

Just as I am learning as I shoot these videos, couples need to remember that in order to get really good at sex, you have to go through the awkward learning stage. So be patient with each other and enjoy it as much as possible!

I am now going to take my own advice and set up the video camera.

PS – My goal is to start rolling out “Vlogs” soon. Hopefully, I will have arms in them.

Imperfect Giving

My daughter is a natural born giver. Eric and I figured this out when she was two and all the toys began to disappear from the toy box as guest after guest was treated to a gift at the end of each play-date.

I have to admit that this baffled me greatly, for if you know anything about the concept of Love Languages, gift giving is on the bottom of my list. I am much more likely to show you that I really like you by demonstrating all the other Love Languages before you get a present or card from me. It just isn’t a big thing.

So when Riley began giving away gifts that she herself had been given for Christmas and her birthday, Eric and I had to have a serious conversion. Were we going to allow this behaviour to continue? How important was cultivating this instinct in our daughter to us? Was encouraging a spirit of generosity and demonstration of love for her friends more important that the money we (and others) had poured into stuff for our kid over the years?

We decided on a compromise. First, we laid ground rules on which items could be given away. For instance, she was not allowed to give away “sentimental” gifts such as presents that her grandparents had lovingly picked out for her. Secondly, we encouraged her to make gifts for her friends. After deciding on this framework, Riley’s friends (or their moms) often left with a stuffed animal wrapped in hand-made wrapping paper and card. It worked.

Just last week, as she headed off to her Mandarin lessons, she decided that she needed to give her teacher a New Year’s gift. So, working with what she had available because class was starting in 20 minutes, she put together a baggie of chocolates and then put a sprig of our (very dead) Christmas tree in the knot of the baggie.

It looked, well, horrid.

I have to be honest, the Southern girl in me used to cringe when she would give gifts that looked like this. You see, I was brought up that if the gift was not presented perfectly, then it should not be given until you can make it look better. If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well – right?

But that misses the heart of giving. Stopping Riley and telling her that her gift didn’t look good enough would totally crush her and undermine the spirit of what she was trying to do.

And so, slowly and painfully, I have learned over the years not to spend too much time and energy worrying about the recipient’s reaction to Riley’s hodge-podge style of giving. In this most recent example, Riley made a gift comprised of candies that she had been given during the holiday season, decorated it and gave it to her teacher with much love. Who cares if the teacher was bothered by the dead tree attached to it?! Who cares if she is deep into her New Year’s resolution to lose weight and chocolate is the last thing she wants right now?!

As I was thinking more about this, it dawned on me that by the time Riley reaches adulthood, she is going to be a Gift-giver Supreme because she has had so many years of practice. Years in which she could give gifts that look, well, horrid and it was ok because she was learning to give. Since she is given the freedom to express her love, she will get better and better at the presentation as the years go on. And truth be told, she is already miles ahead on her presentation skills from several years ago.

It might be easy to read this post and think, “Well of course, she is six!”

But do you have this much patience for your spouse? When they are trying to acquire new skills in your relationship – new skills which will ultimately make your relationship better – do you allow them to express themselves as adequately as they can or do you get frustrated because it doesn’t look right…or isn’t presented the way you would do it…or isn’t wrapped perfectly?

I find that far too often couples get impatient when asking their partner for change. They will:

  1. Wait until they are nearly exploding from frustration over an issue.
  2. Ask their partner for change (read: demand change).
  3. Expect immediate perfection (and note that “perfection” is usually defined as the way they want things done) when the partner makes the attempt to change.

This is crazy. Any skill set takes a while to learn but no one wants to learn when they are being criticized every step of the way. So give each other space and time to grow. Allow your spouse to try, even if it is awkwardly, and don’t allow yourself to listen to those inner thoughts that say, “It isn’t good enough.” Rejoice in the child-like steps that your spouse will take in his/her attempt to make the changes you have requested.  Because you know what “good enough” looks like to you – but they don’t – and your partner probably has to work hard to achieve your expectation of “good enough”.   And that kind of work takes time, patience and encouragement – from both sides!

So while they work on changing something, you can spend your time and effort creating an environment that encourages and rewards the effort – not just the perfection!

The Greatest Gift

My daughter and I recently returned from Disneyland. It was amazing. In fact, I had more fun taking her and watching the wonder on her face than I ever had being there as a kid. We met up with her three best friends there (whom she hadn’t seen since we moved from Vancouver) and it was a full-on Princess extravaganza. I felt a little badly for the one male in our group who resorted to taking shots of testosterone each night just to survive the whole experience! (Just kidding. He didn’t really dope up, and he survived just fine.)

The trip was made possible by my aunt and uncle. When they asked what they could buy Riley for Christmas, I thought and thought and thought. She doesn’t need stuff. She is like many North American kids…she has everything she needs and then some. As such, Eric and I have been gravitating to the concept of investing in memories rather than things. Don’t get me wrong, this is not necessarily the cheapest option. Sometimes memories cost more than the hottest toy – take that Disney pass for example. But unlike the hottest toy that will be outgrown and tossed out in time, the memories will forge greater relationships in the moment and then last over the years.

As this was about memories, we took a million pictures at Disneyland. My favourite one is Riley, exhausted from the first 12-hour day, in bed in her pajamas with her dinner on her lap. She almost fell asleep as she ate her quesadilla! She was so happy and so tired!

When our friend Louise came to visit for the holiday season, she built upon this memory-building gift giving idea. Her gift to Riley (and our family by extension) was tickets to a performance of the National Ballet’s rendition of The Nutcracker. For a little girl who has been taking ballet for three years, this was a magical moment. She even wore her pink ballet outfit to the performance and got to meet some of the ballerinas.

But since Riley is a bit too young to fully grasp the concept of “memory building = Christmas gifts”, we realized that we would need to wrap some things up that represented our time together. We figured a basically empty tree and an admonition, “But remember your gift happened weeks ago” would not cut it. So we framed a huge collage of Riley’s time in Disneyland as well as the signed poster that she got at the ballet. On Christmas morning, as she tore off the wrapping paper, she squealed and relived the memories as she poured over each photo. Now those frames hang in her room, representing the gifts that she was given this year.

I realize that I am too late to give you advice on gift giving this past holiday season. But here is a suggestion for the rest of the year – Valentine’s Day, birthdays, your anniversary. Take the amount that you would have spent on a traditional gift for your lover and invest that money into a “memory date” instead. Here are some ideas:

  • A Starbucks (or other favourite coffee/tea house) card charged with enough money for 5 coffee dates together. Make the stipulation that you can only use the card together so that s/he doesn’t use it all up on the way to work each morning.
  • Tickets to an event that means something to you as a couple (or at least the person who is receiving the gift – part of this gift is participating in their interests!). Perhaps it is a concert, theatre presentation, movie tickets or even a Monster Truck Rally!
  • A gift card to your favourite restaurant so that you can escape together when life gets crazy and stressful.
  • A weekend get-away package set for sometime when you can get good deals. Book the travel and accommodations and then plan some activities so that you can present the overall concept as your gift.
  • Gift certificates from your favourite babysitter so that your spouse can cash them in when s/he decides that the two of you need to get out for an evening. (If you think that handing your babysitter a wad of cash in return for a promise of service is an unwise idea, then have the necessary amount for 2-3 nights out tucked inside an envelope that is only used for this purpose.)
  • Coupons for a walk together at the local park, a boat ride, a time tobogganing, a trip to the local art gallery, a walk in the downtown part of your city, a ride on a train, time to volunteer together at a local soup kitchen, a trip to a local tourist spot, cups of hot chocolate delivered to bed complete with whipped cream on top, and so forth.

Here is my final suggestion: if it is decent to do so (because you can most certainly spice up the suggestions I have given above), take a camera with you during your “memory date” so that you can preserve your time together. Because while the primary investment you are making is time – the return on that investment are life-long memories.

Do Men Fake Orgasms?

Did you know that MEN fake orgasm too???

Ever since the famous scene in When Harry Met Sally, we have been culturally conscious of the fact that women can pull the wool over the eyes of their men. However, new studies are now debunking the myth that only women engage in this sort of activity.

According to the November issue of the Journal of Sex Research, 25% of the men in their study confessed to pretending to orgasm. Askmen.com also did a survey of 100,000 men in which 14% admitted that they had done it once and a further 16% said they had done it multiple times.

But how? This seems to be the question that immediately comes to everyone’s mind.

If you think about it, in the day in which condoms and lubricants are prevalent, it would be easy to cover up the (lack of) evidence. If you throw in the fact that most women are not checking to see if their partners are faking it – because, let’s be honest, how many are – it would be relatively easy for the guys to pull off.

Why would a guy fake it? Simply put, for the same reason a woman does. The study published by the Journal of Sex Research stated that the most frequently cited reasons were:

  • they wanted sex to end
  • they knew that orgasm was probably not going to happen and faking it seemed like an easy way to “finish”
  • they wanted to demonstrate to their partners that it was good for them too
  • they didn’t want to hurt their partners’ feelings

Very often, we assume that men are always willing and eager to have sex and overlook the fact that they might be tired, or stressed or simply not in the mood. Just like many women.

But the typical response for women who find out that their husband is not automatically ready to go or cannot achieve orgasm is to assume that something is wrong with them. “Is he getting it somewhere else? Am I too fat? Am I not good enough?” are the some of the myriad of thoughts that float through their minds.

Perhaps. But it is much more likely that there is something else in play. Here are some of the common reasons why men have difficulty achieving orgasm:

  1. SSRI Drugs (Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, etc.). These are prescribed for issues such as depression, anxiety and insomnia. A very simplistic explanation of how these drugs work are that they keep more serotonin in your system (the happy, feel-good hormone). This is excellent news when you are dealing with depression. However, the nasty little side-effect is that this increase in serotonin actually suppresses your dopamine levels (which stimulate your sex drive). The end result is that you might have lower libido, it might take you longer to achieve orgasm or you may be unable to orgasm.
  2. Erectile Drugs (Viagra, Levitra, Cialis, etc.). If you think about it logically, these drugs are a result of the industry that has grown in response to our demand to perform anytime, anywhere. We make jokes about the common disclaimer – “seek medical attention if you experience an erection lasting more than four hours” – but the fact of the matter is that we expect these drugs to make us a sex GOD. But what happens when you are not in the mood? Physiologically, you have all the tell-tale signs that you are aroused, but what if you are not completely there? For men who find themselves in this predicament, achieving orgasm might not be as easy as they had anticipated.
  3. Alcohol (Beer, Wine, Spirits etc.). In my practice, I find that this is the most common drug that affects orgasm. Alcohol actually inhibits testosterone and this can result in lower libido, decreased arousal and delayed ejaculation.
  4. Porn (pictures, video, etc.). One of the issues that is becoming more and more prevalent in the field of sex therapy, is dealing with men who have turned to porn, thinking that it would give them a good sexual education. Bombarded with these images of completely unrealistic sex, genuine intimacy with a flesh-and-blood woman can become increasingly difficult. Remember the Sex and the City episode wherein Miranda dates a guy who cannot have sex unless there he is also watching porn? When she makes him choose between her and the movies, he chooses porn because “those girls have been with me longer than you have.” This might be a humorous depiction of the issue on screen, but is very serious when it is happening in your own house.
  5. Life.  As I mentioned before, men’s sex lives are affected by stress, their jobs, their bank balances, their sleep patterns, any number of medical issues, emotional interaction with their wives and a whole host of other reasons.

So what if you are caught in the trap of faking it? The first time you faked it, it was probably to alleviate the pressure you were feeling in the moment. But now, you are under even more pressure to keep up the act and this can get very old, very fast.

Here is my advice.

Stop.

Yes, that’s right.

Stop.

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Instead of devising ways to pull off the deception, view this as an opportunity to learn together and make your sex life better. You have the information now about the causes for your lack of orgasm as well as some of the feelings that your wife is probably going to have when you tell her, so you will have a little more (intelligent) communication points for the conversation that will inevitably happen.

Here is what I want everyone to remember: change is inevitable in your sex life. Inability to orgasm is just one of those possible changes. It is guaranteed that your body will change as the years go by, and your perspectives will most likely shift as well. If you do not have open and honest communication with your spouse, things will fall apart. You will find yourself with a spouse who is doing things that were awesome five years ago, but aren’t so hot anymore. Or you will find yourself hiding more and more instead of becoming more and more intimate. This does not make a fabulous sex life.

So have the conversation and devise a strategy of dealing with the issue. Perhaps you can go to your doctor and find something that is effective for your condition but does not have the sexual side-effects. Perhaps you can develop ways to lengthen the amount of foreplay so that you can really be aroused. Perhaps you need to lay off the booze.

And if you are the woman who is finding out that her husband has been faking it, don’t be defensive. Just listen. And then seek solutions together.

Sometimes an independent perspective can helpful.  If you need a Passion Coach, then contact me for some extra help.

That’s what I am here for!

Post Halloween Reflections

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Since my daughter is still young, Halloween is a HUGE event in our household. The conversations about costumes and candy and safety begin literally weeks before the big event. This year, Riley’s teacher fully embraced the season and read what Riley called “spooky-scary” books to them, wore Halloween ties and pumpkin earrings, and sent home a list of ways to be safe and responsible while Trick or Treating. Riley was so excited that she could barely see straight.

One morning, she announced to me that her teacher had said that they could wear heels to the class Halloween party, as long as they “went with the outfit”.

Now, allow me to give you a little insight on my daughter. She is a fashionista. Young though she is, she has an innate sense of style – albeit her own unique style which often involves pairing pink fluffy dresses with cowboy boots and a string of costume pearls. I seriously doubt that you would find anything even remotely resembling a “Riley Line” on the catwalks of Wal-Mart much less Milan or Paris. But it nevertheless emanates from who she is and how she wants to present herself to the world.  And ever since her MiMi bought her first (and only) pair for her this summer, she has absolutely adored heels.

So after her big announcement regarding the permissibility of wearing heels, I then asked her, “What do you want to be for Halloween?”

“A WITCH!” She cried excitedly.

“Do witches wear heels??” I was a little dubious.

“THIS witch does!” She grinned from ear to ear. Her enthusiasm was matched only by her self-confidence.  However, in an unfortunate blow to fashionable Halloween witches everywhere, when we went looking for costumes, she decided that big pointy hats and black shawls were not so stylish and she ended up going as a mermaid.  And with the same enthusiasm she employed towards her first idea, she made no bones about the fact that mermaids also wear heels.

And so, when the big night finally rolled around, we dressed up and unashamedly set off to randomly knock on doors, beg for food and take candy from strangers.

Like all kids, Riley loves the costumes and candy, but I love the community spirit that Halloween builds. It is one of the few times when we actually see and interact with our neighbours. Parents linger along the streets as their children go from door to door. I met – for the first time – the moms and dads of many of Riley’s schoolmates. I walked through my neighbourhood rather than driving. I slowed down. I chatted. I began relationships.

One couple in particular stood out to me. As they walked along, they held hands and were as warm in their affection for each other as the night was cold. But when I realized that they newly dating and not married, it made me very sad that they were showing up all the rest of us who were.

But it also gave me pause to think, as I grabbed Eric’s hand and cuddled up to him.  I know for a fact that I am more in love with my husband than she is with her boyfriend.  I know this because we have 18 years of history, of moments lived and memories shared.  So why on earth would I not be more affectionate towards my husband?

So here is my thought for you: make time this week for a little PDA (public display of affection) with your spouse. Nothing obscene, of course.  But hold a hand, give a smooch, link arms together. And then write me to tell what you did and what the reaction was around you. I want to know!

And then have some left over candy as a “reward”!

Personality – Why Him/Why Her

I recently had a radio personality ask me, “Are you interested in anything other than sex?” I laughed because the truth of the matter is that I have numerous interests but they always find their way back to intersecting with relationships and intimacy for me. It’s like the Kevin Bacon game of 6 Degrees of Separation for me…give me a topic and I will link it back to sex in 6 or less steps.

One of my hobbies is personality tests. I have been fascinated with who we are and why we are who we are since I realized (at about age 12) that the reason my father and I fought all the time was because we were actually quite similar. This concept fascinated me and began what has become a life-long study.

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Most recently, I have just finished reading Helen Fisher’s book Why Him? Why Her? For those of you who are not yet familiar with Dr. Fisher, allow me to introduce you. She is one of my favourite anthropologists and sex researchers. Dr. Fisher is known for putting people who are in love into an MRI machine and then watching their brains to see which areas light up when they are given a picture of their beloved. Science and sex together. Seriously, who would not want this woman’s job??

Evidently, not everyone. In her book, Dr. Fisher describes four broad personality types – not all of whom would enjoy doing what she does. As she describes these personalities, she asserts that while everyone has a primary personality type, they also have secondary type that also influences how they think and act.

So far, her theories weren’t much different that what I have previously studied – she just gave different names to the categories. But here is the part that really caught my attention – these personality types are influenced by the predominant hormones that you have coursing through your system which, of course, are genetically inherited.

I know, I know, the nature/nurture debate is never-ending and quite frankly, I am a bit bored by it.  Scientists are finally beginning to conclude (and Dr. Fisher accedes to these findings) that it is about a 50/50 split.

But for the purpose of this article, let’s focus on the genetic part of your personality right now. Here are the four broad categories:

EXPLORERS. “Carpe Diem.” These individuals have a higher amount of dopamine in their systems. This makes them intensely curious, impulsive, energetic, enthusiastic, optimistic and creative. In her Word Type Study, Dr. Fisher found that adventure is the word most frequently identified by Explorers to describe themselves. They tend to be attracted to other Explorers, have the highest incomes, are the most sexual of all personality types but also have the highest divorce rates.

BUILDERS. “Pillars of Society.” The hormone that is most prevalent with this group of people is serotonin. They tend to be loyal, social, conscientious, dutiful, cautious, moral, respectful of authority, orderly and excellent managers. In the Word Type Study, family is the word used most frequently by Builders. Builders tend to gravitate to other Builders, are popular in their large social circles, have the lowest divorce rates of all the personalities but also have the lowest sex drives.

DIRECTORS. “Always to the Stars.” Testosterone is what influences the personalities of this group. Consequently, they are outspoken, direct, independent, competitive, pragmatic, goal-oriented and systematic. In her Word Type Study, Dr. Fisher found that intelligence is the word used most frequently by Directors. They are the most likely to get their PhD’s, can be very self-critical as they search for the highest prize (knowledge), have a healthy sexual appetite and tend to be attracted to Negotiators.

NEGOTIATORS. “Philosopher Kings.” The amount of estrogen found in this group makes them tend to be big-picture thinkers, emotionally expressive, intuitive, imaginative, tolerant of ambiguity, and empathetic. In her Word Type Study, Dr. Fisher found that passion is the word used most frequently by Negotiators. They too are drawn to Directors, are the most likely of all the groups to read books, they are highly introspective and have a rich fantasy life.

Evidently, my husband and I make a very good match. He is an EXPLORER/Director and I am an EXPLORER/Negotiator. Our primary types enable us to constantly seek out adventure together (much to the chagrin of his predominantly Builder family), and our secondary types balance each other nicely. Why is this helpful information to have? The better you know yourself, the better you know your partner, the better you will be able to navigate the bumps, twists and turns that life hands you.

So, can you see any traits that seem like you? What about your spouse? Does it shed any light on why you have succeeded in your relationship or run into problems?

The Book

Obviously, in this article I can’t cover all the ground that Dr. Fisher does in the book. So, here is the link. I highly recommend it!