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Bedwork 10: Find Your Attractive Self

Here is my radio interview with Susan Knight of Calgary’s up!97.7 FM this week:

For years, I have been a fashion disaster. Any sense of style that I now possess is a direct result of the blood, sweat and tears of more savvy girlfriends helping me over the years. But despite their valiant attempts, I still feel like a dud. Accessories? They don’t even remotely hit my GAF (Give a Flip) Metre. I have a few sentimental pieces that I wear all the time. A diversity of colour? No thanks. I would rather throw on a white top (or grey in the winter) and call it good. Shoes? Ok. I really like heels. I had a horrendously broken bone this past year and couldn’t wear heels for months. I was seriously unhappy.

But in an attempt to figure this whole fashion thing out, I have been reading a book called “I Have Nothing to Wear.” Even the idea of picking up a fashion book made my skin crawl but my sister swore it would change my life, and I agreed to read it out of love for her. Looks like it was written for me because it talks about the utter frustration of jumping from style to style, trying to keep up with the latest trends. When I read that part, I was hooked. I don’t have a clue what the latest trends are and I struggle with a lot of guilt because I secretly don’t care. (We’re back to the GAF Metre.)

In this book, the authors outline 6 different “styles” to which women gravitate. They are: Classic Girl, Preppy Girl, Fashionista Girl, Soccer Mom, Bohemian Girl and Surfer Chick. The idea is to identify and own your own style so that you feel most comfortable in your own skin every time you step out the house. Turns out, I have been getting advice from Fashionistas and Bohemians for years, when I am a Classic Girl. This was an ah-ha moment for me. I felt normal for the first time in my life.

And that is where my bumblings in the world of fashion intersected with my professional life. For years, I have seen that there is a direct correlation between a woman who feels good within her own skin and her confidence as a lover. She doesn’t shrink into herself as often. She isn’t as concerned about how she looks. She is kinder with herself about her flaws. She isn’t as hesitant about getting naked. She knows who she is.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that these women fit into some crazy cultural standard of what “looking good” entails. They aren’t all size 0s. They don’t all wear makeup. They don’t all look like they stepped out of a magazine. And they certainly don’t like all the parts of their bodies.

I met a woman once who was teeny-tiny and she asked me, “Do women struggle with body image in the bedroom? I weigh the same as I did in high school, but everything has shifted.” After I worked through my own fit of jealously about her weight, I was deeply moved by her vulnerability. Even the women who look spectacular on the outside carry their own shame.

Women who feel comfortable in their own skin have not escaped body image issues completely, and they don’t fit some cultural stereotype. They are just real women who have learned what works for them. Through trial and error over the years, they have found their attractive selves. They have come to accept parts of their bodies that have shifted with age, they have made the changes that were possible to make, and they have found what makes them feel like a “10.” They like themselves, and their husbands have a deep appreciation for them as well. Because this kind of confidence isn’t limited to picking out clothes in the mall. It extends all the way to the bedroom.

Here’s your Bedwork for the week: Find one outfit (in your closet OR use this as an excuse to go shopping) that makes you feel like a “10.” Wear it this week and then jot down in a journal how you felt. Make note of what it was about the outfit that made you feel like a “10” so that you can duplicate this experience. Need a bit of help in the fashion department? I highly recommend “I Have Nothing to Wear.”

Want more Bedwork? Check out my book The Essential Elements of Sex: 9 Secrets to a Lifetime of Intimacy.

Bedwork 9: Change up the Routine

Here is my radio interview with Susan Knight of Calgary’s up!97.7 FM this week:

 
Recently, I have been prepping for a TV interview on the topic of infidelity. In the process of my research, I came across a slightly alarming statistic. Of the men and women who confessed to having an affair, 71% of the men and 49% of the women said they did so because they were sexually bored. In fact, the boredom reason far out-paced other justifications such as business trips, high sex drive, close friendships with others and rekindling romance with an old flame. Boredom is a subtle threat that can lead a marriage into very turbulent waters.

For those of us who are in long-term relationships, it is very easy to get stuck in a rut. Sometimes routine is a wonderful thing – everyone gets his/her needs met with a minimum amount of effort. However, sometimes this rut creates a deep sense of dissatisfaction. In order to last the decades together, we need to become experts at recognizing 1) when we are in a rut and 2) how to get out of it.

Here is one rut I notice couples fall into frequently: the time they choose to have sex. They always have it on Sunday night after Game of Thrones (I mean, seriously, that show is hot!) or maybe they have a quickie after date night. Sometimes sex is reserved only for special occasions. It is the same, all the time.

So this week, your Bedwork is to change things up a bit by changing your regular routine for sex. Instead of having it at night, set your alarm clock for half an hour earlier in the morning. Perhaps you can kidnap your spouse at lunch and sneak away to a hotel. Perhaps if you wake up in the middle of the night, you can wake your spouse up too. Whatever you do, just do something different and breathe a bit of life into your routine.

Want more Bedwork? Check out my book The Essential Elements of Sex: 9 Secrets to a Lifetime of Intimacy.

Bedwork 8: Happy Camper Date

Here is my radio interview with Susan Knight of Calgary’s up!97.7 FM this week:

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago in a post, Eric and I recently had our anniversary. And, as is our tradition, we went out for dinner and had our State of Our Union talk. (You can find a run-down on how that works here.) This year, I asked him to take me on a “creative” dates. Make no mistake, we have plenty of dates, but I felt that we had fallen into a rut about what we did each week. I knew that Eric would be up for the task because he used to make extra money to pay for college by planning dates for other dudes who couldn’t figure out how to impress a woman. He can definitely get the job done.

He didn’t waste a lot of time planning our first date. Last week, he surprised me by showing up in the middle of the work day with concert tickets in hand to the Pitbull/Kesha concert. I was ecstatic. Now, I can take or leave Kesha, but I fell in love with Pitbull last year when my dance group did a hip-hop routine to one of his songs. Please don’t judge me.

If I am being completely honest, this is not a concert that Eric would have chosen. In fact, when he let a friend know what he had done, his buddy responded by saying, “You know the best part of Pitbull announcing his name at the beginning of every song? You know to change the channel.” Eric would tend to agree with his friend. Well, he likes the new Pitbull/Christina Aguilera song, but I certainly wouldn’t call him a fan.

However, sometimes in marriage, you have to choose a “Happy Camper Date.” For a lot of couples, just trying to decide what to do on their date causes conflict because they have different interests and tastes. This leads to frustration…and then dates taper off altogether.

Here’s how the “happy camper” date works: one week you go on a date and your husband gets to choose what he activity he wants the two of you to do. (He gets to pick the movie, the restaurant, the hockey game, etc.) You go on this date with a great attitude – you are the “happy camper” this week. However, the following week, it is his turn to be the happy camper and do whatever you would like to do without complaining. This experience gives us greater insight into what makes our spouse tick and it builds our common history together which, in turn, leads to a stronger marriage.

Here is your Bedwork for this week: Plan two “Happy Camper” dates for the next two months (unless you are an overachiever and want it to be for the next two weeks). Draw straws to see who has to be the happy camper first if you have to, but make sure you each have a chance. If you like the concept, make sure to plan this type of date once a month.

Want more Bedwork? Check out my book The Essential Elements of Sex: 9 Secrets to a Lifetime of Intimacy.

 

Bedwork 7: Clear the Obstacles

Here is my radio interview with Susan Knight of Calgary’s up!97.7 FM this week:

 
I once had a client who had to have the kitchen completely clean before she could relax enough for sex. There was nothing she hated more than going to bed with a dirty kitchen waiting for her in the morning. It stressed her out – so much so that she was often grumpy if her husband wanted to have sex.

As this woman’s story illustrates, sometimes the things that get in the way of sex are logistical. The kids’ schedules keep you on taxi duty until late into the evening. The TV is a perpetual distraction. The bedroom is a mess and the last place you feel sexy.

Once my client’s husband recognized the source of her resentment, he began pitching in and helping her get it done. In his mind, cleaning the kitchen became part of foreplay. Not only did she feel grateful for the assistance (and therefore much more amorous), but the task got done faster, leaving more time for fun!

For Bedwork this week, think about three things that take your time and focus away from sex and brainstorm solutions. Are the kids up too late? Then move their bedtime back a half-hour for the next couple weeks and see what happens. If the TV is a problem, then turn it off an hour earlier. And that messy bedroom? Clean it up and slap a fresh coat of paint on it so it creates a relaxing atmosphere. And then reap the benefits.

Want more Bedwork? Check out my book The Essential Elements of Sex: 9 Secrets to a Lifetime of Intimacy.

Bedwork 6: Combat Habituation

Here is my radio interview with Susan Knight of Calgary’s up!97.7 FM this week:

Today Eric and I celebrate our 15th anniversary. This is pretty spectacular considering people were taking bets at our wedding on how long we would make it. At our reception, one woman whispered in Eric’s ear, “If you hurt her, I’ll kill you.” No lie.

I suppose they had reason to be concerned. It had taken us 6 years to make it down the aisle, with plenty of break-ups and tears and screaming matches between our first date and our vows. We were back then, and still are today, extremely feisty. I use the term feisty to make it sound nice and glossy, but I probably should use terms like driven, passionate, outspoken and direct. We have had all the wonderful ups and bumpy lows that go with those traits. But slowly, I mean s  l  o  w  l  y, over the years we have learned how to harness our strengths for good instead of evil, and I wouldn’t trade our partnership for anything in the world.

As I reflect upon it, one of the core aspects of our relationship is that we do not take each other for granted. Of course, in any marriage there is the tendency to get used to what is in front of you day in and day out. Psychologists call this problem habituation, and it truly is deadly in a relationship. When you get lulled into the comfort zone of thinking you know everything there is to know about your spouse, you stop looking, and as you stop looking, you stop seeing, and then you don’t notice when your spouse changes and grows over the years. It’s no wonder that the empty nesters are the one demographic in which the divorce rate is rapidly rising. Once the kids are gone, so is the glue that holds the relationship together because they stopped seeing each other years ago.

But Eric and I walked into marriage with tragic reminders that life is preciously short. I was a cancer orphan by the time I was 21, and he lost his dad to cancer at 25. We were determined to never take each other for granted because, morbidly put, we simply don’t know how long we will have each other. So, for example, to combat habituation in our relationship, I actively watch how others perceive Eric in our social and work circles. When we get lulled into the drudgery of running the household, balancing schedules and making sure our daughter gets fed, people outside our relationship remind me of his witty sense of humor, his creative brain and his wicked smile. I am reminded once again of how much I adore him. I become intentional once again to balance the drudgery with passion. These outsiders’ perspectives keep mine fresh.

So here’s your Bedwork for the week: When you are out in a social setting with your spouse (church, restaurant, the hockey rink, a dinner party, etc.), pay close attention to how people interact with you spouse. Learn from it. Be inspired by it. Be curious about it. Allow it to breathe some freshness back into your relationship.

Want more Bedwork? Check out my book The Essential Elements of Sex: 9 Secrets to a Lifetime of Intimacy.

Bedwork 5: Side-by-Side Communication

Here is my radio interview with Susan Knight of Calgary’s up!97.7 FM this week:

One of my favourite researchers is Dr. Helen Fisher, a renowned anthropologist with Rutgers University who specializes in romantic love. (She gets to stick people in fMRI machines and see what happens to their brains when they see pictures of their loved ones. How cool is that?!)  Back in 2008, she did a TED Talk on the different ways men and women communicate and bond. During this presentation, she said something profound that we all need to understand in our relationships:

Women tend to get intimacy differently than men do. Women get intimacy from face-to-face talking. We swivel towards each other; we do what we call the anchoring gaze, and we talk. This is intimacy to women. I think it comes from millions of years of holding that baby in front of your face and cajoling it, reprimanding it, educating it with words.

Men tend to get intimacy from side-by-side doing. As soon as one guy looks up, the other guy will look away. I think it comes from millions of years of standing behind that bush, sitting behind that bush, looking straight ahead trying to hit that buffalo in the head with a rock. I think for millions of years, men faced their enemies as they sat side by side with friends.

Many of the women I meet are desperate for, in fact sometimes they outright demand that their husbands look them in the eye when they are having a conversation. What they do not understand is that eye-to-eye contact is intuitively very aggressive for a guy. That is not where he functions best. He genuinely wants to have intimacy with his wife, but if eye-to-eye contact is the only acceptable path in her mind, she is setting him up to fail.

As your Bedwork this week, I want you to leverage this information and use it to build greater intimacy in your relationship. Have a conversation while you are side by side. You might want to go for a walk, a drive or even get on the phone together. Regardless of what you choose, limit your eye contact. Now here is your topic of conversation: Top Five Intimate Moments. Take a walk down memory lane and share – in as much detail as possible – your favourite times together.

Want more Bedwork? Check out my book The Essential Elements of Sex: 9 Secrets to a Lifetime of Intimacy.

The Drew Marshall Show

A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege of being interviewed on The Drew Marshall Show – Canada’s Most Listened to Spiritual Talk Show. I had absolutely no clue what to expect, but was delighted by Drew’s ease with the subject and Tim The Tool’s sense of humour. Both made for a lively interview.

For those of you who were unable to catch this segment live, here is a link to the show (scroll down a few guests to find my segment).

 

 

Bedwork 4: Practice Sex

Here is my radio interview with Susan Knight of Calgary’s up!97.7 FM this week:

Last week, after I had done a seminar on sexual intimacy, a man walked up to me and said, “When you told us that we could have ‘practice sex’ a huge weight rolled off my shoulders.” His words reflected what I see in so many, many people. We put enormous expectations on our sexual relationships. There have to be fireworks each and every time. Every encounter has to live up to the passion that we see onscreen at the movies. Sex has to be good. All. The. Time. There is very little room for “practice sex.”

But in order to really get good at sex (yes, it’s a skill set), you must practice. I don’t just mean have sex more often, although that can be helpful too. I mean you must have times in which you consciously lower your expectations of each other. In practice sex, the two of you decide 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. Perhaps you are bored silly of the same three positions you have been using for the past decade and want to learn something new. Perhaps you just want to slow down a bit and not sprint to the finish line.

Here is your Bedwork for this week: Set aside one time when you and your spouse agree that you are going to try out practice sex. By agreeing ahead of time, you ease the pressure of performance. This experience is all about enjoying each other, not perfection. Then, allow for “mistakes” and “mediocre” sex during this time. Remember, 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. It might not be the best in and of itself, but this experience is moving you towards the goal of a deeper, richer skill set together. And that’s when the fireworks happen.

 

A Valentine’s Day Card to My Lover

Here is my radio interview with Susan Knight of Calgary’s up!97.7 FM this week:

Want to show heart-felt love for Valentine’s Day without spending a lot of dough? Here is an idea: Inside your Valentine’s Day card, write down one reason you love your spouse for each year you have been together. If you haven’t been together for a year yet, perhaps you can write one for each month you have been dating OR write down what you hope for your lives together next year.

This year, my card is going to be public.

To Eric, my husband of 14 years:

  1. I love that you know me well enough not to have a conversation until I have had my first cup of coffee. You have amazing patience when I am not my best self, and for that I am deeply grateful.
  2. I love the way my heart still flutters when you give me “that” look. Yeah. You know the one.
  3. I love how you parent our daughter. She is growing up to be confident, articulate, witty, poised, courageous, beautiful and well-loved because of you. (I don’t think that she will ever get married because all the other guys will pale in comparison to her dad. But we will cross that bridge when we get to it.)
  4. I love that you are pursuing your dreams in life. I am so excited to see you begin your post-graduate degree, continue to build your dream team at work, and fulfill the other hopes and dreams we have spent hours talking about.
  5. I love that you support me as I pursue my dreams. I would not have finished my book, had the courage to teach about sex or stuck it out in the lean years had it not been for you.
  6. I love the way you kiss. You really are a phenomenal kisser. That was one of the first things I liked about you, and it hasn’t grown stale over the years.
  7. I love the fact that you always put family above everything else in life (even as you are doing #4). You take Riley to school every morning even though you show up a bit late to work because you know that these years are too precious to squander. When I am spiraling into “task mode,” you remind me what is really important in life and help me refocus.
  8. I love the way you tell stories. Your skill set in this area has truly reached master level. If I can be as half as good as you by the time I die, I will die satisfied.
  9. I love the fact that you know when to shut up and just hold me. I had to teach you how to do this in our first year of marriage, but now you recognize when I need it faster than I do.
  10. I love that we can have our own friends and activities apart from one another, but also share so much together. You know how to walk the balance of not having too much of one or the other.
  11. I love that you cook. After all these years, after all these meals, you still love puttering around in the kitchen and demanding that we eat while the food is hot. I cannot count the number of times I have finished long before you even sat down…just the way you want it.
  12. I love the fact that there is always some guy in your life who you are mentoring. You love to pour into the people around you, especially the guys who remind you of your younger self.
  13. I love that when we are fighting, your sense of humor brings “levity” to the moment and reminds us both what is important – not to get a win, but to work together as a team.
  14. I love that we are still writing our story together. It has been a great romance, drama and adventure, and it has me hooked to find out what will come next.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Lover. You are my world!

The Wifey

Bedwork 3: Thank You Note

Here is my radio interview with Susan Knight of Calgary’s up!97.7 FM this week:

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so this is the time when most people feel socially obligated to have warm fuzzies about their partner. Interestingly enough, research is now telling us that what we focus on grows, so you will have more of those warm fuzzies when you are paying attention to all the things that s/he does right rather than all the things that s/he is doing wrong.

Back in 1965, researchers studied and developed a concept now known as the Pygmalion Effect.[i] According to this phenomenon, a teacher who expects a certain student to do well in her class will give that student more feedback, smile at him more often, and nonverbally reinforce the expectation that this student will succeed. Often, these students go on to meet all expectations and rise to the top of their classes. It is, in essence, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Nearly two decades later, Doctors Eden and Ravid tested the concept of the Pygmalion Effect in their Israeli Defense Forces’ experiment.[ii] Members of the Israeli military were brought into a command combat course for training. Four days before the training began, the researchers told the instructors that they had assessed each trainee and given them a “regular,” “high” or “unknown” command potential (CP). The instructors were to study all the soldiers’ files and their accompanying CP scores before classes began.

Unbeknownst to the instructors, these command potentials were not based on testing done on the soldiers, but instead randomly assigned. Roughly a third of the soldiers fell into each category of command potential. Soldiers in all three command potential groups were then evenly distributed amongst the classes and instructors.

In as little as a week, researchers noticed a difference between soldiers who had been designated with a high command potential and the others. They were at the top of their class, having rapidly excelled past the others. By the end of the training period, not only had they outperformed the other soldiers in their coursework and exercises, but they also reported they had a much more positive attitude towards future training, and evaluated their instructors much higher than the other soldiers.

This experiment showed that people rise or fall to the level of expectation around them. Whether you realize it or not, you send out nonverbal messages of anticipation to your colleagues, friends, children and even your spouse. They respond to these messages in how they behave around you.

If you are constantly expecting, perceiving and thinking of your spouse’s failure, you are going to see it. You will miss all the times your spouse does well because you will subconsciously toss out any exception to the rule and look for instances that confirm your belief of him/her. More importantly, your spouse will fail because s/he is not getting the subliminal reassurances that you expect her/him to succeed.

The great news is the Pygmalion Effect works both negatively and positively. You can change your levels of expectation with your spouse. When you begin to focus on the positive aspects of your relationship, this allows her space to change and grow. It allows him to be appreciated for his efforts. It allows her to respond warmly to you. The fact you have shifted your attention to the successful encourages him to keep up the good work.

So here’s your Bedwork for the week: Catch your spouse doing three things right this week. It might be in the way that he parents the kids, the tireless effort she puts forth to keep all the schedules organized, the fact that he takes the garbage out or her refusal to let you leave without a hug and a kiss. Look for three things that you appreciate about your spouse and then write him/her a thank you note for those things. Express your appreciation for all the little things you noticed this week. That will deepen the closeness between the two of you and get you well on your way to having a fabulous Valentine’s Day!

Want more Bedwork? Get my book The Essential Elements of Sex today.

 


[i] The original experiment was conducted in 1965, and the two researchers wrote a book on their findings in 1968 (updated in 1992). See Rosenthal, R., & Jacobson, L. (1992). Pygmalion in the Classroom: Teacher Expectation and Pupils’ Intellectual Development, 2nd ed. New York: Irvington Publishers, Inc.

[ii] Eden, D. (1992). “Leadership and Expectations: Pygmalion Effects and Other Self-Fulfilling Prophecies in Organizations.” Leadership Quarterly, 3(4): 271-305.