We all could use some practical advice on love, relationships, sex and communication! These 8 tips can apply whether you are in a married/committed relationship and want to spice things up, or you’re dating and feel like nothing’s working, or your relationship is steady and okay but the miscommunication keeps leading to fights.
- Know yourself and accept yourself. So often I see women struggling to love themselves, which of course makes it harder for you to receive the love of others. And this can play out as denial, the girl who thinks she is X but everyone else sees Y. Or what in dating can feel like game playing or the bait and switch – because the product described online is not what you’re actually selling (so to speak). Or in loving, committed relationships where your partner’s comments feel like lies or falsehoods (maybe because you can’t or aren’t ready to hear the truth).And this lack of self-acceptance cuts in two directions: a) not seeing how simply amazing you are! (And feeling like anyone who compliments you has a hidden agenda), or b) thinking you are void of imperfection, and unwilling to admit to flaws and missteps (not a cute look).So the most important bit of advice here is, know your truth. Warts and all, be honest with yourself. If you’re neurotic and overplan things, don’t pretend you’re the chill girl. If you’re hot and always getting noticed, don’t act confused when your partner wants more time in the bedroom.
- Communicate your needs and wants. Once you know yourself, you can better do your own press. And whether this pertains to bedroom activities or making weekend plans, if you don’t ask for it, you almost 100% won’t get it. If you hate pizza, tell your guy – don’t hope that he remembered that random text from two months ago. If you prefer sex with the lights off, don’t hope that he gets the hint when you suggest dim candlelight. Don’t assume or mind read or play games – be direct!Know. Ask. Follow up. Then judge.This advice is particularly relevant to new relationships, where the guessing so often goes awry. When you’ve been married 20 years, at least your guesses (or his) have a chance of being correct. But in the beginning (or after a major life shift), we need to train or update our partners on our wants, needs, desires, and no-nos.
If you’ve discovered your wishes, voiced them clearly, checked back when they didn’t seem validated – and he still screws it up – then jump into judgment and blaming. But first, be sure that text went through…so to speak.
- Setup regular check ins (with yourself and or your partner). This bit of advice is most relevant to the committed crowd. A little leak can end in a dam burst if you don’t address it early and on the regular. I advise that my couples have a scheduled weekly state of the union sit down – not always about criticism of the relationship. Sometimes you just need to have or provide space for you or your partner to express big picture needs. You are thinking of changing careers, or having a kid, or broadening your sexual expression. These are not good conversations to have in the car on the way to the Marlins game.Furthermore, this activity can be done solo. Take time to ask, How am I doing? What’s working? What’s missing? I like for people to identify the domains of self that define you – and see what domain needs attention this week/month. If you are defined by your spirituality, physicality and social life – and you haven’t been to the gym in a month, but your social calendar is booked solid – maybe balance that out this next week. And set that limit or ask for that support from your partner and people in your life.
- Know your limits! Set your boundaries. Have your list.What I mean here is making sure that you don’t feel taken advantage of. As was stated in suggestion #3, if you need more time for the gym, you need to turn down that invitation to drinks after work tomorrow. If you go, you’ll resent your friend for inviting you – but it was up to you to set that limit for yourself. And like suggestion #2, it was also up to you to communicate your needs.But bigger picture, this means making a list of taboos and no-nos for your sex life and sharing this explicitly with your partner. (Then he knows the line, and you can trust he won’t cross it, or you can properly hold him accountable if he does because he KNEW better).
In your dating life, have your list of deal breakers. I get so many women on my couch saying this guy is perfect, except he’s an axe murdering, drug dealing, cheating creep. (Guess what, then he’s not perfect!) But you make excuses for people to try to get partnered up. Or because you didn’t set clear boundaries and limits in your head.
And for the married folks, these boundaries matter as regards the definition of “cheating,” the life plan you envision (but need to share to avoid breeding resentment), or the dreaded topic of In-Laws versus Our Space.
- See each person as unique – start fresh each time. This is a kinder way of saying, deal with the skeletons in your closet and the ghosts of past relationships. “John” cheated on you. That sucks. Also, “Steve” isn’t “John,” even if they both kind of look alike or you met them both at a work mixer.You need to take time (perhaps with professionals, maybe just with girlfriends) to process your past, learn from it, and move on! (Maybe use theses lessons to create your lists for suggestion #4). But so often people feel “triggered,” women feel a “gut sense,” and old issues get replayed in the current moment when what’s happening is really not the same as what has happened in the past.What you can do, however, to aid this process is to say to Steve: “You know, my ex John cheated on me, and right before he did he started wearing more cologne. I noticed you wearing more cologne and it got me feeling this gut sense. I know that’s probably silly, but I have this history and this association. So I may need extra reassurance this week because old feelings are coming up. I’m not hating on your cologne or calling you a cheater, I’m just telling you now I have this old baggage that got pulled out of the closet. Sorry.”
And there, you just changed the script.
- If you want different, do different. Want to spice up your sex life, maybe don’t put on the same night shirt and tv show as always. Want to meet different guys, maybe stop going to the same 2 bars. Want to change the communication pattern in your relationship, maybe stop repeating the same 4 phrases via text every day.To get something new, you must step out of the (dis)comfort zone and do something new. And I phrased it that way because people, no matter how much they hate their lives, seem pretty content to continue the same behaviors because they’re what’s known. “Sure, my connection with Bill would be better if I told him my hopes and dreams, but nah, that’s silly, he might think it’s silly, let’s just watch more Netflix in silence for the next 3 years.”Change requires effort – if you want the end result bad enough, the discomfort of change will be worth the effort.
- Keep the focus on you. What can you change or control about yourself and your behaviors and expectations. Stop trying to change people.This cuts to the heart of every suggestion I’ve offered here. I’m not blaming you, I’m empowering you. I HOPE THE PROBLEM IS YOU! Because then you have the power to shift. It’s tougher when the guy is the issue, because then you need to hope he’ll change or even recognize the issue. You get to feel morally superior for a second, but I’ll take happiness over the win any day.But, I will say this -relationships are like two gears in a machine. If one starts turning the opposite direction, it essentially forces the other gear to move in line. So, just because you change doesn’t mean he will, or will change in the desired way. But almost always, in an interpersonal dynamic, if one changes then something changes.
- Keep it fun!! That’s it, keep it fun. Sex, really should be fun. Relationships, especially dating, should be fun and playful and exciting. Committed relationships, if there’s no fun, probably don’t last. Studies show that couples who can share humor and laughter really truly last the longest. They get over life’s hurdles easier, together.So play, laugh, joke, laugh at yourself, enjoy, have fun!