"We control fifty percent of a relationship. We influence one hundred percent of it." Dr. Joyce Brothers
"My husband said he wanted to have sex with a redhead, so I dyed my hair." Jane Fonda
To state the obvious, I'm a fan of lists. They're compact, succinct, to the point. So, here comes another one.
As follow-up to my advice for those about to wed this summer, this one's about sex and relationships. I've drawn from my own experience, plus that of my friends, but I also did some outside research.
I scoured the Internet for intelligent information on love and sex, and frankly -- blech. I won't bore you with details. I'll just note that there are 76.7 million sites on Sex. And interestingly, 84.8 million sites on Relationships.
There's a recurring theme repeated on many sites, mostly about Restoring The Balance of Responsibility. Whoa. A relationship is a health care corporation? A government agency? A trust fund? Apparently many experts believe so.
A good relationship is a cooperative effort between two very different people with diverse needs and goals who both want their own way -- and have learned how to get it, together.
Some of the tips I found and compiled here have value, some are obvious and simplistic, some are just stupid. If you haven't guessed, my tongue is firmly in my cheek, but hit me with your best shot anyway.
1. Keep a sense of humor!
Well okay, off to a good start. If you can't laugh together, at life and occasionally at each other, your relationship will be boring as hell.
2. Set up a time for talking.
Before sex for men. After sex for women. This is the only time you can count on getting and keeping the attention of either one.
3. Spill the beans -- tell each other what's on your mind!
Do NOT under any circumstances do this. Unless you want the relationship to end. I'm not advocating a code of angry silence, just common sense. Some things are better left unsaid. "Your mother's right, you're a pig and I'm tired of picking up your socks!" Or "If I have to clean up after dinner, the least you could do is learn to cook." Rethink how to communicate this in a kinder way and you'll still get it off your chest, but you might also get what you want.
4. Let the one who is the better organizer take on the job of organization.
Ya think? Actually, the caveat to this is sharing information and asking for help. Nobody should shoulder the whole load solo. S/he will either feel far too superior or get really pissed off at the disorganized partner.
5. Make a list of what you want the other person to do and give it to them on the day it's supposed to get done.
No no no! Make a list well in advance. Post it prominently. Mention it often. Then hand him a piece of paper with one to-do item at a time when you know he's got the time.
6. Avoid the pattern of mess-maker and cleaner-upper.
This is totally impossible if one of you is male and the other female. Just live with it and move on.
7. Avoid the pattern of pesterer and tuner-outer.
Actually, this is excellent advice. And can be achieved if you schedule pestering before sex.
8. Avoid the pattern of victim and victimizer.
This is 100% important. Critical. Deadly serious. If you find this pattern evolving in your relationship, seek counseling. I am not kidding.
9. Avoid the pattern of sadomasochistic struggle as a routine way of interacting.
Hmm. Okay, if the struggle is victim/victimizer, see advice above. If we're talking about verbal or physical abuse, get out. Fast. If it's just about sex and you're both on board, go for it.
10. In general, watch out for the dynamics of control and dominance.
Good advice for the day-to-day interaction of a relationship. Again, not necessarily a bad thing if it involves sex.
11. Break the negativity cycle.
Bigtime advice. Negative energy sucks all the joy out of any relationship -- man-woman, parent-child, friend to friend. And that's the critical point here: relationships only work well if you are good, supportive, positive, responsive friends.
12. Use praise and encouragement frequently.
As a woman I can tell you this works as well on men as it does on dogs. Reward them lavishly for picking up their socks and you might eliminate the need for # 6 entirely.
A tip for men on this one: "You look/smell/feel great." said sincerely and often will get you laid much more frequently and pestered much less.
13. Pay attention to your sex life and to your partner during sex.
Bingo! This is the Big Kahuna. I may take some hits here, but I firmly believe that good sex is ultimately the woman's responsibility. And women who withhold sex as punishment or revenge (or any damn reason at all save genuine illness) are stone idiots. So...
Ladies: no thinking about new wallpaper or carpool schedules. No enduring. No making him ask/beg. And no faking. Figure yourself out. Help him figure you out. Go for the gusto, the seduction, the fun, the finish. You have no one to blame for bad sex but your own dumb self.
Men: no thinking about baseball stats or the Victoria's Secret catalog. This is the woman with access to your food and your bank account -- talk to her. Savor her. Help her enjoy herself ... and you. Oh, and by the way, act out some of those creative fantasies you have 50 times a day -- she'll love you for it.
14. Make time for each other.
In today's world, this might be the most difficult goal to achieve. But it's totally worth it. Take a walk together, sit on the back porch or the front stoop, go out to dinner, lock yourselves in your bedroom. Do whatever it takes to create a bubble for just you two.
15. Keep a sense of humor!
Advice so nice, they said it twice. If you can laugh at life as one, you'll go a long way toward staying two.