Relationship expert and Relate counsellor, Denise Knowles spills the details on how to have a sexy, fulfilling love life no matter how long you’ve been together!
"We all have a tendency to get bowled over by the feeling of first love,” says Denise, “but don't dash into a relationship just on the strength of that.
"He or she may have all the physical qualities that turn you on, but that's not sufficient for a successful partnership."
Denise advises: "Be realistic about what you want from a new romance, and ask yourself what you want from a partner, what are your needs and what are your boundaries.
"Then take a mental check on the other person's qualities, and try to assess whether their strengths and weaknesses are compatible with your own.”
Denise also warns: "If you've just come out of a relationship and are heading for a new one be especially careful. Taking 'baggage' and unresolved issues into a new romance won't be fair on you or your new relationship, and could impact and reduce its chances of survival.
Try to analyse what went wrong, look at your own faults as well as the other person's in the old partnership and try not to repeat a dating pattern."
Long term lover
Don't assume just because you're in an established relationship that you know exactly how to push those romance buttons.
Denise says: "It's easy to take a partner for granted, and assume everything is ticking along fine but you should always make sure that satisfaction is not one-sided."
She suggests looking at when you last sat down and talked to one another about what you were feeling, your hopes, or difficulties and joys in your life.
"Many people assume that it's sufficient to talk to each other about the routines of life, paying bills, looking after the house or concerns about the children.
"As time goes by our tastes, opinions, and attitude to life can change in a subtle way or even dramatically and a partner needs to be aware of that.
"You may be surprised what you learn. For instance what you dismissed as your partner being grumpy could relate to a problem at work that he's not disclosed.”
Her advice is that those conversations should be happening at least every few weeks as a way of keeping your relationship fit.
And if you're not talking on that level? "Ask yourself why. It's easy to blame a busy lifestyle and maybe you do just need to make time for yourselves as a couple, but ensure that it's not because one of you wants to avoid intimacy for some reason.”
Sex versus love
Attitudes to sex can vary between the sexes, which often leads to misunderstandings within relationships.
Denise says: "I wish I had a dollar for every woman who has said 'I need to feel loved to make love' while often a man will say 'I show her I love her by making love to her'.”
To keep a sex life healthy she advises: "Making proper time for this side of your relationship is extremely important. Don't get into the blame game. If there are problems make a starting point for a new approach. Why not instead schedule a romantic evening for the weekend when you can both relax? Arrange for the kids to sleepover with a friend or a relative so you can have the home to yourselves."
Top tips for special occasions
Dawn Gay, relationship editor at ivillage, says: "Don't just go for the predictable roses and chocolates gesture. There are all sorts of ways to please someone and they don't have to cost a fortune."
She suggests: "If you're on a budget, give hand-made 'tokens' that entitle them to treats over a month; for instance, a night out with their friends while you babysit, breakfast in bed every Saturday, or taking over a chore you know they dislike for a week."
Showing imagination and spontaneity ensures you score highly in the romance stakes, and Dawn says: "Presenting your partner with a card containing rail or plane tickets for a surprise break away could be a hit."
Recall the romance of your early courtship. "Text her and ask her to meet you at the restaurant where you proposed or the bar you first met."
Alternatively, hide tiny gifts in your home so she has to hunt for them.
Other ideas include:
• Arrange a 'blind date' with your partner, pretend to be strangers and 'court' each other all over again.
• Take a day to reminisce about the early days of your relationship, going through photos and recalling what first attracted you to each other.
• Try out an activity which could add another dimension to your partnership and possibly give you a new interest you can enjoy together, eg: yoga, kite surfing, or a sport.
• Set an early night and cuddle close. Experts believe that close physical contact while you sleep helps raise your levels of the sex hormone, oxytoxin.
By Gabrielle Fagan
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