What your fantasies say about your relationship

August 14th, 2016

Research has found that almost everyone has sexual fantasies, approximately 95 to 98% of people actually. This finding is that that surprising—at least to the 95% or so of us who have them. What may come as a surprise is that new research has found that relationships are improved and enhanced by fantasy—as long as the partners are fantasizing about each other instead of, well you know.

Another thing we didn’t need research to reveal is that men’s fantasies are more sexually graphic, while women fantasize more about romance fueled by emotions. But this latest research teases out more interesting detail that points to fantasizes being tied to certain personality types as well as what people want from their relationships. Now all we need is a first date quiz that would help the individual’s learn more about one another’s sexual fantasies in order to know if they are compatible in their relationships goals. Not very romantic and maybe would need to be shelved till the second or third date. However it sure could save a lot of time and wasted effort.

Not surprising is that the kind of fantasies that people have are determined by a number of factors besides gender. These include age, past sexual experiences, the length of a relationship and degree of happiness in it, personality and even emotional style (cuddly, warm, distant, and detached). For instance if someone is attachment avoidant, they fantasize about casual, unemotional sex. If they are insecure and fear losing love, they fantasize about pleasing their partner. Secure people fantasize about loving and romantic sex with a strong emotional element. When you think about it, it’s pretty logical.

Maybe when people talk about desperation, clinginess, and neediness as turn-offs—what they are really pointing to is that this person is insecure and has low-self-esteem. Confidence and strong self-esteem are turn-ons for most of us.

The important take away from the resent research is that fantasizing about YOUR partner will help your relationship. Yes, everyone, especially men fantasize about others from time to time—but focusing on one’s partner can actually improve how you relate to one another. On study found that people who fantasize about their partner one day were more likely to feel more committed and trusting towards them the next day. Another study showed that when a partner fantasized about their partner, they were more likely to be kinder and more positive to them the next day.

For anyone in a relationship—try making your partner the sole object of your fantasies. Your relationship will thank you for it.

Advice to Bachelorettes in “Paradise”

August 11th, 2016

I have been watching (and frequently cringing over) this season’s Bachelor in Paradise. From an abusive, over-muscled villain to an overserved female (and male) or two—the behavior on this Bachelor barely passes for unacceptable. But we continue to watch and ratings are probably strong. Why is this? Maybe these folks help us to feel superior, more together, and/or better able to handle our liquor. Maybe it’s just that as they push the boundaries and behave in ways that would get anyone else arrested, fired, or broken-up with. There’s an entertainment factor in watching them do the unthinkable and (more or less) getting away with it. From verbal threats, name-calling, vicious gossip, trading places to deceive and humiliate (twins), to pushing and other physical aggression—this season of Bachelor in Paradise has it all.

Contestants have their reasons for auditioning and if selected, joining the cast. The obvious one is to find their 15 minutes of fame and potentially a new and more lucrative career. What we hear over and over are comments about someone being there for the wrong reasons—the “right” one being to find love. But really, who believes that? Those who do find love seem to just get lucky—right time, right place, right person.

Whatever female cast members’ reasons are for being there, many of them are going about (whatever it is) in the wrong way. What they tell us in their solo interview spots is that they want to find that special person and that for reasons that completely escape their awareness, their relationships NEVER WORK OUT. How many times have we heard this from a very attractive woman who also appears to possess good intelligence and has done reasonable well in her career? I see a pattern here and though it seems obvious to me, it seems to escape these women. No one is really talking about it openly and candidly either, probably for fear of being called narrow-minded or sexist. Because I am a woman and a therapist—I’m comfortable pointing out what I see and if any of these young ladies were my clients, we would be talking about this.

To begin with, these women are selling themselves short. In spite of their looks and other positive attributes, they appear to suffer from low self-esteem. It’s as though they anticipate rejection, then set themselves up for it. How do they do this, you ask?
For starters, a few consume too much alcohol, and even more move too quickly into something physical with the first interesting guy, or any guy if the pool is limited. There is no mystery, the guys don’t really have to make much of an effort, new guys see them physically connecting with other guys before they even have a chance to get to know them, and their interactions overall appear to be lacking in substance and depth.

Here they are with one big plus—they are in a situation where they are together for days (weeks for some), and have repeated exposure—which allows them to connect in deeper and more meaningful ways. Apparently some have done this and made good friends with another cast member and a few couples who moved quickly got lucky—but luck and timing factor heavily into their happy endings.

For the rest, we get to witness jealousy, tears, anger, moments of resentment and self-doubt, and some spectacular melt-downs. There they are, in front of how many million viewers, showing their worst selves. This is the kind of 15 minute impression no one wants to leave, and one that will not help their career any more than it will help them find love.

My advice is to slow down ladies. Drink less alcohol and more water, eat healthy food, take long walks, have some real conversations with each person there—then accept a date if someone really appeals and try to have some good old-fashioned fun and playtime together. Think Sarah’s date with Christian. Talk about fun—and it really helped them learn something about one another and to bond. My last piece of advice—stop trying to be what you THINK others want—especially men. Guys I work with are often telling me how they wish women would be themselves, push back, not let them get away with stuff—and just like themselves better.

This is good advice ladies—consider taking it if you really do want to find happy, healthy love.

Millennials rejecting the sexual revolution

August 7th, 2016

The Washington Post has run a couple of pieces on the differences in sexual behavior between millennials and the generations just before them. It’s a very interesting topic because it delves into something that many have false assumptions about—the sexual behavior of this younger group.

Contrary to current myths (and urban legend) younger folks are not more sexually promiscuous than their parents were—in fact, they are waiting longer before having their first sexual experience. The Boomers began the sexual revolution and that generation is known for its indulgence in sex, drugs and rock and roll. It was also a generation that greatly impacted the divorce rate—as Boomers were raised to believe that divorce was no big deal and that if you weren’t happy, you should get out. Women were making great strides in pursuing higher education and moving into careers that had previously been open mostly to men. So the attitude was that they could now do anything that men could and didn’t need to remain dependent and submissive—and this included in their sex lives. Younger women benefitted from these new freedoms—but clearly there were downsides. Perhaps this new sexual trend is a reflection of one or more of those.

The Journal Archives of Sexual behavior published a study recently that found that those born in the 1990’s are more than twice as likely to be sexually inactive in their 20’s than their parent’s generation was. Millennials as a group have fewer sexual partners than Generation Xers and Boomers did and do.

Interestingly some experts are saying this could be a BAD sign that suggests these folks can’t handle real intimacy and instead engage more virtually with people—which can risk their ability to be close and handle intimacy as they grow older. I say nonsense. My theory is that they have had “permission” to experiment, and be open sexually—and have found out it’s not all it is cracked up to be. They have seen the downsides in the older generation and have decided that how they handled it didn’t work out so well. After all is a high divorce rate, multiple partners, and seeking love over 50 all that great?

Besides, for those who have experienced hooking up—they have found out that is not really all that great either. It often leaves them feeling empty and wishing for more real romance, mystery, and FEELINGS in their relationships. I hear this from my male and female millennial clients.

Now that they know they can, they are choosing more and more not to. Who knows, we may return to a slower, more traditional way of dating. For those who fought for the sexual revolution, ask yourself if it was all you thought it would be and if your life has turned out well (at least in part) to what was available to you back then. It’s likely many of you would say the freedoms were great but you wish you could go back and take things a little slower.

JoJo and Jordon and Robby—a greater love or a different love?

August 3rd, 2016

The latest season of the Bachelorette just wrapped up—and it was another (almost) tie. JoJo, who was herself in the same situation on the last season of The bachelor, was torn between two men that she had “fallen in love” with. Clearly she had strong feelings for both—but there was always a difference. Could you see it?

Yes, Jordon (the eventual winner) got her first impression rose and clearly she was attracted to him right from the start. She was also very into Robbie (the runner-up), and throughout the episodes, she had nothing but good things to say about how he made her feel and how much she trusted and like him.

However no two loves are ever equal, and there are different kinds of love. I think what JoJo experienced was the latter—two different kinds of love. Let me explain by beginning with a reference to a classic book titled, The Art of Loving, By Erich Fromm. Dr. Fromm’s book detailed the different kinds of love—a Mother’s love, a Father’s love, the love between friends, and romantic love. Each is powerful and creates a strong and enduring bond—but there are key differences between them.

It appeared all along that JoJo’s attraction to Jordon was to that of a lover. There was the physical attraction, the humor and bantering (intellectual attraction), and there was the ease of relating—an effortless way they had of making one another laugh and of enjoying even silly things together. They seemed to have all 3 pieces of relationship chemistry—and it appeared strong and unwavering from episode to episode.

What JoJo focused on when she described her feelings for Robby was how much she trusted him, how he was the first guy to say he loved her, how kind and caring he was, and of course, that she found him attractive.

In other words, Robby was the safe choice—and this was especially important to JoJo who frequently referenced her trust issues and her fear that the man she fell in love with would betray her trust. Jordon was the total package, but he frightened her because she wasn’t sure how he really felt and if she could trust him.

As she was making her final choice and found out that Jordon had not asked her parents for her hand in marriage, she clearly was troubled. Then on that last morning she seemed to have made the safe choice of Robby, even though she did not say this in so many words. Then Jordon called her parents to ask their permission and quickly penned a not to Jo Jo, letting her know this. The sudden change in her was obvious—and she referenced being confused and scared again of making the wrong choice.

Deep down she knew it was Jordon, but almost chose Robby. It was close and it’s hard to know if this was obvious to Robby and Jordon when the show was aired. It was to me. Robby kept asking her why and how about her choice of Jordon over him. He wanted to know what he had done wrong or what was missing. JoJo struggled to explain when the explanation is really very simple.

Robby if you are reading this—JoJo loved you, but she was “in love” with Jordon. Both bring about powerful feelings and a close bond—but they are two different and unequal loves.

Planning to pop the question? What you should know first

August 1st, 2016

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin conducted a study where the ideal VS actual marriage proposals for approximately 400 newly engaged and newly married individuals were examined. The objective was to see how close actual proposals come to the ideal that people often hold about what the experience of a marriage proposal should be like. Not surprisingly, these two did not match up for many people.

Some of what they found was:

75% of people were satisfied with how public VS private their proposal actually was—so 25% wanted it more one way than the other. Most often it was that they had preferred a more private affair to the one they got.

Overall, their actual proposal was significantly less romantic than their ideal one. Somehow it just didn’t contain the romance they thought or expected it would.

The most popular time for proposals is the evening and most of those surveyed were happy with the time their partner proposed. However most would have wanted to change the location or who was present (this is probably where the romance got lost for them).

The top 6 ideal proposal locations were–by water, home, at a restaurant, on a walk, or at an international destination (like France) were tied at 4th/5th, and 6th was at a park or garden. These were then compared to the top 6 actual proposal locations, which were—home, by the water, at a restaurant, in a park or garden, and while on a walk/hike. Therefore these were not too far from the actual ideal places that folks had in mind.

43% of parents knew about the proposal in advance, 15 % of siblings knew, and 19% of friends did. Interestingly, 37.5 asked for parental approval ahead of time—seems almost like an outdated notion, right? Maybe not.

If you are anticipating a proposal soon, you may want to help your partner out by telling a family member and friend what your ideal proposal would be, as they will share this if consulted. It’s also OK to drop a hint or two directly to your significant other. If you are the one planning to pop the question, get input from others close to them—you just might be able to plan an almost ideal proposal for your intended.

Houses haunted by past love

July 4th, 2016

The NY Times has a fun piece today titled; The House That Love Built before it was Gone. It features three unique and notable homes built by people long ago for someone they had fallen passionately in love with. Frank Lloyd Wright, Eileen Gray, and Monica Vitti, were either those who designed and built them or the objects of the passion that inspired them. For each, their love affairs all ended in these homes, just 3 years after each had begun.

These were people with money and opportunity, those who could follow their passion to wherever it led. One couple fell in lust with other people while married—and followed their hearts to a new home he built for (and inspired by) her. But she died in a fire there that was deliberately set and killed several others, including her children. For another, the passion died a natural death, they split, and the house had a new mistress in it. The third couple was an older woman and younger man, she having built the home with exquisite details of their union designed into the stone. When they split following much absence by him, she left him the house and moved to another, apparently hoping for a new love. The house would later be the setting for murder and tragedy—a dark place is how it is often described.

If houses really do reflect the people who live in them—do they also contain the energy that was once there? If so, this is what people must mean when they talk about the personality of a home—that which is shaped by those who built it, lived in it, loved and even died in it.

Do you ever dream about past places you have called home? Are you tempted to drive by and see if any evidence of you and those you loved has remained? Do you wonder about the people who lived in your house before you—what their life, work and passions were all about? Do you wonder if any trace of you might be found years from now through some small memory or object you left behind?

Houses are so much more than buildings—and this is demonstrated every time we walk into an old home and feel the ghosts and hear the stories of those who came before. This is not haunting—it’s just a home holding onto something of those who once lived and loved there.

To go the article, click here

Do you have a problematic relationship history? Blame your genes

June 26th, 2016

It’s likely you have some familiarity with the term Emotional intelligence. You may even know about what it is, how to spot it in others—and how to improve yours for better relating. A new study is now pointing to our genes and how they might play a role in our EQ. Yes, this is interesting, but I fear it could lead folks to think they were born a certain way, and that is that. Not true, you can improve your EQ—however charisma and social dexterity do come easier to some than to others. Here’s what the study found.

Psychologists at the University of Georgia found that when a SPECIFIC gene was silenced, it seemed to have an effect on the person’s ability to form healthy relationships. They also noted that this gene aids in a person’s ability to recognize the emotional states of others—which by the way is an essential component of high EQ. They blame a process called methylation, which impacts how a gene expresses itself, and in this case, it’s the OXT gene that is implicated. That is because it is this gene that produces oxytocin, which is a hormone that influences a wide range of social behavior in all mammals.

When methylation is increased it suppresses the OXT gene, which then lowers its activity and ability to do its job. This study shows it has a marked impact on social functioning. Participants were put through tests that evaluated their social skills and their brain structure and function. What researchers found is that those who had higher amounts of methylation of the OXT gene had lower levels of expression—and this resulted in a marked difficulty recognizing emotions in the expressions of others as well as an increase in anxiety about their relationships in general. MRI’s found that those with increased methylation of the OXT gene had reduced neural activity in areas of the brain associated with social-cognitive processing.

If you want to know more, this study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences or on

Happy couples don’t notice the attractiveness of others

June 15th, 2016

Scientists from Rutgers University and New York University recently concluded a set of experiments in which they found evidence that couples downgrade the attractiveness of individuals that they perceive as a threat to their relationships. The results were published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Therefore if you find yourself minimizing the looks of someone you think you would have dated/been with if you were not with your partner—you may be unconsciously trying to boost your self-control so that you aren’t tempted to step over the line with them. This would be especially true if your present relationship is a happy one that meets many of your needs.

What is unique about this research is that they were able to test for unconscious visual bias—in the past it was always the conscious bias of participants that was measured. Participants who were shown pictures of attractive, popular, and single individuals downgraded them while the pictures they viewed of less attractive but coupled people were routinely upgraded to be more attractive than the single individuals. They were even offered $50.00 to get it right, and still the coupled people got higher marks for attractiveness, which demonstrated that this was how they were actually being perceived.

A second study was done in which participants were first asked how happy they were in their relationships. Then they were asked to grade the same pictures for attractiveness. Guess what? The ones who rated their relationships as happy, had similar picks as the first group. Those who were dissatisfied in their relationships gave the higher marks to the individuals in the single, attractive and available group. This clearly showed that if they were happy they did not want to risk temptation and if not—they were allowing themselves to notice others who were attractive.

Interesting stuff. Check it out

The Tinder date

June 13th, 2016

First dates usually conjure up two very opposing feelings and attitudes. Some people enjoy dating, meeting new people, experiencing the thrill of wondering if this person could end up being the person—but for others, dating is a necessary evil in their quest to find love.

And that was the way it used to be, when dating was a lot more simple and straightforward and people actually asked/got asked out, and planned a date which included a get to know one another activity that lasted more than 15 minutes.

Then along came online meeting and dating, which added the challenge of deciding to meet someone based on their profile, a series of emails, and/or phone calls. That first meeting was arranged with a virtual stranger and often resulted in a hit or miss for the two people involved.

Now we have dating apps. Feel in the mood to meet someone new? Sign on to the app, see who is nearby, check out their picture and VERY LIMITED information—and rush off to meet them. On any given night in Singles rich cities everywhere, Tinder couples are arranging quick meets in bars, coffee places and restaurants. It’s not uncommon for someone to walk in, see the other person (in person) and head out the door before they are seen. Then there are the 5 minute “interviews,” where two people sit and talk and after a few minutes, don’t feel the connection. For others, they might linger over a drink or coffee, liking what they are seeing and hearing, but not committing to a meal or another drink.

There are many singles who arrange several of these “dates” in one night. Must be hard to keep everyone’s information and names straight. Of course we do hear about couples who are engaged and married who met on Tinder—with these odds, it can’t be easy to achieve that.

With a dating culture like this one, it’s a wonder that anyone even bothers. It’s enough to leave you longing for a quiet corner at home and a good book, or out searching for meaningful experiences that would bring you into contact with real-life singles who you can get to know the old-fashioned way.

Which spouse desires more sex—the husband or the wife?

June 4th, 2016

The Journal of Personality and Social psychology recently published a study on married sex—how often and how much desire is shown by partners, broken down by sex. It also delves into a husband’s perceptions about his wife‘s desire VS her perceptions about how he is feeling.

What they found is that men in general have a higher sex drive, but in long-term relationships, this is not so. Men have some difficulty judging a woman’s interest in sex, whereas women usually read their guy’s interest correctly. This last one is not that surprising, women are better overall at reading nonverbal communication than men are. Researchers also found that on the days men thought their partners were not interested, these same partners reported more satisfaction from their relationships. This most likely has to do with the men trying harder on those days, rather than being complacent and not believing they have to put any extra effort into their relationship. Mmmm, maybe this kind of scenario is where the whole idea of playing hard to get was conceived.

Their sex by the numbers statistics found that almost 80% of married couples have sex a few times a month or more; 32% report engaging in sex two to three times a week; 47% report having sex a few times a month; and less than 10% say their last sexual encounter lasted an hour or more. I must confess that as a therapist who works mostly with couples, I was surprised that the couples in this study were having as much sex as they said they are.

The study also touches on couples having sex when only one person feels desire—and that this can be good for a marriage and help keep their sexual connection going. I agree with this, not as a regular event, but during those times one is tired, unmotivated, etc—but is willing to make that extra effort for their partner.

If you would like to read more on this, go to