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Spicing up relationships

Don't let the monotony of daily life affect how you relate to a spouse or significant other

Don't let the monotony of daily life affect how you relate to a spouse or significant other

October 25, 2002|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

How does a couple spice up a relationship?

We're not talking cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves here.

Spice, according to Webster's, is that which adds zest, piquancy or interest.

What are the things that enliven a relationship that's a little bland?

Variety, of course. The so-called spice of life is helpful.

Following a routine, doing the same things in the same way every day, is a fairly manageable way of living life, says Sharon Kuebbing, a psychologist and certified sex therapist in practice in Frederick, Md.

But it can get dull.

Plan a mystery date or even a mystery trip, Kuebbing suggests. Do all the planning. Surprise - maybe even blindfold - your partner until you reach your destination.

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Set the mood, recommends the Rev. Patricia R. Robinson, a pastoral and licensed professional counselor at Brook Lane Health Services in Hagerstown. She acknowledges that's much more difficult when you're in a daily routine.

Couples need to take time to reconnect, she says. Get out of the house. Get away from the phone.

The first thing that comes to mind for Robinson is to listen. Couples have to be able to hear each other - not the million other things going on in their busy lives.

Certainly time is a factor in a relationship, Kuebbing says. But couples always seem to find time when relationships are new, says Pat Love, a licensed marriage and family counselor in Austin, Texas.

Obviously, you're not going to be able to manufacture time, Kuebbing says, so you have to make the time you have worthwhile. Quality, not quantity.

Stay around long enough to see how your partner's day really was after you ask the "How was your day?" question when you come together at night. It may only take three to five minutes to make genuine contact, Kuebbing says.

But couples don't need to be together all the time. Absence really can make the heart grow fonder, and separate vacations can help, Robinson says.

Putting the relationship first does not mean a couple has to do everything together, Love says.

Although she says self-centeredness is the biggest problem in relationships, Love says people need to follow their individual passions - whatever they may be. For some women, that may be spending time with their &girlfriends;" for her partner, going to the gym for a workout.

Libido, the sexual urge or instinct, means life energy, says Love, who co-wrote "Hot Monogamy: Essential Steps to More Passionate, Intimate Lovemaking."

Do what energizes you as an individual and bring that energy to your relationship. Having an energized person interested in you is a natural aphrodisiac, Love says.

Speaking specifically of the bedroom, Kuebbing suggests trying a new position, acting out a fantasy, reading a "strong" scene from a romance novel out loud to each other.

Spicing up a relationship has more to do with understanding your partner than sexy lingerie or satin sheets.

Each person has to honor the other's needs to fulfill his purpose in life, Robinson says.

There's a stereotype - and sometimes the opposite is true - of the difference between men and women in a relationship, Kuebbing says.

"A man will often want to be sexual and then feel emotionally close," she says. Being sexual is his way of getting close, she explains.

The woman in the stereotype wants to get close before she wants to be sexual.

"It's not right or wrong," Kuebbing says. "It's just a difference."

When partners can understand and appreciate that difference, they can move forward, Kuebbing says.

"It's really about being a detective," Love says.

People have different levels of arousal, and are aroused in different ways, Love says. For some people arousal comes through the body. They're always ready, Love says. Others, those slower to arouse, are aroused through the brain. "Give me something to work with," Love illustrates.

Problems arise because, instead of finding out how their partner wants to be loved, people show love in the way they want love, she says.

You have to pay attention.

"Love is altruism," Love says. You need to find out what touches your partner's heart, she adds.

For example, Love knows her husband likes wine and candles and romance when he comes home from a trip. He knows that she doesn't need that. But each knows what the other wants.

And what goes around, comes around.

"Generosity is the natural response to feeling loved," Love says.

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