If you’re getting a bit set in your ways and your relationship needs a make-over, try out these new moves; they’re destined to help you find family bliss. Some are old-fashioned; some are wacky. Pick what suits you.
1. Old move: Negotiate a compromise
/New move: The eight-second kiss
Forget trying to win the other person over to your way of thinking. If they agree with you, they are probably just lying anyway. When a fight is going on and on and on, pull this move out of the bag; it’s a sure-fire jaw-dropper. Pucker up for a sizzling, long, engaging, wet ’n wild smacker. Ramming him against the wall is an optional extra.
For my husband’s fiftieth birthday party, I booked a trip to Thailand. No kids, no friends – just us for the first time in years. I had an ulterior motive. I felt like we had lost the passion. We had become, to put it frankly, prudes. We had been wild and fun in our youth. I knew it would take something somewhat radical to bring it back.
We had been faithful to each other for over twenty years, and I felt our relationship was strong enough to handle a few shocks. Tom had always wanted to watch me with another woman. I took a deep breath on the first day we were there and asked the hotel concierge how to organise ‘a girl’. I didn’t know how else to go about it. He didn’t flinch and said he would send one to our room at nine that night.
Here’s what you can do to spice things up:
Play all day: Sex therapists often encourage this technique: engage in solo play, but don’t bring yourself to orgasm. So pluck your strings a few times a day, but don’t blow the horn. This builds desire and keeps your mind thinking about sex. By the time you see each other again, you’ll be chomping at the bit.
Get visual triggers: Keep a collection of erotica and make a point of reading a short story per day. Slushy but steamy romances will start your mind latching onto fantasies. Keep this up for a few weeks or get your book club to experiment with some steamy titles. (Check out a suggested list in Chapter 9.)
Dress sexily: Couples who wear sexy outfits are more likely to get it on. Stockings and suspenders are designed for erotic action, and the effect of skimpy lingerie will work for both of you, enhancing excitement and getting you in the mood.
Talk sexy: Talking about fantasies and watching explicit videos can lead to more excitement in sexual relationships. Though they won’t necessarily guarantee sexual satisfaction or enjoyment, they just might get you started.
Having sex is like playing bridge. If you don’t have a good partner, you’d better have a good hand. – Woody Allen
Somewhere between buying your first king-sized bed (for nights of endless passion) and getting a second bond (for the orthodontic work on your son’s teeth), you lost your sex life. It’s annoying enough losing your car keys, but losing an entire part of your life is downright strange. One minute it was right behind you, keeping you warm in the freezing storeroom at your cousin’s bar mitzvah, and the next second it was gone.
A lot of things will go missing over the years when you are parenting, but this one is the most elusive. It first disappeared during that disastrous round of organic washable nappies you attempted. But way back then, its absence was noted with relief. It made a brief reappearance one night after three bottles of wine when your in-laws offered to babysit, but then the darn thing went AWOL again for another four months. Excitingly, you had a crazy non-stop love-fest during your six-year anniversary trip to Mauritius after that pesky episode when he had a crush on the yoga instructor. And then it went into long and seemingly permanent remission.
The relationship is starting to feel like one long fight. Every conversation turns into a row. Every word is taken the wrong way. Sulks, insults and tears replace the laughter and love talk of the early stages of your romance, and before you know it, you and your soulmate are tearing into each other like a pair of pit bulls.
You have no control over any other person’s behaviour in any way. We are all born with the instinct and ability to have an affair. Marriage is a man-made institution; monogamy goes against natural instincts. But if you are in a committed, sexually exclusive relationship, you make the choice not to jump at any opportunity to hook up with another person. So stop worrying about the other person and focus on affair-proofing yourself. How do you do that? By being involved, awake and open to life.
For those of you who have not been glued to The Oprah Winfrey Show for the last few years, let me tell you about one of its most controversial moments. The guest on this show was a gutsy gal called Ayelet Waldman. Ayelet is gutsy because she made a shocking confession, first in the New York Times and then on mainstream television. It really got America talking. And just what was Ayelet’s shocking confession?
Our teenage daughter was destroying our marriage. We had always had our ups and downs, but when Kylie turned fourteen, it felt as if our world had ended. The house was like a powder keg, and we couldn’t escape her dark and destructive impact. She was expelled from two schools and went from bad to worse. She developed bulimia, told her psychologist we abused her and smoked weed in the garden.
I was in a total state, and my first instinct was to fix things. I quit my job and put every ounce of energy into trying to heal Kylie and get things right again. I had to hold myself together in front of her and take her torrent of hate and rage, and when Alan got home I would collapse every night. This went on for three years. It came to a head just before her seventeenth birthday. She turned up at a local police station and filed a case of child abuse against me. I was arrested and charged. That night, after posting bail, Alan sat me down and said the words I had dreaded for so long: ‘It’s her or me.’
So your marriage has weathered the first stormy years of small children. Good work. The bad news is that you will encounter even more dramatic years when your children turn into teenagers. Before you know it, they will be tweens. From the age of ten, your prepubescent daughter will be heading out – in silver platforms and a denim mini, her midriff showing and her stick-thin legs shivering in the winter cold – to watch the interschool rugby match. That’s when you’ll find that the inner calm you managed to nurture after the toddling tantrums is a mere illusion.
By the time they hit the age of fourteen, their social life will far outstrip yours. In between driving them to after-school activities (‘But Dad said it was fine if I went over to Casey’s tonight to go over the dance test …’) and weekly social events (‘I said not a second before ten and don’t you dare pull up outside the party. Just park at the end of the road …’), it will become patently apparent that you are no longer cool. Your music is old, your clothes are embarrassing and your technology is from the Ark age. Your kids think you are about as hip as Cliff Richard.
Not only do your kids find you boring, you find your life boring – unless you think a fun-filled afternoon involves sitting alone in a steaming-hot car while your son is kept in detention for smoking behind the cricket pavilion. When you’ve finished your afternoon of ferrying them around to modern-dance classes, guitar lessons and rock-climbing practice, it’s homework time, after which you might just grab a quick peck on the cheek from your partner before you pack the spotty youngsters into the car for an early evening dress rehearsal of the school play. By the time you get home, he is deep into a late-night movie and you clean the kitchen, pack the dishwasher, feed the dogs and return seventeen missed calls before collapsing on the pillow with your make-up remover still in hand. Boring.
‘Generally busy’ may define your life during your kids’ earlier years, but when they hit their teens, you move into a phase of being ‘maniacally busy’. You are busy all the time. You are even busy when you sleep, mentally trying to figure out how you are going to squeeze seven lifts into your eighteen-hour day tomorrow.
About six years ago, Jane and I were good. She had started a new job and the kids were both settled at their new school. She had been busy a lot at the time, working late and leaving early, so we hadn’t chatted for a while. But we had been married for twelve years, and that was par for the course some months. We had a great dinner that Tuesday night and the kids went off to bed.
Then my wife dropped the bomb that was going to change my life. She said that she no longer loved me and wanted to leave me. At first, I was simply confused. She wasn’t having an affair. What did this mean exactly? Sure, we’d had our ups and downs, and for a few years when the kids were small, things got really rocky. But we were happily married, weren’t we?
Apparently not. She was miserable, she told me. Then it got worse. She told me that not only had she fallen out of love with me, but she ‘didn’t even like me’. She was upset and confused and I ended up apologising for myself that night. Neither of us knew what to do. The next morning I left in a daze to take the kids to school. Nothing had changed on the surface, but everything was different. I didn’t understand what was going on with her, and I stupidly thought it would pass. I told her to think it over.