Tag Archives: healthy romance

Improving Your Love Life And Your Sex Life (With Sleep)

sleeping-positions

Maintaining a healthy romance is a lot like pursuing good sex. There’s no one right way to do it that works for everyone, but there are any number of wrong ways that can fail spectacularly. I’ve shared a few personal stories about my love life and even offered some insights on how to improve romance in the world of fiction. When it comes to real world advice, though, I try to be careful.

I’m not a relationship expert or a licensed therapist. I’m an aspiring erotica/romance writer who shares weekly sexy thoughts and bemoans how love is portrayed in popular media. Sure, I’ll occasionally give my opinion on serious issues involving gender politics and trends in popular culture, but I try to avoid giving the impression that I’m qualified to give advice.

However, there are a number of things we can all do for our love lives, a sex lives, and everything in between that makes it better. There are personal experiences that demonstrate it and even scientific research that supports it. Some are just common sense, but anyone who is familiar with the Darwin Awards knows that’s not always sufficient.

With that in mind, I’d like to offer the wonderful readers of this site the simplest and easiest advice they’ll ever get. It’ll improve your relationship. It’ll enhance your sex life. It’ll make you feel better, overall. What is the magical method that does so much to help so many aspects of your personal life? It’s simple.

Get better sleep.

That’s it. That is a real, effective method for improving your relationships, be it with a long-time lover or a one-night stand in Las Vegas. There’s no need for expensive therapy. You don’t have to pay a guru or a life coach. For once, it really is that simple. Get better sleep and your love life will improve.

Now, in the interest of not sounding too obvious, there are some details here that are worth highlighting. In recent years, the importance of getting a good night’s sleep has been become more critical. A great deal of research has shown a long list of benefits that come with good sleep and an equally lengthy list of detriments for those who don’t get enough.

Good sleep helps you lose weight, alleviate illness, and recover from serious injuries. None of that is news to anyone, but I get the sense that people don’t appreciate the role sleep plays in a healthy romance and a good sex life. That role goes beyond work and afterglow, as well.

According to research published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine, poor sleep can disrupt your emotions and not just in terms of being groggy in the morning. Managing and regulating emotions is core component of any functional relationship. Even those who don’t mind melodrama are going to get burned out from someone who can’t figure out whether they’re stressed, miserable, or pissed off.

It even goes beyond messy emotional exchanges. That same study also showed a link between poor sleep and depression. Considering how depression tends to dull passion of any kind, romantic or otherwise, it’s understandable how it can undermine a relationship.

It’s even more understandable in terms of how it hurts your sex life. In addition to depression limiting your capacity to get in the mood, it also creates situations where people use sex as a band aid instead of a basic emotional expression. I’ve seen this happen before with friends and relatives. They try to use sex as an anti-depressant. It can offer temporary reprieve, but it does little to resolve any actual issues.

Then, there’s the simple logistics that a lack of sleep will create. If your lover is on a different sleep schedule than you, then that makes spending time together a chore because one of you is going to be groggy. Whether it’s due to work schedules or one person being a night owl, love can only do so much when a couple is rarely rested at the same time.

This goes beyond just being restless and buying overpriced lattes. A lack of sleep can actually cause damage to the brain. Sleep is supposed to be the time when your brain heals and refreshes itself after a long, arduous day. If it never gets a chance to heal, then that could impact everything from your memories to your emotions to your genitals.

Yes, a lack of sleep does have sexual side-effects. For men, it lowers testosterone, the magically masculine hormone that drives a significant part of the male libido. It effects men whether they’re gay, straight, bisexual, or trans. When your hormones are off, your sex life will suffer. It can even lead to erectile dysfunction, which is sure to compound that nasty mood I mentioned earlier.

Women experience a similar effect as well. On top of research showing that well-rested women tend to have more sex, a lack of sleep can make it significantly more difficult to achieve orgasm. At a time when women are already already dealing with an orgasm gap, this certainly doesn’t help. Even with adequate sleep, a lack of orgasms can hurt any relationship.

Again, a lot of this is common sense, but for those looking to improve or maintain their love lives, it may seem too common. It goes against the standard romantic narrative that two people in love always have to be doing something. They always have to be off going on adventures, working hard every hour of every day to stay in love, have great sex, and grow together.

While there’s certainly a place for that kind of effort in a relationship, it doesn’t have to come at the cost of a good night’s sleep. If anything, a couple sharing a restful night in bed together should count as an act of genuine romance. It doesn’t even have to come after sex or even involve nudity, although couples who sleep naked do enjoy added benefits.

Ideally, good sleep shouldn’t just be a byproduct of a quality romance. It should be part of the process. It could be as easy as communicating with your lover how much sleep you need, when to do it, and what helps you feel most rested. It may sound mundane, but these are little things that real loving couples often overlook.

One of my old college roommates actually got sleep down to a science. He and his girlfriend made a genuine effort to line up their sleep cycles so perfectly that I could pretty much set my watch to when they would turn in. It wasn’t always romantic, but I can’t argue with the results. They were together that entire semester and I rarely saw them in a bad mood.

Most people, whether they’re in a relationship or not, are willing to put in the work to make romance work. They’re just as willing to listen to gurus, pop pills, and read sexy stories to improve their sex lives as well. While I try to do my part with the sexy stories I tell, I think it’s ironic that just getting better sleep rarely comes to mind.

Even if it makes too much sense, it’s probably the easiest way for anyone to improve their relationship. We already know how to sleep. Most of us relish the opportunity to get more. If more sleep means better sex and quality romance, then it more than warrants a higher priority in our intimate efforts.

After all, a good lover is a well-rested lover.

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When Your Lover Uncovers Your Porn Collection (And What Their Reaction Reveals)

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I talk a lot about taboos, double standards, and various gender quirks. I don’t just do that because it highlights significant disparities among people trying desperately to get along and/or make love to each other. I do it because it offers some fascinating insight into the conflicting mentalities that drive such conflicts.

A lot of those conflicts, however, are on a larger, more impersonal scale. A typical couple, be they heterosexual, homosexual, or something else entirely, can only do so much to impact larger cultural forces that they had no role in choosing, propagating, or subverting.

These forces, from our approach to marriage to the assumptions that guide our understanding of romance, usually only effect individuals and couples indirectly. We’re all somewhat at the mercy of what our culture has built for us and we can only do so much to guide it forward.

However, there are a few lesser-known aspects of that culture that we can influence on a day-to-day basis. One such aspects involves porn and whatever porn collection that you or your significant other might have, be it hidden or not. I’m sure just mentioning it has made certain individual’s tense for various reasons that I won’t state outright.

Regardless of how you or your lover feels about porn, it exists and it exists in a big way. It’s also a huge multi-billion dollar industry. The fact it’s so huge is a telling sign that both you and your lover have probably consumed it at some point. It’s also very likely that anyone claiming that porn is immoral has probably consumed it as well.

Despite this prevalence, porn is still immersed in taboos and quirks. I don’t want to focus too much on those, since I’ve already touched on a few. The ones I want to focus on have to do with how those in a romantic relationship react to it. That reaction, in many ways, goes beyond double standards and reflects something deeper about our concept of relationships as a whole.

Most people probably don’t need much imagination to surmise how their lover would react to their porn collection. Whether or not it’s a secret, there’s this underlying sentiment about someone in a relationship who consumes porn. That sentiment usually manifests in two scenarios. This is the first and probably most basic.

A woman casually walks by her lover’s desk. Their computer screen is open and so are a wide number of files. Curious, she takes a closer look, only to find out that there’s a sizable collection of pornographic videos on the computer. She’s utterly shocked at just how much content there is.

There are videos featuring extreme, hardcore scenes. There are videos featuring bondage, S&M, and various fetishes. When her lover returns, she is outraged. She sees this level of porn consumption as an affront to their relationship and demand that the files be deleted.

This isn’t just a basic thought experiment. This sort of thing does happen in real life. A part of what inspired this article were stories like this one where a woman kicked her husband out of the house after finding some porn on his phone. Granted, her reaction was extreme, but it reflects a similar sentiment.

There are those who, when they find their lover’s porn stash or just part of it, see it as an insult and an affront to their relationship. They see their lover’s desire to seek another sexual outlet as proof that they aren’t enough and their lover isn’t attracted to them anymore. For some, it can be fairly traumatic and for understandable reasons.

Now, I didn’t specify the gender of the person who voiced that outrage like I did in the scenario. I did so because I don’t want to generalize too much. From a purely anecdotal perspective, which is admittedly flawed, women are more angered by their lover’s porn consumption than men.

Again, that’s a generalization. It also says nothing about how homosexual or transgender relationships couples react to porn. I honestly had a hard time finding research to that effect. However, I found plenty that indicated how common porn consumption is among couples and how reserved many are to admit it.

That leads me to the next scenario, which isn’t as common, but is a bit more colorful. It involves a different kind of reaction for a couple that probably has a very different dynamic from the first, but that dynamic is key in understanding the implications.

A man casually walks by his lover’s desk. Their computer screen is open and so are a wide number of files. Curious, he takes a close look and discovers a sizable collection of pornographic videos. For a moment he’s shocked, but then he’s impressed at the sheer breadth of the collection.

There are videos featuring lesbian couples. There are videos featuring bondage, S&M, and various fetishes. When he confronts his lover, it’s awkward and a little funny. However, he’s also genuinely intrigued by this side to his lover and says they should talk about it so as to re-evaluate their outlook on their sex life.

It’s not nearly as dramatic, which is probably why it doesn’t make the news as often. Again, I was vague with the gender dynamics here and I’ll probably get in trouble for saying the person in the scenario was a man. I get it. That’s a general assumption fueled largely by existing cultural expectations.

Men are okay with porn. Women are a bit more sensitive about it. Not everyone is like that. Some women don’t have a problem with porn and even enjoy watching porn themselves. Some men don’t care for porn and are genuinely averse to it. Everybody has their own attitudes towards it.

That said, there is this prevailing sentiment that men are anxious about revealing their porn habits to their significant others and women don’t like the idea that their lover has a sexual outlet other than them. In both cases, there’s an anxiety over what this means for them and the relationship.

To some extent, porn consumption and learning that your lover consumes it undercuts the romantic script that we think we have to follow. Within that script, two people are in love. They only desire one another. They’re only attracted to one another. Anything that might diver that attraction must be a bad thing. Porn does all of that and then some.

In that context, it’s understandable why some would react harshly to their lover’s porn collection. It shatters the romantic ideal they once assumed. Suddenly, their love is not on part with Romeo and Juliet. Their relationship is not some epic romance. The idea that they’re still sexually aroused by other people makes it seem less special and less meaningful.

At the same time, such a reaction has more distressing implications. If someone is  disgusted by the notion that their lover is sexually aroused by something other than them, then that implies they somehow own their lover’s desires. They own their ability to have sex and be intimate. The idea of owning another person to that extent goes beyond love and into the realm of obsession.

In that circumstance, even a stray thought anyone has towards someone other than their lover is an affront. Given the many indications that humans aren’t entirely built for monogamy and the high divorce rate, this is wholly unrealistic and a little scary and it sets unreasonable expectations among couples that are bound to disappoint.

There are, indeed, certain cases where someone’s porn consumption is detrimental to a relationship. However, from a pure numbers perspective, those instances are the exception and not the norm. From a pure betting perspective, there’s a good chance that your current lover or future over consumes porn. How you deal with it will likely reveal the strength and/or weakness of your relationship.

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Love Vs. Obsession: Why Knowing The Difference Is So Vital

We’ve all asked ourselves one fateful question. It also happens to be the question at the basis of 85 percent of all romance movies and 99 percent of all bubblegum pop music songs. It affects us all in some form or another and is a core component of the human experience.

“How do I know I’m in love?”

It’s a profound, but beautiful question to ask. To love someone is a big part of being human. One could argue it’s one of the most important parts of being human. Being in love is one of those basic, emotional experiences that drives us all. We seek out love because it helps make life worth living. Like chocolate, bacon, and hot showers on a cold winter day, it fulfills us on a fundamental level.

Love is a beautiful thing. It’s a beauty I get to admire from a unique perspective as an erotica/romance writer. Pretty much all of my books deal with love in some form or another. Some books, like “Holiday Heat” and “The Escort and the Gigolo,” go to great lengths to build up a romance. Others, like “The Final Communion” and “Jackpot,” use less elaborate forms of romance.

Whatever form it takes, I enjoy writing about romance and many of my future novels will deal heavily in romance. When mixed with a healthy dose of erotic undertones, it can make for some pretty potent narratives, among other things.

As much as we love romance and as critical it is to the human experience, there’s another question that’s somewhat linked to romance, albeit indirectly. It’s a question we don’t ask ourselves quite as often and in some cases, that’s becomes a big problem. It’s uncomfortable, unpleasant, and distressing to think about. That’s a clear sign that it’s still worth asking.

“How do I know I’m obsessed?”

Stay with me here. I know some snicker at that question the same way they would if a five-year-old came up to them and asked why dogs don’t talk. It seems like an unrelated question. It seems like something that really shouldn’t enter the equation when talking about love, but it does. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s a big part of the flawed narrative we collectively craft about what love is.

This is another insight I’ve been contemplating while reading “Sex At Dawn,” a book that has already offered quite a few insights into the mechanics of sex and love. The sexy parts are plenty interesting to say the least, if only for those who opt to wear tight pants, but the parts about love are just as insightful.

A big part of “Sex At Dawn,” involves breaking down what it describes as the “Standard Model.” Again, this model is just the stereotypical boy-meets-girl-and-they-live-happily-ever-after-like-an-old-Disney-movie narrative. It’s very familiar to modern Western civilization. It’s the ideal embodied in sitcoms, music, and movies.

However, in analyzing this model, the book highlights a few unflattering features that are hard to overlook. A big part of this standard model requires that the man and the woman be completely devoted to one another, the first thought they have when they wake up and the last thought they have when they go to sleep, presumably after a quick round of highly-scheduled, missionary-style sex.

That’s all wonderfully romantic on the surface, but take a closer look at the finer details of this narrative. They’re completely devoted. They direct all their romantic and sexual energy at each other. Their thoughts and feelings are completely narrow and focused on a singular person. At what point does that kind of sentiment turn from romance into obsession?

I ask that question knowing there isn’t a fine line. However, it’s difficult to decouple the details of this narrative from the definition of “obsession.” According to Dictionary.com, the definition for “Obsession” is as follows:

  • The domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.

With this definition in mind, think back to the narrative surrounding the standard model of romance I mentioned earlier. How much of that romance is built on love and how much of it is built on obsession?

It’s a hard, if not impossible question to answer, but it’s a question that’s worth contemplating because it reveals something about the nature of our emotions. Part of being in love is to desire someone and to be desired. However, sometimes our faulty, flawed brains take it too far and that can really hamper the romance.

When someone is obsessed with someone, especially when it’s done out of love, it consumes a person so completely that they struggle to function on a basic level. They can’t focus at work. They can’t focus with family. They can’t focus on whatever goals, aspirations, or dreams they may have had in their lives. It all becomes secondary because of a person.

A good way to contrast this is to look at it from the opposite end of the spectrum. There are all sorts of people who are obsessed with someone out of hate. There are even entire groups devoted to hating others. For most reasonable people, this is deplorable. Devoting that much time and energy into hating someone just seems wrong. It makes no sense.

So if hate is that wrong when taken to extremes, why should love be different? Isn’t that just as unhealthy? I admit it’s not an entirely fair comparison. Comparing love and hate is like comparing candied bacon with expired kale. They’re two very different manifestations of something that’s so basic, broad, and varied. That doesn’t make the extremes any less damaging.

Being in love is a wonderful feeling, but then again shooting heroin and smoking crack can feel wonderful too. That doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. The problem is that Disney movies, pop songs, and bad romance novels have created this ideal about what love is and some of that ideal involves more obsession than love.

There are plenty of examples to explore and I plan on doing more blog posts on this issue. I hope to break it down a bit more, if only to help me craft more complex, engaging romances in my novels. For now, I’ll focus on one particular example involving music.

When it comes to sappy love songs, pop music can always be counted on to give us a massive glut of material from boy bands, country stars, and 80s hair metal bands. There are so many love songs out there of so many different kinds that if super-intelligent aliens landed tomorrow, even they would be confused about how our music defines love.

This leads me to a very famous song that is often mistaken for a love song. It also happened to be one of the biggest pop hits in 1983, voted song of the year by Rolling Stone. Chances are, if you’re over the age of 30, you’ve heard it at some point or another. If you aren’t familiar with the lyrics, you’re at least familiar with that soothingly haunting tune and the undeniably handsome face of Sting.

This song was, and still is to some extent, widely regarded as a love song. However, if you look at the lyrics a bit closer, how much of it is love and how much of it is obsession?

Every Breath You Take

Every Move You Make

Every Bond You Break

Every Step You Take

I’ll Be Watching You

In a certain context, that sounds sweet. It sounds like something a dying spouse would tell their lover before they passed away to provide comfort.

In another context, it sounds creepy as hell. It sounds like a note a stalker would leave someone, as if to warn them that they can never escape their obsession.

The mere fact that such context is even needed says a lot about our inconsistent sentiments towards love and romance. On one hand, we want to be desired. On the other, we don’t want to be stalked by someone who devotes every waking hour to obsessing over us. It’s a tough balancing act.

This conflict is something that even Sting himself, the writer of this song, admitted in a 1993 interview. He goes onto say:

 “I didn’t realize at the time how sinister it is. I think I was thinking of Big Brother, surveillance and control.”

Again, it’s pretty telling when we can’t tell whether a song is about love or obsession. It says a lot about how we assess love, sex, and romance. Since I’m in the romance/erotica business (or at least trying to be part of it), it’s something I think I need to assess more than most.

At the end of the day, stories about love and romance still strike us on a fundamental level. They have an appeal that spans generations, civilizations, and terrible pop music. I want to channel that appeal with my novels because in the end, a story about love will always be more compelling than a story about obsession.

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