Whether starting a new relationship or maintaining a long-term partnership, the therapists from Center for the Psychology of Women offer their expert advice on how to keep moving toward the happily ever after.
Gabrielle Forman, MSW, LCSW: The upsurge in the occurrence of STDs has meant an increase in awkward disclosures by new partners, but it doesn’t signal the end of our collective sex life. STDs are just a part of the dating game, and knowing how to approach the topic can make it a lot less sticky. If you have an STD, pick a neutral, uncharged, moment to disclose it, and try to bring some humor into the conversation. Make sure you are educated on how it affects you and your partner, and methods to prevent passing it on. If you seem informed and in control, it will put your partner at ease.
If you don’t have an STD, but are curious about your partner’s sexual history, be direct. Ask early and don’t make assumptions. Be honest about your own sexual practices and ask that they do the same. If you want monogamy, state that– if they are not on the same page then perhaps it wasn’t meant to be.
Get in touch
Jessica LeRoy, MA, MFT: Relationship sex can be some of the best sex because it gives us a chance to practice and get in sync with our partner, but after a while it can be tough to maintain the initial passion. While some people have emotional or physical issues around sex, I find that many couples simply fall into a rut, and eventually stop doing it. This leads them to feel out of practice, and affects their sexual confidence. They become shy with their partners and insecure about their sexual performance. If this is the case for you, try to get in touch with your own sexuality through erotica that is appealing to you and invite your partner to share in that experience with you. Remember all that thrilling sex you had when you first started dating? Bring it back into the bedroom, car, or shower. Remember, the more sex you have, the better it gets. That’s why relationship sex is so great.
Follow your instincts
Erika Hirsch, MA, MFT, ATR: The process of deciding to commit to someone “forever” can be daunting and full of confusion. We often pressure ourselves to know the answers to questions that are impossible to answer. Throw out the idea that there is some kind of definite criteria that needs to be investigated before making a decision. There is no magic formula, no specific and vital question. This mindset often leads to comparisons between your relationship and others, which makes things even more complicated. Letting go of unrealistic expectations and focusing on the unique strengths of your relationship will allow you to trust yourself. You are the only one who can determine what will make you happy, and whether you feel safe and respected with your partner. Trust that you know what will bring you long term happiness and follow your instincts.
The “baby bomb”
Patricia O’Laughlin, MA, MFT, ATR: From the moment a woman becomes pregnant, the lesson in being completely out of control begins. Often, parents try to counteract the “baby bomb” effect by planning extensively for their child’s birth. Considering how much a child will cost and how much time you have for a new baby is important, but be prepared for the unexpected. Even if you find the exact “right” time to have a baby, (most parents never find this nebulous, magical moment) be ready for anything. Your childcare options could fall through or cost you more than you expect. Your job situation may change. Other changes in your life may occur simultaneously to the birth. The key is to be flexible and keep your child’s best interest in mind. This is what it means to be a parent. So, follow your heart. Outside circumstances can always change, and they should not keep you from having a baby.