The 4Cs of a Meaningful and Lasting Romance: Chapter 3.4: The Magic of Chemistry

Maintaining Desire

Years back, an older colleague of mine told me a story about an attractive woman who’d offered him super sex. As I listened with intrigue, I could only imagine what led up to the rousing proposition.

Were they long-time lovers or strangers swept away in the heat of passion? Were they inebriated or stone cold sober? What prompted her to extend the offer? Does she have a sister?

Seriously, the story was short-lived. My friend’s response? “I chose the soup.”

The moral of the story: if your lover offers you super sex and you choose the soup over sex, it might be time to reevaluate your relationship.

Our level of romantic interest begins with our desire to be with someone and connect with them in a sexual capacity. The more intense the attraction, the stronger the desire to be with that person. When the chemistry is on target, the desire takes care of itself, at least in the early stages of a new romantic relationship—the Obsessive Stage, as Gary Chapman defines it in his book, The Five Love Languages for Singles. But as time goes on and the “new and exciting” becomes “routine and familiar,” as the day-to-day realities of life set in with work and kids and bills to pay, our initial spark begins to fade and our desire starts to wane.

In the second stage of romantic love, or Covenant Stage, as Chapman defines it, our differences begin to surface and our illusions of perfection dissolve. Or do they? I venture to say, over time, our desire for one another becomes supersaturated the way salt water can become supersaturated. If we continue to add salt to a pot of boiling salt water, the water will continue to absorb the salt, causing the heated salt solution to reach a point of supersaturation. At this point, the water no longer appears to contain salt crystals, which have gradually been absorbed due to increasing temperature. The solution still contains the salt crystals, you just can’t see them. I find this analogous to desire and how over time our passion for one another can become supersaturated. Like the salt in my analogy, the passion is still there; it’s simply been consumed by other overriding issues in our lives.

Now take the same heated salt water solution and let it cool for a period of time. Add one single, tiny, salt crystal and watch what happens. The salt previously absorbed by the heated water will be released and fall like snow.

So how do we release our passion when we find it supersaturated by overwhelming issues or complacency in our lives?

Ironically, we can start by spending time apart—the cooling off in our experiment—and explore other interests for awhile. I’m not talking about a legal separation from marriage or building walls to become emotionally distant. I’m talking about taking the time to enjoy our independence by engaging in activities outside of our relationship. Do the things we need to do for ourselves. Read novels. Write poetry. Sing in the choir. Play tennis. Learn chess. Ride rollercoasters. Go jogging. Go fishing. Go shopping. Paint a mural. Paint the house. This is about fulfilling needs you can’t necessarily fulfill through your romantic relationship. The old saw about absence makes the heart grow fonder originated in some semblance of fact. By focusing on something other than your beloved for twenty-four hours a day, you will gain a new perspective on yourself and your romantic relationship. This in turn will help you rekindle your desire and heighten your sexual experience.

Don’t assume time apart should be measured in days or weeks. Sometimes a separation of hours can prime the power of anticipation and build desire. As Dr. Laura Berman writes in Loving Sex, one way to employ the power of anticipation is to set the mood for sex early in our day. Who says sexual thoughts have to enter our mind ten minutes before we go to bed? Enjoy a passionate kiss in the morning. Prance through your bedroom naked before you get dressed—anything to leave a lasting impression your partner will remember as the day goes on. The art of seduction can be drawn through technology as well. Send a sexy text message or an intimate voice mail. Better yet, send a provocative photo to your lover’s phone. The idea is to fill the day with sexual innuendo, so by the time you’re reunited, the thrill of anticipation will send you over the edge with sexual desire.

Good communication keeps the fire burning, but sometimes it’s best to listen more and talk less.

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Guys, big hint: Don’t try to solve her problems. Listen. Empathize. Acknowledge what she has to say—without the PlayStation controller in your hand or your thoughts focused more on issues at work than giving your girlfriend or wife the attention she deserves. Make open, honest communication a habit, and desire will continue to flow. Sending a dozen roses for no reason can have a wonderful effect as well. Ditto for an elegant dinner out or tickets to see her favorite show.

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If you’re too busy with other things in your life and you’re not making time for sex, your desire will devolve. Make sex a priority, not something you try to squeeze in between several chores. Dim the lights. Turn on some soft music. Fire up a scented candle. Take a bath together. Trade massages. Speaking of which, most of us are good at receiving massage and not so much on delivering. If you don’t know how, then pick up a book and learn. In the absence of knowledge, experiment with gentle touch and gradually explore each other’s bodies. Studies show that stroking and massage trigger the production of oxytocin and certain endorphins in the brain. This helps us relax and melt tensions away, allowing our feelings of desire to gradually displace our negative, stress-inducing emotions. Massage doesn’t have to be erotic, even with your clothes off. Human hands can do amazing things. And a little massage oil goes a long way.

When all else fails, use your imagination. Watch an erotic video together, or better yet, take advantage of video-chat technology when you and your lover are apart. Numerous applications, including Skype, Apple’s FaceTime, Google’s video chat, and Tango for Android make it effortless to engage in video-chat sex. According to one 2010 survey conducted by the Pew Institute, daily video-chat usage in the U.S. doubled from 2009 to 2010. That’s not to say exclusive usage for sexual purposes, but it indicates a growing trend in the popularity of this technology as a method for couples to engage in long-distance lust and cross the threshold of their own sexual comfort zones.

But desire doesn’t have to involve new technology. Often, a visit to an adult toy store together will do the trick. Blindfolds are cheap. So is experimenting with your favorite whipped topping, chocolate sauce, raspberry syrup, or whatever your sweet tooth craves. Try role-playing as a couple who have just met at a club. Pretend to hit on one another. Dance with one another. Seduce one another with your eyes. Convince one another to come home and have sex. You could dress up differently, act differently, anything to create the illusion of something brand new. You don’t have to be an actor to pretend to be someone you’re not, someone involved in a scintillating career, or maybe someone recently paroled or returning from a tour of duty at sea. Role-playing is not for everyone. But in the end, it’s not always about what you do or how you do it. It’s about making a conscious decision to keep sex a high priority in your life. Easier said than done with children in the picture. Ditto for demanding jobs, school, personal issues, or the plethora of challenges life throws your way. Life is full of time-gobblers. Don’t allow other aspects of your life to rob you of your time for sex. Remember, it’s not the “soup” in super sex you should crave.

Positive Attitude

As with most of life’s endeavors, a positive attitude goes a long way toward success. The same holds true for enjoying a more fulfilling sex life. If you feel sexy, you’ll become sexy. Positive thoughts generate positive emotions. Studies show that a positive attitude contributes to good physical health and mental well-being. This goes hand in hand with learning to accept who we are and embracing all our wonderful qualities. How we feel, and how we communicate our feelings to ourselves and others can also have a positive or negative affect on our sex lives. In her book, Molecules of Emotion, Dr. Candace Pert, a research professor in physiology and biophysics at Georgetown University Medical Center, describes how our attitudes, beliefs, and emotions influence the biochemical and cellular levels of our brains and bodies. Her research describes a biomolecular basis for our emotions and how certain chemical reactions in the brain prompt the body to respond. Keeping a positive attitude will permeate your body language, which constitutes an outward reflection of your emotional condition and can make a significant difference in how others perceive you. Along these same lines, but from a more esoteric perspective, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, minister and author of the seminal volume The Power of Positive Thinking, wrote, “When you expect the best, you release a magnetic force in your mind which by a law of attraction tends to bring the best to you. But if you expect the worst, you release from your mind the power of repulsion which tends to force the best from you. Expect the best, not the worst, and you will attain your heart’s desire.”

Dr. Peale’s philosophy follows the notion that if you believe you can succeed in something, you will. Or has Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”

We all have choices in life. We can focus on the negative, or we can focus on the positive side of things. Easier said than done, at times, but worth the effort. How we feel is based in part on how we look. If we like what we see in the mirror, we should put on a smile and be happy. The positive energy is contagious. If we don’t like what we see in the mirror, then it’s time to do something about it.

Make exercise and healthy eating a part of your life. It’s never too late to start. If you look good, you’ll feel good. This doesn’t mean you have to be a marathon runner or make the Olympic team. It means you put forth some effort to improve your physical appearance through a workout you enjoy—walking, cycling, dancing, Zumba, Pilates, yoga, swimming, tennis, cardio machines, etc. There are more ways than ever to get your heart pumping. It doesn’t require money spent on infomercial toys or expensive gym memberships. A five-dollar jump rope will burn calories and build stamina as well as a thousand-dollar piece of gym equipment. Walking is another underrated exercise, yet it gets the job done and with less impact to your lower legs than jogging. When you exercise, you not only feel better physically, you feel better emotionally as well. Numerous studies cite aerobic exercise as a great stress reliever as well as a great way to increase blood flow to the pelvic area and genitals, which can improve lubrication, arousal, and even the intensity of orgasm. Lower stress aids in better health. And better health aids in better sex. Physical fitness also boosts self confidence. And self confidence will boost your sex life.

A positive attitude extends not only to how we feel about ourselves but how we feel about our relationship as well. No two people are perfect, and no romantic relationship is perfect either. Everyone has their good days and their not so good days. Welcome to the human race. Our romantic relationships follow suit. A positive attitude about our partner makes the good times even better and helps smooth those momentary bumps in the road. This implies accepting our loved one for who they are, not for who we want them to be.

If you want to have sex with a tall man, then date a tall man. If strong faith is important to you, then date a man who accepts God in his life. Don’t begrudge your beloved because they don’t fit your preconceived notions of how you believe they should look, think, or feel. The converse holds true as well. Your lover might physically resemble your former partner. He might even act like your ex-partner at times, but he doesn’t deserve to be punished for the sins of your former sinner.

Learn to accept your personality differences and not rebuke them. Focus on how your differences complement your relationship. Maybe you’re an early bird and he’s a night owl. Or one of you likes to eat in and the other likes to eat out. For me, I enjoy cycling for exercise. Most of the women I’ve dated do not. I like to cook. Most of the women I’ve dated do not. In the end, it doesn’t matter, as long as the right chemistry, communication, compromise, and commitment exist in the relationship. If you think about it long enough and are willing to compromise, you can make almost any scenario a win-win. The more you learn to adapt to one another, the more your relationship will thrive. The power of positive thinking is mightier than any negative influence in your life. If you let it, a positive attitude can transform your sex life from ordinary to extraordinary.

The Chuck It List

Most people are familiar with a “bucket list” defined as a list of things we would like to accomplish before our time on earth expires. It’s fun to draft a bucket list and dream about the things we want to do, places to see, people to meet, and what have you. Achieving goals and aspirations constitutes an important part of life. On the other hand, while we’re pontificating about all the wonderful things we’d like to do some day, we often accumulate stress in our lives. To some extent, a certain amount of stress will always shadow us. We can’t completely avoid it, but we can control how we manage it. Eliminating stress entirely from our lives is unrealistic, but reducing it is absolutely achievable and quite prudent. Consider the alternatives, where research indicates between fifty and eighty percent of all illnesses, including cancer, cardiac arrest, and autoimmune diseases, are stress-related. And aside from the impact to our physical health, stress invokes a negative impact on our relationships and our sex lives in general.

Now imagine a bucket with various stress spigots pouring water into it. Sometimes we have a few large spigots that allow more water—or stress in this case—to fill our bucket. Other times we have several smaller, yet consistent, stress spigots that drip non-stop like a leaky faucet, adding constant aggravation to our lives one milliliter at a time. The bucket will always exist, the way a certain amount of stress will always be present. Whether or not our stress bucket overflows is up to us. In other words, we want more stress flowing out of our bucket—and out of our lives—than flowing into it. How do we accomplish this? We start by identifying the frustrating events or experiences that bring stress. And there are many, including parenthood, lack of sleep, divorce, financial hardship, traffic, bad weather, dental visits, obesity, or simply being sick. Taken individually, these experiences can be managed through various means, but collectively, they can be overwhelming and hard to cope.

To keep your stress bucket from overflowing, start by identifying the stress-inducing experiences you can control through reprioritizing your needs and desires. For example, if you’re stressed about finances, take steps to correct the problem instead of letting it fester. Save more or spend less. Learn to live within your means. Seek help from a credit counseling service if necessary. To a large extent, you can effect certain changes to address this stress and lessen its impact on you.

If lack of sleep causes stress, adjust your schedule and make sufficient rest a priority. Easier said than done at times, but if you think about it, we often impose too much on ourselves and lose sight of the fact that we have more control over our routines than we like to admit. If you’re lacking sleep because you’re overcommitted at work or home, then take a few things off your plate and give yourself a break.

More complicated stressors like issues at work, traffic, divorce, or the death of a family member require a more strategic approach; one that might involve professional counseling, lifestyle changes, moral support from close friends and family, and guidance beyond the scope of this book.

Sometimes in our relationships, stress-inducing events stem more from our own attitudes or behaviors. Some of us carry the weight of grudges or the desire to keep up with Joneses. Some of us feel the need to look perfect while others constantly strive to be the best in our profession. Trying to change our partners and mold them into something we want them to be can inflict tremendous stress as well. These stress-inducing behaviors and attitudes will fill your stress bucket like a fire hose. Let go of the past. Focus on the present. No one is perfect. No partner is perfect. Relationships are not without their challenges. It’s okay to set high goals and strive to be the best as long as you manage your stress bucket and not let your need for perfection cause it to overflow.

Remember, you can’t stop all stress from entering your bucket, but you can control the amount of stress flowing into your bucket and how quickly you allow the stress to flow out by making small adjustments in your life. Treat stress like the useless spam pinging your inbox. Move it to your chuck it list and set it to auto delete. This will help you maintain a more positive attitude and reduce your overall anxiety level. The more stressors you can dismiss, especially the petty ones you can learn to ignore, the lighter your emotional load will be—and the more your sex life will improve.

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