Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Couples sleeping in separate beds

Deirdre: I saw an interesting comment on your last post. The reader said he and his wife have separate beds because of their different sleep schedules and preferences.
Alisha: A 2005 National Sleep Foundation survey found 23 percent of couples sleep in separate beds, bedrooms, or with someone on the couch, so I'm not surprised. Are you?
Deirdre: Actually, yes. But I think what surprises me is 23 percent admit it. (Enlightening story about the topic here.) We've been well-conditioned in the U.S. to believe a happy relationship includes couples sleeping together, all snuggled up.
Alisha: Yeah, I think people want to believe the Lucille and Desi days are far behind us when they're really not. And why wouldn't you admit it? If your relationship is secure, and it's just a matter of one partner who snores too loudly or wants TV noise when you want dead silence, then why not fess up to the truth?
Deirdre: Because of what it might signify -- if you sleep in separate beds, something must be "wrong." It's more acceptable now, but I still think it takes courage to admit to each other that one or both of you isn't getting quality sleep and that something has to be done.
Alisha: Not sure I'd go too many weeks, heck days for that matter, getting little or no sleep and not speak up about it.
Deirdre: Oh, I don't know. Sleeping with my last boyfriend was a challenge for both of us (he snored; I was always cold and he was always hot), but we still did it ... and often slept fitfully. Makes me wonder if it might've played a part in our breakup. With your conflicting schedules, how do you and your husband handle sleeping?
Alisha: We sleep together, but we also have a king-sized bed. If we had anything smaller, I'm tellin' ya -- we'd have to look into separate beds. If you're miserable and tired, then that will surely affect the sex life.
Deirdre: More than separate beds would, I'm sure! Honestly, I think sleeping separately could be good for a lagging sex life. When the person who used to sleep next to you is gone, I think you'd become more sensitive to their touch. Plus, if you're getting more sleep you might have more energy for foolin' around.
Alisha: You can't go wrong with a more energetic sex life as a bona fide benefit to two beds.
Deirdre: Ever notice how no matter what we're talking about, we usually wind up talking about sex? But I've gotta defend it. Physical intimacy is an important part of committed relationships. Get your rest so you'll be at your best!

Monday, September 24, 2007

When couples' work hours just don't jibe

Your significant other leaves for work at 8 a.m. and returns home at 5 p.m. Your alarm goes off at 1 p.m., you’re at work by 4 and you walk in the door at midnight.

To say scheduling some one-on-one time in your relationship is a tough task is putting it mildly. So how do couples reconcile incompatible work schedules?

Let me tell you – it ain’t easy.

My marriage operates on a whacked-out schedule; he works first shift and I work second. We often joke with friends that we’re like ships passing in the night. I come home and he’s asleep, he wakes up and I’m asleep.

We try to make it work because of a few lessons we’ve learned along the way:

1. Make the time you do spend together really count.
2. It’s OK to say “I love you” by e-mail or notes left on the refrigerator. At least you know you’re on each other’s minds.
3. It’s about give and take. Some times he goes to bed later or I wake up earlier so we can spend time together.

Do you have any tried and true ways to weather opposing schedules in your relationship?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Trends: Late-breaking gays, Internet marrieds and more

NPR junkie that I am, I was listening to "The Diane Rehm Show" on WFAE Tuesday morning. Diane had a particularly interesting guest, a guy named Mark Penn. He's a pollster who's best known for pegging "soccer moms" as a vital component of President Bill Clinton's '96 re-election campaign. (He's now Hillary Clinton's chief political adviser on her run for president.)

Penn has co-authored what sounds like a cool book: "Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes." He hypothesizes that in today's splintered society there are all these social subsets that, even though they only make up about 1 percent of the population (that's about 3 million people), they wield a ton of power. A prime example: YouTubers.

During the broadcast (you can listen to it here) Penn mentioned some fascinating microtrends in the realm of relationships.
  • Late-breaking gays: As you can probably guess, that's a group of people who come out as gay later in life, often after years of marriage and children. Penn puts the number around 2.5 million.

  • Internet marrieds: Almost 10 percent of people getting married met on the Internet. The wider range of choices people are exposed to online means traditional barriers have been broken down -- for example, interracial marriages have more than quadrupled.

  • Pet parents: People are getting married later in life, so many of them (along with empty nesters) have pets instead of children ... and they treat those pets as if they are their children, pampering them to the limit. (Don't we all know somebody like that?)

  • Sex-ratio singles: You're not just imagining it: there's a heckuva lot of single women out there. Penn said when he looked at the numbers, he saw several factors at play. When babies are born in the U.S. there are slightly more boys than girls. But by the time they reach their teens more boys have died due to car crashes, violence, drug overdoses, etc. Then when people declare themselves as homosexuals, gay men outnumber gay women 2-to-1. The result? There are about 9 million more straight women than there are straight men. It's a reverse of the Old West, when there were more men than women. Great.

I guess this is as good a time as any to mention we're in the middle of Unmarried and Single Americans Week. Here are the staggering Census numbers; why we all don't just take over a city and have the best party ever, I'll never know.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Single men: Go to a wedding, now!

Here’s a quick observation: If you’re a single man and you want to not only have a good time (open bar) but also be among hoards of single women, then you must attend a wedding.

I spent the past week in Northern Virginia participating in all the parties, rehearsals and wedding hoopla a bridesmaid gets to take part in.

The most glaring surprise was when it came time to throw the garter and bouquet. As the beautiful bride lined up to toss the flowers over her shoulder, there were at least 12 anxious women clamoring to get their hands on the bouquet. When it was the groom’s turn, only three single and almost reluctant men took part in the ceremonial tossing of the garter.

Some might point out the single men didn’t want to participate because of embarrassment or they were too busy standing in line for the Sam Adams, or perhaps they didn't want to get trampled in the defensive line rush to snatch the garter. However, in a quick scan of the room, it became apparent there really weren’t that many single men in attendance. Most had dates or wives at their sides.

I just don’t get it. If you’re a single man and you want a single woman, why aren’t you guys out buying suits, practicing your pickup lines and saying yes to those wedding RSVP cards?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Breaking out of a relationship slump

Alisha: The older I get, the more I realize life is about slumps and bouncing out of those periods of deterioration. Relationships are no different. Whether you've been married for one month and your sex life is lackluster or you've been dating for one year and you no longer get love notes, there are ways to break through. I'd define a relationship slump as a time when you're not feeling desired by your partner or you feel as though the passion has dissipated.

What are your ideas to break through the doldrums of a slump?

Deirdre: The first thing I'd recommend is to spend some time apart -- at least a week. I'd go so far as to say no phone calls or e-mails or texts, but if you're married with kids, that may not be possible. People often see things differently when they're away from the situation .... and absence really can make the heart grow fonder. But if that absence feels pretty damn good, then I think you know why you're in a slump. Maybe you shouldn't be together.
Alisha: I'd suggest doing something to spice up the love life. Take photos of yourself in sexy lingerie. Get a hotel room for the night, even if it's two miles down the road. Go salsa dancing or to a club where you have to dance close.
Deirdre: Our environment can contribute to the continuation of a slump, so I say change the scenery at the most basic of places: Your house. It could really up your mood. Paint a room a bold color. Rearrange the furniture. For the bedroom, splurge and buy really nice sheets. It'll make you feel decadent.
Alisha: Interesting. Not sure I'd ever think about changing the ottoman out, but what could it hurt? If it's a particularly bad time, maybe it's worth going to a counselor because that bold of a move should raise flags the slump needs to end soon.
Deirdre: I also think couples should revisit their hopes and dreams, what they want to accomplish together. If their plans for the future differ, that's a signal something is very wrong.
Alisha: Taking a vacation is one way to jump start those loving feelings again, and a way to at least momentarily leave behind the everyday routine. My husband and I went to the lake for a one-day getaway and it really worked wonders for us.
Deirdre: This should light some sparks: read erotica aloud to each other. Or on a workday, pick out each other's underwear. What a turn-on it could be, knowing that under your clothes you're wearing what your lover chose for you ... Rowr.
Alisha: Write a letter to your partner. Tell something you have never said outloud before or list every detail of how you fell in love. And no e-mail. A real letter.
Deirdre: Yes! And mail it! It's so nice to get something in the mailbox besides a bill. And I say revel in the senses. Get a couple's massage. Go shopping together for perfume and cologne. Blindfold your partner and feed them, a la "9 1/2 Weeks." (And if you've never seen it, rent it and watch it together!)
Alisha: Try cooking dinner together and keep the TV, the crackberry, the Internet and the cellphones turned off. And strive to keep the relationship exciting!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A dating disappointment

A friend recently met a guy she'd talked to on an online dating site. When she told me and some other pals this story, she prefaced it, just as I'm doing now, with an important detail: she has recent photos on her online profile. Full-body shots are included. So there's not much of a chance this guy had any illusions about her appearance.

Now, the date. He was the first to arrive, so he was waiting when my friend walked in. "And when he saw me he had this look ..." She rolled eyes toward the heavens, then looked away and let out an exasperated sigh. We listeners simultaneously groaned in sympathy and horror. "It was a look like he was disappointed in what he saw. He couldn't hide it."

This friend of mine is smart, funny and beautiful. She looks 15 years younger than her age. And yeah, she's a big girl; not hugely overweight, but no tiny thing, either. But look around. There are a lot of big girls -- the average American woman wears a size 14 -- plus, she didn't hide her size in her profile, but instead put it out there for all possible suitors to see.

Frankly, I don't know if I could have gone through with the date if I'd seen a look of disgust on the guy I was meeting. However, my friend made a decision. "I guess it was my revenge," she said. "I went in there and I totally turned on the charm." They drank beers and talked for two hours. My friend demonstrated his body language for much of the conversation: sitting as far back as he could with one arm thrown over the back of the seat, legs crossed and his body angled to the side, away from her. Oy. But ... the conversation was interesting, and "I kept making him laugh," my friend explained. "Every now and then I would make him burst out laughing and he would suddenly get this look like, 'oh, wait, it's the fat girl.' "

Rather than be mortified by the incident, my friend thought it was funny. I was outraged on her behalf. He saw her photos -- did he expect her to have miraculously lost 30 pounds before they met? If he could have concentrated on the fact he had a really good time, instead of the fact that she didn't look like a Pussycat Doll, maybe the two of them could have become friends. The thing about friends? They usually have other friends. Single and available friends. But no: After the meeting she sent the guy a noncommittal note, thanking him for the good conversation. His response? Something along the lines of, "yes, it was great conversation, but you have to admit there was no spark." I have to give him points for writing back. I think we all know people who wouldn't have responded at all.

I commended my friend for not letting the experience make her bitter, or timid about dating. May we all have such fortitude!