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MAKING IT WORK : Suggestions for Keeping Satisfied

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Even couples who are deeply satisfied with their relationship start to worry if a week slips by without sex, because they feel they should measure up to “some elusive norm floating out there about what people do,” says Irvine psychotherapist Jackie Singer.

But having sex 2.5 times a week is not what’s important, she stresses.

“Most couples who don’t have sexual problems are the ones who like to do a lot of cuddling and just touching, and they talk during the day so that sex isn’t the be-all and end-all. It’s something that’s pervasive throughout the relationship,” she explains.

Singer also offers the following suggestions to help couples improve their sex lives:

* Reinforce the strengths in your relationship by talking about them often. This will help you feel more emotionally intimate and avoid taking each other for granted.

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* Don’t think you have to make every sexual encounter a big event. If you don’t expect fireworks every time, you can satisfy your partner and enjoy sexual contact even when you’re too tired to take the lead.

* Don’t assume that physical affection always has to lead to sex. Both partners should feel free to touch and be touched without any pressure to perform.

* Understand and respect the differences between your sex drive and your partner’s--and compromise. In a loving relationship, Singer says, “the person with the higher sex drive won’t mind not having sex as often, and the person with the lower sex drive won’t mind doing it a little more.”

* Don’t use sex as the primary barometer for evaluating a relationship. Couples tend to place too much importance on sex and neglect the real problems that are causing them to drift apart in bed.

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