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LOVE AFFAIRS

What has your first heartbreak taught you?

Contributing writer Eunice Roman recalls that “growing up in a family of practicing Christians, I was always taught that a man was for a woman and vice versa, no gray areas, no room for explanations.” But then she learned that she is not the type of person to deny herself pleasures that she finds simple, like being attracted to someone regardless of gender.

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As a 23 year old female with very little to show for in the department of love and relationships, reflecting on my first encounter with the L words—Love and Lesbianism, in case that isn’t made clear… which it isn’t — is a bit frustrating. And perhaps juvenile.

But on a not-even-the-tiniest-bit-special Saturday night such as this one, I find myself (unusually) sober and reliving my past, and how I fell in love for the first time. And how I didn’t stop falling until rock bottom cushioned my blow and scraped my knees and elbows raw. Honestly, I wanted to write down an article worth reading. As an aspiring writer, what I’m told is to write what you know.

I want to write about a girl who I knew, and who helped me know myself.

To spare you the details of our non love story, I’ll just say that we met at grade 5 in an international school in Saudi Arabia. We were two sheltered girls stuffed in an all girl’s section, in a city so closed even wind had a hard time penetrating  the vicinity at times. Because of all the sandstorms.

I hated her the first time I met her. Now, you don’t know me, but you should know that I don’t just say “hate” every time I get the chance to. I’ll say it about ginger tea or when I’m given 10 cents for change, but not easily when in reference to a person.

She was too noisy, too vibrant, too blindingly colorful for the monochrome world I had been surrounded with. Little did I know that this Crayola box was about to color me out of my mind later in my life. Which I will now skip to; freshmen year.

I had taken an interest in music and by some twist of faith—and perhaps also by my own volition—I was put into a rock and roll band with her. I was the vocalist, she was the drummer, and everyone else in the band began to blur in the background the more band practices came, the more time I spent with her in her house with her family, the later it got in the night and it was just her and me waiting for my dad to pick me up. She was suddenly high on the totem pole, the focus of all my attention. It was between the lame jokes and failed drum lessons (courtesy of her) that I slowly began to feel that drop which started from how high I suddenly set her up on a pedestal, all the way down to the bottom of the pits. It began as an orb of warmth, pea-sized and barely visible within the pit of my stomach, slowly growing the more I fed it with the sound of her laughter or those times I’d see her nearly trip and fall on her face yet she always managed to catch herself last minute and I thought she was some sort of super human.

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Sophomore year, high school: being oblivious became a mundane affair. And though I had this reputation for being the friend that showed love through the cold shoulder and evading all sorts of affection, for the first time when she asked to kiss me goodnight that one faithful night during camping, I said yes. I even reciprocated. The best part was seeing that glow in her cheeks when I did.

Growing up in a family of practicing Christians, I was always taught that a man was for a woman and vice versa, no gray areas, no room for explanations. Before her, I only had one little crush on a girl in our class when I first moved to the school, but I chalked it up as nothing more than an experimental phase of my life. Because who doesn’t go through experimental phases at age 10?

Despite this knowledge and the idea of Satan making room for me in hell, I saw nothing wrong with the way I felt. I doubted myself in the beginning, not because I was having such feelings for the same sex, but more because I knew for a fact that she was the enemy. Gradually, as though Rumplestiltskin had grabbed a handful of my hate and turned it to gold, finding reasons to hate her further was like grasping at straws.

What was crazy about this was that I was sure that she felt the same. This wasn’t an overnight analogy. It was a culmination of comparisons, of hidden touches that were just for us and no one else, of weird notes and looks passed in the middle of class, in calling each other best friends and smiling right after because it had an underlying tone of ambiguity.

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One faithful phone call was all it took to tear all of it to shreds. I was at home, probably on the computer, when she called with questions about homework, and then stayed with stupid questions about life and us being friends forever. Somehow, the conversation took some very flirtatious turns and I was feeling spikes of electricity at the thought of her on the other end, even just the thought of her hand being exactly where mine was on my landline. And when confession o’ clock struck, she refused to make anything official and basically said, “I like you too, but I’m not gay.” When I asked her what she thought to do about that, she said she’d wait until her feelings faded. And that’s when I hung up because it was my cue to cry. Suddenly the orb of light turned into a monstrous sun burning up my insides.

It has been 10 years since that night. We still see each other sometimes and I think I’ll catch a glimpse of that goofy 14 year old girl who used to write me cards for Valentine’s Day and call me hers, but it’s all tucked safely within the shadow of the dimples framing her smile. Over the years, the most important thing that I have learned about that night is that I don’t regret it. Though I lost the private jokes and the handholding, I also gained perspective. And I found out that I was capable of loving someone in such a way, and that I should be careful the next time I do.

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I’ve learned that love, like most people say, is not what hurts. Rejection hurts and so does the steely cold blade of betrayal against your backbone and being told that what you feel isn’t enough to change anything, but love is what helps you back up on your feet. This may not mean finding love with someone else, but loving yourself too much to prolong your demise.

I’ve learned that I am not the type of person to deny myself pleasures that I find simple, like being attracted to someone regardless of gender.

And that orb of light she colored so brightly is still here somewhere, always testing me to find someone more deserving of not just love, but who I would gratefully accept all that pain all over again from.

Eunice is a self-proclaimed creative writer whose philosophy about writing doesn't stretch too far from "write drunk, edit sober". She idolizes many authors and dreams of either being them or with them in some capacity. This dreamer was born in the Philippines, raised in Al Khobar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and then went back to the Philippines to learn the ways of the world, a.k.a. commuting and haggling. "And yes, I am great at both," she says.

LOVE AFFAIRS

Despite what you might think, sexting isn’t just about sex – research

Some people use sexting as foreplay for sexual behaviors later on; some sext for the relationship reassurance they receive from their partner; and some sext as a favor.

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Photo by Clique Images from Unsplash.com

Let’s talk about sext.

Sexting is extremely common among adults – but maybe not for the reasons you think.

New research from the Sexuality, Sexual Health & Sexual Behavior Lab in the Texas Tech University Department of Psychological Sciences shows that two-thirds of people who sext do so for non-sexual reasons.

In an analysis of the reasons people engage in sexting with their relationship partner, assistant professor Joseph M. Currin and doctoral student Kassidy Cox confirmed three main motivations found in previous research:

  • Some people use sexting as foreplay for sexual behaviors later on;
  • Some sext for the relationship reassurance they receive from their partner; and
  • Some sext their partner as a favor, with the expectation the favor will be returned later in a non-sexual way (such as a dinner date).

When they began the research, Currin and Cox were curious to see if one of these motivations was the most prevalent. Using data gathered online from 160 participants, ranging in age from 18-69, they performed a latent class analysis measuring sexting motivations, relationship attachments and sexual behaviors. To their surprise, they discovered three nearly equal clusters, suggesting no motivation is more common than another.

“It was intriguing that two-thirds of the individuals who engaged in sexting did so for non-sexual purposes,” Cox said. “This may actually be demonstrating some individuals engage in sexting, but would prefer not to, but do so as a means to either gain affirmation about their relationship, relieve anxiety or get something tangible – non-sexual – in return.”

Sexting is extremely common among adults – but maybe not for the reasons you think.
Photo by Leon Seibert from Unsplash.com

Also surprising to the researchers was there were no significant differences in motivation based on sexual orientation, gender or age.

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“This study highlighted the main reasons to date that individuals are motivated to sext, and it actually normalizes all three types of motivations,” said Cox.

“As it is becoming a more accepted method of communicating one’s sexual desires, we wanted to highlight how adults utilize this behavior in their relationships,” Currin added. “This tells us that sexting among adults is an evolution of how we have communicated our sexual desires to our partners in the past. People used to write love poems and steamy letters, then when photography became more common place, couples used to take boudoir photos for each other.”

Currin and Cox noted that their research focused on sexting between current partners in consensual relationships only.

“As with any sexual behavior, it is important and necessary to have consent to engage in sexting,” Currin said. “Individuals who send unsolicited sext messages – such as images of their genitalia – are not actually engaging in sexting; they are sexually harassing the recipient.”

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LOVE AFFAIRS

Kindness is a top priority in a long-term partner – study

22-26% of attention is given on kindness, though other qualities considered include physical attractiveness and good financial prospects. Traits like creativity and chastity received less than 10% of attention.

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One of the top qualities that we look for in a long-term partner is kindness, according to new research by Swansea University.

In a paper published by the Journal of Personality, researchers had over 2,700 college students from across the globe build themselves an ideal lifelong partner by using a fixed budget to “buy” characteristics.

While traits like physical attractiveness and financial prospects were important, the one that was given the highest priority was kindness.

The study compared the dating preferences of students from Eastern countries, for example Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, and Western countries such as the UK, Norway and Australia.

Students were given eight attributes they could spend “mate dollars” on: physical attractiveness, good financial prospects, kindness, humour, chastity, religiosity, the desire for children, and creativity.

While there were some differences in behaviour between Eastern and Western students – there were also some remarkable similarities.

People typically spent 22-26% of their total budget on kindness, and large parts of their budget on physical attractiveness and good financial prospects, while traits like creativity and chastity received less than 10%.

The research team also found some interesting sex differences – both Eastern and Western men allocated more of their budget to physical attractiveness than women (22% vs 16%) while women allocated more to good financial prospects than men (18% vs 12%).

The principle researcher, Dr Andrew G. Thomas, believes that studying mate preferences across cultures is important for understanding human behaviour.

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“Looking at very different culture groups allows us to test the idea that some behaviours are human universals.

“If men and women act in a similar way across the globe, then this adds weight to the idea that some behaviours develop in spite of culture rather than because of it.”

The results also showed a difference in a partner’s desire for children, which was a priority only for Western women.

“We think this may have something to do with family planning,” said Thomas. “In cultures where contraception is widespread, a partner’s desire for children may predict the likelihood of starting a family.

“In contrast, in cultures where contraception use is less widespread, having children may be a natural consequence of sex within a relationship, making actual desire for children less relevant.”

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LOVE AFFAIRS

Do open relationships really work?

In a gist: Sexual activity with someone else besides the primary partner, without mutual consent, comfort, or communication can easily be understood as a form of betrayal or cheating. And that can seriously undermine or jeopardize the relationship.

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Photo by @nicotitto from Unsplash.com

Open relationships typically describe couples in which the partners have agreed on sexual activity with someone other than their primary romantic partner, while maintaining the couple bond. Can these open relationships work? It depends, concludes a team from the University of Rochester that focuses on couples research. Not surprisingly, the success of such relationships hinges on solid communication between all parties involved.

“We know that communication is helpful to all couples,” says Ronald Rogge, an associate professor of psychology and head of the Rogge Lab, where the research was conducted. “However, it is critical for couples in nonmonogamous relationships as they navigate the extra challenges of maintaining a nontraditional relationship in a monogamy-dominated culture. Secrecy surrounding sexual activity with others can all too easily become toxic and lead to feelings of neglect, insecurity, rejection, jealousy, and betrayal, even in nonmonogamous relationships.”

Past studies have attempted to gauge the success of nonmonogamous relationships. But the critical difference this time is that the Rochester team considered distinctions and nuances within various types of nonmonogamous relationships, and then assessed the success of each type independently. As a result, their findings draw no blanket conclusions about the prospects of nonmonogamous relationships; instead, the research, published in the Journal of Sex Research, suggests conditions under which nonmonogamous relationships tend to succeed, and those under which relationships become strained.

Rogge — together with his former undergraduate research assistant, Forrest Hangen ’19, now a graduate student at Northeastern University; and Dev Crasta ’18 (PhD), now a post-doctoral fellow at the Canandaigua VA Medical Center and the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry — analyzed responses from 1,658 online questionnaires. Among the respondents a majority (67.5 percent) was in their 20s and 30s, 78 percent of participants were white, nearly 70 percent identified as female, and most were in long-term relationships (on average nearly 4 ½ years). The team assessed three key dimensions for each relationship–applying what they call the “Triple-C Model” of mutual consent, communication, and comfort.

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Significantly, they divided study participants into five distinct classes of relationships:

  • Two monogamous groups, representing earlier- and later-stage monogamous relationships
  • Consensual nonmonogamous (CNM) relationships, marked by low interest in monogamy and high levels of mutual consent, comfort, and communication around commitment and sexual activity with a person other than the primary partner
  • Partially open relationships, with more mixed attitudes toward monogamy and lower consent, comfort, and communication
  • One-sided sexual relationships with a person besides the primary partner, in which one partner desires monogamy while the other partner engages in sex outside the existing relationship with low levels of mutual consent, comfort, and almost no communication between the couple about sex outside the relationship.

The team discovered that monogamous and consensual nonmonogamous (CNM) groups demonstrated high levels of functioning in their relationships and as individuals, whereas the partially open and one-sided nonmonogamous groups exhibited lower functioning.

People in both monogamous groups reported relatively healthy relationships, as well as some of the lowest levels of loneliness and psychological distress. Both monogamous groups and the consensual nonmonogamous group (CNM) reported similarly low levels of loneliness and distress, and similarly high satisfaction levels in regards to need, relationship, and sex.

Moreover, both monogamous groups reported the lowest levels of sexual sensation seeking, indicating fairly restrained and mainstream attitudes towards casual sex.

Overall, people in the three nonmonogamous relationships reported high levels of sexual sensation seeking, were more likely to actively look for new sexual partners, and to have contracted a sexually transmitted disease.

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Yet, each of the three nonmonogamous groups varied in significant ways.

People in the consensual nonmonogamous group (CNM) were in fairly long-term relationships (and had the highest proportion among all five groups of people living with their partner, followed closely by the monogamous group with minimal recent sex outside their relationship).

The consensual nonmonogamous group also had the highest number of heteroflexible (primarily heterosexual but open to sex with same-sex partners) and bisexual respondents, suggesting that individuals in the LGBT community might be more comfortable with non-traditional relationship structures.

By contrast, people in partially open and one-sided nonmonogamous relationships tended to be in younger relationships, reported lower levels of dedication to their relationships, and low levels of affection. Few reported high sexual satisfaction, and they had the highest rates of condomless sex with new partners.

The groups of partially open and one-sided nonmonogamous relationships also showed some of the highest levels of discomfort with emotional attachment (also called attachment avoidance), psychological distress, and loneliness.

Overall, the one-sided group fared worst of all, with the highest proportion of people significantly dissatisfied with their relationships: 60 percent–nearly three times as high as the monogamous or the consensual nonmonogamous group.

Rogge cautions that the authors looked at cross-sectional data only, which meant they were unable to directly track relationships failing over time.

While the data clearly show that not all nonmonogamous relationships are equal–one rule applies to all:

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“Sexual activity with someone else besides the primary partner, without mutual consent, comfort, or communication can easily be understood as a form of betrayal or cheating,” says Hangen. “And that, understandably, can seriously undermine or jeopardize the relationship.”

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LOVE AFFAIRS

Bad break-ups may not trigger weight gain from emotional eating

It has been well documented that people sometimes use food as a way to cope with negative feelings and that emotional eating can lead to unhealthy food choices. A study says this isn’t really true.

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That pint of ice cream after a nasty breakup may not do as much damage as you think. Despite the emotional turmoil, people on average do not report gaining weight after a relationship dissolution, according to new research.

The study, which included researchers from Penn State, were investigating the German concept of “kummerspeck” — excess weight gain due to emotional eating — which literally translates to “grief bacon.”

Marissa Harrison, associate professor of psychology at Penn State Harrisburg, said that while hoarding food after a breakup may have made sense for humans thousands of years ago, modern humans may have grown out of the habit.

“Food was much scarcer in the ancestral environment, so if your partner abandoned you, it could have made gathering food much harder,” Harrison said. “It may have made sense if our ancestors hoarded food after a breakup. But our research showed that while it’s possible people may drown their sorrows in ice cream for a day or two, modern humans do not tend to gain weight after a breakup.”

According to the researchers, it has been well documented that people sometimes use food as a way to cope with negative feelings and that emotional eating can lead to unhealthy food choices. Because breakups can be stressful and emotional, it could potentially trigger emotional eating.

Additionally, ancient relationship dynamics may have made packing on the pounds after a breakup evolutionary advantageous.

“Modern women of course have jobs and access to resources now, but back then, it was likely that women were smaller and needed more protection and help with resources,” Harrison said. “If their partner left or abandoned them, they would be in trouble. And the same could have gone for men. With food not as plentiful in the ancestral world, it may have made sense for people to gorge to pack on the pounds.”

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Harrison also noted that the existence of the word “kummerspeck” itself suggested that the phenomenon existed.

The researchers completed two studies to test the theory that people may be more likely to gain weight after a relationship breakup. In the first one, the researchers recruited 581 people to complete an online survey about whether they had recently gone through a breakup and whether they gained or lost weight within a year of that breakup.

Most of the participants — 62.7 percent — reported no weight change. According to Harrison, she and the other researchers were surprised by this result and decided to perform an additional study.

For the second study, the researchers recruited 261 new participants to take a different, more extensive survey than the one used in the first study. The new survey asked whether participants had ever experienced the dissolution of a long-term relationship, and whether they gained or lost weight as a result. The survey also asked about participants’ attitudes toward their ex-partner, how committed the relationship was, who initiated the breakup, whether the participants tended to eat emotionally, and how much participants enjoy food in general.

While all participants reported experiencing a break up at some point in their lives, the majority of participants — 65.13 percent — reported no change in weight after relationship dissolution.

“We were surprised that in both studies, which included large community samples, we found no evidence of ‘kummerspeck’,” Harrison said. “The only thing we found was in the second study, women who already had a proclivity for emotional eating did gain weight after a relationship breakup. But it wasn’t common.”

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Harrison added that the results — recently published in the Journal of the Evolutionary Studies Consortium — may have clinical implications.

“It could be helpful information for clinicians or counselors with patients who tend to eat emotionally,” Harrison said. “If your client is going through a breakup and already engages in emotional eating, this may be a time where they need some extra support.”

Victoria Warner, a Penn State Harrisburg graduate student, was the lead author of this study. Samantha Horn from Penn State Harrisburg and Susan Hughes from Albright College also participated in this work.

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LOVE AFFAIRS

Be fierce, not forlorn: Bouncing back from a bad breakup

You don’t have to feign a complete recovery. If you need time to mourn, even a really crappy relationship, then give yourself time to do it. You have your own pace, so long as you’re working at it, you’re on the way to a healthier future and a wiser, more confident view of future relationships, too.

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Photo by @thoughtcatalog from Unsplash.com

We’ve all been there. Whether it’s the sudden end to a seemingly perfect relationship, the long untangling of a messy pairing doomed to fail, or the righteous indignation that comes after infidelity, breakups can hit hard. Worst of all, they can hurt you in ways that can take a long time to heal without the right self-care.

If an ex seemingly won’t let you move on, then you need to be firm, stand your ground, and cut your ties, even if you didn’t want the relationship to end in the first place.
Photo from Pixabay.com

Here, we’re going to look at ways you can make sure you’re not stuck wallowing and get back to the you that you want to be.

Cut the cord

“We can still be friends.” It’s something many of us will say or hear after a painful breakup and it’s almost always a bad idea. If an ex seemingly won’t let you move on, then you need to be firm, stand your ground, and cut your ties, even if you didn’t want the relationship to end in the first place. You’re not going to be able to move on if you’re still spending time and energy on maintaining some sort of relationship after the breakup.

Say “Bye, Felicia”

Every relationship needs some closure for us to be able to focus our energies elsewhere. Rarely do you get that closure in the breakup. The suddenness of it, the emotionality of it all, can make it hard to actually reflect on it. That’s why you should, instead, consider writing a letter to your ex. Take the time to put your thoughts in place, think about all the things you wanted to say, and say them. Then burn it. What’s important is that you got the chance to say them, not whatever they might have thought when hearing them.

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Work on yourself

It’s all “me, myself, and I” after a breakup. Surrounding yourself with friends, family, and your positive support group can be helpful, but proactively spending time on yourself in a way you may have been unable to can be greatly rewarding. Getting into some new workouts, chasing a professional goal, or simply updating your style can help you refocus your efforts somewhere other than a relationship. Achieving something for you and yourself alone will give you plenty more reasons to be confident again.

Date yourself, too

Want to see if you still got it or simply want a little fun after getting out of a heavy relationship? Fine. However, following a breakup with another immediate attempt to start a relationship rarely goes well. Spend time on self-care, on friendships around you, and on indulging a little in ways you haven’t been able to. Take some time to yourself and give the scars of the relationship some time to heal so that they don’t sabotage your future potential for happiness.

You don’t have to feign a complete recovery. If you need time to mourn, even a really crappy relationship, then give yourself time to do it. You have your own pace, so long as you’re working at it, you’re on the way to a healthier future and a wiser, more confident view of future relationships, too.


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Love Guides

How you can add fresh excitement to your relationship

It is important that you take the state of your physical relationship into consideration, as letting things slide in this department can result in other areas and aspects of your relationship being affected.

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When it comes to relationships, it can be very difficult to keep things magical and fresh all the time. While your physical relationship may have been really exciting to begin with, once you have other commitments to think about, things can start to slide. Most people are busy with commitments such as work, family, and financial worries, which can all take their toll on your physical relationship.

It is important that you take the state of your physical relationship into consideration, as letting things slide in this department can result in other areas and aspects of your relationship being affected. The good news is that there are simple methods you can use to add fresh excitement to your love life, and if you are open-minded you can have great fun at the same time. In this article, we will look at some of these methods.

Methods You Can Use

Are you and your partner open-minded and up for some adventure and excitement in the bedroom? If so, using adult toys could be the perfect way to try new and exciting experiences together. You may be one of those people who has never used these products before, and you may find yourself wondering ‘what are anal beads?’ and other products you are unfamiliar with. Well, the good news is that there are so many adult toy products available these days, you are certain to find something that you and your partner can experiment with in the bedroom.

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Another thing that the two of you may find exciting and thrilling is to act out your fantasies in the bedroom. Just because your partner has never mentioned anything about fantasies to you before, this doesn’t mean they don’t have any.

Likewise, you may harbor your own fantasies but have never mentioned them to your partner. Well, now is the time to stop being coy and communicate with your partner about your fantasies. You can then enjoy reliving these in the bedroom by dressing up sexily, creating scenarios, and more.

There are couples who feel far more at ease when they are not at home, such as while away on vacation. Well, you can’t go on a vacation every time you want to get intimate. However, one thing you can do is book a couple of nights away somewhere from time to time so you can get away from it all, feel less stress, and feel more relaxed. You can enjoy spending some quality time together by doing this, and you can use some of that time to get things moving in the bedroom department.

Making an Effort Makes a Difference

When you make this type of effort and open up your mind, you can both look forward to exciting new experiences as well as a more satisfying physical relationship. This is something that can then have a positive impact on your overall relationship so it is well worth making time to work on your love life. 

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