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By Sex therapist and relationship counselor
TODAY contributor
updated 1/17/2008 5:28:32 PM ET 2008-01-17T22:28:32

Forget romantic dinners and a room for two at your favorite weekend spot. It turns out that the key to great sex for women is a clean kitchen — and maybe some help making sure the kids’ homework is done. Sexy, huh?

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Researchers in the Netherlands found that the key to getting a woman turned on and to the heights of orgasmic bliss is a deep sense of relaxation and a lack of anxiety. All in the name of science, researchers at the University of Groningen scanned the brains of 13 women and 11 men while they were manually stimulated to orgasm by their partners. The scans showed that, for women, the parts of the brain responsible for processing fear, anxiety and emotion slowed down the more aroused they became, producing a trancelike state at orgasm. Says Dr. Gert Holstege of women's sexual wiring, “What this means is that deactivation, letting go of all fear and anxiety, might be the most important thing, even necessary, to have an orgasm.” Men showed far less change in these areas of the brain.

So what can you do to keep the home fires burning? Here are some tips to help yourself, or help your partner, tune out of daily stress and tune in to the sexual moment:

Couples who clean together, stay together
As a sex therapist and relationship counselor, one of most common complaints I hear from women is that they bear the majority of the burden for household chores. Even if they work, most of them come home to a “second shift,” of cleaning, cooking and chaos, and sex is just one more to-do on that list. Men need to get this and help with chores more — without being asked. Women don’t want to feel like they have to ask or, worse, say “hooray” every time you do something around the house. After all, you live there too! Foreplay really is cleaning up the house when it’s a mess, taking out the garbage and making the kids’ lunches as part of your daily routine. Once guys start carrying their weight around the house, they’re apt to find that women have more energy inside the bedroom.

No one likes a martyr
Of course, the household-help advice cuts both ways. Women need to take some responsibility and communicate how important helping out around the house is to them. Otherwise, dirty socks and a sink full of dishes can lead to anger, tension and resentment, and you won’t be able to unwind and enjoy sex. Ask your partner for the help you need. Do it in a way that’s nice and to the point. Chances are, he’ll be receptive and you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it ages ago.

Don’t be a perfectionist
It’s also important to resist being the martyr because you’re the only one who can do it right. If you’re constantly telling him he doesn’t clean well enough or you do it over when you think he’s not looking, he’s going to lose the incentive to help. Communicate, and show him how you would like it done, then consider easing up on your standards. Don’t treat him like a child if you want him to be your partner.

Use cleaning time for some creative bonding
In a time of multitasking, maybe we need to do more of these chores and the daily drudgery together. Maybe it’s not always about efficiency and the usual divide-and-conquer strategy, but finding a way to do it together. You’ll create some time for bonding, and if you think he won’t be up for it, that’s easy: Let your guy know these are the things you need done in order to enjoy sex. That’s a pretty quick way to get the house clean!

A little fantasy never hurt anyone
Studies have found that women tend to fantasize more than men during sex, which helps escape reality and facilitate that important process of mental deactivation. Ultimately, fantasy is a powerful way to get away from reality. If you’re the type of woman who feels lot of stress, whether about kids, the state of the house or simply your inner mental chatter, then a little fantasy may be the key to deactivating those stress and anxiety centers. Try indulging a fantasy privately to get yourself in the mood or share a fantasy with your partner. It’s a great form of foreplay.

So ladies, remember: There are big differences between the male and female brain, and they directly affect your sex life. Let your guy know that the key to turning you on is actually turning your brain off.

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