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By Sex therapist and relationship counselor
TODAY contributor
updated 10/9/2008 4:14:49 PM ET 2008-10-09T20:14:49

As our economy goes from boom to bust so too do many relationships.

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Even in the best of times financial stress can take its toll on a relationship. But now, as we panic about an uncertain future, stressors become terrors, cracks become fissures, and our connection to our partners becomes all the more fraught. As we struggle to save our dollars, we allow the currency of our communication to become devalued by stress, anxiety and fear. It’s not just the state of the union we need to be worrying about, but also the state of our unions.

So why not go home tonight and have some good old-fashioned sex?

Sex is cheaper than the movies, more stress-relieving than a day at a spa and healthier than antidepressants. And with the rise in fuel prices coming this winter, isn’t that all the more reason to cuddle under the covers and generate some heat of our own?

Seriously, I know that sex won’t change the world, or make your problems go away, but it will leave you feeling recharged, rejuvenated and stronger and more united as a team to face tomorrow. As the winds of change huff and puff and try to blow our house down, sex helps us to hold onto a foundation of love, intimacy and connection.

What else can you do to recession-proof your relationship? Consider these tips:

Don’t stop investing in your relationship
Now is not the time to cut back on quality time together. Hire that baby sitter, get out there and have some fun. You deserve it; you need it. Your relationship demands the kind of stimulus the Fed can’t provide and the injection of capital into date night will reap priceless returns.

Unplug the feed
At the end of the evening, turn off the television, power down the computer. The market’s closed and you don’t need to track futures, you need to connect in the present. During turbulent times technology can become a real-time source of anxiety and stress. So turn off to turn on and know that sex provides a potent chemical cocktail that takes our minds off the headlines and doesn’t leave us with a hangover.

Build a reserve of desire
Engage in random acts of intimacy: hold hands, kiss, give your partner a really long hug. Couples who touch more end up feeling more connected. All it takes is a 20-second hug to get oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” flowing in women, but men need to be hugged three times as much as women to get to similar levels. So go for a full minute of hugging. Build up a bank account of small touch-deposits during the day — you may be surprised at your desire to make a larger withdrawal at night.

Don’t let your ‘interest rate’ in your partner go from positive to negative
Therapist John Gottman has spent a lifetime working with married couples, researching what makes some marriages succeed and others fail. “It’s the balance between positive and negative emotional interactions in a marriage that determines its well-being — whether the good moments of mutual pleasure, passion, humor, support, kindness and generosity outweigh the bad moments of complaining, criticism, anger, disgust, contempt, defensiveness and coldness.” Those couples that succeed in their marriages enjoy an overriding proportion of positive over negative sentiment. But, how do you ensure that? “All couples, happy and unhappy, have conflict, but the ratio of positive to negative interactions during arguments is a critical factor,” and Gottman proposed that this ratio should, ideally, be 5 to 1. While it’s impossible to go through life tallying positive versus negative interactions, it is possible to determine intuitively whether your relationship is generally in the positive, or tending more toward the negative.

Watch out for a serious dip in your ‘passion portfolio’
Millions of Americans were already stuck in a sex rut before this financial crisis, and millions more are now prone because of it. Stress and anxiety are major inhibitors of libido. And when you’re stuck in a rut, or feeling sexually disconnected from your partner, it leaves you more vulnerable to cheating, porn abuse, or just a general sense of detachment.

The Fed may be lowering interest rates, but what we need now is to develop higher rates of appreciation for each other. During times of panic, it’s all too easy to get down on yourself. That’s why you have each other. When you’re in a relationship it’s not you against the world, it’s us against the world, and sometimes just knowing that your partner believes in you is all it takes to change the world. And isn’t that we need now more than ever?

Ian Kerner is a sex therapist, relationship counselor and New York Times best-selling author of numerous books, including "She Comes First" and the soon-to-be-published "Love in the Time of Colic: the New Parents' Guide to Getting it On Again." He was born and raised in New York City, where he lives with his wife and two sons. He can be reached at www.IanKerner.com

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