Award-winning actress and author Lisa Rinna and celebrated sex counselor Ian Kerner combine forces in "The Big Fun Sexy Sex Book" to demystify the complications of sex by underscoring the importance of finding balance in your relationship. Read an excerpt.
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Before you can get in sync with your partner inside the bedroom, you’ve got to get in sync outside the bedroom. But that’s not always so easy: One or both of you may be stressed about work, money, family, or any number of factors. Maybe you feel overwhelmed or exhausted and sex is the last thing on your mind. Or maybe you’re dealing with nonsexual relationship issues (whether it’s bickering or more serious concerns) that still play havoc on your sex life. Remember, the brain is our biggest sex organ, and when you’re not satisfied with other aspects of your relationship, you’re probably not going to be very satisfied with sex.
Of course, we all know That Couple — the one that fights constantly like cats and dogs right in front of you. The one that always seems on the verge of a breakup. The one that, according to your friend, has amazing sex that keeps her coming back for more, even if the guy is bad for her (and vice versa). Maybe you’ve even been in such a relationship yourself: one that was wrong in most aspects but sexually exciting. In fact, it’s that kind of mind-blowing sex that makes some otherwise unhappy couples justify staying together. It begs the question: Is the quality or health of a relationship really connected to a couple’s sexual satisfaction?
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The answer is a resounding absolutely! And that’s not just lip service. Research has shown that the happiest relationships are also the most sexually satisfying relationships over the long term. You can have a bad relationship with amazing sex, but that satisfaction rarely lasts. These relationships either don’t endure over the long term or they become less satisfying — and, eventually, the sex follows suit. Sure, some people love the passion of angry sex. And we’ll admit, there is something to be said of the thrill of makeup sex. In general, though, relationship conflict and good sex go together about as well as oil and water. Over time, the cycle of fighting can take its toll on one or both of you, and the excitement of all that great sex ebbs.
The truth is, it’s tough for many of us to feel sexy when we’re upset. Anger can lead to low sexual desire, especially if resentment and hostility have been simmering for a while. Negative feelings can also interfere with arousal, so even if you think you want sex, your body might not agree. It can be difficult to relax and respond sexually when you’re feeling angry, hurt, sad, or otherwise upset: Women may experience vaginal dryness or painful intercourse, while men may have trouble getting an erection or may find it more difficult to ejaculate. The mind plays a crucial role in sexual function, and your body just might not respond when you don’t feel comfortable, connected, or safe. It’s not surprising that Ian and other sex experts find that when a sexual complaint crops up in a relationship, there’s often a nonsexual relationship issue behind it.
Even if your relationship is strong, outside factors can also put a damper on sexual desire, arousal, and function. And between work, personal obligations, and relationships with family and friends — especially if you’re caring for children or aging parents — stress is everywhere. Add in worries about the economy, your health, your pets, even that little mildew problem in the shower that you’ve been ignoring, and you can see why little stressors can combine to create big sex hurdles. There’s no doubt about it — what goes on in between your ears can have a huge impact on what goes on between the sheets.
Stress is a part of life, and ups and downs are part of any long-term relationship. If something’s “off” in one aspect of your world, it’s likely that your sex life will be out of whack, too. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to help your relationship — and your libido — thrive. Even simple acts like hugging each other or doing the dishes can go a long way toward your satisfaction, in and out of bed. So get ready to discover how to maximize your relationship in the bedroom by putting in some effort everywhere else.
Copyright © 2012 Lisa Rinna and Ian Kerner, Ph.D. Reprinted from "The Big Fun Sexy Sex Book" by Lisa Rinna and Ian Kerner, Ph.D. with permission from Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive