Archive for October, 2010


Role-playing involves a special relationship to sexual fantasy. It requires that you consciously acknowledge your fantasy, and that you share that fantasy with a partner who consents to participate in it.

The simplest kind of role-playing involves a person pretending to be different than he or she typically is. A meek person may pretend to be demanding; a voracious person may pretend to be inhibited.

Some role-playing involves specific roles or even scripts: doctor/patient, queen/foreign prince, Barbra Streisand/Ross Perot. Couples can simply imagine themselves in these roles and speak a sentence or two about them. “You haven’t had a checkup in two years. I better examine your prostate.” Or they can get more involved, speaking in role for most of the sexual encounter. A few simple props such as an apron or baseball cap can make these games even more engaging.

Erotic role-playing requires certain psychological and relationship tools. You have to believe that you’re eligible to step outside the usual limits of your everyday personality. You have to not care how you look or sound. You have to transcend the idea that certain words, behaviors, or attitudes belong only to people who are “sexy.” You and your mate have to trust that you won’t be judged by each other.

Another challenge involves reentering real life after role-playing. The couple who can look at each other after playing mentor’s wife/apprentice and agree that “we can do anything we want, now let’s go make dinner” have an important tool for keeping their relationship exciting.

Role-playing contains no predictions about how people really wish to behave; in fact, the contrary is often true. Role-playing is a safe arena in which to live another life without any of its disadvantages.

Ultimately, erotic role-playing is a way to celebrate two of our most divine gifts: imagination and sexuality.


  • If you’re not sure how your mate will handle your fantasies, ask about it when you’re not in bed.
  • If your role-play involves power games, decide on a word that means “I need to stop the game for a minute.”
  • Don’t assume you know what your mate really wants in life based on fantasies or role-play.

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Many people who go to relationship therapy refer to anger as a negative emotion. Although experiences with anger are terribly painful for many people, what’s negative isn’t the anger, but rather how we deal with it.

Anger itself is neutral. It’s a source of information. It’s a motivation to communicate or change. And if discussed productively (yes, that’s a big if), it almost always leads to more intimacy. So anger is a valuable part of relationships.

There are three basic reasons to communicate that you’re angry:

1. To share information: “When you flirt at parties, it makes me feel left out.”

2. To ask for change: “I want you to agree to be on time from now on.”

3. To hurt someone: “I’d enjoy sex more with someone else anyway.”

How you express your anger should be determined by your goal. If you want to be better understood, or want to change the relationship, you need to express yourself in a cooperative way—which can be difficult when you’re feeling angry.

One of the ways couples get in trouble is with the unspoken agreement that as soon as someone is angry, he can express himself in a rude or hurtful way. Unless your goal is specifically to hurt someone, you never have the right to talk hurtfully. Your own anger is no excuse.

To put it another way, express your anger as if you expect to continue the relationship after your anger has subsided.

This takes discipline. People frequently say things like, “but I have a hot Italian/Irish/African/Danish/fill-in-the-blank/ temper, and when I get angry I just lose it.” Wrong: There is no such thing as a “temper.” A temper is what we call it when people relinquish responsibility for how they express themselves.

Make a promise to express your anger responsibly, as part of the ongoing relationship, rather than a disruption of it or exception to it.

Although anger is not a sign of love, anger is an inevitable part of loving relationships. Discuss your anger with your partner as lovingly and consciously as you discuss joy and pleasure.


  • Don’t make important decisions while you’re very angry.
  • If you’re angry, don’t act like an angry person; say, “I’m angry.”

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What would you put in a time capsule to be opened a century from now if the subject were sexuality? How would you represent our eroticism? What objects would you use to help future generations understand us — and, for that matter, to help your partners understand you?

Here, in no particular order, are some suggestions. Have fun adding your own.

• Vibrator: These started out as a way for women to learn about their bodies and enjoy themselves. Now, millions of couples use them to expand their repertoire beyond intercourse.

• Condom: An incredibly thin, strong device that prevents both unwanted pregnancy and disease. Hard to believe they were illegal for unmarried Americans in the last century.

• Tampon: A perfect example of how life is easier when you’re willing to deal with sexuality and your body directly.

• Beer bottle: Too many people have their first sexual experience while they’ve been drinking. As a result, people often do things they regret. And, of course, it’s really hard to enjoy sex when you’re drunk.

• Electric bill: Representing the telephone, computer, VCR and other electronic ways we now express our sexuality.

• Porn film: Whether you enjoy them or not, they do show people smiling and enjoying what they’re doing — which is what we look like if we’re fortunate, and wish we did if we’re not.

• AIDS poster: AIDS has replaced Communism as the reason that people can’t enjoy themselves or trust each other. Interestingly, although most middle-class single people say it concerns them, most have never had a long, serious conversation with a partner about it. Honest conversation will always be more intimate — and therefore more difficult — than sex.

• Therapy bill: Sexuality is still the source of an enormous amount of emotional pain for many people. Whether because of childhood trauma, guilt, shame, and ignorance, or sexual dysfunction, millions of American men and women suffer about sex — and can’t seem to get the help they need.

• Mirror: One of the things that undermines sexual desire and enjoyment for many women is embarrassment or discomfort about their bodies. Unfortunately, many women have unrealistic ideas about how they’re supposed to look — or how their mates expect them to look.

• Lipstick: Remember when you used to love to kiss? As an adult, do you kiss as much as you like?

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