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9
Mar


“So, what is it that we’re doing here?”

Sooner or later most every relationship reaches that “we’ve been dating for a while now…” decision-making moment. At this point, change is inevitable. Is it time to move on, or are you ready to get married?

To answer that, says Jeffry Larson, Ph.D., author of Should We Stay Together?, you must first ask yourself: What are our “couple traits” and how do they influence our relationship?

Unlike individual traits, which focus on your personality or family background, couple traits focus on your relationship. They include degree of acquaintanceship, similarity of values and attitudes, communication and conflict resolution skills. They are also a good indication of whether you will be happy in marriage says Larson, a marriage and family therapist.

“Acquaintanceship is a combination of how well you know your partner and how longyou’ve known your partner before marriage,” says Larson. “The longer you become acquainted with someone before marriage, the better you know them, understand them and understand your couple strengths and weaknesses.”

Marriages that endure involve spouses who know each other on many levels. Each person knows much about the other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes and dreams.

Much of this friendship should develop before marriage, which takes time.

To develop the acquaintanceship, “Ask your partner: What are your three most important goals in life?” says Larson. “Hear their fears, their plans. Ask him or her to tell you about their most important values.”

If someone is not willing to be open, consider it a red flag.

“It would make me suspicious if, for instance, the person couldn’t tell me their three biggest fears,” says Larson. “Although I don’t think you have to pull out all the skeletons from your closet.”

In his book, Larson recommends dating for at least a year before deciding whether to marry. “Get to know someone during all four seasons because a year gives you a chance to have a crisis or two. You can see how your partner responds in a crisis and handles stress, how he relates to his family, how he deals with important dates like your birthday, how the two of you handle conflicts. All of this cannot be learned in a few months.”

Use this time to get to know your partner and yourself better. Communication skills should include self-awareness. Ask yourself: What am I thinking? What I am I feeling? What do I want? And once you answer those questions, can you effectively tell your partner in a way that does not offend him or her?

Well-matched couples communicate effectively and solve problems without letting them drag out. They are each willing to accept their partner’s weaknesses without becoming distraught. They learn to accept certain qualities and not try to change their partners.

Strong couples also listen actively. This means hearing the content of what someone says and also listening to the tone of voice and noticing nonverbal cues.

If there is a conflict between verbal and nonverbal messages: The nonverbal never lies. Facial expressions are a true indicator of feelings.

In the end, whether or not to marry is a cognitive decision as well as a decision of the heart.

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1
Mar


What to say and how to say it

Each week, I speak to both patients and doctors about sex. Unfortunately, they don’t spend nearly enough time talking to each other.

Many patients say they’re waiting for the doctor to open the subject. Besides, they don’t want to embarrass the doctor or give him/her the wrong idea about who they are: “kinky,” “frigid,” a “slut.” Doctors say the same thing. They don’t want to embarrass their patients or offend those who might think they’re being called kinky, frigid or a slut.

When it comes to sex, what should you be talking to your doctor about?

  • Side effects of medications, particularly antidepressants, anti-hypertensives, diuretics and hormones.
  • Age-related changes. While changes in desire, arousal, orgasm and satisfaction aren’t inevitable, you should know what to look for and what to do about it.
  • What to do if you don’t like the way you function. There are simple ways to diagnose sexual difficulties. If your desire, arousal or orgasms aren’t what you want them to be, find out if there’s an organic basis.
  • Making sex more comfortable. Sex should never hurt. Painful sex can indicate a sexually transmitted disease, endometriosis, fibroids, tiny genital cuts or the need for a lubricant.
  • Questions about sexually transmitted disease and contraception — yes, even at your age.
  • Perimenopause. The early stages of menopause usually begin in a woman’s late thirties. A simple blood work-up can indicate where you are in this 10-year process.
  • A referral to a sex therapist, marriage counselor or psychologist. Many sexual issues are best handled by a therapist. Don’t hesitate to ask for a referral.

Health-care providers, like doctors and nurses, are there to serve you. If you’re uncomfortable talking to the ones you have now, get new ones. On the other hand, we all have to educate our health-care providers about our unique sexuality, whether our practices are exotic or ordinary. If all patients teach their medical professionals about sex, all of us would be better off.

 

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23
Feb


When George W. Bush accepts his party’s nomination tonight, he will stand with the person he believes makes him a better candidate.

Selecting and keeping a partner in love and romance is a little like choosing a political running mate: You want someone who balances the ticket.

Just as VP nominee Dick Cheney, a former defense secretary, makes up for Bush’s observed weakness on international issues, partners in any walk of life ought not be carbon copies.

Differences between you and your mate bring new skills, ideas and talents to your team.

Consider these five pointers on creating a balanced relationship ticket:

  1. Agree on the big stuff.
  2. The Democrats and Republicans may talk about big tent philosophies, but they don’t ignore their party platforms. “Sharing core values provides a foundation of mutual interest for a good relationship,” says Kevin Gogin, a marriage, family and child counselor in San Francisco.

    Core values include everything from religious orientation to views on child-raising and life philosophies.

    Who’s neat or messy has nothing to do with core values, explains Carol Kaplan, a marriage and family counselor in Monterey, Calif. It’s like Felix and Oscar of Odd Couple fame. They get on each other’s nerves, but they agree on underlying politics, morals and ethics.

  3. Discuss issues together.
  4. Specialization in a relationship is terrific. But it only works so long as you include your partner in decision-making.

    You may be an expert on antiques, but your partner has to sit in that old chair every day. Your spouse handles all the finances, but you still ought to know where your retirement money is invested, the name of your mortgage company and the balances of your various accounts. Each has a vested interest in every decision.

  5. Enjoy togetherness and separateness.
  6. Couples with children know about specialization. He does laundry; she watches the kids. But your differences may even affect leisure time. When your spouse has to attend a networking event with business associates on a Friday night resist the temptation to tag along.

  7. Throw guilt and resentment out the window.
  8. Your partner cooks, cleans and does the dishes. You take out the trash. Before you feel guilty, look at the big picture. You also fix things around the house, oversee contractors and run the broken cars to the shop. Are you both happy with this arrangement? Talk about it.

    If there is an imbalance, real or perceived, someone is going to feel resentful. Bring those feelings out in the open.

  9. Don’t try to change your partner.
  10. It’s a mistake, Gogin says, to assume you share values with your partner if they’ve never been expressed. It is also unwise to hold out hope for a miraculous change in your significant other. If he’s a heavy drinker who stays out late, don’t expect his behavior to change after you marry.

    Negotiation is the alternative to change, says Kaplan. Your partner can learn to wash every dish he uses, even if deep down he’d rather let them pile up in the sink. That’s called a concession, not a change.

In the end, you may appreciate those quirky personality differences. The neatnik may need to loosen up, and the slob may need to straighten up. If you form a well-balanced ticket, you will always have something to learn from each other.

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16
Feb


Q. What is sex therapy and how do I know if I need it?

. Sex therapy is a set of behavioral and psychotherapeutic techniques used with men, women and couples to enhance sexual functioning. You might see a sex therapist if you don’t get erections when you want to; get excited but can’t climax; have pain with intercourse; or notice your sexual enjoyment declining and don’t know why.

Couples go to a sex therapist when they argue about frequency (she wants sex twice a week, he wants it twice a year); preferences (he wants oral sex, she doesn’t); or what’s acceptable (he wants to watch porn and she doesn’t, or she wants monogamy and he doesn’t). Your psychologist or physician might refer you to sex therapy if they can’t provide a solution to (or they aren’t comfortable with) your difficulty.

Q. How can I be sure the sex therapist is credible?

A. Above all, a good sex therapist is a good psychotherapist, someone who can ask questions you haven’t thought of, and see patterns you haven’t seen. Select a professional with a good reputation, or get a recommendation from a physician or friend. You want someone who’s comfortable with sex, and with whom you feel you can tell the truth without being judged. If the therapist seems more interested in him- or herself than in you, flirts with you or suggests that you’re abnormal or kinky, run for the door.

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9
Feb


In the movie City Slickers, the wisecracking lead character says, “Men don’t need a reason to have sex; they just need a place.”

The place? How about an MRI tube, that long, narrow tunnel where medical personnel take pictures of your insides to figure out what’s wrong.

The reason? Let’s try furthering medical science.

The eight couples that helped produce first-ever Magnetic Resonance Imaging pictures of human sexual intercourse proved that the penis bends backwards — like a boomerang — during missionary position coitus.

schwing Dutch Capture Hot Sex on MRI

Admittedly, romance was challenged in the claustrophic space where movement is actually forbidden, but researchers threw up a makeshift curtain for privacy and asked each couple to hold still just long enough to capture their pelvises on the mark and in focus.

All but one couple needed a boost from Viagra.

The Viagra-free couple was, not coincidentally, “a pair of amateur street acrobats who are trained and used to performing under stress,” according to Willibrord Weijmar Schultz, an associate professor of gynecology at the University Hospital Groningen in the Netherlands.

This pair of high-achieving research participants may have been happy to find any suitable place. But Schultz nonetheless praised “their scientific curiosity, knowledge of the body and artistic commitment.”

The researcher regarded his experiment as a true artistic endeavor. After all, didn’t Leonardo da Vinci produce an elegant but now inaccurate anatomical sketch called “The Copulation” some 500 years ago? The MRI art Schultz produced may not be theMona Lisa, but he can say he set the Renaissance master straight about the bend.

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2
Feb


You won’t find a picture of Rachel Walton on Match.com. Nor will you find the 42-year-old Florida natural-health enthusiast, writer and former nurse describing herself in a newspaper personals ad.

Not that these dating aids are wrong, but “it’s not my style,” says Walton. “I can’t even imagine I could pull that one off.”

In a generation where we — unlike Mom and Dad — have had the freedom to question, to explore inner feelings, to do life and relationships differently, many of us have tried to shed the old-time societal messages.

The ’90s saw a backlash, for example, against the oft-quoted 1986 Newsweekcover story, “The Marriage Crunch,” which said that never-wed, white, college-educated women 40 or older were “more likely to be killed by a terrorist than to find husbands.”

“At times I feel lonely, but my life is not about looking to find a man,” says Walton. “If I find a man, that would be wonderful, but it’s not my goal, and it’s not going to be what makes everything all better.”

What is her goal? “My goal is to find my mission in life — that may or may not include a relationship.

“It’s a subtle difference between having my whole attention on waiting for a relationship, vs. breathing more deeply into who I am and standing in that.”

She came to a new way of being single in her 40s. Before that, the questions cropped up mostly at key events, such as the marriages of her brothers.

“At those times, it was very much, `Why does it work for other people and not for me?’” Walton says. “Then they have one child after the other, and each time, it’s like, `Do I want that, can I have that, should I be wanting that? Is there something wrong with me?’ ”

The biological clock is only one of several thorny issues: What to do with sexual urges and fears of growing old alone are others.

“At times, being single holds a quality of aloneness and solitude that is good and right,” Walton says. “At other times, being single feels full of loneliness which is, at times, unbearable.

“Waking up in the middle of the night, or when I’m first waking in the morning,” she adds. “Those threshold times can feel particularly vulnerable.”

While Walton’s 7-year-old Lab mix Mattie does provide some comfort, she misses having someone to share with day-to-day. On some level, however, she is using this time in her life — over 40 and single — as a path to growth.

“There’s some way that some deep exploration and connection into myself needs to be there,” she says. “That’s the journey, and it’s not easy, and it’s not quick and simple, and it’s not necessarily comfortable.”

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19
Jan


Men are more likely to start their lonely-hearts search by casting a wide net and trying to arrange dates with as many eligible women as possible, according to Douglas Raybeck, a professor of anthropology at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y.

Women are more selective. They’re more cautious about embarking on serial dates and more likely to focus on one prospective mate at a time.

The good news is that most lonely hearts are honest about themselves. The personals are probably not a hotbed for liars and imposters, according to Raybeck. However, novices should be aware of common literary double entendres before arranging dates.

Here are a few to keep in mind:

Full-figured — Obese or overweight

Discreet encounter — Married man anxious to avoid a real-life re-enactment ofFatal Attraction

Enjoys fine dining — A woman seeking a partner willing and able to spend money on her

Enjoys cozy nights by a warm fire — Possible couch potato

40-ish — Closer to 45, or possibly 50

Enjoys movies — Probably spends more time watching TV

No head games — Looking for a sincere partner willing to make a lifelong commitment

Tired of the singles’ scene — Hoping to get hitched. Fast

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