Enlightened couples are coached to perpetually ask: “how does that make you feel?” We’re taught to believe that an intimate relationship is about active listening and highly evolved communication — all the time.

While we shouldn’t throw those ideals out altogether, sometimes couples say crappy things to each other. And so what if they do? Maybe it’s time we reined in our New Age urge to say everything just so, and learned the fine art of letting it go.

In a close, healthy relationship, off-color comments are more likely a reflection of a negative mood than a true crisis, according to Richard Carlson, a psychologist and author of You Can Be Happy No Matter What.

Let’s assume for the moment we’re not talking about a pattern of hostility, or true passive aggressive behavior that shouldn’t be ignored.

There is a reason unfortunate remarks are a normal part of couplehood. When you live with someone through it all — solving problems together, traveling together, sleeping together and cursing the bills together — you experience the person sans social politeness.

“The more time we spend with someone, the more likely we are going to see them in their low moods,” writes Carlson.

Don’t overanalyze the specific words and phrases made offhandedly by your mate, urges Carlson. “So often, just letting others alone while they are in a low state of mind is all they need,” he says. “The last thing they need or want is someone questioning or arguing with them.”

Not every imperfect exchange needs to lead to a therapy session, says self-esteem author Jerry Minchinton.

We tend to be more courteous and sensitive around the people we don’t know so well, he says. This is because nearly all occasions with friends and acquaintances are by definition more formal and circumspect than those with a loved one.

When we stop worrying about politeness and flattery, we start to get at the good stuff. “[Heated discussions] aren’t all bad,” asserts Minchinton. “Getting the raw material — even if some of it has to be discounted — means you are at a deeper level.”

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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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How can you get closer to the one you’re with? By understanding the many ways to ignite intimacy.

Intimacy takes many forms: verbal, physical, sexual, spiritual, says Klein. A relationship is all the more powerful — and intimate — when it features more than one of these forms.

Begin your exploration of intimacy with the verbal variety. There are two revealing questions you must first ask of yourself, and then a third you must ask of a loved one.

Once you’ve considered your feelings about getting close, you’re ready to hear the truth about intimacy. Everyone from Oprah to your best friend to Aunt Mabel has a different definition of it, and they’re not always right.

After you put the myths about intimacy aside, you’re ready to draw your partner closer. Spend time getting to know your partner’s dreams and desires. Learn to nurture your relationship, and you’ll keep the sparks flying.

Enough talking. Isn’t sex a part of intimacy? Our readers want to know and we have the answer.

If there’s one thing sure to spoil intimacy, it’s jealously. While occasional pangs of the stuff are natural in most loving relationships,persistent jealously will put out the flame in hearts once afire.

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