Martha Mahan’s husband of 39 years is, in her words, a “professional nagger.”

Fred had been nagging Martha for some time to put away the laundry rather than just taking it out of the dryer, folding it and leaving it in piles in the bedroom.

Recently, Mahan started a ritual. She wrapped the clothes in beautiful blue paper, tied it up with string, and placed her husband’s favorite Vienna Sausages in a can on top of the pile.

“To transcend all this nagging, you have to put yourself into a playful, humorous, creative mode,” says Mahan.

Fred still puts the laundry away himself, but he doesn’t seem to mind anymore.

What death and taxes are to life, nagging is to marriage. But it doesn’t have to be the bane of anyone’s existence. If the two of you learn how to laugh at and have fun with nagging, it will only make life sweeter.

One of the secrets of a long, successful marriage is being able to nag — or respond to nagging — playfully and lovingly, according to cognitive therapist Kathleen Burton.

In fact, a wife’s nagging can be good for her husband’s health, says a study from the University of Chicago. According to the study’s lead researcher, sociologist Ross Stolzenberg, men are conditioned in our culture not to think about their health. A wife plays a valuable role in this dynamic, at least on the health front.

Burton says the playful approach works only in a relatively loving and happy relationship. In the case where one nags compulsively or the other refuses to budge, the defenses are so strong for one or both that not even humor and creativity can break them down.

Even healthy relationships demand nagging with discretion. Here’s how to nag like a pro:

Don’t dish it if you can’t take it.
Before you tell your spouse to get out there and exercise, you had better be prepared to throw on your sweats and jump in the action yourself, says Burton.

Nag as a team.
Instead of nagging your spouse about walking the dog, suggest you do it together.

“Would you like some company when you walk the dog?

Confess your own sins.
Chances are you’ve procrastinated on a few occasions. Your nagging should acknowledge this fact: “I know I haven’t gotten to paying the bills as I said I would, but could you clean out the car so at least one of us does what we said?”

Present options.
Sometimes the task at hand is more important to the one doing the nagging than it is to the one being nagged. Acknowledge this by offering alternatives: “Maybe we ought to just break down and buy a doghouse rather than have you build one.”

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According to two recent studies, millions of Americans use one or more sex toys. We’re talking vibrators, dildos and butt plugs, as well as blindfolds, handcuffs and nipple clamps. We’ll leave whips and leather underwear for another discussion.

Like all technology, sex toys are an extension of the body. They are hands, tongues and genitalia that are bigger and stronger, and never tire. They are tools that help us give pleasure to ourselves and to each other.

Sex toys can be equally great for partner sex and masturbation. Any sex that can be improved by something that probes, stimulates, squeezes or alters sensation can be enhanced by a sex toy.

Unfortunately, some would-be users are self-conscious about feeling they need assistance. Others are concerned that their partner will feel inadequate. But this is like feeling self-critical that you need a comfortable chair to enjoy a movie. Our shyness about using sex toys really expresses the shame we feel about admitting we’re sexual in a sex-negative culture.

It’s no illusion. Until recently, for example, most national magazines refused vibrator advertising &3151; including Ms. magazine. And only last year, the state of Alabama criminalized the production or sale of “sexual devices marketed primarily for the stimulation of human genitals.”

Why the controversy about a 5-inch battery-powered piece of buzzing plastic? Sex toys are about sexual pleasure, not about reproduction or romantic love (although many romantic, loving people and couples use them).

A vibrator or nipple clamp in your hand is the smoking gun of pleasure — you simply can’t deny that getting off is exactly what you have in mind.

So sex toys are a vehicle for sexual empowerment; for learning about our eroticism, for pleasuring ourselves, for encouraging our partners to feel things more deeply. They are, literally, the way we take our sexuality into our own hands. No wonder so many authorities frown on sex toys and make us hide them under the covers. Using a sex toy is, after all, a political act.

And it feels damn good, too.


  • Talk to your partner about your interest in sex toys. Make the conversation fun, not scary.
  • Remember, we use toys because we enjoy them, not because we “need to.”
  • To find a source for your sex toys, search the Web (there are dozens of choices).

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Most people in long-term relationships agree to be sexually exclusive. And then there are swingers.

When couples get sexually involved with other couples, it’s known as “swinging.” While this may sound like something out of the 60s or a thing the Californians cooked up, statistics say otherwise.

There are some 5 million Americans involved in swinging, in every part of the country and every age group. There are swingers’ clubs, magazines, conventions, even cruises. If you and your mate want to swing, you can find playmates easier than you might think.

“If” — is the key question. So how do you and your mate decide if swinging is a good idea for you?

Swinging is an adventure that can have both thrilling payoffs and terrible consequences. Swinging is not something people should get into if they’re angry at each other, or their relationship is dying. And while swinging may make life more enjoyable, it won’t make it simpler. The swinging life is more complicated, with more relationships to manage, more emotions to process, and more decisions to consider.

That said, most swingers are pretty enthusiastic. In addition to the obvious charm of having additional sex partners, many couples report that knowing about or seeing their partner having sex with others revs up the sexual energy within the couple. Sex therapists agree that’s something a lot of people are looking for.

To navigate the complexities of swinging, couples need trust, communication skills, genuine affection for each other, and a sense of humor. If you have plenty of each, you can consider moving forward.

Fantasize about your mate being sexual with someone in the next room; if you have to grit your teeth, forget it. But if that seems exciting, imagine and talk about it while you’re making love together: “and he’d be kissing your breasts, wouldn’t he, and I bet you’d be loving that, wouldn’t you…” If, and only if, this heats you both up, you can consider proceeding.

Most of all, you have to be really good at predicting your reaction to things. After all, you can stop swinging if you don’t like it. Forgetting what you’ve seen or felt, however, is a lot harder.

More on swinging:

  • Some couples go to swing clubs and only have sex with each other, enjoying the voyeurism and exhibitionism.
  • STD rates are lower among swingers than in the general population.

Spice it up without swinging:

  • Get the buzz on adult toys.
  • Catch some porn.
  • Try some erotic role-playing.
  • Lubricants: a lover’s best friend.
More on swinging:
Some couples go to swing clubs and only have sex with each other, enjoying the voyeurism and exhibitionism.
STD rates are lower among swingers than in the general population.


Spice it up without swinging:
Get the buzz on adult toys.
Catch some porn.
Try some erotic role-playing.
Lubricants: a lover’s best friend.

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