A good marriage requires a little bit of work. Experts report on love, intimacy and tricks to maintaining a balanced relationship.
Love Thy Body
A study reported in the Journal of Sex Research found that having a good body image may be the most powerful influence on your sex life. Women who perceive themselves as attractive are likelier to show an "increase in sexual response or activity" than women who don't, according to the researchers. And it doesn't seem to matter whether you're overweight, as long as you feel good about yourself. Are you inclined to be critical about your body? Forget about it-and you may end up initiating sex more frequently and getting more pleasure out of it, too. After all, you're marrying someone who finds you the sexiest thing ever, so you might as well agree with him and enjoy yourself to the max.
Women push for marriage, while guys drag their feet, right? Nope. A study at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 66% of the men surveyed, as opposed to 51% of women (all between 15 and 44), agree that "it is better to get married than go through life being single." Now that's good news!
Are you and your fiancé spontaneous kissers? Good for you, says Laura Berman, Ph.D., a couples therapist and director of Chicago's Berman Center. In a study of 2,000 women and men, Dr. Berman found that couples who smooch just because they feel like it have eight times less stress than those who kiss only when they have sex. They also experience "significantly higher levels of intimacy" in their relationships. Since most of the women she treats say they'd like more kissing and cuddling, she advises men to start there, if what they want is a better sex life and a closer feeling overall. Feeling closer leads to more and better sex, and more and better sex leads to greater closeness. It all starts with a kiss!
Anger Management 101
If the two of you are arguing over the details of the wedding, hide the newspaper or switch off the TV news-they may be making him more annoyed! A study of the ways in which the media affects our emotions, published in Human Communication Research, found that men who have already been provoked tend to fan the flames by reading or watching negative material, while women will use "positive media to regulate their moods and get rid of the anger," according to Sylvia Knobloch-Westerwick, Ph.D., a coauthor of the study. Hand him pictures of your honeymoon destination instead, and watch him chill out!
A study at the University of Texas found that writing down your feelings about your partner may help the romance. According to the research, people who express more emotion, both in writing and verbally, may have the power to improve the longevity of a relationship. Samara O'Shea, author of For the Love of Letters, agrees. "The first year of marriage is a good time to get in the habit of writing short, romantic notes to each other," she says.
Writing your feelings to your loved one lets you think about how much you appreciate him. It's different from text-messaging, O'Shea claims, because you can keep letters and reread them. One husband wrote a note to his wife that said, "You're a cute sleeper." She put it up on her bulletin board at work, and her colleagues "cooed" about it all day. O'Shea knows a couple who have saved 15 years of anniversary letters. Every anniversary they take them out and reread them. "Letters never get old," O'Shea says. "They are a way to constantly reclaim your romance."
What do we find most attractive in a potential mate? The quality of compassion is often what sells us on a person, according to research done at the University of Iowa.
We are also attached to sensitivity and trustworthiness. Interestingly, we may perceive ourselves as being "trustworthy, loving and sensitive." The report found that "people are attracted to others whom they perceive as secure, similar to themselves and similar to their ideal selves, because safety and familiarity are linked to well-being and survival," notes Eva C. Klohnen, Ph.D., the lead author of the study. Luckily, it seems that nature actually tries to help us make good choices!
What does your partner do to calm you down or make you laugh?
- "He always listens to my complaints, even if they're about him! Then he'll hug me and hold my hand and tell me we'll work it all out. He always stays very calm and on an even keel."
- "My fiancé got me started on meditating for five minutes in the evening after a stressful day. At first, I said, 'no way,' then I got into it. I think I'm calmer overall."
- "My husband is a really big guy, and when he puts his arms around me, he completely swallows me up. His bear hugs are the best stress-buster ever."
- "When I get aggravated, she lets me vent. She's a problem-solver, so I usually end up feeling that I have a better handle on things."
- "Whenever I get crazed, my fiancé tells me, 'relax, you're beautiful.' It always makes me laugh. It doesn't solve anything, but he's so sweet!"
- "My husband rubs my feet, kind 'sole' that he is."