In our article Smart Erotica: The Modern Couple's Playbook we outlined seven conversations that our Lifestyle Inventory Check-up (LIC)© coaches couples to have to ensure a fun and productive erotic lifestyle experience.
The LIC guides you through a series of essential discussions that include the following:
- Unfiltered Communication
- Sexuality vs. Eroticism
- Routines & Rituals (you're here)
Regardless of where you are on the erotic lifestyle continuum — from newbie to veteran, hot monogamy to CNM or even polyamory — the LIC and its “7 conversations” are essential tools that keep your relationship safe and lay the foundation for romantic pluralism that is quickly going mainstream in our culture with just over 20% or 1 in 5 people participating in a “consensual non-monogamous relationship” (Kinsey Institute and Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 2016).
“Every great love story is a never-ending conversation …
Successful long-term relationships are created through small words,
small gestures and small acts (done repeatedly every day over time).
A lifetime of love is created every single day you are together
where love happens in small moments.”
– Dr. John Gottman, World-Renown Marriage & Family Researcher
If we asked you right now, “do you love your spouse,” what would you tell us?
“Ahhh… yea … of course I do, dude … dumb question.”
If we called “bullshit” on you and said, “Prove it. Tell us the exact moment you knew you loved your partner and can you measure it in time and space?” you’d say, “Ahhhhhhhhh, I can’t.” And, you’d be absolutely right! It’s an unanswerable question because the truth is love can’t be quantified like that. Rather, you demonstrate your love in small moments — sometimes inane ones in the minutia of your life — that are seemingly insignificant, over and over again throughout time and across situations. And, in aggregate, you create an experience where your partner feels loved, and you feel “in love with them” by what you repeatedly do and how you repeatedly show up for them.
How many of you go to a gym to train to look fit? (Most of the lifestyle community!) OK, let’s say you go to the gym on Monday and, on Tuesday morning, you look in the mirror — what do you see? Nothing. Nada. No real difference. WTF?! Why? Because one workout doesn’t make for a hot ass or tight belly. Love works in the same way. Why is that?
Here’s a rock-solid principle we teach at Soul-Mates for Life:
“The quality of your relationship is determined by the quality of your commitments to invest what is required — daily — to make it Exceptional. And, an Exceptional Relationship can only happen inside the integrity of your time, energy, and presence to the one you claim to love.”
The Problem with Modern Love: Clue-less-ness
We’re not sure “clue-less-ness” is in the dictionary, but it should be. There is no better adjective that fully captures the core problem with love today. People are “clueless,” that is, unconscious to the forces that shape who they are (so they show up on autopilot in their most important relationship — unevolved!), and never learn, let alone master, the skills, principles, methods, and distinctions required to actually love someone. How do we know? Aside from working with some of the most successful people in the world, we also pick up the carnage of relationship disasters that did not work out so well. We listen and learn a lot from our clients.
The “failure” of Monogamy requires us all to re-think
what it means to be in an intimate relationship.
Let’s start with a few facts, shall we? Monogamy (and relationships in general) does not seem to be working very well. That’s true no matter whose stats you use. Here’s what we know:
- Up to 53% of first marriages end in divorce.
- Over 60% of second marriages fail.
- 73% of third marriages also fail, suggesting we’re not getting it even after multiple failures.
- 1 in 3 divorces are attributed to emotional infidelity (this is due to the advent of social media, the topic of another article… stay tuned).
- 57% of men and 54% of women admit to having an affair while being in a committed relationship such as a monogamous marriage.
- The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that up to 40% of divorces are attributable to reports of infidelity (this is likely deflated because most people lie about it and never admit it, and groups like the APA don’t like bad news).
We demand from love and relationships far more than
we invest in them to be successful.
Consider the impossible situations we put relationships in today:
- What we expect from relationships is at an all-time high.
- What we expect from ourselves — and our emotional competence at knowing what you actually have to do to love someone — is at an all-time low.
- The range of choices and access to alternative and covert erotic outlets given the advent of social media and digital temptation — from interactive virtual porn to FB hookups with unrequited infatuations — is now unlimited 24/7.
- All embedded within a model of relationships that tells us “one person for everything” to meet all of one’s needs for a lifetime
Really? It’s time to raise the bar by raising your standards for what it means to love your partner!
Adult intimacy has become overburdened by expectations absent preparedness to offer anything commensurate with what we demand. People are rewriting the rules of relationships, too often wanting it all for much less investment of their time, energy, and presence (AKA Routines and Rituals), as if a relationship was a fast-food drive-through visit to McDonald’s rather than an intricate organic garden that requires nurturing and care. And — forgive us for the negative slant here, but — all superimposed on the most over-entitled and under-sacrificed generation of human beings that have ever walked the planet.
The problem, and perhaps actual risk to relationships, is what we require of them and how ill-prepared we are to manage those demands. This is one of many reasons the erotic lifestyle appears to be thriving in interest and intrigue for many couples; it offers a range of innovative solutions to historical models that are failing under the pressure of modern life.
OK, back to Conversation #7 of the Lifestyle Inventory Check-up (LIC)©: Routines and Rituals. So, what is a couple to do, and how do you break free from the unconsciousness of the status quo and become conscious and intentional about your relationship?
Primacy & Sanctity in the Erotic Lifestyle
The most important principle we teach to our couples in our coaching and teaching programs is the importance of the Primacy and Sanctity of your relationship. This is ESPECIALLY true for couples active in the erotic lifestyle.
- Primacy means that you put the relationship first, period, above all things regardless of what shit is coming down the pike in your life or career. Most people give lip service to that and fail miserably, copping out with hyperbole like, “I’m really committed to the quality time versus quantity time thing — my spouse knows I love them.” Primacy is not about talking, it is about commitment to specific actions daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually, where you invest big in the emotional bank account of your primary relationship (Stay tuned for the “6 Habits of Erotically Smart Couples” coming up next!).
- Sanctity means that you have crystal clear Boundaries and Agreements (See Conversations #5 and #6), honor those consistently, and have Routines and Rituals that set you and your partner apart from anyone or anything else you do. It is best summed up in this question: “If sex is not exclusive to the two of you (such as in consensual non-monogamy) and you share it with others, what is exceptional between you that only is shared within your relationship?”
These two principles, when practiced and applied, can make or break a relationship. For couples in the erotic lifestyle, they will mean the difference between the “nuclear reactor” lighting up your relationship with many years of fulfillment and satisfaction, or imploding it and leaving toxic debris behind your effort to enjoy what is possible if you navigate it smartly.
As we have said before and is worth repeating, the erotic lifestyle IS a calculated risk. Don’t risk being naïve about it. Opening the boundaries of conventional monogamy IS tantalizing and must be managed intelligently or it will kick your ass. Emotionally intelligent couples know “how to love each other” and practice known “habits” to make their relationships exceptional.
So, What Does it REALLY Mean to Love?
We are passionate about teaching people how to love. It is our experience, both personally and professionally, that most people do not know how, and we’ve made it our mission to coach and teach people what it takes to design relationships of their choosing that live up to what we call the Soul Mate Standard.
What exactly does that mean?
We believe “Soul Mates are created, not found.” That means we don’t “fall in love” but, rather, we create the conditions for love by becoming a person capable of loving. Then, we show up inside of commitments to BE a certain way and DO certain things, both small and large, over and over again to cultivate the rich garden that love can be between people. We literally create love not by having the right partner in our lives, but by becoming a person capable of loving by becoming the right partner for the person we choose to be with. We call this “relationship design,” and it is available to anyone committed to having an extraordinary relationship.
And the Science Says… Here are Some Great Routines & Rituals TO DO!
In an amazing book titled The Normal Bar, authors Chrisanna Northrup, Pepper Schwartz, and James Witte conducted an online study with 70,000 people in 24 countries. This is the largest study of its kind ever done.
They were curious about what healthy and successful couples are doing that others are not. They were also interested in what might be different about couples who said that they had a great sex life, compared to couples who said that they had a bad sex life. Even with the limitations of self-report data, there are some fascinating implications of their results.
Fact: Couples who have a great sex life everywhere on the planet are doing the same set of things — which means so can you!
Additionally, couples who do not have a great sex life everywhere on the planet are not doing these things.
Inspired by the Normal Bar study, as well as Dr. Gottman’s research on more than 3,000 couples over four decades, here are 13 things all couples do who have great relationships with a fulfilling sex life:
- They say “I love you” every day and mean it.
- They kiss one another passionately for no reason.
- They give surprise romantic gifts.
- They know what turns their partners on and off erotically.
- They are physically affectionate, even in public.
- They keep playing and having fun together.
- They cuddle.
- They make sex a priority, not the last item of a long to-do list.
- They stay best friends.
- They can talk comfortably about their sex life and DO.
- They have weekly dates.
- They take romantic vacations.
- They are mindful about turning “toward” vs. “away,” especially during conflict.
In short, they “turn toward” one another with love and affection to connect emotionally and physically. In the Normal Bar study, only 6% of non-cuddlers had a good sex life. What is very clear from the Normal Bar study is that having a great sex life is not rocket science. It is not difficult. It takes being conscious and intentional and designing the conditions for it.
Fact: Couples have a bad sex life everywhere on the planet. Most of the time, that has to do with what they are NOT DOING to nurture their eroticism, sensuality, and emotional connection.
Here’s another very poignant example. This population, in particular, expects a Ferrari experience when they invest at the level of a used clunker!
The Sloan Center at UCLA studied thirty dual-career heterosexual couples in Los Angeles. These couples had young children. The researchers were like anthropologists — observing, tape-recording, and interviewing these couples.
They discovered that most of these young couples:
- Spend very little time together during a typical week.
- Become job-centered (him) and child-centered (her).
- Talk mostly about their huge to-do lists.
- Seem to make everything else a priority other than their relationship.
- Drift apart and lead parallel lives.
- Are unintentional about turning toward one another.
One researcher on this project told us it was his impression that these couples spent only about 35 minutes together every week in conversation, and most of their talk was about errands and tasks that they had to get done. Holy shit! And, they were all confused about why their relationships sucked so badly.
The 6 Habits of Erotically Smart Couples: The Routines & Rituals that Matter
The Smart Erotica Program© is a practical, common-sense approach that systematically coaches participants through the “7 Conversations” of the Lifestyle Inventory Check-up (LIC)©. As we bring the SDC article series to a close, we want to give you as much substance as possible. We want to empower you with real choices for “how you show up” and “what you do” in your relationship to make it extraordinary.
We leave you with what we call The 6 Habits of Erotically Smart Couples, a virtual “playbook” for what every couple should seriously consider putting into their relationship to practice the Soul Mate Standard and design a relationship that is truly extraordinary.
Habit #1: Date Night — A minimum of once a week with your partner only (no kids or friends allowed) to have face time together. Several suggested “rules” are: Keep it simple, even if it’s just coffee at Starbucks. Focus only on your feelings and your relationship — zero talk about “issues” or “to-do” lists. The goal is to connect, not achieve anything or do anything in particular, except get present to one another. We like to do a bonus “date night” once a week which is our “Erotic Night,” where we do things that fall within that bucket, ensuring this part of our relationship is not an afterthought. This is particularly important for erotic lifestyle couples to ensure their bond has primacy and sanctity. BEFORE you go into a lifestyle situation, make sure you are connecting to each other physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Habit #2: Logistics Meeting — Once a week, focus on stuff like bills, budgets, scheduled events, upcoming issues, purchases, and decisions that affect you, each other, and the family.
Habit #3: Family Time — Once a week, spend time as a couple with the children (or pets, for our animal-lover friends), enjoying parenting and having fun together as a family unit. For empty nesters, we recommend this comes in the form of volunteering together so you are contributing to something bigger than just you or your family — a huge connecting activity!
Habit #4: Hobby Time — Twice a month, we suggest that you do a shared activity that you both have an interest in (e.g., bike riding, the gym, running, cooking classes, lectures, art museums, shooting guns, ballroom dancing, reading a book, going to a play or concert, etc.). We just took up scuba diving together and are doing advanced training and planning exotic trips to explore new worlds together. Then, there’s the Harley we both love to ride and go on trips with friends for fun time together with others we care about.
Habit #5: Leisure Time — A minimum of once a week, do something with no required task or desired outcome, such as having a movie night at the house, going out to eat breakfast or lunch during the week, taking a walk, getting a massage together, sitting outside in the backyard and drinking a glass of wine, or watching TV together. Goal = relaxed, no-stress time together.
Habit #6: Couples Retreat — No less than once a quarter, spend a weekend of uninterrupted time alone together as a couple. This could be as simple as car camping or booking a local hotel for a Friday night, or as exotic as a weekend getaway to where you married. For us, this also includes investing in our relationship, so we attend relationship-focused development programs regularly to sharpen the saw of our love skills. We both feel honored and respected due to the investment of time, energy, and presence into each other and the third person in our life — our relationship.
If you have gone through the whole LIC series with us (click here for all of the LIC and Smart Erotica content), thank you for the honor of serving you. We hope you received the value we intended for you to get and are honored to make a contribution to your relationship journey.
If you want to learn more about the Smart Erotica Program© and explore in detail the “7 Conversations” of the Lifestyle Inventory Check-up (LIC)©, please reach out to us through our bio below and let us know what you are interested in and how we can best serve you together. The program delivers an emotional and mental framework for being in the “right” conversations about the “right” issues in the “right” way to successfully navigate the delicate balance between love, sex, eroticism, and sensual expression grounded in your values and a relationship model of your choosing.
Dr. Jay and Liseth
Soul-Mates for Life