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Keep Your Head—and Your Heart

by Dr. Barb DePree MD

We’ve talked before about the fact that sex is different for women. Rosemary Basson, MB, FRCP, of the University of British Columbia, describes a couple of ways that women experience arousal differently.

First, women are more likely to respond to stimuli than to have an interest in sex sparked out of thin air.

Second, emotional intimacy matters to women. A lot. It’s usually a prerequisite for becoming sexually aroused.

I mention this now, in the weeks leading up to the holidays, for a reason. Holidays are often an emotional time to begin with: Will the kids get home? Will they spend time with me? Will the ex cooperate in scheduling events? Will my mother-in-law/grandson/nephew be polite about the gifts I’ve found?

The women I know also carry more of the burden for preparing for the holidays than their partners do—however well intentioned those partners may be! There’s decorating, cooking, baking, shopping, wrapping—all on top of a social calendar that’s more full than usual.

It’s easy for the holidays to fall short of expectations, partly because we’re so busy, partly because we’ve been encouraged (remember Norman Rockwell!) to think of holidays as idyllic family times. And, many of us harbor hopes that—somewhere—our holidays will also have some romance.

That’s why I come back to Rosemary, stimuli, and intimacy. As you’re navigating the next few weeks, carve out some time for you and your partner. Spend some time together—even in the midst of a holiday party. I’m reminded of the hints Marnia Robinson includes in Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow: From Habit to Harmony in Sexual Relationships. She calls them “attachment cues”; you can read more about them on our website, but here are some I think you can get away with even at the office party:

  • smile, with eye contact
  • touch with skin-to-skin contact (a hand, a cheek)
  • prepare your partner something to eat (or drink)
  • gaze into each other’s eyes
Give it a try, and let me know if it helps you feel more connected amidst the hustle and bustle. And if you have a way to preserve room for yourself and your partner during the holidays, please share. What makes for romantic interludes for you?


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