Men's Health Guide to the Best Sex in the World

CHAPTER 8. BE THE SEXIEST COUPLE IN THE WORLD

Keep Your Relationship Red-Hot

According to the office of Polish statistics, about 96 percent of the population of Poland belonged to the Roman Catholic Church in 2000, and over 80 percent of them say that they attend mass regularly. Indeed, experts consider it to be one of the most religious countries outside of Latin America. “Poland is a heavily Roman Catholic country, and the Church has an enormous influence on everyday life,” says Lech, a political advisor in Poland. Certainly, that religious faith has a great deal to do with why Polish men are so faithful in their relationships—or at least say that they are. Sixty-two percent of them claim to have never cheated.


QUICKIE STATS

Percentage of men who've never cheated (i.e., had sex) with a woman besides their partner:

1.

Poland

62 percent

2.

Germany

62 percent

3.

Australia

60 percent

4.

Netherlands

59 percent

5.

United Kingdom   

57 percent

6.

United States

52 percent

 

World average

50 percent


But our own on-the-ground research tells us that, no matter where you're from, you have the best chance at happy monogamy if you're willing to do a little work. “Athletes have to train to achieve great things on the track, don't they?” asks Christine Webber, a psychotherapist and agony aunt (that's sex advice columnist to you) who writes a column on sex and relationships for Netdoctor, the UK's leading independent health Web site—together with her husband, Dr. David Delvin. “It's the same thing with having great sex in a marriage. You have to have a good think about it, and you have to put the effort in.”

Stifle your groans. The kind of work we're talking about? Having dinner without the kids. Taking a vacation alone together. And introducing some sizzling sexual innovation into the pleasure palace you call your bedroom. Nice work if you can get it!

Take My Wife—Please!

Marital sex. It's the punchline of a thousand jokes, one of the great oxymorons of all time, like “military intelligence” and “jumbo shrimp.” As the Hungarian-born Zsa Zsa Gabor so eloquently put it: “A man in love is incomplete until he marries. Then he's finished.”

A relationship is seldom the smooth-flying, first-class affair it's cracked up to be. (As Zsa Zsa surely knows—she's had nine husbands.) Too often, it's more like a long-haul flight in economy class: the exhilaration of take-off, followed by a period of comfortable cruising—until soon you begin to feel cramped in the confined space.

Too much closeness can smother a spark, and without fresh air to feed the glowing cinders, a sexual inferno can be reduced to ashes in just a short period of time. “Love is not only poetry; it also has a strong biological basis,” says Enzo Emanuele, MD, of the University of Pavia in Italy. And blood samples have revealed biochemical evidence that intense romantic love fades after just a year in a new relationship.

And while sharing the stresses of everyday life is one of the great pleasures of marriage and can bring tremendous relief to both partners, those same stresses can also be very intrusive on what happens between the two of you in the bedroom.

Not to mention the fact that marriage very often produces children, who are the original wet blankets, after you've gotten over the fun of making them in the first place. Between sleep deprivation, cracked nipples, and Caesarean scars, “children stifle marital libido. Full stop,” says Caroline Hurry, a sex columnist in South Africa. It does seem to be borne out by the research: In a 10-year study of the impact of parenthood on couples, researchers found both partners reported a negative change in their sexual relationship after the birth of a baby.

And yet, a good marriage offers real, quantifiable benefits—especially for men. “You earn more money because of it, you live longer, you're in better health all around, your chances of having an active sex life are way better, and your standard of living is higher. If your marriage is happy, you're more productive at work than if your marriage is unhappy,” says Steven L. Nock, PhD, a University of Virginia sociologist and the author of Marriage in Men's Lives. “If a guy is smart, he's going to realize he's getting a great deal, and he's going to put in a lot of effort to keep his wife happy and keep those benefits flowing.”

Bad sex isn't an automatic condition of matrimony.

So it's easy to see why fanning the embers of passion in a long-term relationship has been the subject of so very many bestsellers. As Australian-British expert Tracey Cox so memorably says in her super-hot book Superhotsex, “good sex that lasts isn't a gift, it's an achievement.” And an important one. Keeping the spice in a relationship can be a real challenge, but when the sex goes, one partner usually goes with it. Infidelity is an issue that every couple confronts in their marriage—whether as a temptation scorned or pursued.

On the other hand, bad sex isn't an automatic condition of matrimony; in fact, quite the opposite. Many married men find their sex lives richer, more exciting, and more fulfilling after walking down the aisle than before it. And this isn't just us talking: In a poll of Men's Health readers, we found that when asked what you enjoyed most about sex, you rate intimacy higher (44 percent) than eroticism (33 percent), orgasm (16 percent), or the thrill of the conquest (7 percent). Sex can really be enriched when you trust someone and know them well. In a comfortable, loving environment, you can often discard the inhibitions and boundaries that might have prevented you from fully exploring your desires. Women, especially, flourish in an atmosphere of trust.

Just ask Richard, 54, and Heather, 52, from South Africa. They have been lovers for 34 years and spouses for 30. “I grew up with the idea that sex started out with a bang and then faded to a whimper. It has been the opposite for us,” says Richard. “When we first got together, we were clueless. Somehow we managed to grope our way to mutually fulfilling sex that has grown deeper, more intimate, more erotic, and more satisfying.”

For every stand-up comedian, there's a couple who has managed to beat the odds, who has channeled the intimacy that comes with being with someone for a long time into absolutely record-setting sex. We found those happy, horny couples, and the experts who have advised them—all over the world and in our own backyards—and we made them talk. And what they told us is that there's no great sex without a great relationship, so let's start there.

The Most Important Thing: Liking Each Other

Sorry to get all cheeseball on you, but it's true: The first step to a marriage that lasts—and to having great sex for all of it, not just the first 3 years—is liking the person you're with, says British expert Phillip Hodson, author of How Perfect Is Your Mate? “The initial honeymoon phase must end—there's nothing you can do about it.” The most important factor, he says, isn't how attracted you are to one another, but how similar you are and how much you have in common. “To be happily married for a long time, you need the basis for a truly excellent friendship, or chances are that you're not going to survive.”

“Your sex life together is a reflection of the rest of your life together,” says Dr. Patricia Weerakoon, a popular Australian sexologist and the coordinator of the graduate program in sexual health at the University of Sydney. So developing—and maintaining—intimacy outside the bedroom is the first step to making sure that you've got lots of it in the bedroom.

The Guy with the Most Points Wins

In case you haven't noticed, women pay attention to all aspects of your performance in the relationship. “There is a certain balance sheet we all keep in our heads, and women attribute certain meanings to behaviors,” says Patricia Pasick, PhD, a psychologist in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who counsels couples on the fine art of negotiation.

What do women want? They want a neurotic roommate, a best friend, a charming and thoughtful date, a tender and nurturing boyfriend, and an ardent, innovative lover who provides blisteringly great sex on command. All in one guy. As the lady says, why shouldn't they have it all?

Being a better mate pays dividends. See how you stack up.

Be the World's Best Roommate

The challenge: Living with each other. Not euphemistically, either—we're talking about sharing a bathroom.

HOW YOU RATE

Not good enough: Animal house.

The bare minimum: Put the toilet seat down. Put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher.

Good boy: Put gas in the car, take out the garbage, fix the thing that leaks and the other thing that squeaks.

Bonus points: Install a new dishwasher.

What the Experts Say

Keep the door closed. Sharing a home and a bathroom is indeed intimate—and not always in a good way. Remember the “bad naked” Seinfeld episode? Seeing the woman of your dreams artfully arrayed against the pillows is good naked—but opening a pickle jar, not so much. The Kama Sutra actually recommends separate facilities for men and women and discusses bathroom etiquette. It's not an appealing subject—but neither is seeing you trim those nose hairs.

“Don't brush your teeth or pick your blemishes at the same time. Close the door when you go to the bathroom. You can know too much about someone else, and when you do, it's hard to make the transition back to passionate lovemaking,” says Robin Milhausen, PhD, assistant professor at Canada's University of Guelph and the host of Sex, Toys, and Chocolate, a no-holds-barred Canadian TV show about sex.

“I work from our home, and it's very easy to get sloppy,” says Andreas, an artist from Bern, Germany. “Before my girlfriend gets home, I take 10 minutes to put coffee cups in the sink and move newspapers, to change my T-shirt, or to jump into the shower if need be. I don't ever want her to dread coming home.”

Help out. “Tune in to what turns your spouse on,” says Hurry. “Sex toys, blue movies, and lingerie might blow your hair back, but she'd probably feel a lot more accommodating if you offered to get up early with the children so she could sleep in.” A recent study showed that Italian women have hardly any time to play hide-the-cannoli. Between work, housework, cooking, exercise, and “grooming,” they're left with just 1 hour for sex every 15 days. Not surprisingly, nearly 40 percent say they are unhappy in their marriages.


FENG SHUI FOR LOVERS

If the Kama Sutra is an advice manual for young men, then the Ananga Ranga, written about 1,000 years ago, is one to help married couples keep passion burning. The book recommends stocking the bedroom with erotic books, scented incense, and snacks and refreshments (“so useful for retaining and restoring vigor”). “In such a place, let the man, ascending the throne of love, enjoy the woman in ease and comfort, gratifying his and her every wish and every whim.”

The need to create a space for lovemaking crosses every culture. We talked to Annie Payne, a feng shui consultant and author of The Dance of Balance—Feng Shui for Body, Mind, and Spirit, about what the ancient Chinese tradition of feng shui has to say: “Whether you know it or not, your environment displays the internal states of the people who live there. I can walk into a house and know if a couple is happy, and if they're having sex or not.”

The good news is that you can change your inner states simply by changing your environment. And you don't have to throw everything out and start over; “even one thing can make a big difference.” Traditionally, the bedroom symbolizes the relationship—no surprises there. Keep reading to see how tweaking the space around you can tweak what happens between you.

Power position. Feng shui is, above all, the art of placement. And in the bedroom, that means that the bed needs to be in the “power position,” meaning that when you open your eyes, you can see the door.

Equal, equal, equal. If you have a spindly oak table on your side of the bed, with nothing on it but a clock radio, and your wife has a massive marble blanket chest, it speaks to an inequality that's going to reverberate out through the relationship, Payne says. If you have a lamp, she should have a lamp—and while they don't have to be exactly the same, they should be comparable in size, density, and intensity. If there's one chair in the room, there should be two. Getting the picture?

Unplug. That 12-year-old treadmill has no place in the bedroom. And neither does that computer. “The bedroom is a place for sex and intimacy and conversation,” Payne says. “And sleep.”

She's realistic about televisions—“you'll never get people to take the televisions out of their bedrooms in this country”—but she does suggest that they be made as unobtrusive as possible. Throw a blanket over it when it's not in use, or stow it in an armoire.

Eliminate clutter. “Clutter,” Payne says, “is drama.” Eliminate piles of clothes, books, and old magazines. Reading material is of course okay, as long as it's select and relaxing in nature—not that mountain of annual reports you've been working through.

Go shopping. New linens will also help you to make a fresh start—rearranging the room and slapping a fresh coat of paint on the walls is even better.

Smaller is better. An enormous bedroom needs a lot of sexual energy from the couple to fill it up and make it cozy, says Payne. A small bedroom is best, but if yours isn't, then separate it out into separate “spaces,” like a classic boudoir, so that there's a seating area away from the bed—for champagne and chocolate, of course.

Is that a LEGO, or are you happy to see me? In feng shui, it is believed that what surrounds you indicates what you'd like to cultivate. Now your bedroom is supposed to be the site of your romantic life, a private retreat for the two of you. So what does it say when you get a toy truck in the back as you're rolling over to try a new sexual position, or find yourself looking at a picture of your mother-in-law on vacation in Hawaii? If it's not entirely possible to keep all of the signs of your family life out of the bedroom, at least make them discreet. For instance, if your children enjoy playing in your room, keep a small basket for their toys behind or underneath a chair, where it can be kept out of sight and out of mind. Because Elmo shouldn't be the only one getting tickled in your house.


“I feel guilty because I know my husband works hard all day too,” says Dorke, a documentary filmmaker from Germany. “But the work of staying home with our sons is often so repetitive and boring that I think if I have to clean up one more sticky mess, I'm going to scream. And when he complains about not getting enough sex, I feel like putting him on a time-out with the rest of the infants.”

If her energy tank is empty, your sex life is going to stall. One of the best ways you can help to get it back on track is to pick up some of the heavy lifting. “Tiredness, especially for women, is often a barrier,” says Steve Biddulph, Australian child psychologist, father of two, and coauthor of How Love Works: How to Stay In Love as a Couple and Be True to Yourself Even with Kids. “If a man shares the child care or housework, the couple is more likely to have sex. It's hard to feel loving towards someone when you are angry with him for not pulling his weight.” Dr. Weerakoon agrees: “I tell the groups I speak to that sometimes the kitchen is the sexiest room in the house. There's nothing more arousing to a woman than a husband who has just done all the dishes.”


MAKING THE TIME FOR LOVE

You're thinking about sex—but it's 11:00 a.m., and you're listening to your colleague Stan natter on about market share. It's 6:00 p.m. and you're thinking about it again, and this time your wife's actually in the room—but so are your three kids and the dog, and it's hours before they go to bed. By the time you actually have her alone at 11:00 p.m., it's all you can do to peck her on the cheek before you fall asleep.

Sound familiar? It's a very common scenario. “Whether you like it or not, sex is in competition with other parts of your life, social and otherwise. If it's going to happen, you have to make time for it,” says Michelle Grahame, the managing director of nookii.com, a British company that sells adult games and toys.

And time, in this instance, means quality time and enough of it to have a really satisfying session, with no distractions—including fatigue. Because let's say the gods smile on you, and that aforementioned 11:00 p.m. peck turns into something a little more serious. What kind of sex are you going to have, exhausted after a day of work and domestic responsibilities—and knowing that the alarm clock is going to go off in T minus 6 hours?

Experts are unanimous: Life happens, but the relationship must come first. And in this case, that means sex. “It's very important to give your sexual relationship time, and to protect it from the stresses of workaholism and family obligations,” says British expert Phillip Hodson. Here are some thoughts for making sure it doesn't get relegated to the back burner.

Steal a moment. As Tantric experts Stephen and Lokita Carter point out, taking a moment to be together doesn't have to be a massive time commitment. “Begin your day by sharing an embrace with your beloved before getting out of bed, or make time for a special kiss after a long day away from each other. Add more and more of these rituals to your day.” A hug and a kiss—that's it. No matter how pressed for time you are, you can unearth the seconds required for these.

Feel her up. The next time you're someplace where lots of teenagers hang out, take a moment to do an anthropological field study. What's the first thing you notice? They're touching each other all the time. They find completely ludicrous reasons to make physical contact—backrubs, pushing, tickling, taking a sip of someone else's soda—and those are the unattached! The ones who are already hooked up are putting as much of the other person into their mouths as they possibly can.

You may not be able to match a 16-year-old's natural hormone levels—but all that touching is actually helping them out in that department: The more you fool around, the more you want to fool around. And keeping her at a constant low hum doesn't hurt your cause.

So get out of there before someone calls mall security and put what you've learned into practice at home. Grab a handful as she's getting the groceries out of the car. Let her see and feel how much you like her as you're getting out of the shower. (It's best when she least expects it.) And if that's all the time you have, then put it in the bank and leave it there. You'll collect later.

If the spirit moves you, do it: Let the bills go unpaid and the dishes pile up. If you have a moment for sex, go for it. “Sex is more important than your career and even your kids,” says Daniel Stein, MD, medical director of the Foundation for Intimacy in Tampa. “Your career will change, and your children will grow up and leave home, but in the end there will be the two of you.”

“They say that to survive the first year, you should sleep when the baby sleeps. My husband and I made a promise to make love when she sleeps!” says Anja, a holistic health practitioner in Germany. “It's fun—we feel like we're teenagers, sneaking around.”

Make a date. Childhood experts make much of quality time. But we need it too! And watching The Wire with a pizza between you isn't it. Getting out of the house and having a conversation with one another periodically is essential—“you need time to see each other as new,” says Ascha Vissel, a Dutch psychologist and sex therapist—and it won't happen unless you make the date, arrange for it, and keep it.

“Every time we make a date to go out, I think, ‘This is such a hassle!’ It's so expensive to get a babysitter, and all I feel like doing at the end of the week is curling up with a movie. But as soon as I'm sitting with my husband and having my first cocktail, I think, ‘Why don't we do this all the time?’” says Dorke, a documentary filmmaker from Germany.

No, you don't always feel like doing it. But you will once you're out the door. Yes, it can be expensive, but so is divorce, and if you get there, money will be the least of your problems. Think of it as an investment in your relationship. You fix the leak before you need a whole new roof, right? This is the same thing.

If you find that it keeps slipping off the schedule, put it on the calendar: The first Wednesday of every month is date night. If you still have problems, book a babysitter in advance (“We're going to need you the first Wednesday of every month”) or make 6 months’ worth of dinner reservations.

Make it special for both of you by taking a little extra effort with your plans and your appearance. “Do your best for your partner—be clean and well-groomed, like you would on a date. Wear something you know she likes,” advises Vissel. It can be a refreshing change, after a week spent in boring business suits—or a sweatshirt covered in baby puke. “If the basis of the relationship is good, and the attraction is still there, rediscovering one another can be almost like falling in love all over again,” says Vissel.

Don't squander date night. It's happened to all of us. You took the trouble to hire a babysitter and get out of the house, and still no sex! What happened? You flirted like teenagers over the appetizers, and she was hot and heavy by dessert—but by the time you got home and the makeup was off and the kids tucked in, there was no loving feeling left.

In Sex for Busy People, her brilliant guide to the art of the quickie, British expert Emily Dubberley tells you how to cut this nonsense off at the pass. Talk dirty to one another all the way home, she suggests, and make sure you know exactly what she was thinking about over the tiramisu. Right before you unlock the door, plant a really deep, passionate kiss on her—a promise of things to come very soon. Then pay the sitter as fast as you can and let the cat scratch at the door, because you're not going to let anything get in the way of your best-laid plans.

Schedule it. “Most couples don't spend any time planning for intimacy,” says Dr. Stein, “but sex is all about expectation. I call it setting the table for sex.”

“I have sex with my wife on Wednesdays. Sometimes on Tuesdays and Sundays too, but always on Wednesday,” says Alejandro from Madrid. “It was my wife's idea. We kept waiting for ‘the right moment,’ and finally she said, ‘Forget about it—let's make the right moment.’ It's not exactly spontaneous, and I thought that would ruin our sex life, but the sex is great. The only difference now is I don't have to wonder about whether it's going to happen or not.”

Netdoctor UK sex columnist Christine Webber agrees. “If you're going to wait to have glorious spontaneous sex, you may have to wait a long time! Fixing a date for it doesn't take away from the romance; if anything, it's very romantic—what's more romantic than reserving a special time to use for the two of you alone?”

And Webber reminds you that all that anticipation is on your side—no-effort foreplay. “When you were dating, you'd rush around all day thinking about your date in the evening, getting yourself into a really ideal state of readiness. This is particularly important for women, for whom anticipation is a form of foreplay.”

In fact, many couples find that there are many benefits to scheduling sex, particularly for her. “When we were dating, I would plan for 2 days. I'd work out like crazy, get my legs waxed, moisturize myself head-to-toe. Making a date to have sex means that I can do the same things, even now that we're married,” says Assia, a publishing executive in Amsterdam. That's good for you, but it's good for her too; a woman who feels comfortable about her body and presentation is a woman who's relaxed and more likely to try new things.

And for him? “Once a week isn't enough, but it's better than nothing,” says Alejandro. “And in our experience, the more sex we have, the more sex we have.”

What if you're not in the mood when Wednesday rolls around? Do it anyway. After all, both of you have to depend on the date or the whole conceit falls apart. Don't forget that desire doesn't necessarily precede arousal. It might not be the best-case scenario, but sometimes the horse has to follow the cart. “My clients often say, ‘I wasn't in the mood when we started, but once we got into it, I really enjoyed it,’” says Michele Weiner-Davis, author of The Sex-Starved Marriage. “Sometimes the hardest part of running is putting on your shoes. So just do it.”

And if one of you really doesn't feel like engaging in full-on sex, don't forget that there are lots and lots of very pleasurable and satisfying alternatives to ensure that your partner sleeps the post-orgasmic sleep of the gods.

The best part of waking up . . . Nobody gets up right when the alarm rings. Set your alarm 10 minutes early on purpose—but instead of hitting the snooze button, see if you can't bring some early morning sunshine to the person sleeping beside you. This is especially good for you; there's some evidence that your testosterone is at its highest early in the morning.


The very labor-intensive years of early childrearing don't last forever—it just feels that way. In the meantime, see what you can do to help. “Our marriage was saved by a cooking class!” says Steve, an Australian money manager. “For years we fought about chores, and then my mother signed me up for a one-night, introductory cooking class. So, now I cook dinner; I find it a really relaxing way to unwind from my day. Also, the food is better.”

Be the World's Best Date

The challenge: She's going to her office Christmas party. You're the arm candy.

HOW YOU RATE

Not good enough: Drinking too much, flirting with other women, abandoning her for long periods of time to yell at the Colts with a cluster of other husbands.

Bare minimum: Stay by her side.

Good boy: You procure drinks. You rescue her at least once from her long-talking boring colleague.

Bonus points: You sneak her off to have fantastic, illicit sex in her boss's closet. You participate in after-party gossip forensics on the car ride home.

What the Experts Say

Your number one weapon? The compliment. The way a woman feels about her body correlates with how inhibited she feels in bed. So if you want her freak flag to fly, your best bet is to compliment the areas she feels most insecure about. Every woman has her Achilles heel. That J-Lo butt may seem juicy and delicious to you, but she's spent her whole life trying to cram it into jeans meant for someone smaller. Her breasts may be perfect champagne coupes, but she's not entirely convinced that you wouldn't like her cups to overflow.

Don't save these compliments for the bedroom—in fact, make very sure that you're lavish with them precisely when there's no chance they'll pay dividends. “It's a gift to compliment her outside of the bedroom,” says Helen Fisher, PhD, research professor in the anthropology department at Rutgers University in New Jersey and author of Why We Love.

If you want her freak flag to fly, compliment the areas of her body she feels most insecure about.

Reinstate one courtesy. Surely there's some social nicety that has slipped through the cracks since the days when you were courting? Opening the car door for her, bringing her flowers, calling the morning after some off-the-charts sex to tell her how smoking she is? Time to bring back some of those oldies but goodies. Get in touch with your inner Cary Grant and see if you don't find yourself in a lip-lock you weren't expecting.


THE BENEFITS OF BEING A KISS-UP

German psychologists conducted a study in which they learned that people who kiss their spouses each morning live 5 years longer than those who don't. Kissers also have fewer car accidents and fewer sick days, and earn 20 to 30 percent more money.


Be the World's Best Boyfriend

The challenge: To be as romantic now as you were the first month you were together.

HOW YOU RATE

Not good enough: Not remembering. Anything.

Bare minimum: You remember her birthday and your wedding anniversary/the day you met at least a week in advance without any dropped hints.

Good boy: You periodically show up with flowers for no reason, a CD or DVD you know she'll like, or reservations for dinner out just because it's Wednesday.

Bonus points: Organizing a weekend away or an elaborate birthday surprise.

What the Experts Say

Spoil her. Everybody needs to feel taken care of, and some women are more romantically oriented than others. And the shortcut to a woman's devotion is the surprise. All the better if you can appeal to her caregiving instinct and turn it back on her in unexpected ways. She'll turn to mush if you treat her to an out-of-the-blue gesture that pampers her. So, produce one of the following out of your magic hat.

image Tell her that she can sleep as late as she wants to on Saturday, and tell her that you will take the kids to karate class and pick up the dry cleaning and do all the other errands that she was going to have to do.

image Agree to do all of the above while she takes advantage of the spa gift certificate in your right hand.


BATHE HER WITH PLEASURE

Bathing before sex is a ritual in many cultures, and a scented, candlelit bath is one of the most-cited romantic gestures. The heat of the water relaxes the muscles and the mind, gives the skin a rosy glow, and, of course, cleanses the body. “It's such a simple thing, but it is a small gesture that will make any woman melt,” says Alessandra, who works in real estate in Peru.

In Japan in particular, bathing is a time-honored prelude to lovemaking, says Jina Bacarr in The Japanese Art of Sex. Bacarr shows you how you can give your lover the full-on geisha experience: Fill the tub with hot water, and then add 1 to 2 quarts of sake for a sakeboro, or “sake bath.” Soaking in this mixture for 30 minutes will smooth and soften her skin. Other delightful variations Bacarr suggests include floating edible yellow chrysanthemums in a hot bath, or the petals from the roses you brought her that are now starting to fade.

“My husband will sometimes signal that he wants to make love by asking me if I want a bath,” says Ottavia, an illustrator in Milan. “He lights candles and adds oils to the water, and then lies down on our bed. I perfume and moisturize myself at my leisure—I like to have a little time to fantasize! And then we meet up again in the bedroom. It's a very sexy ritual from our courtship.”

If you do decide to join her, there's another trick to be learned from the Japanese. “Soaplands” are Japanese brothels that combine sex with the art of Japanese bathing. “The soaper covers her body with jasmine-scented soap, and then uses her slippery body to lather the man, using her body as a washcloth,” Bacarr says. “After he's clean, she often gives him a tongue bath, going over every inch of him.” You can take turns “cleaning” one another by keeping the water level low and pouring plenty of bath oil all over one another's skin.

For extra points:

image Throw in a pair of Rub-a-Dub Dice ($10)—floating foam cubes that, when “rolled,” reveal sexy commands like “sponge belly” or “kiss back.” They're available at www.mypleasure.com.

image Throw a towel in the dryer for a few minutes (spritz it with her favorite perfume before you do, or throw in a dryer sheet).

image When she gets out, all warm and relaxed and delicious smelling, slather her with moisturizer. For best results, warm it in the microwave for 10 seconds. (Test it on the inside of your elbow before applying it to her skin; your finger skin isn't as sensitive to heat.)


image Make and serve her breakfast in bed.

image Run her a bath (see “Bathe Her with Pleasure” on the opposite page).

image Surprise her with reservations at your local bistro tonight.

This is one area where it pays to be accommodating. Too many guys think hearts and flowers and say “That's not my bag.” Well, say that often enough, and soon you'll discover that sex isn't her bag anymore.

Wax nostalgic. Revisiting that bed-and-breakfast romp of 3 months ago isn't just an exercise in nostalgia. Recalling the relationship's formative moments can stir up the hormone norepinephrine, which helps the brain shine an emotional klieg light on memories. “You'll unlock her passion,” says sex therapist Laura Berman, PhD, director of the Berman Center in Chicago, “and intensify the new memories you're making, too.” In fact, see if she's up for a challenge: “Remember the time standing up in the basement? I bet we could do even better.”

The brain's internal archivist responds best to strong contextual cues—smells, environments, music, textures, even certain foods—so orient her mental rearview mirror by concocting a smorgasbord of evocative sights and sounds.

This trip down memory lane doesn't have to be sexual. Being a man, you can't recall exactly how you behaved before you'd slept with her a thousand times. She, meanwhile, has logged how intensely you gazed into her eyes, how eager you were to tear off her clothes, and all those things you said and did just to make her laugh. What did you do on your first dates? How nervous were you the first time you met her parents? What did you really think the first time you met her best friend (careful!)?

Did you call her in the middle of the day just to say hi? Did you snake a hand up her sweater the second she walked in the door? Did you talk endlessly about all the trips you wanted to take with her? Bring some of that back and you'll have a happy wife.

Be the World's Best Friend

The challenge: To satisfy her emotional needs as well as her best girlfriend. Okay—almost as well.

HOW YOU RATE

Not good enough: She's crying. You fall asleep.

Bare minimum: You stop writing e-mail and watching the game when she's talking to you.

Good boy: You listen when she talks—really listen—and ask questions.

Bonus points: You set aside 20 minutes every night just to be with her and give her your full attention, to hear about her day, and to tell her about yours.

What the Experts Say

Listen. One of the biggest trends in marriage studies of the past 30 years is videotaping couples talking and fighting—and then following up 5 years later to see who's divorced. Well, guess what? The couples who got divorced are those who ignored each other or were downright hostile. When the guy actually listened to his wife when she spoke, showed interest and affection, his marriage survived.

A recent major study of 5,010 couples found that women are happiest in their marriages when they get their husbands’ attention and feel that they are emotionally engaged. Steven L. Nock, PhD, the study's coauthor, says that successful husbands are good at “showing interest in the routines of their wives’ lives—the routine, mundane things that men normally don't talk about.”

Granted, it's not most men's style to do this. Dr. Nock wonders how many men find it perfectly natural, after several years of marriage, to sit down every day and say, “Tell me about your day.” “It is an effort,” he says, but while sympathetic, he's also adamant about its importance.

All it takes, says Michele Weiner-Davis, author of The Sex-Starved Marriage, is 15 minutes of daily check-in. It doesn't even matter what you talk about. What's important is that you're talking, touching, and expressing everyday concern and affection. “This sort of daily connection and friendship,” she says, “is the foundation for keeping sexuality alive.”

Stop the bickering. It's the little stuff that does it, like using her bath towel to wipe off your excess shaving cream. A small infraction, but add that to your fondness for stockpiling dirty plates and farting in bed, and these minor things can add up to something major.

If the bickering is getting on your nerves, Allen Elkin, stress expert at the Stress Management and Counseling Center in New York City, suggests this: In a playful way, ask your partner to make a list of the annoying things you do. Only small stuff: squeezing the toothpaste in the middle, leaving the toilet seat up. “On a scale of 1 to 10, these habits should rate about a 2 or 3,” says Elkin. Make your own list and swap. “This is one step towards eliminating the little stresses that can try a relationship,” says Elkin. Then, once you've tackled the toilet seat, you can move on to tougher stuff, like her fascination with those Lifetime movies.

Don't let disagreements fester. What happens outside the bedroom doesn't stay outside the bedroom. Unresolved arguments, tension, and disappointments walk right in and wedge themselves between you in bed. “If you're angry with your partner about something else in the relationship, unforgiving about something that has happened, or can't make sacrifices or compromise, it will carry over to what happens between you in the bedroom,” says Dr. Weerakoon.


A LITTLE DISTANCE MAKES

THE HEART GROW FONDER

Therapists agree that long-time couples with strong relationships often spend time apart doing different things. Being separate for a while creates an electrical charge between you, and creating space gives your partner a chance to miss you. So it's probably a good idea to develop and nurture friendships—his, hers, and ours. But be careful. It's arguably the ultimate relationship tug-of-war: your buddies pulling in one direction, your wife or girlfriend in the other. And, of course, if either side wins, you lose, which is why it's critical to convince the opponent with the edge—the one who'll withhold sex—to let up a little.

You need to get inside her head. “While men tend to be jealous of potential sexual rivals, women tend to be jealous of time and attention,” says Charles Hill, PhD, professor of psychology at Whittier College in California. Therefore, any plans you make to hang out with the guys need to be balanced by corresponding dates with your mate. And no, hitting Home Depot together does not count as memorable couple time. “Give her something to look forward to, since you're going to take something away,” says Stan Charnofsky, EdD, head of the marriage and family therapy program at California State University at Northridge. This means dangling the carrot of a matinee play, a museum exhibition, or a wine-tasting event. You get poker night, she gets pinot noir.


This can be especially true after children, when there seems to be even less time for couples to discuss how they feel about things. As a result, “you accumulate misunderstandings,” says Biddulph. “When you have children, you can go for 2 years passing in the corridor, living on the memory of when you used to be in love.”

“We never talked about anything because neither of us wanted to fight in front of the children,” says Laura, a British postal worker. “Finally my husband said, ‘We either run the risk of them hearing us, or we really scar them by getting a divorce!’ If we do have an argument, we simply explain to them that Mummy and Daddy don't agree about everything, but we love each other very much.”

Be the World's Best Lover

The challenge: To deliver torrid, red-hot, sultry affair-worthy sex.

HOW YOU RATE

Not good enough: You do. She doesn't. You fall asleep.

Bare minimum: You do. She does. You fall asleep.

Good boy: You do. She does twice, thanks to your magic fingers and that favorite little trick you learned in Chapter 4.

Bonus points: You do. She does, too many times to count—but at least once during the erotic massage, once during the tongue bath, once in each position, and then a couple of times with the vibrator you surprised her with.

What the Experts Say

Keep getting better. “Marriage needs time and innovation,” says Dr. Weerakoon, a popular Australian sexologist. Just because you know how to get her off shouldn't mean that's the end of the line. “If you've learned how to pleasure her, it's too easy to forget about foreplay and all the other things that keep sex fresh,” says Debbie Herbenick, PhD, the Men's Health “Bedroom Confidential” columnist.

“You can get into a pattern which exercises the law of diminishing returns. Repeating the same stimulus over and over again will eventually achieve a diminished response, and the whole thing feels dull as ditch-water,” says Phillip Hodson author of How Perfect Is Your Partner? “We all have a responsibility to our partners to bring a sense of creativity to how we conduct the relationship. The onus is on all of us to be interesting.”

And never more so than in bed. So listen up for tips and tricks that will keep the spark between the two of you as fresh and exciting as it was the day you met.

Play games. We offer to you the universal antidote to boredom, one which has been offered to children on rainy Saturday afternoons around the world since time immemorial: “Quit whining. Go play.”

“The common denominator of satisfied couples is that they're very playful,” says Ava Cadell, PhD, a Hungarian-born, British-raised expert who has traveled and taught widely throughout the world. “My definition of sex is adult play. It should be fun and recreational. You should laugh and release all those pleasure endorphins. A sense of humor is an essential ingredient in great sex because it takes pressure off performance.”

Play allows the two of you to experiment in areas you might not have felt comfortable going before. “As long as you keep the intimacy and the playfulness, you can try different things,” says Ascha Vissel, a Dutch psychologist and sex therapist.

Play will also help you to keep up with changing desires as your relationship matures. What she wanted at 20 isn't necessarily what she's going to want at 30, 40, or 50. How are you going to know what's on the new agenda? “People are constantly evolving. Play is a way for you to keep up with the person you're with and the changes they're going through,” says Julianne Balmain, San Francisco–based coauthor of The Kama Sutra Deck: 50 Ways to Love Your Lover.


GAMES SEXY PEOPLE PLAY

British expert Graham Masterton, former editor of Penthouse and Penthouse Forum and author of the Secrets of Sexual Play, gives the following three rules for sexual play:

1.     You not only allow each other to act out whatever sexual scenario you desire, but you both enthusiastically participate in it, no matter how wild or extreme it might be.

2.     No physical pain or injury is to be inflicted (unless this is part of the game, and negotiated beforehand).

3.     If you enjoyed a game, tell each other how much you liked it. If you didn't, agree to put it behind you and move on. You don't have to play a game a second time if you really don't want to.


Innovate. First, a quick lesson in sexual science. There are two common categories of sexual arousal: reflex-based and psychogenic. The former is stimulation through physical touch: Rub here to activate. Psychogenic refers to mental stimulation and other sensory stimuli—from thinking sexy thoughts to seeing a miniskirt to smelling that perfume. Most relationships start out in a psychogenic mode (everything is new!) and gradually become reflex-based. And too often boring.

“Over time, a relationship becomes like an old shoe: There's nothing beautiful or interesting about it, but you don't throw it away because it's comfortable. Often, both partners are hoping for a change, but they're not saying anything or doing anything, so that they end up living in a holding pattern, and the old shoe syndrome keeps getting worse,” says Dr. Weerakoon.

“Routine happens when our sexual intercourse takes place always during weekends, at night, or in the bedroom. This routine may affect sexual satisfaction in some couples,” warns Miguel Cuetos, a Spanish sexual therapist. Scheduled sex can be a very good thing indeed for busy couples, but it can also represent the worst of reflex-based sex, a kind of forced sexuality. The key is to add psychogenic stimuli. This is where a fantasy and some novelty can help.

“Sexually satisfied couples are sexually adventurous—the two, in fact, feed each other,” says Tracey Cox. She goes so far as to suggest that truly satisfied couples “include raunchy, risky things the average couple would gulp at and consider inappropriate.”

Before you start funking it up, make sure she's on board: “Both partners have to agree to a change,” Cuetos says. And remember that even small changes can make an enormous difference. “Novelty is good for sex, and I don't just mean novel sex. Novelty in your social life,” says Dr. Fisher. It can be as simple as skipping dinner to play miniature golf or listening to a live band instead of the car radio. Anything that makes the start of your date less predictable can change up the ending.


WHY SHE WANTED A RING SO BADLY

In a study, two-thirds of women surveyed claim they had the best sex of their lives with their husbands.


“More than anything, we try to get people to break old behavior patterns,” says Dr. Weerakoon. “It's not that he's not satisfying her in bed, but that he kisses her on the left cheek every single time when it's over that makes her want to kill him. It's not that she minds the kiss, but that she knows it's coming.”

Create a different atmosphere. One easy way to break predictability is to create a different atmosphere. “Set up a special space, a different environment. Change the lighting. Change the smell,” says Dee McDonald, the founder of the Centre for Sexual Wellbeing in London and Sussex.

Eat in. Instead of your standard takeout-and-TV evening, treat her to a bedroom picnic—complete with a blanket on the floor or spread over the bed. Open a bottle of wine (white or champagne is less of a stain hazard than red) and serve up some simple finger foods like sushi, dim sum (extra points if you can feed her with chopsticks), or even homemade English-muffin pizzas.

“Making dinner plays to a woman's heart because it's one less thing she has to deal with when she gets home,” says Carolyn Bushong, a psychotherapist and author of Bring Back the Man You Fell in Love With. And the proximity to the bed makes it unique and especially sexy.

Be the decider. If you're usually in charge, let her drive. Christine Wheeler, a British psychotherapist and sex columnist for Netdoctor UK, suggests that you tell your lady that you want her to draw up tonight's menu of love—say, half an hour of kissing, followed by an erotic story read aloud, followed by luxurious, slow sex. She can have whatever she wants, and it's your job to execute her commands to the very best of your ability.

If she usually calls the shots, let her know as soon as she walks through the door that you're going to take complete control of the evening—from choosing dinner and wine to drawing her a bath to what position you'll be having sex in. As long as you're prioritizing her pleasure, she's sure to feel relief.

Tough job.

Change one thing. “Just make something different. If you have a 10-minute sex routine, change it. Introduce some massage, maybe a nice book with some pictures, visit a woman-friendly Web site. Get a baby-sitter, book a hotel room,” says Ascha Vissel.


GETTING TO KNOW YOU (ALL OVER AGAIN)

Sensate focus is an exercise developed by the pioneering sex therapists Masters and Johnson. But this technique isn't restricted to couples having sexual problems. Pretty much every couple can gain something from it—whether for variety, to catch up with what has changed, or as a way to reconnect after a long absence, a fight, or something else. In short, it helps you to be with each other in a different way than the way you're used to. (It also means no sex for a little bit, and nothing is sexier than not being able to have the thing you most want.)

Most therapists agree on some variation of the following rules:

No sex, please! Sometimes the best way to put your sex life back on track is to take it off the table for a while. So, during these exercises, make it clear from the outset that there will be no intercourse, and (at least for the first couple of sessions) no touching of the breasts, nipples, or genitals.

When sexual arousal and orgasm aren't “the point,” then neither one of you will feel pressure to get turned on, or to turn the other person on. No performance anxiety allowed—just concentrate on what feels good! And if the action moves too fast, you can always take a step back and return to a less sexual form of touching.

Sh-h-h. Although the point of this exercise is communication, too much talking during the exercise itself can be distracting. Instead, speak only if something is actively uncomfortable or painful, and review what you liked and disliked afterward.

Stay in the moment. You may feel your mind drift away or race anxiously to think about something else, like the upsetting e-mail you just received or the parent-teacher conference next week. When it happens, gently bring your mind back from where it's gone and concentrate once again on the sensations.

Easier said than done. Concentrate, not on pleasing your partner, but on what is happening to you.

Sensate focus traditionally unfolds in three stages—this is a highly simplified version of them, and one that assumes neither of you has a serious problem with sex:

Stage One: The point of the exercise is simply to alternate gentle touching. One person gives, one receives. If you're the toucher, touch the “touchee” everywhere (except where you've agreed that you won't). Vary the types of touch you use. You may want to try using things that aren't your hands—a clean, soft paintbrush, for instance. Or a feather. Or some massage oil.

Stage Two: You progress to some sexual touching—but still no intercourse; you don't want to turn the spotlight on the genitals. Include the breasts, nipples, and sexual organs as just another part to touch and explore and enjoy.

One variation in this stage is called “hand-riding.” Without speaking, the touched person puts his or her hand on top of the toucher's hand to indicate what pace, pressure, or spot would feel best. These are suggestions, not orders.

Some couples like to end their sessions with mutual masturbation, which can be educational in its own right.

Stage Three: You can move to mutual touching now. You can also progress to intercourse. (If you're doing sensate focus to address a sexual problem, you may want to take this more slowly. For instance, genital-togenital touching without penetration.) Many therapists recommend starting with a very minimal penetration (say, 1 inch)—and then stop. Just lie together, and concentrate on the sensations—and emotions—you feel. When you begin to move—and this may be in a different session altogether—concentrate on what you want it to be like, not on what you've always done before. These may be different, and if they are, this is the time to find that out.


She cautions you not to go straight to the wildest thing you can imagine. “You don't want to go from having sex in the dark with all the lights off to the next second wearing a full rubber suit. Introduce things step by step.”

“It doesn't have to mean leather and suspension bondage,” says Dee McDonald, “just cutting someone's lacy knickers off them can give a big enough charge to make the sex great. Wear different textured underwear. Swap one another's clothes. Try lube, or feathers.”

Have sex somewhere different (see Chapter 12). Have sex in a different position (Chapter 7). Or take this as an opportunity to try out a fantasy that's been getting you hot since puberty (Chapter 13).

Talk about it. Difficult conversations require preparation. “If you were going to tell her that you'd lost your job, or had cancer, or wanted to spend a great deal of money on something, you'd think a little about how to talk about that with her. A conversation about sex deserves equal respect,” says Phillip Hodson.

Find an icebreaker. “Many couples who have been together for a long time have never, ever, ever talked with one another about sex. They need an icebreaker—something fun that breaks open the floodgates to communicating with one another about sex,” says Dr. Weerakoon. “I often recommend—even to the church groups I speak to!—that couples go to Sexpo (an Australian sex-industry trade show, featuring everything from lingerie to porn to vibrators to erotic-shaped chocolates) or an adult bookstore together. I tell them, ‘You don't have to do anything or buy anything, but it might be interesting for the two of you to know what's out there.’ It starts the conversation, and that's the important thing.”


THE PERFECT GETAWAY

Men always ask us, “Why do I have such great sex on vacation?” Sun and surf, sure, not to mention the cocktails with the little umbrellas. But the real answer? There's no dishwasher to unload in Aruba.

Life's little complications aren't just exhausting—they're distinctly unsexy. Nothing about changing the light bulb in the den, or spending hours on hold to clear up a billing dispute says, “Take me now.” And keeping your sex life on track is particularly bad during stressful life events. Sex life the first year after a new baby? Not so much. The first year after that baby goes off to college? Va-va-va-voom.

You'll also find that going on vacation might make her more sexually adventurous. “My wife had sex with me on the balcony of our hotel; there were people eating dinner just across the way. All I could think was, ‘There's no way she'd ever agree to do this at home!’” remembers Angelo, an Italian restaurant supplier.

That's why it's a very smart move, every once in a while—as difficult as it might be to squeeze into the budget, as hard as it might be to find someone to take the kids, as inconvenient as it might be to arrange time off from work—to get the hell out of Dodge.

US couples go on 155 million romantic getaways every year, but our European counterparts have considerably more to work with: While the average amount of vacation time provided by American employers is 10 days, it's significantly higher across Europe—4 weeks in Germany and Spain, 5 in Finland, a stunning 7 in France. One of the reasons that Europeans take such long vacations is because they don't believe you can really relax unless you have some time to do it. Prove them wrong by treating relaxation with the same ultra-efficiency you apply to everything else.

Leave work at home—your vacation starts on the way to the airport. Pack something relaxing to read on the plane. Before you get there, book a massage for your first morning—it's something to look forward to. And put sunscreen, bathing suits, sunglasses, and a paperback in a beach bag, and pack it so it's right at the top of your suitcase—that way, all you'll have to do is grab and go as soon as you hit the hotel. You can unpack later, after you've got a swim, a beer, and a quickie under your belt.



BE HER MYSTERY LOVER

Women are more receptive to scent than men are. So one quick change you can effect without too much difficulty is to change the way you smell. For a subtle effect, use a different soap or deodorant. To make a bolder statement, change colognes, or start wearing some.


Canadian TV host Milhausen agrees. “My hope for our show was that two people would be sitting at home watching another couple talking about sex on television, and they'd turn to each other and say, ‘What do you think about that—is that crazy or something we could try?’”

“I saw a vibrating condom in the store the other day,” adds Dr. Weerakoon. “You spend a few dollars and take that home, and you have a fun little thing to play with and an icebreaker to talk about other things.”

Get creative! One couple we spoke to uses naughty fridge poetry to convey their deepest desires.

Stay positive. Criticisms are counterproductive, no matter how you feel. They will make her feel defensive and angry. Hodson suggests saying something like: “I've never really said this before to you, but what really gets me going these days is this: [insert request here]. Of course I have been enjoying what you've been doing, it's just that if you really want me to go crazy, here's how you'd do it.”

Create a safe zone for the two of you to talk about some of your freakier fantasies by agreeing not to freak out when they're shared. “Make a pact never to judge anything your partner suggests,” Cox recommends. And remember that you won't get out of that rut by rigidly staying within your comfort zone. Figuratively speaking, get the Pope, your parents, and your exes out of the bedroom. For once, forget about performance and other people's morality. Discover your unique sexual personality. Be open-minded. When the opportunity for novelty presents itself, let yourself enjoy the surprise. Try listening to your body instead of your conscience.


QUICKIE STATS

Men's Health asked 5,000 American men to spill their guts about love, sex, women, and dating. Here's what they said about cheating:

I'd cheat on my wife or girlfriend if . . .

A.

She were cheating on me 22 percent

B.

We were fighting and not getting along 4 percent

C.

I knew I could get away with it 12 percent

D.

I could sleep with a celebrity 9 percent

E.

Never 52 percent

If I cheated on my wife or girlfriend, I'd . . .

A.

Feel fine about it and keep mum 8 percent

B.

Feel horrible, but keep mum (why hurt her?) 49 percent

C.

Feel horrible and confess. I'd need to be honest 43 percent

If my wife or girlfriend cheated on me, I'd want her to . . .

A.

Confess. I deserve to know 72 percent

B.

Keep it quiet and not let it happen again 28 percent

Your girlfriend's friend makes a pass at you. You . . .

A.

Tell her no, then tell your girlfriend 20 percent

B.

Tell her no, but remain mum 54 percent

C.

Tell her no, but keep the possibility open 22 percent

D.

Go for it 4 percent


Your Cheating Heart

Cheating happens. In fact, almost every single couple in a long-term relationship will confront temptation at least once, whether they avert their glance or chase that particular rabbit down the hole.

“It's only realistic to acknowledge that infidelity probably will be an issue, so it's essential to manage it. I'm not an apologist for infidelity, but even the most unlikely people are prone to some tremendous wobbles at certain high-stress periods—midlife, of course, is one of the big ones,” says Phillip Hodson. “The desire for attachment and family is very strong, but then so is the desire for novelty. A recent survey showed that 94 percent of Britons think that fidelity is essential, but other studies have shown that at least 60 percent of married people are at least occasionally unfaithful. So there is a tremendous disparity between what we believe, and what we want to do, and how we behave.”

Different cultures have, at different times, had a different relationship with monogamy. Some still do. In France, for instance, the so-called cinq à sept (sometimes translated as “happy hour”) is the name for the period of time you spend with your lover after work, before going home to your spouse and children.

Defenders of the practice say that it's not erosive to the marriage but supports it. In some ways, the separation between the business of running a family and the sex/love/romance part of your life makes sense. Why would you expect that you would want to keep sleeping with this person, any more than you like the same clothes you did 10 years ago, or having the same thing for dinner every night?

And yet many of us do hope for the one great love that will see us through to the end of our days. And when those expectations are shattered, the results can be devastating, to say the least. As Ascha Vissel points out, the moral considerations of infidelity are separate from what is, at its heart, a violated agreement. “If you have said that you will not do this, then you need to think very hard before you break that promise.”

Vissel suggests taking a strong attraction—something more than the garden-variety head-turning that happens because the world is filled with attractive people to whom you are not married—to someone else as a sign that something is lacking in your primary relationship. And while cheating is certainly not a good way to deliver a wake-up call to your spouse, talking about your inclination in that direction may be a last-resort jolt.


QUICKIE STATS

Women with whom men most often cheat:

1.

A stranger

13.0 percent

2.

A co-worker

12.7 percent

3.

Ex-girlfriend/wife

10.6 percent

4.

A long-time crush

9.3 percent

5.

A prostitute

7.8 percent

6.

My girlfriend's/ wife's friend

   7.1 percent

7.

Other

11.9 percent


For Phillip Hodson, the fact that so many people do cheat—even when they know it's going to cause a great deal of pain—is a measure of the need behind the act. “Nobody gets married to hurt their partners—nobody cheats to cause maximal pain to the person they love.” Neither did any of the experts we spoke to believe that an act of infidelity needs to be the end of the relationship. (If you've married someone who is serially unfaithful, you have to look at whether that's something you can live with.) “When you're confronted with it, you have to ask yourself what you want to do about it. I will say that if you can try to turn a blind eye, it will tend to go away again. And there is nothing quite so posthumous as an affair that's over,” says Hodson.


CHEAT WITH YOUR WIFE

There's no need to feel guilty about infidelity—as long as your mistress is wearing your ring on her finger. How to finesse this magic trick? Pretend to be someone else.

Here's an overview of some classic role-plays to get you started. British expert Graham Masterton suggests that the shy use different names for role play. “With a different name, you feel much less inhibited. After all, it's not actually you that's giving that spanking. . . .” And even if there's no bondage or dominance involved, it's a good idea to play with a safe word so that either of you can take a breather if you need to. If you're just starting out or shy about going whole hog, simply incorporating some of the props into ordinary sex can bring all the excitement without the commitment. Have fun!

Prostitute/John

The idea of being paid for sex seems to have a certain magic for women. Most describe the combination of empowerment and debasement to be enthralling. “The power dynamic fascinates me: He's paying, so she does what he wants. But at the same time, he's debased by having to pay for it, and she can be very generous with him, or have utter contempt,” says Luisa, a scientific researcher in France.

Obviously, there are many variations on the oldest profession. Perhaps she's a concubine recently arrived into your harem. A geisha-in-training whose virginity has been entrusted to a wealthy patron for 7 nights of initiation into the world of physical love. An international call girl who doesn't get out of bed (or in this case, into it) for less than $20,000 and a designer shopping spree in Dubai. Or maybe she's a streetwalker in thigh-high boots waiting for you under the overpass.

Props: Incense and throw pillows. Or a wad of bills so thick you can't bend it and a diamond tennis bracelet. Or a $20 bill, 40 ounces of malt liquor, and a pack of gum.

Take it further: Buy her some novelty clothes and rent a sleazy hotel room off the interstate. Tip her well.

Doctor/Nurse

Is it time for your annual physical again—already? Whether it's the smell of rubbing alcohol and the feel of cold steel instruments against your bare skin that makes you hot, or just the idea of a sponge bath administered by a very attractive, overly friendly nurse in a not-quite-regulation uniform, this is a very common fantasy, and easy to put into practice.

A nice spin on this one: the “psychologist” asks his “patient” to lie down on the couch, encouraging her to spill all of her deepest, darkest fantasies—things she's never told another living soul.

Props: Latex gloves (“I'll need you to turn your head and cough, sir.”), nurse's cap, a man's shirt put on backward to simulate one of those backless hospital gowns. Remember: Rubbing alcohol is a good way to clean toys, but don't let it touch skin.

Prison Guard/Inmate

Cavity search, anyone? There are lots of bondage and domination possibilities in Cell Block A, obviously, but just the suggestion of this kind of out-of-kilter power dynamic can be enough to drive you wild.

“The idea of sex as currency which buys privileges, this makes me crazy,” says Camille, a Frenchwoman living in New York. “Not to mention the idea of the other prisoners watching, or being ‘forced’ into doing one of my fellow prisoners while he watches.” Tell her to spread ‘em, and then frisk her from behind. Find out what she's willing to do for a pack of cigarettes.

Props: Handcuffs and a flashlight.


But even if it was a one-time thing, you may need some professional help to get over the hump. Certainly, if you both feel that the relationship is a priority and something you wish to salvage, you'll want to figure out why it happened. “You need to talk about it, obviously—a lot, and maybe even get some counseling,” says Vissel.

Ultimately, putting it behind you means putting it behind you. “Once you've made the decision to stay in the relationship, it's wise to put it in the past and make a fresh start,” says Vissel. “When you've reached the stage where you've accepted it, don't bring it up all the time. Keep it in the past and give the relationship a new chance.”


CSI: MATRIMONY

A Japanese woman who suspects her husband is cheating on her can buy a special spray called S-Check that alerts her to the presence of seminal fluid on his underwear by turning green when it comes into contact with the offending stain. Woe to the poor guy who closed his office door at lunch and spent a quiet moment alone with his favorite clown porn site.