When I went on Phil Donahue’s talk show in 1977, the handsome host knocked me for a loop. In the green room beforehand, he told me he wanted to talk to me about my mother (no one ever wanted to talk about my mother — just my famous father), so I immediately knew there was something … different about this guy. But that was nothing compared to what happened when the cameras lit up and we were on the air. He asked ﬂirty personal questions. I giggled and flirted back. There was a potent connection between us — an alchemy — and the women sitting in the audience knew it. They watched us fall for each other — in real time.
I believe in love. I believe that it is as important as water and the air and the food that keeps us alive. But as anyone who’s ever been in love will tell you, relationships take work. Did you see Ben Affleck’s speech when he accepted his Oscar for “Argo?” He thanked his wife, Jennifer Garner, for “working on our marriage for 10 Christmases” — and then added, “It is work, but it’s the best kind of work, and there’s no one I’d rather work with.”
Almost immediately, a torrent of Tweets blasted across the Internet, some interpreting the comment as a sign that Ben and Jennifer’s marriage was on the rocks, others calling it a refreshingly honest statement about intimate relationships. But interestingly, no one said that Ben wasn’t right. I thought it was damn romantic – a man who said out loud he cared enough about his relationship to work on it! Just makes me love Ben Affleck more.
Romance and compatibility and sex can all bring out our most extreme emotions — from exhilaration to terror, from distress to ecstasy. That’s why I believe that talking about these issues is so very important, because every couple can learn from each other.
I’ve had some of the most wonderful guests join me on Mondays With Marlo, discussing matters of the heart — some of them relationship experts, others just friends who wanted to share their own personal stories. But they all had something powerful to say about love.
Take Charge Of Your Sex Life
Don’t get into the habit of having sex just because you’re married and it’s what you “have” to do. Keep the romance alive by sending each other steamy texts about you’d like to do later in the evening or leaving each other love notes to build up sexual anticipation.
Dating In Your 40′s
Although dating later in life can be more difficult, there are benefits. You’re at an age where you know yourself and what you’re looking for. It might be harder to get started, but you’ll be more likely to end up in a healthy relationship. Having trouble taking the plunge? Try online dating.
What To Tell A New Partner
Not sure what you should be sharing with a new partner? Maintain a little mystery. You don’t need to tell someone new all the details of your past relationships upfront — it’s not deceiving to withhold sharing for a few dates.
If you and your husband are having trouble reaching orgasm at the same time, don’t despair. Beef up your foreplay to increase your arousal before intercourse — if he doesn’t last as long, it’s not as important because you’re already almost there. And remember, the fun doesn’t have to stop once he achieves climax.
Get Out Of A Rut
Are you and your partner just going through the motions? If you’re stuck in a relationship rut, incorporating something simple and new to your routine might be the answer. Introduce a new position that interests you, browse an online sex shop together for some toys or try a new lubricant to stave off boredom.
Skip The Nagging
Stop nagging your partner about doing chores or planning a vacation. Instead, ask your partner to take out the trash — and then don’t mention it again. Be OK with letting it sit there until he or she decides to take it outside. The key is making it their decision, not harassing them until it gets done.
Think Outside The Box
When you’re younger, satisfying sex is all about the intercourse. But as we get older — and wiser — we realize that great sex isn’t all about one act. Don’t forget about other forms of intimacy to achieve orgasms. Read an erotic novel together, introduce food into your bedroom play or soap each other up in the shower before getting under the covers.
Show Your Love
Show affection for a loved one by acknowledging his or her presence. Give them a kiss in the morning and another at night or give them a proper farewell hug instead of yelling “bye” from another room. And everyone loves a kind word — so if that color shirt brings out his eyes or you love your wife’s new haircut, make sure to express it.
Maintain Eye Contact When You Fight
Fighting can be part of a healthy relationship. But to avoid disagreements that get too nasty, be sure to maintain eye contact with your partner when you’re arguing. When you look at each other directly, you’re less likely to say cruel things that you can’t retract to each other.
Rekindle Romance When You’re Busy
With work, kids, after-school activities and everything else that comes with a busy schedule, it’s easy to put your love life on the backburner. That’s a mistake. Your romantic relationship with your partner isn’t less important than everything else in your planner, and you need to spend time on it to ensure it thrives. Go on a getaway, even if it’s just a day away without the kids (they’ll survive!), take a half day off from work to stay in bed or whatever else you need to do.
Don’t Rule Out Comfort Sex
Trying new things is great, but there’s a place for doing what works, too. Sticking to tried-and-true techniques lets you relax, upping the chances for satisfaction between you and your partner. Instead, expand foreplay — take your time undressing each other, incorporate dirty talk — and then get down to what you know will please you both.
Use It Or Lose It
Just because you’ve been married for a long time doesn’t mean you can’t have regular sex anymore. Spend time romancing each other — dress up and go out to a nice dinner, share a bottle of your favorite wine — and make a commitment to have sex at a certain time. Although it might seem unromantic to pencil in your partner, it will ensure that you have a set time to spend with each other with no interruptions.
Marlo Thomas: Award-winning actress, author and activist