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Health & Sex

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Happy Couples: What It Takes to Be One

Love alone won’t see you through, say the experts

Happy Couples: Addressing a Sexless Marriage

That future, according to most marriage experts, should include a healthy sex life. While sex isn't everything to happy couples, sexual problems can lead to marital discord. That men and women tend to have different ideas about sex doesn't help matters.

"Generally speaking, women tend to see sexuality as part of a larger construct. Men are exactly the opposite," says James E. Sheridan, a judge and founder of Marriages That Work, a nonprofit organization in Michigan that teaches instructional courses on how to strengthen marriages. "Women have to be in the mood. Men have to be in the room."

Many times, misunderstandings over these differences lead to a break down in a healthy sexual relationship within a marriage, even among happy couples. The result, say experts, is a sexless marriage. Patti Britton, president of the American Association for Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists, calls sexless marriages an "epidemic." She reports that many of the married clients she sees haven't had sex in 10 years.

  • Adopt a business approach to improve sex.

Seeing things from a business-like perspective helps couples reframe their sexual relationship. "I tell them, 'If this were a business, would you let it flounder like this?'" Britton says.

Presenting sex in this light makes problems, and solutions, more concrete for couples. "By likening it [marriage] to a business mode -- with shared goals and missions; responsibilities, assets, and liabilities; and frequent business meetings -- things shift," Britton tells WebMD.

  • Make honest assertions.

To salvage their sex lives, some couples need to dig deeper. "Often, sex wasn't good in the first place. A big complaint for women is that foreplay is bad or nonexistent," Britton says.

But this isn't easy for anyone to admit. "I do a lot of pushing for the truth," Britton tells WebMD. Some couples simply aren't prepared to tell, or hear, the truth. "A lot of couples fall out of it. It pushes too many buttons," she says.

Happy Couples: Learning Financial Savvy

The topic of family finances is another hot-button topic, even for happy couples.

  • Delegate the task of budget balancer.

Experts observe that most happy couples recognize that handling household finances should remain a singular task. "Only one person can work the checkbook. There can't be two CFOs," Sheridan tells WebMD.

That doesn't mean, however, that the other partner should be kept in the dark about finances. Sheridan espouses making joint financial decisions, with just one person implementing.

  • Start an emergency fund.

He also strongly urges couples to plan for financial emergencies. This helps diffuse any potential blowups, such as who will sacrifice personal spending money when urgent house repairs must be funded.

Every couple faces adversity, from slumps in their sex lives to bickering over the checkbook balance. But Markman believes that most married people can learn to become happy couples. "If both partners are motivated, they can turn things around," Markman tells WebMD.

Published February 2007.

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Reviewed on February 09, 2007

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