Carlin Ross walked into a ritzy Manhattan nightspot, dressed to
the nines. She sat down, set her handbag on the bar, and ordered a drink. The
fellow sitting two barstools away took immediate notice of her. He slid over
and said hello.
"Excuse me, do I know you?" she asked. He seemed taken
aback, and well he should have. He was, after all, Ross' longtime boyfriend.
"You're one of those investment banker types, aren't you?" she said,
By Ty Wenger
Fifteen years ago, I found myself in a romantic pickle: Cheryl, a woman I
had been dating for about three months, was nearing her 25th birthday. The
birthday gift in any three-month-old relationship is a dicey one, and I
deliberated over it for weeks. Too big too soon and it could look like I was
trying too hard. Too little and I might appear indifferent. Too romantic and
I'd run the risk of setting the bar too high.
And so it was with great enthusiasm that I finally unveiled...
It wasn't long before he realized what Ross was up to, and
began to play along. The two "strangers" kept up the act for the rest
of the evening -- and into the morning.
Ross runs the sex-positive, femme-focused web site
Cherrybomb.com. When people email or post to the site's message boards asking
for ideas to spice up their
relationships, she often suggests this game. "It was a wonderful
experience for me," she tells WebMD. "It wasn't about any sex act or
anything extreme," she says, but it was hot.
She's not the only one who recommends role playing of this sort
to couples whose long-term relationships have turned tepid.
When couples pretend to pick each other up in public, "They
get to appreciate their partner's talent and abilities on the dating
scene," says Barbara Bartlik, MD, a sex therapist and assistant professor
of psychiatry at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University.
For married people, these talents may have been hidden for
years. "They have forgotten that this guy or this woman that they're
married to is actually attractive, and could be sexy, and a turn-on, and sought
after by others. So it does work."
"Role playing is very important, and we use it all the time
sex therapy," she says.
"One of my women patients, although she loves her husband
dearly -- he's the father of her child, and they have a very good
marriage in many ways -- she finds his gentleness unappealing
sexually," Bartlik says. "She was attracted to her husband because of
his kind, considerate nature. But when it comes to the bedroom she wants him to
give her exactly the opposite of what she selected.
"She wants a brute, so we had to get him to role-play being
But if your imagination stalls when you try to dream up sexy
scenarios, or if your acting abilities are found wanting, don't despair. There
are many other ways to turn up the heat in your relationship.
Explore Erotica (or Look ... and Touch)
"Another thing to spice up a long-term relationship, which
I find is very effective, is to have people read to each other from books of
sexual fantasies," says William F. Fitzgerald, PhD, a sex therapist in San
Jose, Calif. "They will often come across a fantasy that turns them both on