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Health & Sex

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Not Tonight, Honey

What to say to him:

"I need a date." Doing novel things together can reboot your sexual appetite, explains Helen Fisher, Ph.D., a professor of anthropology at Rutgers University and author of Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love . "Go to the city, or even just to a different part of town for dinner," she suggests. "The excitement will drive up the dopamine in your brain and trigger your sex drive." (Don't believe it? Just try it, says Fisher.)

"I can't. I'm still angry about...."

For lots of women, "giving in" to sex while there are ongoing conflicts just feels wrong. And while refusing to be a doormat is good, it can create dangerously long sexual stalemates. "Don't allow yourself to see sex as a power struggle—intercourse or nothing—because nothing will always win," points out McCarthy.

What to say to yourself:

"This isn't over, but I can put the argument on hold for a little while." (It's like deciding you won't go to bed angry.) The message this sends to your husband is purely positive: Your relationship is bigger than this fight.

What to say to him:

"I want to set this disagreement aside for now, so we can be close." Dr. Holstein offers another scenario, one that she acknowledges is a little corny: On a piece of paper, write down a one-line summary of the conflict ("new car"; "work schedule"), then put the paper into a box or basket located somewhere other than your bedroom. What this tells your husband: "Sure, we have issues. But we're not going to let them get in the way of us."

"I know you like morning sex, but I'm really into this 7:00 a.m. yoga class"

It's easy for any couple to let schedules dictate their lives. But if you don't make time for sex, it can permanently slip off your to-do list. One solution is to make a weekly sex date—and stick to it. In the Jewish faith, for example, the Friday night Sabbath is a time when husbands and wives expect to make love, says Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of Kosher Sex . "I'm a big believer that all couples should have a Sabbath," he says. "It doesn't matter when exactly that sacred time is, but there should be a weekly commitment to retreat from everything else in the world and just focus on each other." (Many couples have sex more frequently, but this way, at least you've agreed on a minimum.)

In fact, advance scheduling—whether it's dental work, a week at the lake, or an hour in the bedroom—is sometimes the only way things happen in busy families. "Sex is as important a part of marriage as any other part, yet people make room for everything else," says Gloria Brame, Ph.D., a sex therapist in Athens, GA. "Women bake cookies for the entire block, but won't make time for a quickie."

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