When I casually asked my friend Becky about secret turn-ons for women, she didn't hesitate for a second. "Doing the dishes," she responded, as her husband looked at her in disbelief. "That's hot!"
For many women, turn-ons aren't about traditional romantic gestures like getting roses or canoodling during candlelit dinners. Simple, everyday rituals like pitching in with the dishes or having coffee together at sunrise can be downright sexy. (Listen up, fellas, you don't even need to spring for a card.)
Sharon Gilchrest O'Neill, a couples therapist in Mt. Kisco, N.Y., and author of A Short Guide to a Happy Marriage, says, "When a partner can count on these kinds of little loving gestures being ongoing, it really makes for the kind of connection that's absolutely necessary to have a relationship hang on through the good and the bad and all the crazy stuff."
She adds, "Caring gestures make women feel really good. Guys don't realize how important they are for women when it comes to getting turned on in the bedroom. To connect physically, they really need that emotional and mental connection."
Unloading the Groceries
Lori Bizzoco, a writer and stay-at-home mom in Brooklyn, N.Y., says her husband not only helps out with the dishes but also with household chores and taking care of their 2-year-old daughter. But what she appreciates most is that when she comes home from the store, he will always come out to the car to help unload bags because he knows she's got a bad back.
"What makes it special," she says, "is that he never rubs any of what he does in my face or complains. He simply believes these things are what husbands are supposed to do. That to me is the biggest turn-on of all!"
Sharing A Cup of Joe
Beverly Solomon of Lampasas, Texas, has been married to artist and designer Pablo Solomon for 35 years and works side-by-side with him managing their art business.
"Of course, there are many reasons that our love has endured," she says. "But the one thing that I really love is that Pablo brings me my first cup of coffee each morning."
He rises much earlier than she does and brews coffee as he begins working on his art. When he sees her bedside light turn on, he brings her coffee over to her.
"We usually have a cup together on our veranda while watching the sun come up over our ranch," she says. "We like to give thanks and to plan our day."
Giving Her a Break
After an especially long day at work, Robin Siebold, a psychotherapist in Melbourne, Fla., says, her husband of five years knows exactly how to lift her spirits. He will surprise her by showing up at her workplace with his tow truck and loading her car onto his flatbed.
"I feel like I am always putting out fires at work, so at the end of the day, the last thing I want to do is one more thing like drive home," she says. "So when I walk out of work and he is sitting in the parking lot patiently waiting for me, it always makes me smile! And I feel appreciated."
Showering Her With Sweets
Teresa Joyce, a product designer in Austin, Texas, adores how her husband brings her home a candy bar several times a week. He doesn't have a sweet tooth, but he knows how much she craves chocolate, so on his way out of work he stops by the vending machine to pick up an Almond Joy or Hershey's bar.
"After 20 years of marriage, you're not as mushy," she says. "We don't talk much during the day. So that's how I know he's thinking about me."
Saying "I'm Sorry"
Berit Brogaard, a philosophy and psychology professor at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, is single. But what she loved most about her partner in a previous relationship was that he was quick to say, "I am sorry," when he was clearly at fault.
"A simple apology when deserved expresses a deep kind of respect for the other person," she says. "Once you are with someone who is emotionally fair and considerate, I no longer care about dishes or who does what. And, for me, it's a definite turn-on."
Patricia Klingler, a life coach in Bellevue, Wash., says she loves to look at her husband when he isn't paying attention and see the little boy in him.
"Most men still have this inner child who is curious and innocent," she says. "My heart flutters when I see the man who doesn't have to solve every problem and know every answer and is just enjoying the moment. The real turn-on is that he is completely oblivious to my stares, which makes the innocence even more attractive."
How Small Turn-Ons Add Up
All of these turn-ons -- whether they happen every day or every week -- can enrich and strengthen a relationship. It's important to cherish these connections, especially when we get caught up in the cycle of our busy daily lives.
"It's a continuing need no matter where you are in a relationship," O'Neill says. "The hope is that if you've established these kinds of behaviors all along, then you're not going to feel as though you're going to have to work on it so hard later on.
"What I've witnessed over many years is that those little behaviors, when individually considered, are certainly not earth-shattering. But over time, they create a sum that is so much greater than its parts."
But keep in mind that what's a turn-on for one woman may be a turn-off for another. "It's very personal," O'Neill says. "For me, I love it when my husband says, 'Let's take a walk together,' at the end of a long week. It's way better than bringing home flowers."