Some things—a bottle of incredible Bordeaux, aged Gruyere, George Clooney—get even more enjoyable as time passes. One thing that you may not think falls into this category: sex in a long-term relationship. But that’s just not true, according to a recent poll that finds 90 percent of people believe that sex can get better over time.
The survey, conducted by Durex and YourTango, asked 1,096 people whether they think sex turns stale when you’ve been with the same partner for a while—and how they’ve kept things steamy between the sheets when they’ve been in LTRs. Turns out, almost all respondents said that long-term love and great sex can go hand-in-hand.
“This definitely goes against the grain and contradicts what we thought we knew,” says Patti Britton, PhD, cofounder of SexCoachU.com and host of the DVD The Great Sex Getaway. Of course, you can’t go into autopilot whenever you hop into bed and still expect to keep things interesting between the sheets. Use these tricks—all favorites of the survey respondents—to keep your sex life as steamy as ever:
Put your feelings first
Shocker: The secret to amazing chemistry isn’t about kinky bells and whistles. Ninety-six percent of those surveyed said the best sex they’ve had was with someone they were emotionally connected to, and 92 percent reported that it’s a turn-on when their partner shows emotional vulnerability. “Talking about how you feel, instead of what you think, taps into that vulnerable state,” says Britton. “You’ll understand each other more deeply, which makes you feel closer.” And having a strong emotional connection in turn triggers a powerful sexual bond, which boosts confidence and adventurousness in bed. To amp up the intensity during your next sex session, say something like, “I feel so close to you when you do that” mid-foreplay or during the act.
While an emotional connection may be key to satisfying sex, it still takes more than a lovey-dovey attitude to keep things thrilling. Interestingly, 57 percent of respondents said they view porn for inspiration. Skin flicks are a good introduction to moves you’ve never tried before, and watching them played out in detail makes it less daunting to attempt something similar (if less extreme) on your own, says Britton. X-Tube isn’t your thing? Try “lady porn,” which focuses on female pleasure and sensuality instead of graphic money-shots. Or you can get your 50 Shades on. Forty-eight percent of respondents turn to books as a source of erotic info. “Some research suggests that reading about a sexual act is even hotter than watching it on-screen,” says Britton. “It requires more imagination, which evokes fantasy, a major driver of desire.”
Give your go-to position a makeover
While trying out new moves can be fun, you don’t need to work your way through the Kama Sutra to stay spicy between the sheets—two-thirds of respondents reported sticking to the same two to four sex positions. “Every woman has a sexual blueprint: moves unique to her that bring her satisfaction,” says Britton. And once you figure out what works for you, it makes sense to keep going back for more. “Still, variety stimulates dopamine response, which builds lust,” she says. If missionary gets you going, mix it up—just a bit—by propping your legs on his shoulders, sliding a pillow under your butt, or bringing a toy into play. That way, you get the best of both worlds.
Quick: What’s the first word that comes to mind when you think of kale? Maybe it’s healthy or nutritious—but you should also think of kale as sexy, say chef Jennifer Iserloh and Drew Ramsey, MD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University. The hardcover version of their cookbook, Fifty Shades of Kale: 50 Fresh & Satisfying Recipes That Are Bound to Please, hit shelves earlier this week (previously, it was only available as an e-book).
“Getting people excited about healthy eating is hard,” says Iserloh, who also wrote Healthy Cheats: Natural Weight Loss Guide Plus 100 Deliciously Healthy Recipes. “Obviously (the title) is a spoof on 50 Shades of Gray, but at the heart of the book is the whole idea that you can take something that seems bland and make it really exciting and tasty.”
If you haven’t jumped on the kale bandwagon yet, get this:
“Kale has incredible nutrient density, which means not a lot of calories and a whole lot of nutrients,” says Ramsey, who’s also co-author of The Happiness Diet: A Nutritional Prescription for a Sharp Brain, Balanced Mood, and Lean, Energized Body. If you eat a small kale salad—which has about four or five cups of kale—you’ll consume about 140 calories and more than 500 percent of your daily vitamin C requirement, 3,000 percent of your daily vitamin K requirement (which is good for both brain and bone health), and 800 percent of your vitamin A requirement, says Ramsey. Kale also packs calcium, lots of fiber for gut health, and cancer-fighting phytonutrient sulforaphane.
The short of it: Kale definitely earns its superfood title—and it tastes really great to boot. Especially when you use it to make these recipes from Fifty Shades of Kale:
Beef Burger with Grilled Kale
You’ve been doing it in the car when nobody’s looking…but you don’t have to hide anymore. It’s time to come clean—and this finger-licking-good burger is so much more satisfying than those greasy drive-thru hockey pucks. Plus, grass-fed beef is leaner and lower in calories than conventional beef. It even contains a unique fat that may help prevent cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Talk about afternoon delight. Serves 4
1 pound grass-fed ground sirloin
4 teaspoons barbecue or steak sauce
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
½ cup crumbled blue cheese
4 large leaves kale
4 whole grain or whole-wheat burger buns
-Place the sirloin, sea salt, and barbecue sauce or steak sauce in a large bowl. Using your fingers, mix well and form the mixture into four patties.
-Fire up the grill or heat a large grill pan over high heat. Grill the burgers 10 to 15 minutes, flipping as needed, until they are brown on the outside but still slightly pink (but not translucent) on the inside. Top each burger with 2 tablespoons of the blue cheese. Transfer the burgers to a plate and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm. Add the kale to the grill for two to three minutes, turning often, until the kale is soft. Grill the buns halves for 30 seconds, cut side down. Remove from grill. Assemble burgers, placing grilled kale on bottom bun with the burger and top bun on top. Serve immediately.
Per Serving (1 burger topped with kale plus bun): 347 calories, 34 g protein, 28 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat (6 g saturated), 82 mg cholesterol, 4g fiber, 642 mg sodium
Cherry Kale Campari
This simple, refreshing, low-alcohol drink is the perfect aperitif. Juicy black cherries not only balance the bitterness of the Campari, but their low glycemic index may also help regulate your blood sugar level, keeping hunger at bay. Cherries also contain potassium, which can help control blood pressure. And you’ll need all the help you can get after indulging in a few of these with your paramour… Serves 2
1 ½ cups frozen pitted black cherries
½ cup packed torn kale leaves
4 ounces Campari
4 ice cubes
4 small fresh kale leaves, such as Red Russian
Place the cherries, kale, Campari, and ice cubes in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into two chilled glasses and serve immediately with the kale garnish.
Nutritional Stats Per Serving (1 cup): 213 calories, 1 g protein, 29 g carbohydrates, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber, 9 mg sodium
Chocolate Kale Fudge Pop
These rich, indulgent fudge pops get a boost of fiber, thanks to a hearty dose of kale. You might not think of fiber as sexy, but getting adequate fiber can lead to flatter abs and clearer skin. Fiber also helps to maintain the balance of healthy bacteria in your intestinal tract, which promotes immunity and can even enhance your libido. Seconds, anyone? Serves 8
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
2 cups warm water
1 cup torn kale leaves
-In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients except kale and add the warm water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for two to three minutes, stirring occasionally until the mixture is smooth and thick. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Place kale in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Stir the kale into the chocolate mixture, and divide it among eight ice pop molds and insert ice pop sticks.
-Freeze for at least four hours before serving. The pops will keep for up to three weeks in an airtight container in the freezer.
Per Serving (1 pop): 127 calories, 2 g protein, 32 g carbohydrates, 1 g fat (1 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 8 mg sodium
RECIPES: Reprinted with permission from the publisher, Harper Collins, from the book FIFTY SHADES OF KALE by Drew Ramsey, MD and Jennifer Iserloh. Copyright 2013.
Bet your HR department didn’t warn you about this occupational hazard: More than 40 percent of people say they’ve gained weight at their current job, according to a recent Harris Interactive survey commissioned by CareerBuilder. Even scarier: Out of the respondents who said they’ve added lbs, 59 percent gained more than 10 pounds, and 30 percent gained more than 20 pounds.
“There’s a major decline in physical activity from 18 to 19 years old,” says Bradley Cardinal, PhD, a professor of social psychology of physical activity at the University of Oregon, who says there can be another when you enter the workplace—particularly if you have a job that requires you to sit at a desk all day long. Plus, as you move up the ranks, you typically run around doing errands for the company less frequently, says Cardinal—so you’ll likely spend more time parked at your desk as you climb the corporate ladder.
The good news: Making little changes throughout your workday can impact the number on the scale—and more importantly, your overall health—in a big way. Cardinal’s previous research shows that short bouts of activity—as brief as two minutes each—may impact your health just as much as hitting the gym for 30 minutes a day (so long as these bouts add up to 150 minutes a week, or 30 minutes a day, five days a week).
What’s more, even people who work out can benefit from increasing their activity all day long, says Cardinal, since it can help prevent some of the scary side effects associated with sitting most of the day, like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
Ready to get moving? The easy workday swaps below are a good place to start. Each of them will help you burn more calories, reduce your bad cholesterol, increase your good cholesterol, improve cognitive functioning, and decrease your level of C-reactive proteins (which signal inflammation), says Cardinal.
-Park in a spot farther away from your office (but still a safe distance) to walk a little more before and after work.
-Take hourly activity breaks (each one should be at least two minutes long) to do squats, pace, do desk push-ups—whatever. Other options that accomplish the same thing: Try a walking or standing workstation or sit on an exercise ball rather than your regular desk chair.
-When you need to discuss something with a coworker, walk over to her desk and stand while you talk to her.
-Instead of making a drive-thru run on your lunch break, walk to a nearby restaurant to pick something up. Do you bring your lunch? Take a few minutes to walk outside mid-day.
-Make it a rule to automatically take the stairs any time you’re going less than four floors.
-If you can, take public transit. You’ll have to walk to and from the stop, even if you drive to the station. Plus, you can stand during the ride.
-When you have to meet with colleagues or industry contacts, suggest having a walking meeting or—if the person loves working out—going for a run or doing a fitness class together.
Your boss helps you navigate issues with your career and your boyfriend—amazing! But even if your supervisor is beyond friendly, you still have to put some thought into how you interact with her: When employees get personal advice from their bosses, they usually see it as part of the boss’ job—while managers view it as a favor that should be reciprocated in some way, according to a new study published in the Academy of Management Journal.
Researchers from the International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland and the University College London closely followed a recruiting agency to see how emotional helping (support for a personal problem, dilemma, or any negative emotion) worked in a typical office. They sent out virtual surveys and found that about 70 percent of the workers said they expected their managers to provide them with emotional support, both with office-related issues and personal problems. And that expectation was pretty accurate: 75 percent of lower-level employees and 71 percent of middle managers said they received support from someone above them in the company.
But here’s where it can get messy: When a lower-level employee received emotional support from a manager, they were more likely to see it as just part of the boss’ role, while the managers viewed it as totally outside of their job description. So even if your boss notices you’re upset and gives you advice about your roommate trouble, she probably considers it a voluntary favor, not part of her job. Perhaps even more importantly, the managers expected their employees to return the favor with increased loyalty and commitment to the company, while most employees didn’t feel the need to reciprocate at all.
“You’re more likely to invest time in someone where you see a reciprocal relationship,” says LinkedIn Career Expert Nicole Williams. “If you do get a manager that is even slightly engaged in your development, you want to reinforce your appreciation by really giving it back to them.”
That doesn’t mean you need to work late every night or stay with your company for 20 years. These little tricks are actually way more effective at making sure your boss feels the love:
Ask if she needs a favor
It sounds like a no-brainer, but just asking your boss “How can I help?” is one of the easiest ways to get on his or her good side, says Williams. While it’s great to be able to anticipate your boss’ needs, you run the risk of being totally off-base or failing to pick up on something when you don’t open up the lines of communication. “If you ask [this question], you’re indicating interest and you’ll get specific information with which you can act,” says Williams. Plus, your boss may feel less guilty asking you for a favor when you’ve already offered.
Don’t knock the little things
Even if you’ve long since retired from being an intern or assistant, remember the power of a simple coffee run. Many employees see favors like this to be beneath them, but if you notice that your boss is struggling and there’s no other way you can help, this unsolicited gesture can really make a difference. “Sometimes that’s all you can do,” says Williams. “You can’t write the report for her, but if you see she’s been working all night, just look to do the things that are going to support her in her role.” That can be anything from grabbing her favorite soup from the corner deli to dropping off a double espresso on her desk. “Don’t be afraid of being considerate,” says Williams.
Log some bonding time—off the clock
It may seem intimidating, but putting in some extra face time with your boss—outside of the office—can really boost your relationship with a supervisor. Williams noted that one of her colleagues had a lower-level employee ask her if it was all right to book her Monday-morning manicure at the same time and place. While this may seem too personal for some managers, this particular boss thought it showed initiative and creativity, plus it gave them a time to leisurely plan the week ahead while catching up. You can use the same tactic by asking your boss if it would be ok to attend the same networking event or yoga class together. Not sure if it’s too personal? Follow your boss’ lead, says Williams. If she occasionally spends time with other employees outside the office or if she talked to you about a particular hobby or event, feel free to ask if you can join. And make it clear that you would totally understand if they’d rather you not tag along, says Williams.
Don’t wait for an excuse
Showing your boss a little extra appreciation is crucial even before they’ve offered you emotional support, so don’t wait to repay the favor. “If you take the time to do these things, you’re going to find that your boss is more inclined to help you out,” says Williams. At least once a week, take a minute to look for ways to make your boss’ job easier—from leaving an interesting article in her inbox to clueing her in to an upcoming industry event. “Whether they’re doing you a favor or not, this is good for your career,” says Williams.
Having a child is right up there with your wedding and the honeymoon as one of the best times of your relationship…right? Right? Uh…maybe not so much. Sixty-seven percent of couples see their marital satisfaction plummet within one year post-baby, according a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology. Between lack of sleep, wacky hormones, and the stress of figuring out how to change a diaper or calm a crying kid—on top of the effort required to maintain a happy, healthy relationship, whether or not you have an infant to worry about—it’s no wonder people go through a rough spell.
Now, new research has pinpointed the top source of first-time parents’ gripes: how parents handle the different tasks related to raising a child. “For moms, their main happiness determinant is whether they’re satisfied with the division of labor of caretaking activities,” says study author Kari Adamsons, PhD, assistant professor of human development and family studies at the University of Connecticut. For dads, having a clearly defined role in child-rearing is key to marriage satisfaction. Find out which relationship issues crop up most often for new moms and pops—and how to make sure they don’t wreck your bond:
The problem: You feel like he’s not pulling his weight in child-rearing–and, by association, your relationship.
The solution: You don’t need to strive for a perfect 50-50 split of duties—many moms don’t even necessarily want that, says Adamsons. What matters is that you’re on the same page with your partner about which tasks you’ll each be handling. “Communication is key,” she says, “and you have to start talking before the baby is born.” Discuss who’s going to change the diapers at night, whether or not you’ll return to work full-time, if your hubby will take over baby duties when he gets home so you can have a break, whether you’ll use a bottle so he can do some of the feedings, who will handle things like bathing and putting the baby to bed, etc. You can always re-evaluate your roles after the little one’s born, but starting the conversation early on is smart so you know where the other person stands and you aren’t caught off guard later. And as Adamsons’ research found, fathers in particular respond well to having their duties clearly defined.
The problem: He feels picked on.
The solution: When your partner takes on baby-related jobs (yay!), resist the urge to let him know if he’s off the mark. “One reason men don’t participate more in caretaking is that women tend to micromanage,” says Carolyn Pirak, LCSW, founding director of the Bringing Baby Home program at The Gottman Institute. But when you criticize the way someone performs a task, they’re likely to stop doing it altogether. It may make you cringe to see him put the diaper on backward or use the wrong onesie, but as long as he’s not doing anything that could harm the baby, it’s better to step back and let him figure it out on his own.
The problem: Sex takes a nosedive.
The solution: One thing you should know: It’s (unfortunately) normal for your sex drive to dip after you have a baby. “It generally takes at least six weeks for your body to recover and be ready for intimacy,” says Pirak. Hormonal changes in your body can also make you averse to sex for—yikes—up to a year (it’s your body’s way of preventing you from getting pregnant again too soon). Understanding and anticipating these shifts ahead of time makes the dry spell easier to deal with. That said, physical intimacy is of course key to a healthy relationship. Beyond working out any unequal divisions of labor (which kills the mood for many women), try focusing on nonsexual but still romantic actions, says Pirak. “Does he hold your hand? Do you tell him he looks nice?” she says. Focus on those sweet things you used to do in the early stages of dating, and desire should follow.
The problem: You have zero couple time.
The solution: You don’t have to make reservations at a Michelin-starred restaurant to reap the benefits of spending time together sans infant. You can keep it casual—breakfast, a walk, a glass of wine on your patio before dinner while la bebe is sleeping, even running errands together. There are only two rules: Don’t talk about the kid (well okay, you can debrief for a couple minutes right at the beginning), and group hang-outs don’t count. This is clutch for giving you and your partner time to connect so you can stay in sync, says Pirak.
The problem: Your parenting philosophies clash, so you start to question your partner’s core values.
The solution: He rushes in the room every time the baby makes a peep; you want to let her cry it out. He thinks it’s no big deal for kids to play with iPads; you’re anti-gadgets. Parenting is full of hot-button topics, so when a disagreement comes up, have a discussion where you both voice your opinions. “Try out each person’s technique for two days, see how it goes, and then reevaluate,” suggests Pirak. When you test things out, it’s quickly becomes apparent that it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing; often you’ll realize there’s some value in the other person’s opinion and the solution will involve some sort of compromise, says Pirak.
No matter what difficulties parenthood throws at your relationship, remember to set a peaceful tone and express appreciation and admiration for your partner (like telling your man how great he is at comforting the baby or sending him a quick thank-you email for filling the gas tank). Also: Don’t forget to focus on the good stuff. “Babies are hard work, and many couples tend to dwell on the negative aspects,” says Pirak. You can be honest about your frustrations with your hubby, but how upset would you be if you let them overshadow the awesome parts of parenthood?