With all this talk about healthy and unhealthy relationships, it helps to have a guiding voice. Yellow Scene sought the advice of two sexperts to root out the core of happy and healthy relations.
In one corner we have Dr. Jenni Skyler. A sex therapist, board-certified sexologist, and director of Boulder’s Intimacy Institute, Skyler works as a dynamic duo with her husband Daniel Lebowitz—a licensed psychotherapist. Then there’s the Thorton-based sexuality educator, Shanna Katz. She’s the author of seven books including Oral Sex That’ll Blow Her Mind, and classifies herself as a “professional pervert.”
When you’re discussing healthy relationships, keep in mind there is no universal set or mark, but there are signs. Both Katz and Dr. Skyler had different takes on what those defining traits may be. “I would say the unhealthy relationships I see most involve chronic fighting,” says Dr. Skyler. “Intense fighting everyday—especially if there’s any manipulation, abuse or domestic violence involved.”
Katz, who recommends most couples schedule a check-in with an outside third party at least once a month, has a broader definition. “An unhealthy relationship is one that does not satisfy the needs you’re looking for,” remarks Katz. “Once you define what a relationship is, if it doesn’t meet those needs, then it’s unhealthy.”
So, take solace in this: there is no 100 percent, absolute healthy relationship. And there’s no sure-fire guide to building and maintaining one either—it’s a subjective bond entirely dependent on the couple. However, our experts were able to identify as few areas that do help couples in need of a little coupling advice.
First: Pencil it in.
“People hate the idea of scheduling sex,” says Katz. “But here’s the thing with sex: the more you have, the more you have.”
Actual intercourse isn’t what matters. Both experts cite scheduling intimacy as helping and healing relationships. If you’re both busy, scheduled cuddling, a massage or a shower can help you maintain the intimacy needed to get you through a rough patch.
According to Dr. Skyler, it’s more about creating the habit of intimacy. “Most adults don’t have to be told to brush their teeth,” she says. “It’s just something they do after being trained to do it. Once you have that intimacy habit, you don’t have to structure it and make it clinical or rigid. Make it fun and make the habit stick in your life.”
Second: Talk it out.
Open communication helps break down barriers that could cause problems down the line. If you have a problem, identify it and talk about it before it turns into a screaming match. Katz has been able to identify the precursors to such bouts. They can usually be spotted at the end of sentences couples use such as: “We don’t have any problems…except I hate it when…”
Third: Don’t go Hollywood.
“The mindset needs to move from performance to pleasure,” Dr. Skyler says. “It’s important to let go of certain expectations we’ve been told that sex and orgasms look like. The mind-blowing Hollywood orgasm that should be loud and, of course, happens at the same time—because it looks better—is not real. Let go of expectations of what sex should look like.”