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A New Study on Finding and
Keeping the Love of Your Life

Jane Merrill and David Knox

An Imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC
Copyright 2010 by Jane Merrill and David Knox

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Merrill, Jane.
When I fall in love again : a new study on finding and keeping the
love of your life / Jane Merrill and David Knox.
p. cm.
ISBN 978-0-313-38086-0 (hard copy : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-0-313-38087-7
1. Love. 2. Interpersonal relations. I. Knox, David. II. Title.
BF575.L8M375 2010
306.7’3–dc22 2009028807
ISBN: 978-0-313-38086-0
EISBN: 978-0-313-38087-7
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Preface v
Acknowledgments vii
Chapter 1. Sexual Regrets: Survey of 429 Respondents 1
Chapter 2. Sexual Secrets: Sixty Women Talk about Sex
and Relationships 13
Chapter 3. Recovering One’s Balance: Moving On 29
Chapter 4. Play the Game or Lose: Managing the Double
Standard 45
Chapter 5. Self-Esteem: Its Importance and How to Achieve It 63
Chapter 6. Mama: What She Didn’t Tell You about Sex and Men 69
Chapter 7. Daddy: What He Wouldn’t Tell You about Sex 83
Chapter 8. Infidelity: Relationship Poison 93
Chapter 9. Finding Your Man: He’s Looking for You Too 113
Chapter 10. Connecting: Communication Basics 131
Chapter 11. Being in the Moment: There’s No Place Else 141
Chapter 12. Sexual Makeover: The New Sexual You 147
Chapter 13. Your Wedding Night: A Night to Remember 157
Chapter 14. Keeping Sex Alive: It’s All about Your Relationship 171
Chapter 15. Sex Self-Tests: Ten of Them 185
Chapter 16. Relationship Self-Tests: Twelve of Them 197
Index 211
About the Authors 215

How a relationship ends is the most demanding of all episodes in the

romantic repertoire. From a woman’s point of view, it is that turn that
you do on figure skates. You’ve put your hope and heart, your life story
and devotion into being with a man. Then, poof, you realize it’s over or
you’re told it’s over. You can’t fall down escalators or throw yourself off
a bridge. You may be in a context where you have children or a very
demanding job where you have to keep up a serene demeanor. And
because you have the desire to live and be happy, perhaps buried in
you like a seed, you muse, ‘‘Maybe I’ll get it right with the next man.’’
Making that turn in a healthy, successful way is the focus of this book.
I (Jane—the first author), who have had a romantic life with as many
ups and downs as a seismograph, judge this turning of one’s love to a
new man most difficult. Yet, the transition may also be like a rebirth,
invigorating depending on circumstances. You may be at that stage
where you want to settle down and have a child and are thinking about
a man as the potential father of your children. Or, if your parenting
questions are at rest and you seek a loving, companionable mate, these
issues present very differently. While it may be refreshing for some
women to go to a new man (‘‘Am I ever glad I am flying free and trying
somebody new!’’), for others, it is like a death experience. Thus the turn
of the skate on the ice, although I can hear it with every fiber of my
being, has many configurations.
I’ve made more lifestyle changes than an actress changes costumes in a
repertory company—moving around nearly as much too. Raised by grand-
mothers who were latter-day Victorians, I imbibed their view of the gentle,
good nurturing woman, yet saw them left on their own from their forties.
It’s been a full circle but not a closed circle. I have thought about every move
away from the life I expected, to a very unconventional life, and am now liv-
ing with a quiet country man, gardening and cooking and walking with
him as if it were two centuries ago. Yes, I thought, maybe I know something
vi Preface

about making that turn. The experiences include being abandoned, having
an out-of-wedlock child by a man who spurned me, being tempted by val-
ues not my own, being confused by male attention and being deprived of it,
adapting, and moving forward . . .
My first husband decided he didn’t want to be married—‘‘a philo-
sophical decision,’’ he said—while I was in Europe studying, when I
wondered why his daily letters had ceased. My big immediate problem
as I got a job and survived was crying without warning on the train. I
have surely felt like a widow. I thought, ‘‘Well, I guess I don’t know
what it’s like to have suffered abuse and go on.’’ Yet twice a man beat
me up, once so badly I went to the hospital and the police insisted on
my assailant being taken to court. Prostitution? On my birthday, after
we had sex, one man left money. Someone else (wealthy no less) said
he’d like to lift my burden as a single mother. He gave me a $50,000
check on our third date, which I cut up and stuck in an anthology of po-
etry, to perplex a forebear in a century to come.
‘‘There are two types of people.’’ That is such familiar rhetoric, isn’t
it? Certainly from the angle of learning life lessons there are those who
have to make all the mistakes and those who can deduce the right pre-
cepts from watching others hit the potholes. One winter day one of my
daughters wondered how it felt to be one of the ducks still on the lake.
She jumped off the boardwalk into the icy water. I should have known
Julia would, like me, have to learn by trial and error. Yet her older
brother and sister would never have considered a caper like this.
In my coming of age, a period of feminist intensification in America,
I experimented, as we like to say, or went wild, as is the truth. Does that
mean it’s less a marvel to go to bed with my life partner? Certainly it’s
still a wonder. When I was shy and with a man of considerably more
sexual experience, I remember thinking I didn’t know how to kiss, or
what to do with my hands and feet. You may forget later but at first
you feel all thumbs in bed. This man said with warmth and kindness,
‘‘But there aren’t any experts when it comes to sex.’’
As a woman who has experienced the relationship landscape, I care
about other women who are evolving in life and love—to move from
poor choices and regret to a place in the sun. How can we execute the
skater’s turn so we don’t fall down and suffer cuts and bruises, but
skate on with improved balance toward a fulfilling happy life? I have
teamed with a sociologist who specializes in relationships (he has also
been through a divorce, so he’s learning, too), and these are the ques-
tions through surveys, interviews, and reflection that we attempt to an-
swer in this book. Join us.

All books are a collaborative effort. We are indebted to Anthony

Chiffolo (director of Praeger Publishers) for his quick response to our
proposal (submitted by agent Stan Wakefield) on sexual regret and his
encouragement to move forward. We also acknowledge Tracie Gardner
(California) and Corie Hammers (South Carolina) for assisting us in
collecting the data and express appreciation to the 429 Internet
respondents (who completed the extensive Sexual Regret question-
naire). Leia Cain-Davenport analyzed the data. Finally we are apprecia-
tive to the seventy individuals who shared their regret and relationship
stories during detailed interviews. To protect their identity we have
used false first names, no last names, and altered aspects of their demo-
graphics so that they would be recognized by no one.
Sexual Regrets: Survey of 429

To regret deeply is to live afresh.

—Henry David Thoreau
Who has not experienced some level of sexual regret? This book is a
contemporary guide for women who regret their timing of sex in previ-
ous relationships (they may have given sex too quickly) and who are
committed to making wiser sexual choices in their current or new rela-
tionship. They want to feel good about themselves and to ensure that
sex (this time) becomes part of a relationship that is going somewhere.
This chapter features new research about sexual regret, the emotions
experienced by both women and men over the course of the relation-
ship, and the various relationship issues individuals and couples strug-
gle with. Four hundred and twenty-nine university students in
California and North and South Carolina completed an anonymous
Internet questionnaire on sexual and relationship regret. Over three-
fourths (76 percent) were female; 24 percent were male. Six in ten were
‘‘emotionally involved with one person,’’ engaged, or married; 23 per-
cent were between relationships in that they were not dating or
involved with anyone; and 15 percent were casually dating different
people. Most all of the respondents were relationship experienced.


‘‘The only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes,’’ wrote Oscar
Wilde in The Picture of Dorian Gray, yet coulda and shoulda plague us
all. Most of us have some regrets and wish we had done something dif-
ferent. Sexual regret is no exception. Table 1 reflects the percentage who
reported feeling regret for engaging ‘‘too soon’’ or ‘‘too late’’ in various
behaviors in the current or last relationship.
2 When I Fall in Love Again

Table 1. Regret for Engaging in Behavior ‘‘Too Soon’’ or ‘‘Too Late’’

(N = 429)
‘‘Perfect ‘‘Did Not
Behaviors ‘‘Too Soon’’ ‘‘Too Late’’ Timing’’ Do Yet’’

Sexual Intercourse 33.3% 3.3% 48.4% 15.0%

Spent the Night 26.6% 3.7% 58.8% 11.4%
Saying ‘‘I love you’’ 26.1% 3.9% 50.8% 19.2%
Kissing 11.1% 3.1% 82.8% 3.1%

A third of the respondents regretted that sexual intercourse occurred

too soon, with women significantly more likely than men to report
regret (35 percent versus 27 percent). In a study of 15,488 individuals
reporting on their current relationships, 23 percent of the men and 11
percent of the women reported that they had had sexual intercourse
within twenty-four hours of meeting.1 Researchers Eshbaugh and Gute2
found that sexual regret regarding sexual intercourse could be predicted
if two conditions were met: (1) The intercourse occurred with someone
they had known for less than twenty-four hours, and (2) The intercourse
occurred with that person once and only once.
The message is clear and a focal point of this book. Unless one is
‘‘hooking up’’ and cares not a jot for the future of the relationship with
the partner, the best decision is to wait before integrating sex into the
relationship. By doing so, the woman maintains her self-respect (‘‘I am
not a slut’’), protects the partner’s view (‘‘She respects herself which
makes it easy for me to respect her too’’), and keeps the option alive
for the relationship to have a future (‘‘We wanted to get to know each
other . . . it wasn’t just a sex thing’’).
Sexual regret can also result from reasons other than sex ‘‘too soon.’’
Other researchers3 have found that sexual regret was associated with
being too young, being pressured to have sex, and having had too much
To give a voice to the percentages in table 1, seventy interviews (sixty
women and ten men) were conducted. A common theme of the women
who were interviewed is captured in the following comment:

When I have the chance to experience sex with someone new, my first
thought is to jump right in, ask questions later. However, my very second
thought is, ‘‘If we do this, will he think I’m slutty?’’ followed by ‘‘Is it
too early to be doing this? What if I regret it?’’ Looking back at my
dating experiences over the past several years, it seems that earlier on,
Sexual Regrets 3

I [would] let a guy talk me into doing something sexual, even though
those questions were running circles in my head. However, in the most
recent instances, I remained firm that sex wasn’t going to happen so soon
into dating someone, and I do not regret my decision. In the future, I
don’t plan on being intimate with anyone until we have gone from ‘‘going
out on dates’’ to boyfriend/girlfriend status.

What is insightful about this quote is that experience seems to bring

wisdom in how to pace the sex in one’s relationships. This woman felt
that getting talked into early sex was no longer acceptable and that her
criterion of having an established relationship status (girlfriend) was what
worked for her. Getting to this level of confidence often comes after some
heartbreak. Another woman said:

He was the wrong person and that resulted in my feeling foolish and used.
The next boyfriend too was a mistake. I had a series of brief, abortive flings
that never should have been, that were perpetuated because of sex. I wasn’t
that desirous (this came later) but I was flattered by men’s wanting me—it
embarrasses me to think how they snapped their fingers and off I went.

In addition to confirming that sexual regret occurred, our Internet sur-

vey revealed that most of the respondents were not overwrought with
regret. Only 6.2 percent of the 429 respondents reported that they had
‘‘enormous’’ regret in having intercourse in their relationships; 31 percent
had ‘‘no’’ regret. On a scale from zero (no) to 10 (enormous) regret, the av-
erage score was 4.2. For some, any regret was tempered with the knowl-
edge that one’s own needs to be touched and held were very powerful:

Sometimes, I’m willing to engage in sex just to have the physical affection.
Sometimes, I regret that afterward, and at the same time I recognize it as a
very strong need, so I don’t beat myself up for that long as it doesn’t hap-
pen very often. If it’s casual, I don’t have a set time frame or set of events
that must occur. I feel most comfortable with the decision to have sex once
he has expressed love feelings—but that certainly isn’t a guarantee things
will continue.

Others don’t have sexual regret since they feel they had reasons for
deciding what they did at the time:

The lesson I take away from all these regrets, though, is a sense of independ-
ence in romantic relationships. I can feel bad about decisions I made in my
past all day long, but guilt/regret/second-guessing etc. don’t erase the fact
that I was there and involved in making the decision in the first place. I had
4 When I Fall in Love Again

my reasons when the questionable decision was made, and those reasons
were motivated by a variety of factors that shaped who I was at the time.

The point is to not beat yourself up about the past but to learn from
it and make new decisions with new people to ensure a new outcome.


Table 2 reflects the percentage of 429 respondents who reported various
emotions across three time points in the relationship: initial interactions,
pre-sexual intercourse, and after sexual intercourse.
The percentages in table 2 reveal that the time of greatest happiness
and hope is that of the initial meeting and interaction. As the relation-
ship Progresses to pre-intercourse, there is a drop-off. There is another
drop-off after intercourse. Similarly, there is little sadness or regret in
the beginning of a relationship but, as it continues, there in an increase
in both prior to intercourse. After intercourse, over a third report sad-
ness and over a fourth report regret. Again, women are more likely than
men to report sadness (39 percent versus 27 percent) and regret (27 per-
cent versus 24 percent).
The stereotype regarding sadness is that men are immune. But the
data reveal that over a fourth of the male respondents felt sadness. They
crumbled at the knees when their love was not returned or they were
rejected. Here is a comment from a male talking about the breakup of
his marriage:

I think women should know that while men pretend to buck up, they
really are more distressed than they let on. I think the ‘‘there’s more fish
in the sea’’ mantra is a crock for men especially if the breakup is from
‘‘the one.’’ She should know that his anger is a cover for the emotional
hurt he is experiencing. Perhaps, denial of a situation and hope for a

Table 2. Emotions across Time (N = 429)

Initial After
Feelings Interactions Pre-Intercourse Intercourse Not Applicable

Happiness 73.2% 60.7% 49.9% 3.3%

Hope 66.9% 45.5% 35.3% 7.3%
Love 20.0% 48.0% 49.9% 17.0%
Sadness 5.2% 10.6% 35.1% 48.0%
Regret 3.3% 4.6% 26.6% 60.9%
Sexual Regrets 5

shared future is futile but it helps get you through the first few weeks—I
think this is true for men and women.

Of regret, one woman said:

I’ve slept with men that I wish I hadn’t slept with, but you cannot go back in
time. It’s over and don’t beat yourself up—we’re all just evolving and we’re
all just trying to find some happiness in the world. My attitude toward men
has changed, I love all kinds, and I still find myself turning my head if I see a
good-looking man, even if he’s twenty years younger than me (and I’m mar-
ried) or if he’s married or whatever. I still have dreams about Robert De Niro
and other famous leading men, and I have dreams about people I work with,
and dreams about acquaintances if I think they’re handsome . . . life is too
short to have regrets about that sort of thing.

Part of the regret comes from hanging on too long, of hoping that the
guy will change. Speaking to this issue, one respondent said:

I would have cut Edward off a lot sooner than I did; we were together for
about four and a half years on and off. I gave him way too many chances
that he didn’t deserve but I did anyway because I loved him, and he
turned out to be a real shit. He lied, was unavailable, all those red flags.
I should have listened to my instincts more, which is something I’m doing
more of now as a result. . . . If a guy is into you, he will make time, he
will call. He will show you he cares. So yeah, I wouldn’t have given him
those chances. He didn’t deserve it. . . . The words every woman needs to
hear, accept and understand: assholes never change.

Regret is not always about sex but about one’s own decisions:

Yes, I have experienced sexual regret. It made me realize that some men
are willing to engage in a sexual relationship with someone they have no
intention of being with and are in it for the immediate sexual release. At
that moment, it hurt but then I realized it was probably better because I
wouldn’t want to be in any type of relationship with anyone that would
treat me that way. The regret I have has more to do with decisions I made
that sacrificed me in a very personal way more than regret over going to
bed with a man.

Some respondents reported that their judgment was altered by their

sex drive which was a conduit for an emotional connection. On a scale
from zero (no) to 10 (a great deal), respondents were asked to identify
the degree to which they felt they had an overwhelming sex drive that
6 When I Fall in Love Again

they needed to keep in check. Almost 30 percent (29.2) selected the

number 7 or higher. While the average was 4.5, 10 percent selected 9 or
10. Of sex as a way to connect, one woman said:

In retrospect, I feel foolish about my fixations on some unworthy men . . .

hanging around because of the sexual connection that generated a feeling
of closeness or something special that really wasn’t there. But again, that’s
who I was in my twenties, flailing about for connection.

Since sex occurs in the context of a relationship, we asked the degree to
which various issues were problematic. Table 3 reflects the percentage
of 429 respondents who reported the level of difficulty they had experi-
enced with each relationship issue.

Relationships Are Not Easy

The message that leaps out from table 3 is that relationships are not
easy. Woody Allen recalls telling his psychiatrist that his uncle ‘‘thinks
he [the uncle] is a chicken.’’ The psychiatrist wonders why his kinfolk
put up with the uncle and Allen responds, ‘‘We need the eggs.’’ For all
the difficulties that may be involved in relationships, we never tire of
our involvement in them . . . we need the eggs (e.g., enjoyment of inter-
action and involvement).

Table 3. Difficult Relationship Issues (N = 429)

Somewhat Very Extremely Not
Issue Difficult Difficult Difficult Applicable

Maintaining a 47% 16% 5.7% 4.1%

Finding a Partner 40% 15% 5.7% 4.1%
Disagree on Values 39% 9% 2.6% 6.3%
Disagree on Money 43% 10% 3% 11%
Partner’s Infidelity 33% 7% 2.8% 10%
Own Infidelity 23% 5% .6% 7%
Own Marriage 24% 10% 7% 24.2%
Partner’s Marriage 23% 8% 5% 29.2%
Partner’s Interest 17% 4% 2% 8%
in Sex
Sexual Regrets 7

A little over one in five of the respondents (21 percent) reported that
‘‘maintaining a relationship’’ was ‘‘very or extremely difficult.’’ And
men found this more difficult than women (24 percent versus 20 per-
cent). Some comments from the various interviews which reflect the dif-
ficulty of relationship involvements follow:


I should have been a better communicator. When you’re feeling some-

thing, tell the person. He will better understand you. By the same token
don’t ever check that other person’s e-mail or snoop around. If you have
an insecurity issue, just bring it up . . . don’t go sneaking around.

Follow Your Heart:

When you’re hurt and realizing that you coulda-woulda-shoulda done

something differently is the perfect time to put your intention out there, to
decide what it is you truly want in a partner, friend, lover . . . and to
believe that you will have it. If you believe that things happen for a rea-
son, then you must accept that the choices you made (and are now mak-
ing) were for the best, no matter how much it might hurt. A friend told
me while I was going through my divorce that if I just listened to my
heart, no matter how much it seemed to hurt others, then I would be
doing what was going to make me more fully myself—my higher self,
and that, in the long run, everyone else would come out better for it.

Seeing Patterns:

Also that every relationship is different and so the next one will not have
whatever problem that caused this one to explode (though of course there
are patterns and this is certainly something to look at though it’s almost
impossible for someone to really see). Never mind get a grip on and stop
repeating behavior that leads to unhappiness. For instance I was getting
involved with foreign students who were not staying in the U.S. I didn’t
have to think whether it was forever because it wasn’t, but I suffered and
didn’t see it until my best friend pointed out there was a reason for getting
involved with these guys that was deeper than my international studies!

Finding a Partner Is Difficult

Finding a partner was identified by over half of the respondents as
‘‘somewhat of an issue.’’ One in five reported that finding a partner was
‘‘very or extremely difficult’’ with no differences between women and
men. The desire to avoid being alone seemed to drive people forward to
8 When I Fall in Love Again

the next relationship. Patience may be a virtue. One respondent


You’ll probably want to start dating again for fear of being alone. Time by
yourself is the only thing that will enable you to be yourself in the next
relationship. Wait a minute; date yourself for a little while longer. Treat
yourself kindly. Breaking up can take a toll on the body; be good to your-
self. Don’t go getting drunk or eating a whole lot because you’ll feel worse
in the long run.

Another talked of the difficulty of getting over a breakup:

I don’t think I’ll ever ‘‘recover’’ after breaking up with my first husband.
You just move on and evolve, and that relationship and that love, that
connection—is something you mourn like when a loved one dies. You
never ‘‘recover’’ from something like that. I still love my first husband
and always will. We’ve been divorced now for almost three years.
Recently he came to visit with our son (who lives with him in another
state) and he stayed and hung out with us for several days.

Infidelity and Commitment

The partner’s infidelity was ‘‘somewhat’’ of a problem for 34 percent of
the women versus 26 percent of the men. A similar percentage of
women and men (about one in five) reported that their own fidelity was
a problem.
The partner not wanting to make a commitment to get married was a
problem for over a third of the respondents, more men than women (39
percent versus 34 percent). Sometimes it takes courage to let go of what
has no future.

Ending a Doomed Relationship

My partner of five years decided he didn’t want to be exclusive anymore

as he felt he was not ready for a commitment but still wanted us to see
each other. After a year of it not going anywhere I broke it off. I set my
mind to it for weeks and then after a big event we were going to I broke it
off. He tried to get me to go back with him and said that he would
change, but I already knew he wasn’t going to change and I had readied
myself not to be with him anymore—the relationship with him just wasn’t
After I broke it off I felt a huge burden taken off my shoulders. I
actually thought it would have killed me to leave him, but that was not
Sexual Regrets 9

the case. When a relationship is way too stressful, it means you are work-
ing way too hard on it and by yourself. . . . You know because you are ex-
hausted from trying to make it work and make it better. If you are worn
out and have a heavy feeling like a stone in your chest on a daily basis
from thinking about the relationship being sour, it’s time to let go.

Lack of Interest in Sex

Finally, about twice as many men as women (34 percent versus 17 per-
cent) reported frustration that their partner had too little interest in sex.
Indeed another question on the Internet survey was ‘‘To what degree
would you end a relationship with a partner with whom you were
not sexually compatible?’’ Thirty-six percent selected 8 or above on the
10-point scale, with females less likely to end the relationship over sex-
ual incompatibility than males (33 percent versus 40 percent). The aver-
age number selected by all the respondents was 6.2. From the various
interviews, some comments follow.

A Great Lover?

If he is a great lover but doesn’t love you, so what? This is probably

the biggest lesson women learn from multiple partners. If he’s a
mediocre lover and is crazy about you and good to you, his performance
is irrelevant—at least to me. It depends on what your needs are.


In my experience there are lots of different types of men out there. Not ev-
ery man is compatible with every woman. You have to keep open to new
experiences and try to date less familiar types of men. A man is not going
to make you happy if you don’t know how to make yourself happy—in
all ways, including sexually.

Sex and Men

A man who loves women takes pleasure in making you feel wonderful—
and he’s the most wonderful lover. Other men want to please you but
don’t know how—or are reluctant to do certain things because a previous
girlfriend didn’t like it. Then too, there are men who are not so interested
in sex—who are put off by odor or sweat, and want the woman to do all
the work (like get him off) and he just leaves her hanging. I’ve liked or
loved men who fit each of these categories. When I think about it, sex has
been better with some than with others but it’s always been satisfying,
10 When I Fall in Love Again

regardless, because of the emotions involved and the acceptance of the

other person as is.


In response to the Internet questionnaire, ‘‘To what degree have you
lied about your number of previous sexual partners to a current roman-
tic partner?’’ Fifteen percent selected an 8 or above on the 10-point scale,
with females less likely to lie than males (14 percent versus 18 percent).
The average number selected by the respondents was 3, suggesting that
most told the truth. Some comments from those who were interviewed
about their number of sexual partners were:

• ‘‘I have nothing to hide. It is the truth, after all. Sorry if you do not
like it, it’s part of who I am.’’
• ‘‘Definitely lie about one-night stands because they make you out to
be a ho; otherwise how can you lie? A guy finds out anyway from
asking what positions/types of intercourse you like and your comfort
level with trying them. That is going to happen relatively quickly.’’
• ‘‘Well, obviously, if there’s some kind of STD involved, it’s impera-
tive. I don’t necessarily think it’s that important to let each other
know where you’ve been. . . . I mean, if you’re both adults then you
can pretty much assume that you’ve both had experiences, good and
bad. Your guy doesn’t need to know too much—it can infect his
mind (and yours if you know about him) and make him spin off into
• ‘‘On the other hand, if you feel moved to disclose, then do it. Be as
transparent as you feel the relationship can tolerate—but never lie
about it. If you’re building your relationship on lies, then you don’t
really value it anyway. In my marriage, sometimes stuff will come
up and I’ll start telling him something and I’ll ask, ‘Is this okay that
I’m telling you this?’ Sometimes he says it’s too much information,
sometimes he really wants to hear. And it’s not always about sex. A
lot of really important things happened to me with other men, and
they were just part of the story.’’
• ‘‘Men differ in terms of what they want to know. My ex-husband
forced me to write down all the names of the guys I had slept with
so he could treat them coldly. The man I am with now is private
about his sexual past so I am discreet too.’’
• ‘‘I am embarrassed about a guy I’ve been with so I haven’t told him
about that guy. He also hasn’t asked me details, but he knows I’ve
Sexual Regrets 11

been with more people than he has. He is very open and has told
me everything but he doesn’t know details about many guys in
my past.’’

As we end this chapter we are struck with the complexity of relation-

ships and the variations in how people view and respond to them. Sex-
ual regret is our focus, and we found that about a third of the
respondents reported such regret at having sexual intercourse too soon.
But about a half also reported being happy and in love after intercourse.


1. Catherine H. Mercer, Andrew J. Copas, Pam Sonnenberg, and Anne E. John-

son, ‘‘Who Has Sex with Whom? Characteristics of Heterosexual Partner-
ships Reported in a National Probability Survey and Implications for STI
Risk,’’ International Journal of Epidemiology 38 (2009): 206–17.
2. E. M. Eshbaugh and G. Gute, ‘‘Hookups and Sexual Regret among College
Women,’’ Journal of Social Psychology 148 (2008): 77–87.
3. Daniel Wight, Alison Parkes, Vicki Strange, Elizabeth Allen, Chris Bonell,
and Marion Henderson, ‘‘The Quality of Young People’s Heterosexual Rela-
tionships: A Longitudinal Analysis of Characteristics Shaping Subjective Ex-
perience,’’ Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health 40 (2008): 226–38.
Sexual Secrets: Sixty Women
Talk about Sex and Relationships

‘‘Sex,’’ said Frank Harris, ‘‘is the gateway to life.’’ So I went through the
gateway in an upper room in the Cafe Royal.
—Enid Bagnold
The first author conducted seventy interviews that included sixty
women and ten men who revealed intimate details about their sex lives,
relationships, regret, and recovery. Forty of these interviews were face
to face, with ten over the phone. Twenty respondents preferred to share
their thoughts and stories over e-mail.
The goal of these interviews was to learn how women regarded their
first sexual experience, the meaning of sex in their lives, and how they
stepped from one relationship raft on life’s rushing current to the next
without falling into deep water or onto sharp rocks. What tips might
they share to make the transit easier? And not merely a bridge but a
ladder to a better situation than before.


The ages of the female respondents ranged from twenty-five to sixty,

with the average age being in the mid-thirties. Three-quarters were
college graduates; most had advanced degrees. All the women inter-
viewed had jobs—either outside the home or part-time work like tutor-
ing, restaurant, or consulting. Their marital status was approximately
half-and-half. Of those who were not married, two-thirds were
divorced; one-third of those interviewed had never married. About a
third of the respondents had children. The interviewees were also
from multiple geographic regions of the U.S., plus some from Canada,
and represented different racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.
14 When I Fall in Love Again

While the focus of the book and interviews was sexuality experienced
by women, we included men to get a glimpse of what they were
While the 429 completed questionnaires (described in chapter 1) were
subjected to statistical analysis, the information garnered from the inter-
views was impressionistic. Quotes from these interviews are provided
in this chapter and throughout the book. An overview finding of the
various interviews is that, after a while, the answers became repetitive
as though there was a common theme of sexual regret and recovery. In
effect, these women had either not experienced sexual regret (about 10
percent) or were ‘‘happy survivors’’: they were not mired in past rela-
tionships of regret but brushed their hair and moved on. They had
found a new zest for life and recognized the importance of prioritizing
and nurturing a relationship.
The women we interviewed knew how to ride the relationship
bicycle and keep balanced and get where they wanted to be. If they had
fallen off or skidded through bad surfaces, or had flown over the han-
dlebars, they knew how to recover. These were resilient women; there
were no crybabies. On a scale of one to ten, the great majority answered
that they were generally content with their lives, and, concomitantly, in
the relationship they had with their man. Nobody was burning a candle
for a former lover, nobody had a wretched first experience of inter-
course, and, curiously, everybody said that a new partner was different
sexually rather than the same.
The women we interviewed were also very respectful of their rela-
tionships. They spoke of their situation with appreciation, sometimes
with reverence, yet taking nothing for granted about being loved and
loving. Overall, these women had gone from having a guy’s picture by
the bed and waiting for the call, or from a support system of a husband
or significant other, to the school of hard knocks. Yet they had persev-
ered and had the lilt and confidence that comes with what are known
as survival skills.
These women had a predictable date on Saturday night, and a man
in their bed who would be there in the morning. They had, to put it
bluntly, a sex life that was wrapped in an emotional relationship con-
text. They could be open and vulnerable with their partners. One
woman said, ‘‘We are so close we can talk about how wrong we are for
each other but still love each other.’’ Another said, ‘‘He was my last best
chance; I love him no less for being a compromise.’’ These women were
not all in a state of bliss, but they were very oriented to value the
Sexual Secrets 15


To be clear, when these women used the term sex they were referring to
sexual intercourse (never mind that 60 to 70 percent of young women
today who give their partner oral sex say that they have had ‘‘sex’’!).
While the venues were different, all of the first intercourse experiences
of these women were initiated by consent, at the age of mid-teens to
twenty and, with one exception, were not at present with the man who
was their first partner. Their stories provided insight into the meaning
and nature of first sex in our society for the woman. We believe if we
had interviewed ten thousand women instead of sixty we would have
heard the same thing: their first sex was a rite of passage and of devel-
opmental value but not of love or relationship significance. Typical com-
ments were: ‘‘It was time to get it over with,’’ ‘‘I was curious,’’ ‘‘I didn’t
want to make a big deal of it,’’ ‘‘My friends dared me,’’ and ‘‘I was
abroad, it was a summer love and the last day before we’d never see
each other again.’’ The women looked back at having chosen (and some
scheduled) the event themselves; the man with whom they completed
the act was often secondary. An example of first intercourse as a rite of
passage follows:

You feel as though you get a badge from your friends the first time you
have intercourse. With it comes the authority to discus sex like an adult. A
girlfriend I hung out with and got piercings with, we both lost our virginity
on the same weekend and for the same reason—to impress. It was all very
outer-directed, the opposite of intimate relations that would develop later.

Most women took away from the experience that they were sexual
beings, more than they had realized, and this was great news. From the
first and early encounters they also figured out that they were in com-
mand of their own ship and this self-responsibility was empowering.
Some reactions:

I guess I didn’t realize that someone could be so aroused by me. Women

should feel empowered. This may sound crazy, but the more you have
sex the more you want it. If you don’t have sex for a while it is harder to
get back into it.

First sex was also a benchmark of unforgettable proportions. Yet, no

one spoke of the man putting flower petals on her reclining body, or of
shedding tears of joy, or of making eternal promises. They recalled illic-
itness (in terms of one’s parents if not general morality), embarrassment
16 When I Fall in Love Again

(over using the condom or having his banished roommate returning to

the suite and having to wait outside the door until the act was done),
and sadness (‘‘Was this all there was to it?’’). Said Courtney, ‘‘It was as
exciting as having my ears pierced.’’
When women talk about sex in general, they don’t talk the way men
think they do—about penis size, who was a good lay, and how many
times they climaxed—not unless they are in a joking mood. When
women talk about sex they are talking about feelings. Love and suffer-
ing, confusion, and hope are on the table, and so are the minute dissec-
tions of the men’s supposed feelings for them.
But when women talked about first sex, the men were typically inci-
dental. They recalled using condoms, or taking the pill, or the man’s
withdrawal but the first time . . . the first time, as it were, had lost its
punch. Unless rape was involved it would be unusual for a woman to
consider first sex traumatic, and unless she was a nonstop reader of
bodice-ripping romances it would be unusual too for her to say, ‘‘He
had his way with me.’’ Today a woman is a partner in deciding the time
and place of her first sexual experience.
The interviews revealed that these women took first sex in stride. The
memories of the first time, whether joyful or dismal, were seen as a
needed initiation into modern womanhood. Instead of saying, ‘‘Had I
known then what I know now,’’ women saw their sex lives as a learning
curve that allowed for connecting, disconnecting, and reconnecting until
they reached the desired state of a harmonious couple. The bottom line
for these women is that they wanted to light the match and try out sex
and experience their power to attract. They weren’t focused on making
the guy their boyfriend forever. Some felt overdependence was bad:

Some of my friends need to be in a relationship because only then do they

feel whole. They want someone to go with them to the supermarket and
to sit in the same room with them when they read the newspaper. They
will likely look for someone very quickly. There’s nothing wrong with
being spurred by this partner need, except the person can become impa-
tient and settle.

Some see ‘‘friends with benefits’’ (sexual involvement with a non-

romantic friend) as an option:

You have a sex with a friend with no strings attached and remain friends.
This can be done. You won’t feel bad about yourself at all. I’ve done it
and it works. This approach though might not work for all women. You
have to have the right attitude or your problems will compound.
Sexual Secrets 17

Timing was deliberate. Women have their brakes on and are not
rushing to the altar after going to bed x number of times with their
boyfriends. Permanence can sound magical or like concrete depending
on the stage of the women. In the age group from twenty-five to
thirty-five, sex is viewed in the context of one’s career, education, and
the fulfillment of other dreams like moving to a new part of the coun-
try or international travel. The over-thirty-fives wanted sex with a
compatible man while the under-thirty-fives ticked off certain things
regarding personal readiness they wanted in their life before they took
sex seriously. That included first sex (intercourse) that is rather play-
ful and not oriented to being a couple, some subsequent relationship
that has a sexual component and a friendship type of interaction, and
some time for reflection on the marriage and dating scene. These sta-
tions of maturation, which begin with losing virginity, are socially
accepted and almost inevitable (as opposed to getting it right the first
The period after sexual initiation also has another meaning: it frees
women from the focus on mating. Even if women continue to have sex
they have multifaceted lives. Even though they may have some break-
ups they bounce back, largely because they are more than this one situa-
tion, more than the sexual partner to a man. The interviews
synchronized on the point that before the bases are loaded for finding a
lasting love, women have some period of reflection and experimentation
of what is in the field. Yes, these women knew about the double stand-
ard, but they did not buy into it. (More about the double standard in
chapter 4.)


Regret came in later encounters—thoughts that she ought to have been
brighter in her choice, or less hormone-driven, or more alert to seeing
the writing on the wall. Women who stayed with a man when the love
had thinned spoke of very great regret, and they consistently empha-
sized that they overstayed the relationship that was dying. What is
etched a hundred times more deeply was regret over sex with a man
who didn’t want to settle down when they did. There seemed to be a
moment with the women where sex was no longer an aspect of individ-
uation but was about merging.
While most women did not feel regret their first and early times of
having intercourse, the exception was when there was considerable
intoxication. This was a frequent admission of younger women. Being
18 When I Fall in Love Again

drunk during intercourse happened once or sometimes more; the

women showed resolve not to repeat having boozy sex.


Whether by nature or nurture, the consensus from these women is
that it is searing to disengage from a sexual partner of any duration.
There was a porn star who said that she was in love with all her
costars—for the fifteen minutes that they were going at it. Women of-
ten made the distinction between having sex and being in love, but
we spoke with very few women who could get up, shake hands, and
walk out after a tryst. It does seem that, call it sex or call it love,
when there is intercourse the heartstrings and high emotions become
So while a woman’s first sex is a rite of passage, it is also about learn-
ing that sex ignites passion. We want it to. We want when we have a
partner for the sex to be the foundation that makes us burn with love—
not just that we are cooperative as a couple! Yet because sex flares like a
flame, we cannot control it neatly. You can have lousy lovers, be
cheated on by worthless jerks, and fall deeply in love with a man who
thought what you had together was a fling—even as you were wonder-
ing if the kids would have his eye color. On a certain level the only safe
sex is where you don’t give your heart and commitment. This usually
characterizes the experimental early relationships.
Like hearing the first bars of a musical score, a woman wants more,
and when desire peaks will have intercourse with her boyfriend—it’s a
given. This lovemaking is no indication of what kinds of relationships
they will have in the future. Women are sometimes frustrated that the
man will not be more involved. One woman noted:

Men have told me they wanted to play the field and still I was disap-
pointed when they would not commit to an exclusive relationship. Men
have told me they are not willing to change and still I have gotten upset
when they would not compromise. Men have telephoned me daily but
resisted making plans to get together in person and still I believed that
they were interested in a relationship. All of these men just weren’t that
‘‘into’’ me and somehow I ignored the message.

We now look at examples of four women that represent some of the

different ages and relationship stages of those who were interviewed.
The accounts are in their words, but edited down. Identifying data have
been altered to ensure the anonymity of the respondents.
Sexual Secrets 19

Melanie is twenty-four, working at two part-time jobs as a cafe barista at
Borders and as an assistant to an attorney, and in her second year of commu-
nity college. She talked about a number of relationship and sexual issues:

I’ve lived with my boyfriend for three years. It’s my second relationship.
The first relationship lasted six months and took me six months to get
over. The sex wasn’t the problem; he just didn’t have any interest in any-
thing but TV, like government, religion, and art, and I do. Then, when he
cheated it was like my exit cue.

Between Relationships

A confusing time for me was when the one was ending and the new one
was beginning. There was time between, but for me emotionally they over-
lapped: I had mixed feelings both for my ex and for the new guy I was see-
ing. My current boyfriend and I waited about a week to have sex. It didn’t
cause any problems afterwards; I couldn’t have asked for it any other way.

Timing of Sex

I have some regret sleeping with my first real boyfriend too soon because
he didn’t respect me for it. An ongoing problem in that relationship was
that he thought I was too ‘‘easy.’’ It’s true that men are thought well of for
sex with a lot of women while women are thought of more negatively.
Even with the nicest of guys. It makes me very fired up. I don’t even
know what to really say about it. You’d think it would have evened out
for my generation but it hasn’t.

Comparing Partners

I haven’t thought of my past partner when with my present; at first it’s

very exciting and by the time the sex becomes routine the memory of
the other one has faded. But I do compare the foreplay and rhythm,
and smell, but on a primal level, not thinking of the other boyfriend
per se. I like talking during sex and my current boyfriend is not a big
talker so I am aware of that without faulting him for it.

Talking about What You Want

I’d tell another girl that it’s good to be willing to experiment in bed (you
may end up really liking it too!). You can tell a man you want something
20 When I Fall in Love Again

different about the sex, as long as you are not bitchy about your criticism.
Make it constructive criticism and work with him to improve. Ask him
how you can improve too.

Talking about the Past

With your current partner it’s not a very smart idea to bring up your sex-
ual past. It might cause some jealousy, and once you tell him that the
other guy and you made love in the shower, then what? Your current
partner will never forget it . . . and taking a shower with you—forget it.

Endings as a Common Experience

I think you need to have different experiences and variety before you settle
down. I have told anyone who had a breakup that breakups happen to
nearly everyone. There are people feeling the same exact way as she or he is.

Joan is a vivacious pharmacist, forty-six, a divorced single mother of
two young teenagers. She is also super-fit and a gym rat, outgoing and

I have to answer about my level of relationship happiness that on a scale of

one to ten I am at an eight, not because the relationship I am in is good, but
because I don’t care or want one now. I have had three serious relationships,
and sex is typically a huge part of them. After a breakup I experience the
bridge from one man to another as difficult, usually motivated by vengeance,
a need to feel like I am worth it, and I am driven by sexual needs.

Sex as Bonding

One of the most important bonding experiences I have with a man is sex. It
is a privilege and an escape. The sooner I know of the compatibility, the bet-
ter, though I am sure that one could argue that early consummation is really
a quick fix and prevents me from seeing clearly if it is being with this person,
or he could be someone else; and it’s his ability to free me sexually that is the
motivation to continue. This might also be the reason for the failures, which
have been many. However, I have fond memories about the sex!

Sex as Choice

I was a heavy drinker in my late teens/early twenties, only to get com-

pletely sober twenty years ago. Back then, I was a blackout drinker and
Sexual Secrets 21

was promiscuous due to my inability to know what was even going on,
and the unkind men who took advantage of that. I think that if anything,
it made me more comfortable with my sexuality, and my right to chose to
sleep with men. Now that I really do make the choice, I chose to use sex
as my playground/quick fix/release, and [do] not feel loose. I’m definitely
not a slut. I have chosen to sleep with many men. And when they were
not pleasing, I left them.

Emotionality of Sex

I am attracted to more than a body, for sure, so I need to at least know

him well enough to like him enough to desire him. It is not all physical. It
is a lot emotional. I think I am more in touch with my sexual needs, and
my right to have them met, than most women. But I need an emotional


I make comparisons between men often about their sexual performance.

How fit? Eh, I don’t really care that much, if I really care about him—as
I did about my last short, fat, bald husband! And beauty is as beauty
does. I see what I feel. . . . If he has good hands, great. Smell is very
important. . . . I don’t really care how long the act takes, unless he finishes,
and forgets I am not done; then it’s a problem. . . . I love talk, not really
dirty stuff, just appreciation talk.

The Career-Plus-Kids Problem

My first marriage broke up because he decided to do a second medical

residency and I couldn’t face being taken for granted. The recent breakup
happened because between us we had too many kids! I had to raise his
four as well as my two, with too much work, not enough authority, and
way too little attention from the man whose kids I was rearing! Not a
good deal! But great sex! Maybe the sex is why I stayed as long as I did.

Assertiveness in Bed

I think an established sex partner is much more exciting than a new one.
I have always been told that I was an incredible lover. Old lovers have
repeatedly expressed a desire to get back together for a night, or that they
still think about me. It has felt good. I don’t think I do anything that spe-
cial, only that I am very comfortable with my body, listen and pay atten-
tion so I know what makes them feel good, and have a healthy appetite.
22 When I Fall in Love Again

I also exercise vigorously daily so I am fit and strong. I guess I look good
too, as a consequence.
I would tell other women that you have as much of a right to satisfaction
the way you want it as he does. Do not be afraid to talk about what you
need sexually, and if he makes you feel like you shouldn’t be talking, move
on and find a new lover. Also, know what your expectations are. Are you
looking for love from this? Do you expect fidelity? As long as you are both
in the same place, it can be a mutually satisfying experience. And of course,
if it is about love, then love him and get the love that he is offering. . . . Be
comfortable with your body: you will automatically be a better lover.

Moving Forward

I would tell a friend who had a difficult breakup that there are plenty of
fish in the ocean. He obviously was not the right one. How do I know?
Because, I tell her, he is gone!

Carol is a former nurse who became a very successful software consul-
tant who travels the world; lately she has become an interior designer of
major facilities. Originally from Nova Scotia, Carol lives in Seattle.

I’m divorced. I thought I’d be bored, but every day is different. When you are
older you gain wisdom or patience and know that wherever you go in life and
whomever you love and are with is the same on one level. And everyone
needs connectedness with others, and most of us need a partner too.


I had not been keen to get married. There were four years between rela-
tionships: both men were younger (by five and seven years), and both
cheated. Bill talked me into marriage. I thought, why would a woman
want to get married, attach to a man, or change her name to her hus-
band’s name? But I was going to Europe for six weeks and we decided to
make it a honeymoon. We had a great time. I couldn’t live with his screw-
ing around but the separation was amicable.


Breakups can have very different outcomes. My first (after seven years)
was the worst: the drop in mood, the despondency, the sadness. The sec-
ond breakup (after a three-year marriage) was much easier. The ability to
Sexual Secrets 23

pick up and move on comes from wisdom, age, and understanding life as
a continuity. When the second relationship was done, ‘‘Yeah, well, that’s
done,’’ I thought. ‘‘That’s good that it’s done.’’ Yet we had been good to-
gether for a while and it wasn’t as if I had cared less for my husband than
the first [man].
Breaking up is probably more painful for someone who sees life as my
family does, as staking out your path and sticking to it no matter what. I
always felt that my life is in transition and look for opportunities as I do in
business for what is next. I always have a bit of that going on, and it’s an
exaggerated awareness of change that most people have to some degree.
I’m always in search for what I should or want to do, so there isn’t a place
in my heart for the deep kind of regret I see some women experience.


After the divorce, I didn’t go out with a man for a while. I felt somewhat
lonely but I would read personals for entertainment and think that I
didn’t need more complications. Then four years later I met the man I’ve
been involved with for many years (Hank also is ten years younger) on
the ferry. He offered me his newspaper when he finished it. He talked
about having coffee sometime. I was leaving to work in Europe for two
months but he remembered and called me.


I think I may miss the deepest romantic feelings, but I’m glad. I am not
twisted up about the man I’m with and wasn’t about the other two. It’s like
how I ski. I like the physical challenge. I try what scares me and go fast
and furious. In my relationship I needed someone to trust and who didn’t
feel intimidated. The other relationships I recognize as the bunny slopes!


I’ve been attracted to people—a colleague I really liked from another

country—but I’m not into that: an affair is more trouble than it’s worth,
even before how inconsiderate it is to your partner! Some men don’t know
how to be friends if it’s not sexual, and I look for men who can be friends
and can be working friends.


I know the hurdle for a man who cares for me relates to my being very
strong. Men are attracted to my self-determination, independence, and
accomplishments. A man involved with me also may feel intimidated
24 When I Fall in Love Again

sometimes, and I think that’s because they don’t get to have their own
way: they are socialized to be the boss, where I’m the oldest of seven and
used to being the boss. I’m inclined to ‘‘my way or the highway.’’ I tell
Hank, ‘‘You’re the last one out of bed. Make it or don’t get back in it.’’ Or
I see dishes in the sink and say, ‘‘That’s divorce territory even if we aren’t
married.’’ I have my principles and don’t be disrespectful if you’re living
with me. Get over it. If I feel things are unfair and I feel overburdened,
what am I getting and how much fun will I be?

Terry was a twenty-one-year-old business major at Trenton State Col-
lege in New Jersey at the time of the interview. She is an in-charge
young woman.

I have been in my current relationship for almost two years, which is the
longest relationship I’ve been in. However, I have been involved with
other men since I was sixteen, but none of these were serious.


It’s hard to be in my situation because I have found an amazing guy that

treats me so beautifully, but he tends to be a little lazy. I plan on working
hard and making a lot of money; he has no job now and plans on working
with plants. But I love him very much, and even though I may date differ-
ent people, I will probably go back to Daniel because I feel that we are
meant for each other (and he feels the same).


I honestly think that I was able to get over my previous boyfriends

because I realized how nice it was to be by myself. I liked the feeling of
doing what I wanted, when I wanted, and I really enjoyed not telling
someone where I was and what I was doing. Boys tend to get too close to
me and I don’t really like it; I really like my freedom.
Some of my friends have just gotten out of a relationship and find it so
hard, and I try to tell them that it’s a really good thing to live your life for
yourself because always having someone in your life can prevent you
from growing.


Sex is definitely something that is very exciting in the beginning. I enjoy

sex, but it’s not always something I want to engage in. With Daniel I have
Sexual Secrets 25

found excuses to not have sex because if I felt fat or unattractive that day,
the last thing I would want to do is have sex. I am extremely self-
conscious and Daniel doesn’t understand that, which causes arguments.
He is much more sexually driven than I am, but I have learned to accept
our differences. However, we still have sex numerous times a week,
which proves to be a good sign in my eyes.

Being Alone

I am an Aries, and one of the characteristics of an Aries is that they are

very independent. I love being alone because I work so hard, and want so
badly to succeed in school, and I feel as though I have no time for my
boyfriend. However, I will slack off with my schoolwork so I have time
with Daniel.


I have had sex with someone too early and I felt like a total slut, but I
ended up being with that person for a long time. I really think that people
should wait to have sex until they get to know someone. As an adult I
don’t think I would give myself to someone without knowing him, just
because I respect myself. I don’t think there is a certain time that is right
for people to have intercourse. Personally I would wait as long as I could,
probably a month if there is an ideal time.
There is one person that I regret sleeping with (I was drunk), but I try
not to think about it because it is embarrassing. However, I try not to
regret anything in my life, because everything is a learning experience
and I have definitely learned my lesson.

Getting Over a Breakup

My past relationships have taken me about a week to get over. That’s short,
isn’t it? . . . I thought I was heartless but I realized that it is because I have
such low self-esteem, I dated men I wasn’t really attracted to. It was easy to
get over them because I wasn’t in love with them. I can’t imagine breaking
up with my current boyfriend, I will always be in love with him, and I could
say he is the one and he feels the same. Getting over him would probably be
impossible, but I haven’t had to deal with that so I wouldn’t know!

Thoughts during Sex

I have thought about my current boyfriend when I had sex with other
people. However, I haven’t thought about other people with my current
26 When I Fall in Love Again

boyfriend. In my last relationship I thought about other people like five

times, and I was with him for a year. It’s something I’m not proud of, but
it happened.

My Kind of Man

The ways I do compare Daniel is I notice how long he lasts, and the size of
his penis. I have been with all types of guys and I definitely think that size
matters. I like a man that is fit and can pick me up. I am really short and I
am most attracted to taller guys that can take control of me. I also like my
boyfriend’s characteristics because he has blonde hair and blue eyes, and is
very handsome. He is romantic, and I value that in a guy, and I haven’t
been with a man that was the strong silent type, but he is just so amazing.
He loves to give me massages, which is so nice, and he touches me all the
time, for example is will put his hand on my leg or around me, he will
touch my hair or hold my hand. I love that he is affectionate because some
men really aren’t touchy in public. He knows just what I like and remem-
bers what I don’t like, and I don’t remember any other guy that was mature
enough to do that. Most of the men I have been with were very immature,
which makes me even more grateful for my boyfriend.

Advice to Women

Thinking about sex I would tell a woman who was just becoming sexually
active not to be self-conscious, because men are in a daze when they are
having sex, and aren’t bothered by things you would think they would be
bothered by. And be yourself, and don’t hold back because you will go
I’ve been with boring men that really didn’t know what they were
doing; my boyfriend now has some to learn but is the best man I’ve been
with. I don’t think that sex is the same with each man, because when
you’re in love, lovemaking is beautiful.

The Ex

I entered my relationship with my current boyfriend, and he wasn’t

totally over his ex-girlfriend, and that really caused issues between us. It’s
good to be clear on an ex’s position in one’s life, just because it can hurt
your significant other in the long run.

The Past

It’s good to be open about your sexual past, but I believe you should be
selective. I am embarrassed about a guy I’ve been with, so I haven’t told
Sexual Secrets 27

him about that guy. He also hasn’t asked me details, but he knows I’ve
been with more people than he has. He is very open and has told me
everything but he doesn’t know details about my many guys.

All the women interviewed had learned about what it takes to have a
lasting relationship, and how to flourish as a person and not give up
their individuality to do it. Instead of having sex from curiosity, for vali-
dation of their attractiveness, or with delusions about the other person,
they are in a sexual relationship that brings pleasure, support, and mu-
tual trust. This maturity for most of us seems to come from having a
series of relationships and we learn a little from each one.
Recovering One’s Balance:
Moving On

The art of love is largely the art of persistence.

—Albert Ellis
Samantha, the smoldering aggressive blonde from the Sex and the City
hit TV series and movies, emptied the third drawer of her big chest of
drawers, Joss’s, where he had put his stuff for the nights he stayed over.
She put away his photos. That was the day after he told her he loved
her but needed to be free. To move on, she painted her bathroom white
(despite the fact the apartment building would probably charge her
when she moved out for making a change in the yellowing white), took
a yard-high bubble bath, and admired her work. ‘‘Progress,’’ she
thought, ‘‘I’m literally getting Joss out of my hair.’’
But the next day, scouring for signs of him, she found in the front
closet the leather jacket he had been missing, scrunched into the dark
corner. Should she call and tell him? Take it over? If she told him to
pick it up, would he think she was trying to hang onto him, or pull him
into bed? Or should she donate it to Salvation Army?
Martha, twenty-seven, who moved to Baltimore from eastern Mary-
land after college, tells a similar story:

I was a goner from when I met him. We met at the hospital. I’m a nurse
and he was studying to be a PA. Aaron is tall dark and handsome, and
gregarious. Everyone liked him and I was flattered he was interested in
me. He didn’t fool me about it being a short-term affair; in fact after he
finished his studies he left to work in the Marshall Islands; he loves
adventure. I thought it would be easy to move on, but I felt him with ev-
ery breath for a long, long time. Whatever I did to forget him was like
rearranging furniture, and thoughts of him would turn up in another
place. I was so preoccupied with him.
30 When I Fall in Love Again

Getting over a relationship that has ended tends to be stupefying and

slow. In a study of forty-seven females (average age thirty-five) who
had been separated for seven months, almost three-quarters (72.2 per-
cent) reported that they were ‘‘still healing’’ (45.5 percent), felt ‘‘ter-
rible’’ (25 percent), or were ‘‘suicidal’’ (2.2 percent).1 Some research
suggests that getting over a previous partner is related to why one left.
In those cases where the previous relationship was abusive, leaving was
associated with one’s improved psychological and physical health (with
women benefiting more from the latter).2
Releasing a past love is also crucial for recovering one’s balance. Ex-
lovers and ex-spouses who are still angry twenty years later are still
attached (the technical term is negative attachment). A therapist helps if
you can afford it. Long talks with your friends can also help as long as
they can stand it. (An honest one will usually say she has heard enough:
‘‘Get over it.’’) But these three tricks may also be helpful, the objective
being not to annihilate his memory or the part of your life that you
shared with him, but to move on:
1. Reaching out in kindness to others who are suffering emotional duress
due to loss or abandonment. This can take many forms; you’ll know
which of them is right when it brings you into the sunshine, even if only
for a few hours of what you need to bloom. Some of the varied good
works that specifically speak to romantic hurt include giving time and
love to an older recent widow or widower, taking your teenage daugh-
ter and her girlfriends out for a festive evening, being a good listener to
the friend who recently was ditched by his girl/boyfriend or wife/hus-
band, and asking someone at your local social services department for
information about new immigrants and tutoring them in English. What
you are doing is putting a new CD in your head. Rather than play the
‘‘he was the love of my life’’ theme, you are completely changing your
focus, switching gears, and immersing yourself in another context with
real people and real feelings. You aren’t dead after all.
2. Time. Within a year everybody feels a lot better and detached from
the whole misfire. At eighteen months you’ll feel the elephant off you.
3. Dating galore. Not a dating binge but a concerted effort to see other
men for an entire season. Even if you don’t feel like it, put yourself
back in the mainstream of life.


Today, most women have multiple sex partners in their lifetime. How-
ever, these are consecutive. The norm and what seems to make sense
Recovering One’s Balance 31

for most women (if you try the other way you are in for a shock) is to
have an emotional attachment as well as physical, and to have the phys-
ical as if it will be in a permanent relationship.
Love is wonderful and the possibility of experiencing true love seems
to be worth the investment of oneself. But you have doubts. Will you ever
feel the euphoria and the absolute joy again? Who besides your dog or
cat, or your mother, is going to adore you now? To experience true love
again you have to nod at what was past, without staring backwards, and
believe in the possibility of another love. It will never be the way it was
at its best; don’t fret about it! Take the hit. That feeling of being blinded
by desire goes down with greater experience and wisdom.
Relationships are not all the same: this is the amazing discovery. We
can love and be loved by someone different from the one before. What
excites us and how we experience the love act is individual and circum-
stantial. The first relationship tends to be about rebellion from parents
and establishing our adult identify. It is a rite of passage. You feel
grown up. You may have felt, ‘‘I never want to be touched by another
man, and will never have sexual relations with another man or it
will betray that first love.’’ This feeling is normal. You are on the path to


When I (Jane—first author) worked at a research institute in Paris in my

late twenties, my secretary (Simone) was a lifesaving friend. She helped
me by writing form letters I could use, since my French wasn’t fluent,
only good, and it was all too easy to make a faux-pas in a business let-
ter. I had a habit that seems improbable now, but was in force then,
where I went out every single night except Sunday: to the ballet, opera,
on a little road trip to the countryside with someone from work, or if
nothing else came up, to the film showings at an art house. Lunches
were two hours and we were well situated near the Etoile to take
advantage of museums and the fashion shows of Dior, Balenciaga, and
Balmain, which usually had a few free tickets at the door. Simone took
me out and expanded my world.
One of Simone’s most frequent ways of looking at life, loves, and
family concerns was in terms of equilibrium. She would praise someone
as being ‘‘tres equilibre.’’ Or she would say, ‘‘Je me sens desequilibree,’’
literally, ‘‘I feel unequilibrated.’’ And if not feeling equilibrated per-
sisted, she would drink a couple of the minibottles of the pretty liqueurs
she had collected from plane trips with her boyfriend.
32 When I Fall in Love Again

The French put as much faith in balance as the Germans do in order.

Excuse the generalization, but I recall the relief with which the German
mother in the family where I au paired said, ‘‘Alles ist in Ordnung!’’
(Everything is in order). And while I do like to put the surface of my
home in order each morning, for love I think the French have it right:
strive for equilibrium in your romantic liaison.
You are going to be patient about establishing a new, caring relation-
ship. You are going to really check him out. (A male friend of mine says
he’d want any woman he hooks up with next to be vetted by a psycho-
therapist, and although it’s just wishful thinking, we know what he
means.) But meanwhile, you need equilibrium: achieving a low-key,
harmonious day.
We women have more sensitive biological clocks than men do. When
the relationship we counted on for emotional support and the man to
whom we expressed love are memories, we are in a state of unease and
confusion. We think (obsess) and we block, say the psychologists, the
feelings of loss, anger, and sadness with worry. Caution! In the state of
slightly numbed disappointment you can become disordered in ways
you forgot even existed. They relate to eating, sleeping, and the men-
strual period. The most consistent fact of interviewing when I asked
women about the breakup was that other aspects of their lives went
awry, making it hard to steer ahead in the normal course of life. Some
even said they got in car wrecks because they were so preoccupied.
The following maladies are common when your lover has gone:

• sleeplessness, either erratic sleep or insomnia

• loss of energy
• loss of resilience to what would have been mere snags in other circum-
stances, e.g., ‘‘The heel broke on my shoe while climbing the stairs
from the garage to my office building and I thought I would die’’
• binge eating
• loss of appetite, or peculiar digestion (‘‘There was a switch in me and
whatever I ate seemed to run through me’’ is actually a medical
• skipping periods (wreaks havoc on mood) or having a flow several
times in one month (enervating)

The plain truth is that few men are going to hold your hand through
these post-breakup blues, real and awful as they may be, and still be
potential lovers. Nurturing and consoling are not salient guy traits, and,
added to that, men are very turned off by hearing or thinking about our
Recovering One’s Balance 33

previous men. As a consequence, you are going to have to figure out

the essential things that give you equilibrium on your own.
In my case, I found that when I was newly single I had to get takeout
for dinner every night because I felt too sad when I cooked. I brought
home Chinese food a lot at lunch when the price was lower, and heated
it up for dinner; or went out with a friend for pizza, or ate at the beach
with my kids. Do my diversions from cooking during that period of life
sound lacking in courage? If you are trying to keep your spirits up
while you create a bridge to a new love, you are in a special, demanding
state. Listen to your own needs and go easy on yourself.
One day I had a bet with a male friend and he won and I had to cook
him a nice dinner. I took a deep breath and made an attractive meal. I
realized I had become tired of all that takeout and began to cook for
myself; but for several months the ‘‘let someone else cook for me’’
choice was a balm. So were all the manicures and pedicures. When my
grown son had remarked, ‘‘Now that you’re divorced I suppose that’s
the end of your going to the nail salon,’’ I answered, ‘‘Not at all!’’
I also had a monthly facial—right up there with the wealthy. While
in that netherworld of transit in emotional terms, being pampered was
well worth the bite out of my income. I took on two part-time jobs and
worked a ten-hour day for two years, and had my luxuries. Now that
my love life is rosy and secure, beautification rituals have lost their
appeal. Do what you must to get yourself through the love-lost stage
and get back on track.


There is the wisdom of experience and then there are the mere old habits.
The habits of being alone serve a healthy person well if she is alone. It’s
you, your frozen dinner, and Netflix. But project ahead. Do you want this
to be your future too? Or are you just cultivating habits that are useful
now? Open the door a crack and make a fool of yourself on the salsa
dance floor or take the acting lessons at the community center. Go to a
cooking class and take that hiking trip. These are steps you do not take
narrowly, to meet someone (as people are prone to say), hoping that spe-
cific skills like speaking Italian or baking a croissant will reel in a won-
derful mate. You take them to be a more desirable person to the kind of
man you want, because you are vital and optimistic and want a man with
similar vitality and love of life. (Even if he has great qualities, if he has
no spirit or fire himself, he is not for you.) What being over the hill
means is not trying anything new and being bored with one’s existence.
34 When I Fall in Love Again


Where my love life is concerned I have enough material for a thousand

hours of stand-up. But I wanted the information and points of view in
this book to be like a tree, stretching upwards and outward so that the
leaves could be in the sunlight. This meant interviewing. I began by
interviewing my best friends, and a few friends of my daughters (not
my daughters themselves, as it wasn’t appropriate since they could not
be anonymous to me).
Right away I saw how different our lives were and how different our
view of the ideal relationship we sought (and perhaps were already liv-
ing). For instance, my friend Rochelle (names have been changed), an
art historian in San Francisco, goes out most nights, while her husband,
who owns a bookshop, stays in. They plan and meet up for far-flung
vacations to many countries. This couple is so intense in their jobs at the
museum and book business that they have scant time in the course of a
regular week for togetherness, but they have a heavenly time when they
go away. To be more intimate when you are not home is unusual, but
they like their relationship style just as it is.
My eldest likes to entertain with her man. For them, cooking together
numerous days and having friends over is a peak experience, as is dis-
cussing the matters of law and Congress which are their bailiwicks.
Darcy, a woman I know from when I worked at the YMCA, is only
twenty-six but she loves having a ten-year plan of when to have children
and when to buy a house with her fiance. We wanted different outcomes,
different types of men, and had different ways of getting there.
I decided to talk with sixty women, with a basic set of questions, and
let them take off with what was theirs. And they did. In pursuit of hear-
ing how other women looked at and coped with sexual regret and the
transition from one serious relationship to the next, I experienced the
range: from women who were happy and had crossed the bridge to
women who were in the throes and felt they were on a rope bridge
crossing a canyon. My sample was snowballing. I kept rolling and con-
tacted women from my years writing for magazines and in public rela-
tions, and often they would say, ‘‘Oh, I know someone you will want to
interview.’’ It became like that party then-mayor Rudy Giuliani’s then-
wife Donna Hanover gave where she invited all the interesting
women—no men—and shocked many people with such an assemblage
of guests. Women I’d love at such a gathering were the women I con-
tacted. I didn’t push them into revealing what they knew and I didn’t.
I asked open-ended (‘‘What was it like?’’) rather than closed-ended
Recovering One’s Balance 35

(‘‘Did you feel angry?’’) questions and they answered or had nothing
particular to say, and we skipped on to the next topic. I asked young
women, old women, and single women the same sheaf of questions, but
let them answer what they wished. The women were not interrogated
but invited to tell their stories and offer advice.
The revelations from these interviews are placed carefully throughout
this book to make or clarify a specific point. What I initially envisioned
would give me a big stack of interviews that all matched became a
potpourri of intelligent, sincere insights from a group of relationship-
experienced women.


Drew was pretty, the daughter of a well-to-do family, and educated at

Princeton. She participated in campus activities and went on to be a pho-
tographer of stage productions. The glamorous career and having men at
her feet retarded (her word when we interviewed) her settling down:

They were all unsuitable one way or another. At thirty-eight I figured I was
in a stable relationship with a man (an actor) who already had children. I
said I wanted a baby. He got me pregnant (I was forty-two). I was begin-
ning to have a bump and he left me and never came back. I was really in a
nesting phase—utterly new for me. I knew I wanted my baby to have a fa-
ther, I felt it was right. I could see the life we’d lead. My work could be done
mostly from home and I had a good savings. I was everything a man could
desire my friends said except in my mid-forties I was too old to be having a
child and starting a family. I had graduated from a large university and so I
put an ad in the alumni magazine, a personal, and included I was pregnant.

Drew’s personal ad stood out and a half-dozen of her fellow alumni

answered. A few men were curious and didn’t follow up and meet her.
One met her and turned out to have a yen for pregnant women. There
was also a Sir Galahad. Murphy had been a stepfather to two children
who were teenagers when he married their mother. The idea of raising
a child from babyhood inspired him and he fell hard for Drew. He
didn’t press his affection but was determined to give her time. Some-
times he took her out with the baby to dinner. He also hung out at her
place with more quiet times than talking a lot. As they were both crea-
tive people this was satisfying to each of them.
But true love rarely runs a straight course. Drew and Murphy went
out a lot. She had moved to Duchess County, New York, and he made
36 When I Fall in Love Again

the trek to see her whenever she wished. Indeed he was smitten and
threw down his cape before her. All went well until they kissed and she
went rigid. She said, ‘‘I was eager for a father for my son, and Murphy
fit the bill but suddenly I didn’t fancy him at all.’’ She told him so and
they cut it off. It was June and the baby was by then several months
old. She didn’t think much about Murphy until he sent her a Mother’s
Day card the next year. She put the card on a shelf and thought he was
a great guy, why hadn’t he found someone else.
Then the baby turned one, and two . . .

I was sure Murphy would have found someone by now. In fact I told
myself that it was now fair to be in touch as a friend because enough time
had passed, and we only had the one kiss. But when I saw him I was
ready. I actually proposed to him while he was painting a door on my stu-
dio. He was the man I imagined to a tee, yet it took time for me to become
the woman to enjoy this man.

Being ready isn’t a thing you can predict. A prime example is Gail,
who was a runner-up for Miss Maryland, and when she became a florist
in Washington, DC, was as perfect as her floral arrangements. She was
swatting off men while having a wonderful time enjoying the cultural
and artistic life of the capital. When friends asked why the men she
dated never led to a keeper, she said that if she found a man who liked
furniture with no curves, a blue-and-silver bedroom color scheme, and
who wanted to try all the sushi restaurants in DC, that man would be
her prince. The floral business was often stressful and by thirty she was
thinking she’d like someone besides her dachshund to share a life with
when she came home at night.

I was perplexed. I had a rigid idea we’d have to share all these prefer-
ences. Then I got a terrible case of poison ivy from touring a garden of
a friend. It was in my eyes and on my tongue. I got a steroid medicine
and was allergic because I went right into a glass door in a boutique in
a shopping mall, and got a black eye. My doctor was on vacation, it
was the Fourth of July, so I went to a roadside medical facility. The
young doctor talked to me about orchids as he treated my eye. He had
holistic training and was more of a healer than any doctor I’d ever

They dated and married. For Gail their meeting when she was an
ugly mess was like a parable that made her cast out perfection as an
ideal, and replace it with love where she found it.
Recovering One’s Balance 37


If you believe you will meet a person to fulfill your dreams, you can.
When you dream of the kind of companionship you want, you prepare
for it. You refine the picture.
Rebecca, an office manager in Roanoke, Virginia, had a rocky time in
her marriage. Her husband was alcoholic; in the same accident in which
he was killed she suffered double fractures in her legs. Ten years later, at
forty, she had a pleasant life focused on her church activities and an out-
door club. She had a group of friends who were close and supportive that
she had never had when she was married. When her friends tried to fix
her up she said that someday she would quit her job and go to Florida
and fall in love with a fat fisherman who lived in a trailer. Four of the
members of the outdoor club arranged to go to an island in Maine and
rented a quite sumptuous log cabin. However, there was a huge storm
and the power was out for days, so the owner, a commercial fisherman,
came around to get the generator going. Kurt is a big, lumbering man
with quick movements who looks out of a past century. ‘‘I was picturing
him not fat but solid, and in a lumberjack’s shirt,’’ said Rebecca. ‘‘A rec-
tangular, solid type of body. And Kurt had the soft eyes and big hands I
imagined, too.’’ Rebecca looked at the wooden snowshoes on the wall
when she met him. They were beautiful. ‘‘Those are the old-fashioned
kind,’’ she said. ‘‘Yes,’’ said Kurt, ‘‘I made them,’’ and she flipped.


When you actively imagine a committed relationship you are consenting

to what you are going to face. You know his politics are not the same.
You know he likes his pasta al dente. You know his favorite topic is
football. You will love his nature, the physical attributes including his
laugh, his voice, and his stride. You imagine how you will feel when he
crosses swords with you about an issue, out in the world or on domestic
turf, and how you’ll find common ground and the means to be good to
each other and have a flourishing life. You are like a pilot who gets
everything ready for a takeoff or landing. It’s not a matter of tabulating
but immersing yourself in possibility.
But be careful to whom you commit. Some men may not be cut out
for marriage. One of our male respondents noted:

After thirty-five-plus years of marriage I see how poorly thought out my

goals were and actually how little insight I had into my own needs. I have
38 When I Fall in Love Again

discovered that I might have been perfectly happy as a single person and
to have avoided the stresses that accompany the decision to marry. I have
discovered over time that I am a little more self-centered than I need to be
and it sometimes causes me to feel resentment about some of the sacrifices
relationships require.


The best men, Avery claimed, were the unavailable ones. They were high
status and high profile as well. She was so funny that people accepted
her explanation why both her longtime boyfriends had been married.
She describes the third timer, in the marketing department of the large
Chicago-based publisher where she was an editor: ‘‘There was a moment
my lover had to leave me off early. He jumped out of the taxi. He wanted
to read a bedtime story to his child. He was in the middle of divorce and
hadn’t moved out yet because his wife said the children needed him.’’
She said of course he should go home and read the story. Then Avery
ended their personal relationship, and banished the married guys.
Friends congratulated Avery on getting over her problem. ‘‘But I
didn’t think I had a problem until I began to form an attachment with
an unmarried man I knew from the commuter train.’’ She had met
someone who had potential. She worried that the new relationship was
like a cracked bowl. He had an ulterior motive. He couldn’t be simply
available. She fluctuated between putting Neal’s affection to the test and
girding herself for breaking up with him. Having had a series of broken
relationships, she could read the problems of attachment like a language
she already spoke. Avery said:

To hitch up where there was normalcy and longevity seemed impossible.

I thought it was normal to walk away again and again. I slept with
another man to reduce stress in the new relationship. It was crazy—I can’t
believe I did this!

Recognizing her behavior as out of control, Avery decided on an in-

terim, where she would not have physical intimacy with a man but
would try to practice seeing the whole of a person, not just the experi-
ence of the hunt. Avoidance of intimacy is common when a relationship
is a bridge. (Indeed, persons on the rebound are to be avoided.)
Eventually, Avery met someone appropriate who wanted a love in
his life as she did in hers, and Neal became a lifelong friend instead of a
Recovering One’s Balance 39

By the time I’d dated Neal I knew what a healthy relationship was. We had
one, only it didn’t have the mysterious elixir of love. It could have been
Neal but more years needed to pass by. I felt I could see my destination,
which included attachment and would put an end to Avery of the Hunt.

The point is to respect yourself enough not to repeat your mistakes

ad infinitum. Of all the pieces of advice I garnered that helped my inner
Cupid send an arrow bull’s-eye to Mr. Right, one set me back on my
heels. It’s a mark of sanity, my friend said a decade ago, not to keep
repeating the same mistake. I was afraid some man would abandon me
as my brother had when he died, and my first husband had when he
cast me away four thousand miles from home with no advance warn-
ing. I chose married men who would never be available and thus never
leave me . . . very neat!
In your last relationship there was dissonance. The two of you lost in-
terest in each other. The support dropped off on one side or both. The
love lost its luster; the dating or living together became routine. It’s natu-
ral to imagine that you are going to draw closer to the next man. Closer
than to a stranger or casual acquaintance, surely, but you don’t want to
merge like the colors blue and yellow becoming green. Often couples
break up because they interpenetrated beyond what was healthy. He
knew every sling and arrow tossed your way at the job, and you had all
his flaws down so pat that you knew when he’d shout or be ornery, and
how to trigger it. ‘‘He knew what tied me in knots and I knew his pro-
crastinating and when he would soft-pedal his mother,’’ said a friend of
mine after her divorce. ‘‘We needed a separation and it came in this bru-
tal form. We both have our regrets ten years later, but it’s too late.’’


Installing new phones was Marcia’s day job. In the evening she supple-
mented this income by sewing pillows for an interior decorator. She
had three children and her ex-husband not only wasn’t paying child
support but had sent her a nasty note when she posted her profile on
Marcia wanted to be in a relationship. She pictured it as cooperative
more than romantic, as romance was, as she put it, ‘‘recessive’’ in her
life. She came up with a tactic for moving on that is such good common
sense that it’s a shame more women don’t follow it.
She calls it the eight-ball syndrome. As long as you stay in front of it
you’re good to go, she says. She joined a volleyball singles group at the
40 When I Fall in Love Again

YMCA and attended singles groups at a Unitarian church. She went out
with men who weren’t attractive to her, and made it fun while being clear
it was just that. She had a smile for everyone, and didn’t let herself go
behind the eight ball. ‘‘What I saw was that I kept up with all my respon-
sibilities so I wasn’t completely overwhelmed. It was a challenge. When I
couldn’t cope with a new order, or my social life, I retracted so I wouldn’t
be behind the eight ball.’’ Then a man came to the volleyball games who
liked Marcia and began to kid around with her. He didn’t ask her out,
and instead of questioning that, Marcia enjoyed very much their talks at
the games. What Reggie especially liked, he told her, was her ability to
cope. ‘‘She also coped with me, because I’m slow with women.’’
‘‘I only coped because if I didn’t cope, I’d lose it,’’ said Marcia.
‘‘Being a single mother, I felt like mom and dad both, and I knew not to
add to that burden by letting one man rile me up.’’


We tell ourselves the love affair is shallow and bound to end because
love affairs do, not to trust a man because men are fickle, and that there
was no good to the old relationship because it’s over. This is only lying
to oneself. The truth is that a beautiful relationship can go south, but it
was beautiful for a time. A relationship that ends generally ends
because two people are at fault, so you don’t want to think, ‘‘The whole
thing was a disaster.’’ It’s over and you have to pick up the pieces. If
you discount the good in the last relationship you may never get it
right—you’ll be weaving a bad fantasy.
Did you and he get anything out of the relationship? Perhaps you
developed the ability to live with the opposite sex? Did you trade off or
share errands? Did you learn to relax and forget the bustling world to-
gether? Did he open a new interest in politics, gardening, or basketball
for you? Find something good out of what went wrong. It wasn’t all
bad; it never is. A classic Eagles song is ‘‘Wasted Time,’’ about a rela-
tionship that is over. The last lyric of the song reveals the truth of all
relationships, that nothing is wasted. We always learn something that is


When you date you have to learn to be a submarine. You open one part
and then the other, and never get in danger of submerging. Keeping
something of myself in reserve, when I was crazy about a man and our
Recovering One’s Balance 41

feelings were out of sync, I would take a more temperate view. Four
years ago, after dating for a few months, weekend after weekend mak-
ing the trek back and forth from one side of Connecticut to the other, I
wanted John (the man I am now living with) to decide then and there,
at a country inn one snowy night, if we were going to be true to each
other forever. We were both educated (he was the big, sexy varsity guy
I shyly eyed as he streaked across Harvard Yard, whose curly hair had
gone to pewter given that he was ‘‘still’’ my age!). Moreover, John and I
sort of matched physically, and John wasn’t looking for a casual fling.
And there we were, lying in bed reading books happily together. . . .
This added up to our being a couple, didn’t it? He said he enjoyed my
company and we were exclusive but he couldn’t say about love and
permanence. ‘‘Really?’’ I said. ‘‘Then I am putting on my boots and
walking from the inn to the village and will be on my way. . . . Send my
Now, this did not seem reasonable as there was a nine-inch snowfall
and it was eleven at night. But he certainly seemed lukewarm about me.
We drove back to his house and my little car was stuck and we were lit-
erally snowed in. We had a lovely romantic night (weird), having
agreed to think about each other for three months and see if we wanted
to be together.
Two and a half months later, a ‘‘Dear Jane’’ letter arrived from John,
our first contact since that fated weekend. (He was in my thoughts yet I
was dating and also thinking about my backup plan, a new life in maritime
Canada.) He had met someone, a physician who was more low-key like he
was, and it appeared that they would be spending a life together. I had
hoped he would feel as I did, but following my precept of having several
irons in the fire until I found a mate or gave up on love, whichever came
first, I shed a few tears but was philosophical.
I could even laugh at one remark in the odious kiss-off. Something
about how the sex with me had been great but that he was sure I’d
agree that there was more to a relationship than sex.
I had received four marriage proposals since we had last seen each
other—three of them sort of old relationships coming to fruition like
government bonds. John invited me to his sixtieth birthday party at a
country club. I remember his wording to let me know that it wasn’t a
‘‘yes’’ to an ‘‘us’’ (which would have been implausible at that point):
‘‘My girlfriend won’t be able to come as she has a bad knee.’’
‘‘You are inviting me because your girlfriend has a bad knee?’’ My
e-mail was nothing if not arch, and he answered quickly, ‘‘I guess that
wasn’t a very good idea.’’
42 When I Fall in Love Again

When John invited me to lunch at Paul Newman’s restaurant in the

Westport Playhouse around the time of my birthday, he asked me over
dessert if I would pardon him and reconsider being with him. I could
feel lighthearted and at peace enough to say yes with a delighted smile,
and to discuss it without losing myself—my wishes and perspective
which he doubtless had registered being an attorney but which needed
to be stated—I wasn’t going to be a weekend girl.
You have to be willing to pull the plug on a relationship and let the
other partner paddle. If they don’t, it’s over anyway, so get out of the
boat. Them reconsidering is what you want. And sometimes they do.
This is how a man who enthralled me but at first passed me over
became my prince—and our life became a happy ending I only dreamed
of before.


The facts of dating are such that if you’ve met several dozen people up
to now, you may go back to and form a lasting relationship with one of
these. Love stories are replete with those who met again at high school
reunions only to renew their relationships of yesteryear. The point is that
whenever retreating or ending a relationship, leave the door open . . . you
and this fellow may both mellow into a phase where you see each other
anew and your relationship meshes.


John Gray popularized the difference in how men and women commu-
nicate in his Mars and Venus treatises. The divide is very deep, so deep
that we should never think we’ve got it all figured out and it’s not an
issue. Our romantic and emotional selves, as women, lie at the surface.
It’s natural for us to talk about our feelings. With men, the rational self
lies at the surface. But each has a part of the other. An oversimplifica-
tion that is helpful in a love relationship is that you and he are like four
personalities: your female self with the lining of a male self, and his
male self with the female sensibilities within.
I have asked women if they like to be alone when they undress, and
every one of them says yes. It seems that, if glimpsed naked by our part-
ner as we put on the public garb, we like to be seen from a good angle
(not an awkward one). Men are the same with feelings. Wearing his heart
Recovering One’s Balance 43

on his sleeve is a crushing nightmare for most men, who slip you the ring
across the table, or the romantic valentine under the breakfast plate.
In contrast to these women’s marriages, the women of my mother’s
and my aunt’s age who were over fifty and whom I spoke to because I
believed them in happy unions said they had intimate marriages. Were
the older women less demanding or more adaptive? Were the younger
women so busy with the kids that this side of the marriage was in abey-
ance? My point is that all these women had good relationships with
their husbands, but that intimacy waxes and wanes. Don’t expect some-
thing of relationships they can’t deliver.
A top attorney said that he never makes a mistake in his analyses of
a case but in his assumptions about it. We assume that we’ll be together
forever with the man who brings moments of epiphany and intimacy.
But in the real world, the assumptions about mating for life wash for
only a few. The relationship isn’t going to give us an ultimate security
that we can count on. We can’t aim for it but we can aim for finding a
caring best friend, a wonderful lover, someone with whom we can relax
to our fingertips and toes, and with whom we identify so closely that
being a couple is knowing the other.


1. David Knox and Ugo Corte, ‘‘Work It Out/See a Counselor: Advice from
Spouses in the Separation Process,’’ Journal of Divorce and Remarriage 48
(2007): 79–90.
2. E. Brown and A. Maharaj, ‘‘Divorce Adjustment: The Role of Race and Gen-
der,’’ Gerontologist 48 (2009): 89–99.
Play the Game or Lose:
Managing the Double Standard

The duration of passion is proportionate with the original resistance of

the woman.
The double standard means simply that there are two standards, one
for women and one for men. Traditionally, women had to be virgins,
must have had few sexual partners, did not watch pornography, and
had to be reticent to show that they knew about sex and were good at
it. In contrast, men were supposed to be sexually experienced with lots
of women, which confirmed that they were studs. Looking at porno was
proof that these men were sexual beings who loved women.
In response to our Internet questionnaire, ‘‘To what degree do you
feel the double standard is operative in U.S. society?’’ (where 0 was the
nonexistence of a double standard and 10 was the constant presence of
such a standard), the average number selected by our 429 Internet
respondents was 7. These figures reveal that the traditional, hard-core
double standard is mellowing. Other research suggests a diminution of
the double standard but a recognition that it is still operative. In one
study, females who engaged in threesomes were viewed less favorably
than males who engaged in the same behavior.1 Some comments about
the double standard from those we interviewed follow:

‘‘The double standard: it’s still operative, but not as much in years past.
When the lexicon includes a true male synonym for ‘slut,’ you’ll know
things have changed.’’
‘‘I think a more relevant and disturbing double standard is the contin-
ued acceptance by men (and reluctant acceptance by many women) in
regard to men having sex outside their committed relationship. Women
having sex outside their committed relationship, or with multiple partners
46 When I Fall in Love Again

in noncommitted relationships, are still labeled as sluts and whores.

Men are considered virile; women are considered loose. And women
shouldn’t feel they have to emotionally commit to every sexual encounter,
or be judged more harshly than men simply because they have a strong
sexual appetite.’’

Our conclusion is that the double standard is alive and well. A

woman is supposed to be or appear more chaste than a man, less expe-
rienced than he is. Yet, as he looks at her bright smile and graceful
movements and listens to her gentle, pretty voice he wants her full of
desire as she conveys ‘‘I could be’’ or ‘‘I am.’’
This dichotomy is deep in the mating dance. The waterfowl in the con-
servancy down the road from where I (Jane—first author) live exhibit the
same double standard. In the case of many species the female feigns indif-
ference while the male displays plumage and what a fine duck he is. The
female is above such silliness—until they begin to dance together.
Underneath the dichotomy is truth. Women get pregnant and bear
children: we are the sex that is entered and we have to be careful to
whom we extend the privilege. Yet if we put paper bags over our heads
and don’t display our charms of person and personality, we reduce our
opportunity to be with a man to almost nil. Drawing in the opposite sex
almost suggests being on stage. A woman who would like a man to take
notice of her as a potential partner is like an actress on view. There are
different ways of incorporating the nurturing and seductive capacities
successfully, of relating to the man more spiritually. And he is a deserv-
ing person like you.
Being aware that this is your time and admitting to yourself that you
are in courtship mode vastly increases the likelihood that love will
strike. That’s because falling in love and pairing off is a two-way street.
It takes two: you being desirable and the man who desires you. Maybe
the man who looks just your type and whom you can imagine taking
you on a white-water rafting trip just ended a relationship and is open
for a new adventure. Or there are guys with the sex appeal of Clive
Owen or Daniel Craig, a double Ph.D., and a large trust fund, who are
tired of dating superstars and want a woman for life just like you.
Keep your feathers preened, because love strikes more often than not
in the most unlikely places and venues. I remember getting tired of
looking at clients, old friends, and all single men in my age group as
potential partners. Yet walking down Main Street with an awareness
that ‘‘I’m here for the taking’’ was a brave feeling, too. And my friends
gave sympathy and advice: sometimes it was like holding up articles of
Play the Game or Lose 47

clothing in a store and having a friend say, ‘‘No not that color,’’ or ‘‘The
deeply gorged V neck isn’t for you.’’ Meanwhile, my friend Sheldon
helped me keep my eye on the ball. I was becoming discouraged when
he said, ‘‘No, it’s a numbers game no matter how beautiful or likable
the woman.’’ You will need to meet about twenty men before you will
click with one of them. But stay in the game. You won’t find the item if
you are not out shopping.


All women who mate with a man have to some extent mastered the art
and power of seduction. I suggest that there are different kinds of roles
we take. We play with these roles and usually settle into what feels most
comfortable to us. The role-playing isn’t dishonest any more than the
dance of the waterfowl is false. We come in different styles as women and
there are different ways for us to attract, different forms of seduction.
There are five possibilities women play with:
1. The rose. She revels in her pretty looks yet never chases after men or
things. Her manners are lovely. She is soft and unforgettable for the
man who gets involved with her. If something gets out of hand, or
she is crossed, she can use her thorns.
2. The diamond. She glitters and plays hard to get. She knows her value
and has a knack for good settings for her type of appeal.
3. The pearl. Her luster comes from character, goodness, and brains.
She may act just a little more innocent that she is. She has a glow
from her confidence in how good she is.
4. The butterfly. Think how she flutters as she exudes the essence of a
flower; the butterfly type vibrates with color and fragility. She asks
for protection and shelter from harsh realities. She offers the joy of
capturing her and promises an exciting partnership.
5. The sorceress. Her charms are based in earthiness, and her power is
being mysterious to men. She casts a magic spell by her sexy person-
ality. Fundamentally she gains her power from timing.

Any woman can experiment with these female types to attract a man.
You may identify with several or all, as how you were at certain times
in seeing different men. Any woman can be a rose and protect herself
from getting too close when it might bruise her petals. Any woman can
be a sorceress who understands about choosing a man who is, in the
present time, prone to be responsive. And so forth.
48 When I Fall in Love Again

Be Cool
Act cool. I’ve seen it in my family. The only outward sign my son was
madly in love was that he bought a box of vellum stationery and enve-
lopes and wrote letters to his girlfriend all one summer when she was
three thousand miles away. My daughters tend to whoop and carry on
about falling in love, the engagements of their friends to be married,
and of course romantic movies. If you can maintain a cool exterior about
your romantic life, the fading memory of the relationship that was, and
the developments of the romance that is, you are going to have chips on
your side in the love game.
Why do we have to act cool; why can’t the burden be on the men to
act punch-drunk with love to please us? To understand this we have to
go to the paradigm of male–female emotional polarity. If a man gets all
gooey about love, he feels he’s being sucked back into the womb and
losing control; his ability to reason, achieved over thousands of years, is
lost. Women operate natively in the world of feelings; when our faculty
of logic is active we are reaching below our natural psychic habitat.
Being cool also conveys your value. If you jump too quickly on the
love wagon, maybe your life’s a mess and you’d be a lot of trouble. Or,
nobody else wants you so you may not be worth anything. But if you
need a little pleading to come on over, it increases your value. Kathleen
Williams was the fifth wife of Clark Gable. She noted that she had pre-
viously refused an invitation to be his dinner date set up by an MGM
executive when Gable called himself and said, ‘‘I’m sorry I did not get
to meet you earlier. I wonder if you’d have dinner with me tomorrow
night.’’ Her answer was, ‘‘I’m afraid I’m busy tomorrow night.’’ He then
replied, ‘‘What day aren’t you busy?’’2

Sparkle Plenty
It’s often said that men are more visual when it comes to being attracted
to women than we are with regard to men. Biology says that what
attracts the male of all mammal species are signs of vitality and health:
sparkling eyes, soft skin, a fit body as well as energy and grace of move-
ment. So get conscious of your physical attractiveness. Start with the
eyes, where love enters. You can enhance your eye sparkle by makeup,
nutrition, and where you place yourself with regard to a light source.
This is probably the only trick I recommend in this book: Sit across from
a window or white wall, or be seated with candlelight between him and
you. It is your eyes that break the barrier of wariness. It’s the same with
a photo; you put the smile in your eyes.
Play the Game or Lose 49

Your Image
Burnish your image for the courtship phase. This is different from self-
esteem (next chapter); it’s how you present yourself, regardless of how
you feel today or tomorrow. I used to think of British royalty to psych
myself up for this. I am your basic bohemian who only fleetingly takes
an interest in fashion or dressing up. However, when I was single after
a long marriage, I switched to a push-up bra and jeans that were a
shade tighter (actually described as boyfriend jeans, which I first in my
innocence of jeans thought meant the jeans would bring a boyfriend).
Let’s start with the most superficial of all representations of your
image, your picture and self-description that you put up on the Internet
dating site like or eHarmony or on Facebook. Want to throw
in the towel on electronic presentation of your charms? You can dissent

• You don’t like putting yourself out there.

• You know people who have been stalked in cyberspace and you’re
against it.
• You are a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model and you have enough
• Your whole persona is built on being reclusive so for you it would be

Everybody else: making it work for you is the approach. Decisions,

decisions, of which the key four on Facebook are:

• how much to share

• how to use the friends list
• whether you want to reconnect romantically
• privacy level

With the dating services the big issue is whether your photograph
looks like you, only better. I initially felt Internet dating sites were for los-
ers until a friend told me she had met her husband (whom I knew from
the health club and liked) on a dating site. She had gone to a photographer
and paid a bundle to get a glamorous photograph. She was a timeworn,
pleasant-looking blonde like me and I tried to duplicate her souped-up
beauty with a digital photo taken by a friend. When my beloved saw me,
he thought I fit his one criterion—a lively look in the photograph. So don’t
give a lot of time to describing your perfect Sunday or walks on the beach
or any of that malarkey. Put up a stunning photograph!
50 When I Fall in Love Again

With the dating services the other big issue will be whether you give it
enough time to sift and meet and greet. We recommend you start with
the Right Mate room at After reading what you need to
know about the caveats of Internet dating (and other articles of interest),
click on ‘‘Find a Partner’’ and presto, you have hundreds of’s
men waiting to ‘‘wink’’ at you. Answer every man who winks or what-
ever, just as you would guys on a dance floor in dancing school or the high
school prom. Indeed both David (second author) and his wife said that if
they had met on the Internet, they would have pressed delete as neither
seemed right for the other. It is now twenty years later . . . together. The
point: eliminate no one until you take a very close look.
On the description of you, and in your initial correspondence, you
want to give a hint, not carry on. The earliest exchange is a perfect arena
for what French call the ‘‘soupcon,’’ or glimpse. And a disastrous place
to vent. So fake it and be happy all the time. (Yes, courtship is a time of
glorious deception . . . and he’s doing it, too.) Don’t whine. Never give
emotional detail. Talk about yourself as little as possible. Take an upbeat
attitude to qualms you express and limit them severely. In short, let the
man who gazes at you want more, not less.
Just a picture? Your image is connected to you. The picture you display
speaks for you more than one someone else might choose; yet it’s only a
paper doll imitation of you, too. When you go to his image(s), are you pre-
pared that his haircut may be poor, his chin slack, and the look in his eyes
goofy? It is very smart to imagine the whole person beyond that, and give
him the benefit of the doubt. An occasion to go by the Golden Rule.
Face it, you want to look good, your best, beautiful or tough or original
or a party girl or sweet. You have the freedom and control, so how do
you want to look and do you have the pictures for this? If you have a
wardrobe that they could sell at Talbot’s, or a photo that makes you look
like a vice-principal of your old elementary school, make an effort and go
to a photographer, because Internet dating is ‘‘faces first.’’ How good
does a rose look on a Burpee’s seed catalog? Middling? Or lustrous and
dabbed with dew? You want to negotiate your way around the shallow-
ness of meeting on the Internet with good taste. If you don’t try the Inter-
net you are denying the Fates and Cupid their rightful chances. After all,
the stigma of Internet dating where lovers would never, never tell how
they met is being replaced with ‘‘We met on’’—and they smile!
Here are some simple tactics to look appealing in the photograph:

• Hold your head high, an indication of good posture.

• Smile with your eyes and part your lips.
Play the Game or Lose 51

• To avoid the look of your photo on your driver’s license, try the eye-
brow flash: a slight upward tilt, which softens a flash photo pose and
which psychologists say is a preeminent female sign of welcome.
• Look at the camera as if it were a friend, unguarded.
• If your smile freezes in photos, wet your lips and look at someone
else—not at the camera—and talk at the same time.

Self-promotion is so icky that publicists get paid to do promotion for

others. Beware of boasting in any way whatsoever on a dating site. That
means we can’t boast about working for Habitat for Humanity, kayak-
ing around the Statue of Liberty, or the tennis trophy.
Keep in mind that when you are seining (as with a fishing net) for
Mr. Right, this is not a personal way of staying in touch. It only makes a
collage of you and your life. Do not tell a man that he can see your life
on your self-description or on Facebook. Use Facebook more to network
and the dating sites to sift. And stay alert: don’t make promises you
can’t keep, like ‘‘You live in San Diego and I’m here in Chicago. Shall
we meet in Kansas?’’
You may have observed that feeling compelled to live an extraordi-
nary life on Facebook is insane. Plus men are going to decide if you are
likable by the, duh, photos. Men even forget us but see our photos and
remember us. And who cares if you are the first, or second, or sixteenth
woman he contacts, if you see his worth and he becomes your honey?
Some women tell me that when you are meeting a man and the time is
short, the entry you each have helps the two of you segue into another
level, due to an awareness of each other’s interests and experiences.

What His Image Shows

Go ahead and judge the guys, but with an ounce of reason. Is he rude
in e-mails? Borderline lewd? Is he a fussy child or metrosexual-type nar-
cissist? If you want to find a partner, can you deal with the hair side-
burns, the baseball cap backwards on the eternal boy, the fancy man
whose shirt has a stripe that matches the one in his suit? Is it even mas-
culine to show off his physique? ‘‘What does it tell you that he’s kissing
his bicep?’’ was how one pro at what could be called ‘‘imagine analy-
sis’’ (!) put it. If you don’t think he’s handsome, why not? Is that his
fault, the result of his poor photograph, or your fault for not giving him
a chance in person when he has offered to meet?
It’s kind of an inverse relationship between whether a fellow is great,
and whether he looks great in that photo he put in to show you what a
52 When I Fall in Love Again

funny or athletic or well-traveled guy he is. The best class of man

doesn’t automatically project his virtues or true personality that obvi-
ously, or with an intention to slay women. You might want to be forgiv-
ing if he sounds and looks good but is trying too hard. Trying to
impress is unattractive, but natural. You know you are unique and can
separate from the herd, but you let people find this out. Still, if he
pushes it in your face, you are unlikely to be impressed in person.

Using the Online Options

The problem with using an online service or Facebook is that it takes a
considerable amount of your time. You’ll feel woozy after looking at and
through candidates at lunch hour, or for two hours after dinner. We are
all pushed to conform from first grade on, to perform the same opera-
tions over and over. How often do you want to go on Facebook? How of-
ten do you check your account? How often do you update it?
Should a person feel remiss if she leaves it the same even though she just
did something amazing? How soon does an entry become stale and is
this safer or better than saying hi to an interesting stranger in the laundry
room? Do we have to use the online services and Facebook because they
are there, and how do we harness their power?
Go all out and use the dating service to the hilt. Think how someone’s
great-aunt in rural Kansas would have treasured this opportunity, and go
through the paces. It’s like being in Grand Central Terminal or Union Sta-
tion. Some people bump into you and step on your toes, or look right
through you as though you don’t exist, but other people are polite, have
regard, and may ride that train with you and make the trip interesting. Be
open and resilient. Cut off contact if you get any negative vibes. Sometimes
your fee for a dating site turns to gold. On the other hand, the information
you post is like a baseball card—it looks full of information but what does it
tell you about the game or the real person? Moreover, there is no need to col-
lect cards that will just sit there on the computer, or printouts. Women say
that men are attentive at the friendly hi stage and then are too busy follow-
ing up leads to focus. They have dating service attention deficit disorder.
I’m an enthusiast of honing your image, showing it to a friend or two
if you don’t want to critique it yourself, and jumping on the Internet
dating merry-go-round. It’s comparable to real estate, where many peo-
ple do find their home via this virtual route, and despite the wooziness
you are going to meet someone very special if you keep at it.
Beyond the photo and the image is the content: what do you say
about yourself? The answer is: the truth. If you are a ‘‘full-figured girl,’’
Play the Game or Lose 53

say it. If you only want a nonsmoker who is an agnostic, say it. And if
you are looking for a long-term relationship and have no interest in
hooking up, say it. You can also say that you are no prude and that sex
with you inside a committed relationship that is going somewhere is
worth waiting for.

Nice and Sexy

We project that we are chaste, with a whiff of sexuality. Sometimes this
is like being in a strobe light. When his friend flirts with us, we display
a Madonna-like look and do not engage. When alone with our guy we
tongue kiss with abandon. On American TV, if someone is in a hospital
bed you can be sure you’ll see the IV, the heart monitor, and perhaps
the person slashed and sewn up as well. Why we have to go all the way
instead of a subtle implication of the disease is beyond me. I think it has
to do with the tradition of American know-how, being down-to-earth,
and so forth. Women I interviewed who are in relationships expressed
that when to have intercourse is the major hassle. If they are sexually
experienced, there is a natural tendency to go for the goalpost once sex
is initiated. But recall from chapter 1 that a third of our respondents
said that they regret having intercourse too soon.
My answer is, what do you lose by waiting? The worst-case scenario is
that you have a battle of intellects at one in the morning, after the restau-
rant and driving around in his car and stopping for coffee. He is tired
and not at his most polite and you are tired and just want the creaturely
comfort but don’t want to do anything you’ll regret in the morning.
On the other hand, if you take the attitude of ‘‘Why not?’’ you are
going to get emotional the next day. I asked sexually active women of
the generation of twenty to thirty-two whether they could have inter-
course and shrug it off without emotions. Not one said that she could.
Therefore, it makes sense to display your stuff, and flirt and tantalize,
and not go to bed with a man until you know how you and he want to
design the relationship. And that takes time. Intercourse may occur on
the third time you see him, or after months and months of pure friend-
ship, but when it does, let it signify a sincere pledge.
While you are being tantalizing, don’t judge the man as being too for-
ward or awkward. Do not think about this much at all. It’s natural of a
man to make a sexual gambit, and to jibe this with your timing is quite
difficult. Be forgiving but firm if the time is not right for you. I was an
unattached and independent woman when a man tried to argue against
the fact that I was looking for a man to live with and love, not just a
54 When I Fall in Love Again

tryst that might or might not lead to something. I look back on my

firmness as a sign I truly desired something better than revolving-door
dating. In my youth if you didn’t give up sex you could be labeled a
prick-tease. It was an attractive formulation (sarcasm intended) but
most of us heard it correctly as a devilish way for a man to get laid.
And by the same token, don’t assume you’re an item until you are.

First Meetings
Keep in mind that men are looking for a sexy nice girl. When you dress
for the occasion, wear something you’ve worn at least twice before. It’s
okay to show some skin, but don’t reveal too much or you become
objectified. One young woman complained to me that on the first blind
date men stared at her chest. ‘‘So do women,’’ I cautioned her, ‘‘because
you like the tight, low-cut tank tops that show every curve.’’
Sure, guys like looking at a woman who shows a lot of skin, but not
necessarily having one as a girlfriend. Focus on being tasteful and if it
involves being a little sexy, that’s even better . . . emphasis on little.
Make strong eye contact, but don’t stare the guy down. When he is
talking is the moment to make eye contact for sure; it makes you seem
interested in what he has to say. At the same time, gazing directly at the
man for too long can make him uncomfortable. So if you see your guy
breaking eye contact more than you do, look away a bit. Even very con-
fident men can get anxious under the gaze of a lovely woman.

Using Your Core

It’s amazing to me how many women say they make no effort to be
attractive or flirt when they like a man, that to do so is unfair seduction.
Aside from the traditional negative meaning, the double standard also
means that we are allowed to be sirens. Men think it’s cute, and natural,
even if usually we are pretty much like them in public.
Body language manuals make exuding our personal power as com-
plicated and frustrating as riding a twelve-speed bicycle for the first
time. Body language comes naturally, but you can rev up yours to a
more feminine repertoire. The crucial and unequalled change you
should make is to use your core. The woman whose flirting palette
extends from just hands and arms, or head and legs, is like a tree blow-
ing with only its leaves while remaining stiff in its branches. Try an
extended exercise as follows: An attractive man sits across from you at
a party. Do an open-palm-type gesture that among higher mammals is a
welcome. Put your elbows on the table. Glance his way. Shift your legs
Play the Game or Lose 55

into the seated model pose where the legs lean to one side, are lined up
together, and where your heels are lifted off the floor. Right foot is over
left, knees and legs pert and a little tension in your core. When you
return to base position, roll your hips forward and raise your torso.
Your breasts point at him (discreetly). Hold and look unfocused at a
point about six feet past him. You are communicating, a powerful sex-
ual gesture that suggests to the man you are on top of his body—but
again this is completely innocent.
In everyday life, we use gestures that may have different significance
when flirting. If you stretch your legs straight out, flex your feet and
point your toes out as if at the end of a fishing pier with your family,
you are expressing generalized gladness and relaxation. If you do this
same movement when alongside a man, you are indicating a sexual
urge to be filled, even though you are on the fishing pier. A man uncon-
sciously interprets your slow (totally decent) stretching out and flexing
as longing . . . She cocks her head, lets her hair settle over her shoulders,
and gets this fun look in her eye . . . It’s early in the relationship but the
man takes profound notice!

Your Understating Makes Him Comfy

After my senior year of prep school, a student a year behind me told
her brother (my age) she thought we’d like each other. He went to a
single-sex prep school like me. He stopped by the public library where I
worked and we became acquainted behind the stacks. He exuded
warmth, had a nice car of his own and an allowance, and took me to
Manhattan. We also spent many evenings at my house. (His house had
big white columns and a bar-type refrigerator in his room, and I felt out
of my element although welcome.)
Axel (not his real name) later spoke to me passionately of love. My
hotel room was strewn with roses when I visited him at his Ivy League
college. He gave me significant gifts and would run with me hand in
hand in a summer rain. I guess from that template of a first boyfriend I
figured that men were accustomed to talk romantically like that, but
eventually I realized that he was just a very verbally expressive person
who learned four foreign languages, including Chinese. (He became a liti-
gator.) Axel was the exception. In general, until proved otherwise, figure
that men do not want to express their feelings for you. The typical man is
far more likely to demonstrate than speak of his love—and that may be
taking you to see his favorite team play ball or another gesture of letting
you into his life, not snowing you with obvious signs of fealty!
56 When I Fall in Love Again

It is important to lean to speak their language! Don’t talk about your

romantic feelings, or e-mail a man you care about, telling him you miss
him and indicating your level of fondness for him. Not even if he does.
Not a word (initially).
An egregious example of being open about her love was Maria,
whose boyfriend lived in San Diego as a freight analyst while she
worked as a librarian in the suburbs. They were instantly drawn to each
other and delighted to form a close relationship. They saw each other
nearly every weekend, going back and forth, while they considered who
would move in with whom. But whereas Nick now felt fulfilled, and
liked daydreaming through the week about getting together with Maria
on the weekend, she experienced it as a high followed by a low. In the
absence of his reassuring physical presence during the week, she wrote
Nick long e-mails, pouring out her feelings of love and longing. Finally
they had ‘‘the talk’’: ‘‘I feel great with you and believe we can be happy
together,’’ said Nick, ‘‘but—.’’ Maria was taken aback. ‘‘But what?’’ she
asked with apprehension. ‘‘But I don’t know what to make of those
e-mails you write me in the middle of the week. You’re, uh, like a differ-
ent person.’’ Because Maria has found true happiness with Nick after
all, we incline to forgive his being such a dick. Besides, his discomfort
with lacy expressions of feeling is pretty much ubiquitous with men of
all ages. Men want sensation, women passion.


If it’s true that men want you to be a mother and a whore, it’s not as
bad as it sounds at first blink. This means you will be all women to your
partner: the sweet, nurturing figure, and the siren who lures him to bed
and takes him to Heaven. And we don’t have to dress up in fishnet
stockings and naughty underwear to be alluring, or gush with support-
ive remarks and sympathetic clucks to exhibit compassion. We just have
to be ourselves—the medley that is femininity.

It’s in the Timing

If the double standard is how he thinks in general, the man of today
wants closeness and honest fidelity in particular—when the time comes.
And the time comes in these circumstances:

• His same-age friends are getting married.

• He has moved to a new place or job and doesn’t have a bunch of
guys to bowl, play Frisbee, or watch sports at the bar with.
Play the Game or Lose 57

• He is nearly forty (thirty-seven isn’t old enough for the biological

clock to jangle loudly).
• He has been with wacky women and begins to fantasize serenity and
• His brother and sister-in-law recently had a baby.

The Values Line Up

There are certain values you must look for. You know from what didn’t
work before that what defines a successful relationship is a high level of
commitment, respect, and honesty. When we are infatuated, why does
everyone tell us to go slowly? Not because the prince could turn out to
be a wretch, but because we need to see if we can sing a duet, be in har-
mony, and even be singing the same tune.
It’s not his religion that could be an obstacle but his values, especially
whether he is tolerant. It’s not whether he’s boisterous or taciturn, but
whether he can retire his ego to see that sometimes he could be quieter,
or give you and your friends space to be giggly and noisy when they
are over.
In the first serious relationship, women tend to be more similar,
they say, to the man, than in the later relationship that endures.
Although counterintuitive, this suggests that the women were more open
to men quite different from themselves the second time around. Megan

My husband and I are from different ethnic backgrounds and we spend

our days very differently. Matt runs a community garden and I coach
women’s basketball. He doesn’t care if he sees another human being but
me once a month, and I am a consummate people person. My first hus-
band was a coach too, and our sharing that was a good thing, but he
always expected me to mirror him. It was like a bell curve where not
much variance was permitted. Matt believes people, like plants, need to
be left alone in the main to grow and flourish. So do I. This is a huge
shared value that makes our relationship healthy and precious.

Inventing Him
When we play with dolls, we assign roles. My teddy bear with a pelt of
soft fur and well-muscled arms and legs reminds me of prize-winning
journalist Maggie Scarf’s observation that ‘‘if a woman can find the per-
fect man, she should marry him. If she can’t find the perfect man, she
should invent him.’’ Despite a lot of verbiage among some feminist
58 When I Fall in Love Again

writers that we should not cave in to a man’s desires and deny our own
opinions, wishes, and pursuits, we seem assigned by nature to adapt.
And despite the adage that as soon as a woman marries she tries to
change the man, the fact is that we civilize men and help them evolve
their sensitive side. We are the mothers and we are more inclined to be
compassionately tolerant of a man and help him grow. We adapt more,
and men like to teach more (who hasn’t let herself be taught a tennis
serve or golf swing by a man when she didn’t need a lesson?).
Because you’ve been through a relationship and had time for a
bridge, you can imagine the ideal of you and him together. Your caring
will not be beneficial to you alone but to both of you. If you are going to
lead him into an important advance like saving instead of spending, or
carrying through with his half-finished degree, or a trivial change like
wearing dress socks with his corduroys instead of white athletic socks,
you are a woman weaving your web. We are mocked for changing men,
but think about it instead as inventing them. When I was dating, I found
myself using the quick term that my single women friends also used:
‘‘I think he’s good material.’’

Self-Invention (Smoothing Out Your Act)

The man in the new relationship you value wants to feel he will have
the same woman tomorrow that he finds attractive today. Overplay
your consistency, because men are not subtle. Show your sensuality not
in breathy quick gestures but in sultry ones. Lengthen your movements.
A famous actress said that all long arms are beautiful and arms of any
length can be long. You bounce when you run past an attractive man on
the volleyball court (without awareness or with), but when near to the
man you are falling in love with, you hold your arm to your side and
brush the tip of your breast with your pulse point . . . deliberately,
We women are, in a manner of speaking, less predictable than men.
Our guiding symbol is the moon, which waxes and wanes, and second-
arily Venus, which disappears at the horizon or blazes forth brighter
than any other star. There are many jokes about women whose sex drive
is heated when they marry, and who then turn their attention to the
house and family exclusively. There are also women who lose interest
in sex and just want their emotional needs met after they pass out of
their twenties, and most of them settle down with a man. The man
wants to feel that you are going to ford through the ups and downs of
life and stay enthusiastic about sex (and him). If a woman acts lusty
Play the Game or Lose 59

when she has a few drinks and prim and proper without the drinks, he
reads her as unpredictable . . . and he wants badly to predict a lifelong,
willing partner to his sex drive.
Whether your personal style is unpredictable, whether you are in a
field that capitalizes on sensitivity and creativity (like a craft, fundrais-
ing, or fashion), or whether you are in a constricting field (pharmacist,
the military, or math-oriented) and feel entitled to relax in your leisure
time, you have to smooth out your manner and mood on behalf of the
new guy. The man struts and we accompany him with a steady stride
and glide. The graceful catwalk (both literally and figuratively) through
adversities and challenges of every day provides a single, irrefutable affi-
davit that you are a consistent babe. Because the double standard and the
traditional roles are alive and well (if diminished) doesn’t mean they
have to trip us up. By being sexy and reliable—brimming with feminine
charm and at the same time predictable in your actions and low-key in
your emotions—you are everything he wants.
But what if you don’t ultimately want him? That is embarrassing,
awkward, and does not conjure up a pretty picture: the rejected swain.
That is for you to decide—later. Be kind and considerate but also allur-
ing. If his love bubbles up through his rational self, then you can decide
if it’s mere attraction or you and he are fated lifelong. But be cautious
before hitting the delete button; you may change how you feel, and you
will have let a good one go into the arms of someone else.
Experts on body language recommend mirroring as a tool to harmo-
nize with somebody and feel on the same wavelength. In its most primi-
tive form, it’s called postural echo. Remind yourself to mirror the
texture of a situation; it can be an effective way to make a man feel
deeply at home with you. When he is dejected because his baseball
game is rained out isn’t a cue to pirouette your good mood about some-
thing. If he wants you to hold a wineglass at a party and you don’t even
drink, ask for seltzer and hold the glass as you circulate, and he feels
you are on the same wavelength. The model is not a deceptive sublimi-
nal message but the joy of walking at the beach or on a pretty street
where your stride matches effortlessly and you stop or make a turn in
such easy synchronicity you don’t know how it happened.
What is natural is for a woman to behave in a somewhat understated
way while she is on the lookout for her best chance of finding a good
partner, or while she reels him in (pardon the metaphor). She, of course,
is discreet, knowing that males of many species, including ours, get a
kick out of marketing themselves to attract a customer. Have trust in
the courtship dance, and when you identify an attractive man, let him
60 When I Fall in Love Again

have an equal spotlight as you date. Take a hint from nature and let the
peacock fan his feathers . . . for you.
We are more complex that they are. We are more emotional in our
base. Dr. Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Brain, uses the term
over and over that our brains are marinated with hormones. A normal
good guy who liked his mother wants to form an attachment with a
woman but he is hardwired to fear our temperament. You hear men
saying their worst evaluation of a woman and it’s that’s she’s ‘‘crazy,’’
by which he means high-strung. All you have to do is temper your reac-
tions and he’ll be able to gallop towards you without reservation.
Do this consistently—I repeat—be consistent. You don’t talk too long
or laugh uncontrollably. You take it easy if you fail the test or the com-
muter train is delayed an hour at the stop before yours. You aren’t
bland, though. You share your passions while showing him even then
that you are consistent, reliable.
This is on the deepest level reassurance to the new man that you are
steady, faithful, not boring, but a woman he can trust when he isn’t
thinking about you—because men don’t think about us as much as we
think about them. They spend far more hours in their weeks completely
wrapped up in sports, business, and nonrelationship matters.

You Shine in Company

Don’t put down or be cool to the competition. It is fine to have good-
looking and accomplished women friends and associates. Men, once they
are past adolescence, want one woman who sticks with them. In the rare
case where your model-gorgeous girlfriend snags a potential guy, think
of him as having been eliminated like a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill.

Closing the Deal

He likes you, next he whispers he loves you, and then he tells you he’ll
love you forever. My advice is if you can be true to him, and see a life
with him, go for it! Say, what does that mean, Henry? How do I inter-
pret that in my language? Because the man who can speak of love may
mean something different than you do. He may mean that he is in a
dither of sexual desire, but has no intention of sharing a future with
you or anybody at this time; it’s too complicated for his on/off male
brain. I hope this doesn’t sound cynical, because I think for most men
the words of love come hard and are sincere . . . but the words are also
a generalized expression of feeling that you can gently fine-tune. So you
have to ask: so does this mean we are moving toward the ‘‘m’’ word?
Play the Game or Lose 61

Clues to the fact that ‘‘m’’ may not be in your future and you need to
find out what train you are on with this guy after six months include:

• If he talks about going on a trip together as a big remote enterprise

(translation—you are a girlfriend he has fun with but marriage isn’t
on the menu).
• If he talks about introducing you to his parents but nothing has hap-
pened (translation—he likes to keep you locked in by using his
parents as the symbol of hope for your relationship but that’s all
they are).

After two years:

• If he puts a napkin over his face before he can say I love you (as one
woman reported) (translation—he really didn’t say it).
• If he starts looking for a new apartment or major piece of furniture
(cars are admissible) without consulting you (translation—you won’t
be in the apartment or using the furniture).

Closing the deal is not laying down the law, it’s nudging a man to
see the implications of your being a beautiful item together before he
sees it. The hurdles can be as minor as his lease with his roommate hav-
ing another season to go. Or, in the case of my son and daughter-in-law,
she was brought to near tears, feeling the time was right for a proposal,
but he was mum. It turned out that he was making a diminutive
wooden box with lamina of the wood of six continents before he issued
a ring. However when he saw Margot was at wit’s end he gave her
some signal that he would pop the question soon.


1. Peter K. Jonason and Michael J. Marks, ‘‘Common vs. Uncommon Sexual

Acts: Evidence for the Sexual Double Standard,’’ Sex Roles 60 (2009): 357–66.
2. Kathleen Gable, Clark Gable: A Personal Portrait (Englewood Cliffs, NJ:
Prentice-Hall, 1961), 20.
Self-Esteem: Its Importance and
How to Achieve It

My one regret in life is that I am not someone else.

—Woody Allen
The most stunning woman at the party—who is she? She isn’t of the
highest status, the skinniest, or the most fashionable. Yet she stands out.
It’s described as confidence but it’s more the air that she’s going some-
place and taking you with her. This is not about being manipulative
and insincere. This is about being open, resolute, and fine-tuning the art
of being noticed. When you feel good and full of life you dismantle your
defenses, such as pessimism or self-doubt. The French use the expres-
sion ‘‘bien dans son peau’’ or feeling good inside your skin.
There’s a half-truth in faking it until you make it. Psychologists call it
‘‘acting yourself into a new way of thinking,’’ which is always quicker
than ‘‘thinking yourself into a new way of acting.’’ If you act confident,
look people in the eye, are assertive, you suddenly ARE confident.
The old house in Princeton where I (Jane—first author) lived with my
young family looked like the witch’s cottage in Hansel and Gretel. The
master bedroom was furnished with a double bed and a low double-
length dresser with his-and-hers drawers, left by the old retired profes-
sor. A long mirror was bolted to the dresser, and it could be tilted up or
down, like a cheval glass. Rozy was about two when she delighted in
putting on silks and satins and sashes and fake pearls from the dress-up
trunk and crawling up on the bed to see the effect in the mirror. She
would exclaim, ‘‘Comme je suis belle!’’ (How beautiful I am!). I was a
bit puzzled and wondered what this exclamation was about—preening
vanity or comical self-regard?—because this was a repeated scenario. At
least half a dozen times, including when I was in the room and not, I
had a chance to watch her and scrutinize her at play. She wasn’t wear-
ing a party dress, but costumes she had dolled up in, so she was herself
64 When I Fall in Love Again

yet her own creation. She had brought off an effect she deemed stun-
ning. It was if she were doing a catwalk and complimenting herself that
she had brought off the same stroke of genius as the last time she had
put herself and an outfit to the test.
This was not only a cute and innocent rite of early childhood but a
wondrous flowering of self-confidence. In order to compete successfully
in the world, we need to have an optimistic attitude. It is important to
believe that we can succeed, that our efforts will get results, that we are
bright, attractive, have much to offer, and so forth. If you go to a party
and assume that no one will talk to you because you are an unattractive,
dull, boring person, you will find that, indeed, no one does talk to you.
But if you walk into a party as if you are walking onto a yacht (para-
phrasing Carly Simon from her song ‘‘You’re So Vain’’) you will dis-
cover that people look up and notice you.


When you’ve put your trust into a man and he throws you over, or you’ve
put your faith into a relationship that goes south, you feel like a truck ran
over you. Some of the women I interviewed described the sensation as
one of physical hurt. It takes almost superhuman effort to get through a
day, and the hurt keeps creeping back when you think it has lifted. In this
post-breakup mood, which dominates for some time and then interferes
for some more until finally it’s a little cut on your finger or bruise on your
heel, your self-esteem is not so much low as in total confusion. You were
too good for him, not good enough, you are not meant for a normal rela-
tionship, you will wait until you are old as Methuselah until you find a
man who is spiritually on your wavelength.
And then there are humiliations that test your limits: the wedding
where he was supposed to be your date which you still have to attend;
the note of regret from his mother who liked you better than the hussy
he left you for; the fact you swore you’d be with someone by thirty, or
forty, or sixty, and here you are still on the dating circuit, back out on
the street again.
It’s like being knocked off a horse. After the breakup, the great disap-
pointment whether he ended it or you did, you look around and see no
prospects of a normal relationship. You think about going to a palm
reader or your mother—anyone who might convince you that you’ll not
end up shriveled and alone. You feel tattered, and no one is suitable.
The good ones are married or gay; the men drawn to you do not interest
Self-Esteem 65

you. Above all, your heart feels full of sawdust and the eternal flame of
hope seems like a cheat.
You can’t sleep, or your eating habits are disordered. You lose your
energy or you put your sneakers on and go for a run at a weird hour.
Uncontrollable tears gush forth when you don’t expect it. Your skin
feels scorched. You are in mourning for what might have been.


My favorite time of year in New England is pre-spring. Beginning in

March, when the deer are moving slowly and their winter camouflage is
perfect against the fields and trees, with the snow mostly melted, I get
exhilarated because spring is coming. I imagine that the earth is begin-
ning to thaw, and the flowers will soon bloom.
That is how women I think secretly look at their bridge to a new
lover. In this interlude you feel anticipation that you may be approach-
ing, or have already met, your destined true love, and that love is in the
air. This alone time is yours to awaken your faculties. While you are
healing is time to buttress your self-esteem, because it’s going to take
some energy to lift yourself up in the saddle and canter off cheerily
again. What worked first of all for the women I interviewed who were
bridging from one intimate partner to another was recognizing the diffi-
culty. If you underestimate the difficulty of the shift, you are going to
live a lie. Admit you feel numbed, shattered, sad, tearful, or discour-
aged. Admit that a date with the most wonderful movie star is pointless
and your confidence in getting it right next time is at near zero.
But persevere like a wounded but brave soldier. General George S. Pat-
ton said, ‘‘To win the battle you must make the mind control the body.’’
As soon as you take this attitude, the world will reinforce that you are lika-
ble, have a future, and that your allure is not a whit diminished but if any-
thing increased by your greater knowledge and experience.


Men are drawn by the surface attractions but are reeled in by quality of
heart, mind, and soul. They are hunters who need to pursue, yet they
want to be loved as unique individuals. The same fellow who was riv-
eted by a cleavage, and only wants to party, looks at the same woman
one day and thinks, ‘‘Is this the gal I want across the dinner table from
me for the next fifty years?’’ Pygmalion sculpted a female ideal and was
66 When I Fall in Love Again

starstruck by his own creation. Yet he discovered that perfection of the

female form is nothing without a warm response.
If you happen to be drop-dead gorgeous yet self-intoxicated, the men
will flock to you, but it will be brief. You have to get over your self-
intoxication and show that you are an interesting person who can be a
good match. The goal is to be bright, beautiful, and tempting. At an out-
ing designed for active singles, a dance, an upscale bar, a kayak club
event or pool party, the male guests are poised to notice and get to
know, and this is the time to shine forth with your personality and in-
terest in others. Smile. Say hello. Ask, ‘‘How do you know the people
putting on the party?’’ Don’t expect someone to walk over to you and
start talking. You make the move.


People with low self-esteem do a lot of negative thinking about them-
selves. But the opposite is also true. Those who have high self-esteem
think positive thoughts about themselves. To ensure that your self-
esteem is high, make a list of twenty good things about you: you are
honest, you are nurturing, you are pretty, you are hardworking, etc. If
you have trouble coming up with twenty items, ask close friends to tell
you what they like about you and you’ll have your list.
Use this list. Put the items on a three-by-five card and read it three
times a day. So rather than be down in the dumps because your lover
has gone, focus on what he’s missing and what the next guy will cash in
on. You have to have self-esteem to get a man who will be good to you.
Men take the cue from us. They will respect you if you respect yourself.
Boasting is a turnoff: look at how great I am, what I do and where I
go are fascinating. That’s comical and sad, and a terrible barrier for the
person who does it.


It may sound cliched, but beauty really does start from the inside. All
of the forces enacted on the body by the outside world (this includes
eating well, the air you breathe, and the people you surround yourself
with) help to define and manifest that beauty. Beauty, therefore,
should never be the goal; it is the by-product of right living and right
thinking. You are vulnerable, particularly in the bridge to a new secu-
rity with a loving partner, and you have flaws. But they do not hold
you back.
Self-Esteem 67


I know a stocky, large woman with wispy hair and a plain face, who
with her confident sexuality and upbeat personality captured a very
high-prestige and very wealthy guy who was also tall, athletic, and of
cheerful temperament—because she presents herself as a sensual per-
son. She knows she is unique and knows how to carry her weight
because she had dance training in body movement from when she was
a professional singer.
A trick to gaining self-esteem in sex is simply to date more men. You
don’t have to sleep with them; that can bring a girl down in more ways
than the obvious. But being admired and liked by a new man can wash
the old one out of your hair and improve your mood so you are ready
for the prince.
Said Leena, a college librarian, twenty-five:

I always find it easier to date a new person if I’m trying to forget the one
that came before. For example there was a guy that I thought was really
great, but he was only interested in being friends with me. Not only did it
hurt that he had rejected me, but I also wanted to erase this idea that I
missed out on someone really great.

The easiest way to convince yourself that you are better off with the
last one gone is by meeting someone that could possibly be even better.
Also, when pride gets damaged from rejection, dating a new person
(who is actually interested) is a good way to feel better about yourself.
When you think about becoming more physically attractive, your
mind wanders to less-than-ideal measurements, or a cowlick, or that
bump at the bridge of your nose. Yet take it from French women who
say that the little irregularities and departures from the ideal make us
more appealing and distinctive.
Clothes make us feel more ready for love, and more sensual. Looking
in fashion, not as though you were left behind, is the goal. No cocktail
dresses from when you were twenty, no shoulder pads, no color-of-the-
year that looks garish and dated now. You didn’t get enough use out of
these clothes because they were unflattering or uncomfortable. Dress
your age but just a little younger. Makeup can make you look older.
Whittling your waist is the smartest single thing to do when you are
toning up to your fighting looks. This is a quick change with a regular
routine at the gym. You don’t have to lose more than a few pounds if
you have a waist that is nicer for a man to encircle. The toned-but-not-
skinny look of a mature woman is in fashion.
68 When I Fall in Love Again

Know that you are a better catch than almost all your contempora-
ries. If you’re between twenty and thirty-five, and are clearheaded, fun
loving, and not in a dither about impossible life goals, you can be sure
of this. If you are older and lively and not man-hating, you are a great
catch too.
Never think a man is too high status for you.
Enjoy small sins when stressed by the netherworld nature of your
social life. A manicure, pedicure, facial, or massage will do wonders.
You deserve it.
Mama: What She Didn’t Tell You
about Sex and Men

The art of being a woman can never consist of being a bad imitation of
a man.
—Olga Knopf
Following a relationship derailed and a long season of Internet dating,
speed dating, and being set up by friends, my (Jane—first author) eldest
daughter began to share dating stories with me. Her relationship with
‘‘Mr. Pizza Topping’’ continued from their speed-dating encounter to a
real date, to a propensity for interrogation. Over dinner at a busy
Georgetown restaurant he proposed a three-question Q&A game: ‘‘How
many boyfriends have you had?’’, ‘‘If you were a pizza what kind
would you be?’’ and ‘‘Have you ever taken drugs?’’ Corporate attorney
that she is, Emma replied to just the middle question, and said, ‘‘A
Mr. Pizza Topping invited her to tour the bar, where, in the corner of
the bar area of the posh restaurant, stood a tall lacquered chest of
drawers. ‘‘Now guess what’s in there,’’ he said.
‘‘Nothing?’’ said Emma.
‘‘Dessert forks!’’ He pulled open the top drawer to reveal dozens of
them. ‘‘Loser pays the tab.’’
He seemed to have played this game before, thought Emma as she
forestalled a kiss.
Once she told me she stayed over at a serious beau’s place and they
were late for a theater matinee because the beau, a fashion-conscious
dresser, couldn’t decide what to wear and came out in three successive
outfits. She asked if I thought that strange? ‘‘Yes, and ominous!’’ I replied.
We had many conversations about men and sex in the course of that year
or so. Sometimes I feared being blunt or graphic, but Emma assured me
she benefited from having a mom to talk over relationships with men.
70 When I Fall in Love Again

On one occasion, I told her she was not putting her heart into her
‘‘job’’ of finding her soul mate. She said: ‘‘Okay, I’ll go back to the man
on the Internet dating site who wanted to meet me six months ago, even
though he is attractive and I’m sure he’s found someone else by now.’’
So an offhand observation from dear old Mom resulted in an ideal
match. My daughter, who works the typical extended hours of a young
corporate attorney, came out of her law firm castle and fell for the excit-
ing Internet date, David. (Being two kindhearted lawyers they don’t
have oral arguments, just fun and battles of wit . . . in fact, being so ver-
bally matched, Emma and David won the Washington Post 2009 scav-
enger hunt that had about ten thousand contestants.) To assess the
input from mothers, I asked the sixty women I interviewed what their
mothers did or did not tell them about relationships.


If your mother said, ‘‘You’ll know when he’s the one,’’ she was either
just lucky with Dad, saturated in romance novels, or had forgotten how
she weighed her decision to be with him. Good advice would be to
choose the man not by whether he has a blazing career but a good work
ethic; not who is funny or a gifted conversationalist but who has a sense
of humor about himself; not with knowledge of a finger bowl but
patient when the maitre d’ can’t find his reservation; generous not with
presents but of himself when the elderly person next door needs a lift to
the store.


Enter into a relationship and commitment slowly, as opposed to trying
to make judgments about potential partners after going out a few
times. You will want your mom’s opinion as well as to run the new
man by at least one judicious friend, male or female—someone who
recognizes the cads, manipulators, and weak men out there whom we
encounter on our path to bliss with one of the fine men who are avail-
able as well. Sleep with one eye open until your concerns and deepest
needs are met.


If the guy you are seeing is so self-centered or self-sufficient as a person

that he is incapable of forming a loving attachment, you will see your
Mama: What She Didn’t Tell You 71

attempts to warm and connect with him go awry. Before he brings you
down, flee him! It’s not that there’s a preponderance of these aloof men
out there; more are lonely and eager to attach. But as you move through
your adult womanhood, the proportion of the men who are single and
unable to emotionally attach goes up.
So, why is Gabe available? A star Ph.D. from Stanford, he heads a
research institute for high-tech medical products and is a popular sci-
ence lecturer often consulted by television show hosts. Gabe played var-
sity basketball in college and now is an enthusiastic golfer and doubles
tennis player. He has a great smile and takes a personal interest in all
his staff, showing concern for everyone from the night watchmen to the
families of those in his employ. At forty-five, Gabe is compared to James
Bond and he looks fabulous in black tie.
Said Christy, who does marketing for a California wine company and
had been seeing Gabe for two years:

You have to ask why is he available and why did both his wives want a
divorce? Gabe is all the good things you see, but he’s so stingy that if he
doesn’t like a movie I’ve seen him ask for his money back. Once when a
guest brought over an expensive bottle of wine, he served cheap wine and
wanted me to return the gift to my store! I’ve learned to read the signs! . . .
We used to argue and I figured, ‘‘That’s how Gabe is,’’ until I changed from
asking myself, ‘‘What are my prospects with him?’’ to ‘‘Why would I want to
be with this tightwad anyway?’’ (he’s as stingy with his affection as he is
with his wallet).

So what does and does not matter? What types of men are to be
avoided, guys that may not be worth the effort?

Men to Avoid: Ten Types

1. The Surfer (comes and goes; takes pride in not needing you and will
be caustic when you show need for him)
2. The Bandit (loves you and leaves you once you satisfy his need to
be adored)
3. The Armored Car (he projects ‘‘I’m not going to be taken again by a
4. The Conqueror (the one who wants to add notches to his belt)
5. The Chameleon (the one who adapts himself to you so completely
you feel he is your dream man—until he gets tired of who you are
and reverts to his real self)
6. The Intimidator (‘‘Don’t even think about opposing me’’)
72 When I Fall in Love Again

7. The Great Man (‘‘You can be my moll. Just sacrifice your identity.’’)
8. The Frenzied Go-Getter (‘‘Get on my bandwagon and we’ll share a
crazy, ambitious ego—mine’’)
9. Damaged Goods (neurotic to start with and a train wreck after his
last relationship failure)
10. The Sidekick (‘‘He’s such an understanding friend, I guess I’ll sleep
with him . . . but there’s no chemistry‘‘)

Men Worth Investing In (And You May Wonder Why You Didn’t See It
Straight Off)
The following types of men deserve a second look; they are often made
for love:
1. Reformed Bad Boys (They are done with their past and have the
wisdom of experience.)
2. Warm Guys (They love their mothers, which is a good training
ground for loving you.)
3. Peaceable, Low-Ambition Men (They devote time to working things
out. They will have time for you, but will require your patience.)
4. Nerds (They dress like geeks in a computer store, wear glasses, and
need an orthodontist. But they are faithful and loving as a golden
retriever. They show up on time and won’t break your heart. A
beautiful woman we know says, ‘‘Nerds treat me better.’’)
5. Creative Men (Their emotions are expressed in their work, not their
personal life. It’s up to you to show them there is more to life than
being at the office.)
6. Slow-Maturing Men (They are ready now, in their forties, and
weren’t ready when their peers were first mating.)
7. Lonely Adventurers (men who come across on the surface like a
rolling stone, but who, changed by circumstance, are eager to be
with one woman permanently)
8. Sequentials (men who wanted to achieve success in their business
or profession before tackling a serious relationship; they are ready
for love and a family)
9. Divorced Men (Consider that responsibility for divorce is not always
in the gray area. He may have loved everything about marriage but
been with someone who was still overly attached to her daddy and
wanted him to move in. Now he’s up for grabs, only take care she
doesn’t use the children against him if she wants to get back at this
giving man.)
Mama: What She Didn’t Tell You 73

10. Tick-tocks (While men’s biological urge is less manifest than ours,
men who in their twenties went on casual dates, when they turned
thirty often think of themselves as hooked up with a steady mate.
Now, they are done with the revolving door and want one woman
and a child.)
11. Dazed/On-the-Rebound Men (Just out of a relationship, they may
want to go agonizingly slowly because of their difficult past experi-
ences. This man will require patience and reassurance. Teach him
not to shoot all the dogs because some of them have fleas. The
rebound man may also want to go too fast to replace a previous lost
relationship. Proceed with caution.)
12. Casual Daters (These guys date lots of women. You don’t want to
be just another on the list, but maybe he’s looking for you.)


While your mother may have told you to follow your heart in matters
of love, she probably did not tell you how to respect and control your
sexual needs or alert you that you will screw up your life if you don’t.
What I wish my mother had told me or I wish I’d listened to if she
inferred it (same difference) is that if a woman acknowledges her pas-
sionate nature, her mind can be a rudder and she can be more circum-
spect about where it leads her.
I had never thought of the perils of not being alert in these terms. I
began to think about my type, and I realized that all of the men who
had disappointed me in love were exceedingly charming and had, as
one of them voiced it after his years of therapy, ‘‘an intimacy problem.’’
By contrast, my male friends formed a type as well: reliable, rather
courtly, sensitive, and unassuming, like the men closest to me in my
family. However, the twain didn’t meet in one person, and when I met
a ruthless, high-powered, highly sexed male, I gravitated his way if I
was unattached. I was the handmaiden or moll to a series of alpha
Gradually I saw that I was getting but thin gruel from the men who
were partly thrilling but partly not there or, it still pains me to say,
indifferent. It was my own fault that I was arm candy for men who
were unavailable for anything but sex—certainly not helping me to
move into a new apartment. If the last man in your life was in it only
for the sex, learn the type and be alert the next time. Moreover, if you
are attracted to these guys, take a look at the pattern and change it.
74 When I Fall in Love Again


An adage many of the women I interviewed noted was that between

eighteen to twenty-four months into a love relationship, the ‘‘pink
cloud’’ lifts and you begin to cavil about the other person: ‘‘If only I
could change this or that.’’ Maybe we have tugs like that. For example,
my mate is an attorney and sometimes I wish he didn’t think like an at-
torney. But then I can always do the love test: When I see him walking
up to the house, how do I feel? My heart flips and I feel a rush of love.
If you will, I float onto that pink cloud. I don’t suggest you try to change
a man (or he you). What needs to change if you are to ascend the rela-
tionship ladder from a cracked, disappointing relationship to a whole
one is not to accept that feeling inside when your heart goes ‘‘Thud, he
doesn’t answer my needs’’ but to consider ‘‘He’s my guy/we are
together/nothing’s perfect.’’ And notice that the ratio of the good far
outweighs the bad. George Carlin said, ‘‘If some of your needs are not
met, drop some of your needs.’’
But don’t settle for a relationship of despair. Listen to your require-
ments about his need for intimacy with you. If he is not sensitive and
you have lurking feelings of unease, which he discounts, think again
about this relationship. Talking about your needs and likes can help,
but if he’s rock-bottom selfish, he is not likely to change. An immutable
narcissism can set off an alarm at the oddest moments: Why does he
always have to choose the talk radio station when you would like
music? Why do you have to go to his favorite bar every Friday night?
While all of us are selfish, there are levels below which someone would
be unwise to partner.
It’s a tightrope act sometimes between adapting and being under-
standing, and knowing when to assert your demands or question his
preferences. In the bedroom, if he has a pattern of doing it his way, even
if it’s not hurtful, you have to say, with firmness, ‘‘Let’s make love in a
position we don’t usually—better for me.’’ And if some aspect of the
sexual rapport hurts or you don’t like it, then don’t allow it. A strong
vibrant woman told me:

I don’t know how I became pregnant by Josh, since he liked to do every-

thing except penetrate vaginally. I look back at how I accepted this as
‘‘everything that’s consensual is okay’’ and wonder why I took so long to
wake up to his being a terrible lover. When I got pregnant Josh wondered
why I was surprised. Because we didn’t have nice, normal sex, I told him!
When I miscarried I left and got on with my life.
Mama: What She Didn’t Tell You 75


Promise yourself that you will be less accepting of hurt in the new rela-
tionship; otherwise your rightful sense of self is forced down (repressed)
and you will throw the new man off your back anyway.
Beth, a junior editor for a newsmagazine, had a glamorous boyfriend
who was an international news correspondent. The boyfriend intro-
duced her to b & d (bondage and discipline) and he said she was the
best sex partner he ever had. Beth tried to take being tied up and his in-
sistence on anal intercourse in stride—there was nothing sinful in sex,
right? But his lack of respect for her feelings and her having to prove
her love by going along with his preferences didn’t feel right. She said:

I accepted a situation for way too long that made me not only uncomfort-
able, but miserable, because I feared he would leave me. But I enabled him
to go farther with behavior that left me angry, unhappy, and desperate. If I
had talked to someone, I hope it would have helped. I would have wanted
to hear that it was okay for me not to be okay with his wishes and
demands. Regardless of the fact that another woman might be just fine with
what he wants, it wasn’t a good thing for me since it made me so unhappy.

Maybe it is natural for mothers not to tell us much about relation-

ships with men; it’s more important that they listen to the daughters’
concerns. Therefore, you have to decide for yourself if your require-
ments in a man and a relationship are right for you. Usually they are. If
it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t. Don’t convince yourself that you should go
along with whatever a man wants because you love him, he fascinates
you, or he is a good catch. If it hurts you, physically or emotionally, if
he doesn’t care about you, if he doesn’t respect you and keeps pushing
you, get out of the relationship since it is moving into the abuse zone.
Trust what you logically know: that standards are not only okay but
worth insisting on. On the other hand, if you are in an open and giving
relationship, give things a try; experiment, be open to new things.


Sex is how you tell a man you belong with him. It’s in a language that
he gets. Let’s proceed to a lesson so advanced that many women never
get there. Women in the 1950s were told by advice mavens in women’s
magazines to dress in pinafore and g-string, or bustier and fishnet stock-
ings, and answer the door for their hubbies with a tray of cocktails for
76 When I Fall in Love Again

two. The idea was to preserve the heat of the marriage. My generation
of women jettisoned the concept of pleasing the man. We were after our
own orgasms, to hell with him (not that this was our universal attitude
but it was the spirit of the times, peaking in the 1980s). Today women
are stressed to have careers, boyfriends, children, etc., and might benefit
from the likes of Venus, that beautiful thing, allure.
If you wear a baggy sweater and black pants on New Year’s Eve, if
you walk around in your mate’s view naked as if you were in a men’s
locker room with no sexual tension in the air, and if you talk graphically
about your sexual history or your friend’s, you have forgotten the
power of allure.
Martha, who works in the hospitality industry, has a knack for saying
and doing the right thing. She is a born diplomat and, as a leggy, curva-
ceous, attractive woman who meets oodles of men, never has trouble get-
ting dates. Her long relationship was with a photographer who left for the
Black Hills of South Dakota. It was a case of sheer geography keeping Ty
and Martha apart, as Martha couldn’t give up her job with an elite hotel to
live an uncertain life with a freelance photographer in the wilds. She didn’t
rush into dating other men between when Ty left and she turned thirty-
four (six years). Martha had so many one- or two-night stands that she
didn’t recall all their names or have any inclination to. She was thinking at
this stage, she told me, of the nanny ads, not the personals.
This puzzled Martha’s friends, who one by one paired off with men
while she was caught in the revolving door. She was attractive and
social, and she had weathered a lot of sexual encounters without becom-
ing embittered, so she figured out what was happening:

I didn’t fight with them. I didn’t ask for commitment. I didn’t have past
boyfriends’ pictures up in my apartment. I was even responsive in bed.
But I came to realize what was wrong after I asked a good prospect, Rob-
ert, why he hadn’t called again after we had a weekend or two together.
He said that he liked me but the way I took the sex in stride he figured
it was ‘‘finite’’ (had limits). He said that my glamorous job, having a well-
decorated apartment, and being so competent about everything was like a
‘‘closed system.’’ In effect, he felt I didn’t have room for him in my life
and could not or would not adapt. That was information I found useful. I
made a slight alteration and acknowledged when I had hopes with a man
for love and commitment. It felt like putting the cart before the horse to
share this with a date, but within a short time one of the men who had
been so cool asked me out, and I let him know the sex was special and of
my desire to connect, and there was 180-degree change. We have a loving
relationship as a result.
Mama: What She Didn’t Tell You 77


In many aspects of life we put on a mask or tend to be a little fake. You

can’t tell your new boss you preferred the old one. You tell your parents
you are plenty fit to leave for France and hike across the Pyrenees next
week when in fact you are heavily medicated for a head cold. You listen
rapt to the recital of the beginners’ piano class.
A beautiful boon of love is being completely oneself. The French call it
‘‘sans facon,’’ being casual and unpretentious, and we can well imagine
that even Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie don’t put on airs when together in
private. To me this hiding of one’s true thoughts and replacing them
with cant is the most exhausting and heinous aspect of insincerity. I call
it the need to doublethink.
Right away it comes between the two people. For instance, when I
broke a big garnet red bowl that had been my mate’s before I moved in
with him, I said not a word. I joked to a male friend that it was the tell-
tale bowl, but my friend, who has great discernment, said that such a
matter could take on terrible proportions, and asked what I planned to
do. Actually I had a plan the next time we were in a certain town to go
to a fancy store where my mate had purchased two special soup bowls
and say, ‘‘Well John, you know that red bowl? . . .’’ Eventually I did
find a bowl with a luminous blue glaze for fifteen or twenty dollars at a
Marshall’s, and he likes it, but between the time that I broke the bowl
and the time I replaced it three months later, I had a twinge each time I
thought of my ruse. If you have a good love, a lie insinuates, and if that
lie is a terrible lie not about breaking a glass bowl, it usually poisons the
relationship so you can never return to paradise.


Most women I spoke with shake their heads at forgiving infidelity. ‘‘I
wish I were like that,’’ said Sophie, ‘‘but if my husband cheated it
would rend the fabric of our lives.’’ A different vantage came from
Kathleen, a tutor for the SAT exams in Los Angeles. ‘‘The only reason
I’d ever cheat would be lust,’’ she said. Single until forty, Kathleen is
now forty-six, with a child in kindergarten, and very fulfilled. Her being
happy is why I think she is of this opinion.
Spouses often explain their infidelity as having drifted into a mood of
wild abandon. However, I don’t know anyone to whom this happened,
do you? In the movie Revolutionary Road, the Kate Winslet character has
a fling because she is miserable in the suburbs and is denied a dream
78 When I Fall in Love Again

vacation to Paris, while the Leonardo DiCaprio character sleeps with

another woman because he sees no way out from a job he hates. Infidel-
ity is a diversionary tactic from an unbearable situation or an outlet for
anger and resentment that has been suppressed over and over. Even if
it seems to be about a search for a more suitable partner or an attempt
to recapture a prior relationship, it is about utter frustration with the
now, and if you are in a relationship that is in the doldrums, no matter
that you and he are decent, caring people, the relationship you may
have taken for granted is at risk.


Moms rarely get explicit with their daughters about orgasm. In the
course of your personal development you learn what turns you on; you
don’t just let the man determine it for you.
There were cases in the 1980s of women who nursed their children
longer than the norm, where the women were accused of doing it for
self-gratification. One mother said that yes it was a sexual sensation, and
this was considered shocking. But oxytocin, the hormone that is the let-
down signal for mother’s milk to flow, is also active in the female
orgasm. When you are at the outset of sexual activity you almost have to
locate the source of the buzz in your body. I (Jane—first author) remem-
ber before having sex, when he went to the bathroom to put on the con-
dom, lying in bed with one hand pressed to my pelvis, as if to locate
where the response would occur and galvanize electrical force there. Af-
ter childbearing, when desire returned after a month or two, I could sum-
mon up the sensations at will. The shimmering, crescendo type of climax
isn’t, I (and my partner) have come to notice, related only to what he
does, but to the feelings of love that emanate from the inside.
Overall, the man is more mechanical; use your hands, mouth, and
the love muscles and he orgasms. When I watch the man I love engaged
in something where I notice him but he doesn’t notice me, chopping
vegetables or carrying wood in for the woodstove, sensation cuts
through my sex and radiates through my body. I am sure this excite-
ment is on the continuum of orgasm, and that by experiencing the love
in little ways my body also keeps in practice for igniting in the sex act.
Most women do not reach orgasm through penetration so being re-
sponsible for your own orgasm is also important. A vibrator is not a
substitute for lovemaking but a toy that can relax stress and remind the
body, ‘‘These are sensations that good sex brings me.’’ Applied to dif-
ferent areas of the erogenous zone, notably the clitoris but also in the
Mama: What She Didn’t Tell You 79

fold, the vibrator (try the ‘‘bullet’’ if you want a specific recommenda-
tion) brings a woman to the point of climax slower or faster. During the
buildup there is a focusing of desire, which you can learn to summon
when you engage in lovemaking. (Go to the Intimacy Room at Heart- for more detail.)


Lovemaking is the light side of the moon. Don’t make it complicated.

Sex is mostly about timing. The younger the man the more he is ever
ready, the saying goes; but young men can get woozy from a few
drinks, stressed out, and not connect. For our part, we need to feel beau-
tiful and desired.
One man loves sex in the morning; the other wants his tea and yoga
then and is desirous at night. You are going to have to harmonize your
timing . . . and just when you get it right, there’s change: a baby, or
somebody has a night job or irregular schedule.


Only making love a lot gives you confidence in the art of lovemaking.
Between a man and a woman there is always a synapse for the electric-
ity to jump. When you are new lovers, there is the unknowableness the
two of you will encounter. That is because you and he are two halves of
a whole. Having frequent energetic bed play brings the two halves to-
gether, just as sleeping in each other’s arms helps, too.


When you get past the first couple of dates, look for specific things he
does that tell you if he has the basics. Pay attention to what he does, not
what he says. He says, ‘‘I hate liars,’’ but lies; he says, ‘‘I’d like to sit on
the bank and fish this summer,’’ when he’s a workaholic who doesn’t
stop and smell the flowers.
Identity if he has the following characteristics. Note that if a man has
at least the first three of the ten basics, you can trust him and he
respects you, you can move ahead:
1. Trustworthiness (honest with you and with money in business
2. Respect for you (your religion, your values; he doesn’t have to agree
or favor them, just honor that these are important values for you)
80 When I Fall in Love Again

3. Positive attitude towards and respect for his own health (not self-
destructive, addicted to alcohol or drugs, or a hypochondriac)
4. Passionate about something good outside himself (a measure of
5. Likes what he does
6. Has a lot of interests that are similar to yours
7. Chemistry is there. Sparks fly.
8. Sexually attractive to you (this has nothing to do with whether your
friends find him cute)
9. Loves you
10. Sexually attracted to you


For a relationship to succeed it must be with a man who is on a learning
curve. To me (Jane—first author) the most important is his ability to
grow. Has he changed his mind in a healthy direction in the past? Does
he admit to having made mistakes? Has he sought out knowledge,
become a healthier, more flexible person instead of a more rigid one
(become more open-minded)?
I can’t live with snobbism but I can live with a high-strung man. I
can enjoy life with a man who has very limited means but I cannot live
with a man who is careless about spending. I don’t have to feel on the
same wavelength with a man, but I have to want to lick his body all
over—be attracted to him. The idea that he can grow and I can too
means to me that the relationship is a creative act . . . and that’s more
exciting that any vacation, possession, or luxury.


When in the first stages of a relationship, it is essential to put some slack

in the line and allow for quirks. I know a man of arresting good looks
and sophistication who wears white gym socks with his better clothes. I
know a virile, well-read builder who is so inseparable from his dog that
he hardly goes anyplace without Max. . . . Now you could handle all that,
couldn’t you? At some point, after being mate-less, we all need a free
card to pass jail for some awkward habits we’ve developed!


There are lots of people out there who are wonderful, delightful, and
lovable . . . and yet not good relationship candidates. Let’s say you have
Mama: What She Didn’t Tell You 81

identified the early signs of lack of relationship readiness and he meets

none of your emotional needs, needs which you can only satisfy by dat-
ing freely and getting pieces here and there from various other men and
your friends. If you put up with this for five years you are going to be
achingly lonely. Move on. Better now than later.


As for my own mother, she did pass on some original gems of wisdom
that have tested out as indispensable:

• You can surmount any obstacle if love is present (well—most of them

• Every couple clashes but try to have the suffering in pinpricks. (Keep
arguments short and don’t wage a battle you can’t get over by
• It’s okay to pursue a man. Ladies Choice will flatter him but you
have to allow the love to happen. (In other words, ‘‘You Can’t Hurry
• Trust in your destiny; if it’s meant to be it will be.
• If your heart is breaking over a love affair, know that the anguish
will cure with time and it shows you have a warm heart and are
therefore made for love.


Mama might also cook the magic potion down to seven rules that gov-
ern searching for a man of your dreams. These are good to go no matter
your age from twenty to seventy.
1. Past. Know that it’s normal for emotions of your last relationship to
frustrate you. But you will get over him (completely), have no sexual
regrets, and be ready to move on (and you will be ahead for all of it).
2. Now. Fake it until you make it. It’s okay to feel needy and desperate.
That means you are a loving individual. You don’t have to show it
though, as it’s not socially approved of today.
3. Search. Take every systematic measure to meet somebody; accept
dates from all sane, sincere, and decent men, and give those men the
time of day, because you need to spread your net, and because your
politeness and kindness (the Golden Rule) will be rewarded. Include
Internet dating. has over a million potential partners; you
only need one.
82 When I Fall in Love Again

4. Goal. Decide how you feel about commitment and marriage, and be
firm about asking for what you want. If you want to be single at fifty,
okay. If you like the feeling of interdependency so much you want to
be married at twenty-two, go for that. But think about it because
there’s causality between what you wish and what happens. Espe-
cially for a woman, if you say girlfriend/boyfriend is okay and ask
no more, the man will take your cue and you’ll stay single.
5. Until. Between dates, put energy into self-development, not ‘‘What is
he thinking?’’ or ‘‘What is he going to do?’’ That means exercise,
spending time with female friends, personal luxuries.
6. Passion. Be an interested/interesting partner. Show interest in what
he is passionate about and bring something to the table that you are
passionate about.
7. Wait. Wait for sex. While wait for sex is last on our list of rules, it is
the ball game. Have sex very early in the relationship and it risks his
capacity to ever move you from the slut to the girlfriend/wife cate-
gory. Wait and you both win. Besides, you are worth waiting for,
Daddy: What He Wouldn’t Tell
You about Sex

Watching your daughter being collected by her date feels like handing
over a million-dollar Stradivarius to a gorilla.
—Jim Bishop
If your father talked to you about men, he’s one in a thousand. If he
said anything that was helpful, he would be one in a million. But fathers
know about men. They just fear telling their daughters what they are
getting into.


My (Jane—first author) own father thought it was correct to not address

issues that were my mother’s domain, i.e., human relationships of all
kinds. As an adult, I had moved back in and was living with my
parents for what turned out to be five months, after having a baby
whose father wasn’t and would never be on the scene. My father just
tightened his lips and told me that I shouldn’t have sent the baby’s
father away but should have agreed to marry him. ‘‘Marry him!’’ I
shouted back. ‘‘He won’t admit to ever having been a boyfriend. Why,
at the hospital he pretended to be a cousin; otherwise he wouldn’t have
come up to the maternity floor!’’ My father took in this new information
and gave me his beetle-browed look. ‘‘That’s bad,’’ he said. ‘‘The fellow
needs to catch up.’’
The editor of the Modern Love feature in the New York Times asked
readers to write in what they thought the biggest problem was in male-
female relationships. The most frequent response of women was, ‘‘He
was a jerk. He didn’t know what he wanted.’’ The most frequent
response from men was, ‘‘I was a jerk. I didn’t know what I wanted.’’
84 When I Fall in Love Again

The men and women agreed on something! The reason for the congru-
ence relates to what my father said—that men have catching up to do.
Maternal instincts are largely innate in a woman, who cuddles her
baby doll as she was held and cuddled by her own mother. She dresses
up to please, as her mother does. Qualities of listening and compassion
also come naturally to her whereas the male may never develop them
or do so more slowly.
Leigh Cousins, a relationship counselor and educator specializing in
evolutionary psychology said, ‘‘Men are famously inarticulate about
their feelings, because their own feelings are more opaque to themselves
than ours are. Men simply do not know what they feel a lot of the time.
Often they grab the self-deprecating explanation because it gets the con-
versation finished.’’1 Cousins suggested the biological reasons why men
are out of touch with their emotions: ‘‘Men don’t benefit from showing
their emotions the way women do. A woman in need, one who is crying
or seems helpless, is likely to attract help and sympathy, whereas a man
who cries or seems weak is going to be stomped on by his rivals and
shunned by women.’’2
Males learn quickly that weakness is a liability whereas for females
it summons help. Males have been taught to ignore physical pain (‘‘Get
up son . . . that didn’t hurt did it?’’) and to be cautious about revealing
‘‘soft’’ emotions (doing so will invite being taken advantage of). In con-
trast, males find it easier to display ‘‘hard’’ emotions such as anger,
competitiveness, and aggression since these translate into power and
control. This model of gender differences is partial, but applying it to
our romances we cut the man slack for his unrefined behaviors (e.g., not
treating his parents with respect and not changing diapers).
There is a wide variety of men who are single and dating, from those
who want relationship and commitment (and haven’t experienced or can’t
get it) to those who don’t want to end the party. Geoff, a civil engineer
who takes his sailing vessel from Canada to his home in New Zealand,
put it like this: ‘‘Men don’t really grow up until they are forty. And in
some cases never.’’ I’ve seen eternal boys change into doting dads when
their innate paternal instincts are awakened.
However, it’s precarious to think the immature man will mature once
he’s plucked off the vine. They may have developed joy in their lifestyle
and have no intention of changing. My friend Leigh notes, ‘‘They have
affairs, they buy stuff they can’t afford, they drink with their pals instead
of coming home to fold the laundry like they promised.’’ You should
either enjoy playing with no expectation of a relationship or future, or
leave them.
Daddy: What He Wouldn’t Tell You 85


While guys want to get laid, they also want to emotionally connect with
a woman. They are used to being loved and adored and need to feel
that they are. It is the woman who brings them in, lets them experience
the emotional context, which some men want more of. In You Didn’t
Hear It from Us, two bartenders-turned-researchers advise women on
bar etiquette, on how to ‘‘make sure the end of the evening is at least as
much fun as the beginning and the middle of it,’’ by being true to them-
selves. The authors have thirty combined years as bartenders, observing
men and women in an upscale bar scene, and on this they base their
endorsement of the concept that ‘‘women are the keepers of sex,
whereas men are the keepers of romance. That means we each want
what the other has. . . . Men have a much harder time with their emo-
tions—they’re trained from childhood to deny how they’re feeling.
Think about how often you hear parents telling little boys not to cry. No
wonder it’s so hard to communicate with each other. No wonder it’s so
easy just to have sex and split.’’3


Twice as much. About a quarter of husbands report that they have had
an affair and about half that percentage of wives (12.5 percent).4 The bi-
ological explanation is that men are wired for variety as is 95 percent of
the animal kingdom. The more women he mates with, the greater the
chance his genes are passed on.
In contrast, women are nest builders and focused on the brood at
home rather than fertilizing new eggs. Women who have affairs do so
more for the emotional adoration than the sex.


While both partners try to control the other to conform to their image of
a partner and the agenda for the relationship, men have more resources
of control: their incomes are considerably higher and they are more
marketable than a woman with two children. The result is that women
may defer to the wishes of their man.


It’s often said that men tend to be problem solvers, while women like to
discuss things. If you are troubled about something and bring it up to a
86 When I Fall in Love Again

man, he is likely to want to tell you the solution. You may not want this
at all—you just want to talk. It’s usually better to talk to women when
you just want to talk, and when you want a quick-fix suggestion, ask a
man. There’s a snag if you simply want to talk about a problem with a
man you are intimate with. If he offers a solution and you don’t follow
it or reject it as unimportant, he may think you don’t value his
opinion—or him.


Maybe it’s easier if he never said ‘‘I love you’’ to another woman, and
has never been engaged. But, hey, if another woman has lived with
him, he is going to be more attuned to sharing with another person.
And if he has loved before, he has the capacity for love.
Sometimes it’s the little things that show the man is domesticated (by
having previously lived with someone): he doesn’t bark when your skin
products are piled up on the bathroom sink, and he waits in the car
patiently while you do one or two last things in the house.


More men today are buffing to look attractive beyond the traditional
reasons of being stronger and healthier. They are looking into mirrors
more as they check out their muscles. Notwithstanding this trend,
men are less vain than women. This means that if you want a man to
change, and it relates to his attire, haircut, and even possibly his
weight, you can speak out about it. You appeal indirectly to his attrac-
tiveness, sentimental side, and comfort. Thus you can tell him that it’s
a good thing he wears white athletic socks with dress clothes because
that has saved him from other women . . . for you. Or you love to
catch sight of him in a crowd with his fire orange high school baseball
jacket, and if he saves it for special occasions he’ll be able to pass it
on to one of your children. As for the fact he wears dress shirts his
mother bought him in college despite the yellow line at the collar and
the fact his neck size is an inch bigger, you don’t say that it looks
dorkish but that his circulation will improve if he replaces it with
new ones.
Also, men often do not lap up a woman’s praise of their looks. If a
woman likes to gush ‘‘You are so handsome,’’ the man may find it off-
key. So be subtle: ‘‘Michelangelo’s David is beautiful but if I could figure-
sculpt, I’d do you.’’ Men are also fond of being complimented on the
Daddy: What He Wouldn’t Tell You 87

appearance and performing vigor of their sexual apparatus. This may

escape a woman’s attention because our anatomy is largely invisible to
the eye, and perhaps not a preoccupation, even in puberty. Men, how-
ever, are pleased pink if you sincerely admire their equipment.


Men don’t feel the urge to talk about previous girlfriends the way women
have the urge to share about previous boyfriends. This has to do with the
fear that you may think him a womanizer; he fears your rejection and he
doesn’t want the relationship to go south. Don’t press him. It is wonder-
ful how you don’t confront old ghosts with a man the way he encounters
them with us. Let’s enjoy that and don’t make a big deal out of it.


Dr. Phil’s ‘‘80 percent solution,’’ that the perfect fit is a myth, explains
why our women friends seem perfect. We simply aren’t asking them to
answer all our needs. We feel good around them and always look for-
ward to seeing and talking with them, whereas we ask more, and indeed
too much, from a man. ‘‘Instead of wasting time searching for an exact
match, look for the guy who is free of the deal breakers, and has 80 percent
of what you do want in a partner,’’ advises Dr. Phil.5


Women are nurturers and want to be of help. We want to have an
impact, and be that special, wonderful, magical person who comes into
the other person’s life and makes it better. I (Jane—first author) have
replayed the Beauty and the Beast scenario sometimes in my relation-
ships. I am attracted to diamonds in the rough, the terrific yet flawed
guy who, with my wise and magical influence, will become perfect
because I have the answer to his problems. Needless to say, there have
been beasts who stayed beasts. There have also been men who flourished
and we flourished as a couple. Equality and supporting each other in the
two-sided support system surely outlasts the giver-and-taker dyad.


Once a woman has slept with a man, it seems to be wired in his mind
that she will sleep with him again. Yet for women, who seem to bear
88 When I Fall in Love Again

the mark emotionally of being penetrated, it can be very bad news. The
past is stirred up psychologically, and you get detoured. Said my dear
friend Fiona, ‘‘Even my first husband, the abusive, alcoholic, sex addict
deviant, actually believed I would want to sleep with him again once I
got away from him.’’ If you and he have called it quits but are still in
the same vicinity before he leaves for Vladivostok, he may think, ‘‘Last
big night for sex.’’ Certainly many ex-boyfriends think nostalgically that
you and he will periodically come together again, and your answer is


However, you may want him back . . . for good. If you and he spend at
least a year apart after a breakup you both thought was definitive, then
you are not doing a kiss-and-make-up but coming together as two new-
ish people who shared something you think is worth recapturing. Said
Paulie, twenty-five:

My friends think I’m crazy. He cheated twice when we were together and
he broke my heart. Then his older brother died and he went to pieces. I
told him I could make him happy, save him from drink, that sort of thing.
He said he loved me but just wanted to be friends. I know that by giving
him space I got him back and we were engaged four years later. My
mother said she didn’t believe in destined lovers until she saw us. He was
my friend from grade school and I know him well enough to believe he’ll
be faithful to me now.


Men are turned on by the nude female body. Since adolescence they
have looked at girlie magazines and pornography. They rarely tire of it.
Indeed, the perpetuation of the species depends on the male getting a
hard-on when he sees a naked female. Suppose he didn’t? There would
be no penetration, no fertilized egg, and no offspring.
How should you respond? Women vary from watching porn with
their partners as a prelude to sex to making a fuss about his watching.
The fuss only results in his doing it when you aren’t around, just as you
will eat double-fudge chocolate chip cookies when he isn’t around.
Unless he is addicted so that porno watching is relentless and obses-
sional, interferes with his job and relationship with you (we know of
one woman who said, ‘‘After he looks at porn all day and jacks off,
Daddy: What He Wouldn’t Tell You 89

there’s nothing left for me’’), don’t make a big deal of it. His visual
delight in the female form only confirms that his wiring and testoster-
one are working—from which you will benefit.


It is not just a shibboleth that men are commitment-phobic. What they
will do is execute Houdini-like twists and turns to get out of a relation-
ship that complicates their lives. If you go after a man who doesn’t have
the space in his life for you, he will escape from long-term commitment.
The reason for this dodge and weave is his wanting to be free to keep
his sexual options open. He knows if he commits, you will require him
to give up other women—not a thought of interest for him.
I’ve met plenty of these magicians. When I lived in New York City, I
had affairs with a news correspondent from Rome who was unable to
divorce because of Italian laws at that time, a photographer for nature
documentaries, an actor in spaghetti Westerns, and a roue whose wife
accepted his affairs. Jiminy, none of them wanted to commit!
But men change and 95 percent end up getting married. You just have
to catch them at the right time. This is usually when they are into their
early thirties (at least), have been through a series of women, and are dis-
enchanted with the revolving door. Some are also ready for daddy land.
You just have to catch Peter Pan at the right time, when he is ready
to settle into complete manhood. Ruth, a flight attendant, met an invest-
ment banker in San Francisco who was here and there again and gone
tomorrow—and at forty-two, sick of living out of hotel rooms and hav-
ing casual affairs. Ruth said, ‘‘Jon is so grateful to be in a stable mar-
riage whereas my previous husband pushed for an open marriage
because he felt he hadn’t lived.’’
Women are not immune to the revolving door and tiring of it. As the
Russian princess Sofka Zinovieff wrote in her diary:

As you know, over these years I’ve gone to bed merrily with anyone who
seemed pleasant and entertaining. It was an agreeable pastime, good exer-
cise, and meant a very little for a week or two, a day or two, an evening. Fizzy
like champagne and flat as quickly. But no sooner does one’s emotion
become involved than physical attraction for anyone else disappears. I could
no more at present go to bed with anyone else than jump into a cesspool.6

This quote reflects the revelations of a reformed, outspoken thinker

who had believed in free love through much of adulthood. The attitude
90 When I Fall in Love Again

is similar to the numerous Peter Pans out there who gave up the magic
of flying for an exclusive relationship at last.

Because you are a woman who likes to bring joy, and doubly if you are
the younger or youngest in birth order, cheeriness is your thing—a
quality others learn to count on. But when you are mating, hold out for
a partner who is normal and of happy disposition. Let him deal with
your kinks or neuroses, not the other way around. Normalness rubs off.
I’m with a retired lawyer who shares on an intellectual plane and is
capable of closeness, but what is most deeply satisfying is how the sea-
sons govern his activities largely. If it’s late winter he’s planning the
garden, early spring he’s working clearing out the brush before the ticks
wake up, and last summer he took a canning workshop when his crop
of tomatoes was ample. I appreciate his natural order. And as a close
friend told me at an earlier time when I was struggling with my ex-
fiance and wondering whether I could make things work again: ‘‘Look,
you don’t want to marry someone because you think you could make
him happy. It’s a lot easier to marry someone who is already happy.’’


Here are some truisms about men your daddy just wouldn’t know how
to talk about.
1. Men like an enthusiastic partner. He not only wants you to enjoy
him but to enjoy the sexual experience yourself. He wants you to get
yours, too. If you don’t, he knows he’s the only one on the ride.
2. Men like variety. So mix it up. Different positions, different places,
different attire, you name it. Do it all. Keep him guessing what
tonight will be like.
3. Men like aggressiveness. They tire of always initiating sex. They
want you to show interest by letting him know you want it. So say,
‘‘Come on, big boy . . . it’s time.’’


There are men you do not want to tangle with for more than a flirtation.
These are men who are violent, abusive, and controlling. They inflict
Daddy: What He Wouldn’t Tell You 91

misery and have no concept of reciprocity. They also lie and have multi-
ple affairs. No woman in her right mind wants to live with these men.
This is why counselors, song lyrics, and women we trust will remind us
that we can’t change the man. Push the delete button.


1. Leigh Cousins, personal communication with Jane Merrill, March 6, 2009.

2. Ibid.
3. Dashan Zaric and Jason Kosmas, You Didn’t Hear It from Us (New York: Atria
Books, 2006), 159.
4. Y. K. Djamba, M. J. Crump, and A. G. Jackson, ‘‘Levels and Determinants of
Extramarital Sex’’ (paper presented at the Southern Sociological Society,
Charlotte, NC, March 2005).
5. Phil McGraw, Love Smart: Find the One You Want, Fix the One You Got (New
York: Free Press, 2005), 29.
6. Sofka Zinovieff, The Red Princess (New York: Pegasus, 2007), 311.
Infidelity: Relationship Poison

False face must hide what the false heart doth know.
—Shakespeare, Macbeth
In our Internet survey of 429 people, 40 percent reported that their
partner’s infidelity had been difficult to cope with; 36 percent reported
that they (the respondents) had been unfaithful.
Clearly, affairs are an issue in the relationship landscape. One
woman said:

My long-term boyfriend asked if I would give him a ‘‘free ticket’’ to have

sex with another woman at some point in our lives. I said I would give
him all the freedom he wanted, and dumped him.

The desire for one’s man to be faithful and the pain that ensues when
he is not are described by the wife of politician John Edwards, whose
affair was exposed in 2008:

I spent months learning to live with a single incidence of infidelity. And

I would like to say that a single incidence is easy to overcome, but it is
not. I am who I am. I am imperfect in a million ways, but I always
thought I was the kind of woman, the kind of wife to whom a husband
would be faithful. I had asked for fidelity, begged for it, really, when we
married. I never need flowers or jewelry; I don’t care about vacations or a
nice car. But I need you to be faithful. Leave me, if you must, but be faith-
ful to me if you are with me.1

Her husband was not the man she thought and the ground was
pulled out beneath her feet: she was shattered and lost. When she
decided to stay in the marriage she was perplexed how ever to trust
again. Only an exceedingly strong character (personal formation, religious
faith, and love for her family) carried her into a healthy perspective: I am
94 When I Fall in Love Again

more than this indiscretion and when the weather of my life is stormy I
can adjust my sails.


In the view of both authors of this book, fidelity is a higher order of

relationship that requires vigilance, and reaps great benefits. It is a
strong base for relationship happiness when contrasted with the de-
structive effects of splintering one’s sexual life to have sex with people
outside the relationship. Researchers have found various factors (per-
sonal and situational) associated with spouses who are more likely to
have extramarital sex. These include: being a male, having a strong in-
terest in sex, having permissive sexual values, being unhappy in one’s
existing relationship, working outside the home, not attending church,
having a lot of sexual opportunities, having higher social status (power
and money), and abusing alcohol.2,3,4
Spouses least likely to have affairs are emotionally and sexually
happy with each other, are religious, are not in long-distance relation-
ships, report having had few lifetime sexual partners, and have friends
who are faithful to their partners.


Affairs range from hooking up with a stranger for a one-time encounter

to an extended love/sex relationship.

Hooking Up
The old term for ‘‘hooking up’’ is ‘‘one-night stand,’’ which typically
refers to meeting a stranger, having a few drinks, and ending up in bed.
Often the love partners are in a long-distance relationship or one is on a
business trip and in a context where he or she drifts into sex with the
stranger. The hookups typically part in the morning and do not see each
other again.

Previous Lover
Most partners come to a relationship having had previous lovers.
Sometimes these lovers resurface and a sexual reconnection occurs.
When the partner finds out, a sense of devastating betrayal usually
Infidelity 95

Continued Love Affair

Some infidelities are continued for years. Even though the partners are
married or pair-bonded with someone else, they maintain this connec-
tion to each other. The illicit partners are in love with each other (or say
they are) and there are other defining facets to their relationship than
sex. Although the actual frequency of their sexual encounters may be
very low, they both envision subsequent encounters and savor the
memories of past sexual trysts. In one case, a career woman and man
worked in the same department for twenty-three years and never had
anything sexually to do with each other unless they were out of town.
This happened once a year at a convention. They never discussed leav-
ing their partners or children; they just had sex with each other in the
context of their mutually understood relationship.

Office Partner
More common than hooking up, a one-time reconnect with an old lover,
or a continued love affair is a fling that evolves with an office worker.
The workers see each other daily, share stories about their respective
lives, and end up having sex. It can be a one-time thing but, more often,
becomes a regular happening and a mess for the partners and their re-
spective relationships. Its potential for destruction is much greater than
the long-term love affair mentioned above. In the office partner model,
the partners see each other frequently, have sex whenever they can
manage it, and sometimes leave their spouses over the affair.

Open Relationship
While not technically an affair since each partner knows about it, the
result is that the partners end up having sex with someone else. In
a typical open relationship, the partners will market themselves as a
couple looking for adventurous sex with another adventurous couple.
Various ‘‘swinger’’ magazines or Internet sites provide connections to
like-minded couples.
Open relationships are less vulnerable to relationship damage since
there is no secrecy or dishonesty. The rules typically include that the
man and woman in the relationship view themselves as the primary
relationship and that while each may have sexual encounters with
others, these are infrequent and not designed to replace the primary
partner. What often happens is that a swinging couple will meet with a
like-minded couple for drinks at a local bar then go back to the house of
96 When I Fall in Love Again

one of the couples. The spouses will split off and have sex with the new
partners in separate bedrooms and meet back in the living room after
an hour or so for coffee. Each is aware that the other has had sex with
someone else.

Paid Sex
One man reported that he was seated at a bar in an expensive New
York hotel when he was approached by an older woman who asked,
‘‘Want some company?’’ She pointed to a beautiful young woman in a
booth on the other side of the room and said that she was his for $500
and that she was ‘‘worth it.’’ He agreed and left with the younger
woman to his hotel room. They spent an hour or so in pursuit of his
pleasure and she left.
Bar girls represent one of several varieties of prostitutes. Men also pick
up streetwalkers in large cities, have call girls come to their room (e.g.,
former New York governor Eliot Spitzer), or go to a massage parlor
which specializes in ‘‘happy endings.’’ Brothels legally exist in Las Vegas
and are featured on Home Box Office’s Cathouse. Patrons (men or
women) walk in the front door, pick a girl from a lineup, and go to her
room to ‘‘negotiate’’ and enjoy the ‘‘party.’’ Some patrons spend $10,000
a night. Most large cities have strip bars or an upscale ‘‘gentlemen’s club’’
where the guy has a lap dance in the back room. This usually does not
involve explicit sex but can result in the girl getting the man off.
The level of guilt, regret, and trouble for the relationship with one’s
partner is variable. Some men experience no guilt or regret and their
partners surmise that boys will be boys. Other men feel considerable
remorse and regret and their partners feel betrayed.

Computer Affair
In addition to the above types of affairs is the computer or Internet
affair. Although legally an affair does not exist unless intercourse is
involved, an online affair can be equally as disruptive to a couple’s rela-
tionship. Computer friendships may evolve into feelings of intimacy, se-
crecy (one’s partner does not know the level of involvement), or sexual
tension (even though there is no overt sex), and take time, attention,
energy, and affection away from one’s partner. Schneider5 studied
ninety-one women who had experienced serious adverse consequences
from their partner’s cybersex, including loss of interest in relational sex;
feeling hurt, betrayed, rejected, abandoned, lonely, and jealous; and an-
ger over being constantly lied to. These women noted that the cyber
Infidelity 97

affair was as emotionally painful as an off-line affair and that the cyber-
sex addiction of their partners became a major problem in their relation-
ship. Cramer and colleagues6 also noted that women become more
upset when their man is emotionally unfaithful with another woman,
while men become more upset when their partner is sexually unfaithful
with another man.


Lovers report a number of reasons for cheating on their partners.

A story of President and Mrs. Coolidge illustrates how sexual variety is
one explanation for infidelity:

One day the President and Mrs. Coolidge were visiting a government
farm. Soon after their arrival they were taken off on separate tours. When
Mrs. Coolidge passed the chicken pens she paused to ask the man in
charge if the rooster copulates more than once a day. ‘‘Dozens of times,’’
was the reply. ‘‘Please tell that to the President,’’ Mrs. Coolidge requested.
When the President passed the pens and was told about the rooster, he
asked, ‘‘Same hen every time?’’ ‘‘Oh no, Mr. President, a different one
each time.’’ The President nodded slowly, then said, ‘‘Tell that to Mrs.

From an evolutionary perspective, both men and women are biologi-

cally wired for sexual variety. For the record, this doesn’t mean they are
destined to be cheats or can’t override their predilections, only that
there are some evolutionary forces going on. Since the biological goal of
most species is to reproduce and to ensure that one’s genes are carried
forward, the male does not find it easy to turn down a female that is
sexually available to him. The more women he inseminates, the more
likely his genes survive.
What does the female get out of the deal? She acquires resources. The
more males she has sex with, the greater the chance that she can get
them to help her: with money, food, or child care. So while in the real
world men don’t need to have sex with ten women so that they can
have ten children and prove that their genes will move forward, and
women don’t need men for money or food, these wirings are often
beneath the surface and work as soft propellers when an opportunity
98 When I Fall in Love Again

Unhappy Relationship
When partners become bored with each other, they become vulnerable
to someone new who will provide uncomplicated (no hassles) gratifica-
tion. Satiation is a psychological principle that is technically defined as
‘‘a stimulus loses its value with repeated exposure.’’ Translated, this
means that partners may tire of being with each other. A new person is

Unfulfilling Sex
One source of relationship dissatisfaction is an unfulfilling sexual rela-
tionship. Some partners seek sex outside their relationship because their
partner is not interested in sex. Others may go outside the relationship
because their partners will not engage in the sexual behaviors they want
and enjoy. A man thinks, ‘‘My wife turns her face away when I enter
her; will I never have a partner who truly enjoys sex?’’ and a woman
thinks, ‘‘I wonder what it would be like to have a man go down on me
instead of requiring my services for oral sex?’’ The unwillingness of the
partner to engage in oral sex, anal intercourse, or a variety of sexual
positions sometimes results in the other partner looking elsewhere for a
more cooperative and willing sexual partner.

Separation from Partner

Long-distance relationships, military deployments, and meeting some-
one on the Internet who lives several states away are commonplace and
mean that partners may be separated from each other for long periods
of time. Such separations set up a context of vulnerability to meeting
someone new and connecting with the one near at hand sexually.

Office Romance
Working in most offices is a boring way to make a living. It is also a
way to meet a lover. ‘‘I fantasized about cutting a skylight in the ceil-
ing,’’ said Kirk, a city manager in the Midwest. ‘‘Then a new public
health officer was hired, and I thought about her all the time so I didn’t
want the weekend to come. If she hadn’t turned me down flat I would
have ruined my career and marriage.’’ It’s no secret that many affairs
begin during the eight hours of togetherness at the office. In one sense,
the office creates the context for love to develop. First, both partners
always look their best. They are showered, perfumed, and look like
models ready to climb the corporate ladder. Second, they don’t have all
Infidelity 99

day to romance, only a few snatches here and there: at the water foun-
tain, at lunch, or in the elevator. This limited amount of time gives
added significance to the time they do have together. And third, there
are no kids around to interfere with the dialogue, no toys to trip on,
and no electric bills or dirty laundry or all of the other negative things
that are present in one’s at-home marriage.
The result is that some office workers begin flirting with each other
to counter the boredom of the job. Such flirting over time turns to con-
versations about one’s life and marriage (‘‘Things are a little stale’’).
Then there is a drink or two after work, a kiss, and the affair begins.
What began as a hello may end in the dilemma to stay with one’s
spouse and kids or leave with the lover.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander is the rationale that
many partners use for having an affair. One husband noted that his wife
had been having an affair for a couple of years before he found out and
that he was going to catch up and have some affairs of his own. ‘‘I’ve
been faithful to her all along but all bets are off now,’’ he said.
Women are less apt to seek an affair for revenge but may use it to
justify an affair once they have drifted into one. ‘‘I know that he has
been playing around since we got married and I’ve really looked the
other way, but now that somebody has shown an interest in me, I’m cer-
tainly not going to turn him down,’’ said one woman.

A neglected partner is a vulnerable partner. One spouse involved in an
affair said to the mate:

You’re too busy with your work . . . and don’t pay any attention to me.
And when you do have free time you’re off with your friends having fun.
I’ve been asking myself for six years where do I fit into your life and the
answer is I don’t. Well, I’ve found someone who wants and needs me and
I’m in too deep to turn back now.

A longing for youth is another explanation for an affair. Our society
sends the message that it is good to be young and bad to be old. Sexual
attractiveness is equated with youth, and having an affair may confirm
to an older partner that he or she is still sexually desirable. Also, people
100 When I Fall in Love Again

may try to recapture the love, excitement, adventure, and romance asso-
ciated with youth by having an affair. A neurotic person thinks, ‘‘This is
my last chance before I really fall apart.’’

Homosexual Relationship
Some homosexual individuals get involved in a heterosexual relation-
ship as a cover for their homosexuality. Cole Porter, known for ‘‘I’ve
Got You under My Skin,’’ ‘‘Night and Day,’’ and ‘‘Easy to Love,’’ was a
homosexual who feared no one would buy or publish his music if his
sexual orientation were known. He married Linda Lee Porter (alleged to
be a lesbian), and they had an enduring marriage for thirty years.
Other gay individuals may become involved in a heterosexual rela-
tionship as a way of denying their homosexuality. These individuals are
likely to feel sexually unfulfilled in these relationships and may seek a
same-sex relationship. Other individuals may pair bond or marry, and
discover later in life that they are drawn to same-sex relationships. Such
individuals may feel that:

• They have been homosexual or bisexual all along;

• Their sexual orientation has changed from heterosexual to homosex-
ual or bisexual;
• They are unsure of their sexual orientation and want to explore a
homosexual relationship; or
• They are predominately heterosexual but wish to experience a homo-
sexual relationship for variety.


Affairs follow a predictable three-stage sequence:

Stage One: An Openness/Availability

Affairs begin with a readiness on the part of an individual to reach out
for someone other than her or his partner. The availability can take the
form of a smile, a hello, a suggestion to have lunch, talking about per-
sonal/nonjob-related issues, or a more-than-affectionate hug. Once these
behaviors occur and the other partner reinforces them (smiles back,
returns the hello, says ‘‘lunch where?’’ etc.), the basic seeds of the affair
have been sown. But to avoid appearing too forward or to run the risk
of being rejected, each partner may act as though he or she is unaware
that something is going on between them while still continuing to esca-
late the relationship with additional smiles, personal talk, etc.
Infidelity 101

Once each partner is confident that he or she can engage in flirting

and that the new prospect will flirt back, the first stage of an affair has
occurred. Sometimes this stage of an affair occurs so quickly that the
partners aren’t even aware of what is happening to them until they start
looking forward to the next time they will see each other. The subtle na-
ture of the development of the first stage of an affair is illustrated in the
experience of Nancy:

It happened before I knew it. I’m a receptionist in a physician’s office and

meet new people every day. One day a drug salesman came in to see the
physicians and, while he was waiting, we began to talk. I thought nothing
of the banter, only that I enjoyed it. As he left the office, he said
‘‘goodbye’’ and that was it.
Two weeks later he was back, we bantered again, except this time as he
left he asked if I would join him for lunch. It was terrific! We talked about
our spouses and children (I guess to reduce any guilt we might have had
for having lunch together and to get on record that we cared about our
families). The lunch ended with an understanding that since we hadn’t
done anything wrong it would be nice to have lunch again when he was
in town.

Stage Two: Fun

Once the partners are comfortable saying to each other that they want
to get together again, they lose their former inhibitions about telling the
partner how much fun they have when they are with the partner. Each
makes it clear to the other that he or she has unique qualities and meets
special needs that are not currently being met by the current spouse or
partner. Specific phrases lovers in this stage say to each other include:

• ‘‘I feel as if you really understand me.’’

• ‘‘You are very easy to talk to.’’
• ‘‘There is something very special about being with you.’’
• ‘‘I’m happiest when I’m with you.’’
• ‘‘I think about you all the time when I’m away from you.’’
• ‘‘I can’t wait to see you when we’re apart.’’
• ‘‘I really like you.’’

At the same time these positive labels are being applied to the rela-
tionship, the physical aspect of the relationship begins to escalate:
touching, holding, and kissing. If the partner reciprocates each of these
advances (touches back, returns the hug, kisses back), each partner
102 When I Fall in Love Again

assumes that the way to intercourse is clear. Some feel starved for phys-
ical contact. One wife said:

My husband is always too busy with his work and makes me feel like he
is doing me a favor to make love to me. I’ve really felt hurt and rejected
by his neglecting me and have felt emotionally and sexually starved. I
have recently met someone who makes me feel wonderful, we can talk for
hours, and he loves making love to me.

This second stage involves more frequent get-togethers. Passion takes

over and the partners arrange their lives so as to see each other when-
ever possible. ‘‘I knew I was beginning to become reckless and to take
chances, but it got to the point I didn’t care what the price. . . . I just
wanted to be with my lover,’’ said one partner.
Some affairs stop at this stage. The two people see each other occa-
sionally, enjoy each other passionately, and in between times relish the
knowledge that they love and are loved by someone special even
though they can’t be with each other. They may continue the affair for
years until the death of one partner.

Stage Three: The Spouse Finds Out

Because an affair involves intense emotion, it is not unusual for one or both
to escalate the relationship. This escalation often results in terminating the
affair and the end of one’s marriage or relationship with the partner.
Once the lovers define themselves as being in love they start taking
chances, seeing each other as often as possible until their relationship
becomes visible to the spouse or significant other. In one case, a woman
came home early from work to find her husband in bed with his office mate.
In another case, a man called his lover’s house to talk with her and said,
‘‘You were great’’ while her husband was listening on the kitchen phone. In
still another case, a man left a matchbook in his coat pocket of a place he and
his wife had never been. When his wife confronted him, he confessed.


Like the stages a widow goes through when adjusting to the death of a
spouse, the spouse of an unfaithful partner usually goes through several
stages. These include:
1. Denial. During this stage the spouse is confronted with a number of
signs that the partner is sleeping around (spends evenings out of the
house, is rarely home before 2:30 a.m., makes excuses about making
Infidelity 103

love, is uncommunicative, irritable, and so forth) yet denies to one-

self that the partner is having an affair.
2. Shock. When confronted with evidence that cannot be denied (the
partner tells him or her, a friend reports having seen the husband or
wife with someone else out of town, discovery of a revealing e-mail),
the immediate reaction of the injured party is utter shock and dismay.
‘‘How could you do this to me?’’ is the question which is often asked.
3. Withdrawal. Oftentimes a person may feel too hurt to strike back
and so withdraws. Such withdrawal may take the form of going to a
friend’s, drinking, or refusing to talk. This withdrawal period may be
functional in that it helps the partner decide what to do next. Acting
in haste is never the thing to do.
4. Acting on a decision. After the period of withdrawal is over, the part-
ner tells the mate what he or she has decided. In some cases it is to
end the relationship/marriage. In other cases a person may take
responsibility for the partner’s having an affair. ‘‘If I hadn’t been so
preoccupied with my own life and work, this never would have hap-
pened,’’ recalled one of the men we interviewed. In some cases, the
partner will ask that the couple become involved in marriage therapy
to help them get through this period.


Reactions to finding out that one’s partner has been unfaithful are vari-
able and include relief (‘‘Now I don’t need to feel guilty about my own
affair’’), rage (‘‘How could he?’’), indifference (‘‘It’s not a big deal’’),
and approval (‘‘She needs some strange now and then to keep her
happy’’). While some couples grow closer (‘‘It was my fault that my
partner strayed . . . I was neglecting him’’), other couples break up (‘‘I
can stand a lot of things, but being made a fool of is not one of them’’).
One woman identified the negative effects of her husband’s affair:
1. I lost the ability to trust my husband and, after my divorce, other men.
2. I developed a negative self-concept—the reason he was having affairs
is that something was wrong with me. If I had been woman enough,
he would have had no need to seek other women.
3. I developed an intense hatred for my husband.
It took a long time for me to recover from this crisis. I feel that through
faith and religion I have emerged whole again. Years after the divorce my
husband made a point of apologizing and letting me know that there was
nothing wrong with me, that he was just young and stupid and not ready
to be serious and committed to our marriage. You wouldn’t think by that
104 When I Fall in Love Again

time his making amends would have touched me as much as it did, but it
was immensely important—a last stage of my healing.

Affairs may also have negative effects on children which may include
hearing conflicts between the parents, absence of attention (since the fa-
ther is not at home), and breakup of the marriage.8 Other outcomes to
an affair are revealed by the persons we interviewed:

A Sore That Never Heals

You heal but it’s like an electrical burn. It leaves a scar, and you only
know what it looks like when it grows out.

One Never Forgets

The beauty of an intimate relationship is to be free from lies—live and lie

together naked. After one cheats the other never takes his or her clothes
off again. You need the protective covering because you can’t help think-
ing that the path is cut through the woods.

The End of the Marriage

I think you can get past infidelity if you figure out why it happened. Dis-
tance, family troubles, and stresses can drive a person to act out. The
extramarital sex was like a relief from the problems related to my child’s
drug addiction, just like a drug for me. It took me time to come to my
senses and get past my rebellion from having to be a responsible adult.
My husband understood but hated me and we eventually divorced. I was
the unfaithful one and here’s what I think: you cannot go back in time, it’s
over, don’t do it again and don’t beat yourself up about it.

Fidelity Is the Better Choice . . . But . . .

For a man it is an accomplishment to be truly committed; for a woman it is an

accomplishment to take a lover. By this I mean that both are contrary to con-
ventions in the history of the sexes. For both men and women being faithful is
vastly simpler! I found a list of my husband’s sleeping partners. I fell apart.
What especially hurt was that our friends knew and thought we had an open
marriage. Now I am remarried and laugh: how like my husband to keep a list!

Unusual Source of Regret

I was in a relationship going nowhere. We should have broken up a few

months into it when we started being mean to each other. I had no respect
Infidelity 105

for the relationship, and cheated on him many times. And funny—those
times of infidelity aren’t what I regret—it’s actually sleeping with him for
so many years and letting him treat me with anger that bothers me still.

All of the above reactions reflect a traditional American ‘‘Okay you

cheated on me, I’m out of here’’ response. People in other countries
may respond differently.9 In France, for example, the script is: don’t
confront the partner and don’t assume that it means the end of the mar-
riage. Rather, let time pass so that the partner has time to go through
the experience without pressure or comment. The French also do not
believe in confessions; many go to the grave never disclosing.


While some believe that telling a partner about an affair is stupid (‘‘It
only leads to hurt . . . so why would you hurt your partner?’’), others
believe that openness is necessary for a complete relationship (‘‘How
can you be close to somebody you are lying to?’’). Comments from a
couple of women we interviewed:

No, Keep Your Mouth Shut

I was twenty, and I was really into this guy. Honesty and full disclosure I
thought were important. I thought it would make us closer, but it back-
fired and he became really jealous about my past and would throw it up
in my face at my most vulnerable moments. He set the tone of our rela-
tionship about six months into it by doing that, and I didn’t hesitate in the
future to be mean back to him, either.

It’s Not the Words

My first husband had great hair and I cut it because it was fun and saved
on trips to the barbershop. He knew I had cheated on him when my hands
were shaking while I was giving him a haircut. I’d only slept with some-
body else once, but he could tell by the lousy cut I gave him. It was a big
mistake on my part. My fling ended our marriage and I learned my lesson.


Soon after finding out that the mate is having an affair, the usual (Amer-
ican) reaction is to want the partner to terminate it and to stop seeing
the other person. To this point the unfaithful partner has been able to
106 When I Fall in Love Again

have the best of both worlds: the security of a family and the excitement
of a new relationship. The party is over and now the partner must
In general, when forced to choose, men are more likely to decide to
stay with their spouse whereas women are more likely to opt for the
lover. While there are exceptions, most men tend to view affairs as sup-
plemental to their marital lives whereas most wives view their own
affairs as more central. In addition, men tend to view affairs more in
sexual terms whereas women tend to view them in love terms. And
once a woman gets hooked on another man emotionally, it is more diffi-
cult for her to give him up than it is for a man to give an external sex
partner up.
In making a decision between the primary relationship and the lover,
it is often helpful to keep a number of issues in mind. First, some who
stray will say, ‘‘I just can’t decide.’’ But not to decide is to decide. If no
decision is made to terminate the relationship with the lover, then a de-
cision has already been made to keep the lover relationship alive (and,
in most cases, to end the marriage).
Second, delaying the either/or decision will not make the decision
easier and the marriage or relationship with the significant other will
surely suffer in the meantime. The partner who says ‘‘I need some time
to think about what I’m going to do’’ is sending a clear message to the
mate that ‘‘the lover is as important as you are and I’m thinking about
keeping the lover and getting rid of you.’’ This can be a devastating
message to receive and can reduce the wronged partner’s motivation to
take the unfaithful partner back even if reconciliation is what the
unfaithful partner eventually decides.
Third, the person who is cheated on and who is making the decision
needs to be aware that (if the marriage is a dreadfully unhappy one) the
decision is already stacked in favor of the lover. The whipped-up emo-
tions of the person who had the affair will almost certainly dictate that
the lover is chosen. If the marriage or relationship is to be salvaged, he
or she will have to do what is rational rather than what the emotions
dictate. Why? Because we live in a society which dictates that love and
happiness are the primary reasons for commitment; therefore we have a
ready-made answer for when it is time for us to split or get a divorce:
when the love and happiness with the partner are dead. We need to
rethink this cultural programming.
The act of contrasting one’s new lover with one’s prior partner
will require the use of one’s brain rather than one’s heart if the
Infidelity 107

spouse/significant other is to win this one. The decision is not an easy

one. A man who cheated on his wife said of deciding what to do:

I know what I should do: the right thing is for me to try to work out the
relationship with my wife. If we could make our marriage like it used to
be, that would really be terrific, not to mention that we wouldn’t have to
tell the children that we were getting a divorce. But I don’t feel like it. I’m
emotionally drawn to be with my lover. And although I know things may
not work out with her, I just can’t stay away from her.

Some people resolve the dilemma by doing what they think they
should do, not what they want to do. One wife said:

I feel emotionally drawn to my lover. But the rational part of me says,

‘‘Don’t do it . . . don’t throw a good marriage away.’’ If I don’t give my
marriage a chance, I’ll feel terribly guilty. There will always be the nag-
ging thought that if I had tried, I could have saved my marriage. So, I’ve
got to try because I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t. Besides, my hus-
band says he is partly responsible for putting me on hold and making me
vulnerable to someone else. So we’re going to give it a try.

It is often a good idea to try and work on the marriage. Indeed, most
couples confronted with an affair elect to try and salvage the marriage.
If it doesn’t work out, the lover will usually be available still. But if the
spouse is put on hold, he or she is more likely to withdraw and end the


Choosing the spouse or significant other will mean terminating the rela-
tionship with the lover. Doing so will not be easy, but it can be done.
Your heart will ache and you will wonder if you have done the right
To be successful in ending a relationship with your lover you must
do several things. First, tell your lover (you can do this in person, on
the phone, or in e-mail—one person even instigated a breakup on Face-
book, but we don’t recommend it) that you have decided to work on
the relationship with your committed person or spouse and that you
need to end (yes, the word end must be in the sentence you say to your
lover) the affair with him or her. This implies that you will not have se-
cret e-mails, meetings, or telephone conversations. Being this firm also
108 When I Fall in Love Again

makes it clear to the lover that it is in his or her best interest to seek
other relationships because you are no longer an option.
Second, don’t cheat. Even though you have told the lover it’s over,
you will feel emotionally driven to make contact again. Don’t. To do so
is to keep the affair with the lover alive and to destroy all hope of
rebuilding the primary relationship.
Third, replace positive with negative thoughts. When you are away
from your lover, you will begin to think about how wonderful things
were with your lover. Don’t. Replace these thoughts with negative
thoughts. Rather than think about how wonderful the relationship was,
think about how easy it was for him or her to cheat on his or her part-
ner and that he or she could cheat on you. Or, rather than think about
how beautiful she was, think about how much she hated children and
that she would never want to have your children visit you if you were
to marry her. By focusing on the negative aspects of the relationship
with your lover, you can help yourself to get over the other person.


Sex in the City: The Movie featured the infidelity of Steve, who was mar-
ried to Miranda. They ended up getting back together as do most couples
once an affair is discovered. Olson and his colleagues10 identified three
phases of successful recovery from the discovery of a partner’s affair (all
of these phases were beautifully illustrated in the movie). The ‘‘roller
coaster’’ phase involves agony at the initial discovery, which elicits an
array of feelings including rage/anger, self-blame, the desire to give up,
and the desire to work on the marital or primary relationship.
The second phase, ‘‘moratorium,’’ involves less emotionality and a
decision to try to work it out. The partners settle into a focused though
tenuous commitment to get beyond the current crisis.
The third phase, ‘‘trust building,’’ involves taking responsibility for
the infidelity, reassurance of commitment, increased communication,
and forgiveness. Couples in this phase ‘‘re-engage,’’ ‘‘open up,’’ and
focus on problems leading up to the infidelity. Working through a dis-
covered affair takes time, commitment to new behavior in the primary
relationship, and forgiveness.
The partners basically make a deal. The partner who had the affair
makes a commitment to not repeat the behavior in exchange for the
partner agreeing to work on giving up feelings of being betrayed, for-
giving the partner, and not bringing up the issue again.
Infidelity 109

Positive outcomes of having experienced and worked through infi-

delity include a closer marriage/relationship, increased assertiveness,
placing higher value on each other, and realizing the importance of a
couple’s good communication.11,12


Not talking about the affair anymore, identifying behaviors to change
in each other, spending time together, and reinvesting in the sexual
relationship with one’s spouse should become the new focus for you
and your spouse or partner. It is imperative that the affair issue be
dropped as a topic of conversation. To continue to talk about it is to
keep it alive. And since it makes neither partner feel better to talk about
it, drop it.
Sometimes it is particularly difficult for the victim of the affair, who
puzzles over ‘‘why?’’ to give up talking about it. ‘‘If I knew why he did
such a thing,’’ said one wife, ‘‘maybe I could get it off my mind. I was a
good sex partner, a faithful wife, and a good mother. And, damn him,
he screwed around on me and I’m going nuts to know why.’’ The truth
is that there is no one answer to ‘‘why?’’ and often the husband doesn’t
know. To begin a search for the why is to travel an endless road. And
the dialogue along the way can be very destructive for the relationship.
Rather than talk about the why, it is more helpful to talk about what
each partner would like for the other to do to make the partner happier.
The relationships in which one of the partners has had an affair tend to
have predictable characteristics: the partners don’t spend time together;
they don’t communicate when they are alone; they have infrequent
intercourse; and the quality of their sexual relationship is lacking. Since
each of these issues has been examined elsewhere, we will not repeat
these discussions here. But the result of partners who work on their
relationship needs to be that they do spend time together alone (away
from babies, parents, and friends), and that they feel comfortable talking
with each other (and not worrying about silences when they occur).
And sex is something that receives a new priority in their relationship.


Most couples want to avoid ever having to deal with an affair again.
The best affair prevention is for both partners to enjoy and value their
relationship to the point where they do not seek alternatives. When a
110 When I Fall in Love Again

couple begins spending time apart, not communicating, not having sex,
they become vulnerable to someone else reinforcing them. One wife said
that she had been neglected long enough, that she couldn’t stand it any-
more. So she called an old boyfriend while her husband was out of
town and they began seeing each other. Thus it becomes the responsibil-
ity of each person to insure that his or her partner is being fed emotion-
ally and sexually. If such needs are not met in the relationship, the
partners may look outside the relationship. The message for a commit-
ted couple is clear: ‘‘If you don’t take care of the emotional and sexual
needs of your partner, someone else will.’’
It is also important to trust each other. Although this may seem
impossible soon after an affair has been discovered, in time we can and
do develop a renewed sense of trust. Some things to do to make the
trust happen more quickly include:

1. The partner who had the affair should make it a point to tell the
other where he or she will be and when he or she will return. And
upon returning, the partner should recount something about the
event to make it absolutely clear that that is where the partner was.
This should be done in the manner of general conversation-sharing
rather than in a ‘‘reporting where I was’’ manner.
2. The offending partner should also provide complete access to his or
her e-mail accounts, passwords, etc. The other partner has the right
to read e-mails as often as he or she wants. Only by having complete
access to the offending partner’s ‘‘private’’ e-mail accounts can trust
be rebuilt.
3. Give yourself time. If your mate has had an affair it will take you
months and sometimes years to trust her or him again. Give yourself
a break and don’t expect yourself to get over being suspicious in a
short period of time. The important thing is that you act as if you
trust your partner, which will make it easier for your partner to be
faithful to you. If your partner feels that you do not trust him or her,
and that you are expecting him or her to cheat on you again, he or
she will likely not disappoint you. Expect your partner to be faithful
and you increase the chance that your expectations will come true.

Individuals who remain faithful to their partners have decided to do

so. They avoid intimate conversations with members of the other sex,
alcohol, and being alone, which are conducive to physical involvement.
The best antidote to having an affair is, as the Muslims say, ‘‘Don’t go
near adultery.’’
Infidelity 111

Individuals least vulnerable to an affair are also in a loving, nurtur-

ing, communicative relationship where each affirms the other.
Neuman13 also noted that avoiding friends who have affairs and estab-
lishing close relationships with other couples who value fidelity further
insulates one from having an affair.
The good news is that most marriages do survive an affair. And in
some cases an affair helps to make a relationship stronger by alerting
the partners to the importance of making time for nurturing each other.
Nonmarital relationships are less likely to endure when cheating occurs.
With no marriage contract (e.g., no lawyers or legal system to contend
with) and no children to split up or feel guilty about leaving, the
betrayed partner has little incentive to stay. In one study by the second
author, 80 percent of unmarried undergraduate relationships ended in
reference to someone else.

1. Elizabeth Edwards, Resilience (New York: Broadway Books, 2009), 178–79.
2. J. H. Hall, W. Fals-Stewart, and F. D. Fincham, ‘‘Risky Sexual Behavior among
Married Alcoholic Men,’’ Journal of Family Psychology 22 (2008): 287–99.
3. L. R. Smith, ‘‘Infidelity and Emotionally Focused Therapy: A Program
Design,’’ Dissertation Abstracts, International, Section B, The Sciences and Engi-
neering 65, 10-B (2005): 5423.
4. M. M. Olson, C. S. Russell, M. Higgins-Kessler, and R. B. Miller, ‘‘Emotional
Processes Following Disclosure of an Extramarital Affair,’’ Journal of Marital
and Family Therapy 28 (2002): 423–34.
5. J. P. Schneider, ‘‘Effects of Cybersex Addiction on the Family: Results of a
Survey,’’ Sexual Addiction and Compulsivity 7 (2000): 31–58.
6. R. E. Cramer, R. E. Lipinski, J. D. Meteer, and J. A. Houska, ‘‘Sex Differences
in Subjective Distress to Unfaithfulness: Testing Competing Evolutionary
and Violation of Infidelity Expectations Hypotheses,’’ Journal of Social Psy-
chology 148 (2008): 389–406.
7. G. Bermant, ‘‘Sexual Behavior: Hard Times with the Coolidge Effect,’’ in
Psychological Research: The Inside Story, ed. M. H. Siegel and H. P. Zeigler
(New York: Harper and Row, 1976).
8. J. P. Schneider, ‘‘The Impact of Compulsive Cybersex Behaviors on the
Family,’’ Sexual and Relationship Therapy 18 (2003): 329–55.
9. P. Druckerman, Lust in Translation (New York: Penguin Group, 2007).
10. M. M. Olson et al., ‘‘Emotional Processes Following Disclosure.’’
11. Ibid.
12. L. Linquist and C. Negy, ‘‘Maximizing the Experiences of an Extrarelational
Affair: An Unconventional Approach to a Common Social Convention,’’
Journal of Clinical Psychology/In Session 61 (2005): 1421–28.
13. M. G. Neuman, The Truth about Cheating: Why Men Stray and What You Can
Do to Prevent It (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2008).
Finding Your Man: He’s Looking
for You Too

It really doesn’t matter who you select to marry as you are sure to find
out you married someone else.
—Jay Leno
On my (Jane—first author) parents’ bookshelf were two etiquette
books, by Mrs. Post and Mrs. Vanderbilt, a King James Bible, world al-
manac, and some dog-eared National Geographic magazines. Then a
friend of my father’s wrote a book. Like my father, Wilbur stuttered,
and his book was how to be a crackerjack salesman. My father said you
could trust what Wilbur said because he was the last person you’d think
could sell deep freezes or cars and yet he did—lots of them.
By analogy, you can trust me when I tell you that finding your man
is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. Last time I was ready to trade in
being single for love and companionship, I set myself a goal of one year
to find love and happiness; and by the end of the year I had four mar-
riage proposals (two from men I’d not even kissed) and found a man
who excited and delighted me 100 percent.
I learned this assertiveness from a second cousin who came to visit
us for the express purpose of finding her very tall niece a mate. The con-
cerned aunt waited at the revolving door of a fancy hotel until she saw
a very tall man with a nice look to him and no ring on his finger and
asked if the fellow would like a date with her niece. The gambit worked
and wedding bells chimed.
Aside from hotel lobbies, a university provides a context in which to
meet thousands of potential partners of similar age and education. Unlike
a hotel, most students are in this context for several years. A person can
take note of and watch a potential partner over time, while developing
his or her own interests and identity. How confusing it is that this virtual
playground comes to an abrupt halt when you graduate.
114 When I Fall in Love Again

The greater shock is when you have been in a marriage and are sud-
denly on the market again after five or more years. Even if you had a
life as a single person before marriage, the scene has changed. That
sports bar that was so popular is now frequented by a younger crowd
because the over-thirties have moved to the suburbs. And why didn’t
you notice before that the guys at your Sunday brunch jazz spot were
gay, drunk, or with somebody? Most eye-opening to the difficulty of
getting together with a potential partner is that friends (all of whom
have friends, right?) either don’t introduce you, or fix you up with egre-
gious wrong choices. (In the movie Last Chance Harvey, the Emma
Thompson character is fixed up with a man she hopes will like her but
she only bores him and he is captivated by others—a subtle depiction of
an adult dating scenario all too common to any adult who has gone out
with hope in her handbag.)
The first time I was single again, I was not thinking in terms of mar-
riage but did remarry. In my subsequent venture, I longed to get it right
and stay with one man for the rest of my days. In both cases, as a shy,
retiring person I knew this quest would not come naturally. That I was
methodical and unswerving explains why I can report on the method.
When you read my formula believe that I tried it all.

Your friends will take a great interest in your experiences dating. How-
ever, they are on the sidelines cheering and are not going to come to
your rescue and serve up the right guy; it’s too complicated if you don’t
cotton to their candidates, plus they have too few contacts. It is very un-
usual for a woman today to meet Mr. Right through her network of
friends. So you have to make it happen.
And remember that even if we had normal childhoods, there are pat-
terns of male-female relationships whose templates we can improve on.
The more you think about the kind of man you want to find, the more
you zone in on a man who embodies the traits you treasure and match.


There are so many things I cannot do, like work the simplest electronic
device or a propane barbecue, but I have magic when it comes to engag-
ing men. (I am humble, but this is true.) The magic comes from a combi-
nation of having and projecting a sizzle as follows.
I flirt. Do you? Grownup flirting means being friendly and taking an
interest in him, and treating him and what he says as special. You
Finding Your Man 115

establish a repartee. You project both vulnerability and self-sufficiency.

‘‘I am feminine and open to a relationship but I am not an anchor.’’
You do not overdress but you do wear something soft. You don’t wear
emotional armor but you do not show your feelings much either, except
about the most random things, like ‘‘I’m wild with excitement.’’ You don’t
threaten a man with remarks about remarriage—not even generalized!
You are patient in your search. If you don’t meet anybody for a sea-
son of going to the weight room of the gym, switch to the pool or take
the kickboxing class, but stay with it.
Finding a man is not a game or a formula but it is like shopping. Pre-
tend as you strategize your search that you are in a supersized discount
store grazing for something specific. You keep looking, you don’t make
impulse decisions, and you have faith that the item you are looking for
is there in those piles of goods.
While interacting, you look for cues where the two of you can share a
joke or observation of what is in your immediate presence. If another
person approaches, you exude the same warmth as for the object of
your flirting.
You have learned something in the last day or week, and can converse
or have an opinion about it. You are eager (heck, pretend!) to participate
in individual or team sports. You think watching sports is a great date.
You especially project being game to try a new sport.
You do not lay the person you are (personal resume, life goals, what
you dreamed last night, and ‘‘the last time I got drunk’’) out on the
table. Who are you? Let the man find out at his own pace.
Don’t stop doing what you are doing when with a man. For example,
if you are at a flea market and chat with a man, continue to examine
objects. The same goes for meeting a man at a museum—don’t let meet-
ing someone obliterate your train of thought! If you are reading on a
train, don’t converse the whole trip; read the next pages of your book.
Restraint is very appealing and can be consciously maintained.


Men are everywhere but you have to leave the house to find them.
Do your homework. Get the proper information for events you may
go to, trips and outings you may take. Pencil in a lot of stuff and prom-
ise yourself to do one unprecedented event a month, or more.
What do you gravitate towards in free time? Is it church, charity
work, politics, or random classes at the adult education center? Kill two
birds with one stone and meet men an ideal way.
116 When I Fall in Love Again

A friend of mine who met her husband at a church singles group

really enjoyed these events. Peggy, a teacher in Virginia, has always
cared about environmental issues and when she got politically involved
after her divorce she met single men galore, from hippie types to farm-
ers to lawyers.
Check into community gardening in your area—what a lovely way
for people to meet. Also go to farmers’ markets and country fairs.
There’s an oxymoron where a density of population means vastly more
potential dates, but we notice others more (versus blocking humanity
out) when we are in a less busy setting.
Petite and popular, Jean spent long days learning her craft of
book restoration, and put off starting over until she got her master’s.
Then the assignments were all-consuming and the heterosexual single
men nonexistent. But she took the MBTA train an hour from north
of Boston to her job, and she maximized the trips to make contact
with people:

It was brash of me to strike up conversations but once I did I would look

down at my book and wait. If the man wanted to talk we would. Some-
times I’d see the same person a few times before deciding to talk. I didn’t
tell any of my friends because they would not understand that I was pick-
ing up men. But I went ahead and had many nice mini-dates like drinks
or lunch and meanwhile got my bearings as a single person. I fell in love
with a client in Ireland. It was flirting left and right on the MBTA that
gave me the coordinates to handle falling in love with a client and for-
eigner, and not let the chance of a lifetime pass me by.

Many crafts centers have weekend seminars; you can count on a

weekend about building a table or bookcase in Vermont to draw men.
Single men are like you, looking for something productive to fill their
weekends, and they are, remember, less likely to make dates with
friends than we are.
It can be hard to get going in any organization or activity, but stay
positive and keep your eye on the ball (which is after all the man search
potential). Keep trying until you find what is meaningful to you and
you look forward to doing it. Whatever it is, the activity has to be some-
what satisfying besides the plus of putting yourself into a context to
meet guys. When you signed up for a watercolor class and the students
were all geriatric and uncommunicative, at least you got over some of a
person’s natural apprehension at taking an art class; cruise the other
classes and choose a man-friendly one next semester.
Finding Your Man 117


If your dating life is in a lull, get with it! Why close the door on dating a
good man because he comes from a different race or country or age
(younger or older)? Narrow the field and you could miss out when op-
portunity knocks; if you wear blinders and go for the man who is just like
you, you could overlook a mate who is perfect for you. Also, you may
find that sparks fly with someone you had never considered, whereas
Mr. Just-Like-Me may also be Mr. Dull and there is no chemistry.
It’s well known that we tend to fall for people like ourselves. Of
course, similar values, temperament, outlook, and goals are very impor-
tant no matter who you are with. But don’t let the fact that his family
celebrated the holidays differently than you, or that he still has to dis-
cuss parenting with an ex hold you back! Focus instead on whether he
is honest, loves his parents, is open to new ideas, and is charitable and
optimistic. Only if you discount skin color, age, accent, ethnic roots, the
house of worship he attends, and the amount of education he has can
you know if you are really attracted to the whole person. And, this per-
son may love you as no other man has.
One of the greatest recent changes in our society is the trend away
from racism and narrowmindedness to an understanding that we are all
in this together. The world looks to us as the melting pot, where immi-
grants fit into a tolerant society and an atmosphere of freedom.
There is a U.S. Census every ten years and people are asked which
category they belong to: Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian, African-American.
If you don’t want to identify with one group, you have the option to
choose ‘‘other.’’ More and more are choosing ‘‘other,’’ due to our coun-
try increasingly diversifying. Additionally, people who have grown up
in our melting pot culture are reluctant to put themselves in boxes.
We often overlook great guys if they don’t happen to fit every criterion
on our list of who we think we’ll marry. Expand your radar and grow up
and out of your box that keeps your choices narrow and few. The pros-
pects are endless if you do! Don’t eliminate Boy X because of his race,
cultural background, religion, etc. The very man you eliminate is the man
with whom you could have the best chemistry and a wonderful, fulfilling
life. David (second author) was reared in the Deep South and taught not
to date Catholics, Jews, or persons with different ethnic backgrounds.
The first marriage choice pleased the parents, but ended in divorce. The
second marriage came when parents and proscriptions were dead and
involved a woman whose mother is Catholic, father is Jewish, and grand-
mother is from Puerto Rico. The relationship is now twenty years plus.
118 When I Fall in Love Again


Men who are ambitious and industrious are not particularly oriented
to meeting us when they are stressed on the job. That all changes
when they take a break, or finish. When a man is showing off what he
did or is doing, he is at peak receptiveness to meeting you. This is the
most auspicious of all occasions to meet a man. He is feeling very mas-
culine because he is feeling proud. If he is installing new countertops
in your apartment or renovating a building in town, if he is selling
you the lobster he hauled in, or you attend the commencement of his
students, he is in full gale. If he is single and heterosexual he semicon-
sciously wishes he had a special woman with whom to share his
When you see a spirited man, this is the one who is ready to flirt, and
when you see a man who has a zesty air of admiring work he is doing,
there is a natural gambit to get to know him. It is a counterpart of a
woman feeling beautiful—he feels masculine and wants to show off.


If you are single you will find more appealing men in venues where
they are doing sports. I can tick off inline skating on the middle school
track, the cardio room at the Y, the public tennis courts, and a deli
where runners congregate Sundays as places I met eligible men in the
town where I lived. Plus I’m convinced that the chances of a man’s
being red-blooded normal if you meet in a sporty context are high.
What sports can you do and what do you have to do to get going?
Look through this list and make a realistic appraisal of whether you
would take up the sport, what it would cost, and whether you can work
it into your schedule.

• Inline skating. The action is graceful, the clothes are cute, and if you
go on a well-paved track you diminish the risks. Men who are all-
round good at sports will do this for a diversion. You can meet
strangers easily this way, and it’s a neat activity for a date.
• Ice skating. This is a most effervescent and outgoing sport. Why wait
for nature to provide ice? You don’t have an indoor rink next door
but you probably have a nearby location, like at a prep school or col-
lege, or a town with a substantial tax base. Donning and removing
the skates, you look up and smile at the guy with custody of his kids
on Saturday.
Finding Your Man 119

• Volleyball. This is the sport for someone who likes to have fun but is
not athletic. Read the rules online and join a volleyball group; many
towns have singles nights for volleyball. It is a sport with a lot of
social interaction and a lot of laughs.
• Tennis. Many recreation departments have summer ‘‘ladders’’ and
leagues. The trouble with them if you are a beginner is you play one
game and it’s over. Unless you are a seasoned player, look for classes
that improve your skills. Tennis clubs have specials for new members
so you can see if a club is going to answer your social needs. Tennis has
always been a super way to meet men. If you can get it across the net
you can give any man a good game. Tell him you just want to rally!
• The health club. You take out a membership at a gym—a time-tested
place for the sexes to meet—but which gym? Go for a free session and
psych out whether this is a potential arena for meeting men. I did this.
One gym had music pounding from the walls and TV consoles at ev-
ery angle. Another gym had an upscale feeling and people talked with
one another, not just the trainers selling themselves. I joined the latter.
• Bowling. Bowling is a classic game for a fellow to teach a girl. If you
are a washout and the balls all end up in the gutter, get a lesson, read
a book, and learn how to score; a scorekeeper is always valued.
• Hiking. Appalachian and Rocky Mountain hiking adventures are
well-trodden ways of meeting the opposite sex. Find a hike at your
own level, as hiking (or biking) the Pyrenees can look delightful in
the brochure and be grueling in actuality.
• Softball. Coed summer teams are ubiquitous and beloved.
• Sailing. Join a sailing club if you live near the water. Look online and
ask friends. Let’s say you’re in DC, there’s a club on the Potomac; if
in Boston there are clubs on the Charles. Take lessons; the men are
taking them too.
• Scuba diving, fencing, and, yes, kayaking. These also provide great
milieus for finding desirable men.
• Being a spectator. Getting tickets to a season of a pro team puts you
in an advantageous spot to meet men. It also gives you conversa-
tional fodder.


Join charity groups with men as well as women. Check out tutoring
new immigrants, Habitat for Humanity, Big Brother/Big Sister, and sim-
ilar groups. Not only are these good places to meet eligible men, but
120 When I Fall in Love Again

these organizations attract those who are inclined to give, to nurture, to

be compassionate. These qualities predict well for happy relationships.

Speed-dating parties are way more fun than they sound. Try to find out
the age of the attendees; that is the only caveat. The gutsy people who
go to the speed-dating events as a source of dates have good results.
You also shore up your presentation of yourself. The ‘‘It’s Just Lunch’’
dating services for professionals are also worth a try.

Work the Internet . . . hard. Some tips:
1. Try the larger sites first. They have more people from whom you can
choose.,, and eHarmony are among the
bigger ones. Right Mate at is a good jumping-off
2. Try sites targeted to your specific interests. There are websites for
single parents, Christians, Blacks, Muslims; if you have a specific
group, take a look.
3. Devote one to two hours a day to the search. You can go through
fifty profiles a night when it would take you six months to go out
with each of these and decide they are not right for you. Cover a lot
of ground fast. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can fill up your
dance card.
4. Start out setting the computer to date someone within twenty-five
miles of you. After a couple of weeks, if you don’t get a hit, increase
the radius. The wider the radius of your potential circle, the more
people you will have to select from.
5. Move quickly. If you enjoy e-mailing someone, move to talking with
them on the phone to see if the interest holds. After two weeks, set
up a meeting; have them come to your town and meet them in a
public place for dinner. Don’t ask him back to your place the first
night. If sparks fly, he will want to come back.
6. Be attentive to his preference for paying. If he is traditional and pays,
thank him. If you feel there will be a next time, offer to pay the next
time. Don’t squabble over money. If he doesn’t offer to pay, pay your
7. Don’t be a snob. The rich man can be a jerk and the poor man a
prince. The funny-looking guy will turn into a prince if he is loved.
Finding Your Man 121

8. Contact a lot of men and agree to a lot of dates. It is a numbers game.

You will go through twenty before one rings your bell. You are only
looking for one. Don’t be too picky. Everyone comes with a catch.
But don’t settle either.


I credit my love of poetry with the magic I had in finding men who
threw their capes down for me to tiptoe across. I did all the strategies
but believed in the poetry of romance. It is hard to recapture the mood
of my concerted dating but I know I was ready to relocate to Juneau,
Alaska, or Sydney, Australia. I also went not to one state but five to have
first dates with people I had met on the Internet with whom I had an e-
mail and phone connection. Had I been younger I probably would have
limited my radius but this all-out approach was what got the job done.
People exaggerate, but it’s often innocent; so if he says he has chestnut
hair and he has pale brown hair and a bald spot, be understanding. Exag-
gerating a little can be sweet, right? Rae dated a man who put as his pro-
fession entomologist. He was an exterminator, but as Rae said, he didn’t
hide that, he just prided himself on knowing bugs. Of course there is slid-
ing of the truth on the Internet. Men lie about their status, income, and
education. Women lie about their age, weight, and level of attractiveness.
But both know the game and accept the other. One woman said that she
told her fellow (whom she later married) that she was five years older
since she knew he wanted an older woman. He knew she wanted a man
five years younger than he was, so he lied. They have now been married
twenty-one years and laugh about their lying.
Be flexible when learning about someone new. My mate, when he
looked me up on an Internet dating site and took me to lunch, looked
rather grave, yet I saw he was always ready to try new destinations or
activities with me—and then there was his kiss! One early day he came
when I was making a square tablecloth into a round one for a friend’s
birthday gift. I was poised to draw a line using the garbage can and
explained my plan. Without any cracks about my geometry, he tied a
string to a pencil, instantly in helpful mode, and made a big beautiful
circle. That told me he would be the kind of man to live with that I sought.


We will mention this caveat more than once in this book. We feel it is
the cornerstone of avoiding sexual regret and keeping your relationship
122 When I Fall in Love Again

on track. To know if he’s compatible with you, you don’t have to go to

bed with him. You certainly may want to test his skills as a lover, but
not quite yet. First, how does he kiss, and how aroused/hungry for you
does he get? And better, how hungry are you for him? This is all about
lust and don’t confuse it with the bricks and mortar that make a rela-
tionship durable.
Because I’ve had many sexual encounters and have talked with many
women, I can assure you that having sex with a man doesn’t give you
one iota of new information about whether you and he will bond, com-
municate, negotiate, and enjoy each other. Sex with a man is likely to
make him and perhaps you want more sex with him, and what does
that do if it’s casual? It can destine the relationship to nowhere. The
man who has casual sex with you has it because of the double standard
that allows him to think of you as easy or a passing fling. The man who
wants you, and kisses you, is starting a romantic phase where he fanta-
sizes what it would be like to have you in his arms and carry it to
nature’s intended conclusion.
It has always been up to the woman to say no. If you say ‘‘yes, let’s
do it,’’ figure you’ve got a good three weeks with this guy and he’ll be
gone with the next one. There isn’t one case in a hundred where quick
sex will progress the relationship anywhere but nowhere.


Before the first date, a man you meet through friends or the Internet is
going to Google you; what will he see? People who meet on the Internet
and end up together are characterized by sharing interests. Therefore,
be sure that your online persona (Facebook, Google, dating website)
expresses your interests. Second, the people who hit it off seem to have
longer profiles, so go ahead and disclose in print to the extent you come
across as an individual.

The office is a common place people meet. While some office affairs end
badly, it is the best place to find a man. Not only can feelings develop
gradually, people reveal their character at work. If a person is patient,
kind, and ethical, has a sense of humor, and is nice to look at day in
and day out . . . hey, what’s not to love?
Women are more likely to have jobs, men careers. Women expect to
have children, and prioritize them, which has implications for
Finding Your Man 123

advancement. While some career women do have families, the combina-

tion is a challenge. Less than 5 percent of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies
are women. For many women, the workplace is a place to meet men. For
men, the workplace is a place to launch and excel in one’s career.
We are not suggesting that some women do not want careers, only
that the data suggest that most do not. Pamela Stone wrote Opting Out?
which revealed content from fifty-four interviews with women repre-
senting a broad spectrum of professions—doctors, lawyers, scientists,
bankers, management consultants, editors, and teachers. Opting Out?
involved women leaving their careers and returning home to take care
of their children for a variety of reasons. However, two reasons stood
out: (1) husbands who were unavailable or unable to ‘‘shoulder signifi-
cant portions of care-giving and family responsibilities’’;1 and (2)
employers who had a lot of policies on the books to encourage and sup-
port women parental leave ‘‘but not much in the way of making it pos-
sible for them to return or stay once they had babies.’’2 Men don’t care
if the place where they work offers child care. Women do.
Pacing the sex is important in an office romance. If you are just one
of the girls your coworker is having sex with, you are going to hate your
job. If you delay the sex to assess if the relationship is going somewhere,
you help protect a mess from developing where you work.
And sometimes it just doesn’t work out:

From our first stilted kiss that night, I knew it would be a struggle. I
agreed with the concept of Jen and me satisfying each other. I wanted to
be cool and sophisticated. But her mixed signals—and my own—were too
confusing. We were friends, so should I buy her dinner before we hooked
up? She wants to sleep over—should I let her? What’s the morning eti-
quette—breakfast together? Share a ride to work? Do we kiss goodbye at
the subway, like couples do?
I called things off after just a few weeks.
Since then, I’ve resolved to stay in my sexual comfort zone; if there’s a
partner I’d like to be with, fine, but until then I’ll keep things to myself.
I’ve also come to the conclusion that casual sex is overrated, at least for
guys like me.3


You can have slept with one man, or two, or two dozen, but when your
goal is to find a man to partner with, you need to have perspective.
Your body and mind have to be in concert. A heart can still have sentimen-
tal feelings for the last guy, but we have to keep our lives free of casual sex
124 When I Fall in Love Again

while the man search is in progress. A bag of potato chips doesn’t go with
a four-star French dinner and hookups don’t mix with looking for one’s
lifelong love.


Isn’t the ‘‘perfect man’’ a grisly thought, sort of like a bionic man? When
my younger daughters played with Barbie dolls, the Barbies were
dressed in extravagant gowns and chic little numbers from head to toe
but the Ken dolls, apparently less well made, often had heads that came
unscrewed. As I passed by the girls’ play this was something I wanted
to put right, but when I offered to purchase a new Ken, they shooed me
away. ‘‘He’s better without a head,’’ said Julia emphatically.
I think that the Ken doll that was virtually like their playing with a
stick could become anything and was maximally generic. But that is not
true when we are interested in a lasting relationship. The more a man
has become an individual, the more he is capable of connecting with
another person. Yet, paradoxically, the more he has evolved his tastes,
preferences, interests, and pursuits, the more some of these aspects of
him will not match us. He loves jazz concerts and you don’t, he has
mastered Chinese cuisine and you vastly prefer European; he has a col-
lection of Hawaiian shirts, bowties, or cufflinks that he wears and you
don’t like them. He is buying a leather couch and you think that it’s
gross to lie on a dead animal skin.
The compromises when you are an adult start from the second date.
They are going to be on both sides. You may give up something just to
please, but that’s okay if he’s trying something hard for him too, like to
spend time with your family or listen more compassionately. Every
good marriage is the scene of continual compromise. If you compro-
mise, this is not settling for less than you want and deserve—that hap-
pens only if a man is incapable of evolving and incapable of seeing that
he is sometimes wrong. A good relationship is two people in accord that
they are on a path of living, learning, and growing together.
A lot of women make the mistake of marrying someone who they
think they want, only to find out they are unhappy with that type. If
you need to hear ‘‘I love you’’ on a regular basis, you had better pick
someone who says it, often. If you need to be in your own zone most of
the time, you better find someone who leaves you be. And if you get
fired up by being with an ambitious man, find one and give him your
support but leave the man who is happy with the simple life for some-
body else.
Finding Your Man 125

In the words of one of the women we interviewed:

My agenda on the man thing was always that I was searching for the ideal
man, but unfortunately, when I found him, he was searching for the ideal
woman! I waited forever to get married because no man matched up to
what I thought I wanted (in my imagination). I dumped countless men
because once they were interested in me, I no longer was interested in
them. I wanted the strong silent mountain climber type, but then realized
that I wanted a man who could talk to me, instead of grunting. When I
met Larry, I knew he was the antithesis of what I had always wanted, but
I also felt that it worked for me. It took five years for me to feel like, okay,
this isn’t the kind of man I thought I’d marry, but for some reason, I’m
happy with him, so what the heck!


Brandon drew the ushers for his wedding from his freshmen suite-
mates at college ten years before (they still go on trips together). He
bowls and camps with his second group of buddies, his coworkers at
the science lab. His third group of buddies is his siblings and cousins.
Well liked, a loving kind of person, and never gregarious, Brandon was
ready to pair off at a young age. His wife, raised by an Asian-American
mother to be modest and chaste, must have sensed he was if anything a
serious boyfriend. They lived in different continents and states in some
of those intervening years between college and marriage, but the devo-
tion was unerring.
Molly, Brandon’s twin, during that time had an apparently parallel
relationship, but Molly’s boyfriend loved to party, drink to late hours in
bars, and wanted to ‘‘date other people’’—all truly important to his
manhood. Allen and Molly gave each other support through things like
preparing for debate tournaments and passing the law boards, but for
Allen to have a job where he finally made a lot of money and could be a
man about town was the height of achievement. No matter how good it
would get between them he wasn’t ready to be more than girlfriend-
boyfriend for years and years—and perhaps never to marry someone
his mother really approved of! (She loved Molly.)
Although Molly had always dated exact peers, at thirty, after seeing
how tension-free her brother’s relationship was, she extended her range
to much older men. She met Scott, as ambitious and sophisticated as
Allen but at thirty-seven, while very happy with his single life, was
closer to entertaining marriage—when, as he decided he had, he met a
woman too good to lose.
126 When I Fall in Love Again

To assess if the man you have your sights on is ready for marriage,
the following questions must be asked:

• Does he like women? (Answer has to be yes)

• Does he have lingering hostilities to his parents which interfere with
his having intimate relationships? (Answer has to be no)
• Is he out of school or has he had significant experience in supporting
himself? (Answer has to be yes. If he hasn’t proved himself in the
workplace he cannot bring a woman into his concerns.)
• Do you admire him for the work he does? (If you scorn him for being
a bank clerk, a preacher, or a cosmetic surgeon, you cannot be a sup-
portive mate, ever.)

When Sophie, a library technician, was told by her new boyfriend on

the third date that he loved her, she recoiled and contemplated not seeing
him again; it was too early for a profession of love. But love is an emotion
that can rise up at any moment in the relationship; for a man it is very con-
nected with making love. Jonathan was, to invoke an old-fashioned term,
‘‘the marrying type.’’ And men are like fruit, they ripen. You just need to
be there at the right time or be willing to wait. A man we interviewed said:

It seems to me that it’s in our late thirties that men’s and women’s physi-
cal and emotional paths cross and we begin for the first time to under-
stand one another by having experienced one another’s realities.


It is not unusual for you and your man to have different thoughts and
agendas about the future of your relationship. While you may be
emotionally involved and want a future, he views the relationship as
here-and-now fun and he hasn’t thought about the future. These are
potentially different tickets in the same airport to different destinations.
Look at his ticket; is he going to the same place you are?
While early definitions of the relationship are typically the same—
you enjoy each other and want to continue seeing each other—as the
months go by, if you are becoming involved and see a future, you will
need to make a decision: give your man more time or try to find out
how he feels. We asked our respondents/interviewees to assume the
following scenario and to tell us how they would proceed.

Assume you have been going with this man for months. All is well: love,
chemistry, sex are great. But he has said nothing about you two having a
Finding Your Man 127

long-term future together. As far as you know he may just be thinking

you are a good-time girl but he will be on his way whenever and you are
history. What exactly do you say to a guy to find out if you are wasting
your time or not?

One respondent said:

The answer to your question, in my opinion, is a fairly complicated one.

First, I would assume that, if a woman feels like she is ready to make a
commitment, she would already feel like she has a huge amount of trust
in the guy, and she would not be concerned that any hint of the commit-
ment idea would ‘‘scare him away.’’ If she cannot pass this test, I would
say the relationship is not ready.
Having a high trust level so that she feels he cares about her, she
should explore his feelings about their future in terms of a marriage type
of commitment. It might help to analyze the tone of his words, to see if he
seems to talk as if the relationship could go on forever, or if he seems to
be interested in making plans that imply a long-term commitment (e.g.,
‘‘I’d like for us to have a place in the mountains some day’’).
I would also be against the idea of overanalyzing, however, or of
approaching the subject obliquely. In the right relationship, it would seem
natural to talk about it in a straightforward manner fairly soon after the
thought began to manifest.
In short, I would say that the point at which she would ask about the
future would be the point at which she felt like she had a great deal of
trust in the guy, when she felt like she was ready, and when it felt like a
natural extension of the relationship they already had.
Having said that, I would add that she should be aware that there are
different possibilities of what a long-term commitment would look like,
and that there are perfectly viable long-term relationships that do not
involve marriage.

‘‘It depends,’’ another respondent said:

I think this [how you bring up the future] depends on the individuals and
includes factors like age and dreams. If she wants to have children, then
she doesn’t want to waste her time on someone who could be ‘‘right’’ but
has no interest in settling down; then I’d say in about six months she
should at least check to see if they’re headed in the same direction—not
asking for commitment, but at least being sure he feels as she does, that
there is something special here and he also wants to get married and have
children. Then, if all continues, probably in about a year there should be a
commitment—but even sooner if they are mature and communicate with
each other.
128 When I Fall in Love Again

If they are older—forties and up, probably—they should know pretty

quickly if they are right for each other—everyone has been around enough
by then to make a commitment more quickly—and if he’s not ready, he
may be (likely is) emotionally immature and the decision to hang around
and wait or move on has to be faced.

One respondent said to ask directly:

When one is no longer satisfied with just having a good time, the relation-
ship needs to move forward. But where? Asking ‘‘where is this going’’ is
about as direct as you can be.

A respondent suggested being very subtle and not frightening the


I think that the ‘‘future’’ conversation often emerges organically, with

‘‘teasers’’ thrown out over the course of time. If, for example, the initial
‘‘L’’-word exchange went well and the guy seems comfortable with saying
that he loves her, then perhaps she would be more comfortable speaking
in future terms and using planning language. (I think it happens this way
for both women and men, by the way—it’s not necessarily gendered.) I
don’t know if most women really say, ‘‘Hey, are we ever getting mar-
ried?’’ It seems to me that it’s more likely that a woman would say things
like, ‘‘This year at Christmas we should go see your parents’’ (when it’s
July) or ‘‘Do you ever want to have kids? I like the name Joe. What do
you think?’’ (Implying: do you want to have a kid with me?) If the
answers to such questions are favorable, I think the relationship partici-
pants get a reinforced sense of security, comfort, and even intimacy that
might more naturally lead them down the road toward considering
This isn’t to say that there aren’t times when a woman asks about mar-
riage outright, but I tend to think that such direct questions may often be
asked out of frustration more so than in situations where the couple is
having a good time and all is well. The frustration may come about from
a dating relationship that’s lasted too long (past the expected threshold
without any further commitment), if he seems aloof or detached, or if he
just doesn’t seem to take the relationship seriously.

Another suggestion to be subtle:

I would start with an emphasis on his family, letting him know that fam-
ily is important, how’s your mother doing, etc., but I would also be sensi-
tive to his responses. ‘‘Fine’’ and then changing the subject is a lot
different from, ‘‘Fine, and she’s coming for a visit next month. Did you
Finding Your Man 129

know she belongs to Rotary? She’s coming for a meeting and then I was
thinking I’d take her to this new restaurant in Fountain Valley.’’ (That’s a
good segue into, Oh, really? Does she like seafood? There’s this great
place in Seal Beach where I took my mom when she was visiting. . . . Fol-
low the momentum and let him feel comfortable.)
I guess the idea is not to push someone or make them feel defensive or
threatened. I would choose a comfortable moment when we’ve been to-
gether for a day doing something fun, and let him know how much fun
I’m having, how much I appreciate him, and how I’m looking forward to
other things like this in the future. If he doesn’t freak out, I might then
say something like, ‘‘You know, I rarely think about the future with some-
body, but now I find that I keep thinking about you and how good we are
Pause and let this sink in. Unless he’s a complete caveman, he must get
the idea that Now We’re Talking About Our Relationship. See what his
response is. See if he’s comfortable or uncomfortable.
If you sense he is comfortable and open to this content, then I might fol-
low with, ‘‘We have something really special together, and I would love
to keep it going. How do you feel?’’

Another said to be flexible and consider living together as progress.

Not everyone wants to get married, particularly if they’ve been married

before. This discussion might lead to moving in together, or keeping
things the way they are.

One respondent said that a baby changes things and requires a


If there is a baby born, that is time to legally commit. It is ridiculous these

people who have a baby and then are reluctant to marry. There is no
greater, more important, or longer-term relationship than co-parenting

For some, marriage is not important, but commitment is.

My mother [divorced] and her partner live together . . . sharing time

between his place and hers. Neither wants to ever marry again. At this
point in their lives, there is no good reason to do so. They’ve made
arrangements for one another in their wills, and given each other health
care power of attorney. But, when my mom gets pissed off, she goes back
to her house until they clear it up. Her attitude is, ‘‘If it works out, great.
If not, that’s fine, too.’’ Even though they could likely save on expenses,
and I suspect they will be together forever, they will keep their respective
130 When I Fall in Love Again

homes. They are old enough and experienced enough to know ‘‘happily
ever after’’ doesn’t always work out.

One respondent said that her partner was applying for graduate
school in another state. So she asked:

‘‘Do you think it is realistic to continue our relationship while you are
away? I see a future with you and feel a commitment to you. But I will
need a commitment from you in order to move forward and feel secure
about ‘us’ when I cannot be with you. We will need to make arrangements
to be with one another as often as possible while you are not living here
and when you return we should have a plan to solidify our relationship.
What are your thoughts?’’

One respondent had a unique way of bringing up the marriage issue:

One day I came home with a $3.75 wedding dress I had bought at a thrift
store, put it on (I was a knockout) and asked my fellow what he thought?
(wedding implied). He said he wasn’t ready. I didn’t make a big deal out
of it, we dated for another three years and then married—you just have to
give a guy time to cook.

Fortunately for reality and, unfortunately for pipe dreams, men will,
in general, tell us if they are up for commitment . . . with anybody. We
just have to believe what they say. What can hold a man back is not that
he is a cad but that he aims to work abroad, do a graduate degree thou-
sands of miles away, or that he knows (unrelated to age) that he has
unfinished business in the area of personal growth which makes com-
mitment out of the question. Of course it is also about taking away his
freedom. Commitment to you means he can’t act on the smile the new
girl at the office gave him this morning.
Nevertheless, men are as liable to want to be close and to settle down
(first time or again) as women are. My partner, two or so years
divorced, put it with disarming candor when I met him: ‘‘I could have
one-time sex with a zillion women but by my next birthday I want to
fall in love.’’ Music to my ears!


1. Pam Stone, Opting Out? (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 68.
2. Ibid., 119.
3. Joseph Williams, ‘‘Part-Time Lover,’’ Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, April 2,
Connecting: Communication

My wife said I don’t listen . . . at least I think that’s what she said.
—Laurence Peter
A classic French joke is as follows: Napoleon said to Josephine, ‘‘Do
you know what is the difference between this mirror and you, ma
cherie?’’ She said no. Napoleon said, ‘‘This mirror reflects without speak-
ing whereas you—you speak without reflecting.’’ Josephine answered:
‘‘Do you know what the difference is between this mirror and you, mon
cher? This mirror is polite and you are not.’’
This chapter is about the conversation between men and women. At
best, talking with a man who attracts us, or with whom we are involved,
is like standing on a chilly white cliff and watching the rainbow shimmer
of the Northern Lights. It is a delight. At worst, it is so frustrating you
could explode. Let’s look at ways of communication with our man.
In the last twenty years, books, beginning with Deborah Tannen’s
You Just Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Conversation, have sug-
gested that what hampers female–male conversation is a product of
both wiring and socialization. Men are wired and socialized to get to
the point, women to relate and connect. Men are more prone to oppress
and women to plead—that is social conditioning.


Aside from the fact that, in social conversation, women are more often
aiming to facilitate relationships and men are more often direct, there
are other differences between women and men in communication.
First, for women, if it’s spring the lengthening days and warming
weather that prompt obvious behavioral changes in some species affect
us more in romantic communication than, say, doing our job or errands.
132 When I Fall in Love Again

Whether the context is big flakes of falling snow, a hot day at the beach,
or a walk in the woods on a fall day, we feel when we have romantic
conversation that we are communing with the entire world, giving a
sort of sacred glaze to the exchange of words and thoughts. We may
communicate sexual interest and intoxication, and tender feelings. We
can be easily pleased or easily hurt compared with other types of com-
munication. Typically, all of this is nonsense to men.
Second, in addition to heightened sensibilities, we have a tendency to
recollect just what he or we said. There is a feeling that the words/
expression of the conversation count, and we remember many of the
words the other person or we ourselves said, as we might a diagnosis
by a physician. We reflect very carefully and derive validation or rejec-
tion based on our verbal recall.
Third, beyond our ethereal connections and our recollections, we spe-
cialize in the nonverbal. Become aware of your own nonverbal expres-
sions. You will find that some of them duplicate expressions that you’ve
seen in others of your family—like a coquettish lift of an eyebrow (envi-
able to those of us whose facial muscles aren’t so inclined); still others
are passed down culturally. When I lived in Iran I noted a slight cock of
the chin, sometimes with a staccato ‘‘tch’’ which can be expressive of
warm humor; and French women do seem to finesse the ‘‘moue’’ (that
particular sulky expression where the lips swell and pout—and can
alert a lover to mild dissatisfaction).
Body language of all sorts conveys openness and intimacy, or, con-
versely, retreat and closing off. Imagine three scenarios: (1) holding the
other’s glance to signify romantic interest; (2) looking into each other’s
eyes (over dinner, on a park bench, anywhere) to ignite romantic imagi-
nation and that sense of boundless possibility; and (3) the first touch of
a relationship/day/date that signals romance and more to come, such
as holding hands, leaning your head on his shoulder, or a fleeting kiss
on the cheek.
Fourth, we become more self-conscious of what both of us say. This may
lead us to circuitous talk (hesitation to express a view or thought directly)
and a conciliatory tone (where we anticipate and try to avoid a no).
Fifth, men also have some communication habits that are different
from ours. And annoying. These may include going for worst-case sce-
nario, ordering us around, agreeing just to placate, or hearing us out
with judgment already formed.
Sixth, women have their own communication foibles. These include
smiling out of nervousness, raising voice and speed when emotional,
and chattering to fill voids.
Connecting 133


What are some strategies for conveying to the person who attracts you
romantically that you are sweet on him?
First, talk about yourself—briefly. If you like to be completely natural
and not attract attention, you can still mesmerize a man by a talent
nearly all women have for telling an anecdote about yourself, something
that happened to you that’s unique that shows you are both interesting
and vulnerable. Men will identify if you color it up: ‘‘I was running in
the park by the river and a Newfoundland dog jumped on me from
behind with its paws on my shoulders. I’ve been afraid of scrappy, yap-
ping dogs but somehow even though the dog hit me with a punch I felt
it was friendly . . . you know.’’ Men look for women to carry the conver-
sational ball, so do it quickly rather than chatter on and on and then
shut up and listen to him.
Second, say a real hello. Most relationships begin with a hello (not
the hello when you meet someone but the hello that means you are
interested in dialogue). Let’s say the cute electrician comes to your co-
op in a truck that says Yankees. You tell him that your dad is a Yankees
fan and you just like seeing it on a truck. That’s a hello that tells him
loads of information about you in one sentence (you have a good rela-
tionship with your dad, you’re a family girl, you like sports, you are
pointing out something that the two of you like) and he can pick up on
it if he wants to. ‘‘Yeah, I’ve been a Yankees fan all my life. May I have
a glass of water, please,’’ translates into ‘‘I want to continue the
You can also say hello by asking a provocative question. For example,
suppose you meet someone at a party and discover that he is a high
school gym teacher. A question might be, ‘‘What do you recommend to
help competitive third-graders learn that it’s okay to lose?’’ By asking
him this question you also convey a lot of information about you (you
have an interest in his work, you feel his work provides useful insights
beyond gym class, you have an interest in children and their develop-
ment, and you are both teachers). If he’s interested, he’ll appreciate your
hello question and keep the interaction going. ‘‘That’s a good question.
What do third-graders typically say or do when they lose?’’ And the
interaction is on a roll.
Third, smile radiantly from the inside. We dress up and put on
makeup to attract. A woman is most appealing when she is sweet,
warm, energetic, and enthusiastic. These qualities flow from her enjoy-
ment in life, her self-assurance, and her genuine interest in others. If the
134 When I Fall in Love Again

previous relationship has left tire tracks on her sense of self, she sum-
mons fortitude to supplement her self-assurance until she has it back. In
this case, she may need to put on a brave smile, even when the movie
she sees with the new man has a churlish protagonist who is the split-
ting image of her previous boyfriend or significant other.
Fourth, be friendly. Friendliness is sexy. Make the man feel he’s the
only one present you want to be with. In conversation, a friendly face
comes alive in a way it cannot when the person is still. In a t^ete-a-t^ete
with a man who attracts you, you smile and part your lips, and your
eyes grow keener. You may nod or lift your brows in response to what
he says. You shake out or touch your hair in a gesture that is responsive
and beckoning.
Fifth, hold up your head. Among the nonverbal messages we extend
at the start of a relationship, posture ranks as an important one. My
mother, a model, reminded me very often that, sitting, standing, or
walking, I should imagine a string suspended at the top of my head,
pulling me up.
I recently reconnected with a friend from college who is a psychia-
trist. I reminisced that the period we had been at Wellesley College was
the unhappiest time of my life (stultifying intellectually, and to boot my
brother died). Martha said, ‘‘But when I’d run into you on one of those
paths that crisscrossed the campus, you were always smiling and you
held your head so high.’’


You have his attention with your cute outfit and confident demeanor.
Here are some tips for first or preromantic-involvement conversations.
1. Focus on him. Not your parking ticket, 8:00 a.m. appointment, or
your best friend’s problems. Be present!
2. Don’t ask too much about his job. While showing an interest in his
job (since most men strongly identify with what they do), don’t grill
him; it puts him in work mode.
3. Don’t gossip. He will be sure that he will be the subject of your next
catty anecdote.
4. Break the touch barrier and become unforgettable. If, after a minute
or two of conversation on the date, things appear to be going well
and you’re vibing with each other, you can help move the relation-
ship forward with a gentle, casual touch on the elbow, under the pre-
text of emphasizing a point, or when he makes you laugh. An elbow
Connecting 135

is about as asexual a body part as you can get (you are not to toe his
ankle or ruffle his hair—I did that with Mickey Rourke and spoiled
the beginning of a nice encounter when he was way younger and me
too). This slight, semi-intentional, grazing touch starts him thinking
about your proximity in a pleasant way and wanting more of you.
Don’t overuse this or it will seem too forward. Don’t be gauche, just
make it a touch to tease and make him think about you.
5. Whisper something in his ear. Again, after things are going well for a
while and you want to help the relationship progress, whispering
something in his ear is a classic way to get his mind racing about
you . . . nothing too much, maybe a funny remark about other people
at the bar, or sharing the slice of a secret. At the same time, he begins
to think how great it would be to have you close to him in other
6. Aim high. Seize the moment with a man you think is unattainable.
(I believe firmly in aiming high.) Get him to talk about himself and
his interests. He will usually mirror your interest. Once his eyes and
manner express that ‘‘You are a fascinating creature,’’ you feel your
tentative interest in him reinforced. The minuet steps up and contin-
ues . . .


1. No pets allowed. I don’t care how adorable your pet may be, don’t
gush to him about it. If you have a pet and you don’t think it’s cute,
that could make for interesting conversation, but don’t talk about
your pet as though it’s a friend, or he’ll begin to suspect you don’t
have any real friends to talk about.
2. Avoid past boyfriends and relationships. Said Macalester, a business
graduate student at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsyl-
vania: ‘‘This should be obvious, but for some reason women still do
this, and way too much, and way too early after meeting someone
3. Check your baggage at the door. When you meet new people, both
male and female, they are looking for the same fundamental thing—
to have a good time. Don’t bring the mood down with talk about
your personal problems. Stay positive, fun, and upbeat. There will be
plenty of time for more serious, deeper conversations later in the
game; but don’t start out with your issues. He won’t care and he’ll
be gone.
136 When I Fall in Love Again

4. Don’t babble about personal concerns. Talking too much about per-
sonal things too fast is not a good idea, in spite of the urge to do so.
First, because of the lack of context by which to understand implica-
tions of what is being related, people jump too easily to wrong con-
clusions. Also, because (like having sex too soon) the revelations
short-circuit the natural process of circling ever closer—and with
each circling, more detail emerges. Third, you can’t do an exorcism
of what went before. For instance, Eve said: ‘‘It took Carlos forever to
get over my romantic history, blurted out prematurely and too emo-
tionally, as if to get forgiveness and acceptance.’’
5. Drop your agenda. If a conversation with your boyfriend or mate is
going south, drop your agenda. Maybe you are proud that you knew
exactly what this conversation should be about, but that hems him in
from the beginning. Let it go. Put your wishes and needs on the table
and leave the option for him to pick up.
6. Avoid labeling yourself negatively. Marcia and Paul had a traumatic
weekend in Cincinnati early on in their relationship. Marcia, a set de-
signer from New York, was in tears of guilt and frustration, having
confessed her inability to be faithful hitherto and her anguish about
it. Naturally Paul (monogamous until then, having separated from
his wife of eight years) was appalled, pressing for an explanation.
Said Marcia, ‘‘Paul was the great guy I yearned for after being with
several heels. But he took my pattern so to heart that it was a major
reason he didn’t propose for ten years. He later came around and we
are married but I should have kept my mouth shut.’’


How do you know he’s interested? Aside from the fact that he will ask
you out and book time with you, it’s in his kiss, but you aren’t there
yet. He will give you a measure of eye contact not only when he’s talk-
ing, but when you’re speaking. He will lean towards you.
If you are meeting him, share an event you attended before you were
with him. It shows that you are an active person. If he’s had less educa-
tion than you, you will mention something nonintellectual (people grow
when they’re together and he may want that subscription to Shake-
speare if you become a couple). Contrast ‘‘I was able to attend the last
Super Bowl’’ to ‘‘Last night on television.’’
And if you have a job, does he ever have to know what you earn and
what you think about what you earn? I heard a young female publicist
complain to her date she didn’t get a raise, and saw the disgust in the
Connecting 137

eyes of her date, who looked like a schoolteacher or artist and probably
earned half what she was complaining about. Be sensitive to what you
communicate about your assets and salary; it had best be nothing until
you and he start splitting the rent.
You want him interested in you, not the topic you introduced in the con-
versation. Men are interested in cars and computers and sports and gadgets,
and in the outdoors. So have something to say about these subjects, or be
marginalized conversationally by everyone else in a group who does. Or
you can get interested in it, truly, because you are interested in him.
Also, if there arises an opportunity for any fact or statistic, go for it.
When you read a news article, note the statistics, any statistics: the world’s
biggest jellyfish, how far the man flew in the chair carried by helium bal-
loons . . . who cares? Most men will focus on whatever you can pull out of
the almanac. Statistics have a way of making men feel on safe ground.
Other suggestions include:

• Speak clearly, slowly, and think about lowering the timbre and level
of your voice slightly.
• Don’t personalize everything. Talk about the movie, not what ‘‘I’’
felt, why ‘‘I’’ went, and ‘‘my taste.’’
• Forget about making an impression; touch your solar plexus to
resume your slow-breathing/composed mood.
• Leave him wanting more.
It is acceptable to do small talk, which is supposed to be small, harm-
less, and inoffensive. Small talk is about the weather, where you can by
the cheapest gas, and the price of stamps. But minimize this. If it
becomes boring to both of you, you know you have something in com-
mon and can move on to other topics.


As the relationship progresses, you want to use your great asset of having
been down this road to intimacy before. Keep in mind that timing is more
important than communication. Are you both ready for a fresh start? If
he’s not (because he’s on the rebound, or needs to sow his oats, or is imma-
ture and therefore still a jerk relationship-wise), all attempts will fail.

Being Open to Being Interested

Being open is not a posturing attitude but an active attempt to be lov-
ing, compassionate, and caring. My partner spent one summer where
he adored discussing different kinds of gravel for the long driveway
138 When I Fall in Love Again

that comes up our field. I was surprised when my youngest child found
this funny. Naturally, it was funny, but because he was interested I was
interested (in his thought processes).

Manners and Politeness, Always

Say you are in bed having a grand time. You’re crying out and making
facial expressions that are only made during sex or in the barnyard.
Then the two of you hop up, and you are discussing your day’s sched-
ule while he is checking the weather forecast on the Internet. Gee, he is
so calm now; did he mean what he said and did we mean what we did?
Between pillow and out-of-bed partner talk/interaction, the constant
factor to keep a couple in synch is politeness. ‘‘I thought that having a
husband would be relief from being nice and cordial all the time,’’ said
Sylvia, a school psychologist. ‘‘I figured on a release from conventional
manners along with the obvious sexual release. But taking care of the
other’s feelings and sharing in a cordial way is what has to go on in ev-
ery venue of your married life.’’
And you may have a different style than your partner. Alexis, a stay-
at-home mom married to a police detective said:

I like hugging and tickling and such, but when Sean and I have sex in the
daytime I like to go right at it. Then I prefer to jump up and get on with
the day, energized by sex. Sean lavishes me with foreplay, and because
it’s an expression of love, do you think I tell him to cut to the chase? No,
because even an unguarded remark in that direction would be selfish and
harsh. Our sex, like the rest of our life as a couple, benefits from being
polite. And when we are satiated and he snoozes with his heavy arm
thrown over me I rarely leap up; I match my breathing to his instead.

If we develop the art of courtesy, we make it an aspect of our being and

it smoothes the gears of romantic relations—often at moments when the
stakes are high. C. Northrop Parkinson, who came up with the concept of
Parkinson’s Law, wrote: ‘‘There is no greater mistake than to suppose that
marriage frees us from the need to be polite. It rather does the opposite,
demanding from us more than politeness in circumstances when our
temptation is to offer less. . . . We are sometimes driven to conclude that
what people think may be less important than what they say.’’1


1. Make communication a priority. Make sure there is an emotional connect
point every day. If there is no emotional connect, there is no connect.
Connecting 139

2. Establish and maintain eye contact. Shakespeare called the eyes the
‘‘window to the soul.’’ Look lovingly in.
3. Ask open-ended questions. Rather than ‘‘Did you like the movie?’’
ask ‘‘What do you think about the movie?’’
4. Use reflective listening. When your partner says, ‘‘I am not sure
how I feel about you,’’ say ‘‘You have some uncertainty about your
feelings for me’’ rather than ‘‘If you don’t know how you feel about
me, I guess that’s the end of us.’’
5. Use ‘‘I’’ statements. Say ‘‘I am upset that you are late’’ rather than
‘‘You are always late.’’
6. Avoid being negative. Keep a record on a three-by-five card in your
purse. How often do you criticize your partner? Not too often I
hope or he’ll be gone. No one likes to be criticized.
7. Say positive things about your partner. Don’t be silly about it but
seize opportunities to compliment your partner . . . and watch your
flower bloom.
8. Give your partner space. If your partner is not in the mood to talk,
don’t press it. Get up and do something else. Don’t force your part-
ner to talk unless there is a readiness to do so.
9. Tell your partner what you want. If you want your partner to visit
your parents with you, tell him.
10. Stay focused on a single issue when talking about you and him.
When you are discussing his buying an expensive boat without con-
sulting you, don’t remind him he leaves the lights on or always eats
the last cookie or didn’t speak to your mom last week.
11. Resolve disagreements with a specific agreement for new future
behavior. If you being chronically late is a problem, resolve to be on
time or call ahead.
12. Select your talking context carefully. When you need to have a talk
about something difficult, do it after a night of good sleep and with-
out alcohol. In a corner booth at a quiet restaurant or on a park
bench, you’re both more likely to choose your words carefully. A
walk may also serve as a good context.
13. Match the verbal with the nonverbal. Saying you are not upset
while rolling your eyes and folding your arms is a mismatch of the
verbal and the nonverbal. Similarly, saying that you enjoy being to-
gether while posturing your body so that your back is to your man
is also a mismatch.
14. Share the power. Try to boss your man around and he will dump
you. Require respectful equality and you will keep him.
15. ‘‘I’m sorry.’’ Say it.
140 When I Fall in Love Again


If you are waiting for a man to say it, you can’t imagine being disap-
pointed how or why he says it. But women say that because the ‘‘I love
you’’ confession doesn’t come in the package they expected, they can
find it upsetting. Suppose he said ‘‘I love you’’ and you felt it was too
soon or he said ‘‘I love you’’ after two drinks? Don’t pin a man down
when the feeling wells up and he expresses it. If you aren’t ready to say
it, try to be very warm and appreciative and not linger on this interlude.
If your silence becomes too awkward, simply say, ‘‘I need more time.’’
Basically ‘‘I love you’’ is no more likely to be simultaneous than a cou-
ple’s sexual crescendos.

1. C. Northrop Parkinson, Mrs. Parkinson’s Law (Boston: Houghton Mifflin and
University of California Press, 1968), 32.
Being in the Moment: There’s
No Place Else

Time for rich silence

The passionate season,
For the present tense
Beyond speech, outside reason.
—May Sarton, ‘‘Time for Rich Silence’’
One of the walls of the garage leaned in, and the door should have
been replaced years ago, but because she was a divorced woman with
a young child, the garage was never going to make it to the top of
Amanda’s priorities. It got to the point where Minnesota snowdrifts and
winds had piled dirt and fallen leaves in the garage, and the neighbor’s
cats could enter and leave at will. Amanda was waiting to designate a
windfall of cash to improving things, because she knew her property
was her major asset, but she didn’t get around to this, and vaguely
hoped the tipsy garage and its crooked door would resolve their prob-
lems on their own.


Then, one warm July day, the door was jammed. Two strong neighbors
tried but neither could open it; the time to replace the door had arrived.
From the Yellow Pages, Amanda hired the first person that said, ‘‘I’ll
come over today.’’
Amanda lived an hour north of St. Paul, where the installer had his
business. He arrived early, mid-Saturday afternoon, and Amanda, being
a social worker and friendly, quickly learned a lot about the person she
had hired. Constantine was an electrical engineer who had been in the
U.S. a year and was living with his brother and sister-in-law and studying
for his engineering license while installing inexpensive garage doors.
142 When I Fall in Love Again

They were not the best doors, he explained, but they did the job. In semi-
fluent, heavily accented English he told Amanda that due to the lean of
the garage he would have to work on the overhead pulley. The job took
five hours and he charged her what he had said over the phone. When
Constantine finished, it was dark and past dinnertime, and Amanda
invited him to dinner.
What had she seen to cause her to break a conventional barrier and
invite him to dinner? ‘‘He looked good, worked hard, was funny, and was
relaxed with my child,’’ said Amanda. ‘‘He knew classical music. He had
a kinetic way of jumping up and illustrating a fact or story that made up
for gaps in his vocabulary.’’ By the time his truck pulled out of the drive-
way, they were interested in each other. Amanda wondered if she would
see Constantine again. But he phoned the next week to see if the door was
satisfactory and asked if she was interested in a concert in St. Paul. ‘‘I said,
‘When?’’’ Amanda told me, her smile gleaming. The next year, they
married and had twins, and are a couple to enjoy every day together.

Said Amanda:

I had been divorced for five years and I’m not a kooky sort of person, and
when you’re on your own you have to protect yourself. What happened I
think was that in the hours that Constantine was out there in the garage I
picked up who he was to some extent, and then when we sat together
while he drank coffee I garnered more. You could say I was extremely
alert. I already knew I wasn’t going to chase love but I wasn’t going to let
my chance go by. Some people think the movies where strangers start to
fall in love and then are separated are romantic but I never liked those
plot lines. I believe in seizing the chances that are opened to you.

A Buddhist fable says, ‘‘The master holds the disciple’s head under-
water for a long, long time; gradually the bubbles become fewer; at the
last moment, the master pulls the disciple out and revives him; when
you have craved truth as you crave air, then you will know what truth
is.’’ It is important if you are not meeting the right man to put the same
focus on this enterprise as you did in competitive swimming, or work-
ing backstage at a school production, or earning money for your own
car. Whatever your age and stage, finding a man you love and who
loves you, and being in the early stage of the relationship with him
takes an intense focus.
Being in the Moment 143

Here is how it goes: I want to be with someone. I will not compro-

mise my ideas or values. I know that starting with someone new brings
unpredictable and uncontrollable elements that will challenge my habits
and understanding. I will continue on my path to individuation and not
lament the absence of this mate who has not yet become mine (and will
not try to cage him). I will walk my path with confidence, with my hand
out for him to grasp.
With a fine man like Constantine, and seeing as happy a pair as
Amanda and him, single women make the good-natured quip about
whether he has an older (or a younger) brother. In fact, we have already
met paragons over and over. That these two recognized each other and
built a life together is not by luck or design but readiness and focus.
Let’s deconstruct the stages of the recognition that this is the one.

Step 1. In her line of work, Amanda has to be impersonal in personal

matters. As a pretty, single thirty-year-old she is frequently
approached (‘‘hit on’’) by men and is practiced in giving the cold
shoulder. She is also a mom and protective of her child and herself.
Yet she also believes that you don’t categorize people. Constantine
was manly, tall, dark, and handsome, and from a foreign culture
known for machismo, but she knew that stereotyping was
counterproductive and she related to his humanness.
Step 2. She let her mind flow with the thought of enjoying the moment.
She had a fleeting memory of how her ex-husband had said it was
bad manners to talk to the waiter/waitress, and then conjured up that
the gossipy neighbor would probably comment on how handsome the
installer was the next day. Then she forgot these snatches of
discouraging memory and thought that it was great to be a friendly
person meeting another.
Step 3. As he spoke, Amanda listened with underlying sympathy and
identification. Here was someone who had gone through school in
another country and now had to study again, at night, in America;
someone whose family had suffered. She said, ‘‘I thought that if he
were my son I’d hope someone would be kind.’’
Step 4. She acknowledged that she was attracted to Constantine. This
was not a foundation for an affair, and needed to have no outcome. It
was an emotion of happiness at being there, on her front steps with
an interesting, vibrant person she felt in sympathy with. She knew
from her professional work how to keep up her guard to the level
144 When I Fall in Love Again

Constantine felt all this: that she related as a human being, that she
was having a good time, her kindness, and her being attracted to him.
He thought Amanda was lovely to look at, had a beautiful voice, and
was a neat mother. He too let his mind flow, thinking, ‘‘This is the sort
of woman I want to be the mother of my children.’’

If you have learned any new sport where balance is crucial, such as ski-
ing, rollerblading, ice skating, or rowing, you know the moment that
you feel on top of things. This is how it is with a new relationship—like
an art. There is a phase of any romance where the feelings of comfort
and affection are in the bud, when you really do have to pay more
attention than when things between you become more routine. Being in
the moment takes galvanizing your intuition and reason. This is not the
way of adolescent love. If you stay in the moment, you are poised. Hav-
ing had a fallow period tends to make us, whether man or woman, just
a little too eager. There should be no forcible sharing or having sexual
contact just to get through it!


Sometimes you are with a man who is talking about something that isn’t
what you sense he really wants to say. He may discuss his day or work,
or going out with friends last night, but there is some other content
underlying this. If you look him in the eye, and look thoughtful, he is
likely to mirror your pensiveness and focus his consciousness and tell
you what is on his mind. Said Maggie:

We were talking about having entertained our friends when something

darkened in Rob’s mood. It turned out that he had thought my friends
boring. I had told him how funny they were and he thought them merely
domineering and rude. It made me feel bad but it was very important he
get it off his chest, and I don’t have to put us in one-on-one situations
with these particular friends.

Because Maggie was ready for a healthy, caring, lasting relationship,

she didn’t ball up inside herself and exaggerate that Rob had called her
friends boring. Rob’s vantage was negative, and she thought he lost out
by not finding her friends as funny as did she. But she did not require it
and, to Rob’s credit, she noticed that he had been genial. Also, she was
Being in the Moment 145

only likely to see these friends about twice a year so it made little differ-
ence to the friends or her that Rob didn’t cotton to them.

A woman who doesn’t need a man has a rigid (and sometimes frigid)
air with them. A woman who has a man is removed in her associations
with men. A woman who is available is present in spirit not only bodily
in all her associations with men. When we long to be handfast with a
loved one, we should not be ashamed to let the fact be known. It is not
a wiggle-of-the-hips kind of sexual assertion but a cock of the head, or a
gentle wrapping of our words around his. There is no reason to worry
about getting a date or thinking about all the roadblocks with a man if
you stay focused. The stories about meeting the man or woman of your
life when filling up the gas tank or waiting in line at the grocery store
point out that the romantic connection is not an accident, but in a certain
measure planned. The planning, clearly, was not ‘‘I’m putting on lip gloss
and fluffing up my hair so I can meet someone when I do errands,’’ but
rather being open for the moment. You may always be half a second
away from meeting someone just like Amanda, who picked up the phone
to hear the voice of a man who would fix her garage.
Part of creating the readiness is reconstituting your priorities. Men-
tally you are a lighthouse that beams light for wayfarers but doesn’t get
up and go after them. Practically, you make sure you are seen in this
pretty and available phase of your life, from doing errands or sports to
going out with friends and just, generally, circulating. For the man who
has been missing love in his life for a while, the sight of that poised
woman is just what the doctor ordered: she is a pleasant, attractive
woman, an irresistible aphrodisiac.


If you consider your past, it may surprise you how different a person
you wished for at different times. My first crush was on an aristocrat
whose princely bearing it turned out was because he was literally a
prince of a deposed Iranian regime, the Qajars. He appeared godlike to
a sixteen-year-old romantic girl. In fact he was I bet a fine person but I
couldn’t have known it from my hero-worshipping posture.
Years later, when a friend gave me a personal ad as a birthday gift,
and I had young children, I put in the ad that I was seeking a father
146 When I Fall in Love Again

with single custody so that we could raise our children together. At

another time, I put an ad in New York Review of Books, looking for a man
my age who ‘‘loved his mother.’’
On still another occasion, I revised my profile to a man who would
be like a red setter—dash across the moor, come in and shake the rain-
drops off his coat, and curl up by the fire—a male presence, to spend a
cozy afternoon.
Today, my mate is a large person who spends a lot of time outdoors
and thus smells of grasses, wood, and clover, and is calming and also
likes love in the afternoon. He even has wavy, curly hair. I found him,
which meant also eliminating other might-have-been mates, because I
was ultimately looking for him. But how different all these men were.
If you admit you are single right now and looking, then give every
man where you feel any chemistry could develop a chance. Most women
are looking for someone stable and trustworthy, but beyond that one
woman wants someone who is fun, another wants one who is fascinating;
and still another wants someone to share her ambitions. In the moment
when you encounter the man—after the initial introduction but before
you are intimate—you size up your highly individual desires. What if he
were the father of your child? What if the previous boyfriend showed up
again—would you drop him? Some of this thinking can be done at lei-
sure, but often the best time to refine your impressions and objective is
when he is present—while looking into his eyes and in rapport.

Hunting means, naturally, being hyperalert. When the deer are grazing
in front of our house, they look as though they haven’t a care in the
world. But if we make noise more than a muted exchange of words they
twitch their ears and look towards the direction of the sound. Their
nonchalance combined with their taut preparedness to retreat or leap is a
fabulous model for passing over into a new relationship.
Let’s not be ashamed, in the twenty-first century, of asserting our
huntress side. Knowing that it is normal to want to love and be loved
puts you many squares ahead on the Parcheesi game board of love.
Sexual Makeover: The New
Sexual You

Kiss me again, re-kiss and kiss me whole;

Give me one of your most delectable,
Give one of your most affectionate;
I’ll give you back four more as hot as coal.
—Louise Labe, Sonnet XVIII
Love is a candle and sexual desire is its flame. It can be beautiful and
warm or it can scorch you and burn your castle. To remain in awe of
sex is sane. We have reason to. We bear the primary responsibility for
babies, so having sex has unique implications for us.
To be sexual is to need to mate. If only an unattached woman could
wear a T-shirt that said ‘‘I need,’’ or more shocking in today’s dating
mores, ‘‘I’m needy.’’ Because that is what having a sexually healthy
identity means—need. This doesn’t mean being sex crazed and only
focused on sex, men, romance, or nesting; it means that women natu-
rally seek completion. Men don’t get our need to mate and nest. Not
that they are nefarious, but by wiring and socialization, oblivious. So it
is important that we take care of ourselves as well as be patient and


Men can leave you high and dry. This truth points to the first thing to
do for your sexual makeover: be on the alert. If you are a woman who
glides through life, strive at this juncture to be the careful self that holds
a banister before climbing down a steep stair or who double-checks that
you turned the stove off before going away for the weekend. Endeavor
to harness your rational self to the sexual self, because what looks so
effortless, going to bed with various men, acting like a guy, can leave
148 When I Fall in Love Again

you in the lurch, with the man thinking we are just not in the swing
of things.


The second step of your sexual makeover is to be very calm, calmer

than you were that other or the first time, not just before you get
involved, but as you leap into sex. If you can detach enough to visual-
ize that he will not be there in the morning, or he may go back to
some other woman, or you will find the initial intoxication doesn’t
measure up, then you can enjoy sex without a surprise awaiting you,
like dry ice.


The next thing is to ask a simple question, ‘‘Does he lie?’’ (Most men
and women do.) It takes a while to have the information to know, but you
may have this information without registering it. The man may lie about
you first. He is on the phone with his girlfriend in Seattle, while you and
he take a break from making out on the couch. ‘‘Nothing,’’ he says. It’s an
old girlfriend he already told you about, and you feel sure it won’t rekin-
dle between them; but think about it, why does he have to lie? He has not
taken monastic vows, and he presumably is a social animal. Can’t he say,
‘‘I have a friend over,’’ or even ‘‘My friend [fill in your name] is watching
the Australian Open final with me.’’ Take note.
Another common example is the divorced dad who tells his ex-wife:
‘‘I can’t take the kids, I’m working.’’ Do you want to be a party to that?
No! If he thrives on prevaricating and uses lies to get along in life, he
will surely lie to you in the sexual arena.


Ask yourself: If he were to vanish tomorrow, is the experience worth it?
I had an affair with a wonderful man who used to blow smoke rings af-
ter we had sex and write essays in the air that he more or less recorded
the next day on the printed page. I couldn’t tell you what he said but
for a writer like me his eloquence was like listening to J. S. Bach com-
posing a cantata. However, if you just might come away from the sexual
episode, or indeed from being with your man, like a beggar turned
away from the door, don’t do it! The experience is not worth it.
Sexual Makeover 149


When in a good relationship we feel happy and buoyant. The feeling

side is basically satisfied and is like a perch from which we can fly and
enjoy life and face its challenges. When we are in a bad relationship it
hurts to put a foot forward. Our bodies feel like lead and our nerves are
brittle. We have to shut off the feeling side to go about our daily lives.
After a breakup is the toughest on us physically but deep down we
know it’s a time rich with potential. We are going to emerge like a but-
terfly in spring. Of the sixty women and ten men interviewed for this
book, all but two spoke of the aftermath of a breakup as heart wrenching
and disorienting. One person said she was able to lose herself in her work
and another said she had an ability to bounce back totally after seven days
of ‘‘wallowing.’’ Yet nearly all women described the interregnum—the
period between romances—as physically draining, with their biological
clocks topsy-turvy as well. The easiest things—falling asleep, getting up,
having a meal, or going for a walk—could bring tidal waves of suffering
and frightening sensibilities of imbalance and even pain.


None of the women interviewed recalled being devastated by having

‘‘no one to love.’’ To the contrary, all the women recall the aftermath of
the breakup as a time of growth and reconstitution of self. However,
these individuals often said they had to make a concerted effort to rean-
imate their spirits and the conviction that they were sexy and desirable.
While taking a significant breather from being with a man (by choice or
circumstances) they agreed they had to go through some sort of rebirth
of their sexual dimension.
They received specific suggestions from friends or books or family,
and devised remedies and touch-ups tailored to themselves. After a
relationship that you entered on Cloud 9 falters, you can either wait for
time, which cures all, to get your groove back, or you can be more active. A
lot of us could have spent less of our attention on analyzing what went
wrong and more on spiffing up our bodies, minds, and spirits—the stuff
of this chapter. Think of it as like the rhinestone compact our grand-
mothers used to carry to a party or fancy restaurant. Ostensibly it was to
powder one’s nose, but wasn’t the real purpose to release the catch and see
the clasp pop open and then say, ‘‘Hmm, so that’s how I look tonight’’?
She met in the mirror the face she put on for the occasion, and also her eyes
and the impression she was giving to others. In the same way, we can do
150 When I Fall in Love Again

things that get our groove back, and engender consistently constructive
dating and mating habits. Here are some specifics so the mirror in the com-
pact of our minds reflects a beautiful sexual creature again.

First Tier of Your Sexual Makeover Kit

You are gearing up for a great new relationship and thinking about
‘‘what I should have done,’’ ‘‘how I can improve next time,’’ and most
especially, ‘‘how to go for a guy of better caliber.’’
First there’s the worn-out ‘‘It’s not you, it’s me’’ (that he says). And
that’s true, but you cannot help but think it is you—if he left you. And
even if you left him, you might still wonder why you are having such a
hard time finding the right guy.
You do know that it’s not you. Oh, you may have some issues. You
are jealous (but really, how can you not be when you see him checking
out every woman who walks by?!); you didn’t like his mother; you can’t
stand watching sports and he is crazy about that; you shop a little too
much; you have a tendency to get gloomy (or blow up) a few days each
month. But are these such horrible things? You do know you’re okay
just the way you are. (I am a woman.)
You want to find someone who loves you just the way you are. That’s
really what this search for love is about—love me for me. So, what can
you do to make yourself feel better and get yourself ready to open up to
a new experience?
Hanging out with girlfriends, getting a manicure, pampering your-
self, et cetera do work—as shallow as that might seem to some men
(who go shoot a few hoops or slug down some beers with the guys
because they, too, know they are just fine the way they are).
Yet, what can you actually change about how sexy you feel? Here are
practical, no- or low-cost tips that will make you feel slinky, sexy, more
in charge of your feelings, and more resilient when you are occasionally
engulfed with or beset with moments of regret:

• Having your body feel smooth and silky enhances your feeling sexy.
It’s great to feel touchable even when we’re paddling our own life
canoe alone. If you received body butter for a birthday or Christmas
it is probably still in its neat little container . . . use it! This is best af-
ter the bath or shower. Most drugstore creams are sticky. Find a good
one and use it profligately at night and go out smooth into the world.
• Hands that are graceful mesmerize in a quiet way. Self-massage your
hands when you are half-asleep or relaxed watching an old movie.
Put a hand towel and the cream by the couch. Do this even when
you are not doing a manicure.
Sexual Makeover 151

• Foot-soak daily and do it as a ritual so you get absorbed in the idea

of pampering yourself. After the foot soak, massage your feet (espe-
cially squeezing the ankles and rolling your knuckles underneath).
This is a type of massage that is done just as well yourself. Then put
on something pretty, not the raggedy T-shirt or bathrobe.
• Candles lend a peaceful atmosphere and are linked to romance. Same
with ruby red hibiscus tea; make it as though you were preparing tea
for a valued guest, the honey or fresh leaves in a tea ball, whatever.
Drink it in style.
• Walk by yourself in a beautiful place. A walk hand in hand with my
mate is the most romantic of all activities to me, but when I walk
alone I feel the love in the universe and the acceptance of the natural
world that I belong.
• Strut the avenue. Show cleavage and catch the guys’ admiration in
the container of your mind—to be decanted next time you think
about the guy who dissed or disillusioned you.
• Lose an inch around the waist (or back). It’s likely to be the only kind
of buffing that makes you feel sexier.
• Wear a top that shows off your shapely breasts/legs/tush.
• Cry over a sad romantic movie, as letting tears out refreshes a person
and the romantic chords in the movie make you feel dreamy.
• Shower and return to bed a-morning when off work. Surround your-
self with fun things—for me that’s doing a portion of a quilt in an
embroidery hoop, reading an art book, and doing a crossword puz-
zle. If you wear drawstring pants and a T-shirt you are ready to rush
to the front door or take the dog out—and return to luxuriate in bed.
• Consider which secret luxury will make you feel sultry and do it: go
to a secondhand store and scout for party shoes, or maybe it’s foils
for golden hair around your face, fresh flowers or whatever. . . .
• Do Pilates and think as you exercise how these are similar moves as
when you have sex.
• Raise flowers that speak to you sensually—a few rosebushes in your
garden or a potted gardenia indoors. Surround yourself with new
color; orange and blue is a combination that has the psychological
effect of raising people’s spirits.
Is this the moment to adopt a pet? Rita, an opera singer, said:
After my divorce I got a big mutt and when I brushed its coat and buried
my face in its fur collar I felt both of us were living a life of the senses,
and when I saw it snoozing I fell asleep happy. One of the firefighters at
the station near my apartment actually lent me the dog so it went to the
firehouse when I traveled.
152 When I Fall in Love Again

Second Tier of Your Sexual Makeover Kit

Because sex for women is best when it includes romance, a sexual
makeover needs to include bringing romance back into your life. But
you do need also to feel the biological side (how good to let yourself feel
good if you have been dealt some blows and are sexually and emotion-
ally lonely):

• Masturbation is a word invented by a prude, I’m sure, because it

sounds ugly. How about lying down naked and reacquainting with
your physical self by touch?
• Neck and noodle. You’ve gone all the way (and back!), but to kiss
someone attractive and have it go nowhere is excellent for the ego—
viz., I’m not being used.
• Have sex when you feel like having sex. You don’t have to love the
man, but be a true friend—don’t mislead him and don’t just walk
away. Treat him well even if he’s someone who is passing through—
how good that he is and can make you feel good!
• Take your time, find yourself again, believe in yourself again. And
then turn on the ‘‘I’m Ready’’ switch; let the glow come out of your
eyes and skin and the rest will come.

Start Smiling
Perhaps most importantly, as you reclaim your sexual energy put out a
signal that you are available. That means smile, which comes from the
feeling deep inside that you’re available—not that you are wounded
and needy, but that you are ready. Said Glenda, who found not only
her beloved but someone to write travel articles with her:

A friend of mine used to say she could tell when I reached this point of
healing. She called this my ‘‘satellite dish’’ and said that whenever I
turned it on, I had plenty of men to date. She was right—even though I
didn’t recognize it until she pointed it out. It might take me a few years
before I was ready, but when I was, I ‘‘switched’’ something on—something
inside that said, ‘‘Okay, I’m ready’’—and truly, there were men right there,
sweet men, even though they might not be ‘‘the one’’ right away, he would
be in the mix.

If a male friend invites you out, go with him. Even if you aren’t
attracted to him, get dressed up, go somewhere, feel good about yourself.
Sexual Makeover 153


We progress from being innocent to being sophisticated in the realm of

the senses. Sometimes we know that the relation with a new man is
impermanent. Some women, at different stages of their life, can have
intercourse with a man whom they are not spinning into any web of
their future. They experience and fulfill lust. This is not love, which
involves security and support of each other, but it can be memorable
and give a woman new information about herself and the nature of inti-
macy. Sometimes a woman feels unfeminine to have relations that are
pure lust.
One view is that this is a rather masculine approach to sex. I have
called it ‘‘having my way with him’’ even though that is an expression
that was about a man ravishing a woman. Whether this is a positive
experience or a negative one depends on your perception/interpretation
of the event. I think that the female psyche has a natural tendency to
build a castle of love with the bricks and mortar of sex, and not see
value in the sexual escapades that become a sort of necklace of cheap
beads one can pull out of the drawer. However, surely some experimen-
tation is better than sleeping with an ass and imagining he is a god—
simply from na€ıvete and inexperience. Sex is about getting out of your
head into your body. If you accept responsibility for your behavior and
if you can see the casual sex as fairly detached emotionally this way,
and take care with the health angle, with these caveats, sex may do you
as a woman good.


On the whole spectrum of the sensations that men create in intercourse,

men are different. The women I interviewed agreed to a person that
each man performed differently in sex—amazing when you think of the
basic act! Most men love oral sex but some like it at the beginning of
intercourse, some as a prologue earlier in the day, and some think it’s
heaven to come to a climax in the woman’s mouth.
Some men are also more focused on your climax. Some are not. Train
those that are not. Some men are disconcertingly aware of exactly when
you climax, or what percent of an orgasm you reach.
Some men are slow to orgasm, some fast. With the swifties, romp in
bed with your clothes on while only intermittently contacting his sex, as
you both heat up.
154 When I Fall in Love Again


Sex with the same partner can be endlessly varied. New partners were
not something the women who were interviewed thought was ‘‘hot’’
compared with being with the same partner for years. Nobody said that
they felt driven to return to dating if they were in a good relationship—
that old pattern was carried out and done.


With a guy who is very interested in you, it’s easy to go overboard. So

stay cool! Some of us have been prey to our greedy wish for a man, any
man, at a certain moment, with or without alcohol, and we have made
some mistakes—not only sleeping with a ridiculous person but subjecting
a great guy to an outbreak of repressed emotion. Go through psychologi-
cal reconciliation of your life/situation lest buried emotions burst forward
in a way you didn’t anticipate or want. Back to rose gardening or a quiet
evening with a friend; you can express your sensual side by low-key and
safe means as you experience the rebirth of desire and ability to love.


The ghosts that will waft around the bedroom are the other men you hit
the sack with in the past. The ghosts will greet you even if they were
crummy lovers and you never had a meaningful tie to them. It’s the
typical experience of women to compare men’s bodies and sexual
technique ad infinitum. The intense sensations of sex seem to bring out
these dreams of the past man/men like a host of colored butterflies.
That includes the unhappy past sexual experiences, as is to be expected.
It’s okay to have these memories. Relax. Meanwhile, because you are
climbing a ladder to a better love—where you have more self-aware-
ness, tolerance, potential, and control—the present sexual act energizes
you and infuses the bond with warmth.
The man in bed with you, your prince if you have climbed the ladder
this far, is aware of your past although he may rarely speak of it. Men
are competitive. If he wants to discuss this be courteous and of few
words. Start from the premise in your mind that thinking of your ex
and him are not mutually exclusive.

You see your beloved coming down the street towards you. . . . You
have rink-side seats to a pro hockey game and you admire a skater
Sexual Makeover 155

zooming across the ice flashing his stick. . . . You watch a gorgeous male
button up a leather jacket. Feeling the sizzle of desire, the spark of life,
whether very consciously or quite unconsciously does us untold good.
Not merely because it keeps us young, although it undoubtedly does,
but because in the context of transiting to a new relationship, our aware-
ness of sexual energy tones us.
We are too smart to go out and screw every man who presents him-
self; better for a temporary retreat from a sex life and focus on igniting
passion and romance by all the little things that make us feel womanly.
Create a context of sexual intoxication. Experiment. Take the bubble
bath and the walk in the woods, eat a fine chocolate candy and luxuriate
in little ways, and then walk out into the world and see if the guy at the
hardware store or down the hall doesn’t look up as though you are
wearing a pheromone perfume!
Your Wedding Night: A Night
to Remember

It was everything I had hoped it would be.

—A bride after her first wedding night
You are blessed. You found a person who wants to hold hands with
you and look in the same direction through life. Whether you look for-
ward to raising a family or blending one, or sharing other experiences,
your hopes and dreams now include each other. If with your first seri-
ous boyfriend/significant other/spouse you bit into the cake and got a
mouthful of stale cake or gobs of icing, now you anticipate real nourish-
ment of a life together. And it officially begins on your wedding night.
The beauty of the wedding night is the coming together of the erotic
and the spiritual as you anticipate your days and years ahead. And both
levels benefit from a bit of prior planning.
Since 85 percent of newlyweds have already had sex with each other
(and 60 percent have lived together),1 the first night is not your first
physical intimacy but is equally as significant, and certainly can also be
as memorable. Indeed, your wedding night is much more about cleav-
ing together as two harmonious people who have vowed their love to
the world than about the sexual act of intercourse.
No matter how close you’ve been for how long, the first night in each
other’s arms as husband and wife has symbolic meaning like no other.
You might as well have landed on a deserted tropical island because
everything between you has the same newness. Yet as brides are putting
more into the planning of their wedding, they sometimes forget that
here, between the sheets, is where the joyous private essence of their
loves lies. The wedding-industrial complex, an industry that heats up
the planning so a lot of money is spent to prove emotional depth, says
not to cut corners (if you don’t have fancy favors on the table the guests
won’t feel honored). The entire wedding is choreographed. You have to
158 When I Fall in Love Again

have ‘‘events.’’ But the wedding night is not on the wedding planner’s
list, yet, the pent-up, sentimental, grandiose, gleeful, bone-weary, and
bursting-with-love bride is going to end up between the sheets.
So what’s the deal? The one thing all couples experience that have
formal weddings, as opposed to eloping, is the letdown. Now, as fifty
years ago, you’ve spent the whole day regaled in the fairy-tale fete, and
now it’s just two people whose emotions have probably flagged.
‘‘It was everything I had hoped it would be.’’ You can be sure a bride
who says this to a mother, sister, or friend is speaking of the loving intimacy
of that first-night interlude. When you are tired and stressed out, your li-
bido begs more for recovery than sex. Yet there are expectations of what the
first night should be. Nobody has any personal experience to rely on, not
unless it’s a second or third marriage, and there’s no trial run, so the best
advice is to give thought beforehand to the experience between the sheets.
Our survey of ninety-eight ‘‘wedding nights’’ indicates that most
couples want four things from these hours that are a bridge to the hon-
eymoon. They want to relax, have fun, not feel the pressure of some
idealized scenario, and have a night to remember (fulfilling that scent of
romance in the air).
The enchantment is yours no matter how the wedding night shapes
up. Take into account there is no one wedding night. It’s the most pri-
vate of occasions and ushers in but doesn’t stamp any pattern on the
sealing wax of a future life. There are as many wonderful variations on
what transpires in the bridal chamber as bridal bouquets or reception
venues. Part of having realistic expectations is to acknowledge the enor-
mous variety in first nights. Think of the possibilities as a continuum
from partying/drinking all night until morning so there is no wedding
night (not that night, anyway), but collapsing in bed out of exhaustion,
to holding each other in a loving embrace till morning, to having hot
electric sex again and again until the sun comes up.


Sex and the wedding night go together like a bouquet of roses and a
vase, but when do you fill the vase with water and arrange the flowers?
In deciding the schedule of your wedding, consider the first night. A
clear message from our respondents is their utter exhaustion on their
wedding night and their suggestion to those who follow to have their
wedding early in the day so that the couple will have the night to them-
selves without being worn out.
Your Wedding Night 159

Have the Wedding Early in the Day

The optimal hour for a wedding is 11 a.m., with a lunch reception; or a
three o’clock ceremony with tea, dance, and refreshments (but no meal).
If you really want your guests to mingle, you may want the meal. If you
prefer to invest in live music and/or a stunning venue, as opposed to a
banquet, consider a wedding with refreshments in a reception room at
the church, museum, or wherever the ceremony takes place.
An outdoor or at-home wedding is typically in the afternoon, when
the dew is off the ground. If you select a Sunday, there can be a meal in
the midafternoon, as you can presume guests will have a late breakfast.
A daytime wedding gives leeway for having a small restaurant open
just for you. People will dance in the afternoon if the music gets their
feet tapping, and the daytime hours are easy on old people.
Let’s say the bride and groom, even if the wedding and reception are
on the long side, are waved away before nightfall. Presto, you can pen-
cil in a wedding night. Think of the exciting events presaged on the
creamy formal wedding invitations you sent out . . . and of the wedding
night as a wax seal that closes the envelope of the whole fabulous

Or Have Your Wedding Night a Day Later

Our respondents make clear that more often than not, newlyweds miss
out on the wedding night because they fall into a deep sleep, awaken
with a hangover, and hurry off to the honeymoon destination the next
morning. A delightful solution is to move ‘‘the night’’ forward by at
least one or maybe two. Your wedding night can be twenty-four or even
forty-eight hours later, when you’ve slept. Indeed, advice given over
and over by couples in our survey was to stay in a local hotel the first
night and give yourself a full day to recover from the wedding before
you begin your honeymoon. Couples who partied and then drove or
flew somewhere the first night recalled this was a heedless mistake.
‘‘We needed time to unwind’’ was a constant refrain.
Hence, either start the wedding early and leave the party early to be
on your way or give up the idea of a hot sex night (we strongly recom-
mend the former). Bodies are like cars, they will run out of fuel, and
nothing is left if a person is physically exhausted. It’s okay to have sex
the next day: wedding-night sex can just as well be the day-after-
wedding sex! It’s a couple’s marriage and they can shed the cultural
expectation that sex must be the night of the wedding.
160 When I Fall in Love Again



For some, it may only take a few hours of sleep to realize you are hun-
gry for each other’s love. And, as far as how long the lovemaking and
cleaving lasts, you have every option from a gentle pillow fight to a lux-
urious breakfast in bed. If you are flying out the next day, plan an after-
noon flight. Again, the goal of the first night is often renewal. When
planning the wedding you just have to give the night its due . . . and
this may be luscious sleep.
A unique first night was revealed by a couple in our survey. They
noted that after their traditional Southern Italian wedding, they were
furnished with a lavish meal (beginning in the evening at six) in the
bedroom of the house prepared for them. They were left there (alone)
and with the door locked for two nights. The idea had a merit we can
learn from, as a couple may want to be close and talk, eat, and sleep
before sex. ‘‘We enjoyed each other for two full days and then we went
on our honeymoon,’’ said the bride. There is a lesson here for couples
planning the night as a dynamite occasion.
One more detail: Just as when you plan your beach vacation to Can-
cun or the Jersey shore, when you set the date, choose a time of month
you are the least likely to have your menstrual period. (You’d be sur-
prised how many people forget the obvious desirability of this).


There is daydreaming to be done and circumstances you can create to
enhance the wedding night, even if it is still quite far off. To make the
night as wonderful as it can be, anticipate it in your heart and mind.
When you are gazing at the engagement ring on your finger, picture the
private interlude after the public ceremony. Live your excitement about
the man you are going to marry; carry that excitement with you like a
bubble that ascends into the sky and finally bursts beyond the range of
sight. Sink mentally into the pleasures you will have.
In effect, by thinking about having sex you prime your body to enjoy
it to the hilt. Daydreaming is not just for teenagers conjuring up a first
Set the stage for a beautiful night by referring to it. Not ‘‘Guess what,
honey, I hope I don’t get too drunk,’’ but ‘‘It will be wonderful to be
alone together after the hoopla is done,’’ or ‘‘You’ll love what I’ll be
wearing our first night as bride and groom.’’ Give the message that you
Your Wedding Night 161

are envisioning being possessed by him as your husband, and that, even
if your body is depleted, you know you will desire him.
Women are more sensitive to context regarding sex, and we’re also
more focused on enjoying the show and less focused on completing the
act. Therefore, the dreaming and planning for the wedding night may
be more up your alley than his. Cast your thoughts to the first night of
the rest of your lives together. Feel the electricity of it amidst the party
preparations. Be assured that even if your fiance doesn’t talk about the
wedding night he’s eager for the time to arrive.
Do part of the wedding preparation by daydreaming about your feel-
ings of attraction to him (as you did when you two first met). As you
think about him and your upcoming new bond, you have physical sen-
sations of love. Think of how he takes your breath away when he enters
the room, and your love muscles will probably tighten and your heart-
beat quicken. This is frankly self-preparation, as you think he is crush-
ing you in his arms, and blood rushes to your pelvic area. Whisper to
yourself, ‘‘I want only you,’’ and the petals of self will unfold. This
reminds you that you are a sexual being (even if you are on a tight
schedule—which we have suggested you avoid—and mindful of getting
the luggage downstairs by seven for the limo to the airport).


Belonging together is what carries a couple through junctures when
they will experience quarrels or discord. Intimacy, the part where they
have intercourse and talk quietly about what is in their hearts, is the
foundation of that sense of inalienable belonging. Because the modern
wedding is our society’s most extravagant celebration, sex is probably
the last thing on the minds of many couples who have expended and
sacrificed vast amounts of time, money, and effort creating the perfect
day in order to meet outlandish (and superficial) expectations.
What couples probably want more than each other (after the wed-
ding) is oblivion, three days of sleep, and never to have to think about
any of it ever again. Except, of course, they are now expected to pro-
duce photographs of their perfect honeymoon. And to think they could
have eloped and actually had enough energy left over for sex! Yet,
according to our survey, married couples rate as one of the most impor-
tant aspects of their wedding that it brought friends and family together
for a joyous celebration. They also reported the importance of the
wedding night (the reality of having tied the knot).
162 When I Fall in Love Again

Whether sexual fireworks are in your expectations, or being infinitely

close to the man you love, make the sacred space of this night unique.
Open the locket of your mind and imagine. The scenarios are different
for each couple. Going from quiet conversation and cuddling on the
couch to intimacy and intercourse is not the same thing as being awak-
ened in the middle of the night by a partner overcome with desire. Ath-
letic sex, or holding hands much of the night, are different again, and
on your wedding night you create the platform of sacred space where
you embark. On your wedding night you are expressing true love with-
out contingencies. It is an extraordinary promise, in the realm where he
and you are king and queen, which makes the intimacy in a sacred
place. What could be more thrilling than the faith in each other carried
from the vow to the interlude alone?
Tell your man how special the prospect of this first night is to you.
He is going to delight in your desiring him in bed. When you’re in love
you know that rustling his hair during a sports event or having him
reach out for your hand in a movie theater can be the sweetest of pleas-
ures. The attitude of giving and receiving provides the indispensable in-
gredient of your magic together.
What we love is foreplay, and although this is generally known, what
people think of as foreplay is way too limited. Foreplay isn’t the guy
heating up the girl with caresses, but everything that leads up to sex.
The adoring glances you give each other during the wedding reception,
the discreet touch, or the very visible touch when the two of you cut the
cake. It all begins in the brain. Rather than block out how attractive you
find your partner during the wedding, tease each other during the pre-
liminary hours to your wedding night. With as light sensations as your
fingers on his cuff, give a tantalizing whisper of the extreme pleasures
you’ll deliver.


If you have a wedding followed by a reception, you may require the

energy of a channel swimmer to get through your wedding day. You’ll
hear advice about going to bed early the night before or eating a good
breakfast, but if you are too keyed up to get your energy in these com-
mon ways, you needn’t worry if you know about catnap-like breathing.
Practice on any exerting day, especially an occasion involving a lot of
people. Mentally turn off and do slow-breathing exercise. Look into the
distance and focus on no human face (that asks for a reaction), but on the
sea, or trees, or a distant landscape or view. Sit up, breathe deep from
Your Wedding Night 163

your diaphragm and let your breath fall heavily on your chest (this expels
the air so you fully recharge with fresh air in the next breath). There’s no
Lamaze technique for weddings, but if you practice these little catnaps in
the week prior, you’ll have an ability to conserve energy comparable to
the laptop computer that goes into sleep mode. And the excitement of
wedding-night sex (whether it shimmers with foreplay or wild forays of
intercourse) will depend on a considerable store of reserved energy.


Most couples will have been having regular sex before the wedding.
Consider, perhaps counterintuitively, a pause. Sexual abstinence before
the wedding will ensure that both partners are hungry for each other.
We suggest a week or ten days to ensure a ravenous appetite.
This artificial pause of your sex lives may seem extreme but couples
that do it have a sizzling night. The yearning preceding the wedding is
something we can reinvent. As already pointed out, most (85 percent) of
brides and grooms will have been having regular sex for months or years.
But they have never had marital sex. You can have lovely sex three times
a day, but it takes some denial and distance for the wild need to well up.
The delight of really wanting each other is the consequent to a break
in sex. You come to each other a little shy! You think of making the first
Mr. and Mrs. sex something to remember. But men attest they know
how to go without as well as women, so you can count on the practi-
cality of this.
It’s not just a way of revving up, but of seeing each other as won-
drously desirable. Said Timothy, a jazz pianist, ‘‘Abstinence opened our
eyes to how much we desired and needed each other.’’ One of the cou-
ples we surveyed reported, ‘‘We laid off for ten days and jumped on
each other like mountain goats when we got to each other for the first
wedding night.’’ If you’ve had a healthy, active sex life, your mind and
body are programmed for keeping it at that high level, and if you take a
break you are going to crave each other . . . and not be able to get
enough. Talk about a wedding night to remember!


When Paul, a caterer, married Eliza, a graphics designer, the reception

took place in a big Chicago hotel, and at its conclusion (midnight) they
went up to their room. Paul immediately changed from his shoes to
sneakers, and with an agitated look and a peck on Eliza’s mouth,
164 When I Fall in Love Again

disappeared with the ice bucket down the hallway with an ‘‘I’ll be back
in a few minutes.’’ Eliza and Paul had had a whirlwind courtship and
she began to doubt: had her family overwhelmed him, was he not ready
for conjugal life? Suddenly, with the family that had come from all over
gone, and no one to turn to, she felt lonely.
Paul hadn’t gone out for ice because it was three-quarters of an hour
later when he reappeared, shirttails falling out of his trousers, and panting.
‘‘Where were you?’’ said Eliza, gripping him more tightly than usual.
‘‘Walking is good for stress,’’ he said, ‘‘so I went up and down the
floor. Then I saw an exit and went out, and ended up running up and
down thirty-one flights of stairs. . . . I feel great!’’
He apologized for being perplexing. ‘‘Usually he’s considerate,’’ Eliza
explained. ‘‘I think he knew what he needed though, and I was still
learning that.’’ Both Paul and Eliza are quiet types who often need to
get away from noise and clamor, but whereas Eliza could shift instantly
to being just the two of them, Paul had to shake off his nerves. What’s
important is that Eliza recognized Paul’s need to unwind in his own
way (however difficult it was for her).

What are your differences in relating with your man? Since you have
found a complement, either of you may be more prone to sentimentality
or anxiety, but what puts the bride and groom in the mood for romantic
intimacy isn’t the same. Is it a long kiss or tender remarks? Since the
bride is still in princess mode, ‘‘You are the most beautiful bride in the
world’’ may be what she hopes to hear. You know each other well, so
you’ll know how to crack through the icing and make each other’s
heartbeat race and eyes mist over.
In general, men and women are true to gender stereotypes. He is
going to be inspired by seeing you in the bridal lingerie, and a provoca-
tive look of what’s underneath, and by touch. Meanwhile you regale in
the little touches of bubble bath, candles, the silky, clingy fabric of the
lingerie you chose with him in mind—all the niceties that help you
think how good you and he are together.


• It’s best not to drink much caffeine on your wedding day; favor
herbal tea (passion fruit?), boutique water, or fresh lemonade or
citrus juice.
Your Wedding Night 165

• Rest your eyes for a few seconds now and then during the day. Use
eyedrops to keep your eyes moist.
• Moving around is better than standing in one place (being an artist’s
model is excruciating, and this is nearly what a bride can feel like
unless she strides around, dances, and so forth).
• Have a clear departure time from the reception, which will allow
time in your bridal suite before the late hours.


In olden days, the priest or presiding family member could bless the
bed, and the guests could protect the cart with the bridal pair by
intoning chants of well-wishing, but only the new husband could
carry his bride over the threshold. When you go from your guests to
your private quarters, the groom does well to initiate the new life by
carrying his bride over the threshold. And, if he is full-bodied he can
do so without a hitch (with a little cooperation from you!). Being car-
ried over the threshold is not only traditional and romantic but a
really sexy beginning as you pair off after you leave your guests.
Two choices:
1. The underhand carry is obvious, and what the groom will execute if
he doesn’t practice or think about it much, and unless he knows the
other method from lifesaving or summer camp. He puts one arm low
at her back, and the other under her knees, and lifts. He has to take
care not to trip on her gown. She plasters against him to make her
body easier to hoist, and positions her arms loosely so she doesn’t
strangle him.
2. The fireman’s carry is a dramatic way to get the bride across the
threshold, and, even if she knows it’s coming she may utter an
‘‘Oooo!’’ She should weigh no more than four-fifths of his weight
unless he’s a bodybuilder. He holds her under one elbow. He puts
the opposing hand around the upper thigh. He locks and lifts. She is
positioned across the top of his back. An advantage to the fireman’s
carry is that he holds her with only one hand; the other hand is free
to open the door, or pull down the covers or canopy on the bed.

While you may have done a lot under the sheets, we bet you have
seen this maneuver in old movies but never experienced it. There is
something about being carried over the threshold that makes you feel
faint and in the mood to be ravished.
166 When I Fall in Love Again


An overall prerequisite is communication so you talk to reveal the tone

and timbre of the night you wish for. Men are more centered on their
prowess. He has in his imagination a picture of ripping off the gown.
Good men also want intensely to please us. He may forget the anniver-
sary of when you met, or whether you like whole or skim milk in your
coffee, but he remembers anything you told him about what sexual
techniques you like. They regard us as complicated clocks and will do
what they can to ensure the clockwork, as they see it, works. So commu-
nicate: When he presses against the full length of your body, when he
does something you like—tell him. And, if he is not doing something
you like and you want him to—tell him. And, you should also ask him
his pleasure . . . what would he like you to do to rocket him off?
Also, plan but be improvisational. If he wants to watch sports on TV
for a few minutes, enjoy being at his side. But don’t let the time slip by
where all you do is count your wedding gifts—an activity not equal to
the occasion, although couples do rebound from it.


Here is your sexual love potion kit for the wedding night:
1. Shed the day with a hot shower. Some jocks are major shower guys
but yours may need a nudge; the goal is for you both to feel clean as a
whistle. Shower together or separately. The advantage of the latter is
that you can put on the lingerie while he showers and emerge from
the bedroom as a beautiful sex kitten ready for marital paradise.
2. Lights go low. A moonlit or candlelit room is the right context for
forgetting the world.
3. Taste. A sip of wine during sustained eye contact to give your
mouths the taste you want, and the emotional connection your wed-
ding is all about; if you don’t drink you can have a similar feel from
a goblet of sparkling water.
4. Eye contact. Here is the real union, when the level of connection pier-
ces your heart, so beautiful you could cry—this is what it’s all about.
5. Kisses sweeter than wine. Gentle, loving, passion-filled, hungry kisses
that caress the soul of each other, as only two people in love on their
wedding night can do. The kissing that is luscious and long, and is
accompanied by hands that speak and arms that caress with love—
that’s the ticket. Your blood rushes. The clothes come off, he puts his
Your Wedding Night 167

open mouth on your breasts, and the physical delight with each other
6. Penetration. Deep and slow. Oral sex is a likely prelude to focus you
and make you giggle or drive you wild, with penetration as the main
menu. With the emotional context of love, eye contact, your wedding,
you have found someone to answer your dreams of affection, trust,
and companionship. You are transported. You savor the pleasure.
You have that special person to cherish and to hold, and you have
sex again and again until exhausted in ecstasy.
7. Again. You slide into a blissful sleep only to awaken to go again.
8. Some footnotes. Oral sex may be part of foreplay. This depends on
your experience and comfort level. So long as there is plenty of eye-to-
eye engagement during intercourse, the sexual fires will burn bright.

What about marital aids:

• A vibrator? The ‘‘bullet’’ is a favorite of many women. You might

want to keep it handy.
• Erection pills (Viagra, Cialis, Levitra only with the advice and pre-
scription of a physician) as part of the love kit? They certainly can be.
• Velvet ropes or more and it’s mutual . . . it’s your night.
• Lubrication. For a night of wild abandon, you may tote along a lubri-
cant (nice and easy does it).

Expectations. Keep them moderate. You’ve had a long day. You may
be exhausted and more than a little drunk. Don’t expect more of this
one night than it can deliver. Relax and enjoy. Loving sex is not goal
oriented. It is intimacy focused.

To make your first marital night extra sweet, here are some more

• Music: In this day and age of portable music, an iPod hooked into a
stereo system with the couple’s favorite music is a great idea. A
piano solo, New Orleans jazz, or something that has meaning to the
two of you.
• Movie: a background movie on your laptop that has always been a
favorite for making the couple feel sexy, e.g., Firefly or Ghost.
168 When I Fall in Love Again

• Food or drink: You want to have a little something special to eat and
drink in the room. Maria and Jeff had to go around the dining tables
thanking everyone and toasting, and everyone else who was feasting,
but since they were doing the rounds, they hardly ate themselves.
And as opposed to getting sloshed, a lot of couples hardly drink
because there are many toasts and they don’t want to get drunk. A
late supper is a nice way to wind down and transition into the mood
of ‘‘Now it’s just the two of us.’’

Too much alcohol can result in impotence. Your man will know his limit
but may need a wink from you before he drinks the rest of that cham-
pagne. If it’s too late the couple should wait until morning and sleep it
off. They can still please each other.
If the woman is not orgasmic, that may also be alcohol induced but, in
general, for women only 30 percent of the time do we climax with inter-
course. It is important for a woman to be comfortable with her body.
Masturbating needs to occur long before the wedding night because it
provides a set point you go back to—like hopping on a bicycle. If a
woman is to be orgasmic in marriage, she needs to know how she
There are sometimes disagreements within the couple on what’s on
the sexual menu. Discuss ahead of time what your preferences are. If
one likes bondage and discipline or the sixty-nine position, and the
other is amenable sometimes but doesn’t much like it, this isn’t the
night to acquiesce and be a good sport. You want the sex to fulfill both
your dreams! No one should ever be forced or required to do what that
partner does not enjoy.
If intercourse has at any recent time been painful, the physician
should be seen ahead of the wedding night to ensure there is no physi-
cal problem. It could simply be dryness, so don’t panic. A woman
should also learn to recognize symptoms of a bacterial infection when
she is sexually active; nipped in the bud, it is inconsequential.


Your wedding night, it sometimes happens that your new husband is
depleted, strung out, or just plain falls asleep. Be prepared for this sce-
nario but you may be able to overcome it with love and passion.
Your Wedding Night 169

Some possibilities:
1. In one scenario she looks at him fondly sprawled on the bed. Loosens
his tie, and kisses his cheek . . . and picks up a paperback romance
novel or applies a gooey face masque—he won’t notice anyway. And
so even if in good humor, she begins her marriage in acquiescence
and understanding for his part in a wonderful ceremony and
2. Or, she senses that this is a talismanic night, she joins him in a catnap
during which she projects availability and a subtle need. She throws
her arm over him, presses her chest or fanny in his back; or even if
he’s dozing, she caresses him.
3. She is half-dressed in the nightgown or wrapped in her veil over
nothing and she spoons with him knowing her man loves to help her
out of her clothes.
4. She can be kittenish. If he is prone she mounts his back, squeezes her
legs around his hips and kisses his earlobes or hair. She is being a lit-
tle annoying and he may revive.
5. If he’s really out of it, she gives him the hot and cold treatment. Bring
on the hot washcloth and a towel dipped in the ice bucket. Put com-
presses on his head, chest, or back, or rub the washcloth on the soles
of his feet and over the tops.


If your bodies feel the stress, then it’s time for a massage or bubble bath.
When he gets into this one he won’t think it a feminine frill. You have
the herbal potions you brought, at least one individual vial of Kniepp’s
Juniper, which turns the bath water green and is as fresh as a walk in
the forest, or Body Shop’s Wisdom bath oil, which makes the bath a rich
aqua and seems almost imperceptibly to quicken the skin. (We mention
the names of two products because so many bath oils and other prod-
ucts are as appealing as pouring in laundry detergent.)


Let’s say you know you are going to need shut-eye before an hour’s up
but would dearly love to consummate the marriage first. There are
means to jump-start both of you into love fires, of which the following
are reminders for the wedding night:
170 When I Fall in Love Again

Use a lubricant (designed for men) which is edible, and apply it to

his shaft with your hand (as though bringing up a bucket from a well
with one hand). Talk to him about other matters while you do it, as this
makes the situation less loaded. Bring him into your mouth, and con-
tinue to caress the shaft and his inner thighs while you do so. When he
is hard as a rock and wants to move to intercourse, keep him thrusting
into your mouth a little longer and then switch. Have lubricant ready to
give the man a thrill and intensify the sensations for both of you, if it
seems timely.
Physical fatigue can be countered with a massage. By massage,
people think of a long massage, but that’s an ordeal to give him, or to
give each other, if you’ve been on all day. Instead go for the massage of
five minutes, and pave the way for lovemaking.


Plan the next day as was done the first night: sleep, coffee, a walk, an
event, etc. Remember we recommend the first night in a local hotel with
a late-afternoon flight to one’s honeymoon. Avoid with a vengeance a
rigid travel schedule and try to get a nonstop flight wherever to avoid a
travel hassle (one missed connection can be the start of a honeymoon
you don’t enjoy). If you are driving, make the trip no longer than a cou-
ple of hours. This is your honeymoon, not a marathon or endurance
race. A life has enough difficult issues, so don’t make the wedding into
another hurdle to achieve this or that effect. Let the expectation of your
first night together as a married couple waft you through the ceremony
and party and be the private beautiful memory etched on your big day.

1. R. Schoen, N. S. Landale, and K. Daniels, ‘‘Family Transitions in Young
Adulthood,’’ Demography 44 (2007): 807–30.
Keeping Sex Alive: It’s All about
Your Relationship

The secret of a good sexual relationship is to make love with your partner,
not to your partner.
—Diana and Ken Lowe
Just as wedding rings do not make a marriage, a fabulous tryst does
not make for enduring sexual intimacy. Both are the result of attentive
planning and nurturing of detail. Keeping the fire burning in your sex
life involves carefully stacked logs of love, respect, variety, and tech-
nique. In this chapter we review twenty-five specific ways to keep the
fire burning in your committed relationship.
Cleaving together for long years filled with hot sex is practically an
oxymoron. Stereotypes of the couple with a long-standing intimacy
smack of routine, boredom, and ‘‘when was the last time’’? Indeed,
studies confirm that couples have sex less often over time.1,2 But these
studies belie another truth—that committed sex is the most enjoyable
sex. When the sex lives of married and single people are compared, the
former report greater emotional satisfaction and physical pleasure.3
And why not? Rather than trying to learn the preferences of frequent
new partners as is often the case with singles, spouses have a lot of
practice to get it right.
This chapter is about achieving sex that is not just good, but burning
. . . and sometimes hot. Is it possible that instead of a decrescendo as
you had with your former boyfriend or mate, the sex will be more won-
derful by the month and year? If you want this—if you are a natural
lover and you care, the continuum of beautiful, meaningful sex is yours.
It used to be said that a good love relationship took work, but more
accurately, it takes a consistent attitude of treasuring the bond and the
person you are bound to as precious and special. The emotional and
sexual intensity of a couple more focused on material success, career
172 When I Fall in Love Again

advancement, or their own egos burns out quickly. Just like a souffle
results from the mixing of ingredients stirred in at a timely fashion, so a
beautiful sex life results from a recipe of a loving relationship, open
communication, and sexual specifics.
A compatible couple moves naturally between their intimate and
worldly lives—going from fire to water to fire. All good bedroom sex
depends on an equally good out-of-bedroom relationship. The following
are reminders of things you already know to keep your relationship

You have a big advantage because you know what the absence of a
partner feels like, and what kind of male presence in your life
(including male friendship) brightens your existence. It will come as no
surprise to you, especially if you have had drunk, meaningless sex, that
good sex is that with the love of your life. It is the ultimate best sex,
where you connect the emotional and the physical in the context of
commitment and security. Keeping your love alive in your relationship
is the first ingredient for keeping your sex life aglow. Nothing cools the
sex and makes the fire go out more quickly than to let love slip away.
And nothing fans the flames more than an escalating love relationship.
First ingredient: keep your love alive.


The way to keep your love alive is to be loving, attentive, and focused
on your man. While you may be overwhelmed with work, family,
housekeeping, and creative and community projects, your best part of
the day is to be with your beloved . . . and he knows it.
Couples who keep their love alive (and you know some) prioritize
their relationship. They can’t seem to get enough of each other, spend a
lot of their discretionary time together, and allow nothing to interfere
with their relationship. Other couples (and you know some of these,
too), stop prioritizing their relationship. And their relationship shows it;
they snip at each other in public, which makes you wonder what life is
like behind closed doors.
Get relaxed and be on vacation with your partner. Go overnight to a
bed-and-breakfast that is television-free, and leave your cell phones and
BlackBerries home. If you have children, ask your mom and dad or a
Keeping Sex Alive 173

trusted babysitter to watch them while you check into a hotel in a

nearby city.
Sometimes the fact that we neglected the levity factor in a previous
relationship—often true in young adulthood—makes us not want to face
that we repeat the same grim pattern. Detach and see whether you are all
work and no play, or anything near that, with a new man. Don’t harness
him and put him (and you) to the plow. Being in a couple is the world’s
greatest excuse to go to entertainments and frolic (maybe after the excuse
of having a young child!). A couple that doesn’t take time to have fun
soon finds they are buried in the morass of daily routine and work. Pair-
ing is not the end of your fun, but you are both responsible to see that it
isn’t. And including the sex in your fun becomes a natural way of keeping
the embers glowing. Of course, prioritizing one’s relationship all the time
is unattainable. The business of life—job, career, and children—requires
time, energy, and focus. And, for a time, the relationship will need to
tread water while these responsibilities are given their due. But loving
couples know that the ball game is their relationship with each other, and
return to each other as soon as they can. Like the gardener who knows
plants need time and attention to flourish, they know to nurture their rela-
tionship. To keep your sex life aglow isn’t hard for you—again, you’ve
known its dearth, so you will keep your relationship high on the list.

Keeping your relationship a priority translates into continuing to have a
lark together. ‘‘The family that prays together, stays together’’ is being
challenged by ‘‘The family that plays together, stays together.’’ As noted
above, the focus of the life of a couple changes from each other to
careers and jobs, home and children. The result is that the two people
spend less time playing and enjoying each other. To keep the fun flow-
ing, keep a regular date night in your relationship. But not just any date
night will do—vary what you do, where you do it, and how long you
do it. If you have a regular restaurant that you go to, try a new one. If
you normally eat dinner and go home, have dinner and see a movie or
go someplace else for dessert. Have a glass of wine with your meal.


The best of all relationships are win-win. Relationships require negotia-
tion. If she would like to go out to a movie and he would like to stay
home and watch a DVD, they will figure a way for each to win. For
174 When I Fall in Love Again

example, they will stay home but she picks out the video . . . or they go
out but he selects the movie. The only outcome that matters is that both
feel that their preferences are given equal respect in the relationship.


Related to win-win interaction is that the man and woman give each
other equal power in the relationship. It is no secret that all partners in
a twosome try to influence each other to buy into their own agenda. If
she wants a bigger apartment, she will try to nudge him into looking at
bigger apartments with her and to be a good sport about her need to
nest. If he wants a bigger boat, he wants her to get excited about a day
on the lake with him.
Of course, our dreams can’t always match up, and we need not agree
on a bigger apartment or boat, or the features on the barbecue grill.
What is important is that each partner gives the other equal status and
power in their relationship. The relationship is at an eye-to-eye level.
No matter the concern, they have horizontal rapport—neither is looking
up or down at the other, but across.
In effect, man and woman are cochairs, not one chair and one com-
mittee member. Each respects the other and neither is belittled for her
or his thoughts, ideas, or preferences. Each can be open about what he
or she wants to happen in the relationship. Where relationships are not
equal, there are insidious ploys that are used to control each other and
get one’s way. None of these are good and all are to be avoided:

• Withdrawal (not speaking to the partner)

• Guilt induction (‘‘How could you ask me to do this?’’)
• Deception (running up credit card debts with the partner unaware)
• Extortion (‘‘I’ll find someone else if you won’t agree to this’’)
• Physical abuse or verbal threats (‘‘You’ll do what I say or else’’)
• Criticism (‘‘I can’t think of anything good about you’’)

There is another way that not sharing the power gets twisted. The
Principle of Least Interest4 says that the person with the least interest in
a relationship controls the relationship. If you love your partner less
than he loves you, you can control him, since he will do whatever to
please you. If you think you love him more than he loves you, he can
control you. These balance-of-power issues can come up with frequency
when you are fleeing from/trying to avoid a crack-up like the one you
suffered before. Neither of these scenarios are good ones: equal love
Keeping Sex Alive 175

translates into equal power in a shared relationship. Study after study

in male–female relationships shows that the happiest, most enduring
relationships are those between equals in love, power, and respect.5
And these equal relationships translate into good sex, since nothing
makes us frigid and rigid like resentment from being controlled.


A lot of studies have been conducted on marital happiness and satisfac-
tion over time.6 They conclude that there is a slow slope downward
with the first bump coming with the first child and the bottom during
the time the children are teenagers. The couple’s relationship improves
when the children leave home and the spouses can once again focus on
each other. The pattern is not inevitable, but don’t be dismayed that
your relationship takes a dip over time. Don’t expect more of being to-
gether and in love than it can deliver; love and your relationship remain
the best game in town. When the happiness quotient of married people
is compared with that of single people, the former win hands down.
Lower life satisfaction, depression, and suicide are always more com-
mon among singles. Those in a committed and loving relationship are
decidedly more fortunate.


The key to a long, loving, and sensual relationship is to do those things

that nurture this outcome and avoid those that don’t. Be proactive. Just
as you cared about and planned your first dates—what to wear and say
and do, where to go, and even how far to go on the sexual front—this is
no time to let things take care of themselves. By nurturing your love
relationship, prioritizing your time together, having fun, ensuring win-
win outcomes, sharing the power, etc., you keep your relationship on
course—which creates the context for good sex.
Ask anyone to give you one word for a good relationship and they
are likely to say communication. Some ways to keep the channels clear

Compliment Often
We never tire of hearing good things said about us and your man won’t
either. Just as you complimented him early on, ‘‘You look handsome
tonight,’’ ‘‘You did a great job,’’ keep the compliments coming. And one
176 When I Fall in Love Again

never tires of being appreciated. ‘‘Thank you for picking up the milk on
the way home,’’ ‘‘Thanks for putting gas in the car.’’

Compliment Your Man in Front of Others

In addition to saying good things to your man in private, there is an
added value to your doing so to friends in front of your partner.
Bragging on your man, telling others what a great cook or punctual
or responsible guy he is sends sweetness in the air to your man. He
not only basks in your delight with him but in the smiles of his
buddies who smirk and look at him with their eyes rolled back in
their heads.

Match Words and Body Language

Messages are most clear when your words match your body language.
As noted in an earlier chapter, saying, ‘‘Yes, you’re right,’’ accompanied
by a smile and an embrace reflects using both words and body language
to convey the same message. In contrast, saying, ‘‘Fine, you’re right,’’
but leaving the room and slamming the door communicates a very dif-
ferent message. Keep what you say and how you use body language
conveying the same message.


The key element of communication is connecting with your partner.

You talk not solely about the weather but relay your delight in being
with each other, your plans for future diversion, and yes, your discom-
forts and critical thoughts about your life and each other. A modest
degree of fault finding between lovers or spouses has a use; you give
necessary feedback, stay realistic, and don’t become a self-congratulat-
ing pair. Seeing each other realistically serves as a rudder—keeping the
individuals as well as the relationship on course and in orbit. By listen-
ing to and airing your own critical thoughts, you alert the other person
to behavioral changes each would like for the other to begin. Not all
gripe sessions will result neatly in ‘‘Aw, sweetie, I’ll be glad to do that.
Anything else?’’ but they keep the emotional air fresh and clean. Cou-
ples who don’t air their gripes hide their resentment, which will surface
elsewhere: not talking, less intimacy, less sex. Let ’er rip!
But they must be the right kinds of moans! Productive complaints
require that each person makes clear specific future positive change he
or she would like to see in the other’s behavior. These conversations
Keeping Sex Alive 177

give the partners a road map of what to do to keep their partner happy.
By contrast, destructive speaking out is a useless cavil, lament, or
harangue. It leaves at least one of you depressed and resentful since one
partner just unloaded criticism but did not specify what new behaviors
he or she wanted to see. Some examples follow below:

Graceful Moans Destructive Moans

‘‘Please leave at least a quarter ‘‘You are always inconsiderate.
tank of gas when you take the You always bring the car home
car out.’’ on empty.’’
‘‘Please be on time when we plan ‘‘You can’t be depended on for
to meet someplace or call me if anything. You are chronically
you are going to be late.’’ late and don’t care about my
‘‘Please clean up the kitchen on ‘‘You think I am your maid and
Saturdays before noon.’’ cook and you never help me
do anything.’’

Notice that each of the above items under the Graceful Moan column
is specific to a behavior in the future. Rather than spend time rehashing
past behavior that was upsetting, the couple focuses on what they want
to happen in the future. Not only is it future oriented, something the
partner can change, it is also behaviorally specific, and therefore easy to
grasp. Asking the partner to be considerate is not behaviorally specific
and relies on the partner to guess what to do. Being asked to leave a
half of tank of gas in the car, be on time, and clean the kitchen are clear.
This focus on positive future behavior is a good principle for all human


Communication is both content (words) and process. Process means that

you keep interacting rather than having one partner lose it and go
stomping out. It is important not to allow difficult content to shut down
the communication process. When your partner tells you that you did
something that upset him, it is difficult for you to hear. But the advant-
age of your partner telling you what you did that upset him is that his
thoughts are now out in the open rather than simmering under the sur-
face (as men are more inclined to do anyway, being less quick at the
draw to talk about the love relationship).
178 When I Fall in Love Again

To keep such openness from your partner alive (in spite of how difficult
it may be for you to hear), it is important for you to let your partner know
that you value such disclosure. ‘‘I know it wasn’t easy for you to tell me
that what I said at the party last night hurt you, but I’m glad you told me. I
need to know how you’re thinking. Whenever I do something that upsets
you, please continue to tell me’’ makes the point that you aren’t going to
punish such disclosure and that openness is what you want.


Good communication also involves asking honest questions. An honest

question is a question you ask where you patiently await a response
and don’t flare when you receive its answer. Suppose you ask your
partner, ‘‘Do you want to go see my parents this weekend?’’ If the ques-
tion is honest (you really want to know how your partner feels), your
partner can say no and you won’t be distressed. If your question is dis-
honest and your partner says no, you will be put out because you really
wanted him to say yes. Honest questions are important since it keeps
your partner from answering questions that have a preset answer. Other
examples of honest and dishonest questions follow:

Question Honest question if: Dishonest question if:

‘‘Suppose we have Partner can say ‘‘No.’’ ‘‘No’’ makes you
my office workers angry.
over for dinner
Saturday night?’’
‘‘I’d like to buy a new Partner can say ‘‘No.’’ ‘‘No’’ makes you
car . . . that OK?’’ angry.
‘‘I’d like for us to Partner can say ‘‘No.’’ ‘‘No’’ makes you
move . . . that OK?’’ angry.
‘‘Can we try to get Partner can say ‘‘No.’’ ‘‘No’’ makes you
pregnant this fall?’’ angry.

The point is to give your partner the respect of having a different

opinion than you and not asking questions that have a preset answer.


Good communication also involves the use of reflective statements. You
restate what your man says to you. This lets him know you are listening
Keeping Sex Alive 179

and that you have it right. For example, if he rattles on about his boss
at work, a good response from you is to reflect what he’s feeling: ‘‘You
feel you are being exploited and you are angry about it,’’ communicates
that you are there in terms of understanding your partner without
criticizing (‘‘You are always complaining about something’’) or ignoring
him (saying nothing). Some examples follow:

Your partner says Reflective statement Judgmental response

‘‘Your mother drives ‘‘My mom upsets ‘‘You hate my mom.’’
me up the wall.’’ you.’’
‘‘Your brother drank ‘‘You think Clyde ‘‘You never liked my
too much.’’ overdid it.’’ brother.’’
‘‘You spent too much ‘‘You think I went ‘‘You’re becoming a
on the wedding.’’ overboard.’’ miser.’’
‘‘I should have sched- ‘‘You’re getting con- ‘‘You worry too
uled more time cerned about the much.’’
between flights. tight connection
We’re going to miss time.’’
our connection.’’

Use ‘‘I’’ Statements

When your man has done something that upsets or hurts you, using ‘‘I’’
statements rather than ‘‘You’’ statements is preferable. For example,
rather than say, ‘‘You are always late and irresponsible’’ (which is a
‘‘You’’ statement), you might respond with, ‘‘I get upset when you are
late and would feel better if you call me when you will be delayed.’’
The latter focuses on your feelings and paves the way to a desirable
future behavior, rather than blaming the partner and bewailing his
being late.


All relationships depend on some level of illusion. Each partner likes to
feel loved, respected, and regarded as the unique soul mate. While these
true and real feelings should be communicated to the partner, there are
other thoughts each may have about the other that would be downers
for the partner and should be omitted, left out, and hidden: ‘‘You’re get-
ting a fat belly,’’ ‘‘You’re babbling on about nothing,’’ ‘‘When you sing
‘Carmen’ in the shower it drives me nuts,’’ and ‘‘You wouldn’t know
how to be on time if it killed you’’ are likely hand grenades to start a
180 When I Fall in Love Again

shouting match or heated argument. The thoughts might best be kept to

oneself since they are not likely to result in behavior change. Earlier we
suggested being open about what you want your partner to do in the
future. However, be careful how you say it, because a direct critical attack
is a no-no. Sometimes, kindness is a quality of more value than blunt hon-
esty. In other words, never score an unloving or uncharitable point.


Great sex is a pearl of great price, rarer than hot courtship sex but more
deeply fulfilling too. The difference is between the rose a Juliet might cast
from a balcony to the suitor below, intense and anxious, and two lovers
embracing in the field behind the house where they dwell: no anxiety, an
intensification of the joy of life. Alas, to keep the passion aglow involves
certain things specific to sex. These include the following.

Have Realistic Expectations

To head off a downturn in your sex life, you need to stay (or get) realis-
tic about it. As a spouse who has enjoyed sex with your partner for
some time, it is unrealistic to expect that every sexual encounter will be
a revelation. It won’t be. But what it can be is loving, pleasurable, com-
fortable, and secure. And the more you practice, the more delightful it
Realistic expectations also include awareness that you and your man
will have different sexual appetites that will surface at different times.
When he’s in the mood, you may not be, and vice versa. Don’t fret. The
only danger is expecting that your two needs will always coincide; they
won’t, so don’t expect it . . . and be pleasantly surprised when they do.
Finally, your preferences for what you do on a specific encounter
may also vary. He may want a quickie whereas you had in mind the
Full Monty. Or you wanted a little of this and a little of that while he
had in mind sheer athletics. Don’t fret. Give room to your differences.
Be flexible. What’s important is that you love to play. The nature of the
play can and will vary.

Initiate Touching and Hugging

When you were new to each other, you couldn’t keep your hands off
each other’s body. With time, jobs, and kids, touching and holding each
other often drops out of the relationship. Don’t let it. Reach out for your
man, sit next to him on the couch, hold his hand, and make clear that
Keeping Sex Alive 181

touching and being physically close to him makes you happy. Some
men may interpret this as an overture for sex . . . and maybe it is. But
more often, it will be a sign of your emotional enjoyment in being

Develop Self-Knowledge and Teach Your Man

One of the most valuable assets you can take to the bedroom is intimate
knowledge about your own sexuality—what turns you on. Women who
have the greatest self-knowledge are comfortable pleasuring their own
bodies through masturbation. By learning how to turn yourself on, you
know better how to teach a man to turn you on. You can teach this man
who cares for you by directly putting your hand on top of his and guid-
ing his hand to where you want him to touch and feel and rub. Presum-
ing you have had the time between relationships where your sex life
was nil, you have more self-knowledge through masturbation—all to
the good! The more you know, the more you can teach your man. And
the better he gets at pleasuring you.

Ask for Direction

Just as giving information about what you like for him to do to please
you sexually increases your pleasure, you can enhance a man’s sexual
enjoyment/sexual pleasure by asking him what he would like for you
to do for him. Flirt with him, smile. If you feel you already know what
he likes, ask him what he would like to try that is new. One bride gave
her husband a copy of The Joy of Sex and said, ‘‘Pick a page, Sweetheart,
and I’ll make it happen.’’

Good sex is also enhanced by regular aerobic exercise. Such exercise
will keep your mood high and your frustrations low. It will also keep
your body in shape so that you will feel good about the way you look,
not to speak of your partner’s delight in your toned curves. ‘‘She let her-
self go after she got married’’ is a death sentence for lovemaking. Do
just the opposite. Go for long walks or run, take Pilates, dance, or a new
exercise class, and recognize some of your bed play for its aerobic
potential. Both you and your man will benefit.
182 When I Fall in Love Again

Avoid Spectating
Spectating means focusing on your own performance, and usually
results in unnecessary anxiety over whether you are going to have an
orgasm. The anxiety usually interferes with your ability to have an
orgasm, so you don’t. Alternatively, relax, focus on, and enjoy the pleas-
ure you feel in being with your man and not on your climb to orgasm.
Enjoy the moment, not the progression.

Debunk Sexual Myths

‘‘Sex equals intercourse,’’ ‘‘Doing it with the same partner gets boring,’’
and ‘‘Sex equals orgasm.’’ All of these are nonsense. As we noted ear-
lier, the best sex is committed and long-term sex. Researchers have com-
pared single and married people in regard to the emotional and
physical pleasure they enjoy in sex and married people win every time.
And why shouldn’t they? Sex with someone you know and love and
feel secure with is just better than sex on a Thursday night with a
stranger after two tequila shots at the bar. ‘‘We’ve been together four
years,’’ said Tina, a fifth-grade teacher, ‘‘and I still look at Cliff every
morning and think ‘He’s mine.’’’
The other two myths, ‘‘Sex equals intercourse’’ and ‘‘Sex equals
orgasm,’’ are equally entrenched beliefs. When President Clinton said,
‘‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,’’ he
was implying that the only real sex is intercourse. We suggest that sex
is on a continuum from alluring looks to penetration and that the full
range can be enjoyed.
That sex equals orgasm is more often a belief that men buy into, since
getting off is what men have been socialized to do, and what their
reproductive biological drive requires. If men did not orgasm/ejaculate,
the species would not survive. Meanwhile, no such orgasm is required
for the woman to propagate. The result for a couple is to consider that
they can enjoy a range of sexual behaviors, including intercourse, that
need not result in orgasm. ‘‘I don’t think I’m going to make it,’’ or ‘‘I’m
tired now,’’ are clearly acceptable and removes one from the demand to
invariably be orgasmic.

Take Sex and Relationships Self-Tests

In chapter 15, ‘‘Sex Self-Tests: Ten of Them,’’ we present easy-to-score tests
that will allow you to find out the degree to which you are a romantic
Keeping Sex Alive 183

lover, monogamous lover, adventurous lover, safe lover, and selfish lover
as well as assessing the level of sexual desire, sexual addiction, sexual
knowledge, and the need for alcohol/drugs with sex. Chapter 16, ‘‘Rela-
tionship Self-Tests: Twelve of Them,’’ follows, which allows you to assess
various aspects of your relationship.

1. S. T. Lindau, L. P. Schumm, E. O. Laumann, W. Levinson, C. A. O’Muirch-
eartaigh, and L. J. Waite, ‘‘A Study of Sexuality and Health among Older
Adults in the United States,’’ New England Journal of Medicine 357 (2007):
2. F. Alford-Cooper, ‘‘Where Has All the Sex Gone? Sexual Activity in Lifetime
Marriage’’ (paper presented at the Southern Sociological Society, New
Orleans, March 23–26, 2006).
3. R. T. Michael, J. H. Gagnon, E. O. Laumann, and G. Kolata, Sex in America
(Boston: Little, Brown, 1994).
4. Willard Waller and Reuben Hill, The Family: A Dynamic Interpretation (New
York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1951).
5. Paul R. Amato, A. Booth, D. R. Johnson, and S. F. Rogers, Alone Together:
How Marriage in America Is Changing (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 2007).
6. Mamadi Corra, S. Carter, J. S. Carter, and D. Knox, ‘‘Trends in Marital Hap-
piness by Sex and Race, 1973–2006,’’ Journal of Family Issues (forthcoming).
Sex Self-Tests: Ten of Them

The sex self-tests in this chapter allow you to measure various aspects
of your sexuality. There are no right or wrong answers. After complet-
ing each test, you can add the numbers for easy scoring and an interpre-
tation of what your score means. The sex self-tests* (which may also be
taken online, where they are automatically scored) to follow are:
Romantic Lover Test
Monogamous Lover Test
Unselfish Lover Test
Sexual Knowledge Test
Safe Lover Test
Sexual Interest/Desire Test
Sexual Addiction Test
Moderate Alcohol Use and Sex Test
Female Sexual Problems Test
Male Partner Sexual Problems Test

*These tests were developed by David Knox and taken from his Sexual Intimacy
web site at
186 When I Fall in Love Again


This test measures the degree to which you are a romantic lover. After
reading each statement, select a number that applies to your situation
based on the following continuum. Then add these numbers.

1 2 3 4 5
Strongly Strongly
Disagree Agree
1. Love in a committed relationship is the context in which I
most enjoy sex with a partner.
2. The longer the lovemaking the better the sex.
3. Candles, music, and maybe a little wine make for a good
lovemaking encounter.
4. Orgasm is not crucial for enjoyable lovemaking.
————5. Being swept away with love feelings is a good way to begin
a sexual relationship.
Total Score
Highest Score: A score of 25 reflects you are a romantic lover of the
ultimate variety.
Lowest Score: A score of 5 suggests that your approach to sex is com-
pletely devoid of romance. You enjoy sex best when there is no love,
when it is with a virtual stranger you just met, when it is fast (no slow
buildup), and when it is orgasm focused.
Your Score: A score of 15 or above (the higher the better) suggests
you tend to be a romantic lover. A score below 15 suggests that you
tend to not care about the romance in your sex. Some partners have a
‘‘friends with benefits’’ (FWB) relationship where the partners agree that
they are friends, not romantic partners. Research on FWB relationships
reveals that women tend to be more focused on the friendship and hope
that love develops, whereas men enjoy the benefits and are not con-
cerned about the love aspect.
Sex Self-Tests 187


This test measures how strongly you feel about sexual monogamy. After
reading each statement, select a number that applies to your relation-
ship based on the following continuum. Then add these numbers.
1 2 3 4 5
Strongly Strongly
Disagree Agree
1. I believe that fidelity and monogamy are crucial for a good
sexual relationship.
2. I have never cheated on my current or most recent partner.
3. Emotional fidelity (not becoming emotionally involved with
someone else) is as important an element in a relationship as
sexual fidelity.
4. I have never cheated on any partner.
5. Trust is a crucial quality of a successful relationship.
Total Score
Highest Score: A score of 25 reflects that monogamy is a very impor-
tant value for you and that you have been faithful to your partner and
all previous partners. Monogamous persons (particularly spouses)
report higher-quality (in both physical pleasure and emotional satisfac-
tion) sexual relationships than nonmonogamous persons. Not only do
the monogamous partners become skilled at pleasuring each other, their
lovemaking occurs in a secure, committed, emotional context. Monog-
amy, indeed, is a crucial aspect of most happy and stable relationships.
Lowest Score: A score of 5 indicates no value for sexual monogamy.
Rather, the partner may value a variety of sexual partners.
Your Score: A score of 15 or above (the higher the better) suggests
you tend to value monogamy. A score below 15 suggests that you tend
to not value monogamy. Individuals who cheat risk increasing the emo-
tional distance with their partner and jeopardize the stability/future of
their relationship. Once trust is shattered in a relationship, it is difficult
to repair. If being faithful is a chronic problem for you, consider
addressing this issue with a counselor in your area.
188 When I Fall in Love Again


This test measures the degree to which you are a selfish lover in your
sexual interactions. After reading each statement, select a number that
applies to your sexual relationship based on the following continuum.
Then add these numbers.

1 2 3 4 5
Strongly Strongly
Disagree Agree
1. My partner’s sexual satisfaction is more important to me
than my own sexual satisfaction.
———— 2. I ask my partner how I can please him or her sexually.
3. I initiate, without my partner’s asking, the sexual behaviors I
know my partner enjoys.
4. I am sensitive to my partner’s sexual needs and try to ensure
that they are met even though I am not in the mood or do
not have any sexual needs.
5. I enjoy pleasuring my partner.
Total Score
Highest Score: A score of 25 reflects that you are the ultimate unself-
ish lover. Your focus is discovering what pleases your partner and mak-
ing sure that your partner delights in the sexual satisfaction you
Lowest Score: A score of 5 reflects that you are very selfish lover and
care only about your own sexual needs.
Your Score: A score of 15 or above (the higher the better) suggests
you tend toward being a very nurturing lover. A score below 15 sug-
gests that you tend to disregard the sexual needs of your partner. Con-
sider focusing more on the sexual needs of your partner, since a happy
and satisfied partner is more likely to reciprocate pleasuring you than a
frustrated, resentful partner.
Sex Self-Tests 189


This test measures your knowledge of the gender differences in human

sexuality. After reading each statement, select a number that applies to
your sexual relationship based on the following continuum. Then add
these numbers.

1 2 3 4 5
Strongly Strongly
Disagree Agree
1. Women are more likely to feel guilty about first intercourse
and masturbation than men.
———— 2. Men are more likely to report having a higher number of
sexual partners than women.
3. Sexually active women are at greater risk for contracting a
sexually transmissible infection than men.
4. Women tend to be more concerned about the emotional/
relationship context of a sexual encounter than men.
5. Men are more likely to masturbate than women.
Total Score
Highest Score: A score of 25 is the highest score possible on the test
and indicates that you have considerable knowledge on the sexuality of
women and men. If you think of each of the statements as true or false,
all of them are true. Congratulations!
Lowest Score: A score of 5 means that you have limited knowledge
about gender differences in human sexuality. If you think of each of the
items as true or false statements, all of them are true.
Your Score: A score of 15 or above (the higher the better) reflects that
you tend to have accurate knowledge about the sexuality of women and
men. A score below 15 suggests that you tend to believe inaccurate in-
formation about the sexuality of women and men.
190 When I Fall in Love Again


This test measures the degree to which you are a safe lover in your sex-
ual interactions. After reading each statement, select a number that
applies to your sexual relationship based on the following continuum.
Then add these numbers.

1 2 3 4 5
Strongly Strongly
Disagree Agree
1. I don’t drink alcohol or do drugs when I am with a new per-
son with whom I may have sex, as I want to keep a clear
head and practice safe sex.
2. Before I have intercourse with a person, I require that the
person have a test to detect the presence of any sexually
transmitted disease.
3. I insist (‘‘no glove, no love’’) on the use of a condom with a
new sex partner.
———— 4. I have always used a condom with every sexual partner.
5. I have never had a sexually transmitted disease.
Total Score
Highest Score: A score of 25 indicates that you are the ultimate safe
lover. Not only do you insist that a partner be tested for sexually trans-
mitted diseases before having intercourse, but you insist on the use of a
condom and have no history of a sexually transmitted disease.
Lowest Score: A score of 5 reflects that you are at the highest possible
risk for contracting a sexually transmitted disease. You do not require
that your partners be tested for STDs, you do not use a condom, and
you have already had a sexually transmitted disease.
Your Score: A score of 15 or above (the higher the better) reflects that
you tend to practice safe sex. A score below 15 suggests that you tend
to be very inconsistent in your use of safe sex practices and are vulnera-
ble to becoming infected. Your score is a wake-up call to use a condom
to protect both yourself and your sexual partners.
Sex Self-Tests 191


This test measures the degree to which you have an interest in and
desire for sex. After reading each statement, select a number that
applies to your sexual relationship based on the following continuum.
Then add these numbers.

1 2 3 4 5
Strongly Strongly
Disagree Agree
1. I think about sex all the time.
2. I want to have sex as often as possible.
3. Having sex frequently is important to me.
4. An important quality in a partner I become involved with is
a high sex drive.
5. I need to have sex every day.
Total Score
Highest Score: A score of 25 reflects very high interest in and desire
for sex. You think about sex all the time, want to engage in sex all the
time, and prefer that your partner also have a very strong sex interest/
Lowest Score: A score of 5 indicates that you have no interest in or
desire for sex. You do not think about sex, have no interest in sexual
behavior, and prefer a partner who also has no sexual interests/desires.
Your Score: A score of 15 or above (the higher the better) reflects that
you tend to have a very high need for sex. A score below 15 suggests
that sex is not a priority in your life and unimportant on a daily basis.
192 When I Fall in Love Again


This test measures the degree to which you are a sexual addict (sex is
an obsessive, compulsive behavior). After reading each statement, select
a number that applies to your sexual relationship based on the follow-
ing continuum. Then add these numbers.
1 2 3 4 5
Strongly Strongly
Disagree Agree

————1. I sometimes feel driven to have sex no matter what the

2. One or more of my relationships has been damaged because
I felt unable to control my impulses to have sex with others
or to watch porn.
3. I am compulsive about sex. I must do it.
4. I feel driven to watch pornography and can’t get enough.
5. I frequently seize opportunities to have sex even if it means
cheating on a partner.
Total Score
Highest Score: A score of 25 reflects that you have the feelings and
express the behaviors typically associated with a sexual addict. While
there is considerable professional controversy over whether sexual
addiction exists, our use of the term refers to those who feel unable to
control their sexual behavior, much like the term ‘‘alcoholism’’ refers to
those who feel unable to control their consumption of alcohol.
Lowest Score: A score of 5 indicates that you are not the least ad-
dicted to sex. While you may have a strong interest in sex and enjoy it
frequently, you do not feel driven to have sex, watch pornography,
cheat, etc. You feel in complete control of your sexual desires.
Your Score: A score of 15 or above reflects that you tend to lose con-
trol in your search for sex. Persons who feel driven to engage in sexual
behavior regardless of the consequences satisfy the definition of what is
commonly regarded as sexual addiction. Such feelings/behaviors rob
lovers of sexual intimacy since a sexual addict focuses on sexual pleas-
ure/conquest and does not become emotionally involved with the lover.
In addition, the sexual addict is not monogamous and is constantly
searching for new sexual partners. Since sex, like alcohol, has the poten-
tial to wreck the lives of individuals, marriages, and families, we recom-
mend that persons scoring high on this scale consider discussing this
concern with a professional.
A score below 15 suggests that sex is not a priority in your life and
unimportant on a daily basis.
Sex Self-Tests 193


This test measures the degree to which you prefer to drink alcohol mod-
erately when you have sex. After reading each statement, select a num-
ber that applies to your sexual relationship based on the following
continuum. Then add these numbers.

1 2 3 4 5
Strongly Strongly
Disagree Agree

————1. In general, sex is better with, than without, a little alcohol.

2. I prefer a little alcohol when I am having sex with my
3. It is okay to have a glass of wine and then have sex.
4. People who drink a little alcohol before sex are probably bet-
ter lovers than those who never drink before sex.
5. There is nothing wrong with the use of alcohol before sex.
Total Score
Highest Score: A score of 25 reflects that you both enjoy and prefer
the use of alcohol in the context of a sexual encounter.
Lowest Score: Your score of 5 reflects that you feel the use of alcohol
is of no importance or value in your enjoying sex. Indeed, you prefer
sex when alcohol is not involved.
Your Score: A score of 15 or above reflects that you tend to prefer
and enjoy the moderate use of alcohol when you have sex. A score
below 15 suggests that you do not want and do not use alcohol in refer-
ence to sex. There is no right or wrong answer in regard to moderate
alcohol use and sex. Moderate use of alcohol seems to relax the partners
and enhances their sexual enjoyment of each other. Its use or nonuse is
a personal preference so that the only caveat is a partner who shares
your view.
194 When I Fall in Love Again


This test measures the degree to which you, as a female, are experienc-
ing sexual dysfunction. After reading each statement, select a number
that applies to your sexual relationship based on the following contin-
uum. Then add these numbers.
1 2 3 4 5
Strongly Strongly
Disagree Agree

————1. I am capable of experiencing an orgasm when I get the right

2. I rarely feel pain during intercourse.
3. I never experience vaginal tightening such that penetration
is difficult or impossible.
4. I am interested in sex and have a healthy libido.
5. I view myself as a good lover.
Total Score
Highest Score: A score of 25 reflects the absence of sexual problems
and your enjoyment in sex with your partner.
Lowest Score: A score of 5 indicates that you have difficulty achiev-
ing an orgasm, have difficulty with your partner’s penetrating you, ex-
perience pain during intercourse, do not like sex, and view yourself
negatively as a lover.
Your Score: A score of 15 or above reflects that you tend to have no
sexual dysfunctions. A score below 15 suggests that you tend to have
difficulty achieving an orgasm, experience pain during intercourse, do
not like sex, and view yourself negatively. If you are distressed about
this low score, one alternative is to consider seeing a sex therapist and
address these issues.
Sex Self-Tests 195


This test measures the degree to which your male partner experiences
sexual dysfunction. After reading each statement, select a number that
applies to your sexual relationship based on the following continuum.
Then add these numbers.

1 2 3 4 5
Strongly Strongly
Disagree Agree
1. My partner ejaculates before either of us wants him to.
2. My partner has trouble getting or keeping an erection.
————3. Sometimes my partner can’t orgasm at all.
4. Sometimes my partner feels pain during orgasm.
5. My partner has little to no interest in sex.
Total Score

Highest Score: A score 25 reveals that the male partner experiences

sexual dysfunctions in a number of areas: premature ejaculation, impo-
tence, pain during intercourse, and absence of libido.
Lowest Score: A score of 5 indicates complete absence of any sexual
dysfunction on the part of the male.
Your Score: A score of 15 or above reflects that your partner has sex-
ual dysfunctions which impact the relationship negatively. A score
below 15 suggests the absence of sexual dysfunction in your partner. If
you are distressed with your partner’s sexual dysfunction, talking about
it and seeing a sex therapist together is indicated.
Relationship Self-Tests: Twelve
of Them

The basic discovery about any people is the discovery of the relationship
between its men and its women.
—Pearl S. Buck
The relationship self-tests in this chapter allow you to measure various
aspects of the relationship with your current or past partner. There are
no right or wrong answers. After completing each test, you can add the
numbers for easy scoring and an interpretation of what your score
means. The relationship self-tests* (which may also be taken online,
where they are automatically scored) to follow are:
General Relationship Test
Background Test
Interests Test
Love Needs Test
Communication Test
Views on Children Test
Commitment Needs Test
Family/Friends Acceptance Test
Money/Career Needs Test
Sexual Needs Test
‘‘Other Needs’’ Test
Remarriage Needs Test

*These tests were developed by David Knox and taken from his RightMate web
site at
198 When I Fall in Love Again


This test measures the overall relationship you have with your partner.
After reading each statement, select a number that applies to your situa-
tion based on the following continuum. Then add these numbers.

1 2 3 4 5
Strongly Strongly
Disagree Agree

1. My partner and I are in love with each other.

2. My partner and I spend our leisure time together.
3. My partner and I have never broken up.
4. My partner and I have similar interests.
———— 5. My partner and I view our future as being together.
6. My partner and I respect each other and are proud to be
seen with each other.
7. My partner and I enjoy the same things.
8. My partner is like a best friend.
9. My partner and I have similar goals in life.
10. My partner and I have a similar set of values and beliefs.
Total Score
Highest Score: A score of 50 reflects the best possible relationship.
Few people, indeed, score this high on this test. Your doing so predicts
a wonderful and durable life together.
Lowest Score: A score of 10 suggests that there are numerous prob-
lems in your relationship. Lack of mutual love, not spending time to-
gether, having little in common, dissimilar beliefs/values, etc., predict
an unhappy and/or brief future for you as a couple.
Your Score: A score of 30 or above (the higher the better) suggests
good things about your relationship. A score below 30 suggests areas in
need of improvement. The lower the score the more challenging the
future with this partner.
Relationship Self-Tests 199


Background similarity is one of the most important qualities of an

enduring relationship. This test provides a way to measure the degree
to which you and your partner have similar backgrounds. After reading
each statement, select a number that applies to your relationship based
on the following continuum. Then add these numbers.
1 2 3 4 5
Very Very
Different Similar

1. My ethnic background and my partner’s are:

2. My religion and my partner’s religion are:
————3. My age and my partner’s age are:
4. My education and my partner’s education are:
5. My social class and my partner’s social class are:
Total Score

Highest Score: A score of 25 suggests that you and your partner are
identical in terms of background characteristics. Such background simi-
larity has been associated with happy and durable relationships.
Lowest Score: A score of 5 reflects that you and your partner are
completely different in terms of your backgrounds. Such dissimilarity of
backgrounds has been associated with conflict in relationships, unhappi-
ness, and divorce. Some couples overcome their differences and have an
enjoyable life together . . . but be careful.
Your Score: A score of 15 or above (the higher the better) suggests
good things about your relationship. A score below 15 suggests the need
for caution. In some cases you can have similarity of core values (e.g.,
religion) which will override some of your differences.
200 When I Fall in Love Again


Having a lot of similar interests is characteristic of happy and enduring

couples. This test measures the degree to which you and your partner
have similar interests in a number of areas. After reading each state-
ment, select a number that applies to your relationship based on the fol-
lowing continuum. Then add these numbers.
1 2 3 4 5
Very Very
Different Similar
Interests Interests

1. Religious/spiritual values
2. Music preferences
3. Time spent on computer
4. Movie/video preferences
5. Travel interests: destinations and desired frequency of travel
———— 6. Views on alcohol/tobacco/drugs
7. Value for regular exercise
8. Food preferences
9. Preferences for spending time alone as a couple or with others
10. Attention to neatness in the home environment
11. Value for education
12. Value for personal cleanliness/hygiene
13. Watching television
14. Recreational interests
15. Value for celebrating holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.
Total Score
Highest Score: A score of 75 suggests that you and your partner are
identical in terms of similar interests. Such interest similarity has been
associated with happy and durable relationships.
Lowest Score: A score of 15 reflects that you and your partner are
completely different in terms of your interests. Such dissimilarity of
interests has been associated with conflict in relationships, unhappiness,
and divorce. Some couples don’t require that they have a lot in common
to have an enjoyable life together . . . but be careful.
Your Score: A score of 45 or above (the higher the better) suggests a
lot of similarity and good things about your relationship. A score below
45 suggests the need to decide how important having a lot in common
is to you. Some couples want a lot of similarity; for others, a lot of dif-
ference is viewed as spice and a positive.
Relationship Self-Tests 201


This test measures how much your partner meets your love needs. After
reading each statement, select a number that applies to your relation-
ship based on the following continuum. Then add these numbers for
your total score.
1 2 3 4 5
Does Not Definitely
Meet Love Meets Love
Needs Needs

1. My partner is someone I find easy to love.

2. My partner is someone who loves me.
————3. My partner is someone who lets me know I am loved.
4. My partner is someone who values our love relationship.
5. My partner is someone who loves as intensely as I do.
Total Score

Highest Score: A score of 25 suggests that your partner meets your

emotional needs completely. Not only do you find it easy to love your
partner, you feel that your partner loves you. In addition, both you and
your partner value the love in your relationship and you both love
Lowest Score: A score of 5 indicates that your partner meets none of
your emotional needs. Not only do you have difficulty developing love
feelings for your partner, you do not feel loved by your partner. Your
relationship with this partner is problematic because it is devoid of
Your Score: A score of 15 or above (the higher the better) suggests
that some of your emotional needs are being met in your relationship. A
score below 15 suggests the need for caution. As a person with Ameri-
can values, you have been taught that chemistry and love are very im-
portant elements in a relationship (if you were reared in Eastern
societies, you might place less emphasis on love). Be careful making a
relationship permanent where your emotional needs are not met.
202 When I Fall in Love Again


Good communication is one of the most important characteristics of an

enduring relationship. This test measures the degree to which you have
excellent communication with your partner. After reading each state-
ment, select the number that applies to your relationship based on the
following continuum. Then add these numbers for your total score.

1 2 3 4 5
Strongly Strongly
Disagree Agree

1. My partner and I can tell each other that one of us is upset

with the other.
2. We both feel good about how we resolve our differences.
We resolve our differences so that we both ‘‘win’’ rather
than one of us winning and the other one ‘‘losing.’’
3. My partner and I discuss, rather than ignore, issues that are
bothering us.
4. My partner and I have a way of resolving our differences so
that the same problem does not recur.
5. I feel very open with my partner and can talk about anything.
Total Score
Highest Score: A score of 25 suggests that communication is one of
the outstanding aspects of your relationship and is a good predictor of a
very bright future with your partner. Communication is a central aspect
of happy/enduring relationships. Partners who tell each other about
their feelings and preferences keep their relationship on track.
Lowest Score: A score of 5 indicates very poor communication with
your partner. It will come as no surprise to you that there are problems
in communicating with your partner in terms of your openness with
each other, your low frequency of win-win resolutions, your denial of
issues, your ability to resolve recurring problems, and the feeling that
you can’t talk about anything.
Your Score: A score of 15 or above (the higher the better) suggests
that communication is a positive aspect of your relationship. A score
below 15 suggests the need for caution. Since communication is one of
the central aspects of a good relationship, addressing the improvement
of your communication pattern will be important to your happiness and
fulfillment as a couple.
Relationship Self-Tests 203


This test measures how similar you and your partner are in your views
about having and rearing children. After reading each statement, select
a number that applies to your relationship based on the following con-
tinuum. Then add these numbers.
1 2 3 4 5
Very Very
Different Similar

1. Desire for having children

2. Desire for having the same number of children
3. Views on how parents will divide responsibility for taking
care of children between themselves, and agreement on which
parent is primarily responsible for child care
4. Views on one parent staying home with children during
early years versus reliance on day care
———— 5. Views on how the children are to be disciplined and on what
religious training they are to receive
Total Score
Highest Score: A score of 25 indicates that you and your partner are
in total agreement about being a family and taking care of your chil-
dren. Similar views on children predict well for your life together.
Lowest Score: A score of 5 suggests that you and your partner are
completely different in terms of your ideas about having children and
taking care of them.
Your Score: A score of 15 or above (the higher the better) suggests a
general agreement on having and rearing children. A score below 15
suggests the need for caution. Because having/rearing children is an
enormously expensive and time-consuming endeavor, a score of 5 pre-
dicts a conflictful and unstable future marital relationship.
204 When I Fall in Love Again


This test measures how much your partner meets your need for feeling
secure in a committed relationship. After reading each statement, select
a number that applies to your relationship based on the following con-
tinuum. Then add these numbers.

1 2 3 4 5
No Secure
Commitment Commitment

1. My partner is someone who has expressed a desire to marry

———— 2. My partner is someone who views marriage as a lifetime
3. My partner is someone who values monogamy.
4. My partner is someone who is faithful to me.
5. My partner and I have discussed when we will marry.
Total Score
Highest Score: A score of 25 indicates that your partner meets all of
your commitment needs. Not only has your partner expressed a desire
to marry you (and the two of you have discussed when), he values mo-
nogamy and fidelity. This score reflects that you feel very secure with
this partner and are looking forward to a bright future together.
Lowest Score: A score of 5 indicates that your partner meets none of
your commitment needs. At this time, your relationship with this part-
ner has no marital future, no monogamy, and no promise of fidelity.
Your Score: A score of 15 or above (the higher the better) suggests
that there is some future to your relationship. A score below 15 suggests
that your relationship is in limbo or on the road to nowhere. Of course,
your relationship may be one of commitment in the sense of living
together permanently. Some couples prefer this type relationship and
do not want to get married.
Relationship Self-Tests 205


Acceptance of one’s family and friends is an important aspect of a

developing relationship. This test measures the degree to which your
partner accepts others who are important to you—both your family and
friends. After reading each statement, select the number that applies to
your relationship based on the following continuum. Then add these
numbers for your total score.

1 2 3 4 5
Strongly Strongly
Disagree Agree

————1. My partner accepts my parents.

2. My partner enjoys spending time with my parents.
3. My partner accepts my friends.
4. My partner enjoys spending time with my friends.
5. My partner enjoys the company of other family members of
my family such as siblings, cousins, etc.
Total Score
Highest Score: A score of 25 indicates that your partner’s acceptance
of your family and friends is complete and one of the positive aspects of
your relationship. This characteristic will become increasingly important
as you spend more time with family and friends. Marriage can be
thought of as the joining of two families and two sets of friends.
Lowest Score: A score of 5 indicates that there are considerable prob-
lems in the lack of acceptance your partner has for your family and
friends. For most people, acceptance of one’s family/friends by one’s
partner is important since it affects the approval they feel from the new
partner. When your partner communicates enjoyment in being with
your family/friends, you feel a sense of approval from your partner.
Similarly, when your partner communicates dislike for your family/
friends, you feel disapproval.
Your Score: A score of 15 or above (the higher the better) suggests
general approval of your parents and friends. A score below 15 suggests
discomfort when your partner is with your family/friends and vice
versa. Such discomfort does not predict well for the future of your
206 When I Fall in Love Again


The economic security of a relationship and the career paths of the re-
spective partners are important issues for most couples. This test meas-
ures how much your partner meets your need for economic security
and juxtaposes your ideas about your respective careers. After reading
each statement, select a number that applies to your relationship based
on the following continuum. Then add these numbers for your total
1 2 3 4 5
Does Not Definitely
Meet Money Meet Money
Needs Needs
1. My partner is as economically secure as I wish.
2. My partner accepts my spending habits.
3. My partner accepts/supports my career interests or lack of
———— 4. My partner works hard and still finds time for me and our
5. My partner wants to work/earn as much or as little as I pre-
fer for my mate.
Total Score
Highest Score: A score of 25 indicates that your partner meets all of
your needs in regard to money and career issues. Money and time spent
earning it have a big impact on relationships. You and your partner are
fortunate that these are not issues in your relationship.
Lowest Score: A score of 5 indicates that your partner meets none of
your needs in regard to money and careers. Money and time spent earn-
ing it have a big impact on relationships.
Your Score: A score of 15 or above (the higher the better) suggests
that your partner generally meets your needs in regard to money and
careers. A score below 15 suggests a problem as having one’s needs met
in these areas is important for most couples. Discussing your respective
feelings about money and careers may be important if you are to avoid
feelings of resentment later.
Relationship Self-Tests 207


This test measures the degree to which your partner satisfies your sex-
ual needs. After reading each statement, select a number that applies to
your relationship based on the following continuum. Then add these
numbers for your total score.

1 2 3 4 5
Does Not Definitely
Meet Sex Meet Sex
Needs Needs
1. My partner is someone whom I find good-looking and that I
am sexually attracted to.
2. My partner is someone who finds me attractive and sexually
———— 3. My partner is someone who has the same level of interest in
sex that I have.
4. My partner does the things that I need to experience sexual
5. My partner is someone who has the same orientation that I
have about who should initiate sex and how often.
Highest Score: A score of 25 indicates that your partner meets all of
your sexual needs and is the ultimate lover for you.
Lowest Score: A score of 5 indicates that your partner meets none of
your sexual needs.
Your Score: A score of 15 or above (the higher the better) suggests
that your partner generally meets your sexual needs. A score below 15
suggests a problem in your sexual relationship. Individuals will vary in
the degree to which lousy sex is a deal breaker in their relationship.
208 When I Fall in Love Again


Some needs are not easy to categorize. This test measures needs such as
the degree to which your partner has the personality characteristics you
like, your respective needs for being together versus being alone, your
need to live in a specific geographic area, etc. After reading each state-
ment, select a number that applies to your relationship based on the fol-
lowing continuum. Then add these numbers for your total score.
1 2 3 4 5
Does Not Definitely
Meet Needs Meet Needs

1. Someone who has the personality characteristics (e.g., hon-

est, gentle, ambitious) I think are important for my spouse
———— 2. Someone who has the same need for spending time together
or apart
3. Someone who wants to live in the city, state, and area (rural
versus urban) where I want to live
4. Someone who has the same feelings that I have about living
5. Someone who will take care of me when I am sick
Total Score
Highest Score: A score of 25 reflects that your partner has the per-
sonality characteristics you value, similar needs for spending time to-
gether/apart, similar preferences for where to live, and similar feelings
about living together. The score also suggests that your partner is very
nurturing and that you feel that your partner will take care of you when
you are sick.
Lowest Score: A score of 5 indicates that your partner meets none of
your needs in the selected areas. Your partner does not have the person-
ality characteristics you value, does not share your need for spending
time together or apart, wants to live in another city/state/area than do
you, has different feelings about living together than you, and is not
very nurturing when it comes to taking care of you when you are sick.
Your Score: A score of 15 or above suggests that your partner meets
some or your needs in the various categories. A score below 15 suggests
a deficit in one or more areas. The degree to which not meeting a partic-
ular need will be a deal breaker will vary with the person.
Relationship Self-Tests 209


Persons who have been married or are considering marriage with some-
one who has been married before have an additional set of issues to
consider. After reading each statement, select a number that applies to
your relationship, based on the following continuum. Then add these
numbers for your total score.
1 2 3 4 5
Does Not Definitely
Meet Needs Meet Needs

1. My partner doesn’t care that I have been married before.

2. My partner has children from a previous marriage or does
not mind that I have children from a previous marriage.
———— 3. My partner accepts and enjoys my children.
4. My partner will help me take care of my children.
————5. My partner shares my feelings about the religious training
and discipline of children.
Total Score
Highest Score: A score of 25 reflects your or your partner’s previous
marriage as not an important issue. Your partner also accepts and
enjoys the fact that you have children, is willing to help you in their de-
velopment, and has similar ideas about their religious training and
Lowest Score: A score of 5 means that your partner meets none of
the specified needs in reference to a remarriage. You partner either has
not been married before or does not like the fact that you have been, ei-
ther does not have children or does not like it that you have children,
and does not intend to help you rear your children. In addition, he or
she has different ideas than you about the religious training and disci-
pline of children.
Your Score: A score of 15 or above suggests that your partner meets
some of your needs in the various categories. A score below 15 suggests
a deficit in one or more areas. The degree to which meeting a particular
need will be a deal breaker will vary with the person. Be careful. Remar-
riages have a higher divorce rate so try to cover all issues before becom-
ing involved in a remarriage.

acceptance of hurt, 75 graceful moan, 177–78; honest

affair, 23; computer affair, 96–97; questions, 178; ‘‘I’’ statement, 179;
hooking up, 94; office partner, 95; keeping interaction going, 136–38;
open relationship, 95–96; paid sex, men vs. women, 131–32; reflective
96; previous lover, 94, 95 statements, 178–79; tips for ongoing
assertiveness in bed, 21–22 romance, 138–39
Communication Test, 202
Background Test, 199 comparison of partners, 19, 21, 26
beauty, true sense, 66 compliments, 175–76
being cool, 48, 154 compromise vs. settling, 124–25
boasting, 66 computer affair, 96–97
body language, 54–55, 59, 176 consent, in recovery, 37–38
bonding, 20 control behavior, 85
breakup, in relationship, 21, 22–23,
64–65, 149; getting over, 8, 22, 23, dating galore, 30
25, 29–30 dating services, 49–50; problem with
breathing, 162–63 using, 52–53
demography, 13–14
casual sex; avoiding, 123–24; with de-stress, 169
detached emotion, 153 diamond, for attraction, 47
cheating, on partners; aging factor, disclosure, 105
99–100; homosexual relationship, double standard, 45–61; seduction,
100; negligence, 99; office romance, 47–56; timing, 56–57
98–99; revenge, 99; separation dressing, 67
factor, 98; unfulfilling sex, 98;
unhappy relationship, 98; variety/ eHarmony, 49
novelty, 97 eight-ball syndrome, 39–40
clothes, 67 emotional and contextual dimension
commitment, in relationship, 8 of sex, 18–27
Commitment Needs Test, 204 emotions, over time, 4–6
communication, in relationship, 7, equilibrated feeling, 31–33
131, 133–34; flirting talk don’ts, exercise, 181–82
135–36; flirting talk dos, 134–35; expectations, 42–43
212 Index

Facebook, 49, 51, 52 stopping talking about, 109;

Family/Friends Acceptance Test, 205 terminating with a lover, 107–8
Female Sexual Problems Test, 194 initial interactions, 4
fidelity, 77–78 interest in others, 65–66
finding a partner, 113–14, 142–44; Interests Test, 200
avoiding casual sex, 123–24; Internet dating, 50, 69, 70, 96–97
characters, 145–46; compromise vs. intimate knowledge, 181
settling, 124–25; delay sex, 121–22; intimate partner, worthiness analysis,
difference of thoughts, 126–30; 70–73
difficulty in, 7–8; do it yourself, inventing; partner, 57–58; self, 58–60
114; flirting, 114–15, 118; good
works, 119–20; imagination love, 30–31, 46, 77, 172
strategy, 121; and Internet, 120–21; Love Needs Test, 201
looking outside the box, 117; office lovemaking, 79
romance, 122–23; relationship love potion kit, 166–67
readiness, 125–26; speed dating, lover, 9
120; sporting men, 118–19; tracing, lying, about sexual relationships, 10–11
first meeting, 54 Male Partner Sexual Problems Test,
first sex, meaning of, 15–17 195
flirting, 114–15, 118; don’ts, 135–36; man search, rules for, 81–82
do’s, 134–35 marriage, 60–61
fun, 173 masking truth, 77, 49, 50
gender stereotypes, 164 maturity pace, 83–84
General Relationship Test, 198 measured honesty, 179–80
graceful moan, 176–77 men; to avoid, 71–72, 90–91; and
commitment, 89–90; to consider,
habits, 33 72–73; control behavior, 85; dealing, 50 with kinks, 90; emotional
homosexual relationship, 100 engagement, 85; expectations from
hugging, 180–81 sexual partner, 90; faithfulness
level, 85; fulfilling needs, 87; hope
‘‘I love you,’’ 140 about sexual reunion, 87–88;
‘‘I’’ statement, 179 maturity pace, 83–84; past
image: analysis, 51–52; of self, 49–51 relationships, 86, 87; problem-
imagination, for recovery, 37 solvers, 85–86; qualities to look in,
independence, 24 80; seeking help, 87; suggesting
infidelity, 8, 93–94; affairs, 94–97, changes to, 86–87; visual delight in
100–103; cheating, 94; cheating, female, 88–89
reasons for, 97–100; disclosure, 105; Moderate Alcohol Use and Sex Test,
partner vs. lover, 105–7; personal 193
reactions, 103–5; prevention, Money/Career Needs Test, 206
109–11; recovering stages, 108–9; Monogamous Lover Test, 187
Index 213

office romance, 95, 98–99, 122–23 Remarriage Needs Test, 209

open relationship, 95–96 reserved behavior, 41
opinion, 70 respect, 23–24
orgasm, 78–79 rite of passage, 15
‘‘Other Needs’’ Test, 208 romance, 23
Romantic Lover Test, 186
paid sex, 96
partner, finding a, 7–8 Safe Lover Test, 190
past relationship, 20, 26–27, 40, 86, 87, seduction, 47–56
94, 95, 154 self-esteem, 63–68
pearl, for attraction, 47 self-promotion, 50–51
photograph, 49–51 self respect, 2
physical attractiveness, 48 sex; as bonding, 20; as choice, 20–21;
post-intercourse, 4 emotional and contextual
postural echo, 59 dimension, 18–27; as relationship
power sharing, 174–75 tool, 75–76; thoughts during, 25–26;
pre-intercourse, 4 timing of, 79
sex-esteem, 67–68
quandary, in relationship, 24 sex interest, 24–25; lack of, 9–10
Sexual Addiction Test, 192
reaching out for help, 30 sexual compatibility, 9–10
readiness, for relationship, 35–36, Sexual Interest/Desire Test, 191
80–81, 145 sexual intoxication, 154–55
realistic expectations, 42–43, 180 sexual involvement; with nonromantic
recurring mistakes, avoiding, 38–39 friend, 16–17; timing of, 1–4, 19
reflective statements, 178–79 sexuality, 53–54
relationships; avoid spectatoring, 182; Sexual Knowledge Test, 189
beginning of, 65, 141–42; checklist sexual makeover, 147; alertness,
for new man’s worthiness, 79–80; 147–48; assessment of honesty, 148;
communication in, 176–78; assessment of worthiness, 148;
compliments, 175–76; emotions being cool, 154; breakups, 149;
over time, 4–6; end of, 64–65, 149; casual sex with detached emotion,
intimate knowledge, 181; issues in, 153; clarity in expectations, 148;
6–7; long-term, 175; measured kit, 149–52; partner’s approach,
honesty, 179–80; pacing sex in, 2–3; differences in, 153; past
power sharing in, 174–75; relationships, 154; variety, 154
prioritizing, 172–73; readiness, sexual myths, debunking, 182
35–36, 80–81, 145; realistic sexual needs, importance of
expectations, 180; relatedness, 146; respecting and controlling, 73
self-tests, 185–95, 197–209; time Sexual Needs Test, 207
between ending and beginning of, sexual regrets, 1–11, 17–18, 25
19, 22; touching and hugging, smile, 152
180–81; understanding in, 74, speed dating, 120
144–45; win-win relationship, 173–74 sporting men, 118–19
214 Index

touching, 180–81 168–70; from fete to private sphere,

165; gender stereotypes, 164; goal,
understating, about self, 55–56 160; joy anticipation, 160–61; love
Unselfish Lover Test, 188 potion kit, 166–67; next morning,
170; planning, 158–59; potential
values, understanding of, 57 problems, 168; prerequisites, 166;
Views on Children Test, 203 reactions, 163–64; sacred space,
161–62; sexual abstinence before,
wedding night, 157–58; breathing, 163; timing, 159; tips for the day,
162–63; de-stress, 169; 164–65
enhancements, 167–68; exhaustion, win-win relationship, 173–74
About the Authors

JANE MERRILL has written on relationships and culture for magazines,

including Cosmopolitan, New York Magazine, American Health, Redbook,
and Vogue. She has also written on bilingual education, child-rearing,
jewelry, and sexual technique. Merrill has been a stay-at-home mom as
well as being employed in public relations, editing, and libraries. She
completed coursework at Wellesley and has three M.A. degrees from
Columbia and Harvard universities. She speaks French and Persian,
quilts, and runs. She is partnered with John and they live in Connecticut
and midcoast Maine. Her four children are an MIT missile scientist, a
DC corporate attorney, a pharmacist, and a Columbia University senior.

DAVID KNOX is professor of sociology, East Carolina University,

where he teaches Courtship and Marriage, Marriage and Family, and
Human Sexuality. Knox is the author or coauthor of ninety professional
articles and ten books, including Choices in Relationships, 10th ed. (Cen-
gage, 2010), and Choices in Sexuality (Cengage, 2007). His interests
include big band music, fishing, and drinking coffee in the garden with
his wife at daybreak.