APKY/AMP: Hello Todd, and welcome to AuthorMeProfessionals. I also thank you for giving me the opportunity to read your very engaging book Conversation Is Sexy. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the witty, light-hearted way you write in. To begin with our first question: You say communication can be a powerful aphrodisiac. That leapt at me right off the page. Can you please expand on that for us?
TODD REED: Thanks and what a great question to start off with. Every relationship begins with both a physical and verbal connection. Think back to when you fell in love with your special someone and experienced that rush of adrenaline when you both laid eyes on and spoke to each other. Not only was the physical connection intense, but face-to-face and phone conversations would last for long periods of time. As relationships mature and routines are established, the amount of conversation that takes place between couples decreases. In fact, research tells us that often couples will spend less than 20 minutes a day talking to each other as a relationship matures. If we talk less, then it stands to reason that not only are we not connecting with each other on a daily basis (which is so important to the health of any relationship), but that we aren’t expressing and exchanging sentiments of love. I’m talking about the language of love here, and saying things like “you’re so beautiful,” or whispering, “I think you’re so sexy,” or “I can’t wait to see you later when I get home,” or “have I told you what an amazing wife/husband you are?” It’s so important to both men and women that they feel appreciated and admired by the love of their life, and taking the time to express both on a daily basis can go a long way in cementing the foundation of a relationship. So the reason I so strongly believe that communication is a powerful aphrodisiac is that it keeps you both connected and focused on each other. When you use the “language of love” and words like “beautiful,” “gorgeous,” “sensual,” “sexy,” “amazing,” “handsome,” “hot,” and “attractive” (even try whispering them from time to time), it promotes a higher frequency of intimacy.
APKY/AMP: It certainly does. Todd, you lay some marvellous emphasis on two words most people take for granted: hearing and listening. And you go on to explain that men and women listen differently. Can you elaborate on this, tell the readers why this is so?
TODD REED: In working with couples, I’ve found that the majority of women “listen” (meaning they really absorb what’s being said), while most men “hear” (meaning they take in what’s being communicated, but don’t necessarily attach their emotions to the words). Generally speaking, women are more emotionally based and find it easier to attach feelings to words. Men, on the other hand, often default to what I call a “Mr. Fix It” mode of communicating. Literally moments into a conversation, men begin to analyze how they can fix whatever problem, issue or circumstance that’s being discussed, instead of taking the entire message in and then formulating an appropriate response. Men often struggle with the concept that women sometimes just want us to listen to what they’re saying without offering some type of solution. And since men tend to be more physical or sexual first and emotional second, we have to work harder at being better listeners. I often joke with my clients that the best time to connect with a man emotionally is the morning, evening or afternoon after making love…although I’m only partially joking.
APKY/AMP: That’s good to know, fellow ladies! Now, often people feel they should hold something back from their partner out of fear that it might be too outrageous, hurt feelings or the person him-/herself feels embarrassed or think they’d sound completely ridiculous, pathetic, idiotic. How does one get out of this “Communication Jail” as you put it?
TODD REED: No doubt this is one of the more challenging topics to deal with because all things you mentioned in this question point directly to individual insecurities. Example, “I’m afraid to tell my wife I want to have more sex, because it will just causes an argument.” Or, “I want my boyfriend to be more affectionate towards me, but I know he’ll just make fun of me.” From the time we felt that first urge and realized the opposite sex wasn’t truly the enemy, we’ve all been told that honesty and full disclosure were two of the keys to a successful relationship. Unfortunately, what we don’t take into consideration at that moment is our ability to be and feel vulnerable, and developing the ability to be confrontational without blowing up the relationship. The result of not mastering both of the aforementioned is “Communication Jail.” Non-disclosure, keeping things inside for the fear you may cause conflict, feeling embarrassed or being made to feel like you’re less than perfect all lead to “Communication Jail.” Like termites eating away at the infrastructure of your house, the inability to overcome personal insecurities and communicate openly will continually eat away at the foundation of your relationship. So, staying out of “Communication Jail” begins with you. I tell my clients all the time to identify the emotion that’s keeping you from expressing yourself. By simply identifying the emotion, you begin empowering yourself and can begin formulating a plan to deal with it. There’s nothing wrong with being scared, but there is something wrong with being scared if it paralyzes you and keeps you from taking action. Not taking action only increases your discomfort and puts more skeletons in your closet, and we all know that eventually those skeletons come out and rear their ugly heads.
So, the process of avoiding “Communication Jail” is the following: Identify the emotion that’s keeping you from discussing an important topic. Allow yourself to accept the fact that it’s o.k. to feel that particular emotion and then ask yourself, “How will this impact the future of my relationship if I don’t resolve this conflict?” Example: If you’re not making love as often as you’d like and that’s been a trend for some time, do you think somewhere down the road the forces of nature will mysteriously solve that problem? Or might you get more frustrated as time goes on, which would certainly cause more tension and stress in your relationship? Once you allow yourself to see how your relationship could be impacted down the road, your motivation for fixing your problem—or, as I like to say “resolve the conflict”--should intensify. Next, create an environment that’s calming and free of kids, stress and distraction. Then tell you significant other how much you love them and would like to discuss how “we” can improve our relationship. Try and use the words “we” and “us” vs. “I” and “you.” The goal is to resolve these conflicts as a team and keep your relationship healthy.
APKY/AMP: Great advice, Todd. Let’s come to another area I found riveting in your book: Sexual fantasies. Todd, this is where communication should be sexiest but seldom is. No one wants to discuss they’re in bed with James Bond/Sister Superior when they have sex with their partners to their partners! How would your book help in this particular case?
TODD REED: The first step is acknowledging that we all have fantasies, and I’m talking about both sexes here. What’s important and what a number of couples struggle with is keeping those fantasies separate from their love life. I agree that it’s never productive to think about another person while making love to your partner. There are some easy tips you can use to avoid this.
--Stay in the moment by keeping your eyes open while making love or having sex.
--Don’t make love in total darkness. Use dim lights or even candles to set the mood.
--Make eye contact while making love…unless the position doesn’t allow it…lol.
--Avoid lovemaking routines--like always doing it in the same place, at the same time of day/night and in the same way.
--Most importantly, conduct periodic relationship check-ups with you lover. Make sure you’re still meeting his/her needs, physically, mentally and verbally.
--Make sure you’re bringing the right attitude to the bedroom. Example: I’m no movie star, but when I make love to my significant other, I feel like I’m the sexiest man on the planet. And that’s so important for women to understand. Men love it when the woman in their life acts/believes she’s the sexiest woman alive.
APKY/AMP: Which brings us to the next question: Why do partners lose that endorphin spark, what you call the “honeymoon high” they had at the beginning of the relationship?
TODD REED: There’s always a leveling off period that takes place in any relationship. It’s no different than when you buy a new car and take it for its first drive. The way you feel driving it, how it handles and how it smells are all new, but six months down the road, those feelings have all gone away. The two main reasons couples lose the “endorphin spark” as you mentioned are due to: (1) Frequency and (2) Routines. Specifically, frequency from being around each other day in and day out, and the routines we develop in day-to-day life. During the honeymoon phase, it’s common to stay up later, sacrifice sleep and go out of your way to see, spend time and make love to the new love of your life. A year later, getting a good night sleep, going to work and taking care of the house seem to demand most of your attention. Somewhere along the way we tend to settle into a life style and become comfortable with our relationships. We forget that while the “honeymoon high” may be gone, we can still keep the spark alive by taking time each day/week to spend some quality special time with each other.
APKY/AMP: Right. Are there ways to get the relationship back to the “honeymoon high” years?
TODD REED: Yes, date nights for one. If you don’t have “date nights” in your relationship on weekly or bi-weekly basis, start! Date nights can range from dinner out on the town, to cocktails and appetizers at a favorite local establishment to conducting a “spa night” at home with just the two of you. Think about it, how much one-on-one time do you spend with your significant other on a weekly basis? We’ll work 40+ hours at our job, come home, eat dinner and zone out watching some TV before heading to bed, but we often fail to spend fifteen or twenty minutes of quality one-on-one time with our partners. Oh, did I fail to mention that one of the biggest benefits of “date night” is seeing your significant other dress up? While men tend to be more visual than women, ladies very much love to see their man in something that makes him look good. Endorphins are often sparked by visual and physical stimulation, so dress up and use the sense of touch to release those endorphins.
APKY/AMP: So true! Now, one of the things you dwell on in detail is kissing – that first intimate act between couples. You recommend that couples should kiss with their eyes open. But most couples go into close-eyes mode just about automatically. So, how to revert this reflex, Todd?
TODD REED: Kissing with your eyes open--or slightly open--is a fantastic technique that allows you to be present and stay in the moment. As we’ve talked about in a previous question, my goal is to keep every couple “in the moment” when making love, and not thinking about other people or having some other fantasy. If your eyes are slightly open, it forces you to focus on your partner. I realize that people will still default to the reflex you spoke about, but again, I encourage anyone reading this to try and kiss with your eyes slightly open and see how it feels and see how you improve on the making love experience. By the way, if you’re someone that finds themselves relying on fantasy during your love making process in order to climax, you may want to read Conversation Is Sexy and begin figuring out how to fix that--and get reconnected with the love of your life.
APKY/AMP: The next steep hurdle is the human affinity to vulnerability. Everybody wants to present themselves to their partners from their Schokoladenseite, as we say in Germany – from their most attractive side. That’s what our society and civilization has imbued in us as the road to success and a happy life. What do you recommend to help people bare their hearts so to speak, to their partners?
TODD REED: This always seems more of challenge for men than women. Generally speaking, women are not only better overall communicators, but they struggle less with tapping into their vulnerability and sharing that side of their personality. The key for most women is developing a level of trust they feel comfortable with. Once there, however, most women do a great job of revealing inner secrets, likes and dislikes. Men, on the other hand, are a bit more challenging and generally need a little help to accomplish the same goals. By nature, we don’t always feel comfortable being vulnerable, since it’s perceived as being less than “macho,” But when bitten by the “love bug,” most men will do their best to open up and reveal their inner thoughts, wishes and desires. I emphasize to the couples I work with how important it is for both sexes to open up and be vulnerable with each other. During those conversations, I always spend a significant amount of time communicating to the man how important it is to develop a comfort level with being vulnerable. Anyone can talk about their strong points or attributes, but the strength of any relationship centers around knowing and improving on your weaknesses. So put your best foot forward, but tap into your vulnerability and start peeling those layers of sensitivity if you want your relationship to be successful.
APKY/AMP: Right. There is also the societal/psychological influence of not just what we “should be” but also what we “should look like”. Again it’s a cultural thing and the role models we’re given are “perfect”. We develop a self-image versus the “role model” image which often conflicts. To use this as a metaphor, should a woman get breast enhancement (whoever discovers these descriptions, Todd:) if her man reveals that he really prefers breasts larger/smaller than hers after the bare-our-hearts-to-each-other openness talk?
TODD REED: This is one of my favorite topics to comment on because most people struggle with self-image at some point in their lives. Here are the indisputable facts when it comes to relationships, love and self-image: Couples are attracted to each other for a multitude of reasons--some physical, some mental and some emotional--but I’ve yet to meet a perfect person. So, while culturally we’re inundated with airbrushed photos of incredibly sexy woman (with or without large breasts) and men with six pack abs that every guy would kill for, the actual number of people who possess those traits are minimal. I work very hard to educate couples that the key to being sexy, hot, sensual and feeling like a Marilyn Monroe bombshell is more mental than physical. If you think you’re sexy, give off the vibe that you’re sexy and act that way…(just like by looking like a duck and quacking like a duck, you become a very sexy duck…lol. I had to throw that in!!). When you stand in front of a mirror (as we all do) and point out what you don’t like about your body, and if you’re not happy with the size and shape of your breasts, then it should be talked about with your significant other. The goal should be to have both people agree on whether you should or shouldn’t get implants. I wanted to make that point before directly answering your question.
Now, if a man introduces the concept to his wife that he’s not happy with the size/shape of her breasts, things get a little more complicated. The question becomes: Is he really not happy with her breasts (which usually is not the case), or is there some other hidden meaning behind his request? Even when directly asked, most men mightily struggle with telling their significant others that they are not happy with what’s going on in the bedroom or with their love lives. Sorry ladies, but this can be one of those situations where you have to read between the lines and probe a little deeper. Let me put it to you this way: I’ve been in relationships with women with small, medium and large breasts and have never suggested to any woman that they increase or decrease the size of their breasts. What I can tell you is that most men are very visual and sexual, we love for our ladies to be sexy, smell sexy (in most cases) and act sexy. All this is easy in the beginning of a relationship, because we go on dates and always do our best to make great impressions. Two, three, or even five years into a relationship, the question is: Are you still recreating those moments? Remember ladies, your man fell in love with “YOU,” not some picture in a magazine or on a billboard. But as relationships mature and routines take over, we don’t often revisit those early days of dating and embrace the “sexy” side of life that helped bring us together. So, does your man really want you to change the size of your breasts? Maybe, but what he really may be asking is for you (no matter what you think of your current body) to turn back the clock, adjust your mental state of mind (meaning believing you’re a supermodel), put on something sexy and rock his world!
APKY/AMP: Wow, not that hard, is it? Another modern influence that you discuss is passion and sex. Since we live in an age where sex is top of the pops, are couples forgetting to be passionate, which is more emotional, and concentrating more on sex?
TODD REED: I don’t believe couples are forgetting to be passionate, but I do believe that being passionate and sexual when you’re first dating or in the first stage of your relationship is easier than when you’re say 2, 5 or 10 years into a relationship. Why? Because work and life routines take over our lives, and if you have kids, the demands on your free time are even more intense. The longer you’re together, the more I encourage you to make time for each other, away from all of life’s distractions. One of the major benefits to being in a committed relationship is knowing that the other person is there for you, and that includes the physical part of the relationship. Speaking of your physical relationship, I encourage you to maintain a balance of passion vs. sex. There’s no question that both are important, but an overdose of one over the other can throw your love life out of sync. Passion is all about building anticipation, taking your time (much like sipping a fine glass of wine) using the language of love, light touching, kissing and really communicating with your body how much you love your partner. On the other hand, sex is all about tapping into that animal aspect of the attraction you have with your significant other--the chance to just “go for it” and express yourself while ravaging your partner. Every couple establishes the way in which they best accomplish having “sex,” but it’s all about adrenaline and endorphins and the “call of the wild.”
APKY/AMP: Todd, if I hadn’t been lucky enough to read your book, this is the point I’d be dropping everything else and Googling the book or running to my favourite bookshop. But – lucky me…lol! Back to Conversation Is Sexy: Making assumptions is an aspect that creeps into a relationship with time. How can couples shut it out and keep on pushing each other’s right buttons?
TODD REED: The biggest reason this takes place is that couples forget to conduct periodic “relationship check-ups.” Sounds simple, but it’s so easy to put them off or not even conduct them at all. Every 3 to 4 months, you should schedule a meeting with your partner to discuss the status of your relationship. Are you both still on the same page? Are your future goals the same, or do they need to be updated? Individually, how is each person feeling about themselves and the relationship? And finally, what’s the status of your love life? Over time, wants and desires can change. What got the job done once upon a time may not be getting it done now. As your relationship matures, wants, needs and desires can shift a little. I know it sounds simple, but ask yourself when the last time it was that you had a “relationship check-up?” Isn’t it about time?
APKY/AMP: Todd, does Conversation Is Sexy only about communication between partners?
TODD REED: Not at all! Using the tools, tips and techniques in my book are all about helping you become a better communicator. Being a better communicator will ultimately help you become a better husband, wife, friend, family member and co-worker. I’ve heard from so many people who have shared stories about how becoming a “Sexy Conversationalist” has impacted their entire lives.
APKY/AMP: That’s great. You also go into great lengths to assert that communication is not restricted to the verbal. What other non-verbal conversation is sexy?
TODD REED: Non-verbal communication is key in any relationship. Light touching, caressing, hugs, kisses, body contact and massage are just a few of the non-verbal types of communication. Words are so important, actions carry even a bigger punch, but how you express yourself non-verbally can earn you major bonus points and can help keep the “fire” in any relationship burning.
APKY/AMP: Okay. Coming to the question of forgiveness which you dwell on in the book. Forgiveness is naturally preceeded by apology or apologies. Many people feel “belittled” either in apologizing or forgiving. What advice do you give such people in Conversation Is Sexy?
TODD REED: You bring up two very important topics: apologizing and forgiving. Let’s talk about apologizing first. Taking responsibility for your actions/words is something we’re taught to do as kids and carries even more importance in our grown up relationships. The problem is, sometimes as adults we choose to act like we did when we were kids, and we look to blame others for our actions. We sometimes lie in order to avoid taking responsibility. For men and women alike, I tell them: “If you want your relationship to be successful, than you must learn to apologize when you screw up.” I can’t say it any other way!! As humans, we are not perfect and never will be. Therefore, each of us makes mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are small, and sometimes they’re big, but if you want to live “happily ever after,” you must learn to accept that you will make mistakes.
Now to the topic of forgiveness and why it’s so important. Understanding that, as humans, we “all” make mistakes is a good first step, but learning how to forgive can be an amazing tool in growing the depth of your relationship. Think about it: Do you feel differently towards the person who’s forgiven you for saying something unkind, or the person who knows they said something inappropriate, but refuses to say anything? Those who learn to forgive are more respected than those who don’t. Remember, It’s important to mention that we’re talking about forgiveness here, and not necessarily “FORGETTING”. Have you heard the old cliché, “To err is human, but to forgive divine?” The point here is that since every one of us makes mistakes, doesn’t it make sense that we should learn to forgive? Finally, pay attention to patterns of behavior when it comes to forgiving. Being late for dinner once and being forgiven is great, but it doesn’t give you a free pass to be late over and over again. Forgiveness may clean the slate of your mistake or wrongdoing, but it doesn’t give you a carte blanche to commit the same mistake over and over again.
APKY/AMP: Thank you so much, Todd. It’s been a wonderful interview and Conversation Is Sexy has certainly enriched my life experiences enormously. I and AuthorMeProfessionals wish you all the best with your projects in helping others improve their lives.