Any of these relationship admissions ring a bell?
Finally, you can stop wondering how often other couples fight, kiss, have sex — and who has what tucked under their beds. A new survey of 70 000 pairs answers these questions and more.
You never know what goes on behind closed doors, but damn, wouldn’t you like to find out? Well, now you can take a peek inside other people’s hearts, minds and bedrooms, thanks to The Normal Bar, a book by Chrisanna Northrup, a wellness entrepreneur who wanted to improve her marriage. With the help of sexologist Dr Pepper Schwartz and sociologist Dr James Witte, Northrup surveyed more than 70 000 couples worldwide (making it the largest relationship study ever done), asking questions like “How often do you kiss your partner?” and “Do you keep secrets from each other?” The answers provide a voyeuristic look into how the average duo behaves – and if you have any of the seven love issues here, you’ll realise you’re not alone and that there are ways to make your own relationship one to envy.
Note: Five of them mean your relationship needs work, but two are actually quite normal!
1. “I wish my guy looked better.”
The norm: More than a third of both women and men wish their partner would care more about looking good.
Love lesson: Lead by example. Impress him in small ways – get dressed up for a night in or opt for sexier pyjamas — and hope he’ll do the same. “People who put that effort into themselves, even around the house, keep the relationship alive a little bit more because it makes them both feel better,” says Northrup. If he’s not getting the hint, tell him how hot he looks in the shirt you bought for him. “Guys love compliments,” says Northrup, “and he wants you to be attracted to him.”
2. “We’re embarrassingly kinky in bed!”
The norm: There’s no shame in your handcuff game. Eighty-six percent of men and women are intrigued by the idea of adding toys to their sex lives, and more than half of couples already have.
Love lesson: If you two haven’t hopped on the kink train yet, but want to, the key is to introduce it in the right way. “If there’s trust and emotional intimacy, you can slowly but surely start telling him about your fantasies,” says Dr Elna Rudolph, WH sexpert and head of MySexualHealth.co.za. To start, she suggests setting a mood-enhancing scene (cue soft lighting and music) to ensure he’s comfortable and aroused, then bring in the new element. “Sitting on the bed with a set of handcuffs when you aren’t even mildly aroused can be awkward,” she adds. Take baby steps by starting in a new location like the kitchen or private deck, or using a scented massage-oil candle paired with a palm-size vibrator before moving on to more adventurous toys, like a vibrator with a G-spot stimulator or a bondage kit.
3. “I’m worried he might stray.”
The norm: Only 39 percent of women completely trust their partners. This may be for good reason: 69 percent of men said that, if propositioned, they’d be tempted to have sex with someone outside of their relationship.
Love lesson: Don’t give in to your suspicious mind yet. “There will always be temptations, but it doesn’t mean your man will give in to them without blinking an eye,” says Rudolph. To find out how he really feels, nonchalantly bring up the latest headline-making bout of infidelity (thanks, Hollywood). Ask, “Why do you think they cheated?” His answer can speak volumes about his thoughts on cheating and if the question isn’t threatening, he’s more likely to be honest, adds Rudolph. What he says (“I might slip up if I didn’t feel appreciated” or “… if we never had sex”) can help you understand what’s important to him — and how to keep your union strong.
READ MORE: 8 Signs He Isn’t Actually A Nice Guy
4. “We never kiss.”
The norm: Seventy percent of couples have smooching sessions from time to time, and more than half of couples say they kiss like crazy several times a week.
Love lesson: If you’re more prone to perfunctory pecks, grab him for a 20-second hug first, says Dr Marsha Lucas, author of Rewire Your Brain For Love: Creating Vibrant Relationships Using The Science Of Mindfulness. This stimulates the release of oxytocin, the hormone that brings people closer. From there, full-on kissing is a natural next step. “Kissing, and doing so presently and passionately, can actually help a great deal with bonding,” says Lucas.
5. “I have no idea how much money he earns.”
The norm: Eighty percent of extremely happy couples know their partner’s salary.
Love lesson: “If a couple has good communication, they’re more comfortable discussing money,” says Rudolph. Anything you hide from your partner can harm the relationship, including secrets about your cash situation. While new couples don’t need to go further than agreeing on who’s shelling out for the next date, engaged or committed duos should kick-start a cash conversation by each writing three lists: one of all your assets, one of your liabilities and another of what you’re saving for. Then show and tell. “This clearly spells out not only your financial situation, but your priorities too, and prevents nasty surprises later in the relationship,” says Rudolph.
6. “We use cringe-worthy pet names.”
The norm: Good for you! Seventy-six percent of couples who say they’re happy do too.
Love lesson: Sure, outsiders may think your nicknames for each other are downright ridiculous, but small, affectionate gestures — giving each other monikers like “pickle” or “buster” — can turn ordinary moments into intimate ones. “I never called my husband a pet name,” admits Northrup, who now uses “sweetheart”. “It was hard, but it makes us both feel special and loved — and that’s what we all want from a relationship.” If you’re new to pet names, Northrup suggests using one in SMSes or voice mails first, or practising on another person (she used her son).
7. “I think about breaking up with him constantly.”
The norm: Thirty-seven percent of both men and women fantasise about leaving their partner “all the time or often”, and another 33 percent “sometimes” have these thoughts.
Love lesson: “It’s normal to wonder, Would I be better off if I left?” says Lucas. That’s your natural fight-or-flight response kicking in when things don’t go your way. But instead of automatically pushing eject the next time he cancels on you to hang out with his buddies again, note your immediate physical reaction. Has your heart rate, body temperature or alertness increased? If so, stop yourself from taking any action until you feel more normal. Then analyse the situation from both sides. Maybe he wouldn’t have blown off your plans if you’d told him how much you were looking forward to date night. It’s this kind of thinking that stops you from always reaching for the suitcase in the top cupboard.
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