Forget about the spontaneous moment of lust that scares up the sex drive ghosts of Christmas Past. It ain’t gonna happen in the midst of party planning, shopping, wrapping or hiding gifts, paying credit card bills and every other thing that comes up during the holiday season, according to Patty Brisben.
As the owner of Pure Romance, an in-home party company specializing in “relationship enhancement,” she likely would suggest sex toys as the perfect gift for his or her stocking. She doesn’t.
“We did an online poll with over 2,000 women and found that there were factors that caused couples to have less sex during the holidays,” Brisben says. “It’s stress: entertaining families and in-laws and all the adversity that comes with everybody’s families together. It’s the stress of party preparations, the pressure of holiday shopping, stressing over money. Weight gain: Any time you put on a few pounds you feel like crap. When you start feeling like that, you lose your libido, your sex drive, your ‘I look cute today!’
“With all of this running and going and doing, you don’t have time to feel good about yourself. Those are some of the reasons we get into these slumps.”
To un-slump, Brisben says you have to plan your way out of it. What matters most is making time to be together as a couple on a regular basis. Expending effort on maintaining and building a relationship isn’t something that comes naturally to most people, but we act like it should.
“If I don’t sit down and have planning within my own corporation, I’m not going to have a successful business,” Brisben says. “Why people think they can have a successful relationship without planning is beyond me.”
Brisben laughs when she tells the story of a minister in Texas who recently told his congregation to go home and have sex every night until they met again next Sunday. A storm of national media attention made it impossible for him to keep that commitment with his wife because he was so busy explaining the point of his instruction: Pay attention and commit to the importance of intimacy in your relationship with your life partner.
“They interviewed the couples afterward, and they talked about the closeness and the bond that they had afterward,” she explains.
Brisben has zero tolerance for the “lack of spontaneity” argument people use to avoid doing the work of planning. Those moments of excitement and fun come out of knowing your partner and enjoying the person’s company, having a good time together. Those things don’t happen if you’re both running off in different directions.
“Spontaneity is just like this: You look in the mirror in the morning and go, ‘Oh my God! I look terrible. I need to go to the gym,’ ” she says. “Do you do it? No. What surprises me is that women think we live in that fairy tale, that we’re going to have that giddiness we had when we first met. It doesn’t happen that way.
“A relationship is a job, and you have to be committed. If you want to be successful at it, you have to work. It’s not just a day here and there. Every day you have to put forth effort.”
Being together doesn’t have to be a huge production. It can be as simple as preparing a meal and eating it together as a family or as a couple. Baking cookies and decorating them together, playing noncompetitive games or working on a crossword puzzle create a shared experience that can be fun, which leads to feelings of happiness and contentment that are essential for getting “in the mood.”
Whether your goal for increased intimacy is time together or more sex, Brisben says that the planning you do has to focus on how each person can individually de-stress and be in a better frame of mind.
“If you’re going to be going to a lot of parties, don’t go out at lunch,” she suggests. “Pack a good, healthy lunch. That’ll make you feel a lot better.
“Put better food in your house. Get some boost-your-libido-food like bananas, celery, avocado, basil, asparagus — those are all holiday things, too.”
Exercise is another libido-booster.
“Become active,” Brisben says. “Whenever you’re throwing snowballs at each other or you’re going to try (skiing) for the first time, when you’re exercising it makes you giddy, it makes you happy and you’re healthier for it. Hike, go through the nature trails. It doesn’t have to be a spring or summer thing, it can be a winter thing you do together.”
Trying something new can also be sexy.
“One of the things that I researched that’s really cool is Hocking Hills,” Brisben says. “It’s not that far from Cincinnati. They have romantic holiday cabins. It’s something different.
“Step outside of your box. Even if you don’t have the money part of it, you can do things like call the family or call a friend and ask them to take the kids, even for a romantic meal at home.”
Then there’s the best gift you can possibly give.
“The best gift you can give this holiday season, forever, is letting your children see success within a parents’ relationship,” Brisben says. “Seeing their parents know how to have a healthy relationship is teaching them what they should expect from a healthy relationship.”