In this episode of “Sex With Dr. Jess,” Sexologist and Relationship Expert Jessica O’Reilly talks about divorce: what are the signs, how do couples fight for their marriage, and what happens when a marriage fails. Are you and your spouse sexually compatible? Tune in to hear some tips on how to be compatible in the long run!
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This is a computer-generated rough transcript, so please excuse any typos. This podcast is an informational conversation and is not a substitute for medical, health or other professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the services of an appropriate professional should you have individual questions or concerns.
How to Divorce-Proof Your Marriage
Hello there. This is Jessica O’Reilly. I’m a sex and relationship expert, and my focus is sexual compatibility because sexual compatibility is essential to a lasting, happy relationship. And I am here to help you become sexually compatible so that you can live happily ever after, because compatibility is something that you cultivate. It’s something you make and work for. It’s not something you find. You really have to work for it. Today, I was reading that Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson are celebrating 28 years of marriage 28 years. And this is a rarity in Hollywood and in North America altogether. Here the divorce rate is estimated to be around 42% right now. For first marriages. For second marriages, it’s considerably higher at 60%. And I actually believe Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson. This is a second marriage for both of them, but they are thriving after 28 years, and the rate of divorce seems much higher for celebrities. One study found that half of celebrities married between 2000 and 2010 were divorced by 2014, and a slew of celebrities tied the knot. Staying married for less than a year or two. Divorce is all around us in America. I was reading that there is one divorce every 36 seconds, and on average, couples are getting divorced eight years after marriage and the average age. This is rather interesting to me. The age of an average divorcee is 30 years old. Interesting, but of course, there are factors that mitigate the risk of divorce. So for instance, if your parents are married still and they’ve stayed married happily married, your risk of divorce decreases by 14%. And if you wait until you’re over the age of 25 to get married, your risk decreases approximately 24%. If you’ve attended postsecondary, College or University, your risk of divorce decreases by 13%. So these are just numbers. You are not a statistic. Look, Tom and Rita have a 60% chance of getting divorced based on the fact that it’s their second marriage, but they’re still together 28 years later. This one is interesting to me. Data suggests that living together before marriage reduces your risk of divorce. And this is where it gets really sticky. For me. This is where I’m reminded that not getting divorced isn’t a universal sign of a happy relationship. So what I mean by this is some people stay together, they don’t get a divorce, but they stay together because they believe they have to. They stay together because they say it’s for the kids. They stay together to keep up appearances. Ultimately, they stay together miserable because they don’t have the drive to break up. And when I see couples who refuse to break up, even though they bring out the worst in each other, I’m even more appalled. I mean, how can an unhappy marriage be better than a divorce in these cases? I think divorce is a good thing. And wow, I have to say, I’ve been divorced when I was 19, I ran off and get married. Got married in Mexico. I eloped didn’t tell anyone. Sorry, mom. And a few months later, we split up. I left, and not long after that, I ended up moving in with the man who is now my husband. And this is over 15, almost 16 years ago now. And in my marriage, after 15 years, my current marriage, I’m pretty sure we’re going to stay together. I think we’re going to stay together forever. Things are working not always, but overall, they work. I like him. I love being around him. He makes me laugh. I challenge him. We fight, we make up, and we ultimately don’t ever stop trying. And I wish I could tell you what keeps us together, because from my generation, 15 years is a really long time. We’ve watched friends get together and break up. I want to be able to tell you the one thing that keeps us together and in love and still wanting to have sex with each other after 15 years. But I can’t. There is no one element now. Tom Hanks says that they are still together because he and his wife really like each other. And really, this makes sense to me. But here’s the challenge. I like a lot of people. Well, maybe not too many people, a handful of people, but I don’t want to be with all these people. I don’t want to live with them. I don’t want to share a bathroom with them. I don’t want to have sex with them. So there has to be more than just one magic trick to staying together forever. So I went and did some digging through the research to see what science says about this. What does science say about staying together forever? What makes couples stay together and be happy? And here’s what I found. I found seven different elements to help you stay together forever. These make sense to me, and I’m going to start with the first. The first tip is have sex. Now, I think most lists most people who make a list of what you need to stay happy together. They bury sex somewhere in the middle or at the end.
But I am going to put it right out there at the top. Sex matters. You don’t have to do it every day. You don’t have to do it every week, but you’ve got to figure out a way to keep you keep yourself and your partner satisfied. This is going to be your hands, your mouth genitals, your favorite lube, your favorite toy. It could be purple porn. I mean, you can use a furry Mitten, a leather glove. I don’t care, but you got to make it happen. There needs to be compatibility in your relationship. You’ve got to figure out what your partner wants and meet some of their needs and find a way, I guess, to find an overlap between your needs and your partner’s needs. And this is the thing that separates your relationship from other close friendships. And sometimes this means I’m going to give you an example, a story I’m not particularly comfortable telling, but an example of pushing your comfort zone and making sex happen even when you don’t really feel like doing it at first. So I just came back yesterday from Desire Pearl Resort down in Mexico. You’ve probably heard me talk about Desire before. It’s a clothing optional, adult only resort that’s very erotic themed. And honestly, everyone seems to be getting it on, like, 24/7. You hear it from the rooms, you hear it in the play room, you hear it and see it in the hot tub. And so we were down there for five days, and I was teaching workshops, and I don’t enjoy the same experience. That a typical guest. I think relishes in at Desire because I’m also working, but it is a little break for my relationship. It’s a little bit of a reset. My husband, Brandon, comes with me, and for these five days, I was down there for four and a half of them. I was on my period. Yeah, maybe that’s TMI, but the truth is, we don’t really have sex, but we don’t have intercourse when I’m on my period. My husband isn’t a fan. I do it, but he’s not a fan. Fine. Whatever. It’s an issue. That’s a whole other thing. I can talk about another time, but we are there for five days in this lover’s paradise.
I’m on my period, and so we’re not going to have traditional intercourse, and we’re lying there one day and I want to initiate sex. But I was honestly not really in the mood, but I know that I want to want to do it. I just don’t want to do it at that time, and I was super nervous. So I was like, okay, I need to just give them a hand job or build a job or do something to initiate something and then get what I need to means to an end. And I know I teach about hand jobs and blow jobs all the time, and I’m Super comfortable talking and performing on carrots. But I got to say that there’s something so intimidating about just doing it from start to finish. If I’m just starting with it and then we’re going to end some other way or there’s going to be a different type of reciprocation. I’m okay with it, but the idea of just whipping it out and putting my hands on it, getting my asteroids and out and doing it from start to finish just felt like too much. So I’m lying there. I’m not in the mood, and I have to just kind of push myself to say, all right, I don’t really feel like doing exactly this right now, but I know it’s going to feel good in a few minutes, and I know I’m going to get mine. So without giving you all the info. So I do it. It’s really good. We have a good time. I get exactly what I wanted to. And it was a reminder of myself that I’ve got to push myself. Even when I’m not in the mood. You can have sex, even if you’re not ready to. How do I say this? You can have sex, even if you’re not in the mood to begin with. I’m not saying do something you don’t want to do. Ultimately, I wanted to do it. I just couldn’t bring myself to start. And this is a big reminder to me because we’re talking here about tips to stay together forever. So this was a big reminder that you cannot wait until you’re in the mood for sex. In many cases, because you might not ever be in the mood. You might be waiting until may. You might be waiting till 2018. Sometimes you just have to push yourself over that hump because happy couples tend to have sex, some sort of sex, some sort of intimacy. And if sex isn’t a part of your relationship, if you don’t want it to be and you guys have agreed that you don’t want it to be, maybe you are asexual maybe you have another arrangement that is okay. But most couples want to have some sort of sex, and you’ve got to find a way to be compatible with one another. So even if one of you isn’t in the mood and the other is, how are you going to take care of one another? So my point is, you got to do it. Sometimes, even if you’re not in the mood right away, you can’t wait for the mood to strike you because it might not strike. Not like you can’t just sit around waiting until spontaneously. You’re like, yeah, I really want to drag myself up, even though I’m lying here and I’m on my period, and I’d rather have a nap or eat some chilaquiles during some tequila, you got to push yourself. And if sex isn’t on your radar right now, even just touch, because just 20 seconds of physical contact hugging skin to skin can stir up those dopamine levels, and it will help you to stay together. So there you have it. Sex. Sex is number one. I’m not saying that it’s number one on the hierarchy, but it’s number one on my list right now. Number two, if you want to stay together forever, you need to fight. It is okay to disagree. It is okay to not resolve every conflict. It is okay to go to bed angry. It is okay. It is better to fight than to avoid conflict. So one interesting study discovered that people who wage small fights on a regular basis in their relationship tend to avoid the big, explosive, really toxic arguments in the long run. So little fights might be good for you. You don’t want to bottle it all up, and that’s not all. I found that 44% of married couples say that fighting helps with communication, so you don’t want to just say yeah, okay, it’s fine. Whatever. To avoid conflict, engage, you need to engage now. Fights that involve manipulation or withdrawal or defensiveness. Those can be toxic, but fights in which you really get to express your vulnerable emotions, they actually bring you closer together and make you more attractive to one another. When you admit that you’re nervous or scared or jealous or angry, your partner tends to be more drawn to your emotional state and taking care of you as opposed to feeling attacked.
So here’s my tip for fighting. Fair. And I love this one. It helps me. It helps a lot of my clients do it in a weird position. Yeah, just like sex change positions when you are fighting, lie on your backs. Go talk in the bathroom, do it in a restaurant. You’ll be nicer to one another. You’re going to be nicer if your mind is a bit distracted by the environment. You don’t want to go into autopilot where you’re just focused on winning the fight. And of course, remember not to fight when you’re feeling physiologically flooded. And what this means is if you’re all worked up and your heart is racing, you lose your ability to be empathetic, to be reasonable, to be rational, to be caring. So once your heart rate reaches about 100 beats a minute, you are not yourself. You suck. You’re a secondary, worst version of yourself. So wait until you’ve calmed down. And if one of you needs a break, if one of you says no, no, I need to go. Calm down. Let them do not demand that they resolve the conflict right then and there. So there you have it. It’s okay to fight now. Number three, number three, in terms of tips to stay together forever is really the flip side of fighting. But the two go hand in hand. Number three is simply be kind now you can be kind when you fight now. Researcher John Gottman, I don’t love all of his research, but I do think this one is quite interesting. He says that the magic number of positive to negative interactions should be a ratio of five to one. So happy couples have five positive interactions for every negative interaction. All right. I don’t know that this is a magic number, but I think it’s interesting that there needs to be not an even balance. You need more positive interactions than negatives. So how can you be more kind to your partner? Think about it. What’s something you can do to be kind today? Could it be that you use a term of endearment? You do a little favor for your partner. The temperature is dropping. Where I am here today in Toronto, something I could do for my partner is to just warm up his socks in the morning, throw them over the heat vent so that when he puts them on, they’re nice and warm. Something he could do for me. Maybe he’s listening clean my laptop keyboard like these little tiny favors that say, hey, I’m thinking about you, and I’m going to go out of my way for you. Another thing you can do is to steal their chores. So if there’s something that they normally do, just do it before they can get to it. And this really leads us into our fourth tip for staying together. And that is, say, thank you. Show gratitude. One study I came across found that gratitude and believing that your partner values you directly influences your level of commitment and positive behavior in your marriage. So this study at a Georgia University looked at 468 married people, and they asked them a whole bunch of questions about money, about communication style and how grateful they felt for their partner. And what they found was showing gratitude predicts happiness in marriage. Even if you fight, if you show some gratitude, it offsets the potentially negative effects of a fight. So say, thank you. Thank you to my husband, Brandon, for the little things you do. Think about it. Do you think your partner for the things they do every day, for picking up the kids, for going grocery shopping, for doing the dishes? If there is one thing that can change your relationship and honestly change the world, it’s practicing gratitude. And we in the Western world, we get so hung up on how hard our lives are, how difficult our friend is, how the barista screwed up my coffee order this morning, and it’s like, oh, my God, you have more than one pair of shoes in the morning. You get to decide, do I want to wear the black ones or the Brown ones? And some of you even have two pairs of black shoes. And this is more than most of the world has. And ultimately you need to be grateful. So start saying thank you. I think it’s more important than I love you in your relationship. So think about it. Do you really think when I was growing up? Actually, I remember that even though my mum cooked every meal every day, my dad always said thank you with this real sense of genuine appreciation. And now that he lives with me, which again, is a whole other story. He always thinks me when I Cook every single time, and it makes a difference. Moving on. Number five, focus on excitement and intimacy. So all of these things I’ve talked about before, I know this sounds abstract. I’m going to get to it. I promise, and make it practical. All these things I’ve been talking about being kind, being grateful, communicating. These are really about intimacy. All right? But intimacy is not enough. You can’t. I got to say this. I’m so tired of programs that are just about telling each other you love one another and looking in their eyes and holding their hands. Great. Okay. That might make you feel close and intimate, which is important. But it doesn’t make you want to tear their clothes off. It doesn’t make you excited to see them. You don’t look at them like a piece of meat. And we need to look at our partners like a piece of meat, like an animal in the jungle, an animal in heat. So couples that stay together, focus on excitement and challenge. You need challenge. You need novelty, and you need the unknown.
Oh, my God. You will get bored with each other. Even if you like each other, you need to want each other. And this means that there needs to be mystery. You can’t tell one another everything. All right? I don’t need to hear about every little F in detail of your day at work. It’s not exciting to me. You know what else? And I’ve spoken about this before. I have a whole episode on it. You can’t spend all your time together. You need time apart. You need the mystery. You need the novelty. And oh, my God. Goddamn it. You need to be less predictable. All right? Change something about yourself. Your partner is on autopilot looking at you. So change something. Change something about the way you look or the way you act today. Maybe it’s a new lipstick, new underwear, a new hairstyle, new Cologne, a new accent, a new tone of voice, a new schedule. Take a new route to work. Be different. Do something. Trust me. And I am guilty of this. You’re getting boring. And once your partner is bored, that’s when the spark dies down. And again, there’s two different types of love. There’s the companionate love, which is about intimacy. And then there’s the passionate love, which is about challenge. So you need to challenge one another. Do things that are scary. I hate when I hear a couple say, like, oh, we’re not into that. Well, how do you know? Even if you’re not into it, you got to try things you got to do, stuff you’re not into. Otherwise you’re going to bore one another to death. All right. The last two findings that I came across are more practical, and I find them very interesting. Couples who stay together and are happy together know one another. Now, what does this mean? This means that they know one another, both superficially and intimately. This is really interesting to me. So, yes, communication is at the top of the list for happy couples. But number two and three are knowing your partner intimately and having good life skills. So knowing them just means knowing what they look like on their pizza, knowing how they take their coffee. But also, so that’s the superficial stuff. And that’s very important. You want to remember the names of their favorite cousins and some story they told you about when they were six. And they I don’t know how to scare. That made them forever afraid of clowns. You need to remember those stories. Those are the superficial things. And then you also have to know their big dreams and their big fears. And if we don’t talk about those things with our partners because we’re too busy talking about who’s going to pick up the kids and what time we’re going to go to our in laws, then you can’t have an intimate relationship. So for me, on a superficial level, I know that my husband’s obsessed with coffee. I know how he likes it. I know he only likes a certain roasted beans. I know that he likes to put a 25% mix of other beans in there. It’s silly, it’s little, but I need to understand that I also know more intimately. I know that his biggest fear is death, and it’s a really scary conversation to have, and I need to kind of tap in and understand how he’s motivated by this fear every day. I know that he’s still mad at a girl in kindergarten because she called him Brandon underwear in front of a police officer who was visiting. But I listen and I hear these stories. I know her name was Shelby Ford, which is equally funny. I know on a bigger level, he struggles with people pleasing. And the truth is, I want to learn more. If I ever stop learning about him, I will be bored. So it’s not just that I know him. It’s that I’m constantly learning, and I think that’s a part of what keeps us together. And then we move on to the most practical of all of these strategies for staying together forever. And that is. And this comes from the research, folks, that is that you need good life skills. All right, this sounds traditional. If you go back to early days, it was really about finding a partner who was a good provider. And this isn’t in today’s world about money necessarily. Well, it’s partly about money because it’s about the ability to manage your money. But research shows that number three on the list for why couples stay together and things that matter in a relationship is the ability to have good life skills so that could be taking care of your house, taking care of your health. Splitting chores, because honestly, living with someone else can be hugely challenging.
Maybe they don’t rinse out the Jclass, maybe they drive themselves into debt, maybe they are a slob, and you’re a neat freak. Finding a way to be compatible in terms of life skills is so important. So my practical and easy and to the point, advice, because I’m running out of time here is that you need to split your chores and your unpaid responsibilities with an app. All right, so get an app like Avocado or one of these other apps for couples and families. Get the kids involved if you have kids and split your chores up, because when one partner feels and it’s just about feeling, it’s about perception. It’s not about reality. It’s about perception. When one partner perceives the workload in the home to be uneven, it leads to resentment and marital strife. So if you split up those chores, it doesn’t need to be 50 51 of you might have more time in the home. That’s fine. But as long as you agree to these things on paper or on an app, it is going to help with your life skills. And if you know me, you know that I believe everything should be in writing. Even in a marriage. I don’t care if it’s unromantic. I am here to strip the romance from your marriage. Sorry, folks. Write it down. What your expectations are. We can do a whole other episode on that, but I really am at a time now, so I’m going to recap the seven ways to stay together forever. According to science, you got to have sex, you’ve got to fight. You need to be kind to one another. You need to show gratitude. You need to focus on excitement, challenge new novelty, and then finally, you need to know one another both intimately and superficially. And you need to have good life skills and split your chores. Really? You need to be a good roommate. So I know for me, for instance, the most important thing on this list is excitement. I need to be excited. I get bored easily. I am distracted by a squirrel. I need novelty in my life, and my husband needs to understand this. I know that for my husband, the most important thing on this list kind of like looking at love languages is that he needs thank yous. He needs my thanks. He needs to feel appreciated. So I need to learn to speak his relationship language and give him lots of thanks. And he needs to learn mine and keep me challenged and keep me guessing because I am very easily distracted. Now you need to figure out which thing on this list is most important to you. Figure it out. Let your partner know and figure out what is your partner’s most important element. Do they want to improve your sex life? Do they need you to improve in the realm of being a good roommate and splitting chores and having better life skills that line up with theirs? You got to figure out one thing from one category today and write it down. Make a commitment to do it right now. Get a piece of paper, get a pen, get out your phone and write it down. All right. You can make your relationship last, but you have to work at it. So let’s do this. I want to see more happy couples living happily ever after because I see some happy ones. I can think of some in my life. I can name them for you, but I want 1000 more on this list. So let’s make it happen. Take these seven elements. Choose one to work on at a time and do it today. Do not wait until tomorrow. Your relationship is not going to get better by complaining and blaming others or talking about why your situation is harder. I’m so tired of that. Cut that out. It is your job to make your relationship thrive. And now you’ve got seven tips based in science to make it last happily for a long, long time. That’s all the time we have for today. So I have to say goodbye. Reminder. This episode is brought to you by Desire Cruises I am heading to Venice, dubovenik, split and many more places next September on the Venice Foreplay with Desire Cruises I’d love to see you on board. And of course, you can find. Find more info about that on my website. Thank you so much, folks. And I look forward to hearing from you. Have a good one.