The Ex-Files: Can You Be Friends With Your Ex?

Ladies, it’s time to open the X-files. Shudder!

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Passionate feelings such as love and hate are inextricably linked; for this reason, I do not believe men and women can truly be friends post-breakup. At least, not until many, many years have passed.

In addition, if you’ve loved someone with all your heart, and they’ve exited from your life – note the emphasis on ex – why would you invite them back in? Especially if you’re trying to move on and date someone new?!

And sure, there are exceptions to the rule: if you’ve got children together, then that’s clearly a major game changer and, whether you like it or not, you’re bound to each other for life and must stay civil for the sake of your children.

Case in point: actor Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin who stunned the world when they “consciously uncoupled” in March 2014. The pair, who has two kids together, split after an 11-year marriage. And, in an emotional and somewhat bizarre statement, they asked for privacy at the time to “consciously uncouple and co-parent”, while Gwynnie’s Goop website talked of holistic “wholeness in separation”.

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While the tabloids labelled the couple’s statement as “new-age tosh”, it’s surely an admirable sentiment to be as loving as you can towards the mother or father of your children. But, outside of celebrity La La land, with all its privileges, this can be significantly tougher in real life.

And if you’ve ever had the misfortune of dating someone who’s not over their ex – I don’t envy Jennifer Lawrence one bit, as she’s allegedly dating Martin – it can feel like there’s three of you in a relationship and things can get way too crowded.

We all have baggage, but is it ever OK to be friends with an ex? And how does this affect your current relationship?

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SHESAID went in search of answers, consulting a top clinical psychologist who specialises in relationships for insight into this complex issue.

Q: Is it ever OK to be friends with an ex?
Whether or not you are friends with an ex will depend very much on the circumstances that lead to your break-up. If it was a mutual decision to part and the separation was amicable, then you might choose to remain on good terms and take an interest in the well-being of each other as time goes by. However, if the relationship was toxic and the separation hostile, being friends with your ex is the last thing you’ll want.

Q: How do you cope when your partner is still close to their ex?
It can be very difficult for a partner whose loved one remains on good terms with an ex. We all suffer, to varying degrees, from insecurity, and the more insecure you feel, the more difficult it will be to accept that your partner wants to keep in touch with and even spend time with an ex. It begs the question – why? Of course, if there are children involved there is a reason to stay in contact with an ex – for the well-being of the children. In this situation, a certain amount of contact is inevitable and the best approach is to accept the situation gracefully and make interactions with your partner’s ex as stress-free as possible. But if there is no good reason for your partner to stay in touch with his/her ex, and if it really bothers you, your partner should respect your feelings and cut contact.

Q: What if your partner lies about catching up with an ex?
If your partner lies about catching up with an ex you’ve got a problem. You’ll be asking yourself why he/she felt the need to lie. Approach the situation in as mature, calm and non-confrontational manner as you can; after all, shouting and abusing him/her won’t help. But if your partner is being dishonest about catching up with an ex, and doesn’t have a very good reason for the deceit, it’s probably time to make some hard decisions about ending the relationship.

The X-Files: Can You Be Friends With Your Ex?

Q: Does having an ex always threaten a current relationship?
Not necessarily, it’s more about how the other partner feels and whether the person having contact with the ex is prepared to take their partner’s feelings into consideration. If he/she ignores your wishes and feelings and maintains the contact when it makes you feel very uncomfortable or miserable, then the problem is more about the lack of consideration being shown for your feelings and wishes. That might be enough to threaten the relationship.

Q: Should a man or woman urge their current partner to also be friends with an ex to lessen the threat?
They could try if staying in contact with the ex means so much to them. This would be helpful it there are visits from children involved. Trying to be friends with your partner’s ex would probably work better if the ex has a partner – that would help to alleviate feelings of jealousy and insecurity and fears that your partner is still attracted to his/her ex. Bring these feelings into the open and discuss them with your loved one – again, if your relationship is good, he/she should be considerate of your feelings and cut or reduce contact with their ex.

What do you think? Can you be friends with your ex?

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January 28, 2015

Should You Put Out For The Sake Of Your Marriage?

Ladies, it’s time to tackle the controversial topic of the “mercy fuck”. And by this I mean when you take pity on a lustful, randy partner and offer them sex, even if you don’t 100 per cent feel like it.

Just to be crystal clear, I am not talking about rape or unwanted sexual advances; I’m talking about consensual sex, where you may find yourself getting turned on unwittingly by the generous and loving act of pleasuring your amorous significant other.

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Now, some prominent Australian sex therapists, such as the always-controversial and alienating Bettina Arndt, have long preached the advantages of regular “servicing” of a man in a relationship. Indeed, last year she hit the headlines with what she claimed was the secret to a truly happy heterosexual marriage: “The truly lucky man is blessed with a sexually generous woman, one who believes in taking one for the team.”

Now that’s a very unfortunate choice of words if you ask me – she made the idea sound distinctly unpalatable and degrading. But does it have to be? Couldn’t “chore sex” turn into swinging-from-the-chandeliers hot sex?

And in a marriage, I think both women and men may find themselves not wanting sex for a variety of reasons – fatigue, stress, kids-sucking-the-life-out-of-you and more.

So, should you really put out for the health of your relationship, and/or for your own personal well-being too? The health benefits of sex are both well-documented and varied: good sex can boost your immune system and your libido – kinda like fine wine or chocolate, the more you have, the more you crave – and it even lowers your blood pressure and heart attack risk.

But is it too compromising to offer sex if you’re just not 100 per cent feeling it? SHESAID went in search of answers from the good doctor herself, leading Australian sexologist Dr Nikki Goldstein (pictured). Below, she shares her wisdom and insight on this tricky and divisive topic:

sex, mercy fuck, relationships

Should women be expected to put out for a mercy fuck?

I really think this is a case-by-case basis, but women need to start seeing this as something nice they are doing for their partner. Just like sometimes we want our partners to take the trash out, sometimes we might or should just have sex with our partners when we don’t 100 per cent feel like it.

Say, in the case of a tired, new mum, is a mercy shag an important way of reconnecting with your partner?

Sex can be a way to show your partner that you love them and reconnect. You might be tired if you have small kids, but men – especially Australian men – are taught to see the physical as a way of showing love. In a country that doesn’t encourage men to be open with their emotions, this is one way they show and can feel love. If you are exhausted, you might not want to go the full way, but some affectionate touching and kissing might be all that is needed.

And there are other things that a couple can do to increase intimacy and pleasure without intercourse – anything where skin-to-skin contact is involved. Even just being able to stimulate each other’s genitals or even an all-over massage with a sexy twist.

Can women (or men) get in the mood for sex during the actual act?

I do truly believe that even if you are not totally wanting sex, once you start to get into the act, your feelings might change and sexual desire might kick in. Start with some foreplay without the promise of intercourse and see how things progress. It might just be a night or touching and kissing or it might turn into a night of wild, crazy unexpected passion.

Is a mercy fuck an act of generosity and kindness in a marriage?

It’s important that your sexual relationship is not always a mercy fuck, but I do think from time-to-time it’s something you should do. Keep in mind however, that compromises are key. You might not feel like intercourse, but maybe there are others ways to be intimate and physical with your partner.

How important is sex in keeping the spark alive in a relationship?

Sex has so many benefits, both physically and mentally, and is important to connect a couple, but it’s important a couple thing outside the square when it comes to their sex life. It’s not always about penetration, but it’s the “sexy time” that’s important in a relationship: time for you and your partner to desire each other, make each other feel loved and wanted and pleasure each other.

What do you think? Is a mercy fuck ever OK?

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October 22, 2014

Why The Bachelor Is Bad For Your Relationship

Confession time: I love The Bachelor – aired on Network Ten twice weekly. I adore its delicious schadenfreude; what woman (or man, although my husband hates it so much, he has to leave the room) hasn’t yelped, whooped and cringed at the TV every time The Bachelor’s Blake Garvey (pictured) – he of the gorgeous, chocolaty voice – gives that blank, shutters-down I’m-about-to-send-you-home look to one of his many poor, smitten lasses in the mansion!?

I’m addicted and I can’t wait to see whom Blake chooses – #teamsam all the way!

But behind this reality TV show’s ridiculous, over-the-top romance and glamour lies an ugly, well, reality which can ruin your relationship if you’ve not got your head screwed on right: I’m not even kidding.

For The Bachelor strongly perpetuates the I’m-a-princess/life-is-a-fairytale myths that are so hazardous to women’s emotional and mental well-being and relationships. Sure, what woman wouldn’t want to be whisked away for a romantic, champagne picnic date atop the Blue Mountains, or even taken in a limo to eat a #dirtystreetpie for that matter, but when the cameras stop rolling, what will all the rejected women be left with?

Are they all now going to expect to be carried off into the sunset on luxury dream dates every time with their future partners? “Where’s my helicopter/vintage car/limo!? Dammit, I just WANTED BLAKE!”

And every instance one of the poor, deluded lasses in the house utters the immortal words “I’m so touched Blake arranged this special date for me and wanted me to experience this…” my heart dies a thousand deaths.

Blake didn’t “arrange” anything, you silly lass!? Dude just shows up and I’m fairly certain does exactly what those dastardly producers tell him to do. Witness the rise and fall of model and fashion designer Laurina Fleure (pictured below), for example, she of the aforementioned #dirtystreetpie and #hetouchedhiseye Twitter infamy, who was booted off the show last Wednesday night.

The Bachelor, relationship tips, dating tips, love, romance, reality TV

Her downfall came after she dared to be quite rightly offended when Blake gave her the ol’ blank, shutters-down I’m-about-to-send-you-home look, complete with a dirty eye scratch for good measure.

I cheered on Laurina as she left the mansion, head held high. And while she was a very divisive character – her “Melbourne is amazing” real estate rant at the end was priceless and cringe-worthy, and her extreme lack of empathy for the other women in the house was appalling at times – I still admired her for sticking to her guns.

What woman wouldn’t be a tad confused, even a little offended, if told to dress up to the nines then taken to a pie takeaway shop? I believe The Bachelor producers (and poor, old Blake for that matter) realised very early on that dramatic, out-there Laurina made for good TV, despite hers and Blake’s lack of compatibility, and so they strung her along right until the end – the final six, for that matter.

Even Laurina herself has recently said she and Blake were “flogging a dead horse” when it came to their “relationship” and I use the term loosely. The producers continually hung her out to dry in unwinnable situations and therein lies the danger of these heavily contrived TV dating shows. They’re entertainment, not reality. The fairytale is not real. And, as I’ll teach my daughters, if you go through life expecting to be treated like a princess, ala The Bachelor contestants, like some passive Cinderella-like character, waiting to be swept off your feet and not in charge of your own destiny, you are only setting yourself up for a fall. True love exists, but you need to be in the driver’s seat, not a passive participant expecting Prince Charming to find you.

And it’s barbaric and demeaning to say the least to see multiple women competing for the affections of one man. At times, while watching The Bachelor, I wish I could race to the women’s prison, sorry luxury mansion, and set them free!

“There’s a whole world of men out there, girlfriend, go get happy with a man of your own!” I’d yell at them, before feeding them cupcakes and champagne.

“Or, better still, get happy within yourself first, sister, then look for your partner.”

For life ain’t no fairytale. The romance and love part is easy – it’s the keeping the happily-ever-after bit alive in a marriage that takes deep love, trust, commitment, friendship and endless patience and forgiveness.

The Bachelor airs every Wednesday and Thursday nights at 7.30pm, with the finale on Thursday, October 2 at 7.30pm.

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September 24, 2014

eHarmony Finds Freudian Theory Persists In Dating

Our parents have a substantial influence on the romantic partners we eventually choose, said Freud, and according to the latest findings from eHarmony, Australians are not exempt. The third phase of the online dating site’s Relationship Study explores family impact on our romantic relationships – particularly parental and sibling influence, and the effect of our upbringing on our choice of partner.     

The research reveals that the overwhelming majority (91 per cent) of Aussies want their partner to share qualities their parents have; three quarters would be romantically interested in someone with comparable values to their parents; and over half would be attracted to someone with similar personality traits to their mother or father.

The top qualities we look for in a partner to have in common with our parents are respect (65 per cent), honesty and kindness (63 per cent), and compassion (53 per cent)

eHarmony’s dating and relationship expert Melanie Schilling says parental influence plays a crucial role in our relationships.

“People tend to be naturally attracted to qualities they find familiar and comfortable, so it makes sense that we look for partners who exhibit similar characteristics to those who have played such pivotal roles in our lives,” she said.

But values aren’t the only influence that our families have over our relationships. The lifestyle we experienced in our upbringing also plays an important part when it comes to finding a mate.

The study shows 83 per cent of Aussie singles look for a partner who has had a similar or better lifestyle than they had growing up, while over three-quarters would like their partner to be as financially successful (or more) as their parents.

Interestingly, despite seeking out a partner with similar values and personality traits to their parents’, the study shows that when it comes to attraction, mum and dad have very little influence. 62 per cent of respondents say they would be attracted to someone who is nothing like their parents.

Likewise, while the relationship we have with our siblings is one of the most powerful and unique, 45 per cent wouldn’t date someone with a personality similar to a brother or sister, and 60 per cent wouldn’t date someone who looks like one of their siblings.

“While we cannot underestimate the power of ‘the familiar’ when it comes to our relationships, dating today has come a long way since the days of Freud.

“eHarmony has found that happy, long-lasting relationships are based on compatibility, so it’s great to see that Australians are setting themselves up for success by gravitating towards partners with qualities that are fundamentally important to them, whether inherited from their parents or not,” Melanie said.

September 22, 2014

4 Ways to Propose That Will Make A Great Story

Asking your significant other to marry you is not only a giant leap in your relationship but it is also a moment you will want to cherish forever. Planning an amazing proposal and getting down on one knee, should be something truly unique; something that not only will you reminisce as time goes on, but something that your friends and family can enjoy retelling as well. There is no right or wrong way to propose to your significant other. The following are a few scenarios to consider to tip the odds in favour of an emphatic, YES!

1. The romantic

There’s something to be said for tried and true. Organise a special night out with your loved one at your favourite or an exlusive restaurant to pop the question! Organise with the wait staff in advance so they will find a gorgeous diamond ring at the bottom of a glass of champagne. Set it up with the staff at your favourite restaurant beforehand, so they know the perfect moment to bring out the aforementioned champagne glass, or pop the ring in their drink while they are in the bathroom.  

Even better, show them what a fantastic husband/wife you’d make by cooking a scrumptious dinner at home. Make it impossible to turn you down with an exquisitely set table (think flowers and candles), and you’re free to celebrate in the comfort of your own home when they say yes!

2. The thrillseeker

Throw them out of a plane! Strapped to a professional, of course. Many tandem skydiving companies, in Perth and throughout the country, will tailor a package specifically for the adventurous couple ready to take the leap (pun intended!). With a ready made ‘will you marry me?’ sign laid out on a gorgeous sandy beach/grassy landing area, your loved one will never ever forget the feeling of floating back down to earth and spotting you waiting next to this sign on bended knee…. as an added bonus, the initial fear before you jump out is an incredible bonding experience for soon-to-be newlyweds as well.

3. The outdoorsy

Let your inner child run away with this one and plan a treasure hunt. It could be as simple as a few easy clues/pictures which lead them back to the place you met, or you could make it an elaborate day of riddles and puzzles they need to solve in order to find your secret hiding spot. At which point they could find a treasure chest of momentos from your time together, or an envelope with the words ‘will you marry me?’ inside. You would of course go along for the hunt (try to resist the urge to help with the clues!) and be there ready with the ring to get down on one knee at the end…or not, if that’s your style!

4. The PDA (public display of affection)

Rent a billboard! With ‘Marry me…?’ and a picture of yourself, making sure it is in a spot they will see when you are together (so you can give them the ring and see their response). Or put out a radio broadcast, declaring your undying love and asking for their hand in marriage. These options are not for the feint of heart (or cash strapped), as both will cost money and may embarrass both parties if the proposal should not go as planned…but it you’re ready to pop the question, they must be worth the risk, right?!

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By Jayde Ferguson, who writes for Southern Skydivers, Perth’s best skydiving proposal experiences with magnificent views of the WA coast.  


July 7, 2014

Unhappy In Bed? You’re Not Alone

Wish your sex life was sexier? You’re not the only one. A new study looking at sexual satisfaction has found that over half of Australians are unhappy in bed.

The Asia-Pacific Sexual Behaviours and Satisfaction Survey questioned 3,500 men and women aged 18-45 and revealed that more than 50 per cent of couples are dissatisfied with their sex lives.

Not surprisingly, it’s the frequency of sex which leaves many of us unhappy. 68% of Aussies expressed their desire for more sex. But it’s also the quality of our sex lives that matter, not just quantity, with two in three respondents believing that mutual sexual satisfaction plays a very significant or extremely important role in a successful relationship.

More than 80% of those surveyed reported that premature ejaculation had played a negative impact on their relationship, while a surprising 15% reporting that it even led to a relationship breakdown or divorce. Premature ejaculation affects 32% of men in Australia and New Zealand is.

The majority of male respondents believe that being able to control when to ejaculate is an important factor in mutual sexual satisfaction.

As for women, emotional attributes such as feeling loved and cared for and being in a secure or harmonious relationship drive higher levels of sexual satisfaction.

Fess up – are you happy with your sex life?



August 15, 2013