This is wonderful first-person account by a guy who
attended the Hot Monogamy program with his wife. Susan
of Baltimore taught the program. Se took the Hot Monogamy
training from Pat Love who developed the program. Visit
Directory of Programs for Hot
Monomgany training dates with Pat Love or
for a schedule of Susan Townsend's sessions.
KEEPING THE ROMANCE ALIVE
But it's going to be a beautiful weekend! A stunning
November weekend, the grass is still green, and the
leaves are scorchingly bright in red, rust and
yellow- I know this weekend will be their last- and
I've been cooped up in an office all week, and all I
want in this world is to be outside.
Instead, on this spectacular Saturday morning, as our
son noisily wrestles with a friend (even after I've
hollered too loudly at them to stop), and the phone
rings nonstop, and our daughter walks in and out of
the bedroom, I am packing I don't know what, to wear
to this, this- workshop at someone's private house in
the suburbs. I had meant to arise early for a run. But
I was too tired and maybe a little afraid of
discovering this hangover when I did get up. Why did I
drink that damn champagne at the dinner last night,
the dinner she had insisted we attend? And she- after
I'd gone to all the effort of going to the party and
drinking the champagne and the wine and the port- she
shrugged me off last night, pushed me away! Hot
Monogamy my ass! Married over 20 years and here we
are, husband and wife, going to a workshop on sex.
What do I tell my young daughter? Where will I tell my
mother we spent the weekend? A workshop on Hot
Monogamy? At 10 o'clock on a Saturday morning? How did
l get into this?
I SULK THE ENTIRE DRIVE OVER. WHY COULDN'T WE have
just had a session of Hot Monogamy last night? For
free! Think of all the money this workshop costs! This
We can't find the house. Good
We are late. Great. Must be God's will. Let's just
turn back now.
Up and down, around and around we drive in this
extremely well-manicured suburb until finally my Hot
Monogamy partner who turned me down last night and
forced me to drink all that champagne assertively
states, "Ask them."
I pull over, relieved that they are on her side of the
car, and she starts to ask directions from a
fit-looking couple going for a jog, the dad pushing a
baby jogger- oh so cute. The young mother with slim
thighs and long legs glances up at her husband and
laughs. "You're the second one that's asked,ö"she
sings out to my wife. "That's my mother. She
lives..." I shrink down in my seat. How did I get into
Down the curving suburban lane, we stop at yet another
well-landscaped front yard. There are four cars out
front, two of them very nice and very new. Ugh. My
wife doesn't even hesitate. She is out of the car and
spiritedly walking up the sidewalk and I am lagging
behind her, and a smiling, dark-haired woman opens a
door. Only three other couples. Oh Lord! And look- one
couple in their 30s, one in their.., well, the man
could be 65, the woman maybe 50, and the third pair in
their 50s. We two forty somethings are introduced all
around and join the other couples on the puffy, pastel
chairs and sofa as Susan Townsend, therapist, begins:
"Hot monogamy is about intention. There are four
My God, why hast thou forsaken me!
EXACTLY 14 HOURS LATER, AFTER PULLING a doubleheader- once
before dinner and once after dinner, the first
time in ages!- I will hop naked out of our hotel bed,
go to the writing table, and scrawl on Sheraton Hotel
stationery, "If you've been married 50 years, 25
years, 10 years, one year- and are about to have your
anniversary- sign up for Hot Monogamy. If you want to
really understand your wife, and you want your wife to
really understand you- sign up for Hot Monogamy. It is
not hokey. It is not salacious. It is not group work!
It is just between the two of you. It is emotional and
wonder-filled and fun. It is about communicating. It
is Honeymoon Redux.. Rabbit-like Ways Revisited. But
with deeper meaning and penetration, longer-lasting
effects and orgasms, and incredible sky-shattering
insights into each other's souls and bodies. I
wouldn't trade what I learned today about myself, my
wife, and our relationship, and then the experience of
our doubleheader, for any other experience I can
By the time the workshops have ended on Sunday
afternoon, I will be outside enjoying the fall
weather, my libido way down, the energy drained from
my body and soul (and scrotum, too, thanks to the
"scrotal tug," more on that later). And I will be
thinking about how much I would love to send just
about every good male friend and his wife to a session
of Hot Monogamy... Dear Rob, Dear Tom, Dear Hank, Dear
Pearce, Dear Matt, Dear Willie... and how such a
session would be a perfect, long-lasting, thoughtful
present for every newlywed. Let them go on their own
for a year, and then, the present on the first
anniversary an all-expense-paid weekend of Hot
I will have learned that my child-bride and I have
been going through our married love life with so many
misconceptions, misunderstandings, muddled theories-
attitudes that at one time I may have decried as
feminist, attitudes that at one time she may have
denounced as male chauvinist. And we will have some
tools to begin clearing hurdles- new ways of
presenting ideas about any subject to each other, new
ways of listening to each other, new ways of
communicating difficult and even embarrassing points,
new ways to keep moving down this path of romance and
love and, well, ecstasy.
By the end of our weekend, I will be, as Ophelia says
about Hamlet, "blasted with ecstasy." Things I had
never dreamed possible, incredible fantasies such
as... On second thought, not here. Yet, here it is. My
dream come true: my wife! She- with all this lush,
hot, sensuality; she- my dedicated, hard-working wife,
and mother of three, actually a woman of deep desires
just waiting to be released, to be ignited. She-
capable of putting me in another dimension, into the
arms and legs and body of ecstasy. My Juliet!
But, first, those four ground rules.
SUSAN TOWNSEND, FORTYISH, SLIM, AND stylishly dressed,
stands by a counter near the front door of her house,
One. Safety and trust. I won't be blamed or shamed
for anything I say. There'll be no, 'are you telling
me you've felt like this all this time and never said
Two. Consensus. What connecting means to you. Hot
Monogamy is not about how many orgasms you can have.
Some people don't need sex. Some people just need
'seasonal sex-- four times a year...' Quick, on to the
next rule, please.
Three. Dual responsibility. If I want an orgasm or
intimacy or a good dinner or just to hold you- I must
let you know. Partners do not make assumptions. I'm
going to take the responsibility to check in with you.
Four. Peace. You need a way to make peace with each
other- before sex. Often people break up just before
they are about to break through.
OK, that was easy, but what is this? An overhead
projector? Oh no! Words and numbers appear on the wall
under the header, "Three Stages of Love." Long words.
Impossible words. "Adrenaline, dopamine,
norepinephrine, endorphin response, phenylethylamine,
TACHYPHYLAXIS." Help! The champagne in my brain is
causing me pain.
I pull myself into focus, try to pay close attention.
The writing on the wall, combined with Susan's clear,
no-nonsense explanations, becomes interesting, even
fascinating. The science of love.
Phase I. Physical attraction. The dance of the
pheromones. The scent given off. Much depends on how
symmetrical the face is. Many movie stars have
perfectly symmetrical faces. In tests, mice always
choose mates whose DNA is least like theirs. I quess I
did that. They tell by the scent, the scent of the
urine. I did not do that.
Human test: 50 male college students wear the same
T-shirts for a week straight. Pshew! They return the
T-shirts to the university. In sealed plastic bags, I
hope. Females who are going through ovulation are
asked to pick out the T-shirts they prefer. Each picks
a T-shirt from a man whose DNA is least like hers.
When it comes to psychological attraction, however, we
are attracted to people whose families are like ours,
who are what we expect, who fulfill our psychological
needs at the time.
Phase II. Infatuation. America is in love with
infatuation. "What's the word actually mean?" asks
Susan. 'To extrapolate from insufficient information,"
she answers. Infatuation lasts from three months to
The chemistry of infatuation: first, the adrenaline
rush- dopamine. Then the norepinephrine, and then
phenylethylamine- or PEA- which causes a state of
ecstasy, lowers one's defenses, creates a positive
outlook, denies all negatives. One is energized, works
harder, maybe even carries a piece of the partner's
clothing for the scent, the jolt. PEA raises the
libido. People with already high sex drives are in
heaven. People with normally low sex drives can
finally experience the intensity of a high one.
Our culture believes that PEA-induced infatuation is
love. This is the "love" celebrated over and over
again in the movies. Yet, in real life, the ecstasy
can't last forever. Why not?! As tachyphylaxis
(dictionary definition: 'rapid desensitization to a
toxic substance produced by inoculation with a series
of small doses') sets in, the infatuated feeling wears
off and we flounder around looking for the reason,
looking for something or someone to blame. Some people
will drop their relationship altogether once this
phase ends; they will go from one infatuation to the
next and the next.
Phase III. Attachment. Successful couples
to feeling of security, to the endorphin response to
sex that makes that partners feel calm, safe,
confident, comfortable. Sharing creates intimacy,
which creates passion. If couples engage in connecting
behaviors- touching, holding, gazing into eyes,
listening, responding, validating, comforting,
supporting, collaborating- they will feel the love,
even the passion, they felt during the infatuation
As Susan ends her little lecture, we each find our own
comfortable spot in the house, or outside, to fill out
a sexual-style survey. There are 63 questions, and for
each, I circle the number that best indicates how
often or how well I believe the statement applies to
me. Zero means never, 3 means sometimes or somewhat, 6
means always. The questions are randomly arranged. A
*I help create a romantic setting for our lovemaking.
* I introduce new lovemaking techniques into our
* I share my thoughts with my partner throughout the
*I pay attention to my partner's sexual needs and
desires during lovemaking.
*I am physically affectionate throughout the day.
*I like to have sex more than twice a week.
*I am a creative or adventurous lover.
*Sex is a priority to me, personally.
*I have a positive body image.
*I am confident in my ability to bring my partner to
*When I listen to my partner I make a conscious
effort to understand his or her point of view.
Sitting out on the deck, warmed by the sun's rays, I
finish the survey, turn the page in my loose-leaf
notebook, then total up the scores in nine categories:
Physical Desire, Technique, Variety, Passion, Talking
about Sex, Body Image, Sensuality, Romance and Verbal
Intimacy. Back and forth I flip the notebook pages,
recording my scores, totally immersed in the task. I
add up the numbers and experience a mini-epiphany each
time I reach a total. For instance, I've always
considered myself quite the romantic type, but I score
a measly 22 out of a possible 42 on Romance. My
highest score, a 41, is Body Image. Hey, I love to
run, bike, swim, ski, ride... And my second highest is
a 40 for "surprise" Physical Desire.
Trying to figure out what it all means, I turn another
page to begin plotting my scores- which, when I
finish, look like a kid's drawing of the Swiss Alps.
Starting way up in the mountain peaks with Desire, my
line zig-zags across the top half of the chart,
descends into the piedmont point with Technique, and
down into the valley with Variety, back up to the
mountain ranges with Passion, down into the valley
with Talking, back to the high peak with Body Image,
down into the piedmont with Sensuality, and to the
bottom of the valley's riverbed with Romance, before
finally rising back out of the riverbed but not quite
to the piedmont with Intimacy.
We return to the living room and learn how to mirror
each other in conversation. The youngest couple
volunteers to demonstrate. The two sit facing each
other, holding hands, knees touching, looking into
each other's eyes. They are given the starting line,
"My experience taking the survey was..." The husband
goes first, saying that he's excited about the
opportunity to improve their sex life. His wife
repeats back what she's heard, in her own words, and
adds, "Did I get it on the mark?" The man can say yes,
or he can clarify.
Later, my wife and I head outside, lie on the grass
and superimpose my graphed chart onto hers. Suddenly,
clearly, we see two parallel patterns, mine in the
upper half, hers in the lower, both coming together,
overlapping, on the far right with intimacy. We mirror
back and forth a half-dozen formatted questions, such
as, "When I look at our joint profile I ..." or "The
area that concerns me most is..." The mirroring
technique works incredibly well for us. Normally, when
I get upset or emotionally charged about something, I
spout off all kinds of bilious nonsense, and my
listening skills steadily deteriorate until I see my
wife's mouth move and hear sounds but am no longer
deciphering, much less comprehending, them.
When I am attempting to mirror back to her something
she's said that has touched a nerve, which causes me
anxiety, I mess it up on the first try, putting a far
more negative spin on it than she intends. She points
this out. I become discombobulated. She has to repeat
her statement, slowly and clearly and patiently. This
second time I hear her words and not my own thoughts
or interpretations. On this second try, as I mirror
her words and their meaning, they penetrate my
stubborn brain at this exact moment, in this specific
place. This mirroring method forces me to really
listen. And when I am speaking to her, it gives me a
wonderful opportunity to politely sharpen the
articulation of my own thoughts and ensure that I am
When we all reassemble in the living room, we are
quiet and subdued- until we discover that all the men
have rated themselves in the top part of the graph,
and the women in the lower part.
Lunch time. We head to Cafe Isis, on Padonia Road, and
get a booth. Instead of sitting facing me, my wife
sits beside me in the booth. We work for a few minutes
on an exercise in our notebooks. My wife shows me what
she has written: "It would give me a great deal of
pleasure if we could improve our intention and our
desire to make passionate and intimate lovemaking our
I can't believe it. I am laughing, in an ecstatic
state, much like I was during our first year together.
A honeymoon state. We sit side by side and she rubs my
leg and we talk about the new house we are buying,
about how the bedroom and bathroom will be more
private there. She holds my hand, massages it, and
talks about how the increased privacy should be better
for our lovemaking, and I start to get an erection
right there in the restaurant, eating spicy Egyptian
food and thinking about making love with my wife.
She's laughing as she writes down the answer to
another question, "I love the way you always get an
erection." What a lunch! We laugh and laugh, giddy
with joy. I can't wait to get to our hotel.
BUT THERE'S STILL AN AFTERNOON SESSION to get through
at chez Townsend. The first topic is desire. "How
frequently do you think about sex and want to have
sex?" Susan asks. This is largely biological, related
to the levels of testosterone one has, and of course
men have much more testosterone.
All sorts of studies have been conducted on the
effects of testosterone, Susan explains. One doctor
conducted a study with women in their 50s, giving
one-third of them estrogen, one-third estrogen and
testosterone, and the last third a placebo. The sex
drive of the third who received the testosterone went
way up. Husbands called in complaining! Where do you
get the stuff?
In another study, women were divided into a high
testosterone group and a low testosterone group. The
high T's were more frequently aroused, and their
arousal lasted longer. They were also more aggressive,
more assertive, and held more powerful jobs. Yet, they
tended to have poor relationships. Hmm. I know a few
Susan tells us that Dr. Pat Love, author of "Hot
Monogamy," has a low desire level and took
testosterone to see what a higher desire level would
feel like. She reported that sex was on her mind all
the time! She experienced actual physical discomfort
when she did not have sex! Great stuff Now my wife
will believe me. Incredible to be hearing this, this
testament to what I've been saying for ages. Dr. Pat
Love got off the testosterone. Not an option here.
The trick for many couples is to balance the high
testosterone male with the low testosterone female.
People with lower T-levels need to acknowledge it. "Be
aware of what turns you on," Susan counsels. "For
example, it may help to take a long bath. Be aware of
preconditions for sex. For example, æI need some down
time when I get home," or, "I like to sit down and
talk a while," or, "I don't have a jump start, like an
oil furnace, I'm more like electric heat." People with
lower T-levels need to make time for their sex life.
"If you wait for spontaneity, it's probably not going
And those with high T-levels? They must be aware that
their partners are not the same. They must distinguish
between lust and love. "There's nothing wrong with
masturbating. It can take the urge off." Hmm... And I
thought once you got married, you could kiss that
emergency procedure goodbye.
Each partner needs to ask questions. "What turns you
on?" These things must be talked about or else you end
up with shame and blame. Women are turned on by
romance novels. "Cliterature," Susan quips. Men may be
more visual, and tend to like movies, videos.
Three hours into this workshop, I'm figuring out
something I should have realized much earlier in 25
years of marriage: The three keys to a wonderful sex
life are communication, communication, communication.
We are quiet and studious as Susan moves on to
technique. For a long time, women seldom had orgasms.
Even in a 1993 study of 40,000 women, over half said
they never experienced orgasm through intercourse.
There are three ways a woman attains orgasm: through
the clitoris, the cervix, or the vagina. Some women
only have clitoral orgasms. Some women experience
orgasms early in their lives, but later, as their
bodies drop and hormones change, they stop having
Most men come to orgasm quickly and easily. Men are
usually doing most of the work. "Women need to control
more of the movement," Susan advises.
Two inches into the vagina is the G-spot. It is a
small walnut-sized area. Men can alternate stimulation
between the G-spot and the clitoris and keep the woman
stimulated for a long time. Hmm, getting ideas for the
evening... Women can do their Kegel exercises,
contracting the muscles around the pubic bone, at any
time, to keep this area in shape.
Men have a "G-spot" between the base of the penis and
the anus. In general, men want to prolong orgasm; and
women can helpù by gently tugging the testicles away
from his body during orgasm, a time when they normally
contract up into the body. This "scrotal tug" will
delay ejaculation. More ideas for the upcoming
check-in at the Sheraton...
On to variety, which keeps things spicy. There are
four categories to work on, and one is the quickie:
quick, fast and a gift from one to the other. "This is
what a bedroom off the beaten track at a party is for.
This is what closets are for, cars..."Wow" I
reminisce about that time four or five years ago in
the back of the station wagon in staid Roland Park!
And all the way home in the car! And then, in the
driveway! What a night! Just glad a policeman didn't
show up. Life is strange; we did all that, and we
never spoke a word of it afterward. Anyway, I'm
overjoyed Susan is building up the quickie.
Then there's the normal 20 to 30 minutes of married
There's the romantic variety: on vacation, in a hotel.
And there's adventuresome sex- cliffhanger sex. New
positions. New places. That camping trip to Ohiopyle.
Skinny dipping and then on the rocks by the river
right in the blazing summer sun, and that family
walking down the path just when... "It's not the
frequency," Susan says. "It's how the adventure looks
SUNDAY MORNING, A BIT WORN OUT FROM the night before
with the wild woman in my bed, I sip on black coffee,
and Susan, our professor of love, starts right off
with a formula: S2I = Passion. Two sexual beings
joined by intimacy equals passion. It is meant to
remind us that technique and variety are actually
minor parts of sex. It is intimacy that brings on the
passion in a long-term relationship. And intimacy is
born of good communication.
We turn to a notebook exercise, "Giving Alternate
Suggestions." It begins, "Many people are hesitant to
tell their partner to stop a particular lovemaking
technique, especially if it's been going on for a
significant period of time." The examples are a bit
wild and graphic and we are all sitting together in
this cozy room reading them as if we're reading the
Sunday paper. "Instead of... doing such and such, I'd
rather you did such and such." After last night, I
can't think of any 'instead of's" about sex. So I
write, "Instead of talking about issues that are
mundane and cause friction, such as money, car pools,
car repairs, before we go to bed, I'd like to discuss
pleasant topics." My second one is, "Instead of being
so wide-awake and forceful in the early morning, I'd
like you to be more gentle and forgiving and sweet and
We go off together and practice validating what the
other has said. "I can understand why you'd prefer not
to talk about money issues before we go to sleep..."
WE TALK ABOUT BODY IMAGE, AN AREA that's clearly
tougher for women. The average American woman is 5
feet 4, 150 to 160 pounds, yet she compares herself to
the average female model who is 5-11 and 117 pounds.
When Susan grew up, the shape to be was 36-22-36. It
is now 36-22-32.
Men- they only worry about the size of their penis.
They have penis envy. Penis size makes no difference,
Susan tells us matter-of-factly. All you need is two
inches to reach the G-spot.
Hmmmm. We males are quiet, very quiet, until one of us
reveals that he is a plastic surgeon. He discusses
pectoral implants in men, calf implants in women,
liposuction of hip areas and trimming of ankles and
the inside of the knee area for women. Some males are
getting penal enlargements, which have all proven
unsatisfactory. Silicone can be injected, but then the
man has to hang a weight from his penis. Silicone rods
and even some sort of pump can be implanted- but all
of this, of course, was before the advent of Viagra.
Yes, time to move on...
"When was the last time you enjoyed a long, sensual
kiss versus a kiss leading to intercourse?" Susan
asks. "When was the last time you simply relished
lying beside one another? Touching, feeling, smelling,
holding, gazing at one another- these are important
ways to get the endorphins coming back."
We are nearing the end. It is past noon. We may be
fizzling out just a bit. Susan stresses that if we
want to experience intimacy, we need to experience
closeness, and even terror and anxiety. Danger and
fear are necessary ingredients to reach intimacy. She
leaves it like that. Terror and anxiety, danger and
fear- these are troublesome words; I suppose they mean
different things to every married partner. "If we are
willing to be intimate with each other, we will
experience the passion of love."
I have been totally into this whole experience of
learning about loving my wife. I feel saddened that
the end is nearing. Susan clicks the overhead on
again. The word "FAIR" appears on the wall. This must
be it. The finish. The climax.
Susan explains: "Remember P = S2I and play FAIR."
Flirting (a smile and a look).
Appreciate (and express it).
Intimacy (let you know me).
Risk (have adventuresome sex; talk about new topics;
keep the spice).
ON LEAVING SUSAN TOWNSEND'S HOUSE, I stand awkwardly
by the door making small talk for a while, not knowing
quite how to say goodbye after all this. Then, I step
forward and give her a hug. I tell her that I'm not
usually so quiet, and that I feel, well, "pleasant."
I've never said I've felt "pleasant" to anyone in my
Driving back to our house- where we know from some
interruptus phone calls at the Sheraton that our son
is in deep trouble for duplicitously cranking up a
my-parents-are-away-party while we were gone- we are
aware of the onslaught of domestic duties we are about
But my worries are diminished. I know we can handle it
all. I am in love. I have a partner with whom I have
communicated on the most difficult of topics. We have
been pierced by the discovery of some long-withheld
identically wonderful feelings about each other.
(During one exercise, we'd each looked at what the
other had written in the workbook and learned, for the
first time, that we fell totally in love with each
other, over 25 years ago, at the exact same moment, at
the exact same spot. My eyes watered and I choked up
when trying to read to her, sitting beside me, holding
my hand, my description of that moment when I first
saw her.) I, personally, am looking forward to
lighting some candles, putting the telephone in the
refrigerator and making time for some intense
intimacy. It will take some work. And planning.
Planning and candles. My intentions are good. Yes,
I'll put the telephone receiver in the refrigerator.
Then light the candles...
Susan Townsend, Director
Relationship Enrichment Center, Inc.
210 W. Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 700
Towson, Maryland 21204
410-825-2332, FAX 410-321-1901
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