LGBTQ marriage...and divorce

While LGBTQ marriage is on the rise, unfortunately so are the divorce rates. It can get complicated: multiple partners or parents, varying divorce and child custody rules and processes, and the surrounding political and cultural environment. Here, Maryanne has a fun, freewheeling, practical conversation with Prof. Abbie Goldberg, author of LGBTQ Divorce and Relationship Dissolution: Psychological and Legal Perspectives and Implications for Practice. She'll share concrete tips as well as stories from those who have gone through well as their children. An awesome community resource!

Loving through your differences

Couples fight. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Sometimes these fights provide comic relief, or they can threaten the very survival of the relationship.

Psychologist and relationship consultant James Creighton wrote Loving through Your Differences: Building Strong Relationships from Separate Realities to help bridge our different perceptions or experiences of reality. He shares some of his eleven ways to express feelings with minimal blame and accusation, listen with empathy, stop behaviors that make fights escalate before they spin out of control, and much more. We can live happily and productively together and find excitement and fulfillment, rather than disappointment and frustration, in our differences!

“Trying all the approaches discussed in this book may take weeks, months, or even longer. Some of us who started down this path are still on it years later. But it has been worth it,” writes Creighton. “To understand and gain control over the meanings you attach to life is a constantly fulfilling process. It begins with understanding and accepting responsibility for creating your own reality.”

Are you a soulful leader?

Most of us know a thing or two about leadership. We have led and been led, whether being a parent, partner, an employee, boss or a citizen. Leading is part of daily life.

What we seem to know less about are the unconscious influences of leadership; how cultural and inherited archetypes shape and move us. Being aware of these shadowy influences has never been more crucial; we can see what is at stake when we do not inquire into what moves us to lead.

I have the privilege of sharing my interview with my mentor and colleague Dr. Arthur Ciaramicoli, Harvard Med. School psychologist, whose latest book is The Soulful Leader: Success with Authenticity, Integrity and Empathy. He shares his own personal stories of discovering how to shift away from a power-based model using divine feminine principles of empathy, interiority, vulnerability, and soul. He makes you not only want to be a better leader, but shows you how.

Is everything going to be OK? Creating peaceful relationships with yourself and everybody else

Pharmacist turned inspirational speaker Dr. Dravon James says that we are all asking that question most of the time. How do we move from that anxiety to a feeling of reliable peace? She and Maryanne discuss the importance of being internally referenced, and how this interior cultivation impacts all your relationships. You’ll hear cool ways to get to know yourself with love and devotion. You can put boundaries on learned behaviors of fear and come out powerful…nothing missing, nothing broken!

Cultivating peace just may be the answer ....

The stranger you know: How to create safer relationships in a date rape culture!

It’s clearly not festive to talk about date rape, but I would rather you be safe and educated this holiday season, given the relentless current cultural and political swirl. This month alone I have been witness to an unprecedented number of people breaking the cultural trance of female sexual objectification and abuse, divulging their debilitating traumatic stories of rape and beyond. You might also find yourself in the position of being another's confidant, witness to one or more of the droves of victims finally coming forward to share the burden of sexual assault and worse. Today we will address the young people on college campuses struggling to cope.

The latest research reports 1 in 5 females will experience sexual assault, attempted or completed rape. The definition of rape being “sex you don’t agree to, including forcing a body part or object into your vagina, rectum (bottom), or mouth. Date rape is when you are raped by someone you know.” Given there are currently 19.9 million students enrolled in colleges today, this means just this year more than 2.4 million students have been assaulted. Title 9, the federal civil rights law passed in 1972, was created to ensure that male and female students and employees in educational settings are treated equally and fairly, yet here we are situated within a culture that has normalized rape. This month's newsletter is dedicated to a deeper inquiry hoping to help finding solutions for addressing and healing this pandemic social atrocity for all concerned. Please tune in here to my podcast interviewing two young people living on campus who courageously share their experience about what it is like for them navigating relationships in this rape culture.

How 50 milligrams of love helps you have better relationships! 

What are the unconscious influences on our health and relationships, and how can we change those beliefs? Did you know that helplessness triggers genes that express illness and shame causes molecular secretions that lower your immune system? Dr. Mario Martinez, clinical neuropsychologist and author of The MindBody Code: How to Change the Beliefs that Limit Your Health, Longevity, and Success, has found out that longevity is learned and the causes of health are inherited. Listen in to his own stories about how our relationships can affect our health, how our immune system responds to our cultural premises, and how 50 milligrams of love can help you have better relationships!

What makes an extraordinary man?

Divine masculine, divine feminine…these forces influence our lives at every level, yet most of us only think of sex and power rather than the divine aspects. Maryanne talks with her husband—a man who was given a “front-row seat” as a white male of privilege—about his journey from the emptiness of cultural stereotypes to a truer connection with the Divine masculine. How can men tap into that for guidance on how to be sons, brothers, fathers, friends, partners? He shares the spontaneous offer he made Maryanne, a major piece of work around forgiveness. And gently suggests ways for us, both men and women, to heal and embrace their best versions of themselves.

Tantra: a Path for More Satisfying Sex and Better Connection?

In recent years, I have noticed many of my friends and clients complaining about a steady decline of satisfying physical intimacy and yet an increasing longing for connection. This is among solo and partnered people alike.

My search for answers to this intimacy paradox led me, surprisingly, to Tantra. Part of my work is helping people explore and heal issues related to sexual objectification and abuse. Tantra always seemed like an excuse for sexual predator types to prey on vulnerable people in the name of spirituality. 

But I kept coming across people who credited Tantra as a way to reconnect with their sexuality in a healing way. To learn more, I reached out to Niyaso Carter, a Tantra guide who has been teaching about sacred sexuality for 25 years.

Listen in on our conversation as we discuss

  • The benefits of tapping into your sexual energy for your relationship, creativity and energy … and why this can be particularly hard for us now.

  • How responsible practice of Tantra opens both the physical body and the heart

  • What the ancients were thinking when they devised Tantra 5,000 years ago

  • How Tantra can bring unresolved experiences up to the surface for healing.



How Meditation Helps Relationships

You may already know that meditation has amazing physical and psychological benefits. What you may not know is how this 5000-year-old practice can help your relationships! I never thought in a million years I would start and end my day meditating in a relationship. My husband is right by my side and we support each other in our practice :)

Psychotherapist and moving meditation practitioner Christine Havens joins me on my latest Realtime Relationships podcast episode to share how meditation can help us all have deeper, more meaningful relationships starting with ourselves.

Here is a sneak peek of the mindful and nourishing topics we covered:

  • Becoming more in our bodies ... which is critical for knowing how we feel. If you don't know what you feel, you don't know what you need.
  • Managing our window of presence; meditation helps expand our ability to feel strong emotions and our ability to tolerate them versus react unconsciously to them.
  • Achieving greater intimacy, starting with cultivating true self-compassion and forgiveness, which naturally helps create more compassion and forgiveness for others.

The Truth and Consequences of Being Sexually Fluid

Do you prefer women or men or both? How do you describe your sexuality these days?

Listen in as Maryanne and a person go deep, delving into the current constellation of our cultural psyche as it relates to sexual identity.

Asking the questions:

* What are our choices around sexual identity?

*How do we choose?

*What informs our choices today and what price are we paying for this freedom?

*How does having greater range of choice inform our behavior and relationships?

*What if sex was not a "drive"?

Real experiences and realizations from a person who has gone through the cultural expectations that tried to limit their sexuality...and come out in a centered, heartful, expressive way!  

Why Younger Men Prefer Older Women

You've seen them...the self-assured, serene older woman and the younger man who is giving her his total attention. Is he her son? Are they...gasp...lovers? How did she catch a guy like that?

Join Maryanne as a younger man tells us honestly why he chose his partner, and some of the difficulties and delights of being with an older woman as a lover, friend, and teacher.  "I hope it is a shift in consciousness to realize the feminine is sacred and beautiful in all her forms, not just when she's young and glamorous. From what I see in the lens of social media and entertainment, maybe younger guys appreciating older women is a symptom of changing consciousness and growing appreciation for the feminine."

Men and the #MeToo Movement

What are men saying and feeling about the #MeToo movement? Real transformation, healing and change will require the involvement of men. This interview takes a candid, at times uncomfortable, yet heartfelt look at men and women in light of the cultural phenomenon of female sexual abuse and objectification.

Two men, one interview: a rare and in-depth look into what's happening behind it all with men! Tune in, open your heart and get ready to be astonished ... these men want women to lead the way to healing and transformation.

Sex and Our Aging Bodies

Wrinkled, sagging...and feeling sexy? Is this even possible? Has your desire for sex faded, or changed as you age? Is your body cooperating? What kind of body narrative do you have about this: nobody will want me when I'm old, I feel more myself now than I ever have, so glad I don't have to worry about getting pregnant? How are the men in your life responding? What have you noticed in our culture about standards and expectations about sex in a relationship or when dating?

Maryanne and two vibrant women in a frank, intimate, funny discussion here.

Full Transcript of the Show

You're tuned in to Real Time Relationships. Enter the world of successful relationships. You'll get insider tips on how to navigate the perils and pitfalls of modern dating and up close and personal real life stories you can relate to from Dr. Comaroto's personal clients. Dr. Maryanne Comaroto is a relationship expert, author, and media personality who continues to enjoy her own long-term successful relationship. And now, here's Real Time Relationships with Dr. Maryanne Comaroto.

Dr. Comaroto: Hey, everyone. So glad you could be with us today 'cause we're gonna be talking about sex, SEX and our aging bodies.

Theresa: What?

Dr. Comaroto: Right? Do those go together?

Theresa: What the heck?

Dr. Comaroto: Oh, yeah. We need to be together to have this conversation. You are in the right place. So glad you made time. We're gonna explore sex, our aging bodies with two amazing women. One of them is in a relationship, the other not, and we're gonna talk about some concerns we have in this arena. For women, these concerns may include lack of interest, difficulty with lubrication, pain with penetration, inability to climax. Oh, yeah. I'm saying it out loud. I'm saying the words. I can feel your bodies already contorting and then the social or psychological concerns. 

Dr. Comaroto: For men, there are issues of impotence or libido, decreased ability to keep an erection. We're gonna be discussing that from the women's point of view. We're gonna talk a little bit about Harvard research that's out there about the difference between men and women in terms of their aging sexuality and so on and so forth. 

Dr. Comaroto: So, ladies, I'm stumbling over my words here because I get a little shy when we wanna talk about sex myself and I'm a relationship specialist, so I could only imagine the two of you, I'm gonna introduce you right now, how you must be feeling and I wanna start there, Kathy, and Theresa. Welcome to the program. I'm so glad you're here.

Theresa: Thank you for inviting us.

Dr. Comaroto: Yeah. How you feeling?

Theresa: Good!

Dr. Comaroto: Yeah? Really? Good.

Kathy: I'm really excited to talk about this, honestly.

Dr. Comaroto: Great and, Kathy, how about you? How you feeling about this?

Kathy: I'm very excited. There's a lot for women to know.

Dr. Comaroto: Yeah. There's a lot for women to know. There's a lot for men and women to know, and by the way, we wanna be inclusionary here. So, whether you're heterosexual, queer, trans, whatever, fill in the blank now. I think we have 105 different ways to identify our sexuality. Today, so listen up. 

Dr. Comaroto: Today, we're gonna be talking about the demographic of our population and while you may not fit in this demographic, you certainly know someone who does, so listen up. It could be your mother, your auntie, your uncle, whoever it is. This population, the baby boomer population is one of the biggest populations on the planet right now, so it's important to be exploring these concerns, no doubt. So, you're in the right place.

Dr. Comaroto: Ladies, let's start by talking about when you first noticed changes in your body as it relates to being sexually intimate and aging. When did this first arise for you? Let's start with you, Kathy. When did you first notice this change?

Kathy: I really noticed it after the birth of my third child. I was 37 and I kinda chalked it up to just being exhausted with three babies.

Dr. Comaroto: And so you noticed a physical exhaustion. What were the stories you were-

Kathy: This is what-

Dr. Comaroto: ... Yeah. Say more about that for us.

Kathy: I was physically exhausted. I was dry. It hurt. I wasn't interested in it anymore.

Dr. Comaroto: What about the idea of, "Oh gosh, I don't wanna have another baby right now," right?

Kathy: Well, that wasn't a problem because I had a tubal ligation, so-

Dr. Comaroto: Okay.

Kathy: ... it was like, "Okay. That's done. We don't have to worry about that," but I just wasn't feeling it.

Dr. Comaroto: And how was that for your partner at the time?

Kathy: Frustrating, I think. I think it was definitely frustrating for him because I was no longer interested. I was not ... Don't bother me type thing.

Dr. Comaroto: And how did that impact your relationship?

Kathy: Well, probably not good now that I'm divorced, but I think it contributed to part of the divorce, amongst other things because I think your physical attraction, you have to be physical with your partner. You've gotta have that touch. You have to have that intimacy and when you don't have that, you lose it.

Dr. Comaroto: Yeah. There's certainly ... That's the most popular belief. We're gonna get back to that. How much sex do we have to have, right? I've been interested in that and is it an imperative to intimacy? The question is out there looming for folks over a certain age. Theresa, tell us a little bit about ... Thank you, Kathy. Theresa, tell us a little bit about when you first noticed the changes in your body as it's related to aging and being sexually intimate.

Theresa: Well, the thing is that in my twenties, I was just a horndog and then in my thirties, I felt even more sexual 'cause I think I understood my body better and I became less inhibited and so I was able to enjoy it more 'cause I was working on myself and I think for me, sex has a lot to do with my psychological status, right? So, when I was doing a lot of self-work, I found my sex life was better and 'cause I think there was more self-love and all that goes with that.

Theresa: And then in my forties, I had a re-emergence of interest in sex and being with someone and all that and then it's really actually until mid-50s and then in the last five years, I've noticed a lack of interest. So, it just took a plunge and I think the last time I was intimate with someone, it was not a good experience because I think my vagina died in those five years.

Kathy: Yeah.

Theresa: Apparently it can die and I was so freaked out by it that ... and then I come to just recently find out through Kathy, thank you very much, that you can do something about that and I'm so excited.

Dr. Comaroto: Yeah, in every way and we're gonna get to that as well. Vaginal atrophy is something that can actually happen, does happen, and Kathy and we'll be talking about the remedies for that or certainly courses of action that we can get to. So, let's go back, Kathy, and talk a little bit about that place where you'd had your kids and there you are not feeling as amorous or into it and your partner isn't really loving that. 

Dr. Comaroto: Talk about the climate. I wanna just slow down there because this is where a lot of people, their relationships really do start to deteriorate and fall apart. Let's just pause there a little bit and even imagine having the conversation, the conversation with yourself about what's happening and how do you even say something to your partner? Can you even imagine it? What would you even say? You know what I'm saying?

Kathy: Yeah. No, I do know what you're saying. I think the conversation that you should have is making the time for each other and it's not about the kids all the time.

Dr. Comaroto: And why do you think we don't have that conversation? Are we afraid to ask for it? Is it that age where we're not comfortable asking for what we want, we don't know how to articulate it? In your opinion, what do you think about that?

Kathy: I think you get so caught up in the moment you just don't think about it. You don't really see the issue. You're so busy with the kids. You're so busy with your work. You're struggling with ten different things and that's just one more thing you don't wanna think about.

Dr. Comaroto: Got it. Okay, so as this relates to aging now, 'cause I remember the first time somebody called me ma'am. I remember exactly where I was standing, right? I looked over my shoulder certain they were talking to somebody else. I couldn't believe it. I thought, "I am not ready to be a ma'am. I'm a thirty-something," and I promptly went and found a mirror and looked at myself and I thought, "Oh my god, am I a ma'am? What does that even mean," right? Right? What the hell is-

Theresa: That's so scary. Yes! Oh, I remember that.

Dr. Comaroto: What was that like for you? What do you remember?

Theresa: Oh, I just remember, and I was a kid then ... I say kid now, but at the time, I was probably in my thirties also and it was a young adult calling me ma'am and I'm like, "Oh my god, when did I become old?" This is the first thing you think, "When did I become old," and, "Oh my god, I better take a look," the exact reaction.

Dr. Comaroto: How about you, Kathy?

Kathy: It was probably about the same time and absolutely, you turn around and you look around going, "Who are they talking to. It couldn't be me."

Theresa: Yeah, "Is my mom here and I don't know it?"

Dr. Comaroto: Right. Right?

Theresa: Could it be the person standing next to me, not me? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Comaroto: And it kinda burns still, right? I don't know about you. It kind of ... Physically, I feel a certain way, almost like a blow and I can't always tell. Is it the ego that's getting knock or what? How about you both? What do you think?

Theresa: Can I tell you that a woman actually in a conversation last week, was talking about something and she goes, "You know and she was like an older woman like you," and I thought I was going to die.

Kathy: Oh my god!

Theresa: And she was in her twenties, later twenties. She goes, "You know, an older woman like you," and she said it so innocently and my stomach just clenched and went ... It was shocking, so I went from ma'am, which now would be like a compliment to older woman, which pretty much ...

Kathy: That's even worse, I have to say. Older woman is way worse, absolute worst.

Theresa: Yeah, way worse, way worse, yeah.

Dr. Comaroto: Yeah.

Theresa: But guess what? I am. I'm 60-years-old. That's considered an older woman even though I don't feel like it.

Dr. Comaroto: Right and so how about when the younger folks, they start to ... they recognize the sensitivity, particularly in the baby boomers generation. This is a real, very conscious of appearance and aesthetics and they'll start to say, "Well, not older like 70. That's like ancient," and, "You're not old like so-and-so, but you know what I mean," and you're like, "You know what? Stop talking. Just stop talking."

Kathy: Exactly and just realize you're gonna be there one day, so stop.

Theresa: Yeah and guess what? Nobody gets to get away with it. Everybody is gonna get older, everybody, so ... Your day will come.

Dr. Comaroto: Yes. Yes and yes, here we are with the piece that's worth going down the rabbit hole about is it seems like such a sentence, doesn't it? It feels derogatory. It feels insulting. It feels-

Theresa: Almost like you're ashamed of being older.

Dr. Comaroto: Yes.

Kathy: Yeah, but see now I'm starting to looking at it a little bit differently, I have to say and that is I'm proud to be my age. I have no problems telling people how old I am-

Dr. Comaroto: That's great.

Kathy: ... because you know what? These are battle scars at this point.

Theresa: This body has seen some things.

Kathy: Absolutely! My body's got lots of character, my body, but this is my growth. I'm proud to be where I'm as versus my twenties.

Dr. Comaroto: Yeah, particularly psychologically, right, that sense of yourself. I think a lot of women feel this sort of a sovereignty that they didn't feel before, kind of like, "This is who I am. I'm comfortable in my skin," right?

Kathy: That is exactly.

Theresa: Lovely, lovely feeling, absolutely. I wish I felt like Kathy in the sense that ... I look at pictures of me in my twenties and it makes me sad.

Kathy: I never got that.

Theresa: Well, or even my thirties and it makes me sad because I was really pretty and-

Kathy: You still are.

Theresa: I know, but I'm not hideous anymore or anything, but I'm just saying I didn't even realize how attractive I was. I really didn't. I didn't appreciate it. I didn't know it and I wish I felt, I wish I was more present when I was like that, but yeah, I do. I get really sad when I look at old pictures and sometimes people post things on Facebook, those memory things, some of my high school friends and as soon as I see them, I shudder for a minute and I'm just like, "Ugh." I don't want people to know how good I used to look.

Dr. Comaroto: Yeah, so there's a reason for that and going back to, you said something, Theresa, about shame and let's talk a little bit about where do we learn to be ashamed of aging and then we're gonna talk about how that works its way into the sexuality conversation because ... So, you can feel good about yourself, Kathy, in your body and your battle scars and you, Kathy, are in a relationship with someone who reflects that love. 

Dr. Comaroto: We're gonna talk about that in a minute, but Theresa is not in relationship and so the rest of her world, half of which are males, some of which may be potential partners, she's faced with another scenario. Let's talk about the differences there and how that affects the psyche when in your situation. Kathy, let's start with you. Do you feel supported by your partner in your aging process and tell us about that.

Kathy: Absolutely, I feel very supported. He likes everything about this aging. He likes the age. He likes the body. He likes all of it, which is huge, but one of the things that I have learned in the last probably 10 years, maybe not quite 10, is I'm one of the oddballs. I feel better as I age versus when I was younger.

Dr. Comaroto: Tell us why.

Kathy: I never felt attractive in my younger years. I was always trying to be the person I'm not and I just, when I finally hit my fifties, I said, "You know what? I'm not gonna be any taller than 5 foot. This is it. I am not gonna lose these curves. Get over it." I'm happy to have that-

Dr. Comaroto: And how did your experience change? How did your experience change when you just made that sort of decision, that declaration?

Kathy: It's almost embarrassing, but when I started looking at other people my age that were the blonde, blue-eyed that I always wanted to be and going, "Okay. Wow. I do look better than that. I am so thankful that I am who I am," and like I said, there's part of me that's kind of embarrassed to say that, but absolutely because I always tried to compete with these girls in my younger years, these women and I couldn't do it. 

Kathy: So, when you're watching TV, you're looking at magazines and you're looking at all these people that are a size two and that's what you wanna be, you don't find yourself attractive. How is anybody gonna like or how's anybody gonna love me because I don't look like what they portray.

Dr. Comaroto: So, you shifted your self-narrative and created a whole new world for yourself, attracted a man who reflect that, which is really helping you through some of the challenges that we all face when we're talking about again and sexuality. We're gonna come back to talking about you and partner and sex in just a minute. Theresa, tell us a little bit about how it is for you without a partner and facing this aging process.

Theresa: Well, it's interesting 'cause I'm drawing the obvious line here that Kathy's feeling good about aging and has a partner and I'm not and don't have a partner, so that's kind of like a duh moment, but I don't know. I-

Dr. Comaroto: Maybe. Maybe-

Theresa: Well, yeah.

Dr. Comaroto: ... 'cause I have a fair amount of people in relationship where their husbands have very high expectations. They're doing a lot of plastic surgery because the partner, she doesn't wanna lose the husband. She doesn't wanna lose him to a younger woman, so there is that whole scenario-

Theresa: Yeah. They have to work hard.

Dr. Comaroto: ... It's not the obvious line-

Theresa: Yeah. That's true. Yeah.

Dr. Comaroto: ... Yeah, to stay young, but let's talk about you and your experience.

Theresa: Well, I just feel like, I think because I don't have anyone who is in my life saying you're beautiful or they're touching me and feeling good about it, so I feel like I might, my expectations for myself are higher somehow that I have to look like ... That's, I think I'm competing with myself in some ways. I feel like I have to try to look 30 and I'm not 30 and I'm not ever gonna be 30 again and I try to stay in shape, but when I was in my thirties and I exercised a little, it looked great and now it's like I do the same exercise and it's not getting the same results. It's just not and my clothing size I haven't changed all that much, but I think it's gone up. I've probably gone up one size and to me, that's huge. 

Theresa: I think I just, I'm harder on myself because I'm not getting any feedback from a partner that ... 'Cause when you're with someone, this is at least for me, is when I start seeing myself through their eyes more and I become more attractive to myself 'cause they're reflecting and when they truly appreciate you, then you kinda start getting it, but it's been a while since I've been in a relationship and I think I've lost sight of that and so I feel like ... and I don't walk into a room and have guys jumping to meet me like it used to happen or just things ... It's almost like I feel like I have to work harder than I've ever had to work before.

Dr. Comaroto: On that note, ladies, we're gonna turn to the break. We're gonna come back. We're gonna talk about some of these social standards, what's happening in our cultural layers around sex and aging when we get back, so sit tight everybody. We're gonna be right back right after these messages, more with our guests Theresa and Kathy. We're talking about sex and our aging bodies right here on Real Time Relationships with Maryanne.

Dr. Comaroto: If you're over 40, you have particular concerns about dating and relationships. You've been engaged or married at least once, have children, or realize you can't. Suddenly, you're using technology as part of a new dating culture. You may be stressed by sexual concerns, diminishing libido, worried about having sex with an older face and an older body. Despite being older and wiser, you don't wanna give the juicy, fun parts that relationship has to offer and now you don't have to. Go to and find out how. Tune in the fourth Wednesday of each month, Dating Over 40 at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time on

Dr. Comaroto: Dating over 40 explores real time concerns people have about dating, mating, and relating. You're invited into the intimate world of my amazing clients who've generously agreed to share their experience, the people like you who risk their vulnerability and have the courage to tell their stories and intimate concerns to help you make a difference in your relationships in your life. Tune in to Dating Over 40 or if you'd like your own private sessions, visit

Dr. Comaroto: Welcome back, everybody. Thanks for joining us. This is not an easy conversation to have with yourself, nevermind out loud in front of the whole world. Ladies, we were just talking during the break. There's a lot to be said here and lots of responses. Theresa, you were just saying something that really touched me, which is ... Why don't you say it. What's coming up for you-

Theresa: Well, I just-

Dr. Comaroto: ... having this conversation?

Theresa: I'm really getting a lot of insights about how I've been operating and how I feel like a hamster on a wheel and I just had this sigh during the break where I just let go of something as we were talking about this and I was just realizing how hard I've been on myself and how unfair I have been to myself. It's been ... and I'm looking at and listening to Kathy and going, "God, I do want to be in a relationship again." I really haven't felt like I wanted to be in one and now I'm really beginning to go, "You know what? I forgot that I feel so good when I'm in a relationship."

Dr. Comaroto: And thank you so much for that and you also bring up an important point and you both have said it in your own way that we heal in relationships. We're designed to be attached and in relationships. It's how we grow. It's how we learn even if that relationship is with the parts of ourselves we're familiar and unfamiliar with and so the piece that I wanna point out within that is that men, whatever sexual orientation man you're listening, whoever you are, men are going through their own version of this. I wanna ask you both what do you think is happening for men inside this conversation today with regards to aging? Do you think it's similar for them or different? Say something about that, Kathy.

Kathy: I think it's the same. I think they have the same, oh, what's the word I'm looking for ... fears. Their bodies aren't what they used to be. They can't get an erection. They haven't ... and they can't sustain as long. I think they do have issues with it.

Dr. Comaroto: Yeah. How about you, Theresa. What's your experience. What do you think?

Theresa: Well, it's funny 'cause I never really gave it a lot of thought and then I was out with a guy friend of mine who, we're the same age, and he's like, "God, man, this morning I was looking at myself when I got out of the shower and I'm just like, 'Really,'" 'cause he was just like, "I can't believe that this is my body," and I was so shocked 'cause I thought, "Oh, they actually carry on like that, too. Who knew?" Seriously, I thought that guys, just because they don't wear makeup and they don't have to do their hair and they don't have to do their nails and they don't have all this maintenance and we're always constantly focused on all the maintenance as a woman. There's so much that I thought guys just didn't care and when he said that-

Kathy: I've heard-

Theresa: ... I was shocked. I was just like-

Kathy: I've heard guys that have sat there and go, "Oh my god, I've wrinkles. Who is this person when I look in the mirror. This has got to be my father or grandfather." Just don't look in the mirror.

Dr. Comaroto: Right. Kathy, what is ... Right. Less mirrors when we downsize, right?

Kathy: Yeah.

Dr. Comaroto: It's the first thing to go.

Kathy: Yep.

Dr. Comaroto: Nobody cares about that. Kathy, tell us what you're-

Kathy: Dim lighting.

Dr. Comaroto: Right, The Glass Menagerie, revisit it. Now we really understand. In high school, we read that like, "What?" Now, we totally get it. Kathy, what are some of the things your husband's reporting? Have you heard him talk to himself or speak openly with you about his aging process?

Kathy: Well, I'm not married.

Dr. Comaroto: Your partner, sorry, boyfriend.

Kathy: That's okay.

Dr. Comaroto: Your boyfriend.

Kathy: Yeah. Yeah, he's kinda commented here and there as far as the weight's not what he used to be. It's redistributed. That type of thing.

Dr. Comaroto: And what's your response to that?

Kathy: So it does affect him.

Dr. Comaroto: How does it affect you when he talks about it?

Kathy: You know what? I feel there's part of me that feels a little bit sad, but then I look at him and go, "None of our bodies are what they used to be. Snap out of it. I want you for what you are. I love this body."

Dr. Comaroto: Well, yeah. I'm gonna throw something in here that both of you sort of alluded to, but when my husband talks about it, I feel relieved.

Kathy: Yes!

Dr. Comaroto: I feel relief all over my bones and body. I feel like if my little muffin top is coming I think, "Oh, honey you've had bigger fish to fry. Get your Spanx on and get some eye rise on." You know? It's okay. Not gonna reframe my day 'cause a lot, right?

Kathy: Right.

Theresa: Exactly.

Dr. Comaroto: My husband's vulnerability, my brother's vulnerability, the men I know, their vulnerability as culture, in a patriarchal culture, their vulnerability has helped me usher myself into a more relaxed, loving conversation about my own aging body. What do we think about that?

Kathy: Oh, that's so wonderful.

Theresa: Yes. I agree. I agree. I think a lot of my friends are roughly the same age and some younger, actually, and they're like, "Yeah. Well, I got some little pot belly or I got dah dah dah dah," and they say it in sweeter words than I would use and I'm like, "Ah, you know, that's a nice way to do it," and you're right. I feel relieved that I'm not hanging out with a bunch of rock hard 30-year-olds. You know what I mean?

Kathy: Right. Right.

Dr. Comaroto: Do you rememb-

Kathy: Exactly.

Dr. Comaroto: Do you guys remember that movie Seven Days and Seven Nights?" Harrison Ford's in a plane with Anne Heche-

Kathy: I do.

Dr. Comaroto: ... and he says, "Honey, you are overthinking this about men. Just get naked. Just show up." You know what I mean? That really, this is sort of like that essential sense of who we are, being so exteriorcentric in our-

Theresa: Exactly!

Dr. Comaroto: ... teens, twenties, and thirties, right? The pressure of it, and Kathy you talked about it, that starts to soften. We start to make different decisions. We start to become more interior or [crosstalk 00:29:58], right, as we face it. So, these are, yeah, these are some of the skills that we naturally find along the way, correct?

Kathy: Correct. Absolutely.

Dr. Comaroto: So, that being said, let's turn our attention now to sort of the mechanistics of sex itself. We talked a little bit about it in the beginning of the program. Kathy, you talked about men having difficulty getting and maintaining an erection. We've got all kinds of pharmaceutical ads everywhere. I don't know about you, but the idea of a man with a four-hour hard on is terrifying me, but-

Kathy: I know.

Theresa: No thank you.

Kathy: That ... yeah, no.

Dr. Comaroto: We need to invent the five-minute Viagra pill. You know? It's okay.

Theresa: Well, that reminds me of something I would love to just ask about. So, I think it's so interesting that men think that the bigger their penis, the more exciting it is for us and I am completely the opposite of that. I remember I worked with this guy and he's like, I said something about, "Oh, I was dating this guy, but honestly, his dick was too big. I couldn't handle it," and he's like, "You are so not gay." He was a gay guy and in their world apparently, that is a great thing and but I think men, they have a different perspective about what we want. I don't want a four-hour hard on, never.

Dr. Comaroto: Lost of pressure there.

Theresa: Yeah.

Dr. Comaroto: You could end up in an ER. What do you think, Kathy?

Theresa: I'm telling you.

Dr. Comaroto: Kathy, what are your thoughts here?

Kathy: No, I agree. It's how you use it. It's how you make the other one feel. It's not always about intercourse.

Theresa: Right. I agree.

Dr. Comaroto: So, men have their own stigma around bigger is better and there's all kinds of social ideas and imprinting around their anatomy and all of that. We've gotten that.

Kathy: Exactly. Exactly.

Dr. Comaroto: So, that being said, men have their own cross to bear in that regard. Let's talk a little bit about how, one of my clients is telling me recently, she's single. She's been single for a number of years, but now she's finally interesting in getting back out there and she said, "I can't even imagine inviting a man into my bed. I have hot flashes. I have crystals all over my bed. I have certain toys that I'm ashamed of." Anyway, we're going to break, but we're gonna talk about bridging the gap here about sex and a man or a partner when we get back, but after these messages right here on Real Time Relationships.

Dr. Comaroto: Dating over 40 explores real time concerns people have about dating, mating, and relating. You're invited into the intimate world of my amazing clients who've generously agreed to share their experience, the people like you who risk their vulnerability and have the courage to tell their stories and intimate concerns to help you make a difference in your relationships in your life. Tune in to Dating Over 40 or if you'd like your own private sessions, visit

Dr. Comaroto: If you're over 40, you have particular concerns about dating and relationships. You've been engaged or married at least once, have children or realize you can't. Suddenly, you're using technology as part of a new dating culture. You may be stressed by sexual concerns, diminishing libido, worried about having sex with an older face and an older body. Despite being older and wiser, you don't wanna give up the juicy, fun parts that relationship has to offer and now you don't have to. Go to and find out how. Tune in the fourth Wednesday of each month, Dating Over 40 at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time on

Dr. Comaroto: Welcome back, everybody. Thanks for joining us. We're talking about sex and your aging body. Yeah, not our aging body, only your aging body. Theresa, you said something during the break. You said something so potent. "I'm not the only one." Say more about that, not the only one.

Theresa: Well, I think we have these thoughts and because it's a subject that is not something you can really talk about with a lot of people, you kinda keep them to yourself and it's so liberating to be talking to both of you and hearing your perspective because it's like my perspective. I totally get it, but it's just so comforting to know that you're not in this alone. You know?

Dr. Comaroto: Exactly right and you're certainly not and neither are our listeners. You are not alone. You are tuned in to the right place because going down deep into these conversations, as we said earlier, this how healing happens in relationships, so thank you for that, Theresa, and by the way, when we were talking, before we went to break we were talking about sort of in gender, the story about men versus women and we know, we'll get to the different genders on other programs and how this relates to aging and sexuality in another program. 

Dr. Comaroto: Right now, we're sort of focusing on the heterosexual aspect of this conversation, although many of these things do apply outside of those parameters, but I found something really fascinating when I was doing research for this show. A Harvard study looking at the different brains, men's brain versus women's brain and I know there's so much neuro mania going on out there. People just love to talk about the brain and what we know about neuroscience. I'll tell you, my professor, when he was in school, he was so brilliant. He was at UCLA, Roger Dafter, and he said, "You know what? First of all, take whatever you think you know about the brain and know that it's nothing." 

Dr. Comaroto: We know almost next to nothing. We know a lot of stuff lights up in the brain. We know some basic things, but there is more that we don't know than we do know, basically. So, that being said, in the spirit of that, neuroscience and research is all [inaudible 00:37:47], but one of the things it loves to do and people love to do is they love to take a little bit of information and partial truth and then run with it. 

Dr. Comaroto: That being said, in the spirit of that, I'm gonna get on that bandwagon because women really feel like they've gotten the shaft. Okay. I said it, bah dum bum. We really have. We really have fantasy at the skinny end of that stick, but here's some new research, ladies, that I thought was interesting. A new research from a Harvard report shows that overall brain matter in men's brain reduces faster than in a women's brain.

Theresa: What? Wow!

Dr. Comaroto: Basically, that ... check it out that men's brains age faster. Give me a woo-hoo!

Theresa: Yay!

Dr. Comaroto: Woo-hoo! So strange.

Theresa: Oh my god!

Dr. Comaroto: I know. Well, more specifically, it says women have more brain matter in their hippocampus, which is how information goes from one side of the brain to the other and it associated with memory and while men have a bigger caudate nucleus, which is involved in controlling their movements and how their brain speaks to other parts, in general, their brains age faster. So, I just thought I'd throw that little bit of truth out there because-

Theresa: No. You know what? I like that 'cause I've always dated younger men, so that makes me feel like I was just actually just tuned into the fact that we're actually more [crosstalk 00:39:09].

Kathy: Exactly!

Dr. Comaroto: Right. Exactly. Right?

Theresa: 'Cause I have a rule. I can go 10 years either way.

Dr. Comaroto: Right. There you go.

Theresa: Yeah.

Dr. Comaroto: That range in today, we can do that. That's another piece that we don't wanna climb over here. Today, those ideas and those traditional ideas and taboos have really soften and in women's favor, so ladies, you have been able to explore all kinds of things, including being able to speak openly about sex, being able to converse with your partner, being able to be involved in this kind of a conversation versus our mothers who many of them were so repressed and you had two choices for archetypes, mother or whore, right?

Theresa: Yep, you're either one or the other.

Dr. Comaroto: You're certainly not [crosstalk 00:39:55].

Kathy: Absolutely.

Dr. Comaroto: Right, so-

Theresa: And hopefully I'm little of each, that numbers and men do say that, "I want you to be the mother in the house and the whore in the bedroom," or whatever. Yeah.

Dr. Comaroto: Right.

Theresa: So, you had to be one or the other. There was no in-between.

Dr. Comaroto: Right and now we are getting to chose and explore all the multiple parts of ourselves. That being said, let's ease our way back into the conversation around sex and the mechanistics around sex proper. How do we get in the conversation and before we went to the break, I said I had a client recently who was saying, "I don't even know how to get into the conversation. I'm 60 plus years old. I'm dating. Someone touches me and now I'm clamming up because I'm so frightened of how to move into intimacy because I have so much judgment about my body. I haven't been out there in a long time." Theresa, you can speak to this.

Theresa: I sure can.

Dr. Comaroto: What's coming up for you?

Theresa: Well, honestly, a lot of my friends that care about, they're like, "You know, do you want to get in a relationship," and I said, "The problem is, I don't want anyone to see me naked," so I don't know how you're in a relationship and it's really interesting 'cause I feeling that most guys would actually wanna see me naked.

Dr. Comaroto: You know what? If they're telling you they like the way you look, believe me. It's true.

Theresa: Yeah. So, I have this weird filter and it's the same thing and then, like I said, literally the last experience I had with men, it was when I realized that something was going on and things weren't moving in and out of my vagina like they used to and it freaked me out. It was like the same as a guy that can't get an erection to me, that feeling of, "Oh my god, my body just let me down and I don't know how to fix it."

Dr. Comaroto: Well, you almost feel like you're less of a woman-

Theresa: Yes!

Dr. Comaroto: ... when you're like that.

Theresa: I'm like, "Oh, so I have a dead vagina. So, yeah. I might as well just give up on sex completely," which is kind of what I've done and I don't wanna do that anymore.

Dr. Comaroto: Well, and there's two things in there if we unpack that and I understand that you and Kathy have been having a conversation about some ways to remedy that and we're gonna get to that in a second, but one of the things that women are doing and our research has showing that more women are remaining single. Now, there's other research out there, Harvard research.I don't know why I'm into Harvard today, but Harvard research shows women between the ages of 40 and 65 who place greater importance on sex are more likely to stay active as they age. Now, that being said, I'm listening to you, Theresa, and I'm saying there's an importance there, but there's something blocking that, which is that sort of self-shame, the body shame.

Theresa: Yeah. Yep.

Dr. Comaroto: Yeah and, Kathy, you've been able to move past that. So, let's talk about the psychological aspect here, Kathy, in your case, bringing forward again that you just made a decision. "This is who I am. I feel good enough in my body and I have a partner who reflects that." How does that continue to play out for you in the arena of sex with your partner?

Kathy: How does that ...

Dr. Comaroto: Yeah. How is that continuing to serve you? Is that a story that you need to go ongoing 'cause you're aging every year.

Kathy: Well, every year-

Dr. Comaroto: Yeah. Every year there's a new something sliding down your legs into your rear end.

Kathy: Uh-huh. Well, it's not as firm as it used to be, but you know what? It's working because so is his-

Dr. Comaroto: Right. Right.

Kathy: ... and we communicate it.

Dr. Comaroto: Right. Right.

Kathy: We communicate to each other how sexy we feel towards each other.

Dr. Comaroto: So, does sexy then become that more interior based sense of yourself that we were talking about earlier. Right?

Kathy: Yeah. It does, absolutely, because when you feel good about yourself and your partner's telling you you feel, you can't help but radiate it and you feel good, which is almost like snowball effect.

Dr. Comaroto: Yeah.

Theresa: Yeah.

Dr. Comaroto: Right. Right. So, it becomes the ... Maybe what you used to fixate on, a twelve pack, now we have a keg and-

Kathy: A very soft keg, by the way, but that's okay.

Dr. Comaroto: Or a boxed wine versus [inaudible 00:44:35]. Well, change when we get back after the break, we're gonna talk some more about that, how our tastes change and, more importantly, what we can do to feel better about our bodies and sex when we return right here on Real Time Relationships with Maryanne. Back in just a minute.

Dr. Comaroto: Dating Over 40 explores real time concerns people have about dating, mating, and relating. You're invited into the intimate world of my amazing clients who've generously agreed to share their experience, the people like you who risk their vulnerability and have the courage to tell their stories and intimate concerns to help you make a difference in your relationships in your life. Tune in to Dating Over 40 or if you'd like your own private sessions, visit

Dr. Comaroto: If you're over 40, you have particular concerns about dating and relationships. You've been engaged or married at least once, have children or realize you can't. Suddenly, you're using technology as part of a new dating culture. You may be stressed by sexual concerns, diminishing libido, worried about having sex with an older face and an older body. Despite being older and wiser, you don't wanna give up the juicy, fun parts that relationship has to offer and now you don't have to. Go to and find out how. Tune in the fourth Wednesday of each month, Dating Over 40 at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time on

Speaker 3: Do you have relationship questions?

Speaker 10: I wish my past relationships didn't affect my relationships now to the point that I project them onto my partner.

Speaker 11: I'm perpetually single. What does that mean?

Speaker 12: You know, I've been single for 15 years and at this point, I can hardly even imagine what intimacy and total connection would even feel like.

Speaker 13: The part of my relationship with a man that I've had in my life for so many years that keeps me here and present is that the relationship is not just about me, but us and coming at it 50/50 and it feels so good when you can help that other person move forward and they can help you.

Speaker 3: To get answers to your relationship questions, call in to Real Time Relationships with Maryanne Comaroto every fourth Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time on Radio your way,

Dr. Comaroto: All right, ladies, so this is our last segment and we have covered, we were just talking about during the break, we have covered the social aspects to aging and sex. We talked about the emotional or psychological experience we have of ourselves, of each other, our perceptions of the culture, men, et cetera, having a partner versus not and so forth, and now we're empathizing a little bit the actual mechanistics of sexuality and during the break it came up again, the pain, the discomfort, and that women often experience the sweating. 

Dr. Comaroto: My client said she doesn't even know how to not only say the words, but what will she do when she gets a man there because she's not comfortable in her body. It's causing all kinds of psychic distress as well. Theresa, you wanna tell us something. Tell us the story about what happened for you because you found it very painful yourself and you just found some relief to that.

Theresa: Yeah. So, okay. That was literally two years ago when I had that experience and it felt like a wall had gone up and that there was no way that someone could penetrate me. It hurt that bad and I was so wigged out by it, but I just like, "I guess I'm just not gonna have sex anymore," and then cut to literally a couple weeks ago when I learned about ... Kathy, what's the name of that?

Kathy: Etrace I think it is or Estrace.

Theresa: Yeah and it's ... You can actually squirt it inside of you and it will revitalize your vagina and then I'm talking to my friend the other day, literally two days ago 'cause she's in her late fifties and she was having some issues and so he sent a friend and I mentioned that to her and she's like, "Oh my god, my friend, it completely changed her marriage." She, too, just found out about this and it's like, she goes, her skin looks better, she's moist again, she wants to have sex all the time. Literally, it was life-changing and it's a game changer and for me psychologically, when I realized it was an option it changed everything for me, but again, and you don't know about this stuff. I never knew about it.

Kathy: I only found out about it because I was having sex and I tore and let me tell you how embarrassing that was.

Dr. Comaroto: And painful I imagine, right?

Kathy: You know, it wasn't the painful because it was just ... but I couldn't stop the bleeding. I bled for four hours.

Dr. Comaroto: Oh my gosh.

Kathy: I hemorrhaged for four hours-

Dr. Comaroto: Wow.

Kathy: ... and then you start thinking, "What kind of woman am I? I've lost it. I can't do this." I went to my doctor the next day and she goes, "Okay. You tore here. You're fine. Believe it or not, this is common," and I looked at her and I said, "Well, why are people not, why aren't doctors telling women that are going through women that are going through menopause about this? Why did I find out about it after I tore?"

Dr. Comaroto: Right, which is part of why the both of you signed up for having this very intimate, therapeutic conversation because you want other women to know, the ones that don't know, there are choices. There are laser treatments. There are gels. There are hormone treatment therapy. There's something, in Marin County, there's a woman with, I'm in Northern California, who offers something called the MonaLisa Touch. I have clients and friends who've used it and you can rebuild the vaginal wall and stimulate it and repair lubrication.

Kathy: Wow!

Dr. Comaroto: Yeah. It's called MonaLisa Touch. It's not painful and there's no downtime and the Italians invented it, of course.

Theresa: Of course they did!

Dr. Comaroto: They said, "Hey, not on my watch." So, absolutely. So, what are some other things we wanna leave our listeners with in terms of even based on this conversation that we might invite our listeners into a healing conversation with themselves physically, emotionally, mentally. Kathy, what do we wanna leave folks with today?

Kathy: I wanna, is to love yourself. Love your body. Be proud of who you've become. You're not the same person in your twenties and be thankful you're not that same person. You're so much wiser and with wisdom, changes have to happen, unfortunately.

Dr. Comaroto: Thank you and, Theresa, how about you?

Theresa: I think that I just would like to leave people with the thought that getting old doesn't have to be a death sentence and it kind of was feeling that way to me in some way, death of certain activities in my life that I used to really enjoy and embrace and I'm really feeling like I just was uninformed and I think that information is so powerful and I gotta tell you, when I went through menopause I had no idea that it was gonna be the way it was, no idea and I found it really comforting when I had other friends going through it and my sisters were going through it and we could talk to each other. So, I think that when sisters come together, and I'm talking sisterhood, it is so powerful and it is so, it gives us such support that I hope that you do a lot of conversations like this on your show because I think that it's gonna be so, so helpful and especially to women that may not have sisters or a lot of women friends.

Dr. Comaroto: Thank you for that and absolutely. I think together we're doing something that I'm calling revisioning the feminine-

Theresa: Yes! Yeah. Yes.

Dr. Comaroto: ... redefining sexuality. So, on that note, ladies, I'm gonna ask you both this sort of pop quiz question. If you were going to redefine what's sexy, I'm gonna give you each an opportunity to say just on the fly. What is sexy? Redefine sexy for yourself.

Theresa: Meaning what makes us feel sexy or what we find sexy?

Dr. Comaroto: Yeah, whatever, take it wherever you wanna go.

Theresa: Oh, okay.

Dr. Comaroto: Theresa, go ahead. What's sexy? How about this? If you were gonna redefine what sexy means for you, what would you tell us.

Theresa: Well, I think what sexy means for me is self-acceptance and embracing humanity and each other.

Dr. Comaroto: Right and I can even feel the heart in that and the soul in that.

Theresa: Yeah, 'cause when you really embrace our fellow humans and you're drawn to them, it's really sexy.

Dr. Comaroto: That's right and I'm gonna add, I'm gonna just thank you for that and, Kathy, I'm gonna get to you in one second, but I wanna add that when I work with clients, ones that are getting back out there in relationships, we literally slow things down to this speed where the sound of someone's voice, the cadence of their walk, the gesture, the movement, the style in which someone approaches something, these nuances become the new, the portal for sexuality. They become sensuality. We start to embrace that to the deeper layer, what I'm calling the sensuality of sexuality. Do we like that?

Theresa: Oh my god, I'm totally getting chills as you're saying that.

Kathy: Absolutely.

Dr. Comaroto: Kathy, go ahead. What's sexy for you? We're going to break.

Kathy: I was just gonna say what I find sexy is being able to talk and communicate and embrace each other.

Dr. Comaroto: Yeah, beautiful, gorgeous. All right, everybody-

Kathy: It's not ...

Dr. Comaroto: Yeah. It's not, last words?

Kathy: It's not just the way we look. It's the way we communicate and embrace one another.

Dr. Comaroto: Beautiful, hold that thought. We're gonna be back for our wrap in just a minute, everybody. Sit tight.

Dr. Comaroto: Thanks so much, everybody, for joining us today. What courage, we've been given hope. There's heart. There's soul. There's an invitation to that interior relationship with yourself, your aging process, and your body. It's a journey and it's a practice and that's what we do here on Real Time Relationships. We're interested in the abiding pieces of our journey, the pieces that we can be in relationships where it's an enduring, ongoing way. So, that said, ladies, thank you for being here.

Kathy: Thank you for having us.

Dr. Comaroto: Thank you!

Kathy: My pleasure.

Dr. Comaroto: Oh, I love your openness, your trust, and your vulnerability. I'm so grateful.

Theresa: So are we.

Dr. Comaroto: All right, everybody else go to for more information or You can find our podcast on iTunes, and more. We'll see you next time. Take good care.

Stop Hating Online Dating

You can wander off into the sunset holding hands with your new love, but what will the relationship be like in realtime? In the first episode of Maryanne's new radio show Realtime Relationships, "Stop hating online dating," Maryanne interviews one gen-Xer about how he reluctantly found true love online. Baby boomer or Millennial, you will be inspired!

Every month you'll get insider tips on how to navigate the perils and pitfalls of modern dating, mating, and relating, and "up close and personal" real-life stories you can relate to from her private clients. Maryanne is a relationship expert, author, and media personality who continues to enjoy her own long-term successful relationship.