Mary Balfour's Review of Peace Between the Sheets

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Mary Balfour, author of Smart Dating: How to Find Your Man

Smart Dating

Peace Between the Sheets: Healing with Sexual Relationships

As a matchmaker who runs several dating agencies I only wish I could make Peace Between the Sheets compulsory reading for all people who seek a new relationship. There might just be even more happy endings.

The book addresses the age-old problem of the romance junkie, the person (more often, but not always, a man - dare I say it) who, after satisfying an initial surge of lust and infatuation in a new relationship, suddenly pulls back and loses interest. It also looks at how this addictive see-saw effect can play a damaging role in ongoing relationships of many years standing as well, suggesting that after orgasmic sex both men and women go through what can be a destructive period of emotional withdrawal.

We are asked indirectly to suspend all thoughts that psychological programming is the basis for this. Instead it is suggested that despite millennia of nurture gaining ground over nature, nature still reigns supreme in the domain of sex and romance. Yes, I know that this sounds incredibly reductionist. But read Peace Between the Sheets and I'll bet you will become convinced by the powerful evidence in the book that the biology of heated passion can drive partners apart.

It's like this: rush into lust-driven and intense love-making and drive your dopamine hormone levels sky high in the process and then you'll suffer from a post-orgasmic rebound fuelled by the hormone prolactin, which turns you off thoughts of sex and love for up to a week or two in extreme cases. When you next feel like sex, as if you were an alcoholic or a drug addict, you crave another dopamine high and seek even greater satisfaction, which is followed by the same 'roll over and snore' reaction.

On the other hand, according to Marnia Robinson, author of Peace Between the Sheets, if you can control your passion and engage in continually deferred gratification with lots of meaningful and loving tenderness in its place, avoiding orgasm for long periods, then you'll feel ten times more drawn to one another as well as being more contented in yourself. Oxytocin, well known as 'the cuddle hormone', will infuse your body and soul with a wonderful feel-good sensation, enabling you when you finally go for orgasmic sex to experience heights of ecstasy that you had never dreamed of.

Of course, Marnia is the first to point out that exponents of Tantric sex, Early Christian Gnostics and Taoists recommended this approach thousands of years ago. But she believes it is important for us today. She suggests that is the only way forward for couples who hope for a truly satisfying and all-embracing sexual experience without the damaging post-orgasmic emotional rebound.

A beautifully sensual and healing programme of 'Ecstatic Exchanges' is described at length in Peace Between the Sheets as the foundation for a new and more fulfilling love life. These are designed to help one achieve new heights of ecstasy and peacefulness. Marnia claims that the 'Ecstatic Exchanges', practiced thoroughly on a periodic basis, not only improve one's love life and relationship but help one cope better with everything else as well. It would be wonderful to think that the trials of life, such as coping with poverty, stress, screaming babies and recalcitrant teenage children, could all be made easier by practicing the 'Ecstatic Exchanges'. But of course, many would need to be convinced that they worked before adopting them in the stressed out lives they lead.

We have all believed for so long that psychological and cultural programming plays a dominant role in our emotional behaviour that it is difficult to accept that our biology could still be such a driving force. It would perhaps help us matchmakers to understand why it is often those individuals who have had the most exposure to psychological therapies that find it hardest to achieve a satisfying relationship. It would also explain why newly matched couples who allow themselves to be overcome by lust on a first or second date cannot see one another for dust a week or so later. In the dating business we know that it is those who allow intimacy to develop gradually that are more likely to find a permanent relationship.

I usually reject clients who come to me in the hope that I can help them break a history of serial dating by introducing them to 'the one' with whom they can form a permanent relationship. I will in future try to help them by suggesting they read Peace Between the Sheets for some insight into what could perhaps be sabotaging their search. A simple awareness of our biology could lead to fewer false starts in relationships and a more exhilarating intimacy for those who can master it.