'Tis the season…that puts a huge strain on your relationship. It's time to learn how to beat the bond breakers.
By Korin Miller
Winter is full of opportunities to get close: romantic fires, holidays galore, snuggle-friendly weather. Yet the season can be tough on your love life. According to a recent survey, couples are more than twice as likely to think about splitting between the holidays and Valentine's Day, due in part to the pressure the high intensity period puts on twosomes during this time. But also because scientific reasons compound that stress: "Our energy levels are lower during the cold weather, and we tend to be moodier," explains clinical psychologist Seth Meyers, PhD. "Both factors make maintaining a relationship difficult."
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You can't beat Mother Nature, but you can learn to spot these pesky relationship-killing winter symptoms and take the necessary steps to keep your bond going strong.
You're Looking for a Fight
Bitchy 'tudes have a habit of cropping up in the winter - in women and men. Being cooped up inside together for months at a time with fewer options for activities can contribute. But more important, the season's shortage of sunlight lowers our levels of the mood-regulating neurotransmitter serotonin, says couples therapist Barton Gold smith, PhD, author of Emotional Fitness for Intimacy. This makes you more cranky than in the summer, when most people enjoy up to 15 hours of mood-boosting sunlight a day.
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If you find yourself ready to let the nastiness fly over, well, everything, Goldsmith suggests making it a habit for you both to get outside whenever you can…even if it's only during your lunch break. Being in the sun (wearing sunscreen, of course) for a short amount of time is believed to raise both serotonin and vitamin-D levels, which will make the two of you feel more like making love, not war.
You Feel Gross
After braving the cold, it's great to come home and enjoy some warm, filling comfort food, like a steaming bowl of pasta. And since getting out of bed in the morning is harder, you need to drink a couple of extra cups of coffee to perk up. And the fact that it gets dark so early means that you're ready for your first glass of wine earlier. See where we're going with this?
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"We have a natural tendency to OD on carbs, stimulants, and alcohol in the winter to boost our moods temporarily," says nutritional psychologist Julia Ross, author of The Mood Cure. "It's one way we try to compensate for the lack of sun." Thing is, going overboard not only makes you feel worse in general but also can cause you to think of yourself as less attractive and eat even more to comfort yourself. And that means you'll have a harder time being excited about a night out on the town with your BF in your skintight LBD.
To break the cycle, make it a point for you and your guy to eat high-protein foods that have serotonin-boosting nutrients - like lean steaks, fish fillets, cottage cheese, and eggs. And avoid the common trap of overloading on carbs in the morning (though it's fine to have some). You'll feel better and have higher energy levels to use on whatever strenuous indoor activity you may choose.
You're Not in the Mood for Sex
Extra padding can make you feel less than sexy, and high levels of melatonin - another light-sensitive brain chemical - from lack of sunlight make you want to fall asleep when you get horizontal instead of staying up to make out. But that's not the only reason sex suffers in the winter. "Most women have relatively low levels of testosterone and, therefore, need an emotional connection to get in the mood," says Pat Love, EdD, author of The Truth About Love. If the winter is making both you and your guy cranky, it can be a hell of a lot harder to make that happen.
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When you notice a seasonal sex nosedive, Love suggests grabbing your guy and hitting the gym together. Or for bonus points, head outside on sunny days and go for a run or have a snowball fight to nab some natural light. Not only will you both get an endorphin rush from the exercise, but you'll also raise your serotonin levels and lower your melatonin levels, making you alert and ready for action.
Oh, and once you're back inside, throw on one of his sweaters with nothing underneath. It'll hide any problem areas - though odds are, your guy digs your winter curves - and get you both turned on.
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