TIME Sex/Relationships

Doctors Advise IUD Use as Best Birth Control Method for Teenagers

A copper IUD
A copper IUD B. Boissonnet—BSIP/Corbis

A boost for a little-used but widely effective method of contraception

A leading medical group on Monday recommended implantable rods and intrauterine devices (IUDs) as the best form of birth control for teenage girls other than abstinence.

The new guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), published Monday in the group’s Pediatrics journal, touts birth control methods not commonly used in the U.S. despite widespread agreement about their effectiveness. The AAP says pediatricians, who teens consider “a highly trusted source of sexual health information,” should recommend, in decreasing order of effectiveness, progestin implants, IUDs, injectable contraception, and oral contraception for use among adolescents.

(MORE: The best form of birth control is the one nobody is using)

The doctors call oral contraceptives the least effective options for teens because many fail to use them properly and consistently. About 18% of women experience an unintended pregnancy when using male condoms, compared to 0.8% who experience unintended pregnancy while utilizing a Copper T IUD. Though IUDs are expensive at the outset, the AAP says the long-term cost is less than the cost of over-the-counter oral contraceptives.

TIME health

The Weirdest Stuff We All Do at the Gym

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This post originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

A few years ago the media was obsessed with talking about the weird habits of people who live alone. The uninhibited freedom of not cohabitating gives you a free pass to walk around naked, sing to yourself, and leave the bathroom door open 24/7. And, while I currently live with a roommate, I don’t curb any of my quirkiness — except maybe the bathroom-door thing.

But, since the gym is my second home, it’s only natural that I have a second set of weird quirks specific to the sweat-friendly atmosphere. They may be a bit unconventional, but they’re never annoying or disrespectful — no loud conversations or equipment hogging. I proudly display my eccentric gym habits as any true local would — like a badge of honor. From treadmill racing to yawning while exercising to giving my muscles a mental “pat on the back,” here are some oddities I’m definitely guilty of doing.

(MORE: How to Actually Enjoy Your Workout)

1. I maximize viewings of my gym clothes by saving my favorite apparel for Monday workouts — as that is when the gym is always the most crowded. I realize occupying a treadmill in the front row of Equinox isn’t the same as sitting front row during Fashion Week, I just happen to love my spandex and want to show it off. And, when you’re in the front, there’s no room for slacking, so it helps me push harder, even if no one is actually paying any attention.

2. There is such a thing as a “better” treadmill, StairMaster, or [insert equipment of choice]. Perhaps it’s the one positioned directly under the AC or away from the mirror so I don’t have to stare at myself for the duration of my three-mile run. Whatever the reason, once I find my favorite, I’ll forever try exercise on that same piece of equipment anytime I’m at that gym.

3. During lunges, I rest my hands on my butt (as discreetly as possible). It’s a reminder to push through my heels, so that I engage my glute muscles, instead of relying on my quads, to return to standing. Plus, when you feel your muscles working, it’s definitely a “go me” moment.

4. I won’t seek you out, but if you choose the treadmill next to me (when there are a few open), I will assume you want to race. And, we will — game on.

(MORE: 5 Reasons to Skip Your Workout)

5. Even when I’m totally pumped up and not remotely tired, sometimes I’ll yawn at the gym. There are a lot of different theories why this happens (one is that yawning helps cool the brain), and I used to be embarrassed, thinking that everyone around me would assume I wasn’t working hard enough. But, then I stopped caring what other people thought and used my yawns to see if anyone was staring — because we all know that yawning is contagious.

6. I pee no less than three times before my CrossFit workout. Whenever I know that I have a tough training session ahead, my bladder goes into overdrive. It’s annoying, but I’ve learned to deal with it and plan for multiple bathroom breaks.

7. I don’t put makeup on, specifically for the purpose of going to the gym, but, if I train after work, I don’t necessarily put any effort into taking it off. I do plan my lip color around my workout schedule though as I have one red lip stain that I love. But, I have to avoid wearing it on days that I plan to train since it’s impossible to remove.

8. When I forget to toss my armband in my gym bag, I’ll attempt to store my phone in weird places (including in my sports bra, tucked under the strap of my tank top, and in a legging pocket that wasn’t meant to hold anything larger than a key), so I can listen to my jams uninterrupted while exercising. It almost never works, but I keep trying.

(MORE: How I Balance Drinking and Exercise)

TIME relationships

How Sleeping in Separate Bedrooms Could Save Your Relationship

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This post originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

When my boyfriend and I were looking at our first apartment together last year, the number-one thing we decided we needed in order to get along was…separate bedrooms. Hear me out. We’d tried sharing his king-size bed early in our relationship — resulting in little to no sleep for both of us. Even today, we have to do it every once in a while in a hotel room, and it’s a challenge (cut to me riding out a bout of insomnia by reading in the bathroom at 3 a.m.). Separate bedrooms aren’t just a requirement for getting our Zs, they are the way we carve out private space in our otherwise-joined lives.

We’re not the only ones. Arianne Cohen recently proclaimed that sleeping in her “woman cave” (a.k.a. guest room) helped save her marriage. Jennifer Adams is such an advocate of the two-room solution that she’s devoted a blog, Sleeping Apart Not Falling Apart, to the cause, and has written a book of the same name.

For me and my boyfriend, there are several reasons for separate beds, but I want to knock out the first one that comes up whenever I tell anyone — friend, stranger, therapist — about our arrangement. We don’t do this because we aren’t attracted to each other, or any other obvious relationship red flag. It’s not that at all.

(MORE: 12 Less Than Romantic Relationship Milestones)

First, we are very different kinds of sleepers. I like to sprawl out under the covers and take up as much space as possible. My boyfriend, who’s a big guy, has a special sleep-number bed that he’s calibrated to fit his body. Whenever he sleeps anywhere else, whether that’s in a hotel room or his parents’ guest room, he sleeps poorly. When we try to snooze inches from one another, we are far too aware of the other person’s body. I react to his talking in his sleep; he hears me snoring.

And, I don’t know about you, but when I don’tget enough sleep (for me, enough is much closer to eight than six hours), I’m not that fun to be around. I’m cranky, hungry, and tired. Schedules play a role, too: He leaves for work at 7 a.m., while I’m a work-from-home freelance writer who sometimes stays up past 2 and sleeps ’til 9.

Plus, on top of being opposite sleep types, we’re also opposite living types — he’s a neat freak and I’m a hoarder. His room has what feels, to me, like tons of empty space. Mine is packed with belongings, many of which find their way into my bed. I invariably share my sheets with several books, my laptop, my cell phone, and a Hello Kitty stuffed animal. For him? Sheets, blankets, and pillows will do.

(MORE: I’ll Admit It: I Hate Relying On My Boyfriend)

I made the transition to living with a partner for the first time at age 37, after living alone for seven years. If I’d had to go from being the queen of my castle to trying to live up to his standards of decluttering, I’d go insane. I can handle it in the common areas, but I need some space just for me in which I can decide where things go without having to answer to anyone else. While I wouldn’t go as far as Chris Illuminati and say that every couple should sleep in separate beds, it’s an option worth considering for any pair with mismatched habits.

Still, it’s less about where we rest our heads than what’s happening inside those heads. Sometimes, I want to be alone. It’s not that I don’t want to talk to my boyfriend, per se — I don’t want to talk to anyone. If we shared a bedroom, it would be much harder to carve out that necessary alone time without coming across as rude. Having those boundaries already drawn means that when we are together in bed it’s because we want to be, not just because it’s bedtime.

Shutting the door wouldn’t feel as satisfying if he had every right to open it whenever he wanted. That’s something I especially value when I’m having a tough day. He processes his low moments by talking them out; I do it by crying and I hate for anyone, even my partner, to see me when I do. Though I’m alone all day, sometimes I just want to read or think or have a private phone conversation, which I feel more comfortable doing in a space clearly demarcated as my own. In addition to supporting our emotional health in these many ways, separate rooms mean a faster recovery when we’re sick; we don’t pass our germs back and forth to each other in the night.

(MORE: Why I Stopped Stalking My Ex On FB)

While it may seem strange, separate bedrooms has meant that when we do join each other, usually in his bigger, more comfortable bed, it’s code for sexy time (or, at least, sexy talk). We spend plenty of hours curled up on our couch watching TV, or playing Wii bowling, but when we get under the covers we laugh, whisper, make out, and have sex. Maybe not every time, but in general, it’s our cue to turn off our phones and focus on each other (full disclosure: sometimes I need reminding of this). Do we sometimes lie side by side and read or look at our phones or tablets? Yes, but it’s still more intimate, because we are physically closer together and more likely to get it on than we would be separated by half a couch.

After sex, we do what I imagine most couples do — cuddle and talk — but there always comes a point, right as one of us is drifting off, where I kiss him goodnight and leave to go to my own room. That’s the invisible line between our shared and private time.

The other night, I tried to curl up in his bed (I do get jealous of his extra-soft blanket) and he affectionately recommended I keep it moving. While part of me wanted to experience the joy of waking up next to him, I knew he was being practical. For us, the fantasy of spending the night in the same bed will always trump the reality. Instead, I shuffled off to my room, where I get to take up as much space as I want, sleep with the lights on if I so desire, and surprise him in the morning after we’ve each gotten the night of sleep we deserve. And for this twosome, that “arrangement” sure feels like love.

TIME Sex/Relationships

10 Ways to Improve Your Relationship Instantly

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With everything going on in the lives of the average couple, it’s easy to forget the small gestures that keep a relationship ticking. What most couples don’t realize, though, is that it doesn’t take much to help your partner feel more valued every day. “Stringing together these little things is an ongoing way to make a change in your relationship,” says Dr. Gail Saltz, Health’s contributing psychology editor. The expert tricks here can fit easily into any routine — in minutes you’ll be on your way to building a stronger connection and lasting bond over time.

Turn off your smartphone

If you’re glued to Facebook during dinner, then it’s time to unplug. A study published in Computers in Human Behavior looked at data from 1,160 married people and found a negative correlation between heavy social-media use and relationship happiness. “When angry, some people may turn to texting to avoid saying something,” Saltz says. “It’s a way of creating distance.” While it doesn’t hurt to send a flirty or loving message, it does pay off to be more direct with your partner when something is really eating at you.

Go to bed at the same time

Feel like you never have a free moment together? Hitting the sack at the same time will help. “Bedtime might be the only opportunity you’re alone together all day,” says Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., author of The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time. Even if you’re a night owl, you can always stay in bed until your partner drifts off. You should also make sure you’re both getting a healthy amount of shut-eye. A study from the University of California, Berkeley, looked at the sleep habits of more than 100 couples. Those who reported poor sleep were much more likely to argue with their significant other the next day.

Brew a cup of coffee for your partner

Grand gestures aren’t the only way to express your love. Something as simple as brewing your partner a cup of coffee in the morning helps improve your relationship, says Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., a marriage researcher and author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage From Good to Great. Orbuch has studied 373 couples for more than 28 years through the University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center, and her research shows that frequent small acts of kindness are a predictor of happiness in a relationship. “People may feel taken for granted,” Orbuch says. By doing these small tasks on a regular basis, you’ll help your partner feel noticed.

Bring up a funny moment from your past

Sometimes the best memories are the funny ones. In a Motivation and Emotion study, couples that remembered laughing together — like the time a grocery-store clerk did something funny in the checkout line — reported greater relationship satisfaction than those who remembered experiences that were positive but not necessarily when they’d laughed. “Laughter reminiscence packs an additional punch because people relive the moment by laughing again,” says study author Doris Bazzini, Ph.D., a psychologist at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.

Work up a sweat

It’s no secret that getting buff helps you out in the bedroom by boosting your endurance, strength and flexibility — but a sweat session also has more immediate effects. “Endorphins from exercise give you an adrenaline rush that boosts arousal,” Orbuch says. Activities that get your heart rate up, like hiking, running or biking, are guaranteed to have a positive effect on desire. “Any kind of arousal rush can be transferred to your partner and add passion to your relationship,” Orbuch says.

Health.com: 10 Best Workouts for Your Sex Life

Dance before dinnertime

Couples who frequently try new things together have higher-quality relationships, according to research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. And we’re not necessarily talking extreme activities like skydiving or traveling to an exotic corner of the world (though those work too) — the activities simply should be new to the two of you, and can last for as little as seven minutes, researchers say. Dinnertime is one moment it’s easy to try something new. Turn on some catchy music while you’re cooking and start dancing together, Orbuch suggests. Or you could try a new a cooking technique — homemade sushi, anyone?

Have sex in a different place

Getting busy often enough to satisfy you both is key. If you’re feeling so-so about your bedroom romps, it might be time for a change. One idea: try having sex in a room or area you’ve never done it in. “New elements of play stimulate the dopamine system,” Saltz says. “When you do something that causes you to release more dopamine, it’s a positive reinforcer.” Want to suggest a tryst in the kitchen? Don’t worry about making it a drawn-out conversation, she says. It can be as simple as a one-liner that hints at your intention like, “The kids are gone. How about the kitchen table?” As long as your partner is game for the idea too, nothing’s stopping you.

Give your partner a hug

Nonsexual touching like hugging or handholding is just as important as sex itself in keeping your relationship healthy. “Touching is probably the most definitive way to let other people know you’re in a relationship,'” Goldsmith says. In the long run, the more you touch your mate, the more you’ll feel comfortable with each other. “Touching is a way we calm ourselves down,” Goldsmith says. “Every time you do it, you’re sending a positive message to your significant other.”

Ask a new question

As a couple, you probably spend most of your time chatting about work, your kids or your friends. When’s the last time you stopped to ask something new about each other? Everyone changes as relationships progress, Orbuch says, so it’s likely your partner has different interests and passions from the early years of your relationship. So ask your partner about anything you wouldn’t normally — movies, music, even what you’d do with lottery winnings.

Say thank you

Think about the last time your partner did something to help you out or made you feel special, and then say “thank you” for it. “You get so comfortable with your partner, it’s easy to expect them to meet your needs,” Saltz says. Too often couples forget to express a simple thanks, whether one of you helps out with the chores or surprises the other with a gift. And have you ever said thank you to your partner for simply being in your life? It’s important to express gratitude for this — not just for what they’re doing for you, Goldsmith says.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

More from Health.com:

18 Habits of the Happiest Families

13 Healthy Reasons to Have More Sex

20 Weird Facts About Love and Sex

TIME relationships

Two Real Stories That Will Change Your Mind About Cheating

This article originally appeared on Refinery 29.com.

Illustrated by Anna Sudit

Jealousy is probably one of the most toxic emotions out there. It’s a monster of a feeling — all-encompassing. At its worst, it can make you lose sight of yourself entirely. Being in the throes of jealousy can feel like a primal kind of anger.And, yet; is it possible that infidelity, and the feelings it evokes, are at least in part social constructions? Shouldn’t we at least entertain the idea that the notion of monogamous, lifelong partnership — of fidelity as the ultimate golden rule in love — might be just another box on the Puritanical checklist?It’s a hot topic, one that tugs at a lot of very tender heartstrings for a lot of people. Two of those people agreed to write about their experiences with cheating; read on and see if their perspectives change your mind, or at least make you think.

Kelly Bourdet, Refinery29 health and wellness director: Well, it happens to most people, so we might as well get over it.

Illustrated by Anna Sudit

Infidelity is as difficult to study as it is to define. In a time with so many ways to cheat, our concept of infidelity is often reverse-engineered; we arrive at our definitions based on what, subjectively, we believe would hurt us. Short of having straight-up sexual intercourse with someone outside of the confines of a monogamous relationship (this, I think, is pretty commonly agreed upon to count as ‘cheating’), there are a myriad of other behaviors that some of us feel (sort of) bad about.

Life offers no shortage of situations that are firmly planted in the grey area between accepting praise from your boss and ending up in bed with him or her after a night of “working late.” These include, but are not limited to: texting, sexting, going out to drinks one-on-one, crushing, flirting, emoticon-laden Gchat…the list goes on. We make increasingly arbitrary delineations between physical cheating, emotional cheating, cyber cheating, and so on. We focus both on the intention and the action. But, at the root of any infidelity is a subjective sense of betrayal — one that hinges upon a set of rules that’s likely unique to the specific relationship.

(MORE: How to Survive and Thrive After Cheating)

Figures on infidelity vary widely. This makes sense: Those keeping affairs a secret are likely to withhold that information from their friendly sexuality researcher. But, as a starting point, one 1997 study found that an affair had occured in 40% to 76% of marriages. Keep in mind, though, that this study only examined heterosexual marriages. A more recent study, out this year, found that over 50% of both men and women had committed infidelity at some point — and this study surveyed gay men and lesbian women in addition to heterosexual men and women. So, while we don’t really know how many people have cheatin’ hearts, it’s likely most of us will be touched by infidelity in some way.

In her 2007 book, Lust in Translation, former Wall Street Journal reporter Pamela Druckerman explores how various cultures across the globe deal with infidelity: “Americans are the worst, both at having affairs and dealing with the aftermath,” she told Men’s Health. “Adultery crises in America last longer, cost more, and seem to inflict more emotional torture.” It appears the French, on the other hand, are more accepting of infidelity. In a survey conducted in 2012, only 47% of French people said it was “morally unacceptable” for married people to have an affair (for reference, 84% of Americans believe it’s morally unacceptable).

Illustrated by Anna Sudit

I’m not arguing that cheating itself is a good idea. What I’m more concerned with is how drastically we react to it, and how much we let it upend our relationships. Is cheating on your partner a shitty move? Absolutely. Is it the absolute worst, most terrible, heartbreaking event of your lives together? Well, that’s subjective. But, I don’t think it has to be.

I’ve been cheated on before, and it didn’t feel great. But, in retrospect, it made perfect sense — and it actually wasn’t that big of deal. My S.O. at the time traveled constantly for his job, often to Los Angeles. Eventually, it came out that he had been hooking up with someone else in LA. Was I mad at the time? Yeah, of course. But, I also realized that we were both in our 20s, we were apart for a significant amount of time, and we both worked in industries that had us out late at night. Taking all this into account, cheating wasn’t such a huge surprise.

(MORE: Why Does Cheating Feel So Good?)

We cling so desperately to a rigid notion of monogamy, and monogamy is a fine goal to have. But, when someone makes a very human mistake or falls short of our happily-ever-after ideals, we freak out. By all means, an instance of infidelity should give pause; a pattern of infidelity definitely means something. Maybe there’s a fundamental problem within the relationship. But, maybe there’s not. The ultimate goal of any relationship should be to have honest and open communication — to be able to communicate your desires without cheating. But, when that doesn’t happen, there’s no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

It’s easy to sit primly on the expectation of a perfectly monogamous relationship. It’s generally accepted that cheating is a horrible betrayal that wounds people terribly. But, haven’t we created that stigma ourselves? By building cheating up to be a life-altering event of devastation, we convince ourselves that it is one. Expecting a mistake-free relationship — and life — seems a bit unrealistic. So, if you cheat or are cheated on, my advice is to figure out why it happened, figure out what you want, and then move on.

Rosemary Downs, writer, 24: Is cheating a big deal? If you’re calling it cheating, then yes, it’s a problem.

Illustrated by Anna Sudit

The weird thing is, I wish I could be okay with non-monogamy. Intellectually, I really believe that overcoming jealousy and accepting that you can’t hold ownership over another person is one of the most enlightened things you can do. Unfortunately, I can’t — no matter how hard I try — reconcile that with the overwhelming emotional reaction I have to even the very idea of being cheated on (much less the actual experience of it). Maybe, someday, that will change — but for now, I ask anyone I’m with to be with me and only me. If they can’t, that’s going to be a problem.Before cheating happened to me, I definitely fancied myself the kind of person who would take it in stride — maybe even take some lovers of my own to match. I had joked with my boyfriend about my “suspicions,” but I never took them seriously. I was blindsided when they turned out to be true. I can’t explain the intensity of what I felt or how angry I was; there are no words, only me smashing things and tearing my hair out, as melodramatic as that might sound. It was a blow to my ego that I had never experienced before, and as someone with a pretty fragile self image, such a blow was disastrous. I honestly don’t know if it will ever be repaired. Seeing infidelity travel from outside the realm of my imagination to inside my everyday existence changed me fundamentally. It felt like an irrefutable blemish on my person.The odd thing is, I didn’t take out that anger nearly as much as I believe I should have. I don’t think anyone should be cruelly punished or berated for cheating, because while it can be a despicable and heartless act, it can also be simply a stupid one, or a lapse in judgment, or even a manifestation of deeper internal issues. But, I do think things would have progressed better for everyone if I’d been bold enough to make the true extent of the damage known to those around me. I should have yelled and screamed and thrown things (not heavy things, but something) when I first found out, like I often dream about doing now. Catharsis, I suppose, is the preferred term.

Illustrated by Anna Sudit

Or, maybe I should have just “chosen my own happiness,” or whatever it is people say on Pinterest. Maybe I should have been progressive and open-minded enough to remain unfazed, uninsulted, and unbroken. But, ultimately, at this stage of my life, I do not have that choice, or that power. So, I ask my partner never to cheat again — and I will ask this of anyone else I am with in the future, too.

Everyone has their requirements. Some people could never be with a person who wasted water or hadn’t read Proust; I can’t be with someone who doesn’t give our relationship a special priority — one that is not matched or even mimicked by something on the side. In return, it’s my responsibility to curb my jealousy when it is unwarranted, and to accept that this agreement is about mutual trust, not about complete ownership or snooping on each other’s emails. If we can’t agree on this point, then we just aren’t a good match.

People have told me that I should love and accept myself in spite of what’s happened, that I should build a kind of self confidence that is independent of the events of my life (which, I admit, in the grand scheme of things, has been pretty cushy). But, ultimately, the reason I can justify my point of view on cheating is a belief I hold pretty firmly: that self-love is not an isolated thing that lives high atop a mountain and is untouched by the elements. It is shaped by the other egos around it. That’s not a bad thing, nor is it something to reject in favor of some Randian ideal. In fact, it’s a challenge we should all aspire to meet.

Simply put, it’s a matter of respect, and if one partner asks for fidelity — if (and this is an important if) fidelity is something possible and acceptable for both partners — it’s a small but important kindness to honor that request. There’s a basic equation at play. If being cheated on hurts your partner, and you love your partner, then you shouldn’t do it. What could be clearer than that?

(MORE: What I Learned When My Boyfriend Cheated on Me)

TIME Sex/Relationships

7 Reasons to Have More Sex

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Danielle D. Hughson—Getty Images

If you really need an excuse (or several) to heat things up in the bedroom, we’ve got you covered: Besides the obvious reasons one might have sex—love, pleasure, baby-making—science shows that there are quite a few health benefits of getting intimate. The next time your partner asks, “Was it good for you?” you can say yes—in more ways than one!

Sex burns calories

Yes, knocking boots counts as exercise—and it sure beats the gym! Depending on how physical you get, sex can strengthen muscle tone, increase your heart rate, and get your whole body working, says Justin Lehmiller, PhD, creator of lecturer in the department of psychology at Purdue University and author of The Psychology of Human Sexuality. And according to a 2013 study in which volunteers wore activity trackers while they did the deed, men burn about 101 calories per session, while women torch an average of 69. “Relatively speaking, that’s not a huge amount,” says Lehmiller. He points out, however, that sex in the study (from foreplay to orgasm) lasted an average of 25 minutes. “If you have sex for a longer period of time, you can have even more of those calorie-burning benefits.”

Health.com: 10 Reasons You’re Not Having Sex

Sex helps you sleep

After orgasm, the body releases a relaxation hormone called prolactin, says Kristin Mark, PhD, director of the Sexual Health Promotion Lab at the University of Kentucky. “If you’re not feeling particularly tired beforehand, having sex and reaching orgasm may certainly help you nod off a little more quickly than you would have otherwise.”

Sex lowers your blood pressure and stress levels

In a 2005 Scottish study, volunteers were asked to record their sexual activity for two weeks and were then given anxiety-inducing tasks, like public speaking or solving math problems out loud. Those who’d had sex over the study period experienced smaller blood pressure spikes, and recovered from them more quickly, than those who hadn’t. (Only penile-vaginal intercourse seemed to have this effect, not masturbation or other forms of sexual activity.)

Health.com: 20 Weird Things You Didn’t Know About Sex

The study suggests two important benefit of regular sex, says Mark: Better blood pressure control, and better stress management overall. “Sex not only lowers people’s perceived levels of stress, but it also appears to help them handle stress more effectively,” she says.

Sex strengthens your heart

Regular sex may benefit the cardiovascular system in other ways. A British study found that men who had sex at least twice a week over a period of 20 years were less likely to have died from heart disease than those who got it on less than once a month. After 10 years, in fact, their risk of sudden death was 50% less than that of the group that had less sex, although that gap lessened over the next decade.

These sorts of findings only show a correlation, not causation, says Mark. “People who have healthy sex lives probably have overall healthy lifestyles.” Even so, she suspects there may be a connection: “Sex helps regulate hormones like estrogen and testosterone,” she says, “which impacts all kinds of systems in the body, including the heart.”

Health.com: 7 Foods for Better Sex

Sex may protect against cancer

Some studies have suggested that men who ejaculate more frequently may have a reduced risk of prostate cancer—although the difference appears to be very small, and others haven’t found a conclusive link.

The benefits may be clearer for breast cancer prevention, however: A French study found that women who had sex at least once a month were less likely to develop breast cancer than those who didn’t. And while the disease is rare in men, those who orgasm less than six times a month appear to be at increased risk of breast cancer compared to those who do so more often, according to a Greek study.

Sex boosts immunity

Getting busy on a weekly basis stimulates the immune system and provides protection from the common cold, according to a Wilkes University study. Researchers gave college students questionnaires about their sex lives, then tested their saliva for levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA), an antibody that helps fight off viruses. They found that the students who had sex once or twice a week had 30% more IgA than those who had sex less frequently. (They also, however, had higher IgA levels than those who had sex three times a week or more, suggesting that in this case, maybe you can get too much of a good thing.)

Health.com: 15 Everyday Habits to Boost Your Libido

Sex relieves pain

Women often opt out because of headaches, or so the cliché goes—but, according to a 2013 German study, having sex may actually help them feel better. When study volunteers chose to have sex during a headache episode, about 60% of migraine sufferers and 30% of cluster headache sufferers reported partial or total relief.

Endorphins released during orgasm, as well as increased blood flow to the genital area, likely play a role in sex’s pain-relieving power, says Mark. “Pain sometimes has to do with blood flowing to one particular area, like the head, and sex can take some of that pressure off by redirecting the flow.”

13 Reasons to Have More Sex originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME relationships

5 Strange But Effective Ways to Get Over a Breakup

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This list of breakup rituals will entertain and inspire

This post originally appeared on Refinery 29.

Beware those weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s when breakups skyrocket. As we’re reaching the tail end of this precarious season, some of us undoubtedly are finding ourselves casualties of the trend. But, fear not. We bring you stories from women who worked through their breakups, well, just a little differently than most.

From upping your workout schedule to taking an exotic vacation, there are many ways to deal. That being said, some breakup rituals are a little more extreme and unique than others. Sometimes it hurts so bad that a run on the treadmill or that brand-new-you hairstyle just won’t cut it and you find yourself doing the strangest things to get your mind off of “he or she who shall not be named.” But, hey, whatever works.

For those of you going through a breakup right now, whether you need a good giggle, a little comfort knowing you aren’t the only one behaving a bit out of sorts, or new ideas to help you move on, this list of breakup rituals will entertain and inspire. We found five women with some unusual reactions to exiting their relationships and got the down-low on what it takes to really move on.

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Get New Sheets

Alexis, 24, strips after her breakups. No, we don’t mean she picks up pole-dancing classes (although that would be awesome). She strips her bed. “I can’t bear the thought that he had slept in these sheets, so out they go, and in I go to Bed Bath & Beyond for new ones.” When it’s a particularly bad breakup, she’ll go so far as to get a new mattress. So, in the last four years, she’s replaced two of them — and not because they had lost their bounce. Sounds expensive, but it works. And, it’s very sanitary.

(MORE: What I Learned When My Boyfriend Cheated On Me)

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Scrub The Floors

For Callie, 32, breakups are really good for her apartment. “I put my focus in the floors. I get down on my hands and knees and scrub every last inch of floor until I’ve forgotten about him, or until the floor sparkles, whichever comes first.” She finds focusing on something really specific helps take her mind off of her ex. Also, setting a basic goal for herself that she knows she can achieve boosts her self-esteem when the task is done. Next time she’s looking to work out some relationship woes, our floors are available to clean…er…we mean…our shoulders are available to cry on.

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Read The News

Facebook sure knows how to rub a breakup in your face. During her recovery, Megan, 30, did the usual unfriending and blocking, but that wasn’t enough. Like many of us, Megan was a little bit addicted to scrolling through her Facebook News Feed, but post-breakup, this habit became truly painful. All she saw were happy couples and their posts felt like salt in her wounds. But, she couldn’t kick her scrolling addiction, so she turned to another media outlet: CNN. To keep her fingers happy, she would scroll through the news stories just as she would her News Feed and get her fill of information. The difference was this information was actually useful and important (no offense, all you newly engaged or expectant couples). “It was weird, but I found myself reading the news all the time, which I never did before. That time of my day was usually spent Facebook stalking. It was much easier for me to read about unromantic and often terrible things going on in the world than it was to see happy people in Facebook land. It was a welcome distraction.”

(MORE: The Ultimate Post-Breakup Hotness Manual)

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Get Lost

A vacation or adventure can mend a broken heart in no time. After a breakup, writer Ana, 29, goes anywhere new — whether it’s a foreign country or a new neighborhood around the block — and just gets lost. She doesn’t look at her phone, doesn’t ask for directions; she just wanders until she feels cleansed. It serves as a distraction from what is going on back at home and also reminds her that there is more out there, an entire world, in fact. “When dealing with a breakup, I want to be somewhere where no one knows who I am, who he is, and, especially, who ‘we’ were,” says Ana. This method sounds so foolproof that we have a feeling she might not only come home totally over her ex, but perhaps with a new paramour she picked up along her travels?

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Watch Scary Movies

What’s the perfect cure for a bad breakup? A night in with movies, ice cream, and wine, of course. But, Maria, 26, couldn’t watch just any old movie. While it is smart (for obvious, tear-inducing reasons) to avoid rom-coms after a breakup, Maria didn’t stop there. She couldn’t bear to watch any semblance of romance and happiness, so she turned to the polar opposite: guts and gore. “I didn’t care for them before but I became somewhat of a scary-movie fanatic.” When those weren’t available, she turned to Lifetime thrillers or Law and Order. Months later, she’s successfully over him and back on regular movies. However, horror flicks will always hold a special place in her heart. Next time you need a distraction from a breakup, Maria recommends The Village.

(MORE: The Best Movies For Getting Over Your Ex)

TIME Sex/Relationships

The Best Movies For Getting Over Your Ex

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This post originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

Our goal here is simple: to help you curate the perfect Rolodex of movies that will help you deal if or when things with your loved one fall apart. And, to help us in our quest for catharsis, we’ve consulted the very academic Kübler-Ross model of handling grief, which divides the process into five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (because, above all else, we here at Refinery29 are nothing if not academics, of course).

There are many different types of breakup movies: the ones that are actually about breakups in the literal sense and the ones that deal with the different stages of breakups metaphorically. For instance: (500) Days of Summer. That’s about breakups. The Hours, on the other hand, is about handling grief, an emotion that occurs after any loss — especially the loss of a relationship. Because a list of breakup movies exists around every corner of the Internet, we’re digging deeper into the films that will help you cope with those separations in a far less overt but no less helpful way.

Movies, above all else, are therapeutic. The best ones allow us to relieve, relive, or re-evaluate our most tender experiences in a way that no other art form can. Click through to see our picks for the films that will aid you in getting through every one of those five stages — and straight on to renewal.

DENIAL: Silver Linings Playbook

There’s nothing sadder than watching someone refuse to accept the end of a relationship, but that’s what makes the burgeoning romance between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence’s manic lovebirds so darn powerful. It’s only once Cooper’s character learns to let go of the woman who abandoned him that he can see the woman who’s standing right in front of him.

DENIAL: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Have you ever wished you’d never met the person who broke your heart? In Charlie Kaufman’s oddball romance, Joel Barrish (Jim Carrey) has that wish granted via a mysterious procedure in which the memories of his ex-girlfriend (Kate Winslet) are erased. It’s only then that he realizes the love they shared was worth the loss, but simultaneously, we are destined to repeat our same mistakes — no matter how good our intentions may be. Sometimes, love is just not enough.

DENIAL: (500) Days of Summer

Who else but Zooey Deschanel’s crush-worthy manic pixie dream girl could take a man’s heart and totally pulverize it? In Marc Webb’s refreshing take on the rom-com, that man is Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a hopeless romantic who must suffer the pains of a disintegrating relationship, before he emerges clear-eyed on the other side.

(MORE: 5 Strange But Effective Ways To Breeze Through Your Breakup)

ANGER: She-Devil

Imagine the premise of The Other Woman, except, instead of the pretty and palatable Cameron/Leslie/Kate trio, you have a maniacal Roseanne Barr with an angry mole. After being treated horribly by her husband, Barr’s Ruth goes after her husband’s four assets — home, family, job, and freedom — taking down the campy, WASP-y Meryl Streep (who is in true comedic form), who stole her husband. Brutal, evil, and demonstrative that hell hath no fury.

ANGER: Desperate Living

Within the first half-hour of this grating, disgusting, absolutely filthy John Waters film, Mink Stole curses out children, kills her husband, and goes on the lam with her lesbian lover. This pic teems with an urgent sense of discomfort and proves that bad guys get what’s coming to them, often up their own butts. Literally.

ANGER: Heathers

“I just killed my best friend.”
“And, worst enemy…”
“Same difference.”

Of course, we aren’t advocating any sort of accidental-murder crime spree here, butHeathers is the perfect reminder that sometimes the people stuck in your life are the ones who are the most poisonous. And, nothing feels better than Winona Ryder telling the psychopathic Christian Slater that all she wants is “Cool dudes like you out of my life.”

ANGER: Legally Blonde

There is one major takeaway from Legally Blonde: The best revenge is busting your ass to challenge yourself, meeting your goals, exploring new ventures, and not changing who you are in the process. So, you know, do that.

ANGER: War of the Roses

No, this isn’t about pre-Tudor England, but about a couple with a seemingly perfect marriage that begins to fall apart. Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner bitterly turn on one another and harness their possessions, pets, and, um, chandeliers to destroy the other. Spoiler alert: It works, and it is darkly, morbidly hilarious.

(MORE: What I Learned When My Boyfriend Cheated On Me)

BARGAINING: My Best Friend’s Wedding

Watching Julia Roberts play a woman who wants what she can’t have is like watching a cow go swimming. It’s not supposed to happen. But, as a lifelong careerist pining for her best friend as he plans his, duh, wedding, Roberts convinces us that falling in love with the wrong person is just as hard as it sounds.

BARGAINING: Chasing Amy

Ben Affleck’s Holden ends the movie by actually bargaining with his best friend and his girlfriend, offering a pretty stupid solution for all of the tension between them. And, the thing is, you can’t persuade anyone — especially yourself — to accept the one you love.

BARGAINING: Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Yes, this is the one where Jason Segel gets naked. But, he bares a lot more than his private parts as a lovelorn sound mixer forced to get over his famous girlfriend (Kristen Bell). He kicks and screams and begs and pleads for her back, before finally realizing they were never meant to be. How does he get there? Two words: Mila Kunis.

(MORE: The Ultimate Post-Breakup Hotness Manual)

DEPRESSION: Blue Valentine

Derek Cianfrance’s autopsy of a relationship-gone-bad is a staunch reminder that all things fall apart. Please forgive us for our doom-and-gloom perspective, but after watching Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams trade gut-punch after gut-punch as a couple caught in a downward spiral, we’re sure you’ll agree. Relationships. Are. Hard.

DEPRESSION: Chinatown

Watching Jack Nicholson’s bandaged gumshoe roam through Roman Polanski’s bleak depiction of postwar Los Angeles is just as depressing as it sounds. This classic neo-noir — in which the rich get richer, the disenfranchised drown, and corruption is rampant — is a staunch reminder that the world we live in is a scary, scary place.

DEPRESSION: The Hours

One of the things this Oscar-nominated film does so well is depict the complex, isolating nature of depression. And, not just depression, but, particularly, feminine depression. Three different women, three different time periods, and one emotion connecting them all. The film is a deft reminder that, despite any perceived evidence to the contrary, no one is really alone.

ACCEPTANCE: The First Wives Club

Yes, this movie does work on the premise that, after a certain age, your husband will probably leave you for a younger woman, which kind of sucks. But, it also affirms the power of a womanly bond and what happens when determined, strong women focus on something other than men.

ACCEPTANCE: An Unmarried Woman

Another man-leaving-for-a-younger-woman tale, this snapshot of New York in the ’70s doesn’t just address the end of a relationship but the sexual liberation of women as well. Jill Clayburgh, who was nominated for an Academy Award for this role, goes through the same five stages of Kübler-Ross outlined here, but she emerges from the other side empowered — and sexually fulfilled.

ACCEPTANCE: Postcards from the Edge

Adapted from Carrie Fisher’s true life story about getting clean and heading back to acting, Suzanne (Meryl Streep) has to sober up in order to continue with her film career, which means confronting sleazy producers, coming to terms with her overbearing mother, and dealing with addiction. Messy Meryl is both earnest and darkly dry. The film has a wise assumption: Many of us have dysfunctional relationships with our mothers, and the sooner we realize it, the sooner we can start laughing.

ACCEPTANCE: How Stella Got Her Groove Back

Terry McMillan’s life-affirming tale of a middle-aged divorcée (Angela Bassett) who (what else?) gets her groove back is the kind of movie that will convince you that sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side. Especially when the other side is made up of a wise-cracking Whoopi Goldberg, the sun-drenched island of Jamaica, and Taye Diggs with his shirt off.

ACCEPTANCE: To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar

While this movie has no real romance (Chi-Chi’s fling hardly counts), the lesson is powerful: You are who you are, and grace, class, and a sense of goodness are the best ways to be fabulous. That, and a “Say Anything Hat Day.”

RENEWAL: Breaking the Waves

We don’t normally turn to chronic pessimist Lars von Trier for tales of redemption, but in this mesmerizing tearjerker, he puts Emily Watson’s fragile, young Bess through an emotional firestorm before bringing her back via a spiritual epiphany that will stay with you for days, months, and years.

RENEWAL: Up

The opening montage of Pixar’s modern classic is admittedly one of the most devastating sequences ever put on film. But, after our curmudgeonly widower develops an unlikely friendship with a pudgy Boy Scout, our faith in humanity is restored.

RENEWAL: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Thematically, this is a story about beginnings. Just think about what a magical journey Harry (and film fans) have ahead of them. Let’s all take the opportunity to start again.

RENEWAL: Waitress

This poignant tale of redemption features Keri Russell as a stuck-in-neutral baker who finds new life in the form of a handsome doctor (Nathan Fillion) and a bun in the oven. No, not the kind that’s cream-filled, but the kind that takes nine months to be done.

TIME psychology

6 Things to Do to Improve Your Relationship

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

In the past I’ve covered the research regarding what you should look for in a marriage partner.

What do studies say about what you can do to improve your relationship?

Excitement

Divorce may have less to do with an increase in conflict and more to do with a decrease in positive feelings. Boredom really can hurt a relationship:

Being bored with the marriage undermines closeness, which in turn reduces satisfaction, Orbuch said.

“It suggests that excitement in relationships facilitates or makes salient closeness, which in turn promotes satisfaction in the long term,” she said.

We spend a lot of time trying to reduce conflict but not enough time experiencing thrills. And the latter may be more important.

Via Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being:

Shelly Gable, professor of psychology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, has demonstrated that how you celebrate is more predictive of strong relations than how you fight.

The research points again and again to how important thrills are:

  • Think a pleasant evening is all it takes? Researchers did a 10 week study comparing couples that engaged in “pleasant” activities vs “exciting” activities. Pleasant lost.

So do something exciting. Go dancing together or anything else you can both participate in as a couple.

Let Yourself Be A Little Deluded With Love

Being a little deluded helps marriages:

…people who were unrealistically idealistic about their partners when they got married were more satisfied with their marriage three years later than less idealistic people.

And it’s not just true for marriages:

…relationship illusions predicted greater satisfaction, love, and trust, and less conflict and ambivalence in both dating and marital relationships. A longitudinal follow-up of the dating sample revealed that relationships were more likely to persist the stronger individuals’ initial illusions.

5 to 1

Keep that ratio in mind. You need five good things for every bad thing in order to keep a happy relationship:

A 2.9: 1 means you are headed for a divorce. You need a 5: 1 ratio to predict a strong and loving marriage— five positive statements for every critical statement you make of your spouse.

And when you’re dealing with your mother-in-law the ratio is 1000 to 1. I’m not kidding.

Be Conscientious

Conscientiousness is the trait most associated with marital satisfaction:

…our findings suggest that conscientiousness is the trait most broadly associated with marital satisfaction in this sample of long-wed couples.

Actually, you can kill a lot of birds with this one stone because it’s also associated with longevity, income, job satisfaction and health.

Gratitude

Gratitude can be a booster shot for a relationship:

…gratitude had uniquely predictive power in relationship promotion, perhaps acting as a booster shot for the relationship.

It can even create a self-perpetuating positive feedback loop:

Thus, the authors’ findings add credence to their model, in that gratitude contributes to a reciprocal process of relationship maintenance, whereby each partner’s maintenance behaviors, perceptions of responsiveness, and feelings of gratitude feed back on and influence the other’s behaviors, perceptions, and feelings.

Try

Sounds silly but it’s true. Want a better relationship? Try.

Sounds ridiculous but:

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Related posts:

The Science Of “Happily Ever After”: 3 Things That Keep Love Alive

What are the four things that kill relationships?

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME psychology

These 4 Things Kill Relationships

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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

John Gottman can listen to a couple for 5 minutes and determine, with 91% accuracy, whether they’ll divorce.

He was featured in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink.

Gottman’s researched marriage for over 40 years and couples that attend his workshops have half the relapse rate that standard therapy provides.

His book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is excellent and rich with information.

In it he debunks a lot of myths about marriage, explains why marriages go bad and what can be done about it.

The Four Horsemen

How can he tell who will split up? There are a number of indicators but at the core of Gottman’s research are ” The Four Horsemen.” These are the four things that indicate a marriage apocalypse is on its way:

  • Criticism – Complaints are fine. Criticism is more global — it attacks the person, not their behavior. They didn’t take out the garbage because they forgot, but because they’re a bad person.
  • Contempt“…name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor. In whatever form, contempt – the worst of the four horsemen – is poisonous to a relationship because it conveys disgust. It’s virtually impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message that you’re disgusted with him or her.”
  • Defensiveness“…defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner. You’re saying, in effect, ‘The problem isn’t me, it’s you.’ Defensiveness just escalates the conflict, which is why it’s so deadly.”
  • Stonewalling – Tuning out. Disengaging. This doesn’t just remove the person from the conflict, it ends up removing them, emotionally, from the relationship.

What was the biggest insight about marriage?

What surprised me the most? Gottman’s research reveals that major differences of opinion don’t destroy marriages, it’s how a couple deals with them.

69% of a couple’s problems are perpetual. These problems don’t go away yet many couples keep arguing about them year after year:

Most marital arguments cannot be resolved. Couples spend year after year trying to change each other’s mind – but it can’t be done. This is because most of their disagreements are rooted in fundamental differences of lifestyle, personality, or values. By fighting over these differences, all they succeed in doing is wasting their time and harming their marriage.

How do good marriages deal with issues that can’t be resolved? They accept one another as-is:

These couples intuitively understand that problems are inevitably part of a relationship, much the way chronic physical ailments are inevitable as you get older. They are like a trick knee, a bad back, an irritable bowel, or tennis elbow. We may not love these problems, but we are able to cope with them, to avoid situations that worsen them, and to develop strategies and routines that help us deal with them. Psychologist Dan Wile said it best in his bookAfter the Honeymoon: “When choosing a long-term partner… you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you’ll be grappling with for the next ten, twenty or fifty years.

What makes a marriage flourish?

The book is loaded with powerful information, anecdotes and advice. I’ll cover three useful elements here.

1) Really knowing each other is vital:

…emotionally intelligent couples are intimately familiar with each other’s world… these couples have made plenty of cognitive room for their marriage. They remember the major events in each other’s history, and they keep updating their information as the facts and feelings of their spouse’s world change.

2) When fighting, do your best to avoid using the word you and try to use the word I. This makes it much easier to express feelings and much harder to attack the other person.

3) What’s the most powerful little exercise to improve a marriage? “Reunite at the end of the day and talk about how it went.” The goal is to bleed off stress from the day so it can’t negatively affect your relationship.

A few other interesting bits:

  • “…an unhappy marriage can increase your chances of getting sick by roughly 35% and even shorten your life by an average of four years.”
  • “96% of the time you can predict the outcome of a conversation based on the first three minutes of the fifteen minute interaction…”
  • “I’ve found 94 percent of the time that couples who put a positive spin on their marriage’s history are likely to have a happy future as well. When happy memories are distorted, it’s a sign that the marriage needs help.”

There’s too much information in the book for me to really do it justice here.

If the subject is of interest to you, check it out: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.

Join 100K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

Related posts:

The Science Of “Happily Ever After”: 3 Things That Keep Love Alive

What are the 5 things that make love last?

What should you look for in a marriage partner?

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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