Romance in a Time of Diabetes

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By: Linda von Wartburg

Romance is different than sex. Sex is an "act" that you "perform," and, assuch, it can be thwarted by worries about failure and performance, especially inpeople with diabetes-related complications. Romance is another thing entirely.

It's sensuous, heavy with perfume, intertwined with the appetites of all thesenses, warm and intimate, relaxed and loving. When diabetes enters yourbedroom, romance sometimes retreats. But romance is easy to rekindle, and thewarmth that it brings to your relationship can lead to sexual heat as well.

Valentine's Day is the one day on which we pay tribute to romance. So in honorof that day, we are bringing you a primer on creating romantic emotions. Firstof all, you should know that just thinking about sensual encounters prompts aslow warm-up of sensual feelings. Anticipation, teasing your mind, is key. Soit's important to do things ahead of time that'll turn your thoughts to intimacyand keep them there, free of interference from your everyday worries andresponsibilities.

That's why a romantic dinner is such a good idea. Eating is a very sensual actin itself, but you have to take the time to really enter into the whole act. And it can't be "everyday." Romance is killed by predictability and routine.Romance requires adventure and the unexpected, no matter how small. In fact, theunusual is such an integral part of romance that it actually activates a special"romance" part of the brain; anyone you see in unusual circumstances tends tolook more attractive to you. Slightly dangerous circumstances work even better,which is why hot-air balloon rides (and extramarital affairs) are such popularromantic activities.

If you haven't time for a balloon ride, just make your dinner different. Havechampagne in a crystal flute, and buy some finger foods that arediabetes-friendly. Eating with your fingers is sexy and unusual. Use lots ofcandles: everybody looks better by candlelight, and the ambience they create isromance personified. Use foods that used to be thought of as aphrodisiac.

Theplacebo effect is a powerful thing, and avocados and oysters, figs andasparagus, and raspberries and strawberries were all thought to have sensualeffects in more romantic days of yore. And don't forget a little dark chocolate,of course: as it melts deliciously in your mouth, just concentrate on yourfeelings as you taste it.

Think about dressing up for dinner. Again, it brings that frisson of theunexpected that's so crucial to romance. When you're dressed up, you are notyour everyday self. To the primitive part of your partner's brain, you mighteven be a completely different person, especially if you smell different thanusual.

And there's nothing like that adventurous thought to bring anticipationand excitement to an evening. So put on a new perfume. If your partner is a man,find something that smells like pumpkin pie, lavender, or vanilla: those scentshave proven to be the most stimulating in studies. If your partner is a woman,try licorice, cucumber, baby powder, or lavender and pumpkin pie. But stay awayfrom men's cologne, cherry scents, and barbeque, which didn't work very well tostimulate women.

All the senses come together to kindle romance. You've covered taste and smelland sight, so bring your auditory memory into the game by playing romanticmusic. It focuses your mind on thoughts of romance, and it holds at bay thecraziness of the everyday that can sink those thoughts. Now all that's left istouch.

Touch can be a touchy issue because it shaves pretty close to the worries aboutperformance that sometimes haunt people with diabetes. So you'll want to useromantic touch. Romantic touch is, remember the watchword, not the everydayversion. And its core is anticipation. Anticipation that is frustrated andblocked works especially well, so your romantic touching is meant to stimulateyour senses, but stop short of sex.

Use special soft materials: a feather, asilken scarf, or a piece of velvety fur. Then lavish them on sensitive bodyareas that are usually ignored in hasty encounters, like your partner's feet,eyelids, and fingers. Or give your partner a massage with essential oils. Spendas long as you like in the half-light of the candles, but don't go any farther. After all, it's romance that you are nurturing now, and romance never wants toknow the end of the story.

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