If you are concerned with being a good step dad, you’re not alone. Just as the role of being a parent is confusing, exhausting, rewarding, and not for the faint of heart, being a step parent is even more of a challenge in many ways. Biological parents have the blessing of developing their relationship with their biological child over the course of time. Step parents enter a step child’s life, and it feels like a sink or swim situation. The counselors at The Center for Family Unity can help you understand how to be the good step dad you want to be. Here are ten tips to keep in mind:
- Be trustworthy. When you make a promise, follow through.
- Be clear on your role when it comes to discipline. Your wife should discipline her biological children. Your role is to support her as she does.
- Treat your step child with respect. They may not remember what you say, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
- Stay in your role as a step dad, not a biological father. Don’t ask your step child to call you “Dad.” Biological parents and their children are wired by nature to have a unique relationship.
- Encourage your step child to love, respect, and honor their biological father, even if you think he does not deserve it. It is important for the health and development of your step child to love and respect their biological parents.
- Don’t expect your step child will want to share your interests. You may love hunting deer in the rugged mountains, but your step son may prefer mastering a computer game. Allow room for different interests.
- Talk with other step fathers that have good relationships with their step children and ask them for relationship-building tips.
- If your step child is female, know up front she is likely to find it difficult to be close to you. It is part of the great mystery of the sexes. You will never understand it, any more than you understand other mysteries of the opposite sex.
- You may have years of experience as a biological parent, and find not much of your expertise transfers to being a step parent. Decide to be okay with that.
- Keep your expectations realistic.
The Center for Family Unity can help you learn to live your role as a step father, with a clear understanding of what goes into being a good step father, and how you can invest in and enjoy your role. The counselors can clarify some of the confusing realities that confront blended families. Many step parents find it comforting to learn that the difficulty they have experienced is common to most blended families, and more importantly, that there are solutions that foster good relationships. Give us a call to discuss your concerns and to learn more about how our approach can help.
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How to Be a Good Stepfather
by Dore Frances, IEC, Ph.D., founder of Horizon Family Solutions, LLC
Being a stepfather can be fulfilling and challenging. When you marry a person with children, you need to consider them part of a package deal, to be loved, nurtured, and protected to the best of your ability.
Be a good example to your stepchild. Drinking, drugs and smoking have no place in a home with children in it. This may not be the politically correct position, but from the effects of second hand smoke on young lungs, to the acceptance of illegal drugs, these are not good behaviors to model for children.
Balance the gifts and time you give your own children with the stepchild. They are a part of your family, not to be treated like second class citizens or outcasts.
Be patient when waiting for your new stepchild to respond to your affection, caring and love. Often, the child is deeply wounded by circumstances involving their biological father, and building a new relationship is threatening to them.
Be yourself. It is almost impossible to set up a pretence of doing, being, enjoying, or acting in ways that are not YOU. You may impress your step child for a while, but the real you will emerge sooner or later.
Discuss decisions which effect your stepchild with his or her mother. Don’t sign them up for a summer at a camp or sports club without talking it over with her. Don’t buy them firearms. or fireworks, even seemingly harmless ones like paintball guns or bb guns without her knowledge and consent.
Help plan the future of the children. It may fall on you to begin a savings plan for college expenses, the first car, and helping to find that first job.
Keep your negative opinions of the child’s biological father to yourself unless you are asked directly, and be circumspect when this occasion happens if there is a risk of an emotional overflow.
Invite the child to participate in your own activities. If you fish, golf, or do other hobby activities where it is appropriate, take your stepchild along. Not only does this give them a chance to see what you enjoy, but it gives their mother a break.
Never argue with the child’s mother in front of the child, and be especially careful about making derogatory remarks about her where the child may hear.
Respect the child’s mother’s disciplinary and homework regimens, and when you think they may be out of line, talk to her privately about your concerns, not in front of the child.
Respect the child’s private space. Any child, from preteen through their teen years deserve a reasonable amount of privacy and private space, and unless there is serious concern about the child’s behavior or activity, the more space they are given, the more trusted they will feel.
Remember, being a stepdad is a leadership role as part of a team. Accept the unique qualities of each team member, the limitations, even the eccentricities. There will be good times, even great times, but there will be conflict, disagreements, and letdowns. Patience, love, and a sympathetic view will help you through these challenges. You are the adult, no matter what the situation, you need to remember that, and that problems may seem huge, but often will be forgotten in tomorrows rush, or laughed about next year.
Spend time with the stepchild in their activities. Helping with projects, school work, and attending sporting events or clubs like scouting they are involved with will show them you are willing to support their efforts.
Show the child you are willing to help out in housework. In this age with so many mothers working to support or help in supporting the family, it is important for children to understand that keeping a household is a family job, not just the mother’s.
Talk about computer games, video games, and other cultural influences with their mother. Social pressure will often press on Mom to let them do it, whatever “it” is, because everyone else is doing “it”. Each family needs to have its own standards and ethical codes to live by. The child’s mother needs your support and input on deciding whether to let the child have graphic or violent video games in the home, or allowing them to go to “R” rated movies with their friends.
Watch how your step child interacts with your own children if you have any. Jealousy is toxic to any relationship, and when this appears to be occurring, try to head it off immediately. To maintain a happy family atmosphere, step-sibling anger must be dealt with fairly and prudently.
Do not let the idea of wanting to be a “best friend” cloud your judgement. When a child wants to do something dangerous or that their Mother disapproves of, they may try to enlist you as an advocate for them, and this puts you at odds with their Mother, your wife.
Becoming a stepfather puts you in a position of responsibility for protecting the child from a host of dangers. Be aware of the risks which the child faces and be on the lookout for dangers around the home. Small children suffer from terrible harm every day because of carelessness.
You will need:
- A good sense of humor
Dore Frances, IEC, Ph.D., is an educational consultant, child’s rights advocate, parent coach, specializing in working with troubled teens and their families in the United States, Canda, and abroad. See her site at: www.guidingteens.com or contact her by phone at:(541) 312-4422, or email at:[email protected]
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If you’re looking for advice about options surrounding fertility, pregnancy or counselling, always consult your doctor.
Finding a partner that you AND your kids love can be a tough task.
Dating can be difficult. Dating as a divorced mum can be even more difficult. Finding a partner that you love and who is also a good fit for your kids is a big job and easier said than done. So, what actually makes for a good stepdad? Here are the top 10 qualities of successful stepfathers that we think you should look out for:
1. They don’t force love.
Good stepdads understand that no matter how kind, nice and completely awesome they happen to be your kids did not choose them – you did. It’s tempting in stepfamilies for the adults to want the kids, step-siblings and stepparents to all love each other. But, successful stepdads know you can’t require relative strangers, who did not choose each other, to love each other and they don’t have any expectations that this will happen.
“Good stepdads understand that no matter how kind, nice and completely awesome they happen to be your kids did not choose them – you did.” (Image via iStock)
2. They enjoy the back seat.
Research (lots and lots of research) shows that part of being a successful stepfather is being willing to take a back seat with respect to discipline. Over time and depending on the age of your children, you may begin to share the discipline load. However in the beginning, successful stepdads accept that you, as mum, need to remain the primary disciplinarian of your children.
3. They don’t feel the need to compete.
Smart stepdads are willing to actively support their stepkid’s relationships with their biological father. They accept his role in your kid’s lives. This is an area where actions speak louder than words. Successful stepfathers make it a priority to facilitate a respectful and civil relationship with your ex and to always promote him positively to your kids.
4. They are kind and firm.
Children do best with authoritative parenting. The type of parenting that is ‘kind and firm’. In fact, ‘kind and firm’ parenting has been shown to be a major factor in helping children adjust to things like divorce and remarriage. Finding a partner who already has this type of parenting style before you meet them is a big bonus in the stepdad department.
Relationships, whether a friendship, marriage, dating, or family, are often complex and confusing. Where are the lines and the boundaries? What is the other person thinking? So many questions arise when two people form emotional bonds. In the midst of all those questions, another type of relationship exists that can be far more confusing than the rest: stepfathers. A stepfather finds himself in the middle of a complex family relationship that existed way before he step foot in the house. His questions strike at the very being of a man: Who is in charge, their mother or me? How can the kids respect me if I cannot discipline them? How do I love my wife and my step-kids?
Stepfamily relationships are often ambiguous but there are several ways in which stepfathers can help in developing those bonds. First and foremost, it is most important to love your wife. Children (step or not) need to see a strong commitment from the husband and wife. You both need to present a unified front to the stepkids that states “We are in this together.” Find ways to spend time alone with your wife. Compare schedules, meet for lunch breaks or coffee, let the kids spend the night out. Use this time for honest, open conversation, especially if you are a bit daunted by the idea of stepfathering. New stepfathers have the tendency to fear failure and to feel pressure and guilt. Tell her that. She knows her kids better than anyone and she will probably have good advice on how to get to know them better and how to encourage you. It is so easy in stepfathering to forget your needs and role as a husband.
A huge way to prepare yourself for the role of a stepfather is to keep your expectations in check. Unrealistic expectations will only feed your frustration. Instead, keep your focus on patience and open communication. Don’t expect ‘love at first sight’ reactions from your new stepchildren. If it is hard for you to discern your new place in a family, imagine what it is like for the children! Loyalty conflicts arise within them between their biological parents and you so it is important to be careful in the way you address their biological father. Steer away from sarcasm and even be supportive of them. Make it your goal to create a new bond with your stepchildren, but don’t expect to replace the original father-child bond that existed.
A gray area that stepfathers face is the area of discipline. Men usually have the desire to be the one in control, to be the disciplinarian. Your biggest challenge as a stepfather might be forcing yourself to step back from the disciplinarian role and letting your wife, their biological mother, have control. As hard as that can be, it is important to a healthy relationship with your stepchildren. Keep your focus on building a friendship and mutual respect with them first. Until that foundational respect is present, let your wife discipline the kids. Relationships have the priority over rules and discipline. If discipline comes before the relationship, the child will only want to rebel. However, that does not mean be a pushover or be a distant father. The balance between a hard disciplinarian and a remote observer is found in being firm and supportive of your spouse’s decisions.
A great deal of time and patience are needed for stepfathers. Children learn to respect persistence over time and what an opportunity you have to step into a new family. Discouragement can become the thief of joy so, as stepfathers, take it one day at a time and focus on loving and supporting your wife. The challenge stepfathers face is great but with great challenge comes sweeter rewards. Don’t give up on your role!
Professor of Educational Studies, University of South Carolina
Joshua Gold does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University of South Carolina provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
The Conversation UK receives funding from these organisations
The American family is evolving. Fifty years ago, a nuclear family of two biological parents and children was the norm. But divorce rates and growing numbers of single parents have opened up more opportunities for the formation of stepfamilies (one biological parent, one nonbiological parent plus children of the biological parent).
Today, over 50% of families include partners who have remarried or recoupled, and 1,300 stepfamilies are being formed every day. Some predict that the number of stepfamilies will eventually exceed nuclear families.
Stepfamilies that consist of a father, stepmother and his biological children make up only about 15% of all stepfamilies. The most common composition of stepfamilies – about 85% – consists of a mother, her biological children and a stepfather.
Families with a stepfather, then, constitute a disproportionate number of stepfamilies. But stepfathers seem to have a particularly difficult time becoming integrated into the family unit. As a family counselor who has researched stepfamilies for over 25 years, I’ve found that many stepfathers have misguided expectations about the role they’re supposed to play.
Three primary misconceptions
Practitioners of cognitive therapy believe that people often act or behave based on previously held assumptions.
Unless someone understands their own underlying assumptions, it’s unlikely they’ll change their behavior. So a key aspect of cognitive therapy is getting people to explore and understand their assumptions. It’s the first step toward changing destructive or self-defeating behaviors, and this approach forms the foundation of my latest book, “Stepping In, Stepping Out: Creating Stepfamily Rhythm.”
So what misconceptions do stepfathers seem to possess? I’ve found that three social myths seem to undergird their assumptions.
1. Being a stepfather is just like being a biological father.
Being a stepfather is nothing like being a father, even if the stepfather is also a biological father. Because the stepchildren did not “pick” their stepfather – and might simultaneously feel conflicted about their attachments to their biological father – they will likely be wary about affection toward and receiving discipline from the stepfather.
In the end, a stepfather has no history or legacy with these children. So it’s pretty normal for a stepfather to experience feelings of being unwanted, dismissed or peripheral; but it’s also important for the stepfather to recognize that this isn’t a reflection of his capacity as a man or father.
2. A stepfather needs to establish authority, and discipline the children if necessary.
Stepfathers might wish to assume the “hard hand” in the family. Their wives might even want them to. But this is almost impossible to effectively do. The foundation for effective authority and discipline is trust, but because stepfathers lack prior experience with the stepchildren, they haven’t developed the trust necessary to mete out discipline.
Instead, in stepfamilies, it’s the responsibility of the biological parent – with the stepparent providing input – to create, relate and enforce family expectations. A united parenting approach can be helpful, but the mother should be the base of authority.
3. Stepfathers need to compensate for the absent biological father.
I’ve found that most attempts at coming between children and an absent father will backfire – and result only in acrimony toward the stepfather.
Stepfathers cannot define themselves by what another man did (or didn’t do). In addition, any overt comparison with the absent father will generate more ill will than gratitude. In instances when the biological father plays a prominent co-parenting role, it’s wise to step aside to allow the father and children the special time that each needs – and to respect the role that that absent father still holds in the affections of the children.
There’s still an important role to play
While it’s critical for stepfathers to understand they aren’t a replacement for the biological father, they can play a supportive role in the home by being a patient and caring presence. By simply maintaining a healthier marriage than the one demonstrated by the kids’ biological parents, stepfathers can be a positive role model.
In the end, it’s a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge comes in rejecting previously held beliefs about what it means to be a father. Stepfathers – and I count myself as one – must avoid outmoded notions of compensating for the absent biological father or paternal dominance.
The opportunity comes in devising a parenting role that expresses the best and fullest aspects of being a man and a father figure. Done consciously and deliberately, the role and function of the stepfather can be tremendously fulfilling for all, and a source of lifelong joy and pride.
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My role was not dad, not quite cool uncle, but its own thing altogether. Here’s how I figured out — and learned to love — my new role.
I was afraid to be a stepfather.
I had met this fantastic woman. I’d been divorced a while. She opened her heart to me, and framed in the center of it was her son. Before I got serious with her, I wanted the easy way out: no responsibilities, just date nights and weekends away. I’d thought that would end it, but my partner thought more of me than I did of myself.
The title is stepfather — as in, the prime suspect in 700 episodes of Law & Order. As in, step in. Or, more importantly, step up. When you do step up or step in, everybody’s expecting different things of you, and there you are, Magellan, with no roadmap, no compass, and no clue. You started this. You had this relationship burgeoning with this amazing woman, and after a little while you come to that fork in the road. It’s a non-negotiable package deal where your future is now dependent on how you get along with the kid and what you are to him.
I had no idea what that role looked like in everyday life. Am I the cool uncle, just over for an extended stay? Firm handshake, look him in the eye. Tousling his hair and throwing a ball around, maybe playing a video game or two. Give a couple of tips, buy ice cream. Start off easy. It’ll be a snap. I’m a nice guy. What could go wrong?
“You’re not my father.”
That’s what could go wrong. Then you’re sure he is silently adding “asshole” to the end of everything he says to you. No problem, asshole. Great idea, asshole. But he’s not; he’s a good kid. You’re paranoid because you’re out of your depth.
You’re not his father. You sure as hell can’t be his friend. So what are you? Ultimately, the world decides for you and labels you, once you string together enough days. You’ll be judged by your actions, hopefully over a long-enough timeline. Snap at him one time and 100 good days are undone, if not in the kid’s eyes then certainly in the eyes of his mom. In the eyes of his grandmother, you should just kill yourself.
I did have some idea, though. I had already raised my kids from my first marriage. My two girls are strong, grown women, and I felt like I was a good dad. I didn’t have a real yearning for more children, but I’d always wondered what it would be like to have a boy.
I had a stepfather and it was bad. My father is extremely attentive and was always around after my parents’ divorce. My mom’s husband was a selfish, immature man who shrank to insignificance in comparison, which was constant. I am blessed to have a great stepmom, and while she had been a great role model in this, in the beginning I had genuine doubts about myself. My kid had issues, like all kids do. There were hard days and nights with a lot more ahead. My daughters were easy (or so I told myself), and I failed them in a lot of ways — mostly because I chose to believe what I wanted to and took the easy way out for myself on a lot of things when they were teenagers. I screwed up, and it cost them in their development.
As a father, there is so much I’m not proud of among all of the wonderful memories. I’m older and more patient than I was and I’ve been through a lot. My response to problems is a lot more measured, and I’m confident enough that I don’t sweat the small stuff very much.
I like kids, though. I have always been a creature of habit and of duty. I’ve always prided myself on being reliable, at least where my kids are concerned. But again, he has a dad already. All I can control is what I do and what I think about the things that happen. I’m just making damn sure I’m there and that I do the best I can for him every day. I hope that is enough.
Stepfathers become an example of what to do and what not to do, every day of the child’s life. Your actions, or lack thereof, are on constant display and open to judgment. You’re going to feel like you are in an impossible situation. You’re set up to fail. You are not going to make the big decisions, just influence them. You will be held fully accountable for every nuance of this decision you didn’t make for the rest of your life and, since it’s your kid doing the judging, actually longer. It’s like being vice president.
It’s also a stepdad’s job to reclaim the brand from every headline that begins “Stepfather’s Gun Collection…” or “Stepfather Caught Videotaping….” So, how do you do that, actually? I think it happens when you go all in supporting the family. It’s your job to be everyone’s rock, John Wayne. When problems arise or discipline time comes, you have to be your wife’s wartime consigliere. The thing is, if you embrace the mayhem, truly immerse yourself in the every day, the work of it, the routine of it, you will become your best self.
That is where the joy is, if you are up to the challenge. Growing up in a family of divorce is chaos. You need to learn to take pride in being the one who can cope with the constant barrage of change and be a stabilizer. It’s not about resigning yourself to things; it’s about enjoying the Class IV rapids that life with kids becomes. Your little family establishes its own dynamic and evolution ain’t pretty. You have to make it your mission to accept the challenge to be present and really work at being good at this.
I am a patient guy. I’m also great at finding something fun in insane situations. I took advantage of my experience screwing up with my two older kids. I knew a few different approaches to parenting that absolutely, positively do not work and a few that do.
For me, it came down to the words on the tombstone. They never say a damn thing about jobs or finances, do they? No, they say beloved husband, beloved father and grandfather. I decided to spend more effort being those people and earning those titles. So if your title is “stepfather,” wear it proudly and embrace the mayhem.
Richard Unger is a father, stepfather, grandfather, and godfather and is waiting patiently to become a father-in-law. He lives with his family in Staten Island, New York.
Elizabeth, Kash, Ashley, Aubrey, and Parker
“My kids are great! They are energetic, imaginative, loving, and occasionally ornery. I have three girls and one boy, whose ages range from three to eleven, and they have been my kids for exactly four months.
Being a “step-dad” is not something I expected a year ago, but it was not an idea that scared me either. I have five siblings that have 13 kids between them and I have always enjoyed spending time with their children. Now that I have four kids to call my own, I have a different perspective on the relationships that I have with my nieces and nephews. The responsibility one has as a parent is enormous. An uncle can feed his nephews a bunch of sugar and then send them back to their parents; a step-father does not have that luxury.
The important thing for a step-parent to remember is that you are an adult, and the kids are…kids. They have lost a parent, whether through divorce or otherwise. Someone who has been there consistently for most of their lives is now only there occasionally. It is not your job to replace that parent. It is however, your job to be a new parent. One that is patient, and loving, and willing to teach the same qualities to your new kids.
Kash and Parker
Like all parents, a step-parent’s patience is tested on a daily basis. My philosophy, when faced with a new problem, is “Yield to the expert”. My wife knows her children better than anyone. So, I ask her opinion on almost everything. She is very patient and very willing to teach me how to be a good dad ( Preparing to become a father). I am very blessed to have the family that I do, and love them very much.”
I did some research and Kash is well on his way to being a great step-father. Here is a list of tips from a long time step dad and Dr. Phil.
How to be a good step father:
1. Don’t Plan to be the disciplinarian. There are boundaries to your authority. Be reasonable, and as much as possible show them that what you have to say is sensible. The stepparent, although not actively initiating direct discipline, should certainly work to maintain the normal boundaries that exist between an adult and a child. Support the decisions that are made by your wife. A stepfather is not simply one’s mother’s husband. He is in fact an adult and an authority figure in the home.
2. Don’t ask them to call you “Dad”. Don’t be selfish and demand it.
3. Don’t ever bad mouth their dad, no matter what kind of person he is. Usually they’ll side with dad, but even if they don’t, you have no right to interfere in that relationship.
4. Act responsibly, be there for the kids when they need you, share their joys and sorrows with them, build them up as much as you can, help them with their homework, offer advice, explain how things work, organize their day, and so on — all the things you’d do if you were their actual father, remembering that relationships take time to build.
5. Listen to the children.
6. Take cues from mom. Deal with major disagreements out of earshot of the kids; in everything else, follow mom’s lead.
7. Don’t try to win them over with gifts, trips to the amusement park, or whatever.
8. Share. Be open about your life, career, likes and dislikes, and interests — and make an effort to learn about theirs. Take part in their activities and involve them in yours. Not only will you find some common ground to connect on, but you’ll be able to take part in their development as people, which is what this is all about.
9. Forgive. Forgive them for being difficult, forgive mom for not always lending you a hand when you’re lost, forgive their friends for not understanding your new place in your kids’ home, and most of all, forgive yourself. You are going to make a lot of mistakes
These are just nine tips for being a great step father. I am sure there are more.
“The key is to remember that the children are passengers on this train. They didn’t get an opportunity to choose whether they wanted a new family member, so great care and patience should be taken to help them adapt to the situation.” Dr. Phil
Kash is a native to Colorado and currently lives in Grand Junctionwith his wife and four children (Aubrey 11, Ashley 9, Lizzy 7, and Parker 3) They are expecting their first child together to be born in Janurary. Kash grew up in a family of 6 children. He is the fourth child just like his wife Marie. He was raised by his mother with the help of his grandfather and two of his grandmothers. Kash teaches the men class in church and enjoys it very much. One of his hobbies is reading. He loves to read all kind of books.
If you want better sex, it’s time to learn some new bedroom tricks.
Hey, it’s okay to ask. We should all be doing whatever it takes to get more pleasure for ourselves and our partner (or partners) during sex. No one has the time these days to waste, so we’ll make it easy for you. Want to know how to last longer in bed? We’ve got easy advice on how to tack on minutes. Looking to add some new moves to your routine? Try reverse cowgirl, rimming, or even tantric sex on for size. In this collection of the best sex positions and advice, you’ll find tips and tricks, ideas, and expert intel on pulling off better sex moves. Take notes and study hard; your new and improved sex life begins now.
1. Reverse Cowgirl Position
It’s very stimulating for her. Here’s how to do it.
There’s quite a concentration of nerves back there, so give anilingus a shot.
How to correctly use the horniest emoji: flag up mailbox.
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6. Sex Apps
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There are four ways to do it well. Because you can’t skip this step.
8. DIY Sex Toys
Your house is full of things just waiting to become sex toys.
9. Sex Games
These are a whole lot sexier than “Truth or Dare.”
10. Condom Sizes
A brief guide to choosing the right one. Grab a toilet paper roll.
11. Dirty Talk
It’s not just what you say, it’s how (and when) you say it.
12. Lasting Longer
A four-step guide to maintaining control during sex.
13. Breathing for Better Sex
Get over nerves and fear so you can both enjoy the experience even more.
14. A Workout Plan for Better Sex
If you feel strong and flexible, it will show in the bedroom.
15. Sex Toys for Men
Enhance your pleasure with these devices, for yourself, or for you and your partner.
16. What Women Want
Remember these eleven things that she expects from you.
17. Average Sex Time
It’s not as long as you’d think, according to science.
18. Tantric Sex
You could have four or five orgasms. She could have twelve.
19. Tea Bagging
Tea bagging is a sexual kink, and a darn good one at that.
20. Shower Sex
How to have it without slipping and fumbling all over the place.
21. Oral Sex
Tips for giving and receiving it correctly.
Keep things interesting by spicing up your pre-sex practices.
23. G-Spot Stimulation
How to find her G-spot, and her cul-de-sac.
24. Couples Porn
You and your partner should be watching porn together. It doesn’t have to be weird.
25. Best and Worst Kinds of Sex
From breakup sex to mile high sex, here’s the rundown on all the ways to do it.
26. Healthy Sex
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