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Getaways with girlfriends can improve your marriage

Want to improve your marriage?

Get a girlfriend.

Trust me, the right girlfriend can spice up your marriage in a way that Victoria's Secret can't touch.

I personally credit two of my extra-special girlfriends with improving my sex life, helping my husband and I communicate better and on at least two occasions keeping me from murdering him in his sleep.

However, lest you think I'm granting men a license to cheat, or suggesting some kind of ménage a trois, let me clarify - I'm referring to the absolutely magnificent effect a woman's girlfriends have on a marriage, and even more specifically, why every husband should encourage his wife to spend more time with her friends.

Most women are pretty well acquainted with the saving graces of girlfriends. We might not spend enough time with them, but we instinctively understand that when the chips are down, it's the girlfriends who come to your aid.

But very few men understand how their wife's girlfriends can improve his half of the marriage.

If all men knew about the psychological changes that happen to a woman's body when she spends time with her girlfriends, they would proclaim a national girls night out at least once a week.

Scientific studies show that when a woman spends time with her female friends, her body releases a chemical called oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that cascades all the way through your body and does what Prozac and Percocet can't touch.

Have you ever noticed that when a woman gets tense or angry, she reaches for the phone to call a friend? That's because we instinctively understand that we better get a quick hit of oxytocin before we kill someone.

Commonly called the Hormone of Love or the Cuddle Hormone, oxytocin is a mood regulator that decreases anxiety and depression, and while men and women both produce oxytocin, women produce more. Women also release oxytocin during childbirth and breastfeeding, but the feel-good effects in those situations are usually either blotted by the pain or totally directed toward the child.

But when a woman spends time with her girlfriends, the oxytocin effect spills over into every other aspect of her life.

Let me spell it out for you, men: Oxytocin makes a woman feel more loving, and the more she's got coursing through her system, the more she'll have to share with you.

Any man who has ever observed a group of women out to dinner by themselves or experienced the aftereffect of his wife's girls getaway weekend knows exactly what I'm talking about.

I'm speaking at the Ultimate Girls Getaway in Bermuda this April, and I found this quote on their Web site (www.UltimateGirlsGetaway.com) from a past attendee that sums up what happens when a woman gets away with the girls. "Come for fun, bonding, friendships, and go home a nicer wife, mommy and friend!"

I have to believe her husband is pretty glad she went.

Event organizer Nadja Piatka, who first began her Girls Getaways 15 years ago with The Ultimate Pajama Party, says, "It's cheaper than therapy, and absence makes the heart grow fonder."

Piatka, who along with her MBA daughter Veronica hosts several events a year, is best known as the super-successful Buffalo-based businesswoman whose healthy brownie and cake empire (www.NadjaFoods.com) landed her on Oprah and the Donnny Deutsch show.

However, despite her success, Piatka and her equally busy daughter discovered that "there was never enough time to enjoy each other, their girlfriends, or to do the things they love to do, unless they got away, really got away!"

So in the interest of my marriage, I'm making the sacrifice, packing my pajamas and heading for Bermuda. It's a lot to ask of a woman, four days of drowning myself in oxytocin and mai-tais. But I love my husband, so I figure it's the least I can do to keep him happy.

Snellville resident Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of "Forget Perfect" and "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear." Contact her or join her interactive blog at www.forgetperfect.com.