Dr. Ruth has interviewed thousands of people about their sex lives -- and she says the most common relationship problem hasn't changed since the 1980s

The world of sex and relationships has changed a lot since 1981. (See: Tinder.)

And yet in some ways, it's stayed very much the same. I recently spoke with Dr. Ruth Westheimer — better known simply as Dr. Ruth — and she told me that as long as she's been a psychosexual therapist, people's expectations for their relationships have been too high.

Westheimer started the public-radio program "Sexually Speaking" in 1981, and it catapulted her to international fame. She's now 89 years old. Westheimer is an adjunct professor at Columbia University's Teachers College, and the author of dozens of books including, most recently, "Stay or Go: Dr. Ruth's Rules for Real Relationships."

Too many people, Westheimer said, have "expectations that cannot be met." Often, she added, these expectations were influenced by the media.

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"Hollywood and the movies tell us that the stars have to be twinkling every night," Westheimer said. "That's not reality of life."

Westheimer's thoughts on tempering your expectations echo those of marriage educator Diane Sollee, who was interviewed by Ellen McCarthy for the book "The Real Thing." McCarthy writes:

"[Sollee] wants couples who are getting ready to walk down the aisle to know — really know— that it will be hard. That there will be times when one or both of them want out and can barely stand the sight of each other. That they'll be bored, then frustrated, angry, and perhaps resentful." 

Interestingly, these unattainable expectations play into people's sex lives as well. Westheimer said people hope for multiple orgasms or think that "a man can have an erection like you see in sexually explicit movies" — though Westheimer said she hears these complaints slightly less often today than she did 37 years ago.

It's crucial, she said, for people to be "sexually literate."

That said, Westheimer isn't advocating that people have low expectations for their relationship or for their sex lives. Her philosophy? It's important "to be realistic, but to still have hope."

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