I just recently celebrated my 23rd birthday with my number one gal.

We’ve been “involved”–whatever that means–29 improbable months now, and to my surprise, the novelty in our relationship is still fundamentally in tact. Don’t get me wrong, the butterflies in my stomach are long gone, our conversations come in short spurts, rather than hours at a time like they used to, and sex doesn’t just happen anymore–it’s carefully planned, sometimes weeks in advance, rarely in places that spur the imagination (if you know what I mean).

Nevertheless, to our credit, we’ve managed to evade the notorious sophomore slump that cripples the longevity of many couples, and even though our honeymoon stage (a.k.a. stage 1) is over, all we need to recapture the proverbial spark is a kiss here, a nibble there, and impromptu getaways for the weekend.

On the flip side, when the going gets tough, sparks seem to fly at a mind-blowing rate, when summer rolls around. That’s not to say things are always peachy any other time of the year. They aren’t.

Then again, mini-skirts, spaghetti straps, skimpy shorts (or daisy-dukes as they were once called) and barely-there bikinis are only the tip the spark-fanning iceberg during summer–the only season when a man’s eyes seemingly have a mind all their own.

Of course, for some men, like the blind, turning away from a scantily-clad bombshell is probably no biggie. But for many of us, married or otherwise, trying to ignore her is like trying overlook a break-dancing cyborg, or a seven-foot baby–ain’t gonna’ happen.

It has been my experience that women, particularly those in committed relationships, are far more discrete when sizing up the opposite sex. More often than not, the male subject under scrutiny is completely oblivious to the female examiner(s), most of whom use peripheral vision to covertly survey their prospects.

Heterosexual men, conversely, are damn near allergic to discretion, when an attractive woman is in the room. While she prances about–like they often do–not only do our eyes scan her every move, but our necks turn into swivels chairs and in some cases, our bodies rotate full degrees for a closer, more accurate assessment.

If you ask me, it’s encoded in a man’s DNA to ogle a woman’s goodies. We’re also prone to flirt without shame–in controlled social atmospheres like nightclubs, bars, strip-joints and music lounges, among others, which many of us frequent religiously.

Needless to say, male and female interaction, both socially and sexually, is part of what makes living exciting. But in an era when sexuality and individuality parallel, what options do the monogamous (particularly, young, testosterone-driven men) have to appease themselves while also staying true to their mates? Here are a few suggestions on how to stay clean (enough) this summer.

1. Remember that monogamy doesn’t make you blind to the opposite sex
So you’re in love, huh? Great. Such a feeling is hard to come by so relish in it. However, don’t fool yourself into thinking that other men/women won’t appeal to you just because you’ve signed your life away . . . I mean, committed yourself exclusively to another. Rather than ignoring the opposite sex, when your beau isn’t around, especially those you find attractive, embrace them–with caution of course. Be your friendly, personable and charming self, when you’re surrounded by new and potentially interesting people. Strike up a conversation. Or, be open and available to someone who approaches you with conversation; just make sure that boundaries are set without delay. Keep physical contact to a minimum, and restrict your touches to neutral portions of the body (shoulder, upper-arm and back, etc.).

2. Leave your boyfriend/girlfriend at home
You shouldn’t always be arm in arm with your mate. Not only will overexposure to your significant other make it impossible to keep things fresh, but it will also put a strain on your individual growth. Two people should never suffocate each other no matter how real the love may seem. Occasional separation encourages self exploration, and fights against, boredom, predictability (to an extent) and the need for petty banter. Remember, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and keeps the desire for intimacy alive. So consider going out with friends and living a little every once in a while–have fun without you know who. It’ll do you some good; there can be no sanity without balance.

3. Dress to impress, not to provoke or arouse
Ladies, it’s okay to dress for the weather, just as long as what you’re wearing doesn’t send the wrong message. For example, wearing a bikini to the beach in the middle of July is appropriate, and necessary depending on where you are, and how warm it is. But wearing that same bikini–or an equally provocative ensemble–off the beach, like on the boardwalk for example, is a big “no, no” if you’re not trying to draw attention to yourself, specifically from male onlookers. The message conveyed in this instance is: “Hey boys, do you like what you see?” Chances are they will (if you’re attractive, that is); and the bold ones will be sure to let you know how they feel. It’s simple really, before you leave the house, ask yourself this question: “Would my boyfriend approve of what I’m wearing?” If you have any doubt, change your outfit, or suffer the consequences.

4. Tell jealousy to take a hike
In case you didn’t know, beating warm weather is an excuse men and women use to dress like part-time strippers. Remember, the name of the game in summer is to attract the opposite sex–period. It’s why we labor in the gym all winter long. My advice is that you refrain from pondering the worst, when your boyfriend/girlfriend is away–it will only bring negative energy into the relationship. Try to entertain positive thoughts instead. Otherwise, the jealously you feel is likely to build, and may eventually cause you to react badly (in my opinion, infidelity is often the result of mistrust). Besides, unless you’re willing to gouge out eyes, the chances your guy/girl won’t be exposed to half-naked women or men at some point in the near future are slim. It’s your job to trust in him/her, and yourself. Why be jealous anyway, it’s only skin . . .