Listen to “164: Sexual Awareness – Kristen Lilla” on Spreaker.
In this episode we see how communication can affect a person’s sexuality and intimacy and how we can work towards that with our partner.
Communication, vulnerability and how to have conversations with our partners
Kristen correlates communication with vulnerability because we often don’t talk about sex, it makes us uncomfortable. Her book starts with communication, vulnerability and normalizing the two. It’s overwhelming to read hundreds of pages of a book to be aware of a single topic. Kristen says she wanted some cut to the chase, something practical to read and to apply it in real life. So, she added exercises at the end of every chapter that includes a lot of conversation starters for couples.
There are several variables that come into play. Our upbringing has a huge impact on how we communicate in our relations. The way families communicate with each other reflects in how they communicate in their relationships. It’s about acknowledging that.
Problems with ineffective communication and what’s the answer?
Kristen describes defensiveness and avoidance as the biggest pitfalls people have with communication. We’re so engrossed in defending ourselves that we forget to listen. We also avoid difficult conversations especially about sex because it makes us uncomfortable but Kristen urges us to be uncomfortable. She emphasizes that it’s better to be uncomfortable than to avoid the conversation.
How does vulnerability play a role in communication?
Vulnerability isn’t necessarily shown in the matters of sex, even sharing our emotions could be vulnerable. Kristen explains it by sharing a heart-warming example from her personal life. When we share our emotions, and they aren’t reciprocated or validated immediately, it makes us feel exposed and thus leaving us vulnerable. But as the conversation goes, Kristen poses a question of whether it’s better to have a conversation rather than keep assuming that someone loves you. She says, “There’s validation in acknowledging it”.
What do you think prevents couples from being vulnerable?
Kristen believes fear of judgement from your partner and presuming a partner’s reaction keeps us from opening up. We rather let the problems pile up than have a conversation that leaves us with shame and guilt. But If you want to do something differently, give them the opportunity to surprise you, to say something differently even though you know what they’re going to say. Kristen talks about how important it is to “just listen” and she emphasizes that you don’t have to get judgmental or commit to something but just express gratitude for sharing and then revisit it later. It makes the partner feel safe to have an open and honest conversation with you.
Exercises for couples around these ideas:
Kristen suggests practicing “Pancake talk”. It involves processing an experience and talking about it at a later time in a neutral territory. It gives you an opportunity to not be reactive and get away from high intensity emotions. She refers to ‘four horsemen of John Gottman’ while talking about being mindful with your responses and listening without getting defensive. She suggests repeating it back just like in ‘Imago therapy’ and mirroring exercises which compels you to slow down and listen to what the other person is saying.
She also talks about risky conversations about a kink or a fetish or wanting to talk about being polyamory doesn’t have to be difficult. Your partner might understand what you’re communicating with them and acknowledge that but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re agreeing with you. Kristen explains that with an example, you can be mad at your partner about something and have consensual sex and still not forgive them. Kristen encourages people to look at their childhood and connect the dots with who they are now. It can be done by questioning how you got your sex education. She talks about unwinding the messages of religious upbringing and false information.
Other sections in the book
Apart from talking about communication and vulnerability in a couple’s sex life, the book has several other sections about fantasy, open relationships, low libido, sexual assault and trauma and how to process this and how to normalize these topics.
Resources and Links:
Kristen Lilla’s website – https://kristenlilla.com
Kristen’s Book – Boxes and How We Fill Them: A Basic Guide to Sexual Awareness
Kristen’s Book – Vaginas and Periods 101: A Pop-Up Book
Training video – https://jessazimmerman.mykajabi.com/video-choice
Sex Health Quiz –https//www. sexhealthquiz.com
The Course -https:// www.intimacywitheasemethod.com
The Book – https://www.sexwithoutstress.com
Podcast Website – https://www.intimacywithease.com
Access the Free webinar: How to help your partner want more sex without making them feel pressured or obligated: https://intimacywithease.com/free-webinar
Background: Kristen Lilla, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is Nebraska and Iowa’s only AASECT Certified Sex Therapist(CST) and AASECT Certified Sexuality Educator(CSE) through the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT). She is also one of four dually Certified Sex Educator and Therapy Supervisors in the world.
Kristen is an international speaker and has spoken at conferences including the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS), National Sex Education Conference (CSE), Eyes Open Iowa Conference, Bangladesh Sex Therapy Training, and AASECT Annual Conference. Additionally, Kristen published two books in 2019; Boxes and How We Fill Them: A Basic Guide to Sexual Awareness, and Vaginas and Periods 101: A Pop-Up Book.
Listen to “163: Joyful Monogamy – Lynne Sheridan” on Spreaker.
Lynne E Sheridan, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist after being an international transformational trainer for 27 years is here today to talk about Joyful Monogamy from her book, “The Birds and Bees of Joyful Monogamy: Nine Secrets to Hot Partnering”. She dives into the topics of monogamy as a basic nature, what leads us to choose monogamy, advantages of a monogamous relationship, and how to keep it alive over time.
Definition and what monogamy means
Lynne defines a monogamous relationship as ‘a mutual endeverance’ of a couple that stems from an urge for fathering and mothering a child and to have a partnership. A father’s need to know that the child is their own and a mother’s need to have a partner who supports them throughout, historically has driven people to choose monogamy.
Lynne talks about the romanticizing of monogamy in Hollywood. She declares that Hollywood represents a relationship to be easy and it’s merely a fantasy to think that’s how a monogamous relationship is in reality. This representation encourages couples to go unprepared with the expectation of it to be a natural process.
Monogamy as our inherent nature
While answering questions about our inherent nature of being monogamous or open, Lynne says we are intrinsically pulled both ways. Our personality, formed from several factors of our childhood experiences that draw our unconscious beliefs, leads us to make choices. As we repeatedly make the same choices, they form a pattern.
We repeat negative patterns rooted in our unconscious beliefs that we don’t recognize until we see the result. Lynne talks about how these patterns result in whether we choose or not choose monogamy by sharing a personal example. Lynn states that monogamy itself is not the problem but our relation with it is. We have to make an authentic choice that isn’t coming from an old pattern but from a clear conscience.
Gifts and struggles of Monogamy
The goal here is not to solve all the problems in a relationship, it is to communicate them. She says that it’s about sharing your troubles and healing each other’s wounds constantly. When a person is willing to work through what troubles you or them and is still there to listen to it over and over again, that is the gift that monogamy brings-to put in the effort. As Lynn puts it, “it’s about transference and counter transference”.
She talks about intimacy as being totally transparent, to be our authentic selves all the time. More than just sex, intimacy is to constantly catch yourself and acknowledge when you are being someone else. Lynn poses a question on how one can be in an intimate relationship when we don’t let ourselves be seen. It’s a continuous process where we repair and move forward and get better each time.
How to keep a thriving, passionate sex life alive
Talking about keeping your sex life alive in monogamy, Lynn quotes Esther Perel, “We have this conflicting desire with mystery and adventure and security”. She says it’s about balancing between both monogamy and wanting more adventure. It’s also passion that drives sex. To ignite that passion we have to be willing to open up to risks, adventures and keeping the mystery alive. She presses the need for sensuality without orgasm or penetration. While out of habit we look for a quick release, Lynn suggests reinventing sensuality by blindfolds, exploring each other’s bodies without an orgasm or a quick fix. She emphasizes prolonged pleasure that requires time and space and the freedom to pick a tone of the encounter. She gives a number of exciting ideas to keep the fire burning such as role-play, dress up, picking each other up at a bar and titillating.
As important as it is to keep the fire burning in a monogamous relationship, it’s also of great importance to rekindle the fire within yourself. Lynn talks about “dating herself” by exploring all of her possibilities within, for as long as it takes. It’s easy to fall into a rut just like the habit of sex, but learning happens when we push ourselves to grow constantly. As Lynn states, “The work I do is outside of my comfort zone, that’s where possibility exists”. The excitement lies in areas that you haven’t explored, where growth happens.
During Covid-19, more than ever, Lynn advises the importance of self-care. She says self-care for her is not just about commonly practiced routine but it’s about surrounding yourself with people who stimulate you, it means not to overburden your partner, rich conversations, pushing to do transformational programs and pushing the boundaries of your beliefs about everything.
Resources for Lynne:
“The Birds and Bees of Joyful Monogamy: Nine Secrets to Hot Partnering”:
Lynne’s website: http://www.lynneesheridan.com/
‘Couples Thriving Practice’ – 12-week program: http://www.lynneesheridan.com/index.php/partnerships/couples-thriving-practice
Couples Intimacy Practice: http://www.lynneesheridan.com/index.php/partnerships/couples-ip
VIP Couples Customized Retreat: http://www.lynneesheridan.com/index.php/partnerships/couples-vip
Access the Free webinar: How to help your partner want more sex without making them feel pressured or obligated- https://jessazimmerman.mykajabi.com/opt-in-e1c80391-fe9b-414f-937a-16daae78061a
Listen to “162: Perinatal Mental Health & Sex – Emma Shandy Anway” on Spreaker.
Perinatal Mental Health and Sex
Emma explains what perinatal mental health is and includes thinking about pregnant, becoming pregnant and the intersection of this with your sex life. When sex becomes about having a baby, Emma points out that it can become difficult to connect with your partner. Redefining sex is the focus of her conversations with couples.
You’re Expecting; Now What?
Once pregnant, other issues creep up in terms of body and hormone changes that may affect your sex life. Emma suggests connecting with your partner by answering the question ‘what is sex to you?’ In the case of not falling pregnant, Emma finds that couples may disagree or resent each other on the way forward which can lead to them becoming disconnected and thus affecting their sex lives. In the case of actually having a child, being flexible is key to a successful sex life and keeping communication open, is part of that in a big way.
How to Handle Problems
Emma discusses statistics of traumatic events around pregnancy and divorce but mentions that there is also a big impact on couples sex lives. Sitting down with your partner and redefining sex so that you and your partner can consciously work on your sex life together is crucial to its survival. She also recommends joining a support group. This can normalize the experience for you and highlight that it can be overcome.
Links and Resources
Emma is a Registered Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (#119249) in Davis, California under the supervision of Karina Parker Knight LMFT (#48111).
Emma is a sex and perinatal therapist as well as a couples and individual therapist that uses emotion-focused therapy (EFT) with influences from attachment and family system theories.
She was drawn to and became interested in sex therapy in graduate school when she had the opportunity to work under Dr. Tina Schermer Sellers, and felt passionate about deepening her expertise in the field of sexual intimacy and sexual identities. After taking courses through the Northwest Institute on Intimacy (NWIOI) she is now a Certified Integrated Intimacy Professional.
She did not enter the world of perinatal mental health until she experienced my own late-term pregnancy loss which opened her up to the lack of help available to women and couples struggling with this type of trauma.
Listen to “161: Menopause – Dr. Michelle Gordon” on Spreaker.
After having gone through menopause and being surprised by the event, Michelle discusses her journey to finding out more about it and how to make it easier for other women. She shares her experience after taking the pill, then finding out that she had a mass in her uterus thus leading her to undergo an Endometrial Biopsy. Michelle was unhappy with her body and realized that other women were probably going through the same horrific experience.
Common Problems in Menopause
She discusses how disruptive menopause can be especially since we are not prepared like we are for other age milestones in our lives. From her experience, externally women report weight gain and on internal issues women struggle with their ability to make decisions and encounter an identity crisis.
Michelle notes that doctors don’t know enough to help patients and this can leave women in a worse position. She also discusses loss of libido that comes up as a very common symptom of menopause and bleeding into our relationships. Michelle explains vaginal atrophy and urethral atrophy that can come with menopause.
The Four Pillars of Thriving in Menopause
The key to understanding menopause is to understand hormones. Dr. Gordon discusses 4 pillars which include science, supporting ourselves with diet, movement and the brain.
In terms of dealing with menopause, Michelle says there is no single answer for every woman. She encourages reflection and reinvention during our menopause journeys as each one is unique.
Links and Resources
Dr Gordon is a Board-Certified General Surgeon and founder of Gordon Surgical Group, a multi-specialty group practice in 2005. GSG serves the lower Hudson Valley of New York.
She is also the author of Managing Menopause which you can find on her website.
Listen to “160: Sizzling Sex Across the Lifespan – Michael Castleman” on Spreaker.
Sizzling Sex Across the Lifespan
Michael Castleman is a journalist that has been writing specifically about sexuality since 2005. He is also the author of Sizzling Sex across the Lifespan, covering the good bad and ugly bits about the subject. His book contains 25 actual medical studies and is based on facts.
Common Sexual Issues
Poor ejaculatory control is one of his best-selling subjects and you can find his e-book ‘ The Cure for Premature Ejaculation’ on his website. He discusses how differently men and women think about sex and provides advice for men to help improve the statistic that only 20% of women reach orgasm.
We learn that desire difference is also a main difference with couples which is not often reported. Michael talks about sexual pain and the high number of women that suffer with it even to the extent of not knowing the medical term for it and accepting it as ‘normal.’
If you are experiencing tension or stress around desire discrepancy, check out my free webinar – How to help your partner want more sex without making them feel pressure or obligation at https://www.intimacywithease.com/training
The Effects of Porn
Michael refers to masturbation and how kids are deterred from this behavior instead of being taught to understand it and enjoy it into adulthood. He mentions statistics that reveal 25% of the porn audience is female and despite popular belief, porn does not increase incidence of rape or disrespect of women, while teens have become more sexually responsible since pornography on the internet.
Michael agrees that porn results in masturbation and sexual miseducation. Debunking myths, he affirms that porn does not affect men’s ability to become aroused. He mentions the refractory period and shares how this should be understood in order to manage our bodies. He discusses arousal and how it changes across one’s lifetime.
Links and Resources
Michael Castleman is a journalist and sex counselor. Writing since 1974, he is the world’s most popular sex writer, covering sexuality, sex research, and sex therapy, helping people everywhere enjoy great sex.