#164 – Sexual Awareness – Kristen Lilla

#164 – Sexual Awareness – Kristen Lilla

Listen to “164: Sexual Awareness – Kristen Lilla” on Spreaker.

Sexual Awareness 

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 

More info: 

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. 


#153 – Love More, Fight Less – Dr. Gina Senarighi

#153 – Love More, Fight Less – Dr. Gina Senarighi

Listen to “153: Love More, Fight Less – Dr. Gina Senarighi” on Spreaker.

Love More, Fight Less 

From early on in her career, Dr Gina knew she wanted to help people with sex and relationships. Her work delved into the more uncommon areas such as discernment counseling, conscious uncoupling, and consensual non-monogamy. 

Her work today revolves around a diverse group of clients, which she calls expansive relationships. Dr Gina explains expansive relationships as relationships between partners that want to explore and encompass more of themselves, people who want to “color outside of the lines.” 

Looking Deeper into Our Stories 

Gina deals with many stories and talks about how we all have stories. She notes that we need to look at our own actions and history in a healthier way and finds that this can bring us to realizations in our lives that help us better understand ourselves. Exploring our norms does not mean we need to scrap them but rather encourages us to better tailor them to our current relationship needs. 


Dr Senarighi highlights that vulnerability and intimacy are not the same but that handling vulnerability with care can deepen intimacy in a relationship. She explains intimacy as a deep connection with people and explores the different kinds of intimacy around us. 


She explains that trust and openness go hand in hand and shares how we can cultivate that openness for ourselves. Dr Gina discusses her book and how important communication is in relationships. It is filled with tools  and actionable steps for couples to use to strengthen their communication and deal with obstacles. She uncovers a few examples to give us some insight into what she means. 

A few key elements she unpacks that help communication are clarity of boundaries, having a clear and compassionate accountability process and  trust and stability in relationships  


Dr Gina Senarighi, PhD, CPC is an author, teacher, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach based in the U.S.  She’s been supporting clean fights and dirty sex in happy healthy relationships since 2009. Gina has written several books and currently leads couples retreats and coaches clients all over the world to have deeper intimacy and more meaningful connection.  

Call for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships. 

About Gina 

Dr. Gina Senarighi, PhD, CPC is a couples’ therapist turned relationship coach, retreat leader, and author specializing in intimacy, authenticity, shame-resilience, and connected communication for diverse relationships.  

For over twelve years she has supported hundreds of clients creating fulfilling integrity-based relationships according to their own rules. In that time she’s developed a solid framework based in neuroscience, nonviolent communication, and positive psychology research that has transformed diverse relationships around the world. 

In 2020, she published her first book, Love More Fight Less, A Communication Workbook for Every Couple with Penguin Random House. She earned her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy in 2010 from Saybrook University, her Bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Wisconsin in 2002, and a Masters in Education with a minor in Human Sexuality from Indiana University in 2004. In 2019 she completed her PhD in Spiritual Studies and Pastoral Counseling. 

Gina was named Portland’s Best Life Coach in 2019 and has taught psychology courses, communication workshops, couples intimacy retreats, and guest lectured on alternative relationships and sex-positive therapy at universities across the US. Students love her no-nonsense “real talk” presentation style. 

Her podcast, Swoon has helped over 10,000 listeners build a more compassionate, creative, confident, and fulfilled society.  Gina offers practical, proven skills to transform relationships in deeply meaningful ways.   

As a retreat coach, her background in psychology, mediation and communication training has enabled her to offer uniquely powerful tools to help clients overcome stuck patterns.  Her uniquely non-judgmental, inclusive approach to couples work puts even the most concerned participants at ease.  She is not your average sit-and-nod supporter- she’ll call you out, and always help you grow.  Gina has created thousands of tools, worksheets, guides and authored a few books to support relationships Get on her email list if you’d like access to her tool library. 

When she’s not working you can find her in her gorgeous urban garden, cooking dinners for friends, playing with her two adorable kids, or traveling the world with her partner, Rae. 

Links and Resources 

Website: heygina.com

Book: Love More Fight Less, A Communication Workbook for Every Couple 

Website: Nonmonogomous.com 

Podcast: Swoon 

Get on her email list if you’d like access to her tool library. 


#40: Jessa Zimmerman [Soapbox] – Sexual Avoidance Cycle

#21: [Personal Story] Nancy & Frank – A Perfect Storm

Frank was raised in a conservative home that placed a noose of fear and shame around sex. After a decade of fantasizing about sex, Frank married in his late 20’s and recalls the awkwardness about it. Sexuality was a very taboo topic in Frank’s life and this carried into both his marriages.

Nancy had issues of her own as well. Being a victim of sexual abuse from the age of 5, Nancy felt dirty and ashamed as a child. Her first sexual experience made this worse and led to her having a reputation for being a tease and mastering manipulation to maintain her power. (more…)

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