A brief guide to making your period suck less.
Have you seen that commercial with the woman at the doctor’s office. She is sitting up on the exam table answering questions that her doctor is asking her. Her answers are short and uncertain. Hovering around her is another her, urging her to speak up, be honest, tell the doctor it hurts! I experience a variation of this in my office all of the time. I will have a couple come to see me because one person has “low desire”. One of the first questions I ask them is: “Do you experience any pain with penetration? During sex? With a tampon?” At least, 75% of the time the answer is “yeah. Sometimes.” Or “kind of”. These responses come with a downward glance and huge amounts of shame. Why?!If I were to go to an orthopedic surgeon for knee pain, I hardly think I would feel ashamed to report this pain. Unfortunately, due to the stigma around expectations of what sex is supposed to be, there is an immense amount of shame and embarrassment surrounding all things sex and genitals. This has to change.
“If it hurts, stop doing it,” says me, all of the time. The thing about painful sex is that if we try and push through the pain it will almost always get worse. The repetitive pain compounds things- meaning you can develop psychosomatic symptoms in addition to the initial pain. Sometimes, vaginal muscles will begin to tighten in apprehension of any impending penetration (this could be symptoms of vaginismus), which causes more pain. If you are experiencing burning or rawness in the genital area (this could be symptoms of vulvodynia), continued friction can worsen the pain. These are just 2 of may possible diagnoses. This is why it is important to go to a knowledgeable, skilled doctor. A correct diagnosis is imperative. In the meantime, stop doing any activity that hurts. Do not resume until you have seen your doctor and received a correct diagnosis. Once you have completed treatment for your pain and the pain has gone away (and your doctor clears you!) you can gently and slowly begin to resume penetrative activities.
What should you do if you are experiencing painful sex? I will often have potential clients call me to set up an initial appointment for painful sex. And while I would never turn them away, I always suggest that they go get checked out by their gynecologist (extra credit if the gyn has sex medicine credentials!) Oftentimes, painful sex can be symptoms of emotional, as well as, physical issues. Having your medical doctor rule out physical cause, give you a correct diagnosis and begin treatment is necessary to relieve physical pain. If there is an emotional layer to the pain we can work on that while or after the physical symptoms have been addressed.
If you take one thing away from this post let it be this: there is nothing to be ashamed of! Many women experience pain during sex. This doesn’t mean they are broken. For the most part, painful sex is very treatable. But it has to be reported. As women, we have become accustomed to keeping quiet and this has to change. What would happen if you were to become more involved in your exams at the gynecologist? Did you know that you can ask the doctor to hold up a mirror so you can see what is happening while you’re being examined? How do you think this would change your experience? Get involved. Learn about your body. And take care of yourself!
If you or someone you know experiences painful sex have them contact me: www.christyhaas.com
When there is a disconnect between mind and body we end up missing out on pleasure, connection and joy.
Over time, continual rejection leads to less initiation. When I ask couples why they stopped having sex, one of the consistent answers is, “I just figure they would say no, so why bother?”
Scheduling sex doesn't mean that your sex life is dead. It just means that sex is important enough to prioritize.
We are all guilty of it. At the dinner table. In the bathroom. In the car (not while driving, please!). In bed- Oh my!!! The smart phones are with us everywhere. I don’t know about you but I get annoyed at myself when the cell phone becomes an extension of my hand. Scrolling through my Insta-feed. Liking baby photos on FB, reading articles… while I am watching TV!!! It is too much.
I know, I know… this sound like every article ever written in Men’s Health magazine. I got your attention, though, didn’t I? Seriously, we live in an age of porn-education. Most of us never received quality sex education that included biology, anatomy, physiology, and oh yeah, PLEASURE. We fumble our way through adolescence (literally) and then somehow feel like we are just supposed to magically know how to have good sex. Pleasure doesn’t just happen. It takes communication, vulnerability and some good, old-fashioned trial and error!
We’ve all been there. Lying in bed, about to call it a night and realize it’s been… (ahem) awhile since you’ve had sex with your partner. So, you look at them and say “should we have sex?” Let me start by saying: there is absolutely nothing wrong with this! Sometimes sex is just maintenance sex… sometimes. Allowing sex to have different roles in your relationship is important and keeps it from becoming boring and routine. Sex can be a stress reliever, allow you to process emotions (grief/sadness/anger/joy), connect you to your partner, connect you to yourself, be hot, be romantic, be naughty… anything you can imagine.
*I want to preface this post by saying that what I call mom guilt could also be referred to as dad guilt. I am not trying to exclude all the daddies out there. However, in my personal and professional experience, I do feel that dads experience much less frequent and intense guilt related to parenting than moms do. How’d they do that?
I remember talking to a friend of mine (a year or so before I had a baby). She was the mom of a 6-month-old. I asked her how she liked being a mom: “It’s good but I feel guilty about everything. No matter what decision I make- I am screwed”.
This stuck with me. I remember thinking, smugly (you know, the way you think before you have kids),
“I am not going to do that. I know that I have to take care of myself first. I am a therapist, after all. Self-care is the priority”
I had no idea.
Mom guilt is something I see every day- in my own life, in my client’s lives, in my friends and family’s lives… Heck! I think my mom still has mom guilt and I am 34! Not only does mom guilt serve zero purpose, it is killing us.
It starts when we are pregnant. Not gaining to little or too much weight. The restrictive diet. Getting the right amount of exercise- but not too much! And then in the hospital you feel guilty about non-medicated (all births are natural!) vs. medicated births, breastfeeding and pumping. Allowing guests vs. getting quality time with baby (and maybe some rest???)
From the get-go we are bombarded with trying to please everything, meet all of the expectations and requirements and hoping we don’t make any mistakes. We also feel as if we are supposed to know exactly how to be a mom… naturally. This is bullshit. The first way to defend against mom guilt is to admit to ourselves that being a parent is a learning experience. We have no idea how to parent this child because every child is so different. What works for yours may not for mine and vice versa. Accepting that we can fake it ‘til we make it allows us to cut ourselves a break, laugh off some of the missteps, and most importantly, enjoy the ride!
In response to my preface: Why are dads so much less burdened by guilt than moms? I think the main reason is that the expectations are much higher for us. Ever notice how when a dad watches the children it’s called “babysitting” or “watching the children”? When a mom watches the children its parenting… right? This is crazy! Let’s raise the bar for the dads. Expect 50% of the parenting from them… and then get out of their way. I know I am not the only one that micromanages my husband’s parenting! We have to stop this. Let them find their style and allow them to become the best parent they can be.
Lastly, let’s cut each other a break. Moms can be incredibly judgmental and cliquey. This helps no one. We all need a supportive tribe around us in order to be successful at this crazy parenting life. Remembering, everyone is doing the best that they can with what they have. Instead of cutting other moms down, offer help, support and community.
I am not a HUGE Valentine’s Day fan. Why? Commercialism. Love should be celebrated everyday not just once a year. And mostly because I see more conflict arise with couples around Valentine’s Day than any other day of the year. So much anticipation and unmet desires. Expectations for sex, gifts, time, energy, dates and love notes…Time for a change! Valentine’s day is really supposed to be about love, and that is something I can get behind! This year challenge yourself to be your own Valentine!
Here are a few ways to be your own Valentine:
This doesn’t mean you have to get a flight out of the country (although, if that is an option, I highly encourage it). This could simply mean getting a sitter and going to the coffee shop and sitting with a good book, or heading to the gym and relaxing in the steam room or sauna for a bit. Something that feels good and renews you from the inside out. A little vacay for the brain!
Spend time with People that make you feel good
Make a date with someone that leaves you feeling good. We all have that friend/ family member/ significant other that makes you feel like you’re the only person in the room. That’s the person to take on a date today!
Connect with your body
A home practice or daily ritual is something I recommend to all of my clients. It doesn’t have to be an hour long, hot yoga practice followed by 2 hours of meditation- good lord! This can simply mean lighting a candle, sitting in a comfortable place and breathing for 2 minutes. Find stillness and tune in to what is going on in your body. If this feels a bit overwhelming, try the Headspace App. It’s amazing!
Write yourself a love note
Get out a pen and paper and write down all of the things you are in love with about yourself. Romance yourself! Try and think about all of the struggles you have overcome, accomplishments that you have attained and amazing things you have created. Think about your professional life, social life, love life, family life, and acts of service. When you’re done read it out loud to yourself. Soak it in.
Happy Valentine’s Day to You!
They say the way to the heart is through the stomach, so our relationship expert shares four reasons and ways to improve your relationship one bite at a time.
Food gets a bad rap these days. So many allergies, intolerances, “bad” foods vs. “good” foods, superfoods, “too many carbs”, “too fatty”, etc. As a society, we also tend to lean towards quick and convenient vs. nourishing and intentional. We eat out way more than we used to because everyone is so busy. Rarely, will you find a family that still prepares nightly meals, sits down together and enjoys yummy food while talking to one another. There are too many work meetings, sports, practices, games, rehearsals, lessons, tutors, playdates, happy hours, or we are just plain exhausted. It’s time to re-center, reprioritize and reconnect. Here’s why:
Preparing food can be fun… and bonding
Whether you are single, dating, married or have a hundred kids running around you, food prep and cooking can be a great way to connect. Having a shared goal is a great way to build trust and communication with children. It also allows children to become more self-sufficient as they grow older. Cooking with your partner can allow for time together to gently decompress after a long day.
You will feel better
Food prepared in restaurants or dropped out of a fast food window aren’t the healthiest choices. When you select the ingredients yourself you can insure that it is fresh and nutritious. When kids are well-nourished they are happier, sleep better and can be more present. When adults eat a good, healthy meal we feel better, which makes us more likely to engage with our partners. We can take interest in their day and be more open to touch by not feel weighed down or bloated by a greasy, fried meal.
Planning nightly meals and shopping with a grocery list can save you two to four times the amount of eating out. Based on this research (www.flannelguyroi.com), cutting four meals out every week can save you up to $11 per person per meal! That money can be better spent on a mani/pedi, a fun family outing or a romantic date for two!
Cooking provides a short, attainable task with a measurable goal. This means a success in the kitchen helps to build self-esteem- and not just for kids! Additionally, when self-esteem goes up depression and anxiety symptoms go down. I know what you’re thinking: “cooking is not therapeutic when you are a terrible cook like me! Its stressful!” I hear you! I realize we are not all 5 star chefs (or even one star…), but nowadays there are so many options that help make cooking more manageable. Check out Blue Apron, Hello Fresh or Plated. Or for a fun solo activity, a great date night, or a bonding family activity try a cooking class. Jungle Jims and Sur La Table have great ones!
Get out of the fast food drive-thru line, the line in front of the hostess stand or off of the UberEats App and get yourself back to the kitchen table for some good quality food and bonding.
See the full article at: CincyChic.com
How do you balance being a “Lady Boss” with having a healthy relationship? Our guru has four tips to help you excel at both. Our relationship expert, Christy Haas MA, LPCC, CST, shares four easy steps to having it all!
This is the age of girl power, lady bosses and the renaissance woman. Not only do we want to achieve it all, it has becoming an expectation. As women, we wear many hats: wife/girlfriend, nurturer, career woman, friend, daughter, sister and many of us moms. How in the world are we expected to manage all of these things?
Here are a few tips that make balancing ambitious career goals with maintaining a fulfilling relationship a bit more manageable:
Realize you Don’t Have to Choose
Repeat after me:
“I do not have to choose between being a career woman and being in a relationship!”
With a few adjustments and exceptions, you can achieve both. In the home, it is important to be able to delegate tasks with your partner. Decide which household tasks each of you are good at, create a chore chart together, all the while making sure that it is a fair division of labor. Or you can outsource: hire a cleaning service, employ lawn care specialists, ask for help from friends and family. It takes a village!
Boundaries, Boundaries, and more Boundaries
We may be able to do it all, but we can’t do it all, all of the time. It is important to set boundaries with your time, energy, relationships and expectations. Create a time boundary for work. For example, after 6 PM there will be no work emails, calls or tasks. During work hours, maybe you and your partner decide not to exchange texts or call one another unless it is during lunch or a short break. That way the time that is spent together is fully focused on your significant other and not spent distracted by outside tasks.
We are living in the multitasking age. But research actually shows us that there really is no such thing as multitasking, its doing a little of something and then a little of something else. Research also tells us that when we do this our result is much weaker than if we fully focus on one task at a time. Get organized, make a list and decide what needs to be done right now, at some point today, or by the end of this week. This goes for work life and personal life. Scheduling date nights, important conversations and, yes, even sex, are an important part of managing all of life’s offerings.
Be Gentle with Yourself
One of the most challenging AND most rewarding life skill is learning to be kind to ourselves. We all make mistakes in our work lives and in our personal lives, but beating ourselves up about these mistakes afterwards accomplishes absolutely nothing. In fact, it makes everything that much worse. Learning to accept mistakes, learn from them and move forward is success. Work on changing the negative self-talk that is on repeat in your brain. You know, the one that says: “you’re such an idiot, why did you do that?” Replace it with loving, constructive words: “I may not have made the best decision but I am learning and I did the best with what I had.” When we are kinder to ourselves we make it possible to be kinder to others at work and in our personal relationships.
See published article at www.cincychic.com.
Our relationship columnist has the five must-read books for a happier, healthier and more satisfied you!
I’ve got a confession to make. I am a total book junky. My Amazon Wishlist is inundated with countless books that caught my fancy at one time or another. Books that I crave desperately to read. The honest truth is that probably 50% of the books that I buy end up on a shelf collecting dust. I may read a chapter or two, but then get distracted with the next pretty cover or enticing title. However, there are those special books that have stood the test of time. Books that I have read and re-read over and over again. Books that I have recommended to clients and friends, alike. These books are amazing and hold a very special place in my heart.
So, without further ado, here is my list of the five best books to read for a happier, healthier, more satisfied you!
Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser
This book found me at my absolute lowest. Broken-hearted, living back at home with my parents at age 25, having a complete quarter life crisis and helping to care for my father during his battle with cancer. Life was tough. This book helped me see the light in the darkness. Elizabeth Lesser is authentic, genuine and vulnerable. She is an inspiration and her book was my life-saver.
Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski
Everyone should read this book. This book touches on self-love, body image, sexual desire, sexual abuse and owning your sexuality. Nagoski encourages readers to understand themselves entirely, we are so much more than a body or a mind. We are unique and have unique needs and desires… and that’s beautiful! She writes in an accessible way, AND has the science to back it up. Go get it now and thank me later!
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
I could have filled this whole list with just books by Brene Brown! She is absolutely incredible (If you haven’t seen her TedxTalk- Do it!) This is a book about the courage that it takes to show up, be vulnerable and allow yourself to be you. This book can apply to any and all aspects of life: parenting, relationships, work, self- love, etc. She is warm and smart. This book makes you feel like you’re getting a loving hug and a gentle kick in the butt… toward your goal.
Sex Matters for Women by Sally Foley, Sally A Kope and Dennis P Sugrue
I know I am biased, having studied under Sally Foley and Dennis Sugrue at University of Michigan, but this book is absolutely incredible. Such a wonderful book to help women understand, cultivate and grow their sexuality and self-acceptance. Calling out sexual myths, answering questions we are too afraid to ask, and confronting our self-doubt. This book addresses it all: relationships, sexual orientation, hormones, anatomy, STI’s. It looks like a textbook but reads like a conversation with the most amazing, loving therapist you could ever wish for.
Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel
The full title of this book is Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence. Need I say more? Perel is one of the most respected sex therapists in the field these days. In “Mating…”, she discusses how to create passion and eroticism in domesticated life. She is smart, sexy, funny.This book provides great, straightforward but counterintuitive advice for the modern couple.
Sitting here in contemplation of the brutal hatred that occurred in Las Vegas in the last 24 hours has left me wondering, “What can I do?” I try to limit my exposure to too much media in these times. I find it can be traumatizing for me. But the few minutes that I did tune in this morning the news says that there really is no way to prevent such an attack: “The public needs to report anything that they hear or see or witness, even if it is joke…” well, this doesn’t make me feel very safe. In all honesty, occurrences like these are incredibly jarring because they leave me feeling so utterly out of control. I realize that, in reality, I have NO control. And while this is a shocking and scary realization, it is also somewhat freeing. If I can’t really do much to prevent these horrendous acts of terrorism then I can turn my attention to what I can control.
So what can we do? We can love each other more than we hate these attacks and the attacker. We can join together and continue to unite in the face of terror. We can find the beauty in our world, even when there is so much ugliness. We can hug our loved ones a little bit tighter and longer today… and the next day. We can be kind to the person in front of us in the checkout line, because we don’t know their story. We can work passionately for the causes that we find important. We can continue to help those that have been affected by the recent natural disasters heal. We can donate blood. We can recycle. We can send goods to disaster relief missions. We are not helpless, if anything, we are resilient.
So take a moment, an hour, a day, a year, whatever it takes, and grieve for the losses which we incur on a daily basis. Sit in sadness, mourn the lost. But let us resist the temptation to let the hate in our heart grow larger than the love. Don't allow hate to breed more hate.
Love each other harder today, my friends.
“What do you want for dinner?”
“I don’t care. What do you want?”
Who else hates this conversation??? This is a good indicator that maybe things are stuck in a rut. When things get stagnant and stuck in my life I begin to feel like I am going to explode if things don’t start to move and grow. This can be in any facet of life: work, family, relationships, personal growth, finances, etc. But as a sex therapist I want to talk about your intimate relationships.
There is something so beautiful and safe about being in a long-term relationship. However, once you manage to create this safe and sacred space you and your partner run the risk of monotony. There is a very fine line between secure attachment within a relationship and boredom. The trick is in creating a safe container for an adventurous relationship to be held in. Make sense? Here are some pointers:
Do you know that first couple of weeks when you begin a new job? You don’t really know what to do, what is expected of you and how to fill your time. After a couple of weeks, you begin to get into the swing of things and create a rhythm. This is the sweet spot. It can last anywhere from a month to years. Eventually, things become monotonous and robotic. It’s the same way with sex in a long-term relationship. As humans, we find what is comfortable (and what works!) and we stick to it. But after a while we tend to go through the motions without truly being present.
One of the most obvious ways to inject a little adventure into your sex is to shake things up. Try something new! A new sexual position. Maybe switching up locations to the couch (or the kitchen counter!). Take turns initiating. Try a new toy or buy some new lingerie- anything to bring a little energy and life into the same old, same old.
Slowing down to notice pleasurable things about our partner can be helpful. As a Certified Yoga Instructor, this is something that I guide my students to do throughout their practice. There are only so many yoga poses- it can get boring. But your body changes with every breath that you take. So, if you slow down and tune into your body and surroundings you can always notice a new sensation or nuance in any moment. Making eye contact or holding hands during foreplay or while having sex can be extremely intimate and help you remain in the present moment.
All of these things can feel a bit awkward and unsexy at the beginning, because it is new and unknown. With some trust in yourself and your partner you can explore this newness together and build an exciting and interesting intimate life together.
Valentine's Day. The Hallmark Company, Godiva, Victoria's Secret and 1-800-FLOWERS want you to believe that this is the most romantic day all year! Sexy lingerie will guarantee a hot night with your significant other (S.O.). A dozen long stem roses will assure him that he is out of the dog house...at least for awhile. That $8 papyrus card and $40 box of Godiva will let her know how much you love her. Can I let you in on a little (not-so-secret) secret? This is all B.S. Valentine's Day, although well-intentioned, ends up being a day about bribery and point-keeping. The real focus of the day, LOVE, gets totally lost in all of the pressure, unmet desires and let downs. Statistically speaking, couples are more likely to end up in a fight than getting hot and heavy under the sheets. But Valentine's Day doesn't have to be a total wash. Valentine's Day can be amazing. Here's how:
- Take The Focus Off Of Sex:
We have all seen the movies. Woman walks into her apartment, dimly lit, with a trail of rose petals leading to the bedroom..... Bam! Hot, heavy, kinky, passionate sex. That's great in a movie, but it isn't realistic for many people out there. Many of us force ourselves to have sex on the V-Day, because that's what we're supposed to do, not because we actually want to. Instead, make a commitment to work on improving sexual connection and increasing intimacy throughout the year- not just on one day. Instead of assuming that sex is going to be part of the evening why not just focus on pleasure? Eat a yummy meal. Feed each other some of those chocolates. Exchange massages. Make Out! Moving the focus to pleasure instead of sex allows both of you to feel good (who doesn't want that???) and it eliminates the expectations.
- Focus On Giving... Not Receiving
This can be a very hard thing for many people. "Why should I go out of my way and do something nice for my S.O. if I am not going to get anything (sex, a gift, appreciation) out of it?" The short answer is: Because you love them. And you want to show them that you love them. But remember, don't just go with the generic teddy bear and chocolate routine. Tell your S.O. that you love them in their language. If she likes music, take her to a show. If he loves his car, take it to get detailed for him. If they have a favorite restaurant, treat them to a night out. Show them that you actually thought about them this V-Day.
- Eliminate The Pressure
"I have to get a card/ flowers/ lingerie/ go out to a fancy dinner/ be super romantic/ have great sex/ etc". That's a lot to jam into one little Tuesday! Try having a conversation with your partner about what you want on Valentine's Day. Maybe you both decide to have sex the day before so the pressure isn't so heavy. Maybe, instead of gifts you exchange letters of appreciation to one another. Get creative and do something that both of you are interested in doing. Also, make it a team effort. Don't expect your partner to do all the work!
- Don't Just Celebrate Love on February 14th
know, this is a little redundant, but this is the most important thing! I think Valentine's Day can be a great reminder to set an intention for love and gratitude in your relationship. But don't let it be the only time that you express your love to your partner. It isn't feasible to expect everyday to be this passionate romance. I know this. You know this. But waking up each day and asking yourself, "what can I do for my (girlfriend/ boyfriend/ husband/ wife/ etc.) To make their day a little bit better?" A simple gesture that shows how much you care and love them. This is the point of Valentine's Day!
How do we learn to love ourselves enough not to sacrifice our health and happiness for everyone and everything around us?
Love. One of my very favorite topics, and as a psychotherapist specializing in relationships and sex therapy, love is something that I work with on a daily basis. The beautiful thing about love is how many different forms in which it can manifest; baby and mother, siblings, boyfriend and girlfriend, best friends, lovers, etc. No two loves ever look the same.
Unfortunately, as a specialist, something I encounter on a daily basis is a lack of self-love. Women and men throwing themselves full force into a passionate relationship, showering their partner with love and kindness, but unable to muster up the self-love to continue with personal self-care and boundaries. Parents becoming so codependent on their children, ravished with guilt and worry- ending in sleepless nights and panic attacks. Women and men that I work with, verbally berating themselves during our sessions. Young women who cannot look themselves in the mirror. Men who cannot find one positive thing to say about themselves. Unfortunately, this list of examples goes on and on.
Self-love is a lifelong journey that has to be approached from many different angles. So How does one improve their capacity for self-love? I thought you would never ask!
1. Stand up for yourself.
As I was perusing Instagram the other day, I came across the following inspirational, albeit cheesy, quote: “Surround yourself with people who lift you up. Part of Self-Love is having a higher standard for your inner circle”. It made me stop and think for a second. So often, with the clients that I see, and in my own life, we make excuses for other people. We are so incredibly hard on ourselves and yet we let friends and loved ones get away with pretty serious stuff. What would happen if we didn’t do this anymore?
I firmly believe that people are treated the way they allow others to treat them. If a boundary is set with someone they tend to stay in the parameters. If the boundary becomes more flexible some people will take advantage. This doesn’t mean that we can only have friends or lovers that treat us perfectly- that is not possible. It means that we are aware of people’s intentions and what we can expect from them, giving us space to set necessary boundaries to protect ourselves.
2. Implement self-esteemable acts into your life.
Between work/school, a social life, Netflix and Chill, kids, furbabies, etc. it is hard to imagine adding anything else to your schedule. But one of the most effective ways to improve self-esteem is to do things that make you proud of yourself. Very often when I ask clients what their hobbies are or what they do when they have free time, I hear: “I watch TV”, or “I play on my phone”. And while there is a time and a place for screens in your life, it is not meant to be a hobby or interest. Additionally, these activities are isolating and as humans, we are meant to be social beings (yes, even us introverts!) So, get out there and volunteer at a local organization (women helping women is a great one!) Try joining a book club or a recreational softball team. Look for something that is fun, gets you around other people and maybe even outdoors.
3. Connect with your inner child.
Life can be tough. As we get older the amount of responsibilities that belong to us increase. But we do not have to be adults all of the time. Tapping into our childlike curiosities, exploring and engaging in silly activities is truly rewarding. This doesn’t have to be a new and crazy experience (although playing around at a trampoline park like a 6-year-old will do the trick!), the goal is to look at things with fresh eyes. Allow yourself to be amazed and mesmerized by the small things that surround us every day: snowflakes landing on our tongues, the tastes and textures of the foods we eat, or pausing to watch the entire sunset. Appreciating tiny moments with eagerness and appreciation is sure to boost endorphins and self-esteem.
4. Pamper yourself (Or allow someone else to pamper you!)
This one is pretty self-explanatory but seems to be very challenging for many of my clients. The women that I work with are overwhelmed, overworked and underappreciated. Often, I ask them “Why don’t you treat yourself to a massage or a mani/pedi?”. They respond with, “I feel too guilty spending the money on me”. It’s not about the money. It’s about realizing that you are worthy of some pampering on a regular basis. It will make you feel good, look good and value yourself.
If you don’t take care of you, chances are no one will. It’s like the safety message during take-off in the airplane; put the oxygen mask on yourself and then help the person next to you. Because if you are passed out from lack of oxygen how are you going to be of service to anyone around you. Being loved and cared for, pampered and feeling fresh allows you to be the best you possible for your loved ones, and most importantly for yourself!
So I was listening to the "Sex with Emily" Podcast the other day (and if you haven't listened to this, it's a must!) and she stated: "...communication is lubrication". This got me thinking. Nearly every couple and individual I work with in sex therapy sessions have difficulty communicating about sex. This can be for several reasons; shame, embarrassment, lack of initiation, fear of rejection or causing a fight, apathy, not feeling like it is necessary, or simply not knowing how to have a healthy convo about sex. But Emily (from Sex with Emily) is right! Once the communication waves get opened up, and conversations begin to happen-> sex improves!
As a society, we never learn how to have conversations about pleasure, desire, sexual issues, fantasy, etc. Most of us were taught that these sorts of conversations were naughty or shameful. So our language and verbal communication skills related to sex are stunted. I often ask clients what they like, how they prefer to be touched, is kissing fun for them, what is their favorite sexual position, etc. The responses I receive are a squeamish, uncomfortable "I don't know..." We know and have no problem sharing what kind of ice cream we like, if we prefer or soft or a firm pillow, what our favorite color is, but when it comes to sex we shy away from truly understanding and communicating what it is that we like and don't like.
And it's not just communication around sex, it is communication as a whole. How many times are you involved in a conversation and instead of truly listening to what your partner is saying you are thinking about how to respond? This is even more obvious in times of conflict. When you and your partner are fighting, do you tend to listen to what they are saying or are you figuring out to be "right"?
When we can slow down, be present and listen to others, we learn. And when our partner slows down, is present and listens to us, we feel heard and validated. Our walls can begin to come down, defenses subside and we can actually communicate with each other.
The first step to improving communication is to work on it in a conflict-free time. Here's how:
- Make an appointment with your partner (literally!) "Hi honey. Are you available to talk with me, uninterrupted, in 10 minutes(an hour, tomorrow, next week, etc.)?
- Identify the topic you would like to discuss. Try and pick something that is low-stress when first attempting this: " Would it be okay if we talked about our upcoming week schedule?", "Would you be up for talking about the movie we saw last weekend?" The content isn't all that important. It is about carving out time for one another, being collaborative, not combative and to get both of you on the same page (not one person attacking and the other going on the defense).
- Once you both agree on the appointed time, subject and location it's a date! Sit down across from one another and make eye contact. Take a moment to connect (maybe take a breath together or hug for a few seconds. Whatever it takes to connect and ease any tensions.
- Turn off the TV, put the phones on "Do Not Disturb", make sure you will not be interrupted for at least 10-15 minutes.
- Now take turns talking. No Interrupting. After your partner speaks try and mirror back what they said to you (or at least the gist of it) and ask if you understood them correctly. If they say "yes", have them respond and you mirror them. If you didn't quite understand what they said ask them to repeat it to you and try mirroring it back again.
- Take it slow. This may sound super simple- but we live in a day and age of really poor focus. It can get a bit tedious to slow things down this much, but it works.
- Practice makes perfect! Make sure to practice this exercise at least once a week when you are starting out. As you become more comfortable with the exercise you can begin to discuss topics that are a little more conflicting.
This is an exercise borrowed from Harville Hendrix's Imago Therapy. It is tried and true way of breaking down barriers, melting away anger and creating intimacy in conversation. I use it with all of my couples in sex therapy and relationship counseling, and always see benefits and improvements. Remembering that opening up these communication lines is a foreplay all of its own. When we can talk and connect we are more open to be aroused and experience desire with your partner. If you have further questions about this exercise or anything else relationship or sex-related do not hesitate to contact me through my website.
Lose Weight, Get More Sleep, Pay Off My Credit Cards, Drink more Water, Eat Healthier.... Sound familiar? 'Tis the Season, right? How many of you make a New Year's Resolution on January 1st only to find that by February 1st you have already severely disappointed yourself. Maybe the problem isn't you. Maybe the problem is the resolution. Not that any of these things are goals we shouldn't aim to reach, but they aren't exactly fun. What if, this year, you (and your partner) were to make a resolution regarding your relationship- or even your sex life? The following are a few New Years resolution options. Pick and choose. Be creative. And most importantly push yourself out of your comfort zone- because this is where real growth happens.
- Focus on giving (and receiving). This is the season for giving and receiving, isn't it? So why not let the holiday spirit spread a little joy in the bedroom. For many of us, receiving pleasure can be an uncomfortable experience. Maybe we were taught (by parents, society, exes, and so on... ) that we weren't supposed to enjoy sex, or there is shame in pleasure. Let me tell you a little secret: pleasure is a human right. Everyone deserves to feel good. Giving yourself permission to pleasure yourself or to allow a partner to make you feel good is such a freeing experience. Relax, breathe and notice what feels pleasurable. If you're with a partner give verbal direction of what feels good and what doesn't. If you're alone take some deep breaths, be present, and notice what feels good to you. Additionally, giving pleasure to a partner can be just as rewarding as receiving. Ask directions. Be curious and have some fun.
- Make time for sex. Whether you are single, dating or in a committed relationship, or anywhere in between, it is so important to prioritize sex. For many people sex is one of the first things that falls by the wayside when we become busy or stressed with work and life. Set aside some time to commit to connecting with yourself or a partner. Try carving out 30 minutes a day or an hour a week (whatever you can manage). Switch your phones into "do not disturb" mode. Talk to your partner, or write in a journal. Take turns giving and receiving massages. Take a nice long shower or bubble bath. Whether it leads to an orgasm or not this time spent focused on being mindful will help you feel centered and connected.
- Create space for sex. The concept of setting the scene is such an important yet overlooked element of a great sex life. Its not very sexy to masturbate while you have the 10 o'clock news blaring in the background. Or to make love with your partner with dirty dishes next to the bed. Straighten up your room. Turn off the TV. Light some candles. Put on some sexy music. Try to tap into all of your senses. Is what you are smelling pleasurable to you? Do your sheets feel good against your skin? Is there clutter around the room reminding you of all of the things on your to do list? Take some time and create a sensual setting to increase arousal.
- Be open minded. Remember earlier when I said that the space outside of your comfort zone is where the magic happens? Well it's true! Trying something new in the bedroom can help you to build trust with your partner, discover some new things that you can add into your repertoire, and help you to keep learning about yourself (which is the point of life, right?) Whether you like your new endeavor or not, you learn. Try reading some erotica. Explore your fantasies- if you don't have any work on building a fantasy. Buy a deck of sex position cards and play around with some new acrobatics. The worst that can happen is that you won't enjoy it. But maybe you will...
In order to make real change in our lives (no matter how big or small) its important that we have motivation and curiosity regarding our resolution. Entering into a personal contract with resentment and negativity will only set you up for failure. Allow yourself to move towards your goals with inquisitiveness and amazement. Give yourself permission to explore and expand your sex life. Happy New Year!
For so many clients that I work with in couples counseling, there seems to be this overarching belief that since they are in a long term, monogamous relationship the sex and passion will fade. "In the beginning we had sex 2 or 3 times a day", "she used to dress up for me, wear sexy lingerie", "we used to have the hottest sex. Anytime. Anywhere". Then after 6 months, a year, 5 years, things become routine, life happens and the hot passionate sex that once was is a distant memory.
So how do we get it back? I think the biggest part of the answer is that you won't. I know, I know- depressing. But hear me out. When we first begin dating someone and falling in love our bodies and brains go into hormone and chemical overload. Listen to CNN: "Researchers concluded that falling in love is much like the sensation of feeling addicted to drugs with the release of euphoria, including brain chemicals like dopamine, oxytocin, adrenaline, and vasopressin".
We can't live out the rest of our lives drunk and strung out on our significant other. We have to sober up and return to normal life. But this doesn't mean all is lost. We may not have crazy, stupid sex like what we had in the first few months of our relationship, but I think you can have something better. Different, but better.
ACCEPTANCE. The first step is acceptance. If you are spending your time and energy reminiscing about what she used to be or how he used to act you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Acceptance of how things are in their current state is the first stage of growth and change. "Currently my wife and I have routine, predictable sex"... Now we have a baseline from which to grow.
CHANGE. Understanding, and celebrating the fact that as human beings we change- we grow! These are good things. And just like us, our sex lives can mature and get smarter. With age and maturity we become more level headed and gain more insight and perspective. Hopefully, we stop being so self-involved and begin to gain self-love and self-compassion. Through kindness and gentleness towards yourself and your other, an environment of erotic safety can grow. As a couple, turn towards one another with love and curiosity instead of moving away due to fear or lack of communication around sex.
CREATIVITY. Next, we have to get creative. Within the realm of a safe and secure relationship we have the luxury of being able to explore and experiment without the risk of losing the person. Exploring your fantasies- find out what you like, because if you don't know there is no way that your partner will know. Make a sexual/ intimacy bucket list together. Visit a sex store together and explore in a light-hearted, nonjudgmental way. Buy a book on different sexual positions and experiment. Immerse yourself in all thing sexual and sensual and see what you like!
PERSPECTIVE. And lastly, its all in your head! Remember, our brain is our largest and most powerful sex organ. Changing your perspective regarding your current situation can make all of the difference. It may be having sex with the same person for the rest of your life (Glass Half Empty). But remembering that there is newness in every experience (Glass Half Full). Every breath we take is different from the one before. Through the use of mindfulness (staying present in each moment), we can begin to experience and relish the new delight in each experience. Continue to explore each others bodies as if it were the first time. Explore your own body, it has changed since yesterday. Approaching your love life with fresh eyes (and minds) allows you to find novelty in daily life.
Working through this issue instead of rolling over and accepting that this is just what happens in long term relationships is so important. Take ownership of the current situation and make some changes. I have worked with so many couples in sex therapy that have reported that their sex life is so much better now than it was at the beginning of their relationship. With a little work, creativity and communication you and your partner can have a better sex life now than ever before.