Monthly Archives: July 2016

July Musings: You don’t need to be perfect to be lovable.

July Musings: A daily blog series on sex, relationships, marriage, desire, passion, dating, self-love, confidence, rejection, communication, and more. Day 12: You don't need to be perfect to be lovable. You don't need to change to deserve respect. The answers you need are inside of you. The shame, the doubt, the fear? They belong to someone else.

You don’t need to be perfect to be lovable. So, please stop striving for perfection.

Instead of denying the hurt and the failed expectations, instead of trying to seem like you have it all together, what if you let it all out and showed off the soft, vulnerable parts begging to be recognized?

It’s not your fault that awful things happened to you, even if the manifestation gurus insist otherwise.

It’s not your fault that you can’t find a kind thought to think about your body or your success in a society hellbent on selling you everything from weight loss to better sex to shiny things that mean so little.

It’s not your fault that you don’t know how to ask for what you want, that your voice feels so small, when the world insists on telling you what to feel and how to feel it.

You were never taught to look within for the answers. You were asked to carry everyone else’s burdens.

I have a little secret to share with you, sweet soul. (Or maybe it’s a great big secret… and that’s why nobody knows.)

You hold the key. The rest is just noise.

That shame you carry about your body? It comes from other people who have been hurt or who are afraid. Your body is delightful with it’s scars or fat rolls or sharp edges and glorious genitals.

You do not need to apologize for how you look. Anyone who expects that from you can fuck off.

That fear you have of asking for what you want? It comes from other people telling you who is lovable and who is not. Their insecurities have been used a weapon against you. They’ve also taught you to demand validation from others instead of genuinely allowing others the chance to choose. So it’s all gotten so confusing and messy. No wonder it seems like a shit-show sometimes.

No matter what, though, you deserve love, respect, joy, and support. End of story.

Those doubts you have about your dreams? Those are the whispers of people who have not lived your life.

And it’s true, not all dreams come true, but when you give yourself permission to live your way into them, they often change into something even better than you could have imagined.

Even your anxiety and darkness, my love, come from within you. Other people may tell you that you are broken or too difficult or too much for the world, but inside of you is a warrior who is battling on your behalf for past wounds and traumas. It serves a purpose that only you can unlock and nurture.

Sometimes life is scary. Sometimes love is challenging. Sometimes the easier thing to do is turn to violence – violence towards yourself, violence in thoughts, violence in action.

But you are loved AND you are allowed to fail.

You are the glorious culmination of your mistakes, your pain, your hopes and dreams.

So, even if it seems like no one could ever accept you if you let yourself be seen, know that the truth is you already see you and the world has not ended.

Choose kindness as often as possible, but allow yourself to feel disappointed when things don’t go the way you’d hoped.

Choose love every time you realize you have a choice, but forgive yourself for the times you do not.

Choose to trust your own value and wisdom, as long as it does not deny someone else’s.

And know, REALLY know, deep inside yourself that you already know the answer AND you might not be ready to hear it. We can live in contradiction and grace at the same time.

There is no rush.

There is no finish line.

There’s just this moment, this breath, and a chance to show up. You get that chance again on your next breath, and the next one, and the next.

Open to yourself and allow the world to see your sweet soul. They may judge you or criticize you, they may ask for something different than what you can give, but know that that is on them. Not you.

You are right where you need to be. Shed the stories others have placed upon you and step into your truth.

Embrace your imperfection.

July Musings: There is no short cut for talking about the scary stuff, but you can make it easier.

July Musings: A daily blog series on sex, relationships, marriage, desire, passion, dating, self-love, confidence, rejection, communication, and more. Day 10: That conversation you've been avoiding? That topic you haven't wanted to bring up? The truth is there is no way around having a difficult conversation. But there are ways to set you and your partner up for more success.July Musings: A daily blog series on sex, relationships, marriage, desire, passion, dating, self-love, confidence, rejection, communication, and more. Day 10: That conversation you've been avoiding? That topic you haven't wanted to bring up? The truth is there is no way around having a difficult conversation. But there are ways to set you and your partner up for more success.

There are some things that I really don’t like talking about with my sweetheart. Things I feel deeply ashamed of or embarrassed by. Things that I think could be the final straw in him choosing something other than our marriage, and so I avoid them as long as I possibly can. It’s unhealthy, unhelpful, and creates distance between us

But, I know I’m not alone. So many of us have topics we avoid out of fear, shame, guilt, or simply because we don’t want it to lead to another fight or disagreement.

Time and time again, the questions that flood my podcast inevitably all come down to one thing: talking about the scary or the uncomfortable thing.

I have endless techniques for easing into conversations, especially if they’re about sex. The way you create a container for discussions, how open you’ve been in the past, and the lead-in you choose all contribute to the way your loved one is likely to respond.

But, in the end, the only way to find out what your partner is thinking is to ask. The only way to know how your partner feels about something you’d like to try is to ask. The only way to say you need something different is to actually say it.

There is no shortcut for real, honest, vulnerable conversation. But you can learn ways to set you BOTH up for success.

Hints don’t work. Mind-reading isn’t a thing (even though SO many of my clients get angry or hurt when their partner doesn’t magically read their mind). Guilting someone or using passive-aggressive jabs won’t make someone change, but they will drive them away.

If there’s something that needs to be said, the hard truth is the only option is to actually…you know…SAY IT.

Of course, communication can take many forms, and often we approach it like a bull in a china shop. If we took a little time to be a tad more intentional about it, we’d find we end up with very different results.

First, you don’t have to have one big, bombshell of a conversation all at once. In fact, it can be a lot healthier to break BIG topics into smaller, easier pieces that you slowly unravel together over the course of many weeks or months.

For example, if you’ve been hiding the fact that you have a fetish, it may not be the best option to just drop the bomb one day on them.

Instead, it can be helpful if you two get really good at having open sexual discussions on a regular basis about all sorts of sex topics (check out my sex mapping game). That can take some practice over the course of a few months, especially if it’s not something you’ve done before.

Then, it can be useful to start talking about fantasies together, maybe by watching erotic movies or reading erotic stories and sharing the pieces you did or didn’t like.

At that point, it’s probably a safe bet that both of you are open enough and skilled enough for you to share your fetish with them. It’s also helpful to let them know you aren’t making a demand of them, it’s simply something you want to share for the two of you to possible revisit or explore down the road.

So, the conversation happens, but you’re being thoughtful and deliberate about it by helping the both of you exercise your vulnerability skills and practice holding space for each other when you share intimate details.

Second, ask your partner when it is the best time to have open, intimate discussions.

It probably won’t be right when you both get home from a hard day at work or when you’re in the middle of getting ready to go out with friends. A really great way to work conversations into your busy life is to SCHEDULE MONTHLY CHECK-INs with each other.

If you have a dedicated few hours that are just for you to talk through your favorite parts of the month and things you’d like to do a little differently in the month ahead, that can be a great time to initiate conversations about needs, wants, desires, and concerns.

Third, it’s OK if feelings run high. It’s OK if someone feels hurt. It’s OK if someone cries. It’s OK if someone needs space. Tough conversations can bring up big feelings. The important part is to allow those feelings to exist and to validate them as real. Then take a break, and revisit the conversation later, if need be.

Finally, do not expect to fix two years’ worth of resentment and slights in a single conversation.

Do not expect one or two sessions of therapy to undo a decade’s damage.

Practice early, practice often, and then give yourselves plenty of time to fail, practice, fail again, practice some more, and work your way through the awkward stuff at a pace that feels good for both of you.

NOTE: If one of you has been sitting with an idea for a long time (like a fetish or a need/desire), you have had years upon years of thinking about and getting OK with this thing. Realize it can take a long time for a partner to unpack and work through some of their own fears and shame to begin to catch up to you. A great example is threesomes. I get SO many questions about threesomes. Some people have had fantasies of having a threesome for literally decades, or it’s always been part of their sexual landscape. I’ve seen this blow up in people’s faces over and over again when they approach their partner about the threesome and then feel frustrated when their partner hasn’t magically figured out how they feel about it after a few weeks or a month or two. As frustrating as it can feel for the partner who has already done a ton of the work, give your partner the space to do some work on their own, too. If the relationship is a priority for you, they deserve that time.

The bottom line is the only way to really communicate with your sweetheart is to actually have the conversations. Since most of us didn’t see open, vulnerable conversations modeled for us as kids, nor did we see how people re-connected after things went wrong, it can feel like trial-and-error as an adult to try and navigate this stuff.

We are all learning as we go.

Many of us are scared or frustrated or feeling lost.

And it is possible to practice with baby steps so that you can create a container within your relationship that is open, resilient, and powerful enough to hold space for conversations that are awkward or uneasy.

As you do that more and more often, you’ll find so much more strength and power in your connection. (Research from Open University has shown that couples who weather conflict and problems are much more resilient over the long-term because they begin to see that each time a problem arises and they survive it, they have more confidence the next time it happens.)

What conversation are you avoiding? What needs to be said that you haven’t? How might you take a small step in that direction today?

July Musings: Desire and intimacy require constant tending

July Musings: A daily blog series on sex, relationships, marriage, desire, passion, dating, self-love, confidence, rejection, communication, and more. Day 9: Desire and intimacy are locked in an eternal struggle. Both need tending each and every day. Both need to be prioritized and valued, not saved for special occasions or the annual vacation.

Have you ever been in a relationship that started hot and heavy, and then as you settled into your routines as a couple it started to taper off and become something a little more mundane and lukewarm?

Yeah. Me, too.

That’s because most of us are never taught that desire takes constant, on-going attention in order to thrive.

It’s like a fire. Literally. A fire needs enough oxygen to breathe, but not so much or it goes out. A fire also needs fuel – too little and the fire is weak and struggling, but too much and it rages out of control damaging things in its wake.

Desire, according to Esther Perel, sex therapist and author of “Mating in Captivity”, thrives on space and mystery.

In our fire analogy, space, defined as a healthy sense of autonomy, or each person having their own experiences and needs, would be oxygen. Mystery or the unknown – which I define as a conscious acknowledgement that your partner is choosing to stay which means they could choose to leave at any time, recognizing they are always changing, there’s always something that remains unknown, and acknowledging that fact – is the fuel.

And a piece many people miss in this equation is this: in order to honor the unknown in each other, you need to constantly be inquiring about your own experience.

How hot do you want that fire? How much do you need right now? And how might that change as your circumstances change?

What are you sexually craving? What are your fantasies? What feels yummy in your body? How are you inviting the erotic in on a daily basis in a way that makes you feel alive and creative?

But, the challenge is that most of us also need a certain level of intimacy in our relationships, which invites closeness and a feeling of safety. Intimacy is, Perel argues, the opposite of desire. Too much intimacy – no mystery, no autonomy – smothers desire like a wet blanket. Not enough intimacy – too much passion and risk – and you feel unsettled, unsafe, and scared.

What most of us get wrong is we feed the intimacy side of things to the point of smothering desire. We also tend to feel like if we put in a little effort on birthdays and anniversaries, so that should be enough, right?

Nope. Not even close.

People who thrive in this area understand that intimacy and desire are locked in an eternal struggle. Both require constant tending. Each and every day, the relationships who master connection and vitality, safety and risk, consciously and deliberately prioritize both.

Cultivating a practice and putting in a small amount of effort on a regular basis will yield far healthier results than neglecting it until you’re in crisis mode or on vacation once per year.

And the beautiful thing about this tension, where intimacy sits on end and desire on the other, is you get to slide back and forth along that line depending on your needs and what’s going on in your life. Perhaps something tragic has happened and you are in need of a little more safety. Perhaps you’re missing the spark which means you need a little creativity and mystery.

My partner and I practice intimacy and desire in a number of ways, as often as possible. For intimacy building, we share deep conversations, mulling over the latest books we’ve read or sharing stories from our childhood. This helps to create a safe container where we both know it’s OK to share our experiences in a vulnerable way.

That container, where it’s OK to be vulnerable, it also a powerful way to roll around in the mystery of each other’s sexual landscape. Almost daily we send each other gifs from LadyCheeky.com (NSFW) outlining what we’re fantasizing about or what we’d like to do the next time we get naked. Occasionally, I’ll write an erotic piece or we’ll do something kinky that delights our senses.

It’s not perfect, but then, it doesn’t have to be. We know how to come back together and practice when we’ve gone a while without one or the other.

 

So, here’s my question for you. How are you practicing and inviting in desire and the erotic on a regular basis? In what ways are you strengthening your intimacy container at the same time? If you can answer those questions, you’re probably well on your way to feeling valued and wanted.

July Musings: Sex is a luxury. Don’t take it for granted.

July Musings: A daily blog series on sex, relationships, marriage, desire, passion, dating, self-love, confidence, rejection, communication, and more. Day 7: Sex is a luxury. Sex is power. Don't take it for granted. Don't pressure your wife or your partner into sex. Don't allow shame to drive the choices you make about your own body.

 

#AltonSterling and #PhilandroCastile are in my heart today. I’ve seen so many colleagues speaking out about racism and priorities.

One very smart person said that they feel like their work around sex just isn’t that important when we have people being murdered by the police, trans woman being killed for simply being trans, and it got me thinking.

The truth is that sex is a luxury.

Emily Nagoski talks about how scientifically inaccurate it is to say “sex drive”. A drive is a biological need for survival. Your physical body cannot live without food, water, air, and shelter. But your physical body can survive, quite happy and healthy, without sex.

Yet, as a society, we put so much pressure on ourselves and our loved ones to have sex, especially certain kinds of sex, in order to validate our worthiness and our desirability. But that pressure is a continuation of the oppression we are all suffocating under.

We are at a point in time when queer POC are being slaughtered in a night club and police officers are murdering Black men at horrifying rates (while at the same time calmly and non-violently de-escalating armed altercations with white dudes).

Large percentages of us are in danger at a profound level.

When you are struggling to stay alive, having great sex is pretty far down on the priority list. When you’re worried your child will be gunned down by police or by racist pieces of shit, having orgasms just doesn’t seem as important.

Sex is not mandatory, it’s not required, it’s not something you ever owe someone else. Sex is an opportunity to decide when and how you share your body (and that can be an act of tremendous defiance).

On the other hand, part of the systemic oppression we are all facing is this complicated web of racism, sexism, ableism, Islamaphobia, fatphobia, colonialism, and capitalism (to name a few).

So, to actively choose body autonomy, to consciously choose sexual liberation, to knowingly examine the status quo when it comes to relationships and sex and then to decide to express your sexual self on your own terms? That’s a powerful thing that literally shakes the foundation of a system hellbent on using sex and our bodies as weapons.

This is especially true for people living in bodies that our society deems less valuable – fat bodies, brown bodies, older bodies, queer/trans bodies, disabled bodies. By claiming your body as sexual and desirable, it’s a powerful act of resistance.

I know I usually write personal, vulnerable posts about love, relating, and sexual empowerment.

But today the world needs more.

When you choose to engage in sex, it is literally a political act – especially if you are marginalized in some way.

Your body. Your terms.

Shedding the shame you have around sex is a political act.

Accepting your body the way that it is and claiming that flesh as sexy exactly as you are is a political act.

Asking for what you want and using your voice is a political act.

That’s why it is critical that none of us use sex as a weapon to oppress others.

Don’t pressure someone into sharing their body with you.

Don’t feel like your partner or spouse owes you sex.

Don’t manipulate or guilt someone into a sexual encounter.

Don’t approach sex and love from a place of entitlement.

Don’t use someone else’s body as a tool to advance your own needs and pleasure.

No one owes you anything and in fact, to insist otherwise is to feed the violence.

Sex is a luxury and at the same time sex is a pathway to liberation.

Your version of sex – whether it’s to claim asexuality as your sexual expression or to choose sex work or to be gloriously kinky or to want to share yourself with the person you love most in the world and no one else – is power.

It’s POWER to say “this is my body and these are my fantasies and this is what I want.” Because every message around us is crafted to tell you that you aren’t good enough or sexy enough or young enough or thin enough or lovable enough or worthy enough in the body you’re in right this second.

Claiming that power, ESPECIALLY if you’re marginalized in some way, is important because it sends a message to those who would deny you that power through legislation to take away voting rights or to restrict health care access or to give police more power or to teach abstinence-only so you’re woefully uninformed about your own damn body.

The truth is violence seems to be winning right now.

Black bodies are being killed by police while the media glorifies the violence. Politicians are celebrating guns and Islamophobia just to garner votes without a care about the impact it has on real people’s lives. Women are being raped while newspapers write about the rapist’s swim times and put glossy pictures of the rapist in a suit on the front page instead of his mug shot (which is both a glaring example of sexism/misogyny AND white supremacy).

So, if you have the luxury and the safety to engage in sex on your terms, do it.

Discover your pleasure and then unapologetically celebrate it.

Marvel at your body and know you do not have to change one single fucking thing about it in order to be worthy of respect, desire, and love.

Tell everyone who ever judged or shamed you for your sexual needs or sexual fantasies or the way your body looks to fuck off.

Stop tolerating sex that isn’t deliciously satisfying. Stop going through the motions in order to keep the peace. Rock the goddamn boat and ask for what you want, including to not have that kind of sex any longer.

Experiment with your gender or your sexual expression or your fantasies and tell people about your adventures to knock down the walls of ignorance that surround anything outside the mainstream, Hollywood ideals of sexuality.

And if you don’t feel safe enough to engage in sex right now, then don’t.

Protect your body. Nurture your rage. Practice radical self-care (because that, especially for POC, is a big fuck-you to oppression) so that you can keep showing up each and every day. The world needs you and wants you, even if it doesn’t seem like the truth right now.

Hug your loved ones tighter. Hold them longer. Don’t ask anything of them that they don’t want to, or can’t, give.

Rest in power and peace #AltonSterling and #PhilandroCastile (and so many others who didn’t deserve to become a hashtag).

July Musings: Sometimes it takes a broken heart to find the tenderness you so desperately need.

 

July Musings: A daily blog series on sex, relationships, marriage, desire, passion, dating, self-love, confidence, rejection, communication, and more. Day 6: Sometimes we break our own hearts. Sometimes we feel like life is too hard, too painful, to difficult. And in those moments we are given a chance to invite in tenderness and love. Those are the moments we get to really care for ourselves, to examine our boundaries and our needs, to allow rather than to do.

This is a vulnerable post for me. To be honest, the last thing I wanted to do today was write because it’s a high-feels day.

But, then I thought, maybe that’s the perfect time to write. Maybe by letting my pain be a real, valid thing, someone else will feel seen. As easy as it is to tell myself I’m less worthy, less successful, less of an expert, less professional for having days when I feel like a mess, I know that none of that is true.

Part of what makes me me is the fact that I know what it means to feel raw, anxious, and heartbroken.

So, that’s what today is about.

Heartbreak and tenderness.

Not the traditional Hollywood kind of heartbreak with a dramatic break-up or a violent death.

I’m talking the kind of heartbreak that comes from wanting to support someone you love and realizing you have no idea how to actually do it. The heartbreak of confronting your own fears or trying to expand your own boundaries and finding you’re not ready or you’ve fallen short.

The heartbreak of disappointment or self-betrayal.

Maybe some folks would use another word for the agony I’m talking about, but my heart hurt last night and felt like it was breaking. So, I’m calling it heartbreak, critics be damned.

I know I’m not alone in feeling like I have to have it all figured out all of the time.

I know I’m not alone in feeling pain over the realization of just how fragile and precious everything in this world is.

We all have so many reasons to be heartbroken. Violence. Injustice. Loss. Self-betrayal. Trauma.

And sometimes it’s not the hard stuff that cracks me open, but the transcendent beauty, the endless hope that I have so much faith in. Sometimes love is what breaks me.

Today, I want to simply say, it’s OK to break your own heart. It happens. It hurts. It might even feel like you won’t ever recover. But you are an important part of the world and your pain will become something breathtaking someday.

It’s OK to not know how to get through a day because it hurts too much. It’s OK to ask for help or to watch cat videos for a few hours or to sit in the bathtub and cry or to pull the covers over your head until tomorrow.

It’s OK if you have to pack it all down and muscle through because you can’t skip work or the kids need to be fed or your parent is sick, and instead, to wait until you have a moment to yourself to cry in the car or a closet.

The word agony has been circling my thoughts over and over today. But behind the agony, I also have this strange feeling of being cleansed.

As if, by allowing the pain to take up space, by weeping and gasping and being a wreck that doesn’t know how she’ll get through the next moment, I’m purging the stuff I’ve been hiding from in order to make room for some light.

Sometimes finding my edges only happens after I’ve stepped over them and fallen. Which, in itself can be a remarkable thing, if I’m open to it. Even if it hurts like hell.

So, tenderness is my invitation of the day.

Tenderness for the stuff that hurts. Tenderness towards the mistakes and the failures. Tenderness in how I think about it all, in how you think about it all.

I want us all to invite tender smiles, tender touches, tender sips of water that slide down your throat and awaken each taste bud with it’s coolness, tender steps on the earth so that every cell of every toe knows it’s alive and valuable and important.

Sometimes life is hard.

Sometimes love hurts more than anything.

Sometimes we think we can handle something and then find out after it’s too late that we weren’t quite ready for that.

Sometimes we wake up to horrible news about police brutality or bombings in Iraq or shootings in nightclubs or college campus rapes or that a loved one is sick or that we’ve run out of money.

And it’s OK to hurt.

It’s OK to feel heartbroken.

It’s OK to wail and sob and beat your fists on a pillow and turn off social media and unplug from the world.

Heartbreak is a part of life, especially when you’re living in courage, vulnerability, and openness…living by aiming high and wanting more for yourself and the people you love.

Just know that behind the heartbreak is a chance to rebuild, to reconnect, to ask for help, and to come out stronger (even if that takes days, weeks, months, or years to do so).

When you find yourself hurting so badly you can’t remember how to breathe, I invite you to think about tenderness.

How tender can you be with yourself? How tenderly can you speak to yourself? How tenderly can you tend to yourself? How can ask for help from others who know how to be tender towards you, whether it’s in person or online?

My heartbreak has a message. That message might be to take better care of myself, to find a way to be OK with where I am instead of trying to force myself to be where I’m not, or to surrender when holding tight feels so much less scary.

My invitation is tenderness. Putting the pieces back together means you can make your heart more expansive, more resilient, more powerful in a way that honors you and your journey.

 

July Musings: Practice when things are easy. Practicing during crisis is nearly impossible.

July Musings: A daily blog series on sex, relationships, marriage, desire, passion, dating, self-love, confidence, rejection, communication, and more. Day 5: Practice loving each other, practice communicating, practice talking about sex before there's a problem. If your marriage is in crisis, it's a difficult time to try and learn how to connect with each other.

Today, as I was in the middle of writing this post on the importance of practicing, something amazing happened. An email from Danielle LaPorte plopped into my Inbox and she, too, had written about practice. It moved me so much, I decided to fold it into today’s post because it hit me right in the feels.

In part, she wrote:

“This is why we practice. For times like these.

You don’t need to forgive until you need to forgive. You don’t need nerves of steel until you need nerves of steel. You don’t need to call on your reserves of compassion, or fortitude, or faith until you’ve used up everything else.”

Writing about practice today was purely selfish. It’s been on my mind a lot lately.

I have a painful habit of waiting until I’m in emotional crisis before saying scary things to my husband. Not all the time – just around one specific issue that terrifies me and hurts a lot.

Today, I texted him that I was really scared to talk about The Thing. I knew we needed to talk and I’d tentatively brought it up over the weekend, but I’d been avoiding it something fierce. Of course, as per usual, he responded with absolute love, acceptance, and empathy. It cracked my heart wide open.

As I thought about the relief I felt to have my fear held so lovingly, I realized how much easier this would be if I spent more time practicing in this space when I wasn’t in emotional crisis. In fact, with practice, the emotional crisis could either be entirely avoided or it would be much easier to navigate when it did arise.

It seems obvious, but gosh, us humans have a really amazing habit of waiting until we’re in crisis before really taking a look at ourselves and the way we relate to the people we love.

Time and time again, my clients don’t reach out until they’re in crisis mode and 99% of the problems could have been avoided if they’d practiced having open discussions about sex, or articulating their desires, or asking curious questions, or making a vulnerable share when things were really good.

We do not practice for when things are effortless and shiny. We practice for the inevitable storms that will come up in our lives, because that is a simple truth of being an adult.

Shit gets hard sometimes.

Figuring out how to say “I really need help. This isn’t working for me.” when you are tired, overwhelmed, frustrated, and feeling super stuck can seem like a monumentally challenging task. (Statics show that people will wait 6 years in a relationship before seeking help from a 3rd party, and often they wait until it’s too late to recover from all of the hurt and resentment. I beg of you – please don’t do that to yourself.)

But, practicing those asks and finding all the ways that you and your sweetheart can support each other during the happy times means falling back on those skills during the tough times is so much easier.

Same goes for sex.

If there’s something your partner has been doing that you don’t like and you’ve been tolerating it for years without saying anything, and then one day you verbal vomit the truth out? That’s how so many folks end up completely disconnected – it can feel like the relationship is crumbling over one single pain point.

Consider what it means to practice, though.

Practice means trying something, again and again, making mistakes, failing, and keeping at it, until you start to feel skilled and more capable.

Sex takes practice.

Difficult conversations take practice.

Asking for what you want and negotiating with a loved one takes practice.

Holding space for a partner’s emotions without taking them on as your own takes practice.

Finding words for the feelings inside of you takes practice.

So many of us, though, fall into relationship and think everything will just coast along for as long as you love each other. The “happily ever after” trap. And of course, we all know relationships take work, but we kind of don’t really know what that means, in the grand scheme of things.

But, imagine what it would be like if you and your partner made it a practice to schedule sexy times, to check in about sex, to ask what’s working and what could use some attention, to make a game out of sharing your needs and wants when you’re both feeling connected and grateful and relaxed about your relationship.

How much more resilient would you be if you practiced during the good times for when shit got messy?

Click to tweet that statement!

Because no matter how strong, connected, and loving your relationship is…

No matter how secure you feel…

No matter how much terrific sex you’re having…

It’s inevitable that you will stumble, that your partner will say or do the wrong thing, that you’ll have a bad day and all the old demons that you thought you put to rest will come roaring back.

When you make it a point to practice how you want to handle the tough times, then you can navigate those choppy waters with a lot more confidence and grace, even if you’re hurting and feeling lost, because those muscles will be so much more developed and comfortable.

You’ll know that your relationship can weather a really tough time because you’ve done it before.

You’ll find your way back to self-compassion because you’ve rehearsed it thousands of times.

You’ll have a better way to say the scary thing because you’ve spent so much time talking with each other about all sorts of things, so it won’t feel like a surprise.

My partner and I practice asking each other questions about our hopes, dreams, wants, desires, fantasies, sexual landscape, and regrets because it not only helps us to build really solid love maps, but it gives us loads of practice in sharing openly and understanding how each of us likes to communicate. That way, when we feel disconnected or sad, it’s a heck of a lot easier to reconnect and support each other instead of driving the wedge further between us.

How are you practicing in your daily life? What could you practice more of when it comes to love, communication, sex, and navigating problem spots?

What would it feel like if instead of feeling stuck, unseen, or unheard, you had loads of practice in co-creating solutions as a team?

As for me, my beau and I are chatting tonight about the scary thing. I will probably hurt. I will definitely fumble. But by taking the time to do it now, when we aren’t backed up against a wall, I know we are both practicing so that we’ll do even better the next time.

 

July Musings: Kindness is the key to love and life.

 

July Musings: A daily blog series on sex, relationships, marriage, desire, passion, dating, self-love, confidence, rejection, communication, and more. Day 4: Kindness is the key to a happy marriage, to a happy relationship, to self-confidence, self-love, and so much more.

How kind are you being to yourself? How kind are you being with the people that you love?

The answer says an awful lot about your life, your needs, and what isn’t working.

Why?

Because as soon as kindness takes a hike, it’s time for massive change. Over and over again, this has proven to be true in my own life (and it’s backed by science).

If I catch myself being unkind in how I think about my body or my work, I know something is woefully out of balance and needs attention. Perhaps I’ve been comparing myself to someone else or reading too many fashion magazines. Maybe I wasn’t able to do something I really wanted to do because I’m too out of shape or maybe some anonymous jerk made a comment that stung. Whatever the reason, if self-kindness is hard to come by, immediate action is needed.

If I turn to criticism, cruelty, or sarcasm in my relationships rather than kindness, it’s a big red flag that a need is going unmet or I’ve checked out in some way.

Looking back at past relationships, it’s rather obvious when kindness stopped being the default behavior and when other less-nurturing behaviors set in like resentment, frustration, doubt, or exasperation. Patience suddenly became dangerously thin, and it seemed as if everything my partner was doing was for the sole purpose of annoying me.

That’s usually the moment the relationship goes from being a source of renewal and support to one that is careening towards catastrophe and pain.

Don’t believe me? Check this out, from an Atlantic article about John Gottman and his Love Lab:

“Research independent from [the Gottman’s] has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved … There’s a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship.”

Kindness is one of the most important predictors of relationship happiness and personal satisfaction.

When was the last time you caught yourself being unbelievably kind towards yourself? When your thoughts were full of nurturing thoughts and genuine admiration of self?

How much kindness are you offering in your intimate relationships? If it’s not very much, then it’s time to step back and figure out what changes need to happen in order for you to find your way back to generosity of thought and action. Otherwise, you’ll just end up hating each other.

Kindness translates to your sexual experience, as well.

If you and your lover are swimming in kindness, your sexual experiences will probably feel incredibly safe. Within that sense of safety, you’ll be more likely to ask for what you want, to withhold judgment when your lover shares feedback or fantasies, and it will be a lot easier to experience pleasure with all of you being so open.

It’s incredibly easy to fall into the habit of ignoring our loved ones, which is the same as taking them for granted. Just because they’ve been tolerating the tension for 20 months or 20 years, doesn’t mean they always will.

And the same goes for you.

One of the reasons I ended a relationship in my mid-20’s was because I felt like nothing I said or did would be met with genuine interest. To be ignored is not an act of kindness. To go through the motions, is also not an act of kindness. I was tired of the bickering and feeling unimportant, and so we both turned to criticism, contempt, and passive-aggressive jabs.

Another sign that kindness isn’t present? Feeling like you’re broken or like something is wrong with you. If you’re constantly being asked why you don’t want more sex or if your partner badgers you about your eating habits, that can feel unsafe at a profound level.

Kindness is accepting someone for who they are and inviting their experiences in, as-is. Kindness is offering someone the benefit of the doubt before anything else when they make a mistake or fail in some way.

Kindness is lifting each other up as a team instead of being combatants with a winner and a loser.

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Kindness has become a core behavior that I work to cultivate in my life.

Whenever I catch myself thinking something unkind about myself or my partner, I know it’s time to take a step back and find out where I’ve been silencing myself…because it’s almost always a case of my not asking for what I need or neglecting myself in some way.

So, I’m curious. How much kindness are in the thoughts you have, the words you say, and the behaviors you exhibit with your sweetheart? Same question but towards yourself?

July Musings: Stop looking for sexual validation outside of yourself.

July Musings: A daily blog series on sex, relationships, marriage, desire, passion, dating, self-love, confidence, rejection, communication, and more. Day 3: Stop comparing yourself to how other people do sex and start looking inside yourself for the answers. They're in there. I promise.

The day I realized 95% of my sexual distress, pain, and shame has been the result of other people telling me what my sexual experiences should look like and feel like, everything shifted.

I can’t tell you how many countless hours I spent worrying about how my boobs looked or my tummy moved during sex instead of surrendering to the moment and enjoying this person who was sharing themselves with me.

Why? I was not born worrying my breasts were imperfect or that I shouldn’t have a soft, round belly. Other people told me to be ashamed of those parts of myself.

The same for all the times I didn’t share a fantasy or a desire for fear of what my partner might say. Where did that fear come from? Probably from the endless stories around us telling what “normal” sex looks like. The fear and shame certainly didn’t come from within me.

Where did the stress about how much sex I do or don’t have come from?

Why would I ever be scared that I wasn’t wet enough or tight enough or hard enough?

Outside forces have tremendous influence over our sexual experiences (and the way we do relationship, too, but that’s another post for another day), and unfortunately they’re rarely helpful or informative.

One of the most powerful exercises you can do in your life is to examine all of the major beliefs, assumptions, fears, and hang-ups you have about sex.

Where did they come from?

Why does sex equal penis-in-vagina intercourse? Or why does orgasm matter so much? Who said a wet pussy or a hard cock were necessary for terrific sex?

Literally, all of these ideas come from other people who are not you – people who do not have your body with your experiences or your sensations or your unique version of experiencing pleasure.

The truth is that as soon as we all learn how to look within for our answers when it comes to sex is the moment we start to experience sexual liberation.

Click to tweet that statement!

It doesn’t matter how many times Cosmo or Dr. Oz say you should be having sex in a week. Look within and ask yourself – REALLY ask yourself – how you feel about how often you’re having sex.

It doesn’t matter if the actresses in your favorite porn have small, hairless labia. Do your labia bring you pleasure? Do they love being tugged on and licked and sucked on?

It doesn’t matter if the only bodies we see on magazines next to headlines like “Sexy!” or “Bikini ready” are white, young, ultra thin, rich, able-bodied models. Does your body enjoy being touched? Does your soft tummy give your lover the best pillow in the world? Do your uneven boobs make for a delicious handful when you’re being fucked? Can you experience delicious pleasure right now, today, without changing a thing?

And it does not matter if you have a penis that doesn’t stay hard for hours or that cums in a matter of minutes. Look deep within yourself and ask what are ALL the ways you can bring a partner pleasure? Are your hands an option? Your tongue? Your lips? Sex toys? The strength of your arms or the stubble on your chin? Your warm breath? The options, when you really look within, are only limited by your imagination.

Stop wasting your life worrying about what everyone else is doing and how they’re doing it. (I do not say this lightly. To do this, you must do some deep, personal work. I can help.)

Refuse to give one more second of energy to trying to measure up to someone who is not you, who is not living your life, who is not in your magnificent body.

Because the truth is there is no other living being in the universe who can feel exactly what you feel in the body you’re in except for you.

So why spend any time or any shame or any stress trying to be like some other person who is having their own super unique experiences? Or even lots of other people who lucked into having a lot of similar experiences?

Be an explorer of your own sexual landscape. It is rich and varied and deep – right this second.

Sexual liberation starts the moment you realize the answers you need, the definition of what is good and right and normal, is within you. It’s there. I promise.

Chase your pleasure. You don’t have to change anything about yourself in order to deserve it. Keep it consensual. And that’s all, folks.

So, dear reader, what are some myths or standard advice you’ve held on to that you’re ready to let go of? What are some fears or beliefs that have kept you trapped or feeling inadequate? What might the real answer be if you let go of those stories that other people gave you about what “normal” looks like?

July Musings: Being a great lover takes practice. How have you challenged yourself to level up?

July Musings: A daily blog series on sex, relationships, marriage, desire, passion, dating, self-love, confidence, rejection, communication, and more. Day 2: How can I be a better lover? How can you be better at sex? Practice and curiosity.

Every day I talk to people who are unhappy or struggling with their sex lives. From lack of desire to a complete communication breakdown to secret fantasies or trauma to feeling stuck and uninspired, I see a lot of frustration and confusion when it comes to sex.

Truthfully, sex is one of the least understood, most desired interactions in the world. The chasm between what we see on TV and in the movies, what we learn in school (if anything), and what the lived experience of sex and pleasure actually are could not be wider.

Most of us stumble along, figuring things out on our own, using friends, Cosmo, and porn to guide us. Which also means it’s really common to feel abnormal, awkward, and lost – none of us have clear maps to guide us or the tools to find our way on our own.

The good news is a skilled lover is not simply born with all the gifts of Casanova.

Being sexually adept takes practice. It also takes self-awareness, communication, curiosity, creativity, and most of all, the resilience to be wrong often.

I’ve had some bad sex in my life. (Bad sex is different from traumatic sex.)

I have been the person who checked out during sex because I wasn’t really invested. I’ve been the person who avoided sex at all costs because it always led to a fight with a partner, or to tolerating sex I didn’t really want to just get past it.

I’ve even been the person who freaks out when their partner shares a desire because I had no idea how to do The Thing and completely shut them down as a result of my own shame and ego.

To this day, I still struggle with articulating my needs and desires at times.

But it’s a process. It takes practice. And I know that. Most people don’t.

Once the newness wears off in a relationship, folks often find they’ve become bored – never taking new information in about the person they’re with, assuming they have a magic technique that always works, going through the motions or expecting sex because that’s what you do.

Sex can be many different things to many different people, and even different things to the same person on different days in different moments. Sex won’t always be immersive or mind-blowing, but it can be a powerful source of connection, pleasure, and enjoyment when you do have it.

In my own journey, both personally and professionally, I’ve discovered what it means to be a skilled sexual partner. It’s endlessly simple, but not always easy.

A skilled lover understands that context matters, that the kind of day you had and the way you’re feeling in that moment can profoundly impact the way you experience touch and pleasure. So, they practice curiosity.

A skilled lover is attuned to each gasp, each sigh, each muscle spasm, and takes all of the information in, constantly adjusting and reading their partner as the moment unfolds. They nurture and cultivate mindfulness, staying present and in the moment.

A skilled lover is not concerned with ego or goals, but instead, remains open to the endless mystery that is their partner. They know that no two moments are ever the same and allow themselves to be surprised by just how much they don’t know – and delight in that. They communicate openly and frequently, asking questions instead of assuming answers.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that sex takes practice.

Practice means failing, messing up, being awkward, and trying again. It means no end point. No moment of final achievement. Mastering sex is mastering comfort with the unknown.

If you want to be a great lover, practice curiosity and curiously practice.

Click to tweet that statement!

Ask questions. Check-in. Read erotica. Turn a critical eye towards everything in the media. Seek out information that feeds your creativity.

Know that your pleasure is entirely your responsibility, so a skilled lover also knows how to ask for what they need and want – specifically and unapologetically.

Awkward is OK. Failure is OK. Having no fucking clue what you’re doing is OK. As long as you remain open to what comes next and stay curious. You’re learning. We all are.

The moment you lose your curiosity and wonder is the moment your sexual experience starts to become stagnant and disconnected.

So, marvel at your body and the pleasure it’s capable of both giving and receiving. Get profoundly interested in your partner’s reactions and requests. Introduce newness – from new questions to new locations to new techniques to new fantasies – whenever you feel yourself slipping into a routine.

Let yourself be imperfect in bed and invite the same in your lover(s).

Sex is not about obligation or expectation. Sex is about exploration and discovery. Check your attitude often.

My question to you today is what are you curious to learn? In what ways could you be inspired by your experiences or partner(s)? What is one small thing you can practice today that will set yourself and a lover on fire?

July Musings: What are you prioritizing in love?

31 Posts of July: A daily blog series on sex, relationships, marriage, desire, passion, dating, self-love, confidence, rejection, communication, and more. Day 1: Is your partner your priority?

The pure and simple truth is the things you focus on are the things that grow and flourish. It’s not magic, though it seems to be something almost all of us forget once our lives settle into a routine.

Relationships are not complicated. They just take practice.

Despite what so many people believe thanks to all of the “happily ever after” stories we’ve been fed, there is not an end point to practicing being in relationship.

You don’t get to coast after doing a certain amount of work or doing a handful of helpful things. Though, as you strengthen your skills, it does become a heck of a lot easier and less awkward.

Think of a relationship like a garden.

As long as you are tending to them with a tiny bit of daily maintenance, they can be gorgeous, breathtaking, and thriving. A place of comfort and peace, something that blooms and buzzes with life, even offering nourishment and sustenance.

Ignore a garden for a few days, and you’ll have some weeds to pull and a little tidying up to do.

Let your garden go unattended for weeks, months, or even years, and you’ll have a whole lot of VERY hard work to put in for a fair amount of time before you’re back to healthy, manageable soil and plants. (I implore you, dear reader, do not wait until you’re in crisis mode and then expect to transform your relationship in a matter of days at the do-or-die stage).

So, what are your priorities?

Take a good look at where you’re putting your limited time and energy each day.

How are you fostering connection? How are you inviting vulnerability and laughter? What small gestures are you taking EVERY SINGLE DAY to check in, to share, to connect, to admire the wonder that is this person in your life, to let them know what they mean to you?

It’s not about whisking your sweetheart off to Paris once a year. Research has shown that small, daily gestures are endlessly more impactful than rare, grand gestures.

Folks in thriving relationships know how critical it is to take 30 seconds or a few minutes several times per day to reach across the divide and strengthen that bridge.

A long hug.

A sweet text with an inside joke.

A compliment that’s well-timed and sincere.

A question about their day and then actually listening with curiosity.

A ritual before bed.

These are not time consuming, but they are love-nurturing. If you’re too busy for these, you need to take a serious look at why you’re even in relationship in the first place.

And no – deciding on dinner, negotiating who will go to the grocery store, or rushing through a quick phone call about your hectic day doesn’t count.

Prioritize what and who is important to you. I guarantee it isn’t your phone.

Click to tweet that statement!

Because my guess is that the person sitting next to you is a heck of a lot more valuable to you than seeing if you got any comments on Facebook, and yet how many of us have our phones out when we’re sharing a meal or settling in for bed?

Here is my invitation to you.

Get crystal clear on how you’re prioritizing your connection with a partner by finding ways to really share yourself at least once per day.

Ask yourself what you want to be cultivating in your life. If it’s love and joy and playfulness and feeling seen, then take a look at how you’re showing up for the people who love you.

In the end, will it be the number of social media shares or the points scored in the football game that matters or seeing the eyes of your lover crinkle with joy when you ask about their day because you genuinely want to know?