All Posts by Dawn Serra

How do you sustain love even when you’re at your worst?

How can you sustain love even when you're at your worst?  Relationship and sex expert Dawn Serra shares advice.

The other day I was confronted by the truth of who I am at my worst in relationship. It was an ugly mirror to gaze into. The shame was immediate and deep.

I was sitting in a relationship therapy training program, and we were talking about self-esteem and boundaries, examining the behaviors that are driven by being walled off or lacking boundaries, by living in shame or believing yourself superior to your partner. And then, on the diagram on the board, I spotted myself. Not just any self - the self I try to hide from, the one I pretend is justified and warranted when I'm hurting and scared in my marriage.

It was a humbling moment, seeing that darkness in the light of day.

Thankfully, I was able to catch myself just as my inner critic started up, and instead I got curious. Why was I so ashamed? Was it because I assumed I was the only one who got stuck in these behaviors? Why did I immediately tell myself that MY worst self was the worst of the bunch? And, why did I jump to the conclusion that my worst was my whole story?

In other words, I had a classic shame response - negative thoughts spiraling ever downward.

It's not often that we have a chance to have our worst reflected back to us in a way that makes us listen. Usually when that mirror is held up, we try to deny what we see because... well, there's always a reason for that snarky comment or icy silence, isn't there?

But, none of us are immune from bad days or bad behavior. None of us.

Everyone has a worst and nearly everyone moves into that space in relationship from time to time.

If it's a thriving relationship and our tanks are full, hopefully those moments are few and far between. If it's a struggling relationship or we're running on empty, then maybe we've gotten a little more comfortable showing that ugly underbelly with more frequency. Maybe, for a few of us, our worst has even become our normal.

Sitting there that day made me wonder... how can we get better at sustaining love, even when we're at our worst?

How can we create and maintain connection when everything in us is screaming to lash out or disappear?

Because the truth is we are surrounded by stories that say we should be focusing on ways to "fix" ourselves or the people in our lives if we want healthy relationship. As if there's a cure or an answer that can make a relationship with another human being perfect.

What if it's not about fixing your partner or fixing yourself and instead about finding space and kindness around the prickly stuff?

What if it's not about who is right and who is wrong, but about how you can connect when shit gets tough?

What if you're allowed to have bad days and make mistakes and you're not broken because of it?

What if, when you're at your worst, you know you'll come out the other side and the people you love know you will, too?

What if you're not alone?

Because that's the thing that struck me most as I was swimming in my shame... every other person (most of whom were therapists and mental health professionals) in that training went to the same place I did: that feeling of "oh god, what if someone finds out?" People started sharing what their worst looks like and the feelings that were coming up for them.

I realized how NOT alone I am.

We are all struggling in some way or another to stay vulnerable in the face of disconnection, to stay open when all you want to do is close off and run away, to hold firm boundaries when you're terrified that boundary might mean the other person no longer loves you, to trust that you're worthy even when you feel completely unlovable.

That's why love takes courage.

Being seen takes practice.

Feeling frustrated and disappointed and unsure of what comes next is normal.

What can we do when we find we're closing ourselves off or being critical and retaliatory or feeling terrified or alone? How do we sustain love from that place?

It begins by simply acknowledging it's not about you being broken, it's about a world that doesn't give us the skills or the tools to navigate these scary spaces (and that's hellbent on proving to each of us how unworthy we constantly are so we'll buy more shit).

We are still worthy of respect, love, and kindness even if we behave in a way that isn't reflective of how we'd like to be most days.

Resilience in the face of uncertainty (which is the definition of life and love) takes endless practice. Knowing that can give us space to forgive ourselves.

Being an adult in any kind of relationship is hard. It takes work and tough choices and accountability and choosing over and over and over again to show up and try.

So maybe, sustaining love is about having faith that each of us are doing our best and sometimes that won't be good enough. But we can always learn and heal and try again tomorrow.

If you want to practice in this space, my bi-weekly online group calls are now enrolling. We practice things like leveling up in love, talking about desires, setting boundaries, finding words for feelings, forgiving our bodies, and a whole lot more. Join our community.


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Every two weeks, I send love notes that feature my latest blog post, tidbits and fun things about what's inspiring me, what's new on the podcast, and access to secret things like special workbooks and events. I'd love to have you join me.

What is your relationship with pleasure?

Pleasure can be a tricky thing.

We are taught that pleasure is wonderful, something to aspire to, something to indulge in…

But not too much, too often, or in the “wrong” ways.

Oh, and pleasure is only for people who have earned it – either by being born rich/powerful or by working hard and achieving that right to claim it.

Pleasure for folks who are deemed undeserving is seen as laziness, as unfair, as addiction, as something worthy of punishment.

And yet, we were all born with an inherent understanding and desire for pleasure. We delighted in our bodies – in how it felt to touch them and move them. We sought out new experiences, new textures, new sensations eagerly and without apology.

As adults, pleasure can be complicated.

Some people are taught that their sexual pleasure is a given while others are taught that theirs is a nice-to-have or a bonus.

Some people are taught that food is pleasure without apology while others see pleasurable foods as the enemy in their quest to attain/maintain thinness.

Some people believe that pleasure is the work of evil entities while others believe pleasure is a god unto itself.

Pleasure is natural. Pleasure is available to us in almost every moment of every day if we open to it.

And, at the same time, pleasure isn’t always nice. It isn’t always easy or convenient. Sometimes pleasure is full of uncertainty, especially if we’re seeking the kind of pleasure that truly speaks to our soul.

Pleasure can be found in the relief you feel after having finally said that super scary thing. Sometimes pleasure is only ours after we move through the pain. Other times, pleasure is actually waiting for us inside of the pain, inside our discomfort.

And, as Conner wondered in his study of Charles Fourier, what if we allowed ourselves to be entirely driven by pleasure?

So, I’m curious…

What did the world teach you about pleasure growing up? Did you deserve it? Were you told it was even an option for you? And when has pleasure offered growth or discomfort or surprise?


Never miss a post...

Every two weeks, I send love notes that feature my latest blog post, tidbits and fun things about what's inspiring me, what's new on the podcast, and access to secret things like special workbooks and events. I'd love to have you join me.

Who do we leave out of consent conversations?

I was just chatting with Andrew Gurza on his podcast Disability After Dark. We were rolling around in marginalized bodies and sex, the ways we perform and try to be “normal” and not other.

One of the things he said to me is that consent looks really different for him.

As a disabled person, sex may only be an option for him every 6-7 months (maybe once a year), and so if you ask him to have certain kinds of sex, he may say yes even if he’s unsure simply because he may not have another opportunity at sexual connection for another year.

We live in a rape culture, a culture that doesn’t even understand the most basic rules around consent. A lot of this is due to patriarchy and misogyny, people feeling like they have access to certain bodies simply because they deserve sex.

So, it makes sense that when talking about consent is radical in and of itself that we would frame the conversation in the most basic language – anything other than an enthusiastic yes is a no.

But this black-and-white conversation leaves a LOT of people and circumstances out of the conversation. Sex workers, for instance. Marginalized bodies. Various cultures and religions. Folks who are asexual. Poor folks. The list goes on.

When Andrew shared this, it drove home just how bad we are at really talking about the nuances of consent based on a variety of bodies and circumstances.

I know growing up I was never taught about consent. I was taught not to hit people. I was taught that rape is bad. That grown-ups shouldn’t touch little kids in certain places. But that was really it.

I wasn’t taught that pushing friends to do something isn’t consent.

I wasn’t taught that boys coercing me, twisting my words, cajoling me wasn’t consent.

I wasn’t taught so many of the most basic things about bodily autonomy and choices.

Consent is soooo much more than that, though.

It’s about nurturing, it’s about respect, it’s about nuance, it’s about SEEING someone and engaging with them, dancing with them, to co-create something that feels good for everyone involved while also understanding the social pressures and dynamics and power systems at play.

I wonder….

What has consent looked like in your life? Have you grappled with it? Have you had consent violated? Have you violated consent (we all have, if we’re honest – I have many times in a variety of ways)?

What would it mean to grow up, from the earliest of ages, learning about bodily autonomy and respecting other people’s boundaries and needs, knowing how to ask for what you want and also how to receive someone else’s requests without taking them on as your own?

It’s juicy and filled with landmines. So let’s tread carefully and stay curious.

Talking about feelings is one thing. FEELING them is another.

I’ve been sitting in some tough places and reflecting on what it means to actually experience the messiness of life.

It’s one thing to talk about feelings, to learn skills for managing and navigating feelings, and it’s another entirely to actually be in the thick of them – struggling not to capsize from the grief, the heartbreak, the sorrow, the anxiety, the rage, the BIG FEELS when they swallow you up and threaten never to spit you back out.

Of course, intellectually we may know that emotions pass. They move and swell and shrink and become something else. But, in the moment? When those emotions seem to be bigger than your entire being? It can feel as if nothing will ever be true except this pain, this fear, this all-consuming moment.

And it makes sense.

Most of us didn’t grow up in a world where we had it modeled for us how to safely sit in our scary places, to know we would be loved no matter how much it hurt or how big it got. Most of us didn’t have adults in our lives who knew how to have vulnerable, awkward conversations that we had a chance to witness, over and over again until it felt real and possible for us.

Which leaves us all, personally and culturally, treading water; hoping that we’re moving in the right direction. It can be even more difficult when you finally start finding words for your feelings and developing skills for resilience but the people in your life aren’t on that same path.

Life is messy, hard, and unpredictable for each and every one of us. We can hide from it and all the ways we feel about it, but that only works so much.

Instead, hopefully, maybe, on the good days, on the days when we have a little more patience or our tanks are a little more full, we can offer ourselves kindness and we can reach out towards those we love.

What powerful things: kindness and connection.

Powerful because they offer so much, but also because it takes such raw vulnerability to sit in them. I believe, with all of my being, that this is also where the beauty and transcendence of the human experience begins to emerge. This is where we find love.

That’s why self-reflection and naming where we are most stuck can be so transformative. Instead of ignoring and denying our truth, we can set tidal waves of change into motion by simply allowing our truth to be seen.

Today, like most days, I do not have answers.

But what I do have is dreams of you and I making it, of all of us finding new ways to experience our feelings, of the world shifting slowly and surely as it makes space for each of our stories, exactly as we are.

So, I will leave you with a simple question as you contemplate where you are today. Feel free to post your response in the Facebook group or comment below. I’m here for you.

What story are you telling yourself? And is it true?

Complaining is easy; choosing the erotic is an act of defiance

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I’ve been finding it incredibly difficult to be creative and to show up lately. Taking care of myself seems harder than ever. Then again, I’ve never been very good at taking care of me, so maybe that’s not the best measure.

That said, I’m finding so much inspiration and hope in people doing incredible things. From artists to documentary filmmakers to writers and beyond, I feel so connected to the swell of love that we are seeing in the face of so much hate.

The truth is that when we are exhausted and overwhelmed, stressed and unsure, it can be so so difficult to tap into our erotic energy. So I want to roll around in some thoughts around choosing eroticism and prioritizing it – for our health, for our joy, and for the relationships that we’re in.

The other day, Esther Perel wrote, “Complaining of sexual boredom is easy and conventional. Nurturing eroticism in the home is an act of open defiance.”

This struck a deep chord with me because I hear from so many people how much pain they’re in over low desire, lack of sexual interest, mismatched libidos, or shame around sexual fantasies.

We all know that relationships take work – whether it’s a friendship, a business partnership, or a romantic connection. But, so does sex.

Culturally, we’ve been taught that sex should be effortless and frequent, especially if we’re in love.

I call bullshit.

To cultivate erotic energy in our lives takes practice. It takes nurturing. It takes prioritizing the things that help us tap into our erotic selves. In other words, it takes work.

Once the new relationship energy and happy brain chemicals begin to wane, once life begins to find some patterns and rhythms, once kids and pets and jobs and friends and obligations start filling our schedules, once we’re single and left with our own body and no one to blame, it takes deliberate commitment to prioritize and follow through on things that create erotic energy.

So why is it an act of defiance to nurture your erotic self?

Because it’s easier to get bored. It’s easier to complain and make excuses for why we can’t find time or why our partners don’t get us as hot and bothered as they used to. It’s easier to be distracted by social media and television and activities that fill the time rather than fill our hearts and souls.

And, most importantly, when the world is in so much chaos, it’s a win for the haters and the dividers to keep us so distracted and busy that we lose our connection to ourselves and to each other.

Somehow, we collectively got this idea that sex is: easy, all about the genitals, all about the orgasms, all about performance, an indicator of relationship health, a way to prove our worth…

But, what if nurturing our erotic selves, CHOOSING to create time and space for the erotic, meant something as simple as connection and pleasure?

What if our sexual needs could be met through skin contact, dancing, massage, eye gazing, mutual masturbation, writing sexy stories, reading sexy stories, playful wrestling, and an endless cornucopia of other delicious, hot experiences?

It would mean rejecting the patriarchal, misogynistic, heterocentric, puritanical stories about what sex actually was. That would be such an incredible act of defiance.

To choose you,

to choose your body,

to choose your pleasure on terms that were defined by no one but you,

to choose connection with your partner(s),

to let go of the noise and the rules and worrying about what’s “normal”

and instead be totally present with your needs, your desires, and perhaps the pleasure of another?

I’m no different than you when it comes to this struggle.

Some days I’m exhausted. Sometimes it’s easier to fart around on Facebook and scroll through Twitter and chat about meaningless things and fall asleep while my partner is eyeball deep in reddit.

There are times I can go days without having a sexy thought or fantasy.

But I’ve learned to check in with myself and to notice that I haven’t touched myself or flirted with my sweetheart in a few days. I’ve learned to pay attention to how long it’s been and to then intentionally choose to take erotic action.

Whether it’s watching porn (there’s a fabulous resource down below!), or sending LadyCheeky.com links to Alex, or writing a little erotic story, or putting on my sexiest lace bodysuit with the snap crotch, or pulling out a sex toy and leaving it on the bed as a reminder…

I cultivate the energy and I give myself permission to play in that uncertain space, to see if I respond, and almost certainly, every time, once something sexy begins, I’m all in and feeling amazing about it.

Defy the cultural narrative. Stop clinging to what’s easy and instead decide what’s important. Then, choose to make it happen on your own terms.


One of my guiding beliefs is that sex is a social skill.

It’s something we learn by doing, by relating, and by understanding ourselves, first and foremost.

If you’d like to receive my love notes and musings on sex, relationships, vulnerability, and connection, be sure to hop on my newsletter. In addition to a five video course about sexual desire, you’ll also get a sneak peak into my personal life, links to my podcast episodes, and tidbits about transforming your life and your pleasure.

Making space for big emotions

Sweet soul,

I’ve been staring at this blank space for the past 15 minutes, typing and deleting, typing and deleting.

The truth is I have so much to say. Yet I also know that whatever I say, it won’t be enough/right/true. So I am marching ahead and allowing that uncertainty to simply be what it is.

Today is the U.S. presidential inauguration, and so many people around the country (and world) are struggling. Whether you’re attending a march, a party, or self-caring away from all of the hubbub, there is no denying that today begins a new chapter for the entire world.

Like many of you, I’m having feelings. Big ones. Scary ones. Feelings that make me feel like I’m drowning.

I have feelings about the world at large, about this new president, about this new Congress, about all of the ways I’m scared for the people I care about – including you.

At the same time, I have all of the feelings that come with navigating my day-to-day life, my relationship with myself and with my partner…

It can be utterly overwhelming.

So, instead of a long post, I simply want to offer you this:

Take care of you today.

Reach out to your loved ones.

Curl up or speak out or march or make art or make love or (consensually) beat the snot out of someone until you’re both heaving messes of sensation and release.

As for me? I am sick as hell, so it will be bubble baths and soup and 80’s movies until I feel a little better.

What if we’re all performing, instead of experiencing, pleasure?

A few days ago, I had the opportunity to interview erotic film director Erika Lust. She makes some of the sexiest erotic films in the world (in my opinion), and she is also beautifully thoughtful and articulate about the role pornography plays in our experience of sexuality.

I keep bumping up against this idea that we are all taught about the performance of sex instead of the experience of sex.

Since so few of us had a decent sex education and even fewer had any actual models of sexual pleasure as we grew up, most of us learned about sex from movies, porn, TV shows, romance novels, and friends. But, each of them is centered on a performance meant for entertainment and consumption, an edited version of the truth, a dramatic invention for plot twists in worlds where the weight of real responsibilities is lighter and simpler.

I’ve been wondering how porn and Hollywood have shaped the way most of us have sex, or think we should have sex. It’s created so much curiosity in me.

For instance, where did we learn what “normal” sex looks like? Who or what told us how often we should be having it? Why are so many people focused on orgasm? Who decided what arousal sounds like and how did someone else’s ideas influence the way we vocalize ourselves? What is sexy and why is the cultural definition so damn narrow and rigid?

More importantly, why are so many of us trying to fit our bodies, experiences, needs, and fantasies into a box that was designed for someone else?

Erika used the word “variety” to describe her films. I find that endlessly refreshing.

When it comes to learning about sexual pleasure and sexual experience, if we had an endless buffet of options in front of us, it would force us to look within to decide what felt like a good fit and what did not.

Even I fall into this comparison and culturally informed sexuality trap on a daily basis, and I spend my days and nights studying, thinking, and working to shift the dialog.

What if erotic ecstasy didn’t involve genitals? What if an orgasm didn’t happen? What if I didn’t shave my legs or worry about those nipple hairs? What if I could experience erotic connection and sensual pleasure with all of my clothes on?

I told Erika that one of the things I most admired about her films is that they all have some element of humor – either a genuine laugh out loud moment or a small wink to the viewer that ensures you’re in on the joke. That humor is refreshing because there is no room for shame or apologies when you’re smiling and laughing while looking at sexy naked bodies in motion.

Healthy sexual expression and erotic creativity cannot fully breathe in the presence of shame. And yet so many of us are ashamed of our bodies, our genitals, the amount of sex we have or do not have, the dreams of pleasure that haunt our quiet moments…

Is it possible to stand before the endless cornucopia of sexual possibilities and erotic expression, open your arms wide, and to marvel at all of the living, breathing opportunities for pleasure, creativity, and connection available to you in each moment of your life?

I wonder. I invite. I hope. I dream. And I wish this for me and for you.


One of my guiding beliefs is that sex is a social skill.

It’s something we learn by doing, by relating, and by understanding ourselves, first and foremost.

If you’d like to receive my love notes and musings on sex, relationships, vulnerability, and connection, be sure to hop on my newsletter. In addition to a five video course about sexual desire, you’ll also get a sneak peak into my personal life, links to my podcast episodes, and tidbits about transforming your life and your pleasure.

You don’t need to be perfect to be lovable.

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.

There is no short cut for talking about the scary stuff. It’s just scary.

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?

Desire and intimacy require constant tending

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.

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