All Posts by Dawn Serra

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

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.

 

Practice when things are good. Practicing during crisis is nearly impossible.

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?

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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.

 

Are criticism or sarcasm showing up in love? The balm is kindness.

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?

What if sexual validation comes from within?

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 hours (years?) 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.

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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?

Work with me

Looking for ways to reconnect with yourself or a partner? You're in luck because that's what I do.

From one-on-one coaching to my Sex is a Social Skill group calls, there are a number of ways we can work together to help you shed the shame and step into the pleasure and connection you've wanted.

 

 

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

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

Every day I talk to people who are unhappy or struggling with their sex lives. From lack of desire to a complete communication breakdown; from 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.

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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?

Your pleasure. Your love. Your terms.

If you're ready to start rewriting the stories you've been given and to step into connection and pleasure on your own terms, that's exactly what I help people do.

From one-on-one coaching to my Sex is a Social Skill group calls, there are a variety of ways we can work together to help you find the relief you've been looking for.

What are you prioritizing in love?

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, to put it simply, take practice. The uncomfortable, consistent kind.

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.

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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?

1 On loving two people at once (inspired by Ben Higgins on The Bachelor)

Inspired by Ben Higgins of The Bachelor, this week on the blog I examine what it means to love two people at once - brain versus heart, logic versus fear.

My brain and my heart are embroiled in a fierce disagreement, and over The Bachelor no less.

Thankfully, I’ve learned that I can hold two contradictory truths inside of me, two realities, and as uncomfortable as it may be and as confusing as it may feel, it’s more honest than trying to force an outcome.

In fact, we do it all of the time, don’t we? Contradicting ourselves, espousing a truth with deep passion, only to claim a different stance as soon as the circumstances change.

For instance, I can be the most confident person in the room one day and then feel unlovable and unworthy the next. It is not a character flaw or something to be fixed. It is simply a truth that I am learning how to navigate – it does not make the confident days any less confident, nor does it make the unlovable days any easier.

We are walking contradictions, especially when it comes to love.

You see, The Bachelor – Ben Higgins – is in love with two women and it all will come to a head tonight (March 14th) on the season finale.

I’ve seen countless tweets weighing in on the drama, many of them angrily insisting you can’t possibly love two people at once, that it’s not REAL love if you love more than one person, that true love is a one-time-only deal (until, of course, that relationship ends and then there’s another true love waiting around the corner).

Ben Higgins has even said he wishes there was a book that told him how to love two women at once (there is – Tristan Taormino’s “Opening Up” is a great place to start).

And I am angry…

I am angry that Ben is being forced to choose between the two women he loves. I’m pissed that the world is insisting he can only be with one woman.

Because I know that it’s possible to love two people (or more) at once, and to do so successfully. It might be a tad unconventional for mainstream television, but it’s not all that uncommon.

More and more people are exploring open relationships, non-monogamy, polyamory, relationship anarchy, and all sorts of relationship configurations that upend the Disney (and biblical) fairy tales of one true love.

After all, we know that 50% of first marriages, and 75% of second and third marriages, end in divorce. We know that serial monogamy is considered normal…that it’s not about being in love with one person for life but being in love with one person at a time.

Logically, it just doesn’t add up. (And the truth is that all of these sad statistics are less about monogamy, and more about communication, expectations, and sexual awareness…but that’s not what this rant is about.)

We love multiple family members easily and effortlessly, multiple friends for all their differences and the various ways they support us, and if we’re parents, we can love multiple children, unique as they may be.

Love isn’t limited in quantity, but it is bound by things like time and energy.

So, I wonder, why can’t Ben Higgins, or any of us, for that matter, love more than one person in a romantic way at the same time? Where is that against the rules?

If each woman (JoJo & Lauren) feels loved, valued, respected, seen, and nurtured, is it all that different for Ben to romantically love two of them than to…love one woman romantically and also love a good friend or a sibling that he enjoys spending time with, too?

My head understands all of this and fiercely defends his experience of loving two women at once.

It doesn’t make sense that he has to choose one over the other…because if the one he chooses doesn’t work out, what happens next? He labels the relationship a “failure” and then finds someone else to love?

What if loving both of those women at the same time is what creates the kind of support and connection that means all three of them are endlessly happy for many decades?

Love isn’t the fairy tale we’ve been led to believe.

Love, once the rush of new relationship energy fades, is more about hard work, turning towards each other through the mundane and the pain, and TRYING a lot. Trying every day.

Love isn’t terribly glamorous when you get beyond that drunk stage.

In fact, I could go on for days about the ridiculousness of how we’ve been trained/tricked into valuing romantic and sexual love above other kinds of love, but that’s a different post for a different day.

My brain gets it.

I know many people who are polyamorous or non-monogamous or in some form of open relationship and they are happy. They thrive. It makes sense – not having to choose just one, but instead getting to live in a way that honors the different people who come in and out of your life, the different types of relationships that might form.

But, my heart sings a different song.

My heart worries that if I speak these things out loud, they may come true for me. Because, as much as my head may know one thing, my heart isn’t quite sure what it believes just yet.

I know that I crave depth, intimacy, connection that grows deeper and stronger as time passes, finding novelty within the safe container I’ve built with someone who I finally let all the way in. I know that I want to know that when shit gets tough, people aren’t going to give up or turn away because it’s easier and less painful or because there’s someone new on the horizon.

My heart, in the end, really just wants to know I am special.

And so I get it. I understand why people are reacting so strongly to Ben’s confession that he is in love with both of these amazing women. He is turning the fantasy that so many of us cling to on its head.

It all comes down to fear and worthiness.

That little demon inside which whispers, “If the person I love can be in love with two people at once, then why would they ever choose me?”

If Ben can love JoJo and Lauren, have the stories we’ve been telling ourselves been wrong all along?

The uncertainty is terrifying. And then there are the personal fears that start to bubble up as we question the ways we define love and what makes us lovable.

We may not know how to name it, but that discomfort is a mask held up by our fear.

The fear of not being enough, or of being too much. A fear of how worthy we are that someone would ever choose us if they have other choices available to them.

Fear and unworthiness can make us do and say wild things. It can force us to the edges, to either-or, black or white, yes or no, instead of recognizing the power of remaining fluid and uncertain and curious.

For many of us, we wonder…if we can’t make one relationship work, what makes us think we can successfully manage two or three or more?

Despite all of the fear, though, on a personal level, my heart does break for Ben, JoJo, and Lauren, knowing that these are real people, with real feelings, and because Ben will be forced to choose one, someone will be devastated on tonight’s finale.

I can imagine the collective sigh of relief that millions of people will share when Ben makes his choice and brings his story back into alignment with the fantasy so many of us are desperately clinging to.

All of us wrapping ourselves, once again, in a blanket of false certainty that offers us a sense of relief in an uncertain world, even if it’s a lie.

Because even though there are no guarantees in life or in love, we like to tell ourselves that there are.

I’d love to know…what do you think? Why are people so angry at Ben Higgins for loving two women at once? What might happen if he decided to choose them both, and if they, in turn, chose him, too?


 

*Note: I am a fierce believer in successful monogamy, but only when the two people in the relationship are consciously choosing it for themselves, and not as a social default. I also believe open relationships, non-monogamy, solo polyamory, polyamory, and all of the other relationship styles can work, too. But again, only when everyone involved is choosing it and living in integrity with their needs and desires. I also believe that you can move in and out of monogamy, polyamory, and various relationship styles as your needs and circumstances change – it’s not a one-and-done, no going back thing, either.

 

Can you find a way to forgive yourself?

Can you find a way to forgive yourself for all the ways you've beat yourself up, for all the ways you've abandoned yourself?

Forgiveness has been on my mind a lot lately.

Certainly, forgiveness is something we have to revisit again and again with the people in our lives – for the ways they let us down, for the times they hurt us, for the little ways their words or inaction cut into our hearts and souls.

But, more importantly, I’ve been thinking about how to cultivate forgiveness for myself.

It’s something I struggle with constantly.

How can I forgive myself for the ways I’ve hurt someone I love or fallen short? For the times I’ve broken my own heart? For the failures and broken promises?

I’ve beaten myself up so many times for so many years, how do I begin to forgive that? But even more than that, I’ve silenced my own truth, put someone else’s needs before my own, and abandoned myself over and over again.

It’s a deep wound that I keep reopening each time I tell myself my feelings aren’t valid or worthy of attention. It’s difficult to forgive when everything feels so raw and tender, isn’t it?

Sometimes I don’t even realize I’ve hurt myself until long after the damage has been done – because it’s easier to focus on the people I love and what they need. It’s simpler sometimes to ignore the stuff that’s scary or uncomfortable like taking up space, putting my foot down, or using my voice.

But then, when I feel resentment or heartbreak, it’s so natural to turn on myself.

So, why is forgiveness so important?

Forgiveness is a cornerstone of trust. If I can’t forgive myself, how can I find a way to believe my own wisdom and trust my voice?

Brene Brown has a new course on trust over at CourageWorks.com. In it, she breaks trust down into seven smaller components like respecting boundaries, repeatedly showing up, integrity, non-judgment, and assuming generous intentions.

As I watched the videos, it struck me that forgiveness, trust, and empathy are ultimately about connection.

When we forgive…

…we can turn towards ourselves and towards the people we love.

…we can build bridges. We can connect across even the deepest chasms.

…we can find the grace to treat ourselves and our loved ones with kindness even after being wounded.

Forgiveness does not undo what has been done, but it does mean letting go to make space for something new.

What are you clinging to that you can begin to let go of?

Where are you holding on to something that just keeps hurting you over and over again, and if you invited some forgiveness you might find a little more ease and movement?

A better question may be, do you trust yourself? Do you trust your decisions, your ability to set boundaries, your inner worthiness?

If the answer is no, or not entirely, find the spots where you feel like you keep letting yourself down. That’s where forgiveness may be a beautiful way to heal and move forward.

But don’t be fooled by how simple it may seem to forgive someone, especially yourself.

Forgiveness is not a one-time magic pill. You don’t waive your forgiveness wand and suddenly find everything is behind you.

In my experience, forgiveness takes practice. It is an on-going choice, and sometimes you fumble it and lose that spaciousness. But it is always there, waiting for you to pick it back up and gently nurture.

Sometimes it hurts to move into forgiveness because it means examining and admitting the wounds you carry.

When I think of all the ways I’ve held back or silenced myself, it can feel devastating. All those times I decided someone else’s happiness was more valuable than my own…toes hanging over the ledge of that deep, dark abyss that is all of the ways I didn’t listen to my own heart.

But I can only start building the bridge of that forgiveness by understanding where I am and where I’d like to go.

Forgiveness takes practice. Trust takes time. And you can only find your way to love and joy by doing the work and showing up, over and over again, even on the tough days.

Forgiveness isn’t linear. Neither are healing, love, or growth. There is beauty in the chaos that is our stumbles, fumbles, and falls.

As we move towards a new year, I invite you to find ways to begin forgiving yourself.

When you forgive yourself, you can begin to trust yourself. By trusting yourself, you can start to set boundaries, ask for what you need, grow into deeper love with yourself and the people around you, and then that’s when the really juicy stuff starts to unfold.

No matter how many times you’ve been vulnerable and courageous, no matter how many ways you’ve failed, you must find a way to forgive.

Stop clinging to old beliefs and wounds that weigh you down and keep you trapped in the dark. Open to the possibility that at any given moment you are doing the very damn best that you can with what was available to you in that moment, and that makes you pretty damn amazing.

Open to the truth that you deserve to forgive yourself, and let yourself see all of the space that creates in your thoughts and feelings.

Breathe into your healing. You deserve this.

And so do I. Even if it’s hard to believe sometimes.

———

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. I love sending little love notes like this and super secret invitations for exploring yourself, sex, and relationships.

Master these two words for better sex and healthier relationships

When it comes to having the best sex of your life and healthier relationships, you need to master these two words. Because it's all about healthy boundaries and honoring your own needs and desires.

The past several years have been an incredible journey for me. Transformation is inevitable when you start to dig around in all your softest spots and darkest places.

One of the most difficult realizations I've had about myself is just how hard it is for me to use my voice. I silence myself a lot.

Looking back, it's no wonder past relationships left me feeling exhausted and resentful. I rarely spoke up, always rushing to fix things for others, never prioritizing my own needs. In fact, even now I struggle to find the words for my needs sometimes.

It's different for each of us. For me, setting boundaries feels like I'm taking up too much space. And as a fat person, I've been conditioned to take up as little space as possible to offset my physical size. It's a mind fuck, to be sure.

But many of us have these mechanisms of taking up less space because we feel unworthy of love or are afraid of being alone or worry that if we actually draw a line in the sand and say "this is me" that people won't be able to handle us.

The paradox is that the clearer we are with our needs and boundaries, the more we set ourselves and our partners up for success. If you aren't sure where the edges of the sandbox are, it's difficult to surrender and trust that you're on the same page.

Though our language is full of beautiful words that sound like poems and terrifying words that evoke powerful feelings, the two most powerful words that we have at our disposal are yes and no.

Sadly, most of us don’t use those words in a way that serves our soul. There are countless ways that we silence ourselves or water down our experiences: social obligations, guilt, insecurity, a mindset full of lack and fear, shame, family dynamics, community expectations, peer pressure, our own internalized judgment.

Why is this important and how can we begin to find and strengthen our voice? 

When you give yourself permission to get crystal clear about your yes and your no, especially in the context of your sexual self, things begin to shift.

Too often we consider a maybe a yes.

Too often we default to yes when we’re on the fence, when we’re ambivalent, when we’re kind of interested but not entirely sure. And each time we do this, we send the message that our boundaries aren’t important, and we end up losing ourselves in the process.

Too often we want to say no, but we make excuses, we over apologize, we try to soften it with lots of flowery language that leaves people confused or thinking you really mean yes. We anticipate the other person’s feelings and try to control for it by changing our own answers.

But here’s the thing.

You are not responsible for someone else’s experience or feelings (and this can be SO hard to embrace if you're a people pleaser). You can be kind and say a simple, “No.”

It’s on them how they deal with it.

Because “No.” is a complete sentence. No doesn’t require an explanation. No doesn’t need to be defended.

When you say no to something, you are really saying yes to yourself.

Imagine you are feeling really sexy and turned on. You want a night of raw, hot, sweaty sex. When you ask your partner if they want to join in the fun, they kind of shrug and say “I guess.”

Once you’re in the bedroom, they only half show up. There’s no energy. No fire. You start to feel resentment because it feels lonely each time they check out, and the night ends in either a fight or silence.

Put another way, has an experience ever been improved by someone showing up who really doesn’t want to be there and then complains or drags their feet the whole time?

Wouldn’t you prefer that person stay home so all of the rest of you can enjoy the fireworks or the parade or the day at the park?

Start saying no when you’re anything other than an enthusiastic yes. A fuck yes, in fact.

And guess what?

You can be an enthusiastic yes about stuff that sucks. You can say, “Hell yes, I want us to talk about that last fight because as uncomfortable and awkward as it will be, I know we can work through this.”

Don’t second guess your yes, either. If you want to put on lingerie and dance around the house, do it. If you want a threesome, ask for it. If you want to re-enact a scene from that movie Secretary, make it happen.

No one ever owes you sex or physical affection, but that shouldn't stop you from asking for it and getting creative in ways to meet your own needs in a way that respects everyone involved.

Your yes and your no are literally what define you.

When you don’t honor your boundaries - in life and in the bedroom - it leads to confusion, mixed messages, hurt feelings, resentment, and you compromise the potential for your own pleasure and joy.

What have you not been saying yes to out of fear? What you have not been saying no to because you’re worried of hurting someone’s feelings?

Pick one thing this week where you can say “no” without explaining yourself and “yes” to something that feels juicy.

The amazing thing is even if it’s a dinner date or an appointment with your business, each time you honor your voice, you strengthen your sexual self, too.

The stronger your boundaries are, the more space you have to play. So, get clear on what you do and don’t want and then ask for those things.

Pleasure and joy are your birthright, but only if you’re willing to totally own your own experience.

Work with me

Wondering how to find your voice and use it in bed? That's what I do.

From one-on-one coaching to my Sex is a Social Skill group calls and DIY workbooks, there are a number of ways we can work together to help you find what you're looking for.

7 Is one kind of orgasm better than another?

Some self-proclaimed experts claim certain types of sex or orgasms are better or more evolved than others. Sex Coach Dawn Serra calls BS on that, and sets the record straight on orgasms.

The number of crappy sex myths that exist in our culture is literally endless. (I know, because I've been compiling a list for a course I'm building based on those myths and it's already a few pages long at this point.)

The tight vagina/loose vagina myth.

The virgin/slut myth.

The simultaneous orgasm myth.

The bigger is better myth.

The you don't need lube if you're truly aroused myth.

The list goes on.

Frankly, these myths are incredibly damaging to all of us.

Not only do most of us have no idea that we can literally define sex for ourselves and it may not look anything like what we've been told, but many of us have internalized these myths to the point that they feel like facts - facts that we don't live up to. Which in turn leads to anxiety, stress, damaged self-esteem, and disappointing sex.

Within the sex positive community, there is a deep commitment by sex educators, sex bloggers, sex therapists, sex coaches, and other sex professionals to provide the most accurate information we have access to while also inviting people to explore their own sexual truths.

The only universal fact when it comes to sex is that no one rule applies to everyone. We are all outliers in some way.

Why? Because our sexual experiences are based on our unique body landscape, the context of our lives, our past experiences, our community upbringing, our religious beliefs, and many other factors.

The way a specific clitoral stroke feels to me may yield totally different feelings in you. And that is OK. The way that stroke felt to you today at 2pm may feel really different to you tomorrow at 9am - different time, different context, different energy, even different levels of hydration and diet...

But there are some sex "experts" that have come on the scene and do something super dangerous. They preach their personal experiences as universal fact.

They also tend to make completely unfounded claims like how to make a cock bigger or that all women want men who "claim" them or that you don't need birth control to prevent unwanted pregnancy or that condoms make sex less sacred so you shouldn't use them.

Yesterday, I saw someone post a link to an older blog post written by one of these self-proclaimed sex gurus in a Facebook group I'm in. The article claimed that clitoral orgasms were distractions to the REAL orgasm, the REAL feminine experience - which is the vaginal orgasm.

I'm calling bullshit (as well as about a dozen other sex educators that I ran it past).

Orgasms are NOT the goal of sex.

Sex is not about goals. Sex is about pleasure. So, maximizing pleasure, doing what feels good in your body in that moment, is where the good stuff is. This might include an orgasm, and it may not. Sometimes sex feels super good, and no orgasm happens.

That doesn't ruin sex or make it pointless.

But if you are orgasmic, the bottom line is no matter what anyone says, your orgasm - the one that feels best in your body - is the sacred kind of orgasm.

It can be a clitoral orgasm, a g-spot orgasm, an anal orgasm, a breath-gasm, an energy orgasm, a laughter-gasm, a tear-gasm - it doesn't matter. It's the release that feels most aligned and in integrity for you in that moment. That's the magic.

And it is OK to strive for a certain type of orgasm - as long as you don't internalize the lack of that kind of orgasm as some type of personal failure or physical problem.

If you have a vulva, some of the sacred sexuality gurus will talk about energetically opening to your partner and welcoming them into your sacred vaginal space. That's cool. But it's not the only way and you don't have to put anything inside of you in order to be sacred or fully embodied in your sexuality.

You can energetically open to someone and NOT take them inside any of your orifices.

You can have an energetic orgasm with all your clothes on.

You can shed all of your masks and bare your soul to a partner in the most painfully vulnerable way without any sexual contact at all.

Just like you can penetrate yourself with whatever and whomever you'd like and it doesn't diminish your value or your sacredness one bit.

And yes - there are some ancient traditions and decades-old sexual rituals that some people choose to follow. You can choose that for yourself, as well. But you can also create your own traditions. Barbara Carrellas has done this with her version of tantra and it's spectacular, inclusive, and honors each person's own body and journey.

So, worship your clit. Orgasm spectacularly from ass play. Have delicious sex and never cum at all.

As long as you're honoring yourself and your body and the moment in a way that feels really good, then you can connect with whatever is sacred for you.

Boycott bad sex advice. Find your own truth and live it unapologetically. Because no one else in the world knows your body like you do.

/rant

Work with me

Are you curious about finding your sexually empowered self? I can help.

From one-on-one coaching to DIY workbooks and my bi-weekly group calls, there are several ways we can work together to help you find the pleasure and desire you crave.