Integrity is All About Self-Confrontation

What makes relationships work & last,communication,improving sex,low desire, how to stay married,problems in relationships,integrity,personal growth

Integrity is the difference between being nice and being good. We live in a world that too easily values nice because nice is easy to do. Good is a whole lot more hard work. The Big Bad Wolf was really nice to Little Red Riding Hood before he ate her grandmother.

Someone facing hard truths about their own dark side is the infrastructure of integrity.

We humans are more like reptiles in our brain functions than mammals. We all have selfish, greedy & entitled feelings. Feelings are completely unreliable. It’s what you do with your feelings that matters.

When I have a client who paints a picture of themselves that leaves me confused as to what their dark side might be, I ask them to ask someone they trust to provide more honest feedback. Good therapy will collide with the comforting picture of yourself that you have in your head.

You can’t grow without being uncomfortable.

We so easily imagine ourselves to be better than we are. This is creating a false reality, like Disneyland for the soul. We all create defensive energy so rapidly in order to keep the falseness operating. Most problems in relationships are avoided & deflected by almost everybody because it is easier short-term (like the monkeys pictured above).

Instead we have to be willing to wrestle withe worst parts of ourselves. Only then can the best of who we are truly stand up to build into real character. You have to find the courage to collide with the comfortable way you see yourself.

Think of all the marriages you think you know, including your own. When someone blows up the other person usually gives up. This maintains the status quo & nothing changes or is solved which is so much easier than dealing with the struggle of hard truths. Most people avoid the real issues.

I send spouses home to ask “Why have we stopped being sexual?” “Is it ok if we have a celibate partnership?” These are questions that need to be faced. Low desire partners usually do not perceive themselves as part of a problem because they don’t miss sex.

Years of layered silences or loud yelling & screaming stops communication.

Think of your family of origin, how many times did you witness a problem being dealt with successfully?

Therapy is far more successful when you are willing to do the work on something you don’t want to deal with.

Marriage/Partnership means doing things you don’t want to do.

Improving yourself, your relationships or your job means being honest about the problems. If you, your partner/friends or your supervisor avoid honest feedback then you are setting yourself up for mediocrity. It takes courage & honest disagreement to grow, change & improve character.


Sex Matters!!! Stop Pretending it Doesn’t!

Better Sex, Missing out on sex?, Improving sex, Low Desire, Sex, Sex Life, Sex Missing?, Sex Matters, Stop Ignoring Sex

Sex over the long haul is not mastered by many. Sex in America seems to be in the extremes, people are having it a lot or not at all. I’ve talked to many women over the years that label sex as a chore that they are too tired for. Men brighten up in the therapy room when I ask about sex because they are so certain it will be ignored.

There is a real difference between estrogen & testosterone. Women can too easily flat line their energy & some miss out on their peak at 34,35,36 because they are too tired raising children. Men can get in trouble with their partners for having a roaming eye. I learned in the early 80’s from reading a study on sex in my father-in-law’s playboy that positive anticipation is crucial to enjoying sex.

Sex after pregnancy issues often goes unaddressed. Sex after menopause is not really solved with K-Y lubricant which can be too thick & interfere with sensation (Try a silicone & water based hybrid, JO makes one). One partner often hides out from the discomfort of initiating sex. Therapists avoid frank sexual discussions which role models avoidance. Why do many women refuse the pleasure of receiving oral sex?

There are many problems associated with sex. Answer honestly to yourself: Is your sex life selfish?

It is dangerous when relationships fall into one person “parenting” the other. Can you imagine Mary & Abe Lincoln having sex when they called each other mother & father? Who wants to have sex with parental energy swarming around?

It is hard for couples to address specifics of love making out loud: “Yes,that feels good. Over to the right a bit.” Conversation certainly doesn’t happen in glorious tv or movie sex, right? Letting each other know what you prefer matters.

Many years ago, I read a sex expert who said that “Foreplay begins 24 hours ahead of time for women” which I have repeated many times over the years. If a woman is upset with you 20 minutes ago they may not feel like having an intimate connection.

An article in the NYTimes on 2/6/14 proposed the question “Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex?” (which I’ve previously read in several places is true). It’s the differences that help us find each other attractive. In the article, Pepper Schwartz is quoted (AARP’s relationship expert) & she says “…that now that women do and have and are many of the things that they used to seek in their partners, a result can be something more sibling like than erotic. (My) research likewise suggests that too much similarity in egalitarian marriages leads to boredom and decreased sexual frequency. When you’re best friends with your partner, there’s less frisson,” Schwartz says. “Introducing more distance or difference, rather than connection and similarity, helps to resurrect passion in long-term, stable relationships.”

In a September 2013 workshop with David Schnarch, he made it very clear that differentiation is the key to passionate marriage. Two similar lumps of flesh are not really very interesting to each other over the long run. Too often two people become mush & forget who they are as individuals.

I was inspired to write this post in order to share this wonderful TED talk on Sex by Edith Perle:

Anxiety About Sex & the movie The Sessions

Orgasm, sex, women & sexuality, couples missing out on sex, low desire, sex missing, better sex, improving sex, sex life

This is based on the true story of a man who spent most of his life in an iron lung because of polio. (I remember polio as a big deal because my oldest cousin wore a brace because of it.) He is a virgin who decides to explore the world of sex with Helen Hunt as a sexual surrogate.

I was very moved by this film because so many people hide from their sexuality; while he decides to take the risk to explore it despite the physical difficulties. Anxiety creates so much reluctance about sex that couples are defeated before they begin. He combats his anxiety with the help of Helen Hunt. There needs to be one person who can not let anxiety get the best of them.

Anxiety robs too many people of the simple joy of sex.

The depth of his anxiety was very touching because so many people pretend on the outside that they aren’t terrified. In the movies sex is usually pursued with great confidence and success. His fears are so genuine that the reality of how hard it can be to share yourself with someone else is revealed truthfully.

Many women erase their own sexuality & desire. “I’m too tired to have the energy for sex” is the biggest excuse. I find myself trying to convince women that they may miss out on their sexual peak if they continue to hide from owning their sexuality.

Estrogen is too easily flat lined to keep sex unimportant while testosterone doesn’t allow that to happen so easily.

There is great tenderness in watching the intimacy between them as it grows & develops. She helps him to see the larger world is possible and because of this he takes another risk and invites someone to join him.

His sense of humor combined with his intelligence makes him attractive. So many young women today are so busy seeking the superficial beauty of the outside that they fail to see the true beauty of character. I’m afraid they would watch & not believe that he found somebody for the last five years of his life because he bravely opened the door on his sexuality.

When I used to lecture on incest, I would explain that the incest taboo was widespread across cultures because it’s the one reason kids finally have to leave home. Kids can’t have all their needs met at home; then they must step out into the larger world.

It’s not ok to expect your life partner to cooperate with celibacy. It’s not ok to have sex 10 times or less a year because that is considered a non sexual relationship. It’s too sad if you don’t know if you’ve ever had an orgasm, because then you haven’t. It’s tragic to miss your sexual peak.

It’s wonderful to watch this movie to know that your own terror like his can be faced because sex matters.

Women, Own Your Sexuality!

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Women often struggle to achieve orgasm because their thinking interferes with feeling their own sexual arousal. If a woman does not understand how to bring herself to orgasm it’s really unfair to expect your partner to solve the problem for you. It’s your body to learn about, it begins with you.

Testosterone & estrogen are two very different hormones. Often testosterone means sex is a constant desire on the daily menu of activities. Often women don’t appreciate, testosterone is a greater hormonal level of awareness that is demanding attention.

On the other hand, estrogen often allows sex to be sidelined. As one of men I work with put it “There’s so much going on in the day, then there is too much in their head at night.” Too often sex disappears as a relationship priority. Ignoring sex is not an option if you planning to last.

It is such a shame that it is sooo very difficult for most people to talk about sex. It’s as if everyone has bought into the fabrication that sex just emerges in some mysterious, natural way. Telling each other what works & what doesn’t, should be ordinary when two people love each other.

There are many recipes for further sexual disconnection: People are too tired, partners are reluctant to dialogue and no one asks questions when things change over time. Many antidepressants interfere with sex and partners just accept the void. Often one partner has been rejected so many times after initiating sex that they’ve given up trying.

It’s way too easy, to lose track of your sex life, by making assumptions it’s good enough.

There is a wonderful website with video podcasts to help women recover their orgasms & explore their sexuality. Last time I visited it, I learned that the clitoris has 8,000 nerve endings. I highly encourage a visit and I hope you will investigate the topic list on the left:

So tonight if you have someone you cuddle up to, risk asking them “How could sex be better for us?” or “What would improve our sex life?” Try maintaining a curiosity about what makes sex more interesting or successful for your partner & yourself.

Why Aren’t We Having Sex?

Sex Missing, Wife low libido, Low Sexual Desire, low libido Last week a client asked me why so many women give up on their sex life. Last week I told a female client who is 35 years old, that she was missing out on her sexual peak because she is too tired to sort things out with her husband. Many couples tell me their sex life is great and then reveal they have problems months later.  “We haven’t had sex in forever and why?” The question too many are afraid to ask.

In two workshops that I gave on couples therapy, the same therapist was weirdly proud he didn’t talk to couples about sex. This is a complete disservice to the people he works with. If therapists can’t talk about it then who will?  The sexuality page of my website happens to be the least visited page, yet contains a lot of solid information. Despite Madonna or Lady GaGa, we are a country where sex is confusing and not talked about enough.

Anticipating sex positively is the most important factor women can decide upon to improve their sex life.

Testosterone is a hormone that leaves men constantly anticipating sex positively… often they don’t need help with that. In 2000 Procter & Gamble who manufacture the testosterone patch reported in the New England Journal of medicine that for women who had lost their libido the placebo effect was almost as strong as the patch. As Susan Sontag said “Your brain is an erogenous zone.”

I believe many women have not experienced an orgasm. It can safely be said if you think you have, then you haven’t. This is something you know. One third of women don’t orgasm through intercourse. Too many women hide from receiving oral sex, because they are uncomfortable with their own body fluids and smells. Take ownership of your body and open up to sensuality. I’m astonished how many women have neglected their own sexuality. Many women have never masturbated or look at sex as a chore.

Once or twice a week, sixty-six times a year is the average. Many women avoid sex, learning about their own bodies, or use not having sex as punishment. Men are more obvious in the simplicity of being satisfied. Women are more mysterious and easily distracted.

Excuses abound. If you’re too tired, try morning sex. If you don’t want kids to hear you, start the dishwasher. TALK to each other and figure it out.

Women’s Bodies

The most beautiful prostitute I ever worked with was completely unrecognizable 20 years later when she approached me in a theatre crowd. She had grown her body into a thick fortress  which I easily imagined would ward off all male advances. While I was surprised, I completely understood. Women can change their bodies to feel safe. Their bodies cooperate because emotional safety is paramount.

Women’s bodies sell almost everything. The perfect images in ads contributes to women looking into mirrors and distorting what they see. Women waste a lot of time wanting what they don’t have, whether it’s larger breasts or faces without wrinkles. Women don’t spend enough time learning and knowing how their bodies work sexually. Too many young woman look at me with disgust when I ask if they have masturbated. I make the 1970’s consciousness raising suggestion that they take a look at their vagina with a mirror at home. This suggestion is often met with horror. Why can pre-teens put a penis in their mouth but are reluctant to look at their own vagina? This is too sad for words.

Women will betray their bodies by either obsessing or ignoring them. I do not believe that women’s bodies will betray them. A woman may be reluctant to discover her own orgasm, but her body will always have it waiting there ready to discover. For years a women may not realize she hasn’t had an orgasm. Then when she learns how to allow her body to release an orgasm it is completely unforgettable and there is no mistake about what an orgasm is. If a woman is open to exploring her own body there is so much to be learned.

In the movie When Harry Met Sally there is the memorable scene where Meg Ryan (Sally) teaches Harry how easy it is for a woman to fake an orgasm. Harry believed that he could tell the difference between a real and a fake orgasm, Sally shows him otherwise. Women will do this to make the man content. Women will often not talk to a man about what’s actually helpful for her to achieve orgasm. They don’t share what works and what doesn’t work because it’s too easy to leave their bodies behind. Everything looks so intense, complete and perfect in the movies, “what’s the matter with me” they think. In the movies everyone knows exactly what to do and what works – few are left unsatisfied. In an episode of Two and a Half Men, Charley’s girlfriend was telling him not to worry about satisfying her because she was stressed out which was far more realistic and a classic “My satisfaction can easily go on the back burner” response.

Many women who are unhappy in their marriages will get caught up in “I should try even harder although my heart’s not really in it . . . ” or feel seduced by their partner’s words wanting everything to be OK. These same women won’t be able to turn their bodies loose in sex. Their bodies will not betray them. Their bodies will not co-operate and they will end up unsatisfied. Their bodies retain their unresolved misery and will not let go. It is also true that women will be able to have sweet “goodbye sex” after the decision has been reached to part. As in the movie It’s Complicated it is lovely to have sex because it acknowledges the power of their history together.

Women will betray their bodies and not even know that they are missing out on their sexual peak. Too many women do not even know at what age their sexual peak emerges. Many women in their thirties, too easily say, that they are too tired or too busy for sex. One young woman I know, went to her office and asked six women colleagues her age and they all agreed that sex wasn’t that important. These women will miss out on their sexual peak which is 34-38. Sadly, women betray their own bodies.

Women often forget their own wants and needs because they are too busy caretaking others. I often suggest to women that while their periods may exaggerate their feelings, their feelings might get ignored without the exaggeration. Periods are a gift from the body that says “pay attention to yourself.” Bodies do not betray women. Your body is a messenger from your soul. Learn how to listen.

Sex Matters!

Trouble in life is usually found in the extremes. So people allow sex to disappear in their relationship (10 times a year or less is 21sYDQcyfeL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA198_SH20_OU01_considered non-sexual) or have sex with other people outside the partnership.41S1BZZ2V9L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_ Some therapists don’t even bring up sex and explore it in session with couples. This is a huge error because therapists need to role model, making sex ordinary to share and discuss.

Men are very grounded in sex. Their whole life works better when they have an active sex life. Men feel intimate after they’ve had sex. It is ironic that women want to feel emotionally close first and then feel more open to being sexual. Too often heterosexual couples find themselves at cross purposes. Testosterone is different than estrogen. Women can flat line their sexual energy and men find it so easy for sex to be the priority. Adolescent girls don’t find it easy to masturbate and adolescent girls have retreated to a past that ignores feminism and act as if masturbation is a dirty question (“Ugh”). I respond that masturbation is a way to understand your own body and to lay claim to knowing how it works. Young girls that have given guys oral sex often don’t even know if they’ve had an orgasm (if you have any doubt then you haven’t). It’s certainly not progress to be casual about sexual talk and pictures of cleavage on My Space while not even knowing about the clitoris.

Parents need to talk to their kids about sex. When I developed the Incest program for Pittsburgh Action Against Rape in 1980, it was clear that information is power. Not knowing and curiosity can leave kids more open to predators.

Couples need to talk with each other about sex; what works and what doesn’t needs to be a normal conversation. One third of women do not orgasm through intercourse. Does your partner know if you are part of that one third or the other two thirds? The person who wants sex the least has the most power. Does your partner know what makes you shy away from having sex? Sex does not “naturally” die off because of aging. The average number of times for sex is 66 a year.

The most important key to having a good sex life is anticipating it in a positive way. Sex is fun, free and reduces stress. Don’t let the puritanical context of our country be an obstacle to conversations about sex. Sex does matter so talk about it with each other. Assumptions are lethal! Here are several book suggestions for further information.51jfUbt2KjL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_4185NQ051KL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_5145PC4CFRL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_