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Roadmap to Intimacy Onlinekurs:
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The Intimacy Institute
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Sexolog*in & Sexualtherapeut*in
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Über diesen Kurs

Manchmal kann der Alltag der Liebe im Weg stehen. Roadmap to Intimacy hilft Paaren, wieder zueinander zu finden, egal ob auf emotionaler, körperlicher, sinnlicher oder sexueller Ebene.

Was du lernen wirst

  1. Was emotionale Intimität ist und wie man in einer Beziehung Großzügigkeit kultivieren kann
  2. Wie Du auf entspannte Weise und mit einfachen Übungen körperliche Intimität üben kannst
  3. Wie Du wieder mit Deinem Partner flirten kannst und damit Zugang zu sinnlicher Intimität erhältst
  4. Wie Du sexuelle Intimität entwickeln und dabei gleichzeitig das Thema Sex entlasten kannst

Entdecke diesen Kurs – und viele mehr!

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Lerne von den besten Expert*innen der Welt.

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Schnelle Ergebnisse und einfach zu befolgende Anleitungen.

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Für jeden. Singles, Paare, alle Geschlechter und Orientierungen.

Präsentiert von

The Intimacy Institute

Sexolog*in & Sexualtherapeut*in

Das Team aus Sexolog*in und Sexualtherapeut*in hilft Paaren und Einzelpersonen, ihre sexuelle Funktion, ihr Vergnügen und ihr Wissen über die menschliche Sexualität zu verbessern und zu optimieren. Sie verwenden leistungsfähige und bewährte Konzepte und Übungen, um die Intimität zu verbessern.

Mehr von diesem Coach

Lektionen und Module

Gesamtlänge:
90-180 min
  1. 1. Kursübersicht
  2. 2. Emotionale Intimität
  3. 3. Die Beziehung als Schiff
  4. 4. Interne und externe Verarbeitung
  5. 5. ‘Ich’-Statements
  6. 6. Gefühle benennen
  7. 7. Die Sprachen der Liebe
  8. 8. Eine Kultur der Großzügigkeit aufbauen
  9. 9. Grundbedürfnisse
  10. 10. Das egoistische Gespräch
  11. 11. Körperliche Intimität
  12. 12. Das Nervensystem verstehen
  13. 13. Tiefe Bauchatmung
  14. 14. Nestbau
  15. 15. Handstreicheln
  16. 16. Arm, Schulter & Hand streicheln
  17. 17. Kuss Dates
  18. 18. Entspannungsritual
  19. 19. Sinnliche Intimität
  20. 20. Rot, Gelb, Grün
  21. 21. Das Spektrum der Erregung
  22. 22. Zugang zur Erregung
  23. 23. Erregung kontrollieren
  24. 24. Flirten
  25. 25. Sinnliche Massage
  26. 26. An- & Abturner
  27. 27. Sexuelle Intimität
  28. 28. Der Käsekuchen des Vergnügens
  29. 29. Sex ohne Haken
  30. 30. Die 8 Bereiche der Intimität
  31. 31. Hindernisse überwinden
  32. 32. Einladungen aussprechen
  33. 33. Gutscheine aussprechen
  34. 34. Die vier Elemente der Erotik
  35. 35. Fantasie
  36. 36. Den Partner erotisieren

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Transcripts

Welcome to The Roadmap To Intimacy; a course for couples. Welcome to roadmap to intimacy. I'm Dr. Jenny Skyler, licensed marriage and family therapist, certified sex therapist. I'm Daniel Leibowitz, licensed marriage and family therapist, sex therapist, and co-director of the intimacy Institute. We have different last names, but we're married and we have two kids and we co-run the intimacy Institute in Boulder Colorado as a husband and wife team. One of the things that we do is we utilize our professional and personal experiences to be able to inform how we work with Psychotherapy and Sex Therapy, and in the integration of those two, we've created a blend of those two components to be able to address common issues, that couples bump up against around sex and relationships. We borrow from our personal and our professional experiences to find paths forward to common areas that couples get stuck. And so, our approach to working with this is something that integrates emotional intimacy and physical intimacy, sensual intimacy, and sexual intimacy, we'll go through all those terms and describe each one and how they all weave together. This concept of the roadmap, was designed one night when Jenny and I were discussing how there isn't a framework around how to move forward for couples around building intimacy. And so, one of the things we realized is that in the safety and structure of a roadmap, people are able to understand the steps that are needed to be able to move forward. And with each step. They feel that there's momentum and movement in a direction and they're also able to understand the tasks ahead of them. So this roadmap, provides that structure. Now some couples might notice that they're going to start at the beginning and that's great because you're going to build in the foundation from the ground up. Other people are going to be going back and doing more of a remodel on specific areas. And so this overall curriculum will be relevant for people looking for specific tools and for people looking to start from scratch. So first, we're going to be working with the emotional intimacy category. Now, if we think of the analogy of a building, the physical, sensual, and sexual intimacy categories are floors of the building and the way you are able to access the different floors to the building is through the elevator. And that's the emotional intimacy category. Without emotional intimacy, without the safety and connection of emotional intimacy. It's very difficult to feel comfortable transitioning. People are able to sometimes overlook things and still have sex, but that doesn't result in a deep feeling of connection and safety. Which allows you to be inspired to repeat the experience. Often times will hear a couple say that they have routine or scripted sex and it gets stale and boring. We like to call this transactional sex. They can take the elevator right up and have a quickie or even a longer seemingly lovemaking session but it still feels like a transaction. The reason it feels like a transaction is because without the emotional intimacy, they are actually not having an embodied authentic experience. In terms of feeling a connection in the bedroom. The idea here is to get rid of a transaction unless you choose to have that because that's what the time allows and move into authentic embodied intimacy in the bedroom, or living room or kitchen, or wherever you want. The result of having a very solid elevator is that you can visit any floor and there's the emotional capital, there's the connection and safety to be able to jump around based off of what's possible and what's of interest at any given moment. The reason why we start with emotional intimacy as the first place Is that, I like to think of it as a garden hose. So when I love to garden and one of the things that I had to work with for a long time was I had this old hose that had all of these leaks and the leaks would only pop up when there was something at the end. Let's say a sprayer that wasn't on, and so you would see all of the leaky spots in the hose, long before you were ever at the end of the hose as a result of that leaky hose. If you are trying to just focus on, what's the end goal around sex and intimacy and you're not building in the earlier steps. If you're not working with the first part of the leek, then you've already lost pressure at the end of the hose. And so, it was a really great metaphor in my mind of how you have to start with the first leak, repair that, move on to the next leak, repair that. All the way down to the end of the line and then you have a functioning hose. So whenever we're trying to run current, whenever we're trying to run anything through that intimacy garden hose, if you will, we have to make sure that it's intact in order to be able to handle where we're trying to send the flow of water. There's lots of ways to use this course, set aside some time in your calendar together where you're able to watch these videos and do some of the breakout exercises. This need not be taken in all at once. You can do a little bit each night or a little bit each week. You can also revisit chapters that may need a little more fine-tuning. In part 1, emotional intimacy. We have a communication tool box. So we're going to cover in these small chapters, first, What is the relationship? The ship part where one partner is the sail and one person is the anchor and the importance of both roles so that we can sail the ship. Then we're going to look at internal and external processing and how our brains work so we can effectively communicate with one another Chapter 3 is more language guidelines on how to talk using "I" language without any U's. Chapter 4, we look at our feelings wheel and checking all our assumptions at the door so that we can inquire of our partner with respect. Chapter 5 is the selfish conversation on tracking and naming our needs Chapter 6 is Love Languages. And how do we do daily deposits in your partner's piggy bank so we can actually bolster emotional intimacy and Chapter 7 looks at our needs again. Our core needs so that they can be collaborative versus competitive. In this chapter, we look at the relationship. The ship part of relation ship where we think about one person as the anchor, and one person as a sail. The anchor tends to be the more grounded calm, even keel person that keeps the ship sturdy. The sails tends to be the big visionary, the one that's a little more frenetic. The one that has a little more anxiety. The one that kind of sails forward. If we had both people being the sails, we might sail into the rocks. If we had both people as an anchor We'd get stuck in the mud and be in a stale rigid place. The idea is that hopefully we can balance it within ourselves, both an anchor and a sail and balance in our relationship, our anchor and our sail, as the sail. I have big visions and big dreams and I have a lot of energy but my husband, the anchor is very calm and grounded and creates more of the boundaries for the relationship together. We work well and we sail forward with nice speed, not too fast into the rocks, not to stuck in the mud and off we go as a team. So as you think about your relationship you want to figure out who's who and then you want to figure out all the advantages of each person. These are the things I bring. These are the things you bring. You also want to make sure it's balanced. If we're leaning too far and stuck in the mud. Not good for the relationship. If we're leaning too far into the sails and sailing out too fast. Also, not good. So we wanted to be able to create balance and discuss how we're bringing equity to the relationship with our different skill sets. The idea with understanding the anchor in the sale is to respect each other's differences as gifts and advantages for the relationship so that we're not in competition with each other and frustrated by the polarization of what the other person is or brings to the relationship. But rather we're in collaboration with our partner, trying to sail the same ship forward. The idea is to challenge yourself to see the pros and the advantages of the other person's gifts. As a sail, I could look at my husband, an anchor, and on one hand be really delighted that he keeps us grounded and stable and on the other hand, when I'm frustrated be really angry that he's rigid and he's stuck in his ways and he likes to go along with the rules. And he doesn't want to flex or bend, and then I could be really angry about this versus grateful that he's holding the ship together and keeping the boundaries intact. So you can look at this in the positive or the negative reframe and the idea is to look at it in the positive. How can the things you're angry about actually serve you as an anchor. He might look at me, the sails and feel like one time if he's in a positive mood, that I am full of life and charisma, and vision and moving forward. And I'm the life of the party. On the other hand, he may feel like I'm too porous, and I don't have good boundaries and I go to bed too late. And I just don't have any structure for my life or our for our relationship. The idea is to not only balance your ship so that you are utilizing both people's strengths. But to also see the advantage of the other person's skill set as something that contributes to the relationship rather than hinders. If you're the sails most of the time or you're the anchor most of the time you may say, well sometimes I'm the other, I'm the other role that is true. We can be flexible and switch between different roles. Absolutely, or you might find yourself saying I feel pretty balanced. I'm actually both the sails and both the anchor at the same time in the same ship. That's an awesome place to be. That means as an individual, you are fully balanced and the relationship with yourself is smoothly sailing. Can you also bring that to your outer relationship? If you feel your anchor and sails, and your partner's anchor and sails again, take the roles and the gifts that you both have. So that you are optimizing your relationship and being a great team. In this breakout exercise, we're going to do a shared relationship vision for both short-term and long-term goals. One of the things that happens for couples around. Long-term relationships is that the reasons that they got together oftentimes, are forgotten or are no longer relevant because the circumstances of life have changed when you are able to develop short-term and long-term goals. What you're saying, is that the version of me today is going to work towards a shared vision of who I will be and who you will be in the future. As a result of having those goals, you're identifying, where your lives will continue to intersect moving forward, that creates a sense that you both are growing and changing in a way that works for both of you. Having a shared goal also makes you feel like you're on the same team. When we're on the same team. It feels really good because then the intimacy feels collaborative. So as you put together some shared goals or a shared vision, on a piece of paper. Let yourself be creative with this. You can have a goal that might be around business. It might be around politics and might be around having a family and might be around having a house. It might be around retirement or travel include whatever feels right for you. So that there's something to look forward to and grow towards together in a shared way towards a long-term future. Part of what it also does around that team mentality. Is that it allows people to understand that their sacrifice is for something in particular. If you're sacrificing without any reason, it just feels like you're losing something. If you are willing to work towards something together and make changes in the moment to work towards that goal. Then it's worth making sacrifices and changes. It's an incentive and a carrot for down the road. So, let's say we have a shared goal. I'd like to retire in the mountains and have a cozy mountain home with a hot tub, which I know we'll have to think about in terms of budgeting for today and saving towards retirement. And I would love to have retirement money enough to be able to travel. And I love the idea of having a mountain home as a base and also being able to to see new places and change your environment while also having the mountains as home. The short-term sacrifice might mean we don't spend as much in the here and now and we budget towards retirement and a mountain home. Then another important piece around a shared goal or a shared vision is that it creates safety in the relationship. We know we're on the same page on the same team trying to go towards the same goal. We don't feel like we're polarized and at opposite ends doing different things living in a parallel way. We actually feel like we're joined together doing the same thing. We have a shared goal of entering a couples tennis tournament. Then what we're going to do is we're going to end up having a series of steps to work towards that goal that also provide connection and interaction with each other. We're going to have to practice as a couple on the tennis court. We're going to have to set aside time. We're going to have to be able to effectively communicate about strengths and weaknesses and areas that I can improve areas that you can improve, and it sets a whole series of of action steps out for how to improve on the goal you're working towards. In this chapter, we're going to focus on a major difference in communication styles, that frequently plays out for couples. There's two ways that people tend to process information. There's internal processors and external processors. Internal processors are people who do the math problem in their head and only share the answer. External processors are people who have to talk through the math problem. In order to be able to arrive at an answer, there's pros and cons to both, and we're going to cover those. But the first part to understand is that, when out of sync, internal and external processors can bump up against a lot of conflict. I'll give you an example. I'm an internal processor and Jenny is an external processor. Back when in our first child was born, we had a baby gate that needed to be put up for a a stairwell in order to keep our baby safe. As an internal processor and also the one who is going to be putting the gate up. What I did was I looked at the baby gate somebody had given us on our registry. I looked at the gate. I looked at the instructions. I went up and all I did was share the answer with Jenny. I not like this answer. We need to buy a different gate. I didn't explain why I didn't share any of the information around how I arrived to that answer. So Jenny was sitting in the dark with just this answer that a perfectly fine baby gate wasn't going to serve the purpose that it was made for. What Jenny needed was information, and so external processors have a need for information. The problem is that external processors need for information conflicts, with internal processors who tend to, as a general pattern, feel criticized or feel defensive when their answer is questioned. So when she started asking questions, well, maybe you didn't read the directions, right? Or you know, are you sure it won't work? What if we tried it this way? I was getting defensive because I felt like she wasn't believing the answer that I was offering and that I had spent a fair amount of time thinking through. What she was trying to do, was understand the different aspects of the gate, that would allow her to get behind my answer, but I wasn't giving that information. So what ended up happening was it turned into a larger and larger conflict around my needs and her needs in in contrast in competition and resulted in a conflict where Jenny was trying to put up the gate. I was stubbornly standing there with my arms crossed and refusing to participate and explain anything, and as a result of that conflict, we had to break down what had happened in our communication that resulted in that outcome. What we realized was as an internal processor, it's important for my answer to feel valid and recognized. However, it's also incumbent on me that as the internal processor, I figure out a way to begin to articulate more of my thoughts around how I arrived to that answer. So an example of that would be I do not see this baby gate working for this scenario. Let me walk you through the things that I see that don't fit for it. I could in turn also say and have learned to say, help me understand how you arrived at this answer. And what that does is it says, my partner is interested in me, feeling understood and heard when my partner frames it using that language. What I understand is that my partner is trying to understand my perspective and they're interested in understanding my perspective and therefore, I'm much more interested in participating in offering information when it feels like a judgment or a criticism of my answer. I feel much more reluctant to participate in that conversation and so changing the way that an external processor asks for information can go a long way to quiet down this pattern. The other way around is that often times external processors need a space to be able to talk through something to know what they're thinking or feeling. Internal processors, assume that they're being given a math problem that they're going to compute and share the answer. This tends to result in the, the common complaint in the office of, I just want you to listen I don't want you to fix it for me. Internal processors think that they're responsible for fixing it in the moment. External processors are just trying to get air time to be able to get in touch with what they're thinking and feeling. And so the other way around this tends to conflict because internal processors jump to answers that the external processors don't want and it actually interrupts their way of communicating and trying to get in touch with themselves. So clarifying at the beginning is one of the quickest ways to quieting down this side of the pattern. If an internal processor clarifies in the beginning, are you looking for my opinion, or do you just need me to listen? Then the expectations and understanding of what's required is very clear from the get-go and you're not trying to guess what the best thing to do is in that moment. Your little cheat sheet in your back pocket is a multiple choice of a or b. A. Do you want me to listen? or B. Do you want a solution? or C both. Often times for me as an external processor First I want him to listen, then I want his opinion for a solution. So ultimately C where we get both met. It also helps define for the external processor and the external processor can clarify what they're looking for. Hey, I'm going to talk about this thing. Let me just spell it all out and then we can talk about solutions or you know, what? I already figured out what I think I'm going to do, but let me just vent about this situation and then we can get into what I plan to do about it. In this chapter, we're going to offer a different way of communicating. That will often times result in much less defensiveness and much more openness to hearing what your partner is experiencing and also changing the way you tend to communicate and share information that is bothering you around a relationship. No one wins when we do this. This is the blame game, what we want to be looking at are the three fingers coming back at you so that we can take responsibility and ownership for our feelings, our experiences and our assumptions. Oftentimes therapy, you know, suggestions focus on I statements and I statements have value. The idea is that you're focusing on what's true for you rather than just pointing the finger. The problem with I statements is that you can still say I feel like you're being a jerk and that's not that different than saying you're being a jerk. A different way of framing it is taking the word you out. To this, this section is called I without you. So, if I can say a sentence and not use the word you, I'm going to communicate it in a very different way than if I'm using blaming language. So for example, I feel jerked around is a very different way to frame it. Maybe my partner is jerking me around, maybe I'm just feeling jerked around because that's what I'm feeling and my partner isn't doing anything to contribute to that. It's all just my own stuff. So it's much harder to blame the other person if you take the word, you, out. One of the reasons why I think when you take the word you out, it has a very different feeling, is that you're not You're not making the other person the definitive recipient of that feeling or the perpetrator or the perpetrator. And so if you are communicating in a particular way that assumes it's the other person's fault. That's really different than, maybe it's the other person's fault, maybe it's not, it doesn't matter. It's what you're experiencing. I think what it does is, it brings down the intensity level, a few notches. So that more personal responsibility can be accessed well, and it also gives you a chance to reality check. Am I feeling this? Because I usually feel this in a lot of context, or this is unique to this particular situation with my partner right now. So using the Baby Buggy example. If we were to rewind and look at that. A better way of editing that, and by the way, I'm always a big advocate for if the fight didn't go, well, ask for an edit and to do it all over again so that you can try again with your language. We can edit in the moment and we can edit years later. So let's do a years later edit on that baby gate. The same baby is now 6. So I'm really confused why this gate doesn't fit into the banister. Okay, I want to be trusted because I have done a lot of research on why this baby gate doesn't work. I hear that. And I'm struggling to trust this process because I feel really in the dark. Okay. I'm happy to walk through some of these steps, if that would be helpful. So one of the reasons why the baby gate doesn't work is that we have a banister and a wall and the baby gate needs two walls to be able to attach and the banister doesn't have the anchor points to be able to attach the gate. Does that make sense? That makes sense. I guess I also feel sad and I'm noticing my storyline of scarcity around, we've got this gift, it feels like a waste to just throw it away and I'm wondering if there's other creative ways to do a workaround to still make the gate work. We could possibly find another spot for it or we could also reach out to other people who are also having babies we have a number of friends who are in the same position. We could probably find somebody else who maybe has a baby gate that would work for our situation and ours would work for theirs. Great, I feel good with that. I feel good at that, I can work with that as well. So, that's an important moment because does that feel good for you? There's a bit of a loaded implication with that question, right? It's putting a lot of responsibility on me because if it doesn't feel good to me, then my partner's disappointed, if it does feel good to me, then there's an expectation around it rather than just stating what's true for yourself involving the other person and sort of putting the feeler out and focusing on them puts a lot of burden on them to answer the right way. I notice for that in, that particular conflict. I had two main issues to take responsibility for which were; one, my confusion around why it didn't work and my lack of trust without information and then also my own very old story line around wanting to not be wasteful with material items and therefore not wanting to just throw away a gift like this because it didn't work. Right. And for me, it was that I had put a lot of effort in and I wanted my effort to be acknowledged. I had thought about it. I had looked at it. I pulled out tools. I had read through instruction manuals. And so it was something that I had spent effort on and even though there wasn't anything to show for it, I wanted some credit and acknowledgement around that that effort. And I also wanted to be trusted in terms of my competency and the contribution that I had put in. And so I think when you're able to understand what you needed in a conflict, you're able to circle back and recognize that often times is a common theme that will play out in other conflicts as well. In this chapter we talked about feelings. If you're a couple where you feel like you have a limited vocabulary around feeling words. This is a good chapter for you in terms of expanding your vocabulary list so that you have more access to more words and your partner can further understand you. I think one of the pieces around this is that oftentimes, in the moment, people don't have access to the way that they want to be able to express themselves. There's a lot of different reasons around this. But one of the things that we know from a lot of research is that when people get flooded, when they get activated, when they're nervous, scared, angry, what happens in that moment is that your ability to think through and and communicate effectively plummets. Your cognitive capacity shuts down. So you lose your ability to think logically and access your vocabulary. So the more you practice this at times when you aren't feeling moments of conflict, then the more accessible this is in those moments because what happens is, it's a practice routine and you're able to borrow from that in moments when you're flustered rather than trying to come up with something completely novel in the moment. Also, you can use this list. This feelings list or this feelings wheel while you're having the fight. If you need a little cheat sheet to help you get through what you're trying to say. It also allows is enough of a pause to be able to evaluate what is happening and that gives you a moment to reset. And as a result, you frame things differently, that is able to result in a different outcome. In this chapter with Love Languages, what we're trying to do is introduce the concept developed by Gary Chapman and offer you a way to use it on a daily basis with your partner. So, in review the five love languages are touch, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and material gifts. Touch people love to hear and feel I love you with contact. They typically are affectionate people. They will come and give you that small kiss. They will give you the shoulder rub. They'll rub the cheek. They're very touchy-feely because that is how they are communicating I love you and communicating you matter. Words people like to hear I love you and you matter with words. I love you. You look great today. You look super sexy. Wow, you're looking yoked. Words are helpful in terms of feeling validated and that we matter. Quality time people love spending time together. Maybe they need to go shopping. Maybe they want to just go to a ball game. Maybe they just want to sit outside on the hammock but doing so with another person and spending that quality time together is what makes them feel loved. What makes them feel like they matter. Acts of service people, you can rename this almost as acts of love. Don't tell me you love me. Show me you love me. So what you want to do is ask your partner. If they're Acts, what kind of Acts really do it for them. Do they really want help around the house? Do they want you to remember to pick up after yourself? Show me you love me through acts of love. Typically, these people will make dinners. They'll clean up after the dinner. They'll clean the house. They'll make sure all the little things that make life work well are in order. That's how you know an acts of service person. Then you have material gifts. Material gifts is not materialism. It is a tangible expression of I love you and you matter. So let's take for example, my earrings. My earrings were given to me by my parents a long time ago. I remember my parents, every time I put on these earrings. Material gifts people like the tangibility of something that's permanent because it feels like they can always go back to that place and feel that felt sense of I matter. Imagine you have a little piggy bank and imagine your partner has a piggy bank. And now imagine your real bank account. If your bank account was always kind of just simmering at, you know, $5 and you put in your paycheck, but then you pay all your bills and your back to five dollars. It can feel exhausting to always be operating with only five dollars in your account, but it's a place that might be familiar for you. And hey, all your bills are paid so it's no big deal. However, if you get in a fight and you only have five dollars in your account, what happens is you overdraw. And it feels like now you're in the red and a pretty scary place. So when couples fight and their emotional piggy, banks are pretty empty, most of the time the fights feel more severe. The idea here is we want to fill the piggy banks on a daily basis. So A., we feel like we matter to one another. B., were giving our partner daily deposits of love and C., we're actually patting ourselves with a reserve so that if and when we fight, we have a lot more on the account. So that if we take $50 out, you know what, we still have two thousand in there and the repair feels easier. So, here are our piggy banks. My husband acts of service. Me, words and touch. When my husband writes a card for me, telling me all the ways that he appreciates me and finds gratitude in all the things that I do for the family. My heart warms. When he comes up to me and gives me small, kisses and hugs, my heart warms, when I make the bed, especially, super nice and neat because he's sort of a neat kind of guy his heart warms. When I surprised him with a beautiful meal, especially his favorite ones, his heart warms. So the idea is on a daily basis, can you challenge yourself to go put a deposit in your partner's piggy bank. I'll be honest. I'm not good at acts of service. I'm not good at making the bed and I'm a disaster in the kitchen. So when I go above and beyond to do this, it's a big silver dollar deposit, and vice versa. He's an internal processor, which you remember from a previous chapter. He marinates in his own mind. So for him to express themselves, verbally and tell me I matter and tell me that he loves me, sometimes, is a stretch for an internal processor, but he does it because those piggy bank deposits matter. Sometimes your partner's love language doesn't make any sense to you. That's not the point of this. The point of this is to actually know what the other person speaks so that you can help them matter in their language. Once we get rolling on this and our habit becomes easy and autopilot. Then we don't have to worry about how to remember this. As you think about your partner's piggy bank with the five love languages. You can brainstorm three things that would be meaningful for you. Three things that would be meaningful for them and then trade lists, make sure that the three things you select or actually the things your partner wants. I thought that my husband would be so delighted if I clean the kitchen, but actually, what was more important to him was our bedroom space. Because he felt like it was our relationship, our sacred space, and that the common spaces of the house were just sort of fair game as family space. So when I understood that it was more meaningful to our relationship and to him to do service related to the bedroom. I reordered, how I did my deposits into his emotional piggy bank. So in this chapter, the idea is to begin to build Goodwill and positive intentions into the relationship. Oftentimes people carry a lot of resentments from past wounds and past anger. So the concept we're about to introduce is a way to hopefully melt some of that resentment and fill in the void with good will and generosity. It's very easy to focus on all the areas that you are dissatisfied or things aren't working well in the relationship as opposed to when your mindset shifts to the things that you value and appreciate about your partner, you start to feel more open to making changes from a place that's more authentic within you. That's the only place that changes can happen. You can't convince your partner to change and your partner can't convince you to change. There has to be a free will and a choice to make a difference in how you show up in the relationship. Absent that, relationships usually will fall back to the patterns and problems that have plagued them for a longer period of time, but when people find their own reasons to say you are worth making the change. I'm going to make this change because it's important to me. Things are able to move forward in a much more efficient and smooth manner. And sustainable manner. So as you try to access this authentic desire to change one, for yourself to evolve up and be a better human in the world and two, because you want the relationship to survive and not just be sustaining but satisfying, we want to introduce this concept of culture of generosity where you go above and beyond for your partner and an effort to have the relationship level up. The idea of building in a culture of generosity is to counteract a culture of resentment. I'll start with the culture of resentment, then I'll speak a little bit to the culture of generosity. With a culture of resentment, what happens is you say, I'm angry about something. So I'm not going to give this thing to you. That is important, like, sex. I'm going to withhold sex because I'm angry. That's an example. There's a lot of other examples as well. So then as a result of me, not offering something, then my partner is going to feel resentment and they're not going to offer something to me that's important. Withholding ends up begetting withholding. And so, it creates a cycle where more and more, there's distance. There's resentment. There's frustration about how the relationship is going. One of the quickest ways, to reverse the direction of that cycle, and instead shift it to a cycle of generosity, and a positive feedback loop, Is to focus more on what you are giving then what you're getting. Giving really feels good. Especially if we're not tracking what we get. We're just tracking what we give. When we give from a place of obligation. There's a felt sense that it doesn't feel free and it doesn't feel authentic. There are strings attached to it. I'm giving this only because I expect something in return, or because I feel there will be, there will be consequences if I don't give this as opposed to giving from a place of free will. Yeah, so as a result of the necessity to build in this culture of generosity, one of the starting points to think about, as your first exercise around this task, is to come up with a few traits or aspects of your partner that you admire and appreciate. Why does your partner have value? You're with them for a reason and if you aren't able to articulate and get in touch with that value, it's really hard to know what you're fighting for, what you're going to make a change for, and in a cycle of resentment, those things become much more elusive. But when we highlight them, we begin to realize that our partner is very important to us. And so, we are going to make the effort, because we want to keep this person who has value to us rather than Then we have convinced ourselves that they are irrelevant and unimportant to us. So one of the challenges in this is not to look at your differences as grading, but as an asset. Ultimately, it's about finding the balance between your strengths and weaknesses as a couple. So, circling back to how this is valuable. I value his rigidity and his organizational skills, because he has a lot of solid boundaries. He keeps the relationship safe. He keeps it organized. He thinks of the things I just don't think about and those are a big asset to me and I recognized the need to sometimes let loose and just be in the moment to be able to have fun to throw the plan out and instead go with what's happening in the moment. And so your partner is there to push your buttons but also to highlight a different way of being and it's an opportunity to get out of your own stuck ways that you don't necessarily see and when you value the way that your partner is in the world, then you're more open to introducing the way your partner is in the world to how you interact in the world. So that's the main idea that we're trying to focus on with this module. As you set up for this exercise, get a piece of paper and think through three different things that you value in your partner. Either aspects they have traits they have or behaviors they manifest and keep those in mind as we move forward through this course because those are the things that you're going to return to in terms of valuing your partner, respecting your partner, and being able to access that authentic place to go above and beyond in this culture of generosity. In this next chapter, we're going to focus on ways to be able to communicate about your needs. One of the things that tends to happen for couples around needs is that needs feel very zero-sum. They end up in competition. I have a need, you have a need and if my need gets met yours doesn't if your need gets met, mine doesn't. And so we end up battling over circumstances and situations because it's representative of deeper needs that we have that often times we're not aware of. When we realize what our core needs are we're able to change the way we're communicating about them, and recognize there's a variety of ways to get our needs met so they can be collaborative rather than competitive and zero-sum. So what we're going to be doing around this is understanding ways to be able to level drop from the circumstance and the situation to instead be able to communicate about the core needs playing out and then from there identify a variety of solutions where both needs are honored and acknowledged. A very common one that we end up working with for couples is one person has a need or a want for sex. Another person has a want or a need to go to sleep. Now both are totally understandable and reasonable wants and needs. But what happens is it's 9:45. It's 10:00 at night and it's been a long day and the couple gets in bed and one partner goes, I'd really like to have sex right now. And I really need to go to bed. And so who wins? What's going to happen? In this particular conversation if my partner gets her needs met to go to bed. I don't get my want or need addressed around sex and if my partner stays up to to interact with my sexual want or need, then my partner has sacrificed what's true for them. And so oftentimes, there's conflict and tension around that. Which results in you don't think my needs important or, you know, I'm exhausted, why would you want me to stay awake and just do something that I'm not that into? It doesn't tend to go well. But if instead, we're able to say well, what are you really trying to get at? What is your core need around going to bed? My core need around going to bed is that I feel exhaustion and I also want to ensure that I get enough sleep because the kids get up early and I don't function well if I have less than eight hours of sleep. What I would say around my core needs in this particular situation is that I have a need for connection now and I also have a need for something that's a stress reliever and a release. This is a great side note. We're going to cover this in the later chapter and sexual intimacy, but understanding that sex is motivated usually by four different core need drivers; one, for connection, two, for skin-to-skin contact, three, for validation and desire feeling validated. and four to experience pleasure and orgasm or as Daniel mentioned, a release. When we know that those are, the four motivations we can ask ourselves; Well, am I just looking for the skin-to-skin? I don't really need the release or do I need the release? I want to feel that orgasm so I can have the release of all the yummy hormones, the dopamine and oxytocin that come with it so that I can feel good and relieve my cortisol, which is the stress hormone and then access sleep more easily. Or maybe I just feel like I need connection because we've been in different places all day. So Daniel is going to speak to a why he wants sex and see if the core need, one of those four drivers, can be met in an alternative way so that I can still get my need for sleep and he can get his need for whatever type of sex we choose. So let's say the core need underneath the driver for sex is connection. There's a variety of different ways that you're able to move into a place of rest, and I'm able to move into a place of connection. So one of them might be we could cuddle in bed as you're falling asleep. And then we have some physical intimacy in contact, but also you're able to move towards going to sleep because the core need is able to be much more collaborative, right? Maybe it's identifying a time when you would be available and have more energy. and more bandwidth to be able to connect. That would be the rain check. Thanks for the invitation tonight, I have nothing left in the tank, but if you invite me in the morning, I think I'll have a lot more reserves to engage with you, which is illustrating that connection with me, is important. Yes. And so, ultimately, I'm able to be more flexible because my core need is acknowledged and there's a way that it is going to be met even if it isn't right then and there in the moment. Another solution or another outcome of this is, let's do something quick 10-15 minutes and Daniel takes kids in the morning because he's happy to do so anyway, right? So basically as a result of changing the way we were talking about it. It's no longer does sex happened? Does sleep happen? Instead we were able to communicate on a different level around what was going on for us. What we were both needing, and in communicating about those core needs, we're able to find ways for those needs to be collaborative. So other core needs that tend to look like competitive circumstances, but can again, if you find the Venn diagram creative solution, they can be collaborative, include one, closeness and connection. Two, space. Three, validation feeling heard and feeling seen. Four, safety. Five, adventure and novelty, and six, pleasure. So, using sex as an example, again, adventure versus safety. Let's say I would love to have sex outside and do a little blindfolding and rope tying. And in terms of the safety piece, I want to make sure that we don't end up arrested or on the front page of the local newspaper or we are able to find a place that feels comfortable enough and doesn't feel inappropriate. In this circumstance, the person who has a greater need for safety has to get their needs met first because I'm not going to have my need for adventure met if he doesn't feel safe to meet me there. So I'm going to have to reach out to him and say, what do you need to feel safe? So that we can then insert in a little adventure when the container of safety is provided there's a lot more room to be flexible and open. It's important to understand our core needs as we fight and the roles we typically default to so that we can have better access to doing a fair fight and hopefully an easy repair. Oftentimes in emotionally focused therapy we look at the couple as one person being the pursuer and one person being the withdrawer, Daniel as the withdrawer, could be labeled the cat where when he feels activated, triggered his nervous system gets flooded and he tends to shut down be quiet and need some privacy. You notice a cat when it gets scared it usually runs away and wants to go hide under the bed. The other person the pursuer is like the dog, they're always playful. They have a lot of energy, but when they're activated, they're still playful. They still have a lot of energy and they tend to be anxious and paw at their partner to resolve the issue quickly. They want to talk it out and they want to talk it out ASAP. My core need, for instance, as a dog is to make sure the relationship feels safe as soon as possible. Daniel's core need as withdrawer or as a cat is to feel grounded and get his nervous system back into stability so he can actually meet me where I need to be met and process through the fight. Also to feel like it's on my terms to open that door. One of the ways that I describe the cat and the dog is that the cat is a door that opens outward. So dogs will try oftentimes, try to push on the door and that just ends up closing it more. Part of the task is to acknowledge what the other person is needing and what you're needing in order to be able to move forward with this. So for example, as somebody who tends to retreat, when there's conflict, part of what I have a core need for is space. And in that space, then that door can open outward. Part of what a partner who tends to reach out is looking for, is that connection and that safety. And so your that core need is around safety and connection. Both have to be addressed simultaneously. Now, in a lack of communication, there's a tension around who's need gets met with regards to that. But when this is a pattern that's understood and there's room to work with it. There's usually a way that both people can feel okay about the process. So I've learned in our relationship that if I keep pushing on the door, he's going to take more and more space. There's going to be longer time frame until we get it resolved. I've also worked with my anxiety to know that the relationship is safe, even when there is silence and space. So that I can give him the space, he needs and know and trust he will return at some point to navigate the fight on my end. What I've learned is that expressing that connection is still there. I love you. I need some space. But we'll finish talking about this and stating a specific amount of time. Provides that container of safety that we've referred to previously because you could go and entertain yourself for any amount of time because you know, that there will be a reconnection point because that has been verbally committed to. And so it's not just an endless amount of time. It's a specific amount of time to reset. So there's two concepts woven into this. There's the pursuer-withdrawer dynamic, in terms of dog, who likes to paw and push on the door and cat who likes to withdraw and hide but needs space for the door to open back up. So there's those dynamics and then the core need pertaining to cat and dog. Core need for connection. Core need for space. Particularly when we fight. So, understanding your roles as dog or cat, pursuer or withdrawer and then understanding the corn need pertaining to the animal that you are is really important. In this chapter, we're going to discuss an area that couples often times get stuck, which is about unspoken and hidden agendas. What tends to happen is that couples often times can feel when their partner has a hidden agenda and is not communicating it and so it doesn't feel totally safe having that conversation. You're going to feel a little weary, you're going to be a little apprehensive. And so you're going to be kind of wondering. What are you trying to say? What are you not saying underneath this. So a common area around this is what do you feel like for dinner, which people usually have a preference but they're avoiding stating their preference. So what ends up happening, is they ask their partner, a question. What do you feel like for dinner? Hey, do you think Mexican food sounds good? And what I'm really saying is I really want to go get Mexican food, but I'm not flat out saying it and so in the absence of flat out saying it, I'm putting a loaded question out there because I have a hidden agenda but I'm not owning it. And so, one of the things that's really important is to recognize that this was a simple example, but that can play out in very different areas as well. Let's say with regards to sex. Yes, I was going to go right there. Okay. So what would you like to do in the bedroom? Right? Does that feel safe to answer? I actually know what I want to do, but I might not want to say it out loud or one or the other partner might not want to say it out loud for fear of rejection, or they're also testing and checking in with where the other person's at before it feels safe to share their own feelings. So, one of the ways to counteract this is to own your own wants and desires as completely selfish. Now in reality, they might be selfish. They might be completely reasonable. It doesn't matter. But if you own them in the selfish game, what ends up happening is, there's permission to put the cards on the table and then discuss what those cards look like if all of them are played out. I think it's also important to note that for people who tend to be people pleasers, being selfish feels really dangerous. So if you grew up in an environment, say in childhood, where things were unsafe, maybe there was an alcoholic parent or things were just emotionally chaotic and you had to read your environment on a daily basis and make sure you were the one to keep the peace or you self-assigned yourself to keep the peace. What happens is, you put your needs way on the back burner, maybe in the back closet, may be stored away in the garage and you are looking at everybody else's needs so that the safety of the whole family can go forward, what happens then is that defense mechanism that adaptive strategy in terms of being a people pleaser or a person who makes an environment safe continues forward into adulthood and then advocating for your needs of being selfish actually feels really foreign and really dangerous. So if you find yourself to be in this category, go slow at this exercise and really give yourself a lot of permission that you did need that defense mechanism to help you get through your childhood. You did need to put your needs in the closet and help the environment be safe. But now that you're an adult and things are safe. Can you have compassion for yourself to actually feel the safety to name that need, especially in this selfish conversation. To tie in with that, it's also important to recognize that you have those needs, no matter how buried they are, and they're going to play out in one way or the other. What this does is it brings it out into the light and makes it an explicit statement about it rather than the hidden agenda that we were talking about. So the selfish game, how does it work? What you would say is selfishly? Here's what I want for this weekend selfishly. I want to sleep in until 9:30 selfishly. I want to go out to dinner rather than cook selfishly. I want to watch whatever movie. I want to watch even if you don't like it, but you'd still sit with me. So, as an example, we're going to walk through this exercise in terms of being selfish with any particular evening. Let's do tonight. For example, selfishly. What would you like? Selfishly? I would like to do. Takeout Thai food. I would like to have the kids in bed a little bit earlier. So, we have time to watch a movie and then after the movie, I'd love to get in the hot tub for a little bit and relax and then maybe go to the bedroom and connect. Okay. selfishly I would like to have a lot of vegetables. Selfishly. I would like to also put the kids to bed and do hot tub selfishly. I'd like to have time to read my book. Okay. So one of the things is that once you've put your selfish wants and needs out there, then there's room to collaborate because there's no hidden agenda around the timeframe of everything. So, okay. We can order Thai food, and make sure we order a number of dishes that have a lot of vegetables in them. We're both in agreement around putting the kids to bed a little bit early. So we have a little bit more time. It sounds like we're in agreement around the hot tub and also it sounds like what I want is to watch a movie and you want to read your book. And so there's room to be able to do something separate in that. I don't have to watch my movie with you. You don't need me to read your book. Yes, and so, We're able to identify where our selfish wants overlap, and where they're compatible, and where they can be met on our own, in a way that doesn't involve our partner. I'm also willing to find compromise with this and watch a show that shorter so that we still have TV time together and I can have time for my book and if there's still time and still inspiration, we can make love. And so ultimately, as a result of being able to communicate about your selfish wants, start to realize the multitude of ways that those wants can get addressed rather than I have an agenda. It doesn't feel safe to state it. I'm gonna hope this happens, but I don't really think it will and then there's disappointment when you don't mind read what I wanted and I end up disappointed. It's a really great point in terms of we're not mind readers. So, when I asked, what do you selfishly want Daniel? I'm giving him permission. Maybe he's the partner who is more of a people pleaser and puts his needs in the closet and I'm really giving him extra permission because this is a team sport and the team sport, if I'm not the typical people pleaser. I can help my partner access that extra level of permission to name their needs. Now, if you're a beginner at this exercise, what I would suggest doing is that you each take a night where you get to be selfish and do the selfish conversation. So Monday, Wednesday, Friday partner a gets to say this is how the night looks selfishly. And then Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday partner B gets to have the selfish conversation and outline how the night looks and then maybe on Sunday, you attempt doing a collaboration of selfish needs and seeing where the Venn diagram overlaps. In this chapter, we look at the relationship. The ship part of relation ship where we think about one person as the anchor, and one person as a sail. The anchor tends to be the more grounded calm, even keel person that keeps the ship sturdy. The sails tends to be the big visionary, the one that's a little more frenetic. The one that has a little more anxiety. The one that kind of sails forward. If we had both people being the sails, we might sail into the rocks. If we had both people as an anchor We'd get stuck in the mud and be in a stale rigid place. The idea is that hopefully we can balance it within ourselves, both an anchor and a sail and balance in our relationship, our anchor and our sail, as the sail. I have big visions and big dreams and I have a lot of energy but my husband, the anchor is very calm and grounded and creates more of the boundaries for the relationship together. We work well and we sail forward with nice speed, not too fast into the rocks, not to stuck in the mud and off we go as a team. So as you think about your relationship you want to figure out who's who and then you want to figure out all the advantages of each person. These are the things I bring. These are the things you bring. You also want to make sure it's balanced. If we're leaning too far and stuck in the mud. Not good for the relationship. If we're leaning too far into the sails and sailing out too fast. Also, not good. So we wanted to be able to create balance and discuss how we're bringing equity to the relationship with our different skill sets. The idea with understanding the anchor in the sale is to respect each other's differences as gifts and advantages for the relationship so that we're not in competition with each other and frustrated by the polarization of what the other person is or brings to the relationship. But rather we're in collaboration with our partner, trying to sail the same ship forward. The idea is to challenge yourself to see the pros and the advantages of the other person's gifts. As a sail, I could look at my husband, an anchor, and on one hand be really delighted that he keeps us grounded and stable and on the other hand, when I'm frustrated be really angry that he's rigid and he's stuck in his ways and he likes to go along with the rules. And he doesn't want to flex or bend, and then I could be really angry about this versus grateful that he's holding the ship together and keeping the boundaries intact. So you can look at this in the positive or the negative reframe and the idea is to look at it in the positive. How can the things you're angry about actually serve you as an anchor. He might look at me, the sails and feel like one time if he's in a positive mood, that I am full of life and charisma, and vision and moving forward. And I'm the life of the party. On the other hand, he may feel like I'm too porous, and I don't have good boundaries and I go to bed too late. And I just don't have any structure for my life or our for our relationship. The idea is to not only balance your ship so that you are utilizing both people's strengths. But to also see the advantage of the other person's skill set as something that contributes to the relationship rather than hinders. If you're the sails most of the time or you're the anchor most of the time you may say, well sometimes I'm the other, I'm the other role that is true. We can be flexible and switch between different roles. Absolutely, or you might find yourself saying I feel pretty balanced. I'm actually both the sails and both the anchor at the same time in the same ship. That's an awesome place to be. That means as an individual, you are fully balanced and the relationship with yourself is smoothly sailing. Can you also bring that to your outer relationship? If you feel your anchor and sails, and your partner's anchor and sails again, take the roles and the gifts that you both have. So that you are optimizing your relationship and being a great team. In this breakout exercise, we're going to do a shared relationship vision for both short-term and long-term goals. One of the things that happens for couples around. Long-term relationships is that the reasons that they got together oftentimes, are forgotten or are no longer relevant because the circumstances of life have changed when you are able to develop short-term and long-term goals. What you're saying, is that the version of me today is going to work towards a shared vision of who I will be and who you will be in the future. As a result of having those goals, you're identifying, where your lives will continue to intersect moving forward, that creates a sense that you both are growing and changing in a way that works for both of you. Having a shared goal also makes you feel like you're on the same team. When we're on the same team. It feels really good because then the intimacy feels collaborative. So as you put together some shared goals or a shared vision, on a piece of paper. Let yourself be creative with this. You can have a goal that might be around business. It might be around politics and might be around having a family and might be around having a house. It might be around retirement or travel include whatever feels right for you. So that there's something to look forward to and grow towards together in a shared way towards a long-term future. Part of what it also does around that team mentality. Is that it allows people to understand that their sacrifice is for something in particular. If you're sacrificing without any reason, it just feels like you're losing something. If you are willing to work towards something together and make changes in the moment to work towards that goal. Then it's worth making sacrifices and changes. It's an incentive and a carrot for down the road. So, let's say we have a shared goal. I'd like to retire in the mountains and have a cozy mountain home with a hot tub, which I know we'll have to think about in terms of budgeting for today and saving towards retirement. And I would love to have retirement money enough to be able to travel. And I love the idea of having a mountain home as a base and also being able to to see new places and change your environment while also having the mountains as home. The short-term sacrifice might mean we don't spend as much in the here and now and we budget towards retirement and a mountain home. Then another important piece around a shared goal or a shared vision is that it creates safety in the relationship. We know we're on the same page on the same team trying to go towards the same goal. We don't feel like we're polarized and at opposite ends doing different things living in a parallel way. We actually feel like we're joined together doing the same thing. We have a shared goal of entering a couples tennis tournament. Then what we're going to do is we're going to end up having a series of steps to work towards that goal that also provide connection and interaction with each other. We're going to have to practice as a couple on the tennis court. We're going to have to set aside time. We're going to have to be able to effectively communicate about strengths and weaknesses and areas that I can improve areas that you can improve, and it sets a whole series of of action steps out for how to improve on the goal you're working towards. In this chapter, we're going to focus on a major difference in communication styles, that frequently plays out for couples. There's two ways that people tend to process information. There's internal processors and external processors. Internal processors are people who do the math problem in their head and only share the answer. External processors are people who have to talk through the math problem. In order to be able to arrive at an answer, there's pros and cons to both, and we're going to cover those. But the first part to understand is that, when out of sync, internal and external processors can bump up against a lot of conflict. I'll give you an example. I'm an internal processor and Jenny is an external processor. Back when in our first child was born, we had a baby gate that needed to be put up for a a stairwell in order to keep our baby safe. As an internal processor and also the one who is going to be putting the gate up. What I did was I looked at the baby gate somebody had given us on our registry. I looked at the gate. I looked at the instructions. I went up and all I did was share the answer with Jenny. I not like this answer. We need to buy a different gate. I didn't explain why I didn't share any of the information around how I arrived to that answer. So Jenny was sitting in the dark with just this answer that a perfectly fine baby gate wasn't going to serve the purpose that it was made for. What Jenny needed was information, and so external processors have a need for information. The problem is that external processors need for information conflicts, with internal processors who tend to, as a general pattern, feel criticized or feel defensive when their answer is questioned. So when she started asking questions, well, maybe you didn't read the directions, right? Or you know, are you sure it won't work? What if we tried it this way? I was getting defensive because I felt like she wasn't believing the answer that I was offering and that I had spent a fair amount of time thinking through. What she was trying to do, was understand the different aspects of the gate, that would allow her to get behind my answer, but I wasn't giving that information. So what ended up happening was it turned into a larger and larger conflict around my needs and her needs in in contrast in competition and resulted in a conflict where Jenny was trying to put up the gate. I was stubbornly standing there with my arms crossed and refusing to participate and explain anything, and as a result of that conflict, we had to break down what had happened in our communication that resulted in that outcome. What we realized was as an internal processor, it's important for my answer to feel valid and recognized. However, it's also incumbent on me that as the internal processor, I figure out a way to begin to articulate more of my thoughts around how I arrived to that answer. So an example of that would be I do not see this baby gate working for this scenario. Let me walk you through the things that I see that don't fit for it. I could in turn also say and have learned to say, help me understand how you arrived at this answer. And what that does is it says, my partner is interested in me, feeling understood and heard when my partner frames it using that language. What I understand is that my partner is trying to understand my perspective and they're interested in understanding my perspective and therefore, I'm much more interested in participating in offering information when it feels like a judgment or a criticism of my answer. I feel much more reluctant to participate in that conversation and so changing the way that an external processor asks for information can go a long way to quiet down this pattern. The other way around is that often times external processors need a space to be able to talk through something to know what they're thinking or feeling. Internal processors, assume that they're being given a math problem that they're going to compute and share the answer. This tends to result in the, the common complaint in the office of, I just want you to listen I don't want you to fix it for me. Internal processors think that they're responsible for fixing it in the moment. External processors are just trying to get air time to be able to get in touch with what they're thinking and feeling. And so the other way around this tends to conflict because internal processors jump to answers that the external processors don't want and it actually interrupts their way of communicating and trying to get in touch with themselves. So clarifying at the beginning is one of the quickest ways to quieting down this side of the pattern. If an internal processor clarifies in the beginning, are you looking for my opinion, or do you just need me to listen? Then the expectations and understanding of what's required is very clear from the get-go and you're not trying to guess what the best thing to do is in that moment. Your little cheat sheet in your back pocket is a multiple choice of a or b. A. Do you want me to listen? or B. Do you want a solution? or C both. Often times for me as an external processor First I want him to listen, then I want his opinion for a solution. So ultimately C where we get both met. It also helps define for the external processor and the external processor can clarify what they're looking for. Hey, I'm going to talk about this thing. Let me just spell it all out and then we can talk about solutions or you know, what? I already figured out what I think I'm going to do, but let me just vent about this situation and then we can get into what I plan to do about it. In this chapter, we're going to offer a different way of communicating. That will often times result in much less defensiveness and much more openness to hearing what your partner is experiencing and also changing the way you tend to communicate and share information that is bothering you around a relationship. No one wins when we do this. This is the blame game, what we want to be looking at are the three fingers coming back at you so that we can take responsibility and ownership for our feelings, our experiences and our assumptions. Oftentimes therapy, you know, suggestions focus on I statements and I statements have value. The idea is that you're focusing on what's true for you rather than just pointing the finger. The problem with I statements is that you can still say I feel like you're being a jerk and that's not that different than saying you're being a jerk. A different way of framing it is taking the word you out. To this, this section is called I without you. So, if I can say a sentence and not use the word you, I'm going to communicate it in a very different way than if I'm using blaming language. So for example, I feel jerked around is a very different way to frame it. Maybe my partner is jerking me around, maybe I'm just feeling jerked around because that's what I'm feeling and my partner isn't doing anything to contribute to that. It's all just my own stuff. So it's much harder to blame the other person if you take the word, you, out. One of the reasons why I think when you take the word you out, it has a very different feeling, is that you're not You're not making the other person the definitive recipient of that feeling or the perpetrator or the perpetrator. And so if you are communicating in a particular way that assumes it's the other person's fault. That's really different than, maybe it's the other person's fault, maybe it's not, it doesn't matter. It's what you're experiencing. I think what it does is, it brings down the intensity level, a few notches. So that more personal responsibility can be accessed well, and it also gives you a chance to reality check. Am I feeling this? Because I usually feel this in a lot of context, or this is unique to this particular situation with my partner right now. So using the Baby Buggy example. If we were to rewind and look at that. A better way of editing that, and by the way, I'm always a big advocate for if the fight didn't go, well, ask for an edit and to do it all over again so that you can try again with your language. We can edit in the moment and we can edit years later. So let's do a years later edit on that baby gate. The same baby is now 6. So I'm really confused why this gate doesn't fit into the banister. Okay, I want to be trusted because I have done a lot of research on why this baby gate doesn't work. I hear that. And I'm struggling to trust this process because I feel really in the dark. Okay. I'm happy to walk through some of these steps, if that would be helpful. So one of the reasons why the baby gate doesn't work is that we have a banister and a wall and the baby gate needs two walls to be able to attach and the banister doesn't have the anchor points to be able to attach the gate. Does that make sense? That makes sense. I guess I also feel sad and I'm noticing my storyline of scarcity around, we've got this gift, it feels like a waste to just throw it away and I'm wondering if there's other creative ways to do a workaround to still make the gate work. We could possibly find another spot for it or we could also reach out to other people who are also having babies we have a number of friends who are in the same position. We could probably find somebody else who maybe has a baby gate that would work for our situation and ours would work for theirs. Great, I feel good with that. I feel good at that, I can work with that as well. So, that's an important moment because does that feel good for you? There's a bit of a loaded implication with that question, right? It's putting a lot of responsibility on me because if it doesn't feel good to me, then my partner's disappointed, if it does feel good to me, then there's an expectation around it rather than just stating what's true for yourself involving the other person and sort of putting the feeler out and focusing on them puts a lot of burden on them to answer the right way. I notice for that in, that particular conflict. I had two main issues to take responsibility for which were; one, my confusion around why it didn't work and my lack of trust without information and then also my own very old story line around wanting to not be wasteful with material items and therefore not wanting to just throw away a gift like this because it didn't work. Right. And for me, it was that I had put a lot of effort in and I wanted my effort to be acknowledged. I had thought about it. I had looked at it. I pulled out tools. I had read through instruction manuals. And so it was something that I had spent effort on and even though there wasn't anything to show for it, I wanted some credit and acknowledgement around that that effort. And I also wanted to be trusted in terms of my competency and the contribution that I had put in. And so I think when you're able to understand what you needed in a conflict, you're able to circle back and recognize that often times is a common theme that will play out in other conflicts as well. In this chapter we talked about feelings. If you're a couple where you feel like you have a limited vocabulary around feeling words. This is a good chapter for you in terms of expanding your vocabulary list so that you have more access to more words and your partner can further understand you. I think one of the pieces around this is that oftentimes, in the moment, people don't have access to the way that they want to be able to express themselves. There's a lot of different reasons around this. But one of the things that we know from a lot of research is that when people get flooded, when they get activated, when they're nervous, scared, angry, what happens in that moment is that your ability to think through and and communicate effectively plummets. Your cognitive capacity shuts down. So you lose your ability to think logically and access your vocabulary. So the more you practice this at times when you aren't feeling moments of conflict, then the more accessible this is in those moments because what happens is, it's a practice routine and you're able to borrow from that in moments when you're flustered rather than trying to come up with something completely novel in the moment. Also, you can use this list. This feelings list or this feelings wheel while you're having the fight. If you need a little cheat sheet to help you get through what you're trying to say. It also allows is enough of a pause to be able to evaluate what is happening and that gives you a moment to reset. And as a result, you frame things differently, that is able to result in a different outcome. In this chapter with Love Languages, what we're trying to do is introduce the concept developed by Gary Chapman and offer you a way to use it on a daily basis with your partner. So, in review the five love languages are touch, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and material gifts. Touch people love to hear and feel I love you with contact. They typically are affectionate people. They will come and give you that small kiss. They will give you the shoulder rub. They'll rub the cheek. They're very touchy-feely because that is how they are communicating I love you and communicating you matter. Words people like to hear I love you and you matter with words. I love you. You look great today. You look super sexy. Wow, you're looking yoked. Words are helpful in terms of feeling validated and that we matter. Quality time people love spending time together. Maybe they need to go shopping. Maybe they want to just go to a ball game. Maybe they just want to sit outside on the hammock but doing so with another person and spending that quality time together is what makes them feel loved. What makes them feel like they matter. Acts of service people, you can rename this almost as acts of love. Don't tell me you love me. Show me you love me. So what you want to do is ask your partner. If they're Acts, what kind of Acts really do it for them. Do they really want help around the house? Do they want you to remember to pick up after yourself? Show me you love me through acts of love. Typically, these people will make dinners. They'll clean up after the dinner. They'll clean the house. They'll make sure all the little things that make life work well are in order. That's how you know an acts of service person. Then you have material gifts. Material gifts is not materialism. It is a tangible expression of I love you and you matter. So let's take for example, my earrings. My earrings were given to me by my parents a long time ago. I remember my parents, every time I put on these earrings. Material gifts people like the tangibility of something that's permanent because it feels like they can always go back to that place and feel that felt sense of I matter. Imagine you have a little piggy bank and imagine your partner has a piggy bank. And now imagine your real bank account. If your bank account was always kind of just simmering at, you know, $5 and you put in your paycheck, but then you pay all your bills and your back to five dollars. It can feel exhausting to always be operating with only five dollars in your account, but it's a place that might be familiar for you. And hey, all your bills are paid so it's no big deal. However, if you get in a fight and you only have five dollars in your account, what happens is you overdraw. And it feels like now you're in the red and a pretty scary place. So when couples fight and their emotional piggy, banks are pretty empty, most of the time the fights feel more severe. The idea here is we want to fill the piggy banks on a daily basis. So A., we feel like we matter to one another. B., were giving our partner daily deposits of love and C., we're actually patting ourselves with a reserve so that if and when we fight, we have a lot more on the account. So that if we take $50 out, you know what, we still have two thousand in there and the repair feels easier. So, here are our piggy banks. My husband acts of service. Me, words and touch. When my husband writes a card for me, telling me all the ways that he appreciates me and finds gratitude in all the things that I do for the family. My heart warms. When he comes up to me and gives me small, kisses and hugs, my heart warms, when I make the bed, especially, super nice and neat because he's sort of a neat kind of guy his heart warms. When I surprised him with a beautiful meal, especially his favorite ones, his heart warms. So the idea is on a daily basis, can you challenge yourself to go put a deposit in your partner's piggy bank. I'll be honest. I'm not good at acts of service. I'm not good at making the bed and I'm a disaster in the kitchen. So when I go above and beyond to do this, it's a big silver dollar deposit, and vice versa. He's an internal processor, which you remember from a previous chapter. He marinates in his own mind. So for him to express themselves, verbally and tell me I matter and tell me that he loves me, sometimes, is a stretch for an internal processor, but he does it because those piggy bank deposits matter. Sometimes your partner's love language doesn't make any sense to you. That's not the point of this. The point of this is to actually know what the other person speaks so that you can help them matter in their language. Once we get rolling on this and our habit becomes easy and autopilot. Then we don't have to worry about how to remember this. As you think about your partner's piggy bank with the five love languages. You can brainstorm three things that would be meaningful for you. Three things that would be meaningful for them and then trade lists, make sure that the three things you select or actually the things your partner wants. I thought that my husband would be so delighted if I clean the kitchen, but actually, what was more important to him was our bedroom space. Because he felt like it was our relationship, our sacred space, and that the common spaces of the house were just sort of fair game as family space. So when I understood that it was more meaningful to our relationship and to him to do service related to the bedroom. I reordered, how I did my deposits into his emotional piggy bank. So in this chapter, the idea is to begin to build Goodwill and positive intentions into the relationship. Oftentimes people carry a lot of resentments from past wounds and past anger. So the concept we're about to introduce is a way to hopefully melt some of that resentment and fill in the void with good will and generosity. It's very easy to focus on all the areas that you are dissatisfied or things aren't working well in the relationship as opposed to when your mindset shifts to the things that you value and appreciate about your partner, you start to feel more open to making changes from a place that's more authentic within you. That's the only place that changes can happen. You can't convince your partner to change and your partner can't convince you to change. There has to be a free will and a choice to make a difference in how you show up in the relationship. Absent that, relationships usually will fall back to the patterns and problems that have plagued them for a longer period of time, but when people find their own reasons to say you are worth making the change. I'm going to make this change because it's important to me. Things are able to move forward in a much more efficient and smooth manner. And sustainable manner. So as you try to access this authentic desire to change one, for yourself to evolve up and be a better human in the world and two, because you want the relationship to survive and not just be sustaining but satisfying, we want to introduce this concept of culture of generosity where you go above and beyond for your partner and an effort to have the relationship level up. The idea of building in a culture of generosity is to counteract a culture of resentment. I'll start with the culture of resentment, then I'll speak a little bit to the culture of generosity. With a culture of resentment, what happens is you say, I'm angry about something. So I'm not going to give this thing to you. That is important, like, sex. I'm going to withhold sex because I'm angry. That's an example. There's a lot of other examples as well. So then as a result of me, not offering something, then my partner is going to feel resentment and they're not going to offer something to me that's important. Withholding ends up begetting withholding. And so, it creates a cycle where more and more, there's distance. There's resentment. There's frustration about how the relationship is going. One of the quickest ways, to reverse the direction of that cycle, and instead shift it to a cycle of generosity, and a positive feedback loop, Is to focus more on what you are giving then what you're getting. Giving really feels good. Especially if we're not tracking what we get. We're just tracking what we give. When we give from a place of obligation. There's a felt sense that it doesn't feel free and it doesn't feel authentic. There are strings attached to it. I'm giving this only because I expect something in return, or because I feel there will be, there will be consequences if I don't give this as opposed to giving from a place of free will. Yeah, so as a result of the necessity to build in this culture of generosity, one of the starting points to think about, as your first exercise around this task, is to come up with a few traits or aspects of your partner that you admire and appreciate. Why does your partner have value? You're with them for a reason and if you aren't able to articulate and get in touch with that value, it's really hard to know what you're fighting for, what you're going to make a change for, and in a cycle of resentment, those things become much more elusive. But when we highlight them, we begin to realize that our partner is very important to us. And so, we are going to make the effort, because we want to keep this person who has value to us rather than Then we have convinced ourselves that they are irrelevant and unimportant to us. So one of the challenges in this is not to look at your differences as grading, but as an asset. Ultimately, it's about finding the balance between your strengths and weaknesses as a couple. So, circling back to how this is valuable. I value his rigidity and his organizational skills, because he has a lot of solid boundaries. He keeps the relationship safe. He keeps it organized. He thinks of the things I just don't think about and those are a big asset to me and I recognized the need to sometimes let loose and just be in the moment to be able to have fun to throw the plan out and instead go with what's happening in the moment. And so your partner is there to push your buttons but also to highlight a different way of being and it's an opportunity to get out of your own stuck ways that you don't necessarily see and when you value the way that your partner is in the world, then you're more open to introducing the way your partner is in the world to how you interact in the world. So that's the main idea that we're trying to focus on with this module. As you set up for this exercise, get a piece of paper and think through three different things that you value in your partner. Either aspects they have traits they have or behaviors they manifest and keep those in mind as we move forward through this course because those are the things that you're going to return to in terms of valuing your partner, respecting your partner, and being able to access that authentic place to go above and beyond in this culture of generosity. In this next chapter, we're going to focus on ways to be able to communicate about your needs. One of the things that tends to happen for couples around needs is that needs feel very zero-sum. They end up in competition. I have a need, you have a need and if my need gets met yours doesn't if your need gets met, mine doesn't. And so we end up battling over circumstances and situations because it's representative of deeper needs that we have that often times we're not aware of. When we realize what our core needs are we're able to change the way we're communicating about them, and recognize there's a variety of ways to get our needs met so they can be collaborative rather than competitive and zero-sum. So what we're going to be doing around this is understanding ways to be able to level drop from the circumstance and the situation to instead be able to communicate about the core needs playing out and then from there identify a variety of solutions where both needs are honored and acknowledged. A very common one that we end up working with for couples is one person has a need or a want for sex. Another person has a want or a need to go to sleep. Now both are totally understandable and reasonable wants and needs. But what happens is it's 9:45. It's 10:00 at night and it's been a long day and the couple gets in bed and one partner goes, I'd really like to have sex right now. And I really need to go to bed. And so who wins? What's going to happen? In this particular conversation if my partner gets her needs met to go to bed. I don't get my want or need addressed around sex and if my partner stays up to to interact with my sexual want or need, then my partner has sacrificed what's true for them. And so oftentimes, there's conflict and tension around that. Which results in you don't think my needs important or, you know, I'm exhausted, why would you want me to stay awake and just do something that I'm not that into? It doesn't tend to go well. But if instead, we're able to say well, what are you really trying to get at? What is your core need around going to bed? My core need around going to bed is that I feel exhaustion and I also want to ensure that I get enough sleep because the kids get up early and I don't function well if I have less than eight hours of sleep. What I would say around my core needs in this particular situation is that I have a need for connection now and I also have a need for something that's a stress reliever and a release. This is a great side note. We're going to cover this in the later chapter and sexual intimacy, but understanding that sex is motivated usually by four different core need drivers; one, for connection, two, for skin-to-skin contact, three, for validation and desire feeling validated. and four to experience pleasure and orgasm or as Daniel mentioned, a release. When we know that those are, the four motivations we can ask ourselves; Well, am I just looking for the skin-to-skin? I don't really need the release or do I need the release? I want to feel that orgasm so I can have the release of all the yummy hormones, the dopamine and oxytocin that come with it so that I can feel good and relieve my cortisol, which is the stress hormone and then access sleep more easily. Or maybe I just feel like I need connection because we've been in different places all day. So Daniel is going to speak to a why he wants sex and see if the core need, one of those four drivers, can be met in an alternative way so that I can still get my need for sleep and he can get his need for whatever type of sex we choose. So let's say the core need underneath the driver for sex is connection. There's a variety of different ways that you're able to move into a place of rest, and I'm able to move into a place of connection. So one of them might be we could cuddle in bed as you're falling asleep. And then we have some physical intimacy in contact, but also you're able to move towards going to sleep because the core need is able to be much more collaborative, right? Maybe it's identifying a time when you would be available and have more energy. and more bandwidth to be able to connect. That would be the rain check. Thanks for the invitation tonight, I have nothing left in the tank, but if you invite me in the morning, I think I'll have a lot more reserves to engage with you, which is illustrating that connection with me, is important. Yes. And so, ultimately, I'm able to be more flexible because my core need is acknowledged and there's a way that it is going to be met even if it isn't right then and there in the moment. Another solution or another outcome of this is, let's do something quick 10-15 minutes and Daniel takes kids in the morning because he's happy to do so anyway, right? So basically as a result of changing the way we were talking about it. It's no longer does sex happened? Does sleep happen? Instead we were able to communicate on a different level around what was going on for us. What we were both needing, and in communicating about those core needs, we're able to find ways for those needs to be collaborative. So other core needs that tend to look like competitive circumstances, but can again, if you find the Venn diagram creative solution, they can be collaborative, include one, closeness and connection. Two, space. Three, validation feeling heard and feeling seen. Four, safety. Five, adventure and novelty, and six, pleasure. So, using sex as an example, again, adventure versus safety. Let's say I would love to have sex outside and do a little blindfolding and rope tying. And in terms of the safety piece, I want to make sure that we don't end up arrested or on the front page of the local newspaper or we are able to find a place that feels comfortable enough and doesn't feel inappropriate. In this circumstance, the person who has a greater need for safety has to get their needs met first because I'm not going to have my need for adventure met if he doesn't feel safe to meet me there. So I'm going to have to reach out to him and say, what do you need to feel safe? So that we can then insert in a little adventure when the container of safety is provided there's a lot more room to be flexible and open. It's important to understand our core needs as we fight and the roles we typically default to so that we can have better access to doing a fair fight and hopefully an easy repair. Oftentimes in emotionally focused therapy we look at the couple as one person being the pursuer and one person being the withdrawer, Daniel as the withdrawer, could be labeled the cat where when he feels activated, triggered his nervous system gets flooded and he tends to shut down be quiet and need some privacy. You notice a cat when it gets scared it usually runs away and wants to go hide under the bed. The other person the pursuer is like the dog, they're always playful. They have a lot of energy, but when they're activated, they're still playful. They still have a lot of energy and they tend to be anxious and paw at their partner to resolve the issue quickly. They want to talk it out and they want to talk it out ASAP. My core need, for instance, as a dog is to make sure the relationship feels safe as soon as possible. Daniel's core need as withdrawer or as a cat is to feel grounded and get his nervous system back into stability so he can actually meet me where I need to be met and process through the fight. Also to feel like it's on my terms to open that door. One of the ways that I describe the cat and the dog is that the cat is a door that opens outward. So dogs will try oftentimes, try to push on the door and that just ends up closing it more. Part of the task is to acknowledge what the other person is needing and what you're needing in order to be able to move forward with this. So for example, as somebody who tends to retreat, when there's conflict, part of what I have a core need for is space. And in that space, then that door can open outward. Part of what a partner who tends to reach out is looking for, is that connection and that safety. And so your that core need is around safety and connection. Both have to be addressed simultaneously. Now, in a lack of communication, there's a tension around who's need gets met with regards to that. But when this is a pattern that's understood and there's room to work with it. There's usually a way that both people can feel okay about the process. So I've learned in our relationship that if I keep pushing on the door, he's going to take more and more space. There's going to be longer time frame until we get it resolved. I've also worked with my anxiety to know that the relationship is safe, even when there is silence and space. So that I can give him the space, he needs and know and trust he will return at some point to navigate the fight on my end. What I've learned is that expressing that connection is still there. I love you. I need some space. But we'll finish talking about this and stating a specific amount of time. Provides that container of safety that we've referred to previously because you could go and entertain yourself for any amount of time because you know, that there will be a reconnection point because that has been verbally committed to. And so it's not just an endless amount of time. It's a specific amount of time to reset. So there's two concepts woven into this. There's the pursuer-withdrawer dynamic, in terms of dog, who likes to paw and push on the door and cat who likes to withdraw and hide but needs space for the door to open back up. So there's those dynamics and then the core need pertaining to cat and dog. Core need for connection. Core need for space. Particularly when we fight. So, understanding your roles as dog or cat, pursuer or withdrawer and then understanding the corn need pertaining to the animal that you are is really important. In this chapter, we're going to discuss an area that couples often times get stuck, which is about unspoken and hidden agendas. What tends to happen is that couples often times can feel when their partner has a hidden agenda and is not communicating it and so it doesn't feel totally safe having that conversation. You're going to feel a little weary, you're going to be a little apprehensive. And so you're going to be kind of wondering. What are you trying to say? What are you not saying underneath this. So a common area around this is what do you feel like for dinner, which people usually have a preference but they're avoiding stating their preference. So what ends up happening, is they ask their partner, a question. What do you feel like for dinner? Hey, do you think Mexican food sounds good? And what I'm really saying is I really want to go get Mexican food, but I'm not flat out saying it and so in the absence of flat out saying it, I'm putting a loaded question out there because I have a hidden agenda but I'm not owning it. And so, one of the things that's really important is to recognize that this was a simple example, but that can play out in very different areas as well. Let's say with regards to sex. Yes, I was going to go right there. Okay. So what would you like to do in the bedroom? Right? Does that feel safe to answer? I actually know what I want to do, but I might not want to say it out loud or one or the other partner might not want to say it out loud for fear of rejection, or they're also testing and checking in with where the other person's at before it feels safe to share their own feelings. So, one of the ways to counteract this is to own your own wants and desires as completely selfish. Now in reality, they might be selfish. They might be completely reasonable. It doesn't matter. But if you own them in the selfish game, what ends up happening is, there's permission to put the cards on the table and then discuss what those cards look like if all of them are played out. I think it's also important to note that for people who tend to be people pleasers, being selfish feels really dangerous. So if you grew up in an environment, say in childhood, where things were unsafe, maybe there was an alcoholic parent or things were just emotionally chaotic and you had to read your environment on a daily basis and make sure you were the one to keep the peace or you self-assigned yourself to keep the peace. What happens is, you put your needs way on the back burner, maybe in the back closet, may be stored away in the garage and you are looking at everybody else's needs so that the safety of the whole family can go forward, what happens then is that defense mechanism that adaptive strategy in terms of being a people pleaser or a person who makes an environment safe continues forward into adulthood and then advocating for your needs of being selfish actually feels really foreign and really dangerous. So if you find yourself to be in this category, go slow at this exercise and really give yourself a lot of permission that you did need that defense mechanism to help you get through your childhood. You did need to put your needs in the closet and help the environment be safe. But now that you're an adult and things are safe. Can you have compassion for yourself to actually feel the safety to name that need, especially in this selfish conversation. To tie in with that, it's also important to recognize that you have those needs, no matter how buried they are, and they're going to play out in one way or the other. What this does is it brings it out into the light and makes it an explicit statement about it rather than the hidden agenda that we were talking about. So the selfish game, how does it work? What you would say is selfishly? Here's what I want for this weekend selfishly. I want to sleep in until 9:30 selfishly. I want to go out to dinner rather than cook selfishly. I want to watch whatever movie. I want to watch even if you don't like it, but you'd still sit with me. So, as an example, we're going to walk through this exercise in terms of being selfish with any particular evening. Let's do tonight. For example, selfishly. What would you like? Selfishly? I would like to do. Takeout Thai food. I would like to have the kids in bed a little bit earlier. So, we have time to watch a movie and then after the movie, I'd love to get in the hot tub for a little bit and relax and then maybe go to the bedroom and connect. Okay. selfishly I would like to have a lot of vegetables. Selfishly. I would like to also put the kids to bed and do hot tub selfishly. I'd like to have time to read my book. Okay. So one of the things is that once you've put your selfish wants and needs out there, then there's room to collaborate because there's no hidden agenda around the timeframe of everything. So, okay. We can order Thai food, and make sure we order a number of dishes that have a lot of vegetables in them. We're both in agreement around putting the kids to bed a little bit early. So we have a little bit more time. It sounds like we're in agreement around the hot tub and also it sounds like what I want is to watch a movie and you want to read your book. And so there's room to be able to do something separate in that. I don't have to watch my movie with you. You don't need me to read your book. Yes, and so, We're able to identify where our selfish wants overlap, and where they're compatible, and where they can be met on our own, in a way that doesn't involve our partner. I'm also willing to find compromise with this and watch a show that shorter so that we still have TV time together and I can have time for my book and if there's still time and still inspiration, we can make love. And so ultimately, as a result of being able to communicate about your selfish wants, start to realize the multitude of ways that those wants can get addressed rather than I have an agenda. It doesn't feel safe to state it. I'm gonna hope this happens, but I don't really think it will and then there's disappointment when you don't mind read what I wanted and I end up disappointed. It's a really great point in terms of we're not mind readers. So, when I asked, what do you selfishly want Daniel? I'm giving him permission. Maybe he's the partner who is more of a people pleaser and puts his needs in the closet and I'm really giving him extra permission because this is a team sport and the team sport, if I'm not the typical people pleaser. I can help my partner access that extra level of permission to name their needs. Now, if you're a beginner at this exercise, what I would suggest doing is that you each take a night where you get to be selfish and do the selfish conversation. So Monday, Wednesday, Friday partner a gets to say this is how the night looks selfishly. And then Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday partner B gets to have the selfish conversation and outline how the night looks and then maybe on Sunday, you attempt doing a collaboration of selfish needs and seeing where the Venn diagram overlaps. In this chapter, we're going to focus on a major difference in communication styles, that frequently plays out for couples. There's two ways that people tend to process information. There's internal processors and external processors. Internal processors are people who do the math problem in their head and only share the answer. External processors are people who have to talk through the math problem. In order to be able to arrive at an answer, there's pros and cons to both, and we're going to cover those. But the first part to understand is that, when out of sync, internal and external processors can bump up against a lot of conflict. I'll give you an example. I'm an internal processor and Jenny is an external processor. Back when in our first child was born, we had a baby gate that needed to be put up for a a stairwell in order to keep our baby safe. As an internal processor and also the one who is going to be putting the gate up. What I did was I looked at the baby gate somebody had given us on our registry. I looked at the gate. I looked at the instructions. I went up and all I did was share the answer with Jenny. I not like this answer. We need to buy a different gate. I didn't explain why I didn't share any of the information around how I arrived to that answer. So Jenny was sitting in the dark with just this answer that a perfectly fine baby gate wasn't going to serve the purpose that it was made for. What Jenny needed was information, and so external processors have a need for information. The problem is that external processors need for information conflicts, with internal processors who tend to, as a general pattern, feel criticized or feel defensive when their answer is questioned. So when she started asking questions, well, maybe you didn't read the directions, right? Or you know, are you sure it won't work? What if we tried it this way? I was getting defensive because I felt like she wasn't believing the answer that I was offering and that I had spent a fair amount of time thinking through. What she was trying to do, was understand the different aspects of the gate, that would allow her to get behind my answer, but I wasn't giving that information. So what ended up happening was it turned into a larger and larger conflict around my needs and her needs in in contrast in competition and resulted in a conflict where Jenny was trying to put up the gate. I was stubbornly standing there with my arms crossed and refusing to participate and explain anything, and as a result of that conflict, we had to break down what had happened in our communication that resulted in that outcome. What we realized was as an internal processor, it's important for my answer to feel valid and recognized. However, it's also incumbent on me that as the internal processor, I figure out a way to begin to articulate more of my thoughts around how I arrived to that answer. So an example of that would be I do not see this baby gate working for this scenario. Let me walk you through the things that I see that don't fit for it. I could in turn also say and have learned to say, help me understand how you arrived at this answer. And what that does is it says, my partner is interested in me, feeling understood and heard when my partner frames it using that language. What I understand is that my partner is trying to understand my perspective and they're interested in understanding my perspective and therefore, I'm much more interested in participating in offering information when it feels like a judgment or a criticism of my answer. I feel much more reluctant to participate in that conversation and so changing the way that an external processor asks for information can go a long way to quiet down this pattern. The other way around is that often times external processors need a space to be able to talk through something to know what they're thinking or feeling. Internal processors, assume that they're being given a math problem that they're going to compute and share the answer. This tends to result in the, the common complaint in the office of, I just want you to listen I don't want you to fix it for me. Internal processors think that they're responsible for fixing it in the moment. External processors are just trying to get air time to be able to get in touch with what they're thinking and feeling. And so the other way around this tends to conflict because internal processors jump to answers that the external processors don't want and it actually interrupts their way of communicating and trying to get in touch with themselves. So clarifying at the beginning is one of the quickest ways to quieting down this side of the pattern. If an internal processor clarifies in the beginning, are you looking for my opinion, or do you just need me to listen? Then the expectations and understanding of what's required is very clear from the get-go and you're not trying to guess what the best thing to do is in that moment. Your little cheat sheet in your back pocket is a multiple choice of a or b. A. Do you want me to listen? or B. Do you want a solution? or C both. Often times for me as an external processor First I want him to listen, then I want his opinion for a solution. So ultimately C where we get both met. It also helps define for the external processor and the external processor can clarify what they're looking for. Hey, I'm going to talk about this thing. Let me just spell it all out and then we can talk about solutions or you know, what? I already figured out what I think I'm going to do, but let me just vent about this situation and then we can get into what I plan to do about it. In this chapter, we're going to offer a different way of communicating. That will often times result in much less defensiveness and much more openness to hearing what your partner is experiencing and also changing the way you tend to communicate and share information that is bothering you around a relationship. No one wins when we do this. This is the blame game, what we want to be looking at are the three fingers coming back at you so that we can take responsibility and ownership for our feelings, our experiences and our assumptions. Oftentimes therapy, you know, suggestions focus on I statements and I statements have value. The idea is that you're focusing on what's true for you rather than just pointing the finger. The problem with I statements is that you can still say I feel like you're being a jerk and that's not that different than saying you're being a jerk. A different way of framing it is taking the word you out. To this, this section is called I without you. So, if I can say a sentence and not use the word you, I'm going to communicate it in a very different way than if I'm using blaming language. So for example, I feel jerked around is a very different way to frame it. Maybe my partner is jerking me around, maybe I'm just feeling jerked around because that's what I'm feeling and my partner isn't doing anything to contribute to that. It's all just my own stuff. So it's much harder to blame the other person if you take the word, you, out. One of the reasons why I think when you take the word you out, it has a very different feeling, is that you're not You're not making the other person the definitive recipient of that feeling or the perpetrator or the perpetrator. And so if you are communicating in a particular way that assumes it's the other person's fault. That's really different than, maybe it's the other person's fault, maybe it's not, it doesn't matter. It's what you're experiencing. I think what it does is, it brings down the intensity level, a few notches. So that more personal responsibility can be accessed well, and it also gives you a chance to reality check. Am I feeling this? Because I usually feel this in a lot of context, or this is unique to this particular situation with my partner right now. So using the Baby Buggy example. If we were to rewind and look at that. A better way of editing that, and by the way, I'm always a big advocate for if the fight didn't go, well, ask for an edit and to do it all over again so that you can try again with your language. We can edit in the moment and we can edit years later. So let's do a years later edit on that baby gate. The same baby is now 6. So I'm really confused why this gate doesn't fit into the banister. Okay, I want to be trusted because I have done a lot of research on why this baby gate doesn't work. I hear that. And I'm struggling to trust this process because I feel really in the dark. Okay. I'm happy to walk through some of these steps, if that would be helpful. So one of the reasons why the baby gate doesn't work is that we have a banister and a wall and the baby gate needs two walls to be able to attach and the banister doesn't have the anchor points to be able to attach the gate. Does that make sense? That makes sense. I guess I also feel sad and I'm noticing my storyline of scarcity around, we've got this gift, it feels like a waste to just throw it away and I'm wondering if there's other creative ways to do a workaround to still make the gate work. We could possibly find another spot for it or we could also reach out to other people who are also having babies we have a number of friends who are in the same position. We could probably find somebody else who maybe has a baby gate that would work for our situation and ours would work for theirs. Great, I feel good with that. I feel good at that, I can work with that as well. So, that's an important moment because does that feel good for you? There's a bit of a loaded implication with that question, right? It's putting a lot of responsibility on me because if it doesn't feel good to me, then my partner's disappointed, if it does feel good to me, then there's an expectation around it rather than just stating what's true for yourself involving the other person and sort of putting the feeler out and focusing on them puts a lot of burden on them to answer the right way. I notice for that in, that particular conflict. I had two main issues to take responsibility for which were; one, my confusion around why it didn't work and my lack of trust without information and then also my own very old story line around wanting to not be wasteful with material items and therefore not wanting to just throw away a gift like this because it didn't work. Right. And for me, it was that I had put a lot of effort in and I wanted my effort to be acknowledged. I had thought about it. I had looked at it. I pulled out tools. I had read through instruction manuals. And so it was something that I had spent effort on and even though there wasn't anything to show for it, I wanted some credit and acknowledgement around that that effort. And I also wanted to be trusted in terms of my competency and the contribution that I had put in. And so I think when you're able to understand what you needed in a conflict, you're able to circle back and recognize that often times is a common theme that will play out in other conflicts as well. In this chapter we talked about feelings. If you're a couple where you feel like you have a limited vocabulary around feeling words. This is a good chapter for you in terms of expanding your vocabulary list so that you have more access to more words and your partner can further understand you. I think one of the pieces around this is that oftentimes, in the moment, people don't have access to the way that they want to be able to express themselves. There's a lot of different reasons around this. But one of the things that we know from a lot of research is that when people get flooded, when they get activated, when they're nervous, scared, angry, what happens in that moment is that your ability to think through and and communicate effectively plummets. Your cognitive capacity shuts down. So you lose your ability to think logically and access your vocabulary. So the more you practice this at times when you aren't feeling moments of conflict, then the more accessible this is in those moments because what happens is, it's a practice routine and you're able to borrow from that in moments when you're flustered rather than trying to come up with something completely novel in the moment. Also, you can use this list. This feelings list or this feelings wheel while you're having the fight. If you need a little cheat sheet to help you get through what you're trying to say. It also allows is enough of a pause to be able to evaluate what is happening and that gives you a moment to reset. And as a result, you frame things differently, that is able to result in a different outcome. In this chapter with Love Languages, what we're trying to do is introduce the concept developed by Gary Chapman and offer you a way to use it on a daily basis with your partner. So, in review the five love languages are touch, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and material gifts. Touch people love to hear and feel I love you with contact. They typically are affectionate people. They will come and give you that small kiss. They will give you the shoulder rub. They'll rub the cheek. They're very touchy-feely because that is how they are communicating I love you and communicating you matter. Words people like to hear I love you and you matter with words. I love you. You look great today. You look super sexy. Wow, you're looking yoked. Words are helpful in terms of feeling validated and that we matter. Quality time people love spending time together. Maybe they need to go shopping. Maybe they want to just go to a ball game. Maybe they just want to sit outside on the hammock but doing so with another person and spending that quality time together is what makes them feel loved. What makes them feel like they matter. Acts of service people, you can rename this almost as acts of love. Don't tell me you love me. Show me you love me. So what you want to do is ask your partner. If they're Acts, what kind of Acts really do it for them. Do they really want help around the house? Do they want you to remember to pick up after yourself? Show me you love me through acts of love. Typically, these people will make dinners. They'll clean up after the dinner. They'll clean the house. They'll make sure all the little things that make life work well are in order. That's how you know an acts of service person. Then you have material gifts. Material gifts is not materialism. It is a tangible expression of I love you and you matter. So let's take for example, my earrings. My earrings were given to me by my parents a long time ago. I remember my parents, every time I put on these earrings. Material gifts people like the tangibility of something that's permanent because it feels like they can always go back to that place and feel that felt sense of I matter. Imagine you have a little piggy bank and imagine your partner has a piggy bank. And now imagine your real bank account. If your bank account was always kind of just simmering at, you know, $5 and you put in your paycheck, but then you pay all your bills and your back to five dollars. It can feel exhausting to always be operating with only five dollars in your account, but it's a place that might be familiar for you. And hey, all your bills are paid so it's no big deal. However, if you get in a fight and you only have five dollars in your account, what happens is you overdraw. And it feels like now you're in the red and a pretty scary place. So when couples fight and their emotional piggy, banks are pretty empty, most of the time the fights feel more severe. The idea here is we want to fill the piggy banks on a daily basis. So A., we feel like we matter to one another. B., were giving our partner daily deposits of love and C., we're actually patting ourselves with a reserve so that if and when we fight, we have a lot more on the account. So that if we take $50 out, you know what, we still have two thousand in there and the repair feels easier. So, here are our piggy banks. My husband acts of service. Me, words and touch. When my husband writes a card for me, telling me all the ways that he appreciates me and finds gratitude in all the things that I do for the family. My heart warms. When he comes up to me and gives me small, kisses and hugs, my heart warms, when I make the bed, especially, super nice and neat because he's sort of a neat kind of guy his heart warms. When I surprised him with a beautiful meal, especially his favorite ones, his heart warms. So the idea is on a daily basis, can you challenge yourself to go put a deposit in your partner's piggy bank. I'll be honest. I'm not good at acts of service. I'm not good at making the bed and I'm a disaster in the kitchen. So when I go above and beyond to do this, it's a big silver dollar deposit, and vice versa. He's an internal processor, which you remember from a previous chapter. He marinates in his own mind. So for him to express themselves, verbally and tell me I matter and tell me that he loves me, sometimes, is a stretch for an internal processor, but he does it because those piggy bank deposits matter. Sometimes your partner's love language doesn't make any sense to you. That's not the point of this. The point of this is to actually know what the other person speaks so that you can help them matter in their language. Once we get rolling on this and our habit becomes easy and autopilot. Then we don't have to worry about how to remember this. As you think about your partner's piggy bank with the five love languages. You can brainstorm three things that would be meaningful for you. Three things that would be meaningful for them and then trade lists, make sure that the three things you select or actually the things your partner wants. I thought that my husband would be so delighted if I clean the kitchen, but actually, what was more important to him was our bedroom space. Because he felt like it was our relationship, our sacred space, and that the common spaces of the house were just sort of fair game as family space. So when I understood that it was more meaningful to our relationship and to him to do service related to the bedroom. I reordered, how I did my deposits into his emotional piggy bank. So in this chapter, the idea is to begin to build Goodwill and positive intentions into the relationship. Oftentimes people carry a lot of resentments from past wounds and past anger. So the concept we're about to introduce is a way to hopefully melt some of that resentment and fill in the void with good will and generosity. It's very easy to focus on all the areas that you are dissatisfied or things aren't working well in the relationship as opposed to when your mindset shifts to the things that you value and appreciate about your partner, you start to feel more open to making changes from a place that's more authentic within you. That's the only place that changes can happen. You can't convince your partner to change and your partner can't convince you to change. There has to be a free will and a choice to make a difference in how you show up in the relationship. Absent that, relationships usually will fall back to the patterns and problems that have plagued them for a longer period of time, but when people find their own reasons to say you are worth making the change. I'm going to make this change because it's important to me. Things are able to move forward in a much more efficient and smooth manner. And sustainable manner. So as you try to access this authentic desire to change one, for yourself to evolve up and be a better human in the world and two, because you want the relationship to survive and not just be sustaining but satisfying, we want to introduce this concept of culture of generosity where you go above and beyond for your partner and an effort to have the relationship level up. The idea of building in a culture of generosity is to counteract a culture of resentment. I'll start with the culture of resentment, then I'll speak a little bit to the culture of generosity. With a culture of resentment, what happens is you say, I'm angry about something. So I'm not going to give this thing to you. That is important, like, sex. I'm going to withhold sex because I'm angry. That's an example. There's a lot of other examples as well. So then as a result of me, not offering something, then my partner is going to feel resentment and they're not going to offer something to me that's important. Withholding ends up begetting withholding. And so, it creates a cycle where more and more, there's distance. There's resentment. There's frustration about how the relationship is going. One of the quickest ways, to reverse the direction of that cycle, and instead shift it to a cycle of generosity, and a positive feedback loop, Is to focus more on what you are giving then what you're getting. Giving really feels good. Especially if we're not tracking what we get. We're just tracking what we give. When we give from a place of obligation. There's a felt sense that it doesn't feel free and it doesn't feel authentic. There are strings attached to it. I'm giving this only because I expect something in return, or because I feel there will be, there will be consequences if I don't give this as opposed to giving from a place of free will. Yeah, so as a result of the necessity to build in this culture of generosity, one of the starting points to think about, as your first exercise around this task, is to come up with a few traits or aspects of your partner that you admire and appreciate. Why does your partner have value? You're with them for a reason and if you aren't able to articulate and get in touch with that value, it's really hard to know what you're fighting for, what you're going to make a change for, and in a cycle of resentment, those things become much more elusive. But when we highlight them, we begin to realize that our partner is very important to us. And so, we are going to make the effort, because we want to keep this person who has value to us rather than Then we have convinced ourselves that they are irrelevant and unimportant to us. So one of the challenges in this is not to look at your differences as grading, but as an asset. Ultimately, it's about finding the balance between your strengths and weaknesses as a couple. So, circling back to how this is valuable. I value his rigidity and his organizational skills, because he has a lot of solid boundaries. He keeps the relationship safe. He keeps it organized. He thinks of the things I just don't think about and those are a big asset to me and I recognized the need to sometimes let loose and just be in the moment to be able to have fun to throw the plan out and instead go with what's happening in the moment. And so your partner is there to push your buttons but also to highlight a different way of being and it's an opportunity to get out of your own stuck ways that you don't necessarily see and when you value the way that your partner is in the world, then you're more open to introducing the way your partner is in the world to how you interact in the world. So that's the main idea that we're trying to focus on with this module. As you set up for this exercise, get a piece of paper and think through three different things that you value in your partner. Either aspects they have traits they have or behaviors they manifest and keep those in mind as we move forward through this course because those are the things that you're going to return to in terms of valuing your partner, respecting your partner, and being able to access that authentic place to go above and beyond in this culture of generosity. In this next chapter, we're going to focus on ways to be able to communicate about your needs. One of the things that tends to happen for couples around needs is that needs feel very zero-sum. They end up in competition. I have a need, you have a need and if my need gets met yours doesn't if your need gets met, mine doesn't. And so we end up battling over circumstances and situations because it's representative of deeper needs that we have that often times we're not aware of. When we realize what our core needs are we're able to change the way we're communicating about them, and recognize there's a variety of ways to get our needs met so they can be collaborative rather than competitive and zero-sum. So what we're going to be doing around this is understanding ways to be able to level drop from the circumstance and the situation to instead be able to communicate about the core needs playing out and then from there identify a variety of solutions where both needs are honored and acknowledged. A very common one that we end up working with for couples is one person has a need or a want for sex. Another person has a want or a need to go to sleep. Now both are totally understandable and reasonable wants and needs. But what happens is it's 9:45. It's 10:00 at night and it's been a long day and the couple gets in bed and one partner goes, I'd really like to have sex right now. And I really need to go to bed. And so who wins? What's going to happen? In this particular conversation if my partner gets her needs met to go to bed. I don't get my want or need addressed around sex and if my partner stays up to to interact with my sexual want or need, then my partner has sacrificed what's true for them. And so oftentimes, there's conflict and tension around that. Which results in you don't think my needs important or, you know, I'm exhausted, why would you want me to stay awake and just do something that I'm not that into? It doesn't tend to go well. But if instead, we're able to say well, what are you really trying to get at? What is your core need around going to bed? My core need around going to bed is that I feel exhaustion and I also want to ensure that I get enough sleep because the kids get up early and I don't function well if I have less than eight hours of sleep. What I would say around my core needs in this particular situation is that I have a need for connection now and I also have a need for something that's a stress reliever and a release. This is a great side note. We're going to cover this in the later chapter and sexual intimacy, but understanding that sex is motivated usually by four different core need drivers; one, for connection, two, for skin-to-skin contact, three, for validation and desire feeling validated. and four to experience pleasure and orgasm or as Daniel mentioned, a release. When we know that those are, the four motivations we can ask ourselves; Well, am I just looking for the skin-to-skin? I don't really need the release or do I need the release? I want to feel that orgasm so I can have the release of all the yummy hormones, the dopamine and oxytocin that come with it so that I can feel good and relieve my cortisol, which is the stress hormone and then access sleep more easily. Or maybe I just feel like I need connection because we've been in different places all day. So Daniel is going to speak to a why he wants sex and see if the core need, one of those four drivers, can be met in an alternative way so that I can still get my need for sleep and he can get his need for whatever type of sex we choose. So let's say the core need underneath the driver for sex is connection. There's a variety of different ways that you're able to move into a place of rest, and I'm able to move into a place of connection. So one of them might be we could cuddle in bed as you're falling asleep. And then we have some physical intimacy in contact, but also you're able to move towards going to sleep because the core need is able to be much more collaborative, right? Maybe it's identifying a time when you would be available and have more energy. and more bandwidth to be able to connect. That would be the rain check. Thanks for the invitation tonight, I have nothing left in the tank, but if you invite me in the morning, I think I'll have a lot more reserves to engage with you, which is illustrating that connection with me, is important. Yes. And so, ultimately, I'm able to be more flexible because my core need is acknowledged and there's a way that it is going to be met even if it isn't right then and there in the moment. Another solution or another outcome of this is, let's do something quick 10-15 minutes and Daniel takes kids in the morning because he's happy to do so anyway, right? So basically as a result of changing the way we were talking about it. It's no longer does sex happened? Does sleep happen? Instead we were able to communicate on a different level around what was going on for us. What we were both needing, and in communicating about those core needs, we're able to find ways for those needs to be collaborative. So other core needs that tend to look like competitive circumstances, but can again, if you find the Venn diagram creative solution, they can be collaborative, include one, closeness and connection. Two, space. Three, validation feeling heard and feeling seen. Four, safety. Five, adventure and novelty, and six, pleasure. So, using sex as an example, again, adventure versus safety. Let's say I would love to have sex outside and do a little blindfolding and rope tying. And in terms of the safety piece, I want to make sure that we don't end up arrested or on the front page of the local newspaper or we are able to find a place that feels comfortable enough and doesn't feel inappropriate. In this circumstance, the person who has a greater need for safety has to get their needs met first because I'm not going to have my need for adventure met if he doesn't feel safe to meet me there. So I'm going to have to reach out to him and say, what do you need to feel safe? So that we can then insert in a little adventure when the container of safety is provided there's a lot more room to be flexible and open. It's important to understand our core needs as we fight and the roles we typically default to so that we can have better access to doing a fair fight and hopefully an easy repair. Oftentimes in emotionally focused therapy we look at the couple as one person being the pursuer and one person being the withdrawer, Daniel as the withdrawer, could be labeled the cat where when he feels activated, triggered his nervous system gets flooded and he tends to shut down be quiet and need some privacy. You notice a cat when it gets scared it usually runs away and wants to go hide under the bed. The other person the pursuer is like the dog, they're always playful. They have a lot of energy, but when they're activated, they're still playful. They still have a lot of energy and they tend to be anxious and paw at their partner to resolve the issue quickly. They want to talk it out and they want to talk it out ASAP. My core need, for instance, as a dog is to make sure the relationship feels safe as soon as possible. Daniel's core need as withdrawer or as a cat is to feel grounded and get his nervous system back into stability so he can actually meet me where I need to be met and process through the fight. Also to feel like it's on my terms to open that door. One of the ways that I describe the cat and the dog is that the cat is a door that opens outward. So dogs will try oftentimes, try to push on the door and that just ends up closing it more. Part of the task is to acknowledge what the other person is needing and what you're needing in order to be able to move forward with this. So for example, as somebody who tends to retreat, when there's conflict, part of what I have a core need for is space. And in that space, then that door can open outward. Part of what a partner who tends to reach out is looking for, is that connection and that safety. And so your that core need is around safety and connection. Both have to be addressed simultaneously. Now, in a lack of communication, there's a tension around who's need gets met with regards to that. But when this is a pattern that's understood and there's room to work with it. There's usually a way that both people can feel okay about the process. So I've learned in our relationship that if I keep pushing on the door, he's going to take more and more space. There's going to be longer time frame until we get it resolved. I've also worked with my anxiety to know that the relationship is safe, even when there is silence and space. So that I can give him the space, he needs and know and trust he will return at some point to navigate the fight on my end. What I've learned is that expressing that connection is still there. I love you. I need some space. But we'll finish talking about this and stating a specific amount of time. Provides that container of safety that we've referred to previously because you could go and entertain yourself for any amount of time because you know, that there will be a reconnection point because that has been verbally committed to. And so it's not just an endless amount of time. It's a specific amount of time to reset. So there's two concepts woven into this. There's the pursuer-withdrawer dynamic, in terms of dog, who likes to paw and push on the door and cat who likes to withdraw and hide but needs space for the door to open back up. So there's those dynamics and then the core need pertaining to cat and dog. Core need for connection. Core need for space. Particularly when we fight. So, understanding your roles as dog or cat, pursuer or withdrawer and then understanding the corn need pertaining to the animal that you are is really important. In this chapter, we're going to discuss an area that couples often times get stuck, which is about unspoken and hidden agendas. What tends to happen is that couples often times can feel when their partner has a hidden agenda and is not communicating it and so it doesn't feel totally safe having that conversation. You're going to feel a little weary, you're going to be a little apprehensive. And so you're going to be kind of wondering. What are you trying to say? What are you not saying underneath this. So a common area around this is what do you feel like for dinner, which people usually have a preference but they're avoiding stating their preference. So what ends up happening, is they ask their partner, a question. What do you feel like for dinner? Hey, do you think Mexican food sounds good? And what I'm really saying is I really want to go get Mexican food, but I'm not flat out saying it and so in the absence of flat out saying it, I'm putting a loaded question out there because I have a hidden agenda but I'm not owning it. And so, one of the things that's really important is to recognize that this was a simple example, but that can play out in very different areas as well. Let's say with regards to sex. Yes, I was going to go right there. Okay. So what would you like to do in the bedroom? Right? Does that feel safe to answer? I actually know what I want to do, but I might not want to say it out loud or one or the other partner might not want to say it out loud for fear of rejection, or they're also testing and checking in with where the other person's at before it feels safe to share their own feelings. So, one of the ways to counteract this is to own your own wants and desires as completely selfish. Now in reality, they might be selfish. They might be completely reasonable. It doesn't matter. But if you own them in the selfish game, what ends up happening is, there's permission to put the cards on the table and then discuss what those cards look like if all of them are played out. I think it's also important to note that for people who tend to be people pleasers, being selfish feels really dangerous. So if you grew up in an environment, say in childhood, where things were unsafe, maybe there was an alcoholic parent or things were just emotionally chaotic and you had to read your environment on a daily basis and make sure you were the one to keep the peace or you self-assigned yourself to keep the peace. What happens is, you put your needs way on the back burner, maybe in the back closet, may be stored away in the garage and you are looking at everybody else's needs so that the safety of the whole family can go forward, what happens then is that defense mechanism that adaptive strategy in terms of being a people pleaser or a person who makes an environment safe continues forward into adulthood and then advocating for your needs of being selfish actually feels really foreign and really dangerous. So if you find yourself to be in this category, go slow at this exercise and really give yourself a lot of permission that you did need that defense mechanism to help you get through your childhood. You did need to put your needs in the closet and help the environment be safe. But now that you're an adult and things are safe. Can you have compassion for yourself to actually feel the safety to name that need, especially in this selfish conversation. To tie in with that, it's also important to recognize that you have those needs, no matter how buried they are, and they're going to play out in one way or the other. What this does is it brings it out into the light and makes it an explicit statement about it rather than the hidden agenda that we were talking about. So the selfish game, how does it work? What you would say is selfishly? Here's what I want for this weekend selfishly. I want to sleep in until 9:30 selfishly. I want to go out to dinner rather than cook selfishly. I want to watch whatever movie. I want to watch even if you don't like it, but you'd still sit with me. So, as an example, we're going to walk through this exercise in terms of being selfish with any particular evening. Let's do tonight. For example, selfishly. What would you like? Selfishly? I would like to do. Takeout Thai food. I would like to have the kids in bed a little bit earlier. So, we have time to watch a movie and then after the movie, I'd love to get in the hot tub for a little bit and relax and then maybe go to the bedroom and connect. Okay. selfishly I would like to have a lot of vegetables. Selfishly. I would like to also put the kids to bed and do hot tub selfishly. I'd like to have time to read my book. Okay. So one of the things is that once you've put your selfish wants and needs out there, then there's room to collaborate because there's no hidden agenda around the timeframe of everything. So, okay. We can order Thai food, and make sure we order a number of dishes that have a lot of vegetables in them. We're both in agreement around putting the kids to bed a little bit early. So we have a little bit more time. It sounds like we're in agreement around the hot tub and also it sounds like what I want is to watch a movie and you want to read your book. And so there's room to be able to do something separate in that. I don't have to watch my movie with you. You don't need me to read your book. Yes, and so, We're able to identify where our selfish wants overlap, and where they're compatible, and where they can be met on our own, in a way that doesn't involve our partner. I'm also willing to find compromise with this and watch a show that shorter so that we still have TV time together and I can have time for my book and if there's still time and still inspiration, we can make love. And so ultimately, as a result of being able to communicate about your selfish wants, start to realize the multitude of ways that those wants can get addressed rather than I have an agenda. It doesn't feel safe to state it. I'm gonna hope this happens, but I don't really think it will and then there's disappointment when you don't mind read what I wanted and I end up disappointed. It's a really great point in terms of we're not mind readers. So, when I asked, what do you selfishly want Daniel? I'm giving him permission. Maybe he's the partner who is more of a people pleaser and puts his needs in the closet and I'm really giving him extra permission because this is a team sport and the team sport, if I'm not the typical people pleaser. I can help my partner access that extra level of permission to name their needs. Now, if you're a beginner at this exercise, what I would suggest doing is that you each take a night where you get to be selfish and do the selfish conversation. So Monday, Wednesday, Friday partner a gets to say this is how the night looks selfishly. And then Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday partner B gets to have the selfish conversation and outline how the night looks and then maybe on Sunday, you attempt doing a collaboration of selfish needs and seeing where the Venn diagram overlaps. In this chapter, we're going to offer a different way of communicating. That will often times result in much less defensiveness and much more openness to hearing what your partner is experiencing and also changing the way you tend to communicate and share information that is bothering you around a relationship. No one wins when we do this. This is the blame game, what we want to be looking at are the three fingers coming back at you so that we can take responsibility and ownership for our feelings, our experiences and our assumptions. Oftentimes therapy, you know, suggestions focus on I statements and I statements have value. The idea is that you're focusing on what's true for you rather than just pointing the finger. The problem with I statements is that you can still say I feel like you're being a jerk and that's not that different than saying you're being a jerk. A different way of framing it is taking the word you out. To this, this section is called I without you. So, if I can say a sentence and not use the word you, I'm going to communicate it in a very different way than if I'm using blaming language. So for example, I feel jerked around is a very different way to frame it. Maybe my partner is jerking me around, maybe I'm just feeling jerked around because that's what I'm feeling and my partner isn't doing anything to contribute to that. It's all just my own stuff. So it's much harder to blame the other person if you take the word, you, out. One of the reasons why I think when you take the word you out, it has a very different feeling, is that you're not You're not making the other person the definitive recipient of that feeling or the perpetrator or the perpetrator. And so if you are communicating in a particular way that assumes it's the other person's fault. That's really different than, maybe it's the other person's fault, maybe it's not, it doesn't matter. It's what you're experiencing. I think what it does is, it brings down the intensity level, a few notches. So that more personal responsibility can be accessed well, and it also gives you a chance to reality check. Am I feeling this? Because I usually feel this in a lot of context, or this is unique to this particular situation with my partner right now. So using the Baby Buggy example. If we were to rewind and look at that. A better way of editing that, and by the way, I'm always a big advocate for if the fight didn't go, well, ask for an edit and to do it all over again so that you can try again with your language. We can edit in the moment and we can edit years later. So let's do a years later edit on that baby gate. The same baby is now 6. So I'm really confused why this gate doesn't fit into the banister. Okay, I want to be trusted because I have done a lot of research on why this baby gate doesn't work. I hear that. And I'm struggling to trust this process because I feel really in the dark. Okay. I'm happy to walk through some of these steps, if that would be helpful. So one of the reasons why the baby gate doesn't work is that we have a banister and a wall and the baby gate needs two walls to be able to attach and the banister doesn't have the anchor points to be able to attach the gate. Does that make sense? That makes sense. I guess I also feel sad and I'm noticing my storyline of scarcity around, we've got this gift, it feels like a waste to just throw it away and I'm wondering if there's other creative ways to do a workaround to still make the gate work. We could possibly find another spot for it or we could also reach out to other people who are also having babies we have a number of friends who are in the same position. We could probably find somebody else who maybe has a baby gate that would work for our situation and ours would work for theirs. Great, I feel good with that. I feel good at that, I can work with that as well. So, that's an important moment because does that feel good for you? There's a bit of a loaded implication with that question, right? It's putting a lot of responsibility on me because if it doesn't feel good to me, then my partner's disappointed, if it does feel good to me, then there's an expectation around it rather than just stating what's true for yourself involving the other person and sort of putting the feeler out and focusing on them puts a lot of burden on them to answer the right way. I notice for that in, that particular conflict. I had two main issues to take responsibility for which were; one, my confusion around why it didn't work and my lack of trust without information and then also my own very old story line around wanting to not be wasteful with material items and therefore not wanting to just throw away a gift like this because it didn't work. Right. And for me, it was that I had put a lot of effort in and I wanted my effort to be acknowledged. I had thought about it. I had looked at it. I pulled out tools. I had read through instruction manuals. And so it was something that I had spent effort on and even though there wasn't anything to show for it, I wanted some credit and acknowledgement around that that effort. And I also wanted to be trusted in terms of my competency and the contribution that I had put in. And so I think when you're able to understand what you needed in a conflict, you're able to circle back and recognize that often times is a common theme that will play out in other conflicts as well. In this chapter we talked about feelings. If you're a couple where you feel like you have a limited vocabulary around feeling words. This is a good chapter for you in terms of expanding your vocabulary list so that you have more access to more words and your partner can further understand you. I think one of the pieces around this is that oftentimes, in the moment, people don't have access to the way that they want to be able to express themselves. There's a lot of different reasons around this. But one of the things that we know from a lot of research is that when people get flooded, when they get activated, when they're nervous, scared, angry, what happens in that moment is that your ability to think through and and communicate effectively plummets. Your cognitive capacity shuts down. So you lose your ability to think logically and access your vocabulary. So the more you practice this at times when you aren't feeling moments of conflict, then the more accessible this is in those moments because what happens is, it's a practice routine and you're able to borrow from that in moments when you're flustered rather than trying to come up with something completely novel in the moment. Also, you can use this list. This feelings list or this feelings wheel while you're having the fight. If you need a little cheat sheet to help you get through what you're trying to say. It also allows is enough of a pause to be able to evaluate what is happening and that gives you a moment to reset. And as a result, you frame things differently, that is able to result in a different outcome. In this chapter with Love Languages, what we're trying to do is introduce the concept developed by Gary Chapman and offer you a way to use it on a daily basis with your partner. So, in review the five love languages are touch, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and material gifts. Touch people love to hear and feel I love you with contact. They typically are affectionate people. They will come and give you that small kiss. They will give you the shoulder rub. They'll rub the cheek. They're very touchy-feely because that is how they are communicating I love you and communicating you matter. Words people like to hear I love you and you matter with words. I love you. You look great today. You look super sexy. Wow, you're looking yoked. Words are helpful in terms of feeling validated and that we matter. Quality time people love spending time together. Maybe they need to go shopping. Maybe they want to just go to a ball game. Maybe they just want to sit outside on the hammock but doing so with another person and spending that quality time together is what makes them feel loved. What makes them feel like they matter. Acts of service people, you can rename this almost as acts of love. Don't tell me you love me. Show me you love me. So what you want to do is ask your partner. If they're Acts, what kind of Acts really do it for them. Do they really want help around the house? Do they want you to remember to pick up after yourself? Show me you love me through acts of love. Typically, these people will make dinners. They'll clean up after the dinner. They'll clean the house. They'll make sure all the little things that make life work well are in order. That's how you know an acts of service person. Then you have material gifts. Material gifts is not materialism. It is a tangible expression of I love you and you matter. So let's take for example, my earrings. My earrings were given to me by my parents a long time ago. I remember my parents, every time I put on these earrings. Material gifts people like the tangibility of something that's permanent because it feels like they can always go back to that place and feel that felt sense of I matter. Imagine you have a little piggy bank and imagine your partner has a piggy bank. And now imagine your real bank account. If your bank account was always kind of just simmering at, you know, $5 and you put in your paycheck, but then you pay all your bills and your back to five dollars. It can feel exhausting to always be operating with only five dollars in your account, but it's a place that might be familiar for you. And hey, all your bills are paid so it's no big deal. However, if you get in a fight and you only have five dollars in your account, what happens is you overdraw. And it feels like now you're in the red and a pretty scary place. So when couples fight and their emotional piggy, banks are pretty empty, most of the time the fights feel more severe. The idea here is we want to fill the piggy banks on a daily basis. So A., we feel like we matter to one another. B., were giving our partner daily deposits of love and C., we're actually patting ourselves with a reserve so that if and when we fight, we have a lot more on the account. So that if we take $50 out, you know what, we still have two thousand in there and the repair feels easier. So, here are our piggy banks. My husband acts of service. Me, words and touch. When my husband writes a card for me, telling me all the ways that he appreciates me and finds gratitude in all the things that I do for the family. My heart warms. When he comes up to me and gives me small, kisses and hugs, my heart warms, when I make the bed, especially, super nice and neat because he's sort of a neat kind of guy his heart warms. When I surprised him with a beautiful meal, especially his favorite ones, his heart warms. So the idea is on a daily basis, can you challenge yourself to go put a deposit in your partner's piggy bank. I'll be honest. I'm not good at acts of service. I'm not good at making the bed and I'm a disaster in the kitchen. So when I go above and beyond to do this, it's a big silver dollar deposit, and vice versa. He's an internal processor, which you remember from a previous chapter. He marinates in his own mind. So for him to express themselves, verbally and tell me I matter and tell me that he loves me, sometimes, is a stretch for an internal processor, but he does it because those piggy bank deposits matter. Sometimes your partner's love language doesn't make any sense to you. That's not the point of this. The point of this is to actually know what the other person speaks so that you can help them matter in their language. Once we get rolling on this and our habit becomes easy and autopilot. Then we don't have to worry about how to remember this. As you think about your partner's piggy bank with the five love languages. You can brainstorm three things that would be meaningful for you. Three things that would be meaningful for them and then trade lists, make sure that the three things you select or actually the things your partner wants. I thought that my husband would be so delighted if I clean the kitchen, but actually, what was more important to him was our bedroom space. Because he felt like it was our relationship, our sacred space, and that the common spaces of the house were just sort of fair game as family space. So when I understood that it was more meaningful to our relationship and to him to do service related to the bedroom. I reordered, how I did my deposits into his emotional piggy bank. So in this chapter, the idea is to begin to build Goodwill and positive intentions into the relationship. Oftentimes people carry a lot of resentments from past wounds and past anger. So the concept we're about to introduce is a way to hopefully melt some of that resentment and fill in the void with good will and generosity. It's very easy to focus on all the areas that you are dissatisfied or things aren't working well in the relationship as opposed to when your mindset shifts to the things that you value and appreciate about your partner, you start to feel more open to making changes from a place that's more authentic within you. That's the only place that changes can happen. You can't convince your partner to change and your partner can't convince you to change. There has to be a free will and a choice to make a difference in how you show up in the relationship. Absent that, relationships usually will fall back to the patterns and problems that have plagued them for a longer period of time, but when people find their own reasons to say you are worth making the change. I'm going to make this change because it's important to me. Things are able to move forward in a much more efficient and smooth manner. And sustainable manner. So as you try to access this authentic desire to change one, for yourself to evolve up and be a better human in the world and two, because you want the relationship to survive and not just be sustaining but satisfying, we want to introduce this concept of culture of generosity where you go above and beyond for your partner and an effort to have the relationship level up. The idea of building in a culture of generosity is to counteract a culture of resentment. I'll start with the culture of resentment, then I'll speak a little bit to the culture of generosity. With a culture of resentment, what happens is you say, I'm angry about something. So I'm not going to give this thing to you. That is important, like, sex. I'm going to withhold sex because I'm angry. That's an example. There's a lot of other examples as well. So then as a result of me, not offering something, then my partner is going to feel resentment and they're not going to offer something to me that's important. Withholding ends up begetting withholding. And so, it creates a cycle where more and more, there's distance. There's resentment. There's frustration about how the relationship is going. One of the quickest ways, to reverse the direction of that cycle, and instead shift it to a cycle of generosity, and a positive feedback loop, Is to focus more on what you are giving then what you're getting. Giving really feels good. Especially if we're not tracking what we get. We're just tracking what we give. When we give from a place of obligation. There's a felt sense that it doesn't feel free and it doesn't feel authentic. There are strings attached to it. I'm giving this only because I expect something in return, or because I feel there will be, there will be consequences if I don't give this as opposed to giving from a place of free will. Yeah, so as a result of the necessity to build in this culture of generosity, one of the starting points to think about, as your first exercise around this task, is to come up with a few traits or aspects of your partner that you admire and appreciate. Why does your partner have value? You're with them for a reason and if you aren't able to articulate and get in touch with that value, it's really hard to know what you're fighting for, what you're going to make a change for, and in a cycle of resentment, those things become much more elusive. But when we highlight them, we begin to realize that our partner is very important to us. And so, we are going to make the effort, because we want to keep this person who has value to us rather than Then we have convinced ourselves that they are irrelevant and unimportant to us. So one of the challenges in this is not to look at your differences as grading, but as an asset. Ultimately, it's about finding the balance between your strengths and weaknesses as a couple. So, circling back to how this is valuable. I value his rigidity and his organizational skills, because he has a lot of solid boundaries. He keeps the relationship safe. He keeps it organized. He thinks of the things I just don't think about and those are a big asset to me and I recognized the need to sometimes let loose and just be in the moment to be able to have fun to throw the plan out and instead go with what's happening in the moment. And so your partner is there to push your buttons but also to highlight a different way of being and it's an opportunity to get out of your own stuck ways that you don't necessarily see and when you value the way that your partner is in the world, then you're more open to introducing the way your partner is in the world to how you interact in the world. So that's the main idea that we're trying to focus on with this module. As you set up for this exercise, get a piece of paper and think through three different things that you value in your partner. Either aspects they have traits they have or behaviors they manifest and keep those in mind as we move forward through this course because those are the things that you're going to return to in terms of valuing your partner, respecting your partner, and being able to access that authentic place to go above and beyond in this culture of generosity. In this next chapter, we're going to focus on ways to be able to communicate about your needs. One of the things that tends to happen for couples around needs is that needs feel very zero-sum. They end up in competition. I have a need, you have a need and if my need gets met yours doesn't if your need gets met, mine doesn't. And so we end up battling over circumstances and situations because it's representative of deeper needs that we have that often times we're not aware of. When we realize what our core needs are we're able to change the way we're communicating about them, and recognize there's a variety of ways to get our needs met so they can be collaborative rather than competitive and zero-sum. So what we're going to be doing around this is understanding ways to be able to level drop from the circumstance and the situation to instead be able to communicate about the core needs playing out and then from there identify a variety of solutions where both needs are honored and acknowledged. A very common one that we end up working with for couples is one person has a need or a want for sex. Another person has a want or a need to go to sleep. Now both are totally understandable and reasonable wants and needs. But what happens is it's 9:45. It's 10:00 at night and it's been a long day and the couple gets in bed and one partner goes, I'd really like to have sex right now. And I really need to go to bed. And so who wins? What's going to happen? In this particular conversation if my partner gets her needs met to go to bed. I don't get my want or need addressed around sex and if my partner stays up to to interact with my sexual want or need, then my partner has sacrificed what's true for them. And so oftentimes, there's conflict and tension around that. Which results in you don't think my needs important or, you know, I'm exhausted, why would you want me to stay awake and just do something that I'm not that into? It doesn't tend to go well. But if instead, we're able to say well, what are you really trying to get at? What is your core need around going to bed? My core need around going to bed is that I feel exhaustion and I also want to ensure that I get enough sleep because the kids get up early and I don't function well if I have less than eight hours of sleep. What I would say around my core needs in this particular situation is that I have a need for connection now and I also have a need for something that's a stress reliever and a release. This is a great side note. We're going to cover this in the later chapter and sexual intimacy, but understanding that sex is motivated usually by four different core need drivers; one, for connection, two, for skin-to-skin contact, three, for validation and desire feeling validated. and four to experience pleasure and orgasm or as Daniel mentioned, a release. When we know that those are, the four motivations we can ask ourselves; Well, am I just looking for the skin-to-skin? I don't really need the release or do I need the release? I want to feel that orgasm so I can have the release of all the yummy hormones, the dopamine and oxytocin that come with it so that I can feel good and relieve my cortisol, which is the stress hormone and then access sleep more easily. Or maybe I just feel like I need connection because we've been in different places all day. So Daniel is going to speak to a why he wants sex and see if the core need, one of those four drivers, can be met in an alternative way so that I can still get my need for sleep and he can get his need for whatever type of sex we choose. So let's say the core need underneath the driver for sex is connection. There's a variety of different ways that you're able to move into a place of rest, and I'm able to move into a place of connection. So one of them might be we could cuddle in bed as you're falling asleep. And then we have some physical intimacy in contact, but also you're able to move towards going to sleep because the core need is able to be much more collaborative, right? Maybe it's identifying a time when you would be available and have more energy. and more bandwidth to be able to connect. That would be the rain check. Thanks for the invitation tonight, I have nothing left in the tank, but if you invite me in the morning, I think I'll have a lot more reserves to engage with you, which is illustrating that connection with me, is important. Yes. And so, ultimately, I'm able to be more flexible because my core need is acknowledged and there's a way that it is going to be met even if it isn't right then and there in the moment. Another solution or another outcome of this is, let's do something quick 10-15 minutes and Daniel takes kids in the morning because he's happy to do so anyway, right? So basically as a result of changing the way we were talking about it. It's no longer does sex happened? Does sleep happen? Instead we were able to communicate on a different level around what was going on for us. What we were both needing, and in communicating about those core needs, we're able to find ways for those needs to be collaborative. So other core needs that tend to look like competitive circumstances, but can again, if you find the Venn diagram creative solution, they can be collaborative, include one, closeness and connection. Two, space. Three, validation feeling heard and feeling seen. Four, safety. Five, adventure and novelty, and six, pleasure. So, using sex as an example, again, adventure versus safety. Let's say I would love to have sex outside and do a little blindfolding and rope tying. And in terms of the safety piece, I want to make sure that we don't end up arrested or on the front page of the local newspaper or we are able to find a place that feels comfortable enough and doesn't feel inappropriate. In this circumstance, the person who has a greater need for safety has to get their needs met first because I'm not going to have my need for adventure met if he doesn't feel safe to meet me there. So I'm going to have to reach out to him and say, what do you need to feel safe? So that we can then insert in a little adventure when the container of safety is provided there's a lot more room to be flexible and open. It's important to understand our core needs as we fight and the roles we typically default to so that we can have better access to doing a fair fight and hopefully an easy repair. Oftentimes in emotionally focused therapy we look at the couple as one person being the pursuer and one person being the withdrawer, Daniel as the withdrawer, could be labeled the cat where when he feels activated, triggered his nervous system gets flooded and he tends to shut down be quiet and need some privacy. You notice a cat when it gets scared it usually runs away and wants to go hide under the bed. The other person the pursuer is like the dog, they're always playful. They have a lot of energy, but when they're activated, they're still playful. They still have a lot of energy and they tend to be anxious and paw at their partner to resolve the issue quickly. They want to talk it out and they want to talk it out ASAP. My core need, for instance, as a dog is to make sure the relationship feels safe as soon as possible. Daniel's core need as withdrawer or as a cat is to feel grounded and get his nervous system back into stability so he can actually meet me where I need to be met and process through the fight. Also to feel like it's on my terms to open that door. One of the ways that I describe the cat and the dog is that the cat is a door that opens outward. So dogs will try oftentimes, try to push on the door and that just ends up closing it more. Part of the task is to acknowledge what the other person is needing and what you're needing in order to be able to move forward with this. So for example, as somebody who tends to retreat, when there's conflict, part of what I have a core need for is space. And in that space, then that door can open outward. Part of what a partner who tends to reach out is looking for, is that connection and that safety. And so your that core need is around safety and connection. Both have to be addressed simultaneously. Now, in a lack of communication, there's a tension around who's need gets met with regards to that. But when this is a pattern that's understood and there's room to work with it. There's usually a way that both people can feel okay about the process. So I've learned in our relationship that if I keep pushing on the door, he's going to take more and more space. There's going to be longer time frame until we get it resolved. I've also worked with my anxiety to know that the relationship is safe, even when there is silence and space. So that I can give him the space, he needs and know and trust he will return at some point to navigate the fight on my end. What I've learned is that expressing that connection is still there. I love you. I need some space. But we'll finish talking about this and stating a specific amount of time. Provides that container of safety that we've referred to previously because you could go and entertain yourself for any amount of time because you know, that there will be a reconnection point because that has been verbally committed to. And so it's not just an endless amount of time. It's a specific amount of time to reset. So there's two concepts woven into this. There's the pursuer-withdrawer dynamic, in terms of dog, who likes to paw and push on the door and cat who likes to withdraw and hide but needs space for the door to open back up. So there's those dynamics and then the core need pertaining to cat and dog. Core need for connection. Core need for space. Particularly when we fight. So, understanding your roles as dog or cat, pursuer or withdrawer and then understanding the corn need pertaining to the animal that you are is really important. In this chapter, we're going to discuss an area that couples often times get stuck, which is about unspoken and hidden agendas. What tends to happen is that couples often times can feel when their partner has a hidden agenda and is not communicating it and so it doesn't feel totally safe having that conversation. You're going to feel a little weary, you're going to be a little apprehensive. And so you're going to be kind of wondering. What are you trying to say? What are you not saying underneath this. So a common area around this is what do you feel like for dinner, which people usually have a preference but they're avoiding stating their preference. So what ends up happening, is they ask their partner, a question. What do you feel like for dinner? Hey, do you think Mexican food sounds good? And what I'm really saying is I really want to go get Mexican food, but I'm not flat out saying it and so in the absence of flat out saying it, I'm putting a loaded question out there because I have a hidden agenda but I'm not owning it. And so, one of the things that's really important is to recognize that this was a simple example, but that can play out in very different areas as well. Let's say with regards to sex. Yes, I was going to go right there. Okay. So what would you like to do in the bedroom? Right? Does that feel safe to answer? I actually know what I want to do, but I might not want to say it out loud or one or the other partner might not want to say it out loud for fear of rejection, or they're also testing and checking in with where the other person's at before it feels safe to share their own feelings. So, one of the ways to counteract this is to own your own wants and desires as completely selfish. Now in reality, they might be selfish. They might be completely reasonable. It doesn't matter. But if you own them in the selfish game, what ends up happening is, there's permission to put the cards on the table and then discuss what those cards look like if all of them are played out. I think it's also important to note that for people who tend to be people pleasers, being selfish feels really dangerous. So if you grew up in an environment, say in childhood, where things were unsafe, maybe there was an alcoholic parent or things were just emotionally chaotic and you had to read your environment on a daily basis and make sure you were the one to keep the peace or you self-assigned yourself to keep the peace. What happens is, you put your needs way on the back burner, maybe in the back closet, may be stored away in the garage and you are looking at everybody else's needs so that the safety of the whole family can go forward, what happens then is that defense mechanism that adaptive strategy in terms of being a people pleaser or a person who makes an environment safe continues forward into adulthood and then advocating for your needs of being selfish actually feels really foreign and really dangerous. So if you find yourself to be in this category, go slow at this exercise and really give yourself a lot of permission that you did need that defense mechanism to help you get through your childhood. You did need to put your needs in the closet and help the environment be safe. But now that you're an adult and things are safe. Can you have compassion for yourself to actually feel the safety to name that need, especially in this selfish conversation. To tie in with that, it's also important to recognize that you have those needs, no matter how buried they are, and they're going to play out in one way or the other. What this does is it brings it out into the light and makes it an explicit statement about it rather than the hidden agenda that we were talking about. So the selfish game, how does it work? What you would say is selfishly? Here's what I want for this weekend selfishly. I want to sleep in until 9:30 selfishly. I want to go out to dinner rather than cook selfishly. I want to watch whatever movie. I want to watch even if you don't like it, but you'd still sit with me. So, as an example, we're going to walk through this exercise in terms of being selfish with any particular evening. Let's do tonight. For example, selfishly. What would you like? Selfishly? I would like to do. Takeout Thai food. I would like to have the kids in bed a little bit earlier. So, we have time to watch a movie and then after the movie, I'd love to get in the hot tub for a little bit and relax and then maybe go to the bedroom and connect. Okay. selfishly I would like to have a lot of vegetables. Selfishly. I would like to also put the kids to bed and do hot tub selfishly. I'd like to have time to read my book. Okay. So one of the things is that once you've put your selfish wants and needs out there, then there's room to collaborate because there's no hidden agenda around the timeframe of everything. So, okay. We can order Thai food, and make sure we order a number of dishes that have a lot of vegetables in them. We're both in agreement around putting the kids to bed a little bit early. So we have a little bit more time. It sounds like we're in agreement around the hot tub and also it sounds like what I want is to watch a movie and you want to read your book. And so there's room to be able to do something separate in that. I don't have to watch my movie with you. You don't need me to read your book. Yes, and so, We're able to identify where our selfish wants overlap, and where they're compatible, and where they can be met on our own, in a way that doesn't involve our partner. I'm also willing to find compromise with this and watch a show that shorter so that we still have TV time together and I can have time for my book and if there's still time and still inspiration, we can make love. And so ultimately, as a result of being able to communicate about your selfish wants, start to realize the multitude of ways that those wants can get addressed rather than I have an agenda. It doesn't feel safe to state it. I'm gonna hope this happens, but I don't really think it will and then there's disappointment when you don't mind read what I wanted and I end up disappointed. It's a really great point in terms of we're not mind readers. So, when I asked, what do you selfishly want Daniel? I'm giving him permission. Maybe he's the partner who is more of a people pleaser and puts his needs in the closet and I'm really giving him extra permission because this is a team sport and the team sport, if I'm not the typical people pleaser. I can help my partner access that extra level of permission to name their needs. Now, if you're a beginner at this exercise, what I would suggest doing is that you each take a night where you get to be selfish and do the selfish conversation. So Monday, Wednesday, Friday partner a gets to say this is how the night looks selfishly. And then Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday partner B gets to have the selfish conversation and outline how the night looks and then maybe on Sunday, you attempt doing a collaboration of selfish needs and seeing where the Venn diagram overlaps. In this chapter we talked about feelings. If you're a couple where you feel like you have a limited vocabulary around feeling words. This is a good chapter for you in terms of expanding your vocabulary list so that you have more access to more words and your partner can further understand you. I think one of the pieces around this is that oftentimes, in the moment, people don't have access to the way that they want to be able to express themselves. There's a lot of different reasons around this. But one of the things that we know from a lot of research is that when people get flooded, when they get activated, when they're nervous, scared, angry, what happens in that moment is that your ability to think through and and communicate effectively plummets. Your cognitive capacity shuts down. So you lose your ability to think logically and access your vocabulary. So the more you practice this at times when you aren't feeling moments of conflict, then the more accessible this is in those moments because what happens is, it's a practice routine and you're able to borrow from that in moments when you're flustered rather than trying to come up with something completely novel in the moment. Also, you can use this list. This feelings list or this feelings wheel while you're having the fight. If you need a little cheat sheet to help you get through what you're trying to say. It also allows is enough of a pause to be able to evaluate what is happening and that gives you a moment to reset. And as a result, you frame things differently, that is able to result in a different outcome. In this chapter with Love Languages, what we're trying to do is introduce the concept developed by Gary Chapman and offer you a way to use it on a daily basis with your partner. So, in review the five love languages are touch, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and material gifts. Touch people love to hear and feel I love you with contact. They typically are affectionate people. They will come and give you that small kiss. They will give you the shoulder rub. They'll rub the cheek. They're very touchy-feely because that is how they are communicating I love you and communicating you matter. Words people like to hear I love you and you matter with words. I love you. You look great today. You look super sexy. Wow, you're looking yoked. Words are helpful in terms of feeling validated and that we matter. Quality time people love spending time together. Maybe they need to go shopping. Maybe they want to just go to a ball game. Maybe they just want to sit outside on the hammock but doing so with another person and spending that quality time together is what makes them feel loved. What makes them feel like they matter. Acts of service people, you can rename this almost as acts of love. Don't tell me you love me. Show me you love me. So what you want to do is ask your partner. If they're Acts, what kind of Acts really do it for them. Do they really want help around the house? Do they want you to remember to pick up after yourself? Show me you love me through acts of love. Typically, these people will make dinners. They'll clean up after the dinner. They'll clean the house. They'll make sure all the little things that make life work well are in order. That's how you know an acts of service person. Then you have material gifts. Material gifts is not materialism. It is a tangible expression of I love you and you matter. So let's take for example, my earrings. My earrings were given to me by my parents a long time ago. I remember my parents, every time I put on these earrings. Material gifts people like the tangibility of something that's permanent because it feels like they can always go back to that place and feel that felt sense of I matter. Imagine you have a little piggy bank and imagine your partner has a piggy bank. And now imagine your real bank account. If your bank account was always kind of just simmering at, you know, $5 and you put in your paycheck, but then you pay all your bills and your back to five dollars. It can feel exhausting to always be operating with only five dollars in your account, but it's a place that might be familiar for you. And hey, all your bills are paid so it's no big deal. However, if you get in a fight and you only have five dollars in your account, what happens is you overdraw. And it feels like now you're in the red and a pretty scary place. So when couples fight and their emotional piggy, banks are pretty empty, most of the time the fights feel more severe. The idea here is we want to fill the piggy banks on a daily basis. So A., we feel like we matter to one another. B., were giving our partner daily deposits of love and C., we're actually patting ourselves with a reserve so that if and when we fight, we have a lot more on the account. So that if we take $50 out, you know what, we still have two thousand in there and the repair feels easier. So, here are our piggy banks. My husband acts of service. Me, words and touch. When my husband writes a card for me, telling me all the ways that he appreciates me and finds gratitude in all the things that I do for the family. My heart warms. When he comes up to me and gives me small, kisses and hugs, my heart warms, when I make the bed, especially, super nice and neat because he's sort of a neat kind of guy his heart warms. When I surprised him with a beautiful meal, especially his favorite ones, his heart warms. So the idea is on a daily basis, can you challenge yourself to go put a deposit in your partner's piggy bank. I'll be honest. I'm not good at acts of service. I'm not good at making the bed and I'm a disaster in the kitchen. So when I go above and beyond to do this, it's a big silver dollar deposit, and vice versa. He's an internal processor, which you remember from a previous chapter. He marinates in his own mind. So for him to express themselves, verbally and tell me I matter and tell me that he loves me, sometimes, is a stretch for an internal processor, but he does it because those piggy bank deposits matter. Sometimes your partner's love language doesn't make any sense to you. That's not the point of this. The point of this is to actually know what the other person speaks so that you can help them matter in their language. Once we get rolling on this and our habit becomes easy and autopilot. Then we don't have to worry about how to remember this. As you think about your partner's piggy bank with the five love languages. You can brainstorm three things that would be meaningful for you. Three things that would be meaningful for them and then trade lists, make sure that the three things you select or actually the things your partner wants. I thought that my husband would be so delighted if I clean the kitchen, but actually, what was more important to him was our bedroom space. Because he felt like it was our relationship, our sacred space, and that the common spaces of the house were just sort of fair game as family space. So when I understood that it was more meaningful to our relationship and to him to do service related to the bedroom. I reordered, how I did my deposits into his emotional piggy bank. So in this chapter, the idea is to begin to build Goodwill and positive intentions into the relationship. Oftentimes people carry a lot of resentments from past wounds and past anger. So the concept we're about to introduce is a way to hopefully melt some of that resentment and fill in the void with good will and generosity. It's very easy to focus on all the areas that you are dissatisfied or things aren't working well in the relationship as opposed to when your mindset shifts to the things that you value and appreciate about your partner, you start to feel more open to making changes from a place that's more authentic within you. That's the only place that changes can happen. You can't convince your partner to change and your partner can't convince you to change. There has to be a free will and a choice to make a difference in how you show up in the relationship. Absent that, relationships usually will fall back to the patterns and problems that have plagued them for a longer period of time, but when people find their own reasons to say you are worth making the change. I'm going to make this change because it's important to me. Things are able to move forward in a much more efficient and smooth manner. And sustainable manner. So as you try to access this authentic desire to change one, for yourself to evolve up and be a better human in the world and two, because you want the relationship to survive and not just be sustaining but satisfying, we want to introduce this concept of culture of generosity where you go above and beyond for your partner and an effort to have the relationship level up. The idea of building in a culture of generosity is to counteract a culture of resentment. I'll start with the culture of resentment, then I'll speak a little bit to the culture of generosity. With a culture of resentment, what happens is you say, I'm angry about something. So I'm not going to give this thing to you. That is important, like, sex. I'm going to withhold sex because I'm angry. That's an example. There's a lot of other examples as well. So then as a result of me, not offering something, then my partner is going to feel resentment and they're not going to offer something to me that's important. Withholding ends up begetting withholding. And so, it creates a cycle where more and more, there's distance. There's resentment. There's frustration about how the relationship is going. One of the quickest ways, to reverse the direction of that cycle, and instead shift it to a cycle of generosity, and a positive feedback loop, Is to focus more on what you are giving then what you're getting. Giving really feels good. Especially if we're not tracking what we get. We're just tracking what we give. When we give from a place of obligation. There's a felt sense that it doesn't feel free and it doesn't feel authentic. There are strings attached to it. I'm giving this only because I expect something in return, or because I feel there will be, there will be consequences if I don't give this as opposed to giving from a place of free will. Yeah, so as a result of the necessity to build in this culture of generosity, one of the starting points to think about, as your first exercise around this task, is to come up with a few traits or aspects of your partner that you admire and appreciate. Why does your partner have value? You're with them for a reason and if you aren't able to articulate and get in touch with that value, it's really hard to know what you're fighting for, what you're going to make a change for, and in a cycle of resentment, those things become much more elusive. But when we highlight them, we begin to realize that our partner is very important to us. And so, we are going to make the effort, because we want to keep this person who has value to us rather than Then we have convinced ourselves that they are irrelevant and unimportant to us. So one of the challenges in this is not to look at your differences as grading, but as an asset. Ultimately, it's about finding the balance between your strengths and weaknesses as a couple. So, circling back to how this is valuable. I value his rigidity and his organizational skills, because he has a lot of solid boundaries. He keeps the relationship safe. He keeps it organized. He thinks of the things I just don't think about and those are a big asset to me and I recognized the need to sometimes let loose and just be in the moment to be able to have fun to throw the plan out and instead go with what's happening in the moment. And so your partner is there to push your buttons but also to highlight a different way of being and it's an opportunity to get out of your own stuck ways that you don't necessarily see and when you value the way that your partner is in the world, then you're more open to introducing the way your partner is in the world to how you interact in the world. So that's the main idea that we're trying to focus on with this module. As you set up for this exercise, get a piece of paper and think through three different things that you value in your partner. Either aspects they have traits they have or behaviors they manifest and keep those in mind as we move forward through this course because those are the things that you're going to return to in terms of valuing your partner, respecting your partner, and being able to access that authentic place to go above and beyond in this culture of generosity. In this next chapter, we're going to focus on ways to be able to communicate about your needs. One of the things that tends to happen for couples around needs is that needs feel very zero-sum. They end up in competition. I have a need, you have a need and if my need gets met yours doesn't if your need gets met, mine doesn't. And so we end up battling over circumstances and situations because it's representative of deeper needs that we have that often times we're not aware of. When we realize what our core needs are we're able to change the way we're communicating about them, and recognize there's a variety of ways to get our needs met so they can be collaborative rather than competitive and zero-sum. So what we're going to be doing around this is understanding ways to be able to level drop from the circumstance and the situation to instead be able to communicate about the core needs playing out and then from there identify a variety of solutions where both needs are honored and acknowledged. A very common one that we end up working with for couples is one person has a need or a want for sex. Another person has a want or a need to go to sleep. Now both are totally understandable and reasonable wants and needs. But what happens is it's 9:45. It's 10:00 at night and it's been a long day and the couple gets in bed and one partner goes, I'd really like to have sex right now. And I really need to go to bed. And so who wins? What's going to happen? In this particular conversation if my partner gets her needs met to go to bed. I don't get my want or need addressed around sex and if my partner stays up to to interact with my sexual want or need, then my partner has sacrificed what's true for them. And so oftentimes, there's conflict and tension around that. Which results in you don't think my needs important or, you know, I'm exhausted, why would you want me to stay awake and just do something that I'm not that into? It doesn't tend to go well. But if instead, we're able to say well, what are you really trying to get at? What is your core need around going to bed? My core need around going to bed is that I feel exhaustion and I also want to ensure that I get enough sleep because the kids get up early and I don't function well if I have less than eight hours of sleep. What I would say around my core needs in this particular situation is that I have a need for connection now and I also have a need for something that's a stress reliever and a release. This is a great side note. We're going to cover this in the later chapter and sexual intimacy, but understanding that sex is motivated usually by four different core need drivers; one, for connection, two, for skin-to-skin contact, three, for validation and desire feeling validated. and four to experience pleasure and orgasm or as Daniel mentioned, a release. When we know that those are, the four motivations we can ask ourselves; Well, am I just looking for the skin-to-skin? I don't really need the release or do I need the release? I want to feel that orgasm so I can have the release of all the yummy hormones, the dopamine and oxytocin that come with it so that I can feel good and relieve my cortisol, which is the stress hormone and then access sleep more easily. Or maybe I just feel like I need connection because we've been in different places all day. So Daniel is going to speak to a why he wants sex and see if the core need, one of those four drivers, can be met in an alternative way so that I can still get my need for sleep and he can get his need for whatever type of sex we choose. So let's say the core need underneath the driver for sex is connection. There's a variety of different ways that you're able to move into a place of rest, and I'm able to move into a place of connection. So one of them might be we could cuddle in bed as you're falling asleep. And then we have some physical intimacy in contact, but also you're able to move towards going to sleep because the core need is able to be much more collaborative, right? Maybe it's identifying a time when you would be available and have more energy. and more bandwidth to be able to connect. That would be the rain check. Thanks for the invitation tonight, I have nothing left in the tank, but if you invite me in the morning, I think I'll have a lot more reserves to engage with you, which is illustrating that connection with me, is important. Yes. And so, ultimately, I'm able to be more flexible because my core need is acknowledged and there's a way that it is going to be met even if it isn't right then and there in the moment. Another solution or another outcome of this is, let's do something quick 10-15 minutes and Daniel takes kids in the morning because he's happy to do so anyway, right? So basically as a result of changing the way we were talking about it. It's no longer does sex happened? Does sleep happen? Instead we were able to communicate on a different level around what was going on for us. What we were both needing, and in communicating about those core needs, we're able to find ways for those needs to be collaborative. So other core needs that tend to look like competitive circumstances, but can again, if you find the Venn diagram creative solution, they can be collaborative, include one, closeness and connection. Two, space. Three, validation feeling heard and feeling seen. Four, safety. Five, adventure and novelty, and six, pleasure. So, using sex as an example, again, adventure versus safety. Let's say I would love to have sex outside and do a little blindfolding and rope tying. And in terms of the safety piece, I want to make sure that we don't end up arrested or on the front page of the local newspaper or we are able to find a place that feels comfortable enough and doesn't feel inappropriate. In this circumstance, the person who has a greater need for safety has to get their needs met first because I'm not going to have my need for adventure met if he doesn't feel safe to meet me there. So I'm going to have to reach out to him and say, what do you need to feel safe? So that we can then insert in a little adventure when the container of safety is provided there's a lot more room to be flexible and open. It's important to understand our core needs as we fight and the roles we typically default to so that we can have better access to doing a fair fight and hopefully an easy repair. Oftentimes in emotionally focused therapy we look at the couple as one person being the pursuer and one person being the withdrawer, Daniel as the withdrawer, could be labeled the cat where when he feels activated, triggered his nervous system gets flooded and he tends to shut down be quiet and need some privacy. You notice a cat when it gets scared it usually runs away and wants to go hide under the bed. The other person the pursuer is like the dog, they're always playful. They have a lot of energy, but when they're activated, they're still playful. They still have a lot of energy and they tend to be anxious and paw at their partner to resolve the issue quickly. They want to talk it out and they want to talk it out ASAP. My core need, for instance, as a dog is to make sure the relationship feels safe as soon as possible. Daniel's core need as withdrawer or as a cat is to feel grounded and get his nervous system back into stability so he can actually meet me where I need to be met and process through the fight. Also to feel like it's on my terms to open that door. One of the ways that I describe the cat and the dog is that the cat is a door that opens outward. So dogs will try oftentimes, try to push on the door and that just ends up closing it more. Part of the task is to acknowledge what the other person is needing and what you're needing in order to be able to move forward with this. So for example, as somebody who tends to retreat, when there's conflict, part of what I have a core need for is space. And in that space, then that door can open outward. Part of what a partner who tends to reach out is looking for, is that connection and that safety. And so your that core need is around safety and connection. Both have to be addressed simultaneously. Now, in a lack of communication, there's a tension around who's need gets met with regards to that. But when this is a pattern that's understood and there's room to work with it. There's usually a way that both people can feel okay about the process. So I've learned in our relationship that if I keep pushing on the door, he's going to take more and more space. There's going to be longer time frame until we get it resolved. I've also worked with my anxiety to know that the relationship is safe, even when there is silence and space. So that I can give him the space, he needs and know and trust he will return at some point to navigate the fight on my end. What I've learned is that expressing that connection is still there. I love you. I need some space. But we'll finish talking about this and stating a specific amount of time. Provides that container of safety that we've referred to previously because you could go and entertain yourself for any amount of time because you know, that there will be a reconnection point because that has been verbally committed to. And so it's not just an endless amount of time. It's a specific amount of time to reset. So there's two concepts woven into this. There's the pursuer-withdrawer dynamic, in terms of dog, who likes to paw and push on the door and cat who likes to withdraw and hide but needs space for the door to open back up. So there's those dynamics and then the core need pertaining to cat and dog. Core need for connection. Core need for space. Particularly when we fight. So, understanding your roles as dog or cat, pursuer or withdrawer and then understanding the corn need pertaining to the animal that you are is really important. In this chapter, we're going to discuss an area that couples often times get stuck, which is about unspoken and hidden agendas. What tends to happen is that couples often times can feel when their partner has a hidden agenda and is not communicating it and so it doesn't feel totally safe having that conversation. You're going to feel a little weary, you're going to be a little apprehensive. And so you're going to be kind of wondering. What are you trying to say? What are you not saying underneath this. So a common area around this is what do you feel like for dinner, which people usually have a preference but they're avoiding stating their preference. So what ends up happening, is they ask their partner, a question. What do you feel like for dinner? Hey, do you think Mexican food sounds good? And what I'm really saying is I really want to go get Mexican food, but I'm not flat out saying it and so in the absence of flat out saying it, I'm putting a loaded question out there because I have a hidden agenda but I'm not owning it. And so, one of the things that's really important is to recognize that this was a simple example, but that can play out in very different areas as well. Let's say with regards to sex. Yes, I was going to go right there. Okay. So what would you like to do in the bedroom? Right? Does that feel safe to answer? I actually know what I want to do, but I might not want to say it out loud or one or the other partner might not want to say it out loud for fear of rejection, or they're also testing and checking in with where the other person's at before it feels safe to share their own feelings. So, one of the ways to counteract this is to own your own wants and desires as completely selfish. Now in reality, they might be selfish. They might be completely reasonable. It doesn't matter. But if you own them in the selfish game, what ends up happening is, there's permission to put the cards on the table and then discuss what those cards look like if all of them are played out. I think it's also important to note that for people who tend to be people pleasers, being selfish feels really dangerous. So if you grew up in an environment, say in childhood, where things were unsafe, maybe there was an alcoholic parent or things were just emotionally chaotic and you had to read your environment on a daily basis and make sure you were the one to keep the peace or you self-assigned yourself to keep the peace. What happens is, you put your needs way on the back burner, maybe in the back closet, may be stored away in the garage and you are looking at everybody else's needs so that the safety of the whole family can go forward, what happens then is that defense mechanism that adaptive strategy in terms of being a people pleaser or a person who makes an environment safe continues forward into adulthood and then advocating for your needs of being selfish actually feels really foreign and really dangerous. So if you find yourself to be in this category, go slow at this exercise and really give yourself a lot of permission that you did need that defense mechanism to help you get through your childhood. You did need to put your needs in the closet and help the environment be safe. But now that you're an adult and things are safe. Can you have compassion for yourself to actually feel the safety to name that need, especially in this selfish conversation. To tie in with that, it's also important to recognize that you have those needs, no matter how buried they are, and they're going to play out in one way or the other. What this does is it brings it out into the light and makes it an explicit statement about it rather than the hidden agenda that we were talking about. So the selfish game, how does it work? What you would say is selfishly? Here's what I want for this weekend selfishly. I want to sleep in until 9:30 selfishly. I want to go out to dinner rather than cook selfishly. I want to watch whatever movie. I want to watch even if you don't like it, but you'd still sit with me. So, as an example, we're going to walk through this exercise in terms of being selfish with any particular evening. Let's do tonight. For example, selfishly. What would you like? Selfishly? I would like to do. Takeout Thai food. I would like to have the kids in bed a little bit earlier. So, we have time to watch a movie and then after the movie, I'd love to get in the hot tub for a little bit and relax and then maybe go to the bedroom and connect. Okay. selfishly I would like to have a lot of vegetables. Selfishly. I would like to also put the kids to bed and do hot tub selfishly. I'd like to have time to read my book. Okay. So one of the things is that once you've put your selfish wants and needs out there, then there's room to collaborate because there's no hidden agenda around the timeframe of everything. So, okay. We can order Thai food, and make sure we order a number of dishes that have a lot of vegetables in them. We're both in agreement around putting the kids to bed a little bit early. So we have a little bit more time. It sounds like we're in agreement around the hot tub and also it sounds like what I want is to watch a movie and you want to read your book. And so there's room to be able to do something separate in that. I don't have to watch my movie with you. You don't need me to read your book. Yes, and so, We're able to identify where our selfish wants overlap, and where they're compatible, and where they can be met on our own, in a way that doesn't involve our partner. I'm also willing to find compromise with this and watch a show that shorter so that we still have TV time together and I can have time for my book and if there's still time and still inspiration, we can make love. And so ultimately, as a result of being able to communicate about your selfish wants, start to realize the multitude of ways that those wants can get addressed rather than I have an agenda. It doesn't feel safe to state it. I'm gonna hope this happens, but I don't really think it will and then there's disappointment when you don't mind read what I wanted and I end up disappointed. It's a really great point in terms of we're not mind readers. So, when I asked, what do you selfishly want Daniel? I'm giving him permission. Maybe he's the partner who is more of a people pleaser and puts his needs in the closet and I'm really giving him extra permission because this is a team sport and the team sport, if I'm not the typical people pleaser. I can help my partner access that extra level of permission to name their needs. Now, if you're a beginner at this exercise, what I would suggest doing is that you each take a night where you get to be selfish and do the selfish conversation. So Monday, Wednesday, Friday partner a gets to say this is how the night looks selfishly. And then Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday partner B gets to have the selfish conversation and outline how the night looks and then maybe on Sunday, you attempt doing a collaboration of selfish needs and seeing where the Venn diagram overlaps. In this chapter with Love Languages, what we're trying to do is introduce the concept developed by Gary Chapman and offer you a way to use it on a daily basis with your partner. So, in review the five love languages are touch, words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, and material gifts. Touch people love to hear and feel I love you with contact. They typically are affectionate people. They will come and give you that small kiss. They will give you the shoulder rub. They'll rub the cheek. They're very touchy-feely because that is how they are communicating I love you and communicating you matter. Words people like to hear I love you and you matter with words. I love you. You look great today. You look super sexy. Wow, you're looking yoked. Words are helpful in terms of feeling validated and that we matter. Quality time people love spending time together. Maybe they need to go shopping. Maybe they want to just go to a ball game. Maybe they just want to sit outside on the hammock but doing so with another person and spending that quality time together is what makes them feel loved. What makes them feel like they matter. Acts of service people, you can rename this almost as acts of love. Don't tell me you love me. Show me you love me. So what you want to do is ask your partner. If they're Acts, what kind of Acts really do it for them. Do they really want help around the house? Do they want you to remember to pick up after yourself? Show me you love me through acts of love. Typically, these people will make dinners. They'll clean up after the dinner. They'll clean the house. They'll make sure all the little things that make life work well are in order. That's how you know an acts of service person. Then you have material gifts. Material gifts is not materialism. It is a tangible expression of I love you and you matter. So let's take for example, my earrings. My earrings were given to me by my parents a long time ago. I remember my parents, every time I put on these earrings. Material gifts people like the tangibility of something that's permanent because it feels like they can always go back to that place and feel that felt sense of I matter. Imagine you have a little piggy bank and imagine your partner has a piggy bank. And now imagine your real bank account. If your bank account was always kind of just simmering at, you know, $5 and you put in your paycheck, but then you pay all your bills and your back to five dollars. It can feel exhausting to always be operating with only five dollars in your account, but it's a place that might be familiar for you. And hey, all your bills are paid so it's no big deal. However, if you get in a fight and you only have five dollars in your account, what happens is you overdraw. And it feels like now you're in the red and a pretty scary place. So when couples fight and their emotional piggy, banks are pretty empty, most of the time the fights feel more severe. The idea here is we want to fill the piggy banks on a daily basis. So A., we feel like we matter to one another. B., were giving our partner daily deposits of love and C., we're actually patting ourselves with a reserve so that if and when we fight, we have a lot more on the account. So that if we take $50 out, you know what, we still have two thousand in there and the repair feels easier. So, here are our piggy banks. My husband acts of service. Me, words and touch. When my husband writes a card for me, telling me all the ways that he appreciates me and finds gratitude in all the things that I do for the family. My heart warms. When he comes up to me and gives me small, kisses and hugs, my heart warms, when I make the bed, especially, super nice and neat because he's sort of a neat kind of guy his heart warms. When I surprised him with a beautiful meal, especially his favorite ones, his heart warms. So the idea is on a daily basis, can you challenge yourself to go put a deposit in your partner's piggy bank. I'll be honest. I'm not good at acts of service. I'm not good at making the bed and I'm a disaster in the kitchen. So when I go above and beyond to do this, it's a big silver dollar deposit, and vice versa. He's an internal processor, which you remember from a previous chapter. He marinates in his own mind. So for him to express themselves, verbally and tell me I matter and tell me that he loves me, sometimes, is a stretch for an internal processor, but he does it because those piggy bank deposits matter. Sometimes your partner's love language doesn't make any sense to you. That's not the point of this. The point of this is to actually know what the other person speaks so that you can help them matter in their language. Once we get rolling on this and our habit becomes easy and autopilot. Then we don't have to worry about how to remember this. As you think about your partner's piggy bank with the five love languages. You can brainstorm three things that would be meaningful for you. Three things that would be meaningful for them and then trade lists, make sure that the three things you select or actually the things your partner wants. I thought that my husband would be so delighted if I clean the kitchen, but actually, what was more important to him was our bedroom space. Because he felt like it was our relationship, our sacred space, and that the common spaces of the house were just sort of fair game as family space. So when I understood that it was more meaningful to our relationship and to him to do service related to the bedroom. I reordered, how I did my deposits into his emotional piggy bank. So in this chapter, the idea is to begin to build Goodwill and positive intentions into the relationship. Oftentimes people carry a lot of resentments from past wounds and past anger. So the concept we're about to introduce is a way to hopefully melt some of that resentment and fill in the void with good will and generosity. It's very easy to focus on all the areas that you are dissatisfied or things aren't working well in the relationship as opposed to when your mindset shifts to the things that you value and appreciate about your partner, you start to feel more open to making changes from a place that's more authentic within you. That's the only place that changes can happen. You can't convince your partner to change and your partner can't convince you to change. There has to be a free will and a choice to make a difference in how you show up in the relationship. Absent that, relationships usually will fall back to the patterns and problems that have plagued them for a longer period of time, but when people find their own reasons to say you are worth making the change. I'm going to make this change because it's important to me. Things are able to move forward in a much more efficient and smooth manner. And sustainable manner. So as you try to access this authentic desire to change one, for yourself to evolve up and be a better human in the world and two, because you want the relationship to survive and not just be sustaining but satisfying, we want to introduce this concept of culture of generosity where you go above and beyond for your partner and an effort to have the relationship level up. The idea of building in a culture of generosity is to counteract a culture of resentment. I'll start with the culture of resentment, then I'll speak a little bit to the culture of generosity. With a culture of resentment, what happens is you say, I'm angry about something. So I'm not going to give this thing to you. That is important, like, sex. I'm going to withhold sex because I'm angry. That's an example. There's a lot of other examples as well. So then as a result of me, not offering something, then my partner is going to feel resentment and they're not going to offer something to me that's important. Withholding ends up begetting withholding. And so, it creates a cycle where more and more, there's distance. There's resentment. There's frustration about how the relationship is going. One of the quickest ways, to reverse the direction of that cycle, and instead shift it to a cycle of generosity, and a positive feedback loop, Is to focus more on what you are giving then what you're getting. Giving really feels good. Especially if we're not tracking what we get. We're just tracking what we give. When we give from a place of obligation. There's a felt sense that it doesn't feel free and it doesn't feel authentic. There are strings attached to it. I'm giving this only because I expect something in return, or because I feel there will be, there will be consequences if I don't give this as opposed to giving from a place of free will. Yeah, so as a result of the necessity to build in this culture of generosity, one of the starting points to think about, as your first exercise around this task, is to come up with a few traits or aspects of your partner that you admire and appreciate. Why does your partner have value? You're with them for a reason and if you aren't able to articulate and get in touch with that value, it's really hard to know what you're fighting for, what you're going to make a change for, and in a cycle of resentment, those things become much more elusive. But when we highlight them, we begin to realize that our partner is very important to us. And so, we are going to make the effort, because we want to keep this person who has value to us rather than Then we have convinced ourselves that they are irrelevant and unimportant to us. So one of the challenges in this is not to look at your differences as grading, but as an asset. Ultimately, it's about finding the balance between your strengths and weaknesses as a couple. So, circling back to how this is valuable. I value his rigidity and his organizational skills, because he has a lot of solid boundaries. He keeps the relationship safe. He keeps it organized. He thinks of the things I just don't think about and those are a big asset to me and I recognized the need to sometimes let loose and just be in the moment to be able to have fun to throw the plan out and instead go with what's happening in the moment. And so your partner is there to push your buttons but also to highlight a different way of being and it's an opportunity to get out of your own stuck ways that you don't necessarily see and when you value the way that your partner is in the world, then you're more open to introducing the way your partner is in the world to how you interact in the world. So that's the main idea that we're trying to focus on with this module. As you set up for this exercise, get a piece of paper and think through three different things that you value in your partner. Either aspects they have traits they have or behaviors they manifest and keep those in mind as we move forward through this course because those are the things that you're going to return to in terms of valuing your partner, respecting your partner, and being able to access that authentic place to go above and beyond in this culture of generosity. In this next chapter, we're going to focus on ways to be able to communicate about your needs. One of the things that tends to happen for couples around needs is that needs feel very zero-sum. They end up in competition. I have a need, you have a need and if my need gets met yours doesn't if your need gets met, mine doesn't. And so we end up battling over circumstances and situations because it's representative of deeper needs that we have that often times we're not aware of. When we realize what our core needs are we're able to change the way we're communicating about them, and recognize there's a variety of ways to get our needs met so they can be collaborative rather than competitive and zero-sum. So what we're going to be doing around this is understanding ways to be able to level drop from the circumstance and the situation to instead be able to communicate about the core needs playing out and then from there identify a variety of solutions where both needs are honored and acknowledged. A very common one that we end up working with for couples is one person has a need or a want for sex. Another person has a want or a need to go to sleep. Now both are totally understandable and reasonable wants and needs. But what happens is it's 9:45. It's 10:00 at night and it's been a long day and the couple gets in bed and one partner goes, I'd really like to have sex right now. And I really need to go to bed. And so who wins? What's going to happen? In this particular conversation if my partner gets her needs met to go to bed. I don't get my want or need addressed around sex and if my partner stays up to to interact with my sexual want or need, then my partner has sacrificed what's true for them. And so oftentimes, there's conflict and tension around that. Which results in you don't think my needs important or, you know, I'm exhausted, why would you want me to stay awake and just do something that I'm not that into? It doesn't tend to go well. But if instead, we're able to say well, what are you really trying to get at? What is your core need around going to bed? My core need around going to bed is that I feel exhaustion and I also want to ensure that I get enough sleep because the kids get up early and I don't function well if I have less than eight hours of sleep. What I would say around my core needs in this particular situation is that I have a need for connection now and I also have a need for something that's a stress reliever and a release. This is a great side note. We're going to cover this in the later chapter and sexual intimacy, but understanding that sex is motivated usually by four different core need drivers; one, for connection, two, for skin-to-skin contact, three, for validation and desire feeling validated. and four to experience pleasure and orgasm or as Daniel mentioned, a release. When we know that those are, the four motivations we can ask ourselves; Well, am I just looking for the skin-to-skin? I don't really need the release or do I need the release? I want to feel that orgasm so I can have the release of all the yummy hormones, the dopamine and oxytocin that come with it so that I can feel good and relieve my cortisol, which is the stress hormone and then access sleep more easily. Or maybe I just feel like I need connection because we've been in different places all day. So Daniel is going to speak to a why he wants sex and see if the core need, one of those four drivers, can be met in an alternative way so that I can still get my need for sleep and he can get his need for whatever type of sex we choose. So let's say the core need underneath the driver for sex is connection. There's a variety of different ways that you're able to move into a place of rest, and I'm able to move into a place of connection. So one of them might be we could cuddle in bed as you're falling asleep. And then we have some physical intimacy in contact, but also you're able to move towards going to sleep because the core need is able to be much more collaborative, right? Maybe it's identifying a time when you would be available and have more energy. and more bandwidth to be able to connect. That would be the rain check. Thanks for the invitation tonight, I have nothing left in the tank, but if you invite me in the morning, I think I'll have a lot more reserves to engage with you, which is illustrating that connection with me, is important. Yes. And so, ultimately, I'm able to be more flexible because my core need is acknowledged and there's a way that it is going to be met even if it isn't right then and there in the moment. Another solution or another outcome of this is, let's do something quick 10-15 minutes and Daniel takes kids in the morning because he's happy to do so anyway, right? So basically as a result of changing the way we were talking about it. It's no longer does sex happened? Does sleep happen? Instead we were able to communicate on a different level around what was going on for us. What we were both needing, and in communicating about those core needs, we're able to find ways for those needs to be collaborative. So other core needs that tend to look like competitive circumstances, but can again, if you find the Venn diagram creative solution, they can be collaborative, include one, closeness and connection. Two, space. Three, validation feeling heard and feeling seen. Four, safety. Five, adventure and novelty, and six, pleasure. So, using sex as an example, again, adventure versus safety. Let's say I would love to have sex outside and do a little blindfolding and rope tying. And in terms of the safety piece, I want to make sure that we don't end up arrested or on the front page of the local newspaper or we are able to find a place that feels comfortable enough and doesn't feel inappropriate. In this circumstance, the person who has a greater need for safety has to get their needs met first because I'm not going to have my need for adventure met if he doesn't feel safe to meet me there. So I'm going to have to reach out to him and say, what do you need to feel safe? So that we can then insert in a little adventure when the container of safety is provided there's a lot more room to be flexible and open. It's important to understand our core needs as we fight and the roles we typically default to so that we can have better access to doing a fair fight and hopefully an easy repair. Oftentimes in emotionally focused therapy we look at the couple as one person being the pursuer and one person being the withdrawer, Daniel as the withdrawer, could be labeled the cat where when he feels activated, triggered his nervous system gets flooded and he tends to shut down be quiet and need some privacy. You notice a cat when it gets scared it usually runs away and wants to go hide under the bed. The other person the pursuer is like the dog, they're always playful. They have a lot of energy, but when they're activated, they're still playful. They still have a lot of energy and they tend to be anxious and paw at their partner to resolve the issue quickly. They want to talk it out and they want to talk it out ASAP. My core need, for instance, as a dog is to make sure the relationship feels safe as soon as possible. Daniel's core need as withdrawer or as a cat is to feel grounded and get his nervous system back into stability so he can actually meet me where I need to be met and process through the fight. Also to feel like it's on my terms to open that door. One of the ways that I describe the cat and the dog is that the cat is a door that opens outward. So dogs will try oftentimes, try to push on the door and that just ends up closing it more. Part of the task is to acknowledge what the other person is needing and what you're needing in order to be able to move forward with this. So for example, as somebody who tends to retreat, when there's conflict, part of what I have a core need for is space. And in that space, then that door can open outward. Part of what a partner who tends to reach out is looking for, is that connection and that safety. And so your that core need is around safety and connection. Both have to be addressed simultaneously. Now, in a lack of communication, there's a tension around who's need gets met with regards to that. But when this is a pattern that's understood and there's room to work with it. There's usually a way that both people can feel okay about the process. So I've learned in our relationship that if I keep pushing on the door, he's going to take more and more space. There's going to be longer time frame until we get it resolved. I've also worked with my anxiety to know that the relationship is safe, even when there is silence and space. So that I can give him the space, he needs and know and trust he will return at some point to navigate the fight on my end. What I've learned is that expressing that connection is still there. I love you. I need some space. But we'll finish talking about this and stating a specific amount of time. Provides that container of safety that we've referred to previously because you could go and entertain yourself for any amount of time because you know, that there will be a reconnection point because that has been verbally committed to. And so it's not just an endless amount of time. It's a specific amount of time to reset. So there's two concepts woven into this. There's the pursuer-withdrawer dynamic, in terms of dog, who likes to paw and push on the door and cat who likes to withdraw and hide but needs space for the door to open back up. So there's those dynamics and then the core need pertaining to cat and dog. Core need for connection. Core need for space. Particularly when we fight. So, understanding your roles as dog or cat, pursuer or withdrawer and then understanding the corn need pertaining to the animal that you are is really important. In this chapter, we're going to discuss an area that couples often times get stuck, which is about unspoken and hidden agendas. What tends to happen is that couples often times can feel when their partner has a hidden agenda and is not communicating it and so it doesn't feel totally safe having that conversation. You're going to feel a little weary, you're going to be a little apprehensive. And so you're going to be kind of wondering. What are you trying to say? What are you not saying underneath this. So a common area around this is what do you feel like for dinner, which people usually have a preference but they're avoiding stating their preference. So what ends up happening, is they ask their partner, a question. What do you feel like for dinner? Hey, do you think Mexican food sounds good? And what I'm really saying is I really want to go get Mexican food, but I'm not flat out saying it and so in the absence of flat out saying it, I'm putting a loaded question out there because I have a hidden agenda but I'm not owning it. And so, one of the things that's really important is to recognize that this was a simple example, but that can play out in very different areas as well. Let's say with regards to sex. Yes, I was going to go right there. Okay. So what would you like to do in the bedroom? Right? Does that feel safe to answer? I actually know what I want to do, but I might not want to say it out loud or one or the other partner might not want to say it out loud for fear of rejection, or they're also testing and checking in with where the other person's at before it feels safe to share their own feelings. So, one of the ways to counteract this is to own your own wants and desires as completely selfish. Now in reality, they might be selfish. They might be completely reasonable. It doesn't matter. But if you own them in the selfish game, what ends up happening is, there's permission to put the cards on the table and then discuss what those cards look like if all of them are played out. I think it's also important to note that for people who tend to be people pleasers, being selfish feels really dangerous. So if you grew up in an environment, say in childhood, where things were unsafe, maybe there was an alcoholic parent or things were just emotionally chaotic and you had to read your environment on a daily basis and make sure you were the one to keep the peace or you self-assigned yourself to keep the peace. What happens is, you put your needs way on the back burner, maybe in the back closet, may be stored away in the garage and you are looking at everybody else's needs so that the safety of the whole family can go forward, what happens then is that defense mechanism that adaptive strategy in terms of being a people pleaser or a person who makes an environment safe continues forward into adulthood and then advocating for your needs of being selfish actually feels really foreign and really dangerous. So if you find yourself to be in this category, go slow at this exercise and really give yourself a lot of permission that you did need that defense mechanism to help you get through your childhood. You did need to put your needs in the closet and help the environment be safe. But now that you're an adult and things are safe. Can you have compassion for yourself to actually feel the safety to name that need, especially in this selfish conversation. To tie in with that, it's also important to recognize that you have those needs, no matter how buried they are, and they're going to play out in one way or the other. What this does is it brings it out into the light and makes it an explicit statement about it rather than the hidden agenda that we were talking about. So the selfish game, how does it work? What you would say is selfishly? Here's what I want for this weekend selfishly. I want to sleep in until 9:30 selfishly. I want to go out to dinner rather than cook selfishly. I want to watch whatever movie. I want to watch even if you don't like it, but you'd still sit with me. So, as an example, we're going to walk through this exercise in terms of being selfish with any particular evening. Let's do tonight. For example, selfishly. What would you like? Selfishly? I would like to do. Takeout Thai food. I would like to have the kids in bed a little bit earlier. So, we have time to watch a movie and then after the movie, I'd love to get in the hot tub for a little bit and relax and then maybe go to the bedroom and connect. Okay. selfishly I would like to have a lot of vegetables. Selfishly. I would like to also put the kids to bed and do hot tub selfishly. I'd like to have time to read my book. Okay. So one of the things is that once you've put your selfish wants and needs out there, then there's room to collaborate because there's no hidden agenda around the timeframe of everything. So, okay. We can order Thai food, and make sure we order a number of dishes that have a lot of vegetables in them. We're both in agreement around putting the kids to bed a little bit early. So we have a little bit more time. It sounds like we're in agreement around the hot tub and also it sounds like what I want is to watch a movie and you want to read your book. And so there's room to be able to do something separate in that. I don't have to watch my movie with you. You don't need me to read your book. Yes, and so, We're able to identify where our selfish wants overlap, and where they're compatible, and where they can be met on our own, in a way that doesn't involve our partner. I'm also willing to find compromise with this and watch a show that shorter so that we still have TV time together and I can have time for my book and if there's still time and still inspiration, we can make love. And so ultimately, as a result of being able to communicate about your selfish wants, start to realize the multitude of ways that those wants can get addressed rather than I have an agenda. It doesn't feel safe to state it. I'm gonna hope this happens, but I don't really think it will and then there's disappointment when you don't mind read what I wanted and I end up disappointed. It's a really great point in terms of we're not mind readers. So, when I asked, what do you selfishly want Daniel? I'm giving him permission. Maybe he's the partner who is more of a people pleaser and puts his needs in the closet and I'm really giving him extra permission because this is a team sport and the team sport, if I'm not the typical people pleaser. I can help my partner access that extra level of permission to name their needs. Now, if you're a beginner at this exercise, what I would suggest doing is that you each take a night where you get to be selfish and do the selfish conversation. So Monday, Wednesday, Friday partner a gets to say this is how the night looks selfishly. And then Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday partner B gets to have the selfish conversation and outline how the night looks and then maybe on Sunday, you attempt doing a collaboration of selfish needs and seeing where the Venn diagram overlaps. So in this chapter, the idea is to begin to build Goodwill and positive intentions into the relationship. Oftentimes people carry a lot of resentments from past wounds and past anger. So the concept we're about to introduce is a way to hopefully melt some of that resentment and fill in the void with good will and generosity. It's very easy to focus on all the areas that you are dissatisfied or things aren't working well in the relationship as opposed to when your mindset shifts to the things that you value and appreciate about your partner, you start to feel more open to making changes from a place that's more authentic within you. That's the only place that changes can happen. You can't convince your partner to change and your partner can't convince you to change. There has to be a free will and a choice to make a difference in how you show up in the relationship. Absent that, relationships usually will fall back to the patterns and problems that have plagued them for a longer period of time, but when people find their own reasons to say you are worth making the change. I'm going to make this change because it's important to me. Things are able to move forward in a much more efficient and smooth manner. And sustainable manner. So as you try to access this authentic desire to change one, for yourself to evolve up and be a better human in the world and two, because you want the relationship to survive and not just be sustaining but satisfying, we want to introduce this concept of culture of generosity where you go above and beyond for your partner and an effort to have the relationship level up. The idea of building in a culture of generosity is to counteract a culture of resentment. I'll start with the culture of resentment, then I'll speak a little bit to the culture of generosity. With a culture of resentment, what happens is you say, I'm angry about something. So I'm not going to give this thing to you. That is important, like, sex. I'm going to withhold sex because I'm angry. That's an example. There's a lot of other examples as well. So then as a result of me, not offering something, then my partner is going to feel resentment and they're not going to offer something to me that's important. Withholding ends up begetting withholding. And so, it creates a cycle where more and more, there's distance. There's resentment. There's frustration about how the relationship is going. One of the quickest ways, to reverse the direction of that cycle, and instead shift it to a cycle of generosity, and a positive feedback loop, Is to focus more on what you are giving then what you're getting. Giving really feels good. Especially if we're not tracking what we get. We're just tracking what we give. When we give from a place of obligation. There's a felt sense that it doesn't feel free and it doesn't feel authentic. There are strings attached to it. I'm giving this only because I expect something in return, or because I feel there will be, there will be consequences if I don't give this as opposed to giving from a place of free will. Yeah, so as a result of the necessity to build in this culture of generosity, one of the starting points to think about, as your first exercise around this task, is to come up with a few traits or aspects of your partner that you admire and appreciate. Why does your partner have value? You're with them for a reason and if you aren't able to articulate and get in touch with that value, it's really hard to know what you're fighting for, what you're going to make a change for, and in a cycle of resentment, those things become much more elusive. But when we highlight them, we begin to realize that our partner is very important to us. And so, we are going to make the effort, because we want to keep this person who has value to us rather than Then we have convinced ourselves that they are irrelevant and unimportant to us. So one of the challenges in this is not to look at your differences as grading, but as an asset. Ultimately, it's about finding the balance between your strengths and weaknesses as a couple. So, circling back to how this is valuable. I value his rigidity and his organizational skills, because he has a lot of solid boundaries. He keeps the relationship safe. He keeps it organized. He thinks of the things I just don't think about and those are a big asset to me and I recognized the need to sometimes let loose and just be in the moment to be able to have fun to throw the plan out and instead go with what's happening in the moment. And so your partner is there to push your buttons but also to highlight a different way of being and it's an opportunity to get out of your own stuck ways that you don't necessarily see and when you value the way that your partner is in the world, then you're more open to introducing the way your partner is in the world to how you interact in the world. So that's the main idea that we're trying to focus on with this module. As you set up for this exercise, get a piece of paper and think through three different things that you value in your partner. Either aspects they have traits they have or behaviors they manifest and keep those in mind as we move forward through this course because those are the things that you're going to return to in terms of valuing your partner, respecting your partner, and being able to access that authentic place to go above and beyond in this culture of generosity. In this next chapter, we're going to focus on ways to be able to communicate about your needs. One of the things that tends to happen for couples around needs is that needs feel very zero-sum. They end up in competition. I have a need, you have a need and if my need gets met yours doesn't if your need gets met, mine doesn't. And so we end up battling over circumstances and situations because it's representative of deeper needs that we have that often times we're not aware of. When we realize what our core needs are we're able to change the way we're communicating about them, and recognize there's a variety of ways to get our needs met so they can be collaborative rather than competitive and zero-sum. So what we're going to be doing around this is understanding ways to be able to level drop from the circumstance and the situation to instead be able to communicate about the core needs playing out and then from there identify a variety of solutions where both needs are honored and acknowledged. A very common one that we end up working with for couples is one person has a need or a want for sex. Another person has a want or a need to go to sleep. Now both are totally understandable and reasonable wants and needs. But what happens is it's 9:45. It's 10:00 at night and it's been a long day and the couple gets in bed and one partner goes, I'd really like to have sex right now. And I really need to go to bed. And so who wins? What's going to happen? In this particular conversation if my partner gets her needs met to go to bed. I don't get my want or need addressed around sex and if my partner stays up to to interact with my sexual want or need, then my partner has sacrificed what's true for them. And so oftentimes, there's conflict and tension around that. Which results in you don't think my needs important or, you know, I'm exhausted, why would you want me to stay awake and just do something that I'm not that into? It doesn't tend to go well. But if instead, we're able to say well, what are you really trying to get at? What is your core need around going to bed? My core need around going to bed is that I feel exhaustion and I also want to ensure that I get enough sleep because the kids get up early and I don't function well if I have less than eight hours of sleep. What I would say around my core needs in this particular situation is that I have a need for connection now and I also have a need for something that's a stress reliever and a release. This is a great side note. We're going to cover this in the later chapter and sexual intimacy, but understanding that sex is motivated usually by four different core need drivers; one, for connection, two, for skin-to-skin contact, three, for validation and desire feeling validated. and four to experience pleasure and orgasm or as Daniel mentioned, a release. When we know that those are, the four motivations we can ask ourselves; Well, am I just looking for the skin-to-skin? I don't really need the release or do I need the release? I want to feel that orgasm so I can have the release of all the yummy hormones, the dopamine and oxytocin that come with it so that I can feel good and relieve my cortisol, which is the stress hormone and then access sleep more easily. Or maybe I just feel like I need connection because we've been in different places all day. So Daniel is going to speak to a why he wants sex and see if the core need, one of those four drivers, can be met in an alternative way so that I can still get my need for sleep and he can get his need for whatever type of sex we choose. So let's say the core need underneath the driver for sex is connection. There's a variety of different ways that you're able to move into a place of rest, and I'm able to move into a place of connection. So one of them might be we could cuddle in bed as you're falling asleep. And then we have some physical intimacy in contact, but also you're able to move towards going to sleep because the core need is able to be much more collaborative, right? Maybe it's identifying a time when you would be available and have more energy. and more bandwidth to be able to connect. That would be the rain check. Thanks for the invitation tonight, I have nothing left in the tank, but if you invite me in the morning, I think I'll have a lot more reserves to engage with you, which is illustrating that connection with me, is important. Yes. And so, ultimately, I'm able to be more flexible because my core need is acknowledged and there's a way that it is going to be met even if it isn't right then and there in the moment. Another solution or another outcome of this is, let's do something quick 10-15 minutes and Daniel takes kids in the morning because he's happy to do so anyway, right? So basically as a result of changing the way we were talking about it. It's no longer does sex happened? Does sleep happen? Instead we were able to communicate on a different level around what was going on for us. What we were both needing, and in communicating about those core needs, we're able to find ways for those needs to be collaborative. So other core needs that tend to look like competitive circumstances, but can again, if you find the Venn diagram creative solution, they can be collaborative, include one, closeness and connection. Two, space. Three, validation feeling heard and feeling seen. Four, safety. Five, adventure and novelty, and six, pleasure. So, using sex as an example, again, adventure versus safety. Let's say I would love to have sex outside and do a little blindfolding and rope tying. And in terms of the safety piece, I want to make sure that we don't end up arrested or on the front page of the local newspaper or we are able to find a place that feels comfortable enough and doesn't feel inappropriate. In this circumstance, the person who has a greater need for safety has to get their needs met first because I'm not going to have my need for adventure met if he doesn't feel safe to meet me there. So I'm going to have to reach out to him and say, what do you need to feel safe? So that we can then insert in a little adventure when the container of safety is provided there's a lot more room to be flexible and open. It's important to understand our core needs as we fight and the roles we typically default to so that we can have better access to doing a fair fight and hopefully an easy repair. Oftentimes in emotionally focused therapy we look at the couple as one person being the pursuer and one person being the withdrawer, Daniel as the withdrawer, could be labeled the cat where when he feels activated, triggered his nervous system gets flooded and he tends to shut down be quiet and need some privacy. You notice a cat when it gets scared it usually runs away and wants to go hide under the bed. The other person the pursuer is like the dog, they're always playful. They have a lot of energy, but when they're activated, they're still playful. They still have a lot of energy and they tend to be anxious and paw at their partner to resolve the issue quickly. They want to talk it out and they want to talk it out ASAP. My core need, for instance, as a dog is to make sure the relationship feels safe as soon as possible. Daniel's core need as withdrawer or as a cat is to feel grounded and get his nervous system back into stability so he can actually meet me where I need to be met and process through the fight. Also to feel like it's on my terms to open that door. One of the ways that I describe the cat and the dog is that the cat is a door that opens outward. So dogs will try oftentimes, try to push on the door and that just ends up closing it more. Part of the task is to acknowledge what the other person is needing and what you're needing in order to be able to move forward with this. So for example, as somebody who tends to retreat, when there's conflict, part of what I have a core need for is space. And in that space, then that door can open outward. Part of what a partner who tends to reach out is looking for, is that connection and that safety. And so your that core need is around safety and connection. Both have to be addressed simultaneously. Now, in a lack of communication, there's a tension around who's need gets met with regards to that. But when this is a pattern that's understood and there's room to work with it. There's usually a way that both people can feel okay about the process. So I've learned in our relationship that if I keep pushing on the door, he's going to take more and more space. There's going to be longer time frame until we get it resolved. I've also worked with my anxiety to know that the relationship is safe, even when there is silence and space. So that I can give him the space, he needs and know and trust he will return at some point to navigate the fight on my end. What I've learned is that expressing that connection is still there. I love you. I need some space. But we'll finish talking about this and stating a specific amount of time. Provides that container of safety that we've referred to previously because you could go and entertain yourself for any amount of time because you know, that there will be a reconnection point because that has been verbally committed to. And so it's not just an endless amount of time. It's a specific amount of time to reset. So there's two concepts woven into this. There's the pursuer-withdrawer dynamic, in terms of dog, who likes to paw and push on the door and cat who likes to withdraw and hide but needs space for the door to open back up. So there's those dynamics and then the core need pertaining to cat and dog. Core need for connection. Core need for space. Particularly when we fight. So, understanding your roles as dog or cat, pursuer or withdrawer and then understanding the corn need pertaining to the animal that you are is really important. In this chapter, we're going to discuss an area that couples often times get stuck, which is about unspoken and hidden agendas. What tends to happen is that couples often times can feel when their partner has a hidden agenda and is not communicating it and so it doesn't feel totally safe having that conversation. You're going to feel a little weary, you're going to be a little apprehensive. And so you're going to be kind of wondering. What are you trying to say? What are you not saying underneath this. So a common area around this is what do you feel like for dinner, which people usually have a preference but they're avoiding stating their preference. So what ends up happening, is they ask their partner, a question. What do you feel like for dinner? Hey, do you think Mexican food sounds good? And what I'm really saying is I really want to go get Mexican food, but I'm not flat out saying it and so in the absence of flat out saying it, I'm putting a loaded question out there because I have a hidden agenda but I'm not owning it. And so, one of the things that's really important is to recognize that this was a simple example, but that can play out in very different areas as well. Let's say with regards to sex. Yes, I was going to go right there. Okay. So what would you like to do in the bedroom? Right? Does that feel safe to answer? I actually know what I want to do, but I might not want to say it out loud or one or the other partner might not want to say it out loud for fear of rejection, or they're also testing and checking in with where the other person's at before it feels safe to share their own feelings. So, one of the ways to counteract this is to own your own wants and desires as completely selfish. Now in reality, they might be selfish. They might be completely reasonable. It doesn't matter. But if you own them in the selfish game, what ends up happening is, there's permission to put the cards on the table and then discuss what those cards look like if all of them are played out. I think it's also important to note that for people who tend to be people pleasers, being selfish feels really dangerous. So if you grew up in an environment, say in childhood, where things were unsafe, maybe there was an alcoholic parent or things were just emotionally chaotic and you had to read your environment on a daily basis and make sure you were the one to keep the peace or you self-assigned yourself to keep the peace. What happens is, you put your needs way on the back burner, maybe in the back closet, may be stored away in the garage and you are looking at everybody else's needs so that the safety of the whole family can go forward, what happens then is that defense mechanism that adaptive strategy in terms of being a people pleaser or a person who makes an environment safe continues forward into adulthood and then advocating for your needs of being selfish actually feels really foreign and really dangerous. So if you find yourself to be in this category, go slow at this exercise and really give yourself a lot of permission that you did need that defense mechanism to help you get through your childhood. You did need to put your needs in the closet and help the environment be safe. But now that you're an adult and things are safe. Can you have compassion for yourself to actually feel the safety to name that need, especially in this selfish conversation. To tie in with that, it's also important to recognize that you have those needs, no matter how buried they are, and they're going to play out in one way or the other. What this does is it brings it out into the light and makes it an explicit statement about it rather than the hidden agenda that we were talking about. So the selfish game, how does it work? What you would say is selfishly? Here's what I want for this weekend selfishly. I want to sleep in until 9:30 selfishly. I want to go out to dinner rather than cook selfishly. I want to watch whatever movie. I want to watch even if you don't like it, but you'd still sit with me. So, as an example, we're going to walk through this exercise in terms of being selfish with any particular evening. Let's do tonight. For example, selfishly. What would you like? Selfishly? I would like to do. Takeout Thai food. I would like to have the kids in bed a little bit earlier. So, we have time to watch a movie and then after the movie, I'd love to get in the hot tub for a little bit and relax and then maybe go to the bedroom and connect. Okay. selfishly I would like to have a lot of vegetables. Selfishly. I would like to also put the kids to bed and do hot tub selfishly. I'd like to have time to read my book. Okay. So one of the things is that once you've put your selfish wants and needs out there, then there's room to collaborate because there's no hidden agenda around the timeframe of everything. So, okay. We can order Thai food, and make sure we order a number of dishes that have a lot of vegetables in them. We're both in agreement around putting the kids to bed a little bit early. So we have a little bit more time. It sounds like we're in agreement around the hot tub and also it sounds like what I want is to watch a movie and you want to read your book. And so there's room to be able to do something separate in that. I don't have to watch my movie with you. You don't need me to read your book. Yes, and so, We're able to identify where our selfish wants overlap, and where they're compatible, and where they can be met on our own, in a way that doesn't involve our partner. I'm also willing to find compromise with this and watch a show that shorter so that we still have TV time together and I can have time for my book and if there's still time and still inspiration, we can make love. And so ultimately, as a result of being able to communicate about your selfish wants, start to realize the multitude of ways that those wants can get addressed rather than I have an agenda. It doesn't feel safe to state it. I'm gonna hope this happens, but I don't really think it will and then there's disappointment when you don't mind read what I wanted and I end up disappointed. It's a really great point in terms of we're not mind readers. So, when I asked, what do you selfishly want Daniel? I'm giving him permission. Maybe he's the partner who is more of a people pleaser and puts his needs in the closet and I'm really giving him extra permission because this is a team sport and the team sport, if I'm not the typical people pleaser. I can help my partner access that extra level of permission to name their needs. Now, if you're a beginner at this exercise, what I would suggest doing is that you each take a night where you get to be selfish and do the selfish conversation. So Monday, Wednesday, Friday partner a gets to say this is how the night looks selfishly. And then Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday partner B gets to have the selfish conversation and outline how the night looks and then maybe on Sunday, you attempt doing a collaboration of selfish needs and seeing where the Venn diagram overlaps. In this next chapter, we're going to focus on ways to be able to communicate about your needs. One of the things that tends to happen for couples around needs is that needs feel very zero-sum. They end up in competition. I have a need, you have a need and if my need gets met yours doesn't if your need gets met, mine doesn't. And so we end up battling over circumstances and situations because it's representative of deeper needs that we have that often times we're not aware of. When we realize what our core needs are we're able to change the way we're communicating about them, and recognize there's a variety of ways to get our needs met so they can be collaborative rather than competitive and zero-sum. So what we're going to be doing around this is understanding ways to be able to level drop from the circumstance and the situation to instead be able to communicate about the core needs playing out and then from there identify a variety of solutions where both needs are honored and acknowledged. A very common one that we end up working with for couples is one person has a need or a want for sex. Another person has a want or a need to go to sleep. Now both are totally understandable and reasonable wants and needs. But what happens is it's 9:45. It's 10:00 at night and it's been a long day and the couple gets in bed and one partner goes, I'd really like to have sex right now. And I really need to go to bed. And so who wins? What's going to happen? In this particular conversation if my partner gets her needs met to go to bed. I don't get my want or need addressed around sex and if my partner stays up to to interact with my sexual want or need, then my partner has sacrificed what's true for them. And so oftentimes, there's conflict and tension around that. Which results in you don't think my needs important or, you know, I'm exhausted, why would you want me to stay awake and just do something that I'm not that into? It doesn't tend to go well. But if instead, we're able to say well, what are you really trying to get at? What is your core need around going to bed? My core need around going to bed is that I feel exhaustion and I also want to ensure that I get enough sleep because the kids get up early and I don't function well if I have less than eight hours of sleep. What I would say around my core needs in this particular situation is that I have a need for connection now and I also have a need for something that's a stress reliever and a release. This is a great side note. We're going to cover this in the later chapter and sexual intimacy, but understanding that sex is motivated usually by four different core need drivers; one, for connection, two, for skin-to-skin contact, three, for validation and desire feeling validated. and four to experience pleasure and orgasm or as Daniel mentioned, a release. When we know that those are, the four motivations we can ask ourselves; Well, am I just looking for the skin-to-skin? I don't really need the release or do I need the release? I want to feel that orgasm so I can have the release of all the yummy hormones, the dopamine and oxytocin that come with it so that I can feel good and relieve my cortisol, which is the stress hormone and then access sleep more easily. Or maybe I just feel like I need connection because we've been in different places all day. So Daniel is going to speak to a why he wants sex and see if the core need, one of those four drivers, can be met in an alternative way so that I can still get my need for sleep and he can get his need for whatever type of sex we choose. So let's say the core need underneath the driver for sex is connection. There's a variety of different ways that you're able to move into a place of rest, and I'm able to move into a place of connection. So one of them might be we could cuddle in bed as you're falling asleep. And then we have some physical intimacy in contact, but also you're able to move towards going to sleep because the core need is able to be much more collaborative, right? Maybe it's identifying a time when you would be available and have more energy. and more bandwidth to be able to connect. That would be the rain check. Thanks for the invitation tonight, I have nothing left in the tank, but if you invite me in the morning, I think I'll have a lot more reserves to engage with you, which is illustrating that connection with me, is important. Yes. And so, ultimately, I'm able to be more flexible because my core need is acknowledged and there's a way that it is going to be met even if it isn't right then and there in the moment. Another solution or another outcome of this is, let's do something quick 10-15 minutes and Daniel takes kids in the morning because he's happy to do so anyway, right? So basically as a result of changing the way we were talking about it. It's no longer does sex happened? Does sleep happen? Instead we were able to communicate on a different level around what was going on for us. What we were both needing, and in communicating about those core needs, we're able to find ways for those needs to be collaborative. So other core needs that tend to look like competitive circumstances, but can again, if you find the Venn diagram creative solution, they can be collaborative, include one, closeness and connection. Two, space. Three, validation feeling heard and feeling seen. Four, safety. Five, adventure and novelty, and six, pleasure. So, using sex as an example, again, adventure versus safety. Let's say I would love to have sex outside and do a little blindfolding and rope tying. And in terms of the safety piece, I want to make sure that we don't end up arrested or on the front page of the local newspaper or we are able to find a place that feels comfortable enough and doesn't feel inappropriate. In this circumstance, the person who has a greater need for safety has to get their needs met first because I'm not going to have my need for adventure met if he doesn't feel safe to meet me there. So I'm going to have to reach out to him and say, what do you need to feel safe? So that we can then insert in a little adventure when the container of safety is provided there's a lot more room to be flexible and open. It's important to understand our core needs as we fight and the roles we typically default to so that we can have better access to doing a fair fight and hopefully an easy repair. Oftentimes in emotionally focused therapy we look at the couple as one person being the pursuer and one person being the withdrawer, Daniel as the withdrawer, could be labeled the cat where when he feels activated, triggered his nervous system gets flooded and he tends to shut down be quiet and need some privacy. You notice a cat when it gets scared it usually runs away and wants to go hide under the bed. The other person the pursuer is like the dog, they're always playful. They have a lot of energy, but when they're activated, they're still playful. They still have a lot of energy and they tend to be anxious and paw at their partner to resolve the issue quickly. They want to talk it out and they want to talk it out ASAP. My core need, for instance, as a dog is to make sure the relationship feels safe as soon as possible. Daniel's core need as withdrawer or as a cat is to feel grounded and get his nervous system back into stability so he can actually meet me where I need to be met and process through the fight. Also to feel like it's on my terms to open that door. One of the ways that I describe the cat and the dog is that the cat is a door that opens outward. So dogs will try oftentimes, try to push on the door and that just ends up closing it more. Part of the task is to acknowledge what the other person is needing and what you're needing in order to be able to move forward with this. So for example, as somebody who tends to retreat, when there's conflict, part of what I have a core need for is space. And in that space, then that door can open outward. Part of what a partner who tends to reach out is looking for, is that connection and that safety. And so your that core need is around safety and connection. Both have to be addressed simultaneously. Now, in a lack of communication, there's a tension around who's need gets met with regards to that. But when this is a pattern that's understood and there's room to work with it. There's usually a way that both people can feel okay about the process. So I've learned in our relationship that if I keep pushing on the door, he's going to take more and more space. There's going to be longer time frame until we get it resolved. I've also worked with my anxiety to know that the relationship is safe, even when there is silence and space. So that I can give him the space, he needs and know and trust he will return at some point to navigate the fight on my end. What I've learned is that expressing that connection is still there. I love you. I need some space. But we'll finish talking about this and stating a specific amount of time. Provides that container of safety that we've referred to previously because you could go and entertain yourself for any amount of time because you know, that there will be a reconnection point because that has been verbally committed to. And so it's not just an endless amount of time. It's a specific amount of time to reset. So there's two concepts woven into this. There's the pursuer-withdrawer dynamic, in terms of dog, who likes to paw and push on the door and cat who likes to withdraw and hide but needs space for the door to open back up. So there's those dynamics and then the core need pertaining to cat and dog. Core need for connection. Core need for space. Particularly when we fight. So, understanding your roles as dog or cat, pursuer or withdrawer and then understanding the corn need pertaining to the animal that you are is really important. In this chapter, we're going to discuss an area that couples often times get stuck, which is about unspoken and hidden agendas. What tends to happen is that couples often times can feel when their partner has a hidden agenda and is not communicating it and so it doesn't feel totally safe having that conversation. You're going to feel a little weary, you're going to be a little apprehensive. And so you're going to be kind of wondering. What are you trying to say? What are you not saying underneath this. So a common area around this is what do you feel like for dinner, which people usually have a preference but they're avoiding stating their preference. So what ends up happening, is they ask their partner, a question. What do you feel like for dinner? Hey, do you think Mexican food sounds good? And what I'm really saying is I really want to go get Mexican food, but I'm not flat out saying it and so in the absence of flat out saying it, I'm putting a loaded question out there because I have a hidden agenda but I'm not owning it. And so, one of the things that's really important is to recognize that this was a simple example, but that can play out in very different areas as well. Let's say with regards to sex. Yes, I was going to go right there. Okay. So what would you like to do in the bedroom? Right? Does that feel safe to answer? I actually know what I want to do, but I might not want to say it out loud or one or the other partner might not want to say it out loud for fear of rejection, or they're also testing and checking in with where the other person's at before it feels safe to share their own feelings. So, one of the ways to counteract this is to own your own wants and desires as completely selfish. Now in reality, they might be selfish. They might be completely reasonable. It doesn't matter. But if you own them in the selfish game, what ends up happening is, there's permission to put the cards on the table and then discuss what those cards look like if all of them are played out. I think it's also important to note that for people who tend to be people pleasers, being selfish feels really dangerous. So if you grew up in an environment, say in childhood, where things were unsafe, maybe there was an alcoholic parent or things were just emotionally chaotic and you had to read your environment on a daily basis and make sure you were the one to keep the peace or you self-assigned yourself to keep the peace. What happens is, you put your needs way on the back burner, maybe in the back closet, may be stored away in the garage and you are looking at everybody else's needs so that the safety of the whole family can go forward, what happens then is that defense mechanism that adaptive strategy in terms of being a people pleaser or a person who makes an environment safe continues forward into adulthood and then advocating for your needs of being selfish actually feels really foreign and really dangerous. So if you find yourself to be in this category, go slow at this exercise and really give yourself a lot of permission that you did need that defense mechanism to help you get through your childhood. You did need to put your needs in the closet and help the environment be safe. But now that you're an adult and things are safe. Can you have compassion for yourself to actually feel the safety to name that need, especially in this selfish conversation. To tie in with that, it's also important to recognize that you have those needs, no matter how buried they are, and they're going to play out in one way or the other. What this does is it brings it out into the light and makes it an explicit statement about it rather than the hidden agenda that we were talking about. So the selfish game, how does it work? What you would say is selfishly? Here's what I want for this weekend selfishly. I want to sleep in until 9:30 selfishly. I want to go out to dinner rather than cook selfishly. I want to watch whatever movie. I want to watch even if you don't like it, but you'd still sit with me. So, as an example, we're going to walk through this exercise in terms of being selfish with any particular evening. Let's do tonight. For example, selfishly. What would you like? Selfishly? I would like to do. Takeout Thai food. I would like to have the kids in bed a little bit earlier. So, we have time to watch a movie and then after the movie, I'd love to get in the hot tub for a little bit and relax and then maybe go to the bedroom and connect. Okay. selfishly I would like to have a lot of vegetables. Selfishly. I would like to also put the kids to bed and do hot tub selfishly. I'd like to have time to read my book. Okay. So one of the things is that once you've put your selfish wants and needs out there, then there's room to collaborate because there's no hidden agenda around the timeframe of everything. So, okay. We can order Thai food, and make sure we order a number of dishes that have a lot of vegetables in them. We're both in agreement around putting the kids to bed a little bit early. So we have a little bit more time. It sounds like we're in agreement around the hot tub and also it sounds like what I want is to watch a movie and you want to read your book. And so there's room to be able to do something separate in that. I don't have to watch my movie with you. You don't need me to read your book. Yes, and so, We're able to identify where our selfish wants overlap, and where they're compatible, and where they can be met on our own, in a way that doesn't involve our partner. I'm also willing to find compromise with this and watch a show that shorter so that we still have TV time together and I can have time for my book and if there's still time and still inspiration, we can make love. And so ultimately, as a result of being able to communicate about your selfish wants, start to realize the multitude of ways that those wants can get addressed rather than I have an agenda. It doesn't feel safe to state it. I'm gonna hope this happens, but I don't really think it will and then there's disappointment when you don't mind read what I wanted and I end up disappointed. It's a really great point in terms of we're not mind readers. So, when I asked, what do you selfishly want Daniel? I'm giving him permission. Maybe he's the partner who is more of a people pleaser and puts his needs in the closet and I'm really giving him extra permission because this is a team sport and the team sport, if I'm not the typical people pleaser. I can help my partner access that extra level of permission to name their needs. Now, if you're a beginner at this exercise, what I would suggest doing is that you each take a night where you get to be selfish and do the selfish conversation. So Monday, Wednesday, Friday partner a gets to say this is how the night looks selfishly. And then Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday partner B gets to have the selfish conversation and outline how the night looks and then maybe on Sunday, you attempt doing a collaboration of selfish needs and seeing where the Venn diagram overlaps. In this chapter, we're going to discuss an area that couples often times get stuck, which is about unspoken and hidden agendas. What tends to happen is that couples often times can feel when their partner has a hidden agenda and is not communicating it and so it doesn't feel totally safe having that conversation. You're going to feel a little weary, you're going to be a little apprehensive. And so you're going to be kind of wondering. What are you trying to say? What are you not saying underneath this. So a common area around this is what do you feel like for dinner, which people usually have a preference but they're avoiding stating their preference. So what ends up happening, is they ask their partner, a question. What do you feel like for dinner? Hey, do you think Mexican food sounds good? And what I'm really saying is I really want to go get Mexican food, but I'm not flat out saying it and so in the absence of flat out saying it, I'm putting a loaded question out there because I have a hidden agenda but I'm not owning it. And so, one of the things that's really important is to recognize that this was a simple example, but that can play out in very different areas as well. Let's say with regards to sex. Yes, I was going to go right there. Okay. So what would you like to do in the bedroom? Right? Does that feel safe to answer? I actually know what I want to do, but I might not want to say it out loud or one or the other partner might not want to say it out loud for fear of rejection, or they're also testing and checking in with where the other person's at before it feels safe to share their own feelings. So, one of the ways to counteract this is to own your own wants and desires as completely selfish. Now in reality, they might be selfish. They might be completely reasonable. It doesn't matter. But if you own them in the selfish game, what ends up happening is, there's permission to put the cards on the table and then discuss what those cards look like if all of them are played out. I think it's also important to note that for people who tend to be people pleasers, being selfish feels really dangerous. So if you grew up in an environment, say in childhood, where things were unsafe, maybe there was an alcoholic parent or things were just emotionally chaotic and you had to read your environment on a daily basis and make sure you were the one to keep the peace or you self-assigned yourself to keep the peace. What happens is, you put your needs way on the back burner, maybe in the back closet, may be stored away in the garage and you are looking at everybody else's needs so that the safety of the whole family can go forward, what happens then is that defense mechanism that adaptive strategy in terms of being a people pleaser or a person who makes an environment safe continues forward into adulthood and then advocating for your needs of being selfish actually feels really foreign and really dangerous. So if you find yourself to be in this category, go slow at this exercise and really give yourself a lot of permission that you did need that defense mechanism to help you get through your childhood. You did need to put your needs in the closet and help the environment be safe. But now that you're an adult and things are safe. Can you have compassion for yourself to actually feel the safety to name that need, especially in this selfish conversation. To tie in with that, it's also important to recognize that you have those needs, no matter how buried they are, and they're going to play out in one way or the other. What this does is it brings it out into the light and makes it an explicit statement about it rather than the hidden agenda that we were talking about. So the selfish game, how does it work? What you would say is selfishly? Here's what I want for this weekend selfishly. I want to sleep in until 9:30 selfishly. I want to go out to dinner rather than cook selfishly. I want to watch whatever movie. I want to watch even if you don't like it, but you'd still sit with me. So, as an example, we're going to walk through this exercise in terms of being selfish with any particular evening. Let's do tonight. For example, selfishly. What would you like? Selfishly? I would like to do. Takeout Thai food. I would like to have the kids in bed a little bit earlier. So, we have time to watch a movie and then after the movie, I'd love to get in the hot tub for a little bit and relax and then maybe go to the bedroom and connect. Okay. selfishly I would like to have a lot of vegetables. Selfishly. I would like to also put the kids to bed and do hot tub selfishly. I'd like to have time to read my book. Okay. So one of the things is that once you've put your selfish wants and needs out there, then there's room to collaborate because there's no hidden agenda around the timeframe of everything. So, okay. We can order Thai food, and make sure we order a number of dishes that have a lot of vegetables in them. We're both in agreement around putting the kids to bed a little bit early. So we have a little bit more time. It sounds like we're in agreement around the hot tub and also it sounds like what I want is to watch a movie and you want to read your book. And so there's room to be able to do something separate in that. I don't have to watch my movie with you. You don't need me to read your book. Yes, and so, We're able to identify where our selfish wants overlap, and where they're compatible, and where they can be met on our own, in a way that doesn't involve our partner. I'm also willing to find compromise with this and watch a show that shorter so that we still have TV time together and I can have time for my book and if there's still time and still inspiration, we can make love. And so ultimately, as a result of being able to communicate about your selfish wants, start to realize the multitude of ways that those wants can get addressed rather than I have an agenda. It doesn't feel safe to state it. I'm gonna hope this happens, but I don't really think it will and then there's disappointment when you don't mind read what I wanted and I end up disappointed. It's a really great point in terms of we're not mind readers. So, when I asked, what do you selfishly want Daniel? I'm giving him permission. Maybe he's the partner who is more of a people pleaser and puts his needs in the closet and I'm really giving him extra permission because this is a team sport and the team sport, if I'm not the typical people pleaser. I can help my partner access that extra level of permission to name their needs. Now, if you're a beginner at this exercise, what I would suggest doing is that you each take a night where you get to be selfish and do the selfish conversation. So Monday, Wednesday, Friday partner a gets to say this is how the night looks selfishly. And then Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday partner B gets to have the selfish conversation and outline how the night looks and then maybe on Sunday, you attempt doing a collaboration of selfish needs and seeing where the Venn diagram overlaps. We're now moving into part two of the roadmap, which is physical intimacy. The physical intimacy section is where we begin to interact with the senses and making contact with each other's bodies and starting with some of those foundational building blocks around touch and self-regulation and connection with partner. Part of the reason why physical intimacy is the building block, is that all of the elements of physical intimacy that are interacted with, play out during sex but are often times so intense and overwhelming that we're not able to break down the individual aspects of what's happening and develop an understanding of what needs to be adjusted to feel really positive and roll in a very positive way. So what we're going to do in physical intimacy is reduce a lot of the stimulation of much higher levels of intimacy and instead highlight things that are safer to work on a much simpler and isolated basis. In this chapter, we're really going to describe the nervous system and taking responsibility for our nervous system. There are different psychological theories out there and books that are based on a co-regulating of each other's nervous system. We actually feel the opposite is important. We feel that it's important to regulate yourself and take responsibility for yourself, so that you don't burden your partner with that task. So much as feeling a sense of influence and control over your own experience. When you feel a sense of power over your own body, then you feel safe to engage in higher levels of intimacy. If you don't feel that sense of influence and power over your own body, then it's very difficult to access a yes on a deep level rather than feel like I wish I could say no to some things, but I don't feel comfortable doing so. When you feel in charge of your own self, you feel completely like a voluntary participant rather than any level of obligation or expectation. So when you are in charge of your own regulation, it gives you a sense of power and influence over the circumstance and your participation in that. What's common that people don't realize and we'll show you in a breakout chapter here. Is that even simple exercises done with eye contact can get our nervous systems into an activated state. If we're in an activated State, one of the things that is difficult is to access arousal. So we want to be able to track and have an eye in on our inner landscape around are we calm and grounded? Are we relaxed? Are we open to the idea of arousal and feel that circulating through our body rather than going straight for a B line into a state of stress? And with the amount of dynamics that play out with regards to a sexual interaction. We frequently don't have time to acknowledge each one of those individual stressors. What we're doing here is we're compartmentalizing it. So we can identify those individuals stressors and eliminate them in simple and compartmentalized ways. So that can translate down the road to a much more comfortable and open space with regards to sexual intimacy. If you're thinking, I love sex, that's super easy for me. This is not a problem. I don't get activated or stressed around it yet. You may find that it's really common to get activated and stressed over just the idea of having sex because now you feel like there's a performance happening and that you need to do something perfectly or you need to do a particular sexual act that'll make your partner happy or your erection needs to show up on time and stay or you don't want to ejaculate too quickly or you don't want to have pain with any particular activity, or you don't like the way your body looks with any particular activity, or maybe you have a history of sexual trauma and there's certain things or certain positions that activate the activate your stress response. There's so many reasons where sex can actually activate us and create a sign of stress and we don't even realize we're in activation before it's too late. Another thing that also happens is that people are able to have sex, but there's a big difference between having sex and experiencing sexual intimacy. And so when you actually slow down with some of these exercises that will describe and interact with, very intimate moments, people begin to realize that intimacy is included in sex but involves many other dynamics that oftentimes are not intentionally created in the same way as just jumping into the sack together. In this chapter, we look at the central nervous system and how it helps and hinders our individual response to sex and our relationship. There are two parts of the nervous system in terms of our involuntary response. Our parasympathetic and are sympathetic. Sympathetic nervous system is our activation zone. It's where we actually get our stimulation and our activation going. However, if we are too stressed, we get into a place of fight flight or freeze. And then we can't actually advocate for what we need and we end up shutting down or having an anxiety attack. So we don't want to be so much in our sympathetic that we are inducing a state of stress. Our parasympathetic is where we rest and digest or that's where we call it feed and breed. This is where if we are relaxed arousal can emerge, if we are relaxed and in our parasympathetic, we can induce pleasure. We don't want to be so relaxed. that we're sleepy and not activated. So what we're trying to do is find the balance between the two, we want to be in our parasympathetic, soft and relaxed and then add in a little bit of that activation in stimulation. From the sympathetic nervous system in order to get there you first have to ask yourself Where am I? If I'm in this really tired kind of lazy, restful place. I might need to induce a little stimulation in a fire breath to bring me into a place of being awake. If I'm in a place of stress, I might need to induce more relaxation so that I can allow the arousal to emerge. For the next exercise, we're going to do what's called deep belly breathing. I want you to find a place to sit or lay down. And once you find that place, we're going to come into breathing like a baby, where we imagine the breath in our belly, is like a balloon. And as we inhale, We inflate that balloon, real big and more importantly, as we exhale. We deflate the balloon. Our parasympathetic response is all about the exhale as we exhale, slowly, that's more important than the inhale. We're focusing on letting it all go and letting it all out. Daniel's going to introduce us into our belly breathing exercise. As we move into the physical intimacy exercises, one of the most important things to build into these exercises is a sense of regulation and calm within your own body. One of the easiest ways to start to build that in is through changing your breath. Whenever people are having panic attacks for example, they tend to do short shallow breaths up in the chest. It is very calming and relaxing, and much more grounding to be able to take deep belly breaths. And when you're breathing more with your diaphragmatic breath, what happens is your nervous system is much more regulated and when you are regulated, your partner is able to regulate when your partner is able to regulate your able to regulate. So the more you're able to regulate yourself, you're inviting your partner into a calm and regulated space and the more grounded and present your able to be for the exercise, what people frequently noticed during the exercises that as tension or worry builds up, they tend to start to hold their breath. And so we are going to build in a different way of breathing so that you can stay present in the moment. The easiest way to practice this is to find your ribcage and just put your hand right below your rib cage. What you're going to do is you're going to take a deep breath in. And watch your hand move as you, breathe. Then, as you breathe out, you're going to try to make your hand, touch your spine. As you feel that movement often times what happens is you'll feel a little bit lightheaded or you might feel tired. You might notice the desire to yawn. That's your parasympathetic nervous system kicking in and indicating that you're resting your off-duty, you're safe. And that place is a place to be able to access lots of pleasure and enjoyment because of the regulated nervous system that you're experiencing. So, throughout all of these exercises track your breathing, notice if you have, any short shallow breaths up in your chest, and if you do move it down to your belly. And remember to keep that movement going, A variation of this, is to lie down on a couch, or on your bed, put a pillow on your stomach, and watch the pillow rise and fall. Now before you begin any of the physical intimacy exercises I would like to encourage everybody to set a timer for three minutes and practice this deep belly breathing, as a way of, making sure that you feel comfortable with it and familiar with it. So that it's accessible in the moment. When you're connecting with your partner, another way to use this exercise is to begin your nest, or your ritual with a breathing relaxation, exercise together. If you're able to regulate yourself, while you're connecting with your partner, then this is a very valuable, foundational building block that will allow you to be more and more present as sexual intimacy increases. You can always press pause on whatever you're doing and come back to your breath. Ready? It's not important to breathe at the same time, or in the same way. It's also not important to focus on the breathing in too much intensity, but just let the natural flow of your breath. Be what guides you. In this breakout exercise, we set up our nest. Often times it's nice to have a little ritual space where you do all of your intimacy exercises. This is completely optional. But if you do want to set up a little sacred space consider having a soft cozy floor or rug, having a way to sit like a back-jack or a pillow and then having something in between to share. So here, I've set up a little chocolate and nut plate, and two candles. And we're ready for our connection space. Once you're in the nest lots of options here. You can play some quiet music or some classical music and hang out to let your nervous systems come into regulation. You can light some candles and share some chocolate and nuts. You can have a cup of tea or a glass of wine and you can just use this as a space to come into for your ritual and your relaxation before you start your exercises. This exercise is called hand caress. It's the way that we're going to have couples begin to make contact with each other. And hand caress is one of those exercises where people always think it sounds kind of basic. It sounds kind of simple. Whenever I explained it people always go I'm just touching the other person's hand? Hands are a very intimate body part. They're our way of interacting with the world and yet at the same time it also tends to be safe because it's further away from the face. It's further away from the genitals. And so it's really great entry point to making contact and noticing what comes up. We talked previously, around the value of compartmentalizing each one of these different intimate exercises because there's a lot of information playing out in each exercise with hand caress. This is the starting point for information to start to come up. There's a few important elements around this. In clinical sex therapy sensate focus is a common intervention and hand caress is the first step in that particular intervention to help couples connect. We use hand caress in a different way as a portal into intimacy where the hands are a safe place to connect and also explore intimate places that we could do in public. Ideally, this is done where one person offers and receives. Then there's a debrief and communication afterwards rather than adjusting. How you would be offering based off of what your partner just offered or reflected back to you. It's more about getting in touch with both the giver and the receiver role in the sense of what does it feel like to just get lost in offering my partner an experience and a form of touch. What does it feel like to get lost in the experience of receiving my partner's touch? How can you be really in touch with your own experience as you're interacting with your partner, don't judge yourself. If you get activated as simply the receiver, sometimes receiving contact can be stressful or even traumatic for people because receiving contact from a long time ago or in childhood was a violation. So this is a learning experience potentially to make it safe. Some people get triggered or activated when they give because they feel like they're taken advantage of. Again, this is an opportunity to redo that and have a place where it's safe and intimate in terms of exploring. Where do I get activated as the giver or the receiver and trying to make a balance where we make both parts safe. Utilizing tools like deep belly breathing, and closing your eyes, releasing any tension, in your body. Maybe halfway through, if you need to just kind of move a little bit and loosen up your body as a way of resetting and that can often times allow you to drop back into an intimate and connected space. All these details are important because what it does is it sets up the template of how you want to communicate and pay attention to detail when you move into higher levels of intimacy and erotic contact. Once we jump into an erogenous or an erotic experience, we tend to overlook things or our brain hijacks experience into our to-do list or a rushing through it because we feel triggered by the level of ability and intimacy. When we slow this down, we pay attention to the details, especially the details we learn from one another and hand caress, the details about giving, and receiving the details about how we get activated, until we get to that peak. And then down the other side into that relaxed place are all important for those higher levels of sexual contact. It's much easier to talk about it when your hands are being touched, then when your genitals are being contacted. And so this is an essential building block that has ripple effects down the road. Our timers set, and I'm going to be the receiver first. So what you're going to do is you're going to just start off offering the kind of touch that you want to offer. Change up which parts of your hand you are touching your partner's hand with. See, if you can get any grunts, groans, or moans based off of fingernails. Or just very light contact with the pads of your fingertips. If I contact feels comfortable, notice that place where you just slow it down, see if you can focus on the touch as you're also making contact. And I get teary with this just because it feels so good. Slow it down and get this kind of undivided attention. Track your breathing track, your ability to see your partner without getting lost in them and still able to be in contact with yourself. You can look at the hands, just sort of see what you're doing. If you're wanting to shift, how you're making contact. Sometimes a light sort of therapeutic massage, might feel nice. A little bit of a firmer pressing with the thumbs or other times. These are very light brushing. What you're doing is you're developing dexterity around, touch your developing different ways to make contact with your partner's body, their hands their skin. And what this does is it just gives you a lot of feedback and give your partner a lot of feedback around, what kind of contact feels best. Then we switch roles where I am the giver and Daniel is the receiver. It's important to first find your own ground as the giver so that you don't get lost in the task and lose yourself. Mmm. So you see how using those grunts and groans, I was able to adjust the kind of touch that I wanted to receive. Mmm. I find as giver that I imagine my hand as an artistic paintbrush getting so much pleasure out of giving. What does it feel like from my nail beds to be on his skin? What does his skin feel like if I get really curious as the giver, it can bring a lot of pleasure to the experience. And when I know he likes it, mhm. That energy can be contagious after you are done giving and receiving take a few minutes to debrief, the experience of what went well and what you'd like to have for a change next time. For example, one of the things I noticed when I was offering touch is how hard it is to be able to focus on looking at you making a lot of contact while also wanting to look at your hands. I noticed I had my own agenda wanting to touch you. The way I wanted to touch you and I had to readjust based on your groans, which were helpful to track what you needed and wanted. I noticed how if I didn't hear any feedback I assumed you liked it rather than assume that you weren't liking it. That is correct. So, this kind of communication to develop a better understanding of what's happening in the moment gives you so much potential to be able to gain greater insight into what's happening for your partner's body and mind during any form of intimate contact. Feedback is important. We often hear from our clients that when they're in the bedroom together, there's not enough feedback and they don't know if they're going the right or wrong direction for their partner. So being able to do grunts, groans, and moans and ask your partner. For instance I was a little quiet and Daniel said, mmm? to kind of illicit, is this the right direction? I could do a better job of giving him my grunts, groans, and moans so that he knows where to go with that. To piggyback off of what Jenny said regarding a lot of people saying I'm not sure whether my partner's enjoying it. We often times also hear that my partner doesn't know how to touch me the way that I want to be touched and the question I always follow up with that is well have you walked them through what kind of touch you want to receive? This is a way to build in that understanding just based off of hands being touched. You can do this on a park bench and not get arrested, but it still gives you a lot of information around what's going on for your partner and yourself in any intimate moment. Once you have practiced hand caress a few times what we're going to do is we're going to up the ante a little bit. So rather than just touching hands. What we're going to do is we're going to start adding more body parts in a way that feels safe and comfortable. So we're going to touch the forearm, the arm, the shoulder. And the neck, the neck is an incredibly sensual part of the body while also being something that for the most part it feels very safe to make contact with and so we're just noticing what that increased level of attention and connection feels like as we're adding body parts. And so begin to add those body parts and see does the the arm feel safe. But before we start doing the neck, we need to have some check-ins about what kind of contact feels good. Or does the whole thing feel good, and then we can move on to the next exercise. So that communication those grunts, groans, and moans are all part of what we're working to build in. As contact is being made with your partner for a lot of people, this kind of intimacy where we touch the face and the neck can feel like a lot especially with the eye contact and there's a level of vulnerability that can feel unfamiliar. So going slow is important. We have green, yellow, red. As a way to slow things down. If you do, find your activation getting really kicked up into stress zones, fight, flight, freeze. So again you want to notice your inner landscape. If Daniel starts to get activated by any of the touch. Maybe he wants to slow me down with yellow. Or pause with his own hand. Do you want me to continue or stop? Keep going. So as I continued I'm tracking him and tracking to see if he feels okay He's tracking himself. I'm exploring with the intent that I'm giving pleasure. And making contact. Mhm. and if he needs to say red, Or stop with his hands, he can. Yellow and red is perfectly fine. Green is keep going, yellow is slow down. Maybe you make a pause and Red is hold on. Something got kicked up. Keep in mind that, even though we cognitively may think, this is wonderful and safe. The body keeps the score as Bessel Van Der Kolk talks about in his book, and the body has its own agenda and its own memories that are cognitions you might not be aware of. You want to honor the body. The body is brilliant, and it has it's own memory. So we might need to see what it needs and go with that flow and redo and create safety in the relationship you're in, as you move forward, another part to remember, as well, is that if your partner is activated by any particular thing, that doesn't necessarily mean that you're responsible for that activation and so your partner can be activated and there's room to work with it while also not meaning you did anything wrong. Part of what we're doing is we're ironing out all of the misinterpretations that play out in sexual interactions and most couples don't ever take the time to slow it down and investigate what's off or out of place earlier on. That's what this is an opportunity to do. And that doesn't necessarily mean that you're doing anything wrong. It just means that your interaction with your partner at that particular moment is bringing up information for them to investigate to understand better what they're needing in the moment. Once you've practiced this a few times starting with the hands and then the arm, shoulder, and neck. What I recommend is have a discussion about how you want to make this exercise your own. You might want to do a leg caress instead. You might want to do a foot caress, you might want to do a whole body caress, but not involve genitals. Basically, once you have had a chance to practice it, the the way we've described it, make it your own to see what information you're curious about. What you want to gain out of the experience. How do you begin to open this up and get creative from this place? A wonderful date idea is a kissing date. I often hear a couple say that they don't kiss enough or they feel stylistically different from one another. This is true because we learn to kiss maybe in adolescence or as we go through life and we don't know that whatever partners is in front of us has the same style. So it's important to get on the same page and figure out what each other likes. By one person being a more passive recipient and then the other person being a more passive recipient and then coming together to find their flow. So they can both enjoy the experience. This is also a wonderful exercise just to explore the landscape of the mouth where there are so many delicious and rich nerve endings and so much intimacy to be found. Oftentimes kissing is the gateway into sensual intimacy. A lot of research has shown that couples who tend to kiss each other more have increased levels of happiness, argue less, and have sex more frequently. So if you can get all those those three things out of just more kissing seems like a win win win. Some people like a lot of tongue some people like no tongue. Some people like to nibble and bite some people don't. So, again, grunt, groans, moans are helpful here to track what your partner wants and communicating. Some people feel like there's a lot of saliva exchange and don't want that. And some people really like to get deep in there. So really know what you like and describe that to your partner. Setting a timer can also create understandable and and shared expectations of how long the exercise is going to go for and who is going to do what So communicate with the timer? Communicate who is going to be offering who's going to be receiving. Spell all those things out ahead of time so that everybody is on the same page. Nobody's caught off-guard by any part of the process. Kissing is something that you probably do with your partner as just an everyday ritual but there isn't a lot of intention put behind it frequently. Over time, couples will offer a goodbye kiss. A good morning, kiss, a goodnight kiss but not actually pay attention to what they're doing. What this does is it gives a lot of intention to the action of kissing rather than just running on autopilot by offering what you're used to. Once you're on the same page, it's important to pay attention to when you exit from each other. And when you re-enter back, these are good opportunities to be intentional with our kiss and linger a little longer. We call it the three second kiss as you depart and as you return, maybe at the beginning and the end of the day, or when you wake up, or go to bed. And this breakout exercise, we're going to talk about a relaxation ritual. Often times, we can get aroused when we're stressed. If our hormones override the stress, meaning there is a level of horniness flowing through our system and it overrides that activation. But if we want to be intentional about our arousal, we first need to be relaxed. It is through our parasympathetic nervous system that we can experience pleasure and arousal so to get into that relaxed state, we do need a relaxation ritual. You can do this alone or in partnership. Often times, if we're activated being alone for our own relaxation ritual, and then doing one together is very helpful. So for me, if I sit alone for 10, 15 minutes and meditate or breathe. I might light a candle or listen to soft music. I can bring my nervous system into equilibrium. You can also use some different kinds of breathing exercises. I love this book, Alpha breaths, the ABCs of mindful breathing. It's a children's book that I got for my kids and loved it so much and now lives in my office so you can play with different ways of breathing to again, bring your nervous system into equilibrium. It is through the portal of relaxation that we find arousal. If you're doing with this with a partner. Maybe you have a cozy couch tea time. You could have a bath together a shower together or just sit together for a few slow deep breath before you begin your practices. In this chapter, we look at the central nervous system and how it helps and hinders our individual response to sex and our relationship. There are two parts of the nervous system in terms of our involuntary response. Our parasympathetic and are sympathetic. Sympathetic nervous system is our activation zone. It's where we actually get our stimulation and our activation going. However, if we are too stressed, we get into a place of fight flight or freeze. And then we can't actually advocate for what we need and we end up shutting down or having an anxiety attack. So we don't want to be so much in our sympathetic that we are inducing a state of stress. Our parasympathetic is where we rest and digest or that's where we call it feed and breed. This is where if we are relaxed arousal can emerge, if we are relaxed and in our parasympathetic, we can induce pleasure. We don't want to be so relaxed. that we're sleepy and not activated. So what we're trying to do is find the balance between the two, we want to be in our parasympathetic, soft and relaxed and then add in a little bit of that activation in stimulation. From the sympathetic nervous system in order to get there you first have to ask yourself Where am I? If I'm in this really tired kind of lazy, restful place. I might need to induce a little stimulation in a fire breath to bring me into a place of being awake. If I'm in a place of stress, I might need to induce more relaxation so that I can allow the arousal to emerge. For the next exercise, we're going to do what's called deep belly breathing. I want you to find a place to sit or lay down. And once you find that place, we're going to come into breathing like a baby, where we imagine the breath in our belly, is like a balloon. And as we inhale, We inflate that balloon, real big and more importantly, as we exhale. We deflate the balloon. Our parasympathetic response is all about the exhale as we exhale, slowly, that's more important than the inhale. We're focusing on letting it all go and letting it all out. Daniel's going to introduce us into our belly breathing exercise. As we move into the physical intimacy exercises, one of the most important things to build into these exercises is a sense of regulation and calm within your own body. One of the easiest ways to start to build that in is through changing your breath. Whenever people are having panic attacks for example, they tend to do short shallow breaths up in the chest. It is very calming and relaxing, and much more grounding to be able to take deep belly breaths. And when you're breathing more with your diaphragmatic breath, what happens is your nervous system is much more regulated and when you are regulated, your partner is able to regulate when your partner is able to regulate your able to regulate. So the more you're able to regulate yourself, you're inviting your partner into a calm and regulated space and the more grounded and present your able to be for the exercise, what people frequently noticed during the exercises that as tension or worry builds up, they tend to start to hold their breath. And so we are going to build in a different way of breathing so that you can stay present in the moment. The easiest way to practice this is to find your ribcage and just put your hand right below your rib cage. What you're going to do is you're going to take a deep breath in. And watch your hand move as you, breathe. Then, as you breathe out, you're going to try to make your hand, touch your spine. As you feel that movement often times what happens is you'll feel a little bit lightheaded or you might feel tired. You might notice the desire to yawn. That's your parasympathetic nervous system kicking in and indicating that you're resting your off-duty, you're safe. And that place is a place to be able to access lots of pleasure and enjoyment because of the regulated nervous system that you're experiencing. So, throughout all of these exercises track your breathing, notice if you have, any short shallow breaths up in your chest, and if you do move it down to your belly. And remember to keep that movement going, A variation of this, is to lie down on a couch, or on your bed, put a pillow on your stomach, and watch the pillow rise and fall. Now before you begin any of the physical intimacy exercises I would like to encourage everybody to set a timer for three minutes and practice this deep belly breathing, as a way of, making sure that you feel comfortable with it and familiar with it. So that it's accessible in the moment. When you're connecting with your partner, another way to use this exercise is to begin your nest, or your ritual with a breathing relaxation, exercise together. If you're able to regulate yourself, while you're connecting with your partner, then this is a very valuable, foundational building block that will allow you to be more and more present as sexual intimacy increases. You can always press pause on whatever you're doing and come back to your breath. Ready? It's not important to breathe at the same time, or in the same way. It's also not important to focus on the breathing in too much intensity, but just let the natural flow of your breath. Be what guides you. In this breakout exercise, we set up our nest. Often times it's nice to have a little ritual space where you do all of your intimacy exercises. This is completely optional. But if you do want to set up a little sacred space consider having a soft cozy floor or rug, having a way to sit like a back-jack or a pillow and then having something in between to share. So here, I've set up a little chocolate and nut plate, and two candles. And we're ready for our connection space. Once you're in the nest lots of options here. You can play some quiet music or some classical music and hang out to let your nervous systems come into regulation. You can light some candles and share some chocolate and nuts. You can have a cup of tea or a glass of wine and you can just use this as a space to come into for your ritual and your relaxation before you start your exercises. This exercise is called hand caress. It's the way that we're going to have couples begin to make contact with each other. And hand caress is one of those exercises where people always think it sounds kind of basic. It sounds kind of simple. Whenever I explained it people always go I'm just touching the other person's hand? Hands are a very intimate body part. They're our way of interacting with the world and yet at the same time it also tends to be safe because it's further away from the face. It's further away from the genitals. And so it's really great entry point to making contact and noticing what comes up. We talked previously, around the value of compartmentalizing each one of these different intimate exercises because there's a lot of information playing out in each exercise with hand caress. This is the starting point for information to start to come up. There's a few important elements around this. In clinical sex therapy sensate focus is a common intervention and hand caress is the first step in that particular intervention to help couples connect. We use hand caress in a different way as a portal into intimacy where the hands are a safe place to connect and also explore intimate places that we could do in public. Ideally, this is done where one person offers and receives. Then there's a debrief and communication afterwards rather than adjusting. How you would be offering based off of what your partner just offered or reflected back to you. It's more about getting in touch with both the giver and the receiver role in the sense of what does it feel like to just get lost in offering my partner an experience and a form of touch. What does it feel like to get lost in the experience of receiving my partner's touch? How can you be really in touch with your own experience as you're interacting with your partner, don't judge yourself. If you get activated as simply the receiver, sometimes receiving contact can be stressful or even traumatic for people because receiving contact from a long time ago or in childhood was a violation. So this is a learning experience potentially to make it safe. Some people get triggered or activated when they give because they feel like they're taken advantage of. Again, this is an opportunity to redo that and have a place where it's safe and intimate in terms of exploring. Where do I get activated as the giver or the receiver and trying to make a balance where we make both parts safe. Utilizing tools like deep belly breathing, and closing your eyes, releasing any tension, in your body. Maybe halfway through, if you need to just kind of move a little bit and loosen up your body as a way of resetting and that can often times allow you to drop back into an intimate and connected space. All these details are important because what it does is it sets up the template of how you want to communicate and pay attention to detail when you move into higher levels of intimacy and erotic contact. Once we jump into an erogenous or an erotic experience, we tend to overlook things or our brain hijacks experience into our to-do list or a rushing through it because we feel triggered by the level of ability and intimacy. When we slow this down, we pay attention to the details, especially the details we learn from one another and hand caress, the details about giving, and receiving the details about how we get activated, until we get to that peak. And then down the other side into that relaxed place are all important for those higher levels of sexual contact. It's much easier to talk about it when your hands are being touched, then when your genitals are being contacted. And so this is an essential building block that has ripple effects down the road. Our timers set, and I'm going to be the receiver first. So what you're going to do is you're going to just start off offering the kind of touch that you want to offer. Change up which parts of your hand you are touching your partner's hand with. See, if you can get any grunts, groans, or moans based off of fingernails. Or just very light contact with the pads of your fingertips. If I contact feels comfortable, notice that place where you just slow it down, see if you can focus on the touch as you're also making contact. And I get teary with this just because it feels so good. Slow it down and get this kind of undivided attention. Track your breathing track, your ability to see your partner without getting lost in them and still able to be in contact with yourself. You can look at the hands, just sort of see what you're doing. If you're wanting to shift, how you're making contact. Sometimes a light sort of therapeutic massage, might feel nice. A little bit of a firmer pressing with the thumbs or other times. These are very light brushing. What you're doing is you're developing dexterity around, touch your developing different ways to make contact with your partner's body, their hands their skin. And what this does is it just gives you a lot of feedback and give your partner a lot of feedback around, what kind of contact feels best. Then we switch roles where I am the giver and Daniel is the receiver. It's important to first find your own ground as the giver so that you don't get lost in the task and lose yourself. Mmm. So you see how using those grunts and groans, I was able to adjust the kind of touch that I wanted to receive. Mmm. I find as giver that I imagine my hand as an artistic paintbrush getting so much pleasure out of giving. What does it feel like from my nail beds to be on his skin? What does his skin feel like if I get really curious as the giver, it can bring a lot of pleasure to the experience. And when I know he likes it, mhm. That energy can be contagious after you are done giving and receiving take a few minutes to debrief, the experience of what went well and what you'd like to have for a change next time. For example, one of the things I noticed when I was offering touch is how hard it is to be able to focus on looking at you making a lot of contact while also wanting to look at your hands. I noticed I had my own agenda wanting to touch you. The way I wanted to touch you and I had to readjust based on your groans, which were helpful to track what you needed and wanted. I noticed how if I didn't hear any feedback I assumed you liked it rather than assume that you weren't liking it. That is correct. So, this kind of communication to develop a better understanding of what's happening in the moment gives you so much potential to be able to gain greater insight into what's happening for your partner's body and mind during any form of intimate contact. Feedback is important. We often hear from our clients that when they're in the bedroom together, there's not enough feedback and they don't know if they're going the right or wrong direction for their partner. So being able to do grunts, groans, and moans and ask your partner. For instance I was a little quiet and Daniel said, mmm? to kind of illicit, is this the right direction? I could do a better job of giving him my grunts, groans, and moans so that he knows where to go with that. To piggyback off of what Jenny said regarding a lot of people saying I'm not sure whether my partner's enjoying it. We often times also hear that my partner doesn't know how to touch me the way that I want to be touched and the question I always follow up with that is well have you walked them through what kind of touch you want to receive? This is a way to build in that understanding just based off of hands being touched. You can do this on a park bench and not get arrested, but it still gives you a lot of information around what's going on for your partner and yourself in any intimate moment. Once you have practiced hand caress a few times what we're going to do is we're going to up the ante a little bit. So rather than just touching hands. What we're going to do is we're going to start adding more body parts in a way that feels safe and comfortable. So we're going to touch the forearm, the arm, the shoulder. And the neck, the neck is an incredibly sensual part of the body while also being something that for the most part it feels very safe to make contact with and so we're just noticing what that increased level of attention and connection feels like as we're adding body parts. And so begin to add those body parts and see does the the arm feel safe. But before we start doing the neck, we need to have some check-ins about what kind of contact feels good. Or does the whole thing feel good, and then we can move on to the next exercise. So that communication those grunts, groans, and moans are all part of what we're working to build in. As contact is being made with your partner for a lot of people, this kind of intimacy where we touch the face and the neck can feel like a lot especially with the eye contact and there's a level of vulnerability that can feel unfamiliar. So going slow is important. We have green, yellow, red. As a way to slow things down. If you do, find your activation getting really kicked up into stress zones, fight, flight, freeze. So again you want to notice your inner landscape. If Daniel starts to get activated by any of the touch. Maybe he wants to slow me down with yellow. Or pause with his own hand. Do you want me to continue or stop? Keep going. So as I continued I'm tracking him and tracking to see if he feels okay He's tracking himself. I'm exploring with the intent that I'm giving pleasure. And making contact. Mhm. and if he needs to say red, Or stop with his hands, he can. Yellow and red is perfectly fine. Green is keep going, yellow is slow down. Maybe you make a pause and Red is hold on. Something got kicked up. Keep in mind that, even though we cognitively may think, this is wonderful and safe. The body keeps the score as Bessel Van Der Kolk talks about in his book, and the body has its own agenda and its own memories that are cognitions you might not be aware of. You want to honor the body. The body is brilliant, and it has it's own memory. So we might need to see what it needs and go with that flow and redo and create safety in the relationship you're in, as you move forward, another part to remember, as well, is that if your partner is activated by any particular thing, that doesn't necessarily mean that you're responsible for that activation and so your partner can be activated and there's room to work with it while also not meaning you did anything wrong. Part of what we're doing is we're ironing out all of the misinterpretations that play out in sexual interactions and most couples don't ever take the time to slow it down and investigate what's off or out of place earlier on. That's what this is an opportunity to do. And that doesn't necessarily mean that you're doing anything wrong. It just means that your interaction with your partner at that particular moment is bringing up information for them to investigate to understand better what they're needing in the moment. Once you've practiced this a few times starting with the hands and then the arm, shoulder, and neck. What I recommend is have a discussion about how you want to make this exercise your own. You might want to do a leg caress instead. You might want to do a foot caress, you might want to do a whole body caress, but not involve genitals. Basically, once you have had a chance to practice it, the the way we've described it, make it your own to see what information you're curious about. What you want to gain out of the experience. How do you begin to open this up and get creative from this place? A wonderful date idea is a kissing date. I often hear a couple say that they don't kiss enough or they feel stylistically different from one another. This is true because we learn to kiss maybe in adolescence or as we go through life and we don't know that whatever partners is in front of us has the same style. So it's important to get on the same page and figure out what each other likes. By one person being a more passive recipient and then the other person being a more passive recipient and then coming together to find their flow. So they can both enjoy the experience. This is also a wonderful exercise just to explore the landscape of the mouth where there are so many delicious and rich nerve endings and so much intimacy to be found. Oftentimes kissing is the gateway into sensual intimacy. A lot of research has shown that couples who tend to kiss each other more have increased levels of happiness, argue less, and have sex more frequently. So if you can get all those those three things out of just more kissing seems like a win win win. Some people like a lot of tongue some people like no tongue. Some people like to nibble and bite some people don't. So, again, grunt, groans, moans are helpful here to track what your partner wants and communicating. Some people feel like there's a lot of saliva exchange and don't want that. And some people really like to get deep in there. So really know what you like and describe that to your partner. Setting a timer can also create understandable and and shared expectations of how long the exercise is going to go for and who is going to do what So communicate with the timer? Communicate who is going to be offering who's going to be receiving. Spell all those things out ahead of time so that everybody is on the same page. Nobody's caught off-guard by any part of the process. Kissing is something that you probably do with your partner as just an everyday ritual but there isn't a lot of intention put behind it frequently. Over time, couples will offer a goodbye kiss. A good morning, kiss, a goodnight kiss but not actually pay attention to what they're doing. What this does is it gives a lot of intention to the action of kissing rather than just running on autopilot by offering what you're used to. Once you're on the same page, it's important to pay attention to when you exit from each other. And when you re-enter back, these are good opportunities to be intentional with our kiss and linger a little longer. We call it the three second kiss as you depart and as you return, maybe at the beginning and the end of the day, or when you wake up, or go to bed. And this breakout exercise, we're going to talk about a relaxation ritual. Often times, we can get aroused when we're stressed. If our hormones override the stress, meaning there is a level of horniness flowing through our system and it overrides that activation. But if we want to be intentional about our arousal, we first need to be relaxed. It is through our parasympathetic nervous system that we can experience pleasure and arousal so to get into that relaxed state, we do need a relaxation ritual. You can do this alone or in partnership. Often times, if we're activated being alone for our own relaxation ritual, and then doing one together is very helpful. So for me, if I sit alone for 10, 15 minutes and meditate or breathe. I might light a candle or listen to soft music. I can bring my nervous system into equilibrium. You can also use some different kinds of breathing exercises. I love this book, Alpha breaths, the ABCs of mindful breathing. It's a children's book that I got for my kids and loved it so much and now lives in my office so you can play with different ways of breathing to again, bring your nervous system into equilibrium. It is through the portal of relaxation that we find arousal. If you're doing with this with a partner. Maybe you have a cozy couch tea time. You could have a bath together a shower together or just sit together for a few slow deep breath before you begin your practices. As we move into the physical intimacy exercises, one of the most important things to build into these exercises is a sense of regulation and calm within your own body. One of the easiest ways to start to build that in is through changing your breath. Whenever people are having panic attacks for example, they tend to do short shallow breaths up in the chest. It is very calming and relaxing, and much more grounding to be able to take deep belly breaths. And when you're breathing more with your diaphragmatic breath, what happens is your nervous system is much more regulated and when you are regulated, your partner is able to regulate when your partner is able to regulate your able to regulate. So the more you're able to regulate yourself, you're inviting your partner into a calm and regulated space and the more grounded and present your able to be for the exercise, what people frequently noticed during the exercises that as tension or worry builds up, they tend to start to hold their breath. And so we are going to build in a different way of breathing so that you can stay present in the moment. The easiest way to practice this is to find your ribcage and just put your hand right below your rib cage. What you're going to do is you're going to take a deep breath in. And watch your hand move as you, breathe. Then, as you breathe out, you're going to try to make your hand, touch your spine. As you feel that movement often times what happens is you'll feel a little bit lightheaded or you might feel tired. You might notice the desire to yawn. That's your parasympathetic nervous system kicking in and indicating that you're resting your off-duty, you're safe. And that place is a place to be able to access lots of pleasure and enjoyment because of the regulated nervous system that you're experiencing. So, throughout all of these exercises track your breathing, notice if you have, any short shallow breaths up in your chest, and if you do move it down to your belly. And remember to keep that movement going, A variation of this, is to lie down on a couch, or on your bed, put a pillow on your stomach, and watch the pillow rise and fall. Now before you begin any of the physical intimacy exercises I would like to encourage everybody to set a timer for three minutes and practice this deep belly breathing, as a way of, making sure that you feel comfortable with it and familiar with it. So that it's accessible in the moment. When you're connecting with your partner, another way to use this exercise is to begin your nest, or your ritual with a breathing relaxation, exercise together. If you're able to regulate yourself, while you're connecting with your partner, then this is a very valuable, foundational building block that will allow you to be more and more present as sexual intimacy increases. You can always press pause on whatever you're doing and come back to your breath. Ready? It's not important to breathe at the same time, or in the same way. It's also not important to focus on the breathing in too much intensity, but just let the natural flow of your breath. Be what guides you. In this breakout exercise, we set up our nest. Often times it's nice to have a little ritual space where you do all of your intimacy exercises. This is completely optional. But if you do want to set up a little sacred space consider having a soft cozy floor or rug, having a way to sit like a back-jack or a pillow and then having something in between to share. So here, I've set up a little chocolate and nut plate, and two candles. And we're ready for our connection space. Once you're in the nest lots of options here. You can play some quiet music or some classical music and hang out to let your nervous systems come into regulation. You can light some candles and share some chocolate and nuts. You can have a cup of tea or a glass of wine and you can just use this as a space to come into for your ritual and your relaxation before you start your exercises. This exercise is called hand caress. It's the way that we're going to have couples begin to make contact with each other. And hand caress is one of those exercises where people always think it sounds kind of basic. It sounds kind of simple. Whenever I explained it people always go I'm just touching the other person's hand? Hands are a very intimate body part. They're our way of interacting with the world and yet at the same time it also tends to be safe because it's further away from the face. It's further away from the genitals. And so it's really great entry point to making contact and noticing what comes up. We talked previously, around the value of compartmentalizing each one of these different intimate exercises because there's a lot of information playing out in each exercise with hand caress. This is the starting point for information to start to come up. There's a few important elements around this. In clinical sex therapy sensate focus is a common intervention and hand caress is the first step in that particular intervention to help couples connect. We use hand caress in a different way as a portal into intimacy where the hands are a safe place to connect and also explore intimate places that we could do in public. Ideally, this is done where one person offers and receives. Then there's a debrief and communication afterwards rather than adjusting. How you would be offering based off of what your partner just offered or reflected back to you. It's more about getting in touch with both the giver and the receiver role in the sense of what does it feel like to just get lost in offering my partner an experience and a form of touch. What does it feel like to get lost in the experience of receiving my partner's touch? How can you be really in touch with your own experience as you're interacting with your partner, don't judge yourself. If you get activated as simply the receiver, sometimes receiving contact can be stressful or even traumatic for people because receiving contact from a long time ago or in childhood was a violation. So this is a learning experience potentially to make it safe. Some people get triggered or activated when they give because they feel like they're taken advantage of. Again, this is an opportunity to redo that and have a place where it's safe and intimate in terms of exploring. Where do I get activated as the giver or the receiver and trying to make a balance where we make both parts safe. Utilizing tools like deep belly breathing, and closing your eyes, releasing any tension, in your body. Maybe halfway through, if you need to just kind of move a little bit and loosen up your body as a way of resetting and that can often times allow you to drop back into an intimate and connected space. All these details are important because what it does is it sets up the template of how you want to communicate and pay attention to detail when you move into higher levels of intimacy and erotic contact. Once we jump into an erogenous or an erotic experience, we tend to overlook things or our brain hijacks experience into our to-do list or a rushing through it because we feel triggered by the level of ability and intimacy. When we slow this down, we pay attention to the details, especially the details we learn from one another and hand caress, the details about giving, and receiving the details about how we get activated, until we get to that peak. And then down the other side into that relaxed place are all important for those higher levels of sexual contact. It's much easier to talk about it when your hands are being touched, then when your genitals are being contacted. And so this is an essential building block that has ripple effects down the road. Our timers set, and I'm going to be the receiver first. So what you're going to do is you're going to just start off offering the kind of touch that you want to offer. Change up which parts of your hand you are touching your partner's hand with. See, if you can get any grunts, groans, or moans based off of fingernails. Or just very light contact with the pads of your fingertips. If I contact feels comfortable, notice that place where you just slow it down, see if you can focus on the touch as you're also making contact. And I get teary with this just because it feels so good. Slow it down and get this kind of undivided attention. Track your breathing track, your ability to see your partner without getting lost in them and still able to be in contact with yourself. You can look at the hands, just sort of see what you're doing. If you're wanting to shift, how you're making contact. Sometimes a light sort of therapeutic massage, might feel nice. A little bit of a firmer pressing with the thumbs or other times. These are very light brushing. What you're doing is you're developing dexterity around, touch your developing different ways to make contact with your partner's body, their hands their skin. And what this does is it just gives you a lot of feedback and give your partner a lot of feedback around, what kind of contact feels best. Then we switch roles where I am the giver and Daniel is the receiver. It's important to first find your own ground as the giver so that you don't get lost in the task and lose yourself. Mmm. So you see how using those grunts and groans, I was able to adjust the kind of touch that I wanted to receive. Mmm. I find as giver that I imagine my hand as an artistic paintbrush getting so much pleasure out of giving. What does it feel like from my nail beds to be on his skin? What does his skin feel like if I get really curious as the giver, it can bring a lot of pleasure to the experience. And when I know he likes it, mhm. That energy can be contagious after you are done giving and receiving take a few minutes to debrief, the experience of what went well and what you'd like to have for a change next time. For example, one of the things I noticed when I was offering touch is how hard it is to be able to focus on looking at you making a lot of contact while also wanting to look at your hands. I noticed I had my own agenda wanting to touch you. The way I wanted to touch you and I had to readjust based on your groans, which were helpful to track what you needed and wanted. I noticed how if I didn't hear any feedback I assumed you liked it rather than assume that you weren't liking it. That is correct. So, this kind of communication to develop a better understanding of what's happening in the moment gives you so much potential to be able to gain greater insight into what's happening for your partner's body and mind during any form of intimate contact. Feedback is important. We often hear from our clients that when they're in the bedroom together, there's not enough feedback and they don't know if they're going the right or wrong direction for their partner. So being able to do grunts, groans, and moans and ask your partner. For instance I was a little quiet and Daniel said, mmm? to kind of illicit, is this the right direction? I could do a better job of giving him my grunts, groans, and moans so that he knows where to go with that. To piggyback off of what Jenny said regarding a lot of people saying I'm not sure whether my partner's enjoying it. We often times also hear that my partner doesn't know how to touch me the way that I want to be touched and the question I always follow up with that is well have you walked them through what kind of touch you want to receive? This is a way to build in that understanding just based off of hands being touched. You can do this on a park bench and not get arrested, but it still gives you a lot of information around what's going on for your partner and yourself in any intimate moment. Once you have practiced hand caress a few times what we're going to do is we're going to up the ante a little bit. So rather than just touching hands. What we're going to do is we're going to start adding more body parts in a way that feels safe and comfortable. So we're going to touch the forearm, the arm, the shoulder. And the neck, the neck is an incredibly sensual part of the body while also being something that for the most part it feels very safe to make contact with and so we're just noticing what that increased level of attention and connection feels like as we're adding body parts. And so begin to add those body parts and see does the the arm feel safe. But before we start doing the neck, we need to have some check-ins about what kind of contact feels good. Or does the whole thing feel good, and then we can move on to the next exercise. So that communication those grunts, groans, and moans are all part of what we're working to build in. As contact is being made with your partner for a lot of people, this kind of intimacy where we touch the face and the neck can feel like a lot especially with the eye contact and there's a level of vulnerability that can feel unfamiliar. So going slow is important. We have green, yellow, red. As a way to slow things down. If you do, find your activation getting really kicked up into stress zones, fight, flight, freeze. So again you want to notice your inner landscape. If Daniel starts to get activated by any of the touch. Maybe he wants to slow me down with yellow. Or pause with his own hand. Do you want me to continue or stop? Keep going. So as I continued I'm tracking him and tracking to see if he feels okay He's tracking himself. I'm exploring with the intent that I'm giving pleasure. And making contact. Mhm. and if he needs to say red, Or stop with his hands, he can. Yellow and red is perfectly fine. Green is keep going, yellow is slow down. Maybe you make a pause and Red is hold on. Something got kicked up. Keep in mind that, even though we cognitively may think, this is wonderful and safe. The body keeps the score as Bessel Van Der Kolk talks about in his book, and the body has its own agenda and its own memories that are cognitions you might not be aware of. You want to honor the body. The body is brilliant, and it has it's own memory. So we might need to see what it needs and go with that flow and redo and create safety in the relationship you're in, as you move forward, another part to remember, as well, is that if your partner is activated by any particular thing, that doesn't necessarily mean that you're responsible for that activation and so your partner can be activated and there's room to work with it while also not meaning you did anything wrong. Part of what we're doing is we're ironing out all of the misinterpretations that play out in sexual interactions and most couples don't ever take the time to slow it down and investigate what's off or out of place earlier on. That's what this is an opportunity to do. And that doesn't necessarily mean that you're doing anything wrong. It just means that your interaction with your partner at that particular moment is bringing up information for them to investigate to understand better what they're needing in the moment. Once you've practiced this a few times starting with the hands and then the arm, shoulder, and neck. What I recommend is have a discussion about how you want to make this exercise your own. You might want to do a leg caress instead. You might want to do a foot caress, you might want to do a whole body caress, but not involve genitals. Basically, once you have had a chance to practice it, the the way we've described it, make it your own to see what information you're curious about. What you want to gain out of the experience. How do you begin to open this up and get creative from this place? A wonderful date idea is a kissing date. I often hear a couple say that they don't kiss enough or they feel stylistically different from one another. This is true because we learn to kiss maybe in adolescence or as we go through life and we don't know that whatever partners is in front of us has the same style. So it's important to get on the same page and figure out what each other likes. By one person being a more passive recipient and then the other person being a more passive recipient and then coming together to find their flow. So they can both enjoy the experience. This is also a wonderful exercise just to explore the landscape of the mouth where there are so many delicious and rich nerve endings and so much intimacy to be found. Oftentimes kissing is the gateway into sensual intimacy. A lot of research has shown that couples who tend to kiss each other more have increased levels of happiness, argue less, and have sex more frequently. So if you can get all those those three things out of just more kissing seems like a win win win. Some people like a lot of tongue some people like no tongue. Some people like to nibble and bite some people don't. So, again, grunt, groans, moans are helpful here to track what your partner wants and communicating. Some people feel like there's a lot of saliva exchange and don't want that. And some people really like to get deep in there. So really know what you like and describe that to your partner. Setting a timer can also create understandable and and shared expectations of how long the exercise is going to go for and who is going to do what So communicate with the timer? Communicate who is going to be offering who's going to be receiving. Spell all those things out ahead of time so that everybody is on the same page. Nobody's caught off-guard by any part of the process. Kissing is something that you probably do with your partner as just an everyday ritual but there isn't a lot of intention put behind it frequently. Over time, couples will offer a goodbye kiss. A good morning, kiss, a goodnight kiss but not actually pay attention to what they're doing. What this does is it gives a lot of intention to the action of kissing rather than just running on autopilot by offering what you're used to. Once you're on the same page, it's important to pay attention to when you exit from each other. And when you re-enter back, these are good opportunities to be intentional with our kiss and linger a little longer. We call it the three second kiss as you depart and as you return, maybe at the beginning and the end of the day, or when you wake up, or go to bed. And this breakout exercise, we're going to talk about a relaxation ritual. Often times, we can get aroused when we're stressed. If our hormones override the stress, meaning there is a level of horniness flowing through our system and it overrides that activation. But if we want to be intentional about our arousal, we first need to be relaxed. It is through our parasympathetic nervous system that we can experience pleasure and arousal so to get into that relaxed state, we do need a relaxation ritual. You can do this alone or in partnership. Often times, if we're activated being alone for our own relaxation ritual, and then doing one together is very helpful. So for me, if I sit alone for 10, 15 minutes and meditate or breathe. I might light a candle or listen to soft music. I can bring my nervous system into equilibrium. You can also use some different kinds of breathing exercises. I love this book, Alpha breaths, the ABCs of mindful breathing. It's a children's book that I got for my kids and loved it so much and now lives in my office so you can play with different ways of breathing to again, bring your nervous system into equilibrium. It is through the portal of relaxation that we find arousal. If you're doing with this with a partner. Maybe you have a cozy couch tea time. You could have a bath together a shower together or just sit together for a few slow deep breath before you begin your practices. In this breakout exercise, we set up our nest. Often times it's nice to have a little ritual space where you do all of your intimacy exercises. This is completely optional. But if you do want to set up a little sacred space consider having a soft cozy floor or rug, having a way to sit like a back-jack or a pillow and then having something in between to share. So here, I've set up a little chocolate and nut plate, and two candles. And we're ready for our connection space. Once you're in the nest lots of options here. You can play some quiet music or some classical music and hang out to let your nervous systems come into regulation. You can light some candles and share some chocolate and nuts. You can have a cup of tea or a glass of wine and you can just use this as a space to come into for your ritual and your relaxation before you start your exercises. This exercise is called hand caress. It's the way that we're going to have couples begin to make contact with each other. And hand caress is one of those exercises where people always think it sounds kind of basic. It sounds kind of simple. Whenever I explained it people always go I'm just touching the other person's hand? Hands are a very intimate body part. They're our way of interacting with the world and yet at the same time it also tends to be safe because it's further away from the face. It's further away from the genitals. And so it's really great entry point to making contact and noticing what comes up. We talked previously, around the value of compartmentalizing each one of these different intimate exercises because there's a lot of information playing out in each exercise with hand caress. This is the starting point for information to start to come up. There's a few important elements around this. In clinical sex therapy sensate focus is a common intervention and hand caress is the first step in that particular intervention to help couples connect. We use hand caress in a different way as a portal into intimacy where the hands are a safe place to connect and also explore intimate places that we could do in public. Ideally, this is done where one person offers and receives. Then there's a debrief and communication afterwards rather than adjusting. How you would be offering based off of what your partner just offered or reflected back to you. It's more about getting in touch with both the giver and the receiver role in the sense of what does it feel like to just get lost in offering my partner an experience and a form of touch. What does it feel like to get lost in the experience of receiving my partner's touch? How can you be really in touch with your own experience as you're interacting with your partner, don't judge yourself. If you get activated as simply the receiver, sometimes receiving contact can be stressful or even traumatic for people because receiving contact from a long time ago or in childhood was a violation. So this is a learning experience potentially to make it safe. Some people get triggered or activated when they give because they feel like they're taken advantage of. Again, this is an opportunity to redo that and have a place where it's safe and intimate in terms of exploring. Where do I get activated as the giver or the receiver and trying to make a balance where we make both parts safe. Utilizing tools like deep belly breathing, and closing your eyes, releasing any tension, in your body. Maybe halfway through, if you need to just kind of move a little bit and loosen up your body as a way of resetting and that can often times allow you to drop back into an intimate and connected space. All these details are important because what it does is it sets up the template of how you want to communicate and pay attention to detail when you move into higher levels of intimacy and erotic contact. Once we jump into an erogenous or an erotic experience, we tend to overlook things or our brain hijacks experience into our to-do list or a rushing through it because we feel triggered by the level of ability and intimacy. When we slow this down, we pay attention to the details, especially the details we learn from one another and hand caress, the details about giving, and receiving the details about how we get activated, until we get to that peak. And then down the other side into that relaxed place are all important for those higher levels of sexual contact. It's much easier to talk about it when your hands are being touched, then when your genitals are being contacted. And so this is an essential building block that has ripple effects down the road. Our timers set, and I'm going to be the receiver first. So what you're going to do is you're going to just start off offering the kind of touch that you want to offer. Change up which parts of your hand you are touching your partner's hand with. See, if you can get any grunts, groans, or moans based off of fingernails. Or just very light contact with the pads of your fingertips. If I contact feels comfortable, notice that place where you just slow it down, see if you can focus on the touch as you're also making contact. And I get teary with this just because it feels so good. Slow it down and get this kind of undivided attention. Track your breathing track, your ability to see your partner without getting lost in them and still able to be in contact with yourself. You can look at the hands, just sort of see what you're doing. If you're wanting to shift, how you're making contact. Sometimes a light sort of therapeutic massage, might feel nice. A little bit of a firmer pressing with the thumbs or other times. These are very light brushing. What you're doing is you're developing dexterity around, touch your developing different ways to make contact with your partner's body, their hands their skin. And what this does is it just gives you a lot of feedback and give your partner a lot of feedback around, what kind of contact feels best. Then we switch roles where I am the giver and Daniel is the receiver. It's important to first find your own ground as the giver so that you don't get lost in the task and lose yourself. Mmm. So you see how using those grunts and groans, I was able to adjust the kind of touch that I wanted to receive. Mmm. I find as giver that I imagine my hand as an artistic paintbrush getting so much pleasure out of giving. What does it feel like from my nail beds to be on his skin? What does his skin feel like if I get really curious as the giver, it can bring a lot of pleasure to the experience. And when I know he likes it, mhm. That energy can be contagious after you are done giving and receiving take a few minutes to debrief, the experience of what went well and what you'd like to have for a change next time. For example, one of the things I noticed when I was offering touch is how hard it is to be able to focus on looking at you making a lot of contact while also wanting to look at your hands. I noticed I had my own agenda wanting to touch you. The way I wanted to touch you and I had to readjust based on your groans, which were helpful to track what you needed and wanted. I noticed how if I didn't hear any feedback I assumed you liked it rather than assume that you weren't liking it. That is correct. So, this kind of communication to develop a better understanding of what's happening in the moment gives you so much potential to be able to gain greater insight into what's happening for your partner's body and mind during any form of intimate contact. Feedback is important. We often hear from our clients that when they're in the bedroom together, there's not enough feedback and they don't know if they're going the right or wrong direction for their partner. So being able to do grunts, groans, and moans and ask your partner. For instance I was a little quiet and Daniel said, mmm? to kind of illicit, is this the right direction? I could do a better job of giving him my grunts, groans, and moans so that he knows where to go with that. To piggyback off of what Jenny said regarding a lot of people saying I'm not sure whether my partner's enjoying it. We often times also hear that my partner doesn't know how to touch me the way that I want to be touched and the question I always follow up with that is well have you walked them through what kind of touch you want to receive? This is a way to build in that understanding just based off of hands being touched. You can do this on a park bench and not get arrested, but it still gives you a lot of information around what's going on for your partner and yourself in any intimate moment. Once you have practiced hand caress a few times what we're going to do is we're going to up the ante a little bit. So rather than just touching hands. What we're going to do is we're going to start adding more body parts in a way that feels safe and comfortable. So we're going to touch the forearm, the arm, the shoulder. And the neck, the neck is an incredibly sensual part of the body while also being something that for the most part it feels very safe to make contact with and so we're just noticing what that increased level of attention and connection feels like as we're adding body parts. And so begin to add those body parts and see does the the arm feel safe. But before we start doing the neck, we need to have some check-ins about what kind of contact feels good. Or does the whole thing feel good, and then we can move on to the next exercise. So that communication those grunts, groans, and moans are all part of what we're working to build in. As contact is being made with your partner for a lot of people, this kind of intimacy where we touch the face and the neck can feel like a lot especially with the eye contact and there's a level of vulnerability that can feel unfamiliar. So going slow is important. We have green, yellow, red. As a way to slow things down. If you do, find your activation getting really kicked up into stress zones, fight, flight, freeze. So again you want to notice your inner landscape. If Daniel starts to get activated by any of the touch. Maybe he wants to slow me down with yellow. Or pause with his own hand. Do you want me to continue or stop? Keep going. So as I continued I'm tracking him and tracking to see if he feels okay He's tracking himself. I'm exploring with the intent that I'm giving pleasure. And making contact. Mhm. and if he needs to say red, Or stop with his hands, he can. Yellow and red is perfectly fine. Green is keep going, yellow is slow down. Maybe you make a pause and Red is hold on. Something got kicked up. Keep in mind that, even though we cognitively may think, this is wonderful and safe. The body keeps the score as Bessel Van Der Kolk talks about in his book, and the body has its own agenda and its own memories that are cognitions you might not be aware of. You want to honor the body. The body is brilliant, and it has it's own memory. So we might need to see what it needs and go with that flow and redo and create safety in the relationship you're in, as you move forward, another part to remember, as well, is that if your partner is activated by any particular thing, that doesn't necessarily mean that you're responsible for that activation and so your partner can be activated and there's room to work with it while also not meaning you did anything wrong. Part of what we're doing is we're ironing out all of the misinterpretations that play out in sexual interactions and most couples don't ever take the time to slow it down and investigate what's off or out of place earlier on. That's what this is an opportunity to do. And that doesn't necessarily mean that you're doing anything wrong. It just means that your interaction with your partner at that particular moment is bringing up information for them to investigate to understand better what they're needing in the moment. Once you've practiced this a few times starting with the hands and then the arm, shoulder, and neck. What I recommend is have a discussion about how you want to make this exercise your own. You might want to do a leg caress instead. You might want to do a foot caress, you might want to do a whole body caress, but not involve genitals. Basically, once you have had a chance to practice it, the the way we've described it, make it your own to see what information you're curious about. What you want to gain out of the experience. How do you begin to open this up and get creative from this place? A wonderful date idea is a kissing date. I often hear a couple say that they don't kiss enough or they feel stylistically different from one another. This is true because we learn to kiss maybe in adolescence or as we go through life and we don't know that whatever partners is in front of us has the same style. So it's important to get on the same page and figure out what each other likes. By one person being a more passive recipient and then the other person being a more passive recipient and then coming together to find their flow. So they can both enjoy the experience. This is also a wonderful exercise just to explore the landscape of the mouth where there are so many delicious and rich nerve endings and so much intimacy to be found. Oftentimes kissing is the gateway into sensual intimacy. A lot of research has shown that couples who tend to kiss each other more have increased levels of happiness, argue less, and have sex more frequently. So if you can get all those those three things out of just more kissing seems like a win win win. Some people like a lot of tongue some people like no tongue. Some people like to nibble and bite some people don't. So, again, grunt, groans, moans are helpful here to track what your partner wants and communicating. Some people feel like there's a lot of saliva exchange and don't want that. And some people really like to get deep in there. So really know what you like and describe that to your partner. Setting a timer can also create understandable and and shared expectations of how long the exercise is going to go for and who is going to do what So communicate with the timer? Communicate who is going to be offering who's going to be receiving. Spell all those things out ahead of time so that everybody is on the same page. Nobody's caught off-guard by any part of the process. Kissing is something that you probably do with your partner as just an everyday ritual but there isn't a lot of intention put behind it frequently. Over time, couples will offer a goodbye kiss. A good morning, kiss, a goodnight kiss but not actually pay attention to what they're doing. What this does is it gives a lot of intention to the action of kissing rather than just running on autopilot by offering what you're used to. Once you're on the same page, it's important to pay attention to when you exit from each other. And when you re-enter back, these are good opportunities to be intentional with our kiss and linger a little longer. We call it the three second kiss as you depart and as you return, maybe at the beginning and the end of the day, or when you wake up, or go to bed. And this breakout exercise, we're going to talk about a relaxation ritual. Often times, we can get aroused when we're stressed. If our hormones override the stress, meaning there is a level of horniness flowing through our system and it overrides that activation. But if we want to be intentional about our arousal, we first need to be relaxed. It is through our parasympathetic nervous system that we can experience pleasure and arousal so to get into that relaxed state, we do need a relaxation ritual. You can do this alone or in partnership. Often times, if we're activated being alone for our own relaxation ritual, and then doing one together is very helpful. So for me, if I sit alone for 10, 15 minutes and meditate or breathe. I might light a candle or listen to soft music. I can bring my nervous system into equilibrium. You can also use some different kinds of breathing exercises. I love this book, Alpha breaths, the ABCs of mindful breathing. It's a children's book that I got for my kids and loved it so much and now lives in my office so you can play with different ways of breathing to again, bring your nervous system into equilibrium. It is through the portal of relaxation that we find arousal. If you're doing with this with a partner. Maybe you have a cozy couch tea time. You could have a bath together a shower together or just sit together for a few slow deep breath before you begin your practices. This exercise is called hand caress. It's the way that we're going to have couples begin to make contact with each other. And hand caress is one of those exercises where people always think it sounds kind of basic. It sounds kind of simple. Whenever I explained it people always go I'm just touching the other person's hand? Hands are a very intimate body part. They're our way of interacting with the world and yet at the same time it also tends to be safe because it's further away from the face. It's further away from the genitals. And so it's really great entry point to making contact and noticing what comes up. We talked previously, around the value of compartmentalizing each one of these different intimate exercises because there's a lot of information playing out in each exercise with hand caress. This is the starting point for information to start to come up. There's a few important elements around this. In clinical sex therapy sensate focus is a common intervention and hand caress is the first step in that particular intervention to help couples connect. We use hand caress in a different way as a portal into intimacy where the hands are a safe place to connect and also explore intimate places that we could do in public. Ideally, this is done where one person offers and receives. Then there's a debrief and communication afterwards rather than adjusting. How you would be offering based off of what your partner just offered or reflected back to you. It's more about getting in touch with both the giver and the receiver role in the sense of what does it feel like to just get lost in offering my partner an experience and a form of touch. What does it feel like to get lost in the experience of receiving my partner's touch? How can you be really in touch with your own experience as you're interacting with your partner, don't judge yourself. If you get activated as simply the receiver, sometimes receiving contact can be stressful or even traumatic for people because receiving contact from a long time ago or in childhood was a violation. So this is a learning experience potentially to make it safe. Some people get triggered or activated when they give because they feel like they're taken advantage of. Again, this is an opportunity to redo that and have a place where it's safe and intimate in terms of exploring. Where do I get activated as the giver or the receiver and trying to make a balance where we make both parts safe. Utilizing tools like deep belly breathing, and closing your eyes, releasing any tension, in your body. Maybe halfway through, if you need to just kind of move a little bit and loosen up your body as a way of resetting and that can often times allow you to drop back into an intimate and connected space. All these details are important because what it does is it sets up the template of how you want to communicate and pay attention to detail when you move into higher levels of intimacy and erotic contact. Once we jump into an erogenous or an erotic experience, we tend to overlook things or our brain hijacks experience into our to-do list or a rushing through it because we feel triggered by the level of ability and intimacy. When we slow this down, we pay attention to the details, especially the details we learn from one another and hand caress, the details about giving, and receiving the details about how we get activated, until we get to that peak. And then down the other side into that relaxed place are all important for those higher levels of sexual contact. It's much easier to talk about it when your hands are being touched, then when your genitals are being contacted. And so this is an essential building block that has ripple effects down the road. Our timers set, and I'm going to be the receiver first. So what you're going to do is you're going to just start off offering the kind of touch that you want to offer. Change up which parts of your hand you are touching your partner's hand with. See, if you can get any grunts, groans, or moans based off of fingernails. Or just very light contact with the pads of your fingertips. If I contact feels comfortable, notice that place where you just slow it down, see if you can focus on the touch as you're also making contact. And I get teary with this just because it feels so good. Slow it down and get this kind of undivided attention. Track your breathing track, your ability to see your partner without getting lost in them and still able to be in contact with yourself. You can look at the hands, just sort of see what you're doing. If you're wanting to shift, how you're making contact. Sometimes a light sort of therapeutic massage, might feel nice. A little bit of a firmer pressing with the thumbs or other times. These are very light brushing. What you're doing is you're developing dexterity around, touch your developing different ways to make contact with your partner's body, their hands their skin. And what this does is it just gives you a lot of feedback and give your partner a lot of feedback around, what kind of contact feels best. Then we switch roles where I am the giver and Daniel is the receiver. It's important to first find your own ground as the giver so that you don't get lost in the task and lose yourself. Mmm. So you see how using those grunts and groans, I was able to adjust the kind of touch that I wanted to receive. Mmm. I find as giver that I imagine my hand as an artistic paintbrush getting so much pleasure out of giving. What does it feel like from my nail beds to be on his skin? What does his skin feel like if I get really curious as the giver, it can bring a lot of pleasure to the experience. And when I know he likes it, mhm. That energy can be contagious after you are done giving and receiving take a few minutes to debrief, the experience of what went well and what you'd like to have for a change next time. For example, one of the things I noticed when I was offering touch is how hard it is to be able to focus on looking at you making a lot of contact while also wanting to look at your hands. I noticed I had my own agenda wanting to touch you. The way I wanted to touch you and I had to readjust based on your groans, which were helpful to track what you needed and wanted. I noticed how if I didn't hear any feedback I assumed you liked it rather than assume that you weren't liking it. That is correct. So, this kind of communication to develop a better understanding of what's happening in the moment gives you so much potential to be able to gain greater insight into what's happening for your partner's body and mind during any form of intimate contact. Feedback is important. We often hear from our clients that when they're in the bedroom together, there's not enough feedback and they don't know if they're going the right or wrong direction for their partner. So being able to do grunts, groans, and moans and ask your partner. For instance I was a little quiet and Daniel said, mmm? to kind of illicit, is this the right direction? I could do a better job of giving him my grunts, groans, and moans so that he knows where to go with that. To piggyback off of what Jenny said regarding a lot of people saying I'm not sure whether my partner's enjoying it. We often times also hear that my partner doesn't know how to touch me the way that I want to be touched and the question I always follow up with that is well have you walked them through what kind of touch you want to receive? This is a way to build in that understanding just based off of hands being touched. You can do this on a park bench and not get arrested, but it still gives you a lot of information around what's going on for your partner and yourself in any intimate moment. Once you have practiced hand caress a few times what we're going to do is we're going to up the ante a little bit. So rather than just touching hands. What we're going to do is we're going to start adding more body parts in a way that feels safe and comfortable. So we're going to touch the forearm, the arm, the shoulder. And the neck, the neck is an incredibly sensual part of the body while also being something that for the most part it feels very safe to make contact with and so we're just noticing what that increased level of attention and connection feels like as we're adding body parts. And so begin to add those body parts and see does the the arm feel safe. But before we start doing the neck, we need to have some check-ins about what kind of contact feels good. Or does the whole thing feel good, and then we can move on to the next exercise. So that communication those grunts, groans, and moans are all part of what we're working to build in. As contact is being made with your partner for a lot of people, this kind of intimacy where we touch the face and the neck can feel like a lot especially with the eye contact and there's a level of vulnerability that can feel unfamiliar. So going slow is important. We have green, yellow, red. As a way to slow things down. If you do, find your activation getting really kicked up into stress zones, fight, flight, freeze. So again you want to notice your inner landscape. If Daniel starts to get activated by any of the touch. Maybe he wants to slow me down with yellow. Or pause with his own hand. Do you want me to continue or stop? Keep going. So as I continued I'm tracking him and tracking to see if he feels okay He's tracking himself. I'm exploring with the intent that I'm giving pleasure. And making contact. Mhm. and if he needs to say red, Or stop with his hands, he can. Yellow and red is perfectly fine. Green is keep going, yellow is slow down. Maybe you make a pause and Red is hold on. Something got kicked up. Keep in mind that, even though we cognitively may think, this is wonderful and safe. The body keeps the score as Bessel Van Der Kolk talks about in his book, and the body has its own agenda and its own memories that are cognitions you might not be aware of. You want to honor the body. The body is brilliant, and it has it's own memory. So we might need to see what it needs and go with that flow and redo and create safety in the relationship you're in, as you move forward, another part to remember, as well, is that if your partner is activated by any particular thing, that doesn't necessarily mean that you're responsible for that activation and so your partner can be activated and there's room to work with it while also not meaning you did anything wrong. Part of what we're doing is we're ironing out all of the misinterpretations that play out in sexual interactions and most couples don't ever take the time to slow it down and investigate what's off or out of place earlier on. That's what this is an opportunity to do. And that doesn't necessarily mean that you're doing anything wrong. It just means that your interaction with your partner at that particular moment is bringing up information for them to investigate to understand better what they're needing in the moment. Once you've practiced this a few times starting with the hands and then the arm, shoulder, and neck. What I recommend is have a discussion about how you want to make this exercise your own. You might want to do a leg caress instead. You might want to do a foot caress, you might want to do a whole body caress, but not involve genitals. Basically, once you have had a chance to practice it, the the way we've described it, make it your own to see what information you're curious about. What you want to gain out of the experience. How do you begin to open this up and get creative from this place? A wonderful date idea is a kissing date. I often hear a couple say that they don't kiss enough or they feel stylistically different from one another. This is true because we learn to kiss maybe in adolescence or as we go through life and we don't know that whatever partners is in front of us has the same style. So it's important to get on the same page and figure out what each other likes. By one person being a more passive recipient and then the other person being a more passive recipient and then coming together to find their flow. So they can both enjoy the experience. This is also a wonderful exercise just to explore the landscape of the mouth where there are so many delicious and rich nerve endings and so much intimacy to be found. Oftentimes kissing is the gateway into sensual intimacy. A lot of research has shown that couples who tend to kiss each other more have increased levels of happiness, argue less, and have sex more frequently. So if you can get all those those three things out of just more kissing seems like a win win win. Some people like a lot of tongue some people like no tongue. Some people like to nibble and bite some people don't. So, again, grunt, groans, moans are helpful here to track what your partner wants and communicating. Some people feel like there's a lot of saliva exchange and don't want that. And some people really like to get deep in there. So really know what you like and describe that to your partner. Setting a timer can also create understandable and and shared expectations of how long the exercise is going to go for and who is going to do what So communicate with the timer? Communicate who is going to be offering who's going to be receiving. Spell all those things out ahead of time so that everybody is on the same page. Nobody's caught off-guard by any part of the process. Kissing is something that you probably do with your partner as just an everyday ritual but there isn't a lot of intention put behind it frequently. Over time, couples will offer a goodbye kiss. A good morning, kiss, a goodnight kiss but not actually pay attention to what they're doing. What this does is it gives a lot of intention to the action of kissing rather than just running on autopilot by offering what you're used to. Once you're on the same page, it's important to pay attention to when you exit from each other. And when you re-enter back, these are good opportunities to be intentional with our kiss and linger a little longer. We call it the three second kiss as you depart and as you return, maybe at the beginning and the end of the day, or when you wake up, or go to bed. And this breakout exercise, we're going to talk about a relaxation ritual. Often times, we can get aroused when we're stressed. If our hormones override the stress, meaning there is a level of horniness flowing through our system and it overrides that activation. But if we want to be intentional about our arousal, we first need to be relaxed. It is through our parasympathetic nervous system that we can experience pleasure and arousal so to get into that relaxed state, we do need a relaxation ritual. You can do this alone or in partnership. Often times, if we're activated being alone for our own relaxation ritual, and then doing one together is very helpful. So for me, if I sit alone for 10, 15 minutes and meditate or breathe. I might light a candle or listen to soft music. I can bring my nervous system into equilibrium. You can also use some different kinds of breathing exercises. I love this book, Alpha breaths, the ABCs of mindful breathing. It's a children's book that I got for my kids and loved it so much and now lives in my office so you can play with different ways of breathing to again, bring your nervous system into equilibrium. It is through the portal of relaxation that we find arousal. If you're doing with this with a partner. Maybe you have a cozy couch tea time. You could have a bath together a shower together or just sit together for a few slow deep breath before you begin your practices. Once you have practiced hand caress a few times what we're going to do is we're going to up the ante a little bit. So rather than just touching hands. What we're going to do is we're going to start adding more body parts in a way that feels safe and comfortable. So we're going to touch the forearm, the arm, the shoulder. And the neck, the neck is an incredibly sensual part of the body while also being something that for the most part it feels very safe to make contact with and so we're just noticing what that increased level of attention and connection feels like as we're adding body parts. And so begin to add those body parts and see does the the arm feel safe. But before we start doing the neck, we need to have some check-ins about what kind of contact feels good. Or does the whole thing feel good, and then we can move on to the next exercise. So that communication those grunts, groans, and moans are all part of what we're working to build in. As contact is being made with your partner for a lot of people, this kind of intimacy where we touch the face and the neck can feel like a lot especially with the eye contact and there's a level of vulnerability that can feel unfamiliar. So going slow is important. We have green, yellow, red. As a way to slow things down. If you do, find your activation getting really kicked up into stress zones, fight, flight, freeze. So again you want to notice your inner landscape. If Daniel starts to get activated by any of the touch. Maybe he wants to slow me down with yellow. Or pause with his own hand. Do you want me to continue or stop? Keep going. So as I continued I'm tracking him and tracking to see if he feels okay He's tracking himself. I'm exploring with the intent that I'm giving pleasure. And making contact. Mhm. and if he needs to say red, Or stop with his hands, he can. Yellow and red is perfectly fine. Green is keep going, yellow is slow down. Maybe you make a pause and Red is hold on. Something got kicked up. Keep in mind that, even though we cognitively may think, this is wonderful and safe. The body keeps the score as Bessel Van Der Kolk talks about in his book, and the body has its own agenda and its own memories that are cognitions you might not be aware of. You want to honor the body. The body is brilliant, and it has it's own memory. So we might need to see what it needs and go with that flow and redo and create safety in the relationship you're in, as you move forward, another part to remember, as well, is that if your partner is activated by any particular thing, that doesn't necessarily mean that you're responsible for that activation and so your partner can be activated and there's room to work with it while also not meaning you did anything wrong. Part of what we're doing is we're ironing out all of the misinterpretations that play out in sexual interactions and most couples don't ever take the time to slow it down and investigate what's off or out of place earlier on. That's what this is an opportunity to do. And that doesn't necessarily mean that you're doing anything wrong. It just means that your interaction with your partner at that particular moment is bringing up information for them to investigate to understand better what they're needing in the moment. Once you've practiced this a few times starting with the hands and then the arm, shoulder, and neck. What I recommend is have a discussion about how you want to make this exercise your own. You might want to do a leg caress instead. You might want to do a foot caress, you might want to do a whole body caress, but not involve genitals. Basically, once you have had a chance to practice it, the the way we've described it, make it your own to see what information you're curious about. What you want to gain out of the experience. How do you begin to open this up and get creative from this place? A wonderful date idea is a kissing date. I often hear a couple say that they don't kiss enough or they feel stylistically different from one another. This is true because we learn to kiss maybe in adolescence or as we go through life and we don't know that whatever partners is in front of us has the same style. So it's important to get on the same page and figure out what each other likes. By one person being a more passive recipient and then the other person being a more passive recipient and then coming together to find their flow. So they can both enjoy the experience. This is also a wonderful exercise just to explore the landscape of the mouth where there are so many delicious and rich nerve endings and so much intimacy to be found. Oftentimes kissing is the gateway into sensual intimacy. A lot of research has shown that couples who tend to kiss each other more have increased levels of happiness, argue less, and have sex more frequently. So if you can get all those those three things out of just more kissing seems like a win win win. Some people like a lot of tongue some people like no tongue. Some people like to nibble and bite some people don't. So, again, grunt, groans, moans are helpful here to track what your partner wants and communicating. Some people feel like there's a lot of saliva exchange and don't want that. And some people really like to get deep in there. So really know what you like and describe that to your partner. Setting a timer can also create understandable and and shared expectations of how long the exercise is going to go for and who is going to do what So communicate with the timer? Communicate who is going to be offering who's going to be receiving. Spell all those things out ahead of time so that everybody is on the same page. Nobody's caught off-guard by any part of the process. Kissing is something that you probably do with your partner as just an everyday ritual but there isn't a lot of intention put behind it frequently. Over time, couples will offer a goodbye kiss. A good morning, kiss, a goodnight kiss but not actually pay attention to what they're doing. What this does is it gives a lot of intention to the action of kissing rather than just running on autopilot by offering what you're used to. Once you're on the same page, it's important to pay attention to when you exit from each other. And when you re-enter back, these are good opportunities to be intentional with our kiss and linger a little longer. We call it the three second kiss as you depart and as you return, maybe at the beginning and the end of the day, or when you wake up, or go to bed. And this breakout exercise, we're going to talk about a relaxation ritual. Often times, we can get aroused when we're stressed. If our hormones override the stress, meaning there is a level of horniness flowing through our system and it overrides that activation. But if we want to be intentional about our arousal, we first need to be relaxed. It is through our parasympathetic nervous system that we can experience pleasure and arousal so to get into that relaxed state, we do need a relaxation ritual. You can do this alone or in partnership. Often times, if we're activated being alone for our own relaxation ritual, and then doing one together is very helpful. So for me, if I sit alone for 10, 15 minutes and meditate or breathe. I might light a candle or listen to soft music. I can bring my nervous system into equilibrium. You can also use some different kinds of breathing exercises. I love this book, Alpha breaths, the ABCs of mindful breathing. It's a children's book that I got for my kids and loved it so much and now lives in my office so you can play with different ways of breathing to again, bring your nervous system into equilibrium. It is through the portal of relaxation that we find arousal. If you're doing with this with a partner. Maybe you have a cozy couch tea time. You could have a bath together a shower together or just sit together for a few slow deep breath before you begin your practices. A wonderful date idea is a kissing date. I often hear a couple say that they don't kiss enough or they feel stylistically different from one another. This is true because we learn to kiss maybe in adolescence or as we go through life and we don't know that whatever partners is in front of us has the same style. So it's important to get on the same page and figure out what each other likes. By one person being a more passive recipient and then the other person being a more passive recipient and then coming together to find their flow. So they can both enjoy the experience. This is also a wonderful exercise just to explore the landscape of the mouth where there are so many delicious and rich nerve endings and so much intimacy to be found. Oftentimes kissing is the gateway into sensual intimacy. A lot of research has shown that couples who tend to kiss each other more have increased levels of happiness, argue less, and have sex more frequently. So if you can get all those those three things out of just more kissing seems like a win win win. Some people like a lot of tongue some people like no tongue. Some people like to nibble and bite some people don't. So, again, grunt, groans, moans are helpful here to track what your partner wants and communicating. Some people feel like there's a lot of saliva exchange and don't want that. And some people really like to get deep in there. So really know what you like and describe that to your partner. Setting a timer can also create understandable and and shared expectations of how long the exercise is going to go for and who is going to do what So communicate with the timer? Communicate who is going to be offering who's going to be receiving. Spell all those things out ahead of time so that everybody is on the same page. Nobody's caught off-guard by any part of the process. Kissing is something that you probably do with your partner as just an everyday ritual but there isn't a lot of intention put behind it frequently. Over time, couples will offer a goodbye kiss. A good morning, kiss, a goodnight kiss but not actually pay attention to what they're doing. What this does is it gives a lot of intention to the action of kissing rather than just running on autopilot by offering what you're used to. Once you're on the same page, it's important to pay attention to when you exit from each other. And when you re-enter back, these are good opportunities to be intentional with our kiss and linger a little longer. We call it the three second kiss as you depart and as you return, maybe at the beginning and the end of the day, or when you wake up, or go to bed. And this breakout exercise, we're going to talk about a relaxation ritual. Often times, we can get aroused when we're stressed. If our hormones override the stress, meaning there is a level of horniness flowing through our system and it overrides that activation. But if we want to be intentional about our arousal, we first need to be relaxed. It is through our parasympathetic nervous system that we can experience pleasure and arousal so to get into that relaxed state, we do need a relaxation ritual. You can do this alone or in partnership. Often times, if we're activated being alone for our own relaxation ritual, and then doing one together is very helpful. So for me, if I sit alone for 10, 15 minutes and meditate or breathe. I might light a candle or listen to soft music. I can bring my nervous system into equilibrium. You can also use some different kinds of breathing exercises. I love this book, Alpha breaths, the ABCs of mindful breathing. It's a children's book that I got for my kids and loved it so much and now lives in my office so you can play with different ways of breathing to again, bring your nervous system into equilibrium. It is through the portal of relaxation that we find arousal. If you're doing with this with a partner. Maybe you have a cozy couch tea time. You could have a bath together a shower together or just sit together for a few slow deep breath before you begin your practices. And this breakout exercise, we're going to talk about a relaxation ritual. Often times, we can get aroused when we're stressed. If our hormones override the stress, meaning there is a level of horniness flowing through our system and it overrides that activation. But if we want to be intentional about our arousal, we first need to be relaxed. It is through our parasympathetic nervous system that we can experience pleasure and arousal so to get into that relaxed state, we do need a relaxation ritual. You can do this alone or in partnership. Often times, if we're activated being alone for our own relaxation ritual, and then doing one together is very helpful. So for me, if I sit alone for 10, 15 minutes and meditate or breathe. I might light a candle or listen to soft music. I can bring my nervous system into equilibrium. You can also use some different kinds of breathing exercises. I love this book, Alpha breaths, the ABCs of mindful breathing. It's a children's book that I got for my kids and loved it so much and now lives in my office so you can play with different ways of breathing to again, bring your nervous system into equilibrium. It is through the portal of relaxation that we find arousal. If you're doing with this with a partner. Maybe you have a cozy couch tea time. You could have a bath together a shower together or just sit together for a few slow deep breath before you begin your practices. Sensual intimacy does not jump to the genitals. It may involve the genitals but it's not focused on them. It is one of many body parts that are engaged rather than the intention of moving to sexual pleasure for the sake of orgasm. This is about shifting the focus to pleasure and sensation. Oftentimes couples think about this as foreplay and will report to us that they do two minutes of foreplay, five minutes of foreplay, no minutes of foreplay. This is a way to engage all of our senses and all of our body parts knowing that we are not with our spouse or our partner for this small piece of real estate known as their genitals. We're with them for their entire body, for their entire mind for their entire soul and humanity. Not just the little section of real estate. And so sensual intimacy is a category that oftentimes ends up skipped. And when we expand it again, we're going to fill in a lot of the blanks that might be missing around intimacy as a larger category in order to build that sense of safety and wholeness to be able to move into the sexual intimacy category. I think it's important to say that whatever is your meat and potatoes in terms of sexual intimacy. For some people it's intercourse. Some people, it's oral sex. Some people, it's anal sex. Whatever is your meat and potatoes in terms of your go to activity or activities. Keep that safeguarded in the sexual intimacy section and keep it restricted for now as you do these exercises, so that it gives you an opportunity to really focus on the sensual and the whole body without going to your default familiar places these are meant to be standalone activities, they're not precursors to anything else and so as we describe each one and once you imagine what it would be like to focus on that being the exercise, without any expectation of it going anywhere else. As a result, you're able to access a lot more of what's happening in the moment, rather than keeping in the back of your mind that something else is the next step. And therefore people often times focus on the next step and ignore some of the value of the present moment. Two more pieces to consider one is mindfulness again being in the present moment. As Daniel said don't just jump to where we're going next. If you can really breathe and be in your body, the mindfulness will actually help the satisfaction and the pleasure be enhanced. The other piece to consider is the phase before. We just got out of physical intimacy, use what you learned there to help you here. If you notice your nervous system going to a place of shutdown of activation, a fight, flight, or freeze. What we want to do is come back, a few levels, and breathe back into a place of being grounded and relaxed so that we can invite again invite in the arousal and an enjoy this particular experience. So keeping mindful of where you're at using a pause button. If you need to re ground and get out of activation are all helpful things. As we stay in the pleasure of this chapter. It is also a great reminder to use your communication tool box around emotional intimacy, if any of these exercises are bringing up something that needs to be discussed utilizing the toolbox is going to allow you to be able to communicate in a way that your partner is going to understand and want to be participatory and you're going to feel heard and understood and you're able to work through any conflict or change that's needed for these exercises to be as successful as possible. As we move to different body parts. Remember our ground rules one, we want to keep our eye contact on our partner, where we have one eye in and one eye out. So if it feels like too much again, reminder, we close our eyes. We come back into our own inner landscape. Our own sense of gravity our own body. And then we open our eyes again with curiosity. We don't want to get lost in the other and we don't want to stay solely in our own space. We want to balance and titrate between being with self and other as we do this and we start to include more touch and more body parts things may come up. Our bodies may have memories we didn't realize were even there or we might just be moving too fast for our nervous system. Either way I want to invite you to use red, yellow, green. It's as simple as a stop light. Green means go. Keep going. Feels good. Love it. Love what you're doing. Yellow means slow down either I need to slow down slow down the body part. I need to just slow down so I can close my eyes and find my own body again. So yellow is just slowly pause where we're at. We don't have to remove contact but we stay where we're at. Maybe we're on the shoulder. Maybe we're on the neck. We just take a pause. I'm going to do some breathing to move out of activation and into relaxation. Once we're back in that relaxed place we can continue on. And you can tell your partner green. If it's a red, say, red. Red is a total break. We don't just pause on the body part we remove our hands and we wait, we wait for ourselves to come back into connection with our body and our gravity, and our inner landscape and then we can come into connection with our partner and advocate for whatever needs to happen for safety. We might need a glass of water. We might need to go back to an easier body part. We might need to talk about what came up. So again, red yellow green. You may find you never have yellows or reds. And that's okay. Everything's green. You may find your a complete yellow person and you're just going really slow. That's also, okay. And if of a lot of reds come up. We just work with them. There's no shame in the red. Again, here's the reminder As we do these colors we really want to stay in connection having and receiving touch when our eyes are closed and we're not worrying about being in relationship is super easy, but when we open our eyes and we're in relationship that receiving and giving may become a little trickier. So, again, practice this exercise with intention and with being slow. In this chapter, we look at arousal. Arousal is what turns on the body Desire, just as a side note is what turns on the brain. Those are things that we cognitively turn on or turn off to get us in the mood for sex. Remember that idea of spontaneous versus responsive desire and arousal were turning on the body and there's two things to consider when we have a high drive and a low drive partner, the high drive partner, may need to learn how to contain their arousal and keep it at a manageable level. so they don't smother their low drive partner and the low drive partner may need to learn exercises and how to take responsibility for getting arousal going in their own body. This is a team sport. I'm going to teach you all the things you need to know to contain and manage as well as excite and elicit arousal. As you think about arousal. I want you to think about a spectrum from zero to ten, zero is basically sleeping 10, you're having an orgasm. If you move to nine, you're at that inevitability of orgasm. If you're a male, you might know that as the inevitability of an ejaculation. Ejaculations and orgasm are actually separate events, but for most males, they happen at the same time. Eight is right on that precipice. We're at the edge of that inevitability and it feels like a really high level of arousal. It's a really exciting time, but it's a hard place to hang out. So now we know eight, nine, ten, feel like let's go back to 1. Basically you're sleeping. Two, I kind of feel a little kick in my body. Maybe my nipples got erect or some circulation is flowing through my genitals. So if you're a person with a penis, you might feel the oncoming of an erection around a three. If you're a person with a vulva, you might start to feel the blood flow or the clitoris starting to get engaged. Four through seven tends to be this murky middle zone for most people. It's actually our endurance zone, where if we hang out with arousal in this section, we can enjoy the ride without getting too high and going off the cliff into orgasm and being too low that we lose our sense of arousal in our body. So, four through seven, is that juicy middle zone where we really want to learn how to hang out there and then find the difference between four to five, five to six, six to seven. We can use this number scale with our partner as we communicate where we're at. We might need a little extra biting or licking or touching to boot us into that middle zone out of the three and into our 4 or 5. We might need to pause contact and let go and take a few deep breaths if we're edging into the eight and nine area. We want to come back into that middle place so that we can be on the same page. We don't have to both be at a four or both don't have to be at a 7, but we want to do is move our arousal into this middle zone and play with it as we move towards our orgasm or ejaculatory inevitability. Testosterone is a sex drive hormone and the numbers are huge. Usually anywhere from 300 to 1200 with the average somewhere, being between five to nine hundred, if you're a biological female or a person with a vulva and not a lot of testosterone in your body. Basically your numbers, your average range is anywhere from a 4 to 128. Let's just slice it down. The middle of some of it somewhere between 40 and 60. That's a wildly different number Between 40 and 60 is a wildly different number than 500 to 900. So testosterone in a female bodied person versus a male body person is going to be radically different. If you're a person with a lot of testosterone, you probably have a lot more. what you will feel as a sex drive or be the higher sex drive person, not always. There are definitely relational pieces that can contradict this experience. But if you do have a lot of testosterone and you do feel like your testosterone and your arousal tends to overwhelm your partner. If your partner has less testosterone, and we want to learn how to manage that experience, so that we don't smother our partner. In this breakout, we're going to talk about accessing our arousal and managing our arousal. Oftentimes one person may feel like they are at a much lower level than their partner and they have limited, or no access to their arousal. And the other person feels frustrated because their partner has limited arousal and they have all this arousal coursing through their body. So there's a mismatch we call this in clinical sex therapy desire discrepancy, but it's both a discrepancy of desire that which turns us on cognitively and desire of arousal that which turns us on in our body. What we want to do is try to get on the same page. The person with lower arousal may need to take responsibility to access their arousal and get it going. Get the heat going and the person who's trying to manage may need to damp it down a little bit so that the other person can catch up and we can be sort of on the same page. I'm going to be the person right now with the lower arousal, and show you some tips that I do in terms of accessing and getting my fire going. The idea behind this exercise is to imagine that you are 100% responsible for all of the arousal. Now, we know that's not true. But I want to pretend that my partner is a dead fish and vice versa. When they're in that position they may take 100% responsibility for their arousal. And what happens is that we become 50% responsible each for the relationship. So, if I imagined that my partner was dead fish, and I was getting all the arousal going, I would start with myself before trying to turn on my partner. What I do again is access my relaxation ritual, so I can clear my nervous system of any stress, move out of my sympathetic into my parasympathetic. So after I've done my breathing exercises, I switch to different music for me I love music. I find it, inspiring. I love movement. So I find movement that flows with the music and I'm flowing with my body and seeing where it wants to go. For me. I like that somatic reminder of being centrally embodied and feeling arousal course through my system. I may not begin with any eroticism right now, but I'm beginning to just feel what it's like to move my body and the pleasurable experience of doing so. So for me, if I move my body and I dance. I'm imagining the music. coming through my body. I'm feeling my skin. I'm feeling the way my body moves. I'm getting into my flow. I'm just enjoying the luxury of my own body. The other thing I like to do sometimes is take a shower and just feel really clean and really groomed and just feel more sensual around touching my parts. Another thing I like to do is some kegels Where I squeeze as if you're cutting off urine flow in your pelvic floor, you can do this sitting on a bus or in a big crowded party. No one knows. But basically you're squeezing your pelvic floor and releasing, your bringing blood flow to the pelvic area. So again, you're getting that blood circulating part of arousal is getting our blood circulating. So as I move my body, And I do my kegels. I might also do some fire-breathing, there's breathing to relax and then there's breathing to excite and that fire breath can feel very rejuvenating and bring some life to the body. So I'm waking up. My body arousal is really waking up our body to the potential of our sensations. Another thing I could do to take full responsibility for my arousal as as I'm moving as I'm breathing, I could fantasize. I can fantasize about whatever I want because no one's in this brain with me. It's full permission to be fully in your own experience and bring forth all the arousal that you can generate, because what we're going to do with that is share it with our partner, but first, we want to take responsibility for what's already there. If I'm feeling like, oh I can't really access a fantasy. I can certainly read one, watch one, or listen to one and get inspired by someone else's work. There's very different kinds of energy to arousal for some people being in their central flow helps get that fire going for some people being in their strength, gets that fire going. So you might want to do certain things to feel strong and confident in your body. For instance. you can do some push-ups, or you can push a wall with all your strength to really get that activation going in your arms, depending on what your body has capacity. and ability to do utilize that strength to get that activation and arousal going. Just as accessing arousal in your body is a very important part of this process, being able to maintain and and properly contain arousal in your body is also part of this process frequently. What happens during that desire discrepancy, is that one person is more aroused than the other. And then there's a rush to have the partner who isn't accessing arousal move up to where the partner who is accessing a lot of arousal is at. If we can slow down that process, the partner who is struggling to access arousal has a little bit more breathing room and can find something that's more authentic in terms of their own enjoyment, rather than hurrying to try to match pace with their partner and maybe skip out on some important parts of what they need to do. To feel really good and excited and aroused about moving forward there's a few different ways that I encourage people to work with maintaining their own arousal. One of the things before we go into physical parts is to understand that there is a purpose to slowing it down. Frequently there's a lot of excitement about the idea of moving towards physical or sexual intimacy, what this can do is sometimes slow it down and build up a lot of appreciation for the physical intimacy without it having to immediately move to sexual intimacy. It might fill that sensual intimacy category and then, you know, you'll get to the sexual intimacy category later. Part of this is having patience. It's realizing that short-term discomfort. Meaning, you might have to put your arousal on hold for a bit. But the rewards of your partner being aroused and therefore, having a much more enjoyable sexual experience is well worth the wait, and so slowing down your arousal is definitely worthwhile. One of the ways on a physical level to work with maintaining arousal is to relax your whole body. The pelvic floor in particular is an area where during arousal there tends to be a fair amount of clenching and activation. If you can relax that, what that does is, it actually allows for increased blood flow. So, whenever working with erectile dysfunction, that's an area I have a lot of men focus on as a body part to see if they can release the tension. However, in this context, releasing any of that tension also reduces the amount of excitement and stimulation you're trying to access. And instead, let's your body unwind a little bit and therefore, It might flow in more of the physical or the sensual intimacy category, rather than exclusively in the sexual intimacy category when we can slow it down and access physical and sexual intimacy. One of the things a lot of people notice is that they rush to the sexual intimacy category because there's a nervousness and an uncertainty about how the experience might go and so they're not actually moving into the sexual intimacy category because of genuine arousal in their body. It's because of anxiety or worry. And if we can, instead slow it down and find a way to relax your body in those moments, then you can enjoy the process of building up rather than having to rush to the end goal because you're afraid it might disappear. So if in the moment as you're making contact with your partner's body you'll notice that as your arousal increases, your movements usually tend to stiffen up. I want you to see if as your partner is moving a little slower, if you can take a moment Drop into a more relaxed place and then make contact with your partner's body again that reset in your body, might drop your arousal level, a few notches down and allow your partner to be at a more even and balanced place in terms of arousal. So once again, what you're doing is you're just loosening up any tension that you might be holding. Slowing down your breath and just kind of melting into the bed. Melting into the couch, letting your body go slack as much as possible, so that you are operating from a relaxed place rather than a tense or worried place. In this next section, we're going to cover flirting. Flirting is the way of getting your partner's attention without letting them know that they have your attention. And so it's about the subtle suggestion. It's about making contact without overt expectation or obligation to follow up on anything. Flirting is the way of saying, hey, remember me, I'm over here. And it's about getting your partner's attention without saying, I'd really like your attention. It also leaves some mystery because it's subtle and it's fleeting we come in. We make a contact we leave. So the art of the subtlety and the mystery allows for the desire to breed in the middle space between there's a lot of play in flirting. Every couple has a different way of flirting, some couples through sarcastically poking at each other. Other couples tend to be more in the physical category. Some couples like to wrestle or tickle or just lightly make contact with each other and then create some distance. Every couple has their own way of flirting. We're going to give some examples of how to flirt because oftentimes in long-term relationships couples forget how to flirt with each other in the sake of practical communication. Couples will say, do you want to have sex tonight? And that doesn't invite any of that playfulness into the dynamic. Flirting is a way of reinvigorating that and inviting it back in. Keep in mind. This is not an invitation to the bedroom. This is not an invitation to more erotic contact. It's simply in the area of play or really just trying to add juiciness to the relationship without any expectation. So the flirting is hey, I like your body. You're looking good. And now I leave knowing that it's totally safe to flirt and add this sexy juice because our sensual date might not be for a few more days from now. So in terms of what Jenni just demonstrated, one of the ways I encourage couples to play with this, on a physical level because in the physical flirtation realm, there's different ways of interacting with that. So, for example, if your partner is standing there at the counter reading mail, you might come up. Behind them, wrap your arms around them, nibble on their ear, say something, and then disappear, and go into a different room. What it does is it sort of wakes them up from the day-to-day focus to go Oh, where did you go? That was nice. You can come back and give me a little more, but you're nowhere to be seen and it's leaving them yearning for a little bit more. They want more connection with you. And so it's not the, I'm going to wrap my arms around and not let go. It's, I'm going to get your attention and then invite you to reciprocate flirting is different than just affection. Affection is holding hands, which is so sweet and should certainly continue to exist, but flirting has a different sensual intonation to it. There's a sensual subtlety to it, and then a departure. So there's affection, there's flirting, and then there's sexual invitation. Please keep in mind that to make flirting safe, it should be free of expectations in terms of sexual invitation. This is where that make contact and then disappear is really essential. So, for example, if you're sitting there with your partner and you start rubbing their leg and moving up more towards the upper thigh or the inner thigh and then you get up and go make a bowl of popcorn. What you're doing is you're making contact. You're giving them awareness that you're touching their body. And just as they're expecting you're starting to move towards something. Instead you take space and leave them hanging a little bit. The art of flirtation is about planting the idea without them realizing that you have planted it. Explicitly planting the idea without any expectation, verbally, flirting may look a little different. It might be a little bit more of, you know what I really want to do tonight. I'd love to organize the closet. It can be that idea of where you think I'm going isn't where I'm actually going, but I get her wheels turning around Oh, what does he have in mind? The subtle maybe suggestive or playful way of communicating You know what I'm really in the mood for organizing the garage. I'd love to. Yeah. That playfulness and that idea then gets her thinking well, I don't really want to organize the garage, but I want to go to the bedroom instead and then she picks up that energy and might throw it back. And so then there would be a little bit more of a playful banter that starts to play out. And it might be for a few days where that playful banter plays out. And then all of that, pent-up energy can play out in a sexual interaction, that is charged in a positive way from the previous number of days. For the sensual intimacy chapter the main exercise that we're going to have you focus on is called sensual massage. What it is is a structured way of beginning to provide more contact more pleasurable touch on your partner's body and then receiving pleasurable sensual touch from your partner in a controlled and safe environment, that also begins to invite pleasure into the body. Sensual massage is structured with the following rules. So set a timer for 30 minutes where one person is going to receive and then the other person is going to switch roles and then receive afterwards. The next part of sensual massage is to decide ahead of time if there are any body parts that are on limits or off-limits. Some people say everything that would be covered by a bathing suit is off limits or other times people say my body is all yours, but I don't want this to move towards genital contact. Specifically if genitals are contacted That's fine. But it's not specifically a genital massage. Other people say, you know artist's choice, have at it. I'm all yours. There's a lot of flexibility about how it's set up. There's no right or wrong because you've already done the grunts groans and moans with the hand caress exercise you are welcome to either continue the grunts, groans and moans or you are also welcome to use full words and be much more descriptive if that feels comfortable. So, hmm. I really like when you shift to that light scratching. Can you just do that along my lower back? You could be that descriptive if that feels comfortable or it might just be I'm going to get lost in receiving what my partner is offering. And so instead I'm just going to use grunt, groans, and moans to redirect them. If there's something I want more of or if there's something I don't want to have continued. Sensual massage is about getting lost in giving your partner an experience and about getting lost in receiving an experience during those 30 minutes. What you can do is find new erogenous body parts. We tend to think of whenever we think of pleasure we tend to think mostly just of the genitals. But an example I always use any time I'm walking couples through how to do this exercise is a colleague of ours who in his twenties jumped into a swimming pool that was too shallow and broke his spinal column. Paralyzed from the waist down erections and sexual pleasure look different. But what he discovered was that by stroking, his earlobe, he can have an orgasm now if your earlobe or the back of your elbow or your kneecap was orgasmic and highly pleasurable you probably would want to know about it. You'd be sitting there all day playing with your elbow if that was the case. So it's about finding new body parts. It's about finding new ways of being touched that invite pleasure, and sensation, and excitement, into your body without having to move specifically to orgasm or sexual pleasure, but just invite sensation and enjoyment. Another guideline for sensual massage is that it's a standalone activity. Especially for at least the first time. What I mean by that is this is not a precursor to sex. This is not foreplay. This is an activity to get lost in receiving and offering touch for the sake of pleasure and sensation. Not for the sake of moving anywhere. Part of the reason for this is that we tend to be very focused on the outcome of orgasm and sexual pleasure. And what this does, is it slowing it down to shift to the whole body and to not making it about the goal of orgasm. And instead be about the enjoyment and pleasure of just making contact with yourself, or with your partner's body. In this breakout exercise, we're going to look at turn ons and turn offs. What are the things that I do to turn myself on? What are the things I do to turn my partner on? What are the things that my partner does to turn themselves on? What do they do to turn me on? Imagine that you have plumbing through your home. And it's all clogged up with mud and no water can flow through it. That's sometimes how we feel about our turn-offs. If we are, so clogged up with turn-offs. We can't even access what turns us on. So part of this exercise is to clear out the plumbing, clear out the turn-offs so that we can actually access and utilize those things that do turn us on. So both parts are important as you do this exercise, first start with paper. I like to draw a quadrant. And start here. Turn-ons can go on the top Self Other And then turn offs. Self, Other. Some people like to fill out, one full quadrant and then move to the next. Some people like to just move back and forth as ideas percolate through their head. Oftentimes the things that are on one side are the opposite of the other. So for instance, the things that turn me off that I do to turn myself off like ruminating and my stress having a heavy meal and feeling bloated, having too much alcohol. The opposite could turn me on having a light and healthy meal and feeling good and fit in my body, having just a little bit of alcohol to take the edge off but not too much to make me feel drowsy. Letting go of my stress and feeling relaxed so I can have the option to feel aroused. I'm going to give you some examples of what falls into different quadrants based on the clinical data set. I've seen in my office over the years. So turn on self, a lot of people will report feeling relaxed as a turn-on. A lot of people will report listening to certain kinds of music listening to kinds of listening to kinds of music watching certain kinds of erotica or sexy images. Other things that turn them on include temperature, or sometimes we really like hot water or really cold water. Sometimes we like ice, sometimes we like different tastes. We have chocolate. Chocolate is a big aphrodisiac and can turn us on other people really like the taste of a certain favorite beverage, some people like playing with lights. It's an ambience it can help them get turned on in terms of some candles. I had one client say she likes a disco light. Other people say they like music like they're in the club to kind of get them into that mood. You want to basically fill in the sentence I turn myself on by... I turn myself on by remembering the first time I had sex with my spouse or sex, on our honeymoon or sex by the fireplace. As we move to the other quadrants in terms of other, we want to consider again, not focusing on the turn-offs, but really charging our engine and focusing on the things that turn us on. That said, one of the most tricky and sensitive conversations to have is, what does my partner do to turn me off? They need to know because they might be in the dark around some of these very easy fixes. For instance, I've had people say that morning breath is bad. And I've heard another person, say they don't like mouthwash and toothpaste and they actually prefer a little coffee on the mouth. So what turns you off is definitely very subjective, but you want to know those things. Grooming and hygiene pieces, How much hair you like and how much hair you don't like. How much cleaning you like or how much sweat you like? Some of those can be a turn-off for some people and a turn-on for others. Again having a partner know that you prefer certain ways, those that turn you on, are helpful so that they can actually increase those pieces. What turns you on and what turns you off is completely subjective to each person and in each couple. So having an ongoing list and keep adding to it as you go. You might be surprised at what you add to your list as you go along and your partner may find it really helpful to know the things that they do that turn you off so that they can work on downsizing. There's one more piece to add around turn-offs, when you explain turn-offs other, you want to ask your partner if they are open to that feedback. Would you be interested and having feedback around what turns me off and what turns me on. That way you don't catch them off guard, and give them this criticism around how you get turned off. Your actually allowing them to be curious and inviting them into a feedback process. As we move to different body parts. Remember our ground rules one, we want to keep our eye contact on our partner, where we have one eye in and one eye out. So if it feels like too much again, reminder, we close our eyes. We come back into our own inner landscape. Our own sense of gravity our own body. And then we open our eyes again with curiosity. We don't want to get lost in the other and we don't want to stay solely in our own space. We want to balance and titrate between being with self and other as we do this and we start to include more touch and more body parts things may come up. Our bodies may have memories we didn't realize were even there or we might just be moving too fast for our nervous system. Either way I want to invite you to use red, yellow, green. It's as simple as a stop light. Green means go. Keep going. Feels good. Love it. Love what you're doing. Yellow means slow down either I need to slow down slow down the body part. I need to just slow down so I can close my eyes and find my own body again. So yellow is just slowly pause where we're at. We don't have to remove contact but we stay where we're at. Maybe we're on the shoulder. Maybe we're on the neck. We just take a pause. I'm going to do some breathing to move out of activation and into relaxation. Once we're back in that relaxed place we can continue on. And you can tell your partner green. If it's a red, say, red. Red is a total break. We don't just pause on the body part we remove our hands and we wait, we wait for ourselves to come back into connection with our body and our gravity, and our inner landscape and then we can come into connection with our partner and advocate for whatever needs to happen for safety. We might need a glass of water. We might need to go back to an easier body part. We might need to talk about what came up. So again, red yellow green. You may find you never have yellows or reds. And that's okay. Everything's green. You may find your a complete yellow person and you're just going really slow. That's also, okay. And if of a lot of reds come up. We just work with them. There's no shame in the red. Again, here's the reminder As we do these colors we really want to stay in connection having and receiving touch when our eyes are closed and we're not worrying about being in relationship is super easy, but when we open our eyes and we're in relationship that receiving and giving may become a little trickier. So, again, practice this exercise with intention and with being slow. In this chapter, we look at arousal. Arousal is what turns on the body Desire, just as a side note is what turns on the brain. Those are things that we cognitively turn on or turn off to get us in the mood for sex. Remember that idea of spontaneous versus responsive desire and arousal were turning on the body and there's two things to consider when we have a high drive and a low drive partner, the high drive partner, may need to learn how to contain their arousal and keep it at a manageable level. so they don't smother their low drive partner and the low drive partner may need to learn exercises and how to take responsibility for getting arousal going in their own body. This is a team sport. I'm going to teach you all the things you need to know to contain and manage as well as excite and elicit arousal. As you think about arousal. I want you to think about a spectrum from zero to ten, zero is basically sleeping 10, you're having an orgasm. If you move to nine, you're at that inevitability of orgasm. If you're a male, you might know that as the inevitability of an ejaculation. Ejaculations and orgasm are actually separate events, but for most males, they happen at the same time. Eight is right on that precipice. We're at the edge of that inevitability and it feels like a really high level of arousal. It's a really exciting time, but it's a hard place to hang out. So now we know eight, nine, ten, feel like let's go back to 1. Basically you're sleeping. Two, I kind of feel a little kick in my body. Maybe my nipples got erect or some circulation is flowing through my genitals. So if you're a person with a penis, you might feel the oncoming of an erection around a three. If you're a person with a vulva, you might start to feel the blood flow or the clitoris starting to get engaged. Four through seven tends to be this murky middle zone for most people. It's actually our endurance zone, where if we hang out with arousal in this section, we can enjoy the ride without getting too high and going off the cliff into orgasm and being too low that we lose our sense of arousal in our body. So, four through seven, is that juicy middle zone where we really want to learn how to hang out there and then find the difference between four to five, five to six, six to seven. We can use this number scale with our partner as we communicate where we're at. We might need a little extra biting or licking or touching to boot us into that middle zone out of the three and into our 4 or 5. We might need to pause contact and let go and take a few deep breaths if we're edging into the eight and nine area. We want to come back into that middle place so that we can be on the same page. We don't have to both be at a four or both don't have to be at a 7, but we want to do is move our arousal into this middle zone and play with it as we move towards our orgasm or ejaculatory inevitability. Testosterone is a sex drive hormone and the numbers are huge. Usually anywhere from 300 to 1200 with the average somewhere, being between five to nine hundred, if you're a biological female or a person with a vulva and not a lot of testosterone in your body. Basically your numbers, your average range is anywhere from a 4 to 128. Let's just slice it down. The middle of some of it somewhere between 40 and 60. That's a wildly different number Between 40 and 60 is a wildly different number than 500 to 900. So testosterone in a female bodied person versus a male body person is going to be radically different. If you're a person with a lot of testosterone, you probably have a lot more. what you will feel as a sex drive or be the higher sex drive person, not always. There are definitely relational pieces that can contradict this experience. But if you do have a lot of testosterone and you do feel like your testosterone and your arousal tends to overwhelm your partner. If your partner has less testosterone, and we want to learn how to manage that experience, so that we don't smother our partner. In this breakout, we're going to talk about accessing our arousal and managing our arousal. Oftentimes one person may feel like they are at a much lower level than their partner and they have limited, or no access to their arousal. And the other person feels frustrated because their partner has limited arousal and they have all this arousal coursing through their body. So there's a mismatch we call this in clinical sex therapy desire discrepancy, but it's both a discrepancy of desire that which turns us on cognitively and desire of arousal that which turns us on in our body. What we want to do is try to get on the same page. The person with lower arousal may need to take responsibility to access their arousal and get it going. Get the heat going and the person who's trying to manage may need to damp it down a little bit so that the other person can catch up and we can be sort of on the same page. I'm going to be the person right now with the lower arousal, and show you some tips that I do in terms of accessing and getting my fire going. The idea behind this exercise is to imagine that you are 100% responsible for all of the arousal. Now, we know that's not true. But I want to pretend that my partner is a dead fish and vice versa. When they're in that position they may take 100% responsibility for their arousal. And what happens is that we become 50% responsible each for the relationship. So, if I imagined that my partner was dead fish, and I was getting all the arousal going, I would start with myself before trying to turn on my partner. What I do again is access my relaxation ritual, so I can clear my nervous system of any stress, move out of my sympathetic into my parasympathetic. So after I've done my breathing exercises, I switch to different music for me I love music. I find it, inspiring. I love movement. So I find movement that flows with the music and I'm flowing with my body and seeing where it wants to go. For me. I like that somatic reminder of being centrally embodied and feeling arousal course through my system. I may not begin with any eroticism right now, but I'm beginning to just feel what it's like to move my body and the pleasurable experience of doing so. So for me, if I move my body and I dance. I'm imagining the music. coming through my body. I'm feeling my skin. I'm feeling the way my body moves. I'm getting into my flow. I'm just enjoying the luxury of my own body. The other thing I like to do sometimes is take a shower and just feel really clean and really groomed and just feel more sensual around touching my parts. Another thing I like to do is some kegels Where I squeeze as if you're cutting off urine flow in your pelvic floor, you can do this sitting on a bus or in a big crowded party. No one knows. But basically you're squeezing your pelvic floor and releasing, your bringing blood flow to the pelvic area. So again, you're getting that blood circulating part of arousal is getting our blood circulating. So as I move my body, And I do my kegels. I might also do some fire-breathing, there's breathing to relax and then there's breathing to excite and that fire breath can feel very rejuvenating and bring some life to the body. So I'm waking up. My body arousal is really waking up our body to the potential of our sensations. Another thing I could do to take full responsibility for my arousal as as I'm moving as I'm breathing, I could fantasize. I can fantasize about whatever I want because no one's in this brain with me. It's full permission to be fully in your own experience and bring forth all the arousal that you can generate, because what we're going to do with that is share it with our partner, but first, we want to take responsibility for what's already there. If I'm feeling like, oh I can't really access a fantasy. I can certainly read one, watch one, or listen to one and get inspired by someone else's work. There's very different kinds of energy to arousal for some people being in their central flow helps get that fire going for some people being in their strength, gets that fire going. So you might want to do certain things to feel strong and confident in your body. For instance. you can do some push-ups, or you can push a wall with all your strength to really get that activation going in your arms, depending on what your body has capacity. and ability to do utilize that strength to get that activation and arousal going. Just as accessing arousal in your body is a very important part of this process, being able to maintain and and properly contain arousal in your body is also part of this process frequently. What happens during that desire discrepancy, is that one person is more aroused than the other. And then there's a rush to have the partner who isn't accessing arousal move up to where the partner who is accessing a lot of arousal is at. If we can slow down that process, the partner who is struggling to access arousal has a little bit more breathing room and can find something that's more authentic in terms of their own enjoyment, rather than hurrying to try to match pace with their partner and maybe skip out on some important parts of what they need to do. To feel really good and excited and aroused about moving forward there's a few different ways that I encourage people to work with maintaining their own arousal. One of the things before we go into physical parts is to understand that there is a purpose to slowing it down. Frequently there's a lot of excitement about the idea of moving towards physical or sexual intimacy, what this can do is sometimes slow it down and build up a lot of appreciation for the physical intimacy without it having to immediately move to sexual intimacy. It might fill that sensual intimacy category and then, you know, you'll get to the sexual intimacy category later. Part of this is having patience. It's realizing that short-term discomfort. Meaning, you might have to put your arousal on hold for a bit. But the rewards of your partner being aroused and therefore, having a much more enjoyable sexual experience is well worth the wait, and so slowing down your arousal is definitely worthwhile. One of the ways on a physical level to work with maintaining arousal is to relax your whole body. The pelvic floor in particular is an area where during arousal there tends to be a fair amount of clenching and activation. If you can relax that, what that does is, it actually allows for increased blood flow. So, whenever working with erectile dysfunction, that's an area I have a lot of men focus on as a body part to see if they can release the tension. However, in this context, releasing any of that tension also reduces the amount of excitement and stimulation you're trying to access. And instead, let's your body unwind a little bit and therefore, It might flow in more of the physical or the sensual intimacy category, rather than exclusively in the sexual intimacy category when we can slow it down and access physical and sexual intimacy. One of the things a lot of people notice is that they rush to the sexual intimacy category because there's a nervousness and an uncertainty about how the experience might go and so they're not actually moving into the sexual intimacy category because of genuine arousal in their body. It's because of anxiety or worry. And if we can, instead slow it down and find a way to relax your body in those moments, then you can enjoy the process of building up rather than having to rush to the end goal because you're afraid it might disappear. So if in the moment as you're making contact with your partner's body you'll notice that as your arousal increases, your movements usually tend to stiffen up. I want you to see if as your partner is moving a little slower, if you can take a moment Drop into a more relaxed place and then make contact with your partner's body again that reset in your body, might drop your arousal level, a few notches down and allow your partner to be at a more even and balanced place in terms of arousal. So once again, what you're doing is you're just loosening up any tension that you might be holding. Slowing down your breath and just kind of melting into the bed. Melting into the couch, letting your body go slack as much as possible, so that you are operating from a relaxed place rather than a tense or worried place. In this next section, we're going to cover flirting. Flirting is the way of getting your partner's attention without letting them know that they have your attention. And so it's about the subtle suggestion. It's about making contact without overt expectation or obligation to follow up on anything. Flirting is the way of saying, hey, remember me, I'm over here. And it's about getting your partner's attention without saying, I'd really like your attention. It also leaves some mystery because it's subtle and it's fleeting we come in. We make a contact we leave. So the art of the subtlety and the mystery allows for the desire to breed in the middle space between there's a lot of play in flirting. Every couple has a different way of flirting, some couples through sarcastically poking at each other. Other couples tend to be more in the physical category. Some couples like to wrestle or tickle or just lightly make contact with each other and then create some distance. Every couple has their own way of flirting. We're going to give some examples of how to flirt because oftentimes in long-term relationships couples forget how to flirt with each other in the sake of practical communication. Couples will say, do you want to have sex tonight? And that doesn't invite any of that playfulness into the dynamic. Flirting is a way of reinvigorating that and inviting it back in. Keep in mind. This is not an invitation to the bedroom. This is not an invitation to more erotic contact. It's simply in the area of play or really just trying to add juiciness to the relationship without any expectation. So the flirting is hey, I like your body. You're looking good. And now I leave knowing that it's totally safe to flirt and add this sexy juice because our sensual date might not be for a few more days from now. So in terms of what Jenni just demonstrated, one of the ways I encourage couples to play with this, on a physical level because in the physical flirtation realm, there's different ways of interacting with that. So, for example, if your partner is standing there at the counter reading mail, you might come up. Behind them, wrap your arms around them, nibble on their ear, say something, and then disappear, and go into a different room. What it does is it sort of wakes them up from the day-to-day focus to go Oh, where did you go? That was nice. You can come back and give me a little more, but you're nowhere to be seen and it's leaving them yearning for a little bit more. They want more connection with you. And so it's not the, I'm going to wrap my arms around and not let go. It's, I'm going to get your attention and then invite you to reciprocate flirting is different than just affection. Affection is holding hands, which is so sweet and should certainly continue to exist, but flirting has a different sensual intonation to it. There's a sensual subtlety to it, and then a departure. So there's affection, there's flirting, and then there's sexual invitation. Please keep in mind that to make flirting safe, it should be free of expectations in terms of sexual invitation. This is where that make contact and then disappear is really essential. So, for example, if you're sitting there with your partner and you start rubbing their leg and moving up more towards the upper thigh or the inner thigh and then you get up and go make a bowl of popcorn. What you're doing is you're making contact. You're giving them awareness that you're touching their body. And just as they're expecting you're starting to move towards something. Instead you take space and leave them hanging a little bit. The art of flirtation is about planting the idea without them realizing that you have planted it. Explicitly planting the idea without any expectation, verbally, flirting may look a little different. It might be a little bit more of, you know what I really want to do tonight. I'd love to organize the closet. It can be that idea of where you think I'm going isn't where I'm actually going, but I get her wheels turning around Oh, what does he have in mind? The subtle maybe suggestive or playful way of communicating You know what I'm really in the mood for organizing the garage. I'd love to. Yeah. That playfulness and that idea then gets her thinking well, I don't really want to organize the garage, but I want to go to the bedroom instead and then she picks up that energy and might throw it back. And so then there would be a little bit more of a playful banter that starts to play out. And it might be for a few days where that playful banter plays out. And then all of that, pent-up energy can play out in a sexual interaction, that is charged in a positive way from the previous number of days. For the sensual intimacy chapter the main exercise that we're going to have you focus on is called sensual massage. What it is is a structured way of beginning to provide more contact more pleasurable touch on your partner's body and then receiving pleasurable sensual touch from your partner in a controlled and safe environment, that also begins to invite pleasure into the body. Sensual massage is structured with the following rules. So set a timer for 30 minutes where one person is going to receive and then the other person is going to switch roles and then receive afterwards. The next part of sensual massage is to decide ahead of time if there are any body parts that are on limits or off-limits. Some people say everything that would be covered by a bathing suit is off limits or other times people say my body is all yours, but I don't want this to move towards genital contact. Specifically if genitals are contacted That's fine. But it's not specifically a genital massage. Other people say, you know artist's choice, have at it. I'm all yours. There's a lot of flexibility about how it's set up. There's no right or wrong because you've already done the grunts groans and moans with the hand caress exercise you are welcome to either continue the grunts, groans and moans or you are also welcome to use full words and be much more descriptive if that feels comfortable. So, hmm. I really like when you shift to that light scratching. Can you just do that along my lower back? You could be that descriptive if that feels comfortable or it might just be I'm going to get lost in receiving what my partner is offering. And so instead I'm just going to use grunt, groans, and moans to redirect them. If there's something I want more of or if there's something I don't want to have continued. Sensual massage is about getting lost in giving your partner an experience and about getting lost in receiving an experience during those 30 minutes. What you can do is find new erogenous body parts. We tend to think of whenever we think of pleasure we tend to think mostly just of the genitals. But an example I always use any time I'm walking couples through how to do this exercise is a colleague of ours who in his twenties jumped into a swimming pool that was too shallow and broke his spinal column. Paralyzed from the waist down erections and sexual pleasure look different. But what he discovered was that by stroking, his earlobe, he can have an orgasm now if your earlobe or the back of your elbow or your kneecap was orgasmic and highly pleasurable you probably would want to know about it. You'd be sitting there all day playing with your elbow if that was the case. So it's about finding new body parts. It's about finding new ways of being touched that invite pleasure, and sensation, and excitement, into your body without having to move specifically to orgasm or sexual pleasure, but just invite sensation and enjoyment. Another guideline for sensual massage is that it's a standalone activity. Especially for at least the first time. What I mean by that is this is not a precursor to sex. This is not foreplay. This is an activity to get lost in receiving and offering touch for the sake of pleasure and sensation. Not for the sake of moving anywhere. Part of the reason for this is that we tend to be very focused on the outcome of orgasm and sexual pleasure. And what this does, is it slowing it down to shift to the whole body and to not making it about the goal of orgasm. And instead be about the enjoyment and pleasure of just making contact with yourself, or with your partner's body. In this breakout exercise, we're going to look at turn ons and turn offs. What are the things that I do to turn myself on? What are the things I do to turn my partner on? What are the things that my partner does to turn themselves on? What do they do to turn me on? Imagine that you have plumbing through your home. And it's all clogged up with mud and no water can flow through it. That's sometimes how we feel about our turn-offs. If we are, so clogged up with turn-offs. We can't even access what turns us on. So part of this exercise is to clear out the plumbing, clear out the turn-offs so that we can actually access and utilize those things that do turn us on. So both parts are important as you do this exercise, first start with paper. I like to draw a quadrant. And start here. Turn-ons can go on the top Self Other And then turn offs. Self, Other. Some people like to fill out, one full quadrant and then move to the next. Some people like to just move back and forth as ideas percolate through their head. Oftentimes the things that are on one side are the opposite of the other. So for instance, the things that turn me off that I do to turn myself off like ruminating and my stress having a heavy meal and feeling bloated, having too much alcohol. The opposite could turn me on having a light and healthy meal and feeling good and fit in my body, having just a little bit of alcohol to take the edge off but not too much to make me feel drowsy. Letting go of my stress and feeling relaxed so I can have the option to feel aroused. I'm going to give you some examples of what falls into different quadrants based on the clinical data set. I've seen in my office over the years. So turn on self, a lot of people will report feeling relaxed as a turn-on. A lot of people will report listening to certain kinds of music listening to kinds of listening to kinds of music watching certain kinds of erotica or sexy images. Other things that turn them on include temperature, or sometimes we really like hot water or really cold water. Sometimes we like ice, sometimes we like different tastes. We have chocolate. Chocolate is a big aphrodisiac and can turn us on other people really like the taste of a certain favorite beverage, some people like playing with lights. It's an ambience it can help them get turned on in terms of some candles. I had one client say she likes a disco light. Other people say they like music like they're in the club to kind of get them into that mood. You want to basically fill in the sentence I turn myself on by... I turn myself on by remembering the first time I had sex with my spouse or sex, on our honeymoon or sex by the fireplace. As we move to the other quadrants in terms of other, we want to consider again, not focusing on the turn-offs, but really charging our engine and focusing on the things that turn us on. That said, one of the most tricky and sensitive conversations to have is, what does my partner do to turn me off? They need to know because they might be in the dark around some of these very easy fixes. For instance, I've had people say that morning breath is bad. And I've heard another person, say they don't like mouthwash and toothpaste and they actually prefer a little coffee on the mouth. So what turns you off is definitely very subjective, but you want to know those things. Grooming and hygiene pieces, How much hair you like and how much hair you don't like. How much cleaning you like or how much sweat you like? Some of those can be a turn-off for some people and a turn-on for others. Again having a partner know that you prefer certain ways, those that turn you on, are helpful so that they can actually increase those pieces. What turns you on and what turns you off is completely subjective to each person and in each couple. So having an ongoing list and keep adding to it as you go. You might be surprised at what you add to your list as you go along and your partner may find it really helpful to know the things that they do that turn you off so that they can work on downsizing. There's one more piece to add around turn-offs, when you explain turn-offs other, you want to ask your partner if they are open to that feedback. Would you be interested and having feedback around what turns me off and what turns me on. That way you don't catch them off guard, and give them this criticism around how you get turned off. Your actually allowing them to be curious and inviting them into a feedback process. In this chapter, we look at arousal. Arousal is what turns on the body Desire, just as a side note is what turns on the brain. Those are things that we cognitively turn on or turn off to get us in the mood for sex. Remember that idea of spontaneous versus responsive desire and arousal were turning on the body and there's two things to consider when we have a high drive and a low drive partner, the high drive partner, may need to learn how to contain their arousal and keep it at a manageable level. so they don't smother their low drive partner and the low drive partner may need to learn exercises and how to take responsibility for getting arousal going in their own body. This is a team sport. I'm going to teach you all the things you need to know to contain and manage as well as excite and elicit arousal. As you think about arousal. I want you to think about a spectrum from zero to ten, zero is basically sleeping 10, you're having an orgasm. If you move to nine, you're at that inevitability of orgasm. If you're a male, you might know that as the inevitability of an ejaculation. Ejaculations and orgasm are actually separate events, but for most males, they happen at the same time. Eight is right on that precipice. We're at the edge of that inevitability and it feels like a really high level of arousal. It's a really exciting time, but it's a hard place to hang out. So now we know eight, nine, ten, feel like let's go back to 1. Basically you're sleeping. Two, I kind of feel a little kick in my body. Maybe my nipples got erect or some circulation is flowing through my genitals. So if you're a person with a penis, you might feel the oncoming of an erection around a three. If you're a person with a vulva, you might start to feel the blood flow or the clitoris starting to get engaged. Four through seven tends to be this murky middle zone for most people. It's actually our endurance zone, where if we hang out with arousal in this section, we can enjoy the ride without getting too high and going off the cliff into orgasm and being too low that we lose our sense of arousal in our body. So, four through seven, is that juicy middle zone where we really want to learn how to hang out there and then find the difference between four to five, five to six, six to seven. We can use this number scale with our partner as we communicate where we're at. We might need a little extra biting or licking or touching to boot us into that middle zone out of the three and into our 4 or 5. We might need to pause contact and let go and take a few deep breaths if we're edging into the eight and nine area. We want to come back into that middle place so that we can be on the same page. We don't have to both be at a four or both don't have to be at a 7, but we want to do is move our arousal into this middle zone and play with it as we move towards our orgasm or ejaculatory inevitability. Testosterone is a sex drive hormone and the numbers are huge. Usually anywhere from 300 to 1200 with the average somewhere, being between five to nine hundred, if you're a biological female or a person with a vulva and not a lot of testosterone in your body. Basically your numbers, your average range is anywhere from a 4 to 128. Let's just slice it down. The middle of some of it somewhere between 40 and 60. That's a wildly different number Between 40 and 60 is a wildly different number than 500 to 900. So testosterone in a female bodied person versus a male body person is going to be radically different. If you're a person with a lot of testosterone, you probably have a lot more. what you will feel as a sex drive or be the higher sex drive person, not always. There are definitely relational pieces that can contradict this experience. But if you do have a lot of testosterone and you do feel like your testosterone and your arousal tends to overwhelm your partner. If your partner has less testosterone, and we want to learn how to manage that experience, so that we don't smother our partner. In this breakout, we're going to talk about accessing our arousal and managing our arousal. Oftentimes one person may feel like they are at a much lower level than their partner and they have limited, or no access to their arousal. And the other person feels frustrated because their partner has limited arousal and they have all this arousal coursing through their body. So there's a mismatch we call this in clinical sex therapy desire discrepancy, but it's both a discrepancy of desire that which turns us on cognitively and desire of arousal that which turns us on in our body. What we want to do is try to get on the same page. The person with lower arousal may need to take responsibility to access their arousal and get it going. Get the heat going and the person who's trying to manage may need to damp it down a little bit so that the other person can catch up and we can be sort of on the same page. I'm going to be the person right now with the lower arousal, and show you some tips that I do in terms of accessing and getting my fire going. The idea behind this exercise is to imagine that you are 100% responsible for all of the arousal. Now, we know that's not true. But I want to pretend that my partner is a dead fish and vice versa. When they're in that position they may take 100% responsibility for their arousal. And what happens is that we become 50% responsible each for the relationship. So, if I imagined that my partner was dead fish, and I was getting all the arousal going, I would start with myself before trying to turn on my partner. What I do again is access my relaxation ritual, so I can clear my nervous system of any stress, move out of my sympathetic into my parasympathetic. So after I've done my breathing exercises, I switch to different music for me I love music. I find it, inspiring. I love movement. So I find movement that flows with the music and I'm flowing with my body and seeing where it wants to go. For me. I like that somatic reminder of being centrally embodied and feeling arousal course through my system. I may not begin with any eroticism right now, but I'm beginning to just feel what it's like to move my body and the pleasurable experience of doing so. So for me, if I move my body and I dance. I'm imagining the music. coming through my body. I'm feeling my skin. I'm feeling the way my body moves. I'm getting into my flow. I'm just enjoying the luxury of my own body. The other thing I like to do sometimes is take a shower and just feel really clean and really groomed and just feel more sensual around touching my parts. Another thing I like to do is some kegels Where I squeeze as if you're cutting off urine flow in your pelvic floor, you can do this sitting on a bus or in a big crowded party. No one knows. But basically you're squeezing your pelvic floor and releasing, your bringing blood flow to the pelvic area. So again, you're getting that blood circulating part of arousal is getting our blood circulating. So as I move my body, And I do my kegels. I might also do some fire-breathing, there's breathing to relax and then there's breathing to excite and that fire breath can feel very rejuvenating and bring some life to the body. So I'm waking up. My body arousal is really waking up our body to the potential of our sensations. Another thing I could do to take full responsibility for my arousal as as I'm moving as I'm breathing, I could fantasize. I can fantasize about whatever I want because no one's in this brain with me. It's full permission to be fully in your own experience and bring forth all the arousal that you can generate, because what we're going to do with that is share it with our partner, but first, we want to take responsibility for what's already there. If I'm feeling like, oh I can't really access a fantasy. I can certainly read one, watch one, or listen to one and get inspired by someone else's work. There's very different kinds of energy to arousal for some people being in their central flow helps get that fire going for some people being in their strength, gets that fire going. So you might want to do certain things to feel strong and confident in your body. For instance. you can do some push-ups, or you can push a wall with all your strength to really get that activation going in your arms, depending on what your body has capacity. and ability to do utilize that strength to get that activation and arousal going. Just as accessing arousal in your body is a very important part of this process, being able to maintain and and properly contain arousal in your body is also part of this process frequently. What happens during that desire discrepancy, is that one person is more aroused than the other. And then there's a rush to have the partner who isn't accessing arousal move up to where the partner who is accessing a lot of arousal is at. If we can slow down that process, the partner who is struggling to access arousal has a little bit more breathing room and can find something that's more authentic in terms of their own enjoyment, rather than hurrying to try to match pace with their partner and maybe skip out on some important parts of what they need to do. To feel really good and excited and aroused about moving forward there's a few different ways that I encourage people to work with maintaining their own arousal. One of the things before we go into physical parts is to understand that there is a purpose to slowing it down. Frequently there's a lot of excitement about the idea of moving towards physical or sexual intimacy, what this can do is sometimes slow it down and build up a lot of appreciation for the physical intimacy without it having to immediately move to sexual intimacy. It might fill that sensual intimacy category and then, you know, you'll get to the sexual intimacy category later. Part of this is having patience. It's realizing that short-term discomfort. Meaning, you might have to put your arousal on hold for a bit. But the rewards of your partner being aroused and therefore, having a much more enjoyable sexual experience is well worth the wait, and so slowing down your arousal is definitely worthwhile. One of the ways on a physical level to work with maintaining arousal is to relax your whole body. The pelvic floor in particular is an area where during arousal there tends to be a fair amount of clenching and activation. If you can relax that, what that does is, it actually allows for increased blood flow. So, whenever working with erectile dysfunction, that's an area I have a lot of men focus on as a body part to see if they can release the tension. However, in this context, releasing any of that tension also reduces the amount of excitement and stimulation you're trying to access. And instead, let's your body unwind a little bit and therefore, It might flow in more of the physical or the sensual intimacy category, rather than exclusively in the sexual intimacy category when we can slow it down and access physical and sexual intimacy. One of the things a lot of people notice is that they rush to the sexual intimacy category because there's a nervousness and an uncertainty about how the experience might go and so they're not actually moving into the sexual intimacy category because of genuine arousal in their body. It's because of anxiety or worry. And if we can, instead slow it down and find a way to relax your body in those moments, then you can enjoy the process of building up rather than having to rush to the end goal because you're afraid it might disappear. So if in the moment as you're making contact with your partner's body you'll notice that as your arousal increases, your movements usually tend to stiffen up. I want you to see if as your partner is moving a little slower, if you can take a moment Drop into a more relaxed place and then make contact with your partner's body again that reset in your body, might drop your arousal level, a few notches down and allow your partner to be at a more even and balanced place in terms of arousal. So once again, what you're doing is you're just loosening up any tension that you might be holding. Slowing down your breath and just kind of melting into the bed. Melting into the couch, letting your body go slack as much as possible, so that you are operating from a relaxed place rather than a tense or worried place. In this next section, we're going to cover flirting. Flirting is the way of getting your partner's attention without letting them know that they have your attention. And so it's about the subtle suggestion. It's about making contact without overt expectation or obligation to follow up on anything. Flirting is the way of saying, hey, remember me, I'm over here. And it's about getting your partner's attention without saying, I'd really like your attention. It also leaves some mystery because it's subtle and it's fleeting we come in. We make a contact we leave. So the art of the subtlety and the mystery allows for the desire to breed in the middle space between there's a lot of play in flirting. Every couple has a different way of flirting, some couples through sarcastically poking at each other. Other couples tend to be more in the physical category. Some couples like to wrestle or tickle or just lightly make contact with each other and then create some distance. Every couple has their own way of flirting. We're going to give some examples of how to flirt because oftentimes in long-term relationships couples forget how to flirt with each other in the sake of practical communication. Couples will say, do you want to have sex tonight? And that doesn't invite any of that playfulness into the dynamic. Flirting is a way of reinvigorating that and inviting it back in. Keep in mind. This is not an invitation to the bedroom. This is not an invitation to more erotic contact. It's simply in the area of play or really just trying to add juiciness to the relationship without any expectation. So the flirting is hey, I like your body. You're looking good. And now I leave knowing that it's totally safe to flirt and add this sexy juice because our sensual date might not be for a few more days from now. So in terms of what Jenni just demonstrated, one of the ways I encourage couples to play with this, on a physical level because in the physical flirtation realm, there's different ways of interacting with that. So, for example, if your partner is standing there at the counter reading mail, you might come up. Behind them, wrap your arms around them, nibble on their ear, say something, and then disappear, and go into a different room. What it does is it sort of wakes them up from the day-to-day focus to go Oh, where did you go? That was nice. You can come back and give me a little more, but you're nowhere to be seen and it's leaving them yearning for a little bit more. They want more connection with you. And so it's not the, I'm going to wrap my arms around and not let go. It's, I'm going to get your attention and then invite you to reciprocate flirting is different than just affection. Affection is holding hands, which is so sweet and should certainly continue to exist, but flirting has a different sensual intonation to it. There's a sensual subtlety to it, and then a departure. So there's affection, there's flirting, and then there's sexual invitation. Please keep in mind that to make flirting safe, it should be free of expectations in terms of sexual invitation. This is where that make contact and then disappear is really essential. So, for example, if you're sitting there with your partner and you start rubbing their leg and moving up more towards the upper thigh or the inner thigh and then you get up and go make a bowl of popcorn. What you're doing is you're making contact. You're giving them awareness that you're touching their body. And just as they're expecting you're starting to move towards something. Instead you take space and leave them hanging a little bit. The art of flirtation is about planting the idea without them realizing that you have planted it. Explicitly planting the idea without any expectation, verbally, flirting may look a little different. It might be a little bit more of, you know what I really want to do tonight. I'd love to organize the closet. It can be that idea of where you think I'm going isn't where I'm actually going, but I get her wheels turning around Oh, what does he have in mind? The subtle maybe suggestive or playful way of communicating You know what I'm really in the mood for organizing the garage. I'd love to. Yeah. That playfulness and that idea then gets her thinking well, I don't really want to organize the garage, but I want to go to the bedroom instead and then she picks up that energy and might throw it back. And so then there would be a little bit more of a playful banter that starts to play out. And it might be for a few days where that playful banter plays out. And then all of that, pent-up energy can play out in a sexual interaction, that is charged in a positive way from the previous number of days. For the sensual intimacy chapter the main exercise that we're going to have you focus on is called sensual massage. What it is is a structured way of beginning to provide more contact more pleasurable touch on your partner's body and then receiving pleasurable sensual touch from your partner in a controlled and safe environment, that also begins to invite pleasure into the body. Sensual massage is structured with the following rules. So set a timer for 30 minutes where one person is going to receive and then the other person is going to switch roles and then receive afterwards. The next part of sensual massage is to decide ahead of time if there are any body parts that are on limits or off-limits. Some people say everything that would be covered by a bathing suit is off limits or other times people say my body is all yours, but I don't want this to move towards genital contact. Specifically if genitals are contacted That's fine. But it's not specifically a genital massage. Other people say, you know artist's choice, have at it. I'm all yours. There's a lot of flexibility about how it's set up. There's no right or wrong because you've already done the grunts groans and moans with the hand caress exercise you are welcome to either continue the grunts, groans and moans or you are also welcome to use full words and be much more descriptive if that feels comfortable. So, hmm. I really like when you shift to that light scratching. Can you just do that along my lower back? You could be that descriptive if that feels comfortable or it might just be I'm going to get lost in receiving what my partner is offering. And so instead I'm just going to use grunt, groans, and moans to redirect them. If there's something I want more of or if there's something I don't want to have continued. Sensual massage is about getting lost in giving your partner an experience and about getting lost in receiving an experience during those 30 minutes. What you can do is find new erogenous body parts. We tend to think of whenever we think of pleasure we tend to think mostly just of the genitals. But an example I always use any time I'm walking couples through how to do this exercise is a colleague of ours who in his twenties jumped into a swimming pool that was too shallow and broke his spinal column. Paralyzed from the waist down erections and sexual pleasure look different. But what he discovered was that by stroking, his earlobe, he can have an orgasm now if your earlobe or the back of your elbow or your kneecap was orgasmic and highly pleasurable you probably would want to know about it. You'd be sitting there all day playing with your elbow if that was the case. So it's about finding new body parts. It's about finding new ways of being touched that invite pleasure, and sensation, and excitement, into your body without having to move specifically to orgasm or sexual pleasure, but just invite sensation and enjoyment. Another guideline for sensual massage is that it's a standalone activity. Especially for at least the first time. What I mean by that is this is not a precursor to sex. This is not foreplay. This is an activity to get lost in receiving and offering touch for the sake of pleasure and sensation. Not for the sake of moving anywhere. Part of the reason for this is that we tend to be very focused on the outcome of orgasm and sexual pleasure. And what this does, is it slowing it down to shift to the whole body and to not making it about the goal of orgasm. And instead be about the enjoyment and pleasure of just making contact with yourself, or with your partner's body. In this breakout exercise, we're going to look at turn ons and turn offs. What are the things that I do to turn myself on? What are the things I do to turn my partner on? What are the things that my partner does to turn themselves on? What do they do to turn me on? Imagine that you have plumbing through your home. And it's all clogged up with mud and no water can flow through it. That's sometimes how we feel about our turn-offs. If we are, so clogged up with turn-offs. We can't even access what turns us on. So part of this exercise is to clear out the plumbing, clear out the turn-offs so that we can actually access and utilize those things that do turn us on. So both parts are important as you do this exercise, first start with paper. I like to draw a quadrant. And start here. Turn-ons can go on the top Self Other And then turn offs. Self, Other. Some people like to fill out, one full quadrant and then move to the next. Some people like to just move back and forth as ideas percolate through their head. Oftentimes the things that are on one side are the opposite of the other. So for instance, the things that turn me off that I do to turn myself off like ruminating and my stress having a heavy meal and feeling bloated, having too much alcohol. The opposite could turn me on having a light and healthy meal and feeling good and fit in my body, having just a little bit of alcohol to take the edge off but not too much to make me feel drowsy. Letting go of my stress and feeling relaxed so I can have the option to feel aroused. I'm going to give you some examples of what falls into different quadrants based on the clinical data set. I've seen in my office over the years. So turn on self, a lot of people will report feeling relaxed as a turn-on. A lot of people will report listening to certain kinds of music listening to kinds of listening to kinds of music watching certain kinds of erotica or sexy images. Other things that turn them on include temperature, or sometimes we really like hot water or really cold water. Sometimes we like ice, sometimes we like different tastes. We have chocolate. Chocolate is a big aphrodisiac and can turn us on other people really like the taste of a certain favorite beverage, some people like playing with lights. It's an ambience it can help them get turned on in terms of some candles. I had one client say she likes a disco light. Other people say they like music like they're in the club to kind of get them into that mood. You want to basically fill in the sentence I turn myself on by... I turn myself on by remembering the first time I had sex with my spouse or sex, on our honeymoon or sex by the fireplace. As we move to the other quadrants in terms of other, we want to consider again, not focusing on the turn-offs, but really charging our engine and focusing on the things that turn us on. That said, one of the most tricky and sensitive conversations to have is, what does my partner do to turn me off? They need to know because they might be in the dark around some of these very easy fixes. For instance, I've had people say that morning breath is bad. And I've heard another person, say they don't like mouthwash and toothpaste and they actually prefer a little coffee on the mouth. So what turns you off is definitely very subjective, but you want to know those things. Grooming and hygiene pieces, How much hair you like and how much hair you don't like. How much cleaning you like or how much sweat you like? Some of those can be a turn-off for some people and a turn-on for others. Again having a partner know that you prefer certain ways, those that turn you on, are helpful so that they can actually increase those pieces. What turns you on and what turns you off is completely subjective to each person and in each couple. So having an ongoing list and keep adding to it as you go. You might be surprised at what you add to your list as you go along and your partner may find it really helpful to know the things that they do that turn you off so that they can work on downsizing. There's one more piece to add around turn-offs, when you explain turn-offs other, you want to ask your partner if they are open to that feedback. Would you be interested and having feedback around what turns me off In this breakout, we're going to talk about accessing our arousal and managing our arousal. Oftentimes one person may feel like they are at a much lower level than their partner and they have limited, or no access to their arousal. And the other person feels frustrated because their partner has limited arousal and they have all this arousal coursing through their body. So there's a mismatch we call this in clinical sex therapy desire discrepancy, but it's both a discrepancy of desire that which turns us on cognitively and desire of arousal that which turns us on in our body. What we want to do is try to get on the same page. The person with lower arousal may need to take responsibility to access their arousal and get it going. Get the heat going and the person who's trying to manage may need to damp it down a little bit so that the other person can catch up and we can be sort of on the same page. I'm going to be the person right now with the lower arousal, and show you some tips that I do in terms of accessing and getting my fire going. The idea behind this exercise is to imagine that you are 100% responsible for all of the arousal. Now, we know that's not true. But I want to pretend that my partner is a dead fish and vice versa. When they're in that position they may take 100% responsibility for their arousal. And what happens is that we become 50% responsible each for the relationship. So, if I imagined that my partner was dead fish, and I was getting all the arousal going, I would start with myself before trying to turn on my partner. What I do again is access my relaxation ritual, so I can clear my nervous system of any stress, move out of my sympathetic into my parasympathetic. So after I've done my breathing exercises, I switch to different music for me I love music. I find it, inspiring. I love movement. So I find movement that flows with the music and I'm flowing with my body and seeing where it wants to go. For me. I like that somatic reminder of being centrally embodied and feeling arousal course through my system. I may not begin with any eroticism right now, but I'm beginning to just feel what it's like to move my body and the pleasurable experience of doing so. So for me, if I move my body and I dance. I'm imagining the music. coming through my body. I'm feeling my skin. I'm feeling the way my body moves. I'm getting into my flow. I'm just enjoying the luxury of my own body. The other thing I like to do sometimes is take a shower and just feel really clean and really groomed and just feel more sensual around touching my parts. Another thing I like to do is some kegels Where I squeeze as if you're cutting off urine flow in your pelvic floor, you can do this sitting on a bus or in a big crowded party. No one knows. But basically you're squeezing your pelvic floor and releasing, your bringing blood flow to the pelvic area. So again, you're getting that blood circulating part of arousal is getting our blood circulating. So as I move my body, And I do my kegels. I might also do some fire-breathing, there's breathing to relax and then there's breathing to excite and that fire breath can feel very rejuvenating and bring some life to the body. So I'm waking up. My body arousal is really waking up our body to the potential of our sensations. Another thing I could do to take full responsibility for my arousal as as I'm moving as I'm breathing, I could fantasize. I can fantasize about whatever I want because no one's in this brain with me. It's full permission to be fully in your own experience and bring forth all the arousal that you can generate, because what we're going to do with that is share it with our partner, but first, we want to take responsibility for what's already there. If I'm feeling like, oh I can't really access a fantasy. I can certainly read one, watch one, or listen to one and get inspired by someone else's work. There's very different kinds of energy to arousal for some people being in their central flow helps get that fire going for some people being in their strength, gets that fire going. So you might want to do certain things to feel strong and confident in your body. For instance. you can do some push-ups, or you can push a wall with all your strength to really get that activation going in your arms. Depending on what your body has capacity and ability to do utilize that strength to get that activation and arousal going. Just as accessing arousal in your body is a very important part of this process, being able to maintain and and properly contain arousal in your body is also part of this process frequently. What happens during that desire discrepancy, is that one person is more aroused than the other. And then there's a rush to have the partner who isn't accessing arousal move up to where the partner who is accessing a lot of arousal is at. If we can slow down that process, the partner who is struggling to access arousal has a little bit more breathing room and can find something that's more authentic in terms of their own enjoyment, rather than hurrying to try to match pace with their partner and maybe skip out on some important parts of what they need to do. To feel really good and excited and aroused about moving forward there's a few different ways that I encourage people to work with maintaining their own arousal. One of the things before we go into physical parts is to understand that there is a purpose to slowing it down. Frequently there's a lot of excitement about the idea of moving towards physical or sexual intimacy, what this can do is sometimes slow it down and build up a lot of appreciation for the physical intimacy without it having to immediately move to sexual intimacy. It might fill that sensual intimacy category and then, you know, you'll get to the sexual intimacy category later. Part of this is having patience. It's realizing that short-term discomfort. Meaning, you might have to put your arousal on hold for a bit. But the rewards of your partner being aroused and therefore, having a much more enjoyable sexual experience is well worth the wait, and so slowing down your arousal is definitely worthwhile. One of the ways on a physical level to work with maintaining arousal is to relax your whole body. The pelvic floor in particular is an area where during arousal there tends to be a fair amount of clenching and activation. If you can relax that, what that does is, it actually allows for increased blood flow. So, whenever working with erectile dysfunction, that's an area I have a lot of men focus on as a body part to see if they can release the tension. However, in this context, releasing any of that tension also reduces the amount of excitement and stimulation you're trying to access. And instead, let's your body unwind a little bit and therefore, It might flow in more of the physical or the sensual intimacy category, rather than exclusively in the sexual intimacy category when we can slow it down and access physical and sexual intimacy. One of the things a lot of people notice is that they rush to the sexual intimacy category because there's a nervousness and an uncertainty about how the experience might go and so they're not actually moving into the sexual intimacy category because of genuine arousal in their body. It's because of anxiety or worry. And if we can, instead slow it down and find a way to relax your body in those moments, then you can enjoy the process of building up rather than having to rush to the end goal because you're afraid it might disappear. So if in the moment as you're making contact with your partner's body you'll notice that as your arousal increases, your movements usually tend to stiffen up. I want you to see if as your partner is moving a little slower, if you can take a moment Drop into a more relaxed place and then make contact with your partner's body again that reset in your body, might drop your arousal level, a few notches down and allow your partner to be at a more even and balanced place in terms of arousal. So once again, what you're doing is you're just loosening up any tension that you might be holding. Slowing down your breath and just kind of melting into the bed. Melting into the couch, letting your body go slack as much as possible, so that you are operating from a relaxed place rather than a tense or worried place. In this next section, we're going to cover flirting. In this next section, we're going to cover flirting. Flirting is the way of getting your partner's attention without letting them know that they have your attention. And so it's about the subtle suggestion. It's about making contact without overt expectation or obligation to follow up on anything. Flirting is the way of saying, hey, remember me, I'm over here. And it's about getting your partner's attention without saying, I'd really like your attention. It also leaves some mystery because it's subtle and it's fleeting we come in. We make a contact we leave. So the art of the subtlety and the mystery allows for the desire to breed in the middle space between there's a lot of play in flirting. Every couple has a different way of flirting, some couples through sarcastically poking at each other. Other couples tend to be more in the physical category. Some couples like to wrestle or tickle or just lightly make contact with each other and then create some distance. Every couple has their own way of flirting. We're going to give some examples of how to flirt because oftentimes in long-term relationships couples forget how to flirt with each other in the sake of practical communication. Couples will say, do you want to have sex tonight? And that doesn't invite any of that playfulness into the dynamic. Flirting is a way of reinvigorating that and inviting it back in. Keep in mind. This is not an invitation to the bedroom. This is not an invitation to more erotic contact. It's simply in the area of play or really just trying to add juiciness to the relationship without any expectation. So the flirting is hey, I like your body. You're looking good. And now I leave knowing that it's totally safe to flirt and add this sexy juice because our sensual date might not be for a few more days from now. So in terms of what Jenni just demonstrated, one of the ways I encourage couples to play with this, on a physical level because in the physical flirtation realm, there's different ways of interacting with that. So, for example, if your partner is standing there at the counter reading mail, you might come up. Behind them, wrap your arms around them, nibble on their ear, say something, and then disappear, and go into a different room. What it does is it sort of wakes them up from the day-to-day focus to go Oh, where did you go? That was nice. You can come back and give me a little more, but you're nowhere to be seen and it's leaving them yearning for a little bit more. They want more connection with you. And so it's not the, I'm going to wrap my arms around and not let go. It's, I'm going to get your attention and then invite you to reciprocate flirting is different than just affection. Affection is holding hands, which is so sweet and should certainly continue to exist, but flirting has a different sensual intonation to it. There's a sensual subtlety to it, and then a departure. So there's affection, there's flirting, and then there's sexual invitation. Please keep in mind that to make flirting safe, it should be free of expectations in terms of sexual invitation. This is where that make contact and then disappear is really essential. So, for example, if you're sitting there with your partner and you start rubbing their leg and moving up more towards the upper thigh or the inner thigh and then you get up and go make a bowl of popcorn. What you're doing is you're making contact. You're giving them awareness that you're touching their body. And just as they're expecting you're starting to move towards something. Instead you take space and leave them hanging a little bit. The art of flirtation is about planting the idea without them realizing that you have planted it. Explicitly planting the idea without any expectation, verbally, flirting may look a little different. It might be a little bit more of, you know what I really want to do tonight. I'd love to organize the closet. It can be that idea of where you think I'm going isn't where I'm actually going, but I get her wheels turning around Oh, what does he have in mind? The subtle maybe suggestive or playful way of communicating You know what I'm really in the mood for organizing the garage. I'd love to. Yeah. That playfulness and that idea then gets her thinking well, I don't really want to organize the garage, but I want to go to the bedroom instead and then she picks up that energy and might throw it back. And so then there would be a little bit more of a playful banter that starts to play out. And it might be for a few days where that playful banter plays out. And then all of that, pent-up energy can play out in a sexual interaction, that is charged in a positive way from the previous number of days. For the sensual intimacy chapter the main exercise that we're going to have you focus on is called sensual massage. What it is is a structured way of beginning to provide more contact more pleasurable touch on your partner's body and then receiving pleasurable sensual touch from your partner in a controlled and safe environment, that also begins to invite pleasure into the body. Sensual massage is structured with the following rules. So set a timer for 30 minutes where one person is going to receive and then the other person is going to switch roles and then receive afterwards. The next part of sensual massage is to decide ahead of time if there are any body parts that are on limits or off-limits. Some people say everything that would be covered by a bathing suit is off limits or other times people say my body is all yours, but I don't want this to move towards genital contact. Specifically if genitals are contacted That's fine. But it's not specifically a genital massage. Other people say, you know artist's choice, have at it. I'm all yours. There's a lot of flexibility about how it's set up. There's no right or wrong because you've already done the grunts groans and moans with the hand caress exercise you are welcome to either continue the grunts, groans and moans or you are also welcome to use full words and be much more descriptive if that feels comfortable. So, hmm. I really like when you shift to that light scratching. Can you just do that along my lower back? You could be that descriptive if that feels comfortable or it might just be I'm going to get lost in receiving what my partner is offering. And so instead I'm just going to use grunt, groans, and moans to redirect them. If there's something I want more of or if there's something I don't want to have continued. Sensual massage is about getting lost in giving your partner an experience and about getting lost in receiving an experience during those 30 minutes. What you can do is find new erogenous body parts. We tend to think of whenever we think of pleasure we tend to think mostly just of the genitals. But an example I always use any time I'm walking couples through how to do this exercise is a colleague of ours who in his twenties jumped into a swimming pool that was too shallow and broke his spinal column. Paralyzed from the waist down erections and sexual pleasure look different. But what he discovered was that by stroking, his earlobe, he can have an orgasm now if your earlobe or the back of your elbow or your kneecap was orgasmic and highly pleasurable you probably would want to know about it. You'd be sitting there all day playing with your elbow if that was the case. So it's about finding new body parts. It's about finding new ways of being touched that invite pleasure, and sensation, and excitement, into your body without having to move specifically to orgasm or sexual pleasure, but just invite sensation and enjoyment. Another guideline for sensual massage is that it's a standalone activity. Especially for at least the first time. What I mean by that is this is not a precursor to sex. This is not foreplay. This is an activity to get lost in receiving and offering touch for the sake of pleasure and sensation. Not for the sake of moving anywhere. Part of the reason for this is that we tend to be very focused on the outcome of orgasm and sexual pleasure. And what this does, is it slowing it down to shift to the whole body and to not making it about the goal of orgasm. And instead be about the enjoyment and pleasure of just making contact with yourself, or with your partner's body. In this breakout exercise, we're going to look at turn ons and turn offs. What are the things that I do to turn myself on? What are the things I do to turn my partner on? What are the things that my partner does to turn themselves on? What do they do to turn me on? Imagine that you have plumbing through your home. And it's all clogged up with mud and no water can flow through it. That's sometimes how we feel about our turn-offs. If we are, so clogged up with turn-offs. We can't even access what turns us on. So part of this exercise is to clear out the plumbing, clear out the turn-offs so that we can actually access and utilize those things that do turn us on. So both parts are important as you do this exercise, first start with paper. I like to draw a quadrant. And start here. Turn-ons can go on the top Self Other And then turn offs. Self, Other. Some people like to fill out, one full quadrant and then move to the next. Some people like to just move back and forth as ideas percolate through their head. Oftentimes the things that are on one side are the opposite of the other. So for instance, the things that turn me off that I do to turn myself off like ruminating and my stress having a heavy meal and feeling bloated, having too much alcohol. The opposite could turn me on having a light and healthy meal and feeling good and fit in my body, having just a little bit of alcohol to take the edge off but not too much to make me feel drowsy. Letting go of my stress and feeling relaxed so I can have the option to feel aroused. I'm going to give you some examples of what falls into different quadrants based on the clinical data set. I've seen in my office over the years. So turn on self, a lot of people will report feeling relaxed as a turn-on. A lot of people will report listening to certain kinds of music listening to kinds of listening to kinds of music watching certain kinds of erotica or sexy images. Other things that turn them on include temperature, or sometimes we really like hot water or really cold water. Sometimes we like ice, sometimes we like different tastes. We have chocolate. Chocolate is a big aphrodisiac and can turn us on other people really like the taste of a certain favorite beverage, some people like playing with lights. It's an ambience it can help them get turned on in terms of some candles. I had one client say she likes a disco light. Other people say they like music like they're in the club to kind of get them into that mood. You want to basically fill in the sentence I turn myself on by... I turn myself on by remembering the first time I had sex with my spouse or sex, on our honeymoon or sex by the fireplace. As we move to the other quadrants in terms of other, we want to consider again, not focusing on the turn-offs, but really charging our engine and focusing on the things that turn us on. That said, one of the most tricky and sensitive conversations to have is, what does my partner do to turn me off? They need to know because they might be in the dark around some of these very easy fixes. For instance, I've had people say that morning breath is bad. And I've heard another person, say they don't like mouthwash and toothpaste and they actually prefer a little coffee on the mouth. So what turns you off is definitely very subjective, but you want to know those things. Grooming and hygiene pieces, How much hair you like and how much hair you don't like. How much cleaning you like or how much sweat you like? Some of those can be a turn-off for some people and a turn-on for others. Again having a partner know that you prefer certain ways, those that turn you on, are helpful so that they can actually increase those pieces. What turns you on and what turns you off is completely subjective to each person and in each couple. So having an ongoing list and keep adding to it as you go. You might be surprised at what you add to your list as you go along and your partner may find it really helpful to know the things that they do that turn you off so that they can work on downsizing. There's one more piece to add around turn-offs, when you explain turn-offs other, you want to ask your partner if they are open to that feedback. Would you be interested and having feedback around what turns me off and what turns me on. That way you don't catch them off guard, and give them this criticism around how you get turned off. Your actually allowing them to be curious and inviting them into a feedback process. In part 4, we're looking at sexual intimacy. Sexual intimacy umbrella of activities that invite erotic pleasure. This is an incredible section where we can relearn how to have sex with our full bodies, minds and Spirits. Often times when we have sex. We're missing the intimacy. It becomes a transaction of the genitals or genital a must perform and genital B must also perform and they come together and they must have a successful interaction in order to feel like we have had successful sex. Oftentimes, if we don't have this success where we either have the functioning of our genitals or simultaneously or simultaneous orgasm. We feel like we have failed somehow other couples, may just complain that it gets boring and stale and routine doing the same script over and over. The idea here is to engage all of our senses and use all the learning so far to make sex and activity that is full body. Full mindful Spirit. We want to feel grounded in our Nervous system, so that we can actually be in a place and in a relaxed place. So that arousal can emerge. That's what we learned in physical intimacy, and Central intimacy. Once we are grounded and we make space for arousal to emerge from here. We want to include our erogenous zones and play with the different activities that may bring us to those higher Heights of arousal and pleasure. One thing to consider is performance versus pleasure often times when we have sex, The performance oriented mentality because that is how we have learned all about sex. If we look at porn, if we look at Hollywood, it's all about the script of how we get together, how we Ascend the stairwells. We have our sex, we have our orgasm, and Tada, we have our goal. Our goal is met, but what happens if we Ascend the stairwell and we fall off? Then we feel like we failed. Let's say, we're partway up. The stairwell or kissing? Our clothes? Come off. We're playing with our bodies. And then we can't get an erection or we're playing with our bodies and we get an erection, but then it's time for intercourse or oral sex or anal sex and we lose the erection or let's say we lose lubrication or we start to have pain as we fall off. The stairwell. What happens? The next time we try to go up the stairwell as we go. I hope that doesn't happen. And that feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy where it actually sabotages the whole process. So we fall off the stairwell. We go home. It doesn't happen and ends up happening. Then we end up avoiding this terrible all together and we become in a sexless Dynamic. So oftentimes, when we become in a sexless Dynamic, it's because the anxiety has self sabotage our entire experience. As a goal oriented Society, it's awesome to have goals and feel like we met them. But if we make sex a goal, then there are too many places where we feel like we have failed. And then we don't have intimacy. If we feel like we fail, then we don't want to go back up that script. We don't want to go back up that stairwell because we don't want to actually feel the effects of failure. So we have to get out of the idea of sex, being a goal, and we have to make it a source of pleasure, the other disadvantage of having sex on this. Up, the stairwell is that it says, genital a must get on stage. Have the strong erection. Don't come too quickly. Genital be must get well, lubricated, not have any pain and we get together and we have this simultaneous orgasm. That's a lot of pressure on our genitals. They're in the spotlight. They typically get stage fright and that's not a way we want to have sex. So let's trash this whole idea toss it out and have sex from a pleasure oriented mindset. I call this the cheesecake of pleasure. If you've been to the supermarket and you seen those Taylor platters they're typically in the dessert section and you have individual slices of cheesecake. So turtle fudge, Oreo, peanut butter, blueberry. You name it different little slices of cheesecake. They can stand for different activities, one can be kissing. One, could be a sensuall shower, one could be mutual self pleasure. I like to use the word self pleasure, not masturbation. Because masturbation is actually to defile with one's hand. We're not defiling anything in self-pleasure. Maybe another cheesecake piece could be intercourse. Another piece could be anal sex. Another piece could be having sex in the laundry room or in the living room. Another piece could be kinky sex. Another piece could be swinging from the chandeliers. I really have no judgment on the type of sex or the type of flavors you want to have as long as both people consent. We want to make sure both people are enjoying their time, but they don't have to enjoy the time equally. So let's say you have a sensual shower partner, and maybe you're like I love this. I'm in. The hot water and I'm naked, and I'm just in my own, my happy place. This is awesome. It's a 10 for me and the other person's like, I'm a little vulnerable. I feel very on display, but I'm breathing into it because I learned from my exercises from physical intimacy, and grounding my nervous system. And I'm actually enjoying watching my partner, just lavish up this pleasure. And so I'm having pleasure but it's more like a three. I'm not at a zero. I don't need to get out, but I'm going to 3 and my partner's at a 10. We're still able to share space and have a good time even if we're not having the same level of pleasure, the best way to use this cheesecake list is to first put together your own independent list alone and then come together as a team to fet to find that Venn diagram space. So partner A may make their list. And by the way, if you have two flavors of cheesecake and that's it. That's okay. And if your partner has 16 flavors also, okay, the idea is now to come together and see what blends, you might Inspire your partner with things you have on your list and vice versa as we make our collaborative cheesecake. That's part one because we can use this cheesecake any night of the week. When we're just feeling like, hey desert feels like a good idea. You can eat one piece of cheesecake, the kiss and then go back to the fridge and do the disrobing activity, and then you can do the activity where we play with each other's bodies. And that's it or you might continue to keep eating pieces of cheese cake until you get to intercourse and you both have an orgasm, maybe the same time, maybe not But it's about the journey, not the destination. It's about eating the cheese cake for the idea of pleasure, with this cheesecake of pleasure. Our goal again, is just that pleasure. If the genitals are involved, great, if we have an orgasm great, but that's not the goal. The idea is just to be with each other in connection and intimacy. So part 1 of homework is again your own independent list and then coming together to share at that point. You will have a collaborative cheesecake that you can utilize at any point. Part two is all the other flavors that didn't get included on your cheesecake because partner A may have a few different activities that partner B is like, ah, that feels very scary for me or vice versa. We want to talk about those flavors too, those flavors matter because it's about the meaning of what those flavors symbolize to each person. One person may learn that maybe oral sex is dirty and they learn this from religion and they just don't want to engage in it or maybe receive it. Oral sex is hard because they don't want to be put on the spotlight and feel like they're on stage having to perform. So we want to deconstruct the meaning of the different activities. So we can understand the root issue of what's happening beneath the surface and see if maybe after exploring these types of things. They can actually move on to the collaborative cheesecake. As a goal oriented Society, it's awesome to have goals and feel like we met them. But if we make sex a goal, then there are too many places where we feel like we have failed. And then we don't have intimacy. If we feel like we fail, then we don't want to go back up that script. We don't want to go back up that stairwell because we don't want to actually feel the effects of failure. So we have to get out of the idea of sex, being a goal, and we have to make it a source of pleasure, the other disadvantage of having sex on this. Up, the stairwell is that it says, genital a must get on stage. Have the strong erection. Don't come too quickly. Genital be must get well, lubricated, not have any pain and we get together and we have this simultaneous orgasm. That's a lot of pressure on our genitals. They're in the spotlight. They typically get stage fright and that's not a way we want to have sex. So let's trash this whole idea toss it out and have sex from a pleasure oriented mindset. I call this the cheesecake of pleasure. If you've been to the supermarket and you seen those Taylor platters they're typically in the dessert section and you have individual slices of cheesecake. So turtle fudge, Oreo, peanut butter, blueberry. You name it different little slices of cheesecake. They can stand for different activities, one can be kissing. One, could be a sensuall shower, one could be mutual self pleasure. I like to use the word self pleasure, not masturbation. Because masturbation is actually to defile with one's hand. We're not defiling anything in self-pleasure. Maybe another cheesecake piece could be intercourse. Another piece could be anal sex. Another piece could be having sex in the laundry room or in the living room. Another piece could be kinky sex. Another piece could be swinging from the chandeliers. I really have no judgment on the type of sex or the type of flavors you want to have as long as both people consent. We want to make sure both people are enjoying their time, but they don't have to enjoy the time equally. So let's say you have a sensual shower partner, and maybe you're like I love this. I'm in. The hot water and I'm naked, and I'm just in my own, my happy place. This is awesome. It's a 10 for me and the other person's like, I'm a little vulnerable. I feel very on display, but I'm breathing into it because I learned from my exercises from physical intimacy, and grounding my nervous system. And I'm actually enjoying watching my partner, just lavish up this pleasure. And so I'm having pleasure but it's more like a three. I'm not at a zero. I don't need to get out, but I'm going to 3 and my partner's at a 10. We're still able to share space and have a good time even if we're not having the same level of pleasure, the best way to use this cheesecake list is to first put together your own independent list alone and then come together as a team to fet to find that Venn diagram space. So partner A may make their list. And by the way, if you have two flavors of cheesecake and that's it. That's okay. And if your partner has 16 flavors also, okay, the idea is now to come together and see what blends, you might Inspire your partner with things you have on your list and vice versa as we make our collaborative cheesecake. That's part one because we can use this cheesecake any night of the week. When we're just feeling like, hey desert feels like a good idea. You can eat one piece of cheesecake, the kiss and then go back to the fridge and do the disrobing activity, and then you can do the activity where we play with each other's bodies. And that's it or you might continue to keep eating pieces of cheese cake until you get to intercourse and you both have an orgasm, maybe the same time, maybe not But it's about the journey, not the destination. It's about eating the cheese cake for the idea of pleasure, with this cheesecake of pleasure. Our goal again, is just that pleasure. If the genitals are involved, great, if we have an orgasm great, but that's not the goal. The idea is just to be with each other in connection and intimacy. So part 1 of homework is again your own independent list and then coming together to share at that point. You will have a collaborative cheesecake that you can utilize at any point. Part two is all the other flavors that didn't get included on your cheesecake because partner A may have a few different activities that partner B is like, ah, that feels very scary for me or vice versa. We want to talk about those flavors too, those flavors matter because it's about the meaning of what those flavors symbolize to each person. One person may learn that maybe oral sex is dirty and they learn this from religion and they just don't want to engage in it or maybe receive it. Oral sex is hard because they don't want to be put on the spotlight and feel like they're on stage having to perform. So we want to deconstruct the meaning of the different activities. So we can understand the root issue of what's happening beneath the surface and see if maybe after exploring these types of things. They can actually move on to the collaborative cheesecake. Four reasons that people have sex, typically are for connection for skin-to-skin, contact to feel desired and validated and to access pleasure and orgasm. If sex is the place where multiple needs are getting met without any awareness of that being the case, what happens is that sex is overburdened and there's a lot of pressure and expectation on what sex means as opposed to being aware of those different needs realizing. We can diversify the ways that our relationship can fill, those needs in places outside of the bedroom. And as a result, be able to enjoy the pleasures of sexual intimacy, for the sake of sexual intimacy. Rather than as representative of something else that we might not be aware of. Sometimes, we hear a couple say they have a great sex life. They have sex every day, sometimes twice a day and not in the honeymoon phase like in long-term relationship. And we're often surprised when that's the case. When we do a little digging. What actually happens is that these couples don't have a lot of intimacy and connection in other areas sex. A place where they get all their needs met or connection for skin-to-skin to feel desired invalidated and to have pleasure and orgasm. And so, when sex is burdened with that task, where these couples must have sex in order to get those needs met sex, then becomes a place of burden and obligation and can feel unfun if there is stress and other relationship areas. So what we want to be able to do is diversify our intimacy. So that sex is unburdened from these things and it's a place of choice and freedom and flexibility and it doesn't have to represent all of our needs. One of the ways to think about this concept of unburdening sex is to think of our needs as eggs in baskets and everybody has a lot of different baskets throughout their life and especially in a relationship. In a relationship, your social needs are addressed. There's a social basket. There's an emotional basket. There's a spiritual basket. There's a physical basket. There's a sexual basket. There's a variety of different baskets that have eggs allocated in each one. What we frequently find is that a lot of eggs, end up placed in the sex basket because people don't know where else for it to go. It's kind of like the junk drawer and the problem with the junk drawer. Is that pretty quickly it's a place, you don't want to visit and you can't find anything in there that you're actually looking. looking for. And so as a result, our task in this section is to clean out that basket. So that the eggs that are supposed to be in the sex basket, the reasons why sex is enjoyable the reasons why sex is intimate and connected are able to be accessed and all of the other strings attached and all the things that aren't supposed to be and the sex basket get placed into the into the proper basket, for example, if one of the ways is that you are getting your physical needs met is through sex. You might need to prioritize and reorganize a bit so that you're having more cuddling, you're having more hand-holding, you're having more physical touch, that isn't sexual in nature. And that way, sex isn't the place where your physical touch needs are being addressed. When you're able to appropriately, sort out each basket. You can also pick up the basket and if there's too many eggs in the sex basket. It ends up too heavy and it's not worth picking up. Let's be creative for a moment and figure out different ways we can get those for needs met. So for instance, Daniel says he would like to have sex and he wants to have connection, skin-to-skin, validation and desire as well as pleasure and orgasm. We want to be creative with the four reasons we have sex in case intercourse is not on the table or any other erogenous activity or highly erotic activity is inaccessible. So for instance, if we want connection, it could be through an emotional conversation where we talk about something meaningful. Skin-to-skin we can cuddle, we can take a bath together, hot tub together, take a shower. For validation and desire, I can tell him how handsome and sexy he looks, and for pleasure and orgasm, I can lay with him while he self pleasures and be in connection with him, but not necessarily highly involved If I don't have a lot of reserves in the tank. So there's lots of ways to get those needs met without going to the B line, erotic activity that you typically know how to do in terms of trying to get those needs met through sex. One of the ways to work with this concept around eggs in the basket is to recognize that everybody has different baskets that they get to define, some people really value the intellectual basket. Some people really value the emotional basket. Some people really value the physical basket because they have a lot of shared sports they like to do together. It doesn't matter what baskets you have. It's just important to be aware of what they are and the different ways to make sure the eggs are properly allocated. As you think about diversifying your baskets, in terms of intimacy and not burdening, the sex basket with being the only place you get all your needs met. I want you to consider eight different baskets of intimacy. There could be 18 or 81 but these are the eight main ones we typically work with in alphabetical order. We have affection the affection basket, which is where we hold hands. We kiss we hug. We share affection. Another basket is the Aesthetic basket, where we share something beautiful. When we watch a lightning storm together or walk in nature and observe the beauty of this. We are sharing aesthetic intimacy. Another one is emotional intimacy where we talk about our feelings and our fears and our desires. That's sharing emotional intimacy. Another one is intellectual intimacy where we may talk about philosophy politics. Read an article together and deconstruct it. Another basket for intimacy is physical, where we might go on a walk together or a big hike. Other couples might play tennis. Another couple may go Salsa dancing. What you do for physical contact together is another way to get that physical need met. The last three baskets for intimacy are the 3 s's social where you might go out to dinner together. You might go out with a group of people for a double or triple date. You might go to a party. We have spiritual, which is sharing intimacy with a higher power, either individually or together in relationship and then sexual intimacy, which of course is a place to get your needs met. We just want to be able to diversify our ability to get our needs met in the other baskets as well. In this chapter, we talk about roadblocks to intimacy and sex. In this chapter, we talk about roadblocks to intimacy and sex. Oftentimes, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions that block us from deeply understanding how we want to optimize our relationship. Here we're going to debunk and deconstruct those myths and misconceptions so that you can have open road and not get blocked by social narratives, or sex tapes that are actually inaccurate and ineffective for your life. So, let's go through our common roadblocks, common roadblocks include misunderstanding, how desire and arousal works. In terms of it being a spontaneous experience or a responsive experience. Another roadblock is obligation sex or sex from a place of frustration and scarcity. One person feels obligated. The other person, feels frustrated, and in a place of scarcity, a third roadblock is performance anxiety, and subsequent sexual dysfunctions. A fourth, roadblock is spectating and self-judgment where we imagine ourselves in the corner and we're watching and spectator in what we're doing. And of course, criticizing ourselves. Another roadblock is negative beliefs past and present around our sex messages and a 6th roadblock is rejection either afraid to make an invitation or initiate because we're afraid of the rejection or afraid to say no, because we don't want to reject our partner. So let's talk about ways used to create open road and deconstruct all these roadblocks. Starting with number one, understanding desire, desire for some people maybe in the beginning of a relationship feels very spontaneous sex. Researcher Rosemary Basson put forth this idea of spontaneous versus responsive desire. Spontaneous desire is where we feel the arousal circulating through our system and it feels very exciting and we take action on it, responsive desire, which is the majority of us, but certainly the lower desire partner, that person responds to a stimuli the stimuli could be a sexy invitation. It could be flirting. It could be something we watch, something we talk about, something we smell, something we taste. It could be just an invitation to have relaxation. Because remember relaxation allows for arousal to emerge, we're giving permission for the arousal to come into our body because there's actually space for it to come in. So, what we want to understand is that, if we are making an invitation the other person might not be on board immediately. They may need some time to respond to the stimuli. You also want to ask your partner. What kinds of stimuli do it for you? So if you're responding to stimuli and there's certain kinds of invitations that you like, it could be a sexy text. It could be a way you flirt with the neck. It could be a way that you make the bed and set the candles. It could be a very carnal and forward invitation. So you want to be able to think about what turns you on and what turns you off. So that you can communicate that to your partner when they consider all the different stimuli that they offer you. The other thing to consider is your part of the equation. What can I do to turn myself on? What are the stimuli I need to help facilitate desire and arousal. I might respond to the stimuli of doing kegels. If I'm doing kegels and my pelvic floor and I'm circulating my arousal through my body. I'm taking responsibility for my arousal. And responding to my own stimuli within my own body. I might read an erotic story to get myself turned on and get myself excited and then transition that energy to my partner. I might fantasize while I'm in the shower and maybe the fantasies about partner, and maybe it's not, but it doesn't really matter. You're taking that fuel, you're taking the energy from that stimuli and you're bringing it to your partner. Roadblock number two, where we are polarized in this position of having either obligatory sex or coming from a place of sexual frustration. and scarcity. We want to actually take personal responsibility rather than continue to blame our partner. If we have this place where we're, you know what, you keep making me have sex and I just don't want to have the sex or the other person says, you never want to have sex with me. And now I'm really frustrated and we're in a sexless marriage. That's not going to work for either person. So, taking personal responsibility, for your part of the equation is key for the person who may have a higher drive and wants more sex, but is experiencing frustration and scarcity. They might ask themselves the question then, what am I doing to shut my partner down? How am I turning them off? How am I not making a safe space for them? And then you can ask those questions to your partner. Hey, I want to take responsibility. I don't want you to feel obligated to sex. I don't want to feel frustrated. So here are the things I can do to help turn you on to help you feel safe, to help you feel like you are engaging in this process in a collaborative way. The person who has been typically in the obligatory role saying, yes, the sex from a place of obligation maybe wants to to be at least a place of having a yes, from a gift or ideally again, yes from a place of enthusiasm. It might be hard to move from obligation to enthusiasm. So at least moved to the gift where we generously do want to give our partner a gift because we love them and we're not harboring resentment anymore. That person wants to ask themselves the question of what's happening for me that feels unsafe. What can I authentically say yes to. That feels good in my body and will also meet my partner's needs. So again, we might not be meeting exactly in the middle or having So again, we might not be a meeting exactly in the middle or having fireworks of sex. But we're also not polarized around this particular topic. For number 3, Performance anxiety and subsequent sexual dysfunction. We want to revisit this cheesecake model, the idea of the cheesecake models, when we have sex as a goal and we have all the things that come with that, in terms of the performance and the pressure, and then the subsequent sexual dysfunction. We want to eliminate all those pieces. Really move into a mindset of cheesecake and pleasure so that we are eliminating all the effects of having our genitals be on stage doing something. For the sake of this genital transaction, before you have sex, ask yourself the question of what do I first need to feel relaxed? And what do I want to happen in terms of pleasure? Not what is the script that I need to operate by. For roadblock number four spectating and self judgment, it's super important to come into a place of self acceptance. I know this is easier said than done. If we can be present and connect from that place of present. Then we'll be able to speak to our needs and our boundaries if we're spectatoring from the corner and like I just don't like how my belly is right now on and I don't like how my thighs are or maybe I don't like the size of my penis. Can we speak to these vulnerable pieces and work through them, maybe a boundary is that we keep candles on, so that were not feeling so much on display, or maybe we wear some clothing that makes us feel sexy and empowered. But also allows us to have skin to skin and connect. While you simultaneously do the harder work of self acceptance of your body knowing that we're actually there for the sake of having pleasure with one another versus judging how we're performing or judging what we look like. In roadblock number 5 negative beliefs negative messages. We want to create open road by creating a dialogue of positive, self-talk and deconstructing the negative messages. This is much easier said than done. When we consider improving our self-talk what we want to do first is actually honor how all those old messages that we don't like the I'm not good enough. I'm too fat. I'm too skinny. How all those negative messages came to be and actually honor what they were trying to do to protect us. If we can honor the negative message and say to it Yeah, you know what you have been here to try to help me improve, or you have been trying to protect a vulnerable part of myself. Thank you for your service. Can you now, please step to the side so that I can live my authentic life and not judge myself as much. We can move forward in a positive way. In roadblock six rejection. We want to have the antidote for the open road, which is a rain check. When we look at roadblock number six, rejection. We want to use the antidote of a rain check. A rain check is three different parts. The gratitude or the thank you for the invitation. What's happening for you that sex doesn't work in that current moment and then an offer of finding an alternative time, so if you get an invitation, hey, I'd love to have sex with you tonight. Does that work? And then you ask yourself Does that work? Actually, I'm swamped with work, and I'm super tired. So you might say, thank you for your invitation. It was super sexy to hear it. I'm glad you miss me. I miss you, too. I'm actually swamped with work and super exhausted. So I have no capacity for anything tonight. However, I would love to follow up with you either tomorrow morning or tomorrow afternoon. Now, the person who offers the rain check also has to follow up on the rain Check So again, if we're making invitations three times a day, that's a little unfair, to the person offering rainchecks three times a day. We want to offer invitations in a reasonable manner and the person offering rainchecks offer a rain check you can actually make good on if your partner is asking for intercourse And maybe you're menstruating and you don't like to have sex, while you're menstruating, don't offer intercourse. The next day offer a different kind of connection offer a different kind of cheesecake flavor. A raincheck can be that to you might get an invitation to a certain flavor and you're like, hmm. I don't know. I don't know about that flavor. Again. Thank you for the invitation. I don't know about that flavor right now. But how about this flavor? So again, three parts gratitude, what's happening for you and your alternative. If we clear up misconceptions, then the couple is able to feel comfortable moving forward with a shared understanding and a feeling of being heard and understood rather than dealing with unspoken uncertainty and confusion around sexual desires, interests and potential blocks to accessing sexual intimacy. In this chapter, we talk about how to invite your partner to sex. It's important that you both take responsibility to make invitations, as it can be a burden. If only one person is doing all the inviting, even if the other person tends to be the lower desire partner, and not remember to make invitations from an internal place of eroticism or arousal, they can still mark their calendar and get themselves in the mood, so that they can make that invitation. So if I make an invitation, but I'm not feeling my arousal yet. Okay, I'm making an invitation because I know it's good for the relationship and I trust that once I'm in the process, I'll get turned on part of that is also about finding a way to communicate around. What kind of invitation feels safe? What kind feels like an obligation. What kind of response feels like a rejection? What kind of response feels like a an adjustment but still honors my feeling. As a lower desire partner, I want to make an invitation that certainly feels like a gift not an obligation. It's a subtle difference if it's an obligation because I feel like it's just been too much time or I know that I need to get him to be more helpful around the house. That's not a good way to go about this because it's not in a culture of generosity. There are consequences. If you don't offer it, therefore, it's not genuinely an offer. It's an obligation, they're strings attached. A culture of generosity, I'm going above and beyond and I'm offering a gift. Again I may not be feeling a lot of arousal but it brings me great joy when he gets aroused and I can give them that gift. And oftentimes arousal is pretty contagious. So once he's going I can get going too. We can be really lazy with our invitations. Like, sex tonight like 8:00 sound good, doesn't really Inspire him. Right What we want to do is Inspire the desire. So we want to take responsibility for that inspiration. I could come to him very practically and say, hey tonight at 8:00. The kids would be in bed and it's early enough that will get enough sleep, or that I'll get enough sleep, and I'd be curious if you would like to connect at that time. It's practical but I'm enthusiastic or I could bring a little sensuality and flirting to it. Hey kids are in bed by 7:30. Tonight's a good night. I have some more energy. How about we connect around 8:00? Sounds great. The idea of the invitation is that it is offering the partner time to be able to check in with their own feelings rather than having to answer immediately. Hey, I'd be open to connecting later tonight. If that would work for you. Let me know what you think. That also doesn't expect a response right away and it gets the wheels turning. But lets you partner know that you're thinking. Think about it and then a response can be, I might respond with great. That gives me an hour to clean up all my work and be done and put that aside. I like to do a to do list so that I don't have to think about my to do list while I'm in sensual contact. It's already written now and out of my brain and it's not going to hijack my brain away from our process. So you might consider that tip and also it gives me time to do my relaxation ritual and get my own arousal going before we get together. And keep in mind, we've got two young kids. So when we talk about these things and saying, hey, would you like to connect in 15 minutes, 30 minutes tonight? We're doing so because we're going with the theory that spontaneous sex is the best sex you'll rarely have. That doesn't mean spontaneous sex can't happen spontaneous sex is awesome. Sometimes the invitation allows for spontaneous sex or the impromptu sensual shower ends up being sex. That's great. What we're talking about is being intentional with your invitations and having a little bit of forethought, so that you can plan how you want to show up to the encounter, the communication around this is key. Because oftentimes, the person who has higher desire, tends to feel a lot of rejection because in communicating their interest in sex and their partner saying, no, it feels like a rejection of them rather than a redirection, or your partner stating an interest in connecting with you, just not in a specifically sexual way. And so we'll get into the details of how to communicate about an invitation and how to respond to it. Let's say it's a no for me. Daniel's going to role model an invitation. And I'm going to check in with myself and reconsider. It's really important to think about your no because you don't want to reject your partner. I'm a big advocate for the rain. I'm a big advocate for the rain check. The rain check is a reconsideration and an alternative. Basically, there are three ingredients to the rain check first gratitude. Thanks for that invitation. It really is validating and I appreciate that you go out on a limb and make yourself vulnerable and express your desire for me. I like feeling desired. It's very validating. The last thing I want to do is reject him and not make him feel desired or validated. I want him to know that I still desire him even if in that moment, it doesn't work for me. So the gratitude. So there's a reciprocation of desire and validation to. You want to explain what's happening for you. In terms of why we need an alternative and three, you want to offer what that alternative is. So I'm going to give a few examples of a rain check and Daniel's going to give a few examples of an invitation. Hey, if, if you'd like, I'd love to connect with you later tonight. Oh, thank you. I really appreciate when you invite me. I have a ton of work tonight. So I don't think I can actually show up very well because I'm going to be maxed out until we go to bed, but I would love to take you up on that in the morning and have our morning shower together. How does that sound to you? Okay Now we're going to give an alternative if he invites something very specific, a certain activity. That doesn't work for me. You know, I've been missing adventure a little bit lately. Hmm. Yeah. Yeah. I was thinking we could do something adventurous tonight, like what? I don't know. I'll have to think about that. But what are your feelings? What are you thinking about adventure? Good question. Thank you for initiating and coming up with this. Honestly, I feel a little hesitant around adventure right now. We've been sort of in this cozy safe, nesting mode for so long. That adventure feels a little unfamiliar and scary. So maybe we can do like adventure light like maybe instead of sex on the bed sex on the floor to start? Yeah, we could do that. Sounds good. Just change it up a little bit. Okay. Yeah, sounds good. The idea behind the rain check is you don't have to be a full yes to everything. Two ways to use the rain check are one, just a totally different time or to a totally different activity. The other ingredients, again, our gratitude for the rain check what you're feeling, and what you need. In this chapter, we look at how to add erotic excitement into your sex life What we've been doing this entire time is cultivating steps for safety so that we can relax and enjoy and allow the arousal to emerge. And we also don't want to get stuck in the same routine. Doing the same thing just because it feels safe from the stepping off point of safety and comfort. There are a variety of areas that couples can move into more adventurous and enjoyable areas of sexual contact. We're going to describe a few specific areas and frameworks to be able to have some of those conversations so that you're able to find a sense of adventure combined with a sense of enjoyment and also safety. So conversation one is best sex and why each person in the relationship can write down their three best sexual times that they've had with each other, not with past partners, and what you're looking for, the data points on what makes those the best Jack Morin who is the author of The Erotic Mind talks about four different erotic cornerstones in terms of how our eroticism comes to be and shapes are erotic identity. One, cornerstone for instance is taboo, often times if you grew up in a climate where there was rigidity or shaming of specific behaviors or hybrid of a strong religious climate, what happens is that we want to sometimes break free from that repression and we like things that are taboo. Another erotic cornerstone is power playing with the dynamics of being in a place of dominance or submission. Because maybe you grew up in a climate where we have a lot of power or you were parental and had all the power. And when it comes to her your erotic life, you like to kind of switch it up. Another erotic cornerstone is yearning. In these cases, the people like the sexual tension and the build-up of something. So, it's about the flirting. It's about the potential of having a sexual interaction more than the actual sex itself. And oftentimes, this comes from a place in childhood, where we may have felt neglected. Or alone. And so we really yearn for connection and contact and that gets eroticized when we look at our best sexual experiences with our partner. We might see different data points that lead us to understand how erotic blueprint works. For instance, one of the best sexual experiences might be when you had sex on the rooftop of some building in another city, and the data points there are It's a little taboo. And it's also a place in terms of getting out of your home and having more of an adventure, another person might say that their best sexual adventure was tying up their partner and feeling and total control of the sexual scenario and dictating the entire narrative. And they might like Power Play. Another person, might really like, the first time they had sex because they had three weeks of dating, and the build-up of sexual tension and letting the relationship catch fire until finally they had sex. That person probably likes that yearning component. So what you want to do is creatively insert these erotic elements into your long-term, likely sexually exclusive relationship. As you do you might be creative with things around the taboo. For instance, maybe you have sex in the hot tub, but maybe at night so your neighbors don't see you or you might play with tying each other up, or doing blindfolds or you might roleplay being different characters or you might role play it being the same people in the relationship, being yourself, but at a different point in time when you were just getting together. I think the important part around this is to understand what turns you on, what makes your erotic wheels tick? And the more you're able to do that What happens is, you can build that into different sexual moments and experiences moving forward. And allowing for that better understanding of your eroticism and your partner's eroticism. You can find collaborative ways to have both elements that are needed to be part of your sexual experiences. In this chapter, we look at Fantasy. What we're again trying to do is include erotic excitement, into our sexual scenarios and our sexual intimacy so that we can kick the juice up when we want to a way into our sexual life. As Esther Perel likes to talk about is looking at fantasy and putting it under the microscope. It is through our fantasies that we can collect a lot of data points on what turns us on. It's important to know that we need a lot of safety in the relationship, to be able to discuss our fantasies so that they don't Trigger, or open up a can of worms that we don't have the ability to close back up, as you talk about your fantasies if can feel scary what you might want to do is read an erotic anthology with small, short stories, and get a little sampling of other people's fantasies and then you can talk about it. Did that turn you on? This one turned me on. So you don't have to jump to sharing your fantasy just yet. You can kind of play with the idea of fantasy and allow different stories in the anthology to turn you on and explore what turns yourself on and your partner on, again, to include these elements and these data points and play with them yourself. If it feels safe enough to share your fantasies. It can be a standalone exercise to do so, which can be really erotic and then if it feels even safer to act on your fantasies and accessible to act under fantasies, well, thumbs up, a common fantasy is having a threesome or having an extra relational dynamic part of your long-term monogamy. If you are trying to safe guard your sexually exclusive monogamous relationship, but you have fantasies for other. You have to be creative on how you access other one way to access other is through fantasy. You could sit down at a coffee shop and people watch. You could talk about the people. You're watching as a way to kind of include that dynamic of attraction into the relationship. Again It has to feel safe. One of the benefits of discussing fantasy together, is that you're able to talk about things that are erotic, without actually having to act on them. Acting upon things sometimes is very enjoyable thing. And other times is something that isn't even necessary in order to be able to access some of the erotic energy created by talking about ideas that turn you on. Even if it doesn't have to turn into an act, So, common fantasies Justin Lehmiller has a whole book on top, common fantasies, for instance, BDSM or Kink fantasies with bondage, threesomes, or extramarital, extra partner relationships. Not all relationships want to go into these terrains. So including things that may be unconventional to your your relationship or unconventional in general, can be accessed through fantasy and these fantasies or unconventional turn-ons, a fantasy can be something that you discuss and don't ever play out, but it can be very enjoyable to share the idea but not have to act on it and sometimes they're safe and creative ways to act on it. This breakout is called eroticizing your partner. When you've been together for a long time, long-term relationship can feel the same. There isn't anything shiny or new about it. So what we want to do is add in that erotic juice. We sometimes have to get really creative with how we interject that erotic energy. So Daniel on a day-to-day basis, may not stimulate my arousal or get any sexy energy going because we're just doing our routine, but if we're into that sexual intimacy phase. I may start to eroticized him and bring in those elements. So I might say to him. I really love when you come out of the shower and you put on those tight boxer briefs, but don't totally dry off because I like you a little wet and don't get on the bed yet because I like when you stand there and I can just take in your sexy body and its full glory. The idea in this eroticizing is to tell your partner from a level of very mild to very wild what you like, and what gets you going This is also about you hearing what your partner desires and is turned on about you. And so when, you know, those particular body parts, those particular things that you do, you say the way you look when, you know, that those are the things that drive your partner wild. You're going to accentuate those to get your partner's attention. So for example, if your partner is driven wild by your forearms, you're going to wear shorter sleeve shirts, rather than longer sleeve shirts. If you know your partner really liked your legs. You're going to wear a shorter shorts, you're going to shift what you do, if you're wanting to get your partner's attention and it also gives you more confidence in yourself, knowing that you're desirable and arousing to your partner. When we see clients in our office. We often call this exercise Casting Couch where as therapists we pretend we're the blind director so we don't put them on the the spot. But we do encourage them to actually eroticize out loud their partner as if they're selling their partner to some sort of movie. So I might describe Daniel in a very mild form as think of the romantic comedy category. Right Romantic category. You want this actor for your show because he is a hunk. He's got big brown eyes. He's got a masculine beard. He's got beautiful lips that kiss so well, he's got these strong hands and soft arms. He's this blend of masculine and sensual and one package. So if I can eroticized him and articulate that he knows how I feel about him and it feels really good to him. But it also feels really good to me to be able to give that gift to him. As we add that erotic energy into the mix. That was a very mild example. We often ask couples to take it one level that are further. So my mild to wild can be a whole range. You can imagine this like the movie system of G, PG, PG-13 R, and X-rated. So PG-13 example, might be I really love your chest or your arms. I love your butt. All those kinds of places. R might start to describe the genitals what you like about the genitals, how they smell, how they taste, maybe you like them in certain clothing or with no clothing at all. And then X rated can be not only do I like your whole body and your genitals. This is what I want to do to my body with your body. Think of it, as if you are Think of it as if you are describing the images and the memories, the moments that you have in your mind of interacting with your partner sexually. What stands out as particularly arousing, are there specific things that your partner does, Are there specific body parts that your mind records more and you may not articulate those in day-to-day life to your partner but when your partner hears that, your partner realizes that they're a sexual being in your eyes and you also are explaining how you view them as a sexual being, you're reminding the relationship as a team. We're gonna remember, this is all a team sport, the relationship, you reminding the relationship that we are sexual beings, and that we can drop into our sexual in nature and that erotic energy together and leave the daily routine behind. Leave the parenting hats behind. Leave the work hats behind. We're switching into a whole new modality, putting on the hats as lovers and to put on the hat of lover. We have to invite that erotic energy. And if we invite that erotic energy in then we have some juice to go on. I'm not just looking at him as Daniel, my wonderful husband and father of my children. I'm looking at him as sexy lover.

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