ERP 356: How To Overcome Obstacles To Nurture Sexual Intimacy — An Interview With Dr. Liz Jenkins

By Posted in - Podcast January 24th, 2023 0 Comments

Sexual intimacy is a vital component of any healthy relationship, but for many couples, it can be a challenge to maintain. Whether it’s due to changes in your body, stress, or other obstacles, it can be difficult to keep the passion alive. However, there is hope. With a little bit of self-awareness and some open communication with your partner, you can reignite the spark and nurture sexual intimacy in your relationship.

In this episode, we’ll explore some tips and strategies for overcoming obstacles and reigniting the passion in your relationship. So, if you’re ready to take your intimacy to the next level, listen to this episode to learn more.

Dr. Liz is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Certified Relationship Coach with over 35 years and 75,000+ hours of expertise working with women and couples to reignite relationships so they can prevent divorce, infidelity, and dissatisfaction and navigate huge life transitions.

In this Episode

4:09 Nurturing intimacy and passion: The importance of “redos” in order to address mistakes in relationships and improve communication and connection.

10:52 Myths and realities of sexual intimacy in long-term relationships: How life stages and circumstances impact couples.

20:19 Navigating life stages and overcoming challenges to maintain intimacy in relationships.

26:07 The challenges and opportunities in building and maintaining a sexual connection.

31:41 The Importance of Self-Awareness and Relaxation.

36:16 The importance of self-care, mindfulness, and communication in the bedroom.

42:05 Misperceptions and fears in sexual intimacy: How to address and communicate to maintain passion and connection.

47:29 The unconscious strategies to avoid intimacy.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Practice self-care before engaging in sexual intimacy, such as taking a bath or going for a walk, to increase connection with your body and make yourself more accessible.
  • Communicate openly with your partner about your needs and preferences, and have these conversations outside of the bedroom to reduce anxiety and reservations.
  • Be aware of unconscious strategies that may be avoiding intimacy, such as placing a physical barrier between partners or allowing other distractions to take priority.
  • Address any fears or misperceptions about changes in your body and seek to understand the underlying emotions behind them.
  • Assertively express your interest in sexual intimacy, instead of tracking your partner’s interest without speaking up.
  • Remember that one person can impact the entire relationship and making changes in yourself can lead to positive changes in the relationship.

Mentioned

Free Connection Call with Dr. Liz (*Calendly)

Weekend Reconnect Coaching Program

FREE Gift Couple’s Connection Checklist

Sharing Resources (*Google form)

Connect with Dr. Liz Jenkins

Websites: drlizjenkins.com

Facebook: facebook.com/DrLizJenkins

Instagram: instagram.com/dr_liz_jenkins

Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins

Facebook: facebook.com/EmpoweredRelationship 

Instagram: instagram.com/drjessicahiggins 

Podcast: drjessicahiggins.com/podcasts/

Pinterest: pinterest.com/EmpowerRelation 

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drjessicahiggins 

Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 

Website: drjessicahiggins.com  

Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Dr. Liz Jenkins, thank you for joining us today.

Oh, thank you so much, Jessica. It’s a thrill to be here. It’s such an honor. I’m looking forward.

Yeah, me too. I love this topic, it’s something that’s so important. Especially when we look at the demands that the average couple is enduring as far as all the things that are on the plate, and that intimacy and passion, especially in long-term relationship, how do we continue to nurture that? So I’m excited about what you have to share with us.

Thank you. So I just got off the call from a session with a couple that, yes, they’ve moved in together, they’re engaged, and she’s already feeling like I’m less of a priority. So it’ll be great to be talking about this today with you, I appreciate it.

Yeah. For people who aren’t are necessarily super-acquainted with you and your work, is there anything you want to share to help people get to know you and where you’re coming from?

Well, I’ve been licensed for over 37 years, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and married, we just finished our 35th wedding anniversary. So I really lead in with the priority for making sure relationships are rewarding and people are being able to enjoy the best in themselves and their couplehood. Plus, we have two adult daughters. So I’m kind of biased to make sure that our daughters have the opportunities to choose wisely and choose well in the beginning. That’s why I brought all these aspects from my professional life and my personal life into my work with couples in my coaching programme.

So it sounds like you really do your best to live what you are teaching and facilitating in your work.

Absolutely. I’m the master of asking for a redo when I’ve misspoken or it didn’t come off the right way or a way that was supportive or loving in my marriage or even with my kids. So we do a ‘redo it back up’, that’s really what I wanted to have said or would’ve wished I had done differently is this. It’s magical. But if anybody tries it out there in the world with their kids, don’t be surprised when they get to the point where they’re asking you to do a redo. I can’t tell you how many times my daughters are like, “I think this sounds like a good redo time. What do you think, Mom?” I’m like, okay.

Oh, wow! It’s part of your family, it’s actually a practice. 

Yes, absolutely.

I think the redo is highly underrated. When we look at it intellectually, it can be easy, like: “Oh right, we all know, we just went through this, we get it.” But the power of being able to embody it, to be able to express it, and then on the receiving end, to see the person that you love, your loved one, really express the thing with the emotion and the vulnerability and the connection there. It’s so powerful. Even if we intellectually know what we just processed and where we got, to actually live into it is so powerful. I love that you are like, I’m known for this, this is something that I practice and use.

Absolutely, and what a great way for me! So when I have misspoken or been stressed or whatever, didn’t show up at my best, to be able to ask for that, my husband gives me the space to do that, to step back. Then guess what? My mistake goes away because I put the success in there, and it really solidifies for me. It’s like habit stacking successful encounters with my relationships; my husband, my daughters, wherever it be. I see that in so many couples as they start to get disconnected, and they come to me. I’m sure you see that as well is, they feel like they’re a failure or their relationship is a failure, or they’ve made these kinds of mistakes. It’s because they’ve had multiple layers of encounters with each other that fell short or disappointing and were hurt, and there wasn’t any successful redo or a different strategy or a different way to talk about the situation. So they’re left with feeling: “This is the best it gets, and this is not what I signed up for. I’m not feeling sexy in my marriage. I’m not feeling connected to my partner as back then. I’m starting to feel depressed and wondering how much departments cost in the area, because I’m thinking about I need to leave.” I then start doing that silent questioning that starts to tell me that they’re already stepping away physically, as well as mentally.

Oh my goodness, we could talk the whole show about this. I do agree that it’s living into, it’s giving some scaffolding, it’s getting some experience. It almost occurs to me, some of the analogy of even some of these emotional relational skills is like getting practice and weightlifting, if you will. Like, you can’t build the skill if you don’t actually get the reps in. So it’s almost like, “I read a book about weightlifting, I got it,” versus actually doing it. So there’s so much neurochemical. Anyway, we could talk all the time.

I love that. Yes, absolutely. 

Okay, let’s pivot towards when we look at passion and intimacy, what got you interested in really diving more into this area and supporting people in this way?

We start off with our dreams and we start off with this chemical boost, and we really have those butterflies in our stomach kind of moments. It’s very, very sad when I talk to a wonderful couple, and they’re not feeling anything towards each other; they’re not even feeling anything towards themselves. Some of the times, the passion and the intimacy is misinterpreted. Not some, a lot of times it’s misinterpreted. From maybe it’s just a staging in their relationship, or there’s so many life events, I can talk a little bit about that too. So they’re attributing a drop in the passion, or a drop in that times per week or times per year that they have sex, that they are intimate, and they’re getting misinformation, and they’re coming out with the wrong outcomes. 

Then again, as we talked about scaffolding, it further solidifies to them that they’ve made the wrong decision, and maybe they need to step out, or maybe this is just the way that things are. There’s so many myths that float around in social media, and even within the professional field, or even with my friends. It’s like, “Passion has to die out. It goes away when you become a couple. As you get older, as you have kids, this is the best you could expect.” Then there’s also the Facebook ones, where people are so excited, and they’re so into each other. It’s human nature at times to do this compare and contrast and say, “We don’t look anything like what I’m seeing out on Instagram or Facebook or TikTok or anything like that.”

Wow! I’m sorry, I’m saying wow because I’m just recognizing how much is involved in this perception. So not only perception of the other, and the availability and the interest around intimacy, sexual intimacy. But also, what we do and how we evaluate that. So you’re saying a few things, and let’s dive in here. So you’re saying life stages, I’m imagining that’s what the couple, whether or not you have children or careers or these type of things. But also, just normal pacing and what’s happening and circumstances in life; a pandemic, or whatever it is. Then, it’s such a private thing. This is one of the things that I find most people are contending with, as it relates to sexual intimacy. It’s like, what’s the healthy amount per week or how much? They’re looking for a gauge of: are we healthy, are we not healthy, and what’s okay, what’s not okay? Then when we do this comparison, and the myths that are out there, or this one version that’s not giving us the whole picture. Yeah, there’s a lot here.

It’s understandable, when we’re lost or we’re searching for an answer, some kind of horizon, say, “Are we on track? Are we off track? Is this normal? Is this not normal?” Oftentimes, what we have that are reliable resources are maybe what we watched growing up, or our peer groups around us, or now the social media. So oftentimes, we are not having accurate information. Wouldn’t it be so easy if we could just like, I don’t know, you just stand before the screen, it scans you and says: “Yeah, passion is normal, don’t worry about it, this happens” kind of thing. Then we go get blood tests and things.  But it doesn’t, and there’s so many factors that are individualized for each person. I mean, we talk about couples that start off dating in high school, and maybe they go to college, or they go straight into work, and then they go into marriage and whatnot. So they’re going to be experiencing many, many different stages. Some of which is that maybe they were different when they were in high school or early college, even my college folks. So as they find themselves, as they’re adults themselves and step into the careers and their interests and become successful, or at least even more self-aware, that’s going to impact and reflect back on their relationship, their marriage. 

If you get into the place where you’re trying to have children, just the process of getting pregnant can be a big wet blanket in the bedroom. There’s like, “Okay, we want to do this, so we’re going to have sex a lot of times and it stops being fun.” Or we’re not able to get pregnant right away, so then there’s a sense of failure there on both partner’s sides. We started adding in support of systems like IVF and those type of things. There is a lot of intrusion into your bedroom and the cycle, and it becomes very clinical, all the different tests and whatnot that go away. Everybody knows your business, and that is not sexy. So those struggles do impact even the climate for a couple that’s really trying to go the next step, that can be a big roadblock in being spontaneous and intimate. Pregnancy changes the body; women feel different about their bodies, men feel different about their women’s bodies. Many men say: “I do not want to do anything to upset her and the baby, or it feels kind of creepy, or I’m not sure how I’m supposed to do things.” 

So it’s lack of education around that. I’m being open about it, as well as maybe there’s some real cautions that maybe pregnancy is high-risk, so they do have to hold off on that. Then as time goes on, we don’t reconnect, or we don’t know how. Having kids and things are expensive, and there’s different kinds of life events. Those are real big spontaneous or intimacy fun suckers there, the extra stress, the extra responsibilities. 

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“One of the biggest things that I see with couples that have become disconnected, is they’re not talking about the changes. They’re not talking about it, they’re trying to just manage it or suppress it.”

Well, as you’re laying and identifying some of these stages, it also occurs to me that any level of stress can impact the sense of desire or arousal. So we might have phases that might predict, or even retirement. Like, if one is retired, or both are retiring, the sense of who am I and identity, the sense of having purpose. I mean, there’s so many things that could interfere.

Oh yeah, absolutely. You would think that a retirement is a great and wonderful thing, and we’re thinking we’ve done everything, we’ve laid things away. Oftentimes, I find that that is when people start to disconnect or lose sight with themselves. Maybe one is still working and the other one is retired. So there’s different, like, what do I do with myself? You talked about a sense of identity, and a sense of purpose too. Now where? One can travel, and one can’t. I’ve seen some of the biggest fights happen when there’s maybe a stay at home, then the retired, we’ll just throw a guy under the bus. But the gentleman, he’s retired, he’s been used to running big companies or businesses and stuff, and now he’s going to go in and reorganize the kitchen, because he’s an efficiency model here. They’re like, “Get out of my kitchen, I’m not happy with it. This has been working just fine. Go find something else for you to do.” So even good stress can impact and impede. 

One of the things that maybe people don’t really recognize until you start to share is that intimacy really starts in the head, and it starts in our brain. As we’re maybe dating or in the early years, the butterfly moments or things, there was a lot of anticipation about being with that special person; there was a lot of feeling good about them. So when we saw them, the mind was clear, the passion was there, the hormones were going. But when you’re living under the roof of someone and it’s day-to-day, maybe they’ve dropped their manners. Maybe they are still wearing the same pair of pajamas they’ve had for the past three years. 

I thought you were going to say 15 years. 

Well, I was being generous. But yes, absolutely. Those same ratty T-shirts or whatever they might be. It’s not cute. It’s not sexy. We sometimes forget about that, that we aren’t even dating ourselves, let alone showing up better for our spouse. Because it’s easy, because we don’t have to. The Please’s and the Thank you’s, people drop their manners. So many couples say, “Why do I need to thank them for taking out the trash? That’s their job.” Because we’re setting the stage from the moment we get up to the moment we go to bed, we’re building that respect, we’re showing appreciation, and that stuff becomes sexy. Also, for many people who may love that love language, just an act of service feels really good. So we’re lining them up and saying, take them out there. 

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“I think part of it is also just not taking them for granted, not taking yourself for granted, and really exploring some of the routines and ruts that are diminishing spontaneity and spark in your marriage or your relationship.”

Oh, my goodness! I’m reminded, I know that you are a fan of the Gottman Institute. It reminds me of a quote I remember being referenced, I think to John Gottman, is that everything is foreplay.

Yes, you’re right, good memory.

Well, what you’re describing is so key. I don’t know if I’m feeling this accurately. But it almost feels like, collectively, maybe in more modern Western culture, sexual intimacy, it has a place. It’s almost compartmentalized, and it’s so private. The way we’re talking, that you’re really helping bring some fluidity, perhaps, to the congruency of nurturing the connection that supports the container and the space to enter into that type of relating.

I love that, I love how you tied that together. Yes, it is, not that you’re bringing that and illustrating that. Yeah, absolutely. It does start in those simple gestures, in those niceties. Someone that has a ritual or has a routine of making coffee. I have one that makes coffee puts it by their wife’s nightstand. She’s still asleep, and they’re getting ready to go off in the morning. It’s just there’s nothing more loving than to see that he remembers me, and my coffee is there. That gets sexy. Because later on, when you’re bumping around them in the kitchen, or they’re late for dinner, or they haven’t done something, you still have that positive feeling. It’s called positive sentiment override. You still have that positivity, and you still have those things that make you feel like a priority. So you can give space and give grace to them when they don’t necessarily show up. There’s a very real thing that I see with one of my women clients, is the mental load or the mental list.

Yes, talk to us about that. It’s so huge.

It is. Sometimes, maybe they haven’t offloaded that list or shared it with their husband, they don’t even know. So I’ve been talking to a couple I said, So you come in and you’re thinking, “Okay, it’s sexy time, kids are in bed, we’ve done this, we’ve done that,” and you’re already making the moves or sitting there watching television, and they’re kind of pushing you away. So there’s a mental list in there. That the list is, maybe in this example, “I’m tired. I’ve got to get up at five so I can work out tomorrow morning. How long is this show going to run? He’s trying to make the moves. I still need to make lunches for the kids, I’ve got to get the coffee ready. Dog has to go to the bathroom.” So we’re going through this list, and we’re starting to do like an agenda. Like, how does that fit in with all the things that are on my to-do list, and we don’t even necessarily share that with our spouse or partner. 

I know some of the men have to-do lists, too. But how do we share that? Say, “I’m all in for that. But I’ve got all these things I have to get done before go, so how do we do it?” Like, some people want to sit down and have dinner after cooking, and I’ll leave the dishes in the kitchen, and they’re all lined up on the counters, and then they’ll have dinner, and then they’ll go take care of the dirty dishes. There’s other couples that say, we’ve got to get the dirty dishes before we can go enjoy our dinner. You’ve get to decide in your relationship, which kind of couple you are: do we eat first or do we do the dishes first? 

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“The mental load is huge, and that is a big dissatisfier. It slows down the passion. Because we’re in our heads, and sex becomes a chore.”

We add it to the chore list. “Gotta get that tick, be done. Good, or normal. Got it right, next.” That isn’t necessarily an enjoyable, long-lasting system.

No kidding! It does, as you’re describing, being in the head and being in the doer mode, the actual satiation or experience of being able to share in intimacy and the creativity of that. It ties into something you were saying a moment ago about even the circumstance where the couple, one has given birth, had a baby. They both had a baby, but one body actually delivered, and the circumstances and the hormonal changes and all the things that go with that. Then there might be even circumstances where, given if it’s a high-risk, that perhaps intercourse is off the table. For some that could mean, we’re just not experiencing intimacy, which is more binary, like we do it or we don’t do it. Versus, there’s a whole host of things that we could be engaged with. So the way in which we’re perceiving sexual intimacy, just the paradigm around it could be, “Oh, are we reaching orgasm, are we actually having intercourse? That’s the thing that counts. What other things count?” Not so much even the acts, but even as you’re describing, the way in which we’re nurturing each other throughout is perhaps part of the lovemaking.

That’s interesting that you point out the binary. But like, what is the goal, the objective? We’re going from point A to point B? A little bit of a Google map: we’re going to go here, and we’re going to do this, this, and this. For many folks, the actual intercourse isn’t very satisfying. So there’s some research that really speaks to that, one, men tend to have a higher rate of reaching that climax or having that orgasm than women, and it ties in with the fact that women tend to initiate it less in these groups in the study.

Can I clarify? When you say higher rates, are you saying they are able to achieve orgasm? Like, that’s more of like, 99.9% of the time they’re going to reach orgasm? Is that what you’re saying? Or is it that they reach orgasm faster? What do you mean when you say higher rate, what are you referring to?

They studied couples, and men in the research reported having reached an orgasm. So it was pretty much like a numbers game, and then the women were reporting that it wasn’t always a sure thing. So then they were able to start looking at who would initiate and who was really getting enjoyment. So you see where, if I’m not getting the pleasure out of it, then I become that doer to check the box and move on, same in that realm. But in reality, intimacy starts with a rub up, and there’s so many other ways to be loving, to be intimate, to achieve a climax and orgasm, that doesn’t include intercourse. 

To kind of illustrate this, then there’s a disconnect, because there’s a couple’s dictionary. So someone might say, we’re having sex once a week, and someone might say, same couple, no, we’re only having it once a month. Then when we start talking about it, define sex. For one woman, in this couple, she’s saying, “Well, we either have oral sex or manual sex, and we have intercourse, but we do that at least once a week.” He’s saying,” No, no, no, sex is only intercourse. Everything else is just dessert kind of thing, foreplay.” So now they understood why they were fighting so viciously about the fact of when and when they were not having sex, they had not defined what that meant to each other. 

Also, what triggered some of this was he had brought in a journal, or he had been recording for a couple of years, when they were and what acts they were doing, so he could support his case. So this was like a long-standing brewing thing, and when they finally just shared their definition, the argument went away and they were both able to agree that the data was right, and then we got to the real stuff. Like, how are we going to make it spontaneous? How are we going to make it planned? How are we going to make it enjoyable? Can non-intercourse still count on the register for each of them? So it starts outside the bedroom, it really does; the cuddles, the touches, the “let me rub your feet” type of thing, as opening the door. It’s, “Hey, I thought about you at the store and I knew that you were running low on this, or you like this kind of ice cream.” Those are the things that say, “Ah, they’re thinking about me! I’m a priority,” and that gets sexy.

For sure, that’s where we can actually flirt, or perhaps even express the playfulness, or be even open to exchanges. When I say play, yes, I mean playful, but even the sexy play of flirting and being in that space, that does allow for more of that spontaneity and that creativity. Because where’s the fire if it’s just in a box that we do, and we then check it off?

Check the box, right. Yeah, absolutely. Throwing music on, and maybe you’re dancing in one area, or bring music into the bedroom, and the tickling, and the touch, and laughing when something doesn’t go well; not laughing at them, but laughing together. Like, “Oh my gosh, that didn’t go so well, or that was fun.” I think, also, you talked about, not the binary, but putting the pause button on the rest of the world, and really getting out of your head, and just start getting into your body and getting into your partner and into your spouse is so important to have that deepening lovemaking.

I want to hear more about that. Because in my experience, that couldn’t be more of a game changer. That if I’m in task mode, or in head mode, work mode, whatever task mode I’m in.

Yes. Pick the moment, and there’ll be some to-do on your list. 

Right. I can feel dramatic shifts in me when I turn inwards into my body, and then I’m able to orient from there.

Absolutely. When we’re in that task mode, we are so far detached from our body, it’s not even funny. So we might not even be aware that “You know what, I’m feeling a little aroused, or I’m feeling a little bit of this.” We don’t. So I think that the practice of mindfulness is huge, this practice of self-stepping in and checking in with yourself, being more self-aware. But also, maybe as the tool of you, being able to make it cooperative. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just like, “Hey, Liz, you look like you’re running around the kitchen and you’re trying to do these kinds of things, or hurry up in the bedroom, and it just doesn’t feel like you’re really there. You’re brushing your teeth, you’re doing these kind of things. Slow down, maybe you need to just slow down. Let’s just back the train up type of thing.” I think self-awareness, mindfulness, pausing, if your tendency is to be that Type A kind of person, then it means, what do I need to do to shift from that task into just relaxing? I don’t know if there’s statistics, but it seems like lots of romance happens when you’re on vacation. Lots of babies are suddenly discovered on the cruise ship kind of thing. 

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“There’s got to be something about disconnecting, stepping away from the demands of the day, and going into that vacation resort kind of mindset, that really does amp up the intimacy and the passion and the connection.”

I’m so glad you named that. Because even before you had said that, I was thinking, it’s quite likely that many people, we talked about stress or even any stages in life, or even crises that are happening, either personally or in the community or more at large, and there can be a lot of pain there. Yes, we have the demands, the domestic duties, professional duties, all of it. But then, when we do get in our body, it might be that I’m exhausted or I need some self-care. The doers or the ambitious ones, that this doesn’t always get prioritized in this sexual intimacy. Like, oh, it just feels difficult when people have a lot on their plate.

Right. So some of those folks that were back in the study, where they were like, who reaches climax or not, how many of those things were really attributed to, like you said, exhausted, or I’m not in touch with my body, my head is still running it. So it interferes with the ability to relax and enjoy pleasure or reach the climax. So the more we’re aware of ourselves, and even just call it, “I need a raincheck. Or I don’t feel like intercourse or I don’t feel like oral sex, but I would like to cuddle. I would like to just lay in your arms or cuddle you or whatever it might be. Or I could use a really good back rub right now.” Sometimes that starts to rev the engines. Or sometimes you just go, that was a really good backrub, and there are no strings attached, and you guys can regroup and reconnect. I see sometimes a premature no from a couple, that if they had shifted and tried something that is maybe nonsexual, but is relaxing, touching, bonding.

Not TV and technology. 

No. Yes, thank you. No phones, no TV. Maybe some music, who knows. But no blue light. Just relaxing a little bit and being in the moment. Sometimes the mood shifts. Our bodies are pretty resourceful, and if we give them a chance, sometimes they know what they would like and what they don’t like.

It’s powerful. Even as you’re talking, I’ll just raise my hand here, that if I know I’m a little depleted, I’m still maybe a yes to sexual intimacy. But I might want to draw a bath first, or I might want to go for a walk first. Or do whatever self-care to get into my body, so I can arrive to that space a little more connected, and then be a little bit more accessible. So that could potentially be an option.

Yeah, and that’s a win. That’s a wonderful win, and there’s also these little opportunities. So let’s say that a bath is one of the things that sets you in a place, or the walk, you’re happy. You’re saying, “Hey, look, why don’t you just go run a bath, take as long as you want. I’m going to take care of the stuff in the house. Or you go for a walk, I’m just going to tidy things up, or I’m just going to go here. It’s okay.” It becomes really sexy, and that’s really nurturing and loving partners. I’ve had some folks that say, “All I needed was a nap. I just said, I can’t do this, can’t do this. They said go to bed, I got it. I went and took a nap, and I woke up and I was like, yeah, the kids are still napping. I was like, let’s go. Let’s do this thing.”

Yes. I just am saying, there’s such beauty. When you had said the body and the resourcefulness, we have a lot that’s working for us. A moment ago, when you were talking about their research, and perhaps, when women stereotypically, or in that research study, maybe don’t reach the orgasm to the same rate that their heterosexual partners are, or comparatively the men in that study. The confidence, like, I could see. If I knew I was going to get pleasure and I knew that I was going to have a good experience, even if I was stressed, or even if I did feel like I need a minute to get in my body, I could feel a little more motivated to engage if I felt confident that it was going to be a win for me.

Yeah, absolutely. You’re receiving as well as you’re giving. A lot of times too, if you don’t give yourself a chance or you don’t know what you need, and you and your partner or your spouse aren’t talking about it, I think that’s one of the biggest things. It’s absolutely understandable, but we do get a little bit tongue-tied when we talk about what I like or what I don’t like, what I want or what I don’t want. Sometimes it’s harder in the moment to even express that. So having some conversations outside the bedroom. Go for a walk, or you’re in a quiet drive, and just say: “Hey, let’s talk about how we could maybe do something different, I’m not feeling it. Or I know that I really like when you rub my back or kiss my neck or something like that, that really feels good.” You want to give your partner the inside scoop. They want to please you, male or female. But having the conversation in the moment sometimes can be landmine-ridden, and it’s tough to be there in the bedroom having that conversation. So oftentimes, it’s like, just go for a walk, know that you guys are going to talk about it, have an agenda. Like, “I’d like to talk about our bedroom, or I’m not feeling it, or I’d like to try something different. Let’s talk about what options might be open, what you might be open to.” You go for a walk, you go for a drive, it really kind of allows. As you’re moving and as you’re outside that space, it allows people to drop some of their anxieties and their reservations around it. 

I had a woman. She was in a second marriage, and she was loving it with her husband, was head over heels. She was giddy. She’s menopausal, definitely a menopausal, but just having a wonderful time. Because intimacy and sex had not been a part of their marriage, her first marriage. Then she started having some pain and some discomfort, and wasn’t reaching orgasm as fast or as effectively. So we started talking about what she was doing, and what she had not been aware of was that as we age, or as we’re under different stress, our body is going to change, or we’ll need more time to prep or to get ready. For women, that the arousal to get all the things up and out of the way and to be lubricated wasn’t there. In menopause, the vaginal tissue gets thinner, is drying. It can create pain or discomfort, which is definitely a Debbie Downer for if you’re wanting to try. So we just talked about using lubrication, like the K-Y. She’s like, I didn’t know. I talked about telling or sharing this with her husband, so that he could slow things down, and then that would allow her body physiologically to reach that arousal. 

On the flip side, I see that with men, too. That maybe “I used to do this, I used to be like Johnny on the spot. I could do it once, I could do it twice, it was no problem, and now it’s taking longer and longer. Is that a sign that the marriage is over? Is that a sign that I’m doing something wrong?” The woman, their spouse, is like, “What’s wrong? I’m not turning them on anymore.” So now you’ve got two people with misinformation. He thinks there’s something wrong with him, and she thinks perhaps that she’s no longer finding her sexy. That the mindset right there diminishes the passion, diminishes intimacy, and less times are we going to be willing to show up in the bedroom.

Well, I’m so glad you mentioned that, because I had wanted to ask you a little bit more. I know our time is winding down here. You had mentioned the way in which people perceive, that they’ll perceive inaccurately or get misinformation. Then we’re talking right now about potential fears, where when my body changes, what is the meaning around that? Can you talk to us a little bit about how to work through those misperceptions, and how to address some of those fears?

Okay, that’s a big topic. 

I know, it could take the whole time.

It’s a huge, huge topic, and it happens in the matter of a second. Because if we’re having, I’ll say, these silent conversations, let’s say, I’ve had children, and my body has changed, and I’m not feeling as great, things are a little saggy in different areas, and there’s that one moment where maybe I initiate, or I’m cynical and I’m wondering, “It’s been these for the days, and they haven’t reached out to me, what’s going on? Am I not sexy? Is there someone else that they’re talking to?” Then I get suspicious on the text and phone, or my head goes all over the place. So I think one of the things is starting, if you can, to capture the thought. If you’re having a feeling, capture the thought that goes with it, and see if you can lay them up there. It also is really helpful to ask better questions with your spouse, is to say, “It’s been five days and you’re expecting. It’s been two weeks, now you’re expecting it.” 

It’s important as early on as you can to ask curiously, and not accusatory. It’s like, “Hey, it’s been two weeks, it’s been two months since we’ve been doing anything, I’m wondering what’s going on? Is there something I’m doing or is there something that’s going on for you?” Then sit back and hear them. Don’t dismiss them. Don’t cut them off, if you can. Write some notes. If you’ve got to say something, write some notes. But have a really focused, open, curious situation. If you’re feeling a certain way, share those. Like, “This is a feeling I’m having and this was the thought,” that’s just trying to share the true confessions. “Well, I thought because we hadn’t had anything in a couple months, it was because you didn’t like the way my body was after we had the kids.” It might be, “Oh my gosh, no. Actually, I find you sexier than ever, because you are the only one that brought these kids into the world. It’s just that I thought you weren’t interested, or I’ve been under a lot of pressure with work.” So we have these conversations, and we start to realize that we’re guessing and we’re assuming, and then we’re guessing wrong. 

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“The fastest way that I know is to see if we can catch the feeling that we have, catch the thought, and then check the data with our spouse or partner, or check the data with yourself.”

I’m smiling, because I’m just so thrilled that you just distilled that so clearly. Because so often, people might be reacting or withholding or judging or all the other things we do, and not even know it. Not even know what’s there, not even catch the thought. It’s just caught up in the protection strategies, if you will. So what you’re really inviting is to notice the feeling at the thought. Like, “What’s the fear there? What’s going on? Where am I going? What is that saying to me? What can I know about this?” Then once we can access that, then the checking it out, and not just going to accusation or assumption. But really, that takes some vulnerability too.

Yes, it does. Absolutely. One of my ways too, I’ve got, let’s say, typically exhausted parents, one of them is going to fall asleep with kids, at some point in time, or non-kid, but critter families, and the dogs are all suddenly in the middle of the bed between the two of you. If we share that, “I don’t know if you realize that, but I feel like you don’t want to spend time with me. Because you’re taking the kids to bed and you’re reading and you’re going to sleep with them. Or I feel like you don’t want to touch me, and that’s why our dogs are on the bed, and it’s a good reason why we can’t touch each other.” 

So we can start talking about it. Sometimes they are really unconscious strategies to avoid intimacy. “Yep, we got this darling lovely puppy, and we all love Cuddles, and Cuddles is going to lay in this bed, and then we’ve got to cover it up under the blanket.” But it’s right in the middle between us, and we need to do that. Or there’s couples that are like, “Our kids are sick, so they come stay in the bed for a little bit.” Got it, understand. Who wants to be climbing upstairs when you’ve got a kid that’s maybe throwing up or running a fever? Totally understand that. But when that lasts, and that becomes the new routine, it’s maybe time to look at, what is the benefit? What am I avoiding, by having the child here or the dog here or falling asleep up there? We get to talk about that and make some changes. Or if that’s really what’s going on and I am avoiding those intimacy, I’m avoiding the relationship, then we have a different conversation to talk about if I get disconnected to this point.

Yes. Like, what are the emotions I haven’t been clear to? Perhaps, how is the sexual intimacy challenging or what’s happening there? I’m smiling also, because I think this is so common for partners in relationship to observe, are they available, or are they going to respond, just in general? When you talk about intimacy, it’s easy with like, “Oh, my husband is reading a book, so I’m going to go do a thing, and then he might look at me and think, she’s doing that thing.” Speaking again about the Gottman, I remember there being some research that they either did or quoted, that 70% of partners will not actually ask for sex or bring up sex. But they will be tracking their partner to see if they are interested in sex, but never say anything.

Yes, what a missed opportunity! I’m investing so much energy. I’m watching you, they’re doing this, and then, ah, missed opportunity. Yeah, absolutely, we’re pretty observant critters. If they’re interested or if they want to start something up, or they want to see if I’m viable enough or sexy enough, that not only am I tracking you, you’re going to come pursue me. So maybe that’s a different conversation to have.

Oh my gosh, Liz, this is endless, we could spend hours and hours and hours with you, I can realize and see right now. Just for our show, as we wind down here, as people just are getting a sense of you, is there anything else you want to say, to just wrap this up? I know there’s so much to say.

I know you had asked me to be succinct and concise. Let’s see, I want to say that there’s hope. No matter how long it’s been, no matter where you find yourself in this continuum, you can reignite your relationship, you can reignite passion; passion for yourself, your self-awareness, and then bring it into the marriage, into the relationship. One person can impact the system. 

Free Selective Focus Photography of Man and Woman Sitting on Ground Stock Photo

“As you start showing up differently, as you start trying new things, or being more aware, or trying pauses, or giving them loving gestures, you are going to directly and significantly enhance your relationship and your partner. Because they can’t keep behaving the same way if you’re showing up differently.”

So maybe instead of tracking them, maybe you’ll be saying, “Hey, would you like to come sit on the couch with me? Or I really miss you, and I would love to give you a hug and a kiss.” Or whatever it might be, you start being more assertive and more aware. So there is hope. There’s so much hope and so much more fun for you to have in your relationship, if you just give yourself a chance, give your partner a chance, and you go in speaking the same language.

Oh, I’m like, let’s go nurture sexual intimacy. It’s just so important, and it gets lost sometimes. So thank you. How do people get in touch with you, with what you’re offering and what you are encouraging people to connect with?

Oh, that’s wonderful. Well, I’m on Facebook at Dr. Liz Jenkins, and at Instagram is Dr_Liz_Jenkins. But I really want you to, you can just jump on my website, DrLizJenkins.com, and click on a connection call. It’s complimentary, and we can spend 30 minutes or so chatting, finding out where you are, strategizing and creating a plan that works for you. If we would be a good fit, great. But you’ll walk away with really having a deeper insight, maybe some accurate information. Maybe you just need a quick “Hey, is this typical, this is normal?” I’m here. So reach me at DrLizJenkins.com.

Wonderful. I’ll make sure to put that link on today’s show notes and just encourage anyone listening who could benefit from a little more support and assistance in this arena. 

I guess one of the things is that when we talk about this, there’s hope. It doesn’t have to take a long time to see that change in your relationship. That’s why I have my Couples Smart Restart Sprint, and it’s packed and stacked, so that both, you’ll quickly identify your struggles or gaps. We’re going to have coaching. It’s inside of sessions, and outside access with me through WhatsApp. Then there’s a self-paced weekend reconnect that goes with it. So you can have date night activities, or you can use it for an extended weekend away. But it’s designed to get to dive deep and personalize what you need fast, so you don’t have to spend hours and years and years and years. You can have a big uptick in the enjoyment in your relationship and the passion and the intimacy fast.

Lovely. That sprint, is it for one couple or is it group format?

It’s for one couple. We keep that between the two of the three of us, so that I can keep it really personalized and focused, and that helps with the sprint for that uptick. Because I want you to be walking away very, very quickly, re-enjoying and re-confirming: “We made a good choice, we chose wisely, we chose well,” and we’re just going to keep layering that success.

I love it. I’ll make sure, again, to have that link on today’s show notes, and your social handles and everything.

No problem. Thank you, I really appreciate it. I also appreciate being on your podcast, on your show. It’s been great. 

Yes, it’s been wonderful to have you. 

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Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching