Low Sex Drive Ruining Your Relationship? What to Do!

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Help! My low sex drive is ruining my relationship and I don’t know what to do!

I’ve heard some version of this from many of my clients in couples counseling. When your partner wants more sex than you do, it can create tension in your sex life… and not the good kind. One partner usually feels unsatisfied and rejected, while the other feels pressured and avoidant. Misunderstanding can take root on both sides and make the problem feel bigger than it needs to be. But by communicating about your low sex drive, exploring the underlying causes, and finding solutions together, low libido can become a challenge that strengthens your relationship rather than driving you apart. 

It’s a smart idea to meet with a sex therapist if your low sex drive is hurting your connection with your partner. But this article will give you some pointers for starting the conversation, and for keeping your relationship strong when sex isn’t happening. 

If you’d prefer to listen, I’ve also created an episode of the Love, Happiness and Success podcast on the impact of low sex drive in relationships. You can find it on this page (player below), or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

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Can a Lack of Sex Ruin a Relationship?

In my experience, periodic “dry spells” themselves are not what ruins relationships. All couples have ups and downs in their sex lives, and most manage to navigate them while keeping their connections strong.

There is no correct amount of sex that you “should” be having with your partner in order to have a loving, healthy relationship. Some couples have sex a few times a year and are perfectly content with that. Others have sex multiple times a week, and still feel dissatisfied. What matters is that the physical intimacy in the relationship is good enough for both of you… and that you’re able to talk about any differences in sexual desire in an open, vulnerable way, and work on it together.

When you aren’t communicating about your low sex drive openly, your partner may feel hurt and undesired. Feeling sexually rejected by your partner is painful, especially if the partner who wants more sex holds certain beliefs about what it means to be turned down. It’s very common for the higher sex drive partner to feel uncared for, especially if their language of love is physical touch. The problem is about more than sex — it’s about what sex means to you both and how you’re responding to each other’s emotional and physical needs

On the flip side, when you aren’t in the mood for sex, and you are afraid to hurt your partner’s feelings, or worse, get into a fight about it, that makes you want to avoid. You might avoid talking about your low sex drive, or avoid any affection with your partner because you don’t want it to turn sexual. Some lower sex drive partners even begin to avoid their partner’s touch or exhibit something that sex therapists call “the bristle reaction,” which can be hurtful and can lead you both to feel alienated from each other. 

This dynamic creates a high-pressure emotional space where authentic desire can’t grow. The gridlock can become entrenched until you’re in a sexless marriage. The path forward is talking about the problem (without blaming each other) and finding ways to release pressure around physical intimacy. By not avoiding difficult, emotionally intimate conversations and approaching them with empathy and care, this challenge can become a “growth moment” for your relationship, and an opportunity to increase emotional intimacy, which will in turn help sexual intimacy flourish.

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Why Don’t I Have a Sex Drive?

If you’re experiencing low libido, there are many possible reasons for that.  

Sometimes it’s due to a medical issue, like imbalances in hormones, ongoing illnesses, or medications that affect sexual function. Natural hormonal fluctuations can also play a role, like those that come with pregnancy, menopause and perimenopause, and aging in general. 

Your mental health and wellness can also have a big impact. Stress in particular can destroy your sex life. If you are experiencing depression, anxiety, or the effects of trauma (especially sexual trauma), that can all keep you from getting in the mood. Your lifestyle impacts libido as well — when you’re not sleeping enough, eating poorly, or not getting enough exercise, your sex drive suffers. Even a Vitamin D deficiency can put the kibosh on your libido. 

Relationship Issues and Low Sex Drive

Problems in your relationship can also have a big impact on your sex drive. Issues like not feeling emotionally connected to your partner, unresolved conflicts, lack of trust, a build up of resentment, or an absence of emotional safety, all make it more likely that one or both partners will lose interest in sex. 

The problem could also be with the sex itself. If there is anything happening (or not happening) in the bedroom that’s making sex with your partner less enjoyable for you, talking about that is the best place to start. 

Often, people who’ve lost their sex drive don’t know what has changed, and with so many possible factors, the reasons can be complex. Connection with a couples counselor specializing in sex therapy can help you explore your sexual connection with your partner, the health and strength of your relationship, and possible lifestyle or biology-related contributors. They’ll perform an assessment that gets at the root cause of your low libido, and helps you find ways to improve the intimacy in your relationship.

What to Do About Low Libido in a Relationship

The first thing you should be doing if low libido is impacting your relationship is talking about the problem. Many couples shy away from open conversations about their sex lives, especially when things are feeling off, but that’s a mistake. Avoiding or shutting down keeps you from solving the problem, and allows harmful narratives about what is happening and why to push you farther away from each other. 

These are intimate conversations that require vulnerability, and it’s important to create an emotionally safe environment to talk openly about this issue. Sexual problems can have deep emotional roots, and by showing each other care in these moments you have the opportunity to not only improve your sex life, but also to strengthen your relationship. That said, it’s not uncommon for one or both partners to get upset when talking about a lack of sex. That is okay — both partners’ feelings are valid here and should be respected. 

It’s also important not to let all the physical intimacy in your relationship die just because you’re not in the mood for sex. Continuing to hug, kiss, and cuddle, no matter what’s happening with your libido, will keep you feeling physically connected through periods of time when you’re having less sex. It will also help to break the association between sex and affection in your relationship so that you can enjoy being affectionate with each other without worrying it will lead to more than you want. 

Finally, recognize that this problem is important to work on. It is okay to go for long periods of time without having sex… as long as both partners feel satisfied, cared for, and connected. But if there is apathy on one side of this dynamic, and frustration on the other, it can gradually lead your relationship to fail. Getting support from a sex therapist will help you address low libido, while also demonstrating to your partner that you care about what they need to feel loved and connected. 

Support for Low Libido and Relationships

If low libido is negatively impacting your relationship, it’s important to address this problem, and sooner rather than later. Working with a sex therapist can provide a safe and non-judgmental space for you and your partner to openly discuss your desires, concerns, and expectations, and find the underlying causes behind low libido. This work can help you improve communication, enhance intimacy, and increase sexual satisfaction in your relationship. 

If you’d like to meet with a sex therapist on my team, I invite you to schedule a free consultation

Music in this episode is by Little Dragon with their song “Slugs of Love.” You can support them and their work by visiting their Bandcamp page here: https://littledragon.bandcamp.com/. Under the circumstance of use of music, each portion of used music within this current episode fits under Section 107 of the Copyright Act, i.e., Fair Use. Please refer to copyright.gov if further questions are prompted.

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Low Sex Drive Ruining Your Relationship? What to Do!

The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast with Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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You’re hot, they’re not, or vice versa. Differences in sexual desire are super common in relationships and they’re tricky to navigate. And they’re also not necessarily that difficult to resolve if you have a fresh perspective and some effective strategies for how to handle this whole thing. And that is what you’re going to learn about on today’s show.

We are enjoying Slice of Love by the band Little Dragon. I think this might be my new favorite song. As I was putting this together for you today, I noticed that Little Dragon appears to be on tour right now, and you can learn more about that on their bandcamp page. And welcome to the Love, Happiness and Success podcast.

My goodness. I’m your host, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and this is the place for growth oriented people like you to learn how to create more love, happiness, and success in their lives. I am a marriage and family therapist, a licensed psychologist, certified coach, and I am the founder of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching.

And I love coming here and talking with you every week, just putting little things in front of you, hopefully to help you. grow and get more out of life. And I can tell you as a veteran couples therapist, so many times at the core of relationship issues are feelings, hurt feelings, sometimes resentment, anger, vulnerability that are all related to sexual disconnection.

Sometimes, sexual disconnection can be the result of other relationship problems, but feeling disconnected in this part of your life can also actually cause emotional disconnection, conflict, and other relationship problems. So it’s all kind of interrelated and it’s a fundamentally important part of any primary relationship.

So I’m really Glad that we’re talking about this today and really diving into some concrete strategies, things to do if your sexual desire is feeling out of sync, um, and how to find your way back together again. That is my goal for today and I’m glad you’re here. We have so much to unpack with this topic and I have some very special guests for you today.

So let’s just dive right in. Thank you. Thank you. You may have the best relationship and love your partner so much, and if they are never in the mood for sex, or if you aren’t, sooner or later it’s going to take a toll on your relationship. So it’s vital to maintain your sexual connection, but this can become really tricky to do, especially because, you know, talking about sex turns into this loaded, vulnerable topic.

becomes very easy, dare I say preferable, to avoid having these conversations, especially when it turns into like this most uncomfortable conflict when you do. And even then, right, even if you’re talking about it, what do you do if you just don’t want to do it, but your partner does or wants to do it more often than you do or vice versa, right?

That is a real bind and it can be very tricky for couples to navigate their way through this on their own. But thankfully there is a path forward. Help is here. We’re addressing this on today’s show with true experts, Vanessa and Xander Marin. Vanessa is a sex therapist with 20 years of experience. He is a regular dude, her husband and partner in crime, and together they are New York Times bestselling authors of sex talks, the five conversations that will transform your love life.

And they’re here today to share their best advice, guidance, and even some personal stories of transformation with you. Vanessa and Xander, welcome. I’m so happy to be visiting with you today. Thanks for having us. We’re really excited for the conversation. Yeah. Thanks. Yay. Wonderful. Well, just to dive right in, I mean, so you guys have written a wonderful book.

I have to tell you, I really enjoyed your book. So much valuable information and really like sensible advice. I appreciate you describing it as sensible advice. I think that’s like that’s really so much of what we go for. I think that so many of us think about sex or like relationship challenges and think we have to go to this extreme or it’s like, you know, Oh, we have to do a two week couples retreat where we’re, you know, like in the, you know, sauna for 12 hours a day and doing all this inner work and stuff.

And, you know, that can obviously be super, that can be valuable. But yeah, I think that, you know, I think so much of what we do is try to just remind people that there are a lot of sensible things that you can do. Things that are not super complicated that can actually make a really outsized impact on your sex life and your relationship.

Yeah. Absolutely. Well, and I think one of the things that I appreciated most about your book, like Vanessa, I could tell you’re a therapist because you’re certainly talking a lot about sexuality, what we’ll get all into that. But there’s also a lot in the book around, I think like the macro challenges that so many couples face around the communication difficulties.

So it’s not just about like the act of sex. It’s about the relational. factors and communication issues that can really like is what gets in the way of it for many couples. That’s one of the best pieces of feedback we’ve been getting from people who read it. They’re like, you know, this has helped my communication skills in every relationship in my life.

There’s this feeling of, you know, once I can get comfortable talking about sex, I can talk about it. anything with anyone, right? Wonderful. Well, just so to dive in, um, if it’s okay, you began your book with a story that I think is so relatable. You talked about Francesca and Jake. And so just to frame this for so many people, can you share the story about this couple that I think Basically, every listener of this podcast will be able to identify with.

Yeah. So I, you know, we tell a lot of stories in the book about different couples and even about our own relationship, but this particular story is about a couple who I think a lot of other couples will relate with. You know, you’ve been together for a while. The chemistry so amazing and incredible at the beginning of the relationship.

And then you get to a certain point where it feels like life just catches up with you. You’re not having sex very often. The sex that you are having is starting to feel pretty boring and a little bit predictable. And you find yourself wondering, like, what happened? What happened to us? What happened to that couple who used to be able to sit at the restaurant and talk until they got kicked out of it and, you know, to be so excited about ripping each other’s clothes off and having all this passionate, wild, intense sex.

And so I think, you know, it’s just really important to us to normalize that pretty much every couple is going to go through something like this where you get to a point in the relationship where you just have that feeling of what happened. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I, I personally was so like as soon as I saw that part in your book, I was like, all right, I already love these people because you’re really like addressing some of this mythology, uh, and, and talking openly about the fact that that early stage romantic love experience is.

Temporary in many ways that only lasts for a couple of years and virtually every couple who moves past that into a longer term relationship needs to do things differently in order to maintain a connection, particularly a sexual one. Um, I was so happy you were talking about that because I think people who don’t expect that worry that something is really wrong.

I think pretty much everybody has had the experience of getting into a certain point of the relationship and wondering like Wow, is this not the right person for me? Like what happened to all that chemistry we used to have? Why does it not feel easy and effortless the way that it used to? Like we had that phase in our own relationship.

And so, you know, again, just for us, it was so important to normalize it. Like every couple goes through this. So don’t get to that period of the relationship and think, ah, this is a sign from the universe that This actually isn’t my person or, you know, we’re not supposed to be together. No, it’s just a normal phase that none of us have been prepared for, but that we can all learn how to move past.

Yeah. I think one of the challenges is that one of two things tend to happen is like we either, we either never talk about this. Like we just assume that, Oh, it’s supposed to just be hot and heavy forever with zero effort. Um, or. We kind of go to the other extreme of like, oh yeah, well, after, after a couple years, like, your sex life is just gonna die anyway.

Like, you take the kind of cynical view of like, oh yeah, well, this is just what happens in married couples. And it’s like, there, there are other options available. There’s a middle path, people. It just takes a little bit of talking about it. And I love the way that you normalized some of the really common life experiences that in addition to just the familiarity, I mean, the moving out of early stage romantic love, there are other real stressors that I know I could certainly relate.

Um, tell us what gets in the way. Well, for Francesca and Jake, a big one was having kids. And this is another transition that most couples are not prepared to deal with at all. You know, that transition of it’s just us and we get to pick our own schedule and decide what life looks like and, you know, it’s just, just about the two of us and then going into, you know, bringing children into the picture.

And children rock your entire world in great ways and in really challenging ways too. So it can just bring all of this added stress and pressure to a relationship. Like how do we keep that connection alive, that spark alive, if we are exhausted from the demands of parenthood? If we have all this anxiety now about like, am I doing this parenting thing right?

If we’re having imbalances in mental load and responsibilities. If one of us is feeling touched out because I have a baby or a little one clinging to me all day. You know, there’s so many dynamics that can come up, but parents just aren’t prepared for this. I can so relate. Last night, we have a five year old and a 15 year old, right?

And so there’s like different kinds of parenting demands, but even just, you know, working all day and then this little five year old, I’m like her favorite person in the universe, but that also means I can’t talk to my husband without like, look at my dinosaur, you know, like that whole thing. And it’s, it’s truly exhausting.

And, and I think it really, um, couples have. It’s such a difficulty connecting in basic ways when young children are around that you really have to handle that so much more intentionally than you ever expected. Yeah, I mean, even time. Yeah, how do we find time to be, you know, just the two of us and connect with each other and even, you know, even simple things like a lot of parents will say, even when we do get a little moment of alone time, we don’t have anything to talk about anymore.

All we talk about is the kids. So there, you know, there are presents even when they’re not physically present. Right. Nothing terribly sexy about that is there, but you also went into such a, I thought an insightful point with this couple where you were talking about, um, the influence of. Perfectionism and how that can impact our sexual connection.

Can you say a little bit more about this? Sexual perfectionism is something that I started to notice really early in my career. And I call myself a recovering perfectionist, not sexual outside your standard run of the mill perfectionist. So I’m pretty familiar with these dynamics. And I noticed I was seeing a lot of clients where perfectionism was sneaking into their sex life, where they felt.

This pressure for everything about sex to look perfect. And a lot of that comes from the way that we see it in movies on TV and porn, all that kind of stuff. But you know, we want it just to seem effortless and we want to seem like the most perfect version of ourselves. I’m always confident. I always know what I’m doing.

I’m always. doing exactly what my partner wants without them having to tell me anything about what they want or any sort of feedback whatsoever. And this pressure can become really crippling because then it turns into like, well, I don’t want to try anything new in the bedroom because what if I’m not great at it?

Or I don’t want my partner to actually see my body naked because it’s not perfect. There are parts of it that I don’t like. And so it can be, yeah, it can really get in the way of couples. being connected and having the kind of intimacy that we’re all wanting to have. I get that. This like self consciousness and it starts to lead to this inhibition.

And, and I think that’s when these relational dynamics can start. Like, you know, um, you talk about how Vulnerable and impactful it is when one partner initiates sex and maybe not the first time, but, you know, after a few times, if their advances are rejected for a variety of reasons, what that begins to do to the way people feel and also future attempts to connect.

Yeah, I mean, that can be. a huge challenge and it can result in future attempts at initiation starting to become more and more roundabout or kind of like jokey so that there’s like some plausible deniability like oh yeah well i wasn’t actually trying to initiate oh you you thought i wanted sex oh ha ha ha i was just grabbing at you that was just a joke and you know so we we do we do all these things to try to avoid That feeling of rejection because it doesn’t feel good.

We don’t want to talk about it. You know, we don’t want to talk about what else might be going on that could be getting in the way of intimacy. But then, of course, the challenge that that stirs up is that this kind of roundabout, jokey initiation doesn’t actually feel very exciting. Yeah, why would you want to say yes to it?

Yeah, it’s like, you know, this sort of… Death spiral. So to speak. To be fair, I will say we have heard from a couple of women who are like, you know what? I actually like the boob honk. It does do it for me. But I think the vast majority of us are like, no, that doesn’t feel like a sexy or intimate or like connected way of initiating sex to me.

So it’s very quickly like initiation can turn into this really complex spiral where it feels harder and harder for both partners and then nobody’s doing it. Nobody’s doing it. And also you talk about something that I think is like the part that goes unsaid a lot of the times, which is the fact that one or both people may not feel Like having sex, it feels like their sex drive has just gone out the window that low libido experience and you, you said something in the book that I thought was so like, oh, important.

I actually want to read this line. Um, when most people want higher sex drives than they actually have and they, the, the core pain point is I want to want to have sex more than I actually do. Can we talk about this? Yeah, low sex drive is probably the number one complaint that we hear from people, and a lot of us feel very disconnected from our sense of desire.

Sometimes it can feel like, what happened to it? Like, I used to have so much more desire in different seasons of life. And sometimes it can feel like, I never really had that much of it to begin with, but there can be this real sense of missing something about ourselves. Like, you know, it’s this way I can connect to myself, but I don’t feel that anymore.

So there’s so many misconceptions about sex drive, how it actually works, what we actually need to get our sex drive kicked into gear. So we made sure to spend a lot of time in sex talks talking about desire. Yeah, I wish I really appreciated and you know, I think one of my big takeaways is like in that early stage Romantic love you’re you’re in a space mentally Physiologically where you have more desire than you might ordinarily And so everybody’s like really excited about that time and then after that time fades we’re left with those natural Desire patterns and and you talk about different like desire types, I think is how I took it, um, responsive versus spontaneous.

And I would love for my listeners to hear about this. So this is some really fascinating research that has come out of the sex therapy field in the last couple of years. And it’s really game changing information that Everybody needs to know, but that nobody does know right now. So what the two sex drive types boil down to is where we feel desire first.

Because there are two places that we can feel it. Mentally is like, you know, the idea of sex sounds good. Maybe it pops into your head randomly. It just sounds exciting. And then there’s also physically. So our body gets, you know, gets ready for sex. It starts to prepare for sex. So. You might be getting wet, getting an erection, your heart rate starting to increase, like just physiological changes are happening.

So spontaneous desire is the desire that all of us think that we should have, because this is the only way that we ever see desire being portrayed on TV and in the movies. And that’s where you feel the mental desire first. So that’s how you see it in TV, right? Like somebody’s just kind of randomly in the moment like, ooh, sex sounds good.

They make eyes at their partner from across the room. Ten seconds later, they’re in the bedroom. It just seems to happen spontaneously. But responsive desire is the exact opposite. So spontaneous is you feel it mentally first, then your body needs to get ready. Responsive is you feel it in your body first and then mentally it starts to sound like a good idea.

So the classic sign that you might be a responsive desire type is if you’ve ever been in the middle of sex or even at the very end of sex and caught yourself thinking, Huh. This is really fun. Why don’t I ever want this? Yeah. So it’s, you know, your, your body has gotten going, you’re feeling good, and then your brain is kind of catching up and thinking this is fun.

So the problem with responsive desire is that most of us don’t realize it exists. It’s mostly women who have it, so most of us women are thinking like something’s wrong with me, something’s broken with me, I never seem to want sex. But it’s not that anything is wrong with you. It’s just that you have a different desire type and neither type is better or worse than the other.

They each have their own challenges, but it’s just understanding how desire works. So if you’re a responsive type and I approach you, you know, in the middle of the day, random point and say, Hey, do you want to have sex right now? You are almost always going to say no, because you haven’t had any bodily stimulation yet.

Yeah. I mean, I just thought of this idea. This is sort of like a thought experiment. Like if, you know, of course we see spontaneous desire portrayed everywhere. That’s how we assume it is. But imagine if, if the tables were turned and if all we saw in movies where instead of, you know, like making eyes at each other across the room and then it’s on, it’s like whenever we saw sex, it was like, Oh, hey, do you want a massage?

Do you want to, you know, do, you know, like doing all these sort of like sensual things to get someone ready for sex. And then, you know, and then, you know, 10 minutes later, they’re all fired up and ready to go. And that’s how we saw it portrayed over and over and over everywhere. Then, like, then if you had responsive desire, you’d be like, Okay, yeah, great.

This, this is how sex works. This is totally normal. And then there would be the people with spontaneous desire, and it would be like, Wait, like, you’re just thinking about sex? Like, what, what’s wrong with you? Like, why are you thinking about it all the time? That’s so weird. And you know, it’s so interesting because, um, I think that previously I had conceptualized this as almost being gender related differences, you know, a female sexuality, more Like, you know, needs that, uh, active partner to kind of come and, and initiate and begin the experience.

And then that sexual desire gets turned on, whereas sort of a more masculine experience would be the, uh, intrusive thoughts about sex, like being the one that activates, right? And one of my takeaways from your book. Is that that is not attached to gender, if it’s okay to say, Vanessa, you shared very openly in your book about how in your relationship you had been, um, that spontaneous person and, and interestingly, you also talk about some couple dynamics where you have like, Two partners who have a more responsive style and how that can impact sexual dynamics, which are really weird.

The opposite of the typical gender dynamics. The under tends to have more responsive desire. Mine tends to be more spontaneous. So then that’s been a challenge in and of its. Like even like, oh, well we’re not, you know, the normal, but that’s, you know, we love just talking to people about like, it doesn’t matter.

There is no normal, it’s just understanding more about how desire works for you individually and for the two of you as a couple. Yeah, yeah. Just understanding that and normalizing it, because I really think, I mean with, with so many, and so, so my background, I’m a marriage and family therapist, so.

Specializing in sex therapy the way that you do, but obviously this is a common concern for many couples and there can be so much attached to the way that sexual desire is experienced where in a partner who has low sexual desire and who hasn’t recognized that they have a more Responsive style, feeling like something is wrong with them.

And also their partner is feeling like something is wrong with them because we’ve all been socialized to believe in that spontaneous sexuality and, and then by helping people work with each other, you know, like if you want to be with me, it helps if you initiated and start with a massage because that helps me get going, um, can really be such a game changer.

And I was just so happy to just see that in your book and have it presented in such like an understandable way. I think that’s fantastic. Yeah, I can, I can totally relate with what you were just saying, because yeah, as someone who realized that I was a bit more of a responsive type, for a long time after realizing that I was still very much in my head about that I had to really come to terms with this.

This isn’t the way that I’ve always seen it portrayed. This isn’t the way that I expect that men are supposed to feel desire. And for a while, I definitely felt. Some amount of resentment towards like, Oh, like how come I can’t just be like everybody else. Maybe there’s just something wrong with my hormones, or maybe I need this, or maybe I need that.

And, and like over the years of, of working with that and being in acceptance of that, you start to really understand your body and trust yourself so much more that it’s like it for me now, it’s not like, Oh, I need like, I don’t need 10 or 20 minutes to get warmed up. It’s more of it’s just developing that habit of.

Oh, yeah, as soon as we get started, like, I know, I know that in two minutes from now, I’m really gonna want this. That’s a great point. And I think to how how empowering for a more active partner who does have a more spontaneous sexual interest. Um, because I think, you know, in my own relationship, because our, our, my husband and I have more of those like stereotypical gender norms, but I think that, um, you know, he’s, he’s such a thoughtful, like sensitive person.

If I wasn’t obviously interested in that moment, he would be like, well, you know, she’s probably tired or busy and would be kind of self limiting. Whereas for me, I’m like, Come get me, dude. Like, it’s okay. Just we have to start doing things and then it’ll, it’ll be fine. But I think that empowerment piece can also be very important, particularly if somebody’s vulnerable to those feelings of rejection.

I mean, at least that’s been my experience. So the book, Sex Talks, five conversations that will transform your love life. And I want to talk about what those conversations are, but also you guys spend a lot of time talking about some important key things to do before you begin having those conversations.

Can you share a little bit about what those are? Because when we have conversations, we want them to go well, right? So what are the prerequisites? So the first part of the book is all about understanding yourself better. And this is such a great area for exploration because most of us feel like we don’t really know ourselves sexually.

Like we don’t really understand what do I need to feel desire? does feel good to me. What do I want to explore? Like we kind of feel like a little bit of a mystery to ourselves. So we wanted to start off with helping people better understand their own needs and desires and boundaries. So that’s really what you get into in that first section of the book.

So one example of that is talking about those sex drive types so that you can understand for yourself. Ah, okay. Like Which type am I, you know, have I kind of been misunderstanding how my desire is supposed to work and having that understanding for yourself, it’s going to help you also be able to have that understanding for your partner or get a sense of, oh yeah, okay, my partner is probably spontaneous or they’re probably responsive or whatever it is.

Definitely. And I love that the time that you spend to talking about the, like the emotional connection piece. And I feel like this has gotten better in more recent years, but it seems like for a while there, you know, sexuality was really kind of thought of as almost a separate thing from this piece of emotional intimacy.

Um, If, if I could just share a passage with our listeners because I thought it was so great. Um, when you were talking about your work as a couple to get clear around what you both need to feel connected, uh, you wrote quote, the light bulbs went on Zander wants connection before sex, but I need sex to feel connected.

During our challenging season, Zander had felt so emotionally disconnected from me. That he couldn’t fathom the idea of being physically intimate and the lack of physical intimacy created even more emotional distance for me to the point where I couldn’t imagine any other way of reconnecting. And I think so many couples struggle with this, but don’t even have the language to understand.

Can you say a little bit more about how you realized this, what it meant for you? Yeah, so we have this model in the book where we say we all want emotional intimacy and physical intimacy. It kind of comes down to what is it that you want to experience first? So I think most couples have had this argument in their relationship of like, why would I want to have sex with you right now?

Like we’re so disconnected. And then the other partner says, But sex is the way that I feel connected to you. And it can feel like this very stuck place that couples get into. And so we experienced this in our own relationship of just feeling a lot of disconnection and not knowing, like, what is that first step to take to get closer?

And so both of us were so in our own heads about what we wanted first, that it was hard for us to understand how our partner could possibly want the other. thing. So again, here’s an area where we are the reverse of the typical gender dynamic. I’m somebody who wants sex to feel connected, whereas most women tend to be wanting to feel emotionally connected before having sex.

That’s the case for Xander. And so for me, it was like, I was so disconnected that it was so obvious to me, like, we just have to have sex. So, we’re gonna feel connected. It was so obvious to him like we just need to feel close to each other again and then we were gonna want to have sex. Yeah, it doesn’t feel safe to have sex.

We’re not connected. We’re not feeling connected. Yeah, and it wasn’t till Xander used that word with me. He said it doesn’t feel safe to have sex with you when we’re feeling so disconnected. And he didn’t mean it like an offensive. in a physical way, but like in an emotional way. Like it just didn’t feel good to him.

And that was what really set off the light bulb for me. And it’s not just a case of like, well, I want my thing first. Well, I want my thing first. It’s like, no, it actually doesn’t feel good to him. It doesn’t feel okay to him to have sex in these kinds of conditions. And so for me, that was such a great moment of recognizing, you know, As much as I always like to win, I want my thing to come first.

I’m still like, well, no, but I really think the sex is the best way for us to feel connected. As much as I want that, like that was this moment for me as a wife and as a therapist of recognizing, I think it’s important for the connection to come first. Obviously, I don’t want couples in this battle of wills of like, whose thing is gonna get to come first?

But I do think, like, especially when a couple is in a period of disconnection, that it is really important to start with that emotional connection first. And I think the other piece of this, like, obviously, we are kind of the reverse. Stereo like gender stereotype here, but like stereotypically, the vast majority of men are in that sex to feel connection Camp

And so when it comes to kind of men and being emotional, I think the kind of the two acceptable outlets for emotion is sex. And so, so many men just don’t have the, the language or the ability or the, the openness to be able to connect emotionally outside of sex. And so, you know, I think it’s, it can be so important to realize like, okay, like, I can’t just use sex as the only way to express emotion.

We need to learn other ways to be able to become emotionally connected and express those emotions. And if you’re somebody who’s a partner of a man, I’m sure you’ve had times where he’s tried to initiate sex and you’ve thought like, you want to have sex now? Like, are you nuts? What is going on? Read the room, buddy.

But I think it’s so valuable to imagine, like, literally picture him in that moment and imagine that instead of initiating sex, what he’s really saying to you is, I wanna feel close to you right now. You know, that just completely changes the feel of those moments. What a beautiful thought and just a mindset to take in and same situation, maybe still get the boob honk, but reinterpreting it for, for what it really is, is this powerful bid for connection.

That’s wonderful. And you know what, you guys, I’m aware that I just. Tipped my own hand in the order of importance, because I’m realizing that the connection conversation you had presented as second to an even more important conversation around acknowledgement. Why is that particular conversation so important to have that you, you put it first.

Number one. So, with Sex Talks, we wanted to take this very generic advice that we’ve all heard, like, just talk about it with your partner. And we wanted to instead create, going back to what we were talking about at the beginning of the episode, a very practical roadmap through specific conversations to have.

So we narrowed it down to five. five and we put them in a specific order that we think is going to be most powerful and easiest for most couples. Like we know that most people feel anxious, embarrassed, nervous talking about sex and we wanted to ease you into it. So that first conversation. It’s designed to ease you into it.

It’s there as number one for a reason, and that’s acknowledgement. So this is just getting comfortable with sex as a topic of conversation. Because most of us either, we do one of two things, we never talk about sex at all in our relationships, or we wait until something is really bad or wrong, and then it comes boiling out, it turns into a fight, which only reinforces the idea that sex is hard and embarrassing and scary to talk about.

So instead we’re going a completely different direction and we are just getting comfortable with sex in a neutral way, in a positive way. So we’re not bringing in any complaints, any criticisms, we’re not even making any requests, we’re just getting comfortable talking about sex. So a little homework assignment that anybody listening to this episode can do after you finish listening is to take a moment to think about one of your favorite sexual memories with your partner and then share that with them today.

So face to face is great. You can also text it to them if you’re feeling really nervous, but all you’re going to do is something like this. Like, you know, what randomly popped into my mind today, that anniversary trip that we took to Mexico and that day where we stayed in bed in the hotel room all day long, just.

you know, just popped into my head today. It was a fun little memory to think about and just wanted to share it with you. So you’re not using it to initiate any other sort of conversations. You’re not even using it to initiate sex. It’s just starting to create this foundation. And even with that one simple little conversation, what you’re starting to do is help you and your partner recognize it.

We can talk about sex and it can feel fun and it can feel exciting. And it doesn’t have to be a bigger conversation. We could just leave it at that. Yeah. Yes. That it is okay to talk about. And particularly if a couple has been in a dynamic where it has become like this really fraught, you know, negative thing or a lot of shame or feeling defensive or, um, it begins to reset that a little bit.

I could see just like having new positive experiences where we mentioned it and nothing bad happened. And. Okay. You know, beginning to practice that. Um, but you know, just, just to put this in the air, why do you think it is so hard and weird to talk about sex in particular? I mean, what’s that about? Well, I mean, it goes back to your own experience being on the receiving end of talking about sex as you’re growing up, as you’re going through puberty.

Think back to you receiving the talk from your parents. Either you receive, like, you probably wanted two things to happen. Either your parents didn’t say anything to you, and I’m sure that you were very aware that they didn’t say anything to you because your friends were probably talking about the talk.

The talk is portrayed in so many movies everywhere. You know, it’s coming. And so you either notice that it never happens. And God, my parents must be so embarrassed about this topic. They can’t even bring it up. Or, you know, you get a really embarrassing, awkward talk and you don’t want anything to do with it.

You can feel the awkwardness and embarrassment coming from your parents. And you probably are experiencing that. You’re like, huh? Like I don’t really. ever experience that type of energy coming from them. And so you take away from that, like, wow, yeah, this must be. A really horribly awkward topic. Like, so yeah, when you don’t have any examples of there being a good functional, like neutral conversation about it, it’s this like high stakes, embarrassing, awkward conversation.

Of course, you’re going to feel like, well, God, if I’m going to start talking about that, it’s going to be awkward and embarrassing too. And if you think back to movies and TV shows, we’ve talked about this so much already, but. You never see examples of characters talking about sex, like, it just doesn’t happen.

So it makes us internalize this belief that if I’m really with the right person, if this is really the right connection, we shouldn’t need to have to talk about it. Like, having to talk about sex is a bad thing. So it’s no wonder that the vast majority of us feel so uncomfortable talking about it. Yeah.

And just to share, I never had the sex talk. Or the money talk. My mom just drew, when I was a teenager at some point, she was like, I think you need to get on birth control just because it’ll regulate your periods. But without ever actually talking to me about what was happening in my little teenage love life.

So like so much awkwardness, but I can totally relate to what you’re saying. It’s like as children, teens were socialized to believe that there’s like this dirty, shameful, hidden thing. And then as adults. being expected to have like comfortable conversations about this thing that has been so verboten our whole lives.

We also talk about a model that we came up with called the initiation style. So with the love languages of different ways that we like to give and receive love. So this is similar to that. The initiation styles are the different ways that we like to be invited to have sex. So we loved. We’re just peppering the whole book with all these different models and like personality types and stuff like that.

So it helps you get a better sense of what you actually like and respond to. So understanding what you need to feel excited about being intimate with your partner is so much fun and so helpful. And hilariously, you also included a list of the worst initiation techniques. I laughed out loud when I read this, including the, um, random humper.

Oh, yeah. Don’t do that. Who hasn’t been bending over to put a dish into the dishwasher and then all of a sudden somebody’s humping you from behind. What is happening right now? It’s so seductive. Always makes me want to run immediately to the bedroom. Right. The hand. Kidnapper. Mm hmm. It’s when your partner just grabs your hand and places it right onto their crotch.

Another very romantic move. Yeah. You know, very subtle. But I, I, I love the main idea too, which is that it, it makes sense to be spending some time on that self reflection around, so when this works for me and when it feels nice for me, how does this happen? And being able to say that out loud to your partner so that they know.

Yeah. Yeah. Sex should feel like an invitation. You know, it should feel exciting. I think I make the comparison in the book of, you know, imagine that you want to hang out with a girlfriend of yours. Like, you’re not going to call her on the phone and say, it’s been a while, should we do it? Like, no, you’re going to come up with a plan.

Like, Hey girl, do you want to meet me? There’s this new cafe that open want to grab some coffee. Like, so we put more excitement and enthusiasm into inviting our friends to hang out with us than we do into inviting our partner to be intimate with us.

So it’s all about like overly elaborate stuff. I think some people hear that advice and go, sorry, I have to take them out for a seven course dinner and then have roses, you know, rose petals, 12 hours in the sauna, 12 hours in the sauna. No, hopefully not. I mean, it’s like, yeah, no, that’s what you’ve seen on TV.

It’s just, it’s about understanding what is the initiation style of your partner, and therefore what types of things are, are they going to respond better to, and so trying to tailor your approach to what your partner will respond better to. Mm hmm. Yes. And I mean, just to be able to communicate about sex so that you can say those words out loud is such a radical act for most couples.

And I’m just so glad that you’re encouraging that. And, and also that you provided some advice about how to say no. In a way that doesn’t damage the relationship. Yeah, most of us have never learned how to turn down an initiation. You know, it feels awkward when your partner wants to be intimate and you don’t.

And so a lot of us respond to that awkwardness kind of harshly, like, Ooh, no, or like, right now you want to? Like, no, this is the worst situation. And so, of course, that kind of reaction is only going to make your partner feel terrible for initiating. So learning how to turn each other down, it’s such a valuable skill.

It’s a skill that most couples have never, ever thought of, but it will make such a huge difference in how intimacy gets initiated in the future. Yeah. Do you have even one tip that you could share with our listeners, or is it, do you feel like it’s complex enough that it would really require the reading of the chapter?

We do go through like a whole. That’s the next set of steps in sex talks. But I can share one tip with you, which is that if you’re not open to being physically intimate with your partner, see if you’re open to doing something else with them instead, maybe something more emotionally connecting. Because what typically happens when couples turn each other down is it’s like this immediate disconnect like, ugh, no, right now, no, I don’t want to.

Yeah. It’s like you go your separate way, you know, okay, I’ll go to my end of the house and you go to your end of the house and let’s try to forget that this ever happened. Yeah, which it creates so much disconnection, but instead of it being this black or white type of thing, can you find some other sort of middle ground?

So maybe you’re not open to having intercourse, but you’d be happy to sit on the couch and hold hands or lay in bed and cuddle together or go for a walk around the block together. So just having there be some other alternative, something the two of you can do to experience connection so it’s not this.

Yeah, I think that that in combination with what Vanessa said earlier of reminding yourself of my partner is trying to initiate sex with me, like they’re, they’re trying to initiate some kind of connection. So can I suggest some other form of connection to maybe not satisfy that completely, but to still satisfy it in some way?

Yeah. And I don’t know if this has been your experience, but I know for me, both work with clients, but also personally so much value to, to like pay attention to the reasons why I, cause I know for me and especially like life with kids, like just being actually exhausted, especially, you know, late at night and we have these ideas, like it needs to happen at night and, and like paying attention to that, being like, okay, night doesn’t work.

Exactly. Night. There’s so much information for us to get from the times that we’re not open to sex. Right. We feel so awkward saying no that we kind of just want to shut down the whole thing, but we want people to lean into it and to think about, like, why am I not open? What’s going on? Because you are going to learn something very important about yourself and what you need.

So what you’re speaking to is one of the most common dynamics that comes up for parents. Like, We cannot wait until the very end of the night. Like by the time I’m crawling into bed, I’m exhausted. I’m already thinking about, you know, how much sleep can I get if I fall asleep in this second, but it’s just, it’s just not the time to get excited for intimacy.

So that could turn into a great conversation with your partner of, you know, what, why don’t we try to prioritize quality time together as soon as the kids are asleep or even like, is there a way for us to feel more connected to each other throughout the day so that when nighttime comes around, like. It doesn’t feel like we’re starting from zero.

Yeah, definitely. But that, that, that next conversation, that sounds like the fun one or potentially like the hardest one in some ways where you’re inviting couples to talk about pleasure. Pleasure. Yes. Such an important part of the conversation. And it really loops back around to the conversations we were having about desire earlier.

So. Most of us women struggle with lower desire and feeling like something is wrong with us if we’re not feeling this wild, passionate desire all the time. So one of the first questions that we love to ask people of any gender, when they tell us that they feel like they have a low sex drive is we ask them, okay, tell us about the sex that you do have.

And most people will describe sex that is routine. It’s predictable. It’s a little boring. So then we ask, okay, so why would you crave that? If it’s not a particularly pleasurable or exciting experience, why would you crave that? It doesn’t make any sense to. So we love to eat, so we make a lot of food comparisons, and I think food comparisons are always very easy for people to understand.

Let’s say that you don’t like overly steamed mushy broccoli. Do you ever judge yourself for not having a craving out of nowhere? Like, Oh God, I have a huge bowl of overly steamed, mushy broccoli. Like, no, of course you don’t. So why would sex be any different? If it’s not a pleasurable experience for us, why would we crave it?

And I’m already imagining in the minds of listeners, there’s this big bomb that just went off, which is this moment of recognition around the fact that, you know what? A lot of times it isn’t that much fun for me or that enjoyable. But how could I possibly say that to my partner? It’s going to hurt their feelings.

feelings. They’re going to take it as a criticism. And so, you know, I’ll just close my eyes and think of England because it’s going to turn into this catastrophe. If I say that out loud, how do you even broach that kind of conversation with a partner? So that’s the part you’re giving the perfect example of where most people’s brains go to.

And so we tell people like, that is not a conversation we are. ever going to guide you through having, do not ever tell your partner, just cross that off the list of things to worry about. That at sex. No, we’re never going to do anything then. Don’t say that. Instead, like, what we do in sex talks is we talk about what people need to feel pleasure during sex.

And in particular, we talk about the orgasm gap. In male female relationships, research has actually found that men are having much more or like many more orgasms than women are having. So we talk in the chapter about how female pleasure really works, like what women really need to reach orgasms. Simple ways to create more of that.

So a lot of the book, there’s kind of this, we keep saying like, just blame it on us. So you’re never going to have to have a conversation with your partner of like, you suck in bed, I need you to get better. You can just read the chapter together and realize like. Oh, well, that sounds fun. Oh, that’s interesting.

We could do that. So it’s very non judgmental. It’s very non blaming. And we also share how to give feedback in that chapter two. And we do it in this way that we call positively pleasurable feedback, where you’re really focused on telling your partner what you like, what’s working for you, what you want more of rather than what you want less of.

So a classic example that comes up Especially in male female relationships is we hear so many women say like he is so fast Like he starts kissing me and then two seconds later It’s like he’s trying to take my clothes off and like I want time to warm up. I want him to slow down I want to be kissed and touched all over the place So, of course if you go to your partner and say why are you always in such a freaking rush?

Like you don’t do any foreplay. You just go right to the intercourse. Like I hate it. It doesn’t feel good Obviously that’s gonna make him feel terrible, right? Yeah, but if instead Instead, I say to him, like, you know what makes me feel so good? When you take your time on me, when you’re kissing me and touching me all over the place, and you get me to the point where I’m like begging you for more.

Like I love being teased in that way. Like obviously night and day difference here, right? Like it’s going to feel exciting to him. You’re saying it in a way where it feels like he’s already won or he’s already doing it. And even if it’s like, yeah, he hasn’t done that in 10 years. Like it’s still this reminder to him of like, oh, I love when you do that.

It feels like he has the cheat code to it. So it just makes your partner feel excited to follow through when you share feedback in that way instead of ashamed or embarrassed. Yeah, and this is a great example of why we structure the conversations in the way that we did with that acknowledgement one coming first, because if you’ve never really talked about sex in a neutral way, if it’s not a normal topic of conversation, and you jump right in to a request like that, it is so much more likely that the partner jumps to it.

Oh, what’s like, let me read between the lines. What’s the ulterior motive here? Ah, they’re saying they want more of this. So therefore, I must have been doing the wrong thing this whole time. And that’s, that’s why it’s so important that we’ve set this whole foundation leading up to this of like, no, this is a totally normal topic.

It’s a judgment, you know, it’s a judgment free zone, all of this stuff. So that by the time you start having these conversations, like, You know, your partner’s not trying to take it apart and be like, Oh, yeah, I know what you’re really saying. And it’s that I suck. I suck at that. Definitely. You’ve normalized the whole thing, taken a lot of that weird energy out of it.

And then this is just sort of a natural next step. And I love that, you know, through your book, you’re providing a very, um, Easy framework that is like safe feeling like, Oh, look, here’s a checklist and giving people a lot of actionable advice around how to broach these conversations and talk about it in a way that’s going to go, go better.

Yeah, for sure. And then lastly, you have that conversation number five, which is talking about the need to have this continued exploration, which really, um, highlights the fact that in every relationship, even if you are having a great time together, that if you have been married forever and keep doing the same thing over and over again, eventually it’s going to feel routine.

Dare I say even boring and that it requires intentional energy into that part of your life in order to keep it interesting, um, while also managing expectations. Like it doesn’t have to be the sun and the moon and the stars, like every time, all the time, but, but you have to be adding energy into this.

Can you say a little bit more about the exploration conversations? So research has shown that trying new things together just lights our brains up, and it’s the best way to keep that spark alive in a relationship. And most of us have heard this advice, but we’re just not doing it. So we guide you through in this chapter actually identifying, and we give you a whole menu of options to choose from, but identifying things that you want to experiment with and ways that you can make your sex life fun.

feel like this exploration between the two of you. So there’s another fun little homework assignment we can give to everybody listening. Because here’s the thing, like sometimes people here try new things and they jump right to thinking it needs to be something very extreme or very kinky or even something I’ve never done before.

And that’s not necessarily the case. It’s just trying things that you haven’t done in a while. So think about what something that you and your partner used to do when you first started having sex. that you haven’t done in a while and bring that back in so that can feel a lot less intimidating because you’ve already done it but you’re still going to get the benefits of the novelty because you haven’t done it in a while so even if it’s something simple like we used to take a lot of time kissing or we used to we used to masturbate together and we haven’t done that in ages like bring something like that back in.

That is a fantastic tip. You have so much more wonderful stuff in your book. Beyond that, you talk about fantastic communication strategies and how to navigate moments where they do start to feel tense or fraught and some other really actionable advice about how to make sex a priority. Um, and I would encourage all of my listeners to read this book.

It’s really very well done, you guys. Um, and I, I’m also so aware that we’re at the end of our time. So as we glide to a stop here, where can people find out more about you and your work? So they can find the book at sextalksbook. com. We have links to all the major retailers there. And if you come back to that page and put in your order number, we’ll send you a free accompanying workbook that goes along with the book.

So that’s super fun. And then you can connect with us. Over on Instagram, we’re at Vanessa and Xander, or on our website at VMtherapy. com. Aside from the book, we have a ton of very practical and fun and sexy guides, like we have foreplay guides, we have next level intercourse, we have challenges for couples, we have a sex challenge and an emotional intimacy challenge, all sorts of fun stuff, so you can find those on Instagram and on our website at VMtherapy.

com. And then lastly, you can always check out our podcast, Pillow Talks. Okay. I, I might be your new number one fan, I’m going to check it out. So this was so much fun you two, I really enjoyed talking with you today and thanks for coming on the show. Yeah. Thanks so much for having us. Oh my gosh, you guys.

Were they not the cutest? They were so much fun to talk to and I personally loved their advice, so I definitely hope you check out their podcast. and resources. And of course, there are more resources for you all free at growingself. com. You can head over to our sexual and emotional intimacy collection to find articles and additional podcasts on this subject that I’ve put together for you.

It’s at growingself.com forward slash blog hyphen podcast. Enter into the love category and then you’ll find the emotional and sexual intimacy collection with all kinds of resources for you. I hope these help you and I will be back in touch next week with another episode. In the meantime, little dragon slugs of love.

So… Slugs of love.

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