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Failure Doesn’t Equal Success…but it can get you there!

Last week, my daughter bombed a math test. Flunked. Failed. In a big and mighty way. So big, in fact, that the teacher called me into the classroom to show me the test.

Later, when Riley and I were talking about it, she began to tear up.

 

“Are you saying that I made a bad grade?” she asked as her lower lip quivered.

 

I hesitated for a beat and then said, “Yes, Baby Girl, you made a bad grade.”

 

A lot of parents would be horrified with me. I can hear them saying, “What?! You don’t use the term bad when talking to a child!” I could hear them complain that I was going to scar my child or permanently damage her self esteem.

 

In our society today, we have become so concerned with the emotions of our children that we will lie, cheat and steal to keep them from feeling badly. The theory goes that if we can organize a world where they feel safe and secure and loved and comfortable all the time, then surely they will become confident adults.

 

The problem with this approach is that it simply doesn’t work. An obese child who is told that she is fine just the way she is will still grow up with be an adult with chronic health problems. A child whose bullying behaviour is overlooked because he is having problems at home that are not his fault will not learn how to care for those around him. A child who thinks that a failed grade is actually good will never learn how to succeed.

 

And so I let my daughter feel the full weight of failure.

 

And then I gave her the tools to succeed.

“You see, Riley, a bad grade tells us two things: 1) You don’t understand the material and/or 2) You did not practice enough before the test. However, both of these things are fixable. We can make sure you learn the material and give you lots of practice so that when you will not make this grade again.”

 

The rest of the weekend, we worked hard. It was obvious that Riley was missing the foundational pieces to the concepts and so we made sure she got them. Then we built on the foundation until she was grasping math which was much more difficult than the concepts on the test.

 

She got it. She grew confident. She asked to practice so she could show us what she had learned. And she learned how to turn failure into success, a life lesson that is exponentially more important than a math grade.

 

Many of the couples I meet struggle even admitting that there is failure in their relationship. They dance around the subject, trying to project an image that is perfect. They hope that I don’t ask any questions that might poke that delicate exterior and expose it for what it truly is.

 

But, just like Riley, if we do not take an honest appraisal of our work and if we do not acknowledge places where we fail, we will never be able to move past failure to success. Admitting you have a problem, as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, is the first step to a new life. The brilliance of taking this first step is that you can make changes, fix the problems and move to a place of health and true happiness.

 

What do you have in your relationship that is not working?   What is failing?

 

Once you have taken an inventory, begin to make changes. Need some help? You can book your coaching session with me today.

(Pre)Marriage Quiz

British Rabbi Jonathan Romain has devised a quiz to help couples decide if they really should tie the knot so that couples who choose to marry, stay married. He would like to see the divorce rate drop from 1:2 to 1:16 marriages. Check out this article to see what the Rabbi believes are essential questions to ask of each other before saying, “I do”.

Some questions are light-hearted such “what is your partner’s favourite food”, but most probe what people think their partner’s future plans and aspirations are.

If you are already married, use this as a conversation starter and see how well you know your spouse!

Let me know how it goes!!

 

 

Bikinis for 7 year olds!?!?

I am the mother of a six-year-old and despite the subject matter that I speak about, write about and research for my day job, we are extremely conservative at home. Just the other day, my daughter chastised me for using the “D” word. It’s probably not what you think…I had commented that something was “dumb”.  And, for the record, the word “stupid” might as well be cussing in our household.

 

When it comes to my own profession, I also realize the prudence in speaking openly about sexual questions that come up. A few have with Riley…although not as many as I was expecting by this age. When she does broach the subject, I ask for clarity on what it is she is trying to learn and why, so that I can answer the question simply and truthfully but not answer too much. (There’s the old joke of the Dad who went into a lengthy explanation about sex to his child who asked “what’s sex”, only to find out that the child had been told by his mother that “dinner would be ready in a few “secs”.) I try to balance healthy candor about the subject of sexuality with the fact that we hold pretty conservative values as a family.

 

So, I was horrified to learn that Abercrombie & Fitch has just marketed a bikini for 7-year-old girls with a PUSH UP TOP.

Really????  Seriously!?!  Are you kidding me!!???

 

We are facing an epidemic of little girls growing up believing that their bodies are inadequate because of the ridiculous amount of media pressure to be a perpetual size 0, and yet they want to send a message to our 7-year-olds that their pre-pubescent chests are inadequate? It’s ludicrous.

 

But, as CNN’s LZ Granderson points out, companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch would not sell such items if there were not parents who buy them. Companies have increasingly pushed the boundaries on what is and what is not appropriate for teens and children for years, and have been allowed a ridiculous amount of latitude from parents. As parents, it is our duty to make sure that our children wear items that reflect a healthy amount of self-respect rather than just what is the latest fashion. As Granderson says,

 

I don’t care how popular Lil’ Wayne is, my son knows I would break both of his legs long before I would allow him to walk out of the house with his pants falling off his butt. Such a stance doesn’t always makes me popular — and the house does get tense from time to time — but I’m his father, not his friend.

Thank you, LZ for making the point that is so often lost on my peers. We did not give birth to children so that we could have life-long buddies. When we chose to produce off-spring, we were making a decision to train these little beings how to love themselves and how love others. Decisions that fall within these parameters do not necessarily make us popular with our children, but they do make us good parents.

 

Because of my job, I get asked all the time how to talk to kids about sex.  There are lots of opinions on that subject – when to start, how much to share, what’s age appropriate information.  But I don’t even have to broach any of those points to get to the basic premise here: Talking to your kids about sex includes how you let them dress – or how you choose to dress them.

 

That’s my take-away for this blog post.  But in the interest of fairness, I should say that Abercrombie & Fitch have agreed to remove the term “push up” from the title in favour of the less incendiary “striped triangle”, but have continued selling the padded bikinis.

 

What are you thoughts?

Being a Parent vs Being a Spouse

Does time with your spouse get squeezed out because you are spending so much on your kids? Read this article for tips on bringing balance and protecting your marriage.

Being a Parent vs Being a Spouse

And remember these 4 tips:

  1. Your marriage is one of the most important relationships in your life.
  2. Children need to see you two as a couple who will, at times, need to make that relationship top priority.
  3. Limit your child’s extracurricular activities to one or two special ones. Let them understand that they need to choose. You’ll be surprised how having less “running around” will limit exhaustion and free up some much needed time for you.
  4. If you have children from a previous marriage, include your new spouse in the time you spend with them. It will alleviate tension and resentment.

Practice Makes Perfect (even in sex)

Right now, I am in the middle of fairly intense media training. My assignment is to shoot 5 one-minute videos each day. That’s not so difficult. However, later that day, I have sit down with a team of people while we all watch and critique the videos. And believe me, there is a lot to critique.

The team tackles issues such as gestures, phraseology, eye movements, expression, emphasis, content, lighting, makeup, and wardrobe. Yesterday was a particularly spectacular day because I wore a sweater that blended into the background and made me appear as though I had no arms.  Seriously, every person watching the video laughed out loud, pointed and said, “you have no arms!!” or “wardrobe malfunction!!”

It sucks.

I am deriving very little pleasure from this process.

All my insecurities and perfectionist tendencies are coming to the surface.

I want to run and hide every time the team meets.

I cringe every time a new video starts.

And yet, I am keenly aware that if I want to accomplish some of my goals for 2011 this is exactly the type of training that I need. I will only develop this skill set by completing my assignment each and every day and then learning how I can improve – not just through my own eyes, but from the perspectives of others too. It helps that when I look up from my computer to the list of goals that hangs on the wall across from me, I am able to remember the reasons why I must press on despite the fact that I am miles outside of my comfort zone.

But it still sucks.

As I ponder what I am doing, it occurs to me that it is not unlike one of the principles that I teach my coaching clients.

If you are going to become a better lover, you must practice. I don’t just mean have sex more often; I mean have times in which you consciously lower your expectations of each other. I find that we put enormous expectations on our sexual relationships. They have to be good, all the time. There is very little room for “practice sex”.

In practice sex, the two of you decide that you want to get more skilled in a particular area. Perhaps she has never had multiple orgasms before, and you want to see what it takes to get her there. Perhaps he would like oral sex as part of your foreplay, and you are completely intimidated by this concept.

Set aside time when the two of you agree that you are going to practice. By agreeing ahead of time, you ease the pressure of performance. Then, allow for mistakes (and possibly even mediocre sex) during this time.  Remember that it’s okay to not be great when you are practicing!!  The goal is learning how to become better!!

Just as I am learning as I shoot these videos, couples need to remember that in order to get really good at sex, you have to go through the awkward learning stage. So be patient with each other and enjoy it as much as possible!

I am now going to take my own advice and set up the video camera.

PS – My goal is to start rolling out “Vlogs” soon. Hopefully, I will have arms in them.

Do Men Fake Orgasms?

Did you know that MEN fake orgasm too???

Ever since the famous scene in When Harry Met Sally, we have been culturally conscious of the fact that women can pull the wool over the eyes of their men. However, new studies are now debunking the myth that only women engage in this sort of activity.

According to the November issue of the Journal of Sex Research, 25% of the men in their study confessed to pretending to orgasm. Askmen.com also did a survey of 100,000 men in which 14% admitted that they had done it once and a further 16% said they had done it multiple times.

But how? This seems to be the question that immediately comes to everyone’s mind.

If you think about it, in the day in which condoms and lubricants are prevalent, it would be easy to cover up the (lack of) evidence. If you throw in the fact that most women are not checking to see if their partners are faking it – because, let’s be honest, how many are – it would be relatively easy for the guys to pull off.

Why would a guy fake it? Simply put, for the same reason a woman does. The study published by the Journal of Sex Research stated that the most frequently cited reasons were:

  • they wanted sex to end
  • they knew that orgasm was probably not going to happen and faking it seemed like an easy way to “finish”
  • they wanted to demonstrate to their partners that it was good for them too
  • they didn’t want to hurt their partners’ feelings

Very often, we assume that men are always willing and eager to have sex and overlook the fact that they might be tired, or stressed or simply not in the mood. Just like many women.

But the typical response for women who find out that their husband is not automatically ready to go or cannot achieve orgasm is to assume that something is wrong with them. “Is he getting it somewhere else? Am I too fat? Am I not good enough?” are the some of the myriad of thoughts that float through their minds.

Perhaps. But it is much more likely that there is something else in play. Here are some of the common reasons why men have difficulty achieving orgasm:

  1. SSRI Drugs (Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, etc.). These are prescribed for issues such as depression, anxiety and insomnia. A very simplistic explanation of how these drugs work are that they keep more serotonin in your system (the happy, feel-good hormone). This is excellent news when you are dealing with depression. However, the nasty little side-effect is that this increase in serotonin actually suppresses your dopamine levels (which stimulate your sex drive). The end result is that you might have lower libido, it might take you longer to achieve orgasm or you may be unable to orgasm.
  2. Erectile Drugs (Viagra, Levitra, Cialis, etc.). If you think about it logically, these drugs are a result of the industry that has grown in response to our demand to perform anytime, anywhere. We make jokes about the common disclaimer – “seek medical attention if you experience an erection lasting more than four hours” – but the fact of the matter is that we expect these drugs to make us a sex GOD. But what happens when you are not in the mood? Physiologically, you have all the tell-tale signs that you are aroused, but what if you are not completely there? For men who find themselves in this predicament, achieving orgasm might not be as easy as they had anticipated.
  3. Alcohol (Beer, Wine, Spirits etc.). In my practice, I find that this is the most common drug that affects orgasm. Alcohol actually inhibits testosterone and this can result in lower libido, decreased arousal and delayed ejaculation.
  4. Porn (pictures, video, etc.). One of the issues that is becoming more and more prevalent in the field of sex therapy, is dealing with men who have turned to porn, thinking that it would give them a good sexual education. Bombarded with these images of completely unrealistic sex, genuine intimacy with a flesh-and-blood woman can become increasingly difficult. Remember the Sex and the City episode wherein Miranda dates a guy who cannot have sex unless there he is also watching porn? When she makes him choose between her and the movies, he chooses porn because “those girls have been with me longer than you have.” This might be a humorous depiction of the issue on screen, but is very serious when it is happening in your own house.
  5. Life.  As I mentioned before, men’s sex lives are affected by stress, their jobs, their bank balances, their sleep patterns, any number of medical issues, emotional interaction with their wives and a whole host of other reasons.

So what if you are caught in the trap of faking it? The first time you faked it, it was probably to alleviate the pressure you were feeling in the moment. But now, you are under even more pressure to keep up the act and this can get very old, very fast.

Here is my advice.

Stop.

Yes, that’s right.

Stop.

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Instead of devising ways to pull off the deception, view this as an opportunity to learn together and make your sex life better. You have the information now about the causes for your lack of orgasm as well as some of the feelings that your wife is probably going to have when you tell her, so you will have a little more (intelligent) communication points for the conversation that will inevitably happen.

Here is what I want everyone to remember: change is inevitable in your sex life. Inability to orgasm is just one of those possible changes. It is guaranteed that your body will change as the years go by, and your perspectives will most likely shift as well. If you do not have open and honest communication with your spouse, things will fall apart. You will find yourself with a spouse who is doing things that were awesome five years ago, but aren’t so hot anymore. Or you will find yourself hiding more and more instead of becoming more and more intimate. This does not make a fabulous sex life.

So have the conversation and devise a strategy of dealing with the issue. Perhaps you can go to your doctor and find something that is effective for your condition but does not have the sexual side-effects. Perhaps you can develop ways to lengthen the amount of foreplay so that you can really be aroused. Perhaps you need to lay off the booze.

And if you are the woman who is finding out that her husband has been faking it, don’t be defensive. Just listen. And then seek solutions together.

Sometimes an independent perspective can helpful.  If you need a Passion Coach, then contact me for some extra help.

That’s what I am here for!

Language Affects Intimacy

From the San Francisco Chronicle, “A Communication Expert Tells How Language Affects Intimacy”.

David Cunningham offers these tips for people to avoid inadvertently talking themselves out of love:
  1. Choose Words Wisely
  2. Avoid Negative Talk
  3. Focus on Your Commitment
What do you think?  Can how your lover talks to you affect the intimacy you feel?

Shame, Shaming and Being Shamed

Ordinarily, I bounce along in life, having a series of wild and wacky and usually embarrassing things that happen to me that I can pass onto you in the context of developing a deeper and richer sex life.

But lately life has been teaching me about something more serious.  Something that causes one to stop, to ponder, to contemplate. Something that is extraordinarily uncomfortable to acknowledge. And yet something that, I believe, is at the heart of why so many people have such pain when talking about their sex lives.

My personal journey started when I was doing that aforementioned bouncing along and I ran smack-dab into a situation wherein I had caused pain to another. To be sure, this was not intentional on my part in any way, but intent did not mitigate the fact that I hurt someone.  I did.  And I felt awful for having caused them pain.

But their reaction to me – whether or not they intended it to be – was devastating.  I was shaken to my very core.  Suddenly my emotions were all over the map.

I cried. I raged. I had dialogues in my head wherein I called upon all my debate skills from law school and trounced them in public. But when all of this subsided, I wondered, “why is this affecting me so personally?” To be completely blunt, I had apologized to them for causing pain, so I could not figure out why I was still in emotional turmoil over this situation!

So, as is my habit when I find myself in unknown waters, I researched.  And to my surprise, my research led me to the concept of shame.

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Dr. Brune Brown (a self-described researcher/story-teller), who has spent a decade researching “connection”, says that shame is the fear of disconnection. It is the silent, inner question that we all ask, “Is there something about me that if people see, I won’t be worthy of connection?” And in her brilliant book, The Artist Way, Julia Cameron defines the act of shaming as “the attempt to prevent a person from behaving in a way that embarrasses us.”

We all have things within us that we are deeply afraid to reveal to others. Dr. Brown asserts that all humans capable of empathy have shame and the less we talk about it, the more we have it. We all wear masks that hide the parts of us that we don’t want others to see.

It is my profession to poke behind the masks that people wear and peek into their innermost fears and doubts. I cannot count the number of couples I have met who appeared to all those around them to “have it together” and yet they were secretly meeting with me to discuss their sexless marriage, or the incompatibility of their sexual proclivities or the fact that they loved each other, but were no longer “in love”.

I have also met countless young couples, boasting that they would do just fine in their sex lives because they had done all the research on the quantitative and qualitative elements necessary to sustain a healthy relationship. Later, they creep back to me because, in their youthful zeal, they had failed to see that there are things that you very simply cannot anticipate through theory…only experience can truly test whether you can thrive. Relationships, simply put, are not academic.

But what happens when we say something or do something (intentionally or inadvertently) that rips the mask off of someone and exposes their shame?

Most people resort to blame. (Dr. Brown says the clinical definition of blame is “a way to discharge pain and discomfort.”) For if they can turn the argument around and make you look and feel bad – if they can shame you – then they will feel safe and secure once again with their mask firmly back in place. It turns the spotlight from shining on their insecurities to redirects the light onto you.  For, as we all know, the spotlight can be extremely uncomfortable.

Here is an example from my coaching practice. I met with a woman who had been married for decades and had decided that the sex life she had lived with was not what she wanted for the rest of her relationship. She had come to the place of needing a substantial change if she was going to stick around. After a series of conversations, her husband threw up his hands in disgust and said, “What is wrong with you? Sex has always been good for me!”

This woman, after years of silence, had expressed a desire to change their sex life, and his response was to cover his own shame of being unable to satisfy his wife by telling her that she was the problem. She had embarrassed him, and he responded by shaming her.

So how do you confront shame and blame in the bedroom?

  1. It starts with you. Shift your focus from the other person and onto you. What did they say that made you feel vulnerable, exposed or insecure? Is there any truth to what they said? If so, what changes can you make in your behavior, your choices and your attitudes towards yourself and others? Once you have that figured out, get to work.
  2. Do not deny the pain. Cameron has a profound way of addressing shame and blame. Instead of saying, “It doesn’t matter”, she instead says, “I will heal.” In this way, she encourages us not to deny the feelings that resulted from the blame, but rather to allow ourselves to move past them.
  3. Be patient with others. Sometimes just understanding that we are all covering our own shame gives us patience and grace for others. Furthermore, when we refuse to accept the shame and refuse to strike back in blame, we disrupt the pattern and thereby grow in personal strength.
  4. Be kind to yourself. Because she is a teacher of the creative, Cameron suggests that the very best way to move past shame is to be creative once again. Perhaps you do not consider yourself a creative person, so you think this is not a solution for you. The point, however, stands. Do something that reminds you of who you really are: have lunch with a friend who can kindly speak truth to you, read old letters from people who love and encourage you, or write in your journal about the things you believe to be true.
  5. Move to a place of forgiveness. Eventually, when you are ready (do not rush this process just because it is the right thing to do!), begin the process of forgiveness. If you need pointers, read my article Freedom of Forgiveness.

Of course, putting several bullet points on paper makes the process seem simple. Let me to assure you that it is not. But it is a starting place. If you want to research a bit more, take 20 minutes and watch Dr. Brown’s presentation at TED here.

So what do you think?  Have you ever been shamed…have you ever reacted to someone by shaming them?  Your thought are always welcome!

Talking to Men

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I would like to believe that, on the whole, I am better than average at knowing how to speak to a man. I am pretty good at explaining the differences in the genders when doing my seminars. I can carry on an easy conversation with most men because I understand what they like to talk about. And since one of my missions is to challenge women to appreciate the men in their lives, I actively try to learn more about the way men process information. In a nutshell – I get guys.

But every once in a while, I revert lock, stock and barrel to being a stereotypical girl. Recently, I had one of these moments.

The day had started out very well. Since Eric and I are new to Ontario, we called up the one friend we have out East and decided to go out for breakfast together. This is a young guy who is seriously dating a girl but very much still a bachelor. He exists in that space of wanting to learn about women because he really digs this chick, but hasn’t quite achieved bilingualism in both the guy- and girl-speak.  He’s trying to learn the language, but isn’t yet fluent.

He also introduced us to his roommate – another bachelor – who while he isn’t currently working on a relationship with a woman, he is in the midst of doing his PhD. (One could argue that this is a relationship in and of itself). You might say that he is a serious intellectual, but has not even enrolled in the girl-speak classes yet. Not that I am knocking on the guy. Heck, I felt my IQ rise just by hanging out with him.

Breakfast was fabulous. We were introduced to the amazing Cora‘s restaurant at which I promptly gorged myself on a Brie and Mushroom Eggs Benedict – delicious! The conversation was the perfect blend of intellectualism meets smart-ass. Just how I like it.

As we were leaving the restaurant, however, I noticed that there was a hair salon open right next door which carried the brand of hair product that I use. I had been out of my favourite product for a week and was desperate to track it down in Toronto. I ducked into the store (but alas, I did not find the product), and as I rejoined our friends, I launched into a detailed explanation as to why I had to track down that particular product. V-e-r-y detailed.

As I continued, both guys, who up to this point had been engaged in constant dialogue and banter with me, gave me completely blank looks. It was like the whole scene geared down into slow motion and you could see the Blink*Blink*Blink of their eyes.

To my complete and utter horror, I realized that I was talking in-depth “girl-speak” to two bachelors.  They had no idea how to respond to me. I might as well had been speaking Klingon (wait…scratch that…at least one of them is probably fluent in that).

Thankfully, my husband (who no doubt felt pity on me because I had been without female companionship for weeks) brought the conversation back onto a gender-neutral track and we finished our time together well.

As I laughed at myself later, it occurred to me that very often, we do the same thing in our relationships. We can think we are communicating with each other, but  in reality we are speaking another language.

Unfortunately, women are particularly fond of equating “talking” with “communication”. Men do not define the latter so rigidly. Communication to a man can hanging out with their buddies on a golf course, or watching a game, or sitting silently in a duck blind. That is communication. There doesn’t need to be talk.

I have a vivid memory of asking my husband how his day of golf with a friend had gone. “What did you talk about?” I asked. “Not much,” was his response. “In fact, at the end of the day, my buddy said to me – it is so great to hang out and not have to talk.” They had bonded, they had communicated, but there had not been much conversation.

For women, this seems crazy. If we have more than a 4 second lull in conversation, we feel that we aren’t “connecting” with each other.

It is not that one form of communication is superior to another…they are just different.

I think that the goal of your relationship should not be to make your partner speak your language but to become a bilingual couple. You should be able to fluidly switch back and forth from guy-speak to girl-speak. Sometimes you respect the connection found in a non-verbal golf game and sometimes you cover for your wife speaking a foreign language to two bachelors – that way you know that are always going to truly be communicating.

How about you?  Are you fluent in your lover’s preferred communication style?

Making “The Ask”

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Making the Ask…without pushing their buttons

It is that time of year again. The Terry Fox Run will be this Friday and there is a flurry of young children asking their parents and neighbours to give them money. Allow me to give some background information for my American readers. Thirty years ago, this young man had lost a leg to cancer and yet attempted to run across Canada. While he died before completing his run, his dream of raising awareness and funds for cancer has been realized to a far greater extent than even he could have imagined. His courage inspired a nation to take action.

Every year now, school children across Canada run in honour of his memory and get pledges in the name of cancer research.

Our daughter was first exposed to the legacy of Terry Fox two years ago when she was four. She had started school and the Run was one of the first activities that the school promoted. Since her father is a professional fundraiser, we were thrilled at the opportunity to teach Riley how to “make an ask”.

That first year, Eric sent around an email to the staff in his office, alerting them to the fact that his daughter would be coming to ask them for money. The request was fairly straightforward: Please listen to what she says and then ask her questions. Why is she raising money? Why is this an important cause for her? Eric then made it clear that the staff did not have to donate money, because learning to be gracious with a “no” is just as important skill set for Riley to develop as being grateful for a “yes”.

When she was four, she was so nervous that she flipped her long, brown hair as she stammered, “Will you support…my…cause?” Last year, she wasn’t a novice anymore so she went for the jugular, “Will you please give me money so that children don’t have to die of cancer?”

She is incredibly effective. The first two years, her class brought in more than any of the other classes in the school and Riley was personally responsible for a quarter of those funds, even though there were 20 kids in her class. Needless to say, we are glowing with pride.

But our pride exceeds the satisfaction of a parent who is teaching their child simply how to succeed. It goes further than watching our little girl grow up. It even surpasses the delight of seeing her grasp the foundational understanding that we are all responsible to give our time and money to causes that are larger than ourselves.

You see, over the past several years, Riley has been – in a very deliberate fashion – learning and practicing a skill set that many adults do not have – The Ask.  This year, she has realized that 3 of her grandparents died of cancer and so the Terry Fox Run is even more important to her.  She has her own page on the Terry Fox website here – in case you would like to donate to her cause.

Success gurus will be quick to point out that, to get wherever it is that you want to go in life, you must ask for what you want. In his book The Success Principles, Jack Canfield shares a story of going to a seminar at which his seat had a yellow folder sitting on it. But he hated the colour yellow. The instructor then told the class that, if they did not like the colour of the folder that they had, they should ask to switch with someone with a different colour. Turns out, the lady next to Jack hated the colour she had too and when the two of them spoke up, expressed their desires, and consequently traded folders, they were both much happier.

Folder colours? Really? Is it that important?

The story illustrates the fact that most of us put up with things that we do not really want in our lives. Why? Perhaps we were not given permission when we were kids to have an opinion. Everything in our childhood was scripted around what the adults thought was good and right. Perhaps we learned that we should always sacrifice what we wanted for the desires of others. Or maybe, we just never learned to ask for what we wanted. And don’t delude yourself, asking for what you want is a skill set that takes time and practice to develop.

Not surprisingly, a lack of this lack of skill set shows up in our sex lives. If you can’t make an ask in other areas, you surely aren’t going to be able to do it in the most intimate, vulnerable, exposed area of your life. And yet, if you cannot clearly communicate what you want in your sexual relationship, it becomes more and more difficult to fake your satisfaction over the years. “I just can’t do it anymore” is a refrain that I have heard far too often.

So how do you start? How do you reverse years of allowing your partner to think that everything is hunky-dory when it really isn’t? This is a question I explore with many of my coaching clients. And while I must stress that change in this area does take time and patience, here are a few pointers to get you started.

1. Take the time to clearly define in your own mind what you want.

What is it about your sex life that you want to change? Don’t be satisfied with vague concepts – get specific. If you “want more foreplay”, then you need to understand what “more” looks like. Does it mean that you want your partner to kiss you on the mouth for several minutes before attempting to touch you anywhere else? Does it mean that you want to be flirted with throughout the day? Does it mean that you want to be able to hug without it leading straight to sex? Does it mean that you want to orgasm first? Knowing what you want will give your spouse the tools to succeed in making the changes with you.

2. Prepare the person to whom you are making The Ask.

This is especially important when you have been in a long-term relationship and your partner thinks everything is going great. Just as Eric sends out an email to prep people in his office before Riley goes in for The Ask, your spouse might need a bit of warning ahead of time. Saying, “I want us to get better and better with time and so I have been thinking about some changes to make to our relationship.” If your spouse does better with the written word, then leaving a note in his/her lunch bag or on the mirror might work the best. The key to the preparation is that you pique interest.

3. Choose your timing carefully.

Men, even if you have followed step 2 above, launching into that conversation with your wife at the end of a long day of juggling work and kids is probably not going to bring success. You will most likely have a very angry woman on your hands who feels like this is just another area in her life that she is screwing up.  Women, if your husband is settling in to watch his favourite team play on TV, that does not make him a “captive audience”.   You might be better served to send the kids off to Grandma’s house and whisk your spouse away for a weekend – or at least an afternoon.

4. State The Ask in a way they can hear.

“Our sex life sucks,” is NOT the way you should introduce the subject. If you are talking about it together, focusing on what you want to see grow is much more positive.  Talk about what you do appreciate in your sex life, and then you can flow into ideas that build on the foundation you have.  Bring them into your fantasy – your perfect sex life.  Invite them to be the star in your imagination.  Use terms that they understand.  Discussions that are unclear will only serve to exacerbate the problem.  Don’t be embarrassed to be specific in your wants.

5. Watch and wait.

As Riley has learned, sometimes people say, “no”. For whatever reason, they are not in the place to join her in her cause. Likewise, your spouse might say no.  The idea of even talking about your sex life might be overwhelming for them.  Your sex life is not a sprint.  The purpose of this is not to get to the finish as quickly as possible.  Sex, like relationships, is a journey.  Building memories together is the glue that bonds and memories take time.  Your patience can overcome their fear.

Just because you ask, does not entitle you to a yes response.  Remember you have spent a good deal of time considering what it is you want.  Allow them time to consider what you are asking.  Give them a chance to reflect on what you want…and to think about what they want as well.  You may very well be opening a door for them too – maybe they want more too!  Help them express that by listening and not interrupting.

We have a rule in our household that every request that is made deliberately needs to be respected and honoured with consideration. If my husband comes to me and asks something of me, I need to listen and consider. (I am ignoring this principle in my life regarding his repeated requests for an iPad, but I digress.)  The point is that you make love through your conversations as surely as you do physically.

As the discussion unfolds you can direct them to questions that will help them talk to you: What is stopping you from taking this next step with me? What makes you hold back? Is the timing wrong? Do you not like the request? Does it make you feel fearful? Use this time and conversation to look for insight into your spouse.

Seeing things from a new perspective through personal coaching may be all that stands between you and the sex life you have always imagined.  If you need a little extra help on this subject, give me a call.