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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.

WE MOVED!!!!

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You might have noticed a bit of, well, inactivity on this site of late. It is not that I am trying to ignore you. Not at all.

I have, however, been in the midst of a cross-country move from Vancouver, British Columbia to Toronto, Ontario. From the time we signed the paperwork agreeing to the relocation to the time the movers showed up on our front door step was a mere five weeks. That didn’t seem all that absurd to me when we signed the papers – I was so utterly naïve!!

As you can well imagine, the past couple months have been completely chaotic and it has been all I can do to keep up with my coaching appointments. And needless to say (although I will spell it out for you) writing my blog has slipped off the radar completely.

I am pleased to announce that I am (somewhat) settled. Eric and I are indeed in Toronto (Riley’s trip to Texas turned out to be amazing timing) but we are living in a hotel since our house will not be ready until October. All of our things are tucked away in a couple of containers at the mover’s storage facility so we don’t feel completely at home, but at least we are parked in one place for six weeks.

The good news is that I have a list of blog posts that I cannot wait to write. Stay tuned!

Having Sex to Relieve Mental Stress

With very little effort I found quite a few websites and articles that talk about taking a “mental health day”.  Some of them are as simplistic as, “don’t go into to work if you think you might need to kill your boss – take a mental health day and relax”.  Others are fairly lengthy explanations about the existence of World Mental Heath Day – which is evidently every October 10th.  The bottom line is that we all get stressed at times in our lives.  And there is some evidence that taking a day to focus solely on yourself has tangible benefits to your mental well being.  But when a friend of mine pointed me to this article, The Benefits of Sex for Your Mind and Body, I realized that we don’t have to take a day – or wait for October 10th – before we can do something to reduce the amount of mental stress we carry.  We can have sex.  The article lays out 10 major benefits of sex that all relate to helping your mind and your body relax.

1.     Sex Makes You Sleepy.
“The sexual release you have after having sex actually helps you sleep better at night,” says Dr. Yvonne Fulbright, author of The Better Sex Guide to Extraordinary Love Making.

2.     Sex Makes you Happy.

Fulbright said that in a recent study of 4,000 American women, those who had the lowest stress and best overall mental well-being were those who were the most sexually active.

3.     Not having sex can lead to depression.

4.     Sex causes an “orgasmic pregnancy.”

“Women are the most interested in having sex when pregnant because they feel really good about themselves overall.”

5.     Sex will boost your self-esteem.

Fulbright says that having sex boosts your entire self-esteem, not just your body image.

6.     It releases oxytocin and endorphins.

Oxytocin is commonly referred to as the “love hormone” because it leads to feelings of intimacy, closeness, and strong social connections with someone else.

7.     Orgasms help mental health.

“Nothing is as relaxing as putting yourself in a place where you relieve stress,” says Dr. Gloria G. Bramer, a Georgia-based licensed clinical sexologist. “After you have an orgasm you release natural oxytocin to the brain, which balances you out.”

8.     Sex gets rid of cramps.

Bramer says that having sex may be the best way to relieve menstrual cramps. Many women say that by having an orgasm, they not only get instant relief from their cramps but also from other PMS related symptoms.

9.     Sex has healing powers.

Orgasm can help relieve chronic back and other pain.

10. Sex is connected to your libido.

Just as sex is tied to mental health and happiness, it’s also tied to your libido. Bramer says that when you are feeling stressed, your libido is going to suffer. This will in turn diminish your appetite for sex, which will also add to your risk of depression. Having sex is an instant mood enhancer that can reverse all of these symptoms.

Now, I will be the first to point out that the article, written by Colleen Moody, does not site source studies for these tidbits of information (other than the book by Dr. Fulbright and the quotes from Dr. Bramer), but I still find the list interesting.  These might be common sense things to some of you, but putting things into a neat little list can often be helpful.

Want to add to the list?  What mental health benefits do you find accompany sex and orgasm?

For those interested, you can find the original article here.

Lubricating Your Relationship

 

Early on in my practice, one of my clients told me that I had “saved her marriage“.  Since I always love to hear people’s stories, I asked her to explain how this happened.

“You recommended a good lubricant to me”, she said rather matter-of-factly.

I was a bit slow on the uptake and wasn’t sure how something this simple could have such a dramatic effect on her relationship, but she continued on.

“I was allergic to [insert name of the most popular over the counter brand], but it was the only stuff I knew to buy. So, when I would use it, I would have to have sex quickly and then immediately hop into the shower because it would burn. It was killing our sex life! But when I got a good lubricant from you, it didn’t burn. Now I actually enjoy having sex with my husband again!”

Lubricating Your Relationship

Let’s face it ladies, if we don’t have sufficient lubrication, sex is going to be at best uncomfortable and at worst excessively painful! There are all sorts of reasons why a woman might not have enough lubrication:

  • She might not be aroused enough
  • She might be on a medication that hinders lubrication (allergy & cold relief medications, antidepressants and even the birth control pill are notorious for having this side effect)
  • She might be headed into menopause, and the drop in our estrogen levels is causing changes in the way our body produces lubrication
  • She might be nervous or stressed out or exhausted
  • She might have just had a child or are still breastfeeding
  • She might be a smoker

There is nothing worse than wanting to be intimate with your husband but then being betrayed by your body when it refuses to lubricate properly! It creates a vicious cycle because next time you are considering having sex, you might hesitate because you are worried about it. Not only are you dealing with something physiological, but now it is psychological too!

A great lubricant will take this pressure off of you. You will no longer have to worry about getting wet enough so that sex doesn’t hurt. It allows you to relax and focus on enjoying yourself and him. And this makes for a much more satisfying sex life for both of you.

Thankfully, we live in a day in age when good lubricants are readily available. You can have one on your bedside table drawer, another in your travel bag, another in the shower. A lady once said to me that lubricants were like lipstick – no woman should have only one!

Here’s a run-down on the different types of lubricants:

Type

Pro’s

Con’s

Water-based

Easy and safe to use almost anywhere. They do not stain, are simple to wash off, and are safe for use with condoms or diaphragms.

Cannot use in water (as it will wash off) and are not long-lasting. Some brands can be sticky.

Silicone-based

Great for water play. They are long-lasting, non-sticky, and usually have a silky texture

Harder to wash off (as they are designed to last in water). Cannot be used with silicone-based toys

Petroleum-based

Good for anal play.

Cannot be used with condoms, diaphragms or cervical caps. Can be irritating vaginally. They are difficult to wash off and can stain the sheets.

Oil-based

Made from vegetable or nut oils.

Can feel greasy and stain the sheets. They are not recommended for use with condoms.

.

It might seem obvious from my pro’s and con’s table that I prefer water- and silicone-based lubricants; however, the point is that you have lots of options out there beyond [popular over the counter brand].

 


Weight loss after pregnancy

Dear Eryn-Faye,

I have a question about sex in my marriage. We have sex regularly, but ever since I became overweight, I don’t feel sexy because I am slightly overweight. I was at a healthy weight before becoming pregnant with my fourth child. He is 6 months old, and I am still overweight. I am trying to lose weight, but feel like my husband is sabotaging me. He believes in eating unhealthy foods and tries to guilt me into eating them. I try to eat only healthy foods and usually only eat my healthy foods anyway, but I hate the constant pressure, because sometimes I feel guilty and eat the unhealthy stuff to make him happy. I would like to exercise more, but I don’t have time. I am too busy keeping care of the house and kids. He says I need to exercise, but when I want to go to the gym, he says, “Will you change the diaper and feed the baby first? Oh, I hate it when you leave. Come sit on my lap.”  and I don’t end up going. I would like to  exercise 2 times a week at the gym. Now I am lucky if I get any exercise at all. He doesn’t think he prevents me from going, but he does. How can I help him understand that I need him to help me by allowing me to leave to go to the gym, and not pressuring me to eat unhealthy foods, so that I can enjoy sex more because I will feel sexier, and so that I can be at a healthy weight?

Allow me to start by saying, good for you for wanting to lose weight only 6 months after the birth of your fourth child!! Not only will shedding the extra pounds help you feel better about your body image, but it is also a healthy choice. Bravo! Here are a few tips and suggestions to overcoming the obstacles that you are facing:

  • Sit down, when the kids are in bed, and have a serious conversation with your husband about your desire to lose weight. Let him know why it is important to you (losing weight will make you feel more feminine, sexier, less stressed after a long day with the kids – whatever your reasons are).
  • In this conversation, let him know that he can demonstrate his love to you by supporting you on this issue. Then outline the specific ways that he can support you. (eg: “How you can help me, honey, is by taking care of the kids completely when I need to get out the door to the gym. This means changing diapers or feeding them if that is what they need.”
  • Use an analogy that he will understand. (eg: “Honey, when you need to de-stress from your day, your favourite thing to do is watch the game on TV [or play videos, or go out with the guys or whatever it is]. I support you when you need this activity in your life, and I am asking you to do the same for me.”)
  • Outline the benefits for him (eg: “Honey, when I am my ideal weight, I love having sex with you because I feel so sexy. Being overweight hampers my ability to get in the mood.” or whatever benefits he will receive from you losing weight)
  • Set a schedule for your days at the gym so that your husband won’t feel like the gym is constantly cutting into your alone time together and so that he will have a clear picture of when he is going to be “on deck” with the kids.
  • Don’t buy unhealthy foods! Very simply, don’t bring them into your home! They are called “unhealthy” for a reason – they are not good for you, your children or your husband. Of course, your husband is a grown man and can make his own choices. So, if he wants to eat this way, then he can do so during his work day, or go out with his friends, or swing by McDonalds or Dairy Queen on his way home from work to get his fix. There is absolutely no need to stock your house with such items and then beat yourself up because you caved to the temptation.

Finally, your husband is correct about one this – he is not the one preventing you from going to the gym – you are the only one doing that. You can make different choices so that you can get the outcome you are wanting and deserve. You can do it, and I am cheering you on!!

Warmly,
Eryn-Faye, Passion Coach

ED in Newlyweds

Dear Eryn-Faye,

As a newlywed wife my husband experienced E.D. (he is only 47) on our honeymoon and the problem has cont’d, specifically the inability to maintain the erection. We have tried all the meds out there, we are now exploring injection and it has worked better. Nonetheless, the doctor basically assessed that my husband does not have a physical problem but that it was mental. As a wife, I do not fit in the category of a passive, sexual partner. Rather I am more assertive, have lots of desire but am turned off with the E.D. and my husband knows it. He has said that I “shoot him down”. Please help. We have been married a little over one year.

Let me begin by saying that my heart goes out to you during this painful and difficult time. The first year of marriage often brings issues to light which can feel overwhelming, particularly when they are of a sexual nature. Please allow me to offer you some resources which might help your specific circumstances.

First of all, I encourage you to continue to work with your doctors to find a medical or psychological answer to what you are facing in your sexual relationship. They will have knowledge of the most recent therapies that are available that would be suitable to your circumstances and your husband’s state of health. As you are pursuing that avenue, here are a few other suggestions:

On the Ask Eryn-Faye section of my website, I have answered a question which pertains to erectile difficulties and there might be some helpful information there.  While the couple who wrote in were older than you and your husband, you might find the principles of the article to be helpful. As an encouragement to you, 47 isn’t too young to be dealing with erectile difficulties; in fact, I coached one couple in their 20’s who were dealing with this issue.

No matter what age they are, every man wants to be the superhero in the bedroom and losing that ability strikes deeply at their ego. It is crucial right now that your actions do not exacerbate an already complicated issue by making your husband feel more inadequate than he is already feeling. In fact, if the problem is indeed psychological then the tension that the two of you are experiencing over the matter is going to aggravate it. Maintaining sexual intimacy (even if you cannot have penetration) is very important during this stage. If your husband is initiating sex, then by all means – take him up on the offer!  But as a woman who identifies as assertive, you as well can (and should) communicate your desire for him by instigating sexual intimacy and/or activity.

If he cannot experience or maintain an erection, then allow him to pleasure you in other ways. Experiment with different ways to achieve orgasm (manual, oral, etc.). If you are a woman who needs to have something inside of her to feel that your sexual experience is “complete”, then ask him to use his fingers or a bedroom toy. Channel all that desire that you have into building your sexual relationship even if it looks different than what you had envisioned.

Finally, it is important to prevent the issue of sexual dysfunction from overtaking all aspects of your relationship. Obviously, there was something about your husband that caused you to fall in love and marry him, so focus on those areas and build on them so that they grow deeper as you both seek solutions to address the erectile difficulties.

Thank you so much for reaching out to me with this very important question. It is very important that you feel the freedom to ask questions, as asking questions is an important way to see your relationship with your husband grow and deepen. If you have any further questions or comments, I would love to hear from you again!!

Warmly,
Eryn-Faye, Passion Coach

Co-dependent Issues

Dear Eryn-Faye,

My question is how to handle a co-dependent relationship issue.

My boyfriend and I have been dating for a year and a half and my boyfriend won’t let me keep anything at his place or introduce me to his parents. Exceptions are toothbrush, toothpaste and shampoo. This took almost a year before I was permitted to leave these basic items at his home.

To say my boyfriend is territorial and defensive is an understatement.

My boyfriend says that he is protecting his mother and has had negative experiences in the past and does not want to cause her anymore stress from relationships that could possibly fail.

Furthermore, my boyfriend has asked me to marry him during sex and then afterwards, once back to reality, he changes his mind. He says that saying things like “he wants to marry me” heightens his sexual experience and that I take things too seriously. I am beginning to resent his lack of empathy for my feelings.

I love many things about my boyfriend and am perplexed in how to address these issues without causing a big argument.

I feel disposable in the relationship when my boyfriend treats me this way.

I have tried to address these issues with him and am at my wits end….

Suggestions are more than welcome…

Let me begin by saying that my heart goes out to you right now. I can understand that you are frustrated and need some outside insight on your situation!

In my practice, I often speak with couples about the three “C’s” – commitment, communication, and consummation (aka sex). These elements provide the foundation for a healthy, long-lasting relationship. If you are weak or lacking in one or more areas, then the entirety of your relationship is in jeopardy.

Commitment is the element which binds the couple together through thick and thin. It is not only the decision that “I am with this person”, but also the decision to make healthy sacrifices for your partner because you recognize their individual value. As we deepen our commitment, we realize that our own selfishness is a hindrance to our relationship and with it we will not grow as a couple. The tricky part about commitment is that both parties have to be on board. If one partner is constantly sacrificing for the other out of fear of making the other partner mad, or starting a huge fight, or being left by their partner, then there is a breakdown in the whole system.

Communication is the freedom to express what we are feeling and thinking with our partner without the fear of retribution. It is how we let that person really get to know who we are – our likes and dislikes, why we react a certain way, what our dreams are for our lives. It is also the way we do check-ups on our relationship – are we meeting each other’s needs, are we showing love to our partner in a manner that they understand, how can we work to correct the issue that we are facing together in our relationship.

Your boyfriend’s lack of desire or willingness to fully incorporate you into his life and his blatant lack of regard for your feelings lead me to think that he is not willing to develop the commitment or communication part of your relationship. I was horrified by his explanation for saying he wants to marry you during sex as just to “heighten his sexual experience.” (By the way, I did mention this situation to a few of my male colleagues, just to get a male perspective on your boyfriend, and they were all equally as horrified.) The general consensus was that his actions and comments do not reflect someone who is interested in a healthy relationship.

I am also concerned that you might be struggling with some underlining self-esteem issues which are the source of why you allow your boyfriend to treat you in such a manner. A counselor will help you understand your worth as a person, break patterns that you might have which lead you into unhealthy relationships, and shed light on ways that you can develop healthy relationships with people who value and respect you.

I realize that this is “messy” and maybe it is not what you wanted to hear from me. However, I would love to be here for you as you walk through these issues, and I welcome any further questions that you have. Please feel free to write back at any time!

Warmly,

Eryn-Faye, Passion Coach

Doctor Prescribed Sex

My husband and I have been trying to have a second child now for three years. It took us a year and a half to conceive our daughter, and we figured that since we had obviously figured out how to do it, it would be easy the second time. WRONG! Although all our tests are clean, we have not been able to “get one past the goalie” as my husband so eloquently puts it.

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Not too long ago, we decided that we would take our trying to the next level and follow our doctor’s advice to go on Clomid, the fertility drug that is prescribed to a lot of women in my situation. As we were chatting with the doctor, I decided to be frank and asked, “So, doc, is this the drug that will turn me into a raving lunatic?” She laughed and diplomatically said, “Well, there can be some side effects with the increase of hormones in your system.” She then proceeded to give us the instructions on how to take the drugs. “Take them from days 3-7 and then have sex on days 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, and 18.” Turning to my husband, she then said, “If you have any business trips to take, schedule them for the rest of her cycle.” And then she gave him a very sympathetic smile. Humm. I suppose this was her way of being more direct to my earlier question. We got a good giggle and left the office to follow her instructions.

Now, for all of you out there who are thinking “I wish I could have sex that often!” let me say that doctor prescribed sex is not all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it is awful. It turns something that is supposed to be fun, pleasurable and even spiritual into a chore that needs to be ticked off your “to-do” list. You have to do it (or else you feel guilty for not doing your best to get pregnant), you can’t use lubricant (it kills the sperm), and there is no cuddling afterwards (your bum is stuck up in the air on a pillow). Add that to the hormonal changes you go through if you are on the fertility drugs, and ups and downs you feel as you hope, hope, hope and then are disappointed, and the whole experience can really make your sex life take a nose-dive.

In my business as a Passion Coach, many women have come to me to discuss the ramifications of infertility on their sex lives. Their stories are remarkably similar. They speak about the fact that their minds are constantly on getting pregnant, which makes it very difficult to be romantic and stay in the mood because their mind keeps wandering to whether or not this will be the time that they conceive. They are constantly thinking about what day it is, and whether their period is going to come this month or not. Some husbands feel so much pressure that they cannot get and maintain an erection (which, of course, frustrates both them and their wives!). And underling all of their experiences – the waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting.

So, how do we maintain good sex lives in the midst of all of this? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Add variety to love-making (change rooms or the time of day that you have sex, add candles or music, play strip poker, etc.)
  • Make sure to have sex even on days which are not “doctor prescribed” so that your sexual relationship isn’t completely tied to the task of procreation
  • Find some friends or a support group to talk to so that you don’t feel isolated during this time
  • Try to find the humor in the midst of attempts to conceive (ie: read a funny yet honest blog, allow yourself to laugh)
  • Take steps to reduce stress in your life (ie: physical exercise, learn stress reduction techniques such as yoga, choose to try to conceive during times of lower stress in your career, and laugh (see point above)
  • Explore other options like adoption, IVF, or acupuncture
  • Set a time period of “trying” interspersed with a period of taking a break (and really take the break – toss out the charts, put away the thermometer, stop tracking your cycle)
  • As best as possible, make peace with the concept of not having a biological child

But at the end of the day, the thing to remember through this is what originally drove this whole thing – a desire to come together as a couple in the deepest of ways. I say that we need to remember that because in the midst of “baby making sex” it is easy to forget to make love. And that is what this is all about really. The intent of the exercise is to fall deeper in love with your spouse, so don’t let it become a wedge that drives you apart.

Losing the Spark

Dear Eryn-Faye,

My husband and I have been married 40 years and in our early sixties. Five years ago our mom and pop business of 10 yrs went bankrupt and have done nothing since job-wise. Now one of us is getting a small pension, and we struggle to get by.  There is almost zero conversation between us, and we have nothing in common except for two married children who live.  I feel very alone much of the time. My husband does not like company so I never invite people over to save embarrassment. What to do–I have tried several approaches but almost anything I say–I get “oh woman” and remarks like that.  We are both educated but my level of confidence has gone down the drain and am depressed — Both have health problems which does not help.  For me-sex has become a task–help please!

As I read your email, a few thoughts came to mind. First of all, congratulations on having 40 years of marriage! That is quite a feat in this day in age! Sustaining a marriage takes work, and you have obviously been very committed to your husband.

From what you have written, it sounds like you are feeling quite isolated and alone. I would love to see you break out of this cycle and develop some friendships. If your husband does not like company at the house, then find it outside of the house. Here are a few suggestions of things you can try:

  1. Join a club. There are lots of organizations which are focused on social responsibility and volunteerism, such as the Lion’s Club. They are great avenues to serving your community as well as building personal relationships. Likewise, there are clubs which are formed around a common hobby, such as quilting, running, or reading.
  2. Become a volunteer. Non profit organizations are always looking for help to achieve their mandates. For example, you could check out your local food bank, children’s hospital, or home for abused women.
  3. Join a church group. Many larger churches have groups which meet throughout the week to meet the needs of their parishioners. These groups are often organized into age categories, or common interests, etc.
  4. Get a part-time job. You will need to check to see if this is an option given the fact that you are on a pension (sometimes working violates the conditions of the pension and is therefore not a good idea). Even if you are flipping burgers, you will be making a little bit of money (which will help on the home front) as well as connecting with the world around you. Don’t let your age get in the way – many people in their sixties are realizing that youth is just a state of mind and that they are too young to retire!

You might be asking yourself – how will any of this help my marriage? For a few reasons: first and foremost, the weight of being your only companion is very heavy for your husband to bear. Even if you are very involved with your children, having friends outside of your family helps you continue to grow as an individual and that will bring new life into your family relationships. Along those lines, men really don’t like to talk as much as women do. Biologically, they are “built” very differently than us, and they are very uncomfortable with the level of communication that we need. If you can create relationships with other women, you will find your need for communication much better satiated that expecting your husband to meet 100% of those needs for you. If you would like some books to read on this subject, Dr. Scott Haltzman’s books The Secrets of Happily Married Women and The Secrets of Happily Married Men and are both excellent resources.

Feelings of isolation and depression, as well as stress about finances, are all challenges to the intimacy of a marriage. It is not surprising that sex feels like a chore for you! As women, we reach out sexually when our emotional needs are being met. And for men, it is the opposite – when their sexual needs are met, they can reach out emotionally. So, continue to make sex a priority (I can give you a list of tips and suggestions to make it fun if you would like!), but branch out beyond your home to build friendships too.

I would love to hear back from you as you try new things and explore your options! Please write again to update me or ask new questions!

Sincerely,

Eryn-Faye, Passion Coach