Tag Archives: Therapy

Rekindling the Bedroom Flame

Sex doesn’t just happen like it does in the movies.  People are not always swept away with fireworks and mutual orgasms.  Instead, human beings have to learn how to make love.  Unlike dogs, cats, birds, and other animals that have sex as an instinctive joining for procreation, for humans it’s a learned behavior.

When people look at porn or read romance novels (the female version of porn), they think that’s how sex is supposed to be.  However, it takes time to get to know each other’s bodies and communicate (which is usually the part people don’t do).  Oftentimes, couples feel embarrassed or think certain things are taboo.

This is where sex therapy comes in.  Most people believe that something has to be broken in order for them to go to sex therapy. However, the first thing you should know is that you don’t have to wait until there’s a sexual problem in your relationship before you get help.  After many years of habits forming and walls going up, certain feelings and behaviors get entrenched and often become hard to reverse.   A lot of divorces could be avoided if people dealt with these things sooner.

There are all kinds of events and experiences which get in the way of people feeling comfortable, relaxed, and open.  If there’s a medical issue (cancer treatment, surgical procedure, physical disability, etc.), a history of sexual abuse or rape, or perhaps lovemaking has simply slipped from your schedule, sex therapy can help with a number of areas.

The goal is to talk about your feelings, thoughts, and fantasies with your spouse and put them out there for the therapist to examine.  If a guy is too quick to the draw or a woman can’t seem to be able to reach an orgasm, these kinds of issues can be addressed openly and honestly. It’s all about sexual and emotional enhancement, and having some fun too!

Now let me dispel one fear right off the bat.  When you go to sex therapy, you don’t have sex in the office.  Some people think, “Oh my gosh, are we going to have to get naked and do stuff in front of the therapist?!”  No, you don’t.  And by the way, if you do go to somebody who tells you to get naked and do things, get out of there and report them.

If you’re not feeling satisfied, if you’re dealing with erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation, if you want to experiment but your spouse doesn’t (or vice versa), if painful issues from your past are interring, or if you feel like infidelity is the only answer, then you and your spouse should see a sex therapist.

That being said, not all sexual issues require therapy.  I have some tips for you and your spouse to try first:

In the beginning of a terrific relationship, most people are in the mood most of the time.  But with careers, kids, and the house, life becomes busy with demands and responsibilities.  People underestimate the importance of hugging, touching, and loving on a daily basis.  You need to make time for each other.  Be sure to talk about something more than what bills need to be paid or what has to happen tomorrow. 

When you’ve made time together, it’s important not to expect that you will both be aroused and filled with desire immediately.  In addition, don’t stick to a formula.  For example, “I do this same thing to turn him/her on and then we go to sleep” isn’t romantic.  Playful interaction is important.  Think about it as improvisational jazz or a dance: make it spontaneous and have some fun with it.

Moreover, don’t make the orgasm the be-all, end-all.  It’s been calculated that we spend eight hours of our lives in orgasm.  That’s not a lot of time.  Having an orgasm is great, but it’s not necessarily the point.  Your focus should be on the amount of time spent lovemaking or else you’ll miss out on a lot of fun.

Most importantly, communication is the best way to get positive feedback.  When you go to an expensive restaurant, you take time with the menu, you discuss the possibilities, you savor every bite, you share from each other’s plates, and you talk about the meal afterwards – the presentation, the flavors, the sauces, the ingredients, etc.  Do the same with sex (e.g. “I love it when you touch me exactly like that.”).  Talking about sex does not take the romance away, and in fact, giving feedback to your partner about what you find pleasurable is a wonderful gift because then he or she knows they’re not failing. 

Your Spouse Has Cheated. Now What?

In the movie Closer, Clive Owen’s character grills Julie Roberts’ character about the nature of her infidelity.  He bombards her with a barrage of questions about the frequency, timing, whereabouts, type, quality and orgasmic nature of the sex she had with the interloper until she finally asks, “God, why is the sex so important?!”

Men and women react to infidelity differently. Women are more concerned with the emotional side while men care more about the sex. This is a result of hardwiring to a certain extent.  Females want to know if their male can still be a provider and protector for their young.  Males, on the other hand, are primarily invested in the preservation of their genes.  This is why, like Clive Owen’s character, men will ask about the sex and women will ask about the romantic feelings involved. 

Once you understand the differences in how men and women react to an infidelity, the next question becomes, “What should I do if I find out that my husband/wife has cheated on me?” 

First, you need to know that it’s possible for a marriage to survive an affair. In fact, the healing process can even improve the quality of the marriage. However, in order to improve the chances of your marriage staying together, you and your spouse need to seek professional help. 

Therapy helps you have adult conversations and develop skills to resolve your problems. When choosing a therapist, try to find one who has been in a long-term marriage. Be aware that therapists who have been recently divorced have a higher percentage of their patients and clients divorce.

I recommend high quality professional assistance because in order for you and your spouse to truly work through your challenges, you’re going to have to see and accept that both of you played some role in the infidelity. I am not saying that somebody had the right to cheat; I simply mean that if you decide to stay with each other, you have to figure out why things got so bad to the point that someone cheated. The success of your marriage pins on your ability to change the behaviors that alienated each other in the first place.  

If you truly think you did everything perfectly, then dump your spouse. You’re either right and this person is just a bad apple, or you’re not in touch with them enough to work it out. Either way, the relationship doesn’t have a chance of succeeding.  Don’t sit around playing the blame game for your unhappiness or their lack of a moral compass – it’s a recipe for disaster. 

However, if both of you are willing to work, there are some common mistakes you should try to avoid:

Don’t spend your time humiliating, debasing, challenging, and assaulting the cheater. Instead, try to get to the bottom of what hurt the relationship in the first place (e.g. lack of affection, being too busy to be sweet, etc.).

Contacting the person they had the affair with is usually futile. It rarely uncovers the whole truth, and oftentimes, the exposure alone will make them back off.

Naïvely taking your spouse’s word that he or she has ended the affair is one thing, but constantly following them around and checking their phone and email every five minutes is another. Yes, most people need help disengaging from an affair because there is a tremendous amount of physical and emotional investment.  However, hitting them with guilt nonstop isn’t going to help anything. 

Finally, realize that it’s going to take time. 

Ultimately, if your spouse has cheated, you need to ask yourself the following question: Is this a pattern of behavior (i.e. a reflection of their character), or is this a single event which indicates that something seriously wrong in the marriage wasn’t respectfully dealt with? Between work, the kids, and everything else going on, did one or both of you stop paying attention to the relationship? With better communication, better decisions can be made and priorities can be adjusted.  Hopefully, in the end, you can both look back at the affair as a slap on the back of the head reminding you that you weren’t paying attention to the relationship.

Getting the Most Out of Therapy

Once I started becoming more “known” from my radio program and books, I had to give up my private practice.  Folks would come in for sessions and expect me to work magic in three and a half minutes.  It became clear to me that I couldn’t be as effective one-on-one anymore.  So instead, I wrote books and did my show because I thought that those were the best ways I could help people.  

However, there are times on my program when I tell callers that they need to do a little more extensive work.  I can give them a jump-start, but they need to pick up where we left off in therapy.

Therapy can be a very complicated process, and there aren’t many therapists who do it well.  When looking for a therapist, there are a few things you need to do.  First, and most importantly, you have to form a relationship with your therapist.  When people call in to my program, they generally have listened to me for a while.  This means that they have already developed a kind of relationship with me in their minds.  When you go into somebody’s office for therapy, it usually takes a while to form that relationship. Without it, there isn’t going to be trust.  Although it seems like I receive instant trust from the people who call in to my show, that’s not really the case.  Most callers have been listening to me for a long time (sometimes 20 years or more), and therefore, the trust part is pretty much all squared away. 

Your clinician also needs to be a good fit for you.  Not every therapist makes the same choices or has the same personality and expertise. For example, when I was involved in private practice, I would not deal with anyone’s insurance companies.  They paid for their sessions, and I signed the insurance papers for them to submit.  I did this because I didn’t want my fights with an insurance company to interfere with our relationship.   

In addition, I believe that your first session should be free and on the phone.  It’s not really a session – it’s simply you asking a lot of questions.  You can always look up somebody’s license and credentials, but you still need to ask them about their expertise.  A lot of people get psychology licenses of various kinds and then claim that they can do anything.  However, there are specific areas of expertise.  Make sure you ask.  If you’re nervous about asking questions, first write them down on a piece of paper.  You may be less afraid to ask them if you put them in writing. 

This process may be uncomfortable, but if you don’t feel safe and comfortable with the therapist at first, you are not likely going to meet your goals with them later. 

Personally, I think that if you are seeking marital therapy, you should ask if the therapist is divorced.  Statistically speaking, when a therapist is divorced, he or she is more permissive of divorce.  And if they’re more permissive of divorce, it may impact how you perceive your marriage.  It’s the same old thing – if other people have done it, we feel like it’s more acceptable.  So, be sure to ask if they’re divorced and for how long.

Also ask about their ethics and how they’ve continued their education.  Once you’re done asking everything you want to ask, repeat this process with three to five more therapists.  See who gets defensive and who answers your questions openly. 

I know it can be intimidating or feel like you’re being impolite, but you must ask questions.  The truth is, your therapist is your hired help.  And if you do hire them, you’ll want to be able to ask them honest questions later, such as, “I don’t understand how this is helping; can you please explain it to me?” 

Nevertheless, you must also remember that the therapist does not assume the entire burden.  Therapy is hard work, and in order to improve, you have to do the work.  It’s the same principle as playing the piano – if you don’t practice, you’re not going to play very well.  You may notice that I often give assignments to callers on my program.   That’s because change doesn’t happen in one session – it happens outside of the session.  It’s an active process.  You can’t expect to go to therapy once a week and then not give it a moment’s thought until the next session.  The sessions are important but so is your effort to reflect on the content of those sessions and apply it on a daily basis. If you don’t make progress, it could very well be your own fault.  As I’ve said many times on the air, “Hey, I’m not going to work harder on your life than you are.” 

Finally, you need to expect that at some point during therapy, things could become extremely painful, uncomfortable, or unpleasant.  There are often blockages you have to work through.  You may start placing some of your past relationship issues on your therapist or treat them as if they were your mother, father, sister, etc.  Sometimes you’ll want to quit therapy or wonder why you’re bothering to spend money to be in pain.   You might even develop a habit of arriving late to sessions as a mechanism of avoidance.  However, when you start freaking out or getting defensive, you absolutely must go back and talk to your therapist about it.  Say, for example, “After opening up to you last time about ___, I became very vulnerable.”  Really good therapists are trained to understand and deal with your concerns.   

To bring it full circle, this is why establishing an initial relationship with your therapist is important – you need to be able to discuss anything and everything.  If you don’t trust your therapist or don’t feel like they believe in you, there will be no change.  You’ll simply reenact the same patterns with them and everybody else.

Shooting Pool is Great Therapy

I’ve been taking lessons in shooting pool now each week for two years.  My teacher, Al Vafa, is a pro:  an interesting, funny, smart, thoughtful guy, and a magnificent pool player.

If I am in the right mindset, the average “not that serious” pool player would have a hard time beating me.  Again, that is if I am in the right mindset.  It took the better part of the first year of lessons to stop saying “I suck,” to stop crying, getting angry, and even once actually breaking my costly pool cue.

This was not just about pool.  This was a metaphor for my life.  My dad was ferocious with me.  I remember the day before a science project was due for a school science fair, I went into the back yard, picked out some flowers, pulled them apart, glued them onto a poster board, and named all the parts.  It wasn’t very neat, and it wasn’t very brilliant, but it was something to hand in so I wouldn’t get into trouble.  My dad came home, took one look at it, and went ballistic.  I was up most of the night with him, tears streaming down my face the whole time, redoing the project in HIS image.

The next day at the science fair, when the judges came to my “perfect” project, I said…nothing.  They asked me questions.  I remained silent.  They prodded me some more, but I remained silent.  Finally, writing on their pads, they moved on.

One of my teachers called my parents that night to find out what in the heck was wrong.

My dad, furious we had done all that work and then I hadn’t presented it properly, demanded to know why I said nothing.  Fearfully, I answered, “Because it wasn’t mine.”  I honestly don’t remember what he said after that, but this was the atmosphere during all my “growing-up” years.
 
Two things came from that experience:  one really good, and one really bad.

The really good part was I became highly motivated to prove to him I wasn’t “stupid” (as he constantly called me).  That gave me self-motivation and a drive to work very, very hard.
 
The really bad part was I found it hard to forgive myself the realities of a learning curve (i.e., it takes time to master things).  I was hard on myself when I couldn’t do well quickly.

What does this have to do with shooting pool?  It has been magnificent therapy.

After the breaking of the cue stick, I struggled to remove my emotions and accept the learning curve and the reality even pros miss sometimes.  I learned my mind had to be clear of self-recrimination in order for my body and brain to work on the strokes.  I learned I could have fun while not being perfect (something my dad never learned in his life).

I also got this lesson from learning how to sail:  doing my job (steering) and working with a team (the boat’s crew).

This is one reason hobbies are so important:  they help you learn life lessons in a safer environment.

I am grateful for all the friends and teachers who have helped me appreciate life more and enjoy myself in a deeper way.