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  • feedwordpress 13:00:18 on 2014/10/17 Permalink
    Tags: Esther's Blog   

    Cultivating Erotic Intelligence in Couples Therapy 

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    Originally published on PsychotherapyNetworker.org

    Reconciling Sensuality and Domesticity

    America, in matters of sex as in much else, seems to be a goal-oriented society that prefers explicit meanings, candor, and “plain speech” to ambiguity and allusion. In America, this predilection for clarity and unvarnished directness, often associated with honesty and openness, is encouraged by many therapists in their clients: “If you want to make love to your wife/husband, why don’t you say it clearly? And tell him/her exactly what you want.”

    But I often suggest an alternative with my clients: “There’s so much direct talk already in the everyday conversations couples have with each other,” I tell them. “If you want to create more passion in your relationship, why don’t you play a little more with the natural ambiguity of gesture and words, and the rich nuances inherent in communication.”
    Ironically, some of America’s best features—the belief in democracy, equality, consensus-building, compromise, fairness, and mutual tolerance—can, when carried too punctiliously into the bedroom, result in very boring sex. Sexual desire doesn’t play by the same rules of good citizenship that maintain peace and contentment in the social relations between partners. Sexual excitement is politically incorrect, often thriving on power plays, role reversals, unfair advantages, imperious demands, seductive manipulations, and subtle cruelties. American couples therapists, shaped by the legacy of egalitarian ideals, often find themselves challenged by these contradictions.

    What I’d characterize as a European emphasis on complementarity—the appeal of difference—rather than strict gender equality has, it seems to me, made women on the other side of the Atlantic feel less conflict between being smart and being sexy. In Europe, to sexualize a woman doesn’t mean to denigrate her intelligence or competence or authority. Women, therefore, can enjoy expressing their sexuality and being objects of desire, and enjoy their sexual power, without feeling they’re forfeiting their right to be taken seriously as professionals and workers.

    Of course, American feminists achieved momentous improvements in all aspects of women’s lives. Yet without denigrating those historically significant achievements, I do believe that the emphasis on egalitarian and respectful sex—purged of any expressions of power, aggression, and transgression—is antithetical to erotic desire, for men and women alike.

    Read more of this article on PsychotherapyNetworker.org »

    What do you think?


    In our newest webcast series — The Changing Face of Marriage — I will explore the fundamental changes marriage is undergoing in our contemporary world. With a captivating breakdown of the different ways that Baby Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials are interpreting everything from marital traditions to sexual exploration to divorce, my interview sheds light on what every therapist should know when facing these issues in the consulting room.

    Watch each Webcast session as it airs weekly starting Wednesday, October 22. Take a full year to watch them all again and again at your convenience. Download audio, transcripts, and bonus readings to add to your permanent library. Add CEs now or any time during the year.

  • feedwordpress 13:00:03 on 2014/10/14 Permalink
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    Does your partner think you’re working too much? 

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    Here’s a painfully familiar situation: You’re heading home after a day at work that ran longer than you expected, and the tone of the text exchange you just had with your partner makes it clear he or she is upset. So, you spend the commute having a conversation with them in your head, in which you convincingly explain why you’re late, and how he or she responds with perfect understanding. Then you get home and before you get through the first line of your well-practiced explanation, the two of you are arguing.

    That argument doesn’t have to happen. With a few subtle shifts in how you approach the conversation, you and your partner can move beyond the stalemate.

    1. Apologize Less And Thank More
    Your justification for being late is probably sound; it’s also probably just what she expects to hear. After all, she’s been having the same conversation in her head that you’ve been having in yours. So take the conversation somewhere new. Say, ’Thank you. Without you here doing what you do, I can’t do what I do. Let her know you appreciate that she takes over for you when you can’t be home.

    2. Don’t Think Of It As A Conflict
    The minute you set up a conflict, you fuel it, closing the door on the vulnerabilities underneath. You’re both looking for more understanding, compassion and empathy, but it’s always easier to argue than express more complicated emotions like loneliness or sadness or insecurity. Whatever the particulars, you’ve likely had the argument many times before, so don’t go toward the same impasse. Try to go under it.

    3. You Create The Person Who Receives You
    Your partner admires you for working hard – it’s likely part of why he fell for you in the first place – so acknowledge if you’ve taken that for granted. Are you quicker to respond to texts from co-workers than from him? Are you always able to take work lunches but never have lunch with him? “If you make him feel like he always comes last, when you get home he’s going to remind you that he exists. Ask yourself,”When was the last time I made my partner feel like he matters?”

    4. It’s Not About The Work
    It’s about the way you work and how that affects her. Arguments are rarely about the content, they’re about what the content evokes in people. Instead of trying harder to get her to see your point, try harder to see her point. If you hold up her flag for her, she can let go of it, and that gives her room to see your flag.

    * This advice was adapted in a recent blog post on fatherly.com.

    Looking for more guidance? You’re in luck: October Workshop Class Topic #2 (tomorrow!) is Pursuing Passion: From the Office to the Bedroom. Sign up here.

  • feedwordpress 12:00:07 on 2014/10/09 Permalink
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    Relationships from a tourist lens 

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    Ours is a culture that often encourages complete enmeshment with our partners – so there are no secrets, no boundaries, nothing personal or private away from your partner. The problem with this is that you need to keep your individuality intact in order for a relationship to keep it’s spark.

    It is our affinities, our commonalities and shared experiences that anchor our intimacy, but it is our differences, the mystery of the “other” that creates passion.

    If you do everything with your partner, what new do you have to discuss and share? If you are in the bathroom while your partner does their most unpleasant business, how do you then turn around and see them in a passionate way?

    This enmeshment is not as common abroad. It is better understood overseas that you need to maintain independence and a level of mystery in order to keep passion burning.

    By keeping your independence and NOT being an open book who does nothing without your partner you maintain the mystery and interest needed for passion.

    A vibrant relationship is a happy and fulfilling marriage.

    Don’t give up your favorite things or your activities with friends. Make time to go out with your best friends without your partner. Did you have a favorite activity pre-partnership that you never do anymore? Go do it – alone or with friends.

    Don’t make every activity be with your partner – it’s just too much. Then, when you come together you have different things to share, unique experiences and that difference, the mystery is intact.

  • feedwordpress 13:00:30 on 2014/10/05 Permalink
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    Our intimate relationships affect our overall health 

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    Two weeks ago, I flew to San Francisco to attend the Health 2.0 Conference to remind the health industry that this is true.

    During a panel discussion titled “The Unmentionables,” we made the argument to the healthcare industry that the definition of health needs to be expanded to include the topics of relationship, caregiving and financial stress (all of which can be classified as either buffers or magnifiers that deeply affect our health, though aren’t often integrated into traditional care delivery).

    These issues are as impactful on our health as diabetes or asthma, therefore helping people manage these things better is vital to improving our overall health and wellbeing.

    One key element to relational health is effective and honest communication. Many of us spend hours talking about sex, without ever talking about sexual and emotional boundaries — yet boundaries are at the core of our sexual life. Your physical and psycological borders are what allow you to know where you stop and another person starts. What’s allowed? What’s forbidden? What’s in? What’s out? What’s us? What’s me?

    While some of you may openly discuss the terms of your emotional turf, very few couples actually negotiate sexual boundaries, as if personal parameters are just understood. I find that most conversations about boundaries are conversation stoppers rather than a gateway to open dialogue.

    In a world where the boundaries of intimacy are fluid and vague, how do you balance privacy and transparency? Are the lines in your own relationship clear? If your partner breeches your trust, how do you deal with emotional pain, betrayal and rifts? How would describe your conversations around sexual boundaries with your partner?

    To communicate your boundaries and expectations, you must first understand them. We must develop language and guidelines for talking about the terms of your personal exclusiveness or openness.

    Join me this October as I guide you in developing a framework of understanding and give you tools to communicate your sexual and emotional boundaries. Workshop Topic #1: New Technology: New Boundaries.

    Reclaim Curiosity, Connection & Passion – 4 week Online Workshop
    Includes four 60 minute live conversations with Esther, question & answer sessions, relationship enhancing exercises each week, and a private Facebook Group dialogue. Audio and video recordings will be sent to participants within 24 hours of each class, so you can watch & listen anytime, any place. Singles & couples from all sexual orientations are welcome.

    Register NOW while there’s still time

  • feedwordpress 13:00:42 on 2014/09/26 Permalink
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    How therapists approach infidelity in the office 

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    Infidelity enters my office in some many ways. I can be with a person who’s in the thralls of an affair or one who is thinking about it or who is trying to resist one. Or I can be with a person who’s partner in having an affair. I can be with the lovers, or with adults whose parents had an affair, a person who is the child of an illicit liaison, or children whose parents are in an affair. We say “an affair”, “an infidelity” and we must always define what it means. I can be with a disclosed or an undisclosed affair, one that I am sure is going on but no one in the couple wants to ask or tell. I can be with a person who has left his or her marriage and who’s affair has now become the primary relationship. My main entry point into the narrative of a couple with an affair is the day after (disclosure or discovery). How do we handle that couple that comes in?

    First of all, we try to look at infidelity from the larger context. Is there anything that’s different in terms of the subject of infidelity today? If there is anything new that is generational? Are we in a particular era in a particular ethos at this moment? How can we look at it by introducing a level of complexity, nuance, and multicultural perspective?

    For most of history infidelity was pretty much an imposition on women. It was about economics and lineage– whose children are these and who gets the house? It had nothing to do with love. Men benefited from a double standard, and had the freedom to roam with little consequence. Marriage and adultery have always lived side by its side.

    Some of the things that have changed have to do with our expectations in marriage and especially the way that love and passion have entered into marriage as well as intimacy and trust, and affection – the fuel of the romantic relationship. Marriage has became a story of love and disillusionment. We have moved from a world of duty to a world of feelings, where we are desirable for who we are as individuals, for our internal selves, our essence, if you will, not for our family name or social position.

    Modern love—the romantic contract—is based on a sense of mutuality and reciprocity. We hold our partners in the highest regard, and we trust that they do the same. We matter to each other; we are central to each other’s lives. You have my back, as I have yours. We are in this together. I matter to you, and you recognize my uniqueness.
    Beneath betrayal is the loss of the grand ambition of love: I matter, I am unique, I am irreplaceable and indispensable for at least one person. Infidelity tells me I’m not. Infidelity today is a narrative of trauma and betrayal.

    Not only did the meaning of marriage change, so too the meaning of monogamy. It used to be one person for life, now it is one person at a time. It has become more fluid and it, as my colleague Tammy Nelson writes, “exists on a continuum.” Other major social changes have accompanied this. We have premarital sex. Once you’ve been able to be sexual, even promiscuous, before commitment, surrendering that freedom gives an entirely new meaning to the idea of exclusiveness of sex within marriage.

    We also have the women’s movement, the gay movement, and contraception. We have a lot of things that have changed the meaning of sexuality in long term relationships. The other huge change is we live twice as long and remain sexual through the decades of our life. All this is entering my room when I see a couple in my office.

  • feedwordpress 12:00:02 on 2014/09/19 Permalink
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    Therapists are not problem solvers 

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    When we explain to the couple that it is up to them to make changes, what do we say when they ask why are you here, what is your role?

    Whenever a couple poses this question, I will say: “Ultimately, I can come up with the best ideas but you are the only ones who can free yourself.” I can open the doors to the cell, but they have to walk through. It is our job to keep them accountable and honest about their contribution. We help them take the risks that will ultimately make them feel more self-respecting and more committed to making a difference rather than simply blaming the others. Our role is to help them understand themselves better in the relationship and how they want to change to be a better partner, creating the relationship that they want. I am here for all that, but ultimately I’m not going home with them.

  • feedwordpress 13:00:47 on 2014/09/16 Permalink
    Tags: Esther's Blog   

    Reclaim Curiosity, Connection & Passion 

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    Register now for my Fall Online Workshop

    You will explore four key erotic and emotional challenges we all face. With my bold guidance, you will learn how to manage control struggles, negotiate boundaries, balance work and home, and overcome hurt. Throughout the course (which you can do anytime, any place), you will gain new perspectives so you can move beyond comfort zones, old ideas, and into an expansive and fully-charged sexuality.

    Join us on Wednesdays in October (8, 15, 22 & 29) from 7:00pm – 8:00pm ET for a transformative online workshop experience.

    This workshop is for you if:

    • You are eager to invest in dramatically improving your intimate relationship.
    • You’re willing to challenge yourself and to let go of old ideas that keep you stuck.
    • You understand that changing your relationship means changing yourself.
    • You want to cultivate erotic intelligence.

    Singles and couples of all sexual orientations are welcome.

    You will learn:

    • How to foster spontaneity and challenge familiar routines that keep you feeling dissatisfied, uninspired or fearful.
    • New communication skills that break destructive cycles and allow you to become more open and intentional.
    • How to take emotional and sexual risks while staying grounded.
    • How to release erotic blocks that can lead to avoidance, power struggles or sexual boredom.
    • To better understand your erotic self — your longings, prohibitions, and values and beliefs about connection and pleasure.

    Bonus offer! If you missed my July online workshop, Love, Sex & Power you can register for the October course and the LSP recordings for just $100 (a $249 value)

    For more information, testimonials from previous workshop attendees, and to register:

    Visit www.estherperelclasses.com

  • feedwordpress 14:00:26 on 2014/09/14 Permalink
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    Sexual health = sexual rights 

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    The World Health organization has a definition of Sexual health that I like a lot

    …a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.” (WHO, 2006a).

  • feedwordpress 13:00:47 on 2014/09/12 Permalink
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    Should you reveal a long-term secret? 

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    The following notes are derived from “Rethinking Couples Therapy: The Hard Questions and The Nuts & Bolts” teleclass with Esther Perel and Terry Real. The full teleclass series is available for purchase here.

    When a person reveals something years later, sometimes it is no longer a secret but is now a memory. It was an event and over time the secret becomes a memory, and sometimes memory should belong to the person themselves. Sometimes unburdening themselves by telling their partner something that has been kept inside is an act of aggression or selfishness more than an act of caring. The notion that the person unburdened for the sake of the marriage and intimacy is sometimes fake.

    I tell my patients it’s not for me to decide whether to reveal their secret, although I may have some thoughts about the secret or the suspicion. I will ask questions about the secret, such as, Do you just want him to know? For a suspicious partner, I will ask, “Do you actually want to know, or do you just want him to know that you are suspicious?” I have many questions to help people explore what they want to do with the secret or suspicion. I may advise patients about what to do based on my observations, indirectly helping them decide whether or not to reveal their secret. I am the only one who knows the whole story and may indirectly lead them to do the thing I believe will help the most.

  • feedwordpress 12:00:24 on 2014/09/09 Permalink
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    Exercise for a happier marriage: Watch a movie 

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    A recent study of newly married couples (married less than 3 years) (Rogge et al., 2014) suggests that couples felt enriched by watching movies together and then discussing how their relationship is similar and different from the romantic relationships portrayed in each movie.

    This is a great opportunity to open intentional dialogue about what a couple is doing well, and what they may be doing poorly. It also creates time and space for focused attention on the relationship, appreciating what works well and exploring better options for what could be improved.

    The researchers selected a list of movies that portray a wide variety of day-to-day behaviors by romantic couples including helpful responses and some common mistakes.

    I strongly suggest couples try this exercise and open a dialogue of your own.

    You can find the full instructions and list of movies Here.

    Want more exercises like this one? Are you ready to reclaim curiosity, connection, and passion in your relationship?

    Sign up for my Fall Online Workshop for couples all over the world.

    Register Now for Reclaim Curiosity, Connection & Passion

    Wednesdays, October 8, 15, 22 & 29 from 7:00pm – 8:00pm ET

    Can’t attend at these times? Don’t worry, audio and video recordings will sent to participants within 24 hours of each class, so you can watch & listen anytime, any place.

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