Jerry & Kristy tackle the thorny topic of the intersection of sexual behaviors in relationships as they may reflect basic patterns of codependency. The importance of self-esteem, boundaries and other basics often get lost in the mix when another person's varied needs come into play. Strategies for achieving a sexual reset that offers mutual satisfaction in the actual world are considered.
Articles discussed in the podcast included: "I Tried Having An Orgasm A Day for a Month -- And It Totally Changed My Sex Life" by Lisa Fogarty, Redbook, 11/25/2016 and "Who Orgasms Most and Least, and Why," by Jacqueline Howard, CNN, 3/10/2017.
Hi, welcome to Lovework, our podcast Skills for A Relational Life. This is Kristy Gaisford and I'm here with my co host, Jerry Sander. Hey, JerryJerry Sander:
how you doing?Jerry Sander:
Good. I'm going to see you in Salt Lake City soon! I know less than two weeks. I'm excited. Yeah, it's... Did it stop snowing there yet? Yes. It's warming up. I think it'd be warm when you're here, at least hopefully 70. Well, anyone who wants to learn some things come see us. We're going to be at the Hotel Peery, right downtown. Yes. And we're spending the weekend; you can spend the weekend with us. We'll help you through this stuff. May 14 and 15th from nine to four. So it's a great opportunity to be in in person. Yeah. And then we're doing it in New York. We're doing it in Hudson Valley in June. And we're going to try and do it in New York City as long as as long as COVID holds itself away.Kristy Gaisford:
So okay, so today we're talking about codependent sex. And this was your idea, Jerry. So I'm definitely going to let you take the lead. But I'm excited to talk about it and hear your thoughts.Jerry Sander:
Good. So first of all, any little kids listening to a podcast about relationships. I don't know how many of them are in our audience. Go away and just go find something else to do online, I'm afraid to say because this is an adult conversation today. So if there's anyone who doesn't want to hear like sensitive things being discussed about sex, this one's not for you. This is kind of adults-only day here. Why did I want to choose this topic? Yeah, codependent sex. It came from listening to a number of clients who were okay with sex. You know, I've always said to my clients that there's Good, Better, and Best sex. Assuming there's no force, there is nothing violent, is not abusive. There's good, better and best. And I always encourage people to go for the best. But I started realizing that that's kind of short sighted that for a lot of people that can't really even frame it in terms of good, better or best, it's merely transactional, that I started hearing things about have having sex because if he doesn't get sex, he gets really angry and miserable and turns into you know, 12 year old boy so having sex so that he won't get angry, or having sex so that maybe he'll love me more. And that is straight straight out of the codependency book, having sex so that he will love me more. And then I will be I might even love myself then. So to me codependency is I need you to make me feel okay about myself. And it seemed all twisted up. I think it's an important topic. I definitely have seen this in in different couples as well. There's a lot of there's a lot of fine lines too in this in this topic, in my opinion, but I just heard this last week like he's really angry and grumpy because we haven't had enough sex. I need to try to find it within me somehow to give him sex, so he's not so angry, but I don't feel like giving it to him because he's angry. Yep. And yeah, And somehow in that discussion, the woman's own feelings about sex and her body and everything get thrown out the window. It's we're talking about what does he need now? What does he need now how to approach him now. And it's all codependent. So not surprisingly, more often than not, I would say such a woman in a relationship like that find sex, not thrilling often, or usually doesn't have an orgasm, and can even come to regard herself as dysfunctional with sex or not even liking sex, or preferring you know, bicycle riding or knitting or something like that to sex basically giving away that whole side of your life. And that's why I'm calling it codependent sex, it is not sex, based on your feelings, your body, your needs in your relationship, it's based on your best guess about what the other person needs? Well, I think it's part of a bigger picture, too, I think a lot of women are trying so hard to meet everybody else's needs all the time. They go from their kids to their job to their tasks to their home to their husband, and they're so exhausted, that it's like one more thing they have to do. And they, they don't even have the mental space, or they don't make the mental space to think about. Sex is something that I also enjoy, and, and deserve and want to have for myself. And when you're talking about the mental space, I mean, it recognizes that the biggest factor controlling orgasm say is your brain is your brain, your brain, in your body, and with your body, getting those in a good place. So yes, if there can't even be the space for anything other than taking care of who needs what is going to end up in that sort of groove of it goes on the to do list. And then very often the other person feels like, yeah, she's kind of going through the motions, you know, like, it's not automatic that the guy is incredibly satisfied with this arrangement either. I stumbled upon this article, surprising article on read book called, was by Lisa Fogarty from 2016, called "I tried having an orgasm a day for a month, and it totally changed my sex life. The perks were insane." Now, she was a mother of a married mother of two kids under five, and works from home. And the absolute hardest part of all this, getting to herself and her body and having sex kind of with herself, was finding the time and space to allow it and see what would happen. I think she may have done it as a magazine assignment or something. What she found was that the benefits to her health and stress level, and benefits to the relationship with her husband in this was interesting, were profound, that she just started at first, she couldn't get out of her head. And even think of any sexy scenarios. Because again, you're at home, you got kids, there's taxes, not sure what's for dinner tonight, stuff like that. So when she carved out the time, which I think was after 8pm, she started being able to finally have a mental slideshow of sexual images, which she also said, it's kind of like bootcamp training, like developing the ability to do that. And then so the first came the ability to even summon up sexy thoughts. And they became automatic after about a week, and then had a choice of them, and started really getting into pleasure for her own sake, but then wanting to let her husband know, she didn't know how to talk to him about it, that he would take this as something's awful with our sex life or something, but basically extended an invitation to him to enjoy the fruits of this and her becoming a more sexual person. And she found that when she was with him, she didn't need as long a time to prepare for being with him, and that it was better for both of them. That now, I'm not advocating everyone go out and do that. But what was interesting was it was came from paying attention to herself. It did not come from how do I make it better? For him and us? I think a lot of women in, in a lot of areas, we're not taught to prioritize ourselves. And they feel we feel I'm one of them selfish. If we put ourselves first or if we take time away. We feel like we should be doing something for somebody else. Almost always. Oh, yeah. Unless you're asleep. Yeah. Yeah. And then you put sex into it. And there's this whole other level that I've seen in lots of my clients where they've experienced a lot of shame around sex growing up. And so it's hard for them to just own themselves as a sexual being and someone who's also deserving of a pleasure. Yep. And, you know, we can't talk about this without using that old fashioned word patriarchy. Because the essence of patriarchy it wasn't something that just went away in 1961 women got certain expanded rights or something, the essence of patriarchy are is that men and women are different. And that masculine and feminine are different. And that masculine is better than feminine. And that both sides will work to preserve that system in place, and not challenge it. And part of that means if sex is defined as a man, wanting it and getting it and having an orgasm, and everything else is optional. That is going to be quote, normal, unquote, to a lot of people. They don't have a model that's different from that. And so, for a lot of women, a lot of women have shown in surveys, much more dissatisfaction and criticism with their own bodies, than men have a lot of self doubt. So I was thinking that the things that we teach in the boot camps apply here hugely. The first thing being self esteem, is my body even good enough. Am I what a woman is supposed to be? And my what a man's supposed to be. I mean, you need that, then you need boundaries. If you don't have a boundary, you're giving yourself away. If you're, you know, needless and want less, and your love dependent, just needing to feel okay about yourself, then it's not going to be more than okay, I briefly feel okay about myself thing, it's not going to be the best, kind of the best that sex can be, which to me is a real connection in another realm with another person that's mutual. It's absolutely mutual. It's not transactional. It's not like, Okay, I owe you one, you know, it can include little elements that like that. Okay, you just had an orgasm. What about me now? You know, yes, that's fair. But it can't be completely transactional, instead of spiritual and relational. So my concern is that when it gets into codependent sex, it's merely transactional, to maintain a story that people are telling themselves that he needs it doesn't have to be he needs it. I had a case once where the woman was demanding sex from this man every day, every day, and he was a bodybuilder, who was a little bit older now. And it was an enormous pressure on him. Enormous. So once again, it wasn't a mutual kind of thing. And I think finding, having the inquisitiveness as to what my partner really delights and is so different than what do I do to get them off my case? You know, yeah, it's, I agree, I think that that huge danger of transactional is you start to see people as one dimensional. So if a husband feels like, I need more sex, and I'm not getting it, then he starts to see his wife solely as the person who's withholding sex from me. Yeah. Yeah. And then he is resentful and angry. Because he sees her as withholding instead of, she's exhausted, she is going through a lot. Maybe she's pregnant, maybe she's a lot of things. But anyway, and then she starts to feel like, I'm only good for sex, because he's punishing me until I give it to him. And if you can, really, like you're talking about, if he could put himself aside and really spend time understanding where she's coming from, she would probably feel so loved and understood that she would open up to wanting to be with him physically and sexually. But that really has to go first. Or it becomes it can become pretty nasty, actually. Right? It can. I'm thinking it's almost like a cliche, but you do see it over and over again. Men really wanting to connect via sex. And women really wanting to connect first before they have sex. Yeah, I mean, both are wanting to connect. And then you see the other type of codependence where the woman wants to give sex so that his bad mood will quickly end and she won't have to deal with it. She's not even. Isn't doesn't even think really about what she wants to doesn't want it's just like, yeah, that's Oh, no. Maybe if I hurry and have sex with him, we can push this bad mood under the carpet and whatever. Like almost like a home and at home version of some massage parlor with a "happy ending" or something like that. That's just like, let's regulate this guy's system. So he's not not at home. Yeah, it has nothing to do with your own sexual pleasure or who you are as a sexual person. And if anything, it makes you kind of like a mom figure, like, take those sneakers off before you walk on the rug, just like you are someone I have to manage. And I'm tired of managing all these people around this house today. So what do you need now, and suddenly becomes a real not special thing. And that seems sad to me. Because people who never get to fully discovering their partner in a place that allows for bliss, or orgasm, they're having the crumbs from the table instead of an entire meal. Yeah, you're missing out on the fun. It's one way to have a lot of fun to as an adult. And and to really bond like you're saying that deep way. So all the issues that exist between people about sex in this regard are also there in every other aspect of their relationship. I really doubt they're going to be completely codependent in this way with sex and not in any other way. It's just part of a pattern. And then the person can identify if they want to as being a victim. You know, look at me look at what I got to put up with he has all these needs as if they are completely want lesson needless themselves. And the story can evolve. But meanwhile, you just get further and further away from connecting in a beautiful place with your partner. So would you call it codependent if there was a one person in the partnership never wants to have sex and the the other person gets so tired of being rejected? They just concede and give up their need? Is that their need? Yeah. Yeah, they stop asking for it. Yes, they would like to have it. Yes. Because the need and desire to have sex or have some sexual release or expression in their own life. I don't see why that or how that can and should go away because someone else says no, I don't want it. It's like, it's like saying, "Oh, I'm vegan. And the other person goes, well, I so I'll never have a steak again? Okay, I'll have and I'll never have steak again.?" It's like, why would you do that? Unless you choose to be vegan. So and is that choice? I think that's a delicate one. Because if anyone if anyone says I don't want to have sex anymore, does that mean they don't they can live without any, you know, genital stimulation orgasm and stuff? Or does that mean "I don't want to hold you? I don't want to be next to you. I don't want to touch you. I don't want to kiss you." What does it mean? Exactly? I think it means all different variations of that, from what I've seen, but I don't think somebody has a right to to not have sex with if they're married. If unless there's some medical reason or something. I think you have a responsibility to figure out what's going on and and get help. I don't think you can just tell your partner. This is off the table. Because I don't like it. Yeah, and what is the "this" what I'm saying? You know, like, does it mean we're never going to lie together in a bed and hold each other and speak sweet things to each other? Because I'm going to be watching the football game and said, or does it mean I want to be with you but intercourses out of the question? Say there's there's a lot of room I think for connecting in hundreds of ways in under what I would call sex. But I would want to know if that's a rejection deeper than intercourse you know, like, okay if the person doesn't want that. But does that mean that I don't want to ever connect with you with my body in any way? No back rubs no foot rubs No kisses, you know? Yeah. What is that saying? Do you think that's okay? If if they if somebody doesn't want intercourse, and there's no reason? Yes. Well, no reason. There's no medical reason they just don't like intercourse. Is that okay to take that? Yeah, I think there's infinite very variation. I mean, there are women who don't like sex acts, that some men really like a lot. And I would never say, oh, that's, that's weird of those women. I think it's kind of their right to figure out what works for them. You know, if if the person has fully gone into a marriage expecting, of course, intercourse, and then find that they've married someone who they feel deceived by? Because that's not part of the bargain. Never will be. I think that's different than saying an older couple who get tired of it, or there's physical changes that happen, and can still have a huge menu of things to choose from that delight them. Yeah, I guess I was when I was talking more about the first couple and younger couple that someone just doesn't like it. So they decide they don't want it. And then the other person who's like, Wait, I thought we were getting married, and we were gonna have a great sex life. And now you're telling me that's off the table forever? And I would want to know, what, what's your version of a great sex life, then? You know, I... They don't care about a sex life. They're not interested. Now there are people who are asexual. And you know, sometimes they marry each other. I don't think an asexual person marrying a highly sexual person can work unless they have an agreement to go outside the relationship and be polyamorous or something like that. I don't see how that could have. I do think what you're saying is important, though about is, is there still tons of affection in other ways, I think that other kinds of affection can go a long way because you at least feel loved and cared for and you feel close. But if you if you take it all away, I don't. I don't see that being a very satisfying relationship. Here's here's what got me thinking about the whole topic. I was talking to a female client who very much likes herself, and very much likes her own body. And even though she's not young, she knows her body has all kinds of wonderful things in store for her. She's not once had an orgasm with her husband, or any man in her life. And she routinely has many enjoyable orgasms on her own. So that's not a medical thing. It's not a physical thing. It's it's an her trying to make an accommodation to what my husband seems to feel sex is. So you're saying she doesn't even do it in front of them as her husband? She? Yeah, she won't even she doesn't experience it in his presence, right? Because many women don't experience it during intercourse. But you're saying something different? Yeah, I'm saying that if she wants to have a good orgasm on her own, she will. And she will have many of them on her own. And the good news and that is the joy it brings her. The sad part is that how they've defined sex as a couple is very narrow, very narrow. For instance, if that person were to say to him, the way my body works, I don't have orgasms during intercourse. And by the way, there seems to be physiological reasons why a lot of women don't. The CNN article who orgasms most than least and why 2017 said that there was an Indiana University study about genital anatomy and orgasm and intercourse, and said that if people have a shorter distance between the clitoris and the urinary tract opening, it may increase a woman's likelihood to orgasm. But if it's more than three centimeters away, they're not going to have an orgasm with intercourse. And, okay, so were she to say, you know, I just don't get off that way. Can you be with me while I find another way to get off and we'll both be getting off and having a wonderful time. That strikes me as some kind of sexual health. Oh, yeah. I think a lot of people do that because because of that issue. So having to have the beautiful body release on your own by yourself. And outside of what your spouse considers sex is the issue that would be open to being integrated as part of a healing for a couple. Before I forget, there's a woman named Macy Daye, I took one of her many workshops once does a workshop called Passion and Presence. And that's one word if you want to find her its passionandpresence.com. It's a whole website. And she does many workshops, a lot of its online about mindful, mindful sexuality, that renews, restores and deepens connections between couples. It's fantastic. Because it gives people a place to say what they've never wanted to say. Because I think what happens is guys become guys, not fully understanding women's anatomy, there's no way that that's explained to them. It's not simple. I feel for them, it's not simple. No. And then if you are lucky if you sort of understand how your own body works. And then you're critical of yourself, is my body working the way a real guy's body works? And the movies and stuff like that are nowadays and porn is mine like that? And then they go and just kind of hope for the best, like, how does this all work? And they know what performance means. And they feel like if they performed, then we're good. It takes a real level of self esteem and vulnerability, to be able to push through that, that vulnerable place, and kind of talk about so many couples, don't even feel comfortable talking about it. And it's hard to kind of put yourself out there and be vulnerable and admit, "hey, I don't really know what I'm doing. Can you help me?" And yeah, nobody really wants to say that.Now for a woman it is:
How weird can a guy's body be? You know, like, how come they fall asleep afterwards? You know, like, yeah, How come they can't have 10, 15, 20 orgasms in a row like a woman or something? So there's a lack of knowing? Am I doing the right thing? Am I am I doing what a woman is supposed to do? Are they truly satisfied? Or did I not measure up? And that goes into that sort of shocking statistic that 40% of women are considered dysfunctional sexually? is a weird, it's a comes from a weird definition of sexual function. Because I think that, that if someone says I don't really care for it and mature, I could take it or leave it with his a lot. I'd rather play pickleball or something like that. That doesn't mean they're dysfunctional. Yeah. But what is that definition from? I mean, yeah, it's in the CNN article... Oh, well, I'd just like to know why they would call them that. I mean, it's probably cooler. Or guys, the men probably orgasm more, because when it's easier for them, it's faster. Women are probably just maybe less selfish about it. And like, the things we've talked about before, don't want to take the time for themselves, or they're thinking about the kids or the other things they have to get back to. I mean, I think it's probably a lot more than just about... Well, that's what we're talking about the brain. And the quote I'm looking at is that about this infamous CNN article? Who orgasms most of the least, after all, about 40% of women experience sexual dysfunction associated with a chronic difficulty in achieving orgasm. Yeah, just what you said they're thinking about a whole bunch of other things that guys typically don't think about when they're aroused. Like how many think they're supposed to be able to orgasm during intercourse, and then they find out? Oh, actually, only about 30% can? Yeah, I mean, I don't know how likely message Yeah, yeah. So they think something's wrong with them. When really, there is just the way your body's made. You're one of the 30 You're one of the 70% that have to figure out a different way. And that's why you can get into the codependent thinking of well, at least he's happy. At least he's going to be okay this week, or for a few days. He's going out. Yes. I have two things to say about this: There's so many benefits to having an orgasm. And it's so important to take your sit, prioritize yourself and to be able to say, I also deserve a really satisfying sex life. And I also deserve to orgasm and really own that and, and work towards that with your partner. The other thing I wanted to say though, because I keep it just keeps coming to me is I have had clients that have no libido and it is really painful for them. They want to have a libido they wish they were sexual, they know they're hurting their partner. And they've tried lots of different things, and they can't seem to enjoy sex or even want it. And I wanted to say that because it's not just that people are exhausted or withholding it sometimes. Sometimes they just have zero libido, and it's a terrible thing that they are dealing with and hate. Yeah, wish that were different. I don't think there's an easy answer for that. I think that's kind of a lifelong thing. I've had a client like that, too, who also really did not like to be touched at all, at all. So you can't even say well, foot rubs background? No, no. And it it's manageable when you're single. But when you're perished, a lot of issues are going to come up, then what does that mean for your partner? And, you know, do you want them to run off and be happy outside of the relationship? Or is there some way their needs can be addressed within the relationship? Respecting that that's just not my thing? I don't think it's easy. Yeah. Another another thing with boundaries and codependency is, I think sometimes, you may not feel like having sex, but you know, your partner really, really would like it. And so you're generous that day, maybe and you say, Okay, I'll do it for you. And other times, maybe you say no, or your partner you want it and your partner says no, I'm just too tired. And you have to be able to take the disappointment, materially and say, okay, without without getting angry, and pouting, like both people have to be mature. And sometimes you give when you don't really feel like it. And sometimes, you know, maybe your partner gives money, they don't really feel like it. Or sometimes you're both disappointed. But you hold that in a way where you're not punishing. I like that. Yes. And it's not that different from sometimes one person does his shopping and the other person does shopping. It's like, if you have some flexibility in the relationship, and can talk about stuff. It's ironic because people probably talk more about shop right, or doing grocery shopping than about what pleases them sexually. But yeah, the idea of taking turns and some sort of mutuality. That doesn't seem codependent, to me. That seems really exciting. Like, okay, there's some time you just don't feel like it, that's fine. What about your partner, you know, you can hang in there for them. That's really nice. We'll kind of go the other way as well. And the idea of mutuality. And if I could just say something to the men listening right now: Slow down, slow, down, slow down, and you will be so rewarded! Because it was it's this adolescent boy thing that is perpetuated in porn, that like, Fast and Furious is the way to go. And you ask the woman you're with, if that's truly honestly what she prefers things to go like, and then just listen, listen to the answer. I think that's good advice. And for and for the women, I would say stand up and really own your sexuality and, and don't be afraid to ask for what you want. And take the time for yourself and ask for that too. And don't be surprised if when you start doing that, it upsets the apple cart like someone goes "What has gotten into you? Is there anyone else? Is there an affair like what is you know, I thought you were okay." And again, that's where we go to I'm okay. But I want things to be even better. I don't want just barely Okay, good sex. I want it to be like really great, because I want our whole relationship to be really great. Yeah, I have. I have a story. This happened this week, and I thought it was really sweet. I had a couple and the wife said to him, they hadn't they hadn't been sexual for a while and she said you You know, you have been so kind and so patient with me, the last few weeks like I've, I've just, sometimes I've expected you to be impatient and you just keep being so patient, that I have felt my body literally like opening up to you and wanting to be sexual, because you've been so kind. How did he receive it? He was a little embarrassed but happy? I mean, a little like, yeah, he was. He was happy. Yeah. That's wonderful. That's, that's, you know, that's how woven together this all is with every other part of the relationship. It's funny, because there's, there's some thinking that if you're doing couples therapy, and not addressing the sexuality, you're, you're you're working on the other stuff, or something. But it seems like a fake division to me, because the same issues of they're all through the relationship. And this is where it's most immediate. This is an area where people are either gonna cry, or cry in pleasure. You know, this is this is a powerful thing that happens in your life frequently, and if we don't address it in couples therapy, then we're not we're not really fully doing our job. Yeah, I, it's unfortunate that there can be this split, like the rest of our life, and then sex. And sometimes I like to say to my clients that have that have done that sort of split is, you know, do you love him? Say, Yeah, you know, I love him. Well, show him how much you love Him with your body. Like, it's one way of showing your partner you love them. It's just one way, but it's an important way. And it's, it's, it's so nice, because then a guy can be more open to understanding that really clearing off the table and doing the dishes and stuff is another way of showing that you love someone. It actually is it's not there is one way called sex. Yes. And if you if you think about that story that, you know, women don't want to open up, I mean, it's vulnerable, you want to be open if someone's being mean or short with you, or, or has a temper or you're, you know, being grumpy about it. But when somebody's really soft and kind, you open up to them physically to. Yeah, and I think you want to, I think for the male part of it, is there's this male energy, the male energy to share is not about aggression. It's about kind of earthy connection to an energy that can be shared with someone you love and have be a wild ride, it can be like, a wonderful thing together, there's not about aggression, it's not something you need to get done and over with. If you're doing it right. As far as I'm concerned, this is my opinion. And I should add a caveat here, if anything I've said, today goes against your teachings and any kind of belief system you have, or faith or anything, you know, have that discussion with someone in your community. But my feeling is that you can go from good to better to best with a sexual connection. It does involve a spiritual connection with your partner, if you're doing it the best possible way, and it makes you happier and healthier. Why wouldn't you go for it? Yeah, it's kind of like coating the whole relationship with a layer of I don't know, fairy dust. You know, like those these are. These are some of the best parts of our life potentially. And sometimes you have to sort of fight for it. And I don't mean unfairly fight but learn how to communicate your needs. It doesn't make you a bad person and such i My heart goes out to women who've been raised to believe that speaking up for their own needs is somehow a bad thing...Kristy Gaisford:
Well, thank you for talking this through.Kristy Gaisford:
No, thank you. It is important.Jerry Sander:
So we'll see you next time. I'll see you in Salt Lake City! I look forward to Thanks. Take care.