When our hearts are connected, we can lose ourselves sexually in one another. Great sex requires a bit of knowledge, a lot of vulnerability and a willingness to explore more than just genital pleasure. George and Laurie talk about exercises they give clients to get more in tune with each other by exploring touch and the skin of their lover.
Laurie Watson: Thanks for listening to Foreplay Radio. This week, we’re talking about what’s great about sex and how to have great, optimal sex. And next week, we’re going to talk about what’s redemptive about sexual problems.
Laurie Watson: Hey, you’re listening to Foreplay Radio for Couples and Sex Therapy, and I’m Laurie Watson, your sex therapist.
George Faller: And I’m George Faller, your marriage therapist.
Laurie Watson: We want to take a wide lens on sexuality and talking with you about what we’ve learned as experts in the field, on how you bring your body, your mind, and your brain to the sexual experience.
George Faller: We want to expand people’s perspective of just talking about sex, that it’s not something to be avoided, it’s actually something to embrace and to lean into, with an openness to be changed by what you hear.
Laurie Watson: Okay, I’m in New York. I met your family, George, lovely wife, beautiful home, and you completely ruined things with your son, for me. George introduced me to his son as… what did you say?
George Faller: A sex therapist?
Laurie Watson: As a sex therapist, and I could answer all his questions. He’s a teenager. He ran from the room. Thanks a lot.
George Faller: Well, you’re welcome. It’s a good example of how our culture just doesn’t want to talk about sex.
Laurie Watson: I don’t think so. I think that’s terrifying.
George Faller: Here’s this young man’s chance to learn all the ins and outs of something pretty important, and he runs away from it. Why is that, as a culture, we talk about what’s wrong with sex, getting pregnant or diseases, and no wonder why no one wants to talk about it. When do you hear a conversation about what makes for good sex?
Laurie Watson: Especially with a perfect stranger.
George Faller: Well, that’s… maybe my timing was a little off.
Laurie Watson: Maybe just a little. So, we’re going to talk about what makes for great sex and what do you think makes for terrible sex?
George Faller: Well, I think what makes her terrible sex is just being disconnected from your body and purely focused on an orgasm and having all this pressure and distance and distraction. I mean, I remember when I was a young kid, one of my friends said, “Oh, the best thing you could do, when you’re having sex, is just think about the teachers you have and do the alphabet backwards.” I mean, all these strategies that are trying to teach you not to be in the present moment. So, I don’t think that’s really working too well for a lot of us.
Laurie Watson: Still thinking of Mrs. Black or something.
George Faller: Yes.
Laurie Watson: Not good. So, what makes for great sex? We want to talk about it in three different ways? Our brains, our hearts, and our bodies. What about our brains?
George Faller: Well, I like the breakdown of just trying to expand it into brain, heart, and your body, your skin. I mean, starting off with the brain, so many of us have misconceptions around what makes for good sex, what makes for bad sex. And so often, we just need a little bit of education, so that’s your department, no, Laurie?
Laurie Watson: Yeah, I think that so many people come in and they don’t know how their own bodies work, let alone how their partner’s body works. Just a little bit of basics would be great. I mean, so many people think what they’re seeing in porn and what they’re seeing on the movies is how it all works, and doesn’t.
George Faller: Yeah, I love the line I read from a priest, said, “What’s wrong with porn is not what it shows, but what it doesn’t show.” It’s not telling you all the things needed to actually make the sex great.
Laurie Watson: Right.
George Faller: It sets up these expectations that a little education can really start to clarify.
Laurie Watson: A lot of times, people come in and they want to know what makes for great sex, and I have this one client who says, basically, his expectation is that every single time should be fantastic sex. And he doesn’t know a lot about sex, actually. I mean, they’ve been married for 15 years, and there’s lots of pieces that are missing in his mind, about how it works for her, and he didn’t know some basic anatomy and physiology. He thinks it’s all about intercourse, so he puts a lot of pressure on himself and he puts a lot of pressure on her too because if she doesn’t climax the way he thinks she ought to, then he’s disappointed. He’s disappointed in her, he conveys that to her, and of course the whole thing tanks because then she feels like she’s a failure. And so, I mean, I think basic anatomy and physiology is important. Both parties need to know how to touch the other one, how they reach climax, how long it takes. It’s a huge disappointment, I believe, that it’s so different and takes such different times for men and women. It takes women just so much longer, and I’m sure that’s a disappointment to men who are ready and able to get on with the whole thing right away. And I think women are often disappointed in their own bodies. And I-
George Faller: So, you’re saying sex is supposed to take more than 10 minutes?
Laurie Watson: Maybe. Maybe a little bit.
George Faller: Learning so much on this show.
Laurie Watson: You know, women, they’re always comparing themselves to their male partners, and so they feel terrible about it. And I often am telling them, “Yeah, but compare yourself to other women.” So that, I think, is important, just to know in your head how it’s supposed to work and how it can work.
George Faller: Just a few minutes is all it takes to adjust your expectations, and that’s where the education is critical, to think that sex is not supposed to start off with two people in hot desire and ending in mutual, hot orgasms. I mean, that’s going to be great for somebody to recognize, hey, start off with a willingness. Even if you’re not in that much of a mood, if your goal is connection, you can do that regardless of the outcome. So, if you’re learning more about your partner’s body and your body and you have different expectations, I think it’s really meets couples… they meet in their brain, and they get more on the same page, which is, as you were saying earlier, so often, they’re on such different pages.
Laurie Watson: Yeah, that reminds me of this couple, Jack and Zoe, who were fairly newlywed, they’d been together 18 months at that point that they came to see me. And I think he had had very little experience, and she had had no experience with partners, when they got married, and it was this process of learning each other’s bodies. I mean, in my mind, they were brand new lovers at 18 months, and they had so much to learn about themselves. And one of the things that they had desired and felt like was important was mutual orgasm, which probably was going to happen very, very rarely, if at all. And that was something that they came to me for, is like, “How do we get there? How do we make this happen?” And I was like, “Are you both having orgasms? It doesn’t matter if it’s at the exact same time,” but that was what they thought was important and they were just naive. They thought it had to be that way, and that’s what their goal was. That’s what they were shooting for. So important to know that… not that important.
George Faller: And that’s just number one. Number two, how do we get couples to be more aware of the importance of their hearts connecting, that sex is not just a physical act, it’s a bonding act. I love the example of how the porcupines make love.
Laurie Watson: How do they do that?
George Faller: It’s a bit challenging, no?
Laurie Watson: Yeah.
George Faller: So, what does the male porcupine do?
Laurie Watson: I have no idea.
George Faller: All right, he approaches the female from the front and looks in the eyes and takes his little hands and starts to stroke her cheeks. And as he’s stroking the cheeks and they’re making eye contact, there’s an emotional bond that’s happening. And as that happens, the spikes or the needles or whatever the porcupine has, in the female, starts to kind of go down.
Laurie Watson: Really?
George Faller: Yeah.
Laurie Watson: Is that true?
George Faller: That’s true. At least, “Don’t let the truth get in the way of good story,” I was always told. Maybe. They’re not male.
Laurie Watson: That would probably work with human women too.
George Faller: Well, this is foreplay, right? That’s the porcupine version of foreplay. But as that woman’s body relaxes and she feels connected emotionally, she feels safer, her bodies starting to, then, be able to be aroused.
Laurie Watson: All the prickliness kind of comes down.
George Faller: All the prickliness comes down.
Laurie Watson: Yeah, that’s good. I like that.
George Faller: And we’re trying to really emphasize… because our culture doesn’t talk so much about how important emotion is in sex. And if you leave emotions out of sex, it’s like trying to dance without music. So, we’re really trying to especially educate our younger kids, that this is part of that natural process, to feel safe, to feel wanted, trust, to listen to these emotional signals that your body is going to communicate when you’re in that sweet spot.
Laurie Watson: Yeah, kind of like you were trying to make your son feel really safe last night in the conversation-
George Faller: I was trying to meet him in his brain. That wasn’t a conversation about his heart right there. It’s all about timing.
Laurie Watson: Right. Yeah, and that’s what Kleinplatz says, is that “It’s that connection that makes for optimal sex.” She’s a researcher, Peggy Kleinplatz, and she’s brilliant and studied people who were having great sex, versus just the culture in general. But she talks about that electric, kind of, being in sync, where people lose their boundaries, but you can only do that with somebody that you feel really safe with.
George Faller: Everything that she’s talking about so much has to do with reading your emotional signals, being in the present moment, being open, being vulnerable, a sense of transcendence, authenticity, all of these things that great couples, regardless of sexual orientation or culture, all describe exactly the same thing.
Laurie Watson: Say that again.
George Faller: It’s fascinating to see, regardless of the culture, sexual orientation, religion, people all over the world describe great sex with these exact same components that all stress the importance of that emotional bond.
Laurie Watson: It’s both, how they connect verbally and non-verbally. I like the porcupine. I mean, that’s the nonverbal connection, the touch that draws them to each other and makes them feel safe.
George Faller: Exactly.
Laurie Watson: Yeah. I think, in sex, it’s so important… I often recommend, for men who maybe are more of the sexual pursuer, to learn how to touch outside the bedroom, in ways that are soft and seductive because so many of them don’t. It’s funny, they don’t know how to touch a woman. They’re too hard, they Pat her on the back, they don’t do anything that is soft, that I think women really respond to, like moving her hair or coming up behind her gently or anything that is gentle and creates a culture of touch and relaxation, and more of a constancy of touch. I think they leave it to the last minute.
Laurie Watson: Let’s come back. You’re listening to Foreplay Radio – Couples and Sex Therapy.
Speaker 3: Speaking with certified sex therapist, Laurie Watson, from Awakening Center for Couples and Intimacy. Laurie, what is an intensive?
Laurie Watson: So, an intensive is 12 to 14 hours of therapy, all in one weekend. And it’s a way to really make fast progress, compared to weekly therapy. I mean, there’s just so much more you can get done when you have a chunk of time.
Speaker 3: Overcome the challenges in your relationship and your sex life. Learn more about intensives and Awakening Center’s other services at awakenloveandsex.com.
Laurie Watson: Hey, I want to let you guys know all about George. He’s written and contributed to several books, and I’d especially like to draw your attention to his book, Sacred Stress: A Radically Different Approach to Using Life’s Challenges for Positive Change. His book is about a mission on how you adopt new strategies and turn stresses into a positive force in your life. And who among us doesn’t live with a lot of stress these days? We’ll keep you posted as to all he’s doing, but George and other EFT therapists, all around the country and the world, hold couples retreats called Hold Me Tight, which is developed by Sue Johnson, and it helps secure your own relationship. If you’d like therapy with George, find him at georgefaller.com.
Laurie Watson: So, any sense of, with your patients, why men leave touch to maybe just the sexual moment or why they’re not touching throughout the day?
George Faller: I think, for most men, there’s an over focus on their penis and orgasm. So, if you’re trained to not be present in your body, and you’re just thinking about the goal, there isn’t a lot of awareness around touch and receiving touch or giving touch. So, that that third component that we’re really trying to stress with great sex, is being more aware of your body, especially your skin. It’s your biggest organ. So, I don’t want to limit it to just soft touch either, it’s about a range of touch. How can you be soft, how can you be hard? How can you tickle? How can you kind of be firm? How do you have that range that shows your partner that you want to engage in a lot of different ways?
Laurie Watson: Mm-hmm (affirmative), that’s good.
George Faller: So, I don’t think a lot of men talk about this stuff. When you watch your porno, you’re not really seeing people using their skin or touch, you just see this general contact with each other. So, we can talk about the importance of touch, but men actually have to experience that. So, a nice exercise I like to do with some of my couples, is I would have the husband, say, “All right, I want you to touch your wife. Take your hand and kind of touch her and see, kind of, how you think she likes it, and just feel what that’s like. You can try to tickle, try firm,” and say, “All right, that’s great. Now let’s do take two. Now, I want you to take her hand and touch your body the way you like it.” So, you try to train their bodies to kind of pay attention to… do they like it soft, do they like it firm, do they like it… Are they even aware of how they like to be touched on their shoulder, on their leg, on their back, on their head? These areas that, oftentimes, we’re not paying attention to.
Laurie Watson: Mm-hmm (affirmative), that’s nice. Yeah, I ask men to feel, underneath their hand, if their wife relaxes. That’s instant feedback. If he’s touching her in the way that she responds, can he become aware, physically, of the way her body is responding to, or not necessarily even verbally. Although, I think that’s great too. I think both methods of getting feedback are important. I take it you have them do that outside the room? [crosstalk 00:14:21]?
George Faller: With their hands? No, right-
Laurie Watson: Oh, you do it right there in the room.
George Faller: Right there.
Laurie Watson: Okay, great.
George Faller: Do you have the wives touch the male to see if he relaxes?
Laurie Watson: Yes, yes. I think that’s important too.
George Faller: Right, it’s trying to get both people be more curious about their bodies, where do they not only hold the pressure and the stress, but where do they feel playful and lighter and… do you even notice your toes while you’re having sex or you’re fooling around? Is that something that you even… on your radar screen?
Laurie Watson: Oh my God, I just noticed my toes. Yeah, that’s a good point. Did you know that, actually, many people, when they have sex, after they have orgasm, that their feet cramp? That’s totally normal.
George Faller: I did not know that.
Laurie Watson: Good to know, huh?
George Faller: Well, it’s more than just your skin, it’s paying attention to your breathing, it’s trying to pay attention to how you’re positioning, and there’s so much that gives us more to engage with if we just pay attention to it.
Laurie Watson: Okay, so you have them do that in the room, and then they’re talking to each other, and how do you coach them? What do you say?
George Faller: “Just be open to… as you’re using her hand to kind of go firmer on your shoulder or to kind of go lighter on your shoulder, what’s the difference when you’re using her hand to touch you, versus you using your hand to touch her?”
Laurie Watson: And what are you hoping for there? What do you want him to get?
George Faller: I’m hoping that he gets the difference. A lot of times, men touch their wives, their partners, to give pleasure, but it’s actually like a performance. They’re doing it because they want to get it right-
Laurie Watson: Instead of enjoying the touch.
George Faller: Instead of enjoying receiving touch.
Laurie Watson: Receiving it and enjoying giving it, where their fingers feel it, their body feels it.
George Faller: Exactly.
Laurie Watson: Yeah, that’s nice. You know, one of the things I like about, and have learned from you, is you regularly go back to flexibility. It’s not just one thing or the other. I was talking about light, gentle touch, and then you’re reminding me there’s all kinds of other touches, too, that could be pleasurable, could bring connection.
George Faller: It’s all about the levels of engagement. Couples that have high levels of engagement have great relationships. Couples that… their engagement shrinks, there are more struggles, more protection. So, what we’re trying to do, with great sex, is we’re trying to expand, “Can you talk more about this? Communicate better in your brain? Can you make more room for your emotions in your heart? Can you pay attention to your body and your skin?” Couples that have the flexibility to go in and out of those three different areas… they could have quickies, they can have great sex, even if it doesn’t work, they can have conversations. There’s so much material to work with.
Laurie Watson: Even if it doesn’t work in the way they thought it should, it can be great.
George Faller: Exactly. We’ll talk about that in our next podcast.
Laurie Watson: Okay.
George Faller: When it’s not going so well. And creating a context is so important. We all have this myth that it’s supposed to be just spontaneous, hot sex where you rip each other’s clothes off and you know what? Actually, anticipation, having some good music, some clean sheets, taking his shower, putting some thought into it, a date night, a glass of wine, some jokes, all of these thing are really what stretch out that moment. It’s what’s allowed those higher levels of engagement.
Laurie Watson: And do you think most men want to do that? I think, definitely, most women want that kind of context. I think they need that for their brain to get in gear, in terms of where it’s coming.
George Faller: I never met a male baby that didn’t love to be touched and held and feel safe.
Laurie Watson: Yeah, that is so true.
George Faller: We can learn not to listen to that, but our heart always longs for that. Most men I talk to are so focused on the orgasm and sex, it is so much more than that for them. Afterwards, they are much more cuddly, they want to have conversations, the oxytocin is released. It is much more than just sex, and women really need to understand that. For most men, it is the only doorway in which they can be vulnerable and open and soft and let their guard down.
Laurie Watson: I agree.
George Faller: No wonder why so many men are obsessed with it and people think it’s all about the orgasm. It’s just because they don’t know how to be present with their emotions and their body, and that’s the one way they get some of it. What I’m trying to say to so many men, “You can have so much more. Why settle for just that little bit when you could have so much more?”
Laurie Watson: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I like that, that’s a great message. So, I had this couple, and she described much of what Peggy Kleinplatz talks about, that when she was with her partner, she was essentially lost in space, lost in time, and the way she was able to move with him and he was able to move with her, she said it was like a slow dance, that when couples are dancing really well together, they anticipate each other’s moves and they’re moving as one, but you kind of have to feel the other person’s body in order to do that. And she said that’s what it was like. The way they moved just flowed, almost without verbal communication. It was just non-verbally, their bodies were in sync, moving, and she said that his attunement to her, what she needed… I guess they had been lovers for quite some time, but he knew exactly how to turn her on, and she was able to completely lose herself and get lost in it. One of the things that I hear lovers say, that when they’re interrupted, is they worry about their partner getting lost. Somehow or another, that feels like their partner has gone away from them, but actually, in great sex, I think there’s moments that our partner does kind of get lost in themselves, in their own body, then they come back and maybe we get lost in our own body, and we want that.
Laurie Watson: We want that to happen, and she was expressing that he was secure enough that times that she needed to pull inside to increase her arousal or whatever, he was excited about that. He would want her to do that, and she felt that freedom to go back and forth, internally, and then interpersonally. And then, the two of them, just… I think much of what you say, they had this flexibility of being safe with each other, so that they could relax when the moment wasn’t perfect and the other person kind of pulled inside. I think that’s really important, and so many people get unnerved when there’s this pause and they can’t kind of find their partner anymore. They think their partner’s gone away, but actually, they might’ve gone away in a good thing, finding an increase of excitement on the inside. And she said, with her partner, she could do this going back and forth, and the sense of synchrony that they moved as one. There wasn’t a lot of conversation, but it was just skin on skin kind of directing each other. So yeah, it was fabulous.
George Faller: It’s such a beautiful example of real intimacy. I love that exchange between losing yourself and going inward, and then becoming part of something bigger than yourself. And that dance, I mean, looking at the range in that. It’s like, “Wait, I can focus on me? I need to know who I am inside, and that’s not wrong. I don’t always have to be totally available for my partner, but I also can lose myself and become part of my partner and part of something bigger than myself.”
Laurie Watson: Yeah, I like that, that’s-
George Faller: That’s such a great range.
Laurie Watson: That is.
George Faller: And it don’t always have to be that way, but I do think what we’re stressing here, is vulnerability is a key ingredient to great sex, and if you’re trying to leave vulnerability outside of sex, then what you’re really talking about is avoidance, and that’s going to create a lot of distance in your relationship. So, the proof, to me, is-
Laurie Watson: And that’s when people get caught in performance or in their own orgasm, and they get frustrated with each other when they are disconnected.
George Faller: The good news is the proof is there. You just need to look at the emotional signals. If you’re seeing positive affect, feeling calmer, closer, safer, happier, joyful, curious, playful, these are all emotions that are telling you your body’s in that place. It’s in that flow. If you’re feeling stressed and feeling like you’re failing-
Laurie Watson: Self-conscious.
George Faller: Self-conscious, that just shows there are things blocking the natural process. When that baby gets picked up and its parent is enjoying them and you can see them both smiling at each other, both their bodies are communicating beautifully, how attuned and how, kind of, loved they feel. It’s the same exact thing two lovers are going to feel when they get into this space where they become bigger than just themselves. I mean, that’s the magic that recharges relationships.
Laurie Watson: Yeah, that’s well-said. Beautiful.
George Faller: Thank you.
Laurie Watson: Thanks for listening to Foreplay Radio.
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