Laurie and George demonstrate best ways to initiate a conversation to get your partner to open up about sex. And secondly, they talk about how to change the conversation with our kids and friends so we change the culture. George says he feels like he’s been let into a secret society of women when Laurie reveals her girlfriend talk.
George Faller: Today. How do we talk about sex? I’m coming from a background of never talking about sex and my partner here, Laurie, always likes to talk about sex. So between the two of us, we should hopefully have something to add on this conversation.
Laurie Watson: Something to say.
Laurie Watson: Hey, George and I wanted to send out a message to you guys about the virus and all the suffering that is happening around the world. We just know that there are some of you who your health is threatened or your loved one’s health is threatened by the COVID-19 virus and certainly the world economics are turned upside down and we know some of you are facing time off and job loss and loss of income and are probably worried and anxious and rightfully so because this is a scary time. And we are just offering you our love and our prayers and our hearts to be with you. We’re going to continue with the podcast and be here every week with something new to say.
Laurie Watson: But we know that there’s a lot going on in the world and we just wanted to give a little bit of comfort knowing that we are thinking of you and we too have worlds that are turned upside down, but just wanted to send out a message of blessing and care and encouragement that even if you have to shelter in place, we’d like you to take shelter in each other and reach out to your loved ones, your partners, certainly your family and your friends, at least through online contact and maybe have some online parties. Don’t socially isolate.
Laurie Watson: Physically isolate, but don’t socially isolate. Okay, guys. Sending you love from Foreplay.
Laurie Watson: Welcome to Foreplay Radio – Couples and Sex Therapy. I’m Laurie Watson, your sex therapist.
George Faller: And I’m George Fallon, your couples therapists.
Laurie Watson: And we are passionate about talking about sex and helping you develop a way to talk to each other.
George Faller: Our mission is to help our audience develop a healthier relationship to sex that integrates the mind, the heart and the body.
Laurie Watson: Hey, check out uberlube.com with the coupon Foreplay. With your support, this really helps us keep delivering free content to you. So your background, they never talked about sex, huh?
George Faller: I think my background is like most people’s background. It’s like we know everybody’s having it, but nobody really seems to talk about it. My family growing up, we didn’t talk about sex. Most of the places I’ve been around, well, I don’t know. I guess your friends do talk about sex.
Laurie Watson: You were in the Firehouse. They didn’t talk about sex?
George Faller: Well, I don’t know if we want to get into what we talked about the Firehouse here, Laurie.
Laurie Watson: Okay. But I would say that I talked about sex a lot. I have a funny anecdote. My husband was swimming out in the ocean. He’s a really strong swimmer. He was a competitive swimmer, and the raft started to float out. And so he went swimming for it. And I don’t know, he was really far out in the ocean. I was scared and my girlfriend turned to me and she knew I was super anxious because I was… I’m like, “Come back in, just let the raft go.” I was really scared because he was so far out there, and she’s like, “Lori, let’s talk about sex.”
Laurie Watson: It totally distracted me. I’m like, “Okay, what should we talk about?” I calmed down, and she did it on purpose of course. And I knew she was doing it on purpose to make me not be anxious, but yeah. Yeah.
George Faller: And it worked.
Laurie Watson: And it worked.
George Faller: Well, you have such a healthy perspective on taking a difficult topic and becoming comfortable with it.
Laurie Watson: Yeah, that’s the feedback that we get, and we get it about you now too. So you’re doing good. But just that we’re having this ordinary conversation about this intimate, difficult subject and setting a model for people to just talk about it.
George Faller: Well, I guess what I’d like to do here today is break this up into two parts. I mean, one, how do we get more comfortable talking to our partner about sex specifically? And then maybe part two more globally, how do we get more comfortable as a society talking about sex with our kids, with our friends, with our neighbors. So where do you want to start? I mean, you have a couple where one partner might want to talk about sex or maybe both don’t want to talk about sex, but how many couples out there are actually not talking about it in constructive ways?
Laurie Watson: Yeah, I think that is the main reason people come in to see me is that they haven’t found a pathway to actually talk about it. So they’re stuck if they can’t talk about this thing, and it is often one person is more interested in talking about it, but I have asked the sexual pursuer frequently, “And do you share, let’s say, your sexual fantasies with your partner?” They’re like, “Nope.” Even people who are oriented and motivated towards sex maybe are not as vulnerable in their conversation about it. The first thing we go through is what kind of language do you like? How do you refer to yourself? How do you refer to sex acts? How do you refer to body parts?
Laurie Watson: I try to get a feel for it. Most of the time I can tell by the way they’re talking about it and I try to match whatever they say. So if they use cruder language, I’ll use cruder language. But I also watch the body of their partners. So let’s say a man says something and he refers to his wife’s vulva in a way that is a little crasser and she flinches or she looks a little blank or something. So I always check in and it’s like, “Okay how does his language work for you?” And maybe I get, “I don’t like that. I’ve told him I don’t like that.” Or, “No, that’s fine.” And she just is awkward in the moment.
Laurie Watson: And it is definitely not always the man who is more comfortable talking about sex. Sometimes women have much better language skills about sex and talk about it. So I think that it’s important. I have a couple who is pretty stuck right now in the way that they talk about it and experience it together. It would be reductionism to say that all he wants is more explicit language.
George Faller: Well, let me jump in here to introduce a concept that I think sometimes as therapists, we rush too fast into trying to have conversations when we don’t have the material we need for those conversations. So for me, it almost feels like the first part is how do I get both partners to start being more intentional about actually being curious about their own inner world around sexuality? I mean, the big word in therapy is being mindful and I think most of us think about mindfulness as like doing yoga or chanting or this kind of silent thing. And for me, mindfulness is more about just being present. Can you just listen to the live signals as they unfold? Right?
George Faller: Can you really get curious about what does turn you on and what does turn you off? And to really kind of just be present with your body. I mean, we really need that information to be able to have a conversation with our partner, right? If we don’t even know what’s going on on the inside, it’s hard to express that in a conversation with our partner. So-
Laurie Watson: Okay. So I like this place better as a starting place. I think that’s good that we’re asking people just to first become aware of what they like and what feels good and when they feel erotic, if they feel erotic.
George Faller: And we could do this with food, right? I mean, I love pizza. I don’t like sushi. I don’t have a problem expressing that, right? I just learned to listen to that stuff.
Laurie Watson: Baba ghanoush, [crosstalk 00:07:43].
George Faller: Baba ghanoush.
Laurie Watson: Good stuff.
George Faller: But if I’m racing, if I’m trying to have a conversation with my wife about sex and I really don’t know what turns me on and turns me off, I’m kind of set up to fail in that conversation, right? So I do think we need to do some of that work ourselves that says, what might turn my wife on or turn her off? And really starting from that place of not knowing. I mean, I think it brings in such a different spirit to a conversation when both people are open to being changed by what they hear and not really sure what’s going to happen, then coming in with a list and an agenda and trying to force something for the other person to hear.
Laurie Watson: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, this is a nice conversation over wine, not necessarily the Saturday morning coffee, right? This is the, let’s go sit by the fire and talk about some fun things.
George Faller: I mean, that’s part of the decision, like when do you have it? You don’t want to have this right after sex. You don’t want to have it in the morning. There are so many times not to have this conversation, which is again, part of the problem.
Laurie Watson: I have a girlfriend who says, “Yeah, those are conversations in the bathtub with wine, definitely.” But I think one of the things that came to mind as you were talking was, especially for sexual pursuers that say everything works, everything works for me. They’re not really helping their partner find success. They’re not really revealing what their preferences are or-
George Faller: So if you’re saying that to me, we’re role playing that together, right? You’re basically telling me, I’m hearing in the message and now you got this all figured out. You’re super comfortable with everything, you’re into every day and excited about everything. Therefore, the problem is all on me, right? And that means there’s more pressure on me and I don’t really want to deal with that or have a conversation, because now we’re trying to figure out my problems. That doesn’t sound like we’re exploring together. That looks like you’re trying to fix me.
Laurie Watson: Okay. So if I was the more comfortable one, my partner, you the less comfortable one. Are you a man or a woman?
George Faller: I’m a man here.
Laurie Watson: Okay. Okay. So how would I say that? Is what you’re saying? How would I role play that?
George Faller: If you’re the one who wants to have a conversation and you have a lot of openness around that, and I don’t, how do you initiate a conversation that’s going to invite me into the space instead of kind of making me feel more pressure.
Laurie Watson: So hard. You’ll probably have to fix this after I say this George. So I would say, “I loved what we did last night and it was so great to be together and I love most of what we’re doing. I would just love to know more about your mind and what you think about and what you imagined sometimes. And I’m wondering if you would be able to tell me that or if we could have a conversation. I was sort of thinking, let’s go sit by the fire and have some wine and talk about that.” How does that sound to you?
George Faller: Sounds pretty good.
Laurie Watson: I did good.
George Faller: I liked how you were being delicate, right? And you were trying to be aware. I mean, it’s hard because my brain is so sensitive to hearing criticism around this topic, but I liked that you were trying to show interest in what might be happening in my world.
Laurie Watson: Also, reassurance first, I think. Wanting my partner to know that I’m not interested in criticism or changing things or that I’m disappointed in something and that this is just a trap, right? I’m going to lay something on you that is bad news. It’s like I want them to feel really safe to come over and talk with me and I guess, I’m trying to communicate that by saying I loved what happened so that my partner feels safe.
George Faller: Yeah. I think front load in that compensation is really helpful for me. For you to be explicit to say, “Hey, you know me. I get jazzed up about this stuff. I really want to talk about it. It’s how I show my love and I want to know more about you. But I also know sometimes that doesn’t land that way for you.” Right? So again, the spirit of this conversation is that. I just want to know you better. There’s so much going on there that I just think it’s pretty cool and whenever kind of want to talk about that stuff, I’m here. That’s openness, kind of. I feel a softening for me.
Laurie Watson: Mm-hmm (affirmative). But explicitly saying, “I know in the past this is kind of made you nervous or you’ve felt like I’ve been disappointed and we haven’t had a whole lot of good talks about this. Something happens between us and I know that and I’m really hoping for something different this time. I want you to feel safe. I’m not unhappy. I’m happy with how it’s going. I want you to know that I just want to know more from you.”
George Faller: Yeah. I think it’s really important to, even when you start off by saying, we had a great night last night, I’m waiting for the but, right? My nervous system is waiting for the message of what kind of you want to do differently, right? So if you’re just be clear about that and saying, hey, I know I do this stuff and it doesn’t… That stuff does help me kind of let my defenses down. And I think this will be a great spot to break, talking about getting these buying as the first step of a new conversation.
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George Faller: Hey listen man, Uberlube is a good thing. If it helps your partner, it helps you.
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.
Laurie Watson: If you’d like therapy with George, find him at georgefaller.com.
Laurie Watson: We’re back, Foreplay radio. Talking about talking about sex. George, you said you didn’t grow up that way. Of course I did grow up that way [inaudible 00:14:54]. My mother talked about sex, she was pretty open in a nice sort of way. My family didn’t talk but my mother did and they say that if your mother talks to you about sex as a woman, it lays down a basis of healthy sexuality all your life. So all my girlfriends out there, please talk to your daughters. Please give them all the right names of their body parts and everything and talking about it. That’s a legacy that you can really impact their sexual health forever.
George Faller: Right. And I key word is healthy sexuality. I think unfortunately, in not talking about it or most of the time when I would hear it growing up, it’s the bad things that happen. Get people pregnant, disease. All that starts to really, even outside awareness, form somebody’s capability of kind of wanting to have this conversation. So for me, thinking about my sons, I don’t want to save the sex talk for this one big conversation at the right time. I mean, I think it’s more about a way of being around sexuality. If I really live a sexually healthy life, it’s just normal for me to want to pull the people I love into that perspective.
George Faller: It becomes something easier. And that sounds like exactly what you’ve done with your kids growing up, right? It’s your mom passed that on to you and you’re passing it onto your kids. Then for those of us who didn’t have that luxury, we’re trying to find our language because we start to experience success in having these conversations and we want to pass that love on to the people around us.
Laurie Watson: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, I think it’s so important and just in casual conversation all around us. Our friends, when they talk about it, it’s… Of course my friends all talk to me about sex, which is fun, but my friends have always talked to me about sex. So in fact I was… Oh, shout out Dev and Karen. I was in California last week and my girlfriends were just peeling with laughter. They were like, “This is so perfect for you, Laurie. You have always talked about sex, always wanted to talk about sex.” They listen to us every week. They’re like all about it.
George Faller: That’s pretty cool.
Laurie Watson: Yeah.
George Faller: I mean, again, it shows the difference. Like my friends feel freaked out to listen to me talking about sex so they don’t listen to me. So what’s that saying?
Laurie Watson: Yeah, that’s funny. So your friends aren’t listening.
George Faller: I think some of them do secretly, but I think in general, so many of us live in communities where this is just something we don’t talk about. You might get a couple of guys together that’ll make some comments but it’s very different than having a really open conversation around sexuality, especially what healthy sexuality looks like. Now, would you bring that up at a cocktail party?
Laurie Watson: Well, a lot cocktail parties, I’m introduced as a sex therapist, so the subject is already up. But yeah, I mean, I don’t introduce myself much as a sex therapist because I kind of think it’s too titillating really. But every once in a while, somebody will ask what I do and I usually start just with I’m a psychotherapist and then they ask, “Well, what type? What do you do?” And then maybe I offer up, “I’m a sex therapist.” Not because I’m embarrassed, but because I think there’s a lot of misconceptions. And the show, the sex education show, the series that we saw an episode of, and the sex therapist is this really, really sexy, promiscuous woman and the son is quite serious and giving dispensing kind of true sexual advice to his friends.
Laurie Watson: And it’s like everybody thinks a sex therapist is the woman. But really being a sex therapist is more like being the son, where you’re just with people in their pain and their brokenness and that kind of thing. So I mean, yeah, I talk about it. I think when people meet me, they want to talk about it. They want to tell me their story, they want to ask questions. It’s a fun thing.
George Faller: I guess I’d be curious on how many of our listeners can relate. I mean, as a sex therapist, that’s your job description, right? So there’s not a lot of reservations or hesitations. But for most people that grow up with everybody around them not talking about it, right? I mean, it’s easy to listen to somebody else on a podcast than it is to probably go next door to your neighbor and start talking about sex.
Laurie Watson: Yeah. I grew up churchy and a bunch of us girlfriends, we all talked about sex. So it really is interesting to me that… And unfortunate, I’m sure that I thought that was a female experience that women just talked about and I was very, very fortunate. But-
George Faller: Well, do you think how you talked about sex with your girlfriends is different than how I talked about sex with my guy friends?
Laurie Watson: Very. I am sure it was very different. Yeah.
George Faller: Well, then wouldn’t that set us up once we get together to have very different perspectives on what sex is when our conversations are so different?
Laurie Watson: Mm-hmm (affirmative). How would you describe how you talked about it with friends?
George Faller: I think it was more kind of jokey, focus on performance and sensation. I don’t think there was really any conversations around emotions or feeling in love. I mean, that was totally out of the equation. And so many men have an image of sex like pornography. It’s like a workout, it’s a way of just… And I think that sets up a lot of men to struggle in real intimate, vulnerable love.
Laurie Watson: Mm-hmm (affirmative). In the combination of intimacy and romance that they have focused more on performance, genital experience, that kind of thing. Did men tell each other things like this is how they make a woman climax? I mean, was there ever that kind of explicit talk?
George Faller: No, because the assumption is almost bragging. Everybody assumes that they can do all those things.
Laurie Watson: I see. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
George Faller: So for you to kind of ask questions, it would actually put you in a less position. Like how did you do that? If you wanted help or a play by play, everybody’s going to wonder like, oh, you’re not so good at this then.
Laurie Watson: Yeah. No, my girlfriends and I, we talked about all of that. I mean, instructed-
George Faller: What felt good, what-
Laurie Watson: Yeah. About how to give oral sex, how to get oral sex. I mean, just everything down to the wire. And I mean, we certainly talked about our romantic feelings, our guilty feelings. We were mostly all pursuers, right? So you can imagine the length of conversation, George, that we had about the men and boys we were involved with. I mean, it was just tearing everything apart, but certainly there was a lot of explicit talk about every aspect of sex.
George Faller: But not having that explicit talk with the very boyfriends.
Laurie Watson: Right. Probably not.
George Faller: What do you think stops that? Because here you are talking about hours with your girlfriends and then when it comes to the boyfriend who’s doing it with you, very little communication.
Laurie Watson: Yeah. I mean, I think my own experience is that again, in sexuality as a woman, you’re not supposed to tell, you’re not supposed to demand. You’re not supposed to even really know anything. So it becomes a very… Look, I’m tongue tied right now as we’re talking about it. It’s like it’s really hard to talk about that. I don’t think it’s hard in my adulthood now, but I think most women had that same experience growing up.
George Faller: So you feel that the men don’t want to hear it? What’s going to happen? You can share it with your girlfriend but you can’t share it with your boyfriend. So I’m just trying to understand the block. You have the understanding, you have the words and yet it doesn’t get translated to the boyfriend. So let’s [crosstalk 00:23:14].
Laurie Watson: That is a brilliant question. So I think, yes, some of it is, I mean, lots of feelings about you’ll hurt his feelings because he doesn’t know what he’s doing and you don’t want to tell him he doesn’t know what he’s doing. And-
George Faller: This is hilarious. You don’t want to hurt his feelings and he’s got to pretend he knows what he’s doing because he don’t want his friends to think less of him. So this is a whole game we’re playing here. I’m sorry, keep going.
Laurie Watson: And I don’t think many guys are asking women. And as a woman, this is another reason-
George Faller: The guys are being consistent because they’re not asking their guy friends either.
Laurie Watson: Wait, wait, wait. So I think one of the main reasons I don’t tell people that I’m a sex therapist is nobody asks. Like men, when I’m in a conversation with a man just at a cocktail party or at church or wherever, they don’t ask me what I do. They’re not curious. If there’s very much a gender difference that men are to initiate conversations and women are to respond, and in the bedroom, absolutely. There’s this sense that as a woman, you want your partner to begin the conversation. It is not up to you to begin the conversation. I’m telling you from my gut what it feels like.
George Faller: It’s fun to have this conversation. I’m going back to my high school days. I was consistent. I didn’t get that feedback from the guys I was with and I didn’t get it from the girls I was with. So no wonder why I didn’t really have a lot of conversations around that besides the joking around. What you’re saying is interesting. The girls are having deep conversations around both the emotions of it, the physical of it, what works, what does it work and yet, there’s a fear for women to kind of, even from that early time, to express any of that because somehow that’s going to hurt the guy’s feelings.
Laurie Watson: And there’s a lot of other things. It’s like it’s not ladylike to talk so graphically about it. I mean, there’s just so-
George Faller: And it’s ladylike to talk to your friends about it.
Laurie Watson: Yeah. That’s okay.
George Faller: Okay.
Laurie Watson: Yeah, because we’re all in it together.
George Faller: I feel like as a man, I’m getting a sneak peek into the secret room that women do these things with.
Laurie Watson: That’s right. Yeah, I still would say with some of my very close girlfriends, we talk explicitly about sex. Definitely have had deep conversations recently about sex with women that are just girlfriends. Everything from our feelings to explicit stuff. Still getting tips from my good girls.
George Faller: What do you think most women, I know we’re wrapping it up here though, are as comfortable talking about it as you and your friends were growing up, or are there a lot of women out here that don’t talk about it just like men don’t talk about it.
Laurie Watson: I think there’s a lot of women that don’t talk about it too. Yeah. I think I have been super blessed in life to have found girlfriends that will talk about it. And maybe it’s me, some of it as a common denominator, but my patients, when I tell them, “Really, you never talk to your girlfriends about it?” It’s like, “Not even one. I don’t even talk to my sister about it.” I’m like, oh man, how lonely. And again, they’re not talking to their partner about it.
George Faller: So for me, these themes that we keep rehashing throughout all of these podcasts we’re connecting with the good reasons people don’t want to talk about things. They don’t want to get hurt, they don’t want to be embarrassed. There’s so many things that stop it, but it’s the avoidance that so often is then the root of the creating a distance and those little levels of engagement. So what we’re doing here today is really just trying to make it a little bit more comfortable for people to confront having these conversations and to start to see sex in that much healthier way. The opportunities, not just the problems that are going to occur with it.
Laurie Watson: Yeah, last thought. I think that certainly the conversations with my girlfriends was a conversation also about healthy sex and eroticism. It wasn’t all about the bad stuff and that’s so good, to have a perspective that this is enjoyable and pleasurable, and I am surrounded by female sexual pursuers. A lot of my girlfriends are female sexual pursuers so we resonate with each other.
George Faller: I liked the last comment being around a really balanced view of talking about sex that can be both the problems and the beauty of it.
Laurie Watson: Yep. Okay. You’re listening to Foreplay Radio, Sex Therapy.
George Faller: Keep it hot.
Laurie Watson: So George, we’re going to offer an intensive on May 14th in Raleigh to two couples. We have two, two hour slots and we would love to get a couple to come in who have sexual problems and you’ll be able to work with George and I. Right, George?
George Faller: That’s right. What a great opportunity to just open up some space, to hang out and see if we can make some progress in these areas we’re stuck in.
Laurie Watson: You can just reach us on Foreplay Radio, by email and let us know if you’re interested. There is a cost for both George and I and we are videotaping this for our trainings that only are shown to students.
George Faller: We look forward to seeing you there.
Laurie Watson: Hey, don’t forget to check out uberlube.com with the coupon Foreplay. Behind this product is a really good way to support us and it helps us keep delivering free content to you. And Foreplay family, I want you to know we had our highest download day ever thanks to you. Our downloads are just increasing by leaps and bounds. We are so grateful for your sharing. Thank you again. Definitely subscribe. That helps our rankings in iTunes, which is important for us.
Announcer: Call in your questions to the Foreplay question voicemail. Dial 833-MY4-PLAY, that’s 833, the number four, play, and we’ll use the questions for our mailbag episodes. All content is for entertainment purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for therapy by a licensed clinician or as medical advice from a doctor.