How can you and your partner align your emotional and sexual cycles?
We can be on different planets sometimes when it comes to these cycles, but when they align with each other they are more consistent. Finding an intersection between your emotional and sexual cycles requires both partners to take risks. However, you may not recognize each other’s attempts!
Sexual pursuers often look for connection through physical touch…they are being vulnerable by initiating. They are trying to make repair without words, but the withdrawer may not see this attempt because they need words. The withdrawer may perceive it as their partner “only wanting them for sex” which can add to the pressure and make them pull away. The pursuer then perceives this as rejection to their attempt for connection. This miscommunication is what causes us to get lost in a negative cycle.
When the withdrawer takes a risk to open up sexually and lower their defenses, they are also being vulnerable. Again, flexibility from both partners is key; having the mindset of “let’s see what can happen…”
Sex can be a great repair; it can bring you closer together and help you get to a place of connection to then talk about hurt feelings and emotions with each other.
The following content is not suitable for children.
Laurie Watson 00:05
Welcome to foreplay radio couples in sex therapy. I’m Laurie Watson, your sex therapist.
George Faller 00:11
And I’m George Faller, your couples therapist,
Laurie Watson 00:13
and we are passionate about talking about sex and helping you develop a way to talk to each other.
George Faller 00:19
Our mission is to help our audience develop a healthier relationship to sex that integrates the mind, the heart and the body.
Laurie Watson 00:28
For a great personal lubricant, please check out hulu.com and use the coupon foreplay to support us at the podcast. Thanks. So when we talk about pursuers and with jars, but emotionally and sexually, it’s not necessarily a fixed point, right? You’re not always the pursuer and always withdraw, emotionally or sexually. I mean, sometimes, maybe there’s a dominant style that we have, but it’s not a fixed point. It’s not the same as your attachment style.
George Faller 00:58
Exactly. And it’s so important to start off with that flexibility. We all do some of both. And really kind of recognizing what you’re doing in the moment is what is is critical if you really want to get clear on what’s going on underneath, and what it is you’re looking for. So when we looking at, let’s take a traditional couple where you have a male withdraw emotionally and female pursuer emotionally, right, that pursuer is looking for conversations, because they’re hoping they’re going to get closer. A lot of times the questions they ask triggering the withdraw the sense that, you know, it might turn into a fight or disagreement, let’s avoid talking about it, you know, it’s taken space that makes them feel safer, which makes the pursuer feel kind of left alone, it doesn’t feel fair, they get frustrated, they start to turn up the heat, the more they turn up, the more the withdrawal starts to pull away and this couples lost. Right? They’re lost in that negative cycle. So what they do emotionally doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing, what they’re going to do sexually.
Laurie Watson 02:06
Yes, that’s true.
George Faller 02:08
So a lot of times that same withdrawn male has gone away. Well, they’re going to come back a couple hours later, and maybe initiate that’s how they attempt to repair. Right. That’s how they’re trying to come closer through the physical through the touch look into it for connection.
Laurie Watson 02:27
Yeah, so he may be realizing even that there’s a little glitch between the two of them. And about his Connect, he’s he’s definitely
George Faller 02:37
Darwin is a glitch between the two, it might look like he’s it doesn’t rattle as much but there he knows something wrong.
Laurie Watson 02:48
That’s wrong. And so he comes back amorous and romantic and touching her and wanting to initiate sexually, because he’s, he does love her, and he wants to close this gap. So he’s going to sexually pursue and that’s where he feels the safest right where he feels his. He’s strong here. This is how he can show up and he wants to show up for her. So he comes at her with a sexual request or just sexual initiation
George Faller 03:20
well, and that even thought about coming towards starts to turn on the arousal. Right? So now he’s being driven by the testosterone that’s saying, right, this is how you see connection, like you’d have a lot of muscle memory and practice with this. And before you know it that gets them over the hurdle of kind of wanting to confront this possibly threatening situation.
Laurie Watson 03:39
Mm hmm. So he thinks about it, he turns on, and that, that makes him overcome his withdrawal and come toward her.
George Faller 03:51
I’ve never said that before. That’s a pretty cool, if you think about the emotional cycle, he doesn’t have the Edit push or the testosterone. Yeah, it is his body’s just saying, Ah, this is probably going to end in a fight. Why take the risk, but the sexual piece gives him a push that he normally doesn’t get.
Laurie Watson 04:09
And that is so beautiful. Right? His body is directing him toward her. Right then when the intersection,
George Faller 04:18
we’re in the intersection, right? He’s doing a different emotional move than his sexual move. And now we get to that intersection Lance on her sheets has been left emotionally as she’s sitting in the frustration, the unfairness of that rejection, the pain, the loneliness, her body, you know, in best case scenarios is going to need time to turn on. And yet he or she is not in a great spot to be turned on. And here he comes initiating.
Laurie Watson 04:45
Hmm. And guess what she says?
George Faller 04:48
He just wants me for my body. Yeah,
Laurie Watson 04:50
he Ali wants a sex. I had this conversation with him two hours ago and he just laughed. He walked out. And seriously now he thinks I’m gonna want sex.
George Faller 05:01
Right. So it’s
Laurie Watson 05:02
not necessarily that the sexual withdraw or doesn’t want him want his body or have desire at different points, but it’s this place when they’re criss crossing, that it’s not working,
George Faller 05:16
terrible timing for both of them. Terrible timing. But now we see this emotional cycle shift. You know, when we add the sexual cycle to it, she’s still in a frustrated place that normally she’d want to talk about it. But now she’s been asked for sex, you might not even be able to find the words. Like it’s her body’s just trying to cut a figure out what am I supposed to do with this? And it’s normal. It’s really what we’re looking for is what happens when this trigger comes for you? Do you want to approach your partner Do you want to go away, and then this moment that the female emotional pursuer then tends to disengage?
Laurie Watson 05:55
I think too, it’s important to realize that when he walks away, or he shuts down the conversation in some way, that there is often a body response in her just emotionally. You know, like, there’s this pain in the, in her gut, you know, maybe she feels this tightness in her chest of, you know, a physiological response to what she perceives as rejection. So she is actually feeling something in her body, of course, and then, right, our emotions live in our bodies. And then when he comes for her sexually, to repair to reconnect, her body is in a really shut down place, not just sexually, but she’s hurting and she’s aching. She is feeling something and it is not sex.
George Faller 06:44
As much as that
Laurie Watson 06:45
would I wish people could see this because I liked what I just saw George’s setting is eye shaking as
George Faller 06:52
well, it I mean, as much as it really is because my heart is hurting. For that for them for that female in that moment, right? Because that that man is being driven because help with testosterone, they get over the hump. That’s right. And yet she is not only not being responded to in her pain, which is normal to mobilize and protect yourself. But then she’s been asked to access her desire and longings when she’s in a heavily defended place with no testosterone with notice fuel. And it blows my mind that so many women from that place still find a way to kind of loudly let them their bodies go go to that willingness place that we talked about last time, just hoping that maybe this will get them closer again. So then we can finally talk about these hurt feelings. Right? And they’re heading I mean, you can’t they’re like on different planets in that moment.
Laurie Watson 07:45
They are. And their bodies, I often say that our our bodies are so different.
George Faller 07:51
It’s so beautiful, what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to manage, but what do they do in it? In that moment, they’re trying to push aside the pain and the hurt. They’re saying, I can talk about this later, right? So that that’s like withdraw or move with their emotions, it shows off flexibility. I didn’t just Then said I, let’s see what could happen. I’ll open up my body, and maybe we can get there. Right. And even if I don’t get there, at least it’s going to bring us closer together so that maybe after sex, we they could have this conversation of an emotionally repair. Mm hmm. I thought that’s a lot. She takes
Laurie Watson 08:26
a chance, she takes a big risk, big chance if she’s going to open up sexually at that point, right.
George Faller 08:34
That’s a tough spot. And no wonder why so often she can’t do it. And then he feels rejected. And now he’s being left out in No Man’s lands. And both people go off into the dark holes together.
Laurie Watson 08:49
Because it is he does feel vulnerability in initiating. He without words, he is trying to make repair. But she he doesn’t without the words, she doesn’t really know that. And he might not be able to even say that.
George Faller 09:04
And just because you don’t have words doesn’t mean your body doesn’t feel the hurt. It’s not an easy thing for what you’re to come forward. Because you’re allowing you have to lower your walls to comply with and you run the risk that you’re following your longings that want connection, and you’re lowering your defenses to get it. So when you get rejected, you don’t have the normal defenses you have in place for that rejection. So it hurts a lot more.
Laurie Watson 09:29
I just want to clarify what you were saying because we’re talking about two different withdraws. But you are now talking about the emotional male withdraw or Yes, that it’s so hard for him to come forward and be vulnerable and, and offer himself right in in that moment to be close and connected. And then to get rejected is painful again.
George Faller 09:53
It’s more than painful. Both of them are the emotional cycles when we get this interaction With the sexual and emotional cycle, right that he’s coming forward taking a risk that normally he doesn’t take. She’s trying to respond to it, but to do it, she’s taken a risk you normally don’t take, so when it doesn’t work, it’s like Boma Bob goes off a ball for that. Mm
Laurie Watson 10:18
hmm. Yeah, she’s, she’s pushed even further away. Because she, she doesn’t recognize the attempt at the repairs. She doesn’t, it doesn’t land in her.
George Faller 10:31
Right? So then she’s gonna need to go back to her anger to kind of rally herself because he’s not responding. So now she’s like, Hi, Warren. Faye just wanted me for my body. You know, this is this is ridiculous. She didn’t even want to talk about it. So she’s gonna get revved up. And he’s like, here we go. Again. This is exactly why what’s the point of even trying goodbye. And now they’re both in those holes alone.
Laurie Watson 10:54
And then she’s rejected, again, lots to learn. And now it’s a two day fight. Instead of a, you know, sometimes a sex as repair, right?
George Faller 11:02
Yes, when it works, it can be a great way of bringing them closer together that then have that emotional conversation afterwards. So let’s come back Laurie and talk about maybe when those cycle the sexual and relational align with each other, they’re more consistent. versus other times, they might switch roles. There’s no right or wrong here. We’re just inviting our listeners to get more curious about the movement between these different cycles and how they might impact each other.
Laurie Watson 11:31
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George Faller 12:14
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George Faller 12:32
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Laurie Watson 12:38
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George Faller 12:45
So Laura, you know, at times I can be a bit old school. Yes, growing up with a bunch of men who didn’t do any kind of trimming or cleaning, they just kind of just let it roll. So I think I tried to get caught up with the Modern Times said, Hey, when you notice all what women have to do to go through the grooming plane and make them slacks, rocks and all this stuff that seems quite painful. I figured at least I can do is I’ll give a little tremens. Crush it up. The problem is I used you know what I was using to shave my son’s head, you know? Did it feel so good out here. So
Laurie Watson 13:21
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George Faller 13:33
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Laurie Watson 13:40
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George Faller 14:13
Come on and join me.
Laurie Watson 14:15
What’s our G spot today? Where’s the G spot man? g spot
George Faller 14:18
today is about expanding your sexual menu. Oh, what is that sexual menu is just trying to not eat the same food over and over again.
Lots of people aren’t gonna like that to spot
George Faller 14:35
none of us just live on one course. We need an appetizer, a couple of options for our main course and lots of desserts.
Laurie Watson 14:47
I was thinking on break about these distinct positions, sexual withdraw our sexual pursuer emotional which are emotional pursuer and then interval. Those
George Faller 14:57
are your four variables. You started off with let’s do a foursome.
Laurie Watson 15:03
I didn’t say that.
George Faller 15:04
Okay. I guess it was just in my brain lurking somewhere dark recesses
Laurie Watson 15:13
okay. Okay, I got I think. So, yes, those are the four variables of how people are relating to each other and we may be sexual pursuers and emotional pursuers or we may be criss crossed. Sometimes, I think traditionally in heterosexual sex, the male is the emotional withdraw, and the sexual pursuer and the woman, the emotional pursuer and the sexual desire. But, you know, we know that sometimes we are both maybe he’s both a sexual pursuer and an emotional pursuer.
George Faller 15:46
Both are so important, and there’s no right or wrong here. We just want you to get curious about what your your might be, is it? Do they go together? Are you consistently sexually and relationally? Or is there is there an intersection where those things shift? So yes, if we’re talking about in your example, the female who emotionally withdraws because her partner can be very angry and control light, but also sexually with drawers because she feels again, the pressure of not wanting to let him down. Right, so then those those cycles kind of really overlap pretty neatly with each other. Mm hmm. But you might also get that female which are emotionally who pulls away is kind of safe to get away from the message. She’s getting it wrong. But she might be. I work with some couples to sexual then Priscilla. Which it That’s her way of feeling safer and more connected. So she’s going to now come forward, you know, to initiate sex. So that would be
Laurie Watson 16:48
Yeah, it’s a hybrid. She bridges the gap with sexuality and sexual initiation. Maybe he’s angry, and she feels like she fails him there. But this is the one way she can please Him. So she’s really motivated to have them get into a calmer place. Unless angry place. She knows that he gets more open maybe and so she initiates sex?
George Faller 17:13
Yeah, I think it’s a great trying to get curious about what’s the motivation of sex? You know, is this an area that she just feels freer in? It makes her feel good about herself? Is that’s what’s driving it. It’s like this is the area I get a sense of connection? Or is it? Is this a tool to kind of calm him down to make him not mad at me? Like what’s driving kind of her initiating sex? So we’re not just looking at the behavior? Who’s initiating and who’s not. But what’s the motivation for that behavior?
Laurie Watson 17:42
Mm hmm. Wow, we’re gonna get a lot of feedback on this. We’re not saying to people just for the record, that as if you’re in this situation, where your guys really angry that you should appease them with sex, that’s not our message. We’re just talking about that. Sometimes people do do that. And it’s an it’s interesting, right? Does this actually, in my mind, I’m thinking does it feed a positive erotic cycle? Because if she’s just coming toward him, to please Him, to make him calmer to get him in a good mood, it’s probably not going to land in her as you know, I feel this freedom and eroticism to be who I am, you know, no, she’s she’s not going to feel that she may take an action that does that. And so many women say, you know, I shouldn’t have to have sex with him, for him to be in a good mood, the next two days, which I get that,
George Faller 18:37
well, the flip side, if you were that relationally pursuing now. And here comes your partner sexually initiating with you. Right? And he says, No, I’m not interested. I’m really trying to say, right, what’s that know about? Is that know, really coming from a critical place that says, You hurt me now I’m going to show you what it’s like, I’m going to reject you. Because I’m really angry. It’s that it’s how pursuers tend to deal with their hurts, right? In a protesting critical way, man, maybe, but maybe that no, is? Wait a second, I’m not sure I’m going to perform here because I have a history of EDI. And, you know, actually, I’m trying to avoid the embarrassment and a hurt of what it might feel like if I can’t perform. So my know is my way of emotionally trying to kind of get away from my feelings. So you can see that moment that that relational pursuer could be going either direction. And I’m Alan as a therapist trying to say right, let’s get curious about what your move is what your protective move you’re saying. No, I see that. I just want to help you understand what the know is about.
Laurie Watson 19:48
So kind of the first one for me, the first one that you said, if he is sort of wanting her to feel what it’s like to be rejected, maybe he does feel desire and normally But she comes at him. He’s an emotional withdrawal. And she says, you know, why don’t we have sex and or initiate in some way? And he says, No, I don’t want to do that. Help me. Yeah, I did. What is he feeling inside
George Faller 20:14
the bed timing that say, you know what, I’ve wanted to talk about this stuff. For the last two days, I’ve been trying to talk about it, you won’t talk about it. And now you’re just going to come touch me and think it’s all gonna go away? No, it’s not that easy. Right? It just doesn’t go away that way for me, right? It’s it’s almost like switching roles, or what we talked about in the first segment that that withdrawn male, which wants to repair. Now, the females trying to repair that way, but that that male tends to have a little bit more confidence expressing like, No, no, we’re not going to do this, this, we’re not going to go down this way. You can’t, I can’t allow you because if I allow you to do that, it’s going to teach you that you can continue to disregard my protests and think it’s okay not to talk about it. And I’m not going to enable that. So I’m just gonna say a hard note here.
Laurie Watson 21:02
So he’s saying you’re manipulating me? I’m not going to? I’m not that easy, girl.
George Faller 21:08
Yeah, yeah, you got you got to take this stuff seriously, that you know, these things I want to talk about a really important to me. And that’s just not going to go away because we have sex.
Laurie Watson 21:17
Now. So talked about that sometimes. Right? Sometimes in marriage, we have parts of ourselves that want to hurt our partner. It’s not pretty. But you said, you know, maybe he wants her to feel what it’s like to be rejected. I often see this in the sexual cycle, the one partner who is the sexual pursuer for maybe years, and then their partner does come toward them. And they say, no, it’s they’re the burnt out pursuer sexually, you know, they, and they want their partner to feel how bad it feels to be rejected in that really vulnerable sexual moment. You know, they, they’re actually, it’s, it’s crazy, but they’re actually communicating something. This is what it feels like, I need you to get it. How I’ve been vulnerable over the years, I need you to feel the hurt the pain. It’s not pretty. And it looks retaliatory. It looks like retaliation, but it’s really a communication. Yes. I don’t know that. You know, any human in that moment, can can feel that like, Oh, good. My partner is just communicating with me.
George Faller 22:29
Well, it’s, it’s it’s so important what you said, I just want to highlight it. You know, that’s the age old question. Why do we hurt to people we love. There’s something about that fight or flight response that says, you know, what, if you hurt me, and I hurt you back, that maybe you will learn a lesson from this, and you’ll do something differently. We’re using hurts as a motivation tool, that we’re hoping it’s going to create change, we’re using hurting, hurting guess hurting the other instead of expressing our hurt. Because there’s power in that. Yeah, right. There’s a sense of, it’s going to get me away from my own hurts. And maybe I’m going to get you to do something differently.
Laurie Watson 23:12
Right? Right. If I if I zing you with this, you’ll know something. And you’ll be less likely to do it to me the next time.
George Faller 23:22
Which is not good math.
It is. It is not.
George Faller 23:28
It’s human, and it’s messy. But it’s not good math.
Laurie Watson 23:32
That’s so true. That’s so true.
George Faller 23:34
Right. But I think it’s helpful for couples listening, that do this to say, Hmm, you know, we’ve never talked about this. This is our dance. This is what we’ve done hundreds and hundreds of times to each other. We’ve never found words to it. Right? Well, let’s start talking about this. You’re not alone. We all have some version of this overlap between our emotional and sexual cycles. And it’s confusing, and there’s a lot going on. But if you can start slowing it down, you start to have more choice, you start to have more power to do things differently. Because if we don’t talk about it, we’re left to our own assumptions on what’s happening. And that’s never a good place. Because our brain usually assumes the worst usually assumes our partner thinks they don’t, they don’t care. We don’t matter, you know, all these negative attributions that actually just feed more mistrust and more need to defend ourselves. And when you start to have these conversations you saw recognizing greatest lack of my product is a very similar places May. They don’t know what to do. They’re hurting too. They’re scared. They have mistrust. And before you know it, just a willingness to talk starts to put people on on the same platform, instead of being so far apart.
Laurie Watson 24:47
This reminds me of a couple that I saw and he was originally kind of the sexual pursuer. It was very complicated they they were in flux. But he was eventually the sexual withdraw. And he said, You know, I, I could feel myself just shut her down and turn my back to her. It was purposeful to hurt her and I, he was so vulnerable in saying that so vulnerable and opening up to his hurtful motives. I just think it was an It was incredible that he could admit that and, and talk about it and see, you know, he he was seeing how it impacted her right. He wasn’t saying this is justifiable. He was, you know, it was with remorse and regret. But it wasn’t with horrible shame. It was like he was starting to think about these things. And I think as we talk about this, George I so want people to start to organize internally, what am I doing? This is why we’re talking about these in four separate moves, so that people can organize their relationship just and give them more flexibility of what they might do. You know, I think learning pursuer and withdraw our language, you know, helped me so much in my own relationship to realize oh, yeah, sometimes I’m coming forward, sometimes I’m going back. Why is that? And that’s the feedback that we get from people is, this is the first time I’ve been able to think about this, with some clarity rather than it’s always a jumble every fight is a new fight. It’s like no, actually, every fight is often a repeat of the old fight in terms of our positions.
George Faller 26:28
Right. And this is just not for couples. I mean, we have a lot of therapists listening, and 75% of therapists out there are not really doing a sexual assessment or not talking about the sexual cycle and not really trying to get curious about the overlap between the two. So, you know, this is a work in process for all of us, you know, my own evolution, I really never even dealt much with this. So I’m excited to just to start looking in this direction to recognize there’s so much happening in these moments, people are switching roles are protected in different ways that have different logins, you know, there’s a lot here that if we slow it down, we could really help people have a lot more success. Mm hmm. Okay.
Laurie Watson 27:12
Well, thanks for listening,
George Faller 27:14
keep it hot. So for all you therapists out there, listen into our show, I really want you to check out success invulnerability.com, a new training website that we believe is taking online therapist training to the next level, it’s so focused on moment by moment, practical moves, less theory, to really get people to have immediate success, right, we’re trying to measure targets have changed. So we can see if we’re on target, or we need to adjust. And the feedback we’re getting is really excited. We’re incorporating that feedback to continually adjust it to change the schedule, and come join us si ve team.
Laurie Watson 27:58
Also, I’ll just put a plug in for it as well, because I am one of the learners. And they just released module three, which is so nuanced, and so smart, I was listening to it thinking, this kind of instruction just is not out there, how to do the micro moves that change people’s hearts toward each other. It’s so good. So it’s reasonably priced, I just encourage you to go over to success and vulnerability.com and sign up. It’s great training.
George Faller 28:30
Lori, I want to give a big shout out to our patrons whose support is really helping. And as we’re starting to notice, with success comes more expenses. And it would really be great for our listeners to have new patrons Come and join us to be part of this mission, talking about sex, the importance of that, to change our culture, to help us not have to figure this stuff out and feel a shame that along with all this.
Laurie Watson 28:57
That’s right. Thanks so much. I mean, it feels good that people are believing in this mission, wanting to help other couples and wanting to help make sex something that is beautiful and easy to talk about and reduce the shame that people feel about it. So your financial support has been helpful and it would be wonderful to have you behind us
calling your questions to the foreplay question, voicemail dial 833 my foreplay, that’s a three three, 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. This podcast is copyrighted by fourplay Media