In the early dating years our partner’s face lights up at the thought of sex, they tell us with their eyes that we make them hot. The gleam in their eyes hits our body, hits our center, hits our being. Feeling that we light up their world is a turn-on!
Secure attachment begins with the loving gaze of our mother or parent – cradled in the crook of their elbow – they smile and coo because we are theirs. Later in childhood we know we belong and make our parents proud when we see it in their eyes… not so much for our accomplishments but because we are their son or daughter.
In romantic partnership, sexual desire that radiates from our partner’s face and gaze is a powerful reminder of belonging, safety. We revel in being the person who excites our partner.
What happens though when our partner is willing to have sex but doesn’t give us that deep reassurance that we are desirable with a gleam in their eye? Can we get it back? How do we tell them what we need from them to turn on? Listen as George and Laurie get through to each other about how sexual desire is tied to being the gleam in our partner’s eyes.
The following content is not suitable for children.
George Faller 00:02
Laurie, what do we do? When willingness is not enough?
Laurie Watson 00:09
Welcome to foreplay radio couples and sex therapy. I’m Laurie Watson, your sex therapist.
George Faller 00:15
And I’m George Faller, a couples therapist.
Laurie Watson 00:17
And we are passionate about talking about sex and helping you develop a way to talk to each other.
George Faller 00:23
Our mission is to help our audience develop a healthier relationship to sex that integrates the mind, the heart and the body
Laurie Watson 00:33
are a great personal lubricant, please check out Uberlube.com and use the coupon foreplay to support us at the podcast. Thanks. You know, we’ve talked about this idea that sometimes, willingness is the way we can enter a sexual relationship. And a lot of times, it’s a great way, you know, we may not feel in our bodies sexual desire, I think I got a comment from a regular listener who said, Wow, I’ve never heard it said that a woman comes into the sexual relationship with her genitals at zero. He’s like I’ve heard it said about 1000 times that she needs foreplay, and all this other stuff. Right. That’s why I’m saying it. But, you know, she may just be willing to get the game going. And that can be a wonderful starting point. And then she knows that, you know, desire kind of kicks in later as she gets aroused. But for some people, and not just men, but often men will say this, you know, but I really want her to want it. And when willingness fails, when they feel like it’s just not acceptable, when they they want something more from their partner, I believe that sometimes it comes from this idea in childhood that they never felt completely special to one of their parents, their parent kind of had a gleam in their eye for their kid, you know how I don’t know about you, George. But I imagine when your son is on the football field, you are watching him with, you know, all the love of a father and proud of a father and you have a gleam in your eye, you know, it’s not a sexual thing. When we have parents, looking at our children, you know, it’s this special thing. It’s like they are just, they’re wonderful, not just for their performance, but because they are ours. And I think that if you didn’t get that when you were a child from a parent, kind of the good mirroring, then it’s a loss in the sexual relationship, which is, in some ways, kind of a crossroads of our childhood. And our romance. You’re looking at me very skeptically,
George Faller 02:43
I listed this is this is where Laurie and I often diverge. Laurie is such a deep thinker that sees so much of these roots in these misty, dark spots of childhood. And I certainly no, childhood influences the present moment. But I often try to look for simpler explanations. But I love the question, which is, you know, willingness is such a healthier starting point. And for a lot of couples, that’s going to be good enough. And that’s going to lead to really much better sex. But for some people, that willingness is not enough. And like, how do we help them? How do we make sense? I think we all want to see it clean. And our partner’s eyes is so important, right? And if if my partner is not willing to give me the clean, or it’s not there, then you know, that’s willingness might not be enough. So what are we going to do with that?
Laurie Watson 03:37
And this, I’m surprised you do not really like this, because it’s really straight from attachment theory. I mean, you know, the way we attach to our mother in the very first place is our mother gazes at us. She’s looking at us, she’s pouring her love in by holding us and looking at us at the same time. It’s, it’s really nonverbal, love how we get attached. That’s why I think it’s so important to recognize the sexual cycle in romantic relationship. There’s not just an emotional cycle it sex is not just a way that somehow or another is secondary to real love that is verbal and expressive. It is in the body. And we get that directly from our parents. So hopefully, our mother who held us with love in their eyes, and, you know, or whatever parent figure we had, and it just that touch, affection and eye contact is the way we we begin to feel as children that we’re good that we’re loved. You know, so eye contact is amazingly important. And, you know, our parent needs to look at us with that sense of your mind and, and then we grow up kind of with more self esteem, you know, by that sorts.
George Faller 04:54
No, I definitely by that, I just, there are a lot of good reasons parents, don’t give Maybe they’re, they’re being oppressed, or they’re, they’re depressed or they’re on drugs and things get in the way. And, you know, we can’t just, yes, our bodies created to need this class, right. And if we’re not getting it, we’re gonna be more susceptible when our partner can’t give it to us, if we don’t have that security in our, you know, we trusted that in our bones that we get early in childhood,
Laurie Watson 05:26
right. And if we don’t get it, I mean, we grow up. Honestly, from the very earliest ages, with less secure attachment, we are more insecure, if we don’t have this, like, personal story, I had my third child, I was busy, I had a toddler and a six year old, and I remember nursing him thinking I was doing such a great thing. And I suddenly noticed that he wasn’t looking at my face much. Because oftentimes, I would nurse this child and just kind of, you know, sink into the chair exhausted, and I wasn’t looking at him. I wasn’t engaging him. And fortunately, I was in my program. And I understood what that meant. And we did a lot of active intentional work to reengage him with my eyes and my face. But because I knew how important it was to, to pour into him with my eyes, love for him. And and yeah, if we don’t get enough of it, we’re not as secure and then we have this old injury. I think that, you know, we have difficulty when our partner doesn’t give us that sense of desire. I mean, so many people say, you know, I just don’t feel the same desire for my partner anymore. And is that the end? Does that mean that they can’t have great sex? Does that mean that the marriage is over? You know, I don’t think so.
George Faller 06:44
Well, let me backtrack, because you’re starting to talk me into it. Okay. So the idea of, if we don’t get it as a child, and when we get into a committed relationship in the beginning, we get it, and then we lose it. Yeah. So losing of it’s going to be more traumatic than somebody that’s kind of always had it and just trust that like the oxygen they breathe. Right, right. So what I hear you saying, correct me if I’m wrong, is that willingness sounds great. But when their body experiences the loss, it does such it’s so traumatic in a way that they can kind of give the grace to hang in there with it.
Laurie Watson 07:26
Yes, like, imagine the little girl who she was the apple of her father’s eye, you know, she twirled in the living room. And he clapped and he’s like, honey, you are so beautiful. You’re my little girl. And he delighted in her and maybe she grows up and gets married. And, you know, they have hot sex in the beginning and overtime or husband’s busy, and he’s working and, and, you know, he approaches sex a little more mechanically, and I’m not okay in that. But maybe she she doesn’t feel it as this deep injury, like, I’m not desirable, she knows she’s desirable. She feels it her father, let her know she was special. And, you know, he had the gleam in his eye for her. And so she grows up with more whole than maybe the woman who, whose father never gave her that. And it doesn’t have to be opposite sex parents. I mean, it can be same sex parent who just sees you loves you. And you feel that from them in a deep way. And some of it is I’m just saying it starts in infancy. You know, when our parents look at us, and then in a sexual relationship, it can be really injurious, you know, not to have that those early injuries are problematic.
George Faller 08:43
I always find it helpful to understand what fuels the problem, what I’m more interested in what we can do to fix it, right to create that positive. So when you have, in your example, a sexual pursuer female who didn’t get that gleam, and now all of a sudden gets it through sex, and now loses it. Right? That’s a really tough spot.
George Faller 09:09
So how do we help that couple? No, maybe the partner is willing to engage and start started with that willingness isn’t enough.
Laurie Watson 09:22
I think this is such an entry for women because being desired is much of how they’re socialized to feel sexual. So if their partner doesn’t flirt with them, doesn’t look at them and think they’re hot and doesn’t convey that. I mean, I think she can go a little flat herself. And, and that injury like you said, If she’s a female sexual pursuer, and was the apple of her father’s eye, what does she do? How does she get it back? I mean, first thing is just to say I need this I’m I need from you. More words. I need you to Look at me like you want me sometimes. I mean, I think it’s so tricky George as a pursuer though to ask for what you want and not go into nagging?
George Faller 10:10
No, it’s it’s it is tricky that this person is showing up with willingness, which is all they’re capable of in that moment. And somehow the message you’re going to get is that’s not good enough, they’re being reminded of what they’re doing wrong, which is going to make them want to disconnect. So we got to find a way of holding that with your and supporting them, while also making space for this for this trauma, right for what it’s like, when willingness is not enough. That there that’s really important that we find a way of speaking about that place. Okay, let’s do that after the break. And let’s see if we could find the words.
Laurie Watson 10:47
I’m so excited about this class, George, you know, we’re coming down to the wire, people gotta sign up,
George Faller 10:51
hey, we keep talking about being intentional, have a better love life, let’s be attachable of sign up, you know, I gotta make a difference by sitting back,
Laurie Watson 10:59
right, great love and great sex, you can find us on our website for play radio, sex. therapy.com. Under the resource section is where you find it to sign up. And you know, we’re gonna really talk about difficult subjects and get you and your partner talking about things that maybe are not so easy.
George Faller 11:17
And we’re doing it with a structure in place that sets you up for success. And you’re going to leave this training in better shape than you came in.
Laurie Watson 11:24
Right? Absolutely. So find us for great love great sex on foreplay radio, sex therapy.com. Under resources, our signups are coming to an end, give us a G spot.
George Faller 11:35
All right. If a couple is not able to hold on to their vulnerability, then that is a sign of the process telling us that they need to go back and really understand more about their mistrusts, and they’re good reasons they’re protecting themselves.
Laurie Watson 11:52
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George Faller 12:48
use Uber lube to make touching of you and her much more enjoyable.
Laurie Watson 12:58
So how do we heal it? That’s what we’re all about is healing this when a person can’t give the gleam in their eye can’t somehow or another convey that to their partner, or the partner needs it and isn’t getting it. And I think another case that I want to talk about is, you know, the person who is getting the gleam from their partner, but can’t take it in, you know, they’re so shut down, that they can’t The truth is their partner really does want them. And they can’t see it. They can’t absorb that. So how do we help all these people with getting the gleam from their partner that tells them they’re special, they’re unique, and there’s they’re sexually erotic and special to their partner.
George Faller 13:44
That’s a whole lot of fixes.
Laurie Watson 13:48
It’s a whole lot
George Faller 13:49
tighter. So just thinking about it. I think this is we’re laughing but I think this is really what got me into, you know, the field of more sex therapy, that sometimes that emotional bond doesn’t fix this desire peace. This, you know, willingness is a great starting point. And if willingness leads to desire, then it’s all good. But if willingness doesn’t or the person on the other end doesn’t have the patience for it, it really creates a lot of a lot of turmoil and stress. And we know stress isn’t so great for turning people on. So I guess, how do we how do we contain that person?
Laurie Watson 14:39
who needs it? Who needs it? And is not getting it? Right? Yeah.
George Faller 14:45
Talking about that and patience, right. That’s this
Laurie Watson 14:49
specialty. is in patience, your love language. I’m going to start teasing you about that, gee,
George Faller 14:54
it’s good. It’s good because you’re seeing at least the The function of it, which is you know, that we’re not where we need to be. And I need you to be in a different place. And that’s what that impatient is saying. It’s saying, you know, I, I like that you’re trying to show up, I think that’s a really loving thing to do. But it’s really not showing up the way I need. I want to see that gleam and I’m not getting it. So how do we connect with that person to say it to make sense? Your your impatience, your kind of frustration? And how do you help your partner, kind of get to where you both want to be? Again, instead of sitting back judging your partner, you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution? How do you help your partner get that clean back,
Laurie Watson 15:41
one of the things that I was reading about in the book by is Enza on sexual narratives, she was talking about that, you know, we can actually co create the gleam, and she talks about helping people do it first with their children, you know how some one partner is often the person who is proud of the child and the other partner is the one who’s somehow or another in charge of discipline, and correction. And so the child is getting the gleam in their eye from the one parent, but not the other, the other seems critical, and she talks about how the child needs it from both. And so how can you look at the child with pride, offer that verbally and talking about, you know, how that’s important, especially important when two becomes three, you know, when a couple first has a baby, and the father is often left out of that love dyad between mom and baby, and she’s got all the love coming from her face to the baby. And, you know, he’s like chopped liver, you know, sort of an he misses that sense of, you know, I come through the door, she looks up, and she’s so happy to see me that gleam in her eye. And certainly sexually and so she talks about, you know, we need to learn to do this learn to give this to each other. I will say people, there are so stubborn in their resistance to changing one of my favorite resistances is when people tell me, you know, I I am who I am. You know, I I can’t do that. That’s not like me, that’s not a part of who I am. And I call it the Popeye resistance. It’s like people are just committed to somehow or another, you knew this when I married you or I’m somehow or another unchangeable and yet we’re so capable of growth. And it’s such a simple thing to give, right? I mean, looking at your partner and raising an eyebrow and or mentioning, you know, something radically explicit about their body. This is really easy. You know, I just don’t, I don’t get why. When people are asking for something simple and their partner doesn’t get it, that’s really something a we have to address in therapy, when it’s super simple. Because there’s something behind that block. That’s super important to get through, you know, but I just, I think maybe if they can start with their children learning to give their children that sense of pride and belonging by looking at them and then translate it to the bedroom.
George Faller 18:21
I like the idea of being more intentional about the glean. And it’s a natural byproduct of secure attachment. It’s just what people do when they’re in a safe place. And they’re engaging with high levels of safety. So if you don’t have that, because of the distance, right? All we talk about in this podcast, the ways of doing that of bridging that distance, but even if you bring that word into your relationship, gleam in the eyes, like how do you? How do you notice that? Like, how do you give yourself a score? Like how do you come up with a plan for increasing that? That if you notice that that’s actually not present? Then we got to come up with a plan for making that more present. Like I love how you did that with your with your child? Right? It was you noticed it? So you worked at it? Mm hmm. Right? And we need to change if we don’t change, we’re gonna be stuck in the same old ruts. Right? So it’s like this this intentionality that says, All right, if I’m the person that doesn’t have the gleam, I have to take ownership for that for good reasons. I don’t have that. And willingness is a good step in that direction. Right? And how do I continue to kind of, because that’s just doesn’t feel good for the person receiving it feels perfectly for the parent to have that clean. body to be in that space. What what a loss for both when the gleam dissipates and it’s not your fault, but let’s get it back.
Laurie Watson 19:48
Right. And, I mean, maybe you it’s not your day, right your partner comes to you and ask for sex and you don’t feel any desire. But I mean, you can look at them with Your eyes opening a little bit brighter you can you can smile, you can say, Oh, yes, please, tomorrow night,
you know, I
Laurie Watson 20:09
mean, you can say something that, that gives them the sense of that they are desirable, right? We desire maybe something subjective that we feel. But offering the gleam is comes from intention, it doesn’t have to be something that is natural and what we feel we can give that to our partner, we do give that to our partners. I mean, oftentimes, in early romance, we are giving it all the time, we just don’t notice that we’re being intentional about it, the same day that you’re grumpy from work or whatever, maybe you, you know, your partner walks in, and you’re you don’t bother to look up, you don’t bother to smile at them, you don’t bother to go over and give them a kiss and a squeeze. But if you were dating, you’d put that bad day aside, you’d be up for it, you’d have energy for them, you do it. And it seems like it doesn’t cost you anything, but it does it cost a little something. And I think often your partner, the sense that they are desirable, is a gift. And we can give that no matter what we feel inside.
George Faller 21:14
It’s a mindset shift. I’m a fan of fake it till you make it not for the long term. But in the short term, you put a smile on your face, you’ve opened up those eyes, you allow your body to see more than just the frustration or the tiredness, a lot of times tapping into that is enough to kind of to get yourself going. Right. So we’re trying to add to willingness intentionality, for the glean that say it’s not enough to just lay there and be a kind of open and hope your body responds, but take initiative with that willingness to do something on your end, that gives you both a better chance for higher levels of engagement,
Laurie Watson 21:53
right. And I think the problem is the wounding of the person in their childhood, where they didn’t have it that can also be healed. I mean, we can do that work in therapy, we can go back, grieve our losses, and I think people actually can heal from micro and macro traumas in their childhood, and that does free up both our emotional life and our sexual life. So sometimes we have to go back and say, you know, my parents never delighted in me, I was not the delight of my father, you know, I, you know, I was told when I twirled around to stop showing off. Those things are micro traumas, you know, and maybe they’re no big deal, but over a pattern, it can hurt you. And so when you’re showing off sexually, and your partner doesn’t like take it in and get excited, it can wound you in a way that if you had secure attachment, it wouldn’t be like that. So I really think this can be healed in therapy as well. You know, at least it can give you more security,
George Faller 22:57
right? And it’s a doorway into your own vulnerability. So it’s a great chance for the couple to heal. Imagine if I would say to you, Laurie, in that moment, right? Hey, I so appreciate your willingness. And the last thing I want to do is to tell you, you’re failing, you’re doing it wrong, because you’re doing a loving thing by just showing up when you’re not even really in the mood to do it. And I appreciate that. And yet, when you’re not in a mood, and I don’t see that kind of spark in your eyes, that sends me to that kind of familiar place as a kid, where I felt like, you know, not enough or, you know, there’s something kind of missing in me, and it’s just kind of, it kind of brings me down. Hmm.
Laurie Watson 23:43
I love that. And George, you just demoed such a beautiful, soft way to talk about the wound. You know, it really, really beautiful. Absolutely.
George Faller 23:54
And hopefully that’s God’s calling you to come closer. If I don’t, if I allow it to turn into frustration, I’m going to push you away. The root of this wound to healing is kind of getting you can give me that clean and seeing my vulnerability, see my sadness and say, I didn’t know that I’m here. And maybe we don’t have sex. But maybe Katalin is kind of getting that Gleave just in a different way.
Laurie Watson 24:17
Mm hmm. And I might add, maybe don’t do it quite in a sexual moment. Maybe take the willingness, go for sex and then do it over coffee. When you talk about it. I don’t know.
George Faller 24:29
It’s both I think sometimes you just have a quickie and it is good enough and sometimes it’s a doorway to Yes, you know what, what could be better use of our time so we don’t have sex this night. When you get to see a part of me you normally don’t. And you get to heal a part of me that never gets healing. That’s probably the best use of time when we have sex The next night. There’s probably gonna be a lot better haven’t had that conversation before.
Laurie Watson 24:53
I can see that you’re talking about the immediacy of you know, and the person may be so blocked when they asked for And they don’t get the gleam back. They don’t want to go for it either. It’s not enough. It’s not enough. Yeah, I know, I know somebody who struggles with EDI and is so wrapped up in that, you know, so convinced that he’s failing. And his partner says over and over again, I just want to know you want me, I really want to know you want me? And I’m like, use your words, you know, your penis can fail. And you can still say, look at it’s not mine, and it’s not working, but you are at me, you know, let me do you, let’s stay together, let’s stay connected. Because I love your body. I love looking at your body. I love touching your body, this is so great. You know, he can still offer that some of the lack of gleam that he gives her his own self consciousness, his own fear about failure.
George Faller 25:51
Yes. And so the more we get gleam in whatever size and shape it comes, like, let’s not leave the lane to the bedroom. that’s hugely important. But gleaming vulnerabilities also really powerful.
Laurie Watson 26:05
I think being seen by your partner, as as treasured as Beloved, as gifted as contributing, you know, so many people are wounded in that way. They’re not good enough. And when our partner sees us, it’s so important.
George Faller 26:25
And the performance are being seen in that hot way, which is so important. There’s also something really powerful about the gleam coming into vulnerability. It’s like when you love me, when I don’t really love myself, it’s probably where I need it the most. Right? And that’s the opportunity in these misses, that there’s this hurt happening that’s often not being expressed. And the partners awareness of that hurts, because it can bring in light into a really dark place.
Laurie Watson 26:57
That’s right. That’s right. We’re all about healing both body and soul here. So thanks for listening foreplay radio.
George Faller 27:07
Keep it hot, y’all. Very excited. Laurie, upcoming Couples Retreat weekend. Great love, great sex. What an opportunity for couples to work on that sexual and emotional cycle.
Laurie Watson 27:23
I know I’m so excited. We get to partner together to actually teach and share with couples. It’s going to be on Friday, February 5, and we’re really encouraging you to take the weekend away together to do this material with us. We’re going to have interactive parts. Talking about the emotional connection the cycle, asking your partner questions, we’ll have little breakouts, we’re gonna keep it fun. Keep it hot. It’s gonna be a fast day. We’ll start at 10am on Eastern Standard Time, February 5. Great love great sex. Find us on the website foreplay radio sex therapy.com and sign up.
We don’t give many guarantees. But if you show up for this retreat, you will have conversations you’ve never had with your partner before. 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 Foreplay Media