George Faller: Welcome to Foreplay Radio. Today, we’re going to get a chance to know a little bit about Laurie’s story.
Laurie Watson: Hey, you’re listening to Foreplay Radio for couples and sex therapy with your host, myself, Laurie Watson, sex therapist and George Faller, expert couples therapists. George and I are counselors, educators, authors, researchers, contributors and leaders in our field with a collective 50 years of experience working with couples in sex therapy.
Laurie Watson: We’re grounded in the best and most scientific research from attachment theory with our emphasis on emotionally focused therapy using all we’ve learned from our clients, our work and our own lives. We want to have this open, frank and informative conversation about love and sex to help you and your partner keep it hot.
George Faller: Before we start, I want to let you know, Laurie, I listened to a bunch of podcasts with Adam and I’m a big fan. I think it’s really intriguing how much I was learning and what I realized I don’t know about sex and people look at a marriage therapist’s supposed to be the expert and I was like, “Wait, I don’t know this. I don’t know that. I don’t know this.” I’m so glad of the work you and Adam have done and I hope that I can keep that momentum going just to normalize this struggle to understand what this is and how do we do it in a better way. What is great sex?
Laurie Watson: We’ll make you an expert.
George Faller: All right. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the expert, but close enough is good enough for me. So I was thinking, Laurie, I talked a little bit last time about some of what led me to this moment. I’m curious about your background. How did you become a sex therapist?
Laurie Watson: Oh yeah, it’s such a question. I actually, my mother told me about sex when I was really young and she was very positive. She had grown up without any knowledge about it and could hardly wait kind of to have a daughter to talk to about it. And I was very young. Of course it was all appropriate, but I had gone to a candle lit wedding when I was about four or five and I was completely entranced by this whole thing. And that was about the same time I learned about sex and my mom made me this costume that was a brides costume with a veil and the whole bit.
Laurie Watson: And so much of my early childhood was just all about growing up to be the bride, the have babies, and all of that was my life script. And so I know you said never wanted to get married and I always wanted to get married. That was it. But my family life grew pretty tough. My dad was this kind of rough and tough cowboy from Montana. He drank and fought his way across the state, working on the railroads, actually with my grandfather, who was a figure in my life who left and adored me. And I think probably saved my psychological life because of his calling me beautiful and truly giving me unconditional love. But then dad decided to enlist in World War II and fight some more. And he literally walked onto the beaches in Iwo Jima into gunfire.
Laurie Watson: And you got to respect somebody who walks into danger for love and country. But he married my mother who was really smart. She was a teacher and she was creative and strong, but both of them had suffered early trauma in life. My dad had lost his mother and then of course probably had PTSD from the war and my mother had suffered several traumas. Mom couldn’t do anything, but emotions and my dad couldn’t do emotions at all, but they sort of settled on anger.
Laurie Watson: And so it was a fairly chaotic household that I was growing up in. And then when I was about 11, I remember my mom crawling into bed with me in the morning and saying, “Your father and I are getting a divorce.” And things got even more chaotic. Somehow or another, I still held on to this hope. And I mean, as you and I know that as therapists, sometimes people idealize even more what they are missing. And I certainly idealize relationship and marriage and all of that.
George Faller: Just the highlight for that, that we don’t get a choice of our family members, but we all want that love even for people that struggle and make bad decisions. That longing in our hearts, that just kind of redeem and it just always reminds me of the power of love.
Laurie Watson: I agree. I agree. I think when I started dating and I kind of told myself, “First of all, I am never going to repeat what happened.” And that was definitely inside me. But I kind of fell in love with every boy and none of them fell in love with me I will tell you that. I pined a lot for boys who didn’t seem to notice me. I was in a church group and I think I liked every boy in the group and they didn’t seem to notice me at all. And I was the one who on the first date I’d be writing Mrs. John Smith. It it was ridiculous. And I don’t know why exactly why I didn’t date that much. I was fit and relatively attractive, but I had very high standards and I was part of this really rigid faith community.
Laurie Watson: And I think that for me that was a antidote to some of the chaos in my family. It kind of helped keep me safer and gave me some structure. So after pining for all these boys, finally there was this new guy who came on the scene and we met at a pool party. I still in my mind remember him pulling himself out of the pool and just the water dripping off him. And I thought like, “He is a God,” you know? I mean he was so hot and we went out together with a bunch of other people that evening. And I’m like, “Not only is he hot, but he’s super smart,” which was really important to me. And I didn’t, I didn’t actually like him at that moment other than I was very attracted to him.
Laurie Watson: And then he came back about a year later after he finished college to our community and I thought, “Ah, the boyfriend Jersey is back,” you know? And then I think I as all good pursuers would do, I asked him out and he said, “No.” And so again, I asked him out again and he said “No.” And so I can’t remember what the excuse was, but I said, “You know what? I am so done with pining for boys. I’m just done.” And I decided I’m getting over it. You know, I’m not going to do this pattern of always liking somebody maybe for a year and then barely noticing me. So I said, “That’s it.”
Laurie Watson: And my girlfriend, my roommate was dating his roommate and so she and I were going off to this women’s retreat and her parents were staying with us because they were in the area to do some cancer treatment. And Lisa says to her mother, “Oh yeah. Blah, blah, blah. Last minute instructions.” And when Ken calls, her boyfriend, “Tell him I love him and all this.” And I said, “Yeah, yeah. When Derek calls, tell him I love him too.” Knowing the man is never going to call. So we get back from the retreat [inaudible 00:07:58] was unpacking and stuff and at some point she goes, “Oh, Laurie, your young man friend called and I gave him the message.” And I said, “Oh my God, who called what message?”
Laurie Watson: She said, “Well, Derek called and I told him you love him.” And I was just like, “The man finally calls.” This guy that I’ve been truly know over for about eight months. and I thought, “Okay, well, he’s never going to call again.” And I called my pastor’s wife, I said, “Oh, what do I do?” She’s like, “Call him back and lie. Make something up.” So I called him back and made up this lie. And then I saw him at church that night and and he said, “Oh yeah, I was just calling to see when you guys were getting back.” I’m like, “Oh great. I burned a lie for this.” But then of course he eventually did ask me out and we fell in love, and then we got married.
Laurie Watson: So we want to remind all of you that we are thankful for the way you’ve shared the podcast. We continue to grow. It is our greatest honor when you share with a friend the work that we’re doing and trying to help people reframe their sexual life in a way that is understandable and not so mysterious, so that they can make positive changes and strengthen their marriages and their partnerships.
Laurie Watson: We would like to invite you to our retreat in November, loveandsex360.com is where you find us and all the details. Again, we’ve broken that up so that there is a part that you can come to that is less expensive and hear the lecture, and do the work on your own as well as perhaps do the private therapy issue if you would like. Loveandsex360.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.
Laurie Watson: 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.
George Faller: So it sounds like a pretty standard and remarkable love story. So how do you go from now, which most of us can relate to to becoming a sex therapist?
Laurie Watson: So of course we got married and with high standards comes high expectations.
George Faller: Big disappointments.
Laurie Watson: And big disappointments. In my family, conflict was really hot and in his family conflict was really cold. We did kind of have an inkling about this was… We didn’t want to replicate our families. I actually started my marriage family therapy course right about as we got married and he was in grad school and I was thinking, he’s going to be studying all the time, right? And so I should be doing something too. Thought I’d study and I’m imagining all these cozy times of studying together with cool, hot study breaks.
Laurie Watson: No, he wanted to study in the library, which was an hour and a half away. And suddenly this desire not to replicate our families, I felt this creeping doubt and sex, we got it all wrong. One of us initiated with touch and that felt invasive to the other and the other one initiated with words and that left the other one cold. It was like this is not the way it’s supposed to be, but I couldn’t quite turn the chapter on it. And then my husband started traveling.
Laurie Watson: He actually did go into a ministry and he would travel for his living. And it was over the weekend, which is a tough time when you’re a young mom because everybody does family on the weekends. And so he was gone. And I had like day one I would miss him and day two I’d be a little irritated. And day three, I was angry.
George Faller: Day four you don’t want him to come back.
Laurie Watson: Day four, he was totally dead to me and then he’d come home day six and for me, the audience knows that I’m a sexual pursuer. I’m thinking day six, it’s been six days, let’s go. Let’s reconnect sexually and he’s dead meat and just tired, and can’t do that. And then by the time he’s ready, I’m just angry and probably a bitch. He doesn’t want to reconnect with me. We did that for many, many years.
George Faller: And what’s so sad is I’m listening to your stories. That story is being replicated in millions of relationships all over, and nobody’s talking about it.
Laurie Watson: That’s right. That’s right. And I think, I didn’t know attachment theory at this point. I was living it, but it seemed like the more I wanted for him, the more he backed away. And I was a very classic pursuer. I kind of recorded everything. I probably had it on a calendar, George. I mean literally I had children at this point and how many hours my husband was at home with us. How many hours he was spending with the children. How many times we had sex. I was keeping track and feeling more and more disappointed and waited and waited for initiation. And it just seemed to be driving us over the edge. And eventually we did get to the edge, basically.
Laurie Watson: And the marriage seemed like it was over. And I remember the only thing that made any sense was I felt like I could see that what I was doing wasn’t working. And I knew, I absolutely knew that he was not doing and how he was, his problems were. But I really did have a tiny glimpse that I was suffocating the marriage. And I had a sense that, okay, this path is certain death for the marriage. And I thought the other path though, it felt to me like I was stepping off a cliff.
Laurie Watson: Like I was going to step off into the rocks and I didn’t know, what was going to happen. It’s like I decided it was worth the risk. I thought maybe Superman will come or maybe God will catch me, or maybe there’s a parachute. I didn’t know, but I knew that going forward, the way I was going wasn’t going to work. And the crazy thing was it was a really clumsy attempt. And of course my husband has his own story about this, his story is more about what he did and how he came forward.
Laurie Watson: My story was how I stood still and began to become more patient and wait.
George Faller: You were both right.
Laurie Watson: And we were probably both right and still right. I think I didn’t feel a lot. I told myself the thing that all pursuers tell themselves, you need too much. You shouldn’t need it all. The only way through this is to stop needing and all these things because I really didn’t understand yet about vulnerable asking, and that as a pursuer you could ask. And you have to learn to accept no, which is really tough. But I didn’t quite get it other than I think at that time I think I was making up attachment theory.
Laurie Watson: I was living it, you know? But the space between us started opening up and things, we became closer. My husband seemed to want to spend more time with me. Sex wasn’t fraught anymore with all my counting, which was good, which was better. I think I began to see how fearful he was of conflict. And also I think that I saw his fear of not being good enough. And I was able for… I remember specifically, just telling myself, “Just have mercy on this.” And at the time, I was teaching a premarital class, right? All the things I knew about marriage at that point.
Laurie Watson: But what struck me was that all the couples came back for sex therapy. These were young couples and they were not impacted by aging or by having been married for so long or by children, but they all had sexual problems. I think I felt hopeful. It’s like, “Okay, I’m not alone.” This is something that happens in early marriage and lots of people have sexual issues and it literally gave me kind of a peek into their bedrooms. And that was actually encouraging to me.
Laurie Watson: And as I began to work with them and see that it could be healed in my own life and with the thousands of others eventually that I worked with, it gave me a lot of hope about working with sex. And so I became, I decided to become a sex therapist really to help other people do it better. I wanted to help people who had been like my husband and I who had come from rigid and inhibited backgrounds. I mean. I think some people think you become a sex therapist because you’re so wild. That was not my story.
George Faller: Oh, it’s such a redemptive story. I mean, it reminds me when you said the space between us got a little bit bigger. Viktor Frankl who wrote Search for Meaning, a Holocaust survivor says that, “There’s an event that happens and then there’s our response to the event.” And for most people it’s so immediate. Most partners don’t recognize that the way they’re surviving, which is so human, they don’t get the cost that it is doing to their partner.
George Faller: But what Victor Frankl says is there’s actually a space in between those two of the event and our response and in that of space is our choice. So it’s such a beautiful redemptive story of how you started to slow a process down and you start to have more of a choice and how you took that choice to actually want to share that with other people to see how they could kind of do this differently. Because most of us don’t get a manual, right? We’re set up to miss each other, especially sexually. And then we start to blame ourselves. So what a brilliant story.
Laurie Watson: Right. And we made two decisions that I think changed our lives. We decided to go into couples therapy together and try to figure it out. And we went with somebody who really gave some bad advice in the beginning. And then we went to somebody who really helped us in processing. And we also made a life commitment that this would be the generation where the buck stopped. Not blaming who came before us and hopefully not passing it on to our children.
Laurie Watson: I was at this wedding, a friend of my husband’s actually, and his daughter was getting married and there were his parents, the groom’s parents, grandparents, great grandparents, all still married. And then two huge church families and there was so much love supporting this young couple, just a legacy of love. And I was remarking to him, I said, “We can’t give our children this.”
Laurie Watson: We come from families that are broken all the way back, divorce and we don’t have this. It’s the sins of the father is this proverb that says are passed down for four generations and definitely four generations back for us was a lot of marital brokenness. And he said, “There’s a second part to that scripture” and I’m probably going to cry cause I always cry when I say this. But he said, “The legacy of a righteous man indoors for a thousand generations.”
Laurie Watson: And he said, “So if you change this generation, you basically change the world.” You change the future for your own children, but forever. And so that was the commitment that we made, that we would be that generation that learned to love each other.
George Faller: Amen. That’s beautiful.
Laurie Watson: So I have hope and I want people to have hope about changing their lives, both emotionally, sexually, so that they really have love to love their children and to go forward.
George Faller: And I’ll listen to his, can’t see, we’re in a room together. So it’s touching for me to see Laurie’s tears and I can relate to, in these moments of adversity and struggle that you find your way closer to your partner and how that doesn’t just change your relationship. It changes the way your kids are going to see the world and their kids for generations to come. It’s such a powerful story.
Laurie Watson: Yeah. So thank you for asking. Again, you’re listening to Foreplay Radio sex therapy. Keep it hot.
Laurie Watson: Hi Foreplay, fam. The biggest support you can give us as sharing our podcast with a friend. You can find us also on socials, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and we’d love your questions and feedback and really do use these to guide our show. We’d also love it if you’d rate and review us. If you’re interested in learning more about us and our mission, look us up on our hot new website, foreplayradiosextherapy.com.
Speaker 3: Call in your questions to the foreplay question, voicemail, dial 833-MY4PLAY. That’s 833-MY4PLAY and we’ll use the questions for our mailbag episodes.
Speaker 3: 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.