Laurie Watson 00:09
Hello again and welcome to foreplay radio sex therapy. I’m your host certified sex therapist Laurie Watson, author of wanting sex again and blogger Psychology Today in Web MD. And I have with me Dr. Adam Mathews my co host, who’s a couples therapist, psychotherapist and president of NCAA MFT foreplay is dedicated to helping couples keep it hot. Each episode we cover an aspect of sex that impacts your sex life and something that you can relate to. So if you find our discussions helpful, please give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher. We would love it if you would tell a friend about us. You can find us on the web at foreplay rst calm, and if you have a comment or a topic that you’d like us to talk about, we’d love to hear from you. Please send them to us at info at foreplay. rst.com Thanks for listening now on to today’s topic. Okay, so Adam this episode we’re gonna do a mailbag. We love
Adam Mathews 01:02
our mail guys, don’t we? Yeah. so appreciative of everybody that’s writing in
Laurie Watson 01:06
Yeah. Thank you so much. Keep sending them. We have one one person, you know, you know who you are. You just want to know vacation. But we thank you for all the mails that you’ve been sending in all the messages. We like getting them. Absolutely.
Adam Mathews 01:21
Yeah. So we have one this week. Laurie? That is from somebody who comes from a religious background. And we know we’ve we’ve actually had a episode on sex and religion. Yeah, sex and spirituality. Look back at that one if you want to. Yeah. And so you know, religion does a lot of different things. Spirituality does a lot of things. We mix it with sexism, some good stuff, lots of good stuff, but sometimes it can have negative effects as well. Right. And so this person is talking about how they have recently come to understand that God wants them to enjoy sex and so they’re trying to move into that. So this is what they what they say in the last few years. I’ve done almost a complete 180 in what I consider acceptable with my husband. The problem is my head and my heart are on board. Write up until it’s time to do it. For some reason, all my old anxieties won’t go away. And my husband and I are in a rut, we are up for anything. But when we try to do those things, we feel too uncomfortable inhibited. What’s our deal? We really want to improve our sex life together. Help.
Okay, that’s great, great question. I want to say something about how people’s feelings about religion, God, like impacts their sex life, and also that I want to start with their life. I mean, one of the things that I have found, when I talk to people about their experience of the spiritual, yeah, it’s it’s often very much shaped by their experience of their family. Their family is secure and loving. They experience a loving God, you know, if their family is rigid, and, you know, harsh, they seem to experience a punishing, legalistic kind of spirituality and, and even though they’re had an intellect, maybe Say, you know, God is love. They’re often shaped by their, in their spiritual experience, their first image of God, if you will, is their parents, you know, the love of their parents. And so I think that this while we talk about potentially religion or a religious tradition impacts us, you know, I, I want people out there to be really thoughtful, you know, is this really the teaching that you’re following? because like you said, I’m sometimes the teachings are full of grace and abundance, and, you know, sex is good and sex is a part of the spiritual religion and, but sometimes they feel like, you know, no, it’s forbidden and like, where does
Adam Mathews 03:44
that come from? Well, I think I think what you’re talking about, you can make a direct application to how they feel about sex, right? If they see God as rigid and their parents, their experience of their parents and religion is that way. There’s a lot of times where they their parents They’re probably not talking about sex, a whole lot, their view of sex gets directly transferred on to what’s going on within their their image, their view of sex, how they feel about sex. So I think what you’re talking about it becomes it’s almost a one, it’s almost a one to one parallel in a lot of ways. Wouldn’t you say that that, that that translation comes into adulthood for them?
I think so. I had a girlfriend whose father was a pastor, and we were really good friends growing up. And after she got married, she went through this sexual law. You know, it’s a couple years in maybe it was longer than that. And she told her mother, you know, I’m just like, I’m not that into it. Not that into it. And her mother comes out and says, you know, this is the best part of what God has for you. What are you? Fantastic. This is, this is the most exciting part of life and I’m like, Oh my gosh, what a fabulous, like, underscoring of support for sexuality and from your mother, no last from your parents who are You know, religious figures and I mean, it was just like, so fantastic.
Adam Mathews 05:05
Yeah. But it was very freeing for her probably very
freeing, and, and not just free and it was a push. Oh, yeah, it was a push toward being sexual. Yeah. And I think that a lot of religious traditions, you know, particularly there’s this, you know, before you get married, there’s a lot of, okay, sex is for marriage. And so there’s a lot of don’t do it. And then compile that with maybe anxiety from the family of don’t do it because you could get pregnant or you could get somebody pregnant or you could get a disease and, you know, or I mean, there’s a lot of don’t do it out there. And then suddenly, they get married. And it’s Do it Do it. Do it switches supposed to be magically turned on?
Adam Mathews 05:45
Yeah, at the ideas right, right there at the altar. They’re supposed to be a sexual switch that gets flipped, and everything or all the sudden everything’s okay. All right. And it sounds like it sounds a lot what uh, what is happening with this person as well as that, there’s a There’s a switch that’s been flipped almost as far off switch what they find to be acceptable and and all of a sudden now it’s it’s hard to move back in there. Yeah. And I think a lot too when we talk about sex and religion, I think one of the things that we have to be aware of you said it well about the teaching, but I think a lot of times there’s just a lot of religious traditions, there is a lack of information about sex, that can that comes into it. So it’s not just what they’re communicating don’t do it is that they’re not communicating at all about it. Right? If you experience a religious upbringing, it’s almost devoid of anything sexual out, right.
I mean, I had a patient who came in and said, they were from a religious tradition that had said no premarital sex. And so they actually got to the wedding night virgins and with very little sexual experience, but one of the problems had been that even in their premarital teaching, and and all the advice and counsel from The people that were around them was, don’t even read a book about sex, because that will ignite your lust. And then you will become these uncontrollable beasts. And you will cross this line. And so they came to the experience with so much ignorance. Well,
Adam Mathews 07:16
think about think about what that implies to love what that implies, the underlying implication there is that there’s this underlying beast that’s about to be led out, and then all sudden, they get there and they’re supposed to not all of a sudden be afraid of the beast anymore, right? And they’re like, so all their energy has gone into controlling the supposed beast. And then they get they get to the wedding night and they’re supposed to just what let that out all the sudden without even knowing how to do I mean, there’s just there’s a lot of fear involved in that
there is and I think that the idea that sex is a uncontrollable force is really frightening because you know, if you let go into that uncontrollable force, even in marriage, you know what happens? There’s this fear of I think Another patient just this week actually, I think said to me that, you know, my fear is, if I’m sexual in the relationship, I’m so open that then I catch these sexual vibes out there from other people. And I only want to be stimulated sexually by one person, my partner. And and what they meant by that Adam was so narrow. I mean, it was like, I don’t want to have any thought in my head that is sexual, other than my good looking partner. And the way my partner touched me, I don’t want to be aware of other good looking people. I don’t want to be aware of a song, a movie, a stimulating thought, a fantasy, because these things would take away from kind of the purity of our love and I’m like, but you can’t be a sexual being. I mean, this is what’s frustrating to me. You can’t be a sexual being. Without living in that tension it no matter what your faith is, I think to be Sexual is to be alive to input. I mean, you can make decisions, right? You can make rational decisions that say, this is what’s important to me. This is my value system. And I won’t cross these lines because of that. But to shut down so thoroughly, that you can’t experience anything sexual around you. To me, you have to be fairly shut down.
Adam Mathews 09:24
Yeah, I think we could draw parallel to what a lot of people do with emotions as well, to what you’re talking about as far as like, I think we all could acknowledge that if you’re emotionally shut down. That’s not a good thing. And so, but you’re not always, we don’t always encourage we want you to feel emotion, but we don’t want you to act out of emotion. Right. We don’t want you to just, you know, saying
really made me feel it.
Adam Mathews 09:45
Yeah. So I think what some people might hear you say it and going, what if the sexual beast comes out and I’m just humping everything in sight? Right. And like I did.
I did. Good. I think
Adam Mathews 09:56
that’s what I think that’s I think that’s what people think that they were just that if you If you have a sexual thought, or if you have input, like you’re saying, all of a sudden that you’re just uncontrollable, you’re uncontrollable, and all of a sudden you become an animal, right and control yourself.
And I would still say that there is a social construct that is overlaid, right that men are the animals. Sure, and women shouldn’t have any beast or animal in her really to be very good. There’s a social pressure that says she should not know what she likes, she should not know how she wants to be touched, because that implies either prior experience, especially in the model of you know, purity or that implies somehow that she’s thinking about it and and good girls don’t think about it. And you know, pure women don’t think about it. And so it’s like the man is the beast and she’s the controller. She’s the gatekeeper on the beat.
Adam Mathews 10:50
She’s the brake basically, she’s
the brake and he’s the engine. Yeah, but the tragedy is then women never get to, you know, run the machine, right.
Adam Mathews 10:59
So this this person, that’s Writing in, she’s dealing with both of those things, right? The the the inhibition is not just about the religious stuff, it’s also going to be about gender and about everything that you’re talking about that goes with that.
Yeah. And if you come, I mean, I think this person, it sounded like we’re not saying it, but they came from a tradition that probably came from a family of religious people as well. And so, like you said, there might not have been information, or there might have been a model that said, you know, this is not something that we talk about, or it’s just for marriage, and we’ll talk to you when you get married, which is like, you know, in some ways it’s too late because what about the wedding night? No.
Adam Mathews 11:41
Well, and that it’s not for enjoyment. And I think that’s what one of the the switches that has been, it’s for procreation. Yeah. That’s one of the things that it sounds like that she’s come to it through her email is that she does now start starting to see it as enjoyment which is a step which often I think is One of the key first steps, but I think acknowledging all of these different barriers that can be thrown up for people that keep them the I love the description that shows us the head and the heart aren’t in alignment. Right. Our head is saying one thing that are hard to say in another, and it may be true for him as well. And so bringing them into alignment probably starts a lot with acknowledging all of the roadblocks that they have to deal with as some of them they may know like she’s acknowledging the religious one may not be acknowledging the gender one may not be acknowledging the wit the specific way that the family talked about it. way that friends talked about it maybe first some experiences that they had that were really negative with the opposite sex physically early in life, all those things like just the roadblocks that get thrown up for us. That can be massive to try to get around because that’s a doing that in your head alone. Like is difficult enough, not including bringing the heart along with it
right and there. Let’s come back to this after our break. Yeah, because we got a lot to talk about. So we are talking about the religious impact and inhibition on sex and is it truly religion or is it something else? And how do you get through it in a way that maintains integrity with what you feel is right for your faith and your spirituality?
Wanting sex again, how to rediscover desire and heal a sexless marriage by certified sex therapist, Laurie Watson.
Each chapter is designed to fix one of the problems that caused low libido from early marriage through the childbearing years, even all the way through menopause. I’ve also had men read it and tell me that for them, it was the most helpful thing they read about resolving sexual problems.
Look for watching sex again on amazon.com. You can also talk to Laurie Watson for therapy in person or via Skype.
I offer couples counseling and sex therapy and I think about both aspects of the relationship emotional intimacy and sexual technique and that combination together helps marriages be happy
weekend couples intensives are also offered. Improve your sex and improve your relationship with awakening center for couples and intimacy. Find out more at awaken love and sex calm, awaken what’s possible.
Adam Mathews 14:22
It is one of my great joys in life to be able to really help individuals and couples find strength in their relationships and really find hope again
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Dr. Adam Mathews for Matthews counseling.
Adam Mathews 14:38
I work with a wide variety of issues including depression and anxiety, marital issues, issues with adolescence. I believe that therapy should be designed around you that it should be personalized to who you are and to your unique situation.
Therapy is available in Office Online and by phone.
Adam Mathews 14:57
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Adam Mathews 15:14
you can find me on the web at Matthews counseling dotnet Matthews with one t you can contact us through email or phone and find a lot of resources on our website Matthews counseling dotnet.
So welcome back to foreplay radio, sex therapy. We’re talking about religion and sex and repression and you know how sometimes some spiritual traditions might be difficult to experience full freedom sexually. If there’s a repressive message and we want to clarify, we don’t believe all religion and all religions offer that we believe some of them are
Adam Mathews 16:00
I want to intellectually well on a lot of them that even that might do may not have to in different denominations or right. I think me and you could go could be raised in the same religion and have different experiences. Yes. of of what that means. Right, right. And so when you look at this couple in particular that’s writing in and it’s asking this question, like what what kind of tips would you start to give them in places you would want to start to go to say, because they’re like they’ve said they’re cognitively their head is, is saying, Yes, their heart. They’re getting into it and starting to try to pursue this. Their heart is saying, as it’s holding them up, right? It’s making them start. So what would where would you want to go? Well, I think was one
of the things I talked about were the use of sex toys. Yeah. And I mean, sex toys. I had one person who was from a very religious cult, who came to me and talked about how to have an orgasm and then through the use of a vibrator actually was able to experience orgasm for the first time and the use of the sex toy was really legitimate in several different reasons. One, it was outside the Scripture. This invention came outside of the Scripture. So as far as they were concerned, there was nothing against it at all. Yeah, I think that for some of them, there’s a fear that anything other than two bodies is bad, right? It’s not. It’s not pure enough. Yeah. But But I think about, you know, there’s a jewel tradition, right? Of what about candlelight and silk. And I mean, all of that is an accoutrement.
Adam Mathews 17:34
Yeah. You know, one of the things that I think you’re saying that would be really helpful for this couple is I think they here to come from a maybe a stricter background when it comes to sex one that doesn’t talk about it, and then they the light bulb goes off. Sex is for enjoyment, and they go right into sex toys. Like I think in probably when they’re talking about sex toys, they’re thinking of vibrators. They’re thinking of other things and not that those things aren’t bad to us. But I think one of the things that you just hit on that I think would be very good is for them to have some kind of progression. Some kind of build up
too fast. Well, I mean
Adam Mathews 18:13
that’s, that’s where I think that’s what I think like is one of the things that they could be really struggling with. Is that there Yes, yeah. And so I have the the question I would have for them is what you were saying like have they started with you know, silk sheets have they started with candlelight have they started adding other things like that? That doesn’t jump like I wouldn’t recommend them jumping right into whips and stilettos right from this kind of this kind of
jump in stilettos. I Well, I mean, not that I wouldn’t jump.
Adam Mathews 18:46
But I mean, I think they I think they have to move they have to do some of these things at a much slower pace than maybe their mind is is fully engaged in and ready for what what do you think about
Okay, I maybe I did start with something. You know where out there. But since I’m on sex toys, I agree that potentially there’s other things that they could use to, you know, create a better atmosphere, or more enjoyment that wouldn’t be as wild sounding sex toys. And I know some of you out there who are listening are like, nearly turned off now like wild sex. Oh my gosh. But we’re trying to help the people who are more repressed. Yeah,
Adam Mathews 19:22
for sure. Yeah, coming out of that they may have come out from a family that never talked about sex. Yeah, to talk about vibrators.
And these are like, again, in a culture, right? There’s a community of people who would not talk about using sex toys. I mean, they’re their brothers and sisters in their community are not saying Hey, what are you doing?
Adam Mathews 19:42
They’re not gonna share this with you. They’re not gonna
share that or you know, nothing. But I think one problem with sex toys is that people within particular expressions of religion, view it as masturbation. Right. And there’s so much that sometimes traditions view masturbation is wrong, even if, even if that means you’re touching your body during the sex act. That’s masturbation and some people are really, really strict on that. I mean, honestly, I know a young woman who was told by her pastor’s wife, you know, but if you touch yourself, it’s like, you know, that is not really the fullest thing, you know, he should be touching. And I’m like, oh, my goodness, you know, do you know for the record that the odds of a woman having an orgasm go up by nearly 50% if she participates in the sex act, by touching herself and what I would say is it’s the two back beast, you know, when two people are making love it is one body with two backs, and whose hand is touching whose part? It’s one flesh, right? It’s one thing so it doesn’t matter if it’s your hand or his hand or anything and we here at you know, foreplay radio, sex. therapy, we are obviously trying to help committed couples keep it hot. So we’re talking about something within the bounds of fidelity. Yeah. But we’re talking about, you know, something that I don’t even see that in the realm as masturbation and if it’s a toy, or if it’s a silk scarf, or you know, if it’s oral sex, I mean, all of that is one body doing something to itself that, you know, feels good. And to me, if it’s happening between two people, it’s holy and good. I mean, to me, I don’t know any greater expression of love than what two people do together in bad as long as nobody’s objecting. nobody’s been hurt. Yeah. And it adds to their sense of fun and closeness. I mean, I think it’s all good.
Adam Mathews 21:47
And it sounds like they’ve gotten there, too. Because I think that one of the struggles is, I think they probably are listening to that and going, Yeah, we’re, you know, we’re, we’re good. We’re, we’re there. Let’s Let’s go It’s reconciling that in the moment that I think could be could be potentially is where some some of the difficulty comes in. I think they have to be on board. I think maybe they probably have to talk to each other about exactly what you’re talking about and make sure they’re on the same page. Right sounds like they have, but I think they could also be making some assumptions there about each other, and making sure that they’ve they’ve had that conversation to say, okay, we’re on the same page with this. We both feel like this is okay, this is good. This is what we want to participate in together and move into that. They find agreement that they find a group that they find agreement on that before they try that and be very, very explicit in their agreement. Right when you say like they have to be when you’re talking about all the things you mentioned, sex toys, mutual masturbation, oral sex, like they have to be I mean any couple does, but they have to be in full agreement that the these things are okay and we fought we both find them to be acceptable in our relationship.
They do have to be be on the same page. But a lot of times people have differing degrees of sort of legalism, right? Sometimes some people are more free and feel good about something and the other person is anxious. Like what if this leads us to the den of iniquity? You know, what if you know this one wrong stack means that, you know, our marriage is over and you’re gonna step outside the main boundaries of our commitment to each other as faithful to each other sexually. I see that come up a lot with couples when they entertain the ideas of fantasy, you know, like, how do we tell each other what turns each other on? Without threatening the other person or without the worry that oh my gosh, my partner just told me about, you know, they they want to do it with three chimpanzees. And, you know, I’m now threatened, you know, because Cheetah lives next door and you know, how do I let my partner have an erotic space and erotic mind that maybe is bigger than I could have ever imagined. I mean, I think that what we do with our partner is a very small subset of probably what we all imagine.
Adam Mathews 24:13
I think, I think, yeah, what I hear you saying is that there’s the possibility that they’re each going into their sexual life, agreeing with their head, but then getting scared of the moment that they’re going to freak their partner out, that they’re gonna do something outside of the bounds, the out of bounds and they’re there, or they
feel freaked out by what their partner has told them they think about, or that they imagined. And I think that’s probably the scariest place is how do I get comfortable? Like, okay, we’ve we’ve agreed on this, which most people have agreed on fidelity. Yeah, but how do I allow for you to have wild thoughts and tell me about them, so that we can enjoy that energy? I mean, I think the sexiest thing about anybody frankly, is their mind. I mean, Over time our bodies change, our bodies fall apart and wrinkle. And, you know, I mean, they literally changed. Nobody is as hot at 80 as they were 20. You know, I mean, 20 year old bodies are absolutely beautiful, and it’s a progression. And so what keeps people sexual is often in their mind. How do we share that as a couple? How do we do that? without necessarily violating a religious tenant? I mean, what would you say, you know, a person said, Well, you know, I can think about you know, Susie q next door, but I don’t want to tell my wife that I fantasize about that because it’s wrong with in our tradition, and she might feel threatened. And but I have this mind, you know, that thinks all kinds of things and I don’t know what to do with that.
Adam Mathews 25:47
Yeah. I don’t know. I mean, I think there’s, I think that there has to be a there has to be a safe place that’s built with with a couple for that. Especially if they’re coming from a place of More dogmatic religion, it’s again almost like, I don’t know how to say this exactly, but I’ll say it and then you can correct me if I’m wrong, but more that there just like we talked about a moment, there’s not there’s not a bad emotion. Right, right. Like there’s not a I can’t my emotions just happen, but I can’t act out of every emotion that I have. Right and so it’s okay that I have that emotion. If I have the feeling that I want to just take off and abandon everything that I have, that emotion is not bad between me and my wife. If I do that, though, that’s that’s where I’m, I’m getting. I messed up so and so having that shared space where we both have been able to say, if you had a thought about what did you say Susie q next door, Susie q Susie q next door, if I have thought about her, then it’s a safe space for me to share that. It’s probably not safe unless there’s something else that’s going on. That’s beyond the scope of this podcast right now. If I go out and pursue her
so what I’m hearing you say is actions Thoughts are different. Yeah. But the problem is some traditions, right, believe that they are the same thing. That actions are the same as thoughts in terms of our commitment to purity or commitment to fidelity. Even like if you think about another woman, you’ve as good as had sex with her. And so, it’s so hard, right? Because how do we stay, keep that openness to the sexual life and walk such a tight, narrow line that says, any sexual thought, you know, is therefore wrong?
Adam Mathews 27:38
Yeah, I mean, I think we’ve talked about this several times. And this is, to me where it would it comes back to me is that we’ve got to continually turn back toward each other in our couplehood. Right. And and so in that like, being my wife, if I had continual thoughts about the woman next door, right, and I’m sharing that with my wife, yes, that conversation is a safe conversation, it does not mean that my wife is not going to go. What’s going on with you continually having thoughts about her next door? Do we need to talk about? Do we need to? Is there something that needs to happen?
I mean, if you’re having regular thoughts about the woman next door, and you’re telling your wife regularly about it, in some ways, that is keeping the intimacy between you and your wife. That’s what I mean. You are not sharing these thoughts with flirting within the woman next door, you’re not pursuing Susie Q. And sometimes that, you know, those sexual thoughts could be explored. Like why is it what is attractive about this person? What do I feel? I mean, it’s hard to have those conversations. It is really hard. It takes a lot of maturity, but but they can it can really add to your sexual life if you can figure them out.
Adam Mathews 28:53
Yeah. And I think that like that’s a continually turning toward her and so if there is a thought And to your point about that, Some religions thinks that the thought is is bad. I think that there may be some things that we could probably get into I don’t know that we want to but we could probably get into that would be something that we would have to say, Okay, let’s talk more about this. But being able to turn back toward them is going to be much better than the alternative of me keeping that inside. Let’s say we, we ended up thinking through this and we came up with a thought that me and you would both agree that’s not a good thought to have. Right? It’s still better for me to turn back to my wife and share that rather than to keep that and hold on to that inside and worried about how bad a person I am. That beast is going to overwhelm that and you know,
but the point that you made I think of turning toward your partner into a safe space is what makes that possible. I mean, if you’re turning toward toward your partner and they’re going to punish you for how bad you are for this, this piece inside and and you’re not going to make meaning of it together. Yeah,
Adam Mathews 30:00
that can be a place that isn’t safe. And therefore people begin to keep secrets inside. they dedicate themselves to the alive sexuality that’s possible for them in, you know, within a more narrow construct. So Lori wanted to just mention to before we ended a couple of tips for this couple that are trying to kind of align their head and heart again trying to, they got mentally a god around, they’ve kind of done some of the work that we’ve talked about, or it sounds like if they haven’t, they need to go back and do it. But wanting to give them just a couple of tips to try to move forward in that. I think mine would be number one, we mentioned it go slow, don’t go for don’t jump in and go for the whole enchilada right away, right? Go to something that’s the least intimidating for them, and then continue to progress as they get more and more comfortable with it. And then the other thing is make sure that they’re exploring any kind of old beliefs that they may be holding on to tighter than what they are one of the ones that really struck me that as we were talking is probably is one of the fears that they’re going to be punished if they think wrongly about this or that. They, they go too far. And when they’re having sex, they go too far in one direction and they fear that they might be punished. Is that still is that something that’s there? And so that’s what just exploring that with each other to see what are the ones that they can let go of that they may, they may be holding on to that they’re not they’re not even aware of.
And I would say the last tip is, you know, go with joy. Oh, yeah. You know, if you have your broad boundaries, then I think anything in between is good. Yeah. If you’re feeling loved by it, and you’re feeling loved by your partner, and you’re not violating your moral basis, going outside the marriage. You know, everything’s game within as long as both people are comfortable and feel like it adds to their pleasure. Like To me that is a wholly good thing.
Adam Mathews 31:55
Yeah. I love it. Go with joy. That’s how we end everybody. Hey go with joy.
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