Celeste and Danielle, Creators of the Somatica Method of Sex Therapy and Relationship Coaching

We’re giving you an intimate glimpse into one woman’s quest to increase her libido, featuring excerpts from emails she wrote to close female friends as she worked with Celeste and Danielle.

In this second of five posts, we’ll look at what really helps women deal with their low desire as she describes the transformation she and her husband went through. Our client writes:

“I knew logically that when we have great sex, so many other things are better… he is nicer to me and I am nicer to him, we have more fulfilling conversations, we play more joyfully with our son. I mean, who doesn’t want these things?!? So why were we sitting here nearly 2 decades into our relationship with my husband feeling like I wasn’t attracted to him and didn’t desire sex in the way that he wanted? And was it going to be the thing that eventually destroyed our relationship?”

So she went to her OBGYN who told her that there really aren’t medications to solve this problem and the OBGYN recommended she contact a therapist, but they either weren’t available or not a good fit for her. Our client writes:

“My husband did what he does best and did some research online. And he found Celeste & Danielle, some fairly non-traditional therapists. Most therapists focus on LOTS of talking and hopefully a moderately positive outcome. This one focused on the transformative power of pleasure via exposing our vulnerabilities alongside a heavy dose of sex education.”

Lesson #1. Breathing… all the way down.

“Our first visit with the therapist, we both shared our side of the story (VERY hard, LOTS of tears). She listened, connected with us, asked questions and even shed a tear herself. She comforted me and told me that as a female race, we’ve been taught OUR ENTIRE LIVES to keep it in our pants. She pointed out that that kind of brainwashing certainly makes it difficult to reconnect our mind with our pussy. Whether it’s that the initial infatuation period has worn off, or that work is stressful, or that the kids need attention, or that the dinner has to be made… it is SO EASY for us to focus on absolutely everything else other than our sexual needs and desires. She told me that most women have “low libido” which is just another way to say that we are disconnected from our sexuality. Try something right now. Close your eyes and take a deep breath in and out. Do you feel it down to your pussy? If you are like me a month ago, the answer is that you don’t. You take a deep breath in and out, and the sensation stops right in the middle of your torso. So take a moment, and try again. Take a REALLY deep breath in and out and connect it all the way down to your pussy. If you are like me a month ago, that was a really strange sensation. But it felt nice.”

Homework #1

“So what did the therapist ask us to do after that first appointment? Well, I had the brunt of the homework, or so my husband thought. I was to do little things… like when I walked outside and the air felt fresh and cool, or I liked the way the sky looked, or it was unusually warm, I was supposed to take a deep breath, all the way down to… you guessed it… my pussy. And yes, you say that word often enough and it heightens your awareness of your sexuality. I was also supposed to dress more slowly, to feel the sensation of the materials on my skin. As a couple, we were supposed to be more affectionate and playful. To greet each other more enthusiastically at the end of the day, to cuddle together, to have pillow fights. Finally, we were supposed to expand our sexuality outside of sex. To watch a Hollywood (not porn) movie together, to read erotica together. No connection to the act of sex itself, just to expand our awareness and enjoyment of each other’s sexuality.”

The bad and the good.

“I’ll be honest, there were days that didn’t go great. There were days I got upset about something at work, or how my husband handled something at home, or getting my period. But overall, the deep breaths and getting dressed slowly awakened something inside me that made it quite frankly, much easier to feel turned on in a way that I’ve never been able to do before. I’m not saying I automatically am thinking about sex a hundred times a day, it’s much more subtle than that. But I did start to find that these small moments throughout the day helped me realize I might not only want sex for my husband’s sake, or for logical reasons like connecting us more deeply, but I might want it for my own pleasure as well. I actually giggled one day riding home on the bike to realize that it must feel pretty damn good to be a guy and think like this all the time.”

A realization.

“On a long run between our first and second appointments with the therapist, I asked my husband how he thought it was going. He mentioned that he thought it was going well from a results standpoint, but he felt he wasn’t really contributing. He felt it was all because of what I was doing on my own. I told him that I felt like we were trying to climb a mountain and that yes, part of establishing base camp was me connecting within myself, but that I really felt an equally important part was feeling wanted (not just for sex, but really truly loved and cared for) and we talked about how important I felt it was for him to show me this in a super exaggerated way. For instance, when he gets home at night, to dazzle me with a deep kiss and to hold me in his arms for more than a quick second. Not because he wanted sex that night, but just because he loves me. Or to skip his normal routine of heading to the office upon arriving home, and to instead sit with me while I prepared dinner and to talk to me about his day or my day or anything else. He tried hard to do these things since, and it’s been as essential as some of the other more overtly sexual homework.”

We love that our client is letting us share her journey with you because so many women want a more robust sex drive. And the next installment will be about sexual tension, which everyone wants more of!

One of our clients sent over this series of emails she wrote to her close female friends about working with us to address her low libido. We are so delighted that she is willing to open up about her journey, and we’ll be sharing it with you as a series of blog posts.

The Problem

In this first post, we will share with her absolutely on point description of what most couples experience when the woman in the relationship has lower desire and how they try to solve it. Our client writes:

“Over the course of the 19 years that I have been with my wonderful husband, we have had the great fortune to grow together in many ways. However, one thing that has been constant over the years is his sexual appetite has always been greater than my own. Sound familiar? That’s because a ridiculously huge proportion of women face similar issues in their relationships.”

Is Good the Enemy of Great?

“It wasn’t that I couldn’t have GOOD sex with my husband. Despite my self-diagnosed ‘low libido,’ we still managed to have sex on a moderately regular (albeit less than he would have liked) basis. But it was routine. I brushed my teeth, put on my pajamas, crawled into bed with him and we did the things we knew would please each other and we had sex. It was good. But GREAT sex required stars to be aligned. It required vacations, or alcohol, or a particularly perfect week at work and a kid who went to bed early or slept in late. It required me to get out of my head for a second and to not be annoyed that his loving overtures weren’t coming at a time where I was already in the mood, but to have them put me in the mood. It required a small miracle.”

Looking for the Quick Fix

Many couples try to resolve the issue with “quick fixes,” “hot tips,” and all sorts of short-cut solutions that generally don’t do much to shift people’s habits or change their sex lives and relationships. Our client continues:

“We’d had discussions over the years about this topic, and as a result of these emotional conversations, we’d stumble upon various tactics that would work for a SHORT PERIOD OF TIME. We’d decide to have sex every Wednesday, and it worked. For a month. We’d decide to be more amorous to each other outside the bedroom, and that worked. For a couple weeks. He would buy me sexy lingerie. That wouldn’t work (does that work for anyone but a guy?!?). We’d think that “Oh when the baby is older, we’ll get back in the groove” or “Oh, it’s the birth control pills, that’s it. After the vasectomy and I’m off the pills, we’ll magically want to jump each other’s bones all day long.”

Sound Familiar?

Some of you are probably nodding your heads emphatically right now, totally able to identify with our client’s situation. Society tells us that sex is easy, especially when you’re in a happy, loving relationship. In reality, many women suffer from occasional to frequent low-libido, making them frustrated with their relationships and themselves.

In our next post we’ll continue following our client on her journey as she searches for an answer to her low libido.

Jennifer LawrenceBetween cell phone cameras, dash cams, nanny cams, internet hackers, and all that Facebook and Google mine from our accounts and emails every day, it is no surprise that celebrity photos of Jennifer Lawrence recently surfaced on the web. While we, as a culture, may feel that we have a right to privacy, the facts of modern life mean that we don’t much have a reality of privacy anymore.

This is a mixed bag – on the one hand it means that police brutality and campus rapes have been caught on camera making it possible to prosecute people who probably would otherwise have gotten away with their crimes. It also means that when you take nude photos and store them on your computer or online, or send an intern a dick pic or send your boyfriend that hot beaver shot, it is safe to assume the intended audience might not be the only audience.

We believe the end of privacy has potential to change our society drastically, especially around sex and relationships, which will continue to be more and more under the purview of the public eye. Will this make us more open and less prudish as a culture? Possibly. Will it continue to spark debate and raise consciousness about rape and objectification? Hopefully. And as for Jennifer’s and her nude photos, she appears to be a deeply sexually empowered woman. While we should all be outraged that they were published without her consent, we hope she will not be ashamed of them. We think they are gorgeous.

Here is a question we received from a reader:
Hi, I was going through your blog. I have a peculiar issue, maybe. I am 31, a mother of 2, and my husband is 34. He is very interested in sex — anywhere, anytime, — but me, I don’t know why, but I totally dislike it. He loves me a lot. And I feel bad that I discourage him, which hurts him a lot, but anytime he comes to me, even for a small kiss, I feel he is proposing sex. I have posted my problem in many blogs, but no luck till now. It’s been almost 3 years since I have let him near me. I feel sad for him. Please help.

The longer a couple goes without having sex, the more difficult and awkward it can be to start again. Your body actually forgets what it liked about sex. The good news is that a sex drought can make getting it on again even more exciting! We’ve helped many couples out of their sexless ruts, and find that the reasons they stopped having sex usually fall into three main categories.

Low sex drive – Some women naturally have a lower sex drive than they’ve been led to believe is “normal.” If your libido has always been lacking, it can be increased by simply spending more time thinking about sex! Tune in to the sensuality of the world around you, explore your turn-ons with erotic movies and books, and don’t forget to masturbate!

Emotional disconnect – For women in particular, misunderstandings and unresolved conflict in the relationship can cause a lack of connection and and make intimacy difficult. You and your partner must learn to effectively communicate your feelings and bridge the divide between you, because relationships are about repair.

Pushing the wrong buttons – Women frequently confide to us that their partner doesn’t know how they’d prefer to be approached, seduced, and pleasured, but they’ve never said anything to him! It’s crucial that you talk about your turn ons, even if you think they’re a little weird. Once your partner knows what you like, we can help him perfect his technique.

Even if it seems like your partner is always in the mood, he’s probably suffering from feelings of rejection and insecurity. He may fear that he won’t be able to perform well once you do start having sex. You need to make sure you keep communicating, reassuring one another, and working together to rebuild your sex life.

All this advice may be overwhelming. If you’re not sure where to begin again, a kiss is always a good start.

Don-Jon-e1408325538806While inelegant, heavy-handed, and simplistic at times, the overall message of the movie Don Jon is a good one. Written, directed by, and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, this film takes us on a tour of sex and relationships in modern times. In the beginning we see Levitt’s main character, Don Jon, watching porn constantly, sleeping with a new woman every night, and complaining that real sex never measures up to the porno standard. He then enters into a relationship with Barbara Sugarman, played by Scarlett Johansson, who plays by the old fashioned rules dictated by female “porn,” aka romance movies. She holds off on sex and begins grooming him to be the perfect financial provider. Once they do have sex, Don Jon slinks off to masturbate immediately afterward, and continues to rely on internet porn to achieve his sexual highs.

The message Gordon-Levitt beats into us like a dead horse is simply Porn is Men’s Porn, Romance Movies are Women’s Porn and neither one shows any form of real connection or intimacy. Eventually Barbara discovers Don Jon’s porn history on his browser and leaves him for being a “pervert.”

Enter Esther – a recently widowed “cougar” played by Julianne Moore with whom Don Jon eventually begins an honest sexual and intimate relationship. The fact that Moore is a widow points to the way that the romantic fantasy of finding someone and living happily ever after without a hitch is also always a lie, because eventually one person dies and one way or another we all lose.

While this might seem sad, we believe that the message of the movie is actually quite hopeful. The relationship between Don Jon and Esther is not dictated by the trajectory of meet-date-cohabitate-marry-breed-die. They are exploring their connection in the moment and Don Jon begins to experience the vulnerability, depth, and freedom, as well as the arousal that comes from the authentic erotic connection available in this relationship. We found the message in Don Jon to be infinitely more hopeful than either porn or rom coms – it offers us a glimpse into what’s possible if we stay true to ourselves and our relationships in the present moment.

Don Jon points us to a vision of sex and relationships that aren’t based on the rom com’s promise of forever happiness or porn’s perfectly uninterrupted, faked orgasm trajectory of male arousal to ejaculation. Sure, once in a while it’s fine to go ahead and get our porn or romance fix as long as we realize that they are fantasies, not reality. In reality, there are no guarantees of happily every after or hot sex forever, there are just two (or more) people experiencing the ups and downs of life, and the joys and frustrations of the places we meet and the places we miss each other. When we can do this with love, honesty, and room for disappointment, so much more is possible.

The Sessions is a movie about sexual surrogacy — a form of sexual therapy in which a psychotherapist, surrogate, and client work together as a team to support the client in overcoming emotional and functional sexual difficulties. The story is based on the experience between a young Cheryl Cohen Greene, an actual surrogate who still lives and practices in Berkeley, and one of her clients, Mark O’Brien, a Polio sufferer who was paralyzed except for some movement in his fingers, toes, face, and eyes. While it was a wonderful idea to tell the story of surrogacy and how it actually helped Mark, who eventually married a woman and who stayed in connection with Cheryl until he died, it was an unfortunately unrealistic depiction of their relationship.

Within Hollywood’s relationship lexicon – a lexicon that cannot imagine intimate sexual connection outside of the romantic trajectory where you meet, fall in love, and then must either marry or part ways forever – the idea that a man and a woman could “practice” sex, feel affection and connection, and not fall in love is impossible. Unfortunately, instead of showing the actual relationships that surrogates have with their clients – a relationship of non-judgmental acceptance, supportive care and affection where the client can explore, heal, and expand around their own sexuality – Hollywood had to make Cheryl and Mark start to fall in love and, as a result, have to end their relationship. This is not the true story of Cheryl and Mark and it is not at all representative of a surrogate-client relationship.

We feel this is an important distinction because, as with any experiential practices around sex, our cultural misunderstandings about sex and relationship can get in the way of accessing important tools for learning and growth. The truth of sex and relationships is that there are as many different ways to combine them as there are people who engage in them and, while we try to fit these connections neatly into the expected trajectory, they do not stay within these culturally expected boundaries. People have sex without intimacy, marriages without sex, and affairs even when they still love their partners. In our upcoming book for couples, we will be talking about how to have a real, honest relationship that accounts for the beautiful uniqueness of every human being and every relationship, a beautiful uniqueness that was impossible for Hollywood to depict in The Sessions.

Some people choose to stay virgins until they are married while others who are interested in sex lack the skills and opportunity to lose their virginity, even when they feel ready and would like to. For these people, unfulfilled urges can combine with societal pressure, leading them to either resign themselves to a celibate life or settle for very subpar sexual encounters, in an effort to lose their virginity at any cost.

But there is another option for those looking to get into the game: sex and intimacy coaching. As sex coaches, we don’t just help people improve their existing sexual relationships, we give people the tools to start their sex lives with confidence, openness, and optimism. One of the virgins we worked with, we’ll call him Calvin, was afraid that women would be turned off by his inexperience in the bedroom. After taking our Erotic Intensive, his date said to him, “You dangerous, bad man” when he was seducing her for the first time. Here he was a virgin and she thought he was some kind of player, his approach was so good.

The research out there talks about inherent and social predictors of adult virginity, like race, weight, alcohol use, and education levels. In our practice, we have worked with many virgins to help them gain experience with women and lose their virginity, and we have noticed some personality traits that seem to go along with adult virginity. For example, some of the men who we have helped don’t understand women’s sexual cues, can’t approach or seduce women, and feel easily rejected or do not have much resilience around rejection. Other men, like Calvin, are worried about performance or do not have confidence about their sexual skills and fear that potential partners will be turned off if it seems like they don’t know what they are doing.

We have worked with adult virgins from age 21 to age 72 and would love to help any man gain the confidence, skills, and understanding they need to take their sexual experiences with women to the next level. Since men are expected to be the initiators of sex, practicing first with a professional can be extremely helpful. In our sessions we focus on everything from getting dates to initiating contact, as well as the chemistry of attraction. We help men with seduction and technique, and teach them how to show women their desire and passion. Like Calvin, some men who have worked with with us decide to keep their virginity private and we feel you have a right to your privacy and a right to have a fulfilling sexual life.