Sex and Relationship Coaching for a Passionate, Connected and Fulfilling Life

In case you didn’t know, there is something we should all be celebrating as soon as possible and that is the beautiful practice of self-pleasure. Yes- May is Masturbation Month (or Maysturbation month as one of our brilliant Facebook followers suggested) and we could not be more excited to revisit this essential act with you all (and with ourselves, of course). For most of us, maturbation was our first sexual experience but instead of giving our relationship with ourselves the time and attention this first love deserves, we often think of it as a functional quick-fix. Now there is nothing wrong with that, but why not see how much pleasure and fun could be had if we gave masturbation a little more love? We have a few ideas of how you can bring some of that spring fever energy back to yourself, which will likely inspire you to spread the love.

1. Take your time
When was the last time you actually set aside some time to do yourself proper? Make a date with yourself that involves a bit of lead up, some extra attention, and maybe a delicious nap afterwards. You may surprise yourself with your own potential for self-induced pleasure when you actually dedicate a solid window of time.

2. Mix it up
Most people have a go-to way that they masturbate. This might involve a trusty vibrator, a favorite porn, a certain position. Often these are habits of efficiency and, although tired and true, this month we challenge you to change them up a bit. It may take a little longer but it will be worth it, we promise.

3. Try it with a buddy
We are huge fans of mutual masturbation. Not only is it super hot to watch, or have specific tasks as a helper (nipple sucking is a solid go to) but watching your partner pleasure themselves can be very informative and can give you all sorts of great ideas for how to please your partner. Also, if you are into role-playing there are many fun ways to create scenarios where you are only “allowed” to touch yourselves.

4. A change of scenery?
Without risking arrest, think of a new location that might add a bit of variation to your routine. Maybe you usually touch yourself on that chair in front of your computer, in the shower, or in bed. Isn’t it time to try the couch, the secluded back porch, or in front of your partner on their work-at-home desk?

5. Buy a new toy
Treat yourself! Afterall, much-beloved sex toy supplier Good Vibrations is the original masterminds (get it, master?) behind Masturbation Month so why not show them, or any other fav local sex shop some love this month and get yourself the gift that keeps on giving. If it has been a while, you will be delighted to see how technology keeps advancing in the sexual pleasure field, from usb charging to remote vibe necklaces the future is at your fingertips, and in your pants.

Most of all, this month is a great time to remember that we all have the capacity to experience amazing amounts of pleasure on our own. We are whole sexual beings and we all deserve to dedicate some time to this part of our lives. It is so silly and shame-based that words about masturbation are used as insults. This Month, and every other one, let’s all commit to being proud wankers, jack-offs, baters, bean-flickers, or pearl-polishers.

As a culture, we tend to look at ultimatums as a cut and dry relationship foul, and often report damningly to our friends when a partner has issued one. “She gave me an ultimatum,” you might say to your friend as they gasp and shake their head, “How could she?”

We want to look at this phenomenon a little more closely and explore how ultimatums come to be, when they might actually be needed and when they are squarely manipulative and counterproductive. In order to do this, we must have a shared definition of boundaries and needs and why they are important to relationships. Some folks think boundaries are roadblocks that should to be busted through and needs are obstacles to get over for the greater good of the relationship. Whether we always successfully respect others boundaries or not, most of us can agree that knowing, taking responsibility for, and communicating our needs and boundaries as well as accepting and supporting your partner’s needs and boundaries is essential to relationship longevity.

So, let’s talk about foul-play ultimatums. It is foul-play to use an ultimatum as a first attempt at expressing a need or a boundary. At the same time, we understand that expressing needs and boundaries is extremely vulnerable and scary. In other words, if you need to have an extended intimate connection time (let’s say a couple of hours) at least two times week, and the first time you ask for it, you say, “I just can’t be in this relationship any longer unless we have extended connection time at least two times per week,” your partner will likely feel blindsided and afraid that you are going to leave them before you’ve even given them a chance to absorb what you want and see if they are up for it. People often use ultimatums in this way in order to avoid the terrifying feeling of being told “no” and feeling uncared for or like they aren’t worth it to their partner. It’s like saying, “You don’t get to leave me, if you can’t do this, I’m leaving you first!” This is definitely choosing protection over connection and will likely create defensiveness and alienation in your partner.

A much more vulnerable and gentle way to start asking for what you need is to say, “I need extended connection time at least two times per week,” and then to let your partner have whatever reaction they do without any threat attached. If you’ve never even brought it up before, they might just say, “Yeah, me too, let’s get it on the calendar!” They might also say, “I’d love to do that, but it makes me feel a little anxious and trapped to jump into two hours right away, do you think we can work our way up to it?” or they might just say, “No, sorry, I can’t do it.” The same scenario is true for boundaries. A gentle way to state a boundary is, “It pushes my boundaries when you flirt a lot in front of me and give other guys the impression that you are willing to sleep with them.” Your partner might say, “Wow, I didn’t realize I was doing that, can you let me know what I do that makes you feel that way and I’ll stop!” or “Ok, but I do like flirting, can you tell me what would be comfortable?” or they might say, “That makes me feel unfree, I’m not willing to change my behavior.”

These are obviously somewhat idealistic examples in terms of how people communicate, but hey, shoot for the moon, right? People don’t often talk to each other like this, they yell or cry or logic each other to death and never actually vulnerably share their needs, feelings and fears. However, we have helped many couples begin to communicate with more clarity and honesty even if it may feel contrived at first. This can allow for needs and boundaries to be communicated without throwing in an ultimatum for emphasis.

However, sometimes, even after tons of really great talking full of mutual empathy and support for boundaries, there still comes a time when one person in the relationship has a need that they other person does not meet and one or both of them isn’t ok with outsourcing that need. Let’s take our clients Allan and Sam for a moment. Oral sex is essential to Allen’s turn-on and sex is completely arousing for him. Without it, he cannot get and erection yet Sam hates giving or receiving oral sex. Allen has felt guilty to leave the relationship due to this difference – because sex is so trivialized in our society, he feels he shouldn’t value it so highly. At the same time, he is very sexual and feels it is central to his sense of self and well-being. They’ve spent years talking and trying to find a way around it, and neither of them wants for the need to be met outside of their monogamous agreement.

Because of this, Allen finally realized he had to have a final conversation, an ultimatum as it were. We helped him find the most compassionate way to share this with his partner: “We have talked about this for many years now and done a good deal of therapy and I think we both understand each other. I need to tell you that I am no longer willing to live without the kind of sex that turns me on. I don’t want you to do anything that doesn’t feel right to you or cross your boundaries. At the same time, if we don’t work out a way for me to have sex in the context of this relationship, I am going to leave.” This, we believe, is an appropriate ultimatum. It is appropriate because all avenues have been explored and his partner deserves to know that he is going to leave if the situation doesn’t change. Sometimes, when it gets to this point, a couple does find ways to change things and still stay together and sometimes they part.

We understand why ultimatums have gotten a bad rap. They are an often overused and disingenuous. In these cases, it can feel like you have the partner that cried ultimatum and therefore you do not take their needs seriously. But we believe that ultimatums are not inherently manipulative and generally do reflect a real need or desire. If you want to build lasting trust and open communication avoid ultimatums as a general tactic, and reserve them for times when you have truly exhausted other options.

Whether you are single or in a relationship, having a flirtatious approach to life makes your world a better place. In preparation for Valentine’s Day, we invite you to build and flex your flirting muscles. Imagine yourself taking your sweetheart out to a Valentine’s day date and having a whole array of tools to flirt with each other and build sexy erotic tension that makes you unable to take your hands off of each other.

If you are single having a flirtatious approach means that everywhere you go, you can smile with a twinkle in your eye, wink when you make your coffee order, or let your sexy laugh out when you order your salmon at the grocery store.

If you are in a relationship, here’s some flirts you might try:

Morning wake-up flirt – Wait til you see your partner stirring and then look at them with desire or invitation when they first wake up. Maybe you have a sensual look or a naughty look in your eyes. Tell them how beautiful they looked while they were sleeping.

Early evening flasher flirt – Maybe you are both sitting in the living room with your computers or watching a show and then slowly you turn to them and unbutton your shirt while giving them a coy smile. Flash them your breasts or chest or, if you know they are a fan of your butt, give them a peak of that instead.

Please, will you…asking flirt – Being in a relationship sometimes means asking your partner to help you with tasks. This can be so much more fun if done with a flirt. Maybe it goes like this: “Baby? (bat your eyelashes), do you think you could…(smile, glide your fingers gently down their hip) pick up the dry cleaning today?

We hope these few examples will inspire you to make flirting a regular part of your day!

Part of being in a relationship is taking the time to learn about what fills your partner’s stocking – what makes them feel all gooey and gluey with you and inspires them to stick with it through the rough times. This can be difficult if you each aren’t willing to share what you need clearly and specifically! After working with couples for all of these years, we have noticed that people don’t always know what helps their partner feel all filled up. When you don’t know what your partner needs you might be spending lots of time and energy trying to give them what they need without it landing at all.

Here’s the three reasons you might be missing out on giving their partner the gifts they need:

  1. You Give What You Want to Receive: Most people assume that people are similar to them so they make the loving gestures that they are hoping to receive. These often don’t land because people are so different. You might really need a good make out, while your partner would feel more delighted by breakfast in bed.
  2. People Change: Five years ago, your partner told you they really love back massages and you’ve been giving them a back massage every night before bed since then. If you haven’t updated the files in all these years, it’s very possible they are sick of back massages and ready for some different kind of care but just don’t have the heart to tell you.
  3. You Make Assumptions: Instead of just straight up asking your partner what fills their stocking, you try to piece it together from hints they’ve given you over the years. There’s no need to be a sleuth here, just check in.

If you want to get the most bang for your holiday buck – your time and energy – it is best to know what really hit’s the spot. This holiday, make a list (and check it twice!) of all of the things that you know really make you feel loved and desired and then exchange your lists. If you are single and hoping to be in a relationship at some point, definitely make this list as well! It’s like preparing a user’s manual for your future sweetheart. The more you know about yourself before going into a new partnership the better!

Here’s an example of what one couple wrote up:

His list of things he wants:

  1. Compliments
  2. Sweet texts or chats when we are apart about how you feel about me
  3. Kisses that have some kind of romantic or passionate feel to them
  4. Eye contact where I feel like you are looking at me with love in your eyes
  5. Sex where it feels like you can’t keep your hands off me and you are really turned on by my body
  6. Enthusiasm or excitement when you see me, if you feel like you’ve missed me or are happy to see me again
  7. You initiating plans or romantic things for us to do together or getting creative about our sex life with new ideas, toys, etc.
  8. Hellos and goodbyes – making sure you greet me when we first meet and give me a kiss goodbye when you leave

Her list of things she wants:

  1. Give me a gift certificate for a spa day that I can go on by myself.
  2. Appreciations – noticing and saying something when you feel like I’ve done something you like or appreciate
  3. Quickies – sometimes having quick sex when there isn’t time for something more in-depth
  4. Time in the house by myself to work on my projects and read my books.
  5. Surprising me with a clean house

As you can see, these two have very different needs. If they were to give each other what they were hoping to get, they’d probably both end up pretty depleted and exasperated! When you take the time to let each other know what satisfies you, your relationship will be much more filled with the glue that keeps you together!

May your stockings be stuffed with all the love and sex you want this year.

Happy Holidays!

Celeste & Danielle

Connection across differences is a huge topic with many facets, we want to start with something that we see creates a lot of misunderstanding and suffering in interpersonal relationships – philosophical debates. So often, with your partner, you begin a conversation innocently enough. Then, without even meaning to, you hit on some kind of controversial topic and suddenly you are in a debate.

So often, these debates end in confusion, anger and even crying. Since relationship happiness is really made up of the day-to-day, having these kinds of challenging interactions, and especially if you have them a lot, can be really damaging to your relationship. We want you to take them seriously and learn how to have them well. We don’t think it is realistic to say, “We’ll just never debate again” because, as we said, you usually end up falling into these conversations. Instead, we want to help you do something different with them – we call it Connected Debating.

Before we offer you the steps to connected debating, we want to start with a little bit of background so you can have a better understanding of what usually goes wrong. Firstly, there is a pretty strong gender divergence in how men and women approach differences of opinion. So, if you are in a heterosexual couple, this can be the root of the problem.

Usually, when men approach a potential debate topic with other men, they are more likely to disconnect emotionally from it and think of it more as a game they are trying to win. Like chess or a video game, they are simply trying to take down their opponents ideas any way they can and, if their opponent’s ideas stand up to the challenge, they may then take them seriously. So, a man might hear the other person’s point and say, “That’s ridiculous, have you even looked at the statics on that?”

Usually, when women approach a debating topic with other women, they are generally more relationally oriented, and attempt to find common ground first and then make their point. Even if they don’t agree they might say something like, “Yes, that makes some sense, but have you heard about the recent study on…?”

When we try to explain this to men and women, men usually think women are being ridiculous and overly-sensitive, while women often feel like men are being disconnected assholes. In other words, there is a huge lack of empathy to the other person’s needs and experiences and a lot of judgement. To be empathetic with men, it truly can be fun to debate about something if you can keep your emotions separate or if you don’t feel like having a very heated argument will lead to unfixable disconnection. It can be exciting to bring up really good points and even change someone’s mind by winning.

Unfortunately, it often isn’t possible since it is actually quite rare for both people in a debate to be able to do this. We are emotional creatures, and, even if we are not particularly emotional about a topic, we might begin to get emotional if we notice our partners are getting upset, tense, sad, or angry. Second, debate touches on some very deep emotional needs which can be triggered.

For example, many people have wounds around their intelligence, their need to be listened to, or their feelings of abandonment. Any of these can be triggered – you might feel like your partner is talking down to you or treating you like you are stupid, you might feel like you are not being heard, or you might feel like your partner cares more about the topic at hand then about being in connection with you so you feel abandoned. It can be extremely unbearable to feel stupid, unheard, and disconnected from the person that you love at the same time, which is why debates can become an intimacy killer.

In order to have more unity, use the following tools and make sure that you have an agreed upon framework to use them. For example, you might check on them immediately and then, every 2-3 minutes, revisit and make sure you are still using them.

    1. Acknowledge You Are In It: If you start to get into a debate by accident, acknowledge that you are in one and reassure that you still want to stay connected: “Oooops, it looks like we are having a difference of opinion about public vs. private schools here, I really want to stay connected with you in this conversation.” If your partner’s love language is touch, see if you can keep some kind of contact or at least make sure you are looking in each other’s eyes some of the time.”
    2. See If It’s Personal: Check if there are underlying personal feelings that this topic is touching on, that might be skipped over if you just stay in debate mode. This requires you to be honest with yourself and vulnerable with your partner. “I realize that when we talk about whether or not porn promotes violence against women, it is really hard for me to separate the feelings of insecurity that come up when I think about you watching porn.”
    3. Listen to Your Partner: Make sure you take the time to really listen and take seriously what the other person is saying, even repeating it back to them, if you are not sure you are getting what they mean. Even if you don’t agree, see if you can have empathy for their point of view and how and why they might have come to it. Check in on your own personal histories and how they relate to your current opinions on the topic.
    4. Focus on Both Similarities and Differences: If there is something that the other person says that you really agree with, share that with them. Debates often turn into an emphasis on the differences and, it is possible that there are also places of overlap and agreement.
    5. Be Willing to Change Your Mind: If you go into a debate without being open to new ideas and ways of seeing then it is unlikely your partner will ever be willing to hear you either. Let got to being attached to being “right” or making the other person “wrong” and instead go with an attitude of collaboration and curiosity. Try thinking “what might I be able to learn from this person that I don’t already know?” Being open to learning, growing and changing is what keeps us all young and vital!

Joy is contagious, unfortunately so are anxiety and insecurity. So many people start dates from one extreme or another instead of a place of grounded confidence where they are open to actually enjoying themselves. Romantics may be 20 steps ahead – already so in love with the idea of what could be, while self-described realists may already be bemoaning the fact that they are wasting their time when they could just have a surefire fun night with friends and a pint (of beer, ice-cream, or both). Many folks approach dating as if it is a job interview and are generally caught up on how they will perform. They worry about how the other candidate will measure up or they oscillate and between performance anxiety and competition. We are not saying dating is easy, but there are some ways that a change in approach can really impact the experience, even if the fit is not amazing. Dating with joy is an important skill for people who are in a relationship as well. Many couples have a date night but start to dial it in and make it as much like any other night as possible. This holiday season why don’t we all try these 5 ways to bring a little magic to this artform.

The Pre-Party: Getting ready for a date can be a great way to get grounded and start off with some joy of your own. Do something that is a bit indulgent – take a bubble bath, a longer shower, eat a little something that makes you feel your senses come alive. Listen to your anthem, the one that makes you feel like you can do anything. If you are coupled, think about getting ready on your own. It may feel contrived but it can allow you to look at your partner with fresh eyes if you didn’t just pass them the soap in your getting ready shower. Some people like to take their pre-party a little further, perhaps, all the way. For some a little self-love can be a great way to relieve nerves and get in touch with your desire. Others can get started but might enjoy a date more if they have held out on a big O. Only you can know you body. We encourage you to start dating yourself and remember how fun you are before you even meet up.

A Joyous Plan: Who doesn’t like dinner? For a foodie a surefire joyous plan may be a night at a new food truck park or a great new restaurant. But for those of us that have been on a lot of dates it can feel like a movie montage where the person across from you swaps out but your experience remains the same. As an alternative, try something a bit less stationary and more dynamic. This is a great season for it. Go ice-skating, caroling, go on a hunt for the best-decorated houses in your area. Do a car picnic and watch the sunset or go to indoor mini-golf. See a comedy show and just enjoy yourself (and have a window into their sense of humor without all the pressure). Make a plan that you are excited about.

Stories are Everything: If you are dating someone new take the time to really hear their stories and appreciate how unique they are. Also, when you are telling your own stories, try and be as honest about yourself as possible instead of editing. Be confident that you are fascinating because we all are when we share our unique perspectives. If you are in an LTR try asking your partner to tell you some stories you may not know. Perhaps about a childhood crush or an accomplishment they never got to brag about.

Having Fun Doesn’t Mean You’re Leading Anyone On: Some people feel like they need to be overly “realistic” and make the date an unpleasant one if they feel there will not be a follow-up. We want to give you permission to enjoy yourself without worrying about the future. You might end up surprising yourself, making a new friend, or just having a good story. You can always end by saying, “I had a great time with you, and am not totally feeling the chemistry, but I’m glad we met.”

Strong Finish: Now we don’t necessarily expect the date to end in a night of mind-blowing sex until the morning. If it does, great! You’re welcome ;). But there are many outcomes that can still feel great and leave you with a feeling of hope and joy. This season is a chance to be a little kinder, more open, and share your unique self with the world. Even if your after-party is solo, we are sure you can think of some ways to make it joyous! At the end of date night remember all of the wonderful things you enjoy – about yourself, your date, where you live, what you ate, etc. Gratitude is contagious as well.

The chill in the air, the early sunsets, the coveted seasonal beverages, these all mean one thing: it’s officially cuffing season. While the kinky among you may be saying, silly sexperts, every season in cuffing season for me – we aren’t talking about what goes on in your fave dungeon. “Cuffing Season” is a term for the phenomenon where people who are generally happy being single in beach weather suddenly want to hunker down and snuggle up with a mate during the colder months. Basically, they are willing to be cuffed. While the term cuffing season is more recent and has been traced to college campuses, Canadians have noted the phenomenon of “taking a winter wife” for ages. Beyond the desire for body heat, there are various social psychological explanations for this, such as the association of winter with loneliness, the holidays and family pressures, the panic that there will be no opportunity to be out and about. The fears and desires that surface during this time are important to honor and explore, whether you are in a monogamous relationship or not. Here are a few tips on making it through the winter months.

It’s OK to need contact

While western society promotes individualism and self-sufficiency, the truth is we all want to feel loved, wanted, and connected. Maybe in the warmer months it can feel a little easier to be a lone wolf, getting things done, focusing on yourself but still feeling like your quota of human contact is met. Personally, we feel like just seeing more skin out in the sunshine makes the world feel more connected, and sexier. The winter months can feel isolating. It’s good to have a plan for staying connected even if it doesn’t involve getting laid. Plan a weekly poker night, happy hour, movie night, booty call, snuggle party, whatever it is that keeps you feeling warm and connected. It can be hard to motivate last minute when you know you’re gonna be chilled to the bone. If you’re in a relationship, plan something with your partner that feels intentional and fun, not just a default night of side by side laptoping.

It’s OK to Hibernate

If you are someone who loves to be home more and have time for introspection that is wonderful and don’t feel pressure to force yourself out and about. Give yourself permission to take some time to yourself. If you are single a sick of the dating roller-coaster it’s alright to sit a season out and focus on taking stock and visualizing what you actually want. If this sounds overwhelming we would love to help. If you’re in a relationship maybe you and your love truly cherish this time to netflix and chill and that is great as well. Just check in with yourself instead of going on default.

Communication is Key…even if the relationship is only seasonal

So maybe you are someone who takes a winter wife (or husband) and you find yourself overly committed come the spring when you suddenly want to experience a bit more freedom. If this sounds familiar, you can stop doing it haplessly and start doing it consciously. There is nothing wrong with spending more time with a new lover in the winter months, but it is a good idea to check in and approach this with honesty while still making them feel special. Also, some people who are scared of commitment might need the winter as an excuse to allow themselves to enjoy engaging more fully in a relationship. Just make sure you are not consoli-dating – taking an early promising connection and instantly putting all of the pressures of an LTR – since this can jeopardize a good thing. Who knows, this winter lover could become a year round staple.

Keep Yourself Warm

No matter what your relationship status, the winter is a great time for an extra dose of self-love. Heat up a heating pad, warm up your favorite pumpkin spice lube, and enjoy the feeling of getting away with something. Oh and it’s totally OK to keep your socks on.