Celeste & Danielle Offer Sex and Relationship Coaching for a Passionate, Connected and Fulfilling Life

When you’ve been with someone for a long time, it can be challenging to transition into sex, especially if you are yourself or happen to have a thorny partner. What is a thorny partner, you ask? Great question! A thorny partner is a partner that is both horny and has some prickly challenges with transitioning or getting in the mood for sex. In other words, a person who has two parts inside them, one that really wants sex (the horny part) and one that kind of avoid or feels averse to sex when it first starts (the thorny part). This can be very challenging because the thorny part makes their partner feel rejected, while the horny part feels rejected that their partner isn’t trying harder.

So, how do you deal with Thorniness in your relationship?

If you are the thorny partner the first step is knowing that it is true for you without any judgment. There are so many reasons why people can be thorny and not feel ready to jump right into sex. You may feel in your head and even annoyed after having been focused on work all day. Or, you may also have been brought up in a very shame-based atmosphere around sex so, before you are aroused, there is an unconscious but strong part of you that thinks sex is yucky or trivial. That’s ok, the great thing is that, once you are aroused, this part generally shuts down or switches over to become part of your arousal.

If You Are the Thorny Partner

It will be really helpful to your partner to tell them about your thorniness, so that they know it is not about them. Then, let them know what kinds of things they should do to help you overcome those feelings. Perhaps you will want to ask them if you can run away and they will chase you or if it is ok with them if you are not particularly responsive when they first make their moves, but they should keep going. Also, if there is some way for you to signal to them that you are feeling thorny but you want them to keep trying, make up a shared signal for this!

If You Are the Partner of a Thorny Person

The first step is to try your hardest not to take it personally. It is not a rejection of you, but a residual product of being in an over-worked, sex-negative society. It is important that you know that just because they are thorny, it doesn’t mean that they want you to give up on them. Let them know that you totally understand that it is hard for them to get in the mood and see if they can articulate to you what words or signals mean that they really want you to stop and what words or signals mean that they want you to keep trying and see if they can get in the mood. As long as you have a shared verbal or non-verbal language around this, you can feel like it is ok to keep trying to see if you can move beyond the thorns to the horns!

We hope that knowing there are thorny folks out there, knowing that you don’t have to be ashamed of it, knowing it can be hard on a partner, and having a team approach to it will help you have a Happy, Horny Halloween!!!

“We are seriously out of practice,” Callie said after plopping down next to her boyfriend Holden. It was a bit of an unusual couple for us since neither of them seemed angry or even that worried about the fact that they hadn’t had sex for the past 2 years. More than anything they were perplexed. Callie added, “In the beginning, our sex was insanely romantic, like every touch and every look and every move was full of meaning and promise.” Holden chimed in, “After a while, that just sort of faded and it didn’t really get replaced with anything.”

“That sounds like some pretty High G sex,” I said laughing.

“Hi G?” Holden queried.

“Yes, it seems to me that the two of you started out with some really high gravity sex, sex where each of you took yourselves and each other extremely seriously. Maybe it’s time for a little bit of Low G Sex, something more playful and less consequential.”

The great thing about Callie and Holden was that they had already come to terms with the fact that sex was going to be different in a long-term relationship. Many couples who are having trouble in their sexual relationship hold so tightly to the early experiences, they never get to find a new rhythm with each other. While we certainly wanted to help Callie and Holden find out how to have the hottest sex they could, we also just wanted to get them back into each other’s orbit again. We wanted to help them re-break the ice.

Low G Sex, sex where you decide that you are just going to get it on without taking it too seriously, can be a great antidote to making sure sex happens in the midst of kids, work, social commitments and all the craziness of everyday life. So, how do you have Low G Sex? First, you need to agree that that’s what you are going to do and that you are both up for it. Callie and Holden loved the idea, and left our office ready to start their next sexual experience with some naked tickling (neither had an aversion) and a pillow fight.

In the next session, they were both red-cheeked as they told their story. “It was ridiculous but it helped so much. We just decided, one way or another, we are going to screw around and get off and it turned out to be a lot easier than we thought. Once we dropped the idea that it had to be the most mind-blowing sex in the world, we both ended up satisfied. Since then we can’t stop laughing about it, we lock eyes and just crack up!”

In addition to pillow fights and tickling, here are some other ways to have Low G sex:

  • Have an Oral Sex Match – see which one of you can last the longest giving the other oral sex. For the man, it is a double challenge because he needs to try to last long as a giver and receiver. The woman just gets to have as many orgasms as she can as the receiver (this is better for couples who won’t take the competitive part of this too seriously).
  • Give Each Other Lap Dances – Make sure you pick your favorite songs and shake and grind your way to Funky Town.
  • Porno Roulette – go to a porn site, each of you think of a sex word, put them together and search away. If you end up with MILF creampie, so be it.
  • Have an Innovative Sex Toy Party – bring out your favorite sex toys (or the ones you’ve never opened) and try to use them in a way their manufacturer did not intend.
  • Play Truth or Dare – and dare your partner to do all the things you want them to do to you. Don’t forget to have them moon the dog or ice their nipples at least once!

Remember in a long-term relationship, if you wait for the perfect time to have perfect sex, you might just wait forever. Letting yourself be silly and more relaxed can keep sex flowing in your lives. Try some Low G sex tonight and blast off…

Elena is a Somatica practitioner with her own thriving practice in San Francisco and the South Bay. She is also a group leader in the Somatica Core Training as well as an amazing friend, colleague, partner, and mom. We are so excited to host her guest blog

Last year I watched the Showtime series “Masters of Sex,” the fictionalized story of the real life Virginia Johnson and William Masters. I knew of them, of course, but I didn’t know a lot about them so as I made my way through the series, I also researched who they were and what the wide world of the internet had to say. I came across a blog post that characterized the relationship of Masters and Johnson as “ultimately failed” because, after 20 years of marriage, they divorced. I found it appalling that a twenty year relationship, not to mention a culture-shifting collaboration, could be described as failed because at some point they decided to separate.

On the one hand, I wasn’t surprised at all. The prevailing wisdom about long term relationships equates longevity with success. Not just longevity but longevity of a particular form or arrangement of relationship, most often monogamous, cohabiting, and married. On the other hand, I was separating from my partner of 15 years and I was furious at the thought that our relationship could in any way be construed as a failure.

I met my… what to call him? Ex. Ugh. Former partner? No, we are still partners. Baby daddy? Seriously?

I met this person, one of my soul mates, when he and I were both 29. I had moved from the Bay Area to New Mexico a few years prior and he was from the South – an unlikely match. We began an affair after I had a bad breakup. He was in a non-monogamous relationship (as he pointedly informed me one night at a party). For a year we had hot, amazing, open, adventurous sex and pined after each other on the daily. I loved it (see my blog-post In Search of My Movie).

At the end of that year, and some all-too-human and messy life events, the multiple relationship configurations exploded and when the pieces reformed, he and I were living together. Monogamously.

Two years later, we started trying to have a baby. Two and a half years after that, we finally did have our son. Thus continued a decade of life and relationship challenges I could not have foreseen. To list them would get off topic but it was a heavy time. Eventually we sought out the help of a gifted therapist because we knew our relationship could be better and we wanted it to be. I also found Somatica. Between the gifted therapist and the life-altering experience of the Somatica training, we started to wake up. We healed and repaired some of our deepest wounds – some of which we had inflicted on each other and some of which pre-dated our presence in each other’s lives. We got legally married and we opened our relationship again. We worked our way to a state of awareness from which we were able to see one another, and what we each wanted, clearly. Without blame or recrimination we decided to stop living together, stop forcing ourselves to be lovers, and to embrace the profoundly deep knowing and love we have for each other as friends, as co-parents, and as soul mates. We made room for change so our relationship could shift instead of break.

I had friends say, “Oh, that open relationship thing isn’t working out so well.” I found it fascinating that opening our relationship was blamed (as though the shift was a failure) and that no one ever said, “Wow, living all those years with the confining, restrictive, unrealistic expectations of traditional marriage really took it’s toll, huh?”. The truth of our experience was that we opened our relationship out of a sense of safety with and love for each other. We weren’t meeting all of each other’s needs and wanted those needs met regardless of whether or not we were the one to fulfill them for the other. I don’t advocate for open relationships or monogamy, but I do believe they should both be on the menu as equally valid choices so that people can make a conscious decision to do what works for them. What I want to share in this post is that people change, and we can shift instead of break if we allow our relationships to change with us. Riding the roller coaster with awareness, flexibility, and resilience is the way to have successful relationships, not deciding on a shape and form and rigidly holding to that at the cost of passion, joy, fulfillment, and ultimately even connection.

If the author of the aforementioned blog, and most of society, were to look at the 15 years of relationship we’ve had so far, they would pronounce our relationship a failure because we are no longer married and living together. Far from a failure, this is the most successful relationship of my life to date. We didn’t break up, or in fact break anything – we shifted a connection that remains vibrant and vital to both of us.

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!