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

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!

We are about to share with you some of our most advanced flirting techniques – flirting tools that will help you date, mate, and experience more overall success but first…

Imagine you are on your way to work…you look over and notice someone is looking at you with a sexy, penetrating gaze. You begin to feel goosebumps on your skin and heat is flushing through you. You are excited and a bit uncomfortable – “To look or not to look?” Then the person is gone and you’re walking through the next minutes or hours of your life full of energy and aliveness! You too can make people feel this way and receive and reciprocate it when it comes from someone you find intriguing or from the love of your life.

“I don’t know how to flirt.”

We can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard people tell us that they have no idea how to flirt. Our conclusion? Most people don’t know what flirting really is! Men think they are supposed to have a set of pithy one-liners to keep women laughing, while women feel like they need to learn how to properly toss their hair and bat their eyelashes. In reality, flirting is so much more profound. Flirting is the way that you project your erotic, emotional depth and availability to a new person or to your partner.

“I don’t want to be creepy”
“I don’t want to make any promises I can’t keep”

We hear all sorts of reasons why people hold themselves back from experiencing one of the more delightful, life-affirming, inspirational, and energizing experiences they can have, and we want to reassure you. Sharing playful, fun exchanges with people doesn’t mean that you’ve promised them anything – you can be a flirt with fantastic boundaries! As we talked about in our our Biggest Flirting Mistakes Article, flirting isn’t what makes you creepy – trying to hide your desires and having them leak out all over the place (instead of learning how to embrace and share them) is how people come across as creepy.

Now that you’ve gotten past the roadblocks that hold you back from flirting and begun to give yourself permission, here are our secrets to being a successful flirt:

#1 Start from the Inside Out

Flirting is all about being in touch with your own erotic energy. It doesn’t matter what you say or do or how you dress, if you are not turned on in your own body, people will not be turned on by you. Sure, they might think, “S/he is really attractive”, and they might want a second date or even want to sleep with you, but they will be using their head to make the decision instead of feeling you with their body. Before you go out into the world to flirt/date, or before you meet up with your long-term partner, take some time to get in touch with your erotic energy. Whether this means slow, deep breaths all the way down with some PC squeezes or taking a nice, hot bath and caressing your own body, do something that will get you more embodied and aroused as a way to prepare for flirting.

#2 Create a Flirt Circuit

You got yourself all warmed up and now you are face-to-face with a flirtmate. Whether you are going to flirt for a few seconds with someone by catching their eye or spend hours in a flirt, in addition to feeling the erotic energy in your own body, tune into your flirtmate and begin to see what it is about them that you enjoy. It may be that tendril of hair curling across their forehead or the deepness of their voice or it may be something that you’ve adored about them for your entire relationship. Take your time and allow whatever it is you appreciate about them to gently stoke your already-glowing fire. When people feel your enjoyment of them, it often directs them to connect with their own erotic energy, their enjoyment of themselves, and you. This is what creates a flirting circuit between you.

#3 Build Anticipation

Just because you are warm, doesn’t mean you need to hurry. Flirting is so fun because it puts you in a state of playful anticipation, which is something that is often lost in long-term relationships. The energy between the two of you may lead to something right now or it may not. The uncertainty and build-up is a big part of what is so exciting about it. In order to create a sense of anticipation, you need to be in touch with your erotic energy and, very importantly, be in charge of your erotic energy. You may be talking about the most innocuous of topics, but take an extra moment to catch your flirtmate’s eye or breathe just a bit deeper. Savor the connection and intensity building in your body. You may not be touching at all, yet, in your mind, imagine what their lips taste like as you bite your own. Playing with the subtleties of energy, connection, and contact is what separates the novice from the master flirt.

Now that you know the secrets, it’s time to practice! Join us on October 1st for our playful day-long workshop, Flirting Your Way to Success. Learn how to flirt with us, with each other, and with life. We’d love to see you there!

Flirting is a very vulnerable endeavor – to flirt is to open up your desirous, erotic parts to connect with another’s. Opening up and allowing your erotic energy to flow is a big part of what makes it so energizing and exciting. At the same time, no one wants to experience the feelings of rejection that can result from a rebuffed flirt attempt. Whether you are flirting with a new acquaintance or a long-time partner, give yourself tons of gentleness and loving support knowing you are willing to take a risk in order to live your life to the fullest.

Because we want your flirting attempts to be as successful as possible, we want to share what we’ve learned about flirting as sex and relationship coaches and flirts in the world. In our next article, we will reveal our top three secrets to successful flirting. But first, here are a few of the worst flirting mistakes to avoid on your way to becoming a masterful flirt.

#1 Avoiding Flirting Altogether or Relying Too Heavily on Tech Flirting

Because flirting is so vulnerable, and for fear of being slut-shamed or creep-shamed (more about this later), some people avoid flirting altogether. Others avoid the fear of face-to-face flirting by relying on technology as their only flirting medium. They may be great at flirting over Tinder or text, but once you meet them face-to-face, they nervously ask you question after question, without ever pausing long enough in the conversation to catch your eye or take you in. Flirting is scary and not everyone will be available to connect with what you are putting out, but no one can connect if there is no energy at all.

Once, when Celeste asked a date why he didn’t bring any flirtatious energy on a first date, he said, “I think of this as date zero, I don’t want the women I date to be scared away by my sexual energy.” Date zero was an apt name, as there was zero chemistry building and nowhere to go from there. This is not a judgement; many heterosexual men are especially afraid to bring their erotic energy on a first date. Yet, in order to want to go on, women definitely need to feel desired without feeling overwhelmed. This means that flirting is required.

In long-term relationships, people often become very complacent, and treat their sweetheart more like a business partner or co-parent than a lover. Even if you flirted when you first got together, you might feel like it’s silly or stupid to flirt now that you know each other so well so you or your partner may avoid it. This is a huge mistake and probably one of the reasons so many couples have sexless marriages or separate. In order to keep that spark alive and to make all the challenges of long-term relating worth it, you need to play with the desire and anticipation that come from having an ongoing flirting relationship with your sweetie.

#2 Trying to be Someone You’re Not

Some people feel like, in order to flirt, they need to first develop a different personality. If you bypass your authentic style and push yourself to flirt in a non-youish way, then you are likely to miss potential connections completely. In order to create a flirt circuit (which we will teach you how to do in our next article), you must be present in the interaction. Many shy people or people who get nervous think that they have to completely overcome their shyness or nervousness to be an amazing flirt – we strongly disagree. Whether you are a woman or a man, shy flirting can be very sexy! There is something infinitely brave about letting yourself connect while still allowing your shyness and nervousness to be there. A shaky lip, averted glance, or nervous laugh shows your vulnerability to your flirtmate and allows them into your tender parts – it is both endearing and arousing.

#3 Falling into the “Creepy” or “Desperate” Category

While you might think that avoiding flirting altogether is the worst flirting mistake you can make, there is one mistake that is even more dreadful – falling into the creepy or desperate category. The way to avoid being labeled creepy or desperate is to learn how to masterfully share your erotic energy without spilling it all over your flirtmate. If you give too many compliments, laugh way too loud at every joke or seep the other person in double entendres, they will likely label you as desperate or a creep. We have so much compassion for men; some women will put you in the creepy category even if you are an amazing flirt, just because they have decided they are not, and never will be, attracted to you. For women, feeling desperate often comes from not knowing how wonderful you are and learning how to be a subtle flirt can really help. In any case, make sure to treat yourself gently when you feel rejected – and remember how amazing you are for bravely trying!

Now that you know what mistakes to avoid in flirting, stay tuned for our next article on what flirting really is (and isn’t) plus our top 3 secrets of being a successful flirt.

Now that you know what not to do, want to learn the secrets of how to flirt well?! Join us for our Flirting Your Way To Success workshop in Berkeley on October 1st. Find out more and sign up HERE!

In the hierarchy of unforgivable relational sins, we, as a society, think of lying – and especially the lying associated with “cheating” – as perhaps the worst (non-abusive) relationship sin. Because lying is considered to be a universal evil, a person who lies in their relationship rarely gets much sympathy. Many potentially amazing relationships end because the person who lies is vilified and the offended party never takes a beat in order to get a handle on the why of the lie.

The truth is, people lie to the people they love all the time in small and not-so-small ways. Lying can be everything from saying you are “fine” when you are not to going behind their back and having sex with another person. As a sex and relationship coaches, we know that people rarely lie because they are evil, selfish monsters with no regard for others. Much more often, people lie because they are terrified of what might happen if they tell the truth. They fear they may be ridiculed, humiliated or left by the people they love the most.

Allow us to illustrate an example from our practice. Joe has wrestled with depression his whole life. While his depression did not go away when he met his wife, Catherine, he put it to us like this: “When I’m with her, it’s like she lights some part of me up that can rise above it all. I used to have trouble getting out of bed most days and I thought a lot about suicide and even made one attempt. These last 5 years being with Catherine, I’ve only had two depressive episodes.” Catherine and Joe came to us after Joe found out Catherine had lied about a work trip and went skiing with a group of friends instead. Joe was certain that Catherine had cheated on him on the trip and was feeling suicidal. He felt he could never trust her again.

In an individual session with Catherine she broke down crying, “I want you to understand, since I met Joe, for the most part I’ve been so happy and fulfilled. I’ve never felt alone, and I think he is really sexy, but I did lie to him and I feel horrible. There is no excuse for what I did, but I want to explain. I went on the trip and, while I was there, I kissed a friend of mine. I’m not even sure exactly why I kissed him but I think I was just feeling so suffocated, and on the trip I felt so free. I got pretty drunk and I was feeling this wild, playful part of me that I’ve kind of lost. I love Joe more than anything in the world, and I am so happy that I married him, but his depression has been really hard. I feel so selfish when I say it, but the two times it’s gotten really bad during our relationship, it was because of something I did. Joe can get really jealous and insecure and he takes my occasional flirting as certain evidence that I will cheat on him someday. In general, he is very anxious when I hang out with my friends. The first big depression was after he saw a playful chat I was having with a guy at work that had some sexual innuendo in it. I can understand that Joe felt jealous though I wasn’t doing anything with the guy and didn’t want to. After he saw the chat, he was in bed for a month, he almost lost his job. The stakes feel so high, like if I do something wrong he might be hospitalized or even kill himself. I don’t want to loose him but I do want to be myself. I know I should have tried to talk to him about this earlier, I was just too scared.”

Let us be clear, as Catherine said, none of this is about making excuses for lying. However, there is often a good reason. Infidelity is a very complex topic and is rarely black and white. Many people cheat even when they love their partner deeply and often cheating or other kinds of lies happen when a person feels like they have lost some part of themselves and are trying to regain it. Sometimes their partner rarely or never wants to have sex with them – something we don’t think of as universally evil or selfish but which can have grave consequences on a relationship. Sometimes the kind of sex they are having isn’t at all satisfying but the partner doesn’t want to try anything different. Sometimes the relationship has become isolating. And, sometimes there are so many good things in the relationships (often including shared children), that the stakes feel too high to tell the truth and face the potential loss.

All that said, we want to emphasize that lying to someone you love can have very grave consequences. It impacts trust and can shake the foundation of a relationship. Many relationships don’t survive a lie, especially one that involves sex outside the relationship. The way we see it, one of the worst parts of lying is that it takes the choice away from the deceived person, which often leaves them feeling humiliated. They are going along under one assumption about what is happening in the relationship and then suddenly they realize they’ve been wrong. In addition to simply feeling hurt, they often feel naive or downright stupid. Coming back from that humiliation can take quite a bit of work and a very supportive, understanding partner. Ultimately, the real healing comes when there is mutual understanding and empathy about why the lie happened.
Many people don’t want to lose a relationship that they have so much invested in, so they try and keep their secrets close. While it seems devastating when it is revealed, lying can offer an opportunity for couples to go deeper and understand where each of them stands, and what each of them really needs in the relationship.