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

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!

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.

Over the years as Sex Therapists and Relationship Coaches, so many of the couples we’ve seen have shared their experiences of rough patches during the holiday season. Holiday gift giving and family visits can add emotional and financial stress. We came up with this list of pointers that can help you and your partner stay connected during the holiday season so that you can experience the love and joy of the holidays instead.

Make a “Naughty” and “Nice” gift list

There can be something pretty unsexy about the list making/gift giving process. In long term relationships where finances are collective, gift giving can really fall flat as you watch the funds leave your joint bank account and go to presents you might not necessarily want to spend it on. In new relationships it can feel like a test of weather you know someone well enough. Instead or in addition to traditional gift-giving, why not make a list of sensual or sexual favors you would like to receive. You might want a “nice” long massage or perhaps a quick “naughty” trip up the chimney? Sharing your gift list is a fun way to supercharge your intimate connection over the holidays.

Learn the family dynamics

Whether this is your first time spending a holiday with your partner’s family or the 145th family holiday (but who’s counting?), we have a hunch that there could be a bit more communication leading up to the events. Instead of having an every person for themselves survivalist approach to the holidays, it is important to ask your partner what they need from you during this time. Even the closest of families can fall into damaging patterns this time of year, and by coming up with some strategies beforehand you and your partner can find ways to enjoy the good parts. This goes both ways, of course. It so important not to take for granted that your partner will intuit your needs around family and holidays, but to give them a chance to support you.

Steal moments beyond the mistletoe

By all means steal a socially-sanctioned kiss under the mistletoe as often as you possibly can. But, also take time to slow dance in the kitchen, take a bundled stroll arm and arm, whisper a compliment or sneak away for a car makeout session that might lead to more. By creating lots of small moments of connection you can ensure your relationship heads into the new year strong. We have many suggestions for intimacy boosting exercises in our new book, Making Love Real. So, if you plan on purchasing something, might as well make it our book ;).

Create your own Sexy Traditions

Think of ways to infuse the traditions you already have with a sexy twist (i.e. Don’t wear panties to that holiday matinee). Or, create new traditions like enjoying a seasonal shag on a blanket in front of the fireplace where you can feel the heat of the flames. We had a couple who would always have a Thanksgiving quickie after they put the bird in the oven and before everyone else woke up. Instead of feeling like they had an annoying chore they got to get away with something. Whatever it is, come up with some annual events that will keep the holidays exciting and special for you as a couple.

Take Space When You Need It

We can not stress this enough. Between holiday parties, family obligations, shopping, work and sleep it can feel impossible to have any me time. During this time of year it is so important to find space to do what keeps you feeling like you even if it means missing an event or two or not helping with a family meal. This will allow you to be present for your partner and actually experience and enjoy moments of connection with family and friends as well.