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

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.

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.

With the phenomenon of Fifty Shades of Grey, Rihanna’s S&M and other popular representations, Dominant/Submissive fantasies are coming out of the darkness and into the mainstream imagination. However, these iterations often gloss over the core needs such fantasies satisfy. After seeing hundreds of clients, we can confirm that many people’s core sexual needs are about power in some way or another. As we help you to identify your “Hottest Sexual Movie” it is important to consider what side of the power dynamic excites you. You may want to feel like you have complete power, feel powerless or play around on both sides.

If you are submissive, you may want to feel restrained or contained in some way that makes you feel safe. You may want to feel like you don’t have to take any responsibility, as if it is all just happening to you. You also may want to feel punished or coerced. If you are dominant, you may want to feel powerful and in command. You may like the feeling of coercing your partner to do something and then having them realize they like it. You may want to be judgmental, scolding, or punishing. You may find that at times you like to be dominant and at other times you like to be submissive. This is commonly referred to as being a “switch” and the act as “switching.”

Dominance and submission can hit some sensitive areas (slight pun intended) and, as such, they require finesse. Some people who want to be dominated can be ambivalent about these desires, and whenever you are playing with power differences, it is important to be aware that this kind of play can provoke strong emotions. Not everyone is ready to play with dominance, and some need to feel a romantic or passionate connection before they are willing to explore it. Some people like light dominance but nothing heavy, and some never want to play this way.

Many women who are deeply invested in women’s equality have internalized this to mean that they should not want to be submissive in the bedroom or that this power dynamic might end up leaking into other parts of their relationship. The truth is there are power differences in relationships, and dominance and submission can be one way to openly explore these differences. This is why we also recommend switching roles and seeing what it feels like for each of you to be on the other side of the equation.

There are also socialized and expected gender roles for heterosexuals that make dominant women and submissive men less common in our society. This can cause challenges for some submissive men and dominant women, as they may feel ashamed of being in the minority or judgmental of their partner for falling outside gender norms. When two dominants or two submissives get together, it can be challenging. You might end up in power struggles, or with no one doing anything. This is why it is so important to bring a non-judgmental attitude to your Hottest Sexual Movie conversations. There is nothing either of you can do to change your partner’s desires. You can, however, accept them without feeling responsible for fulfilling them.

Even if your desires align, it is very rare to get the dominant/submissive movie right the first time you try it. Both you and your partner need to be prepared to have a number of “takes” in order to find out what words and actions turn the two of you on the most. With regard to words, remember that tone and attitude are important, not just the words themselves. If your partner tells you something turns them on (for example, “I really like it when you tell me to get on my knees and then you grab my hair”), ask what turns them on about it. When you begin to get some insight into why particular actions are a turn-on, you can add others that are similar thematically.
They may say, for example, “I like it because I feel like you’re in control of the experience and I have to do exactly what you say.” On the other hand, they might say, “I like it because it feels like you’re using me for your pleasure.” These are two very different themes that would lead to different kinds of sexual experiences. The first could include pleasing you both, while the second would mean that, as the dominant, you would focus more on taking your own pleasure; if you focus too much on your partner’s pleasure, they might get turned off.

Once you’ve found some words, gestures, and experiences that turn you on, continue to communicate your needs and desires and give feedback. This will add variety and keep your explorations fresh and interesting. After all, there are only so many times your “professor” can give you a failing grade that you have to work to change, or your “house servant” can fail in their duties and need to be punished, before you may need to change the story and your roles. In our recent book “Making Love Real” we give you specific advice on how to bring Dominant/Submissive role play into your relationship in a way that is safe, exciting, and dynamic.