You Are Not Failing at Relationships

You Are Not Failing at Relationships

I grew up in a family with very strict catholic values – you didn’t have sex before marriage and once married, you were supposed to stay together till death do you part. This ideal was strengthened by Disney movies and kids’ stories that always ended with a vision of a blissful couple living happily ever after – in a perfect harmony of a loving, compatible relationship. And yes, my parents are still together.

 

I, on the other hand, could be at this stage qualified as a spinster by their standards.

 

According to a quick internet search, a spinster is “a sour woman who is unable to find a husband”. But somehow, I don’t feel that this definition fits me. Or the other millions of people who remain uncoupled in the modern day. Because you see, a lot has changed in a space of just one generation…

 

Of course, a lot of single people want to be in a relationship.

 

And meeting other singles is now easier than ever with abundance of social websites, apps, meetups and events. Yet, the numbers of single people in the US and the rest of the world keep growing at an unprecedented rate. So, what’s going on here? Are we getting worse at relationships? Are we failing? Or is it something else entirely?

 

I feel very fortunate that during my life the old traditional ideas of social and family expectations about my marital status have been shifting. Yes, my mum would love to attend my wedding but more than that, she wants to see me being happy. And over the years, I’ve been with different men, in relationships that lasted between a few weeks and many years. And every single one of these relationships ended.

 

This means, that more than once I found myself in tears, heart-broken and asking: what went wrong? Why did this have to happen? And even: how come I failed again?

 

These days, I no longer see the end of a relationship as a failure.

 

And I don’t expect my relationships to last forever either. I now recognize that the idea of an everlasting love and harmony is a beautiful ideal… and a very unrealistic one.

 

Let me explain…

 

Relationships are hard work. They seem amazing at first – we fall in love, we go through the honeymoon phase and we feel like we’re on top of the world. But things can start changing as quickly as within a few months. I recently asked in a Facebook post what was the longest time people were blissfully happy with a new partner, before doubts, conflict and questions started to arise. And a common response was 3-6 months.

 

So, what happens beyond that 3-6 months mark? Well, life happens! We stop trying so hard and we begin to see the real person in each other. We start recognizing that we’re two different individuals, that we both have wounding and traumas, that we see the world differently and that our life together will be much more of a challenge than we initially assumed.

 

Even further down the line we experience accumulated resentment, boredom, routine, taking each other for granted and even nastiness. Things also change in the bedroom – the mutual desire reduces, the libido shifts and nights of hot passion are often replaced by sexual frustration and feelings of rejection.

 

Fortunately, it’s not all bad.

 

People in long-term relationships usually experience a great deal of companionship, loving touch, mutual trust, warmth and emotional support from each other. As they go through life’s challenges together, they deepen their bond and enjoy levels of intimacy and connection impossible for young couples.

 

In more or less subtle ways, partners also trigger each other’s old wounding and mirror each other’s insecurities. It’s very common that people fall in love for that very reason – that their wounding and emotional needs match each other. Unfortunately, we don’t fall for the person who is the best possible partner for us. We fall in love with the person who we’re subconsciously drawn to because of our inner wounds that need healing.

 

And in this way, our partner provides an excellent opportunity for us to heal, process old stuff and grow together. And this is the part that seems most fascinating and significant to me.

 

As a sex therapist, I’ve spoken to many couples that struggled together, despite deep love they felt for each other. And I know that staying in a long-term relationship often means that at different times you’ll feel like you’re being dragged through the mud – metaphorically speaking.

 

And this process of being dragged through the mud holds gems in it – if you’re able to spot them. Because you see, when your partner is triggering you, annoying you and frustrating the hell out of you, they’re giving you an incredible opportunity to recognize your stuff so that you can deal with it. You chose them as a partner so that they can mirror back to you whatever is still unhealed, unprocessed or unloved inside of you. They can’t help doing that. They will do it every time, in every single relationship.

 

And that’s exactly what I’ve been experiencing with every single one of my partners.

 

Every single one of these men showed me a part of me that was hurting, rejected by me or hiding deep underneath feelings of guilt and shame. By simply being themselves, they kept showing me my blind spots and gave me opportunities to grow as a human being.

 

So now, looking back at my life, I see just how much I’ve grown, healed and processed in every single one of my relationships. Every single one was precious, every single one was different, and I feel a lot of gratitude and appreciation for how my romantic life has unfolded.

 

Each relationship is perfect – whether it lasts a week or 50 years.

 

One partner can trigger a small aspect of your personal development, while another one will keep challenging different parts of you for years.

 

So, whenever I meet a Someone Special again, I’ll know that I’ve attracted the perfect person to support me in growing into a better, healthier version of myself while I’ll be doing the same thing for them. And I also know that I’ll emerge from each new relationship as a fuller expression of my true nature.

 

So no, I don’t need my relationships to last forever. And I will never fail in any one of them. I will simply embrace each new one as an opportunity and I’ll enjoy every moment of it (even the messy ones full of conflict and anxiety). Because that’s what relationships are – a journey. And I’m ready to buckle up again!

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Practices for Maintaining Passion & Desire in Relationships

Practices for Maintaining Passion & Desire in Relationships

During my recent talk at Eros Festival in Sydney, I explored a topic that for most people comes with a lot of questions, confusion and mystery. I talked about maintaining passion and desire in relationships, and particularly in long-term relationships.

 

If you’ve been in romantic relationships that went way past the honeymoon period, you’ll most likely relate to the frustrating confusion that comes once the initial time of passion and hot sex is over. Because when we first get together, the desire for each other is strong, the arousal comes easily and we literally can’t keep our hands off of each other. But once that initial phase comes to an end, often so does the passion and so sexual struggles begin.

 

Please refer to my previous article where I talked in more length about a variety of specific reasons for this situation and for ways to deal with it.

 

And today I want to guide you through 3 very powerful exercises that I took the participants of the festival through. All 3 are meant to be performed with a partner but you can also pair up with a friend if you’re single. They will be much more powerful though when performed with your beloved so make sure to come back to them when you meet Your Special Someone!

 

 1/ Emotional healing

This is an extremely powerful exercise that brings many people to tears of love, appreciation and emotional release. Make sure to remain gentle, compassionate and kind during this practice both with yourself and with your partner!

 

Sit facing each other.

Partner 1 asks: “How have I hurt you?”

Partner 2 responds: “You’ve hurt me by… (leaving me alone at a party, not doing something you promised to do, being unkind with me on such occasions, etc.) It made me feel… (rejected, abandoned, hurt, sad, like you don’t care, like I don’t matter, etc.)”

Partner 1 performs the healing by stating with full conviction and honesty: “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings. I’m sorry I made you feel… (rejected, abandoned, hurt, sad, like I don’t care, like you don’t matter, etc.)”

Once the interaction feels complete, you can switch and now Partner 2 asks “How have I hurt you?” and performs the healing.

 

An important aspect of this exercise is that saying “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings” has nothing to do with blaming you or placing the guilt on you. You’re simply acknowledging that your partner got hurt and you’re expressing a regret or sadness about that.

 

If you’re performing this exercise with a friend, you can ask them: “How has your previous partner(s) hurt you?”. Once they respond, you can perform a ‘third-party’ healing by saying: “I’m sorry they hurt your feelings. I’m sorry they made you feel unseen, unloved or unworthy, etc.”

 

2/ Communicating your desires

This is an exercise that will help both of you communicate better what you want and desire in the bedroom. This kind of conversations tend to be awkward and difficult to have. So, if that’s the case, give this practice a go!

 

Bring two pens and two pieces of paper. Give one to your partner and ask them to write down all the different sensual/sexual activities they would like to do with you that you’re not currently experiencing together. Do the same on your piece of paper.

Once you’re both done, swap papers and circle on your partner’s list all the activities that you’d be willing to try. Once you’re both done, swap your lists again and discuss your results.

 

Last step: schedule all the circled activities into your calendar to make sure that they happen soon!

 

3/ Moment of truth

This is another powerful practice for creating more depth and more open, authentic connection in your relationship. The significance of this practice lies in the fact that we often choose to not disclose certain things to our partners. This might be about the way you feel about something they’ve done, about your doubts or questions you’re asking yourself about the relationship… Maybe it’s something you’re afraid to share because you fear their reaction or you’re worried you’ll hurt their feelings, etc.

 

Sit down facing your partner.

Partner 1 asks: “What have you not told me yet?”

Partner 2 responds: “I haven’t told you…”

If nothing comes to mind at first, make sure to dig deep! This kind of authentic and honest interaction will lead you both into a space of much more meaningful and connected bond and love. Remember that there’s no true intimacy without vulnerability!

 

Once this interaction feels complete, you can swap and now Partner 2 asks “What have you not told me yet?”.

 

Please comment below or send me a message to let me know how you went with these practices. They might be extremely challenging to both of you or easy-peasy. You might feel like you nailed them all or failed miserably. If the latter happens, remember to not judge yourself too harshly. The power of this kind of exercises lies in attempting them, in taking this powerful step towards fuller and more authentic connection and communication in your relationship. Because that kind of openness and courage takes you much closer towards sexual passion and bliss in the bedroom!

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Maintaining Passion & Desire in Relationships

Maintaining Passion & Desire in Relationships

Over the weekend I had an incredible pleasure and joy of being one of the presenters at the Eros Festival in Sydney. On Sunday morning, I guided a workshop on Maintaining Passion & Desire in Relationships. The talk was hugely popular and I received incredibly warm feedback for it. One of the participants told me that “It was the best talk I’ve ever attended!”.

 

Let me share with you the main nuts and bolts from my presentation…

 

Most people see being in a relationship as a safety net that provides love, companionship, family, emotional support and an endless supply of sex. The reality is quite different as most couples start struggling with arousal and mutual desire as early as after just 1 year of being together. The phenomenon of sexless marriages is on the rise and nobody seems to have answers to one central question: How do we maintain passion and desire in a committed relationship?

 

The reasons for our struggles in the bedroom are varied.

 

The most common ones include: kids, stress, fatigue, lack of time, sexual routine and boredom, body anxiety, health issues, inhibitions around our eroticism, sexual wounding and past trauma, feeling sexually rejected by the partner with lower libido, disconnection from our own sexuality and pleasure, sexual issues, adultery, trust issues and resentment…

 

This is far from being an exhaustive list but it can simply serve as a reminder of just how deep, complex and multi-layered our eroticism is. The problem is that we don’t usually have access to any quality education about our intimate lives and so we struggle to unpack these difficulties. This is also the reason why sexy tips and tricks from Cosmo don’t work: we can create a hot night at home but as long as the underlying issues remain, we’ll be quickly back to square one.

 

So what to do to create and cultivate an ongoing passionate, playful and delicious intimate connection in the relationship way past the honeymoon period? Here are some answers:

 

1/ Decision

It might not sound sexy but this one is an absolute must. Maintaining passion and desire in relationships is a DECISION. It’s a decision that we need to keep making every year, every month and every day of our relationship. People like the romantic idea of relying on spontaneity in the bedroom but the spontaneity only goes so far. There’s a lot at stake when it comes to our shared connection so we need to actively keep cultivating and nurturing it.

It’s like exercise – if you only work out when you feel like it, you might feel quite baffled when you find yourself out of shape after a while.

 

2/ Differentiation

This is a concept I learned about from David Schnarch, PhD. Differentiation means remaining an individual in a relationship, keeping your separate identity, remaining connected to your own needs, wants and desires.

People so often tend to give up their own selves in order to feel closer to a new partner. But this slowly kills the desire and passion between the two of you. Don’t be scared to remain yourself in a couple! Don’t be scared to admit that you’re different than your partner and that you enjoy different things! This kind of sense of self-identity is exactly what keeps the fire, sizzle and spark alive…

 

3/ Desire needs distance

This is what Esther Perel talks about often. Spending a lot of time together will feed and nurture your love but will weaken your passion. Give yourself a permission to keep exploring your own hobbies and interests. Go on a holiday separately once in a while. Spend time apart and enjoy your own pursuits and activities.

Coming together after a period of missing each other is an incredibly delicious aphrodisiac.

 

4/ There’s no safety in a relationship

We tend to take our partners for granted: they’ll be always there, right? We slowly stop making an effort for each other and we don’t show our best selves to them anymore. I see so many couples who are unkind to each other! And it breaks my heart.

Tony Robbins once said that if you treated your partner after years in a relationship the same way that you did in the beginning, you would have no relationship problems.

So see if you can look at your partner with new eyes, the way you did at the beginning of your connection. Recognize that they could potentially leave you and that taking them for granted doesn’t serve either of you. Find that amazing person in them that you fell in love with a long time ago. And start seducing them again…

 

5/ Communication

Loving, compassionate and honest communication is at the basis of a true, deep intimate connection. A lot of people resort to nagging and complaining in relationship and it drives people further and further away from each other.

So talk about your sex life, about your needs and desires. And then listen to each other with openness and patience. Understanding what you both need and want will lead to a much more satisfying and fulfilling connection in the bedroom.

 

6/ Vulnerability

A lot of people equate vulnerability with weakness and stay away from it. So I really want to clarify here that vulnerability couldn’t be further away from weakness! In fact, it takes an incredible strength and courage to be vulnerable in front of another human being. To be fully honest, open and authentic about our struggles, fears, pleasure, passion, desires and more takes real balls… and brings people so much closer together!

Explore sharing with each other vulnerably and openly. Allow your hearts to open fully. And watch your sex life improve!

 

7/ Masturbate

Masturbation isn’t only for single people. In fact, it’s an amazing tool of activating and nurturing your own sensual self. So when struggles in your relationship leave you feeling frustrated and empty, carve out some time to nurture yourself sexually.

It’s healthy, it’s natural and feels so good!

 

8/ Tantra

If you’re into tantric practices and rituals, bring more Tantra into your relationship! It’s an amazing tool to create more closeness, fun, connection and ecstasy into your bedroom.

And if you’re new to it, make sure to check out my Tantric Mastery for Men and Orgasmic Empowerment for Women online courses.

 

9/ Therapy

If you recognize any sexual trauma, wounding or hurt from your past, it’s very beneficial to seek out an experienced therapist who can help you move through these challenges.

Remember that unresolved issues from the past will keep spilling into your current connection with a partner until you address them.

 

10/ Play and have fun

Sex doesn’t have to be serious. So embrace your inner child and bring more laughter, fun and joy into your bedroom. Dance and strip for each other, have a pillow fight, play naked poker and do whatever else tickles your fancy.

Sex is meant to be enjoyed! Let’s have some fun with it.

 

Next week I’ll share with you specific practices that I took the participants of my talk through. So stay tuned!

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If She Loved Me, She Would Be Physically Attracted to Me

If She Loved Me, She Would Be Physically Attracted to Me

I recently worked with a couple who was facing a very confronting issue. They both genuinely loved each other, yet she struggled to feel sexually attracted to him. He felt incredibly hurt and rejected by that. He assumed that:

 

if you love someone romantically, you should feel physically attracted to them.

 

She felt deeply confused and conflicted because she knew that her feelings for him were true. More than that, she described the depth of their connection as a “twin flame”, she saw him as her soulmate and hence she struggled to reconcile the feelings in her heart with the reaction of her body.

 

This situation is incredibly common and I have seen it countless times in my sessions, in one form or another. But it always comes down to this one grand assumption: If you love me, you should feel physically attracted to me.

 

But is that true?

 

It will really serve us all to unpack this statement and to look at all the different layers of our eroticism. Because when it comes to human emotions and arousal, things aren’t usually this simple.

 

1/ Sexual repression and shame

There are many different reasons why romantic love and physical attraction might not go together. And the most common one I encounter as a sex therapist, is sexual repression and shame that had been experienced earlier in life. These two are quite deadly for our sense of eroticism and arousal, and deeply affect our free sexual expression. A man or a woman who had been fed toxic, unhealthy ideas about their body, their pleasure and their genitals, will genuinely struggle to connect with or to activate their physical arousal. And it will have nothing to do with their partner and all to do with their own sense of self as a sexual being.

 

2/ Past resentment

Another common theme is the under-appreciated connection between past resentment and current arousal. Little hurts and disappointments that we’ve experienced because of our partner can add up and culminate in a subconscious refusal of intimacy with the partner. Also known as: “You want me to have sex with you after what you did???” syndrome. This one can be tricky because it can hide deep in our emotional body, away from the watchful eye of our logical brain. After all, it’s not ok to still feel hurt after all this time. So the body hides the grief, anger or resentment deep in the tissues to keep it away from the brain.

 

I have heard many clients insist that they don’t harbour resentment towards their beloved, only to be faced with uncomfortable truth upon closer inspection. It can be hard to look deep into your own heart and discover there something that you’re not proud of. But that’s the only way towards improvement.

 

3/ Too much togetherness

Third case is also quite common – a lot of couples I see have pretty much killed their physical attraction by overload of togetherness. And don’t get me wrong because I fully get it – it feels wonderful to spend plenty of time with the person you’re in love with. And it brings benefits too – deeper sense of closeness, companionship and emotional fulfilment. But the physical attraction will suffer.

 

You see, our sexual attraction to each other needs some separation, some missing each other and a deep sense of being your own person. Couples who don’t recognize that can love each other very deeply and will still struggle in the bedroom.

 

Of course, on top of these 3 cases, there are also plenty of other situations, scenarios and possibilities. And there’s nothing unusual, weird or uncommon about them. Almost all couples experience challenges with physical attraction at some point in their relationships. So if you feel like you might need help with untangling the beautifully complex aspects of your intimate connection, seek an experienced practitioner who can help. Overcoming this kind of struggles will work wonders in your relationship!

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Are Lifelong Relationships Obsolete?

Are Lifelong Relationships Obsolete?

I recently learned that two people I loved and admired (let’s call them Stan and Jo) were no longer together. After a few years of marriage, they called it quits. Both these people had spent years on a path of growth, inner healing and personal & spiritual development. Both had strong communication skills and a lot of awareness around authentic relating and building intimacy. So, the news about their breakup came as a shock.

 

If they couldn’t make it work, who of us can?!

 

But after an initial wave of shock and sadness, I actually felt happy and hopeful. Because a truly successful and healthy relationship is not measured by how long it lasts but by how aware and loving are people in it. And a big part of that awareness and loving is knowing when it’s time to stay, when it’s time to do the work, when it’s time to rest and when it’s time to leave. So instead of thinking that Stan and Jo’s relationship failed, I actually think that it was an incredibly successful one. And that both of them (and the people around them) got a lot out of their union.

 

I believe that as a part of our evolution as human beings, we’ll start to recognize old patterns and traditional views for what they are – obsolete ideas and repressive norms.

 

The institution of marriage isn’t any more sacred than the institution of divorce, or singlehood, or dating, or open relating, etc. Each one constitutes an option or a choice which is valid and healthy… as long as the decision we make about them is coming from a space of awareness, freedom and commitment to growth.

 

If the decision to stay in a relationship is motivated by religious guilt, fear, financial pressure, social expectations or worry about the kids, then the couple should seriously reconsider their commitment to each other. I’m not saying that they should necessarily separate but that they need to find better reasons to stay together.

 

These ‘better reasons’ can be different for different people.

 

It can be all about companionship, great sex, growth and healing, emotional support or common goals. But the decision should come from a place of free will and conscious awareness and not from a space of duty, obligation or moral norms upheld in your social environment.

 

I grew up in a Catholic family and the values and norms of the Catholic church were strongly imposed on my mind. But Catholic morality doesn’t feel authentic to me and I cannot accept it in my life. Promising someone that I’ll stand by them until death is something that I see as unhealthy and even potentially toxic.

 

But instead of that, why not stay together for as long as it serves both of us and makes us happy?

 

Why not stay together until we complete some kind of common goals that brought us together in the first place?

Why not stay together for as long as we both feel inspired to?

 

So this Valentine’s Day I wish all of us a celebration of relationships which are healthy, meaningful and full of conscious choices… even if they don’t last forever!

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How to Make Online Dating Work for You

How to Make Online Dating Work for You

Since I started running Soulmate Speed-Dating events, I’ve been talking to a lot of single people. And they’ve shared with me countless stories of struggles, challenges and disappointments of the modern dating life.

 

Somehow, it seems that finding The One has been getting more and more tricky these days.

 

A big part of that conversation usually is the internet and the world of online dating. Every time I ask people about it, I’m told that they are sick of it and that it has led them nowhere – message exchanges that don’t lead to a date, poor first dates that show no promise of compatibility or lovely get-togethers after which they never hear back from the other person.

 

And what that tells me is that we have it all backwards. The truth is that online dating absolutely can work and can lead to a meaningful connection with someone truly special. BUT we need to change our approach to it.

 

The way that online dating usually works is:

 

a) browse online profiles,

b) make your best judgement about others based on their photos and bios,

c) message each other in order to arrange a coffee date.

So we’re basically going out together and trying to make a connection with a complete stranger, someone we know nothing about. And to me that’s a recipe for disaster.

 

We’re meeting first and trying to make a connection later.

 

That’s backwards! In real life we go out with someone BECAUSE we’ve experienced some sort of connection or pull towards them first. In this traditional approach we connect first and THEN we date. But the online world has turned dating on its head and so the new approach is to date first and then to hope for a potential connection. Can you see now why you keep going on so many bad dates?

 

The success and popularity of my Soulmate Speed-Dating events can be explained by the fact that they facilitate deep conversations and vulnerable exchanges.

 

Attendees are guided to share their most authentic inner selves and to see the same in others. This allows them to detect quickly whether there is a compatibility there and a potential for a soulmate-type of relationship. After the event, these people go out together precisely because they had already experienced this kind of connection during the event.

 

So the question is: can you create the same thing in the online world as well? And the answer is ‘Yes’. You can absolutely create a connection first but it takes a little more time and work. But I believe that weeding out the potential disaster dates is well worth the effort!

 

The key is to create an opportunity for a deeper connection before you physically meet each other.

 

And you can simply do that on the phone. A phone call can be more stressful than emailing but it will reveal much more about them than a message would. So go ahead, call them and ask them about their cherished childhood memories, their sources of inspiration in daily lives or about their dreams and goals. It doesn’t really matter where exactly you take the conversation, as long as it goes into the more deep and meaningful territory. And then listen and share about yourself as well.

 

And this is where the magic will happen… or not.

 

Because that simple exchange will give you a deeper sense about your potential date. In many cases you’ll realize that you two have absolutely nothing in common or that the energy between you two feels just flat. And this will save you time or upset of a bad date. But if the conversation flows smoothly, you’re both enjoying it and you find points of connection easily, then you should definitely go out!

 

So now, equipped with that piece of advice you can turn your online dating efforts into a much more effective adventure. And you might even meet your soulmate!

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