Do You Still Flirt?

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When working with people around intimacy, I often assess how a couple flirts.  Flirting between those who are dating is expected, but after years of being married or living together, people forget to flirt or even how to flirt.

The reasons for flirting are so important because the lack of it can result in people feeling distant, unseen, and unimportant to their lovers.  This potential disconnect between couples not only begins to show up in their communication patterns but also in the way they express their intimacy, communication, and vulnerability in the bedroom.

Therefore, when I am with a couple who feel disconnected, I encourage them to flirt daily.

This form of homework is either welcomed or met with some trepidation. That trepidation comes from many different places. One possibility is that lovers do not know how to flirt and therefore are afraid to look silly.  Flirting can be a vulnerable activity to undertake when you think you will be judged for trying.  The truth is: No one wants to feel rejected when trying to connect with their lover; no one wants to be turned away and thought of as silly.

An encounter that shames or makes fun of a person for trying to be flirty can lead to a cycle of distrust and distancing.  Therefore it is essential to be mindful when your lover is trying to connect and to resist any tendency to reject his/her efforts.

The goal here is always to remember to be kind to your lover when you see him/her trying to connect and be appreciative of the effort.

Also there is nothing wrong with asking your partner very frankly what makes him/her feel special, pursued, and loved.  We are not good mind-readers as humans; therefore, asking for direction from our lover is a powerful way to learn how to meet each other’s needs emotionally and sexually.  It is ok not to know all the answers of how to please our lover; therefore asking for guidance and direction can help you both.

Another reason people can feel weary of flirting is because they feel flirting has to lead to penetration.

Couples who are weary of flirting often believe flirting has to be a means to an end, and so they do not want to engage in this exercise. This is where we need to expand the definition of sex.  Our society equates sex with penetration; however, sex is more than just intercourse.

Sex is a combination of pleasure and connection between lovers.

Take a moment to think of what brings pleasure and connection when you are with your lover.  Make a list of things and see which one of those things can be brought into the bedroom.  Also, be mindful of when you are feeling connection and pleasure with your lover during different moments in the day; slow down and enjoy it and express to your lover that you are enjoying that moment with them.

My husband and I practice flirting all the time.  It is now part of our daily life.

Just the other day after a long day meeting with couples I went to my car finding a note which read “Do you know how much I love you? You are the most beautiful woman I have ever encountered!”  He was at work himself and stopped by my office without me knowing to leave a message in the car.  So when I saw that, it made me feel loved, appreciated, thought of, pursued…all of the things that I needed after seeing couples for 7 hours straight. The point of this story is that just a simple text or note saying, “I’m thinking of you” can help couples feel closer and more connected.

When talking with a friend about this article, she said, “I don’t know how to flirt; isn’t there a book out there to help me?”  My response was a smile and I replied, “There are books about everything so I am sure there is one out there for flirting.”  However, that made me think of the need to list some ways to flirt in this article.  This list is not exclusive by any means; be creative and try different things when pursuing your lover.

Send a text in the middle of the day

Leave a note around the house, in their work things, in their car etc.

Buy flowers or better yet pick some and give them to your lover

Wink at each other

Tap your partner’s butt

Hold hands

Kiss – extra long

Give a massage

Buy them their favorite lunch and surprise them at work or better yet, bring a picnic

Write a poem or sing a song to them

Do something that “only” they would enjoy

Bring them breakfast in bed or a coffee

Let them sleep in

Tell them the parts of their body you find enticing (things unique to them, like a little spot on their back)

Touch them throughout the day

Play with their hair

Tell them they are loved

Look into their eyes and smile

Basically any idea is a good idea.

You can add to this list; in fact, I expect everyone to add to this list.

The truth is love-making and intimacy needs to be fostered and worked at daily.

So, try flirting and see what kind of passion begins to develop between you and your lover.

 

kim casteloby Kimberly Castelo, MS, LMFT.  You can learn more about Kim’s practice at http://www.healingmomentscounseling.net/

 

If you are interested in learning more about flirting and many other tools to keep your marriage passionate and connected over time, consider coming to the next Passion for Life Couple’s Intimacy Retreat, February 25-28, 2016. Click here for more info. 

 

Is Work Life Balance a Myth?

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One recent morning I sat at my desk. It was barely nine o’clock and I was already exhausted. The morning light was streaming in from my office window – it was that low warm almost winter light.  I closed my eyes.  “I will read”, I thought – “Not email – but something to settle me, center me, orient me.”

Work/life balance. What is that?  Other than something I have preached and attempted my whole life. At times, like now, to no avail; other times, fairly well.  Maria Popova, in a recent article in BrainPickings, joins the chorus of many others who speak of how this popular cultural idea is a misnomer.  “Is there such a thing as work life balance?” she asks. Or is this concept just another way for us to feel a failure by pitting two important parts of our life against the other; one always requiring compromise?

David Whyte in his new book The Three Marriages offers us a new path out of the tyranny of balance. He says this:

The current understanding of work-life balance is too simplistic.  People find it hard to balance work with family, family with self, because it might not be a question of balance. Some other dynamic is at play, something to do with a very human attempt at happiness that does not quantify different parts of life and then set them against one another.  We are collectively exhausted because of our inability to hold competing parts of ourselves together in a more integrated way.

Whyte talks about how integration is more of a conversation, and sometimes even a quest for meaning, between and within these parts.  This quest, like all quests, is not meant to be always smooth, easy or in balance. Like a conversation or relationship isn’t always smooth – especially when it is trying to grow deeper, stronger or more intimate.

I love this.

I love that Whyte invites us to think about the marriage of Self, Work, Relationships as a conversation of meaning.  This allows me to be more at peace with the hard times.  Like all relationships – hard times – suffering – if we trust it enough to lean into it – is often a time of growth – of examination.  Today, even this morning, I ask myself more probing questions. I try to understand the complexity, what feels out of whack, and why? I want to learn. I want to suck the meaning out of the situation so I can integrate it into my life.

Right now, again, I am learning about how my passion for my work can at times fill my schedule leaving little room for the unexpected. And yet the unexpected sometimes, often, comes.  It did this last week, with the heart attack of my brother in law. Now, the conversation between my key relationships and my work is “ON” and it’s a battle, inviting in the “SELF” that has quickly in the space of a week, not gotten nearly enough sleep, or time to think, pray or be held. It’s a conversation of meaning. And it is raging!

Whyte says:

Human beings are creatures of belonging, though they may come to that sense of belonging only through long periods of exile and loneliness.  Interestingly, we belong to life as much through our sense that it is all impossible, as we do through the sense that we will accomplish everything we have set out to do.  This sense of belonging and not belonging is lived out by most people through three principle dynamics: first, through relationship to other people and other living things (particularly and very personally, to one other living, breathing person in relationship or marriage); second through work; and third through an understanding of what it means to be themselves, discrete individuals alive and seemingly separate from everyone and everything else.

I invite you to join me in tossing out the Myth of Work/Life Balance and exchange it for a conversation of meaning between the Self, Relationships and your Life Work. A discussion that seeks to grow you and help you to become all of who you were created to be. When that conversation is in harmony, enjoy it.  When it is raging, let the questions emerge, and listen.  They are helping you grow.

 

If  you’d like to find a therapist to help you on this journey, contact one of people on our team.  They are awesome! Very few therapists are trained in individual, couple, family, sex and spiritual intimacy therapies … but our entire team is!

 

 

Dr. Tina Schermer Sellers   For more information on Dr. Sellers and her practice see her website at www.TinaSchermerSellers.com

 

Timing is Everything …

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My decision to return to school and become a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist over ten years ago came at a point in my life where I yearned to learn about relationships and how to help better them for others, and in turn, myself. Since beginning my journey, I have been blessed to continually learn from my mentors, peers, and clients – and just when I am beginning to feel like I need to know more, or want more experience in an area, an opportunity arises to do just that. I came to understand that to be a truly competent couples therapist, I needed to learn more about how to talk about intimacy and sexuality. This is not a topic that I have avoided (for lack of comfort or otherwise) in my work, but one that would find me without enough tools in my toolbox to truly help and guide the couple to their preferences. However, intimacy and sex are not topics most people are comfortable talking about (therapists included). So how do we bridge this gap? What I have found is that when the subject is invited into the therapy room and the silence is broken, it often brings sighs of relief and possible hope that it can be improved and/or healed. The timing of the founding of the Northwest Institute On Intimacy (NWIOI) and the availability of AASECT training in the Northwest answered my quest for more education, training, and teamwork in the area of intimacy, spirituality and sexuality.

Couples come to me to work on “communication.” A stepping-stone in this area is how to name an issue or problem in the relationship. Intimacy is a pillar for a meaningful connection with one’s partner. My work has shown that when the intimacy and sexuality aspect of a relationship is in good health, the relationship is as well. We are not just talking about how many times a week a couple has intercourse. A foundational piece of the intimacy puzzle is pleasure, and learning what pleasure means to each member of the relationship. Therapists need to be comfortable having these conversations with their clients, which also means facing their own biases, values, and beliefs. We need to provide a safe place for clients to discuss this area of their lives. I saw a pool of experience, knowledge, and guidance in the area of intimacy and sexuality in the NWIOI. As I often do, I jumped with great enthusiasm into the pool (because timing is everything) to learn how to swim better with clients in this area. The pool is deep, long, and gives me hope that I can be a more integrated, knowledgeable couples therapist who can help couples write the new narratives of their relationships.

kim d 1  For more information on Kimberly and her practice see her website at: www.peopleintransition.com/

 

I’m Not in the Mood

Exhausted Couple Sleeping --- Image by © Max Power/Corbis
Image by © MaxPower/Corbis

Couples go through seasons of feeling too tired to be intimate.  Let’s face it: We are in a society where we are always rushing and have very little down time for ourselves.  Talking hours on the phone with a friend has now been condensed into a few seconds of texting.  We don’t have a lot of time for ourselves, let alone others.

In a society where life is moving so quickly, it is not uncommon for partners to feel like there is no time or energy for sex.  The question is: How do we change that and make time for sex?  Well, the one way to do that is to make love every day!

I am sure some of us want to stop reading right now, but please don’t! For those who are struggling with this topic, take intercourse off the table for a week.  Instead, try flirting everyday with your partner.

Remember how you flirted when you first met? Try to tap into that kind of flirting for a week.  Wink at each other, hold hands in the car, touch each other in passing.  Any idea is a good idea.  The main lesson here is that it only takes a moment to flirt, meaning it only takes a moment to let your partner know you find him or her desirable.

Taking intercourse off the table for a week allows couples to be silly and playful with each other.  Remember when we were young and our parents said “Do not have sex!” to us? Well, taking intercourse off the table helps us tap into our adolescent “selves,” allowing us to be playful and flirty. All of these measures can help spark a relationship.

After a week of mindfully flirting with your partner, you will notice that your sexual desire for this person increases. Now, this is only one technique to enhance sexual connectedness, but it can be a fun one!

Adoring each other’s body, soul and mind is a wonderful journey in a relationship. For partners who struggle in this area, do not be afraid to ask for help.  Therapy around sexuality can bring deep connection between you and your lover!

Healing Moments Counseling, Kimberly Castelo, Seattle

 

For more information on Kimberly and her practice see her website: www.healingmomentscounseling.net/

How Sleeping Naked Can Save Your Marriage … And Why Talking Comes Last

Photo by LaughingRhoda
Photo by LaughingRhoda

A while ago the beloved and I got in a doozy of an argument.  Now, our arguments are not like four-alarm fires that cause everyone to run for the hills.  That type belonged in my childhood and first marriage.  Our conflicts are a bit more like an oceanic earthquake whose eruption is tempered by the weight of reserve that lives in both of us.  The tsunami however, nonetheless rolls in and is felt when our once warm and cozy bed feels like it has tripled in size and cooled to freezing. Finding our way to each other becomes about as easy as walking a tightrope strung between two high-rise buildings.

What is stunning to me after an argument, is how triggered we both are (we have stepped on each other’s unconscious landmines!) and how physically ill I can feel the next day.  We are a pretty connected duo, the beloved and I.  In fact, I often joke, that we are 95% in sync and 5% out of sync. But when that 5% comes around, I become even more aware of how inextricably linked intimacy and loving touch are to my overall health and well-being. Stella Resnick, PhD, whose work I adore, talks about how intertwined emotional attachment is to loving touch through our brain and nervous system. And how the dynamics of that connection can affect everything: our moods, self-confidence, and optimism, as well as how we handle stress, our resistance to illness, how we get along with others, the quality of our orgasms, and our ability to abandon ourselves to pleasure and to celebrate life.

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Not only did I not sleep the night after this last earthquake, the aftershocks were felt in every joint of my body the next day.  I ached everywhere.  I felt like I had been in a car accident.  My shoulders, my hips, my back, my knees, even my jaw. I was exhausted and in pain. Now, being a thinking type, I could hear the running dialogue in my head.  “Would you look at that?  Your body is clearly speaking! Isn’t it amazing how quickly your body responds to being triggered?”

I knew emotionally that I was wrestling with all my childhood and early adult traumas … “You cannot be loved, known, understood, seen. You’ll need to take care of yourself. You’ll need to protect yourself. You need to wall off!” And I knew none of that was true. The last person I needed to protect myself from was my Beloved.  What was true, was that I had triggered the Beloved’s deepest fears as well, and he was lost in his reactivity.  Which, whatever it was, was also not true.

Self-Regulation and Intimacy Repair

Embrace sad spouseOne of the things we are both fairly good at is holding our temper, going to our own corner and self-soothing.  We both have learned to calm ourselves, breathe deeply, gather, and allow our thinking brain (prefrontal lobe) to begin to operate again.  What we are not always so good at, especially in times of mutual high-stakes triggering, is intimacy repair. In Stella’s book The Heart of Desire she talks about the ABC’s of Primal Intimacy. These three tasks, when done together, even when it is hard and vulnerable, allow the body to begin it’s healing of the soul, spirit and relationship.  It happens BEFORE the talking and THROUGH the body.  Stella says this, “Data from developmental neuroscience, psychology, sexology, anecdotal evidence, and personal experience all converge to highlight [these] three bottom-line essentials of primal intimacy – three basics for nurturing a more fully embodied, emotionally gratifying inner felt-sense of closeness: empathic touch, eye contact, and intimate kissing.”

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Don’t Talk … Touch

So this is what we did. After a day of gathering ourselves and before we tried to tackle a topic that was so triggering for both of us, we crawled into bed naked and just held each other – skin to skin.  Mind you, we did not feel like doing this – we were both still feeling rather prickly.  But for over 30 minutes, we alternated who held who and we matched our breath to the person being held. We focused our hearts on what we knew to be true about each other, our commitment and our love. This was the empathic touching part. After that we sat in yab yum and looked in each other’s eyes for ten minutes.  Here, we alternated our breathing.  We focused our thoughts on sending our love into the heart, mind and body of the other. Neuroscience demonstrates that when two people do this they are actually becoming more physiologically attuned – meaning their nervous systems come into neural synchrony.   When this happens rhythmic activity of other systems of the body come into sync. For example respiration, hormonal, and immune systems. Eye gazing, as well as empathic touch, stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain causing dopamine and oxytocin to be released.  These powerful pleasure and bonding chemicals play a key role in physical health, emotional attachment, sexual desire and orgasm.  We were literally physically and emotionally beginning to heal each other. Next we kissed.  A long, slow, gentle “I’m sorry”, “I love you” kind of kiss.  The Hebrew people believe a kiss is intimate simply because you are sharing the breath of God. We believe this too. Research shows that kissing can reduce the stress hormone cortisol, while at the same time increasing the heart rate, dilating blood vessels and increasing respiration.  We become simultaneously stimulated and relaxed.

Alexandra Rios
Alexandra Rios

All of this and a little more … gave us the attachment and reassurance we needed to more gently and less reactively enter into the topic at hand when the time came to actually talk the subject out.  And it helped beyond measure!!  Having the honor of watching Stella work with 13 other brave couples at a recent workshop, we felt equipped and confident that this seemingly backwards way of dealing with big conflict actually works!!

In fact it is to them, those 13 beautiful, amazingly brave couples, and Stella and her Beloved, that this post is dedicated!

If it is beyond time to nourish your marriage and learn some tricks of the trade, the next Passion For Life™ Retreat will be Sept 24-27, 2015 at the Whistler Pan Pacific, in beautiful Whistler, British Columbia. To obtain more information or to see if there are still openings click here.  Make this the year you fall back in love!

 

Dr. Tina Schermer Sellers    By Tina Schermer Sellers, PhD                www.TinaSchermerSellers.com