Michelle: This is where the cultivation of intimacy is so much more than just what our bodies look like but what we’re creating together because if we want this to be a long-term experience with each other it’s going to look different and we have to have the adaptability and the robustness enough that we continue to move through this together.
Michelle: and what I liked last week may not be what I like next week but it’s not for you to know that without me talking to you about that.
[Music] & Intro
Nicky: What’s up CorrNation! Welcome to another episode of Coin for Thought! Today we have Michelle Ray here. She is a Couples, Sex and Relationship Counselor. So she is going to be talking about how we can improve our sex lives and give us some tips and tricks on sex and relationships, right?
Michelle: Yeah, thanks for having me
Nicky: Yeah, thank you so much for joining me
Michelle: Happy to be here
Nicky: So yeah, so tell me about about, there’s this there’s this uh you know I grew up in a really cultural religious sort of home so there’s always that notion like don’t have sex before marriage, right?
Nicky: and especially I find like now kids are having a lot more sex you know when they’re young
Nicky: when they’re in their teen teen sort of years
Nicky: so does that really affect somebody’s ability to be more I guess engaged in their sex life when they’re married?
Michelle: Well, first and foremost, adolescence is a period of individuation and the whole purpose of that developmental phase is to be moving away from um and figuring themselves out and so oftentimes that means moving as far away from the beliefs and practices that moms and dads or moms and moms or dads and dads or whomever or the caregivers have been putting into practice
Michelle: um but contrary to what people think, teens are actually not having more sex it’s just that they have more access to information and sexual content than maybe we ever have had before because of access to, through our smartphones
Nicky: So porn really?
Michelle: Porn for instance, absolutely, um but accessibility doesn’t mean necessarily that people are engaging.
Michelle: but at the very least um sexual education whatever that means is starting maybe at an earlier age and so what’s really important is, and what I think is lacking, is that we talk to kids and adolescents about the prevention of STDs and pregnancy but we don’t spend a lot of time teaching them about relationships and about what should happen in a sexual relationship about reciprocity, about pleasure, that it isn’t necessarily about um seeing things through the male gaze which is often part of how our western culture situates sex.
Michelle: um and that being about the penis and everything being about that and and so really I think what’s more important is giving them an opportunity to have a more robust experience, both males and females and/or however anyone identifies about what it should be, that it should be a meaningful experience in terms of an expression of, and how they want to experience themselves.
Nicky: Right, and how does one figure that out, even forget about teenagers right, but as a grown woman sometimes I feel like a lot of grown women don’t really understand their bodies.
Nicky: They don’t really understand how they need to be pleasured right?
Nicky: So what is that really like when they enter into these relationships with men where men kind of feel a lot of pressure to kind of serve their women, they feel a lot of pressure for a woman to really uh you know experience that climax or that orgasm
Nicky: But you know and when they don’t it’s super disappointing
Nicky: but at the same time I don’t think women really understand how to pleasure themselves or they don’t really understand how to I guess articulate what a man is supposed to do to them right in order for them to reach that climax
Michelle: Right, so you’re speaking in heteronormative experiences right um and heterosexual relationships. So first and foremost men and women, men, women however someone identifies, we are all responsible for our own sexual pleasure first and foremost and then how we articulate or share that there’s many things that actually can inform that. A lot of you know you spoke about growing up in a pretty conservative upbringing that absolutely can inform how people people’s comfort levels around even exploring or talking about or even actually engaging with one’s body as a pleasurable experience so first and foremost the idea of self-pleasure around masturbation um around knowing one’s body that is we take for I guess we could take for granted that that is something that everybody is exposed to because it’s not true depending on how somebody grows up right and so oftentimes in particular for women in as they enter into adulthood they’re in these relationships where something that maybe hasn’t been normal or hasn’t been normalized around talking about how our bodies work and what feels good now suddenly they’re expected to engage in those potentially conversations or you know what’s informed the idea around sex is being informed from porn or from movies or from from pop culture which isn’t representative really of reality and so it’s this how do you balance out this idea and this fantasy of what it’s supposed to look like versus the realities of dealing with bodies in their regular everyday experiences with mood with reciprocity all of that is really can be really complex right and so if we don’t generally speaking we don’t have the skills to know how to talk about that with another human being let alone an intimate sexual partner
Michelle: but we want to see us as desirable and knowing and skillful right?
Michelle: and wow like that’s a lot of pressure so add that to then this idea that we put a lot of pressure on men to perform and to be great sexual partners but what makes a great sexual partner is communication
Nicky: and it’s a connection too
Michelle: A hundred percent, you know we need to feel safe and secure in our emotional relationship with somebody I mean I’m talking more specifically in a long-term relationship right
Michelle: in order to be able to be uninhibited and open and explore and be vulnerable and sensual and orgasm like all of those things are really necessary in order to experience that and so if we don’t have that ability to articulate or we expect our partner to know how our body works
Michelle: without actually being able to share and give feedback then you’re not going to necessarily have the kind of experience that one hopes for it is very much a co-created experience sex is a team sport and requires um the participants to actually show up and be participants
Nicky: So I’ve heard you know where people are you know there’s a stigma to all of this really right because different people find different things pleasurable
Nicky: So someone really wants anal
Nicky: Another person might find it absolutely disgusting right?
Nicky: some people like to be spanked
Nicky: other people think that’s part of abuse
Nicky: and that’s abusive
Nicky: so there’s it’s not just opinions but these opinions are just they’re so uh they’re so diverse from each other so how does one kind of have a conversation with their partner to be able to say do you just come up to your partner and say hey what do you really like what makes you happy um this is what kind of makes me happy
Nicky: and what happens when two people come together and there’s two different things that make them happy what happens then?
Michelle: oftentimes there would be two different things that make people happy right because because we’re different individuals right so I think first and foremost before you even can talk about um sex and what you like sexually you have to and again we’re speaking in terms of a long-term committed relationship when we’re talking about this
Michelle: it’s then what is the basis for the foundation and the friendship that the two people have already right intimacy into me you see being able to share parts of yourself you have to have that interest and ability to be vulnerable and to receive and to exchange with your partner and then the other it should just be a natural movement towards sharing things about what we like sexually because you’ve already created a climate that this is safe that we can talk about anything
Michelle: and so this would just be a natural entity of that it doesn’t mean that we’re going to like the same things or we’re going to be turned on by the same things I think first and foremost it’s about consent obviously we would not want anyone engaging in anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe
Michelle: having said that if there’s open communication and dialogue between the two partners um and there is a space of safety that well maybe this isn’t quite my thing but I could wrap my head around it or I’m willing to try it um and there’s a slow pace and we’re in this together that that doesn’t matter it’s not about what you like or what I like that this is a co-created experience and we want to experience it together
Michelle: um then you can you can it allows you the movement to be able to to move into those areas
Michelle: having said that though you do not need to be swinging from the chandeliers to have great sex
Michelle: like a hundred percent people think that I mean it’s true our brain likes new and novel so our brain lights up when things are new and we get flooded with dopamine and all of us like really exciting things however what really makes connective sex is from the relationship and from the two people being able to feel safe and secure and explore within that dynamic
Nicky: but sometimes logistically it just doesn’t work like say for example like shower sex
Michelle: a great idea
Michelle: but oftentimes unless you have a bench seat or some sort of a structure that makes it feel physically like you can be supported
Michelle: yes it can be slippery
Michelle: and even dangerous
Nicky: it’s like a sex in a pool yeah right like
Michelle: yes because water erodes away at lubrication as well
Michelle: so lubrication is something that’s really important for great sex
Michelle: vaginally um but also if we’re talking about manual stimulation or certainly anal sex a hundred percent that is not something you endeavor on without loads of lubrication right?
Michelle: so yes the the presence of water is going to erode away at a woman’s natural lubrication and these are just logistics everything is better with lube it doesn’t matter there you know there’s this misconception that if a woman is not having vaginal secretions you know to some idea that she’s not aroused no there are many things actually that affect women’s arousal levels and vaginal secretions and so and it has nothing to do with the fact that she could be a hundred percent aroused
Michelle: but maybe she’s on an antihistamine and that is drying up her vaginal secretion like anything can be affecting these things right?
Michelle: and so
Nicky: but even age too
Michelle: absolutely hormones
Michelle: where you are in your cycle during the month there’s so many things that could be impacting it
Nicky: yeah because you know usually when you look at like porn it like it’s almost like these women are like pouring cups out of their vaginas really
Michelle: and that’s not true because if this is people’s belief like if that is what is informing somebody’s um education around sex a hundred percent that’s not how real bodies work
Nicky: I love that you mentioned that because it’s like I want men to believe that you know it’s like if a woman isn’t like you know so like soaked down there right doesn’t mean that they don’t want you
Michelle: and it also doesn’t mean they’re doing anything wrong
Michelle: and and so because what happens is when you get into your head you’re no longer in your body
Michelle: and when you’re in your head you’re no longer feeling in your body that’s going to affect everything that’s happening
Michelle: and so if anybody if any of your viewers get anything from this conversation it’s to normalize that the most important thing is about talking to each other during the entire thing it is not something that’s meant to be like we don’t look at each other it’s in the dark nobody talks and then we do this thing and then we’re we’re done with it
Michelle: and then we don’t talk about how it went either right?
right like I am of the mindset that in the light during the day or night wherever but that we can see each other that there is gazing that happens that this isn’t a shared experience right that’s not happening to one of you or both of you but that’s something that we’re creating and it can be fun and that you you you move through eroticism and affection and playfulness and sensuality and then it can be all of those things
Nicky: but you know when you’re in a relationship and you have kids right your body has changed it changed
Nicky: yeah so when you’re in that situation you you’re and you’re still grappling over the fact that this is your new body and now you have to have sex with this body that you’re not really used to you haven’t really decided how this body really functions and what this body really looks like naked
Michelle: and how it feels
Nicky: and how it feels, how do you you know for a lot of women who have sex with the lights off how do you how do you gain that confidence or how do you how do you get over um you know that rut that you normally have when your body has changed maybe you’ve gained some weight maybe you’ve had kids maybe you’ve had surgery uh something has happened but now it’s it’s caused your body to change it’s caused now for the kind of intimacy you have the dynamic to change
Michelle: right so first and foremost what it’s going to go to whether you’ve had babies or not um what you’re speaking to is how sex can be impacted in a long-term relationship through life experiences because the sex that we have in our 20s or 30s is not going to be the same sex that we have in our 60s 70s or 80s
Nicky: what’s the major difference?
Michelle: being that our bodies don’t necessarily respond in the way that we are socialized to believe that they are right so hard erections right away as soon as we think or you know even have the thought or idea about um something sexual um lubricating right away uh the absence of responsibility right you know like when you have little people around or you know you’re responsible and you’re caretaking in some way in some capacity responsibility is up there right um when you’re just kind of dating and don’t have the same sense of responsibilities in your 20s and 30s potentially that takes up mental space and I think we underestimate what that does when you are in a long-term committed relationship with a family potentially maybe multi-generational and there are just life that happens right?
Michelle: because sex is excess energy and when you are feeling compromised especially through this pandemic where you know our lives have all been turned upside down um it impacts where you put your energy what kind of energy you have how you’re feeling so you speak about how the bodies change how we feel about ourselves very much affects how we engage with other people
Michelle: and that is a really fragile can be a really fragile and vulnerable space especially for women where we are socialized and men too in this society where we are of value only if we look a certain way right which hundred percent is impacted when we become parents or when we become older or when we are aging and so it’s how do you reconcile the two people that and this is where the cultivation of intimacy is so much more than just what our bodies look like but what we’re creating together because if we want this to be a long-term experience with each other it’s going to look different and we have to have the adaptability and the robustness enough that we continue to move through this together right and what I liked last week may not be what I like next week but it’s not for you to know that without me talking to you about that right?
Michelle: this is such a piece of is sharing of the communication right and what worked yesterday for me to get off may not work today
Michelle: that’s kind of layered and confusing and complex right and so why would it be fair for me to put that on my partner alone that he has to know all about that without me contributing it
Michelle: right so so much of it again I don’t mean to be repetitive but it’s so much of it is about what I’m willing to share what we’re willing to share together and discover and create together
Nicky: In a healthy relationship, how many times should a couple be having sex?
Michelle: Up to them there is no healthy number and in fact that kind of a question which everyone thinks they’re measuring themselves up to some entity that perpetuates this idea that somehow what we’re doing is not right a couple could be having sex once a year I’m not recommending that um a couple could be having sex once a month again that would be considered a low sex marriage um if we’re looking at the course of a year but if that works for them who is to say that that is there’s something wrong with that the thing is that when a couple feels connected again whatever that means for those two people sex is like five percent of the relationship that has nothing to do with frequency but when a couple is feeling disconnected out of sorts in some way out of sync with one another now suddenly sex becomes 95 of the relationship
Michelle: because it’s an easier doesn’t mean anything but it’s an easier way to maybe try and take a barometer for what’s happening with us
Michelle: the thing is there’s many things that can affect that and um and we live in a time where we’re so self-oriented I might just be concerned with what I’m not getting as opposed to I wonder what’s happening for my partner right now I wonder what’s going on I miss him or her um I really miss our connection time and rather than focusing on what we’re not doing what would be a conversation to open up this whole I miss you like you know we haven’t had any couple time together um do you want to come and just lay with me tonight and we’ll just gaze at each other gently caress and maybe that’ll help us get into a space where it’s just about you and me right we’re just so blame oriented and because our eyes look outwards we’re always focused on what we’re not getting as opposed to what’s maybe happening in this dynamic together or what’s maybe happening for me that I might be contributing to this
Nicky: That’s really interesting it’s really interesting because I I find that some people they you know from if you ask a guy they want to be able to have sex every single day right you ask a woman they have a very different idea of what sex or intimacy really is especially because I find that women sometimes can be very selfish because they’re thinking about oh what’s he gonna do to pleasure me how can I be pleasure does he get me off you know uh men are often thinking about how can I not disappoint my woman right so when you put that together
Michelle: it’s a lot of pressure
Nicky: it’s a lot of pressure
Michelle: it’s a lot of pressure and it doesn’t sound pleasurable at all
Michelle: it sounds like a job to do right?
Nicky: so you’re starting off on the wrong foundation
Nicky: and sometimes when you when you find a good groove you get stuck in that groove which is why you hear a lot of couples saying we’ve been doing the same thing
Michelle: right like I know how to get you off right so this and this is what is different because in a newer like when the relationship is newer and you’re discovering each other and you don’t know how each other’s bodies work there’s a lot more communication and there’s a lot more opportunity to explore but when I learn what makes your body work and I know how to get you off sudden and that’s great okay there’s nothing wrong with that orgasms are lovely and feel great but when that becomes our only direction then we forget to explore and we forget
Nicky: it is like a button
Michelle: exactly literally the clitoris right I’m teasing but like literally we know what’s going to work and so we go to do that and all although that’s you know lovely that you know partners want to please us it it continue it stops the process of exploration and it stops the process process of pleasure actually being the measure and it only becomes outcome driven and when you do that again not right or wrong good or bad but what it can do is it erodes away at the play the eroticism the affection and the sensuality and really that’s where we experience things is in the sensuality using your senses think about when you enjoy like this beautiful lunch that I enjoyed today and all of the flavors that were incorporated with that it you slow down and you are in the moment and that’s so much of what is experiential in a you know in a in a in a robust uh exploratory kind of pleasurable sexual experience no matter what it means it could be by yourself it could be with a partner it could be in a traditional kind of um vagina and penis sex it could be anal it could be oral it could be whatever it is but that it is experienced together not just about reaching orgasm
Nicky: right. Do you find that a lot of women extreme want to be able to experience orgasms in a way that’s external versus say internal and what what I mean by that is like you know men reach orgasm with like a penis going in a vagina?
Michelle: well they reach orgasm with stimulation
Michelle: of the penis right
Michelle: how they get there can be
Michelle: many ways right yes for women so there are there’s a small percentage of women um I don’t exactly know the full statistic but less than 20 percent of women who will experience um orgasm from vaginal stimulation alone
Michelle: most women need clitoral stimulation direct clitoral stimulation in order to experience orgasm whether that’s through penetrative sex at the same time or not um and so again that there isn’t like a hierarchy on what is best sex right I think what sometimes and there’s also an orgasm gap between men and women it generally takes women longer to experience orgasm that orgasm is no less important than the male orgasm it’s just a bit more complicated in terms of how to get there
Nicky: I want to talk about homosexual relationships
Nicky: because homosexual relationships you keep saying heterosexual heterosexual what is the difference between a homosexual and heterosexual in terms of sex other than the the very obvious thing right like two vaginas vaginas two vaginases I was gonna say vagina
Michelle: two vulvas actually and two penises like other than that very stark difference what is that um what’s the what’s another big difference when it comes to homosexuals heterosexual
Michelle: I don’t think it’s a state as simple as homosexual versus heterosexual because now we live in a time where you can identify or not identify in so many different ways
Michelle: um and so I think it comes down to you know for speaking about genitals right I mean somebody can identify as um anything the difference being that orientation and sexual like so how somebody identifies gender and through orientation can be different than the kind of sex that they engage in right so I’m only making the distinction because we’re speaking about males and females in a traditional relational pattern so how they experience but the things that I think I’m speaking about are um are universal when we talk regardless of who we’re having sex with right in a consensual experience how we articulate and talk about how we experience pleasure doesn’t see orientation or body parts right however how somebody experienced that if they’re coming from a more marginalized population a hundred percent that can impact how safe they feel speaking about those experiences with a partner and so I just think it’s important to identify right that to identify what we’re talking about how we’re talking about it
Nicky: so how can a partner be supportive if their significant other the person that they’re engaging in sexual intercourse with or whatever sexual relationship with how can they be understanding if the other person has gone through something traumatic sexually
Michelle: a good question and hard right um so again you know it depends on when and how they have shared that information with their partner um and is their partner engaged so if somebody’s experienced this are they actively engaged in working through therapeutically what’s happened to them would that be are we assuming that that’s the case with a lot of patience and communication and open dialogue there is not a finite amount of time on how long healing from something significant and scary in our lives whatever that is there’s no determined amount of time how long that will take us to work through it and this is where the um having an expansive understanding or maybe approach to sex is really important because a couple may not be able to engage in sexual intimacy in the way that they were used to in a period of time where there’s healing happening but if they know how to have um intimacy through touch or through sensuality or through intimate dialogue or through having a bath together or a sensual massage they’re able to still cultivate the moments of intimacy that are important to connection
Michelle: but it might just look different and it’s not forever it’s for a period of time while they’re going through whatever they’re going through
Nicky: right but then keeping that intimacy too might also help in the healing
Michelle: a hundred percent right yes
Nicky: because the more you keep away from something the more
Michelle: it can become it can it can get bigger actually
Michelle: like we try and avoid something it’s like the pink elephant in the middle of the room that we pretend isn’t there right to not talk about what’s happening in in the moment between a couple actually gives it more energy it’s better that I can say to you I’m feeling really anxious right now or that really triggered me you know if in fact there’s real safety and security between a couple then the partners are going to stop and they’re going to care about that and then we’re going to okay what do we need to do reset right this is about us connecting it’s not about what our bodies are doing
Michelle: and so what do we need to do what do I need to do for you in this moment to help you
Nicky: yeah because a lot of times our bodies have memory
Michelle: a hundred percent we have somatic responses yes our bodies hold a lot of wisdom
Michelle: however the brain’s more wired for war than it is for love and that’s just left over from evolution so it’s sometimes we get a cortisol or adrenaline kick and our bodies aren’t we think there’s tigers in the room where there are no tigers in the room and so the ability to be present with somebody and calm the nervous system that might be what’s happening in that moment and that can be incredibly healing it can also be exhausting but that is involving if the two people can do that together that’s going to be an incredibly vulnerably intimate moment
Nicky: so the big takeaway really is is you know if you’ve gone through something still have intimacy work through that through intimacy through healthy intimacy through different intimacy to through explorative intimacy and be adventurous
Michelle: absolutely with your partner because in that trusted as long as that’s a trusted relationship
Michelle: then we heal so while we might be um we might experience harm in relationship we also heal in a relationship
Nicky: Okay, What about women I hear this a lot from women not so much from men but you know what about women who always say you know like oh I did not want to have sex with him and I just lay there and he’s my husband and then essentially it’s consent but not really consent you know you’re kind of going through the motions okay your husband wants to have sex you know in this case I’m using the husband as an example because I’ve only heard it from women really uh but you know what happens in that situation what kind of um how does that really hurt a relationship?
Michelle: well one thing is a we don’t like what’s going on for that for that woman and that couple that she doesn’t feel like she can speak to him about what her experience is you know often times Esther Perel who is um an expert in uh sex and relationships um will say that you know sometimes we we have this assumption that women aren’t interested in sex when in actuality maybe women aren’t interested in the sex that’s available to them and so what’s happening in that dynamic between those two people because I can tell you from my years of experience working with men and women in both heterosexual and um uh heterosexual and homosexual relationships is that in a long-term relationship we want our partner to be enjoying themselves
Michelle: we don’t want somebody to be just going through the motions with us
Michelle: and men care about that too that is not just something that women care about men care about that very much too and so you know it’s about being curious what’s going on in that dynamic that they are not maybe he’s not attuned to what’s happening for her in that moment or um she is not comfortable sharing i’d be curious about that with them what’s going on for you that you’re actually putting yourself in that situation as opposed to having the hard conversation maybe
Nicky: well it could be cultural really it could be maybe it could be like I you know it’s rules and how people define those rules like you’re the wife
Michelle: you’re supposed to my wifely duty
Nicky: these are my wifely duties
Nicky: you know um and maybe it’s not even something that’s defined by your husband maybe it’s self-defined maybe that’s how you’re raised you know like you know like I you know there’s a lot of families that raise girls to be good mothers good wives you know first
Nicky: before they are good professionals or good even people
Nicky: right? so that they’re in a role of giving yes absolutely
Michelle um and that in itself though but like then you’re talking about actually about the social prescription around how females and males but in particular females are socialized and that sexuality is somehow not a part of that that in and of itself is problematic because sexuality is about vitality and life force and who we are as human beings that it’s not a separate piece and yet there are cultures and religions that somehow stigmatize and make it negative and that is a way of controlling women’s sexuality out actually um which is not fair to them and yet here they are living within this and somehow then you know if you’re not educated properly about what happens in a sexual relationship about how your body works about um what feels good and then your body has these things going on and no one’s told you or you haven’t been educated on what those are then there’s a there’s there’s discord and there is opportunity for thinking something’s wrong with us for shame to be built in and all of those things um if you can’t talk about it create even further stigma and perpetuation of this idea that that there is something wrong with what’s happening and that is awful and a huge piece of what’s happening for women is almost like a reclamation in that there is nothing wrong with sex and sexuality it is not a threat to anybody we live in a society western culture where there has been a lot of influence on women’s sexuality that has been influenced by politics by religion by society and when we do that it’s a way of controlling women’s sexuality which is actually and what contributes to what that perpetuates is then women actually seeing them their sexuality is something to be ashamed of
Michelle: and it’s not it is a part of how our bodies are you know if God wants us to have sex our bodies were made with clitorises the whole purpose of the clitoris is for pleasure only it is not part of procreation you do not need to have an orgasm in order to get pregnant this is how our bodies are made 8,000 nerve endings and yet the clitoris was left out of human anatomy textbooks until 1999. 1999 medical textbooks what does that tell you it’s a body part you wouldn’t think to leave the spleen or the arm out of that right but the clitoris was left out
Nicky: that’s bullshit
Michelle: it’s absolute bullshit. You’d never think to you leave the scrotum or the testicles or the penis out of there but the clitoris was left out
Nicky: so let’s talk about infidelity a little bit
Nicky: okay so uh what happens when somebody I guess if you have a partner that leaves your bed to go to somebody else’s bed right whether that be you know actual full-out sex right whether that be uh intimacy flirting whatever the case
Michelle: like what defines infidelity?
Nicky: what defines infidelity and then what happens when when somebody leaves a you know a long-term relationship to do that what happens to that relationship?
Michelle: so first of all what defines infidelity I would say would be anything that if your partner observed you read um heard overheard you engaging in anything if they deemed anything that they read heard or observed as being inappropriate that would fall into the
Nicky: so you define it as some the receiving partner’s definition
Michelle: yes exactly right
Michelle: and that’s why it’s super important a for couples when they first get together to have an explicit conversation about what they think is constitutes infidelity because we make this kind of blanket assumption that you and I have the same ideas around what infidelity is and then maybe I’m engaging in a conversation with somebody um that’s I don’t think is inappropriate but you do well that’s a problem right?
Michelle: um and so first and foremost it’s important to determine and discern between the two partners how they what they constitute as as being an infidelity
Michelle: and infidelity can be financial emotional sexual um and spiritual like really it’s experienced as a betrayal of the couple system
Nicky: It’s so important because I feel like infidelity is one of the leading causes of of divorce really you know other than finances
Nicky: and why do you think that happens so much why do you think why do you think that that disconnect happens I feel like a lot of times when someone cheats they’re they don’t have proper values and foundations and cheating is just actually
Nicky: the last thing
Nicky: Am I wrong?
Michelle: so well I would challenge you on that because infidelity has been around for generations and generations and it will never go away it’s been around for as long as men and women have been engaging in long-term relationships with one another where we’ve been choosing like in ethical monogamy right so if you’re engaged in ethical non-monogamy which means that we have maybe open relationships or or uh polyamorous situations but what you’re speaking about is um ethical non-monogamy or unethical non-monogamy
Michelle: and that’s been around from the beginning of time people who experience affairs are not without values the the thing and it’s easy to to judge the behavior um as this person is acting without this or that or the other thing it’s not to say that they’re not consequences to their choices because a hundred percent there are they were in a committed agreement and they acted outside of that whatever that means but the issues and the reasons around why people have engaged themselves in either one night stands or anything outside of the committed relationship are as complex as the people who are involved in them
Nicky: but don’t you find that so much else often is wrong in the relationship in the relationship before that incident even occurs
Michelle: for sure that so when you say you know so many relationships end because of of infidelity it’s the infidelity that maybe the the straw that broke the camel’s back
Nicky: right, right
Michelle: so to speak but that is not generally the issue
Nicky: yes I agree with that
Michelle: generally the issue is that the people are not operating as a two-person system and there are things that have been contributing over time that has eroded away at the relationship um and yet people don’t understand what those concepts are and so it’s easy to say oh you know we lost interest in each other or we neglected the relationship those are probably things that have happened but because of how they have situated the relationship and not prioritized the relationship and acted accordingly
Nicky: with working with people you’ve been working with people for what over 20 years now right what do you feel what do you feel is the most common thing that comes up where someone goes I cheated because what’s that what’s that because?
Michelle: the because very generally and and this is very cautious about generalizing um is disconnection let’s just like feeling disconnected from a partner and that is not something that happens you know generally speaking relationships do not end with a catastrophic event it’s usually a succession of micro things that happen over time that have eroded away at that relationship at that connection and when it doesn’t get attended to those become fractures in the foundation and so you know somebody could be feeling incredibly lonely in the relationship their partner is maybe focused elsewhere again not out of maybe even intent um but just caring for um a family member who might be aging or ill or a child or building a career or raising you know a family the intention is not necessarily to be neglecting the relationship and yet the consequence could be that and that makes somebody vulnerable to elsewhere the thing is though when I’m feeling vulnerable I have a choice do I act out on that or I don’t come back to my partner and talk to my partner about what’s happening and that’s the difference there’s a choice point there
Michelle: right? and there is a difference you know well the injured partner may not experience may not care about whether it was a one-night stand or a relationship um that in and of itself could be significant too, right? a one-night stand is a one-night stand it maybe is just about sex and flirtation whereas an affair is maybe a full-on relationship where somebody has actually fallen in love with another person
Nicky: what’s worse really
Michele: not for me to determine I think because we can’t know what someone’s experience is but certainly my experience in working with many couples um they’re able to wrap their head around something physical happening but an emotional connection where there has been true intimacy with another partner can be incredibly difficult too
Nicky: Is it harder to come back from
Michelle: an emotional?
Michelle: yes yes that’s what I’ve observed in my experience
Michelle: um for sure having said that though more couples choose to stay together after an infidelity than they choose to separate
Nicky: you don’t hear about that
Michelle: no, you don’t hear about you don’t hear about no because that’s actually the new shame what’s wrong with you why would you choose to stay with somebody who who cheated on you for many reasons because we have history because we have legacy because we have a family because we love each other
Nicky: you have to be able to reset at that point
Michelle: you have to basically be able to say goodbye to the old relationship and what and mourn that because it’s not all bad but there’s obviously some things that were going on in this relationship that allowed this to happen that if we are going to move forward from this we have to redefine we get to create what the legacy of this infidelity is for us
Michelle: and that you know although it can take good a good two to five years for trust to be redeveloped between a couple healing is absolutely absolutely um something that can be achieved and I’ve worked with many couples with that but it is a it is a hard road
Michelle: it’s a very hard road because the management of the injured party’s experience with the shame of the involved partner is a balance and that can be difficult
Nicky: so what do you do if your partner is feeling particularly anxious anxious that day you know they’re remembering what you did
Nicky: to them, how do you be supportive in that situation versus just you know like what do you say do you apologize?
Michelle: react apologize
Nicky: would you apologize again always what do you do?
Michelle: absolutely, so the involved partner can never get defensive or tired of reassurance because the thing is we live in a society where there are triggers there are there is references to infidelity everywhere in music on the tv in reading like everywhere
Nicky: so it’s hard to really protect yourself
Michelle: you can’t yes right and so all the involved so what that means is it’s like like you’re gonna be triggered
Michelle: and all that can happen in those moments is that the involved partner is offering comfort and reassurance and comfort and reassurance because that is the cost of the distrust that they brought into this relationship
Michelle: it doesn’t mean that they are the cause of everything that was going on but of this and the other piece is that they need to hold vigil they need to check in with the injured partner on a very regular basis and don’t leave it up to the injured partner to come to them how are you doing did you think about it today did something trigger you I’m here for you it’s taking response that’s part of taking responsibility for the injury that was brought into the relationship
Nicky: how do you have sex again you know knowing the first time say for example like you know the first time you’re back with your partner after they’ve had an affair with like a woman or a man or whatever the case is and now you’re you’re trying to be intimate again and this intimacy is now there’s a cloud over this
Michelle: I feel very vulnerable right?
Nicky: yes you know and instead of thinking about you and them in that moment there’s this
Michelle: invisible third person right
Nicky: how do you overcome that?
Michelle: I don’t think you overcome it per se as first of all many couples end up going on to have really amazing sexual experiences with one another from this space because they have nothing to lose they are honest often in having dialogue in ways that they never have before to pretend that this third is not present is not going to serve anybody because again in if if we’re talking about safety and security we are finding a way to acknowledge that there is this reality here without it taking away from what we’re trying to create so we’re not pretending that that’s not there there we’re going to slow down maybe it’s about steps right maybe and again only the two people who are in that will know what feels right for them but it’s about slowing down and being eye to eye in the moment with each other how is this feeling and being very attuned in the moment it’s going to take time we talked about trauma before that would be experienced as a trauma and oftentimes the injured partner experiences ptsd post-traumatic stress disorder as a response to finding out about the infidelity and so they go through a period of destabilization for a period of time well they’re just trying their brain is trying to reconcile this reality and what that means to their history so there is a stabilization period that takes anywhere between six months or sorry six weeks to a few months it won’t always feel that way but in but it’s about how do we just create safety and security first and foremost and then we move through it
Nicky: if someone has cheated you know um are they more likely to cheat again? is it something that is um sort of situational or is it something that is recurring you find that a lot with say for example people who have left their families and cheated on their wives to be with another woman then started a new family with this other woman and then now they’re cheating on that other woman again
Nicky: you know and it could happen with women or with men
Nicky: where they just go from these uh the way they transition is through cheating
Michelle: right yeah so that would not be so in my experience um once a cheater always a cheater not if the person or the partners are doing the work and don’t want to do that again so once a cheater always a cheater is only if somebody is not interested in being relational and learning from or understanding the behavior no relationship is a fair proof and if a couple thinks that they are there’s a level of arrogance there and what I mean by that is that you can never take your attention off the relationship if you’re in a long-term relationship the boyfriend girlfriend energy or the boyfriend boyfriend girlfriend girlfriend energy is an important component that needs to be fostered and cared for it’s a way of taking care of the relationship which is a living breathing entity outside of those two people and it has needs the grass is not greener on the other side the grass is greener where it’s watered and that’s what people have to remember is taking care of that relationship so if somebody is an interest they’re not going to continue to perpetuate the acting out behavior if they are genuinely doing the relational work to understand what informed that and also to understand what kind of to make a two-person system to make a secure functioning relationship which is about good for both partners at the same time
Nicky: what do you say about um I guess people trying to find connections with people but doing it through sex but not developing actual connections with people
Michelle: like just in general, so we’re just talking about dating in general
Nicky: yeah just say dating in general or you know you’ve left your marriage you’re looking for a partner and you know you’re having sex with multiple people looking for that connection and that’s not that’s not forming no
Michelle: it won’t be
Michelle: so what someone has to ask themselves is how can I be how can I be um shocked or dismayed at not making a connection with someone when I’m not fully showing up in that connection right like we attract into our lives what we are putting out there energetically so if I’m only having sex with you um because it’s casual because that’s what I I’m available to do but I’m not willing to actually show you more vulnerable parts then how can I expect that we’re gonna have an intimate exchange outside of just what our bodies are doing right?
Michelle: like true intimacy into me you see involves vulnerability and what comes with that is that we show each other parts of ourselves not our genitals but like parts of our soul parts of our emotional experience and that involves risk and it’s it’s sad because you know it’s interesting people will have sex with each other but God forbid I actually share with you what I think or feel that somehow that’s more threatening than you know just um bumping up our bodies together
Michelle: right? and so I can’t expect to have true intimacy if I’m not willing to actually put myself out there and also make a choice around if I’m putting myself out there then also discerning who I’m involving myself with and not just having experiences that are casual
Nicky: so I’m going to ask you a question that I guess like a lot of people ask you know does penis size really matter?
Michelle: so in my experience it does not um having said that I think what’s more important is again that’s we’re seeing sex through the male gaze and we’re defining it as the penis gets to determine what this experience looks like and there’s so much more that’s involved than just the penis the penis size what the penis is doing but if I make it a thing if I say it’s important then how I how I show up how I engage with my partner is going to inform how I experience that
Nicky: yeah regardless of size
Michelle: yes absolutely and that’s because of the beliefs and the assumptions and everything that I am bringing into that experience
Nicky: do you think that a lot of people feel like um you know humans are not meant to be monogamous
Michelle: I’ve heard that
Nicky: you’ve heard that
Nicky: and do you agree with that do you feel like it’s a personal belief it’s do you feel like it’s a personal rule person to person or do you feel like it’s something that you know we’re we’re trying out this this marriage thing you know half of it doesn’t work out statistically right are we are we meant to be with one person for the rest of our lives
Michelle: I think that that belief is part of the patriarchy and that um so I don’t know whether we’re supposed to be with one person for the rest of our lives or not what I do know is that relationships are about healing and growth and when a relationship and the two people in it no longer are evolving then it’s time for that to be completed that is not a failure that is just something that happens monogamy so if we think about this from a biological perspective we are the purpose of men and women coming together is to procreate and so that like from a biological perspective so when that need is not present um why are we together what drives the relationship what drives the reason for being with someone what drives the reason why we have sex I don’t know I think that what informs that too is that monogamy or how we understand the brain is that the brain lights up with things that are new and novel in monogamy we kind of automate right when we’re in relationship and people are familiar to us they become automated and we no longer see them in a new and novel way and so something new and exciting over here is going to feel new and exciting over here and it’s going to get my adrenaline going and my cortisol levels are going to be lower and I’m going to feel good right and so it can be easy to just say oh this is what I want to go towards it doesn’t mean that that’s what it’s good for me
Michelle: it’s good for us
Nicky: right, it’s just something shiny
Michelle: yeah and again if somebody chooses to be to practice um ethical non-monogamy there are there are very you know real um agreements that are put in place for the people who are participating in that so that everybody does feel safe and secure and people know where their parts are affairs are not that
Michelle: right, there that is just acting out in ways that is not honoring the primary relationship if there was a primary relationship
Nicky: if someone has cheated during the dating phase should they proceed into marriage is proceeding into marriage maybe a little bit dicey considering the fact that something
Michelle:I would be wondering I would think that that would be a red flag
Michelle: if that’s if that’s showing up during the dating phase I would be curious about that why and so I would ask questions about for both partners but in particular the partner who is the uh injured partner why would you this is information everything that happens is information what we do with that information is up to us and oftentimes as human beings we avoid dealing in reality and the information that we have um that’s facing us because we want to avoid pain and so we often play the short game instead of like recognizing that this is a long game and that this is probably not good for me
Michelle: because if this behavior is showing up and I’m not stating that you know blanketly that if somebody there’s an infidelity in that dating that that carries on the relationship I’m not saying that but what I’m saying is it’s information and it should be looked at it should not be ignored
Nicky: okay what are red flags that come up that you often see where it gives you an indication where two parties are really not meant to be together?
Michelle: um so if we’re talking about people who are dating versus people who are already in a committed relationship
Nicky: okay let’s talk about dating and then in a committed relationship
Michelle: so dating wise so the whole purpose of dating is to assess
Michelle: um and if everybody from you know just were to um approach dating from that perspective I think we’d have a lot less experiences um you know that carry into marriages that end because you know if somebody if somebody is not responding to you on a regular basis if somebody is defensive if somebody’s not interested in talking about the relationship these are all really good indicators of that they’re not going to be evolving in that so why would we want to be pursuing a long-term relationship with somebody who is not demonstrating the skills to be relational
Nicky: do you find that sometimes a guy can be an amazing amazing boyfriend and a horrible husband
uh I would say if somebody is able to be a very good partner um i’d be really curious about why they were a really good partner but then outside of marriage but then that changed what changed with marriage um again it’s it’s not so black and white it’s really about how the two people in the relationship situate themselves and if they operate from a place of good for me and good for you and they put every thought feeling idea behavior action through the lens of how does this impact on my partner how does this impact on our relationship they’re being relationally focused right and that is often the hardest thing because we are individuals and we are raised in this western culture to be self-focused which is completely different than what’s necessary in a relationship where now we’re a we and we’re thinking as a we because you cannot think as an I and a we at the same time it does not work
Nicky: okay so to wrap this up I would like for you to give our audience three tips that you feel that can make them more confident with their sexual state
Michelle: uh three tips on their voice their sexual state
Michelle: first and foremost be familiar and comfortable with what feels good for you so know your own body
Nicky: so pro masturbation
Michelle: you know I am pro-masturbation but I’m not gonna I’m not gonna say you have to do this but you can know what feels good for you and if you’re not pro masturbation then I would encourage you to be exploring what’s informing that choice
Michelle: and being curious about is it actually your choice or is it a download from beliefs that have been you’ve been raised with okay
Michelle: but yes a comfortability with your own sense of self sensuality your body how you experience life how you experience and move into life um being open to dialogue and communication super super important and being willing to straddle the edge and what that means is don’t ever do anything that makes you uncomfortable or feel unsafe but when we live or put ourselves in a box and we don’t straddle the edge in all areas of our life we limit what our experiences are going to be in our own expansion and what we’re able to achieve
Nicky: so be adventurous
Nicky: try new things
Michelle: try new things be open to that but again what you find adventuresome may be very different than what I find adventuresome right and again it’s not right or wrong good or bad but just can you allow yourself if fear was not present like in every moment if you could break it down really clearly fear and love if there was no fear present what choice would I make
Michelle: and make that choice
Nicky: well that’s awesome thank you so much Michelle thank you so much everyone for watching if you’d like to work with Michelle definitely check out the links below all of Michelle’s information will be on there right and you work with anybody yeah everywhere, because now there’s zoom
Michelle: yes right yes
Nicky: yeah so uh don’t forget to like subscribe and hit that notification bell for more videos to come see you soon bye