Permission to Heal

Permission to Heal Episode #38 - A Conversation about SEX with Dr. Belle Bugatti.

July 28, 2021 Marci Brockmann Season 1 Episode 38
Permission to Heal
Permission to Heal Episode #38 - A Conversation about SEX with Dr. Belle Bugatti.
Show Notes Transcript

Let's talk about SEX with Dr. Belle!

  • How to create our ideal fulfilling and healthy sex lives within our relationships. Dr. Belle says that when couples feel safe and secure together they feel free and able to navigate an adventure on their own. They feel safety and emotional freedom without shame or inhibition.
  • How our aging bodies affect our sexual fulfillment and that being in denial about the fact that our bodies are changing won’t get us anywhere. It will keep us from having a fulfilling sex life if we are stuck in self-judgment. We need to learn to find a way to accept and love ourselves and enjoy our sexuality. 
  • The big myth women are fed - that we can successfully trade sex for love. We’re taught that sex is men's kryptonite and if we give them this thing they want and make it so good, then they're not going to have any reason to go somewhere else. It’s a big lie. 
  • How pornography is extremely damaging. There is research showing when people become addicted to porn and are chronically watching it, that it actually shrinks the brain, it changes them, and their sexual script making it unhealthy and unrealistic.
  • How people struggling with sex and their relationship can come together and heal themselves through communication. 

Dr. Belle Bugatti is a nationally certified counselor and an ICEEFT Certified Emotionally Focused Couples Supervisor and Therapist (EFT) with specializations in helping couples and individuals mend broken relationships, and overcome issues such as chronic stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, or challenges with their personal life.

Check out her recently published second book, "Using Relentless Empathy in the Therapeutic Relationship; Connecting with Challenging and Resistant Clients" (2020).

Connect with Dr. Belle
www.Drbelle.com

We Heart Therapy Podcast - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/we-heart-therapy/id1478455856

YouTube  - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0pUeBkuuE1BswZsTbUowZg

Connect with Marci

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Welcome Dr. Bell. I'm so thrilled that you're here this evening. How are you? I'm great. Thank you again for having me back. How are you? I am, I'm good. I'm tired. It's the end of the school year, but I'm, I'm excited about summer. Yeah. I'm excited to get my life back at things a little bit more organized and no kidding.

And it feels like it's sort of a different a year this year, because not only it's like the end of the school year, beginning of summer, but it feels like it's the end of the lockdown phase things starting to open up, but a lot of things are opened up, but a lot of things aren't open up and where can you go?

Where can you not go? What are the rules? Can we have fun? Can we not have fun? Are we afraid? We're not afraid. It's like, what do we feel. Exactly. Yeah. I have a mask, a bunch of masks in my car still because you never know if you're going to walk into a store and they're going to ask you to wear one.

Exactly. And we have I call them the car masks because we have a couple different vehicles. So I put one in every single car. So then if we forget and we go to a place that requires them up, we have one in the car. Exactly, exactly. But it, it feels like like a rebirth in a way, you know, suddenly we're not as paranoid as we were.

We're seeing people we haven't seen in a long time taking trips, going out, even going to a restaurant has been weird. Yes. Yes. It's it is feel weird. It's like, Seeing people you haven't seen in a while, but it feels like you just saw them, but it's like, wait a second. The last time I actually saw you was like your normal.

That's so weird. Very, very strange. We're taking a big family trip in July. My dad, my stepmom, both my sisters and their spouses and kids. And all of us are going to an all-inclusive in Jamaica for a week in July. And we have to get COVID tests before we go and everybody had to get vaccinated and there are all these regulations.

Do they require vaccinations or just like, can you get in with just the COVID tests? Good question. I think you can just get a COVID tip. Yeah, cause there are sure each groups that can't get back to. Yeah. Yes. My nephews are too young to get the, you know, they're still elementary school age. They can't get COVID to COVID vaccines, but everybody else has gotten them who have like you know, particular health issues that kind of preclude them from getting the COVID vaccinations.

And it's like, you're not allowed to travel ever again, never go on vacation. Like that doesn't seem very fair. Right. I think we just have to get COVID tasks before we go. And I'm a little nervous, but I'm trying to be chill, you know? I have traveled quite a bit and we're actually getting ready to go to Mexico in July.

And you know, it's, I find that so many places just really do a wonderful job of trying to make it safe, trying to do all that they can. And, you know, it just felt like sliding back into normal and it felt so good and so refreshing. And it was like, oh, I miss people. I'm excited to see a different environment for change.

Yes. You know, I love being home, but I'm getting kind of sick of all these walls being the same. And the only place that I've really gone is school and home and anything's whole store. That's kind of it. So, yeah. Good, good. Good. So since you've been here last well, no, since. Are the first guest to be back again.

I should actually say thank you. I feel so honored. Yon, thrilled Haq. I'm thrilled that you're here. It's fabulous. I, you normally begin the interviews with the six quick questions, but you've already answered them. So I made new ones just for you. Sweet. Okay, so let's roll first. Should we, should we, before we answer the question, should we not keep everyone in suspense and tell him what we're talking about today?

Yes, of course. Of course. Absolutely. Absolutely. We're going to talk about sex. Excellent. Yep. That should get everyone's interest, right? Yeah. We're talking about sex. So hang tight. Me too. And, and I have one episode on my own podcast talking about women insects in particular, and why talking about sex is so hard to talk about.

So hopefully we'll get to talk about some of that today, because that is a huge barrier, which we'll get into, but let's talk about these. Okay. So the first is, what is your favorite dessert? Maybe favorite dessert. I'd have to say hands, strawberry shortcake. Cool. I am a sucker for it. I really like, like when you get it on at the store, you can get the little cups, the little shortcake cups.

Those are amazing. But my even more favorite is when you go to the restaurants and they make the shortcake where it's almost like a biscuit kind of like a biscuit cake. Oh my gosh. It's so good with strawberries and a little bit of like whipping cream. Oh, that's so good. Heaven. I've never seen it like that with the, with the biscuit that's oh, okay.

Very interesting for me. It's carrot cake cans down with cream cheese frosting. I just love, it's like an orgasm on a spoon. I love it. I do. And you know, whole foods sells carrot cake bakery section. Definitely. It's delicious. And did you know, and I do believe they're franchised in other states, it's a store called nothing Bundt cakes and they make a Bundt cake.

That's a carrot cake and it is wow. I'll have to look that up. Yeah. Nothing Bundt cakes. I'm going to write that down. Nothing Bundt cakes. Yep. Cool. And if you're listening to this and you're getting really hungry, go down to your store and get some dessert. Exactly. And bring it back and listen to us. Talk about sex.

Yes. Yes. Number two, what TV or videos or you're streaming or binge watching now? Hmm. Let's see, gosh, I think I'm kind of re binge watching. Continue to read binge watch stuff. You know, I really liked the divergent series for movies, just super inspirational. I kind of dig the Shiro thing. I'm working on your greatest weakness and harnessing it to be your biggest strength.

 Kind of the story of the overcomers and I, something about the post-apocalyptic world that seems very intriguing, like kind of wiping the slate clean and starting over. Sounds like that would be kind of fun, but I don't want to go through all that death and destruction versed, but yeah, I love, I love the divergent series for movies.

I actually got my, fiance to watch the notebook with me last night and so amazing. Oh yes. He actually grew up. Wow. There's one man of the year award. So yes, major, major points, but, um, that's a really like, yes. And I think TV shows, you know, good old Downton, Abbey love Downton Abbey, and there's a second movie coming out.

So I'm trying to catch him up on it. I want to look at is it  oh, that was fabulous. Heard a lot about sex. Oh my God. I definitely want to start watching that. So that'll be one. Okay. I, I read the novel that that was based off of, I think it's called the duke and I, and it was very tame by comparison and it didn't have all of the subplots and side stories that the mini series had.

 And I, as an English teacher, I very rarely say that I liked the TV show or the movie better than the book, but in this case I did nice.  Definitely that's next on my list. So, so good. So touching. Yeah. For me, I always have Gilmore girls on repeat. I love Gilmore girls. I love the way they talk. I wish that all of us could walk around speaking the way that they speak in Gilmore girls.

Exactly. I've tried it and people are like, huh. Or they just think you're kind of an ass because those are gassing. Cause they're super sarcastic, but it's like absolutely really sarcasm and kids are, everything is like layered with, with illusions to other things that even the actors didn't know what most of the meant I think Lauren Graham probably did because she's so very well-read but  a lot of them had to look them up before they even knew Scott Patterson who played Luke Danes has his own podcast.

Now he does. It's called I'm all in and he never watched the series. He he'd read his lines and go home. And he podcast about what he's doing is going back and watching each of the episodes. So each episode of the podcast correlates with an episode of the series and he's having other cast members like Yannick Truesdale who played Michelle, Gerard.

He had him on and love Michelle. His gear had sadly Sally Struthers on  and some of like that, he had the dialogue coach in a, in a costume lady, you know, like he's having people who were involved with the show on to analyze and pick apart. Each episode. And so he had the, the actor who played max Medina on and talking about the early episodes where Laura Lee and max are flirting and Scott Patterson was sort of outraged at how forward max was and realized that he couldn't separate himself as Scott Patterson watching it versus the part of him that is Luke and jealous of Lorelei and max.

So the whole dynamic is very interesting and I so enjoyed, well, man, I definitely want to look that up now that you're telling me, and you know, it's funny, Luke of course is one of everybody's favorites. And I adore Luke. I love everybody, but I've just say my favorite funniest character was Michelle. Like, man, his lines were epic.

Yes. People are particularly stupid today. I don't want to talk to any of them. And with his funny French little accent, it was so hilarious, especially when he comes back from LA, from LA. And he's like, everybody's view people in, they're all wearing. I wear, yes, it is chic who say, I wear, like, of course I do a French accent.

Completely terrible. So sounded a little more Italian, I think. So Gilmore girls is always on in my house.  And I, I love, we've been rewatching old, not I'm going to say old, but like 20 year old shows like medium and then house, which I love again, sarcastic comments and raising Adam. Yeah. Grey's anatomy, but I stopped watching Grey's anatomy when Ackerman dreamy, dive in, make dreamy left.

Sorry, guys. Yeah, I watched a purpose. I, my life got busy. It just sort of coincided and yeah, I think we were all attached to him into the relationship and then it just kind of fizzled out when he was gone. And I tried to watch a little bit after that and yeah, I got, I got, I think one season and then I same thing kind of fizzled out.

Yeah. Yeah. All right. Let's get to number three.  What's on your nightstand. My nightstand has a glass of watcher. Hey, picture of me and my fiance, a purse, my Bible.  I'm trying to think if there's anything interesting, probably like a pin. I don't know that I have anything super interesting on my nightstand.

 I believe it or not, don't have a lamp on my nightstand because I had my fiance hang up wall sconces, like the links to their wall sconces. Cause I find that lamps end up taking up so much room. And when you like open and close your drawers, it can make the, the lamp rattle or want to fall off. And my cat often jumps on my nightstand, so I can't have a lot on my nightstand.

He knocks it off, which is so irritating. And I have these nightstands that have USB ports in the back. So yeah, so I, I try, I don't like flutter. So I try, even though I think there are certain areas of my house that will always have some degree of clutter, certain areas where it's okay. But try not to have clutter on my nightstand.

So makes sense. What's on your nightstand, a very tall pile of books. Nice, very tall pile of books that the cats are always knocking over.  The charger for my apple watch, pieces of my nebulizer that I haven't had to use in a while. Nice. I think that's probably it, a little bit of dust at this point.

I don't think I've cleaned so well lately.  But that's kind of it charger for myself. Phone pile of books mostly looks in chords. Yeah. Particularly attractive. And, and we don't have nightstand lamps either. We've got tall floor lamp things that, that are the crane over and are adjustable. And then you have these reach up and turn it up and they have these little remote controls.

So I just keep it on the ninth, on the headboard, behind my head. And then I never have. Even pick my head up to turn the light off and on. That's kind of why I am and you can change the color temperature of the light. It's pretty cool. I got to get me one of those. Yeah. I got the wall sconces because I didn't want to have to get up and turn off the light.

So I was like, I can just reach over and turn it off. But without having it take up all this clutter on my nightstand. Exactly. Exactly. Okay. Finish this sentence. Sexuality is

actuality is oh man.  Flat actuality is complicated. There you go. It's complicated.  What is the most unusual place? That I've ever had sex? No, no, no, no, no, no. I messed up the question. I meant messed up the question and it's supposed to be the six quick and I only have five because I was going to ask, what is the most typical thing that happens in your life that brings you joy?

Oh,  you asked me a question about sexuality. So I assumed the next question was going to be about sex because our topic is about smoking. Yeah. I don't have a dirty mind. The thing that I do in my life that brings me joy. Yeah. Like a snapshot of a moment in your life, really like, and I can just know, as soon as I say this, people are going to moan and roll their eyes, like, oh my fiance really?

Like, he is amazing. You know, we've known each other for a very, very long time. We were best friends. We secretly fell in love with each other when we only had a platonic relationship. So it says that we fell in love with the right things, but we were always, we were too chicken to tell each other and risk losing the friendship.

So we never told each other. And then our paths, I know, went away from each other and took separate roads. And I ended up getting married to someone else and he got engaged and neither of those worked out. And then our paths came back together at the right time. And, we took the risk and now we're like inseparable and he is amazing.

And just having actually for the first time having a real legitimate friendship underneath. And I mean, he's, he's my buddy. It's our relationship is so safe and liberating and freeing, and I'm experiencing myself in new ways and experiencing relationship in new ways, which is crazy. Cause I'm a relationship therapist.

So I'm like, Hey, this is awesome. I'm getting the thing that I've helped everyone else get. And you know, I always thought, yeah, it was like, I thought I had some version of it, but I realized they didn't quite have it. Like I have it now. And it's like, wow. I never knew it could be so good. Like actually that I could get it.

So that's amazing. I'm so happy for you. That's fabulous. Yeah. So we do all kinds of silly things. We have this kind of running joke, running joke as to like what kind of silly adventure I can talk him into. I invariably he lets me talk him into doing silly things. We always ended up having a good laugh, but that's awesome.

Yeah. That's awesome. Well, you were sort of correct. The, the last question was what is the most unusual place that someone has told you that they have.  The most unusual place that somebody has told me that they have had sex. Well, given that I live in Las Vegas. Oh gosh, that could be anywhere. Yes. And when I was a, in my bachelor's degree, I worked at a casino as a cocktail server.

And so you've heard though. Yeah. And then walked in on things and nothing jogs me. So I guess maybe that people go to there's like sex clubs out here for people like regular people to go and swap or try things. And , so that's, I guess probably the most unusual. Hmm, you know, places like that in Manhattan, so yeah.

Oh yeah. Yeah. I mean, it was never, you know, I grew up a good little church girl and was, you know, so super protected and kept the way from law. So I didn't know a lot of that stuff existed. So that was very eyeopening and intriguing and, you know, peaks, curiosity. But I guess for like the everyday person who probably doesn't go to those places to hear about meet somebody who's actually gone is pretty interesting.

So that's cool. Yeah. I think it's, it's interesting to be able to be so free with yourself to experiment and just throw caution to the wind to a degree. I mean, I know places like that have rules that you have to follow where they throw you out, but yeah. Yeah. And I kinda think of, you know, the risk that people take in being free kind of depends because sometimes people are taking these risks.

And they give the illusion that they're free, but they're actually not free. And, and their riskiness is out of avoidance of stuff going on on the inside. So actually doing those things out of true security and safety.  And just in the sense of trying to explore and adventure is one thing, the other sense of I'm just reckless and risky because I'm reckless and not really dealing with my stuff, you know, it can take on a form of like an addiction, just like anything else, so, sure, sure.

Yeah. That's not so sexy draw. Okay. So for those of our listeners who don't really know what a sex therapist is, or what, what do you, what do you do? How do you walk clients through. Yeah. So I'm a sex therapist. First, let me first and foremost say what a sex therapist does not, and a sex therapist does not have sex with their clients.

No, no, no. What Helen Hunt portrayed in her movies where she played a quote unquote sex therapist, really in a way, does a disservice to actual sex therapists. Because more of what she did was a clinical sexual surrogate, where she was actually having sex with people in a very clinical way. But her, it was almost like sexual rehabilitation that she was doing.

 And we, we don't have sex with our clients. Absolutely not. And I mean, when, when we do sex therapy, basically couples come in that have issues around their sex life. And honestly, I've never actually had much sex therapy that had to do with the actual mechanics of sex. And pretty much all the sex therapy I've done is actually been relationship therapy.

We know that when a couples feel safe and secure together and they feel free, they're able to navigate an adventure on their own and find their own workarounds. They don't really need a therapist to do that. So, the closest, thing that I've worked with with the actual mechanics of sex was a couple that I had been.

Counseling their relationship and they'd done amazing work in one of them had sexual trauma. So obviously that made it really hard for them to have a satisfying sex life because when she would start to get aroused or engage in sexual activity would trigger her trauma and she would feel. She couldn't let go and have an orgasm because it felt like she was going to be in danger or that she was betraying herself in some way.

Right. And so it was really, really hard. So we did some like grounding techniques where she would let herself be aroused in her husband was totally safe and they had amazing relationships. So we kind of used him as an access of safety where when they would start to be intimate or sexual, that she would keep eye contact with him so that she could, her brain could start recording that this experience is happening with somebody who safe, not with my perpetrator. And so that was really, really profound and amazing. And because she had a lot of atrophy of the muscles in the vagina, which OSS often happens there's conditions around that that are trauma responses.  They, and they found this on their own. They actually went to an adult store and, and again, this happened once we were able to really rebuild that connection and restore that emotional safety.

In their relationship. And they went to an adult store to try to experiment and they found some type of I don't know, a device like a dildo, but it was like something that you could change the size, like it like a blow up thing and used it kind of as a way to rehabilitate the muscles on the inside.

So she could start smaller until her muscles, you know, starting again to kind of have this pairing experience of this, the act of sex.  While her muscles like helping her brain and her emotions work with her muscles to re encode that experience is safe so that she could stop. It's like kind of systematically stopped and coding it as a dangerous experience.

And she could start to release the tension in the muscles and open up a little bit more, a little bit more till they could get to a point where what they were using would replicate the same as her husband's size. And then they could, you know, so then it was able to be a safe experience that they were doing together.

And I mean, it was really incredible work, but they, at no point did they ever, nobody gets undressed in my office, nothing like that. And there's some weird thing, a new disorder that's been invented for people. It's, it's almost like a. Form of exhibitionism. Where, when, when people find out you're a sex therapist, they call you and say some pretty unbelievable things as a way to try to get a response out of you.

Like, oh, you know, I'm struggling with sex with my partner. Can I come in there and show you the size of my, you know, my penis? And you're gonna, you know, and I'm like, no, no, no,

people are good friends. You deal with as a therapist. Right. Wow. Wow. Okay. So, so it's not, it's mostly. Biological necessarily because the body, the body, what happens physically is a response to your emotional and mental system. So you've got to work with those. And again, when they're safety and emotional freedom couples don't feel shame or inhibition to find their own workarounds.

So they're more likely to go see the gynecologist or seek a doctor that can rule out any kind of medical problems. They're more just like my couple, they went to the adult store on their own and found, you know, this device. And it really was like a form of rehabilitation therapy. Sure. Yeah. Actual arena, but it was something they did together.

They, they found their own ways of solving their own problem. And that's ultimately what you want. And when couples feel that safety, that's what they're going to do. And you know, you don't need to tell them. You know about how the mechanics of sex work, unless again, really you're working with a couple that has a lot of emotional messages around sex.

A lot of stigmas brought up in a home where there was a lot of shame around sex. And so of course that comes into the bedroom. It's hard to talk about when you can't talk about it, you can't do anything about it. So, but again, that's not actually to do with the physical mechanics of sex and it's more of like the emotional system around sex.

So how do you help a couple who feels, who has those emotional blocks and, and has very difficult time. Maybe they feel shame. They're just awkward. They don't know how to word their questions or to how do you, how do you help them communicate with you? Well, of course, the course of couples therapy. We work on that because I find if they're not talking about sex, usually there's a whole lot of other emotional aspects that they're not talking about.

So I really work with couples too, to find out what the blocks are, understanding where the blocks come from, what the function of them are, what the need is, how to, how to help them start to feel safe together so that they can move through the blocks and start to have these conversations. And ultimately it does end up being a place where they have to take a risk and do something new and different.

And so you, you try to give it in, in small digestible chunks so that they can kind of stay, you know, you don't want to have them try to do too much too fast because it's already new and insensitive. So you want to break it down into small pieces that they can start to try and take these risks. You know, maybe it starts with.

 Having a conversation with home at home with their partner about, you know, their attitudes and beliefs towards sex and where that came from and how they feel like that impacted their sex life together and have them kind of mutually share and see how that feels, just kind of help them start to feel more safe and comfortable with that dialogue.

And then you might progressively lead them into being able to talk about more and more vulnerable aspects of sex till they're able to have these conversations on their own and you know, really girl and work arounds. Now I've heard people, you know, I've read articles or whatever in the past, and have heard people say that it's best to have conversations like that outside of the bedroom, that when you're first reaching the topics or when you're first talking about things that are particularly uncomfortable, that may be you have them while you're driving in a car by yourselves or while you're cooking in the kitchen or someplace, that's not in the bedroom.

Do you agree with that necessarily? I mean, I could maybe understand it kind of depends on the couple and the particular situations. If, if there's a lack of safety and you're having an unsafe conversation, you certainly don't want to reinforce a lack of safety around something so sensitive, but you also, avoidance is not the answer either.

 It's just helping couples to have these conversations. And sometimes, and most often I find that couples won't talk about it in the car. You know, there's always an excuse, but, and when they're in the bedroom and something happens that triggers their shame or their inhibitions, oftentimes one or both of them lose steam and, you know, sex will be interrupted and stop.

And then there's a lot of emotions around that anyway. So, you know, if you can open up that dialogue when it's happening and talk about it, then you should talk about it. I say, why not talk about it in the bedroom?  That times wallets going on, and sometimes that the most logical choice to have the conversation, because this is a place where we're trying to create the safety and intimacy in this.

This is our retreat. So, you know, talking about it safely is the way we create safety. So yeah, I think you should be able to talk about it in your bedroom. Doesn't mean you have to only talk about it in your bed, right. So I guess, ideally you could talk about it anywhere you would be together. Yeah. I think it's just understanding, you know, maybe some people feel nervous in the bedroom.

Like there's a lot of pressure expectations. So again, you unpack the emotions around that work through the blocks versus, you know, if they're driving in the car, maybe it feels more casual and less, you know, vulnerable. But again, the point is not to avoid vulnerability because all aspects of doing something new and intimate and different is vulnerable.

And so you've got to be able to find a way to, to meet each other in that vulnerability. So, yeah, that makes sense. I've also, we were talking about COVID before I've heard a lot of, you know, you talk to people, you talk to your friends and I've heard a lot of people in my age group and I just turned 53 have spent the last 18 months in the house with their spouse and their sex life has, you'd think you'd have more access to each other because you're in the house so much.

But I think because they've all been in the house so much, their sex life has actually decreased. I think it depends on the couple, I think couples that we're super connected are probably having more sex. Cause like I know a lot of couples who were super connected and it's like, Hey, we got nothing else to do.

Let's just have a bunch of sex. And it was great. And then other couples who being locked in the house together caused them to face all the things that they've been able to avoid with the busy-ness of life. And so now that they're dealing with the emotional disconnection, of course their sex life is suffering because they're dealing with stuff they've not been dealing with before.

So I think it could be a, both and could be, could be okay. Changes in sex life changes in libido changes in I'm thinking about this demographic.  As people age, their bodies change their libidos, change their desire, change what feels good changes. And I'm not really sure what my question is after all that.

Maybe we can just validate the fact that your body does change and libidos change your body responds differently. And I think it's important for people to be able to accept this and not feel shame about it. It's something that a lot of people don't talk about and it's unfortunate because then when they get to that place, when it's happening, they put a lot of pressure on themselves.

Like, you know, oh, I should be able to be aroused the same way that I was when I was 20. Yet when you were 20, a stiff wind could make you aroused, you know? And a lot of it is cause you have a lot more testosterone flowing through your body. If you're a male, then you do when you're in your fifties or your sixties, even your forties.

 And same thing for women, especially when they go through menopause or they've had you don't childbirth and things that used to be. Standing up right. Or now pointing downward, you know, and, and it can a, be hard to believe that you can still be loved when, when things change that your partner can still love your body and be aroused by you and your body.

And you know, being in denial about the fact that their body is changing and having all that shame. So therefore not the shame, shame is an emotion that compels people to hide. So I see a lot of men that run into low testosterone and have such shame about it, that they emotionally hide from it. And then won't go see the doctor, won't get it checked.

And so they end up not being able to do anything about it, and then not being able to have a fulfilling sex life brings about more shame and just dig some into that cycle. And it's like, You know, and you know, women too, with the change in hormones. And, you know, it's like, if we can talk about this and accept it and not judge yourself for it, then you can learn how to roll with it, what to do with it, how to find a way through it.

And still, you know, lots of, lots of senior citizens are having tons of sex. It's, they're the fastest rising STD population. So yeah, you can, it doesn't matter what age you are. You know, you're not too old to have sex. So I, I, you know, I had a hysterectomy two years ago and it completely changed in a moment in a very unexpected way.

Like, I don't know why I'd think about it, but it completely changed everything. And, and I'm 53. Post-menopausal everything felt differently from the get go. Really trying to figure out how to be at peace with my aging changing body and figure out how I can feel sexy when the parts of my body that used to make me feel sexy, don't look or feel the same way.

And I know my husband doesn't care. He's still like, okay, let's go. You know, and I'm, I don't want the light to be on and you know, or I want it to be a colored light and I want it to be Jim to accept yourself and yourself the way your partner sees you is clearly he still loves you and is attracted by you and wants to see all of you.

That's where those inhibitions come in. And of course, like we all have parts of our bodies we hate. And then you go through medical changes that cause those to move and shift, and then you have hormones that change and impact the mood of everything shifting and changing and right. It just hits a lot, you know, and I was fighting it for a while.

You know, like I, I would expect it to be the way it was 10 years ago. And then I was disappointed, not necessarily full of shame as much as just resentful and angry. And I just couldn't accept it for a while. It took me a while to figure out, okay, this isn't going to work that way anymore. Let's find a way where it does work.

And luckily we've got enough communication where we were able to work around and figure out what works. So. And, you know, it's like, if we can't learn to accept who we are as our body changes and look we're, we probably accept our partners for their bodies changing, but yet, without any hesitation. Right.

But why is it a double standard when it comes to us? Right. And it's, you really want to suffer, not having a good feeling of yourself, not having a fulfilling sex life because you're stuck in self judgment, or would you rather learn to find a way to accept and love yourself, even though things have changed and yes, it sucks, but I mean, or you could go out and get a bunch of plastic surgery and get yourself nipped and tucked and plumped and stuff.

No, I don't believe in that either. I mean, I think, I believe in everybody's right to choose what works for them and make a choice. But it's an emotional feeling. It's a way that you see yourself. It's not the placement of your body parts. It's not whether or not you can rip. It is a feeling from the inside out.

And I get, again, it's, it is super hard to feels. I'm, I'm somebody who's had liposuction. So, you know, I, again, I'm speaking from experience. I know what it's like to hate parts of your body. Yeah, no, but ultimately at the end of the day, you've gotta be able to look at the mirror and love what's in front of you and find a way to see it as beautiful.

And the biggest help can be when you do have a partner who clearly wants you and is still attracted to you. And and I know I can kind of hear the voice of some, some people somewhere saying, well, what if you don't have that partner? Right. And there are, I mean, I was single for 10 years between the demise of my first marriage.

Current marriage now. And, and there were guys who were like, you know, you are amazing and you're beautiful and you're intelligent, but you're too curvy for me. Buh-bye or I would love you if only you'd lose weight. And luckily I had enough self-esteem to be able to just say, go screw yourself, because that's just, you know, who were, who the hell are you to say that, you know, and know a lot of guys out there, a lot of women out there too, who were that way, and there's there's guys on the other end who are like, you're too skinny for me.

You need to get your boobs enhanced, you know? So it's like, you know, To feel rejection just sucks. We even know from the neuroscience of the brain includes rejection as the same physical experiences being stamped. That's how painful it is. Wow. So, you know, whether they say you're too big or you're too small, rejection is rejection and it's, and it's hard not to internalize this as you, cause it's not, you it's them.

Absolutely am not accepting and projecting their own stuff on you and just not being a right fit, you know? And there's so many out there for everyone. So don't try to make yourself to be a square peg in a round hole, except you for you, love you for you and go out and find somebody who does love you for you.

Cause that's the only way you're going to have a safe, loving, and amazing relationship. Absolutely. I've said similar things. I've had guests say so, so many similar things over and over again that, and I think it can't. Be said enough or stressed enough. I think people really need to listen carefully and really hear that to internalize it.

Yeah. I think that too many people put up with things that don't bring meaning and joy to their life who may are on autopilot and just, were they buying in a relationship? Yeah. They buy into the negative and they discount the positive because I have a lot of clients that have a partner that is there loving them the whole time.

And I was these wonderful open eyes, open arms. And yet, no matter how much love they offer their partner, it's like, Nope, I just can't accept. I can't believe that you actually see me as beautiful or sexy or lovable because that's not the way I see myself. Wow. That was really painful. So how do you help someone like.

I mean, I obviously, it's not a quick fix. It takes. Yeah. Yeah. You gotta, again, unpack the blocks, find out what gets in the way, where did this disbelief come from? Usually there's a reason that people learn not to trust what others say. And again, you help them slowly, but surely start to take it in over time.

And as they start to take it in it, they then they're able to start being nourished by it. And the transformation is amazing. Probably all goes back to childhood trauma, things that they learn from their family of origin, how they were treated and their families. Yeah. Or sometimes even like in their early adulthood, they'll have some kind of experience that happens at a pivotal key moment of vulnerability that can redefine their attachment system.

So that's all it takes. Yeah. I had a pattern of falling for the same narcissist. Guy, you know, the same personality and lots of different patterns for a very long time. And I was talking about this with a, another guest on a previous episode on it takes, it took a long time for me to turn inward enough, to look inward enough, to sort of unpack exactly what I wanted and why I was choosing men like that.

And it took a lot of journaling and meditation and really sitting quietly with myself and not hopping from relationship to relationship, which was just distracting and confusing. But you really just sort of date myself for a while and figure out what I really wanted. And then I felt more secure about holding those very safe boundaries for myself and stop.

Seeing those narcissistic men, and made better choices for myself. And it was a bit of a process, but so worth it. Oh yeah. And even if they're not narcissistic, it's, it's being able to get to know yourself and being able to define your own value and feel secure in that value so that whoever comes across that you're not putting up with unhealthy, hurtful and toxic behavior, because you don't see yourself as worth more or that some, someone better will come along and treat you the way you deserve.

Kind of the last, this is the last bus along for awhile, even though it's broke itself, I'm just going to take it because I don't believe anything else is coming along. So we, we, you know, bait someone who's broken down themselves and then they're broken neck. Then reinforces our own negative self value.

And then we get stuck in this pattern. And yeah, I, I went through a process like that after my, first has been, and then I dated somebody who was really, really toxic. And and part of that relationship was, I didn't know my own value. And so I really, again, thinking like allowed this person to disrespect my boundaries, I taught them how to disrespect it because when it felt like he wouldn't love me, I would move the goalpost to get that felt sense of love, which was never really secure love.

It was conditional and. So it was just super unhealthy. And so by doing that, I taught him that I didn't respect my own boundaries. So why did he need to respect so many women do that? Naturally? I think we're all taught to accept what comes or to smile and keep a happy face and to do whatever we can to please the person there.

I love it from that movie. He's just not that into you where they started off. And they're saying, you know, we're taught from an early age that the reason that boy is picking on you is because he likes you stop telling people that like, you know what, maybe he does like you, but that's not the way to behave.

So if he's going to pick on you, screw him and have nothing to do with them. Right.  when I was in eighth grade, I had a boy pushed me down two flights of stairs. And his best friend said he, well, he did that because he has a crush on you. And I'm like, if that's how he treats someone, he cares about what does he do to an enemy.

And the kid was completely flummoxed that I didn't fall over myself to be with him. I'm like, I'm never even going to talk to you again. Exactly, exactly. As we become adults, the ways that they push us down a flight of stairs becomes much more subtle and nuanced. And I see women do this to men too, but you know, I'm going back to, after I got out of the relationship with the super toxic guy was I dated myself for a little while because I thought, you know, what, if, if I can't even be with myself alone with myself and feel secure and happy, why would anyone else want to be with me for sex?

So I decided to learn to accept too. Enjoy myself and my own company and be happy. And it made me so much more secure because then I wasn't desperate. And I was able to say no to the creeps. And he asked to the Goodwins. So I actually can't believe I'm going to actually say this out loud, but I have a good friend of mine who gave me this advice.

She was the type who would sort of sleep with a guy on the first date, even though she made herself a promise that she wouldn't. Yep. And so she used to masturbate before she'd go out on her dates so that she would have, she would be satisfied and not sexually, you know, looking for it, so to speak. And it, it made her, allowed her to go into dates with a much clearer head.

And I always thought, well, that was pretty damn good advice. Right. I'm going to guess there's a lot more going on there. That's involved that probably, but even superficially with impulse control, you know, like even when I'm on a date with somebody, I just knew them and I'm having fun. Like I get so aroused that I can't control.

Like I'm driven by my body and my body rules me and I have to on that just because I'm feeling happy and excited. Like, can you feel happy and excited without having to be around? Could you go home and ask me after the date and not have to have sex with somebody? Cause you know, always what happens is they never call you again or they call you all the time thinking they can get sex.

Anytime you either way. It's not what you doesn't turn out the way you hope it would. Yes. And it's still women still do it. The whole Alltrade sex for love, because we're taught that sex is like what men's kryptonite. And so we think if I'm giving them this thing and I make it so good, then they're not going to have any reason to go somewhere else, looking for it, big as big as myth that women could swallow, but we do cheapens it and it makes them think like it's not worth their time.

And then if, even if you're there, the only one you're doing it with, I think it gives them the impression that you're giving it away for free. And then they don't want, why do they have to put in the emotional cost or investment? Because they're getting all the benefits without having to do any of the work.

Right? So they have no incentive.

Right. You got it. You got to honor your own value and not, not, I love what you say, cheapen. It, you don't have to like discount it or give coupons away in order to get people through the door to love you. Somebody that is worth their salt is going to recognize your value right away. And they won't ask for a bargain or a discount or a coupon.

They're not going to ask you to lower your price. They're going to know that you are worth every single penny. Very good advice. Very good advice. Now, what do you think of, what is your professional opinion,  this new generation of young adults has very different, maybe liberated more free ways of running their relationships. So I've heard a lot of conversation about polyamory, about having multiple partners within a relationship.

And maybe I'm a little just too ingrained in the most typical monogamy kind of relationship. And to me, I can't, you know what people do in their own relationships. There's none of my business, but at the same time, I want to understand what they're doing. And to me, it sort of seems like they're avoiding commitment, you know, like, yeah.

So, and there's a lot of ways that you can think about it. And again, like this isn't about judging anybody's choices. What I know is that it's kind of like, you know, relationships are complicated enough and it's, to me, it's like, you know, if we can't have a relationship together bringing in a third isn't necessarily going to make it more stable.

Or our marriage sex let's have a baby. Right? Right. You can't save the marriage with babies or real estate. I've tried that it doesn't work right now. That doesn't mean that it can't be done. And that there aren't people out there who do it successfully. I know that it requires a lot of emotional safety to be able to do it well.

But in my experience, the couples that have come to me who are considering the idea of polyamory, it is out of a way. It's almost like it is a little avoidant attachment. Like I don't know how to feel safe, really reaching and relying on you in a healthy way where we have healthy interdependency. So if I can't rely on you, then I'm going to reach out to someone else to have my needs met.

And the other person who doesn't want to lose them just says, okay, I'll, I'll do that because I don't want to lose you. And they go along. I find for a lot of couples that opens up a can of worms, like lets the genie out of the bottle. Then they end up regretting and then it's like trying to put the genie back in the bottle creates an enormous amount of pain.

So again, it's, it's not, you know, if a couple wants to do it and they come to me and they're saying, how can, you know, help us have this polyamorous relationship in a safe way, then that's what I'm going to work with them to help them do, because you know, that's their choice and that's kind of relationship they want.

And I'm about helping people create safe and healthy relationships. But I have also so far to date yet to meet anybody. Who's had a successful polyamorous relationship who didn't have an enormous amount of trauma or who even tried polyamorous relationships that didn't have an enormous amount of trauma.

And I've not, I've heard of people. I've heard of other people talk about people that they've heard of that have had a successful polyamorous relationship, but that sounds more like a myth and it's nothing I've experienced. And again, that's not true. Like it would implode, you know, the minute one person in the couple feels like we're in the triple, I should say, feels rejected or lonely while the other one is out gallivanting or doing whatever they're doing, then, then the power inequity or the safety inequity seems to be very problematic for me.

Right. It can, it can definitely become a competing attachment. And again, it can be very painful, but you know, that's not to say that it can't be done. Like I said, it takes an enormous amount of safety and security in order to do it well. And there are definitely the couples who do this need to have a lot of rules and boundaries that are clearly defined.

 Sometimes there's still like the main couple relationship within the triad and then there's kind of rules about how they engage with the third and it's agreed upon. So yeah, it's definitely not for everybody. And all I can say is that turning out to a third is if, if your intention to turn out to a third is to try to is because you don't feel like you can get your needs met in your current relationship.

 It's not going to help that relationship become safer or more connected. It will cause more damage and many people who try to go along with it, they that they're okay with it and then end up not being okay with it. And it's okay to be okay with it. It's okay to not be okay with it. It's just, can we do it safely where everyone feels connected and safe and secure.

 And if not, we have to be willing to look at that and address it. And I've ironically couples who have been securely attached. I have never seen them needing to turn outside to get their needs met because they're able to do that safely and securely within the relationship. The only time I've actually seen it kind of happened, which was less of a polyamorous relationship and more of a, like surrogate is like, you know, when there is a partner who maybe has some kind of Maybe like a physical debilitation or terminal illness where maybe they're not able to meet the needs.

They know they're never going to be able to meet those needs and they stayed together maybe. So that, that person with the health issues, as it's taken care of, has a sense of connection. Somebody loving care for them through the illness or maybe their end of life.  And maybe to provide like health care insurance and kind of stuff, but it's understood that,  the other person who's doing the caretaking is able to have another relationship to meet those needs that this person can't provide.

And it doesn't feel like a competing attachment and it's able to be done safely. So it seems like a totally different animal to me. Yes. Really depends on why a couple is doing it, what they're trying to accomplish.  If they're trying to do it to make a current relationship better, that is not a way to make it current relationship better.

You make a current relationship better by working on the current relationship. Right. But like I said, it can't be done. It requires again, an enormous amount of safety and all partners have to be in agreement and have to be okay with it. Yeah. Yeah. It's tricky. Tricky, tricky. Tricky tricky.  Okay. So I have another question for you.

So I think with the prevalence of the ubiquity of cell phones and internet in everybody's hands,  the porn industry, I think has skyrocketed. Everybody has access, and I've read a few articles over the past X period of time. That says that the ubiquity of pornography is changing expectations in the bedroom, especially with young people abuse and adjusted education, because we know that.

Foreign sex is not real sex. And we know that pornography is extremely damaging. There's all kinds of study and research that when people become like addicted to porn and they're chronically watching it, that it actually shrinks the brain, it changes their, their sexual script. It can also change the you know, if only they put this on the, on the box, on the label for the porn.

Yeah. It's a warning label. It actually causes erectile dysfunction because the sexual charge becomes with the screen and this, you know, particular kind of sex than anything. That's not, it it's, it's kind of, you know, like other forms of addiction. It's like, you get used to them. Yes. Certain amount of shots of tequila, and then eventually nothing else will do it for ya and no, and eventually not even that will do it for you need to have more.

You need to have more, so yes. Is it changing the pressure in the bedroom? Absolutely. Is it changing it for the good, no. And there's all kinds of research that backs that up. This isn't just, you know, I mean, if couples to decide to watch porn together as a part of their exploration and adventures, and, and there's a safe connection there, then that's their business, you know, but we, aren't talking about those couples.

We're talking about people who are pretty current porn Watchers, and then they expect that that's the way normal people have sex. Like real people have sex and it's not, and it's extremely damaging. It's frustrating for both people, the person who thinks they're going to get sex like that, and then can't get aroused.

And then they feel embarrassed because they can't get aroused. And then the person who feels like they got to live up to porn sex and says, that's not the way I want to have sex. And it's not natural for me. And, you know, create shame for them. And that's a very complex issue as well. Okay. I'm opening a lot of clan of cans of worms here.

Right? Wow. We covered a lot of stuff.  All right guys, hopefully this doesn't feel like you're kind of drinking from a fire hose right now. Like we just turned on so much information that it's overwhelming. So hopefully, maybe you just listened to this podcast in little chunks, so you can get the benefit of all the information, but hopefully it's enlightening or interesting or entertaining in the very least.

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. 

So for couples, are people struggling with sex and their relationship?  I think it is to figure out what your own beliefs are around sex, what your own emotional relationship is to sex and your body figure out what the blocks and inhibitions are that are holding you back and work through those blocks and inhibitions.

Talk to your partner, ask them what theirs are. Share your blocks. Open up the dialogue. If that feels too scary, go see a therapist, a good therapist.  And have them help you start to explore that it's got kind of like a guided exploration into your beliefs and the emotions and unpack those and start challenging them and help build that confidence so that you can go home and have those conversations.

So you can have an amazing and fulfilling sex life. And even if it's you're in a marriage and maybe you used to have really good sex and somehow over the years, it's gotten away from you and you guys haven't talked about, and it feels like it's too late. I promise you it is not too late.  I've worked with couples who have had a sexless marriage for 15, sometimes 20 years.

And they were able to have sex for the first time after our work together. So it definitely can be done. So don't count yourself out yet the key is being able to talk about it and bridge that disconnect and come together again. And it, it may be a little awkward and that's okay. But do it anyway and it'll get easier as you go.

No, no asking. No Getty makes sense. If you don't ask the answer's going to be no.  So how does somebody find a good certified sex therapist?  So a sect is one of the best resources to find a certified sex therapist, a S E C T. It's like the American association for sex educators, counselors and therapists.

Okay. But they have like, yeah, they have really hard requirements. And so somebody may still be a really great sex therapist that isn't certified through Asex, but, ASAP is a good resource. Otherwise I would say find somebody who is a really good. Couples counselor and kind of interview them about their own beliefs around sex and talk about what it is that you'd possibly like to achieve.

And if they would be the right person to help explore and unpack that because some therapists are very uncomfortable talking about sex, which is extremely surprising, cause we're supposed to do our own work and be able to be professionals and talk about anything your clients need to talk about. Right?

Yeah. And personality match just as you find a regular therapist to help yourself, you know, any couples therapist has to, you have to have an energy match, a personality match and feel comfortable. So it's okay to interview them and. Yes. Find someone who is highly trained, always my go-to models, emotionally focused therapy.

 It is the gold standard of couples counseling and that's backed by research that we've actually tested the interventions of the model and demonstrated them to be more effective than any other model of counseling. We know how they work and we know why they work. So I am a certified EMT supervisor and therapist.

You can go to  dot com I C E F t.com to find a certified therapist in your area. And again, still interview them, you know and find out if that would be inappropriate fit. But like I said, most sex, , therapy work is relational work. So somebody who can do really good relational work will be able to help you guide you through feeling safe, unpacking any blocks and having those conversations both within yourself and within your relationship or whoever your sexual partner is.

Excellent. And with that, I would like to thank you, Dr. Bell. This was really great. I was so, so excited that we were able to talk. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you so much for everyone listening. I hope that, you know, like I said, it was Infor informative, entertaining. Hopefully enlightening and you know, I hope that you can relate to them in the material.

And just thank you so much to those who are listening to this podcast. And you know, again, just want to reassure you that if things feel kind of hopeless in your relationship, it's, it's not always too late and don't count yourself out just yet. And but you do have to go out there and work on it in order for it to change.

It's not going to move on its own the whole that I just want you to have some encouragement and some reassurance that I've seen couples come back from this up all the time . Excellent. Thank you so much. You're welcome. Thank you.