Join Karen Washington, LMFT, in an interactive class discussing the aspects of sex no one ever told you about. She will cover a range of topics, including foreplay, orgasm, fake news, and other questions you may have but never asked.
Sex Tips for Exhausted Parents
While exhausted parents, especially those with demanding lives, families, etc., can feel as though sex is just one more thing on their proverbial to do list, it doesn’t have to be. Remember, once upon a time, sex was fun? That’s how you ending up with those never-ending bundles of energy you call children… having great sex.
Well, you can still have great sex as a tired, overworked parent.
How Sex Gets Relegated in the Relationship:
Part of how sex gets relegated to the back of the closet and forgotten about is because you’re tired. Time since exciting sex may have blurred that memory, and innovation got lost in transition.
How to Fix It:
However, trying something different and sneaking it in while the kids are busy/sleeping/away can reinvigorate some of the excitement that sex once held for you. Treat sex as special time for you as a couple by creating time for it like a date; call for a sitter, send the kids to grandma, or even just wait for them to be occupied/in bed can give you just enough time to get back to each other. I also recommend to my clients [sometimes] to plan for it like a vacation, and use it as something to look forward to. While planned sex doesn’t always sound exciting, if you think of it more like a trip you’re getting ready for, it might remove some of the stigma. When all is said, and done, you might not be so tired once you’re finished.
Here Are 6 Sex Tips for Exhausted Parents:
- Spoon position – A great position for when one or both of you is tired! You both lie on your side, with him entering from behind. This still allows access for one of you to reach her clitoris. The overall position does not require a huge amount of energy to pull off, once he is in. That part can provide a bit of work, depending, since it’s rear entry on your side. It is a great way to just be close, to feel each other. With a bit of tweaking, it is also a great rear entry position for deep penetration.
- Scissor – Another positon to be done with both partners lying down. She lies on her back, him on his side for entry. With one of his legs between her legs, it can provide friction for her clitoris. The position still allows access for either partner to provide clitoral stimulation.
- The T – If she is the really tired partner, she can lie on the bed with her butt at the edge of the bed. He stands in front of her to penetrate. This works great if the bed height and his height aren’t at odds. If he is much taller, try bolstering her butt up with pillows. It’s also great for a different sensation/angles of penetration, based on his height and her feet/leg positioning. If she needs external stimulation for orgasm, she will have to manually stimulate or grab a toy to help out.
- Reverse Spoon – Similar to the spoon, but from opposite ends. You both lie on your sides, but with his feet behind her head. Another good way to lay down for sex, but still be able to touch each other. If there is a foot fetish involved, this provides access to the feet during sex as well.
- Lazy doggie – Traditional doggy style, but for those with less energy. He enters from behind, but rests his (some, most?) weight on top of her during sex. Great angle for deep penetration. She may need a bolster under her hips for best results, and less energy spent.
- Face to face on the couch – Straddle your man while he’s on the couch, or sitting upright in some variety. Think cowgirl position, with him sitting up instead of laying down. If he is more tired, this allows her to do more of the work while they both still enjoy. Also gives him access to play while she handles the ride.
The Truth About Premature Ejaculation
The truth is, the assumptions and myths of one’s sexuality are set incredibly high. And although no one likes to talk about it, premature ejaculation (PE) can be a heavy burden to bare when you don’t know if you actually have it after that late-night WebMD search or those flashbacks to that one awkward night in College.
So, we’re going to bust those myths and get to the truth of PE.
First, What Exactly is PE?
Premature (also called rapid or early) ejaculation is defined by the DSM V as: a persistent or recurrent pattern of ejaculation occurring during partnered sex within 1 minute of vaginal penetration AND before the individual wishes it, for at least six months and present in 75-100% of sexual activities, causing significant distress, and isn’t due to other significant disorders/stressors in the individual’s life. Premature ejaculation (PE) can be lifelong or acquired. For the intents of this article, we will focus on acquired PE, which means the disturbance began after a period of relatively normative functioning sexually. While 20-30% of men report being concerned with their sexual longevity, only 1% actually qualify for the diagnosis. Premature ejaculation (PE) can be lifelong or acquired.
What Should I Look Out For?
Other factors to consider are if the PE is happens every time or only sometimes. Acquired PE can occur due to any of the following: neurological, genetic, physical illness, drug side effect, psychological distress, relationship distress, or psychosexual deficit skills. While this list is not exhaustive, it is a start in considering where to begin when dealing with premature ejaculation.
Who Should I Contact?
When starting with a client that reports experiencing PE, I recommend having him visit his doctor and/or a urologist to rule out that there could be a biological/physiological component to the disorder. Once all medical options are ruled out (or diagnosed and treated concurrently), the client may also need to be assessed psychologically about his PE. How long the problem has been a problem, who defined it as a problem to begin with, what his stroke/thrust number is (measured in strokes from entering the vagina until ejaculation; can also be measured in minutes), if any of this differs from when he masturbates, what is foreplay like for each partner, and what are the expectations that he has for his future sexual performance. A man struggling with PE may also be struggling with anxiety or depression, which can be addressed within the problem as well as life itself. How a man copes (or doesn’t) with stress, feeling down, or being anxious can be very telling.
Busting the Myth
Men are fed multiple myths that create the notion of these impossibly high standards that he must strive to meet as a man, especially sexually. No man is a 12-inch rod of hot steel that stays hard all night and makes a woman come just from pounding into her repeatedly. First, the average sexual experience is around five and a half minutes, from entry to end (Journal of Sexual Medicine 2005). Most women come from clitoral stimulation, not vaginal. Sex is also not just a penis in a vagina. Sex can be a multitude of definitions and ways to express desire and intimacy. Men need to know that there are other things that can be done for the experience to be considered fulfilling for both partners. As for size, well…. the average American male has a penis size of five inches erect, give or take.
Dr. Zilbergeld (1992) recommends that men spend time documenting these mistaken beliefs about sex and the negative flak he gives himself in response to not living up to those fictional standards. Part of the process of treating such things like acquired PE require getting the mind right and in line with the goals the man has for himself sexually. Low self esteem and/or lots of negative self talk will not enable a man to physically achieve his goals. The mind’s thoughts help create how people perceive the world. So, if thoughts are similar/equal to reality, negativity will only perpetuate the problem.
What Are Some Treatments?
Self love (masturbation) and partner love (sex) will also be critical components of treating PE. Be prepared: this conversation is very detailed and most find it embarrassing. Things to consider are: stroke, direction, grip, porn (or not), lube (or not). What about this is similar and different from sex with a partner? Learning about the variant levels of arousal and how quickly he goes from being soft to climax are vital pieces of information to pinpoint where to focus on learning how to extend those times/experiences. The goal is going to be keeping him between levels 4-7 range until he is ready to climax. He will need to practice how to stay in that range before bringing his partner into the treatment. However, while he is masturbating to learn to extend his longevity, he can find various ways to keep his partner happy too.
Think about where the sex life is. What is foreplay like? Does either partner have fantasies that could maybe be introduced to the repertoire? Start expanding the sexual horizon within the couple. Maybe he has great oral sex skills. Perhaps the couple has sexual interests that have never been addressed that draw the focus away from the longevity of penetration and can bring them enjoyment in other ways, such as toys or kink. Also, find out what his refractory time is, and if sex can be attempted right (or soon) after the initial ejaculation. Typically, men with PE have lower refractory periods and can go another round soon after.
This only provides an overview of acquired PE, and is by no means meant to be a substitute for treatment. If you (or someone you know) may be suffering, get him to talk to a doctor or a therapist. If he is distressed, he doesn’t have to live within those constraints forever. Treatment is available and can be quite beneficial. Check out aasect.org or psychologytoday.com for a list of therapists in your area that can be of assistance.
I am beginning to notice a chief complaint amongst both men and women is performance anxiety. Yes, you read that right… men AND women. Someone gets too worked up, someone has one bad experience due to too much alcohol or trying something new too quickly – anxiety. The anxiety then snowballs downhill like a caricature and now sex becomes a bad, even dreaded, experience. All it really takes is one experience perceived as bad, and that mistaken perception can bleed into subsequent endeavors. The anxiety looms larger than life, and the person suffering becomes avoidant.
I know it sounds like a cliché, but it is all in his/her head. Literally.
So, what can you do? Well, I will offer a few suggestions used with clients that can assist with performance anxiety.
- Visualize your success. People who visualize their successful endeavors first tend to be able to carry out said endeavor. You actually have to believe you can to be able to do.
- Believe in catastrophizing. Imagine the absolute worst case scenario in your mind for the next time you attempt sex. Worst possibility – sex doesn’t happen, right? Ok, that sucks. However, is it the end of the world? Can you and your partner do other things that will be enjoyable and pleasurable to you both? Yes. Sex doesn’t have to end with penetration and ejaculation. Be creative! Think outside the box.
- Get zen. How do you manage other stressful situations in your life? Do you head into a presentation completely unprepared and a ball of nerves? I don’t. When I am getting ready for something stressful, I subscribe to whatever behavior helps me manage that anxiety. Try music, meditation, or any other behavior that helps prepare you for sex without added to your stress.
- Have fun. Don’t focus so much on the end game. Sounds like what you might tell a kid, right? It’s not about the winning/losing, but about the game and sportsmanship…. Well, why do we lose that when we get older? If sexual activity were to cease being a race to the finish line, then maybe we could just focus on experiencing the pleasure of participating. Enjoy the in between by extending foreplay, or removing orgasm off the table for the night completely.
- Laugh. Taking oneself too seriously just leads to disaster. I’ve also written how important it is for couples to be able to laugh during sex. Things will happen that are not according to plan. Is one minor thing going to really ruin a whole night of sex for you two (excluding pain, etc, that prevents performance)? Make laughter part of the experience. Tickle each other – it actually helps lower defenses and laughing will release those feel good chemicals that will put you in a better frame of mind for sex. Plus, it’s kind of hard to be freaking out and worrying about what’s about to happen if you’re too busy laughing.
Post by Karen Washington, AMFT. Check out Karen’s bio for more information and how to contact her.
A blog about why marriages don’t work by Anthony D’Ambrosio has been popping up in my social media news feed over the last couple of days. You can read it here. His stance is that nowadays people are not equipped to handle marriages. While that may be true for some couples, it doesn’t mean that marriage as a whole doesn’t work. I’m a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and my practice is solely devoted to love – from helping singles find it to helping couples keep it (and make it awesome!).
Anthony has a limited perspective, almost an all-or-nothing take on relationships. It’s not as simple as falling in love and sharing your life with someone (if that were the case, I’d be out of a job). One of the messages I make clear to my clients is that love is not enough to sustain a relationship. If it was, the divorce rate wouldn’t be as high as it still is. My couples do love each other, so why isn’t that enough?
I’m a huge advocate of marriage education and teaching couples the skills they need to make their relationships the best they can be. More and more research shows that marriages can last, and they can remain passionate and intimate – and not miserable and phony as Anthony thinks. People need knowledge and skills to be better equipped to handle the current stressors battling modern marriages. I often ask my clients, “Who taught you how to have a healthy marriage? Your parents? Hollywood?” We all don’t have stellar examples or role models, but we can learn things to be a better partner, a better communicator, and have better intimacy.
Anthony’s points can be addressed and worked through, especially with some solid marriage counseling, research-based self-help books, marital workshops, etc:
- When working with couples, sex comes up a lot in my line of work. Yes, Anthony’s point is right that it is an important component and can be one of the most intimate things a couple can share. I’ve worked with sexless marriages and it’s not as simple as his take that couples simply neglect it; there are so many reasons couples don’t have sex. I often see mistaken beliefs that the passion is supposed to last without effort, you should only have sex when you’re in the mood, or you should never schedule sex. Some of my clients who are parents are scared that their child will walk in on them – something a lock on the door can fix. For other people, there is a lack of an emotional connection, which couples have to work on every day, even if for brief moments, since our busy, stressful lives get in the way of that. Some partners stop asking for sex because of the fear of rejection; it’s not that they deliberately want to neglect it. And if you think it’s easy, ask your partner for sex every time you want it and see how deeply vulnerable it makes you.
- With his point about finances, yes they can be a major stressor. Fighting about money, such as disagreeing to what degree money should be spent or how it should be spent, can slowly chip away at positive feelings and cause disconnection. But money and the stress around it can be managed to protect positive feelings and keep a couple connected – it’s what I frequently help my couples with. And you don’t have to spend a lot of money on gifts or vacations to feel loved and cherished. It’s not always about the money but about being thoughtful. I’ve worked with a lot of women who have said, “Anita, he could buy me a single rose and make me the happiest woman in the world. Just knowing he was about me is what matters.” What’s the cost of a single rose? $2.99? Have one less Starbucks latte and you’re good to go.
- For some of my couples, technology keeps them more connected to their partner. Being able to text throughout the day and stay updated on each other’s lives deepens their connection. For others, Anthony makes a solid point about feeling disconnected; my clients do tell me that they feel neglected and alone because their partner’s phone seems to be an extension of their arm. This can be worked through. I frequently talk with my couples about the importance of being intentional in their relationship or marriage. I encourage them to set aside time to talk with each other every day, to plan date nights and celebrate special moments in their lives. It can even be as simple as making the bedroom an “electronics-free zone” to carve out time for each other. If it’s not intentional, it’s easy to get caught up in family demands, work deadlines, general fatigue or other obligations.
- Social media is here to stay, and posting on Facebook or Instagram doesn’t mean you’re craving fame, that you won’t be satisfied with attention from only one person, or that your marriage can’t be sacred because everyone sees what you had for breakfast. I think we all look for validation, don’t we? And who doesn’t expect to get some kind of validation from their partner? He or she is the most important person in our life! But if we look to social media for that instead of asking or getting it from our partner, that potentially could be a problem. However it’s up to each person to decide the impact social media has on them and their relationship, to determine what’s healthy and what’s not, what works and what doesn’t. We’re all impacted in different ways, and that’s where effective communication is important, which can be learned if it’s a problem in your relationship. And as for keeping your marriage sacred, you can still post your photos while on vacation, where let’s say….you are renewing your wedding vows. What a hopeful thing for the world to see.
Love isn’t something that is self-sustaining. It has to be nurtured. It’s ok to get stuck and ask for help – whether from each other or a professional. We are wired to connect with a special someone. We want a loving bond full of trust, commitment and an intimacy that differentiates it from other relationships. And that, my readers, is something that is attainable for each and every one of you. Sometimes we’ll just need to get some extra knowledge and tools to get that, but marriages today absolutely work.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Some thoughts from Karen Washington, AMFT, Sex Therapist:
Following all of the recent hype around the release of the 50 Shades of Grey movie, and its related products (i.e. OPI released the 50 Shades of Grey nail color line, Sephora has a few 50 Shades of Grey makeup packages, your local sex shop has a variety of toys and accessories as seen in the book/movie), I got to thinking about Valentine’s Day – about couples, intimacy, and sex. 50 Shades had women (and probably some men) all over the world contemplating their current sex lives, and the sex they were reading about. I wonder – Why not go one step deeper this year?
Media and retail tell the same story every year at this time – chocolates, dinner, and lingerie. It is all very basic. I can be a huge fan of the basics, as they provide a great foundation. However, this Valentine’s Day, I would like to challenge our readers to venture behind the veil of their current sexual play and explore new levels of intimacy.
Have you or your partner ever expressed sexual desires or fantasies that have yet to be attempted? Have you or your partner been promising to do something sexually, but it just keeps getting postponed? If you answered yes, then this is for you… Why not this time? Think of it this way – if you try it for a holiday and it doesn’t work out so well, you at least tried it and have broken the proverbial ice for future endeavors. While not everything is for everyone, sometimes, practice just makes perfect. Let this Valentine’s Day be a chance for experimentation to see what you can add to your sexual repertoire.
Here are three suggestions to help you and your partner step beyond the norm and add a new twist. Some are going to be more beginner level, some will be a step into new territory, and for others this just may be a reminder of ways to spice things up.
Instead of hitting Victoria’s Secret up this year for another teddy or garter skirt/corset combo, have you considered dressing up for role play? A very naughty chef/server serving dinner, or a man in uniform delivering flowers could be a great way to introduce a little role play fun into your life. Maybe you both want to be in character – explore some of your fantasies and find some overlap, or a scenario that you both don’t mind participating in and see what happens. Or, perhaps you could pretend to be strangers at a bar meeting for the first time all over again.
Dining out versus Staying In
I take inspiration from all sorts of places. If you happen to want to stay in but want to add some flair to the meal, try one of these two scenes. #1. Pretty Woman – Julia Roberts had room service waiting wearing nothing but a tie she picked out for him and stilettos. ‘Nuff said. #2. In the Book of the Courtesans, there was an excerpt about a woman – she had dessert prepared on her body, and was wheeled out to the dinner table to her man. He was provided no utensils. While you may not have the funds to have a chef prepare dessert on top of you and then staff to wheel you on a serving tray to the dinner table, you can be creative here. Turn yourself into a small buffet. No utensils necessary… just hands and mouth.
Kink is defined as a person’s sexual tastes; a taste for sexual behavior that is considered unusual. I firmly believe in kink being accessible to all levels of people’s sexuality. Again, not everything is for everyone. However, different levels or varieties of kink can appeal to most people. While I would never encourage my readership to go so far outside their realm of comfort that he/she can no longer find it enjoyable, I do ask you all to challenge yourself just a bit. You never know what you might find enjoyable…. I am saying that if you two like toys, or have maybe had some exposure to them, perhaps you can try out a new couple’s toy for the holiday. Lelo makes a Bluetooth capable vibrator that works wonderfully for couples. The vibrator slips inside a pocket in the included underwear, and it can be controlled from any smart phone with Bluetooth. Great for staying in and playing around the house…. Or for the more advanced couple, perhaps wearing it out to dinner to increase anticipation until you two return home might be more fun.
For more sex toy ideas, visit: http://www.kinkly.com/sex-toys/couples
Whatever your hearts’ desire, whether it be new positions, enacting fantasies or a new toy – Make this Valentine’s Day about actually trying new things to take your intimacy to the next level.
– Karen Washington, AMFT