We’re so excited to bring back our resident relationship expert, Tamara Adilman, MA, MEd, RCC.
We recently sat down with her and had a long discussion about relationships, her personal journey, and sex. (Yep, we went there.)
In this last part of the series we’re talking about sex baby. (Cue the Salt N Peppa). We asked all these questions and more:
Why are we scared to talk about sex?
How would you manage differing sex styles, preferences, or libidos in a relationship?
Is there a difference in terms of sexual issues between the LGBTQ and the heterosexual demographics you counsel?
What are your thoughts around sex, spontaneity and planning?
We can’t wait for those answers and more, so without further ado—let’s get into it! Make sure to scroll below and see what Tam is up to (hint: it’s amazing).
RP: Thank you for being back with us. Let’s dive in. In your opinion, why are couples hesitant or scared to talk about sex?
T: Probably ‘cause it’s culture.
RP: Oh yeah.
T: You know it’s everybody’s feeling. It’s not something that we’re taught as kids as something that’s positive. We’re not taught that being positive about being sexual or our bodies is normal and encouraged. So, I think that as we grow up there so much shame and it’s never something that’s really taught or modeled to us. We don’t know how to do that in our relationships unless its negative. Unless, you know, there’s a problem.
RP: Mhmm. Interesting. So, in order to have a healthy sex life what do you think needs to be present?
T: In the long term, because sex is usually really easy for about the first year or 2 years. [laughs] So, I’m skipping the romantic period and i’m going to talking about the long term because that’s the hard time.
T: People need to focus on their intimate and sexual lives like they focus on other parts of their lives. That’s time, that’s attention, that’s planning, and they need novelty in sex. You know, sex dies in boredom, when it’s always the same. So there needs to be novelty and excitement.
RP: So what would be some tips or how would you manage differing sex styles, preferences, or libidos in a relationship?
T: Well, first of all, accept that that’s the truth–they are going to shift and change. Because first of all start with accepting the reality and not fight it. That’s true. There’s always one person who has a differing level of desire in every relationship that I’ve ever, ever worked with. I’ve never met two people who are exactly the same–except for the first 2 years.
RP: When you’re both just crazy.
T: Well, yeah. You know and when we fall in love there’s about 12 chemicals in the brain that are being produced that makes us fall in love. It’s all of those chemicals. We habituate towards them so after about 18 months, when we’re back to normal, that’s when all the differences come up and that’s when all the problems come up both emotionally and sexually.
RP: Yes, that chemical haze wears off.
T: And once those chemicals dissipate, they ain’t coming back!
T – That’s the truth! You have to start off with accepting that’s true and then you need to find ways to meet each other’s needs. We can’t complain about how a partner shouldn’t be how they are, because they are! So, returning to the question, when it’s just different desires, and all of and bitchiness and tiredness and all of those things are acknowledged, sometimes adjustments need to be made. The person with the lower desire, for example, sometimes has to step up and meet their partners needs, even if they don’t feel like it. And the person with the higher desire sometimes has to understand that their partner isn’t always going to be into them and that they may need to satisfy themselves or have their needs met in other ways.
RP: Mhmm. Is there a difference in terms of sexual issues between the LGBTQ and the heterosexual demographics you counsel?
T: The lesbians definitely struggle way more with intimacy and sexuality in a long term relationship.
RP: Oh really? Interesting. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
T: You two really want me to go in on that? [laughs] Like, that’s a whole other topic!
T: The main issue with women is that they become so emotionally engaged with each other that the tension that is needed to be in the long term sexual relationship dies. They also don’t have the same testosterone that a straight relationship has, so a lot of times women become kind of best friends, then they stop being intimate or sexual. Okay, I’m being a major stereotype, but i’ve done it for so long I can write the story. Usually it goes like that and then they want to have an affair, then they break up, then it becomes a mess, and that happens all the time. So keeping that spark alive is tough for women. For two men together, they also have all kinds of issues around sex because they don’t necessarily want to to stay monogamous, or one of them does and one of them doesn’t, which I think is also about testosterone.
RP: That’s interesting.
T: In straight relationships, a lot of the main issues are women wanting to be more emotionally connected and intimate with their male partners and the men not really wanting that to the same extent. So their intimacy issues show up where men need to have sex to be close and women want to be close before they have sex. So then, they’re not having sex and there is this power struggle around it. Those are the 3 main differences with those particular populations. Besides that there are a lot, a lot, of similarities in terms of communication and other issues. Those are just the 3 ones that make the demographic difference. There’s way more struggles than that!
RP: What is one common struggle around sex and relationships you often see?
T: One other major thing about sex, where there’s problems, there’s often its power struggles related to other parts of the relationship. You know, withholding sex for example. “I don’t wanna have sex with you, I feel too tired or i’m not attracted to you.” or whatever really. It’s a power-play for a partner to get what they want, so sex becomes used in ways that are very, very destructive to a relationship.
RP: So true. And what are your thoughts around sex, spontaneity and planning?
T: In a long term relationship, you need to plan for sex. You know that whole thing around spontaneity is such BS! It doesn’t happen in long term relationships unless you’re on a holidays, right? [laughs] The reality is, you’re busy, you’re tired, it’s not just going to happen. If you say, “This weekend, we wanna try and create some time to be romantic and be sexual.” Then you can gear up for it.
RP: Mhmmm. We like to call it “planting the seeds” ‘cause then all week you know you’re kind of slowly revving the engine up to that time.
T: Exactly, you’re anticipating, thinking about each other, you’re being super sweet, you’re flirting, exactly!
RP: [laughing] So, if somebody wanted to incorporate a more healthy sex balance, or sex life, into their relationship, where would you recommend starting?
T: I think, have a pretty honest conversation about what their needs and their desires and their expectations are.
T: And then, have a vision that they can jointly agree on.
RP: That’s a great starting point. Any other points around sexual relationships you’d like to touch on?
T: There’s a lot of issues that come up in sex for couples that I think deserve mentioning. Trauma being one of them. For a lot of people in relationships, 1 or 2 people are trauma survivors. The amount of abuse, physical, emotional, and sexual, that children experience will always play out in an intimate relationship. In adulthood, you don’t have to be sexually abused to have issues with sex. Any kind of trauma is going to affect it. It has a massive effect on a lot of relationships. Think about what toll that takes on in an intimate relationship, it really can be destructive.
RP: This is such an important topic, we could do a whole feature on that alone!
T: I agree!
RP: We will have to plan that, but we’re just about out of time for today, before we go, could you tell us more about your upcoming IMAGO workshop?
T: I would love to. It’s May 26th-28th and it’s called, Getting the Love You Want. It’s all based on imago principals, it’s run all around the world. Over 100 000 couples have gone to it, i’m just certified to run it. It is the most amazing experience because it’s truly transforming, it’s not therapy, because nobody would come! [laughs] It’s demonstrations, it’s lectures, and it’s skill building. So couples go through a whole weekend of learning skills, dig down into their childhoods, talk about it all the way up to the end of Sunday where the focus is reconnecting and re-romanticising. We talk about how to change behaviour and make a commitment to that and really you just learn all about relationships. It’s amazing. We’ve been running it for 9 years, we generally always sell out. We have up to 18 couples and the studies show the workshop can be like getting 6 months of therapy in on weekend!
RP: Wow! That sounds amazing!
T: I can’t speak highly enough about it, it isn’t offered very often in Vancouver so it’s a great thing. My business partner and I who run this workshop, have both been therapist’s for 25 years. She is one of the foremost trauma experts in the country and has written several books, so she’s got the whole perspective for folks who have experienced trauma as well. It’s a really solid workshop for people who wanna do work.
RP: We love it! We can’t wait to offer that resource and we really hope our audience takes advantage of that for sure. Thank you so much for this Spotlight Series, we so appreciate your time!
T: Thank you for having me, it was lovely talking with you both! You’re doing amazing work here!
There you have it! Part 3 in our 3 part series diving into all things sex related. We love chatting with Tamara and, we don’t know about you, friends, but we took a lot away from this. Here’s our main power punches:
In long term relationships, changes in our sex lives are normal!
Open communication around sex, desires, novelties and planning are necessary.
As Tam so accurately warns, don’t make sex “a power-play for a partner to get what they want” it can be “very, very destructive to a relationship.”
We loved sharing this 3 part series with you! If you haven’t read the others, check them out here and here.
If you like these series with experts, let us know by leaving a comment below! What should we cover next?
Tam’s Upcoming Workshop: Getting the Love You Want – A Workshop for Couples
May 26 (evening) and May 27-28 2017. Liu Centre for Global Studies at UBC.
Tamara Adilman, MA, MEd, RCC
Tamara Adilman, MA, MEd, RCC has been a Relationship Therapist for over 20 years in Vancouver where she works in private practice specializing Relationship Therapy for couples of all sexual orientations. She is an Advanced Clinician and Certified Workshop presenter in Imago Couples Therapy and facilitates the Getting the Love You Want Workshop In Vancouver.
She has been with her partner Sarah for 32 years and they have two adult sons together. She has devoted her work life to helping couples learn to connect and heal together so that they can live in a conscious relationship with each other. She believes that intimate partnership is the most enriching and challenging relationship of one’s life and that everyone needs skills to navigate it. Tamara loves her work and is passionate that working with one couple at a time can change the world! She can be reached at 604-732-7344.
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