According to the New York Times article, Let’s Talk About Your Sex, I’m not alone. Even couples therapists don’t talk about sex.
Or at least, they didn’t until recently. And shockingly, couples therapists aren’t required to have any training in sex.
But there are provocative voices emerging in the field of couples therapy and the questions these therapists are asking and the ideas they are probing are gaining my attention.
A few months back, in a blog post titled, Your Brain and Love, I recommended Stan Tatkin’s book, Wired for Love. The premise of the book is that if you understand your partner's brain and attachment style, you can defuse conflict and build a secure relationship.
I am now reading Hold Me Tight, by Sue Johnson. She is the developer of Emotionally Focused Therapy and believes we are emotionally attached to and dependent on our partners in much the same way that a child is on a parent for nurturing, soothing and protection.
Both books emphasize safety, loyalty and attachment as the foundations for intimacy.
But the New York Times article also mentions therapist, Ester Perel, who I wrote about in a blog post called, Desire and Marriage: A Pardox? She believes that the current conversation around intimacy and sex are limiting, that while an affair can be an act of betrayal it can also be about expansion and growth.
Dr. Nelson, the author of The New Monogamy: Redefining Your Relationship After Infidelity, is also noted.
Both Ester Perel and Dr. Nelson believe that a marriage is not over after an affair. They are broadening the conversation, not speaking in absolutes, asking important questions. They are curious, studying.
In regards to an affair, Ester Perel speaks about being an investigator as opposed to a detective. A detective wants to know where and when and with who. An investigator wants to get to the meaning of the affair.
The New York Times article attempts to position Sue Johnson against Perel and Nelson and I’m wondering why we feel the need to turn their ideas into opposing ones, a battle of it’s either this or that.
Why can’t we look at their ideas as this and that?
All of the therapists mentioned above are adding to the conversation about what it means to partner with someone you love. They are changing the dialogue, challenging old rules and supporting new ways of being in relationship. Some of their beliefs (like how an affair can draw a couple out of deadness or that your couple bubble comes first, even before your own children) can feel frightening or downright outrageous.
But they are talking, stretching our beliefs, and I admire that.
Not too long ago sex wasn’t taught in school. People feared that talking about sexuality would encourage kids to have sex prematurely. But some were having sex anyway so why not educate them, give them information that could prevent them from contracting a disease or getting pregnant.
Dr. Nelson trains therapists to ask a couple about sex in the first session. “If you’re not talking about sex, you’re perpetuating the idea that they shouldn’t be.”
So in an effort to move out of darkness and into possibility, I agree, Let’s talk about sex.