How to honor boundaries when you've lost that lovin' feeling?

Apr 10, 2017

Cathy: So what if desire or love is kind of waned? How do you bring it back and how do you respect consent and nos around that? This is Liz Powell from Sex-Positive Psych.

Liz: And this Cathy Vartuli from The Intimacy Dojo.

Cathy: And it can be really challenging because a lot of the advice out there is schedule a date whether you want to go or not.

Liz: Yeah.

Cathy: Spend time touching each other even if it doesn’t feel like you’re not really like, “Oh, I want to do that.” And I think some of that advice can be useful at times because it does help you to prime well sometimes.

Liz: Right.

Cathy: And where is that boundary between “I have a no” and “OK, it’s kind of a chore but let’s rekindle it. Let’s prime the pump”?

Liz: Right. It’s like I love running. I hate starting my run. Right?

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: Like putting on my clothes and starting to run is terrible. And then once I’m running, most of the time it’s pretty good, right?

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: I feel great after regardless of how terrible the run is. So sometimes you have to get through that phase of like putting on the clothes. I also think that a lot of people when they’re coming to this place where the desire has waned, there’s a lot of like either buildup resentment or things that they left unsaid that they haven’t actually work through yet. And it’s hard to start closing that gap when you haven’t acknowledged that it exists.

Cathy: You haven’t taken out the trash in five years and I don’t want to touch you.

Liz: Right.

Cathy: Versus, “OK, I scraped that up. I’d like to clean up but I didn’t take out the trash and I’m committed to hiring someone to come take out the trash for us. And now, would you like to go explore?”

Liz: And part of that is you have to own what it is that’s important to you and tell your partner. You have to say like you haven’t – you can’t just be like, “I don’t want to touch you because you never take out the trash.”

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: It has to be, “It’s really important to me that we have a clean house and I feel like I do a lot of housework around here.”

Cathy: And you’ve been cutting on integrity on your promise to take out the trash.

Liz: Right. You promised to take out the trash and I feel really frustrated when I feel like I’m following through on my end of the bargain and you’re not and it makes me less close to you.

Cathy: Yeah. I think being really – if we can be honest about the hurt we have in a way that owns our own feelings and not like, “You’re a really bad person. Look at all the bad things you did” which is hard. It’s hard. I recommend Reid Mihalko’s practice conversations. Find a friend say, “I need to practice and I would like you to hold me accountable.”

So first, I’m going to tell it in a blunt way, “He’s a horrible person and all the things.” And I just get it out. And then, “OK, this is how I’m actually going to try talking to this person. Do you have any feedback? OK, cool. That’s a good upgrade. OK. I’m going to do it by Tuesday and you can call me up if I haven’t done it.”

Liz: Yeah. And I think you have to clear that first before you can start closing gap.

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: Until you’ve owned what is it that space between you …

Cathy: Otherwise the resentment is going to be in the touch and it’s going to be there between you.

Liz: It’s hard to be vulnerable when you’re feeling resentful, right? It’s hard to be genuine and connected when you’re still holding on to, “And you never take out the trash.”

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: It pulls you back immediately.

Cathy: There’s basically a big bag of trash between you.

Liz: Yeah, there’s a giant bag of trash between you. The other thing I would say is that I think what a lot of people don’t do that in that space is give themselves distance between them and their partner to rekindle over. Like if you’re living with each other and you see each other all the time, it’s really hard to feel as much desire for your partner because there’s always there.

So think about the last time you felt a lot of desire for your partner. Was it a vacation? Was it something else you did? And think about what it was that helped you feel that desire. Was it where you were? Was it that you didn’t have to deal with the kids and like cleaning your own room? Was it that you keep going out to these really nice dinners and you were having these beautiful sensual meals?

Cathy: Or that you hadn’t seen each other for 5 days.

Liz: Right. Like they had just come back from a trip and you just were dying to see them. Figure out what those factors are and then move from there to design how you’re going to move forward.

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: Emily Nagoski in Come as You Are has a really great form you can fill out to help look at those factors.

Cathy: Yeah. So just kind of explore what your needs are too. Like if you each have things to say, “Hey, this is what I need right now today.” Just that vulnerability is really beautiful but also giving each other space even though they’re not always mutually compatible. Just giving each other some space to get those needs met, it can be really beautiful and a way to discover each other in the ways that you may never discover each other before.

Liz: You can also start sharing stuff that turns you on. Like if you love some erotica, you can like email your partner some erotica and be like, “I was reading this. Thought you might enjoy it.”

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: Or if you like porn, you can send them a link to some porn that you like. You can tell them what one of your fantasies is. But connecting with your own turn-on and then taking the step and the courage to share that with your partner can help start building desire between the two of you.

Cathy: And I believe in really conscious relationships. Think about, what does this person like? If you feel there’s a lot between you, is this really right or are you just trying to repair it because you think you should be in a relationship with this person? If you look at it and consciously decide, it might be something you sit down and like, “Why are we in a relationship together? What do we want to achieve out of this relationship?”

If you decide you want the relationship and you want to have a sexual connection to be part of that because you don’t – it doesn’t have to be then figuring out ways to explore each other and rediscover each other, that’s powerful because it’s a conscious choice as opposed to, “We ought to stick together if the worst is bad.”

Liz: Yeah. And I think so many people fall into that sunk cost fallacy of like, “Well, I’ve been with them for 5 years so of course, I need to try to fix this.”

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: Putting more money after bad does not …

Cathy: It doesn’t make any good relationship. It’s a bad fit to begin with.

Liz: Yeah. If it’s not the right fit, and it may have been a great fit to start with and now it’s not. People grow and change. The only thing constant is change. And if you have grown away from each other, that doesn’t make either of you bad people.

Cathy: Yeah.

Liz: But it may mean you’re not the right fit for each other anymore.

Cathy: Yeah. So I encourage you to explore that. We’d love to know what you think.

Liz: Yeah.

Cathy: Put comments below.

Liz: Absolutely. Comments below.

Cathy: And can we do a video about what if desire is really gone?

Liz: Yeah, absolutely. Let’s talk about that.

Cathy: Because I think it happens and painful topic but worth it.

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