Sex Therapy on Skype

I just got off a Skype call with a lovely couple who can’t make their sex life work. Married for just a few years and with a couple of kids, their intimacy is interrupted by occasional porn, premature ejaculation, and anxiety by self-judgement.

So I troop out lots of stuff that I know and some that they know too. Though on Skype they look a bit aghast by the objectivity of the ideas.

  • The brain is the sex organ and that the genitals are just the conduits.
  • Everybody has fantasies, its just that they are so often different.
  • Porn breaks trust but this has as much to do with the self-critical spouse as the partner.
  • Shared masturbation is a great idea when intercourse is a bit complicated.

I recommended that the couple talk about their fantasies and good memories. I suggested that the woman stimulate herself for several minutes each night before falling asleep. I helped them create a shared fantasy that was about their dating prior to marriage. I told them about the best positions for sex during pregnancy and how oral sex is often better for the wife than penile penetration. I advised them to give up the “ideal” of simultaneous orgasms for something more realistic. I told them that the woman should probably climax first to avoid premature ejaculation for the husband.

And then I remembered a great Harvard Medical article on “Tips to Improve Your Sex Life” and, sure enough, it says a lot better what I was thinking.

Still I was amazed what you could get accomplished on a cross-Canada Skype call. I hope the lines were secure.

Goodbye Clyde, it’s been nice to know you.

On December 31, 2018, I will be vacating my Clyde Avenue office to inhabit the warmer sanctuary of my home study in Gleneagles / Horseshoe Bay. This has been Carole’s therapy space for several years, so we will have to balance our days so that we are not stepping on each other’s schedules.

This will make some difference for some of you. It will mean a larger trek if you are coming from lands East, but closer if you are coming off the ferries or from Squamish / Whistler. People can still come on transit.

It will also mean better tea in fancier cups, mugs of fine coffee, and even carbonated water in wine glasses. It will mean that you will no longer see the torrents of the Capilano River while the eagles fish, but you will be sitting in front of the good feelings of a warming hearth.

So goodbye to Clyde and hello to Fox in 2019. (Throughout 2018, I will continue to visit with you on Clyde.)

Once you have visited in our home space, you will find it a step up in hospitality and a friendlier drive. Just down the hill in Horseshoe Bay you can have lunch or tea at the Butter Lane Café (our favourite), or the Olive and Anchor for dinner. There is still Trolls, Starbucks and other standards, but the local spots are best.

The extra time is about 10 minutes from my Clyde office. Our home is close to Whytecliffe Park, BC Ferries, Gleneagles golf course, and a half hour sprint to the Chief at Squamish.

So, if you are coming to visit with me anyway, plan on making a day of it. Walk on the beach, take some photos, drive the Marine Drive curves on the way home and stop off in Dundarave to shop.

Goodbye Clyde, its been nice to know you.

IWTA — “I Will Trust Again”

A woman approached me after I was speaking at a conference. She was wearing a bright yellow pin that proclaimed “IWTA.” She told me the story about her husband leaving her for her best friend. That was bad but that wasn’t the biggest problem for her — they were next door neighbours! Her husband moved his stuff over the fence and into a new woman’s bedroom and kitchen and bathroom.

She bumped into this new couple at Safeway and on Facebook and she found herself examining every car that drove into their shared cul-de-sac. There is a lot to the story, much of it tough and some of it inspiring; but to be brief, she made the decision that she would trust people again. She would even trust men. She would even trust best friends.

We all know that once trust has been betrayed, people will be less trusting the next time and some will never get over the betrayal. The degree of mistrust that is engendered varies between individuals and with the enormity of a particular betrayal. However, trust can be rebuilt with repeated positive experiences.

Note this: trust and distrust are experiences and not feelings. To cry, “I just don’t trust men anymore!” is to more truthfully say “I am still royally pissed off and I have not recovered!” The experience of broken trust produce fear – hurt – anger (this amalgam is “bitterness”). But trust is the practice of getting over through these emotions without overwhelming residue. If you have been abused by betrayal, you have to do something for the feelings to change.

Here is what I tell people who are trying to figure out trust and re-trust. The first step of re-trusting is to do anything with your bitterness. This is the process phase. Talk it out, pray it out, forgive it out, run it out, write it out — just get it out. Bark, bitch and belittle if that helps. Just don’t nurse it or hook others into saying, “Oh poor you.” Nourishing it builds a narrative that will never set you free.

Step two: do something you have not done before that is better than what you have done since you were betrayed. This is the initiation phase. Take up bowling (5 pin is fun), drink lattes in designer coffee shops three times a week and write an online journal with pics about the best and worst, join a cult (that is not really a good idea), do stranger interviews (see another post). The thing is, if you think of yourself as a Victim in life, then you will surely become one. Change your narrative. Get a tattoo that says IWTA and tell yourself that you can overcome rejection and stupidity — yours and his.

Step three is the toughest step: forgive the wretched rat. (You can tell by that description that I am undifferentiated and totally on your side.) This is the new beginnings phase. Forgiveness is hard. It is not a transaction (“I forgive you, you wretched rat!”) but a thought-out behaviour change. You decide to experience your pain, own it as yours and do something with it (see step two). Forgiving is bearing pain, deciding to face it and determining to change. Bearing-deciding-determining — verbs of re-trusting.

So you get into an intimate relationship and you are afraid, or you avoid intimacy because you are afraid. What do you do? You initiate. You start something rather than wait for the world to change. You make decisions based on character and consistency. You re-trust in increments over time. You let yourself feel and you wonder.

I think you can re-trust. I see it in my practice and sometimes in my own life. Take ownership and step-by-step face life. You can trust again.

Simplicity Can Cause Confusion

We have had 4 phones (2 home lines and 2 cell phones) and a bunch of answering machines for a bunch of years. Like lots of people, we are trying to simplify and reduce unnecessary costs. So we have cut the cord! No more landlines and no more cable. I don’t know how I will handle life without the NFL and NHL, but the Seahawks and Canucks haven’t been doing too well anyway.

So here is how to reach us. Our telephone is now Carole’s cell to talk or text — 604-209-4210  — and you can leave a message if she misses the call. But the best way to connect is through email at Carole@TheDucklows.ca  or Paddy@TheDucklows.caIn fact, I (Paddy) hardly ever answer the phone so email is the best.

Now Shaw has billed us $450 when we have a credit of 30 bucks. Simplicity does cause confusion.

Anybody want some serviceable telephones and answering machines for free? Give us a call at 604-209-4210. Or email.

Peace.

A Relationship App — Gottman Card Decks

Here is something I really like for couples. And it is free!

The Gottman Institute’s research-based approach to couples and relationships has developed a series of questions based on their theory of marriage and pairage. Inspired by the popular card decks from The Art and Science of Love weekend workshop for couples, this app offers helpful questions, statements, and ideas for improving your relationship.

Get the app, pour yourself and your partner a cuppa, and ask some hearty questions.

[If you wish to comment on this blog or anything else on our web site, please email me at life@theducklows.ca]

Gottman Card Decks App

Booking “A-Head,” Cancellation-Watching, Headaches and Other Painful Stuff

If you have tried to make appointments with me (Paddy), you will see a busy online calendar. Most of the folk I visit with book several weeks or a couple of months in advance. And, they book 3-5 sequential appointments to make sure that they get the times they wish.

I recommend that couples, families and individuals work to obtain appointments every 2nd week for several months. Booking ahead is the only way this works. This takes planning. It is head-work. Since I only work Mondays and Thursdays, my limited schedule makes it difficult for some to get the time they wish. If you use your head, it should work out okay.

I know that not getting hoped-for appointments is frustrating. I have had a few headaches over this as well. I respect your time and the effort it takes to create these visits. And you do create the visits – I don’t.

Some kindly folk ask, “Why don’t you add a day or so?” I go on and on about my grandchildren and how they need me (etc.), or how old I am. So don’t ask. You will get a sermon.

Did you notice that I don’t have a lovely admin person answering your calls? But the good news is that my online booking pro never sleeps or takes lunch breaks and works on stat holidays. You can book any time you want. My booking system will never get mad at you. You can also cancel appointments without guilt (but give me 48 hours or time to replace the hour) and reschedule around your exercise class.

Here is some stuff you need to know to make working with me a bit easier, therefore, less headaches for both of us.

#1 Book online for the first appointment you can get, and then book a bunch later (say 3 or 4) when time works on my calendar and your schedule. By the way, it is a lot easier to cancel or reschedule than it is to book – you do this through the emails you receive from my booking machine.

#2 Book “a-head.” If you need crisis counselling (urgent care within days) you will need to contact a crisis care line or Family Services. I used to supervise at a crisis line in Coquitlam and was a therapist with Family Services in West and North Van, and they are great. But for me, plan ahead.

#3 Watch for cancellations at least once a day and especially on weekends when most people reschedule. Today is a Monday and I had 3 cancellations over the weekend and 2 were filled. So I had an extra hour that was visible on my calendar. Go ahead and grab it.

#4 If you cancel without giving me 48 hours notice, or if I cannot fill the time, 2 things will happen. You will get charged for the missed time (sorry), and somebody else misses their chance for the spot. This is where headaches happen. I ponder and ruminate and then send an invoice. Shoot! I hate to do this. But I do. Then you get pissed off and start dissing me. I hate that too.

Finally, my “book a-head” photo tells you that I am on holidays — you can tell by what I am reading including “Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire”.

Back to vacating. See you soon.

 

[You can respond to this blog or anything else you see on my web site by emailing life@theducklows.ca.]

Good Ideas on Marriage Therapy (I wish I thought of them.)

I have been reading a book by Wendy Plump entitled “Vow: A Memoir of a Marriage.” Because I mention the book does not mean that I recommend it for your reading. In fact, I do not recommend it particularly.

There is a chapter entitled “The Efficacy Of Therapy” where the author designs a kind of therapy instruction card for couples in crisis. I would like to give some comment to the several things that she says. (The author’s words are in italics.)

One, everything doesn’t have to be solved in one session. And, in fact, it will not! Short-term marital therapy is usually 8 to 12, one or two hour sessions over several months, when we want the problem solved immediately. Sometimes it takes a couple 10 to 15 years to create an “unsolvable” problem and then the expectation is that through a few short conversations that all will be resolved.

Two, be clear about your need. I often sit with people who think I am reading their minds. I find this humorous – or at least I used to find it humorous – that people submit their intelligence to someone who is looking at them with care and concentration. Please do not forget that you are paying for concrete advice and not just consolation, so get what it is you want and need.

Three, remember that it is the two of you who matter most. It is very easy to allow the therapist to intrude herself or himself into the marriage. No matter how well trained the therapist is, he or she will have opinions and judgments and it is very important that the couple understand that they are there for them only. As Wendy Plump says, “it is you and your spouse against the world, not you and your therapist.”

Four, each person in the marital dyad needs to take some responsibility for the efficacy of your therapy. The therapist may be marvelous in every way but the therapist cannot make the changes that the couple needs to make. As the author says “put some serious energy into it. I admit to being lethargic or overly daft in the therapist’s office.” Often times the couple will say, we are paying you, make it work! The couple is really the experts on how their marriage can work as well as how their marriage is unworkable. The therapist collates this information and provides direction and support in the progress.

Five, be willing to hear that you screwed up royally and need to make amends and then make amends. It is so common to use excuses, or explanations, or “context” to avoid personal responsibility. Apologies and forgiveness can be very difficult for most people and it is especially complicated in the intimacy of couple conflict. In my experience as a marriage therapist, no one moves ahead without consistent and thoroughly thoughtful apology.

Six, there are many ways to get out of the woods. If you are not going forward in your marital therapy with one counsellor, you can switch. There are times when you need consolation and support and there are other times when you need confrontation and challenge. One counsellor may be able to do both but your therapist cannot read your mind – say what it is you want. Also, therapy is not necessarily better or more efficient then good friends, a supportive community, and the consolation and direction from healthy parents. There are many ways to get out of the woods.

Seven, and most important, understand that you can bear it. Of course, most of us do not want to bear the responsibility or challenge of change. We also do not want to bear the pain of the loss of ideals and covenant. But flailing about looking for relief will only make therapy more difficult and less helpful. A competent therapist will help a couple defuse their emotion and increase their thinking. At least, that is the goal. (Tell me if I am doing this!)

Wendy Plump summarizes that “therapy has its value, but it remains a stubbornly limited one. Even in the concert with all of our best intentions, therapy could not rescue our marriage. I’m not sure that therapy can rescue any marriage…. A therapist will listen and listen and listen, which is one of the things you need most. Rescuing the marriage seems a tall order. But there is a chance that therapy can rescue you. Perhaps the expectation should end there. It does seem like enough.”

“Vow: A Memoir of a Marriage” by Wendy Plump, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013.

 

[You can respond to this blog or anything else you see on my web site by emailing life@theducklows.ca.]

Gays (LGBTQs) are Welcome Here

This probably doesn’t need to be said. It is 2017 after all. But maybe I need to say it for me more than you need to hear it.

All our psychology and therapy work is gay valuing. We accept, affirm and advocate for all genders and make no discrimination. (Actually, I discriminate on smoking.)

Not only do we understand and accept gay people and their relationships, we advocate for men, women and children to be who they are, not what others think they should be.

No big deal in this culture and this generation. But it is a big deal for others, especially from other societies (e.g. African and Asian) and prominently religious communities.

Churchly people (Jewish, Christian, Muslim and others) are slow to accept newer forms of gender understanding and resist inclusion for lots of reasons. Mostly I think that religious folk are trying to please God and obey Scriptures as a priority, and misreading ancient, biblical documents is easy to do. Some read that the bible seems to argue for exclusion rather than welcome on gender matters, though that is not my opinion and is not the opinion of many world class scholars and ethicists. This makes faith groups more “homeostatic” (resisting change) than “morphogenic” (wanting change) to use Family Systems Theory words.

I think another reason is that the church has been a hospice for “ego dystonic” (this was a diagnostic category in the DSM) gays and lesbians. These people know they are gay but prefer to remain closeted and single, meeting their intimacy needs mostly within the church fold.

Clergy-led marriage is a big thing for church people (and many are persuaded that it is a pivotal dimension of the nature of faith) and they would argue that this is a privilege for men with women and women with men. I am not sure that church people oppose “pairage” (a term to distinguish gay marriage) as much as they are confused or uninformed. And the clergy don’t do much to clarify.

Speaking of uninformed, I have some decent references for those who want to follow up. The connection between psychology and theology is an interest of mine, so the resources below engage that fruitful tension.

So that is where I am. Out of date as I may be, and slow to understand as I am, I accept, affirm and advocate for the LGBTQ people who wish to accept our therapy and care.

 

[You can respond to this blog or anything else you see on my web site by emailing life@theducklows.ca.]

Notes:

http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/13/living/gender-fluid-feat/index.html

Richard Mouw and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott — Gay Marriage: Broken or Blessed? Two Evangelical Views

 

 

 

 

I Am Especially Fond of You

Carole and I speak of our love for each other often. Sometimes too much for me, but still appreciated. She also speaks of what she likes of me – that I am attentive to her, that I think outside the box, that I am freer than I used to be. And, of course, I tell her that I am especially fond of her and those particular ways of which I am especially fond of. It always evokes a smile in us both. I feel secure and I think that she does too.

We have been married a long time and I am glad for it. I expect her to love me – what choice does she have after all these years? – but to be fond of me, that is something more.

I loved “The Shack” when I first read it. It made me question, wonder and weep. I love the idea of a black, matronly woman as God! Paul Young wrote this book for his kids as a Christmas gift and in a short period of time many thousands wanted to know what he was telling his children: that God was especially fond of them. I think that is what I want in my life – to know that God is especially fond of me. I know that this is what I want from my wife and my children. And I want them to know that I am especially fond of them too.

I know that I am not especially fond of me. Perhaps that is why to have God and others orient toward me in this way is a wonder.

Many people I see in my counselling practice don’t have anyone that they think is especially fond of them; spouse or child or friend or God. So they try to be perfect, hope to cause no offence, work to be right most of the time, hide from any conflict, all in the hope that someone might read through these adaptations and, perhaps, that the someone will discover something to be fond of.

Sound like you? Maybe sometimes.

Like the beautiful woman I met who had all the augmentations done to her face and body but could not find a man who was fond of her – the inside her. Or the painfully narcissistic young man who entranced everyone but could not make a relationship that would last. Or the grandfather who criticized his children and grandchildren and could not give up “correction” (as he called it) for fear that his loved ones would turn out as empty as him. How un-fond of a man to himself and his progeny.

But to be found as a person who is fond of others and to have others be fond of them. That is amazing.

The Shack movie is coming out shortly and I expect to be disappointed. Unless I discover again that God is especially fond of me and of you. I hope so. I believe so.

 

[You can respond to this blog or anything else you see on my web site by emailing life@theducklows.ca.]

Who Are You Going to Please?

Most of us are people-pleasers. We will please almost anyone if it keeps us from pain or adds some “bling” to our lives. Ministers can be terrible people-pleasers; but they don’t seem to know who to please, so they try to please everybody or ignore anybody.

One pastor I know would lie in a fetal position behind his office desk on bad Sundays after his sermon, crying and hiding, hoping that no one would find him. Not only was he not found, he almost lost himself and his family.

Today we speak of “boundaries” – that is, to think and reason who you will let “get in” your soul and in your face; who you will trust and who you might wish to please.

Here is something about Jesus that reflects on this: “All [in the synagogue] spoke well of him [Jesus] and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.” [and then, a little later] “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this [what he said]. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill … in order to throw him down the cliff” (Luke 4:22,29 NIV).

Interesting isn’t it? We may try to please people and then they inevitably turn on us. At least they did for Jesus and they probably will for you if you stand for something worthwhile.

Psychologists say that people are motivated by the appreciation of others, especially significant others, like parents or bosses or God. But not everyone will be pleased by how you live your life and so you have to choose who matters. Who will you please?

When I was hired as the team-leading pastor of CapChurch in North Vancouver, I boldly said that I would do all I could to please God, and satisfy my elders but I wouldn’t overly labour to please the pew-people generally. I figured that I would dissociate running after all these people’s whims, worries and wants. 16 years later I think that was a good decision. And I have learned that pleasing your spouse is a good idea and in so doing you are often pleasing God in the bargain.

This is not to say that we (those who decide who they will please) need to be rabble-rousers or demagogues. But it’s not like the English bishop who once remarked, “Everywhere Jesus or Paul went, there was either a revival or a revolution. Everywhere I go, they serve tea!” (An old preacher’s story. Who knows if it’s true.)

I don’t want to be like that. At the end of the day, I want my life to count for something and for a long time. This will mean I am going to run into opposition somewhere along the way. And, knowing me, probably a lot of it.

 

[You can respond to this blog or anything else you see on my web site by emailing life@theducklows.ca.]

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