Often when we talk about sex, particularly early in the relationship, we think, pleasure. But sex isn’t always wonderful. Stay tuned, as we discuss sexual incongruency … on Frank Relationships.
FRANK RELATIONSHIPS: SEXUAL IN CONGRUENCY
Guests: Dr. James Wadley
Date: January 13, 2013
Frank: Often when we talk about sex, particularly early in the relationship, we think pleasure. But sex isn’t always wonderful. Stay tuned, as we discuss sexual incongruency on Frank Relationships.
Welcome to Frank Relationships where we provide a candid, fresh and frank look into relationships with goals of acceptance, respect and flexibility.
I’m Frank Love and you can find me, my blog and my various social media incarnations at franklove.com.
Once again, I’m joined by my co-host, Dr. Gayle. She’s smart, she’s beautiful and as always, she’s going to bring her unique brand of psychology to today’s show. And based on all the grumbling that I’ve heard her spout about past loves, she might not let me get the mic at all today with all of her questions. What’s up, Dr. Gayle?
Dr. Gayle: Hey there, Frank.
Frank: Many of us spend years and years working towards having that life partner that fulfills all of the needs that we ever dreamed about.
We may want the partner that will shower us with attention, cook for us, come to our rescue, bring money, that missing happiness and oh yeah, to have great mind-blowing, earth shattering sex with. Fast forward to actually being in a relationship, we might get married or commit to being monogamous and guess what? The loving is horrible. Yep, yelp, she just lays there and you hate that. Or he won’t perform those oral exercises on your nether regions and you always said that was a necessity. Yep, it’s not all good in the bedroom and your partner won’t do it in the car. What’s one to do? Well, I got an idea. Let’s go see a sex therapist. And that’s where my guest appears. You can pick up one of his two books, you could check out one of his many articles or you can spend the next hour with us on Frank Relationships; navigating many of the sexual issues that we struggle with. So, if you want to know what he thinks of fetishes, what he recommends to clients who seek the best organism possible and if unselfishness is critical to good sex, then join me in welcoming author and marriage, family and sexuality therapist, Dr. James Wadley to our show. Greetings.
Dr. Wadley: Good morning, Frank and Dr. Gayle. How are you two doing this morning?
Dr. Gayle: We’re great. How are you?
Dr. Wadley: I am doing excellent, excellent, excellent.
Frank: A little background. You got kids? You married?
Dr. Wadley: I have one son who’s 13 and I have a little one on the way.
Frank: Very nice.
Dr. Wadley: And I am married. I’ve been married for maybe about three and a half years now.
Frank: Okay. Background. Tell us about that doctor that comes before that first and last name.
Dr. Wadley: Yeah. I went to undergraduate at Hampton University and majored in psychology was blessed to be shown the way to be allowed to go to University of Kentucky. And I have a concentration school psychology, and long story short, I applied and got into a wonderful program at the University of Pennsylvania. And that program was human sexuality and education. And that program taught me how to teach about sexuality as well as conduct research.
Given the valued nature of sexuality as well as the sensitivity, there is a particular skill that is needed in order to talk about sensitive issues. And so, I spent six years there at the University of Pennsylvania and I got my Ph.D. And then, I did another four years clinical post-grad work at Thomas Jefferson University, counselor for relationships, honing my clinical skills and working with individuals, families and couples. And so, by trade I am a marriage, family and sexuality therapist and I’m licensed in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. And I my clientele comes from as far north as New York City to as far south as the northern part of Maryland.
Frank: Wow. And you have written two books, one of them the title I absolutely love, Would You Marry You? Tell me about it.
Dr. Wadley: So, I had a number of couples who would come in and they would talk about the dysfunction in their relationships and they would spend an inordinate amount of time pointing the finger at their partners. So, in one particular case, I had a guy who was blaming his wife for whatever it was that was going on in the relationship. I can’t remember exactly what it was. The wife was blaming her male partner and so, at one point I reached somewhat of an impasse and so I said to the guy, I said, “Knowing what you know about yourself, would you marry somebody like you?” So then he got really quiet, because I don’t think that he’s ever considered his dysfunctional contribution to the relationship. And so he said, “No, I wouldn’t.” So, then I counter with, “Well, if you wouldn’t marry yourself, how could you expect someone else to be willing to marry you based on the behavior that you evidence in the relationship?”
And so, I started using, “‘Would you marry you’ as a therapeutic tool with my clients and I decided to put it together in a book. So, I started writing the book and I started to write in somewhat of an extended narrative about dysfunctional relationships and self-love and I realized that my friends and family weren’t going to sit still and read a 200 – 300 page book about relationships, because most of my friends and family, their attention is somewhat short.
So, I decided to put it together in a coffee table book and what’s nice about it is that you can pick up that particular book and start having a conversation with your friends or families or loved ones about whether or not you would marry yourself and as you have that conversation, hopefully you would be willing to listen to other’s feedback of how they experience you in that family or friendship or romantic relationship. And the sales have been absolutely tremendous, absolutely tremendous.
Dr. Gayle: I love it. We love the title, Dr. Wadley. And do you find that oftentimes people, after they’re in a relationship, that’s when they want to change things about their partner?
Dr. Wadley: Well, yes and no. People make the assumption that the–I guess it’s two-fold. People make the assumption that when the person who enters the relationship will be the same person 10 years and 20 years down the road and the short side of that is people change over time. People’s interpretation of the relationship changes over time and people’s partners change over time. So, how could anyone expect their partner to be the same way five years, 10 years, 20 years from now?
Then there are other people who expect their partners to change and what happens is that people have somewhat of an idealized view of who they think their partner should be, meaning that as a woman, I may want my knight and shining armor to sweep me off my feet and ride me into the sunset, but when I find out that my partner smokes weed and drinks alcohol, gambles and curses his mama out, I may think that I need to change my partner in order to get him to be who I think he should be.
Dr. Gayle: Right.
Dr. Wadley: So, a lot of times couples run into challenges with accepting who they are, accepting who their partner is and accepting the direction that the relationship is going to go in based on those two individual values that are brought to the relationship.
Frank: You noted when you were talking about the book, Would You Marry You, that you came to an impasse. Was that a personal impasse as a therapist, where you were saying basically, “What in the world is going on? You guys are crazy.” Or was it an impasse between the parties, where both of them just sat there with nothing to say?
Dr. Wadley: I would probably say it was both. It actually came during the third session. What happened was, again, both partners continued to blame each other for the dysfunction in their relationship and I, therapeutically, I couldn’t get them to hear what the constructive feedback that the other was giving them. And so, when I realized that I needed to help them reframe their experience in the relationship, which is, “Rather than me blaming you for not washing the dishes, it’s about what’s going on with me and that I don’t wash the dishes?” Or “I’m not willing to help you wash the dishes.” So, once I was able to help them reframe their experience in the relationship, then I was able to create some movement.
Dr. Gayle: Do you teach people how to live in their dysfunction?
Dr. Wadley: Do I teach people how to live in their dysfunction? If people are coming in to see me that means that there’s usually something wrong in a relationship. And if there isn’t wrong in a relationship, there may be a different interpretation of the relationship that needs that may need to happen. Meaning that–and let me use my dish washing example, which is, “You and I are in a relationship, neither one of us wants to wash the dishes. I’m mad at you, because you don’t want to wash the dishes. You’re mad at me, because I don’t want to wash the dishes. So, rather than me trying to get you to do that, why not reframe that experience as ‘What is it about us that keeps us from washing the dishes together,'” or “What is it about the relationship that keeps me from washing the dishes?”
So, a lot of times people are willing to live in their dysfunction, but if they are, it just may take for them to reframe what may need to happen. And in addition–let me add this caveat–is that sometimes the dysfunction becomes functional; meaning that “I’ve been living in so much dysfunction all my life, that I don’t realize that my life is dysfunctional.”
Dr. Gayle: Right.
Dr. Wadley: So, last night I had a couple who came in and they’ve known each other since middle school. Actually, they’re not married, but they’ve known each other since middle and the guy has a friend who he’s known for 15 years. But the female partner didn’t know that the guy had this friend for 15 years. And so, last night we spent time trying to talk about what makes this secondary relationship toxic to the primary relationship? And so for the guy he said, “You know, what’s the problem? This is my friend. No, I haven’t brought him around the house. No, I haven’t introduced this other person to the kids, but this is my friend.” So the female partner was saying, “Well, look if she’s your friend then bring her around. What’s the problem?” So, oftentimes people don’t realize that the way that they behave dysfunctionally, that it is dysfunctional or toxic or traumatic.
Frank: How do you know–or is it necessarily toxic to the relationship, that other friendship?
Dr. Wadley: For this particular couple, yes it is. Only because of the secrecy that’s involved with it. It’s not so much that this person or other people have friends; it’s that friendship wasn’t and refuses to be revealed to the primary partner.
Dr. Gayle: And I’m glad you said that Dr. Wadley. I was having a similar conversation with a couple of friends last night and one friend was stating that the reason in a similar relationship that you have with your clients, how–and Frank you can get on me–men, they don’t realize that having a friend of a different gender outside of a relationship is toxic, because oftentimes he’s sharing intimate details about the relationship with this other “friend” and the reason why the primary partner becomes upset is because it is a secret and she doesn’t know what’s going on with this other relationship. So, it’s kind of like, “Why are you doing this? Why are you disclosing the secret information about our relationship about me with this other person,” and how that hinders the primary relationship. And then sometimes or oftentimes it seems like men don’t get that.
Frank: Men, okay. Women get it, but men don’t get it. Alright.
Dr. Wadley: Well, I try not to create a monolic] 14:09 around what men do and what women do, because I would imagine there’s some women and some men who do that.
Frank: Thank you.
Dr. Wadley: And again, the toxicity comes from the secrecy that’s involved. And so, with this particular couple, they really struggled to kind of come to terms and see eye-to-eye about who safe friends might be, meaning that the guy may have Johnny, Joe, Sarah, Sue or whatever and that may be considered the safe friend, because those people are allowed to come to the house and the guy has shared not only his life, but they also share their lives. But as I mentioned before, what makes this particular triad difficult is that he hasn’t been willing to reveal the other person to his female partner. She wasn’t revealed until she actually came over to the people’s house that secondary person didn’t know that the guy was in a relationship with his primary partner.
So nevertheless, it’s a challenging snack food that we’re going to have to untangle; hopefully, over a few sessions rather than many sessions.
Frank: Well, let’s untangle it a little bit here on Frank Relationships.
Dr. Wadley: Okay.
Frank: Are secrets necessarily a problem in your relationship?
Dr. Wadley: Well–
Dr. Gayle: And how does that play into monogamy? Or does it?
Dr. Wadley: Well, I guess I can start off by saying families place different values on honesty and disclosure or secrets. Right? So, for some families, “I parade under the offices of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,'” meaning that “If you don’t ask me the right questions, I don’t have to tell you what’s going on in my life.” So, that’s one set. There’s another set of families where couples or families believe that, “I don’t want to know the dirt you get into. I don’t want to know the dirt you get in when you’re out of my eyesight. So, while I’m in your eyesight, as long as you’re respectful, as long as you’re nice to me and the kids and the family, I don’t care what you do when you’re outside my house.” Alright, so that’s the second set. And then the third set of folks, they disclose everything. Which is, “I want to know what you think, how you feel and how you behave across the board. If it happened to you in the street, if it happened to you at your job, if it happened to you down the hallway or at the neighbor’s house, I want to know everything that you thought of, everything that you felt and everything that you did.”
Now, in terms of how that plays out with monogamy, is that people have different interpretations of monogamy, which is, “I can be physically, emotionally and sexually monogamous with you and I’m not going to do anything with anybody else. Meaning that I’m not going to form some sort of attachment or strong emotional attachment with anybody else.”
But what happens is that couples and people interpret monogamy differently over the course of the lifespan. So, earlier you heard me say that “people change over time.” People’s definition of monogamy changes over time. Meaning that “You and I decide that we’re going to be monogamous and I’m not going to see anybody else and we’re going to put these rings on our fingers and we’re going to stand before God and God Allah, Yahweh or nature and say, ‘I do to one another.’ But if I go to the bachelor party or if I go to the bachelorette party and I got somebody slinging their junk in front of my face, am I allowed to touch it? And if I do touch it or do whatever with that person, does that mean that I’ve comprised my vows?” Some people may say yes, some people may say no, but what happens is most couples don’t talk about some of the idiosyncrasies or intricacies that happen in everyday life.
And so, I’m going back to what I said earlier in terms of honesty and disclosure. When people don’t talk about what’s going on with them and then something is discovered down the road, that’s what make circumstances toxic/traumatic, in that “If you didn’t know that I was out running the street with Johnny, Joe and Sarah Sue and I’ve been promising you that you’re the only one that I’ve ever been with.” That’s when it becomes traumatic.
Frank: You said, “Families place a different value on honesty.” When you’re looking at issues like honesty, is there really a such thing as “a family” or is there maybe a family culture? Or at best, there seems to be just simply–when we’re talking about the mother and father or the couple, they’re just two people. And that there’s no real family that has a value on honesty, there’s one person and there’s another person and they have to figure out how they’re going to communicate with one another. How do you differentiate between the two in terms of looking at the family as having a culture, when in fact, the two people are different?
Dr. Wadley: Right. And if I’m interpreting your question correctly, is that individuals have their own values in terms of honesty as well as disclosure.
Dr. Wadley: And when those two people come together, it’s assumed that they’re going to talk about what honesty looks like in a relationship.
Frank: I’m not necessarily saying that.
Dr. Gayle: So, I wanted to interject and say that don’t people do that when they come together? Well, obviously people don’t, because they have issues in their relationship and so forth, but isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Isn’t that how you function in a relationship? Otherwise, you remain a separate entity and why would you enter into a relationship with someone else?
Dr. Wadley: It just depends on the type of relationship that you want. So, let’s say you and I are going to be together and we talk about, we’re going to be honest with each other and we’re going to share everything. So, then you come into my office and I hear you say, “James what are you doing?” And I say, “Well, I’m working on my taxes,” and you look over my shoulder and see that I’m lying on my taxes about how much money I made every year. So, you have the opportunity to say, “Hey, I thought you were an honest man.” And I say, “Well honey, I’m honest with you. I’m just trying to make sure that we save some money for next year.”
So, with that, there are different contexts that people will be honest with one another or with other entities and oftentimes that construct of honesty can be traced back in people’s families, so if I ask all to do a genogram or family tree, you can see what you learned from your parents, your grandparents, your great grandparents about the construct of honesty. Meaning that, “I think it’s okay to be honest with my wife, but then it’s also okay if I lie on my taxes or lie about how fast I drive or lie about whether or not I had a drink. And then, if you look at my parents, you’ll see that well, my dad didn’t necessarily lie on his taxes, but he used to lie to my mom about his whereabouts and because my dad learned about the value of honesty from his grandfather and his grandmother that it’s okay to lie in some circumstances, but it’s not okay to lie on others.”
So people make the assumption that their partners are going to, I guess, be honest across the board, and hopefully that is the case. In a perfect world that’s the case, but sometimes people aren’t comfortable sharing whatever it is that’s on their mind with their partners for different reasons. And that’s what keeps people somewhat disengaged, because they aren’t willing to share.
Frank: Well, let’s add to that scenario, that he’s irritated by her looking over his shoulder and commenting about his reported income on his taxes and so the next time she comes to look over his shoulders, he says, “No, stay on the other side of the desk, I don’t want you over here.” How do you deal with that wall that he puts up? Or you can look at it as that wall that he’s created or that she’s created by making their partner uncomfortable.
Dr. Wadley: Right. Well, it’s assumed that the other partner would be uncomfortable. So, if I’m saying–
Frank: Why is it assumed?
Dr. Wadley: Because, sometimes people don’t want to know the truth. So, if I know that you’re a liar, you’re a cheat, you steal and do all other kinds of crazy things, then chances are, I may not want to be with you. And some families and some couples are okay with not knowing everything that their partners do. Meaning that, “As long as it’s not in my face, I don’t have to deal with it. And you treat me with respect, I’m cool with it.”
Dr. Gayle: And what type of projection is that? That the person is okay with it, they’re cool with it. Is that something within themselves?
Dr. Wadley: I would say chances are they learned that from either their family or some other entity in their lives that knowing everything–and sometimes people just don’t want to know everything. So, if you give them the opportunity to know everything, then they say, “Oh, I really didn’t want to know that.”
Let me see if I can come up an example. So, let’s say you’re married to somebody and this person is the apple of your eye and you love to spend time with them and they’re good with you, they’re good with their family or whatever else and then you find out somewhere down the road that the person, I don’t know i–we threw out fetishes earlier–has a particular fetish that was never revealed to you. And I think I shared with your co-host earlier or yesterday with the production manager. I said, “Suppose you find out that your partner enjoys licking armpits somewhere down the road. Now, some people–
Dr. Gayle: Right.
Dr. Wadley: Some people welcome that information and they want to know everything about their partners, but other people don’t, because if you found out that I had a particular fetish or a particular lifestyle, then you would have to reframe your image of who I am or the position that I have in your life. And so, again, people don’t always want to know everything there is about you.
Frank: You’re right and I completely agree. The place I’m working on excavating is the issue around honesty. Not just honesty but also there’s a responsibility, almost, that comes with honesty. So, if I’m honest with you–if you want me to continue to be honest with you, you have to be able to handle my honesty in a way that I’m comfortable with, because if I’m not comfortable with it, well, I’m not going to continue to be honest with you in that manner. Now the flip is, if you want me to be honest with you, you have to also be the person that–I mean, it’s kind of the same thing–you have to be the person that I am willing, I’m comfortable revealing myself to.
So, there are two responsibilities if you want it to continually work. There’s mine in terms of demonstrating and revealing who I am and there’s yours in being able to accept who I am, in a way that I’m comfortable with, because if you’re not, I ultimately won’t continue to feed it to you. Now, comfortable is relative. You could go off and cry and be irate, but if that’s okay with me, then I’ll continue to reveal myself the way I am comfortable revealing myself–
Dr. Gayle: And I actually, for once, agree with you, Frank.
Frank: Okay. Alright.
Dr. Gayle: And I think the issue is vulnerability, though. Like people these days oftentimes have a difficulty with being vulnerable and being open. We say we want to be 100 and we want to keep it real and keep it 100 or what have you, but Dr. Wadley, do you find that people really believe that?
Dr. Wadley: Yeah, a handful do, but when the rubber hits the road, sometimes they don’t. And what I mean by that, I’m thinking of actually another guy that I saw yesterday. We were talking a number of partners he’s been with. He started dating this woman last year and he was also dating other people. He never said to her he was going to stop dating and so, by his definition, they’ve been together for the past three months. By her definition they’ve been together for the past year.
So, over the past year, he’s been with–on the short side, 10 different women, while he was dating her. So, yesterday I asked him would he be willing to reveal the number of women who he’s been with before he decided to be committed to this relationship. And he said, “No.” And I said, “Well, what’s the difference between this relationship and your previous relationship? Because in your previous relationships you didn’t disclose–you felt confined and you had to live up to this idealized notion of who you thought your partner thinks you should be. I said by revealing everything that you’ve done, now you remove the shroud of being this knight and shining armor and you can be human and be yourself.”
Dr. Wadley: So we–
Frank: Well, what makes the shroud? What makes the shroud that he’s wearing by not revealing–equivalent to being a knight and shining armor?
Dr. Wadley: When people date other people, they want to put their best foot forward and so typically people won’t put out the shortcomings or the idiosyncrasies of who they are. And what happens is that people fall in love with that idealized view of who they think their partner should be or could be or who they are. And it doesn’t happen until later on that you find out that, “Hell, when I use the bathroom I don’t clearly wipe myself and I leave streaks in my drawers.” So, with that it takes time as well as a level of comfortability for people to say, “Look this is who I am. This is what I got going on and you can accept it or leave it and that’s what it is.” But most times that would sometimes be, I guess, somewhat of a non-romantic or unflattering conversation, if I did reveal to you that I struggled with, I don’t know, feeding my cat and my cat walks around here hungry. So whatever it is–
Dr. Gayle: Well, how do you help your clients get to a place of being completely open and being vulnerable and keeping it real. How would you help that young man get to the point where he’s open should that have happened at the beginning? Like some people say, “Well I don’t know. I’m not sure. I really don’t know you yet, so I can’t be completely honest with you. Let’s wait a little while.”
Dr. Wadley: Right.
Dr. Gayle: Do you wait a little while or do you, let’s say, disclose who I am upfront, so on the front-end the other person can decide if they want to enter this relationship or if they want to keep moving?
Dr. Wadley: Right. For my clients, I invite them to disclose upfront, because the more you disclose upfront, it gives you the latitude to be who you are. And the longer you wait, it may make it more difficult for you to say that you’re into this or into that or whatever. And so, a lot of times people are not necessarily comfortable with the challenges that they may have had in their lives or previous dysfunctional or toxic relationships or various political stances or whatever. And so, a lot of times people don’t feel comfortable with that and so with my clients, we spend time talking about why they don’t feel comfortable revealing who they are; because people are going to have their opinion of you regardless of who you are or what you do. So, why not just say, “Well look, this is what I’m into and this is what I’m about?” And oftentimes they don’t do that out of the fear that, that potential partner or current partner may not like them as they want them to like them.
Frank: You’re listening to Frank Relationships and we’re talking with author and marriage, family, and sexuality therapist, Dr. James Wadley. Dr. Wadley, please tell our listeners how they can find you and purchase your books.
Dr. Wadley: They can find me at drjameswadley.com. That’s one way and then you can also Google my name and I come up. And then you can find my book, Would You Marry You–and it’s published through AuthorHouse. You can find it on AuthorHouse or amazon.com. And then, you can also find my second book, The Lost and Found Box, on AuthorHouse for amazon.com.
Frank: I want to keep going with this honesty thing a little bit further. We’re going to eventually get into the sexuality, but they’re really that far from one another.
You talked about “the streaks in my drawers” and whether you’re willing to reveal them. What’s the point in revealing them by way of your mouth, when and the revelation is in your drawers? If she or he cared, whether you had streaks in your drawers, they’d say, “Let me see your drawers?”
Dr. Wadley: Let me see if I interpreted your question correctly. So, what might be the function of me saying it verses you finding it when we move in together and you discovering it?
Frank: Exactly. If its important, you’ll know or you’ll investigate. And if it’s not important, let it be.
Dr. Wadley: Right. Well, if its, and again, people place different values on what they’re going to disclose or what they’re not going to disclose. And for that particular circumstance, if I know I had a gastrointestinal problem and I know that I struggle with processing my food and I’m intending on spending time with you, maybe it’s important that I talk about the implications of these gastrointestinal problems and how it may manifest itself when I spend time with you.
So, if you and I are out to dinner, I find myself running to the bathroom and I say, “Well, look, I frequently have to go to the bathroom when I’m out and this is what’s going on with me.” I’m not necessarily saying that you have to say, “Well, I have streaks in my drawers,” but I’m just being willing to talk about challenges that exist in your life, may allow the relationship to grow in a way that fits who you are. But a lot of times, people aren’t willing to share those sensitive things, because they may fear judged and they fear that they may be minimized or ridiculed or anything like that and so–
Dr. Gayle: Or rejection.
Dr. Wadley: *(inaudible) 33:40 Thank you, or rejected, so–
Frank: Well, I agree it–
Dr. Gayle: Rejection and abandonment.
Frank: It may result in that, which means that by definition, it may not. So, are you promoting one or the other? Or are you saying, reveal as you become comfortable revealing?
Dr. Wadley: I would say reveal as you become comfortable with revealing, but if there is something of significance that you judge to be significant in your life, I would say–
Dr. Gayle: Reveal it on the front-end.
Dr. Waley: Yeah, do it on the front-end rather than down the road, because if you wait until down the road, I would imagine it may be significantly tougher, because you have been this idealized person or this person who hasn’t revealed this particular challenge and now when it comes out, it may be difficult for your partner to handle it.
Dr. Gayle: Right. And I mean, at some point it is kind of selfish to not be vulnerable and not to share and not to disclose on the front-end, if you’re saying, “This is a person that I care about. This may be a relationship I want to enter into, but I’m going to hold onto this information, because it makes me feel better to have some type of control.”
Frank: Well, it’s selfish either way. There’s a benefit and I want to go into this. There’s a payoff either way you decide to reveal, on the front or back end. Talk a little bit about that. What are the payoffs for revealing on the front-end and what’s the payoff or the payoffs for revealing on the backend?
Dr. Wadley: The payoff for me with revealing on the front-end, is that you have the opportunity to maintain who you are throughout the course of the relationship. So, if I disclose to you–let me see if I can come up with another example–if I disclose to you that, I don’t know, I love to curse kids out. Yeah, I love to curse kids out just, because I think it’s fun.
Dr. Gayle: All of your examples are morbid. I like it.
Dr. Wadley: I guess I didn’t plan on being so dramatic this morning, but nevertheless. So, if I reveal to you, “Yeah, you know, when I see kids I love to curse them out,” then when you and I go out, I know that you know that I like to curse out kids. And so when I actually do it, you can raise an eyebrow which is, “Boy James, I can’t believe you would curse kids out like that.” But I say, “Well look, this is what I always do.” And so for me–
Frank: “And I told you I would do it.”
Dr. Wadley: “And I told you I would do it.” And so, for me I promote earlier disclosure rather than later, because I want my clients to be as comfortable in their skin as they think that they should be. But by waiting, I know that they’re putting on heirs or projecting the most positive attributes of themselves, which is one portion of who they are. But if you find out later on that, I don’t know, fantasize about dead people, then where does that leave us in the context of the relationship? So again, for me, I can’t say that revealing things later that there is a benefit to it. Only because I know that for many of my clients, they struggle with one, accepting themselves and then two, accepting themselves within the context of the relationship. And so, I always suggest that not only put their best foot forward, but their most authentic foot forward, which is, “This is who I am. This is what I think. This is how I feel. This is what I do. You have the opportunity to accept it.”
Dr. Gayle: Right. And that also, just goes back to would you marry you? Would you be in a relationship with you? Do you like who you are? And can you talk about even before entering a relationship, how do people get to that point? How do they get to the point where, “I love me, I’m happy with me and from that, I’m going allow myself to enter into something with someone else?”
Dr. Wadley: Right. I have a few female clients and two struggle with body images and their struggle comes from as late 20s, 30s, 40s 50 or even 60 year old woman, they struggle with how their body has changed over time. And so we spend time talking about, one, the developmental aspect of how women/men or people’s body weight shifts over time. And then, two, what enables them to judge their bodies against those images that they see on TV. And how those images on TV or in the movies are more idealized verses what the actual norm is. And we spend a lot of time talking about giving people the latitude to just be who they are or be in the moment, which is, “I’m okay with being me. I’m okay with being me in the context of this relationship and as long as I can stay out of your head, which is, ‘As long as I’m not thinking about what you think about how I look or how I present myself, then it will be okay for me to put on this particular top or this particular dress or this particular swimsuit or these particular shoes.'”
Frank: But we’re not being in the moment when we tell a person upfront what we are going to do or what we might do. In fact, going to the heart of the other side of the revealing conversation that we were having a few minutes ago, the benefit of allowing things to be revealed on the backend, is that you aren’t in the moment; you do allow yourself to live in the moment and your partner to do the same. So, if your partner sees dead people and you didn’t know that, you’re going to find out when they see dead people and you’re going to experience that then. In fact, it goes to the heart of one of the things that I know that you promote, which is accepting change and being flexible by way of allowing your partner to reveal as they get there. I mean, because our changes, they’re not changes until they occur. They may–
Dr. Wadley: Right
Frank: They might occur at some point, but they’re not a change until we’re actually doing them. So, being in the moment goes to the heart of one of the benefits to not revealing upfront. And you said you didn’t really see one–a benefit to it. But that’s a benefit that I see in it.
Dr. Wadley: Okay, and the counter to that is, if you and I are in a relationship and I got to wait 20 years for you to say that you’re into I don’t know, whatever, into electrocution to be turned on. Maybe that was something that could have been revealed upfront, but for my couples we talk about relationship safety and creating a context where they can communicate with one another and reduce the possibility of rejection and minimization or anything like that. And so, it’s a two-way street that you and I have to work on creating a context where both of us feel comfortable sharing whatever it is that’s on our mind. And in the event that I do share something sensitive, recognize that both of us are different people, both of us don’t have to agree on everything and hopefully that transaction between you and I can be respectful.
Frank: Nice. Now, in the example you gave, you had 20 years of it seems like good times or pleasure. It’s a stretch. You didn’t say that. But it took 20 years to reveal that, so you had 20 years of whatever you had, clearly something was working for you. That’s not something to sneeze at and on top of that, I’m going to ask the question, is there truly safety in relationships?
Dr. Wadley: Yes.
Frank: Is there such thing?
Dr. Wadley: Yes.
Dr. Gayle: Before you even say that, what is that relationship safety? How do you even get to that?
Dr. Wadley: So, relationship safety, it’s based upon–I guess I have a few guidelines around it, so if I want to create a context where both of us feel comfortable sharing whatever it is that on our minds, the first thing that’s needed is, that we’re going to respect one another. And so, sometimes you people say, “Well, what does respect mean?” It means that I’m going to listen to you and I’m going to turn the T.V. off. I’m going to make sure that I hear what you’re saying and I’m going to make sure you hear what I’m saying and then we’re going to talk about the different meanings that are associated with what we’re saying. So, I’m going to listen to you. I’m going to use an appropriate volume and tone. Meaning that I’m not going to yell at you or anything like that. Another guideline is confidentiality, which is what’s said in the relationship, stays in the relationship. Meaning that if you disclose something that’s sensitive to you, I’m not going to run out and tell anybody and everybody under the sun that you, I don’t know, like to drink my bath water. So, we’re going to talk about–
Frank: / What? I love these examples.
Dr. Wadley: / So we’re going to talk about the *[safe people] 43:30 that exist.
Dr. Gayle: / I love it, you sound like you have some very interesting clients.
Dr. Wadley: / We’re going to talk about the *[safe people] 43:35 that exist in our lives. We’re going to come up to some agreement. Another guideline is acknowledging differences, meaning that even though you and I have been soul mates since elementary school and we fell in love, we’re going to change over time. Not only are we going to individually change, but you’re going to be different than me, because we grew up in different households and we have different backgrounds, different lifestyles, different religions or different color or different views on education or whatever. And so, a lot of times people make the assumption that, “Just because we’re soul mates, we have to think, feel and believe and behave the same way,” and that’s somewhat myopic.
Safety is often contingent upon being able to agree to disagree. Meaning that if you like Burger King and I like McDonald’s or you like the flame-broiled Whopper and I like the Big Mac, it doesn’t mean that you love me any less, because I want to go to McDonald’s. it just means that we disagree on what kind of burgers we like to eat. Then there is the right to pass, meaning that if I disclose sensitive information about me and you’re not ready to disclose information about you, it doesn’t mean that you love me any less or it’s relational treason, it just means that it’s okay to pass.
I have plenty of couples who come in who say, “Well, we have to solve all our issues tonight before we go to bed,” or “Mom always said that we can’t go to bed angry. So, if we talk from 10:00 P.M. at night until 5:00 A.M. in the morning and I got to get up and go to work, how come I couldn’t have just said, ‘Let’s talk about this when I get off from work?'” So, that’s the right to pass.
Then there is the notion of using high statements. So, people can spend all kinds of times talking about how their partners have wronged them or didn’t do this or didn’t do that, but safe relationships are those relationships where I can claim my portion of the dysfunction of the relationship. Meaning that, “I can blame you for washing the dishes, but if I didn’t do them–what was it about me that didn’t enable me to wash the dishes myself or wasn’t willing to help you wash the dishes?”
So, all those different guidelines create the likelihood that people may feel comfortable sharing. Sometimes those guidelines become blurred or obstructed, because a lot of times what we may talk about or what we may disagree upon, it can be emotionally-laden but when people are able to create that space or that safety in a relationship, they find that it’s easier to share, they find that they fight fair. Not only are they able to fight fair, but they fight less often and the arguments that they have, they’re less inflammatory.
Frank: You’re listening to Frank Relationships and we’re talking with author and marriage, family, and sexuality therapist, Dr. James Wadley. Once again, Dr. Wadley, please tell our listeners how they can find you and purchase your books.
Dr. Wadley: They can find me on drjameswadley.com and you can find my books, Would You Marry You, and The Lost and Found Box on either authorhouse.com or amazon.com.
Frank: Back to your guidelines for safety in a relationship. Any of these things respect one another? Meaning I hear and we discuss, no yelling, confidentiality acknowledge differences, these are all agreements that two people may come to, but in believing that there’s safety, if you agree to these, the question becomes, “What do you do if a person doesn’t adhere to these rules?” And the issue is, there’s a possibility and even a probability that at some point, your partner will not adhere to all of these rules and so therefore, safety is once again questionable.
Dr. Wadley: Right.
Frank: How do you deal with that? Back to what I said, is there really safety in relationships or are we just playing like there is?
Dr. Wadley: First of all. Adults hate rules. They typically function better when you call them guidelines. So, when these guidelines are breeched in some form or another–before they’re breeched, there has to be an agreement that if one of those guidelines is breeched, that the person will accept feedback from the other that the guideline was breeched. Meaning that if you and I are talking and then you talk over me and then at the conclusion of the conversation, I can say to you, “This conversation wasn’t as helpful for me, because it felt like I wasn’t able to get my point across to you.” Hopefully, having that dialogue would be able to open you up to say, “Okay James, what was it that you wanted to say that you didn’t have a chance to say?” And so, sometimes having safety in a relationship, it takes a lot of work and it takes a commitment to not only yourself, but also to your partner to be able to offer his or her opinion or his or her experience of the relationship. And sometimes adults or families, they need to support around it.
Dr. Gayle: Right and I think that’s because at the heart of it or at the core of the issue of safety and not being safe, is that adults just have issues with being paranoid about, “Well, someone’s going to disclose this information,” or “Someone isn’t going to protect me,” or not feeling protected with that information that they choose to disclose to their partner.
Frank: I got to tell you, I’m sure you know where I’m going with this and I think I’ve made my opinion pretty clear without actually stating it. But I don’t think that there is safety in relationships
Dr. Gayle: I already knew you were going to say that. But by you saying that, that speaks to where you are with that and projecting your feelings onto other people.
Frank: I don’t know who I’m projecting it onto.
Dr. Gayle: The listeners, other people, me, Dr. Wadley.
Frank: I don’t think that there’s safety in relationships and I’m okay with there being no safety in relationships. I’m safe with a lack of safety.
Dr. Gayle: If I were your partner, I wouldn’t feel safe in a relationship with you, because if you weren’t even safe in a relationship and saying, “I trust you,” that kind of boils down, in my opinion, goes back to trust. I trust myself and I trust you enough with this information, but if you’re saying, “I don’t think there’s safety in relationships, that means that there’s no trust or there’s a lack of trust.”
Dr. Wadley: And hold on. Let me say this. What’s nice about what you offered Frank is that you were willing to disclose that to the two of us. So in this dialogue, or dialogue that all three of us are having about relationship safety, you felt comfortable enough to reveal a part of you that I may not have known, had you not said that. And because you said that, I actually feel closer to you, because you revealed a portion of yourself that I wouldn’t even know. So just by you saying that, that was powerful in and of itself. If you don’t feel safe in this relationship or other relationships or whatever, as long as you’re willing to disclose that, then we can work on it and I can support you in the moment. But to me, at least between you, Dr. Gayle and I’m flattered that you shared that.
Frank: Well, I’m going to add to that and I’m going to say there’s no safety in relationships, because people by definition are always going to do what they believe to be best for themselves. And often people believe that it’s best for them to reveal “x, y, and z” upfront. Often people believe a whole litany of things but when you boil it down, when you really get to the heart of it, people are doing what they believe to be best for them.
Dr. Gayle: Because I know Frank, you believe that people don’t feel like it’s for the best interest of their relationship, so you feel like even when people say, “For the better of the relationship, I’m going to reveal all of “x, y, and z” at the front-end, so that we can go into a relationship feeling safe, being open, being more connected to each other, you feel like that’s a bunch of B.S. They’re doing to for themselves at the end of the day.”
Frank: Well, I’m not saying it’s B.S. I’m saying they’re doing it for themselves, because ultimately, even if your pattern is “x, y, and z,” you don’t know what you’re going to do until you do it. At some point we all have a lot of patterns that end and who knows whether they’re going to end. And were you being dishonest when you had a pattern for 20 years and on the 21st year you stopped? No, you’re not being dishonest, you’re just changing.
Dr. Gayle: No, right. You’re not being dishonest, you are changing and as people, as individuals you evolve, you change, your thoughts change, your patterns change, your mood changes, your behaviors change. So, what happens is when people don’t change together or when one person stays the same, that’s where the disconnect comes in.
Frank: Okay. Doc.
Dr. Wadley: If I may, relationships are daily invitations, meaning that I’m going to–
Dr. Gayle: I like that.
Dr. Wadley: Invite you to share who you are and hopefully that invitation is reciprocated by you inviting me to share who you are. And the invitation comes from not being judgmental, not minimizing or ridiculing anything that I say and allowing you to feel as comfortable as you are in the moment to say, “Hey, look this is what I got going on today. This is what I’m thinking about. This is what I’m feeling and this is what I’m going to do and this is what I fantasize about. And hopefully that invitation, allows you to walk with me for the rest of our lives.”
Frank: We’re going to go back to one of the scenarios you gave and it had to do with a fetish. So, I’m putting two people in front of you. One, that person that likes licking armpits and the other–
Dr. Wadley: Right.
Frank: Is the partner for “x” amount of time; a year, two years that just found out that, that person likes licking armpits. What do you say to both of them?
Dr. Gayle: Say? Well, if one person finds out or just found out by accident, I would ask both of them, “What does it mean to you to lick armpits?” I would need more information from them.
Dr. Wadley: So, I wouldn’t say whether it was right or wrong. I would need more information about what it means, because for some people it’s a turn on; some people it’s a turn-off, some people it just means whatever.
Frank: Okay. Foreplay between men and women, what’s the difference and the concept around foreplay? For men and the same for women.
Dr. Wadley: I would say as men or as people, we are taught that sex is very performance-based; meaning that it is focused on achieving an organism. Right? And if we don’t achieve an orgasm that means that something is bad or something is wrong and we need to fix something in order to reach that orgasm.
For some women, they are taught that sex is only a part of a relationship; meaning that if we can talk, if we can share, if we can do different things; engage in different type of intimate experiences in addition to sex then sex can be seen as a more holistic activity. So with the foreplay for both men and women, sometimes obviously they’re somewhat different; meaning that if I view sex as being very performance-based, then I don’t have to kiss you, I don’t have to caress your feet, I don’t have to say sweet things to you. All I need to do is insert my penis into your vagina, anus or mouth in order to achieve an organsm and then I’m done.
Some women want their male partners to spend time talking with them, holding them and caressing them and drying them off when they get out of the shower; lotioning them down after they get out of the shower, putting on music and lighting candles and reading erotic poetry and doing all these other sexual things that may allow sex to not necessarily be performance-based, but allows sex to be a part of this mosaic of intimate exercises.
Frank: A man has demonstrated that he has a disdain of some sort for anal sex and he’s in a relationship with a woman. The woman is interested in anal sex. How does she approach it with him?
Dr. Gayle: Is that off-limits?
Dr. Wadley: Well, I would find out what’s the couple’s bottom line. So, what are they into, what are they not into and if the man isn’t into anal sex, what are some other activities that the two can engage in? And actually, I would ask the woman the same thing, like, “Is that a deal-breaker for you? If your man isn’t into anal sex, is that the deal-breaker or are you willing to entertain other alternative intimate activities?
Dr. Gayle: And so let’s switch gears and go on the opposite spectrum from anal sex to no sex. I’ve heard of married couples that go for years– five years not having sex, not being intimate. How do people get to that point, Dr. Wadley?
Dr. Wadley: People define intimacy differently and some people are okay with not having sex for a number of years. So, I have to start there.
For those couples who have not had sex for a number of years and they want to have sex, I spend time, one, doing what’s called a sex history with them; meaning that I look at how they learned about sex and how sex has manifested itself over their lifetime and how intimacy may have dissolved or eroded over the course of the relationship. And then, we talk about alternative forms of being intimate with one’s partner.
So, if I’m spending time with the couple and say the woman experiences dyspareunia, which is pain during intercourse, she may be resistant to having sex, because she feels pain during intercourse, not to be redundant. And so, there are different ways for couples to navigate themselves around that particular sexual dysfunction as well as you can spend time–
Frank: Like what?
Dr. Wadley: Well, there are different touching exercises, there are sensate focus exercises. It’s difficult for me to reveal by phone in such a short amount of time, but there are what’s called sensate focus exercises that invite couples to engage in non-genital touching; meaning that, again, some of us are taught that sex should be performance-based and so I’m not willing to spend time touching and caressing my partner’s body, other than her vulva or her breast. So, sensate focus exercises invite couples to explore one’s ear lobes and one’s knees and one’s thighs and one’s sides and other places on the body that aren’t related to the genitals.
Dr. Gayle: And, Dr. Wadley, don’t you think that even involves a deeper level of intimacy, even to get to that point? Although it involves touch or sexual touch, still to get to that point, that involves intimacy, emotional intimacy; allowing you to touch me here and for me to open up to say to you, “Well, I’m not accustomed to this type of sexual intimacy. I only like it–the regular.”
Dr. Wadley: Right.
Dr. Gayle: Vanilla way.
Dr. Wadley: Yeah, so for my couples who come in complain about a sexual dysfunction–and that sexual dysfunction could be dyspareunia which I said before, is pain during intercourse–
Frank: Would you spell that please?
Dr. Wadley: D-y-s-p-a-r-e-u-i-n-a, dyspareuina or vaginismus, which is involuntary contractions of the vaginal muscles; inhibited sexual desire, priapism, which is a prolonged erection for a man; erectile dysfunction, which is a loss of erection during intercourse or some other intimate exercise or premature ejaculation. So, when my couples come in and complain about a particular sexual dysfunction, we don’t even get to the sexual dysfunction, because there’s so many layers of relational dysfunction and toxicity that we have to unravel or untangle in order to get to the actual sexual dysfunction. But for the handful of folks who experience a sexual dysfunction, once the physiological factors are ruled out, then we talk about how intimacy is expressed in the relationship as well as how two are able to engage in a deeper level of communication with one of them.
Frank: You’ve been listening to Frank Relationships. We’ve been talking with Dr. James Wadley. He’s a marriage, family, and sexuality therapist and he’s also the author of Would You Marry You and The Lost and Found Box. One more time; please tell our listeners how they can find you and purchase your books.
Dr. Wadley: You can find me at drjameswadley.com and you can find my books, Would You Marry You and The Lost and Found Box on authorhouse.com or amazon.com.
Frank: Along today’s journey we’ve discussed a healthy array of techniques and perspectives associated with improving our relationships and our sex lives, such as fetishes, concepts around body image and foreplay. We also got into philosophy as it pertains to honesty.
I hope you’ve had as much fun as I’ve had talking with Dr. Wadley about sex and relationships. As always, it’s my wish for you to walk away from this conversation with a heaping helping of useful information that will help you create a relationship that’s as loving and as accepting as possible. Let us know what you thought of today’s show at facebook/relationshipflove, on twitter at @mrfranklove or at franklove.com. Until next time, keep rising, This is Frank Love.