Tuesday, May 14, 2013 / 8:42 AM
Linda Weiner (314-588-8924, sextherapiststlouis.com) knew she wanted to be a counselor when she was a kid. She had an aunt who was in that line of work, and “she was the happiest person that I ever knew,” says Weiner. The interest in sex therapy came later, though she traces its roots back years earlier. “Kids pronounced my last name 'wiener,'” she says. “So I got lots and lots of jokes.”
After getting her master's of social work at the the University of Missouri in Columbia, Weiner began working in child welfare. She became adept at dealing with children who had been molested or suffered other sexual-boundary violations. When William Masters and Virginia Johnson, two groundbreaking researchers in human sexuality in St. Louis, started a new family-oriented treatment program to help sexually abused children, Weiner became the program’s co-director.
In 1988, after five years with Masters and Johnson, she took her expertise in relationships, sexuality, and healing to a private practice, where she today deals with sexual deviation, porn addiction, and people who feel trapped in the wrong body, as well as marriages where the spark is gone. Her best advice: Keeping the chemistry alive is often accomplished outside the bedroom.
Communication is key: Bill Masters used to say that it doesn’t matter where the problem starts; sooner or later, the bedroom and living room are affected. So if it started with a lack of communication or a lack of quality time together, it winds up as a problem in the bedroom. If it started out with a problem in the bedroom, then people avoid intimacy and closeness because they want to avoid the pink elephant in the room.
Take small steps: Depending upon how far gone a relationship is, it might first be necessary to just create a peaceful, stable relationship and improve communication [before dealing with intimacy issues]. Then, set aside time to do dating kinds of things. I then give couples structured sensual experiences that don’t result in the need to get aroused and be sexual; it takes pressure off, and then their natural appetite comes back. It’s sort of like if you haven’t eaten for a long time: You have small meals, and your appetite returns.
A mistake that heterosexual men often make: Not really recognizing that it takes a woman 20 minutes of tactile touching to be where he is at the drop of a bra.
Some men just don't know what they want: Many men say that what they really would like is an aggressive female partner, but it’s more of a fantasy than a reality. Many men find it difficult to have their wives initiating sexual interaction. They say, “I wish my wife were more aggressive.” But when she's more aggressive, the husband tends to be put off by that and feels a little threatened.
Stay away from pornography: I’m seeing an increasing number of young men coming in who have trouble being orgasmic with their partners. They have been watching porn for such a long time and so frequently that the amount of stimulation they need can’t work with a real live partner, who requires attention and a slowing-down process and interactional sexual experience.
Don't wait to deal with intimacy issues: There are two ways to address it. Some people go to a relationship or marriage counselor, and sometimes their relationship improves but their sexual relationship does not rekindle. Then they might come to see me as a secondary step. People who are more comfortable with their sexuality may come to me first. I work with all aspects of the relationship, but many people start with someone who specializes in relationships before they see me.
Sex doesn’t just happen: You have to make time for the relationship, emotionally and intimately.
A SENSATIONAL IDEA FOR COUPLES: Sensate Focus Exercises
One way that couples experiencing intimacy issues can gradually reconnect is through sensate focusing, says Weiner. "The goal of sensate focus is not to experience turn on or even, necessarily, feelings of pleasure," she notes. Instead, each person listens to his or her own body. It also helps couples "learn that touching can be intimate and is a good end in and of itself," says Weiner. "It is a form of sharing and a way of communicating good feelings and caring."
The sensate experience will take an hour. Schedule it—really, put it on the calendar—for a time when neither you nor your partner will be exhausted.
This is actually a somewhat PG-13-rated activity. You aren't supposed to kiss or have full-body contact; it's hands and fingers only. Using oils and lotions is encouraged, though.
Get romantic. Before getting started, have dinner together, turn on some music, and light some candles, but don't drink alcohol or take drugs. This is about relaxing with your partner, not relaxing with a bottle of wine.
Banish all pets from the room. And, of course, children should be far, far away.
One partner touches the other for three to 15 minutes. Then switch. The giver should initiate by saying "I want to touch now." (Besides that first sentence, there's no talking.)
While touching, the giver should focus on himself or herself, instead of his or her partner. The reciever should also be focused on his or her feelings, not on the partner.
Schedule a Sensate session once or twice a week. Again, put it on the calendar. Then, don't break the date.
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