Welcome to the second post in our series, Therapist Resource Roundup. Each quarter, we share a list of resources focused on a different theme our therapists often work through with clients. Every roundup will feature books, articles, videos, and podcasts that our therapists recommend for the topic at hand. These resources can help set you on a positive path, whether in a crisis or seeking to supplement your work in therapy.

Is the bedroom and place of connection between you and your partner, or can it quickly turn into a battlefield? Are you having healthy and open conversations about your needs and desires, or does the topic of sex and intimacy devolve into painful conflict resulting in withdrawal and emotional distance? Having a happy and healthy sex life is a deep desire held by many and a topic that frequently comes up in individual and couples counseling sessions.

According to research by Barry and Emily McCarthy, happy couples attribute about 15-20 percent of their overall happiness to their sex life. In that same study, disgruntled couples attribute 50-70 percent of their unhappiness to their sex life. In short, for happy couples, sex is only a part of their relational satisfaction. Happy couples are not hyper-focused on the role of sex in their relationship. Is it important? Sure! But the weight of the relationship is not reliant upon how the sex is going. Instead, happy couples have built a foundation of appreciation, admiration, respect, friendship, and trust — sex is a positive byproduct of all those things. 

We get it. It can be a confusing and exhausting process to recognize and understand your partner’s (and your own) attitudes, feelings, turn ons/offs regarding sex. We are here to provide you with some research-based resources to help guide you in your pursuit of a more meaningful and healthy sex life. 

Podcast: Foreplay Radio, Laurie Watson, PhD, LMFT & George Faller, LMT

This resource is most helpful for…

All couples! Many Connect Couples therapists gave high marks to this podcast as it’s led by a couples therapist and a sex therapist. The hosts consider the complete picture: the emotional, physical, and relational aspects of a couple’s sex life. 

Top takeaways from therapists H.M. Humphrey, Danae Kauffman & Brittany Bolden …

H.M.: Hosted by two therapists, this podcast has in-depth discussions about the emotional and physical side of a couple’s sexual relationship. They discuss how negative cycles within the emotional relationship interplay with physical aspects of the sexual relationship. The hosts also provide practical advice on enhancing the sexual relationship, using education and insights gleaned over many years of working with couples. Most episodes are short and sweet and cover a variety of topics. While this is a heteronormative podcast, gay couples will likely find it helpful, too.

Danae: Foreplay radio offers excellent insights for couples trying to understand how sex impacts their relationship. Laurie and George offer insightful role-playing and help listeners learn how to talk to their partners about their sexual needs. The podcasts vary in length but average around 30 minutes.

Brittany: This podcast covers various topics about improving and understanding your sex life. The education around the Duel Model of Brakes and Accelerators regarding sex drive was a significant takeaway for me.   

Book: Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski, PhD

This resource is most helpful for…

Anyone who wants to educate themselves on women’s sexuality and well-being.

Top takeaways from Intake Coordinator Kaitlyn Stickly…

This book has some big takeaways, as it dispels myths about women’s sexuality. One big takeaway is Nagoski’s description of “brakes” and “accelerators” to describe a woman’s level of arousal. The author shares how specific triggers can take a woman out of a sexually relevant context and “put the brakes on” or lower her level of arousal. Nagoski also describes a mismatch between genital response and actual arousal. Although a woman’s body may respond to certain stimuli and expect sex, it does not mean the woman is actually aroused or enjoying the experience. Lastly, she discusses the importance of context and its role in a woman’s enjoyment of sex. I love that she has summaries at the end of each chapter, making it easy to remember essential information from the book.

Online Program: Gott Sex?

This resource is most helpful for…

Couples who already have a relatively solid emotional foundation and want to improve intimacy. 

Top takeaways from therapist Dr. George Bitar…

Gott Sex covers the biology of sex, sex differences across genders, and concrete tools to explore sexual love maps and improve communication related to sex. The full program costs $79.

Educator: Liz Mallers, Sex Educator

This resource is most helpful for…

Couples who want to discover what healthy sexuality means to each person in a non-judgmental environment.

Top takeaways from therapist Dr. Faith Drew…

Liz is a Sex Educator – she provides education around sexuality, helps couples understand and update their sexual love maps (i.e., likes and dislikes, what turns them on and off), explores the meaning of sex and how sex was talked about (or not talked about) in their family of origin. She helps individuals and couples discover what healthy sexuality means to each person in a non-judgmental environment.

Liz is an exceptional resource for individuals or couples who have difficulty discussing sex. She’s an invaluable resource for those who want to explore what sexuality means to them and how to define healthy sexuality. She also helps couples understand and learn about intimate products, lubrications, how to talk about the pleasure of self and the other, and sexual hangups. If sex is unhealthy, Liz can help direct individuals to proper treatment from a medical professional. I’ve collaborated on several projects with Liz. I find her engaged, open, and easy to connect with. She is accessible and insightful, and I learn something new each time I work with her. Liz is located near Charlotte and provides virtual appointments.

Book: Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel

This resource is most helpful for…

This resource is most helpful to couples who struggle to reconcile their domestic, day-to-day relationship with their romantic partner. It also explores how both partners’ sexual desires and needs can be explored in a healthy and meaningful way. 

Top takeaways from therapist Anna Malles…

Esther Perel explores the comfort and security of committed love and its muting effect on erotic vitality: the aliveness and excitement we all crave, not just in sexual intimacy but also in many aspects of life and partnership. Perel shares client case studies that will both challenge and validate your views on eroticism and commitment. You may be left with more questions than answers, but it will encourage and aid you in a new journey toward passion, eroticism, and satisfaction in your relationship. This book validates the feeling that security and passion may not be aligned in their relationship and explains why it’s so common. It can help couples who struggle to talk about sex and their differences in sexual desires, as well as individuals who are interested in exploring how culture and history have shaped their views of what is and isn’t sexually appropriate. I particularly loved Perel’s concept of bilingual intimacy, understanding that committed partners often speak different languages regarding sex and intimacy. It’s valuable for each partner to learn the value of the other’s language and speak it to create a stronger connection. 

Readers should be aware that Perel explores and normalizes many diverse and alternative sexual experiences and desires, including fantasy, play, and certain paths of non-monogamy. The value and psychology behind these sometimes-taboo topics can offer the reader freedom, curiosity, validation, and creativity as they explore their sexual desires and needs — even if they don’t align entirely with Perel’s client stories and depictions. 

App/Interactive Game: Gottman Card Decks: Sex Questions & Salsa Decks 

This resource is most helpful for…

Couples who are interested in exploring each other’s inner world regarding their thoughts, feelings, and fantasies around sex.

Top takeaways from therapist Kelsee White…

Drs. John and Julie Gottman have more than four decades of ground-breaking research examining the complexities of romantic relationships and what makes love last. Building a Love Map with your partner is a key component of relational satisfaction and longevity, with sex being an integral part of that map-building process. A love map essentially updates your partner on your dreams, hopes, fears, stresses, etc., as life progresses together. Updating the erotic part of our love map is no different. To help facilitate these discussions, the Gottmans have created The Gottman Card Decks. The card decks cover topics like empathy, giving appreciation, and general love mapping. There are also specific card decks related to building and updating your erotic love map called “Sex Questions.” Here are some sample questions from that deck: 

 “What for you, is the difference between making love and having sex?”  

“When I/you initiate sex, how do you usually feel? ” 

“What do you like most about your body?”

“How can I let you know I am not in the mood for sex without feeling like I am rejecting you?” 

There are also “Salsa Card Decks” (mild, medium, and hot) which provide couples with ideas at varying comfort levels for building romance, excitement, and arousal.

The hard copy card decks can be purchased through The Gottman Institute here or there is also a free downloadable App!

Looking for more? 

After you’ve taken in all the fascinating information from these resources, you may still question how to apply these ideas to the unique circumstances in your relationship. You are not alone in your wonderings. Many couples or individuals come to therapy to safely and confidentially explore many questions, feelings, and narratives surrounding sex. If you think therapy could be a helpful next step for yourself or alongside your partner, please consider reaching out to us. We offer in-person and virtual sessions if you are ready to schedule an appointment and live in Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Texas. Contact us to get started. 

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