January/February 2016

Editor’s Note

I suspect that no matter how sophisticated we become about sex in the abstract, there’s some half-hidden, unacknowledged suspicion within most of us that sex—or at least the way we personally experience and think about it—is peculiar, if not downright bizarre.
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The Unspeakable Language of Sex

Why Are We Still so Tongue-Tied?

If you’re like most couples therapists, you know how to help partners communicate more clearly, handle conflict with less uproar, and connect more emphatically. But 50 years after the so-called sexual revolution, many therapists are still unsure about how and when to talk about sexual issues. In our obsession with pop sexuality, we’ve vastly overestimated the power of sexual acts while vastly underestimating the feelings associated with them.

The Mystery of Eroticism

It’s long been the conventional wisdom among couples therapists that if couples fix the emotional issues in their relationship, their sexual lives will improve. However, good intimacy doesn’t guarantee good sex. Couples today are confronting a new frontier in the basic understanding of what marriage is all about. Since most of us grew up in sexual silence, therapists need to ask more probing questions when it comes to doing good couples therapy.
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The Dance of Sex

If you’re going to help a couple get closer and really learn to work harmoniously with one another, whether in bed or anywhere else, the key is helping partners experience bonding moments that open them to becoming emotionally accessible to each other. If you can do that, their bodies will follow, and sex will almost always improve.

The Case for Porn

Porn is polarizing. Porn is confusing. Porn can be alarming. For therapists, porn can push us out of our comfort zone and trigger negative countertransference. But one thing is for sure: porn is everywhere, and it’s here to stay. But this doesn’t mean that we’re being overwhelmed by an epidemic of “porn addiction,” as some people suggest. Porn can play a big role in achieving “rec-relational” lovemaking, and it doesn’t have to take away from a secure attachment.

The Sex-Starved Marriage

A sex-starved marriage isn’t about the number of times per week or per month people are actually having sex. It’s one in which one spouse is longing for more touch, more physical closeness, more sex, and---here’s the rub---the other spouse is thinking, “What’s the big deal? It’s just sex.” But it’s a huge deal because it’s really about feeling wanted, loved, and connected. It places the marriage at risk of infidelity and divorce.

Transforming Sexual Narratives

From Dysfunction to Discovery

Therapists too often ignore the importance of the longstanding, often unconscious stories that partners carry with them into their sexual relationship. Helping them share these stories with each other can open the pathway to erotic discovery.

Inside Hookup Culture

Are We Having Fun Yet?

On college campuses across the country, hooking up has all but replaced traditional, old-school dating rituals. With its rawness and frantic incoherence, we’ll be seeing the emotional legacy of this way of learning about love and commitment for many years to come.

In Search of the Big Story

Learning to Ask the Beautiful Question

This March, poet, storyteller, and philosopher David Whyte—this year’s Symposium keynoter—returns to Washington DC to share his wisdom. Whyte specializes in helping people make sense of their life’s journey in a way that ordinary psychology can’t. In his latest book, he uses redefinitions of some familiar words to jog us awake and say, “Open your eyes! Watch! Listen! Smell! Pay attention!”

In Consultation

Understanding What Your Audience Needs

Some tips on the do’s and don’ts of giving a good workshop.

Case Study

The Remarriage Triangle: Working with Later-Life Recouplers and their Grown Children

Therapists need to be prepared to go against the conventional clinical wisdom in helping later-life recouplers and stepfamilies handle the unique challenges they face.
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Point of View

Losing Our War on Stress: It’s time to reconsider our approach

Psychologist Kelly McGonigal believes that stress isn’t the public health menace it’s usually made out to be--our compulsion to avoid it is often the bigger problem.

Bookmarks

Who’s the Grown-Up Here?: Helping parents abandon the “buddy” system

In The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups, family physician and psychologist Leonard Sax insists that too many parents these days misunderstand the role they should play in their children’s lives.

Family Matters

The Last Dance: Awakening a Mother’s Joyful Spirit

Toward the end of her life, a woman turns back the clock by performing the goofy ballet of her youth.
January/February 2016
Speaking of Sex
Why Is It Still So Difficult?
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