206: Sex and Perfectionism with Tom Murray

Welcome back to The Couples Therapist Couch! This podcast is about the practice of Couples Therapy. Each week, Shane Birkel interviews an expert in the field of Couples Therapy to explore all about the world of relationships and how to be an amazing therapist.

In this episode, we’re talking sex and perfectionism with Tom Murray. Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and your other favorite podcast spots, and watch it on YouTube – follow and leave a 5-star review.

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The Couples Therapist Couch 206: Sex and Perfectionism with Tom Murray

Learn more about the Couples Therapy 101 course: https://www.couplestherapistcouch.com/

Learn more about the Couples Therapist Inner Circle: https://www.couplestherapistcouch.com/inner-circle-new

In this episode, Shane talks with Tom Murray about the intersection of perfectionism and intimacy. Tom is a Sex and Relationship Expert who’s the Author of Making Nice with Naughty and a Co-Host of the Making Nice with Naughty podcast. Hear how to predict a couple’s quality of sex life, how anxiety and adrenaline come into play in the bedroom, how therapists can help with sex and relationship issues, the difference between closeness and vulnerability, and the reality of monogamy.

This episode covers everything from erectile dysfunction to marriage. Here’s a small sample of what you will hear in this episode:

  • What's the concern with "Be careful" parents?
  • How can therapists help patients feel more relaxed?
  • Does Tom prefer to talk to partners together or individually?
  • How does sex therapy work?
  • What do men often do after a break-up?
  • Why do women experience sex differently?
  • How does sex change as we age?
  • What are some creative examples of foreplay?

To learn more about Tom and check out his book, visit MakingNiceWithNaughty.com

For Tom’s clinical practice, visit APathToWellness.com

Check out the episode, show notes, and transcript below: 



 Show Notes


What is The Couples Therapist Couch?

This podcast is about the practice of Couples Therapy. Many of the episodes are interviews with leaders in the field of Relationships. The show is meant to help Therapists and Coaches learn how to help people to deepen their connection, but in the process it explores what is most needed for each of us to love, heal, and grow. Each week, Shane Birkel interviews an expert in the field of Couples Therapy to explore all about the world of relationships and how to be an amazing therapist.

Learn more about the Couples Therapy 101 course: https://www.couplestherapistcouch.com/

Find out more about the Couples Therapist Inner Circle: https://www.couplestherapistcouch.com/inner-circle-new


Please note: this transcript is not 100% accurate.

Tom Murray 0:00
Are you a be careful parent? Be careful, be careful, be careful, or are you a have fun parent? And so I've just asked this question repeatedly to my couples, particularly those who have kids, it was clear that the Be careful parents were the ones more likely to have sexual issues in their relationship.

Intro VO 0:25
Welcome to The Couples Therapist Couch, the podcast for couples therapists, marriage counselors and relationship coaches to explore the practice of couples therapy. And now your host, Shane Birkel.

Shane Birkel 0:39
Everyone, welcome back to The Couples Therapist Couch. This is the podcast that's all about the practice of couples therapy. I'm Shane Birkel. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, really excited to share with you an interview today that I did with Dr. Tom Murray, who's a sex and relationship therapist, we actually recorded it on Valentine's Day. But it's really good for us as therapists to get training on sex and sex therapy if you have a chance and to listen to things like this just to raise your comfort level with any conversations when you're working with individuals or couples that have to do with their sexuality. So I hope this will be really helpful. I'd really appreciate if you could leave a review on iTunes or Spotify or YouTube wherever you listen or watch the show. It's just a really great way to help bring more eyes to the podcast for those people out there who are therapists or students who haven't found the podcast yet. That's a really good way for more people to be able to find it. So thank you so much for doing that. And without further introduction, here's the interview with Dr. Tom Murray. Everyone. Welcome back to the couples therapists couch. This is Shane Berkel, and today I'm speaking with Dr. Tom Murray, sex and relationship therapist, and author of the book making nice with naughty an intimacy guide for the rule following organized perfectionist, practical, and color within the line types. Hey, Tom, welcome to the show.

Tom Murray 2:17
Thank you so much for having me. I'm so delighted to be here with you. Yeah,

Shane Birkel 2:21
I think it's really important for therapists to get training in, you know, sex therapy or things about sex. And so it's always good to have these episodes once in a while, where we have somebody who's an expert in that, so appreciate you coming on. But why don't you start by telling everyone a little bit more about yourself? Well,

Tom Murray 2:41
again, it's just a delight to be here. I, I have a group practice in in North Carolina, that's really a niche practice focused almost exclusively on sexing, and couples therapy, and have licenses and other states including Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Florida. And so I spread my my tentacles out to those different places. Prior to becoming a sex therapist. I was a University Counseling Center Director and did that for about 11 years, and then transitioned into private practice in 2017. And have been doing that and adjunct teaching at Northwestern or Adler, different institutions teaching sex therapy and couples therapy.

Shane Birkel 3:30
That's great. And what inspired you to write the book Making Nice with Naughty? Well, first,

Tom Murray 3:36
you know, I had the title long before I had the, the book in mind, you know, making nice with naughty, it's just really had a resonance for me. And yeah, and I was working with a couple. And it was during this period that I was also learning about radically open dialectical behavior therapy, RO DBT. And I was working with a couple in, in 2020. Doing telehealth like many of us, and and I had this lightbulb moment that I bet I could predict the quality of this couple sex life by just asking one question, and I'm like 10 minutes into the session, my first session with them. And I asked them, are you a bit careful parent, be careful, be careful, be careful, or are you a have fun parent? And so I've just asked this question repeatedly to my couples, particularly those who have kids. And it was it was it was clear that the Be careful parents were the ones more likely to have sexual issues in their relationship. And be careful that kind of tendency to be be very risk averse and threat sensitive, is characteristic of that over controlled temperament which is As the basis of my book is exploring how that particular temperament influences our sexual and intimate relationships.

Shane Birkel 5:10
And say more about why why that like what made you come to that conclusion that that would be the case? Well,

Tom Murray 5:17
you know, sex is about play. Sex is about having fun. And it's about the, you know, an orgasm, by definition is really the loss of control. And so someone is particularly risk averse, threat sensitive, rejection sensitive, if they have a very strong opinion about how the world should be, must be and has to be, and they get really tense when the world doesn't comport to these expectation, you can imagine how that rigidity really can impact one's ability to let go, and, and have a good time and in the bedroom. So

Shane Birkel 5:53
these are things from the subtitle of the book that people who are who might be organized or perfectionistic, or practical, or color within the lines, those are people who are more likely to be sort of, you know, to want control, to have a hard time just sort of relaxing into the play, or something like that.

Tom Murray 6:14
That's exactly right. So even if it's like, I have to have an erection, every time I want to have sex, right, and then the person starts to anticipate, particularly if they they've had an inability to get an erection when they want, then they start to anticipate they're not going to get in an erection in the future. And of course, that releases adrenaline, and adrenaline to fight the erections, though, you know, this, this very rigid view of, of what sex has to look like, becomes then an impediment to the ability to have fun.

Shane Birkel 6:52
Yeah, absolutely. You know, let's say it's called perfect, just to use a one word like perfectionism or something like that, you know, it's sort of like, they make up this story in their head that it has to be perfect that I have to perform a certain way. And then it feels very well, one, it would be very anxiety provoking going into the situation. And two, it would be very, you would start, you know, your beliefs would start reinforcing themselves, you know, once you're not getting an erection fast enough, or things aren't happening the way you were hoping that they would, then it starts being like, Oh, see that this, you know, I knew I wouldn't be able to do it, and you know, all of that kind of stuff.

Tom Murray 7:34
That's right. And that's, and that's one type of sexual perfectionism in the book there. There, I talked about four different types. So the first one is I have to be sexually perfect. So that's really what you were just describing. The second one is my partner has to be sexually perfect. Right? So there might be an expectation I have, my partner has to have an orgasm, otherwise, inadequate, right. The third one is I think my partner thinks I have to be sexually perfect. Right, so I have this belief that my partner is judging me for not getting an erection or for not having an orgasm or for not getting adequately lubricated, whatever it is, I might start becoming interest. And then the fourth type of sexual perfectionism is society expects me to be sexually perfect, I have to have the right size waist, the right size breasts, the, my, my labia can't be too long, my my penis can't be too short, whatever it is, it's like, there are societal messages that that can can impede people's ability to have a good time as well.

Shane Birkel 8:49
So if you have clients who are describing some of these issues, any of these issues, what are some of the ways in which you can help them and for therapists out there? What are some of the things that they can begin to do to help them I guess it'd be more flexible or be more relaxed, things like that?

Tom Murray 9:08
Yes, that's exactly right. So in my book, I really integrate very familiar therapy, theoretical approaches that a lot of your listeners will be familiar with. So RO DBT being the primary frame for understanding the sexual issues in RO DBT as many, many listeners are going to be familiar with the classic dialectical behavior therapy. Marsha Linehan, and that approach is really suited for people who are under control. So the classic borderline personality disorder, for example, what Thomas Lynch, the originator of RO DBT found is that when very over controlled people were put into DBT groups. such as people with anorexia, they took on too many rules, right? So a lot of DBT is about emotional containment, right? And so, but people who are over controlled or already are experts at managing their emotions, you say, and so the idea was in RO DBT, it's how to turn down the volume on the over controlled nest. So like you said, to become more psychologically flexible. And so I using RO DBT techniques, but in addition to our Use Act, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or CBT, Rational Emotive behavior therapy, and a lesser known approach, although not a classic psychotherapy, is The Work of Byron Katie, which I find to be incredibly helpful to help people to really question their own mind chatter. Because a lot of times when you're in that kind of perfectionist mode, you'll believe everything your mind produces, in that kind of fuels, that perfectionist attitude, right, I have to have an erection, right? Otherwise, I'm going to be judged, otherwise, I'm going to be embarrassed and whatever. And that my my value as a human being is dependent on what someone else thinks about me and learning how to question that is also essential.

Shane Birkel 11:28
I'm curious if when you see people coming to you for help, is it often one partner? Who is experiencing these things? Or is it both partners? And I'm curious if it's one, you know, what is the other partners perspective or stance? Oftentimes?

Tom Murray 11:45
Yeah, it's it? That's a very good question. Usually, you know, the, there's a saying, birds of a feather flock together, though, it's more likely that over controlled people are going to be with someone who's also over controlled, but think about over controlled, like, all temperaments are on a continuum, right. So someone can be more over controlled than someone else, is kind of parenthetically, a lot of times, the more over controlled person thinks the lesser over control person is actually under controlled, but when in fact, they're just not as over controlled. And so in those examples, I might have a couple, where I'm thinking of one now, he's had has difficulty maintaining an erection. And, and he experiences rapid ejaculation. And that is a part of his over control temperament. But he also is married to a person who has a lot of judgments about their partner not being able to maintain an erection. And that, you know, kind of this rigid, narrowly defined rule around what sex have to look like you they can have different different types of rules, but they're both a part of a over controlled temperament manifestation.

Shane Birkel 13:07
I see. So So take me through, you know, just to stick with that example. You know, that might be something you've seen several times, I'm sure. So just to sort of generalized example, of, you know, how do you begin to work with a couple like that, you know, where that the one partner is experiencing the premature ejaculation? The other partner is critical about that. I mean, how do you begin to sort of start off with them and move through the process with them?

Tom Murray 13:42
Yeah, perhaps unpopular among many of our colleagues, I am certainly someone who's willing to see people see my couples individually. In that context, in this particular context, I was inclined to see them individually, in addition to together, and the reason that I do that is because over control, people can also experience what's called demand resistance, which is, whenever they feel like someone is making a demand of them, they can really kind of dig in their heels. And that is particularly true when their partner is present. If I'm giving kind of direct feedback to one partner that says, you know, I'm going to encourage you to look at this a different way or even challenge them. I call it carefree notation. Or if I can challenge them to think about well, how is that working for you to have this kind of rigid rule? This particular client I'm thinking of, they said, I just can't get over it. Right? Even though it's been 10 years, I just can't get over this sexual issue. And to me, that was very interesting because 10 years is a long time. time not to get over something. Right? So it implied to me that there was something else happening, right that there was this, this rigidity around what sex has to look like, versus having some psychological flexibility. So having spoken to that person individually, I'm able to invite them to be thinking about how a more flexible outlook gets them a little bit more of what they want, even if it's not all of what they want. Were in the context of having both of them together, there's a greater likelihood of, of coming to experience that demand resistance.

Shane Birkel 15:46
Good. So you start maybe with individual sessions, and you try to understand their beliefs, try to sort of ask them questions that would lead to more flexibility or a different understanding of what's happening. And then they go ahead, to clarify,

Tom Murray 16:05
I start seeing them together. And then if I mess during my my work with them, if I'm assessing there's value of seeing them separately, that's, that's when I go have them go into separate sessions, that example that I gave, it was a rather a unique one, generally speaking, what I'm interested in is listening to what their values are around a sexual and intimate relationship with each other. And how much of an overlap is there around those values? And kind of in that act way, what would be the behaviors that would be consistent with living out those values?

Shane Birkel 16:48
Yeah, and say more about that, as far as you know, do each person, each person has their own set of values, typically, and you just try to paint a picture for them of what this could look like, you know, going forward when they're leaving your office and trying to define what success could look like, and try to encourage them to, you know, re redefine that in some ways. Right, right.

Tom Murray 17:16
Yeah. You mentioned I think, offline, Tammy Nelson, and she, she, a sex therapist talks about sexual scripts, and having a sense of what are, what is the client's sexual script? What does sex look like? What does enjoyable pleasurable sex look like to them? And then what is the meaning that's being assigned to that? What about that so important to them? And then helping the clients identify, well, what behaviors would be that what what behaviors would they be doing that would express the expressions of those values, and then incorporating them into their daily, daily life? So for example, a lot of clients think, you know, foreplay is the stuff that you do immediately before sex. I think of foreplay, as the behaviors that you do, after set that build up the sexual tension. Right? Well, how are you relating to each other between sexual episodes, so that the person is more interested in having sex with you? So it's less of this kind of mechanical, you know, back in the in the 60s and 70s, sex therapy was really about mechanics. And now we're recognizing that it's much more complex than that, and thinking, thinking what is happening outside of the bedroom that makes having sex in the bedroom more enjoyable?

Shane Birkel 18:56
And what are some examples of those things in day to day life that could, you know, be foreplay or build the tension? Yeah,

Tom Murray 19:05
I think of just simply demonstrating kindness, consideration, collaboration, coordination, those are the four things that I really have my couples reflect on kindness, consideration, collaboration, coordination, you know, a lot of our colleagues will will emphasize sacrifice and compromise. Right, you know, that that relationship is about sacrifice and compromise. And to me, that really seems antithetical because that implies that you're on separate teams, sacrifice and compromise. But if you're on the same team, it's really about collaboration, coordination, consideration. And so knowing what does your partner need in order to feel sexually interested? What does your partner need in order to feel sexually interesting? Right Those are the having those kinds of conversations between sexual episodes are really vitally important. I'll mention that this is particularly true in the context of monogamous relationships. There's some data, for example, that says that forever year monogamous couples together, they're liking each other declines 4% per year, and that they're lusting of each other declined to 8% per year. Right? So there's an so there's a natural, degrading, if you will, of this liking and lusting after your partner, particularly in the context of monogamy. And so if that's an occupational hazard of monogamy, then it becomes really imperative people who want to preserve monogamy to think about, oh, we have to do a lot more to preserve it, because we don't have the benefit of competition, right competition helps to drive your interest in something, right? Think of think of, if you've ever been doing something on eBay, right, when you know, someone else is bidding against you, you end up spending more for that thing than you would otherwise if no one was bidding, right? Well, if we, if you know, in non monogamous relationships, if you see your partner being that other people are interested in your partner, it makes it your partner more interesting. Right? So if we if but there's obviously that has its own sets of pros and cons. So in monogamy, one of the cons that we don't talk about much is this idea of how liking and lusting after your partner can decline over time, when there's not this intentionality given to it.

Shane Birkel 21:58
That's really interesting. So that's really important for people to think about. And I was thinking of the analogy of sort of, you know, the first few months of dating someone, you know, there's very much a feeling of like, you know, either either partner could decide at any time that they don't want to continue going with this, right. It's early on, you know, so I have, either unconsciously or consciously, I have a strong motivation to show up in a certain way to make sure that I'm impressing this person if I want to keep them in my life.

Tom Murray 22:33
That's exactly right. And I think about men, the very first place that a lot of men go after a breakup is the gym. Right? Right. Right. But they haven't gone to the gym in years, didn't when they were in that prior relationship. And and they got, they got comfortable in that relationship, they stopped investing in themselves. But when the relationship ends, they think, Oh, I have to do stuff to make myself appear more attractive to a potential mate. Right? Does is going to the gym, the only way to do that, no, but that is how a lot of men think, right? And so that idea of oh, what I shouldn't just assume my partner will want to have sex with me. I have to be asking myself, well, what is that? What is it about me? That's so appealing? Right? And that may be there's just to say differently, loads about low sexual desire, you know, there's, there's often a desire discrepancy one person is more interested in, and then another. Well, it may be that with the low desire person, it isn't that there's something wrong with them. It may be that it's, they have good judgment, according to Peggy kleinplatz, right? That that, oh, the person who wants to have sex is just not all that interesting anymore. Right? And why does someone want just to eat a bowl of broccoli, a steamed broccoli without anything interesting added to it?

Shane Birkel 24:08
Right? The other thing, you're when you're talking about kindness and consideration, and of those four things, I was thinking about the emotional connection. Right. And that could be part of what brings flavor to the, to the tissue as well to the broccoli. But, you know, I feel like there are a lot of therapists who are not sex therapists, who are sort of like, Hey, if you fix the emotional connection, the sex will just fall into place, you know, and I've talked to sex therapists who have said, you know, if you fix the sexual stuff, then the emotional connection will fall into place, and I feel like maybe both of those are oversimplifications of the reality. Yeah,

Tom Murray 24:51
yeah, for sure. For sure. What I like to do is look at the acceptance, the Accept exceptions. There are a lot of people with terrible community Keishon patterns who have great sex. And so this idea of oh, we have to work on the communication. No, in fact, to say differently, I've come to conclude that there are essentially two forces impacting on relationships. One is closeness, and one is intimacy. So closeness is the things that are the pursuit of Low risk, low anxiety, high predictability, comfort, familiarity, right? That's closeness, Low risk, low anxiety, high predictability, comfort, familiarity. And for over control, people in particular, that's like, what you've been told your whole life, you should pursue, right. Intimacy, on the other hand, get going back to your example earlier, those first few months of, of a new relationship is about high risk, high anxiety, low predictability, newness, novelty. And that's the basis of eroticism. That's, you need to have mystery, to have the tap into the erotic, right. And so, when new relationships start, it's all intimacy. It's all intimacy, all in all mystery. And that can be very exciting. But it burns incredibly hot. It's not something that you can easily maintain for a long period of time. And so if you're looking to have a long term relationship with someone closeness has to come in to the picture to kind of cool down that intimacy, right. But when that closeness is left unchecked, when that closeness is a privilege over intimacy, that couple begins to convince themselves of things like, oh, I don't even need to ask the question, I already know what they're going to say. Right? So in other words, they stop having a relationship with their partner, and instead have a relationship with their thoughts about their partner. And that's closeness. And that's what I see, and I'm sure many of your listeners will see is that when couples come in it very well may be that they are too close. Not close enough, but that they are too close, and have very little intimacy, very little curiosity about each other. And that takes effort to to reignite curiosity, it's the understanding that you can never know your partner. Right? You can never know them no matter how how long you try how hard you try, you can never know them, the most you can know are your thoughts about them.

Shane Birkel 27:53
And when you talk about can you talk about I know that you talk about vulnerability in your book, can you talk about the difference between when you're talking about closeness? How is that different from what vulnerability would look like? Because, Phil, you're talking about different things? Yes.

Tom Murray 28:11
So vulnerability is much more is much more associated with intimacy than closeness. vulnerability, is in order for something to be vulnerable, in my opinion, it must include an element of I need help. Right? I need you I need help. And for over controlled people in particular, vulnerability is very scary, right? Because vulnerability brings uncertainty, and that is the greatest fear of a lot of over controlled people is, is uncertainty, they want to have a great sense, they want to have a sense of what is going to happen next. Right, what are we going to do next? And that becomes the impediment for people who are over controlled as they they shy away from vulnerability. So instead of just saying, I'm nervous that I'm not going to get an erection. What they do instead is they avoid physical contact with their partner, so as to not increase the demand that their partner might go of wanting to have physical intimacy. So they pull away right, versus slaying the dragon I talk, I use that metaphor in the book, which is to lean into vulnerability, or I use the word I talk about awkwardness. Like a lot of over control, people have an allergic reaction to awkwardness and yet, if they were able to lean into the awkward, then that then they know I am moving closer to intimacy, I'm moving closer to vulnerability. So to embrace that as a mile marker of success, I'm going to allow myself to be more awkward I don't know about you, Shane. But when I had sex for the first time, it was incredibly awkward. Right. And, and it didn't stop me from having sex the second time. So this idea that awkward is somehow bad, I tried to remind them that there have been many times in their life were awkward was present, and they still move forward. Yeah,

Shane Birkel 30:24
that's interesting, it's almost the opposite of being controlled, you know, being perfectionistic. You know, and I think that's such a message in our society, or, in particular families that, you know, we have to show this perfection, perfectionistic view to the world, like, things have to look perfect, you have to get good grades, you have to perform well in the world, you know, and we take that into our personal lives. And I think, you know, especially for people who are, that's a strong theme, it makes sense that they would struggle with that, with what you're talking about that it's like letting go of control, you know, moving into vulnerability, saying that you're not perfect, you don't have everything together. And it makes it like, like, that's really the intimacy of showing up authentically with your partner, because that's the real you, the real you is not the mask that we show to the world that looks more perfect than we are the real truth is very vulnerable.

Tom Murray 31:30
That's right. And, and, of course, you know, it's, it's important, as I'm going to make a guess I shouldn't, but I'm going to make a guest that you identify as a cisgender. Male, right. And it's important to talk about how women experience a lot of this very differently, right, where I think there's a societal message, for example, that women have to be perfect at all domains of life, they have to be a perfect wife, a perfect mother, a perfect employee, a perfect daughter. And where a lot of men, we just have to be great at our careers. Right, that's the that's the overall impression. One of that one of those being perfect is being a perfect lover. I think there's an element of that, that women face that that men don't face. And I know I'm using very binary language. So to dive a little deeper in that, there are essentially three types of desire. And the most frequently discussed, one is called spontaneous desire. It's this idea that, Oh, I can just have sex at any given moment, I don't need a lot of preparation, I just want to have sex. That kind of desire is most associated with male desire, right? Because that's the type of desire we see in movies and in porn, right? In erotic novels, the assumption is, is that women should also have spontaneous desire. And if they don't have spontaneous desire, there's something wrong with them. And that is a very common theme I see in my consulting practice, is that, why wouldn't my wife want to have sex with me? Sex is fun. Why wouldn't she want to just hop on this and have a good time? Right? Well, because most women don't have spontaneous desire. Most women have either responsive or more likely contextual desire, which is this, this sense of I can be turned on. But it's really a matter of brakes and accelerators. Right. So there are contexts that may slam on the brakes to desire, or that there are contexts that that make sex more interesting to pursue. So for a lot of women, they don't have a want. Right? They don't have this sense of I want to have sex where men who typically more typically have spontaneous desire has a sense of I want, you see, and so they can then think negatively about them or their partners can think negatively about them for not having that sense of want. And, and a large part of my job as a sex therapist is really psycho educational. Right, just explaining kind of that, that no matter what your desired type is, that is the right imperfect desire type for you. And that once you understand it, then your partner who may have spontaneous desire doesn't take it personally, but sees it as an opportunity to think about what do I need to do to help my partner get their foot off the brake? Or what can I do that helps my partner put their foot on the accelerator? And likewise, the person with contextual desire thinks about the same thing. You know how How can I set a context for sex because sex is important to our relationship, and I want to be a sexual person. So it just provokes a different set of questions that hopefully will move them in the direction that they ultimately want to go.

Shane Birkel 35:18
Yeah, and I feel like, you know, it's important to talk about these male female dynamics in the binary. And, you know, it's important to recognize that doesn't exist in every relationship and every individual, but that, you know, because of the way that we're socialized, we often fall into these things without even being conscious of it. You know, and I think what you're talking about is almost deconstructing this so that we aren't just coming from a blind sense of, you know, like, the assumption of why doesn't my partner just want to enjoy this experience with me? You know, there's there, there's probably a lot of good reasons, either for them personally, or because of societal things, or whatever. And I think it helps us move into compassion and understanding for both people on both sides to understand each other better. Yes, yes.

Tom Murray 36:11
I, a common question I get asked my clients is, when is the last time you read a book, a nonfiction book about sex and sexuality? Do you know what the most common answer is, never, never,

Shane Birkel 36:29
never add in and yet,

Tom Murray 36:34
people will spend thousands of dollars on their physical development, their spiritual development, their professional development, and yet, nothing is given to their sexual development, and we are sexual beings 24/7 We were sexual beings in utero. And who we are in our late teens, is going to be different sexually than who we are in our 20s 30s 40s 50s 60s and, and hopefully beyond. And so it becomes imperative for us to be educating ourselves about the sexual sex and sexuality relative to our place in our developmental lifecycle. Not only our own, but particularly if you're in a heterosexual relationship, is to also be educating yourself about the sexual needs, interest desires, the sexual functioning of people who aren't your gender, right to if you're going to be having sex with other people, who are who may be different from you, trying to understand that helps you then to ask better questions later on. Sometimes I share this story, as a sex therapist, a sex therapist, when I became a sex therapist, I have been asked by women, or have been been common women have commented to me and kind of the social situations. I bet you really know how to eat pussy. And I've been kind of surprised by that comment, right? Right. They just assume that as a sex therapist, and I said, you know, I have come, I'm almost now anticipating this. I say, while it's true, that I know a lot about eating pussy. I know nothing about eating yours. Right. And that's the, the point that I'm trying to drive home is that there's even if you have all of this information, right, you still have to have a unique relationship with this particular person. And to be exploratory in that kind of way. This whole idea of, I shouldn't have to ask for it, my partner should already know is setting yourself up for disappointment. But it also is is another manifestation of that over controlling temperament, that kind of rule orientation of, I believe that my partner should already know everything that I need as a sexual person. And, and what what is that in the surface of it's in the service of not having to be vulnerable and asking for it? Right, I was actually saying, you know, more pressure, less pressure faster, slower. I don't if I don't put myself out there. Of course, there are partners who when given feedback, have this what what in RO DBT is called Adult hurt me response where they, you know, start sulking or pulling away because they've gotten some feedback. You know, that certainly is unhelpful, too. But this to reiterate, like, educating yourself about your own sex and sexuality and educating yourself about your partners. so that you're better equipped to ask important questions. Yeah.

Shane Birkel 40:04
And it seems like the consideration comes into it so much, right. And so like you said, on the one hand, read the books, get the education, most people don't even start with that. That's right. But also be considerate, and, you know, humble enough to realize that each individual is very different. And that, you know, the best thing that I can do is move into curiosity about what might work for my partner, what doesn't work for my partner, very important. And yes, and, and have enough of the, well I call it self esteem, whatever you would call it, to be vulnerable, to be able to open up and have a voice and share about my own reality as well.

Tom Murray 40:57
Yes, yes, I'm thinking of a couple that I saw a couple of weeks ago, very educated folks, the husband couldn't understand why his wife needed time to work up towards sex. And part of her complaint was that penetrative sex was painful, initially, but that she realized, Oh, if my body, if given enough time, my body can receive my partner and it's not painful. Well, he, you know, he just thinks I have an erection, I should be able to, you know, he had this kind of an erection sleeve mentality, and it's just, you know, I just stick a penis in there. And that's all that matters, right? Like, to me, that's just mind boggling that that that assumption is, is there, but that is, dare I say the costs of a society that doesn't really privilege sex education, that keeps people still thinking that you know, sex is really mechanics, and all you need to know is insert penis and vagina and that's all that there is to it. But it's, it's, there's so much more and context even becomes more important, I think, as we as we age.

Shane Birkel 42:24
What do you mean by that really quick,

Tom Murray 42:25
our bodies change, we develop, we may develop disabilities, we may be on medications, for example, that decreased lubrication or, or particularly with psychiatric medications, they're, they're often sexual side effects that if unknown, people can take really personally, you know, you're not interested in you don't have any interest in me anymore, when in fact, you know, they just may have a lower libido, because of their, their medications that they're on. Or a lot of, particularly women who've had mastectomies, you know, they they're their breasts been removed. If they don't undergo reconstructive surgery, they may feel like their own sexuality has been diminished. Or they may have a partner who is grieving because of the loss of that as a part of their erotic script, or prostatectomies, and no longer being able to get an erection. All of these different things that happen can happen over the course of a lifetime. To understand sex isn't just about penis, penetrative sex, but that's sex, there's intercourse, and then there's our course. And that all of that is an important consideration of what is my sexual script at this point in my, in my life?

Shane Birkel 43:56
Well, this has been incredibly helpful. Thank you so much. Any other final thoughts before we start to wrap it up?

Tom Murray 44:03
I would just encourage people to the clinician, or in the field of sex and sexuality, or even when they're talking about sex it within the context of their work is to be thinking about how temperament is a factor in the sexual problems, and particularly that over controlled temperament and realize that there are resources available to those clients. Right now. My book is the first and only book that applies the concept of the over control temperament to afford the lay audience. And I specifically obviously wrote it about my work as a sex therapist, but there are resources certainly available to people and I hope they would check it out. Yeah,

Shane Birkel 44:51
that's great. And any thing else you want to mention? Obviously, everyone should go get the book make making nice with naughty and ticularly for those who are either fall into the category of or are working with people who are perfectionistic practical color within the lines, and do you have a website or anything else you want to mention? Yeah, so people

Tom Murray 45:14
can certainly, we have a podcast called The Making Nice with Naughty podcast. Oh, and they can visit me at MakingNiceWithNaughty.com, or also my clinical website is APathToWellness.com. Good. Well, thank

Shane Birkel 45:33
you so much again, Tom, I really appreciate having you won. Hopefully, we can catch up again at some point in the future. I would love that. Thanks, Jane. All right. Thank you so much to Dr. Tom Murray, once again. And thank you to all you listeners out there. I'm so grateful for all of you. If you have a chance to go leave a rating or a review on the show, I'd be really grateful for that. Like I said at the beginning, it just really helps get the word out to other therapists or students who might benefit from the show. So whether you consume it on iTunes or Spotify or YouTube, just leave a rating or review there. Help me get the word out about the show. If you are a couples therapist who's interested in learning more about the practice of therapy, or if you're someone who just wants to learn more about how to have a good relationship, definitely hit Subscribe so you can get all the latest episodes. Thank you so much. Also, if you're interested in the Couples Therapist Inner circle, you can click on the link in the show notes. But thank you so much for watching. I'm Shane Birkel, this is The Couples Therapist Couch!

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