There’s no getting around it: relationships take work. In this week’s thePause, sex and relationships therapist Cyndi Darnell shares her insights on how the pandemic is impacting our sex lives, the power of being vulnerable and relationship myths.
Jennifer: Cyndi, we’re within sight of our first-year pandemic anniversary. What in the world is happening to our relationships these days?
Cyndi: It's been an extraordinary year of slowing down — and I've never been busier. My practice has been booming through this time because people are not distracted by anything else except themselves. What folks have been putting off in terms of their sex and relationships is now in the foreground, because now they have to deal with it.
That's a good thing because I think one of the biggest myths that we believe about sex and relationships is that they’re natural, that the skills required to navigate relationships and sex are "soft skills."
There's nothing soft about these skills. They're some of the hardest skills you're going to learn because they push you to your edges of what you think is important, what you think is valuable, what you're prepared to do, what you're not prepared to do, what you're prepared to risk, what you're prepared to forego. The reason that people avoid this stuff is not because it's soft, but because it's actually really hard.
But we get to a point in life, where if we want to have connections, really meaningful connections — if you want good relationships with lovers or friends or your kids or whoever, you have to put in the effort. And if you don't, you'll be lonely.
And that's just how it is.
Jennifer: When writing about women’s sexual health, it seems we nearly always focus on sexual health as a function, as in vaginal dryness. What else should we be considering?
Cyndi: Vaginal dryness is a thing and yes, painful sex is a thing. But then we also have to ask, Well, what kind of sex are you having? A lot of women, if they're with a male partner they've been with for a long time, there might not have been any room in the relationship to talk about trying something different.
The research shows us without a shadow of a doubt that the most sexually satisfied women on the planet are lesbians. What we can deduce from this is, we know how the bits work. But it's not just familiarity with the anatomy that assists in regards to that. It's got to do with the kinds of sexual activities that women who have sex with women engage in. Men can do that stuff too. It's expanding your erotic repertoire and exploring things that are not penis-in-vagina-sex as the sole thing.
As we're kind of getting on a bit, we have to start expanding our conversations about sex to take it away from this ideal of being thin and, you know, hard-bodied and flexible and up against the wall — what we maybe could do when we were in our teens and 20s.
In our 40s 50s 60s, whatever, to have richer conversations about what is pleasure? How do I want to feel?
Interestingly, when I speak to women about this stuff, and I say to them, “What kind of things do you like sexually?” Overwhelmingly, they say, “I don't know.”
And this is where the conversation actually begins.
To hear more of Jennifer’s interview with Cyndi, check out The Breadwinners podcast.
For a Pause
Any good, solid relationship is worth the effort: “Friends are the antidote to the burdens of daily life,” writes Tara Parker Pope, who offers ways to be an even better friend.
Despite this week’s topic, conversation starters don’t have to be just about sex. “What would be your perfect weekend?” is one example. Here are 250 more.
The sex toy industry is booming. Could it be the pandemic? #moretimeonourhands. (On The Breadwinners podcast, Jennifer also spoke with Barbara Cook, CEO of Lovers, a female-founded sexual wellness retailer and brand with stores in five states. Learn about how she’s navigating lock-down retail here.)
What happens to love in lockdown? Is it sink or swim? Stress can strengthen ties as well as weaken them. The Conversation weighs in on how to tell if your releationship will survive more months at home.
One More Thing
Did it just get a little dusty in here?
Stay happy, healthy — and see you next time!
XO Sheryl + Jennifer
You must understand though the touch of your hand
Makes my pulse react
That it's only the thrill of boy meeting girl
— What’s Love Got to Do With It? Tina Turner
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