Taking the sTress out Of Sex, with Dr. Rose Schlaff
Want to go from turned off to turned on after a busy day? If you’re looking to find more ways to amplify your desire and arousal, then listen up!
This week on the Find Your Feminine Fire podcast I’m talking with Dr. Rose Schlaff (she/her) is a Pelvic Physical Therapist, Sexual Health Coach and the Founder and CEO of Be Well with Rose, LLC. She is passionate about helping women and queer leaders take the stress out of sex so they can feel energized and excited during intimacy and connect more deeply in all areas of their relationship.
Listen below, or tune in via: Apple Podcasts,Stitcher or Spotify.
(full transcript below)
In this episode you'll discover
JOIN IN THE DISCUSSION ON THIS EPISODE AND MORE IN MY FREE FACEBOOK GROUP, FIND YOUR FEMININE FIRE HERE.
Dr. Rose Schlaff (she/her) is a Pelvic Physical Therapist, Sexual Health Coach and the Founder and CEO of Be Well with Rose, LLC. She is passionate about helping women and queer leaders take the stress out of sex so they can feel energized and excited during intimacy and connect more deeply in all areas of their relationship.
Dr. Rose utilizes simple evidence-based practices based on sexy science to amplify your desire and arousal, so you can feel confident, connected, and carefree in your relationship in and out of the bedroom.
In addition to her virtual sex coaching practice, she is a guest lecturer for the University of Michigan’s Human Sexuality Certificate program, San Diego State University’s Marriage and Family Therapy Sexuality and Intimacy course, and has had the opportunity to lecture internationally on the topic of women's sexual and pelvic health in Beijing, China.
Connect with her HERE. Follow her on insta HERE. And grab her guide, Let's Talk About Sex, and it's a fill-in-the-blank MadLibs-style guide, HERE.
If you liked this episode, please consider giving me a 5 Star Review on Apple Podcasts! It truly does help the podcast grow.
If you've been interested in learning more about coaching with Amanda, she's now booking coaching clients for 1-1 support in creating the relationship and orgasmic pleasure of their dreams. If you’ve been thinking about it, maybe we should talk! Link here to book a free call to see if we’re a fit.
EPISODE 213: with Dr. Rose
[Fun, Empowering Music]
Amanda Testa: Hello, and welcome to the Find Your Feminine Fire podcast. I am your host, Amanda Testa. I am a sex, love, and relationship coach, and in this podcast, my guests and I talk sex, love, and relationships, and everything that lights you up from the inside out. Welcome!
If you’re ever really exhausted at the end of a long day and you really want to go from turned off to turn on, then you're gonna love this week’s podcast because if you're looking to find more ways to amplify your desire and arousal, you're gonna want to listen in as this week on the Find Your Feminine Fire podcast I have the pleasure of talking with Dr. Rose Schlaff. She is a pelvic floor PT, sexual health coach, as well as the founder and CEO of Be Well With Rose. She is very passionate about helping women and queer leaders take the stress out of sex so they can feel energized and excited during intimacy and connect more deeply in all areas of their relationship.
So welcome, welcome, Dr. Rose. I’m so happy you're here.
Dr. Rose: Yes! I’m so happy to be here.
Amanda Testa: I always love to start with kind of learning a little bit about the journey that you've been on with this work because I know you have been doing this for a while. Would you share a little bit more about kind of what led you on this path?
Dr. Rose: Oh, my gosh, absolutely. I get this question all the time, as I’m sure you do too. [Laughs] Right, like how the heck did you get here? So I’ve always been that go-to friend that people share things with, you know? “Oh, I’ve never told anyone about this,” or, “Oh, my gosh, this might be too much information, but I just don't know who else to talk to,” and that’s always been my superpower is making things that are traditionally un-talk-about-able feel really safe and comfortable and fun and easy.
Amanda Testa: Yes!
Dr. Rose: So I loved those conversations that I was having in my personal life, and, professionally, I found my way to physical therapy because my mom has a disability.
I saw after many, many, many encounters with her amazing physical therapist, how profound and understanding the human body can be, how much pain and pleasure in the day-to-day life, right -- not even from a sexual standpoint -- but moving better, feeling better, how much can be accomplished without medication with physical therapy which, really, was like magic in my eyes. So I felt like I had these two parts of me that were okay, I have this part that likes talking about sensitive things. I have this part that wants, really deeply, to understand the human body, and I figured out that pelvic floor physical therapy was a thing.
So I was like oh, this is perfect! I can still have all this knowledge of the human body, still have all this knowledge about pain and pleasure from a physiological standpoint and also I can treat the muscles of the pelvis.
So I’m talking all day about pee, poop, and sex which are very sensitive topics. [Laughs]
Amanda Testa: [Laughs]
Dr. Rose: You know, I loved the work that I was doing. It’s different than the work I’m doing now a bit because I’ve gone through my own journey. I was in an incredible facility, a biopsychosocial approach. We had myself, a sex therapist, a sexual medicine physician all evaluating and treating the same people. I was learning a ton from this approach, and I also, at the same time, was really struggling deeply with my own health. I had pretty intense anxiety for the first time in my life. I was having panic attacks. I’m a life-long extrovert over here, and I was feeling really drained, depleted by my human interactions both with my patients but also with my partner. I felt this disconnect.
I didn't really know what was going on, so I went to the doctor. We figured out I had a big hormonal imbalance in my thyroid that was creating heart palpitations, panic attacks, all the things that I was experiencing. So my nerdy physical-therapy brain was like oh, good, it’s a physiological issue. Let’s just address these hormones and get me back to normal.
You know, I worked with that endocrinologist for about a year and a half, and it got a little better. During that time, I was working with a therapist because practice what you preach. I was working in a biopsychosocial model. I knew that, even though it started as a hormonal imbalance, there were still psychological impacts of that, and that helped a little bit but I still, at the end of the year, felt pretty out of control of my body, felt really disconnected to my body, disconnected to people around me, and was just struggling to connect and enjoy my life like I had been prior to this experience.
I remember sitting in that endocrinologist’s office, and he had this big look on his face, and he was like, “Congratulations, your numbers are normal!” It was the biggest gut-punch that I ever could have gotten because it felt, in that moment, like the medical system, the system that I had invested all of my time becoming a part of -- at this point, I had a doctorate in physical therapy and had been practicing -- I really felt like it had failed me. I didn't really know where to go next. I was like I tried therapy, I tried hormones, why aren’t I feeling better, and that’s when I really went on a journey of self-discovery.
It took me a couple different places, but one was functional nutrition, one was coaching, and what really came out of this was identifying that I wasn't looking at myself in the system.
I think that a lot of us, as individuals, just identify with traits that have truly been socialized into us. Everyone who is socialized as female, or most people anyways, have been socialized to care deeply for others, have been socialized to put others' needs ahead of our own, have been socialized to be perfect, right? We have to be perfect to be worthy of the same jobs, the same pay, right? There's still a big pay gap. And so, I was really identifying these things as my personality, right? "Oh, I'm just so caring. I'm just a perfectionist. I care so deeply," and, really, what I started to recognize was these are all products of the systems that we're raised in, and when I started having these conversations with myself -- but also my patients, patients who were navigating pregnancy and postpartum, were navigating difficulty reconnecting to their bodies and their partners after their baby or throughout menopause or throughout a painful experience or trauma, when I was talking about these things, I noticed a bigger shift than when we were just addressing the physical, than when we were just seeing this kind of surface individual approach.
And so, for me, that really put me on the path of where I am today which is yes, addressing the physical aspects of what makes sex fun and makes it feel good in our body, feel pleasure in our body, feel connected to ourselves and to each other, but also what's going on in our society that creates a barrier for that, and how do we navigate the psychological issues that come from that? We all have mindset and physiological responses to these things that we've been raised in that may be happening behind the scenes. We may not even realize.
So, really, my joy now is using my own personal struggle, my own journey of discovery to connect the dots instead of having so many different individuals that we go to and try to put the pieces together ourselves. I love putting the pieces together with my clients, and I love helping women and queer leaders take that stress and heaviness and disconnection out of life transitions and really create ease, joy, connection, fun. It should feel light, and it can feel light.
Amanda Testa: I love that, and I think there are so many listening that can relate. I know, so often, my clients share the same of, you know, going through the medical system and everything's checking out, but they still feel awful.
Dr. Rose: Yes!
Amanda Testa: But it's not, right? I know.
Dr. Rose: Yes.
Amanda Testa: It can be challenging to navigate those waters, and so, I love that the understanding that you've gained through your years of experience has led you to this place of being able to guide others.
Dr. Rose: Yes, and it's so important to note I did have a physiological issue. I did have a massive hormonal imbalance which triggered this whole shift in my body, even when something starts as a physical issue, right?
Amanda Testa: Yes.
Dr. Rose: Like pregnancy or postpartum or even physical pain or endometriosis or menopause, even when something starts as a physical issue, there is this waterfall of other effects, and until we can address you as a whole, even if the physical is addressed, there may be secondary issues that are continuing to keep you stuck in that pattern, and that's what happened with me.
Amanda Testa: Yeah, the holistic approach is so key.
Dr. Rose: It is.
Amanda Testa: I think, too, like you were mentioning, so much of our structural system is set up on extraction and is just really not conducive to our health, not conducive to our health, right?. It can be really common that, especially leaders and people that are ambitious or anyone, really, that’s doing what they think they should do in the world -- it's often like you work hard, you give, you sacrifice yourself for others, all the things that you mentioned. And so, oftentimes, people might not necessarily connect the dots of -- oh, okay. So I appreciate that aspect too.
You mentioned, too, you work a lot with leaders. This is a question that I thought would be interesting 'cause I think, like you say, the holistic view is so important, but oftentimes we are very good at segmenting things in our life.
Dr. Rose: Right. Mm-hmm.
Amanda Testa: We segment work, then we segment family life, then we segment parenting, and then we segment our relationship, then we segment our sex life, but really, it all is so intertwined.
Dr. Rose: Yeah.
Amanda Testa: Right?
Dr. Rose: It is.
Amanda Testa: And so, I'm curious, from your perspective, what might your pelvic floor and your professional success have in common?
Dr. Rose: Yeah.
Amanda Testa: How do they affect each other?
Dr. Rose: Yes, absolutely. I think this is so important to note because they are all interconnected, and the way you do one thing is often mirrored in the way you do many things. So, for me, prior to my experience, I was showing up. I was at a world-renowned facility. I was in a really high-level place in my career, and the energy behind it was very different than the energy that I bring now. [Laughs]
So I think a lot of the time we learn how to play the game that's set ahead of us for what we've learned we have to do in society to be successful, and we do it. We check the boxes. We learn how to be a leader. We learn how to lead our team. We learn how to be there for our family, for our friends, and we've gotten very good at that, but what I see happen is there's this disconnect between this high-achieving, everywhere else in your life -- sometimes I say you're a badass everywhere else in your life, but then your sex life is kind of this dirty little secret where you feel like you're not quite hitting the mark or not quite feeling like you could or should be feeling, and it feels out of alignment because you're used to being really, really great in most areas of your life and setting your goals and achieving them.
So what I see is because we've learned okay, this doesn’t really matter for the rest of my life, I can deal with that later, it often comes last on the list. When I work with people, when we start bringing pleasure -- it's not just about sex, right? Pleasure could be and should be laced throughout your entire life.
Amanda Testa: Yes.
Dr. Rose: And when we start bringing pleasure and we start practicing the things that I think make sex and intimacy the most fun like asking -- asking for what you desire, checking in with yourself and identifying what do I even want, what do I even need, asking for those things to mean that, the practice of receiving (that is so difficult, oh, my gosh, especially people socialized as female -- wow, it is so much easier for us to give than receive), the practice of receiving, the practice of being present while you're receiving, not thinking how you're going to reciprocate or give back -- all of these tools that we use to make sex more fun, to make intimacy feel better are things that, when we start to embrace them in this area, bleed out to the rest of our life and we're able to ask for what we need professionally, in our family, in our friendships.
We're able to identify our desires more clearly. A lot of the time (this was certainly true for me) I felt like I was playing the game of life. It was like okay, get your doctorate. Okay, get this great job. Okay, buy the house. Okay, check, check, check, check, check. I've heard that reflected back from many of my clients of I've done the things, I've accomplished the goals, and, still, I feel something is missing, and I don’t know what I want, but I want something else.
Amanda Testa: Yeah.
Dr. Rose: And so, that practice of connecting to your desires and identifying that can help you in every area of your life, and I've had clients who -- I was just talking to a client the other day who's a trauma therapist, herself, and she shared with me, "I'm a better trauma therapist now because I'm able to be present in my body and just be there with my clients without worrying so much about the give and take and what's happening and oh, my gosh, am I doing a good enough job,” or all the stories that run through our brain just like they run through our brain in the bedroom, [Laughs] they run through our brain outside the bedroom. So I think there is a huge connection and we can separate these things, and hey, if we're stressed in life, studies have shown when you're hooked up to an electromagnetic sensor and you're showed a scary movie, your shoulders and your pelvic floor are the first things to contract.
So it's like if you're stressed, your pelvic floor is tense and tight. So it's the same with your nervous system and your whole body, and if you're relaxed and receiving, your pelvic floor is able to relax, rest, receive, enjoy. So it's connected physically, it's connected in our behavior in all areas.
Amanda Testa: Yes, I think that is such a common thing especially for, like you say, people that are leaders or work hard, right? It's that go, go, go kind of collective spell that we have been taught, but it is. It's like that does inhibit that ability to kind of shift gears sometimes, right, because you're busy, leading your team, slanted at work, all the things, and then you come home and you're like [Snaps fingers twice]. It's hard to turn that off.
Dr. Rose: Yeah.
Amanda Testa: And so, I have a few questions about this, but before I ask you those, I'm curious -- and maybe this all goes together, but when you're feeling that tension and stress, obviously, it's a lot harder to relax. It's a lot harder to surrender (which is very important) and to be able to receive fully and to enjoy whatever experience you're in, whether that's at your board meeting or, you know, enjoying some delicious sex with your lover.
Dr. Rose: Yeah.
Amanda Testa: So I'm curious what would be some tips that you have to kind of relax the pelvic floor or kind of move into -- how do you turn off that desire to nonstop, to actually slow down and receive?
Dr. Rose: Yes, it's so hard to turn off "go" mode [Laughs] especially when we are so rewarded for it in our culture in every other area. So what I love to talk about is, two pieces.
So the first piece is our breath is incredibly powerful for many reasons, but our pelvic floor and our diaphragm (which is the organ that we breathe with; it lives under our rib cage) work together like a piston and a car. So every time we breathe, if we are using our diaphragm, then our pelvic floor is moving. So as we breathe in, you'll notice because you can feel your rib cage expand left and right. You may feel some sensation in your belly or even lower all the way down to your pelvic floor. As you breathe in, your pelvic floor lowers and stretches and relaxes, and then as you breathe out, your pelvic floor contracts and lifts. This is so important because there's many different places that we can get stuck in our pelvis.
So one, a lot of the time this go, go, go mentality, we're kind of ready, on.
If you’ve ever noticed at the end of the day, like, "Oh, my gosh, my shoulders are so tense," or, "Oh, my gosh, I've totally been clenching my jaw," just noticing some tension in your body, there's a good chance that your pelvic floor might be holding onto that as well. So each breath that you do in this manner is allowing blood to flow through the pelvis. It's allowing your tissues to relax, release, and just kind of move. I always talk about this -- I don’t even know if this even applies to younger generations anymore -- cell phone arm or phone arm. You know, when you’ve been holding your phone up for a long time on a great conversation, and then you straighten your elbow for the first time after that, you're like oh, my god, my elbow is so sore, and you kind of have to do the Tin Man and shake it out a little bit, relax it. It's the same thing with breathing for our pelvic floor.
Another incredible piece of breathing is our respiratory organ (our diaphragm) has the vagus nerve which is our most important nerve for shifting into our restful nervous system. So our action-taking nervous system that we're in a lot of the day where we're taking action, we're making decisions, we're in this sympathetic fight and flight mode, and so, to just signify okay, I'm not in survival mode. I'm not taking action. I get to relax and shift into a different part of my night, that breathing can be really powerful to shift us. So that's the first part.
Then, the second part of this is really developing a system. I call it a sexy system or a ritual [Laughs] where you are actually telling your brain and body, "Hey, that part of our day is done. We are shifting now." This can look different for anyone, but some of my clients do this with a playlist. They'll just dance to a song. Some of my clients do this with a bath or a walk outside or a run or a shower or an eye-gazing activity with their partner or just three deep breaths together or a long hug, right?
What are we telling our body? Okay, that part of our day is done. The next part is here, and I think during COVID this became even harder because, truly, many of us were working from home. I heard a lot of my clients say, "I'm drinking more frequently because that's the only thing that's telling my brain and body I'm not working anymore." And so, this is really important to have a ritual. Maybe you change your clothes. Maybe you do something else, but that ritual is important, especially if you work from home.
Amanda Testa: The rituals are so key. I love that. I always have a similar type of thing that we work with a lot of times. It's kind of similar to people here and there but, you know, that transition ritual is so key, and you can do it anytime, right?
Dr. Rose: Yeah.
Amanda Testa: The power of intention and ritual, I cannot say it enough, it's so key. Even, too, one of the things that works for myself and my husband is we, often, will just lay in bed for 15 minutes and just talk and connect and just let all the craziness dissolve.
Dr. Rose: Yes.
Amanda Testa: One of the beautiful things about working from home, if your schedule so allows or I actually really try to make sure my schedule allows, is that there's time in the day that we can connect because that, sometimes, is the only time we have alone.
Dr. Rose: Yes.
Amanda Testa: And so, it's really nice to make that time, but we also are very much in work-mode so we both need a okay, let's chill out for 15 minutes and just lay and chat, and then we feel much more in the mood.
Dr. Rose: Yes, I love that you shared that because I think that's also important to know. We've just been kind of taught that sex happens at night a lot of the time and we're like ah, I'm so tired or oh, I just did so much today, and maybe I do have a hard time shifting my brain at night, but I love that you and your partner both work from home so you have this flexibility, but also, maybe it's a weekend day.
Maybe if you have kids you have your kids go on a playdate for a weekend day or, you know, getting creative with what are the best times for me where it's easiest for me to connect, where it's easiest for me to be present with my partner. That might be in the middle of your day, and it might be late at night for you. That might work, but just having permission to explore and knowing that there's no wrong time.
Amanda Testa: Yeah, I love that too. One of the things I think is fun is, often, when you have kids I recommend doing the sexy Saturdays where okay, you go to your friends for three hours, then they come here for three hours, and you can do the swap, right?
Dr. Rose: Yes, exactly!
Amanda Testa: [Laughs] So that you can have some alone time with your partner. So I love that.
Okay, so now tell me some more about ways of shifting that into that more relaxed turn-off-the-work mode, get-into-the-sexy mode.
Dr. Rose: Mm-hmm, yes, so I think it's important to note that with responsive desire, it's a multi-part system, right? So we, first, need to decrease the stress and shift into that parasympathetic nervous system just like we were talking about, either with breathing and/or a ritual to shift your body, but we also need to be exposing ourselves to something that's a little bit sexy. The way that I describe this is say you had me over for lunch, and I had eaten a big breakfast. I wasn’t really hungry when I got to your house, but your cooking smells so good. Oh, my gosh, as soon as I start smelling your cooking, I'm like I've got to eat some of this food. It just smells way too good not to eat. [Laughs] I didn’t know I wanted it, I didn’t know I needed it, but now that I'm smelling it, I do.
And so, every person will be triggered in different ways with responsive desire, but knowing your triggers, knowing your go-tos -- does that mean we're listening to sexy audio stories beforehand? Does that mean we're watching a sexy show together? Does that mean after our 15 minutes of down time where we just chat, maybe for 10 minutes we're just touching each other's legs and lower stomachs, just giving our bodies a chance to warm up to the idea of being aroused.
I think, so often, we start -- okay, we've got 15 minutes in the middle of our workday. Let's go straight to the clitoris or straight to the money, and I think we're really doing ourselves a disservice by not allowing our nervous system to catch up. If we create space, even five minutes of space, it can make such a difference for how present we are to the touch, once we are doing direct genital touch or how much we're enjoying it and aroused during. We've all had that experience where we think we're gonna get into it faster than we do, and then we're kinda in it and we're like okay, this is good, but we know it could be better. That's not my desire for any of us. I think my desire for all of us is to be met with this ease and excitement and fun during every stage of connection, during every stage of intimacy.
I really love playing -- I'm sure you know this game -- there's an incredible sex educator who developed a game called The Three-Minute Game. Basically, there is one giver, one receiver, and each person has two turns in that role. And so, when you're the receiver, you have one turn where you say, "This is how I'd like you to touch me," and then when the next turn comes, the giver gets to say, "I'd like to touch you like this," and there's discussion back and forth. Okay, yes, I'd love to touch your feet, but no, I don’t want to touch your big toe. Those just weird me out for whatever reason, but I'd love to touch your ankles instead, right? There's a discussion. I think sometimes people get overwhelmed even by four rounds of three minutes. That's 12 minutes of touch. What’s that gonna look like? Is it gonna be awkward? Where are we gonna go? Sometimes even starting with 30 seconds or 1 minutes, it's like 4 minutes to shift from go, go, go mode into, "Okay, we're touching. That feels good. Oh, my gosh, I haven’t had my hair touched in so long," or, "Oh, now that you're touching my back, I actually think I want you to touch my inner thigh. This actually feels really good." So just allowing your body and brain to catch up and be on the same page can be really beautiful.
Amanda Testa: I love that so much. That's Betty Martin. She's amazing. It's so true because there are numerous things, right? You might love to touch your partner in a certain way, but they might not like to receive it that way, right?
Dr. Rose: Yes.
Amanda Testa: And you also need to be able to have those discussions like here's how you like to be touched. So you want to touch your partner the way they like to be touched and find out, also, when there is something that you want to do, what's the way you can do that in a way they enjoy, right?
Dr. Rose: Yes.
Amanda Testa: So often we don’t have those conversations, and sometimes you don’t necessarily want to talk, so just being in the process of the doing can help to put it into words, right, because you might not know how to verbalize it in the moment. That's why these games can be so helpful because it's a less-stress situation in a way, right? You're like we're gonna play a game.
Dr. Rose: Yeah, or we’ve got one minute on the clock. We probably can't mess this up, you know? [Laughs]
Amanda Testa: [Laughs] Right, yes. I think that's fun, too, and I'd love for you to share a little bit -- I think, oftentimes, what can happen maybe is if you are in the cycle of things aren’t great in the bedroom, and then there's stress around it, and then there's that waterfall of things that happen that cascade to make you feel avoidant or have a lot of stress around sex, so what would be some ways you can kind of relieve some of that anxiety or stress about okay, this is gonna happen and ease into it with more fun and pleasure?
Dr. Rose: Yeah, absolutely. So there are so many different ways that we can do this, and it really depends on what level of stress, overwhelm, avoidance you're at. So, obviously, starting my career as a pelvic floor physical therapist, I worked a lot with people who were experiencing physical pain during penetration, and that level of fear surrounding sex is profound, and it's not uncommon.
Seventy-five percent of people with vulvas have discomfort or pain with penetration at one time, and over thirty percent continue to have pain. So if you're listening to this, and you’ve ever felt discomfort, I want you to know you're not alone, but this is something that can shift. You don’t need to experience pain.
And so, something that can be really helpful when you're really at the end of this spectrum where you're just dreading sex or feeling really fearful about it, and maybe you once enjoyed it, but it's just gotten to a place where it feels so heavy, I really recommend taking sex off the table for a period of days. When I say sex, everyone's definition of sex is different. My definition of sex is very different than most people's. I don't define sex as penis and vagina or even orgasms at all. For me, sex is any time that we're together and touching or I'm alone and touching and feeling good, right? There doesn’t even need to be touch. It's just a connection with my body and my pleasure and my erotic nature.
So, for you, if sex looks a lot of different ways, maybe that's saying, "Okay, I love it when we hug, I love it when we cuddle, I love it when we kiss, but I notice that I'm feeling a lot of fear around penetration, and I would love for the next three weeks to take penetration off the table because my ultimate goal is for us to get back to a place where we're having more frequent intimacy and feeling really excited about it. And so, during that time, when we're taking penetration off the table, I would love for us to explore more external touch, and maybe we're playing the three-minute game, maybe we're not, but I want to create some times for us to explore together."
And so, taking the pressure off penetration, taking the pressure off of orgasm, can be incredibly freeing, and also, we can create a space where it's like oh, that's easy. We have four minutes? Let's play the one-minute game. Okay, we did our homework for the week. We connected.
Amanda Testa: I love that. So key. Then, there's less pressure. I'm curious now -- 'cause it is true, you know? I know we've talked about this on the podcast around what to do when you have pelvic pain and how to seek out support, but oftentimes, there's multi-pronged approaches which is why you've got to look at the holistic view.
Dr. Rose: Mm-hmm.
Amanda Testa: And so, maybe if there isn’t pain, but there's just maybe discomfort or shame, even --
Dr. Rose: Yeah.
Amanda Testa: -- That can be a huge -- and that actually can present as physical pain.
Dr. Rose: Yeah.
Amanda Testa: So I'm wondering what might be some advice you have around that.
Dr. Rose: Yes, so I would say what I just said goes for anyone -- not just people with pain, but anyone who is feeling like sex has really become a chore. You're really feeling like it's a "should." You're feeling a lot of pressure to perform. You're feeling a lot of resentment about it. Although you wish you didn’t feel anger and resentment, you're starting to feel it creep in. That is a really good indication that we need to create a big boundary, and that boundary doesn’t need to last forever, but we need to create a boundary so that your nervous system can begin to feel safe again with connection. Whether it's taking penetration off the table for three weeks or taking all physical touch (outside of hand-holding and hugging) off the table for three weeks, those are options, but we can also decrease the pressure and stress by saying, "Okay, for the next three weeks I want to do an experiment. I want us to connect physically, and I want us to not create a goal towards orgasm. I want us just to connect physically and see what feels good." That's an option.
You can also -- I think there's a lot of pressure around initiation and, "Oh, my gosh, are they gonna ask me when I'm tired, and I'm tired of rejecting them, and I've rejected them three times already, so, gosh, I should just do this. You know, I should just do it," and we never want to push through that feeling. Although responsive desire exists, we have to at least feel an inkling of interest towards it, right? Just like the food example, "I smelled your food cooking, and then I got in the mood," but if I got there and you were like, "Eat the food! Eat the food!" I'd probably be like, "No, no matter how good that food feels, you're really shoving this food on me. That doesn’t sound good to me." So really being in touch with what feels good to you and what feels like a hell yes, even if it's a hell yes, I'm open to trying, and I can change my mind at any time.
Amanda Testa: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Rose: But, truly, identifying what part of this feels stressful. Is it the initiation part? Okay, then we decide my best hours to try this are Saturday mornings. Every other Saturday morning, we're gonna send our kids on a playdate, and every other Saturday morning, that's the time we connect, and outside of that Saturday morning time, we both know that it's off the table. So when you hold my hand, when you rub my shoulders, when you cuddle me, I can relax and now that this is just a cuddle. It's not for a purpose, for a next outcome.
And so, that's another really beautiful way if you want to continue intimacy in your full spectrum but you just want to feel like you know exactly when it's coming so you don’t have to worry about it or you don’t have to worry if you're not on the same page. That's another great way to set a boundary.
Amanda Testa: Yeah, and I know in a little bit you're gonna share more about an awesome little fun, sexy MadLib you have around communication during sex and whatnot, but here's something that I hear a lot, and I know I'd love to hear your thoughts on this too. Like you say, it's so important to be able to really honor what your body needs in the moment-to-moment and really being present moment-to-moment and being able to say no whenever you want to say no and have that respected or feel confident in saying the no without fear of, like you say, rejecting your partner.
And so, I'm curious what some ways that you can share that? When you're in the action and you want to stop, it's totally okay, and a lot of times people are like, "Well, you know, I've already made it this far. Let's just, like, get it over with, whatever," which is really not a healthy thing to do for yourself because, in a way, you're overriding your own boundary, which we do. We're all human. We're gonna sometimes do that, but when you notice it happening all the time, that is when a lot of resentment and pain can build and all kinds of things. It's really important to speak that, and so, I'm curious what you could share around that.
Dr. Rose: Yeah, absolutely. I think it's really hard to say no, and it's really hard to say no when we've previously said yes. This is something we need to practice, and I find that sometimes a verbal no can be even harder. So sometimes just starting with a nonverbal cue of, "All right, I've noticed that sometimes I think that I'm gonna like something, and then when we get in it, it actually feels too sensitive or I actually notice that I'm not quite into it, but I have a hard time saying it when we're in the moment.
Could we identify a hand signal or a word that could help me communicate that with you in a succinct way?" Because sometimes it's really the communication of it, of, like, “Oh, god, I'm gonna have to do this whole big explanation and then it's gonna take us out of the moment, and it's exhausting. Okay, I just would rather not.” So instead, having this discussion beforehand and saying, "All right, when I tap your shoulder or when I squeeze your upper-arm, right, whatever works for you or when I say 'mango,' that's when we know okay, we're gonna switch gears."
Another thing that you can plan ahead of time is after that signal is given, what is the thing that always pretty much feels good? What's something that goes back to baseline?
So it could be, "All right, when I give you this signal, I want to just come back to cuddling and eye-gazing, and then we can decide from there what we wanna do, but we might just end there." Actually explicitly getting that reassurance from your partner (of would you be disappointed if that happened or would that be okay) can be so freeing. We're not having these conversations, and inside our brain, we feel that heaviness of the fear of disappointing our partner, the fear of letting them down, and most of the time, our partner is like, "Oh, my god, of course, I wouldn’t want you to do anything that you don’t feel good with. Of course, it would be okay. Of course, I love cuddling you."
Another piece of this is if we have those times where we know okay, we're connecting back in, we have our ritual, there's not so much pressure on the few moments where we're intimate. It's like, of course, this was a great Saturday, and we're gonna try our next sexy Saturday.
Amanda Testa: Yeah, and I think it's working through whatever might be standing in the way of you having those discussions, and you can do that. There's lots of tools or if you feel like you need more support, then that's available for you as well, but just knowing, oftentimes, when you can feel comfortable having those conversations, it's a huge celebration because it can allow there to be new connection in new ways. Oftentimes, especially if we've been in a partnership with someone for a while we might just assume, right, that they're gonna respond this way or assume this is what's gonna go down or assume X means Y.
Dr. Rose: Mm-hmm.
Amanda Testa: And so, it can be really hard to kind of step back and give the opportunity for new possibilities to bubble up.
Dr. Rose: Yes.
Amanda Testa: But, like you say, most of the time our partners do want to please us, and they don’t want to be doing anything that's not enjoyed, right, and if you're not enjoying it, they probably know on some level, and they're not enjoying that either, right?
Dr. Rose: Yeah, exactly.
Amanda Testa: [Laughs] So yeah, it makes it good for everyone. Yeah.
Dr. Rose: Truly.
Amanda Testa: And so, I'm wondering, too -- I'd love to hear this perspective, because I know, oftentimes, when vulva owners in particular, can find ways to find more pleasure in their sexuality, it really does kind of amp up their confidence and their magnetism in all areas of life. I see this all the time, and I'm sure you do as well.
Dr. Rose: Yes, yes.
Amanda Testa: So I'd love for you to speak, maybe, a little to that or what are some of the things that you see and why you think this work is so important, just for when you put the two and two together like oh, I never would have thought that enhancing my sexuality makes me more successful, but it really does.
Dr. Rose: Yes.
Amanda Testa: I mean, I think that goes back to Think and Grow Rich with Napoleon Hill, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on that.
Dr. Rose: It does. It does, and just like we are needing to practice all of these techniques, right, releasing the outcome of penetration or orgasm, just enjoying the process of connection, staying present in our bodies, feeling like we can say anything -- that courageousness that comes with practicing the no (even if it's a no that you previously said yes to). The confidence that you develop when you have shown your body, "Hey, I listen when you say no. It matters to me. Not only do I have the awareness, but I'm acting upon it, and I'm protecting you." That's huge. There's so many little micro nos that we encounter on a day-to-day basis. Just the nervous system stress that we undergo when that no feels really scary, when we feel really triggered by the thought of disappointing someone or oh, my gosh, what are they gonna think about me, and to have all that practice, it lessens the burden of those thoughts, but then, also, it lessens the burden of the secondary harm that's happening when we say yes and we mean no or we feel that sink in our stomach after, "Oh, sure, I'll pick you up from the airport. No problem… Oh, god, I actually -- why did I say that?
I could never say no now 'cause I already said yes,” and those moments, that's our precious energy. We're just reclaiming, little by little by little our, energy. We're honoring, little by little by little, our desires, our needs. That makes us so powerful and so magnetic. I know that we’ve been taught, I was taught, that the best thing you can do for other people is to bend over backwards and help them and do everything for them.
I've learned over this time that the best thing I can do for other people is lead by example and show what's possible, honoring my pleasure, honoring my desires, honoring my nos, honoring my yesses. That, in and of itself, is humongously powerful, not just for you, but for the people around you, for your friends, for your family. Oh, my god, I've seen my entire family change since I've started this work years ago -- entire family.
Amanda Testa: Yeah, there's such potency in that and how it spreads around to everything that you touch, right?
Dr. Rose: Yes, no pun intended. [Laughs]
Amanda Testa: [Laughs] Yes! Well, I feel like I could just keep talking with you, but I'm wondering, too, is there any questions that you wish I would have asked or any last things you'd like to make sure that you share?
Dr. Rose: Mm, great question. I think what I would love to share is if you're listening to this, I want you to know that there are so many things that we can do that feel fun and easy and can be easily incorporated on a daily basis to help you shift to a place where you do feel light, you do feel free, both in and out of the bedroom. If any of this resonated with you, I love to talk to people about this stuff. Please message me on Instagram @bewellwithrose. Please feel free to email me. I work with people one-on-one, in groups, in couples, and it's my joy. It is my joy to do this work, and even when I don’t work with people, I love seeing their journeys as they've discovered resources through me.
I think we're not talking about sex enough in our society. We're not talking about pleasure enough in our society, and I think if you listen to Amanda's podcast, you are that person who is changing your system of friends, your system of work, your system of family. You're the one, and that change will ripple out from you, from everything you learn. If you are taking this information and you're like okay, I want to apply it, how does this apply to me, please reach out. I do free 15-minute phone calls, and even if we don’t work together, I love directing people to the right resources.
Amanda Testa: Yes, and also, I know you mentioned that you have a resource around communication that you were gonna share. So would you mind telling everyone where they can find that?
Dr. Rose: Yes, so I hear, all the time, "Oh, my gosh, where do I even start the conversation about sex? I just feel so awkward, I feel so uncomfortable. I don't know what to say." It's not fun. It feels really heavy, so I developed a resource that is meant to be fun. [Laughs] It's meant to be silly. You can do it solo (it's a great learning experience for you), but you can also do it with your partner. It creates this opportunity to just laugh and be silly together. If anything is awkward and weird, you can blame me. You can be like, "Oh, my god, this doctor who developed this is a weirdo!" You can laugh together. That's okay because sex gets to be silly. It gets to be fun. I want you to have that experience. So it's called Let's Talk About Sex, and it's a fill-in-the-blank MadLibs-style guide, and you can find that at www.bewellwithrose.com/talk.
Amanda Testa: Beautiful. Awesome, and I'll make sure to put that in the show notes as well and where everyone can connect with you. Thank you so much, again, for being here.
Dr. Rose: Yes, oh, my gosh, thank you for having me, and it's just a joy. We were talking before we started recording, we were like this is my favorite thing to do, so I'm totally in my pleasure right now!
Amanda Testa: Yes!
Dr. Rose: [Laughs]
Amanda Testa: Totally. I know, and just to really allow yourself to drop in and say, "Okay, what, out of this, was a nugget that I really want to hold onto," you know? "What was, maybe, something that I got from this episode that will be a support moving forward?" Hopefully, there were some resources that do help you feel less stress around sex, give you some more tools around transitioning from your busy day to, you know, a more relaxing and connecting evening with your partner or your loved ones, and also some great tools on communicating around sex.
Dr. Rose: Yes.
Amanda Testa: So thank you so much, Dr. Rose.
Dr. Rose: Oh, my gosh, thank you, and please, let us know what your nuggets, what your takeaways are. Message us. I love hearing what's your action step after this, what are you gonna try? We're all sexy scientists.
Amanda Testa: I love it. Sexy science. It's the best kind. [Laughs]
Dr. Rose: [Laughs] It is. It is.
Amanda Testa: Thank you all so much for listening. We will look forward to seeing you next week!
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Thank you so much for listening to the Find Your Feminine Fire podcast. This is your host, Amanda Testa, and if you have felt a calling while listening to this podcast to take this work to a deeper level, this is your golden invitation.
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