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hosted by Dr. Corey Allan

Intimacy With Ease #489

On the Regular version of today’s show …

Jessa Zimmerman joins me today to let the SMRNation know about our free webinar – How To Help Your Partner Want More Sex WITHOUT Feeling Pressure or Obligation  – on Tuesday, October 20, 2020 at 7 PM Central Time. Register for free by clicking here. 

Jessa also sticks around to answer some questions from the Nation. 

On the Xtended version (which is available to all today) …

Pam and I talk about the impact Dr David Schnarch has had our our marriage and my profession. 

Enjoy the show!

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Speaker 1: You are listening to the regular version of Sexy Marriage Radio, smrnation.com.

Speaker 2: You've turned on Sexy Marriage Radio, where the best sex happens in the marriage bed. Here's your host, Dr. Corey Allan.

Corey Allan: Welcome back to another episode of Sexy Marriage Radio, and Pam?

Pam Allan: Yes.

Corey Allan: We are nine years old.

Pam Allan: Happy birthday to Sexy Marriage Radio.

Corey Allan: Absolutely. That's awesome.

Pam Allan: Job well done, Corey.

Corey Allan: Last Sunday, October 11th, 20...

Pam Allan: Columbus day.

Corey Allan: Right. It's so great that October 11, 2011, is when we actually hit the airwaves. So celebrating nine years that... I remember when I hit record the first time with Gina Parris, all those many years ago, having no idea the ride that was in store. And a heartfelt thank you to Gina Parris, and to Shannon Ethridge, and to you, my lovely bride, for being with me along this ride all the way through.

Pam Allan: I think I can speak for those ladies that it's fun to sit here with you and share the time together.

Corey Allan: Thank you. And another huge heartfelt thank you to the SMR Nation, who show up each and every week and just make this thing what it is. Because they listen, they email, they call, they join the academy, they support, they give comments, they give feedback, and we would not still be on the air without them.

Pam Allan: That's right.

Corey Allan: And so, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Here's to another nine years, at least.

Pam Allan: And plus. Yeah, exactly.

Corey Allan: Whatever's coming down the road because this is just too much fun, to speak into what's going on in marriage, in life, in love and sex, and helping couples just make the most out of it. That's what you and I are exactly trying to do as well.

Pam Allan: Exactly, yeah.

Corey Allan: There's also some interesting information going on, that's the kind of the antithesis of that kind of emotion-

Pam Allan: Yeah, totally.

Corey Allan: ...of the celebration of nine years of this show. But also this past week, I got a phone call from a colleague that's part of the little crew that I go to all the trainings with Dr. David Schnarch. And so one of the guys called me on Saturday to make sure I heard before an email went out that David Schnarch passed away on Thursday of last week from a sudden heart attack. He was far too young. He had far too much work that was not quite complete.

Pam Allan: But he's affected so many lives with his great work.

Corey Allan: Absolutely. And I think it's important to let the SMR Nation know about his passing because whether you knew him or not, he impacted your life, if you listen to this show.

Pam Allan: That's right.

Corey Allan: Because he has been a profound impact on my life, and in our marriage, and on my work.

Pam Allan: Specifically on your work and how you counsel people, just the relationship dynamic, it's incredible work.

Corey Allan: Yeah. It's a sudden shocking news, that he will be missed, but his work and his message and his compassion for people-

Pam Allan: Legacy.

Corey Allan: ...his legacy will live on. That's what we hope to continue to carry that forward in everything that we do here. So coming up on today's regular free version of Sexy Marriage Radio, we've got a couple of questions that we're going to answer, but it's actually not you that's going to help me answer these, Pam.

Pam Allan: That's right.

Corey Allan: A fellow colleague, that's also a Schnarch disciple, Jessa Zimmerman, is joining me again on the show. We've got a couple of different things that came through, I was like, I want to get her take.

Pam Allan: Perfect. I love her insight.

Corey Allan: But it's also collaboration with her because she and I, next week on October 20th, are hosting a webinar. And it's called-

Pam Allan: Okay. How do they find out about it?

Corey Allan: So you want to go to the show notes of today's show and there'll be a link to register. It's a free webinar. She's got some great information that's coming up with this, intimacy with ease course, that she's got available that's based off of her book, Stress Free Sex. I cannot recommend it enough. And so the webinar's going to be great information that helps the higher desire. How are they getting in their own way.

Pam Allan: That's excellent. That's excellent.

Corey Allan: It's probably the easiest way to think of it but we'll talk some about it with her and there'll be more details with her. So head back to the show notes and register.

Pam Allan: Okay, perfect.

Corey Allan: That way you can join us. It's on October 20th in the evening, 7:00 PM, Central Time. But we really do hope you join us. And then coming up on the extended version of Sexy Marriage Radio which is deeper, longer, and there's no ads, and although today, we do ask you if... You got to be a member to be able to hear the extended content then you would go to smrnation.com/smracademy, but since Dr. Schnarch has been such a impact on this show, and on my work, and the way I view and work with people, we're giving it for free today. This show, the whole thing's to everybody today. So, we're going to spend some time during the extended content just talking about the introduction to his work that you and I had. I've spent the last several days just going through all the different notes-

Pam Allan: How impactful he is.

Corey Allan: ...that I took at the conferences and all the different statements and stuff. And so I'm going to share some of the biggest ones that still resonate with me.

Pam Allan: Perfect.

Corey Allan: And I think that that's what helps impact and touch people further. So all that's coming up on today's show. Well, it is always a pleasure to welcome, Jessa Zimmerman back to the show and Sexy Marriage Radio Nation world, because Jessa you and I, we have so much overlap. It seems like-

Jessa Zimmerman: I know we do.

Corey Allan: ...on just the framework, the perspective, the approach. Largely because we go to a lot of the same trainings and we've done a lot of the same kind of schooling and prep, and then our clientele has got a huge overlap too. I've got you here on specifically today for this episode. There's two things I'm using you for this time, Jessa, and I'll just be upfront about it.

Jessa Zimmerman: Okay, go ahead.

Corey Allan: One is October 20th, you and I are going to be doing a webinar that is targeting the rework you've got of the program that you've put together, right? Is that kind of easiest way to describe it?

Jessa Zimmerman: I would say that's sort of an intro. The webinar's called, how to help your partner want more sex without just adding more pressure.

Corey Allan: Love it.

Jessa Zimmerman: And so, what I'm going to talk about are the three most common mistakes that higher desire partners make that make it virtually impossible for their partner to tackle this with them and be able to want sex, right? And it's really, really crucial. When I think about why have I called it this or why am I talking to the higher desire partner, is because that person needs to change some things first, typically. That's what we're going to talk about and I am going to inaudible the program and what it really takes to create easy intimacy, but that's more than a 45 minute inaudible.

Corey Allan: Absolutely. Yeah. So that's coming up on October 20th. The information of how to join will be in the show notes for this episode, plus we'll be hitting email lists and spreading the word. So if you're a member of the SMR Nation, it'll be pretty easy to find once you get to our website at smrnation.com or you check your inbox because I'll send all kinds of info on how to find it. And I'll be showing up to that for sure because I'm going to take notes. I'm going to make sure-

Jessa Zimmerman: Exactly.

Corey Allan: ...I'm not doing those three things. But while I also have you here, Jessa, let's get some work done. Anytime I can get you on the air with me, I love jumping into the inbox that we have for the show and just answering some questions that we get from some of the members of the SMR Nation. And so, let me give you a... This is an email from a wife, okay, Jessa. Let me work through this and then we'll dive right in. "Hello. I'm new to the Sexy Marriage Radio Nation and I love the content. Thank you for all you do. My husband and I are newlyweds, as in we're still inexperienced with sex, but we both have a little history of low count sexual partners and experience."
Background. "I as the wife, I'm the lower desire partner, but we still have sex at least four to seven days a week, when we're together, and I initiate probably a quarter of the time. I have a history of strong pornography in my childhood, and he has a moderate pornography in our marriage but that hasn't bothered me yet. We've been married for two and a half years, together for eight, with no children. We live in different states as he's in school now and has one year remaining. We've been in school the entirety of our marriage but we make time at least once a month to get together and to have extended time. My husband cares and invests in my experience of pleasure and sex and he does a wonderful job." Well done, dude.
"My problem is that I do not and cannot orgasm all the time, and I feel, and I'm assuming other women can relate, that it has to do with how I feel about myself. If the room is cold, if my feet are poking out of the sheets, if I feel too fat, if my hair looks messy or not sexy, if I don't have sex at the exact same time I was feeling most horny, if I've lost interest it's..." She's got a whole lot that can just be creeping in.

Jessa Zimmerman: What I'd say is she has a lot of self-awareness. It's not a mystery what's in her way.

Corey Allan: She has a tune, that is true. "Also, the only way I can orgasm by penetrative or oral intercourse is by thinking about lesbian or abusive fantasies. All these factors play too much into my pleasure and experience. So my question is, is this bad? And do you have any advice or guidance for women or men who are just so affected by their thoughts or their environmental too much? I just wish it was easier to orgasm like my husband and I didn't have to feel guilty after a good orgasm."

Jessa Zimmerman: Wow. Okay.

Corey Allan: Yes.

Jessa Zimmerman: There is so much in that question.

Corey Allan: Right. I kind of hear the two different parts of this thing. One, we can do it in an environmentally, because I think that's a component, because she's listing out a whole slew of what's going on around you every time you have sex with everybody. This is their experience.

Jessa Zimmerman: Yes.

Corey Allan: But then she's also got this other component of, to actually achieve orgasms in some of the more taboo fantasies, I guess, is probably the easiest way to label it. We got the two different sides to this question. Let's go environmental first. What do you think?

Jessa Zimmerman: Okay. Super common. Emily Nagoski writes about how people have brakes and accelerators and it's actually the way our brains are wired.

Corey Allan: Correct.

Jessa Zimmerman: Some of us are interrupted by things very easily and have very sensitive brakes. Some people have like, go, go, go, huge foot on the accelerator, and it's built into the way our brains work. It sounds to me like she's got some brakes. She's easily distracted, or disturbed, or the environment makes a big difference. First of all, control what parts of that you can. Control the temperature of the room or-

Corey Allan: Like with preemptive... Yeah.

Jessa Zimmerman: Yeah. Do what you can about those things, give yourself some grace. If you fall off track, can you practice getting back on track? Like this part of the recovery, I think of it. And then she mentioned that she crosstalk-

Corey Allan: Let me jump in just real quick. Do you think by the idea of when you do experience one of these brakes and so you're trying to get back on track, are you in the same thought press I would have of, it's largely just saying, hey. Just acknowledging that. Just say, "Hey, I just disconnected for a little bit. I want to re-establish with you again."

Jessa Zimmerman: Well, and you might say it out loud to your partner but it also might just be something you do in your own head. It's almost like meditation. It's some thought and you end up following it off, oh, can I bring myself back to the moment? You might even just do it in your own mind. Give yourself permission.

Corey Allan: Perfect.

Jessa Zimmerman: Oh, I got distracted, I felt cold, let me see if I can bring myself back. Do I need to speak up about, wait, we need to slow down a little bit because I lost my groove. Can we go back? That's something you might say to your partner.

Corey Allan: And it is interesting-

Jessa Zimmerman: I guess it depends on the situation whether you say something.

Corey Allan: Absolutely. Because you made a comment about, do some of the preventative things on the environment that you can control. And what just popped into my head is, I was speaking at one of the local moms groups here last year, and we got to talking about some of the different aspects because it was just a Q&A time. One of the questions came into some of this environmental components, and one of the women, I love it, she's like, "Oh, yeah. There are two things that matter when it comes to sex for me. How comfortable are my feet?" Because if they're cold, she loses it. It's too much of a distraction. Also the room. That there's a component of that. She's got like a one degree variance, which I think is a lot of women, I can throw my wife into that category, to a degree. And so, actually what she has is, she wears socks anytime they have sex, he gets it. But she also has what she refers to as the sex cardigan. There's a sweater cardigan that she puts on-

Jessa Zimmerman: I love it.

Corey Allan: ...and that's signal to him, hey, I'm interested-

Jessa Zimmerman: Right. Exactly. I've initiated.

Corey Allan: ...but that's keeping part of her covered up well, but also exposing the other parts that he's going to be interested in. yeah. And so it's like it works in every... Half the room was like, that is a great idea.

Jessa Zimmerman: We're getting on Amazon right now and buying a cardigan sweater.

Corey Allan: Totally. Because that's just one of those environmental things that you could just take care of ahead of time.

Jessa Zimmerman: Here's another one, Corey. A lock on your bedroom door. I can't even tell you how many clients... I have to say, "Put a lock on your bedroom door." Because just the fear that the kids can burst in at any moment, it's like, that's enough to keep somebody's brakes on.

Corey Allan: Absolutely. Okay. So that's good. And then the idea of whenever you do have a brake, how do you soothe yourself, get back into connection, either in your own head first and then bring your partner on board or reverse that?

Jessa Zimmerman: Yeah. Right. Instead of thinking, horrible, I lost it, it's done, the door is slamming shut, it's more like, wait, there can be a little bit of, oh, right. I fell off, let me climb back on and we'll see if we can keep going. And that might take a little practice.

Corey Allan: And then all the other stuff, because I kind of cut you off when you were talking about... But the other thing that fits into this is self-image. On just, how am I carrying myself and feeling about myself, because that ebbs and flows as a normal human process.

Jessa Zimmerman: Right, right, right. And there are... I'm always looking for the experts to share about overcoming body image issues because... I think it was Laurie Mintz, I interviewed on my podcast and she said something about, you can't have an orgasm if you're holding your stomach in. Like you just can't. That self-consciousness can be so draining. It's such a burden. So trying to relax and be comfortable in your skin, I think is really valuable work, but that's not snap your fingers and you're done. Again, the idea of maybe being somewhat dressed, wearing lingerie that covers things you want covered, covers on, or having candle light instead of full light. You can also control that environment a little bit to make yourself more comfortable.

Corey Allan: And it almost sounds to me like, some of that self-image, self-consciousness, a lot of that kind of work is done outside the bedroom too, on just how are you carrying yourself-

Jessa Zimmerman: Oh, absolutely.

Corey Allan: ...in all aspects of your life, because it's not like those suckers just show up in the bedroom.

Jessa Zimmerman: Oh, no, no, no, no. They make me get bigger.

Corey Allan: They are across board.

Jessa Zimmerman: Yeah, they are.

Corey Allan: And I'll own it as far as the male side of it, this is a male component too.

Jessa Zimmerman: Absolutely.

Corey Allan: There is some self-confidence and self-image that men can't fight. We're not always just that whole, oh, look at us. The macho bravado that there's... Underneath it, it's very similar experience.

Jessa Zimmerman: Absolutely. One of the things I say to people is, you're having sex with the person in the body, not the body. So to try to give ourselves that grace about someday, hopefully, we're going to be 85 and having sex, you're not going to look like our slim 25-year-old selves. The appearance doesn't matter like we think it does. And so try to constantly reinforce that message is valuable.

Corey Allan: Absolutely. And I love that in the thought process of just, how am I doing the rest of my life? Because I think that's the easier mountain to start to climb in some regards of like, okay, so if I know I have a particular bad day, where you just wake up and you're not... How do you pull yourself out of that? Because that same kind of concept and technique can be applied in the bedroom-

Jessa Zimmerman: Absolutely, yeah.

Corey Allan: ...because you've already prove and it works and it helps, especially if... Maybe it only gets you from a one to a two but well done. That's a big shift. So then let's pivot to the other side of this coin then.

Jessa Zimmerman: Yeah. First of all, let me just say, she's not bad. Okay. Nobody's wrong, nobody's broken here. Fantasies, this taps into what I call our... Well, I don't just call it, people call our eroticism.

Corey Allan: Yep.

Jessa Zimmerman: There are things that really turn us on, for reasons that make sense, I think. If anybody's curious, Bader's book, Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies, I love, but it's very common to fantasize about taboo topics. Nothing is off limits in your brain. There are certainly things you can't do in real life, like abusive stuff or inaudible. But it's erotic for a reason. You've probably heard, our brain is our biggest sex organ.

Corey Allan: Yes it is.

Jessa Zimmerman: The things we think about, that's a lot of stimulation. It adds a lot of... The stimulation we need to be aroused and then to hit an orgasm is physical but it's also mental.

Corey Allan: Totally.

Jessa Zimmerman: So she is talking about adding a lot of mental stimulation which is totally normal and totally fine. I definitely talk to some people that don't... Well, they might be concerned but they also don't like that they're often fantasy away from their partner. Maybe there's a way to bring her partner into that, maybe there's a way to even share it with her partner and be in that fantasy together. Or even if she just continues to fantasize that's perfectly normal. A lot of people, and especially maybe a lot of women, need extra stimulation to get to an orgasm and so that's one way to do it.

Corey Allan: I got two thoughts. One is a question, one is just a thought. As you're talking through this whole thing of just... The comment from Esther Perel came to mind of, fantasies are politically incorrect.

Jessa Zimmerman: Generally.

Corey Allan: That's just generally where they go.

Jessa Zimmerman: Yeah. Some people fantasize about romantic dinners or some, I don't know. And some horseback or something, but yeah.

Corey Allan: You could have a much more vanilla in the sense of that, but there's still this element of whenever I applied judgment to a fantasy, I'm immediately hurting what can be and the exploration of what I can learn. Because I think this element you've touched on is, they're born out of something a lot of times. It's like, hey, maybe exploring that can be beneficial and also maybe bringing a partner into it can take us to a whole another level of experience ourselves. But my question for you is, do you think there's a correlation between, if I get easily distracted and the environmental means the fantasy has to help override some... I don't know. I don't know if they're... I wouldn't put causation.

Jessa Zimmerman: Yeah. I think I know where...

Corey Allan: I wouldn't put causation in this at all but I'm wondering what kind of correlation there might be.

Jessa Zimmerman: Yeah. That's an interesting idea that one way if we get our brain busy in a fantasy, maybe we're keeping it at least engaged right here-

Corey Allan: Absolutely.

Jessa Zimmerman: ...with sexual stuff, instead of thinking about the dishes or my cold feet. So I think that's possible but so many people fantasize that. Maybe that's one of the purposes that that serves. And I do want to say that, just because we fantasize about something does not mean we want to do it.

Corey Allan: Correct.

Jessa Zimmerman: That's just so important to point out. So the fact that she gets turned on by lesbian fantasies does not mean that she's a lesbian or that she wants to have sexual experiences with women. The fact that abusive scenes kind of turn her on does not mean that that's what she would enjoy in real life. So it's so important to understand that there could be things that are super hot to think about that we don't want to do.

Corey Allan: Right. And that's where they're better served on just leave it where it is in the sense of, hey, that's what it is. If you want to investigate and try to uncover more. I guess you can, but there's still that element of how do you replace and move into... Because fantasy, you invite your partner into it or you try to be more engaged with your partner in the moments and that's what gets you over the hurdle that you're looking to overcome. Okay.
I love it when people are willing to be real with emails and also speak to, here's a bigger issue that a lot of people face, because she captured two different things that I think are pretty common across the board. If I was to characterize one of the issues that wreaks the most havoc in our marriage, it would be mealtime. Would you agree with that, Pam?

Pam Allan: I would totally agree with that.

Corey Allan: It's because I'm married to a woman that enjoys much more variety, much more healthy options, and much more adventure when it comes to meals.

Pam Allan: Yeah.

Corey Allan: Whereas I am a, get the job done and move along kind of a guy. Well, we want to tell you about our sponsor today, HelloFresh, which I think you made the comment at one point, it didn't save our marriage because we weren't necessarily precarious but it has definitely-

Pam Allan: It's taken away a sore spot in our marriage. You're the one at home. I want you to have a meal ready when I come home in tack season, and holy cow, when we started HelloFresh, boom, I come home and he's chopping up onions and he's chopping up shallots.

Corey Allan: So what is HelloFresh? It's fresh pre-measured ingredients with mouthwatering, seasonal recipes delivered right to your door. America's number one meal kit. HelloFresh lets you skip those trips to the grocery store. It makes cooking fun, easy and affordable. Here's a couple of points that are worth noting. HelloFresh's recipes are delicious.

Pam Allan: They are definitely delicious.

Corey Allan: They offer so many different recipes that you get to choose from each week to help you break out of your recipe rut. HelloFresh also helps you save time and stress effortlessly. And it's largely because, what's delivered to your house is exactly what you need.

Pam Allan: It's the perfect portions and cute little bottles that everything's in.

Corey Allan: It really is.

Pam Allan: Our kids jump in and help cook.

Corey Allan: Our kids love it. We've loved it. There's even leftovers, some of the times, because we get the family pack each and every week. And then the last thing is, flexible and it fits your lifestyle, because it keeps your fridge stocked and you can add extra proteins or sides, like garlic bread, to your weekly order. It's so easy to do. And I'm getting this look from my wife like she didn't even know we could add extras.

Pam Allan: I didn't know we could add garlic bread.

Corey Allan: Well, actually, Pam, then you should take advantage of this special offer, because if you go to HelloFresh.com/smr80 and you use the code smr80, you get a total of $80 off, including free shipping on your first box. Additional restrictions apply, but please visit HelloFresh for more details. Again, go to HelloFresh.com/smr80 and use the code smr80 to get a total of $80 off across five boxes, including free shipping on your first box. Maybe HelloFresh can take the stress out of your relationship when it comes to mealtime too. Let's pivot to one more email if you're cool with that Jessa.

Jessa Zimmerman: Absolutely.

Corey Allan: All right. This is from another wife. Her and her husband are faithful SMR listeners, so thank you very much. Listen to every single episode and are grateful it help them grow so immensely. So they have a question, "Even before I was married, I knew that something was off due to the pain that I would experience. Once we were married and actually trying to have vaginal sex, the pain was excruciating. I saw several doctors, many of whom who blew us off and said I just needed to relax," that drives me so crazy.

Jessa Zimmerman: Yeah, I hate it too.

Corey Allan: That is a common story. "So about nine months ago, I finally connected with a specialist in pain and she immediately could see the problem. I had an extremely highly eneverated tissue in the area which was sensitive to even the slightest touch with a Q-tip. From the beginning, she said I would probably need surgery but gave us several other things to try first, like medications, pelvic floor physical therapy, et cetera. I saw her again a few weeks ago, and since we had seen almost no improvement she went ahead and scheduled me for a vaginal vestibulectomy, which I'm having in a few weeks. The doctor says I'm a perfect candidate and she thinks it'll be life-changing, but she also has experienced or expressed that it will be very painful recovery after that. And that once we are cleared to have sex, we'll likely still experience a lot of the same anxiety we had before. She'll be able to prescribe me anxiety medication to help, but it will continue to work with the pelvic floor physical therapist as well to help with that.
So learning to have real penetrative sex for the first time after a lot of failed and very painful experience as well as a major surgery and the fear of tearing that comes with that is daunting to me, even though I am so eager for the chance to experience sex this way. On the other side, my husband is so excited to finally to have penetrative sex as soon as possible and who could blame him. He's supportive of me and willing to go at whatever pace we need as he graciously has been this whole time. But he's understandably eager to get the ball rolling quickly. So we would love any feedback you have on, managing and communicating around expectations easing into sex, after either never having been able to, or for others perhaps after a major surgery or injury, and then managing the anxiety that comes with that." because she's touching on-

Jessa Zimmerman: Oh, boy.

Corey Allan: Again, this is-

Jessa Zimmerman: You got some complicated emails this time crosstalk-

Corey Allan: But again, and I think we can put this into two categories. You got the physical side of it but then you've also got this anxiety, this emotional side of it. And this is one of those things that I love the fact... Just hearing the way she's wording this and the way she talks about her husband. This is not one trying to pull one on over the other or get their way too soon too fast, it truly is a collaborative process is what it's being described as. I love having you on this because I've not come across this procedure before, I had to go do some searching on it to learn about it more. That's why I was like, "I got to talk to Jessa about this one, this could be good."

Jessa Zimmerman: The first thing I want to say, she covered a lot of bases, but to anybody out there who's got sexual pain, I just want to say, you got to be persistent trying to get an accurate diagnosis. Most people, women, are going to need to see six or seven doctors before they really figure out what's going on. And they will often be dismissed, you just need to relax. Have a glass of wine. It looks fine to me. And that's all you're going to get because most doctors are not actually trained in this.

Corey Allan: Correct.

Jessa Zimmerman: Even gynecologist. It's really kind of frightening. So you got to be persistent, you got to advocate for yourself with that. I love that she's already seen a pelvic floor physical therapist, that's such an integral part of working with sexual pain.

Corey Allan: Yes.

Jessa Zimmerman: All right. As for the surgery, the recovery, how do they start to approach sex again? Very slowly, very gently. What I would say... And when this comes up, no matter how people are struggling with sex, I usually give people the recommendation to work on touching where the receiver's totally in charge. So she would be guiding her... Well, first of all, she would probably do some self-exploration. How does this all feel when she's recovered and everything's healed? Can she touch herself? What's sensitive, what isn't?

Corey Allan: Right, because that's a whole new journey there too.

Jessa Zimmerman: Right. Your body is different than when you went in. So what's there? How does this tissue feel? What's tight? What's sensitive? What's painful, what's not? What's pleasurable now? What does that even... Get to know the territory.

Corey Allan: You're kind of describing a brain rewiring is necessary at times too. This whole process is going to entail that.

Jessa Zimmerman: Yeah, because you got to get to know what's my body now and what is it like now. That changes for all of us anyway but certainly dramatically after surgery. And then, can she guide him to just touch gently, softly, different parts? Sort of like body map this whole area and figure out what's possible. The physical therapist is likely going to have her work on penetration very gradually with something called dilators, where you start with something very skinny, the size of a finger or less and gradually work up, relaxing those tissues and seeing what's comfortable. Ideally, they come out of this. I have had clients with this procedure and are able to have enjoyable vaginal penetration down the road. But I've only had two so it's not enough to say, it always happens. I'm not sure. It's possible. Ideally, that's where they end up. But ultimately, they're going to have to figure out what pieces do they have that they can put together this puzzle. If it includes vaginal intercourse, great, if it doesn't, there are just so many ways to still share pleasure and connection.

Corey Allan: And that's what they're describing too. And I almost hear, this is also calling on whatever the capacity they learned about themselves and each other to navigate this thus far is what you're going to also be relying on. It's the ability to communicate clearly of no, no, no, not yet. No that, no. Yes, no. And just, sometimes it's that simple but sometimes it's also the conversations even beforehand and after that are setting it up, because if you're... I'm trying to put myself in this husband's shoes for a second to think, I've experienced a lot with this woman. I've been very gracious and caring and supportive, and now I'm really raring to go, because, hey, we're going to get the green light. And so it truly is like, gloves are off, let's go. And so there's still this element of, I still have to honor her and let her guide and lead this and recognize she's trying to get where we both want to go, and so, don't rush it, don't overpower.

Jessa Zimmerman: It's not a green light until it doesn't hurt. It doesn't matter what the doctor says, don't do things that hurt.

Corey Allan: Exactly.

Jessa Zimmerman: Don't push through that pain or that's just going to aggravate things. So even when the doctor says you've healed from the surgery, greenlight, you're ready to go, it's like, whoa, whoa, whoa, slow way down, you've got to investigate. I really think they're going to have to approach these encounters. This is not sex, we're experimenting, we're discovering what hurts, what doesn't, let's really round out this territory. Feel out the menu here about what's possible before she's going to be able to relax enough to just sort of be penetrated and enjoy that.

Corey Allan: I don't know why this just popped into my head because it's not at all apples to apples, but I just think of any time you're recovering from a surgery. I tore an ACL playing basketball. It's been an over a decade now. Medically speaking you're cleared after about eight months, but mentally speaking to be playing ball, it's a year to a year and a half before your brain is connected to, you can trust that procedure and the healing and it works. I almost hear a similar component but it's compounded because you've got two people and two brains trying to... Because there's that element of think of how sophisticated the communication takes place during sex that you can misread your partner. And so then it's important that they bring their map forward of, whoa, no, hold on. I saw you just pull back and get tentative. That's not... I'm in this, let's go. Or, yeah, you read that right. Let's slow down. It's such almost a laboratory-

Jessa Zimmerman: Use your words.

Corey Allan: ...of retraining yourself and each other.

Jessa Zimmerman: Right. And it also brings up when her experience of sex has always been painful, but even if it was just sometimes painful the body's response to that is to clench. I'm anticipating it might hurt-

Corey Allan: It's preparatory.

Jessa Zimmerman: I touched the stove one out of 10 times it's hot, I'm going to be tentative. So the body's response is to clench and that ultimately that can create vaginismus, where somebody clinches so much they can't have penetration. The vaginal muscles are so closed but it's also painful. This learning to relax and totally relax the pelvic floor, relax your mind, totally be present and receptive means nobody can be pushing or chomping at the bit. There's just got to be such a tender approach to this over whatever amount of time it takes till they figure out what's possible.

Corey Allan: Yeah. This is truly to me where this fits into married sex is a long game. That this is... You're working towards something. It can take a while for something to really come to fruition of what you've had all along in your mind. It might be something that's down the road but don't discount the power of, if we're heading towards it, there's so much that it's still beneficial and learning and exploring and experiencing. And then lo and behold, most of the time, I think you probably have similar experience with clients and people on your shows that, we had this thought of what we think is the coup de gras, the ultimate, and then when I start heading towards it, lo and behold, there's something that's even better.

Jessa Zimmerman: Yeah. Hopefully this couple has along the way found real ways to share pleasure with each other that has not involved pain. So hopefully they've got this whole playground of things that they've enjoyed and they're still going to have that. I would hope it's not been all or nothing. That's certainly something I do in sex therapy with people. We're trying to deal with the medical issues here but we're also trying to maximize the pleasure and connection you can have. And there's so much value in that.

Corey Allan: And so that almost answers the second question that I've got of, how do you manage the anxiety? You call upon the resources you've already had and the ability to recover and to connect in ways that you didn't think you were going to be able to because whatever you thought was taken off the table so now you come up with a different way to experience connection with each other, enjoy or bonding or intimacy or whatever it was you were looking for.

Jessa Zimmerman: Right. And have experiences where she knows nothing is going to be done to her without her explicitly inviting it or consent. She can't be on guard like, at any moment he might try to stick it in or something's going to happen, she will not be able to relax like that. So it's got to be her in charge.

Corey Allan: Okay. That's good. It's an empowering thing, but I love it because it sounds like she's already well down this road because she's done the proactive, I will manage and advocate for myself to find the answers.

Jessa Zimmerman: Yes. Yes.

Corey Allan: That's good. I love that... Again, Jessa, thank you so much for jumping on with me just to-

Jessa Zimmerman: You're welcome.

Corey Allan: ...just to cover these two and then October 20th, I can't wait. Again-

Jessa Zimmerman: Me too.

Corey Allan: ...I'm showing up with a notepad. I'm going to take notes.

Jessa Zimmerman: I'll be curious to hear what Pam says too actually.

Corey Allan: I'll run it all by her, we'll see what happens.

Jessa Zimmerman: Well, because the webinar's aim for these higher desire partners but the lower desire ones are going to be thrilled with this. I promise you.

Corey Allan: That's a perfect tease. Well, thank you very much, Jessa, and look forward to seeing you again.

Jessa Zimmerman: Perfect.

Corey Allan: So as we segue into the extended content today, it's not a lot of fun to talk about loss.

Pam Allan: Right.

Corey Allan: Right. To talk about just how life just has these things that happen. I guess the easiest way to do this is just to... If you've listened to Sexy Marriage Radio on any length of time, you've heard Schnarchian phrases, or concepts, or statements-

Pam Allan: Right. Throughout the all nine years.

Corey Allan: ...that are directly attributed to him. And I try to always carry the mantle of, if it's something that is definitely his, I'm going to acknowledge that. I'm going to say it's his. One of the things that I've tried to do is adapt it to the circumstance and the lens through which we view live, through which I view life. But some of the fundamental concept of his are just too good. I started grad school, late 20s, 30s.

Pam Allan: Yes.

Corey Allan: Was introduced to Schnarch in the PhD program. One of the very first classes I took, Passionate Marriages was one of the textbooks. And so here I am diving into this work, having been exposed to all of the different theories already at this point in the field of marriage and family therapy and just psychotherapy. And typically, the way that whole thing goes is you figure out which one do you resonate with most and then deep dive into that theory that matches with the way you view life in the human within life.

Pam Allan: I'm kind of curious of, however many people were in the master's and doctoral program with you, how many of them said, yeah, Schnarch is the one that really captivates and sums up the epitome of where I think this should go.

Corey Allan: Well, that's a great question, because in the PhD program, there were a couple others that really loved some of the concepts of him, but I think it was just me-

Pam Allan: Interesting.

Corey Allan: ...that really was like... Aside from one professor, she was heavy into his work as well. But yeah, I think there's a lot of people that loved some of the ideas and the philosophy because it was based a lot off of Murray Bowen's work which is the founder of family systems theory, and he took it and then just adapted it to marriage specifically. And so, there's a lot of overlap that if you're a systems theorist, you're already going to be in line with his work. But I think what rubbed a lot of people wrong when you first come across his work two decades ago or so, it was pretty gruff, in the way he would come about confronting people and it was really straightforward. It's just-

Pam Allan: Yeah, he doesn't tiptoe around anything.

Corey Allan: That would rub a lot of people the wrong way in the field, because there's a lot of people that head into the mental health field and they are compassion souls, they are tender and softer. They're really, really caring. And so the idea of really calling somebody out doesn't sit well with a lot of therapists. Well, Schnarch swims against the stream in that regard, because he thinks of it, and this is what resonated with me the most now that I look back on this whole journey is, one of the times I was listening to him speak and he made a comment about how I think most people have the word empathy defined wrong. Because most people... Well, what do you think of when you hear the word... Why can I not say empathy?

Pam Allan: Empathy.

Corey Allan: What do you think of when you hear that word?

Pam Allan: It's taking on their... Well, not taking on but being able to relate to someone's pain.

Corey Allan: Right. It's like the walking in their shoes. That I can have empathy for you by being able to understand your journey and your pain and your struggle. He thinks of empathy as, it's getting into the trenches with somebody deep enough to do what's necessary because you care for them that much.

Pam Allan: That's more of a doing mindset, it sounds like.

Corey Allan: Which was the entirety of his theory. That it was all about doing. If action and impact are what matter, thoughts and feelings don't. That's what separated this whole thing, was being able to recognize that difference and it's very straightforward and let's move things along. And that's the thing I think that I resonated with the most is, it just made sense. When I started reading Passionate Marriage and then you and I started having conversations about it, because it was clicking with me and then you started asking questions on just, hey, what about this? What about that? So I'm actually explaining things to you as I was learning them too. And we were off to the races, I think on both of us starting to see things through a different lens.

Pam Allan: Yeah. Some point I felt like I could have gotten, at least a master's not a doctorate, in some of what you had going on, because if going through it all the questions that were being asked and gone through.

Corey Allan: Right. Because we did have lots of conversations and the ability to unpack things after they happened between us. Because that's the key when... The psychobabble term for some of his philosophy is this idea of differentiation, and it's the ability to handle life in a more grown-up straightforward manner. He also puts it, defined it as, differentiation is insight put into action. Because a lot of our field in the mental health world really puts a lot of onus on the importance of insight. It's that aha moment.

Pam Allan: Right. Ah, it's happening because of this but now what are you going to do about it?

Corey Allan: Right. And so he comes at it from most of the change doesn't come from that insight moment, most of the change comes from when it gets to that deeper level and you're like, oh crap. I'm not going to do that anymore. I'm not going to keep doing life that way. And it actually becomes a moving force in your life that you start doing it different. And so it's that insight into action. It's that ability to truly be about my own integrity and my character, what drives me forward. Because he also has the phrase of, if you can't handle your emotions, you can't truly love. And that's insight into action. Right?

Pam Allan: Yeah, it totally is.

Corey Allan: Because how often do we find times in marriage where you make me mad and I might erupt and blame you for making me mad rather than dealing with the fact that my eruption is causing more problems in the relationship than any other thing could, and yet I get so sophisticated with my avoidance of myself that I would blame you for, well, don't make me mad like that then.

Pam Allan: That's just this. This whole concept, this whole framework that he's built, blame has no place anywhere. There is no place for looking for where to put blame. It's what do I do with what's in front of me. And not what did my spouse do with what's in front of them, it's what do I do with what's in front of me.

Corey Allan: Right. On a professional level, I've had the opportunity to go to all kinds of these trainings that he does. Most of them were all like a two-day, three-day surrounding marital infidelity, just some of the chronic issues because he's been very, very good. His work has always been really good at labeling the major things that we face in marriage. Just naming what they are. And then the thing I love the most I think of that is, that the fact that it's named and normal. It's going to happen. That whole concept of gridlock is a Schnarchian concept, that what you want is blocked by what your partner wants. And most of the time we think we can outsmart gridlock issues, and in reality, you can't-

Pam Allan: You can't. There are always there.

Corey Allan: ...because you still are dealing with your spouse who is a different entity than you. And so the importance of recognizing, okay, how is this playing out in me? Because you can't agree to disagree on gridlock issues, because they're on actions and behaviors, they're not on thoughts and feelings. And there's another distinguishing difference. There's a lot of the filth ends in the whole world of thoughts and feelings. And he comes at it with, you don't agree to disagree to have sex or not, you either have sex or you don't. You either have a child or you don't.

Pam Allan: Or you don't.

Corey Allan: You save money or you don't. All of those things are quantifiable.

Pam Allan: Yes. There's an action for all them.

Corey Allan: So here I am learning all of these concepts and it's something he's framed as the crucible, which marriage is defined as a crucible, which he then in turn made a whole therapeutic approach to deal with intimacy and desire that he calls, the crucible. And the whole goal of it is, and the technique behind it all is, you jump in as the therapist and you help increase the pressure of each person's internal crucible to recognize what's going on in their own relationship to make it a drive wheel for them to confront themselves better and their marriage better. Which then means, if you're doing it right, the best in people start to stand up. That is some of the most profound moments I can think of throughout the course of my professional career is-

Pam Allan: That's what you build so much of these shows off of, so much of your practice off of.

Corey Allan: Right. That's where you can actually see people stand up for what's right and good in their life and really start to make some change. And then, they start to get what they were hoping for all along. Because think of the sophistication of all that, Pam. This stuff you know. We all want to be wanted and accepted but yet I go to great links to try to manipulate and manufacture that rather than recognize when I'm just upfront and vulnerable I have a greater likelihood of actually being wanted and accepted.

Pam Allan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Corey Allan: Rather than the whole perception game. So here it is, I'm going to several years of training, and then lo and behold, he comes into town with his wife, Ruth, and offers a couples therapy weekend. I still remember the day I called you and said, "Hey. Schnarch has come in and doing a couples workshop. It's a three-day couples workshop, do you want to go?" And I'll admit, I was secretly hoping you would say no.

Pam Allan: Is that right? I did not know that. Why were you wanting that?

Corey Allan: There was a component of me that was hoping you would say no because I know we have gridlock issues, especially at that time, because we're still naive in this, in some regards of this whole theory and approach and dealing with life and confronting life in better ways but we don't know what we don't know yet. And I know the issues we still faced and I know the issues we face now, I'm just not as afraid of them. But back then I was afraid of them. I was a scared little boy, in some regards. And so when you said yes, I actually had to swallow and go, "Good," because I was like, I don't know what's going to get uncovered at these three days and I don't know if I want to deal with what's going to get uncovered during these three days. So it was truly one of those like, oh, no, I'm not sure about this.

Pam Allan: And I think you ended up being very glad.

Corey Allan: Oh, totally. The thing that I loved about the time with you during those three days was it was just for us, because this wasn't just for professionals this was for everybody. Just the general population. He's working in real-time with couples and just watching it unfold how he... That's where I saw the compassion of him really come out. Because I think he always took on therapists at the trainings a little differently because we're required a little bit more. If you're going to get in the trenches, you got to be able to handle some stuff, so I think he was a little more blunt and forceful at times.

Pam Allan: Well, he's trying to... It's a training, right?

Corey Allan: Totally.

Pam Allan: It's a training for you as professionals, he doesn't need to sugar coat things for you. There should be some backbone there to take on what you need to take on. So then you get to see that softer side when he's dealing with what would generally be a client base for him and how did he handle the crosstalk-

Corey Allan: And so just watching that thing all unfold and then us going through the exercises and having the time together to start the conversations, I still remember conversations we had at the little Chinese place right next door to the hotel, that went on into the afternoon and into the evening, on just some of the patterns in the way we avoid things, or the way I would avoid myself in some things. It's so great to look back at the pivotal change I think that had started to create in us. Because like you even said, it was fantastic to actually hear everything you talk about from the person that I talk about.

Pam Allan: Well, it just all made even more sense. Because there were so many things that I'd heard over the years or proofing your papers or whatever, and getting to hear it in some of the more common everyday language from him and the different examples that he'd throw out. Of course you get life application, you had other couples in the room tossing out questions about specific things going on-

Corey Allan: Absolutely.

Pam Allan: ...and then you get that life application response and that's how you learn things. I think that's the goal you've got here with callers calling in, with voicemails and emails, right?

Corey Allan: Completely, because that's the way I think of it. I always remember looking back at that weekend with you and all the other couples that were there, that there were two in my mind that stand out. That they saw an opportunity to get real-time therapy with him.

Pam Allan: In this big group setting.

Corey Allan: They didn't care. It never turned into a full on therapy session but he always treated as a great moment to truly deal with what they're presenting, because knowing, if someone else is facing it, just like we talked about here on the show, if someone's facing this issue other people are too. I still remember anytime there would be let's process where are we in the room, one of them would start, "I got a question," and it would be about what's going on with them and they would just put it all out there and he would be okay.

Pam Allan: They were good questions.

Corey Allan: They were, but he was so compassionate and genuine like it was just them in the room with him. That's the thing I love looking back at now, of the people that call in, the people that email, and then at the getaways that we do, the people that take advantage of, you know what I have at my fingertips some direct help if I'm willing to confront other people may hear about my stuff and think ill of me and when in reality, other people will hear about your stuff and go, "Oh, thank the Lord. Someone's actually talking these questions. I want... Ah, that stuff's really good. That's really helpful."

Pam Allan: Exactly.

Corey Allan: So it's just taking advantage of those things. And then, as this whole thing has come along, the last four years particularly, I am so, so grateful for the work he's doing now, which has gotten into the world of mind mapping, brain regressions, flooding.

Pam Allan: What's the key that you're so thankful for with that?

Corey Allan: He's gotten into this whole neurobiological component of how we deal with trauma and how we deal with life, because none of us get through childhood in life unscathed. I think what's always stood out to me, I love the technique and I love the concept but I think what I've loved the most about Schnarch is he's always acknowledged the dark side of us, as people.

Pam Allan: Right. That we don't even want to share.

Corey Allan: Right. And I particularly love it being in the Christian arena. Because this is the whole concept to me, I think, where Paul's talking about it's the war of the flesh. That it's the underhanded, manipulative, conniving, deceiving sides of us that we try to act like don't exist and we act like when we're saved, they're gone. No, they're not. How do I reign that beast in is what matters? And the first step to do that is you start recognizing it and acknowledging it and then go even deeper because this is where he started really making some headway, I think, in the whole world of trauma. When you start to recognize it's not the actual trauma that creates the most pain and turmoil, it's the mapping of the person who is perpetrating the trauma's mind and seeing that they likely are getting a little pleasure out of it or they know what they're doing and they're still doing it.

Pam Allan: That's just sick. But it's for real.

Corey Allan: Yes. But that's the stuff that sticks with you. And that's the stuff that is the haunting dark night of the soul stuff. You can put things in context, and I hate the humanistic side of this to recognize, you can understand why some people do what they do, but the fact that there's a part of them that takes pleasure in it and there's cruelty, that's the part that's just like, okay, if we can operate in that work arena, you can really start to deal with people and help them in tremendously profound ways.
And so the last stuff he's been doing has just been so spot on, on how do I confront what goes on in my own mind based on what's going on in other people's minds that I do life with or have done life with. And I no longer then start to just go after them as a villain, I go after them as a separate entity. Then it becomes how am I dealing with what I'm responsible for towards them, not making amends, having the big confrontation closure moment, it's truly just, how am I working towards making better moves if they're still in my life? How am I confronting what needs to be confronted if they're still in my life? Not trying to... Because think about it-

Pam Allan: And confronting what needs to be confronted isn't making that big last move or making amends?

Corey Allan: Because most people, I think, think of this idea of the big confrontational moment means if I... Let's say it's a parent child trauma I'm dealing with and I need to confront them and make sure they take ownership of the pain they've caused me. That's what I think is the fairytale land, Disney world version of this work.

Pam Allan: Got you.

Corey Allan: Rather than, okay, this is not about the fact that this happened and I need you to own it, this is about the fact that I see it and I see it completely clearly now. And so, the way you react to this will determine the relationship that we have going forward or not.

Pam Allan: Got you.

Corey Allan: I think that's a more powerful from an inner mental world outward approach of I'm taking charge of me in my own world and in my own environment and I start to recognize the moves that I make are better. And I also don't blame other people for their moves because everybody's making moves. If I've taught somebody that they can get whatever they want with me, they can call up and I'll drop everything at the drop of a hat and go help them, and that yet I'm grumbling and mad and upset, I've never stood up to them. And that's the difference of just recognizing, okay, wait, this is empowering to change me in those contexts, to teach people better how to treat me. That would be one of his phrases too.

Pam Allan: I love that phrase.

Corey Allan: It's just seeing that it's about being able to stand up and say, "I see this. I see what's going on and I'm giving you free will to choose what you choose. And I will respond based on what you choose."

Pam Allan: Yeah. I'll respond accordingly.

Corey Allan: Because that's marriage, isn't it?

Pam Allan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Corey Allan: Because how often do... If I'm talking about when I'm not at my best, one of the best ways people try to calm themselves down when they're in a regressed state, is they pound on other people and then expect that other person to apologize.

Pam Allan: Right.

Corey Allan: It's like, I can't believe you made me mad like that. Rather than, hold on. I was regressed there. I was not operating well. I need to deal with me a little bit.

Pam Allan: I need to back up. I shouldn't have gotten so mad.

Corey Allan: Right. And I think that the more we do that, that is all predicated on this whole idea that when the best in a stand up, I actually start to create a relationship that is truly giving, and compassionate, and caring, and loving, because it's then choice and it's then impact. And it's then the influence I have with people rather than what am I trying to get from people. There is so much more we could talk about. I don't know how many years I've been to trainings with him.

Pam Allan: Yeah, I have an idea.

Corey Allan: And I'm sorely disappointed I missed the last one, which was just a couple of weeks ago. And it was virtual, and which is some of the things we've had going on. It just did not fit with the time frame. And so I'm disappointed I missed that one, but I am forever grateful for his work and want to continue it in the manner in which we do here at Sexy Marriage Radio, because I really do think Schnarch's work has helped impact people to recognize how to live and love deeply. Because I think that's what we all really want. And so, rest in peace, Dr. Schnarch, and blessings to your family that's being left behind and the work that it continues forward.
Well, baby, as we wrap up this episode of Sexy Marriage Radio, I have to give a heartfelt thanks to you. Just because nine years is a long time. We've been together a whole lot longer than that but nine years on the air doing this every week is a long time. And even though you've only been on the air with me the last couple of years, you have been a vital part of this whole thing.

Pam Allan: Thank you.

Corey Allan: And so thank you very much for your willingness and your strength to let me do this and talk about us and then now join me as we do this and talk about us.

Pam Allan: Well, I appreciate it. Thanks for letting me join you. Love being here with you.

Corey Allan: It's been quite the ride and I'm looking forward to a whole lot more-

Pam Allan: Yeah, me too.

Corey Allan: ...with you. And with the Sexy Marriage Radio Nation. So here's what we need from them. Call us, email us-

Pam Allan: We're looking at each other like, who's going to talk?

Corey Allan: ...let us know what's going on. 214-702-9565 is our voicemail line. That's where you can ask your questions, pay your respects, your praise, your comments, whatever you want to do, please. We're all in this together, just trying to make the world better in our marriages and in our homes and then in the world beyond. So this been Sexy Marriage Radio, thanks for taking a part of time.

Pam Allan: Easy for you to say.

Corey Allan: This has been Sexy Marriage Radio. Thanks for taking some time out of your day to spend it with us. We'll see you next time.

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