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Episode 15

Fact: Maintaining a fulfilling sex life in a long-term relationship is no simple feat. Fact: It doesn’t just “happen”. The couples who are happiest with their sex and intimacy are also those that dedicate attention, time, and energy to it.

In this episode, Dr. Stephen Snyder shares a few tools that can help you navigate this complicated yet extremely important topic, such as mindfulness techniques to help you reclaim your sexual connection.

Want a list of all the best quotes and amazing resources mentioned in each episode?! Check out our show notes, plus lots more good stuff — www.bbxx.com/lazy

Sasza Lohrey

Hello, Stephen, thanks for being with us today.

Stephen Snyder

Hello, Sasza.

Sasza Lohrey 

Thanks for joining us. So I guess to kind of kick things off your book is, you know, called Love Worth Making. And there’s a subtitle which you may or may not have chosen, subtitle should not be mentioned. But basically the book being about how to kind of have fulfilling sex or to continue sex in a long term relationship, along those lines. if somebody were to refer to it as ‘great sex.’ How would we define that? What does great sex even mean? Just so we can all be thinking about the same operational definition. For some people that might be like having seven orgasms each time I have sex, or-

Stephen Snyder

One of the things I talk about in the book is that orgasm is best considered to be dessert. It’s the end of the meal, usually, at least for a guy. And after dessert, there’s the check and get your code catch a cab if you’re in Manhattan. And it tends to be towards the end of things. So unfortunately, a lot of people focus on getting dessert which leaves you hungry, a couple gets to bed at night and they figure ‘Okay, what’s the efficient, most efficient way for both of us to get dessert so that we can go to sleep?’ And unfortunately, they’re still hungry. So what I tell couples is you want to think about sex as like a meal. The appetizers ordinarily, foreplay should be interesting enough and worthwhile enough in their own right, or for their own sake, that you momentarily forget that they’re appetizers. Because sex is about being in the moment, paying attention to the moment without judgment. That’s exactly what they say about mindfulness. So there’s a connection between mindfulness and sex. And then the main course arrives. And you go, Wow, great. I forgot we get to have a main course too. Awesome. And then just as you’re almost full, the dessert tray arrives, you go. There’s dessert, too. I love this place. This is terrific. So that’s the best way because everything should be in the moment. So great sex is when you’re in the moment. Brew, appetizers, main course, and then dessert. And after great sex experience, wow, it took me someplace really special. And I feel wonderful about myself.

Sasza Lohrey 

Is there an equivalent of getting takeout? Great sex via takeout delivery?

Stephen Snyder 

Well, you can certainly go to the icebox late at night and get some cheesecake if you want, and just have dessert. That’s fine. Nothing wrong with that. But I usually encourage people not to do it too much. In my book I talk about that there are two roads to orgasm. There’s the high road and there’s the low road. You get the cheesecake late at night from the icebox. That’s okay. But it’s kind of a low road to orgasm because you weren’t really that aroused to begin with. But you know, the right kind of friction in the right kind of place can give you an orgasm. The high road is where you’re in the moment, and you’re not really thinking about the fact that there’s going to be dessert. It’s like a really good meal at a really good restaurant, you’re not thinking about dessert. You may have a little eye on the dessert menu, but it’s not your major focus. The high road is where you really get into a state of psychological arousal. One of the reasons I wrote the book was because nobody really talks about the phenomenology, the actual facts of psychological arousal, you know, Masters and Johnson in the 50s and 60s, studied physiologic arousal. So they discovered about the lubrication and how that happens and muscle tone and blood flow and all sorts of things. But nobody’s ever really discovered, discovered the secrets of psychological arousal. I think one of the reasons it can’t be studied scientifically is because it’s completely subjective. So what I did, in trying to fill in the gap there is I began asking people, what does it feel like when you’re aroused. And after listening to hundreds of people talk to me about this. I kind of whittled it down in my mind to three general areas. And I put this in chapter one of the book, because I thought it was just so important. So if you only read chapter one, you get it. So the first aspect of psychological arousal is that you’re absorbed. This is where mindfulness comes in. You’re in the moment. If all goes well, you’re not really thinking about other things. And people who make porn sites know this, because they know that if you’ve got work to do, and you get aroused while you’re on the porn, so you’re going to stay on the porn site. Because you don’t really care about your work, that’s normal. It’s what happens to teenagers. When they’re out on a date, they come back at four in the morning. And parents say, where were you? What happened? The kid goes, I don’t know, they have no idea. They were just aroused, and they lost track of time because they were completely absorbed in the moment. So absorption is number one. For most people. It also includes losing some of your native intelligence. So you become just kind of dumb and happy. Good sex makes you really dumb and great sex can make you downright stupid. I mean, you know, you don’t really, you know, you say, what’s your address, and you can’t really say it leads us to the second part of arousal. And the second part of arousal is regression. I used to be a psychoanalyst back in my younger years, I always joke that I’m a recovering Freudian psychoanalyst and don’t do it anymore, but I learned a lot from it. And one of Freud’s great insights was that our adult selves are just a thin veneer over this seething mass of infantile feelings, and in sex, if all goes well, we go back to that infantile state of mind. And sex really revives and is a reminiscence of primal early states, from infancy where the physical and the psychological weren’t distinguished, where touch was love, where feeding was love, where physical comfort was love. And so, those later silos don’t really get developed. And that explains some of the paradoxical things about sexual arousal. It’s very communal, you feel highly connected to your partner, but it’s also extremely selfish. You don’t really want to hear about how their day went. You just want them to make nice noises, and tell you you’re wonderful. The other real paradox about sexual arousal which connects to this regressive aspect, is that it’s enjoyable. It’s not really the frivolous kind of carefree fun. It also has a very serious aspect. It’s like, don’t bother me, I’m doing something very, very serious here. We’re not laughing and whooping it up and having a great time in a way. Instead, we’re intently focused. And I think that connects back to the fusion of joy and seriousness, that happens during early infancy, because the functions of early infancy are profoundly serious: nourishment, protection, these things are life or death at that point. Bonding is a matter of life or death at that point, so sex feels serious. So and then the last part of psychological arousal after absorption and regression is validation. Sex should give you a feeling of Yeah, that’s, that’s really, really me. Well, that’s exactly where I really, really live now. You really, really know me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for bringing me to where I really, really, really live. So great sex has this feeling of validation. 

Sasza Lohrey 

When you were talking about the focus, yeah. And kind of the serious aspect because on one hand, I think that the high road low road sometimes people probably do want to take the low road. So finding the balance between those. I know that everybody listening, When you say be selfish, we’ll say all the people that I have sex with are too selfish.

Stephen Snyder 

Exactly. The biggest thing that when we’re trying to get away fine, man, yeah. Okay. So, you know, let’s cut to the chase. I think what we’re basically talking about is masculinity. Very few people accuse women or their female partners of being too selfish in bed. In fact, most people feel that women often have trouble being selfish enough. But men often get accused of being too selfish in bed, they just want to come and afterwards they don’t care and they just roll over. I call that masculinity 1.0. Masculinity. 1.0– maybe it existed 50 years ago, and maybe it sometimes exists with drunken hookups today. I’m sure it does, but it’s not what I see in the office. I don’t see that many women coming into my office today in 2019 and saying, my partner just, they just seem oblivious to my pleasure. I see masculinity 2.0. Masculinity 2.0 is the guy who reads all the books, he knows where the clitoris is, he wants to pay attention to it, he wants to do the right thing, and he’s going around and around and around and around. She comes in and she says ‘I’m bored out of my mind. It’s like he’s just trying to get a good grade. And he just wants to be a good lover. And I can’t stand it anymore.

Sasza Lohrey 

It’s so funny how it switches between and so to clarify for the listeners again that the difference between the necessity or also the expectations of casual sex versus like long term and the people you see in your office because I just did another interview with a woman who does research about casual sex. Her talking about how women need to be more selfish, and men need to be more giving, which I helped her rephrase, as women need to be more self-full to avoid the negative connotation. And men, maybe more generous. But again, it being in the context of casual sex versus these long term relationships. 

Stephen Snyder 

If I could give advice for men, it is that men need to give themselves permission to be more passionate. That passion is everything. I think in the 21st century, at least among the younger people, a certain degree of generosity is assumed, at least in a long term relationship. It’s a deficit of passion that I really see in my in my practice, and you know, my book is really oriented towards what’s really the holy grail question in sex therapy, which is: passion in long term relationships, does it exist? Can you get it? If so how? And I have a kind of a different take on it than most people, which is why I wrote the book.

Sasza Lohrey 

And so you know, the book being based on your experiences here, I’m just curious if you have found or know of any cross cultural differences in regards to the passion in the long term in the relationships or I don’t know if there are differences in the patterns that come up or the solutions that people have?

Stephen Snyder 

It’s a great question. My book is primarily geared towards the post industrial West. And it identifies the stuff that I see in my office among primarily educated people who know the basics about sexual anatomy and physiology. The rest of the world that’s really not the case. The rest of the world, sex is mostly in a horrible state. Most women just do it just to preserve the integrity of the marriage. Guys cheat all over the place. Guys are preoccupied with primitive notions of manhood, and whether they’re being seen as a man within the relationship, and, you know, we’re kind of spared that, for the most part.

Sasza Lohrey 

In your experience putting together this book, writing this book, what’s at least one thing that you learned, maybe unexpected or kind of a finding that you had actually in writing the book rather than knowing it going in?

Stephen Snyder

For me, it was the mindfulness revolution. I have a colleague on the west coast, Lori Brotto, at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, who got the intuition over a decade ago that there was something about mindfulness practice that could be useful for And she’s written some very, very interesting papers, which is looked at the result of mindfulness on women, sexual desire, women’s healing, from sexual pain, women’s healing, from trauma, all sorts of stuff. They’re just beginning to apply it to men. And I think the aha moment for me was when I started to get involved with this and did mindfulness training myself. And I began to think of what the ordinary definition of mindfulness, which is paying attention in the present moment, without judgment, or with as little judgment as possible.

Sasza Lohrey 

Both for yourself, not not just like for your partner, but also I think, a big problem people have is judging themselves.

Stephen Snyder 

Oh, totally. Absolutely. Absolutely. And, and I thought, you know, attention, well sex is all about attention, which we can talk a lot about more. And I think that’s why we have sex rather than masturbate. We just like to have somebody else’s attention. And present moment well, sex is all about the present moment, because absorption is fundamental to sexual arousal. And without judgment, judgment is really the principal thing that gets in the way of sex arousal for most people, you know, how do my thighs look? You know, is my penis big enough? Did her last boyfriend give her a better orgasm than I give her? What’s this mean and so forth? And can I last longer, that kind of thing? And will I be able to come? Is he getting tired? Is his hand going to get tired, that kind of thing. So all these kinds of judgment. So these are the principal enemies of sexual arousal. So it lined up very nicely actually, that the mindfulness paradigm, although one doesn’t usually think of sex in terms of mindfulness, the elements are all three elements are there: attention, present moment and as little judgment as possible. So I thought to myself, now that’s something I didn’t know before I started to write the book. And that became the basis of all sorts of explorations in the book. One of the other things that I did as I wrote the book is, I was always looking for an alternative to the sex date. Because everybody says that established couples, you’re not going to have the impulse to have sex very often, because you’ve got all sorts of other stuff on your mind. So you need to make a date, make a date circle in the calendar, Thursday evening, we’re going to have sex, turn off our phones and so forth. The problem is that it’s Thursday evening, you took off your phones, you get naked, you get in bed together, and you’re not really hungry for sex. So it’s going to be bad sex,

Sasza Lohrey 

and then it’s also going to be negative reinforcement.

Stephen Snyder 

Yeah, totally. And so you’re just going through the motions. So it needed something to do first, to kind of tune you up. And so the technique that I developed, which I call in the book two step, step two is having sex. Step one is a mindfulness practice. And the crucial thing about step one is that it’s not mutual. One of the things I loved about mindfulness training is mindful communication is not mutual. You communicate something to the other person, the other person just listens to what you’re saying, and keeps in reserve their own reactions to it, then they just get back to you what you said. And there’s something clean and simple and refreshing about that. And paradoxically, you feel closer to that person. And then they do the same thing, and they feel closer to you. So I use this with couples all the time. Now it’s called mindful communications, it’s fundamental. Step two is to have sex in whatever fashion you want to have sex. Whatever you feel like doing. Step one is not mutual. It’s solitary. You get to bed together, get naked together. And your agenda is to spend some time together, doing nothing. Each of you becomes aware where you are, how you’re feeling. Become aware of your breathing. Become aware of the temperature of your body, do a rough inventory of where your body is, I always check out my feet because I enjoy being in my feet. I don’t do that very often, I go, Hey, they’re really part of me. That’s, that’s me down there. And so you’re just tuning up your awareness instrument. And then after you’ve tuned up your awareness instrument, and you feel balanced and present, then you turn to your partner and you have sex. And it works much better than a sex date. So my goal for the world is to have all the magazine articles that talk about sex dates, delete it and instead put two step because that works and sex dates don’t.

Sasza Lohrey 

you know the whole have sex before dinner versus after. It’s very similar. I think a lot of people talk about the classic problem of you get home at night after work, you’re tired, you come to bed, you watch Netflix, and then don’t even try or then you try and have sex, but you’re half asleep boy. Of course, that’s not gonna work. That doesn’t work for anybody that people were actually having sex are not waiting until it’s the last thing in the day. First of all, clearly not a priority if it’s the last thing. Second of all, don’t think so highly of yourself that when you’re accepted, you’re gonna want to. So doing it earlier in the day before dinner, or at least before Netflix. 

Stephen Snyder 

I think you should always have sex first in anything, because then everything else is to go out and celebrate. So you have sex first, and then you go out, celebrate. I live in Manhattan where people tend to have dinner a little bit on the late side. And they may have a glass of wine, which is mixed because for most women, a glass of wine is a bit of an aphrodisiac, so that’s nice. But then you get a full belly and it’s tiring. And you just, you know, you don’t really feel at your peak. So it’s a good idea to have sex first. I also think it’s a good idea in the weekend, a lot of couples for around and do this whole dance about when they’re going to have sex on the weekend. Do it right away. Saturday morning, wake up Saturday morning, have sex, you’re good.

Sasza Lohrey 

When you in some of your interviews, talk about the equivalent. You talk about people going out to buy a sex toy, and yeah, needing novelty. And that’s not the solution, which I also talk to people a lot about, and kind of the mental tools, being you can buy the sex toy, that’s great. But if you’re looking for a band aid for your relationship, that’s not the answer. Because problems generally not actually, unless it’s a medical problem. It’s not about sex. So you can use that as a tool to say, why did I buy this? How can I talk to my partner about it, what does it mean etc. But in terms of if we are looking for novelty in some way, what would be your kind of metaphorical sex toy?

Stephen Snyder 

Okay. I think I would disagree with you on a fundamental level. I don’t think we’re looking for novelty, I think we crave novelty. Because the same way we crave sugar. All children crave novelty. That’s why we call it a sex toy. You give a kid a toy and what happens? They play with it for two weeks, and then it ends up as junk in the corner, and they want another toy. This is the same thing with adults when it comes to various forms of erotic novelty. It’s like 50 Shades of Grey sold 100 million copies. It’s a lot of copies. And it got a lot of women very excited for two and a half weeks, and everything was normal. That’s the nature of novelty. If you play the novelty game, you’re always having to ramp up novelty and you see it with porn. Porn is a great illustration of this, unfortunately, novelty. What’s novel in porn these days? How can we always ramp up the novelty? Half the stuff on Pornhub these days is stepbrother does it with step sister with step mother looking on– It’s weird. It’s like our are there any other barriers left to break?

Sasza Lohrey 

I’m not sure there are but I’m sure we’ll find out next year.

Stephen Snyder 

Exactly. So, my book, I go in a completely different direction. I get tired of hearing about go on a sexy date, go to a bar and pretend you don’t know each other. That’s not gonna work, it’s gonna be two weeks you’ll get something and then thing would be exactly the same. So you have a sexual, one might say to us a hackneyed phrase, inner child, give a sexual inner child that craves novelty, just like your regular child craves sugar and new toys and all sorts of things. And it’s always going to be like that. So we all have that in our hearts. So what do we do? What I tend to recommend to couples is you just accept that and you accept that you need to be a good parent to your sexual child and set appropriate limits. And you say that hot person you saw that day or that you were turned on by that day, yes, that was wonderful, wasn’t it? Yes, that’s really nice. You can’t have them, they’re not yours. But that’s okay. We’re going to go home and we’re going to be fine. Um, so the way we’re going to do it is we’re going to give the sexual mind other stuff that it really needs. So we’re going to do the two steps, and we’re just going to tune in. And if we’ve gained energy from the erotic universe that day, we certainly want to enjoy that erotic turn on that we’ve gained that day from feeling excited by what’s around us. But we’re just directing it, bringing it home, and we’re going to be together. And this is good, married sex. And it’s different from hookup sex. It doesn’t have that novel turn on quality. It’s not a toy, not novel, but it’s deep. And the idea is that it’s a deeper experience because it’s a river, you know, the old saying that you don’t ever step in the same river twice. The once you get into a mindful focus, you realize that your partner is not the same person as they were the night before. You’re not the same person as you were the night before. And although it’s the same river, it’s actually a different river. And it’s having the clarity to listen to, to the tiny differences. And there’s always something to notice and to be absorbed in.

Sasza Lohrey 

Yeah. And thinking of that, as I had heard you mentioned before as kind of the religious sacrament, in terms of it requires commitment. Effort.

Stephen Snyder 

Sacrament is going to turn off a lot of people so yeah, controversial, especially if you’re if you’re like a formerly religious person and you lost faith in the church and so forth. But I like it. Yeah, but I like it as an idea because I just hadn’t heard people have Yep, yeah. Because people have an impulse towards the sacred. And that impulse doesn’t get gratified very much in secular life.

Sasza Lohrey 

Thinking of it as a bit like spirituality, which is something that you incorporate into your life. If you have certain practices or activities that are part of it committing to making this happen,

Stephen Snyder 

It’s important to who you are. So what I what I say in the book, you know, the idea is, sex with a long term partner something that you strongly crave all the time? No. Should it be something that feels like an obligation? heavens no. There’s something in the middle between those two. And that thing in the middle is, I think of I’m a religious person, I think of as a sacrament, when you go to bed with your committed partner, you’re engaging in a sacrament in your relationship.

Sasza Lohrey 

I think a lot of people would prefer that to other types of religion.

Stephen Snyder 

Of course, of course, it’s a nice sacrament. Yeah. And you don’t have to read through a lot of prayers and stuff, you just kind of tune up. But that’s what most really religious people do, because they’re always kind of looking to find their inspiration because inspiration gets lost all the time. All religious people know that you start with inspiration doesn’t last forever. And eventually you have to find where else you’re gonna find it. And so you’re always trying to open yourself up to inspiration. And you’re looking for some kind of help and a way of finding inspiration again.

Sasza Lohrey 

You mentioned porn. And maybe how it’s not I don’t remember actually remember exactly how you mentioned the porn. But if you could speak, what do you think of porn?

Stephen Snyder 

I think porn. I wrote an article about this on Psychology Today. Porn gratifies a very, very basic human need, which is to watch other people having sex. You know, for hundreds and hundreds of thousands of years on the plains of Africa, we wander around as hunter gatherers in bands of between 30 and 100 people or something like that. There were no bedroom doors, no locks, to people having sex, everybody else knows it. And everybody else would watch. And until the advent of monogamy, everybody else would join in. You know, we’re from the chimpanzee bonobo part of the ape family. That’s a promiscuous part of the ape family. People just line up and it’s your turn and then you have a chance. So that’s where we come from. So, we’re, we’re built on a promiscuous chassis one might say, We’re like, a minivan that’s built on a sports car chassis. So what evolution did is it took that basic chimpanzee chassis and it built this domestic minivan on it by making humans monogamous. So we are a monogamous species. But we also enjoy watching other people have sex. It’s just fundamental people have always loved

Sasza Lohrey 

Does it need to be other people or could it be videos or mirrors of one’s own self?

Stephen Snyder 

Well, that’s a great question. Um, I have a colleague in England who said you know, you can put a lot of mirrors and videos in the world but it’s not the same as a threesome. So, yeah, you can fudge around with that. But it’s a basic human fascination. And it’s always been people always want to watch other people having sex, and they always want to see other people naked. It’s just a basic thing. So I think that the impulse to watch porn is probably inescapable. The problem with porn, as many people have said is it doesn’t show good lovemaking. What it shows is great camera angles. porn is all about camera angles. So you get these positions where the people are usually not embracing. They’re usually never embracing. And they are just kind of in these open positions so you can see the penis going in and out of the vagina. And it’s just not usually how people have sex.

Sasza Lohrey 

Yeah, and the camera angles worked in the like a guy going down on a girl, which you had mentioned once and except-

Stephen Snyder 

You never see good cunnilingus. You see a guy with his tongue extended going alahlala. It’s ridiculous. You can’t see it because you can’t get good camera angles. Anybody who wants good cunnilingus recipes. You know the book on it is She Comes First by Ian Turner. And he said everything you need to say about cunnilingus in that book, that’s it, you know, I don’t think it’s ever going to be improved on. But none of the stuff he talks about in the book makes for good camera angles. For instance, his fundamental technique. I mean, we don’t talk a lot about technique on this show, but his fundamental technique is called the ice cream lick, where man starts down below the entrance to the vagina with the flat of his tongue. And he imagines the vulva is an ice cream cone on a hot summer’s day. And he just licks and licks and licks up until past her clitoral all the way up and almost to her belly button. Take a deep breath and say, Oh, it was wonderful. And then maybe go take another lick. The vibe is this cunnilingus out of passion. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Let’s just talk about real sex. Let’s just talk about you know, you’ve got all the desire and the passion and, do the things that you really like to do, match up or not? And sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t. Let’s say a guy really loves cunnilingus. He loves it so much that when they’re going to have intercourse, he’s sad because his face is farther away from her vulva. They’re guys like that. They just love it. It’s like their favorite thing in the world. And let’s say his partner, it’s not really her thing. It makes her feel kind of self conscious. She didn’t really enjoy it that much. She’d rather just have them inside her. And she’s always saying, ‘oh, come inside me Come inside me Come inside me. He goes, No, no, no, I really like this. I’m really getting off on this. So they have kind of a mismatch. Mismatches occur. Those are real. Now ideally, in an ideal world, you have a questionnaire about these kinds of things before you went on Tinder or OkCupid. So you’d be ideally matched. But you don’t. So people are not always ideal matches for each other. It’s just like positions woman can only get off on top or something and the guy really likes it from behind, you know, this, all sorts of things like that. So the solution for mismatches is to get very granular about what exactly it is that you like, the guy who really likes to do cunnilingus, does he like the closeness to her vulva? Does he like the scent of it? Very often that’s the case. And so there are ways of getting that without his tongue actually being on her. So they can kind of improvise. And that’s where you get creative as a couple. And that’s where you get the good answers when he gets really granular about exactly what you need. And he takes you in a slightly different direction with this partner than it was with other partners. What does she really like about being on top? If she’s like most women, what she really likes, is that she can grind her clitoral down on his pubic bone. And you could do that a missionary to the guy just has to put his body in a certain position. It’s called coital alignment technique. So a lot of what we do as sex therapist is kind of really, really getting that fine grained detail about what people actually need.

Sasza Lohrey 

A lot of people kind of associate it with the circumstances.

Stephen Snyder 

Right. And they label, they generalize, I got to be on top, you know, it’d be down there. Yeah.

Sasza Lohrey 

And I think Zhana also mentioned, doing that same thing, you know, With casual sex encounters, but the same thing looking at some of your best or favorite moments or experiences and also the ones that didn’t go well and really questioning why, so yeah. To avoid that generalization and really kind of create-

Stephen Snyder 

I think the casual sex was fascinating. I always think the first time with it with a new partner. It’s a little bit like a tourist tour of a foreign capital. You know, you’re seeing all the highlights. But you really take a little while before you know you’re sitting in the cafe after two weeks and they say, you know, can we show you the places we don’t show the tourists? That’s what you really want. You want to do the places they don’t show the tourists. Yeah, that takes a little while. So I think casual sex is interesting that way.

Sasza Lohrey 

Social media.

Stephen Snyder 

Yeah, God. I was so glad you asked about that. So you’re ready. The thing about social media Is that it’s narcissistically gratifying. Your cell phone is happy to see you all the time. It has no needs of its own. It just wants to make you happy. It wants to show you colorful pictures, and it looks pretty and you touch it and it does interesting things. And it connects you with people who are interested in seeing you and who are giving you likes and follows and all that stuff. I have teenage children and they take pictures of themselves constantly and so they’re always getting likes and affirmation. And it’s tremendously narcissistically gratifying. Sex was supposed to be our primary source of narcissistic gratification. 100 years ago, the only time you could get that deeply regressive, narcissistic, satisfaction was in the arms of a loved one, for whom at that moment you were the entire universe and the most important thing in the world, that regression back to childish state of need. In the old days, the only way you could get narcissism through other routes was to be famous. And then you had fans, you had a following. And you saw what that did to Hollywood marriages. It destroyed them because they’re getting older, narcissistic needs met through their public and they don’t have that need for that narcissistic gratification from each other. These days, that’s what happens to all of us. We’re all famous. We’re all trying to be famous. We’re all in show business. And we’re getting all of our narcissistic needs gratified by our social media and by our connected followings, and very little of it, gratified by our sexual encounters. So, a big problem. So the main thing to do with social media is to burn out on it, to get so sick of it and to realize that it’s bottomless and that it’s endless, and that you’re just on this treadmill essentially. And when you’re with your loved one, remember that the primary gratification of sex is narcissitic. It’s not physical. So it’s not just about getting a great blowjob or a great cunnilingus, or great intercourse or a great orgasm. It’s about seeing yourself reflected in the other person’s eyes. And feeling that to that other person. At that moment, you are the entire world, you are the universe. You had that when you were an infant. And you had that when you were a very young child. And it’s a deep need. Social media satisfies this in kind of a part way, but the only way to really get it satisfied is in somebody’s arms.

Sasza Lohrey 

Okay, a specific case of yours where you really learn something or you’d want to share that you think other people could get some great insight out of? 

Stephen Snyder 

Okay, well, obviously, I can’t talk about a patient because that would be a HIPAA violation and never talk about patients. But I’ll tell you about myself. Because I’m never going to accuse myself of a HIPAA violation. I’ve been married almost 30 years, happily married, very satisfied. And we’re married in the presence of a disability. I don’t talk about that in the book. But it’s something I’m fairly open about and talk to patients about all the time. My wife is actually a stroke survivor. She had a stroke at the age of 31, I think right after we got married, and so she has trouble talking and has trouble using her hand, and she has to walk with a cane. And people will say, I feel so bad for you. And then when they meet her, they go, I don’t feel bad for you at all. She’s fine. You know, she just is disabled. So that was a real education. And so, as a sex therapist, I often think, you know, if we can do it, anybody can do it. So some of the emphases in the book come from my own experience. For instance, people talk about how to enhance sex, how to keep long term passion alive. They talk about doing novelty, new positions, new adventures and so forth. We can’t do any of that stuff. Alright, that’s out. People talk about sexy talk, sexy games, role playing– out. Um, so we’re pretty limited that way. So I think what I wanted to do was to share in the book, you know, without being too autobiographical, some of the, some of the some of the things that had inspired us. And I figured if we can do it, anybody can do it.

Sasza Lohrey 

That’s incredible. Thank you so much for sharing that story. A lot of those kind of having to confront certain obstacles or tough times or circumstances and events in life often

Stephen Snyder 

Also I never, I never miss a chance to embarrass my children.

Sasza Lohrey 

Lazy sex.

Stephen Snyder 

Lazy sex means giving yourself an orgasm, even when your partner doesn’t really want to participate. So, as my colleague Tammy Nelson said, you know, most people react when they get married as if they’ve just lost their license to touch their own genitals. So which is crazy? Because it’s an easy way of getting dessert, or an orgasm, if you want, anytime you want to. Most guys do it in the bathroom while watching porn, which is a total waste because why not just do it in bed with your partner? All you need is for your partner to have the understanding that this is going to be an okay thing. Most guys love it. Most guys love to see their female partners masturbate. Guys pay lots of good money for that online

Sasza Lohrey 

I which is exactly the perfect example that

Stephen Snyder

Exactly exactly. Women masturbating, guys will click on that, they’d like to see that.

Sasza Lohrey 

The woman you love most in the world masturbating– best personalized porn ever.

Stephen Snyder 

Exactly, exactly. So the standard problem that a couple have late at night and going to bed and the husband feels like having sex. The wife says no, kids going to get up in a couple of hours. I’m too tired. And if we have sex, I’m gonna have to get up and pee afterwards. Otherwise I get a urinary infection. It is just not worth the trouble. So the guy will say, could you give me a blowjob or a handjob? She doesn’t need assistance. That’s not sexy for me. I don’t want to do that. It’s too much work and sex should never feel like work. So the guy goes, how about some lazy sex, she goes great, lies on his back, gives himself an orgasm. She just cuddles up next to him and maybe strokes his chest. And she’s just there so he can experience her scent, knows she’s there. You get a certain percentage of the stuff you ordinarily getting from sex, you’re in bed. It’s a nice kind of thing. And it creates a nice Pavlovian cue because the climax is happening with your partner, as opposed to waiting until she goes to sleep and then sneaking off to the other room and looking at porn. Because in that case, what happens is your mind starts to associate her falling asleep with sexual excitement. You don’t want to do that. You want to associate her being awake with sexual excitement. A lot of marriages get in trouble that way, because the guy gets sexually excited when he hears his wife’s car leaving the driveway to go out and he goes off, she’s going to be away doing groceries, I get 10 minutes of looking at porn. And then he hears her key come back in the door that she’s coming he goes, uh oh, no sex. So her presence becomes a negative sexual signal. And that problem occurs in lots and lots of different couples.

Sasza Lohrey 

And so I am a big proponent and have told lots of friends and tried to encourage people because I don’t even know why it comes where it comes from, that people think it sounds weird or uncomfortable or something but mutual masturbation, one being an incredible tool and also whether it be non mutual. A one way both people are participating. And it being this, like the personalized porn that we went back to, this kind of show.

Stephen Snyder 

We don’t have to worry about camera angles.

Sasza Lohrey 

Efforts zero effort on the person putting on the show, one might say and the effort to masturbate, time efficiency, there are just so many perks and–

Stephen Snyder 

Exactly, exactly. And the other thing, let’s say the guy goes to bed, and he doesn’t really want an orgasm. Let’s say he’s, instead of 25. Let’s say he’s 70 doesn’t really want an orgasm. That feels like too much of a fuss. It’s been said that men as they age become more like women. They just kind of want that kind of connection. They want to feel excited. So she could say, what do you want? He goes, I want to have sex. And she’d say, no sex. What else do you want? He goes, let’s simmer. We talked about it at the beginning. Let’s just take a minute. Let me grab you. Let me inhale your scent. Let’s breathe together. Let me feel excited, then let’s fall asleep. That’s fine too. You got to get really granular about what exactly you’re looking for.

Sasza Lohrey 

As I was going to say, for example, if somebody’s not a nighttime person, maybe they’re a morning person and really just taking the time efficiency but mixed with like fulfillment and connection to the next level for example, you’ve got somewhere to go in the morning. You can take shower anyways. You know, it’ll take 10 minutes anyways, you invite your partner, sexiest already in place free show ever in the shower, no cleanup on the side of

Stephen Snyder 

Come into the shower with her. Yeah, and watch her taking a shower. And maybe she’ll let you hold her at a certain point of time at the peak and give yourself an orgasm. It’s fine.

Sasza Lohrey 

Yeah. So to wrap up, my last question would just be thank you so much for actually giving so many concrete examples because I usually wrap up by saying like, what’s one specific piece of actionable advice, or a suggestion for a behavior that people can really– because the whole purpose of this show is basically, and of BBXX, not to have people learning in theory, understanding the concepts but really, this is how I can enact it and not having the excuses– Well, I didn’t know how to you know, take that and then…

Stephen Snyder 

Simmering is just one example of focusing on experiencing, erotic, feeling sexual arousal together on a regular basis even when you’re not having sex, whether that’s clothed or unclothed. And the key to psychological arousal and erotic feeling is that you’re getting dumb and happy. You’re just losing IQ points has nothing to do with hard or wet. It has to do with whether you just got a little stupid a little buzz together. If you get stupid and buzzed on a regular basis, you’re gonna be fine.

Sasza Lohrey 

Thank you so much.

Stephen Snyder 

You’re welcome. You’re welcome. So nice to be here. And let’s do it again sometime.

On this week’s episode we speak with Stephen Snyder, a sex and relationship therapist and author of Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Lasting Relationship. We discuss great sex in long-term relationships, how we should take the “high road” more often,
psychological arousal, how porn isn’t a good example of real sex, and the transformative and sacramental nature of passionate sex. We hope you enjoy and find some new meaning to experiencing your “dessert”.

What is Great Sex?

Sex is like a meal – with foreplay as the appetizers, sex as the main course, and orgasm as dessert. The appetizers should be so good that you almost forget there’s more to the meal. The main course is about being in the moment and the dessert is the bonus at the end of the meal. Great sex means being taken somewhere special so that you feel wonderful about yourself.

Sex is about being in the moment – paying attention to the moment without judgement.

High Road v. Low Road

The low road is dessert only which means that there’s less overall arousal. Sure, you can still reach orgasm, but it’s not a complete experience.

The high road is being in the moment – practicing mindfulness – so that you are psychologically aroused. This makes for a more whole and meaningful sexual experience. Of course, you can always grab some cheesecake late at night, but that’s not something you want to get used to!

We know a lot about physical arousal from the work of Masters and Johnson and their model of sexual arousal, but psychological arousal is more subjective. It’s what makes you get to a state of total arousal.

What Does Arousal Feel Like?

  1. Absorption – completely in the moment.
  2. Regression – going back to a primal and selfish feeling where physical and psychological feelings become one.
  3. Validation – arousal and sex should leave you feeling like your partner brought you into your true self; that your partner is really knowing you.

Masculinity & Sex

Masculinity 1.0: selfish sex with no regard for a partner’s pleasure.
Masculinity 2.0: when men are well read and really try to be good lovers, but lack passion.

My advice is that men need to give themselves permission to experience more passion.

Mindfulness

Lori Brotto at the University of British Columbia conducts research on the effects on mindfulness and sex. Overall, “judgment is the primary thing that gets in the way for sexual arousal”. The paradigm of mindfulness means paying attention, being in the present moment, and lacking judgment.

Sacrament of Sexuality

People tend to have an impulse toward the sacred and sex is incredibly important to who we are as humans. Sex with a long-term partner takes work but should never be an obligation. Instead, sex, like spirituality, is about finding inspiration.

Porn

We are a monogamous species “built on a promiscuous chassis”, which means that we innately enjoy watching other people have sex. It’s a basic human fascination. Therefore, the impulse to watch porn is inescapable, but porn only showcases good camera angles, not good lovemaking.

For the best advice on cunnilingus, Stephen recommends She Comes First by Ian Kerner.

Social Media

Humans are a narcissistically gratified species. Sex used to be the only way that we could receive these feelings of being someone’s entire world. However, with social media, we can now have these feelings fulfilled with likes and mentions online, which is creating more challenges for our relationships and sexual behaviors.

Lazy Sex

This entails giving yourself an orgasm with minimal participation from your partner. Rather than slinking off to the bathroom to masturbate when your partner isn’t interested in sex, this would be masturbating in front of them, so they are there and present, just not participating.

Simmering

It’s all about getting granular to know what you really want and need from your partner. By focusing on experiencing erotic feelings together, not just sex, on a regular basis, you can still get that erotic buzz which is what will help make the relationship last long-term.

No additional resources found for this episode.

About the Expert

Stephen Snyder - profile

Stephen Snyder

Sex and relationship therapist

Stephen Snyder MD — sex therapist, relationship therapist, and sexual medicine specialist — has dedicated his entire career to helping individuals and couples with sex and relationship concerns. Over 30+ years, he’s helped over 1,500 individuals and couples regain closeness and satisfaction in their relationships. Dr. Snyder is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City and the author of one of the most acclaimed sex and relationship books of our time, LOVE WORTH MAKING: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Lasting Relationship (St Martin’s Press, 2018). 

Episode Discussion

Home Forums Episode 15 – “Mindfulness For Sexual Connection” with Stephen Snyder

  • Episode 15 – “Mindfulness For Sexual Connection” with Stephen Snyder

  • Valentina 

    September 14, 2020 at 7:58 am
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    • What did you learn about yourself?
    • What did you learn about culture?
    • What was your favorite quote?
    • What surprised you most?
    • What is one way you can enact what you learned in your own life?
    • How can we each help shift the culture and the conversation surrounding this topic?
  • Amy

    September 15, 2020 at 2:50 pm
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    The thing that I learned about myself while listening to this episode is that mindfulness is important for a real sexual connection. The thing that I learned about culture is that culture tells us that mindfulness isn’t always important to building a real connection.The thing that surprised me most was that men think of the vulva as an ice cream cone and that they lick the woman all the way up to the belly button.The one way that I can enact what I learned in my own life is to understand that mindfulness is important in building a connection with another person. The way that we can each shift the culture and the conversation about this topic is to educate ourselves about connection and to be mindful of both people’s needs.

  • Hope

    September 18, 2020 at 3:18 pm
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    “Being in the moment,” is the main quote that stuck out to me from this episode, because as Stephen Snyder puts it after you have great sex, you feel great after! You want it to be an experience. I loved how he put is as “You want to take the high road, you want to experience every part of the meal up to dessert, not just the dessert.” I thought of this example as you’re content with where you are in that moment so throughout the time with your partner you’re loving every part and when it gets to dessert you’re stoked, there’s more to experience still! I also loved it when he mentioned that sex could make you downright stupid. I find that it is so important to fully connect in a relationship, especially during sex, so being in this completely absorbed state of mind so much so that you’re “stupid” just stresses the connection that could be between two people.

    • Jessica

      September 28, 2020 at 10:34 am
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      Hi Hope! This is what stuck out to me too and reminded me of Episode 3: “Let’s Get Cliterate! Narrowing The Orgasm Gap” with Laurie Mintz when Mintz stated, “Not all satisfying sex ends in orgasm…the best sex is when both people involved get to the point where they’re focused on themselves and fully immersed in their own pleasure and if we can let go of this achievement-oriented goal.” I thought this episode was an important reminder to practice mindfulness in all aspects of your life.

  • Valentina 

    September 21, 2020 at 10:33 am
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    I find mindfulness so fascinating! I’ve always seen it like a tool for meditation and awareness but it’s so great that it’s very useful for sexual connection. I never thought of it but it makes sense!

    Mindfulness it’s all about being in the moment and being aware of all of your body parts and all the different sensations at that particular moment. Practicing this method when we’re struggling either with stress or something else, could totally help us just enjoy the moment.

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