Getting the Sex you Want

You Always Get More of What You Appreciate

Another study reveals that relationships are strengthened when we are grateful for our partners actions, supporting the tenants of Imago Relationship Therapy. This time the study comes from the University of Georgia where psychologists found that couples who focus on what they’re grateful for felt more satisfied and optimistic. Researchers even suggest that “that feelings of gratitude were the most consistent predictor of marital quality among couples of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds.”

For more information on appreciations and Imago Relationship Therapy, check out Wednesday’s blog: For a Healthy Relationship, Tell Me How I was Awesome

Quick Tip for Therapists: Working with Couples in Non-Traditional Relationships

How do you work with and understand couples who have a non-traditional lifestyle that may not align with your own? I answered this question for therapists who are subscribed to New Harbinger Publication’s e-newsletter list.

Working with Couples in Non-Traditional Relationships

What does it mean to work with couples in open marriages? Not all therapists personally agree with the concept of open marriage. However, you don’t have to change your values to treat couples who have chosen a lifestyle that doesn’t align with your own. It’s important to be aware of the myriad of possible non-traditional relationships you might encounter in your practice. Here are some examples:

Closed Marriage. This is what most of us think of when we picture “monogamy.” A closed marriage is one in which both partners agree to sexual and emotional fidelity.

Open Marriage. “Open” is a general term that covers many different types of marriage agreements, but usually is defined as leaving room for outside sexual partners. In open marriages, sexual encounters with people other than the spouse are accepted as part of the relationship agreement.

Polyamory. Poly comes from the Greek, meaning “many,” and the Latin amour, meaning “love,” so Polyamory defined means “many loves.” It is different from open marriage in that it’s not just ‘sex for fun’ with outside partners, but loving, romantic, and emotional connections with others outside of the marriage. Poly couples believe they can love more than one person at a time, and maintain a primary partner at the same time.

Swinging. Traditionally, swinging couples swapped partners for a fun sexual experience, purely for the eroticism. The North American Swing Club Association (NACSA) describes swinging as “the recreation” for couples whether they are married, committed (having an ongoing emotional relationship), living together (co-habitating, with or without an ongoing intimate relationship), or single couples who date. To learn more, visit:

In working with couples, one of the biggest challenges arises when one partner wants to open the marriage, while the other one does not.  One exercise therapists can use in a couples session is to have each partner write down their fears, fantasies, and desires with respect to the possibility of changing their monogamy agreements. Then have them share with one another, and discuss the power and potential of the answers. This exercise allows each partner to be heard, and when each experiences validation, they can usually come to agreements on what type of relationship they want going forward.

It’s advisable that partners examine every aspect of their monogamy continuum from fantasy to polyamory, to decide if they should—or if they want to—make changes to their marriage or relationship. It’s also important that the couple talk before, during, and after if they want to make any changes to their monogamy agreements—explicit or implicit—or after they’ve been hurt if one of them strays.

Can couples cheat in open marriages? Any time a partner goes outside of the agreement, they have violated their relationship, whether open or closed, fluid or flexible, and the root of the problem is usually dishonesty. The lies each partner tells usually begin long before the betrayal becomes concrete. Having an open discussion about how the dishonesty began is the first step toward healing the relationship.

Therapy should be a safe place with concrete therapeutic interventions to help anyone working on their relationship, regardless of its openness, its dimension, its phases of monogamy, or its form.

To receive future Quick Tips for Therapists from other New Harbinger authors and experts, subscribe to their e-newsletter list at

Is Monogamy Over?

TIME Magazine posed this important question to content creators and thought leaders for yesterday’s Question Everything issue. It’s an important conversation the world needs to have, but particularly amongst couples therapists. We have a unique opportunity to guide couples in communication and decision-making about their relationship. I wanted to join this conversation by sharing my thoughts and responses to each article from TIME Magazine in my blogs this week.

Monogamy’s Fine—Cheating Is Endangered by Candace Bushnell

Monogamy works great when both partners abide by the monogamy agreement (assuming there is an explicit agreement). The problem is many couples abide by an implicit monogamy agreement and they may not agree on what’s required in that agreement. I love Candace’s example of an honest cheater, because it really is the dishonesty that seems to bother most monogamists who have been cheated on. Her example is a little extreme, but it’s a tongue-in-cheek example of the type of open communication that couples should use when negotiating their monogamy agreement. What is off-limits and why, what is going too far, what do we do when someone has gone too far? If our cultural beliefs around monogamy and cheating suddenly switched to include this type of honest communication, then cheaters would become almost obsolete, as Candace fears.

Monogamy Is a Charade by Toni Bentley

Toni makes the argument that monogamy is unnatural and by insisting that monogamy be the ideal relationship model, we as a society are encouraging dishonesty. I can’t say that Toni is wrong. I think monogamy is possible and satisfying with open, honest communication about expectations (see response to Candace Bushnell above).

Monogamy Is Not Natural But It’s Nice by David Barash

David makes the argument that based on our biology as humans, monogamy isn’t natural – we were created to spread our genetic material far and wide. But socially, monogamy (in the form of bonded pairs) makes sense because it provides “biparental care” and therefore our offspring are more likely to survive to adulthood and to bear their own children. This is a wonderful explanation for why monogamous marriage is the leading relationship model but sex outside marriage is a growing concern for many – we are struggling to deny our biological drive. David’s argument that the biparental care is the best model for raising children may not be accurate, however. Many polyamorous families have more than 2 adults in relationship with each other with little to no harm to the children (Is Polyamory Bad for the Children?). I theorize that the more mature adults available to care for and model healthy relationships for kids, the more likely those kids will be able to develop healthy, satisfying relationships as adults.

Polygamy Is Natural For Some People by Nathan Collier

Nathan recently filed a federal lawsuit to strike down his home state’s bigamy lawsuit. His family is a perfect example of how multiple parents in a family can provide more love, care, discipline, education, and models for healthy relationships. Nathan highlights a few reasons why restricting legal marriage to two adults is problematic including potential abuse of wives and abuse of the welfare system. Nathan is absolutely right when he says, “People tend to confuse legality with morality.” No matter what relationship model you choose, to have a healthy, happy marriage you need communication and mutual respect.

New research show sexting is good for your relationship

In the media we often hear horror stories of celebrities’ or politician’s nude photos or sexy text conversations being leaked to the public. We’ve even seen “normal” people with regular lives lose their lobs over explicit digital communication.

But is it really so terrible to rev up sexual desire with a little sexting? Researchers at Drexel University weren’t so convinced and set out to find out what the risks and benefits of texting are for adults.

It turns out, there’s far more benefits for relationships and libidos than there are risks. “According to the study, the more you sext, the better your sex life and the more satisfied you are in your relationship.” (Alexia Lafata, What Are You Wearing? Science Wants You To Sext Your Damn Heart Out)

For the singles, sexting only led to low sexual satisfaction. The higher the commitment levels in the relationship, the greater the relationship satisfaction as a result of sexting.   And, if sexting was more carefree and an expected part of the relationship, it enhanced the fun. Read more of my thoughts on the topic in my latest article for YourTango: Sexting Could Be Good For Your Relationship.

Lori Liebovich, host of The Labor of Love podcast, invited me to participate in a conversation with other experts about the pros and cons of sexting and how it can fit into a healthy relationship. The podcast episode is available online here.

Next time you are in bed together with each of you on your separate telephones, send them a sexy text.  Ask them what they are wearing. Tell them what you have on, even if you have to exaggerate a little.  Use the phone to heat up your sex life, instead of making it the one thing that creates a wedge between you.

Last Call: Savings on Great Sex this Summer!

With summer coming to a close, children returning to school, and the temperatures beginning to drop, it’s a great time to create more heat in the bedroom with a more passionate and erotic sex life. We are still offering the following three teleclasses on Getting the Sex You Want at a 50% discount! Purchase all three classes together and save $222 on the total purchase price.

Getting the Sex You Want with Dr. Tammy Nelson (for Couples & Therapists), a 3-part teleclass with Dr. Tammy Nelson, *3 AASECT or IMAGO CEUs*
Teleclass Overview: Do you crave a more fulfilling sex life? Do you wish for a more intimate and emotionally rewarding relationship? Join one of the top experts in the field of love and eroticism for an open discussion on the keys to creating and sustaining passion in a long-term love affair with a partner and with yourself.

A Beginner’s Guide to Sharing Fantasies: How to Talk Dirty in Bed, a 90-minute teleclass with Dr. Tammy Nelson
Teleclass Overview: Do you want to create a more connected, more vital and erotic sex life? Even if you’ve been too afraid to share your fantasies, or if you have tried in the past and failed, this course will teach you to communicate your fantasies and desires.  Learn how to turn up the heat in your sex life and get it just right. Talking dirty can be hot and it can connect you in bed. But sometimes it can be hard to say out loud what you are really thinking.  Learn how to be honest, and whisper, shout, growl and reveal your most erotic longings.  Talking sexy will turn you on, turn your partner on and bring you to your most intimate moments together. Afraid?  What’s too much? How do you use the words you may never have said before?

Women & Sex: Women’s Sexual Questions & Confessions, a 2-hour teleclass with Dr. Tammy Nelson, *2 AASECT or IMAGO CEs*
Teleclass Overview: Do you wonder how to have a more intense or passionate sex life? Do you want a deeper emotional connection and at the same time reach great heights in bed? Do you want to communicate your inner fantasies? Most women have questions. This course will answer real questions from real women about sex.

What Women In Sexless Marriages Need To Know

Are you in a sexless marriage? The first thing you need to know is you’re not alone. The marriage complaint most often searched on Google is sexless marriage. HuffingtonPost reached out to marriage therapists and sex experts seeking advice for women stuck in sexually unsatisfying marriages. My advice: “it may not be you, so stop beating yourself up… Many times men stop initiating sex because they are stressed or they’re experiencing some kind of erectile dysfunction and they’re too afraid to tell you. Men define their sexuality by their ability to perform and if they cannot achieve an erection upon demand they may withdraw. Keep being affectionate and let him know there is no pressure to get to the ‘finish line.’… Don’t wait for him to take charge. It is OK as the woman to be the driving force of your own sex life.”
Additionally it may be time to get your husband in to see the doctor. If he has erectile dysfunction, he may have prostate issues and it’s important to get that checked out right away. When you have ruled out cancer, checked his testosterone, and reduced his stress levels, then you can look deeper into your relationship.

Check out HuffingtonPost’s article for the full list of Six Things Experts Tell Women In Sexless Marriages.

Amy Schumer on being an unapologetic woman

One of my favorite new comedians, Amy Schumer, is one of the most popular comedians out there right now. The writer of Trainwreck, the movie, has a lot to say about self-love, positive body image and loving her shape, having ambition and ignoring her haters. She also reminds me of myself fifteen years ago. Some of my friends ask if we are possibly related? She is changing the narrative about women’s sexuality today and her forthright style is funny, shocking to some, and real. Here are some of her best quotes.


“I will speak and share and f— and love, and I will never apologize to the frightened millions who resent that they never had it in them to do it.”

“I am a woman with thoughts and questions and shit to say.”

“Nothing good ever happens in a blackout. I’ve never woken up and been like, ‘What is this Pilates mat doing out?'”


“It’s work having a vagina. Guys don’t think that its work but it is. You think it shows up like that to the event? It doesn’t. Every night it’s like getting it ready for its first Quinceanera, believe me.”

“I get labelled a sex comic. But if a guy got up onstage and pulled his dick out, everybody would say, ‘He’s a thinker.’”

New Book for clinicians: Sex Made Simple by Barry McCarthy

I love to support friends and colleagues who are leaders in changing how we talk about sex within couples therapy. Barry McCarthy is doing just that with his newest book specially for clinicians dealing with sexual problems and sex therapy, Sex Made Simple: Clinical Strategies For Sexual Issues in Therapy. If you’re ready to integrate sex therapy into your Marriage and Family Therapy practice, start here and save 20% off Amazon’s price with this order form:
Sex Made Simple_ORDER NOW_Form2Sex Made Simple_ORDER NOW_Form2

In The New York Times: Let’s Talk About Your Sex

I’m in The New York Times!

First, in Fashion & Style online: online: First Comes Sex Talk With These Renegades of Couples Therapy by Amy Sohn.

Journalist Sohn delves deep into the changing landscape of sex therapy, couples therapy, and the relationship between the two. Sohn quotes the cutting edge “renegades of couples therapy.” Read about my work along with my friends and colleagues, Esther Perel, Marty Klein, Suzanne Iasenza and Margie Nichols.

And then printed above the fold on the front page of Sunday Styles: Let’s Talk About Your Sex – The same article, but in paper print.

Tammy in the New York Times - July 2015

My thoughts on Relationships, on The Academy of Miracles podcast

I’m honored to share with you that I’m this week’s featured guest on Elloa Atkinson’s podcast, The Academy of Miracles! Elloa and I enjoyed a deeply personal conversation about relationships. Starting today, you can listen to the podcast through Elloa’s website: or through iTunes.