Talk Takeaway: Relationships with Jill Blakeway

Posted on Feb 11, 2013 10:45am

Jill Blakeway's book, "Sex Again" explores the way yin and yang drive sexuality and to make you feel sexy again for sex.  Check out an excerpt from the book!



Sexual Healing

For Women Who Want to Want To

Americans have sex eighty-five times a year, on average, or once every 4.3 days. That's according to an extensive survey by
condom maker Durex, which also reported that this is less sex than people have pretty much anywhere else in the world. As I read these results, all I could think was, where on earth did they find people having that much sex? Clearly Durex hadn't asked the women I treat or otherwise discuss such matters with. That is, women primarily in their thirties and forties, as well as moving into the menopausal years, in lasting primary relationships. If you talk to those women—or if you are one of those women—you get a much different picture of Americans' sex lives than you do from a peddler of prophylactics. But many of those women do indeed feel they are having less sex than anyone else in the world!

I am an acupuncturist and clinical herbalist, and what I hear in my office, as well as from my friends, is that a lot of couples can only dream of the weekly sex just over half of Durex's respondents report. And plenty don't even have the energy to dream it. So as much as Durex's numbers puzzled me, I was not surprised to find that, according to the American Medical Association (AMA), forty million adult Americans are not having sex with their partners at all. Nor was I startled by a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that documented that about one in three American women report a lack of interest in sex. In any survey of sexual problems, low libido always tops the list—and by a wide margin.
It may seem almost inevitable that any sexual spark is so often muted in our fast-paced, highly competitive, multitasking, me-first, stressed-out world. Your friends probably agree that it seems as if everyone is not doing it, and that's just the way things are. Well, that's not the way it has to be. You may be out of touch with your own desire, but that doesn't mean it's not there. The trick is to reconnect to it.
So although you may well be one of the women not much in the mood, I'm betting you don't like it that way. I'm betting you are like the women I see in my office every day who aren't having much sex—but want to. Not women looking for someone to have sex with—that's outside my purview as a health care practitioner, I'm pleased to say—but women with long-term partners. Women, in other words, with plenty of opportunity—but little desire. Women who are too stressed for sex. Women who are too tired for sex. Women who somehow don't feel they are sexy enough for sex. (I hear these complaints from single women, too, whether or not they are in the market for a partner, and from women in newer or less formalized relationships—the ones we old-marrieds might imagine are in that honeymoon stage.)
This book is for those women. Women who aren't having much sex, don't feel much like having sex—but want to want to. Those who may have gotten a bit out of practice but are ready for sex again.

Just Do It
If you want to want to have sex, but haven't been really feeling it, my single best piece of advice is to do it anyway. Pretend you are in a sneaker commercial and just do it.

I don't mean to be flip about this. This is actually a piece of the ancient Chinese philosophy this program is built on. Which is why it sounds like a bit of a departure from how we are used to approaching things in the Western therapeutic mind-set, especially when it comes to "psychological" issues. Chinese medicine aims to get you back in your body; we are more used to living more in our heads. We are accustomed to working on issues ahead of time, and when it comes to sex advice, that plays out as strategies for fixing the relationship, improving communication, uncovering emotional issues, and so on. And often, talking, talking, talking about all of it. Chinese medicine doesn't make a distinction between issues of the body and issues of the mind, and takes on what Western medicine considers psychological all of a piece with what is physical. In Chinese medicine, too, you can improve sex by improving the relationship. But you can also improve the relationship by improving the sex. And the key way you improve the sex is by having sex. Not if it is truly damaging, of course, but in almost every other case, it's highly recommended.
Still, I realize "just do it" may be easier said than done, and the rest of this book is about how you can feel like having sex again, including how and why and when you should (and sometimes shouldn't) just do it. One important part of the journey is making it for yourself. It may also be good for your partner, and for your relationship. But most of all, this is about you.
Another important factor is making the sex you have better. You can't wait around, hoping great sex will somehow happen to you. You can't wait until it will be perfect before you have sex. It will never be perfect. To have better sex, to want more sex—you have to have sex. You have to start where you are. And if right now that means humdrum sex, that's OK. It won't stay that way for long, not if you follow the Sex in Six plan. After about six weeks you'll be back to wanting sex, and so presumably having sex. More sex. And better sex. In fact, how much sex you have is not what really matters most: Quality trumps quantity.
But the fact remains that to have sex again you need to . . . have sex. Right now you might be stuck in a negative loop—lack of desire breeding lack of sex, and though you might not realize it, lack of sex breeding lack of desire—but soon you'll be experiencing the positive flip side of that cycle: The more sex you have, the more sex you'll want. The more you enjoy sex, the more satisfying it is, and the more you will want to have it.
To be clear I do not think you should "just do it" if "it" is painful or otherwise harmful. I don't think you should "just do it" only because you feel like you have to for your partner. I don't think you should "just do it" if you resent doing it, and resentment is building up in your relationship. But do keep in mind much of your attitude about sex is under your control. You don't have to be excited about it (at first) to go ahead and give it a whirl. If you are thinking actively negative thoughts about sex (Ugh, I really don't want to do this or let's get this over with!), you are not going to gain what you might if you consciously decided to keep a more open mind. In choosing this book, you've already made a shift in the way you think about sex. And many of the strategies in this book will serve to support and extend that new approach.
This program is built of practices found in two-thousand-year-old Chinese texts written by ancient Taoist sages and honed by my clinical experience treating thousands of patients by drawing on that ancient wisdom in a very modern way. The "sexercises" range from simple deep breathing, or just thinking about sex for five minutes, to thrusting techniques and strategies for intensifying orgasm. They are layered on top of advice about the best ways to eat, exercise, and otherwise optimize your health (both physical and mental)—which are also the best things to do for your sexual health—all customized for your particular situation. I recommend herbal formulas when they apply—all are available over the counter and very safe for use on your own. (See Appendix 1 for advice on buying high-quality herbs.) For those who are interested and have access to it, acupuncture can also be useful (though it isn't necessary). Once your own house is in order, there is guidance on seeing to the health of your relationship as well.
But the sexercises are the heart of the Sex in Six plan. They are accessible to everyone—nothing aerobic, acrobatic, or pornographic required, I promise. Not all involve actually having intercourse, or even any sexual contact at all. Some are done with all your clothes on. Some are designed to be done without a partner. And some of them may inspire you to go ahead and get naked before you finish reading the relevant passage. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Sex Is Good for You
Let me urge anyone who thinks that they are pretty much OK with not caring much about sex these days to think again. You should want to have sex. Your sexuality is an integral part of what makes you you. And sex is an integral part of what makes a couple a couple.

Sex is a great invention. It's free. It's fun. It feels terrific. And it's good for you. Really, really good for you. Having sex makes people—and their relationships—healthier and happier. Good sex does, anyway. And there's research to prove it! Sex reduces heart rate, lowers blood pressure, increases immunity, and provides a wide range of other health benefits. Sex reduces the perception of pain. It burns calories and increases energy levels. It's one of the best stress-busters I know. Sex improves your mood, too. It clears the mind and brightens your outlook. It's relaxing and calming. It's a great release for emotional as well as physical tension. Sex promotes a positive psychological state and emotional security.
Furthermore, sex helps create and maintain a strong relationship. Sex is, in fact, key to a relationship. Without sex, you are just roommates. I was going to say "just glorified roommates." But really, without the sex, where's the glory? Sex helps create the strongest bond to someone, particularly over the long haul. Sex—independent of its use for procreation—helps create stability in a relationship. Having sex literally makes love.
Any kind of positive touching, including nonsexual touching, is good for you, your body, your mood, your relationship, and your overall sense
of well-being. But sex, assuming it is a full-body, skin-to-skin experience of intimacy, and perhaps an aerobic workout as well, brings the maximum payoff. The best of the best is sex with a partner you love and trust, in a strong relationship. (Sex-for-one will give you most of these same benefits, however, so don't let lack of the immediate availability of a partner hold you back!) It is not necessary to have an orgasm to experience the good sex can do, but when you do orgasm you add a whole other layer of benefits.
The positive effects of sex appear not just in the immediate aftermath but also, if you have reasonably regular sex, over the long term as well. "Afterglow" lasts much longer than most people realize. It can follow us for hours, even days, after sex.
One more thing: Having sex increases libido. Having sex is the single best thing to do about lack of desire. If you want a robust libido, you have to take it out and drive it around frequently. If you leave it parked in the driveway all the time, then it's going to get rusty and be hard to start. You can start it up again, though, no matter how long it has been, what age you are, or what your attitude is right now. You really can want to have sex again, and you really will have good sex, if you believe you can and truly give the program in here an honest and invested effort.

Energy and Balance
There can be many different factors underlying loss of interest in sex. There may be something going on in your body. Or your mood. Or your relationship. Or some combination of the above. Chinese medicine addresses all these areas at once, without making a distinction between body and mind. It targets symptoms, and the underlying problems that cause them, as a path to restoring libido. But part of what I love about Chinese medicine is that it also works the other way around: Restoring libido can be a way to alleviate symptoms and address those underlying problems.

You might not be having sex because you are tired, or stressed-out, or sick, or upset, or in a fight. But you also might be tired or stressed or sick or upset or fighting because you aren't having sex. When you look at it this way, the Chinese medicine way, you are no longer limited to working on the body or mind or relationship as a means of improving the sex. It's just as valid to work on the sex as a means of improving the body, mind, or relationship. In many cases that's bound to be not only quicker, but also much more enjoyable. And perhaps even more effective.
Chinese medicine places a lot of importance on energy and balance. If you have negative symptoms, they indicate a lack of energy, or imbalance. Fixing the problem can restore energy and/or balance—or you can fix the problem by building up energy and improving balance. That's true in pretty much all areas of life, but never more true than with sex. The Sex in Six program helps you restore your energy levels, rebalance your self and your relationship, and recharge your sex drive. In any order!
Not too many of my patients place low libido at the top of their list of things they want to deal with. (Though many of my patients experiencing menopause do!) Either way, more often than not, when I ask about sex as part of my standard initial interview, women mention they are not interested like they used to be and don't have sex very often. Usually they sound pretty wistful.
What does happen all the time is that women who come in for any number of reasons find that as their other concerns resolve, their libido also improves. Even if they weren't fully aware they had an issue going on in that area. And even if they were aware they had a problem, but unaware there was a relatively simple solution, as is often the case with women in menopause. That's because Chinese medicine always works along the same pathways: building, moving, and balancing energy. The effects are not limited to just the targeted condition. Your whole body—in fact, your whole life—might experience changes. Balanced energy knows no boundaries.

For the Guys: This Book Is for You, Too.
(Just Maybe Not the Whole Book)

My name is Noah Rubinstein, and I am the clinic director, and an acupuncturist, at the YinOva Center. I am also Jill's husband. Our culture presents essentially one idea about couples not having much sex: men who want more and women who want less. That might well be the basic story for many couples, but here at the Center we see just as many men struggling with low libido as we do women. Trust me when I say your manhood is not defined by your ability to get an erection or to thrust away all night like a porn star—or your desire to do such things. If you really want to "man up," what you need to do is own your issue, whatever it is, and take the necessary action to address it.

So while the main thread of this book addresses women as individuals, and as part of couples, much of the information and advice applies to men as well. The topics of interest primarily to men I've gathered into "For the Guys" sections, just like this one, throughout the book. So if you scan through, looking for these sections—or read them when your partner passes you the book—you will get most of what you need to know to get a handle on your own sex drive.
I think you'll find, however, that the more you read along with your partner, the more you both will get out of it. When it comes to relationships, no one goes it alone. And your sex life isn't about just you; it's about you two. Even more important than the reading is the doing. Here's my promise, man to man: Do this program with your partner and you will feel better physically and mentally. You will strengthen your relationship. And you will want—and have—more (and better!) sex.
Our experience at the Center has shown that good communication—verbal and otherwise—holds the key to getting the spark back in the bedroom. This means understanding ourselves as well as our partners. This all may take a little work on your part, and may require getting out of your regular routine—even outside your comfort zone. But the rewards (did I mention more and better sex?) will be worth it!

Balance and Connect
Sex doesn't have to be perfect to be good or beneficial. It won't be, because it never is. It doesn't have to set off fireworks, or mend all the little weak spots in your relationship, or reclaim your youth, or provide a spiritual experience. It doesn't even have to be with a partner.

Over time, sex might do or be any or all of those things. But not if you don't have any. It all starts with your desire. No matter how long it's been since you felt it, or how deeply you have it buried, you can rediscover and recharge it.
If  you commit to the process. Think of it like you would going on a diet, or following any other plan to make a change in your life. You have to put in the effort to reap the reward. Only unlike a diet, this is about eliminating deprivation rather than instituting it. With Sex Again the stuff that feels good and the stuff that's good for you are the same stuff. If it were a diet, it would tell you to eat more chocolate.
Your journey starts here. You've already taken the first steps: recognizing something is out of whack and deciding to take action to address it. Now you'll learn how to identify and balance the energy patterns in your body, and in your relationship. And how to connect both to your own sexual self and to your partner. You'll add a plethora of sexercises to your repertoire, from meditation to masturbation. You'll uncover any specific problems that are creating roadblocks—along with strategies for removing or surmounting them. And in about six weeks you'll be fully recharged, and ready for sex again.

Good Sex
We often have no real idea of what "good" sex is. The sexual imagery that saturates our society leaves a lot of us holding ourselves up to extremely unrealistic models—models that don't have anything to do with really good sex anyway. We tend to aspire to the kind of "mind-blowing" sex between physically perfect people promoted by Hollywood and Madison Avenue, not to mention the pornography industry. Then we either judge our real-life experiences as somehow falling short, or we expend lots of energy trying to mimic that impossible standard. Or we give it up as impossible. Either way we miss out on the more profound pleasures of truly good sex.

There is no one technique that guarantees good sex, no set of instructions that makes it a sure thing. That's because good sex is not about what-goes-where or who-licks-what. Good sex is not gymnastic, or rose-petal romantic, or Cosmo (or cosmo) inspired. (At least, not necessarily!) Good sex has nothing to do with how old you are or how much you
weigh. Good sex is not about how often you do it or how long you last or how hard you come.
Good sex is about connection between two people. It is about the mutual flow of energy between partners, with both people giving and receiving it. Good sex comes from and/or takes you toward a state of balanced energy. You can get up to whatever exotic high jinks you like, but without the exchange of energy between partners, sex will never be deeply satisfying. Energetic connection is crucial not just to the sexual experience, but also, ultimately, to the relationship itself.
All the other characteristics of good sex play into these. The exact same act could constitute good or bad sex, depending on whether or not it creates connection. You can have good sex without having an orgasm. (Though you increase the benefits when you do orgasm!) You can also orgasm without having good sex. You can create connection without having intercourse. It's all about that sense of union, that two-becomes-one feeling, occurring on multiple levels—anatomically, of course, but also psychologically, emotionally, even spiritually.
When your desire for sex is MIA, it is often because this sense of connection is missing. Luckily, mutual energetic exchange is a simple thing to ensure. The main requirements are a little time and attention. Anyone can feel the kind of energy I'm talking about—it isn't esoteric or mysterious or for-sages-only. Anyone can learn to tap into it. Repair or rebuild that essential connection, and you will rediscover desire and reignite your sex life.
Last but not least, connected sex is a gateway to spiritual growth. This was the heart of the ancient Taoists' plan, the ultimate point of all their techniques: channeling and transforming of sexual energy into spiritual energy. Some of you may be thinking this really isn't your cup of tea. Fine. I'm not trying to sell you on any kind of bedroom metaphysical experience, though that is indeed what some devotees of these practices are looking for—and finding. There's a simpler way to look at it: The connection good sex creates is more than physical. You can feel it between the two of you. And for many people, that feeling extends outward further still, tapping into a feeling of—pardon the corniness, but there's really no other way to put it—oneness-with-the-universe. The bit of connection between two people gives many people a relatively concrete experience of the idea that we are all connected. Sex is spiritual when the feeling of union, of communion, expands to include not just two people but the world around them as well, and they feel as one with all of life. The way the Taoists understood it, the energy you balance and exchange with your partner connects you not just to each other but also to the universal energy. Sex is many things to many people; to the Taoists one of them is a portal to experiencing the energy of the universe.

Good Sex Again
Good sex—connected sex—is a recipe with a lot of ingredients. Leave one out and you could end up with a whole different dish. But it is also a forgiving recipe, and one that anyone can whip up with a little practice. You do have to make sure the pantry is stocked with everything you need (see below), and there are a few basic techniques you'll need to really get cooking (conveniently located throughout this book).

Good sex involves love. That's why the best sex is often sex between long-term partners. You might have good sex early on in a relationship, too, because when you are doing it right, having sex is actually making love. Good sex both inspires and builds love. It expresses love. And in the moment-to-moment experience of it, good sex is loving.
Good sex is an exchange. It's mutual. Cooperative. It's giving and receiving—for both partners. It's shared energy, flowing in both directions. Good sex is selfless. It's not about you. It's about us.
Good sex is energizing. And energy-balancing. Good sex only adds to your stores of energy; it never drains them.
Good sex is committed. In a stable, long-term relationship you can draw on the most profound and powerful benefits of sex. Casual sex isn't necessarily bad sex, and it most certainly can be fun, or so many of us wouldn't be reminiscing about it. But it tends to be energy depleting—
you give away energy and you don't really get it back. Because casual sex is not typically truly connected sex, there's no pathway for energy to get back to you.
Good sex means both partners are present—present with each other, present in the moment. For sex to be good, you have to have your head in the game. Your attention needs to be on what you are doing and who you are doing it with. Both of you really need to engage, or you won't get everything out of the experience you could.
Good sex is pleasurable.
Good sex is satisfying. Physically and emotionally. For both of you. Orgasm is a big part of that, but it's not the be-all and end-all of satisfaction. Exactly what counts as satisfying will vary from person to person, couple to couple, and even from time to time.
Good sex is a total body experience. There's a lot to be said for the genitals when it comes to sex, of course, but that's just one item on a much longer menu. There are a few variations on this theme: Good sex uses all five senses. And good sex involves heart, mind, and body.
Good sex is a form of communication—some of it verbal. But like music, or dance, or art, the point is: Expression is often beyond mere words.
Good sex is meaningful.
Good sex is also generous, warm, enjoyable, joyful, tender, sincere, sharing, supportive, responsible, open, compassionate, empathetic, energetic, genuine, and passionate—sometimes all at once. Sometimes not!
Good sex is a whole greater than the sum of the parts.

Bad Sex
Another great thing about good sex is that by having it, you avoid the pitfalls of having bad sex as well as the pitfalls of having no sex! Bad (or nonexistent) sex can generate negative emotions and alienate partners. It can leave you feeling the relationship is incomplete. It wastes or otherwise misuses your sexual energy, and your partner's, leaving you both drained rather than revitalized. So don't do it!

Nothing good will ever come of sex that is exploitative, abusive, coerced, or violent. But sex doesn't have to be as bad as all that to be bad sex. Bad sex is any sex that leaves you sad or depressed or otherwise empty. Or that is disconnected or devoid of emotion. Or that is frustrating. Or monotonous. Or exhausting. Bad sex is sex with an inappropriate partner or in inappropriate circumstances. Sex that is a power struggle. Sex that is goal oriented or merely mechanical. Sex that is only about relieving stress, or only about having an orgasm. Sex that leaves you physically or emotionally unsatisfied. Sex that is too rushed. Sex that focuses on performance. Sex that does not involve an exchange of energy.
None of that will do you any good. And to the degree it creates physical or emotional pain, it can even create problems in physical or mental health, or in the relationship. Bad sex depletes energy instead of generating it, endangering your sex drive. And—you guessed it—depleted energy is a pathway to (more) bad sex.

DON'T Have Sex
Don't have sex is not something you will hear me say that often. But you do want to set yourself up for success (good sex) by not having sex when conditions are conspiring against you:

Don't have sex if you are feeling really lousy, or are totally drained.

Don't have sex if you are seriously exhausted. Like just-getting-over-the-flu exhausted, or just-ran-a-half-marathon exhausted. (When your fatigue is not linked to a specific, limited cause like that, having sex every now and then won't hurt you. And sex can give you energy, so it might even be just the ticket to lifting you out of milder fatigue.)

Don't have sex if having sex itself is draining or exhausting.
(DO take it as a sign you need to shift something about the way
you are having sex.)

Don't have sex when you are in the grip of a lot of negative emotion (anger, sadness, fear . . . ) or otherwise highly emotional.

Don't use sex as an escape from anger, boredom, concerns about the relationship, or anything else you should really be dealing with. Sex can help you experience and express emotions, and it can take the edge off negative emotions. But you are abusing its power if you use it to avoid dealing with your problems.

A Little More Conversation
To have good sex, you're going to have to talk about it. Open and honest communication is key to connecting, sexually and otherwise. Good communication is important to your relationship, which is important to your sex life. Good communication is also important during sex—in fact, sex itself is one big act of communication. But for right now I want to focus specifically on talking about sex. For many of my patients, this is the missing ingredient in their sex lives—and I hear from them over and over again (usually with surprise in their voices) how a little talk can be all it takes to get everything on the right track. Couples who have been together for years are often stuck in a rut, and no one ever says "Hey, how about trying . . .? or "You know what I'd like even more . . . ?"

If you want to be a good sexual partner, you are going to have to figure out what your partner needs and wants, likes and dislikes. And if you want your partner to know what you need and want, like and dislike, you're going to have to tell him. I also recommend showing him. In fact, I encourage learning all you can by trial and error! But you won't get complete information unless you also talk about those things.
No matter how much he loves you, your partner cannot be relied upon to guess what floats your boat. By all means, when he does manage it, let him know in no uncertain terms (talking permitted, but not required). But the same thing isn't going to do it for you every time, or for the whole time every time, and since you are the one inside your body you are going to know sooner than anybody else what would feel really good right about now.
Many couples find the prospect of a conversation like this daunting. Many of us have way more trouble talking about such intimate matters than we do doing them. Most of the time, though, it turns out to be easier than you think it will be. Most couples want to please each other, so once the topic is up for discussion, they can roll with it. And in most cases patients report that having such a talk, even if they have concerns about it in advance, produces very positive results that make any anticipatory jitters—and any effort necessary to overcome them—more than worth it. So I'm going to give you the same advice about talking about sex as I do about having sex: Just do it!
Begin by finding a time you can talk when you are not having sex or about to have sex. The best way to begin this conversation is with everybody fully clothed. Beyond that, the best circumstances for a talk like this are going to vary from couple to couple. Some of my patients tell me they wait for a quiet moment when they can look their partner in the eye. Some prefer to talk in the car—the classic setup for non–eye-contact discussions. Setting a warm, romantic tone, talking over dinner, or a glass of wine, or in the Jacuzzi are all lovely ideas and may well kick-start things, but setting a romantic tone is not essential. What is essential is taking the initial risk, and speaking up, with love and honesty.
It's a good idea to start with all the things that are working for you in your current sexual experience. Be specific, sincere, and enthusiastic. A little lavish praise never hurt anyone's sex life.
Then ask your partner what he likes, what he'd like more of, and what he might like to try. You can ask what he fantasizes about, or if there's anything he'd like you to know. But the trick to this isn't in asking just the right question, or rehearsing the best opening gambit, or setting the stage perfectly, or turning the discussion into a seduction. The important thing is to create a safe space for a full and free discussion for both of you. So: Be honest. Be patient. Stay present—in the sense of being fully engaged in the moment and the conversation. But don't dredge up the past. If your partner feels that you are speaking earnestly and lovingly—not to mention that your goal is to give him pleasure—he's going to be more able to tell you what you want to know.
And when he does: Listen carefully. That's one way to show him you really want to know—and encourage him to share more. Equally important: This is valuable information, and you are going to want to act on it. Let your partner know the things that sound good to you, too. Try not to reject anything out of hand. You shouldn't agree to anything you seriously object to, but in general you'll be better off with a don't-knock-it-'til-you-try-it attitude. If you try it and find you don't care for it after all—well then, no need to keep at it. But you might also discover something enjoyable you hadn't thought of by yourself.
It is then your turn to share with your partner the things you'd like more of, and the things you'd like to try. (If he's particularly reticent, you can always go first.) In many cases it is a good idea to start off slowly, perhaps with a simple request that's easy for your partner to accomplish: "Honey, I love when you ______. Can you do that more often?" If you are particularly reticent, you might try writing some things down. Or, backing up a step or two, you might set the stage for a conversation with a note or email that includes some specifics to get you started. Via love note or out loud, nothing is too large or too small to mention. If you have a secret hankering, now's a good time to speak up. If you'd like to bring back the days of just plain kissing for a while before you go further, say that. If you've been doing one of the meditations in this book and would like to do it with your partner, let him know. If there's an area of your body you'd really like a little more attention paid to, point it out.
When I am encouraging my patients to take on a conversation like this, many of them complain that they wouldn't even really know what to ask for. It is not surprising, really, that a woman dealing with low libido has fallen out of touch with her own sexuality. But no worries: The program at the end of the "Do It Yourself" chapter (Chapter 9) is designed to help you hone back in on it—and so fully prepare you to make a good case to your partner.
When you are ready to make your case, if you want your partner to be able to really hear what you are saying, choose your phrasing carefully. Don't criticize what he has been doing, but do say what you would like. Don't force an idea on him that obviously doesn't appeal. But don't self-censor either—give your partner a chance to give something the thumbs-up or thumbs-down.
Word of warning: Sometimes these conversations can get a little . . . shall we say sidetracked? Perhaps there was a little something that was easier to demonstrate than to explain? If you find yourselves suddenly practicing what you had been preaching . . . well then, that was a very successful bit of communication. Just be sure to go back and finish the conversation at some other time, to be sure you both get your say.
On the other hand, you might meet some resistance when broaching this topic. Defensiveness, perhaps. Or embarrassment or nervousness. Or, jokes—probably reflecting any or all of the previously mentioned issues. As a way of dealing with discomfort, joking around is not necessarily bad. Truth be told, a lot of people and relationships could use some lightening up around the subject of sex. So if this is the response you get, one option is to run with it. When it comes to sex, playful is good. But if the talk is always and only jokey about sex, it may be there is something un-silly you are avoiding talking about, and you may want to look at that. Or, just for a change of pace, agree to try out not being so jokey, and see if you have a different experience. One more important point: This is not a conversation to have once and then never again. Check in with each other every once in a while as you move forward.


Do I Have to Have Acupuncture?
Almost all of the patients you will meet in these pages received acupuncture as part of their treatment. I am, after all, an acupuncturist—acupuncture is what most of my patients come to see me for. And acupuncture can be very useful in treating a variety of sexual issues—and the physical and emotional issues leading to or compounding them.

But acupuncture is not the kind of thing you can do on your own—and this book is designed as a DIY project. That's why I don't usually mention it when I describe cases.
I want to assure you that you can get results without acupuncture. The exercises in this book work along much the same lines as acupuncture does when it comes to moving and balancing energy in your body, so you can use them instead. Add in the herbs and lifestyle adjustments most applicable to your situation—just as I recommend to my patients—and you'll be well on your way. (True, I customize prescription herbs for most patients, and a professional could do the same for you, specific to you and your circumstances, for optimal results—but the high-quality over-the-counter formulas I recommend will do the trick in almost every case.)
If you do choose to seek out acupuncture, you may find results come more quickly, easily, or clearly. But no one has to have acupuncture in order to want sex again.

Fantasy Versus Fantastic Sex
Fantasy is a part of many people's sex lives, and there's nothing wrong with that. Fantasy can help awaken sexual awareness. It might be useful in getting you in the mood, or taking you over the top. But if it is the only way you can get going, that should be a wake-up call. There are better ways to arouse or stimulate yourself, or trigger orgasm. If fantasy is always your go-to, you will miss out.

Fantasy is all about being in your head, and the best sex is all about being in your body. Fantasy is anywhere-but-here; the best sex is be-here-now. When you are fantasizing, you can't give all your attention and energy to your partner, or your own body for that matter, because you are diverting attention and energy to your fantasy. If you learn one new attitude from your experience with this book, I hope it will be to be present, with your partner, and in your own body, during sex. That's what really will enhance your sexual experience. Fantasy just distracts from it, sabotaging the energetic connection between partners, and draining your energy to boot. Over time, reliance on fantasy can create distance between partners and diminish love.

To Do (It) List: Getting to Good Sex
Specific techniques for having good sex are to come, but you'll get much of the way there with a few underlying strategies:
 Be a generous lover. The more you give, the more you'll get.
 Have your mind on the matter at hand. Be there, be engaged, be with your partner.
 Hold the intention of fully sharing in the experience and exchanging energy.
 Honor your body and your sexuality—and your partner's.
 Aim for variety, creativity, and surprise. Get your whole body involved.
 Take care of your well-being—physically and emotionally—as well as the well-being of your partner and your relationship.
 Have a spiritual or meditative practice. Activities like qi gong, tai chi, meditation, yoga, and even just devotion to virtuous living will enhance your sexual practices as well, mostly by giving you easier access to connecting at a deeper level.
 Know yourself. You're going to be able to truly connect with someone else only to the degree that you connect with you—your body and your self.
 Know you won't form a more perfect union each and every time; it's the total effect over time that really counts anyway.
 Remember sex can be transcendent—but don't wait to have it until you're sure that's what you're going to get. It won't be that way every single time; the key is just to be open to it when and if it should occur.
 Focus on the sex, not on the orgasm. You want to avoid being goal oriented in any way when it comes to sex. Peak orgasmic intensity is not going to happen every time you have sex anyway—nor, for some people, is an average, everyday orgasm. Seeking solely for that will lead to imbalance. Plus you will miss all the other good stuff.
 Choose regular sex over occasional but explosive sex. Intensity will vary from time to time. There's no point in waiting around for the absolute most perfect conditions. Sometimes a couple simply needs to have some sex—even sex that's just OK. Then later they can fine-tune how well they do so. Once you are having really good sex, you might be satisfied with fewer but deeper encounters. And quality is far more important than quantity. But as the sex gets better and better, you may well want more of it. And under the law of practice-makes-perfect, the more sex you have, the better at it you will be.
 Experience the emotion of a sexual encounter, rather than focusing solely on the physical aspects of it. But don't put all your attention on the emotional or spiritual parts at the expense of physical pleasure, either. Like so much else, it's a matter of striving for balance.
 Live a passionate life in general, and some of that passion will flow into your sex life. Make time for the stuff you love—activities or people or places—and pause to take stock of all that you are grateful for. Passionate sex will send passion into your life as well. Passion must be created and nourished by devoting attention, energy, and skill to the matter, whether in your sex life or just your life.
 Value the connection. Don't rely on sex to create some kind of magical connection between you and your partner. But honor the bond created and renewed by having sex.

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