EP04: Sex, Love and COVID-19

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EP04: Sex, Love and COVID-19

If you’ve struggled to find love in lockdown, or if the pandemic stress has taken its toll on your sex life, help is at hand! With over 10 years of experience coaching on the topics of sex, love, and relationships, Coach Claudia shares how to get your love life back on track and create intimacy in times of vulnerability. Learn how the pandemic can be an opportunity for introspection, helping us to address what is really holding us back in our relationships and in the bedroom.

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Victoria: Sex, love and COVID-19 may sound like the title of a novel, but the reality for thousands of people is that COVID has actually killed their sex lives and their love life from lockdown stress, taking its toll on our mental health, to the practicalities of really trying to meet someone new when you physically can’t leave the house,

Many parents of school-age children many have simply given up on their love lives during lockdown, but it doesn’t need to be this way. Help is at hand. Joining me today is Coach Claudia. Claudia is an amazing Coach. Not only does she have a post-grad degree in psychology, she’s been coaching for over 10 years specializing in our topics today on sex love and relationships.

She’s helped many women over the years get their mojo back, build the confidence and mindset they need to feel empowered in their lives and their relationships. On today’s show, we’ll be talking about sex and COVID, what’s not happening under the covers and what you can do to find your mojo again, if there isn’t much happening under yours – and Hey – if you’re one of the lucky ones that there is, then you might want to keep listening for some tips on how to keep it that way. So welcome Claudia. And it’s an absolute pleasure to have you on the show today. And I cannot wait for today’s conversation.

Claudia: Thank you, Victoria. It’s an absolute delight to be here and thank you for that wonderful introduction.

Victoria: I love the topics. COVID well, it’s a very hot topic right now. But there are many people in lockdown right now who not only are single and, or in relationships and the sheer ‘Groundhog Day’ mentality around COVID is absolutely having an impact on sex and the intimacy of what’s happening or not happening.

And I’d love to hear today, some of the challenges that you are facing with your clients and some of the conversations that you’re having with your clients around this particular topic, because- let’s face it – it’s important. Sex is important. Intimacy is important. And how to maintain that mojo. When you know, there is deep uncertainty whilst we’re all in lockdown, as well as on, this is a second conversation, but then how do you even date or online date whilst we’re all under house arrest?

Yeah, there’s so much juice in there and it’s almost two areas. One is the individual relationship within the household. If you’re in a relationship and we’ll talk to being single and online dating later. And then the second is about the intimacy part. And I think the first thing that’s so important to simply recognize is that it’s really tough and going through something like a global pandemic is activating our sense of security and safety at the most primal level.

So this whole idea of surviving, that this very evolutionary old part of our brain is very activated for most of us, will we survive? Will I still have a livelihood?

Will my – if I have children, if you have children – where my children. what is the future going to hold for us? That is shaking us to the very core of our being in terms of how secure we feel. And so there’s an element of simply acknowledging that and the relationship we have with our feelings and the fears in that, and then what we bring to the table in a relationship, in intimacy.

Every single one of my Australian clients, particularly because half of Australia is in lockdown at the moment, is experiencing tension in relationships. The uncertainty of what’s going on is really having a strong impact. And so first simple nugget here is about, one, giving us selves all a little bit of leeway and giving our partners, if we are in a relationship, a bit of leeway as well, and showing ourselves, a lot of kindness and compassion, and not trying to change.

Acknowledging how we feel, because I think sometimes we’re all trying to cope, or just make it work where we’ve got a family we’re trying to keep a career going.

We can just sometimes try to override what’s actually going on inside and so acknowledging, "Yup. I’m absolutely bloody terrified at the moment. I don’t know what the future’s going to bring. I feel this deep sense of insecurity about what’s happening for my family and for myself. Will I ever be the same, will ever be able to travel overseas again and just acknowledge that’s going on for us as individuals.

Taking care of our nervous system, because there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of fight and flight and freeze happening for people when they’re feeling fear of survival and. Being kind to yourself and also acknowledging that the same thing is happening for your partner and giving leeway. Because I think we have to just, just add a less liberal dash of compassion for each other and understand that we’re all navigating this very uncharted territory. It’s very challenging. And so to show our partners, kindness and compassion, and I think that’s the very, very first part of intimacy because, depending on what your sexual relationship with a partner was before COVID, this could actually be activating all the things that were challenging before.

Often when we go through a period of emotional challenge, if we’re in a relationship it’s very easy to project everything, that’s not right onto the relationship during that challenging time. So I think the first thing is about kindness, compassion and taking moments with your partner to share what you’re feeling.

I think it’s a real invitation here to create intimacy through vulnerable, to being vulnerable and, setting aside time, whether it’s at the end of the day – whether it’s at the beginning, whether it’s in the morning – creating little rituals with each other, where you can check in with each other to see how each other is feeling this week.

Our generation has never navigated this before. So allow each other to share what’s going on for them. With a same-sex and hetero. It doesn’t matter. It’s all about relating and giving each other permission just to be who they are. With my husband, what we do is we regularly catch up with each other and I ask him how he’s feeling.

I share with him what I’m fearful of. I share with him what I hope happens and we just check in with each other and allow each other to have a moment of speaking, to be heard by the other person. And so that just allows us to be who we are and it’s vulnerable to do that. But vulnerability creates intimacy in relationships and vulnerability and being heard and being witnessed, being heard by a partner also helps to create safety and if we can’t have safety out there, the world is an uncertain place.

There’s a lot going on with COVID with so many other situations globally that what we can do is try and create safety in the relationship. And part of that is listening and hearing each other, recognizing it’s tough sharing how you’re feeling and just validating that what the other person is going through is totally okay.

I wanted just to backtrack a little bit around some of your comments and with the women that you coach and have been helping navigate. Through their challenges. and what I’m hearing is vulnerability is incredibly important and it starts firstly with ourselves.

Victoria: And we can’t often we can’t offer vulnerability in the relationship with our partner, if we can actually offer it to ourselves first. Correct. So with the women that you’ve been coaching, particularly, and the conversations that you’ve been having. Over the last couple of years since we’ve been experiencing COVID.

What is the number one challenge or question that your clients have been coming to with wanting a solution around?

Claudia: The number one? It’s tricky to come up with a number one, but there are probably two. One is, getting clarity around whether or not they actually even want to stay with their partner. Secondly, there’s something about self-trust, there’s something, around a frustration with how they’re feeling and it’s actually – what I’m finding is a repeating theme for – in fact, all the women, even the ones that are, have got a question around whether they want to stay in relationship because COVID is bringing up so much for them in their relationship, is around being able to sit with their emotions, to actually experience them; rather than something that needs to be pushed away. Something that can be experienced in a bodily way, in an embodied way, and to have a relationship with how they’re feeling that allows them to be present with all this intensity of emotion, without judgment, and to then be able to meet.

Having a relationship to those feelings that allows them to make a choice as to what they do about how they are feeling. It’s it’s a tendancy for humanity that when we’re in relationship, we offer, we can project onto our partner, things that are going wrong with our life or things that are really challenging.

We always hurt the one that is closest to us and cultivating that maturity. Is about connecting, creating a relationship to how we’re feeling in all of its intensity. No emotion is good, no emotion is bad. It’s developing this really empowering relationship because it teaches women self-wisdom, it teaches us self-knowing. It teaches us how to connect with what’s behind or underneath what we’re feeling.

Is it about us? Is it a pattern from our childhood? Is it a pattern from our parents? Is it something we’ve modeled from our other previous relationships that we’re bringing into our current relationship?

And it all comes from turning the gaze inwards and actually. Learning how to skillfully sit with what we’re feeling through our senses and through an embodied relationship, and then making a choice as to what we do, what action we take next. When we do that, what I’ve found, for instance, I have one client who was literally about to leave her partner.

COVID. Yeah. Things oare coming to the fore, she didn’t think he was the one. And once we turned her gaze inwards and she sat with how she was feeling and she got some insight into what those sensations of emotion meant for her. And she saw the pattern of where that came from, her father, and actually started to realize that’s how she was feeling about her husband.

The true feeling. It was a projection everything that was coming up for her emotionally, but she just didn’t want to sit with it. She just wanted to push it onto a partner and, subconsciously and it’s far easier for someone else to blame someone else for what’s going on rather than sitting with what’s going on for us and owning that experience and being furious about it.

Victoria: I think that’s actually an incredibly wise point that you have raised Claudia in the sense that COVID, this is my 2 cents, I’ve been coaching for well over 20 years and recently conversations have been the sheer pressure points that relationships are under not to mention obviously family units, but the pressure points that COVID is creating within the home environment and obviously hugely impacting intimacy and sex.

However, there’s a, there’s an opportunity. Whilst we’re going through this to clean up who we are. And I I’m, let me explain that. Clean up our projections, clean up our emotional selves, where we’re not actually projecting, or we become more aware of how we’re projecting and use it as an opportunity to look at our fears and our unconscious drivers and move from blame to self inward awareness.

And before we throw out our husband or we throw out our partner and decide that it’s not the one, or they’re not the one. To be able to look at what am I contributing or not contributing to this space. That’s creating this reaction or this lack of reaction or this lack of intimacy or lack of vulnerability or lack of communication lack of sex onwards, we go and to be able to use this time to really look under the covers, not in the literal sense, but within yourself and take an honest – it’s almost like if you’re an accountant doing or retail or doing an on a stock-take as to what your beliefs are – and using this time as an incredible opportunity, rather than saying it as a negative experience, how can we actually alchemize this and transform not only who we are as individuals, but our relationships around us and how can we actually put our best selves forward.

And start there and then we work outwards, and this is the beautiful thing around coaching that I love that it’s being able to offer up questions and quality questions to create that internal sense of inward curiosity, to start that exploration of oneself. That’s where I think the power is an all in what you’ve been talking around that women are clearly going well, is he the one?

Or, you know, I don’t like their socks on the floor. He doesn’t empty the dishwasher or whatever they’re saying, or he doesn’t want to understand me. I’m not feeling heard, whatever those stress points are. It’s an opportunity to look at what those fractured parts of who you are that you’re are actually putting in that relationship instead of blame, go intoa place of "What can I shift within myself and then see the ripple impact?"

Claudia: Hmm absolutely. Spot on, absolutely spot on, because culturally we’re programmed to avoid challenging emotions and, you know as well as I do how here in Australia, drinking has gone through the roof. Because we’re numbing – and it’s not about judgment, because it’s so understandable.

I mean, this is bloody tough, you know, I’ve been drinking more wine and so I’ve had to self-manage around, "Okay. It just feels so overwhelming." So it’s not about, it’s about compassion for that. And what we often want as people, as women, through those feelings, it’s not about going up and out.

Self-medicating, you’re taking things to distract us, that the goal is actually in that you’re going into and through those emotions. And you just mentioned something else that I wanted to make comment as well. You talked about this being an opportunity and in terms of intimacy, this is an opportunity for women to really discover, "What does intimacy mean for you?"

Because my experience with every woman that I have coached – most women – is that we are coming from a background of miseducation and disempowerment in terms of the relationship we have with our bodies and, often, the partners that we end up with in a long-term committed relationship, there’s some kind of amalgam of, things that we liked about our parents and also the wounds that we bring from childhood because our parents can never love us perfectly.

Claudia: And so we’re, in some form of shape wounded from our background. And so we can often look for. Relationships to heal the wounds of our childhood, but in terms of sex and intimacy women, particularly we have this fractured relationship with our body. We have this fractured relationship, what it means to be a sexual woman, to be a woman who is sensual to be a woman who is sexy or sensual or who has a zest for sex?

Like we have all this good girl. We have this bad girl mentality. We have all this cultural conditioning that comes from generations behind us that we bring into our relationships. And so you add to that COVID yeah, I hear a lot of women talking about the dissatisfaction that they have in intimacy and I think there’s a real invitation for us as women to see this as an opportunity to initiate ourselves into a new relationship of what it means to be intimate with ourselves from a sensual and sexual perspective.

And also then, to, initiate our partners into a deeper intimacy sexually as well. And there’s practical ways we can do that.

Victoria: So that leads me to my next point. I’m sure all the women, maybe some guys who are listening in right now, just going, okay. What are the practical tools here? What does it actually look like to help build and encourage a level of sensuality and intimacy when we’re being whacked by COVID and the pressures of children and homeschooling and remote working and uncertainty and fear and am I vaccinated or not.

And suddenly you’ve got all these things that are being dumped into the bedroom. So, I would love to know. And I’m sure all the women around who are listening and guys who are just going okay, how, where does it start? What are some practical tools where women and men, for whatever type of relationship they’re in, can actually start to build that firstly, that sensuality and intimacy with themselves, but then how can they then move that out into the relationship circle?

Claudia: I’m going to go. Okay. So I will aim to keep this succinct. So one of the first things I think for partners is to understand about themselves is this concept of accelerators and breaks. So there’s this dual mode control model of sexual desire and arousal, and what it talks to is understanding.

So for example, an accelerator is something that makes us more receptive to arousal and to being intimate. I know some of the women I work with for me personally, lovemaking starts at the beginning of the day with how my husband talks to me and how he kisses me first off in the morning and how we are in relationship to each other.

So for me, an accelerator is, affectionate dialogue. So understanding what are the things that create the scene for feeling open to love-making, okay, that’s an accelerator. We all have different levels of sensitivity to accelerators, but one great conversation could simply be, you know, using the analogy of an accelerator in the car that when you press it down, it accelerates.

So if you do all of these things, I will be ripe and ready for some hot intimate lovemaking with my partner and asking each other. What is an accelerator for you? What is a cue or a stimuli that turns you on that makes you ready for sex? It might be receiving flowers. It might be having time together to talk about something.

It might be setting a date. In opposition to that, we also have breaks. So these are cues that our brain takes to, to shut down or to constrain our sexual arousal. For instance, you don’t want to be getting turned on 24 hours a day. So our brain has circuitry that says, no, this is not an appropriate place or an appropriate time or an appropriate environment for arousal now.

So a break might be a your husband – so I absolutely adore my husband and he likes to tell me how to cook in the kitchen. So for me, a break is when you’re telling me how to cook in the kitchen darlin’, don’t expect in an hour’s time that I’m going to be all in. You have to be ready and receptive to, uh, lovemaking, understanding what puts on the brake for you in terms of intimacy, because we’re all different.

And once we know what the accelerators and brakes are, we can actually with intention, create the environment for intimacy. So that’s one thing.

Victoria: So it sounds as though for everyone who’s listening, it sounds as though everyone needs to do a list of accelerators and a list of break points and put them on the fridge.

And everyone needs to take note partners all around the country need to be able to, if they really want to spice things up in the bedroom to be able to look at, okay, what do I need to do? Or it’s really, again, it states two things. What does the individual need to do to help, increase their acceleration, turn on points as well as what partners can be doing to help encourage the acceleration process .

As well as being very mindful of the break points and no-go zone, which is what you were saying before, but also then feeds into, we all know about this theory, the languages of love. We all respond to words and acts of kindness and physical touch. And again, it’s an opportunity. Come back to self first, and get to know yourself.

What turns you on, how do you feel loved? How does that love then need to be presented, in the outside world, that then drives your acceleration points, and then that obviously then really helps drive that intimacy level.

Claudia: And the languages of love is something you can do that online for free, there are really great tools on the internet, languages of love. There’s also something about needs in couples, and it’s about how we show love languages of love. And this I’ll find out what it is and let you know, but that’s a free online tool that you could do as a couple to how we all have ways that we like to the actions that our partner takes towards us that lets us know that we feel loved. So, and they’re different, and the same thing with intimacy where, and that’s why the accelerator of breaks is so great because I think one thing we all as a global culture needs to let go of is that the intimacy and sex is just something that we do and it’s natural.

So, therefore, you don’t need any training in it. You don’t, we’re all just superb lovers from day one. That’s such a load of BS.

The reality is that, yes, we come with innate wiring for, for sex, you know, as mammals, we all know how to hump as mammals. That’s instinctual that is wired in our brain, but in terms of how we kiss, how we like to make love, all of that is influenced by our culture. We are influenced by our parents, how they showed their sexual attraction towards each other, by the women and the men around us who showed us what it means to be sexy or sensual by the media, by institutions, by the spiritual-religious philosophies that we follow. They all influence our central identity and they all influence our idea of making love.

And so it’s learned, and if it is learned, if something that we can learn to be better at, and I think as a global, as a group, we all have to get out. Yeah. Put our ego aside. Put our head of curiosity on and it’s, "How can I learn to be a better lover for myself?" Because self-pleasure is very much a part of that.

And as women, I think there’s an invitation around self-pleasure and what we make that mean for us when, in actual fact, my experience with women is when they learn an empowering relationship with self-pleasure as a form of self-care and meditation, and being grounded in our body and learning how to surrender and healing trauma, we actually activate our entire body.

So it’s so, so powerful we learn a different relationship with ourself, but also that, we can learn to be better in intimacy in sex, with our partners. So one of the things that Steve and I started to do in the early days when I was learning about this and transforming my own relationship to sex and being central and aging, midlife women in midlife have a really challenging time navigating this minefield of what it means to be sensual and sexual and let alone, if they’re going through menopause, experiencing menopausal symptoms and COVID, but a conversation for another day.

But one of the things Steve and I started to do was to set a timer in our lovemaking because this idea of goal sex or having, or just following the pleasure.

Claudia: And so setting aside timer, it can be easy to fall into the idea that look, sex would just happen. I should just feel this arousal desire for it. And it will just, the time for it will just miraculously appear. But during this time of COVID, We have to treat the relationship and intimacy as its own entity and create carve out time.

And so, you know, the idea of putting the kids on a movie and just saying that you’re having mommy and daddy time or mommy, mommy time, or daddy and daddy time, with the intention carving out time and creating intimacy. And maybe it doesn’t have to be sex or penetration. It could be as simple as exchanging massages, asking each other what you want, what would feel pleasurable for you?

And sitting might be half an hour time or an hour and saying for this hour, this is for you and me. What would you most love right now? And it may be a massage. It may be something more sexual, but having an intention to focus on just pure sensation and pleasure. And also, I think one of the key differences that I’ve learned as well as allowing intimacy to also be emotional because sometimes emotions can come up in sex.

And we have this idea that in entering the sexual arena that we come in with, turn on, we reach a peak and it’s this trajectory and it’s this straight line. But particularly in this time of COVID and emotional challenges, intimacy can be emotionally activating. And so allowing intimacy and sex to be this rich varied experience and giving ourselves time to slow down.

So breathing, focusing on the breath, focusing on the sensation. Moving, you know, moving liberates energy, it liberates sensation. So breath, focus, movement, even just some simple queries like that. Focusing on where the sensation is in our body and sharing how we’re feeling. I’ve certainly found this with some of my clients.

Women giving themselves permission, to be honest and open in the bedroom with partners, allows both of them to be open and vulnerable and brings it connection. That is what we’re really striving for because that connection creates safety for us. And what we really all want right now is to feel safe, in our partnership.

And even if we’re not creating that safety in the time we spent with ourselves with self-pleasure, because self-pleasure starts with you. First, it starts with each of us as women first, as men first understanding our own circuitry, understanding what turns us on understanding what nourishes us. We can give ourselves that sense of safety inside by spending time with ourselves cultivating and understanding our own desires and our own emotional.

There are so many golden nuggets. What you have just said, oh my goodness. I can see people around the country right now getting little acceleration jars, or break jars and putting notes in for their partners. And you’re leaving little post-it notes around going, honey, just follow the prompts, in terms of grading, the acceleration points.

I think that’s fantastic. but the most important thing to summarize, out of what you’ve shared today, is it starts with yourself. Yes.

The journey of intimacy, the journey of self-care, the journey of vulnerability, it starts with you and you have a responsibility to yourself To start that journey.

Claudia: Rather than put that on any partner that you’re in a relationship with.

And I know that that’s probably a great topic that we can cover for another podcast conversation around you being your best self in relationships. And you being able to put yourself first, be your best self. And that starts with you knowing who you are and defining and starting that, the journey of discovery of deep intimacy within yourself.

So you can then share that with another. But I do love the points around the acceleration points, making a date for sex, making a date for vulnerability, whatever it is. But I’m hearing that scheduling is incredibly important with what we’re dealing with right now, but even life as it shifts and changes.

And we go back to greater freedom over the next coming few months to prioritize yourself, to prioritize the relationship. To communicate with deep compassion for yourself to know that your feelings are important. And what you say is important and say it’s a journey, not only for you as an individual, but there’s a responsibility from both people in that relationship dynamic to create the best space possible

Victoria: Claudia, thank you so much. that was just such a wonderful conversation. And I know that there are many more conversations to come because sex and vulnerability and particularly empowering women around their own sexuality is something that I’d love to explore with you further. It was filled with so much wisdom and heartfelt knowledge from clients that you have personally helped over such a long period of time and shared your wisdom. So thank you very much for sharing all those wonderful solutions and strategies. And thank you again for being on our show.

Claudia: It’s been an absolute pleasure, Victoria.

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