When you start doing therapy, one of the things that you may notice, and that may even be irritating at times, is that you really don’t get to know much about your therapist. This is by design, as the process of therapy is really about focusing as much as possible on what you are bringing to the table without getting distracted by your therapist’s personal life/issues. The reason I am mentioning this is because I am about to let you in on a significant part of my personal life: I love baking. I am the kind of baker who follows a recipe really well, but who is not particularly creative or daring in making up my own. My baking tends to be the kind that has really good flavor, but isn’t going to win any awards for presentation, although I am improving with the right tools.
While writing this blog, I am right in the midst of my Holiday baking schedule. Yes, I have a schedule. Ideally, I start the first week in November and bake a batch of a different kind of cookies every weekend until Christmas, all the while desperately looking for people on which to unload my growing stash that is taking over my freezer. I usually like to try a number of new recipes each year. For some reason, this year is a particularly challenging one for me. I am trying some new recipes, and my efforts to improve or simplify recipes has largely increased the time and frustration that I have put into my cookies. But what I notice, inevitably, with each new recipe I try, is that there is an initial phase of the process in which I just make ugly cookies. They are not the cookies that I will be giving to other people but rather the ones that don’t make it to the freezer but rather get put in a handy place for the family to munch on. Maybe they stick to the counter, or they get a touch too brown, or they get a bit squished when I am slicing off the dough log. But after the first ugly cookie phase, which thankfully usually lasts less than one cookie sheet, I start to correct for my initial mistakes. I turn the log so it doesn’t get flat on one side. I put the dough in the refrigerator for a little while to get colder so it is easier to work with. I add more flour to make the dough less sticky. I reduce the baking time. And eventually I get into the rhythm and my cookies turn out pretty good.
What does this have to do with sex? Well, technically nothing since sex and baking are quite distinct and unrelated topics. But, since I am not particularly good with metaphors and this one seems to make sense to me, I thought I would go with it. Many folks who struggle with their sex lives are familiar with the experience of not being good at something when they first start out. When you try to integrate something new that you haven’t done before into a sexual encounter, sometimes it is awkward, funny, or even uncomfortable. The first time you brought a toy into your sex life with your partner: Who is going to hold it? What positions work with it? What intensity of stimulation works best? How do we navigate splitting our focus on the toy with other concurrent activities we want to do together? But after a few tries, the awkwardness fades, the partners develop their own way of engaging with the toy that works best for both people, and it is easier to focus on the pleasure and enjoyment that the toy can provide. Another example is folks who are not sexual very often or who have not been sexual with each other in a long time. When sex is absent in a relationship, other things can build up in the space between sexual encounters. Again, folks might experience awkwardness when thinking or talking about sex with their partner, discomfort with the thought of initiating, or even anxiety about the possibility of being sexual in the future. And when it finally happens, it is unlikely that it will be blowing anyone’s mind the first few times. And that is OK since the vast majority of sexual encounters, 85% to be exact, are going to be either just fine/mediocre (70%) or actually not great (15%). (I have heard author and sex therapy guru Barry McCarthy quote these numbers on multiple occasions.) But it’s important to keep in mind that the more regularly you have sex with a partner, the more opportunities there are for mind-blowing sex. It creates more opportunities for connection but also to refine the teamwork that a good sexual relationship requires. Over time, when the partners approach it with an open, creative and constructive mind, sex can be tweaked and improved. Practice never makes perfect, but it certainly makes for more comfortable, synchronous and connected sexual encounters. And this often happens naturally just by continuing to prioritize sex in a relationship, even without putting too much extra effort into it.
I hope everyone has a warm and meaningful Holiday season if you have something that you celebrate this time of year, and a loving and connected December if you don’t. And if anyone has a favorite Christmas cookie recipe that they would like to share, send it my way!
— Dr. Krista Nabar, PsyD, LP, HSPP
Dr. Nabar is the Executive Director of Carolina Sexual Wellness Center. She is a Licensed Psychologist and Health Services Provider in Psychology in North Carolina and a Certified Sex Therapist by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). To learn more about Carolina Sexual Wellness Center’s services, please call our office at 919-297-8322.