Sex and Love

Sex and Love

Dr. Kate: Good evening Los Angeles. Welcome to Behind Closed Doors heard every Saturday right here on Talk Radio 790 KABC at 6 p.m. I’m Dr Kate Balestrieri.

Lauren: I’m Lauren Dummit, Marriage and Family Therapist.

Dr. Kate: Together we are the co-founders of Triune Therapy Group, psychotherapy practice based here in Los Angeles. We specialize in the treatment of Trauma, Addiction, Sex and relationship issues. Today we are going to be talking about all different kinds of questions related to Sex and Relationship issues that our followers on Instagram messaged us. We are live right now so if you want to message us your questions you can follow us at Triune Therapy Group and we will do our best to get to them. Today’s episode is really exciting because so many people ask us what about this; what about that?, and we don’t always have such a public forum to answer them. So today we are going to get to all of your questions. Behind Closed Doors in general is a show about Sex, Relationships, Mental Health, Addiction, Staying Healthy and related current events. We are very excited; message us now with your questions. Lauren I am really curious what do you think was the number 1 question that people asked me on Instagram when I posted that question. My question was…What are your questions about sex and relationships?

Lauren: How do you know when you found the one?

Dr. Kate: That’s a good question. We did get a couple of those but really the number 1 question was…What should I do if my partner can’t have an orgasm?

Lauren: Interesting. Was that typically asked by men or women?

Dr. Kate: Usually asked by men about women.

Lauren: Interesting. Well, we advise you to listen and talk about the setbacks.

Dr. Kate: We did a whole episode on the female orgasm and what we can say let’s just address that question right off the bat. So what happens if your partner is not having an orgasm? That’s a really interesting question I think. There is so many different variables to consider. First there is a question of safety. Does your partner feel safe? We are not suggesting necessarily that you are some big beast in the bedroom. Maybe you are, maybe they like that but really what I think is important to consider is does your partner feel connected to you? Do you have strong communication? Does your partner feel safe enough to let her guard down after all of the day’s events? Some of the things that can get in the way for women are things like feeling there is too many tasks left to be accomplished in the day. Not enough time to decompress and for women lot of women require a little bit of downtime in order to feel sexy again. Often times men don’t require that kind of downtime and they are more easily sexual. Their libido is more igniting and when there is that kind of mismatch women can feel more pressure than they do feel any kind of arousal.

Lauren: I think another misconception especially for men is that it often takes women about 20 minutes to even get fully aroused. While men are a lot more visual, can come on a lot sooner and they can get excited a lot more quickly. So if a man is expecting that a woman becomes immediately aroused it takes a while for the arousal and actually to start working towards climax. There might just not be taking enough time.

Dr. Kate: Exactly. I think what’s really important is that there is communication. Maybe during sex but especially when you are not being sexually intimate with your partner. It might be a good time to say hey what really turns you on? What could I be doing differently? Pay attention to what your partner says because they are going to teach you about all the bells and whistles to ring on their bodies and that’s really exciting when we can ask for what we want and need and have our partner match that when it’s in a heated moment.

Lauren: That being said, communication is so important because every woman’s body is different. There is some women that can only orgasm, have clitoral orgasms, some people can only have orgasm from their g-spot, some can have both and either is fine.

Dr. Kate: It’s okay for some women if they don’t have an orgasm. Now I am not saying that means partners should get lazy and say my partner doesn’t need an orgasm. That’s not true.

Lauren: Sometimes it feels like a lot of pressure and it can still feel wonderful even if they don’t achieve orgasm.

Dr. Kate: So many women that I worked with have said an orgasm is just not the thing that I aiming for. I appreciate the touch and it feels amazing and when there is a big focus on whether or not I am having that takes away from my ability to stay present and really enjoy the moment.

Lauren: I think it’s important for men to remember as well women are more emotional beings. That’s how we connect and so for women sometimes it’s just about the connection and actually like the tenderness versus actual physical pleasure.

Dr. Kate: Yeah definitely but communication is key. Try not to put expectations on your partner and that goes both ways between men and women and women and women or men and men or however you identify.

Lauren: I think it’s most important to just have fun.

Dr. Kate: Yes. One of the other questions that we got was what do you do when you spend years being single and you can’t feel emotions for anyone anymore?

Lauren: That’s a really interesting question. I don’t know that not being able to feel emotions comes from spending years being single but it can certainly be a factor.

Dr. Kate: When I hear that question I hear that somebody has really been deprived of human contact and often when we are feeling so deprived we shut down our ability to be emotional with other people as a way to protect ourselves against feeling disappointed if we really open up and then are let down because it’s not reciprocated or turns out to not be the kind of relationship that we are really looking for.

Lauren: I guess some people get used to being alone and may become some avoidant and I guess it also depends the context of the question…Is the single person actively dating and not able to connect and not able to feel emotions for anybody or are they isolating than off the market for many years and not feeling emotional in that way?

Dr. Kate: I would say that if there is any distress that’s being caused from not being able to feel emotional connections for anyone then it might be time to start seeing a therapist and kind of work that out and see what’s really underneath all of that and what fears are getting into the way of you being able to be emotionally expressive and really connecting with others.

Lauren: Also there is something called sexual anorexia when people withdraw from human touch out of fear and sometimes this is related to trauma. So there can be much deeper issues that are at play and also when someone has had a history of having maybe compulsive sexual behavior. Sometimes the way they rein in is by going to the other extreme.

Dr. Kate: Absolutely and when that comes into place it’s really important to get that addressed because it can be very painful and very isolative which can then make the swing into the other extreme more compelling to our unconscious experience and that can lead to a lot of either transactional or non-connective sexual behavior because unconsciously we are trying to connect but it’s very challenging to show up with that kind of intimacy.

Lauren: Right. My question also to the person who ask this question would be…Are they connecting with other people emotionally? So we don’t just connect emotionally to people that we are dating or we are in a romantic relationship with but we connect with emotionally to friends, to coworkers, to family members so it would be curious to know whether they are able to feel emotional towards other people they have relationships with in other aspects.

Dr. Kate: That would be a really good question for that person to ask themselves. One of the other questions we got was…What knowledge do you have about consensual non-monogamy? We get this question a lot in our practice. Lauren how do you answer that question?

Lauren: I don’t know if what you are asking is perhaps do you ever see that work. Yes I do see it work. However, I think it’s very complex and complicated in a lot of issues can arise. I think it’s risky so again communication, boundaries. There are so many variables that come into play that can help create a more safe process.

Dr. Kate: One of the things that a lot of couples will say to me when they come in if they are looking to open their relationship is how do we do this and still like each other. How do we do this and not get really jealous or maybe jealousy is part of what makes it exciting for them. So how do we factor in jealousy in a way that feels safe for both of us. Usually one of the two partners in the relationship is more for the consensual non- monogamy versus the other partner who serves more reserved. It’s a conversation that usually starts with what are your fears in the process. How do you anticipate the two of you would approach those fears if any of them came true? What does it mean to you about yourself and about each other and about your relationship if you decide to open up the boundaries of the relationship and invite other people in?

Lauren: I think it’s really important to be very clear about what your boundaries are. What would be hurtful, what is not hurtful and be very specific about what is so-called aloud. Ester, Sex Therapist, she talks about the idea that the other is a luring to us and so sometimes when people have been in a relationship for a long time, there is kind of a natural enmeshment that begins to happen emotionally. Sometimes just opening it up it’s not necessarily jealousy but it makes it feel a little bit more of a chase and that can be really appealing.

Dr. Kate: Human beings are novel creatures. We like what’s shining and new of course. That I think a big reason why role playing is so exciting for a lot of couples because it allows us to try on the idea of being new and shiny without actually opening the relationship. We are so close to recognizing the pros and cons of non-monogamy that I think it’s important for each couple to make that decision together and collaboratively. If you are feeling any kind of pressure from your partner to open the relationship or if it starts to feel like it’s about a game or a push and pull that might happen. Then I think it’s time to really bring in a therapist to address the concern so that both of your needs are being met and heard and there is understanding because sometimes people go into this territory and it’s unchartered and it can leave irreparable damages if it’s not done really intentionally.

Lauren: But you should never do anything you don’t feel comfortable with.

Dr. Kate: Absolutely. For those couples who really sit down with intention and talk about how can we make this work, what are the limits, what are our boundaries, how do we want to talk about it, I have seen it work very well for them.

Lauren: I have too in all different types of arrangements.

Dr. Kate: Absolutely. So we have to take a quick break right here but when we come back more questions about Sex and Love on Behind Closed Doors. Follow us now on Instagram and Facebook at Triune Therapy Group and message us with your questions. Stick with us.


Dr. Kate: Welcome back. You are listening to Behind Closed Doors. I’m Dr. Kate and my co-host…

Lauren: I’m Lauren Dummit, Marriage and Family Therapist.

Dr. Kate: Together we are the co-founders of Triune Therapy Group, a psychotherapy practice in Los Angeles focusing on Sex, Love, Mental Health and Addiction issues. Today we are talking about your questions from social media on sex and love and relationships. We left off, we were talking a little bit about consensual non-monogamy and it’s a really good question to parlay into our next question which is how do you keep it real after you have sex for the first time? Usually sex changes the dynamic of the relationship.

Lauren: I do think that a change-it can but I also think it’s much more likely to if people are rushing into sex before they are ready. I think if someone is taking their time and really paying attention to when they feel ready, it’s often the vulnerability that people are running from. Being vulnerable too soon.

Dr. Kate: That can very well be and also I think it’s a question of what are my expectations after I am sexual with this person. Am I expecting a relationship or am I looking for something that’s casual and the dynamics that are being changed that someone wants something more of me but we haven’t been more explicit in that. It can be interesting to watch how starting to have sex sooner in the relationship can change the dynamics and really create a lot of intensity.

Lauren: Right. There’s many people who are turned on by the idea of the chase. So once they feel the chase is over they lose interest.

Dr. Kate: I guess my question to the person to the person who ask this is…What’s happening after you are sexual with someone? Are you getting bored or are you finding that the relationship isn’t going where you like it to go? We don’t know but it’s something to think about.

Lauren: I also think that when people are asking that question what are they seeing coming up in terms of changes. I think depending on what you are seeing coming up the answer to the question may be different.

Dr. Kate: Really important to think about what is my intention here? How am I setting myself up to make that intention a reality and what am I overlooking or choosing not to see in the dynamic between my partner and I that might be incongruent with a fantasy that I have?

Lauren: Someone once said to me like it’s hard enough being vulnerable and then take your clothes off. I think a lot of times when people have that level of vulnerability they often go into fear. We go into fear we create all sorts of defenses and so those defenses can often change the relational dynamic.

Dr. Kate: Right, so true. One of the other questions that we got is…Can long distant relationship work? I hear that question all the time in our practice at Triune Therapy Group. People are always saying oh I met this great person and he or she lives in Florida but I live here in LA, what do I do?

Lauren: So can it work?

Dr. Kate: Yeah.

Lauren: Does it take a lot of work? Yes!

Dr. Kate: Yes it’s very challenging. One of the biggest obstacles Lauren that you see in people who are developing long distance relationships as opposed to people who started their relationship in the same geography and then moved and had to create some distance.

Lauren: For people that are starting their relationship long distance. It’s interesting. I actually think it can be great in terms of building a foundation because like we were saying sometimes people take steps forward in the sexual arena before they really developed the emotional intimacy and then sometimes feel overly exposed. The nice part about creating a relationship with distance is that you really have the opportunity to take time to get to know each other thoroughly before you are having any pressure whatsoever in the physical arena. However, it is difficult to create intimacy across oceans or states. Part of how we get to know someone is spending quality time with them right. So only so much can be done via Skype and phone because you are not having shared experiences, you are not creating shared memories so there are a lot of obstacles. It depends on what their expectations are and where they are in their life.

Dr. Kate: You bring up a really good point and I think that one of the reasons that long term or long distance relationships can work is because it keep things fresh and new for a long period of time. When we live in the same city or relatively close proximity to a partner we get to see them in their everyday lives and that’s great because that’s the foundation for intimacy is learning about what people are like when you are doing nothing and can you get along then. That’s really key and important in a long term relationship. I think long distance relationships provide a buffer for that which can be awesome at the start of it. It’s always fun, you are always getting together and either meeting in one of your respective cities or meeting somewhere in a third location but it’s fun. You are going out for dinner and you are getting together and you are spending all this time and intensity together and that is awesome. I find the biggest challenge that people run into is when one of them says hey maybe we should try to move our zip codes closer together and then all of a sudden the fantasy is over and they have to start facing the reality of what does it look like to blend our lives and that can be really challenging.
Lauren: They say if you want to know if someone is the one you should marry, travel with them because then we really get to see someone having to navigate stressors and how do they problem solve, how are they when they are moody and tired and haven’t eaten. Sometimes when we don’t get to see all those things when we are engaging in a long distance relationship because people often just show up as their best selves and we don’t get to see them snoring or slapping their lips or all the little things that we do that can be annoying and human.

Dr. Kate: For the people who are determined to make it work I would say it’s really key to just manage your expectations and try to spend as much time face timing. It’s really great to have some kind of video chat where you get to see people’s mannerisms and you get to see them in their glasses or without their makeup on or with their hair messy and hat on backwards. All of the things that you might not see when you are going out and meeting in a more intended period of time.

Lauren: Everybody set up is different. The truth is some people have long distance relationships, they actually see each other more than people who don’t. Some people are very busy work lives and don’t get to see their partner that often and they live in the same house. There can be other people that maybe bi-coastal and they spend all weekend together every weekend and that works for them. It really depends on what the set up is and what people availability to be in a relationship is.

Dr. Kate: What their long term goals are and I think just staying realistic is really important to that because what might work for a courtship might not work if you are thinking about settling down and having children. Both of you have great careers and you are rooted in your respective coast that’s very challenging to have one of you uproot and so really think about how do we want to navigate that. If you decide there is none but it’s fun for right now. Great, good for you. One of the other questions that we got was…Is two months too soon to say I love you? I don’t think I have a hard and fast answer for that but what I would say is that it’s a really challenging to know someone after 2 months even if you have spent so much time with them and you think you know them forever. It’s easy for people to put on their best for 2, 4, 6 months. Even a year and then overtime it’s difficult to maintain the best and our reality starts creeping in, good, bad and otherwise. So to say I love you after 2 months is a guarantee is that what you actually are in love with is someone’s best foot forward. It’s their best self, their most orchestrated and intentional self and that is hard to sustain so that person might change overtime and then what?

Lauren: You know I also have a different perspective because I think that sometimes saying I love you different people will mean it in different ways and sometimes someone is just saying like wow I have really gotten to know you and I just love you as a human being and I just want to say that. I have no expectations for us like riding off into the sunset but I have gotten to know you through many deep conversations over the last few months and my heart just feels a lot of love for you as a person.

Dr. Kate: That’s a really good point I think just really thinking about what is this phrase “I love you” even mean.

Lauren: Two months, that’s relative as well. Within two months someone could spend every waking minute with the other person engaged in deep conversation and really bearing their soul or they might have really busy work schedules and have seen each other 3 times.

Dr. Kate: Difficult to even know so let’s see. Lauren what do you think is one of the other major questions that we have gotten? One of the things that we got was several invitations to go to tropical and destination places. Someone invited us to Melbourne. We’ve got invitations to Bali and London and that was very nice so thank you. That’s kind. We are rooted here in LA but definitely available for conferences and presentations. One of the other questions that we often get is…What happens when I am with someone and they want more than I do. We’ve got to take a break in about a minute here but when we come back from the break we are going to address that question because it’s really big.

Lauren: That was one of the ones I was thinking about, how to deal with various desires for commitment.

Dr. Kate: Well it’s such an interesting idea right because somebody might in the long term want to commit but they are not ready to get there. So we’ll address that when we get back but right now we have to take a quick break and you can follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Triune Therapy Group and message us now with your questions. You can always check us out online and our website at You can learn about some of our different programs to address these different kinds of sex and relationship issues such as a men’s healthy relationships group or women’s healthy relationship group and the various intensives that we offer to help people with commitment issues. Whether you are someone who wants commitment really quickly or tries to avoid commitment like the plague. We are going to take a break, stay with us, we’ll be right back.


Dr. Kate: Welcome back you are listening to Talk Radio 790 KABC, this is Behind Closed Doors. I’m Dr. Kate Balestrieri.

Lauren: I’m Lauren Dummit, Marriage and Family Therapist.

Dr. Kate: Together we are the cofounders of Triune Therapy Group, a psychotherapy practice based in Los Angeles. We specialize in treating Trauma, Addiction, Sex and Relationship issues. If you are just tuning in today we are discussing all of the questions that have been posted to us on social media about Sex and relationships. We actually have a caller on the line who just called in. Caller are you with us?

Caller: Hi yeah.

Dr. Kate: Hi welcome to Behind Closed Doors with Dr. Kate and Lauren. Who are we speaking with?

Caller: My name is Rachel.

Dr. Kate: Hi Rachel.

Lauren: Hi Rachael.

Dr. Kate: For those of you watching right now on Instagram Rachel is calling in. Rachel what’s your question today.

Caller: First of all thank you for taking my call. I have been wondering. I listen to your show and I notice that I was need a lot with co-dependcy and issues aligned with that. I know a lot of time codependency is discussed and how it relates back to development and maturity, traumatic experiences. I am just wondering what you can say about if you maybe didn’t have a traumatic experience as a child or traumatic childhood but still resonates with those feelings of codependence.

Dr. Kate: That’s a great question Rachel. So Rachel is asking if you didn’t have a traumatic experience in your childhood but you resonate with some ideas of codependence why is that and how can that be. That’s a question that we get a lot because at our practice at Triune Therapy Group often people will come in and say gosh my relationships are so messed up and I have got all of these different problems and patterns in my relationships but I don’t understand because my childhood was great. Lauren what do you run into when you see that?

Lauren: I agree and sometimes we talk about trauma and we often talk about trauma as big T and little t. Big T being if you were raped, held at gun point, something that everyone would consider trauma. Little t being sometimes the dynamics within our family of origin that perhaps less than nurturing in which we didn’t get our needs met. Sometimes people don’t recognize this is trauma. Sometimes even enmeshment which looks like oh my mom and I were best friends. That wasn’t traumatic. However, there is a boundary dispersion that goes on in enmeshed relationships. In that sense that is considered a trauma when we talk about developmental immaturity and basically developmental immaturity comes from having grown up in a system whether it’s your family of origin or whatever system you are raised in which your needs were not met in some way. We learn how to be in relationship in those early experiences. So we often adapt by learning to live in the extreme and then as we grow up those extremes become the dysfunction in our later relationships.

Dr. Kate: So Rachel to your question we can develop co-dependent tendencies but not really know them as co-dependence because what it looks like is growing up in a family where we were nurtured in a less than optimal way. So meaning we weren’t well attuned to often enough and sometimes that looks like parents being more enmeshed as Lauren said or kind of over involved in or emotional lives and really needing for us to take care of their emotional needs indirectly. So we become very preoccupied with whether or not mom or dad is having a good day because in the mind of our child selves if mom or dad is having a good day then that means my needs might get met too. I become really invested in being the good boy or good girl or showing up a certain way because I don’t want to rock the boat. I don’t want mom or dad to be more tired or more unavailable to me as a child. And so in that very subtle way we learn how to play a role for our parents and often times that as Lauren said shows up like a little t trauma because it’s very subtle and when we do that for our parents we often get a lot of praise. Aren’t you mommy’s little helper, thank you so much for putting the dishes away and it feels really good and we are getting interactions with our parents that we might not get if they are otherwise preoccupied with work or with whatever might be going on between the two of them.

Lauren: Sometimes the intention of the parent might have been really pure. For example, let’s say there is a father that works constantly and his intention is to be a good husband and a good provider for his family but the child experiences the father has never having been there. Since children are egocentric they often subconsciously make up that it’s their fault and so they might start doing all sorts of things in order to get attention. In order to earn that love or they might make up all sorts of underlying core beliefs about themselves and their value and relationships.

Dr. Kate: So the way that looks in our adult lives is that we end up trying to anticipate the needs of our partners and show up for them in the way that we were written in our families of origin and sometimes we hit the mark on the head especially if we pick a partner who is like one of our parents and what that looks like is creating a dynamic where we are continuing to not have our needs be primary and always showing up for our partners which can lead to resentment, it can lead to be taking advantage of, it can lead to just patterns that are unhealthy and unsatisfying.

Lauren: It’s also within our family origin or early relationships where one learns to develop esteem. And so it’s often within these relational dynamics that someone either learns that they have inherent worth or they start feeling less than or better than, whether they were disempowered, falsely empowered or if they were praised for just being exactly how they are supposed to be

Dr. Kate: Which would be optimal for praise for being who we are, how we are, we are encouraged to be spontaneous, creative, we are allowed to be imperfect and we are allowed to have boundaries and an expectation of safety that our parents will keep us safe but sometimes in our families because of whatever and as Lauren said it’s usually not maliciously intended but sometimes family members can’t attune to the children in the families very appropriately so kids make up stories about why and usually it becomes a narrative about why they are not good enough and not worthy enough. In all of those different ways it shows up in our adult relationships. Some people call that co-dependency, Pia Mellody calls it developmental immaturity because we usually get stuck at an earlier mindset and when we get triggered in our adult relationships we regress back to that age and that mindset of some of those earlier wounds. We might not always have a conscious memory of something bad happening or something negative happening so it’s really confusing to us as adults to really think about why am I doing this, why do I keep picking the same partner over and over again and having these relationships just repeat all the time.

Lauren: When Kate talks about regression basically what that means is that we are leaving the current ego state and regressing back to an early ego state in which often the experience was traumatic. Someone might actually be in an argument with their boss and suddenly they are transported to being 5 years old and scolded by their father. They might start acting like they are 5 years old within that argument. That’s what we call a regression and that is something that frequently happens with developmental immaturity.

Dr. Kate: Yes and when we are in relationships our primary relationships as adults often time those are our closest most intimate relationships and when we were younger our families of origin were our closest most intimate relationships and so often we unconsciously have a template for how love is supposed to look. So we show up in a way that repeats that pattern and repeats that cycle which then predisposes us to regressing as if we were interacting with a parent as opposed to living in our adult skin and addressing our adult partners.

Lauren: Right and when you just said that’s how we get an image of what we think love is supposed to look like we often also get an image of what boundaries are supposed to look like. There is many people I work with who grew up in a family with relatively no boundaries and they are not even aware of their boundary-less behavior. They are not aware that they aren’t able to contain themselves or are they very respectful about their people’s boundaries. When someone sets a boundary with them they may often experience that as cold or withholding or rejection. That’s just a difference of how what you are used to and how you were raised.

Dr. Kate: Which is a really interesting point for partners to talk about. If you are in a relationship with someone and their boundaries feel very different than yours that can feel really jarring but it also is a great opportunity to talk about how were you raised, how was I raised what were the norms in our homes growing up and what are we bringing to this relationship, this union in terms of expectations and approaches to things like boundaries. For example, sometimes people in relationships, one person is very comfortable walking around nude and the other person wouldn’t be caught walking around the house nude. They think everything is uncomfortable naked.

Lauren: And they can’t believe they are to walk around nude.

Dr. Kate: Sometimes they can make up a lot of stories about what the behavior means and that’s where I think people get really dangerous in their relationships because it’s easy for us to make assumptions about what people’s behaviors mean but really we need to ask the question and give our partners the benefit of the doubt because as Lauren said if you don’t know and you grew up in a boundary less home it’s not to say that’s right or wrong but it might be different than your partner.

Lauren: That also brings up a little bit off topic but it’s all related is people have varying love languages and so your mom might have expressed love for you by doing like endless access service and so someone might think that’s love and if their partner is not doing that for them then they don’t feel loved when there might be another way that their partner is expressing love to them that’s going unrecognized because that’s not how love was expressed in their home. That’s a really good point Lauren. The other love languages are things like physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, and acts of service. Feel like there’s one more that I am missing.

Dr. Kate: Quality time. Yeah it’s really important to think about okay what’s important to me in terms of how I want to express love and receive it. Often your partner might have a very different prioritization of those list and that’s a great opportunity for you guys to lean into some discomfort and practice doing something that’s different which can then break you out of any old patterns or other ineffective strategies creating intimacy with your partner.
Lauren: So communication is key with that but also it’s important to pay attention to the way your partner is expressing love towards you because that’s also often what they want.

Dr. Kate: So true. We have to take a quick break but when we come back we are going to talk more about all of your sex and relationship questions right here on Behind Closed Doors. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook at Triune Therapy Group. Message us with your questions. Stay with us we’ll be right back.


Dr. Kate: Welcome back. You are listening to Talk Radio 790 KABC. If you just tuned in you are listening to Behind Closed Doors. I am Dr. Kate Balestrieri.

Lauren: I am Lauren Dummit, Marriage and Family Therapist.

Dr. Kate: Together we are the co-founders of Triune Therapy Group; a psychotherapy practice based in Los Angeles California, focusing on treating trauma, addiction, sex and relationship issues. You can message us on Instagram or Facebook at Triune Therapy Group. If you are listening or watching live on Instagram now and let us know your questions or comments. Today we are taking all questions about sex and relationships. We have several more questions to go. I am curious Lauren, what is one of the biggest questions that you get with new couples who come into see you?

Lauren: I would say one of the biggest questions has to do with communication and varying communication styles.

Dr. Kate: Like what?

Lauren: One of the biggest questions is about how people address conflict. People want guidance and help with how to phrase things and what is appropriate and do they need to bring up every time they had a hurt feeling and is that important. Questions like what is, Is that something I need to share with them and if so how?

Dr. Kate: What would you say?

Lauren: Well it depends on what the scenario is but typically I think it’s really important to validate your partner and try to see their perspective. So language I often use is I am not trying to make you wrong. What you did is neither good nor bad however, I just want to share with you my experience and how I perceived it and how those made me feel. So we all have different perceptions of the same data. It goes through our thinking and then it goes through our emotions and then often we respond with some behavior that’s related to that.

Dr. Kate: Often without even knowing it every experience that we have with our partner get filtered through a rolodex of all of our previous experiences we have had with other partners, with other families, with family members, with other coworkers, friends, the person driving down the 405 who is honking at us. And so we create a narrative in about a millisecond about what our partners behaviors actually means. It’s really important not to make assumptions and not to let that go unchecked especially if you are having feelings about it. Usually the bigger the feelings that we are having the likely more assumptions we are making about what our partners intentions were.

Lauren: I think it’s really important also to be mindful of not becoming defensive so in order to do that I think it really takes when we get defensive it’s about protecting the me, the I and if we want to be in a couple ship it’s about the “we”. I think we have to lean in and remember if it’s a romantic relationship this is someone you love and so you are not trying to hurt them and you don’t want to see them in pain.

Dr. Kate: That’s a really good point and I think it’s really important to remember that when you are in a relationship if you feel safe in that relationship and know that your partner has your back try to remember that and give your partner the benefit of the doubt when they are coming to you with something because often times when someone is saying hey this thing that you said or did I felt really uncomfortable about it or it hurt my feelings. We are not trying to hurt our partners but when they come at us with that mirror we can get really fidgety in our own skin about oh gosh am I a jerk or did I do something wrong here and we might have gotten messy or inconsiderate but if our partners bring in up to us we are trying to improve the communication and improve the context that we have together and so that’s really key to try and be empathetic and not get reactive.

Lauren: Right because sometimes they are trying share the experience of who they are. For example, if I tell you that something you did bothered me and it wasn’t necessarily what you did was wrong but I have this filter based on my own childhood experiences or my last relationship because I thought through this filter this is how I felt. I am sharing valuable information with you about who I am and what I have been through and that colors my experiences an if you love me I would imagine you want to be empathetic to how I am feeling regardless of you had any part in it or not.

Dr. Kate: Even if you disagree. Often times like you said people just want to be seen in their relationships and so it’s not even about asking your partner to do something differently but more about saying hey here I am. Here is my experience I am a whole human in this relationship with you. Can we share what that’s like for both of us and that can be really empowering and joining in couple ships.

Lauren: It can also help improve intimacy because if I am telling you that look I have this issue. I am not proud of it but this is what comes up for me when that happens. I am sharing some vulnerability, I am sharing perhaps you want to call it a flaw which then might allow you to feel more comfortable sharing your imperfections and things that you might not be proud of as well with me. So it becomes safer.

Dr. Kate: I remember once I was out on a date with someone and I was sharing something about my early years and how it was painful for me and being very earnest with them and I remember after I was done sharing what I shared he looked at me and started laughing and I said what’s so funny and he said oh my gosh thank you for sharing that first of all but secondly he is like you have this hair piece that’s just been sticking out the whole time you have been telling me this story. He is like you are normally so polished and put together and so to have this like big hair piece sticking out just reminded me of human you were. There were equal parts of me like wait a minute I just shared something really important and you are talking about my hair but also it was such a human the intimate moment and he was raveling in my vulnerability and messiness and that really allowed him to connect with me and so it was really a beautiful joining moment.

Lauren: So things you bring up like connections about sharing our humanness and part of our humanness I think also is remembering not to take ourselves so seriously.

Dr. Kate: One of the questions that we haven’t gotten to yet is why do I keep attracting really needy partners and I get that question a lot in our work at Triune Therapy Group. People come in and they are constantly saying things to me on both sides of that spectrum. either Kate I keep finding these people who are so needy and I don’t know what’s happening or Kate I keep finding these people who are so emotionally unavailable what is the deal. So I think that’s a really good question. I am curious Lauren; do you hear that a lot from patients?

Lauren: Yes absolutely and my first response would be that we are only as needy as our unmet need. I don’t think there is such thing as too needy. I think someone may be too needy for you but not necessarily too needy in general. And so also if that’s something that you keep attracting you might want to look at why you are attracting these people.

Dr. Kate: I think that’s the question. Why would somebody who maybe is not emotionally prepared to meet someone needs keep attracting people who need more from them than they are able to give?
Lauren: I would say because they are not giving it. Often it’s about meeting someone halfway and so if you are pulling away that person might be likely to continue to try to lean in and if you are pulling away even more they might keep attempting to get closer. So I think it’s important that you are having open communication about closeness and what your expectations for closeness and your ability to tolerate closeness are.

Dr. Kate: I would also look at the secondary games for being in a dynamic that feels not as reciprocal as you might hope right because even though on the surface we might say things like gosh this person is never available for me or oh my gosh this person needs more from me than I can give. If you are staying in the dynamic the question is how do you benefit from that and often times people who are struggling to be more emotionally available are that way because they are being incredibly self protective and it’s very challenging for them to show up in a way that feels authentic and so they keep people at a distance out of fear that if they actually open themselves up then they might get hurt. It also feels really good to have people vying for your attention all the time especially if growing up you were someone who didn’t get your needs met very regularly or readily. Having someone putting you on a pedestal and want your attention and your affection all the time can feel amazing and so even though you might not be ready to show up in reciprocity you might be getting a lot of hits off having someone seek you out over and over again. Sometimes that can feel like a quest for power even though it might not be malicious or intentional.

Lauren: My question would be to that person for example what it would feel like if you were the one choosing them, how would that feel differently. It might not feel as good.

Dr. Kate: When I ask that question to patients usually they go…I could never do that.

Lauren: You said they are getting a hit off the attention and they are enjoying being desired.

Dr. Kate: Who doesn’t? That end of itself is not pathological. I guess the question is if it’s uncomfortable to you why you are continuing to do it. At that point you might want to seek out some sex therapist or psychologist, mental health practitioner who can help you discern what unconsciously you are getting out of continuing to repeat the same relational patterns. On the flip side what to do if you are somebody who feels like you need more than your partners can give and you are repeatedly seeking out that pattern my question would be how are you benefiting from chasing? What are you avoiding in pulling back and setting your own limits and boundaries?

Lauren: I have a client right now who continues to talk about her boyfriend not loving her enough, not being obsessed with her enough because that’s how men have showed up for her in the past. However, it also drove her crazy and made her feel suffocated and so the relationship didn’t last.

Dr. Kate: We often can struggle with isolating between I want so much or not enough and really finding the right balance of intimacy. Thank you, for listening today, this was a really important show. We are glad we had a chance to address people’s questions about sex and relationships. You are listening to Behind Closed Doors with Dr. Kate and Lauren on Talk Radio 790 KABC. Tune in every Saturday at 6 p.m for more and follow us on Instagram and Facebook. You can send us questions and information. You can always check out our website at or call us at 3109334088 for any questions you might have about anything you have heard on today’s show or if you are looking to get some help. Thank you so much. Have a great weekend everyone. We do it for you. Take care.


Ask the experts

Often, when anger is the first response, it’s considered impolite, crazy, bitchy or dismissed as overly emotional. Yet, there are many instances in which one’s anger is stirred, and the key is putting it to good use. For instance, when a loved one is unfaithful, or when insensitive remarks are made concerning one’s ambitions or dreams, when feelings are questioned or when a woman is told to be more vulnerable and subservient. Though family and social expectations place unnecessary burdens on women (and men too), they can channel their anger-filled responses into action by going against the grain, pursuing their own interests or business, going to graduate school and much more. In turn, they’re encouraged to surround themselves with like-minded individuals, committed to supporting and cheering on one another, and ultimately helping the other discover their true potential. This system of support will continue to help individuals convert their anger into action, and perhaps enjoy a few laughs, too.

Yes. One hundred percent. Women are socialized to put relationships before themselves, and this often leads to stifling anger or any feeling that might compromise the bond between two people. This is especially the case in their relationships with men, or in competition for men, and over time, women’s anger and aggression has become more user wraps, or covert. Passive aggression seems to be both the only “acceptable” means of communicating anger, but women are also labeled “manipulative” when they attempt to express themselves indirectly. It becomes a vicious circle of anger, denial or minimization of anger, and then make ourselves smaller just to avoid being a “problem.”

While it is becoming more acceptable for women to show anger, progress is slow. Most of the time, female anger is couched in comedy or parody, and only accepted in small soundbites. Those invested in a patriarchal perspective, men and women, hold firm in their beliefs that women ought to act a certain way, or not make waves. The vary act of saying “we’re angry!” is a bold and pioneering move. Further, some women hold more internalized oppressive views, and refuse to participate in a movement that is labeled feminist or angry. For some women, to do so would compromise their social standing, romantic relationships, financial security, etc. It is scary, because the backlash is real. To take a stand is mark of bravery, and not everyone is ready to avail themselves to the fiery response of those in opposition. My opinion is that over time, the backlash will subside and change will take place. Cultural growth is a slow moving process, and with every voice heard, the collective voice of a paradigm shift grows louder and more effective. I don’t think women (or men) should care about acceptability. The more those who are angry attempt to hustle for the approval of their oppressors, the more power is given away. From my perspective, those who are angry a well suited to unite and establish new norms, refusing to tolerate mistreatment any further.

There are so many way to channel one’s anger constructively. I do not condone any violence (unless in self-defense) and instead think about using anger as a collaborating force within and with others. Being of service to others is one way to channel anger. This is especially relevant because so many women today do not have strong female role models, who they can turn to for advice. Get engaged. Mentor younger women, get a mentor, get creative. How can you pass along the resources (i.e., emotional, financial, logistic, etc) that were not available to you and resulted in your marginalization? What do you wish existed that could have helped you through a particularly challenging experience? Create it. I did, and it changed my relationship with anger and helped me take it for what it is a healthy emotion that lets us know when we feel disrespected or mistreated. This is key information that keeps us psychologically and rationally healthy. Anger is invaluable and an essential part of the human experience. When we embrace that, we can make it work for us in myriad ways.

As a psychologist, patients, friends and family are always asking me advice on their relationships and, let’s be real, everyone else’s relationships. One of the biggest questions they have, is why are there no good men or no good women out there? There are good people out there, I reassure them, but they inevitably come back with some retort about having to settle or face being single forever; for some, a fate worse than death. So herein lies the conundrum stay single forever or settle. Well, let’s back out of the black and white thinking that keeps us stuck for a moment and think about what it means to settle. Most of us have arbitrary ideas or checklists we drag around to assess our swiping situation. Does he make a certain amount of money? Is she pretty enough to take around my friends? Is she/he tall enough/too tall? Is she/he fit enough? What kind of car does he/she drive? Do they like dogs? All-important questions, but what do they really mean about a person’s character or how well you’ll get along? When considering the question of settling, it is important to ask what we:

  1. need in relationships
  2. want in relationships and
  3. won’t tolerate in relationships?

No two relational blue prints will look the same, and there are no right or wrong answers. Let’s look at needs first. We all have intimacy needs, like support, trust, security, communication, touch, respect, etc. They may change over time. That’s okay. Its hardwired in us. We also have relationship wants, the qualities that might ignite our fire a little more intensely. Physical appearance, fitness level, similar hobbies, values, job, financial standing, etc. are examples of wants. There is nothing wrong with wanting whatever you want in a partner. But many times, we mistake our wants for needs and then we feel like we’re settling if the want boxes are not checked, because we’re ignoring the meaning we assign to these traits. For example, consider meeting someone who is two inches shorter than your preferred height in a partner. He or she is funny, witty, charming, consistent, honest, and generous with their time, all of the other wants and needs you’ve identified. They just happen to be a little short-changed in the height department. What does height mean to you? Does it represent strength? Safety? Protection? Status? What does it mean about you if you date this person anyway? Whose judgment do you hear in your head? Why is their judgment so important? Asking these tough questions can help you decide if this is a want or a need, and if the underlying meaning is a need, can that need be met in other ways by this partner or other people in your circle? We often expect our partner to meet all of our needs, and overlook the inevitable disappointment in that expectation. Many people do not know what they need or want in relationships, because they are so eager to be in a relationship that they haven’t stopped to consider what they are looking for in their other half. They accept what is available, to avoid being alone. One day, they wake up and think, “Hey, I think I want more than this. I wish my partner would….” and realize that they might be settling but are afraid to leave. This brings me back to the last point, knowing what you won’t tolerate in relationships. It is just as important to know what doesn’t work for you when considering whether to start, stay in or leave a relationship. For some, deal breakers might include violence or infidelity. For others, perhaps smoking or liking heavy metal is the end of the line. Knowing yourself is key in defining your needs, wants, and deal breakers for relationships. If you don’t know some answers to these three factors, perhaps you’ve been neglectful (and settling!) in the most relationship of all, the relationship you have with yourself. Only when you set intentions and cultivate a relationship with yourself can you invite in the kind of love you are seeking and deserve to have. Until then, you’ll be running in circles, chasing ideas and looking to define yourself in the reflection of another.

Obsession, a thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind, is often what drives addiction. Obsession is about hypervigilance. When we feel the object of our affection (whether real or in fantasy) may not feel the same way, we perseverate about them, ourselves and the relationship. This rumination and over-focus is an emotional survival strategy that keeps our brain playing out all of the what-ifs and looking for answers to the sometimes unconscious ques- tion, “How can I make sure my partner doesn’t leave me?” A milder version of obsession can look like ruminating thoughts. “What if he likes her more than me?” “Did she talk to her ex-boy- friend last night?” “If only I lost those last 10 pounds…” Perhaps you find yourself checking their social media accounts for proof they are with you, or have moved on. Maybe you enlist your friends or family to investigate or check on your desired. At the extremes, obsession can morph into stalking and domestic violence. If we feel threatened at the loss of someone, and re- taliate with this level of possession, it can be dangerous for everyone involved. Contrary to what may be glamorized in movies, extreme jealously and stalking are not healthy courtship behaviors, and can lead to emotional and physical trouble.

Obsession with another person may be a symptom of love addiction, which is essentially an ad- diction to the experience or “high” of being in love, and generally appears on the form of putting another person on a pedestal, creating the fantasy that they are perfect or the one, ignoring their faults or certain red flags that point to the contrary. Love addicts often expect their partners to care for all of their needs. Love addicts often neglect to care for or value themselves while they in the relationship. There often exists a toxic bond or an obsessive attachment in love addicted relationships. Love addicts often continue to engage in the relationship, trying desperately to connect as they search for their self-worth in the relationship, even if the object of their desire is pejorative, hurtful, or abusive. Inappropriate boundaries, abuse, neglect, intimacy issues, chaos, drama are some of the deleterious characteristics of these relationships. Love addicts suffer from profound feelings of shame, anguish, and fear of abandonment.

Since love addicts typically suffer from an anxious or preoccupied attachment (hypervigilance about their partner or the relationship), some signs to watch out for would be someone who is wanting speedy closeness, says “I love you before the first argument, has poor boundaries, is constantly expressing insecurities and worrying about rejection, is often very unhappy when not in a relationship, plays games to keep your attention, has difficulty with direct communication, struggles to effectively express their wants, needs, thoughts, and feelings, expecting you to guess or read his or her mind, acts out, tries to make you jealous, always makes things about him/her- self in the relationship, lets you set the tone of the relationship, seems preoccupied with the relationship, calls or texts excessively, stops by your home or work unexpectedly, fears that the small acts will ruin the relationship, seems to be trying too hard to keep your interest, and is extremely jealous.

If you suspect that the person you are getting to know has obsessive or love addicted tendencies, this does not mean you have to cut them out of your life completely. However, it is important to take things slowly, establish very clear boundaries, assess what works for you and get consulta- tion from friends and loved ones about your experience, pay attention to any attempts to get you to change or disregard your boundaries or needs, use direct, clear communication, and effectively verbalize your wants, needs, thoughts, and feelings. – Dr. Kate Balestrieri, Psy.D., CSAT-S, Licensed Clinical and Forensic Psychologist, and Lauren Dummit-Schock, LMFT, CSAT, CoFounder

The first step to getting help from this type of toxic relationship is to recognize narcissism in your partner or spouse. This involves identifying the traits and warning signs of this disorder, which you may have been living with for quite some time. At Triune Therapy Group, we have skilled clinicians who are highly trained to treat those that are in a relationship with a narcissist.

To help you understand the condition and how you may or may not have been affected, please explore the following Frequently Asked Questions and Answers provided by Licensed Psychologist Dr. Kate Balestrieri: Read More FAQs About Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Perhaps the greatest hope surrounding the #MeToo movement and other similar movements is that it will generate an awareness of the magnitude of sexual assault and harassment, particularly in the workplace. In doing so, maybe it will initiate and rebirth conversations regarding equality that have since gone underground. This is important, because many people fail to see the ways in which others misuse power and privilege, and how this leads them to engage in predatory behaviors. In another sense, the #MeToo movement could educate people on how to avoid being exploitative, while enlightening them on affirmative consent, power imbalances and how to classify and pursue intimacy and happiness in a authentic, healthy manner.

I work with new mothers and I have on multiple occasions worked with mothers who have experienced a the loss of a pregnancy close to becoming a mother. It is indeed a double whammy. There is so much that gets stirred up, and it intensifies the transition into motherhood and the processing of these loss, exacerbating common life-cycle events, and resulting in undue pressure on new moms, emotionally, physically, spiritually. When we’re trying to understand how motherhood and losses affect us, it is imperative to remember that the transition into motherhood and assimilation of loss are multi-dimensional and encompass physical, social, emotional, spiritual aspects of humanity. Although we mostly associate motherhood with new beginnings and joy, the questions of loss and death and endings actually also come up. Becoming mothers is a definite end to our earlier self, our pre-motherhood bodies and relationships, and mothers must mourn how the idealized fantasy of motherhood is never matched with the reality of the day to day. This is all considered “normal” to go through unless it gets complicated with trauma or major stressors. But if the transition to motherhood coincides with a loss, mothers get all of this thrown at them at the speed of light. It’s like existential pressure overload. – Helena Vissing, M.S., Psy.D. Clinical Associate, Psychological Assistant

The mental health of mothers is a major public health concern. Research demonstrates that depression and anxiety in mothers impact their children. The exact ways children are impacted by their mothers’ mental health involves a complex interplay of factors. We always have to look at the unique combination of risk factors and protective factors for each mother-child couple. If you grew up with a mother who suffered from postpartum depression, you are not necessarily determined to suffer. But we know that on a large public health scale, there is a clear connection between mothers’ mental health and lifelong mental health of their children. The immediate effects of mothers’ depression is that babies become withdrawn and irritable. This is happening at a sensitive time when babies are beginning their lifelong development of emotion regulation. Development is layered and scaffolding throughout life, so a baby who is experiencing these challenges already during their first years will be What we often experience in the consulting room is adults who struggle with feelings of shame and inadequacy or “never being enough”, even when they are normally functioning. They might describe a vague sense of unworthiness that has always “haunted” them. Although it’s widely acknowledged now that our sense of ourselves is rooted in our earliest relationships, it is still overlooked how issues in this area can stem from the emotional pain the child of a depressed mother experienced. This pain does not just disappear as the child grows or if the mother’s mental health improves, as it has influences the very core of the child’s sense of self. Infants and children are developmentally unable to make sense of the intensity of their mother’s depression, but they still feel it. This is because our earliest sense of self is built from our early nonverbal and physical experiences of being cared for. The only way and infant can interpret the signals from a depressed mother is to internalize it, which manifest as a sense of never being enough. Even when the child grows up to be an adult who can rationally separate their mother’s emotions from their own self-worth, the early experiences can still linger and manifest as issues with unworthiness. For each person, it’s a unique story of with all the risk factors and the negative impact on one hand, and then all the mitigating factors and strengths on the other hand. The adult who describes feeling shame and unworthiness might struggle to pinpoint the root of their issues, especially if their mother’s emotional issues were hidden, denied in the family, or minimized. The mother’s emotional state during the crucial early years is often that missing piece to help an adult fully understand their development and life story. Often they are not in a position to communicate about sensitive material with their mothers. This is why it’s crucial that maternal mental health is addressed clearly at all levels of society. The taboo still surrounding motherhood and postpartum emotional issue has devasting consequences for the entire family. I know this is a lot. Feel free to use what makes sense, and let me know if I should clarify things? I tried to use language for laypeople. – Helena Vissing, M.S., Psy.D.