Building a Relationship to Pleasure and Intimacy

Building a relationship to pleasure and intimacy takes a lot of intention in this society that still treats talking about sex as taboo. So many people struggle with intimacy due to lack of communication, trauma, and societal conditioning to disconnect from their bodies and desires. Improving intimacy requires us to unlearn harmful norms and relearn our embodied self. Tools like love languages and embodied practices can help us engage in conscious communication with partners. It helps to create a safe container to explore these sensitive topics compassionately, gain perspective on cultivating more fulfilling relationships.

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Valerie Friedlander 0:00
Hello, my friends and welcome to another episode of unlimited today we are talking about building a relationship to pleasure and intimacy. And yes, this episode is explicit has little explicit marker at least it should on whatever listening platform you are listening on. But on the off chance you missed that, or it autoplay, this is your heads up, that this episode is probably not for the younglings in your life. Most of my episodes are kid friendly, maybe not kid interesting, but kid friendly. This one is most likely not. Because, as you might imagine, we are talking about sex. This is a beautiful and juicy episode, where we are really digging into this often considered taboo subject, where we really need to have an understanding because it has such an important role in most of our lives. Yet, it’s something that we don’t talk about, it’s something that at least my generation, there wasn’t a lot of information. Sometimes you got a book or the talk, but in terms of really understanding ourselves on an intimate level, understanding our bodies understanding, having a relationship to other bodies in an intimate way, other people and that depth of emotional, spiritual, physical embodied experience with another person, we just didn’t talk about it. And oftentimes, it’s because our parents didn’t have the capacity to talk about it. So I have invited Daniela Stevens who uses she they pronouns to come on and help support this understanding, and our own conversation with ourselves and with our partners around an understanding of intimacy and pleasure. Through sex. Daniela is a trauma and attachment informed certified sex and intimacy coach for couples and individuals of all bodies and all expressions. She supports people to experience deep sexual connection and intimacy with themselves and their partner by addressing the intersections of personal experience with multiple systems of oppression. And by guiding them to clarify, connect, communicate, heal, and CO create the sex they want, and the intimacy they desire. for over 20 years, she’s worked with 1000s of people coaching one on one teaching in college classrooms and guiding people in yoga studios utilizing somatic attachment therapy, embodied conflict resolution and somatic abolitionism. Alongside neuroscience, holistic healing, trauma resolution, and modern coaching, blended with ancient tantric and Taoist wisdom. For her nothing is more important than connection. Some of the things that we talk about in this episode are breaking the rules and roles we assume in romantic relationships, learning to love yourself and listen to your body. Shifting out of the goals, mindset to intentions when it comes to sex, the pressure to perform and ways that we disconnect from ourselves and from others and from our body, and what we can do about healing that. And of course, just so much more. There’s so much in this episode, I am thrilled to share it with you. So now without further ado, let’s get started. Hey there, I’m Valerie Friedlander, Certified Life business alignment coach, and this is unlimited. This podcast bridges the individual and the societal, scientific and spiritual, positive and negative, nerdy and no, there’s just a lot of nerdy. come on board and let’s unlock a light. This is badass as you are.

Welcome, Daniela, I’m so excited to have you on the podcast today.

Daniela Stevens 4:37
I’m so excited to be here.

Valerie Friedlander 4:41
So I’d like to kick off with a question about what is a limit that you took for granted in your adult life at least that you’ve since unlearned?

Daniela Stevens 4:55
And this is a really easy question. For me. I’m a sex and intimacy coach. For couples and individuals, and I came to this work because I wasn’t experiencing orgasm, and had never experienced orgasm for decades until my late 30s. And that felt like my limit, it felt like I was unhuman I felt like I was alien. So beyond broken, my suffering kind of transcended into a deep sense of not belonging. And through the process of becoming multi-orgasmic, being able to experience different orgasms, being able to experience orgasms, one after another, being able to experience spontaneous orgasms, and orgasms without touch. I’ve really learned and embodied that orgasms are not the end all be all of pleasure, of connection, of depths of intimacy with myself, or intimacy with a partner. And so that was my preconceived notion of of limit that I’ve I’ve since really broken down and transcendent.

Valerie Friedlander 6:13
Hmm, that is powerful. One of the things we wanted to really look at is some of the designs in our life, because sex ends up being a big part of our role in a relationship. What does that work around? These things look like? Where do you even start?

Daniela Stevens 6:31
Yeah, well, I’ll start with my own personal experience. And my partner at the time we were married, we were together for over 20 years had three children had a really great deep relationship that moved through so many of these challenges. And I remember us both having an unconscious unspoken limit, or expectation that if we had sex 2.5 times a week, we were we were having a great relationship. And so I remember the pressure to have sex for the quantity to be there. And no thought whatsoever as to whether or not they were having a good time experiencing satisfaction, pleasure, fulfillment, connection, or whether I was. And so that was one of the things we really began to dismantle and to see how if we just said we had sex, it was like a checkbox.

Valerie Friedlander 7:42
That’s what I was thinking, like, right? We did that thing. Okay, check that off the list,

Daniela Stevens 7:47
it was a chore, it was a criteria by which the external world measures how good of a relationship you’re in. And it’s one of those things where you could be having sex a couple times a week, and still not be having a great relationship could still not be experiencing pleasure, you could be having orgasms both of you. And it’s still not mean that it’s satisfying or fulfilling.

Valerie Friedlander 8:17
What seems like the the disconnection between the physical acts of physical tangible things that we do and the intimacy of a relationship, how connected you actually feel. And I know there’s there multiple layers to that connection, there’s the the connection we have with one another. But to be able to have a connection with another person, something I will talk a lot about is we have to have a connection to ourselves first. We have to have that understanding, be able to listen to ourselves, be able to listen to our bodies, which is something we are actually very much conditioned not to listen to. And then a relationship. You’ve probably heard that saying like, you can’t love somebody else until you love yourself. And I feel like there’s there’s a lot of like that glosses over so much because I feel like in ways I’ve learned to love myself through loving somebody else. Yes, but also, I get that like, if all of my focus is on the other person and is not on myself then I’m missing something and I work with a lot of people pleasers who will do that like for me to be okay, I’m going to make you Okay. Kind of dynamic. How does that play out? Because I’m sure you see this how does that play out in intimacy and sex?

Daniela Stevens 9:37
Well, I remember Brene Brown saying that you can only love someone else as much as you love yourself. And I remember feeling hit by it. And I think she has or would walk that back. And I do think it is not attributed to her specifically that it’s it’s something much, much older. we only learn to love ourselves in attachment and connection to others. So we have to actually bring in attachment theory and collective understanding of ourselves in one another, to be able to understand how that’s inaccurate, it’s very individualistic, right? If we are going to learn how to love ourselves, we can’t do that in isolation. Yeah. And what happens is we could learn to love ourselves by being loved by our partner, our partner inviting us to love ourselves, our partner, offering us love. And we have to be willing and feel capable. There’s a, there’s a nervous system capacity to receive that love. Yeah. So it’s a dynamic between two or more people. And it’s something we have to learn. It’s not something necessarily that we excavate from within. Yeah. And sometimes it can feel less vulnerable to do it in friendship, or to do it, in belonging, in sports, or in belonging in activism. So in a community where it’s lower risk, we can learn to love and be loved to receive care to offer care, and support. And, and feel a sense of, of safety with others. Does that make sense?

Valerie Friedlander 11:46
Oh, yeah. Well, it resonates a lot with a previous interview I did with Amina Chaudhry, where we were talking about belonging, and how belonging is an outside in saying not an inside out thing. And it’s the overabundance of individualism that says like, oh, it’s inside you, you have to create belonging in yourself first, which is really not accurate. It needs to be around you so that you have it accessible, but then also to do that work of being able to receive it. And it makes me think that that makes a lot of sense to find other spaces that are maybe less deep and intimate to be able to start to receive that. Because one of the things that I hear a lot of people struggle with, particularly women struggle with the the partner in their life, oftentimes a male partner, who doesn’t have that capacity to give love probably has not received it and has not given it I read an article a while back. I’ll have to find it. But it talks about why why do men have this obsession with sex? Like, what is it about that? And it talks about the lack of touch? Yes, that happens at a young age for boys. And it really stood out to me as a parent of two male children that like, oh, I wasn’t giving as many hugs and so this, this touch starvation such that touch is how you get like the love language like physical, not just my love language. Well, yeah, because if you haven’t received it, you feel a deprivation of it. And then it becomes correlated, in your mind of like, this is affection. Yes, but it’s not acted in a way that’s truly affectionate. It’s a performance. It’s the checkbox, I did the thing. So now we need more because I’m not getting enough.

Daniela Stevens 13:47
Yes. And men are not the only ones where, especially if our primary love languages physical touch, where we wire that in with sex. So people with physical touch love languages that their primary myself included, we can equate it can be an easy shift to to equate sex with love. And so there are so many men that I work with who long for affection, not connected to sex. Men who want the affection that their partners offer their pets, right, men who longed to be spooned and held, and we can’t, we haven’t developed the skills and capacity to offer men affection without believing that they need and want to take it to sex. And sometimes that’s the the internal limit that men have as well. I work with a lot of women and firms who I articulate this story this this mythology this limit. I can’t hug or touch or cuddle with my partner, I can’t offer them affection, because they believe it’s me initiating sex. So then the affection gets shut down. And their partner feels neglect, and they name it as sex. But it’s also so much the love. They don’t feel love. They don’t feel cared for and don’t feel wanted or seen or held or supported. Because the way in which they feel that or experienced that is through physical touch.

Valerie Friedlander 15:35
Hmm. Yeah.

Daniela Stevens 15:37
Trevor Noah talks about this, too. He’s like, men want sex? Maybe he read the same article you did? Probably because that’s the appropriate way in which men can ask to be touched. It’s the only space in which it’s culturally appropriate for men to ask for touch.

Valerie Friedlander 15:59
So what do you do about that?

Daniela Stevens 16:02
I have to say the things that we just said, When I work with couples and individuals, one of the first things we do is work with love languages, if we’re going to do more awkward, vulnerable, brave work around sex and intimacy, we want to resource into there being love between us. And so it’s often pulling these apart, supporting men and moc to figure out and understand that when they say they want sex, are they asking for affection? Can they separate those things out in their own mind because sex is so much more than physical touch, it’s so much more than a physical act. And if we go into it, only presuming that that’s what we want out of it, we’re really putting a limit on the depth of pleasure and connection we can experience and it’s also talking to women and femmes about the the cultural messages that they get around rape culture and expectations and like a sex escalator. If I say yes, to cuddling, I’ve put myself on the escalator to saying yes to penetrative sex, and I don’t feel any agency or power to pause or say no, because I’m caretaking for my partner’s needs and wants and possibly their, their ego or their emotions.

Valerie Friedlander 17:32
Yeah, yeah. The the sense of rejection. And the fear of causing the sense of rejection is really powerful, especially like when, when you’re somebody who cares about somebody, but also the have the caretaking, and the programming around needing to caretake for their emotional state. Before I go further with that, you said MOC for people who don’t know, what does that mean?

Daniela Stevens 17:58
What in our gender binary, just a little bit of nuance there. So moc stands for masculine of center. In my older queer days, we might call that person but sometimes they might still identify as Butch, but someone who might be perceived as or, or have identity around expressing more masculine. For me, it’s really not how we physically express or how we identify whether that’s male or female, men, women, femme, which being is more feminine on that, again, side of the scale, or MOC, masculine of center. For me, it’s really about the energy that we all have in offering in receiving in requesting inviting, so we perceive that men or masculine energy or people who who lead in that direction are more action oriented, whereas women or fans or female type energies receive and sort of surrender. And right now we’re talking about that nuance that men and Mo sees. They do long to receive and surrender, when it comes to affection. They do want to be held and cared for and to soften into their partner’s touch regardless of how their partner expresses. And women and femmes also want to offer those things from a authentic place not simply from a caretaking shore taking you know people pleasing parental space, but from a deeply grounded. I want to love you the way that that you need to and want to feel have come here. Let me hold you.

Valerie Friedlander 20:03
Yeah, I’m hearing a lot of the conversation that we’re taught to make a lot of assumptions. Like the escalator sounds like a lot of assumptions being made instead of actual communication about what do you need because of that disconnect of being able to want what you want. Yeah. But it’s something we talked about before we started, this interview was around pain and sex. And this is a big one for a lot of people who have a lot of programming around this caretaking around the and of course, for most people around the lack of communication. And in a lot of ways I’m hearing layered into that is that disconnect from the body? Right, like, our body doesn’t matter. Because and I’ve had these conversations when it comes to work, and the pressures around like, basically not being allowed to be human. And such a human component is our body, we don’t get to be tired, we don’t get to need rest, we don’t get to have those things. And it sounds like there’s which it makes a lot of sense, a relationship between, we don’t get to have pleasure, we don’t get to really be embodied. And how could we know how to do that naturally, if so many things in our world are pulling us away from being in our body and pushing us to ignore pain in our body. And so how do you see that playing out in these intimate relationships?

Daniela Stevens 21:42
Yeah, you I mean, you’re naming the connection between letting go of the body ignoring the body coming up and out of the body, in business, and the ways in it, it affects us during sex and intimacy. All of these are limits put on us by white supremacy by capitalism, by forces of oppression and systems of oppression that don’t want us to honor our body, acknowledge our body, and be present with ourselves or with others. So pain is the biggest way the loudest way that our body can get our attention. And if we bypass pain, our body either tends to find another way to signal pain, or it begins to shut down and to numb. And it doesn’t do that. It doesn’t do that in a clean way, it begins to full systems shut down. So I’ll draw broad strokes. If I’m experiencing vaginal pain with my partner, but I’m caretaking for our connection or the perception of our connection, I’m caretaking for their emotions, their ego. I think that it’s important to have sex, even if I if I’m in pain, I might begin to have other forms of pain if I’m not listening to the pain that I’m experiencing during penetration. So maybe that shows up as yeast infections, or UTIs, urinary tract infections, maybe that shows up as digestive problems. Maybe it shifts into autoimmune flare ups that don’t seem to have any particular cause. My body is trying to get my attention. My body is asking for me to pay attention and to pause to stop to reconsider. And if it doesn’t escalate or differentiate the type of pain, it can begin to numb in general. So I’m not feeling any sensation. With regards to pain with regards to penetration or sex, my libido begins to shut down completely. I don’t begin to experience desire or arousal. I don’t begin to experience even sensations of love toward my partner, because my body begins to see oh, if we are having pain with my partner, then we’re going to shut down all sensation to my partner. Because I’m not listening to the pain. I’m not addressing it. I’m not pausing. I’m not stopping I’m not shifting. So these are broad brushstrokes, they’re not causal. And we can begin to see the ways in which our body is really asking us to pay attention trying to get our our attention Incheon, when we’re not listening, yeah, it’s speaking to us about its limits. Right?

Valerie Friedlander 25:10
Absolutely. That makes a lot of sense. What does it look like to start to address that?

Daniela Stevens 25:17
It’s a whole bunch of addressing the unspoken stories, expectations and limits that we’ve put on our sex on our intimacy on our understanding of what’s possible. One of the first things I do with clients is to invite them to shift sex into whatever that means or looks like for them into experiencing the most amount of pleasure possible. So sometimes that doesn’t mean any penetration. Sometimes that doesn’t mean orgasm. Sometimes that means a different style, or a different pace, or different act or different expression. One of my favorite ways of shifting that is to focus less on sexuality and more on sensuality. For a lot of women and femmes where sex looks fast, it looks hard, it looks short, what might it look like to slow that down, and for there to be a more sensual flavor or tone or energy. And that’s not for every woman and femme. And it does seem to resonate, for those of us who may be older, or may have a child or children, maybe have our own business, maybe haven’t been listening to our body and do need some sort of signal, some sort of, of mantra to slow down and be in our body and sensuality can evoke that.

Yeah, it seems like I mean, another piece of this has to do with just how busy everything is, because I know, as a parent myself, and having those conversations are like, well, you know, they say schedule in sex, you know, kind of like what you were saying before, like schedule it in, because otherwise you won’t make room for it. And it’s like, well, yeah, because we are pushed to do all of these things, and be all these places, like that idea of pausing, is something I talk about constantly. Because we just don’t do it naturally, any more we might have if we hadn’t been conditioned, not to pause not to listen, not to pay attention. And so those ideas of self care, I’ve had so many clients who have been like, I know, I need to self care more. But I just it’s always the last thing that I do, especially when I’m stressed out, especially when I’m busy. And so we’ll talk about community care, which I think ties into what you were saying about that belonging and that receiving, when you’re so busy giving all the time you get into this autopilot, and it’s hard to receive. What does it look like for someone to learn that space of well, taking space really allowing them so I feel like there’s a there’s a core piece of this of allowing yourself to take up space.

So I’ve created something called a sex practice. And this takes the good things of scheduling sex and date nights, and sets down the really awful parts of scheduling, sex, and date nights. And I should probably talk about it more because it does, combined where we are in time, and capitalism and modernity, with where we need to go. So a sex practice is a conscious and intentional, scheduled ritual of coming together with our partner with the intention of experiencing sex or with the experience of, of with the intention of experiencing naked pleasure together. So when we set up a sex practice, usually it can be, you know, 15 minutes once a week. It’s kind of like a for those of us who have had a yoga practice or a meditation practice. You know, in the Western world, we don’t we don’t do these very well, we think it’s a linear process. And we need to start with what’s familiar to us and what can work,

Valerie Friedlander 29:38
Baby steps.

Daniela Stevens 29:39
Baby steps. Yeah, we’re meeting ourselves where we’re at. So that’s why I call it a sex practice. That’s why everybody can like okay, I got it. So ideally, we schedule one hour, once a week together, where we put it on the calendar, and we take everything else off. We figure out What to do with the pets, we figure out what to do with the kids, maybe it’s like, hey, during this hour, the kids are watching a movie, or the kids are with the neighbors, but it’s on the schedule. We’re creating a ritual around it. And then when we begin our sex practice, and usually I really love to set a timer so that we know, hey, we’re doing this consciously, intentionally, purposely together, for 60 minutes, somebody set a timer. So maybe this looks like we go into the bedroom. And we shift the PAs, we set down the pants, and the kids and the work. And the domesticity. This is something I do with all of my clients at the beginning of each of our sessions, so that we have practice of what does it look like to shift away from what we want to set down and to welcome what we want to focus on? How do we do that? What does it feel like? And then what does it feel like when we don’t do it? And so we’re in session building these skills and these capacities and the discernment of what happens when we do it and when we don’t do it. So when we’re doing this, together with our partner, together are like, okay, let’s sit down this, sit down this, let’s come into our bodies, let’s come into the present moment, let’s connect to ourselves so that we might connect to each other. And then we actually begin to have the exploration internally and together. What is it we need to address or talk about or do on the path toward experiencing sex together? For both of us to feel good. So in my personal practice of this, it might look like three weeks of us having conversations, hey, you really hurt me when you said this the other day, or I am swamped at work, we need to make some changes, or I just don’t feel connected to my body. I’ve been sick. So I really need to rest. Can we rest together? What does that look like? Could you care for me in this moment? Could you wrap your arms around me? So that we’re addressing? What are the things that would support us to feel connected to ourselves and to one another? Not so we can have sex in that very moment? And so we’re consciously building that over time, so that we have the moment and say the fourth, the fourth meeting in the fourth week, the fourth sex practice to actually experience sex together? Yeah. So we’re, we’re putting, we’re putting the intention there. It’s not a goal. When we schedule sex, what we’re saying to ourselves and to one another, as we are going to have sex at 7pm on set Saturday, whether we like it or not. And we’re bypassing our bodies. Pleasure, availability, openness, desire. We’re doing a checkbox, right. So instead of that being the goal, like, the goal is we’re gonna have sex on Saturday, we have sex once a week. Awesome. We’re good. We’re shifting from a goal to an intention, our sex practice, we create, we co create together with the intention of moving toward sex of moving toward pleasure.

Valerie Friedlander 33:41

Daniela Stevens 33:42
Yeah. And we are addressing what needs to happen on the way to experiencing that.

Valerie Friedlander 33:48
Yeah. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense in one of the things that I will often look at is that idea of you so often, we’re, we’re chasing something. And we think once we have this thing, then we’ll be this person. And you know, like, once we do this, then we’ll have this and then we’ll be this and it’s very opposite what is actually true, which is, who do you want to be? How do you want to show up? What do you want to experience? How do you want to feel? Right? And so to be able to center that is what I’m hearing in the relationship. So in a instead of that broad picture, that micro caused them picture of your relationship to sit down and really allow that connection. And that I’m sure brings up a lot of interesting challenges. Like you realize what’s in the way it’s almost like a little experiment of Okay, let’s try not paying attention to this. Yeah. And then we can figure out better well, what what allows us to do that what works here? How does this look and have those conversations That seems so critical. Like sometimes we can do a little gymnastics in our head of you mentioned before the spooning component. And I remember early on in my relationship with my husband, we had had sex, and then we realigned together and he rolled the opposite way. And I felt so rejected. I was like, He’s turning his back on me. We’re just That’s it, we’re done. And of course, that triggered other traumatic, intimate experiences that I had. But it suddenly occurred to me while I was laying there in my way, oh, no, everything was off. I was like, maybe he wants me to snuggle him? Like, Why does it always have to be him snuggling me? Why can’t I snuggle him? And it hit me. I was like, oh, maybe he feels rejected. And I don’t just automatically curl around him when he does that. And then that was true. I curled around him and he just kind of snuggled up, it was clear that that’s, I don’t know, if it was a conscious thought. But that allowed that intimacy to continue, it never occurred to me until that moment, that you could shift that. And so yeah, there are certain things that you can do internally, but also to be able to have those conversations of what do you need to take it out of the mental space of, you know, I’m gonna think what you think what I think let’s actually have those conversations. That’s a really powerful practice.

Daniela Stevens 36:25
Yeah, well, it’s one, when we have the date nights, the kind of general understanding is, oh, we’re having a date night. So we can spend some time connecting, right? The unconscious expectation is, so we can have sex, we want to put that front and center and begin to be more open about the unconscious expectations. So that, hey, we can have a sex practice, where the intention is naked pleasure together. And we can also have date nights, or go out together, where we’re just enjoying each other’s time. And maybe in the sex practice, were illuminating, hey, I want to just enjoy time together without there being pressure of feeling like we have to connect so we can have sex,

Valerie Friedlander 37:16
Or have sex so that we can connect,

Daniela Stevens 37:18
Correct or have sex so that I can feel physical touch and feel loved. So it’s about disrupting sort of the sex escalator of this is going here. It’s like, Okay, do we both want? Can we just start there? We both want to have a sexual relationship. Is that important? Do we want to advocate for it? If so, can we put 30 minutes on the calendar? Once a week? We’re creating the opportunity. And then those 30 minutes are also about cultivating the energy. What supports both of us to move towards sexual intimacy together? Is that emotional intimacy? Is it affection? Is it physical intimacy? Is it something spiritual, something mental, like? What are the ways in which we begin to accelerate and move toward sexual pleasure, sexual intimacy, sexual connection, sexual expression? And yeah, it becomes a Spearman. Yeah, so one of the other things I do talk to people about were in your life, Are you creative? Or have you been creative or in flow? So is that an art? Is that in sports? Is that in running? Is it in gardening? Is it in painting? Where are you in creative flow? Because that is much more what we want with sacks. When we say we want sex, we’re not oftentimes saying we want connection and pleasure with our partner, we’re actually saying, I want to be in my body and present and feel connected to something deeper than the chaos of, you know, work and kids and surviving. So we can often feel that way when we’re being creative when we’re writing, painting, drawing, strumming a guitar, playing sports, and you have to set aside time to do that. And everyone fills that time with something different some process, you know, are we practicing chords? Are we sketching something specific? So that’s the mindset that has to be invited within our Sachs practice to when we’re in in committed long term relationships where it doesn’t organically spontaneously happen. We have to co create and cultivate it intentionally, and consciously, but not so force and push it like a chore like a checklist.

Valerie Friedlander 40:04
Yeah. It makes me think as you’re talking about that in flow, one of the things that came up for me recently, as you know, over time, things have shifted and moved. And we have our date night, where we just hang out and spend time together. And I always miss it if that doesn’t happen, what I realized more recently, one of the other pieces of that is co creation, together, working on a project together, even just going to the grocery store together, where it feels like we’re working together, we’re in partnership, in our daily life. Yes, not just okay, you do this, and you get that done, you check that box and you check that box. It’s like we’re working together, even if it’s the things that have to get done, that creates that sense of connection, which builds into the intimacy that we have, and the ability to have the conversations about stuff that comes up, because that’s one of the things that I found really interesting. And I don’t think we’re going to have time to get into it now. But just to kind of touch on it of those past things like past traumas that have a way of like, oh, we have space to come up now. Oh, it’s been like 25 years. Why is this emotional charge suddenly hitting me? And it’s like, oh, there’s room for it now. Because it’s safe, to come forward and be healed? It started to make me think there’s something wrong, is there a problem in the relationship? And I had to realize that no, it’s because I’ve given myself enough space, that I can process it and my husband’s created enough space in our relationship of safety, that I can bring that forward and say what I need to be able to heal those wounds on a deeper level than I had before.

Daniela Stevens 41:54
Yeah, it’s a celebration of the safety and connection you’re experiencing currently, to be able to go back and address something that made a hurt or will have been harmful before. And sometimes it’s the reverse it is a pile upon a pile of things. And we get to a critical mass moment. Rasma Manickam talks about a critical mass moment in his book monsters in love, where we can’t take another one, we have to address the most recent one and possibly a backlog. This might be when the pain has been we’re over the pain, we can’t we can’t have sex one more time with the pain. Yeah. And that also can look like the pressure for men where they can’t have sex one more time and not have the erection they want to have. So it’s not just we all have these experiences of limits around sex and intimacy. And usually, we’re blinded by the ones that we’re experiencing and don’t often have compassion for our partner also experiencing their, their framework, their lens of it, too, because we’re all affected by it.

Valerie Friedlander 43:06
Yeah, we are. So much so. And then that communication is really key. Because that’s definitely a thing of like, what did I do, actually, isn’t you? But you know, maybe it is maybe there is something to talk about, maybe there’s something to shift. And so that makes a lot of sense. I would love for you to share a little bit about what does it look like to work with you somebody who’s listening to this and is like, I really want this area of my life to be more expansive, more chosen limits versus the imposed learned limits? What does it look like to reach out to you and to start work with you?

Daniela Stevens 43:50
Well, I offer a 15 minute FREE PHONE CONSULTATION first, because the topic is so vulnerable. I want to make it as kind of easy. When it’s not right, to make it as accessible as possible to have like, okay, we’re just gonna talk about this for 15 minutes. I work with both couples and individuals. And it’s so helpful to have a third party who’s neutral, to say the things that we can’t say to one another on our own because it does feel like rejection because we do feel judgment, we feel shame, we feel embarrassed. We feel defensive. Right, it feels super vulnerable. And I also have the capacity to talk into the systems of oppression and the cultural and societal stories that are running in our heads in all of our heads that support us to see Oh, this isn’t actually about us at all. Most of the time, it’s not even about the two people in the relation twinship it’s not even about me, it is about all of the things that we haven’t learned because that information has been withheld from us purposefully, or the misinformation we’ve been given purposefully. And so we go from a 15 minute consultation to a trust agreement and a service agreement that really thoroughly outline expectations you can have of me and expectations, I’d like to have a view if we decide to work together. And from then on, it’s about me, modeling the sex practice container. So individually, we work together 60 minutes, once a week, with two people, it’s 90 minutes, once a week, so that there’s enough room for both people to talk to share, to experience and express. And the coaching is really, we do talk, but there’s also somatic and body based practices and exercises, with also a focus on awareness on mindfulness, sometimes we feel that as meditation, it’s, it’s a sense of being able to slow things down. So we can see them so that we can feel them so that we’re not automatically reacting, we’re not in survival mode, that we can begin to breathe and connect to ourselves, and one another. So those are all the elements where we’re clarifying what it is, we want need, what invites us into pleasure, what supports us to feel love. We’re learning how to connect to ourselves and to our partner. We’re learning what communication can be like when we share these things, both internally with ourselves and our partner. We’re doing some healing work. And we’re learning how to co create our sex life. Sometimes that’s literal skills, like what are the skills that invite me into pleasure that invite them into pleasure? What’s the mindset? What’s the intention? So it’s really those pieces that we begin to work on that are interwoven in those sessions together.

Valerie Friedlander 47:09
I love it. Well, I will have links for people to connect with you in the show notes. And to wrap up, I like to ask two questions. The first is, what does it mean to you to be unlimited?

Daniela Stevens 47:25
For me, to be unlimited, is to be fully present, to the best of my ability in the moment. And to be able to actually invoke choice. And when I’m present and, and fully capable of choosing, like feels unlimited. Yeah.

Valerie Friedlander 47:49
And when you want to have that unlimited feeling, what song would you listen to?

Daniela Stevens 47:56
So I listen to Adventure of a Lifetime by Coldplay. And it’s the sense the lyrics go, you make me feel like I’m in love again. And sometimes the lyrics make me feel a little weird. Because I feel in love. Not again, just in love. And I can feel that with myself. I can feel that with my partner. And so it’s not really about the again, but it is this feeling of expansiveness, this experience of limitlessness when I feel like I’m in love, and I get that embodiment and that experience with that song.

Valerie Friedlander 48:44
Oh, I love it. Thank you so much for joining me. I really have appreciated this conversation.

Daniela Stevens 48:51
Thank you so much for having me.

Valerie Friedlander 48:53
Thanks for listening. I so appreciate you being here. If you got something out of today’s episode, please share it. Leave me a review. Take a screenshot and post it on social with a shout out to me, send it to a friend or you know, all of the above. Want to hang out more join me on Instagram, or better yet, get on my mailing list to make sure you don’t miss out on anything. And remember, your possibilities are as unlimited as you are. Allow yourself to shine my friend. The world needs your light. See you next time.

Transcribed by

In this episode of Unlimited, I invited Daniella Stevens (she/they) to join me in a conversation about how to meet yourself where you’re at as you’re building a relationship to pleasure and intimacy.

Some of what we talk about in this episode includes:

  • Breaking the rules we assume in romantic relationships
  • Learning to love yourself and listen to your body
  • Shifting from goals to intentions in sex
  • The pressure to perform and recovering from ways we disconnect

How to Create Belonging with Amena Chaudhry
2017 Medium Article – Why Men Keep Demanding Sex from their Partners Over and Over
Monsters In Love: Why Your Partner Sometimes Drives You Crazy—And What You Can Do About It by Resmaa Menakem

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