Conflict Styles and Relationship Repair

I was interviewed for a CNN article by my dear colleague Dr. Ian Kerner about how to navigate relationship arguments in the “new normal.” I want to expand on my thoughts since conflict is part of life, and all relationships – from the bedroom to the boardroom – experience them.

In addition to the thoughts you’re having during the conflict, your body is having a physical experience of the conflict as well. This is one of the reasons that although you think you have resolved a conflict and “moved on” from it, you still have burdening feelings attached to it. You can move on rationally and intellectually much faster than your body can!

3 Conflict Management Styles

You may feel activated, meaning your body is on high alert and ready to either run away or fight the person in front of you. Also you might freeze as a coping or defense mechanism or become agreeable with the person in front of you just to let the moment pass.

This could manifest in your own conflict management style, which I divide into three categories:

  • Net and Sword
  • Stallions
  • Turtle

Net and sword style describes the dynamic when one person needs closure and resolution while the other one needs space. This feels like one person is casting their net to catch the other person and bring them closer while the other person is pulling out a sword to tear the net and get away. Stallions style is when both parties go head-to-head until they’re exhausted. Then they start all over again. The turtle style is where you both withdraw and try to avoid conflict at all costs.

Knowing your style will help you to ask for what you need (i.e., space, talking things through calmly, or discussing with passion and engagement) and strategize to meet both your and your partner’s needs.

Photo by Nikola Johnny Mirkovic on Unsplash.

Managing Feelings Before Conflict

Many couples ask me, how do we do all these things when we are already in the middle of an argument or fight. This is a very realistic question and here is the answer:

You need to learn how four main feelings are felt in your body and then name them before things escalate. Here are the four categories to remember:

  • Uncomfortable or annoyed
  • Hurt
  • Offended
  • Triggered

If you think about it, you’ll show up very differently if you feel hurt versus when you feel offended, so being able to categorize and name your feelings, for yourself and the other person, will go a long way. For one it will bring awareness to the situation, secondly, it will offer you time to pause so it is more likely that you will be responsive than reactive in the moment and third, knowing where your state is and what informs your energy in the moment, you can ask for what you need to calm the situation and de escalate the tension. Remember that all of these feelings are first felt in the body and then in your thoughts so knowing how your body feels with any of these given feelings is going to be your guiding post.

For example, a member of a pair with the Net and Sword style might say, “This hurts right now. I don’t think I’m in a space to contribute in a useful way here. Let’s cool off and come back to it. I will go for a walk and be back in an hour.”

The person (with the sword) who asked for space should follow through by returning to the their partner (even if they don’t feel like having the conversation just yet at the agreed upon time. It is important to have a specific time negotiated here otherwise the person with the net will feel extremely anxious and aboundened.

This is a great tactic, since we know it takes about 20 minutes for the body to calm down from a place of activation so you can come back together and address whatever the issue was in a calm state when your cognitive mind is actually present, not when your system is still activated in fight-or-flight. And if you both or one of you is still not ready you can sit quietly in each other’s presence so that your bodies could calm down together and create a sense of connection between the two (sometimes I ask my couples to sit back to back and breathe for a couple of seconds with no words). Some other times you might revisit the conversation and in other times you might jot down a note to re-open the conversation when you go for a walk together, etc.

Photo by Micaela Parente on Unsplash.

From Rupture to Repair

For the CNN article, Kerner asked me how we get “from rupture to repair” and how we can make a bid for peace in a conflict.

To clarify, rupture is any instance in which a disconnect, especially a sudden one, happens and leaves some sort of residue of feelings in one or both parties.

First there needs to be an agreement that a rupture happened; both parties need to be on the same page. Without blaming.

To make peace after a rupture, you need to know what works for you and your partner. One person might need a touch (i.e. a hug); another might need space to clear their mind and calm down; and another might need to go for a walk or a run to regulate their body before they are ready to come back together. Knowing your needs and communicating them in peaceful moments will create a shared understanding and even a plan for the next conflict.

The tool I give to my couples is A-ARM. It stands for Acknowledge, Appreciate, Reassure and Mend. So you would acknowledge what happened, appreciate the intensity of emotions, reassure them you’ll be there to work it through, of your love, of your commitment to the relationship, etc., and take action to mend the situation and heal from it.

If the person is not ready to come together, it’s helpful to know their style before the conflict even erupts. If you do, then you can say something like: “I know you might need some space right now. I’ll be in the other room and ready to hold you, talk to you, etc., whenever you’re ready.” You can even use the 20 minute cool down average and say “I’ll check in with you in 20 minutes if that’s okay.”

Knowing your own conflict style and that of your partner’s will help you resolve conflicts constructively, possibly even making your relationship stronger in the process. To help you have some conversations before another conflict erupts, consider discussing these questions with your partner. The “Conflict Literacy” level is a great place to start. Move onto fluency when you’re ready.

Conflict Literacy

  1. Do you know how your body feels discomfort? Hurt? Triggered or offended? Where in the body do you feel it? Can you tune into it to name it before engaging with your partner and escalate to the point of argument?
  2. Do you know your style of conflict engagement and management? (net and sword? Stallions? Turtle? Let me know if you don’t see your style fitting in any of these models.
  3. Do you remember the elements of A-ARM?

Conflict Fluency

  1. If you have conflict literacy already, are you able to name what you are actually feeling in an activating interaction with your partner before things escalate? Have you been able to do it successfully to prevent an escalation of an argument?
  2. When your partner announced their state of feeling or asked for what they needed, were you able to respect that and shift your way of engagement to help with the de-escalation?
  3. Have you been able to articulate what you needed and disengage effectively without triggering your partner in a heated moment?
  4. Were you able to apply A-ARM successfully?

Why you need to know where your clitoris is

The Guardian logoThe Guardian recently reported on a study that found 37% of Britons could not accurately identify a clitoris.

The work, “Public understanding of female genital anatomy and pelvic organ prolapse (POP); a questionnaire-based pilot study,” was published in the International Urogynecology Journal. El-Hamamsy, Parmar, Shoop-Worrall, et al. concluded “There was poor public understanding of external female genital anatomy and POP [pelvic organ prolapse]…”.

I find the results of this study a reason to create a blog to raise awareness and also introduce you to helpful resources to rectify this issue:

Orgasm Answer GuideThe clitoris is reported to be the most sensitive erogenous zone on a female body by many female-identified individuals and it is not just what we can see on the outside, as it also has a big part of it inside the vagina. We also have research to show that many women experience clitoral orgasm as a more intense form of sensation in comparison to other forms (you can reference our book Orgasm Answer Guide to learn more about these).

If 37% of Britons can’t find or identify their clitoris, then the sexual pleasure they experience or provide to a female partner will arguably be greatly diminished. Although working across the world, I have seen that many women incorporate clitoral touch in their experience of sexual pleasure while they might not be familiar with what it is called and where it is located exactly.

The study did not just ask about anatomy, but also inquired about pelvic organ prolapse [POP]. As The Guardian reported, “Whereas most people understood what stroke and diabetes were, 53% had an understanding of what a pelvic organ prolapse [is], while only 23% knew what fibroids were – even though both conditions affect a third of women at some point in their lives.” Nonetheless, being able to locate, identify and name various parts of our genitalia and reproductive organs (one being clitoris) will help us notice any issues or health concerns that might develop at any given time and be able to seek help from the appropriate provider in an appropriate way.

Co-author of this research paper, Stephanie Shoop-Worrall, an epidemiologist at the University of Manchester, brought up the correlation between knowledge and consent as well which is another critical reason as why everyone needs to have the knowledge and verbage to articulate about their genital and reproductive organs. She reminds us that: “If a doctor is going to examine you, or suggest any kind of treatment plan, you need to fully understand what’s going to happen, and the risks and benefits, to be able to give permission. If people are coming in for their hospital appointment and not understanding basic anatomy, or what’s even wrong with them, how can they properly consent to treatment?”

The good news is that adults can pursue their own knowledge, on an academic, anatomical, and personal level. Self-awareness is imperative for pleasure, health, and informed consent.

Two great resources on this topic that I can recommend are a book by my dear colleague Dr. Laurie Mintz titled Becoming Cliterate and an informative and accessible website titled Pussypedia .

Here are also a few questions to get you started on your own:

Sexual Literacy

  • When was the last time you went for a GYN check up? Did you understand what was explained to you? Did they explain it? Did you get to ask questions?
  • Have you ever read any books or proactively searched for any evidence-informed resource to educate yourself about your genitals and reproductive organs
  • What do you know about your genitals? Where did you learn what you know? How reliable were the sources?
  • Do you know if your genitalia has been altered in any way? What does that mean for your experiences and expressions of pleasure?

Sexual Fluency

  • How do you refer to your genitalia and its various parts? Did you have a name for your genitalia growing up? Would you have chosen the same name knowing what you know now?
  • Can you articulate different types of pleasure and pain/discomfort that you experience in the gental area with clear distinctions?
  • If you are in a relationship with a female partner, can you name their body parts? Have you asked them to walk you through different touches that feel good, ok or uncomfortable for them?


Modern Concepts of Love, Sex, and Pleasure

Asking for a Friend - Catriona Boffard - PodcastI sat down for a conversation with my dear friend and colleague Catriona Boffard, a clinical sexologist and psychotherapist in South Africa. Her podcast “Asking for a Friend” convenes conversations about sex, intimacy, relationships, and mental and physical health. I love that Catriona addresses the questions and conundrums we may feel too awkward asking ourselves, so they come out as “I’m asking for a friend (wink, wink).”

Catriona and I explored the different types of love we experience and what constitutes a pleasurable, healthy relationship. I appreciated the opportunity to parse out the differences between sexual chemistry and sexual harmony and even explain how attraction and love might not be enough to sustain a relationship. (Do you know the Patty Smyth and Don Henley song, “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough?”)

Our conversation was featured on Season 2, Episode 2: “Modern concepts of love, sex & pleasure with Dr Sara Nasserzadeh.” You can listen to it here.

Declarations of Sexual Rights and Sexual Pleasure

There are two Declarations at the core of my work and that of the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS). The Declaration of Sexual Pleasure articulates the significance of sexual pleasure to our overall well-being. The Declaration of Sexual Rights states that “sexual rights are universal human rights based on the inherent freedom, dignity, and equality of all human beings.”

In February 2014, I was a part of a global group who were invited to gather in New York City to work on our collective understanding of sexual rights and how they are experienced and expressed across cultures and languages. Our hope was to give a framework for everyone who has the capacity, and could assume responsibility, to be an advocate for sexual rights in their own settings, be it in their home, classrooms, work environment, and, on a larger scale, at the community and societal level. Sexual rights are usually ignored because sexuality is a matter of luxury or quality of life for many. However, this is not the case for millions of people around the world whose sexual well being is being compromised, used, and abused against their wills on a daily basis.

Declaration of Sexual Rights

The Declaration of Sexual Rights states that “sexual rights are grounded in universal human rights that are already recognized in international and regional human rights documents, in national constitutions and laws, human rights standards and principles, and in scientific knowledge related to human sexuality and sexual health.

It takes an asset-based approach, affirming that “sexual health is a state of physical, emotional, mental and social wellbeing in relation to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction or infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.”

The Declaration is fully inclusive as well and includes “the prohibition of any distinction, exclusion or restriction on the basis of race, ethnicity, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, including disability, age, nationality, marital and family status, sexual orientation and gender identity, health
status, place of residence, economic and social situation.”

We recognized that “persons’ sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions and bodily diversities require human rights protection” as well.

Here is an abbreviated list of Sexual Rights. You can see the complete list here.

  • The right to equality and non-discrimination
  • The right to life, liberty, and security of the person
  • The right to autonomy and bodily integrity
  • The right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment
  • The right to be free from all forms of violence and coercion
  • The right to privacy
  • The right to the highest attainable standard of health, including sexual health; with the possibility of pleasurable, satisfying, and safe sexual experiences
  • The right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its application
  • The right to information
  • The right to education and the right to comprehensive sexuality  education
  • The right to enter, form, and dissolve marriage and other similar types of relationships based on equality and full and free consent
  • The right to decide whether to have children, the number and spacing of children, and to have the information and the means to do so
  • The right to the freedom of thought, opinion, and expression
  • The right to freedom of association and peaceful assembly
  • The right to participation in public and political life
  • The right to access to justice, remedies, and redress

Declaration of Sexual Pleasure

A little more than twenty years after the Declaration of Sexual Rights, the World Association for Sexual Health went further in publishing the Declaration of Sexual Pleasure in 2019.

We defined sexual pleasure as the “physical and/or psychological satisfaction and enjoyment derived from shared or solitary erotic experiences, including thoughts, fantasies, dreams, emotions, and feelings”

Key to sexual pleasure are “self-determination, consent, safety, privacy, confidence and the ability to communicate and negotiate sexual relations.”

WAS declared that “sexual pleasure is a fundamental part of sexual rights as a matter of human rights” and it should “ be integrated into education, health promotion and service delivery, research.”

The Declaration urges all sectors of society, from governments to health authorities, from NGOs to individuals to:

  • Promote sexual pleasure in law and policy as a fundamental part of sexual health and well-being, grounded in the principles of sexual rights as human rights, including self-determination, non-discrimination, privacy, bodily integrity, and equality
  • Ensure that comprehensive sexuality education addresses sexual pleasure in an inclusive, evidence-informed and rights-based manner tailored to people’s diverse capacities and needs across the lifespan, in order to allow experiences of informed, self-determined, respectful, and safe sexual pleasure
  • Guarantee that sexual pleasure is integral to sexual health care services provision, and that sexual health services are accessible, affordable, acceptable, and free from stigma, discrimination, and prosecution
  • Enhance the development of rights-based, evidence-informed knowledge of the benefits of sexual pleasure as part of well-being, including rights-based funding resources, research methodologies, and dissemination of knowledge to address the role of sexual pleasure in individual and public health
  • Reaffirm the global, national, community, interpersonal, and individual commitments to recognition of the diversity in sexual pleasure experiences respecting human rights of all people and supported by consistent, evidence informed policy and practices, interpersonal behavior, and collective action.

While discussions of sex and sexual health are often spoken in either hushed tones in private or more coarsely in public, I believe that sexual rights are human rights and that sexual health is a vital part of our overall physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Have you thought about your own sexual rights before? Or have you thought about sexual rights and health within the context of your work?

For example, if you’re a clinician, are you factoring in sexual health to the assessments of your patients? Or if you’re an educator or caregiver, are you considering the sexual rights of your dependents?

World Sexual Health Day North America 2021In September, we celebrate World Sexual Health Day. Take this moment to reflect on the Declarations above, learn more, or join us on September 24th!

If you are a practitioner and you would like to learn more about how to work with the Declaration of Sexual Rights, check out The Wheel of Context for Sexuality Education.

World Sexual Health Day, 2021: Turn It On!

World Sexual Health Day North America 2021

About a decade ago, in one of our World Association for Sexual Health Advisory Board meetings hosted by the warmth of colleagues in Brazil, we were brainstorming how we could elevate the state of sexual wellbeing for everyone, beyond politics, advocacy and academic research. Our president at the time, Dr. Rosemary Coates, suggested creating a whole day around the theme and that is how World Sexual Health Day was born. We looked at the calendar and picked September 4th as the day to claim sexual well-being for all. Our hope was to step away from seeing sexual health as just a disease-free state and more of a state of well-being.  

Turn It On: Sexual Health in A Digital World

The theme for 2021 is “Turn it on: Sexual health in a digital world,” which is so relevant to the moment we’re living through. Not only has technology had a huge influence on sexual health, from the advent of the internet and dating sites to the global accessibility of sexual health information, but the pandemic has kept many of us at home and in front of our laptop or smartphone more than ever.

The phrase “Turn it on” is important too. We want to ignite awareness of sexual health and sexual rights, as well as activate participants in confronting and fighting the many abuses of sexual health in digital spaces.

We at the World Association for Sexual Health define sexual health as “a state of physical, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. It requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.”

I am so appreciative of this positive and respectful approach to sexual health, as opposed to a deficit- or shame-based approach. If we don’t have positive learning environments, we won’t be able to fully explore our sexuality and reach a deep level of well-being, personally or on a global scale.

World Sexual Health Day at Stanford University

I’ve been involved with the World Sexual Health Day Planning Committee since it began in 2010. We first hosted an event for the public in New York City and then when I moved to California in 2015, Stanford University, specifically Dr. Inge Hansen, generously offered to be the home for our event.

This year, we are hosting another virtual event at Stanford University, and we are inviting everyone, from colleagues to students, peers, friends, and members of the public, to celebrate with us.

September 24th

8:30 am – 5:00 pm.

The event is virtual, free, and open to everyone from anywhere. You can add a nominal fee of $25 upon registration to receive six hours of CE for the event.

Learn more or register here.

The agenda will provide an exciting day of learning and connecting.

This year, we will also have a film screening! “Yes I Am: The Ric Weiland Story” is a documentary on the life of Ric Weiland, queer co-founder of Microsoft who made Weiland Health Initiative possible at Stanford University. The film addresses the intersection between the tech world and advocacy for queer rights. The audience is invited to watch the documentary in conjunction with the event. Exact Time TBD, but you can watch the trailer here

Please join us on September 24th to celebrate sexual health and expand our knowledge!

Until then:

Learn more about the Declaration of Sexual Rights in English, Farsi, or twelve other languages.

Read the Declaration of Sexual Pleasure in English or Spanish.

Share your learning online and use the hashtags #WorldSexualHealthDay2021, #WSHD2021, #TurnItOn,

You can also check those hashtags on your favorite social network and see what others are sharing!

Want to take it one step further? Organize an event and let us know your plans! It has been amazing to see how many people have organized meaningful events around the world.

CNN Feature: “Turn rupture into repair: How to navigate relationship arguments”

The stress of the last year and a half has frayed many relationships. Couples may not agree on their risk tolerance in relation to COVID-19; lockdowns, quarantines, and travel restrictions may have us feeling cooped up; and our social lives outside of the home, and the support and sustenance they normally provide, have been severely curtailed.

If this sounds familiar, then My dear colleague Dr. Ian Kerner’s CNN article, “Turn rupture into repair: How to navigate relationship arguments in the ‘new normal”” may be of assistance. I was glad to be tapped for my advice, along with more than a half dozen other colleagues. 

Namely, I offered counterintuitive advice to take the flight option of the fight-or-flight response. 

We know the body takes about 20 minutes to calm down after the fight-or-flight response is activated. I suggest: “Tell your partner that you’re not in a space to contribute to the discussion in a useful way, suggest taking a break with offering a specific time to come back to one another, and then return to it when you’ve both cooled off.”

You could workout or go for a walk, jump rope, call a friend, or meditate. Consider any activity that doesn’t bring you immediately back to the argument.

Couples therapist Barbara Gold offered the next step which I agree with: “But don’t ignore it. If a quick repair isn’t possible because one or both of you is agitated, make a plan to talk about it as soon as you’re both ready and able. Sweeping things under the rug is not the solution to stopping conflict.”

Kerner outlines seven other techniques to help you return to the relationship and begin repairing it. You can read the CNN article here. And here are a couple extra that I use with my couple and found effective: 

I suggest my couples have a “couples jar.” Anything that needs further conversation or to be revisited will go in that jar, so the next time you go for a walk, or have your weekly sessions with one another or your couples therapist you can take it out and make an attempt to discuss and resolve it. The conversation goes back in the jar until it is fully resolved from both of our perspectives. 

This is very helpful because you know there will be a time for you to come back to the issue so you won’t have to carry it around with you and let it cast a shadow on every moment of the coming days! 

It is also important to put away an hour a week (not asking for too much here) to connect and discuss any issues that need resolution. Like going to a therapist once a week. Don’t go over an hour. Having a time limit will help you preserve presence and consistency of energy throughout the hour. 

Enhancing Couples’ Sexuality

Enhancing Couples' Sexuality

Good sex cannot save a bad relationship, but bad sex can break a good relationship!

Dr. McCarty is joining me from North Carolina today to bring us wisdom on the power dynamic of couples as it relates to sexual desire across life span and very practical and solid tools as how to manage them and even solve them. Erotic voice, responsive desire, why is sex more interactive and human over time. How to honor your sexuality while age. Introducing pleasure and relationships after losing a partner, good sex cannot save a bad relationship, but bad sex can break a good relationship, various forms and shapes of pleasure within a coupledom. Why learning to say no to sex is the pre-requisite to saying yes to it. Equity versus equality in coupledom. What is good enough sex?


About Dr. Barry McCarthy

Dr. Barry McCarthy, PH.D. is a professor of psychology at American University, a diplomate in clinical psychology, a diplomate in sex therapy, and a certified couple therapist. He has published more than 120 professional articles, 33 book chapters, and 22 books the latest being Rekindling Desire (3rd edition), Enhancing Couple Sexuality, and Finding Your Sexual Voice. Dr. McCatry has presented more than 450 professional workshops in the United States and internationally. In 2016 he received the Masters and Johnson award for lifetime contributions to the sexuality field. 

Tools and Resources

Full list of Books:


Moving from Racial Literacy to Becoming an Antiracist

Moving from Racial Literacy to Becoming an Antiracist- Bonus Episode

In this dialogue I had the pleasure to have an insightful dialogue with my dear colleague and mentor Dr. Kenneth Hardy. Dr. Hardy is one of the most original voices in the discourse around racial identity and family therapy. We touch upon three main topics: 1) multiple identities, intersectionality of these identities and the context in which they exist, being perceived and received with a practical model to get to know these selves and how they inform our way of being in our everyday lives. 2) the notion of reality and how it could be different based on our privileged identities and areas of subjugations. 3) VCR (Validate, challenge and Request) as a tool to acknowledge and heal rage within our society. 

 Dr. Hardy differentiates between being voiceless and having your voice being taken away. We address tough questions such as: How to become an antiracist in your everyday life? Who are your multiple selves? Are they all equally privileged? What constitute your racial self? What does it mean to be White? Black? Are we looking to be savors or ready to serve the underprivileged? What is a safe environment to have uncomfortable conversations and who is concerned with it? How does it feel to be uncomfortable, hurt, offended or triggered? 

Dr. Hardy offers practical advice and models of practice on becoming an antiracist and engaging provider to nurture purposeful, clear and passionate voices of the underserved. He invites us to get to know our emotional pie: Get to know mad, glad, sad and nervous. Dr. Hardy provides a new look at rage as a passionate emotion that needs to be channeled to a productive way not shut down and he offers VCR (Validate, challenge and Request) as a model to acknowledge and heal rage. 


About Dr. Hardy

Dr. Hardy presents workshops and provides consultations nationally and internationally on issues of diversity, multiculturalism, and cultural competency. He has provided training and consultation to an extensive list of Human Services agencies and School Districts devoted to providing culturally competent services to children and families. Some of his clients have included the Children’s Defense Fund, The United States Department of Defense, the Menninger Clinic, the New York State Office of Mental Health, Harlem Hospital, the Washington D.C. Superior Court, Philadelphia Department of Human Services, Allegheny County Department of Human Services, the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, the Westchester County Department of Human Services, and a host of Colleges, Universities, and Post-Secondary Institutions throughout the United States. Dr. Hardy has published extensively in the area of diversity and has earned considerable public acclaim for the contributions that his numerous publications and videotapes including Psychological Residuals of Slavery and the Experts series which have made great strides toward challenging our society to think critically about issues of diversity and oppression. His recent book, with Tracey A. Laszloffy, is Teens Who Hurt: Clinical Interventions to Break the Cycle of Adolescent Violence. He was co-editor with Monica McGoldrick of Re-Visioning Family Therapy: Race, Culture, and Gender in Clinical Practice (3rd Edition).

In addition to his own writing, he also serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, the Journal of Family Psychotherapy, the Journal of Divorce, the Journal of Couples Therapy, the Psychotherapy Networker, and the Journal of Family Counseling. Dr. Hardy is a frequent contributor to the print media such USA Today, Jet Magazine, and Good Housekeeping, and also has been featured in the electronic media having appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Dateline NBC, PBS, The Discovery Health Channel, and ABC’s 20/20.

The Art and Science of Self-Care

The Art and Science of Self-Care

Today I am in dialogue with my dear friend and colleague Dr. Emily Nagoski. This episode is different than any other. I honestly didn’t know how to introduce it rather than extend a heartfelt invitation to you all to listen to her and listen well. Emily takes us on a meaningful, inspiring, personal and powerful journey from struggles with moments of darkness to joy and pleasure.

Emily is a world-renowned expert in women’s wellbeing and sexual health. She is a New York Times bestselling author and has multiple popular TED Talks to her credit. She says I am a writer, educator, researcher, activist and a nerd!  

Today, you will meet Emily as all of these and much more. Something in my heart lit up after this dialogue that is still burning bright. I hope you derive as much meaning from our conversation as I did having it.


About Dr. Emily Nagoski

Emily Nagoski began her career as a sex educator in 1995 when she became a peer health educator at the University of Delaware. She was trained to teach her fellow undergraduates about stress, nutrition, physical activity, and, above all, sex. Soon she added sexual violence prevention and response to that work, and suddenly she was a sex educator. The plan was to use her degree in Psychology (with minors in cognitive science and philosophy) to become a clinical neuropsychologist, working with people with traumatic brain injury and stroke. But even though she loved brain science, her work in sex education and violence prevention made her like who she was a person, in a way the academic stuff couldn’t. So that’s the path she chose.

She went to Indiana University for a M.S. in Counseling Psychology, completing clinical internships at the Kinsey Institute Sexual Health Clinic and the IU GLBT Student Support Services Office. She continued on to earn a Ph.D. in Health Behavior with a concentration in human sexuality. She taught graduate and undergraduate classes in human sexuality, relationships and communication, stress management, and sex education. Her time at IU was characterized by stumbling with unwarranted luck into opportunities to work with some of the greatest minds in the world of sex science, and she will spend the rest of her career trying to earn those opportunities.

For eight years, she worked as a lecturer and Director of Wellness Education at Smith College, before transitioning to full-time writing and speaking. She now travels all over, training professionals, teaching college students and other lay people, and learning more every day about the science and art of sexual wellbeing. She is a trained Gottman Seven Principles educator, with extensive specialized training in bystander intervention, motivational interviewing, and cultural inclusivity, including race, gender, and class. 

Emily’s mission in life is to teach women to live with confidence and joy inside their bodies.

Her second book, Burnout: the secret to unlocking the stress cycle, is co-authored with her twin sister Amelia. It’s for women who feel overwhelmed and exhausted by all they have to do, yet worrying that they’re not doing “enough.” 


Debunking Desire

Debunking Desire

In this dialogue I am in conversation with my dear colleague Dr. Lori Brotto from Vancouver, Canada to debunk myths around sexual desire. Lori has a unique position as a researcher and a clinician to translate scientific data into practical tools and tips for everyone to benefit from. She is a master expert in the science of KT (Knowledge Transition). She is the Director of the Sexual Health Laboratory at the university of British Columbia and chairs the Canada research in women’s sexual health.

In our conversation Lori will bring us pearls of wisdom from her book, Better sex through mindfulness and her new campaign We will talk about elicitors and diminishers of sexual desire and practical tips to cultivate it.


About Dr. Lori Brotto

Dr. Lori Brotto is a Professor in the UBC Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and a Registered Psychologist in Vancouver, Canada.  She is the Executive Director of the Women’s Health Research Institute of BC located at BC Women’s Hospital. Dr. Brotto holds a Canada Research Chair in Women’s Sexual Health. She is the director of the UBC Sexual Health Laboratory where research primarily focuses on developing and testing psychological and mindfulness-based interventions for women with sexual desire and arousal difficulties and women with chronic genital pain. Dr. Brotto is an Associate Editor for the Archives of Sexual Behavior, has 170 peer-reviewed publications, and is frequently featured in the media on topics related to sexuality. Her book, Better Sex Through Mindfulness: How Women Can Cultivate Desire (2018) is a trade book of her research demonstrating the benefits of mindfulness for women’s sexual concerns. She is a strong advocate for empowering women to take on leadership roles. 

Tools and Resources

Arranged Marriages American Style

Arranged Marriages, American Style!

In this dialogue, my inspiring friend and respected colleague, the New York Times Best Selling author, professor Pepper Schwartz joins me from Seattle. I share what I learned from our dyadic validation study for Relationship Panoramic Inventory and she generously shares her top learnings as one of the three relationship experts on the Married at First Sight TV show, which is a series on Lifetime about arranged marriages. The show focuses on bringing compatible couples together, get them legally married and help them figure out the rest after.


It is on its 11th season in America and is aired in 26 other countries.

As a sociologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, with 25 books, two TED Talks and multiple research papers to her credit, Pepper brings a rich and holistic perspective into our conversation about what it takes to create a thriving relationship.


I invite you to listen in if you believe that you deserve to be in a loving relationship that you desire. 


About Professor Pepper Schwartz

Acclaimed author, researcher, and television personality, Pepper Schwartz has devoted her life to furthering the fields of intimacy and sexuality. After achieving a BA and MA at Washington University, St. Louis, Schwartz went on to receive her PhD in Sociology at Yale University in 1974.

Over the next 40 years, Pepper has become a prolific writer, authoring many academic and popular articles as well as 25 books on the subjects of love, sexuality, and commitment. Two of those books American Couples and The Normal Bar: The Surprising Secrets of Happy Couples have been on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Several others, including PrimeTen Talks Parents Must Have with Children About Sex and Character, Peer Marriage, and The Great Sex Weekendwere featured on Oprah. Her latest books are SNAP Strategies for CouplesFrommer’s Places for Passion, and 50 Great Myths of Human Sexuality

Schwartz is the former president of SSSS, the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexualities, and the past president of the Pacific Sociological Association. She received an award from the American Sociological Association for public understanding of sociology and Law and Politics Magazine named her one of the 25 Smartest People in Washington State. Among other awards, Pepper was named as a distinguished alumni from Washington University in St. Louis and served on the alumni counsel of Yale University Graduate School. Alongside Janet Lever, Pepper has coauthored a column for Glamour magazine as well as independently authored a column for American Baby magazine (both over a period of 8 years). She currently writes a column for as well as continuing to lecture nationally and internationally on intimate relationships, sexuality, and women’s wellbeing.

Currently, Pepper serves as AARP’s first Love & Relationship Expert & Ambassador and teaches at the University of Washington in Seattle. She has two children, Cooper and Ryder, and recently got married to her husband, Fred Kaseburg. She lives on a horse ranch outside of Seattle.

Education Redefined

Education Redefined

In this dialogue, John Doran the author of “A way to wellbeing” joins me from Ireland to discuss education during and post pandemic. John offers an optimistic view by inviting us to embrace adverse events. He says: “what you meet and greet will defeat and what you resist tends to persist”. He talks about the meaning of education and what young people need to thrive in the future that is yet to be created. He invites us to compare ourselves with ourselves yesterday, not another person. He highlights that selfcare of parents is critical not selfish and advises us on finding the right school fit for our children in the time of the pandemic.

John asks some critical questions: Are we preparing students for a life of testing or the test of life? What is holistic education? Are we helping students to develop as critical thinkers, creative minds with resilient hearts or are we trying to fit them to the already existing system which would not even exist by the time they enter adulthood? Skills such as emotional intelligence, problem solving, teamwork and collaboration in a world where life experience and competencies will be more important than formal qualifications.


About John Doran

John Doran has been a teacher and guidance counsellor for over 24 years. He is passionate about the transformative power of education to disrupt poverty, and help young people do all that they can, with all that they have, in the time that they have got, in the space that they are in.

John speaks to Management Bodies, Businesses, Education Trusts, Teachers, Parents and Students on the topics of Resilience, EQ, Well-being in the workplace, Stress Management, and Maximising Performance both nationally and internationally.
John is a TED speaker and a media contributor. He designed and delivers the SMART Training Programme (Stress Management And Resilience Training).

John is also the author of ‘The Ways to Well-Being’, which is designed to help 15-18 year olds explore how to maintain their own sense of well-being, leading to improved academic outcomes in school and a sense of accomplishment in life.


Tools and Resources

Connect with Jon on Social Media

Twitter: @awaytowellbeing

IG: awaytowellbeing

Other Resources:

Address to the Irish Parliament

Ted Talk: Positive Education for the 21st Century

Book: The Ways to Well-Being

Cyber Infidelity

Cyber Infidelity

In this dialogue, Marlene joins me from Cape Town, South Africa as we discuss Cyber Infidelity and her experience of navigating dilemmas that have occurred in working with the controversial dating site, Ashley Madison. 

Marlene is a clinical sexologist with four published books as well as an accredited Ted Talk to her credit. Marlene shares insights from her research, differences she’s identified between in-person and cyber infidelity, why she felt she needed different tools to work with couples with this experience rather than others, the underlying motivation behind an affair, the pain of the experience, and possible ways to recover and heal. 

Relationships are complex dynamics and every couple might have a different definition of what constitute privacy and secrecy in their relationship therefore, we share the use of the terms “affair and infidelity” to cover a range of behaviors in our society. 

Although this is a rather taboo subject, it is a very common issue with high prevalence in both of our practices. We share some of the clinical approaches we each use to help clients navigate their way through the stages that follow an affair with the hope that our listeners can find some relevant tools that they can use and share with others. 


About Dr. Wasserman

Dr Marlene Wasserman, founder of the DR EVE brand, is an internationally trained AASECT (American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists) certified Clinical Sexologist and Couple and Sex Therapist, Sexual Medicine consultant and therapist, in Private Practice. An Academic, Educator, Author of 4 books, and well known media celebrity with her own weekly live radio and television programs, Marlene is most passionately invested in her Clinical Private Practice.  After many years of being an online expert youth sexuality educator and counselor throughout Africa, in 2013 Marlene began research into online relationship and sexuality behavior, specifically cyber infidelity. In 2015 she globally launched her book “Cyber Infidelity: The New Seduction”. Internationally she presents papers at conferences and does professional training and public appearances. As an activist and women’s rights defender, she trains government and parastatal management teams, in Sexual Harassment and Gender Based Violence. She is a Temporary Adviser for the WHO (World Health Organisation). Marlene is a sexual health medico legal expert and certified medico legal mediator. She specializes in medical negligence and personal injury believing everyone has the right to sexual and reproductive health. In 2018 she served as consultant to the Department of Education, in the development and writing of the Sexuality Thread of the new Life Orientation text books, to be nationally implemented in  all schools, in 2020. Her current areas of clinical interest are #Cyber Infidelity,  Infidelity, Modern Love, IntimacyTrauma and Compassion.

Hope Focus

Hope Focus

In this dialogue Sebastian and I have a transparent conversation about making connections through preserving human dignity and seeing people for all that they are and not what they are expected to be portrayed as.

Sebastian was dyslexic as a child and now is a world-renowned photographer who focuses on capturing some of the most sensitive, inspiring and heart-wrenching moments in our current history. He has a powerful message for those who do not fit into the boxes provided to them.

Sebastian’s photos capture hopes and sorrows all in one shot. He is based in Cyprus but was in lockdown in Devon, England at the time of this interview. He brings his whole self to our conversation from an award-winning camera man to a survivor of multiple kidnaps and gun-wounds to a father who still seeks to find balance in his life.

We talk about compassion, empathy and sympathy. What we need more of and what we need to leave at home when we are trying to be helpful to others.   


About Sebastian Rich

Sebastian Rich has been a photographer /cameraman in hard news, documentary and current affairs all his working life. He joined Independent Television News (UK) in 1980 and developed a gift for being in the right place at the right time on some of the world’s biggest breaking news stories; he gained a reputation not just as an uncompromising cameraman in the theatre of war but also as an insightful and highly talented photographer.

Jon Snow the highly regarded British television journalist, describes Sebastian in the forward of his first book ‘People I Have Shot’ as(“Probably the finest news cameraman and photographer of his time… his camera work is amongst the most sensitive I have ever witnessed” Jon Snow, Channel 4 News)

NBC News describes Sebastian as:
“The consummate professional, a seasoned veteran combat photographer.

He also recently received high acclaim and an award from the ‘Rory Peck Foundation’ for his work with U.S. Marine bomb disposal teams in Afghanistan.

Sebastian was honored with the prestigious Royal Television Society’s Cameraman of the Year award for his dramatic pictures of war and famine throughout Africa. Over the years he has been the personal cameraman to some of British television’s most highly respected journalists – Martin Bell, Jon Snow, Kate Adie, Sandy Gall, Trevor McDonald, and many American Network anchor. During his career Sebastian has filmed and photographed every major war and conflict: El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, Sudan, Ethiopia, Lebanon, The Gulf, Bosnia, Palestine, Iraq.He has been wounded several times, kidnapped and held hostage while on assignment in Beirut. One of the characteristics of Sebastian’s work is the poignant images of suffering children worldwide that he portrays most vividly in his footage and photographs. He left ITN in 1993 to pursue a freelance career as a photographer /cameraman, dividing his time between international television networks, independent film productions and print media.Sebastian is a favoured cameraman/ photographer with the French NGO Medicins Sans Frontiers, Save the Children, World Wildlife Foundation and United Nations Agencies, predominantly UNICEF/UNHCR. During the war in Iraq Sebastian was ‘embedded’ with the 2nd Battalion 8th Marines (USMC) a.k.a. ‘America’s Battalion” for the entire duration of hostilities. Sebastian is still documenting for numerous clients the subsequent ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The United States Marine Corps gave Sebastian a honourable mention in ‘Dispatches’ for“An outstanding cool head under fire” and was awarded a ‘Combat Citation’ 

Sebastian has just finished his second book ‘Where Fools Rush In’ ( The Death of News) 

Tools and Resources

Sebastian Rich website

Instagram Account Hopefocus

Book: Refugee is available here. 

Black Sexuality & Your Relationship with Your Skin

Black Sexuality & Your Relationship with Your Skin

In this  dialogue  James and I speak about our relationship with our skin. Skin is what we hold the closest to us and for some of us it becomes the most confusing and conflict-ridden relationship.

The most recent racially charged brutalities happened after the recording of this episode however since the systemic oppression towards the people of color and minorities is not a new concept, there are pearls of wisdom that could be taken away from our conversation to sooth pains and give us a vision for the future. James is a Professor and Chair of the Counseling and Human Services Master of Human Services department at Lincoln University, he is the author of multiple scholarly papers and books including Lost and Found and he is the founding member and executive editor of the journal of black sexuality and relationship which is a world-renowned resource for practitioners.

We talk about James’ personal journey as a black man which inspired his professional career to bridge distances and create harmony within various communities.


About Dr. James Wadley

Dr. James Wadley is Professor and Chair of the Counseling and Human Services Master of Human Services department at Lincoln University. As a scholar-practitioner, he is a licensed professional counselor and maintains a private practice in the States of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

He is the founding editor of the scholarly, interdisciplinary journal, the Journal of Black Sexuality and Relationships (University of Nebraska Press). He is also the founder and Principal of the Association of Black Sexologists and Clinicians and his professional background in human sexuality education, educational leadership, and program development has enabled him to galvanize scholars and practitioners in the field of sexology across the world.

His research and publication interests include sexual decision making among young adults, masculinity development and conceptions of fatherhood by non-custodial fathers, and HIV/AIDS prevention. He has written undergraduate and graduate courses and authored twenty-two courses for the Master of Science in Counseling program for Lincoln University (PA). In addition, he recently co-authored thirteen doctoral level courses for the Theological Seminary of Puerto Rico. In 2015, Dr. Wadley earned his NBCC-International Mental Health Facilitator certification after spending time with Rwandan therapists discussing the impact of genocide and trauma in the early 1990’s. In 2016, he helped developed curricula and conducted a sexuality education course at the University of Muhimbili in Tanzania for the nursing and midwifery program. Later that year, he developed and taught an applied research methods course at Cape Peninsula University of Technology in Cape Town, South Africa. In 2017, Dr. Wadley’s work and advocacy domestically and abroad enabled him to complete his first documentary, Raw to Reel: Race, Drugs, and Sex in Trenton, New Jersey, which captures some of the challenges that emerge in addiction and recovery. Finally, in 2018, Dr. Wadley co-edited The Art of Sex Therapy Supervision (Routledge) which is a book devoted to the clinical experiences of supervisors and supervisees in the field of sex therapy. The book won AASECT’s 2019 Book of the Year Award. His new book, The Handbook of Sexuality Leadership: Inspiring Community Engagement, Social Empowerment, and Transformational Influence (Routledge) carves a new path for sexuality educators, counselors, and therapists in that it serves as an invitation for re-conceptualizing the consultative roles that sexuality professionals engage in.

Dr. Wadley received his Doctorate of Philosophy degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania with a concentration in Educational Leadership and Human Sexuality Education. He earned a Master of Science in Education degree in School Psychology from the University of Kentucky after completing his B.A. in Psychology from Hampton University. Finally, he holds a clinical postgraduate certificate from Thomas Jefferson University/Council for Relationships in Philadelphia and is an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist Supervisor. These credentials and a wealth of domestic and international clinical experiences, has catapulted him to be one of the nation’s best marriage, family, and sexuality clinicians.