Shayna and her husband, Dan, have been married for eight years. Oprah says that when the team first saw them they thought there is no way that this cute young couple are not having lots of good sex. But Shayna says that it is so bad that she doesn’t even want to kiss her husband. So they sent Dr Berman in, take a look.
Shayna 32 has been married to Dan for 8 years. Dr Berman arrives at their house. They have 3 kids between them already, they are a mixed family. “There was a lot of chemistry when we first got together,” Shayna says. “We couldn’t get our hands off each other.” Since getting married, though, Dan says the sex has dwindled. “In the beginning, we’d probably have sex a couple, or a few times a week,” he says. “Then that week turned into two weeks turned into probably two, three times a month.” Shayne is sad that her relationship has come to this. One of the biggest obstacles in Shayne and Dan’s sex life is that Shayna doesn’t like kissing, on the mouth or anywhere else. “It makes me feel repulsed,” she says. “It makes me feel disgusted, and it makes my skin crawl.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, Dan has started to take this personally. “It makes me wonder sometimes if it is me—if she’s just not into me, or if she’s not into me or turned on by me anymore or if I’m lacking somewhere,” Dan says. Dr Berman asks what would happen if she asked them to go kiss somewhere. Shayna wouldn’t want to. She wants to want to but doesn’t understand why she doesn’t want to. “Foreplay consists of Shayna having her vibrator and me sitting there pretty much waiting till she’s ready to have sex, “ says Dan. Dr Berman asks about manual foreplay or massage. That’s ok, she says, she likes massage. Dan says that his wife will barter for massage. “If I give her a massage, she’ll have sex,” Dan says. Dr Berman asks what else they barter for sex. “Just everyday things that I don’t like to do” says Shayna, like making their three children’s sandwiches or filling the gas tank. “It’s like, if I have to do a chore, then you have to do a chore.”
Back in the studio, Oprah says to Dan that hearing his wife say that she is repulsed by kissing, what does that feel like? Dan says it is the first time he heard that but it doesn’t make him feel good, he doesn’t know if it’s his looks… Oprah says “you’re cute”. “Thank you Oprah,” says Dan, ”you’re beautiful. We’ll talk,” says Dan. They laugh, Oprah says OK, later. Shayna hasn’t always hated kissing, she says. “I remember that person that I used to be, that couple we used to be, and I really didn’t understand what had happened over the years,” she says. Oprah says that is unusual- because she likes kissing, and most women do. But often women don’t want to kiss because it leads to foreplay. Dr Berman says that kissing is a big part of most women’s libido. Oprah says that the first thing that Dr Berman does with couples is to take a sexual history, just like a doctor would take your medical history. It took some digging to find what was at the core of Shqyna’s problems in the bedroom. There is always something.
“I grew up with just my mom and my sister, so there was no man in the house at all,” Shayna says. “I was 14 at the time I remember her meeting her husband now, and it was very difficult because I just remember them going on dates or her even just laughing with someone else, and I felt betrayed. … I felt like it was disgusting. I didn’t want to think about it. I was angry.”
Dr Berman asks if she can integrate being a mom and a sexual being, can she be both? Shayna says she doesn’t know how to integrate both being a mother and a sexual being. She wants to be able to do both. Dr Berman asks how her need to be seen as the perfect mom by those around her plays out in her sex life? Shayna is not able to let go and allow herself to be a sexual person. “I feel like I would destroy their worlds. Like they would think that’s disgusting or gross,” she says. “I don’t want to be responsible for them ever feeling mad.”
Dr. Berman says that Shayna is giving her kids everything that she didn’t have, and the reason that she was traumatized by her mom’s sudden sexuality was because you lost her. She asks if her kids will lose her? Never, says Shayna. “I’m not saying that any child should see their parents having sex or know the details of their sex life, but the best family structures, the best relationships that children experience, is the balance,” Dr. Berman says.
To allow your children seeing you being intimate, not having sex but kissing and touching and loving is the way that they grow up and apply that back to themselves says Oprah. “You’re their model of what a loving, intimate relationship is. So, you don’t want them knowing the details of your sex life, but to have a sense of the sensual and sexual chemistry between their parents is important.” Says Dr. Berman. What makes Shayna feel safe is her false sense of control of everything around her, including Dan, says Dr. Berman. Oprah says that a lot of women use having sex, or not, as a form of control.
After four hours of therapy, to start the work of getting intimate again, Dr. Berman gave Dan and Shayna two shared homework assignments. Assignment #1 was to spend 15 minutes kissing, with no sex. Assignment #2 was to spend time talking. Not about the kids or the roof or chores… Shayna thinks they’ll have nothing to talk about. They went out to dinner and talked about what they appreciate about each other and their fantasy vacation. They had a great time. Shayna has a foreboding feeling about the kissing homework. She tries to center herself to get out of the routine. Two minutes later they give up. “It was a big failure,” Shayna says. She doesn’t know if she should fake it because it still makes her feel gross and she doesn’t know how to get over that. Dan is frustrated because Shayna gave up so quickly.
Back in the studio, Oprah asks who initiated the kiss. Dan said that they went to the bedroom. Shayna says that “I was supposed to initiate the kiss when I was ready. He was holding me and right away I started to feel pressure because I felt out of control. I had this flood of emotion. I started to think about all of the things riding on this moment.” Oprah notes the control issue. “The way I soothe myself is I try to find things that I can control, so the only thing I can control is being a good mom, because that’s the story in my mind of who I am. That’s where I feel safe. … I thought about my kids, and then I felt disgusted and I couldn’t even lift my face up to his.” Dr. Berman says that they figured out that Shayna likes kissing but is afraid of being turned on by her husband. In her mind she feels that if she is turned on then her children will lose her, because that is what happens with her mom.
Shayna and Dan’s second homework assignment was to take a field trip with Dr. Berman. The strategy was that Dan will help Shayna confront her deepest fears. It will help with control issues and let her put more trust in Dan. She is asking them to climb the rock wall. “When I walked in and saw the rock wall and realized I was going to be climbing it, I thought I was going to faint,” Shayna says. Shayna said to Dan that she can’t do this either, she is ruining everything. Shayna tells Dr. Berman that she is really afraid of heights, she can’t even look at the climbing wall. Dr. Berman says this is a symbol of their relationship. Shayna is getting mad and scared and blocking out her husband and everything around her. She is going to let Dan literally support her. Dr. Berman says that it is ok to cry. Shayna is literally supported by her husband- Dan holds the harness so she can’t fall. Shayna and Dr. Berman climb the wall together. After a few steps, Shayna says that it is not as hard as she thought it would be. Dr. Berman tells her to let go, she cries, she holds Dr. Berman’s hand. She is afraid to come down. Dan gently lowers her down, and she hugs Dan at the ground. Dr. Berman says that the transfer of control to Dan is really important and healthy for their relationship and that this will translate into their sex life. Dan and Shayna kiss.
Shayna says that she feels really good right now, really free and that words can’t express how she feels. She did something that she didn’t think she could do. Before she was so afraid she couldn’t look at it, but now she sees after doing it that it is just a wall. “A wall is just a wall, a kiss is just a kiss” says Dr. Berman. She already gave me one, says Dan. She wanted to, this was something they did together, this was so cool, says Shayna.
Oprah asks what just happened. Dr. Berman says that when people are stuck emotionally, they talk but often finding a physical manifestation of the problem makes a connection for them. In Shayna’s case she had to put her trust in Dan and let go, and she didn’t fall, she actually let go. That is huge, says Dr. Berman. Of course not all their problems are solved but a huge lightbulb just went off. Oprah recaps that Shayna was repulsed a couple of days earlier, was she not thinking about the kiss? “It literally felt like a spiritual awakening. I had not been able to let go for so long, and physically letting go, I was able to see what was on the other side, and it felt like freedom,” she says. What is on the other side says Oprah? Freedom, I felt empowered, like a different person says Shayna. From letting go of a rockwall, says Oprah. Isn’t that amazing says Dr. Berman? Yes, where is that rockwall? replies Oprah.
Dr Berman asked them to repeat the kissing for 15 minutes assignment. Yesterday’s homework was an A+ says Dan, it went really well adds Shayna. Dr Berman asks why they are smiling. They had sex this morning says Shayna. You cheated says Dr. Berman. But I wanted to, says Shayna. She says that she’s feeling happy for the first time in forever and she wanted to live in this moment. Dr. Berman says that they might slip back a little now that they will go back to routine but she is thrilled that things are coming together so quickly for them. Oprah asks why they weren’t supposed to have sex. Because they had such a dysfunctional pattern of sex, it was about bartering- they were having sex but were not physically or emotionally together. Dr. Berman likes to take sex out of the equation in these instances so that the couple can build a renewed relationship. In this case, she would have been happy if they had kissed. She was surprised that there was enough of a release in Shayna that she could cheat on her homework. Oprah asks what was different this time. Shayna said she stopped seeing things through the eyes of her children. “I think I finally realized that I am allowed to be Shayna outside of mother. I’m allowed to be a wife,” Shayna says. “It doesn’t mean I don’t love my children, and it doesn’t mean I’m not going to be there for them. Just that physical release of control to me felt so empowering that I was able to let go.” Oprah asks if the sex was different this time… Dan nods. Oprah recounts that at the beginning of the show Dan said he would sit and wait while Shayna used the vibrator, so when she was almost at orgasm he would say ok I guess it is my turn. Right, says Shayna. How was it different? Dan said it started with a kiss straight after the wall, lots of kissing, lots of foreplay. Shayna was able to relax and enjoy it, be in the moment with the feelings. Dr. Berman says. “Their work is just beginning because they made this huge breakthrough, but now it’s about keeping the momentum going, especially now that they’re back in their regular lives and she’s back in mommy mode. That’s when the real work begins, to be able to keep the mommy mode going, feel good about that and to keep being Shayna and to keep being a wife.” Thanks so much to Shayna and Dan says Oprah, that was very brave of them to let us into their private life.
Last year the New York Times reported that married couples have sex 58 times a year—that’s a little more than once a week. They also found that 15 percent of people say they aren’t having sex more than ten times a year. On average, Dr. Laura Berman says sexless marriages are the number one problem she sees in her couples therapy practice. Linda and Doug say they’ve had sex only a handful of times over the past five years, and they’ve had no sex at all for the past two years.
Before Dr. Berman arrives at their house, Linda says that she is feeling a little nervous. Doug wants to make sure that they get something out of it. Linda is 39 and has been married for nine years to Doug and they have three children. There’s a connection with her husband that is lost because they are not having sex and they want to change that. “The dynamic of our sex life changed after we got married just because more things started getting into our lives,” Doug says. Linda says. “I feel like we’re living two separate lives caring for our three boys,” she says. “It’s hard to see the man that I originally fell in love with.” They chat with Dr. Berman in their bedroom. It’s been 2 1/2 years since they had sex. Doug feels removed from his wife. 2 1/2 years ago they conceived their third child. “I want to feel that he’s attracted to me, that he’s excited to be with me,” Linda says. “I questioned whether I was still attracted to Doug.” Doug says he’s questioned whether his wife is still attractive “It’s like she’s so worn down she’s just trying to get through the day,” he says. Linda is very concerned about the future. Dr. Berman says that they sit next to each other but it is almost like there is this invisible wall between them. They don’t touch, there is no physical connection happening. “If this doesn’t get fixed, I think our marriage is at stake” says Dug.
Oprah asks how the weeks turned into months turned into 2 1/2 years without sex? Doug says that you alllow yourself to focus on how busy you are and the kids and you stop talking and get separated from each other. You almost kind of lose track of how you did it,” Doug says. “Before it was so natural, so easy. We really wanted the connection.” Oprah asks if it was spoken of- yes, says Doug but it was an angry conversation. “When it was spoken of, it wasn’t productive at all,” she says. Dr. Berman says that there was a lot of blame and anger and they were both pointing fingers at each other. “When we spent time together, it was a lot of those logistics: ‘Who’s doing what? What do we have to get done?’ You know, kind of domestic stuff,” Doug says. Linda says that they ended up getting used to it.
Dr. Berman asks Doug how things work physically. He says that things still work but that Linda seems a little disinterested. Things still work but not at the level they used to. He finds that Linda seems critical of the process which is hard to deal with. Dr. Berman asks Linda about her sexual history. Linda cries and says that she has never told anyone this, Linda told Dr. Berman she had once been forced to have sex against her will. “I could have put him in jail, if I had told someone,” she says. “I was essentially raped.” She didn’t want to tell anyone that she was kissing someone and that this happened. She says that it feels incredible to tell someone. Linda says she’s never told Doug about her sexual past. “With Doug, it is just something I don’t want to do that often.”
Dr. Berman says that the rape and subsequent secret keeping was a big piece of what caused Linda to shut down and Doug had no idea what was going on. Rape changes a person’s relationship with sex, Dr. Berman says. “Your power is taken away, and it’s a major sexual trauma. So not to have told anyone, not to have had a chance to work through it in therapy, not to have had a chance to heal and be carrying that secret around, the weight of that secret—when she knows that that was part of what was making her hold back—that was part of what was helping her shut down.” When Linda finally told Doug about the rape, he says he had mixed emotions. “I was angry and empathetic at the same time. I was kind of back on my heels and wanting to be there and not sure what to do.”
Their first assignment from Dr. Berman was simply to touch each other. “They had to get naked. They had to spend like 10 to 15 minutes, each of them on the other. No genital touching. No breast touching. Not about arousal. Just about sensuality and touch,” Dr. Berman says. OK says Oprah, how did that work? Doug says “It was great because of the connection, but then our conversation at the same time, you know? It wasn’t about anything outside the bedroom. It was just us talking,” he says. Linda says that it was so nice to focus on each other and their relationship.
The couple’s second assignment was a step out of your comfort zone field trip to Tantric yoga. They are going to learn how to non-verbally support each other and learn techniques for getting on the same page. The only thing Doug knows about Tantric yoga is that it is supposed to be erotic. The Yogic version of having sex, the tantric yoga exercise was supposed to help Linda and Dough reconnect with themselves and each other. The instructor wants them to relax as they both carry alot of tension in their bodies. Ideally they will be able to see each other in the now and forget their bagage. They realize that their bodies have tension and tightness they carry with them daily. They let out a yell of all the last ten years’ tension. The yoga was awesome, they say. For their third assignment, Dr. Berman sent Doug and Linda to the Pump It Up Kids Zone. “The idea is to kind of bring you here to a place where we can let your silly side out a little bit and have some fun together,” Dr. Berman says. When you try something new and adventurous, it triggers the dopamine centers of the brain which is the part that lights up when you are in a new relationship in that initial stage when you cant get enough of each other. One way to stimulate that is to do novel exciting things together. “It was kind of neat to have a giggle,” Doug says. It made them feel connected to have a good time without the kids says Linda. The last field trip is to the G boutique, a sex shop filled with outfits, devices and aides for their sex life. Dr Berman tells them not to get too overwhelmed. They found it great fun to step out of their comfort zone, it was Doug’s favorite field trip.
Linda and Doug’s final exam: to have sex. “It took a little longer than we thought just because after those three intense days, we got into a pretty heated argument that evening,” Doug says. “I think some of the stress and stuff were hitting us, and we really had to reflect upon what Dr. Berman had told us about communication, how to talk. And, I think we got back to a good point when we went to bed, but we still hadn’t had sex yet.”
The next morning, Doug says he and Linda started cuddling and connecting. “Linda kind of jokingly said, ‘We really need to do our homework,’ and it was really inviting and connected, and so we did our homework, and it was great fun. It reminded me how that used to be with her, more than five, ten years ago. It was fantastic.” Dr. Berman says that as soon as she gives a couple permission to have sex they sabotage it- in this case with an argument. But what she thought was so cool was that therapy together gave them the tools to communicate and get through to the other side to feel closer to each other. Arguing is not bad, but you must use it as a tool in your relationship. Oprah says that after 2 1/2 years without sex, does doing it once give them a 6 month pass or do you re-engage. Doug says they are scheduling for it so they don’t fall back into old patterns. “I really found that knowing that it was scheduled, I was really looking forward to it.” Dr. Berman says that they have to schedule time for each other and time for sex because they have crazy schedules and have not been committed to each other in this way. Oprah asks if scheduling sex takes the romantic spontaneity out of it, but Dr. Berman says it’s necessary. “It’s a mind shift that you have to make because our instinct, our belief and the way we’ve been socialized, is that sex is supposed to happen spontaneously,” she says. “But in most of our lives, our crazy, busy, kid-ridden, mortgage-ridden lives, if you wait for it to happen spontaneously, it’s not going to ever happen.” If you can embrace the scheduling and get excited for it, then foreplay can start in the morning on those days. Oprah says that foreplay starts with men helping around the house, that is the most fantastic foreplay. The crowd applaud. “Put your dishes in the sink, play one,” says Oprah. Thanks for being so open lInda and Doug
Dr. Laura Berman’s new book “The Book of Love” is in stores now. Oprah points out Dr. Berman’s husband and says that she has heard that they have a great sex life. Dr. Berman says that she thinks that they do, she works hard on it, but that her husband sometimes says that she should practice what she preaches more on the relationship stuff. Her husband says that he is the luckiest man in America. Dr. Berman says that is why they have such a great sex life. Oprah says that she thinks that there must be alot of pressure to have a good sex life if you are Dr. Laura Berman. While they are here, Oprah wants to ask if they have taken the No Phone Zone Pledge? Dr. Berman says that she was hesitating because she doesn’t text but she does use her Bluetooth in the car. She is going to take the leap but it requires her to make some lifestyle changes. That’s what it is all about, lifestyle changes, says Oprah. Go to Oprah.com and take the pledge. Goodbye everybody.
WHAT WE LEARNED TODAY:
Problems in the bedroom always have a source somewhere else.
Parents are the model of what a loving, intimate relationship is to their children.
A wall is just a wall, a kiss is just a kiss; leave your baggage and see each other in the now.
The New York Times reported that married couples have sex 58 times a year.
To stimulate the dopamine centers of the brain which light up when you are in a new relationship and cant get enough of each other, do novel exciting things together.
A VERY QUICK SUMMARY:
In our crazy, busy, kid-ridden, mortgage-ridden lives, if you wait for sex to happen spontaneously, it’s often not going to ever happen.