Q&A with Ken: Expert advice for all your questions about love, dating and sex [E016]

What do you do if you keep ending up in relationships with people who don’t treat you right? How do you change that pattern once and for all? And how do you handle it if a relationship starts out great but after a few years just doesn’t seem like such a great match any more? And last but not least, how can you make your sex life more healing, deeper, and more exciting?

Listeners bring their most important questions about love, sex, dating and relationships to Ken–and get his personal direct advice in Q&A with Ken podcasts.

Once a month, Ken answers your personal questions about love, dating, sex and more. Today’s powerful questions are:

  1. I’m Tired Of Choosing The Wrong People. Help!
  2. What if your relationship started out great but doesn’t feel right for you now?
  3. How can you keep the excitement of early sex alive?

Episode Table Of Contents

Introducing our Q & A with Ken Sessions

What do you do if you keep ending up in relationships with people who don’t treat you right? How do you change that pattern once and for all? And how do you handle it if a relationship starts out great but after a few years just doesn’t seem like such a great match any more? And last but not least, how can you make your sex life more healing, deeper, and more exciting?

Welcome to the Deeper Dating question and answer episode where I answer your most personal, pressing questions about love, sex, and intimacy, and I do it in such a way that each one of you can apply these insights to the particulars of your own love life.

So stay tuned to the Deeper Dating podcast.

Subscribe on iTunes

Hello and welcome to the Deeper Dating Podcast. I’m Ken Page and every week I’m going to bring you the greatest insights, the most powerful practices and the most essential findings that I know for everyone who wants to find love and keep it flourishing and heal their lives in the present. Because the skills of dating are nothing more than the skills of love. And the skills of love are the greatest skills of all for a happy life.

If you interested in applying these ideas and the Deeper Dating Approach to your own intimacy journey, you can learn more about by classes and courses and upcoming intensives at deeperdatingpodcast.com. And by the way, if you like what you’re hearing here it would be a tremendous gift if you subscribed on iTunes and left me a review. So thanks so much for that.

I also want to say, last piece of housekeeping before we begin, that everything I share on this podcast is educational in nature. It’s not medical or psychiatric advice or treatment of any emotional, physical or psychological condition. And if you’re experiencing any serious psychological or psychiatric conditions, please seek professional help. And if it feels like a true emergency, please get emergency help right now. Your life is too precious to put at risk.

Question #1: I’m Tired Of Choosing The Wrong People. Help!

Tired of choosing the wrong people
Photographer: Rex Pickar | Source: Unsplash

So today is our Q&A episode. And our first question is from Danielle.

Danielle: Hi Ken, thank you so much for doing this podcast. They are just absolutely priceless for me right now. I’m going through a breakup. It’s going on for almost a year now. I’m 52, I’ve not really been able to sustain any kind of relationship. I’ve done a lot of work on myself but I end up finding men who my friends teased me are basically projects. I’ve only recently realized that very infrequently did they really care about how I felt. I think, in fact I’ve never ended it with anybody in a relationship with me because I spent all my time doing everything I could to make them happy. Which is a total re-creation of my childhood for sure. But my question is, how do I stop attracting these projects?

I’m losing hope. I’m 52. I don’t want to be single the rest of my life. I really long for a deep connection with someone but I am only meeting people who are really not good for me, who have not done any work at all, who are angry, and bitter, and blaming, and they accuse me of things. And I end up almost becoming their therapist while we’re together and I just can’t do it anymore. I don’t want this kind of relationship anymore. I want something so much more. So if you can make some suggestions for me, I would really deeply appreciate it and again I’m so very grateful for your podcast. My name is Danielle, thank you.

Attractions of Deprivation

Hi, Danielle, thanks for sharing with such vulnerability and bringing up such rich and important issues.

First, what I want to say to you is you have hit a bottom, you have reached a point where you’re not only saying I can’t do these kind of bad relationships anymore, you’re reaching a point where your intention is so clear that you want something better, something real, something lasting, something healthy, something that sits well with your soul, like the real deal and I hear your intention in that. And I think that’s wonderful.

You’ve also said a lot about yourself in this, and you’ve said a lot about the kind of people that you have been seeing and dating and in relationships with. And what you said about these kind of guys is that they are not generous, that they take from you, that your tendency to give matches their tendency to take and not only take blame and become really unkind. You have articulated what I call attractions of deprivation, which is good, because it’s like, when you would go to the post office and see the picture of the bad guys that you had to keep your eye out for, the more clear the patterns and the nuances of your attractions of deprivation are to you, the more clear, you’re going to be on catching them early on, and I hear you say, you don’t want those kind of relationships anymore.

The Four Step Process

So I want to walk you through the journey to be able to change your patterns. And I want to do this for everyone who’s listening as well. I’m going to take you through the journey that I teach in my book, and I teach in my intensive. And it’s a four step process. But we’re going to be talking about the first two steps. The first one is what are your Core Gifts? Because in every situation like this, it is so important to start out, recognizing the parts of yourself that have gotten stepped on in past relationships. Naming them, seeing their worth, seeing the gold in them so that you can dignify them, because that is the beginning of the unspooling of this whole kind of pattern.

So that’s what we’re going to start and I’m going to ask questions of everybody who’s listening that you can think about, kind of fill in the blanks questions to help you think about each of these points to help you transform your intimacy journey in some pretty wonderful, solid, healthy, good ways.

First Step: Naming Your Core Gifts

Core Gifts
Name your Core Gifts

The first step, and it’s the first step that I spend huge amounts of time with in my classes and in my book, is the naming of your Core Gifts. So what I want to say to you, Danielle, is that you’ve described a situation that could be considered kind of codependent, you give and give and you’re like the therapist for these people and they take and take and then they blame you and hurt you for not giving well enough or not giving enough etc. That would be what would be called codependency. But what I want to say about codependency is codependency has gotten a really bad rap, and I think that people frame the generosity, which I believe is the Core Gift at the heart of codependency.

People frame that generosity in a pathologizing way like you shouldn’t be so generous. That’s not true. You’re generousness, your generosity is holy, it’s you, it is a Core Gift.

Recognize Your Fabulous Generosity

The issue is that if you don’t know how to honor it as a commodity that’s rare in this world, and precious, something beautiful, something that you should love – if you don’t know that you will keep drawing people like this into your life. The place where you give without awareness of boundaries is exactly the place where you will draw people who take without awareness of boundaries.

So the first step is to recognize this fabulous generosity. Don’t think that’s something to be ashamed of, because it’s not, it is your treasure. When you know that, when you dignify that quality, when you begin to name it, honor it, and think who in my life values it and gives the same back, that’s your tribe, that’s going to be the kind of guy you want to date, that’s going to be the kind of friends you want to have. Because if you try to dampen or put down your generosity, this wonderful, wonderful gift, so that you’re more kind of appropriate or not codependent, you will be robbing your soul of oxygen, robbing your being of oxygen.

You need to be able to be that generous, generous person who has so much to give. But you need to learn to listen to the part of you that says, “I don’t feel so good, because I’m not getting, I’m being deprived I’m not being given to.”

Look for guys who also have an innate quality of generosity

So what I want to say to you first is to honor your generosity, it’s gold, there’s no two ways about that. But from now on, what you want to look for is only guys who also have an innate quality of generosity, that’s it, period, the end. And that’s how we begin to learn to date differently. So for everyone who’s listening, what I want to say to you is to think about what are the parts of you that in past relationships that you feel were stepped on, milked, taken advantage of – take a minute and just think of one or two of those qualities.

Those are Core Gift places. Unfortunately, because we get treated that way, we learn to be ashamed of those parts instead of championing them and dignifying them and making much, much better choices until we treasure those parts of ourselves. Your loyalty, maybe some of you that has been stepped on, your generosity, your truth telling whatever those qualities are, the first stage is to name them and to honor them.

Second Step: Look At Your Attractions

The second stage is to look at your attractions. And what I would say is Danielle, it’s like a mold. If you put a plaster mold around something, it takes the opposite shape, it takes the opposite shape, whatever it is, that you are taking a mold of. If you are taking a mold of something that is convex, like bulging outwards, the mold will be concave, it’ll be bulging inward. The powerful, powerful thing here is those core gift attributes of all of us, the way we treat them, defines who we are attracted to, and who’s attracted to us, but particularly who were attracted to in very deep ways. So there is a process here where your generosity has been enslaved, has been colonized, has been milked, has been taken advantage of. And then you’ve been stepped on.

As you begin to treasure that quality, watch what happens. And I say this to everyone with whatever qualities you identified, it’s really true. As you begin to dignify those qualities, little by little, your sexual and romantic attractions are going to change, Danielle, you’re going to start losing your taste for those guys. But slowly, not quickly. It’s like a stepping stone process, don’t think it’s going to end immediately.

But as Marianne Williamson said, and I love this quote, “the problem is not that you’re attracted to guys who don’t treat you right, the problem is you give them your number.” So I think that’s a really, really key point.

In this second stage, we learn to only choose people with whom these qualities feel safe and valued, period, the end, nobody else. When we make that choice, everything begins to change.

Create Change

So Danielle, you want to make that change, those are some of the steps that you do that with an easy one of you who’s listening. Now think about the qualities, the attributes that you described, what if you made a pact with yourself, that from now on, you’re going to only look for, and only to continue to pursue people with whom those parts of you feel safe, seen and valued and reciprocated?

The last thing I want to say is that to create change, like we’re talking about, which is characterological, deep and profound change is conceptual, it sounds easy. In its macro level, it’s very simple but when it comes to the nitty gritty of dating, and meeting people, and early dating, and later dating, and all of that, we still get stuck in our own patterns, no matter how fabulous the idea and I think these are life changing. The important ideas that really work, no matter how well they work, if you don’t have a support team, it’s going to be too difficult to make these changes on your own in almost every case.

So Danielle, what I encourage you to do is, if you’re reading the book, Deeper Dating, get a learning partner, because it’s a course in a book to help you with making this huge change.

Get involved in support groups

Or you might want to be in one of my groups or my intensive, or there might be another teacher whose work really resonates with you, who has a community of learning. Follow those people, get involved in getting that kind of support, because it’s really essential. We’re like rubber bands left to our own devices, we shrink to our most comfortable small state, we need to be held out in a consistent way to something bigger and better if we’re really going to create characterological change.

Therefore, what I want to say is, even if it’s none of the things I mentioned, even if it’s just a wise and caring friend, with whom you say, this is my intention, I don’t want to date guys who take advantage of my generosity. In fact, I only want to take guys who are innately generous themselves. And I want to be able to feel good about these parts of myself and give them freely and with joy, because that’s how I’m built. And I can only do that with someone who does the same.

Everyone who’s listening, think about the qualities you mentioned, how could you do the same with those qualities, because for you to be happy, you need to be able to express those parts of yourself, not hold them back in a stingy way because the world doesn’t get them. You want those precious people who do get those qualities. So that’s my last piece that I want to say – get support because it’s too hard to make these kind of changes on our own. Thank you, Danielle.

Question #2: What if your relationship started out great but doesn’t feel right for you now?

Your relationship doesn't feel right
Photographer: Everton Vila | Source: Unsplash

Here’s the next message from an anonymous caller.

Anonymous Caller: Hi Ken, I’m a few years into a relationship that I thought was originally one of inspiration. I assumed that my deep wounding was my shame around my health. This man loves to love in a big way and care for me which drew me in, originally. But I’m not all that inspired by him. His politics are different and that’s a turn off to me. And he’s not really my type in a lot of ways. He’s a big talker but not terribly ambitious or successful. He’s only 62 and wants to retire and work part-time but doesn’t really have the financial means to do that. So I think that is also stressing me out.

So my question is, I’m wondering if maybe that was not my wounding, perhaps? Or did I just not pick up the right guy or get more specific about who I wanted to be involved with? And the other option is that I have a history of being very critical and being the person who leads relationships and so I’m open to that also being an option too. So I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.

Questions to ask yourself

Well, this is such an important question in so many ways and has a universal quality. A few pieces here. One piece is, what do you do in a relationship that started out really nice, feeling really new, really healthy, and then you find that you’re just not happy in it, or maybe you’re happy in some ways, but troubled and unhappy in other ways?

Another part of this is, what if you’re struggling with, “Is this me? Am I being too critical? Am I being too sensitive?” versus, “These things bother me. I feel troubled by this and that feels real”, that kind of complexity about which side should you land on?

I’d like everybody to take a minute to think about that. Have you ever been in that kind of situation in a relationship, both of those pieces where a relationship seemed really good at the beginning, but then you began to experience dissatisfaction that felt significant?

The other question, that struggle between am I being too sensitive, am I being too critical, or is this a valid concern?

Notice what it is that’s bothering you

I want to share a few thoughts about what to do in this kind of situation, a few steps, and there are four steps that we’re going to go through that are very empowering and very healing.

First step, notice what it is that’s bothering you and don’t begin by thinking, “Am I being too critical?” Begin by holding your criticism, the things that bother you, let’s say, better than criticism, in a way that doesn’t chain you to those feelings. Assume that if these things are bothering you, maybe you’re skewing them in a negative direction, maybe you’re misinterpreting some things, but there probably really is something here to bother you. The first step really is to honor that because if you squelch that, a few things will happen. You will shame yourself for your own gut and intuition. The other thing that will happen is you’ll become angry, and many of us who have had a history of seeing things, especially in our family that no one wanted us to talk about, become, what I call, angry truth tellers.

Start out by validating the truth

The truth burns inside us, and we feel we need to say something, but it’s laced with a kind of anger because it’s been suppressed for so long. We want to honor the truth, and I encourage you to honor the truth of those things, those exact things that bother you, which, to me, all make sense. They all seem valid.

For each one of you who’s listening, if you’re in a situation like this, start out right now by validating the truth. It makes sense that I feel this way because … It’s rational that I feel this way because … When you do that, that inner child space will begin to calm down because it won’t be told that it’s being crazy. Again, when we try to outsmart our intuition, it either goes into hiding and bites us in the butt or it becomes strident in a way that is alienating or both. Step one, honor the validity of what’s bothering you.

Look for the gifts

Step two, look for the gifts. For you, I would encourage you to look for your gifts in this. You are talking about a quality of ambition inside of you, a kind of financial responsibility. I’m assuming and imagining that those are parts of who you are, honoring those, honoring the fact that you have allowed yourself to be cared for in this relationship, which is a wonderful thing because receiving is a huge and deep intimacy capacity and an essential one, and also see the gift in your truth telling, in the awareness that you have and the validity of your intuition, and then see the gifts in your partner.

You have described somebody who’s absolutely, unequivocally got a big heart and is caring and loving and has cared for you. Those are beautiful things. Allow yourself to list those qualities in your head. That’s a great act today, a wonderful thing to do, so allow yourself to do that. Everybody, think of a person with whom you’re having a dilemma like this, and allow yourself to just list in your head their deepest qualities.

Stop trying to work it out in your own head

When you’ve done all of that, there is a completely essential next step, and that is to stop only trying to work it out in your own head. Now it’s time to work it out in the relationship because relationships are dynamic things, and we are dynamic beings, so we change, and the glory of relationships is that we change because of the relationships. If you’re trying to work this all out in your head, it will become stagnant, it will become convoluted, it’ll be like an ingrown toenail of your brain and your thinking and your heart. It is meant to have oxygen for a few reasons.

1. You got to hear what your partner thinks because your partner might have opposite concerns that will blow your mind, like, “Wow, I didn’t realize I was doing this.”

2. Your partner needs to hear what hurts you, what’s not meeting your needs, what concerns you.

Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean

Of course, the rule is say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean. Take some time to think about why this matters to you. Maybe you came from a family where there was lack of financial responsibility, and so it’s a tender spot for you, a vulnerable spot. Maybe it’s because you’re concerned that you might have to be taking care of him and you don’t want to be doing that. You want someone who can take care of themselves. See what it is, but see if you can frame things in an “I” way, huge rule feedback. We often think that the “you” is more powerful, but let me tell you the “I” is more powerful.

Someone hears, “You’re not being responsible,” and they shut down. They circle their wagons. No one wants to hear that. It’s a horrible feeling, and you circle your wagons and you shut down around it. Even though it feels like a powerful thing to say to someone, what you get is a defensive block from the other person, whereas, if you said, “I feel scared that I’m gonna need to support you,” for example, that’ll go in, they’ll hear that. ‘I statements” actually have a tremendous amount of power, but the main point here is do not try to work this out in your head.

Give yourself, your partner, and the relationship the gift of letting this become an evolving process because you and your partner need to be talking about this stuff in such a way that you create a shared language around your conflicts, and that’s a good and wonderful thing to do. Big, big piece here is don’t think you need to work it out just in your head.

Has there been enough healing in you?

The final thing I want to say, and this is just a question, is you spoke about your woundedness, wound of shame, around health conditions that you have, and I’m wondering if there’s been enough healing in you, emotionally, spiritually, partly even because of your partner, where that now is less of an issue, where you don’t need someone who is going to take care of you because you feel more healed and more ready to take care of yourself. If that’s so, you are changing.

Your partner might be someone who gets their greatest sense of empowerment by giving. If so, they might feel dis-empowered, your partner might feel dis-empowered, as well. This could be a sea change period in the relationship, and, too often, people end relationships because they say, “We both changed,” without having done the rich, ongoing, complicated, struggling, but wonderful work of changing together.

Those are my thoughts. Good luck in taking these steps, and each one of you, good luck, in taking these steps. The first, honoring your experience, noticing the gifts in you and your partner, and then trying to work it out gradually, caringly, kindly, in real time.

Question #3: How can you keep the excitement of early sex alive?

Keeping the excitement of early sex alive
Photographer: Val Vesa | Source: Unsplash

The next question is from Steve.

Steve: Firstly, I want to say that I’m a big fan of yours, Ken and I’ve enjoyed your insights and wisdom over the years.

My new wife and I, we’ve known each other for about six months, and we have an absolutely fabulous sexual relationship, but just recently I’ve started noticing that we are beginning to get a little bit used to each other. Do you have any tips for maintaining that spontaneity and excitement that we had for the past six months or at least keeping it as alive and prolonging it for as long as possible. Or do you think that it’s inevitable that it will fade and we’ll just have to resign ourselves to it being less inspiring and important in our lives? Thank you, Ken.

There is a calming down that happens after a while

Steve, this is a great and important question. We’re going to talk about this now, and I hope that some of the information is helpful to anybody in a new relationship, or also there are some very important universal pieces to this as well.

Steve, from what I understood, you have known your wife for only six months, and in that time, you’ve gotten married. This is a really, really new relationship, and you guys haven’t stopped moving yet. Getting to know each other, knowing each other, getting married, joining your lives together, in half a year, that’s a lot. It’s going to be exciting and thrilling, and those kind of thrills can create sex that is incandescent. That’s fabulous, and may you continue to have that kind of sex, but there is a calming down that happens after a while, and that calming down requires the development of different sexual circuitry, and we’re going to talk about that.

There are three questions that each of us can ask ourselves, and they’re three fabulous questions about sex to help deepen our sex life, make it more exciting, and also make it more healing in very profound ways.

Question #1: What makes you feel safe in sex, and what makes you feel unsafe in sex?

The first question is this. What makes you feel safe in sex, and what makes you feel unsafe in sex? This is a really important question and something very deep to think about. We often don’t think of safety in terms of sex, and I don’t just mean unsafe sex or sex that can hurt you. I mean a deep sense of emotional safety. That’s a really important thing, and when this wild thrill of newness calms down, you might notice more ways in which you and your partner either feel safe or unsafe. That’s a rich question for everybody to think about.

Question #2: What moves you and touches you in sex?

The second question is, and this is a deep one, what moves you and touches you in sex? In this calming down that happens, we touch a deeper level of being, and in that deeper level of being, we can deepen and enrich and widen our sex life by thinking what kind of pacing, what kind of ways of being touched, what kind of ways of touching each other, what kind of ways of holding each other make me go into that place where there’s this dropping down into a deep sense of bonding, intimacy, being moved, maybe being moved to tears? That happens sometimes in sex.

What enables me to go into that deeper, deeper space? That’s a rich and important question that is huge, and what happens is sometimes, because you both are still getting to know each other in many ways, there sometimes needs to be a period of re-calibration. When you make a deeper commitment often, the sex doesn’t match up with the emotions right away. The emotions are scared all of a sudden as things become more real, to connect with this wild sex.

There’s a process of re-calibration where we often feel a sense of sexual discomfort or lack of turn-on, and it’s often because our heart is trying to catch up with our genitals. These are some rich things to think about when it comes to the issue of enriching your sex life, not just making it more exciting or keeping the excitement up, but bringing the depth up to match the excitement.

Question #3: What really turns you on?

The third question is what really turns you on? That’s a rich and important question, too, for you and your wife to be able to speak about together. What are the secret things that really turn you both on? That’s a gift also to be able to talk about.

What I think you might want to think of this as, Steve, is an enriching and maturing part of your sexual and intimate relationship with your wife.

That’s all the time we have for questions. I hope these answers were helpful and supportive and help each one of you think about your own intimacy journey, and I look forward tseeing you next week on the Deeper Dating Podcast.