Listeners bring their most important questions about love, sex, dating and relationships to Ken–and get his personal direct advice in Ken’s Q and A podcasts.
Once a month, Ken answers your personal questions about love, dating, sex and more. Today’s powerful questions include: I’m in a great marriage, but there’s no sex. Is that ok? How to use sexual fantasy to deepen erotic connection, and Is 22 years too big an age gap for a sustainable relationship?
Q&A With Ken: Expert Advice For All Your Questions About Love, Dating And Sex
What do you do if there’s a huge age difference between you and someone you’re interested in? And what about if you meet someone new and you really like them, but you’re just not sure you’re sexually attracted enough? I’ll be answering these questions and more in this Q and A episode of the Deeper Dating podcast so stay tuned.
Hello everybody and welcome to the Deeper Dating Podcast. I’m Ken Page and I’m a psychotherapist and a coach and the author of the bestselling book, Deeper Dating. And today I’m going to be answering your questions about attraction, sexuality, dating, romance, and love.
This week and every week I’m going to share the greatest tools and insights that I know to help you find love and keep it flourishing and heal your life in the process. Because the skills of dating are the skills of love and the skills of love are the absolute greatest skills of all for a wonderful life.
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I also just want to say that everything I share in this podcast is educational in nature. It is not medical or psychiatric advice or treatment. And if you’re experiencing any serious psychological symptoms, please seek professional help.
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Here is the first question.
Sexually Fantasizing About People You Don’t Know
Speaker 1: Well, this is a funny way of leaving a question, but it’s cool. My question is about if you’re making this transition to attractions of inspiration and you’re in process of this sort of slow build of finding someone beautiful. I’ve been listening to some of your podcasts because I’ve been in this experience.
What if you find yourself sort of sexually fantasizing about people that you don’t really know or that don’t represent that type of relationship, more than thinking about this new person.
So I sort of intuitively feel that it’s a process of adjustment like you’ve talked about, and it’s kind of normal that I would sexually fantasize during self-pleasure about attractions of deprivation-type people or hot people or something like that.
But I guess the anxiety is about whether my attraction will grow big enough to feel satisfying within the new relationship, which I sort of think can only happen with time. And I don’t really have the evidence or time yet because we’re apart for a while. But in the situation that it happens to be, we’ll be in different places for a while. So I think I just have to hold tight and wait and see.
But I’m just curious that I feel very intentional about this orienting towards this attraction of inspiration and this kind of warm feeling that I have toward the person and letting the sexual piece grow gradually. But I’m also just curious about these other fantasies that are more hot and what I’m used to. So I just wondered what you would say about that.
Transitioning Towards Attractions of Inspiration
Ken: Well, I love this question and thank you so much for your bravery in asking it. It’s fabulous and this brings up a number of very rich points.
The first thing I want to say is that I think that your approach is a really good one. You have warm feelings about this person, you’re excited by this person. Something feels like it’s growing and there is some spark and you are giving that space instead of just saying, “Nope, not enough.” You can’t make a spark where there’s no spark and it’s kind of a self-torture process to try to do that. But where there is a spark, there are things that you can do to help grow that.
And what you’re asking here is, “During masturbation, during self-pleasuring, I’m fantasizing, but I’m not fantasizing about this new person with whom I have warm and potentially growing feelings. I’m fantasizing about these hot people who maybe were actually attractions of deprivation instead of attractions of inspiration. Is that okay and are these new feelings going to grow for this person?”
First of all, I want to say, of course it’s okay. And if you put a cap on your desires that are other desires, that’s not going to be good for you. It’ll make you resent things and it’ll block the freedom of Eros and Eros has a quality of freedom in it that we just have to allow and enjoy and take pleasure in.
Cultivating a New Circuitry
At the same time, you are cultivating new circuitry, you are built and we can do that. This is what no one teaches us. Is that you can cultivate healthier sexual attraction circuitry. You can’t force it, but you can cultivate it. So what I would say is keep doing what you’re doing, but add in some other stuff.
Think about this new person and think, “Well physically, what would I like to do with this person? Are there ways that I would like to touch or be touched? Are there things that I would like to do?” Maybe you’ve got some wild fantasies that you feel great about doing with some hot person who is not a partner, but feel kind of awkward about sharing.
Maybe this stuff is kinky or it’s wild. And so you feel like, “Well, I could do this with a hookup or I could do it with someone I don’t really respect, but with someone I treasure and have these warm feelings with. I feel hesitant to reveal that.” But really, baby, that is where the fun comes in, is having your wild fantasies with someone you treasure and who treasures you. I mean, that’s just pure joy.
Cultivating the Seedlings of Turn-On
So what I would say is in your self-pleasuring, in your masturbation, let yourself also think, “What would I like to do with this person? What’s a wild fantasy?” And maybe the fantasy isn’t so wild. Maybe you’re just at the place where all you want to do is touch lips or who knows what? You might have some crazy fantasy about things that you’d want to do. Maybe you would want to look at this person naked, but not have to do anything. Maybe you would want this person to do something to you.
Let yourself cultivate these seedlings of turn-on with this new person and then those seedlings water themselves and grow. Then you can reach the point where you can actually do them with this person and share them with this person and that is very exciting. I am assuming there’s a spark here. If there is no spark here, as I said, it’s not kind to yourself to try to make a spark where there isn’t a spark.
Where there is a spark, you get the joy of playing with that spark and using your fantasy life to imagine things. Maybe not things that you would do quite yet, but just the act of pleasuring yourself and imagining these things is creating new neural and sexual circuitries.
That’s a great, great thing. So I think you’re really in a wonderful path – celebration for the fact that you are making a commitment to only, only cultivate attractions of inspiration.
The Sweet Spot Where Turn-On Meets Connection
I would say gradually, win yourself away from constant fantasizing about attractions of deprivation and bring the juiciest part of those fantasies to your current, new growing relationship without feeling like you have to force that. Allow yourself to play and experiment and be loose and find the sweet spots where turn on meets connection and warmth.
And when you do that, you’ll be cultivating this whole new circuitry that will serve you well in this relationship or in a future one. So thank you for that question. Let’s move on to the next question.
The next question didn’t come out clearly in the recording, so I’m just going to paraphrase it and it’s someone who said, “Ken, you tell us that you should really let yourself stretch past your previous points of I want nobody younger than this or older than this because if it’s a really wonderful match, that’s a really wonderful thing.” This person said, “You talk about four years or five years, what if there is a 22-year age difference?”
Here’s what I want to say about that. There are absolutely challenges that come with an intergenerational relationship, which that would be, but there are challenges that come with every relationship. And I do think that as long as you have your eyes open to what those challenges are and, as long as both of you have the character traits of honesty, availability, willingness to work on things, willingness to reveal who you are…
Character, Character, and Character
And did I mention honesty, I’ll mention it again….. and the ability to work on things and the commitment to work on things. As I often quote the advice columnist of Psychology Today, Hara Marano, she says there are three things that are the most important in determining the health or the quality or the viability of a relationship. And those are character, character and character. That is what I would say to you.
If you and your partner are willing to do the work, and I don’t know if you are 22 years older or 22 years younger, but if you are willing to do the work and if those basics are there and if there is not an unstabilized psychiatric disorder.
In other words, many people have psychiatric disorders, but if they address them and reach stabilization, well that’s a wonderful thing and that makes for a viable relationship when somebody can do that. And that there is no active addiction, there’s no abuse, there isn’t dishonesty, there are the things that really create a treasured relationship. Then I say, “Go for it!” That’s my advice there.
The next one I’m going to paraphrase as well. This is from someone who is over 18 but still very young, who is a gay man and who says, “I am looking for a soul filling deep connection and I’m having the hardest time in the world trying to find it. The apps have been incredibly disappointing. People say to me, ‘You’re too young, go out, have fun, play around, and you shouldn’t really be looking for this yet because you’re too young. Just have fun at this point.’ What do I do? I want a really deep relationship.”
Understanding What Matters Most
Well, what I want to say to this person is three cheers for you. Your depth is obvious and your sense of values are so obvious. And you know, I say all the time, some of us know from early on that we’re looking for an attraction of inspiration and we’re to do the work to find that and we don’t want anything else.
The rest of us have to find out the hard way because we chase things that feel like they’re love, but they’re really not love and they’re not attractions of inspiration. I want to acknowledge the loneliness of your road being so young and making this commitment, but I want to celebrate your amazing understanding of what matters most.
So what I would say to you is, and I’m hoping that your family is supportive of you, I would say to you that probably the best thing to do is to find those precious people who are kind of more values-based than a lot of the other people that you might meet online, and online can really be a trap, and I’ll talk about that more at another point.
But for now what I would say is maybe your a college, has a Gay-Straight Alliance, a GSA or an LGBTQ group. Definitely, definitely, definitely join that, assuming that you’re in college. There may be another LGBTQ young person’s group. If so, that’s a fabulous thing. Join it, join it, join it, get there. That is the best way to meet like-minded people.
Cut From the Same Cloth
Also, think about, and these are the same kind of pieces of advice that I would say to anybody of absolutely any age. Go to events with people who share your values, even if it’s a pain to get there. I want to, of course, remind you to be careful and safe in how you meet people and who you meet.
And what I would say is if your interests are, let’s say for example the arts or maybe sports or spirituality or anything, anything at all, see if you could find in-person groups with LGBTQ people who are a part of that.
Also, you can use your online life in a different way and you can look for groups on Facebook, and elsewhere, that include LGBTQ people who share your interest, maybe even a young LGBTQ people’s groups on Facebook and elsewhere.
So what I would say to you is your heart is in the right place and you, as you have said, you’ve already worked on identifying core gifts and one of your core gifts, I would say is, your deep understanding of what matters most. So three cheers to you.
To Rock the Ship or Not
Next, we have a very rich question about a wonderful marriage without sex. Here it is.
Nomita: Hi, Ken. My name is Nomita. My question is that I’m at a place, I’m married to my husband for now 20 years and we’ve definitely lost the bedroom spark for the last 10 years. My question is that with a lot of inner work, I’m in a very happy place and so is he. He’s evolved very well. We actually have amazing family dynamics with our two kids and us, but we have separate bedrooms.
The question is, is there any need to work on being in the bedroom, that intimacy, together? I frankly don’t see any reason to rock this ship that is amazingly moving forward in personal growth for both of us. Thank you for this opportunity, and I look forward to your answer. Bye.
Ken: Nomita, thank you so much for this brave question. It’s a fabulous one and I’m really glad to address it. I think that the research shows that 10 to 20% of marriages are sexless and I want to say first – you have created a family bond and a spousal bond that works and is beautiful.
You have articulated that the two of you have done a lot of work already in your own journey and that things feel beautiful for you both as a couple. So that’s amazing and kind of no words to really say what a big accomplishment that is and what a gift that is. Can a relationship be sexless and still wonderful? I really think the answer is yes, absolutely. That’s it.
The Sacred Pact
You had a sex life that was active for a decade. That means that this is not someone that you’re not attracted to or haven’t been attracted to. So somewhere there, there can be a spark and so many of us need to… Well, let me just back up for a second and say that a relationship can feel really good, but then when sex comes back or is added in, it feels even better.
It’s like this sacred pact that’s like this feeling that your most intimate, vulnerable personal parts are treasured by the other person. There’s this feeling of a bond, the cementing of the specialness of the bond that gets so reinforced by sex, by good sex, by connected sex. That might be a gift that your relationship still could use.
The thing about sex in a relationship is that we often get comfortable with our partners and our Eros gets domesticated. And Eros is like a spark that needs to jump a gap. There’s something edgy about it, there’s something raw and naked and something awkward that can go against the domesticated feeling and that’s why we love it.
That’s an interesting question, is how might it rock the boat? Is there an issue there that hasn’t been addressed or looked at? That might be something that you both might want to gently begin to talk about. Here’s another thing, whether or not you and your husband ever become directly sexual again, I would deeply encourage you to go for the sensual.
Adding a Sensual Touch
Do you hold hands when you’re in the car together? Do you hug? Do you cuddle? Do you stroke each other’s cheek or faces? Those little things are hugely, hugely sensual and erotic and capture so much of the message of, “Oh my God, you are truly precious to me.” And that message is just so nourishing for each of us to get from our partner. So what I would say Nomita, is add those things in. If they’re there already, maybe they could go even a little bit deeper. Maybe you hold hands already at times.
Maybe if you’re holding your husband’s hand, lift it up and kiss it and hold your lips there kind of conveying a message of what he means to you. Add in sensual touch because that often regrows the seedlings of Eros. If you had a sex life going on for 10 years, it is somewhere under there. So you might want to play with that gentle sensuality and see if the stirrings of Eros happen again.
Even if they don’t, that kind of cuddling and touching and sharing the message that this person is special and desirable to you and that you care intimately. That’s a message that you don’t want to lose because that’s a big part of the magic of a romantic relationship. Thank you so much for that question Nomita.
A Ring of Truth
So these are all the questions that we have time for today. I hope you have food for thought and I actually want to ask you right now to take a moment, all the listeners just take a moment. What related to you in this? Was there any message that had a ring to it that spoke to, as the Quakers say, spoke to your condition? Take a moment to think about that.
Whatever that message is, and maybe it wasn’t even something I said, but it triggered an insight for you. These insights, these moments where there’s a ring of truth, are precious. They are kind of our guideposts in our intimacy journey. So just take a moment to think about, was there one or more than one for you? I wish you all the best. Again, if you like what you heard, please do subscribe, leave a review, and I look so forward to seeing you on the next episode of the Deeper Dating Podcast.