Category: Couples

The 21-word, 5 stage apology that will simplify your life.

Someone recently asked me what the best qualities were to look for in a potential partner. How do you know that when the chemistry wanes (9 to 15 months after you first hook up), that this person is worth the time to invest in a potential relationship? What should you really look for in a person you want to spend your intimate life with?
When you read some of the women’s magazines there is often a check list ranging from being a good provider to owning a toolbelt. For the men I speak to in my therapy sessions, most are “looking for a kind, friendly, sane woman who likes sex, and isn’t boring.”

When I ask groups at large about the best qualities I get responses like; “being great in bed, having an amazing body, Intelligent conversation, sense of humour, drive to achieve things, or great hygiene”. Although those things are important, (sometimes very important), I think self-awareness and a willingness to shift is the number one quality for a potential partner to have.

What I mean by self-awareness is the emotional faculty to see where you are wrong and do something about it. What I do know about relationships after 25 years as a shrink is that if you don’t own your share of a problem and sweep things under the rug you are destined to keep making the same mistake repeatedly.

Everyone screws up. It’s taking responsibility for your behavior and owning your share that gives you the ability to weather life’s challenges as a couple. An unqualified apology and a real desire to fix things is what I try and help clients understand during therapy. Things change. And life is sometimes hard. Being able to reflect and manage your mood is what makes us grown-ups.

The challenge comes if your reality doesn’t see your behavior as out of line. That takes some reflection, someone to bounce things off, and understanding patterns in your previous relationships. If it happened once it could be a personality conflict, if it happens more than once look at who is the common denominator.
It’s easy to wish problems away. It’s harder to know that sometimes your responses aren’t getting you the results that you are looking for.

One of the main tools I suggest using in therapy is an unqualified 5 stage apology. If you get a real, genuine apology and not a deflection then the other person has two choices as to how to respond. To forgive you or to throw you under the bus. A five-stage apology looks like this.

1. Clear regret
2. Understanding how your actions has hurt the other person
3. Making a plan so that it won’t happen again
4. Offering restitution
5. Saying the words.

It’s hard to remember all of that. My brilliant husband teaches how muscle memory practice helps you respond rather than react when you are trying to remember something important. I’ve got the 5 stage apology down to 21 simple words.

Here it is:
I’m sorry. I was wrong. (or moron, idiot, dick etc.) I know I hurt you. It won’t happen again. What can I do to fix this?

It allows you to move forward and come up with a solution. It gives you a starting point to fix ongoing issues. It doesn’t change personality issues or have people become something they are not. But it does allow you to move on core issues in relationships. And that’s worth apologizing for.

Non-Monogamy four week workshop starting July 30th, 2018

You can read definitions online of what swinging, or polyamory might be outlined as. But what do they really mean?
We have a new non-monogamy course starting later this month. It’s like being in the best class you have ever attended where everyone has read the book and participated. Read below for details.

The non-monogamous clients tend to be couples in long-term relationships who don’t want to split up but are desperate for more or different sexual experiences and partners. And there is no one-size fits all.

Examples of non-monogamy can be:
~Living with a third (or triad) and how do you deal with that?
~Two couples connecting with each other (quad)
~Heterosexual couple Bringing in an extra male (hot wife)
~Swing clubs where everything from gentle touching on the dance floor to full blown orgies (and everything in between) happens
~Polyamorous. Means to love more than one person. But can be someone who is married and has a girlfriend/boyfriend or more.
~Alternative relationships in all kinds of ways. Asexual while one partner has other sexual interactions, monogamous but in different cities.
~One relationship two dwellings. Or having their own dedicated space within a dwelling.
~Friend with benefits for an occasional hook up
~periodic hall passes.
~Group family or commune.

And so many more examples.
Trying to navigate it is hard. Consider joining us for a small group starting a few weeks from now. It’s the tool kit for managing non-monogamy without blowing your relationship up. It is great if you can join us in person but easy of you need to video in.

Monday July 30, Monday Aug 13th, Monday Aug 20th, Monday Aug 27th 7-9(ish) pm
81 Pooler Ave. Very limited enrollment. $400/couple, $200 individual.

1. Intros, purpose of workshop, specific models of non-monogamy, ways of finding one’s own voice.

2. Specifics of sharing, Jealousy (Swing, poly and other non-monogamous forms). Rules, what works, contracts etc. Non-Monogamy checklist. What is the wish lists and deal breakers

3. What do you need/want. How do you negotiate that? How do you ask for it and how do you find it? Sharing and tools for understanding boundaries.

4. Group discussion about finding potential partners. A chance to practice skills and role play in a safe way. Stories about successful (and not-so-successful) models of play.

An informal social has happened in the past with the group and will be organized later following the completion of the workshop.

Sign up single $200





Couple sign up $400





The top 5 things you can do to improve your relationship in 2018

Every year researchers come up with new studies that outline the best way to stay connected with your significant other. Much of the advice seems like common sense. But even as a Sex and Relationship Therapist I have to remember to be mindful and find time to really focus on my partner with these ideas.

1. Stay positive:
“It’s not surprising that the more positive a person is, the more likely they’ll be happy in their relationships. What’s interesting is just how much it matters.
In a study from the University of Chicago, researchers found that when a husband has a high level of positivity, there’s less conflict in his relationship. Likewise, the way partners respond to each other’s good news matters too. In a study published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that the way couples react to each other’s good news—either with excitement, pride, or indifference—is crucial in forming a strong bond.”

2. Have a life outside of your partner:
Not only is it important to have something interesting to talk about at the end of the day, outside friendships can help reinforce the couple connection. This doesn’t mean losing emotional intimacy with your husband or wife. It just means that married couples have a lot to gain by fostering their relationships with family members and friends. The happiest couples, she says, are those who have interests and support “beyond the twosome.”

3. Have fun together and do new things:
I (along with my amazing husband) started a date night group a number of years ago called The Ducklings. If you are anywhere near Eastern Ontario then come on out and join us. What kept coming up was the need for fun ideas to keep things exciting. It’s really easy to get in a rut. Doing things that are out of your comfort zone together creates hard-to-break bonds. This also means just having fun together. Research from The University of Denver shows that couples who make time for fun activities tend to stay together longer:
“The more you invest in fun and friendship and being there for your partner, the happier the relationship will get over time,” says Howard Markman, a psychologist who co-directs the university’s Center for Marital and Family Studies.
“The correlation between fun and marital happiness is high, and significant.”

4. Make time for great Sex:
Yes I think sex is critical for relationships. Life can get in the way of being sexy. And as partners feel pushed away they are less likely to initiate. And sex starts to feel awkward. Being able to communicate about what your sexual needs are and asking for what you need sexually is something I often facilitate between spouses in my office.
“Anthony Lyons, a study co-author and research fellow at La Trobe, said the main lesson from the study is that couples need to learn how to communicate about their sexual needs or their reasons for not wanting sex.
“Couples need to talk about the frequency of sex,” Dr. Anthony said in an e-mail. “Talking openly about sex and finding a middle ground with regard to frequency appears to be very important for overall sexual and relationship satisfaction.”
It might seem silly to do something like scheduling time for intimacy, but it’s important to open up the dialogue about your sex life to dedicate some time to just be with each other.”

5. Communication and The division of labour:
Communication can be all important when it comes to impacting the relationship. I have a rule with my clients that they have to learn to talk about issues holding hands and maintaining eye contact. It helps. Understanding that if you can maintain your clam and learn to fight fair (here are the rules) then it goes a long way to settling the differences between couples.
Stop fighting about money, and quit talking about big issues by email or text.

Good communication takes effort, it’s hard, and it doesn’t always go smoothly. But when you let small things fester and don’t communicate, problems arise. Studies show that it’s usually money that causes this rift, but every relationship has its own set of issues that need to get worked through.

“Quit hashing out problems over text messages: Technology has a knack for disrupting relationships, but one study pinpointed that couples who deal with fights over text have a lower relationship quality. This means couples who used text messages to apologize or work out differences instead of having face to face conversations tended to report unhappiness. That said, positive texts like the occasional “I love you” are still great, just stop trying to work complicated things out over SMS.”

Finally, don’t be a dumbass when it comes to sharing the work load. I hear about how exhausted the women who visit my office are feeling. Some of it is self-inflicted in that they want to entertain perfectly or have a Marth Stewart Christmas. But many of them are working full time and then come home to another full time job cooking, cleaning, shopping, child care etc. Feeling overwhelmed and tired is one of the top reasons women are less interested in sex.

Contribute to the household chores: In a small scale study, UCLA researchers tracked the lives of several relationships over the course of 4 years. Their conclusions? Couple who have a system to handle household chores and who evenly disperse those chores are a lot happier. So, when you’re significant other makes the suggestion that you do the dishes now and again, just do it.

Casino Royale with the Ducklings! Dress as your favorite Bond character!

Update! While this event has passed (and it was epic) we hold three events a week. Come be a Duckling!
We are a group of people trying not to turn into their parents, have fun, and stay sexy. We also have built a community of safe, kind, fun friends. Come join us!

Shaken not stirred.
We are having a Casino Royale style party in January to pretend we are all out of a Bond movie. We will get dressed up, play blackjack and roulette (with monopoly money), win prizes and drink sophisticated drinks, and dance like crazy fools (as Ducklings like to do) all while pretending to have gadgets on our watches. Save the January 23rd, 2016 date. We sorting out a special Duckling martini with Lutz, the Duckling bartender! The location is just east of Parkdale between Gladstone and Wellington.

Where else do you get to wear long gowns and gloves (with nothing underneath) or pretend you are the villain Jaws and show off your silver teeth. You can always dig up the tuxes if you have them and be the best dressed guy in the room.

It should be a blast! A great way to work out the winter blahs. This is a 3.5 duck event. Tickets will be $20 each and available on the site at www.sexwithsue.com/duckling-events. We will sell out and you NEED TO BUY YOUR TICKET! RSVP’ing yes isn’t enough. Website, Email transfer (and in a few pre-arranged cases you can pay at the door).

Spring courses, Why love is not enough, and new ideas to keep-it-hot

I interviewed Gretchen Rubin, the author of the Happiness Project and happiness expert a few years ago for my radio show. She offered advice like “make sure you make your bed” and “think about trying meditation” as small things you can do to increase happiness. Happiness needs health, career, and community in order to thrive. But before all of that most people define happiness “as directly related to the quality of their intimate relationships”. How many times have you heard the adage “happy wife, happy life” this summer alone? When you have a great relationship the sun shines brighter, food tastes better and we have a bounce to our step. The challenge is that intimate relationships take a ton of work. Hopefully much of that is fun to do. Gottman’s much quoted research about how to predict a couples eventual divorce with 96% accuracy suggests there are a few things not to do. Those include criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and disengaging. But he also suggests that what works is defusing the stress of the day.What’s the most powerful little exercise to improve a marriage? “Reunite at the end of the day and talk about how it went.” The goal is to bleed off stress from the day so it can’t negatively affect your relationship.

So call out your partner. My challenge doesn’t include a bucket of ice. It’s short, medium and long term work this fall. Make a 21 day commitment to check in with your partner at the end of the day NO MATTER WHAT. Do it by skype if you have to. Consider taking a relationship course. I’ve got the gentle “keeping it hot” PG-13 version as well as the x-rated version listed below. If not mine, then find a tantra, or salsa class you can take together this fall. Finally, commit to getting away for a weekend. Relationships absolutely require uninterrupted, intimate time. Your happiness depends on it.

Couples Workshop on intimacy, keeping it hot, and romance

workshop10
The new workshop starting this spring

One of the most common questions I get asked from clients is how do you keep up the passion? Especially for people who have been together for a long time. Finding out what’s new in sex, and exploring things you may not have tried is the theme of this new workshop. So if you are asking questions like; What if we want to try something a little more risqué? or How do we try it with grace and integrity? then you may want to consider this workshop for singles and couples. Sex Therapist Sue McGarvie and her husband Blaik Spratt are presenting a 4 week workshop on outlining all of the mild and wild things you can do to create a smoking hot relationship- all without stepping on relationship landmines. This is for couples (and singles) that know they want to ignite the passion within and to learn about new sexual experiences in a safe, professional atmosphere. Sue McGarvie (sex with Sue) has been talking about sex in Ottawa for close to 25 years. Along with her husband Blaik, they can be your tour guides into what might be the best way to safely spark up your love life.

Find out how amazing your sex life could be this September with topics that include:
What turns you on?
Where are you on the sexual continuum? Where is your partner and what does it all mean?
What is your Love Language and how does your sweetie feel loved?
Sensual touch and Tantric sex.
Burlesque, body image and how to move in a sexy way.
Read More

Why simply being in love isn’t enough to make relationships stick

I tell my clients that simply “being in love” isn’t enough to fix all of their problems. Unfortunately, love doesn’t conquer all. With a 52% divorce rate in this country, couples need more tools besides love in order to make relationships sustainable. Things like attraction, similar interests and values, support systems, courtesy and acceptance. You can go to your grave loving someone but if you can’t live with them the relationship is doomed. So what can you do? There is a great article by Mark Manson talking about why this adage is oh-so-true.
Manson calls them three harsh truths about love:

1. Love does not equal compatibility. Just because you fall in love with someone doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a good partner for you to be with over the long term. Love is an emotional process; compatibility is a logical process. And the two don’t bleed into one another very well.
Read More

The Ethical Hedonist 2. From Jealousy to BDSM The advanced workshop.

This workshop is for couples who wish to learn and understand the dynamics in enhanced sexual relationships. This course is also recommended for couples who want more information beyond an introduction to what is out there to experience. So if you are asking questions like; How do I bring up and possibly negotiate expanding our sex life to include new forms of play? and If we do walk that path, how do we maximize the experience while minimizing the risk?, then this may well be for you. (There is no requirement to take EH1 before EH2)
Find out how amazing your sex life could be this spring with topics that include:
Week 1 Jealousy, insecurities, anxiety about alternative sexual adventures. Negotiating sexual experimentation, and understanding interpersonal dynamics.
Read More

Sue McGarvie,

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