What is self validated intimacy and its relationship to passion?

I love this excerpt from an interview with sex therapist David Schnarch.


Q: What exactly do you mean by intimacy?

A: Intimacy involves self-confrontation and self-disclosure in the context of a partner.

In 1991, my first book …. pointed out the difference between other-validated intimacy and self-validated intimacy.

Other-validated intimacy requires your partner to validate and accept all your disclosures.

Self-validated intimacy involves validating what you say when your partner won’t.

Most couples-and most therapists-confuse getting acceptance, validation, and understanding from your partner with the process of intimacy itself.

The problem is that other-validated intimacy allows the partner with the least desire for intimacy to control their partner’s disclosures and the level of intimacy in the relationship.

We all want to be validated, but our dependence on it leads to what I call the “tyranny of the lowest common denominator,” and destroys passion, eroticism, and desire in emotionally committed relationships.

This is why I said earlier that our capacity for self-soothing and self-validation determine our tolerance and capacity for intimacy.

Q: What’s the relationship between profound intimacy and passion?

A: What really turns you on is personal and unique, like your thumbprint.
People who can’t validate their own eroticism hid it in their most important relationship, and passion always suffers.
When you’re capable of self-validated intimacy, you can let yourself be known at a very profound level-including what you really like sexually and daring to try out new things.
You stop worrying about your partner’s reaction and become deeply engrossed in the sexual drama unfolding with him/her.
This involves more than just “getting into sex” and getting the sex you like.
Many people focus on sensations during sex as a way of keeping intimacy to tolerable levels-they tune out their partner and tune into their body.
But when you’re capable of self-validated intimacy, you can let your partner look into you during sex without pulling away.
This makes for what my clients refer to as electric “wall-socket” sex.

Now I have some questions for you to ponder on your own or with your partner..

How do you hold onto yourself when you are in a relationship?

How do you feel about yourself?

How can you use sex as a window into who you are?

How can you become more uniquely yourself by embodying yourself in relationship with the people you love?

Let me know your answers!


How to keep your long term relationship sizzling!



Have you ever wondered what the secrets are to long-term relationship sexual satisfaction?

I’ve saved you some time! 

I’ve spent years trawling through decades of research, analysing couples with satisfying sex lives all over the world, and found they all had certain characteristics in common! I know you’re at the edge of your seat now so I won’t keep you in suspense for too long!

Sexually happy couples consciously work together to keep the relationship emotionally intimate and connected, and the sex passionate, different and non-routine.


Here’s some of the things I found that they had in common.

Sexually satisfied couples:

  • Say “I love you” everyday and truly mean it.
  • Kiss each other passionately for no reason—not just to instigate sex.
  • Practice good sexual communication and implement it. They discover what turns their partner on and off erotically by discussing each others’ own unique sexual needs and wants — not just having sex the same way they have sex with every single partner because that’s just the way they like to do things.
  • Are more likely to set the atmosphere for sexual activity, such as by lighting candles and playing music.
  • Remain close friends.
  • Go on weekly dates together.
  • Make sex a top priority, not the last item of a long to-do list or something they never have time to do in their busy schedule.
  • Have showers or baths together, or massage each other.
  • Are physically affectionate in public.
  • Keep playing and having fun together — not just in the initial dating phase.
  • Cuddle each other, even during times where they’re not having sex as regularly as usual.
  • Surprise each other with  romantic gifts or titillating emails or texts.
  • Go on romantic holidays.
  • Are mindfully conscious about turning towards each other when one partner asks for any positive connection such as attention, affirmation or affection.
  • Have more sex, orgasms, oral sex and more sexual variety (such as discussing or reenacting sexual fantasies, experimenting with positions, clothes or toys) than unsatisfied couples.


On the other hand, sexually unsatisfied couples do the following things:

  • Spend a very small amount of time together during an average week.
  • Drift apart and lead parallel lives.
  • Talk mostly about their gigantic to-do lists.
  • Make everything else in their lives a priority above the relationship and the partner.
  • Become job-centred or child-centred over and above the relationship.
  • Only unintentionally turn towards their partner, and it’s an accident when they respond positively to a partners bid for affirmation.




One couple in a sexless relationship only spent about 35 minutes together in total conversation throughout all of their interactions throughout an entire week. That’s five minutes a day on average!  Most talks were about tasks, errands, bills and dull household things — so nothing intimate or exciting, and no dates! Is it any wonder they weren’t experiencing satisfaction or connection in sex, given such routine, monotonous and sparse interactions? No intimacy was being built and worked at.

If your partner spends 95 per cent of their leisure time doing things without you, or ignoring you for their computer games or their drug of choice, then your sex life will suffer. Being ignored doesn’t build emotional connection, nor does it fire up the loins. You’re more than just an option to someone — you should be their priority!

It’s not all doom and gloom though! I see relationship struggles as wonderful opportunities!  Relationship struggles can be a crucible of self-learning and self-reflection as we grow together and discover our lovers and our own needs.

Think of sex as more of an intimate and emotional act than just rubbing skin together. It’s true intimacy and sensuality  that creates sexual fireworks in a relationship! Consistently working at building this emotional connection with your partner lays the building blocks for an incredible sex life.

Get in touch today to transform your long term relationship from dull to exciting!

New Year Sex and Relationship Resolutions

Happy New Year! Here’s my column that appeared in Ciao magazine…

Celebrate and respect that initial sexual attraction you both first felt when you met.

This is what first drew you together and should not be forgotten. It can be very destructive to a relationship if the times between sexual contact are too long. No matter how fast paced and busy our lives are or how familiar our partner might become to us; it is crucial we never stop seeing them as our lover first and foremost. I see so many clients who have put sex and intimacy on the back burner and this creates a myriad of problems.

Lots of good sex with our partner is beneficial for our health, our blood pressure, our hearts and the health of the relationship! ­ This leads to my next resolution…

Prioritise sex and make time for it.

Schedule in sex dates. If you are too busy and don’t have time to have sex with your partner then it’s time to sit down and re-schedule! If you can start saying no to that party or function that is road blocking your desires and spend time with no one but your partner. Have a night in (or outside if that’s what you like!) with your skin pressing against theirs.

If you’re single, prioritise your self loving practice. Explore your body and new ways of pleasure! Think of your sexuality like a plant that needs watering and attention to grow, flower and thrive. It doesn’t grow on its own if you don’t nurture it. Working on your own sexuality will open you up to greater pleasure and creativity.

For singles looking for a partner or wanting to stop meeting the same types of people all the time; book in a session with me to discover how you are blocking your own happiness and changing the patterns that are keeping you back.




Resolve to “fight fair” for 2015.

9d8fd7accf094a12361a59f9b1cb8a8bArguments will happen but try to stay calm, truly listen to your partner and notice the pain that is prompting their words. My clients have transformed their relationship by learning how to communicate, listen and resolve conflict in a relationship more effectively.

Masterful business communicators can crumble and struggle with communicating in an intimate relationship because the stakes are so much higher and the rules can be a lot less clear.

Resolve to stop doing these things with your partner that are not conducive to a healthy relationship; stonewall (silent treatment), storm out, hanging up, go to bed angry, slam doors or lash out with cruel and personal attacks.

Don’t be a “kitchen sink fighter” and throw in every past blunder your partner has ever made! This will inflame the situation and build resentment. Keep things relevant and specific and try to be assertive not passive, aggressive or passive aggressive.

Book in a therapy session with me if you’d like to learn good relationship communication skills and transform how you relate with your lover.

Broaden your definition of sex for 2015.

Photo Manipulations by Alexandria ThompsonLet’s embrace our sexuality and the many different ways we can have “sex.”
Sex is not just about actual intercourse but about any erotic activity that involves some sort of touch. Some could say touch isn’t even needed- (why look at tantra and breath orgasms­) but it’s about being present and in your body!

Put down your mobile, get out of your head and connect with your lover! Explore different ways of giving and receiving pleasure that don’t focus on performance and goal orientations! And of course above all ­have fun! Joke, play and laugh. Sex with the right person is good for you!



Here’s to a lush and pleasure ­filled 2015!

Catherine O Dowd

Using poetry and writing in therapy

“Poetry Therapy” can help us to view things in different ways and gain more insight into our situations.  “Poetry therapy” can refer to  bibliotherapy (which is all about the use of literature) or  journal therapy (which is when I will ask you to do life-based reflective writing in your journal). It can also encompass storytelling and film and photography.

I’ve posted a poem by Walt Whitman for your reading pleasure. Let me know how it makes you feel once you have read it. Perhaps read it a second time to let the words really seep in.

Unfolded Out Of The Folds

UNFOLDED out of the folds of the woman, man comes unfolded, and is
always to come unfolded;
Unfolded only out of the superbest woman of the earth, is to come the
superbest man of the earth;
Unfolded out of the friendliest woman, is to come the friendliest
Unfolded only out of the perfect body of a woman, can a man be form’d
of perfect body;
Unfolded only out of the inimitable poem of the woman, can come the
poems of man–(only thence have my poems come;)
Unfolded out of the strong and arrogant woman I love, only thence can
appear the strong and arrogant man I love;
Unfolded by brawny embraces from the well-muscled woman I love, only
thence come the brawny embraces of the man;
Unfolded out of the folds of the woman’s brain, come all the folds of
the man’s brain, duly obedient;
Unfolded out of the justice of the woman, all justice is unfolded;
Unfolded out of the sympathy of the woman is all sympathy: 10
A man is a great thing upon the earth, and through eternity–but
every jot of the greatness of man is unfolded out of woman,
First the man is shaped in the woman, he can then be shaped in
Walt Whitman

Having the courage to keep your heart open

We are powerful beyond measure, and so deeply vulnerable at the same time. This may seem like a dichotomy, but it isn’t. We have misunderstood real power. It has been something assertive, non-surrendering, pushing on through. This is not real power. This is simply willfulness. Real power is something else- receptivity, openness, the courage to keep your heart open on the darkest of days, the strength to feel it all even when the odds are stacked against you. Real power is showing up with your heart on your sleeve and absolutely refusing to waste one moment of your life hidden behind edginess and armor. -Jeff Brown

This quote really spoke to me because I speak to so many people who are jaded and bitter about love. I see so much heartbreak and a “closing in” of emotions. I see people going through the motions with sex and dating, or even pulling back and not dating anyone, because they don’t want to feel and they don’t want to hurt.  I’ve experienced this in my own life, so I can truly understand. I can understand the pain of heartbreak and not wanting to open yourself up to someone like that again, just to feel the pain of disappointment or betrayal again, but we can’t stay in this stagnant No Mans Land forever. We have to move forward and embrace growth and change.

A lot of us have very strong defenses up to keep this pain away. We can be too busy all the time, as a way of making sure someone can’t sneak through the cracks of our emotional fort. We can have “fuck buddies” and move on as soon as emotions start getting involved, we can serial date, or have serial relationships or we can close down emotionally. We can have sexual relations with others but be so closed down that our emotions are turned off and we don’t experience sex and intimacy to its fullest potential.

Get in touch today if you would like to break down those walls, open your heart, own your own power and experience love and intimacy without the armour and walls.  Let’s embrace our power and our vulnerability.

Are your defenses up?

It is too easy to blame your problems on say, your partner or lover, so that we don’t have to accept that our unhappiness is our own responsibility. Defensiveness can blind us to what is really going on in our own life and the choices that we can take for our own happiness.

Everyone has these defensive mechanisms that started to use as children to protect ourselves. Now that we’re grown up adults we still can have these defenses, along with some new protective walls we may have built up around throughout our life. We can do this consciously or unconsciously.  Perhaps you’ve been heartbroken in the past, so you won’t open yourself to others in case you get hurt again? Perhaps you react angrily to disguise a mistake? Sometimes we have sharpened our defensive skills to such an extent that they are automatic reactions and we don’t even have another option to take in particular situations. It is becoming aware of these defenses in your life that allows you to change them.

The question I want you to ask is; what do these defense mechanisms do for you? Do they really keep you safe and protect you? Perhaps they just get in your way and hold you back? Do these walls you’ve built up around yourself hold you in a prison that you can’t free yourself from?  What sounds better to withdraw and keep people away, or be open and vulnerable, experiencing true intimacy?  These walls can hold us away from relationships that can make us happy.

It is possible to reduce your defensive mechanisms. I have a program and various exercises that can help you become aware of the different defensive walls you have been using. This awareness leads to letting go of the defenses that can hold you  back. Letting go of defenses does lead to greater happiness and more fulfilling relationships and intimacy. Get in touch today!

The Female Orgasm as Art

What an interesting project.  I just watched a series of movies called, “Hysterical Literature” by film maker Clayton Cubbitt. A womanHysterical Literature sits at a table and reads from her favourite book. Underneath the table out of view of the camera, an “unseen accomplice” tried to bring the woman to orgasm with a vibrator. There was something quite beautiful about the black and white treatment, the reading of the literature and the intimacy of the orgasm. It is a very different treatment of  female orgasm that is seen in pornography!

There is a distinct sensuality in these short films, which I really enjoyed watching.  There’s even some humour as the woman Hysterical-Literaturestruggles to maintain her focus on the words in front of her!  Apparently it was a back massager that was being used, and if you listen carefully, sometimes you can hear the buzzing!

The director sums it up nicely, “It’s quite interesting to hear about what was going through their mind as they started to lose track of what they read and surrendered to their bodies. They talk about it almost like it becomes a religious trance, and they usually have no recollection of the last half of the reading.”

I love how they don’t remember the last section of what they’re reading! And the director also mentions the interesting struggles the sitter has between mind and body. One of the women said she held on for as long as she could, reading the literature, before she decided to give in to the pleasure.

“The title is a winking reference to the quack Victorian medical theory of “hysteria” in women, and the vibrators and hydrotherapy treatments used to “cure” them. On an individual level, I’m interested in the battle the sitter experiences between mind and body, and how long one retains primacy over the other, and when they reach balance, and when they switch control.”

As a sex therapist, I couldn’t help but see the films as a nice  metaphor for letting go and stopping thinking and overanalysing everything, in order to experience pleasure. During sex a lot of people find it hard to stop the non-stop narrative going through their head, and this can make it hard for them to let go and experience orgasm. What are your thoughts?  When has your mind and all your thoughts blocked you from letting go and feeling pleasure and/or orgasm?