Our sexperts share their wisdom on why relationships lose their spark and what to do about it. From the Wild & Sublime fifth anniversary live show.
[Note: audio issues in first few minutes of panel conversation.]
The live show was sponsored by Best Therapies
We’re part of the Lincoln Lodge Podcast Network.
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Wild & Sublime Podcast Transcript
S6E2 | How to spice up long-term relationships: October Live Show
Helen Wyatt: So in the society we live in, it takes such effort to carve out the time to actually do the real work on yourself that you need to do, and carve out the time that your relationship deserves. Sex is both a want and a need. It’s the thing that’s never evolved out of us. Right? we still get lots of pleasure from and it’s the thing that moves to the back of the line when we’ve got a million other things to take care of.
Karen Yates: Welcome to Wild &, Sublime, a sexy spin and infotainment, no matter your preferences, orientation, or relationship style. Based on the popular live Chicago show, I chat about sex and relationships with citizens from the world of sex positivity and comedy. You’ll hear meaningful conversations, dialogues that go deeper, and information that can help you become more free in your sexual expression. I’m sex educator and intimacy coach Karen Yates. Our monthly Patreon supporters pay for a large part of our operating expenses. Their contributions from $5 on up help us big time. Plus members get discounts on show tickets and merch and receive Wild & Sublime news before anyone else and more. Interested in helping us spread the message of sex positivity? Go to patreon.com/wildandsublime.
Karen Yates: Hey folks, welcome to Wild & Sublime, coming to you from the Lincoln lodge podcast studio as part of the Lincoln lodge Podcast Network. Today you’ll be hearing a segment from our October 7 fifth anniversary live show that happened in Chicago at Constellation. Before I talk more about that I’m going to do a land acknowledgement. We are recording on the lands of the Council of three fires: the Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi nations, in addition to a score of other tribes that lived here. This land is now colonially known as Chicago. And to make sure these are not just empty words, I encourage you, if you have an interest, to read more about the history of indigenous people in your area, or connect with organizations in your town. Now, on to the show.
Karen Yates: If you’ve been to a live Wild & Sublime show, you know it is a lot of sex positive segments– talk, entertainment, demos– put together in one lively and very funny evening. Our fifth anniversary show, sponsored by Best Therapies.org, featured a panel discussion on spicing up long term relationships. I talked to sex and relationship therapist Tom Doctor and Helen Wyatt, and sex coach and pleasure mentor Tazima Parris. And because my mic was being problematic in the first couple of minutes, I’ll share my initial comments and questions here. A lot of people in relationships get concerned as they move along into year to year five, year twenty, with the robustness of their sexual life, because they’re beginning to notice that they may not be having sex with the same frequency or hotness that they were in year one. I asked the panelists what, in their view, was the biggest misunderstanding people had about getting their sex lives to be spicy again. Therapists Tom Doctor, followed by Helen Wyatt kicked us off.
Tom Doctor: Yeah, I think one major thing is thinking that sex is going to be the same at year twenty-five, that it is the first time that you’re fucking like, it’s just not going to be.
Karen Yates: Waaa!
Tom Doctor: I know. That can be a real bummer. Or that can be really great, depending on how you have cultivated the sexual relationship over the course of your relationship. And I think that early on in relationships often it’s like, “well, I want to fuck, so like this is going to be great! And it’s going to be hot, because that’s the thing that we do together is we get together and we fuck.” Twenty-five years in it may be that now we have kids together. Now we have a mortgage. Now we have to pay rent. Now we have to talk about taking out the trash and doing the dishes. Turns out the amount of things that you are doing other than fucking?– the percentage of time you’re spending fucking is much much lower. So mostly just see, see your partner of twenty years for four hours a week and fuck for three and a half of them and then you’ll be great. [laughter, cheers]
Karen Yates: Okay, well, I love that.
Helen Wyatt: I think what I see most often is that there’s a misconception about how much effort and purpose and intentionality and time it actually takes to have a vibrant sexual relationship. You know, Tom, like you were saying, right, we have tons of things that we collect and kind of become busy with over the years. And I think all of us– most all of us, I think–grew up in a capitalist society where our schooling actually from a very young age taught us that play was not to be prioritized. You know, that pleasure is a dirty word. We’re only comfortable talking about sexuality when it is about disease or danger.
Karen Yates: Right, right.
Helen Wyatt: And I think in the society we live in, it takes such effort to carve out the time to actually do the real work on yourself that you need to do, and carve out the time that your relationship deserves. Sex is both a want and a need. It’s the thing that’s never evolved out of us–Right?–we still get lots of pleasure from, and it’s the thing that moves to the back of the line when we’ve got a million other things to take care of.
Karen Yates: Right. Tazima.
Tazima Parris: A couple of things. First, is when you’re in a long-term relationship, and especially when you live together, there’s a regularity of like, I see you as this person who left their sock on the floor, and I’m annoyed, [laughter] or why do you have to always watch the show I can’t stand, etc. So we have like, not just like, “Ooh, novelty, amazing! New person, how are you? Like, what’s new about you today?” It’s so interesting. So there’s a lot less of that, a lot less novel, and a lot more like regular boring shit that you don’t tend to associate with this person that has this face that looks the way that it looks [laughter]
Karen Yates: Yup.
Tazima Parris: But! then there’s a contrast of like vacation sex, right? And so you –the same… that same face in a different context–all of a sudden becomes interesting. Why? The context has changed. And so you can potentially change context more often in your regular life by doing what this lady [Helen] just said: prioritizing pleasure. Maybe it’s you don’t wait until the end of the day. Maybe you wake up a little early, have coffee, and have a little spicy fun in the morning. Okay, switch it up. So context can be time; it can also be location; it can –and you never know, get creative. I don’t know what your situation is. But you can really get creative and so that novelty… creating novelty, prioritizing pleasure, allowing yourself to have fun and the way that I hold it is that sex is adult play. So don’t be so serious about it. Ttake a chill pill. Like have fun. [clapping]
Karen Yates: So let’s let’s just quickly go down the line. What is the most ludicrous thing you typically see in like magazines or like online blogs that they’re they’re telling folks with long-term relationships to try. Helen.
Helen Wyatt: I was at that– I will not name the conference– but a women’s sexual health conference, very prominent, and in and out are walking the Addyi people. Do you know this drug? Flibanserin. A-D-D-Y-I. It is “the little pink pill” that they tell people, you’ll take this little pink pill and it will solve all your sexual problems.
Karen Yates: Yikes.
Helen Wyatt: Yowzers. That doesn’t work.
Karen Yates: Okay. Tazima. What’s the most ludicrous thing you’ve seen?
Tazima Parris: I coach a lot of women. And there’s a lot of, like, focus on wetness and plumpness. And like going straight there actually totally messes everything up. Like if you’re hurrying in the process, it just it it fucks with women’s systems, because there’s this level of urgency. And so like this promotion of like, “be wet right away.” It’s like, there’s a whole lot like get your erection on. clitoris-havers, please.
Karen Yates: Tom, what about you?
Tom Doctor: Yeah, I think it’s hard because like anything, I think all of this falls in so much context. And so something that may be absolutely absurd in one context, maybe totally makes sense in other relationships. So, I think like a really common thing is like, what if we tried roleplay? It’s like, okay, cool, in the right context, fucking super hot. If what you think is like, we don’t really like each other, we are not having sex. But I’m gonna put on a cowboy hat and all of a sudden we’re gonna fuck like rabbits. [big laughter] Like, it is ridiculous. And so I think everything has its context.
Karen Yates: I love that. So …[drawls] Howdy, partner… [laughter]
Tazima Parris: I don’t really like you. [laughter]
Karen Yates: So we talked…Tazima talked a little bit about changing. How did you put it? Changing the…
Tazima Parris: Context
Karen Yates: Changing–speaking of context–changing context is a a way to just very, very easily move into maybe a different headspace. What are… what’s a very small, like tip that actually works that you’ve seen, Tom, that you can just offer to people?
Tom Doctor: Yeah, I think a lot of times when we’re… when you like, go to blogs, and you’re like, oh, what should I do? I think a lot of times what suggestions that are given are very additive. So we live in a very maximalist culture, we live in a very consumerist culture, it is a lot telling us to do more, do more, do more, I think what can be super hot is actually doing less. And so thinking about how do we start sex at a distance? Thinking about what if we set artificial restrictions like, no sound? Like you are not allowed to make noise?
Karen Yates: Hot.
Tom Doctor: Yeah, and so and so then you can you can layer on any type of meaning to that. So that could go anywhere from “Sshh, my parents or in the other room” to “Don’t make a sound or something really bad’s gonna happen to you” [laughter] depending on–
Karen Yates: Oh I think someone over there liked that. [laughter]
Tom Doctor: And so I think I think we often think about addition, and I think sometimes subtraction can be just as powerful, if not more.
Karen Yates: Helen, what’s, what’s a small tip that typically works?
Helen Wyatt: I want everyone to go do a sensory date with each other.
Karen Yates: What is that?
Helen Wyatt: You have five senses? Maybe more jury’s still out. But the five that we know about, you can pair erotism and sensuality with any of your senses, right? So I often have people get their sex candle, get a candle that you’re absolutely wild about and only light it right, when you are ready to be sexual or sensual, right? Actually take the time to sit there and curate your music that you fuck to.
Karen Yates: Right.
Helen Wyatt: Otherwise, some stuff comes up in the playlist that like totally kills the mood. [laughter] Right?
Karen Yates: Totally
Helen Wyatt: Like not cute, right? But if you take any of your five senses and think, How can I play with this? Usually you’re going to get to a place where you’re doing something that hits on the eroticism, and you didn’t even know was sexual sometimes.
Karen Yates: We’ll return to our conversation in a moment. Just a few simple sentences can change your intimate life. Want to know what they are? Download the free guide, “Say it better in bed: three practical ways to improve intimate communication” to get easy tools to put into action immediately. Go to wildandsublime.com to get yours.
Karen Yates: [to panelists] So one of the things you know, you’re all experts, you you you see people regularly, what really is like the– I wouldn’t say the big secret–but what maybe is the secret that maybe people don’t know, or they don’t really want to know about spicing up a long term relationship. We’ve alluded to somethings– the time it takes really.
Tazima Parris: There’s no such thing as spontaneous sex. It’s a myth. Yeah, like it’s just a myth. Even when you were 18 or 20 or 25. Like you used– You prepared for whatever encounter for the possibility of sex. Like you were like, “okay, potentially this could go down so I’m going to shower.” Awesome. “I’m going to smell good.” Awesome. “I’m going to put on whatever thing makes me feel hot, attractive, whatever.” Awesome. So when we’re not doing those kinds of things– I… I’m not saying you got to do all the things. Again, less is more sometimes, but do bathe unless you’re into it, fine, whatever. But the point, my point being is like, don’t rely on the this mythical, potentially” it’s going to be spontaneous.” No, just plan for it. Maybe even put it in the schedule, maybe even have a specific time that possibly during this time, sex could happen. Thursday night, 7pm. It could be then. And then work with your partner to figure out how you can set that up, get the playlist, say “we’re not going to use any of you know, like, no sound or whatever, because parents–We’re going to pretend my parents are in the other room.” Point being take the time and create… create more of a possibility rather than thinking that it should just happen. It’s a lie.
Karen Yates: Tom, what’s your thoughts?
Tom Doctor: I think communication is obvious. Turns out, you get a bunch of therapists and coaches up here, maybe I’ll talk about communication a little bit. I think… I think when you’ve been dating and or fucking for a very long time, it is assumed like “WellI know this person, I know this person’s body, I know what they want. I know what they like. Also, sometimes that might be wildly wrong. The way that somebody shows up to a sexual encounter: Every time is influenced by so many pieces of their life. And if we were just like, “Oh, I know, I need to like do three circles to the left. And then…” and it gets very mechanical. It can, it can feel really disconnected. So I think I think communication and connection can be such an important piece of, of just staying together.
Karen Yates: Helen, do you have anything to add from your earlier statement about–?
Helen Wyatt: Yeah, that, you know, we become differently abled as we age. You know, if you think of yourself one year ago, versus yourself five years ago, right? Those are different selves, and those selves are still with you. But we have to consistently put in the work, we owe it to ourselves, because our society is not going to give us the time to do it. Right? So we owe it to ourselves, I think to really understand how is my body different and, you know, sometimes approach your partner about that. “I discovered something new about myself. And I’m wondering how you have changed over the years?” Really, relationships do this ebb and flow thing throughout the years. And we… that doesn’t fit with our socialized you know, romantic version of love. But if we are in a soul connection type of love, we are working through it together and kind of imparting information on each other and shifting each other. People oftentimes come into therapy not wanting to change themselves. And you’re changed from the beginning of your relationship and you can change again. Yeah?
Karen Yates: I love that.
Tom Doctor: Yeah, just real quick. I think in… some… sometimes I think that it can be easy to– especially if in you’re… if you’re in a long-term partnership, especially if that partnership is monogamous–I think it can be easy to look at sexual pleasure and be like, well, that’s my partner’s job. They’re fucking it up. I’m not getting the sex that I want. Because my partner is fucking it up.
Karen Yates: Yeah.
Tom Doctor: And I think that there is a certain amount of introspection and self-reflection around like, “what is hot to me now?” And, and that changes over time. And I really love this idea of your body changing. Also your mind changes. And so the things that may be super erotic at 25 might be, “I like to see your boobs.” Right? The things that are super hot at 40 when you are maybe seeing those same boobs many many times– maybe it’s still super hot, probably it is–but also maybe there are other pieces that we can bring in. And so thinking about the self-reflection and be like “I’m unsatisfied in my sexual life. Maybe a piece of that is mine to explore not just say ‘my partner’s doing a shitty job.'”
Tazima Parris: I want to also add in the flavor of, of context in this conversation as well, because of the thing. It’s so you know how you, when you update your phone, it works a little better. You get updates from your partner: it might work a little better also. And so…and it’s not just like years. It’s literally what is happening this week? So if the context is “I have all these things going on, I may not want what we normally do, I might need a hug for 15 minutes.” and “Pet my hair, and then I’m going to be hot after that.” But “and then maybe we’ll just ramp up into something else.” The point being is like knowing what you need– to just to piggyback on what you’re sharing– is know what you need. Check in. What can I request right now that feels like the thing that would really, really get my system handled so that I can be present with my partner because a lot of life is happening a lot of the time and so sussing that out for yourself will help you be a better communicator when you bring it to your partner. Instead of having them try to guess where you are. And then try the thing that you hate. [laughter]
Karen Yates: Excellent, excellent. So do poly people have it easier? [big laugh] I love it! I love it! [bigger laugh]
Karen Yates: Okay, okay. You’re in a polyamorous relationship, you know, you have a partner you’ve been with for a very long time… you see other people. How does one keep the the…? Let’s say I, I’m not gonna be hierarchical about it, but primary or nesting partner? How do you keep that fresh? Are there different tactics beyond like, what you would tell a monogamous relationship?
Tom Doctor: I can jump in. I think…Generally if we’re looking at the sample size of polyamorous folks, we tend to land more heavily in sex positive community. And so that doesn’t mean that everybody’s fucking and there are no issues and that it’s awesome one hundred percent of the time, I think what it what it does mean is that there is often reflection and thinking about sex, sometimes in different ways. I think there is also for someone who has multiple partners, maybe multiple partnerships of different lengths, there is, or there can be a different breakdown of kind of, like we were talking about earlier, maybe the person that I get really hot for is not my co-parent. And that’s okay. And I think that when I think about a lot of the structures that can be broken when we, when we look at consensual non monogamy, I start to look at like, what are the “shoulds” in relationship? And so it may be absolutely I’m fucking my partner of 25 years, and it’s super hot. And every time I go out and hook up with somebody else, it makes the sex at home even hotter. Maybe it’s also not an issue if we’re not fucking. It gets to be okay, because I don’t need this person to meet every one of my needs–
Karen Yates: Right. Right.
Tom Doctor: –because I’ve built a relationship that has meaning and is sustained outside of just being the person whose boobs I look at.
Karen Yates: Right. Right.
Tazima Parris: I know that my reluctance to answer the question is a concern to like oversimplify what polyamory and how polyamory is. And I would say: one, is that a lot of the things that we have said apply to folks in polyamory as well. And generally speaking, not everybody, but generally speaking, because in order for polyamory, polyamory to function, you actually have to be an excellent communicator, like you’re already talking about more of the things and generally if the person is polyamorous and if they’re kinky, for example, like those communication tools are already something that they’re using. The shift for me– what I see more often– is selective communication, where they might be more open with a particular partner because of the maybe the length or the agreements that they have. And there might be some withholding in other places, but generally, it’s still the same.
Karen Yates: So final question: What about kinky relationships? Are there different strategies there, ones that are more like kink-based, rather than, you know, vanilla sex? Is there…Is there things to consider in in a long-term kink relationship?
Helen Wyatt: I thought that’s about the last question as well, that, you know, monogamous relationships often have a lot to learn and imbibe from polyam and kink communities. So there’s just like a different layer, I think, in the polyamory community that they have to consider… that people have to consider for themselves. And with the kink community, what comes to mind similar to the polyam community is, you know, sort of looking at “how am I committing to my commitments?” You know what I mean? We often make commitments. And sometimes asking for things that don’t sort of loudly portray our identities, that are sort of softer, like, I really miss you. And I really want to have vanilla sex tonight, even though we’re, you know, into our kink play, right? can be shameful sometimes. And so I think really evaluating, like, what your commitments are and what your emotions are around that, and evaluating what gives you pause, I think is really useful.
Tom Doctor: Yeah, I think one benefit, or one sort of, like, slightly different angle is the idea of conceptualizing sex as more than just a pole in a hole, which I think we’ve talked about in the past this idea of–
Karen Yates: I love that you said that.
Karen Yates: Yeah. Yeah, the idea that, like having a vital and, and sort of engaging sex life doesn’t mean that all of my parts need to be super excited to see all of your parts and the, and that we can have meaningful, erotic and sort of intimate connection that may or may not involve any genitals at all. And so, I think that especially as, as you were mentioning, earlier, this, this idea of kind of, over time becoming differently abled, I think there is a sort of structure within a lot of kink play that allows for like, deep intimate connection that doesn’t require specific body parts in a meaningful way. And so I think, kind of in another… in another aspect, the the idea of play is often centered, and so it may not be that I’m rubbing my bits on your bits, and if we can still play and be engaged and be connected, that can still be erotic and intimate.
Karen Yates: Awesome, Helen, Tazima, Tom, thank you so much! [big applause]
Karen Yates: Wild & Sublime is supported in part by our sublime supporter, Full Color Life Therapy therapy for all of you at fullcolorlifetherapy.com Thank you for listening. Know someone who’d like this episode? Send it to them. You can follow us on Facebook Tiktok and Instagram at Wild & Sublime and sign up for newsletters at Wildandublime.com. Got feedback or an inquiry? Contact us at And we’d love a review or rating on your podcast player. I’d like to thank our design guru Jean-François Gervais. Music by David Ben-Porat. This episode was produced and edited by Christine Ferrera at the Lincoln Lodge podcast studio as part of the Lincoln lodge Podcast Network.
Click on guest name(s) for all podcast appearances
- Tazima Parris – Sex coach and pleasure mentor
- Tom Doctor – Sex and relationship therapist
- Helen Wyatt – Sex and relationship therapist
- Karen Yates – Sex educator, performer, energy worker
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