Imagine you own a string of fitness studios. Things aren’t going well. You’re on the verge of bankruptcy. In desperation, you sack your advertising agency and look for a new one. Someone recommends a new agency with an unusual name: The Tourette’s Agency. You go to see them. There’s a lot of swearing going on in their offices, because it’s cutting edge. You speak to the head guy, who tells you he’ll save your business with a winning message, and to come back in a week.
A week later you go back. There’s still a lot of swearing, but in different languages this time. The guy proudly produces the message. This is what it says:
“ Come to our gym right now if you don’t want to have a heart attack, you fat bastard”
Absurd, isn’t it? But in a slightly more subtle way, workshops for couples take exactly the same approach. They tell you that you can recapture the magic. They tell you that with their help you can relight the fire.
Except, what do you think? What I would think is: “If I go to this, everyone will know that my fire has gone out. My magic has left the building”. Would you go? I don’t think so.
When my dear friend and sex coach Alison Pilling set up her business, she called it Sex School For Grownups. It’s a witty name, but it expresses a truth. Nobody teaches us how to be good at sex and intimacy, particularly within long term relationships. And that lets couples down. Then they get blamed if they divorce. But the blame lies elsewhere, with a society that blithely assumes that sex is “natural”, whatever that means, and if things aren’t going well for you, you’re to blame.
In our work, we don’t peddle nonsense about rediscovering the magic or “spicing up your sex life.’ We start from a position that everyone is trying their best, and it’s part of human nature to get stuck, to have an incomplete understanding, to experience difficulty in knowing, far less saying, what we want. So what we do is to provide different perspectives.
What would it be like if you extended your sense of what’s possible? What if you were given some tips about communication? What would it be like if you were given exercises where each of you could explore different aspects of yourselves? What would it be like if you consciously decided in any intimate encounter who was giving and who was receiving? What if you could take it in turns to initiate and be led. What if the responsibility for pleasure was shared equally between two human beings and you had a greater sense of hat that might encompass?
Alison and I love and respect couples, and we want to support them, to help them flourish, not condemn them as broken and then claim to fix them.
In our Glasgow workshop recently, we were so happy to work with three couples who really cared for each other. We just gave them things they could try, like giving a wonderful singer new songs. And to watch these couples trying these things out was wonderful for us. The energy they showed was exactly the same as meditators: present, embodied, connected, loving. It takes courage to try new things, to adopt unconventional ways of seeing and to step off a sex conveyor belt based on little more than old expectations and hearsay.
We really want to keep working together. We plan various ways. One way is to take a small number of couples, no more than four or five, away to somewhere nice for a couple of days, and share what we know, giving the couple plenty of time to relax, to experiment, to converse with us, to make that cable which connects one heart to the other stronger, not by fixing the fractures, but by increasing the strands.