Clinical counselor and sexologist Susan Kaye shares how touch and affirmation can transform relationships.
By Andrea Tinning
When we’re born, our most developed sense is our sense of touch. As we age and our other senses fade, often, our sense of touch will remain intact, which is why relationship and sex therapist Susan Kaye believes touch is an integral part of human connection, even though it sometimes can be an uncomfortable relationship roadblock.
“We’ve become so touchy about touch in our culture,” Kaye says. “When we disconnect from others, we disconnect from ourselves, and that’s really where the juice of life is.”
While the majority of Kaye’s clients are men, she also meets with women and couples. For couples in particular, Kaye believes it’s essential to remember intimacy is not just “pelvises banging together,” but rather all kinds of emotional and physical communication.
“Intimacy means into me see. Know me, know what I care about and what I want for us. That’s the most loving, cementing thing you can do to keep your sex life alive,” Kaye says.
With more than 20 years of experience, Kaye currently practices in Austin and Wayne, Penn., helping people become sexually reacquainted with their partners and themselves. To help get the conversation started about fostering a greater sense of intimacy, Kaye shares her wisdom about what it means to touch and be touched.
Get to Know Yourself
Kaye says many women often wonder what is “normal.” Is it normal to touch yourself? What is the normal number of orgasms? Kaye says every woman is unique, and her first piece of advice is to make time for self-pleasure in order to better understand and communicate what feels good for you.
“It’s my relationship with me, again, which is where it starts,” Kaye says. “If we don’t know if our left labia is more sensitive than our right labia, how can we teach [our partners?]How do we have a voice in the bedroom? And that’s what I tell all my women especially. Find your voice because that’s the most loving thing you can do for yourself and for your relationship.”
Communicate Turn-Ons and Turn-Offs
Being in sync sexually can be challenging, especially for couples that are in it for the long haul. One assignment Kaye gives her clients that are having trouble feeling the love is to make a list of turn-ons and turn-offs, and not just the physical ones.
“The real juice is where our desire feeds the rest of our erotic potential, [and that is]in our thought life,” Kaye says. “Start with what fills you with desire and maybe even then [what]leads to seduction, like [what]makes me feel sexy or [what]makes me feel seductive for myself, and then seductive for a partner.”
Examples could include “having a glass of wine on the deck” or role play. Turn-offs, on the other hand, are the little things that build walls of resentment. After communicating your preferences, Kaye recommends transforming the turn-on list into ideas for a date night.
Prioritize and Redefine Intimacy
According to Kaye, making time for each other in a way that doesn’t lead to sex, whether it’s a back rub or a thoughtful conversation, is an important part of maintaining physical closeness.
“You [always] have time to snuggle for five minutes,” Kaye says. “You have time to sit across from each other, lock the kids out, let them bang on the door, set a timer, look into each other’s eyes, hold each other’s hands and say five things you appreciate.”
In any relationship, it’s also possible for one partner to have a higher sexual desire than the other, or for sex to feel routine. Her advice is to find other ways to physically engage as partners, whether it’s holding one another while one partner masturbates, buying adult toys or even something as low-key as giving each other a bath.
“Build up the spice, build up the romance so when that partner is on board, woo hoo,” Kaye exclaims. “We’ve got a lot of energy created and erotic potential that is built.”