Have you been hurt by past romantic relationships? Maybe your partner cheated on you and left you devastated, feeling unworthy of love. Perhaps, there was never infidelity but constant bickering, and over time, resentment built up which drove you two apart. Or maybe, you’ve never felt truly loved in a relationship.
Whatever your relationship story is, it’s likely that there may be some trauma there. This trauma can keep us from entering new relationships or keep sabotaging them because we haven’t fully healed yet. How do we heal from this trauma and find relationships that last?
If these are questions that you’ve asked yourself, then you’re in luck. Today, we have Dr. Laura Berman, a leading expert in the field of sex and relationship therapy, to help you create the fulfilling and passionate love life you deserve, regardless of your relationship status, gender, or sexual orientation.
In this episode, Dr. Laura and I discuss how to improve and keep your sex life alive and the process of healing trauma so you’ll become a better person while in a relationship. Finally, we’ll also talk about a few practical tips to create a loving relationship.
This is an episode that’ll open your eyes to the reality that anyone can have a great relationship as long as they have the willingness to give their full efforts and commitment to it. I’m excited to share Dr. Laura’s wisdom with you, so without further ado, let’s dive in!
Dr. Laura Berman is the world’s leading expert in sex, love, and relationships. She earned two Masters and a Ph.D. degree from New York University and has spent the last several decades helping individuals and couples around the globe love and be loved better.
In addition to her clinical practice, Dr. Laura is the award-winning host of the nationally syndicated show, Uncovered Radio with Dr. Laura Berman. She’s been honored with a Gracie Award for Best Talk Radio Show Host and recently was named one of Radio Ink’s Most Influential Women in Radio.
Dr. Laura is also a best-selling New York Times author of eight books, and hosted and starred in several television shows, including OWN’s In the Bedroom with Dr. Laura Berman, The Dr. Laura Berman Show, and Sexual Healing on Showtime. Dr. Laura is a well-loved and regular expert on love and relationships on television, radio, and written media and is on the advisory board of the Dr. Oz Show.
It goes without being said, but Dr. Laura is the perfect person to walk us through a discussion about relationships, sex, and intimacy.
Do you crave a healthy relationship? Are you tired of being in relationships that don’t last and leave you hurt? Do you want to learn how to improve your sex life? If so, let’s get started with the interview.
Being in a relationship is tough work. You need to understand your partner’s love language, which may be different than yours, and learn how to talk to them about intimacy. Sex, for example, is a topic that your partner might not be comfortable talking about. Some people might be even embarrassed talking about it. But avoiding the topic of sex isn’t something that you should do if you want a loving relationship because it’s an essential part of it. Dr. Laura discussed how important talking about sex is:
“Sex is just one part of a whole beautiful working relationship. It’s just one aspect that makes relationships work, but when it’s not working, there’s a real disconnect. The act of sex should be prioritized because it’s one thing that can help you feel better connected to your partner.” – Dr. Laura Berman
Dr. Laura also pointed out that couples in a relationship should be able to get comfortable talking about what they like and desire in sexual intimate experiences because it allows intimacy and connection. This can be a difficult conversation to have, but Dr. Laura shared how we can go about it:
“The number one requirement you must have is a partner who’s open to learning and can take feedback. They don’t have to be perfect, but it’s great if they aren’t super reactive, defensive, or easily insulted. This allows a real conversation to flow. Another key is to know what you want. Ask yourself what arouses you. Take time to learn your own body so you’ll know what you like. Lastly, provide positive feedback to your partner. Tell them what you want more of what felt good, you know, what you loved, what would turn you on. Have this conversation outside the sexual scenario because you know, feelings are running high and insecurities are running high when you’re getting physically intimate. ” – Dr. Laura Berman
However, there might be instances during intimacy that you feel that your partners are disconnected. Before jumping to any huge conclusions, Dr. Laura explained why some people, particularly women, seem to be disconnected sometimes when it comes to sex. She said that this disconnection can be a result of their culture and upbringing. In worse scenarios, it can be from sexual trauma.
“When women are disconnected in a sexual situation, it’s protective. They might be protecting their vulnerability. It might be that their inhibitions have something to do with how they were reared as kids, and they have stories about what nice girls do and don’t do. It could be that they have a history of trauma, and they have to work to keep themselves present.” – Dr. Laura Berman
According to Dr. Laura, sexual trauma is one of the main reasons why it could be hard, not just for women, but also for men, to truly connect when having sex. Many victims of sexual abuse go into the coping mechanism of forcing their minds to wander off from what’s happening. To work on this, Dr. Laura suggested the importance of getting back into one’s body. She suggests the importance of breathwork, which allows a person to feel relaxed and just let the energy flow at the moment.
Humans handle any sort of trauma a lot differently than other creatures. We tend to amplify the pain of the past, and we get so attached to it, so it’s hard for us to move on.
“I find that usually when people do that when they’re committed to their trauma, it’s because they’ve never had a place or a person that can hold it for them” – Dr. Laura Berman
What Dr. Laura is telling us is that by not having the courage to look for a safe space where one can feel open enough to share, our journey of sexual healing will never happen. However, once we take a leap of faith and be courageous enough to talk about our painful experience, we’ll be able to feel freer, more accepted, and more loved.
Whatever your story, this is a step for us to accept ourselves better so we can connect deeply with other people. Whether it’s in the act of communicating, allowing ourselves to go into a commitment, or getting intimate with another person, these experiences can help us build the intimacy we’re all craving for.
The trauma that a person endures from sexual abuse is indescribable. As a victim myself, I know that it’s not something that you can leave in the past because it will come after you once you’re old enough to have these painful memories processed. For some, this is detrimental, as it does not allow them to feel and enjoy the authenticity of relationships. But aside from sexual trauma, there are other traumas, such as physical and emotional abuse, that stop us from allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and intimate with others. Dr. Laura calls them the “shadows.”
“In life, there are also little traumas that everyone experiences. These are the memories of someone telling you that you aren’t good enough, the feelings of lacking unconditional love, abandonment issues, among others. These are our shadows, and confronting them can be a really scary experience” – Dr. Laura Berman
However, as painful and as scary as they might be, confronting your shadows will make them lose their power over you. You get to be more in control of your feelings, your thoughts, your reactions, or actions. It’s truly a powerful feeling to be friends with your insecurities, shadows, and fears. Dr. Laura gave some of her helpful tips to deal with them that I’d love to share with you!
By speaking your truth, whether it’s a scary past or a childhood trauma, you allow the light to evaporate the powers of the shadows. This means that you get to be in control of your fears, instead of the other way around.
According to Dr. Laura, by allowing yourself to forgive the wrongdoer, you’re able to see the light better. There’s such a thing as silver linings and blessings in disguise, and you won’t be able to see all of these if you’re still blinded by anger and negative emotions. It also allows you to accept that you can’t change the past, and that frees you from the enslaving feeling of anger and resentment towards your trespasser. She also explained that this process can be something you can do on your own or with a therapist.
Even in romantic relationships, the practice of learning how to forgive and let go of resentment towards your previous partner is significant. Whether it’s the feeling of betrayal or abandonment, forgiving someone from your previous relationship is something that only you can give yourself. Your partner can support you with the healing process, but this test is ultimately yours to conquer.
We started by pointing out that sex is essential to build lasting relationships, but as Dr. Laura mentioned, it’s only a cog in the wheel. There are a lot of insights she shared in our interview, but here are the areas that I would like to focus on:
We don’t celebrate breakups enough. We always treat them as bad things that everyone needs to be sad about. But I believe that if a relationship isn’t working and you’ve tried everything you could from therapy, different exercises, agreements, and boundaries, and it’s still not working, I believe that the next best thing is to move on. Dr. Laura suggested an explanation to why this happens
“I think the reason people are so uncomfortable with breakups and celebrating them is because of such fear of abandonment and almost every one of us alone of being alone or being left.” – Dr. Laura Berman
I know how this feels, too. In my past relationships, I stayed in all of them too long based on fear of abandonment or the feeling of being alone. That was a big fear of mine until I started to heal that past situation of really accepting myself as an individual.
Once I realized that it’s okay to be alone, I started to set myself free from relationships where I felt miserable. Right now, I can even say that I’m more comfortable with the idea of being by myself than being in a relationship for all the wrong reasons. I honestly think that this should be the mindset of every person before getting into a relationship. No one is there to complete you except yourself.
Dr. Laura thinks the same way, too!
“Nobody completes you to have an amazing relationship. You have to be your delicious cake while the other person [is] icing or sprinkles. You can call your partner the balloon or whatever, but the cake is you. You don’t need them to make it sweet or anything else” – Dr. Laura Berman
If we allow ourselves to depend on other people or our partner for happiness, that can just lead us to feel miserable in the end. Our partners are different individuals from us, and by forcing them to fit in the mold we created for ourselves while in a relationship, we’ll forever be disappointed and frustrated. We’ll end up resenting them and ourselves.
Be vulnerable. Due to my difficult past, it was hard for me to accept myself and to love myself for so many years. Unconsciously, I was staying in relationships way too long. I wasn’t able to communicate my feelings or my needs. This never turned out well for me in the end.
To handle these uncomfortable scenarios, Dr. Laura said that everyone should take time to reflect on themselves.
“Reflect on yourself because I think having the ability to be open and vulnerable starts with your internal work. How do you deal with hardships and tragedies? How you work internally is a result of the hardships we experience in our individual lives. I call tragedies AFGE, which stands for Another Freaking Growth Experience. These big tragedies that happen in our life that break us open into mush sometimes have to happen. Just like it does to a caterpillar, it makes us stronger and capable to handle things on our own.” – Dr. Laura Berman
Scary conversations require strength and willpower. These two values result from your ability to surpass difficult situations and tragedies in the past. By allowing yourselves to tackle challenging things together, you allow both of yourselves to be on the journey together. Otherwise, it’s probably not going to work.
Gloria Steinem said, “Far too many people are looking for the right person instead of trying to be the right person.” And Sam Kean said, “We come to love not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly.” I think that these conversations make up the heart of our conversation with Dr. Laura Berman today — that having a lasting relationship is built by the result of consistent and conscious efforts of becoming a better partner for one another.
What Dr. Laura Berman shared today is included in her book called, Quantum Love. If you want to hear more tips and strategies that can help you create lasting relationships and build intimacy, please make sure to secure a copy! You can also learn more about Dr. Laura’s work through Instagram, Facebook, and her website. Make sure to listen to her podcast, the Language of Love, where she talks and answers questions about love, life, relationships — regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
If you find value in what Dr. Laura and I talked about today, please tag Dr. Laura, @drlauraberman, and me, @lewishowes, on Instagram with your key takeaways. Please also go to Apple Podcasts, give it a five-star rating, and don’t forget to subscribe!
Dr. Laura finds that her definition of greatness is best captured in one word — authenticity. Like Dr. Laura, I believe that it’s only by allowing our true selves to surface in any relationship that we’ll be able to have a fulfilling love life.
If you’re ready to learn how to build intimacy and create lasting relationships, make sure you don’t miss Episode 1,081 with Dr. Laura Berman on the School of Greatness!