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Passion Killers | Dr Alexandra Stockwell #607
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On the Regular Version …
Today I am joined by Dr Alexandra Stockwell, AKA the Intimacy Doctor, and we discuss the common passion killers in marriage and long term relationships.
Learn more about Dr Stockwell on her site – https://www.alexandrastockwell.com/
On the Xtended Version …
We dive deeper into the idea of an uncompromising marriage. What exactly does that mean and how does it help?
Enjoy the show!
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Corey Allan: Coming up next on the Passionately Married podcast.
Alexandra Stockwell: I'm talking about long-term committed relationships in everything I'm about to say.
Corey Allan: You and I both. Absolutely.
Alexandra Stockwell: Okay. And I assume that's true of your listeners, but I want to just be clear about that. But the biggest passion killer is compromise.
Corey Allan: Welcome to the show. I'm Dr. Corey Allan, and alongside my rock, the joy of my life.
Pam Allan: That might be the first time I've been called a rock. I kind of like where you're going.
Corey Allan: My wife, Pam. She's the one that, obviously, you could tell right off the bat, she livens up the show, makes sure it doesn't just stay in the academic world.
Pam Allan: Yeah, I'm all spice, baby.
Corey Allan: All spice. Well, we explore the wisdom and skills of the world's most passionate and vibrant people through in-depth conversations. We want to talk about topics that every life and relationship will face, and we want to offer starters, conversations, actions that you can do that will propel your life forward and just provide a whole lot more passion in your life. So if you're new to the show and want a handy way to tell your friends about Passionately Married, check out the episode starter packs, collections of our favorite episodes organized by topic that help listeners get tastes of everything that we do here on the show.
Go to passionatelymarried.net/starter and if you got some feedback for the show with something that we've missed or we haven't covered, or if you just want something specifically for us to address, let us know. Call us at 214-702-9565. You can also text us at that line as well or email us firstname.lastname@example.org. So coming up on today's regular free version of the Passionately Married podcast is a conversation with Dr. Alexandra Stockwell. She's referred to as the intimacy doctor, an MD that's transitioned into working with couples, not in the medical world, but in the mental health and the relationship world. And we have a conversation about what are the passion killers that she keeps seeing and coming across and what are passion growers.
Pam Allan: Interesting.
Corey Allan: It's a fun conversation. And then on the extended version today, which is deeper, longer, and there are no ads, you can subscribe at passionatelymarried.net/academy. We go deeper into her idea of the uncompromising marriage because she has a little bit of a different take on the classic concept out there of the importance of compromise in marriage.
Pam Allan: The importance or lack of importance. Interesting. Listen to find out.
Corey Allan: Right. Because it is one of those buzzwords out there. Well, the key to a good marriage is compromise. And when she's talking about an uncompromising marriage, what exactly would she mean? All that's coming up on today's show. It is a pleasure to welcome a fellow podcaster, fellow intimacy person, doctor, there's a whole realm of things I could call and talk about with Alexandra Stockwell and the work that she does because you've got quite the history from the little bit I've discovered. And I want to ask you that here in just a minute, Alexandra. But welcome to the show.
Alexandra Stockwell: Thank you so much. I'm glad to be here and have been looking forward to our conversation.
Corey Allan: And just so the audience gets a little bit of an introduction to who you are, there's a lot of different doctors out there in the world of podcasts, several have been on the show, but not a whole lot that are MD doctor that you have. So I'm fascinated by the idea of somebody gets into the medical field and then becomes an intimacy doctor. So how did that come to be?
Alexandra Stockwell: It's interesting to think how far back to go. I'm going to start before I was an MD when I was nine years old and my parents got divorced. And my parents, their divorce was very amicable to anyone observing it. In fact, after my parents got divorced for the first year, my father came for dinner at our house every Thursday night in order to provide as much continuity as possible for us. So I always thought other people had really intense situations. Mine was benign and I didn't really identify as coming from a broken home. And I'm going to get to your question, but let me just say that then I ended up studying philosophy and math in college and I went to medical school and became a doctor.
And just at the very beginning of my internship to become a family medicine doctor, we had a training in cultural sensitivity so that we could treat our patients with the care that was appropriate for the many different cultures they came from. And as part of the cultural sensitivity training, we looked at our own culture and our own cultural bias and priorities. And I, myself, am a New York Jew, I have a quirky, intellectual, fun, odd family, and I thought, "Well, okay, that is my cultural bias, my cultural awareness." But as I went through these exercises, what I discovered is actually my culture, my identity, my tribe, if you will, is as a child of divorce.
And I realized that when I met people whose parents got divorced between the ages of six and 12, they felt like my people. So this was a new awareness, but I'm just going to put that to the side because that was simmering along for me and really motivated me to want to figure things out in my own marriage. I've now been married 26 years, we have four children, and we have a really wonderful marriage by any measure. So this is all going on in the background. And I went to medical school and became a family medicine doctor and was working in my own practice north of Boston when I realized I had worked so hard and I didn't have a sense of satisfaction that I expected to have.
It wasn't intense, I wasn't burnt out, but I just thought this wasn't what I did all this work for. And I ended up taking a sabbatical where I explored different things and one thing led to another and there was a convergence between this not feeling quite aligned as a physician, even though I loved practicing medicine, and my intense and also tender devotion to cracking the code on a long-lasting passionate marriage and they converged. And I did a very in-depth training on sensuality and sexuality for personal reasons for myself and my marriage, but it happened to double as a coach training. And at the time, I didn't even know what a coach was.
I did this for personal reasons, but I was curious. I went to the teaching lab. I was on my sabbatical for medicine, and when I went to the teaching lab for those learning to become a coach, I just thought, "Okay, I've come home. This is actually what I want to do." So my personal experience and my professional experience really converged and I've been serving couples ever since.
Corey Allan: Yeah. Isn't that kind of the way a lot of things happen in the sense that I'm seeking something for myself and at least that's a component of it, if not a large component? And then it becomes something that, "Wait, I can use this as a springboard or a tool or in some way, to help all those other people around me too."
Alexandra Stockwell: Yes. And this was particularly an issue for me as a physician because I was, of course, used to reviewing the data and having an objective clinical attitude. And I had already given guidance on sex. I certainly have done, I can't count how many, pelvic exams and yet when it comes to intimacy and passion and sensuality and sexuality, I wanted it not to be such a dehydrated conversation. So here I am.
Corey Allan: And I love the words you've used thus far, Alexandra, the idea of sensual, passionate because that's going beyond biology. That's going beyond the sterile, "How does this work? How does that work? What's it supposed to do? What's healthy? What's unhealthy?" Just on a biological level. Now you're getting deeper into the psyche and the spirit and all the other aspects of us that, girl, I hope you can find the code. And I hope this conversation helps us get a little bit closer and that's kind of what all of us are after.
Alexandra Stockwell: Yes, exactly. And both because we don't really have role models. I think it's such a beautiful contribution that Sexy Marriage Radio makes. We need to hear from other people how this works so that we can be inspired. When it comes to learning and relationships, the primary way humans learn, because we are mammals, is through imitation. So having these conversations, hearing what's possible, because I realize most people just assume that with time, passion just dies. And it absolutely doesn't need to be that way.
Corey Allan: Right. Okay. So for the sake of our conversation today, Alexandra, and this is also just to kind of set the audience to understand where we're going, I want to set aside the medical in the sense that, obviously, if you're experiencing elements in your marriage or your relationship where there are difficulties, struggles, dysfunction of some level or the lack of passion, sensuality, energy, vibrancy, whatever, there can be a medical component. I think we both agree on that, right? And you've got the background to prove it-
Alexandra Stockwell: We absolutely do-
Corey Allan: ... that there can be something happening.
Alexandra Stockwell: ... but it is the vast minority of cases.
Corey Allan: Okay. But I got to get ahead of this because some people will hear this and go, "Well, but you probably should get this checked." And yes, you should. All our senses, all the aspects of us needs to be addressed. So setting aside the physical though, when we're talking just about the umbrella of what your work is, if we just put it under the label of passion, what are some of the bigger passion killers, I guess you could say, that are out there that you keep coming across in your work now that you do with couples?
Alexandra Stockwell: Okay. Well, let me be very clear that I'm focused on long-lasting relationships. So what I'm going to say does not apply to one-night stands, early in dating. I'm talking about long-term committed relationships in everything I'm about to say.
Corey Allan: You and I both. Absolutely.
Alexandra Stockwell: Okay. And I assume that's true of your listeners, but I want to just be clear about that. But the biggest passion killer is compromise.
Corey Allan: You're speaking my language, girl, let's go.
Alexandra Stockwell: Okay. Well, throughout the world, the most common relationship advice that's given is you need to learn to compromise. Compromise is the key to a good marriage. And if what you want is a bland, pleasant, companionship, compromise will absolutely provide that for you. But if you want passion and intimacy and sensuality, and to have a divine communion every now and then in sex, compromise makes that impossible. And the reason for that is that when it comes to long-term relationships, basically everything which isn't sex functions as foreplay. It can either bring us closer together or drive us farther apart, either a lot or a little. And the thing is that when we compromise, we're basically holding back aspects of ourselves, whether it's compromising on which restaurant to go to or where to live, or how many children to have, which shoes to wear, whether it's something big or something little, when we compromise, we basically are disconnecting from a part of ourselves so that our partner is more comfortable.
And if we are clipping our personality in various ways throughout the day, not saying how we really feel, what our dreams and desires are, what we want, there's no magical switch that we then can flip to be fully self-expressed and present and passionate in the bedroom. We are also going to be not as present, not as available to share who we are. So when I say that I think that compromise is the biggest passion killer in long-term relationships, what I'm really talking about is the importance of self-expression and being a whole self throughout the day in interactions with your partner and spouse, if that's what you want to be able to do in the bedroom.
And the way that I actually talk about it is uncompromising intimacy. And what I mean by that in saying it's important to be uncompromising, is not that you always get your own way, not at all, but insofar as when you compromise, you hold back who you are so your spouse is comfortable. When you're uncompromising, you learn how to share the whole truth of who you are, what you desire, your challenges, your dreams, whatever your experience is, you learn to share that with your spouse in a way that they can hear it. And that really sets the stage for excellent sex.
Corey Allan: Our sponsor today fits right in line with the theme of today's show that it's a learned skill because we've created a product here at Passionately Married, The State Of Our Union. The premise of it is a great marriage doesn't happen by accident and deeper connections don't happen by accident either.
Pam Allan: They do not.
Corey Allan: We have to be intentional, I'm assuming. We've been here too, but I know our listeners have as well, that you reach a point in your marriage where there's a slow creep of disconnect and discontent. When's the last time you talked with your spouse about anything beyond schedule, work, or kids?
Pam Allan: Right. That's pretty common.
Corey Allan: Well, The State Of Our Union helps remember and discover what brought you together in the first place. It's a tool to help keep the important from being replaced by the immediate. The beautiful thing of this is it's designed to work on your phone because it's 52 texts, reminders, that promote a deeper conversation.
Pam Allan: So once a week. 52 is once a week.
Corey Allan: Once a week, you get a reminder with questions that you ask and you work through together. We have ours, conversation. We have for over three years now using this tool. We get the texts on Tuesday night. We usually have the conversations on Wednesday night. That's when our kids are gone at their various events that evening. So you get a chance to dream and plan together. Go to passionatelymarried.net/union and take advantage of the opportunity. Keep the important, important when it's far too easy to have the immediate replace the important.
Okay. So let's dig into this because I can already hear some pushback you would get and I would get too if I was taking the same stance because I've taken very, very similar. When you're talking about this idea of I need to be able to share myself, one of the things that's immediately going to happen is, "Well, what if both partners are trying to do this?" And, yes, the caveat is you're not trying to get your way, but there's still going to be roadblocks to this. There's still going to be tensions that come from this. There's still going to be elements that are problems in this, yeah?
Alexandra Stockwell: Yes and no because I absolutely believe that having a fantastic relationship is a learnable skill. No one is doomed to a bad relationship if they're willing to learn how and have a partner who will participate. So the key is learning how to share, how to be uncompromising. For example, when people hear what I'm saying, sometimes they conclude, "Oh, I've just got to go home and tell my spouse everything." And then I want to distinguish between brutal honesty and vulnerable honesty. What I've discovered both in coaching clients for, well, since 2013, and also in my own marriage, is that you can say so much more than you would ever imagine if you learn to say it with a focus on the connection and what the experience is for both of you.
Corey Allan: So if you're sharing yourself within the relational context for the betterment of the relationship and yourself, that's what you're describing.
Alexandra Stockwell: Yes. And to use a very mundane example, let's say you love Thai food. You just adore Thai food and your spouse loves Italian food and so do your kids. So whenever you go out to eat, you always go out to Italian and you haven't said anything because it's just the expedient thing to do, "Let's just go get Italian. Everyone will be happy and you'll find something there that works for you." Well, if you actually say, "I'm glad to go for Italian if that's what's best for everybody, but I want you to know I've been craving Thai," that already is sharing more of who you are.
And when both people share who they are, there are all kinds of creative solutions that just emerge that you never get to if you're just thinking about it by yourself. You could get takeout from both places and eat in a park. That's one way. I know a couple where it actually was Italian and Thai food, and he just ate before they went, and then he found one thing on the menu and she could really enjoy everything there, and they had a beautiful dinner together. There just are so many ways to navigate things when all of the information is actually on the table because it feels very connecting just to say the truth.
In fact, I'll take this one step further. When I was discovering how important this is, I would notice when my husband and I had a patch of not really connecting intimately, the very first thing I would do is ask myself, "Is there something I haven't said?"
Corey Allan: Are you holding back in some way, in a sense?
Alexandra Stockwell: Am I holding back in some way? And about 80, maybe 85% of the time, the answer was yes and I would share it. And it mostly was about him or what was or wasn't happening between us, but sometimes it was just something emotional that I was carrying and I hadn't shared. And then the very small percentage of times when I didn't find anything I was holding back on, I'd ask him. And I remember very clearly once where he said, "Let me think about it," and then proceeded to tell me this whole complicated, intricate situation at work, my husband is chief of a department, he's a physician, and it actually had nothing to do with me. It definitely had nothing to do with sex, but it was something that was taking up real estate in his mind. And as soon as he expressed it, well, then we were back to connecting.
Corey Allan: Right. Okay. This is the reason I was jumping on, and I'm excited about the idea of compromise because to me, I'm saying the same thing you do, but it's a slight variation maybe in that a lot of times I define compromise as you both go home equally unhappy because one of you is giving up on something. And usually, in a lot of examples, it's not actually compromise, it's caving, it's giving in like you're describing of, "I'm doing this for your comfort without acknowledging so. I'm actually doing it for your comfort, but I'm expecting it to be returned in kind in the future."
And that's the worst in us that can wreak havoc on, "I'll get you back for this." And that may not be a conscious thing, but I think that's what we often will do. And that just starts to lower the floor, if you will, of the relationship. It makes it to where both of us are just trying to avoid upsetting each other rather than really bringing ourself forward, which is what you're describing.
Alexandra Stockwell: Yes, although I think that plays out in two different ways. One is the way that you've just described where one spouse is compromising with the either conscious or unconscious anticipation that it's tit for tat, it's transactional like, "I'll give this up for you, but I'm expecting you to do something else for me." That is one way that it happens. The other way that it happens with both men and women, although in a very particular way with women, that when compromise is the seasoning of the marriage, she loses touch with what she actually desires.
In other words, she's not being transactional and expecting something in return, but she's lost touch with what she actually wants. So when that happens, I will be talking to a client and I'll say to her, "Okay, well, what do you want?" And she knows what her husband wants, she knows what her husband and children need, but it takes courage to pivot and be really clear to give herself permission to figure out what she wants. And I think that this happens for men too, it just has a different feeling about it.
Corey Allan: Yeah, because you're describing the elements of us as humans where we will play roles, and I know what those roles entail, but I may not know me within that role like you're describing. You even alluded to this at the beginning, your story of you went into the medicine world and the doctor world, it was good, you liked it, even loved it, but there was an element of, "I don't know, there's something quite not whole." And that takes the element of, "I've got to start growing towards how do I find the synergy of all of me." Which I think marriage is designed and you agree too, since you're describing your message is for the longer-term committed relationship, it's defined to help us face these things and learn and grow into them with ourself and a spouse.
Alexandra Stockwell: Absolutely. I view marriage as the ultimate vehicle for personal growth because either we are showing up and sharing who we are with our spouse in a way that enhances connection or it doesn't. And that is essentially shining light on our blind spots. There's nothing like it for getting to know oneself well and learning how to share that with somebody else.
Corey Allan: Perfect. Well, Alexandra, this has been a great conversation. Anytime we're talking about one of the main buzzwords out there and bringing it from a different stance, I'm all on board for that. But I would love for the nation to know how can they find more of you and your work?
Alexandra Stockwell: Thank you. So find me at alexandrastockwell.com, and from there you, can find a link for my book, Uncompromising Intimacy, or my podcast, the Intimate Marriage Podcast. I have lots of independent study programs and live coaching programs, but you can find everything at alexandrastockwell.com.
Corey Allan: And I will put all that in the show notes. So if you're listening to this while driving, please don't try to find it right now, that's just not safe. But it'll all be there. So, Alexandra, thank you so much, and I look forward to continuing the conversation in the extended content in just a bit.
Alexandra Stockwell: Fantastic.
Corey Allan: It's a whole lot of fun to me when we come across somebody that is talking the same threads that we have for years. There's a lot of overlap with our shows, if you will, of the message of Passionately Married over the 11 years we've been on the air, and then her show. And it's fun to have conversations of like-mindedness.
Pam Allan: It is. When you're grounded in personal responsibility and taking that first step by looking at yourself, that's kind of the heart of where we are, right?
Corey Allan: It is. And I'm curious, Pam, is there something specific that was a big takeaway that you got from listening to the show?
Pam Allan: Yeah. I thought there were a lot of fantastic little standouts for me. Having her note of having a fantastic relationship is a learned skill. And I think so many people get drawn back by thinking, "Well, I just don't know how to do this. I have no idea." Well, maybe you were never taught it. That's why we go back a lot to our family of origin stuff, what did I have exampled for me? Where did I learn what I've learned and what I'm doing? Am I willing to continue to learn more in my life? We should be learning as we grow.
Corey Allan: And that's an interesting thought because if you think about it, even if you had modeled a really good relationship, like your parents seemed to be into each other, they dated, you could tell they really did love each other and had passion with each other, just because you were modeled, that doesn't mean you were taught how to do it, you just were shown it.
Pam Allan: Absolutely. How do I get that? I have no idea how to get that. So I think that's important, and I think that's why a lot of people are listening to her show, to our show. The listeners are people that want to learn. They want to be better. They want to figure things out. I don't know, some of them may be listening just because they want to figure out how to change their spouse. But I'm going to call on you right now to say, don't look at it that way. Figure out how you can change your part of this scenario and just be better.
Corey Allan: That's great. So if you liked to show, you can help us out by rating and reviewing the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or however you listen. Your comments help us spread the word and we're adding a new caveat. If you leave a comment at Apple Podcasts and we read it on the show, you'll get a gift sent your way. We'll notify you via email that your review was used and we'll make it worth your while, as we would say to our kids. Transcripts are available in the show notes on each of the episodes' pages. All the advertisers' deals and discount codes are also on each of the episodes' pages at passionatelymarried.net. Please consider supporting those who support the show. The greatest compliment you can give us is to live your life boldly and passionately and share the show with those you care about along the way. Thanks for listening, and we'll see you next time.
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