What they don’t tell you about sex.

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As a marriage therapist I occasionally have to deal with issues around sex. My therapeutic understanding of sex was shaped by a mentor and friend of mine, James Vann Rackley. He not only taught my sex therapy class, but also performed the ceremony at my wedding. I don’t remember much about my wedding except that I was nervous. I mean like really nervous. My panic must have been obvious because as I stood at the wedding arch waiting for the music to begin, Rackley, kind giant that he is, decided to check on me.

“How you doing?”

“Okay. A little anxiety.”

“Performance anxiety?” He said with a sly smile.

Oh Rackles shackles. That goof ball.

But seriously I wish he had taught me more about sex.


There are two types of desire, spontaneous and responsive. People with spontaneous desire, the more culturally accepted form of desire, typically experience desire “out of the blue” and typically desire sex more frequently. This is the majority of men (75%). People with responsive desire experience desire in after being exposed to an erotic context and therefore tend to be pathologized for “wanting sex less” or for not being aroused. This is the majority of women (85%). If you’re the responsive partner, and it can switch at times, the trick is less about making yourself feel desire and more about being willing to explore what feels good and maybe in the course of that, you will feel desire. So just do what feels good.


Arousal works like a car. There is an accelerator and there is a brake. The accelerator is anything that turns you on. The brakes are anything which turn you off. Most problems of arousal are caused by too much pressure on the gas way before the brakes have released. The biggest brakes are stress/anxiety/worry. What does this mean on a day to day level? It means that often times people have trouble with sex because they are stressed/anxious/worried. This tends to show up in men as premature ejaculation or performance anxiety. In women this can show up as trouble getting aroused or having an orgasm (although female orgasm is complicated so this might not be the only thing).

So, if you wanna turn them on focus more on the releasing the brakes and less on the accelerator. One of the biggest brakes is pressure to perform. So, relax that pressure and simply do what feels good.


“only a minority of women are really reliably orgasmic from intercourse alone — the overwhelming majority are sometimes, rarely, or never orgasmic from intercourse and require more direct clitoral stimulation…the cultural narrative around women’s orgasms is that they happen with intercourse, while the reality is sometimes they do and often they don’t. [Also] the percentage of women who never have orgasms [is about] 5–10%.” — Emily Nagoski. Also, it’s quite common for a man to lose an erection during sex. Something like 50% of men do. So sometimes she can’t orgasm and sometimes he can’t keep it up. Okay. Why not just focus on what feels good.

All this leads to a central revelation: Sex is more about pleasure than orgasm.

Jordan Harris just passed his PhD defense and is waiting for conferral in august of 2017 (YAY). He is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a Licensed Professional Counselor. He has over 5 years of experience counseling individuals, couples, and families from a wide diversity of backgrounds. He sees clients both in his office and consults online. You can contact him at 318-238-0586 with him online or connect with him through email at jharris@cccofwm.com.


Yes, You’re Sane.

Back in college there was this girl. She had an old school style and a voice brimming with soul. Let’s call her Amy.


I remember the first time I saw her on stage. She was singing Six Pence None the Richer’s Kiss Me, and I thought “If a guy like me could be with a girl like that…” Then, in the spring semester of sophomore year we randomly ended up hanging out late one night. When I got back to my dorm I sat down with my buddies and raved about how cool this girl was.

Amy and I hung out almost every day for the rest of the semester, and I could tell she was feeling me. Some times I’d make her laugh so hard that she’d do this thing where she’d giggle until she snorted, and then look around, wide-eyed and embarrassed like, “Who did that? Was that me?”. One day near finals week I made a move. I asked her out and suddenly she flaked. Couldn’t get a hold of her. Amy stopped answering her phone. When she finally did respond to my text she started talking about “friends.”

For the entirety of junior year I gave Amy the cold shoulder. If you were with me you ignored her. She did not eat in the cafeteria and she did not walk around campus. So cold was my shoulder that even Amy’s friends shivered when they neared me. She was a ghost and I was not a medium. Everyone once in a while I’d catch a glimpse of her and she’d look at me knowingly. Then she’d advert her eyes and have the audacity to laugh at something a friend said.

I was hurt bad. I made my best friend Ryan promise that if I should ever make that mistake again he would punch me in the face. Which he didn’t do and at the end of my senior year I once again ended up sitting on a curb furious, wondering what was wrong with me.

What I didn’t know then was that being alone, abandoned, or relationally isolated is just as painful as being eaten alive by a lion. We are mammals. This means we are relational by default. We need relationships just as much as we need air, water, sleep, and food. The only difference is how much suffering we can endure in their absence. We can’t endure a lot of suffering from suffocation. We can endure a lot of suffering from abandonment.

When we face that kind of pain, we only have a few options. One is to move toward it and try to conquer it. I’ve known a few of us who lean this way. Isolation and loneliness loom, lurking in the corners and some of us get big. Some of us get mad, and yell and shout and throw things. We blow up your phone. We come by your apartment. We refused to be ignored. Some of us do this because when faced with abandonment even tainted attention is better than none. Some of us pursue.

Some of us swing the other way though. Some of us do what I did to Amy. We shut down. We turn cold. We turn away. We say never again because we can’t take it and because we believe if you knew how much we hurt, you couldn’t take it either. I know a lot of guys who do this because if they let out their pain they are afraid they might hurt a woman. Since they’d never hurt a woman, they just keep freezing their pain. Some of us withdraw. 

What I learned recently that I wish someone would have told me was this: You’re not crazy. You make sense. Some of us get cold and silent and withdraw when we feel a relationship begin to falter. Of course. Shutting down is a way of not feeling the pain which could break us. Some of us get big and demand to be heard and pursue at all cost. Well yeah. Because any way of being seen is better than being invisible.

Sometimes we switch roleson certain issues. Sometimes we switch roles even in the same argument. But there are really only two ways. Either way you make sense. You’re just as sane as I am.

Bonding and Living Below the Line

Recently I had my first night working in the church nursery. Two two-year-olds were already bouncing from bookcase to ring toss when a third entered. She was a chubby cheeked girl named “Emily” and she was not happy with mom. Every time mom would make for the door Emily would start to cry. We all know that call; one part breathless wail of distress and two parts ultimate agony.

Mom eventually left and during this time another mom had handed me her six-month-old, Jackson.

As Emily wailed, Jackson began to cry. I tried walking him, shushing him, bouncing him, spinning with him but nothing worked. I suspected, partially because he kept looking in Emily’s direction, that he too felt the pain of Emily’s wail. My heart started to thump. I had no idea what the first two kids were doing BECAUSE THE SECOND TWO WERE FREAKING OUT! My wife looked at me and pleaded, “Can you go and get Emily’s mother? She not calming down.”

“Let me try.” I said.

“Okay. She’s not usually this difficult. In the past I just hold her and within a minute she’s calmed down.”

I went over to Emily and knelt down. Her hands were up and she was making a flicking motion at her hair. So I stroked the back of her head saying, “You miss your mommy. You’re sad. You miss your mommy so much. You’re so sad.” Emily almost immediately stopped crying and leaned her head forward so I could keep stroking. “And you have such soft hair. Can you feel how soft it is?” Emily started flexing her tiny fingers, “And you’ve got nice strong hands. Can you move your hands? And you’ve got a nice loud voice. Can I hear your voice?” At that point she’d completely calmed down, Jackson stopped crying and Emily started stroking her hair, feeling its softness.

After a few minutes we sat down on one of the stools and tossed a teddy bear back and forth, later we moved to stacking rings, then we closed by playing with a pink castle and a unicorn.

Now I used some therapeutic techniques. Pacing and leading. Empathic conjecture. An assumption that body image is self esteem. Picking up on minimal cues. But the organizing principle, the central idea is that she’s hurting because she feels alone.

Our ability to see others’ pain and aloneness is what a friend of mine calls living below the line because you have to look below the surface. Living below the line is hard. One of the biggest barriers to living below the line, to seeing what’s going on below the surface for others is when we haven’t had someone do this for us. If we haven’t had someone who sees below the line for us, sometimes we don’t know what’s going on inside of ourselves.

Another barrier to living below the line is how terrifying vulnerability can be. It’s easy for others to see our underlying pain and loneliness when we’re a little girl in distress, but when we’re a teenager smoking copious amounts of weed and actively failing out of high school or when we’re a husband who’s had an affair, people don’t look so graciously on us. They tend to get angry or shut us out. All they see is the behavior above the surface not the pain below the line. Someone has to be able to hear our pain and isolation without freaking out themselves. Instead, some of us harden our hearts and brainwash ourselves into thinking we weren’t meant for that sort of openness in a relationship.

The thing is if we don’t live below the line we die. If you’re a baby it’s called failure to thrive. If you’re older we don’t have a name for it, but you get sick more often, your immune system starts to glitch, and you get all sorts of diseases at higher rates. We’re built to live below the line.

If you have someone you can live below the line with, you can work through anything because you bond. Bonds are the linchpin. We know this innately. Bonding is why Harry is the Boy Who Lived (#MotherSonBonds). Bonding is how Vader remembers who he is and turns on the emperor thus bringing balance to the force (#FatherSonBonds). Bonding is why we send in eight men in to save Private Ryan (#BotherBonds #FamilyBonds). Bonding is why we cry when we realize Jack’s notebook is the story of their love (#MarriageBonds).

We’re built to live below the line. And yet some of us shouldn’t. If you haven’t yet found someone who’s safe, then don’t live below the line. Not everyone has earned the right to hear your story.

Safety, Adventure, and That Time Ryan Held Me.

Contrary to what we’ve been told, safety is the birth place of adventure.

A few months ago I was kickin’ it with my BFF Ryan. He and some friends took my wife and I rock climbing in the canyons of Colorado. We drove on rolling roads until we wound our way through a tunnel and pulled over on a median in the heart of a canyon. We hiked up a hill, gravel slipping under our feet, until we came to where the mountain side met the canyon wall. I looked down, saw my car a tenth its size, and I lost my breath. If I’d slipped from there I’d go tumbling all the way down.

Ryan clipped into the rockface and started climbing while I belayed. After he reached the top he repelled down and I slipped on my rope and harness. I got a foot off the ground when my legs started shaking like a sewing machine’s needle. Stop it. Stop it. What’s wrong with me? I’ve done this before. Stop it. But of course I can’t. I can no more stop shaking than a little girl can stop crying when she wants her momma.

“Hey man. I don’t know what’s going on. But I think I just need to sit in the harness for a minute.” I said.

“Yeah man. No problem. Take as much time as you need.” Ryan replied, and pulled down on his rope, taking the slack out of my rope. I could feel the harness tight around my butt and waist. It was then that I could feel that he had me. I wasn’t going anywhere.

I stood up, attacked the wall and summited it.

That is what safety does. Safety sets you up to have a safe base from which to explore the world. That safe base, which is really just knowing that someone has your back (#bonding), changes everything. Without a sense of safety people feel like they are going crazy.

Here’s what I didn’t know that someone should have told me about safety.

  1. There are set, innate cues of safety. When someone smiles and the muscles around the eyes move, that’s an innate safety cue. When someone’s voice has a melodic quality it’s an innate safety cue. These are signals which allow us to relate socially to other people, which by default calms our bodies (hence helping us feel safe). Safety allows us to come close and begin bonding. This social safety system is the same system — nerves/muscles/brain system — we use for eating BTWs. Which is why we comfort eat. It’s also why when a baby is distressed you can feed her and she’ll stop crying.
  2. In your brain predictability = safety. This is why neutral faced people (#RBF) sometimes freak us out. They aren’t sending out safety signals. When we don’t have safety in the relationship, neutral is dangerous. My friend’s father gets paranoid when he goes to big cities. He’s from a small town where he knows basically everyone. Of course. In his home town things are predictable. He knows the guy at the diner and he knows the lady at the gas station. In big towns he doesn’t know what’s going on. None of the people are familiar and almost none of them smile back. Of course he’s paranoid.
  3. A lack of danger does not equal a sense of safety. Safety cues equal safety. I remember when I was moving from middle school to high school. My parents took me to visit Loyola-Blakefield, an all boys preparatory school.
(Just so we’re clear I did NOT go to this school. It was just too rich.)

Campus was like a European city with cobblestone walkways and Gothic clock towers. At lunch the student guide took me to the cafeteria. The hallway to the cafeteria was lined with cubbies stacked and double stacked with book-bags. I thought, Wow. This is what it’s like to have money. You don’t have to worry about anyone taking your stuff. That is a safety signal.

How different does that feel than schools with gateways guarded by metal detectors, hallways lined with police officers, holsters hugging guns tight to their hips, and chain linked fences looping the perimeter?

I’m not saying that you should or shouldn’t have armed police officers in schools. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have a fence around a school. I’m saying if you’re going to have a fence you’d better paint it, because lack of danger does not equal a sense of safety and lack of safety drives us crazy.

Once we have this sense of safety, and it is a felt sense (not a cognitive/ thinking process), we can bond. Once we bond we’re bulletproof. Safety is the birthplace of adventure because safety is the prelude to bonding.

Remember none of this is mine. We’ve known it for 20–30 years. It’s just been locked away in academia.

Welcome. Let’s begin with why academia is killing relationships.

Welcome to the beginning.

When I’m honest I’ll admit that I did not become a therapist to help people. I became a therapist to analyze people. I was a wannabe anthropology student who figured I should do something with my life that would help others. So I chose studying people and how to help them change. However, all of that shifted once I got into my masters program.

My masters program wasn’t about helping people change. It was about helping me change. For two years my life was changed, both by a professor who picked on me (#microaggressions) and by professors who poured into and subtly mentored me. Whether one out weighed the other, who can tell. I can tell you that both were wrong in one huge way because there is more to helping people than the therapist being changed. Therapeutic change- better called relational change-is not just about showing up and being a kind, healthy person. There are specific things we need to know and do in order to be healthy. Unfortunately most of the time these things are locked away in academics’ books and at conferences.

I have a friend who is always telling me I would be great in academia, which makes me cringe. It’s true that I know the few things I know REALLY well, but I’m not a fan of academia because academia is where ideas go to die. There is so much infighting and squabbling that if an idea does manages to make it out of the fray the normal person can’t distinguish whether it’s a good idea or not.

I’ll give you an example.

Did you know that we know how to have happy marriages? It is not a mystery anymore. We can predict with over 90% accuracy who will make it and who won’t. We can fix marriages around 80% of the time. And we know that one of the biggest problems for the other 20% is that they’ve waited about 6 years before they even ask for help.

The fact that only marriage specialists know this is a problem because every six months I hear about another college buddy getting divorced or a mentor who had an affair. It isn’t supposed to be this way. This is important to me because our world is hurting. I’m a fan of grass roots change, and from my perspective marriages are the linchpin. If a marriage is changed then you’ve changed a family. Change a handful of families and you’ve changed a community for this generation and the next.

What I’d like to do over the next ten posts is to share some of that with you. I’ll outline a few things we know about family relationships. This will apply to all relationships, whether it’s between mother-son, sister-sister, husband-wife or whatever. I’m going to get really specific and use the lens of marriage because there are only a few patterns of relationship, and if you understand them now you can better move through the pain later. I’m tired of seeing people hurting and sick and lost in their pain when they don’t have to be.

So I’m going to pass on what I’ve learned to you. If it resonates, pass it on to others. If it doesn’t, let me know what doesn’t click.

Thanks for the feedback in advance.

I appreciate it.