057. How to Bring Intimacy to Your Life and Cultivate Connection with Dr Alexandra Stockwell

Dive deeper into connection and intimacy with Dr. Alexandra Stockwell, a Relationship Intimacy Coach, Intimacy Doctor, and Intimate Marriage Expert. This episode goes beyond the myth of “quality time” and explores the real secrets to building a strong emotional bond with your partner. 

Dr. Stockwell will explain why simply spending more time together isn’t enough, and how to build a deeper rapport that fosters true intimacy. She’ll also discuss the benefits of working with a relationship expert to navigate intimacy challenges, and offer practical takeaways you can use to cultivate stronger, more fulfilling connections in your life.

Key Points From This Episode:

  1. Understanding that having more time together with your partner isn’t enough.
  2. Why should people actually care about working about their intimacy?
  3. The need to build rapport with your partner.
  4. Working with high professionals can help guide you to be more emotionally connected.
  5. Ways how to cultivate connection and relationships.
  6. Pay attention to your relationships and avoid neglecting them.
  7. Ask for what you want don’t let your partner be a mind reader.


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57 - How to Bring Intimacy to Your Life and Cultivate Connection with Dr Alexandra Stockwell

00:05 Dr. Ann Tsung Are you struggling to advance your career and sacrificing time with your loved ones because of endless to-dos, low energy, and just not enough time in the day? If so, then this podcast is for you. I am your host Dr. Ann Tsung, an ER critical care and space doctor, a peak performance coach, a real estate investor, and a mother of a toddler. I’m here to guide you on mastering your mind and give you the essential skills to achieve peak performance. Welcome to Productivity MD, where you can learn to master your time and achieve the five freedoms in life.

00:51 Alright. Welcome to Productivity MD Podcast, and I’m your host Dr. Ann Tsung. And today I have Dr. Alexandra Stockwell here, MD. She is a relationship intimacy coach and intimate marriage expert, who is also known as “The Intimacy Doctor.” So welcome, Dr. Stockwell. I’m so excited that you’re here. The reason why I wanted to bring her on is because we often leave our spouses behind when we’re trying to pursue our entrepreneurial dreams. Or, we focus more on our kids, the household tasks, and having the things in order and then we forget about those date nights and building up compassion and intimacy. Or, we just take it as it’s the norm that passion and intimacy goes away. I feel like relationship with your spouse is hugely important for stability and how you feel, what your peak performance. And also, if you have kids, how stable your kids feel as well. So thank you for being on the show. Could you do a little bit of a more detailed introduction of how you came about to become “The Intimacy Coach” or doctor, and why you do what you do?

02:07 Dr. Alexandra Stockwell Yes, and I really love that introduction. I think it very accurately just sets the landscape for this conversation on why it’s so important. So my husband and I met the first week of medical school. We got together. Pretty soon thereafter, we got married. I had my first child just at the end of third year of medical school. My second, just before starting my internship. What I want to say with all of that is that between medical school and residency training, and babies and diapers, and just what that phase of life was like, I had no question that we loved one another. But we didn’t have a really romantic relationship just because there was no time. And by romantic, I mean, yes, we didn’t take leisurely walks on the beach. I also mean we didn’t spend the weekend exploring one another’s bodies. Because, well, there were diapers to change, babies to care for, tests to take, et cetera, et cetera, you know. We chose our wedding day based on the rotation schedule, so we wouldn’t be coming right out of an exam and not be going right into one. That was the context of the first 10 or so years of our marriage.

03:18 I want to add that both my husband and I grew up with parents who divorced when we were young. So I always partly thought that we would get divorced because it’s really all that was familiar. It’s like, intellectually, I knew something else was possible. But in my unconscious, that’s all that was familiar. And I also thought that once we had more time together — because we love one another, and we’re compatible. We really didn’t particularly have conflict at all. We had the same values in parenting. Financial decisions came easily. We were a good couple, that I thought, well, once we have more time, we’re not working evenings and most weekends, of course, things are just going to heat up in the one area which was functional but not inspiring, let me say. It wasn’t anything that the poets describe. And after having sex or making love, I didn’t feel closer to my husband in the way that I imagined. It’s like it was functional. It was fine, but it wasn’t anything close to extraordinary in a way that I thought should be the case because we were so good together otherwise. So understanding that just having more time together wasn’t enough, then I had to really get honest with myself that I actually had no idea what to do. And I also didn’t have any idea whom to turn to.

04:56 Just stepping aside from the story for a second, I now deeply believe that having a fantastic relationship is a learnable skill. One of the main problems, the main context for why that’s not common, is that we don’t have the education to learn how to do that. We don’t get it from porn. We don’t get it from religious institutions. We don’t get it in our sex ed classes, and it is the rare person who has that modeled at home. So where will we get the education? I knew I was a good student. That, I didn’t have any question about. I wouldn’t have gotten — any of us who are physicians, entrepreneurs, or otherwise, at a minimum, were good students. So I decided to do a really in-depth training on sensuality and sexuality. I had really fallen in love with the rest of my life. And so this was a sore spot for me. So I did this really in-depth training for my own sake, for the sake of my marriage. It happened to be for lay people, and it was also a coach training. Now, this was long before the widespread phenomenon of — I mean, I’d say it wasn’t centuries ago. But it was certainly many years before the phenomenon of so many physicians becoming coaches. At the time, I didn’t know anybody who’d left medicine other than due to accident, illness, injury, all involuntary. And so that wasn’t really on my mind, and I didn’t know what a coach was. I mean, sure, I knew an athletic coach, but I didn’t know what a sex coach would — I didn’t know what that was.

06:45 I went to the teaching lab, because I just was really fascinated by the educational model. How do you actually teach people, to help people learn how to heat everything up while really being a normal person and respectful of discretion? And without using porn or anything, how do you do this? When I went to the teaching lab, I just had the experience that I had come home. It’s not that I didn’t — I did enjoy practicing medicine. But I realized that what drew me into medicine, I actually would be better able to accomplish as a relationship and intimacy coach. And so that is what I’ve been doing ever since. I dialed down my practice, and I don’t do clinical medicine anymore. I absolutely think that I serve individuals, couples and families, but it’s through the format of being a relationship and intimacy coach.

07:50 Dr. Ann Tsung Yeah, I mean, sexual health is part of being human. It’s part of your health. It’s natural, and that’s super exciting to hear that it is actually a learned skill. We were talking about how most people feel like this is normal. And you’re right. We don’t actually learn the steps or what actions to actually take, other than maybe some novelty, maybe increased time. But we don’t really learn it anywhere else or maybe not something that’s stepwise anyway. Would you be able to shed a little bit more light of like why people should actually care about their intimacy in their relationship? A lot of times, I see it is important to them. Their spouse is important to them before they got married, before kids. But somehow, the importance just dropped. Deep down inside, they know that it is important because your significant other might be the only person who’s with you when all the kids grow up and leave. They’re putting in level-one effort for something that’s like level-10 importance. So why should people actually care about working on this now instead of waiting?

09:07 Dr. Alexandra Stockwell Okay. I’m going to answer your question but not directly. I want to just build the landscape of relevant things and then answer that question. Just one thing to start with is that if we want to be good at anything — whether it’s making a soufflé, becoming a physician, listening to heart tones, becoming a marathon runner — anything worthy that we want to be good at, enjoy and be successful, we practice. That is especially true in this very explicit way when it comes to anything that involves our bodies, but certainly our minds too. Sometimes, with our minds, we can have understanding once and then we’re good to go. But whether it’s learning to drive or becoming a quarterback, we expect to practice, becoming a violinist. In this sense, that is also true with erotic intimacy and sexual presence and the nourishment of the physical passion in our lives. So I just want to place that on the table as one of the things to consider. Because there’s a way in which we assume it’s natural. Sure, sometimes babies need a little bit of guidance. But for the most part, eating is natural. We just do it. It doesn’t take effort. But when it comes to presence and sexuality, that’s not like just eating. I mean, it can be. But that’s not where the pleasure is. And for that matter, paying attention when we eat makes it a much more pleasurable experience too. So there’s a way in which intention, attention, exploration, experimentation, practice should be part of growing our prowess and mastery in the sexual realm. It’s just not a meme in our culture. So that’s one thing.

11:10 Another thing is that when it comes to a one-night stand, you can have an amazing — I mean, often, this doesn’t happen. But one can theoretically have an amazing experience without even knowing one’s partner’s name. We don’t need emotional intimacy for it to be a very fun experience. But when it comes to long-term relationships, marriage where you have a life with someone, you live in the same home, you’ve really collaborated and co-created in all kinds of ways, certainly with raising children, then emotional intimacy is a prerequisite for sensual passion. I feel like this is really not well-understood. People tend to compartmentalize intimacy and sex in a way that our human bodies and souls are not actually available for that degree of compartmentalization. Sure, in the short term, we compartmentalize. But it’s kind of fun to say but also accurate that when it comes to long-term relationships, really, everything which is in sex functions as foreplay. It either brings you a little bit closer together, or a lot, or a little bit further apart. So when we talk about intimacy and passion in long-lasting relationships, it’s not just something that happens on date night or on Saturday nights at 8 PM. What’s happening the rest of the time is having an influence. I think this is one of the reasons why passion erodes. It’s because people don’t have their attention on it, which brings me now to my answer to your question which is, why does this erode? And why does this all matter?

13:00 What I want to say is that if you think back to the experience of falling in love, of being in love, the early stages that you’re referring to — the first few years, before marriage, before kids, whatever it is — when you think back to that time, the experience of falling in love includes so much curiosity about our partner. Where does that scar come from? If you weren’t a doctor, what would you want to be? If we didn’t live here, what other country would you want to live in? What were your favorite books? What’s your favorite movie? What kind of music do you like to listen to? What vegetables did you like as a child? I mean, we have so many questions that are intimate and personal and just totally generic, whimsical, just historical fact. It’s like we can’t get enough of who is this other person, and what have they experienced? And then comes the really wonderful phase of security, familiarity, stability in the relationship. The problem is that, for pretty much almost all couples, with familiarity and security, the curiosity just evaporates. Because once we have that familiarity, we tend to then put our attention on other things — whether it’s career, decorating our home, whatever it is, children. And without that curiosity and fascination about who our partner is and what their experiences are, it’s very hard to be fully present and curious and responsive in the bedroom. If there’s a part of you that’s turned off, it doesn’t automatically turn on when clothes come off.

14:59 I’m not talking about becoming an interrogator, or even asking your partner questions all the time. But we, as human beings, grow and evolve. And if there’s not enough curiosity, then the growth in evolution isn’t included in the relationship. It happens outside the relationship, which means that the connection stagnates. Because a person grows beyond what there’s room for in the relationship. I don’t mean to make this so theoretical. What I mean is, if you just ask your partner what’s a highlight from your week? Or, when you drive to work, if someone has a commute, what are you daydreaming about these days, or what are you thinking about, or what podcasts do you listen to? I’m not talking about really fundamentally changing how we interact. Just bringing an invitation, an interest in how your partner is developing as a human being, and bringing who I am into the marriage so that my interest in growth and accomplishments and challenges and desires don’t remain outside because it wasn’t part of what we included when we transitioned into the secure, familiar stage. So I’ll stop there. I clearly have more to say, but I want to paint the landscape of most people’s experience.

16:32 Dr. Ann Tsung Yeah, I don’t think I knew that. But it makes sense. I don’t think I knew that you need emotional intimacy first before you can actually have sexual intimacy and passion. That makes sense. Because once you get into the kids’ realm, housework, chores, you start having resentment. Then it sounds like then your emotional intimacy goes down because you’re being critical of the other person. You’re being 50/50. And then so it’s very hard to have that sexual intimacy or passion. Even if you schedule, it might not even feel that way. So I think that makes sense. And it sounds like you’re saying that the first step to getting emotional intimacy is to get curious, like how we did back then when we’re dating. To get curious about how they continue to develop as a human being, to grow. A lot of times, I do agree. Sometimes we stop asking questions about our spouse. Like, I don’t even know what audio book he’s reading sometimes. So if they’ve lost that emotional intimacy, is it possible to gain it back? I want them to be able to envision the possibility, what it’s like to be able to build up emotional intimacy leading into sexual passion and intimacy. And how long does it take?

18:00 Dr. Alexandra Stockwell Okay. Well, it is absolutely possible. And it’s also possible if just one of you starts. You don’t need to both listen to this podcast in order to get going. If one of you starts, then the other will just naturally join them without even realizing that that’s happened. So it is possible. And I am continually astounded how quickly it happens. I routinely have couples that coach with me. Just last week, someone said they had coached with a couple’s therapist for two years and nothing had moved. They really liked her. But within a month of coaching with me, their whole connection is completely transformed. I want to say that’s partly because I coach smart people who are used to taking action, who know how to make things happen. All they really need is to learn how to do it in this realm. People on the verge of divorce or kind of stewing in a kind of murky disconnection for years, all of it can change so quickly with guided, precise instruction. I think one of the revelations is that this is a realm that we think of as mysterious and murky. Actually, there’s a very precise easily-implemented instruction.

19:26 I think what I want to do right now is just tell a story, because it responds to a bunch of different things that you just said. There’s a couple. She’s a physician. He’s an engineer. It was one of the couples that I coached very early on, and so they made such an impression on me. I learned so much from them. When they reached out, they loved one another. They were really on the same page in terms of values in life. They’d had a bunch of debt that they’d work together to pay off and were on the same page in terms of finances, a child in middle school and a child in high school. When the kids went to bed or went to do their homework, they were always in different rooms in the house. They were not interacting that much when it was just the two of them, and they hadn’t had sex in nine months.

20:16 So when I met them, I was clear that two things needed to happen: they needed to rebuild rapport with one another because they’d been just basically distant, and I needed to build rapport with them. Because when devoted couple is they’re discreet, they’re not airing their dirty laundry. I wanted to just build trust before getting into more explicit conversations. So I encouraged them to be curious about one another, to share what their actual experience was. Because one of the main things that happens with disconnection is, each person projects about what the other person is thinking. So in this case, this woman who was in her mid-40s, she thought — I mean, she’s this gorgeous woman, but she thought her husband was no longer attracted to her because she was getting older. And that’s why they weren’t having sex. He, on the other hand, turned out, it’s that he had a lot of self-doubt and was concerned that he couldn’t really pleasure her. He was concerned about losing an erection. Even though that hadn’t really happened, he was theoretically concerned about it. He just didn’t want to be in the situation of failing at pleasuring her. And so he declined sex so as not to have to be so uncomfortable and experience that he hadn’t given her the kind of experience he wanted to give her. They had never discussed this. They each were making exemptions.

21:38 Anyway, the first maybe three sessions, I facilitated a conversation so that all this came out. They just immediately felt so much closer when he realized, oh, she thinks — I am so attracted to you. She realized how critical she had been and was in general and how that really restricted her man’s courage and ability to go for it. Anyway, the third, maybe fourth session, they just had this totally different vibe. They were sitting closer to one another on the couch. It just felt really good. And so I said, okay, well, let’s go ahead and transition to talking about other things. I was ready to guide the conversation into sex and what happens in the bedroom. They smiled and we’re like — well, first, they didn’t know what I was talking about. And so I was like, you know, what you contacted me about. Then she just lit up with this huge smile and said, oh, we’re all set. And they had been making love, having sex. I mean, I don’t know how many times.

22:51 I have found in my practice, working with high-performing professionals, that about 80% of the time when I guide people to be more emotionally connected, to be more vulnerable to say what’s true, ask the questions they actually have rather than responding to self-made walls of assumptions and projections, about 80% of the time, the bedroom just heats up without further attention. Then about 20, maybe 25% of the time, I do actually coach explicitly on how they’re touching one another, initiating in a way that the other person is positively responsive. There are all kinds of things to learn in that realm. But my experience is that when people actually are just more real with one another but in a vulnerable, generous way, not a critical way, then the energy is flowing. The erotic energy is flowing as well.

24:03 I think for those of us who are used to doing a good job and life and more type A kind of person, it’s very uncomfortable to acknowledge that sex is not what we want it to be. But it’s even more uncomfortable to say, “I’m not as close with my spouse as I want to be.” We don’t think of ourselves as the kind of people who would experience that. And so I think just being interested in your spouse and revealing more of what’s happening for you with kindness and generosity and just like, “Please witness me. You don’t need to fix anything. I’m not going to fix you. But here we are, this is who I am.” That kind of pivot is like adding salt to food. It changes the flavor of one’s entire life. Because we all want to feel seen and respected and cherished. And the way for that to happen is actually to become curious about your partner and be willing to share what’s real for you.

25:22 Dr. Ann Tsung Yeah, and I think that’s a really great story. It didn’t sound like it took long. Just three sessions, and they were good. It does take commitment on our part, to make a commitment and put down our pride. Because a lot of times, I’ve seen, or even in myself, it’s the pride or being transactional in the relationship too. Because I did this and I did this, then if he doesn’t do that then he’s not supportive. So first step, it’s really to put down the pride. It sounds like second step is to really get curious. I’m wondering. So say it’s a couple who, like you said, love each other, have kids. They have grown apart. But everything else, all their values align. But they’ve grown apart emotionally, like you said. When kids go to bed, one person is on the phone. The other person is on the laptop doing whatever, catching up because they didn’t have time during the day, or just watching movie and don’t actually connect. So in that situation, regarding some of the first steps or first questions — to be authentic, you want to be vulnerable, you want to share your feelings — do you have some prompts of topics? Say, it’s your first session or first step in taking action to progress towards a better emotional intimacy and then leading to sexual intimacy. What topic, what question, what setting? I just want the listeners who are listening to this, they’re very, very beginner, what can they do on their own as the first 30 minutes or an hour to get their spouses involved?

26:57 Dr. Alexandra Stockwell There actually are a lot of different decks of cards with these kinds of questions. My favorite are at bestself.co. They have a whole collection of them. But the main thing that I want to say is that it actually doesn’t even matter. It’s not about the content. I will give some examples so that people don’t feel stuck. But I want to be clear. It’s not about the content. It’s connection over content. What matters most is that you ask a question you’re genuinely curious about the answer. It’s an open-ended question — meaning, there’s no right or wrong answer — and that you listen generously. You receive whatever is shared. This is not about, I mean, you could ask about sexual fantasies, but I wouldn’t ever start there.

27:51 Start with whatever’s comfortable. So it could be a more whimsical question, like, if you could have dinner with any celebrity alive or dead, who would it be and what would you want to ask them? It could be, if you were going to write a movie, if someone was going to write a movie about your life, who would you want to play the lead actor? Who would you want to play you? It can be more like contemplative. Like, what do you think about when your mind wanders these days? What was the highlight of your week? What’s the current challenge in your life? Where do you see us in five years? If you could live in another country, which one would it be? It really is just whatever question is going to be comfortable and not be so weird that your spouse says, “Why are you asking me that?” No, you want it to be the kind of thing that you ask. You could even just say, you know, I don’t feel like I know where your mind is these days. Tell me. What are you thinking about? It really shouldn’t be complicated. I was really looking forward to our conversation, this interview, for multiple reasons. But one of them is that I am a huge fan of efficiency in relationships. We tend to think, like, once you open up communicating, cultivating emotional intimacy, it’s like this well that you dropped down. Are you ever going to come back up? It’s this prolonged thing, and it’s hard to know if you’re making progress. I want to invite every listener to just shed that. That can be true, but it does not need to be. There are so many really efficient ways to cultivate connections. So yes, being curious is one.

29:51 Another one which is kind of a favorite because it’s really easy to implement and so efficient is to bring attention to the transitions. I think one of the places where disconnection tends to grow and fester in committed relationships is in the transitions. So what do I mean by that? Well, let’s say, I’m leaving for work before my husband. I can just go. We both know I leave at 7:30 in the morning. And so if it’s 7:35, I have left. No big deal. That’s one way. Another thing is, I can, as I head out the door, say bye and just yell it to the house. I can go over to him and give him a peck, or I can go be with him. It takes literally two seconds. But just bring my attention instead of like being already driving away in my car with my mind even though my body is still in the house. To actually bring my attention and my body to be with my husband, kiss him on the lips and be present. Do I mean like a whole makeup? Well, maybe. But it doesn’t need to be. That takes longer. But just to really, genuinely connect body to body, lip to lip, and then leave. That makes all the difference in the world for when we come back together in the evening. It feels like reconnecting, or we’re kind of finding one another for the first time.

31:22 And so if you think of all of the transitions, like there’s waking up in the morning — whether you wake up together or one person wakes up and gets up, and then the other one — the first time you see one another is a transition. That can be rushed, with no attention. Or, you can just take a moment to look one another in the eyes and say, good morning, honey. Same thing with sitting down to a meal — whether you have breakfast together or you don’t, when one of you leaves, when you connect again at the end of the day, when you sit down to dinner, when the meal is over, when the child is put to bed, when it’s time for one or both of you to go to sleep — that’s not an exhaustive list. But in those transitions, it does not take more clock time. It just takes more attention to just honor that a transition is about to happen. I don’t mean to make it highfalutin. Those are the most efficient and highly impactful ways. I would say if someone is really particular about just life is too full, the easiest first thing is to just put some more attention on the transitions. And then when you feel more connected, asking questions in the way I was talking about doesn’t seem so awkward. It doesn’t seem like it’s coming out of left field, because you’re already sort of in a vibe together because you’ve put attention on the transitions.

32:58 Dr. Ann Tsung Yeah, I think that I really love that. That’s so key. I remember. Yeah, in the beginning, before kids, every time I came home from fellowship, it will be like a long hug. I don’t know. 30 seconds probably for each other. And then all of a sudden after kids, it’s like a peck. Like hello, or sometimes not a peck. Just like hello.

33:22 Dr. Alexandra Stockwell Right. How old is your child?

33:26 Dr. Ann Tsung 20 months old, and I have a 36-week-old fetus.

33:30 Dr. Alexandra Stockwell Oh, that’s beautiful. Okay, well, the 36-week-old fetus, that’s not a consideration. There’s something when the 20 — I mean, in what I’m about to say, the 20-month-old probably runs to you. And so, yeah, when you have a young child, of course, you can embrace them first if the kid comes running. But that doesn’t mean that, with the kid in your arms, or between your legs, or after they go back to playing, that you don’t — just take literally, in clock time, even if it’s 30 seconds. We all have 30 seconds every single day to get the oxytocin flowing, which is what happens with the longer hug and which means then we feel more connected. When I talked about emotional intimacy paving the way for essential intimacy and passion, I don’t mean emotional intimacy in the sense of in-depth emotional conversations, although that can work. But that’s not efficient. That’s not available every day for most hardworking professionals. But I’m calling emotional intimacy just putting attention on one another even briefly but in a meaningful way.

34:47 Dr. Ann Tsung Yeah, so in summary regarding some of the steps, what you can do is, number one, the transitions. Giving the attention to your spouse or significant other even briefly like before you go work, coming home from work, even on the phone perhaps. I used to say like, hey, sweetheart. Hey, babe. I mean, sometimes I found that that kind of started going away too for some reason. It’s just like hey. I don’t know what happened.

35:14 Dr. Alexandra Stockwell Right. And it’s totally efficient to add “sweetheart” or “babe” in there. And receiving it feels different.

35:23 Dr. Ann Tsung Yeah.

35:23 Dr. Alexandra Stockwell It’s like a little meaningful micro dose of loving attention.

35:30 Dr. Ann Tsung Yeah, I’m going to do that today. Thank you for that. This will be my action today. Then when he comes home from work, we’ll do like a long 30-second hug or something like that and ask how his day is. And for me, my why is I definitely want to show our 21-month-old actually how a healthy relationship is like, how we communicate, and that his parents are super stable emotionally. And so I want him to feel emotionally stable by seeing that, and to grow up to be a man who can treat his future significant other the same way. That’s kind of a strong way for me as well.

36:11 Dr. Alexandra Stockwell Me too. And also, in the work that I’m doing, I didn’t say that earlier. But, you know, I thought about what can I do for children. And in my mind, the very best thing I can do for children is teach their parents how to have fantastic relationships, which, honestly, for me, I didn’t get into that part of the story. But I was more motivated when I saw certain behaviors in my children to figure this out than for my own personal pleasure. Because we are used to putting ourselves on the back burner. I think that’s another thing that I didn’t say earlier. That with so many areas of our life, if we’re not putting attention on them, we get feedback. If we don’t pay our bills, we get notices. We get additional fees, and eventually it goes to collections. With parenting, if we don’t pay attention, then the kids act out. There’s a way in which that’s true with patient care. Their feedback mechanism is built in. If we’re sloppy with our eating or exercise, it’s revealed. But when it comes to our relationships, we tend to have so much capacity to tolerate and just not pay attention.

37:24 I was thinking the other day about how with cancer, we have staging. I’m actually going to create a staging for relationships. Because most people wait until the equivalent of stage three or four to really focus on it and make it a priority. But the health and vitality and pleasure and purpose and meaning and delight when you put attention on your relationship in stages as a prophylactic measure, it’s the most incredible thing. And I feel like until you experience it, we can’t even imagine how even things that have nothing to do with marriage are so much better when being at home feels good. When you know that your partner is your biggest fan, that they will support you but you don’t have to perform for them. That there’s a quality of acceptance that can be achieved when a relationship is really aligned and hot and emotionally intimate and erotically and passionately alive, that it really makes all of life technicolor. So yes, it feels good. But the impact is huge. And it really just takes these moments of attention.

38:48 I think I want to add one more thing which is super important. So there’s being curious, putting attention on the transitions, being more expressive, like sweetheart, babe, just not withholding your love and affection because we’re lazy and out of habit. It doesn’t take a lot to just add that to the text. You do it often enough, then the iPhone will suggest it anyway, right? But another thing which is surprisingly difficult is just to ask for what we want. Most of us want our spouses to be mind readers. And if they’re not, we communicate in a way that is offensive, insulting, judgmental, critical. Like, you should have known. And if you love me, then you would, whatever. But to just simply ask in a way that shares what you want. Sometimes it’s big things, and that’s more complicated. But there are so many small, simple things that if we were just clear, our partners will be glad to do for us.

40:00 I’ll just give an example in my own marriage. So my husband, until 2019, always worked more hours than I did. We have four children. That’s what worked for us. It was really important to me that we all ate dinner together. But there was about a two-hour window during which he might return home. And so it’s very hard to have — I mean, I could have the table set but not have the food ready without it getting cold or whatever. Because I just didn’t know when we were going to eat. The kids were young. I didn’t want to wait until 8 PM. And so it was like, as soon as he got home, we would eat. And so I would get so resentful. I would get pissy. I didn’t know when he was coming, and I had this idea that I wanted dinner together. It was just so hard to figure it out. One day, I just said to him very simply: you know, it would make a huge difference for me if I knew when you were coming home. I probably said that. I could have been resentful, but I managed to say it in just a straightforward kind way.

41:01 Let’s see. We’ve been married 27 years. I feel like that was, I don’t know, maybe 15 years ago. Maybe more. I don’t know. But it was a long time ago. Ever since then, when he leaves his office and goes to his car, he texts me and says “heading home.” And I know how long the commute is. Sometimes it’s a little longer. Sometimes it’s a little shorter because of traffic. It’s totally painless. It’s not painful. It’s the simplest thing for him to do that. He’s someone who’s conscientious. He knows how to take care of things. He just texts me when he’s leaving his clinic. This whole source of stress and pissiness and just feeling powerless in my life is just gone, because I know when he’s going to come home. And similarly, for him, he was a latchkey kid. It just means so much to him to have the light on at the front door. And once I understood that, it takes literally the flip of a switch. I just have to remember. And so sometime around five o’clock, I just turn that switch on and he gets to come home feeling welcomed. It’s a painless thing for me.

42:11 I think there are so many things that really just make life easier. You feel more cherished, more cared for, that don’t require these big, long processing conversations, or re-evaluation, or does he love me? No, just identify what you want. Then without talking like you’re talking to an employee or an MA but like you’re talking to your spouse, with respect, with no requirement that they say yes, but the huge likelihood that they will. You just ask for what you want in a way that it’s going to feel good to give it to you. I think that’s another efficient, wasted opportunity in most relationships. Because a lot of what makes a difference are actually very small things.

43:08 Dr. Ann Tsung Yeah, I think it’s super important, like you said, to say it in a tone that is non-judgmental, with respect, that’s objective, like in a way where you would like to solve this issue or problem together and asking for feedback, asking for solutions. Because there’s been many times where I like to try to ask for something but not in the right tone, and then I don’t get the right responses. So it’s very true to do that.

43:36 So to summarize, it sounds like the first step is — they need not to be sequential. But one of the methods is to pay more attention and presence during the transitions. Number two, you can get more curious. They can be simple questions of, you know, what podcasts are you listening to? Or, what are you grateful for today? A lot of times what we talked about, what lessons did you learn today that you’re applying to the following day? Then the third thing you have mentioned is to really ask for what you want instead of anticipating or expecting that the person knows what you want. So don’t brew in your own, I don’t know, anger. Like oh, the dishes. Why are they still in the sink or something like that when it was supposed to be put away? Just ask. It will really make a big difference to me if you would be able to help X, et cetera. Does that sound like a good summary?

44:35 Dr. Alexandra Stockwell Absolutely. And I agree with you that those are the points and they’re not necessarily sequential. The one thing I’ll add is, if you’re listening and you want more connection with your spouse of any kind, just do the thing that seems easiest to do. This is not a no pain, no gain kind of situation. It’s do whatever is most natural, most appealing, most easily integrated into the culture of your own particular marriage and build from there.

45:03 Dr. Ann Tsung That’s awesome. Thank you. Yes, whatever you do, it’s got to be what you can do essentially.

45:10 Dr. Alexandra Stockwell And what you feel good doing.

45:13 Dr. Ann Tsung Yeah, and it shouldn’t feel forced. So pick one after this and just do it. That’s amazing. Thank you so much, Alexandra. I really appreciate all the tidbits. I learned a lot myself. I want the audience to be able to find you. If they want to learn more about your coaching or any other resources that you share, your book, of course, please share how the audience can contact you.

45:38 Dr. Alexandra Stockwell Yeah, okay. Great. So my website is alexandrastockwell.com. From there, you can find everything. You can download the first chapter of my book, Uncompromising Intimacy, which is basically filled with stories and tips of exactly the sort that we’re talking about. There’s my podcast, The Intimate Marriage Podcast. Actually, since you’re listening here, my book is available on both Amazon and Audible. So you can just listen to it. I have online programs. The Aligned and Hot Marriage is a do-it-yourself program for couples to go through the curriculum themselves. I absolutely love coaching couples privately. It is certainly efficient. And I have yet to meet a couple that doesn’t really make their relationship one that they just love as a result of private relationship and intimacy coaching. I just want to add. I’m not exactly sure when this podcast will drop. But Dr. Kate Mangona and I are hosting Honeymoon 2.0 Luxury Couples Retreat in Maui. And so if that’s something that would interest you, definitely reach out and find me. Also, all of my social media at alexandrastockwell.com.

46:54 Dr. Ann Tsung Awesome. Thank you so much. Yeah, I heard about the retreat. I’m looking into details about that. It sounds like super fun in Maui, Four Seasons. So for the audience, please go to alexandrastockwell.com. There’s a ton of resources, books, podcasts, retreat, do-it-yourself program, and the one-on-one coaching that you can explore. So again, thank you, Alexandra, for your time, your attention, and for sharing all your tips. I know the audience is going to really, really benefit from this.

47:26 Dr. Alexandra Stockwell Thank you so much.

47:28 Dr. Ann Tsung All right. And just so everybody knows, all of the show notes, the links, it will be on productivitymd.com in the episode page. Then again, just remember that everything we need is within us now. Thank you.

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