We’re talking about the taboo within the taboo today… Sex after loss. So many couples struggle in this area, whether it is being intimate the first time after loss, worries about another pregnancy or just not being on the same page in this part of their relationship. This is such an important part of life, and especially our life after a loss.
Our guest is going to dive right in with us to help answer your questions!
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife is a LDS relationship and sexuality coach as well as a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in the state of Illinois. She has a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. In addition to her dissertation research on LDS women’s sexuality and relationship to desire, she has taught college level human sexuality courses. Her teaching and coaching focuses on helping LDS individuals and couples achieve greater satisfaction and passion in their emotional and sexual relationships.
In addition to consultation with couples and individuals (in person and online), she offers online relationship and sexuality courses as well as live workshops and retreats for LDS couples and individuals.
Jennifer is a frequent guest on LDS-themed podcasts and writes articles for LDS-themed blogs and magazines, on the subjects of sexuality, relationships, mental health and faith.
You can find out more about her at www.finlayson-fife.com and check out her podcast archive where she keeps all her many guest interviews.
I’m Amy Watson. I’m a mom of two angel babies, and I’m a life coach for other moms who don’t have all their babies in their arms.
Follow me on Instagram @amy.smoothstonescoaching
For more information on my six week program to become Trigger Proof, please click here: http://smoothstonescoaching.com/trigger-proof
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Music provided by ZingDog / Pond5
Photo provided by Jennifer Finlayson-Fife
I am so excited to introduce you guys to Jennifer Finley soon. Five. If you are coming over from Jennifer’s podcast archive, I wanted to introduce you to me really quickly. I am Amy. I’m a certified life coach, and I’m a mom of six living kids and two babies in heaven. I love D I Y projects. In fact, I am in the middle of ripping out carpet and painting every surface in my master bedroom right now, and it is so fun for me.
I coach Angel moms on. Anything they need. Like grief, life after loss, pregnancy after loss, and if they have a business or a charity related to their babies in heaven, I love helping with that. So you can follow me on Instagram. It’s Amy. Smooth Zones Coaching. If you’ve experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, or loss of an infant or.
Any kind of loss in between there and you’re ready to move forward in your life, but you’re not sure how, then I am the coach for you because I get it. I’ve been there. But I also want you to know that it is possible to heal fully and to build a. Beautiful, wonderful life even without all your babies in your arms.
Right now I have, during Corona, I’ve got this amazing program. It’s six weeks long and hopefully by the end of that we will be out of this quarantine, but it’s called trigger proof. And in six weeks we’re gonna look at all your triggers and what’s going on and where they’re coming from, and then we’re gonna teach you how to.
Control yourself so they don’t control you so much where you end up hiding in your closet, maybe eating an entire bag of dove chocolate, right? You guys have all been there in your own way, but what is it with those dove chocolates? They are delicious. Dr. Finlayson Fife is doing a flash sale right now, April 15th.
It is gonna be 30% off her Art of Desire online course for L d s women, which is incredible. You can head over to her Instagram page or her Facebook page at Finlayson Fife, and you’ll have a coupon code there, so go check it out. Or her website is just finlayson dash fife. Dot com. She does not do a sale this good very often, so you have to run over because it is not going to last long.
I just wanna tell you guys that. Dr. Finlayson Fefe was on my list of dream guests, and honestly, her work that she’s put out into the world has led me to where I am today, and for that I am so grateful. So I’m just gonna jump into our interview and let her introduce herself. If you’re not familiar with the term l d s, it refers to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Sometimes people know us as Mormons, but it’s the church that I belong to, and it’s the church that Dr. Finlays and Fife gears her message towards. But anybody who’s grown up in more of a strict upbringing with an emphasis on chastity before marriage, then. That is where her work is really helpful, but also it’s just, I think, helpful for anyone to look at their relationship differently because for so many of us, we.
Talk about sex in a way that is physical, but like most other things, it ends up being so much in our minds and our thoughts and how we’re coming at our problems. That makes such a big difference. So I know you guys are gonna love this. Let’s talk about sex after Loss. Thank you, Jennifer, for being on with us today.
I know a lot of my listeners might not have heard of you before, so could you tell us just a little bit about yourself and what you do? Sure. Uh, so I’m a therapist and a coach, and I work primarily with relationship and sexuality issues. And I work primarily with l d s couples. Um, but because I wrote my dissertation on l d s, women and Sexual.
Agency or sexual desire. So, um, so that’s kind of my niche. And so I do a lot of online teaching and I also do workshops around the country and so on, or at least I did before the pandemic. But, uh, so I do a lot of teaching as well as coaching. And then for people that live in Illinois, then um, I do therapy services.
So, yeah. Okay. Awesome. And you have some great online courses too, which I’ve. Taken a few of the, those are available during the, yeah. The pandemic. So yes. Those are awesome. So we’re just gonna jump right in. I reached out to a lot of people that follow me and had people really be vulnerable and share issues that they’ve had.
And then I have stuff that I’ve seen that I’d love if we can just, just talk about Sure. Sex after loss, because I think there’s already a taboo around. Miscarriage and stillbirth and loss in general. And then this is just another layer where, yes, people really feel like they don’t know who to talk to or where to find resources or answers, and they feel really alone.
Yes, it can be really isolating. You feel like you’re the only one that’s that’s having this issue, so yes. Yeah. So let’s start with talking about maybe. Right after a loss, when you’ve passed, maybe whatever the doctor will say, you need to wait six weeks, or you’ve had surgery, or you’ve, you know, mm-hmm.
Had a miscarriage, whatever. Then it’s time you’re allowed to start. Mm-hmm. Being intimate again. Then there’s this issue of maybe the husband’s ready and the wife is not. Mm-hmm. How would you maybe address like this difference in desire that’s even exacerbated because of grief or just like the trauma of the birth or whatever happened?
Yeah, so right. So there’s that period that where it’s maybe not safe from a sort of, Biological perspective, you know, to have sex and then once you, but, but emotionally being ready is a very different question. And I think there can be a range in, well, one of the things I, I talk about a lot is the fact that our brains are our most important sex organ because it’s this taking, making meaning.
That’s very much a part of sexuality. And so the meanings that you make or the meanings that are alive in you, um, are gonna very much impact what it means to be sexual because some women actually relate to it and that they may be the minority, but that’s more like, It’s a way to kind of find sustenance and feel like they can belong to their body again, or feel like they, that their body is not just disappointing, but their body can also sustain them.
So there is a subgroup of women for whom sex, like they’re eager for that six weeks to be over because they want the, to sort of re-anchor to a, an important part of themselves, I think for a far larger percentage of women. There’s more this, well, there can be a complex set of feelings, right? Which is, um, you know, who, there can be a sense of who am I to have pleasure?
Isn’t it sort of an affront to the loss? And this is can happen on any kind of loss, which is that, you know, if I have pleasure, I’m somehow dismissing the, the being that was lost. Or, you know, making it somehow insignificant and I’m not sure that that’s, if I were working with someone around that, I would probably be thinking through that with them, because I don’t think that that’s necessarily true.
Right. Yeah, that’s really common too, that I see that it just like, it feels so disjointed to like, yes, feeling pleasure, but also grieving and just like, Like you said, who am I to be enjoying this? Yeah. So I think it’s really common for women, I think, to feel a sense of guilt and somehow that they’re being betraying by doing it.
Um, I’ve worked with women where they actually were okay with having pleasure, but the intercourse itself with like reconnect them to the sense of loss. So, so just, you know, that their vagina was sort of a, a signal to them of a reminder of what they had lost and what they had gone through. And so, um, so I, I think that that’s a very common experience.
I think there’s, um, also just a mindset. It’s, it’s not just the immediate sense of betrayal, but just the mindset that is, uh, makes one wanna have sex is often. You know, grief and trauma and negativity all are, they’re not sexy. I mean, they like the mind and the body kind of shut down in the face of grief, trauma, and loss because it’s, it’s sort of like more important things are happening than reproducing.
And so there’s kind of a biological response that in the face of high anxiety, Potential loss, the, uh, the reality of loss, all those things will tend to work against sexual desire. And so I think one of the things I would say is to be patient with oneself around that fact, because nothing’s going wrong.
It’s not that something’s broken in you for having that response. You’re trying to metabolize a massive loss, and that process is worthy. And sexuality may not be a part of it for a little while. Uh, and so just respecting, you know, any grief process that it may mean you shut down on the pleasures and the other things that you once maybe vivaciously participated in because an important other processes at work.
I mean, human beings kind of need to fall apart when they’re metabolizing loss and. They can then with time rebuild and put themselves back together wiser differently, but I would never want to disrespect that process. I think where, you know, a therapist or coach might be helpful is when that process isn’t sort of, I.
Moving forward with time that it’s getting stuck there. Or if someone feels like I don’t deserve to have pleasure because I have this sort of irrational sense of responsibility to something that happened to me. You know, where there’s a, there’s more of a. A belief that’s kind of staying in place, that is depriving the woman from moving her life forward and allowing herself to have joy again and to be free again.
And you know, I don’t think you ever let go of the reality of the being who was lost, but maybe you allow yourself to still live again. Thrive anyway. Yeah. And I think that is such a helpful thought to have, like nothing is going wrong if Yes, if she’s having a hard time wanting Absolutely. To be intimate again.
So how would you answer that question of he’s ready and she’s not, and you know, he’s grieving in his own way. And that might be he wants to be close to his wife, you know, he’s got physical and emotional needs and. And then she’s not. So how would you, um, help someone kind of look at that, um, issue? Well, I mean, it’s a tricky question because I’m just thinking about it a little bit, but I, I think there is, in a sense, there are a lot of ways to try and build a bridge between those different needs.
And you don’t have to have full on intercourse and you could still see is there a way for us to be close? Is there a way for us to care for one another? Is there a way for us to attend to each other in the face of how we’re each grieving? And you know, I can imagine that a couple can be aware of their own and their spouses.
Uh, feelings and yearning, um, and to try and make room for the two of you, or care for the two of you, even if it’s in different ways, right? So there’s a lot of, I mean, sometimes I think we’re too fixated on intercourse as opposed to, That being one way to be close and to be intimate. There’s a lot of ways to be close and to care and to even have pleasure without it necessarily being mutual at the same level or, um, that each person necessarily, you know, is I.
In the same experience. So I think there’s just a lot of room. Can we have compassion for ourselves in this and try and care for one another through this difficult process and not take those differences personally, not take those differences as an affront in some way. Um, I think those are the couples that fare the best and have a little more flexibility.
Um, In terms of weathering that and then coming out on the other side and being able to still, you know, create or recreate, uh, a meaningful sexual relationship. Of course, that can be even more challenging if the sexual relationship was already challenged before the loss, right? Then some of those differences or stresses between the couple can feel even more punctuated, uh, sometimes so, so I think.
Patience with oneself and trying to create the ideal of intimacy and closeness rather than are we gonna have sex or not? Yeah. And I was just thinking about, you know, something I’ve learned from you too is like, it’s okay if you know he might wanna have intercourse and you don’t, and it’s not your job.
Maybe to manage That’s right. That for him. Can you explain a little bit more what you Yeah. Well, I think a lot of the places that people get, um, confused in marital sexuality is there is the sense that you have to manage the other person’s feelings. Uh, in order to manage even your own equilibrium. So I can’t tolerate you being dissatisfied without it wreaking havoc on my own sense of peace.
And so, This. This goes both ways. Women can feel this way towards men and men even towards women. If you don’t desire me sexually, then I feel worthless. That’s that’s a one stereotypical version of it, right? And so oftentimes what’s getting played out is not just the desire for closeness or sex, but the issue of my sense of self is on the line around this question of whether or not we’re gonna be sexual.
And that’s often at play. Because it’s a developmental and mat issue, the more psychologically developed you become, the more able you are to regulate your sense of self. In the face of invalidation or people not being able to be there for you in the way that you want, you’re not as, you know, tossed about by that.
In, in the same way, the more mature you get. So couples that are more able to self-regulate can handle the challenges of loss and grief and change, or even something like what we’re going through nationally right now. There’s a lot of families with high anxiety because they’re. Having to accommodate a lot of change, you know, just in terms of their day-to-day routines and the things that make them feel like themselves.
And so people that are more able to self-regulate are better able to kind of metabolize or handle that shift without it wreaking havoc on the way they’re in relationship to others. So to get back to your question, uh, I think that. If you are dealing with your own loss, but you feel like you have to handle your husband’s needs, um, you’re gonna really feel torn up because you don’t, you’ve already are grieving.
You already feel a deep sense of loss around what you anticipated hope for, imagined, uh, was going to be a part of your life. And then you feel like I’ve now got this additional burden that I’ve got to manage his feelings. About himself and his feelings of loss. And so you may accommodate, but it doesn’t bring you closer and it doesn’t make you feel renewed.
It makes you feel kind of more fractured in a sense. And so there, there’s not a kind of quick response to this. This is like, um, Kind of complex thing, but I think that to the degree that you’re trying to manage someone else’s feelings about themselves and or their feelings about you, as opposed to an act of intimacy, which is I want to know you and be known by you, the less appealing sex will be, the more fracturing it will be.
Getting to a place of I want to know you and be known by you. Has a lot to do with tolerating your spouse. Handling their own sense of self. Now, that’s different than what I was saying earlier, which is you may have compassion in your relationship and know that your spouse is feeling alone and has their own sadness, and you want to make room for them and care for them.
Okay? But that’s not so much I’ve gotta do this so that you feel okay about me. This is about, I care about you and this is how I can be with you tonight. It’s a way of being compassionate to self and spouse. So yeah. So I would say, you know Yeah. Coming from a place of love and Yes. Instead of coming from that obligation.
That’s right. Exactly. And anxiety. It’s gonna make all the difference. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And, and I think in order to be in a place where you want to know your spouse and be known by your spouse in whatever form that takes, um, It also has a lot to do with being kind to yourself around what you’re going through, compassionate to yourself around what you’re going through.
You know, I. You know, I, I have never lost, um, a baby, but, you know, my, my oldest child was diagnosed with autism when he turned two, and I remember that. It was just so devastating for me because he had sort of progressed up to a point, and then he kind of turned around and he went backwards. And so there was a great deal of loss.
And I remember I would cry all the time in the grocery store talking to a friend. Sometimes in parent meetings at the school and even years later, there’d be times where we’d be talking about something. It was three years post-diagnosis, having a school meeting, and I remember just, just crying like a little bit ugly crying, not, not like just a tear, like just somehow confronting the loss and the challenges and.
I am grateful that I was able to, I don’t know what others thought about it, but that’s more their problem. I was able to just say, it’s okay. I’m trying to handle a hard thing. It’s okay that I’m not always happy or keeping it together because I don’t know how else to do it. And I think extending that compassion to yourself really helps you.
To get your feet on the ground. Now, maybe it’s not on the ground as you want it. It may not be in the reality that you wanna be in, but I still think it helps you figure out how to belong to yourself again and move forward when you can really have compassion towards a very important process of grieving loss.
I love that. You touched a little bit on it earlier about, let’s talk a little bit about those feelings of maybe guilt. If you are, say we’re moving a little bit forward and, and you are intimate with your husband, and then there is that feeling of guilt. Mm-hmm. Do you wanna speak to that a little bit?
Well, I, I think particularly as women, and I would never say this is just a female problem, but I think as women, part of the way that we’re wired and part of the way that we’re socialized is kind of this idea that you can never be happier than your least happy child. That kind of idea. I, I don’t think that’s a healthy idea, but it’s certainly one that we learn, uh, is true.
And because I think as mothers, part of our children’s survival is that we are highly attuned to them. We’re highly attuned to what their needs are. Their feelings are, uh, that’s exactly what gets us up at three in the morning is ’cause we’re tuned into, is that child okay? And do they need something? But I think it can also, that high attunement can make it harder to be happy in the face of another’s misfortune or a child’s struggle or whatever it is.
So, Linking it to pregnancy loss. You know, there can be this sense like, who am I to be happy? And doesn’t it sort of fly in, doesn’t it? Isn’t it kind of an affront to how much this child mattered to me? So I kind of need to be unhappy if I’m going to symbolically demonstrate that they mattered and. I think it’s natural.
I would not be too hard on myself about that feeling. I think there is something compassionate about that. Like I don’t wanna just be frivolously having a grand time because this child did, did and does matter to me. But on the other hand, I think it’s a misconception to think our misery makes someone else.
Happier or that that somehow, if we just survive, but don’t thrive, that that makes anything stronger or better. Because you know, I know that for myself, if I were to die, I would want desperately for my family to still thrive without me. I really would. I would, that would be the way they could bless my life, is that they would give themselves permission to thrive.
And of course I know that they would grieve, like I don’t question that. I know that that would mean a significant loss, but for them to still move forward and to create meaning and a positive life, and I would want my husband to find joy again. I would want him to find another person to love. I really would, because I know he loves me and I don’t need to have that be demonstrated through his misery.
And so I think that. Trusting that the virtue comes in learning to thrive. Again, that doesn’t say you’ve moved on. I don’t think you ever really move on in the sense that you carry that being in your heart. You carry the person that you lost in your heart and maybe it’s a way to honor them and pay tribute to them to know that you long and wish they were there and that you still will move forward and find joy again.
And I love that idea again, having compassion with yourself wherever you are on Yes. This journey, just knowing that it’s okay to be wherever you are, but opening up also to the possibility that like there could come a time where, These two things can coexist. Yes. Right. In this Exactly. And to not pressure it.
Like, oh, I should be having, and I wouldn’t do that either. Just say, yeah. You know, I, I think actually just shortly after my child was diagnosed, really we, my husband and I just sort of naturally had a lot less sex for a period of time and nobody, I think we both were grieving, nobody was really taking it personally or anything like that.
It just was sort of true. And I think that, just looking back on that seems. Very appropriate for what we were trying to just put our heads together around how we were trying to put ourselves back together. So, and then in time it just made sense to live again and thrive again, and being able to not make it mean something is so, yes.
Important. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. ’cause a lot of people, I wasn’t gonna bring this up, but maybe I will. A lot of people are told, and I don’t even know where the statistic, I don’t know if anyone’s traced it back, but there’s this statistic that people throw out of this huge number of relationships that don’t survive the death of a child.
Hmm. You know? So I think that can be on the mind of people just mm-hmm. You know, if, if intimacy isn’t working or like. You’re, you’re not grieving on the same wavelength and mm-hmm. Just adding that to the over top of it. Like maybe this means, you know, we’re not gonna make it. Yeah, sure. Well, it’s so hard.
I mean, one of the things that’s really true about life is that it is just there, how do I say it? You know, our functioning is so challenged when the things that we depend on or the things that we, uh, plan on being consistent, become inconsistent. And I was listening to, to a New York Times piece a few days ago, and the person that was talking was talking about just in the face of this pandemic that, that we are all like little people on the back of a tiger.
And every once in a while that tiger. And we recognize how small and helpless we are. That’s just true and that’s what it is to be alive. Like when that tiger’s sleeping, we think we’ve got it all worked out, and life is predictable and it’s easier to be your better self. It’s easier to feel desire. It’s easier to feel passions.
It’s easier because everything feels consistent. But then when that tiger moves and you realize how small you are and how little power. Or control. You really have the ability to self-regulate the ability to feel passion, to feel, you know, this clarity about thriving. Well, no, it’s all up for grabs at that point, and so I can see why the death of a child might really wreak havoc on a marriage in the sense that it pulls people back to their more primitive selves and their higher order thinking is really being challenged by the stressors.
And I do think the best antidote to that. As hard as it is, is to have compassion on yourself, for your fundamental humanity in a world in which you have limited control, and that suffering is normal. Loss is normal. I mean, I’m not trying to make it insignificant because we are sentient beings and it matters and it, and it’s meaningful, but it’s also so fundamental to the human experience.
And so being compassionate with ourselves that we. Are in a world that hurts and hurts us. Mm-hmm. And can we be kind to ourselves in the face of that reality and kind to those around us in the face of that reality? Because the more we can engage compassion, the better we’ll fare, which doesn’t take the pain away, it doesn’t take the loss away, it doesn’t make things more certain.
It just is the balm. I think. Okay. And for the record, I have to say I don’t, I do not believe that statistic, and I hate that people tell Yeah. That we just keep quoting it to people and just adding that. Yeah. Yeah, it’s good for you to question it honestly. Yes. Because people love those kinds of things.
Just like everybody has sex three times a week. It’s not true. Okay. Well, let’s, I had, um, a few people that wanted to talk a little bit about this pregnancy and intimacy and when you’ve gone through a loss. Then the sex and the pregnancy just become one. And in some cases, so you have someone who would be terrified mm-hmm.
To have sex because they may get pregnant. Right. Um, then you also have the other side of the spectrum where it goes to this a little bit of. This obsession with becoming pregnant? Yes. Both of those aren’t maybe hard. Yeah. So could you talk a little bit about that as we’re talking about just like the pregnancy after a pregnancy loss or the loss of a baby?
Yeah. I mean, I don’t know if I have good answers about it. I can at least give some of my observations about it. But I, I think, yes, I think when high anxieties around reproduction get linked to sex, It can, in my experience in working with people, really wreak havoc on sex because sex, when it’s its best, is about an unfettered joy and celebration of life and celebration of love and celebration of your spouse.
And as soon as it becomes about, Anxiety is related to pregnancy, whether that’s, I really wanna get pregnant and we’re not able to, for example, like people that struggle to get pregnant, you know, that can really wreak havoc on sex because now it’s like, okay, now you, now you have to produce. And that’s not about spontaneity and love.
That’s about work, right? Um, or it gets linked to the meaning of my body is defective and it’s not doing the right things. Um, or the anxieties that you’re talking about, which is I. Either I really, really want to get pregnant, which I was just saying, but what if I do get pregnant and I can’t handle that trauma again, and that uncertainty again.
So it’s tough. I guess I, I, I don’t have a great answer other than to have some compassion towards it. It’s hard because it’s sort of two things that are working in cross purposes. And so I think what I would probably be trying to do is in some way relieve some of the anxiety around the reproductive piece in whatever form that makes sense.
You know, are we do taking enough measures to make sure I don’t get pregnant? Maybe we don’t have intercourse, you know, maybe we have pleasure but not intercourse, so I can’t get pregnant at least during this period where I. Too afraid of it. Um, if the anxiety is you’re not gonna get pregnant and you want to, and you are unclear about that, that, um, I mean this is an imperfect solution, but in some ways it’s trying to, uh, I think, let either, either say, look, sex is not gonna be about pleasure right now, and we’re just gonna make it about trying to get pregnant and stop being upset about the fact that it’s.
That this is about work currently, and see if we can even segment off this a little bit and just say, this is not about love making so much as it is about we’re on a schedule or we’re trying to make something happen. I, I don’t know how well that works for people, but trying to sort of decouple it from passion and desire or another possibility is to say, maybe I need to let go of the fact that I can’t control this and maybe we just make this about love making and, and if I get pregnant, I get pregnant.
Try and pull my anxiety down about my desire to make that happen. But I, I think just understanding that you have two, two systems working at cross purposes may help and see if you can do something to decouple those a bit. They can be really helpful. I like how you said, I think coming at it on purpose instead of kind of letting it be this messy thing that maybe we don’t communicate about or we’re, yes.
Got so many emotions, but just deciding ahead of time, like, Hey, yeah, you know, this is right. The baby making part is separate, and the intimacy part we can do in different ways. Yep, yep. I think that’s great advice. So maybe to finish up, I had, if we could just speak a little bit more to the body image.
Issues. So I had a lot of people that this is a big deal and I see it really often. Mm-hmm. Is so women, unfortunately mm-hmm. Tend to already have body image issues and when it comes intimacy, maybe how you feel about yourself or how attractive you are mm-hmm. Or mm-hmm. Things that have been said, all of these things.
Mm-hmm. Um, and then, Yeah. This feeling that not only are you maybe in a postpartum body but you don’t have a baby and this idea that your body has failed you. Mm-hmm. Yeah. And so that really gets in the way for a lot of people Sure. To even wanna be intimate or Definitely to enjoy it. Um, yeah. ’cause they’re in their own difficult relationship with their body, much less wanting to now bring that.
Into full exposure. Yeah. With a partner. Mm-hmm. Talk a little bit about how you would maybe help someone who was, was dealing with some of these issues. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Well, I think I. Again, I would, I feel a little broken record here, but I think it’s like, okay, you don’t have to have good feelings about all of this right now.
Like, you know it, you have suffered a loss. You’re trying to make sense of it. It’s, it feels like a betrayal and or here I’ve gone through all the realities of pregnancy, have all the postpartum. And have no baby. And that, that’s, that’s just really hard to metabolize, I think. And so letting yourself have that struggle, I think that, um, I.
I have two or three thoughts. Okay. So I think on the one hand, I think we are really taught as women to be rejecting of our bodies. It’s the way we get measured, more so than men get measured by their bodies. And so this idea that we should look a particular way that our bodies should operate in a particular way, we’re we’re hyper defined by the body.
So when you are in a postpartum body, I think it’s very easy to be in relationship to ourselves from that hypercritical low compassion place, both compassion towards ourselves and compassion towards our bodies who are probably. Our bodies are probably trying the best that they can. I mean, I tend to try to relate to my body as a body that is trying hard to keep me healthy and alive, and trying hard to work against all the forces on it to age to, you know, let me live in this world and it only has so much power.
And so I really do make a habit of expressing gratitude towards my body, even when it’s disappointing me in some way. To, to honestly like express compassion to it, touch it. Like I love it and I’m grateful for it ’cause I am, and I just think it’s a way of, our body is ourselves. I mean, that’s the thing.
We, we tend to do this, you know, we’re up here above the neck and then, then the rest is our body. But we are. Embodied. And so, um, I think learning to have compassion towards your body is a fundamental part of compassion towards yourself. One of the exercises I teach sometimes is to encourage women to find some aspect of themselves every day as they’re undressing, you know, something that they appreciate value, are grateful for.
Find beautiful and attractive and express gratitude and acknowledgement of that. We’re so accustomed, so, so wired up to look for what is wrong, quote unquote or imperfect, quote unquote, and not to look for the myriad ways that our bodies are absolutely amazing and beautiful, and I think it’s teaching us a new way of seeing.
You know, I was practicing this myself and I remember thinking, this is the way my husband sees me. Like the way that my mind was, I could see my body with re stretch marks or whatever and see it as beautiful in the way that I knew he saw it. And that’s the thing. I mean, we are often. Far more critical of our bodies than our partners are.
Now, you may be in an unfortunate, someone may be in an unfortunate position where they do have a critical spouse, and that’s important. I mean, that’s maybe a different conversation because that’s a position the spouse is taking, right? To be in a judgmental or harsh view. But oftentimes we’re struggling more to accept ourselves and we’re borrowing these unnatural ideals.
About what we should be rather than the, the beauty of being an embodied woman who is fertile or who is reproducing, or who is endeavoring to. And there’s beauty in that. There’s character in it. And so there’s a way of, um, can I relate to the character and the meaning of what I’m doing more than just some stringent aesthetic ideal.
So it’s a practice, you know, especially when we’ve been taught through magazines and media to see ourselves in a much more narrow and objectified way. But it’s a really, really important way to see ourselves, especially as you age and you know, you don’t have control over all these things, and so can you still see yourself as worthy, even in a, in a beautifully aging body?
Beautiful, because of its meaning. And I think too, letting go in the same way is, you know, letting go of that idea that your body failed. Absolutely. The way that, that, I love what you said, how your body is doing its best. It’s just trying to do what it can. And sometimes these things do happen. That’s right.
It doesn’t mean that you know you’re broken or there’s something wrong with you. That’s just so painful and yes, really, really can make it hard to connect with yourself so that you can connect. Yes. You know, that just reminds me of something else that I was gonna say about guilt is that, you know, in the face of loss or when that tiger moves, so to speak, we want so much to believe that we have control, that we will affix blame even where it doesn’t belong.
It’s like we’re trying. And so sometimes that’s ourselves, right? Like that’s the guilt idea that somehow I have something to do with the loss of this baby. Or somehow, you know, I’m to blame for this hard reality that I’m going through. And it’s a natural thing. It’s like it’s a way of trying to have a sense of control.
And I think in a way we can kind of do this to our bodies too, like. It’s not, they were doing, it was doing the best it could. It’s like somehow it, I failed. And, um, it’s harder to just tolerate what is sometimes without trying to assign blame or, or hate, hate towards those realities. Yeah. It’s definitely a process, but I know it’s, it’s like so wor worth doing that work.
Um, yeah. That’s where our spiritual and emotional development is, is in that kind of work. I mean, often it’s in the losses that we grow the most to know what really matters in life, what really is the kind of anchor in the face of it all. But it doesn’t. But that’s different than saying it’s, um, an enjoyable process or even one that we can even see that that’s at work until much later.
Mm-hmm. Yeah. I know we talked about kind of some maybe heavier stuff today. Um, would you wanna just end by talking a little bit, maybe what are a couple of things you tell women who are ready? Things are going pretty good. You know, things are pretty good with their husband, but they just wanna connect a little bit more with themselves and maybe.
Take their intimacy to maybe a little bit another level. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Where they’re like really owning themselves. What are mm-hmm. Just a couple things that you could share. Well, one, one thought I have is that I think a lot of times when we think about sex, especially as women, we are more tuned into what our spouse wants, especially if our spouse is the higher desired person.
Right. And so I would encourage you to think about what would make intimacy or sex enjoyable for me? What’s my desire? What is, what is the thing that would feel rejuvenating or comforting to me or that would feel, make me feel like a woman again? And. To take deeper responsibility for that. Like what is it that I want?
Or even if I think I might want it, I don’t know. But something about that appeals to me and rather than be in a, what I think we’re often socialized into is a more passive position and kind of accommodating a spouse. Maybe I could talk to him about what I want and be more, uh, take more responsibility in creating it.
Um, another idea, and I think it’s very linked, is what are, especially in motherhood, it’s very, very hard. Um, you know, whether it’s you’re coming out of a loss and you already have other children, right? Or you, um, have, even if you’ve had a baby and you’re postpartum there, there is so many things about that.
That rob you from your sense of self. So it’s easy to be in a position of feeling like there’s not space for you to belong to you as a woman. You know? So lots of our notions of motherhood or that you shouldn’t do that, or else it’s at the expense of your children, or if you’ve come through a loss, and there’s still that sense of I shouldn’t belong to myself, or I’m being selfish or unfeeling towards my loss.
I think what is the thing that we could do together as a couple, or that I can do individually that reconnects me to my sense of being a woman. Maybe we go out dancing, you know? Maybe it’s that I am going, taking a dance class myself, you know? Maybe it’s that I’m going and trying something new, learning a new sport, a new.
You know, taking an art class, anything that kind of reconnects you to yourself is going to be a part of a sense of thriving again. So I would think of good sex as linked to thriving. I. And wanting that has to do with being into a re in a relationship with yourself of thriving. So are there things that I could do that would encourage my sense of thriving in the world?
Even if I’m in a tough time, even if there are some hard things about it. Is there a way I can care for myself in another way, even to better face some of the hard things? And I think that’s a lot of, you know, the couples that have good sex throughout their marriage are very, get better and better at being able to stabilize themselves in the face of hard realities.
That which sometimes includes knowing your spouse or being knowable. That means that’s hard, you know, it’s hard to see or acknowledge things or address things or, or reconcile things. And so, So, you know, the more that you learn to do that, I think the more prepared you are to be known and to know in your marriage.
I love that. I love those tips and that’s totally what I. Love teaching too. It was just like, you know, you really getting in touch with yourself, taking care of yourself. Mm-hmm. It just makes all the difference and in the end, that’s really all we can control. So yes, it’s exactly, it’s so important. So, yes, I wanna thank you so much.
My pleasure. She’s so amazing. You guys. I could have just talked forever and maybe we’ll have to have a part two because we did not get to all the questions I had. But I love everything that we learned from Dr. Finlayson Fife, and I wanna thank her so, so much for giving her time and her expertise. And I wanna keep this conversation going, so definitely follow me on Instagram, Amy Smooth Stones Coaching, and we’ll talk more there.
I am sending you all my love as we navigate this social distancing. So stay home, stay safe, and we’ll talk to you next time.