Barbados-Based Sex Therapist Talks Intimacy and Sexual Exploration

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By Re

Past or present experiences leave all too many of us emotionally stoic or unavailable, unaware of our own setbacks with regard to dating with intention and authenticity, and loving courageously.

But where a heap of sea swells silently and its foamy surf licks pink-tinged sands, is where Marissa Nelson, LMFT, CST, licensed marriage and family therapist and AASECT-certified sex therapist, asks women and men to open their minds to vulnerability in sharing their intimate desires, susceptibility to the reception of love and liability for their own sexual satisfaction.

In partnership with Barbados Tourism & Marketing, Nelson invites both couples and singles to Crane Beach, the Caribbean’s first resort hotel and continually recognized as one the world’s top beach destinations, to an all-inclusive four-night retreat with IntimacyMoons.

I caught up with Nelson to delve into the barriers holding all too many women back from choosing the right partners, letting love in and exploring sexuality.

Sex is a place we go to experience a deeper sense of self, or as a stress- reliever, to be naughty and seductive, or for some as a means for feeling feminine and validated as a woman and sexual being.

What are some of the biggest factors holding single women back from welcoming partners into their lives?
While every woman and situation is uniquely different and multifaceted, (there are so many more) some themes that I see come up for singles women are the following: challenges with being vulnerable, inability to let go and not control the person or their dating experience, trust issues (“I can’t trust anyone to take care of me, so I’ll do it myself”), mistaking sexual attraction for relationship potential, creating a sense of control with dating rules, over-functioning or lack of balance in relationships.

How does childhood affect our perceptions of love and the way we give/receive it?
We all learn about relationships or essentially how to be in one from our parents and our caregivers. The ways we witness their love for one another, for us (or lack thereof) have been internalized and we now carry those messages with us. Our parents are the first touchstones of trust, safety, affection, fairness. Many may have received one or even all, but we still have times in our experiences where we may have not felt supported, or been ignored, criticized, abandoned, etc. It is no wonder that people will carry these themes and either project them onto their partners or protect themselves from feeling what they did way back when. It is both a conscious and subconscious event that everyone has and holds within them.

In short, we attract others into our life that have similarities to our parents (good and bad), an unconscious blueprint to the partners we choose. Romantic love is our second chance to complete and get what we didn’t in childhood, and to evolve and know what those needs are, and how to give and create a mutually satisfying partnership.

Can you describe what sexual intimacy means for women and how we break down mental barriers during sexual intimacy?
Sex happens for various reasons, and sexuality is a place and domain that we enter. It is a place we go to experience a deeper sense of self, or as a stress- reliever, to be naughty and seductive, or for some as a means for feeling feminine and validated as a woman and sexual being. It certainly should be an intimate and pleasurable experience.

I see many women struggle with sexuality because along the way we got the message that sexuality was in service to another and that, somehow, sex and pleasure are not always uniquely ours. Some women cannot give themselves permission to let go or feel pleasure or keep erotic focus, which means staying present to what is happening in the moment. How to break down mental barriers is unique to each woman’s experience (could be previous sexual trauma, negative attitudes and beliefs about sexuality, body image issues, etc.). I would encourage them to keep a journal on their bedside table and start to track the thoughts that come up for them when having sex. If you start bringing awareness to the mental chatter and write it down afterwards as an exercise, you can start to see where your work needs to begin. Letting go and surrender are a huge part of sexual intimacy and you can’t do that if you are distracted. When you feel yourself drifting, bring your attention back to the sensations in the body and start to tune into that, or begin making eye contact with your partner.

All women are responsible for their own sexual satisfaction and pleasure, so there is a level of agency that one has to take and communicate those needs to their partner.

For a lot of women, communicating sexual needs is difficult. What’s your best advice?
Just do it, [laughs]. I think the underlying fear for many is that they will hurt their partners’ feelings or make them feel inadequate. However, all women are responsible for their own sexual satisfaction and pleasure, so there is a level of agency that one has to take and communicate those needs to their partner. Communication is an ongoing process and, just as couples should be talking about finances, family obligations and daily life tasks, your sexual life together is no different. What I find helpful for starters is the “hand-over-hand” method while lovemaking or during foreplay. Women can put their hand over their partner’s hand and do body exploration to show them what they like and what feels good to them.

During sex they can do a show-and-tell, “this is what I like,” and couples can begin to play and re-discover each other. To have these conversations there has to be empathy, openness and being a great listener to truly hear your partner’s perspective.

How can women explore the relationships they have with their own sexuality?
Start by examining the messages and beliefs they have about their own sexuality. For starters, here are some questions that would be helpful:
What person influenced your sense of sexuality?
Is there an event that strongly influenced your sense sexuality or stand out?
What is a dilemma that you have faced your sense of sexuality?
Since you were a teenager, what has changed for you in your life, or what would you point out?
What is an aspect of your sexual story you would like to embrace more, and what aspect would you like to leave behind?

For more information, visit www.intimacymoons.com. Price points start from $3,500 USD for singles and $5,450 USD for couples depending on room category—inclusive of accommodations, meals, excursions, ground transportation, workshops and a swag bag.

One thought

  1. Beautiful article! Vulnerability, letting go, communication, present moment self awareness…so important in all aspects of life, especially in exploring one’s own sexuality and associations toward intimacy. Thank you!

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