Resources for Improving Intimacy:  “The Art of Desire”

A review of the e-course “The Art of Desire” by Jennifer Finlayson-Fife

By Celeste

This is the second half of my “Resources for Improving Intimacy” post.  Check out the first half about a book called “31 Days to Great Sex” here.

This post is part 5 of the series:  Improving Intimacy
Part 1:  How to Agree on How Often to Have Sex
Part 2:   Waiting for Sex Until Marriage- Can I Really Do It?
Part 3:  When Sex is Painful:  One Woman’s Story
       Part 4:  A Therapist Answers Your Questions About Sex First Half  and Second Half
Part 5:  Resources for Improving Intimacy:  “31 Days to Great Sex” and “The Art of Desire”

This post may contain affiliate links.

The Art of Desire

This is an e-course from Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, an LDS sex therapist written for Mormon women.

This course was so much more eye-opening for me than I ever anticipated.  I was expecting it to go something like, “for years you thought sex was bad and now you need to know sex is good, let’s discuss.”  But it was so, SO much more than that.  It made me take a good, hard, thorough look at myself, my relationship to desire and all sorts of masks and facades I may be hiding behind that I didn’t realize were there at all.

The course is divided into four classes:

  • Class 1:  Understanding and overcoming women’s cultural and psychological challenges to desire. (1.5 hours)
  • Class 2:  The art of desire:  How to discover and cultivate your authentic passion. (1.5 hours)
  • Class 3:  Understanding female arousal:  Physical and psychological factors (2 hours)
  • Class 4:  Sexual Self Development: (Including the how-tos of orgasm and sexual thought)  (2 hours)

She doesn’t even really get into talking about sex until Class 3.  Similar to the “31 Days to Greater Sex” book, she makes you tread through some uncomfortable water of what your psychological issues are, not only with desire but with yourself.  And you come out better and stronger for it.

Here’s a quote from another lady who went through the course and wrote about it on her blog:

“JFF’s perspective, and the introspection it’s incited, has completely changed the way I view real intimacy. It’s opened my eyes to the flaws in needing validation from your significant other and confusing that validation for real connection. We do this all the time, in all kinds of sneaky ways, and we sell our relationships short because of it.

We want our partners to see us at our worst and tell us they love all our imperfections as they are and wouldn’t want us to change a thing. We call that real love. So often when we’re dating, we fall in love, not with another person, but with the perfected view of ourselves we see reflected off them. …. [We must create] a space where we can be fully known and stand solidly, even if it forces us to acknowledge the ugly parts of ourselves.”

I know, right?  It gets all kinds of real.

Anyway, maybe my favorite thing from the course was that it called me out, it calls us all out on consistently defining our desire (women’s desire) only in terms of men’s desires.  Generally, we focus on men as the desirers (active) and women as the ones who are desirable (passive).  As LDS women, our relationship to desire is primarily REPRESSION (occasionally mixed with fear, guilt and/or control).  This focus on desirability instead of desire fosters non-identification with our self-knowledge and our desires and deeply undermines women’s strength and self-confidence.

For example, Dr. Finalyson-Fife says women who come to her wanting to improve intimacy so often say, “I owe my husband better sex!” and struggle to see a problem with negating any relationship to desire for themselves, which you kind of have to do to make sex better for both you and your spouse anyway.  Throughout the course, I had to keep reminding myself to focus on this course just FOR ME.  I had to own up to my own relationship with desire outside of just how it relates to my husband and my marriage.  Something I have never done before.

I’m starting to see sex in a totally new way.  I’ll be honest that throughout this month, in the back of my mind I kept holding on to the question, “Yeah, but do I REALLY need to explore this side of myself?”  Both Sheila and Jennifer pose the question that if our relationship to desire was supposed to be repression, why would God have given us a clitoris?  A part of our body that serves NO other function other than physical desire. A part of our body that contains 8,000 nerve fibers (twice as many as a man’s genitalia).

I’m now committed to figuring out and strengthening my own relationship with desire.  The homework assignments really help out with that, and I’m excited to read some of the books she suggests, such as Passionate Marriage and Slow Sex.

My one hold up with recommending the course full-throttle is that I wasn’t a huge fan of the format- which is a formerly “live” e-course with a little video of Jennifer talking in the corner, a power point in the center and a chat window where you can see the former live participants chatting below that.  I would prefer either being an active participant in a live course (being able to live chat and have her respond throughout the classes) OR just watching a lecture from Jennifer where she isn’t interacting with anyone- just speaking.  In any case, this issue doesn’t affect the QUALITY of her message, just the delivery.

The course is normally $145, but for a limited time only, Dr. Finlayson-Fife is generously offering a 10% discount to my readers by entering the code “ATHING10” at checkout!

The cost may sound like a lot, but it’s actually a great deal because not only does this include all four classes, but also 12 months of “office hours” which is a live, anonymous group meeting held once a month where you can call in and ask questions about any of the course content and questions specific to your situation.  She then sends you a recording of the whole “office hours” session.

Seeing that one session with a sex therapist will generally cost you $100 – $200+, this is actually a pretty phenomenal deal.  Buy it here. She also offers three other courses for couples on her site (which I hope to review in the future!).

Resources for Improving Intimacy: “31 Days to Great Sex”

A review of book “31 Days to Great Sex” by Sheila Wray Gregoire.

By Celeste

This post is part 5 of the series:  Improving Intimacy
Part 1:  How to Agree on How Often to Have Sex
Part 2:   Waiting for Sex Until Marriage- Can I Really Do It?
Part 3:  When Sex is Painful:  One Woman’s Story
       Part 4:  A Therapist Answers Your Questions About Sex First Half  and Second Half
Part 5:  Resources for Improving Intimacy:  “31 Days to Great Sex” and “The Art of Desire

This post contains affiliate links.
31 Days to Great Sex
For Married CouplesThis is an e-book written by Sheila Wray Gregoire.  I’ll admit at first I was a little skeptical.  It’s sounds a little too Pinterest-y for me.  Like all those pins that boast “the 5 most helpful things ever ever!!”  And then you take the bait and click and it turns out those things are so surface-level and not helpful at all?  You know those?But guys.  This book is not like that.It was SO helpful!  Rich and I read it together about a month ago and I can seriously point to reading it together as a springboard to what has been, for a lot of reasons, a wonderful month in our marriage. A turning point of sorts that we will look to for years to come as something awesome we did for our marriage.

The number one thing that has surprised me the most from reading this book and then working to improve both the quantity and quality of our intimacy, is how much it has impacted EVERY OTHER ASPECT of our relationship.  Seriously, we’ve been more forgiving, more compassionate, more flirtatious, more fun and more loving to each other.  I mentioned this in my last email newsletter (sign up on the sidebar- I talk about a marriage “win” I had every other week!). This book directly resulted in a lot of unexpected “marriage wins” for us.

Working to improve our sex life has helped us resolve long-standing disagreements that are completely unrelated to intimacy.  We’ve been more willing to see each others side and give each other the benefit of the doubt.

If I had known that this was going to be the result, I would have read a sex book together A LONG TIME AGO!!!

Although, I have to admit, without this blog I don’t think I ever would have because both Rich and I have mostly been happy with our love life throughout our marriage.  No terrible issues so no need for book reading and research, right?  Wrong!  Whether you have great big issues regarding intimacy or no visible ones, I would really suggest you read a book and do some research on how to make your sex life even better.  You may be surprised at the result.

So, on to the book.  The book is short- we read most of it together in an afternoon.  There is a challenge every day, but also a short little chapter for each of the 31 days discussing the topic of the day.  The book is divided into three main sections:

  1. Emotional Intimacy (the power of your thoughts, making sex fun)
  2. Physical Intimacy (how to make sex feel wonderful)
  3. Spiritual Intimacy  (true oneness in the bedroom)

She also has an intro section called “turning sex into something positive” and a concluding section called “keep the momentum going.”

First off, Sheila is a Christian author, and I’m glad because the spiritual aspects of intimacy really resonate with me and I feel like she dictates those aspects really well.  I mentioned in this post how much it bothers me in our culture that we look to sex as just a physical experience, so highlighting the emotional and spiritual aspects of sex was important to me in a sex book.

In the very beginning of the book she says that you may be tempted to skip ahead to the physical challenges but not to do those until you go through the first ones. She says we need to think the right things about sex and feel the right things about sex before our bodies will behave the right way. This was a good warning, because that’s what we were going to do. But we rolled our eyes and started at the beginning. And it was the right move! In the end, we gained the most by talking through the non-physical chapters.

Rich and I thought ourselves pretty well off when it came to communication on this topic (it comes up frequently in our weekly companionship inventories), but wow! We’ve been married for years, but we were talking about things that we never once had questioned before (Fun fact: Did you know your spouse might prefer wetter kisses or drier kisses than you do? I do now!). As the book went on, she often described our erroneous thoughts and attitudes about sex so spot on that we had to laugh out loud.

Largely because of this book (and the Art of Desire e-course), we have literally talked for hours and hours and hours this month about intimacy and about thoughts or hangups we didn’t realize we had (also we’ve discussed each post in this series at length 🙂 marriage blogs are fun!).

Anyway, here’s a sampling of the chapters you’ll find in the book:

  • Challenging the Lies You’re Telling Yourself
  • Hitting the Reset Button on Your Sex Life
  • Loving the Skin You’re In
  • 14 Ways to Play Together as a Couple
  • Preparing for Sex Throughout the Day
  • Little Changes That Feel Amazing For Her (and the next chapter for him)
  • Trying New Positions
  • 8 Ways to Spice Things Up
  • Quickies Can Be Fun

To say that I REALLY recommend this book would be putting it lightly.  It’s short, it’s cheap and it’s so helpful.  Plus it would make an AMAZING Christmas present (particularly if you are the low-desire partner- this just may be your spouse’s very favorite gift 😉 ).  Plus it’s only five bucks.  Buy it here.