Author Archives: Shana Parker

About Shana Parker

Couples Coach, Licensed Psychologist, a well loved wife, proud mother, and writer.

Masters of Sex

Its been pretty chilly here in Colorado for September! So one of my favorite things to do this month has been to curl up with my husband Doug and watch Masters Of Sex. It’s based on the story of the ground breaking research of the 1950’s by Masters and Johnson exploring the human sexual response. It has been made into a juicy TV series with many wonderful erotic scenes.

After many decades we are still trying to drag this topic out of the closet! Sure there is more porn and more hype but ohhh how the media and the entertainment industry have failed us. They still show only a tiny slice of what sex is like. They never show a conversation about sex between partners. They never show a woman really asking for what will please her. They never show the tantric energetic practices that can deepen one’s experience.

If you’re craving more with YOUR partner then give my Mastery Course for Couples a go and see what you can learn about yourself and your partner! In my 5 week webinar series the last few hours of video are on sexuality. I suggest watching the whole course and then these last sessions will be the culmination of what you have cultivated.

Are you a good listener with your partner?

Did you know that listening is as much about your partner feeling heard as it is about you understanding what they are saying? And did you know that when your partner feels heard that ONLY then can they relax and have a conversation that allows you to be on the same team going toward the same goal: one that works for you both.

I see many couples who come for help telling me “of course I listen but it doesn’t do any good!” Does that sound familiar? It could be because the art of listening includes being able to tell your partner what you hear them saying. And not just saying “I hear you.”

The way to demonstrate that you hear what someone is saying is to identify the feeling they are expressing and the meaning they are describing. So how do you do that? To start with create a rich vocabulary for feelings that you can draw upon when listening. Feelings can be divided into 5 feeling categories (this is not a hard science). I use these: HAPPPY, SAD, ANGRY, AFRAID, and CARING. Under each category there are a whole range of intensities. For example you can feel a little happy which might be labeled as pleased or content. Or you could be feeling a great deal of happiness, which could be more like ecstatic or elated. Let’s go through a few more: if you are feeling a little sad you might be feeling down or disappointed. If you are really sad you could be feeling depressed or despair while a medium sadness might be described as hurt. OK?

Angry might range from the lower intensity of annoyed to a higher intensity of mad to enraged. And caring can range from a little caring, which could be concern to a great deal of caring which could be adoration or love.

Once you are listening for the category of feeling and the level of intensity you will be able to name for your partner what you are hearing them say whether they are naming their feeling or not. At first its really helpful to use this format created by Robert Carkhuff which is the sentence “I hear that you feel_____(feeling word) ____because ____(meaning) ______.” Later you can use your own style but start with this just as you start to play an instrument by practicing the scales.

Here is what Jon’s and Alisha’s conversation used to be like even though Jon thought he was listening:
Alisha: I can’t believe that you would wander off at the party when I didn’t know any one. I don’t feel like you get how hard that is for me.
Jon: How was I supposed to know that you didn’t know anyone? And anyway you are big girl why not just meet some of them on your own.
Alisha: (walking out of the room) “See if I come to your stupid work party again.”

As you can imagine neither of them was feeling like they were on the same team. This took a few days before they could reconnect.
Now see the difference after they learned and practiced expressing in words what they heard.
Alisha: I can’t believe that you would wander off at the party when I didn’t know any one. I don’t feel like you get how hard that is for me.
Jon: I hear that you felt hurt and abandoned when I left you at the party. And you feel disappointed that it didn’t seem like I knew that it was hard for you.

Alisha: Yeah really need you to stay closer because it’s just too uncomfortable for me.
Jon: I hear that it feels so uncomfortable that you need an ally you can count on being there. I can do that for sure at the next party. I am really glad you let me know.

Can you see how this little difference transformed the interaction from antagonistic to cooperative? From distancing to bringing closeness. From Jon being defensive to Jon being able to stay in his heart and maintain the connection.
This format takes a bit of practice. But this form of listening can mean the difference between sleeping on the coach and snuggling in bed. Give it a try and leave a comment or a question.

How to Stop Fighting in your Marriage

In my 30+-year psychotherapy practice I have come in contact with many couples who say that if they could only stop the fights they would have a much happier marriage. Even though they want to change they seem unable to stop fighting. They ask if there is a way that I can teach them to stop fighting before it’s too late. I have used this 3- step method with a lot of success. The steps are the same as the one’s we learned as kids to stay out of trouble when crossing the street. A fight is a lot like that.

You must:

  1. STOP
  2. LOOK

When it’s all clear it’s ok to cross the street into your partner’s arms.

Does any of this sound familiar?

I feel angry a lot in my marriage. Every time either of us asks the other to do something we start to fight about who is responsible for doing what. Who does more?

I often wonder what happened to the partner I married. We used to have great sex and we could talk about everything. Now we fight about everything, especially when it comes to the kids. We just don’t see eye to eye on how to bring them up.

My husband and I don’t fight out loud. But we do battle silently. Charlie will leave dishes in the sink or crumbs on the counter when he knows that drives me nuts. I do his laundry but I don’t fold his t-shirts the way he likes.


We weren’t born with the fear of crossing the street but it was important that someone taught us that we should be. So let’s say that this is the time to learn how to cross the street again. This time the “curb” is what reminds us to stay awake and choose to stop before the fight. When we first learned to stop at the sidewalk, most likely before we can remember, we were taught that something bad could happen if we were not aware and if we did not make the choice to stop at the curb. Lets say it’s the same in your relationship as you step toward the curb of an argument. You can see it and feel it and you can chose to be aware that it is coming. You can choose to stop. If you chose to stay aware that the curb is coming you can use your will to stop. Stopping allows you to know when it is safe to cross. Stopping will allow you time to make some better choices than the usual patterns of fighting. If you stay in the usual pattern of fighting it is like running in to the street without knowing if the cars are coming!

You may think that you end up in a fight before you are aware that it was coming. But if it really were a street and not a fight you wouldn’t get to do that too many times before you were hit by a car. So what is different? You have trained yourself to be aware and use your will to stop at a street. You did that because you decided it was important. Awareness and will are something we all have. We can strengthen them like a muscle. We can use them to stop before a fight just like stopping at the curb.

Your Awareness is a muscle.

In this present moment you can have an experience of awareness: while reading the words on this page notice you also have awareness that you are reading this page. Take a moment and become aware of other things: the chair underneath you, your breath, the light, the temperature in the room. It’s easy, right?

If you decide something is important enough to stay awake for and you strengthen your muscle of awareness then you will be able to do it. If someone were going to give you a million dollars if you could stay awake then you probably would be able to summon the awareness to do it. If it were your last chance for real, you would be motivated to stay in your awareness. In this case you could decide to stay awake to when a fight was coming instead of being swept into unskillful habitual or emotional reactions and just STOP. We can easily be consumed and overpowered if we do not develop the muscle of awareness.

Try this to develop the muscle of awareness:

For some a fight does not look like screaming in anger. It may look like silent resentment and then withdrawal followed by depression or incapacity to give or receive affection. There are many versions. In any style once you are in your awareness that the curb/ the fight is immanent then its time to stop.

Your Will is also Muscle.

To be aware of how you are relating is different than being able to do something to change it. So what helps us change our ways? It is not only our awareness but also our will. We can think of our capacity to have both awareness and will.

Try this to build the muscle of your will.

Right now take 20 seconds to do something random that you choose to do. It can be get up and walk across the room. Or stretch with your arms above your head. It can be to sing a verse from a favorite song or tap on the desk as though it were a drum. Be aware that you can chose and do something different even when it is not in the direction you were going. That is your will. That is the muscle you are exercising. In the midst of your life you can choose to take 20 seconds and do what you have decided to do that is in a different direction from the flow you are in.
Use your awareness to notice when the curb is in sight.
And use your WILL to STOP.

It’s hard to feel close to your spouse when you fight a lot whether it’s out loud or silently. It’s hard to have a happy marriage if you fight by being sarcastic or even just bickering. Stop, look and listen can help you stop fighting and begin to create the happy marriage you want. It takes practice.

Stay tuned for my next Blog on how to LOOK and LISTEN.