Let's talk about S to the E-X, aka "intimacy." Dan Purcell, host of the "Get Your Marriage On" podcast as well as the "Intimately Us" app https://r.intimately.us/tonyoverbay joins Tony to talk about the mission that he, along with his wife Emily, share of strengthening marriages by helping them deepen their connection through both physical and emotional intimacy. They are the creator of the popular "Intimately Us" app that has been downloaded over 300,000 times. They host romantic retreat getaways for couples and host the "Get Your Marriage On! Podcast and coach couples on how to have a great sex life and deeper intimacy.
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Virtual Couch- Dan Purcell Transcript
Tony: Okay, Dan, welcome to the Virtual Couch. How are you?
Dan: Thank you. So happy to be here, Tony.
Tony: Okay, so this is the part where I told Dan we got on and I said, Dan, don't say a word. Because I just want to just capture this pure gold because I really enjoyed being on your podcast. I felt like we had a real fun interaction and I feel like we covered three hours in about 45 minutes, so I'm gonna link that in show notes, but then I sat there thinking about that and I thought, man, I forgot that I'm the one that I think the first time we were supposed to record, I got a notification. I was on my way to Disneyland a couple days before Christmas and I felt horrible calling that off. And then I think last week, I think the morning of, I realized I had someone else in your spot. It's bad. It makes me sound like I'm completely disorganized, but so you've been so patient, and I really appreciate that. So here we are.
Dan:And you've had a death in the family too?
Tony: That’s right. Okay, man, yeah my mother-in-law. And what an amazing woman. So you're right. So I'm just grateful that we are here and we're talking. So there's my first just thank you so much, but okay. Here's the funny part to me, Dan, and I'm gonna take you on my train of thought, I'm gonna do all this. I'm gonna be emotionally immature. I'm gonna talk about healthy ego. I'll make it really quick, but I realize that, you know, I'm a marriage therapist. I've been doing it for 17, 18 years. When I put your episode out here, I think it'll be pushing close to 370 episodes of the Virtual Couch. And I realize what we're probably gonna talk about today, one of your areas of expertise. As a couple's therapist, I talk about every day, multiple times a day, but I haven't really talked about it much on the podcast, which is really funny. And it's not like I'm afraid of talking about sex or intimacy or anything. So I really don't have a good reason why. I mean, I don't, I literally talk about it for hours every day for 15 years, and so I don't know, and I was thinking about that because you and I talked on yours about self confrontation and sitting with uncomfortable feelings and, you know, I'm not uncomfortable with it.
Again, haven't done this for a long time. And all I kept thinking about was, there's a part of me that still thinks that for some reason, moms are listening to the Virtual Couch in the minivan and the kids are back there, you know, listening along. But I don't think so, because I got one email about five years ago of somebody saying that. So, but I think that was probably the one person that was listening to it in the minivan. So there's that part of me that still feels like, oh, the kids are present. We can't talk about s e x, you know, so that's all I could come up with. So, I'm excited to see where we go today. So there's self confrontation, number one, and then self confrontation number two is, I'm really gonna check my ego because I want, you're the guest and I want to hear everything that you have to offer, and I kind of think that early on. This is why I love what we talked about in your podcast, and I still recommend my listeners to go, listen. We talked a lot about that self confrontation and differentiation and not needing your spouse to validate you. And I really worry, thank goodness, I don't like to hear myself talk, so I'm not gonna go back and listen, but I would imagine early on in my interviews, I wanted to make sure that the people knew I knew what I'm talking about. You know, because I'm a therapist and so this is, I'm also gonna sit with the perhaps potential uncomfortable feelings of wanting you to know that I'm smart too, Dan. So I'm, I am not gonna, I want to hear your story. I want you to go, I'm not gonna, I'm gonna try not to say, you know what, I think about that, Dan, because I want to know what you think about the things we're gonna talk about. So if you're okay with that, I really would love for you to do a lot of the driving and let's, I just want to kind of hear your story, how you got where you are and what you like talking about and working with and I don't know. How's that sound?
Dan: Sounds great. Sounds great. Okay. Let's see, so my wife and I have been married over 19 years. And we met each other in eighth grade, so we've known each other for a really long time.
Tony: Were there breakups along the way or was it love at first sight?
Dan: It's not that romantic. We were just in the same group of friends. We went on a few dance dates together, but I was really shy and she was popular, so there wasn't a chance back then.
Tony: Just trying to stay in her orbit, so to speak, in a sense. Is that what the goal was? Okay. Right.
Dan: But we never dated seriously in high school. I served a mission and had a fantastic experience.
Tony: Where'd you go?
Dan: I served in Japan.
Tony: This is about the only phrase I used to travel. Look at me. I'm already like let me tell you about my experiences in Japan, Dan. No, that's fascinating because I do, I used to go there when I was in my computer career, and I love, I loved everything about Japan. Did you enjoy your time there out of curiosity?
Dan: Yes. Yeah. In fact, I was born in Japan, so I lived there for, yeah, I went up through second grade in Japan. So, I already knew Japanese. They kicked me outta the MTC early, so I got more time than my peers in Japan. It was really good.
Dan: I served in Hokkaido, which is the most northern island.
Tony: Okay. Oh, wow. That's quite a, that's a different experience than Tokyo I would imagine.
Dan: It’s like the Montana of Japan. Really cold.
Tony: So, outta curiosity, do you still use your Japanese skills or the language skills at this point?
Dan: So my dad served his mission in Japan, so he speaks Japanese. My younger brother served in Japan too, so we speak Japanese and we grew up there. So as a family, yeah, within our family, we can speak Japanese to each other. And it comes really in handy when we're out in public. We don't want others around us to know what we're talking about.
Tony: Oh, I think that, and that's actually where I was going with it, I think that would just be so amazing and fun to be able to do that. Okay. Last quick Japanese point. I love the food. And there was a thing there called shabu shabu. Are you familiar with that?
Dan: Yeah. Yeah. They're really thin sliced beef.
Tony: Yeah. You just drag around in boiling water and then it's pretty, pretty amazing. Yeah. So, I don't know, like what was your favorite, what were your favorite foods? Or what, what's your favorite Japanese food?
Dan: I don’t know. Uh, if I had to pick one, it'd be street ramen. And the ramen shops not like the ramen here. No, it's on a class of its own. I miss that, especially when it's wintertime.
Tony: Okay this is fun. We will get to, for those listening, we are gonna get to an incredible topic, but I enjoy here we are being in the moment. And, boy, I love that when you can connect and if I throw my, now I'll throw my therapy hat because don't forget, Dan, I want you to know I'm a therapist, but now Dan and I are having a shared experience and now we will always remember this and, and it will be amazing and wonderful. Very quickly on that, the ramen to me, like the, the why that's significant is, I probably was there 10 times before I tried sushi. I didn't like sushi at all, so then I would just devour ramen everywhere I went until I finally did try the sushi. And now, you know, 25 years later and I've loved it ever since but yes, nothing like Japanese Ramen.
Dan: Yeah. Yeah. In fact, that reminds me of his story. I didn't like the idea of eating anything raw, like sashimi or la sushi. And, I didn't like sushi either because to me rice should be hot and steamy. Not cold and sweet. And vinegar, like the sushi rice usually is. And I served in a very cold part of Japan, and one particular day we had no appointments, so we were just outside all day snow up to our waist just knocking on door after door. No one's letting us in. And it was just a really miserable day. It was cloudy. We're just frozen. But we had one appointment at 8:30 at night at the very tail end and it was really on the outskirts of town, we had a hard time finding them, they lived at the top of this hill and so it was like we're slipping on the ice and snow, you know, giving it to their house and the very modest home. They don't have a traditional western door. They had the eastern sliding door sliding. Okay. We opened that, came inside and guess what they had served us for dinner? Sashimi and sushi. The raw stuff, right? And I was so hungry. I was so tired. And after being rejected all day long, to have someone go through this, it's expensive. It's an expensive meal. They're really putting out to have the missionaries come over. And, I couldn't turn 'em down. Anyway, that was the best sushi and sashimi I ever had. And from that point forward, I didn't have a problem with it because I love it, you know? In that moment it was meaningful.
Tony: Yeah, again, being very present there. And, were you a fan ever since? Was that, did that sell you or was that just an isolated experience based off of all the things that led up to that moment?
Dan: From that point forward, I didn't have a problem with it. I love it. Well if I can do it there, I can do it there. And I think that's like a principle that we can really build on for our conversation today, because it's like faith. We need to try things. We need to do an experiment on things, but we also need to do things with a willing heart. So my wife and I both come from really good families, but sex wasn't talked about much at all in our homes. And if it was, it was either about biological reproduction or the thou shall not talk, but not a lot of conversation about how to build a great and exciting sex because no one really ever talked about it. We kind of inherited some anxieties about it. I remember our wedding night, we were so excited to be together and to have this new experience together, but I didn't know, I kind of had an idea what was supposed to happen because all the lyrics to all the love songs say, you know, you make love all night. And so we make love for the first time. And my body, you know, doesn't last all night long.
Tony: I think Hall Oates has a song, “did it in a minute”. Maybe that's more applicable, right?
Dan: Probably. Yeah.
Tony: But I love what you're saying though and you're right. It does tie into your sashimi and sushi experience. I mean, you absolutely in that sense don't know what you don't know until you know it. Knowledge can be such a hindsight principle because you wouldn't have even known the right questions to ask heading into your wedding night because you weren't modeled a way to talk about it. And now back into that role of marriage therapist, I do most of the conversations when we finally start talking about sex are, well, tell me what that was like growing up. Tell me what certain things meant. What are expectations? And, it is just a conversation that gets really immediately awkward and full of a lot of judgment and a lot of assumptions and then a lot of shame. So how'd you navigate from there?
Dan: Not very well because I had a hard time reconciling spirituality and sexuality. Like spiritual people aren't sexual, yet I have sexual desires. And so that for constant combat and like kind of the running story in my head was like, sex is all about the quote unquote the natural man because I really didn't understand then what natural man really meant. I thought it meant any natural desires. So, I tried to suppress my sexuality, sexual desires, like here's an example, maybe two weeks after I was married, sex is so new, I'm excited about it and I have all these questions and I'm at BYU Idaho at the time and I go to the library and I get the courage to search something about sex or something. And I found a textbook on human sexuality and thought if this library has such a book, I'm sure it'd be a helpful resource for me. So I write down the call number. I go to that section of the library and I don't want anyone to know that I'm there becauseI don't want anyone, so like make sure no one's like looking at me as I take that book off the shelf, I tuck it under my arm and to my bad luck, it was like a woman at the checkout, like scanning, checking out my book. I didn't make any eye contact with her. Like, I don't want you to know I'm getting this book. I put it in my backpack. And anyway, later on, like that night, I open, I flip open the book. I'm just leafing through the pages. And I see an illustration of a couple having sex, like in the 69 position or something like that, just a drawing. And I freaked out like, oh no, this is pornography. I'm not supposed to be looking at this. So I shut the book and I promptly returned the book, never to get any answers to my questions, because I thought I shouldn't be looking.
Tony: And look, and look at that right there, Dan. Even like you're going into some, I'm a very old man and I worked in the video store industry, 30 years ago. And it, and it's as if you were going into that, behind that back wall where all the R-rated and pornography movies were, and your trench coat with your hat pulled down. And yes, all you're trying to do is learn, learn about this natural thing that occurs with couples. I mean, so that, and then the fact that you're going to a, literally a clinical textbook for it, and then you even see the things and then feel like I did something wrong. There's so much there.
Dan: Yes. I felt like I did something wrong. Right? So, my wife and I have always, I guess you could say, a really good marriage. Like we have a great emotional connection. We know how to play together. We're good. We have prioritized date nights throughout our marriage. Like we've been comfortable talking about a lot of things. Fast forward 13 years, so 13 years into my marriage, I am having a conversation with a friend and he opens up to me about his sex. He starts telling me some of the things he and his wife are doing in bed. And I'm like, really good people do those things? And he is, and he has a very vibrant and creative sex life. I guess you could call it. I had more bed curiosity. It's like, oh, no, no. Wait, tell me more. Tell me more. No, no, no. Don't tell me, but tell me a little more. I was so fascinated that here's a good man that enjoys sex with his wife, and they're very creative and the reason why he was telling me these things wasn't to brag or anything like that, it was, he was trying to tell me that ever since he and his wife really started working on their sexual relationship, their bond, became a lot stronger. They're better friends. They communicate better, they parent together better. Like there's all these benefits he's experienced in his life when he's really put the effort into making sex great for him and his wife. And he had something that I did not have. I could notice that. And yeah, so this was kind of my moment where I'm like, well, maybe all along I've been wrong. Maybe there is more to sex. Maybe there's a lot of goodness in sex that I've just been dismissing because of the way I've been thinking. So it really forced me to really confront my thoughts about it.
Tony: Tell me about that too. I mean, when you think that is there, okay, you may start to feel like, yeah, maybe I am. But is that still something that is scary to try to bring to your wife? Were you nervous for that?
Dan: Yeah. So I go home that night, say, hey Emily, you'd never guess what kind of conversation I had today. Now part of the conversation with my friend is he told me that I think in his marriage, his wife is the one who has the higher desire for sex. So, okay. She basically told him that he's not a good enough lover at the time and he needs to figure things out because she's not satisfied or whatever. And which he took very personally at first, he didn't like hearing that from her, but since, like, I made an effort to make it great for her and then it's great for him that that's kind of how the story evolved. So I'm really self-conscious now with my wife, like, am I a good enough lover? Are you enjoying our time together? And our model, I guess our model of what sex looks like or what it was supposed to look like up until then was in the dark 10 minutes missionary position, and you're done.
Yeah, just that, that's kind of a quote unquote, avoiding anything unnatural and not knowing what that was, what that meant, and just being modeled that that was probably the way we do things. And so my mind's blown like, no, there's other ways to do this. So now my wife and I are having this conversation about us and our sex life, and we probably had the most vulnerable conversation about sex in our marriage to that point in our marriage. Then we were up to like 2:00 AM talking that night about us and what we think about this. What do you think about this? Is this okay? How do we know if this is okay? This is so different from our experience. There seems to be more here than we're experiencing.
Tony: I appreciate that because I feel like people will have these, like when you said the most vulnerable conversation and I won't go into, you know, I love my four pillars and there needs to have, I think a framework is ideal, but I do feel like at times when we get vulnerable, it is more of a, do you feel like you were coming from this place of curiosity and then just, you know, this collaboration versus, you know, why don't you, or you know, do you feel like it was a different vibe in the conversation altogether?
Dan: Yeah. But we're both, I was really scared talking about these things because we haven't, we didn't talk about these things ever. And there's a lot of judgment involved. A lot of self judgment. What does she think about me? Like, does she think I'm gonna be some, like, you know, sex maniac or something? Like there's, there's a lot of that self-judgment too. You're really going into that conversation. What will she think if I really tell her my experience of what I think?
Tony: Well, and I think this is why it is so important to talk about this as a couple's therapist, I always talk about this as one of those, I call them a high charge topic, and then I almost feel bad because that puts such pressure on having the conversation but I really do feel like having a good foundational principle of a connection and having a way to communicate is necessary so that it doesn't happen, like what you're saying because I think we're all gonna worry that, okay, if I really say this, she's gonna think that I am a deviant and then she's gonna wanna leave. And I think it hits at that core attachment wound of, you know, will you still care about me? Do you love me? And so that's where I feel like I even like when you're saying, you know, guess what conversation I had? And we still almost wanna put it out there, testing the waters. I mean, almost like worried that if she says, you better not have talked to one of your friends about sex, you know, because then, then we would probably go, no, no. It wasn't that. Of course it wasn't. We're still wanting to, you know, lean into that. But I appreciate what you're saying though, because we're going into it already worried. And I think that's that part where we're all a little bit enmeshed in codependent to a point, but then have these different experiences in life. And then, but when we start talking about them, there's that fear. If I say the wrong thing, you know, it's just all or nothing, they're gone. They'll leave me. Which is not, not the case.
Dan: But there is a reason why we haven't talked about it to that point.
Tony: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Right.
Dan: So we went through it from there. We push, like courage, courage forward, onward.
Tony: And do you feel like Dan, at that moment, do you feel like there were, I don't know if you had to rate your assumptions around what her beliefs were, were you close to the mark or did you learn a lot that you weren't aware of? Or what was that like?
Dan: I would say, that's a both and, or yes and no. Like, yeah. I live with her. I know her. I've known her for a long, long time, so I know pretty much how she's gonna respond to things yet, I was blown away at her compassion and her openness and understanding. I didn't expect that much. Like that she held space for me to kind of explore this with her, you know, during that conversation. And likewise, I wanted to hold space for her to explore her thoughts because we really haven't put a lot of brain power to really, you know, examine this topic of our marriage. Because we always thought this is a topic of marriage.You don't examine, you kind of let it be.
Tony: I love your answer because it's the yes, and because I really do feel like this is where we observe and we judge in the same motion with our spouse. So, and that's where I feel like even the concepts around, oh man, can you believe that so and so, you know, whatever, that they do this in their life or, and we're, we're kind of making that, that bid to our partner of what do you think? Because if you really get angry about this, then I'm, then I know, or then we observe things where, you know, I've had some really good sessions with people where maybe a wife has started to open up about why she may feel shut down at certain times during sex. And where the guy has then said, no, I know, I know that that's because of this. And she, and then she's saying, I, no, I, it's, you know, might date back to previous relationship or some childhood trauma. And so I, I like what you're saying because I think we, over time, even if we think, oh no, I know my spouse. No, we know what we're observing and we know the judgments that we make, but we're, and then we do that long enough and now we even just assume. And even when they try to open up to us often, I think we say, no, no, no. I know, I know you, you can be honest with me when I mean, they're trying, you know, so I love what you're saying there. So then, what was that process like? From there you have that vulnerable conversation and then the next day, did you feel an emotional hangover or did you feel excitement or what was that?
Dan: I guess excitement because that conversation didn't end then. Right? For the next two weeks. We're up late every night talking about things and what do you think about things like that? So, we both concluded we needed more information and being kind of scared to even Google our sex questions, we thought maybe a book would be helpful. So we did Google, like a Christian author like sex book. And found one, it came in the mail. We read a little bit together that night. She fell asleep, because you know, she's tired and I think I stayed at 4:00 AM and I binge read and finished it in one night. It was awesome.
Tony: Like you had the permission now to read that kind of thing. Getting rid of those BYU Idaho library days at that very moment.
Dan: Yeah and the vibe of this particular book was like, perfect for what I needed at that time because it was basically giving me permission that sex is a good and helpful and wholesome and amazing thing which is very different than the narrative I have been giving myself. It was something to be tolerated, not something to be very embraced and celebrated. So that's what I needed at that time.
Tony: So where do things go from there? So now a couple of weeks and you're still talking, you're reading books and then you know, then what happens?
Dan: Right, I should also mention, I had a lot of questions about what's okay and not okay. I think a lot of people have that. So, do you know Jeff Stewart?
Tony: Jeff and I have had our Home and Away podcast as well. And what's funny that you're talking about this too, I have him coming up soon to talk about consent in relationships, and, you know, in my world a lot when I'm working with clients, I don't know and we can maybe get to this in a minute, but I find that people do fall into these particular patterns or ruts in sex whether it's talking about things like duty sex or whether the guy is going to, I mean, I had a guy put it so well, and I'm sorry. Now I am going on a tangent, but Jeff is, is such a good person to talk about this with, but the concepts around consent, where if a wife is saying, I don't necessarily feel like doing a certain thing, but then the guy is saying, okay, but I can, I can get you to orgasm, for example, and then he feels like, see, that was worth it. But the wife said, I don't want to, to begin with, and then, I've had that conversation so many times where the guy feels like, no, but I got us, I mean, a guy said recently and I appreciate it. He said, no, I got us to the promised land, you know? And she said, no, you, you know, you didn't respect my boundaries. And then, and so often I will have a guy say, but you, you had an orgasm. And that's where I have a classic line of, okay, well yeah, if you're asking if the 20,000 nerve endings and her vagina responded to stimulation, then yes. But was she a part of that? No, not mentally. And so anyway, Jeff's gonna come on and talk more about that concept of consent. You know, because consent sounds like things and dating or that sort of thing. But, I think in the marital relationship that's important.
Dan: So Jeff and I live in the same neighborhood. So we see each other at church. And, I really respect Jeff and I figured of all the people to help me understand where's the line of like, what's, okay, not okay. Like, yeah, he'd be it. So I say, Jeff, can we go to lunch? And he's like, sure, we'll go to lunch. So we're at Chick-fil-A and I get all my courage and I ask them all my questions. And so we're talking about everything in explicit detail. And I feel so sorry for the family sitting next to us.
Tony: Sending the kids into the ball pit though. Like voluntarily, right?
Dan: But this is my chance. And he was so encouraging. He was so like, he was so amazing yeah, this stuff is fantastic. Keep like, he was encouraging, like, keep going. This is good, you'll figure this out. So I guess we just started progressing a little more. And then within a few months, I'd say within two months, our sex life went from good to, I guess it wasn't bad, but we didn't know any better, right? To like amazing. Like we started experiencing a lot of change, a lot of excitement and vibrancy and, and then all the things my friend talked about, our bond being stronger. We were communicating. If we could talk about that, we can talk about anything. So our level of communication just deepened and all of a sudden the sky was bluer, the grass was greener. I'm performing better at work. Like I'm whistling. There's like the pep in my step. Like there's so much in life that was like, so much better when our sex life just became amazing. Those twitter painted feelings I had early on in our relationship all came flooding back in full force. And, we're flirting with each other all the time. Just the level of, in our relationship just went up like an order because of the vibrancy of what we're experiencing together.
Tony: And then, and so I'm curious too, do you feel like, were there still these experiences where there were, you know, not tonight? Or did you feel like it was, if somebody was saying that this was something that you wanted to do, then okay, we're doing this. I mean, was there any of the letdown, not even letdown, that's the wrong way to frame it. But do you know what I mean though? Because it sounds like right now when you're saying, okay, it was just this euphoric high. And I think a lot of couples that I work with will often feel that, because we finally talked about the elephant in the room. But then it's, but we still don't really necessarily talk about when maybe the euphoria dips a bit. It doesn't mean that, okay, now we're gonna go all the way back to where we were and, and how to find that area in the middle, the gray or that, that kind of thing.
Dan: Yeah, so I am still very immature and have a lot of growing to do. So yes, we've experienced all of those things and I'm still growing in all those areas. However, I gotta say, I think growth and progression happens. Not, it's not so linear, right? Our growth isn't so linear. Like we have growth spurts where you grow, grow, grow, and then you hit a limit, and then you kind of stay at that plateau for a while, or it might feel like you digress for a little bit and then something else happens and then you have another growth spurt, so you hit your next limit and you progress for a while. That's been my experience and I think that's an experience for a lot of couples. So, yeah, I like that there was like, we're on this high for a while. Feels like the honeymoon again. And the honeymoon phase kind of, you know, wears off a little bit. But then, we don't stay there for a very long time. We want to keep growing and progressing and so you kind of go there. And in all of that, because we're at a different level, the challenges that we now have in our marriage are gonna look very different at that level than they were at the lower level. So yeah, things are better in some ways, but we have different new challenges so things feel worse sometimes because the challenges look different. So, yeah, we're always leveling up because there's always another level I think.
Tony: Do you start to identify patterns of when things start to maybe flatten out. I mean, is there, I dunno, the seasonal things, work related things, kid related things. I mean, do you start to identify things that then you can bring awareness to foster that growth in a sense?
Dan: Okay, yes. So as far as patterns go, well, there's life and life happens. Like my, my daughter, my 16 year old daughter's in a, just finished, she was in a production. She had a, anyway, it means late nights. And I'm driving her there to play practice and picking her up late at night. And it kind of disrupted our, my wife and I, our mojo and how we spend our evenings together. So yeah, things like that do happen. Life happens.
Tony: And do you feel like you guys were communicating about that in real time or was that something where you would then all of a sudden feel like, okay, something's off and, and then we go back and review the game film?
Dan: I guess. We go into it knowing that, all right, okay, daughters play practice. This means this is gonna happen. So, yeah, part of my personal growth is I've, I guess, learning how to self soothe a lot better around things like this. And that's a skill I don't think people teach enough, learning how to like, calm the heck down around things when they don't go exactly the way you had hoped to go and just being okay with that.
Tony: What and what's that look like? And I think this is some of the stuff we talked about on your podcast which I so appreciate and maybe that's a good context and I hope it doesn't feel like I was trying to set you up for an answer or anything, but I like what you're saying because I feel like in the perfect world, we know and we can say, okay, what are things gonna look like while our daughters at play practice? One of us can be driving. We may be tired, we may need to communicate more. Or I find the couples that in the middle of it, they recognize something's off and then they're able to communicate about it, assuming the good intentions. And so now we recognize, okay, oh, this is what's happening. Can we adjust? And I worry that too often it's the, now we realize we are just off and then we start trying to take a look at what happened and, you know, and now in hindsight I've built like that hindsight piece is pretty important. And I worry at times that couples, you know, they don't want to quote, dredge up the past or, you know, well that's, but I really feel like you can analyze that data if you have a nice framework and look at it at a place of, okay, that happened. You know, what was my role? And so that's where I was going by I like what you're saying about this self soothing too, because what does that look like? What have you learned?
Dan: I've got a few thoughts on this, and I'm not saying I'm always, you know, really good at this, but I'm getting better and better at it. The first thought I have is, you know the old story about the Indian chief teaching his son that there are two wolves. One has a death instinct, one has a life instinct. Well, which one wins? The one you feed, right? And it happens on a microscopic level in our marriages. Like it's this idea of are things a year from now gonna be worse between us or things between us are gonna be better a year between us a year from now. So it's, I guess, kinda like an optimism versus a pessimistic outlook. And it might sound silly to say, but when you feed the wolf that says things are gonna be worse, you know, a year from now because this or that? It does manifest itself in the way you relate to each other because you tend to withdraw a little more or justify your resentments or there's, because you're like, well, we're already heading down this path. And that's the wolf you're feeding. But there's also the other wolf you can feed. Now it could be a lot worse, but if things can be worse, I think that means things could be better. So I'm going to do those things, that advocate for or fight for something better. There's also, entropy is at stake. I mean, it is a very powerful force in any relationship.
Tony: Yeah, talk about that. The marital entropy. If you just leave things as they are, do they deteriorate? Is that the concept?
Dan: Yeah. So it is a constant uphill thing, so it's exhausting sometimes, but it is a fight. Prioritize each other. It's a fight to make sure we're connecting. It's a fight to make space for both of us to express what we need or what we want out of our relationship together. Those are forces to fight against.
Tony: I love the, I haven't thought about the wolf you feed in a long time, because I do feel like there's so much there where you know what you seek, you will find, if you want to find the ways that your spouse is, is not there for you the way you would like, you are gonna find that, you know, if you're gonna find the ways that you can show up different, you will find that. And I like what you're saying, I haven't put that in the context of that wolf you feed analogy because I really do like that a lot because if I want to find my part in something, I'll find it. If I wanna find her part in something, I'll find it. And then I really feel like, if I'm gonna look for the part, what she's doing, then I have to acknowledge the fact that I am basically saying that I'm not at fault. I mean this isn't, this isn't a me issue. And, I would rather have somebody start with a, oh it's, it's a me issue because I only really know what I'm doing.
Dan: Another tactic that helps me is paying attention to the story I'm telling myself and I play the game two truths and a lie. So often it's like, we'll never, you know, X, Y, Z, or she'll never want this, or whatever. And so, then I kind of build this story in my head. I keep telling myself the story over and over. She's never gonna want to do X in bed with me or whatever it might be, right? We'll never achieve this or whatever. And sometimes the story we tell ourselves has a lot of truth, but there's a little bit of a lie embedded in it. Okay, so identifying what about it? The story I'm telling myself what's true and what really isn't that completely true. We like to self deceive ourselves in a way. We like to set up a story that makes us feel better or superior, or we're the ones in the right, they're in the wrong or whatever. But identifying really, that's not completely true. I mean, it's a little bit of a stretch in this area. As not me, but identifying, that's tricky. So one tool that I've helped that helps me with that is I type up a dialogue so this takes time. So you gotta be willing to set aside some quiet time. I open up a Google doc and I will type up like the dialogue of the last conflict we've had around, or a conflict I anticipate we're having, I say this, she says this, then I'm gonna say this, and if I say this, I think this is how she's gonna respond, or this is how she does respond. So I kind of type up this dialogue, and that practice of typing up this dialogue helps me at least on paper, kind of take a step back and say, I can see here where I'm a little bit, I'm a little, I like for me, my tendencies to take the superior stance. Like, okay, I'm more evolved than you. I know what's going on.
And you don't like that, that doesn't create a marriage where, where we're equals, right? Because I'm condescending. So I know this, these tendencies. I mean, I can like, after the dialogue's like. Or another one I tend to do is play the victim really well. We're good at that. It's your fault on the way like this, I have no choice in this matter. And then as I go through dialogue, I can go, wait a minute, I'm playing the victim here. And the victim pattern for me is always the, I don't have a choice. When in reality I remind myself I always have a choice. What are my options? Even if they're all crappy options, what's the least crappy option of all my options I can still make? And when I look for those things, then it's all on me again. I kind of keep the focus on me. This is the step I need to take for me in this, in light of these things.
Tony: I like it. And I think, again, back to the things that we talked about on your, on your show, all of those options may cause discomfort and we are not huge fans of discomfort and rather than feel uncomfortable, it's easier to pull that victim card or that it'll never work card. Or why would I even bring it up card? Because then I can still stay in that victim mentality and I don't have to be uncomfortable. And now I get to tell a story to myself. About something that she's unaware of the task, something she's failed at and she didn't even know she was taking the test. So, I mean, that's a, that's a lot, right? I like what you're saying too, when you lay the narrative out, I do not journal. I love giving journaling homework. I'm not saying it as if I think I would never do it. I wish I journaled and I haven't aired his episode yet, but he's been writing every day for a year now, and he wasn't a journal writer at all. And we were just talking about that concept of laying things out, when you put things out linearly, it almost does it, it declutters from your mind. And I love that you just put another piece to that puzzle together and then you could identify, oh, when I lay it out that way, I take, I try to take that one up and I think if things are just in our heads and that we got all kinds of stories going, I wonder that might be harder to see that that's the pattern, do you think?
Dan: Yes. But I do also admit there's also times when I've typed it out and I still can't see it. And that's the next stage I go in and get help. So I have friends, I'm in a great group of other men that I can trust with some of these things and they're willing to look at my dialogue or whatever it is, help identify things, right. I believe in marriage coaching. I have a marriage coach that I have that I go to and helps me see things when I have trouble seeing it myself. And because I think we still will always have blind spots. There's only so much.
Tony: Absolutely. We can see. And I like the group. I wouldn't say I really like a group like that because, you know, if we're in our own echo chamber, that's one thing. And then if we're wanting someone to be gentle with us, you know, bring gentle awareness. And sometimes I do feel like we need that, you need a little, little, little taste of reality there. And so I think that they, the more real that somebody can be, because you can still have, you still have the option to disagree with them, but you'll never have that option if you don't have somebody willing to confront you with what they notice. And I think that plays into it, we put out a version of ourselves to the world and we say, hey everybody, validate this guy right here. And then if people really don't feel like, okay, but that's not the version I see, I'll try. And then if somebody is being insincere and trying to validate the version of you that you think you are, then you pick up on that. And then you say, okay, you don't even care about me. And I feel like that's the position we put our spouses in or our friends in at times of, you know, then we get to play the victim as well. So I love having a group that you can go to with that. When I was starting on your journey, and we only have a few more minutes and I didn't even, tell us what you do and you offer and how you help people. I mean, you've got an amazing podcast, you've got a big following on Instagram. What are all the things you do and how do you help people?
Dan: So the first thing I did after our, I guess you call it our marriage renaissance, the rebirth. We're like, this is so amazing. I wish more people knew about this. I'm an app developer, I'm from a software development background, myself and my wife created a bedroom game app. I'm also really creative and being really creative in the bedroom sounds great to me. So we made a collection of bedroom games we put on the app store. And it took off because I think we hit an underserved market. It's not craft, it's not raunchy. It's not, it's full of really good information and it's fun, but in the process of marketing that app, I connected with that author of that book that I stayed up really late reading, I connected with her and I connected with other authors and other bloggers and Instagrammers and podcasters. Like, wow, these are the people that I admire and learn a lot from and say, hey, I have this app. Would you like to share it with your audience? And they check it out and say, yeah, we love it too. Of course we'll share it. So I kind of developed these relationships with others in this like conservative Christian sex positive community, which I didn't know existed.
Tony: I was gonna make a joke there, Dan. Like, yeah, you found all 20 of them, you know, but I'm joking.
Dan: There's probably 2000 of them, but, right. No, exactly. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Right. Exactly, so one thing led to another and then a year after, so this is in 2018, my wife and I had this hair-brained idea to put on a marriage conference. We are both kind of introverted, right? We have no idea what this is like, but like we have the anti pornography conference in St. George which is a real downer. If you ever go to it, you walk away feeling scared for your life. You want to cut, you know, the internet, right? It's not an upbeat event. And then we have the family history conference. But we don't have anything like marriage enrichment. So we're like, let's do it, let's do it. And 550 people came to our first conference.
Tony: It was when I saw on your website that you have the couples retreats and that sort of thing. And you know, I've been doing this forever in my podcast and I even thought, oh, I would be, I would, that would be very difficult to put one of those together. What if no one comes? I went into all those stories and I can't imagine what it's like to have 500 people. That's amazing.
Dan: Yeah. So it was way better, and that's the day I got the shot in the arm. Like I think I found my calling in life Love. I love it, I love it. Love helping couples have a great sex life. That's, that's it. So ever since then I've continued to develop apps. I have about five apps on the app store. The main one is intimately us and the second one is just between. And we've put on marriage retreats, we've switched from the conference format to a retreat format to do those annually. My next retreat's coming up in three weeks, so I'm really excited for that.
Tony: Well, I will get this out quickly then. What's the date of the retreat?
Dan: It's sold out.
Tony: Okay. All right. But that's exciting.
Dan: They sell out within a few weeks when we announce our retreat. So get on our waiting list if you want. Okay, that sounds good, then I really wanted to help other couples, kind of like what you do, Tony. So I've gone through a lot of training on how to coach other couples. And coach on sexuality. I'm a pretty good student. I can hit the books and I can, anyway, so I have a handful of clients that I coach and I launched a program called Next Level, and it was something that I wish I had. It's a low barrier to entry. It's a low cost, but group coaching program for couples that wanna take their intimacy to the next level. And it's myself and another trained marriage coach in there, and we have weekly meetings. We have a private podcast, kinda like what you have the marriage matters. Is that what it is?
Tony: Magnetic marriage. Oh, you're fine.
Dan: Yeah. Where as you subscribe, you can listen to other couples being coached anonymously. We've kind of created this kind of community and that's called Next Level and that's growing pretty big.
Tony: This is exciting. We'll have to have you back on again too. But I did a podcast recently where it was all about therapy versus coaching, and I talked a lot about, there's a, I did, I wasn't aware that and I'm kind of joking here, but that there was this therapist versus coach vibe that I wasn't aware I was supposed to have, because I really appreciate coaches and I know that, I think that as I often kind of joke about the fact that I think a coach is necessary to say, okay, here are the next steps. Here's what's worked for me. Here's what I feel like will help. And then I'm, you know, then I feel like the therapist is almost right there beside the couple, and then if and when those things work until they don't, or the challenges they have with continuing on whatever that the program is. They bought the book, they bought the course that they maybe didn't finish, you know, then, then here comes the therapist to say, all right, let's figure that out because I feel like, you know, it's a nice balance of both because I've bought courses and got the dopamine hit and done a couple the modules and then thought, man, okay, I'll do, I'll do something later, you know, and then I thought, what's wrong with me? And I paid the money and why did I fizzle out? And then I've had to put my therapist brain on and have some good acceptance. And anyway, I really love what you're doing and I feel like a perfect balance of coaching and therapy is probably a nice mix. A little bit of chocolate meets peanut butter kind of.
Dan: I like that. Chocolate and peanut butter. That's a good idea. The way I look at it too is therapists are licensed and trained for treating that mental illness too. And there's I, or something that like with dealing with trauma or those really, really specific trainings that I don't touch, but if it's about overcoming differences in sexual desire, I can totally coach you through that. Or if it's about I need more creativity in the bedroom. Or help us where we have this dynamic where it's the pursuer distance or dynamic, I can help you with all those common patterns that a lot of couples struggle with. I can help you with many of those. And that's, and people do come and their marriages are changed for the better as a result of this. They're learning new habits and new tools that help them, you know? Like what we talked about today, for example, self soothing, if that's what they need, or if it's learning how to have those difficult conversations that need to happen. And how to have those are all things that I think couples benefit from things like this.
Tony: So I love it. I do. And then, so then if we kinda wrap up where we started there, I honestly, part of what I was excited, because I really liked your vibe when I was on your show and I know that even as we were talking, I know as the therapist and whatever, 1300 couples later, my default at times is to already anticipate the yeah, buts that are happening. But then, you know, the people need to try to understand the things they don't understand and maybe those yeah, buts won't be as strong and that big fear of the unknown that's there. A lot of times I almost feel like as a therapist, I'm trying to walk us gently to discover the unknown. And I feel like sometimes maybe the services you offer saying, hey, here it is. And it works. And I know it works and it's exciting. And then as people, you know that they didn't know that, and so they start moving toward that a little quicker. And then just know that, you can have a good therapist there if that trauma response does come up. Or if you start doing the, okay, everybody else seems to agree, what's wrong with me? Maybe that's then where the work kicks in. So, I love, I love what you're doing, that's awesome. So I'll, I'll put links to everything. I love that. The next retreat you've got is sold out, so get on, get on your waiting list, listen to your podcast and then, we should do this again.
Dan: Yeah. Let's do, let's do, I do, I guess I can announce. We will be having a virtual marriage retreat on June 9th of this year. June 9th is International love making day because it's six nine on a calendar. Get it, and it's also a Friday. And so we're gonna have a two day virtual love making retreat so you and your spouse are, it's up to you to get your own hotel or kick the kids outta the house for the weekend or whatever. And then, we have sessions where we're meeting with you and giving you very specific ideas to help you explore your own eroticism in your own marriage. So you have a very wonderful love making retreat that weekend for the two of you.
Tony: Perfect. All right. Dan, what a, what a joy. Thanks for coming, we'll talk to you again soon and I'll have all the notes that we can put in the show notes and we'll try to get this out pretty quick because I think there's a lot of good stuff here. So thanks for coming on, and thanks for having me on your show. That was a blast.
Dan: Thanks. My pleasure.
Tony: Okay. All right. We'll talk again soon. Thanks so much.