Entertainment21 October 2021
Gwyneth Paltrow and the team at goop are back with , an eye-opening series that investigates what it means to be truly intimate in a relationship. The six-episode series explores how to express one’s deepest fears and desires in addition to accepting those of one’s partner. “A continuation of goop’s mission to help our audience pursue the ineffable power of their own potential, [Sex, Love & goop] is a toolkit for finding more pleasure and connection in our romantic lives,” says Paltrow of the show.
To celebrate the series’ release, we caught up with Michaela Boehm, a well-known relationship and intimacy expert who appears in the series and has worked with Paltrow and other high-profile celebrities to deepen their own relationships. Our in-depth chat covered everything from the empowering nature of therapy to how to develop better body positivity. So check out the featured clip above to meet the real-life couples brave enough to explore the most intimate parts of themselves in Sex, Love & goop, and then read our exclusive interview with Boehm to learn some helpful tips you can use in your own life.
Sex, Love & goop is an empowering series full of moments of self-discovery. What did you find most rewarding about the project, and what do you hope viewers take away from it?
I really loved the process. Seeing the transformation in the couples and showing possibilities to work with relational challenges in creative and practical ways was very moving as well as rewarding. My hope is that viewers will get access to information, education, and inspiration and through it explore healing and connection in their own relationships.
For many people, sex and pleasure are still topics that are off limits. Why is it so vital to openly discuss what we want? And what can we do to eliminate some of that shame or awkwardness, especially for women?
Considering how important good relationships and fulfilling sex lives are for most of us, we get suprisingly little education on the subject. No one would expect someone to be a musician or an athlete without proper education, training and practice, but somehow when it comes to sex and pleasure—which follow similar mechanics of skill acquisition via the body—we are supposed to magically have all those skills.
Obviously sex is still considered something that stays hidden away and private—and there is much merit to that—but without dialogue and education we can’t learn or get better. Being able to communicate one’s needs goes beyond the bedroom into all areas of life, and as such is a valuable skill that can be cultivated. Openly expressing our needs in a relationship also creates a chance for a much deeper and more fulfilling connection.
The way to get more comfortable around those subjects is to begin engaging with the topics in a gradual way. Learning new skills and getting educated, and being inspired is a great direction. This is one of the reasons I appreciate the show, because it demonstrates how things can be discussed, learned, and shared in a positive and accepting way. The episodes can also be used as jumping off points for dialogue and conversation with a partner.
As we see in Sex, Love, & goop, this type of therapy isn’t just about discovering what we want or reigniting intimacy in a relationship. It also helps individuals become more accepting of themselves, their desires, and their bodies. What is your advice for someone who is afraid or doesn’t know where to begin or how to ask for help?
It’s entirely normal to feel afraid or confused when entering into a new area of self-discovery. The good news is that just by acknowledging that we want support in that area the first and biggest step has been taken already. From there it becomes increasingly easier to learn and get support.
Negative body image can affect our lives in many ways. What are some steps we can take to counteract that and build a better relationship with our bodies?
One of the simplest and most effective ways is to simply move daily in ways that are gentle and enjoyable. Walks in nature, dancing to a song, swimming, or even just light stretching at home. The important aspect is that it is not an overly demanding activity and as such doesn’t create the negative self-talk or failure to keep up that many of us connect with movement.
By engaging in simple motion the natural intelligence of our bodies can come online, which allows for a more positive connection with the body. At the same time this simple —and therefore achievable—habit builds a positive regard. Focusing on how the body feels instead of what the body looks like is a great first step towards acceptance.
Are there any skills or practices that couples can develop and cultivate together to help them gain greater confidence and in turn discover a deeper level of intimacy?
Connection and intimacy are learnable skills. There are many short practices that can be done even within a busy schedule. The simplest practice—which many couples find very hard to do to begin with—is to simply sit together. No phones, no TV, no distractions. I often ask couples to do this by sitting across from each other on a sofa. The key is to just be with each other: looking, smiling, connecting. No logistical discussions, negative reports from the office, or texting. Set a timer for 10 minutes and see if you can give each other undivided positive attention. Giving and receiving positive, undivided attention is the first building block of true intimacy.
Some have a fear or reluctance to be completely open and vulnerable with one’s partner. What can we do to combat the stigma surrounding vulnerability and encourage openness?
It can feel very frightening to expose our feelings and desires. Most of us have been rejected or ridiculed in the past, so it can feel like a big risk to share openly with a partner. The key is to start with very small issues until that feels more comfortable. One of the big mistakes couples make is that they start with some big, emotionally charged item and then don’t have the capacity to see it through and this reinforces the belief of not being able to express safely.
I often liken this to going to the gym. If you have never lifted weights before, you’ll start with small weights instead of going straight to the 100 lb. bench press. Begin by asking for or sharing small pieces of information. Over time you build enough “muscle” to express the deeper and more vulnerable aspects—all the while the other partner also habituates to deeper communication.
Many have struggled to find or maintain relationships during the pandemic. What are your tips for rebuilding one’s confidence and finding joy in our lives and relationships after a trauma such as this one?
The first step is to acknowledge that this has been an extraordinarily hard time. We are social creatures thriving on human contact and deriving valuable feedback from social connections. We’ve been altered by the experience and can’t expect that all just goes back to how it was before.
Many of my clients have reported that the forced time apart has actually clarified goals and preferences. Before engaging again it might be a good time to consider what’s important to you and view the time away as an opportunity of having disconnected from destructive habits and old patterns. By taking that inventory you can also identify areas of positive growth and lived resilience, which in turn will add confidence and a new perspective.
What can women do to feel more empowered in every aspect of their lives? Are there any rituals or practices you can recommend?
In my over 20 years of working with women I have found that the simpler the practice or ritual is the more effectively it influences our lives. We often suffer from comparison, competitiveness, and buying into other people’s ideas of what our lives look like. Trying to do too much prevents us from truly connecting to who we are, so less is definitely more in this case.
My two favorite practice suggestions are moving to a full song at least once a day and creating a simple tea (or coffee) ritual. By moving to a song we shake out the tension from excessive sitting and mental focus, connect to our lower body where pleasure and vitality can be found. At the same time we move out of linear “doing mode” into nonlinear “being mode.” One song a day is doable even with a busy schedule, and doing something daily creates positive habits and greater self-esteem.
With the tea ritual all five senses can be brought online, something that helps greatly in becoming sensually aware and alive. Make a cup of your favorite beverage. Sit down without distractions and simply hold the cup. First feel the cup: the texture and temperature. Look at the cup, engaging visually. Then, lift the cup to your nose and simply inhale the fragrance of the beverage. Only after you have inhaled the scent, take the first sip and taste your beverage. Spend some time sipping and listen to the sounds around you. This simple ritual enlivens the senses and with it connects us to our body. A positive connection with our bodies results in greater understanding and esteem for ourselves.
In your mind, what does a happy and healthy relationship look like?
What form a relationship takes is an individual decision and most definitely varies widely depending on personal preferences. There are, however, a few commonalities that can be found in successful partnerships. Mutual respect, positive communication, the ability to laugh together even in the face of conflict, and a willingness to stay open are good indicators of a healthy relationship. And perhaps the single most important ingredient creating connection and happiness: generosity. Not as in giving expensive gifts, but a generosity of spirit and heart. The willingness to give one’s partner “the benefit of the doubt,” the extra attention, that special cup of coffee they enjoy, unexpected praise and acknowledgment. It’s in the giving of those extra “gifts” that fulfillment and happiness can be found, regardless of how tough relationships can sometimes be.
Sex, Love & goop is now streaming on Netflix.