Jeff Fine

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Why do so many of us find it so difficult to talk about sex? How important is the pleasure aspect in sexual relationships? Who should one go to if they are having issues with sexual intimacy?

In this episode of The Total Self Considered, Jeff Fine interviews Zoya Simakhodskaya, a psychotherapist specializing in couples therapy and sexual relationships. An experienced therapist, instructor, and EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy) practitioner, Zoya brings her insights from many years of working with couples and educating therapists about the importance of addressing sexual issues in relationships. Jeff and Zoya discuss what goes into a healthy, satisfying sex life and why people avoid talking about sex. Together, they break down common patterns that lead to issues in sexual relationships, and the personal, social and cultural factors that complicate the issues, and share some advice for couples who may be struggling.

Summary of Episode

  • A lot of partners don’t talk about sex with each other, parents and children don’t talk about it – why? 
  • Vulnerability and sensitivity about ourselves as sexual beings
  • Importance of trust
  • The way parents talk about sex and bodies, and how it can lead to feelings of shame or fear in young people
  • Therapists could also get better informed about how to talk about sex
  • Not “the” conversation, but ongoing conversations
  • Make sex beautiful – talking about pleasure
  • How one’s negative comments about their own or other people’s appearance can affect children’s view of themselves
  • Importance of sexual intimacy in romantic relationships
  • Feeling loved, connected, desired has a big impact on the relationship overall
  • Definition of a healthy sexual relationship – World Health Organization’s version
  • Key components of healthy sexual relationships: positive, respectful, pleasurable and safe
  • A variety of sexual experiences can be healthy as long as they are respectful and pleasurable for both people
  • A negative sexual cycle in EFT – what is it and how it plays out
  • Searching/pursuing vs withdrawing
  • Need for emotional connection for sexual intimacy 
  • Stereotypes of pursuer and withdrawer and how they don’t apply along gender lines
  • Cultural shift in couples’ dynamics
  • Even couples who get along well can have difficulties in their sexual relationship
  • How a person’s emotions and sense of safety can have a big impact on whether the sexual relationship is satisfying
  • Who to consult for different kinds of sexual issues
  • Sexual issues arising from medical problems and sexual issues related to emotional aspects
  • What defines safe will vary for each couple
  • Therapists should be mindful of bringing in their own morals or expectations about sexual relationships into their work 
  • Advice from Zoya to couples who are unsatisfied in their sexual relationship
  • Committed, happy couples can also have issues in their sexual lives
  • “Hold Me Tight” workshops for couples


“The quality of the emotional relationship will always affect their sexuality.

It’s very hard to feel relaxed, and playful, and have fun if you are stressed out.”- Zoya

“Being intimate implies you have to let some of your armor down. If you don’t feel safe, that armor is really hard to let down.”  – Jeff

“Be brave and courageous to bring it up if you’re struggling.” – Zoya


Jeff Fine’s website:

Jeff Fine’s Total Self blog and podcast:

Zoya Simakhodskaya  – Center for Psychological and Interpersonal Development:

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