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Relationship Alive!

Neil Sattin interviews John Gottman, Sue Johnson, Harville Hendrix, Peter Levine, Stan Tatkin, Dick Schwartz, Katherine Woodward Thomas, Diana Richardson, Terry Real, Wendy Maltz - and many others - in his quest to dig deep into all the factors that keep a Relationship Alive and Thriving! Each week Neil brings you an in-depth interview with a relationship expert. Neil is an author and relationship coach who is enthusiastic and passionate about relationships and the nuts and bolts of what makes them last. You can find out more about Neil Sattin and the Relationship Alive podcast at http://www.neilsattin.com
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Now displaying: April, 2020
Apr 25, 2020

Life doesn’t always lead to Happily Ever After (or Happily For Now) - like a romance novel. However, romance novels tap into something deep in our heart and psyche - keeping us turning the pages to see just how it’s all going to unfold. You can use the lessons from fiction to craft your own personal love adventure. This week we’re talking to Mara Wells, author of Cold Nose, Warm Heart - about the craft of romance writing, to learn what fuels our real-life desires. You’ll avoid the mistakes that not only would destroy a good plot line - but that also would send a perfectly good relationship down the tubes. And you’ll get some ideas for how to keep the passion flowing when you’ve moved past seduction - to doing each other’s laundry.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it! 

Sponsors:

Find a quality therapist, online, to support you and work on the places where you’re stuck. For 10% off your first month, visit Betterhelp.com/ALIVE to fill out the quick questionnaire and get paired with a therapist who’s right for you.

Resources: 

Pick up the new Mara Wells Book, Cold Nose, Warm Heart - and support independent booksellers! (or you can pick it up on Amazon as well)

Check out Mara Wells’s website for more information about her novels.

FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide

Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE)

www.neilsattin.com/romance Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Mara Wells.

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Transcript:

Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. What do we know about what drives the human heart? And not just in terms of love and connection but also in terms of desire. There are any number of ways to approach this question and I wanted to try something a little bit different in today's episode because I happen to be good friends with someone who is an author in the romance genre. And I thought what would be better than to dive in to romance writing and to figure out what that can actually teach us about how we operate as humans. And if there weren't something there, it wouldn't sell millions and millions of books every year and so there's clearly something there that romance writing taps into, and so I wanna mine it for all it's worth with today's guest. Her name is Mara Wells and she is the author of the new book, Cold Nose, Warm Heart, which is the first novel in the Fur Haven Dog Park series.

Neil Sattin: And I gotta say, it's actually the first bit of fiction that I've read in years because I'm mostly reading non-fiction for this podcast and I really enjoyed it. It was just such a great escape for me to take a couple of days and dive into the world of Fur Haven Dog Park. And we'll find out a little bit more about what that means but is as usual, we will have a transcript for today's episode, which you can get if you visit neilsattin.com/romance or you can text the word Passion to the number 33444 and follow the instructions. And I think that's it. Let's just dive in. Mara Wells, thank you for joining us today on Relationship Alive.

Mara Wells: Thank you so much for inviting me, Neil. I really appreciate this opportunity.

Neil Sattin: You're welcome. You're welcome. And as I was talking just a moment ago, I had this sudden hesitation like, "Is it okay to call this a romance novel?" Is this a romance novel, what you wrote?

Mara Wells: It is absolutely a romance novel.

Neil Sattin: Okay.

[chuckle]

Mara Wells: The definition of a romance novel is that you have a guaranteed Happily Ever After or at least Happily For Now. In the industry, the HEA or HFN, and if it meets that criteria, the guaranteed happily ever after ending and that the relationship is the primary focus of the story, it's a romance.

Neil Sattin: Got it. Yeah, that makes sense.

Mara Wells: It's a big, big world.

Neil Sattin: And I was wondering because as I was talking to a friend of mine about this interview, I was like, "Yeah, this... " Like, it's a romance book, it's got sex and romance and relationship and she was like, "Well, there are a lot of books that have that." So we were sitting with this puzzle of like, "Well, what does make it a romance book versus just like a good book that has sex and heart-centered interactions and steamy interactions and... " So is that the working definition right there or is there more that defines it?

Mara Wells: Yes. A romance novel has a relationship as the primary focus, a romantic relationship as the primary focus of the story and then we have a guaranteed happily ever after ending or at least happily for now. Within the novel, there's some expansion in the definition. Sometimes we see the happily ever after is guaranteed at the end of a series if we're following one couple through a series but usually it's contained within the one novel.

Neil Sattin: Got it. Yeah, and I think part of what fueled me as a reader was I knew that was gonna happen and I was wondering how it was gonna play out. So there's maybe a bit of a beauty in that when you pick up a book like this where it's like, okay, you know that it's probably gonna work out, it's gonna work out on some level. You may not know all the twists and turns, and discovering those twists and turns is part of what keeps you going.

Mara Wells: Right. We read for the twists and turns. We read for the journey and I think I've... Before I was a romance writer, I was a romance reader and so for me as a reader, there's comfort in knowing what the ending is going to be and so I'm actually able to enjoy that journey more. And to see the ways in which it plays out individually for every different couple.

Neil Sattin: Now I hadn't thought about this at all but just hearing you say that makes me wonder if there's some element of that when you actually meet a person that part of why you can meet someone and within a few seconds you can make a snap decision about whether or not this person is gonna be a good person like a good fit for you, romantically. And that's not always true, right? 'Cause we can meet people where we don't necessarily think that and then they surprise us because we get to know them a little better and we uncover the things that draw us to them. So it's not true 100% of the time but I'm thinking back on any number of relationships that I've been in and wondering if that's part of it. You meet someone and you're like, "Oh, something's gonna happen with this person and now let's uncover the twists and turns that get us there."

Mara Wells: Right. If we think of story and then also the story of our own lives as being focused on the journey rather than the outcome because unlike fiction, the outcome in real life isn't guaranteed. But being able to focus on the journey makes that process enjoyable.

Neil Sattin: Right. Well, in terms of the happily ever after or the happily for now ending, I'm not really sure what that means for the genre. It wouldn't surprise me if... It's just the stereotypical... Like the movies, they never show you what happens after the people get together and that's so much of what we face in our lives is we live that romantic journey that brings us together with a person but then there's the laundry, I can't remember who said that but.

Mara Wells: [chuckle] Right. And I think that's actually one of the reasons why series are very popular in the romance genre because we live in the same world with the characters so, for example, in my series, book two goes on to follow... Caleb is the main hero of book one and he has a brother Lance who becomes the hero of book two and another brother Knox who becomes the hero of book three but Caleb doesn't go away. So in book two when we're invested in Lance and Carrie's relationship, Caleb and Riley from book one are still around. And we get to see how their life is playing out as they become secondary characters in the series and I think that's some of the delight of the series' experience for readers and actually, I'm experiencing it as a writer now, that we do get to see what happens afterwards and who is doing the laundry. [chuckle] And how are they balancing all of the challenges that they had as a couple to get together. Did they actually come up with a working solution so they can stay together? And, of course, the answer in romance is they did.

[laughter]

Neil Sattin: But you get to see that in an ongoing way...

Mara Wells: Yes.

Neil Sattin: In which it... That's cool. Yeah.

Mara Wells: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Mara Wells: So you get to check in with them and who's pregnant now and now what's happening and... In my series, you get to see the dogs again and you get to see that that happily ever after is really actually happening.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Wow. Now I really wanna read book two. I love how in Cold Nose, Warm Heart I love how the dogs play a role from the very beginning. You've got Caleb who enters this building and... Can I reveal a little bit of the intro of the plot?

Mara Wells: Yes. Absolutely yes.

Neil Sattin: So Caleb walks into this building and he's on a mission to save the family business, resurrect the family business because it's gone through this huge upheaval. And so he walks into this building that his grandfather has potentially offered him and he's just noticing how it's fallen into disrepair and there are just all these things wrong. But he's also assessing it for its potential as an economic engine to revitalize the family business and then at some... One of the very first things that happens is this cute little poodle runs over to him. So he's scratching the poodle and even that is a source of irritation for him because there aren't supposed to be pets in the building but there's this poodle that's running over to him but he's good with dogs like any good hero would be, I would think.

Mara Wells: Yes.

Neil Sattin: Right? The villain kicks the puppy, the hero scoops him up in his arms. And so, he's cuddling the puppy and at the same time thinking about how he's gonna have to fire the building manager, this horrible dude named Riley Carson who clearly is not doing his job. And then this beautiful woman runs down the hall to recover her escaped poodle and they get into this bantery conversation and in the end I think he asks her out for dinner. I might be remembering this not quite right but he's like, "We should get dinner." And she's like, "You don't even know my name." And he's like, "Well, what's your name?" And she introduces herself as Riley Carson so... And that's where the plot just goes from like, "Oh my god," for me, like, "How am I gonna deal with this?" I'm reading a romance novel, 'cause that's where I started, to like, "Oh my god, what's gonna happen?" I had that initial like, "How is this gonna work out?"

Mara Wells: Right. And she says, "And you are?" And he says, "I'm here to fire you."

Neil Sattin: Right.

Mara Wells: And so that starts off their... The trope is enemies to lovers, right? They're on opposite ends. He wants to take the building down and rebuild it as luxury condos, she wants to preserve it and restore its art decor history. Both of them can't have their way. How will that work out? And it occurred to me when you were describing the book, about how he's coming in to assess the building and to think about it, its potential for the future. Isn't that a nice metaphor for relationships as well?

Neil Sattin: Right. Right. And with maybe the interesting twist of that being with a building, there is the sense of like, "Well, if I had to, I could tear this sucker down and start over." If you enter a relationship thinking, "Alright, I'm gonna tear this sucker down and start over."

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: It might not be the best start.

Mara Wells: I think some people do. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: They do. That's for sure. That's for sure.

Mara Wells: But he has to learn that that's not the best way forward. There's something beautiful about the history. There's something beautiful about the cracks in the terrazzo and the crumbling facade that's worth saving.

Neil Sattin: Right. Right. And I think one thing that's really lovely about the plot of your book is that they do negotiate that and navigate that really beautifully in a way that makes it feel like change happens pretty organically, the way that change does happen in real life 'cause it's not that people don't change but when you wanna introduce wholesale change with a person, that's a recipe for challenge and disaster. People resent that. And so, that initial tension, "I'm here to fire you," and, "I'm gonna tear this whole place down," that introduces that same level of conflict and resentment. "Well, wait a minute." Like, "That's not okay. You can't take this place that I love and that I manage and just toss everyone out and... " Like, "That's not gonna work." Just like in real life.

Mara Wells: Yes, I have a controlling belief in my own life that you can't change people but people do change, so the opportunity to change comes and people will take it or they don't but you can't force it on them. I think what's also interesting about the building as a metaphor is that Caleb is also not wrong. That place is deteriorating and there's the population, it's a 55 plus building so they're all senior citizens, with the exception of Riley, the building manager. And they're living in a building that the elevator is about to break down, that the plumbing is very inconsistent, that there's a lot of hazards for them living there. So it can't just go on as it is.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Mara Wells: It is deteriorating. He's not wrong but she's not wrong either. And for me that was the fun of the book, was how can they both... How can they be on opposite sides. And how do they come to understand.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Mara Wells: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So that makes me start to wonder about the general principles of romance writing and how we start extracting even more about what fuels us as humans. And I wonder if you can give us some insight into how those problems are so important to the structure of the form of romance writing.

Mara Wells: Yes. So my thinking about romance changed drastically a number of years ago when I read a book by Jayne Ann Krentz called... Oh, of course my brain just blanked on it. Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women, and it's a sort of academic treatise about the romance genre in which she argues that romance is inherently feminist because what it's ultimately arguing for is a balance. A Yin Yang balance by the end of the book, that nobody has more power than anybody else in a relationship, in the world that's created in the book, that ultimately all romances the arc is toward balance and partnership, equal partnership. And I think that's a really beautiful way of thinking about it. [chuckle] There are many tropes and almost inside jokes in romance at this point and one of them is that the hero has to grovel at some point. He has to be taken down a peg.

[laughter]

Mara Wells: And that doesn't happen. Again, anything I say about romance isn't true of every single romance but there are definitely trends that we see. But again, it's not that he's being taken down, it's often that men do have more power, especially in particular societies and time periods that the stories might be happening in. And so, it's not that they have to be taken down to be taken down, it's that if we're going to have an equal partnership, there has to be an acknowledgement of who has advantages and who doesn't, and a balancing of power.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And how does that stack up for you in terms of the differentials in power being part of what creates the tension versus wanting to end up at a place that feels more balanced?

Mara Wells: So I think the driving force in writing romance for me has been that there are these disparities between them, there is this unequal balance. Caleb is from a very privileged family, Riley is not, something as basic as that, but ultimately they desire each other. There's some sort of attraction that they just can't shake. And there are moments of rejection where it's like this just can't work, this person is not for me but it's that desire that brings their attention back to each other over and over again. So I'm not sure what I'm saying there except perhaps that the logical reasons we might choose to stay or not stay with somebody are overridden in romance by this attraction, this desire, this wanting, and the wanting is for everything that other person is. And often, the other person has some aspect of life that the hero or heroine is lacking.

Mara Wells: So Caleb has this money, this privilege, this utter confidence that anything he does will turn out right and Riley needs that. But Riley has connection and love and family, and Caleb doesn't and he needs that. So the physical attraction is, again, I think a metaphor for attraction to the missing parts in their own lives.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, and that is super true in real life for sure, is that we often connect with other people who illuminate aspects of ourselves that are underdeveloped or that we really want or need in our own lives. And at the same time, they can highlight the places where we might feel incompatible or like, "Well, that person, they don't have strong ties with their family. So how could I be with that person?" And I think that represents some core conflicts that people... Inner conflicts that happen in the choice of a partner is navigating that question of like, "Well, okay, they have these things that I don't have and I want that or they don't have these things that I do have and that frightens me." Yeah.

Mara Wells: Right. And the choice to move ahead in the relationship anyway is always a risk because as much as you might long for something that's not in your life, it's also not in your life for a reason. Right? Some fear perhaps is holding you back, some hurt from the past has shut down that part of yourself and so you can long for it and be afraid of it at the same time.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Mara Wells: So it's attraction and repulsion can be happening in the same moment.

Neil Sattin: In the same moment. Yeah.

Mara Wells: Yeah. And then...

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And you see that in the characters in your book. I'm thinking about the way that they are, even in this initial scene where they are sussing each other out and then you also get a glimpse into their inner monologue around the proximity of their hands on the dog's back. They're both petting the dog and their fingers are a mere inch apart and how many times does that happen where you're in that moment of wondering like, "Well, what would it be like to just cross the distance?" What would it be like to actually follow through on an impulse and at the same time to have all those inner resistances coming up like, "Well, here are all the reasons why I shouldn't do that."

Mara Wells: And I think we, in real life, we're socialized that certain things are acceptable and not acceptable in interactions and we navigate our lives very carefully. And I think the promise of romance is that when you reveal who you really are, your partner loves you. That it's unconditional acceptance of the good and the bad. And of course, it's the bad that we're hiding for most of the book. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Right.

Mara Wells: But the worst has to come out at some point so that the person can be loved with that as part of the understanding.

Neil Sattin: Right. Exactly. Exactly. Or else it sets you up for a disastrous book two of the series.

Mara Wells: Yes.

[chuckle]

Mara Wells: Yes. The new couple can't be getting together while the couple from the first book is breaking up like that.

[laughter]

Mara Wells: That is not acceptable.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah. Just out of curiosity, when would that be acceptable in a romance book for a couple to part ways? Would it ever be acceptable?

Mara Wells: That is the type of relationship that happens before the book starts. So we might have heroes or heroines who are coming out of a bad relationship or a relationship that wasn't quite right for them but we don't... Yeah, I'm trying to go through the library in my head but again, the promise of romance is that happily ever after.

Neil Sattin: Right.

Mara Wells: So even if a couple does break up over the course of the story, they are gonna get back together.

Neil Sattin: Right. Right. So if you're a long time listener of the show, you might understand that that kind of ending, I might feel a little jaded about that at the present moment.

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: And Mara, you... We've known each other a long time so you know that as well. And in fact, that was maybe my hardest, the hardest thing for me in the book as just someone who's been through a divorce is appreciating every single aspect of the journey. And then there was something about the happily ever after that I loved. It actually brought tears to my eyes as much as I hate to say it but it did and at the same time I was like, "Damn." Like, you went all the way there, in those last couple of chapters and I was like, "Did it have to? Did it really have to?" But maybe someone like, where splitting up is slightly less fresh for them would appreciate that a little bit more.

Mara Wells: Right. And the other thing is that romance is in many ways a fantasy of what... It's a fantasy of equality and equal partnership, right?

Neil Sattin: Mm-hmm.

Mara Wells: It's not claiming that this is real. It's not saying, "This is how all relationships work out." It's saying, "Wouldn't it be beautiful if this is how relationships worked out? Isn't this something to aspire to?"

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, so there's that danger, I suppose, in... There's the way that it can fuel us, that ideal, and I think that vision is such an important aspect of how we construct our relationships, holding on to an ideal vision, and at the same time, being willing to accept imperfection as part of real life versus what happens in a fantasy novel.

Mara Wells: Right.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, it's a tough balance but the beauty, I guess, of a book, is that you can preserve the fantasy of where romance takes us, which is... Yeah.

Mara Wells: Right. And the... You know, the first step of change in the real world is imagining that change can happen. And so, I think, in a lifetime of reading romance, that's what I'm imagining, right?

Neil Sattin: Mm-hmm.

Mara Wells: That that change is possible and equal partnership is possible, and that there's hundreds of thousands of ways for that to play out. You know, Caleb and Riley's journey is not your journey, but it's a journey.

Neil Sattin: Right, right. What have you loved about... What drew you to romance as a reader, I guess, first? And then I'll be curious to hear about that as a writer, 'cause you haven't always been writing romance.

Mara Wells: I started reading romance when I was about 10, which is probably on the young end of the spectrum, for reading romance. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: I know, I was thinking about that, actually, with this book. I was like, "Well, it's about dogs." And I couldn't find my copy, the first copy of the book that you sent me, I couldn't find it. I have the sneaking suspicion that it could have ended up upstairs in my daughter's room, 'cause it's about dogs, you know? So, I should go look a little bit more thoroughly [chuckle] for that, probably.

Mara Wells: Yes. Luckily, we don't outgrow our love of dogs. So, I started young, but I think it was piggybacking right off my love of fairy tales. I would dress up as Cinderella for Halloween for almost every Halloween of my childhood. So, I loved fairy tales a lot and romance novels seemed to me to be the grown-up version of fairy tales. And I think you can see a little bit of Cinderella in Cold Nose, Warm Heart.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, absolutely.

Mara Wells: Yes.

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Now that you mention it. [chuckle] There's even a fairy godmother. Oh my gosh, that's funny. Okay.

Mara Wells: Yeah. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: But there is no wicked... I'm just trying to think. There's no evil stepmother, really. There's the absent mother, which may be is a little bit, right?

Mara Wells: Right, there's the absent mother. And I think that I personally don't believe in evil people that are just purely evil. And so, the... Caleb's family is evil. His dad is evil, right?

Neil Sattin: Right, right.

Mara Wells: But even they have redeeming qualities. Nobody is the villain in their own story, so they might appear villainous in someone else's story, but they have their reasons. They've made the best choices they can make.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, so important to recognize 'cause I think that is a part of how we victimize ourselves, is by projecting someone else being evil onto them, as opposed to looking for, "Well, what was their intention?" I don't think I've ever done that with the Cinderella story, is like, well, what... You know, the stepmother, she was just trying to get those dresses made for her daughters, she was just... I mean, she did say some pretty cruel shit to Cinderella, you gotta admit, but... [chuckle]

Mara Wells: Yes. Yes. Or not... Yeah. No one is at their best all the time. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Isn't that the truth? Yeah. So, it being an extension of that, that's what drew you in. And then, what drew you to writing in this genre?

Mara Wells: I've been writing for a long time, and I had published a young adult novel many years ago. And I was just feeling really frustrated, and I had written this book that had gotten many, many beautiful, beautiful rejections.

[chuckle]

Mara Wells: And I had done one more round of revisions and sent it to my agent, and she said, "So, what are you gonna work on next?" And I just started crying, I was like, "I don't know. I feel like I've been knocking on this door for so long, and it's never gonna open again." I had my shot and that was it. And I said, "I can't even stand to read anything right now, except romance novels. I'm just binging romance novels, many, many, many per week." And she said, "Well, why don't you write a romance novel?" And I was like, "Oh, ha ha ha. I'm not gonna ruin my one true escapist thing that I do to escape the world. That's my hobby, that's my relaxation time. Why on earth would I turn that into my job?"

Mara Wells: But she kept talking to me, and she convinced me to do it. And that's why I had been avoiding it for all these years, was I thought if I became a writer of romance, I'm going to read them differently, more critically, more craft-oriented. But what I found is that I have the same joy in writing the romance novels that I have in reading them. So, I'm really excited that she pushed me in that direction because writing has become more joyful for me now. I enjoy figuring out the twists and turns along the way, and what made me a romance reader is really feeding the romance writing, as well. So, I've been telling people we get advice, as writers, all the time, to write what you know, which I think is pretty terrible advice 'cause we have a pretty limited worlds, [chuckle] most of us.

[chuckle]

Mara Wells: But I think "Write what you love" is very good advice.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And that comes through. One, I have to say your skill as a writer comes through in reading the book. There was never a place to me that felt awkwardly worded or there were places where I could tell that I was like, "Oh, that's kind of an inside joke." Or "That's Mara being clever."

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: And I liked it. I loved it. And so your skill as a writer definitely comes through and for it being your first book in this genre, like that... I think your love of the genre also came through, your knowing it backwards and forwards, in the way that the journey was really useful for me.

Mara Wells: I'm glad.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Mara Wells: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: I have a confession to make, which is that this is the first romance novel that I've ever read cover to cover. There are plenty of romance novels, mostly in my teens, I would say, and early 20s when it was really hard to access anything that was remotely erotic or sexual.

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Where I would skip to... I'd find a romance book and I'd skip to the good parts that I never... I don't know what happened in any of those books. I just know that who fucked who basically and so it was nice, actually, to sit down and really enjoy the whole way through which was... It was cool. Cool to experience that. What do you think... Let's talk about the erotic for a minute because we're talking about longing and attraction and... What is it that fuels eroticism in a romance novel and yeah, makes it compelling in that way? What... Something that turns us on.

Mara Wells: I think it's the longing. I think it is that moment of not knowing if you should touch fingers or not, that plays out later in the sex scenes. So that the thing that makes the sex scenes very satisfying is tension and longing that lead up to it. So I would say to your younger self, who was just skipping to the erotic scenes like, You missed out.

[laughter]

Mara Wells: You missed the part that made...

Neil Sattin: Oh, poor guy.

Mara Wells: Yeah, that made those scenes more powerful because they are finally a release of this tension and a culmination of this partnership and that ultimate integration of the opposites. So I think it's the wanting that makes having satisfying. But that said, there are... In romance, we call it heat levels. There are varying degrees of heat levels and so it spans from the story ends with kissing, right? That once they kiss, we know that they're gonna have their happily ever after and we never see more than that, that's one end of the spectrum and on the other end, we have erotica. And the romance novels fall all along that spectrum of heat. So I will say that when I decided to write romance, I was nervous about that part of it. [chuckle] And I read all over the heat spectrum. I enjoy all of it but I didn't know as a writer where I would fall comfortably.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And so was that just a discovery process for you or did you have a target heat level or...

Mara Wells: Yes. I did not have a target heat level, I just thought, "Well, let's see how it goes." So I got to the part in the first draft where I knew that I had to write that scene. That scene. And at the time, my father was living with us because he had been having some medical problems and I tend to write early in the morning, and he's an early riser and he kept... He would wander through the room that I was working in and talk to me, and I was like, "Oh, I can't... I can't write this scene."

[chuckle]

Mara Wells: Thinking that my dad's gonna walk in any moment, right? I just can't. I can't.

[laughter]

Mara Wells: So I went... [laughter] So I put it off until I had some time and I went to a coffee shop that's in my neighborhood and I sat there. I have this couch I like to sit on and I wrote it, and I was pretty happy with it. I was feeling very proud and then I looked up and I'm sitting in this room with music playing, surrounded by a bunch of people and I had been so much in my own little bubble world there that I... I just remember feeling so hot, I know I must've blushed dark, dark red and I texted my friend Kait Ballenger who's been a really beautiful, wonderful mentor for me on this romance journey and I was like, "So I just wrote my first sex scene in a coffee shop and I don't know how I feel about that." And she texts back, "Welcome to Romancelandia."

[laughter]

Mara Wells: "You're gonna find yourself writing them in lots of places." [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: That's so funny. And even the... For me, I think about what runs through our head potentially when we're at a coffee shop so there's that level and even the beautiful aspect of your father walking through the room or that fear of what that's like to feel. How many parents of young children are trying to find time to be sexual but the kids could bust in at any moment. And you're in the bathroom with the shower on and the door locked and hoping that they don't pound for too long 'cause that would be child abuse, right? If they're like, "I can't get in." Never been there, so...

Mara Wells: Yeah. [laughter]

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so that's some of the real life aspects of it as well. In terms of determining the heat level, is that about language or...

Mara Wells: Yeah, it's about specificity. And so I think that I landed in a heat level that I... This is not a technical term, but I call soft focus. So we have some idea of what's going on, but I haven't really zeroed in on every breath, every touch. It's kind of I picture the camera pulled back and we got kind of a fuzzy lens on.

Neil Sattin: Right, which leaves some up to the imagination.

Mara Wells: Yes, yes. And so, you can go less heat than that where it's even more fuzzy, I guess you could say, and then other novels get much steamier and more specific in what's going on.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I actually have another friend that... Someone that I've known even longer than I've known you, who writes... I wonder I should chat with her, she might consider it more erotica than romance, but it's all based around aliens so it's people having sex with aliens. And I imagine you have to get fairly explicit and it still leaves a lot up to the imagination once you're dealing with alien body parts.

Mara Wells: [chuckle] Yes.

Neil Sattin: And I'm taken back... I actually wanna just mention that I feel somewhat vulnerable and laid bare with that talking to the young part of me, and that is interesting for me to just sit within this moment, that sense of how much what fuels attraction and those maybe moments of culmination where you're actually kissing someone or you're being sexual with someone. How much of that is the longing, the tension that leads up to that moment? And this is a classic challenge for... And it's not really necessarily a gendered thing, but some people are just sexual and they don't actually need all of that build up. They're able to talk about sex, think about sex, and then let's have sex versus there are other people who are more focused in the tension, the build up, the longing and that just needs to be there in order for there to be fuel for the actual coming together, so to speak, to be desirable. You don't get there without the tension and the longing, for those people.

Mara Wells: And then what happens when you're in a long-term relationship?

Neil Sattin: Right, right.

Mara Wells: And that tension and longing has been satisfied. Then what fuels desire?

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Mara Wells: Then I end the book so the rest is for you to figure out.

[laughter]

Neil Sattin: Right. Right, I don't have to figure that out. Yeah, that's why those characters become secondary and tertiary characters. You just get to assume that they're doing whatever it takes to make that happen. Yeah, but that is the big challenge of any long-term relationship is how do you fuel passion and juice? And so often this falls into what we were talking about a few moments ago where people land in different places and it's very common for someone who needs tension and longing to end up with someone who doesn't. And so how do you do that, how do you... How do you cross worlds? And it's a challenge for both people to figure out 'cause sometimes that person who needs the tension and longing, it's helpful for them to figure out what do I need to do in order to show up so I can just be in a sexual experience with my partner that didn't require sexy texts for three days to get us to this moment?

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: And vice versa. Where the 0-60 in 0.3 seconds partner can be like, Alright, what do I need to do to... What does get my partner in the mood? What helps them, what helps fuel their desire, so that they'll meet me there 'cause it's so easy for me, it may not be for them. And it's actually not a problem with them, it's just how they're wired. They're wired differently.

Mara Wells: Yeah, and the romance answer to that is both people are right. And the relationship is about negotiating that. How do you accept that about your partner and integrate that into your life together?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, I like that for a real life answer as well.

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: That both people are actually right and so if both people are right, what does that mean? That forces us to get creative as opposed to making the other person wrong and then forcing them to change, which was one of the very first things we were talking about. Forcing them to change, being not the most sustainable approach. Yeah.

Mara Wells: If you wanna stay together. If you're looking for a way to break up, it's probably fairly efficient.

[laughter]

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Mara Wells: But this also makes me think about... Romance has had a history of readers being shamed for their reading choices and I think in the past few years, the conversation has really changed where romance writers are pushing back and saying, What's shameful about female desire? What's shameful about fantasy, right? Why do we call it a guilty pleasure? Why can't we just call it a pleasure...

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Mara Wells: To read. And I think that that extends beyond reading choices. I think that in relationships as well, you can't have a guilty pleasure or a secret desire that you're keeping from your partner and have that work out long term. And so I think part of romance's job is to take the shame out of whatever desire people feel because again, ultimately, that happily ever after is guaranteed, and the partners have to accept each other exactly for who they are. So whatever is revealed over the course of the novel is accepted and loved. And isn't that a beautiful thing to think about happening in the world as well?

Neil Sattin: Yeah, definitely, definitely. Yeah, I hadn't really thought about that. There is that place where... And shame is kind of the... What's the word I'm looking for? Shame is the challenge of someone who maybe is a little kinky, where something being a secret or being taboo does fuel them, does create a little bit bit of charge and juice for them, and shame is the shadow of that. The potential for it to feel shameful because most people aren't turned on when they're feeling shame. They're looking for a way to escape from that feeling of shame. So yeah, I hadn't really... That hadn't occurred to me, that romance in and of itself could be a way to reduce the shame that people feel around different kinds of desire and as a way of experiencing differences as being acceptable and accepted. Yeah. No wonder I liked your book so much.

[laughter]

Neil Sattin: Yeah. I think it's instructive. As I was reading it, maybe because there are aspects of it that are when you read it, you know. I knew, "Okay, this is when... I can see it coming. This is when they're gonna kiss for the first time," and it's like... So even the knowing, there was something about it that... Yeah, I feel like in this moment, could actually be more instructive for a person to read than reading a book that talks about how you might need tension in order to fuel longing in a... You might need tension and wanting and desire, and it's enough to know that that's true, but then to actually read a romance novel, I think it gives you a sense of how that actually plays out and how that works.

Mara Wells: Right. And do you know that they're going to kiss? And you can feel that kiss coming, and it's that anticipation doesn't ruin the fact that they're going to kiss. It sweetens it. And so you keep reading, not because you're like, "Maybe they're not gonna kiss," but because they are and you wanna see how it goes down.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Mara Wells: Right? Because every first kiss is different and every moment, every intimate moment that people share together, there might be certain moves or phrases that various scenes have in common, but ultimately, every moment is unique. And that's what draws us to it, and it's not... I don't know, it's not... It's predictable, but not in the negative sense of that word. It's predictable in that sense of anticipation way.

Neil Sattin: Right. Right, that phrase, "How's this gonna go down?" That actually came up for me several times as I was reading where I was like, "Alright, how's this gonna... I know that something... This is gonna work itself out somehow, or this, I know this twist, or I know there's a twist coming. What's it gonna be like? How's that gonna go down?" And yeah, it really kept me engaged as a reader and I loved escaping for... Yeah, it was the better part of... I guess it was most of a day and then the day before or a half of the day before where I was just like... That's the privilege of being able to read as part of my living is I could just set a day aside to do that. It felt good. I might have said a guilty pleasure, but I'm not gonna say that anymore.

Mara Wells: There's nothing guilty about it.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Mara Wells: I just heard a statistic that romance readers read four times as many books as other types of readers. So I think you can see the... You got a little taste of what drives that market.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, I guess I did.

Mara Wells: Right?

Neil Sattin: What surprised you about your book? As you were writing it, knowing that there's a form to the genre, what... Yeah.

Mara Wells: This isn't always true, again, but my book is in a fairly standard point of view, which is alternating between the hero and the heroine, third person close. And I had never written a male point of view before.

Neil Sattin: Wow.

Mara Wells: I just decided to. And so I think that I was surprised all along the way at how much Caleb had to say and his attitudes, and I guess it shouldn't be surprising because obviously he came out of my mind, but it's like, "Oh, he's just a person too. There's nothing scary about writing a male point of view."

[laughter]

Mara Wells: But the thing that absolutely surprised me is in the first scene where we meet Riley's grandmother and I found out that she's still in love with her ex-husband, 'cause I thought they were just straight up enemies. That I hadn't been planning on, but then it turned into a delightful thread in the book. I enjoyed writing the senior citizen romance quite a bit.

[laughter]

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah, this is one of those things where I'm for you, listening, it's so hard for me to not do any spoilers or plot reveals here because there are so many beautiful moments that I would be sharing with you right now, Mara, because I just loved how they went down and also some of the... 'Cause it's not all sweetness. There's a lot of sarcasm, there's a lot of people digging each other in ways that are affectionate, but also quite cutting at times. But the whole way along, I felt very uplifted at the same time, that people were being really honest with each other. And so I think that the temptation in being like, "Oh, this is a romance novel, that's the fantasy of romance," is to feel like the interactions somehow don't feel real, but I didn't feel that way at all, as I was reading. In fact, you're talking about Caleb's point of view, the male point of view. That's another place where it felt very seamless to me, where I was never like, "Oh I would never, as a guy, I would never think that." Everything he was thinking, I was like, "Yeah, of course, that's exactly what I would be thinking in that moment."

[laughter]

Mara Wells: That's funny. What you were saying about the conversations feeling real and the interactions, it reminded me of something that the writer Richard Peck said in a workshop that I took with him one time. He said, "If you're gonna have a ghost in the scene, you better describe the wallpaper."

[laughter]

Mara Wells: When you have a fantasy element, you have to... The real world of the story has to be absolutely grounded, and I think that that happily ever after isn't believable if everything has gone smoothly and people are all sweet and nice to each other for the whole thing, that doesn't... Right? That doesn't feel real. So the satisfaction of the happily ever after is that it did feel real and they had real problems, and yet somehow managed to transcend that to be together.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, that's I think what part of what makes it inspiring, is that it feels real along the way.

Mara Wells: Yep. And I do describe the wallpaper. I describe the building a lot, so...

[laughter]

Neil Sattin: That's true. Now that you mention it, that is true.

Mara Wells: Yes. My great love of South Beach architecture comes through, I think.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, and I felt like I was there, even though I've only been there once or twice in my life, but it was very vivid, but not in a burdensome way. Some people really get off on reading a lot of scene and setting stuff, and I am not one of those people. I'm like, "Give me the... What's happening? Okay, enough, there are some flowers. What's happening?"

[laughter]

Neil Sattin: Thought you balanced that really well. Yeah.

Mara Wells: Thank you.

Neil Sattin: Well, Mara Wells, congratulations on your first book being out. And in our understanding is that it's doing really well. I saw a lot of really good reviews on Amazon. It's called Cold Nose, Warm Heart. If someone wants to find out more about you and what you're doing, what do they do? Where do they go?

Mara Wells: They can go to my website, marawellsauthor.com and sign up for the newsletter. And then I'm also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Neil Sattin: Awesome. And how many...

Mara Wells: Marawellsauthor.

Neil Sattin: How many books are coming out in the series, at least as far as we know at the moment?

Mara Wells: As far as we know at the moment, there's three. So book two is called Tail for Two, it comes out in July, and Paws for Love comes out March 2021.

Neil Sattin: Awesome. Congratulations.

Mara Wells: Thank you so much.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I'm really excited for you. And actually, before... We gotta address the dog thing for a minute.

Mara Wells: Oh, okay. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: So first, why dogs? Why did you personally make that choice to bring dogs into the mix?

Mara Wells: Well, my mother was a dog breeder, so I grew up with the dogs as part of the family. And I've had dogs all my adult life, and I just... I've been thinking a lot about the relationships we have with animals, especially our pets, and how they're not humans. They aren't humans, but they are still part of our lives, really important part of our lives and part of our families, but they don't speak and they don't act human. [chuckle] And so it's this weird... I'm just fascinated by the interspecies aspect of it and how passionately we can feel for dogs because they aren't complicated human beings with other motives going on that we don't know about. They're just love. And if I'm gonna write a romance novel in which unconditional love is an important part, who better to model that for us than dogs?

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, I think it's hilarious. I hadn't really even considered this until this moment, but you know this and actually a lot of my listeners know that part of what led me to relationship work was my prior life as a dog trainer. So we both have that actually, which I hadn't even really thought about a lot, but... And part of that journey for me was that very thing that you just mentioned about how much dogs are about heart and expression of heart energy. And so that was something that I really appreciated in the book. The dogs and their heart and their personality, they wove in in ways that also seemed very authentic, and I liked that. You just described it beautifully, the way that they're woven into the fabric of who we are, it felt natural, it felt more... There was more texture, really, for me in what I was reading because those beings were included as well.

Mara Wells: Thank you.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Funny, what an interesting thing that we have in common there.

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Yeah. And so it's a series that revolves around a dog park.

Mara Wells: Yes.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. What keeps that interesting? [chuckle]

Mara Wells: Well, [chuckle] there's an infinite number of dogs and the people attached to them who can come through the dog park. So it gives me a very rich tapestry to pull from, I guess, of characters for upcoming novels. And I think it's a pre-test of people. If you have a dog, then you love the dog and the dog loves you. So you're pre-approved as a decent person, deserving of a novel, perhaps.

[laughter]

Neil Sattin: I love it, I love it.

Mara Wells: Yeah. I was looking for some sort of premise that has the potential for new people to be coming and going. And when we first moved to South Beach, the first place that we made friends was at the dog park.

Neil Sattin: Yeah?

Mara Wells: Yeah. And so the first parties we went to in South Beach were hosted by people we met at the dog park. And so I know that it's a very fluid and welcoming community.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah. And you point out well in the book the ways that when you know people that way, there's so much that you don't know about them because generally you have those conversations that are about your dogs and things that impact your dogs, but... And I like that uncovering that happens in your book about how those people also get to know each other in a more deep way, which is really sweet to follow. And so funny in real life when you're like, "Yeah, I've been hanging out with you for three years and I don't know anything about you." I've had those conversations with people before where it's just like, "Yeah, we were dog park friends."

Mara Wells: Yep.

Neil Sattin: And then here in Portland, Maine, where I live, we had this dog park that was known all over... There were some national public radio stories about it. I think it was very early in the dog park era that this dog park existed, but unfortunately it was also in a historic old cemetery so the people who were the preservationists of the cemetery, and maybe the big wealthy houses that surrounded the cemetery, at a certain point decided that they didn't like hundreds of people showing up there with their dogs.

[chuckle]

Neil Sattin: So that actually went away. There are other dog parks in this town that I haven't explored, but that used to be such a community center. So I think anyone who has a dog who's done the dog park thing will totally relate to that as well.

Mara Wells: Yep.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Well, Mara, thank you so much for being here with us today on Relationship Alive. This was definitely outside of my wheelhouse to have a conversation like this versus going straight at someone's relationship advice, but this is good stuff for all relationships. I'm really glad that you came on the show and for the joy of reading your book as well as the instructiveness of reading your book. I hope people check you out.

Mara Wells: [chuckle] Ah, thank you, Neil. Thank you. This was really fun. Thank you for inviting me on your show.

Neil Sattin: You're welcome.

Apr 10, 2020

Sometimes you just need simple strategies to give yourself a boost. In today’s episode, we’re going to cover ways that you can increase your sense of wellbeing and connectedness - by harnessing your own biochemistry to foster oxytocin production. This can all be done solo - no partner required (though you can do them with a partner too). Our guest, Dr. Jessica Zager, is a Pelvic Health Physical Therapist, and one of only 5 physical therapists in the world with an AASECT certification in sex counseling. Along with these simple oxytocin-boosting strategies, you’ll also learn a bit about how pelvic floor physical therapy can help with pain during sex. It’s a lighthearted conversation full of practical ways to keep you feeling good, and connected, that you can use whenever...but especially during these times of social distancing.

As always, I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this episode and what revelations and questions it creates for you. Join us in the Relationship Alive Community on Facebook to chat about it! 

Sponsors:

Find a quality therapist, online, to support you and work on the places where you’re stuck. For 10% off your first month, visit Betterhelp.com/ALIVE to fill out the quick questionnaire and get paired with a therapist who’s right for you.

This episode is also sponsored by Native Deodorant. Their products are filled with ingredients you can find in nature like coconut oil, which is an antimicrobial, shea butter to moisturize, and tapioca starch to absorb wetness. They don’t ever test on animals, they don’t use aluminum or any other scary chemical ingredients, and they’re so confident that you’ll like their deodorant that they offer free shipping - and returns. For 20% off your first purchase, visit http://www.nativedeodorant.com/alive and use promo code ALIVE during checkout.

Resources: 

Check out Jessica Zager's website to pick up her free cheat sheet to boosting oxytocin, and to find out more about her work.

FREE Relationship Communication Secrets Guide

Guide to Understanding Your Needs (and Your Partner's Needs) in Relationship (ALSO FREE)

www.neilsattin.com/oxyboost Visit to download the transcript, or text “PASSION” to 33444 and follow the instructions to download the transcript to this episode with Jessica Zager.

Amazing intro/outro music graciously provided courtesy of: The Railsplitters - Check them Out

Transcript:

Neil Sattin: Hello and welcome to another episode of Relationship Alive. This is your host, Neil Sattin. It's an interesting world that we're living in right now with social distancing or sheltering in place happening in most parts of the world to combat the spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus pandemic that's affecting the world. And I think that there's probably not many of us who can escape the impact that it's having on the degree of closeness and intimacy that we're experiencing with the people in our lives. And if there aren't people in our lives, like if we're single or solo, or if we're separated from people who are important to us, then it brings a whole different dimension to it. Potentially, loneliness and missing out on the benefits of even just connection with close friends or going out on dates.

Neil Sattin: And then, of course, those of us who are cooped up together, that has its benefits and also the challenges as well. So it's an interesting time and for the past several weeks, I've wanted to give you a wealth of resources to help you get through this time, staying sane, staying connected, and feeling connected not only to yourself, but to the people in your life that matter. Today, we're going to cover a special subject. We've talked on the show before about oxytocin, which is sometimes labeled the love hormone. Maybe a bit of a misnomer if you really dive into the scientific literature. But what we do know about oxytocin is that it is one of the chemicals that is in our bodies, and is primarily responsible for pair-bonding and it is also a chemical that helps us feel really good, and when we are connecting to ourself or to others, we can enter into blissful states of transcendence which are different than the ways that we feel when we're focused on activities that are more dopamine-driven.

Neil Sattin: So a long time ago, in Episode 37, we had Sue Carter on the show, who is one of the leading researchers, who discovered oxytocin and its effects on pair-bonding. She was studying prairie voles at the time. But since that research has gone on to cover what happens within humans as well as prairie voles and if you want to listen to that episode, you can visit neilsattin.com/oxytocin. Now, I wanted to have someone new on the show. We were... This person actually happens to be a friend of mine, and we were talking the other day and she mentioned to me that she knew a lot of ways to foster oxytocin within us during these times of social distancing. So I thought it would be great to have her on the show to talk to you about these special techniques.

Neil Sattin: Her name is Dr. Jessica Zager and she's a doctor of pelvic health physical therapy. She's also a sex counselor and a sex educator. She is one of the five physical therapists certified by AASECT, which is the American Association of Sexual Educators, Counselors and Therapists. She is one of the only five physical therapists certified by them in the entire world, which is pretty amazing. And so, she's here to share her vast knowledge of this particular narrow topic, and we'll get also a sense of some of the other things that Jessica does as well. But she is, in my experience, a profoundly kind and generous soul who has lots to offer the world. I know that she does sex counseling for people who have pain during intercourse or who have trouble with desire or libido and arousal. She also works with people around gender identity. And she's friendly to... No matter where you are on the gender spectrum or the kink spectrum, she is a open-minded, open-hearted person who is doing great work in the world.

Neil Sattin: It's a pleasure to know her and call her one of my friends. And Dr. Jessica Zager, it's a pleasure to have you here today on Relationship Alive.

Jessica Zager: I'm so excited to be here with you, Neil. Thank you for that very generous introduction.

Neil Sattin: You are welcome and you deserved every word of it. I just want to let you know that we will have a transcript of this episode as always, you can get that if you visit neilsattin.com/oxyboost, that's O-X-Y as in oxytocin, and boost, B-O-O-S-T. And the things that we're going to talk about today, Jessica also put together a little cheat sheet guide that you can download, that'll have it all listed out in a condensed form for you and you can get that if you visit her website, which is drjzager.com, that's D-R-J, and then her last name, Zager, which is Z-A-G-E-R.com and you'll be able to download the free cheat sheet to all the things that we're going to talk about today to boost your oxytocin in a world where we have to stay six feet apart from each other.

Neil Sattin: And I was just seeing, Jessica, an article today that had this picture of people who were all hanging out on their... In their pick-up trucks, and in their backyards and they were six feet apart from each other. And apparently, this is not what they mean by social distancing. The idea is if you go out in the world, stay six feet from people. But you're not supposed to just like hang out with people staying six feet away from them. That defeats the purpose and you might still... We don't know enough to know if that over a longer period of time would expose you to something from that person or expose them to something from you.

Jessica Zager: Correct.

Neil Sattin: So it's really important, I think, to be observing these... What do we call them? Orders from on high? But they're really kind of orders from within, 'cause we're trying to take care of each other, and at the same time, we don't want to miss out on some of the most treasured aspects of the human experience, the ways that we feel connected to ourselves and to each other. And anyway, that's why we're here, so...

Jessica Zager: I think that's why this has been... One of the reasons why this has been so difficult for people right now is because we're in the midst of this global, worldwide pandemic, and we're being forced to be apart, and it's necessary, and it's beneficial, and then it's what we all need to do in order to help slow the spread, to, as they say, flatten the curve so that we're not overwhelming the healthcare system with as many hospitalizations and crisis situations at one time. But the drive for human connection is so strong that I think it's easy for people to do things, like you just said, and convince themselves that, "Well, as long as I'm six feet apart from my friends, we can hang out." But you're absolutely right, we don't know a lot about this virus, and we don't know exactly how it's transmitted. We keep hearing over and over again that if you are within six feet of somebody for 15 minutes, that puts you at a greater risk for catching the coronavirus. But we don't know about extended periods of time near others but greater than that six feet.

Neil Sattin: Right. Yeah. And I like what you're bringing up, that there's such a drive within us to connect, and I think for many of us, we don't realize just how pervasive... If we're people who are connectors, we don't realize just how much we get from bumping into a friend every so often, and getting and giving a big hug. Or if you're dating, that even if you're just going out and you don't have a steady partner, just that act of being out with someone is igniting something in us that helps sustain us.

Jessica Zager: Definitely. Whenever we are in close contact with people, especially people that we care about, to begin with, that will help to... Help our brains to start to release oxytocin. And as you mentioned, sometimes it's called the love hormone, it's also nicknamed the cuddle hormone, which I think is a little bit more accurate than the love hormone.

Neil Sattin: Well, the challenge, though, is in this world, it... The state of things as they are right now, it's challenging to do the things that would typically ignite oxytocin. But I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit about why we care, like, why focus on oxytocin in the first place? Why would we want to produce that within ourselves? And also I just want to mention to you listening that we're going to go over these things. We happen to be in a time of pandemic right now, but these are things that will be helpful for you no matter when you're listening to this episode, because they're the kinds of things that are always there as a resource for you to boost your own inner experience and reserves of the cuddle hormone, as Jessica was just mentioning. So yeah, why? Why do we care? Why do we want to boost oxytocin within ourselves?

Jessica Zager: When oxytocin is released in our brains, it fosters an increased sense of well-being and a sense of social connection, like, we're not just isolated beings that exist and are walking around in the world, that we're actually connected to a larger network of others. And so oxytocin helps to really drive that sense of connection to those around us, and I think that's really important, because part of that drive helps us to be responsible for caring about others in times like this. And so it's kind of a catch 22, but right now, the best thing we can do to care for others is to stay away from people, yet when we're with people, that's what helps us to care more about others and create that sense of connection with others.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so it's super complicated, [chuckle] the intricacies and how we're interwoven with each other. And it also strikes me too that the ways that our desire for connection might lead us to choose irresponsibly if we really start to feel like we're at a deficit, that I could see that being another reason why we might want to supplement our internal production of oxytocin so that we aren't doing anything stupid for the sake of a hug or a cuddle.

Jessica Zager: Yes. And there are many, many other benefits that are derived from oxytocin that can help us get through this time of social distancing and fear and worry about our loved ones and ourselves. So it also helps to decrease our blood pressure, it helps to decrease our anxiety in general, it helps to mitigate stress levels. So oxytocin is actually released during stressful situations to help counteract that stress response, which obviously would be a beneficial thing right now.

Neil Sattin: For sure.

Jessica Zager: And it also... You know, you already mentioned pair-bonding, which that I think is a lovely benefit, but also maybe one that is difficult right now, [chuckle] but it helps to decrease our sensitivity to pain... And one of my favorite benefits is because it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, it helps to improve our gut motility and our gut health and relieve constipation. So as a pelvic floor PT, I love that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. You have like the sneaky side benefit of helping keep people healthy and regular.

Jessica Zager: Exactly. And that just makes everyone feel better.

Neil Sattin: For sure. For sure. Can you talk a little bit about what you do as a... I know that it's only one aspect of what you do as a pelvic floor or a pelvic health physical therapist, what does that even mean? I know it's a very specialized thing that not a lot of people do.

Jessica Zager: It is. It's a specialized field of physical therapy that focuses on the muscles between your hips that are responsible for bowel, bladder and sexual function. And so, as a pelvic health physical therapist, I specialize in helping individuals improve and enhance their bladder, bowel and/or sexual function because oftentimes a lot of issues can be interconnected. For example, when I treat people with pain with sex, it's not uncommon to have constipation as a side effect as well, but we don't often think about our bowel movements being related to our sexual function. But as a pelvic floor PT, it really helps give me a perspective on how the human body works and not just as an isolated unit, but because I help people with sexual dysfunction and pain with sex, I'm also looking at their connections with other people.

Neil Sattin: Right. 'Cause it's not a... It's not a closed system, those things are often... We're being impacted by the people that we're with as well as whatever physical condition just happens to be occurring in our bodies.

Jessica Zager: Exactly.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. So... And just... You know, this is something that will... Maybe we'll have you back on the show to talk about painful intercourse, 'cause I know that that's a problem for a lot of women, having pain during sex. What... For a woman who's experiencing that and thinks like, "Well, that's just how it is," or "My doctor can't see anything wrong, like there's no irritation, there's no obvious sign of why I should be having pain." Like I've heard that from women in the past. Can you just give us a teaser of what is sometimes going on in a situation like that and how the work that you do can actually help?

Jessica Zager: Yes, definitely. So what you just said is a very common experience for women experiencing pain with sex, but I will tell you that pain is not normal unless it's a planned part of the sex that you want to be having. And so, pain during penetration, for example, or pain with clitoral stimulation is never normal. And so, if you are experiencing those symptoms, I urge you to see your doctor and they might... To be honest, they might not even know what pelvic floor physical therapy is, but in my experience, if you ask for it, you will get it. So most physicians, especially if they're scratching their head trying to figure out why you're experiencing these symptoms, are very open to referring you to pelvic floor physical therapy.

Jessica Zager: And when somebody comes to me from a physician who has been having pain with sex and there doesn't seem to be a known cause, there's always a cause, it just hasn't been identified yet. So it's not in your head. It's not something that, you know, is... You're doing subconsciously, and what I do as a pelvic floor PT is I will help to assess your pelvic floor muscles to see if there's something going on with the muscles themselves that are contributing to your symptoms. So when a gynecologist looks at somebody's vagina who's having pain with sex, they usually push, they move the muscles out of the way with a speculum to take a look at the organs. So they're mainly concerned with how does the cervix look, how does the uterus look, they might do a scan to see if there's anything going on that they can identify with the ovaries or if there are any cysts that they think might be contributing to your symptoms, but if they can't find anything wrong with the organs, then the next step should be referring you to a pelvic floor physical therapist who can assess your muscles to see if there is any increased tension in the muscle that is actually contributing to your symptoms.

Neil Sattin: Got it, and then I gotta think that someone here, I know the answer to this, but someone's probably wondering, "Well, what do you do, how do you actually treat that?" What's that experience like?

Jessica Zager: So what I do is when somebody comes to my office, I do an examination, but the type of examination that I do does not involve a speculum. I use one gloved lubricated finger either vaginally or anally, depending on where the pain is and other factors to first of all see how the muscles function. Are they contracting well, are they relaxing well, do they know how to alternate between the two, how strong are they, how coordinated are they? And so, I gather all of this information about the muscles and their function and then based on that information, there are often patterns of things that I see happening when somebody has pain with sex, usually there can be increased muscle tension, there can be trigger points in the pelvic floor muscles, just like you can get trigger points in your shoulder if you sleep on one side for too long at night or you sleep with your arm up and then you wake up with a knot in your shoulder and a headache for the rest of the day.

Jessica Zager: The same thing can happen in the pelvic floor. And so as soon as we can identify what's going on, we can then address that specific component of the muscle function and treat it. And so I use a lot of manual techniques, using my hand, sometimes we'll do something called dilator therapy, which involves using graduated sized wands in the vagina to gently stretch the muscles. I also do dry needling in the pelvic floor and to trigger points, and that can really be beneficial as well.

Neil Sattin: Wow, so there are all kinds of possibilities for how you would treat that. And we said beforehand that we weren't going to go down this road, but it's so interesting, here we are. And if people are listening, and this is impacting them, I guess I want them to have a sense of what the course of treatment is like. So what you, everything that you said is super helpful. Do people recover, like people who have had pain with sex and had it, not known what's causing it and been able to work with the pelvic floor physical therapists. Do they get to a place where they don't experience pain during sex?

Jessica Zager: Yes, they do, and it's usually very, very successful. So I highly encourage anybody that's having pain with sex to please build up the courage to see a pelvic floor PT. I know it takes a lot of guts to go, 'cause this is a very emotionally charged type of pain and the idea of this therapy can sound very foreign to a lot of people because they haven't ever experienced anything like this before, but I will tell you that the people that come to pelvic floor PT almost always get better when it comes to pain with sex. So if this is something you're really struggling with, I highly encourage you to find a pelvic floor PT in your area.

Neil Sattin: Great, great, I'm glad that we... I'm glad we talked about that. And now, when I have a weird pain down there, I'll just know that I slept on my pelvic floor funny and...

Jessica Zager: Exactly. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: I just need some treatment.

Jessica Zager: And this is worth being said too, but men also have pain with sex, and I treat men as well as women, so it's not just women that have pain with sex, men can also have pain with sex as well. But again, that could be a whole other podcast.

Neil Sattin: I was wondering about that, I can imagine that would also potentially impact their erectile function and...

Jessica Zager: Oh, yeah, definitely.

Neil Sattin: Or their ability to orgasm, and all of that. Yeah, okay.

Jessica Zager: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: Good stuff, Jessica. So we'll have you back at some point to talk more about that. And of course, you can always visit Jessica's site, drjzager.com, to find out more about that. And let's go back to... Let's pivot now back to talking about oxytocin, and here we are. I think we made a pretty good case for why it's a good idea to want to boost your own oxytocin in this time of feeling particularly disconnected from others potentially, and then these are things that you'll be able to always use as a resource for yourself, so to boost your well-being, your sense of connectedness.

Neil Sattin: As a side note, I was reading some of the literature before we spoke, and I saw that in one study, people who were given a nasal spray of oxytocin, they were actually less friendly to people that they perceive to be outside of their social group, or outside of their clan. So if you start doing these things and then find yourself feeling particularly xenophobic or something like... Just know that it's the oxytocin at work, that you haven't suddenly become someone who doesn't like people other than you. But I didn't read enough to know if that was a widespread phenomenon, or if that was just something they happened to notice in this one study. So, proceed with caution as you boost your oxytocin, but don't let it stop you, 'cause I think the benefits outweigh the risks.

Jessica Zager: I would agree.

Neil Sattin: Neither one of us is a medical doctor, I'm just going to point that out right now.

Jessica Zager: Good to note, yeah.

Neil Sattin: Yes. Though you are a doctor of physical therapy, and that took lots and lots of training. So important to know, plus your AASECT certification. Alright, so let's get into the good stuff, Jessica, where do we start with boosting our own oxytocin?

Jessica Zager: So one of the first things that you can do to boost oxytocin is give yourself a nice, lovely light massage. Sometimes I call it tickling, but it's not the tickling that makes you want to squirm away from somebody, it's like lightly brushing and stroking your skin. And this can be done all over your body, this can be done on your scalp, If you have one of those head massagers that looks like it has little...

Neil Sattin: Little spider leg thingies...

Jessica Zager: Yeah, and it goes on your head, and massages your scalp, that's a fantastic thing. Or you can just get some nice lotion or oil, you can make it into a whole self-care experience, but lightly, stroking your skin, that light pressure is important for stimulating the release of oxytocin in your hypothalamus.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I'm doing it right now. It feels really good.

Jessica Zager: It does feel good.

Neil Sattin: This reminds me actually of something else, which is that when... Light touch massage is something that was encouraged as part of the natural child birth or hypnobirthing courses that I did with my first wife before my kids were born. 'Cause oxytocin also is part of what can encourage uterine contractions during labor. Pitocin that people give to encourage childbirth to begin is actually oxytocin that's being applied in the body, right?

Jessica Zager: Definitely. So oxytocin is great for swift birth.

Neil Sattin: Oh. [chuckle]

Jessica Zager: And so it's most known for its effects on labor and facilitating labor and giving birth and allowing the uterus to contract to make that happen. So yeah, it's... You're spot on with that.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, so if you're in the late stages of pregnancy, maybe talk to your doctor before you do some of these things, just in case. Though I will say that I remember practicing light touch massage on my wife at the time, and nothing bad happened. In fact, it was a nice part of our night-time ritual together was practicing for the main event.

Jessica Zager: Did you do that for an extended period of... A certain period of time before her due date?

Neil Sattin: Well, the purpose was, I believe, to really just kind of perfect the technique. I'm really good at light touch massage. And also because you want to be able to rely on those things when you're in the intensity of labor and birthing, which can be pretty intense. So having that as a set thing that you can rely on. I don't remember there being a specific length of time. I think we would often do a little meditation or something, imagining the different colors of the rainbow or something while we were, or really while I was doing, I was giving the light touch massage, I didn't get much light touch massage during that time, I have to say. I'm making up for the deficit right now during this interview.

[chuckle]

Jessica Zager: Well, you can continue with the light touch massage.

Neil Sattin: Alright, I'm going to continue while we keep talking.

Jessica Zager: Yeah, so...

Neil Sattin: I'm going to feel very connected to you by the end of this conversation.

Jessica Zager: Well, oxytocin actually helps people feel connected to the source of the stimulation.

Neil Sattin: Oh, how about that?

Jessica Zager: Part of me wonders if that can be extrapolated to... If you're doing these techniques, on yourself really fostering a sense of self-love, I at least like to think that it would.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I think we should have everyone report back after you've been light touch massaged... Light touch massage yourself for a week, not constantly, but over the course of a week, and then report back to how much you love yourself just from that alone. But we're going to give you more...

Jessica Zager: Yeah.

Neil Sattin: So okay.

Jessica Zager: Also stimulating the inside of your mouth.

Neil Sattin: Oh!

Jessica Zager: So your oral mucosa can facilitate oxytocin, so you can do this with sucking behaviors. Again, this kind of goes back to labor, but also breastfeeding. But sucking behaviors, like gum, hard candy, using a water bottle with a nozzle, sucking on ice, hell, go buy a pacifier, whatever gets you through this COVID-19 is fair game. There is no judgement here.

Neil Sattin: Right, it's all going to be happening in the privacy of your own home anyway, so.

Jessica Zager: Exactly. You can massage the inside of your mouth with an electric toothbrush, massaging your gums with it, the inside of your mouth with it, but gargling is a way to also stimulate the inside of your mouth and your hard palate, and the hard palate is connected to the vagus nerve, which is the nerve that's responsible for the parasympathetic nervous system, which is our rest, digest, chill out nervous system, which is one of the reasons why oxytocin helps us decrease our stress, decrease our anxiety, decrease our blood pressure.

Neil Sattin: Wow, yeah, and I don't think we mentioned this on the show. I think enough time has passed that I can mention it now that one of the leading researchers around the polyvagal theory, as he calls it, Steve Porges, he's actually married to Sue Carter, the oxytocin woman, and Steve was on the show as well talking about polyvagal theory and its role in helping us stay regulated and feeling safe under stress or in relationship. He was on an episode 34 of the podcast, in case you were curious, but that's so interesting about the hard palate. I didn't realize that it was part of that, that it was wired into that system.

Jessica Zager: Yeah, I know. And also gargling is shown to help with upper respiratory tract infections. So it's kind of a...

Neil Sattin: Win-win. Yeah, yeah, salt water, I think, can be good. So...

Jessica Zager: Yeah, nice salt water... Sea salt water gargle.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, then a little mouthwash in case you are stuck with someone, they might appreciate that as well. Awesome.

Jessica Zager: Another thing that you can do is make yourself warm. So literal warmth. For example, the easiest way to do this is maybe taking a bath. You can create your own oxytocin ritual, like COVID-19 social distancing, I feel lonely ritual, where you would take a bath, and maybe you come out of the bath and you use oil on your skin, and you lightly stroke your skin, and then you brush your teeth, and you gargle, and you go to bed. And so all of those things would help to stimulate the release of oxytocin.

Neil Sattin: I like it. And I think it's so interesting that, one, there are probably a lot of people who are doing that sort of thing anyway and not totally getting like why it's so beneficial for them. And I also think that in general self-care practices like that when there's more attention paid to the intention behind it. So even if it's your ritual to have a bath, and brush your teeth, and gargle, like knowing, just knowing that that is going to be boosting your oxytocin I think enhances the effect of that on your physiology.

Jessica Zager: I agree. I think we tend to go through our rituals without thinking about what we're doing and without being present during these activities, and really feeling what does it feel like when I brush my gums, what does it feel like when I apply lotion to my skin, what does it feel like when I'm taking a bath? Because our minds are in so many other places typically and right now it's really easy to do that with, if you're constantly looking at the news and it can be difficult to get in the moment, but if you use these guidelines, these ways to bio-hack your oxytocin as almost like meditations in and of themselves, like to practice being in the moment and experiencing what you're feeling in that moment, you're going to get multiple benefits from doing something as simple as brushing your teeth or gargling.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, absolutely. I can't wait till tonight with my kids where we go to do our self-love ritual, which they like to do as quickly as possible and I'm like, "No, this is how you love yourself, kids. We're going to really brush our teeth tonight, and now brush your gums. See what that's like." Yeah, it's going to be good, it's going to be a beautiful thing and I'll set them up for a lifetime of self-love and hopefully cavity-free teeth.

Jessica Zager: There is a myriad of benefits. Another thing that somebody can do to release oxytocin is fostering positive warm interactions, and those interactions don't have to be in person. So FaceTiming with somebody you care about. And the research was very particular about this in that it works best if you're talking with somebody you have strong warm feelings towards. If you have a tumultuous relationship with your mother or your father and you're FaceTiming with them, that's not going to help you release oxytocin the way that we're talking about.

Neil Sattin: Sorry, mom. Talk to you tomorrow.

Jessica Zager: So choose wisely.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, yeah I like that. And that connects in with one of the techniques that I often offer people for regulation, is this heart-centered breathing technique that the HeartMath Institute promotes. So it's all about increasing your heart rate variability as a way to down-regulate your system. And one important part of that technique is to focus on an image of a scene or a person that brings you joy. So it strikes me that that... It makes sense that that's an important part of choosing wisely around who you're FaceTiming with, like think about who brings joy to your life and make sure that person's on your speed dial.

Jessica Zager: Exactly, yeah.

Neil Sattin: Do we even have speed dial anymore? I don't think that exists.

Jessica Zager: That's such an outdated term. I know you can program people into your phone buttons or can't...

Neil Sattin: Can you? I don't know.

Jessica Zager: I don't even know. Now, we just talk at our phones.

Neil Sattin: That's right, I just let Siri handle that for me.

Jessica Zager: That's what she's for.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, she manages my Rolodex.

[chuckle]

Jessica Zager: Again, another very outdated term.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, no, I don't think, however, that Siri is very good at fostering it. For the number of times that I've sat with my kids, or I'll admit, alone, trying to get Siri to respond in ways that are connecting and amusing. I don't think, I wouldn't recommend that you rely on Siri or Alexa to foster your oxytocin needs.

Jessica Zager: No. There hasn't... We have yet to have a lot of research about the release of oxytocin in human-robot interactions, but I don't think there's a lot of empathy and warmth coming from Siri and Alexa.

Neil Sattin: Not yet, although we probably just had everyone's iPhones and Amazon devices like going a little bit haywire if they're... Sorry about that if you're listening to this, you'll apologize to Siri and Alexa for us later. Okay, so we've got a pretty good list. What else comes to mind?

Jessica Zager: So this is something I know you do very well, and that's singing.

Neil Sattin: Oh!

Jessica Zager: So singing out loud, like with gusto for 20 minutes, helps to release oxytocin in...

Neil Sattin: For 20 minutes?

Jessica Zager: 20 minutes, that's what the research says. It helps to release our oxytocin and foster increased feelings of happiness and decreased feelings of sadness and worry.

Neil Sattin: Very cool.

Jessica Zager: I don't know, four or five songs.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I can do that.

Jessica Zager: Yeah. That's easy.

Neil Sattin: I mean, not right this instant, but I did just put something on the quarantine karaoke group on Facebook. I don't know if that was actually started by someone here in Maine, where I live. Last time I checked, it had over 150,000 members now. But it's a Facebook group where people are singing popular songs to each other doing karaoke style. Now, we know, isn't that interesting, 'cause not to necessarily be promoting Facebook here, but as a way to stay connected during these times and add in the singing component, it makes sense why people are responding so much to that.

Jessica Zager: It really does. And I always find it amazing how as humans, we tend to figure out ways to create what we need, what our bodies are lacking or missing without even really realizing it. And I see a lot in pelvic floor PT, people will come in and say, "I started doing this particular stretch," or "I started doing this other thing and I don't know why." And there will be a very good explanation why they've done that, and it will be something that I often recommend people do in their situation. And it's just amazing how our bodies figure out what they need.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, there's this innate intelligence, especially if we're listening.

Jessica Zager: Yes.

Neil Sattin: Yeah, I like that one, singing.

Neil Sattin: And then this next one is, I alluded to it earlier, when we were talking about sucking. But nipple stimulation is a really big one. So labor and breastfeeding are the two activities most associated with releasing oxytocin, and so stimulating your own nipples can be a way to facilitate oxytocin release and create that sense of well-being and closeness, and decrease stress and anxiety, and all of those wonderful juicy benefits of oxytocin in the comfort of your own home. I was looking to see if this was just studied in women or if this was studied in men as well, 'cause as we know, men have nipples.

Neil Sattin: Yes.

Jessica Zager: We don't know why.

Neil Sattin: I just discovered mine. [chuckle] Just this moment. [chuckle]

Jessica Zager: Surprise, you have nipples. And, but there is some research to show that nipple stimulation in men works the same way as it does in women, even though men don't breast feed. So stimulating your own nipples can really help to release that hormone. I was also reading this really interesting article about nipple simulation that was conducted at Rutgers and published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, about how nipple stimulation lights up the same part of the brain as clitoral stimulation or stimulation of the vagina or the cervix. So that kind of helps to explain why nipple stimulation for some people and in men too with the nipple stimulation lit up the same part of the brain as the genitals, so that kind of helps to explain why for some people, nipple stimulation feels really good and can even lead to orgasm, and, but also aside from that, it is a really big avenue for releasing oxytocin, so even if generally your nipples aren't very sensitive or you haven't really enjoyed nipple play in the past, doing it for non-sexual purposes, and for mitigating the effects of social distancing, it can be really effective for this particular reason.

Neil Sattin: Is there a preferred way to or a length of time or...

Jessica Zager: There wasn't a length of time associated with it.

Neil Sattin: Okay.

Jessica Zager: In the research, and when they study it, they often look at actions that mimic like a pulling or sucking, kind of like a baby's mouth would do on the nipple. But there are multiple, I would say again, do what feels good and play with it and your body will kind of lead you in the right direction.

Neil Sattin: Trust your body, got it. Well, I've been, while you've been talking, I've been experimenting with all these different ways of playing with my own nipples, this is a very interesting interview. It's... [chuckle] Can't say I've played with my nipples while I've spoken to anyone else before, but I feel comfortable with you, Jessica, so thank you for giving me this experience.

Jessica Zager: I take that as a compliment. [chuckle]

Neil Sattin: Cool. Well, that's a lot. Have we exhausted the list yet, or is there more?

Jessica Zager: We've exhausted the list.

Neil Sattin: Okay, well, those are some...

Jessica Zager: We don't want to overwhelm people.

Neil Sattin: No, that's a healthy number of things to try to boost your oxytocin, which will have the benefit of increasing your sense of well-being, increasing your sense of connectedness within, because you will be the source of your own stimulation as well as your connectedness to others. And I'm really curious to hear from you. So if you put these oxytocin-boosting practices into use in your life, keep track of what that's like and let me know. You can find me in the Relationship Alive community on Facebook. You can email me, Neilius, N-E-I-L-I-US, @neilsattin.com, yeah, let us know and I'll make sure to pass this along to Jessica as well, 'cause I think it's really helpful to hear your experience and how this sort of thing has been helpful for you, and it seems obvious that everything we've mentioned is something that you could then, you could do that with a lover, knowing what it does, you could do that with yourself as part of being with another person or just as part of your own rituals, even when we're not forced to be apart from other people. That, all of these things we can bring into what we do to our repertoire of how we enhance the way we feel in life in general, to be more connected, more attuned. Yeah, I see you nodding.

Jessica Zager: That's beautifully stated.

Neil Sattin: It's powerful, powerful stuff. Well, I'm really glad that you let this idea fall just so casually in a conversation that we were having, 'cause I think it's perfect for the time that we're in right now, and I'm really excited for everyone to try this out. And again, if you want to download the condensed version of, like the cheat sheet version, then definitely visit Jessica's site, drjzager.com, D-R-J-Z-A-G-E-R.com and she has it there available for you to download, you can also find out more about the work she does helping people with sexual issues, or issues around gender identity, painful intercourse, etcetera.

Neil Sattin: And thanks also, Jessica, for being willing to talk a bit more about your work as a pelvic health physical therapist. I had never heard of that before, when we were talking about it. And so, I'm going to guess that a lot of people haven't and, as you mentioned, even there are many doctors who don't know that it exists, and yet it's such a huge resource for people who are experiencing very common problems.

Jessica Zager: Definitely.

Neil Sattin: Yeah.

Jessica Zager: And I hope we do get to do another podcast about that, because I think it's really important that everybody know that this exists because there are so many people suffering with issues that can really be easily treated.

Neil Sattin: Yeah. Yeah, we will. We'll do another episode together. In the meantime, if you do also want to get a transcript of this episode, visit neilsattin.com/oxyboost, so you can get the full transcript, and I'll also have links to Jessica's site there as well. Or you can always text the word "passion" to the number 33444 and follow those instructions. Dr. Jessica Zager, such a pleasure to have you, thank you so much for offering your inspiring wisdom and being willing to handle me touching myself while we spoke. [chuckle]

Jessica Zager: Always a pleasure, Neil. It was great.

Neil Sattin: Awesome, we'll have you back soon.

Jessica Zager: Sound good, I'll hold you to that.

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