Exploring Yourself through Sex After Divorce with Sexologist Dr. Joe Kort
How has divorce impacted your sex life? Have you noticed a difference in intimacy as you move through your separation, dating, and even sex in your subsequent marriages? How has your experience communicating about your sexual interests and experience changed through divorce?
Dr. Joe Kort is a psychotherapist and founder of The Center for Relationship and Sexual Health and a board certified clinical sexologist. He’s here today to help us navigate the uncertain waters of your post divorce sex life.
Links & Notes
Pete Wright: Welcome to How to Split a Toaster, a divorce podcast about saving your relationships, from TruStory FM. Today, it’s time for your toaster to get busy, know what I’m saying? Do you? It’s sex. We’re talking about toaster sex.
Seth Nelson: Welcome to the show everyone. I’m Seth Nelson. I’m here, as always, with my good friend, Pete Wright. How has divorce impacted your sex life? Have you noticed a difference in intimacy, as you move through your separation, dating, and even sex in your subsequent marriages? How has your experience communicating about your sexual interests and experiences changed through divorce? Dr. Joe Kort is a psychotherapist and founder of the Center for Relationship and Sexual Health and a board certified clinical sexologist. He’s here today to help us navigate the uncertain waters of your post-divorce sex life. Joe Kort, welcome to The Toaster.
Joe Kort: Thank you for having me to The Toaster.
Pete Wright: We forgot to put in that fancy intro, that you’re also the host of the amazing Smart Sex, Smart Love podcast.
Joe Kort: I am. That is my podcast, yes. Thank you.
Pete Wright: That is your podcast, and it’s fantastic. And I’ve been listening to you speaking to my soul, all morning, as I’ve been binging on your show, leading up to this conversation. So very excited to have you here and talk about the changing landscape of sex, as you move through the stages of your relationships in and around divorce. Is this a question that comes up for you often?
Joe Kort: It comes up if it starts bothering people. So if they’re a couple, and they had this huge power struggle, and sex has been part of their arguing and part of their issue, and then they decide, "You know what? Let’s just separate or break up. I don’t want to do this anymore." And then, suddenly, sex comes back, and they want each other, and it’s hotter than it’s been in years. And they’re, "Is something wrong with us?" Because then they use that as, "Well, maybe we should stay together." So then they try to stay together, and it goes back to how it was and they say, "No, we’re not going to do it." And then there you are all over again.
Pete Wright: What is that yo-yo about?
Joe Kort: It’s the power struggle. Here’s what happens. We all have what today people call the love bomb, romantic love, limerence. When we get together with somebody, we have matching sex drives, matching libidos. We always are prepared and wanting sex with that person. That goes away. It goes away, the romantic love part. Then you hit the power struggle, where all the differences between you and your partner surface. And when you hit the power struggle, you start to have issues with each other, start to have negative feelings toward each other, and the desire for sex goes away or reduces because, "I don’t feel so good about you." When you decide to break up a relationship, you break up the power struggle. You no longer have it, because you’re not committed anymore. It’s only in the context of commitment that it’s there.
Seth Nelson: Okay. I have a lot of questions. And usually on this show, I like to be open, honest and vulnerable. And I am a hundred percent Dr. Okay-talking-about-sex. But I do have a concern that I just want to get out there right away. In talking about sex, and we all are going to be talking from our own experiences, if my girlfriend listens to the show, I’m very concerned that there’s a high likelihood that I’m going to have less sex, based upon what I say in this show. Any help with that. And I will also share one other thing. I told her that was my concern about this show, and just telling her that got me in trouble.
Joe Kort: Well, the issue is hopeful. What I love about what are doing with her, is you’re having a sexual health conversation. Most couples that are heterosexual or mixed-sex, we call them now, male-female, are not having those. Gay and lesbian couples talk about sex from the beginning, from their dating apps. So at least you’re having that conversation. That’s going to be the gateway to get to being able to talk this through.
Seth Nelson: Look at that, Pete. I already got I’m doing something right? I know it kills you.
Pete Wright: I know, I hate it. I hate it. I need a bell. I feel like that is a question that I want to talk more about though. In the spirit of people who are getting a divorce, who are looking to separate, and they’ve been dealing with maybe those power struggles, what do we have to learn about having better, more healthy conversations about sex, so that the sex doesn’t necessarily have to be the thing that breaks up the marriage?
Joe Kort: I know. It’s because of the fear of judgment, the fear of shame, the fear of being alienated. So if I’m getting a divorce, I can start to tell you anything, because who cares? It doesn’t matter, my attachment to you. But I’ll tell you who talks about sex the best, is after infidelity, couples that experience infidelity. Then after, in the recovery, on the other side, they are more willing to do that. Because they should have been doing it all along, but some of that led to the infidelity. So now they’re willing to talk about it because everything was at risk before, and now they’re more comfortable, after infidelity.
Seth Nelson: I just got to chime in here. Sorry, doc. On the advice of counsel, do not go have an affair just so you can talk better about sex afterwards.
Joe Kort: That is a great caveat. I tell that to my couples as well. Yes.
Pete Wright: May it please the court.
Seth Nelson: Good. Just making sure.
Joe Kort: Yeah.
Pete Wright: Well, and Seth, to that point, how often do you end up with people who come to you and say, "I’m divorcing, and it’s because we don’t have a healthy sex life. Sex has gotten in the way of our marriage, to the point that we can’t have a marriage anymore."
Joe Kort: As a sex therapist, probably it’s higher than most therapists, but it’s predominantly what I see in here. That they come in, and this is a make it or break it, because of sex. And it’s because they’re not talking about the reality and what they both really want.
Seth Nelson: Is it fair to say that they come to you, and they say that’s the problem, but that’s not really the problem? That’s a symptom of their problem?
Joe Kort: Yes. It can be both, but yes, it’s that the sexual problems are symptomatic of other things that are going on. But sometimes the sexual problems are the problems.
Seth Nelson: Pete, to answer your question directly though, rarely do I ever hear that. I also rarely ask, "Why are you getting a divorce?" I’ll ask, "Are you sure you want to go through with this? Are you ready for this? Here’s what the process looks like. Here’s what it looks like on the other side. It’s hard to see it when you’re going through it." So it really depends. Now, if they want to tell me, of course, I’m going to listen, but I just make sure that they are going down this path when… and sometimes they’re not ready. They don’t want it. The other side is initiating it. But I’ll have those conversations more to, "Oh, so why are you getting a divorce?" That’s not usually something that I’ll ask.
Pete Wright: Sure, sure. By the time they get to you, they’re already dealing with different issues.
Seth Nelson: Yeah. And we’ve talked about that in other shows, right?
Pete Wright: Okay. All right. Well, on our point today, so lesson number one: everybody, let’s learn to have better sex conversations. All right. Number two: how does the sexual experience tend to change, coming out of a marriage where sex was the challenge? Now we’re talking about dating sex and moving into subsequent relationship sex. What do you find people are learning about themselves? And what do they need to learn, to make sure that their sexual relationships are healthy ones and good ones?
Joe Kort: Well, sometimes, especially in the second marriage or the second relationship, whatever, they’ll say to themselves, "I’m going to do sex differently. I’m going to talk about it differently." And they don’t. They get back in, and they’re love bombed. And when you’re love bombed, and that romantic love, I’m telling you, we don’t have to say anything. You know what I want already. You’re willing to do things you wouldn’t normally be willing to do. So you just think, oh, I don’t have to do that with this person. And then that goes away and they’re back to where they were. That’s one thing. And then the other thing, people don’t understand this: there’s always a sexual desire discrepancy between couples. One wants it more. One wants it less. If you break up with that person, and you might be the one who wants it more, and you’re with somebody that wants it less. You break up, and you go to the next person, and you’re, "I’m going to get somebody with a higher sex drive," and you do, but now it’s higher than yours. So now you are the lower desire, and they’re the higher desire. So you’re always in the situation. It’s very rare to be a matching desire, unless you’re in the love bomb stage.
Pete Wright: Okay. We’ve had somebody. We’ve talked to somebody on the show who dropped the love bomb. And I had to have it explained to me, as a layperson. And I feel like you’ve brought it up several times here. And I think we need to teach about it, just for a second. Can you tell us, what is the love bomb, and why do we have to be worried about it?
Joe Kort: It can be so problematic that some cultures don’t even aspire to the love bomb, because it can attach you to the wrong person. What happens is, you’re going along, and you find this person who you’re romantically interested in, but you’re also sexually attracted to. It’s familiar love. There’s somebody there that you’re drawn to, you fall in love. So if you’re depressed, you’re no longer depressed. If you have a low sex drive, you have a high sex drive. You have internal pharmacy chemicals being released, dopamine, oxytocin, phenylethylamine, which is also known as PEA. Everything increases. If you are somebody that experiences an addiction, sometimes addictions subside during this time, because you’re in an altered state. And the purpose of this altered state, in the love bomb, is to bond you with an incompatible person. People think, well, I’m divorcing because of incompatibility. In the work I do, I say, "We want to keep you together because of… the incompatibility is grounds for a relationship, not a divorce." But you don’t see the incompatibility. The love bomb is, "Oh my God." I always say this, "Look at my partner’s fingers. They’re beautiful. I want to kiss them. I want to have sex with them." And then when the love bomb fades and romantic love fades, all you see is this, right? Well, it was always there, but you think, oh, I see it, yeah. But I thought, oh, well, I’ll just focus on the other eight, or I’ll amputate the one, whatever. No, no, no, no. It comes right along with you.
Seth Nelson: That middle one is right there all the time.
Joe Kort: Yep. And it does not go away.
Pete Wright: It’s been there all along. The call was coming from inside the house.
Joe Kort: That’s my favorite line.
Pete Wright: I think there is a lot to learn about this, particularly if your relationship is trouble. And you just said something else that really hit home for me, which is, "I’m divorcing because of an incompatibility in the marriage." And your job is, "I want you to keep you together. Incompatibility is the basis of a relationship." That should be on a T-shirt, man.
Joe Kort: Yes. It’s a great line. It’s a great line because people think, well, all these differences mean that you’re wrong, I’m good. You’re bad. I’m wrong, you’re right. Whatever. And then that gets embedded in the bedroom. And instead of people being able to negotiate all that and negotiating sexual differences, we could talk about that later, that’s very, very hard.
Seth Nelson: Well, let’s talk about that now. When you talk to people, and you’re saying to us, "Hey, you have to have better sexual conversations." What does that sound like? What should people be talking about?
Joe Kort: And when I talk about this, I want people to hear that it’s not so easy. I don’t mean to make it sound easy. I’ve had my own journey around sexuality. I’m a gay guy, and I had my own kinks and fetishes, and I met my husband, and didn’t really share a lot of that with him. So it took over time for me to talk to him about those things, it was super hard. But that’s what it entails, is being able to show up and say, "This is who I am. This is what I like," with the worry and anxiety that your partner’s going to be disgusted. And when your partner’s disgusted, they find you disgusting. That’s what happens. People use the disgust response to help people with politics, right? On how to vote. It’s also used, not used, but people experience it during sex. And you have to almost put armor on and say, "Yeah, my partner might find me disgusting." Well, we have another saying in sex therapy, I love this, "Don’t yuck somebody’s yum." You ever heard that?
Pete Wright: Yeah.
Joe Kort: I love that.
Pete Wright: That’s a good one.
Joe Kort: But your partner might yuck your yum.
Seth Nelson: When you’re having these conversations, you might say, "This is what I enjoy. This is what I like to do." Or, "I’d like to try this," and you just have to be open, honest, and vulnerable about that. But you are really looking for a response from your partner that doesn’t make that "Disgusting," or, "What are you talking about?" or, "I don’t want to be with you anymore." But being vulnerable, that’s a potential outcome, right?
Joe Kort: Right. And then hearing "No," right? A partner might say, "No, I’m not going to do that." And then in therapy, this is a problem. I have to train therapists out of this. Just because there’s a "no" doesn’t mean the "yes" has to go away. You’re not going to tell the no, "You have to do this." I’m not talking non-consent. But the yes, still wants to do this. So the conversation needs to be persisted, it needs to go on. But I’m still a yes. So maybe I want to look at erotica online. Maybe I want to have an open marriage. Maybe I want to do webcam sex, but it won’t involve you, that kind of thing.
Pete Wright: Wow. And that’s where I can resonate with the experience of when you get a "no," it’s shuts it down with the gate of shame.
Joe Kort: Yes.
Pete Wright: I don’t even want to persist to the conversation because I already know… I’ve never heard it put quite that way. I’ve never heard that, just because the yum has been yucked, doesn’t necessarily have to equate to internalizing the disgust factor.
Joe Kort: That’s well-said. I really like the way you said that. Absolutely.
Pete Wright: Wow. Seth, how you feeling?
Seth Nelson: Look, man. I’m all in yum right now. I’m good. I got a bag full of candy over here, brother. I’m good. Does this change from relationship to relationship? I get the love bomb sex. We talked about that. And then you’re married, let’s just take that as the hypothetical. And then you get divorced, so now you’re out there dating. And then you get married again. Is it the same pattern? Does it change? Do people think it’s going to change, but it doesn’t? Is there a real difference, either psychologically or physically, on post-divorce dating? Because I’ve heard this from my client, "Oh my God, the sex that I’m having out here is amazing. I should have gotten divorced years ago." It sounds to me like they might be in the love bomb section.
Joe Kort: Well, no, they could be also somebody that was conscious enough to know what they were looking for and having the conversations in the next marriage, being very intentional. Because most people, they’re, "I’m just going to hope for the best." Or, "I could tell that this person was going to be okay with it, so I went with it," when they never had the conversation. And they find out, no, no, no. They’re with exactly the same kind of partner. It’s beyond love bombing. If somebody found the right partner and really worked at, "Hey, these are my fetishes, my kinks, my interests, the things I love," then you can find a better partner for yourself.
Seth Nelson: How does this relate to finding yourself? Because it seems like you’re really talking to about internal stuff, that you then have to express to someone outwardly, to have the conversations. So do people come to you that, they don’t know what they like?
Joe Kort: Yes. In fact, they’re starting to think about redoing all the research, because most research is done on college-aged kids, young people. And college-
Seth Nelson: They don’t know shit, they don’t know anything.
Joe Kort: They don’t, and they don’t know shit about sex.
Pete Wright: For sure.
Joe Kort: They’re not evolved enough, you know? I mean, at my age of 58 years old, I’m evolved. I always knew what I liked, but I’ve really refined it over the years, and they have not. So wait, I got away from what you asked me though. What was your question? Oh, do people know?
Seth Nelson: I don’t know, let’s just bash 20-year-olds now. I’m good about that.
Joe Kort: Well, but a lot of 20-year-olds do kind of know a little bit more than we knew, when we were 20, of what they want. They’re too afraid to talk about it. They’re too ashamed. And then they don’t know what it means. And then they feel like there’s something wrong with them, like, "I must be damaged because I get into this." What you get into is often not politically correct. It’s not aligned with your values during the day. Esther Perel is a great sex and relationship therapist, we love her. And she says, "What you protest in the streets is what you get into between the sheets." And it’s true.
Seth Nelson: I’m going to start protesting a whole lot of different stuff now. Pete, I need T-shirts made. I need signs and hats and colors.
Pete Wright: And I need longer nights now. Man, I’ve got so much stuff to work through. How does that apply to people who come to you and realize that they’ve been in a marriage and that their sexual identity is changing? They were in, say, a heterosexual marriage, and now they’re finding that their sexual tastes tend to be more fluid, and they’re learning to embrace that. How does that change the sexual relationship? I’m thinking specifically about that yo-yo pattern you were just talking about. Power dynamics are power dynamics, but is it different when you’re looking at questions of identity and fluidity?
Joe Kort: Well, it’s a little bit more threatening to the relationship, I notice, because now, if you’re not a hundred percent straight, then you’re not going to want to be with me, or you’re going to want to open the marriage, or you’re going to want to be with others. And it’s a higher code red threat. It’s still threatening for a partner to hear, "Hey, I’m into this fantasy, and I really want to engage in you with this." Because you’re afraid, well, what if I don’t want to? Are you going to leave me? Are you going to find someone else? It’s the same thing.
Seth Nelson: Let me get that straight, because I’ve been thinking of this conversation of, I ask for something, my partner says, "No." I’m the yuck, I’m the disgusting. But it’s also the other way is, if I don’t say, "Yes," what happens to me, if I’m the one getting the request? And that can be a problem too, right? Maybe people just say yes, because they’re afraid of losing someone, though they don’t really want to be doing X, Y, or Z.
Joe Kort: Right. Instead of saying, "Hey, I’m not really into this. Can we keep talking about it until we find a win-win? And it’s going to be a lose-lose too. We’re both not going to get what we want, but it’s important to you." We do this on other things, how we’re going to raise kids, how we’re going to manage money, where we’re going to live. We should be doing it about sex, too. And people don’t.
Pete Wright: Hmm.
Seth Nelson: This is going to seem a really simple question that’s not. Why not? Why are people not having these conversations?
Joe Kort: When it comes to sex, the most uncomfortable person controls the room. And that’s what happens. The most uncomfortable person controls the relationship, controls a lot of things. And so their discomfort, and their, what we call "erotophobia," the fear of sex, the threat of sex, the disgust of sex or something sexual, I think the shame is just super high. And it’s because people aren’t talking about it above board. They’re doing it online or in private in locker rooms, as jokes. They’re not talking about it seriously. And I just want to say this, when I tell parents to talk to their children about sex, they can’t do it. And then they don’t do it. And it’s not because they don’t want to. Because nobody talked to them about sex, they don’t have the language. They don’t know how to do it. They don’t have the rehearsal.
Pete Wright: We’ve had a rule with my kids. And my kids are now… my son is a sophomore in high school, my daughter’s in college. But we always had a rule growing up that, whatever question they had, we would answer and talk honestly. And we aren’t afraid of words. That was our mantra, "We aren’t afraid of words." And as a result, I think I embarrassed the hell out of my kids, way more often than their peers in school. They walked out knowing stuff that they didn’t want to know. They just didn’t know at the time they asked the question, what regret they would have, once they know. And that has been a real delight for me, as a dad and a parent, that I was able to give my kids that bit of awareness. But I think that’s so important. Because when I ask those questions like, "Oh, you don’t know what X, Y, Z is? We’ll talk about whatever you want." And they tell me, "No." They’re not getting it from anywhere. They’re not getting information from anywhere, in spite of taking Sexual Health and Awareness and taking all sorts of classes. You’d think these things would be covered. It’s just, there’s so much that’s just not.
Seth Nelson: I would have a similar conversation with my son. And, mainly when he was in middle school, I would take him to shows that some people thought were inappropriate for that age. I purposely would take him, because I knew there would be things that would come up in the show that he might not know about. So I took him to go see Book of Mormon. That’s going to lead to a lot of conversations, right?
Pete Wright: That’ll do it.
Seth Nelson: And so, I would ask him very directly, "Do you know the word clitoris?" "Yeah, I’ve heard of it." "Do you know where it is?" "Somewhere down there?" And I said, "We’re going to have an uncomfortable conversation for 90 seconds, because you need to know this." And that’s how I would start it. I said, "You with me for 90 seconds?" He’s, "Yeah." Because I was thinking, and Doctor, I want to know what you think about this. My thought process was, either he doesn’t know it at all, or he is going to learn it from somebody else that doesn’t know it. So at least, you know-
Joe Kort: Or give him bad information.
Seth Nelson: Exactly. And then I can explain where it is, what it does. And then I can tell him, "You are ahead of the curve on 90% of the men out there in the world, buddy. I just really helped you out."
Joe Kort: Yeah. That’s awesome. Now, one thing, you have to make sure you also tell him, not just where it is. I can’t remember the sex educator that says this, but the clitoris is not a doorbell. You don’t push on it like this. It’s not a doorbell, right? You have to know how to work it, right? I wish I could remember her name. I want her to get credit. I can’t remember.
Seth Nelson: The only thing that would’ve been better? If you would’ve said, "It’s not?"
Pete Wright: I know. I couldn’t come up with it. I was too busy sort of hyperventilating. I think that’s such a great question. Now I want to get back to the question of rebalancing power in a sexual relationship, in a sexual dynamic. Because that seems to be, if you want to save your relationships, and we’re all about saving relationships, rebalancing that power dynamic in a conversation, and doing it in a healthy and productive way, that doesn’t spark that sort of alienation in one partner and the repression in another, seems to be really important. How do you counsel somebody, "Hey, here’s how you start. Eight o’clock day one, here’s how you start having those conversations."
Joe Kort: You don’t do it before you’re going to have sex or during sex. Those are the worst times to do it. I always tell people. You would think people would know that, they don’t. You want to do it when you’re going for a walk, right? They don’t, they think that it’s going to work there, and it doesn’t. It actually becomes a problem, and that will kill the sexual experience you’re about to have. You want to do it when you’re going for a walk.
Pete Wright: Is that because… is that a hormonal thing? Is it because you’re in the throes of whatever it is? Or is it… what’s going on there?
Joe Kort: Well, because now if you say something that your partner doesn’t like, and they go tilt, "I’m not into you now." Disgust. "I find you gross now." So now you’ve entered too many details, where, if you’re taking a walk, or you wake up on a Sunday morning, and you’re having your coffee, "Can we talk about better sex between us? Or different kinds of positions, or fantasies?" Then at least if they go south or it gets negative, you haven’t ruined a good experience you’re about to have.
Seth Nelson: Yeah, but you’ve just ruined a good cup of coffee. So, I mean, then-
Pete Wright: There you are, watching your Jane Pauley on CBS Sunday Morning.
Joe Kort: Now, let me tell you what I see that contributes to a lot of divorce. And this really is upsetting. I do a lot of trainings on this, because it’s so freaking upsetting to me. So the whole term of "sex addiction" is not real. Sex addiction is not real. We have no science behind it. If we did, it would be in the DSM. It would be in the ICD-11. It’s not. So I don’t want to get into all that. But what happens is, it’s the low-hanging fruit. Everybody thinks it’s real. It’s a cultural creation. So now, I see women in my office. I usually see mixed-sex couples, men and women together, and they’re heterosexual. And she says to him, "You’re either, what you just told me what you’re doing, watching porn, thinking about whatever you’re thinking, you’re either a sex addict or you’re a pervert. And I’m not staying married to a pervert, so you better be a sex addict." So then he comes to my office like a kindergarten student with a note pinned to his shirt, by his mommy, that says, "Here’s what my wife wants you to know. I’m a sex addict, and fix me." It’s terrible. And people divorce over this, it’s so upsetting.
Pete Wright: Wow. Yeah. I mean, I guess I can see it, but also I’m not sure I would want to stay married to somebody who lives with that kind of shame.
Joe Kort: Right, that is going to shame you and then pathologize you, rather than… it’s not sex addiction. I mean, it could be compulsivity, but we have a sexual problem.
Seth Nelson: So let’s just hold on. Doctor, you just said something that is so important, because I think it transcends the conversation we’re having. When you said, "Don’t pathologize somebody," you should be dealing with the behaviors and not playing psychotherapist and saying, "He must be this, or she must be that." Right? I cannot tell you how many people fell in love, got married, and get divorced five years later, and their spouse is a narcissist. Statistically, that doesn’t really happen. I’m not saying it never happens. But everyone wants to put a label on someone. And I say, "Look, I’m not going to fix that. This is how I deal with difficult people. I don’t care what you call them. This is how I deal with it. And this is how I can help you through the divorce process." But is that something that you see a lot, where people come in and do their self-diagnosis on what the other person is?
Joe Kort: Yeah. I call it profiling your partner, and I don’t allow it in my room. I’ve done it myself. Stop profiling your partner. You’re not their therapist. You can talk about, "Hey, when you said this and did this, this is my experience. This is what I feel. This is what I hear. This is how I respond." But I love what you just said. Pathologizing them makes them bad and you good, them wrong, you right. There’s no good in that.
Pete Wright: Well, there’s no good in that, in rehabilitating a damaged sexual relationship, and certainly not in saving a partnership from divorce.
Joe Kort: No, you’re going to add to it. That’s going to make you go toward divorce.
Seth Nelson: I want to shift over here for a second, because I was thinking of different backgrounds. What does, if at all, does your different religious backgrounds or cultural backgrounds… I’m just making this up. If you are marrying someone from India, who is raised in that culture, versus someone that was raised in Birmingham, Alabama. Or New York Jewish lifestyle versus someone that grew up on the West Coast in California, with no religious orientation. What kind of your background does that bring to this whole conversation?
Joe Kort: Ideally people would talk openly about it from the beginning, but they don’t. I’ll tell you what we see a lot in therapy. "Yeah. We tried to talk about these things. It never goes well. In fact, it’s getting worse. And by the way, we’re getting married in a month, and we’re so excited." And I’m, "But if you’re not getting any resolution, and you’re telling me it’s worse…" "Yeah, yeah, yeah. it’ll fix itself. Marriage will fix itself." People think this, even in 2020. And you cannot talk these clients out of it. I feel like they hire us to watch them fail. And I have no choice, other than to say, "My prediction is marriage isn’t going to fix this. It’s gotten worse. I mean, let’s fix this before you have this wedding." But people don’t listen.
Pete Wright: Okay-
Seth Nelson: That’s like saying, "Having a kid’s going to fix the problem."
Pete Wright: It never fixes the problem. It doesn’t fix the problem.
Joe Kort: Right.
Pete Wright: Okay. To that point… I don’t know. Okay. Well, yeah. Why do I need to worry about being indelicate with you guys? How important is it to practice? Do you know what I mean? There is a set sense of parochial protection of sexual activity in some cultures, that "I’m going to save myself for marriage," or "I’m going to somehow be…" What’s your stance on getting out there and finding good, healthy people to practice having strong sexual relationships with?
Joe Kort: Oh, I’m all for it. I mean, safely, consensually, of course. But I’m all for people getting out there and exploring their sexuality and their erotic interests. So it’s not just sexual, it’s erotic and pleasure. We don’t talk enough about pleasure. You should really find out what brings you the most pleasure sexually, and that’s what you should be talking about with potential partners.
Seth Nelson: Okay. But on the advice of counsel, if your spouse or someone you’re with says, "You’re really good at this. You’re great at sex. I love having sex with you." Do not say, "Practice makes perfect." I’m just advising you. [crosstalk 00:29:46]
Joe Kort: You’re right about that.
Seth Nelson: Okay, good. I’m right twice tonight. You know, I’m telling this story for a friend.
Pete Wright: You know, I’m going to give that one to you, Seth, you deserve that. That was good. That was good.
Seth Nelson: Okay. But this does raise a point. What, if at all, is the role of discussing previous sexual relationships? Are they just taboo, you don’t talk about them? You just talk about what you enjoy now, or what you would like to try in the future? And you don’t talk about where that thought originated, or what happened in the past? How does that all play out?
Joe Kort: Well, I think people take it personally, like they take porn personally. Well, women take porn personally, men take vibrators personally. The women feel the porn has replaced her. The men feel the vibrator’s replaced him. And they feel that talking about past relationships, "Then you must have liked that better." There’s no room in our culture to say, "No, I liked that. And I liked you. I got into that, but I’m also getting into stuff with you." People feel threatened, and then they feel diminished, when it’s not about that at all.
Pete Wright: Hmm. I often get that same sort of vibe around, you talk about porn, porn is a complicated issue, right? Because there is not just the sexual part, the arousal part of pornography and fetish and kink, but also, I guess there’s a social stigma. There is the issue of non-consensual and-
Joe Kort: Ethical.
Pete Wright: Ethical criminality, those kinds of things that are involved in porn, how do you approach that with people who are exploring other avenues?
Joe Kort: All porn is not alike. Some porn is unethical. Some porn is human trafficking. Some porn is child porn. Most porn is ethical. And if you start making the conversation about the porn, you have lost the argument. And I tell therapists, "You’ve lost your couple." The argument is, "What does this bring up for me, that you are watching it?" "What does it bring up for me that I like to watch?" And people always say, "Well, what’s your porn use?" You’re not using porn. It’s not a chemical. It can’t be addictive. You can’t be addicted to porn. There’s nothing about it. Because people will say, "Well, you can be addicted to your own chemistry." No, you cannot. There is no science that you can be addicted to dopamine. You could be habituated to it. You’d like to jump out of planes and climb mountains? We all say, "Oh, that’s cool. How’d you do that? What do you feel up there?" But if the person’s naked and masturbating, we’re, "Whoa, dude, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, what’s going on?" So it’s a sort of a sexual judgment that people have around stuff like that.
Pete Wright: Well, and I love the way you put that, because once you get out of the judgment of the nature of what porn is, as you say, you can actually get to the root of what it brings up, that there is an existence of it in your life, not just an existence of it in the world.
Joe Kort: Right. Because the truth is, some porn is so good that you… people say, "Well, you don’t base your sex life on porn." Well, some porn, you absolutely want to base your sex life on. Some porn is very instructional. And you’re, "Wow. I never thought I’d do…" Especially gay men. For gay guys, finding gay porn is easy today, but it wasn’t at one time. And no one teaches you about gay sex. How do you have anal sex? How do you have oral sex, or whatever? So you learn it in gay porn. There’s nothing wrong with that. Gay porn is pretty ethical.
Pete Wright: "Ethical porn," Seth. Right here, show title.
Seth Nelson: I know. And I’m thinking T-shirts, we got two or three [crosstalk 00:33:09]
Pete Wright: The merch out of just this one episode. Huge.
Seth Nelson: Is unbelievable.
Joe Kort: Wait, I’ll give you one more T-shirt, if you want. I’m actually going to make T-shirts of this, because it’s my line. You can use it though, if you want. So a lot of straight men come into my office who like to receive anal sex. And they want to be pegged. It’s called pegging, where the woman puts a strap-on on. But a lot of women think, he’s gay. He thinks he might be gay because he wants this. And I have to tell these couples, "Your anus doesn’t have a sexual orientation." It doesn’t know whether it’s gay, straight or bi. It’s an anus. And just because you enjoy receiving anal sex, doesn’t mean you’re gay. There are gay men, and I’m one of them, I don’t want anal sex. I’ve never had anal sex. I’ve never gotten it. I’ve never given it. And I’m gay as fuck, okay? But just because I don’t like to have penetrative sex, doesn’t mean that my butt is going to tell me that I’m straight some day, because I’m not.
Seth Nelson: Doctor, I would really appreciate if you’d just tell us how you feel. Let’s not talk around the issues. You got to be able to talk openly and honest [crosstalk 00:34:15] about this.
Joe Kort: I try.
Seth Nelson: You know?
Pete Wright: There’s no way we’re ever going to understand what’s really going on, until we can speak the truth.
Seth Nelson: So what about your first sexual experience? Does that really play a role? And I’m just going to share with you the first time I ever had sex. And Pete, don’t get uncomfortable now [crosstalk 00:34:31]
Pete Wright: Just so glad we’re recording.
Seth Nelson: Open and honest-
Pete Wright: I’m so glad we’re recording this.
Seth Nelson: Well, it was late at night. It was very dark. I was very scared. I was all by myself. [crosstalk 00:34:42] See, there it was, Pete.
Joe Kort: That’s funny.
Seth Nelson: But do those first sexual experiences pave the way, or is it stuff that you see in the movies, or…? Because like you’re saying, hey, maybe there’s something out there that I didn’t even know I liked, because I didn’t even know it existed.
Joe Kort: When you say, "pave the way," I think that it’s like an imprint. Your first time is always remembered most. Your chemistry that gets you into that altered state to have sex with that person is elevated. Everything’s elevated. It happens when you first fall in love, as well. People always say, "I never got over my first love." You didn’t. But it may not be the person, it may just be the chemistry and the experience that you had.
Seth Nelson: Got a lot of information here, Pete. You got a lot to digest, my friend.
Pete Wright: I know, it’s going to be a long night. This has been super illustrative, Joe. Thank you so much for coming and hanging out with us.
Joe Kort: I just want to say one more thing, because I think this is important, and I tell clients this. People say, "Well I shouldn’t leave my wife. Everything’s great." Or "my husband". "I shouldn’t leave because everything’s great, except for sex. You shouldn’t leave for sex. Sex shouldn’t be that much of a priority." Bullshit. It’s complete bullshit. If sex is a priority to you, sex is a priority to you. But then you go to get feedback from your friends and family, they’re, "Well, sex fades over time. And then eventually you’re going to be in a sexless relationship." Some people do. But if you don’t want to be, you don’t have to be. So sex is a fine reason to leave a relationship, if you can’t make it work, that’s all I’m saying.
Seth Nelson: It’s almost like voting, right? You get to pick why you’re voting for someone. The candidate doesn’t get to tell you why. They can say, "You should vote for me because…" And they can list 10 things, and you’re, "None of those are on my list." You get to decide what’s important in your relationship, whether it’s sex, whether it’s having coffee in the morning, or how you connect with your spouse, whether it’s how you manage money with your partner. We could list off a hundred different things. How you raise children together, how you deal with adversity, how you deal with stressful situations, how you deal with happy situations. "Hey, everything’s great. Well maybe everything’s great, and we’re drinking too much because we’re celebrating." You get to pick what’s important to you in a relationship, and then you need to work with your partner to come together on the other stuff that’s important to them. And it’s not always going to match up, but as Doctor says, those differences can be celebrated as well. But I think that goes for sex, or anything else. Would you agree with that, Doctor? I’m going for the trifecta, Pete, I’m trying to get a third, "Yes" here. I’m telling you now.
Joe Kort: I would tell you yes. The word is called differentiation. That two realities or more can exist between the two of you in relationship.
Pete Wright: That sounds just like you and me, Seth. I mean, really.
Seth Nelson: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
Pete Wright: Different realities, am I right?
Seth Nelson: Totally.
Pete Wright: This has been fantastic. I already teased the podcast, but Joe, please, give yourself a plug. We got to send people, because if there is ever a podcast that deserves the term "unvarnished," this is the one.
Joe Kort: Well, thank you. It’s Smart Sex, Smart Love. And you can find it at smartsexsmartlove.com, or my website, joekort.com. But my bigger presence, that I just hit, 500,000 followers, is on TikTok. So on TikTok, I have made a huge hit on these issues. So if they went to @drjoekort, D-R-J-O-E-K-O-R-T, they’d find me there. So my podcast and TikTok are my biggest things.
Pete Wright: I’m not on TikTok.
Joe Kort: You’ve got to get on TikTok.
Pete Wright: All of a sudden, right now, I’m feeling that pressure.
Seth Nelson: Let me tell you-
Pete Wright: It was Joe Kort that made me join TikTok, is that what’s going to be on my next T-shirt?
Seth Nelson: Well, what you don’t know is his 500,000th listener is your wife. So you better get on TikTok.
Pete Wright: I know, right? Now [crosstalk 00:38:37] my wife.
Seth Nelson: She [crosstalk 00:38:37] put him over the top.
Pete Wright: Over the top. Okay. Noted. Joe Kort, thank you so much. You are such an asset to the field, and we really appreciate you coming and hanging out with us. I hope you come back one day. I’m sure we’re going to have more topics to talk to you about.
Joe Kort: Thanks. You guys are fun to talk to.
Pete Wright: And thank you, everybody, for downloading and listening to this show. On behalf of Dr. Joe Kort and America’s favorite family law attorney, that’s Seth Nelson, I’m Pete Wright. We’ll catch you next week, right here, on How to Split a Toaster, a divorce podcast about saving your relationships.
Speaker 4: Seth Nelson is an attorney with Nelson Koster Family Law and Mediation, with offices in Tampa, Florida. While we may be discussing family law topics, How to Split a Toaster is not intended to, nor is it providing, legal advice. Every situation is different. If you have specific questions regarding your situation, please seek your own legal counsel with an attorney licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction. Pete Wright is not an attorney or employee of Nelson Koster. Seth Nelson is licensed to practice law in Florida.
Seth Nelson is a Tampa based family lawyer known for devising creative solutions to difficult problems. In How to Split a Toaster, Nelson and co-host Pete Wright take on the challenge of divorce with a central objective — saving your most important relationships with your family, your former spouse, and yourself.