Staying Sane during the Season

By Karen Gless, Ph.D.

Sometimes there are just too many things on your plate and you’re not one of them. It is so hard to stop and take care of ourselves sometimes. It is too easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of things. So here are some ideas that I have found helpful and you might too.

Many years ago I studied under Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and in the process of working out old hurts I discovered an amazing thing deep inside of me. It was me quietly watching all the commotion, I was experiencing, as I was letting go of old stuff.

Many people feel that if someone looked deep enough into them that what they would find hiding there is a crazy person or emptiness. I found the opposite. Deep inside is a still quiet place, a quiet observer, just waiting to be connected with. In fact after the experience I felt solid and at peace. I know too that I am not alone you have the very same place inside of you. All of us have that deeper, quiet self, inside who is just observing and perhaps laughing as we go about our days like “chickens with their heads cut off,” as they say.

All of this is to say that there is something very special to connect with when you take a moment to do so. It could be listening to some favorite music with your eyes closed (obviously, not while driving a car), listening to one of my mp3s, or even just taking a deep breath. Of course there are many more ways but let me talk about the deep breathing here.

Physiologically the breath out is the most important. A captain in the Army taught me one he called 4 square breathing. He taught GIs who had PTSD this technique because it helped them calm down and work toward getting over the PTSD. I like it because it is easy to remember and it is a good way to get centered. Breathing is a good way to begin to go more deeply inside and tap into the inner wisdom that is in all of us.

Men especially like the 4 square breathing technique and it can be modified for women if they prefer holding their breath for a shorter period of time. One of my patients, I will call her Jill, found herself constantly feeling like tearing her hair out. She saw herself in the middle, between both sets of parents, her children and her husband. Then there were her girlfriends and the people at work. She didn’t want to disappoint any of them. As a result of course she found herself disappointing most of them. When she came in she was in a tizzy. She was mad at everyone, especially her husband–let’s call him David.

Part of the problem was she had been trying to do everything herself. So when she brought David in she was surprised to hear that he didn’t have a clue that she had been needing his help. It wasn’t clear whether she hadn’t told him she needed help or that he just didn’t hear her plea. As with many couples it was probably some of both. She didn’t want to bother him because she knew he was busy and overwhelmed too. And she may well have failed to ask him directly for help so he didn’t notice her problem.

Because they were both in overwhelm, the first thing I needed to do was help them get grounded and centered. I taught them both the 4 square breathing technique and sent them off to spend some special time together and have a bit of fun instead of being under pressure all the time. The 4 square breathing is so named because you can visualize it like going around a square. You begin by breathing in to the count of 4, then hold it for the count of 4 then breath out to the count of 4, hold it for the count of 4 and then repeat. The count of 4 is not seconds. It is any pace that you are comfortable with.

Jill felt better after the session for several days, but it was not long before she found herself needing the breathing technique. She used it and found herself centering more easily and feeling a lot less overwhelmed and irritable. She had begun to communicate more clearly and directly with David too. Being less stressed seemed to make everything better. She noticed that David was happier and more relaxed too. He said he enjoyed doing the 4 square breathing and that work had begun to be less stressful.

In the beginning when there was a lot of stress and a lot more triggers they needed to use the technique frequently. But as time went on they reacted negatively to things less, so the formal process was used less often, but they never forgot how important it was to breathe their stress away.






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Understanding Delayed Ejaculation

a couple lying in bed

Understanding Delayed Ejaculation


Karen Gless, Ph.D., LMFT, RN

We all know that some women have trouble having an orgasm during intercourse, but did you know that some men have the same problem? It’s called delayed ejaculation (DE) and it’s just as hard for a man to deal with it as it is for a woman.

How a couple deals with the problem depends on the cause. For instance, if DE is caused by an injury, that calls for a different response than dealing with psychological causes. And it may be surprising, but did you know that a lot of DE is caused by a strict religious upbringing?

My article shows how understanding the causes of DE and dealing with them honestly can go a long way to keeping the relationship healthy and happy. And in case you’re wondering, yes, some men with DE do fake orgasm.


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Peace and Goodwill–at Home: How to Handle Three Trouble Spots

Couple celebrating christmas


Karen Gless, Ph.D., LMFT, RN

The holidays are upon us, but what should be a happy time can often be very stress filled and emotionally draining for couples. A big source of upset is that we tend to have very strong expectations of ourselves and our partner about what should happen during the holidays.

In my practice I have found that there are three main areas where there can be conflict and tension: sharing the preparation work, handling family traditions and buying presents. The reality is that when two people come together they bring their family histories and traditions together as well. Sometimes these traditions combine seamlessly, but at other times there can be quite a bit of conflict.

Getting Ready for the Feast

A big issue these days is dealing with housework and childcare fairly. Despite agreements, much of the work of getting ready for the holidays tends to fall on “the woman of the house.” Now for me and my husband, Lee, that isn’t a problem. He likes to do most of the cooking, probably because his grandfather was the major cook in his household. And it is easy for me to make this work because my father was the major holiday cook as I grew up.

Like a lot of men, Lee also likes to watch football during the holidays, so he combines the two. He sets up a folding table in the living room, brings out the ingredients and sets to work putting everything together while watching a game on TV. There are plenty of commercials so he has time to take things out and put them on the stove or in the oven. Still, it is kind of funny watching him stuff and sew up a turkey while cheering on the home team.

Often my job is keeping an eye on things and making sure they don’t burn while he’s in the living room mixing up the next dish. This arrangement works very smoothly for us, but I know plenty of couples who have difficulty in this area.

Great Expectations

When the holiday is at your place, one approach is to honestly deal with your expectations. It may be time to decide that you don’t need a grand, traditional holiday dinner. You can buy practically everything precooked and just heat it up. Another approach is to eat out. Lots of restaurants are now offering reasonably priced holiday dinners.

This can give your partner a choice. We can go with a simple prepared meal or you can help out getting things ready. It may not meet the traditional expectations of the perfect family dinner, but it sure beats getting stressed out upset and arguing instead of having a good time.

Which Family to Visit

Another area of potential conflict has to do with family traditions. Sometimes one partner will say, “We have to have dinner with my parents,” and they just won’t compromise on the issue. One couple I worked with had this problem and I made a simple suggestion. I said, “There isn’t any law that says the two of you have to be together for dinner at your parents. After all, you each ate dinner on the holidays separately before you met.”

They had two sons and a daughter so I told him that he could take the sons to his parents’ dinner and she could take the daughter to her parents for dinner. Then I added, “Or you could think of something else. I don’t know what.”

I admit I was playing the role of Solomon and suggesting a really terrible solution. They talked it over and came up with a good solution of their own. They would have holiday dinners with each set of parents on separate days and alternate which one to go to on the actual holiday each year. This actually worked for them and they followed the agreement because they didn’t like the alternative of splitting up on the holidays.

I Give to You and You Give to Me

Finally there’s the issue of presents. It used to be that people went shopping on the holidays with a smile on their faces and a warm feeling in their hearts. But the stress of shopping has become so intense that drivers get aggressive going to the stores and there’s a lot of pushiness once people get there.

Then there’s the expectation that you should know what to buy for your partner. Women especially tend to think that men should know what they want. Unfortunately a lot of men are really clueless when it comes to figuring out what to buy for a woman.

One solution I’ve given to a few clients who have this problem is to have them write a letter to Santa. It can be fun, bring up a sense of childlike joy and give their partner some good ideas about what to get. This can be extended to birthdays as well. Since we already have the tradition of the tooth fairy, I’ve made up a new tradition, the birthday fairy. You write a letter starting with, “Dear Birthday Fairy….” And you list the presents you would like to get. Again, it takes the tension out of the situation and creates a sense of fun and playfulness.

Let Go and Have Fun

There are two basic guidelines to handling these situations and other sources of holiday tension. First be willing to let go of the expectations your family had about the holidays. The two of you get to create your own life together. Second, have a sense of fun and playfulness instead of taking everything so seriously.

Of course, if these approaches don’t work for you it may be time to take a deeper look at what’s going on so you can work things through. That’s why I wrote my book and why I have included special relaxation mp3s in my courses.

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Leave her Begging for More – What Women Really Want.

Kiss In The Park


How to Really Leave her Begging for More: The Science of Pleasure


Karen Gless, Ph.D., MFT, RN

There is a belief among men that a session of wild sex that is incredibly exciting will leave a woman begging for more and attached to him for the rest of her life. There are great sexual athletes out there and they may be able to leave a woman totally satisfied sexually, but that’s not what the vast majority of women are looking for in a relationship.

Great sex is nice, but it’s not enough to seal the deal when it comes to a lifelong relationship for most women. My article reveals what really makes a woman begged for more after good sex and want to stay with a man for the rest of her life.

The question is, Can you have it all, love and great sex? I believe the answer is yes and this article shows you how to take the first steps. CLICK HERE

What Does Your Love Life Say About Your Relationship?


Karen Gless, Ph.D., MFT, RN

Sometimes the first indication that something is wrong in your relationship is that one or both of you no longer want sex and your love life is suffering. It is typically the woman, but I have worked with men who have responded this way too. Couples come in saying, “My partner doesn’t seem interested in sex.” And they want to know what to do about it.

I am going to focus this article on what women often experience and what one woman in particular went through. I will call her Susan. Once the couple comes in to my office and the wife is identified as having a problem with their love life, I have a lot of questions because I have to sort through all the possibilities like:

Is she experiencing hormonal changes due to menopause or post pregnancy?

Are her testosterone levels low?

Has she ever experienced orgasm and, if so, has it happened during intercourse?

Does she have a history of sexual abuse?

Does he have a problem with premature ejaculation of impotence?

Is there a lack of foreplay?

Are there relationship issues that are causing her to talk with her body and not her mouth?

In this case Susan wasn’t aware that her lack of interest and poor love life were due to her frustration with her husband.

Silent Protest

When I saw Susan in our individual session, I sort of had to laugh a little to myself as I listened to her tell her side of the issue. It was like a page out of my book. He was taking care of the bills and being what he thought was a good husband, father and provider. But in the world of relationships that isn’t always quite enough. Men take charge and work toward goals. Women are used to noticing what is important to their partners and try to meet their needs, desires and expectations at least part of the way.

In this case Susan had the same expectations of him that she had of herself. She expected him to be conscientious and economical like she was. So when she saw him being wasteful, like leaving food out of the refrigerator to go bad or mismanaging water and electricity, she’d get upset.

She tried to talk to him and work it through as women do but it didn’t seem to get her anywhere because nothing changed and if it did it wasn’t for long. So finally she would tell herself, “Well, that’s just how he was raised,” and try to have a better attitude about it.

They both had a job, but he did little work around the house and she was almost entirely responsible for the children. He would promise to do more, but he didn’t. These days not sharing household tasks and childcare is a major reason relationships get into trouble. It really wasn’t working for Susan.

Shutting Down

It is easy for women to shut down their sexual feelings in a relationship without even realizing it. A woman tries hard to make the relationship work, to meet his needs and balance that with taking care of the children. So she would feel unhappy with him because he’s doing things that frustrate her. Instead of finding ways to deal with the issues more effectively, she jumped headlong into being mom and wife. And, voila, before you know it, she just doesn’t feel sexual anymore and their love life suffers. She says she just doesn’t feel interested and doesn’t know why.

On the other hand, if it is a guy, he can say exactly why he doesn’t feel interested. He will say he feels demeaned, he doesn’t want to push himself on her, he works hard, does a lot for the family and is tired or he doesn’t ever feel appreciated. He may also feel anxious about climaxing quickly or maintaining an erection and he fears disappointing her. These are some of the main reasons guys have for losing interest in sex.

Lots of Company

I shared with Susan that she wasn’t alone. Most men can fall in love and get into a relationship. But a certain percentage of them don’t, for various reasons, have the skills to maintain a relationship like the majority of women do. Some of them learn on the job, but others don’t. A major researcher on marriage and relationships, John Gottman, found that over 60% of men don’t take influence from their wives. That means that they refuse to adjust their behavior when their wives ask them to change.

When Susan didn’t get any real change and shut down her feelings, the result was not good for her, her husband or their live life. Men don’t have the emotional antennae that women do. It is not that men don’t care or must only do things their way, it is that a percentage of them just don’t have a clue. Women have a hard time believing this and knowing what to do about it.

Learning to Like Sex Again

Susan very much wanted to feel differently and have a good love life like she used to. I suggested she get my MP3s to help her relax and begin to have a positive focus on sex for herself.

In our next session together Susan came in all excited. She had been experiencing a complete reversal of her frustrated self. She said, “Tell me this is going to stay and my old self is not going to come back. I feel good and we have been having great sex. I just don’t know why I have been so negative.

“I am not a person that normally does strange things like self-hypnosis or meditation. But now I feel so much better. I really value those MP3s. Is this just going to go away and I’ll be back where I started at some point?”

I told her that she was tapping into a natural process and once she repeatedly experienced that ability to relax and focus on positive feelings, they would be hers to keep. She could access them again and again whenever she wanted or needed to.

Don’t Give up

In Susan’s case, her low desire and the resulting damage to their love life were due to relationship issues and it was my job to help her and her husband learn how to be a better team. I explained to Susan that women are good at shutting down their sexual feelings and that she had done that to herself without knowing why. Her frustration was real and understandable. However, there were better ways of dealing with the issues she was confronting. In the next several sessions I helped Susan and her husband work through several of those issues.

Later on in an individual session I was able to point out to Susan where she was doing a better job of standing up for herself without putting him down and that he had actually taken some steps toward addressing her desires and needs. It was clear that they were going in the right direction.

For men teamwork is about the goal, but for women it is about working with their partner, knowing what they want and need and figuring it out together. If you think about it, the two approaches to teamwork complement each other. And that is a good thing. In their last session Susan shared that even though they are nowhere near perfect, she has yet to lose that loving feeling, is less frustrated and a whole lot happier and so was her husband.   It was clear that their love life said a lot about their relationship and that both were much better now.



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I dare you to watch this video and not smile.

Do you ever let your inner natural child out? It can be so healing and put you back into that centered happy zone that you deserve to be in. I believe that every adult has a right to be that natural child sometimes. Norman Cousins said he healed his cancer through laughter. It was his natural child coming out with those wonderful belly laughs.

Laughter and letting your inner child out can make a big difference in your relationship too. After all, most couples let their inner child out a lot when they first get together. I think it’s true that the couple that laughs together, stays together. Plus it adds to your love-bank account. The love-bank account is that good will you maintain that softens differences, keeps you in love and helps you through hard times. Find something to laugh at this week and share it with your partner or a friend.

A research study found that as you get older, you worry more and laugh less. So I have made it a point in my life to laugh more and worry less. That’s why I was so pleased and surprised when I saw this video I made. I really got caught up in the excitement and I hope you will have a laugh with me as you watch it.

I love photography, don’t you? A few weeks ago my husband and I went on a trip to Bishop California where my photography group was in search of fall color. It wasn’t as amazing as past years due to the drought, but the Sierra mountain county still takes your breath away.

I didn’t find the incredible scenery I was looking for this year, but instead found something far more fun. In this video I want to share with you, my husband, who chose to be the driver, waited patiently. (He isn’t always, but this time he was so sweet and really out did himself). Later we had a good laugh watching it together and seeing my spontaneous excitement. Do see what I mean?

Wishing you always laughter and joy,

Karen Gless, Ph.D.

Even Small Adventures Bring Excitement to Life. Here is One of Mine. What are Yours?

I hope you enjoy this holiday video as much as I do. I live where wild turkeys are really rare. So to my shock about Thanksgiving time when my husband and I were hiking on Palomar Mountain we saw some wild turkeys.

At the end of the hike we decided to stop at Mom’s, a restaurant we love to eat at occasionally after a long hike. There next to the restrooms were 2 huge wild tom turkeys facing off. I couldn’t help it. I had to record it. They were too funny, but also pretty determined that I didn’t get too close.

Palomar Mountain is one of our favorite places to hike. It is about 6000 feet. There’s a variety trails and our hike is often around 6 miles. At the top of one of the trails we can see the ocean in the distance. We seldom run onto other hikers and enjoy visiting with the ranger and her volunteers. We see white tailed deer regularly and lots of birds. One time we saw a bobcat with her twin cubs and rarely, really rarely, we see wild turkeys on Palomar.

On one of our hikes we saw large tracks and thought the tracks were from a great blue heron that had come inland a little ways. We asked the ranger about the tracks and that was when we discovered that there were turkeys in the area. The other reason the Toms were so usual was that being at Mom’s was one of the most populated places on the mountain that day. We are talking 30-40 people and their cars coming and going. So there you have it my adventure with tom turkeys.


Dr. Karen Gless, Ph.D

Can Senior Sex be the Best Sex?

seniors in love(focus point on the noses,special photo f/x)

Is there sex after 60? Often the answer to that question depends on who you’re talking to. Younger people may think it stops at 50 while those in their 50’s may say 70 or 80. And some people say, “Great sex never stops. It only gets better.”

In my experience with a wide range of patients the major difference is attitude. Of course there are physical changes and health challenges with aging, but in working with many older couples I have found that these can be overcome.

The article (CLICK HERE) focuses on how people view sex and the major change that makes for a successful sex life for seniors. So the answer to the question, Can senior sex be the best sex? is a resounding “Yes,” if your heart and your mind are in the right place. So check it out, and even if you are younger, you can learn some ways to improve your sex life right now.

Karen Gless, Ph.D.

Loving and Lasting

It seems that when I write about relationships that I often get questions about sex. And then when I write about sex people want to know how they can keep their relationship long lasting and happy.” Well I hope this post has a little bit of both.

Sex is an important part of a long-term loving relationship. Unfortunately too few places exist where adults can get real information about good, healthy sex. And it sure is true that sex ed in schools doesn’t give any information about how to have good sex.

On the other hand getting all your information from articles in Cosmopolitan or looking at on line porn isn’t any better. That’s why I’m currently writing a series of articles on sexuality. The first one is, “The Science of Premature Ejaculation.”

Do you know what the cycle of sexual intercourse is?

Are you aware that about 30% of men have a problem with Premature Ejaculation (PE) at some time during their lives?

Did you know that men with PE really do want to please their partner and try to last longer?

The usual assumption is that most men with PE are just going for their own pleasure and don’t care about a woman’s feelings and needs. In my experience in working with men who have this problem, I have found that they really want to satisfy the woman in their lives, but don’t know what to do.

In the article I review the basic science of sex and the underlying causes of PE. Just by understanding what is happening, a couple can begin to communicate about this problem and that alone is enough to start making meaningful changes.

By understanding what your partner is experiencing and vice versa, you both can have a deeper, loving and more satisfying sexual connection. In this case, the more you know, the better you do.


Attractive man and woman prepping low calorie dinner in kitchen very health conscious


Karen Gless, Ph.D., MFT, RN

When my favorite aunt was in school learning to be a nurse, most of the women in her class expected to work a little while after finishing school, then get married, quit working and have children. By the time I went to nursing school, most of the students planned to make a lasting career of their profession.

In 1905 only 6% of women were in the workplace and most of those women considered their position temporary to make money while their husband was sick or disabled. Today 60% of married women are in the workforce and the majority of them are permanently employed. Compare that with the fact that just 15% more married men are employed and you can see that there has been a tremendous change.

Big Changes are Happening

Women’s experience in relationships has changed since they have gone from staying at home to being in the workplace. One big shift has been in the kind of man they want in their life. A hundred years ago when women stayed at home they wanted a strong man with a little bit of sensitivity. Hopefully he was able to be at least a tiny bit romantic. Oh, and by the way, the man’s orgasm was the only one that was of any great importance.

Now women are looking for a strong, sensitive man who can be a partner and share life. But it’s a two way street. Not so long ago a woman was expected to put the man in charge and then try to get what she wanted by manipulating him. Now she needs to be stronger and more assertive so they can be equal, genuine partners. It’s just as hard to learn to stand up for yourself effectively as a woman as it is to develop your sensitive side as a man.

The New Relationship

You may not know it but, if you are married or in a committed relationship, you are in what I call “The New Relationship.” Both men and women have to adjust to the new power dynamics of relationships now that most women work outside the home and continue to work even after having children. This transformation is the root cause of many current relationship challenges.

A lot of women have said to me, “When we moved in together, he pitched in and helped with the housework. Everything seemed so promising and then somehow we ended up in my parents’ marriage. Now I have a full time job and do almost all of the work at home.”

One of the biggest complaints that women have is that men don’t share the workload at home and with the children. And it’s not as much about her being overworked as it is about his not being a real partner. The bottom line is that they both have to see the relationship in a new light.

Handling Responsibilities

Susan and Paul came in to see me because they were very close to divorce and since they had children they wanted to make sure they were making the right decision. Both of them had been working in retail management, one at a clothing store and the other at a grocery store.

They said when they first got together they had a lot of fun. They liked a lot of the same things and each couldn’t help but laugh a little when they told me they enjoyed each other’s sense of humor.

The challenges came when they had children, because Susan began to realize that she was taking on the role of supermom. She said when she got home from work she’d often find Paul by following the trail of clothes on the floor. She didn’t like it, but she handled it by thinking that both of them were busy and wasn’t that her job anyway?

Doing Double Duty

However, things started falling apart when Paul lost his job and Susan started putting in extra hours at work to make up for the loss of income. She’d always thought that if he were at home more and didn’t work so hard, he’d pick up after himself. Unfortunately he didn’t change.

He did do a little bit more with the kids by taking them to school and picking them up. But after Paul was off work for more than a year and she still had to be supermom, Susan was ready to explode. Their fights became more and more intense and they were getting more and more distant. Then the day came when in the middle of one of their fights they began speaking about divorce. That’s when they showed up at my office.

When a couple comes in with these problems, often the first thing I have to get past is the insults from his being a lazy tyrant to her being a nagging, well, to her being a nag. This was pretty much how Susan and Paul were framing the conflict and it was my job to get them to see the difference between the old relationship that their parents had and the one they had in the present.

I had each one describe what life was like at home when they were growing up. Paul talked about the usual distant father who disappeared to work and came home late. Susan had pretty much the same experience growing up. Her mother worked part-time in retail sales and did all the housework and childcare. Her father was a regional manager who was constantly putting out fires at work.

Starting to Communicate

Therapy proceeded as it often does when couples have at least some level of deposits to their Love Bank Account. Initially, because they were in a therapy session and I managed their interaction, each one had a safe place to air their grievances without it getting out of hand and hurtful. Then they each learned to talk about their upset and hurt without making the argument worse.

It was then that Susan could see how she hadn’t been asserting herself and taking care of her needs in a way that he could hear her. She had been doing what her mother used to do which was just take care of everything and assume the supermom role.

Paul learned that Susan was often doing things for him without him recognizing how women take care of relationships. Both were beginning to fill their love back account again and things were going smoother at home. Paul started doing more of the chores at home he said “At least until I can get a good job again.”

Under some circumstances men do become the housekeepers and when he does he’s acting more like a partner he’s not becoming a woman. They were on the right track and divorce had been taken off the table.

Developing a Partnership

Now the real challenge emerged. How do you become real partners and share the work at home? When I asked them what they were going to do the first response was to draw up a big schedule and divide up housekeeping and childcare duties in detail.

I told them that this was almost guaranteed to be a disaster. I’ve experienced family conferences as a child and the one thing I’ve noticed is that the grand plans and schedules rarely last more than a couple of days, if that long. Then someone, usually the mother, takes the role of supervisor and tries to get everyone to do what they’re supposed to do. The result is more squabbling and arguing than before and even more hurt feelings.

I’d already seen how Susan and Paul could get into top dog and underdog positions in their arguments about housekeeping. She would attack and he would defend himself. The longer the argument went on, the more they each got stuck in their position. The first step was showing them how to deal with an issue and not get stuck in a painful emotional wrestling match. Then they needed to learn how to be true partners and handle these issues together.

The secret is now at your fingertips. I wrote these valuable insights based on my experience helping thousands of couples discover new, more successful ways of being together. Yes, relationships are a challenge, but so is living alone.  Relationships are an opportunity to grow and are ultimately more fulfilling than any other experience you can have in life.




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