Denise Richards came onto The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and pretty quickly proved she wasn't the least bit shy sharing the juicy stories and intimate details of her sex life with the rest of the cast. And while her new husband, Aaron Phypers, wasn't present for the infamous happy ending conversation, he was there — and mortified — when she dished about his penis size. Despite the fact that Richards was humble-bragging, it still begs the question: Do you need your partner’s permission before sharing that kind of information, and at what point does it cross into TMI territory?
Personal Space spoke with certified sex therapist Heather McPherson (LPC-S, LMFT-S, CST), to learn more about some of the themes that have come up recently on RHOBH. In addition to helping clients navigate a broad range of intimacy issues at her practice, McPherson is also the founder and CEO of the Sexual Health Alliance, which is a national organization that offers educational and collaborative opportunities to therapists and sexual health professionals.
According to McPherson, "TMI is whatever your partner tells you is TMI... this means that you both decide together what is private and what is OK to be shared.” Richards explained on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills After Show (clip above) that Phypers was embarrassed when she told her friends in front of him, especially because it was on camera and his mom would see it.
McPherson explained that talking to your partner about what you can share is “an ongoing conversation and can be specific to different types of friends/family” (what you share with a friend might be different than a sister or mother). Although for Phypers, having a big penis was not the source of the embarrassment; McPherson noted, “If the male partner is sensitive about penis size, then it most likely isn’t OK to share.” However, “an exception might be if you’re sharing with a safe and trusted friend" in order to problem solve and brainstorm "different positions, toys, or way to gain more mutual pleasure.”
If you accidentally share too much, repairing the situation can help relieve some tension. McPherson suggests “saying I’m sorry” and “discussing what the new agreement is” when it comes to sharing intimate information. If your partner was not present when the information was shared, some extra steps need to be taken to make it right.
The first is “communicating what has been shared and why” as well as “allowing opportunity for questions” about it. It’s good to communicate and re-evaluate what can be shared with whom and “what both parties are not comfortable with sharing in the future.” McPherson notes if “the couple can support each other and stick together, they might come out the other side stronger.”
Sharing Details with Friends
Talking about sex is normal and often women can get away with engaging in it more than men can. One reason for that is because it’s “often assumed, maybe rightfully so, that women have closer friendships, which in turn allows for intimate details to be shared more often.”
"Being in a relationship where it’s OK to talk to your friends can indicate the health of a relationship and maybe it'll be an even more successful relationship in the long run,” McPherson explained, adding, “It's important to be able to talk about sex and relationships with friends, as we can learn from each other, get validation, and get ideas.” On the other hand, “if you are not allowed to share anything, there’s the potential to get into trouble and feel isolated,” she noted.
Ending Awkward Conversations
However, just because a person is open to sharing intimate details of their sex life, doesn't always mean the people they are sharing it with feel the same way. If you are in a conversation that you think is TMI and you feel uncomfortable, McPherson says “communicating clearly and honestly can help.” She explained you can say, “I appreciate you sharing vulnerable details with me, however I don’t feel comfortable going into this much detail.” If you are less confrontational, McPherson suggested using a less direct approach like changing the subject, like, “I would love to tell you about my recent vacation, before I forget!”
In a conversation Richards had with her husband, she asked if he was going to be OK without having sex for four days while they were apart and told him he could “jerk-off” during phone sex. McPherson explained it is common for couples to “get creative” in order to “stay connected and intimate” at a distance, especially if they are used to regular physical intimacy.
McPherson says that sending sexy texts, photos, and videos, are just some ways that couples can keep the spark during time apart. There is also a “sex toy that can be controlled remotely” for those who are interested in a more interactive approach. If you decide to try any of these methods with a partner, the most important thing to do first is make sure you are both on board with it. The next is making sure “you have a mutual agreement with how these sexts get saved or shared [especially] if it’s a newer relationship.”
Happy Ending Massages
When it comes to happy ending massages and married couples, McPherson usually frames that type of arrangement as “ethical non-monogamy.” She explained, “It’s within the couple’s rights to decide what they agree to and with whom.” As long as the couple "has defined what their boundaries are and have clearly discussed implications and agreements" and stated that "happy ending massages are OK and acceptable" then it can be a form of "ethical non-monogamy.” Whether or not you decide to share with others that you made that arrangement, it's best to agree about that too!
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