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Sex with Dr. Jess


September 14, 2023

A Guide to Compassionate Communication

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  • How do you cultivate deeper connections through communication?
  • How can you summon compassion in the heat of conflict?
  • How do you define non-violent communication?
  • What is polyvagal theory?

Sander T. Jones joins Jess and Brandon to explore these questions and share additional concepts from their book, Cultivating Connection: A Practical Guide for Personal and Relationship Growth in ethical non-monogamy. 

Sander is a licensed clinical social worker, certified hypnotherapist, and author in Atlanta, Georgia with over a decade of experience working with people in ethically non-monogamous relationships, people in the kink/BDSM/Leather communities, LGBTQ+ communities, and people doing voluntary sex work. As a relationship therapist they have taught hundreds of people the steps and principles for repairing relationship bonds and then deepening those bonds through collaborative communication, respecting the rights and autonomy of themselves and their partners, being aware of interpersonal power, and avoiding the abuse of that power when it arises in our relationships. You can contact Sander at and following on Facebook and Instagram.


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Rough Transcript:

This is a computer-generated rough transcript, so please excuse any typos. This podcast is an informational conversation and is not a substitute for medical, health, or other professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the services of an appropriate professional should you have individual questions or concerns.

A Guide to Compassionate Communication

Episode 334

[00:00:00] You’re listening to the sex with Dr. Jess podcast, sex and relationship advice. You can use tonight

[00:00:15] Jess O’Reilly: here in Atlanta at sex down south. And the reason you know, we’re at six down south is that I have no voice left.

[00:00:21] Brandon Ware: I was going to say, you got your sexy voice going on.

[00:00:23] Jess O’Reilly: Oh my dear God. And it’s not from being in the dungeon.

[00:00:25] Jess O’Reilly: It’s not from doing anything fun. I think it’s just from dry air.

[00:00:28] Brandon Ware: You should have said it was something fun.

[00:00:29] Jess O’Reilly: I know. I know. I wish it was something more fun, but we are having a great time. And if you’ve ever listened before and heard me talk about Sex Town South, I think it’s the most brilliant sex conference.

[00:00:39] Jess O’Reilly: It is my absolute favorite. Uh, I’m such a massive fan of Marla and Tia, the founders. Marla, of course, is the coauthor of our latest book. And, uh, among the brilliant minds who are presenting here in Atlanta, we have with us right now, Sander T. Jones, a licensed clinical social worker, certified hypnotherapist.

[00:00:55] Jess O’Reilly: Ooh, I want to ask you about that. author. Uh, you’re located in Atlanta. You have over a decade of experience and you’ve recently released Cultivating Connection, a practical guide for personal and relationship growth in ethical non monogamy. Thank you for chatting with us.

[00:01:08] Sander T. Jones: Thank you so much for having me.

[00:01:10] Sander T. Jones: It’s really an honor to be on your show.

[00:01:11] Jess O’Reilly: Oh, well, we’re, we’re so appreciative. I’m excited to learn from you. I’ve looked over all of the wealth of info. in your latest book, Cultivating Connection. I think it’s your first book, right? It is my first book. Yes. Congrats on that. Well, first and foremost, tell us about you.

[00:01:24] Jess O’Reilly: Tell us a little bit about your background, professional, personal, anything you feel like sharing.

[00:01:27] Sander T. Jones: Okay. Professional background. I specialize in treating people in the ethically non monogamous communities. Also LGBTQ plus communities, kink, BDSM and leather communities and people who do voluntary sex work.

[00:01:39] Sander T. Jones: Therapeutically, I specialize in treating trauma and doing relationship therapy. My personal background is one where I come from a background where I went through a lot of abuse as a child and spent a good 25 years working on myself before I became trained to be a therapist. And so a lot of what has motivated me to write a book and the future books I plan on [00:02:00] writing is that when I was young, and of course not very functional because of all this complex PTSD I had, I couldn’t afford therapy and I leaned a lot on self help books.

[00:02:07] Sander T. Jones: So I’m wanting to give back and write those books now using the therapeutic knowledge and experience I have so that people who either can’t access therapy or want to use self help books as an adjunct to their therapy have these resources.

[00:02:20] Jess O’Reilly: And so when you were relying on self help books, did you see yourself?

[00:02:23] Jess O’Reilly: reflected in the identities of the authors, in the case studies, in the information you were receiving?

[00:02:29] Sander T. Jones: Often, no. But, um, but those of us in minority communities, we’ve learned a long time ago to translate and try to make things understandable for ourselves. So, um, I am writing very much from a very queer perspective and very, um, affirming of people in the kink BDSM communities, people doing power dynamic relationships so that we don’t have to translate.

[00:02:49] Jess O’Reilly: You know, I wonder, I imagine people arrive at your office. Having seen therapists who maybe weren’t kink aware, weren’t kink friendly, what have you heard, what are, what’s really missing from traditional, I shouldn’t say traditional, Western therapeutic training and practice for folks who are in the BDSM community?

[00:03:05] Sander T. Jones: Oh, that’s a really long list. I will say that it’s, it’s getting a little bit better. Um, I’m seeing more and more trainings that are mainstream that include some aspect for non monogamy. But I haven’t seen much yet for kink. It’s, it’s still really not addressed at all, I think, in our training. And so, since people are raised in this culture and come to things with their own biases, If those are never addressed in our training, then the therapists are walking into working with clients with their own personal biases of this must be unhealthy, this must be, you’re only interested in this because you were traumatized in some way.

[00:03:42] Sander T. Jones: If we fix and heal your trauma, you won’t want to do this weird kinky stuff, or you’re reliving your trauma, or you know, things like that.

[00:03:48] Jess O’Reilly: kink has the potential to help to heal trauma. Very much. We hear that all the time from clients, many of us have been through that.

[00:03:56] Sander T. Jones: It’s important to remember that.

[00:03:58] Sander T. Jones: That kink practice isn’t therapy, [00:04:00] but can be therapeutic, can be very therapeutic.

[00:04:02] Jess O’Reilly: I really appreciate that distinction, but also just the recognition of any practice that is therapeutic. And I think that’s so important for those of us, maybe, you know, when we come from a cultural background where therapy wasn’t not just inaccessible to us, even if it was accessible financially, we would have never pursued it.

[00:04:16] Jess O’Reilly: Like I’m the first generation for sure in my family where we would actually go and seek support. I think about like a very significant trauma in my family in 1955 and I’m not going to get into what it is because it’s deeply personal and a, you know, a headline that is so frightening. And my, my mom was five years old.

[00:04:33] Jess O’Reilly: Her cousins were all in that range. There were 35 of them who grew up around the block together actually. And therapy was not an option, right? Um, you know, covering up, made up stories. Those types of things were options, but not therapy. And so, for us, to go back to where I was at a moment ago, so many different practices were therapeutic, if not therapy itself.

[00:04:53] Jess O’Reilly: So, okay, so your book is about personal and relationship growth in ethical non monogamy. I think the messages contained therein are relevant to everybody, regardless of whether you’re ethically non monogamous, whether you’re queer, whether you’re kinky, whether you’re vanilla, all the things in between.

[00:05:08] Jess O’Reilly: And it’s really focused on healthy relationships. So why don’t we start there? Like the million dollar question. Yes. What does it mean to be in a healthy relationship?

[00:05:17] Sander T. Jones: It’s this, how do I sum that up? I did include early in the book, um, a description of healthy relationships and the spirit of healthy relationships and how to approach communication with this.

[00:05:28] Sander T. Jones: Spirit of collaboration and love and affection, mostly because so many of us come from a background where we didn’t just have that in our families and we didn’t see it that if you have no frame of reference for it, you have no idea if the conflict in your relationships is of a damaging value or what we might think of as a as a normal value or healable.

[00:05:48] Sander T. Jones: And so we don’t know whether or not to take the measurement of this relationship and say this is just too toxic and I need to remove myself or this has the potential to improve and get better and heal or this is really [00:06:00] great and I should really appreciate it. You know, if you don’t have that frame of reference, so I wanted to include that as a frame of reference early in the book for those of us who don’t historically come from people who would demonstrate that for us.

[00:06:10] Jess O’Reilly: Yeah. And if you’ve only seen one version, you can either go for something exactly like that. Or I’m sure you see in your practice as well. People go for the. exact opposite to another extreme. So when you talk about healthy relationships or even healthy conflict, what does it look like for you? What are some of the values that you would see in a healthy relationship, acknowledging that health means different things to different people and no two relationships are the same.

[00:06:30] Sander T. Jones: It’s a, it’s a balance between what’s healthy and growth inspiring for the individual and what builds the trust and security and health of the relationship. And when we do this with the right mindset and the right methods and the right understanding of these things. They work symbiotically together.

[00:06:48] Sander T. Jones: I’ve I’ve seen a lot of confusion with my clients coming in, especially wanting to talk about the topic of boundaries, almost as though they think boundaries are there to protect me from the needs of my relationship or from the needs of my partner, as though these things are in opposition. And so I started the book trying to just clarify that I was writing blog posts and trying to clarify this information.

[00:07:08] Jess O’Reilly: So when you talk about that Balance. How do you figure out how much is too much to, for example, compromise or give up or shift for the relationship versus, listen, we’re humans and we’re going to live in community. So you have to make adjustments. I can’t just do what I want all the time. Do people come to you with those issues?

[00:07:25] Jess O’Reilly: And is there a way to identify how much it’s okay to shift, to change, to evolve, to even compromise with the spirit of, as you said, collaboration in mind?

[00:07:34] Sander T. Jones: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, in a way that that is exactly what people tend to come to relationship counseling for. And if they come early enough, that’s what they’re coming for.

[00:07:41] Sander T. Jones: If they come late enough, they’re coming with that and months or years of resentments and anger built up at each other because they’ve been struggling with that. Uh, how do we know when we’re giving away too much and when we are not giving enough that balance? is built on the back of several concepts. I start with what I consider our basic [00:08:00] human rights.

[00:08:00] Sander T. Jones: And when I say that, it means if we compromise on these, it will literally cause us harm. It will cause harm to our self esteem, our self respect, our feeling of safety in the world. And I see people struggling with wondering whether or not they should compromise on something like that or learn how to just be okay with somebody literally violating one of their basic human rights.

[00:08:20] Sander T. Jones: So I start by teaching people this, and that these are non negotiable. That we have to learn how to look inward and ask ourselves whether or not this is going to harm me on a basic level. Like, if I felt like I was… Non monogamous to my core, and I needed that in order to be happy in my life and happy in my relationships, and I was involved with somebody who could only be happy if they were monogamous.

[00:08:41] Sander T. Jones: If I try to compromise on that, it’s going to harm me. If they try to compromise on theirs, it’s going to harm them. But if I’m a person where I can be flexible with that, because some people see it more as a relationship structure, and they can be happy in a non monogamous structure or in a monogamous structure, now I can potentially be flexible with that without harming myself.

[00:08:59] Jess O’Reilly: Yeah, I see this difference between identity and preference, or even strong preference. And I think you and I probably fall into that. Like, I wouldn’t consider myself a non monogamist in terms of identity, but I definitely can live in a relationship and enjoy and thrive in a relationship that is not monogamous, ethically non monogamous, just as I could.

[00:09:16] Jess O’Reilly: I know I can also thrive and live my life to its fullest, at times, in a monogamist relationship. And I don’t know. I’m 40. How old am I? 43 years old. I don’t know how I’ll feel when I’m 53 or 63. So it’s not at least at this point in my life, part of my essence, part of my identity. Whereas for example, being Chinese Jamaican is being queer is like, these are a part of me.

[00:09:36] Jess O’Reilly: So you talk about basic human rights and relationships. And I know that folks need to check out this book, Cultivating Connection, Practical Guide for Personal and Relationship Growth and Ethical Non Monogamy to learn more. But can you tell us? What some of those basic human rights are, you’ve already, you know, clarified some of them have to do with your identity.

[00:09:51] Sander T. Jones: Yes, we have the right to, there’s 13 of them. I’m probably not going to remember them all off the top of my head, but there’s the right to full bodily and sexual autonomy. There’s a [00:10:00] right to be spoken to with respect and treated with dignity, the right to determine our own identities and Build our outward expression around that, the right to love who we choose to love, be friends with who we choose to be friends with and invest energy in maintaining those relationships, the right to be given the information we need for informed consent and for that information to be given in a timely and honest and clear manner.

[00:10:23] Jess O’Reilly: That’s a pretty good memory, because even when it’s your own work, it’s always hard to keep up, especially if you’re a person who’s coming up with all these different concepts. Yes. Right, I find that, you know, I can write things, I can create things, I can talk about them, and then I just put them out of my mind.

[00:10:34] Jess O’Reilly: But, and I think that the framework of basic human rights within a relationship could be so helpful, and my… Estimation would be that if I read through the ones you’ve come up with, it would help me to kind of identify which ones are core to me and maybe others that I need to pull in. So I think that’s a really great framework from which to begin when you’re starting in a relationship.

[00:10:53] Jess O’Reilly: And it’s never too late. Of course, anyone in the field who’s helping wishes people would come to us earlier. Yes, of course. Yes. But it’s also never too late to make that change to start to have those, those conversations. So I hear you speaking about a number of concepts. The concept of collaboration keeps coming up.

[00:11:08] Jess O’Reilly: Yes. As essential to a healthy relationship. You also write about non violent communication. And I think when people think non violent, we think, oh, you’re not yelling and screaming at me. Although that can be very cultural as well, because my family yells and screams in love. But what does that mean to really engage in non violent communication?

[00:11:24] Sander T. Jones: Sure. Uh, non violent communication, um, is, it’s an old, very old book written by somebody Rosenberg. And, uh, what, what he’s referencing when he says that is that Um, we often tend to judge everything and if when we’re communicating with each other, we’re often throwing judgments back and forth. So he’s talking about removing those judgments as they are, whether they’re spoken calmly or through yelling, they are violent.

[00:11:48] Sander T. Jones: They are doing violence to the other person. And so when we say, you didn’t do the dishes, do you think you’re too good to do the dishes? You lazy SOB, whether we’re yelling it or saying it quietly, we are attacking the other person and we’re throwing our [00:12:00] judgments of their character and their behavior at them.

[00:12:02] Sander T. Jones: And even the fact that they didn’t do the dishes as wrong and bad, you know,

[00:12:05] Jess O’Reilly: right? That theory of there isn’t always a good and a bad, there isn’t always a right and a wrong. That’s a really hard thing. Like for me personally to wrap my mind, right? And so letting go of. Those belief systems and judgment is so hard.

[00:12:19] Jess O’Reilly: So what’s the alternative to that? If I’m pissed off that Brennan hasn’t done the dishes, which is not the case because you’re definitely the dishes doer around here.

[00:12:27] Brandon Ware: I’m always doing the dishes, but I also don’t mind.

[00:12:30] Jess O’Reilly: This poor guy never stops doing dishes because I’m constantly cooking for like 30.

[00:12:33] Brandon Ware: We’re always having a party. And it’s never for, like, two people. Yeah. It’s like, let’s have a party and invite 50 people.

[00:12:39] Jess O’Reilly: Always. Into our tiny little, tiny little space. So if I’m mad that he’s not doing the dishes, what is the alternative to non violent communication around that?

[00:12:47] Sander T. Jones: Well, it starts with just…

[00:12:49] Sander T. Jones: Expressing what you see and how you feel about it. Hmm. I see dishes in the kitchen, I feel upset by that. So there’s no attack of Brandon there. Right. It’s just this, I, I feel upset I see dishes in the kitchen. And then it invites a conversation about what were you expecting? I didn’t think that was expected of me just now.

[00:13:07] Jess O’Reilly: Hmm. You know. You know, that makes me also think it invites a reflection on my part. Like, why do I have this expectation? Is it because I did all the cooking and I expect him to do the cleaning? Or is it because I believe that it’s Brandon’s job to do the dishes because he always does the dishes? Is it because I have an expectation where I want the dishes done immediately, whereas other people don’t really care if the dishes sit in the sink overnight?

[00:13:27] Jess O’Reilly: And I have to admit, that’s where letting go of the judgment is hard, because me? I cannot fathom leaving the dishes in the sink overnight, but that is a personal value and, and I’m putting that judgment on other people. Like it’s no big deal if dishes sit in the sink, like the world will not come to an end.

[00:13:41] Jess O’Reilly: My identity will not collapse. My basic human rights and my relationship are probably unaffected. So it takes you back to that framework you’ve created.

[00:13:47] Sander T. Jones: Right. But when we speak with those judgments, now we’re attacking the other person. And not only does the other person respond defensively, but now there’s actual damage happening to the bond between the two people.

[00:13:58] Sander T. Jones: Because whether [00:14:00] Brandon is getting the message that you’re not appreciating the fact that he’s kept up with the dishes really well up to now, or you didn’t even ask him whether or not there’s a reason he didn’t do them today, like maybe he’s got a migraine, whatever the reason is.

[00:14:12] Jess O’Reilly: Maybe his thumb hurts.

[00:14:12] Jess O’Reilly: Does your thumb hurt too much to do the dishes?

[00:14:14] Brandon Ware: Yeah, that’s the reason why I didn’t do the dishes.

[00:14:17] Jess O’Reilly: Right, the context is so important.

[00:14:19] Sander T. Jones: Exactly. And so as soon as we start attacking the other person, because we have all these assumptions in our minds and they feel attacked, it feels on this subconscious level, like you suddenly don’t care about me.

[00:14:30] Sander T. Jones: You don’t care about me. You don’t care about my feelings. You don’t care about what’s important to me. Maybe I didn’t do the dishes because I had homework. I’m working on this master’s degree. How can you not care about what I value? And then we’re feeling this rift happen. In the relationship bond. And so whenever there’s an argument going on, there’s usually two arguments happening at the same time.

[00:14:48] Sander T. Jones: We’re only aware of the surface level one, which is who’s going to wash the dishes and when is it going to happen? But right underneath the surface, especially for people in bonded relationships, is this argument about do you still care about me? And if I’m starting to get the messages that you don’t care, it’s literally going to send some people into the panicky fight flight freeze response because those relationship bonds are so core to our happiness and security and stability as people.

[00:15:13] Sander T. Jones: So that’s where we get sent into a panic. Have you ever wondered how people could get into such heated arguments over things like, did you buy stamps or did you do the dishes? It’s because the argument is really about the bond and the relationship and whether or not you’re communicating to me that you don’t care about my feelings right now.

[00:15:27] Brandon Ware: So all of these things that you’re saying are so listen, I’m reflecting on them. I think they’re, they’re insightful, but a lot of people don’t. Want to even either. They don’t know how or they don’t know where to begin to start having these conversations because

[00:15:41] Jess O’Reilly: we’re to stop ourselves from going to that place.

[00:15:43] Brandon Ware: It’s so introspective, right? So I’m sitting here. I’m like, yeah, I’m angry because she’s angry because I didn’t do the dishes. And it’s like, well, what’s the root issue? How do I get there? How do you. Encourage people to even begin. Is it going back to your basic human right principles? Like, is that where you start the conversation [00:16:00] to get to some of these deeper questions?

[00:16:01] Sander T. Jones: Well, no, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t start there. First, I’d say it’s really important for everyone to have compassion for themselves in that this is how we’ve not only typically been raised in our families to communicate with each other, but it’s also what we see in media. It’s what we see our friends doing.

[00:16:16] Sander T. Jones: I mean, so. Most of us don’t know any better, and growth is is typically a slow, multi stepped process. So right now, we’re just sort of drawing people’s attention to the fact there is a possibility of doing this differently. Where I would start is when we notice that we’re in any sort of heated discussion at all, we’re somewhere on the dimmer dial of the fight, flight, freeze response.

[00:16:36] Sander T. Jones: You know, you start it at calm. and collaborative and happy and affectionate and bonded. And you can go to a little bit irritated or a little bit nervous. And then you can go to angry or frightened. And then you can go all the way over here into enraged or terrified. All of that is somewhere on the dimmer dial of the fight flight freeze response.

[00:16:53] Sander T. Jones: And when we’re in the fight flight freeze response, we’re literally… Our brains are impaired. It cuts off access to the executive functions of problem solving and empathy and compassion gets shut off. Which is why that thing that… We might have been thinking about our partner for months, but we don’t say because we’re kind and we don’t want to be mean and we care about their feelings.

[00:17:14] Sander T. Jones: As soon as we get into a heated argument and empathy gets cut off, it suddenly sounds like that truth they need to hear. Because empathy is the filter.

[00:17:21] Brandon Ware: I’m so glad that you brought up the words empathy and compassion. The last, uh, week or two, I’ve really been reflecting on that. And so much so that every time I’m having a conversation with someone, I’m crossing someone on the street, I’m taking an opportunity to try and feel compassion for them.

[00:17:36] Brandon Ware: And focusing in on that compassion has really helped. Like it immediately kind of, it dismantles that anger. irritation and I feel more receptive. I I’m more inclined to problem solve. I’m more inclined to think about the perspective of the other person and how they’re feeling. So that compassion element has been a game changer for me lately.

[00:17:58] Brandon Ware: Just focusing [00:18:00] in. on it. It’s been really helpful.

[00:18:02] Jess O’Reilly: How do you access that compassion in the heat of the moment, though?

[00:18:04] Sander T. Jones: I just want to respond to what you said real quickly, though. That is beautiful. That sounds like a very conscious, purposeful exercise in bringing yourself to what Polyvagal Theory calls safe and social mode.

[00:18:16] Sander T. Jones: That if you’re walking around in this place of anger, then you’re you’re in Fight, flight, freeze, even if it’s just a little bit, you’re in fight mode. And you’re consciously taking that opportunity to bring yourself out of that and into what polyvagal theory calls safe and social mode. And so that, that applies to what we’re talking about with heated arguments in that we need to be in that safe and social mode to problem solve with our partners well, to have compassion and empathy for our partners so that we can solve problems from a collaborative.

[00:18:46] Sander T. Jones: place. But when we go into fight flight freeze, we can’t access that fight flight freeze either causes the sympathetic nervous system or the dorsal vagal nerve to take over. And we lose access to those executive brain functions that we need. So the first step is for people to start recognizing that they’re in fight flight freeze.

[00:19:03] Sander T. Jones: What are the symptoms they can recognize in themselves? Cause there’s a bunch of symptoms. There’s some, no one can recognize like your digestion slows down. But we’ll each recognize our own unique symptoms. Like I tend to notice a kind of a tunnel vision and ringing in my ears. Other people will notice their heart speed up or their handshake.

[00:19:20] Sander T. Jones: Some people will feel a flush of heat as they go into anger and that heat and red that they see in their eyes. Others will feel more of a blood draining from their face and that ice water feeling in your intestines. So whatever symptoms you can recognize in yourself, learn to label that I’m somewhere in fight flight freeze.

[00:19:38] Sander T. Jones: My brain is now impaired and it’s just as irresponsible for me to continue a conversation with my partner right now as it would be for me to drink and drive because that’s also brain impairment.

[00:19:49] Jess O’Reilly: Absolutely. Brandon, I just want to mention, I can see the vein come out on your forehead when you go into the, uh, I really do.

[00:19:56] Brandon Ware: I have, I have a vein that pops out of my forehead, [00:20:00] but I, It’s not here right now. Is it not? Good. Good. I’m feeling compassion. Um, but in all seriousness, I, you know, I, I realized that I had modeled behavior growing up about, you know, I jokingly called it zero to 60 or zero to 100 and it was just that immediate sort of irritation, anger, you know, You cutting off the ability to problem solve, to think, and to be compassionate.

[00:20:23] Brandon Ware: Like that was what was modeled and, you know, learning to turn inwards has been, you know, very helpful. It’s not perfect. I’m not great at it, but just saying the word compassion immediately makes me think about the other person’s perspective. And I notice that it, it just, again, it just dismantles it. It kind of all the, all the walls start coming down right off the bat.

[00:20:46] Brandon Ware: And I’m enjoying this new kind of pathway to problem solving. It’s not perfect, but it’s, it’s a great starting point.

[00:20:56] Jess O’Reilly: That’s a great strategy to share because not everybody’s will be the same, but you just thinking of the word is a way to calm that nervous system, right? Yes. I guess ease or assuage the brain impairment you’re describing me.

[00:21:08] Jess O’Reilly: I often think about like leading from my heart. I literally think about my chest like, and I, cause I feel a human connection to everybody. And I just think about like, am I, am I approaching this person with my heart? Cause I do believe, I believe we love everyone. I know we throw the word love around for people we’re very close to romantic love, but I do think there’s.

[00:21:25] Jess O’Reilly: the universal human love. So I think we all have our strategies and I’m sure in practice you help people with different ways to kind of access that compassion in light of that brain impairment.

[00:21:35] Sander T. Jones: I love what you just said about love because it reminds me of bell hooks definition of love. You, um, her book, um, all about love, new visions.

[00:21:43] Sander T. Jones: And she talks about people think that love is just this feeling that you feel for someone else. She has a different word for that. And she talks about love as this is a practice. This is a set of skills, the way we speak to people, the way we interact with them. This is a practice that we need to make sustainable and as a [00:22:00] daily practice.

[00:22:01] Sander T. Jones: And the more close and bonded our relationships, the more we’re going to do that with that person every day, multiple times a day. all day long. It’s about how we’re interacting with them, communicating to them that we value them, and we feel this affection for them, and we want to nurture their growth.

[00:22:16] Sander T. Jones: That’s the will to nurture our own and another’s growth. And so there’s that focus on growth again. And when I read that, it fed right into what I was trying to articulate about when the individuals are taking responsibility for their own individual growth. It impacts positively the growth of the relationship and the growth of the relationship is impacting positively the growth of the individuals in it.

[00:22:38] Brandon Ware: Bell hooks definition to me resonated so much, you know, the way I interpret it was kind of like supporting your partner to live their best life. Absolutely. Do you know what I mean? And that for me, I was like, wow, how, how. What a wonderful definition of what love is for me to help my partner live the best version of their life I would imagine that my partner is going to be like wow, you want me to live this way?

[00:23:01] Brandon Ware: I want you to live this way too. And it’s just this cyclical, you know effect where You, you benefit, you both benefit so much.

[00:23:09] Jess O’Reilly: And if you see love as limitless, it’s easier to look at relationships that way. Like we’ve talked about it many times on the podcast, whether it’s something in your career, something socially for you, something practical, something health related, something sexual.

[00:23:21] Jess O’Reilly: I always, I’m like, why would I want to hold you back in this short life we have together? I want you to have. all the joy, all the pleasure, all the fulfillment. And I’m not saying that I’m going to compromise everything, all of my values. And I, that’s why I’m really interested in reading more about these basic human rights, because sometimes your desires could be at odds with those basic human rights.

[00:23:40] Jess O’Reilly: And that’s a great way to figure out what your own are, read through the ones in your book, of course, and then figure out which ones really resonate with you. Now you’ve, you were talking about. That flow between personal growth and relational wellness or fulfillment and actually when you brought it up the first time the first my first thought was bell hooks definition of love and it brings to me to [00:24:00] some another concept in your book around personal responsibility flow chart.

[00:24:03] Jess O’Reilly: Yes. So I’d love for you to explain that to us to kind of close things out and how that’s relevant. in relationships regardless of whether you’re monogamous or non monogamous. And if we have time, I’m also curious how these things might apply differently in ethically non monogamous relationships, but to the personal responsibility flow chart.

[00:24:20] Sander T. Jones: So, um, just before getting to the personal responsibility flow chart there, there’s a lot of collaborative work that I recommend people do. So because if you can come to those solutions over thing, whether it’s the dishes or whether or not somebody is going to take a promotion and the whole family has to move to another state, working through those things collaboratively and trying to find solutions that work for everyone is the direction to go first.

[00:24:41] Sander T. Jones: If those don’t work, now we need something like the personal responsibility flow chart because, and. In a way, I think this goes back to there, there is some criticism out there about nonviolent communication that it can leave room for people to abuse the concept. And so this next part really, I think, solves that problem.

[00:24:58] Sander T. Jones: So once you understand the individual human rights, then you get to, you’ve got to figure out if. If you’ve come to a solution, but people still have painful emotions, or you’ve not able to come to a solution because people just want really different things. Now you have to ask the question, who’s responsible for what?

[00:25:16] Sander T. Jones: What growth is my work to do? What growth is the other person’s work to do? And I really encourage people to not think of this as who’s right and who’s wrong. But sometimes when, if I’m feeling insecure, and I think the only solution to that is controlling my partner’s behavior, I’m now overstepping, and I’m trying to re…

[00:25:34] Sander T. Jones: Direct their human rights and calling it controlling. Of course, sounds judgmental, but it’s still, that’s my growth work to do. So the personal responsibility flow chart starts with a painful emotion and you can work the chart in two different directions. So in one direction, it’s let’s see the painful emotion I’m feeling is guilt.

[00:25:51] Sander T. Jones: My partner maybe is telling me that I’m hurting them in some way. I feel badly about it, but I don’t know what else to do, and I’m feeling this [00:26:00] guilt. So the first question to ask myself is, did I violate one of their basic human rights? And I review all 13 rights, and if I determine that I have, I need to take responsibility for that.

[00:26:09] Sander T. Jones: I need to apologize. I need to make amends if I can, and I need to go back to respecting their human rights. But if I didn’t violate one of their human rights, the next question to ask is, did I violate one of our relationship agreements? If I did, same process. I own up to it. I admit it. I apologize. I make amends if I can, and I go back to respecting the relationship agreement, or it means we need to renegotiate this relationship agreement.

[00:26:31] Sander T. Jones: Relationship agreements can always be renegotiated. Human rights are non negotiable. But, if I feel guilty, and I didn’t violate one one of their rights, and I didn’t violate a relationship agreement, then I have work to do. Because why am I feeling guilty? And if the other person is telling me I’ve harmed them, then I maybe need to learn to stand up for myself and say, no, I didn’t do that.

[00:26:51] Sander T. Jones: I didn’t violate your rights. I didn’t violate a relationship agreement. I understand you’re upset with me, but that doesn’t sound like it’s my work to do. The guilt is my work to do. The learning to stand up for myself is, but the reason the other person’s upset, that’s probably their work to do. And so working the chart on the other side, it’s the same way.

[00:27:06] Sander T. Jones: If I’m upset with someone and I feel they’ve wronged me or they’ve harmed me, I ask, did they violate one of my rights? If the answer is yes, then I need them to acknowledge that. I need them to make amends if possible. I need them to go back to respecting my rights. An important caveat there is my ability to do that might be limited by my interpersonal power in the situation.

[00:27:24] Sander T. Jones: Okay. Now that’s really important because people often come to me. being really upset with themselves that they didn’t stand up for themselves in a given situation. But when we examine it, it would have been way too costly for them. And so they need to engage some compassion for themselves. So it’s a lot easier for me to stand up for myself if I’m at either the power up position or an equal power position.

[00:27:44] Sander T. Jones: Let’s say a friend has asked me for a favor and I’m helping them with something and then they get upset and they start cursing me out and talking very disrespectfully to me. It’s easy for me to say, hey, it’s not okay to talk to me like that. You need to talk to me respectfully or I’m going to go home.

[00:27:56] Sander T. Jones: I’m not going to help you with your project. But what if that person is now my boss and I’m [00:28:00] dependent on that paycheck? I need it or my career is dependent on this person or my family is dependent on this income. There’s multiple people dependent on me. The cost is really high now for me to stand up to my boss and say, it’s not okay to speak to me that way.

[00:28:12] Sander T. Jones: I’m aware I could get fired. I’m aware he could send me home and I could lose hours of work or essentially dock my pay. I could miss the next promotion. You know? So now I’m being forced to choose between two things I value highly. My self respect and my livelihood.

[00:28:26] Jess O’Reilly: And that really speaks to why some people have more access to these tools, to these strategies, and across, I think, the relationship research area, field, or psychology, or medicine.

[00:28:38] Jess O’Reilly: It just doesn’t apply unless we take the nuance with which you, yes, absolutely, and you’re applying that lens here. So I’m really looking forward.

[00:28:46] Sander T. Jones: Yeah.

[00:28:46] Jess O’Reilly: To reading this book. And I’m hearing so much from you. What I’ve really taken away is the value of compassion and how you access that compassion, the spirit of collaboration.

[00:28:54] Jess O’Reilly: But I think that’s where a lot of relationship advice kind of falls short because it’s like, oh, you need to communicate, you need to collaborate. But what happens when you just can’t come to terms? And then you’ve got our clarification, your clarification of rights and agreements. There needs to be these.

[00:29:08] Jess O’Reilly: Additional layers. I think a lot of people might be thinking, oh, this is like a lot of work, but this is the biggest thing in your life. Your relationships determine the quality of your life, right? And I don’t mean just intimate relationships, but all sorts of relationships and totally worth the investment.

[00:29:21] Jess O’Reilly: I love the formulaic stuff. I like the writing down. I like the clear understanding, but I know not everybody likes things that way. So I’m sure you can take the information contained. in the book and kind of adjust it, you know, into the poetry or the art or the, whatever formula works for you. So thank you so much.

[00:29:37] Jess O’Reilly: I think this is really excellent. Hope people will check out Cultivating Connection, a practical guide for personal and relationship growth in ethical non monogamy. I’ll give you the last word, Sandra.

[00:29:46] Sander T. Jones: Thank you so much. And I just also wanted to say that concept of, of interpersonal power. That’s really what a lot of this boils down to because we’re often completely unaware.

[00:29:54] Sander T. Jones: of it existing, particularly in our most intimate relationships, but that’s where people feel [00:30:00] power is abused over them or they feel victimized by someone. So whether it’s applying to your business relationships, your family relationships, your intimate relationships, if we can all develop an awareness of interpersonal power and learn how to see it coming, step back from it instead of using it to our advantage, bring it out into the open and speak of it so the other person knows it’s being dismantled.

[00:30:20] Sander T. Jones: That can really help so much.

[00:30:21] Jess O’Reilly: That must be so interesting when you’re working with clients who are in power dynamic situations where they’ve created power dynamics.

[00:30:28] Sander T. Jones: Yes. It applies differently there because now you have to stick to the power exchanges that have been consented to freely.

[00:30:34] Jess O’Reilly: Another time. We have to have you back to talk about that.

[00:30:36] Jess O’Reilly: I would love to. Uh, excellent. So folks, make sure you’re checking out Sandra T. Jones’s work, cultivating connection, practical guide for personal and relationship growth and ethical non monogamy. Thank you so much for your time. Thank you so much for having me. And thank you folks for listening. If you want to learn.

[00:30:49] Jess O’Reilly: Some new skills. We’re going to set up that podcast promo again at happiercouples. com. Use code podcast to save on mindful sex on six steps to overcoming premature ejaculation, as well as the mind blowing oral courses, which are getting an update, right? Brandon.

[00:31:03] Brandon Ware: They are coming soon.

[00:31:04] Jess O’Reilly: All right. That’s on Brandon.

[00:31:05] Jess O’Reilly: Thanks so much.

[00:31:07] Jess O’Reilly: You’re listening to the sex with Dr. Jess podcast, improve your sex life, improve your life.