Where you can find Wendi:
[Jon Dabach] 00:00
Today on the relationship Revival Show, I’m joined by guest Wendy L. Dombrowski. Wendy is a LPC, a licensed professional counselor in private practice, where she specializes in individual family, couples and sex therapy and provides a safe, nonjudgmental sex positive environment. She’s also a certified teacher of mindfulness and meditation. And I’m excited to have her on the show and talk about all of the above.
[Jon Dabach] 00:27
So much to unpack here, you’re listening to the relationship revival podcast with Jon Dabach, also known as Mr. Spirituality. That’s me. I’m your host giving you insights and guidance from over 10 years in the field of this amazing journey we call romance on this show, I go over everything you need to know about how to get into a relationship, how to get the most out of a relationship, and sometimes even how to gracefully end a relationship without pulling your hair out and going crazy. And occasionally, I’m even joined by new and old friends who are also relationship experts to bring you guidance and wisdom with new perspectives. Thanks for stopping by Wendy Dombrowski. Thank you so much for joining us.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 01:09
Thank you so much for having me here today.
[Jon Dabach] 01:12
So there’s a lot to talk about with you. And I always love to dive into topics that haven’t been covered, at least on my show as much. And one thing that, you know, in our kind of pre interview back and forth correspondence that that we discussed, was going over patterns in relationships, and recognizing them how to break patterns. And I’d love to just jump off and start right there. And kind of see, you know, how does that how does that affect the way you approach relationship and couples counseling?
[Wendi Dumbroff] 01:45
Yeah, that’s such a great question. Because actually looking at what happens between people forms the core of the work that I do with couples, sometimes also with like, parent child, anytime you have two people in relationship, I look at it systemically not about Oh, you do this. And if you didn’t do this, then you know, I wouldn’t do this. But more of like, what happens when you do this? What do I feel like?
[Wendi Dumbroff] 02:19
And then what do I do? And then how does that trigger you to feel more of what you do? And we get this self-sustaining cycle. So I listen, the very first session when I work, for example, with a couple I listened very closely, and I asked questions around. Oh, so you get upset when he you know, stomps out and doesn’t listen to you. Yeah, I really do. So I’m getting a que there that one of the ways that this person copes is by exiting by shutting down by leaving, right, and then perhaps when he leaves, she angrily pursues him.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 02:58
But the more she angrily pursues, the more he shuts down. And, and I use something called the vulnerability cycle, which really looks at what triggers you, and what do you do, and how that thing triggers the other person and then they do something that retriggered you and how there’s this self-sustaining cycle that happens, and I draw it out for people. It’s a beautiful cycle that was developed by Michel Shankman, and Mona fishbone. And, like, a few decades ago, and and it really is amazing how much it applies to every any interaction or pattern between any two people. And what’s,
[Jon Dabach] 03:40
What’s the magic secret sauce of breaking that pattern?
[Wendi Dumbroff] 03:44
Yeah, so we can’t change anything we’re not aware of. So when you can show this to people and help them understand like, okay, yeah, this is what’s going on. This is the dance that you do with each other. I always say couples have one argument, right? The content doesn’t matter underneath. There’s the same process. I felt unheard. I go yelling and screaming to be heard. He feels anxious, worthless. When I yell. He shuts down. And I’m being very sexist here. You know, the sort of, you know, generic
[Jon Dabach] 04:20
Use the archetypes Yeah, sure. That’s fine.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 04:23
It’s a good word. Yeah. And then the more he shuts down, the more I feel unheard, the more I angrily pursue, the more anxious and worthless he feels, the more he shuts down. So when people can see that dance, then it’s about understanding those triggers, how they were formed. We do explore their early their early lives and their experience and their childhood growing up significant experiences and adulthood as well form those triggers. And, and when they see that dance, then when they have that awareness, they have an opportunity to change
[Jon Dabach] 05:01
Are you a practitioner? Did you study any EFT just because they use the word dance so much?
[Wendi Dumbroff] 05:08
You know, I have studied EFT as well. I’m not certified in EFT. But I’ve gone through some of the EFT training and I use many of the EFT skills. Sure, the vulnerability cycle came before, long before EFT. And they’re very similar. The cycles are similar. The vulnerability cycle, I think is a little more expansive in it. And it’s a model that’s, I think, you know, it, somebody else may say No, for me this works.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 05:39
It’s like some people use your Siracha Some people use some other kind of hot sauce, right? So this kind of works for me, and I think it’s, it’s helpful for people can understand the model easily. And, and an understanding like how it is that they feel the way they do and, and cope the way they cope. Right. And then the Buddhist nun Pema children, says that when you see yourself going into those same habitual cycles, do something different, you have to have awareness that that’s happening, right? Because we already know that’s not useful.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 06:20
That hasn’t worked. That’s why you’re here, sitting here with me. So you have to change the dance and change the steps and do something different and understand, I think, making those connections with our past, oh, I don’t know, feeling hurt, because I never felt hurt as a kid. And that’s why this is so triggering. For me. That’s why this experience has so much valance, so much charge to it, because it’s old, and it’s rooted in old stuff. And helping people are gaining awareness around that. And making changes.
[Jon Dabach] 06:53
Very often we find that one of the partners in the couples a little more mature, a little more willing to change a little bit more willing to recognize patterns. What would you do? What would be your approach? And I know there are going to be people listening to this saying, Well, I’m willing to change, but he’s not or she’s not.
[Jon Dabach] 07:12
So I’ll do all this pattern recognition. And then it will just come to a dead stop when they keep doing the same old thing. And obviously, I’m a big proponent of telling people well, you got to focus on yourself first. But what if it does get to that point where that other person just doesn’t? isn’t willing to be that self-aware?
[Wendi Dumbroff] 07:31
Yeah, you’re right, that definitely happens. Sometimes it’s just an honest conversation. You know, Joe, I see Sue making us really made an effort here to make this change. And what I’m hearing is that you no matter what happens, you’re still going in, you’re still shutting down, and you’re still going.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 07:55
She’s trying to calm her anger and calm her pursuit, but she feels really triggered. And sometimes it’s really having an honest conversation, you know, I’m concerned. If this doesn’t change, then what? Right? If this doesn’t change, what does that mean? Also, very importantly, and again, you know, we talked in the pre meeting, before we talk a little bit about the fact that I kind of weave mindfulness throughout the work that I do.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 08:23
Yeah, absolutely. And what are the questions that I always ask people when there is some dilemma of change? Right? There is okay. So you know, you’re a smart person, most of the people I work with are very, you know, intelligent, no professional people. You know, intellectually what we’re asking you see the dot, you’re, you’re fully capable of understanding and, and I believe that you really want to make a shift, but for some reason, it doesn’t happen. Like what is the block? And in mindfulness, we say you, you be where you are.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 09:01
And if you are with a block, if you are with some sort of obstacle, then we have to open up and unpack the obstacle. What’s there, what’s between, you know, here, you’re on this side of the river. There’s a nice bridge to walk over. But for some reason, and you stay on this side, this side that’s kind of cold and muddy.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 09:23
And you see over there, it’s all nicely landscaped, and there’s a park and there’s cute animals, and you stay over here and kind of like the side that is overgrown and not so comfortable. Because I think that’s important too. So if you unpack that, right, what does that mean?
[Jon Dabach] 09:43
As a teacher of mindfulness as someone who lets that color, everything that you do and let that inform everything that you kind of use in your guidance? Can we just step back for a second and define mindfulness, the way you see it?
[Wendi Dumbroff] 10:00
Yes, thank you. Thank you for that and for your viewers. So mindfulness is about being present in this moment. Right here, right now. So the people, for anyone listening or watching to just be able to say, Okay, right now. This is how it is for me right now. This is I feel a little bit of a feeling in my chest, feel a little bit of I feel the seat underneath me. I noticed the light from the window, right here. Right, I have thoughts of.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 10:44
So what do I have to do? What is it that I have to do later? I think there’s something I forgot. I just noticing what it’s like right here. Right now. Right? And the one of the apple. And let me also add to that, without judgment of whatever is here. I feel angry. Not the, I shouldn’t feel angry, right? If you say notice that you’re saying that, to not judge the judging. Right. And, and more importantly, oh, there’s anger here.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 11:24
What’s hard to feel angry, angry, doesn’t feel comfortable, doesn’t feel comfortable in my body, I feel my jaw is tightening. Feel my shoulders are tight. So really bringing compassion, and a loving attention to whatever is being known. One of my teachers in the world of mindfulness Jack Kornfield, calls mindfulness loving awareness, because there’s the awareness. And there’s the loving attention that you bring to whatever is being known.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 11:58
And by the way, if anger is being known, that’s actually Wow, how interesting. Let me open to this anger. Just like we would open to that block. Let me open to this anger. Maybe there’s fear in that block. Right. Maybe that block is Yeah, no, I could be over there. And I don’t know why I don’t do that.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 12:20
The moment I’m just so mad, I don’t think I can. And maybe there’s like, if I do walk over that bridge to the other side, maybe I’m going to be closer to my partner. But that feels scary. Because all my life, I’ve maintained a comfortable distance. That’s what works for me. And there’s a little bit of a fear of crossing over that bridge because I’m more vulnerable.
[Jon Dabach] 12:47
Yeah, that makes perfect sense. Yeah. How does? How does mindful meditation work? Is it the practice of closing your eyes, kind of being aware of your surroundings? And just letting things kind of evolve? How long does does it typically take a meditation session the way you teach it? Do you recommend having music or not? Kind of the typical process of what that looks like?
[Wendi Dumbroff] 13:13
Okay, so, great question. So let me delineate first mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness
[Jon Dabach] 13:21
Can happen anytime and all the time and should right absolutely are both awareness
[Wendi Dumbroff] 13:25
And no should on it. But when you take that moment to stop and be present, I do that all day long. If I’m with a client, just even noticing how something feels. You can do it when you’re eating, just slowly eating, taking in every experience using your senses. You can you can do it while you’re showering. You can do it really any walking out to your car and just noticing the temperature many times. Have you walked into to a room and someone says, oh, what’s it like?
[Wendi Dumbroff] 13:54
I’m me too, right? What’s it like? And you’re like, I have no idea. I didn’t pay attention. I don’t remember if it was cold. I don’t I don’t remember if it was temperature unless something really felt strong, right? I don’t remember right. And so so we can incorporate that. Meditation is time that we set aside intentionally to practice mindfulness. Right. So meditation is for me, generally, I will sit for half an hour, I prefer quiet in meditation, but there is no right or wrong, right?
[Wendi Dumbroff] 14:34
It is time where you intentionally focus on being in the present moment. Do you have to close your eyes? I do. But you don’t have to. You can just find a place to gaze. Right very often if I am guiding a meditation I’ll say you can close your eyes if you’re comfortable.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 14:52
And if you’re not just find a place on the floor to look because sometimes people they don’t want to close their eyes that feels too vulnerable for or then it is not necessarily just sitting and having what we call an anchor, for example, maybe it’s the breath. So you focus on the breath, you notice the breath, the in breath, what it feels like you really the nuance of the breath, wonderful views as an anchor,
[Jon Dabach] 15:21
Or entre or something, or
[Wendi Dumbroff] 15:24
The body. You can also use thoughts as an anchor, you can use the emotional experience, and the body and the breath are very common anchors. The mind will wander, there’s no such thing as an empty mind. Right, no such thing, the mind will wander. And so we come when we notice, not with the breath, we come back to the breath. When we notice, oh, we’re not with the body, we come back to the body. Sometimes we can mindfully notice thoughts about worry about my family, or worry about getting a job done worry about this or that.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 16:10
Noticing I’m tired, right? So we can also use that as long as we are not in like reverie where we’re just sort of, you know, that feeling where you’re driving somewhere. And all of a sudden, you’re like, how did I get here? Right? And then your mind you were so lost in reverie throughout the drives that you didn’t you don’t even know how you got from point A to point be? Yeah. And what
[Jon Dabach] 16:33
I call driving a car every single time.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 16:38
Okay, yeah. So it’s really very intentionally noticing what the thoughts are, what the experiences around those thoughts. Now, it doesn’t have to be in a sitting meditation like that you can do walking meditation, where you really are getting in touch with the body and each step and feeling the body move there.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 17:03
Or you can intentionally sit and do an eating meditation, you know, spend your whole meal as an or, or having, you know, a cup of tea as a meditation, right. So. So it is intentional time that is set aside for mindfulness. When I was on a silent retreat, we alternated a week, an hour of sitting meditation, an hour of walking meditation, hour of sitting meditation, walking meditation,
[Jon Dabach] 17:37
How long was the was the Silent Retreat,
[Wendi Dumbroff] 17:40
Or the one I went on was, like 10 days, no talking for 10 days. The only talking there was was like every day or every other day, we met with one of the teachers. There were some of the meditations that were guided, and there was sometimes a question and answer period we were allowed to talk then.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 18:03
And for me, we all had a job to do to run the place I worked. I went into some very good in the kitchen, cooking is a passion of flying. So I said I’m going to the kitchen. So my job, everyone had a job, some people cleaned. Some people did the dishes in the kitchen, I helped prepare the dinner in the afternoon. So I would go in and chop all the vegetables and things like that. And if we had questions there, we were allowed to talk. And of course, we were allowed to talk to process the experience with the teachers when we met with them. But other than that, it was it was completely silent.
[Jon Dabach] 18:43
How did you how did you find it? How did you did you enjoy it? Or
[Wendi Dumbroff] 18:47
I didn’t I didn’t mind the silence at all. It was probably one of the most life changing sounds so dramatic. I don’t want to say that. But it was. It was a very powerful experience, a very profound experience. Parts of it I hated. And I remember thinking when I was there, I hate this. And I know I’ll be back. I really don’t know. I’ll come back and do it again.
[Jon Dabach] 19:19
Yeah. Have you gone back yet?
[Wendi Dumbroff] 19:22
Not yet. Because then the pandemic happened? I am actually thinking about it, though I am wanting. It’s almost like you’re feeling that.
[Jon Dabach] 19:31
That poll that? Yeah. That’s so interesting. So interesting. Well, let me shift gears a little bit here. You also offer sex therapy. And I you know, we see a lot of people have asked me, I don’t advertise myself as a sex therapist. That’s something I specialize in. But I do have clients who say when they’re searching for different counselors or some help, they see this term of sex positive come up and they don’t know what it is. Then you’ve labeled yourself as someone who’s sex positive. So before we even get into the therapy, what does sex positive mean to you?
[Wendi Dumbroff] 20:07
To me Sex positive means that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with what your desires are, or what you like to do, as long as it’s between consenting adults, because so many things in the field of sexuality are pathologies, or, you know, judge that stigmatize them. Or, you know, I’ve even been with in groups of therapists who are like, what, you know, like, who are not sex therapists.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 20:43
So if somebody’s into BDSM, right, and they love to be, you know, really, what might look like, to us to have painful stimuli applied to them, well might walk away and say, well, no, what’s wrong with them, you know, but it’s pleasurable for them. And there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as there is consent between the two or more people that are engaging in that. And so for me, sex positive means d shaming. Also, it may not be in that kind of realm. Some people just have so much shame about sex, you think about how certain religions especially the more extreme, you know, sides of Religions can say that, you know, sex is so bad and sex is terrible.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 21:43
And so to come in with someone who says, no, no, no, sex is normal. The desire for pleasure is normal. And there’s nothing wrong with it. And oh, you like this? Okay. Yeah, let’s, let’s see how you can help be up to talk to your partner about what your desires are. So to really, so much of, of what I do is just dT d shaming in that realm, like I’m helping people to look at perhaps old messages, they got that sex is bad, or sex is dirty, or bodies are bad, or,
[Jon Dabach] 22:22
Or that sex is only this way, sex
[Wendi Dumbroff] 22:25
Is only this way, or you’re, you have to have sex to keep it man. That’s, that’s what men want. So you have to just submit to that, because you know, all those messages, people get around sex and come in and say, well, you know, have you ever thought about what you like what you enjoy? And how can this be actually be pleasurable for you like a pleasurable experience?
[Jon Dabach] 22:50
So as a therapist, when you practice sex therapy, it sounds like a lot of that is guiding your clients to, you know, through that journey of exploration, to see what they really want from their sex life.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 23:04
Yeah. And even more than that, it is a journey to understand how each person became the sexual being that they are what what the messages they got are? From their family, from their culture, from their community, from their friends? How does that inform their sexuality? Now? How do they imagine that informs them now? And sometimes? That’s a question that’s very thought provoking. Oh, I never thought about that. You know, yeah, my, my church used to say, X, Y, or Z, how does that? That’s message I got all the time. How does that make me feel now? Or how does that inform what I do? Now?
[Jon Dabach] 23:49
I would assume that there are certain partners when these issues come up. There’s some tension, there’s some embarrassment, some shame? How do you help get through that part of it? Yeah. So that they feel comfortable opening up and really going deep and really asking themselves? Well, this is a good healthy thing to do to explore this. Yeah.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 24:13
You know, I never would ever force anybody to say anything, or tell me anything sexual or not. If somebody has one to tell me, I respect that. That’s okay. Like, I may talk about what it would mean to talk about it. And I also, you know, I have a comfort level, discussing the whole area of sexuality.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 24:37
And I think just being able to be nonchalant, and normalizing and also validating that it can be hard to talk about because it can be hard to talk about, for people, right? And I get that like, look at how, like much, you know, if I’m in a group of people or something they find out oh, you’re Oh, you do sex therapy. I’m like, yeah, they’re like, oh, you know, It was a really, really?
[Wendi Dumbroff] 25:03
Because it is that kind of like, ooh, we could talk about sex here, you know, like, you know, so it’s really just helping people like I would like I would help them talk about what it was like for them to be bullied when they were a kid. That’s hard to talk about to write those bringing up anything difficult. For me. It’s all just, I think just approaching with compassion and validation and normalizing it all, like get it. Of course, this is hard to talk about, especially like, you always got a message that, you know, sex was never talked about. You don’t talk about that, or good girls don’t door.
[Jon Dabach] 25:45
Or it’s very common. Yeah. In this country, at least. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Breaking through some of those barriers. Is it also sometimes difficult to navigate for couples when, you know, their desires are so vastly different?
[Wendi Dumbroff] 26:01
That can be an issue. So there’s one area you know, the most common reason couples come to sex therapy is discrepant desire, one person wants sex more than the other.
[Jon Dabach] 26:14
And then there’s always different or something. Right? Yeah. Then
[Wendi Dumbroff] 26:17
That Yeah. And then there’s also different sexual styles, like maybe one person isn’t to BDSM. And the other isn’t? Or, or they want to do certain things. And the other person says, I’m just not comfortable. Yeah, so. So that is an exploration. Right? And I look not everything that people may put on their sexual menu, just as when we get a menu of food, we don’t necessarily want to eat everything, or wouldn’t eat everything that’s on the menu.
[Jon Dabach] 26:50
Right. Right. That’s so funny. I like I like thinking of it as a menu. That’s a good. I’ve heard it before, but I forgot. And there’s a lot of good analysis, you could say, well, I could see some of my clients saying, Well, I’m in and out. I do burgers. And that’s it.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 27:08
Would you like to put a little bit of some different topics? How about some fried onions? Burger, right. And
[Jon Dabach] 27:15
There’s a secret menu, right? There’s a secret.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 27:19
Right? Right. Yeah,
[Jon Dabach] 27:21
Have fun. So a lot of it is just kind of giving people the confidence to be who they really want to be at the end of the day and communicate it in a way that comes from a place of authenticity, nonjudgmental, it, that’s what I’m getting from you, I’m getting this sense of total acceptance, total, you know, a celebration of your individuality from when I when I’m sitting with you, that’s kind of who I get that you are at your core.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 27:50
Yeah, yes. And just like with the person we talked about before, who won’t cross over the bridge to the other side, because there’s a fear, right? There’s also it’s, you know, whether we’re talking about sex, whether we’re talking about somebody and I mean, I don’t really do like substance addictions, it’s not my specialty.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 28:16
But still, if I, let’s say, I’m working with a couple where there’s substance use with somebody, right, and there’s a dilemma of change around that, or there’s a or whether we’re just doing I’m working with an individual, and I’m just trying to understand why they’re so anxious about some certain fit piece of in their life. Right.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 28:36
It’s really that whole relational family history and understanding well, oh, so the reason you feel so anxious when there’s some sort of change going on is because there was this really abrupt shift in your life when you were a kid and you didn’t know what was happening. And then that may transfer into somebody changes plans, and they don’t know why they feel anxious, right.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 29:01
So there’s the seminal book on trauma by Bessel. Vander Kolk, is called the Body Keeps the Score, right. And our body remembers trauma. So sometimes, it traumas with big T’s traumas, with little T’s. And so sometimes we feel a certain way. But our body is actually reacting to a past memory. Even though something completely different, different content is happening in the present. Our body is remembering that experience that’s underneath it. Yeah. Yeah.
[Jon Dabach] 29:34
It’s a fantastic book. I think it’s like at the top of the bestseller week after week for a reason. Oh, is it really? Yeah, it’s fantastic in the nonfiction, you know, kind of mental health section it’s, oh, it’s one of the it’s one of the top that’s been there for years and years. So thank you for reminding people. Well, Wendy, you’ve been an absolute pleasure super insightful and I’m, I’m so grateful for the wisdom you’ve shared. People can find are you on Facebook and Twitter at Wendy Dombrowski? That’s w e n di, d u m b r o f f anywhere else they can.
[Wendi Dumbroff] 30:10
My Twitter might be Wendy Deborah therapy but I’m terrible with social media. Facebook too, and my website Wendy Dobrotherapy.com It’s Wendy with an AI not not with Hawaii.
[Jon Dabach] 30:23
Yeah, well, thank you so much for being here. It was an absolute pleasure. Thank you. If you’re interested in learning how to get the absolute most out of your romantic relationships, then you’re in luck because I have put together a free workshop or masterclass if you will, about three secrets that people in happy relationships have discovered. You can view the workshop and mister spirituality.com/three secrets again, it’s completely free. Just go there and watch it. It’ll help you on your journey give you some wisdom. Some things to think about. The website again is mrspirituality.com/three secrets. That’s mrspirituality.com/the Number three, the word secrets. It’s all yours. Enjoy.