Shan Boodram On honesty, orgasms and showing up.

By Caroline Tell | Photos by Ashley Barrett

Shan Boodram is an intimacy expert who has spent the past 15 years discussing sex, relationships and attachment on the Internet and in the media for her millions of fans. As best-selling author of The Game of Desire, podcast host of Sexology with Shan Boodram and Lovers and Friends with Shan Boodram, AND a star on Peacock’s new dating show, Ex-Rated with Andy Cohen, some would call her the Dr. Ruth of the millennial set thanks to her honesty, introspection and relationship modeling with husband and business partner, Jared Brady.

As Shan prepares to give birth to her second child (another girl!) we caught up with her to talk through relationship issues during pregnancy and postpartum, how to open the fields of communication (it’s everything), and why orgasms are a form of self-care.

How are you feeling?

I’m in the third trimester so I just started feeling better. Pregnancy is now a nonfactor in the background of my life. It’s that sweet spot and it’s nice to be here. The first trimester and second were just awful. That said, I also have a one-and-a-half year old in daycare and she brings back every sickness known to man and invented in the sandbox. I’ve been sick seven times since February. The baby is OK but she must be like, “Lady, what are you doing up there?” But it’s not causing her any problems. She’s good in there. Everything is running smoothly.

What’s been making you feel good during this pregnancy? Any self-care rituals?

I would love to answer your question by saying that daycare is self-care. Also I’ve been asking for help more and holding people a lot more accountable is self-care. I’m finding that a babysitter once in a while in the evenings so we can go do stuff is self-care. I’m also getting back into makeup this week, which I took off my list because I didn’t have the time. I’m making the time now. I want to see myself in a way that feels put together. I happen to be getting a pedicure right now.

Thoughts on your work-life balance after giving birth?

The really sad thing is that we’re still figuring out our balance from one child, so I have no idea what is going to be going on with two. I don’t have space to put my brain in that right now. We just started daycare in April. Then that went away for a bit because I got Covid. I’m better now. I still have a loss of taste and smell, but with a toddler, I don’t need to smell. I can change the diapers and not care. I’d love to tell you there’s a nursery, but there’s not. I’d love to tell you there’s a birth plan, but there’s not. But, hopefully that will illuminate as time goes on. With the second one, I feel like faith will figure it out.

How is pregnancy impacting your relationship right now, and how can pregnant people dealing with ALL the symptoms of pregnancy still show up in their relationship?

Talk a lot. That’s the saving grace in all areas. I likely am a disappointment to everyone who used to interact with me before because there’s literallty less of me. Workwise I’m not as on it. I don’t hit my deadlines all the time. I’m not as sharp as I was. I need more rest, I’m slower. I have a lot less energy. The first trimester symptoms kept me from dealing and managing life. So with all that disappointment, I had to acknowledge that I’m not the same wife my husband had seven months ago. I think I’ve just been clear of what I’m capable of and what I’m not. I don’t mind giving the same excuse over and over. I remind people who I can’t show up for that I’m not capable. Managing expectations has been helpful for me. These are tough conversations but I’m not carrying guilt. I’m carrying a baby. I don’t have space for guilt, too.

So I’m getting people on board with that understanding. Traditionally I was a really fun aunt to my sister’s kids. They just moved and now live here. I’m not fun anymore all the time. I’ll say, let’s just sit and play a board game. And I do what I can. I find joy in my work. I’m still showing up how I can but I’m being honest about those “cans” these days.

How can relationships rise up in the postpartum phase when there’s just so much intensity and change all around?

That was a huge adjustment for us, and I had a really healing conversation with my sister. I was telling her about how my husband and I previously had this harmonious, easy relationship and were always on the same page, or similar page. But during that first year, the rules don’t apply. We were reeling. This is the hardest year of any couple’s life. This is when difficulties can arise in marriages. There’s so much change. Usually when one person is in flux, we can look to the other person for stability and a safe space. But that person is also off balance and they also want stability and a safe space. 

It’s rare to both be in that position to take on the other person’s needs while figuring out all the needs in my life. I feel a lot better. We took longer to have talks than we should’ve. I thought it would iron itself out. I thought we’re better than this, let me just ignore it, but we weren’t cohesive. Finally, at six months postpartum, I was more honest about my experience and he did the same. And once we got there, it didn’t change but communicating our feelings around our lack of intimacy made me feel like sharing and learning became possible, and we were able to to view it through a different lens.

I’m carrying a baby. I don’t have space for guilt, too.

In your experience, what are some of the biggest issues among intimacy in married couples? How can we overcome them?

I think it’s just coordination. It’s such a miracle we forget. We spend a sizable portion of life looking for someone we align with. We act like it’s a destination like Texas. But then Texas moves and you’re standing still in a different state. A lot of couples used to be so compatible, but they’re going through changes and have to constantly adjust. It’s frustrating. It’s like I already did this but now it’s hard again. When you’re looking at a relationship from a bird’s eye view and not in a microscope, change can hurt areas. The number one question is incompatibility. Or that my partner is always wanting sex and I’m not into it. It’s getting on the same page. You have to troubleshoot. 

One important note is that it’s a pet peeve to say the key to happiness is communication. That’s like telling an art student that the key to great art is the paint. What kind of paint? Which canvas? How do you use the paint? There’s no hard and fast rule, but there’s a nuance in learning communication styles and checking your egos so you’re showing up authentically about what will get you into an argument. It didn’t take zero time. That’s why I’m aggressively doing quizzes and activities and finding ways to have productive communication but only through many unproductive sessions. I purposely model those conversations and put them out there. This is what it looks like when the couple has done the work to have hard conversations in harmony. 

I feel like as women, we’ve been marginalized in the “sex during pregnancy” conversation. There’s either the super horny pregnant person or the person who doesn’t want to have sex at all. What’s your take? Also, if one person isn’t into sex, how can both people show up so it doesn’t fuel resentment among both partners?

I’m gratefully and traditionally of the mindset that orgasms and pleasure and sexual pleasure are self-care. It’s like, sometimes I don’t want to work out – but I do it because it’s good for the body. In practice sometimes I don’t want to extend myself to be intimate with my partner. My skin is not burning hot for them, but like working out, I’m always grateful after. Or sometimes I’ll say, I’m going to go downstairs and have some self love with my favorite sex toy today. In 10 minutes, my body will benefit. I look at it through that prism. Maybe desire is not as strong, especially compounded with tiredness.

The other day, my partner and I started getting frisky at 10:30pm. I was so tired. And I said, Listen. I have 10 minutes in me. So we arranged the encounter that way. I asked for what I wanted and gave him what he wanted. By 10:42 we were done and that was totally fine. Is it super sexy? No. Romantic? No. But it was meaningful and it keeps us connected and makes it clear of our priorities and we’re showing up – and that’s what matters. Sometimes it’s showing up how we can. Whether that’s going in the shower or watching a video we like. Just do you. Take a spa trip to the computer. Have a cuddle session naked. Ask for what you need but challenge your body a little. Ask what is reasonable for you and what is desirable?

Let’s talk masturbation and even sex during pregnancy. Many pregnant people are nervous. Can we settle this now?

That’s a conversation for your doctor. My doctor is literally Lydia from A Handsmaid’s Tale, and I talk to her about my sex life. Don’t be afraid to bring up these conversations with your healthcare provider. They are normal, fact of life questions and if my antiquated doctor can do it, so can yours. If you’re really uncomfortable, maybe look into a different doctor with a different level of comfort.

Also, engage with yourself as your own expert. Sex is so healthy, and there are so many benefits to a bomb sex life. When I orgasm, I’m happy, and the benefits orgasm gives you is great sleep, lower stress hormones, and all those feel good chemicals. Plus, at 37 weeks, sex with my partner and the sperm and orgasms in general helps thing along, so get in as often as reasonable for you.

What are your hopes for your second child?

I just hope we’re able to bring joy to this baby’s life and in return it expands our capacity for joy and to understand joy through different lenses. We had our first so intentionally and was ready to share my life. This one was not planned but it’s been a dream of mine to replicate my relationship with my sister and how much it means to me. I hope my daughter and next daughter have a beautiful, strong bond. That’s really my focus – that our family is bonded and fused together. And once I have a nursery, I’ll let you know.