Psychotherapist Tasha Bailey joins us to answer these questions and many more!
Tasha Bailey is a creative psychotherapist, facilitator, educator & content creator based in London, England. Her platform @RealTalk.Therapist shares her knowledge of self-care and mental health and spills the tea on therapy to break down the stigma of asking for help. And follow Tasha on her social media accounts from her Instagram to her Facebook.
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Narcissism & Toxic TV with Tasha Bailey
You're listening to the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast, Sex and relationship advice you can use tonight. Welcome to the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast. I'm your cohost, Brandon, and we're here with my always lovely other half, Dr. Jess. Hey, I'm really excited for this topic. Today we are going to be talking about toxic TV. I've just started watching The Ultimatum as research for this conversation. We'll also be talking about how to deal with narcissistic, partners, parents, siblings, friends with the fabulous Tasha Bailey, a creative psychotherapist, a facilitator and educator, an amazing content creator based in London, England. Her platform at RealTalk Therapist shares her knowledge of selfcare and mental health and spills the on therapy to break down the stigma of asking for help. Thank you so much for being here. Thank you for having me. It's such a joy. I'm excited for this chat. I'm so excited to hear from you. So you're a therapist. I have to ask to begin with, what made you become a therapist? So I want to be a therapist at a very young age, which is very unusual. Most people who become therapists, it's such in the UK, it's like a second career. Like maybe you're a teacher first and you realize that actually mental health has been important. Whereas I wanted to become a therapist at the age of about 15 and it kind of transpired by Nickelodeon. There was this film called Harry at the Spy on Nickelodeon and she was like a twelve year old kid. She went to go see a child psychotherapist. And I remember being like, wow, that's a really cool job. It's just a guy sitting with toys everywhere and helping children talk about their feelings. And so from there I was like, that's the job that I want to do. And initially I only want to work with children. I never saw myself working with adults. I just want to work with children and trauma and probably that's from my own story as well. And I trained to work specifically with children, but also all other age groups. And then at the end of my training, I was like, actually, every single adult has a child that is maybe wounded or has a story to tell. And so I went into working mostly now with adults. So, yeah, that's the story. I love that. It is such a rare thing to hear that people want to be a psychotherapist from a young age. And it's interesting to hear that in the UK that it's a second career. I always see that in television shows, like movies. I didn't realize that was a bit reflected in reality. So I'm really appreciative of you sharing your journey. And I want to get in to some of your recent posts on your awesome IG account. You were posting about toxic TV and why we love it, and I think it was inspired by The Ultimatum. Of course, that's not the only show of its kind I've just started watching it. I find it captivating and irritating. Somehow you're simultaneously entertained and feeling nothing but cringe. So let's start with what do you think of this show? What do I think of the show? I mean, I love it all the wrong reasons. I mean, it's incredibly entertaining and it's so cringe. It's that thing like when you're watching a horror movie and you can't look away, it's that feeling of, like, disgust. I have to keep looking. You know, it's built to be really kind of addictive to work. And part of the reason why I love to watch it is because when I've had a difficult day or if I'm doing a lot of trauma, sometimes watching shows like this is a nice way to just relax. And I think a lot of us also watch it because it can be a relief to watch somebody else's drama and to sit outside of our own drama for a moment. Yeah, I think that's kind of probably a lot of people actually also compare as well. Like, damn, at least my relationship isn't that bad, or at least things aren't that bad. It kind of gives us a sense of relief. So in that respect, is it quite functional as this form of escapism or as this form of relaxation? Do you see it as a functional tool? I think it can be functional. I think hemifunctional. I think it can also be what's the word, I guess triggering or confronting in some ways because obviously when we watch these shows and particularly the ultimatum, there's lots of behaviors and the way that people respond, which is not necessarily the healthiest way to respond to things. And it can remind us of ways that we respond to things in the wrong way or how we've reacted in the wrong way or relationships that we've been to. So it can be quite confronting in terms of remind us of our own experiences and things that we've had to work through. That's another reason why people often watch is because they feel like I used to be that avoidant and gosh, I've come a long way now. It's nice to compare how we were before to what we've seen on the TV. That makes sense. And what about the folks who identify problematic behaviors or patterns or personality traits in other people? I think so many people will watch and say, oh, my gosh, my partner is just like that, or I have a friend who's just like that. How is that functional? What does that actually say about us? I think it's just a lot about the shadow.
So Carl Young talks a lot about, you know, we all have a shadow self, and it's all the parts that we don't want to accept that we have. I can be a little bit naughty or maybe even a little bit. I don't know what the word is. What else can I think of? Maybe there's like a mean part of me that I don't accept. And so instead of accepting it in myself and notice it in myself, I notice it in other people. Oh, that person is really mean and not acknowledging that I also might have that trait and it's a way of projecting it out onto somebody else so we don't have to own it. So what do we do about that? If we catch ourselves always identifying these potentially negative or detrimental traits in other people, it might be a reminder that perhaps that's part of our shadow self. How do we even start to recognize that? I mean, is it about having relationships where people call you out? Can you call yourself out? Where do we begin? There? Yeah. I think it's important to have people around you that will call you out and not in a mean way or not in a shameful way. But just saying, oh, have you noticed you do that? You do that too, in a playful way. And for us to call ourselves out as well, I think we have to also remind ourselves we don't have to be perfect human beings. We all have a mean part. We all have all these things that we try not to be. We all have a little bit of that. And the more that we separate ourselves from it, the more that it will have a control over us. It's better for us to say, oh, yeah, I can be a little bit mean. I'm going to own that and work on it. It's interesting when you think about the characters. Now, again, I'm fairly new into the season of The Ultimatum. It's nothing but negative traits. I'm not seeing anything endearing yet. I'm sure there are endearing parts. I'm sure the characters become a little bit more I guess they're not characters, but the people become a little bit more likable. But there is something about just leaning into what feels toxic and maybe so far removed from reality. I know, Brandon, this is definitely not your cup of tea. Like, Brandon and I both started watching it separately for research so that we could talk about this. I am 100% going to watch the whole season. Like, I want to know what happens. I'm going to enjoy every moment. You are definitely not. I 100% will not be watching the whole season. I don't know if it's for me. You talk about watching somebody else's drama and it being a bit of a relief for me. I don't want to watch somebody else's drama. I feel like I don't want any drama. So I just remove myself. And when I watch it, I find myself being very critical of the people, like thinking so I don't want to be that person. So I find I'm like, well, I should probably just not watch it. And does it get you a bit riled up? Oh, yeah, 100%. I'm like, come on, man, come on, really? And also just the show itself seems sorry, toxic like this idea that you're forcing people into these huge, life changing decision with cameras and microphones and being constantly watched and always in a bikini, always look your best and say the right thing. I don't know. It just seems like not the greatest environment. But again, what do I know? I'm not watching it. I'm going to be watching the whole thing. So let's talk a little bit about the dichotomy of an ultimatum. This idea that you are either with me in this one specific way or you don't get me at all. Now in life, I think if we look at it semantically or philosophically, we are always issuing ultimatums to ourselves, to other people. But this one is related to relationships. So for folks who aren't familiar with the show, first of all, I hope you go check out, check out the trailer and decide if you want to watch it. But basically these couples are together and one of them wants to get married. The other one is not sure if they're ready. So they have, I think, about six weeks to date these other people in this apartment complex and then decide with that ultimatum at the end, either marry me or you don't get me. And there may be some spoiler alerts here, not for me, because I don't know anything yet, but it's possible that you'll share some. But what do you think about that? How do we deal with that in relationships? How do we figure out when it's a healthy boundary to set versus a toxic ultimatum? I think there's something there about power by saying this is the ultimatum, you need to marry me or not like me to go through this show process, and you need to decide whether you're going to hold a lot of power. And it stops the relationship from being equal, where two people are going through a process of not only just being in a relationship, but actually as an individual. Am I ready to go into the next stage of my life, which is marriage or Parenthood? Am I actually ready for that? And there's a few couples where, for example, kids are a big part of the reason why they're unsure if they want to get married. I don't know if I want to be a parent, but then if I marry you, I'm promising you something that I don't know if I can give you. And yeah, it really puts a pressure and a rush onto these decisions that are really important. The other thing about the show and the show is so problematic, just as Brandon said, it's so problematic. Everybody's like 24 and even the couple that looks 40, you're not going to say which one that is, especially at College, you haven't even had time as an individual adult yet to really explore the world and explore your wants and needs and relationships. And you're thinking about marriage and children and not to say that that can't work, but it's just really interesting that all of the couples are in that similar age frame. And so I guess the perspective around them is maybe quite limited. I think the problem that I have with this whole idea of an ultimatum is the idea that it will never change. It's that this is the decision that I'm making at 24. And I know that Jess and I, we got together very young, and I reflect on my thought process today versus my thought process 20 plus years ago when we first got together. And it's very different. I feel like I am more open to things now, and I'm certainly more receptive to the idea of change. So it just seems like very dysfunctional from the onset, as you said. And this power dynamic I hadn't thought about before, it's like on television in front of all these people, you're exerting this power over somebody else. And that just seems not like the most healthiest way to get into a loving relationship. Right. And I think there's also the power of sociocultural norms where marriage has been kind of forced down our throats in a specific type of marriage, because even just using the language of marriage is very, very broad. It means different things to different people in different places at different times, in different cultures. And so just to say I'm committing to you for life, that is a shorthand, I guess, summary for what needs to be a long form conversation or obviously multiple conversations. So it is really frightening when you bring up the age you brought up agent, I was laughing because when I looked at it, I'm like, do all these people, some people just lie about their age, I think, to get on reality television because they always want younger people. I'm like, are they really all under 25? So I really appreciate what you're bringing up about power dynamics and the difference between setting a boundary and issuing an ultimatum. And so I'm sure people are feeling curious about experiences in their own lives.
For example, when a partner wants to move away, like needs to move or wants to move away for work, or when a partner says, this is a bit of a deal breaker for me, how do we issue or not issue? How do we communicate values and potential deal breakers in a way that's healthy versus issuing an ultimatum on reality television? Of course, we're going to either end of the spectrum here. I think it has to be a really collaborative process of I'm almost imagining when you ask that question, I imagine a map. And almost like you have to draw the map together. No one person could draw the map of what you're going to look like. You have to draw it together and work out where you both are trying to go to. I think some things can bring up our experiences of our parents for example. So if a partner is saying, I have to move for six months to somewhere Pluto, that's going to bring up for the other person. It might bring up separation anxiety if they were separated by their parents and their parents when they were younger. And how do you work through that together and work through the feelings that come up with that so that you can still have a relationship which is still stable and loving and caring and secure? So I think it's like really rehashing what is coming up that is from the past and not only from this relationship, but it's being triggered from this relationship. And how do we create kind of healthy boundaries, structure, clarity, so we both know what we're expecting and what we're receiving together. Yeah, that's a process, isn't it? It's not just we always say the relationship is communication. Communication is the way we convey and explore emotional literacy, because that's really what it is. When you talk about dealing with inner child or dealing with attachment issues from the past, it's not just about saying what you want. And I noticed on the show that there are some people, the ones who issued the ultimatum, who know exactly what they want and they've got their plan and they talk a lot, and they would consider themselves excellent communicators. But in several cases, it looks as though and I think it actually came up in these words. There are some walls put up, and we all many of us do this. We'll talk, but we won't feel or we'll talk about what we want, but we won't explore what we're feeling. And what you're saying is that collaborative process of drawing the map requires you to actually feel a lot of things, whether it's fear or insecurity or jealousy or elation. All of those real human beautiful emotions that, of course, are not conveyed in reality TV because they would need to be conveyed with nuance. And this is the opposite of nuance. So I really appreciate that you're doing this work that you're connecting pop culture, encouraging me to watch these things that I really should in this field be able to comment on. So I think we need a whole show just dissecting the show. But I also want to talk about another topic that you seem to have a really unique perspective and interesting expertise in, and that has to do with dealing with narcissists or people who are narcissistic. And so I'd like to start there because the word narcissist kind of gets tossed around. And I want to talk about what it means to be narcissistic. Is it a word we should only use for diagnosis, or does it exist on a spectrum? Because a lot of people will say, oh, my ex was a narcissist. So can we start with what it is, what it isn't, and how you recognize it? Yeah. I think we have to be really careful of the word on all my posts around it, I always say that narcissism is on the spectrum. I'm not diagnosing anybody, I'm not someone that throws diagnosis around, but it's more of the behaviors. So you can say narcissistic behaviors or narcissistic relationship rather than that person is narcissistic. And I see it as behaviors where things like accountability is not really taken. It's things where things like blame and guilt are often used as tools to control or to get what somebody wants or needs. It's where there are two people and perhaps one person sees the other as an extension of the other, the other sees them as an extension of themselves. So it's really hard to separate between the two people because one sees person B as I need you, you are my arms and legs. And then person B feels like that person's arms and legs and forgets who they actually are. And that's kind of the impact of narcissistic behavior is that we sometimes forget who we are, we forget who we are as an individual. Wow. So power and control come into play here. Definitely ties in with the first topic we were just discussing. So how does it show up in friendships or in intimate relationships? So you've talked about the feelings attached, but what might it look like either from the inside or outside? So it's interesting because I think often people who have massive traits or behaviors tend to be really charming on the outside, very likable. But then from an inside perspective, there might be a lot of control, a lot of not be able to hear the other side of the story, not be able to take accountability. There could be gas fighting, guilting invalidating someone else's experience. It might be really hard for them to stay on a topic which is not about themselves. So then these are often at the center and I think a lot of the time it could be because of a wound that they've had when they're younger. Maybe they never got to have that or they grew up with someone who's quite artistic in their own traits and so they've kind of learnt those. So yeah, it can look very different on the outside of what it looks like on the inside. So often when we are talking about someone who might be quite narcissistic in their trait, other people will be like, really? Are you sure that's a really nice person? I don't really see that. And that can then add to feeling even more invalidated because it looks different from the outside. That's a big piece, isn't it, that we don't see into intimate or domestic relationships? It's so easy to say, oh, they look so happy or they look like they're dysfunctional. But what happens behind closed doors can be something really different. So if you find yourself in a scenario like this, I imagine that it's really breeding grounds for control and abuse. How do you, how do you recognize it? Where do you even begin? Where do you start to get out of a situation like this? The first thing that you need is space and boundaries. This can be really hard. It's the first step, but it's the hardest step, in my opinion, because it can be really hard for the other person if they have enough physical traits to respect boundaries or to understand boundaries. The reason why we need to have space is because we need to have the space to remember who we are outside of the projections that we might have received from that person. And it's only with having space that we can reaffirm ourselves and validate ourselves again. So space is really important. If we set a boundary and that boundary is not listened to, then we need to find a way to distance ourselves, whether it's saying, I'm not going to be contacting you for the next week because I just need to relax or whatever it is that's finding some way to have a distance from that person. The next thing is to kind of really validate ourselves, listen to ourselves. That might include going to therapy so that we can start to reremember our experience before it was invalidated. There's also this thing of like having to grieve if it's a parent who's got those traits or a friend or a sibling, we have to grieve that that person isn't who we needed them to be. They're not the parent that we needed them to be or the partner that we needed them to be. We have to really grieve that and learn that we do still deserve all of those traits and all of those a loving partner, loving parent, or whoever. But it can't be that person. And then from there, we need to find spaces where we can receive what we deserve. We can receive the love from rather than from a parent. Maybe it's from that best friend who feels like a sister and we give up to each other, a motherly relationship. So it's finding different ways to experience the love that we need. And so if you're in a relationship with someone whose behavior is narcissistic, is it something you can call out? Obviously, I know it exists along a spectrum, so I imagine it depends on how intense it is. Are these behaviors that obviously can be changed? I would think they have to want to change themselves. Where do you begin? Can you repair this relationship? Can you get what you need? Can you set those boundaries? Do you find that people need to go do work separately or as couples or both? I think as anything of therapy, they have to be willing to work on themselves. So it depends where they are on that spectrum, and it depends how willing they are to really see themselves and to hear the honest feedback of how they make other people feel. It can be really helpful to have their individual therapy and couple therapy alongside it, both people in individual and in couples, if they are able to access that. But yeah, I think if they're willing to do the work, there's so much capacity for change growth from that. I can't imagine that going to your partner and saying, I heard this podcast on narcissism and you're a narcissist. We need to work on this. Yeah. Would be very effective.
So what's the language? And again, just remembering that this all exists along a spectrum, that we all display narcissistic behavior at some points in time, it's not like my partner's bad. I've got it figured out. I'm into self development. I'm doing the work. I'm listening to podcasts. They suck. How can we approach them? Like, what language can we use? Should we be focusing on how we're feeling? Should we be focusing on specific behaviors? I always say, like, if you can start with that obviously soft startup and the reassurance that I really love you and I care about you and I want to work on this relationship. And here's this thing that isn't working for me, or here's this thing that really hurt me. Do you have some suggested language around that? Yeah, I think with anything, the worst thing to do is say you are because it's immediately going to make them feel very defensive and not want to have that conversation because they feel attacked. So I think with anything in a relationship, it's about almost talking about your feelings, talking about the relationship. It's almost imagining like you and your partner have made a meal. The meal is on the table and you're talking about this smell. You're not talking about your partner as a Cook. You did that because you did chop the onions. It's more like this meal is missing some onions. I think we need to work on that together. So it's kind of in this example of narcissism, it's thinking about, okay, what are the issues? Maybe it's that I feel like power balance between us is a little bit off. So it would be like in our relationship, there's a bit of a difficulty with power. And how do we kind of rework that together? How do we do this together? So that it's not just putting everything onto that person, which will be a lot for them to digest, but more like this is teamwork. How do we work through this? Yeah. And you mentioned that if you say you are, there's always going to be that defensive response. I know that people are going to say, what if my partner just won't listen? What if they just won't engage? What if they just won't talk? Because we kind of get that question all the time. What then? What if you're dealing with someone whose behaviors are narcissistic? It's adversely affecting you. You've tried to talk to them about it and they're just unwilling. So personally, I'd say if you're able to then therapy, because then you have a third person to really witness this, to help your partner see and that experience and to be accountable. However, if that doesn't happen or if that can't happen, I think it's also having a serious conversation with yourself of if this never changes, how will I feel and how much do I still want to be in this relationship? If that's the case, it's having that conversation with yourself. There's so much focus on keeping relationships intact and not necessarily keeping relationships fulfilling and meaningful. And I always think about having this short life, and I'm not suggesting that everyone just give up and break up, but there are situations where it's simply not going to work for you. And if you might be able to put up with this for three months, but can you put it up with it for three years or 13 more years, do you still want to be in this space? What are the cost to you, like, emotionally, physically, psychologically, just in terms of life satisfaction? And with narcissism, I imagine it's hard to want to change. Many of us, I think, have lived with narcissists in our lives for long periods of time. And it can have to do with ties to family and our notions of what family ought to be, which obviously, again, vary from person to person, family to family, culture to culture. But if you have a narcissistic family member, like a parent or sibling, maybe you don't see them often. Like, maybe you see them at holidays or family events like weddings, but just those singular events once, twice, three, four, five times a year really take a toll on you. And you can't change that person, right? It's unlikely. You can call up your close cousin or your close sibling or parent and say, you know, again, I was listening to this park, a podcast. I'm feeling very enlightened. I think these are things we could work on if you're not there in that type of relationship, but you are going to see them on one offs. How do you deal? How do you prepare yourself? Are there things you can do to prepare them? Set boundaries? What would you recommend? Like if I'm going to a wedding next weekend and I know there's someone there who treats me a certain way, they display narcissistic tendencies, and it really affects me. How can I prep for next weekend? I'll say that I know the situation very well.
Personally, I think it's about almost creating the terms for yourself. So I'm seeing this person next week for a wedding. Whenever I see them, they're quite a specific. I feel drained. I feel attacked, whatever it is, what are the things that I need to put in place to help me feel safe at that wedding? How much time do I want to limit myself when I'm talking to this person at this wedding? Who do I need to bring with me so that I feel safer or that I feel supported, who cannot ask to step in to the conversation if it gets heated. So it's kind of how do I scaffold it so that I feel a bit more secure and supported when I'm there? It sounds like we have to plan ahead. Right. And you identified a few things there. How is it I feel when I'm around them? What are the safety mechanisms? What are the supports, the boundaries, the allies? So, like, action items might be writing it down and then thinking about, okay, I'm actually going to call my cousin and ask my cousin. If you see me standing with my other cousin, come over and just take me to the dance floor. Is a little bit of avoidance. Okay. A little bit of wood is definitely okay. It's good medicine. I mean, it's part of your boundaries. I'm really curious about the opposite of narcissism. Is there an opposite? Could you encapsulate that if we all think about ourselves as a little bit narcissistic and working to be less so, what's the opposite to which we could be striving an opposite might be someone who's actually quite been quite wounded for narcissism, actually. Because I think what happens, and particularly if you've been a child of a parent who has narcissist traits, is you go the other way. You become very accommodating over accommodating, and you feel guilty for thinking about yourself or talking about yourself too much or you're over apologetic. It's the complete opposite end. And so what that then means is that then you never get your needs met because you're never able to really ask for them or to validate them. So we don't want to be striving for that opposite. We're looking at ourselves as, I guess, functional humans who are not necessarily over accommodating, not necessarily narcissistic, but we can display those tendencies, and we want to just figure out how to do less of the ones that are harmful to us and harmful to our relationships. Yeah. We want to sing somewhere in the middle where we're able to take accountability, but we're also able to praise ourselves and to enjoy our successes and our achievements and take up space, but then also share space. There's this kind of having a bit of both where it's not just I'm at the center, but I'm part of a bigger society, but my identity is also really important. I'm not going to erase myself for other people's things to come before me, if that makes sense, of course. Yeah. And giving ourselves Grace, like when we are jerks, when we are weak. I know I struggle with people pleasing definitely over accommodation. And it's something I have to work on. And I'm not that way all the time. But I've developed tools. Like, my therapist has helped me develop tools to kind of just take a breath, take a beat, don't say yes to everything when you want to do something that might put me when I want to do something that might put myself out and harm myself, but it's because I want to help a family member or something. She's like, you just need to breathe. You need to wait an hour before you make that decision, or you need to go to Brandon, who's going to perhaps give you a little bit more clarity. Yeah. I think we have to be kind to ourselves and know that it's okay that we're not perfect. So this is super helpful. Now, before you go, I want to ask you about one more Instagram post and folks will be following you on Instagram for sure. You posted recently about trauma glimmers, what they are and what we can learn from them. And I've never heard this term before. Perhaps it's a term that you coined. I think people are familiar with trauma triggers, but what is a trauma glimmer? What can we learn from a trauma glimmer and how can we use it in a positive way? Trauma glimmers. The term is not coined by me, but the person that coined it, her name has slipped out of my mind. But she is a trauma specialist and has a book on trauma. And we will talk a lot about trauma triggers being the things that make us feel unsafe because they connect to previous traumas that we've experienced. So it could be, for example, a smell that reminds of a trauma event that we went through as a child or whatever, and that will trigger our body into feeling really unsafe. We might have a panic attack or freeze or whichever.
Now, a trauma Blimmer is the opposite. So it's things that make us feel safe and connected. So again, it could be a smell when I smell. I don't know if you guys have Apple crumble, maybe like Apple pie, but when I smell Apple pie or Apple Pama, I think, gosh, that feels so good. It reminds me of being at home in winter and being really safe and with a blanket and it makes my body go into I am safe. I am okay. I'm in a good place. And we need to have trauma glimmers because they remind us that there's not just danger and threat that we've experienced, but there's also joy and love and safety that we've experienced. That's kind of what a trauma glimmer is. It reminds us that we are safe. I find that so useful because we often think about identifying triggers after trauma, but also being able to recognize those glimmers can help us to see the progress we've made and also look for more opportunities to tune into them. Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing. Thank you for your insights. I think that you've helped me. I'm definitely thinking about how this applies in my life. All of these different concepts in terms of escapism and toxic TV, in terms of dealing with narcissistic people in our lives because they will exist and certainly in terms of the positive side of triggers being trauma glimmers so thank you so much for joining us folks. Make sure you are following along. We're going to put all of your links in our show notes so make sure you go there and I think you're really going to appreciate Tasha Bailey's Instagram content as well. So thank you for the chat today. Thank you so much. Thank you for having me and thank you for listening. Really appreciate your spending your time with us. If you've got questions, make sure to send them in. If you like the podcast please be sure to rate and review and Adam and Eve.com is still offering 50% off almost any item plus free shipping and free goodies. So if you have a holiday coming up I know we have father's day coming up in North America or if you've got a birthday or anything like that, check out Adam and Eve.com code is doctorjust for those deep savings and free goodies. D-R-J-E-S-S where we are at have a great one folks. Thanks so much for being here. You're listening to the Sex with Dr. Jess podcast. Improve your sex life. Improve your life. It's.
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