Counselling and Psychotherapy for
Body, Mind and Spirit

Ina Stockhausen, MTC

info@positivelifechanges.ca
778-558-8207

Ina Stockhausen R.P.C. offers spiritual counselling and body psychotherapy or somatic counseling in Burnaby and North Vancouver.

Blog Posts

Have you ever faked an orgasm? If yes, please take a moment and acknowledge to yourself why you answered the famous question “Did you come?” with a lie.

As a sex therapist and relationship counsellor I help couples address this questions and the potential surrounding anxieties in a way that is nurturing and supportive rather than anxiety provoking and frustrating. When the question “Did you come?” turns into a “But you didn’t come :(” or “Why didn’t you come?” the afterglow and positive emotions just shared are  often replaced with feelings of low self-esteem or thoughts of not being enough.

Frank and Susan have been dating for 3 years. Both divorced and in their early 50’s, they  have counted themselves lucky to find someone to love again who feels like such a good match. They both love to travel, play golf and be outdoors. Their children are mostly grown up, financially they are doing well… until they have sex and Frank doesn’t orgasm. While some men can struggle with premature ejaculation, Frank from time to time has delayed ejaculation. Frank doesn’t mind the occasions when he doesn’t climax. He derives great pleasure and enjoyment from touching and being touched as well as bringing Susan to orgasm. But Susan gets upset. Her reaction can range anywhere from wondering whether Frank is cheating on her to finding herself unattractive, not sexy enough and fat. All her fears about aging come rushing in. Frank feels embarrassed and frustrated. “Why does Susan get so upset if I am fine with not having an orgasm every time we have sex?”

Can you relate to Frank or Susan? Or perhaps the following scenario feels familiar:

Burnaby Marriage Therapist can help you rekindle your romantic connection

Mandy has been consistently lying to Jake and doesn’t know how to fix it. The couple had turned to marriage counselling because they felt stuck in a rut. They are a great team when it comes to managing their busy lives.  However, after 4 years of marriage their romantic and erotic connection had been replaced with a solid friendship and camaraderie. They wanted to rekindle the passion they once shared but couldn’t seem to move forward.
When we discussed whether they talked about sex and their sexual desires and preferences we slowly identified part of the problem. Both Mandy and Jake had been hesitant and less then forthcoming in sharing what turned them / satisfied them or what they would like to change. Mandy imagined that Jake would think her “too wild” or “dirty” if she were to be honest about some of the things she wanted to try in the bedroom. Furthermore, she had been feeling inadequate and ashamed because the way Jake had been pleasuring her, never brought her to a climax. Feeling vulnerable and not wanting to hurt Jake’s feelings had her faking orgasms from the beginning. Jake also had some negative self talk going on and had refrained from sharing some of his fantasies. 

In both of these scenarios (as in all examples, names and identifying characteristics have been changed) communication broke down because of:

  • self-esteem and body image issues
  • worrying about the partner’s reaction
  • feeling responsible or wanting to assume responsibility for the partner’s orgasm

Burnaby sex relationship counselling helps couples talk about sexIn a magical and ideal world every sexual connection and love making creates simultaneous pleasure for both you and your partner. In the real world, our bodies change – sometimes from moment to moment – and what felt amazing yesterday feels a little different today. What you wanted to fast and hard last week, you want to savour slowly this time.

Talking about sex can feel vulnerable. You both need to feel emotionally safe and may have some specific requests for each other before you start sharing such as: “Please don’t comment until I have finished.” or “Please remember that I love you and find you sexually attractive.”

But before you talk about sex you need to check your attitude and your boundaries.

Remember the following realities: 

  • the amount of pleasure you both experience will fluctuate from time to time
  • not every time you are sexual together will  you both climax
  • you are responsible for letting your partner know what you need or want to enhance your erotic experience
  • your partner is not a mind reader whose job it is to know what you want
  • there is a difference between being mindful of your partner’s feelings and feeling responsible for how your partner feels – you are not responsible for your lover’s feelings

Ideally,when you take your clothes off, think of offering your ego a chair to rest on for a time out while you are making love. Remember…making love is about connecting erotically and intimately with your lover. Hopefully you will both climax… but it is not the only way to feel fulfilled after sex.

North Vancouver Couples counselling can help you reconnect intimately

 

Communication tips from a Sex TherapistAre you comfortable talking about sex with your partner? This is one of the first questions I ask couples who come to my Burnaby Marriage counselling practice  for Sex Therapy or Intimacy counselling.

While we are flooded with all types of sexual images in the media and many marketing strategies use “sexiness” to entice us to buy something, many couples are not very comfortable conversing about sex. Often lovers hesitate because they don’t want hurt their partner’s feelings or because they feel embarrassed or shy.

Do you know your partner’s preferences when it comes to sensuality or sexuality?  If you have been together for a longer period of time you might be making the assumption that you do. But when was the last time you actually talked about it? We all change with time, be it due to our aging bodies, health or other reasons.

Just like macaroni and cheese may no longer be your favorite meal since the days of university, the way you like your clitoris or penis stimulated may have changed.

Research has shown that couples who are a) comfortable talking intimately about sex and who b) regularly update their knowledge about each other’s sex maps derive more pleasure from their lovemaking and sexual encounters.

If you know what or how your partner enjoys something, you will be able to increase your partners arousal and pleasure, which typically will enhance your own excitement and pleasure. Deepening the intimacy of your erotic connection has the potential of increasing the amount of lovemaking in your relationship…after all, we tend to pursue what we like and experience as fulfilling. Burnaby Sex Therapist helps couples talk about sex

Here are some important points to remember when you talk about sex:

  1. Timing can be everything. Together choose a time when you are comfortable and relaxed to ask each other questions or share a request. While you would always want to let your lover know in the moment if you are in pain or discomfort, asking questions similar to “Why do you never / always do “X” like that?”  while you are having sex can create resentment and feelings of inadequacy with your partner.
  2. When making requests or asking for something to change, good communication practices also  apply when talking about sex, i.e. talk about what you are experiencing and feeling rather than discussing what you think the other person is doing “wrong”.
  3. Stay connected to your boundary. Don’t get defensive if you find out that your partner has been wanting to try something or would like to change how you have been doing something. This is not about you not being good enough (if that is where you can go in your mind) – this is your partner sharing THEIR experience. Remember that in order to be authentic, as the person who shares, you need to manage your feelings of vulnerability and as the person who is listening, you need to manage any feelings that arise in response to what you are hearing.
  4. Honour and respect each other’s level of comfort and ease in revealing your sexual and erotic preferences. If your lover doesn’t feel comfortable sharing a fantasy or discussing any other aspect of your lovemaking, don’t push it and again remember this has nothing to do with you. If you can love each other thru these places of vulnerability or shyness with respect, patience and an attitude of no judgment, you will, together, create a container of emotional safety that will deepen your intimate connection on every level.
  5. If you are shy or uncomfortable, name it. If you can, let your partner know why this is more difficult for you. Sometimes  it is helpful to use an “icebreaker” like a scene from a movie, an excerpt from a story, something you heard or saw as a gentle gateway towards more personal revelations. 

 

North Vancouver Intimacy Coaching and Sex Therapy helps couples' struggle with low libido

Finally, try and remember what your partner shared with you and be open to getting feedback from each other. Stay tuned for part 2 of “Let’s talk about Sex” where I shine a light on the topic of orgasm, difficulty reaching orgasm and enjoying orgasm together.

 

Have you stopped feeling special in your relationship? As a marriage therapist, I often hear one half of a couple who has come for couple’s counselling, share his or her sadness and disappointment about not feeling special anymore in the relationship.
This can prompt the other spouse to exclaim “What do you mean, you don’t feel special? Of course you’re special to me.”

Often  the partner replies with something similar to “but you never pay attention to me.”
Can you relate to the above scenario at all? While men and women feel special in response to different types of appreciation, both desire their partner to take notice of what they are doing or how they might be feeling.

Giving your partner attention is the one of the three keys to creating real love. When you’re in the honeymoon stage of your relationship, or you’re dating someone, you tend to shower them with attention. You notice everything about them. You express your appreciation for this person in word and deed.
Then, when you’ve been together for a while, and you’ve become a functioning team, it’s easy to start falling into the habit of taking each other for granted. You still love this person, but you are less focused. While this is a natural development, the key to relationship thrival lies in finding the balance that works for your relationship.

Kate had tears well up while she vented about her husband’s lack of attention. “Here I was, approaching the car with my arms full of shopping bags, balancing on high heels because we were going out to dinner. Do you think Jeff would notice and open the trunk for me? No, he was too busy on his Blackberry texting his buddy.”

Paying attention and being fully present with your partner doesn’t mean you can’t use your Blackberry anymore while you’re with your beloved.
It does mean, making an effort to notice and give voice to the little things: The expression on her face, the fact that he folded the laundry without you asking, the hours of overtime worked to create abundance, the note tucked into your lunch….
It means cultivating the habit of fully connecting with your partner when he or she engages you, i.e. putting the TV on mute, or momentarily setting aside what you’re doing.

Why don’t we pay more attention to our loved ones? Sometimes, we feel hurt, unseen or misunderstood. We carry around a bag full of unresolved or unnamed issues. I always know when couples have pain tucked away somewhere, when I hear one or both parties say:”Why should I do X? He / she never does Y for me. How many times have I asked for… “ and so on.

This brings us to another vital key for creating joy and connection in your love relationship. It is called willingness. Nothing happens without willingness. In order to be fully present with your partner you have to want to be present. 
Take a moment to reflect. Are you “sitting on something” that is affecting your willingness to make your partner feel special? Are you waiting for your partner to see and hear you before you’re willing to send them some positive attention?

Remember that if you’re hoping to receive your partner’s undivided attention, (perhaps you want to discuss something specific) it helps to let him/her know by making a specific request. Feeling hurt because your spouse isn’t reading your mind is a set up you co-create.

Learning to ask for what you want in a way that your partner can hear you, will go a long way towards creating willingness and receiving attention. To quote Harville Hendrix, founder of Imago Therapy, “focus on the positive.” That means rather than complaining or asking rhetorical “negative questions” such as “ Why can’t you cook once in a while?” or “Why do you always have to be late when we go somewhere?” make a positive request. “I would love it if you could take care of dinner on Wednesdays.”

The third key to creating real love and possibly the most precious gift you can offer your spouse is self-love; i.e. cultivating your ability to being willing to pay attention to and be present with your self.
Self-love often gets confused with self-care. Self-love doesn’t mean taking more bubble baths or treating yourself to a pedicure. Self-love means taking care of your own needs rather than expecting your partner to fix you. Developing an ability to self-soothe your anxiety would be an act of self-love for example. How would your partner and your relationship benefit? Imagine the following scenario:

Suzanne texts Rob all day long. She is constantly asking him when he is coming home, what he is doing and where he is because she is incapable of soothing her anxiety. She also phones him at work to find out whether he remembered to pick up the dry cleaning and to tell him about the phone call she had with her mother. When Rob comes home, and is texting on his phone, she wants to know who he is texting. Rob is Suzanne’s life line, problem solver and crisis soother. While Rob initially enjoyed feeling important, he now often wishes Suzanne could stop pestering him about his whereabouts. He feels curtailed in his freedom and weighed down by the feeling of responsibility of Suzanne relying on him to calm her down and reassure her all day long. Often he gets impatient. Then Suzanne feels hurt or gets angry.

Self-love means honouring your truth, discovering your needs and wants and taking care of your own well-being. While you want to contribute to the well-being of your partner, doing so at cost of self is actually a disservice to you both. It goes back to the principle of putting your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others. The consequences of lack of self-love have a ripple effect on your relationship. Not attending to your health, not dealing with your depression, anxiety or addiction can have serious consequences for your relationship.

Take a moment to reflect…where do you neglect your self-love and why? What pulls you off center and away from being the best partner and spouse you can be?
Consistently monitoring your willingness, level of attention and quality of self-care will create a positive LOVE change in your relationship.

When couples consider marriage counselling or relationship therapy, they’re often   gridlocked or stuck in a power struggle. A very common issue that surfaces in couple’s counselling sessions is “He or she is so controlling, I can’t stand it anymore.”

Two things may be happening if you’re partner has a need to control, i.e. decide how things get done or what you’re going to be doing. First and foremost it is important to realize that, in everyday situations, control is usually connected to anxiety. Every need to be in charge or to control frequently arises from a worrisome thought or concern.

When you’re power struggling, you’re often dealing with core differences. The concept “Core Differences” (developed by Brent Atkinson, Ph.D) essentially shines light on the different ways of handling or approaching life that exist between you and your spouse. The benefit of understanding this concept is to be able to step out of the critical stance and realize that neither one of you is right or wrong, or is doing things in a “better” way. You are simply “different” in your core approach to living life.

When you understand the desire or longing which motivate your partner, including the fear that can surface when you’re asking him or her to act differently, you can usually move out of gridlock and into a place of being supportive and loving with each other. After all, you do love this person who you’re power struggling with and both of you deserve to be as happy as possible in your relationship. Learning to accept each other’s differences, even if they bring up uncomfortable feelings is an essential part of differentiation and relationship success.

Do you sometimes perceive your partner as controlling or selfish and always wanting their own way? Or do you catch yourself wishing she or he wasn’t so sensitive and would stop taking things so personally? This would be a classic case of dealing with the core difference of how you both tend to handle differences.

If your partner comes from a place of “collaboration first” conflict is avoided when you can each anticipate each other’s needs and are willing to take  them into account as much as your own. What she/he really longs for, is being in a relationship where someone cares enough to voluntarily consider her/his needs without having to ask for it. Your partner’s biggest fear is that you will be arguing all the time if you do things “your” way.

The other end of the spectrum of “collaboration first” when trying to handle differences, is “persuasion first.”  This means that you like to strongly argue your point of view. You don’t want to try and anticipate your partner’s needs, you believe that each of one you should really go for what you want, rather than compromising all the time.

 Your dream is to be in a relationship where you get to be yourself. You want to be in charge of your own “destiny” and you’d like you partner to hear and acknowledge you. Your biggest fear is that you’re going to have to be fake and pretend that you don’t care how things are done.

The next time, you catch yourself thinking “You always want things your way!” or “I wish you’d stop taking things so personally!” take three deep breaths and get grounded. Now literally try standing or sitting side by side, rather than facing each other and consider the issue together from a stance of “neither one of us is wrong, we’re just different” in our approach to handling differences.

 How can you meet in the middle so neither one of you has to pretend not to care or feel like you have to fight all the time to have your viewpoint being taken into consideration? Discuss your individual needs and feelings. Consider finding common ground by rating the importance of the desired outcome. For example, on a scale of 1-10, how important is doing it your way in this particular instance. Can you give each other permission to have different needs without taking it personally?  (i.e. can you let go of  “If you really loved me, then you would do “X”.”)

Sitting down with a marriage or family therapist can help you if you have built up layers of misunderstanding or misinterpreting each other’s actions and/or needs and are now gridlocked in a place of hurt and/ or frustration.

 

Do you feel less inhibited or does it seem like you can “let yourself go more” sexually after you’ve had a drink or two or three? As a marriage counsellor and relationship therapist I often hear couples share that over time their sex life has lost some of its initial “sparkle.”

Recently one couple, let’s call them Mary and Tom,  shared that they had gotten into the habit of drinking or toking before being intimate. Conflict arose because Mary didn’t always feel like having a drink before sex and this was now affecting their physical intimacy.

How does alcohol affect your sex life? On the surface, alcohol may give you the illusion to promote “great sex” because it can make you feel romantic and more inclined to be sexual. For some men, it can “prevent” mild cases of  premature ejaculation or a tendency to come too soon. For some women it can promote sexual arousal or desire.

Have you have ever experienced difficulty in staying present with your partner  during sex (i.e. while you’re intimate your mind wanders and you suddenly think about work, or something on your to do list)?

Perhaps you can relate to the struggle to relax and relinquish control because you worry about being parts of your body being unattractive?

This was the case for Tom and Mary. Tom often felt overwhelmed by Mary’s need to have eye contact during sex and desire to talk after sex. Mary could get caught up in thinking her belly was too fat and trying to avoid Tom touch her in certain areas she thought were less attractive.

After a couple of drinks these feelings subsided for both of them. This makes sense because alcohol and marijuana are both depressants. The can temporarily alleviate anxiety.

Alcohol does not however contribute to building a deeper intimate connection. You also face the risk of developing a habit of needing “chemical” support to handle your emotions, which can of course lead to addiction.

Sexual bliss is directly impacted by your ability to

  • Manage your anxiety
  • Learn to be present in your body
  • Build and maintain charge
  • Create emotional safety and trust in your relationship

Introspection is the place to start if you’d like to deepen your intimate connection, if you long to have sexual experiences with your partner that verge on the spiritual or if you’d like to be more at ease in your body.

Once you’ve identified whether you need help with boundaries, self-esteem building or anxiety management, you can choose a number of ways ranging from self-help books to counselling support to create positive change in your life.

If you have identified that your relationship is lacking in emotional safety, you and your partner will want to sit down and discuss what you need from each other in order to repair or rebuild trust.

Often this will mean that you both learn how to communicate differently with each other. Sometimes it means one of you needing to learn anger management.

There are numerous resources available from books to courses in non-violent communication or working with a love and intimacy counsellor like myself who can help you with the process of hearing and seeing each other and accepting each other’s differences without sacrificing your own needs and desires.

As a somatic psychotherapist and marriage counsellor I offer intimacy coaching to couples who would like to deepen their intimate connection and want to share a more satisfying sex life.

The number one practice and first, very simple step towards a more fulfilling sex life is body mind awareness.

In a world that is incredibly fast-paced and almost everybody’s day is tightly structured and governed by a schedule, most individuals spend a lot of  time “in their head.” And while eroticism and desire are governed by the mind and by willingness, without body mind awareness your sex life risks being limited to a quick orgasm rather than the enjoyment of a full body release.

There is often an erroneous belief that a bigger trigger creates a “bigger bang”, i.e. increasing stimulation of the genital area results in a bigger orgasm. It’s like driving a low horsepower vehicle and thinking that if you push the gas pedal hard enough it’s going to go faster, forgetting that maximum output is determined by horsepower.

If we transfer this analogy to the body, the amount of energy in your body is the equivalent of the vehicle horsepower. You need more horsepower, i.e. energy for a more complete orgasmic experience. How can you increase and build energy, specifically sexual energy? Since you can only change something if you have an awareness of the starting point and the desired outcome, body mind awareness is your gateway to building energy.

Exercising and maintaining a certain fitness level can contribute but don’t guarantee that you have body mind awareness. If you tend to exercise and multitask, i.e. watch TV, work on your computer or read while you’re running on the treadmill, you’re often distracting yourself from your body.

Cultivating a “breathing practice” is the simplest way and first step to increase body mind consciousness while learning how to move/raise energy in your body.

 When you bring your awareness to your breath and increase its volume, a number of beneficial physiological mechanisms are set into motion. More breath means more oxygen which is a key element in your body’s ability to produce energy. The website “The Healer within” is an excellent resource for variety of simple breathing practices that you can integrate into your daily routine.

Practicing to regularly tune into your body is the second step in mastering body mind awareness. How often in your busy day do you ignore the signals your body sends you?

Perhaps you’re familiar with these examples:

  • You have to go to the washroom but decide that you don’t have time right now and continue on with your day ignoring your discomfort
  • You skip lunch even though you’re hungry because you’re too busy
  • You overeat even though you feel full
  • You don’t drink water even though you’re dehydrated
  •  You have a cup of coffee rather than a brief nap when you’re tired

Learning to listen to and honor your body signals, slowing down and doing a body scan to bring awareness to your body,  practicing mindfulness, all these are simple ways that can enhance your body mind awareness.

Imagine lying in bed with your partner fully present in your body, acutely aware of the sensations touch is producing. Imagine engaging all your senses, smelling, touching, seeing yourself and your partner. Imagine breathing and deliberately changing your breath to increase and raise your sexual energy.

Now compare that image with lying in bed with your partner a part of you giving and receiving touch while another part of you is thinking about what you have to do tomorrow. As you go through the motions of “pushing all the right buttons” a part of your mind keeps wandering off.

Which intimate experience would you rather have?

 

 

Over the years of offering marriage counseling to couples, I’ve noticed that there are some recurring stories or themes that propel individuals to seek out couples counseling.

 

One such theme is “I’m not getting a lot out of our marriage/relationship anymore.” This statement is often accompanied with a sense of bewilderment, sadness or resignation.

There is a sense of loss that what used to be an exciting, romantic, sexy relationship somehow morphed into a well-functioning, predictable, loving companionship.

I’m not suggesting that there is anything wrong with solid, loving companionship. I would like to suggest however, that there needs to be a shift in attitude if you want to keep your marriage vibrant and exciting, an emotionally safe haven from the world where you continue to grow, heal and discover each other.

You are most likely familiar with John F. Kennedy’s statement “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” I would like to propose that you transfer this statement to how you live and participate in your relationship, i.e. don’t ask what your relationship can do for you, but what you can do for your relationship.

Like anything that is supposed to grow and flourish, relationships need care, attention and nurturing. But you can’t give from an empty cup. That’s why I believe that one of the most important contributing factors of lasting relationship bliss is self-care.

Unfortunately we all lead very busy lives, with long to do lists and self-care tends to land at the bottom of the list. Given that most people never get to the bottom of their list, and new items are added to the top rather than the bottom, self-care can easily fall by the wayside.

Why physical self-care is important:

Physical self-care means taking care of your body by feeding it nutritious food, New Westminter Marriage counsellor helps you rekindle passionexercising, refraining from abusing drugs and other addictive substances and getting enough sleep. If you don’t feel well in your body, it affects your mood. If you’re always grumpy, overtired and irritable it affects your relationship.
If you are disconnected from your body because you don’t exercise and regularly ignore the messages from your body, how can you expect to connect energetically and physically with your partner?

Why emotional self-care is important:

Emotional self-care means attending to your emotional needs. In order to be aware of your emotional needs, you need to practice mindfulness. You have to be willing to slow down and tune in to become aware of how you’re feeling. If you consistently ignore your feelings of hurt, disappointments or other emotional triggers rather than working them out in your journal, speaking to a friend, discussing the issue with your partner or seeking professional help, you risk being shut down, emotionally unavailable or exploding in unwarranted fashion when you reach a breaking point. If you’re busy trying not to feel certain emotions, or your heart is closed, how can you connect with your partner in an openhearted and loving way?

If you can agree that being available to yourself and honoring your own needs is the foundation you require in order to be available to others and potentially honor and connect to their needs, then it would make sense to put self-care at the top of your list.

If practicing good self-care is a commitment that you’re making so you’re able to nurture your love relationship, I invite you to stop and think about what would be helpful to you so that you can honor that commitment.

What are your challenges regarding self-care? Consider how you and your partner could support each other in practicing good self-care. What kind of agreements regarding accountability could you come up with? Remember that it takes consistent effort to move from the know-how to the do how…but isn’t growing and deepening your love relationship worth it?

 

 

Do you struggle to understand your partner at times? Maybe when you met and were freshly in love, the fact that you were different was exciting and interesting. But when the novelty wears off, it’s easy to move from admiring a particular trait to finding it irritating or “wrong.”

This can then become a place where you don’t see eye to eye, your frustrations rub up against each other and you get stuck in the same argument over and over again.

If only he or she could see it your way… things would be so much easier. Often you are convinced that the way you go about things is the right or better way.

I hear about this dilemma during  couples counselling and marriage therapy in my Burnaby counselling office all the time.

If you don’t agree and often get frustrated when discussing certain areas of your life together, you are most likely being confronted with a difference in core value.

Core values are the foundation of who you are and how you choose to show up in the world. They impact your decision making process and are the reasoning behind your choices. Shared core values can contribute to great harmony in a relationship, and differences can be an endless source of misunderstandings and / or judgements.

Let’s look at a concrete example:

Do you ever find yourself thinking that your spouse is anal, neurotic or just plain controlling and anxious?

Or are you the one who can sometimes feel like your partner is lazy, too laid back or even somewhat irresponsible?

Whether you like to play first and then use that energy to get your work done, or if you learned that first you do your homework and then you play… how  you experience work and play is about core values.

The most important thing to remember  when you find yourself at the opposite end of the spectrum – in this case responsibility first or enjoyment first – is that neither one of you is right or wrong. Neither core value is better or worse than the other.

It’s when you get caught up in a critical stance of the other person being wrong somehow, that you get stuck in arguments.

What you can do:

  • Discuss your core values and concretely identify where you stand. A great resource for this conversation  is the work of Brent Atkinson, Ph.D at  the www.couplesclinic.com
  • Be curious – learn about how or where your partner learned about his or her core values and how she or he feels when the preferred way of approaching life is challenged or compromised
  • Agree and continue to remind yourself that your spouse is not wrong… you are both right and both entitled to honour your core value.
  • Discuss how and where you can compromise – in other words how can you avoid butting heads all the time, what would each one of you be comfortable to settle for or live with
  • Have compassion for each other and this process of being different. The desire or need to do things a certain way is attached to specific anxieties.

 

Remember, your spouse is not the enemy just because he or she likes to do it differently.

With some compassion, curiosity and humour you can use your differences to create balance and come up with innovative ideas of sharing life together.

In my Burnaby marriage therapy office, I often hear couples talk about their desire for a deeper intimate connection.

Perhaps you can relate to this scenario: Sex is mostly good or okay, but not as great as it could be, because of time constraints and scheduling problems, lack of connection or underlying conflict.

After years of working as a couples counsellor and somatic therapist, and from my personal experience, I know that how deeply we connect with others depends on our ability to be fully present in the moment.

Take a moment right now to stop and reflect. Where is all your energy? While you’re reading this, is a part of you thinking about the deadline of your project, or what you need to prepare for the kids? Or are you fully present in your body and with the process of reading this article?

Most likely, you’re energy is scattered; especially if you’re in the habit of multitasking. Don’t get me wrong, multitasking has its benefits, but none of them are relationship and intimacy enhancing.

Do you ever catch your thoughts wandering off while you’re making love or having a quickie? Nobody likes to admit that while they’re in the throes of passion a part of their mind is engaged making the grocery list or thinking about the laundry.

Here is a perceptively simple exercise which I like to call Skinergy. Regularly practicing 10 minutes of  Skinergy will help you become more present with your intimate partner, which in turn will create a deeper intimate connection.

Skinergy combines Skin with Energy.

One of the most effective ways to become fully present in the moment and with someone else is to become fully present in your own body.

  • Lie down together completely undressed, i.e. skin on skin ( you could stand but most couples prefer a horizontal position and support for their long torso).
  • Start with your eyes closed and connecting to yourself. Take several deep breaths and become aware of your body. What does it feel like? Are you tense, is there any pain, do you feel cold or hot?
  • After a couple of minutes, make eye contact with your partner (it doesn’t matter if you’re completely synchronized or not).
  • Now tune into the connection between you and your beloved. What does his or her body feel like next to yours? What do you see in his or her eyes?
  • After a couple of minutes return to your own body experience. This process of taking turns of being present with yourself and another is called shuttling.

Some things to observe and be aware of:

Notice your breathing. When you connect and look into each other’s eyes, does your breathing change? Do you lose connection with yourself? Do you get to a point of needing to look away or close your eyes? All your feelings are valid and welcome.

This entire exercise is about noticing. Breathing together and feeling each other’s energy.

You can touch each other – but in a non-sexual way. This is not meant to be foreplay, although many couples report that being connected and fully present and feeling each other’s energy creates and builds sexual energy or arousal. If that happens you may of course choose to continue with foreplay AFTER Skinergy.

The entire exercise (approx. 10 min) happens in silence.  This is all about sensing yourself and each other. If you notice your thoughts wandering off (and they will) gently bring yourself back to the present moment – just like you would during meditation. Simply observe the thought without engaging and let it pass by like a cloud.

A regular practice of Skinergy will “train” you to become automatically more present with yourself and attuned to your partner and his or her energy. You will notice that your intimate connection will deepen naturally.

If you experience any challenges, or have feedback, comments or concerns, I’d love to hear from you! Please connect with me by leaving a comment or sending me an email at info@positivelifechanges.ca.

Here’s wishing you deeper and more fulfilling intimate connections.

Are you aware of  having roles in your marriage or relationship? Does one of you tend to be the complainer and the other one the listener or sympathizer?

The minute Laura would walk in the door at the end of the day, she would vent to Sam about her day. Traffic had been bad, her boss at work had been rude, her mother called and they had a fight, she didn’t digest lunch properly and so on and so forth. Sam usually listened and made sympathetic noises.

One day, Laura became aware that she was always regaling Sam with stories about her day while he would share next to nothing. When she asked him if he never got frustrated, he was surprised. Of course he did! At work a delivery had been delayed and he had had all sorts of headaches to deal with that day.

Laura was confused that he didn’t talk about what had happened. Sam thought his role was to listen while she complained.

Ideally coming home means the return to a safe haven. As a marriage counsellor I help couples communicate in a way that validates their experience and leaves them feeling heard and seen by the other.

Sharing the little or bigger plights of your day and sympathizing with each other can be comforting; especially if you both get a chance to vent. Most of us don’t have too many places in our lives that allow us to be blunt and honest about our experiences and what we think of our boss, the neighbor, traffic, ecc.

Consider having a mini-pity party together daily. Vent about your frustrations, receive sympathy and then let go and move on. Some tips: try to simply receive your partner and listen, rather than trying to fix what is going on for them or suggesting how they could have reacted or done things differently. When we’re venting, we’re usually not open to hearing criticism (as constructive as it may be) nor do we want our audience to take sides with the other party.

If you do have thoughts regarding what your partner shared, ask if he or she would like some feedback. Talk about what you heard and your reaction and thoughts – NOT about how your partner could or should behave differently. Be curious; ask more questions to get clarity. If your spouse does not want feedback, don’t take it personally and accept a no graciously.