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.

intimacy coaching

Marriage counselling and relationship therapy Burnaby help you shift your love lifeAs a marriage counsellor and sex therapist I often hear couples talk about one partner having less desire for intimacy. Once upon a time everything was fine, but today there seems to be a reluctance to initiate and often the answer is No.

Would you agree that for  many, but especially for women,  a “yes” is impacted by how emotionally connected you are feeling? 

An emotional connection is directly related to how open or guarded your heart is.  What affects the heart space? Resentment, disappointment, frustration, sadness and hurt will cause your heart to become careful and less open.

Of course feeling seen, heard and understood, appreciated and loved  will create trust and connection and openness.

Today I want to look at one particular dynamic that affects how open and connected you are feeling, the dynamic of giving and receiving.

Pause for a moment and check in with yourself. What type of giver are you? Are you very nurturing and caring? Do you give freely of your time and energy? Do you give your partner a lot of love? I am sure that many of the things you do are pure acts of love.

You are detached from the outcome. You are doing it simply because it makes you feel good and you want to.

However – if you are like most people, some of the things you do are part of an “unwritten contract.” I am not suggesting that you are always aware of this “contract.” You do become very aware however when it isn’t fulfilled. 

94c1a022c5b28e9bd26ef99155dd0d1dDoes any of these scenarios / thoughts resonate with you?

  • You do nice things – and they aren’t fully appreciated or perhaps not even noticed.
  • Often it feels like no matter what you do, it’s never enough or not good enough.
  • Your partner always seems to notice what you didn’t do, rather than cutting you some slack and acknowledging all the good you are doing.
  • You’re tired of your partner not being accountable to their commitments in your home and you feel like you always end up having to pick up the slack.
  • Somehow you are “always” the one who has to be disciplined and conscientious while your partner has no problem relaxing or taking time out for themselves.

The bottom line – you have been over giving!! and now you feel hurt, or disappointed and you are guarding your heart a little bit or a lot…. and so you say No.

How to shift? Whether you are responding to a request or you are doing something because a little voice says you should – check in with yourself first and establish whether you are in a place of openness and ease.

Does whatever you are about to do make you feel good? Noticing how you feel in your body is a great barometer. If you feel contracted, grumpy, frustrated, impatient, obligated – you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

If you are at the receiving end of your partner’s increased level of self-care and potential “No” to your requests, you may not like it very much in the beginning. But in the long term it will benefit your relationship and safeguard you both from developing a score card mentality. 

Let’s look at the flip side: How well can you receive? Can  you allow yourself to be vulnerable to Couples counselling North Vancouver to help you ease conflictreceive help or support? Can you get past shame, body image issues, and old scars to be able to receive? Can you receive without feeling the need to give back immediately to “even the score”? Take a moment to reflect if your “No” in the bedroom is connected to a difficulty in receiving,

If the giving and receiving dynamic in your relationship has affected your heart and your desire to answer “Yes”, then perhaps it is time to sit down and share how you have been feeling.

I encourage you to talk about yourself and how you feel, rather than talk about your partner and what you think they are doing “wrong.” The old and tried formula of “I feel ____________ when you ______________. Would you be willing to _______________________?

can go a long way to re-establishing connection and help you shift from “No” to  a joyful “Yes.”

80% of the couples that come to see me for relationship therapy or marriage counselling want to get back to their happy place. Once we dive a little bit into the couple’s history, I usually hear that things started out well. I’m sure you can relate to that.

Be happy together again with Couples counselling and marriage therapy Burnaby Most likely when you met your partner you were pretty happy with him or her. If you take a moment and think back to that time, would you agree that you also thought good thoughts about him or her? That you told yourself positive stories and that you focused on the things you liked about this person?

Most likely you also noticed things that you didn’t like or that triggered you, but there was enough momentum in the relationship and in your desire to be happy, that it was easy enough to  ignore those things that annoyed  or disappointed you.

My hunch is when something “displeasing or challenging” occurred,  you told yourself that it wasn’t really that important, or that it might change in the future.

Fast-forward a few years. The momentum in the relationship has changed. Enough things have happened where you have felt misunderstood, disappointed, hurt or let down.

It may be your experience that you have discussed certain issues over and over again, you’ve tried to explain how you feel and asked your partner to change but they haven’t. So now you feel discouraged and hurt.

Possibly you have come to the conclusion that you need to adjust  the expectations you had for the relationship and from your partner. What this also means is that your thoughts and your narrative about  your partner has changed. Now you most likely think more negative thoughts or when something negative happens it is more difficult to reach for a positive thought and to focus on the good things.

You might recognize some of your current challenges in the relationship of Victor and Janet
(name and story changed to protect  confidentiality).

Victor and Jane got married eight years ago. When they decided to join their lives together they had similar goals and values of how they wanted to live their life. Today they still feel that they have similar goals and values but life’s demands and how they are navigating and communicating about the challenges of those demands make them feel disconnected from each other and their goals.
2 years into their marriage, Victor inherited  a struggling family business and  Janet became pregnant with twins. Due to a difficult pregnancy she was soon on bed rest and could no longer work. Victor’s father died and he started working 12 hour days seven days a week to try and create a  solid financial foundation for the family that they were going to be soon.

In the last five years that’s pretty much all Victor has done. He has worked very hard to provide for the family. He feels misunderstood and hurt when Janet complains that is he doesn’t help enough with household chores or the twins. He doesn’t share many of his worries with her because he doesn’t want to burden her. As a result he feels like a lone soldier whose wife doesn’t seem to appreciate his efforts. Somehow it is never enough.

Janet feels that Victor doesn’t understand what it’s like to have been the mother of premature twins. She feels like he doesn’t understand her reality and how  exhausted she is and how hard she works to keep the house clean and their children happy.  He doesn’t seem to notice the things she does in the house. Sometimes all she wishes for is to be able to go back to work. She doesn’t feel appreciated or courted by Victor anymore.

V+J haven’t had a date night in years. They both feel disappointed and hurt because the other  doesn’t seem to understand them. When one of them makes a request the other one feels attacked and criticized and gets defensive.

We’re sitting in our second couple session and they are both gridlocked. Janet wants Victor to initiate romantic outings. Victor would like Janet to plan the romantic outings. He is happy to show up but feels like he simply doesn’t have the mental time or energy to come up with ideas because the business currently understaffed. Both make statements that start with “why can’t you…”

I talk to them about “being the change you want to see.” They both acknowledge that they have Sex Therapy and Intimacy counselling Burnaby will help you rekindle intimacybecome  stuck in their negative stories and thoughts about each other and are continuing to co-create more misery and disappointment together.

Their willingness to respond to their partner’s request is hindered by their pain. It’s as if both are sitting there saying “Me, me first. When you can acknowledge and see my pain, then I can respond to your request.”

What kind of thoughts and what kind of stories do you tell yourself about your partner? Do you remember that this is the person who loves you – this is your beloved and not the enemy? Or do you take the things that go wrong personally? Do you feel misunderstood and hurt and struggle to remember that this person you are choosing to spend your life with thinks you are special.

What would happen if you changed your story and your thoughts? I know it may be difficult in the beginning. And most likely you both need to clear up some misunderstandings and soothe some pain.

Learn to appreciate your spouse again with positive psychology

But what would it be like if you started to look for the good stuff again? If you focused on all the things that DO work, that DO make you happy? 

If you find yourself resisting this idea then you need to ask yourself: Why? What do you need from yourself and/or your partner in order to contribute to the happiness that you can build together rather than deducting from it. You are in charge of choosing the thoughts you think and the narrative about your relationship. If shifting gears feels overwhelming or confusing, consider sitting down with a skilled relationship therapist, intimacy counsellor and couples counsellor.

Here are 3 ways to rebuild positive momentum:

Take a trip down memory lane. What did you love doing together that made you laugh and have fun that has been replaced with life stress. Schedule a date and pick up some of these early activities.

Make a point of sharing an appreciation with your partner every day. Consider it a gift to them. Put some thought into what makes them special and let them know why and how it makes you feel.

Be available and fully present when your partner wants to connect. Take a screen break – don’t check your cell phone while you’re having dinner. Stop multitasking when your partner is sharing.

Finally – it’s not about having the perfect relationship – it’s about how quickly you make a repair attempt. If, after a joint discussion, negative habits creep back in – apologize – make amends, shift gears quickly.

Whether you’re feeling the loss of a not-too-distant breakup or you’re sitting in the longing of meeting that special someone,  you might be wishing that Valentine’s Day would have  come and gone already.

Love and Dating Advice from Relationship Therapist BurnabyWho needs a reminder of romantic couple love everywhere when it just brings back painful memories or makes you wonder what’s wrong with you… Why can’t you seem to meet a truly nice guy or gal who wants you?

As a couples counselor and relationship therapist I often work with singles who want to break unhealthy and dysfunctional patterns of relationships past.    As we deconstruct familiar relationship dynamics and old hurts, we most often discover that things would shift greatly if there was an increased focus on loving the self rather than trying to please the other.

quotes_beyonceEspecially as women we are still hearing the old echoes of the female’s job description as being someone who is nurturing, in service, helpful, kind, loving and caring. Of course there is nothing wrong with being a nurturing, kind and loving individual – on the contrary – but it needs to start with YOU.

Because Valentine’s day isn’t all chocolate and roses for many, there are more and more messages in the media about using this day to love yourself. It’s an excellent idea.

Let this Valentine’s day

mark a shift in the most important love relationship in your life – the relationship you have with yourself.

If you had a partner who was the love of your life and infinitely special to you – how would you treat him or her?

Would you:

  • force them to do things because you thought they SHOULD? Because it made you happy?
  • make them feel guilty if they said no because they were honouring their own truth?
  • tell them that they should put themselves last and everyone else’s needs first?
  • tell them that they would be more lovable if they lost 10 pounds, had a smaller belly or bigger chest?
  • think they should feel responsible for other people’s happiness?
  • suggest they do everything in order to avoid disappointing others?

I can’t imagine you would!!

I am imagining that you would treat this special someone with great respect and care. If they felt discouraged you wouldn’t criticize them but encourage them. You would remind them that not only were they allowed to say no, but that they should say NO to anything that creates a cost of self.

Perhaps you would encourage them to trust that other’s can take care of themselves, that it wasn’t their job to fix everything.

Finally you might remind them that it was who they are that you loved and not what they accomplished or managed to produce.

Heal low self esteem and co dependency with relationship therapy North Vancouver

“Loving yourself…does not mean being self-absorbed or narcissistic, or disregarding others. Rather it means welcoming yourself as the most honored guest in your own heart, a guest worthy of respect, a lovable companion.” Margo Anand

 

How would your life shift if you realized that the biggest love of your life needs to be YOU?

What would happen if you let go of all the SHOULDs and all the inner conflict and allowed life to love you? How would you feel during the day if you could shift your focus on the things you do have and opened yourself to receiving more of what you wanted rather than worrying about yet again not having your needs met?

Remember:

“Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship that you have.”

Here is to setting the intention of loving yourself and accepting yourself just the way you are on Valentine’s day and EVERY DAY.

 

“Your task is not to seek for Love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi, thirteenth century Sufi poet

Sex and intimacy counselling can help you communicate differently in the bedroomImagine what it would feel like to do the dishes in the dark. You would sort of know what you’re doing because  you’re familiar with the layout of your kitchen sink  and the dish soap. But you probably wouldn’t be feeling very confident about the results.  If your goal was to have  satisfyingly clean dishes,  you most likely would be double checking with your  fingers trying to identify if you missed spots.  You might not be as relaxed as you normally are when you’re doing the dishes.  If you were hoping to please your spouse with clean dishes you might experience  some anxiety and a certain level of uncertainty regarding your ability of being a good dishwasher until you were able to see the results once under the light.

Transferring this metaphoric scenario  to the bedroom,

how confident do you feel as a lover?
Are you willing and able to ask for or give feedback?

As a relationship therapist who specializes in sex therapy and intimacy counselling, I often point out to couples that many of their challenges in the bedroom  stem from communication issues rather than physiological difficulties.

About giving feedback:

  • Sometimes internalized cultural, religious or family of origin belief systems can make it difficult to ask for what you want sexually.
  • Another common obstacle is the fear of hurting your lover’s feelings.
  • You might also be challenged by the “mind reading” myth where you think your partner should either figure it out on his or her own because otherwise you are making it “too easy” or it isn’t “mysterious” enough.
  • Finally, you may feel that you are being “difficult” and that you want “too much.” You may feel intimidated by the idea of asking exactly for what you want. Or perhaps you already shared that you wanted a lighter or firmer touch more than once and it seems easier to just put up with what is happening.

There are no benefits to letting your partner “go blind” and not give feedback as to what feels good and what doesn’t feel so great. 

Here are some supporting arguments to give feedback:

  • Assume your partner wants to pleasure you and is interested in your pleasure
  • You may also assume that your visible or audible experience of pleasure is a turn on for your partner
  • If something doesn’t feel very good you are most likely going to tense up and “close” your body or split off mentally rather than being open and present, and this will impact not only your level of enjoyment but your level of connection
  • You are responsible for your body and for your pleasure and potentially finding out what exactly works for you and what doesn’t

Think about it for a moment – when you go to a coffee shop you most likely have no problem asking for exactly what you want – extra hot, skinny, no sugar, foam on top and if you don’t get one of these requests you let the barista know.

About receiving feedback:

If you struggle receiving feedback from your lover you need to check your ego at the door. Touching your lover’s body has to feel good to her or him. It is not about you and what you think would feel good. Instead it is  about what is actually enjoyable for the receiver. For men it can often feel frustrating or confusing because what “worked well” the last time doesn’t seem to be “right” this time. Don’t take it personally. Hormonal changes during the monthly cycle can impact the sensitivity of nipples or other areas of the body.

Actively experiment with giving and receiving feedback and explore together what is easy and what is less comfortable for you.

Schedule a love play session with the only purpose of exploring sensual touch.Burnaby Sex Therapy and Intimacy counselling can help get your marriage back on track

Take 15 or 20 min each to give or receive touch and to give and receive feedback. During this exercise avoid the “Bermuda triangle” – i.e. avoid the nipple and groin area. Take performance or the outcome completely off the table and simply focus on learning about all the other areas of each other bodies that respond to sensual touch.

Couples who have tried this often report new insights, new sensations and some surprising discoveries. What will yours be?

 

Have you felt hurt, disappointed, under appreciated or rejected in response to something your spouse said or did or didn’t do? And have you then gone ahead and adjusted your own behaviour based on that experience?

Take the example of Quinn and Lara:

Lara used to cook dinner for Quinn but often he would come home late and her lovingly prepared meal would be cold or overcooked. She interpreted is lateness as a lack of appreciation and acknowledgment that she was taking time to cook. Her cooking was an act of love and caring. Quinn seeming lack of appreciation made her feel hurt and disappointed. So she stopped cooking and made herself a sandwich instead. When Quinn would come home, she would be busy with her iPad and wouldn’t make a special effort to get up and greet him with enthusiasm.
Quinn interpreted her lack of cooking and enthusiasm as a lack of caring and now felt hurt. So he stopped bringing her coffee to bed in the morning the way he used to.
Slowly they both kept adjusting their behaviours and acts of love and kindness in response to their hurt feelings. Their sense of disconnection grew in proportion with their feelings of rejections and disappointment. Soon they stopped having sex or struggled wanting to initiate intimacy.

Can you relate to the pattern Quinn and Lara have fallen into?

Marriage counseling Burnaby helps you repair love and emotional connectionSometimes when couples come to see me for Burnaby relationship therapy or marriage counselling they have accumulated a list of slights, misunderstandings and hurt feelings. They have internalized their interpretations and conclusions which in turn are now impacting their behavior and their interactions.

Do you have such a list? Have you gotten stuck in scorekeeping? Is your willingness to be kind and loving with each other compromised by the discussion of who disappointed the other one first?

These discussions are as fruitless and unproductive as trying to figure out what came first, the chicken or the egg. In the end, does it really matter?
Is it really your partner’s fault? Or have you co-created the situation by not sharing your feelings and your interpretations? Did you not also make a choice when you decided that your partner’s behaviour indicated a lack of love and caring for you?

If you find that you regularly assume the worst and tend to forget that this person you’re choosing to spend your life with loves you, I encourage you to sit down together and discuss where this lack of emotional safety and trust comes from.

When did you stop trusting that your spouse only has your best interest at heart? What behaviours make you feel inadequate, criticized or judged?

In order to rebuild love and trust it is essential that you respond with love. Remember that you have a choice when you interpret your partner’s behaviour. You also have a choice how you’re going to respond. Are you going to close your heart and retaliate with a lack of willingness or can you set aside your ego and respond with love?

What would it be like if you could remember that complaining, criticizing and grumpiness tend to be Couples counselling New Westminster helps you repair broken trustan expression of not feeling loved? When your partner seems to express judgment or criticism it is not a statement about you being bad, inadequate other something being wrong with you. It is a statement about your lover’s lack of happiness, joy and inner contentment.

Ask yourself, what do you need to let go of scorekeeping? You might identify that you need to recover from codependency. You might need to be more authentic. Perhaps you need to be more clear and direct. Maybe you need to be more attentive to getting your needs met and honouring your own truth.
Sometimes sitting down with a counsellor can help you identify old patterns that no longer serve you and develop some new responses that honour your inner truth and contribute to you feeling happy, confident and empowered.

Remember you can choose if you are going to respond with love to grow the love you share or you can withdraw from your “love bank” by getting caught up in the downward spiral of scorekeeping.

Do you worry about your loved ones  being disappointed, or feeling bad in some shape or form?

Do try to save your children from feeling/experiencing pain and disappointment in life?

Burnaby Relationship Therapy for recovery from codependency addictionDo you work hard to manage your loved one’s feelings so he or she doesn’t 

  • get sick,
  • relapse,
  • become depressed again,
  • get triggered into some other painful place?
  • Are you the super attentive and kind friend always willing to come to the rescue?

Are you the friendly neighbor who goes out of their way to be helpful?

If you are nodding your head and saying “Yes, I am.  Yes I do all these things and more.”, it sounds like you value being a “good” human being and like to contribute to the well being of others.

Just between you and I, at the end of the day, do you sometimes feel a little disappointed? Do you feel like you put a lot of effort into making other people feel good but somehow they don’t seem to return the favor in equal measure?

Do you sometimes feel a little hurt because all your efforts and the energy that goes into worrying and making sure that others are okay goes almost unnoticed?

Do you sometimes feel a little un-  or under-appreciated?

Have you ever promised yourself that you’re going to stop being so nice? That you’re going to put yourself first? But then, when you try to make these changes in your life, and you actually do try to put yourself first you get stuck?

If you feel anxious or unsettled when  people around you are unhappy or frustrated then changing your behavior may be easier said than done.

In fact you may feel like you’re caught between a rock and a hard place because when you see people you love experience disappointment or pain, it’s almost as if their pain is your pain.

Often individuals who worry a lot about how others feel, also prefer to avoid conflict if at all possible. Of course the potential Codependency counselling and addiction recovery with Burnaby couples counsellingof conflict increases as “happiness” around you decreases.

In order for you to get to a place of more ease inside yourself and still maintain your values of being a caring person you need to unlearn or shift an erroneous belief that you most likely learned when you were growing up.

You need to let go of the idea that you have control over or power over other people’s lives. You also need to let go of the idea that you are responsible for other people’s lives. (Of course you are responsible for any minors in your care.)

When couples or individuals seek my services as a psychotherapist who specializes in working with addiction recovery and helps loved ones of addicts move into recovery from co-dependency, I sometimes offer this mantra:

“I don’t have the power over, control of, or responsibility for other people’s lives. I was taught that I had these powers. This is a lie I now tell myself.”

Repeating this mantra regularly can help you to stay connected to what it is that you really want –  especially when you are feeling anxious and worrying about what is going to happen if you don’t step in to fix things and make sure everyone is happy,.

It will also help you identify whether your actions are truly coming from a place of loving and caring or whether they are informed by your need to manage your anxiety.

anxiety relief with psychotherapy  North Vancouver for co dependent behaviourSometimes it’s hard to differentiate whether you caught in your codependent place or acting from a place of love and caring. From the outside your behavior looks the same. If you’re confused, get out of your head and into your body.

The best barometer for identifying this difference is your body. An act of loving and caring will make your body feel open and relaxed. If that same behavior is however about managing your need for approval or trying to avoid conflict, your body will feel somewhat contracted or tense.

Remember that a lot of the worst-case scenarios that you’re trying to prevent are completely out of your control. You have no control over how your loved ones will respond to,  interpret, feel or think about something.

Are you familiar with the major reasons for betrayal in relationship? And do you know how to avoid them? When couples come to see me for affair recovery or marriage and relationship therapy, we usually start with an assessment to identify the strengths of their relationship and where they need support.

Check out this list of the six most common causes that have been identified to put your marriage at risk for an affair. Do you experience any of these in your relationship right now?

Relationship Therapist North Vancouver: how to recover from an affair1) Do you feel lonely? Does your partner tend to be busy, preoccupied, not available when you ask for attention?

Antidote: make a point of scheduling time for each other. When your partner invites you to connect (he wants to share something with you, she wants to hear your opinion about something) be willing to set aside your media device, game control, social media activity etc. and give your loved one your full attention. If you aren’t fully available in the moment, communicate this with your partner and let them know when you will available.

2) Are you feeling disconnected because of a lack in communication? Have you and your partner stop discussing what is brewing under the surface, or what you have been sitting on emotionally because of time constraints or other reasons?

Antidote: be willing to dig deeper and go below the surface. Go beyond the usual question of “how was your day” and the standard answers of “pretty good” or “not too bad.” Use the daily connector to talk about what really matters to you and create a deeper level of communication.

3) Are you suffering from a love and attention deficit? Do you feel under-appreciated? Do you wish your partner was more affectionate and made an effort to acknowledge what you do or what he or she values about you?

Antidote: treat your partner with the love and care and attention that you would devote to something incredibly precious and valuable to you. (You probably spend some time taking care of your car, your special camera, your special media device, your bonsai collection etc.) Let them know that they are a priority in your life. Be generous in sharing praise and appreciation. If you’re not feeling generous, it’s time to find out why you’re feeling this way and talk about it together.

Couples counselling Burnaby: Relationship advice to prevent affairs4) Are you struggling with boredom? Have you and your spouse fallen into a rut of always doing the same thing, hanging out together but not really connecting…like watching TV every night because you’re both so tired? Are you experiencing a level of emotional distance?

Antidote: be creative and think outside the box. Are you really too tired to do something at the end of the day? Consider agreeing on a media free week once a month or one media free evening a week. Play games, identify or develop a common or shared interest and build excitement in connecting and enjoying this activity together.

 

5) Are you experiencing sexual disconnection? Have you stopped being affectionate with each other? Do you touch each other less frequently these days?

Antidote: start to bring mindfulness into your physical connection. Take the time and remember to have a ritual of greeting each other when you leave in the morning and when you come back together in the evening. Make it more than a quick peck on the cheek. Practice hugging each other once a day for three minutes and see if you can stay present or if your mind starts to wander.  Plan an erotic surprise for each other

6) Is there a lack of intimacy in your relationship? Do you sometimes wonder whether your partner really knows who you are? Do you feel emotionally safe to be completely authentic with the one you love?

Antidote: regularly update your knowledge about your partner’s world. Take time to share your innermost dreams, hopes and fears. Identify any hesitations or feelings of vulnerability and discuss them with your partner, letting him or her know what it is that you need from them so you can show up in a more authentic way.

I often like to compare a long-term relationship to a house. If you are a home owner, but even if you are renting, think about all Marriage counselling North Vancouver: creating long-lasting harmonythe things that need to be done regularly to maintain your property in good condition. What needs to be done regularly to ensure your investment is protected from external influences and increase or at least maintain its value?

Your relationship is a valuable investment. Would you agree that you have invested time, emotional energy and most likely money? Are you doing everything you can to take good care of this investment? If the answer is no, perhaps it is worthwhile to stop and think about why not.

As usual, I welcome your thoughts and feedback regarding this post 🙂

A common complaint couples share with me in my role  me as Burnaby relationship counsellor specializing in sex therapy and marriage counseling is a loss in libido. Usually these are long-term partners who are unhappy about the steady decline of passion and fire in their lovemaking. Often there is a higher desire partner and a lower desire partner and the self-diagnosis is a loss of libido.

North Vancouver couples counselling helps revive libidoWhile lack of sleep, thyroid health, your overall good health and hormonal changes can all be a valid underlying cause for a decreased sex drive, I have found that 80% of my clients have no medical condition that explains what has been happening.

When lack of desire becomes a concern in a relationship, I like to point out that intimacy and lovemaking do not start with desire but with willingness. Which leads us to the real question, have you lost your desire or your willingness to say yes when your partner tries to initiate intimacy. (read my blog post “Are you just not “into him” that much anymore” discussing low libido in women at my counselling for women site www.goddessrevealed.ca)

Imagine these two scenarios:

  1. Your partner initiates sex or intimacy. Clearly he or she is experiencing some sexual desire. While you are not in that same place at this moment, you are willing to explore the idea together and potentially raise your desire. You let your partner know that you are willing (even if that means making a request to meet in a little while, allow you to finish a task at hand, have a shower ecc). This can lead to delightful and perhaps longer than usual foreplay which most often will create some desire.
  2. Your partner extends an invitation / lets you know that he or she is feeling sexual. You are not only NOT experiencing any desire in that moment but you don’t feel like going there. The reason you don’t have any willingness is because, consciously or unconsciously, you are still upset about not feeling heard or seen in some previous arguments. Perhaps you feel like you never get any help around the house or you have felt let down or disappointed because you’re partner doesn’t seem to listen to you.

Burnaby Marriage Therapy can help you with sex and intimacy issuesHere are some questions to ask yourself and to discuss with your partner:

  • Are you being the partner you aspire to be?
  • What will it take to close the gap between how you are and how you want to be?
  • What is so distressing to your partner about you/your interaction? “Do you know what bothers your partner about you?”
  • When things go wrong, do you take an active role in repairing distress?

Creating desire and willingness happens long before you get to the bedroom. Finding answers and sharing your thoughts to the questions above could be a pivotal point in creating a deeper intimate connection with your partner.

You may be surprised if I told you that you would have received an answer to this question at my Hot Yoga class the other day.

While several of us were struggling with a pose, the instructor repeated  “The answer lies in the connection!” a few times. From experience I know this is true. When I can stay fully connected to my body and what I want it to do, as well as remain totally focused on my breath, balance and muscle engagement I can execute most poses quite well. When I get distracted, don’t feel motivated or am tired, i.e. when I am not fully connected, then I typically lose my balance and can’t hold the pose.

If you are experiencing challenges in your relationship, I encourage you to take a look at your connection – i.e. how connected do you feel to your partner. 

Burnaby Relationship Counselling can help you reconnectIn my marriage counseling practice, many couples who are seeking help to save their their long-term relationship talk about having grown apart. Some couples rarely fight, others can get caught up in bickering back and forth over all kinds of things. Their sex life is often on the verge of being passionless. Their spare time together has gotten stuck in a routine of evenings spent in physical proximity but connected to different media devices.

George and Carmen are a good example. Typically during the week, George drops Carmen off at the sky train in the morning and they start their separate commute to work. Carmen is not a morning person so they barely talk. In the evening, when George picks Carmen up he is often in a bad mood because of problems that have been occurring at work. They will talk a bit about their day, but Carmen feels tense because George is stressed and tends to get impatient with the traffic and other drivers. When they arrive at home, Carmen prepares dinner while George tinkers in the garage. They have dinner together and often discuss chores or things that need to be done and their plans for the weekend. Then George goes and watches TV in the family room and Carmen watcher “her shows” in the bedroom. The evening scenario has slight variations with George being on the computer and Carmen reading or talking to her mother or friends on the phone or Carmen scrapbooking and George going out to play hockey.

While you may not resonate with George and Carmen, perhaps some of the following sounds familiar:

  • You are feeling hurt, frustrated, disappointed and / or discouraged. You feel like your partner just doesn’t get it. Even though you have tried to explain over and over again that a particular behavior is causing you emotional distress, your partner doesn’t seem willing to change.
  • You have stopped sharing what excites you or what you are passionate about because when you do, you get mono-syllable answers like mmm, yes honey, just a second, ecc while he or she stays engaged with the cell phone, ipad,  TV or newspaper.
  • You repeatedly ask your partner to do something and he/she repeatedly forgets your request.
  • There isn’t a lot of physical contact between you other than the odd peck on the lips or cheek and a brief hug.
  • It’s been a long time since you’ve had a date night. You are just too busy with work, kids, community activities and other commitments.

All of the above scenarios are examples of disconnect. Disconnect creeps in over time. Do you know why? Think back for a moment to the times when you felt or feel connected to your beloved. If it’s been a while, go back to the beginning of your relationship. What was it like back then?

Typically when you are dating or in the honeymoon phase of your relationship, you both make a concerted effort to connect. Usually you want to know all about this person that you have fallen in love with. You like to share and participate in each other’s lives. You are interested in their thoughts and you regularly reach out to touch each other.

While problems can build up over time due to poor communication, broken trust or other issues, making an effort to reconnect is an important place to start. When you feel connected to your partner, you will remember more easily that this is not your enemy when you’re arguing, but the person you love who might be having a bad day.

Burnaby Relationship Therapist helps you deepen your connection

Here are 9 ways to start getting connected again:

  1. Practice and incorporate the PIT stop into your daily routine ( I wrote a blog post about how it works a while back – here is the link )
  2. Make a point of hugging each other when you leave for the day and when you re-enter (of course you can always hug more often than that :)) Make this a connecting hug – research shows that oxytocin is released into your brain after 20 seconds – so take the time to really be present and connect to your partner and yourself in this hug
  3. Be willing to turn towards each other – receive your partner’s bid for attention with graciousness and interest rather than boredom or frustration. That means, be willing to stop texting, reading, watching ecc and give your partner your full attention – make eye contact. If you truly are totally in the middle of something – acknowledge your partner, ask if the connection can be postponed and then make sure you show up
  4. Truly listen and try to hear what your partner is saying without words. Reflect what you have heard, ask questions and take your partner in, rather than interrupting, becoming defensive or judgmental or launching into your own story
  5. Make deposits into your partner’s self-esteem account. Make a point of seeing them and communicating to them daily what you appreciate about who they are or what they do.
  6. Make connection time and intimacy with your partner a priority. After all this is the person you are choosing to spend your life with.
  7. Sit down together and share what specifically makes you feel connected. What is your language of love? Do you respond to touch and need touch to feel connected? Do you need words and communication to feel connected? Or perhaps you like to do things together like cook a meal to experience that connection with your love
  8. North Vancouver couples counselling and sex therapy  help you dream together againDream together. Review your long-term goals and visions to remind each other that you are on the same path.
  9. Practice the art of self-connection. Similar to my experience at yoga, make a point of finding time to connect with yourself in body, mind and spirit. If you are not connected to yourself – how can you approach and try to create a connection with your partner?

Stay tuned for the second secret to creating a thriving long-term relationship in my next blog post.

 

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