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.

marriage preparation

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.”

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.

Pre-marital counselling or pre marriage therapy is becoming more and more popular, not only with celebrities like Jennifer Aniston. When couples come to see me because they need help resolving conflicts they have become gridlocked on, in our first session I also ask “How is your sex life?”. Usually the answer is: “It hasn’t been great for a while”.

While fatigue and lack of time are the two top “sex life wreckers” in relationship, what impacts intimacy and passion the most is willingness or the lack thereof. Before desire comes willingness. And if over a period of time, you have started to harbor resentment, disappointment and hurt because you don’t feel heard, seen or understood by your partner, your heart is slowly going to become less open. It takes an open heart to create an intimate connection. And an open heart requires emotional safety.

Usually when you are in the throes of wedding prep you are in the honeymoon phase of your relationship. Often you can’t even imagine that you could feel less attracted or have less desire for your beloved at some point in the future.

Pre marital counselling North vancouver can help with emotional baggageBut we all bring our baggage with us and certain parts of our personality or triggers don’t show up until we are well into having to navigate all the stresses of daily life.

In my pre marriage courses or pre-marital therapy sessions you will not only identify what potential triggers you are bringing into the relationship, but I will help you fine tune your boundaries and how you communicate so you are able to truly hear each other without becoming defensive or getting caught up in content.

Have you ever felt frustrated because you are trying to let you partner know that something is bothering you, but you end up “fighting” about who is right or wrong? Often in the end one or both of you will walk away feeling defeated or disappointed because somehow s/he doesn’t seem to get it. When this happens over and over again…you have an issue and it doesn’t get resolved…even if the issue is not really that big, you start to create a story in your head about how your partner doesn’t care or how your needs don’t  seem to matter.

When couples reach this point, they often choose to see a couple’s counsellor. But why risk the possibility of ending up in this place on day when it is preventable?

Burnaby couples counselling before marriage

 

Why not do everything you can to ensure that your marriage will be as beautiful and special as you are planning your wedding to be? Couple’s counseling before marriage offers you an opportunity to create a strong and resilient life of shared meanings and goals together.

 

Are Premarital-counseling combined with addiction relapse prevention can ease wedding stressyou worried your wedding plans might lead to an addiction relapse?

As a couple’s therapist and addiction counsellor who specializes and is passionate about premarital counseling, it is my job to help couples make wise choices in their wedding planning if one partner is also in recovery.

The lasting ripple effect of Addiction can sometimes come as a surprise, especially when the individual is sober and in recovery. Wedding activities have the potential to trigger a relapse. This concern can add extra and unnecessary stress for both of you.

Here is an example of an unfortunate scenario:

The Stag without compromise – Peter has a relapse a week before the wedding:

Peter had been clean and sober from cocaine use off and on over the last 3 years. He had relapsed a number of times for various reasons. Jessica has felt betrayed by his lying and attempted cover ups. Lack of trust has been an ongoing issue for them during the 5 year relationship.

Last year they decided that they were going to go ahead with wedding plans. Peter reiterated his sincere dedication to recovery. He didn’t want to risk losing Jessica ecc. Both the couple’s family and friends were  aware of Peter’s struggles. Peter tends to be very concerned about how he is perceived in the world and had decided that he wanted to have a “typical” stag.

Jessica started to worry.  Peter reassured her that he would be fine. He intended to  only have 2 drinks and would definitely  not do cocaine.

He felt  solid in his recovery. So solid in fact, that he wasn’t  willing to set some guidelines, such as asking his friends not to bring any drugs to the stag. He promised that he would take a cab home at 2 am.

He was reluctant to make adjustments to the activities planned for the stag because he wanted his friends to have a good time. He didn’t want anyone to recall his stag as a boring event.

Peter ended up having a number of drinks. And as had been his pattern, by drink 3 the idea of doing a line or two had become very appealing. He came home at 6 am drunk and high. Jessica was devastated and wanted to call off the wedding. Peter was devastated as well and didn’t know what amends he could make after having broken yet another promise.

North Vancouver Addiction counselling can help you stop the addiction cycleIf you have been struggling with addiction while in relationship,  you know that recovery affects both the addict and the individual(s) who love you. Often the loved one has witnessed failed attempts of sobriety. We know that addiction recovery is not about willpower, even though it may often feel that way… to both the addict and the loved one.

If you’re an addict and experience relapse you most likely also experience shame and feelings of powerlessness or hopelessness. As a loved one, you too experience a loss of hope. Plus you may find yourself waging a battle between feelings of  bitter disappointment and a desire to be compassionate of the addict’s struggles.

This dynamic leaves scars in relationships and couples do well to seek the help of a marriage or relationship counsellor who also has experience with addiction counselling.

Addiction recovery involves coming to terms with loss. There are a number of losses. The loss of doing what you may have done previously as an addict. The loss of carefreeness for the loved one who remains vigilant until slowly trust has been reestablished.

Addiction recovery can impact the spontaneous sharing of your life with others.

While addiction in our Western Society is not necessarily considered a “taboo” subject, addicts are still mindful of who they are sharing this part of their personal life with. Admitting to or “owning” a drug or alcohol addiction can still have tangible social or professional repercussions.

Addiction recovery with Addiction and relationship therapy BurnabyWhile as a couple that is getting married you may be well aware of the perils of recovery, you may not have chosen to share these concerns or even the fact that there is a struggle with addiction with your respective families, friends ecc.

Planning  a wedding that follows all the “traditional” aspects of what that will look like, wanting to act like a “regular” couple, is a legitimate desire for both of you. But you have an extra consideration to plan for. Continued secure recovery for the addict and ease and peace of mind for the loved one.

Anyone who has ever had any experience with addiction is familiar with thoughts similar to the following:

  • I am in control now, I can have just one drink and stop
  • Things are different now. I am solid in my sobriety and can say no to drugs even if others around me are using
  • I can’t even imagine doing what I used to do again. The thought of drinking (smoking, snorting ….fill in the blank) actually makes me nauseous and totally turns me off
  • And anyone who has ever loved an addict and has experienced them relapse will not believe or have a very difficult time believing any of the above. This often ensues in conflict. The addict feels hurt, the loved one feels frustrated.

How you handle this conflict together and what compromises are made within the context of wedding planning can have a significant impact on peace of mind for both of you. 

As you are negotiating a solution that honours both of your needs, you may want to consider these questions:

  • What is more important – that friends will rave about your “cool” stag or that you both navigate this part of the wedding preparation peacefully and without conflict?
  • Are you willing to make compromises and come to terms with the loss of “not being able to do what others do” or do you feel “entitled” to a “real” stag?
  • Are you willing to risk your sobriety for an evening of fun and games?
  • Are you willing to put your partner thru considerable anxiety for the sake of a party?
  • Are you ready and willing to be gracious rather than lapse into grief and passive aggressive victim behavior “because you can’t have a party like everyone else”?
  • Are you willing to set clear boundaries with your friends about what is acceptable at your party? (this does not have to entail full disclosure of your addiction)

5 Tips / ideas for a stag(ette) without relapse:

  1. Discuss together what are the “have to haves” for you at your stag(ette) and what are the “nice to haves”. Remember to North Vancouver premarital counselling help you define your valueslook at the big picture in your planning. Discuss your values. What would you like your stag to symbolize for you – rather than what society has turned it into being the symbol of.
  2. Think outside the box – create a daytime event that involves sports (like golfing or rock climbing). Finish off with a dinner in a public setting rather than a private room that will encourage people to drink (and potentially offer you a “hiding place”)
  3. Let friends know that instead of spending money on liquor you would like to use this occasion as a fundraiser for a cause near and dear to your heart.
  4. Plan a Jack and Jill stag. Shift the focus from drinking to engaging activities and games. Be a support for each other during the evening.
  5. Let friends know that one of your values for your life together is being healthy together and one day raise a healthy family. Share that you are using the stag as a symbolic beginning of such a life together.

I wish you exciting and serene wedding preparations and welcome your comments or feedback 🙂

(As always names and identifying characteristics have been changed to honour client confidentiality)