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.

relationship joy

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.

One of the most common “complaints” I hear from couples when they make an appointment for couple’s counselling or relationship therapy is how fed up they are  with all the negativity between them.

stop blaming with couples counselling in Burnaby and North VancouverAre you tired of bickering all the time? Are you a nag?

Does it feel like conflict erupts out of nowhere… one minute things seem to be fine and the next minute you’re arguing? Would you agree that those types of arguments rarely lead to resolving the real underlying issue?  Instead you’re both most likely walking away feeling frustrated, annoyed or disappointed?

I’m going to invite you to take a moment and think back over your last few conflicts.

Do your arguments often start with one of you complaining, blaming or criticizing?

In other words, did one of you start pointing a finger and talking about something you didn’t like the other person was doing?

If that is  indeed the case, most likely you ended up arguing about who was right or wrong, one of you got defensive or started explaining and you got stuck  in that place where both of you want to be right.

How can you get out of this repetitive cycle? Grab a cushion and work with the three fingers!

Let me explain:)

Often when you get irritated you step into “trigger – reaction” mode. You point a finger at your Relationship Therapy North Vancouver can help you communicate betterpartner and start telling them what is wrong with them or what you don’t like about them and their actions.

But every time you point a finger at someone – three fingers are pointing back to you. 

I know that it can be really hard sometimes to bring our attention back to ourselves. It is very easy and tempting to get stuck in the energy of: “If you didn’t always ‘fill in the blank’ – then I wouldn’t have to feel this way.”

But remember, this is YOUR trigger and these are YOUR feelings that have developed from the thoughts that you are choosing and the story that you are creating.

Wayne Dyer used the metaphor of the orange to paint a picture of this dynamic. When someone squeezes an orange, juice will flow out of the orange. No matter who or what squeezes the orange – the juice is always orange juice. It doesn’t change flavour or contain pieces of the person who is doing the squeezing.

Relationship counselling Burnaby can help you increase your ability for reflection and accountabilityIn order to reduce conflict and increase connection you need to be able to step out of reactive mode into reflective mode. This is where the “cushion” comes in. Connecting with yourself and identifying what is going on for you requires calming down just like you would  if you sat on a cushion to meditate.

Some tips:

Calming down your body will help calm down the mind. Bring your awareness to your belly and take 3 or 4 breaths into the belly. (This activates the para-sympathetic nervous system which calms the body.)

Asking yourself the following questions can help you identify your trigger and your part in the conflict:

  • What is familiar about this conflict? How does this remind me of my childhood or growing up years?
    Sometimes you will find that the trigger is part of an old  “theme” such as for example “No matter what I do, it’s never good enough,” or “I do so much to make others happy but it never really gets appreciated,”  or “Nobody wants me.”
  • What story have I created in my head – what filter have I used to interpret what has happened?

    Two predominant filters that create conflict are judgment about the other person, or judging yourself, i.e. you either assign a value to the other person because they’re not doing what you would do in a given situation or you put yourself down because you believe that you are the cause of the conflict.

You might choose to write down your insights so you can mull them over and potentially share them with your partner.

Deepen your intimate connection and rekindle appreciation with Marriage TherapyAs you both take increased ownership for your part of the conflict and share your triggers with each other you will  remember that this person is not “the enemy” but rather the love of your life. Building a culture of accountability will deepen your intimate connection and will allow you to make a “repair attempt” more easily. 

If you find that you can’t calm yourself down easily, that you both experience difficulty listening to each other or you have the tendency to take things personally you might consider connecting with an experienced marriage counsellor or relationship therapist like myself who can help you with boundaries and communication tools.

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

As a marriage therapist and couples counselor, I regularly listen to couples share the pain they experience when they don’t get the love they want. Often, especially in the beginning of couples counselling, there can be a fair amount of focus  on how the pain is the other person’s fault, i.e. the result of what the other person is doing “wrong” or failing to do.

Similar to J.F. Kennedy’s famous quote “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” I sometimes like to offer couples these questions:

“ How can you love more in this relationship?Increase love in your marriage with Burnaby Marriage Therapy

How can you give yourself more love?”

It’s easy to get stuck in feeling disappointed, hurt and discouraged based on your spouse’s actions or lack thereof.

Would you agree that when you are marinating in pain, you forget or have doubts whether your partner actually loves you? Would you also agree that sometimes a simple apology is not enough for you to fully let go of your hurt feelings?

When somewhere inside your heart you’re still harbouring resentment, it’s going to impact how much love you’re willing to give.

North Vancouver couples counselling help you create an upward love spiralIn order for love to grow in relationship, both you and your partner have to be willing to give and receive love. Loving and feeling loved creates an upward spiralling “love circuit”.  If one of you struggles with giving or receiving the “love circuit” gets interrupted or reversed.

I’m sure you have experienced this firsthand. Remember a  time when you wanted to give your partner a hug and they didn’t  participate – they weren’t willing or able to  receive you?Most likely your emotional response  ranged from mild disappointment to feeling rejected.

Perhaps you can also remember an occasion where the opposite was true. You weren’t  feeling very generous and giving. No hugs being initiated by you. Your partner’s response most likely landed somewhere in between disappointment and feeling unwanted.

If you’re ready for more love in your relationship I invite you to consider the idea of forgiveness. The degree with which you have either forgiven your partner or yourself can have  a direct impact on your willingness to give and receive love. 

Test this out for a moment. Think of a time when you felt hurt by your partner’s actions. On a scale of 1 – 10, how much have you actually forgiven them? Please go with the first number that popped into your head rather than the number your think you “should” come up with.

Let’s say you came up with a 6. How and when does this impact your willingness and ability to love more? 

Now think of a time when you did something that created pain in your relationship. Perhaps you lied, suffered a relapse from recovery, broke a promise. Perhaps you feel responsible for not being different, more or less. Perhaps you feel responsible for not being able to make your partner happy.  Again – on a scale from 1 – 10, how much have you forgiven yourself? How much have you been able to let go of shame, guilt, feeling inadequate? And how is this impacting your ability to receive love? To give yourself more love? 

If you are ready for more love in your relationship – practice forgiveness. Be curious and Relationship Therapy Burnaby helps you heal relationship painidentify what is holding you back from forgiving yourself and others.

Difficulty forgiving can be impacted by

  • judgement
  • fear
  • low self-esteem
  • guilt
  • shame
  • religious beliefs
  • old “stories” that you were told about yourself or others when you were growing up
  • your sense of deserving

Sometimes the first step to increasing forgiveness is compassion and remembering that you or your partner were doing the best you could at the time. Our best is not always the same. Forgiving does not mean forgetting. It does mean surrendering and letting go of the past and showing up fully in the present moment. To the best of your ability.

Action step: take some time each day to journal about something that you still need to forgive. Identify what is holding you back. If you are feeling stuck or if you recognize a pattern, you might choose to enlist the support of  a trusted loving friend, psychotherapist / counsellor or life coach.

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.

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.

or How to stop escalating relationship conflicts.

Burnaby marriage therapist can help you resolve conflictWhen couples contact me for relationship counselling and marriage therapy, I invite them to fill out a personal info form where they are asked to name their short and long term goals for couple’s counselling.

80% of couples that seek out my services as a marriage and family therapist want to change how they communicate. More specifically they want to change how they handle conflict. 

I’m sure you’ve had an argument or a fight or two with your lover / spouse. If you think back for a moment, can you identify the difference between the arguments that ended well and those went “sideways”? What happened in those discussions where you got stuck, didn’t reach a positive resolution and left feeling angry and misunderstood?

I am imagining that you’re answers all point to one or both of you having reached a point where you felt overwhelmed, out of control, triggered, attacked, or ungrounded. In fact you probably felt like Mr. Duffy in James Joyce’s novel “The Dubliners.” To quote: “Mr. Duffy lived a short distance from his body.”

Typically when we start to get overwhelmed or “flooded” with emotions, our whole system is in stress mode. This means that your brain is pouring out stress hormones, which in turn affect your breathing and your heart rate… and all of this affects your ability to think clearly, stay focused and connected to your boundary. You can literally be beside yourself. Because your body has entered something similar to fight or flight mode, you also tend to forget that the person who is facing you is actually not your enemy…but someone who you love deeply and who loves you.

Grow the love you have with North Vancouver relationship therapistWhat would happen if in the moments of your most heated discussions, you were able to remember the goodness and beauty of your partner? Would you be able to step into a place of compassion and desire to understand what is going on for them? Would you make different assumptions and interpretations and consequently respond more calmly and less defensively? Would you simply be more willing and open for loving communication?

In order to return to a heart space, one of you needs to call for a time out or break when things get too heated. Ideally you will cultivate a sense of awareness of your mind and body in order to be able to quickly identify and catch yourself when you are getting flooded. Sometimes you may be too absorbed in the heat of the moment and it will be your partner who notices that you are flooded.

During this time out or break, you may choose to sit side by side or even stand side by side, leaning against each other. Focus Burnaby couples counselling uses mindfulness to help you resolve conflicton bringing your awareness back to your body. The first and most simple way of doing this is to connect to your breathing. 

  • Focus on breathing into your belly (this activates the parasympathetic nervous system which is calming) and slow down. Relax your jaw, breathe with your mouth open and gently concentrate on expanding the belly and releasing tension on the exhale.
  • Next find areas of muscle tension in your body, and first tense and then relax these muscle groups. Examine your face, particularly your forehead and jaw, then your neck, shoulders, arms and back.
  • Make the relaxed muscle groups feel heavy and warm by imagining that your arms for example feel pleasantly heavy and warm.
  • Finally bring a soothing and loving image to your mind. Focus on feeling calm and safe. Now think about a positive loving memory that involves your partner. Allow your mind to move from one positive image to the next. Allow yourself to remember how you feel when you have felt truly loved by your spouse.

Give yourself about 15 – 20 minutes to shift into this calm and grounded state. If you have a difficult time remembering anything positive or loving about your partner, the two of you may need to sit down and talk about why you love each other. Sometimes couples counseling can help work thru old conflicts and hurts so you are able to  reconnect to why you are choosing to spend your life with this person.

 

They use different aliases: marriage wreckers, divorce predictors, love erasers…but they all do the same thing. They are the termites that slowly eat away at your marriage.

I recently wrote an article on my website www.goddessrevealed.ca which focuses on counselling for anxiety and stress relief. The post is called “How to raise your Happiness Quotient” and discusses the effects of negativity on the brain as well as practical steps for moving from no to YES.

Negativity has not only a marked effect on the brain.

When the ratio between your positive and negative messages and expressions in relationship falls below 3:1 you are slowly erasing the love between you.

John Gottman ( The Gottman Method) researched communication between couples in the love lab for over 15 years and  identified 4 particularly harmful habits or divorce predictors that put couples at risk.

He has called them the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse. I like to call them the love erasers. When couples come to see me for sex and marriage therapy, one of our first areas of focus is the elimination of love erasers.

Burnaby Couples counsellor can help you prevent divorceDoes your partner sometimes say things that you have heard a thousand times... things you find boring or have judgment about…so as s/he speaks you roll your eyes. Or perhaps you have gotten into the habit of mimicking your partner, repeating things they said in a way that is sarcastic or diminishing. Some couples get into the unfortunate habit of name calling in moments of heated anger. All these actions fall into the category of contempt. How do you feel if your partner treats you with contempt? Most likely you feel hurt, shamed, angry …certainly not loved or emotionally safe.

Contempt is love eraser number one.

Some couples get so frustrated when they get stuck in communication or they feel so hurt and misunderstood that they North Vancouver Marriage therapy can save your marriage from divorcestop talking. Most of the time however it is one partner in particular who adopts this negative habit. S/he will simply not answer when addressed after a fight or disagreement. S/he will treat the other partner as if they were invisible and clearly inaudible. This “silent treatment” can sometimes go on for days. I once worked with a couple where the wife was extremely jealous. Whenever she thought that her husband had behaved “inappropriately” she would give him the silent treatment or cold shoulder. Sometimes he hadn’t actually done anything but someone had smiled at him and perhaps he had smiled back. Often he wouldn’t know what was going on, except that his wife was treating him like air.
He – like anyone else who has ever been the recipient of this kind of behavior felt frustrated, powerless and hurt. The lack of willingness to communicate slowly erodes trust and emotional safety.

This behavior is also called “stonewalling” and is love eraser number two

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Burnaby relationship therapist and marriage counsellor helps you stop arguingSometimes when I listen to spouses discuss an area that causes distress during a marriage counselling session, I don’t hear about a specific behavior. Instead I get a very critical description of the husband or wife. “She is just lazy.” “He is so selfish”, “She is so mean-spirited, she always throws me under the bus with her parents.” When you criticize your partner instead of the specific behavior, your partner tends to feel angry, ashamed or embarrassed, and frustrated. S/he will most likely not feel particularly motivated to change the behavior that you are unhappy with.

Criticism and complaining is love eraser number three

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Most often criticism leads directly to love eraser number four. Defensiveness. Instead of being able to hear what you are unhappy about, your spouse either comes up with a big explanation about how this is not his or her fault or s/he retaliates but telling you that this is really all your fault. If you didn’t do “A”, then they wouldn’t have to do “B.”

Love eraser number four – defensiveness is probably the most challenging negative habit to eradicate

.save your marriage with Burnaby intimacy and relationship counselling

You can develop a zero tolerance for contempt and stonewalling. You can practice how you approach your partner about issues that impact you negatively. But you have to develop strong boundaries to be able to simply hear your partner out while trying to understand what is going on for them, rather than launching into defensiveness.

I invite you to stop for a moment and consider all the conversations you and your partner or even you and your children have in the course of a day or a week. What would you say is the ratio between positive and “negative” interactions? For every criticism or complaint, do you share at least 3 or 4 appreciations? Do you take the time to hug, touch and connect with each other in a loving a positive way consistently? Or does life sometimes get too busy, so that all that is left is a long list of frustrations?

If the love erasers are at work in your marriage or family, I urge you to make a pact with your spouse and children. Eliminate the love erasers from your relationships and replace them with mindful, loving communication. Infuse your connections with positivity. Find a balance between discussing the challenges and celebrating the good things in your lives together.