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.

Sex Therapy

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.”

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?

 

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

Burnaby Marriage Therapist can help you rekindle your romantic connection

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember the following realities: 

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

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

North Vancouver Couples counselling can help you reconnect intimately

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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