Trina Dolenz

Trina Dolenz

Monday, March 6, 2017

Why communication isn't always the most important thing in a relationship

Why communication isn't always the most important thing in a relationship

There is a popular belief that ‘communication’ is the most important thing in a relationship.
When couples come to counseling they often say their problem is with ‘communication’. And the thing they want to fix about their relationship is their ‘communication’. And if only they could ‘communicate’ everything would be so much better between them.
However, often communication isn't really the cause of their problems.

Connection is often the most important thing in a relationship

Yes, communication is important, but it’s not always the most important thing. The most important thing is often actually connection. Connection is that feeling of being on the same team, of understanding each other, that inexplicable warm happy feeling of being in love and together.
This concept is really important to get our heads around, because so often it’s the key issue we are really fighting about.

‘A relationship is a state of being connected’

The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of a relationship is ‘the way in which two or more people or things are connected, or the state of being connected.’
If this is so, with no connection, there is no relationship; one defines the other. It would make sense then that being disconnected from our partners can bring up some really painful, scary, insecure and lonely feelings for us.

The big mistake

Which can lead us to the ‘big mistake’. If we are struggling with connection in our relationships and feeling any of those difficult feelings above, it’s only be natural that we would want to reconnect with our partners to regain a feeling of love and wellbeing with them.
However, the big mistake we can make when we are not feeling connected, is to put too much focus on the problem and ‘over-communicate’ from a disconnected place.
It can be very difficult to communicate effectively and respectfully when we are feeling disconnected. Disconnection and difficulty go hand in hand, as you might be feeling frustrated or threatened, which can drive you both to fighting your own corners.
Then when you still can’t connect, you believe the problem is that you can’t communicate, when actually it’s just that we aren’t able to get our need for connection met. Unwittingly, we can then become trapped in a vicious cycle and communication breaks down further.

Why can connection be the most important thing in a relationship?


At the heart of it, we are only communicating to try to make a connection and it is having a strong connection between you that will make you want to communicate with each other and make communication feel more open, honest and safe.
When you feel connected and united in your relationship, as if by magic everything, including your communication will begin to flow much more easily and effortlessly. It’s ironic that communicating from a connected place, will build on your connection, and the connection will build on your communication.
In truth, the two things are closely intertwined - you can't put all your energies into one and ignore the other.

Shift your focus

If you’re feeling disconnected and unable to communicate with your partner, the best thing you can do is shift your focus back to rebuilding your connection. Bring the fun and goodwill back into your relationship to offset your conflicts. Remember why you care and want to communicate with each other and why it’s important to you.
The good news is that working on your connection is fun. All you need to do is relax and enjoy some time together again, because when we are feeling loved and supported, we will naturally want to work on our communication as a result and it will all feel much easier and more connected!

Why you shouldn’t worry so much about being ‘good’ in bed


Being ‘good enough in bed’ is a preoccupation of many people, yet few have a definite idea of what ‘good enough’ means.
Performance is rarely what is most important about the sexual experience, and worrying about performance can spoil it. Being in the moment allows you to appreciate the closeness you feel during sex with your partner. This helps you to work together at achieving mutual sexual satisfaction. Indeed, sexual satisfaction ultimately relies on each partner’s ability to take responsibility for their own arousal and orgasm. Partners aren’t mind readers and need help to offer each other the pleasure they both seek.

Arousing women

The difference in women’s sexual response can lead some partners to question their technique.
So many factors influence women’s responsiveness that they may be extremely quick to arouse to orgasm(s) on some occasions and very slow at other times. Stimulation of the clitoris is what usually leads to women’s orgasms, but how soon to begin clitoral touch varies. Most women like to be at least a little aroused before clitoral stimulation begins. Moreover, prolonged clitoral stimulation can become uncomfortable, and variation in pressure or position may be needed on different occasions or even from one minute to the next.
For men who have developed a reliable technique for self-stimulation, this can be bewildering – why do women keep wanting to alter pressure, have a different spot touched, use a different technique? Understandably, men can feel hurt when their partners ask them to change what they just seemed to be doing successfully.
Unlike men, women don’t experience a ‘point of inevitability’ – when orgasm is unavoidable – so stimulation may need to continue as the orgasm begins and even beyond, or the woman’s arousal can abruptly stop. Those women who like to have multiple orgasms may want stimulation to continue indefinitely or require a different kind of stimulation to climax again. As this is such an individual experience, which can vary from one occasion to the next, it is understandable that getting it right can cause anxiety.

Vaginal orgasm

Another issue affecting many couples is the idea that women should orgasm during intercourse and that their partner should be responsible for their orgasm.
Sometimes, partners feel guilty if the woman doesn’t climax and the woman feels under pressure to orgasm to make her partner feel good. Despite this, many couples don’t talk about their lovemaking or what they could do to enhance it. In particular, women are often reluctant to ask partners for more, or any, clitoral stimulation in case it makes the partner feel inadequate. Instead, they may fake orgasm to please their partner. Ironically, studies also show that many women are more interested in feeling close and connected when they make love than in attaining an orgasm every time. However, the pressure on both of the couple to achieve the climax may inhibit their feelings of closeness and connection.

Expectations and fears

It is not only the way we behave which bothers many of us but also the way our bodies behave. It is quite usual to have some fears that our bodies will let us down or to be worried about whether our bodily functions and bodies are ‘normal’. Mild concern can become a preoccupation, however, so that we start observing our own performance during sex, a phenomenon known as ‘spectatoring’.
Spectatoring is associated with high anxiety and anticipation of failure. You may be very sensitive to your partner’s opinion and on the lookout for criticism, which you may readily perceive. Spectatoring itself causes the anticipated problems because it is impossible to relax and be in the moment when you are watching yourself or looking for hitches.

Banning sex

Simply agreeing that sex is off the agenda for a period of time will allow you to relax and appreciate kisses and cuddles without worrying about what comes next. This is often so enjoyable that couples are keen to break the sex ban and resume intercourse early.
However, it is worth sticking with it, as you will probably emerge from the period of sexual embargo with a completely different, more positive attitude to touch and even to your relationship overall. Starting from scratch allows you to break bad habits, learn about your bodies and embrace strategies which enable you to deal with problems as they arise. Discovering how to be ‘in the moment’ also helps banish performance fears and helps you to relax and enjoy sexual touch so much more when you make love.

Monday, January 9, 2017

What is emotional abuse?

Most people know what physical abuse is, but when it comes to emotional abuse, people tend to think there’s much more of a ‘grey area’.
They might know it has something to do with treating your partner badly – name calling or making them feel small – but not be clear on what’s actually classed as emotional abuse, or whether it’s really as serious as other types.
But if you’re on the receiving end, it can be just as damaging and upsetting – and this is reflected in the law.

What constitutes emotional abuse?
There are a variety of types of behavior that could be classed as emotional abuse. These include:

Intimidation and threats.
This could be things like shouting, acting, aggressing or just generally making you feel scared. This is often done as a way of making a person feel small and stopping them from standing up for themselves.

This could be things like name calling or making lots of unpleasant or sarcastic comments. This can really lower a person’s self-esteem and self-confidence.

This might include things like dismissing your opinion. It can also involve making you doubt your own opinion by acting as if you're being oversensitive if you do complain, disputing your version of events or by suddenly being really nice to you after being cruel.
Being made to feel guilty. This can range from outright emotional blackmail (threats to kill oneself or lots of emotional outbursts) to sulking all the time or giving you the silent treatment as a way of manipulating you.

Economic abuse
such as withholding money, not involving you in finances or even preventing you from getting a job. This could be done as a way of stopping you from feeling independent and that you’re able to make your own choices.
Telling you what you can and can’t do. As the examples above make clear, emotional abuse is generally about control. Sometimes this is explicit. Does your partner tell you when and where you can go out, or even stop you from seeing certain people? Do they try to control how you dress or how you style your hair?

How do I know it's abuse?
Sometimes, people wonder whether ‘abuse’ is the right term to describe any relationship difficulties they’re going through. They may feel like their partner shouts at them a lot or makes them feel bad, but think ‘abuse’ would be too ‘dramatic’ a word to use.
But the point of whether behavior is abusive is how it makes you feel. If your partner’s behavior makes you feel small, controlled or as if you’re unable to talk about what’s wrong, it’s abusive. If you feel like your partner is stopping you from being able to express yourself, it’s abusive. If you feel you have to change your actions to accommodate your partner’s behavior, it’s abusive.
There may be many reasons for partners behaving in this way. They may have grown up in a family environment where there was lots of shouting or sarcasm, or been in relationships in the past that made them feel insecure. Sometimes in couple counseling, we are able to consider those behaviors, and the impact in your relationship. But while this might help us to understand, it can never be used as an excuse – so whether it’s on purpose or not, it isn’t OK. If you feel like you’re being subjected to abusive behavior, remember you deserve to have a voice, and you don’t deserve to be made to feel scared or small.

What now?
One of the most helpful first steps if you feel you’re in an abusive relationship is to speak to someone outside of it.
If you can talk to someone who isn’t involved, they might be able to lend you a little perspective. This can be a particularly useful if you’re not sure where you stand – sometimes, behavior we’ve become used to can seem quite clearly unreasonable to an objective outsider.
This person might be a member of your family or a friend. Or it may be a Relationship Counselor. Counselors are trained to unpick situations like this, helping you and your partner to understand where any abusive behavior might be coming from and how you can work together to move towards a more mutually respectful and healthy relationship.
You may want to come along by yourself at first, especially if you don’t think your partner would react well to the suggestion. We can then help you figure out what’s happening – and whether inviting your partner along so you can work on things together would be a good idea.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Is it love, or is it just attachment?

We all have those friends who jump from relationship to relationship, and each time, they are “totally and completely in love.”
For those of us who have been single longer than two of their relationships combined, we can't help but wonder how someone can possibly be “in love” with all these people.
I mean, come on. It's not love. It's fear of being alone. Right?
Yes. And no. I mean we can't calculate love any more than we can election polls or Miley’s next erotic exorcism. It's just something you get a feeling about.
But what if your feeling is wrong? What if you're just so damn scared of being alone that anyone who comes close to making you feel safe and secure feels like your soulmate?
You know those relationships you got out of, and after a few months, you couldn't believe you ever said those three beautiful words to someone you wouldn't want to be seen with today? How could you love someone so grotesque? Someone so not your type? Someone so shallow?
Well, it's usually because it wasn't love. It was attachment.
I have no real insight in knowing if your love is real or if it's just insecurity masked in AXE body spray, but I can give you some general pointers. They’re the kind of pointers to show your friend because she's becoming way too attached to that douchebag you thought for sure would be a one-night stand.
Because you don't want to attend a wedding where the only thing the bride has to say about the groom is that “he's always there.” And if you're not sure about your own love motives, take a look at the list to decipher if what you're doing is worth all the time invested.

Love is passionate; attachment is apathetic

They say the closest feeling to love is hate, hence why after you break up with someone, all that beautiful, selfless love turns into raging, passionate, inexplicable hate.
When you're just attached to someone, however, you never really get that rage. You get paranoia, anxiety and moments of irritation, but you don't let those anxious feelings confuse you for something as beautiful and important as real hate.

Love is selfless; attachment is self-centered

When you're in love, it's all about the other person. For the first time in your life, you want to put someone else's needs before your own.
When it's just attachment, you just want someone to be there before you. You're not looking out for him or her — you're looking out for you.
The only reason you're buying this person new bedding from Bed Bath & Beyond is so you don't have to sleep alone anymore. Everything you do for your partner is a little bit about you.

Love is hard; attachment is only difficult when you're apart

Real love is never easy. You'd think it would be because it's so pure and beautiful, but anything that intense and life-changing takes work. You must foster it and keep it nourished.
With attachment, there's nothing to grow and feed; it's just about how many times you can see each other in a week.
You need this person the same way you need a fix. It’s not growing, blooming or changing into another dimension. Like any drug, the high is not long-term, and you will come down.

Love is freeing; attachment is possessive

When you're in love, you don't need to see the person to feel safe. You don't need to be with this person to understand how he or she feels. You never wonder about your love's affection and never get jealous.
When it's just attachment, you never have a true hold on your partner's feelings because the only time you feel safe is when you're with him or her. When you’re apart, you can’t help but wonder what, or who, he or she is doing.
If they’re also just attached, doesn’t that mean they need someone to attach to?

Love is empowering; attachment is all about power

There's nothing like real love to make you feel like you can do anything. It gives you a new sense of freedom, a rejuvenated energy. You're alive and ready to take on the world.
When it's just an attachment, it becomes a power struggle. You want to make sure you're the one in the relationship who doesn't get left. You're the one calling the shots, and you're the one with the key to the handcuffs.

Love is timeless; attachment is timed

When you're in love — and I mean really in love — that's it. Whether it works out or not, this person will always be the love of your life.
Attachment doesn't work like that. Attachment is always on a deadline, always on standby. Attachment isn't real — it's like a limbo for real love.
One of these days, one of you is going to find that real love and all that attachment you placed on each other will fall off as quickly as you put it on.
Real love doesn’t fall off; it stays with you forever.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

We have different sex drives

Many couples will experience different levels of sex drive at some point in their relationship. For some couples differences in sex drive may have been present from the start of the relationship. This is normal and lots of people find ways of compromising that feel fine to both partners. For some people, their sex drive lessens over time and finding ways to talk about this together may help to prevent a partner feeling unloved and rejected.
If things seem to have changed for you and you’re concerned about it, try to work out what is causing the difference in your sex drives. Here are some of the things that can contribute to changes in sex drive:

Issues within the relationship

If you’re in a relationship that doesn’t feel OK, then it may be that sex is not something that you want to have with your partner. Many couples work through difficult relationship issues, either together or with the help of a counselor and sex becomes something that feels more possible again and may even be more rewarding than before. But no one should have sex against their will or feel pressurized into activities that don’t feel right or comfortable.


Stress is one of the most common causes for a decrease in sex drive. Equally though, getting close to someone can be a way of managing stress although it’s important that no one feels their partner ‘only wants sex’ and isn’t interested in how stressed they may be feeling.
If you think stress is affecting your sex life, you might want to think about talking with your partner about it and make it clear it’s not a reflection of how you’re feeling about the relationship (unless of course it is, in which case talking about the relationship issues may be helpful).

Mental and physical health issues

Some mental health issues like depression and anxiety can lead to one partner withdrawing from sex or in some cases needing a lot more. Some physical ailments can have similar effects too. If this is a problem for you, it may be helpful to discuss with your doctor. Some medications can also affect sex drive and it may be possible to talk with them about alternatives. The effects of mental and physical problems can come between partners and if this is the case, talking with a counselor may help you both to manage things better.

Becoming parents

Although kids are great, becoming a parent is often exhausting. Sleepless nights, a routine that might feel very different to what you had before and the need to focus on caring for the new addition to the family can all take their toll on feeling like having sex, or even just getting close. Whether you’ve given birth, adopted or started fostering, many people find that the new demands they face can make any sort of sex life feel problematic. Taking time to explore how you feel with a partner, friends or a counselor can help prevent sex becoming taboo and help you establish what you now need from your sex life and how it could be realistically managed.

Issues around body image

Lots of life stages affect our bodies. Illness, aging, pregnancy, weight and surgery can all affect how we feel about ourselves and our bodies and how much of our bodies we want to share with ourselves or with a partner. For some people, being sexual plays a part in feeling loved and accepted regardless of anything else that might be going on. For others, sex might be something that now feels out of reach or at the bottom of the priority list. Finding the right words when there may be other serious problems can feel overwhelming and it may be difficult for a partner to understand how you’re feeling. If you recognize any of this, it could useful to talk to a Relationship Counselor or Sex Therapist who can help you to work through your feelings on your own or together.  

Saturday, October 22, 2016


There’s no formula for knowing when you should leave a relationship - it can be really stressful and confusing trying to make a decision.

You may think things haven’t been right for a while but still feel undecided about whether you could work through your issues.

While you might clearly remember how good things used to be you may now be losing faith that you can ever get back to that place.

It’s often hard to know whether you’re going through a bad patch, or if it’s something more serious. You might feel that letting your relationship end would mean you’re a failure. And you could also be thinking about any children involved –  whether separating would mean letting them down.

Taking a step back

The best way to start unpicking all of this is by trying to see things more objectively. It’s hard to make decisions around your relationship when you’re already feeling upset or confused. Without taking a step back you could find yourself doing something you later regret because you didn’t know which way to turn – or, equally, feel paralyzed and unable to make a decision because of all the conflicting emotions you’re experiencing.

It can be very useful to ask yourself a few simple questions about how you got here and what might happen next. For instance: is this a problem that’s developed more recently or has it been going on for a long time? Is it something you’ve tried to fix before, or is it a new problem?

And if you were to stay together, would you be doing so because you want to make the relationship work, or because you’re scared of being alone? Or likewise, if you were to break up, would you be doing so because you genuinely feel you’ve run out of other options, or simply because you’re tired of trying?

After asking yourself these questions, try writing down the answers. Putting words to your feelings can be great way of understanding them better – and figuring out what you need to address if you do want to make things work.

You could also write a list of all the ways in which the relationship feels different to how it used to: this can help you understand what the problem actually is, which in turn may help you understand what has caused it.

Relationships naturally go through lots of changes and transitions such as moving in together, getting married, having a baby, moving house, taking on a new job or losing a job. These changes can create challenges. Sometimes the changes are less momentous but equally difficult. We can all be guilty of putting less energy into our relationships, of nurturing them less, and this can take its toll. Familiarity can, in these circumstances, leave space for less positive behaviors and thoughts to creep in.

Doing it for you

Whatever you do decide, remember that the decision about whether or not to continue with your relationship is one you and your partner should make. You shouldn’t worry about what other people think, or what you think you’re supposed to do. 

Often, couples decide to ‘stay together for the kids’, but research show this isn’t a good reason to continue with a relationship that’s not working. It can be truly harmful to the children who are much better at picking up on tensions than we might think. Look at it this way: your relationship is going to be one of the key models by which they conduct the relationships in their own lives. Seeing that their parents were able to manage their differences and co-operate, even if it didn’t mean staying together, can be so much better for both their well being and development than regularly seeing their parents sticking with their relationship, but being cold, angry and resentful with each other.

Likewise, you may be feeling a lot of pressure to stay together because of family or religious pressure. While this is understandable, it’s also important to remember that this decision is about yours and your partner’s happiness – and isn’t for the benefit of anyone else. You’re the ones who’ll be most directly affected. Doing things because you don’t want to let down other people rarely works out in the long run, and can cause a lot of resentment over time.

And for a lot of people, there’s also a very real worry about feeling like a failure if they don’t stick with their relationship. When you start a relationship, you might have a lot of dreams for where it could go, and these tend to get bigger as time goes by. Letting these go is always sad. However, if, on balance, the relationship has reached a point where it can’t work – then sometimes this pain and sadness is necessary so you can move on and be happy again.

Talking it through

It’s always worth trying to work through any issues in your relationship before making any decisions.

The most obvious place to start is by talking to each other. Having difficult conversations about your relationship can be painful and tense, but communicating openly will be necessary if you’re going to find a way to resolve your differences. If you’d like help, take a look at our three communication tips to try with your partner – these can be particularly helpful for having conversations that you might otherwise find nerve-wracking.

Talking to people outside of the relationship can also be a really useful way of getting a neutral perspective on things. Speak to friends and family – people you can trust and who you know will listen to you. They may want to reassure and agree with you – and you may need to be wary of this - but they might also be able to help you develop a more objective view of what’s going on, which can be really useful when you’re trying to make big decisions.

And talking to a relationship counselor is a very useful way getting to the bottom of relationship issues. Your counselor won’t take sides or tell you what to do: they’ll simply help you to get a hold on what’s happening and think about options. Sometimes people don’t come to COUNSELING because they think we’ll try to simply convince them to stay together, but that’s not the case. We’ll simply help you to decided what’s best for you – even if this does mean you and your partner going separate ways.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

6 Reasons Women Leave Their Marriages, According To Marriage Therapists

Women considering divorce often turn to therapy as a last-ditch effort to save their marriages. Many times, their husbands have remained painfully unaware of the marital problems until that point, said Christine Wilke, a marriage therapist in Easton, Pennsylvania
“That’s exactly why good communication skills are such a key ingredient in a healthy marriage,” she told The Huffington Post. “So many women don’t feel seen, heard or validated in the relationship.”
Below, Wilke and other marriage therapists share the most common reasons women file for divorce. (We also recently asked them to share the most common issues men bring up before initiating divorce. Read that here.)

1. They feel taken for granted and overly responsible for the relationship.

For a marriage to work, both spouses need to show up. It requires attention, effort, intention and strong communication. At the end of the day, many wives take stock of all they do for their families and wonder where their spouse has been, said Kristin Davin, a psychologist and meditator in New York City.
“These women feel they carry the weight of the relationship, do most of the emotional work and constantly have to find new and novel things to do to keep the relationship alive,” she said. “It gets frustrating when they don’t receive equal (or close to equal) care in return. After a while, they say, ‘why bother’?”

2. They keep having the same argument with their partner. 

Many couples in marriage therapy have had the same argument about the same issues for years. When their needs continue to go unmet, mutual resentment grows ― a factor that is lethal to a relationship, said Olga Bloch, a marriage and family therapist in Rockville, Maryland.
“When women feel like they’re unable impact change, you start hearing statements like ‘You never listen to me’ or ‘your apologies are hollow and mean nothing,’” Bloch said. “This is particularly difficult if there is an addiction involved. Eventually women give up on the relationship and begin to look for a way out because staying no longer is an option.”

3. They’re not satisfied with their sex lives. 

For most couples, sex is a good barometer for the general health of the marriage. When women complain about their sex lives, there’s usually greater problems outside the bedroom, Davin said.
“Wives in sexually frustrating marriages feel exhausted and emotionally starved,” she said. “Or sometimes the issue is: can the couple be affectionate with one another without it always leading to sex? Sexual intimacy can easily become an issue that drives a wedge in a marriage.”

4. They don’t talk and emotionally connect with their husband like they used to.

Many long-married women are driven to divorce because they no longer feel emotionally tied to their partners, Wilke said.
“In fact, I’d say it’s the number one reason women leave their marriages,” she said. “This issue in particular makes an unhappy spouse so much more vulnerable to having an affair and looking for that connection elsewhere.”

5. They’ve outgrown their partners.

It’s inevitable that people will grow as individuals throughout the course of their relationship. It only becomes a real issue when they grow apart and one partner is resistant to reconnecting, said Anne Crowley, an Austin, Texas-based psychologist.
“As a marriage changes and evolves, it’s not uncommon to hear a wife tell her husband ‘I feel like I’ve outgrown you’ ― especially if they’ve had kids,” Crowley said. “Often the wife has invited and encouraged her spouse to go to therapy, to bridge that gap. If he’s resistant, it creates an impasse for the couple: The wife does not want to continue to repeat the same unhealthy patterns and he wants to maintain the status quo.”

6. They get to the point where divorce is the only way to put themselves first again. 

Often, longstanding issues like addiction or uncontrolled anger will simply push women over the edge, said Winifred Reilly, a marriage and family therapist in Berkeley, California.
“What I hear again and again is that they would rather end their marriage than face another day, week or year with their spouse and troubling issues that never get better.”
After enduring the behavior for so long, many wives realize they don’t deserve to live with tension and disappointment day in and day out. 
“Sometimes, despite their love, commitment and best roll-up-their-sleeves efforts to stay married, people just reach a point of no return and choose to split up,” Reilly said.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Relationship challenges can come from all kinds of places. 
You may have to deal with the challenge of feeling your partner has let you down in some way. Or the challenge of resolving a big difference of opinion. Or more practical challenges – like making sure you spend enough time together or learning to budget together effectively.
Being able to traverse these challenges is an essential part of maintaining your partnership and making sure you’re able to deal with all the stuff life throws at you. If you aren’t, you may find your relationship begins to be a challenge in itself – one that can cause anxiety, stress and upset.
Relate has designed a new quiz to help you figure out how well you cope with relationship challenges – and whether there are any things you could be doing differently.
Click below to give it a go!
Take the quiz