Trina Dolenz

Trina Dolenz

Monday, November 30, 2015

Why is Sex so Important?

Our sex lives can be wonderfully reassuring when they go well, but we all have times when we don’t feel so close to our partner and sex isn’t working the way we’d like it to.

That’s why Relate has published The Relate Guide to Sex and Intimacy with Vermillion.
The book aims  aims to help people turn things around and recapture their passion for sex. It looks at why sex and intimacy are so important to our relationships, what it is that stops us from enjoying sex and also covers topics such as sexual secrets, what it means to be ‘good’ in bed, and how to communicate effectively about what we want.

It’s also full of practical exercises and recommendations to help you take control, develop your relationship intimacy and revitalize your sex life.

In this video interview, author and sex therapist Cate Campbell talks a bit about the book – as well some of the most common problems that people face when it comes to sex and intimacy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

10 Tips for a Happy Relationship

1. Talk constructively

How you say things is as important as what you’re saying. If you and your partner are having a disagreement, don’t just attack them or go all-out criticizing. Why not try using ‘I’ statements? By saying  ‘I feel’ rather than ‘You always…’ you’re taking responsibility for your emotions and your partner won’t feel like they’re being blamed for everything.

2. Listen to each other

Listening is such an important tool in relationships. Sometimes, we find it hard to hear what our partner is saying because we’re so wrapped up in our own emotions. Remember that  communication works two ways. Listening to your partner is the only way to know what’s really going on with them.

3. Don’t bottle things up

If something has upset you, you’re not doing yourself or your partner any favors by keeping it to yourself. This is only likely to cause resentment to build up that will come out in other ways. If it’s something that really matters to you, talk about it.

4. Keep things fresh

It’s a cliché, but making the effort to keep things fun and interesting in your relationship can really make a big difference. It’s easy to get complacent about having someone in your life, but this kind of attitude can also lead to boredom and dissatisfaction. Let your partner know you appreciate having them around  by surprising them occasionally.

5. Let go of the little stuff

Although it’s good to talk when you’ve got something on your mind, your relationship is going to be like a battleground if you can’t ever let things slide. If it’s something that, all things considered, doesn’t actually matter that much, why not just forget about it? Nobody’s perfect – and you probably do stuff that your partner finds annoying too!

6. Appreciate what you have

Many people end up looking outside their relationship because they think there’s someone out there who is ‘better’ for them. Relationships aren’t about finding the ‘perfect partner’ – whatever that means. They’re about allowing the connection you do have to develop and grow. The strongest relationships are usually the ones that have been given the time to flourish.

7. Give each other space

Although it’s great spending quality time together, don’t forget you both need to nurture your interests and friendships. Couples who spend every moment in each other’s pockets can easily begin to feel unfulfilled when they realize that their personal interests have started to slip. Allow each other to spend time on the things you enjoy separately. When you reconvene as a couple you’ll be pleased to see each other and have lots to talk about.

8. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself

It’s easy to worry about whether your relationship is as good as it ‘should’ be. Just as we can get wrapped up in having the best clothes or latest gadgets, we can worry about having relationships that are as exciting and passionate as the ones we see depicted in movies or hear about in songs. Relationships aren’t about constantly feeling butterflies – we all have our own unique ways of experiencing them and you’ll know what’s right for you. Enjoy yours for what it is – and be grateful that it’s there!

9. Avoid jealousy and build trust

Jealousy can destroy relationships, and nothing is less attractive than the green eyed monster. If you’re worried your partner isn’t giving you enough attention, try the open, honest approach rather than acting out or accusing them of looking elsewhere. Building mutual trust is the key to banishing unhealthy emotions and remaining strong together.

10. Work on it

It’s not always the most popular way of thinking about them, but relationships can be work. They need to be nurtured and given the space and attention they deserve. Communication isn’t something to do only occasionally – it should be a constant. It’s only by not taking your relationship for granted that your connection will stay strong. But the rewards, as anyone in a happy relationship knows, are more than worth the effort.images-4

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Is Arguing with your Partner Always a Bad Thing?

Relate's new survey The Way We Are Now 2015 reveals that 50% of us rarely or never argue. It certainly seems like encouraging news. But is conflict really something we should avoid? Or is it just part of a healthy and communicative relationship? The answer really depends on the kinds of arguments you’re having.

Different types of arguments

Arguments can be like storms – enough bad ones over a long period of time and it can really start to weather away at things.

If, when you argue, you find you’re returning to  the same topics over and over again – neither of you willing to hear each others’ point of view and sometimes losing your tempers and saying things you regret - it’s not likely it’s doing any good for your relationship.

You may have got stuck in a conflict loop – repeating the same negative behaviors until they risk causing permanent damage. It’s important to break out of this, as it’s likely to cause resentment to build to a point where it’s hard to focus on anything else.

But if your arguments are only occasional – and they don’t spiral out of control – then you may not have anything to worry about.

Many counselors agree they’re more concerned about couples who say they never argue than ones who say they do occasionally – if a couple is never bickering, there’s a chance one of them is simply bottling everything up and making themselves very unhappy.

Although it may not be the most productive way of sharing problems, arguing can serve a useful purpose – in that it does usually involve both sides of a couple saying what’s on their mind.

Avoiding arguments

Of course, that doesn’t mean that every time you’re annoyed with your partner, you should shout at them. If you can avoid getting into a fight, you should.

So if you feel that a disagreement is about to escalate , you might find the following tips useful:

Take a moment. Sometimes it’s a good idea to just walk away from the situation until you’ve both calmed down. You may be able see things more clearly once you’ve had a bit of time to think. It’s usually a good idea to talk over differences when you’re not already feeling emotional or upset – and especially not during other arguments. This can minimize the risk of saying something hurtful and just making things worse.
Use ‘I’ phrases, not ‘you’ phrases. It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Rather than phrasing your comments as attacks, talk about how you feel. That way, you’re taking responsibility for your own emotions rather than blaming everything on your partner. It can also be a good idea to comment more generally on the situation than on the people involved – that way, you can look at it as something to solve together.
Let go of things. A lot of conflict is caused by one or both partners being unwilling to forgive minor transgressions or holding onto things that have annoyed them. Adopting a generally forgiving attitude in your relationship can make things so much easier. This doesn’t mean letting your partner walk all over you – just letting bygones be bygones rather than allowing them stack up over time.
Communicate openly in general. The best place to head off an argument is before it even begins! That’s why open and honest communication in relationships is so important. If you want to talk to your partner about something, do it – don’t keep it hidden and expect them to know what’s wrong. Nobody is a mind reader, no matter how much we would like them to be.
How I can help:

Is arguing a problem in your relationship? Talk to Trina, call 202 657 6919 or email:

Thursday, July 23, 2015

6 Ways To Peacefully Cohabit With Your Patner

Moving in with your partner can be a great way of expressing your commitment to one another, but it comes with its own set of challenges too.
Some people suddenly find themselves feeling a little suffocated by all the time they’re spending with their other half. Some get frustrated about things like finances or household chores. And some worry that the spark is going to go out of things now they’re seeing their partner pretty much every day.
If you’re thinking about moving in together – or you have recently – we’ve got a six tips to help ensure your relationship remains strong.
1. Set your boundaries
It’s a good idea to do this early. Letting your partner know what you are and aren’t comfortable with when it comes to things like personal space, the amount of time you spend together, which household items you’re comfortable sharing, what you’re happy with when it comes to guests and so on can really help avoid resentment building up over time. Remember: wanting to do things differently is rarely the problem – it’s how you deal with these differences and how constructively you communicate them that’s important.
2. Redecorate together
Whether you’re moving into a new place together or one of you is moving into the other’s house, redecorating together can be a good way of expressing your shared ownership of the space. If everything on the floor or walls is chosen by one partner only, it can make the other feel a bit like a guest. It can be a good idea to talk about the kinds of things you’d like in the house together and reach fair compromises where there are any disagreements.
3. Divide chores up between you
It’s a cliché, but who does the housework remains one of the biggest reasons that newly cohabiting couples fight. When it comes to practical stuff like this, it can be useful to take a very neutral, non-emotive approach. Agree on what each of you will be doing and when you’ll be doing it. Check in from time to time to make sure you’re both doing their fair share. This doesn’t mean you have to police each other and that there can’t be room for negotiation every now and then – it’s just a good idea to try to start things off on the same page.
4. Talk Money
Moving in with your partner means your finances are going to be more closely aligned than ever. As such, there will be a few decisions to make. For instance, will you be sharing accounts or staying independent? How will you divide up spending on things like food and household items? And what about big things like holidays or redecorating? Again, keeping emotions out of the conversation is a good idea – just be honest with each other and make sure you communicate clearly on anything you aren’t certain about. If you need some help, read my  tips on communicating to your partner about money.
5. Don’t spend all your time in the house
It can be easy to get a little lazy once you and your partner are cohabiting. After all, if all you have to do to see them is look in their direction, why bother going out anymore? But stopping making the effort to do interesting and varied things together – dinner dates, days out, fun activities and so on – can cause things to start feeling a little stagnant. It requires effort to keep a relationship fresh and exciting – remember to keep putting that effort in.
6. Don’t forget to keep your sex life alive!
It’s an irony of living together that just when there’s every opportunity to have sex at any time, that’s when your interest is at biggest risk of waning. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking: why make an effort tonight, when I’ll be tumbling into bed with them tomorrow…and the next day… and the next…? Keep things fresh by springing a sexy surprise on your partner every now and then. No need to order a chandelier right now, but even something like new nightwear will help to keep things from drifting into the doldrums. Read my tips on revitalizing your sex life if it’s stalled.
Further support
Have you started having difficulties since you moved in together? Or are you unsure about taking the next step? Call Trina and make an appointment. 202 657 6919.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Why forgiveness is one of the most important parts of your relationship

‘Holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.’
When you’re feeling disappointed, angry or betrayed, the idea of forgiving someone can feel a little bit like giving in – as if, by letting go of your resentment, you’re allowing them to ‘get acounseling_word_jumble-sway with it’.
It can be more tempting to hang onto negative emotions – acting distant and frosty as a way of punishing the person who has upset you. It’s not unusual to feel this way. Working through these kinds of difficult feelings can take some time. But forgiveness is a bold step in the right direction. It involves you being able to make a deliberate decision to put your partner’s transgressions – or perceived transgressions - behind you, so you can both move forward together.
Why forgive?
I’m sure you’ve heard clichés such as ‘not harbouring a grudge’ or ‘being the bigger person’. Well, in theory it might all seem straight forward, but, as we all know, forgiveness can be tricky.
It involves you allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Forgiving someone means letting go of your anger and letting go of the ‘moral high ground’. It can also be difficult as it may involve having to consider how you yourself contributed to the problem. Although it’s tempting to imagine ourselves as completely in the right when it comes to disagreements, there’s usually two sides to any argument.
There’s a famous quote that goes: ‘Holding onto resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.’ Forgiveness isn’t just about retaining harmony in your relationship; it’s also about being kind to yourself. If you’re not careful, anger can eat away at you and even affect your attitude towards relationships in the future, making you feel more defensive or untrusting.
Communicating clearly
The first step towards forgiveness is understanding. If you partner has done something to upset you, talk about it. Try to communicate to them in a clear, non-confrontational way about how you’re feeling. Explain what it is that upset you and why it upset you in the way that it did.
During the conversation, you find it useful to use ‘I’ phrases (‘I feel’, ‘I would like’) rather than ‘you’ phrases (‘you always’, ‘you don’t’). This way, you’re taking responsibility for your own feelings and your partner won’t feel like you’re attacking them. And when it’s your partner’s turn to talk, listen to what they have to say and try to understand their perspective too.
Mending lost trust can take some time. That’s perfectly normal. You can’t necessarily expect forgiveness to occur immediately. The important thing is that you take the first steps towards understanding and appreciating how each other feels.
Building forgiveness into your relationship
Forgiveness is a skill. Try to learn to build it into your relationship on a day to day basis. By learning to let go of the little things, you'll be able to avoid the kinds of petty conflicts that, over time, can begin to erode away at a relationship.
That doesn't mean simply letting your partner walk all over you. It can, in many cases, mean letting them know that they've upset you, but not dwelling on the issue for long. But it does mean, when appropriate, deciding to not make mountains out of molehills. Every relationship requires a bit of give and take. Learning to forgive can make that whole process a lot easier.
Want more information?
Is conflict becoming an issue in your relationship? I can help.
Book an appointment by calling 202 657 6919

Monday, July 13, 2015

Relationship Difficulties

Relationship Difficulties
Here is some general advice about what to do if there is conflict in your relationship.
These are the sort of steps a relationship therapist might take you through.

Take Time Out

When a conflict flares up it can be incredibly hard to stop talking and separate off.
The temptation is to keep at it, trying to prove your point, win the battle, or make the other
person see your perspective. However, time apart almost always helps us to have a more
useful conversation when we do come back to the issue.

It is worth talking about this with the people we’re in relationships with when things are
good: what are the tell-tale signs we might observe that one or both of us needs a break
from a discussion? How can we say, in those moments, that we need some time out? We
probably won’t always get it right but it might help to think about it in advance. It is also
worth considering together about where we will go to get that time out, especially if you
live together and don't have a room of your own you can go to.

Similarly it might well be worth taking some time alone prior to raising a new issue
with someone, to think over some of the questions here. Before you approach the
person you could consider what you’re bringing to the discussion and the different
ways in which they might react, as well as thinking about how you’ll express things
when you do talk to them.

Think About Yourself

The tempting thing to do in the time out is to go over and over the argument that you
just had or to imagine conversations you would like to have with the person where
you win and they are reduced to a blubbering mass of apologies. Alternatively you
might start listing all the crimes you feel that they have committed against you in your
head. All these things will keep the rage you feel simmering away nicely but might
not be the most useful thing in terms of resolving the matter!

Instead of focusing on the other person try to concentrate on yourself. What did you
bring with you into this situation which might have formed a backdrop to the conflict
that unfolded? What things do you need to be aware of on your side of the

What are the things that you have learned over your life which really make you angry
or upset? Some therapists call them 'crumple buttons' because when they get
pressed we immediately burst into tears or fly into a rage. It might be that you had a
past relationship where you found out that your partner was unfaithful. Now you are
too alert to any sign that your current partner might be doing the same. It might be
that, as a child, you were always being told that you were too bossy, or too lazy. If
something your partner says gets too uncomfortably close to sounding like they are
criticizing you for that then you panic and want to deny it at all costs. Often we're not
even aware of what our buttons are until they get pressed. It is a very good idea to try
to be aware of 'our stuff' in relationships and make sure that we're not blaming the
other person when really it is our own that we are so wound up about.

Think What your Emotions are Telling You
If we feel angry, indignant, frustrated or hurt during an argument we should see these
feelings as helpful because they are telling us what important to us. For example, if
you find yourself fuming over the washing up then it is useful to probe what those
feelings are about. Perhaps it is because you strongly value equality in the
relationship and it feels like it is really your partner’s turn to wash up. Perhaps it is
because you value your freedom to relax in the evenings and your partner’s rule that
the washing up has to be done straight after you’ve eaten is not the way you would
choose to do things.

When you have figured out what you are feeling and what lies behind it you begin to
see the story that you are telling about the conflict and why you might be doing so.
Your partner was late home and didn’t text you to say when she would be arriving.
Your story is that she couldn’t be bothered to let you know even thought she knew
you were cooking a nice meal for you both. You took this as a sign that she clearly
doesn’t care as much about you as you do about her, and this made you scared that
she doesn’t value your relationship as much as you do and that you might lose her.

Once you’ve thought about the story that you are telling, you can begin to consider
the alternative stories there might be: those that your partner is probably telling
themselves, as well as other stories that might fit the circumstances as well as, or
better than, your story.

When we first get on our own it might be difficult to do such a calm investigation of
ourselves. Some people find it useful to punch a pillow, run round the block, take a
brisk walk or otherwise release the strong feelings they have before they start to
think. Writing a letter that we don’t intend to send can be useful to get out our story
and all the things we might like to say in the heat of the moment. Some find the
meditation or journal.writing techniques useful to get into a calm place.

Develop Compassion and Imagine Alternative Ways of Seeing the Situation
Once we have understood the story that we are telling about events it is useful to
think through the alternative stories that the other person might be telling. We need to
be wary of deciding that they must definitely be understanding things in a certain way
until we’ve actually heard their version of events, but it can help us to empathise with
them later if we can at least begin to understand that the way we see things is not the
only way, and that they might have an equally valid way.

Going back to the example of your partner being late home, alternative stories that
you might want to consider include: her mobile phone being out of battery so she
can’t contact you; her not knowing that you were cooking a meal (did you actually tell
her?) or having forgotten it (remembering the things that you have probably forgotten
about her in the past); or her getting into a good conversation and enjoying an
evening doing something separate to you (just as you may enjoy an evening out with
your other friends). Empathy is about putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and
imagining the ways in which they might be seeing things and how they might make
complete sense to them. It is about having the compassion to see that we are not the
only one who might be feeling bad, and thinking about the values the other person
has and how they may also feel under threat.

When we are in the midst of the conflict it can be a lot harder to see the other
person’s point of view. When we are trying to come up with possible alternative
stories it is worth thinking about what we know about this person we are so close to.
What are their buttons? What do they value?
How might we react if we had their values and rules? Quickly we might see that what
seemed like them being cold was actually them feeling insecure and wanting us to
reach out to them, or what seemed like them being angry at us was actually all about
the situation reminding of something hurtful in their past. We can then go into a
conversation prepared to recognize how it might have been for them and to offer
reassurance in the areas they are vulnerable on.

Meet the Other Person

Many therapists suggest that it is useful to schedule a time to have a discussion
following a conflict or when there is something important and potentially difficult that
one person wants to bring up. Start by picking a time when each person is free and
won't be disturbed, and also giving time beforehand for each person to prepare and
organize their thoughts.. It is much easier for people to put their stuff to one side if
they know that it there is a planned time for when it will be dealt with.

Reconnect and Build Empathy
You might think it should be easy to be kind and empathize with a partner: after all,
don’t we love them and know them really well? But the old cliché of the fine line
between love and hate comes in here, and it does seem that we are very capable of
switching to seeing our partner as our enemy in arguments. It can be a good idea to
put aside some time to connect with each other before a potentially tough
conversation and to focus on being kind to each other during this time. If we’ve just
had a nice meal out together where we’ve made an effort to hear all about the other
person’s day, or if we’ve just spend some time giving each other long pampering foot
massages, it might be harder to be cruel to the other person or to try to score points off them.

Relationship therapists often recommend that, when you do talk about the issue,
each person is given a set amount of time to tell their story and explain things from
their perspective without interruption. This tends to work pretty well. Try setting a
timer so that each person gets five or ten minutes. Make sure that you stick to the
one issue and end on time to let the other person have their turn. Here is advice for
what to do when it is your turn to talk and when it is your turn to listen.

Your Turn to Talk

When you are telling your side of things the key thing to remember is to ‘own your
emotions. It is very tempting to put our emotions onto other people and to blame
them for ‘making us feel’ angry, hurt or upset. Stick with ‘I messages’, which don’t
include any accusations or blame. So instead of saying ‘you made me feel rotten
when you told me off like a child,’ you might say ‘I felt bad when you said that I didn’t
pull my weight around the house’.

It is much easier for the other person to listen to us and to empathize if we talk this
way. If we blame them then they are likely to want to defend themselves, but if we
just say that we feel angry or sad or scared it is easier for them to show that they
understand that feeling and sympathize us without having to take all the blame for it.
Make sure that the words you use accurately reflect your feelings. Don’t say you felt
‘a bit annoyed’ if you actually felt furious.

A good thing to avoid in such situations is generalizations: saying that someone
'always' does something, or 'never' says something, or claiming that 'everyone else'
behaves in a certain way. Taking things to extremes and making those kinds of
comparisons are seldom useful.

It is also worth avoiding deliberately pushing the other person’s buttons. We might
not like to admit that we do it, but it can be tempting in an argument to poke at
something that we know is a sore spot for the other person.

When you talk about your side of things it is a good time to take responsibility for the
parts of it that you do feel you are responsible for (but not so much that you are
taking all the blame, because there is likely to be responsibility on both sides).

If you are criticizing somebody then try to start and end by saying something positive.
Don't just tell them what you think they are doing wrong, but be clear what you would
rather they did and own your feelings: 'When you do X, I feel Y, and what I'd rather
you did was Z'.

Your Turn to Listen

When we argue with other people, the two phrases that often come into our minds
(usually in a very angry tone of voice) are ‘you just don’t understand!’ and ‘how could
you?’. The point of explaining clearly and openly is to give the other person as much
chance as possible of being able to understand where we are coming from (so they
just do understand). The point of listening well to the other person is to come up with
an answer to the question: ‘how could you?’. When we ask the question in our minds,
or in the heat of an argument, we are usually completely disinterested in hearing an
answer: it is purely a rhetorical question. But imagine the question removed of all its
heat and aggression. This is the person we love and care about and generally think
is a wonderful human being. How could they say what they said or do what they did?
If we can ask ourselves that question in a genuinely interested way we will see that
there are probably many reasonable and understandable answers. They haven’t
become a monster overnight therefore it is most likely that they were in a difficult
situation. Let’s find out how that was for them.

Many conflicts escalate because people just really want to be heard and aren’t being.
The point of listening to somebody is to truly try to hear them: to understand them
and to show them that we get what they are saying. Remember that you don’t need
to say that you see things the same way, or to come round to agreeing with them.
What hearing somebody is about is about showing that you’re open to accepting that
they might see things differently to the way you do, and showing that you are moved
by their suffering. These things can be extremely powerful and are likely to put the
other person in a frame of mind to hear you too.

Listening to the other person involves avoiding interrupting them or making it about
your stuff. It is also good to show that you are listening with your body (turn towards
them, meet their eyes and nod appropriately), and to say ‘uhuh’ and ‘mmhm’ in
relevant places! When you ask questions to find out more about their story make
sure that they are questions rather than accusations or challenges. Try to enter the
conversation from a place of curiosity. Your job is to really get into their head and
understand where they are coming from. Try to build up the most complete picture
that you can about what it was like for them. Ask ‘so how did you feel when I wasn’t
there at the party when you arrived?’ or ‘what went through your head when I said
you work too hard?’

When they seem to have finished it is also good to ask whether there is anything else
they want to say. Remember to give them plenty of time to think and answer rather
than leaping in.

Finally, it can be very useful for you to summarize what you’ve heard to show that
you’ve really got it, and to check whether it is accurate or whether they want to add
any more. Reflect back what they’ve said to you, appreciate how they feel, and make
it clear that however they do is an acceptable and understandable response.

Finding the Win Win Solution
Once you have both had your say and listened thoroughly to the other person you
may well find that there is nothing left to do. Often the entire conflict can be about
wanting to be heard and understood. However, obviously there are some
circumstances in which decisions do need to be reached and people have differing
goals. It might well be necessary to have several discussions about an issue. Once
you've finished one discussion make sure you stop talking about it until the next time
and try to spend some time doing something you enjoy together.

We are trying to find ‘win win’ solutions in which both people feel heard and the way
forward takes everyone’s needs into consideration. It can be difficult to find 'win win'
in seemingly incompatible aims. What do we do if one person wants to move out of
the city and the other wants to stay living there? Or if people have different goals
regarding having children? Or if one person wants an open relationship and the
other doesn't. One suggestion is that after listening to each other, we write a list –
together – of all the possible solutions, even those that might seem ridiculous. Then
each person, in turn, crosses out suggestions that they feel they just couldn’t live
with. After that you decide together to try one solution for a given length of time, after
which you will re.evaluate and either stick with it a while longer or try something else.

Guidelines for discussions:

Take time out beforehand to think about where you are coming from and to
try to develop compassion for the other person.
Come in prepared to really listen to the other person, not to interrupt and not
to say anything deliberately hurtful.
Come with an agenda of what you want to say.
Try to stick to one issue rather than bringing in lots of issues.
Put a time aside when you won't be disturbed: at least half an hour.
Turn off phones and other distractions.
Give each person ten minutes (you might want to use a timer to stick to time).
Try to own your feelings and take responsibility when you are talking.
Try to really listen and empathize when they are talking.
Don't keep on discussing if it isn't going anywhere. Schedule another time to
talk and make sure you spend some positive time together in the mean time.
Once you have both said what you want to say and are ready to think about
solutions, try writing down all possible solutions and then going through the
list together removing any that don't meet both people's needs.

Stuck in a Rut

Stuck in a rut
People don't stay the same and neither do relationships. One of the things that couples cite over and over again is how their sex life changes. In the early years sex is often urgent and exciting. Many couples will grab every opportunity they can to make love and sex is often a big part of their relationship. But inevitably the falling in love stage matures and sex matures as well. For some couples this can bring feelings of anxiety. But as long as you recognize that this is a natural part of a relationship then both of you can make the necessary adjustments.

Living together
The first noticeable change often coincides with living together. When you know that you'll see each other tomorrow - and the next day and the next day - sex becomes less urgent. You're also likely to be seeing a lot more of each other's daily living habits. Cutting toenails, unblocking drains and collapsing exhausted from work can detract from the mystery and familiarity tends to settle in. You may also have children around which can make it harder to find the time and the privacy that you used to enjoy.
Living together brings challenges to any couple and it's very common for couples to begin to argue as they negotiate the rules and roles of their relationship. This extra tension often means that neither partner feels in the mood for sex.

Long Term Relationships
Sex in a long term relationship does not have to get stuck in a rut. Whether or not you find sex boring is often more about attitude than the things you actually do. As your relationship continues to mature - sex matures as well, but like a fine wine, it can become richer and fruitier! As you get to know each other more and more, a deeper trust develops. You're less likely to feel inhibited and you can look forward to a new stage of sexual experimentation. Without the initial insecurities, you can take the time to learn to become great lovers together.

Keeping Sex Sexy
If your sex life seems to be slipping into a rut then you and your partner need to make a commitment to getting things back on track again. You'll both need to accept that sex changes over time and the mere sight of their partner may no longer send you into a lustful frenzy. And you'll need to commit to not letting sex become predictable. As your relationship continues to mature, you need to agree that you will make more effort - not less.

Couples who still enjoy a great sex life after 10, 20 or even 50 years together, aren't lucky - they're committed. They recognize the boredom traps and get out of them fast.

They commit to being romantic and seductive with each other, no matter how well they know each other.
They make an effort to always look their best and make time to enjoy each others company.
They make touch and loving words important parts of their daily routine.
They agree not to fall for the myth that great sex has to be spontaneous.
Regardless of how busy their diaries get, they make time to be sensual and sexual.
And they certainly don't fall for the myth that lust equals love - they know that they must take responsibility for their own sexual desire, and also find new ways to turn each other on.

Tips for beating sexual boredom
  • Make an effort to always look your best for your partner and keep yourself in good health
  • Take any and every opportunity to be romantic, to touch, to share loving words
  • Change the scenery - bathroom, living room, alfresco
  • Watch an erotic movie together to get you in the mood or share an erotic story
  • Experiment with new sexual positions
  • Introduce a new sex toy
  • Change the way you initiate sex - maybe something more daring or more romantic
  • Play some role play sex games
  • Learn a new stimulation technique

Friday, July 10, 2015

Couples Therapy – Why? and How?

Couples Therapy – Why? and How?

Couples often come to therapy polarized by reactivity and power struggles that make them feel increasingly disconnected. Trapped in a stalemate that they are unable to change on their own, they invite the therapist into the intimacy of their struggles, hoping for a new direction. It is the work of the therapist to understand the complex interactions and experience of the couple caught up in stalemate or an ‘impasse’. The therapist’s approach helps to identify the couple’s pattern and investigate and challenge emotional undercurrents that might be fueling and informing their dynamics. In working with couples’ impasses in the here and now, the goal is to help the partners move from being reactive to being more able to discuss, and from a view of themselves as victim and villain to positions of increased responsibility and personal agency. The process of change is facilitated by awareness, behavioral changes and negotiations, and the creation of alternative scripts based on greater empathy and connectedness. 

In the course of a life together, couples often deal with  dilemmas in their relationship that spring from their differences or from situations in which their wishes and needs are not in sync. These quandaries may cause distress; they can even break up the relationship. In these situations, stressful as they may be, the partners often have a clear understanding of their issues and differences and are able to see each other’s perspective, negotiate, and move on.

By contrast, many couples come to therapy feeling stuck, caught up in impasses that are characterized by intense reactivity and escalation, rigid positions of each partner, irrationality, and the repetitive recurrence of the same dynamics in the relationship. While caught up in one of these impasses, the partners are unable to empathize and see the other’s perspective. They feel offended and violated by the other’s behavior, and become increasingly defensive, disconnected, and entangled in power struggles and misunderstandings. These impasses involve vulnerability and confusion, and they tend to become more pervasive over time, taking up more and more space in the relationship.

Even when the presenting problem is a straightforward situational dilemma, a couple’s differences sometimes derail into a core impasse in which their attempts to talk and negotiate with each other become part of the problem. In the therapist’s view, a core impasse is experienced as such a difficult entanglement because it involves the activation of past hurts and survival strategies, which complicates the couple’s process. This activation may include emotional overlaps of meanings between their present situation and experiences in the past, or between their present situation and a current painful experience of one or both partners in another context. Core impasses may also spring from tensions related to power inequities and disconnections based on gender or cultural differences.

Core impasses can serve as a gateway to the exploration and deconstruction of key dynamics in the couple’s relationship. The very nature of the impasse–its thick texture of misunderstandings and entanglements, often based in the past history of the couple and of their prior relational experiences–yields rich potential for greater awareness and change. In identifying the impasse and coming to understand the various strands embedded in it, the couple and therapist have an opportunity to learn more about each partner and to transform the couple’s core dilemmas.

In working with a couple in a core impasse, the overall goal is to help them move from highly reactive positions to more reflective ones, from automatic actions and reactions to greater differentiation, awareness, and flexibility. The term “reflectivity” refers to an individual’s ability to pause and be thoughtful and planful before acting or communicating. In facilitating reflectivity, the therapist helps each partner to feel more empowered and empathic, and to have more options and choices in these critical moments of their interpersonal process.

About the Author

I am a British Couples Therapist specializing in relationship and sexual issues. I can help you with conflict, sexual difficulties, divorce or separation, loss of intimacy, the impact of a new baby or an affair and its aftermath. I trained as a couples therapist in Cambridge, England gaining a Graduate Certificate in Marital and Couples Counseling and a Post Graduate Diploma in Couples Therapy, University of East London. I ran a private practice in couples psychotherapy in London and LA and now have relocated to DC. Call (202) 657-6919 for an appointment. 1932 2nd Street NE Washington, DC 20002‎ 7:30 am – 8:00 pm Weekdays

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The top 5 reasons people come to Sex Therapy

One in four of us are dissatisfied by our sex lives. Yet there’s still a big stigma about going to Sex Therapy. Many people find the idea of speaking to a complete stranger about sex to be embarrassing. Some think that they should be able to sort out any problems they’re having by themselves.
But Sex Therapy actually has a very high satisfaction rate. People are often surprised by how effective it is. If you think you might benefit from Sex Therapy, why not come in for an initial consultation? Your counselor will talk you through what it involves and how it can help. Here are some of the most common reasons that people come in for.

"I’ve gone off it"

This is by far the most common issue that people attend Sex Therapy to address. When we ‘go off’ sex with someone we enjoyed it with in the past, it can be mystifying, confusing and very unsettling.
Discovering when things changed is often the first stage of recovery. Then we can start to uncover why. Many life events can impact our sexual lives and responses - moving in together, losing a job, having a baby, grieving – the list is long.
A sex therapist can help you work together to find out what will help you in approaching issues, taking time to understand what is happening for you. You will create a way forward that feels comfortable or maybe even exciting. This process may take a while but it’s important to stick with it - nurturing a long term fulfilling sexual relationship is something that happens over time.

"I can’t come"

Both individuals and couples, men and women, may experience this. It may be that you have never experienced an orgasm - or that you can’t any more.
Sex doesn’t have to end with climax, but if you do want this to happen, anxiety about getting it ‘right’, feeling angry or upset or not being sure any more about what works sexually for you can all contribute towards difficulty.
A sex therapist can help you to discover or rediscover what works for you through designing a series of tasks to do at home and helping you to talk openly with your partner - to communicate what works and what doesn’t.

Painful sex

It may be that, for a woman, intercourse simply hurts. In some cases, this can make it very difficult or even impossible to have penetrative sex.
Having the chance to just talk about the issue may in itself bring some relief. Your sex therapist will help you to explore your reactions to sex and get a more thorough understanding of your sense of pleasure and pain. They may also talk to you about opportunities for medical checks to rule out any physical cause.

"I can’t get (or keep) it up"

This is a very common problem for men – and something that most will experience at some point during their lives. An inability to get or maintain an erection can result from illness, surgery or trauma - or it may have been something you’ve always had problems with. Often just the anxiety of ‘will it work this time’ can make things worse.
Sex Therapy can be very helpful in revealing the best approach to address this problem. This can happen in combination with prescribed medication, or it may be that that the process of talking things through is enough to help things begin to change.

"I come too soon"

Once in a while, this may not be a big problem, but if it continues regularly it can make it difficult to maintain a satisfying sex life.
Coming too soon is something that lots of people worry about and can sometimes be caused by feeling anxious or not feeling fully focused on what's going on. The good news is that Sex Therapy can really help by taking you through a series of tasks and exercises that help you take back control and last longer.