Trina Dolenz

Trina Dolenz

Friday, February 27, 2015

Understanding Your Relationship

Your Couple Fit

In some relationships, arguments always seem one sided - with one partner making all the noise as the other quietly calms the storm. It's possible they both have a problem expressing their feelings, but together they're able to reassure each other that emotions are being managed. Different couples will experience it in different ways, but that inexplicable feeling of wholeness you have when you're together is what Henry Dicks, a guru in relationship psychotherapy, called the 'unconscious fit'.

Unconscious fit

All of us carry with us a psychological blueprint, holding details about our life experiences and the marks they've left. It contains information we often haven't acknowledged about our fears and anxieties and our coping mechanisms and defenses.
Each of us has an unconscious capacity to scan another person's blueprint. The people we're most attracted to are those who have a blueprint that complements our own. We're looking for similarities of experience but, more significantly, we're also looking for differences.

Opposites attract

The purpose of this unconscious fit is to find someone who can complement our experiences. That might be someone who's the same as us, but most commonly we're looking for someone from whom we can learn; someone who has developed coping mechanisms that are different from our own.
The ideal partner will be someone who has struggled with similar life issues, but has developed another way of managing it. It seems that our other half is often our best chance of becoming psychologically whole.
Although no two relationships are ever the same, psychologists have noticed that there are some common types of unconscious fit. Do you recognize any of these?
Master and slave - this couple has a problem with authority and control. One partner may feel very insecure if they're ever subordinate, so they're bossy and take charge of every household circumstance. Their partner, who fears responsibility, dutifully toes the line while smugly comparing what they describe as their laid-back attitude to their partner's control-freak attitude.
Distancer and pursuer - both partners are afraid of intimacy but have found their perfect match. The unspoken agreement is that one of them will keep chasing and nagging the other one for more intimacy while the other runs away. Occasionally the chase will swap round.
Idol and worshiper - when one partner insists on putting the other on a pedestal, this often indicates an issue with competition. To avoid any form of comparison, both partners unconsciously agree to play this game.
There are two other common types of fit based on finding a partner who has a similar problem and a similar way of coping.
Babes in the wood - you may have seen this couple around. They look alike and often wear matching sweaters. They share the same interests and, more importantly, they dislike the same things. They keep anything bad out of their perfect relationship by joining forces against the big, bad world outside.
Cat and dog - on the surface these partners look as though they should never have even met. They argue incessantly over anything. They both avoid intimacy by living in a war zone.
You may see elements of your relationship in all of these types. As we progress through our relationships, it's not uncommon to slip into a certain pattern of behavior. For example, in a time of illness and vulnerability you may act out the parent and child model, while many couples become like babes in the wood following the birth of a child.

Good or bad chemistry?

All fits serve a psychological purpose designed to protect ourselves from discomfort. Most couples aren't aware of their fit until something happens to change it. We all grow and mature, our needs change and our relationships need to adapt to those changes.
Problems may start when one or both partners feel they are no longer able to communicate their feelings and alter patterns of behavior that are now outdated. If you think that may be happening in your relationship, couple counseling can really help you reconnect,

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5 Myths You Shouldn't Believe About Sex Therapy

Myths about what Sex Therapy is and what happens in the therapy room have been doing the rounds for years. I can't tell you how many times I've had people (friends and family included!) quote them back to me when I tell them what I do for a living.
The sad thing is, these misunderstandings and the anxiety that they cause put people off the idea of even trying Sex Therapy, meaning many miss out on getting the support they need to make their sex lives better. 
So here I'm setting the record straight by busting the most common myths.

Myth 1: "We'll have to have sex in front of the therapist"

The only activity that happens in the therapy room is talking. Sometimes there may be laughter, occasionally tears, but NEVER nudity or sex.
All "tasks" happen outside the therapy room, usually in the comfort of your own home.
Then at your next session you'll be asked to talk about how you got on. This helps your therapist understand what works for you so that you can make the progress you're looking for.

Myth 2: "Sex therapy is only for people who have serious problems with sex"

Any problem is serious if it interferes with how you'd like your sex life to be.
Most people experience sexual difficulties at some time in their lives. That's normal, but if it bothers you, not doing something about it can sometimes make things worse. Sex Therapy gives you a safe space to work through your worries and take positive steps to change things.

Myth 3: "If my partner and I have to go to sex therapy it means our relationship is over"

For most people the opposite is true. Recognizing that your sex life isn't how you'd like it to be and getting help is a really positive step. Taking time out to think about what's going wrong for you or your partner can help prevent difficulties spreading from your sexual life to other parts of the relationship.
Sometimes though, sexual problems are caused by other issues in your relationship. If that is the case, your therapist may suggest some initial work to understand what's going on and how to overcome it before deciding if Sex Therapy is right for you. Sometimes people find that taking time to work on their general relationship means that the sexual problems lessen or disappear completely. Relate Sex Therapists are also trained Relationship Counselors and can help you to decide what kind or relationship support is right for you now.
So by simply booking that first appointment, you're taking a big step forwards in looking after your relationship.

Myth 4: "The therapist will be too embarrassed to deal with the issue I'm having"

Absolutely false! Sex therapists are used to helping people overcome all kinds of sexual problems. You can be certain that whatever the issue you're experiencing we'll have heard it at least a couple of times before!
We understand it takes a great deal of courage to come and talk with a complete stranger about sex but our job is to make you feel comfortable and at ease. You set the pace and you can decide what you do and don't want to talk about. Whatever the issue is you're not alone and most people tell us that breaking the silence and talking things through is really liberating.

Myth 5: "You have to be in a relationship to go to sex therapy"

Anyone can come along to Sex Therapy whether they're in a relationship or not. If you're single, you might still have sexual problems that are troubling you.
Feeling OK sexually is not just about having a partner, so seeking information or practical support from a therapist may help you to feel more confident about being sexual with yourself or with a future partner.
I really hope I've helped calm a few fears about what to expect in Sex Therapy. If you're still a bit unsure if it's the right step for you you could check out my blog or call me get further support and information. 

This is a post from my training and qualifying organization,

Monday, February 23, 2015

Long-Distance Relationships

Absence makes the heart grow fonder - or so the saying goes. But what if the time away is prolonged, or one partner is more relaxed about the situation?

Different views of distance

How couples cope with being apart largely depends on how they feel about the separation. Here are some common interpretations:
What's the big deal? - if you were brought up in a family where absence was the norm, it may be that periods apart are no problem.
It's the thin end of the wedge - perhaps in your past someone left saying it was temporary, but didn't come back. You may see a period of separation as the beginning of the end.
If you loved me, you'd stay - love is linked to being physically near and any threat to that is also a threat to your emotional security.
But it's not for long - it might be your nature to look at life in the long term and see a bigger picture and, therefore, you may find it easier than your partner to see this as a temporary phase of your relationship.
It's just not right - if your parents were together nearly all the time, then absence may simply be beyond your experience. Being a couple means being together.
On top of your personal interpretations of the absence, each of you will have a different perspective depending on whether you're the one leaving or staying.

Away from home

If you're the one who's going away, you have the advantage of experiencing new scenery, a new job and new people, perhaps. The disadvantages, of course, are missing your home and the company of friends and family. And although there may be many new experiences, you'll have to deal with the loneliness of having no partner with you to share them. People away from home often find their emotions swing between heights of excitement and depths of longing.

Left at home

If you're the partner who's staying at home, you have the advantage of familiar surroundings and, hopefully, the support of friends and family. The downside of this is that you may feel abandoned and trapped. There are also few new experiences for you, just the humdrum of daily life and the loneliness of having to get on with it on your own.

Making it work

The key to making long-distance relationships work is to talk honestly and openly about how you feel. Couples often fall into one of the following traps:
Let's pretend it's OK - if asked how you are, you both say "I'm OK, everything's fine." Underneath you're both lonely, but are too scared to say in case the other person doesn't understand.
It's all right for you - you try to be nice when you talk, but the resentment slips out. You're both convinced your partner's having an easier time of it than you. Underneath you both want reassurance, but fear you'll be rejected.

Be honest

Share your feelings about the separation - both the positives and the negatives. This will give you the opportunity to really understand each other and give the support and reassurance you both need.
Talk about your resentment at the situation rather than at each other and look forward to the time when you're next together.

Keep communicating

Staying in touch regularly is the key to surviving a long-distance relationship.
  • Use a variety of ways of communicating - email, telephone, text message, letter, etc.
  • Send little gifts - to show how often you think of each other.
  • Make some surprise calls - make the odd call just to say "I love you."
  • Send regular pictures - this will help your partner keep a visual record of what you're up to.
  • Keep a diary - then share it with your partner each time you meet.

Beware the reunion anticlimax

When you get to see each other again, chances are both of you will have built up great expectations of how fantastic your reunion is going to be. However, the reality often doesn't match up to the fantasy.
Many couples feel disappointed and frustrated when things aren't as they'd hoped. You may also find that rather than making love all day there are awkward silences or even arguments.
You can prevent this by making sure you've talked about how you want the reunion to be and recognising that the anticipation is often better than the consummation! And remember, it may take time to get used to being around each other again.
Absence can make the heart grow fonder when you use the time to show your partner how much they mean to you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I’m worried that I (or someone I know) might be addicted to sex


Sexual addiction is the term used to describe any sexual activity that feels 'out of control'. Having a very high sex drive does not make you a sex 'addict'. Neither does engaging in specific sexual activities, having many partners, looking at porn or engaging in cyber-sex. At CouplecounselingDC, we think that none of these are relevant unless you do. What is relevant is if someone feels that they are engaging in any sexual activity that they can no longer control and is likely to result in harm to themselves, a partner or partners, or to family and friends. So, 'being sexually addicted' is not defined by the activity itself but by the possible negative effect on the individual's quality of life and on those around them.

If you're worried that your activity is out of control it might help to consider if the following statements are familiar. For example do you:
  • Feel that the behaviour is out of control.
  • Believe that there may be severe consequences if you continue but carry on any way.
  • Persistently pursue destructive high risk sexual activities, want to stop but are unable to do so.
  • Need more and more of the sexual activity in order to experience the same level of high followed by feelings of shame and depression.
  • Experience intense mood swings around repeated sexual activity.
  • Spend more and more time planning, engaging in or regretting and recovering from sexual activities.
  • Neglect social or work commitments in favour of the sexual activity.
  • Repeatedly try to stop and perhaps stay stopped for a while, only to start up again.
Many or none of the above may accurately reflect how you're feeling about what you do. The important thing is to talk to someone if you're worried. I can offer support and help to people who recognise their activities are causing problems. I can offer careful assessment and lots of discussion because I understand that this is a complex issue where many other factors could contribute to your experience of your difficulty.

Likewise if you're worried about a partner, you can talk to me in complete confidence. I can help individuals or couples to explore the impact of out of control activities on their relationship and support each of them to find a way forward.

If you think sex addiction maybe an issue, tackling it on your own can feel very daunting and isolating so getting professional help may be a useful step.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

5 Top Tops to enjoy Great Sex this Valentine's Day

 Image result for valentine's day couples retreat
Valentine's Day and all the expectations that come with it can make you feel like you should be having all kinds of passionate and adventurous sex with your partner. But the reality is it can be pretty difficult to keep things fizzing, especially if you both have busy lives.

Instead of worrying about reaching some unrealistic ideal in the bedroom, why not try making a few simple changes? You may be surprised by how developing a few positive habits in your relationship can really put the spark back into things.

As a Sex Therapist I help lots of couples who say they feel like they've got stuck in the same routine and need help reconnecting. So here are my top tips to a better sex life: 
  • Let's get... verbal. Sometimes, communicating about our sexual needs is as important as the act itself. Try talking about sex at a time completely separate to actually having it. Discuss what you like, what you don't and what you'd like to try. That way, you can experiment when it's time to get down to business.

  • Don't always go 'all the way'. People sometimes avoid kissing or touching because they're worried it'll mean their partner will want to have sex and they won't quite feel up to it. Don't worry about having to go 'all the way' every time. Get into the habit of being casually physical. Try kissing passionately before going to work, massaging on a Friday night or just generally being playful and tactile. Building sensuality into your day to day life will help you to maintain a strong and loving physical connection.

  • Initiate sex in new and different ways. How you initiate sex can make the difference between a new and exciting sensual experience and, well, business as usual. Get things off to an interesting start by trying out something new. Surprise your partner with spontaneous sex (within limits of course!), try starting with a massage or read an erotic novel together and act out the parts. You might find that initiating things in an unexpected or interesting way means you discover all new ways of enjoying each other.

  • Relocation, Relocation, Relocation. It's an old classic - but for a reason! Many couples find that having sex somewhere different is a simple change that can make a big difference. If you've fallen into a routine with your partner, try switching the setting. It doesn't have to be anywhere particularly crazy - after all, it's a little chilly to be getting frisky in the garden shed at the moment. Maybe try bringing a duvet into the living room or booking a weekend at a hotel.

  • Anticipation, enjoyment, recollection. Sex isn't just about the act itself. It can be about the anticipation and the recollection too. So build up tension beforehand by talking about what you'd like to do - and chat afterwards about what you enjoyed and what you'd like to do again. You don't even have to be in the same room: try sending sexy texts throughout the day or leaving notes around the house. 

Want to find out more?

Looking for more ideas on spicing up your sex life? Or want to talk to someone about sex?