Trina Dolenz

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Moaning effectively: how to tell your partner you’re not happy



Moaning can sound like a lighthearted problem, or something that’s not that serious.
And while there’s nothing wrong with the occasional moan — in fact, it’s usually positive and healthy to express negative feelings, if it’s constantly happening in your relationship, it can begin to have an effect.
On one level, constant moaning can create a really negative atmosphere in a relationship. The person on the receiving end of the moaning can find it exhausting, depressing or — if the comments are directed at them — damaging to their self-esteem. They may even end up ‘counter moaning’: meeting fire with fire so the relationship becomes a battleground.
The person doing the moaning may feel they’re trying to get a point across, but they’re not being heard. This can be frustrating and isolating.

Why are you ‘moaning’?

If you feel like ‘moaning’ is a problem in your relationship, the first thing to think about is: why are you moaning? What is it that’s causing you to feel dissatisfied?
A risk with getting into this habit is that we don’t actually express what’s on our mind: we just find things to complain about as a way of generally venting annoyance. But there’s usually a core reason behind negative feelings: being able to identify this is important if you want to address it.
Sometimes, we can find ourselves thrown off rhythm by big changes in our lives. These can be both positive and negative changes: losing a job, getting a new job, having children, children moving away, moving house, getting married, or bereavement. Regardless of whether it’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’, change, it takes away the familiar and replaces it with the unfamiliar. This can be really de-stabilizing. Sometimes, change affects us more than we realize — and we may feel we’re finding things different when we thought we’d cope just fine.

If changes in your life are the cause of your problems it can be tempting to look for someone to blame — our partners can often seem like an easy target. But, if they aren’t actually the source of the problem, then this is only likely to cause resentment and anger in your relationship, and may hurt their feelings.

Instead, try talking to your partner about things in a calm, honest and open way. Instead of moaning, just try chatting: being open and collaborative about what you’re finding difficult, and thinking together about ways you might address things. Even if you aren’t able to figure out exactly what’s bothering you or how to address it, talking about it might help you get a bit closer. Putting how you feel into words, and having a calm, honest conversation about your feelings can be enough to help you feel better.

What if your partner is the problem?

upset couple
One of the other types of ‘moaning’, of course, is the kind prompted by problems in your relationship. You may feel that your partner has plenty to do with why you’re feeling bad. You may feel let down by them — that they don’t attend to your needs, or don’t show you enough affection or care.

However, even if this is the case, it’s unlikely repeatedly criticizing them will yield positive results. When you have a go at your partner — whether or not there’s justification for it —the most likely result is that they get defensive, or begin to attack back. This can mean conflicts just spiral further and further out of control instead of getting resolved.
Another potential result is that they just begin to tune you out — fatigued from hearing the same things repeatedly. This can be even more damaging than them retaliating, as it means they’ve given up trying to address the situation and instead are just trying to get used to it. When this happens, it can mean issues are left unaddressed for long periods of time — often until they reach a head and there’s a really big conflict.

Again, the better course of action is to try to be honest, positive and open. Find a time to talk when you’re not already feeling annoyed, and give the conversation the time and space it needs. Don’t phrase your criticisms as attacks, but instead tell them what you’re going through. And listen to what they have to say too: relationship issues are rarely all one-way, and you’re both going to have your own perspectives on things. It’s only really possible to resolve relationship issues once you both begin to understand what each other is going through.
We know it’s not always easy to talk about these problems, especially if you haven’t had much practice. But it does get easier with time.
If you’d like to talk to someone about your relationship or how to approach communicating with your partner, why not try calling Couple Counseling DC 202 270 3937 for an appointment.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Women 'more likely to lose interest in sex than men'



Women are more than twice as likely as men to lack interest in sex when living with a partner, a study of British sexual attitudes suggests.
It found that while men and women lost passion with age, women were often left cold by longer relationships.
Overall, poor health and a lack of emotional closeness affected both men’s and women’s desire for sex.
The findings are based on the experiences of nearly 5,000 men and 6,700 women, published in BMJ Open.
The UK researchers said problems of sexual desire should be treated by looking at the whole person, rather than simply resorting to drugs.

‘Pain and misery’

Relate sex therapist Ammanda Major said losing interest in sex wasn’t necessarily abnormal, and there were many different reasons why men’s and women’s needs changed.
“For some, it is a natural and normal place to be, but for others it causes pain and misery,” she said.
In total, 15% of men and 34% of women surveyed said they had lost interest in sex for three months or more in the previous year.
For men, this lack of interest was highest at the ages of 35-44 while for women it peaked between 55 and 64.
But the researchers, from the University of Southampton and University College London, said there was no evidence that the menopause was a factor for women.
However, they did find that having young children at home was a particular turn-off for women.
Poor physical and mental health, poor communication and a lack of emotional connection during sex were the main reasons why men and women lost interest.

Five tips to rekindling interest in sex

  • Start talking about the issue early on rather than leaving it to fester – ignoring it can lead to other problems and make you feel resentful. If that doesn’t work, confront the reason why you don’t want to talk about it
  • Explore other forms of intimacy such as holding hands, talking gently to each other, cuddling and stroking rather than full-on sex
  • Feeling as if you are not being heard is a barrier to sex – so make your partner feel respected and important
  • Get some additional support by going to see a sex therapist, relationship counselor or your GP
  • Relax – many relationships work very well when they are non-sexual, if it’s an outcome that is reached jointly
In the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles in Britain, those who found it “always easy to talk about sex” with their partner were less likely to say they lacked interest.
However, those whose partner had had sexual difficulties, and those who were less happy in their relationship, were more likely to say they had lost interest in sex at some stage, the researchers said.
Among women, the study found that “not sharing the same level of sexual interest with a partner, and not sharing the same sexual likes and dislikes” were also a factor in loss of interest in sex.

Cynthia Graham, professor of sexual and reproductive health at the University of Southampton, said the findings increased understanding of what lay behind men and women’s lack of interest in sex and how to treat it.
“This highlights the need to assess and – if necessary – treat sexual desire problems in a holistic and relationship-specific, as well as gender-specific way.”
She added that this was a problem that could not be fixed by a pill alone.
“It is important to look beyond anti-depressants,” Prof Graham said.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the first-ever drug aimed at boosting female libido, called flibanserin.
Ammanda Major said: “Sex is a very personal thing, and talking about it can be embarrassing. But talking is often the best thing you can do to improve your sex life.”


 Couple Counseling DC


BBC News.

Friday, August 11, 2017

One in three people feel pressured to put work before their relationships



Labor of love – or labor versus love?, A report that looks at our relationships and work, examining the quality of our relationships at work and the extent to which we’re able to balance work and relationships effectively.
We know that both love and labor are important for our well being. We’re social animals and we need good relationships with others to thrive – we suffer in isolation. Meaningful, satisfying work which can be a labor of love rather than simply hard graft, is important to our well being – we’re productive beings too.
But our well being also depends on a careful balance between the two. The extent to which work contributes to well being depends in large part on relationships at work. Our relationships at home are also both affected by and in turn impact upon our work – achieving an effective work-family balance is essential to our well being and to our performance at work.
When we’re satisfied with work and our work-family balance, we’re more productive. When we’re overworked, we’re more likely to become ill, perform less well, or leave jobs – and the pressure from work can also lead to the deterioration of our relationships at home – which, in its turn, also reduces our engagement at work. So work and relationships are intimately related – and can either form a vicious circle of deterioration in both, or a positive virtuous circle of satisfaction and productivity.

Happily, we found our workplace relationships are mostly in good health:
  • Three-quarters (75%) of employees reported good quality relationships with colleagues.
  • Almost two-thirds (63%) said their relationship with their boss was good.
However, digging a little deeper, we observed some quite unequal experiences here in terms of gender, age, sexuality, social grade, disability and whether or not employees worked flexibly. And overall, 12% said their boss behaves in an intimidating/bullying way towards them.
Striking the right balance between work and family can often be hard to achieve. We found:
  • A third (33%) of employees agreed that their employer thinks the ideal employee is available 24 hours a day
  • 27% agreed that they work longer hours than they would choose and this is damaging their well being
  • A third (33%) agreed that their employer thinks work should be the priority in a person’s life
  • Over a fifth (21%) agreed that attending to care responsibilities is frowned upon at work
  • A quarter (25%) agreed that stress experienced at home adversely affects them at work
However, the good news is that this conflict between work and relationships is not simply a fact of working life. It is quite possible to improve work-family balance as well as workplace relationships – with clear benefits both for employees, their families and employers.
For example, a recurring theme across many of our findings was the importance of control/autonomy at work: employees who had flexible working arrangements were doing better at balancing work and family, on the whole, than those who didn’t. So employers can support employees to work flexibly.
Employers can also offer employees and their families relationship support services through Employee Assistance , for example. We found 43% of employees wanted this.
Given the clear ways in which our relationships and our work are linked, there is a powerful case for employees, employers and policy makers to take action to invest in and support good quality relationships, leading to important benefits both for employees and their families, as well as employers and productivity. This will help us to balance work and relationships – with important benefits for employees, families, and employers, and across society at large.

How we can help

Read our tips on re-aligning your work-life balance.
Worried that stress at working is causing you problems in your relationship? Talk to one of our counselors

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Masturbation, fetishes and internet porn: the sexual secrets we keep from our partners


Sexual secrets can be defined as anything sexually related which is kept hidden. These are not the kind of secrets which are shared between partners within a couple relationship, but secrets which may be kept from partners and the outside world.

Masturbation


Masturbation is a sexual secret which isn’t really a secret at all. Whether or not they acknowledge or talk about it, partners often assume the other sometimes masturbates. However, masturbation can be denied or compulsively hidden if one or both partners feel it is some sort of betrayal. Or they may worry that there is something wrong if their partner masturbates, believing that they should only be fulfilled by sex with each other.
The difference between masturbation and partner sex, however, is like the difference between a snack and a banquet. Masturbation may be comforting or help you to relax, or it may deal with intense moments of arousal; what it doesn’t usually do is provide the sense of occasion, connection or achievement which may be associated with lovemaking.
A negative attitude towards masturbation sometimes develops when someone has been in trouble for touching themselves as a child or actively told that it is wrong or damaging. However, even when they have no memories at all associated with masturbation or self-touch, many people still feel guilty about it.
Fortunately, improved sex education should convince future generations that masturbation is a natural way to experiment and learn about your body in ways that can also be very helpful to partners. As an occasional or daily practice, it can be relaxing and can cause no harm to yourself or anyone else. Some couples masturbate together; this can be both arousing and help you show each other how you enjoy being touched.

Fetishes


Generally speaking, a fetish can be considered anything – usually other than the human body – which, in itself, produces sexual arousal. Commonly, this can be rubber, especially rubber clothing, items of underwear, boots or high heels. However, fetishes can attach to anything with an erotic association.
Sometimes, the individual likes to wear the item themselves or encourages their partner to wear it, which may be considered as an occasional and completely acceptable variant to lovemaking. For instance, you may like to see your partner dressed in frilly underwear or only become properly aroused if you or your partner wears a particular scent.
Rarely do fetishes involve more than a strong desire to include some item or idea in fantasy, lovemaking or masturbation. On their own, individuals with a fetish may want to hold the object(s), rub themselves against it, kiss it, touch it, insert it, wear it, be near it. Problems usually arise when the amount of time spent focused on the object starts to interfere with everyday life or lovemaking.
In some couples, one partner is tolerant of, or turns a blind eye towards, the other’s fetish. Some partners feel able to participate and others can’t continue with the relationship unless the fetish stops. Initial responses on either side may not be your reaction given more time to think things over, and possibly more information. Some partners find confiding in friends is helpful. Even just searching the internet to learn more may be useful.

Internet porn


How prepared couples are to share their sexual interests varies a great deal. The use of erotica and pornography is an issue which provokes great controversy. Some people have ethical or moral objections to pornography, objections to some types of pornography or only find it acceptable when associated with couple arousal. Nevertheless, it is now so widespread and available that, for some individuals, its use has become as routine as a nightcap in providing a way to relax and unwind.
An orgasm stabilizes the body, returning it to a calm state. It is understandable, then, to use sex to relax at times when you are jangling with stress. Internet porn can provide a quick and easy way to help you achieve that. Unfortunately, however, it can become a problem if it starts to be the only way you can become aroused or deal with stress, or if you feel you will be stressed if you don’t use it.
Couple counselors are increasingly seeing problems with relationships and sexual functioning that are associated with the use of internet porn. This isn’t about having a healthy sexual appetite or multiple partners but about a compulsion to keep returning to the activity which is causing them problems. This can happen surprisingly quickly, because internet use can actually change the brain.
If you need to speak to a therapist call Couple Counseling DC 202 270 3937

Monday, July 17, 2017

I’m in a relationship but I have a crush on someone else, what should I do?


Developing a crush on someone when you’re already in a long-term, committed relationship can leave you feeling guilty and confused.
You may think it’s a betrayal of your partner but you might also be wondering whether your feelings are trying to tell you something.
If this is how you feel right now, try not to worry. This is far more common situation than most people realize. You might like to think of it as a warning sign that something needs addressing within your relationship or in your life: an opportunity to make things better.

Crushes vs finding someone attractive

It’s worth stating right away that it’s important to differentiate between developing a crush on someone and finding someone outside of your relationship attractive.
If we’re being realistic finding other people attractive is inevitable. Entering a relationship doesn’t mean we stop being human. It’s entirely natural for this to happen from time to time – just as it was before you became part of a couple. As long as you don’t act on it, there’s nothing wrong with it.
We tend to think of crushes as different because they usually involve  imagining what it would be like to be in a relationship with this person. They go a level deeper – from the physical to the emotional.

What is my crush telling me?

We often develop crushes on people because we feel they might fulfil a need that isn’t otherwise being fulfilled. This might be a need for love, attention, sex, friendship or any number of other things.
Because crushes can happen for so many different reasons, and often start without us realizing –which is why developing a crush on someone when you’re already in a relationship can often take you by surprise and leave you wondering whether something isn’t seriously wrong.
It might be something has changed in your relationship recently that means you feel less connected to your partner. This could be a new job meaning you can’t spend as much time together. Perhaps you have young children and don’t have the energy to prioritize each other as much. A breach of trust may have made you feel more distant: perhaps you’re worried about allowing yourself to become vulnerable again.
Or it may be that this is simply part of the ebb and flow of connection and disconnection that takes place naturally in long-term relationships: sometimes we feel closer to our partners, sometimes less so.
It’s a good idea to think about whether your crush does seem to represent something that’s gone missing from your relationship. This will help you understand what you’re feeling, and is the starting point for thinking about what to do next.

How can I work on my relationship?

If you’re serious about your existing relationship, it will then be a case of trying to address the issue. It can take courage to do this, especially if what’s missing has been missing for a long time.
One question people often ask is: should I tell my partner about the crush? There’s no easy answer to this. If you feel it would be necessary to help them understand how you’re feeling, then you may need to find a way to do this gently. But be aware there’s a high risk that their feelings will be badly hurt.
One way to address this is by talking about it with someone you trust and who will keep it to themselves. This could be a friend or family member. You may find that the act of telling someone how you’ve been feeling is enough to help you begin to understand what’s missing in your life or specifically in your relationship.
If you do think there are problems in your relationship that need to be addressed, you’ll need to find time to talk to your partner.
How, when and where you have this conversation is as important as what you say – you may find it very useful to read our article on communication tips to try with your partner. This will help you think about ways to broach difficult topics without things turning into a row and how you could communicate effectively and clearly.
What you need to talk about will depend on your situation, but you might like to think about the following:
  • Do we spend as much time together as we used to, and if not, why not?
  • Do we make time to have fun together or just relax together?
  • Are we listening to each other’s needs and communicating our own, or simply saying ‘I’m fine’?
  • Have we been taking each other for granted?

Moving on from the crush — practical steps

 

We develop crushes on all kinds of people. Sometimes it’s just someone we see momentarily in the street. Sometimes it’s someone closer to us: a colleague, an employer, or a friend.
As part of the above process, it’s generally a good idea to try to avoid regular contact with the person you’ve developed a crush on. Depending on who it is, this can be quite straightforward or it might require some bigger changes.
If it’s someone we don’t see all that often, we can simply avoid running into them when possible. But if it’s someone who is closely linked to our lives, it can be worth thinking about whether certain changes will need to be made – whether you’ll need to stop seeing a certain group of friends quite as regularly, for instance, or not putting yourself forward for certain projects at work.
However necessary this will be depends on your situation, but you may find it’s easier to focus on your relationship if you’re not still seeing your crush week in, week out.

How we can help

Making changes in your relationship is rarely a short process. It usually takes a willingness to keep working at things consistently over time.
Don’t be disheartened if you aren’t able to get to the root of things straight away – or if it doesn’t always feel like things are heading in the right direction. Progress is rarely a straight line.
If you think you might need help, counseling is a great way of keeping yourself on course – or just beginning the conversation in the first place. Contact Couple Counseling DC for a session with Trina Dolenz.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Affairs at work

It may be a cliché, but the workplace is one of the most common places for affairs to start.

 

How do work affairs start?

When people spend lots of time together, they have the chance to really get to know each other.
Work affairs often start off slowly. Working together in stressful situations can mean bonding over shared goals or through collaborating on projects. What can start off as a platonic friendship or normal working relationship can, if there’s a spark of attraction, slowly become more inappropriate over time. This might just be semi-harmless flirting at first, but before long it may become clear there’s something more serious behind it.

Affairs at work — the signs

It’s often hard to pinpoint the moment where things begin to head in this direction. You might prefer to avoid thinking about it, or to pretend it's not happening. Yet through this, some people can find themselves ‘sleepwalking’ towards an infidelity – by not accepting that it’s a possibility at all.
And then it’s often the case that events like after work drinks or the Christmas party can mean any underlying attractions are acted on in an impulsive moment.

Why do people have affairs?

 

An affair – or the prospect of an affair – often feels extremely exciting at the time. One of the most common things that people report is the feeling of being ‘alive’. If you’ve been feeling dissatisfied in your life for a while, an affair can feel like an opportunity to be excited about things and take control of your life again.
But affairs rarely fix the problem that they start in reaction to. People often pursue attractions with other people because they feel alone or disempowered in their own relationship. But any initial feelings of excitement usually subside into ones of guilt and unhappiness.
If you’re having an affair you may feel caught between two poles – wanting to hang onto this new sense of excitement, but feeling incredibly guilty about the betrayal of your partner, with whom you might have been for many years.
If you’re thinking about starting up an affair with someone you work with, it may be worth thinking about how you got here. Are there things going on in your relationship that have left you feeling unhappy or frustrated? Has something changed recently that’s caused a rift between you and your partner? Do you feel like you’ve lost something – either recently or over a long period of time? And then think it through: would having an affair solve any of this, or would it simply cause more pain and upset?
The best route to solving relationship issues is not by acting impulsively or simply doing whatever you want, but by acknowledging and talking about any issues as a couple. Of course, it can be really difficult to do this, especially if you haven’t been getting on for a while. But serious problems don’t tend to fix themselves, and often get worse if simply left to fester. It requires bravery and a willingness to take on board your partner’s view, but even the trickiest issues can be worked through if both you and your partner are willing to try.

How to avoid an affair

The best place to start is by having an honest conversation about what’s going on in your relationship. If you haven’t been talking in a while or find that, when you do, things spiral into argument quickly, it can be a good idea to go about this process carefully.
This isn’t the kind of thing that you’re going to want to bring up in the middle of an argument or when you’re just about to go to bed – it’s going to require time and space. It can be a good idea to plan this talk in advance. You might want to approach your partner and say you think you think you need to chat, and agree on a time and place when you can do this uninterrupted. It might be a good idea to go out somewhere public. Being somewhere different can help you think differently, and it can mean tempers are less likely to flare.
When it comes to talking about what’s wrong, there are a few ways of making a productive and positive conversation more likely. Firstly, it can be a good idea to take regular timeouts. It’s no use talking if it’s simply going to turn into a shouting match, so being ready to take a quick break if things do get heated can make a big difference.
Beyond this, it’s important to take responsibility for your own feelings. Don’t phrase comments as attacks: ‘you always’, ‘you never’ and so on. It’s much better to use ‘I’ phrases: ‘When you do […], I feel as if…’. That way, your partner is less likely to feel defensive – and you’ll both have a chance to explain your own perspective on things. It’s also important to listen to what each other has to say, and not just focus on getting your own point across. Read our 3 communication tips to try with your partner for more on this.
It’s also important to distance yourself from any developing situations at work if you feel like something could happen with one of your colleagues. If it’s possible, you may want to spend less time with this person – or it may even be appropriate to acknowledge the atmosphere and be direct about the fact that you don’t want anything to happen.

How we can help

If you and your partner feel like you’re going to need help dealing with any relationship issues, then get in touch with Couple Counseling DC. We’re here to help you have discussions that you may otherwise find too painful, or likely to cause conflict.
Your relationship counselor won’t take sides, and they won’t tell you what to do. They’ll simply help you to express yourselves and think about a way of moving forward together.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Love in the time of Tinder

Love in the time of Tinder: why you can't blame technology for a rise in affairs.

CEO of Relate, Chris Sherwood, discusses on 'Wired' why our dependency on technology is blurring the boundaries between digital and non-digital relationships:-

"Technology has revolutionized our relationships, changing how we find, organize and even finish them. As a 36-year-old gay man living in London, I’ve had a front row seat in this revolution. I started my dating life in the 1990s, responding to personal ads in my local newspaper. In the 2000s I started exploring internet dating. More recently apps like Grindr and Scruff have become a dater’s best friend.

My day job is CEO of Relate, the UK’s largest provider of information and support around relationships, so you may think I have all the answers. In fact, Relate is encountering new and different ways that technology impacts out relationships every day, so we, too, are learning how to navigate this new digital world. Technology is one of the top reasons people come to us for counseling, whether it’s the couple where one partner’s had an affair via Facebook or the individual who’s struggling with an addiction to online porn.

It’s interesting that 62 per cent of our counselors say technology has had a negative impact on relationships, compared to just 13 per cent of the public. However, we also see that technology has brought huge benefits to relationships, from the serving members of our armed forces who can now rely on video calling and email to stay connected with home, to young gay people who can much more easily connect with one another in less liberal parts of the world – something I discovered myself recently whilst traveling through Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

""One of the challenges we see in this 'swipe generation' is the commodification of people""
Chris Sherwood, CEO of Relate

There’s no denying, though, that technology is disrupting our relationships in ways that previous generations could never have imagined. There are more than 1,400 dating sites in the UK alone and finding a partner online is the fourth most common way to start a new relationship. Could this be changing how much value we place on our fellow daters? One of the challenges we see in this "swipe generation" is the commodification of people. Research tells us that the key ingredients to a successful, long-term relationship (something that the majority of us continue to aspire to) are honesty, commitment and communication – characteristics that are hard to deduce from a Tinder profile picture. Quite simply, if we don’t like what we see in the first few seconds, we swipe left and it’s gone. It’s easy to forget we’re talking about real people with real feelings.

We’re also navigating this new digital world without a roadmap. People used to date, become girlfriend and boyfriend and get married. Today, announcing your relationship on Facebook or agreeing to take down your dating profile are new staging posts on this more complex relationship journey. We know from the counseling room that many of these staging posts only become clear when an unspoken rule has been broken.

Couples tell us that they like being able to send romantic and flirty messages to one another. But are we becoming too dependent on technology? Can we turn it off? According to a survey by the Science Museum in 2012, four out of five under 25-year-olds report feeling lost without the internet and the vast majority of smartphone owners reach for them within 15 minutes of waking up. The 2013 Mobile Consumers Habit survey in the US found that nine per cent even admitted to checking their phone during sex.

This “dependency” could also be affecting how we form intimate relationships in the real world as the boundaries between digital and non-digital become increasingly blurred. A study by Essex University in 2012 found that: “Merely having a phone visible in the room — even if no-one checked it — made people less likely to develop a sense of intimacy and empathetic understanding during meaningful conversations.”

Technology is additionally changing the nature of affairs and blurring the boundaries. We used to think of an affair as an intimate or sexual encounter between two people. Does sending sexualized and flirty images to another person count as an affair even if the people don’t meet? What about watching livecam porn, using remote-controlled sex toys with another person, or, in the future, sleeping with a sex robot?
""Does sending sexualized and flirty images to another person count as an affair even if the people don’t meet?""
Chris Sherwood, CEO of Relate

There’s a danger in this debate that we end up blaming the technology but that isn’t necessarily the problem: it’s how we use it.

We can’t stop the digital revolution but we can learn to better integrate technology into our lives, in ways that enable us to form and sustain loving and supportive relationships as well as to better navigate the dangers out there. For example, we’d encourage people to talk to their partners and family about how to handle the technology in their lives. Work out whether you need regular tech time out, like no phones in the bedroom or turning all screens off an hour before bed. There aren’t any hard and fast rules but communicating what works for your circumstances will make it easier for you to stay in control of technology and not the other way around.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Only one in three adults are satisfied with their sex life

Our survey of 5,000 people across the UK has revealed that only 34% of people are satisfied with their sex lives. Men are more likely to be dissatisfied with their sex lives than women, with one in four men saying they were dissatisfied compared to one in five women.

 

Why do people feel dissatisfied with their sex life?

One in five people felt that low libido or differing sex drives were putting a strain on their relationships. Our survey of counselors also showed a similar pattern, with almost half reporting that low libido or differing sex drives are one of the top eight relationship strains they see in the counseling room. However, counselors felt that by far the most common causes of sexual dissatisfaction were a lack of emotional intimacy (84%) and lack of communication (75%). As Relate Counselor Barbara Honey explains, there is often a lack of understanding about how each partner feels about sex:
There can sometimes be a ‘lightbulb’ moment in counseling when partners realise that the meaning of sex is different for each of them – this can become a turning point in becoming able to better meet each other’s needs.
Barbara Honey, Relate Counselor
People’s life stage and health also influenced sexual dissatisfaction — parents with young children were more likely to report dissatisfaction, as were those who had a disability or were living with a long-term health condition.
As well as a loss of desire, sexual problems were causing many couples to feel their relationship was under pressure. A third of people in our study said they had experienced a sexual problem, with one in four counselors reporting an increase in number of clients that had experienced sex-related problems affecting their relationship. One issue can lead to the start of a cycle of problems for a couple, which goes on to undermine their relationship:

 “Couples talk in therapy of getting into a cycle of problems – sex can become rushed or routine which can lead to a cycle of avoidance. Without the experience of pleasure and enjoyment, it becomes something that can create tension and anxiety. Sex itself can be painful and both pain and anxiety are going to create difficulties. Therapists are increasingly noticing the loss of libido or desire in both men and women that is leading to relationship tensions”                                                                                    

How important is sex in relationships?

We found that only 13% of people said sex was one of the most important things in a relationship. But there is a clear gender divide, with one in five men putting sex in their top three compared to one in ten women. Despite not all couples rating sexual satisfaction as an important part of their relationship there is clear research evidence that sexual satisfaction improves relationships, which in turn improves wellbeing.

 

Getting help with sexual problems

We know that people are often prevented from seeking help with relationship problems because of a perceived stigma. 60% of people in our survey who had experienced a sexual problem said that they would not want anyone to know they had accessed professional relationship support. Indeed counselors often see couples that are so worried about the stigma they repeatedly avoiding coming to Sex Therapy:

“Sex therapists see many couples for whom the desire to conceive is what brings them to therapy: sexual problems can and do cause distress in the couple relationship but it often isn’t until the couple are seeking to get pregnant that they seek support to resolve these problems”                                                                          

Relate Sex Therapists see thousands of couples, often it's people who don’t have the time or energy for sex who find this eventually starts to become a pattern. If you feel you could benefit from getting help, a Relate Sex Therapist can work with you on how to handle any problems you might be having so you can rediscover a satisfying sex life. Contact Trina Dolenz, Relate Therapist at CoupleCounselingDC for a session.

At Relate we feel it’s important that people have access to information and support when they experience a problem with their sex life. So we’re calling on commissioners of health services to improve access to sex therapy and relationship counseling to provide support for people experiencing sexual problems.

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.

Criticism.
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.

Undermining.
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.