Couples Counselling and Intimacy Issues
Intimacy and sex.
It’s complex. It’s vulnerable.
We don’t really talk about it, and we don’t ask for help. Most people don't immediately look for Couples Counselling. We suffer alone. We often think we are the only one. We wonder what's wrong - what's wrong with me, what's wrong with my partner, what's wrong with our relationship?
I understand. I’ve been there myself. I've been there as a client, burdened by pain, shame and what felt like insurmountable issues; and as a counsellor working with people through this complex mind/body/relationships tangle.
In fact, it’s being able to work through my own trauma, pain, confusion and negative beliefs about sex that made me so passionate about helping others to figure out and overcome their challenges.
I was so stuck, that it made me think 'If i could learn and heal and transform, then anyone else can.'
I've also learned that I'm not alone. There's some research that points to 1 in 5 couples having a sexless marriage (less that 10 sexual encounters per year). That's A LOT. And I wish I could say this was easy to work with.
Let’s consider for a second what makes sexual issues so complex.
We can’t just think of sex challenges in isolation. There’s a huge overlap between physical, emotional, mental, relational, sexual and spiritual systems. Each system needs to work well individually and together, and you are your partner need to figure out how to make it work individually and together as well.
We are talking about your body. Physiological aspects that can impact healthy sexual functioning.
Arousal is a neurovascular process - you need a healthy blood flow and healthy nerves
Medical conditions, chronic illness, pain, inflammation, medications and their side effects - all impacts sexuality and desire
Mental health and impact of depression, anxiety, stress and other conditions on the body and the nervous system
Hormones. PMS. Pregnancy. Postpartum. Menopause and peri-menopause.
Pain - sexual pain and/or feeling uncomfortable during sex. So many people are hesitant to discuss if with their doctor, or anyone for that matter. Some believe that it’s normal, or that it’s just how their body is. It’s often treatable and it’s essential that you figure out a way to treat, heal and/or find other ways of being fulfilled intimately that doesn’t cause you pain
How’s your sex drive, do you experience desire? Do you know what it feels like in your body?
Is your body able to maintain sufficient level of arousal to reach the orgasmic threshold?
Are you able to reach orgasm when you want to, with a partner or by yourself?
Impact of aging (physical and emotional overlap)
We are also talking about your emotional and mental and spiritual state:
How you deal with stress and pressure
Fears and expectations
Your beliefs, thoughts and attitudes about sex
Shame and guilt
If you had religious upbringing, what messages did you receive about sexuality and your body?
Was it talked about in your family, or was it a taboo?
What are you hopes and dreams when it comes to sex, what makes it fulfilling? What makes it expansive and connected? What makes it mind blowing? (are you able to share it with your partner)
Impact of trauma, addiction, and grief ( huge overlap between emotional, mental, relational and psychical systems)
Pressure: Pressure to perform, pressure to gain and keep an erection long enough, pressure to orgasm. Here's your mind-body connection.
How safe you feel
Your connection with your partner, overall state of your relationship
Communication - do you know what you want and need, are you able to communicate it to your partner, are you able to receive it? (Sounds easy. In reality, it isn’t)
Emotional safety in the relationship
Impact of affairs or other ways when trust was broken, betrayals
What needs are being met or not being met through sex - physical pleasure, being loved and being able to show your love to your partner. Adoration, appreciation, belonging. Connection. Sense of intimacy. Trust. Oneness. Relief.
Has sex become a chore or an obligation?
Pressure to be or look a certain way. Performance pressure.
Impact of being in a long term relationships
Kids/pets/in laws/ taking care of aging parents, life transitions - what else has an impact on your alone and intimate time?
It’s a lot.
And on top of all that there a stigma that we shouldn’t have to ask for help. That if we love each other, we should be able to figure it out. We watch romantic movies or porn, read erotica - and no one ever has any problems in that department. Of course they don’t.
It wouldn’t be a very interesting movie if one partner said - "hey, I’m horny". And another one said, "Well, I’m not in the mood". The end. We don’t see anyone losing an erection, no one is struggling with reaching an orgasm, and what we also don’t see - NO ONE EVER has even asked - hey, what would you like? We think, if we are in love, we just suppose to know this. We shouldn’t have to communicate. It’s not very sexy - but that’s only because we don’t see it
What we see are completely unrealistic expectations - two people want the same thing, at exactly the same time, it works for both of them and brings both of them to a simultaneous orgasm - without them ever having to talk about it. How often do you think it happens in real life, past the honeymoon stage of the relationship? Probably not very often.
People think they are broken or something is wrong with them.
You are NOT broken.
You probably need some tools, some real information, some skills to have these conversations with your partner and some practice to figure out what works and what doesn’t. We need to check our expectations, often unspoken, we need to break it into manageable pieces - how we initiate, what happens during foreplay, sex, what happens after. Maybe we actually need to start with how we define sex and what is possible.
Let’s untangle this.
Let’s see where you are getting stuck. Let’s see if you need a referral to work through a psychical issue. Maybe it's your ideas about arousal and desire. Maybe it's education about how you are wired when it comes to sex. Let's help you talk about it.
I’m not trying to make it sound simple and easy. It isn’t. We are complex human beings. When we add another being into the mix, it gets complicated pretty quickly.
I’ve been working in the field of intimacy and sexuality for 15 years. Every year I do trainings with some of the leading experts in the filed - and every year I learn something that makes me go “WHY don’t they teach this in high school? Why are we not talking about it?” We are grossly lacking information, including medical and mental health professionals .
By the time couples come to me they’ve been stuck in a very painful cycle, often for years. It’s ok if you are too. We can turn it around. There’s SO Much we can explore.
It doesn’t have to be embarrassing and heavy. It can actually be a really fun exploration. It can - and it will - bring you closer together. It can help you have a very fulfilling intimate life. All it takes - your willingness to explore, experiment and play. Your willingness to be open. It takes curiosity - about yourself and your partner. It takes commitment and patience. You gonna get stuck and it's going to be awkward. What's wrong with awkward? Like anything else in life, the more you practice, the easier it gets.
I think it can be a lot of fun, and I think it's 100% worth it. When sex is good, couples say it adds 15-20% to their vitality and satisfaction. When sex is bad or nonexistent, it becomes much more important and takes away 50-70% of intimacy and vitality.
If you have any questions, please let me know. I’m extremely passionate about it. Don’t wait a few more years, let’s start turning it around now.
You can book your free consultation for Couples Sex Therapy or Individual Counselling here.