Sex and relationships? Let’s talk.

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Sex is a major component of intimate relationships, whether you’re married or in a committed partnership… intimacy problems among couples happen more than you think.

If you and your partner are experiencing intimacy issues, you’re not alone. In fact, “positive intimate functioning contributes approximately 15-20% to a marriage, while problematic intimacy holds much more weight, approximately 50-75%.(1)” Simply put, this means that couples who reported positive intimate relationships with their partner say their sexual relationship only contributed 15-20% of their overall happiness, whereas couples who reported problematic intimate relationships say their sexual relationships contribute 50-75% of their overall unhappiness. That’s a big difference.

I recently worked with a couple that reported having intimacy problems. The wife felt that her sexual needs weren’t being met, while the husband said he was often too tired at the end of the day to engage in sex. After discussing the situation with the couple, I was able to provide them a few suggestions that could improve their intimacy, which I will share with you.

Putting “Me” Before “We”

Intimacy — and sex — is a two-way street. While it may seem obvious, if partners are out of sync with one another, it can lead to intimacy issues. If your partner is frustrated by the lack of intimacy in your relationship, is it because they’re wanting “too much” intimacy as far as you’re concerned or are you desiring less intimacy? It could also be something in the middle, too. Regardless, when each individual reflects on their role in an intimate relationship, that can serve as the springboard for a larger conversation about what “we” want or view as a healthy intimate relationship as a couple.

Talk is Important

Intimacy is different for every person, and by extension, every couple. When a couple comes to me with intimacy issues, one of the first questions I ask is “Have you talked about it?” I find that couples frequently say “Yes,” but when we explore those conversations further, it turns out that they’re often talking “at” one another rather than engaging in a constructive dialog.

Talking about intimacy and sex can be difficult for couples. “Sex” is loaded with other factors like self-esteem, confidence, and love, to name a few. So talking about this topic-head on isn’t always easy.

But nonetheless, it is important. When couples actually talk about their intimacy, sexual needs and desires, they often learn something new about their partner. I’ve seen instances where one partner feels deep satisfaction after a snuggling session, while the other spouse felt frustration at the end of the same snuggling session because it was lacking a sexual component.

There are plenty of self-help books and resources out there. If you don’t feel comfortable bringing the subject up to your partner, you could always bookmark articles that speak to you. After your partner reads them, you could then discuss it in context of the resource first and then your relationship.

Only when you and your partner can talk openly and free of judgement can you begin to discover the right balance of intimacy in your relationship.

Keep it Physical

Even when I see couples struggling with intimacy issues, I encourage them to not stop being physically intimate with one another. This doesn’t always mean sex, either. It could be as simple as holding hands or kissing, or giving one another massages.

This type of contact and expression is vital in order for you to keep your physical and emotional bonds. As people grow and evolve, so too does their relationship with intimacy. Sex drives change over time, as do preferences for physical contact.

It’s crucial to be honest with each other as your tastes and preferences change. Neglecting these types of conversations can lead to tension, frustration, and further relationship issues if they’re ignored.

Striking the right balance in any relationship is a constantly moving target. But like many things that are worth doing, it takes practice. It also takes a willingness to make the situation better, and by talking about it and remaining physically intimate with one another, intimacy issues can get better and improve the overall relationship with your loved one.




Relationships + Change

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As humans we are constantly evolving, growing, and changing. As couples, we’re constantly evolving, growing, and changing, too. This growth and evolution can be great for couples, but what happens when this growth and evolution moves in opposite directions within a relationship?

There’s no question that the person you are today is different than the person you were years ago when you met your partner. Even when you started your relationship, you were a different person then than you are now...and the same is true for your partner. And with all of this change, there is bound to be some tension and tough times, but learning to accept your partner for who they are now--and who they will become--is the foundation of the next stage in your relationship.

Observing and Understanding Change:

There are times when change seemingly happens overnight, but those times are generally infrequent. Instead, change happens slowly over time, almost invisibly. If too much time goes by without addressing small changes, before you know it, these gradual changes have warped into giant chasms between you and your partner.

Whenever possible, attempt to (delicately) bring up these perceived changes with your partner. Ideally, this conversation isn’t confrontational in nature. Instead, it is more of an observational conversation. You may wish to approach your partner and state a few facts that you perceive have changed. If these are changes you’re observing in your partner (rather than your own changes), it is important to be supportive of your partner as you bring this conversation up. Depending on how you approach it, your partner may get offended or defensive, which has the potential to end the conversation before it even begins.

An idea:

You may want to start out by telling your partner about your love for them, and share a few fun, uplifting, loving memories from years ago. This will remind your partner about times when you were both deeply in love and in sync. Then, you can gently bring up some of the changes you’ve seen in your partner. During the course of this conversation, it’s important to be open to the fact that you have changed, too. If your partner wants to talk about those changes, it is important that you listen to them completely, and hear them out.

Relationships are a lot of work, and taking the time {together} to actively talk about your relationship and love for one another is important.

Where Do You Go From Here?

Well, it depends! If your conversation(s) went well, it's important to keep them going. Remember: part of the reason you had to have the “big” conversation in the first place is because you didn’t address the small changes until they became so big they were too hard to ignore.

So, now that you’ve had the talk, what can you do is schedule time where the two of you spend time with one another on a weekly basis. Turn off your phones and other distractions, and just be together. You can participate in each other’s hobbies, relive fun moments from your past, or just talk about your dreams and aspirations as a couple. These moments, though small, can really be beneficial for you and your partner in the long run.

If, however, your earlier conversation highlighted some larger rifts in your relationship that need mending, consider reaching out to family, friends, or a licensed professional for help. Sometimes, having someone with an outside perspective can be a huge benefit. If you’re not comfortable reaching out to family or friends, a licensed professional might be the best bet. Not only are we trained to help couples sort through these changes, but we’re also an unbiased third party, who has no agenda other than to help you as best as we can.

No matter what, remember that you both deserve to feel joy and happiness in your lives. Please reach out to me directly here if I can be of benefit.