If you are like me, you find “free
time” to be almost a mythical experience. Then trying to create time for
romance in your relationship, and it seems like we are living a straight
fantasy. However, with today’s fast-paced world and technology every direction,
it seems nearly impossible to have a truly romantic relationship. Often when I
meet with couples, I hear, “We are more like roommates than a couple.” During
my initial assessment and learning about the couple’s daily routine, I find
that these couples are unintentionally avoiding what they want the most –
The best remedy
for this lack of intimacy and romance is to make “intentional” time
with each other and make changes that will create and maintain a loving and
intimate relationship throughout the lifespan. Here are some of my prescribed
remedies for keeping the romance in your relationship.
1- Turn it off. Take the television out of
the bedroom-this includes turning off the cell-phones. If you are not on
bedrest, there is no need to have a T.V. in the bedroom. It takes away time
that could be spent engaging in pillow talk, cuddling, kissing, and making
2- Go on a date.
It is fine to go to the movies now and then but when I say go on a date I mean
GO on an intentional date where conversation can be had throughout. Take
a long drive through the canyon, go on a picnic in the park or at a garden.
Spending time together without a distraction of a movie or comedian allows time
to rebuild intimacy and learn or re-learn about your partner.
3- Hold hands. Staying
close doesn’t have to be complicated. Touch is such a powerful tool for
connection. Human touch is a basic primal need. We do not outgrow this. Holding hands while watching your favorite
show, walking around the neighborhood, or waiting for your table at a
restaurant can create that closeness without a lot of effort.
4- Don’t forget
to play. Research shows that couples who play together have increased
bonding, communication, conflict resolution, and report overall satisfaction in
the relationship. Play can be something
spontaneous like a water fight while in the garden or tickle fight while doing
housework, something planned like going bowling, or just sitting down for an old-fashioned
game of cards. So, give yourself permission to get silly and be a kid again.
5- 5-second kiss. How often do you give your partner
a quick peck goodbye in the morning or hello after work? Sure, that is nice,
but it becomes routine and unpassionate. Holding a kiss for at least 5 seconds
gives you that intentional purpose of showing your partner that you love
them. This doesn’t have to be limited to saying goodbye or hello, you could
engage in the 5-second kiss to say thank you for dinner or helping with the
kids or just because you want to kiss.
These “remedies” are not a cure-all for all relationships.
Sometimes there is an issue that goes a little deeper, and that issue is
impairing your relationship. In that case, these simple steps aren’t where you
need to start, and you may need to look into talking about it with a trained
professional. If you need couples counseling, please call our office at
801-944-4555 to make an appointment. We are here to help.
As I continually work with couples on improving their sex lives, one concern I hear frequently is, “Are we having the normal amount of sex?” They worry that if they are having less sex than they did at other points in the relationship, that maybe their sex life is getting worse. The reality is, the number of times you are your partner have sex, isn’t the most valuable information about whether or not you have a high-quality sex life. It is very natural for the quantity of sex to eb and flow throughout a lifetime together. Here are some perfectly normal times to see some changes in the frequency, and perhaps quality of your sex with your partner:
Pregnancy: Though there are some changes in the body during pregnancy that can make sex more enjoyable for women, there are certainly some changes that do not. Some women report that fatigue and sickness during the first trimester of pregnancy, make them feel less sexual desire. Typically, women report the most enjoyable sex during their second trimester of pregnancy. During the third trimester, it is a fight for space in the female body! Additionally, after baby comes, there is no sex at all for at least 6 weeks.
Death and Grieving: Some people report that when they are grieving the loss of a loving one, they feel less desire to be sexually intimate. That being said, some don’t feel that way at all. You shouldn’t feel weird or guilty if you still do have a desire for sex after the death of a loved one. All of these responses fall under the normal umbrella.
Illness: Most people don’t feel like being sexually intimate when they are sick. When our bodies are fighting off illness, survival takes precedence over procreation. Luckily, illness usually only influences our sex lives for a week or so. However, when chronic illness is involved this can take a toll on a relationship. When a partner has cancer, or dementia, or kidney failure, sex becomes one of the last priorities, though sex can still be missed and longed for by both partners.
Distance: This one is obvious… You can’t have sex when you are miles apart. Many couples have to spend time apart due to work, deployments, etc. In these cases, couples should have a plan for how they will maintain intimacy and connection during the time apart.
Depression and Anxiety: Mental health issues can certainly influence sex. Specifically, anxiety and depression, somewhat highjack the mechanisms in the brain and nervous systems that influence our sexual reactivity and receptivity. With professional help and treatment of the illness, these concerns can be resolved or better managed, and couples can learn to have functioning sexual relationships.
Stress and Fatigue: Stress also interferes with some of the biological mechanisms that influence sexual receptivity. When our bloodstream is raging with the stress hormone Cortisol, our nervous system is not typically apt to engage in sex. High levels of fatigue can also decrease desire. You may be noticing a pattern. There is an order of operations in the body; survival first, everything else after. Since sex is not essential for survival, but sleep is, the body will prioritize accordingly.
These certainly aren’t all the reason sex may struggle in a marriage. They are however, some of the big ones. Men and women all report times when sex wains. There are stereotypes that men always want to have sex and that women are always the ones turn men down. That’ s simply not true. Men and women,though different, have many sexual similarities. For help with your sexual relationship, schedule an appointment today.
Whether it is dancing with a loved one, head banging on our way to work, or singing our hearts out with friends and family; music affects our mood and our relationships. A recent study by Apple and Sonos found some surprising results regarding something we all love, music.
Apple and Sonos (2016) completed a global study of thirty-thousand consumers to see how music can affect our “home life”. The study surveyed people with varied backgrounds ranging from families with children, couples, and friends as roommates. Despite different backgrounds those that were surveyed had something in common: music impacted their relationships in positive ways. At this day and age we all seem to plug in on the internet, video games, and social media. While we tend to be physically present, we are not always emotionally or mentally present with those around us. We know electronics play a role in preventing some of these interactions, but how do we combat them. We can do this by just playing music!
The study found that in the US families spent more quality time together by four and a half hours versus families who did not play music (1). This is huge especially when we have a difficult time unplugging, we now know that we can plug into music together and spend more quality time with our family and friends which then improves our relationships.
For families spending quality time listening to music improved their relationships in a variety of areas including the following:
They were 33% more likely to cook together.
They were 85% more likely to invite others over including friends and other close family.
They also experienced 15% more laughter together as a family.
The words “I love you” and other words of affirmation were 18% more likely to be said among each other.
Each of these examples can translate to improved relationships. Music is something that is so simple, and yet, can yield such a big impact for our relationships and drive more connection. The study further notes that the average of physical distance between family members was by 12% which the study called “a nexus of intimacy and togetherness” (1).
Throughout the study, couples began to experience 66% more intimacy while music played (1). Intimacy is much more than sex. Intimacy is moving from you and me to more of a “we”. The more intimate you become the closer you and your significant other will understand the ins and outs of the relationship. However, music did indeed improve the more “intimate” instances of intimacy. The study noted that couples were awake 37% more each evening which means that couples were having more, wait for it, sex (1).
When we’re having a bad day we can turn on our favorite song have a dance party and instantly our mood can change. Studies have shown that even by listening to happy or sad music we then perceive neutral faces as either happy or sad which matches the music heard prior by the individual (2).
Whether it is being closer with a loved one or improving the quality time your family spends together music can help. Music is something that can help us feel a variety of emotions and some good or bad. Music can help bring us together, but what really drives the connection between your family or friends at these times is becoming emotionally connected. When we truly open up with someone and have these musical experiences we show our vulnerabilities. During these vulnerable moments we can connect to someone on another level and they can see who we truly are.
When music is not enough to mend or help overcome a difficult patch in our lives we can seek further assistance. This assistance can come from friends, family, or professionals such as therapists to help work through your unique and challenging situations. If you are considering therapy and are worried what it will be like, please come and see us at Wasatch family therapy. We strive to provide everyone who comes with a comfortable, safe and non-judgmental atmosphere so that those we see can succeed. Please do not hesitate to contact us at Wasatch Family Therapy at 801-944-4555. Together we can learn further tools to help you through your specific changes.
SONOS | Apple Music. (n.d.). Retrieved November 13, 2017, from http://musicmakesithome.com/
Cooper, B. B. (2016, August 26). 8 Amazing, Little-Known Ways Music Affects the Brain. Retrieved November 13, 2017, from https://blog.bufferapp.com/music-and-the-brain
Dr. Tina Sellers, author of Sex, God, and the Conservative Church, defines sexual shame as “a visceral feeling of humiliation and disgust toward one’s own body and identity as a sexual being, and a belief of being abnormal, inferior, and unworthy.”
Most of us grew up in a culture where parents didn’t often talk openly with their kids about bodies and sex, and a good number of us still don’t really know what to say to our own kids about the topic. In schools, many sex-education courses focuses on abstinence and skirt around topics deemed more appropriate for home discussions. Combined with our distorted, sex-saturated media, it’s no wonder so many individuals grow up with feelings of shame or inadequacy surrounding their bodies and their sexuality.
These feelings interfere with the development of our most important relationships, but they don’t have to.
Dr. Sellers suggests four steps for overcoming sexual shame:
The first step is to Frame. Framing means gaining accurate information on sexuality. Some of my favorite books on bodies, sex, and intimacy are:
For kids: “Sex is a Funny Word” by Cory Silverberg
For girls: “The Care and Keeping of You” by Valorie Schaefer
For boys: “Dating and Sex: A Guide for the 21st Century Teen Boy” by Andrew Smiler
For parents of teens: “For Goodness Sex” by Al Vernacchio
On female sexuality: “Come as You Are” by Emily Nagoski
On male sexuality: “The New Male Sexuality, Revised Edition” by Bernie Zilbergeld
For LDS couples: “What Your Parents Didn’t Tell You About Sex” by Anthony Hughs
There are many more great resources out there. Having accurate and open information about your body and what “normal” looks like can help dispel the sexual myths you may have picked up growing up or through media. Education can calm anxiety and help lay out a plan for gaining the approach to sexuality that you’d like to have in your life.
Dr. Sellers’ second step is to Name. This means finding a group you feel safe in, where you can tell your story and feel heard. This could be a therapy group, it could be a book group (using any of the above suggestions!), it could be an online support group. The important thing is to find a place where people can really hear and understand you so that you can name, or verbalize your own story.
The third step is Claim: Where sex is used so commonly to sell products (either by sexualizing our lunch or pointing out our flaws in order to get us to buy the product that will “fix” everything), media and marketing can throw a real punch to our sense of self worth. We need to claim our right to be okay just the way we are. If this is an area you struggle with, reading books and sharing your story can help, but sometimes you might find you need extra help learning to heal internalized shame. Find a therapist to talk to. Practice challenging negative self-talk. Claim the amazing things that make you who you are.
The last step is Aim. Aim means to write a new story for yourself. We all have stories or narratives that we tell ourselves, and if the old one hasn’t been helpful, begin writing a new story. Learning to look at your past in new ways can help open up potential for growth and new discoveries in your future. Let the keyword for your new narrative be “hope.”
If you have struggled with shame in connection with your body or sexuality and it’s holding you back from creating the connection and pleasure you hope for in your relationships, call and schedule an appointment today at 801-944-4555.
Okay, it may seem a bit obvious that getting outdoors with your spouse or significant other will strengthen your relationship. Bring you closer together. Absolutely ramp up your closeness. However, when was the last time you made an effort to hike with him alone? Backpack with her without the kids? Truly connect in a way that feels deep and REAL. Something you want to repeat?
It’s been awhile, huh!
Getting outdoors with him will not only build your relationship, it will build YOU. Here are 8 reasons why putting hiking back on your relationship table is so critical.
1) Hiking will make you closer. Getting outside in nature will make you feel closer, period. I’ve talked with couples after their weekend hike or backpack trip. They absolutely believe that getting out on the trail brought them closer. Sometimes it’s the roaring creek they crossed carefully together. Other times it’s waking up together in a tent in the Uinta Mountains. The examples are endless. Although it’s a subjective feeling, couples tell me in counseling sessions that it just felt awesome.
2) Hiking clears your head. Couples that spend too much time in their head (and you know who you are) feel distracted. Disconnected. Longing for closeness. Hitting the trail allows you to focus on nature’s amazing beauty. It also allows you to focus on each other in ways that the movie or dinner just CAN’T accomplish. Distractions fade, and the intensity of focus on each other increases. In fact, you may actually forget about the office for a few hours. Or hopefully for the entire, connective weekend. Nice!
3) Hiking makes intimacy better. One huge benefit to exercise in the backcountry is better and more consistent intimacy. Couples that hit the trail together find each other more appealing. More attractive. More interesting. It should come as no surprise that their interest in being more affectionate also increases. And who doesn’t want better sex in their relationship or marriage? Who doesn’t want to feel more attractive to him or her? Makes sense!
4) Hiking is a crazy cheap date. Finding time to date your spouse is one thing. Actually coming up with the money to pay for it is quite another. Couples find hiking very inexpensive. It’s really the cost of gas and a few snacks. And with so many trails available in the Salt Lake City area, finding a trail is simply not the problem. So why not ditch the movie and grab him/her and hit the beautiful mountain trail!
5) Hiking will make you so much healthier. As someone that has hiked for many years, I know firsthand that the benefits of hiking are truly endless and so amazing. Although I like the gym, I would much rather hit the trail than hit the treadmill for cardio. When we hike on a consistent basis, we not only become healthier, we absolutely ramp up our immune system. We don’t get sick as often. We don’t feel rundown or lethargic. The apathy in our marriage just disappears. We appreciate each other more. Sweet!
6) Hiking absolutely begets more hiking. Now you may be saying to yourself, how do I get started? The answer is found in many sports commercials. We just do it! Further, how do you start anything worth while in your life? Recall when you were considering going back to school? You likely laid out a plan and actually followed through with that plan. Hiking consistently is very much like going back to school. It’s about building a better you. It is so true that hiking really does beget MORE HIKING. Give it a try!
7) Couples that hike together are happier. As a family therapist that has counseled couples for many years, I’m constantly looking for ways to help couples improve their relationships. Searching for ideas that will get their couple relationship to the next level of connection or affection. The answer more often than not is to actually spend TIME together. Thus, couples that hike together not only stay together, but they do so because they’re happier. Hiking or running on the trail simply enhances closeness. When we feel better about ourselves, we feel better about our relationships. It really is that simple.
8) Hiking is a great inoculation for marriage problems. It is my experience that it’s usually not the big things that make couple relationships disconnect. It’s the little things over-time that do it. Little things such as inattention. Disconnection. Or the oft mentioned boredom, that produces disaffection in relationships. When we hike together couples absolutely inoculate their relationship from these fairly common marriage pitfalls.
Where do I go from here? Imagine hiking in seemingly endless fields of wildflowers with your awesome husband. Imagine sitting by a cold mountain stream as the water rushes by you and your wife. Can you picture seeing a moose in an alpine meadow as you take pictures safely with your digital zoom camera? And can you imagine going on a winter hike or snowshoe adventure with him or her? Or hitting the Cottonwood Canyons in October for the amazing splendor of Autumn Aspen in Utah?
If any of these hit home with you, then you’re ready for the next step. Actually getting out for a hiking adventure in our amazing northern Utah backcountry. The Wasatch Mountains are peppered with trails for all hiking and experience levels. It doesn’t matter where you live, it only matters that you’re willing to get out there. Try it. You will absolutely love it. And your couple relationship will too!
To schedule an appointment with Michael, call Wasatch Family Therapy at 801.944.4555
Michael Boman, LCSW, is a Healing Outdoors expert in Cottonwood Heights. Michael schedules Healing Outdoors therapy sessions on select local trails. If you would like to learn more about Healing Outdoors and if it’s the right counseling approach for you, Michael can be reached via email at MichaelBoman@Wasatchfamilytherapy.com.
Emily Nagoski is a sex educator and author of the book “Come as You Are, The Surprising New Science that will Transform your Sex Life”. Sexuality can be a difficult topic because so many of us have been raised with the idea that sexuality isn’t okay. Because of this we avoid talking about it and don’t try to find solutions if we are experiencing difficulties. In my experience, problems with sexual intimacy have ranked fairly high among the issues couples bring up in therapy sessions. Shame over feeling “broken” can also make us uncomfortable bringing it up. The good news is that there is a lot we can do to become more satisfied with this important area in our lives and relationships. I recently attended a presentation Dr. Nagoski gave and found the information so useful, that I thought I’d share some of it here.
All the Same Parts:
The biggest takeaway I got from her lecture (as well as from reading her book) is that throughout our lives we are presented with an idea of what is normal in both our physical bodies and how we approach our sexuality. This presentation comes largely from the media, and leads us to believe that because we are not the same as what is presented, that there is something wrong with us. Dr. Nagoski talks about how we all have the same parts, (physically and sexually) but are arranged differently and that we are not broken or deficient just because we are different from someone else.
The Dual Control Method:
Dr. Nagoski calls them accelerators and brakes. Accelerators are things which signal our brains to respond favorably to sexually relevant stimuli. Accelerators might be things like our partner wearing a cologne or perfume we like, or coming home to a candlelight dinner our partner has surprised us with. Brakes are things which signal our brains that we are not interested at the moment. Examples of brakes can range from things like sitting in a boring meeting to lack of sleep to body odor. Performance anxiety can also be a huge brake. There is a questionnaire to evaluate your sensitivity to brakes (or Inhibitors) and accelerators (or Excitors) at http://www.thedirtynormal.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Sexual-Temperament-Questionnaire.pdf.
How we interpret and respond to brakes and accelerators depend largely on context. If our partner approaches us from behind and kisses our neck when we are in the middle of changing a messy diaper, our response might be very different than if they did the same thing after a romantic dinner. It’s all about context. Dr. Nagoski has a worksheet to help individuals discover what contexts appeal sexually, to them, and what contexts do not, at http://www.thedirtynormal.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Sexy-Context-Worksheets.pdf.
Concordance and Non Concordance:
Concordance refers to the relationship between a physical genital response and an individual’s self reported level of arousal. Men average a 50% concordance rate, which means that half of the time when they are experiencing a physical sexual response to stimuli, they also report feeling aroused. For women, the concordance rate is 10%. One of the things that is often portrayed in media is that when we are physically stimulated, we are also aroused. This leads rape victims to feel guilt for being “aroused” by their rape, when really what happened was just a normal physical response to genital stimulation. It does not mean that it was wanted. It can also lead men who are experiencing erection difficulties to feel guilt, thinking that their lack of erection means they are not aroused by their partner.
Two key terms here are sexual relevance and sexual appeal. Sexual relevance is associated with the physical response to stimuli. An erection stemming from seeing his partner in bed would be an example of an expected sexual stimuli. Sexual appeal is linked to subjective arousal, or an individual’s self-report of arousal. Something can be sexually relevant but not appealing (sexual violence for example), things can also be sexually appealing but not sexually relevant (a fetish for example). Creating healthy, wanted sexual experiences with our partner means creating environments and situations that are both sexually relevant for us as well as sexually appealing.
John Gottman’s research on couples found that the two traits most correlated with a strong, sustained sexual connection lasting decades was 1) a trusting friendship, and 2) making sex a priority. Sometimes when sex isn’t working the way you’d like it to, it feels easier to just let go of sexual intimacy in your relationship. It doesn’t have to be that way. Make a healthy sexual relationship a priority and come in for some couple’s counseling. We can address your concerns and find solutions for them in supportive, respectful ways. I also recommend reading Emily Nagoski’s book for much more of the science and a more thorough coverage of this topic.
Relationship maintenance is one of the most important things couples can do to create and “maintain” emotional intimacy. This maintenance comes in many forms. Some couples have regular date nights. Others have daily talk time. Often times one or both people read self help books about strengthening the relationship. Many of the couples I work with, and come across in my personal life, ask me about books they can read that will give them skills to strengthen their relationship. Here are two books I think every couple, happy or in distress, should read.
The first is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This book takes you through five ways that people show and feel love. The five love languages are quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, service, and gift giving. This book takes you through the these five love languages and helps you identify which love language speaks to you. Read this with your partner. Once both of you are done and have properly identified your love language, share it with the other person. I use this idea in every couples session. The hope is that once you know your partners love language you can start speaking directly to what they need in the relationship. Someone who has the love language of quality time, but is given gifts will not feel properly loved and connected to their partner. This book gives invaluable insight into yourself and your partner that can strengthen every relationship.
The second is Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson. This is a fantastic book that teaches you about attachment and reconnection with your partner. It has seven fabulous “conversations” for you and your partner to work through. If you are looking for emotional intimacy with your partner this is the book you are looking for. It is educational and highly effective at healing past wounds within relationships. Even if you and your partner have a healthy and loving relationship this book can still be a tool in creating a stronger bond.
Many couples feel that going to therapy, or even reading books like these shows a weakness in the relationship. My frame is that attending therapy and reading books to better your relationship is a strength; it means you and your partner are willing to put hard time and effort into being better individually and together. These couples are the ones that have relationships that will last. Hopefully you have the time to pick up these two books and give them a try. Read them with openness along side your spouse and they can make a world of difference.
5 common road blocks that could be keeping you and your partner from optimal intimacy!
Work life, parenting responsibilities, maintaining a home, dishes in the sink or a bedroom overcrowded with laundry, these are just a few examples of things that contribute to shaping our environment. Is there anything present or obstacles in your environment that could interfering with opportunities to create more intimacy. Environment can play a crucial role in our ability to focus and dedicate time to growing and nurturing intimacy in our home and relationships.
Here is the most recent “5 Minute Relationship Fix” segment from the Todd & Erin Show, where I share quick tips to strengthen relationships in just five minutes!
This week, we’re tackling a topic that comes up over and over again: the “S” word. Yep, that’s right, we’re talking about sex!
Too often, women feel like sex is a chore, while men are often wanting sex to be spontaneous. Listen here for how planning sex can help you and your partner have a more fulfilling relationship!
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