posted: May 16, 2022.
Sex often becomes the focal point of couples therapy. After years of being together sex might have become dull and routine. One partner might find themselves less interested in it, while the other partner might miss the sexual chemistry the couple shared earlier in their relationship.
Any couples therapist would have plenty of things to say about how to keep things more interesting and fresh in the bedroom, however, before we jump into the “Do’s,” let’s take a look at the “Do-Not’s.” Here are few things that will dampen the spark in your love relationship:
This one relates to same-sex gay couples as well as heterosexual ones. The moment two become three-plus, couples’ priorities and free time undergo dramatic adjustment. Young children require great deal of attention and energy. By the time all the daily tasks have been accomplished and the couple has a moment alone, at least one of them is exhausted, with no energy left for a sexy play.
Another obvious caveat is that by having children we become parents. The parental role can be all-consuming especially in the earlier years of parenthood. Parenting might be a wonderful and joyous experience as in of itself, however, parental mindset is usually the farthest from the sexy mood. To make space for sex we have to both, have some extra energy to spare, and some time to shift from the role of a parent to the role of a lover.
The Fix: Make time. Create windows of opportunity to connect as a couple. Ask family and friends for help with babysitting and do a weekly date night, make a point to reconnect on a daily basis once the kids are asleep, even if for just 20 min, stay in touch throughout the day by checking in through occasional text or call. Feed the spark with sexy or playful messages. Free few minutes a day to prioritize your relationship over parenting and to embody the role of a partner and a lover.
I practice couples therapy in Los Angeles, California, which is known for its high pace of life and the culture of hustling your way up to the top. Most couples I see in my practice juggle multiple demanding roles and at times have to master the art of being in more than one place at the same time. We wear the hats of being a parent, a career professional, a colleague, a spouse, a lover, a friend, a child and sometimes a parent to our own parents. Our life is full and diverse and tending to our own needs as well as the needs of our family and loved ones can leave us overextended, stressed and tense. For us to be able to connect and express our sexual energy we have to create a space of safety, calm and relaxation. Feeling overwhelmed for most of us is the opposite of feeling sexy. Practice of self-care and mastery of our emotional experience is the key to creating the sexual space in the midst of the fullness of our experience.
The Fix: Make a clear daily and weekly plan for self-care. What are the things that nurture you and feed your soul? Do you enjoy a good workout, a morning run, a yoga session or some other form of physical engagement? Great! Do it! Research has repeatedly shown the powerful positive effect working out has on mood, sleep, libido and more. Healthy nutrition can be another important aspect of creating a positive biochemistry in your body and improving your wellbeing. If you are a creative person, do art, dance, find an avenue for self-expression. Some of us love books, cooking, movies, music, painting, crossword puzzles, nature and more. Find the time to do the things that feed your soul, if not every day, at least one or two times per week. Giving yourself the opportunity to recharge will benefit not only you, but your entire family.
Lack of safety in the relationship
Couples therapists talk a lot about emotional safety. Feeling safe in our intimate relationship means that we can be fully present and open with our partner, without the fear of rejection, criticism, and emotional or physical violence. Feeling safe is synonymous with feeling loved, accepted, respected and seen. Safety does not imply lack of disagreements, however, it does imply mutual effort to resolve the disagreements in thoughtful, loving, kind and connected way. Lack of safety in the relationship can be caused by multiple culprits. I will not address the physical violence since this one is very obvious. If our physical safety is endangered, sex is hardly a priority. However, emotional safety is also essential for us to be able to connect to our sexual selves and channel our sexual energy.
Emotional lack of safety can be caused by repetitive arguments that create relationship tension, by criticism and by passive aggressive behaviors such as stonewalling, contempt and sarcasm. If we feel unsafe with our beloved, we will build a protective wall to prevent us from being hurt by them. This boundary that we erect in self-defense impedes our ability to feel close with our partner. It disallows us from being open and vulnerable with our lover. We find ourselves filtering what we want to say, omitting information to avoid conflict and putting distance between ourselves and our partner through over-focusing on work, kids or any other valid distraction.
Satisfying sexual experience requires us to be relaxed and open to pleasure. It offers an opportunity for deep emotion connection. If closeness does not feel safe, sex in long term relationship will ultimately suffer.
The Fix: Eliminate all negativity from the relationship. Intentionally stop complaining, stop criticizing, do not allow yourself to get defensive or passive aggressive. Work on shifting your patterns of communications with your partner. There is an abundance of literature on how to do just that. Couples therapy is also a great resource to help couples connect differently. Of course, you have to find a couples therapist with whom you feel comfortable doing this important work. If you, dear reader, live in Los Angeles or in the State of California and curious to hear more, you are welcome to reach out.