When a couple comes to see me because they are having problems in their sex life, the first question I consider is what’s going on in the relationship that’s affecting the couple’s intimacy. Most of the time sexual problems are just a symptom of the relationship dynamic between the couple.
Common relationship issues that cause problems in your sex life include:
- Poor communication
- Feeling emotionally disconnected
- Feeling undervalued or disrespected
- Unhealthy power dynamics
- Lack of trust
All of these issues have a huge impact on a couple’s intimacy. If talking about problems always ends up in a huge fight, the communication breakdown will carry over to the bedroom.
If you feel unseen or unheard by your partner outside of your sex life, you will start harboring anger and resentment and lose the desire for intimacy with your partner.
Unhealthy power dynamics, especially for strong, independent women who rule the roost, will often lead to disempowered and emasculated men in the bedroom.
Any type of trust issue or betrayal in the relationship will make it unsafe to expose yourself and be vulnerable, a key factor in creating intimacy.
A typical coping mechanism to handle relationship issues is to shut down your emotions and close yourself off from your partner. But to maintain couple’s intimacy, you actually have to take the opposite approach and have an emotional conversation.
I teach couples how to have an emotional conversation using a process that I learned from Celeste Hirschman and Danielle Harel. You can find it in their book, Making Love Real, a must read for couples.
Having an emotional conversation does not mean that you scream in rage at each other. That puts even more distance between you and makes finding couple’s intimacy even more challenging.
An emotional conversation is a process in which each partner gets to be seen and heard and can share, from their own emotional perspective, without blaming or shaming each other.
What gets in the way of emotional conversations are the numerous defenses we have for avoiding vulnerability, most of which have been with us ever since our childhood. Often it is our hurt little child that gets triggered by something that our partner does or says.
We have to learn how to translate that childhood trigger response into how an adult would have a vulnerable conversation. Here’s an example:
“I hate that you only text me when you need a favor. Who do you think I am, your personal assistant!”
“When I only receive texts from you when you need something from me it makes me feel undervalued. I need to know that you love me for who I am”.
The goal of an emotional conversation is to help couples get back into connection through empathetic listening, owning your triggers, and being true to your emotions.
Emotional conversations are an important step to creating a couple’s intimacy.