Marriage

Couples Troubles

Many couples enjoy the change of pace that summer brings. Vacations, musical festivals, cottage getaways with family and lots of outdoor BBQs are occasions to enjoy life and create happy memories. But these can also be times when relationship troubles are camouflaged, then dealt with later.

Is this you? Sad but true, a time to away, meant to grow as a couple, can also be a time of deepening relationship distress. Couples Therapy is an effective way of overcoming a communications impasse.

A recent report on BBC.com states that people between the age of 16 and 44 are having less sex than ever before. Is there something about life today? Are there new ways to hide problems?

Some modern indications of unhealthy couples behaviors include:blog-fighting-loving

  • Excessive smartphone/tablet use/social sites
    • Often in the presence of their partners
  • Excessive organized family activities
    • E.g. not enough free time for individual interests
  • Excessive amounts of time viewing adult web sites (Pornography)

These are ways to fill time and maintain distance when unspoken issues lie beneath a superficial calm. Couples unconsciously collude to maintain the status quo of parallel lives – like railroad tracks going in the same direction but never intersecting.

The issues below are still the ones most often involved in couples’ communication breakdowns:

  • Money
  • Sex
  • Parenting
  • In-laws

These issues are caused and often complicated by values that you and your partner may not always share. Values are personal perceptions about the right way to live your life.  For example, you may believe that it’s better to enjoy life while you have the freedom and resources to do so. Your partner may argue that it’s more important to save money for a nest egg as the priority. Issues become more entrenched when they conceal emotional issues such as insecurities about money or phobias that lead to recurring impasses of communication.

Despite the summer distractions, if you and your partner are stuck in a communication breakdown, it is a good idea to consult a psychologist trained in couples therapy to help you accomplish your goals together.

 

Dr Eva Fisher is a registered psychologist trained in Ottawa, Canada with training in couples and family issues.

Sexual Arousal and Desire

Sexual arousal and desire in long-term relationships are always hot topics.  Everyone has different needs, wants, likes, annoyances and patterns which can be fragile and hard to talk about or even understand. Individuals in couples have to deal with not only their own complicated sexuality, but also with that of their partners and synchronizing the two.

Sex is something which is incredibly important to many relationships, however, the more fundamental aspect is desiring and being desired.

What happens when you are strongly attracted to someone, fall in love and decide to move in together?

You have great sex, you talk and laugh together, and you’re happy doing anything together. You have a feeling of being complete, that you complement each other perfectly. When you’re apart, you long to be together and when you are together again, you do all kinds of things you never thought you’d ever do.   You experience yourself differently – like trying new foods, new activities and new ways of behaving.

In his book, The Erotic Mind, Dr. Jack Morin describes the building blocks of eroticism. These include longings when you’re apart, excitement and taking risks, new discoveries, and idealizing your lover.

Falling into the familiar

Over time, though, your closeness settles into familiar routines. The realities of everyday life like taking out the trash, laundry or child-care can’t be ignored.  Where there once was an illusion of closeness, the reality that was always there appears –that you are separate but together, with different ideas, habits, and ways of seeing the world.

Routine can be good but isn’t necessarily the sexiest thing and, as Lori Gottlieb wrote in a recent New York Times article, “marriage is hardly known for being an aphrodisiac.”

The article touches on how more equal marriages may even lead a less sex-filled marriage because new power roles in relationships, while quite positive in logical, daily-life, don’t work for some people in the bedroom.

Although it is somewhat paradoxical, Esther Perel a couples therapist who wrote a book called “Mating in Captivity,” said, “most of us get turned on at night by the very things that we’ll demonstrate against during the day.”

And where eroticism, if not diminished, has disappeared.

This predictable path always comes as a surprise to the couples who come to my office for help with lost sexual desire. The partner most upset by this outcome – usually the one with the higher desire – may have realized that they are powerless to make their partner want to have sex, while the lower desire partner complains that the higher desire partner only wants them for sex.

A recent study reported in The APA Monitor, found that couples where one partner has “avoidance-motivated goals”  such as a woman accepting her boyfriend’s desire for sex  to avoid conflict or disappointing him, or a tired man responds with sex because he feels guilty refusing, tend to have lower sexual and relationship satisfaction.  Surprisingly, both the reluctant partner and the initiating partner reported sexual dissatisfaction in these encounters.

Wanting sex, and wanting a person, can create vastly different experiences when it comes to sexual arousal and desire.  Both partners feel different when they feel personally wanted – for who they are – and not just for sex.

Let’s go back to Dr. Morin’s cornerstones of eroticism.

They all encompass the single idea – the feeling that you are with the most wonderful, special person who also makes you feel special and unique. Great sex is the bonus that goes with these feelings – you want to be with that person, and and when you’re having sex together, both of you feel it.

Looking to self-help books that suggest sexual toys, costumes, lingerie, date nights, won’t resolve the gridlock between couples who want to feel wanted.

Sexual arousal and desire problems are primarily feelings of wanting and feeling wanted.

If you are having problems with sexual arousal and desire, speak to a psychologist with training in this area. Your couple is worth it.


Patients in this story are a fictional composite of people who have sought help for this issue. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.

Dr. Eva Fisher is an Ottawa psychologist who has been providing psychotherapy for a variety of issues for over 20 years. Follow her on Twitter @drevafisherFacebook or Instagram @dr_evafisher. Blog writing assisted by freelance journalist Alyssa McMurtry.

Written by Dr. Eva Fisher C Psych
All rights reserved. Copyright protected.

Dealing with Dating Post-divorce

It’s highly uncommon to leave a marriage revelling in new found freedom; instead most people find themselves wrestling with difficult losses. Not only is the person you loved lost but also your life’s direction has been drastically derailed.

Many people leave a lot of who they were at the door when they enter into married life. The relationship engulfs their time and when they leave that structured environment it can be very daunting to fill the void.

Clinical psychologist Judith Sills refers to this transition as “turning single” because it is a process that is much more than losing a partner, it’s a financial change, a different social status, a different wardrobe and sense of self. (more…)

The neo-modern couple

When Mary and Mike got married, they planned a relationship based on equality. They believed that their marriage would be different and better than their parents’ marriage in every way: they both had graduate degrees and high salaries; they were both pursuing career ambitions.  They equally shared the load in preparing meals, housecleaning and caring for their children.

Why then, were they having relationship problems now?

(more…)

Illusions about marriage

Chloe and Steve had lived together happily for six years so they decided to get married.   In their wedding pictures, their smiles looked as if they would be in love forever and live happily ever after.

However, with the arrival of their daughter, and a second child the following year, came mortgage payments, obligations of parenting and disagreements about their in-laws. They even argued for the first time about sex. Their positive illusions became buried under layers of negative interactions like criticism, anger and resentment.

(more…)

Food and sex: pleasure and anxiety

The session was well into the second hour, and Jen once again brought up how hurt she’d felt when her husband Dan insisted she’d put too much spice in the pasta sauce.

Dan was angry that she had forgotten that spicy food gave him indigestion.  He accused her of being inconsiderate. She in turn felt rejected by his criticism of her cooking and this made her anxious.

(more…)

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