Many couples that come in for sex therapy sessions suffer from a difficulty in communicating with one another. Or at least, that’s what they think their problem is.
In fact, the problem is often a lack of connection. It is difficult to engage in intimate behaviors when you don’t feel an emotionally close.
It starts innocently enough. A ‘playful’ comment that feels hurtful to one partner causes them to withdraw. Communication starts to break down as a result. When we feel disconnected or unsupported, we pull away.
What Can You Do When You Feel Upset?
The impulse when you feel hurt or unappreciated is to engage in “constructive criticism,” which usually does not go over well.
What works better is focusing on the positive. For example, if the cook in the relationship makes x for dinner and you don’t like x, don’t say, “You know I don’t like x; why did you make it?” Wait until they make your favorite dish and say, “I love when you make this; I feel loved and cared for when you take the time and effort to make my favorite.” Even better, if you’re NOT the cook in the relationship, how about taking on that task? Make it a special event and show you care by taking on that responsibility.
When arguing, don’t seek middle ground. Try to get to the principle of what is bothering you. An example would be if one person spends large amounts of time away from the other engaging in a hobby. Don’t attack the hobby or their interest in it; ask for a date on a specific day and time to do an activity you both enjoy.
Set up a mutual time to share your concerns. Happy couples “check in” often.
Show You Care
To reconnect and get back to communicating in a way that builds more intimacy, show interest and sympathy for your partner. Use appropriate facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice, even if you have to ‘fake it ‘til you make it.’
Before you begin an argument, ask yourself if you want to win the argument, or feel emotionally connected with your partner. Do you want to know their perspective? Do you care about their feelings?
You must convey that you will love and value your partner whether they agree with you or not. Anything else erodes the connection.
The novelist Richard Paul Evans and his wife Keri were struggling in their marriage. He decided one day to ask Keri how he could make her day better. It was a way of saying, “I will do whatever it takes to make this marriage work.”
She asked him to clean the kitchen, which he did. The next day, he asked the question again. She asked him to clean the garage. He kept asking every day and doing what she asked, no matter how inconvenient or arduous the task.
After a few weeks, she broke down and said, “I should be asking you that. Could we maybe just spend time together?”
They started a routine of asking each other the “how can I make your day better” question every day, and it saved their marriage.
It was a matter of showing care and respect, which was a powerful connector. There was humility involved, which leads to vulnerability, which leads to connection.
Accept Your Part Of The Problem
In any marital difficulty, it takes two to tango. Look at your own behavior and accept your role in the problem.
When you seek to understand your partner, be sincere and speak from the heart.
Realize that true love is not about what your partner can do for you, but what you can do for them.
A client once shared some wisdom from her grandmother, who had a long and happy marriage. “It’s simple: We both think of the other one first,” the grandmother said.
Cincinnati Relationship Counseling
If you are in the Cincinnati area and you are interested in setting up a relationship or sex therapy counseling session, either with your partner, or on your own, contact Kim Ronk, MA, LPCC, MED, RN today.