Tampa, FL. Brandon, Fl. Couples Counseling: Intimacy
Are you struggling with a lonely marriage? Have your marriage problems and life stresses begun to create intimacy problems? Have your communication problems taken their toll on your marriage? Have you tried couples counseling or sex therapy and still find yourself stuck without direction? Maybe you’re afraid things aren’t going to improve. Perhaps you are deeply sad and full of longing for a meaningful connection.
The times when we are not feeling close are extremely painful. Many people experience grief during these times and may feel a sense of guilt, fear, anger, or a sense of a loss of self. It’s pretty important to feel these feelings and never invalidate them, but it’s also important to gain perspective on these feelings. Intimacy problems have a particular way of making us doubt ourselves, making us feel small and powerless. Gaining perspective on these emotions is challenging but important.
When Emotions Run High Couples Go Distant
How does a couple get connected when the intimacy problems seem insurmountable—when emotions are running too high to go deep? Within the question lies an answer of sorts. It is one of the most important truths about how intimate relationships really work. When emotions run high, people can’t get close and stay there. Perhaps this seems counter-intuitive. I mean, isn’t love, by its very nature, intense? And don’t most therapists advise that sharing intense feelings is the secret to love and happiness? Didn’t we feel completely connected in the beginning of our relationship when things were over the moon intense and beautiful? Isn’t that what we crave—an intense emotional connection?
We may crave it, but when does craving something ever turn out good in the long run? I mean come on…ice cream…chocolate…beer… You get the idea.
But craving in intimate relationships quickly turns into begging, and that’s no way to get close…whether you’re begging for emotional intimacy or for sexual intimacy. Close couples that have resolved their intimacy problems have somehow learned to calm these emotions down, so that they can connect peacefully. One colleague put it this way: Intimacy, whether sexual or emotional, requires smooth/calm/peaceful waters.
Developing a More Neutral or Balanced View
But how do couples learn to calm these emotions down? I think it starts first and foremost with developing a more neutral view of relationship problems…one where there is no “bad guy,” where we stop thinking of things as “wrong” or “broken” or “dysfunctional,” painful as things may be.
It’s not helpful to think of our marital or intimacy problems as occurring because we or our spouses are doing something wrong or bad. It’s just the nature of emotional intensity and the nature of what happens when you put two or more emotional beings together. I’m not saying that what you or your spouse is doing is OK. I’m talking about stepping back out of the melee just a little so you can be less controlled by it. The number one way to be controlled by it is to react to it, whether your reaction is to go cold or to go hot. What kind of perspective can you ultimately develop about your intimacy problems? Can your perspective be a little more informed on the human as an animal that is tied to its evolutionary history?
Changing the Context of Your Intimacy Problems
The second shift in thinking has to do with context. Neuroscience is demonstrating in multiple studies that emotional and relationship intimacy problems are not as much about the individual, but about the context in which individuals live and develop and make moment-by-moment decisions. Will power isn’t a thing. Context is everything.
For example, couples might understand the impact of context in a phenomenon that frequently occurs on vacation. Many couples with intimacy problems experience dull or infrequent sex at home, but on vacation it spices up or occurs more frequently. The context has changed.
But how do couples change the context of their relationship at home where the status quo is in charge? It’s not as simple as getting a babysitter, lighting some candles, or buying flowers as many can attest. This can work at times, but it’s not a long-term solution. It takes more of a fundamental context change than a cosmetic one. It takes a bit of a reordering of relationship systems that already exist in and have influence over your life. For example, do your lives revolve around your children? Do they have a little too much “presence” in your marriage? What small moves could you make to change this context? Would it have an impact on your sex life? There are many other relationships that have an impact on your sex life as well.
To many people, thinking about the other relationships in their lives sounds unrelated to their emotional or sexual relationship with their spouses, but it’s an idea worth considering. I mean, think about how much time and energy you’ve perhaps spent on improving your marital and sexual relationship. When there’s heavy focus, most people don’t get very far. What could it hurt to shift focus? That’s a context change in and of itself! Star Point Counseling Center is here to help you work through the problems in your life!
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