How to Keep Stress From Tanking Your Sex Life

How to Keep Stress From Tanking Your Sex Life

How to Keep Stress From Tanking Your Sex Life

Stress and Sex Drive

Is your partnership struggling to keep things “spicy” in the bedroom? Due to all the current stressors in the world, we are all experiencing a multitude of difficulties. As an online sex therapist and couples counselor, I have worked with couples through it all and commonly as a result of stress, it is possible that sex will take the last little note on a couple’s list of priorities. 

Even without extraordinary stressors like today, in most long-term relationships, sooner or later there will be a time when the sexual dynamic is not as ambient as it once was. Even in a happy and otherwise fulfilling relationship, sexuality can take a hit due to several reasons, including stress, major life events, hormonal changes, physiological concerns, etc.. 

However, when things in the bedroom become a little more dull, repetitive or almost absent, there are quite a few ways to “spice things up”. Because of the current state of stress that MANY of us are in, I wanted to share with you my favorite bedroom-play tips for more fun and less stress in the bedroom. You won’t believe how easy it is to keep stress from tanking your stress life!

Give Each Other A Sensual Massage

A massage will help you or your partner relax and connect with each other on a physical level. The massage doesn’t have to be very sexual or even lead to sex (although it can), but you should focus on making the moment intimate (so, not a sports massage). You can keep your underwear on, but make sure there is ample amount of skin to skin contact between the two of you. 

For the full effect to take place, use massage oil (coconut or olive oil is also fine), light some candles, put on some music, and create a nice relaxing ambience. Let stress melt away as you tune into eachother.

Not the best at home masseuse? Now that we have to wash our hands constantly, try making it fun by giving one another a hand massage with oil or hand cream. This can be a very sensual, stimulating yet simple activity to connect physically.

Genuinely Compliment Each Other

Compliments make us feel special and help us connect, and it’s easy to get caught up in the in the motion of life and to forget how good we can make our partner feel by pointing out our favorite things about them. Don’t hesitate to show appreciation for each other’s wonderful qualities. 

Try complimenting your partners unique personality and also mention all the things you find physically attractive about them (their eyes, lips hands, muscles, bottom, etc.).

When we feel good about ourselves (especially if our partner is the one giving us all the feels) then it’s a lot easier to take a step back, breathe, and find gratitude in all the little moments together

Pillow Talk

After sex, spend some time talking about what felt good during the experience. If you’d like something done in a different way, try approaching it with positive language, such as ‘ it feels great when you’ – try avoiding negative language like ‘don’t do this, or I hate it when you…’ 

Pillow talk can lead to some of your most intimate moments. Your connection to your partner may feel heightened during this time, your partnership may have the comfort of vulnerability, and using this time to express your love for one another – likes, dislikes, dreams, fears…can lead to a deeper strength and healthier stress levels in the long-run.

Read Erotic Stories To Each Other

This is a fun one…there are several books and online websites you can find that have erotic stories. Finding one that you like and sharing it with your partner can be a great part of your foreplay. If you are creative, you can also write your own stories about all the sexy things you’d like to do with your partner, in what setting. These can be hypothetical or very realistic. 

Reading to each other is a great way to get your heads out of the “real world” and into your relationship. If you or your partner struggle with foreplay due to the pressing stress of life around you – this is an excellent way to encourage one another’s sex drive while letting some of life’s worries go.

Share Your Sex-Fantasies

So many times I hear my clients share that they love hearing about their partner’s fantasies. Similar to the previous point, this can create a great amount of desire in your dynamic.

Sharing your sex-fantasies with your partner can open new opportunities to adventure in the bedroom. Encouragement here is key. You don’t have to be the most adventurous sex partner to have a little fantasy fun. Join in as you feel comfortable and have fun with it. 

Explore Your Environment

Have sex in different parts of the house/apartment – try the kitchen, livingroom, car in the garage, guest room or bathroom. Novelty is also a great way to light that spark and have fun.

Speaking of exploring your environment, get clean together. Showering or bathing together is in so many of the classic romance movies because it’s exactly that – romantic, sensual, heated, and fun. Lather one another up with soap while exploring each other’s bodies in a sensual way. 

Try A Sex Toy 

There are so many great sex toys available out there. Some are simple and very affordable; some are more elaborate. It is fun to get something that you can use together, but it can also be helpful to have one just for solo play. 

If you’ve never used a sex toy before, start simple and speak with an expert (or read some reviews). They can help you pick out the right plessure gadget for you and your partner. 

Test Out New Positions 

After some time, most couples have their usual 1-3 positions they stick to. I understand why = they work. However, when the spark starts fading, it is a great way to help you explore each other again. 

You’ll find that your preference might have even changed over time. However, most importantly trying new positions is not just about finding the best way to get to the end, but about having fun. Yes, sometimes it will be awkward or impossible, but try and have fun with it. Don’t be afraid to look or sound silly, as having fun together will boost your libido (and a boosted libido means less stress).

Solo Play (You do you, boo *wink wink*)

Spend some time self-pleasuring/masturbating. Solo play, like coupled sex, can help reduce stress. This can be part of your ‘me time’, where you can explore fantasies, explore what feels good, and what your preferences are. 

It will also provide a pleasure roadmap that will be useful for your partner, as once you know what feels nice, you can then teach your partner the best ways they can participate as well.

Send A Provocative Text

Sexting is for everyone, and it is a fun way to give your partner some insight on what is on your mind, or what some of your fantasies might be. You can do this even if your partner is in the same room as you.

Have fun, that’s what emojis are for anyway right? Sexting is an excellent way to get foreplay started.

Sensory Play 

Take away one or more senses during foreplay. Not being able to see or hear heightens the awareness on other pleasurable sensations and that can be very exciting. 

Make sure you establish the ground rules first, so everyone feels comfortable throughout.

Commit To One Sexy Act Every Day

This could be anything from a kiss, to a sensual massage, to doing any of the previously mentioned activities – staying in a frame of mind that promotes intimacy, can have a positive impact on your libido and help reduce stress both individually and within the relationship. 

Ask For Help When Needed!

If you feel sexuality is a difficult part of your relationship for any reason, even without the added stressors of today’s climate, rest assured there is help. Online sex therapy with a qualified consultant can be very helpful in exploring the root causes of the difficulties and finding solutions to help you get to a more fulfilling sex life while leaving that pesky stress behind. 

Here’s to spicing things up in the bedroom!

Dori Bagi, M.S., SAS, MACA

Dori Bagi, M.S., SAS, MACA is a kind, empathetic couples counselor, individual therapist, and life coach who specializes in sex therapy. Her friendly style makes it safe to talk about anything, and her solution-focused approach helps you move past the past, and into a bright new future of intimacy and connection.

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Relationship Advice: Love in The Time of Coronavirus — With Katie Couric

Relationship Advice: Love in The Time of Coronavirus — With Katie Couric

Relationship Advice: Love in The Time of Coronavirus — With Katie Couric

Relationship Help

Relationship Advice For Stressful Times: I’ve been a Denver marriage counseling therapist and online marriage counseling specialist for many years. I know for a fact that stress and anxiety takes a major toll on relationships. If you’ve noticed your relationship feeling more challenging since this whole coronavirus quarantine happened, it’s not just in your head. This is an incredibly stressful time, many people are anxious about coronavirus, and people in relationships cope with stress differently — and sometimes, not well.

These relationship issues can be exacerbated by non-stop togetherness, and being in each other’s space constantly. If you are you at home wondering, “How am I going to make it through this quarantine these next few weeks?” I get it! Throw in a stressed-out husband, wife or partner, working from home with no childcare (or no work!), homeschooling and being worried about finances… everyone is totally on edge. 

One of the greatest challenges that couples are going to experience over these next few weeks of COVID-19 quarantine is being around or with one another continuously …like all the time.

We all need our space, and space is what makes a lot of our relationships work. We go to work, we run errands, we check in with our friends, we divide and conquer the kids’ activities, etc. But now that your “normal” life is on hold – how are you managing your new way of living, especially with your partner?

And it’s not just our routines that have been upended in the United States. There has been an understandable surge in mental health issues like anxiety and depression, and people are cut off from their support systems and self-care routines. It can be hard to find a good therapist who specializes in online counseling or online therapy, and even harder to find affordable online mental health services that are evidence-based and genuinely effective. (Texting with a chat-bot is ridiculous, but can seem like the only alternative when traditional therapy is out of reach). 

As a marriage counselor, I know that this whole situation is a breeding ground for a relationship crisis. Research studies looking at the impact of coronavirus on relationships and marriages in China showed that as soon as the quarantine lifted there was a surge of married couples filing for divorce! 

Yes, it’s essential to survive coronavirus, but it’s also extremely important to get help for your relationship so that you don’t lose your marriage or your family in the aftermath. In order to get through coronavirus as a couple, it’s essential to be making every effort to nurture and protect your relationship right now. 

Relationship Advice To Save Your Marriage

The relationship crisis that coronavirus quarantine can cause caught the attention of legendary reporter and journalist Katie Couric. If you weren’t already aware, Katie is doing so much good in the world through her extremely helpful and informative Instagram Live events, IGTV page, Facebook, podcast, and her online newsletter. She’s putting out a ton of helpful information lately about “how to survive coronavirus life” and more, and if you’re not already following her, you should! 

I was so honored to have the opportunity to speak with Katie Couric on her Instagram Live today about how coronavirus is impacting relationships and marriages, and the things that couples can do (and avoid doing!) to get through this stressful time together.,

During her broadcast we discussed YOUR questions and how to cope with different situations you’re facing as a couple.

During my time with Katie this morning, I answered questions around:

  1.  How to stay emotionally connected with each other when you’re both stressed.
  2.  How to improve communication, and avoid the communication mistakes that will damage your relationship.
  3.  How to negotiate childcare and other household duties in the “new reality.”
  4. How to deal with college-age kids suddenly under your roof again.
  5. What to do if your husband or wife refuses to social distance or engage in coronavirus prevention strategies at home.
  6.  Signs that mental health issues may be impacting your marriage.
  7. How to support your spouse through a job loss.
  8. How to find affordable online therapy, or effective alternatives to therapy  if you need it.

If you joined us this morning on Instagram, thank you! If you’re just now getting a chance to check it out – welcome. I hope that this conversation encourages you during what can feel like a challenging time in your life and relationship, and also helps you to move forward through some of the obstacles you may face over these quarantined days.

Enjoy this video and for more visit Katie’s Instagram at www.instagram.com/katiecouric!

Wishing you all the best, 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

 

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Real Help For Your Relationship

Lots of couples go through challenging times, but the ones who turn "rough-patches" into "growth moments" can come out the other side stronger and happier than ever before.

 

Working with an expert couples counselor can help you create understanding, empathy and open communication that felt impossible before.

 

Start your journey of growth together by scheduling a free consultation.

Coronavirus Life: Practical Advice To Help You Cope

Coronavirus Life: Practical Advice To Help You Cope

Coronavirus Life: Practical Advice To Help You Cope

Corona Life: How to Cope

Coronavirus anxiety? Struggling with the new reality of “Corona Life?” You’re not alone. I recently polled some of my tribe on Instagram to see how they were doing mentally and emotionally during the Coronavirus crisis we are all experiencing together. I learned that anxiety about Coronavirus is running rampant, and that lots of people are struggling to find ways to manage the stress of their disrupted lives. Kids are out of school, they’re stuck at home, they’re cut off from their social networks, and extremely worried about aging parents and their health and safety — not to mention their future.

This is a lot to deal with. In efforts to help you manage Coronavirus anxiety and cultivate emotional resilience, I am devoting this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast to addressing your questions about coping with “Coronavirus Life” in order to provide new ideas and direction.

Specifically:

  • “I am freaking out about Coronavirus. How do I stop worrying about getting sick? Or being worried that people I love will get Coronavirus?”
  • “I’m having anxiety about separation during the Coronavirus quarantine, and I am so sad about being cut off from everyone. What do I do?”
  • “What are some of the best self-care strategies for dealing with Coronavirus stress?”
  • “Being cooped up at home with my spouse is taking a toll on my relationship. How do we handle the stress of this situation without damaging our relationship?”
  • “I’m so worried about my financial future thanks to Coronavirus. What do I do?”
  • “Coronavirus has destroyed my life. I can’t deal with the uncertainty of not knowing what is happening.”

I’m answering these listener questions and sharing some special, free resources for my listeners on this episode. I hope this discussion and the resources I’m sharing helps you find new coping skills, and practices that help build a firm foundation of emotional resilience inside yourself right now.

Wishing you all the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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Coronavirus Life: How to Cope

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

Music Credits: Lobo Loco, “Sometimes It Rains”

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Denver Marriage Counselor Denver Life Coach Denver Therapist

Lisa Marie Bobby, PhD, LMFT, BCC

"Hi, I'm Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. For over a decade, I've been helping people all over the world create Love, Happiness and Success in their lives through positive, compassionate and effective Marriage Counseling, Therapy and Life Coaching. I'm so pleased to be able to help you, too. There is help for you here, and I'm glad you've found us.

This website is devoted to your wellbeing, and offers loads of free information and actionable advice that you can start using today to create positive change in your life. Browse around to meet our experts, get free advice on our blog, listen to a podcast, or take our "How Healthy is Your Relationship" quiz. Or, if the time is right, you can schedule a free consultation with any of us to talk about your situation -- and, most importantly -- your hopes for your future." -- Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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“Hello, I’m Hunter Tolman and I’m excited to partner with you in your journey towards a happier and more fulfilling life.

My passion is helping people just like you reach their highest potential both individually, and in their most important relationships. 

Whether we work together in couples counseling, family therapy, individual therapy, or life coaching, my focus will be understanding your deepest desires for your marriage, your family, and yourself so that I can help you create your most gratifying life. Our work can help you heal, gain understanding and compassion for yourself and others, and live with intention.” 

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Amanda Shaeffer, M.S., MFT-C

“Hi, I’m Amanda. I can help you understand yourself more deeply so that you can become empowered to make positive changes in yourself, and your relationships.

I became a therapist, life coach and marriage counselor after a career as an educator, and I believe I still have the heart of a teacher. My approach emphasizes learning and practicing new skills, so that you're not just talking about change — you're living it.

I'm available to meet with you for therapy, marriage counseling and coaching in Denver, Broomfield, and also online."

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Brenda Fahn, M.A., LMFT

“Hi, I’m Brenda. I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Life Coach with almost twenty years of experience in helping my clients strengthen themselves and their marriages.

I use positive and effective individual counseling, for both adults and teenagers, marriage counselingpremarital counselinglife coaching, and dating coaching. I am here to help you enjoy your relationships with your partner; recover from depression and anxiety be able to live a more fulfilling life and cultivate meaning, joy, and love in your life.” 

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Anastacia Sams, M.A., LPC, MFTC

“Hi, I’m Anastacia. I'm a Couples Counselor, Colorado-Licensed Therapist, and Life Coach with years of experience in helping people heal and grow. My approach is holistic, and helps you connect your mind, body and spirit. My compassionate, non-judgmental way of being will help you feel understood, and safe enough to talk about the most vulnerable things.

Whether you're struggling with hard feelings, coping with a breakup, or facing a big life transition, I can help you move confidently and authentically forward into a joyful and satisfying new future. I'm available to meet with you in our Denver Colorado office and our Denver Tech Center office,  as well as through online video."

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Lisa Jordan, M.A., LCPC

"Hi, I’m Lisa Jordan, M.A., LPC.  I have an affirming, compassionate approach to helping people not just get through hard times but grow from them. Working with me can give you clarity about the past and a new understanding of yourself in the present, so that you can build a bright future.

I use a blend of thoughtful, insightful counseling and strategic, solution-focused coaching to get you unstuck and moving forward again. I am licensed as a therapist in Illinois, and available to meet with you online."

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Silas Hendrich, M.S., MFTC

"I'm Silas, a therapist, life coach and couples counselor with Growing Self. I've had my therapy and coaching clients share that my down-to-earth style and sense of humor help them feel comfortable, and like they can talk about anything with me.

If we work together, I'll help you understand yourself more deeply so that you can heal, grow, and make positive changes. I'm available to meet with you for therapy in Broomfield, Colorado and for online life coaching.

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Georgi Chizk, M.S., MFTC

"Hey there! I'm Georgi. I specialize in marriage counseling, premarital counseling and therapy. I have a very warm, gentle approach that helps you feel safe, comfortable and understood. I can help you heal and growth through compassionate, evidence based therapy that helps you cultivate self-esteem and feel good about yourself.

I am available to meet with you for therapy or marriage counseling in Bentonville, Arkansas. If you are a resident of Arkansas, I'm able to meet with you for online therapy or online marriage counseling."

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Tomauro Veasley, M.A., MFTC

"I'm Tomauro Veasley, and I'm a therapist, couples counselor and certified life coach who is all about helping you feel good again. I have a positive, action oriented style that emphasizes helping you make real-world changes to get better results in yourself, your life and your relationships. 

I am available for online therapy if you live in Tennessee, but I work with people across the US and internationally as a life coach online."

Premarital Counseling Questions… and Answers

Premarital Counseling Questions… and Answers

Premarital Counseling Questions… and Answers

Relationship Advice From a Premarital Counselor

All pre-marital couples have the best of intentions. People get married because they love each other, and hope (and intend!) to have a happy, healthy marriage that lasts a lifetime. They move forward, happily expecting all good things in their new life together and then… have the same experience that ALL couples have, which is that there are things to work through. Big things. Things that they didn’t always anticipate. And HOW they handle those big things can make a big difference in the trajectory of their marriage.

Denver Premarital Counseling (and Premarital Counseling Online) is Proactive and Positive

Hear this: All couples have things to work through. That part is inevitable. But some couples put time and energy into learning how to handle those things well. They develop their communication skills, their emotional intelligence skills, and learn how to care for each other in a way that works. So, they work through the inevitable issues, and then move on — stronger because of having worked though things. They have not just figured out an issue, they’ve moved into a new level of relationship for having done so. Evidence-based premarital counseling in Denver, and online premarital counseling teaches couples the skills they need to do this so that they can handle these moments successfully.

How To (Accidentally) Ruin a Marriage

Other couples, who have exactly the same, inevitable relationship issues that every couple has do not put time and energy into figuring out how to handle them. They wing it. They use whatever communication styles and ways of relating to people that they absorbed unconsciously from their families of origin, or past relationships — for better, or for worse. As I’ve discussed in other podcasts, there are lots of effective ways to destroy a relationship. But the greatest of these may be overconfidence that you already know all there is to know about how to “do” relationships.

Marriage that fail do so because the couple is doing what most people do: simply “reacting” to their partner (rather than utilizing constructive, effective relationship skills that they intentionally learned and practice regularly). As a result… they don’t get great results. Important conversations turn into unproductive arguments. Unresolved problems fester into resentment and avoidance. Emotional safety and trust erode. Toxic ways of relating and communicating can easily take over their interactions. Over time, even the strongest, most compatible couples will — due to not knowing how to handle normal relationship issues — start to wonder if they’re even compatible.

The most distressed, least effective couples do not actively learn how to “do” relationships or get help for their relationship until they are on the brink of divorce. They’ve bought into the false idea that “marriage counseling is only for when it’s really bad,” and as a result, by the time they do begrudgingly get help for their relationship it is actually too late. It’s so sad.

Relationships are just like anything else: You have to maintain them and put thoughtful, effective energy into them in order for them to grow and thrive. But this is much more than “spending time together” or “going on a date night.” Successful relationships require the development of relationship skills: Communication skills, emotional intelligence skills, behavioral adjustments, and more. We say all the time that great relationships don’t “just happen.”  They’re grown, very deliberately, by learning how to have a great relationship.

Myths About Premarital Counseling

One of the biggest fallacies that has sunk many, many marriages (and that prevents some couples from seeking premarital counseling) is the myth that “Love is enough.” Believing that loving each other is the same thing as having and using specific relationship skills is simply not true. This idea is also destructive. Because when (not if, but when) couples experience the fact that just winging it and reacting to each other creates problems, they begin to doubt the relationship itself. It makes sense, in a way: If love “should” be enough, and it’s not enough in this relationship…. then maybe it’s the wrong relationship.

Not true! The only difference between happy, successful couples and those who ultimately separate is not a matter of love, or fundamental compatibility in a relationship. Successful couples simply invest in learning how to be good partners for each other, and then use those skills very intentionally.

Another (often unspoken) myth about premarital counseling is this irrational fear that premarital counseling might bring things to the surface that will destabilize the relationship, or make people realize they’re not compatible after all. I know that sounds silly when you say it out loud, but it’s true. That fear leads people to avoid premarital counseling. The irony, of course, is that research clearly and consistently shows that the number one most important relationship skills is talking, constructively, about important topics rather than minimizing them.

Oh, the irony: When couples fear that premarital counseling will cause problems, they inadvertently create the very circumstance that will actually damage their relationship long term — apathy and avoidance.

Questions About Premarital Counseling?

If your goal is to have a strong, successful marriage, high-quality premarital counseling is essential. Research shows that high-quality premarital counseling has a significant impact on relationship satisfaction and marriage longevity. Premarital counseling matters. However, some couples avoid premarital counseling. Even more couples do “premarital counseling” (emphasis on my pretend air-quotes) that is extremely superficial, and not skills-based. When I say “high quality” premarital counseling, I’m referring to premarital counseling approaches that are evidence based and founded on scientifically sound approaches to marriage counseling and couples therapy, such as the Gottman Method and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. These approaches have been shown by research to address the aspects of a relationship that really matter, long-term.

Proactive, smart couples are asking questions about marriage counseling and doing the research to make sure that their experience in premarital counseling is meaningful and effective. They’re asking questions like, “What happens in premarital counseling? What do you talk about in premarital counseling? Do you need a licensed marriage counselor for good premarital counseling? What are some premarital counseling questions we’ll be asked to talk through? What are some of the specific relationship skills you learn in premarital counseling? How does premarital counseling work? Can you do a premarital counseling class? How long does premarital counseling take? Do we need a premarital assessment? Does premarital counseling make couples break up? How much does premarital counseling cost? Can we do premarital counseling online? Why is evidence-based, non-religious premarital counseling often more effective than the “premarital counseling” and important to do in addition to the premarital counseling we get through our religious institution? Why is premarital counseling so important? What do experienced premarital counselors teach, that we might not already know?”

SO many good, thoughtful questions to ask about premarital counseling!

Your Premarital Counseling Questions, Answered

In order to understand what premarital counseling really is, and how premarital counseling works, I’ve invited two of the amazing premarital counselors on the Growing Self team to join me on the latest episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

My colleagues Brenda Fahn, M.A., LMFT and Rachel Harder, M.A., LPC, MFT-C are both marriage counselors and experienced premarital counselors, and who both teach our Lifetime of Love premarital class. (Brenda teaches our premarital class in Broomfield, CO, and Rachel teaches our premarital class in Denver, CO). In addition to the class, both Rachel and Brenda offer private premarital counseling in Denver, DTC, and Broomfield, and they also offer premarital counseling online.

Brenda and Rachel offer incredible insight into what happens in premarital counseling, and share specific skills and tips that they teach their premarital clients. If you’re getting married soon, we hope you listen to find out what you learn in premarital counseling and why it’s so important.

Wishing you all the best,

Lisa Marie Bobby, PhD, LMFT, Brenda Fahn, M.A., LMFT, and Rachel Harder, M.A., LPC, MFT-C

Ps: One of the resources we discussed in this episode is the free, comprehensive premarital assessment that we often give to premarital couples. This is a 200+ question premarital assessment that explores so many different areas of your relationship, in order to identify your relationship’s strengths and growth opportunities.

While that particular assessment is only available for our premarital counseling couples, we do have a “lite” version of this assessment available for you to take. It’s our “How Healthy Is Your Relationship” Quiz. Access our free relationship quiz right here! — LMB

 

 

 

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Relationship Advice From a Premarital Counselor

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Living YOUR Life

Do you experience uncomfortable tension around the family dinner table when gathering for events, holidays, or special occasions with your loved ones? It’s not uncommon for families to have blurred boundary lines. Often due to a level of familiarity and comfort, we may find what lines we do have in place are frequently crossed – especially when it comes to our parents and in-laws. Why is this?

 

Setting good boundaries can often feel uncomfortable when the relationship is as delicate as a parent/child relationship, and even though you may now be an adult (married with children, managing your own affairs, and pursuing paths in life relatively foreign to that of your parents), they may still see you as their “child” in the sense of adolescent, unknowing, and naive to matters of the world. 

 

Boundaries, similar to limits, are incredibly important to set early in relationships. We set them with our employers when we sign our employment contract, we establish them with our friends to maintain a healthy social / work / life balance, and we create them within our romantic relationships to protect ourselves and our partner. However, when it comes to our parents, these boundaries are set later in life as we become adults and the transition can often feel uncomfortable and confusing to navigate. 

 

We all have limitations, and it’s essential to know your limitations so that others cannot take advantage of them. When it comes to limits, we are only in control of ourselves. The first step in setting boundaries is to remember that we can change our actions and perspectives, but we can’t change others. Secondly, we must understand that boundaries can be uncomfortable for both sides of the boundary. 

 

As a relationship coach and individual therapist, I work with my clients around setting boundaries quite frequently. Many of my clients have already put in the work to excel personally and professionally with boundaries in their workplace, friendships, and romantic relationships. When it comes to parents though, it’s a whole other ballgame! If you’re feeling this way too, welcome to the club! 

 

I want to stress that this is a common experience, and you’re not alone in this struggle. Today I want to share with you some useful ways that you can begin to acknowledge where boundaries are needed in your parental relationships and tips for getting started in creating (and keeping) them. 

Why Do We Need Boundaries Anyway? 

Boundaries are necessary in relationships for both your own protection and mental health. It is important not to enable inappropriate or destructive behaviors – especially ones that lead to toxic relationships. Unfortunately, establishing boundaries and enforcing them with family can be extremely difficult, and even harder as you become an adult and get married. 

 

Do any of these parental examples sound familiar?

  • One of your in-laws causes division between you and your spouse
  • Your mother-in-law does not approve of the marriage
  • Your parents are struggling to accept you or your spouse as adult-children
  • Your father does not like your spouse and refuses to accept them as part of the family

 

With boundaries, you can protect yourself, your marriage, and your family (and make your relationship with your partner stronger). By doing so, you are still loving those on the other side of the boundaries, and you are opening the door for growth, forgiveness, reconciliation, and the start of a healthy relationship between your marriage and your parents or in-laws.

Creating And Enforcing Boundaries As A Team

When setting boundaries with parents and in-laws, you and your significant other must have a clear understanding and be in agreement about what those boundaries are and how you will enforce them.

 

Being on the same page is vital to the success of your boundaries as a unit. This means that you will both need to treat this part of the process with importance. Find a time that works well for both of you to sit down together and discuss your concerns without distraction. Then, come up with solutions to those concerns by drafting boundaries that will ultimately lead to a more productive, successful partnership with your parents (and leave you and your partner feeling good about the decision(s) you come to together). 

 

Do you and your partner feel differently about the boundaries in question? That’s okay, we all have different values and comfort levels (even in marriage!). This may be an excellent time to work through a difficult conversation and build a new skill within your relationship! This process of creating healthy boundaries should ultimately give you and your partner a sense of freedom and empowerment in your marriage. [Looking for advice on working through conflict constructively? Check out Constructive Conflict: Arguments That Help Your Relationship Grow for more information.]

 

Once you have your boundaries in place and your method for supporting and enforcing these boundaries as a team, you can then discuss them with your parents.

Discussing Boundaries With Your Parent(s)

How you address the conversation with your parents is as equally important as the boundaries themselves. For your parents to feel comfortable and not attacked, you shouldn’t shame or point fingers but instead use this time to speak about the future and how these boundaries will ultimately build a better bond between you, your partner, and your parents as a unit. Encourage them to voice how they feel about what you are presenting and actively listen to develop a common understanding between both parties. 

 

Here are a few conversation starter tips I like to share with my relationship coaching clients to use when addressing their parents about necessary boundaries, feel free to use them yourself:

 

  1. Be open and honest about how you feel, but recognize that this new information may be coming out of “no-where” in your parents’ eyes. Respect their feelings and offer the conversation as a safe place to discuss both sides of the boundary.
  2. Schedule your conversation or plan it around an appropriate time. Giving the other half a heads up about the conversation will lend to a fuller, more productive conversation and less confusion or defensiveness.
  3. Respect your relationship with your parents – sometimes your parents might not see eye to eye with you and/or your partner, and that’s okay. Remember that change takes time.
  4. Don’t let your parents take over your mission. If you have it in your heart to see change in the boundaries between your relationship with your partner and your parents – then don’t give up. Honor your relationship and keep showing up for it. 

 

It’s likely that this conversation will feel uncomfortable for both sides. My advice is that the partner whose parents are causing the conflict or displaying unhealthy / inappropriate behaviors should take the lead in setting these new boundaries with their parent(s). 

Be Prepared For These (Negative) Responses

Some parents may take this news extremely well, however, the response is often not rainbows and butterflies (that’s why this conversation can be so difficult!). So it’s important to prepare yourself for these common (negative) responses:

 

Anger 

Resentment 

Denial 

Guilt Trips 

Resistance 

Spouse Division Attempts

 

You should discuss with your partner the plan for moving forward if these responses show up in the parent(s) feedback.

Boundaries CAN Be Flexible

The thing about boundaries is they can be flexible. Boundaries don’t have to be in place forever. The length and extent will vary from person-to-person / relationship-to-relationship. The goal of the boundary is to take ownership of actions, respect wishes, and have the willingness to put in the hard work to change. The level of acceptance and participation will establish the length and severity of the boundaries.

 

As people change and grow, boundaries change with them. Be willing to revisit your boundaries as you move forward in your relationships.

 

Warmly, 

Tomauro Veasley M.A., MMFT, CLC

 

Tomauro Veasley M.A., MMFT, CLC is an experienced marriage counselor, family therapist and relationship coach, as well as a certified life coach and individual therapist. She specializes in helping you create understanding, purpose and strength in yourself and your relationships in order to promote healing and growth in the most important parts of your life.

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How to Be More Vulnerable in Relationships

How to Be More Vulnerable in Relationships

How to Be More Vulnerable in Relationships

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Is It Time To Let Down Your Walls?

Not too long ago I shared some advice on Bustle.com about “What to do if you’re having a hard time being vulnerable in a relationship.” I thought this was such a great topic, and one that so many people struggle with, that I should share more advice on how to use the power of vulnerability to transform your relationships here too.

It’s easy to think of “vulnerability” in negative terms, because it conjures images of being open to hurt. However, what I know from many years as a couples therapist and marriage counselor, is that when it comes to your relationships, vulnerability is (paradoxically) the key to having closer, more intimate, and ultimately more satisfying connections with other people. Conversely, if you keep your guard up all the time, you’ll be missing out on having truly meaningful and authentic connections with the most important people in your life.

What does it mean to be vulnerable in your relationships? 

As Brene Brown discusses in her amazing TED Talk about the power of vulnerability: Being vulnerable means sharing the most important, authentic parts of yourself with someone who matters to you — and risking rejection.  Being vulnerable means “being seen” for who and what you are, and exposing yourself to the potential for hurt. While this may sound intimidating, the alternative is often worse: Being closed off can lead to loneliness, and feeling unseen, and unknown by others.

Do You Keep Your Guard Up in Relationships?

If so, it’s understandable. It is much safer, emotionally, to manage your image, keep the mask on, and not let yourself care. Particularly in the hyper-curated era of social media, there’s a strong pull to only show what is perfect or enviable about your life. But being vulnerable means showing someone else that maybe you’re not perfect, maybe you’re not always okay, and maybe you do have some worries, insecurities, or pain.

The scariest thing about vulnerability for many people boils down to this: When you really, really care about someone else, and want them to love you as much as you love them, it can be terrifying to allow yourself to be truly seen by them. Because… what if they don’t want you anymore, after they know the whole truth? Or what if you allow yourself to lean on someone else emotionally, and they fail you, or reject you?

Being vulnerable does mean exposing yourself to the potential for hurt or rejection. And, at the same time, risking vulnerability is also opening the door to the kind of relationship you long for: One built on authenticity, emotional intimacy, and a deep connection.

Why It’s Important To Open Up To Your Partner

Another thing to consider, in addition to YOUR feelings of closeness and connection, are those of your partner. As a marriage counselor and couples therapist, one of the relationship issues I most often hear about from couples having problems is that at least one person feels that their partner is closed off, and uncommunicative. They want to understand how their partner feels, what they think about, what they care about, and their hopes and dreams… and yet feel cut off from that.

I can tell you that many, if not most, relationship fights are really not about the things that people are fighting about, like how much money was spent, or whether or not someone wants to have sex, or “the tone” being used, or whether or not someone followed through with whatever they said they were going to do. Relationship fights are about not feeling cared for, feeling unheard, feeling disrespected, and feeling disconnected.

When couples are emotionally intimate and feel close to each other, they are much more resilient, more tolerant of each other, and generally kinder and more respectful. When true, deep connection is present, there’s just nothing to fight about. (Instead, you can have constructive conversations about how to get on the same page and solve problems together).

That’s the power of vulnerability in relationships.

On the other hand, when people are not able to be vulnerable in relationships and trust themselves and their partners enough to allow themselves to truly be seen, relationships remain superficial. Yes, you may have a companion and a social partner, but the core of your relationship — emotional intimacy, empathy, and responsiveness — feels barren.

Over time, these types of relationships tend to become stagnant. Or, if people have feelings inside of themselves that they are not communicating about vulnerably (and consequently, the needs they have are not getting acknowledged or met) they can also start to believe that the relationship itself is not sustainable.

It’s such a bind: On the one hand, in order to have a better relationship, you need to talk about how you feel and take emotional risks with your partner. That feels scary, and many people avoid it. On the other hand, not saying things out loud feels safer in the moment, but in the absence of communication, relationships grow strained and fights start brewing under the surface… which makes it feel less safe to talk about your truth in a vulnerable way.

The Consequences of Keeping Emotional Walls Up

Over time, in the absence of vulnerability and emotional intimacy, relationships become increasingly dissatisfying for both partners. This makes it less likely that either person will feel safe and secure enough to have heartfelt conversations that will bring them back together again. Instead, people make cutting side comments or show each other their distress through behaviors. (Behaviors and comments that are often angering or unattractive to their partner, pushing them further away as opposed to drawing them closer).

One of the primary benefits of marriage counseling or couples therapy is that the presence of a compassionate, knowledgeable couples counselor creates a “safe space” where people can be more vulnerable and open. With a third party holding open the door to communication, and shielding both parties from the emotional reactivity that will turn a heartfelt conversation into a vicious fight in a matter of seconds, couples can start seeing each other, hearing each other, and understanding each other at a deeper level.

By moving back into a space of vulnerability and authenticity (or for some couples, creating that kind of emotional intimacy for the first time) partners can then establish a stronger connection, empathy, and emotional safety that will help them solve problems together and increase their love for each other.

6 Tips To Help You Be More Vulnerable In Your Relationships

1: Self Awareness. The most important first step in creating a more emotionally intimate relationship, based on authenticity and vulnerability, is knowing yourself. You cannot communicate your truth if you yourself don’t know what it is. It sounds odd, but many people are awash in nebulous feelings or have core beliefs or automatic thoughts that never fully enter their consciousness as coherent thoughts. They just react. Understanding how you really feel is a prerequisite for being able to communicate it to others.

2: Clarity.  Until you have language for your inner experience, it remains unknown — even to you. If your relationship is currently in a space where it feels fragile, it may not feel safe enough to talk through your feelings with your partner until you arrive at the truth. In these cases, you might consider journaling, letter writing, or talking with a counselor or coach until you’re clear about how you’re feeling. Then, you can express it to your partner in a way that they can hear.

3: Timing. If you are already clear about how you’re feeling and what you want to express, the next most important step in helping yourself be vulnerable is, believe it or not, timing. Too many people experiment with vulnerability at a time when their partner is not expecting it, in the same mindset, or even in a place where they are present enough to be responsive. For example, someone might see their spouse in the kitchen, alone, unloading the dishwasher, and take that opportunity to start talking about something really important to them (often to their back). The preoccupied spouse may not understand the importance of this disclosure, or respond in a thoughtful way. Consequently, many people feel rejected and hurt, and come away thinking that their “vulnerability experiment” was a bad idea.

4: Be Explicit. If you want to talk about something important, make it known. Invite your partner to sit down with you, without distractions, and then let them know that you want to talk about some important things. Let them know that you feel apprehensive about being vulnerable before you start sharing. Talk out loud about your emotional process, and how important it is to you to feel emotionally safe with them. Say things like, “Just the fact that you’re sitting here looking into my eyes while I’m talking to you means the world to me,” so they know how to be present with you in a way that feels good to you.

5: Fight The Fear. If you start feeling apprehensive or like shutting down when you’re talking about your feelings, you can say that out loud too. Remind yourself (and perhaps, even your partner) that as hard as it can be to “go there” it is also the path to a deeper, more intimate connection. Be brave and honest. You might even consider saying out loud that what you’re saying feels scary or hard. Even disclosing that to your partner can make you feel less alone, and help them help you be more vulnerable.

6: Help Your Partner Be a Good Listener.  Most importantly, ask for what you need. (As much as we’d like to wish that our partners could or should “just know” how to respond to us perfectly… they won’t unless you tell them.) When you share your feelings, let your partner know that you don’t need to be “fixed” or have your problems solved. The goal is not resolution, but connection. Communicating openly with your partner about what helps you feel safer to share will pave the way for easier, more heartfelt communication and the emotional security that you both desire.

How To Get Your Partner To Open Up To You

Sometimes in relationships, you’re not the one that needs to open up. Instead, you’re feeling frustrated because your partner feels closed off to you. You try to get them to talk to you about important things, or share their feelings… and it’s like talking to a wall. Here are a couple of tips to help your partner feel safer and more comfortable to talk authentically to you. [Also read: How to Communicate With a Withdrawn Partner]

If someone isn’t “opening up” with you, one of two things is typically happening:

1: They don’t feel emotionally safe with you. This is a hard one to consider, but it’s easy to unintentionally come across as an emotionally unsafe person, especially if you’ve been feeling frustrated or hurt by your relationship. When your partner does tell you about things that are true for them, are you meeting their disclosures with caring and empathy? Or is there a chance that you are judging them, and imposing your values on them? (This can be true if their truth is something that you disagree with, or wish were different.) Show your partner that they are safe with you, by accepting them for who they are.

2: Their inner experience is not the same as yours. People differ in their personalities, in their emotional awareness, in their desire for emotional intimacy, and propensity for psychological-mindedness. Not to bring gender into this, but many times women feel frustrated with partners who they perceive as “not opening up.” When truthfully, men don’t relate the same way women do. Women establish an emotional connection in relationships by deepening, reciprocal layers of personal disclosure. Men don’t always do that. [More info: “Understanding Men,” on the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast]

Furthermore, many men are socialized out of having feelings and thinking too deeply about their emotional process. They may therefore, genuinely, not have as much to say about their inner experience. They may be happy and content in “doing” life rather than talking about it. In order to have an emotionally safe relationship, that needs to be okay too. Emotional intimacy and vulnerability can be expressed in many ways besides face-to-face conversations. Sexuality, sharing finances, making sacrifices for each other, developing shared priorities, and committing to your partnership are also all expressions of vulnerability — many times, even more powerful than vulnerabilities disclosed in words.

When you practice tolerance and acceptance for the way your partner shows vulnerability and intimacy, it increases the emotional safety in your relationship. Emotional safety creates an environment that cultivates vulnerability and intimacy, helping you continually grow closer and more connected.

I hope these ideas help you and your partner create the kind of strong, satisfying relationship that you both crave.

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Denver Marriage Counselor Denver Life Coach Denver Therapist

Lisa Marie Bobby, PhD, LMFT, BCC

"Hi, I'm Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby. For over a decade, I've been helping people all over the world create Love, Happiness and Success in their lives through positive, compassionate and effective Marriage Counseling, Therapy and Life Coaching. I'm so pleased to be able to help you, too. There is help for you here, and I'm glad you've found us.

This website is devoted to your wellbeing, and offers loads of free information and actionable advice that you can start using today to create positive change in your life. Browse around to meet our experts, get free advice on our blog, listen to a podcast, or take our "How Healthy is Your Relationship" quiz. Or, if the time is right, you can schedule a free consultation with any of us to talk about your situation -- and, most importantly -- your hopes for your future." -- Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

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