Pre-Engagement Counseling

Pre-Engagement Counseling

Pre-Engagement Counseling

Strengthen Your Bond

Pre-engagement counseling, who is it for? As an Utah couples therapist and online relationship coach I have couples come to me in all different stages of their relationships. One of the most common types of couples that I work with are couples who are in a serious, long-term relationship but not yet engaged. These couples are typically looking to build a strong foundation or looking for guidance through communication issues, conflict, or big-picture plans. 

I love working with pre-engagement couples because there is no better time to build your bond, strengthen your relationship skillset, and find ways to work together! Many couples who come to couples counseling or marriage counseling are typically doing so because they feel like the relationship is already too far gone – however, being proactive (like getting your annual wellness and physical at the doctors) can help establish healthy habits and strong, positive relationships.

Today, I want to share with you some couples therapy insights to pre-engagement counseling and answer your top questions!

Growing Together: Better Communication

It’s completely normal to have some areas in your relationship that aren’t perfect. Having a wonderful partnership is a continual work-in-progress rather than a destination that we “arrive” at one day. 

One great working goal to have prior to getting engaged or married is to improve your communication, both in the day to day, as well as during conflict. When thinking about your day to day communication, you might consider asking yourself the following:

Do my partner and I check in with each other on a daily basis?
Do we get at least 15 minutes of conversation every day either face to face or on the phone (not text)?
Do we get daily communication without distractions (phones away, TV off)?

Simply spending more time having undistracted conversations with your partner on a daily basis is a great way to make sure that the communication channels stay open.

Communication is a foundational skill, and if you can establish good communication between you and your partner earlier in your relationship, it will make the difficult times easier to navigate. Think of communication like a rudder and your relationship is the boat. Without the rudder, the boat will have no true sense of direction – the waves and wind will push and pull it in whatever direction they wish. Communication, much like a rudder, can help guide your relationship through the good and the bad times. The stronger your communication, the easier it is to stay the path you’ve prepared together. 

Working Together: Growth Through Conflict

Another area that many couples work through in pre-engagement counseling is how to grow closer together through conflict. Much like communication, the ability to work together as a team through conflict is a vital skill to the health and longevity of your relationship. 

Improving communication patterns during conflict is one of the most common goals that the couples I see in therapy want help with, and for good reason! Conflict is normal, but learning how to have conflict in a way that feels healthy, safe, and productive is a key part of creating a lasting relationship. Working with a professional relationship therapist or coach can be very helpful in understanding where unhelpful conflict patterns stem from and creating a personalized plan for your relationship, but here are some general tips that can help all couples have better conflict:

  • Don’t be afraid to take breaks. If conflict feels overwhelming or you can sense yourself becoming heated, taking a break can be great! Breaks can give you a chance to calm down and collect your bearings so that when you do return to the conflict at hand, you are able to express yourself more clearly and actually hear what your partner is trying to say.
  • When you take breaks, don’t get caught up in rumination. As helpful as taking a break can be, it’s only helpful if you take the time to calm yourself down rather than stewing and ruminating. Consider taking a walk or doing some breathing exercises during this time.
  • Say how you feel. Often during conflict, we get caught up in saying what we think instead of how we feel. Both are important, but expressing our feelings can help our partner better understand where we are coming from. Try to expand your expression beyond words like “angry” or “frustrated” (examples could include “hurt,” “afraid,” and “unimportant”).
  • Consider how you bring things up. The way we start a difficult conversation can have a big impact on the direction things go! One helpful tip for bringing up the hard stuff is to try to use “I” statements and talk about how you feel as opposed to “you” statements that include blaming.

Conflict is normal, but learning how to have conflict in a way that feels healthy, safe, and productive is a key part of creating a lasting relationship.

Let's Talk. Schedule a Free Consultation Today.

Strengthen Your Foundation: Friendship

Another great area of your relationship to focus on is to strengthen the foundation of your relationship: your friendship. When we become comfortable with a partner, it can be easy to get into a routine that no longer involves trying new things, having fun together, and continuing to learn about each other. 

I always like to remind my couples clients of the importance of making daily conversations and connection a priority, and taking the time to do something fun or special together every week. This is especially important during quarantine, when, if you live together, you may be together more often than normal. Some COVID-friendly date ideas include:

  • Making a new meal or treat together
  • Enjoying a candlelight dinner with your favorite takeout
  • Buying a new game and learning to play together
  • Going on a picnic to a new park

By focusing on your friendship, you build trust and security in one another.

Pre-Engagement Counseling: How Does it Work?

I believe that counseling is a great option for everyone, including couples who feel that their relationship has a strong foundation! In this situation, the purpose of counseling would be to strengthen all of the good things that you and your partner have developed, as well as discover some new areas for growth and discussion.

I believe that there are always ways we can become better communicators, and working with a therapist can help you fine-tune things and figure out what about your communication is working well for you (and areas of communication growth!).

As a premarital and pre-engagement therapist who works with many happy and compatible couples, one of my favorite things to do is have couples take a relationship assessment. The relationship assessment that I use covers a wide range of topics that couples may not realize they are neglecting to talk about.

My happy couples clients have often said that taking the assessment helps them to realize how well-prepared they are for the rest of their lives together while also giving them ideas for a few areas of growth that would be helpful to cover in therapy.

[Want to take an assessment on your own? Try the How Healthy is Your Relationship: Free Relationship Quiz]

Another huge benefit of participating in counseling prior to marriage (even if you do not have concerns about your relationship) is that it makes participating in couples therapy less scary, which can be extremely helpful if your relationship encounters bumps in the road in the future. 

Common reasons why couples will often wait to try therapy until an issue feels very pressing include not knowing what to expect from therapy and not knowing how to contact a therapist. By participating in couples therapy at the beginning of your relationship, you know what couples therapy will be like and also have a therapist you can reach out to for help or referrals.

When attending pre-engagement couples counseling, it’s important to work with a counselor that you and your partner are comfortable with, as well as someone who is experienced in working through your desired goals. Your success in couples counseling starts with finding the right fit for your relationship and generally would involve a free couples consultation with a couples counselor or relationship coach of your choice. 

In your consultation you can discuss your relationship goals, struggles, and strengths to set up a plan that will work well for you and your partner. Often then, you will take a relationship assessment so that you and your partner can see your areas of strength and areas of growth. 

Many couples that are coming to couples therapy for proactive sessions typically meet with a counselor or coach for less than 10 sessions!

Help! Are They “The One?”

If you find yourself asking questions like, “How do I know if my partner is the “one” for me?” Or, “If we have areas where we don’t see eye to eye or struggle to understand one another, does that mean it’s doomed?” You may be feeling a sense of anxiety around your future together. Even if you know that you love your partner and want a future together, but still find yourself worried – you are completely normal. 

Even when partners are highly compatible, it’s perfectly normal to have some areas of disagreement! In fact, being aware of the areas where there is room for growth or improvement shows that you are not shying away from talking about the hard things. This is a situation where it would be great to work with a professional relationship therapist or coach. 

Here are some things to consider and that a therapist can help you work through if you find yourself in this situation:

  • What are the things that you disagree on? Are they things that are possible to accept or compromise on, or are they deal breakers for either partner? The areas that partners may be willing to accept and compromise on or not vary from couple to couple, and may even be different between partners. Some common areas of concern for couples include political views, religion/spirituality, and wanting to have children.
  • What have you already tried to resolve your differences? To what extent have those attempts been helpful or unhelpful? In my experience, when couples have differences, learning new communication skills can often help them to understand each other's perspectives and come to a place of acceptance or compromise. Because we all come into relationships with our own personal histories and communication patterns, we often don’t recognize the ways that our communication styles may be ineffective. Working with a therapist can help you gain new insights and skills around your communication and facilitate meaningful conversations to help you and your partner work through your differences.

In my experience as a therapist, when it comes to making it work with someone we love but are having a hard time getting on the same page with, the qualities that make it most likely that couples will be able to enjoy a healthy, long-lasting relationship include:

  • Level of commitment to the relationship 
  • Willingness to compromise and change
  • Respect for your partner’s opinions and beliefs
  • Willingness to apologize
  • Having a growth mindset. 

When partners have these qualities, I have seen that, with some work and professional guidance, they are able to create happy partnerships.

Dating and Personal Growth: Being the Best Version of Yourself

As you think about what you want in a partner, think about the people you have gotten to know. What qualities do you like in others? What do you dislike? What would it be like to be life partners with each of these people? Some of these questions can give you hints about the qualities that you may prefer in a partner. 

Here are some other questions that are important to reflect on when considering what it would be like to be partners with someone:

  • What are their core values and goals for their lives? Are these compatible with your core values and goals?
  • How do they treat you and others around them (including friends, family members, coworkers, and service providers)?
  • What do they do when they’re upset or angry? Do they feel comfortable discussing emotions? 
  • How much time do they like to spend with friends and family? How much time do they like to spend with you? How much time do they like to spend alone? Are these compatible with how you like to spend your time?
  • Do you like being around them?

As you prepare to be a great partner, you can ask yourself many of these same questions. A large part of being a great partner is knowing yourself and being able to express your emotions, values, beliefs, and preferences clearly to others.

If you have friendly and safe relationships with people you used to be in relationships with, it may be a good idea to ask them for their perspective. What were their favorite parts about being in a relationship with you? What things were hard? You may also consider reading evidence-based relationship books, such as “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” by Dr. John Gottman. 

Regardless of whether you feel 100% compatible with your partner, have a few concerns, or simply want to work on yourself in preparation for a future relationship, consulting with a professional relationship therapist or coach is always a great idea to help you resolve concerns, gain skills, and create a strong foundation for a lifetime of meaningful love and connection.

Warmly,
Kensington

 

Dr. Rachel Merlin, DMFT, LMFT, M.S.Ed.

With compassionate understanding and unique insights, Kensington Osmond M.S., LAMFT, MFTC, helps you improve the most meaningful parts of your life, from your emotional well-being to your relationships.

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.

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Three Practical Tips for Productive Communication (when you are both stressed)

Three Practical Tips for Productive Communication (when you are both stressed)

Three Practical Tips for Productive Communication (when you are both stressed)

Couples Communication Tips

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Have you noticed a difference in your communication with your partner over these last several months? Maybe being around each other more often has led to greater opportunities for discussing both positive and negative aspects of your relationship, selves, and life goals. Productive Communication is essential for any relationship – but when faced with something like, say, a pandemic, your ability to communicate through the current change could ultimately make or break your relationship. 

As an online marriage counselor and relationship coach, I have been working with my couples clients lately around productive communication in stressful times. Not only are many of my couples clients experiencing a new kind of stress in their individual lives (careers, goals, hobbies, friendships), but they are also experiencing a new type of stress in their partnerships.

It’s not uncommon for couples to experience an uptick in stress when what felt like a relatively regular routine gets flipped on its side…we can probably all relate to this, right? When your entire life changes (working from home, transitioning to a new way of managing your day-to-day tasks, spending more family time, even homeschooling for many families), your relationship can feel like it’s on the backburner. In doing so, new anxiety, confusion, and stress can be brought to the surface surrounding you and your partner. 

I first want to tell you; you are not alone. We are all in this same boat together. It’s difficult enough to manage a regular life, relationship, and family structure but throw in constant change and the unknowing of tomorrow, and you have a whole new stress-mess to work through that can feel overwhelming and often lonely.

Today I want to share three practical tips for productive communication with you when you and your partner are both stressed and ultimately doing the best you can! 

#1 Name It: Call it what it is…

The first tip is to acknowledge to yourself and your partner that you are stressed. Life has recently thrown many things at us, and it is very common to go into problem-solving mode. We are wired to prioritize our responsibilities first and think of ourselves last. You may feel the need to be strong for everyone around you, or it can be hard to admit when things get to you. Take some time every day to check in with yourself. Name your feelings, tell your partner what they are. 

A quick way to do this is to identify your stress level on a scale, say from 1 to 5. This allows you both to be aware that your stress may be impacting how you interact with one another. It is also essential to be aware when you need additional support and skills to deal with your stress. 

If you find that your stress is consistently interfering with daily responsibilities or changing the way you see yourself and your partner, seeking an individual or couples counselor can do wonders. Take advantage of the increasing flexibility and availability of online counseling to get quick and direct support. 

Now more than ever, it is crucial that you increase your ability to manage stress.  If we don’t acknowledge how we are doing, it is easy for us to take things personally. This can turn us away from one another when we need the support of each other the most. 

#2 Give The Conversation A Purpose

The next tip is about coming to the conversations you have with a specific purpose. Before you begin talking about a difficult topic or when stress is at its highest, think about what you want to get out of the conversation. Are you looking for space to vent about what is going on? Would you like your partner to give you their advice or opinion about something? Maybe you need reassurance and encouragement. 

If you give the conversation a specific purpose and relay that to each other beforehand, you will have a better chance of being understood. Your partner also has a better idea of what they can do to contribute productively to the conversation. Stress can make it difficult to know how to help each other, and having a specific purpose will keep you both connected and on the same page.

#3 Stay On One Topic At A Time

When stress creeps in, there can be a rush of thoughts and emotions that overwhelm you. Your mind could be running a mile a minute. This has a way of interfering with how we communicate. 

Have you ever started talking about one thing, and then you are on a totally different topic a few minutes later? That is usually because our emotions have taken over the conversation, and we are now focusing on them instead of the issue at hand. 

If you find that your conversations are bouncing from topic to topic, try to catch each distraction and redirect back to the original topic and purpose. You may say something like, ‘I noticed we have gotten off track, let’s refocus.’ Then go back to the original topic. This can slow down the pace of the conversation and help you resolve one thing at a time. 

Practice Productive Communication

It’s true; you’re not going to have this figured out after one conversation (not even one really productive conversation) because the truth is, it takes time. You and your partner may have to work a little extra to create the time that you both need for productive communication. However, with practice and persistence, what can feel like an overwhelming or confusing conversation can ultimately start to grow into another beautiful chapter of your life. 

Here’s to productive communication!

Warmly,
Teresa Thomas, M.A., AP

 

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Teresa Thomas Marriage Counseling Online Charlotte marriage Counseling black therapist online therapist charlotte NC

Teresa Thomas, M.A., AP is a positive, strengths-based therapist, marriage counselor, and life coach with a knack for helping people get to the root of their issues so that they can establish strong foundations for long-term change. She helps couples, families and individuals heal, grow, and feel good again.

Let's  Talk

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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.

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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.

Relationship Help

As a marriage counselor and couples therapist, I know that relationships can be confusing sometimes, and lots of people have relationship questions. We have listeners of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast and readers of our blog get in touch frequently asking questions about how they can connect with their partners, improve their communication, or create positive change in their marriages. (As well as asking questions about how to grow personally, or create positive changes in different areas of their life). But today's podcast is all about relationships – specifically, your relationship questions.

Your Relationship Questions, Answered.

Today, we're answering your relationship questions in order to give you some direction, and real help for your relationship. Here are some of the relationship questions I'm answering today:

“How do I know whether my relationship is worth saving, or if I should let this go and move on?”

“Should I stay friends with my Ex?”

“I'm shutting down with my partner. How do I stop?”

“I'm afraid that my boyfriend is emotionally unavailable due to his own issues. What do I do?”

  • We talked about the realities of having a partner with unaddressed emotional issues, and who is not interested in working on themselves. We discussed her points of power, and her opportunities for changing the situation, as well as how to move forward with a partner who is unwilling. Resources mentioned included, What to Do When Your Partner Has a Problem.

Do you have relationship advice for these questioners or personal experiences that you can relate? Perhaps you have your own relationship questions, self-improvement questions, breakup questions, or career questions for an upcoming episode of The Love, Happiness and Success Podcast? If so, please leave them in the comments!

All the best,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

P.S. Pro Tip: One very simple, low key way to start making positive changes in your relationship today is to get your partner to listen to this podcast episode with you. (Yes! Trap them in the car!) Joking aside, listening to relationship advice like that offered here can stimulate productive conversations and lead to growth. Try it and let me know what happens! LMB

 

Listen & Subscribe to the Podcast

Relationship Advice: Listener's Relationship Questions, Answered

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

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Please rate and review the Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

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Let's  Talk

If you're looking for guidance about how to handle a specific situation in your relationship, you can have a “Solution Session” with an expert relationship coach to discuss your concerns and get their help in making a plan of action.

If you're looking to make real and lasting change in your partnership, consider investing in a few months of expert relationship coaching that teaches you both how to have a strong, healthy relationship, and show each other the love and respect you both deserve.

 

 

Meet a Few Of Our Relationship Experts

The marriage counselors, couples therapists and premarital counselors of Growing Self have specialized training and years of experience in helping couples reconnect. We use only evidence based strategies that have been proven by research to help you restore your strong bond, and love your relationship again.

 

 

 

Meagan T.

Meagan T.

M.A., LMFT

Meagan is a relationship specialist. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with over nine years of experience in helping couples reconnect, and enjoy each other again. She specializes in Denver marriage counseling, Denver premarital counseling, and online relationship coaching.

Meagan uses effective, evidence based forms of marriage counseling including Emotionally-Focused Couples Therapy and The Gottman Method. In addition to working one-on-one with couples, she teaches our Lifetime of Love premarital and relationship class. Meagan is available to meet with you for marriage counseling or couples therapy in Denver, and for relationship coaching and premarital counseling online.

 

Anastacia S.

Anastacia S.

M.A., N.C.C., LMFT

I’m Anastacia: a licensed therapist, life coach, and marriage counselor who is all about helping you create the very best life for yourself and for your relationships. I specialize in a type of evidence-based marriage counseling called Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, that helps you rebuild your secure, strong bond.

I’ve been told that my warm, gentle style immediately sets people at ease. Working with me, you’ll feel safe, cared for, and understood. And through that non-judgmental understanding, you will heal, grow, and — most importantly — understand yourself.”

Silas H.

Silas H.

M. S., MFT-C

Silas is a marriage counselor and relationship coach with specialized training and experience in helping couples heal their relationships, improve communication, release resentments, and achieve new levels of enjoyment and fulfillment with each other. He has a master's degree in marriage and family therapy, plus  Gottman Method marriage counseling training (Levels 1 and 2), and is a Colorado-based therapist.

His warm, insightful and solution-focused style helps you understand each other, strengthen your foundation, and take positive action to improve your relationship. He's available to meet with you for couples therapy, premarital counseling and marriage counseling in our Broomfield, Colorado office and for relationship coaching online. 

Dr. Georgiana S.

Dr. Georgiana S.

PhD, MFT

Dr. Georgiana is a couples counselor and relationship coach with a "tough love" style. Her no-nonsense approach and direct feedback can help you get clarity about what's creating issues in your relationship, develop emotional intelligence skills, change the way you interact with each other, and negotiate your differences in order to build bridges to the center.

Dr. Georgiana is a certified coach as well as a licensed as a marriage and family therapist in California but she specializes in online relationship coaching. She divides her time between San Francisco and Buenos Aires. She is fluent in English, Spanish and French.

Lisa J.

Lisa J.

M.A., LPC

Lisa is a warm, thoughtful and experienced couples counselor, therapist and coach. She has extensive post-graduate training in evidence-based couples therapy (Gottman Method Levels 1 & 2). Her approach helps you rebuild empathy, and restore your strong foundation through healthy communication and compassionate connection. Lisa is licensed as a therapist in Chicago, Illinois but serves couples across the US and around the world as a relationship coach.

Hunter T.

Hunter T.

M.S., LMFT

Hunter is a warm, compassionate marriage counselor, couples therapist, and parenting coach who believes in love, and that strong marriages create strong families. He practices Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, which is an evidence-based form of marriage counseling that focuses on helping you create a strong, secure attachment built on trust and empathy.

His gentle, but effective approach can help you open up with each other, and have healing conversations that repair your bond and allow you both to consistently show each other the love and respect you both deserve. Hunter's roots are in Utah, but he is currently based in Colorado. He can serve you as a couples therapist or marriage counselor in Fort Collins, CO and Broomfield, CO, and he provides online marriage counseling & relationship coaching to couples across the US and around the world.

Neha P.

Neha P.

M.S., MFTC

Neha is an open-minded relationship therapist and life coach with an authentic approach. She believes you are the agent of change, and she can help you activate systems that lead to achieving your goals. She is a strength-based and solution-focused therapist and coach in her work with couples and individuals. Neha believes that to experience personal growth, you must build from what works best for you. In her work as a life coach, therapist, and marriage counselor she help clients to understand their identity, establish strengths, and feel empowered.

Expectations in a Relationship: Three to Avoid

Expectations in a Relationship: Three to Avoid

Expectations in a Relationship: Three to Avoid

Anastacia Sams, M.A., LMFTC is a kind, compassionate marriage counselor, therapist and coach here to help you create your very best life. Ana specializes in helping couples create healthy, happy partnerships, and assisting individuals to heal from past hurts so they can create fulfillment and joy in their lives.

What Are Your Expectations In a Relationship?

Avoid The Three Relationship Expectations That Will Always Mess Things Up

Even before I became a Denver marriage counselor and online couples therapist, I would have described myself as being a “hopeless romantic” and had grand expectations in a relationship. Growing up, I loved the idea of love. To me, the movies I watched made relationships seem easy. You know, the ones where both partners overcome some kind of obstacle to finally realize their need for the other, they confess their undying love then live happily ever after.

I loved this idea growing up, because it just seemed so natural. It seemed like such a stark difference from the real-world relationships that were falling apart all around me. I realized that my idolization of relationships in the movies led me to develop some unrealistic expectations about relationships in my own definition of what a healthy relationship looks like.

Here are some of the biggest expectations in a relationship that may prevent you from experiencing fulfillment with your partner:

Unrealistic Relationship Expectation #1: “I have to be perfect.”  

Have you ever felt that you can’t let your partner see your faults or weaknesses?

As a couples therapist, I work with many couples who feel this pressure to be perfect for their partner, oftentimes stating their fear that sharing their weaknesses will somehow diminish the quality of their relationship.

These feelings of insecurity often leads to one or both partners tip-toeing around each other, neglecting to share their needs or fears, forfeiting the opportunity to experience a true, genuine connection with each other.

The myth of perfection is detrimental because it assumes that humans are faultless beings. Which we are not. Furthermore, perfectionism results in unsatisfactory relationships because there is a lack of depth and meaning when you are only sharing what you believe to be the best parts of you. In fact, vulnerability connects. 

A partnership is about giving each other the benefit of the doubt, it’s about sharing life together.  To share life with another person is to offer them your whole heart with the hope that you are both able and willing to accept and love each other fully — accepting the good with the bad.

When this kind of intimacy happens, it creates a true partnership, a bond full of depth and meaning with a person who you feel safe to rely on, through both the difficulties of life and the joys.

Tip: Try making a list of your top three insecurities and sharing them with your partner, while allowing space to validate each other’s vulnerabilities.

Unrealistic Relationship Expectation #2: “This relationship is about meeting MY needs.”

Living in an individualistic society, we can often place more emphasis on what I can get out of a relationship, or where our partner is failing to meet my needs.  

What I so often see as a marriage counselor and couples therapist is that both partners have needs. It is important for partners to understand how to meet each other's needs in a way that provides safety and security in the relationship. I also believe that we can be so focused on what OUR needs are, that we fail to see what our partners are needing from us and wind up neglecting them.

Partnership requires togetherness. Togetherness requires the courage to see beyond yourself into another person’s world. Consider your partner's perspective, what they need, and how you can fulfill them. Doing this can create a community dynamic in your relationship, where you know that you and your partner are looking out for one another, that you’re not in this alone.

Tip: Try spending a day focusing on filling your partner’s “love tank” by doing what makes them feel most loved without expecting anything in return. 

Unrealistic Expectation #3: “You should be my everything.”

In my role as a marriage counselor and couples therapist, I’ve noticed this narrative increasing in the couples I’ve seen: a relationship expectation that their partner needs to be their everything.

This unrealistic expectation often leads to someone feeling lonely and hurt when their partner is unable to meet their every need. This mindset also puts an intense pressure on both partners to become something that is often unattainable.

I believe that, much like the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” it takes a community to keep a strong partnership. Having more people in your life besides just your partner, and a shared community where both partners’ feel safe and supported by a number of people, helps to lessen the pressure that you both have to be everything.  Having a community creates an environment for your partnership to flourish as you realize that it does not have to be just the two of you against the world.

Tip: Try spending time with friends both as a couple and individually to build up your community. When you're unable to meet with your community in-person, here are some tips for social distancing relationships: Building CommUNITY During Social Distancing and Self Quarantine.

Have you had some expectations in a relationship, like the ones I talk about here, that have gotten in your way of having the kind of happy relationship you want? I hope that this article helped shed some light on them, and offered you some tips for how to break free of some unrealistic relationship expectations.

If I can do anything else to support you in creating a great relationship, you know where to find me!

Warmly,

Anastacia Sams, M.A., LMFTC

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.

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

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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

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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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