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How to Restore Sexual Intimacy in Your Relationship

How to Restore Sexual Intimacy in Your Relationship

How to Restore Sexual Intimacy in Your Relationship

Dori Bagi, M.S, is a kind, empathetic couples counselor, individual therapist, and life coach with Growing Self Counseling and Coaching 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.

Have You Drifted Apart?

Any good marriage counselor or couples therapist will tell you that sex isn’t the ONLY thing in a great relationship. Friendship, teamwork, communication, emotional safety, respect, and appreciation are all fundamentally important too. And yet, even when all those strengths are present, if you’re not connecting sexually over a long period of time… eventually lack of physical intimacy can erode even the best relationship.

It’s easy to fall into the “friend zone” in a long-term relationship. Certain phases of life that couples naturally encounter can throw cold water on your sexual connection: Having a new child, going through an intense phase of your career, or simply feeling overwhelmed by the busy-ness of modern life can make it hard to find the time and energy to put into the sexual relationship with your partner.

Furthermore, sexuality is kind of like the “canary in the coal mine” of a relationship: When things are feeling off emotionally, or when communication is breaking down and resentments are building… increased distance in the bedroom can be one of the earliest signs that you need to work on your relationship.

Sometimes, working on the other issues in a relationship like emotional safety, communication, teamwork, and appreciation can restore the goodwill between a couple and their sex life naturally improves. But sometimes, sexual problems ARE the problem and need to be addressed directly.

However, talking about sexual issues is not as easy as it sounds. Many couples struggle to communicate about their sexual relationship, often feeling embarrassed or vulnerable, or afraid of hurting their partner’s feelings. That’s one of the reasons why couples often enlist the support of a good marriage counselor, couples therapist, or sex therapist to help them restore the intimacy in their relationship.

And that’s where we’re going today: To help us understand the most common sexual problems that couples encounter, and how to resolve them, I’ve invited expert sex therapist Dori Bagi to speak with us on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

We’ll be discussing:

  • Why couples often have differences in sexual desire (meaning one person wants to have sex more than the other) and what you can do about it.
  • The role that pornography can play in a relationship —  both positive, and negative.
  • Why body image and self-esteem issues are so often at the root of sexual problems, and how you can work together as a couple to resolve them.
  • Differences in the sexual response cycle between men and women, and how understanding arousal can help you both develop a stronger sexual connection.
  • How to talk about your sexual relationship in a healthy and constructive way.

Hope this conversation helps you find your way back together again…

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby & Dori Bagi, M.S.

 

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Restore Sexual Intimacy In Your Relationship

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

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How to Be in Love With Your Partner

How to Be in Love With Your Partner

How to Be in Love With Your Partner

Brenda Fahn, M.A., LMFT is a marriage counselor, therapist and life coach with over fifteen years of experience in helping couples and individuals create lives full of meaning, fulfillment, balance, and joy.

Real Relationship Advice:
The Secret to Love That Lasts

In the last 15 years of working with couples as a marriage counselor, premarital counselor, and couples therapist, I have heard a similar version of the same theme. It goes something like this….

“We don’t feel in love anymore”
“We feel like roommates”
“Sometimes I can’t stand being around my partner.”

The certainty of their original feelings and commitments, embodied in the ‘emotional high’ of being in love at the beginning of a marriage, inevitably gives way to uncertainty, and in some cases, outright disdain for their partners. Underneath the fear, apathy or anger, most couples long to recapture those magical feelings of being ‘in love’ with their partner. They want to feel the energy of love again. However, the feelings of ‘falling in love’ that initially got us into a relationship are not the same feelings that sustain a relationship over the long term. True love is a ‘work-in-progress’ over a lifetime and requires a lot of intentional hard work.

My parents have a Snoopy refrigerator magnet holding a sign that says, ‘Love is a Decision.” What Snoopy is trying to tell us is that love doesn’t just happen. It must be cultivated and nurtured over time. And this is the crucial piece of information that couples don’t realize when they are busy ‘falling in love’. Love is a verb. It is the result of our actions and behaviors towards our partner that keeps love going. The feelings follow the behavior. As my husband likes to say, love is a lot like poker, it takes 15 minutes to learn, but a lifetime to master.

So now that you know this little secret, here are 12 tips you need to put into practice, on a consistent basis, if you want to bring the love back into your marriage.

1. Practice Kindness. One of the most underrated acts one person can bestow upon another is kindness. Research has shown us that acts of kindness are a critical and necessary component of a successful marriage. Additionally, being kind to another isn’t just about making the other feel good. Choosing kindness also fundamentally alters the character of the giver. Being respectful to another is adhering to socially appropriate behavior, but expressing kindness fills the giver with oxytocin, the same bonding hormone women have when they breastfeed. So, in addition to forming closer bonds with the person we are showing kindness, there is the added, and incidental benefit, of making ourselves into better human beings.

2. Love your partner in the way that satisfies ‘their’ needs to feel loved. I see a lot of couples that give love to their partner in the way that satisfies their own needs, rather than the needs of their partners. When that happens it is like pouring water into a bucket that has a hole in the bottom. Find out what makes your partner feel loved and simply do it…even it is difficult and uncomfortable. If you fell in love with someone who did not speak English, you would want to learn their native language to be able to communicate effectively. In short, learn how to speak your partner’s love language.

3. Take responsibility, and keep your side of the street clean. Simple as that. Don’t make excuses. Don’t use the word, “but”. Just own it. Defensiveness slowly destroys connection in a relationship and many times arguments and hurt could be avoided if one person owned what they said or did.

4. Foster empathy. If empathy does not come easily for you, here are some concrete ways to help you increase your empathy. A. Focus on staying aware of your own emotions. Doing so helps you be more attuned to the other person’s emotions. B. Make eye contact when talking to your partner. Doing so fosters intimacy and connection. C. Be a good listener. Suspend your own judgment or disbelief, even for the moment. Doing so allows you to see the situation from your partner’s point of view. D. Pay attention to the non-verbal clues your partner is sending you, and E. Don’t interrupt. Use reflective listening to try to understand the emotions behind your partner’s words.

5. Show vulnerability. Disclose parts of yourself you have not shown anyone else. Be vulnerable (I know, easier said than done). When I hear couples complain about becoming bored, I usually try and assess if they are at an impasse because they refuse to become vulnerable in order to remain on safe and familiar ground. They have only shown the parts of themselves that they think will not cause anxiety for the other person or for the relationship. When you do that, you are only showing a small portion of your ‘color wheel’, and choosing not to show the whole palette. As humans, we have an inherent need to grow. It less important as to where we end up, as much as the striving that keeps us content. Many couples are afraid to reveal that growth to their partner for fear of acceptance. If you don’t dare to make that choice, then you are settling for mediocrity and the mundane. In doing so, you are unconsciously choosing to keep things monotonous as a way to contain your own anxiety. Yet, at times we need to feel anxious if we want our relationship to grow.

6. Let the best part of you show up (happy, confident, joyful, interesting, healthy.) Couples have this illusion that their partner should just ‘accept them as they are.’ Is there anywhere else in life where that holds true? School? Work? Why would it be any different in love relationships? The belief that ‘if someone truly loves me they will all love all parts of me’ is a myth that needs to be let go of. Both partners need to work on bringing their best selves to the table. It is reasonable to have expectations of your partner. One caveat though. It is easier for partners to bring their best selves to the relationship when they feel safe and loved.

7. Be generous with your judgment. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt more often than not. Realize that a lot of times their overreactions are from their past (their parents, an ex, their own insecurities.). The key ingredient in this process is to not overreact to your partner’s overreaction.

8. Be curious. Instead of attacking your partner before you fully understand the situation, be curious. Ask questions to understand what is happening with your partner. Try and determine what ‘triggered’ the incident, before you react. Put on your Sherlock Holmes hat, and try and solve the situation, before it becomes a confrontation that spirals out of control.

9. Contain your own anxiety. Managing your anxiety is not your partner’s job. Learn and practice coping strategies to deal with your own stress and anxiety.

10. Expect less. Always expect less from the relationship and expect more from your life. Don’t expect your relationship to be your whole world. If you do, you are putting too much pressure on your partner, and this will only squeeze the ‘life’ out of the relationship. Have a life outside the relationship that will allow you to feel more fulfilled and a more interesting person to bring to the relationship.

11. Make repairs quickly. When one partner has been injured–a core injury of not feeling loved or worthy in a relationship, make sure that repair happens as quickly as possible. Otherwise the pain and hurt can fester, and by doing so the wound becomes harder to heal. The longer you wait, the more potential for lasting damage.

12. Don’t push love away. This might seem like an obvious one, but it happens more than you’d think. And when it does, typically you don’t even know it’s happening. The culprit is usually one’s own fears and insecurities. Ask yourself, “Do you want to work at accepting love now?”

I remember going to my own marriage therapist when our children were young. I was complaining that my husband had a short temper with me and it made me not want to be close to him. I fully expected to be vindicated by my therapist. Instead, I encountered a rude awakening. My lack of emotional availability was a contributing factor to the intensity of my husband’s outbursts. He did not come home wanting to turn into a raving jerk. He was just having a bad day. All he was looking for was connection and empathy from me. Instead he was confronted with resistance and fear. He felt like he was with someone who always had one foot in and one foot out of the relationship. Relationships can be hard, and I wasn’t ready to embrace ‘the hard’ with my husband. The therapist looked me in the eye and said, “I know how much love and affection you give your children. I know that you can give that to your husband too.” In between my tears, I said I didn’t know if I could. I was scared. But that’s where commitment to the relationship kicks in.

There is no magic bullet. My ability to show love took time. Lot’s of time. When my husband was able to create a safe place, it allowed me to open up and be vulnerable. Over the years I have learned how to express my love better than I did 15 years ago. That does not mean that some days I still ask myself if the risk of loving someone else is worth it. I have decided most days it is.
I have learned that love is the outcome and the reward of all the behaviors we put into a relationship. It is not a feeling that magically pops into our life; it comes about by how we treat the person who means the most to us in life. And just like the little Snoopy magnet proclaims, love truly is a decision, one that requires consistent work and attention. I just never realized how hard it would be. The quest to be loved and to love is definitely worth it. No question about that.

Brenda Fahn, M.A., LMFT

How to Make Long Distance Work

How to Make Long Distance Work

Do Long Distance Relationships Work?

Oh yes. In fact, long-distance relationships can have strengths over in-person relationships, and be a wonderful experience for everyone involved. However, to have a successful long-distance relationship, you need to be mindful of a few key factors in order to help you both feel loved, secure and connected although the miles keep you apart.

To talk all about how to make long distance relationships work, I’ve invited my colleague Brogan Crosby, M.S., LMFTC on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. Brogan specializes in online couples therapy and online marriage counseling and has extensive experience in providing long-distance couples counseling to couples around the world. Additionally, Brogan did her graduate research on factors that contribute to successful, satisfying long-distance relationships, particularly around how to maintain the emotional and sexual connection in a long-distance relationship situation.

Long Distance Relationship Tips

Brogan and I talked about many things including:

  • Why long-distance couples can actually have strengths and advantages over other couples, especially when one or both partners are ambitious and career-focused.
  • Some of the unique challenges that long-distance couples face and how to overcome them.
  • What the most important factors in making long distance relationships work are, and how you can mindfully incorporate certain strategies to keep your connection strong.
  • Strategies to use during the transitional period when you shift from a long distance relationship to living together (or nearby).

Listen to this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, and learn how to make your long-distance relationship thrive.

How To Make Long Distance Work

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

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Recovering From Infidelity

Recovering From Infidelity

How Do You Heal, After An Affair?

In my experience, there is nothing more painful than discovering that your partner has been cheating on you. It is enormously stressful, painful, and all-consuming. Many couples struggle with infidelity, and how to rebuild the trust and security in their relationship after betrayal. Infidelity can happen on a spectrum, from “micro-cheating” to a long-term affair. When infidelity is discovered, it feels like it blows your life apart. This is true both person who has been betrayed, as well as the person who cheated (who may now feel not just terribly guilty, but afraid of losing the things most precious to them, too). However, what I know from many years of experience as a marriage counselor and a couple’s therapist is that there IS a path back together again after infidelity. In fact, I strongly believe that couples have a grand opportunity when infidelity is uncovered, not to just “survive infidelity” but rather create a much stronger, happier, secure relationship than ever before.

More Than Just “Surviving Infidelity”

When an affair or infidelity is revealed, it sends a couple into a crisis. With the right support (and commitment, and courage, and persistence) a couple can use this crisis to get radically honest with each other and build their empathy, and compassion. Believe it or not, the last phases of healing after infidelity often include two people actually feeling safer and more emotionally connected with each other than they did previously.

How Do I Get Over An Affair?

I know it sounds hard to believe, but you can heal after infidelity, and stay together. You may not ever “get over” an affair, but you can certainly heal your relationship. It is also possible to rebuild the trust after infidelity. However…. getting past infidelity is an active process, for both partners. Time alone does not heal an affair. You cannot just “get over” infidelity. After you’ve been betrayed, you can’t just flip a switch and put the past in the past, and trust your partner again. But you can heal, and you can trust again… when you’re both doing the work of recovery, together.

Real Advice For Rebuilding Trust and Security, After An Affair

On this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, I’m sharing the ten crucial steps that every couple must take in order to repair their relationship after infidelity. I hope that this discussion creates a road-map for you to follow, as you work to reclaim your relationship, your trust, and your sense of security after an affair. With love and respect, Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby

Recovering From Infidelity: How To Heal Your Relationship

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

Music Credits: L.A. Witch, “Brian”

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3 Steps to Effective Arguing

3 Steps to Effective Arguing

Fair Fighting Rules For Couples

Have you ever had an argument with your partner that feels like it is going in circles? Or have you ever had a big sense of deja-vu when you and your partner argue, like you have had the same argument ten times? It is very common for couples to fall into a slump when it comes to communication and they feel like they are not getting through to each other.

In my experience as a marriage counselor, premarital counselor, and couples therapist, couples tend to express how hard it is to communicate with each other because the conversations “always” turn into arguments. But, something that may come as a surprise is that arguments are a form of communication and can be very productive if done right. In fact, if you know how to handle yourself in potentially difficult moments, you can turn a nasty argument into a productive discussion.

“Right Fighting” in Relationships

Yes, I am saying there is a right way to argue, and a wrong way. And you may be saying to yourself, “arguments are never good” or “if we are arguing, it can’t be right.” Although I agree that excessive, hurtful, and intense arguments can be a sign of discord in your relationship, I also suggest that when done right, arguments (aka, “passionate conversations”) can be an effective and productive way to improve and even enhance your relationship. So what do I mean by done “right?” Here are three steps that will help bring structure and purpose to your next disagreement with your partner.

3 Steps to Productive Conflict in Your Relationship

Step 1: Timing

Does it feel like you arguments always seem to happen at the wrong time, in the wrong place? When we have something to say we want to say it now. And it is important to get your feelings out, but think about the timing. Be aware of when your partner seems to be more available to talk. And I even suggest trying to get a read of how emotionally available your partner is too.

As intimate partners, we have a great sense of when our partner is in a good mood. It can be helpful to “test the waters” and let them know that you have something important to talk about, just to see if the time is right. I’m not saying you should sit on things or bury your feelings if the time just never seems right. But, we can all agree that trying to have an important conversation with your partner while their favorite sports team is on, or when they walk in the door mentally exhausted from work is very difficult.

Step one of having a productive discussion instead of a hurtful argument is being aware of the timing, and try to be intentional about when you bring up the “hot topics.”

Step 2: Message Received

Remember the old cell phone commercial where people in different locations were shouting, “Can you hear me now??” When a discussion has turned into a fight that is going badly, it can feel like we want to yell that at our partner sometimes. It just feels like they don’t hear us, or they don’t get it.

When couples come to me feeling unheard by their partner it tends to be related to the way they communicate feelings and how their partner receives the message. You send it, they receive it. A great way for couples to ensure they are each heard in conversations and arguments, is to check in on what you hear. When your partner is done talking, you can ask, “Is this what you mean?” Or, say, “I hear you saying this… is that right?” Carefully checking in to make sure you’re understanding your partner gives clarity, and the chance to correct each other if your wires ever get crossed.

Step 3: What now?

The last step to productive discussions is simply saying, “What now?” It is important to have a clear plan going forward after every argument. Think of it like a game plan for your relationship. When you have picked a good time, made sure the message was received correctly, and that you’ve both heard each other, say… ”what now?”

When you shift the conversation away from how you’re feeling, towards what you can each do to solve the problem or improve the situation is what ultimately makes any conflict productive. Saying “what now” allows you to brainstorm ideas, get back on the same page, and actually fix things so that you don’t have to have the same argument over and over again.

Having a clear conclusion to every argument is crucial. When we leave things open, or we don’t talk about what we are going to do moving forward, it creates a negative cycle: Sooner or later, you’re going to disappoint each other again. Even if the “what now” comes a couple days later (after you’re both feeling calmer), it is important to make sure you come back together and have a solution-focused conversation.

While arguments can feel challenging in the moment, they’re a great opportunity for you both to get your feelings and needs out in the open. Then, you can use the new information that came from your “passionate conversation” as a roadmap to make positive changes to your relationship that deepen your connection.

Growing Self Counseling & Coaching
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