|Written by Dr Christine Webber, psychotherapist and lifecoach|
|Do you have problems in your relationship?
If things are not going well in a sexual and romantic relationship both partners have to try to understand why. So, if you are in a relationship that's in trouble you need to ask a number of questions.
What do you as a couple really want out of the relationship - and are you getting it?
Are you about to leave your partner? Or do you still enjoy your life together?
Are you ready to sacrifice time and energy to make your relationship work again?
Who is to blame?
When things are going badly, couples tend to ask which of them is to blame, or which of them is at fault. 'Blame' and 'fault' are not very helpful words. It's better by far for both partners to accept that they share joint responsibility for the relationship and to agree that when they are having problems they should work at them together.
How can you improve your relationship?
First of all, in today’s very busy, modern world, you need to find time for each other. This is not easy if you both have separate, hectic careers. And it becomes even more difficult when you have children.
But if you have established a will to make things better, then you need to look at your joint schedules and find time when you can be together. If you don’t find time, then improvement will be slow, or non-existent.
Couples frequently ring me to ask if they can come for therapy to improve various aspects of their relationship – and then decide that they are both working such long hours that they cannot find a mutually convenient time to fit in an appointment. This is frankly ludicrous. By finding time for each other - let alone for therapy - they may well find that they never need to see a therapist at all!
It is unlikely that a sex life in trouble will improve greatly if work is not put in on the whole relationship. Of course, there are times when both partners may be very steamed up and the sex may well work wonderfully. But apart from these spontaneous and happy times, couples often complain that they don’t make love as much as they did, or that one or both partners has lost the urge.
In fact, increasingly we are seeing couples – men as well as women – who have little interest in sex. Much of this is undoubtedly due to fatigue and long working hours.
But often a loss of libido can be about resentment or a pervading sense of unhappiness with the relationship itself. And one of the key things here is that you should make sure that you show each other the respect that you did when you first met.
Frequently, couples stop making an effort with each other. They may insult each other, or they may take each other for granted.
Suppose the door bell rings. One partner may yell at the other: ‘Get that will you?’
It doesn’t take much effort to add the word ‘please’ or to ask in a different way, such as: ‘Would you mind answering the door?’
This may sound a small point, and maybe an old-fashioned one, but when couples bellow demands at each other, it sounds rude and abrasive and disrespectful. And when this becomes a habit, it can seriously damage the romance between them.
Dr Jack Dominian - probably Britain’s leading psychiatrist in the treatment of marital and relationship problems - says that there is one phrase a couple should eliminate from their vocabulary. And that is: ‘The trouble with you is …’ .
I would add to that the suggestion that sarcasm is unpleasant and unproductive and invariably leads to one partner feeling ‘put down’. Not a good emotional state in which to encourage convivial relations.
Lack of respect can also be shown in appearances. It’s very sad that couples often stop making an effort with how they look. A small thing like changing work clothes for something brighter or more glamorous in time for dinner – and the woman putting on some make-up and the man bothering to have a shave – can transform a routine evening into more of an occasion.
You also need to talk to each other – especially if you have problems. Men often say: ‘She just wants to go on and on about things and it drives me mad.’
While their partners say: ‘We never talk.’
Both parties cannot be right!
If you and your partner are not talking, but you know that you need to, it’s a good idea to deploy 'The 10-minute rule'.
In this, one partner has his or her say for 10 minutes. During this time the other partner listens and does not interrupt.
After 10 minutes, the second partner takes the floor for 10 minutes. Men in particular appreciate the chance to have their say without interruption – and with the guarantee that the conversation will not go on all night.
Never let your discussion go on for more than an hour. If you both know that you have limited time, you will be more concise, and hopefully, will spare each other any histrionic behaviour!
So, simple things like talking to each other with respect, being smart and fresh and fragrant for your partner and using 'The 10-minute rule' can give a big lift to your relationship.
But what else is there?
Try to have one evening out per week, just the two of you. If you have children this is more difficult to arrange – but it’s not impossible. And do try when you have this ‘date’ to avoid talking about your offspring or your work.
A short break away is always a good bet for enlivening a relationship. I did a survey once in which I discovered that 96 per cent of women surveyed told me they felt sexier when they were on holiday – even just a short weekend break.
Another good thing to do is to make sure that you get some old friends round – even if it’s just for a take-away or supper round the kitchen table – on a regular basis. You’ll have a good laugh and – especially if these friends have known you since the beginning of your relationship – you’ll feel younger and more carefree as a result.
Obviously, if your relationship is in real trouble and none of the above suggestions help significantly, you might want to consider having some relationship therapy.
The obvious place to go for this in the UK is Relate, who offer low-cost, face-to-face counselling. Additionally, nowadays they offer email, phone on Internet counselling.
Remember that no matter where you live in the UK, there is likely to be a branch of Relate near you.
Of course, you can opt to go to a private therapist for sex and relationship therapy. This will cost more, but usually allow you to be more in control of when you go and how many sessions you have and so on.
What about making improvements to the sexual part of a relationship?
As I said earlier, your sex life is unlikely to blossom if the relationship is not being looked after. For example, a man may lose interest in sex if his wife is very aggressive in bed or out, or if he feels that she keeps nagging him to do better sexually. Or if she keeps complaining that he doesn’t do his share of the housework. And a woman may feel a lack of interest sexually for a number of reasons including a perception that her man never says he loves her unless he wants sex!
So, I cannot emphasise enough that before you look at your sex life, you should look more generally at your relationship.
Having done that, of course there are plenty of ways in which you can liven up your sex life.
You might want to take turns in running the sex session. In other words, the man may make all the suggestions one night and the woman another. This often leads to much greater variety.
You might use fantasies – always supposing that the same sorts of things turn you on.
You might read erotica to each other prior to having sex. Some couples enjoy porn together – usually videos of attractive couples having sex together.
Some couples love to dress up or to use vibrators or other sex toys. They might also enjoy reading sex manuals on different sexual positions, or dressing up in sexy lingerie.
Nowadays, there are some very good sex shops on line that are attractive to women – and cater for all these sorts of products.
Some of the best are:
Gash - http://www.edirectory.co.uk/gash/
Passion 8 - http://www.passion8.com/
Sh! - http://www.sh-womenstore.com/
Tickled - http://www.tickledonline.co.uk/
Most probably, you are not reading this particular article if you have a serious sex problem – such as premature ejaculation, painful intercourse (dyspareunia), or erectile dysfunction (impotence).
But if you do have one of these – or another sex problem – there are sex therapists who can help.
Additionally, if you regard your sex life as having a problem in that it has become stale and boring, then you might also want to benefit from some sex therapy.
Some therapists specialise in helping couples by teaching them techniques where intercourse is banned for a while so that the couple can enjoy focusing on touching and stroking and other forms of love play. This can have a dramatic effect on a flagging relationship.
Do make sure that if you want to contact a specialist in sex and relationship therapy that you go to someone properly qualified.
A Relate counsellor who is trained in psychosexual matters would be good, or a private therapist who is a fully accredited member of the British Association for Sexual and Relationship Therapy, or a doctor who is a member of the Institute of Psychosexual Medicine.
Finally, you may be reading this article because one or other of you has had an affair – and you are now trying to rebuild your relationship in and out of bed.
This will be a rocky time for you, so some Relate – or other relationships counselling – could prove beneficial.
You need to rebuild trust too – so please realise that things are unlikely to improve instantly. These things take time, but are well worth working at.
|Written by Dr Christine Webber, psychotherapist and lifecoach|