sexless-marriage

Are you in a sexless marriage or relationship?

Are you experiencing sexual problems in your relationship?

Has sex become dull and boring?

Does sex feel distant and disconnected?

Do you find this very difficult to discuss?

Sex can be one of the most difficult subjects to discuss, even with your partner. The discussion becomes even more challenging when there are significant sexual problems in your relationship or you’re in a sexless marriage. The very thing that once caused you to feel deeply connected now makes you feel distant and detached.

Keeping the erotic dimension of your relationship alive and thriving can be very challenging, given the pressures and stress of everyday life. Once you factor in children, jobs, money and time, it’s not surprising that your sexual connection may be suffering under all the pressure. It’s easy for sex and intimacy to drift, get lost in the priorities and for a sexless marriage to be the result.

I’ve been working with couples for a very long time and while each couple is unique, there are a few issues that I see over and over again. I’ve listed these in the box to the right…perhaps you recognise one or more of these situations in your relationship?

How can sex and intimacy therapy help?

Sex and intimacy counselling is a specialised approach that addresses concerns about sexual function, erotic feelings and intimacy.  This can take place as either individual counselling or couples counselling or a combination of both.

Couples often experience a reduced desire for sex and this is really quite normal and nothing to be concerned about. It simply signals that something needs to change to restore the erotic connection. Sex and Intimacy counselling is based on working with the couple, to achieve a satisfying sexual connection and to ensure that your relationship thrives. This can be achieved by engaging in strategies for change to promote more effective erotic intimacy. It can also involve strategies for greater individuation, which can often generate a new-found desire for each other.

Common Sex and Intimacy issues

Different sex drives: Your partner wants more sex than you do or you want more sex than them.

Erotic timing: You feel more aroused in the morning and your partner feels more aroused in the evening.

Communicating sexual needs: You find it difficult to talk about your sexual needs and preferences or your partner does not listen when you do.

Sex is dull and boring: Your erotic life has become dull, repetitive and predictable. It’s just another chore.

Physical Problems: Some problems that show up as physical, often have psychological origins.

For women, this can mean: Inhibited sexual desire, inability to experience orgasm and painful sexual intercourse.

For men, this can mean: erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation and inhibited sexual desire.

Sometimes there are physical explanations for these conditions such as obesity, diabetes or low testosterone. Then there is also the impact of stress, age, illness or just boredom with sex. A major impact for women can also be hormonal shifts caused by childbirth, pregnancy or menopause.

Sex addiction: I’m reluctant to use this term, as there is some doubt that compulsive sexual behaviour is really an addiction, as there is no substance abuse involved. However, if you can’t control the behaviour and there are harmful consequences for you and your family, it may be necessary to treat the condition like it was an addiction.

 

Peter H. Fowler

Couple & family therapist

 

Peter has extensive training in human sexuality and can help individuals and couples to resolve their sex and intimacy issues in a safe, non-judgemental space, where you will feel accepted, understood and supported. He is also experienced at working with individuals struggling with compulsive behaviours like excessive use of pornography or promiscuous behaviour. Peter is LGBTQI and kink affirming and can offer an unconditional non-judgemental approach to any situation. He says there is no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed about sexless marriage, regardless of your story.

going solo | Peter H. Fowler

It often takes one partner to seek help and acknowledge that something needs to change before the other partner reaches the same conclusion. If you find yourself in this situation, I strongly encourage you to take the first step alone. Couples counselling with one partner provides a great way to explore what is going on for you in the relationship and how you confront the issues that are of the greatest concern to you. My experience is that if you come in for two sessions alone and then you share this with your partner, by the third or fourth visit, they become intrigued and decide to accept the invitation to join you.

There is extensive new research emerging that shows that if only one partner wants to change and learns how to make adjustments in their own behaviour, the whole relationship will benefit and can experience lasting improvements. This does not mean that you’re the only one who changes, or that you’ve surrendered to your partner’s behaviour and they have “won”. In reality, if you make the first move and come to counselling alone, you can increase your influence over what is happening in your relationship. Sometimes it only takes couples counselling with one partner to change the dynamics, and for the relationship to significantly improve!

Couples often wait at least 7 years after the first signs of problems before they seek professional help. Unfortunately, after so many years of conflict, it can often be too late to save the marriage. I have found that somewhere early on in the process, one of the partners usually becomes more aware of the problems and either suggests to the other or just thinks to themselves, that counselling may be helpful. If this describes your situation and regardless of whether your partner disagrees or even if you’re too afraid to discuss your thoughts, this is the best time to seek help on your own.

I can help you to gain insight into why and how you behave in your relationship and how this impacts your partner. If appropriate, you can choose to change some behaviour and learn the skills to make that happen. Rather than demand that your partner comes to counselling against their will, you can choose to become a role model in the relationship and show your partner that it can get better. You can also learn how to better cope with the things that cannot change and maybe even discern if you want to stay in your relationship or gain some clarity and confidence about future life-changing decisions.

Whatever is going on in your relationship right now, you don’t need to wait until you both agree you need counselling. By that time it could be too late. Couples counselling with one partner is effective and helpful. Please don’t wait and take action now.

Ericksonian hypnotherapy | Peter H. Fowler

Hypnosis is an evidenced-based treatment that was first documented and used by the ancient Greeks. For the past 200 years hypnosis, combined with a variety of therapies has been successfully used to help resolve many physical and psychological issues.

While there is little debate as to whether hypnosis exists or works, scientific and medical researchers and practitioners cannot agree on a single definition on what hypnosis is, how and why it works.

Some believe that it is an altered state of consciousness, while others see it as a heightened state of awareness. However, there is evidence that hypnosis does exist and that it provides a unique method to communicate with the elements of the mind, brain and body that cannot be accessed during using everyday conscious thinking.

Hypnosis is a natural state of mind that we have all experienced – for example, a daydream is a form of hypnosis. Although the word hypnosis comes from the ancient Greek word for sleep ‘hypnos’, it is far from being asleep. Whilst you may look like you’re sleeping, hypnosis is really a heightened state of awareness where your mind simply focuses on a single idea or thought.

The experience of hypnosis is one of a deep, natural feeling of relaxation combined with a state of heightened awareness. Hypnosis draws on the innate natural power of your own mind to help you change problem saturated behaviour patterns.

My approach to hypnotherapy combines the experience of hypnosis with evidenced-based therapy, such as Solution-Focused Brief Therapy. The experience is completely non-addictive and safe, free of any side effects.

Hypnotherapy can provide a unique sense of freedom from problem saturated behaviour and open the door to new possibilities and the future you prefer to create for your life

Many clients have described the experience of Solution-Focused Hypnotherapy as the start of a personal journey toward a preferred future, free of conflicts and past pain. This is often due to our conscious mind (which is usually very good at analysing and being logical) and the unconscious (which is the home to your deeper experience of life). This important trigger can ‘kick-start’ the resolution of problems from the past, relationship issues, careers and the ability to profoundly move on from situations that are keeping you stuck in the past. Many clients expressed the feeling that hypnotherapy was the breakthrough they needed to change their life for the better and stay on the path they were seeking for their future.

Kabbalah tree of life

Over many years from childhood through our formative teenage years and into the adult realm, we often come to believe distorted and untrue stories we tell about ourselves and the stories that others tell about us. Consequently, we can start to behave in ways that are inconsistent with our values and who we really are. This can lead to us becoming disconnected from the meaning of our lives and our core purpose. The eventual outcome is a deep sense of isolation from the world and the people we share it with.

The reason I became a therapist is to help people reconnect with their true values and what matters to them in their lives. The journey of life has infinite potential, but to discover these possibilities, we must live in a way that is creative and meaningful. People usually come to therapy when they have become isolated from the meaning of their lives.

The mythologist Joseph Campbell suggested there are three available paths in life:

The Village Life

This is where we play out the routines of the ego…It is also what is frequently defined as the ‘normal’ path, which requires us to live within the roles and conditions imposed by mainstream society. The ‘ideal’ or ‘normal’ story frequently goes along the linear line, starting with a happy childhood and family, then progressing toward excellent grades at school and university; successful job and career; happy marriage and family of our own; great houses, lots of money, travel, retire then die. For some, this path may work, but rarely without obstacles. However, for most of us, myself included, we choose to leave the village.

Sometimes we may have no choice. We are excluded from the village by having the wrong skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, religion or lack of money. We can also be pushed out by trauma, or we can choose to leave because we are no longer comfortable with what the village offers and the lack of meaning it brings to our lives.

Campbell suggests there are two other possibilities:

The Wasteland

This is the shadowland of the village that T.S. Elliott described as the wasteland. This is not a happy place and the people who live in the wasteland often inhabit a dark space of apathy, cynicism and depression. It could also involve the toxic world of addictions and substance misuse, violence and despair.

Sometimes we find ourselves in the wasteland as children and then find a way out. We can also find ourselves in the wasteland when a significant relationship is in crisis or comes to an end, or when a loved one dies and we are left alone with the grief.

When people seek help in therapy, they generally have at least one foot in the wasteland, or… they could also be up to their chest and sinking fast.  The story about therapy they have told themselves and that others have told them, is that it is intended to help them get back to the village, so they can become ‘normal’ again. Sometimes that is a possible and desirable outcome, but I believe that therapy should also be about exploring what led to the ‘village exile’ and to listen to what our mind and bodies are telling us. Fortunately, we do not have to accept the story about therapy we have been told, and we do not have to accept that the only outcome is a return to the village. There is another way forward.

The Journey

The ego world of the village and the darkness of the wasteland are opposite extremes in total conflict with each other. The journey offers us a way to re-author our story of where we have been, how we got to this place and where we want to go next and beyond. The Journey rejects the extremes. We are no longer compelled to follow the path of blind conformity, nor do we need to totally reject the village and seek to hide in the darkness. Our unique journey is a great mystery that unfolds as we re-write the script of our lives and discover new awareness and possibilities.

Campbell describes this as ‘the call’, when something is awakened within us. It can happen in childhood or when we are inspired by creativity in literature, art or music. It can happen when science or the natural world absorbs us. It can also happen when we share a deep connection with another person, such as a romantic partner or a child.

Some of us hear this call and quickly respond by re-writing the scripts of our lives as we discover our purpose and mission. Others hear the call and reject it to pursue the expectations of others and conform to village life. That was my own story. I knew my path when I was 11 years old and even articulated it in great detail. When adults would ask me what I wanted ‘to be’, I would always answer ‘psychiatrist’. However, I rejected my call and was lured by the illusion of  ‘success’.

For many of us, there is a wake-up call, which often comes at the middle of life’s road when we are in our 40’s. For some, it happens much earlier and for others, like myself, much later. However, eventually ‘the body keeps the score’. The wake-up call usually comes in the form of health problems; relationship break-ups, addiction, depression, anxiety and all the other reasons people seek help from a therapist.

I encourage everyone I work with to separate from the problems that have been preventing them from living the life they want. I help them to explore the stories of their lives, embracing the strengths and resources that contradict the problem story and helping them to ‘re-author’ a new story, celebrating the heroine or hero and discovering a new journey of transformation

Peter H. Fowler