It’s the topic on many couples minds. How do we make room for more intimacy and better connection? I work with many couples who find it difficult to remain connected through chaotic seasons of life.
But, it’s simple really: couples who are intentional about remaining connected and talk about sex, have more sex.
Here are three tips for creating deeper intimacy.
Hellos + Goodbyes
John Gottman’s research finds that couples who give one another a 6 second kiss and embrace during hellos and goodbyes see greater levels of intimacy. How does that work? Well, when a couple touches for 6 seconds, it gives their brains enough time to produce the bonding and intimacy hormones like Oxytocin, Dopamine, and DHEA to name just a few.
Here’s how it works: The person who is the first to leave in the morning initiates the goodbye embrace and kiss. The person who is home first at night initiates the hello embrace and kiss. No side hugs or pecks anymore. Lean in and stay close- 6 seconds is all it takes!
Middle of the day check-ins
I’m thinking of you babe! I love you and hope you’re having a great day!
Both of you will be responsible for this one. Set an alarm on your phone or make it a habit at lunch time to send a quick text.
This lets your partner know 2 things:
You’re in my thoughts , and
I’m being intentional about connecting with you-even during a chaotic day
A recent study showed that dual working couples in their 30’s with children spend an average of 35 minutes a week talking to each other. That’s crazy! Most of those minutes were related to household chores and errands.
Talk about sex
In his Love Lab, John Gottman found that couples who are intentional about talking about sex have more sex. Oftentimes, we get so bogged down by the days events and stressors that sex becomes the last thing on our minds. Let alone talking about it.
Ok, Sonya, so how do we talk about sex? Download the free app “Gottman Card Decks” on your phones. There are card decks that are questions to ask your partner about sex. Start by asking each other one question 3 times per week after the kids go to bed. Make it a routine. Pick the days and stick to it as much as possible.
Resources and final points
Sex is sometimes very difficult for couples to talk about and navigate. Please seek support if navigating this conversation is too painful or causes gridlocked conflict. Contact me through the form on this website or send me an email at sonya@SonyaJensen.com
Last tip, for the ladies: Want a better understanding of your sexuality? Read Comes As You Are by Emily Nagoswki.
Couples Counseling Treatment: Sound Relationship House
The Sound Relationship House is the model built by Drs. John and Julie Gottman to put together what makes up a healthy relationship. Dr. John Gottman is a famous researcher in the field of Marriage and Family Therapy, utilizing over 40 years of research into what makes love last. We have a specific way in which we structure a treatment plan and how we rebuild a struggling relationship.
Couples Counseling Treatment Steps
Build Love Maps
Love maps are the foundation of the Sound Relationship House. You can think of it in terms of friendship. When my partner and I spend intentional time checking-in with one another, we have a good understanding of what makes our partner tick. We know the co-worker that is driving them mad. The best friend our partner goes to for fun and support. We hear a song and remember our partner saying why they loved it so much. It’s knowing the very heart and mind of your partner through intentional ways of connecting on a daily basis.
Sharing Fondness and Admiration
When we look for and share the things we love and appreciate our partner on a regular basis, it can change the entire culture in the relationship. Oftentimes, when the relationship has been under a lot of stress and the interaction between you and your partner is harsh, this goes out the window. Whatever we look for we will find. Let’s work towards building a healthier, more positive view of each other.
Turn Towards Instead of Away
In other words, bids for connection. I find that couples get in one of two ruts: I won’t meet that need because my needs are going unmet or I had no idea you were wanting or needing that. We will identify each partner’s bids for connection and build a plan to meet those needs as opposed to ignoring and not recognizing those needs.
I think this one needs a blog of its own. It’s one of the main reasons for people calling into my office for an appointment. I bet you’ve tried everything to reduce conflict and make changes and it still doesn’t seem to make a difference. I’ll coach you through a specific structure of learning to connect and understand as opposed to listening to just respond. We will remove what John Gottman calls the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” which are criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling from the dialogue. We will identify and manage the stress response that makes one or both partners go into “fight or flight”. Finally, we will learn to ask open-ended questions, share assumptions, and accept influence.
Make Life Dreams Come True and Create Shared Meaning
Do you have a dream of what you want your life to be? Does your partner support your dream and help you work towards it? As we remove conflict and increase friendship, we will begin the discussion of dreams and creating a plan towards attaining them.
This is a big one. Not all relationships suffer from an attachment injury like an affair or lying. We all ask ourselves the questions:
“Will my partner be there for me when I’m sick?
“Will I have a partner in decisions?”
“Does my partner know what matters to me or see the things I do?”
Trust is built in small moments. Together we will curate those small moments and have rituals around recognizing them.
It’s pretty self-explanatory, and most couples just assume commitment as a given. But sometimes, couples will come in not knowing if the relationship is worth fighting for. If that’s the case, we will assess where each partner is at when it comes to commitment, and provide straight-forward and supportive tools.
No matter where you’re starting from, there is hope. And with the right roadmap, you and your partner can get back on the path towards having the kind of relationship you’ve dreamed is possible.
I’ve been married since 2005. I don’t know about you, but I can safely say that marriage is hard. When you’re not connecting emotionally, constantly arguing, and barely having sex… Do you really want to waste time just talking about your problems? Or do you want to do something about them?
Chances are if you’re struggling with issues like these, they’ve been going on for awhile. It’s not surprising when both you and your partner are overwhelmed and exhausted.
To help you turn the ship around, I have a process I use to see the full picture of your situation. It starts with building a relationship with each partner individually. From there, it goes on to lay out a treatment plan that makes sense to both of you.
Process of Couples Counseling
Sounds like a lot, right? Well, the good news is that there is a step-by-step process for helping you transform your relationship … and this is what it looks like:
Meet as a Couple
Firstly, we review your history through the “The Oral History Interview”. This is a series of research questions that give me an up-close and personal view of all the amazing things that brought you together. It also helps us reflect on life transitions that may or may not have been navigated well, attachment injuries that have broken trust, and your goals as a couple for this process.
Take the Online Assessment
Next, we’ll use a fantastic tool developed by the Gottman Institute that provides you with the ability to critically evaluate your relationship. Using this research-based assessment gives us all a deeper look inside your relationship to understand what pieces of the puzzle are missing. From there, we’ll have a much clearer idea of where to focus to address your unique situation.
Two Individual Sessions
To help you the most, I’ll need to grow a relationship with each of you. Getting some background history about your family and relationship, answering any questions or concerns about this process with you… we’ll develop a rapport through this process that will help you feel comfortable discussing your relationship freely.
In the second couples session, I’ll lay out the treatment plan utilizing the principals of The Sound Relationship House from Gottman Method Couples Therapy. You will see the areas in your relationship that are strong and can be built on, as well as growth areas that need attention. I will pinpoint exactly what we will be working on, why we will be working on it, and how it will apply outside of therapy.
After the assessment process ends and the treatment plan is agreed upon, we’ll get right to work. Each of our sessions starts by assessing how things have been going since we last saw one another and picking the appropriate intervention.
If you had a big fight, for example, we will use a tool that addresses that argument. If you’re feeling emotionally disconnected, we will utilize a tool that helps increase connectivity between you. The sessions are adaptable to what you’re going through and where the two of you are at.
All of the tools used in therapy have the same goal in mind: connection.
You might be building “love maps” to increase your fondness and admiration for each other. Or, you could be learning how to remove the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” in your dialogue. It could be laying the groundwork to establishing a sense of deep trust again between you, or building dreams for the future.
Regardless of the specific focus of each session, what matters most is that you and your partner are working together on that which matters the most to you.
commit to seeing a counselor weekly until symptoms start to decrease,
then space their sessions out to every other week until symptoms are alleviated and goals are met,
and finally, move to a schedule of 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month check-ins.
My goal is for you to feel the benefit of your investment early on. If you’re motivated and putting in the work then you will move through the process quicker. If your relationship is healing from an affair or other betrayal the process can take longer.
Regardless of where you’re starting from, though, it is possible to see a dramatic change, if you’re willing to connect and put in the work. But hey, this is your life we’re talking about! If this doesn’t warrant putting in the energy, what does?