Archive for intimacy – Page 2

Under the Covers, Intimacy and Sex

A client of mine mentioned a new app called Under the Covers, which allows couples to let their partners know what their sexual fantasies are. The app works by the couple separately typing their fantasies into the app and only if the partners type the same fantasy it comes up on both their screens (and saves them the embarrassment of the other seeing the ones that don’t match).
This allows couples to go forward in playing out the fantasy and gives them both the reassurance that it is mutual and welcomed.

This made me start to think about how very difficult it is for couples to talk to one another about sex in general. Many of the couples we see at Coupleworks come because they aren’t having sex, enough sex or that sex they are having isn’t satisfying or diverse enough.

After taking a sexual history and clearly identifying the specific issue, the first question I ask is ‘how do you talk about this together?’ Unsurprisingly, the answer is usually ‘Rarely’ or ‘ Never’. The problem this can create is that couples make assumptions about their sexual relationship without checking with their partner if it’s accurate or not.

Sex and intimacy are closely aligned and couples often don’t realise that the best way into a good sexual relationship is to talk about it. It’s not as simple as ‘This is what I like or don’t like,’ although this is also important, but to express your discomforts, embarrassments, not knowing how or what to do and other insecurities surrounding sex. Disclosing intimate parts of ourselves is what enables couples to know one another and to begin to trust and rely on each other to accept all parts of them. This is intimacy.
Shirlee Kay

Managing Virtual and Face-to-Face Relationships

• It would seem that there is a fundamental human urge to connect and relate to others – although that may be expressed in a multiplicity of ways. Each person will have their own definition of intimacy, closeness, love, relationship, connection, friendship – and what is necessary for them to remain comfortable and relaxed within their different relationships.
• How we relate to one another as adults is affected by our reactions to the combination of our family histories, our friendships, our school experiences, our romantic liaisons, our work colleagues. But connect to others we do. It is an expression of our need to be known and belong, to be recognised and heard, to be attached, to be seen as special.
• This seems to be indicated by the growth of Social Networks – whether Facebook (with billions of members), Twitter, Linkedin – where we count the number of ‘friends’, ‘followers’, or ‘contacts’ and get a sense of affirmation and validation that we matter.
• But how does a development of online relationships, and an absorption with our screens, impact on our face-to-face relationships? Is our understanding of what is a ‘friend’ changing? We can feel challenged and frustrated when we are faced with the complexities and flaws of the ‘whole’ person in reality. We can escape into online relationships, which are often ‘part’ relationships, with fantasy filling in the bits that are unknown. The ‘perfect’ person seems tantalisingly within reach. On dating websites there is always someone else to choose, with the click of a mouse, as we chase the elusive perfect match.
• There can be a danger of developing a powerful emotional connection with someone we message online but whom we have never met. The difficulty lies in the fact that we do not have to accommodate their foibles, idiosyncrasies, mood changes and we can role-play in return. There can be a frisson of excitement that transcends the mundanity of ordinary life. We can become addicted to the escapism offered by the virtual world. Do we use social media to avoid tackling a problem in our ‘real’ relationships?
• Does confiding in an online friend matter if we are in a close couple relationship? If the messaging becomes sexual will it be experienced as a betrayal and viewed as an affair? Are boundaries broken if photographs and images are exchanged? Aaron Balick describes it as one of the partners going ‘missing in action’. If things are serious it may be time to seek counselling and explore what is happening in the dynamics of the relationship.
• Recognising it can be compulsive, it may be that consciously monitoring our use of tablets and smartphones will be enough. We may need to discipline ourselves to switch off during mealtimes, sitting on the sofa, at bedtime, and talk face-to-face and touch skin-to-skin!

Kathy Rees

Holidays – a Dream or a Nightmare?

Holidays are usually seen as a break from the stresses and strains of everyday life, a chance to take a deep breath and have a change from everyday routine.

Going away with your significant other can be joyful and a great time to spend more time together to relax and reconnect. However for others spending a period of concentrated time together can be difficult and stressful and not always a bed of roses!

Perhaps it is taken for granted that because we go on holiday it means that we should get on better, but if there are issues that are unresolved they are going to come on holiday with you!!

So as we approach a time in the year where thoughts go to planning a holiday here are a few guidelines to avoid some of the common pitfalls:

1.Plan the holiday together.  Make sure you are both going somewhere that you both want to visit.  This can eliminate disappointment and frustration of the others choice of destination.

2.Make it clear and discuss what you both want to achieve from your holiday.

3.If you want to sit in the sun and your partner prefers to explore and sightsee, just make sure there is enough time and space to do the things you both want to do, both separately and together.

4.Don’t make the mistake of doing too much running around on holiday and replicating what happens at home.  A holiday is the opportunity to do something different from the normal. Doing nothing and just being comfortable with this is part of relaxing on holiday.

5.It’s important that we feel that we have our partner’s undivided attention, so avoid constant use of mobile phones and laptops.  If you need to be in touch with the office, make sure it is the minimum and at a time that suits you both and quickly return to holiday mode.

6. Don’t use the holiday to bring up past arguments and resentments.  It will be much more beneficial to focus on the positive bits of each other to help relax, reconnect and achieve closer intimacy so you can deal with the niggles and annoyances better when you return home.


Dawn Kaffel


Boarding School Syndrome

The way in which we form our early relationships with our parents or primary carers affects our long-term relationships in later life.

Young children who have to deal with early separation and loss, either from adoption, bereavement of a parent or prolonged separation from their parents for whatever reason, have to manage the strong feelings that are evoked by this trauma in some way or other.  Children who are sent to boarding school at an early age also suffer in this way.

Joy Schaverien, an author and psychoanalyst published a paper on ‘Boarding School Syndrome’ in the British Journal of Psychotherapy in May 2011 and is currently writing a book on the psychological impact of boarding school.

She suggests that these young children who become ‘looked after children’, have to develop coping mechanisms to manage the separation from their parents. Joy identifies a cluster of learned behaviours:

  •  Pattern of Emotional Encapsulation (Self-sufficiency)
  •  Problems with Intimacy
  •  Inability to talk about Feelings
  •  Making deeply dependent relationships and then cutting off

This of course has an impact when the ex-boarder forms an intimate relationship in later life. As a young child in an alien environment, the boarder learns to cope with things on their own, to shut down their feelings and to cut off from their feelings of loss and grief at leaving home. They then often struggle in adult life to allow closeness and intimacy, preferring to be self-sufficient and independent.  This is a defence against igniting the earlier feelings of loss and separation, which were too painful to bear as a child.

For ex-boarders or those in a relationship with an ex-boarder, it can be helpful to begin to explore the impact of those early experiences on their current relationship.  The learned behaviours that were adopted as a way of surviving in their early years get in the way of a fulfilling and satisfying adult intimate relationship.  Being able to begin to understand and process those early experiences is a good place to start.

For further information visit Joy Schaverien’s website