Shari Hardies is here with this week’s questions!
Q1.) Hi Shari: Thanks a lot for taking your time to help! I’ve been stuck in a rut in the bedroom recently, which has been no fun for me or my husband. We just seem to have no energy for intimacy after 16 years, but I don’t want that to happen to us since I know how important it is to share that with your spouse/partner. Do you have any recommendations for getting back on track when it feels like we just don’t have any time or energy? Thank you 🙂
A1.) Hi Back-on-track: Thanks for writing in and giving me an opportunity to help with this VERY common issue. I would venture to say that at some point this happens to most if not all couples in various ways. In fact, part of getting past this issue is normalizing the issue and communicating around how both of you are feeling weird, if not worried about it.
It is really important that you are comfortable having what can be an uncomfortable conversation. I really recommend taking care to separate your feelings for one another and the lack of intimacy. I would ask that you and your spouse identify any fears around the situation and share it. For instance, if there is any deep, deep down fear that your spouse isn’t attracted to you (VERY NORMAL), you need to have a chance to dispel that fear. It may surprise you that when you ask, your spouse may have some fears as well.
I have worked with many couples on this issue and what we discover is that intimacy can exist in many forms. Physical intimacy is important, but it isn’t the only way to achieve the benefit and meet the need for intimacy. I would start by initiating a conversation about not having intimacy, then take time to discuss what you wish you were doing, even if you don’t have the energy to do it. This communication skill is only as good as your comfort level with your spouse. Stay within what is normal talk for your relationship. 🙂
What I find to be true in most cases is that when couples work on intimacy through communication they tend to fall back into the physical aspect with ease. In other words, when you break down the walls of why you haven’t been getting it going in the bedroom, and assure each other it isn’t because of lack of attraction or love, things feel right back on track!
Q2.) Good morning Shari: My boyfriend and I have been having some communication issues in recent months. And not that we don’t talk to each other, but it seems like we actually talk TOO much! We are constantly talking over each other or not letting the other finish, which is getting in the way of us doing and saying the things that make us happy. This is a relatively recent issue, so I’m just wondering if you’ve ever seen this kind of thing just pop up. Thanks!
A2.) Hi Talking-Too-Much: Thanks for writing in and being so proactive! I think if I had to categorize issues into good problems and bad problems, I would put this in the good problems category 🙂
I do see this issue pop up, and there are a few different possibilities that come to mind that may explain it. Firstly, I see this situation come up when couples are competing for their talking time, this may indicate that you and your boyfriend are not feeling listened to.
When people do not feel listened to, they tend to talk more and compete for the air time. People talk over each other to get their thoughts in wherever they can because the other person doesn’t stop. When people don’t feel like they are being heard, they stop listening too. If this resonates with you guys, and you feel like you aren’t being heard, or your partner is not doing enough listening than the fix is in practicing active listening. Recognizing the issue and agreeing to do some work is the answer. Practicing dyads are a great way to work on this, a dyad is when a couple takes turns talking for 2-3 minutes at a time on a topic and switch. The person who isn’t talking is only listening. Activities like this can be very helpful.
As a therapist, I would explore other possibilities by engaging you both in a conversation about what is going on in your lives, is stress high? Are there any new transitions coming up? Losses that are being grieved (grief comes in many forms and for all losses not just death). It is important to know what your internal thoughts look like, because sometimes the cup runs over!
If you and your boyfriend are looking for support from one another at the same time for all of the things each of you are struggling with… well, no one is getting any support, are they? It’s possible that you both need to get some support from using personal coping skills or an outside person like a counselor. I can recommend that each of you check into your personal coping skills and tools, make sure you have enough.
At the end of the day, good communication and the ability to talk to one another is always a positive thing. Work on discovering what is lacking and I’m sure you can improve your communication.
Q3.) Hello there, Shari: The issue that my wife and I have is this: She’s a big time planner, and I’m just not. I like to go with the flow and just see what happens on a given day or night, whereas she has to know sometimes even days ahead of time what we are going to be doing at a specific time (not including major things like big dates or shows, etc.).
It really seems like it gets in the way of our overall happiness sometimes, since I feel like I’m getting restricted or she feels like she’s stressed out because there’s no plan in place. Is there some way to overcome this? I don’t want it to keep getting in the way of us truly loving each other. Thanks!
A3.) Hello there Non-planner: I’m happy to discuss this issue and offer some insight if I can. I really appreciate that you are willing to see that both of you have needs in this situation, I’m not hearing you say that your spouse is wrong and you are right, or that anyone needs to be wrong at all. This is a super positive way to address the differences that couples often come up against. So often when people are forced to stand up for their personal needs, they fall into the trap of attacking the other person’s perspective which is not necessary or helpful.
I think the best way to handle this situation is to appreciate the differences and try to use them to strengthen the couple as a unit. I assume that you like your spouse, and that you are attracted and compatible on many levels. If you can explore how the need to plan has been and can be a positive thing, it takes some of the pressure to change off of your wife. Spouses hardly ever respond well when they are under pressure, and to my knowledge, pressure never relieves the anxious need to plan! The same applies to you! If your spouse were asked to, she could really explore the benefit of having a spontaneous spouse, who is able to go with the flow and think on their toes.
Ideally, there should be the ability for each of you to play to your strengths, especially if you see it that way. For instance, specify times when you are going to have “no plan days”, on that day you are planning to wake up and see what happens. Your spouse can try to plan around that if they feel the need to, or perhaps they can start participating in parts of those days by not planning for a few hours at a time. It works both ways; you participate in your wife’s plans for a period of time, but maybe not the whole day.
I think if you offer mutual respect for each other’s positions and needs, you can meet in the middle a good portion of the time. Additionally, it is always good to remember that you have the ability to ask your spouse for what you need. I would encourage you to let your spouse know that you feel the need to have some down, free, unplanned time before you become resentful of her tendency to plan away! Remember, great couples are usually made of two very different people, you just have to support each other’s differences. Great job reaching out for tips, I hope they help 🙂
Shari Hardies, LCSW, is a social worker and contributor to Sono Bello Style, that has a true passion for improving the lives of others. She will be answering weekly user submitted questions on the topics of dating, relationships and live.