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1. What are some of the most common reasons married couples seek counseling? Can any of these issues be avoided?
Couples seek counseling when they cannot resolve differences between them, when sex becomes a struggle, or when one of the partners is unfaithful, either with a real person or via cybersex or pornography on-line. In addition, having a child, rather than bringing couples together, can often be divisive in relationships also, as the woman’s libido often is reduced for up to 2 years after the birth of her child while her brain secretes oxytocin for bonding with the child. This can leave the partner feeling alienated and isolated as the dynamic of the relationship is irrevocably changed. This may then precipitate a search for someone else as a form of comfort.
At such times of stress, the personality trait of the partner that was originally considered endearing, now becomes the focus of irritation and frustration. For example, Simon was drawn to Julia because he found her bubbly, gregarious and fun to be with, and now complains that she is flighty and flirtatious. Julia was drawn to Simon as she found him strong, reliable and made her feel safe, and now complains that he is rigid and boring. Good communication is half the battle at preventing difficulties arising; being able to say that one is struggling with the way things are going in the relationship, and getting an adult response in return that promotes discussion, rather than histrionics or manipulative game-playing.
2. What is the most stressful time in a marriage? How might the relationship be affected by this stress?
I have already indicated one stressful time above, as are all times when life events occur: marriages, bereavements of family members, birth or adoption of children, going through an IVF programme, or when one partner is made redundant and becomes unemployed. For couples who do not communicate well, and for those partners who do not have sufficient emotional intelligence to be able to support their partner through a difficult time, then the other partner become disenchanted, and starts to view the relationship through a negative lens. The partners often will stop wanting to spend time together, stop doing the simple things for each other that indicated how much they cared, would start spending more time at work, and arrange to go out with friends rather than the cozy nights in. In fact they may start living parallel lives.
3. How common are obsessive sexual behaviors? What are some examples of these behaviors? Has the incidence of these issues risen in the past 10 or so years?
Obsessive sexual behaviours are behaviours that one cannot stop, and even need to go through in order to achieve the right kind of arousal. They are most common for people who had some form of vandalisation of the sexual template of their brain when it was developing pre-puberty. By vandalisation, I mean some form of trauma, not necessarily sexual abuse, but death of a parent, acrimonious parental divorce, moving away from everything the child knows (e.g. boarding school). For children who have not been brought up feeling secure in their family environments, these traumas provoke autoerotic behaviour as a form of self-comfort, which subsequently in adulthood gets ritualized into an obsessive sexual repertoire. It is impossible to say how common such behaviour is, as people only admit to it when things start going drastically wrong, so there will be a proportion of the population who undertake obsessive sexual behaviour but never openly admit to it. Having said that, as a therapist, we know that the numbers that come through our doors have increased dramatically over the last 15 years following the use of the Internet for sexual gratification. People are looking at what others do, trying things out for themselves, and making recommendations to each other about how to spice up their sex lives, as well as seeing every conceivable sexually diverse activity in graphic detail online. There are an infinitesimal variety of methods people use to spice up their sex lives, but the most common are urophilia (use of urine), coprophilia (faeces), various forms of cross-dressing, various forms of fetishes most commonly to rubber, silk or latex, S&M, swinging parties, and dogging groups (exhibitionism/voyeurism).
Different people respond to their partner’s infidelity in different ways. In my experience, those who take some responsibility for the partner’s infidelity and offer some form of conciliation are most likely to keep their relationship, and may even make it better in the future. Others feel so outraged and angry, and demand to know all the details, down to the minutia of the sexual encounter. In these situations, one can have too much information, and then it is very difficult to get this out of one’s head when trying to be intimate with them, what they have told you they have done with someone else (unless, of course, that was your fantasy, as in question 3!). Some people become so bitter about it, that forgiving and forgetting is impossible. At the end of the day, infidelity is an attachment injury, and if one was secure in their relationship, he or she has a greater chance of healing than someone who came into their relationship with an insecure attachment.
5. What are your Top 3 Tips you’d give to couples looking to keep their sexual relationship strong and satisfying?
For him, don’t insist that your partner has an orgasm every time because that makes you feel better. Women like orgasms, but not necessarily at every sexual encounter (especially for women who have had their children). For her, don’t have sex when you really don’t feel like it because it is simpler to give in and get it over with. The more you do that, the less interesting sex becomes, and indeed, you may end up dreading it. For both, do learn to talk about sex: what you like, what you don’t like, what you’d like to try, and what you would like to watch. And learn the ability to say no to each other without provoking sulking or tantrums
Learn More About Dr. Glyn Hudson Allez: Therapy4u.co.uk/
Read more of our expert interviews:
Betty Dodson, Renowned Sexologist, Author, Feminist, Educator
Dean Osborne, Human Nature of Cheating
Dr. MP Wylie, Relationship Advisor
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