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Moving Forward in Your Marriage After an Affair

1) What are five steps that you can take to forgive him/her fully and move on together?

  • Get all the information about the affair from your partner that you need, so that you are dealing with the truth.
  • Tell him/her how you feel and all that you feel
  • Take responsibility – a relationship is a dance between two people, so ask yourself how you contributed to the final outcome
  • Learn the lessons that need to be learnt from marriage and the outcome
  • Start doing some couple counselling to strengthen your relationship

2) How do these steps help?

  • One helps you build from the bed-rock, a solid foundation, so that there are no subsequent disclosures that rock the foundation
  • Two helps you deal with your feelings to some extent; the information given may ultimately bring you closer
  • Three helps you to avoid being a victim, and helps you to find a level of personal agency in what happened and what is happening
  • Four helps you and your partner to better understand the dynamics in your relationship
  • Five helps you to regain control of the situation by re-orientating yourselves and building a better partnership

3) What are some of the things you will face and feel during this time and how can you overcome them?

Kubler-Ross’s classic symptoms of a trauma can apply; these include:

  • Denial: Feelings of disbelief and incomprehension that such a thing has happened.
  • Anger: Feelings of anger and even hatred to your partner and co-accused. Also anger and self-hatred, and more generalised feelings of anger/hatred to those around you.
  • Bargaining: Questioning what you could have done to avoid this happening, the ‘What ifs…?’.
  • Depression: Overwhelming sadness and a sense of loss.
  • Acceptance: Finally coming to a place of accepting that the events have taken place, that lessons have been learnt and that your life can somehow go on.

You can overcome these feelings by realising that they are a normal part of the process and that you are on a journey to recovery. In the meantime, you will be subject to an emotional roller-coaster ride of highs and lows, and feelings which are largely out of your control. Perhaps working through many of these feelings with a therapist or joining a support group of similarly affected people may help.

4) How can the following things help to rebuild the relationship after the cheating?

  • Counselling – There may be a case for both individual and couple counselling. Individual counselling helps us to explore deeper hidden issues in our own personal journeys, as well as assisting us with acute emotions that may be arising from a traumatic event. Couple counselling can help couples better understand the dynamics of relationship and develop their communication and conflict resolution skills.
  • Communication – Communication is the key to unlocking the potential of any relationship. This is often an underdeveloped area of relationship which when developed, can help couples overcome many of the challenges and problems they face.
  • Understanding what he/she did and why – There are lessons to be learnt, and trust cannot be re-established without full disclosure. This would also facilitate personal responsibility in both partners, as a relationship is a dance between two responsible ‘able-to-respond’ people.

Understanding and Managing Erectile Dysfunction (ED) / Impotence

  1. Erectile Dysfunction can affect 52% of men aged 40 – 70*
  2. Physical ED, as distinct from psychological ED, may be due to nerve or blood vessel damage in the penis. This type of ED occurs in 30–50% of diabetic patients*
  • Problems with hormones is another factor, such as levels of testosterone or adrenaline in the blood stream*
  • Medications can cause ED as a side effect, especially anti-hypertensives, antidepressants, ulcer medications and antihistamines*
  • Nerves damaged by spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, or through bladder, bowel or prostate surgery can give rise to ED*
  • Smoking and alcohol can damage arteries in the body and further aggravate ED*
  • Psychological ED can be caused by stress, fear, anger, frustration or shame that might be due to relational dynamics or coming from other sources. Within the sexual experience, premature ejaculation or ED could lead to negative associations and performance anxiety, which makes matters worse*

The sooner people talk about their ED difficulties with someone they can trust, the more likely they are to start finding solutions and so limit the knock-on effects which are largely psychological.

It’s a very difficult and personal topic because it relates directly to a man’s identity, which is really about his strength and ability to provide. Our sexuality is so intertwined with our self concept. So, when we are unable to perform sexually, we may feel like our position in life is threatened and this triggers a survival response of fight, flight or freeze. Our masculine identity is also tied in to being able to satisfy the woman in our lives, and ED can often lead to a breakdown of intimacy if couples don’t know how to discuss such problems directly and effectively.

Tips: A problem can be an opportunity in disguise. Another lovely quote is “It’s not so much the things that happen to us, but what we do with them that matters most.” ED could just be the call to growth that men and women need in their relationships. It may be a sign that the relationship has gone down and needs more attention. I would recommend couples consider couple counselling to ensure they are getting the most out of their lives together. I think it’s important to see ED as a temporary and sometimes inevitable indicator of the state of our lives. It usually signals a time for a stock-take on many levels.

Advice: Partners of those affected by ED need to be patient whilst also being persistent that this is a relational problem which should be shared, understood and addressed together. What happens to your partner affects you. So you must also act responsibly to ensure a solution is found.

Maintain intimacy: It’s a good time to rediscover each other in new ways and take pressure off the sexual relationship. Start dating one another again, learning about who your partner is, taking the focus off the end goal and enjoying the journey. It may be a good time to reintroduce foreplay without any need to have sexual intercourse for a while. It’s really about rebuilding a safe place in your relationship which will reduce levels of fear and anxiety.

Restoration: I am confident that with the right approach, many couples affected by ED can use it to reinvest in their relationships and hopefully discover even more to be appreciated and celebrated in each other.

*Source: Medical Essentials Health Information

 

Sex Matters in Marriage

by Brian Blem

How many times a week should a married couple have sex?

I would say that 1-3 times a week is a healthy and realistic figure. Having said this, it really is up to the couple to decide what works for them. The problem arises when one partner’s libido is significantly different to the other’s (five times versus once, or three times versus never).

Which other aspects are important in a marriage except sex?

Because humans are body, mind and spirit, it’s important that couples connect on all three levels. This means connecting physically by spending time in one another’s company, engaging in a range of activities, sporting and recreational. It means we need to understand one another psychologically by sharing information regarding our thoughts, feelings and desires in all areas of our lives, and negotiating on areas of difference and potential conflict. Finally, it means connecting on a spiritual level by exploring the very meaning of life, and what makes us tick. Having said this, our essential individuality still needs to be preserved, hence friends and family, career/vocation, interests and personal development should remain important personal priorities.

Is sex important in a marriage? Can a couple be happy without sex?

Sex is extremely important in marriage and is one of the great benefits of marriage. Being in a committed and monogamous relationship should encourage the development of a regular, fulfilling and life-transforming sex life. It is also a protective mechanism which is good for our health and the health of our relationship. It keeps us connected and helps us to cope with all the challenges of life. When practiced with the right partner and with the right attitude, sex is the ultimate de-stressor for men and women. Of course, couples can agree to be celibate for personal reasons, and provided this decision is mutual, they may be happy. However, sex is a significant value-added part of a marriage and it seems a great shame to not appreciate it.

How can a married couple keep their sex life interesting?

I think the challenge for married couples is to engage in the work of keeping their marriages alive and growing on all three levels – body, mind and spirit. The more connected we become, whilst preserving our unique individuality, the deeper the intensity and ultimate pleasure of love-making.

What can cause problems in a couple’s sex life?

There’s a saying that all problems end up in the bedroom. Whether it is unresolved issues from the distant past or present circumstances, these stressors generally do have a dramatic impact on a person’s ability to enjoy a healthy sex life. Because sex is such an intimate, giving and receiving experience in which love and trust are critical, unresolved issues from the past or present are often the death knell for fulfilling sexual intimacy. Communication is the key to resolving both the subconscious and conscious issues, and individuals and/or couples may benefit from therapy.

 

Marriage Makes Man (and Woman)…

by Brian Blem

There is no better way to challenge a man to be ‘the man’ than to have him marry. Unfortunately, most men are poorly prepared for the demands of marriage and generally struggle with the increased complexity and responsibility that comes with the new role of husband, and possibly father. Whilst men might have thought marriage to be a ticket to a quieter, more genteel existence, they didn’t realise they were stepping onto a fast moving, ‘ride of your life’, roller coaster adventure, which would challenge them to the core. Marriage is a testing and tempting ground that exposes what lies within us. Will we rise to the challenge and succeed, or fall prey to temptation and fail? Unfortunately, the statistics indicate that the odds of failing (or not truly succeeding) far outweigh those of success, but this hasn’t diminished the enthusiasm of young and older lovers from taking the big step. There is clearly something in the human heart that wants more and believes that the fairy tale of happily ever after can come true.

Marriage is both a covenant and a contractual agreement between two consenting parties. The contractual agreement is a bilateral one where there is an expectation that both parties will conduct themselves in a certain manner to fulfil the contract. Should there be a failure in this regard then the other party has recourse to terminate the contract based upon a breach of the contract. This has been the reason for many modern marriages failing as partners evaluate and judge one another’s behaviour in terms of a contract. But marriage is far more than a legal contract. It is also a covenant, a more ancient way of showing commitment to another person, based upon the spoken word – “my word is my bond”. Traditionally, before the invent of pen, paper and writing, It was the spoken covenant promise, witnessed by others that was binding until death. Perhaps we would be more reluctant to step into a marriage if we knew this was truly an ‘until death us do part’ arrangement.

Which is why it’s so important that we make sure both men and women are properly prepared for the vows and commitment they are making to each other. Unfortunately, the power of romantic love can so strongly sweep two people off their feet that before they know it they have gotten married and are waking up to the reality of their life changing decisions after the fact. Marriage is no ‘walk in the park’ experience. It never was and never will be. For that you need a dog. Marriage is like scaling Everest. It calls you out and demands everything you have got, but if you understand that it’s where men (and women) are truly made, then I am sure you will past the tests, and there will be many.

The preparation I am referring to is proper male initiation, in which boys around the age of 13 to 18 are formally welcomed into the world of men. This needs to become a conscious process in which fathers, grandfathers, uncles, male friends, elders and mentors all play a part in developing healthy and whole young men. Time needs to be set aside for male bonding, games, adventure and testing, as well as teaching and equipping youngsters for life. Initiation into manhood is more than a once off event, although certain rituals will mark significant milestones in a boy’s development into manhood. In the Masai tribe it is said that a man cannot marry a woman until he has killed a lion. This is their way of saying until he has passed through a certain series of tests and been initiated into his manhood.

The reason so many marriages are failing is because initiation into manhood is not taking place, resulting in men still being subject to feminine energy. Remember a boy’s primary attachment figure in life is his mother, but there comes a time around the age of seven when his father, his same gender parent, becomes the focus of his attention. Later, around the age of fourteen boys seem to know that they must separate from their mothers if they are to graduate as men. This can be a difficult and trying time for the mother-son relationship, and for this separation to be healthy and relatively smooth, the mother must co-operate and the father must to step in and take on his responsibility. He invites the boy into the world of men, beyond the safety of the family walls, introducing the son to potential mentors and friends who will assist him in the initiation process.  It is in the world of men that a boy gets to understand better who he is, and that he has what it takes. He gets to enjoy and appreciate the company of men and the healthy- male role models around him. He also learns what his role as a man is, and how he should respect and treat females whilst respecting himself too. He learns about his own sexuality and how to conduct himself in the world of male and female. He becomes proud of his own gender whilst honouring the females. He understands right from wrong, and how to manage the natural urges that are an inevitable part of his emerging sexuality. He is prepared in terms of the male archetypes (king, warrior, lover and magician) to one day form a profound partnership, contribute to society, and help equip his own sons and daughters and others with a knowledge and understanding that will assist them in their developing journeys.

Now because this is not happening, women are generally marrying boys and not men. Hence the frustrating and soul-destroying parent/child power struggles that so often dominate human relationships, rather than a truly adult/adult partnering. Two things need to happen for couples who find themselves in this position. Firstly, couple counselling to facilitate and ultimately teach the couple how to communicate through their differences and issues in a constructive/healing, switching on/turning on way. Secondly, understanding that in the dance of male and female, someone has to take primary responsibility for leading or initiating the dance, and that happens to be the man. But here in lies the problem, as most men have been under-prepared, ill-equipped, under-fathered and uninitiated into their manhood. So, their ability to step into this amazing dance of male and female, this great adventure of marriage, and lead their partners in a way that is satisfying for them and fulfilling for the women, is often sorely lacking. Hence, Men’s Work is where men get to help each other to deal with certain things that should have happened but didn’t, and other things that did happen that weren’t helpful, so that we can start to heal and deal, and build solid and life-giving marriages with our wives.

Acknowledgement for many of the certain concepts is given to the following authors;

John Eldredge “Wild at Heart”

Steve Biddulph “Manhood”

Harville Hendrix “Getting the love you want”

Lack of proper male initiation at the root of domestic violence and intimate femicide in South Africa.

by Brian Blem

The recent killings of women and girls by intimate male partners or ‘guardians’ has highlighted an ongoing and serious problem in the country. As a counselling psychologist dealing with individuals and couples on a daily basis, I believe the situation we are facing with male-on-female aggression and violence is symptomatic of an underlying problem which is both simple and complex in its origins.

The simplicity of the problem lies in the lack of male initiation. Boys are not being consciously prepared by society, and particularly by older men, for the responsibilities of manhood. As a result, men are not adequately equipped to deal with the challenges of work, marriage and parenthood, never mind being healthy contributors to society at large. These ‘emotional boys in men’s bodies’ then come under pressure causing them to crack and spill out their valuable contents in destructive hurtful ways.

The solution to this problem is for men to realise what is happening or more importantly not happening to us, and to start taking steps to ensure the proper initiation and preparation of boys and men into full manhood. This not only needs to be discussed and understood, but processes need to be put in place within all the socializing and conditioning systems of society such as families, schools, religious organizations and social activity groups (sports and culture) to address this muchmisunderstood area of human development.

I would hope that the importance of proper male initiation will become an open topic for conversation in our country via the internet, television, radio and other channels, which will in turn stimulate an ongoing debate on how we can more consciously raise strong, capable and caring men. The big issue is around the good news that men and women are both equal and different. Unfortunately, this has been a controversial matter of debate for centuries, fuelling the ongoing gender power struggle.

The result of this unresolved conflict is that men and women have not experienced themselves as equal, nor as different. And it is for this reason that we have failed to coexist in harmony, embracing and experiencing the joy and blessing of our fundamental equality and yet difference at the same time. I believe that for us all to realise our potential as a human race this truth needs to be recognised and responded to more appropriately.

So how are males and females equal and different? We are both equal and different in every way in terms of our physical, mental and spiritual abilities and potential to add value and contribute to the wellbeing of the world and one another. Simplistically I would argue that males have been designed primarily for strength, and females for beauty. This does not mean that a male can’t be attractive or a female strong, but in our essential natures we are strength and beauty naturally attracted to each other. And let me add that strength and beauty are completely equal and different essences, both essential for life to exist. It is the strength of a man that causes him to protect others that makes him attractive, and it is the beauty of a woman that causes her to nurture others that makes her strong.

Hence it is in proper male initiation that males need to learn more about their fundamental design and identity, which is about strength, from males. Females will inevitably play a significant role in the development of males (as males should for females), but there is a limit to the degree to which females can initiate males into their strength, just as there is a limit to which males can initiate females into their beauty.

A crucial part of the initiation experience is to be seen and acknowledged as having gone through a transformational process. I call this “claiming the blessing” which is the work of every son to go to his father and discover mutual respect and admiration. It is equally important for daughters to receive their mother’s affirmation in the same way in order to properly graduate as women.

I believe it is time to start honouring the truth of who we really are, rather than pretending to be something else. Our failure to do this is at the core of the identity and gender confusion plaguing society because we have lost sight of the truth that as male and female we are equal and different.

Let us stop this inter-gender violence and the power struggle that has so destroyed love and trust between males and females, and let us all play our parts in the ‘work of love’, a conscious process of building considerate and respectful relationships with one another. Let us start to switch each other on and turn each other on, as we embrace and celebrate the fundamentally good news that we are equal and different. Hooray for this reality!!!

 

Collaboration vs Competition – An Imperative for Healthcare Professionals

by Brian Blem

Note: This is an edited version of an article first published in the SADAG Mental Health Journal, October 2016

There is no doubt that we live in a highly competitive world and, while competition may be necessary and inevitable, the level of competition in society and the associated pressures drive so many of the illnesses that health professionals are dealing with on a daily basis. And so the antidote to competition and its effects must surely be a healthier form of human encounter and interaction, namely: collaboration.

As a counselling psychologist in private practice, I believe that healthcare professionals have an opportunity and obligation to engage with our clients/patients in predominantly collaborative ways as a front line offensive to the deleterious effects of competition.

Human beings are robust creatures with well-developed defence mechanisms designed to not only keep us alive, but maximise on our potential in order to thrive. However, when the environment we live in becomes essentially toxic, our ability to function optimally slowly becomes undermined.

Whilst medical science has done wonders in advancing the quality and longevity of our lives, the number of pollutants and free-radicals that confront us every day is surely on the rise. And so the human race finds itself under increasing environmental pressure to just keep up.

So many illnesses, particularly diseases of the mind, have their origins in fear based experiences characterised by a threat to personal safety. These often originate in childhood, be it as a result of heavy handed discipline, absent parents, divorce and the breakdown of a family system, or the effects of poverty and unemployment, to name a few of the risk factors.

Whatever the cause, the effect is generally an experience of broken trust, and the development of various defence mechanisms and belief systems based upon the world (and those in the world around us) being dangerous and threatening. We then become survivors of these primary wounds or traumas, which can affect our thinking, feeling and behaviour patterns towards our environment, so setting us up for a pattern of self-fulfilling prophecies of doom, gloom and destruction.

Unfortunately, history has a remarkable ability to repeat itself. We tend to get stuck in the very same dysfunctional interpersonal dynamics later in life, which are largely competitive and destructive, passing them on to the next generation. Hence the vital role and immense responsibility we as health professionals have for encouraging healing, and restoring wholeness to peoples’ lives.

There are three key requirements for collaboration to take place.

  • SAFETY – our clients/patients need to experience us in ways that make them feel fundamentally safe.

Carl rogers, one of the great psychologists of the 20th century who founded ‘clientcentred-therapy’, spoke about the concept of unconditional positive regard for the client. It is vital that health care practitioners remember that it takes courage to be vulnerable and admit to having a problem, thus we need to honour our client’s efforts and attempts in finding healing by extending to them our unconditional positive regard. This means showing utmost consideration and respect for our clients and avoiding (and personally confronting) any preconceived judgements or prejudices we have.

  • EQUALITY – The power balance needs to be understood, and is largely weighted against the client and in favour of the so called ‘expert’. I believe there are two experts in the room, each with a profound ability to understand their own human condition.

What we are looking for is not another unnecessary and counter-productive power imbalance which so often drives our competitive, paternalistic world, namely: a parent-child relationship. Rather, we as Health Care Professionals should strive for a relationship based on equality, known as an adult-adult relationship. This kind of relationship encourages autonomy and responsibility, based on mutual consideration and respect. The communication principle of “seek first to understand, then to be understood” is of great value here (Steven Covey, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People).

  • EMPOWERMENT – We need to encourage our clients to take ownership of their lives and the condition or situation they are dealing with by empowering them to do so. This may involve educating them with the best explanation we can concerning their condition, sharing our theoretical understandings, and giving them the opportunity to ask questions.

Knowledge is power, and it is our responsibility to share the knowledge we have gained with our clients, in order to assist them in making the best choices regarding their health.

‘Ubuntu’ means “I am because you are”. Nowhere in society can and should ubuntu be more fully experienced on a daily basis than in the way we care for the sick, lost, lonely, hurting and hungry in our world.

 

Private vs Public: Talking about your Personal Life at Work

by Brian Blem

There is a fine line between being aloof and overly familiar. Social protocols dictate what sort of information is shared between people, be they strangers, work colleagues, friends or family relations. It is generally understood that the closer the relationship, the deeper the levels of communication. Work environments are considered to be places of employment driven largely by an economic imperative.

However, because we are social beings and spend at least a third of our lives interacting with others through our work, it is understandable that these relationships can become quite personal. Unfortunately, the power imbalance that often exists between an employer and an employee, or work colleagues, means that the associated risks of mishandling personal information makes disclosure of personal matters a potentially counter-productive and career limiting exercise.

Having said this, issues whether personal or professional are inevitable in our daily relationships, and people do need to be able to address these issues in the most direct and constructive way. This is where personal boundaries and the ability to be assertive become critical in order to achieve adult to adult relationships, whether at home or at work.

Sex and Marriage:  The shifting moods

by Brian Blem

“She’s always tired,” She’s not interested in me or sex anymore,” I feel like strangers under the same roof,” – sound familiar?

I think these are all very useful tell-tale signs of an unhappy wife based on the marriage going stale after the honeymoon period has come to an end.

I think it’s important to state that it’s quite normal that the relationship will move out of one phase, romantic love, and into another. The trick is not to allow it to get stale and stuck in the next phase, sometimes known as the disengagement phase. This is usually when couples are challenged to reconcile their differences, because we are different. It’s time to get real with each other.

This is easier said than done, because our ability to communicate in a mature and safe way in critical. Most couples find this extremely hard due to lack of adequate role modelling and poor communication patterns from our past, especially childhood. That’s why seeking professional help can be a very good decision. This isn’t a sign that you are incompatible. In fact, quite the opposite, but that you may just need some help to get you into the right kind of communication patterns.

Women need to hear from their men, especially words of kindness and appreciation, but also words of direction and wisdom. Couples need each other at a body, mind and spirit level, and communication happens in so many wonderful ways. If you are not building bridges through communication gentlemen, you are going to end up with unhappy wives.

The dance of marriage is something we can all learn and perfect. There are steps we should be taking to make our marriages amazing. This is a call to growth and can be seen as a preventative step and not wait until you are doing curative work.  Remember sex starts in the kitchen and ends in the bedroom. It’s how you connect and value one another throughout the day that will determine how much you enjoy one another at night.

Invest in your marriage and your marriage will reward you with a great return.
Is penis-size paramount?

by Brian Blem

Let me start with a direct quote on the matter from The Act of Marriage by Tim & Beverly LaHaye:

“Many men are almost paranoid about the size of their genitalia, and woman are almost as concerned with their breast size. Unfortunately ignorance usually produces ungrounded fear, and such fear proves a greater sexual deterrent than the size of their organs. Actually, no matter how tall or short the man, his erect penis is almost always six to eight inches long, and as we previously pointed out, three inches would be adequate for propagation and wifely satisfaction.”

I think most adult readers understand what makes for a fulfilling intimate relationship between a man and a woman – commitment, safety, honesty and integrity.

Sexual fulfilment is far more than sex and orgasm. It is about the emotional connection and understanding that two people share with one another. And for a woman, foreplay and being properly aroused has very little to do with the size of a man’s penis, but more to do with a man’s understanding of what it takes to pleasure his partner.

Having said this, every couple experiences issues within a relationship around things their partner does or does not do. However, when the issue relates to a physical characteristic, such as penis size, then this is a far more serious and difficult matter to resolve as there is not a great deal a person can do to change their God-given physical attributes.

Of course cosmetic surgery has proliferated in the last thirty years as people chose to alter and enhance their physical appearance. But when it comes to penis enlargements, I don’t think this is a proven or advisable route to take, which leaves affected men in a very difficult position.

A man’s masculinity is strongly related to his ability to be an effective lover, and being appreciated by his partner goes a long way to supporting his self concept and his success in this department. Any negative feedback can be quite devastating, which is why couples need to share in a considerate and respectful way what they are thinking, feeling and wanting, both in the bedroom and elsewhere in their lives.

I still don’t believe that penis size is of such importance to a woman that it would be a reason for an extra marital affair.

The Impact of Social Media on Intimate Relationships

by Brian Blem

There is no doubt that technology has always played a part in communication between people. Before Graham Bell invented the telephone, the predominant way people separated by distance could communicate was to write letters, and wait days between each correspondence. Things have changed quite dramatically in the last 20 years with all sorts of technological advancements linking us together in unimaginable ways. Two of the most significant innovations have been the cellular and internet revolutions, which have fundamentally changed the way we interact with one another.

Whilst technology has helped us stay more connected, it has also presented us with a number of challenges. We are far more available to one another than ever before. Our sense of personal space and boundaries has become somewhat diluted and blurred as we have gained greater access to one another through various social interfaces like Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp. This has all placed a far greater responsibility upon the individual to manage their ‘online’ activities, in order to preserve privacy and self-determination.

What I have seen in my practice as a psychologist is how there has been a progressive increase in technology related couple problems. The growth in inappropriate online activities with ‘third’ parties, whether it be addiction to online pornography or gambling, cyber-sex, email, texting, internet dating, or Facebook activities, all have an impact on the wellbeing of relationships, as they fundamentally undermine trust. Added to this, the way couples tend to communicate with one another has also been changing with technology. Texting has become the norm. This very often leads to greater misunderstandings as couples dilute their communication to the bare minimum.

I would recommend that couples sit down and consider the influence of technology upon their lives, and discuss how they would like to position themselves in relation to all these ‘outside’ influences. I would also encourage couples to consider their own communication patterns, to ensure that they are really connecting in life-giving ways. Now more than ever, couple counselling is a highly recommended investment that protects and strengthens a couple’s interconnectedness in an increasingly hostile and invasive social milieu.

Marriage Therapy: The Effects of Stress on Your Sex Life

by Brian Blem

We are living through very challenging times economically, politically and socially, which means our risk of cumulative stress is at an all-time high. Mood disorders like anxiety and depression are on the increase, along with related symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, hyper-tension and irritable bowel syndrome.

It’s quite common and normal for couples to find that their sex lives are impacted by the environmental pressure around us. This is why being in a supportive and collaborative relationship is critical so that we can weather the storms together. It’s important to be able to relate to one another at a body, mind and spirit level, each one of which can satisfy our need for intimacy and connection.

So when our partners are not available physically due to illness, we should still experience intimacy at a mind/emotion and spirit level. This would come through in our capacity to understand and still reach out to meet our partner’s current needs through love and care, knowing that it’s a passing phase and that sexual intimacy will return when the time is right.

Support could involve looking after the children for a few hours, cooking a meal, giving your partner the opportunity to rest, arranging a spa day or just making them a cup of tea.

Marriage Therapy: Unhappy Marriage; Unhappy Sex Life

by Brian Blem

When a headache becomes an excuse for avoiding intimacy, it’s often a sign of dissatisfaction in the relationship, whether at a physical, emotional or spiritual level. This is usually due to unaddressed or unresolved issues which can lead to resentment.

Couples’ ability to communicate and resolve issues is critical. When communication breaks down, as it so often does, couples may start to actively avoid contact with each other. The business of life offers plenty of opportunities or reasons not to have to deal with each other, which means couples only really come together at the end of the day when they climb into bed.

Now, as sexual beings with inescapable needs, we want to experience sexual intimacy – ‘the icing on the cake’, but unfortunately, if we haven’t mixed all the right ingredients together, we painfully discover that there isn’t even a ‘cake’ to begin with.

This is why I say sex starts in the kitchen and ends in the bedroom. It’s what you do for each other and how you relate throughout the day that determines what happens at night. For the sake of a healthy marriage and sex life, couples need to make a conscious effort to connect in a deep way every day.

There’s a good equation which says I = (D + F) C, in other words, Intimacy Equals Depth and Frequency of Communication. One of the most important things couples need to do is to learn how to dialogue with one another, which is a process of communicating on a predominantly emotional level. I call this the ‘Work of Love’, which really helps us know each other at a heart level.

From dialogue, we can move into the more familiar form of communication which is discussion, understanding what the other person thinks and wants on any given matter. These communication tools, when understood and applied properly, move our relationships from an unconscious and random experience, to a conscious and chosen encounter. It may sound clinical and contrived, but because we humans are complicated, how we relate with one another is extremely important if we are to get the most out of our lives together.

I encourage couples to invest the appropriate time, energy and finances in their relationships by understanding more of what’s really going on, just as you would engage in studying for a qualification to advance your career. You should not be surprised when, with greater understanding, the famine turns into a feast and you get to have your cake and eat it!