Planned Intimacy

Failing to plan for intimacy too often means it is left until the end of a busy day where it can become, for some, just one more thing they have to do so they can get to sleep. Planned intimacy means that you and your partner are going to schedule in time for intimacy in your lives. This is not to be confused with scheduling sex. It does however create the opportunity and helps create the atmosphere that may greatly increase your chances of making love.

Jessica Castro Unsplash

Jessica Castro Unsplash

When I have suggested this idea to clients they will often comment that planned intimacy does not sound romantic or spontaneous. I am not sure where the idea that intimacy and sex must be spontaneous comes from, perhaps from television, movies or romantic novels. But the reality is that without some forethought the frequency of intimacy and as a result sex are likely to decline as your relationship matures. Continuing to court and to plan for intimate times together after marriage just means that you continue feeding the fire of your passion rather than letting it fade or turn cold.

In order for planned intimacy to work, sex cannot be the goal or even on the agenda. The goal of planned intimacy is to connect as a couple—to see and look at each other, to listen to each other, to cuddle and be close, and to spend time together. You can reminisce, talk about hopes and dreams, go for a walk, hold hands, or play a fun game. What you do does not matter as much as the attitude with which you do it. A minimum of once a week for a least an hour and daily time together for at least 15 minutes are good targets to aim for when scheduling your planned intimacy.

There are only two rules for planned intimacy: 

  1. Just the two of you. 

  2. Most important, turn off the distractions and tune into one another. 

Your planned intimacy time may result in love-making. This is much more likely to happen if neither of you is pushing for it to happen. If you feel a great deal of resistance to the idea of planned intimacy, it is likely that the two of you have already grown apart and you are possibly withholding affection and avoiding situations that could lead to sex. Knowing that planned intimacy does not obligate you to have sex, may make it possible for you to experiment with planned intimacy to discover if it will help the two of you rebuild your connection.

Tidying Together

There has been a recent surge in household organization probably due to the popularity of the Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Now is an excellent time to work together as a team to create a living space that brings you joy.

A frequent bone of contention for couples is the perceived unfairness of the division of responsibilities. This disagreement often intensifies once children become part of the equation. Who signs the kids up for activities? Who fills out and submits the tedious forms, makes sure that lunches are packed, and drives children here and there each day?

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As much as marriages have become more egalitarian, much of the day-to-day intricacies of parenting still falls to mom. Many of our female clients point out that they do most the mental work of taking care of the home and children. This constant effort to make sure that all the small things get done can be draining for women, especially when it goes unrecognized and unappreciated. 

Couples can start to address the perceived unfairness by listing the time spent by each of them on all the responsibilities that go into family life. The Self-Monitoring Chart for Sharing Family Responsibilities asks you to keep track of the time you spend on household responsibilities and estimate the amount of time your partner spends on these responsibilities. You can find the chart here. The goal is not to start a fight. The goal is to gather information, be open-minded and look for ways to either make the division of responsibilities more fair or to see it more accurately.  

Often we overestimate the amount of time that we spend and under-estimate the amount of time our partner spends. When you each track your time and estimate your partner’s time spent and then compare the results, you can end up with some interesting insights. 

Opening this conversation up in a calmly and objectively may help reduce tension at home. You may find that you could benefit from adjusting who does what. 

Once you have divided the family responsibilities, it might be helpful to take trade jobs occasionally, so you each gain a better appreciation for the work involved.

If you are the partner who is very particular about how specific tasks should be done, you might need to let go of needing it to be done your way in order for your partner to take ownership of the job. Don’t hover and criticize your partner’s attempts.  

Another option for couples struggling to divide household responsibilities is to decide which tasks they can hand over to a professional. Investing in a weekly housecleaner may reduce friction and free up time for family. Hiring a sitter on occasionally can help a couple complete errands quickly or have some much-needed couple time.

If this seems like an insurmountable task you may want to consider getting some relationship help. Couples counseling is not just for troubled relationships. Consider working with a couples counselor as an investment in your marriage. You can come out with stronger communication skills, more empathy for your partner, and a better understanding of each of your individual needs.

Working together through the Kondo method of tidying may help you align your priorities. You may begin to feel more like you are on the same team. Remember the division of responsibilities is an ongoing process. You should continue to evaluate how duties are shared as life responsibilities change.

Traditions for Couples and Families

Traditions for Couples and Families

Traditions represent a critical part of family culture. When you join two family cultures together, in a marriage or relationship, you have important decisions to make about what to keep and what to let go and how to create your unique family culture. The idea of developing traditions may sound stuffy and old-fashioned, but they can be fun as well.

Resilient Relationships

Resilient Relationships

The key to developing resilient relationships begins with the connection that you have with your self. Other than your relationship with God or your higher power, your most important relationship is the one you have with yourself. All your relationships will reflect and be influenced by how you treat yourself. If you are struggling to love and accept yourself, it will be difficult for you to trust or feel the love offered by your partner.

Gift Giving for Couples

Gift Giving for Couples

Giving gifts is one way to demonstrate love for your partner. Gift giving has the potential to bring joy or hurt, disappointment or friction in your relationship. Whether it is gifts of love or material gifts, putting some thought into the gift can result in enjoyment rather than disappointment.

The following are some thoughts that may be helpful:

Strategies For Better Communication

Strategies For Better Communication

At times in relationships, we let our feelings get the best of us. Some people allow their anger to cover hurt, sadness or fear and then attack their partner by unloading a dump truck full of venom and frustration on them. This venting type of communication is completely aggressive. Others tend to stuff their feelings and upset, making cryptic comments or saying nothing at all. 

Goal Setting For Couples

Goal Setting For Couples

Setting goals as a couple may help you revitalize and increase your relationship satisfaction. Standing water stagnates where moving water remains fresh and the only difference between standing water and running water is motion. Setting and working towards goals helps you add motion to your relationship as you consciously work toward and create the life you want for yourselves.

Relationship Buyer’s Remorse Phase

Relationship Buyer’s Remorse Phase

It may be sad or comforting to know that all relationships at some point reach the buyer’s remorse phase. At this point, one or both start to wonder or question. Couples start to think things like, "this is not what I signed up for" or "why should this be so hard?" They have probably bumped up against issues and problems and been unwilling or unable to resolve them. They have inevitably been hurt and may have developed patterns of reacting to each other that make things worse rather than better.

Why We Push Those We Love Away

Why We Push Those We Love Away

There is unfortunately too much truth in the observation that we hurt those we love the most. We have these insecurities that seem to get triggered more easily by those we love. Once those insecurities are triggered our behavior can become less than stellar. Why do we respond the way we do? Our behavior does little to help us get our needs met. We get sucked into the drama, rather than finding solutions. The answer is …

Mental Health by Design   

Mental health by design means that you take an active role in strengthening your resilience. Your emotional and psychological well-being influences all parts of your life—how you think, feel and act. Your mental health affects how well you cope with the daily struggles that may come your way. Creating healthy habits can have a positive impact on your mental health. Be more consistent in doing the following:

1.    Get enough sleep

Establish a wind-down routine—start about 30 minutes before sleep time. A guided meditation, calming music or sounds may help you relax. Aim for a cool, dark and quiet bedroom.

2.    Eat well

A diet low in sugar and rich in healthy fats (including foods rich in omega-3 fats) can help you feel more energetic when you are awake and help you sleep better. Pay attention to how you feel after eating to help you determine which foods best suit you. Some foods may taste good, but leave your body feeling sluggish or bloated. The less processed the food, the better your body may be able to handle it.

3.    Learn some relaxation techniques to help reduce stress

Mindfulness meditation, yoga, deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can all help you let go of building tension. These practices can help you bring your mind back to the present moment and help you feel more centered. Acknowledging and accepting your emotions can help you process and release them, greatly increasing your stress tolerance.

4.    Daily do something fun and active

Choosing something you enjoy to get your body moving makes it more likely that you will continue. Go for a walk with a friend or your dog, swim, cycle, dance. Tie something that you love to do, like watch a movie (in your home, walking in place in the aisle at the movie theater might be frowned upon) or listen to music, to moving your body.

5.    Reach out to friends or family, make eye contact, smile and talk

The best results will come from face-to-face interactions with others. Be a good listener, find a good listener. Make sure you put your screens down and built some real relationships.

6.    Find a cause, interest or passion

Having a sense of purpose gives you a reason to get out of bed. Some find meaning from involvement in religion, community or a cause. The important thing is that you are serving something outside of yourself. Find meaning in your work, volunteer, build relationships, care for a loved pet, or develop and share a talent.

7.    Focus on what you can control and let go of the rest

Work on controlling your thoughts, words and actions. Give up trying to control anyone else’s thoughts, words and actions. Listen respectfully to others, make requests or suggestions, set your boundaries and choose your behavior, and notice or focus in on what is working.

8.    Enjoy the present and express gratitude

Gratitude is an amazing antidote for toxic thoughts and feelings. When you choose to look around you for what is good and express gratitude, you will increase your happiness. Gratitude increases resilience and helps to protect your mental health.

Enjoying mental health does not mean that you will never have a bad day, or feel down or sad. Personal struggles are a normal part of life. Choosing to maintain your mental health will help you to be more resilient and better able to cope with and recover from difficulties. It will be easier to find the silver lining and rise above struggles.

When to seek professional help

If you have tried to improve your mental and emotional health and still find yourself struggling at home, work, or in your relationships, it may be time to seek professional help. The eight suggestions above are still beneficial. But a counsellor may help you move further along your healing journey than you can do alone.

Building Self-Esteem

Do you choose what you say or how you behave based on what you think others will think of you? Are you hard on yourself, often criticizing or berating yourself? If so, it may be helpful to strengthen your self-esteem.

Self-esteem is determined by how you feel and think about yourself. Being able to accept yourself warts and all in an indication of positive self-esteem. You are able to accept yourself in both success and failure and understand that both are part of learning and growing as an individual.

SELF-ESTEEM QUIZ

Rate your self-esteem. Answer the following questions with yes, no, or sometimes.  

  • How I feel about myself depends on how others treat me.
  • I don’t accept compliments easily.
  • I am extremely concerned about flaws in my appearance.
  • I’m not very intelligent.
  • I do not eat healthy or exercise.
  • I often make a fool of myself.
  • I am uncomfortable expressing my thoughts and feelings.
  • It is stressful to admit that I don’t know or understand something.
  • I envy others.

If you have some yes and sometimes answers, it is possible that your self-esteem could use a boost. 

IDEAS FOR STRENGTHENING YOUR SELF-ESTEEM:

1.     Take care of your appearance. Being clean and well groomed adds to feelings of confidence. Wear something that makes you feel wonderful. If you don’t own anything that fits that category, treat yourself to an item or outfit that lifts your spirits when you wear it.

2.     Give yourself three compliments a day. Record these compliment in a notebook or journal. Record anything that you are grateful for about yourself and those things that help you feel good about yourself. Complimenting yourself may feel awkward at first, but if you persist for at least 30 days, you will start to notice that you are feeling better about yourself.

Increasing your self-acceptance and improving your self-esteem involve changing the way you think about and talk to yourself.

The counsellors at Bridge Counseling are skilled in helping you understand yourself and creating the changes you want to see in your life. Your counsellor will meet with you to discuss your particular concerns. Together you can find options to help you increase self-acceptance and build self-esteem.