The Art of Couple Communication

The Art of Couple Communication

When couples get stuck in unhelpful patterns of communication, often it’s not so much ‘what’ is being discussed but ‘how’ it is being discussed. If one partner has something on their mind that they want to share with the other, delivery is really important.

For the person sharing a concern about something:

Prep your partner, is now a good time? Give them a small snapshot of what you want to discuss. Eg. It’s about work, it’s about the kids, it’s about how much time we spend together, it’s about money.. etc.

Make sure you are both ready, sitting down and available. Kids / housemates are out of ear shot and phones / devices are away or off.

Before you share your concern, let your partner know what you would like from them.

Would you like them to listen and reassure you?

Would you like advice?

Would you like them to just hear you rant and agree with you?

Would you like to come up with some solutions together?

Providing some information about what response you are seeking, will set you up for receiving what you want.

Read this blog if you would like some more ideas on how to have productive communication.

For the person listening:

See if you can just listen to your partner without talking it personally. Even if they are making a complaint about the relationship, can you do your very best to stay undefended and really hear them?

Often, the person sharing might just want to be understood. There is nothing you really need to do here apart from provide them your full attention.

A dynamic that I see a lot in my counselling room is where one person wants to be listened to and validated, and the other person jumps into ‘fixing’ and solutions.

People who are more logic minded often hear a partner sharing a concern, and because they love their partner, want to find a way to fix the issue as soon as possible.

But for people who are more emotionally focused, this feels like their partner is not really listening.

Due to the ways young children are socialised, once they’ve reached adulthood, women can often want to talk to be validated and heard, and men are often thinking of how to fix things. However I’ve seen this dynamic switched in man / woman couples, and I’ve seen it plenty of times in same sex couples.

If this resonates with you, have a watch of this funny skit that really highlights the different ways of communicating:

 If you’d like some ideas on how to listen to validate, the below video is a coaching video that shows ‘listening to fix’ then ‘listening to validate’ so you can get a feel for the difference.

These skills can also be learnt with a therapist that specialises in couple work.

Help! We’re not having Sex!

Help! We’re not having Sex!

One of the most common reasons that individuals and couples seek out a sex therapist, is that they are not having much or any sexual intimacy.


Some people are A-sexual, meaning they don’t feel sexual desire and that’s just how they are, but for people who are not A-sexual, maintaining a healthy sex life in a long-term relationship is hoped for and expected.

Is this Normal?

It is a myth that couples in long-term relationships don’t have great sex and regular sex. ‘Regular’ is whatever feels good for the people involved. For some once a week is perfect, for others once or twice a month is just fine. Others like to have sex a few times a week. It is not that common for people in long-term relationships to have daily sex, life is just too busy! But if all parties enjoy daily sex and can find time, that’s fabulous too!

Are you enjoying the sex you are having?

More important than frequency of sex is the quality of sex, as Emily Nagoski, author of the fantastic book ‘Come As You Are’ says “Pleasure is the Measure”.

Couples in long-term relationships are often having amazing sex, but it does take effort to prioritise and make space for pleasure, as well as investing the relationship.

In the book ‘Magnificent Sex’ by Kleinplatz & Menard, they share quotes from older couples in long-term relationships who speak about sex improving in older age. Reasons they suggest include learning to talk about what they like and want, being more willing to put effort in to have magnificent sex and not focusing on the goal of orgasms and intercourse, instead just enjoying the ride. If you need some inspiration to make sex more intentional, have a look at this blog on bringing some tantric practices into your sex life.

Common experiences for the partner that wants less sex.

They often say they ‘want to want’, and wish they had more interest and desire. This person might feel obligated to have sex, but not really be engaging in sexual intimacy for themselves. The pressure to be more sexual can create anxiety, which is counter-productive and makes them feel like even less sex.

Common experiences for the partner who wants more sex.

They often feel rejected and over time take it personally. The situation starts to affect their confidence. Feeling desired by your partner can feel very validating and good for your self-esteem, when you are not getting that, it is hard to not take it personally.

Reasons some people may stop having sex with their partner.

1. Too much closeness can neutralise desire.

For a successful long-term relationship, you need to feel close and connected to your partner, you need to feel like good friends. However too much closeness can make you feel like extensions of each other and not individuals, and this can dampen the passion that is needed to fuel desire. Finding a balance of closeness and separateness is an art. Quality of connection when you are together at times is crucial, not just rushing around each other managing a busy household. Quality ‘me time’ is also crucial. Lack of excitement in your sexual interactions can dull desire, if you always do exactly the same things in the same order it gets boring. Check out Ester Perel’s great book ‘Mating in Captivity’ for ideas on keeping desire alive in long-term relationships.

2. Identity

Sometimes passionate sex might be associated subconsciously with different ideas about yourself and the other person. There is a cultural trope about ‘good girls’ being the ones you marry and have kids with, and ‘bad girls’ being the ones you have sex with before the relationship or outside of the relationship. This may be an unconscious influence for some men, however lack of desire in a relationship is not gendered. Some people may feel too shy to really let go and enjoy sex deeply and fully with their long-term partner, it’s too exposing and vulnerable. They can only do this with someone they don’t know very well. Others may not have much access to the sexually liberated parts of themselves once they are ‘committed’ or once kids come along and they now see themselves as parents rather than also lovers.

3. Health and Mental Health

Changes in sexual desire and sexual functioning can be symptoms of physical ill-health. Be sure to have a full check-up with your Dr if you are noticing changes. Mental Health challenges also have a big impact on sexual desire. If you are anxious or depressed, sexual intimacy may be the last thing on your mind. There are lots of ways to cope with mental health challenges that can be taught to you by a counsellor, or you may be ready to do some deeper healing work such as EMDR Therapy.

(Have a look at this blog to learn more about EMDR).

4. Resentment

Another big impact on sexual desire is resentment. Are past infidelities still causing resentment? Does one partner hold most of the mental load of running the household? If so, no wonder they are not that interested in sex, it can feel like another thing on the to do list!

(Find out more about the mental load with this blog).

5. Porn use and / or excessive masturbation.

Partnered sex takes effort, and masturbating with or without using porn is a quick fix to feel good. There is nothing wrong with this. Porn is great entertainment, and its use is not a reliable indicator of a less satisfying sexual relationship with a partner. However, if porn is used excessively, and is someone’s only way to relax- it can lead to laziness and become a substitute for partnered sex. If there is motivation to have more partnered sex, and the person desiring less sex is masturbating frequently, choosing to masturbate less may increase desire for partnered sex.

What can we do Do?

It is important to seek help regarding your unique situation as a couple. The ideas above are just a few common presentations, and each person and couple’s situation is different. If you are ready to try and find your way back to each other sexually, there are two approaches.

Build More Emotional Connection.

Casual sex can be deep and intentional, and an emotional connection is not always needed for great sex. In long-term relationships however, building more non-sexual intimacy can often pave the way for more sensual and sexual intimacy. Building emotional connection includes spending quality time together and appreciating each other more- check out these ideas. Also talking deeply to each other. If your only communication is about content, such as what, where, who, it’s quite surface level. Check out these ideas for deeper conversations.

Practice being more physically intimate.

I like to discuss 3 types of physical touch. More platonic touch; the types of hugs and kisses that you could give to your friends or family without it being weird. Sensual touch: the type of touch that is sexy, but not focused on arousing the other person. Caressing, canoodling, lingering kisses- more romantic than sexual. Sexual Touch: focused on arousal and sexual pleasure. When people have stopped being sexually intimate, often the platonic type of touch is still present, but any sensual touch has stopped, because it can feel like ‘leading the other person on’, or only used as a prelude or  a steppingstone to sexual touch.  Jumping from platonic to sexual feels awkward, but sensual touch can feel like too much pressure- if it is assumed that it has to lead to sexual touch.

Sensual Touch Exercises

As counterintuitive as it might sound, for couples that have stopped having much sex and are stuck in a cycle of pursue / rejection, stopping sexual activity all together can have a wonderful effect, similar to ‘turning the computer off and then on again’ when you have IT issues. It restarts things and refreshes the system.

I encourage couples to commit to a few weeks or more where they promise that there will not be sexual touch. Instead, they will commit and dedicate themselves to showing up at least once a week, to enjoy some sensual touch, without pressure.

Sensual practice sessions;

A great activity to do at least once a week comes from Betty Martin’s work on the ‘Wheel of Consent’. It is called the 3 minute game. She describes 4 aspects of giving and receiving touch. Giving- doing something for our partner’s pleasure. Receiving- enjoying being touched by our partner. Taking- touching our partner for our own pleasure. Allowing- receiving touch that is for our partner’s pleasure, but still consensual and enjoyable for us. A great example that my Sexology Supervision Lynda Carlyle gave me is about breasts.

A partner with breasts might not experience a great deal of pleasure from their breasts being touched, but their partner might really LOVE touching them. The person with breasts is allowing, it feels nice enough, but they could take it or leave it. They allow themselves to receive this touch for their partner’s pleasure who is in the ‘taking’ role.

Or a non-sexual example might be going to visit your in-laws. It’s an okay visit, but there are other things you would rather be doing, but because you care about your partner, you go along, your partner receives pleasure from being with their family, and you allow it, you go along with it for your partner’s pleasure.

 Here’s the Game:

 One person asks both questions first.

  1. What would you like me to do to you for your pleasure? (giving / receiving)
  2. What would you like to do to me, for your pleasure? (talking / allowing).

Ask Qu 1. Negotiate what you would like to do, set the timer for 3 mins and enjoy. Then the same person asks Qu 2. set the timer for 3mins and enjoy, then the other person asks the questions.

Do the game with sensual or platonic touch only, as described above for a few weeks. This game can build back playfulness, after a few times may reduce awkwardness and can build longing and authentic non-pressured ‘wanting’.


After you have completed 4 rounds of 3 minutes, have a chat about what felt comfortable and what has more challenging? Are you good at receiving but feel weird taking? Are you always in allowing, and ‘giving’ was a stretch?

More information:

 Have fun practicing, and if you need more support please book a session.

Bringing Tantra into your Sex Life

Bringing Tantra into your Sex Life

  Tantra is a ritual that each person comes to with intention.

Tantra (not the ancient yogic spirituality, but what is know as ‘neo-tantra / new tantra) is a practice of making sex sacred. Instead of focusing on arousal or orgasms, the focus is on connection, mindfulness and the movement of energy.

Set aside a time for Tantric sex in advance. Set the space beautifully. Play some music. Burn incense or oils. Prepare some fruit.

Sit facing each other cross legged. Hold Hands and hold gentle eye contact for 3 minutes before moving into sexual interactions. While sitting, you may want to set an intention for your ritual. Eg. ‘To express my love for you’. ‘To open our hearts’. ‘To feel energy moving through my body’. Don’t overthink it-become sexually intimate in ways that feel good to you both.

Become very present to the information coming through the 5 senses of touch, smell,taste, sight, sound and taste. Be as ‘one’ with the moment as you can. If you get distracted into thinking, come back to the body through the senses. You may feel orgasm building. When this happens, do not clench the body. Instead, undulate and move the body, following the sensations around the body with awareness. Do not try to ‘push out’ an orgasm. Relax and keep feeling and letting sensations flow.

You might like to imagine energy moving from your heart, down to your genitals.

Imagine the loving energy moving from your partners genitals and flowing up into your heart. Send it back out of your heart into your partner’s heart, down to their genitals and back up into your heart. Continue focusing on this cycle for as long as you like.

You can also imagine the flow of energy in the other direction. Imagine sending loving energy out of your genitals, into your partners genitals, up into your partner’s heart. Recieve this loving energy into your heart, and feel it flow down to your genitals and back out again. Focus on this cycle for as long as you like. Penetrative sex is not needed for this visualisation. It is a powerful visualisation from Taoist Tantra.

Once the session comes to a natural stillness, stay connected in whatever way makes sense for you. Imagine that beautiful spiritual energy, or love is flowing through you.

You can imagine sending this to each other’s hearts. Or you can focus on your intention again for a few moments. Hold each other’s gaze again to finish and ‘honour’ each other in some way.

If you would like more exercises and practices, I have created an online course that is full of exercises to try, details below.

5 Powerful Ways to Show More Appreciation

5 Powerful Ways to Show More Appreciation

If all couples increased the amount of appreciation they showed each other, I would not have many relationship counselling clients!

It doesn’t matter how good your communication skills are, how practiced you are at speaking without yelling and regulating the tone of voice you use towards each other. If both people in a relationship do not feel really appreciated by the other, resentment is eventually going to build and you will not be happy.

Conversely, if you work really hard to make each other feel truly and deeply appreciated, bad moods, insensitive comments and disagreements will not have the same ‘punch’. You will be able to get through them easily because you have a lovely buffer of good feelings about each other and the relationship.

A great concept to consider when trying to show more appreciation to your partner, is Gary Chapman’s ‘Five Love Languages’.

His idea is that we each have a main way that we like to give and receive love. All of the styles are nice, but there is one that if you had to live without it, you would feel deprived. If you would like to know your main style, you could try this QUIZ.

If you want to drastically improve your relationship, without spending money on counselling, I encourage you to do at least one of the below every single day.

Say thank you a LOT!

I know that you are each doing your best, and neither really ‘deserves’ a thank you for doing what needs to be done to manage your lives. But saying thank you is polite, it’s free and it feels good! If you paid someone for a job, you would just expect them to do it right? But you would also say thank you.

Touch your partner as much as you can.

Whenever you cross paths as you go about your day, stroke their back, give them a friendly little pat. When you are next to them, place a hand on them. When you leave or come back- hug them! I know some people are less ‘touchy-feely’, so work with what you and your partner is comfortable with, but try to increase the frequency of touch throughout your days.

Show them you are thinking of them when you are apart.

This is called ‘object permanence’ and in adult relationships, it is the safe and secure feeling of knowing and trusting that you are in your partner’s mind and heart, even when you are not together. You can do this through texts, sending a photo of something you saw that you thought they would like, grabbing their favourite thing when you’re at the shop, sending them a song you heard etc.

Plan things!

A way to show your partner that you really appreciate them is to plan something ahead of time. This could be anything; date nights, activities, planning some childcare, purchasing a book online that you know they would love, holidays, getting ready to go to bed early to spend time together. It is about showing that you have put in effort ahead of time.

Do little things for each other.

Really happy couples in long term relationships keep up those cute little things that most couples do naturally early on. Leaving little notes, wearing something nice, making something for each other, bringing each other things like a cuppa, doing tasks like putting petrol in the car or washing the other’s car.

Chores that are Bores, and the arguments they create

Chores that are Bores, and the arguments they create

No-one is going to be surprised to hear that allocation of household chores is a common gripe and cause of arguments, and a hot topic in couple counselling sessions.

I always let couples know that there is no ‘correct’ or ‘fair’ way to manage things, beyond what genuinely feels fair and good to both parties. It is also helpful to point out that the whole thing is a bit of a set-up. Capitalism and the modern cost of living means that for most couples, both will work out of the home, maybe with a short break for child-raising for those who chose to have kids. Add in pets, fitness, socialising and there is not much time left for anything. There are just not enough hours in the day to feel that both partners are coping easily with all that!

Times have certainly changed since 30- 40 years ago when one person could work in the home and manage all the cooking, cleaning and childrearing and the family could still afford to purchase a home.

However our mindset has not totally moved on, and it often falls to the female partner in a heterosexual relationship, or to one person in a same-sex relationship to manage the mental load.

The mental load is the concept of knowing mentally, all the different things that are needed to run the household and lives of a couple or family. It is not the ‘doing’ of the tasks, which are more often split fairly in modern households, it’s the ‘thinking about’. For example, information such as when the pet needs worming tablets, when laundry is needing to be done to ensure fresh undies for everyone, dates of parents / in-laws birthdays and thoughts about present buying, when ‘insert theme’ week is happening at your kids school and what sort of dress up is needed. Etc, etc, etc.

I’ve met many heterosexual couples where the male partner takes on this role too, but much more commonly it is a female partner feeling so overwhelmed, exhausted, unappreciated and resentful of this massive burden, that it has brought them to counselling. Her male partner might wonder why his wife is no longer interested in sex? Let me tell you- there is often a link.


Most of the time, this is not because the male partner is uncaring and wants things to be unfair. It is a set-up from a patriarchal society that we still haven’t totally moved on from since the 1950’s. It is so normalised many people don’t question it or realise there is an issue.

Image: Emma Clit (

If you’d like to understand a bit more about the Mental Load, I highly recommend having a look at these cartoons by French Illustrator Emma Clit. Cartoon about the Mental Load. Cartoon about ‘Gender Wars of Household Chores’.

I’ve also created a free resource for couples who may want to reassess how things are delegated in their relationships.

You can download your free copy here; Examining the Mental Load of your Household.