Intimacy and Sexuality

Building Better Relationships

IGS-00075550-001By: Maureen Croken, Family Service PEI

We know that relationships are important and contribute to our well being .We also  know that having a good support system in our life is one of the determinants of good health, and in particular good mental health. How do we achieve this?  We learn skills early on in our family, school and community that inform us how to interact with others. Sometimes however to improve the quality of our relationships we need to improve these skills and there are many resources available to us in the form of books, lectures, blogs, and therapists to name a few. Some skills that will be helpful are communication skills, listening skills, problem solving skills and mindfulness skills. Learning these skills takes work and practice and for many of us is an ongoing process.

We are all unique but also similar in that we have a need to have a connection with others, to belong and ideally to have acceptance by others of our most authentic self. In view of this we need to establish relationships with others and more importantly maintain them. There are some who say our resilience is rooted in our ability to form close relationships.

Relationships can range from deep friendships to more superficial acquaintances. Both play a role in our life and the latter, in some cases, may lead to a deeper friendship.

Establishing Relationships:

Taking risks:

We do need to remember it does take two people to establish a relationship. Individuals have different needs and interests at different stages of the life cycle. A relationship may not work out because of time, because of other commitments and priorities or lack of common interests. It is important to remember, that in most situations it has nothing to do with you. This work of connecting with others can cause anxiety, in some cases fear and for others it is remarkably easy and natural. We need to over come our fear of rejection, a common fear for many of us.

We need to accept that our attempts at establishing relationships will not always work out; in fact we need to plan on it. For example, you think you might like to be a friend with a certain person and for example, arrange to have lunch. You soon realize this is going to be a long lunch .Your lunch partner is talking about sports or some other topic in which you absolutely have no interest .They have no interest in what you have to say. Another scenario could be completely different. You have lots on common and lunch is over before you know it. You are surprized when your lunch partner does not want to schedule lunch again. That may have nothing to do with you. Your lunch partner may be overwhelmed with other commitments and responsibilities.

Be Yourself:

Being yourself gives others a chance to see if there is compatibility and if they have anything in common with you. At the same time, pace the level of self-disclosure…too much too soon can scare people away. Have you ever met someone who disclosed their life history without even asking you, your name?

Interests

You meet people sharing common interests. You need to identify your interests and be able to discuss them with others, such as reading, cooking, gardening, sports, bird watching, just to name a few. If you do not have any interests you need to develop some. This may involve trying many different things until you find something you love to do. It is fun to share with others and this becomes a win win situation.

Social Activities   

You are more likely to meet people if you attend events and activities. Some people are fearful of attending some event on their own, yet others see it as an opportunity to meet someone. In fact, many people travel on their own for this reason.

Social Media

There is great potential for connecting with others through social media. You have to use the same judgement and caution as you do in the offline world.

Maintaining and Improving Relationships

Know Yourself

There needs to be a balance between healthy relationships and feeling secure and satisfied with ourselves. Are you aware of your values, beliefs, interests and feelings? Are you able to say no to something makes you feel uncomfortable? Do you sometimes go along with a request and then feel resentful? Are you able to take time for yourself and know that you deserve it? The better you feel about yourself, the easier it will be to care for others.

Give and take

Recognize what is important to the other. This involves being there for the other as well as your expectation that they be there for you. Relationships are a two way street. Give importance to the needs of the other. Develop the skill of both giving and receiving emotional support.

Learn to Listen.

Do you ever find when some one is talking you are waiting for your turn to talk, and tell your own story or you may interrupt without hearing what was actually said. Most of us do this at some time and we miss out. You may need to practice this skill of focusing on what the other person is saying. This becomes even more difficult when the topic triggers negative or uncomfortable feelings within. For example, imagine you are discussing the subjects of vaccines with someone and they have a strong opinion that is different than yours. You are convinced that they are wrong and shut down before they have had a chance to state their position.

Expectations

Be realistic about what to expect. When we have a relationship with someone, it usually comes with a set of expectations. Keep in mind that we all have our own habits, personalities, beliefs, values and experiences. Your definition of a friend or friendship may be different than that of another individual.  Many of us expect our friends to be mind readers and know what we want. We are disappointed when our friend or friends fail to meet our expectations. Be clear about what you want. For example, you may want your friend to be available by text, email or phone more often then they would like or are able. Check with your friend what works for them. You may need to adjust your expectations or come up with some kind of compromise.

In conclusion building better relationship takes work, practice of specific skills and involves risks. Your life will be richer and more meaningful. As mentioned previously, there are many resources available to assist you in this process.

Tips For Investing In A Healthy Relationship

By: Christina Campbell, Family Service PEI

99Everyone’s relationship is unique, and people come together for many different reasons. A strong, healthy relationship can be one of the best supports in your life. Most of us have to work consciously to master the skills necessary to make our relationship flourish.

There are some things that good relationships have in common. Knowing the basic principles of healthy relationships helps keep them meaningful, fulfilling and exciting in both happy times and sad:

  • Staying involved with each other. Some couples are not truly related or emotionally connected, but manage to work together. Therefore, while it may seem stable on the surface, lack of involvement and communication increases distance. When you need to talk about something important, the connection and understanding may no longer be there.
  • Getting through conflict. The key in a strong relationship is not to be fearful of conflict. You need to be safe to express things that bother you without fear of retaliation, and be able to resolve conflict without humiliation, or insisting on being right.
  • Keeping outside relationships and interests alive. No one person can meet all of our needs, and expecting too much from someone can put a lot of unhealthy pressure on a relationship. Having friends and outside interests not only strengthens your social network, but brings new insights and stimulation to the relationship.
  • Communicating. Good communication is a fundamental part of a healthy relationship. Honest, direct communication is a key part of any relationship. When both people feel comfortable expressing their needs, fears, and desires, trust and bonds are strengthened. Non verbal cues—body language like eye contact, leaning forward or away, or touching someone’s arm—are critical to communication.
  • Mutual respect. Respect in a relationship means that each person values who the other is and understands — and would never challenge — the other person’s boundaries.
  • Keep physical intimacy alive. While touch is a key part of a healthy relationship, it’s important to take some time to find out what your partner really likes. Unwanted touching or inappropriate overtures can make the other person tense up and retreat—exactly what you don’t want
  • Spend quality time together. It’s critical for your relationship to make time for yourselves. If you don’t have quality time, communication and understanding start to erode. Keeping a sense of humor can actually help you get through tough times, reduce stress, and helps you work through issues more easily.
  • Healthy relationships are built on give and take. It takes work on each person’s part to make sure that there is a reasonable exchange and compromise.
  • Respectfully resolve conflict. Conflict is inevitable in any relationship, but to keep a relationship strong, both people need to feel they’ve been heard. The goal is not to win but to resolve the matter with respect and love.
  • Expect ups and downs. It’s also important to recognize that there are ups and downs in every relationship. You won’t always be on the same page. Different people cope with stress differently, and misunderstanding can rapidly turn to frustration and anger.

A healthy relationship requires more than some give and take, and it is absolutely within your reach if you and your partner are willing to do a bit of work. If you and your partner have decided that you want to live together and that you are right for each other, all the work will definitely be worth it in the long run.

Have a Kid- Free Vacation (And Leave the Guilt at Home)

The case for why every couple should take a trip or vacation without their kids.

By: Vivian Vassos

99We love being with our kids. We really do. So much so that every vacation over the past seven years has been with them. We’ve ridden elephants in Thailand, snorkelled in the Cayman Islands and snacked on souvlaki in Greece with our kids, plus yearly jaunts to Florida — and not just to see Mickey Mouse.

Of course, we also take “date nights,” facilitated by my parents, whom I call the Blessed Support Unit (or BSU); grandparents who are eager and able to help out.

It’s usually a once-a-month Saturday night sleepover at the BSU’s for the kids, and dinner and a movie and some take-the-phone-off-the-hook intimacy for us. But a real change of scenery for more than one night, just the two of us? We hadn’t done that since our 10th, yes, 10th wedding anniversary, and now our 17th was looming. Something was definitely missing.

“On a scale of one to 10, getting away for couple time is a 15-plus in importance,” says Marion Goertz, a registered marriage and family therapist in Toronto. “We all have so many roles to play, professionally and personally, that the spontaneous, playful parts of us can get lost and tired.”

“A regular date night is critical for any marriage, but getting away for longer periods is a unique and individual issue without an exact answer,” adds Elizabeth Pantley, parenting expert and the author of eight books, including the award-winning The No-Cry Discipline Solution (McGraw-Hill).

When I caught up with the mother of four, she was fresh off a cruise with her hubby of 25 years, while their kids were safe and sound under grandma’s care. “Couples who find time to connect every day and with a regular date night may get on perfectly fine without a longer trip away. Others find themselves so surrounded by work, children and household tasks that they never seem to feel like a couple any more. Those people would definitely benefit from a short trip alone once or twice a year.” In her book, Kid Cooperation (New Harbinger), Pantley reinforces this. “It can be very difficult for your marriage to thrive if you spend all your time being “Mommy’ and “Daddy.’ You need to spend regular time as “Husband’ and “Wife.”

Okay, so it’s either another date night or try to get away for a longer time. What about the caregiver logistics? Even our BSU has its limitations, and I have quite a few friends who don’t even have that. “Even an overnight away can refresh and rejuvenate your relationship,” says Pantley. “This is often do-able if you are close with another couple who have children. Trading off and tending to each other’s children can be fun for the kids and good for the adults.”

Goertz takes it a step further. “Getting away is like getting a lungful of oxygen at the surface of a teeming river that is our life as parents — sucking up some life-giving respite before we resume the everyday busy-ness of our lives,” she says. “A self-imposed “time out’ can ensure good behaviour in adults. It can keep us going with more energy and creativity and keep us connected with the bigger world in order to refresh our perspectives.” Wow, perhaps that’s what was missing.

We knew that a week during the school year was out of the question, so we needed somewhere we could recharge and feel like we’d been away long enough, but not so long as to completely abuse the BSU? Hubby loves his monthly Texas Hold’em boys’ night out, while I’m a shopaholic, and we both appreciate fine cuisine. Put it together, and we came up with Las Vegas. Four days over a weekend, so the BSU didn’t have to worry too much about school and homework. Perfect.

The next step was telling the kids. “We’re going to Las Vegas,” I announced over dinner one night. My 10-year-old immediately went to pack her bag. “But only Mom and Dad are going,” I explained, feeling guilty already, and trying to figure out what to say next. “Parents can often overcompensate for what they feel guilty about,” says Pantley. “Know in your heart that taking care of your marriage is the most important thing you can do for your children and yourselves. A very simple answer is all that’s needed: “We love you very much and we have fun with you, but sometimes moms and dads like to have a little time alone together.”

When I retold the scenario for Goertz, she laughed. “Do your kids a favour. Love your spouse and let them see it! Talk about mom and dad having special time together and make it happen regularly. This can, in fact, help kids feel safe and warm, even if they giggle or roll their eyes.” Even teenagers, despite their reactions, she adds, take delight in their parents’ overt shows of affection and will more likely choose a relationship like it for themselves when it’s their turn.

New parents, this one’s for you: Goertz recommends beginning at an early age to establish increasing periods of time of separation with qualified caregivers. “Teach them, by your own attitudes and from an early age, to be open to adventure and new experiences,” she says.

“If you find a familiar, loving caregiver to tend your children, they should be fine,” says Pantley. “If you want to add more fun to their “vacation,’ allow them to order pizza, rent a movie or have a candy or treat that is reserved for special times.” For longer trips, she suggests leaving a small gift (such as stickers or plastic toy animals) for each night that you will be away. “This can make bedtime fun instead of the most difficult hour for the child and caregiver.”

Spend some time with the child in the caregiver’s presence, prior to your time away, suggests Goertz, to assess their suitability and to allow you and your child to be soothed by your trust in this person. “And relax and don’t unduly disrupt routines to soothe your own separation anxiety.” Then just go. “There’s a delightful, refreshing silliness that can set in when two responsible adults can eat, sleep, drink and frolic as the spirit moves them,” she notes.

Well, Goertz was right. We were free to do our favourite things and spend some wonderful private moments together, without the day-to-day stress of being parents, and the kids were spoiled rotten by the BSU. Heck, we even considered renewing our vows in the land of cheesy wedding chapels, never mind booking another trip for next year. Viva Las Vegas.

Toronto-based writer/editor Vivian Vassos is planning her next getaway to Vegas—this time with kids. She has already booked a date night with hubby at the MGM Grand, as her brother (BSU#2) now conveniently lives in Sin City.

Long weekend getaways

  • For high rollers: Las Vegas is a quick flight from Vancouver or Calgary, and everything’s within walking distance on the strip, so no worries about indulging in that extra glass of champagne. visitlasvegas.com
  • For cosmopolitan types: Quebec City, Canada’s most romantic spot, is celebrating its 400th anniversary. quebecregion.com. Book into Auberge Saint-Antoine, Travel + Leisure’s pick of one of 2007′s Top 100 Hotels Worldwide. saint-antoine.com
  • For oenophiles: Niagara-on-the-Lake is within driving distance of Toronto, full of historical charm and hotels at all price ranges, and near many of Canada’s top wineries. niagaraonthelake.com
  • For the fly-and-fry types: The Bahamas are easy to get to from central and eastern Canada, and are the Caribbean’s answer for some fun in the sun.bahamas.com
  • For big-city types: New York, is a good place to see and do a lot in a short amount of time, and you can walk, in good weather, just about anywhere. nycvisit.com

Can’t get away?

Here are Marion Goertz’s tips for making the most of a moment

  • It’s not the quantity, it’s the quality Parents with minimal childcare support can perhaps swap babysitting with trusted friends or neighbours to free them up for dinner and a movie.
  • No babysitter? Be creative and find a pocket of peace to meet for breakfast or lunch when the kids are at school, or a few hours at home with a rental, a favourite snack and an adult-type beverage once the kids are in bed.
  • Get kids to bed at a realistic time 10 p.m. is too late for preschool kids and unfair to mom and dad. They are creatures of habit: a bath, a story and lights out! Only then can mom and dad suspend their parenting roles, at least temporarily, as they catch up with each other’s lives and talk about hopes and dreams for now and the future.
  • Enjoy each other Start to work on the life you want to have together after the kids leave home, time to have many more adventures. The chances of it being a good time, and the marriage even lasting that long, increases exponentially the more you stay connected and invested in each other’s lives through the parenting years.

Sourced from: http://www.canadianfamily.ca/parents/relationships/escape-artists/

Seniors and Sexuality

167Staying healthy and feeling your best is important at any age and that does not change just because you are aging. As we enter our senior years, we experience an increasing number of major life changes; how we handle and grow from these changes is the key to staying healthy.

Sex is an important part of emotional and physical health. In a relationship, sexual activity allows you to establish intimacy and express your feelings for your partner. It also benefits your physical health by reducing stress and making you feel good about yourself.
Senior sex isn’t the same as it was in your 20’s — but it can still be satisfying. Contrary to common myths about sexuality and older adults, sexual interest is not just for the young. Many seniors continue to enjoy their sexuality into their 80’s and beyond. You can have a healthy, enjoyable sex life at any age.

A healthy sex life is not only fulfilling, but it’s also good for other aspects of your life, including your physical health and self-esteem. Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy and enjoyable sex life as you age:

• Talk with your partner. It may be difficult to talk about sex if you haven’t in the past, but openly talking with your partner about your needs, desires and concerns can help you both enjoy sex and intimacy more.

• Visit your doctor. Your doctor can help you manage chronic conditions and medications that affect your sex life. If you have trouble maintaining an erection or reaching orgasm, ask your doctor about medications or other treatments for these problems.

• Expand your definition of sex. Intercourse is only one way to have fulfilling sex. Touching, kissing and other intimate sexual contact can be just as rewarding for both you and your partner. Realize that as you age, it’s normal for you and your partner to have different sexual abilities and needs. Be open to finding new ways to enjoy sexual contact and intimacy.

• Adapt your routine. Simple changes can improve your sex life. Change the time of day when you have sex to a time when you have the most energy, such as in the morning. Try a new sexual position or explore other new ways of connecting romantically and sexually.

• Don’t give up on romance. If you’ve lost your partner, it can be difficult to imagine starting another relationship, but socializing is well worth the effort for many single seniors. No one outgrows the need for emotional closeness and intimacy. If you start an intimate relationship with a new partner, be sure to practice safe sex. Many older adults are unaware that they are still at risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

And a final piece of advice for maintaining a healthy sex life: Take good care of yourself. Eat healthy, stay active, don’t drink too much alcohol, and don’t smoke or use illegal drugs. Be sure to see your doctor regularly, especially if you have any chronic health conditions or take prescription medications. Remember, just because we are getting older does not mean we can’t still have fun!

Christina Campbell is a General Therapist with a specialization in sexual and intimacy issues

Learning About Rapid Ejaculation

***We are happy to present a series of articles on sexual and intimacy issues, written by our very own therapist Christina Campbell who has an extensive history working in the field of sexology. This series is the result of positive feedback from previous articles, and will cover topics that negatively affect couples. Please know that the content is intended for a mature audience and reader discretion is advised. Should you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact us using the contact page on our website.

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99Defining Premature Ejaculation (PE) or Rapid Ejaculation (RE) has been difficult, as there is a lack of a clear and universally accepted definition of the condition. The idea of “normal” ejaculation varies by country and can differ based on the patient/client or their partner.

The guideline of the American Urological Association uses a definition of “ejaculation that occurs sooner than desired, either before or shortly after penetration, causing distress to either one or both partners”.  This definition, along with others, acknowledges three core components: short ejaculatory latency; lack of control over ejaculation; and lack of sexual satisfaction.

Rapid ejaculation affects most men at some point in their life. In addition, it is the most common sexual disorder in men younger than 40 years, with 30-70% males in the United States affected to some degree at one time or another.

Most researchers differentiate between two forms of RE: a primary (lifelong) and secondary (acquired) form, which may have distinct causes.

What are the causes of RE?

Physiological causes of RE: Like many areas of medicine, before doctors knew any better, the cause was thought to be psychological, but in reality there are many interacting factors. New research techniques have begun to shed light on some of the physiologic factors of RE, like hypersensitivity of the ejaculation reflex and of the sensory receptors on the penis. We know that the particular levels and combinations of neurotransmitters like adrenalin and serotonin in different people will play into the equation as well.

Historically, rapid ejaculation was not a subject most men felt comfortable talking about, but as medical reasons for RE became more public, this improved.

Medical conditions and the development of RE:

Rapid Ejaculation can be the result of a medical cause, like prostatitis, if it develops later in life. This should prompt men to see a doctor. Sometimes RE develops in conjunction with erectile dysfunction (ED). This too should prompt a visit to a physician so that any underlying medical conditions, like diabetes or vascular disease (to name just a few), can be uncovered or ruled out.

Research now shows us that the majority of RE cases are due to a combination of both psychosocial and physical factors. Psychological issues, such as increased anxiety, depression, and negative relationship dynamics, may greatly influence treatment outcomes. Furthermore, RE can worsen the psychosocial issues that may have originally caused the problem, creating a vicious cycle.

What are the consequences of RE? Often Rapid Ejaculation results in a great deal of frustration, depression, and marital discord, but not always. Younger men usually have a short “unmanageable period.” This is the time it takes to regain their erection after ejaculation; depending on the length of this period, sometimes it is easy to ignore the problem. After ejaculation they can just resume intercourse as soon as the erection recurs. It is only when the unmanageable period increases with age that RE starts to be a problem for the couple. His partner may be just getting started, and suddenly, he’s done.

If the man’s self-image suffers or if his partner’s disappointment is particularly evident, then the problem can become much worse. Blaming oneself or one’s partner can add a whole other dimension of “dis-ease” not typically seen with other medical conditions. In this case, if proper help is not sought, RE can lead to separation or break up.

RE significantly negatively impacts men and their partners and may prevent single men from forming new partner relationships. On the other hand, men are reluctant to seek treatment from their physicians, although they may be more encouraged to do so through their partner’s support and the availability of effective treatments (Rosen & Althof, 2008).

Treatment and drugs

Treatment options for premature ejaculation include sexual therapy, medications and psychotherapy. For many men, a combination of these treatments works best.

Sexual therapy
It is a good idea to see a sex therapist, a psychologist, or a family doctor who deals with sexual problems. If there are doubts, resistance, or communication barriers, seeing a therapist with your partner might be helpful. These problems are readily solvable, and in the end, increased communication between partners can result in more intimacy.

In some cases, sexual therapy may involve simple steps, such as applying techniques to prolong ejaculation without having intercourse. At first, it may be recommended to avoid intercourse for a period of time and re-focus on other types of sexual play so that pressure can be regulated. One of the techniques used in therapy is the squeeze technique. By repeating this technique as many times as necessary, you can reach the point of entering your partner without ejaculating. After a few practice sessions, the feeling of knowing how to delay ejaculation may become a habit that no longer requires the squeeze technique.

Taking the emphasis off intercourse can remove the worry about ejaculating too soon — and it can help lay the foundation for a more fulfilling sexual relationship

Medications
Certain antidepressants and topical anesthetic creams are used to treat premature ejaculation. Although none of these drugs are specifically approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat premature ejaculation, some are used for this purpose.

Cognitive behavioral therapy
This approach, also known as counselling or talk therapy, can help you reduce performance anxiety or find effective ways of coping with stress and solving problems. Counselling is most likely to help when it’s used in combination with other therapies.

Many men who experience premature ejaculation feel frustrated and even ashamed. It may help you to know that this problem is common and often very treatable.

Open communication between sexual partners, as well as a willingness to try a variety of approaches to help both partners feel satisfied, can help reduce conflict and performance anxiety. If you’re not satisfied with your sexual relationship, talk with your partner about your concerns and discuss the options for getting help.

Resources from: