Marriage Quest, Israel and Cathie Helfand, Cabot Vermont, 1-800-707-4566
Emotional and Physical Intimacy
A couple's intimacy can be measured by each individual's ability to be emotionally and physically open, allowing themselves to be vulnerable and allowing the other to understand them on a deeper level. In the beginning of intimate relationships, most people are eager to share their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and physical connections with their new partner. Their relationship is exciting, and being open and vulnerable is fun.
As time goes on, children are often added to the family system and work and life become hectic. Partners tend to drift apart, often losing the ability to connect emotionally, physically, sexually, and spiritually. In our intensive couples retreat we help you to understand better the stages of a marriage and family, how these stages affect your physical and emotional intimacy, and how they relate to your life together and to each of you individually.
Emotional Intimacy and Physical Intimacy are intertwined
Emotional intimacy is founded on each individual's emotional security and confidence, and the ability to communicate their feelings with their partner. Emotional insecurity derives from many factors, including low self esteem, childhood trauma, past rejections, and failed relationships. We help to support each of you in clarifying your thoughts and feelings, and in giving you the confidence to share them with your spouse. All relationships, like individuals, go through certain predictable stages of development. Understanding these stages is very useful to healthy relationship growth.
The symptoms of marital problems are often exhibited in problems of physical intimacy... sexual problems. The situation may include problems of performance, inhibited sexual drive, or infidelity, and partners often see the problems quite differently, and have in mind different solutions. When we see that physical or emotional intimacy is one of the marriage problems we call upon our experiences as Marriage and Family Therapists to discuss carefully these issues and concerns. At Marriage Quest our goal is to help you both, in a non-judgmental manner, to understand the factors that have led to your problems, explore your personal tolerance and sensitivities, and give you approaches and tools that will enhance your lives on all levels.
Often intimacy is replaced by a substitute. The substitute can be of a sexual nature such as infidelity, pornography, phone sex, internet blogging, chronic masturbation, etc. The substitute can also be of a non-sexual nature such as psychological dependencies on the children, work, food, gambling, sports, shopping, pets, community activities, etc.
Most therapists look at these problems as a disease or addiction, and attempt to cure the problem with the individual alone. We, as marriage and family therapists, look at the family as an interrelated system and work with the couple as a unit to get at the underlying problems.
Understanding plus action equals change
Understanding the kind of intimacy we want emotionally, physically and sexually is often a result of a complex system of personal development throughout our life span. Exploring early experiences and beliefs, both positive and negative and in-between, helps us as individuals create more intimacy and a positive attitude towards new ideas, feelings, and behaviors in ourselves and with our partner.
If an individual has experienced a trauma in their life, big or small, this often affects their perceptions of the world and their ability to adapt and be open. It is very useful to be able to see these experiences in a new light. A big trauma could include a rape or incest, time at war or jail, living through a natural disaster, death of a parent or child, divorce, etc. A smaller trauma could be growing up in a repressive or shaming environment and therefore having negative beliefs and feelings regarding expressions of love or sexuality. Large or small, past traumas can affect one's ability to be intimate today.
When it comes to physical and sexual intimacy it is important to realize that the body's largest and most significant sex organ lies between the ears. It's the brain that dictates our behavior even if our heart yearns for the love that sexual connection brings. We help individuals within couples understand how to shift their thinking so that they can be more open and loving. Surprising to many people, pleasurable physical intimacy can actually lead to a deeper emotional connection with one's spouse. It takes courage, patience, sensitivity, and tolerance.
Action comes when increased understanding, combined with new tools, is put into motion. After the initial assessment of their past (separately and together) we teach couples how to communicate what they have learned about their emotional and sexual self with each other. By bringing this awareness right to the forefront of our work individuals often experience a profound shift in relationship satisfaction.
Working with couples since the early 80's we have developed a unique approach to helping partners become more intimate while learning to communicate better. When an individual understands his or her own thoughts and feelings, motives and wounds, and then takes the action steps to share that inner self, a healthy change in the relationship can occur. Many committed individuals within couples have found that physical intimacy along with emotional intimacy can yield some of life's greatest pleasures.
Marriage Quest Intensive Retreats
Marriage Quest is an intensive counseling retreat designed and lead by Israel and Cathie Helfand in Cabot, Vermont. The two of us work with one couple at a time over a three day weekend or weekday period. When there is a sense that physical or emotional intimacy is lacking in a marriage, it can feel cold, sterile, and at times hopeless. By working together as a team we have helped hundreds of couples through this hunger for deeper intimacy.
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