Dr. Ethan Schwab

Seattle Relationship and Sex Therapist

Tag: couples therapy

Getting it Up: Struggles with You or Your Partner(s)’ Erectile Function.

We talk about it all of the time at my office. What happens when your or your partner’s drive for penetrative sex is there, but you/he isn’t standing at full attention, ready to join the party? Psychogenic erectile dysfunction is tremendously common, yet immensely frustrating. There isn’t anything much worse than having the overwhelming desire to have sex, but not being able to “rise” to the occasion.Erectile Dysfunction Ruining Relationship

Many problems can get in the way (have a look at Performance and Loss of Erotic Focus below), as anxiety and stress can kill even the most determined “soldier.” Regardless, issues maintaining an erection during penetrative sex can leave you or your partner feeling lost, or wondering if you really are attracted to him or her, or vise versa. Often, this is luckily not the case (as many partners who stay together have great sexual attractions for one another).

So the question becomes, how do you get rid of the elephant in the room (seeing as how it’s not invited)? Introduce it. The best initial outcome for anyone in a sexual relationship where one or more partners has a loss of erectile function, is to create clear and open communication around the problem, goals, desires, and expectations. If you can get on the same page, managing the sexual dysfunction is far simpler. Sex were erectile functioning has been an issue can cause many interpersonal problems within the relationship leaving each partner feeling uncared for or even unloved or desired.

If you have found yourself in a situation like this, or have found that your partner(s) has struggles with erectile function, but still wants to have sex, don’t wait until communication and the relationship itself gets worse! Your sex life is not destined for failure. Couples and/or sex therapy can help!

Call Dr. Ethan Schwab today at (425) 295-2189 for a FREE initial consultation. Learn to be yourself, as authentically as possible.

Surprise…non-monogamy!

What happens when find yourself in a long term relationship where your partner discloses that you aren’t the sexual “apple of their eye” or ends up cheating, but tells you that it happened because they really aren’t monogamous? Surprise…non-monogamy! This is a hard question to ponder after the fact, while trying to understand what happened in your relationship that led to the late-term disclosure or affair. Sometimes, it’s difficult to even believe this could be true, as it can sound like an excuse the first time you hear it.Suprise...non-monogamy!

As we have come to understand monogamy and non-monogamy further, we are realizing that many individuals struggle to identify, share, and accept their true sexual identities. Unfortunately, this lack of early disclosure often results in negative relationship consequences. Usually, partners, husbands, wives…etc., struggle to inform their spouse(s) early in the relationship of their sexual preferences (if not typical or commonly accepted socially) out of fear. They worry they will lose an otherwise successful and inspiring romantic relationship or best friendship. They worry about being shamed, or will experience guilt over not being “normal.”

It can be difficult to believe that your partner(s) lied over the course of the relationship or cheated out of “necessity,” or because it is just who they are (to be authentic, feel alive, or be true to themselves). However, in cases where one partner cheats because they aren’t monogamous, but are attempting to maintain a monogamous relationship, it can seem like there is no hope for the relationship…or like you’ve been smacked in the face twice (see: double whammy). Regardless, these situations are often lined with hope and tremendous opportunities to develop better, clearer, and more honest communication in the relationship. If the adultery or lack of preference disclosure can be reconciled, there are many positive directions we can work toward to better each member of the relationship’s lives. Your relationship does not have to end if you are partnered with someone who is non-monogamous or vice versa. There are many ways to reconcile this difference and create a very authentic, genuine relationship moving forward, filled with trust, honesty, compassion, admiration, and love.

If you have found yourself in a situation like this, or have found that your partner(s) has other preferences with regards to monogamy (or the openness of your relationship). Or vice versa. Your relationship is not destined for failure. Couples and/or sex therapy can help!

Call Dr. Ethan Schwab today at (425) 295-2189 for a FREE initial consultation. Learn to be yourself, as authentically as possible.

Performance?!

I hear that word in my office all of the time. “Performance.”performance We’ve all heard it forever. At work, at school, while on sports teams, or even playing board games…the thought that we “must” perform (as if there is an ultimate or universal standard) applies. While judging performance may be useful in a work or school setting, what happens when you feel judged or judge yourself in the bedroom?

How do you know what good enough, great, or stellar looks like for yourself and/or your partner? What if you begin to doubt yourself or your competence as a sexual being? What if you think or have been told that you don’t perform well in the relationship…or in bed? In many instances, erectile dysfunction or trouble achieving orgasm (in men and women) can occur as a result of experiencing ongoing worry, stress, or anxiety over sexual performance.
Sometimes, despite having great communication with our current partner(s) around sexuality, old experiences creep in. Maybe you once heard something negative, or that a man or woman should perform sexually in a specific way, or that something didn’t look good or wasn’t “the right size.” Or…be willing to engage in sexual behavior that is inauthentic to who you are or what you believe is right for yourself.

Maybe the notion of being a good “performer” starts when we’re young. We look at the most popular or successful seeming people around us and copy his or her actions in hopes of replicating a desired result. The problem with thinking about sexual prowess or performance from a social learning perspective is that there are many examples of sexual standards for men and women that are either out of left field, or blatantly inaccurate, but…set a high bar for what we expect from ourselves. Learning to be authentic and have expectations be preferable and realistic is a constant, intentional process. With a little work, we can see ourselves as rock stars in our relationships (or in our own sexuality). Learning how to be authentic and honest with ourselves is key.

If you find yourself or partner worrying about performance, and want to work toward feeling confident and competent in all areas of the bedroom, couples and/or sex therapy can help!

Call Dr. Ethan Schwab today at (425) 295-2189 for a FREE initial consultation. Learn to be yourself, as authentically as possible.

Experiencing a Loss of Erotic Focus?

Have you ever found yourself in a situation during any type of sexual activity (either by yourself or with your partner(s)) where you are mentally present and in the moment, but then all of a sudden lose focus on the situation at hand (where your desire, erection, or orgasm is compromised)…maybe you think about the dishwasher running, the kids needing to be picked up at school, a work event later, whether you look sexy enough, or the garage door being open? We all lost focus from time to time, or are “just not that into it” in certain moments. Sometimes however, loss of erotic focus happens regularly, and significantly diminishes the joy and pleasure of sexual experiences with or between you or your partner. Losing focus consistently during any sexual event, whether masturbation or intercourse can lead to problems with orgasm (male or female orgasmic dysfunction), or even erectile dysfunction. Loss of Erotic Focus

Many, many issues can lead to a loss of erotic focus, from a too stressful or overly extended life to first time parenting. If you find yourself struggling to stay present during sex or masturbation, and are experiencing difficulty with orgasm, erectile function, or general sensory pleasure, sex therapy can help. There are many techniques that are useful in focusing back in on the experience at hand, and help with gaining mastery over your sexual response.

A helpful beginning strategy for staying present in the bedroom is practicing mindfulness.

• Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction is a form of mindfulness that is clinically aimed at lowering anxiety through attentive breathing exercises, body scans, guided meditations, as well as other practices.

• The point here is to work toward lowering anxiety and remaining present in any situation without “checking out or drifting.”

• Start with the 4-7-8 breathing exercise, also known as Mindful Breath. There are many great examples of the 4-7-8 breathing exercise online. It only takes a minute or two to practice. I often suggest all clients start here prior to taking on more intensive meditative techniques.

If you find yourself or partner struggling with a loss of erotic focus during sex, and want to work toward reconnecting and becoming present in the bedroom, couples and/or sex therapy can help!

Call Dr. Ethan Schwab today at (425) 295-2189 for a FREE initial consultation. Learn to communicate your boundaries, preferences, fantasies, and what is erotic in ways that are safe, secure, considerate, and welcomed by your partner.

“Not What I Signed Up For…?!”

Often these days, I find myself sitting in front of all sorts of different couples where a new passion or sexual/relationship preference has emerged from one member of the couple/partnership that was not present or divulged at the beginning of the relationship. Often these new sexual preferences, fantasies, and relationship dynamics leave the other partner scratching their head saying: “This is NOT what I signed up for!”Not What I Signed Up For

In many of these instances, one partner develops new sexual fantasies or preferences and feels a great deal of vitality or excitement wrapped up in these new thoughts or idea. This can often seem reinvigorating for the relationship (from that person’s perspective), or make you “hot” again for your partner.

Regardless of your partner’s new enthusiasms, their preferences may not be for you. These new interests may seem out of left field, or spawned by something he or she saw in a movie, or read in some steamy book. You may hear from friends or on the internet that anything out of the ordinary sexually in your relationship could be destructive or compromising. Or, alternatively that you need to meet your significant other where they are at and can’t or shouldn’t be “vanilla.”

Regardless, just as your partner is entitled to have their own sexual preferences, fantasies, kinks, hopes and dreams, so are you. Too often are we hyper critical of one partner’s experience or the other, as both experiences and realities are valid. Socially, we typically talk about sexuality as binary or totalitarian, where we function under the rule of one culturally acceptable sexual script. Remember, our experiences are broad and unique (often not paralleling societal norms), that is, there are many ways that are either right or wrong for us to be in our intimate relationships. Whether it is sexually liberal or conservative, no individual’s experience is invalid. Sexually exists on an individual as well as relational level, and in the context of your partnership, can be co-created in a preferable fashion with work and compromise.

It is difficult to be authentic, remember that. ”New” relationship or sexual desires or preferences may be a part of who someone is or was…their preferred narrative, not shared previously due to quilt, fear, or shame. Inauthenticity is everywhere…We compete with neighbors to have a more successful seeming life, compete with our appearances or our children’s accomplishments, forget about the lust we share with our partner, but aren’t true to ourselves. We’re told to be, but have incongruent adult experiences that teach us otherwise. Our true selves, beliefs, and preferences can become bottled up, and eventually overflow.

Coming to a sexual or romantic realization can be cathartic or powerful, but can seem terrifying from the outside, because it was not what we signed up for in the beginning of the relationship. Inevitably, while differing sexual preferences between partners may be incompatible, we can work toward understanding the purpose and nature of our partner’s sexual interests, and if possible, ultimately moving toward a consensual common ground where each partner is heard, understood, and validated.

If you find yourself and your partner struggling with reconciling sexual interests that were not disclosed at the beginning of your relationship, and conflict or unclear communication has ensured, couples and/or sex therapy can help!

Call Dr. Ethan Schwab today at (425) 295-2189 for a FREE initial consultation. Learn to communicate your boundaries, preferences, fantasies, and what is erotic in ways your partner understands and welcomes.

Fights That Go Around in Circles

Have you ever heard the phrase: “The definition of crazy is going around and around in circles, trying the same things over and over, but expecting different results?” Truth be told, we all have. We’re all guilty of getting stuck in problematic cycles with our partners expecting that if we try harder, yell louder, love them more, or keep explaining ourselves that things will change and get better.

When we aren’t heard or validated, are unable to share our primary emotions, or do not feel safe, we can get stuck. When disagreements are important enough or our anxieties are high enough, we will keep fighting and fighting to be heard. If nothing changes and you find yourself having the same arguments over and over, this becomes a whirlpool like process, pulling the couple further and further downward, until the relationship hits rock bottom or ends.Seattle Sex Therapy

Regardless of the content (problems) causing these patterns of interaction between you and your partner, whether they are financial, marital, sexual, parenting, religious/spiritual, a difference in core values, or disagreeing about how the dishwasher should be loaded, couples therapy can help. There are many strategies to help intervene and solve the core problem, getting you out of the cycle and back into a preferable place together.

Couples (or partners) therapy can be tremendous helpful in interrupting problematic cycles of interaction or recurring fights about the same issue. Integrating Narrative, Emotion Focused, and Gottman couples therapy techniques, I help couples slow down, clarify communication, create shared goals, and move toward a preferable outcome. In this process, couples/partners work toward fostering greater levels of affection and trust for one another, ultimately strengthening the security of the relationship and the attachment bond.

If you find yourself and your partner getting into fights that go around in circles, struggling with “the same old issues,” and communication is only becoming worse or more heated, couples therapy can help!

Call Dr. Ethan Schwab today at (425) 295-2189 for a FREE initial consultation. Learn to communicate your preferences, needs, practices, and what is important or necessary for your relationship in ways your partner understands and welcomes.

Experiencing Different Levels of Sexual Desire?

What happens when you find yourself in a position with your partner(s) where he/she/they don’t have the same sexual intensity or drive as you? What do you do when you desire more frequent sex, or kinky sex, but your partner(s) doesn’t or is indifferent?Desire discrepancy.  Sex Therapy. If you’ve felt alone and isolated, you aren’t as abnormal and unique as you might think. Desire discrepancy is a common process between couples and partners when one party doesn’t possess the same drive as you. While physiological changes across the life span can impact anyone’s desire for sex (e.g., menopause, low testosterone…etc.), many life transitions can too…like becoming a parent (and being exhausted…all…of…the…time), or learning that what is or would be fulfilling sexually now is different than when you started dating or were first married.

I consistently see couples and partnerships where one partner has either a much higher drive for sex in general, or has the desire for a type of sex (often kinky sex) that the other(s) just aren’t into, or have never considered. Remember…variety is the spice of life, and despite differences in what is pleasurable between partners, it doesn’t mean that your relationship will or has to end. Regardless, it can be terrifying to hear that your partner(s) is unsatisfied with the frequency of sex or really wishes that you would be more domineering or sexually adventurous. Being in this position isn’t uncommon, and when you think about the scope of time you’ve been with your partner (especially if it’s been years), things can become stale, uninspiring, or no longer preferable.

If you have found yourself in this position, there are plenty of directions therapy can assist with. I have seen many couples who have renegotiated the nature of their sexual relationship, often to a better, more pleasurable, and more fulfilling position than it ever was at the beginning of the relationship. It is never too late to save, fix, or rediscover your sexual relationship, scripts, and chemistry with your partner!

Are You Struggling to Get on the Same Page as Your Partner Sexually?

Are you and your partner(s) struggling with a desire discrepancy? Are you trying to get on the same page or find common sexual ground? Sex therapy can help! Call Dr. Ethan Schwab today at (425) 295-2189 for a FREE initial consultation. Learn to communicate your hopes, needs, desires, and what is pleasurable in ways your partner understands and welcomes.

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