hands touching each other

Sensate Focus

In couples and sex therapy, one of the best suggestions we give some couples who struggle with sex is to not have sex. Seems counterintuitive, right?

After all, how are couples supposed to work on their sex life or create better sex if they stop having it?

We suggest abstaining as a temporary measure. It helps alleviate the pressure of sex. Think about it. When sex isn’t happening or if it’s happening awkwardly, it can occupy a lot of your mental space and emotional energy.

If you’re the seeker, you might constantly look for sexual signs or windows of opportunity, the right way to approach your partner without annoying them, or to get a “yes”. 

If you’re the avoidant partner, you might wonder “what’s wrong with me?”, seek ways to discourage physical contact or feel anxious about whether your partner will ask again tonight.

Loss of libido, a sense of rejection, different levels of sexual desire, sexual dysfunction or different sexual needs can make you feel mentally and emotionally consumed, put stress on your relationship and an unconscious pressure on both of you.

When we suggest abstention, it alleviates that pressure. There’s no more figuring out what to do. As you adjust to this new arrangement, we slowly introduce new, evidence-based ways for you to physically re-engage that likely carry far better results. 

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The Impact of Your Troubled Sex Life

Your sex life holds its own peaks and valleys. This is normal and natural in long-term relationships. But when you have prolonged periods of time where you either can’t meet each other’s sexual needs or you stop having sex altogether, physical engagement can feel awkward and stressful.

When we ask you to take sex off the table, we make room for you to heal your erotic and emotional wounds first. Problematic sex impacts how you relate to each other. Whether you’re feeling constantly pressured or rejected, the intimacy dance between you can cause emotional injury for everyone.

Sometimes these emotional injuries shut down the avoidant partner’s sexual system. Their body learns that sex feels emotionally unsafe so, over time, their libido takes a nosedive. 

Ironically, the seeking partner’s sexual system can often shut down just as the avoidant partner’s system starts to wake up! Chronic rejection inevitably leads to resentment which is a sexual turnoff.

After healing your erotic and emotional injuries in couples’ and sex therapy, you understand each other better. Mutual understanding helps you see the good in each other again. You’ll communicate more effectively and connect more. 

Sometimes, this is enough to get the sexy wheels turning. But not always. 

So what’s a couple to do when they reignite emotional connection but not sexual connection? We help couples reconnect physically through a step-by-step proven exercise.

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reconnecting after an affair

A Powerful and Proven Exercise

When couples tune into and attend to their sensuality, they lay the ground for their sexuality to emerge in a powerful and connective way. 

Known as a Sensate Focus exercise, it requires different levels of physical touch. It combines mindfulness and present-centered awareness with some specific steps, rules, limits.

This slow progression of touch builds a sense of safety and trust in each partner again. It also helps you break unhealthy touch habits and creates pleasurable touch experiences. 

The power of sensate focus is in its ability to keep you focused on touch in a deliberate, purposeful and conscious way. This skill often gets lost in long-term love. Over the years, sex can become routine and often mindless. Sensate focus helps you break old patterns and establish new, more pleasurable ones.

Unlike traditional, goal-oriented sex, sensate focus helps you enjoy the pleasure of the sexual journey by staying tuned into your senses. After all, good, fully-embodied sex is a sensual experience.

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