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Relationship News
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Occasional newsletter with advice, articles, and information for couples written by Dr. Sara Schwarzbaum, Ed.D, LMFT, LCPC.

Let's Talk About Sex

Balancing Act

Balancing a sense of curiosity and possibility with a sense of security and stability in a long-term relationship is one of the most challenging issues contemporary couples face. Physical intimacy and erotic pleasure are very complex human endeavors. We all get anxious about sharing our bodies, experimenting with something new and talking about what we like, fantasize, and prefer. On top of that, the stability and predictability of domesticity can kill desire, which is borne out of mystery and novelty. When you add to the mix that couples may have a hard time getting “back into the sandbox” after a fight or a disappointment, we are really in for trouble when it comes to sustaining a sexual relationship.

Couples often stop holding hands, laughing at each other’s jokes, or sitting next to each other on the couch. Those small, seemingly inconsequential gestures help differentiate a partnership from a platonic friendship. For some couples, the problem is simply that they have differing levels of desire. Sexual desire incompatibility (one wants more sex than the other) is a frequent problem with couples. Yet, they seldom talk about it. 

It is truly amazing how many couples who share so much of their lives together never talk about sex. They don’t tell each other what they like or dislike, they don’t talk about what feels good and what doesn’t. They don’t have conversations about how to recognize a bid for connection, how to accept it or reject it, and how to plan for it. And they don’t talk about balancing the needs of the high desire person with the needs of the lower desire person.

This Should Be Easier

You’d think it would be easier. Though sex talk is a constant presence in our culture, it is rare to see examples of someone discussing sex with the person they are actually having sex with.

When couples are not tuned into their sexual needs, unspoken messages are communicated, hurts are never revealed, and vulnerabilities are not shared. It’s easy to become selfish when it comes to sex or to withhold it as a means of controlling the relationship. But, when something makes you uncomfortable, you have to talk about it.

Make talking about (and having) sex a priority. A regular sexual connection is important in a successful relationship because it energizes the relationship, makes each person feel desired, and serves as a buffer against the ups and downs of coupled life.

What To Do

Plan for sex. Sexual encounters are not automatic when the early stage of a relationship wanes. Some people are against planning for sex because it feels unnatural, but they then complain that sex never happens. If you want sex to happen more often, you need to plan for it and stick to the plan. It's not like you didn't plan for when you first met. Of course you did!

Talk about sex. Don’t ignore sexual discrepancies or sexual frustrations. Be prepared to show, not just tell.  If you want more sex than you are getting, ask your partner what he or she needs in order to be open to doing it more often. If you don’t want to do it as often, try to find a balance between your wishes and your partner’s.

Prepare for sex. Take a shower, use perfume, dress in a sexy way. You used to do those things in the early stages of the relationship. Keep doing it. Do sexy things to or with your partner. Flirt!

Use your imagination and fantasy. Try something different every once in a while. Share your fantasies with your partner. Talk about what you want to try sexually but are a little afraid of. 

Get to know what pleases you and communicate it to your partner. The more you know about what turns you off or on, what you like and dislike, the better you will be at sharing that information with your partner and the more you share with your partner, the better he/she will be at understanding what you want/need and wish for. If embarrassment gets in the way, find a way to share that too.

Just please your partner. Don’t wait until you are both in the mood. Not all sex is a mutually intimate moment. Taking care of your partner can be a generous and loving thing to do, even if you are not into it. And intercourse is not the only way. Be creative.

By creating these habits, you will have a good chance of inoculating your relationship from the inevitable ups and downs; you will be on your way to give your relationship the tools, skills, and habits it needs succeed in the complicated modern world.

And if you have trouble talking to your partner about sexuality and sexual issues, seek the services of a professional who who can facilitate these difficult conversations. 

About Couples Counseling Associates

Are you fighting too much? Feeling distant? Not sure if you want to stay together? We help couples who want to find a better way of communicating, fight less, and feel more connected. We also provide discernment counseling, non-religious pre-marital counseling, and counseling for LGBT couples. Experienced and effective. Couples is our specialty.

We have a problem-solving approach that combines education, coaching, and counseling and is based on the latest research on what makes couples succeed or fail. Call to find out what's different about CCA. Please visit our website containing blogs, newsletters, and FAQ.

Not all counselors have the expertise in working with couples in distress. Call to ask questions about how we can help and what's different about our practice. Choosing a professional you can trust can be challenging. 

About the Founder

Dr. Sara Schwarzbaum, Ed.D, LMFT, LCPC was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she studied clinical psychology and marriage and family therapy prior to emigrating to the U.S. in 1982.

Sara continued her training as a marriage and family therapist in the US with prominent leaders in the field and has continued this work for the past 25 years.

After finishing her doctoral degree at Northern Illinois University in 1995, Sara became a Professor at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, where she trained the next generation of couple and family counselors as the Coordinator of the Master's program in Couple & Family Counseling. She retired from that position in August of 2016.

Sara has authored numerous articles and two books. Her articles have appeared in the Psychotherapy Networker, Counseling Today, and the Journal of Multicultural Counseling, among other publications. 

Sara is a regular speaker at couples counseling workshops for social service agencies and professional organizations. She also runs supervision groups for therapists who are working with couples. Media outlets frequently seek her input regarding couples distress and improvement strategies for couples.

Thank you for taking the time to read our newsletter.   We hope that some of this information may be helpful to you or a loved one. To read other articles on our blog, click here.

PASS THIS NEWSLETTER ON to a co-worker, neighbor, church member, family member or friend.   No one should be alone going through a difficult time.  

Let Couples Counseling Associates be there to assist you every step of the way. Should you need immediate assistance, call or email. My contact information is listed below.

Your calls and inquiries are always confidential. 


Dr. Sara Schwarzbaum, Ed.D, LMFT, LCPC
Couples Counseling Associates
737 North Michigan Avenue
Suite 2130
Chicago, IL 60611


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