T H E T H E R A P I S T  D I R E C T O R Y  O F  S A N D I E G O


by Jennifer S. Sandoval, Psy.D.

Jennifer Sandoval, San Diego Sex Therapist specializing in Sex Therapy

Can problems in a relationship help you grow and mature and have better sex? The good news is YES problems in a relationship will help you to grow, be better at relationships – and even have better sex! The bad news is that going through tough times in relationships is difficult and can be very painful.  

It can be very scary and disheartening to be going through difficult times with your partner but consider this – it’s inevitable. Yes, even the most stable, loving couples find themselves in crisis. They may hide it well or fight by way of ignoring each other for weeks but it is unavoidable in committed relationships, especially marriage – where the stakes can be higher. Dr. David Schnarch, psychologist and sex therapist, says that crises in a committed relationship are the midpoint of a relationship, meaning crises are coming, they are inevitable and a normal part of a relationship’s development. Too often, these major problems lead to divorce or separation. This is unfortunate because with the right help, the ability to look at oneself and the willingness to tolerate pain for growth, couples can work through these crises and ultimately have more fulfilling relationships (and sex!).

How can relationship problems and crises improve sex? Crises put us in a position to look deeply at who we are, face the parts of ourselves that need changing, and even stand up to our partners. Although scary (because there’s no guarantee you’ll get through it), this process can be empowering, energizing, and can bring a deeper connection with your partner. When we know who we are, take responsibility for our limitations, and make positive changes we feel great about ourselves – not to mention how appealing (and sexy) this can be to our partners. The hope is that couples can know that there is nothing wrong with them or the relationship – and that there is hope in knowing that what they are going through is a normal and necessary part of their relationship and, if they can tolerate pain for growth, they could come out the other end stronger and more satisfied.

If you find you and your partner faced with major conflicts, Dr. Schnarch suggests you start the process of growth by doing 4 things (see suggested reading by David Schnarch, Ph.D., below):

1) Stay clear about who you are when facing a tough conflict with your partner – hold onto your values and be honest with yourself (especially about your shortcomings)
2) Calm yourself down, soothe your anxiety
3) Don’t react to your partner’s reactivity or anxiety (so when they get anxious or fly off the handle, stay calm)
4) Tolerate the uncomfortable pain for growth of self and the relationship

By doing these four things regularly, regardless of whether your partner does them, you will move toward growth, maturity, improvement in your relationship and even better sex. But hang in there, it may take time and help from an experienced therapist.

Also, it is important to seek help from a licensed therapy professional. She or he can help you navigate your way through the potentially rough waters ahead. If you prefer to talk to a priest, pastor, rabbi, or spiritual counselor it can be very helpful, too. Religious leaders often times have a lot of experience dealing with relationship problems, and will know local licensed therapists who can help. Some highly recommended reading would be Passionate Marriage, Resurrecting Sex, and Intimacy and Desire, all by David Schnarch, Ph.D., or Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, by John Gottman, Ph.D.

Jennifer S. Sandoval, Psy. D., is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in Del Mar specializing in couple therapy, sexual difficulties, child and family therapy and adult therapy.

For more information about Jennifer Sandoval, San Diego Psychologist
specializing in Sex Therapy, go to: 
Jennifer S. Sandoval, Psy.D.

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