The Covid Lockdown created untold challenges to home and family life, not the least of which was maintaining couple intimacy in a 24 x 7 setting. It is rare for a couple to spend twenty-four hours a day for prolonged periods exceeding typical vacation time. People are used to living independent lives in a variety of situations and settings, where the couple is apart for the workday or travel and then reunite wholeheartedly for meals or bedtime. We are familiar with the popular saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” originally penned centuries ago by the Roman poet Sextus, which testifies to the benefits of spending time apart.
Jenni Skyler, PhD, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and Certified Sex Therapist (CST) was swamped with calls about challenged relationships and intimacy problems as the pandemic lockdown progressed. As the lockdown eased so did the call volume, (which settled at a higher level than before.) These two phenomena illustrated an important axiom in creating and maintaining intimacy which Dr. Skyler teaches to her patients when they come in for therapy. The therapy ranges from recreating excitement in a long-term relationship, healing from an affair, balancing different sexual needs between two individuals, female arousal issues, or premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction in males.
“Relationships and intimacy work best,” Skyler says, “when each member of the couple is independently secure and self-confident in their own existence, and bring their whole person to the emotional, intellectual, physical and sexual intimacy of a relationship.” Intimacy is enhanced when the couples’ life benefits from a variety of situations in which the couple enjoy a shared experience – being with friends, attending events, sharing experiences that were lived separately. Intimacy develops from a complete and satisfying life, not just a sex life. She continues, “During lockdown, we were flooded with calls from couples who could no longer stand each other. They were cooped up, unable to get out, and suffered from too much exposure to the other. Couples thrive on feeling confident in both their independence and attunement to the relationship. Those who struggle with hyper-vigilance, fear, and co-dependency crippled under the pressures of Covid.”
In an extensive interview with GoToHealth Media, Dr. Skyler outlined the often-hidden factors that enable “Satisfying Intimacy and Sex for the Long Haul.”
“Couples can get wrapped up and spiral downwards in co-dependency, where every little move or gesture or comment by the partner is vigilantly observed and interpreted by the other, often resulting in miscommunication and unhealthy focus on the other.” She continues, “We teach people to own and manage their own anxiety, and not be tipped off by every little movement of their partner. Things work best when ‘you do you’ and ‘they do them’. This separation is healthy.”
She also explained the differences in arousal between men and women, who work very differently physiologically and chemically. Biologically, men tend to have far higher testosterone than women. Because testosterone is the “sex drive hormone” that gives us easy access to our physical arousal, most men tend to desire more sex than women. By contrast, women have low testosterone levels (10-15x lower) and to become aroused typically takes longer and requires a combination of fantasy and imagination as well as sex hormone. “One of the biggest sex organs in the female body is the brain,” Dr. Skyler says assuredly. “The quickie can often forego female arousal, whereas foreplay encourages readiness and receptivity. Mutual pleasure is best accomplished when both partners take the time each person needs to have plenty of arousal for satisfying sexual encounters.”
The extended isolation of Covid, along with the demanding nature of being in one’s home with family day in and day out, placed a terrible burden on intimacy which works best when two independent people come together to check in, see how the other is doing, engage in foreplay and arousal, and if mutually desired, a sexual encounter.
Dr. Skyler smiles as she shares, “We successfully worked with our ‘Covid couples’ when we learned together how to adapt the facts behind intimacy to an unusually intimate situation.”
You can learn more about building and maintaining emotional and sexual intimacy from Dr. Skyler’s website The Intimacy Institute at https://theintimacyinstitute.org/
You can watch the full interview with Dr. Skyler on “Satisfying Intimacy and Sex for the Long Haul” here: https://gotohealthmedia.com/satisfying-intimacy-and-sex-for-the-long-haul-jenni-skyler-phd-lmft-cst/
The Intimacy Institute
5377 Manhattan Circle
Disclaimer: The views, suggestions, and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Ireland Daily News journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.