LIVE Counselling Questions Answered By Dr. Pradnya Ajinkya

1] What in your opinion is the issue that most couples have when it comes to talking to their partner about preferences in bed?

Even partners who love each other can be a mismatch, sexually. No explosions of passion. No breathy proclamations of desire. Your partner is ready to go in an instant. He/she may prefer dry, chaste pecks. Everything else in the relationship is working, sexual styles aren't always compatible. Lack of sexual self awareness and education worsens these problems. Couples spend nearly one-third of their lives sleeping together, or at least trying to be with each other with different sleep needs, preferences, and problems. If you're not able to resolve your differences in bed with your bed partner, you are not alone. It's a big problem. When the interest fades resentment remains. Resentment can begin to threaten the survival of your relationship without either of the partners knowing it. 

2] Do women face this problem more than men?

 It can be either of the partners. As people grow up and view married couple’s relationship, they develop beliefs about married life. These lead to the development about expectations of marriage. A person with wrong beliefs can also lead self to an unrealistic expectation that married life will bring joy and happiness all the time.

3] In your experience, is this a new phenomenon or do couples, old and young, universally go through such issues?

Marriage gives voice to either of these types. A couple who doesn’t set enough sexual boundaries for the marriage may feel frustrated. A couple with too many boundaries may feel isolated. Determining how to set appropriate boundaries for the marriage can help the couple to remain physically, mentally, sexually connected. For example: A husband asks his wife to sleep on the couch until his younger sister is married. Should the wife say yes? How long should she sleep on the couch? Why?

4] How do you suggest couples tackle this? Is there a way to broach the topic, what kind of words to use, what can it achieve?

To understand the painful effects of one party in the marriage losing interest, think of a time when you wanted to talk or do something with your partner but couldn’t engage his interest, or worse she lost interest while you were talking or doing what you wanted to do. Your gut emotional response was rejection which stimulated shame or fear of isolation. Because these are such painful and personal experiences, you would likely avoid them by shifting interest to something else, or more commonly with blame and resentment. This can choke the life out of the relationship. The best way to lighten the burden is to increase attunement. And the best strategy for doing that is to focus on compassion. Now here is your dilemma. You want your partner to show compassion and interest and build preferences. Couples miss the absurdity of rejection and preferences because they succumb to the urge to justify it by pointing out how unfair the other partner is in bed. They miss the sad fact that their feelings made them just as insensitive as the other partner is.

5] How well do non-verbal hints work and can you suggest if there are alternates to reigniting a flame in a long marriage?

One of the most common complaints when a couple comes to counselling is that their partner never listens to them anymore. Interestingly, almost always, it is both that say the same things.

Rangan said:
Ridhi does’t listen to me anymore, no matter what I say or do it’s like talking to a wall. She looks right through me when I am speaking and I just feel like nothing I do matters. The only time I can get her to listen is if I yell. I don’t want to yell. But volume seems to be the only thing that gets through.

Ridhi said:
Rangan doesn’t talk. He screams. It doesn’t matter what I tell, he doesn’t stop the cycle of yell, speech, yell. He doesn’t hear what I have to say. My presence doesn’t matter anymore.

Counsellor said:
You and your partner will again learn what it means to really communicate with one another and that includes listening and observing the partner. It becomes imperative to genuinely listen and watch your partner feelings without becoming reactive.  

6] What has your experience been with regards to pornography and how this can affect a marriage. Should men talk to their wives about it, should they not, and why?

Sarah had a lot to say during their couple counselling session about her husband with regards to his passion for pornography. Sarah was a very shy woman. She was not comfortable with her husband’s passion for pornography. She seemed as though she had a lot to get off her chest. Her actual voice seemed to be getting in the way! She was not able to approach her husband and find out if his behavior was likely to harm or help this uneasy feeling in the marriage.

For the counsellor this was a bit of the ‘inside out’ approach.  One skill the marriage counsellor worked out on was the ability to free Sarah’s voice. Encouraging her to speak in a certain volume. Because Sarah’s pervasive shyness prevented her from expressions. The couple worked on freeing vocal exercises and made improvements on their ability to open up the back of their throat and speak in a more clear, confident manner. The voice helped Sarah to make changes that really changed the entirety of the expression. She was ready to feel free to sing, hum, yawn, breathe more deeply, and talk even on pornography with confidence. Voice can help the partner to identify oneself.

7] How important is sex in a marriage? It is an indication of how healthy the relationship is?

Good sex can just be an emotionally fulfilling experience between partners. All couples face different stressors in sexual life throughout. Managing your sex life without damaging your marriage will help individuals to respond better with the growing expectations in the marriage.

8] Is it possible that a couple may have a healthy communication channel but refrain from discussing matters of sex because of cultural norms?

It can be a very humbling experience to stop yourself in your tracks because of societal norms. There are extroverts in this world, who make sure to get what they want. They can yell, scream, shake their fist or simply tell you very assertively what is going on inside them. And there are the quieter types. They are not as vocal. They cannot tell what is going on within them. That doesn’t mean they aren’t feeling something. They can often be known for their passive aggression.

9] I read about how women rarely talk about whether or not they are being satisfied in bed because they often believe that they’re own satisfaction is secondary. How true is this?

Marriage helps the individuals in the relationship to tap into one’s authentic feelings of sexual need and expressions. It helps to free oneself from those nagging insecurities and speak out loud, proud and unashamed.