Most Asked Questions in Couples Therapy: 8 Dating Dilemmas

Key Takeaways

  • Communicate openly and honestly: Use “I” statements to express feelings and avoid blame. Listen actively and focus on finding solutions together. Be willing to compromise.
  • Focus on building a balanced relationship: Shift the focus from “compromise” to “collaboration.” Brainstorm creative solutions and acknowledge the “why” behind preferences.
  • Set boundaries and build confidence: If your partner is critical, set boundaries and define what constructive criticism looks like for you. Build your confidence outside the relationship.
  • Rekindle intimacy gradually: Understand the reason behind the lack of intimacy. Rebuild emotional intimacy first with non-sexual touch and shared activities. Reintroduce physical intimacy gradually when desire builds naturally.

Most Asked Questions in Couples Therapy

How do I get him to take responsibility for his actions?

Focus on “I” Statements and Open Communication:

The first thing you should do is Express your feelings.

Calmly explain how you feel and how their actions make you feel that way.

This is more art than science, but to master this start by using “I” statements to avoid blame.

For example, “I feel hurt when…” or “I feel frustrated because…”

And when you do this make sure to be specific. Don’t make vague accusations or talk in generalities.

Clearly state the behavior that bothers you and its impact. For example, “I feel alone at night when you hang out with your friends.”

Once you’ve made that statement sit back and engage in Active Listening. Give him a chance to respond without interrupting.

Try to understand his perspective.

For example, he may reply “I understand that, but I want you to understand that after working a 12 hour shift, I would like some time to hang out with the fellas.”

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Encourage Open Dialogue:

Next, I want you to Focus on Solutions. Instead of dwelling on blame, shift the conversation to finding solutions together.

For example, ask, “How can we move forward from this in a way that works for both of us?”

“Maybe you can hang out every other weekend, instead of every weekend?”

But that is not the end! You must Be Willing to Compromise. Taking responsibility is a two-way street.

Be open to discussing your own role in the situation and ways you can both improve.

For example, “I know I frustrate you when something’s on my mind and I start yelling, I will try and work on that to make home a more welcome place for you.”

And the icing on the cake is Positive Reinforcement.

You must acknowledge and appreciate it when he does take responsibility for his actions.

It lets him know that you see his effort and he will put forth even more.

Remember:

Change Takes Time: Don’t expect him to become a master of accountability overnight. Be patient and consistent with your communication.

Focus on Progress: Celebrate small victories. Even acknowledging the issue and having a calm conversation is a step in the right direction.

Know Your Limits: If he is unwilling to take responsibility or the situation is emotionally abusive, considering a break-up might be necessary.

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I feel like I’m always the one compromising. How do I create more balance?

Reframe “compromise” as “collaboration”:

This is a common concern, and creating a balanced relationship requires open communication and a shift in perspective.

You should shift the focus from sacrifice to finding win-win solutions and brainstorm together to find creative ways to meet each other’s needs.

If compromise isn’t the answer. Discuss alternative solutions like taking turns getting what you want.

For example, if you like two different TV shows…alternate weeks watching your favorite show this week, and watch his favorite show the next week.

Another suggestion is setting boundaries and having separate activities.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

So if there’s no room for compromise, you can each do your own thing and come back together when you’re finished.

Acknowledge the “why” behind preferences:

Sometimes understanding the “why” behind a preference can help you find common ground.

I encourage you to dive deeper and have them explain the reasons behind their desires.

That creates a sense of empathy and understanding that can be the foundation for change.

This will also help you Identify core values that you didn’t know about.

Many times compromise is not an option because it violates one of your core values.

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He is critical of everything I do. How do I build confidence and set boundaries?

Set boundaries around the criticism:

The first thing you need to do is decide what kind of criticism is constructive and what feels destructive.

You are unique in the way you personally perceive situations.

What you view as a criticism, he may be thankful for that very same information.

Let him know you’re open to constructive feedback, but only when delivered respectfully and with suggestions for improvement.

If he starts criticizing, you can calmly say something like, “I can see you’re frustrated, but the way you’re speaking to me is hurtful. Let’s talk about this later when we can be more constructive.”

Remember, you teach people how to treat you.

If you are not comfortable with how you’re being criticized, it’s best to set that boundary early so it doesn’t grow into something larger and uncontrollable later in the relationship.

Build your confidence outside the relationship:

Identify your strengths and talents. Pursue hobbies and platonic friendships that make you feel good.

It is not healthy to only associate with your boyfriend/husband/etc. And in these situations, having input from another set of trusted peers will help your confidence.

I will always advise you to spend time with supportive friends and family who value you.

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We haven’t had sex in months. How do I initiate intimacy again?

Understand the “Why” Behind the Lack of Intimacy:

Stress is a common culprit. Explore if work, finances, or family issues are creating a disconnect in your sexy time.

If it’s any of those things, that’s actually good news because you can be a level of support to help him get through those situations.

If it’s an underlying emotional issue like resentment or insecurity that’s stifling your sex life that is a bit more complicated.

That indicates that you are the problem and you have to get your partner to trust you again.

Or at the very least, see you in a similar light as they did when you first met.

In addition to doing what needs to be done to build trust, you should also be…

Rebuilding Emotional Intimacy:

I suggest you focus on non-sexual forms of intimacy like cuddling, holding hands, or giving massages in the beginning when trying to rebuild your intimate connection.

What is your partner’s love language? Find out and give them a heavy dose of that!

I also encourage you to spend quality time together doing activities you both enjoy.

That will allow you to reconnect on an emotional level.

What are some of the things that you have in common? For example, if you have the same sports team, buy tickets and go to the game together!

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Reintroduce Physical Intimacy Gradually:

One of the biggest mistakes I see couples make is rushing back into physical intimacy during this phase.

I go into depth on this topic in this article here.

I suggest starting with non-threatening touch like a back rub or cuddling on the couch while watching a movie.

You should let desire build naturally, focusing on the pleasure of physical connection without pressure for intercourse.

Once she starts to feel that comfort level increasing again, the physical intimacy is the next natural progression.

We’re in a long-distance relationship. How often should I be talking/seeing her?

I tell all my clients the same opening answer.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how often couples in long-distance relationships (LDRs) should talk or see each other.

The ideal frequency depends on several factors that you both need to agree on.

With that being said, here are some caveats that you can apply to your own relationships based on your individual preferences…

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Your schedules: 

Are you two in the same time zone?

If the love of your life lives their life 6 hours ahead of yours, that might limit daily calls.

You will need to develop flexible schedules to allow for more in depth connections and conversations.

Your communication styles: 

What’s your love language?

Do you crave constant attention or prefer quality time over frequent check-ins?

If you need daily check ins, then I suggest you be comfortable with shorter calls that are not in depth.

Do you feel secure with daily texts, or do you need deeper conversations to feel connected?

If you prefer quality time, make sure to schedule calls spaced out by a couple days at least.

So that when you talk, you are able to catch up and experience each other’s lives deeply.

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The distance involved: 

Frequent video calls might suffice for a longer distance, while in-person visits become more important with shorter distance.

For example, if both of you live within 500 miles of each other, video calls and many in person visits a year might suffice.

On the other hand, if you live thousands of miles away from each other, frequent video calls and a couple in person visits per year may work.

Here’s a roadmap to navigate this conversation:

  1. Open Communication: Schedule a dedicated time to discuss communication needs openly and honestly.
  2. Identify Needs: Express your desired frequency of contact and explain why it feels important. Listen actively to your partner’s needs as well.
  3. Compromise & Flexibility: Find a balance that works for both. Maybe it’s daily texts, video calls a few times a week, and aiming for in-person visits every other month.
  4. Quality over Quantity: Scheduled calls are great, but prioritize quality conversations over forced daily check-ins.
  5. Spontaneity: Leave room for spontaneous calls or texts to share exciting moments or simply connect.

I’m thinking about getting married, but he has a lot of debt. How do I navigate this?

I cover this topic exclusively in this post here.

But as a quick synopsis, here’s how I counsel a couple concerned about debt before marriage:

Full Transparency and Open Communication:

First and foremost, do not hide or run from the conversation.

It should be had as soon as you start to get serious with each other, but definitely before deciding to move in together.

I encourage you to be completely honesty with your partner about the debt amount, type (student loans, credit cards, etc.), and repayment plans.

I don’t care if it was because of a past relationship, discuss it openly because it will definitely impact your future together.

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Assess the Debt Situation:

Gather all of your financial documents (debt statements, income proofs) and create a clear picture of the financial landscape.

Make him iay it all on the table for you.

You deserve to know, especially if you plan on having a long term relationship with him.

If you willing to accept him with his financial burdens, make sure he proves that he is researching potential debt consolidation or repayment strategies.

Develop a Shared Financial Plan:

Once marriage comes on the table as an option, you should be talking about financial goals – owning a home, saving for retirement, etc. – and create a budget that incorporates debt repayment.

Make sure to work together and decide on how to handle finances after marriage (joint accounts, separate accounts, etc.) based on comfort levels and financial responsibility.

Here are some common resolutions I give based on the couple’s situation:

  • Debt Repayment Plan: Agree on a realistic timeline for paying off debt that considers income, expenses, and additional resources.
  • Financial Independence: If debt is significant, consider waiting for marriage until a larger portion is paid off, allowing for a stronger financial foundation.
  • Prenuptial Agreement: A prenup can protect each partner’s assets acquired before marriage, offering peace of mind.

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She has a higher sex drive than me. How do I say no without hurting her feelings?

Explore the Reasons:

I won’t understate this.

Sexual compatibility is very important for a long term, healthy relationship.

So it is important to explain why your sex drive might be lower without dwelling on negativity.

Common causes include stress and health issues.

Sometimes, low libido can be due to stress, fatigue, or health concerns.

I encourage you partner to see a doctor if you suspect there might be a physical reason.

The stigma around low libido isn’t what it used to be.

Find Common Ground:

Start with setting a time. Scheduling sex is not a mood killer. Actually it will increase your libido because of the anticipation.

Discuss a frequency you’re both comfortable with and explore ways to build desire.

Talk about what you would like to do and how you would like to do it.

Do you like foreplay? Is that something that has been lacking in your sex life?

What about setting the mood? This one is common, especially once you start having children.

But it’s important to make sure to give each other quality sexual attention.

Brainstorm solutions together, like scheduling “date nights” dedicated to intimacy, or exploring new sexual positions that meet both your needs.

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He lost his job/parent/etc. How can I best support him emotionally?

Acknowledge his emotions:

The phrase I hear the most from someone that is going through a rough time is “I just want to be heard”.

To provide this need, make sure you validate his feelings.

Let him know it’s okay to feel sad, angry, scared, or lost.

Phrases like “This must be really tough” or “I understand why you’d be feeling this way” show empathy.

Make sure to be a good listener. Let him vent and express his emotions without judgment.

Sometimes he won’t want to hear solutions to his problems, he just needs someone to listen to him.

Offer practical support:

For example with a job loss, you can help with job search tasks like updating resumes, practicing interview skills, or searching for openings.

You could even offer to be a mock interviewer.

The loss of a loved one is not much different. You can help with tasks like making funeral arrangements, dealing with paperwork, or running errands.

And the most underrated of them all, general support. During this time, take on more household chores, cook meals, or offer to help with childcare.

This frees up time and emotional energy for him to grieve or job search.

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Be patient:

Be understanding. Grief and recovery take time. And that time frame varies from person to person.

Don’t expect him to bounce back immediately.

When possible, encourage self care.

Suggest activities that can help him process his emotions, like exercise, spending time in nature, or spending time with loved ones (outside the immediate circle of loss if grieving).

A sense of normalcy can be grounding during hard times so also encourage him to stick to regular sleep schedules and healthy meals.

Maintain intimacy and connection:

Now more than even, be sure to show physical affection through hugs, cuddles, or holding hands (if that’s what he needs).

If you don’t live together, make sure to do daily check ins and spend quality time with him, even if it’s just watching a movie or taking a walk.

Tailor your support to his specific needs.

Some guys might want a lot of space, while others might crave physical touch and constant reassurance.

Remember, you can’t take away his pain, but you can be a strong and supportive presence as he navigates this difficult time.

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