Dr Stella Resnick is a psychologist, sex therapist, and expert at helping couples improve their relationships. She gave Love Matters her sex and relationship tips for young couples.
LM: How can being aware of each other's body language help a couple improve their sex life?
I think the most important thing is to be aware of your own body language and to recognize that when you're in a state of tension, you're sending cues to your partner that will affect your partner's behaviour.
If you're cross, your face is going to be angry, your tone of voice clipped, and your body language is going to be tight.
Your partner is observing that and very likely will be unconsciously mimicking your tone of voice, body language, and facial expression as well. So that's how partners tend to infect each other. It's called 'emotional contagion'.
Take a few deep breaths
You get out of that is by taking a few deep breaths so that you can control your tension and communicate to your partner in a more neutral tone of voice. The two of you can then work things out without a lot of emotional contagion.
You certainly want to be able to express any kind of displeasure to your partner.
But what's key is to recognize that if you have a lot of emotion surrounding your partner's behaviour, it's going to interfere with your ability to request a different way of behaving.
Recognizing that a lot of emotion is wrapped up in an issue you’re having is important. But figuring out the cause of that emotion is not always easy. Couples’ therapy can help.
Therapy is important for recognizing where the emotion is coming from.
What's making you angry? Is it your partner's behaviour? Is it your interpretation of your partner's behaviour that comes from leftover emotions or expectations from your past? Is it your fear? Or shame? Guilt?
All of these things can affect how your partner responds to you. And how your partner responds to you affects how you respond to your partner.
So it goes back and forth, which is one of the reasons that therapy is so important. Because then you have a third person there who is empathetic with both of you and can help you see how you each may be bringing out the worst instead of the best in the other.
Talk about what's positive
We need to be more aware of how we trigger each other. And if we do trigger each other, how can we trigger each other in a positive way? How can we draw the other's love and their desire to please? And especially, how can we evoke each other's desire?
We trigger each other in a positive way through positive action. When we talk about what's positive, it's contagious. We call that empathy. Positive contagion is empathy.
LM: Therapy might not be an option for some young couples. Are there things they can do on their own to work on positive contagion?
The biggest difficulty is when two insecure people get together and trigger each other’s insecurities and they don't have any perspective on the fact that they're each part of the problem. The question becomes: How can you each be a part of the solution for each other?
I'll tell you how to be part of the solution: when your partner is feeling bad, how can you soothe your partner, rather than make thing worse?
You can soothe your partner by holding each other and breathe together.
Hold each other, close your eyes, AND KISS, KISS, KISS!
LM: What exactly is it about breathing that helps?
Breathing balances the nervous system. When you're in a state of confusion and dysregulation, your sympathetic nervous system is firing 'flight or fight'. The other side of the nervous system, which is the parasympathetic, which calms us, is not online.
When you hold each other and breathe deeply, the exhales trigger the parasympathetic system. So now your sympathetic/parasympathetic systems are balancing and that enables you to be more empathic with your partner and to be able to look for solutions rather than to be focused on the problem.
LM: Do you have any other tips for young couples?
The other thing I would say is that a key aspect of having a good sexual relationship is kissing. So hold and touch each other lovingly, breathe deeply, look into each other’s eyes with warmth, smile. And kiss each other delicately with your lips somewhat parted and let your tongues find each other.
Wet kisses allow you to exchange saliva, which has testosterone promoting the sexual desire for both males and females, and dopamine, a stimulant.
So hold each other, look into each other’s eyes, smile, then close your eyes and kiss, kiss, kiss. That’s a great beginning!
Do you think these tips can help you in your sex life? Leave a comment below or join our discussions on Facebook. And if you have questions about your sex life, post a question on our discussion board!
Stella Resnick (PhD) is a clinical psychologist and author in private practice in Beverly Hills, California, who trains and supervises therapists in her 'full-spectrum'-approach: integrating couples and sex therapy. Her recent book is 'The Heart of Desire: Keys to the Pleasures of Love'.