Ask Emi

(updated 7/19/2021)

Looking for relationship advice? If you have questions for our relationship experts we are here for you. Submissions are collected through our app, and all questions will remain anonymous (we may change some parts of the question to protect anonymity). For those that shared questions – thank you for your openness and courage. Your questions will help many others here during this time of uncertainty and loneliness.

Q: What do you do when partner remembers almost EVERYTHING completely different than how it actually happened, and have a really hard time accepting responsibility if they are wrong?

First of all, I think that your partner sounds like he or she gets very defensive during arguments – which is both frustrating, but also means that they deeply care about losing you and are defending themselves from that happening. It also sounds like you both get stuck in the content of fights, instead of the important underlying emotions. The issue is that one person may remember an event differently, but ultimately it is the underlying feelings that came out of the event that are indisputable. Try leading with emotional phrases such as “during that event, I felt sad/hurt/disrespected.” Also you can remove the threat of argument by adding “I really care about you, and just want to repair from the event.” Finally, it can help a lot to make sure that each person is fairly calm during the discussion, and not trying to discuss the issue at a charged moment. Check your pulse – if it is anything close to or over 100 beats per minute, take a few minutes before trying to talk.

Q: My fiancé has been through a lot of trauma, emotional, physical pain, as well as rape, which has caused her to have trust issues. I’m also at fault for some of the emotional pain because of some lies I stated and she also has some insecurities jealousy problems. I also have some insecurities and jealousy issues. What is your advice for us to overcome these problems?

When people have experienced trauma, either in their childhood or in their relationships, they learn to safeguard against future pain, by being distrusting and armoring up. It is an adaptive response and helps keep them safe, but then sadly also blocks against positive connections. This leads to jealousy and trust issues, as well as not fully giving a trusting heart over to the partner. Processing and finding ways to cope with the past trauma is very important and a therapist is best suited to help with that work. There are often local trauma centers that can help connect victims, no matter how far back the crimes, to trained therapists. 

Q: How do you disagree with your partner in a healthy way without it turning into a hurtful name calling?

What a great question. The best way to disagree with someone in a healthy way is to validate their feelings and make sure that you restate what they are saying and how they feel about it to make sure you are “getting” their perspective. If you can do that, and you still disagree, you say “I hear you feel that way, and I get how you can see it that way. I feel differently about it, which is just my opinion and my feelings. We will have to agree to disagree on this one, and just know that we still care about each other even if we see/feel this one differently”.

Q: Would you suggest pre relationship/marital counseling before marriage?

Yes, premarital counseling can be hugely beneficial and has been practiced across the ages. It is a great way to firm up communication styles, get an understanding of each other’s triggers/sensitive spots, and get aligned on values and life goals! While it is not necessary, it is a wonderful kick off to a life together. If it isn’t financially possible to do, however, it may be wise to find some premarital workbooks to work through together. 

Q: My wife of 40+ years has informed me that she no longer needs to have sex. And, that since I haven’t been able to have an orgasm with her in several years I don’t need to be considered, because we are both over weight and no longer attracted to each other. What can I do to change her mind? I still find her very desirable, but have some issues that prevent me from having an orgasm with her.

The need to rekindle desire is a common issue brought into a therapist office, especially in long marriages. Barry McCarthy has a book specifically on this topic, aptly named Rekindling Desire. The best way to start out is to slowly reintroduce sensual touch, without any goal of orgasm. As each partner learns to feel safe in exploring what feels good and what feels uncomfortable, new sexual patterns can emerge. It can be difficult to do this work without a professional, so please know that there are many therapists who specialize in sex therapy who can help you if you get stuck.

Q: How can I get my partner to be honest with me more often?

Honesty is a cornerstone of trust, so it is understandable that you would want more honesty in the relationship. Before going further, you need to ask yourself if perhaps he is not being honest because he is protecting the relationship and scared of your reaction. If this is so, then he will need to feel that being honest is safe. Some people tend to withdraw from honest communication because they do not want to upset the other person, or they worry that they are a burden, or that their feelings will cause a fight. If any of that sounds like him, then perhaps helping to discuss with him what he actually needs from you when he has something hard to communicate would allow you to know how to move forward in those hard times.

Q: How do you move forward after infidelity and what are some ways to get rid of built up resentment and anger but still love the person with your whole entire heart.

Getting over infidelity can be hard, but it is possible. The resentment can feel like a mountain at first. Try to remember that he or she chose you, Perhaps think of the relationship as one that exists in stages or chapters, and that the hardship you went through is what allowed you into this new place of strength and resilience, both as individuals and a couple. Finally, also remember that it is okay to talk about it over and over again with your partner, asking for validation and making sure you have processed it together, from all the sides necessary.

Q: My partner has a hard time focusing when we talk about important things and sometimes gets distracted by other conversations, electronics, or tasks. It makes me feel like they are not listening, but they say they are. What should I do?

This is such a common problem! Number one recommendation: create a time, each week, to have a screen free, distraction free conversation. Don’t always make it about difficult things, and make it during a time that works for both of you. For example, some people do better over a meal, others will feel better on a restful Sunday. Finally, ask them if the reason they are distracted is from habit (screens are addicting!) or because of anxiety or nervousness. If it is the latter, make sure conversations start with validating and reassuring phrases like, “you aren’t in trouble.”

Q: Sometimes I feel disconnected from my partner after a fight or a small argument. What can I do?

Feeling disconnected after a fight is very normal. You haven’t healed yet from the wound of the disconnection. Take a moment to really think about one of those times, and think about what you may need to feel connected again. A hug? A reassuring statement? Once you have figured it out, tell your partner what it is and ask for it.

Q: I found my partner messaging someone asking them to go for coffee, even though she doesn’t drink coffee. When I asked her she said they had a promise that if they were unhappy in life they would come together and run off. Then told me she was unhappy – how do I process this and what do I do?

I’m sorry, but this question is a bit confusing. I believe you are asking what to do if your partner is unhappy and starting to look for an exit strategy? If so, it sounds like you need to start to communicate immediately about why she is unhappy and if there is a way to salvage the relationship. Most likely, the best way to figure this out would be to engage in some couples therapy.

Q: My partner of almost two years decided that he was ready for a break so we can give each other space to think about what we want out of the relationship and time apart. We are already long-distance and I’m having a really difficult time with this separation. Things I’ve done so far have been writing in a journal every time I feel like reaching out so that I don’t disrespect his wishes for space, I also have not stopped working so that I’m not tempted to reach out or think about it, but it’s getting exhausting. How long is the appropriate time to wait on a “break” for asking to talk or communicate? I’m so head over heels for my partner, I want him to know that but I also want him to do what’s best for him. Any advice would be appreciated. I’m struggling a lot.

It is impossible to know how long a break is needed for someone to figure out their needs. It may help you to ask him to give you a check in (even if just by email) on a specific timeframe that works for you (weekly? monthly? only you can decide). Also, it is important to realize what your needs are, and to express them. It may be, as sad as it is, that your needs and his needs do not line up at this moment in time. Communication is key to figuring out if you can make it through. 

Q: I struggle with the fact that my partner and I have very few shared hobbies. We are so well-aligned on all the bigger picture things (our values, goals, beliefs all line up – which is why I think we make a great couple!) but we don’t have many pastimes that we enjoy doing together. I know I can’t force my interests on him just like he can’t force his on me. How can we work to develop some shared interests? Or, how can I just let this go and focus on how we have the important things in common?

Sharing hobbies can be a great way for finding sharing quality time – but it isn’t the only way. For some people, having separate hobbies allows for the alone time that they need to feel rejuvenated in the relationship. Try to remember what you do have in common, and really relish in the times that you have together that you both enjoy. In addition, finding new hobbies can also be fun. My idea: create a list of things you’ve been interested in trying together. Then, once the list is made, choose one to try each month or two. Make sure to give it a few efforts, as many people don’t like new things at first. You may just find a new hobby to enjoy together, or at least, you will learn why you don’t tend to be attracted to the same types of hobbies. 

Q: How do you truly forgive someone? When I first met my husband, he told me that he just got out of a 15 year relationship but has been separated for 2 years. We married a month and a half after we met, but later I found out he cheated on me a week after our wedding, and that they had only been separated for four days We’ve now been married almost 2 years and he’s been faithful and devoted but I just can’t get past it… Really having a hard time wondering if this is even what I want anymore.

This sounds very hard, like you experienced a real injury to the trust and safety with your husband. Being lied to and cheated on causes deep emotional pain, and it is entirely normal for this to be hard to get past. I recommend talking to a professional, either alone or with him, to try to understand how to get through this hurt.

Q: My boyfriend has been saving half naked photos of other girls on instagram. I told him that I wasn’t comfortable with it and he stopped, but recently he told me he’s mad that he can’t save those pictures anymore and we are in a big fight about it.

Perhaps you should ask him what the naked pictures were for, why he is really mad they are gone, and also ask yourself why they bother you so much. Together, you may uncover deeper fears that once expressed, can be mitigated through direct communication. For example, do you worry that him having those pictures would indicate that he may cheat? Talking about your fears of betrayal can help him communicate his commitment to you more regularly to thwart those worries. For him, is it potentially the lack of trust or feeling of being judged that bothers him about having to delete the pictures? You can calm those fears for him by explaining why the request was there in the first place. 

Q: My boyfriend likes space after an argument, while I want to talk the situation out immediately. I always get anxious when he wants space, it makes me feel like he will decide to leave or go talk to another woman. He hasn’t gave me a reason to not trust him but he gets really angry when I don’t give him space. How can I not be upset when he needs some time alone?

What you are explaining is what we therapists call the cycle. The cycle is a pattern of interacting that gets triggered when our fears are ignited, and when we desperately want to be connected but are feeling disconnected. The pattern for you, it seems, is to pursue the connection, to immediately want to feel closer and free yourself of the pain of the argument. Unfortunately, during such escalated times, none of us are at our best, and we can sometimes say things we don’t mean, or at least don’t mean fully. Your partner has likely been hurt during such conversations, either by you or by someone in his past, and has learned that withdrawing is the safest way to protect the relationship from further problems. So in other words, when he is pulling away, he is doing so to protect himself and to protect the relationship. For you, however, that feels like abandonment and triggers further breakdown of trust. Perhaps you could ask him to say, “I care about you, I just need some time to process, and for the tension to settle, before it feels safe to talk.” In other words, finding something for him to say that speaks to the part of you that thinks the space is a sign of abandonment.  Finally, I really encourage you both to read “Hold Me Tight” by Sue Johnson. It speaks to these cycles and how to unwind them.

Q: My partner and I are engaged, but right now there’s been a lot of tension because I had to move away. Do you have any advice?

Long distance can be tough on so many levels. The first thing to think about is what do you miss most? One good thing that has come out of the pandemic – lots of new ways to connect from afar. So use that to your advantage! Figure out each person’s schedules and find “dates” to do online. There are cooking classes that you can do, online museum tours, even travel! Make room for a conversation about expectations and needs. How often do you need to talk? See each other? Video call? Are you the type of person who wants to receive a surprise note in the mail? Ask for it. Finally, remember that Emi has some wonderful ways to help you with connections, including a the Long Distance Challenge, with exercises to help long-distance couples just like you.

Q: I am 4 years into a relationship and I found out my partner was having an emotional relationship with another woman. We are still trying to work past it but recently I’ve been thinking more about my ex, remembering how easy our relationship was, how much he loved me and how trustworthy and kind he was. Now I feel as though I might have thrown away a loving wonderful relationship, all because I was afraid of missing out or fully committing. But I also don’t know if I’m just feeling this way because I feel like I can’t trust my current partner.

It is so hard to trust someone after that trust has been broken, so of course it is tough to build that back up. Even 4 years later, it can eat at us if we never really worked it out. One thing to wonder about, however, is whether this is a relationship issue – did your partner betray your trust so much that you need to work on that together – or is it more of an individual issue, as in maybe you don’t know if you want to rebuild with this person? A few conversations with a professional can really help figure out where the issue lies. If it is a couples issue, I would suggest couples therapy.  Though the betrayal was not a physical affair, the detrimental effect on the trust is often the same. You have been injured, and you deserve a place to really talk it through, and for both of you to air any concerns you have. 

Q: What can I do when my partner is shutting down and not responding to my requests to connect? I’m the default parent and I’m really exhausted being a full-time business owner, spouse, parent, housekeeper, etc. I know he is tired too, but he will just stop talking to me. It’s like I’m a one man show when we talk.

This cycle sounds so disappointing. I wonder what it would be like to be emotionally curious about why you want a date, and also about why it is so hard for him to follow through. For example, you might want a date because you want to connect! You want to feel close to him, and maybe you want him to plan it because you haven’t felt special of late, and you want him to make you feel loved? It is important to tell him that part too. Sure, it is also nice for him to plan it because you are so busy, but much more important is because you need him to help you feel connected. I’m also wondering why he doesn’t plan them – sometimes partners feel criticized if they don’t plan perfectly, or they feel really horrible if the date isn’t fun. I would ask him what is driving his lack of planning. Once again, it could perhaps be that he doesn’t realize the emotional reasons why you want him to, so it just feels like a task like taking out the garbage. If he’s busy, that will make it less of a priority. Often, I’ll hear “but I want him to show me love! I don’t want to have to ask for it all the time!” The truth is, there are many “love languages” and his language may not be asking you on a date! Here’s a link to try to figure out what language each of you may use:

Q: How do I get my husband to stop accusing me of wanting to be with other men?

It sounds like your husband is feeling very scared of losing you. He needs validation that you love him and don’t want to lose him. Try to talk to him about what you can do, realistically, to help provide that validation. If his requests are quite extreme (never speak to men again, for example), he may need to work through some anxious attachment issues with a therapist. It is also important to tell him what it feels like to be accused all the time. Often the anxiety of someone like your husband blinds them to the extent their distrust is hurting  you and pushing you away. He needs to know that too! As always, if that conversation is too much to have, consider talking to a professional.

Q: Can you give us any tips on communicating better?

The best tip for communicating is to take a moment and figure out what you want to say and why. Most of our biggest arguments are repaired with “I didn’t mean to say that” or “Actually, I meant to say” or “I hadn’t thought about how saying that would affect you…” So start by really thinking and feeling the conversation out. What is the goal? What are you trying to achieve? Why are you trying to achieve it? Is it coming from a fear? Is it coming from displaced feelings from somewhere else in your life? Once you’ve figured that part out, think about how to approach it. How does your partner best hear potential conflict? As an example, does he or she need assurance before the rest? Make sure to use a lot of “I feel___ when ___” statements instead of laying on proof. And finally, listen to how your partner feels about the conversation. Good luck!

Q: How do you get past an emotional cheat? Covid has separated us in our own home. We barely talk and I caught him talking to another woman. How do I focus on getting past it?

To get over a transgression, emotional or physical, it is important to start by talking. Usually, if someone has cheated in some way, it is because he or she has been needing something more – usually connection. This would make a lot of sense in this case, given that COVID separated you. If that is in fact why he wandered, it is important to understand why he didn’t come to you with this need for connection. Perhaps he was scared, and if so, perhaps the other woman was simply an easier option because there was less vulnerability there (in other words, rejection from her was not a big deal because he didn’t care as much about her, but putting himself out there with you would be scarier if you were to deny his needs). If you can get a better understanding of what he needed, and why he chose that path, it will be easier to get over the transgression.

Q: My boyfriend cancels on me often and I’ve communicated that I don’t appreciate it as it’s disrespectful of my time. I want this relationship to work out but I don’t see how it can when he still cancels.

The first question I would ask is actually to you – why does it bother you when he cancels? Sure, it is a waste of time, but I’d imagine it is also very hurtful. If that’s the case, then I’d say you need to tell him that directly – even if you think he should be able to infer it, he likely isn’t. Whenever a partner continues to do something against your stated wishes, my first thought is that they do not understand the emotional implication of their actions. By simply saying “it disrespects my time,” it doesn’t communicate “it hurts my feelings and makes me feel like you don’t care about my needs.” The first statement, “it disrespects my time” ultimately tells him how or why he’s doing what he’s doing and will make him defensive. You may hear him argue the content, saying something like “I do respect your time, look at when I did this other thing for you.” This response is infuriating because it misses the actual point. It is a painful experience and makes you feel like, perhaps, you can’t trust him. He can’t argue with that. It is your feeling, your pain, and your truth. If you continue to struggle with these kinds of communication misses, consider talking to a professional together for a few sessions.

Q: My boyfriend just told me he doesn’t see himself with me 5 years from now. We are so young and have been on and off for a year. What do I do? I want to save my relationship with him.

Emi: First of all, I’m sorry this happened. It can be hard to hear that, and quite heart breaking. That said, if you are young, he doesn’t know what he wants or what he will want in the future. And nor do you! Things change, and if the relationship is strong, you will grow together. If it keeps coming up, consider talking to a therapist to figure out if there is a way to come back towards each other and compromise on not making any plans in the future, so far ahead of time.

Q: How do I strengthen my relationship with my partner?

Emi: If you want a strong relationship, the key is to give it all it needs to grow! Give it a lot of time, a lot of depth of conversation, and connection. Consider practicing with Emi, which reminds you to connect frequently and with depth.

Q: How do I get my partner to let go of his past negative experiences?

Emi: When someone has had negative experiences with romantic (or really any truly close) relationships, they can respond with fear whenever something reminds them of the past. In couples therapy, we call these attachment injuries, because they are injuries to an important connection, where we felt betrayed or disappointed or abandoned by someone we had trusted. To understand how these play out, think of what happens if you cut your finger using a sharp knife. The next time, or maybe the next many times, you use a sharp knife you will be extra careful. Some may choose a blunter instrument, or avoid the task all together. This is a protective pattern, created by our brain to avoid the initial injury. It isn’t actually rational at all – for example, blunt knives are actually more dangerous than sharp ones! In other words, you cannot explain to your partner rationally that you are not like the last person. You need to be soft with him or her, with constant, gentle reminders that you are not the last person, and with frequent validation of your care and support. If that doesn’t work, it may be important for your partner to talk to a professional.

Q: I recently started dating again. Trying to understand my needs and recover from former relationships. I feel like I sabotage the experience with former expectations of what was lost. How do I realign myself from scratch? How does one date from the very beginning all over again?

Emi: If you continue to find yourself dredging old wounds up in your current relationship, the first thing to do is realize why this is normal. If you were in the woods walking, and the last time you were there you were chased by a bear, wouldn’t it be safer for your body to be aware and look around for bears? Unfortunately, in this circumstance, your brain is not potentially saving your life. But it doesn’t know that! You need to talk to yourself and say, “thanks brain for trying to help! I’m all good here though, so thanks but no thanks!” That said, there are times that our brains are noticing a pattern that we have gotten stuck in repeating. If you can be sure that you are just in “fear brain” then try to really notice all the ways that this person is different from the one that hurt you – tell yourself, with evidence, why this person is safe. If you are noticing potential patterns in who you choose to date, try to see if this person fits that pattern before making a call. If that isn’t effective, consider talking to a professional to help you heal and recognize patterns. 

Q: How do you find moments to connect when there’s a lack of time?

Emi: Finding moments to connect can be very difficult in these times. The important thing to remember is that connection isn’t about quantity of time, but quality. Start by putting down the phones/screens/work/children for even just one minute a day. Be together for that minute. Take a few deep breaths and just be with your partner. Look into each other’s eyes, maybe hug. Have a quick conversation. Try that once a day, at the same time daily. Then add to it once that feels possible.

Q: How do I deal with differing views on acceptable drinking limits? I am more conservative and health conscious than my partner.

Emi: Is this person drinking to a point that is unhealthy? Is it affecting the relationship? Are there arguments or poor decisions due to the drinking? For most people, using “I” statements is far more effective than laying down facts. For example, “I feel ____ when you drink too much.” 

Q: What can I do to have less arguments with my partner?

Emi: Communication is the key to less arguments. Try to figure out if there is a theme beneath them – perhaps on the surface it feels like the arguments are about, let’s say, daily chores. But alas, perhaps under that, there is resentment, feelings of disrespect, or deprioritization? Try to communicate at the most core emotional level. If you need help doing so, it can be helpful to talk to a professional, even if just once or twice, to help guide you in understanding what lies beneath the arguments.

Q: How do I forgive and let go of my partner’s betrayals of 4 confirmed affairs, countless lies and a child outside of our marriage?

Emi: First of all, this sounds like an extremely hard situation. Lies, betrayals, affairs, all cause real injuries that hurt and haunt us. The best advice is to consult a professional when there are repetitive patterns of destruction. In this case, destruction to the marriage, to you, and to your partner (self-destruction). Likely, these events are products of internal pain that your partner is trying to heal, so s/he will need individual treatment in addition to couples therapy. You may also need individual therapy to help you heal from the wounds.

Q: Struggling with my in-laws. We have a new baby with serious medical conditions, and they aren’t taking the pandemic seriously. My husband and I are on the same page with social distancing/limiting social engagements. I have left the conversations about expectations to my husband. They haven’t been able to seen her much, and are constantly badgering my husband. He feels like he is caught in the middle and I feel as though his parents have caused this. He doesn’t want to disappoint his parents and feels like giving them an ultimatum is too harsh, but I don’t feel the same way. I feel like we have made our position clear but they are putting their social life ahead of their grand daughter’s health and that speaks volumes to me. Do you think I should have a conversation with them? Any suggestions or thoughts?

Emi: Normally, compromising across different family systems is the ideal. However, during COVID, things get a bit more complicated! Compromise is still important, but health and individual risk tolerance also has to be considered. Perhaps the best thing to do is try to find a way to offer compassion for their position with words like “We so appreciate how much you want to see the baby and know you are going to be wonderful, caring grandparents” and then add “We hope you can respect that we are being very cautious right now, perhaps in ways that appear overly so to you, for the health of our baby.” And then explain the rules that you and your husband have created. I wouldn’t recommend getting into the facts of the risk, because there is so much information out there that validates different perspectives. Just keeping with, “we all want everyone to be safe.”

Q: My partner’s best friend doesn’t like me. Because of that, she ghosted my partner, a friend of 14+ years, and now after 2 years, she wants to act as if nothing ever happened and start “fresh.” Yet she continues to disregard me and be disrespectful. She has invited my partner on a trip but said she doesn’t want me there. My partner doesn’t understand how this is hurting my feelings and can potentially hurt our relationship.

Emi: The best place to start is with you: how do you feel about them going on vacation together? What does it make you feel or worry about? Once you have figured that out, you can go directly to your partner with your concerns. For example, if it is a worry that she will tear you apart, you need to look at what evidence you have that would support or counter that. If you want him to prioritize your relationship, think if there is a way for him to do both, or if it is all or nothing to you. Once you have figured out your needs, go to him with those specific feelings. He may react with more compassion when he understands which parts are painful and what, if anything, he can do to help.

Q: How should one deal with an overbearing in law?

Emi: Before considering how to deal with an overbearing in-law, first ask yourself what it is exactly that they are making you feel? Judged? Unseen? Whatever it is, knowing why it is bothering you exactly can help in knowing how to talk to your spouse, or the in-law, about it. Once you have figured that out, go towards your partner with compassion, as he or she is going to be stuck in the middle. Acknowledge that this is hard for them too, and decide together if it is appropriate to create boundaries and/or talk directly to the in-law. It may be better for you to own that conversation, or for your partner to own it. No matter what, acknowledging that feelings are going to be hurt and that compromises will need to be made is important, and it is okay! Not everyone can be happy all the time. Deep breath. Good luck!

Q: I get jealous and overthink about other girls

Emi: This jealousy sounds like you may need validation from your partner and maybe don’t ask for it. When we get jealous, it often signifies that we are feeling disconnected and our worried brain fills in a reason for that disconnection. In this case, you are disconnected from your partner and your brain decides that it’s because your partner has a wandering eye. Consider going towards your partner, and asking for some validation in these moments! It is okay to say “hey, I’m feeling a bit disconnected. Can we spend some quality time together?/ Can you reassure me that we are still good?”

Q: How can I learn not to take things so personally or as an attack? When my partner feels jealous or insecure, he gets very rude and blunt, when it’s really embarrassing, distasteful and at times humiliating. 

Emi: When we care a lot about someone, the ultimate threat is being left, or abandoned. Our brain does not understand the different types of fear, so it behaves with an emotional threat the same way it does for a physical threat – fight or flight response gets initiated. It sounds like when your partner gets insecure, aka fears that he will lose you, his fight or flight gets initiated – and in his case, fight! The work that you need to do together is try to slow down his reaction so that he can tell you what he needs before his response gets initiated. Most likely he needs reassurance and compassion. In addition, at a different moment, when he is feeling calm, you may want to tell him how it hurts you when these episodes take place.

Q: How do I stop being so defensive in arguments with my partner?

Emi: This question is similar to the one above. You are responding in fight or flight, because you are scared. Can you look within yourself to see what you are afraid of? One technique to consider: take your heart rate. If it is at 100 or higher, you are escalated and need to calm down. Do some deep breathing. Take a walk. Once you are below 100, restart the conversation. Ask your partner to use “I” statements. “I feel — when — happens.” This technique will reduce the propensity of blaming.

Q: My husband and I have a baby, and I just haven’t really wanted sex since our baby was born. I know it’s important to our marriage so we go for it, but I feel like it’s indicative of an overall lack of closeness since baby. How do we start to get that back so it translates in the bedroom?

Emi: Having a new baby at home is a wonderful experience that also completely changes your romantic relationship. There are a few things to keep in mind to help during this time.

  • Having a baby means a serious shift in priorities and availability. This means that things you may have taken for granted in the past are now becoming “problems.” The first step is to talk about what has changed, both for the better and worse. Find out what each person actually needs in this new chapter. Expect that there will be some areas where your needs will align, and some that may differ. Remember, this period (baby) only lasts so long! 
  • You will need to make time to be together. It can be very tempting to use baby’s nap time as a moment to exercise, or go run an errand. But time together is just as important.
  • Remember that some people need to feel emotionally connected in order to have physical intimacy. Ask yourself, has the bedroom antics dropped off because of lack of interest, exhaustion, or disconnection? 
  • Sex will look and feel different for a bit. Spontaneity is difficult. Noise may be too! Bodies may have changed. This baby phase is one of many times when your sex life will change over the years. That honeymoon period? That ended and your relationship lived on. You adjusted. In other words, don’t worry so much about what it means, and try to put that energy into making it better.
  • Finally, if all else fails, call a professional. There are plenty of therapists who specialize in such situations! Gottman even created a curriculum called “Bringing Home Baby.”

Q: Do you have any advice for new long distance relationships? Tips for things to do or keep in mind?

Emi: The best way to make sure a long distance relationship works is to have honest, authentic, clear communication and expectations. To do so, you need to first really know what you need to feel connected. Do you need a video call? A quick text in the morning? Figure it out and ask for it. Of course your partner may not be able to comply for some reason, but then you have an opportunity to practice the art of compromise together!

Q:  I’ve been married for a few years now. In the beginning of my marriage, I wasn’t very open with my wife (discussing things, sharing thoughts, things that happened in the past or present). After some counseling, I learned to opened up a little more and steadily letting my wife in… but I feel that it might be too late. What other ways can I show her that I’m completely open?

Emi: Research shows that for most people, the more we know about each other, the closer we feel. While I have no idea what the specifics of this situation may be, I do wonder if perhaps when you say you “feel it may be too late” that you are actually saying you are scared. What you are doing, opening up, is new and courageous. It makes sense to be scared! And if you haven’t done this before, it may feel risky, and you may not know what to expect. It is likely that she is scared too. If you want to show her that you are open and available, tell her so, often and softly.  Find ways to tell her you love her, that you are scared of losing her. Tell her that while you will continue to open up to her and share your feelings, each time it feels like a risk and that you could use reassurance. Finally, remember that she may not immediately understand this new version of you, but that does not mean that she doesn’t want to.