Q&A with Marriage & Family Therapist Dr. Lisa Powell

October 08, 2014
Q&A with Marriage & Family Therapist Dr. Lisa Powell

Throughout your marriage both parties go through many changes. Sometimes those aren’t always easy to handle on your own. We sat down with Marriage & Family Therapist Dr. Lisa Powell and asked a few questions that often come up when it comes to marriage counseling. Here’s what she had to say:

  1. What made you go into marriage and family therapy?
    I believe that our relationships are incredibly important to our wellbeing. As humans, we are systemic, which means that we are all part of the system that we live in. What a husband says to his wife affects her mood and what she says and does for her children.

    A mother’s behavior affects how the children act in school, and this behavior comes out in their grades. These grades either impress or disappoint the parents, which affects how the parents respond to the children.

    This is a cycle that continues over and over with every person, in every family. This is fascinating to me, and the idea of counseling just an individual without considering their social network does not make sense.

  2. Is therapy only for couples headed for divorce?
    Marriage counseling is not just for couples headed for divorce. By the time you are talking divorce, there is only a chance that you can turn the relationship around!

    Marriage counseling is for any time when you need help talking openly and honestly with your partner. Some therapists recommend counseling for every major life change: getting married, having the first child, having the second child, job changes, retirement, etc.

    The best time to get counseling is when one of you thinks that it might be a good idea to do so. If your partner says they want counseling, find a counselor and start going.

    Some couples can openly talk with each other and can easily explain what is on their minds without getting defensive or fearful. Other couples need someone to teach them skills that will help them communicate more freely or maybe show them some good habits to have in the relationship.

    That is where counseling is the most beneficial: when you are still on good terms but you just want to do things better.

  3. What are common concerns from women about love and sex after 50?
    Love and sex after 50 is very different from love and sex in the 20s, or even the 30s.

    Women actually have their sexual peak around the age of 40 and women in their 50s can be more orgasmic than younger women. This can be a delightful surprise for women after 50, who might believe that menopause puts an end to sexual activity. Not at all!

    During and after menopause, the vaginal area can become less lubricated naturally and the skin can become thinner and more sensitive. Using a lubricant helps you enjoy touching and even intercourse, and still allows you to be gentle with your body.

    In addition, some women are concerned about bladder leakage as they get older. Talk with your doctor about your concerns since there are remedies. Doing kegel exercises on a daily basis can help strengthen the muscles that control leakage. Not only will this help women build their confidence with intimacy, but it can also help them have stronger orgasms with the stronger muscles.

    Please talk with your doctor about your particular concerns.

  4. How can addressing sexual issues help an older couple?
    Couples who are in their 50s and older today, grew up in a time when sex was not widely discussed. If the couple still believes that intimacy will work the same for them now as it did 20 or 30 years ago, they will be disappointed. But with education, the older couple can discover that intimacy is even better now than it was before.

    Some couples might need to try different positions or activities in order to better enjoy intimacy, and the experimentation and learning can help bring the couple closer together.

    For instance, many couples enjoy the missionary position as an intercourse standby, but it is known now that this position can actually lead to more erectile dysfunction because of the way the penis is aligned during penetration.

    Trying a different position, or more manual stimulation, can help the couple achieve greater enjoyment for both partners, and changing positions during intercourse can have positive effects. Couples might also benefit from learning about wedge pillows that can help with positioning and various toys that can provide more direct stimulation and lead to a stronger orgasm.

  5. What piece of advice or knowledge do you find yourself telling couples most often?
    Most couples feel they are communicating openly and honestly, but their partners don’t understand them. I remind couples often that they are on the same team as their partner and that the goal is to understand each other, not to be right.

    Validating what you hear your partner say to you, and the feelings they are expressing, can help you both understand each other more fully. This understanding often helps resolve conflicts.

    I also remind the couples that whatever their partner does, it’s generally not about them. That means that if your partner says something that is hurtful, usually they don’t mean to be hurtful and they don’t even realize that they are hurting you. If you tell yourself that what your partner did isn’t about you, and wasn’t meant to hurt you, then you can look at the situation from a more objective point of view.

    Of course there are situations when partners do intentionally try to hurt the other, but that is not what this is referring to. In loving relationships we all unintentionally say and do things that our partners can choose to take negatively. The idea here is that if you have a choice of taking an event in a positive way or a negative way, choose the positive way and know in your heart that your partner did not mean to hurt by their actions.

  6. What do you wish women spoke up about more often (and to whom)?
    I see many women struggling with their sexuality because of things that have happened to them or beliefs they hold. Girls are still taught that they should be pure and that they shouldn’t talk about sex. Older women may have held onto their confusion about sexuality since they were young. These hurts and confusing ideas don’t go away without help.

    I would really like to see women open up with professionals about their past sexual experiences in order to get the healing they deserve. It is not too late to learn new ways to be a sexual being, in whatever form that takes – even if this means abstaining from intercourse or other intimacies altogether. It is never too late to start the healing process so that past behaviors and events no longer control thoughts and actions.

    In addition to professional help, women should be more open with their partners about their sexuality. Many women are afraid or reluctant to tell their partners what they want, or don’t want, in a sexual relationship. This can cause even more long term suffering because they feel they don’t have control or a voice. Seeing a sex therapist, or a counselor who has experience in sex therapy, can help open the conversation up so that it is easier to explore sexual topics.

  7. What's the most important thing for couples to know about midlife sex?
    Midlife sex for couples should be fun. At this point, sex is not about having babies but is about mutual enjoyment. Being able to talk with your partner about what you want to try, or what you like, even what you don’t like, can be difficult.

    However, this is the time to do just that. This is the time in their lives to experiment a little and try new things that they wouldn’t have considered when they were younger.

    Some couples believe that sex is no longer necessary at this point in their lives. However, sexual touch is healing at all ages and helps form closer bonds with your partner.

    If a couple can approach sex and intimacy with a sense of fun and the ability to laugh with each other, then it can be a joyful experience that brings them closer together.

Vibrant Voice Ambassador at Replens
The Vibrant Voice Ambassador’s mission is to collect interesting stories and useful articles that are relevant for mature women.  Our goal is to help you maintain an active lifestyle - to Fifty and Beyond!
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