Local Therapists Answer Your Biggest Questions About Love
Experts share insights on the most popular topics relating to love and relationships
With Valentine’s Day coming up, love is on many folks’ minds this week. We recently asked you to submit your questions on love and relationships and then we shared them with three local therapists — Peter Craig, Gretchen Goswitz, and Fernanda Barceló. Here they share some insights on the most popular topics.
How can single adults find lasting love when dating apps are failing them?
While more people look online for love, many find it difficult to make their relationship stick for more than a few months. Are there so many options that the glimmer of a new connection fades as the mirage of greener grass appears? How does one stand out to potential partners and make love last?
Date with intention. Know what you desire regarding values, ideal lifestyle and goals. The clearer you are on these elements — and the more you embody them yourself — the sooner you’ll know when it’s time to say next. Courting is a process. It’s important to lead with care and vulnerability, but people must earn your trust over time. Coming out of the gate oversharing or undersharing may lead to another fizzled connection. Show your date genuine curiosity, with thoughtful questions and responses. Humans bond more through emotion than logic, so share feelings and have fun. If you’re not enjoying yourself, how will they enjoy you?
Next, cultivate relational skills, like being present and listening deeply. No one appreciates talking to someone itching for their turn. The honeymoon phase ends because we have to confront our differences. When you can embrace this complexity instead of seeing it as a problem, you’ll be on your way to negotiating relationship agreements that respect autonomy and a shared vision. Accepting someone’s uniqueness also includes helping them feel secure with you and learning how to comfort them in ways that are different from your own. Having the humility to apologize and repair connection — along with playfulness and humor — go a long way in fostering a satisfying love life.
Peter Craig is an individual and couples therapist who helps clients experience greater fulfillment in life and relationships. From dating coaching to ketamine-assisted therapy, he integrates several therapeutic modalities to support client breakthroughs in body, mind, and spirit.
How do couples stay in love for decades?
What a loaded question! And one that millions of people in relationships have been pondering for a very long time. We are fortunate to be able to rely on the extensive research conducted by The Gottman Institute on what can make and break romantic relationships and gain a nuanced perspective from the work we do directly with couples in therapy.
First, and I believe to be foremost, couples who remain in love for decades invest in gestures of trust and commitment. These couples have each other’s back, are frequently considerate of the other person’s needs and views, and default to seeing their partner through a positive, admirable lens rather than negative or critical.
Friendship is another important element for longevity in love. You want to feel like your partner is your ally, someone you share commonalities with and a mutual fondness for. Strong couples have also mastered the skill of repair. There’s often a misconception that devoted, healthy couples don’t argue, which is absolutely not the case. Rather, they know how to effectively and respectfully manage conflicts and constructively address the ruptures. In the wake of disagreements, these couples have an understanding that compromise will help them find a common ground to move forward in a way that feels fair. It’s also worth noting that compromise is easiest to attain when both people know that the rewards of this partnership are worth the time and energy and the give-and-take.
Gretchen Goswitz is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate (supervised by Michelle Hawn, LPC-S and Concetta Troskie, LPC-S), who works with adult individuals and couples in Austin. She takes a collaborative approach with clients while also placing emphasis on tools for self-empowerment.
How can new parents maintain love and intimacy with each other while navigating the ups and downs of raising young children?
This is a tough question to answer since what we do know for certain is that having a baby does unequivocally change the dynamic of any relationship, and even the strongest of couples will feel the strain. That being said, knowing this can also allow us to prepare mentally and emotionally for when that strain inevitably happens. One of the main things that creates distance between partners when a baby first arrives is how much of their life now revolves around baby-centered things: feedings, nap times, diaper changes, doctor appointments — the list is endless! We face the reality that we now have very little time to focus on ourselves, let alone our relationship. For new parents, prioritizing even the smallest chunks of time for rituals of connection is essential for them not drifting apart. This can look like a set night to watch a movie together on the couch once the baby is asleep or a no-phone dinner at home with the intent to check in with one another. A date night in the early stages of parenthood shouldn’t be too complicated; quality time spent at home with one another is just as valuable as a night out for dinner. What’s important is that both people feel engaged with one another, and there’s space to talk, touch and reconnect.
Sex and intimacy can be a tough arena for most new parents. A new mother in the process of healing from giving birth, plus the exhaustion that sets in for both parents in those early days, can make sex fall to last place on the to-do list. But don’t feel shame or guilt if the frequency of sex dwindles; this is incredibly common in the first few months (or even years) of new parenthood. Instead, focus on creating more intimacy outside of the bedroom through sweet gestures. Meaningful connection and actions breed intimacy, so while making your partner their favorite breakfast might not feel very sexy, these types of intentional actions actually raise the possibility of sexual intimacy happening later. Women’s sex drive, especially, is based on their emotional and psychological state. So, when a woman feels seen, cared for and appreciated, the likelihood that they’ll want to connect in a more physical way grows exponentially.
The takeaway here is to prioritize simple and frequent moments of connection. Meaningful conversations over your favorite meal, a sweet note thanking your partner for all they do, or making their coffee just how they like it are easy yet powerful ways to stay connected through the trenches of new parenthood.
Fernanda Barceló, a women’s psychotherapist based in Austin, Texas, offers her unique blend of Eastern and Western approaches when working with her clients. Her approach is inspired and informed by her extensive education, training and personal travels focused on mindfulness, yoga and holistic approaches to psychotherapy and emotional healing. With over a decade of personal and professional experience in both the realms of mindfulness-based counseling and yoga, she helps guide others toward full-body wellness and a life of true integrity.