Watch this before you get married or move in together

This is beautiful….

The relationship counsellor in me got very excited when he started talking about Dr Gottman.

Gottman says the most important factor for a happy marriage is attention.

Small moments of positive attention.

Remember you are on the same team.

It’s about giving your partner consistent small acts of love and attention.

It’s the small things often that make the big differences over time.

It’s the small moment of our lives that take up the biggest parts of our hearts…

If you’re in a relationship, what is your favorite small act of love that your partner does for you?

Let me know what you think of the video..

She struggles to orgasm. Anorgasmia in Women.

Are you a woman struggling to orgasm with your partner?

Suzy* had never orgasmed with her husband. She came to see me after her doctor recommended she see a sex therapist. Her doctor couldn’t find any medical problems so together we worked to find the source of her “inorgasmia”. She was able to orgasm through masturbation (solo sex) but not partnered sex.

During our sessions we explored her attitudes to sex, her sexuality, her body, genitals and her relationship.

Suzy had been brought up in a strict religious family where she was taught that women should suppress their sexual appetite.

Cultural ideas that demonise and repress sex have a profound influence on women’s ability to orgasm and can block women’s sexual potential.

Suzy felt guilty for masturbating and thought her vulva was ugly and sinful because of her upbringing.

Light and Shadow Keinyo White

I set Suzy various homework exercises to do at home. Suzy’s homework exercises were to look at her naked body in the mirror, regularly masturbate, sleep naked and and have a good look at her genitals under a proper light with a mirror. She had never done these before and over time with support, they increased her sexual awareness and acceptance of her body.

Art therapy and positive sex education helped view her sex organs as cherished and beautiful.

We explored Suzy’s childhood to discover unconscious blocks. Her father abandoned the family when she was four and was sporadically available for a few more years before disappearing from her life altogether. The pain from this abandonment kept her imprisoned in a knee jerk response of emotional control whenever she felt vulnerable. She was scared of letting go and surrendering to her partner. Hypnosis and meditation helped Suzy to start to ‘let go.’

We looked at how her intimate relationship functioned. Research consistently shows that a woman’s happiness in her relationship and whether she feels ‘safe’ are directly connected to her ability to orgasm. Emotions are more important when it comes to orgasm with a partner than with masturbation.

There were power and control issues in her relationship surrounding the expectation that the man in a relationship is rightfully the sexual ‘boss’. Suzy didn’t want to offend her husband by asking for what she wanted. She wanted to ask for more foreplay and clitoris stimulation but was scared he might take it personally and feel like a failure. Her husband rushed foreplay and had only received sex education through pornographic films. They didn’t use lubricant so the condoms caused Suzy pain. Lots of lubricant is essential for safe sex always.

Together we worked on healthy communication styles where Suzy could vocalise her sexual preferences and share sex education resources with her partner. I set sensual “homework” exercises for the couple that started with non-genital caresses. They had to practice touching each other in ways that focussed on pleasurable sensations instead of orgasm.

By the end of our sessions Suzy had achieved her first “coital orgasm” and had showed her husband how she liked to be touched in a non-confronting way. They’d opened up their sexual repertoire to pleasure and intimacy as the goal rather than orgasm. Together they had  improved their communication. Suzy had challenged her own internalised beliefs, accepted she was entitled to sexual pleasure and reclaimed her sexual power.

*Not her real name.

Cat O Dowd: Sex Therapist, Relationship Counsellor, Art Therapist.

This first appeared in my column for Ciao magazine. You can read it in the magazine here.

Art- Light and Shadow: Keinyo White

Art- Page  from Sketchbook # 20 [man and woman sleeping in bed] Diebenkorn.


Relationships are not products and love cannot be caught.

Relationships are not products.
What online dating apps, pick artists books and commitment trap programmes are doing to dating..

“We turn wimps and geeks into supercharged macho studs!!!”
Pick up artist products lure men through promising multitudes of sexual partners and the “‘cost-benefit’ analysis of casual sexual hook ups without the supposed “hassles” of relationships or commitment.
Relationships are depicted as games of instant gratification and women as exploitable commodities.

Women are sold equally gender stereotyped products guaranteeing; You Really Can Capture His Heart And Make Him Love You Forever!” … This sells women the idea that men are naturally scared of relationships and need to be manipulated into a relationship!

However this promise to “capture love” sells a flawed premise.
You can’t capture love and you sure as hell can’t force anyone to love you. True love is freely given without games or manipulation. It is a gift not an obligation.

Online hook up apps can give the illusion that there’s a perfect person out there for us– when in reality a relationship is two imperfect people coming together to create a sanctuary of love in this rollercoaster world we live in.

Our culture has unreasonable expectations that the “perfect love” happens without work or effort and our true “soul mate” will naturally fulfil all our desires.

Think of all the work and effort that it takes to perfect the playing of a musical instrument.. Relationships are the same. We don’t just naturally wake up and know how to play the violin! We have to practice and practice and learn and grow and perfect our skills until we get better and better! At first when we pick up that violin it might sound like a cat scratching a tin roof!  We benefit from the help of a music teacher, just like how I help my couples and single clients improve their relationship skills and over time we get better.  We definitely don’t just find the perfect violin in a shop that means we don’t have to have lessons, read music or even practice anymore!

So much choice so why settle down?

Apps can bombard us with so much choice it can feel like a sacrifice to give up options and settle with just one. You know when you’re at the salad bar and there’s so many delicious options you worry that your choice isn’t right and perhaps you preferred the others? Or you keep browsing and taste testing, hoping to find the perfect one in a perpetual cycle of dissatisfaction? I’ve done this before!  You’ll send yourself bananas on the eternal quest to find the perfect meal or the perfect partner.
Choice doesn’t necessarily equal good! Commitment phobic types can stay in this state for a very long time. Never settling down as soon as they notice their partner has flaws. Some of these types can put their partner up so high on a pedestal that they just can’t cope when they realise  that this idealised vision is just a human with warts and all. But more about this type of love later.

“Consumer dating” encourages us to look at potential partners as disposable products. People are not products.

Mature love involves commitment, true intimacy and meeting anothers emotional, mental and physical needs. Those terrified of true intimacy can perpetually hide in the world of “hook ups” that can act as a protective defensive mechanism to being hurt.

My Partner Isn’t Perfect!

People can become so highly critical of their partners that they will never ever be satisfied. 
Sometimes once we know our partner is committed to us (the idealised honeymoon phase) we can start trying to change them into our version of the “perfect partner” who is better suited to our own selfish needs. 
This is the “power struggle” and second phase of the relationship, where you might obsess over all your differences with your partner whereas before you mainly noticed the similarities.

Rather than obsessing on everything that is wrong with your partner, try focussing on how you can improve yourself and what you bring to the relationship. A relationship is the combined work of two people together. It’s not a passive process of ordering what you want from a menu, scrutinising it for flaws and returning it for a replacement when flaws are detected or boredom sets in.

I see clients who begin relationships preoccupied with; “What can I do for my lover?” which transforms over time into: “What am I getting out of this person and this relationship?”
 Remember to accept difference, embrace compromise and work on unconditionally loving your partner as a complete package-flaws and all.

This article appeared in CIAO magazine and was designed for people in non abusive relationships. If you are worried you are in an abusive relationship then please get in touch..