Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Mental health is a complex system of memories, emotions, behaviors, and experiences. It’s constantly changing, constantly reflecting new (or old) circumstances, fears, and people.

It’s all too easy to take our loved ones for granted, especially in fraught times like these. But that of course is when clear, strategic communication matters most.

So why do we let our relationship communication get buried under chaos?

Because when we’re in survival mode, the natural instinct is to focus on self-preservation. At all costs. Which sometimes means our relationships pay the bill.

The solution to taking each other for granted

Unfortunately that change of focus often results in neglecting our relationships…


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I can’t tell you how often it comes up in couple’s therapy that both people feel unappreciated by a partner they deem ungrateful.

Sometimes one partner isn’t pulling their weight, taking more than they’re giving — but more often it’s a simple matter of missing communication. Forgetting to express gratitude and appreciation for the things we do for each other within a relationship.

It’s natural from a survival standpoint to lock in on the negative and take for granted the positive. That’s how you stay alert to environmental threats. That’s part of why we’re so adaptable.

But as conscious beings…


Tell me if you’ve heard this one:

Therapy is for the past and Coaching is for the future.

And while that aphorism does have a kernel of truth, you won’t be surprised by the qualification that nothing in mental health care is so simple. Even within therapy, there’s a wide range of certifications, degrees, modalities, and treatment styles. And coaching can be even broader.

Therapy or coaching, we could all use some professional mental health support. For a long time now we’ve all been stuck in one slow-burning crisis or another. Take your pick of local, national, global traumas; from…


Then as time went on, routines replaced passions; contentment eclipsed excitement; ardor gave way to affection. You “settled in” and cozied up.

Sex became a rut—not in the animalistic sense—or even a duty or a chore. Cycling the same positions, places, procedures. Perhaps feeling pressured, or suffering performance anxiety, or just finding it easier not to bother.

If you’re like 80% of couples, you’ve experienced what’s known as desire discrepancy.

How do I get my partner to want sex as much as I do?

First try thinking of it in different terms. The language you use regarding sexual encounters does make a difference. Attitudes like “getting” or “making” someone do something can come off…


Sensate Focus helps couples rediscover intimacy

Photo by Anthony J. Davis @atl_gemini

Originally published on SexTherapistRVA

Raise your hand if you’ve ever felt at odds with your partner, with your sexual satisfaction, or with your physical experience of sex…

Keep your hand up if you’ve tried various sexy-time methods to get over the hump (as it were) including dress-up, scheduled intimacy,

Now keep your hand up if you’ve ever tried rediscovering intimacy by NOT having sex…

Sensate focus is a method for returning to the pure electric sensory experience of loving touch — without the pressure of performance, penetration, orgasm, or any other goal.

What is sensate focus?

Before the 1960s, sex was an almost entirely…


Are you ready for your lover to reflect your needs?

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Originally published on SexTherapistRVA.com

You deserve more than mere co-existence with your romantic partner. You deserve deepening connections (physical and mental) and continuing progress toward common goals. You deserve a partner who’s attuned to your complex mental nooks and crannies — not just attentive to your body parts.

And so does your partner.

Improving relationship communication is a vital part of romantic commitment — and it’s an ongoing process. Every partnership could benefit from some guidance from time to time. That’s where sex therapy comes in—but it can also be helpful just reading about communication techniques and practicing them together.


How effective partnerships avoid common pitfalls

Ron Swanson’s Relationship Therapy
Ron Swanson’s Relationship Therapy

Originally published on SexTherapistRVA.com

Communication is hard. We have this beautiful and sprawling language evolved through centuries of interaction — but it’s still entirely insufficient for expressing the complex web of thoughts, emotions, and experiences that make up human consciousness.

Every one of us is the result of uncountable tiny experiences that sculpt who we are; through years of listening, speaking, and feeling. Because of that, every string of words means something slightly different to each individual. Even when we choose all the right words to say what we mean…the recipient hears them somewhat differently.

If we’re not careful, that…


How black writers shed light on America — if we read them

(Originally published in Clarion Magazine)

Poet Aaron Coleman reading “On Surrender”

Back in 2016 when the US was on the precipice of electing as president a human airsick-bag full of all the worst distillates of American rot, a feisty little press called Button Poetry sent me a review copy of St. Trigger, the prize-winning chapbook by emerging poet Aaron Coleman.

It must be said, I am by no means qualified to write poetry reviews — prose has always been my language and my cage. Even when I endeavor to read important poetry and nonfiction I always keep a novel on the side.

Fortunately St. Trigger had…


6 sex tech innovations changing the pleasure game

Photo by Hammer & Tusk on Unsplash

Originally published on SexTherapistRVA.com

Like it or not the digital age is here to stay — and with it comes extraordinary advances in sex tech. From VR pornography to wifi sex toys to whatever comes next…it’s time for couples to start talking about boundaries and expectations regarding sex tech and fidelity.

The thrusting point of sex tech innovation

Sex tech has always represented a driving force in innovation and occupied a significant slice of the economy. From sheepgut condoms to Victorian “hysteria-relief machines” to the first sepia photograph of a naked ankle sold for two bits.

Yet somehow as a society we’ve been unable to talk candidly…


How taboo and shame disempower personal freedom

Photo by Hello I'm Nik 🎞 on Unsplash

Originally published on ValerieMcDonnell.com

The zoo was packed.

One of those days where every school nearby had the same good idea. Blue sky, not too warm. Almost lunchtime. A dozen 6th graders pressing their noses to the glass watching a lemur sunning himself spreadeagled on the grass beyond. Waiting for one last group of classmates to return.

Then a shriek erupted to a shrill chorus of horrified and nervous kid laughter—

Sure enough the lemur had sat up against a log with his legs splayed, both little hands tugging greedily for all he was worth.

The faces of the parent…

Paul Blumer

I write about sex, mental health, and other human entanglements | www.quillpoweragency.com

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