Intimacy & Sexuality

A couple’s intimacy can be measured by each individual’s ability to be emotionally and physically open, allowing themselves to be vulnerable and allowing the other to understand them on a deeper level. 


In the beginning of intimate relationships, most people are eager to share their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and physical connections with their new partner. Their relationship is exciting, and being open and vulnerable is fun.

As time goes on, children are often added to the family system and work and life become hectic. Partners tend to drift apart, often losing the ability to connect emotionally, physically, sexually, and spiritually. In our intensive couples retreat we help you to understand better the stages of a marriage and family, how these stages affect your physical and emotional intimacy, and how they relate to your life together and to each of you individually.

Emotional Intimacy and Physical Intimacy are intertwined

Emotional intimacy is founded on each individual’s emotional security and confidence, and the ability to communicate their feelings with their partner. Emotional insecurity derives from many factors, including low self esteem, childhood trauma, past rejections, and failed relationships. We help to support each of you in clarifying your thoughts and feelings, and in giving you the confidence to share them with your spouse. All relationships, like individuals, go through certain predictable stages of development. Understanding these stages is very useful to healthy relationship growth.

The symptoms of marital problems are often exhibited in problems of physical intimacy… sexual problems. The situation may include problems of performance, inhibited sexual drive, or infidelity, and partners often see the problems quite differently, and have in mind different solutions. When we see that physical or emotional intimacy is one of the marriage problems we call upon our experiences as Marriage and Family Therapists to discuss carefully these issues and concerns. At Marriage Quest our goal is to help you both, in a non-judgmental manner, to understand the factors that have led to your problems, explore your personal tolerance and sensitivities, and give you approaches and tools that will enhance your lives on all levels.

Intimacy Substitution

Often intimacy is replaced by a substitute. The substitute can be of a sexual nature such as infidelity, pornography, phone sex, internet blogging, chronic masturbation, etc. The substitute can also be of a non-sexual nature such as psychological dependencies on the children, work, food, gambling, sports, shopping, pets, community activities, etc.

Most therapists look at these problems as a disease or addiction, and attempt to cure the problem with the individual alone. We, as marriage and family therapists, look at the family as an interrelated system and work with the couple as a unit to get at the underlying problems.


All couples are different. Some couples find that, after working through their emotional intimacy goals and strengthening their communication skills, they are ready to go another layer deeper, particularly in the areas of physical intimacy and sexuality. Some couples return to us for another Marriage Quest Retreat to address these issues after their initial work on conflict resolution and communication in the first retreat. Other couples see sexuality as their primary issue and choose to deal with it in coordination with their other goals and some couples are immediately focused on sexual issues. Improving the feelings of connectedness, desire, and desirability is one of our goals as your therapists.

We have worked with many couples who secretly wished to improve their sexual relationship but would not say it unless specifically asked the right question. Sadly, most therapists rarely inquire or know what to do to help couples improve or resolve sexual concerns. We take sexual issues seriously and know how sensitive they can be as well as how important they are to the overall health and happiness of a marriage.

Sexual satisfaction improves as the overall health and wellness of the relationship improves. Which comes first? Just as in the age-old children’s riddle The Chicken or the Egg, no one remembers which came first, the sexual problems or the marital problems.

However they started, the problems festered and grew, feeding each other, getting worse and worse until the marriage was in real trouble. Because the marital and sexual problems are so intertwined it is sometimes necessary to unravel them both at the same time.

We work with each couple to determine which approach is the best. As sexual therapists as well as marriage therapists, we have had very good success in working with and helping couples understand and improve their feelings of desire as well as performance and technique. We have helped couples to understand and deal with the “normal” psycho-sexual stages of a marriage including the change from the honeymoon to parenthood and the young family years, as well as the menopausal and aging years of a marriage. For example, older couples who work with us find relief and greater pleasure when they focus more on pleasure than on performance.

While many couples find that emotional intimacy leads to sexual intimacy, it is also true that too much closeness can sabotage a “hot” love life. Dealing with the daily business of diapers, bills, and dishes can (and often is) a mood crusher and usually interferes with lust and passion. We help couples recapture the passion by exploring their erotic nature.

What should happen in a long term, mature relationship is for the newness and excitement to be replaced by a comfort and commitment. Through this trust and confidence in the relationship… exploration and experimentation can occur. This can be the doorway to a deeper level of excitement and “sexploration”.

Just as the two problems feed on themselves, so the solution can also feed on itself. As the therapy progresses, and the four of us work on the marital problems we will also develop a plan to improve the sexual problems, and even assign “homework” to get started during the retreat. Reducing the stress in the marriage can increase sexual intimacy, and they can both improve together.

Marriage Quest is an intensive counseling retreat designed and lead by Israel and Cathie Helfand in Cabot, Vermont. The two of us work with one couple at a time over a three day period. When there is a sense that physical or emotional intimacy is lacking in a marriage, it can feel cold, sterile, and at times hopeless. By working together as a team we have helped hundreds of couples through this hunger for deeper intimacy.

Spark Your Marriage

Because we are both senior marriage counselors and sex therapists this is an area we receive referrals from other therapists who have been stuck or ill equipped to deal with such issues. If you or both of you are currently in therapy, ask your therapist, or show them our website. We are confident they would welcome our help!

For more information on our couples sexuality retreat option see our sister site
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