The cool girl went to therapy — and we saw a whole new vulnerability.
The SUR bartender talked openly about body image, intimacy issues, not wanting to have children, and said afterwards that therapy was "one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself," encouraging "everyone to go."
And while Ariana is totally #BodyGoals, she has the same insecurities as most people, and her spell of not wanting to have sex, despite being in a loving relationship with Tom Sandoval, is totally normal. By the end of the episode, the two seemed to have made major progress on that front, talking their issues out and not ignoring what was happening — or not happening, in the bedroom. Then they started getting hot and heavy at Ariana’s birthday party while in costume and we knew they'd be OK.
Personal Space talked to a few therapists about how couples can totally go through dry spell — and how like Tom and Ariana, if they love each other, can get past it, too.
It actually occurs at a certain point in a longterm relationship, and doesn’t necessarily mean things are over. It makes sense that familiarity with your partner would cause the relationship to become more comfortable and, well, less sexy. Again, not the end of the world.
“This occurs when a couple transitions from the honeymoon phase to the familial/committed phase of a relationship,” Eavarone says. “Both phases have their benefits, however, desire is more apparent during the initial passionate stage due to arousing physiological changes that occur such as feel-good neurochemicals dopamine and phenylethylamine flooding your brain.”
There’s another step. After realizing you have reached this point in your relationship, you have to actively decide to stay and work on it in order for it to actually work.
“Deciding to remain in a relationship after the passion fades takes daily commitment,” Eavarone adds. “It is valuable to recognize that nothing is ‘wrong’ with the relationship when you experience a decrease in intimacy, rather, consider the phrase: familiarity kills passion. The more you spend time with your partner and become accustom to their habits, the more the novelty of that person will decrease thus decreasing the excitement that encourages sex.”
In other words, please close the bathroom door.
Eavarone says that it is beneficial to have “realistic” expectations of relationships and intimacy.
“If a couple wants to experience that spark after it has faded they may want to consider how being spontaneous together and making sex fun again could aid in achieving this. Doing things together that you have never done before arouses a similar excitement experienced during the honeymoon phase. Make sex and sensuality a priority in your relationship by committing to communicating about your needs regularly, be open to constructive criticism as well as experimentation with new things including toys, educational classes, food- whatever does the trick (and may be a newly discovered kink). A little distance goes a long way and may also do the trick.”
You must also be on the same page.
“A supportive and encouraging partner is a realistic partner. Life happens and when one person in the relationship is experiencing outside stressors that are negatively impacting their desire to have sex. Consider the benefits of demonstrating empathy and validation,” Eavarone says. “Committed relationships are comprised of more than just endless happy moments. The provision of emotional union, security and dependability are key elements in supporting the longevity of a partnership. If lack of sex has become an issue for at least one partner, consider compromising on the frequency and means of each partner having their needs met. This may include self pleasure and/or being intimate when you’re not necessarily in the mood. When a couple compromises, they are acknowledging the benefits of occasionally putting ‘we’ before ‘me’ if they wish to remain together.”
Blaming doesn’t help either—after all, if you don’t have sex for a while, things can get awkward. You have to work together to get back to that good place. And therapy can’t hurt.
“Intimacy challenges may be difficult for couples to navigate due to the sensitivity of the issue and the high risk for miscommunication (blame and personification). Working with a therapist who specializes in sex and relationship concerns can prove to be an effective tool in amending experienced troubles in the bedroom. It is important to identify and reduce irrational beliefs that lead to negative emotional consequences, including awkwardness, surrounding not having sex for a while. Such cognitive distortions only contributing to the barriers the couple is experiencing preventing them from actually achieving their goal of an improved sex life. “
New York-based therapist Dr. Liz Lasky, Ph.D., LCSW, tells Personal Space that what Tom and Ariana are experiencing is very, very normal.
“It is so common for long-term committed couples to hit a lull in their sex life,” she says. “It can be very easy to catch each other’s apathy. Likewise, it can be easy to watch others effort and spirit in the bedroom. I would encourage couples to explore what has worked before during a lull and see if there are any ideas that pop up from previous experience. I would also push couples to explore what a one percent upgrade may look like in the bedroom. Perhaps an overhaul with stilettos and lingerie is too overwhelming! A small shift, such as making sure you kiss more every day, holding hands, or making a commitment to snuggling before bed, seems more manageable and desirable.”
How about if one half of the couple is going through something and doesn't want to have sex, how can they get through it together?
“Not feeling up to having sex at any point is totally normal,” Dr. Lasky says. “The best way to deal with this is to be honest about your feelings with your partner. Simply asking one another ‘what do you think would help us during this time?’ can lead to a breakthrough. We often think we need to have all the answers but there is so much room to problem solve together as a couple. This is entirely fixable and many couples experience this.”
You can’t ignore the sex(less) talk.
“Communication is the key when there is any type of awkwardness about sex,” she adds. “My advice is to notice, acknowledge it to each other, and problem solve. You may say something like ‘I don’t know if this is just me, but this feels silly because we haven’t done it in so long!’ You may want to add something ‘I want to acknowledge that I feel a little shy.’ Once you can articulate what feels off, you can begin to problem solve together.”
And if your partner isn’t on the same page, you may want to rethink if this is the right person to be having sex with, Dr. Lasky says.
“The person you’re having sex with is not a mind reader. They will hopefully be grateful for any guidance about what you like or what would make sex more enjoyable! One way to express this is to say, ‘can I make a request?’ Most partners would be happy to listen to your request and oblige. If your partner says no, you may want to rethink if this is the right person to be having sex with. You can always ask your partner if they have any requests of you too.”
Personal Space is Bravo's home for all things "relationships," from romance to friendships to family to co-workers. Ready for a commitment? Then Like us on Facebook to stay connected to our daily updates.