Tag Archives: intimacy

2021: A year Love, Labour and Loss

Love is a mystery. Love is unitive. Love is how we connect as human beings with one another and with the whole universe together. Love is how we learn, become better, and make the world a better place to live for us and others. Love needs freedom to breathe, equality to thrive, and openness to flow and grow. Love is personal, political, philosophical, sexual, social, historical, metaphysical, transcendental, et al. Sadly, we have only one word to describe such a complex emotion. The ancient Greeks had six different words, but even that’s not enough. 2021 taught me new ways to describe the complexity of love and its various hues. Love lost on many counts, but it miraculously sprang on a few occasions like a phoenix. My LOVE vocabulary was defined and redefined by people who touched my life one way or another this year.

shillpi a singh

LOVE IS INTIMATE: Intimacy coaches

The rules of engagement in modern relationships have changed over the years, comments Pallavi Barnwal, certified sexuality coach, and founder of GetIntimacy.com, listing out the changes, one by one. 

She observes how love is aided by technology; people find their partners or connect to them on a dating app, or through social media. The age of getting married has increased (which means the first relationship is not always the last one and people have more than one past relationship before they get married. Technology has spoilt people for choice and the days are engulfed around technology but at the same time of energy of technology (fast, quick, solution-oriented) does not match the energy of love which is (slow, gradual, mystical). People are socially distanced from extended family networks, and although they might have broad swathes of followers and social media friends, the reality is that is lonelier than ever. In this realm, their expectations and demands from their marriages and partners have drastically increased. New relationship models are emerging – single-parent families, live-in relationships, gay couples, divorce because of emotional/ sexual compatibility. People are looking towards sex not just as a form of making babies, or intimacy but also as a source of pleasure. They are looking towards sex not just as a form of making babies, or intimacy but also as a source of pleasure; they don’t mind are experimenting with sex toys, watching adult movies on Netflix, trying out kink partners in onlyfans, exploring cuckoldry, threesomes, etc. 

New Delhi-based Barnwal states how the emerging era of modern love and sex is a completely different paradigm. “To be able to deal with it and get what we want needs totally different skills. One we have not learned in our parent families, since that relationship model was based on meeting needs, setting family, and raising kids. But we are spoilt for choice and because of a rising emphasis on “self” or the “individual” we feel entitled to our wants and also have a ‘more’ mindset when it comes to Love and Sex.” 

The article was published in The Free Press Journal on December 26, 2021.

Mr and Mrs Malhotra, a happily married couple on (role play), who deep down were broken, shattered and looking for ways to walk out on each other because their sex life was in a mess. In the nick of time, the couple went through a series of sessions. In their first session together as a couple, the intimacy coach got hold of the issue between the two. “She helped me communicate with my husband in a positive manner. Earlier I would whine and complain but wasn’t clear in my expectations. The next six sessions were with two of us individually where the coach helped us understand each other and our needs better. She empowered us to learn ways of positive and non-violent communication and helped us to understand what the other partner was going through and what are the challenges both of us are facing with one another,” recounts Mrs Malhotra. 

The couple also received home works and assignments that they had to practice during the week before the next session. The last two sessions were together as a couple where they communicated with each other, planned on how to work together as a couple with respect and empathy. “We are now on a nurture program where we meet the counsellor once a month to go through any current challenges and find solutions to them,” says Mr Malhotra.

Role of an intimacy coach

The growing bitterness in modern relationships and the subsequent incapability to express one’s desires has led to a growing need for an intimacy coach. Malhotra couple’s intimacy coach, Niyatii N Shah worked on building their love languages, admiration, gratitude and forgiveness. Talking about her role, Mumbai-based Shah adds how she doubles up as a counsellor, psychologist or sex educator and intimacy coach to work with couples and help them build or revive intimacy in their relationship. 

A trained sex educator and sex coach, Barnwal is currently practising as a sexual wellness coach where her work involves conducting assessments (verbal, written) to understand the client issue, history taking, assisting the client with the right information around sex, and recommending activities and exercises to have a healthy sexuality. “The actual work involves a lot of nitty-gritty. My work also involves a blend of mythology and sexuality, where I share mythological stories, and Kamasutra retelling because, in essence, it is a guidebook for a healthy marriage where Kama – sexual desire is one of the significant sections of the book,” says Barnwal.

On the other hand, Bengaluru-based relationship and intimacy coach Shivanya Yogmayaa’s clientele includes people who are suffering from issues with sexual intimacy, emotional disconnect with their partner, and need help in sexual behaviour and sexual orientation issues. She uses holistic psychological and practical approaches to resolve issues between couples. “I believe in when a person heals, relationship heals. I help couples to deepen the connections between themselves and everyone else around. I also guide people to achieve more confident and satisfying lives.”

As Mr and Mrs Das recount how they had worked with a few therapists and relationship counsellors across the world in the past before they stumbled upon Shivanya. “No one has been able to bring the breakthroughs in our relationship the way Shivanya has. We have had long-standing intimacy issues over our 15-year-old relationship and were getting close to calling the marriage off when we reached out to an intimacy coach. With every session, she intuitively and carefully helped us see each other’s perspectives and gave us practical tools and guidance to begin building our intimacy in a way that feels authentic to each of us,” says the Das couple, recounting their experience with intimacy coaching sessions that empowered them to understand and articulate their needs better. 

Shah agrees that most couples experience love and attraction in their early relationship and after a few years their responsibility and social expectations rip off the bonds, and the first casualty is their intimate relationship. “Our aim is to provide support and enhance the internal resources so that the couple can make amends in their lives. We support and help the couple find new possibilities and alternative solutions while observing professional boundaries and absolute confidentiality,” she emphasises.

On the need for conversation

Barnwal adds how with the information age, and rising incomes, and a metro lifestyle, people become more familiar with sexual pleasure. “This awareness was steered by a handful of sex educators who started breaking the taboos by initiating conversations and spreading knowledge around sex. I talk about sexual communication, sex personality, kink, sexual problems, dating, and sexual pleasure. Because there had been an acute dearth of information around these subjects, the content came as a breath of fresh air,” says Barnwal, who has set up a community of over 50,000 people overall where they reach out with their problems, hopes, and queries. 

Working as an intimacy coach is not an easy task. Explaining how she does what she does, Shah says, “It takes a series of sessions to work with the couple on understanding the challenges and obstacles that the couple is facing, exploring practical solutions for their relationship issues and then deepening their connection, emotionally, mentally and physically so that they can communicate their needs and preferences lovingly with each other.” Most coaches take independent sessions or have packages as per the client’s case.

It is a niche category of coaching, and people who have warmed up to the idea include a minuscule percentage in comparison to those who actually need intimacy coaching. “Unfortunately, sex coaching or sex counselling is a non-existent field in India. Here we have sexology which is more about a clinical treatment for physiological, biological disorders around sex. But as you see a lot of these stories are not about any biological problem, it is a lifestyle, relationship, and psychological issue. The taboo around sex is so huge that many mental health professionals are either not trained on this or are reluctant to even broach this subject,” says Barnwal recounting horrors of client stories where they were advised by other professionals to “just do it” or worse even “watch porn to get in the mood” which according to her is a typical response but lacks professional oversight.

Most couples-in-trouble over intimacy issues aren’t even aware that there’s someone like an intimacy coach who can help them sail through the crisis and save their relationship. “A little awareness shared on social media is helping people to know there are ways to solve their relationship issues. Seeking professional help for intimacy is still a taboo and there’s a lot of hesitancy still,” observes Shah.  

Shivanya couldn’t agree more with Barnwal and Shah. “Intimacy coaching is yet to pick up in the Indian context. People prefer secrecy and lack the courage to open up in what they see as a private matter. But they fail to understand is that this private matter is the foundation of their marriage,” she says. Another issue that Barnwal highlights is how most people expect overnight results in coaching which is not possible. “Considering our heavy puritanical past and the sexual stigma deep-seated in our family structures, social fabric, and our psyche, creating awareness around sex education is a mammoth task,” she stresses.

It is not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy;—it is disposition alone. Seven years would be insufficient to make some people acquainted with each other, and seven days are more than enough for others.

jane austen

2021: A year of Love, Labour and Loss

Love is a mystery. Love is unitive. Love is how we connect as human beings with one another and with the whole universe together. Love is how we learn, become better, and make the world a better place to live for us and others. Love needs freedom to breathe, equality to thrive, and openness to flow and grow. Love is personal, political, philosophical, sexual, social, historical, metaphysical, transcendental, et al. Sadly, we have only one word to describe such a complex emotion. The ancient Greeks had six different words, but even that’s not enough. 2021 taught me new ways to describe the complexity of love and its various hues. Love lost on many counts, but it miraculously sprang on a few occasions like a phoenix. My LOVE vocabulary was defined and redefined by people who touched my life one way or another this year.



It was not too long ago when lonely widow Usha Parmar (Ratna Pathak Shah) in Alankrita Srivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha scorched the screen with her burning desire for intimacy. Parmar sought refuge in Hindi pulp novels out of desperation, fantasised about escapades with a young man and, in return, was rebuked and ridiculed for her overt sexuality because her actions were unfitting her age. Subtly, Parmar’s character hints that sexuality, desire, activity and intimacy in the elderly don’t come with an expiry date. While age-related medical issues have a considerable role to play, the social and cultural aspects too have a bearing on them.


Senior psychotherapist and counsellor Padma Rewari recalls how she recently offered consultation to a 52-year-old woman, well past her menopause, who didn’t want to put a pause button on her sex life, much to her husband’s chagrin. “The woman went deep into depression after her husband body-shamed her and made fun of her overtures. She didn’t know how to deal with her need for intimacy, which was a social and cultural taboo for her husband. His behaviour made her feel so low about herself that she developed suicidal tendencies,” says Rewari.


Cause of concern
One partner’s overt and other partner’s inert reaction to the other’s needs was the cause of the problem in Rewari’s patient. Although sexuality is a fundamental driving force, human sexuality is frequently misunderstood and often neglected in the case of the elders. “Sexuality and senior citizens seems a weird proposition. There is a mental block. People often suppress those desires and feelings because it is not age-appropriate behaviour,” says Rewari.
It is assumed that older people lose their sexual desires or are physically unable to perform. It is common for older men to fear the loss of sexual prowess, while older women may also express sexual desire but may fear their interest is undignified and disgraceful. “You become a senior citizen as soon as you cross 50. Ageism has a tremendous impact on the subconscious mind. It makes one slowly withdraw and retire when it comes to sexual activity, and expressing the desire and need for intimacy is a strict no-no. It is taboo. If one partner still has such desires, and the other partner doesn’t show such feelings or desires, it leads the partner (who has it still) on a guilt trip,” adds Rewari.
Niyatii N Shah, sexuality educator, intimacy coach and counsellor, has come across many cases where one of the partners and, in some cases, the couple approached her for help. “I have had both types of clients. Many of them seek advice through social media. A few of the most common reasons I have come across are lack of respect, no sexual satisfaction, boredom and abuse,” says Niyatii.

Dealing with the issue
The sexuality, desire, activity and intimacy in the elderly seems to be waning partly because of medical complications and partly because of a general loss of interest due to social or cultural reasons. “It’s a mix of both but mainly because of loss of interest and emotional baggage. Most of the time, partners are very supportive if there’s a medical reason. Intimacy counselling looks into why the couples are not intimate anymore and helps them live a fuller life that they desire from each other,” informs Niyatii. 
During a recent webinar organised by Boston Scientific, psychiatrist, clinical sexologist, and sex and intimacy coach Dr Anita Shyam, who regularly meets such couples, said, “I also follow a simple formula in patients — seek a detailed sexual and relationship history. So that pretty much gives me a more comprehensive view of the issue. Is it an organic cause? Or is it a psychological cause? Is it a social cause or whether it is a relationship problem?”
If there is an organic cause, she refers them to the physicians who specialise in that field, but if it is a psychological cause, she digs deeper to ascertain the reason. “Is this person suffering from anxiety or depression? Or is he or she into drugs and alcohol? Sometimes even the partner can have a problem. The partner must be suffering from medical issues, desire disorders or depression that could lead the man to have ED. If not, then the couple must be having a relationship problem. So, I look holistically at the three parts of the triangle — the individual, the partner and the relationship,” she says.

The article was published in The Free Press Journal on December 12, 2021.

A problem area
A marked increase in life expectancy over the past century has meant that individuals over the age of 65 form an increasingly large proportion of the population. Yet, very little attention has been paid until recently to treating sexual dysfunction in older adults. Older individuals are generally erroneously viewed as asexual people who have lost their interest in sex and their capacity for sexual behaviour. Calling for the need for more attention in psychiatric training to deal with sexuality in the elderly, Rewari adds, “The chain of ignorance needs to break. We need to change the way we think about older people and how they treat each other once they reach a certain age. We say age gracefully but without suppressing the fantasy or the feeling of sexual desires. Leave the guilt out, which plays on every human mind. These are conditioned behaviours and patterns which we have seen all through, but it is normal to have the flame of desire and need for intimacy burning even if you are past a certain age.”
People often refuse to believe that they are depressed and stressed. And sometimes, they could even be on a list of psychiatric medications. “Stress is a major factor for any of the psychological and several medical problems. There are four phases in a sexual cycle. Stress affects the desire, if the desire is affected, it’s going to affect the arousal, it affects the orgasm and also the resolution. It plays a major role in even in an individual’s life and in the relationship, causing a lot of relationship and sexual problems in couples,” says Dr Shyam.

Health issues
While women could blame menopause, older men could have many physical problems because of diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and smoking that could affect their sexual capabilities. “There are many issues that men may have. A libido problem means he doesn’t feel the urge for sex. He may have an arousal problem and he’s not attracted to his partner, he may have an erection problem. Then sometimes, he has a problem with early orgasm or premature ejaculation. All of which are different and need different treatments,” says Dr Rupin Shah, consultant andrologist and microsurgeon.
India is the diabetes capital and 50-70% of men with diabetes will eventually develop erectile dysfunction due to the disease. “Lifestyle is vital because, as I tell patients, sex happens when you are at the peak of your health, then you have the greatest urge, the greatest energy, the greatest capability. As your general health diminishes, your sexual abilities decrease, even though that desire may be there. So the middle-aged executive who’s overweight, not exercising, overeating sugar, smoking 10 cigarettes a day is going to have a lifestyle-induced sexual problem,” adds Dr Shah. 

Why it matters
There was an upsurge in teleconsultation in such cases during the pandemic-induced lockdown. It was because it is comfortable and convenient for the couple or individual to discuss the issue over a phone rather than in person. The key remains communication. “Always communicate how you feel with your partner. Seek professional help, talk to friends, understand what spouses think in general, and seek medical help if required,” emphasises Niyatii.
Communication and conversation become more important as one grows older. “The bond needs to be stronger, and as the empty nest syndrome hits, the couple needs to be there for each other. A relationship which is healthy and respectful needs to be maintained so that the couple live happily,” says Rewari, signing off.

Ask me to define my love for you and I’ll say it’s captured in every beautiful memory of our past, detailed out in vivid visions of our dreams and future plans, but most of all it’s right now, at the moment where everything I’ve ever wanted in my life is standing right in front of me.

Leo Christopher