Jill Baumgarner

12 Enjoyable, Non-Sexual Ways to Boost Intimacy!

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

Boost intimacy without sexual contact? Yes, you can!

Of course, sex plays a very important role in a long-term relationship. However, intercourse is just one path to a loving, satisfied union. There are many other lovely ways to feel connected and close to your partner.

Take into consideration the daily discussions, rituals, and bonding moments you share with your partner on a day-to-day basis. Even non-sexual interactions such as these should be honored and cherished. After all, they are often the backbone of your relationship!

So what happens when those moments start to wane, become repetitive, or seem a little stale?

Never fear! Read and employ the following list meant to make sure you can boost emotional and physical intimacy a little more each day:

1. Start the Day with Pillow talk and a Cuddle

Before life rushes in to steal you away from each other, roll over for a bit of snuggling and face-to-face connection.

2. Establish Separation and Reunion Rituals

It’s comforting to know you are missed when you are gone and welcomed when you return. Stoke the fires between you by sending each other off warmly with a lingering kiss and a long embrace. Greet each other similarly, even add a boxed dessert or glass of wine to sweeten the moments you come together again.

3. Hold Hands to Boost Intimacy

There’s nothing like the sense of connection that comes with holding hands. When your partner reaches for you, it feels good to be seen and wanted. The sense of safety and comfort that comes from bonding through simple, non-sexual touch is invaluable.

4. Ensure that Fond Feelings Flourish

Kill the tendency to criticize and nitpick. Keep each other’s positive characteristics and attributes in the forefront of your minds. Express more positivity than negativity. Compliment and celebrate your partner. Accept each other’s flaws with grace and love.

5. Use Your Tech to Touch Base

Our screens tend to distract and divide our attention, stealing intimate moments. Take charge of your tech. Put it to work daily as a date night scheduling, love-text writing, “just called to say I love you” machine.

6. Faithfully “Turn Toward” Your Partner

Well-known relationship expert and researcher John Gottman notes that you can boost intimacy when you make every effort to turn toward your partner’s bids for attention and connection. Be good listeners, show empathy and compassion. Turning away or against your partner will result in resentment and broken connection.

7. Send Your Love through Snail Mail

Who doesn’t love a love letter? It says that your partner took time to consider your connection, write out their feelings, and send it to you the old-fashioned way. It is lovely and endearing to read and reread pages that cannot be deleted or lost if you lose your phone.

8. Go Green: Candlelight Dinners and Long Walks

Turn out the lights and save on gas several nights a week, all while building the romance and intimacy into your evenings. Make plans to slow down. Look deeply into each other’s eyes over a meal. Walk and talk afterward… hold hands too!

9.  Share Your Sweetheart’s Enthusiasm

Do you and your partner have beloved hobbies or interests? Why not throw yourselves into each other’s favorite activities? Simply demonstrating that you want to understand each other’s enjoyment speaks volumes. Sharing it with them can be loads of fun.

10. Do More Life Together

It seems simple, but we often forgo intimacy in the simplest ways. Deepen affection and connection by sharing all kinds of everyday chores and activities. Run errands, get groceries, and cook meals together. Seek each other out. Enjoy each other, reminisce, make the mundane fun.

11. Don’t Hold Back on Daily Gratitude

When you show each other appreciation, you build intimacy immediately. Knowing that your partner considers you a gift strengthens the bond. You’ll want to continue pleasing each other and giving each other reasons to think highly of one another.

12. Share, Talk, Laugh, Repeat.

Communicate with curiosity, common ground, and connection as your primary goals. Practice being able to converse, have conflict, and come together again with a strong sense that you belong to each other, even through disagreement.

Work on remaining open and vulnerable. Encourage deep sharing and make time for it.

Give each other room to table issues if you need to and interject humor (but never at your partner’s expense) to maintain your connection as much as possible. Most of all, don’t let any issue drive a wedge between you. Passion and friendship will both be boosted by a willingness to come together to repair your relationship when necessary and reconnect without long delays.

Ultimately, boost intimacy in ways that make you comfortable and bring delight to each other. Relish your connection and make the most of love.

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Jill Baumgarner, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples and individuals at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin who are looking to reclaim the spark in their relationship. If you and your partner are seeking therapy to enhance intimacy—in or out of the bedroom—give Jill a call at (512) 270-4883, ext. 108, to schedule an appointment. You can also request a session online by visiting our RCC Austin Scheduling page. We hope to hear from you.

What Is Emotionally Focused Therapy and How Can It Help Your Relationship?

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

Relationships often need support to remain strong. That’s where Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) comes in.

When you are in a close relationship, you want to maintain your emotional connection while successfully managing conflict.

What is required to do these things? A deep attachment to your partner or loved one.

Of course, life happens to relationships. People get busy. We get stressed and short with each other. We drift away, resentment builds, and closeness can be replaced with distance and compromised communication.

Can you recover your closeness?

The answer is yes! Couples are often well supported in this effort by this evidenced-based approach.

What Is Emotionally Focused Therapy?

The attachments and bonds that support intimate relationships shape the premise of Emotionally Focused Therapy. This type of therapy specifically centers on love and the bonding process among adults. Developed by Drs. Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg in the 1980s, Emotionally Focused Therapy is relatively short-term method of couples therapy. Generally covering between 8-20 therapist-led sessions, the method is grounded in well-supported relationship research. Overall, love is viewed as an attachment bond between partners. One that can be hampered or stifled by unaddressed, negative communication practices.

Emotionally Focused Therapy closely examines emotional patterns that arise from a key fear in close relationships — the fear of abandonment. Yet the goal is not to spend a great deal of time delving deeply into the pain or trauma of the past. Instead, EFT is an active, present mode of therapy. It investigates your current relationships and the behavior patterns you exhibit within them.

Basically, Emotionally Focused Therapy can help you and those you care about build secure and lasting bonds. In addition, you’ll have the opportunity to mend weakened intimate connections.

How Does EFT Work?

Emotionally Focused Therapy tackles the here and now. Your skilled EFT therapist essentially helps facilitate the discovery of negative or unhelpful patterns and individual behaviors in your current relationship.

Primarily, this is done via talk therapy. As you and your loved one discuss conditions and circumstances that have affected your relationship, you’ll share your feelings as well. In addition, you’ll share the ways you can resolve issues between you.

In EFT sessions, your therapist observes relationship dynamics and helps you see what may be eroding your connection. After identifying areas of concern, you try to determine, within your relationship, how the issues came to be. Then, the usual next step is to devise a more productive strategy for reconnecting and managing conflict well.

You can expect compassion from your therapist. They will listen and question without judgment. You will be given the chance to recognize and fully understand your own emotions. Learning to welcome, allow, and regulate your emotions is key.

Soon, your ability to better assess, respond to, and manage emotions is improved, as well.

EFT is generally thought to have been successful when the couple in therapy has increased awareness of their emotional experience. They may also have an improved ability to regulate their feelings and transform unhelpful emotions.

What Can EFT Do For You?

Emotionally Focused Therapy helps you and your partner reclaim your connection. By engaging in the process, allowing yourselves to be vulnerable, and committing to lasting change in your relationship, you will be enhancing the effectiveness of EFT. As you and the therapist work together, a new way of functioning and relating starts to emerge. You may notice that you no longer allow poor habits and unproductive behaviors to keep you distant and detached from your partner.

Most of all, everyday interactions will benefit. For couples, intimacy, both emotional and physical, improves. The relationship rebounds instead of falling apart. Essentially, EFT provides a lifelong tool for getting close, and staying that way.


 Jill Baumgarner, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin by using Emotionally Focused Therapy. If you and your partner are seeking to discover negative patterns in your relationship and reclaim your close connection, Jill’s training in EFT may be the right approach for you. To schedule a session, call Jill at (512) 270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

Overcome Sexual Anxiety! Tips to Reclaim Fully Functional Intimacy

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

Do anxious thoughts, self-sabotaging behavior, and a troubling disconnect with your partner seem to accompany attempts to get close physically? You may be experiencing sexual anxiety.

Doubt, insecurity, and worry are not the kinds of feelings that you want to characterize your sex life. Yet, if you’re experiencing them on a regular basis during intimacy, the joy of sex may now be seriously hindered. But don’t worry. You and scores of others can overcome sexual anxiety, recover your confidence, and make mutual satisfaction a reality again.

How? The following suggestions and strategies can help turn things around quickly:

How to Overcome Sexual Anxiety

First, extend yourself some patience and your partner some credit.

No one wants to feel that they are disappointing someone they care about. Especially during such an intimate act. However, anxiety tends to test our ability to remain logical and maintain perspective.

Therefore, try not to get bogged down in thoughts of how badly you are performing. In fact, shift your thoughts from your sexual performance:

  • Breathe and look at your partner.

  • Remember that they want to be with you.

  • Intentionally interrupt the cycle of worries thoughts in your head.

  • Focus in on who you’re with and why. You may find you’re better able to relax.

Second, get mindful.

To reduce anxious feelings when it comes to sex, it’s important to slow things down and pay close attention to what’s happening in your body and mind.

Try to get quiet and notice how you feel when you think about sex. Do certain memories arise? Are various sensations uncomfortable? What thoughts recur?

Don’t judge yourself or beat yourself up. Simply use the information as a path towards self-understanding and consider ways to ease into sex and intimacy more comfortably.

Next, give your body the appreciation it deserves.

Body image is a huge contributor to sexual anxiety. Many of us experience real apprehension in intimate situations. Some of us hide our bodies beneath the sheets or the cover of darkness and even more of us run ourselves down before sex with unhelpful self-talk or self-deprecating remarks. None of this, of course, paves the way for desire or confident exploration of each other’s bodies.

To overcome such unproductive and automatic thinking requires two practices:

  1. Intentional attempts to notice and challenge negative self-talk. Pay attention to what you say about your body. Make a habit of rejecting internal shaming with prepared positive, encouraging, thoughts or mantras to help stem the negativity fueling the anxiety.

  2. Routine celebration of your body as it is. Remember, your body is not simply a mass of flesh and bone to be compared to fashion models and professional athletes. It has its own strengths, power, and gifts. Reflect on them, write them down, review the list often and show your body the appreciation it’s due. Teach yourself to value your body for its uniqueness and inherent worth.

Then, release yourself and your partner from your sexual “shoulds.”

Often, we get caught up in the sexual programming of society, media, and our childhoods.

Give yourself permission to look at how your parents, faith, past relationships, social position, and even the movies you watch might inform your ideas about sexual performance. Talk to each other about how you’re affected and make decisions about what really matters to you.

Do you like certain positions, activities, or locations? Decide that the only things you “should” do in your sex life are to please each other and enjoy the experience thoroughly.  It’s perfectly okay to customize your sexual relationship. If you and your partner are on the same page, you can express yourselves however you wish.

Finally, open your mind to support and good ideas for your sexual anxiety.

Sex is such a private thing that we sometimes get stuck regarding problems in that area of our lives. Why? Because we let shame, stigma, or self-criticism keep us from our best selves and our most connected relationships.

Sexual anxiety can go on too long if we let our worries overwhelm our desire to connect intimately. 

That’s why a safe, experienced counselor may be a good option for you individually or for you and your partner. Therapy can help you with tools to address sexual anxiety. You can explore the thoughts and emotions involved, how communication affects your connections with your partner, and whether any past issues need to be resolved.



If you are experiencing sexual anxiety in either your single life or your relationship, Jill Baumgarner, MA, LPC Intern, can help. Jill works with both couples and individuals at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin to reclaim fully functional intimacy. To schedule an appointment with Jill, call her at (512) 270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment online through the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

Pillow Talk: After Sex Conversations to Have to Feel Bonded

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

“Sex is good. Pillow talk is better. Sex is easy, intimacy is difficult. It requires honesty, openness, self-disclosure, confiding concerns, fears, sadnesses as well as hopes and dreams…”

Hara Estroff Marano, author & Editor at Large of Psychology Today

Talking after sex matters. Science and societal wisdom agree that the post-sex period of heightened emotion and willing vulnerability is a precious time that builds intimacy and deepens your ability to connect well … in and out of bed.

How can you capitalize on the psychological and physiological need for attachment? What exactly do you talk about to continue to feel bonded?

Consider the following post-coital conversations as a pillow talk guide to get you started:

Pillow Talk Praise: Admire Your Partner’s Sexual Prowess

How can your lover resist you when you acknowledge their efforts to please you?

As long as the conversation is positive and comfortable, detail how lovely a time you had. Encourage your partner to keep doing that thing with their tongue. Remark that you appreciate how attentive/ energetic/ creative they were.

Ask what you can do to increase their satisfaction too. Keep things light and playful. Prepare for more physical fun now that you’re a little clearer on what each other likes.

Express How being Together Makes You Feel

Who doesn’t feel good about being valued?

Make the most of the floaty post-sex high to talk each other up. Say the loving, complimentary things you used to say at the very start of your love story. Compliment the angles of his face or the curves of her body.

Remind each other that you know each other and like what you know. Honor the roles in you play in each other’s lives. Verbalize how much fun it’s been to work alongside each other as friends and parents. Celebrate the relationship you’re building with specifics, memories, and stories until you drift off. You’ll wake with a lovely sense of togetherness.

Share More of Yourself Between the Sheets

What better time to share more of yourself?

The moments following sex are often a safe, quiet time in which to go deeper into a conversation that you might forgo amid your daily responsibilities. If you find you’re awake and snuggled in, why not take some time to talk about what you usually just daydream about.

When is the last time you dreamed out loud together? Check in on ideas or plans that have changed or evolved in your minds. Invite your partner into the dreams or goals that preoccupy your thoughts.

Open Up about Your Vision for Your Relationship

What’s more reassuring than knowing for sure how your partner sees your future together?

Sex can be deeply intimate and signal a willingness to take your relationship further. Thus, sex and discussions about the future in bed can create close emotional ties that last long after the glow of the physical act fades.

If you have a strong indication that you both want to build a long term relationship, lay back, hold each other, and talk it through. You are both deliciously vulnerable and in a position to capitalize on the sense of trust and mutual satisfaction created physically not long before.

Not Comfortable with Pillow Talk?

Are you struggling with the idea of cozy conversations after sex with your partner? Is there something inside you, or between you, that holds you back?

It may be worth exploring your reluctance and discomfort with a trained couples counselor. Recent research shows that your after-sex moments are key periods for building a solid connection. Don’t lose that special opportunity for deep, emotional connection with your partner.



Jill Baumgarner, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. Jill focuses on sexual health in her clients’ relationships by opening up the lines of communication to achieve enhanced intimacy. For guidance on harnessing the spark in your relationship, contact Jill at (512) 270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment with her online through the RCC Austin Scheduling page.


Keep the Spark Alive in Long-Term Relationships: 9 Tips for Initiating Sex

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

Early in your relationship, the thought that you might need tips for initiating sex were probably the furthest thing from your mind. There was a lot of sex and subsequently, a lot of talk about sex. Yet, over time, both the sex and the conversation surrounding it tend to slow down.  Realistically, it’s not surprising that lust cools and intimacy shifts as the relationship matures. But, if a couple is not communicating about their sex life, it can spell trouble.

The Stages of a Sex Life

Wait…there are stages?

The first step in keeping the sexual spark alive is recognizing that this spark can and often does fizzle after a period. We like to think we’re different. Our entire connection will be the proverbial “honeymoon phase” and we won’t need to talk about it to keep the excitement alive.  A more productive approach is to commit early to open communication about all things, including sex. If you accomplish this, there can be a healthy pattern to the stages of your sex life. For example:

  • Anything Goes. the dizzying early days when lust feels like a new discovery.

  • Finding a Rhythm. When you realize this is not a fling and settle into your own personal sex vibe.

  • Rhythm Becomes Routine. As time passes and responsibilities increase, you lose that spontaneous feeling.

  • Resisting the Cliché. “We will not become that couple everyone talks about!”

  • Acceptance. Okay, you sometimes are that couple but recognizing this creates room for…

  • Reinvention. With enough trust and lust, this process can always stay fresh.

9 Tips for Initiating Sex & Keeping the Spark Alive in a Long-Term Relationship

1. Open the Lines of Communication

Being clear and honest is sexy. Put aside assumptions and embrace direct discussion.

2. Redefine “Sex”

It can feel demoralizing if you experience long gaps between sexual encounters. Take a look at how you define “sex,” and remember that there’s much more to intimacy than just that one act.

3. Practice Seduction

In many relationships, one or both partners may feel they are taken for granted. Practice seduction. It makes things stimulating again.

4. Don’t Put it Off

If you have social plans, why wait to get frisky afterward? Don’t risk being too tired, full, drunk, or cranky. Do it when the opportunity feels right.

5. Take a Mini-Vacation

If you’re in the position to plan a getaway, make it happen.

6. Use Tech to Tease

We have these fancy devices with us all day. Why not use them to remind your partner that they make you hot? A mid-day text is a sweet way to build some suspense.

7. Don’t Pine for the “Good Old Days”

What you looked like and how you got down “back in the day” is of no concern today. Find what feels right for who you are right now.

8. Lots of Compliments

This is connected to the practice of seduction, mentioned above. Verbalize your appreciation and feel the sexual tension rise.

9. Be Patient

There is no blueprint or magic formula. Relationships require our full and constant attention. Be patient, trust each other, and reap the rewards.

Getting to the Root of the Issue

Sometimes there are unspoken, underlying factors to consider when it feels that the spark has left your relationship. Relationships are complicated and issues other than your sex life impact all aspects of your connection.

If it feels like the thrill is gone, you might want to ponder if the thrill is just being obscured by other things happening in your relationship. Perhaps there are things, such as hurt feelings, unresolved resentments, lack of intentional time together, busy schedules, etc., that are influencing your feelings about sexual intimacy with your partner. Many couples seek professional assistance by committing to meeting with a professional counselor to help them identify barriers that are keeping the sexual spark from igniting. In a safe and non-judgmental setting honest discussion can bloom, unhelpful patterns are exposed, new approaches are suggested, and additional tips for initiating sex explored. The result is a sharper awareness of how to stay intimate as your relationship evolves through the years ahead.



Jill Baumgarner, MA, LPC Intern works with both couples and individuals at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin who are looking to regain the spark in their relationship. If you and your partner are ready to enhance sexual intimacy and restore an emotional and physical connection, call Jill at (512) 270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

How to Communicate Your Boundaries While Talking Politics

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

You know how it goes.

Something major happens in government, media, or on the global stage. Then, the next day (after a night of cable news and scrolling through Facebook headlines), you may find yourself with coworkers, or out for a drink with friends, or having dinner with your partner or another family member, when the political topic comes up and the conversation starts to get heated.

Passionate opinions fly, points of view clash, and tension spills over as you each try to make the other person see your side of things.

Sound familiar?  

We Don’t Talk Anymore: Why is it so hard to talk about politics without putdowns?

If there was ever a time when broaching a political discussion at the dinner table or at a social event was taboo, it is certainly a mindset that has been long forgotten. Today, topics of current news, politics, and religion are a pretty standard talking in many homes and social circles. While it’s true that the occasional friendly debate between family and good friends can be mentally stimulating, and even fun, discussions of politics have a reputation for quickly crossing the line from civil to contentious. Unfortunately, the evolution of social media and our recent elections seem to have struck, played, and frayed everyone’s political nerves.

Having a conversation about politics that is both passionate and civil is something many of us have little experience with, especially when the topics are close to home and emotions are running high. With social media sites acting as primary sources of news for many of us, controversial posts or hurtful comments by friends might be more prevalent in our newsfeeds. Due to the removed nature of posting a comment online, versus saying it in-person to someone directly, many of us have become more comfortable expressing our opinions about the current state of public affairs. While it’s important to stay true to yourself and your personal values, a lack of restraint when discussing controversial topics and opinions doesn’t always play well in the real world.

How Boundaries Help

All of this leads us to the need for boundaries. Boundaries are a must, especially when talking about politics or any sensitive subject. They go a long way in preserving relationships of all sorts, including those at work or relationships more intimate in nature.

A person’s emotional investment in a topic or area of life deserves respect. Not because you agree or support that point-of-view, but simply because we all want and need to operate freely and reach our own conclusions.

Boundaries that are clearly communicated, and held firmly, help preserve basic human dignity. This is important because we’ve seen too often, that respect tends to wither in the heat of passionate positions and in the absence of agreed-upon guidelines.

People can quickly resort to anger and relationship-damaging behavior if they don’t consider their individual limits and communicate them very clearly before jumping into political talking points.

How Can You Communicate Boundaries Effectively (before things go off the rails)?

Accept and Allow That It’s OK to Disagree.

Give yourself room to accept that your relationship allows for dual perspectives and realities.  In any relationship, it’s important that you quickly come to grips with this truth: You both have your own subjective reality and you both have equally valid perspectives.

Being in a relationship, with your partner or anyone else, is not about asserting how right you are  or wrong they are, but how much you value each other’s right to free thought, speech, and expression. Throughout your discussion, clearly state that you will listen and engage if your interaction is fair and reciprocal. When you sense you no longer have a voice, feel free to stop the discussion, walk away if you must, and share the reasons why. Agreeing that you disagree is certainly a more positive way to get back on track with your relationship with the other person, than continuing a fiery conversation that could damage your connection and friendship.

Respect Your Own Need to De-escalate and Drop Hot Topics Until Tempers Cool

Directly and firmly step away if the conversation becomes too heated. Dropping your political points for another discussion, or stepping out for a breath of fresh air, gives you the recognized ability to put on the brakes when you feel it’s necessary.

If you find your discussion partner is following you around the room trying to re-engage, you have the right to more obviously set a limit on the intensity of the conversation. Call a timeout, state that you can’t continue to have an escalated discussion with them and seek out a change of scenery to aid your peace of mind. If the relationship is important to you, tell them that the relationship means more to you than trying to win them over to your perspective.

Call Out Tendencies to Demonize, Degrade, or Dismiss Each Other

In the course of political conversations, you may realize that you and the other person in the discussion have extremely different worldviews, many different conclusions about where the world is headed, or very different ways of seeing the same politician. As bothered and irritated that may make you both, personal attacks as a result of your differences do too much relationship damage.

Don’t let boundary-breaking disrespect slide by unacknowledged. Especially without attempts to repair the relationship. Stopping to address name-calling, derogatory language, or put-downs lets your conversation partner know that passionate politics isn’t a pass for bullying and offensive behavior.

Insist on a Sense of Humor

The discussions you’re having are serious. The needs of the world, your country, and your community are great. For many, they are overwhelming. It can be easy to think that your ideas need to be heard and taken seriously. Your discussion partner likely feels the same way. You may also find that you continually reach a communication impasse.

Humor (not sarcasm or “hostile humor”) has a way of soothing tensions, relaxing that sense of “nose-to-nose” conflict, and re-opening your listening ears to each other.

Be the first to smile, make a humorous observation, or in some way interject a bit of fun into your exchange. This honors the conversation and both of your opinions, while still allowing you to communicate boundaries regarding tone and healthy perspectives.

Limits and Political Conversation Can Coexist… (if you’re careful and conscious)

Having different political views from your partner, family members, and co-workers co-worker, can be frustrating, even infuriating at times! When you feel strongly about certain social issues and governmental leadership, it can seem like the differences are too great to support worthwhile interaction.

Don’t give up on political conversations, just reconsider how you have them.

Learning to set boundaries from the outset can alleviate tension, promote confidence, and affirm the relationship, priming your minds for a less emotional conversation and a more thoughtful, engaged discussion.

Politics is only divisive if we allow it to be.



Jill Baumgarner, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples and individuals at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. For more ideas on productive communication and help navigating the political climate, please feel free to contact her at (512) 270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.


Mantras for Meditation: 8 Statements to Boost Your Self-Esteem


By Jill Baumgarner, MA

Everyone has their own mantras for meditation. Words and phrases you tell yourself routinely. Some serve you well…others, not so much.

What about you? How well do speak of and to yourself?

Are you a friend to the rumpled person in the bathroom mirror? Do you soothe your inner employee after a misstep at work? Are you kind and supportive to your inner self when a friend or loved one lets you down or walks away?

Too many of us are complicit in kicking ourselves when we’re down. We automatically, and often unconsciously, undermine our own self-esteem with put-downs, routine criticisms, or everyday disapproval. We feed negative self-talk in our minds so often that authentic self-confidence is hard to come by when we need it.

Fortunately, we don’t have to go on this way.

Self-talk is changeable.

Your self-perception can be bolstered, and negativity overpowered, with some well-chosen words and intentional thoughts. Your personal, internal script can encourage positivity and self-love, which can be called to mind whenever you need them.

What are these magic words? We call them “mantras.” And better than magic, the happiness they can bring you won’t disappear. They do the most mental good when you focus on them, meditating on your own kind thoughts until they drive away any tendency to beat yourself up or question your worth.

How do you know what to say?

Take some time to think about what you want and how you want to experience your life. What matters, what gets in your way? Allow yourself the freedom to say out loud what you long for and what inspires you.

Ready to learn a few mantras and meditation statements? Modify these as you see fit, and then memorize to make your mind your friend again:

8 Powerful Self-esteem Mantras for Meditation

  1. I love myself. I am beautiful. My spirit is unique. There is just one me.

  2. I am enough, worthy of friendship and love, just as I am.

  3. My value is not diminished by my imperfections or the perceptions of others.

  4. I am deserving of good things, happiness, and joy. It is okay to want them for myself.

  5. I can choose to think uplifting thoughts. I appreciate the power of my own self-talk.

  6. My mistakes and failures make me stronger, braver, and wiser.

  7. I am becoming the person I want to be. I work toward honesty and authenticity.

  8. My decisions are my own. I stand behind my words and deeds. My path is my choice. 

  9. I choose the people who surround me. I welcome in those who love and respect me, and respect themselves.

Using your Self-Confidence/Self-Esteem Mantras

Over the next few weeks, select one of these mantras for meditation, or create one of your own. Try to make it a part of your self-talk, replacing negative thoughts a little more each day.

Of course, if you sense the mantra isn’t affording you much support or healthy benefits, give yourself permission to change things up. Some mantras fit best at certain times in your life and some won’t match your unique style or personality. That’s okay.  Seek the words that affirm you and make you feel loved. Even a line of poetry or favorite song will do.

Remember, what the outside world thinks of you is just opinion. Often perceptions by others reflect who they are and what is happening in their lives more than anything else. Use your mantras to define yourself and who you know you are. You have that right. Enjoy it!

Finally, if you need help finding mantras that bring you joy and encouragement, you may want to reach out to a therapist for support. Together you can work on ways to treat yourself well and infuse the kind of self-appreciation into your life you’ve always deserved.



Jill Baumgarner, MA, LPC Intern, works with clients at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin to explore their own personal growth and regain a positive self-perception. To learn more about how to create an effective internal script for yourself, give Jill a call at (512) 270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

How to Make Your Date Nights More Mindful


By Jill Baumgarner, MA

No matter how long you and your partner have been together, the benefits of a regular and refreshing date night can do your relationships a lot of good. Especially if you can come together mindfully and mentally ready to focus on nourishing your relationship. 

Mindfulness can be one of the loveliest gifts partner’s give each other. The practice of being present can help you get the most out of your date nights. Finding ways to remain aware and in tune with each other will fuel a deeper sense of connection, confidence in your bond, and anticipation regarding upcoming dates.

Enjoy an overall boost in your individual enjoyment and the wellbeing of your relationship. Consider the following ways to incorporate mindfulness in your date night routine:

Know Yourself & Elevate Your Energy

Pay attention to your emotions, attitude, and energy. They directly impact your enjoyment, ability to engage and mutual experience.

If you are feeling frustrated with your partner or are overwhelmed by work responsibilities, the date will probably not go well.

Take some time before the date to be quiet and still. Observe the tension in your body and the flow of your thoughts. Breathe deeply and allow the negative energy to dissipate. Inhale calm, exhale negativity. Concentrate on the positive aspects of your relationship. Let go of negative self-talk. 

You may even want to track your emotions and thoughts with a journal. The practice of being honest with yourself fosters an increased tendency to be open and honest with your partner. The better you know and understand yourself, the better partner you can be.

Practice Present, Conscious Communication

Date night is an excellent opportunity for meaningful, mindful conversation. Use the time to get a clear picture of your partner’s feelings and needs. Try the following to support and encourage closeness and caring interaction:
Ask questions like, “how do you feel right now?” and “what do you need from me?” Really listen and consider the responses with interest and compassion.

Avoid making assumptions or passing judgments about each other’s perspectives. It’s easy to think you know your partner so well that you can read their mind and emotions without much effort, however this practice can lead to shallow connection over time.

Instead, be intentional about taking the time to be curious and observant of your partner’s passions, needs, and perspectives.  Put away your smartphones and other distractions to focus in.

Expand your Options, Take your Time & Pay Attention

To truly enjoy date nights, slow down and pay attention to the moments you’re sharing. This is often better accomplished by choosing dates that are less passive and more prone to active engagement.

Fewer movies and more dancing, visits to an art museum, or picnics along a hiking trail will give you opportunities to enjoy one another. You can see each other in new ways, observe each other in various contexts, and continue to learn about each other’s preferences, hidden talents, strengths, and weaknesses.

Set Reasonable Expectations, Relax, and Enjoy!

Often partners don’t recognize that they have overblown expectations for the one night they set aside to connect. While date night is great for the emotional health of your relationship, don’t put too much pressure on yourselves or each other to solve all the unresolved issues of your union.  Allow date night to be a tool by keeping the following in mind:

  • Don’t try to accomplish too much. Reserve this time for connection and refreshment of your relationship. Enjoy the date for what it is and move forward.

  • Balance your expectations. Go on your date expecting to have fun and deepen your friendship. Share your wants and needs but don’t make demands. Keep communication open and supportive.

  • Smile, laugh and play together.

Let the date ebb and flow easily. Don’t focus on controlling each other or the activity. Make space to relax and see where the date takes you.

Take Time to Reflect

After your date nights, take some time to reflect on your time together. Use your journal to reflect personally. Share with a therapist as a couple. Reflection and sharing with an objective counselor can provide insight and improve your connection, shoring up the foundation of your relationship as you go along.

Date nights are only meaningful if you and your partner are actually engaged and intentional about tuning in mentally, physically,  and emotionally. Use mindfulness to take care of yourselves and refocus on each other. The more self-aware, relationship conscious, and curious you can be, the more enjoyable your date nights will be, and your relationship will blossom.


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Jill Baumgarner, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples and individuals at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. Jill specializes in helping couples restore intimacy and communicate effectively with one another about feelings, needs, and desires. To schedule your appointment with Jill, contact her at (512) 270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

Aim to Please: How to Talk to Each Other About Sex and Satisfaction

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

Discussing sex with your partner should be a great experience. At the beginning of a relationship, it usually is.

People are always changing, though. Which means your desires and needs will change, too.

The longer you’re in a relationship the more likely there is a need to talk to each other about sex. Though for many, this can be an awkward moment. Sort of like walking on egg-shells.

While you certainly want to communicate your sexual needs, you may also want to avoid insulting your partner on their sexual prowess. It’s a delicate balance.

Despite the sensitive topic, following a few guidelines will help you to have a healthy conversation.

Get Out of Bed

When you talk to each other about sex, be sure you do it in a neutral location—not while you’re in bed. The goal is to make your partner feel safe, secure, and open to being vulnerable.

Instead of surprising your partner with this discussion, tell them ahead of time what you want to talk about. Preface the invitation with your desire to talk about something that’s been on your mind regarding your sex life.

Handle One Thing at a Time

Because there’s often a risk that a sexual discussion could go poorly, you may be tempted to talk about everything all at once. Trying to discuss every little thing about your sex life is not the best  approach. It can be overwhelming for your partner. Plus, the chances are not great that you will come to any conclusions.

Therefore, follow the “short-and-sweet” rule, sticking to one topic per discussion. For example, if you’d like to talk about your partner taking the initiative more often, simply focus on that one aspect of your sexual relationship.

Remember the Basics

As you head into this discussion about sex, keep in mind the basics. It’s not exactly about tackling a sex topic. It’s more like laying the foundation of your sexual relationship.

Talk about things like what initiating sexual intimacy means to your partner or what time of day they enjoy sex the most. Your partner’s natural life rhythm can greatly influence their sexual desires, so keep these facts and their concerns at the forefront of any discussion.

Take the Positive Approach

As with any discussion attempting to motivate change, the temptation is to focus on what you don’t like. Basically, you end up complaining. Avoid this approach, by all means.

Rather, offer your partner reassurance by telling them what you do like about your sexual relationship. Go as far as to discuss a certain action like the way they kiss you or caress your skin.

Only after you encourage and uplift your partner can you talk about any suggestions or concerns you may have. Keep in mind, too, that you need to leave room for them to give their point of view and be open to their feedback.

Be Incredibly Tactful

While sex is undeniably a very physical act, its impact runs far below the surface of your body. It is emotional, mental, and intangible. Further still, each person has their own unique relationship with sex.

It’s important to acknowledge that your partner could have different ideas about sex than you do. Possibly even a complicated history that affects how they feel about it.

For this reason, dedicate yourself to being as tactful as you possibly can when you talk to each other about sex. If you have trouble finding the right words, pause the conversation.  Search your mind diligently for them. Protect your partner from misunderstanding you and inadvertently hurting their feelings.

Obviously, sex can be a wonderfully intimate expression of the connection between two people. If you struggle with discussing it, take some time to determine why. Otherwise, your relationship may struggle as well.

A therapist’s objective support and guidance could make it easier if you find that you have difficulty with this subject on your own. Consider seeking out a therapist who can facilitate a discussion about sex and help you to reconnect intimately with your partner.

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Jill Baumgarner, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin, helping them restore intimacy, sexual spark, gain communication skills, and find peace in their committed relationships. To schedule an appointment with Jill, contact her at 5121-270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

5 Affirmations Happy Couples Give Each Other Often

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

We are regularly bombarded with images and messages about “true love.” They all seem to add to something like this:

  • You have one true soul mate out there
  • When you meet, it’s love at first sight
  • From there, well… it’s happily ever after

Sure, this is an oversimplification but, by how much? Each of us, through no fault of our own, get some very unproductive messages about relationships. Movies, books, and social media often present us with the image of what a relationship should be. This can result in big problems when real life doesn’t follow the fairytale script.

There is a very basic, yet powerful way to counter the “true love hype” in this age of social media, memes, and smartphones. What is it?


What is an Affirmation?

An affirmation is defined as a positive assertion.                   

An affirmation is a conscious act. It is a mindful statement of truth.

We each have anywhere from 150 to 300 thoughts per minute. Most of the tens of thousands of thoughts we have daily are subconscious. The majority of these are negative, and most of the time we are not even aware of our negative cognitions. When we begin to pay attention and choose to mindfully be aware of the ticker tape of thoughts going on in our mind, we can then counter the negative thoughts with positive affirmations that are more helpful.

While everything else ricochets around your brain, an affirmation has a calming effect. It provides much-needed certainty among the many conflicting thoughts. Affirmations are helpful in relationship terms, as well as in individual. A steady practice of giving your partner and your relationship positive affirmations feels like a strong foundation against the changing, unpredictable winds.

When we affirm ourselves, our partner, and our relationship, we absorb the positivity. We feel it. We mean it.  We live it.

5 Affirmations Happy Couples Give Each Other Often

1. Our lines of communications are always open and always open to change.

Healthy communication is a foundational part of a happy relationship. Remember that good communication is a process — not a destination.

2. I love you as you are.

Too often, we stack up our partner against other people. Even worse, perhaps, is when we stack our partner up against some future version of them. We can love our partner as they are — while also supporting them as they evolve and grow.

3. I take responsibility for my words and actions.

No more defensiveness and passive-aggressive deflection. We will think before we act and speak and after we act and speak. If we make a mistake, we will repair that mistake and take responsibility for it.

4. I forgive when necessary and I apologize when necessary.

Hard times will happen. The goal is never perfection. When navigating rough waters, we will handle the struggle with maturity, grace, and love.

5. My respect and trust are unwavering.

No matter how our connection evolves — even if that connection dramatically shifts — respect and trust is non-negotiable. These are guiding principles for all our actions.

There’s Something Else Happy Couples Do

Leave nothing to chance. Accepting that sometimes you may need a bit of help is another way to affirm yourself, your partner, and your relationship.

Individually and as a couple, we must accept that sometimes we do better if we get outside help and support. This may mean reading books on healthy relationships, attending a workshop or weekend retreat for couples, or seeing a couples counselor. Reaching out for help with your relationship doesn’t mean your relationship is failing, it affirms that your relationship is important to you and you want to make it better and happier for you both.

The patterns we develop over time often mask what we choose not to see. To stay a “happy couple” means we must sometimes face some “unhappy” truths. We identify them, address them, and do the work to make different choices. All in all, there’s no other affirmation that shows love more clearly.

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Jill Baumgarner is a licensed professional counselor intern with the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. If you and your partner want to find new ways to affirm your relationship, contact Jill at 512-270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.