So many times in my office I hear about low self-esteem. When I was reading one of Tara Richter’s books, 10 Rules To Survive The Internet Dating Jungle, I ran across a very interesting list of creative ways to increase self-esteem. After looking up the original source online, I then added my own thoughts to create this final list:
- Create a Compelling Vision – Use the power of your imagination. Create an image of yourself as the confident and self-assured person you aspire to become. When you are this person, how will you feel? How will others perceive you? What does your body language look like? How will you talk? See these clearly in your mind’s eye, with your eyes closed. Feel the feelings, experience being and seeing things from that person’s perspective. Practice doing this for 10 minutes every morning. Put on music in the background that either relaxes you, or excites you. When you are done, write a description of this person and all the attributes you’ve observed.
- Create Goals – Use your compelling vision to create goals for yourself. According to a study done at Virginia Tech, 80% of Americans say they don’t have goals. And the people who regularly write down their goals earn nine times as much over their lifetime as people who don’t. Start by giving yourself credit for the things you are already doing that support your vision. Then, ask yourself: what is different about the imagined you and the real you? These are your goals. As your write your goals down, make sure they are SMART goals- specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound.
- Start Small – Start with something you can do immediately and easily. Of the list you just made, which could you accomplish within the next hour? When we start with small successes, we build momentum to gain more confidence in our abilities. For example, if your compelling vision was to be more organized, and organizing your office is one of your goals, start right now by organizing the top of your desk. It will energize you!
- Do Something You Are Good At – What are you especially good at or enjoy doing? Regularly doing things that you are good at reinforces your belief in your abilities and strengths. This will also give you more energy to accomplish your more challenging goals.
- Get Motivated – Read something inspirational, listen to something empowering, talk to someone who can uplift your spirits, who can motivate you to become a better person, to live more consciously, and to take proactive steps towards creating a better life for yourself and your family. For example, I limit my exposure to naysayers and whiners. These types of people sap my energy and motivation. Rather, I surround myself with positive and supportive people, people who have at least one quality that I admire and want more of.
- Set Boundaries – In order to surround yourself with motivating people, you may need to clean out some of the dead wood from your life. Limit your exposure to aforementioned negative people, or people who make you feel bad about yourself. Start saying “no” to requests for your time. Remember that “No” is a complete sentence. By freeing up your time and energy in this way, you will be able to fill it with more positivity.
- Honor Your Feelings – In order to set boundaries, you have to be aware of your own feelings. Feelings are a wonderful “first alert” system that can give you additional information about your environment very quickly. But many people with low self-esteem think that their feelings don’t matter, so they ignore them. Change that. Keep a feeling list handy, and on a regular basis try to identify what it is that you are feeling. Also write down who you are with and what you are doing. This will also help you recognize when it’s time to set boundaries.
- Socialize – Developing intimate relationships with people will help improve your self-esteem. Get out of the house or set up a lunch date with a friend. Socializing with others will give you opportunities to connect with other people, and practice your communication and interpersonal skills. No friends? Get out and meet people by doing volunteer work, or visiting meetup.com to find a group with similar interests.
- Help Others Feel Good About Themselves – Help somebody or teach them something. When you help other people feel better about themselves and like themselves more, it will make you feel good about yourself. See what you can do to make others feel good or trigger them to smile. Try giving them a genuine compliment, helping them with something or telling them what you admire about them. This suggestion is also a great way to build relationships.
- Get External Compliments – As funny as this may seem, go find a friend or family member and ask them “What do you like about me?” “What are my strengths?” or “What do you love about me?” We will often value other people’s opinions more than our own. We are the best at beating ourselves up for things not done well, and we are the worst at recognizing where we’ve done well. Hearing from another person relay our strengths and positive qualities helps to build a more positive image of us. But don’t just rely on external compliments…
- Make Internal Compliments – Write a list of things that you like about yourself. Then, expand upon it by considering what others have said about you. If you have trouble with this, start with your accomplishments, then ask yourself “What qualities does a person have to have in order to be able to do this?”
- Fix Your Negative Talk – Start becoming aware of any negative things you tell yourself about yourself. Write them down. Once you have done this for a day or so, go back and review your list. For each negative thing you have written, replace it with something positive. For example, if you constantly tell yourself you are lazy, say instead that you have been far too effective at conserving energy, and it’s time now to expend some.
- No More Comparisons – Stop comparing yourself to other people. Low self-esteem stems from the feeling of being inferior. For example, if you were the only person in the world, do you think you could have low self-esteem? Self-esteem only comes into the picture when there are other people around us and we perceive that we are inferior. Don’t worry about what your neighbor is doing. Accept that it’ll serve you more to just go down your own path at your own pace rather than to compare yourself. Pretend you’re starting over and begin immediately with the smallest step forward.
- Nurture Yourself – Last, but certainly not least, nurture yourself physically. Taking the time to focus on personal nutrition and fitness can be a daily reminder to yourself that you matter. Make taking care of you a priority, and others will too (If they don’t, see #6). Feeling good physically will also carry over into your emotional and mental domains and help you feel more confident!
*Adapted from 10 Rules to Survive the Internet Dating Jungle by Tara Richter, Certified Dating Coach, Author & Radio Show Host, http://www.tararichter.com
Original source: Jae Song & Tina Su on http://www.thinksimplenow.com
Last night I was on the radio with a certain MD that specializes in men’s sexual health. In this post, he will be referred to as “Dr. X.” As is typical of me, I speak my mind even when it goes against what another professional may be saying. And, I tend to become more passionate than usual when I think that professional is operating in a less-than-ethical way. In this case, that includes perpetuating the following beliefs:
- Female sexual desire is dependent on male erections. I wish I were making this up. Dr. X stated that the female sexual desire drops due to their partners’ ED; implying that female sex drive is equally as high and as focused as male sex drive. I’m not sure where he came up with this one. Certainly not from the research, which indicates external things like relationship issues, stress, etc. affect female sex drive. I suppose the male erection could be included in that list, but it is far from the only factor. In addition, research shows that the male sex drive is higher as compared to female sex drive. To believe that female sexual desire operates like male sexual desire means you are not keeping up with the literature.
- If men cannot get an erection their sex life is over. To think that penile-vaginal penetration is the only sex act is myopic at best and devastating at worst. Even with the treatment that is available, what about the men who cannot take ED drugs, are unwilling to take them, or what if they don’t work? Assuming ED means never having sex again is akin to sentencing men to a life alone. Completely unacceptable and unnecessary. Fortunately, that is not the case. There are many more sexual acts to choose from. Plenty.
- And, the corollary: Having sex = having intercourse. Several times, Dr. X used these terms interchangeably. What about role-play, oral stimulation, manual stimulation, erotic massage, etc., etc., etc.? All of these are very enjoyable ways of being physically intimate with your partner that don’t require penetration. And erections are only required for penetration. Men can experience pleasure, including orgasm, without an erection.
- There are no psychological aspects of ED. During the show I raised the point that anxiety about ED can make the problem worse, and that the partner’s reaction to ED can also contribute to anxiety about it, creating a negative feedback loop. Rather than acknowledge that there is a psychological component, Dr. X simply spoke of all the “couples he has helped” by giving the men drugs. Clearly, he fails to view the problem holistically. Certainly physical issues are a possible cause (and I always send my clients for a medical check-up for this very reason), but psychological factors also contribute, and if they aren’t addressed the problem can continue. In another words, psychological treatment may make ED drugs unnecessary.
In summary, if you are experiencing ED, or any other sexual dysfunction, be sure to use a practitioner that believes in BOTH the physical and psychological aspects of the problem.
Every couples therapist has to decide whether or not to incorporate individual sessions. Whereas there are many benefits to doing so, such as gathering information more quickly and thoroughly, special consideration must be given to confidentiality. Specifically, how should a couples therapist handle a secret? What if one partner tells the therapist something in confidence during the individual session? Does the therapist hold the secret or must it be revealed to the partner? Every couples therapist has to decide what his or her policy is and communicate it from the very beginning of therapy.
Recently I attended a conference featuring a semi-famous couples counselor. During the conference, as we were discussing infidelity, the topic of whether or not to keep secrets arose. The speaker, although she had been trained otherwise, now believes in keeping secrets. That is, she has “complete confidentiality and privacy” in her individual sessions. A lively discussion ensued, in which I found myself publicly disagreeing with her. Here’s how it went.
Before I tell you her position, I need to tell you that never once did she use the words “research” or “evidence-based.” Instead, she acknowledged that these were her opinions, although there had “recently been articles backing me up.” What kind and how many she did not say. Nor did anyone ask.
The speaker, whom I will call Ms. X, stated that in order to do couples therapy you must keep secrets. Meaning, if one partner told you something they didn’t want the other partner to know then you couldn’t tell the other partner. She gave three main reasons for this. The first is that she “doesn’t want to be the village idiot, the fool who doesn’t have all of the facts.” Second, she also thinks that when people aren’t guaranteed complete confidentiality they will lie in their individual sessions. Third, she thinks counselors are willing to keep secrets in other areas, so why not sex? This last point is based upon her view that Americans are irrational about sex; that in other parts of the world infidelity is much more accepted.
Let me refute her points one by one.
1. I would never make a judgement about what to do in therapy to avoid looking foolish. All of my decisions in the couples therapy process are to benefit the couple. I don’t care what I look like. My ego stays at home where it belongs. The couple’s relationship is my client, and I will do whatever I can in whatever way to benefit that client.
2. Sure, people can lie in their individual sessions. Sometimes people do that. However, if people know they aren’t going to be held accountable for what they say in their individual sessions, doesn’t that create a situation in which they would be more tempted to attempt to manipulate the therapist? On the other hand, by telling both partners up front that anything they share in an individual session that affects the relationship is fodder for future couples sessions, they know they will be held accountable.
3. My policy is consistent whether we are talking about sex or not. There are certain things partners have the right to know. In an attempt to prove her point, Ms. X asked me if stealing $50,000 was a secret that has to be revealed. Yes, it is. What about the fact they were never sexually attracted to their partner? Yes, also a secret I cannot keep. Why? Because these are two very important facts that the other partner has a right to know. Don’t you think that perhaps they may change their mind about being in the relationship if they knew all of the facts? Don’t they have a right to make informed choices? Even though my client is the relationship, sometimes relationships shouldn’t be maintained. And this isn’t my decision to make. Which is what I could be doing if I withheld information.
With all that said, I don’t “out” people by reporting to their partner what they said. Rather, I work with them to communicate the information to the partner themselves.
But my biggest worry about keeping secrets in couples therapy has nothing to do with any of these arguments. It is simply that I have an allegiance to the couple. Not any individual. It is the couple that has sought help, not the individual. If I keep a secret, that affects both my relationship with the couple, and each individual, because I could be perceived as forming an alliance with one partner to the detriment of the other. How is that helpful?
And I until I see evidence to the contrary, this will be my position. No matter how many semi-famous people publicly disagree with me.
Eating healthy food can do so much for your health, including your sex life! Ladies, remember, the healthier you are, the better you will feel, including energy for a GREAT sex life! In another great post from my friend and colleague, Joy Rupe, Certified Diet Manager, we will learn about all the veggies and other foods necessary to keep us, and our libidos, healthy!
Take it away, Joy…
While we can’t avoid every health issue there is more within our control than we may want to admit. Science tells us that health is based on three things: diet, lifestyle, and environment. Our genes may predispose us to certain conditions but do not mandate that we will have them. Put another way, genetics load the gun but environment – the quality of our food, water, air, and lifestyle – pulls the trigger. Here are three things we can do something about.
Breast Cancer risks increase with age due to longer exposure to toxins, estrogen, and lifestyle choices. Strengthen your health with Vitamin D-rich foods, also a powerful player in bone health. Not many foods are naturally high in vitamin D but a few good sources are salmon, cheese, beef liver, and egg yolks. Fortified foods such as milk products like yogurt are sources and a small amount is in mushrooms. Leafy greens such as kale and spinach are your new best friends. Others are variety of vegetables – particularly cruciferous – such as cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy, broccoli, kale, collards and Brussels sprouts. Plus healthy oils like olive oil, Omega 3-enriched eggs and cold water fish such as salmon which also increase Vitamin D. By increasing your intake of Vitamin D-rich foods you also knock down your risk of colon cancer, osteoporosis, and multiple sclerosis. Your best source of Vitamin D – the sun. Improve your environment by getting outside and exercise regularly.
Cardiovascular Disease is the number one killer in America according to the Mayo Clinic, and it’s not just a man’s disease. Magnesium is key to good cardiovascular health and you can find it in whole grains, nuts, seeds, lentils, legumes and dark leafy greens – did I say kale and spinach? Ditto on Vitamin D and Omega 3 fats which come easily from the foods mentioned above. Giant leaps towards cardiovascular health include maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and getting plenty of exercise which benefits circulation.
Safe Food. Every day we vote with our forks and wallet by the food choices we make. Starting today, buy your chicken raised organically. Just say NO to genetically modified foods and say YES to leafy greens, vegetables, fruit, whole grains, omega 3-rich foods every day. Be sure to choose organic for those fruits and vegetables that cannot be peeled before consumption as this is where the highest concentration of pesticides are (strawberries, cherries, peaches, celery, blueberries, etc.). If you choose conventional produce buy US-grown which may have fewer pesticides than foreign produce. Plus we manufacture and export pesticides to countries that grow our produce which they send right back to us.
Lastly, remember to see your health care professionals regularly. Prevention is much better than cure.
If you’ve looked at my website and have ever been a client of mine, you know how I feel about the connection between physical and mental health. The mind is connected to the body, and what is bad for the body is generally bad for the mind. When someone comes to me for help with anxiety, for example, I will generally ask them about their diet, and in particular about how much caffeine they are consuming. Because there is research connecting nutrition and mental well-being, it is important to be knowledgeable about the topic. Since I am a mental health practitioner, not a dietician, my knowledge in this area is limited. But I know people who know much more than I do about the topic and are willing to share their knowledge with us. So, this post also serves to introduce my friend and colleague Joy Rupe, Certified Dietary Manager. Joy will be collaborating with me to bring you important nutritional information that can affect your sex life. And your mental life, too, but honestly I get more hits when I say “sex life.” This week, Joy helps the ladies out with an important warning about chicken. Yes, chicken. See, there really IS a connection between chicken and sex. It just took me an entire paragraph to get there.
Joy, take it away…
For decades the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been on the fence about antibiotics usage on livestock citing lack of proof that the practice may create antibiotic resistance in humans. This July ABC News reported that antibiotic-fed chicken has been linked to Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) in women. DNA evidence – also known as a smoking gun - finds a bug-for-bug match of an E. coli strain on live chickens, their processed meat, and the bacteria found in women’s urine samples. Those who have had a bladder infection know how impactful it can be on daily life. An increasing number of women are having UTIs for a month or more requiring multiple antibiotics. Aside from real pain, frustration and hours lost hovering near bathrooms, say “hello” to possibly weeks of no or considerably less sex. Add to that a weakened immune system and you’ve just opened the door for other opportunistic disease to occur.
For more information, please visit the Superbug report.
Men hate going to the doctor. Why? Who knows. I can’t get any man to talk long enough about it to get the answer. Yet men, on average, live 5 years less than women. Theories abound as to the reasons, such as men avoiding health checkups and ignoring small signs that become big problems later. If only men really understood the detrimental effects of their (in)action. The net effect of blowing off preventative health maintenance equates to 5 years of sex, Super Bowl Sundays, golf, or (insert favorite pastime here ______________)! OK, NOW I’ve got your attention. That’s right- caring for your health means both a better sex life and better golf game! What’s not to love? So, here’s what you should do:
- Lose weight. The absence of disease doesn’t mean good health. If you are overweight, there is much more going on than larger briefs. Excess baggage sets the stage for diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer, any of which may come without warning or take years to show symptoms. And your penis doesn’t like it, either.
- Eat right. Men’s nutritional needs are different than women’s. Aside from a balanced diet, water, regular exercise, and adequate sleep, a man’s infrastructure requires high performance support. Active men need a daily supply of vitamin B-rich foods to boost energy levels and stamina. As a team, B vitamins cover the bases of many major body functions, including the nervous and digestive systems, immune system, metabolism, and detoxification. Individual B vitamins will vary in their food sources, so to obtain the whole spectrum choose from a variety of whole unprocessed foods, lean animal protein, nuts, eggs, dairy, dark leafy greens, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. B vitamins are not stored in the body and must be replenished daily.
- Do right for your age. Each decade of a man’s life has certain maintenance requirements:
- In your 30’s, regular exercise supports a healthy blood pressure and cholesterol level, both which tend to rise in this age group. 1 Antioxidants and minerals, including dark leafy greens, multi-colored vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds are important for sexual health. Nitric oxide, a vasodilator under study for enhancing athletic performance, is known for decreasing blood pressure and increasing blood vessel integrity. Foods rich in nitric oxide include celery, red beetroot2, watercress, lettuce, spinach, arugula, Chinese cabbage, leeks, fennel, kohlrabi, and parsley. 3 Yes, this means eating your veggies will help you maintain an erection. Remember, you heard it here first.
- In your 40s’s, exercise and be sure to anti-inflammatory foods that may help joint pain include spices such as ginger, turmeric, sulfur-rich onions and garlic, omega-3-rich fish (salmon), and nut oils. Of course you’ll still keep exercising and keeping up your intake of antioxidants and minerals. Because when you are feeling good and have energy, your sex life will be so much better!
- In your 50’s, a balanced diet with lean protein, whole grains, a wide assortment of greens, vegetables, and fruits fortify the body for quicker recovery from illness. And don’t forget to get your prostate checked because prevention is better than the cure, which can cause erectile problems and lowered sexual desire.4 And, of course you’ll still be exercising, keeping up your intake of antioxidants and minerals, and eating anti-inflammatory foods.
In summary, stop the supersized meals and use fried foods as an occasional treat instead. Eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. Get periodic checkups and lose weight. I know I sound like your mother, if your mother really cared about your penis and your golf game. For personalized dietary recommendations contact a Registered Dietician in your area by visiting www.eatright.org. For sexual issues, visit a qualified sex therapist.
The American Psychological Association (APA) has recently found therapy to be effective, reducing health care costs and improving people’s long-term health. The APA reviewed 50 peer-reviewed studies on psychotherapy and issued a resolution.
Key findings include:
- Psychotherapy is effective for a variety of mental conditions
- Psychotherapy is effective for many different types of people (ie. young or old)
- The benefits of psychotherapy tend to last longer as compared to psychopharmaceutical drugs
- The benefits of psychotherapy tend to outweigh the benefits of psychopharmaceutical drugs
- Psychotherapy, unlike psychopharmaceutical drugs, does not have any side effects
- Even when psychopharmaceutical intervention is required, a combination of psychotherapy and psychopharmaceuticals is more effective than psychopharmaceuticals alone
Unfortunately, the APA also found that psychotherapy, despite its many benefits, is underutilized. Perhaps this is due to the stigma of receiving mental health services, or the misconceptions that people have about it. Regardless, it is time to reconsider therapy as a necessary tool and resource for those suffering from emotional issues.
Erectile Dysfunction…it’s that sensitive subject that nobody really wants to discuss. It’s the elephant in the room. You know it’s there, but it makes you really uncomfortable and you figure if you ignore it, it will go away. Well, that’s why I’m here. I specialize in discussing topics nobody wants to talk about. My reward is seeing the change and relief in people when the issue is finally put on the table and dealt with. So, I’d like to continue that by taking these types of issues to my blog. In this post, I will talk about Erectile Dysfunction (ED).
I treat many couples in my office suffering from ED. Note that I stated couples and not individuals. That’s because ED is a couples problem. It occurs (generally) within the context of a relationship, and the reactions and feelings of the partner can have a direct effect. Not only that, but relationship issues themselves, including anger and lack of emotional intimacy, can affect men as well as women and actually cause ED! In general, the woman feels rejected and unattractive; and the man feels inadequate and pressured to perform. All of these feelings, when not dealt with properly, can make ED worse. If left untreated, ED can end relationships. Ironically, it’s usually not the ED condition itself that ends the relationship. It’s the unresolved and mishandled negative emotions about the ED. That’s where sex therapy can be very beneficial.
Although the male sex drive is generally stronger and more focused than the female sex drive, men are still affected by emotional and environmental factors. Women often forget this. ED can also decrease sexual desire in males, mainly due to the negative emotions and recent memories of the last sexual experiences.
Education and information can go a long way to reducing the negative effects of ED. In fact, a lot of what I do in my office is educate couples. Sometimes, the information alone is sufficient to solve the problem. It’s amazing to me how many couples have perceptions based upon misinformation. Years and years of invalid perceptions.
So…here are some links to slideshows for more information, including all of the various causes of ED:
And, remember, you don’t have to face ED alone. Call your local sex therapist, TODAY. Don’t wait. As many of my sex therapy clients state, “Wow, this wasn’t nearly as painful as I thought!”
Corporations have come a long way in developing policies for dealing with sexual harassment. But what about office bullies? Isn’t that also a form of harassment? Similarly to sexual harassment, office bullying can create a hostile work environment that not only makes it difficult for people to function, but also has a detrimental effect on their emotional, and even physical health. Since most people spend more waking hours in the workplace than anywhere else, the office bully is a serious threat to the well-being of workers everywhere.
The good news is that there are ways to cope with bullies. The most important way is to remove their reward. People bully because they enjoy controlling people by intimidating them. They bully people who don’t stand up for themselves and allow themselves to be controlled. Remove the ability to control, and you’ve just taken away the bully’s reward, and therefore their motivation.
In order to do this, you must be assertive. Do not resort to the bully’s low level of behavior, but do not allow yourself to be intimidated, either. Stand up for yourself without personally attacking the bully. But don’t be overly defensive — this could signal weakness to the bully and make the situation worse. Simply state the facts and move on.
Often bullies are sneaky (cowards in disguise). They will make indirect remarks that place your reputation into question. They will twist facts, omit important details and tell half-truths. They will make ambiguous statements that leave doubt in the listener’s mind. When this happens, the best way to respond is to look the bully in the eye and ask “What do you mean by that?” This places the bully in a position where they must defend themselves. Congratulations, you have just shifted the dynamic. You have now joined the offense, placing the bully by default into the defensive position. This will confuse and disorient the bully. And there is nothing more satisfying than a confused bully.
Another effective response is silence. This works best in person, where you can look directly at the bully to indicate that you have heard him or her, and are choosing not to grace them with a response. Body language is key here. Don’t smile or nod, rather, give them a slightly disgusted or exasperated look.
Lastly, if the bully is outright abusive, simply tell them you aren’t going to allow them to speak to you like that. Chances are, none of their previous victims has ever had the courage to do this, and so again, you are disorienting the bully. More importantly, you are training the bully by removing the reward for their behavior.
I have used all of these techniques in various situations over my twenty year tenure in Corporate America. All were successful. One actually got public recognition, a statement of thanks from previous victims, with the hope that if he stopped abusing me, he would stop abusing others. He never spoke disrespectfully to me again.
For more tips, visit this site.
P.S. A shout out to my friend, Maureen Kuntz, for giving me the idea for this post.
You’re partner is running late again. Despite all of your best efforts to get him or her out of the door, once again you will be late for dinner at your Mom’s house. It’s funny how your partner is on time for other things, such as meeting up with friends…
Do you have a partner whose behavior is puzzling? Their words don’t match their actions? For example, a partner who tells you they don’t mind going to your parent’s house for dinner every Sunday but always manages to be at least a half-hour late? And then when you ask them about this discrepancy, they insist everything is fine? That they really do like your Mother?
Well, there could be two reasons for this behavior. One is that they have a character flaw, such as being disorganized and a poor time manager. And people don’t like to admit to character flaws because it shows weakness, so the flaw may not be immediately apparent. The other possibility is that they are trying to send you a message through their behavior, since that is a more indirect and therefore less confrontative way. The truth is your partner really doesn’t want to have dinner with Mom but they don’t want to tell you because they are afraid you will be offended/get angry. In another words, you could be partnered with someone who avoids conflict, and prefers to manipulate situations through their behavior instead.
In order to address the issue, you have to know which of these two situations you are dealing with. If your partner has a character flaw, then that is something inherent in their personality and you may just have to accept it. It’s possible people can moderate their behavior, but if it’s a lifelong habit then progress will be slow, assuming they are willing to change. (They may not be.) On the other hand, if you are dealing with a conflict-avoider, with some prodding you can get to the heart of the issue. In the dinner example referred to above perhaps the real issue is why your partner doesn’t want to have dinner with your folks every weekend. Once you have the real reason for the behavior, you can then address your partner’s concerns and negotiate a compromise.
Therefore, you can’t solve the problem until you understand its root cause. Is this a character defect you just need to accept, or a conflict-avoidant way of getting a need met? Sometimes this is difficult for couples to discover on their own; your local couples counselor can be of assistance in this area.
P.S. A shout out to my colleague, Anna Lively, who gave me the idea for this topic.
Facebook is a wonderful thing. With 845 million active monthly users, it’s also a very popular thing. But danger lurks behind the fun logo. Many of us are one “friend request” away from an online affair.
Yes, it seems quite innocent at first. Oh look! There’s an old friend from high school! I think I’ll send him (or her) a friend request. I wonder if they will remember me…yes, we used to date, but that was long, long ago. Surely we are past all that and can still be friends. The next step comes so naturally you won’t even notice it — soon you are commenting on their posts, then you are engaging in online conversation, then you are exchanging private messages, then you are locking your office door and lying about the amount of time you spend on Facebook. You have just crossed the line.
The main problem with Facebook, and other forms of electronic communication, is that they are just so darn convenient. Before cell phones and the internet carrying on an affair was hard work. We didn’t have private cell phones that we could take into the bathroom with us. Texting wasn’t even a verb back then. Basically, we had no way of communicating with someone and keeping it secret unless we did it outside of the home. And that was a pain. Required a lot more effort and creativity instead of just typing in your pajamas in the middle of the night, pretending that you are working.
But where is that line? Do we have to commit Facebook suicide in order to stay faithful? Ditch the texting plans and return to the stone age? “I can’t do that: I need my texting/cell phone/Facebook account for xyz reason” is a statement I frequently hear in my office. The truth? These are just excuses. You KNOW what you are saying is ridiculous; no reasonable person is going to make you ditch all forms of electronic communication. I mean, how else would you keep up with Lady Gaga? You also KNOW where the line is; it’s the same line you don’t cross in real life. It’s when casual encounters with members of the opposite sex turn intimate. Trust me, it’s a slippery slope you do not want to go down. If you are still clueless about where that “line” is, check out this blog entry.
If you really want to cheat on your partner, be mature about it. Be open about the issues and deficiencies in your relationship, and seek help if necessary. Then, and only then, should you consider entering into another relationship. Of course you’ll end your current one first. And by “end” I mean inform your partner in a respectful, consistent and clear manner; not just decide on your own and leave your partner in the dark. Here’s where a good marriage counselor can be invaluable. Even if you think you want to end your relationship, talking to an objective third party can help you clear your head, sort out your priorities and make more reasoned decisions. Defriend your old flame and call a counselor instead. Do it today.
It seems as though our world is getting more and more violent. Perhaps due to the recent tragedy in the Colorado movie theatre, or maybe it’s because our local newspaper keeps reporting on our new “stand your ground law”…at any rate, how do we process all of this violence?
It’s really easy to lose track of the good things in life when we are faced with a shocking violent tragedy. When presented with disturbing images day after day via the newspaper and television news, it’s hard to remember a time before. But there was one, and it’s still there if we look for it.
The speed at which information travels and the efficiency of how it is distributed is one of the marvels of living in current times. Technology has done much to make the lives of men and women easier, but it is not without risks. One of these risks is the constant and instantaneous exposure to the dark side of human nature. It has always existed, however the difference in today’s society is that the world is informed with the blink of an eye.
Therefore, one of my recommendations is to limit your exposure to the news. Limit yourself to reading one newspaper a day, or listening to brief bursts of news on TV, or reading a few chosen blogs per day. Don’t be a news junkie. People who have never experienced a violent event can show symptoms of PTSD via secondhand exposure courtesy of the media. Protect your eyes and your ears and you can help to protect your mental health.
Secondly, keep things in perspective. Remember that the movie shooting, although horrific, is just the latest thing that happened. It does not define society any more than the latest charity fundraiser does. Remember that there is also good in the world. We don’t hear about it nearly as much because it just doesn’t garner ratings quite like violence and mayhem.
Lastly, we also need to accept that we live in a world that is sometimes arbitrarily painful. Look to your own spiritual beliefs to help you make sense out of things. There is a greater plan to our world than any of us individuals can understand — it’s like an ant trying to understand physics. We can’t possibly understand why tragedy happens, but it has a place in the greater context. So look to your personal spiritual leaders for guidance, comfort and answers.
If you’re still struggling…contact your local mental health counselor. We have training and resources that can be beneficial to you. For example, here is a good resource on bereavement and loss.
There is a lot of research showing the benefits of meditation. I generally recommend that my clients meditate as a great adjust to therapy to help them relax and focus. Meditation techniques can also be useful in addressing inorgasmia, because these techniques help you to focus your mind on your genitals and not your to-do list. Now that I’ve got your attention…
I think people generally realize meditation can be beneficial. However, I think most people don’t attempt it because they think it’s too difficult, or too strange. Really, it’s neither. I’ve explained meditation myths so often to my clients that at this point I think I should just write about it so everyone can get the same information. Don’t let these common meditation myths stop you from doing it!
- You can’t think about nothing. So, rather than try to think about nothing, which is impossible, try focusing on something when you meditate. It could be a visual, like a candle flame, or it could be your breath. Don’t try to think about nothing. It won’t work.
- Start small. Don’t sit down and try to meditate for 20 minutes. Start with a minute or two, and work your way up.
- It’s called “meditation practice for a good reason. You won’t do it perfectly. You mind will wander to other things, you will become distracted. This is all perfectly fine, and to be expected. The important thing is that you continually return your mind to your meditation. Don’t give up, and don’t try to be perfect.
Lastly, here is a helpful book I recommend to my clients: 8 Minute Meditation.
The other day in spin class, after yelling at the class to go faster and push harder, the instructor removed her mike, slid up to my bike and told me to slow down a bit, you’re working too hard. Huh? She was just telling us to keep it up, push harder. Now she’s telling me, just me, not to do that. So, I got to thinking…what if you are the exception to the rule?
What if you are listening to someone with authority, like a boss or teacher, and they are instructing the group. Since you are part of said group, their suggestions/instructions/commands apply to you, no? What if they don’t? Think of how many times you have taken a leader’s words to heart. What if they didn’t apply to you? It’s a game changer.
See, leaders generally speak to the lowest common denominator. Meaning, in order to lead a group effectively they have to address issues that arise. Most leaders think that the best way to address issues is with the group, since addressing them individually could offend people and make them defensive, and therefore more difficult to deal with. But leaders aren’t going to tell you this. Rather, they just instruct the entire group to behave, figuring it will correct the behavior of the miscreants, and the performers will just disregard the comments. But sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the comments sting.
I had a previous boss in my Corporate America life who did this all of the time. Rather than address the offender, he would tell the entire group things like “you must get your work done on time”, “answer your telephone”, “don’t leave early”, etc. I was left with the impression that I was a slacker. I wasn’t, I was just part of the group he was addressing. I was the exception. I wish I had known that back then.
So the next time you are given instruction as a group, question it. Try to objectively evaluate whether or not the leader’s comments apply to you. If you aren’t sure, ask a trusted colleague or approach the leader yourself and ask for specific ways in which you can improve. If the leader can’t come up with any, then there’s a good chance their edict doesn’t apply to you. Then you can just nod your head the next time the edict is presented, and that’s all you’ll do.
I realized yesterday as I was working with a couple that I repeat the same sexual myth-busting information over and over again. So then I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I blogged about it so everyone could have it? So…here it is, in no particular order:
Myth 1: Women Can Orgasm Via Intercourse Alone
This one is perhaps my most favorite. I’m not sure how it originated, but somehow people believe that the vagina (the internal barrel, not the outer lips, which are called “labia”, by the way) is analogous to the penis. Since they are counterparts, and since it is mostly the vagina that the penis comes into contact with during intercourse, ergo women should orgasm during intercourse. WRONG! The clitoris, not the vagina, is the organ that is analogous to the penis. It’s the clitoris, generally, rather than the vagina, that needs the stimulation. As a result, only between 20 and 40% of women are able to orgasm via intercourse alone. And, of these women, most require some form of clitoral stimulation.
Myth 2: Intercourse Is The Holy Grail
Why do people think sex is intercourse? Why do people think intercourse is the be-all end-all of sexual activity? Intercourse is required for procreation. Period. All the rest, including manual and oral stimulation, are just for fun, and usually required for female orgasm. Enough said.
Myth 3: Sex Stops When The Erection Dies
Why? See Myth #2. Intercourse is the only sexual activity that requires erections. Yes, a flaccid penis is capable of orgasm. Therefore, there are many, many other things you can be doing in the absence of an erection. Do you seriously need a list? ‘Cause I can give you one.
Myth 4: Women Should Come As Quickly As Men
The average length of time to orgasm for women is 14 minutes; men 4 minutes. Do the math. This gap is so common we have a name for it: “the arousal gap.”
Myth 5: The G-spot
Even professionals screw this one up. According to the original paper written by Dr. Grafenberg (The “G” in “G-spot”) the G-spot is an area in the upper third of the vagina that is very sensitive in some women. This sensitive area is due to the proximity of the urethra to the vagina, not due to a biological structure. However, recently there has been some evidence to the contrary…so stay tuned. Meanwhile, if you can’t find your G-spot, stop looking. You are perfectly normal.
Myth 6: Women Have To Desire Sex In Order To Have It
Recent research on the sexual response phases indicate otherwise. For women, researchers are finding that the first two phases, desire and arousal, may be reversed. What does that mean for women? Like Nike says, “Just Do It”. Your desire will follow. Unless you are really angry with your mate. Then schedule an appointment with me instead.
People have differing needs for space. Some people love being with their partners all of the time. Others are quite happy being apart for long stretches. Space needs are inherent in personality just like being a “morning person” or a “night person.” There are many reasons for these differing needs, which I won’t go into here. What is important is that everyone is different, and there is no “right way” of doing things.
People who need more space in relationships can get irritable if they don’t get enough “alone” time. In fact, according to a recent article titled “Need Space in a Relationship? Just Don’t Say It That Way” in the Wall Street Journal, 29% of people surveyed reported they didn’t get enough “alone” time. That’s a lot of grumpy people. The article also points out that women are more likely to suffer from this, since they usually have more social contacts than men, and are usually responsible for family caretaking.
I can’t tell you how many times in my office I have seen a couple where the man is literally begging for affection and the wife just can’t take yet another demand on her time. It’s a vicious cycle, and very difficult to break if it has gone on too long.
Space needs, just like anything else in relationships, need to be negotiated. There has to be a compromise and an understanding — and even a specific plan or schedule. Just as time is allocated for appointments, work, etc., time should also be allocated for “me time.” The together-partner needs to understand that the space-partner doesn’t love them any less, and that the need for space is a very personal one, and can be just as essential as proper sleep and nutrition. The space-partner needs to understand that they aren’t single anymore, and they can’t have everything that they want. In order to carve out the “me time” they need, they may need to give up an outside activity. They should also take care to assure the together-partner of their love and commitment.
As with most things in relationships, communication is key. Set up a regular time with your mate to discuss “relationship business” and add “alone time” to the agenda. Do not discuss these, or other such relationship business issues, on date night. Which of course you are having regularly, correct?
What is an “emotional affair”, you ask? Well, the answer may surprise you. A emotional affair is anytime that you take intimacy out of your relationship by sharing it with others. Your friendships are supposed to support the intimacy in your relationship, not take away from it. If you are sharing feelings, ideas, or thoughts with your co-worker that you aren’t sharing with your spouse you are having an emotional affair. So yes, you could be having an affair with your mother. Or your best friend.
And I’m not talking about the normal bitch sessions people need from time to time. I’m talking about a pattern of sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings.
Of course there are degrees to these affairs, just as there are degrees to the physical affairs. Obviously there is less danger in an “affair” with a family member or friend you aren’t romantically interested in, because there is a natural limit to the relationship. However, anything that you do that takes away from your primary relationship is a problem. So if you are having issues, the answer isn’t to confide in your co-worker, who you find to be cute and a great listener. That is a slippery slope to pain and confusion.
I’ve talked to people in my office who have had affairs. It isn’t fun. They are confused and guilty. It literally tears them in two. It creates conflicting feelings that they cannot resolve. They are neither here nor there. They can’t work on their relationship because they cannot let go of the affair person. They can’t commit to the affair person because they feel guilty about leaving their partner. Complicating matters further, they are comparing the fun initial stages of attraction (affair person) with the more muted and less exciting attraction to their long term partner. Totally not fair.
And it really isn’t possible to work on improving your relationship while you are still seeing the affair person, even if you have broken off contact. I don’t care if you work with them, or they are integral to your business, blah, blah, blah. If you really care about your relationship you will find a way.
So the next time you need someone to talk to, keep walking past the cute guy or gal at work and phone a therapist. I’d rather see you in my office struggling through a personal issue rather than trying to recover from an affair.
ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder, and it’s cousin, ADHD, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, can wreak havoc on intimate relationships. We read a lot about how ADD or ADHD affects people, but we don’t get to read a lot about how it affects relationships. And we should.
Being married to someone with ADD is sort of like being on a wild roller coaster. It is super fun for the first five minutes, but quickly becomes dizzying and exhausting. Because people with ADD have a hard time focusing, and require lots of stimulation, they are constantly on the go and tend to exhibit impulsive behavior.
In order to maintain balance in the relationship, the partner must become extra-responsible. The partner with the ADD will probably start referring to them as “controlling” or “no fun.” Unfortunately, the non-ADD partner has to act this way in order to keep the household and family running smoothly. It’s not that they aren’t fun anymore, it’s that they feel like they can’t be. Worsening the situation, the non-ADD partner can feel ignored while the person with ADD is either off seeking stimulation or becomes extremely focused on a project. Resentments can build.
We think of the word “perfect”, and we think of the optimum, the ultimate, the absolute best. So, it follows that when we think of “perfectionists” we think of high achievers, high performers…you know, successful people. Nobody thinks of perfectionism as negative. But it is.
Perfectionists exhibit many self-defeating behaviors. They think that unless they do something perfectly, they are a failure. Since they are human, and rarely do things perfectly, well…you get the picture. Then they try to make up for their low self-esteem by accomplishing things. It can be a very destructive cycle.
Only…it doesn’t LOOK destructive to the outside observer, or even FEEL destructive to the perfectionist. Because our society places so much importance on achievement, as long as we are accomplishing things and being successful, everything is good, right?
Well, not really. What goes on inside the perfectionist is a problem. The amount of stress that they place themselves under to perform perfectly under any and all conditions is enormous. So enormous, in fact, that often they will not bother to do something unless they think they can do it perfectly. A lot of opportunities get missed that way.
And, have you ever met a happy perfectionist? You know, a peaceful, calm, satisfied perfectionist? I didn’t think so. And their unhappiness can carry over into other aspects of their lives. Their self-esteem gets eroded. Mental health deteriorates. Relationships suffer.
So, if any of this sounds familiar, it may be time to examine your own thoughts and behaviors. And ask yourself, would you rather be happy or be a perfectionist?
I just finished reading the trilogy “50 Shades of Grey.” And I’ve got issues. Not about the dominant/submissive sexual practices. Nope. I’ve got issues about how they have portrayed “vanilla sex.” There are several problems with how regular sex is portrayed in the novels, the results of which I fear will make women and men feel inadequate.
- First of all, women generally aren’t as sexually responsive as portrayed in the novels. The percentages of women who are able to orgasm via intercourse alone is in the range of 20 – 40%, and it is commonly thought that even these women require some sort of clitoral stimulation. Therefore, it is highly unlikely the main character, Anastasia, would be able to orgasm consistently via intercourse.
- It is extremely rare for women to orgasm from just nipple stimulation alone. (Sorry- I don’t have a number. A quick internet search appeared to yield a 2% rate, but I haven’t fully investigated the source yet). The fact that Anastasia did this on her very first sexual experience is almost ridiculous.
- Intercourse for virgins is usually quite painful. For Anastasia to orgasm via intercourse during her very first sexual experience is again, ridiculous.
- The usual way that women learn about their bodies is usually via masturbation. Anastasia had never masturbated (!) and so she had absolutely no prior experience with how her body responds. Yet, she was able to “shatter” each and every time, starting right at the beginning, and usually multiple times. Women vary widely on what type of stimulation they like, where they like it and how intensely. Somehow we are to believe Christian (her sexual partner) was able to read her mind? You know, the mind she didn’t even have because she had never masturbated before? Mind boggling.
- Out of the numerous sexual encounters between the couple, with the exception of one, Anastasia was able to orgasm despite how upset she was at Christian. Because Christian is one psychologically messed-up character, there was a lot to be upset about. The research about female sexuality tells us that women’s sexual desire is affected by outside influences (like relationship problems). Again, unbelievable.
- Women do not orgasm because their lover calls their name. Orgasm is not a conditioned response; rather, it is a reflex. And pressure and stress can interfere with reflexes- so it’s much better to just allow orgasms to happen rather than try to order them into existence. More rubbish.
- Now, onto Christian. For some unfathomable reason his penis is able to perform no matter what the situation, how tired he is, or how much he has had to drink. Penises are not machines. They are part of the human body, and as such, will tend to fail from time to time. Yet for some reason Christians’s penis always seemed to be erect. I’m wondering how his blood vessels withstood the pressure…
You may say, “lighten up, Barb, it’s just fiction.” The problem is, it isn’t. Firstly, it isn’t written as obvious fantasy. Secondly, because of the racy addition of the sadomasochism element the regular, or “vanilla” sex is portrayed by the novel as normal. And that is the problem. This isn’t normal sex. And if you don’t know much about sex, you won’t realize how impossible and ridiculous the portrayal is. Rather, you will probably feel inadequate, and that your partner is inadequate, too. Suddenly you won’t be so happy with your sex life. And, from what we know about the research, sexual unhappiness is tied closely with marital unhappiness. And I’ve seen too many couples whose unrealistic dissatisfaction with their sex life interferes with their sense of love and commitment. Now do you see the issue? Shame on E.L. James.