Individual Counseling, Couples Counseling and Sex Therapy


I hear the term “gaslighting” constantly and like many other terms (“narcissism”, anyone?) it’s used incorrectly.

To gaslight someone is to intentionally make them question their sense of reality, ultimately for the purpose of controlling them. The term originates from the 1944 movie, Gaslight, in which the male character purposely turns down the gas lamp but denies doing so when the female asks about it. His intention is for her to question her sense of reality so he can ultimately control her. Do you really feel like your partner is intentionally driving you crazy? If so, then you probably need to ask yourself why you are still in that relationship.

Let’s distinguish this from lying, which can also have the side effect of making someone question their version of events, but the liar’s intention is all about getting their own way without consequences as opposed to an attempt to unbalance someone psychologically. Both are wrong, but gaslighting is much more serious and difficult to change because its roots are evil as opposed to selfish.

The other reason people think they are gaslit is simply that their partner has a different perspective on an event. As humans, we all have a tendency to remember things in a way that either helps us feel better about ourselves, or confirms what we already believe. The unreliable nature of memory makes this phenomena possible. Therefore, people can tell the story of an event in two different ways. This is very, very common and isn’t an issue unless the two versions of the events are too different. (In that case, couples counseling may be in order).

I think it’s important to use these terms properly so that behavior can be more accurately described. Repeatedly using the term “gaslighting” wrongly will serve to diminish its power over time, and could hurt someone who is truly being gaslit. It’s also very hurtful for a romantic partner to hear that term applied to them when it isn’t true.

How To Stop Arguing About Chores!

Several studies suggest that women take on the majority of the workload in the home, even when both partners are working full-time. This is due to several factors:
  1. Women think they can “do it all”
  2. Women are often more particular than men about cleanliness
  3. Women think men are going to screw it up
  4. Women feel guilty if they don’t caretake their family
  5. Culturally, we never really got rid of the idea that women are homemakers

What are the results?

  1. Women are tired and resentful
  2. This often results in negative feelings towards their husbands
  3. Which then creates emotional and physical distance
  4. Which usually results in more arguing
  5. Which creates even more emotional and physical distance

What is the solution?

Empathy. Both partners need to make an effort to see things from their partner’s perspective and let go of being “right.” Men need to see that their women are stressed out, and women need to see that their men aren’t lazy, they just have different ways of doing things. Men need to step up, and women need to let go of control. (Some of these men run entire companies and women are afraid they will kill the baby or burn the house down.)
I realize this is easier said than done, so if you’re still struggling, make an appointment and I can help walk you through the process. Don’t hesitate- the earlier you come in, the easier it will be to address your issues.

Pornography: Is It Good Or Bad?

Not an easy question!  Is it good or bad? Is it causing harm to couples? Is it cheating?

First, let’s tackle the “good or bad” question. It can be both!

Why It’s Bad

From my reading, it seems that excessive porn use outside of an intimate relationship seems to be bad for three main reasons:

  1. It can create sexual desensitization, possibly leading to erectile difficulties. For more information, read this article.
  2.  It can create trust issues. Because porn users are often embarrassed, or worry that their partners won’t approve, porn use is often driven underground. This leads to secretive behavior, which can cause or exacerbate trust issues.
  3. It can lead to a process addiction, where the user needs more and more to get his or her sexual needs met. Gradually, porn replaces sexual intimacy with their partner.

Why It’s Good

It seems porn use can be beneficial when used by a couple, or when used by a female. For more information, read about the study done by Brian Willoughby outlined in this article. Also, since pornography is often used as a masturbation tool, it can be helpful to couples with discrepant sexual drives because it can help the higher-drive partner get their sexual needs met.

Is Porn Cheating?

However, despite this data, a lot of people, primarily due to religious or other morally-based reasons, will not see porn as anything but harmful.

This depends on your definition of cheating. If you define ANY sexual experience (even when alone) outside of your intimate relationship as cheating, then yes. Unfortunately, this is often an untenable position for most couples, since it is likely they will have differing sex drives. Masturbation can be a great tool in negotiating these differences.

One major reason women think porn is cheating is because they can never live up to the images that their partners find so stimulating. Once women realize that porn is mainly used as a way to express hidden sexual needs and is “not a mark against them,” as Joe Kort states in this article, they may be more accepting. Besides, most porn users realize that most porn is fantasy and not real.

One thing seems certain, and that is the shame and stigma surrounding porn in and of itself causes a lot of issues. When something is taboo, it goes underground and gains power. If we can put porn out into the light, and take an unflinching look at it, perhaps we can eliminate many of the problems surrounding pornography.

If you or your partner is having trouble controlling their pornography use, please make an appointment by calling (813) 404-9215 or by using my online scheduler. I can help!

Dr. Barb LoFrisco

Sexual Resource List – Updated!


  • The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction ( No list would be complete without this classic. Founded by pioneer sexologist Alfred Kinsey, the Kinsey Institute supports interdiscipinary research in the study of human sexuality.
  • Kinsey Confidential™ ( a sexuality information service designed by The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction™ to meet the sexual health information needs of college-age adults. This site contains articles on a variety of sex information topics as well as podcasts.
  • Dr. Ruth ( this site is sponsored by one of the most widely-known sexual experts, Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Sex tips, online polls, and posted answers to visitor’s questions are among the highlights of this site.
  • SIECUS ( : a well-respected non-profit specializing in sex education and sexuality.
  • Club CalExotics ( an interactive, online community that is committed to providing information about sexual health and wellness.  It has interactive forums and discussion boards, informational videos, educational blog posts and offers expert advice. It’s free to join but must be over the age of 18.


  • Sex Matters for Women: A Complete Guide to Taking Care of Your Sexual Self – Sallie Foley, Sally A. Kope, Dennis P. Sugrue

o    This book presents solid, science-based information on the topics that everyone is talking about and those that aren’t talked about enough, from how to have more satisfying sex, to questions about hormones, anatomy, STDs, body image, relationships, sexual orientation, and more. Also included are thought-provoking exercises for self-discovery and sexual growth.

  • Private Pain: It’s About Life, Not Just Sex – Ditza Katz, Ross Lynn Tabisel

o    This book discusses vaginismus and dyspareunia and includes extensive explanations, real – life stories of patients and partners, and treatment options. It should be of great value to sufferers, partners, family members, healthcare professionals and spiritual leaders who will now be able to better understand the nature and management of these conditions.

  • Becoming Orgasmic: A Sexual and Personal Growth Program for Women – Julia Heiman, Joseph Ph.D. LoPiccolo

o    The revised and expanded edition of Becoming Orgasmic provides a program designed to help anyone overcome the myriad obstacles to complete sexual satisfaction.

  • She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman – Ian Kerner

o   A straightforward, intimate, and exuberant guide to cunnilingus. Kerner educates readers about the clitoris and describes female sexual response from “foreplay” through “coreplay” to “moreplay.”

  • He Comes Next: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Pleasuring a Man -Ian Kerner

o    Offers expert advice on everything from the nature of male desire to sex-techniques that work.

  • The Guide to Getting It On! (The Universe’s Coolest and Most Informative Book About Sex)- Paul Joannides, Daerick Gross

o    The award-winning Guide To Getting It On! is the most comprehensive how-to book on sex that is currently available. It is used as required reading in sex ed classes at more than 30 colleges and universities, and is said to have been responsible for cracked plaster in bedroom ceilings all across America. The Guide makes reading about sex almost as much fun as doing it.

  • Love in the Time of Colic: The New Parents’ Guide to Getting It On Again – Ian Kerner, Heidi Raykeil

o    Ian and Heidi often bring very different perspectives, but they agree that sex matters . . . a lot. It’s the glue that holds couples together and keeps lovers from becoming simply roommates or co-parents. Funny and frank, Love in the Time of Colic will help parents take the charge out of this once-taboo subject, and put it back where it belongs—in the bedroom.

  • Rekindling Desire – Barry and Emily McCarthy

o    For over a decade Rekindling Desire has helped to restore and restructure sexuality in thousands of lives. Contained within are suggested strategies and exercises that help develop communication and sexual skills, as well as interesting case studies that open the doors to couples’ sexual frustrations.

  • The New Monogamy: Redefining Your Relationship After Infidelity – Tammy Nelson

o    The New Monogamy offers a way out of these difficulties for couples struggling to stay together after infidelity.


  • Male Health Center ( Information on male genital health, birth control from the male perspective, and sexual functioning.




  • Sexual Orientation: Science, Education and Policy ( this site is mainly dedicated to the work of Dr. Gregory Herek, an authority on homophobia. Dr. Herek’s research focuses on sexual orientation, anti-gay violence, homophobia, and other concerns of gay men and lesbians.


  • International Planned Parenthood Federation ( this well-known organization provides valuable information on contraception; this site provides breaking news, press releases, journal articles and other resources.
  • The International Council on Infertility Information ( this site offers fact sheets, recent news, geographical listings of health specialists, and an opportunity to participate in chat sessions with experts.
  • The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy ( the purpose of this site is to provide teens and parents frank advice about how to prevent teen pregnancy.

As always, if these resources aren’t enough help, book your appointment now! Just look to the right and press the button.

Your Passion is my Passion,

Dr. Barb LoFrisco

a.k.a. “CounselorBarb”


Sexual Communication Tips

Sex is one of the most difficult topics for couples to discuss. Yet, good sexual communication will not only enhance your love life, it will enhance your relationship! Having trouble talking about sex? You aren’t alone.

Common Obstacles:

  1. The belief that talking about sex is vulgar.

The fix: Vulgarity is in the eye of the beholder. Isn’t it time to let go of this outdated Victorian belief?

  1. Couples may lack agreeable, common language.

The fix: Agree on common terms for genitalia. Decide whether you are going to use pet names, such as “Peter,” slang such as “cock,” or clinical terms such as “penis.”

  1. Thinking your partner should know what you want.

The fix: People vary widely on sexual preferences, including positions and locations for sexual intimacy, so ask your partner what they prefer.

  1. The belief that love is enough for a great sex life.

The fix: Love and sexual skill aren’t necessarily related. Take the time and effort to communicate with your partner about what you both want.

  1. Some people are better communicators than others.

The fix: Although it is true that some people are born communicators, it’s never too late to learn. Reading this is your first step! Congratulations!

Getting Started (Three Ways):

  1. Start by talking about talking. Tell your partner it’s difficult for you to talk about sex; i.e. “I have always found it awkward to talk about sex but I value our intimate life together enough to want to try.”
  2. Gently probe your partner for their willingness to discuss sex. i.e. “Would it be OK with you if we discussed our sex life?”
  3. Request permission to raise an issue. For example, “There is something on my mind, do you have a few minutes?”

Bonus: Tell your partner it’s OK to point out ways you can be a more effective lover. For example, “I know you don’t want to hurt my feelings, but is there anything you’d like done differently?”

General tips: Pick a time when you are both rested and have both sufficient time and privacy. And you don’t need to restrict your conversations to the bedroom; some couples are more comfortable cuddled on the couch or sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee. Lastly, restrict your conversation to what is going on currently, not the sexual act that your partner performed 2 months ago.


Part of good communication is good listening skills, and communicating about sex is no different! Here are some tips:

  1. Active listening: Don’t just hear what your partner is saying, react to it. This includes paraphrasing, or putting into your own words what you heard your partner say. This not only shows your partner you are listening, but gives your partner an opportunity to correct any misunderstandings.
  2. Listen to learn: Be open to what your partner has to say, be sure you understand it correctly, and ask questions if needed.
  3. Use positive reinforcement: Even if you disagree with what your partner is saying, tell him/her that you value them, i.e. “I really appreciate you taking the time to talk this over with me, even though we don’t see things the same way,”


  1. Use “I language” to discuss your feelings and preferences. For example, instead of saying “you are an inexperienced lover and I have to show you how to do it,” say: “I feel hurt when you do xxx when I have told you that I prefer yyy.”
  2. Use positive reinforcement. Be sure to tell your partner what they are doing right!
  3. Know when to use open or closed questions.
    1. If you are just seeking information that requires a yes-or-no answer, such as whether or not to leave the stereo on, used a closed question such as “Would you like the stereo left on while we make love?” I
    2. f you are seeking more general information, use an open question such as “What do you like about they way we make love?”
  4. Use self-disclosure, which helps to build intimacy. For example, you could say “I sometimes feel I disappoint you in bed, is that true?”

During The Act:

  1. Become aware of non-verbal feedback, both by providing it and paying attention to your partners’. If you like something your partner is doing, show it by moaning or moving your body in such a way to show excitement. Don’t forget to look at facial expressions; does the person look like they are in pain or enjoying things? Is their body tensing up or leaning in?
  2. Provide positive reinforcement such as “That feels great!” You can also ask your partner, “How does that feel?”
  3. Gently guiding your partner’s hand. Discuss this first and get permission, but a really effective way to communicate sexual preferences is by taking your partners hand and guiding it. For example, women may show their partner how they like their breasts or clitoris to be caressed, and men might show their partner how they like their penis caressed.
  4. Use signals. Discuss this ahead of time, and agree upon non-verbal signals that indicate preferences. You may have one to signal pleasure, and other that signals “please try something else.”

My Number One Tip:

Do not fake orgasms! Ever! Faking orgasms are the ultimate sexual lie and will erode your sexual relationship. If you know it isn’t going to happen for you, and you are OK with it, it is far better to be honest and explain that you don’t always have to have an orgasm to feel intimate and close with your partner.

Lastly, as always, if you are still having problems communicating, make an appointment with me today!


Your Passion is my Passion,

Dr. Barb LoFrisco

a.k.a. “CounselorBarb”

10 Steps to Good Self Care


1. Have a balanced diet; avoid tobacco and processed foods; avoid excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption.
– Maintain your weight at a level that is healthy and feels good to you.
2. Exercise 3 – 5 times per week, both aerobically and with weights.
3. Get adequate sleep and rest. The amount differs per person. If you are sleepy during the day it is likely you need more rest.


4. Daily: meditate, or set aside time for daily contemplation to get in touch with what you really want from life, or journal about your feelings and experiences, or all three.
5. Engage in some type of relaxation activity (i.e. yoga, Tai Chi, stretching.)
6. Engage in some type of creative activity (i.e. art, writing, music) outside of work.


7. Laugh or play every day.
8. Give and receive emotional support from family and/or friends.
– If necessary, work on strengthening your emotional support system by engaging in activities where you can meet people.
9. Set goals for yourself that are healthy and attainable, then treat yourself to constructive and meaningful rewards.
10. Be as kind and understanding to yourself as you are to others.

10 Ways To Excellent Couples Communication

  1. Be a good listener. Focus on what your partner is saying, and then repeat it back to them to assure them it was heard correctly.
  2. Be interested in your partner. Try to understand them and learn what makes them tick.
  3. Be tolerant of differences and learn to compromise. You don’t need to agree on everything; it’s more important to be happy than to be “right.”
  4. When you speak, speak constructively:
    • Think before you speak. Is what you are about to say true? Is it kind? Will it help or harm the relationship? Take care with both content and tone. Avoid insults and harsh criticisms.
    • Save your venting for your friends, journal or your therapist.  Avoid discussing relationship issues with family or mutual friends.
    • Timing is important: bring up difficult issues when you are feeling close, and you are both rested.
    • Use “I language,” e.g., “I feel hurt when you __________.”
    • Stick to a specific point. Don’t let the discussion veer into other unrelated complaints; save those for later.
    • Keep it short and sweet to avoid flooding your partner with negative emotion. Once this happens, their ability to respond will be greatly diminished and you risk causing an argument.
    • Before you initiate a discussion be sure you’re not too angry. If you are, go for a walk or do something else to calm yourself down. Know how to soothe yourself.
    • If your partner responds with anger or insults, tell them you will not accept the manner in which they are speaking to you and walk away. Do not respond in kind.
  5. Do not use silence to punish. If you need some time and space to gather your thoughts or calm down, communicate this to your partner.
  6. When you are wrong, admit it promptly and apologize.
    • If your partner apologizes, accept his/her apology; do not bring it up again.
  7. Nurture and maintain both friendship and intimacy. Be sure to spend regular time alone together with phones and other electronics put away. Discuss your feelings and dreams.
  8. Create positive memories. Learn a new sport or hobby together, or explore a new town. Establish a ritual. The closer your bond, the easier it will be to communicate.
  9. Have a shared vision of the relationship. Discuss what it is that both of you want from the relationship.
  10. Last but not least, make sex a priority. Schedule intimate time together. Yes, I said schedule! Remember, we plan for things that are important. Think of ways to surprise your partner. Communicate with each other about your preferences and needs.

*Adapted from 7 Principles for Highly Effective Marriages by John Gottman and Marriage Communication Guidelines from G/L Publications

Women: 15 Ways To Turn Yourself On

1)     Stay in the moment.

  • Women’s sexuality is much more influenced by stress and over-work as compared to men’s. Many times we are filling out our to-do lists in our head while we are lying in bed or becoming romantic with our partner. It’s impossible to be fully in the moment when you’re going over the emails you didn’t send from work that day or starting to plan the meeting you have the next morning. So try to clear your head before getting into bed; leave work at work.
  • Regular meditation can help with this problem. The more focused your mind is on what is happening in the present moment, the more turned-on you will feel. There are many meditation apps available for download to your smart phone.

2)     Turn off anything electronic that is distracting.

  • Definitely turn the TV in the bedroom off. It’s hard to stay focused if can hear the anchor on the nighttime news cast talking about the car fatality that happened on 275 in rush hour traffic.
  • Turn off cell phones, laptops, iPhones and iPads, but do turn on some light jazz or other soft music that you both enjoy in the background. There’s nothing like a loud alarm tone buzzing as your boss calls you about a work emergency late at night to kill the mood. Your boss can wait another 10 minutes. Or twenty…On the other hand, music can definitely get you in the mood and help keep your head in the moment. Because that’s where sexual activity starts- in your brain.

3)     Keep your mind focused on what your man is doing to you.

  • If you still are having problems keeping your mind focused on what’s going on in the bedroom, think of exactly what your partner is doing to you. Think to yourself, “His hand is caressing my breast. His fingers are on my clitoris.” When you run a play-by-play scene of what’s going on inside your head, it forces you to focus on exactly what is happening in the moment. You will not be able to think of tomorrow’s business meeting if your brain is instead saying, “His lips are kissing my nipples.”

4)     Describe his movements to him as he’s touching you.

  • You and your partner may enjoy sexy talk. If that is the case, a great way to turn both of you on is to verbalize what he’s doing to you. In a soft sexy voice say, “I like the way your fingers glide over my thigh” or “Your tongue feels great on my vagina.” This positive reinforcement will also communicate to him what feels good (see #5).
  • You can also describe out loud what you are doing to him. Unzip his pants, put your hand in his boxers and whisper in his ear, “Your penis is so hard.” You will likely feel the blood start to pump to his genitals even more afterwards.

5)     Tell him when he does something right that makes you feel good.

  • Communication is definitely the key. Men can’t read our minds and every woman is different. As a result, men are usually the ones testing out the waters to find out what turns you on. Let him know what you like so he keeps doing more of it. But save any extended conversations for outside the bedroom; do not analyze his performance in the moment.
  • Give him a helping hand, so to speak. If you show him where you like to be touched and what feels good you will not only communicate your preferences but will also strengthen your bond overall.
  • Use non-verbals. Moaning and moving your body can also communicate how good something feels.

6)     Tell him when something doesn’t feel good.

  • This is something that is also very important, but a lot of times we just suffer silently and do not let our partner know what doesn’t feel good, or even hurts. We may even go as far as to fake an orgasm to save the man’s feelings! Please don’t do this. Unless you want to have sex that way for the rest of your life.
  • If something hurts, either tell your partner or simply move your body. If he doesn’t get the message, then by all means speak up. If something just doesn’t feel that good, then try moving his hand or moving your body. Later, outside the bedroom, explain to him what feels good and what doesn’t. Be sure to use “I language,”, i.e. “I really prefer…”
  • As women we tend to want to please our man, sometimes we endure and go through the motions just to satisfy him. Men can see right through this and it can actually be a turn off for them. So, know your body and communicate your needs and desires! You have just as much of a right to sexual pleasure as he does. Plus, the more turned on you are, the more turned on he will be.

7)     Don’t make excuses of why not to have sex; instead think of reasons why you should.

  • The sexual bond you have with your husband or boyfriend is the only special tie you have with just that one person. And research suggests that the quality of the sexual bond affects the quality of the emotional bond. So don’t let it slip away. I know our days and schedules get busy with work and kids, but you need to make special time set aside to be intimate. Your relationship depends on it!
  • One of the top excuses for women to not have sex is that they have a headache. Well, studies now actually prove that having intercourse reduces headaches because it pulls the blood flow from the brain into the genitals. So no more excuses! Sex is good for you, your body and your bond with your partner.

8)     Get into it, even if you’re not in the mood.

  • Many sexual experts are changing their opinion regarding the flow of sexual response. Previously, it was thought that women were just like men in that desire always preceded arousal. However, new research suggests that for women these phases can be reversed. What does this mean for you? Be like Nike and “just do it.” Once you get going, you’ll become aroused, and then you will feel desire.
  • And be an active participant. Don’t just lie there and expect men to do all of the work. Taking an active role in your own pleasure will not only empower you and help you feel more confident, you will also feel more sexual!

9)     Leave the lights on, men are visual!

  • I know many women don’t like to see themselves naked or have sex with the lights on because they don’t like their bodies. However, the thing is when it’s just you and your man in the bedroom he loves you for just being you. To him you are a beautiful woman! Men are generally visual creatures and will become aroused by seeing your beautiful body; and in turn, you will become aroused and start to believe you are beautiful naked when you see him become aroused.
  • Nobody is perfect; we all have some flaws on our bodies and something that make us insecure. Learn to start loving yourself and your body. When a woman has a high self-esteem and self-worth her sex life is better. You know that this man is lucky to be with such a beautiful, intelligent wonderful woman as yourself.

10)  Allow him to pleasure you.

  • Let him take his time to pleasure you. Most guys like the intimacy prior to intercourse. Other times you will jump straight into intercourse, but if he wants to explore your body and pleasure you, let him. Enjoy the time and effort he’s putting forth in you.

11. Don’t be afraid to use a little lubrication to keep a steady rhythm.

  •  Lubrication can always help out, especially for women in perimenopause or menopause, when the vaginal walls thin and become drier. Just make sure you use just a little bit and not too much. You still need some friction; when there’s too much lube you’re not going to feel anything.

12)  When you’re on the bottom move your pelvis like you’re on top instead.

  • Some women have a hard time reaching orgasm when they are on the bottom and their man is on top. What you can do to make the experience pleasurable for both partners is to move your pelvis up and down like you are actually on top.
  •  Have your man hold his body steady while you do the motions with your pelvis. This position can actually produce a more intensified orgasm versus if you were on top.

13)  Announcing out loud when you’re close to orgasm.

  • When you’re almost ready to climax and you announce it out loud to your partner it may help for a few reasons. One: it will keep your mind on the end goal so you don’t get distracted. Two: it helps your partner know to not stop what they are doing so you don’t lose the moment. Three: then your man may also climax with you.

14)  Speaking of orgasms…

  • A few of the tips here relate to you climaxing during intercourse. However, it is worth noting that only twenty to forty percent of the female population is able to do this. So, if you are part of the majority and require manual and/or oral stimulation to climax, no worries. Just be sure to communicate this to your partner (see #5). And keep in mind the intercourse-related tips may still be useful in maximizing your pleasure.

15)  If all else fails and you like to be in control, get on top and take the horse by the reins and ride him into the sunset.

  • If you just can’t have an orgasm unless you’re on top, then go for it! Let him know that this is the position you like most. If he also prefers being on top, either take turns, or start with you on top and then after you have climaxed switch positions with him.

*Adapted from Tara Richter, Certified Dating Coach, Author & Radio Show Host




Men: Read This Before You Lose Your Woman Forever

OK…sorry, I had to scare you to get your attention. Yes, I am talking to you. The one who withdraws and tunes out whenever your partner starts complaining about the relationship, or God forbid, “wants to talk.” Do that enough times and eventually your woman will stop asking for counseling and start consulting divorce lawyers. And then it will be too late.

I’ve seen it so many times. It’s very painful to watch. The man sitting on the couch, begging and pleading his wife/girlfriend for another chance, ready to change, wanting to change, finally listening to the litany of complaints his partner has been lobbing at him for the past year. And the woman…ambivalent at best. Wanting on one hand to try to save the relationship, especially if there are kids or economic considerations involved, but on the other knowing their hearts just aren’t in it anymore.

At worst, the woman has moved on emotionally. They have run out of hope, of emotional energy. They simply cannot bear to be hurt again, for their feelings to be ignored and invalidated. In short, they are done. I have found once women get to this point, there is usually little to no hope for the relationship. Yes, the man makes changes. But he’s done this before and it hasn’t lasted. The woman is afraid to trust that he has truly changed and remains very guarded. And while the woman remains guarded, frankly there isn’t much hope for progress.

So, men, I am begging you to PLEASE listen to your wife/girlfriend. Try to resolve your conflicts. If you cannot, please come to therapy before it’s too late. If you are in the early stages of relationship discontent, I have a better chance of helping you. So please fix the problem before your wife/girlfriend checks out and you are all alone.

Your passion is my passion,

Dr. Barb LoFrisco

Successful New Year’s Resolutions: What You Need To Know Today

It’s that time of year again. It seems everywhere I turn I hear something about “New Year’s resolutions.” Sounds great, right? Combining the words “new” and “resolution” sounds so positive, what’s not to love? Well, let me tell you.

The Problem

Each year people create lofty goals they will probably fail to accomplish. Why? Well, it’s not because the goal itself is bad. After all, who can possibly argue against the merits of improving your diet, exercising, and saving money? Other than a  hedonist? Nobody, that’s who. But what we can argue about is the process by which these things get accomplished. In another words, the goals may be good, but the motivation and steps toward achieving them…not so much.

First of all, for those of you who know me at all know that I don’t like artificially created events. In the past, I have written against Valentine’s Day, for example. I have no problem with the sentiment behind the holiday, but I do have a problem with the pressure placed upon people to conform. I have the same problem with New Year’s resolutions.  More specifically, when outside pressure, as opposed to internal motivation, forces behavioral changes those changes are not nearly as strong as they would be if they were adopted more naturally. Therefore, by their very nature, New Year’s resolutions are destined to fail. And the more we set goals and fail to achieve them, the more discouraged we get, and eventually? We will give up. Not good.

The second major issue I have with New Year’s resolutions is in the execution. Most people do not understand what comprises well-formed goals, never mind appropriate steps to achieving them. Most of us will decide we are going to lose 30 pounds, for example. We do not think about whether this is a well-formed goal. (It is not).  Poorly formed goals also set us up for failure.

The Fix

First of all, don’t set goals just because the calendar says January 1. If this is an extra motivator, that’s fine, but you must be internally motivated as well. Wait until you decide you really want something, then set your goal. Even if the calendar says July 1 instead of January 1.

Second, set SMART goals. Well-formed goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound:

    • Specific. Specify exactly what it is you want to do. Vague goals are by definition unattainable; if we don’t know what the goal is how are we ever going to know we have reached it?
    • Measurable. We need a way of monitoring our progress. It is very helpful to break a large goal down into smaller steps that can be achieved fairly easily. This will help encourage us, which will give us energy to devote to our progress, which then leads to more progress, more encouragement, etc. It is this creation of a positive feedback cycle that will keep us motivated.
    • Attainable. Sure, we all may want to be millionaires, but it’s important to be realistic. There needs to be a very good chance that we can get what we want. Otherwise, we are just setting ourselves up to fail. When we fail, we get discouraged, and can set up a negative feedback cycle making future change more difficult.
    • Relevant. You need to feel passionately about your goal. You need to have “skin in the game”, as they say. If you are not invested in your goal, you will likely fail.
    • Time-bound. You need to add time limits to your goal, as well as each step to get there. Without time limits we can allow our efforts to stretch out to infinity, without actually accomplishing much at all. And what is the point of setting goals if we don’t make any progress?

So, the next time someone proudly declares their new year’s resolutions, you can smile inside, knowing that you are wiser.

Dr. Barb LoFrisco

14 Essential Steps To Building Self Esteem

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 to find a group with similar interests.
  9. 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.
  10. 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…
  11. 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?”
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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

Original source: Jae Song & Tina Su on

ED and the MD

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Keeping Secrets in Couples Therapy

Every couples therapist has to decide whether or not to incorporate individual sessions. Whereas there Unknownare 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.

Ladies: Feed Your Sexy!

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.

Ladies: How Chicken Can Hurt Your Sex Life

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.


Men: Top Three Ways To Improve Your Sex Life and Golf Game

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 sexual dysfunction, improve sexual intimacy, men's sexual healthas 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:

    1. 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.


    1. 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.


    1. Do right for your age.  Each decade of a man’s life has certain maintenance requirements:


      1. 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.


      1. 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!


    1. 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 For sexual issues, visit a qualified sex therapist.

Recommended Reading:

1Link no longer active

2Beet Juice and Athletes 

3Nitrates lower blood pressure: nutrient found in spinach, other vegetables keeps blood vessels healthy. 

4Enlarged Prostate: A Complex Problem

Erectile Dysfunction: What Everyone (Male or Female) Needs To Know

Erectile Dysfunction…it’s that sensitive subject that nobody really wants to discuss. It’s the elephant in the room. You know it’s erectile dysfunction treatment, sex therapy, intimacy issues 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:

  1. Things that can deflate your erection
  2. A virtual guide to 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!”

How To Handle The Office Bully

Corporations have come a long way in developing policies for dealing with sexual harassment. But what about office bullies? depression counseling, assertiveness trainingIsn’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.

Character Trait Or Conflict Avoidant?

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 couples counseling, marriage counseling, conflict resolutionfor 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.

Cyber Affairs: Yes! It’s Cheating

Facebook is a wonderful thing. With 845 million active monthly users, it’s also a very popular thing. But danger lurks behind the couples counseling, marriage counseling, cheatingfun 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.