Monday, February 29, 2016

5 Steps to Take Before Starting a New Relationship

Forget “The Rules." Stop believing “He’s just not into you." In fact, skip all the self-help confusion that instructs you on how to morph yourself into the perfect match for Mr. (or Ms.) Right.
 Phase4Studios / Shutterstock
People who are genuinely happy with their romantic choices spend more energy working on their own self-development than on appearing a certain way to attract love. Instead of focusing on playing the game to entice a partner, put your focus on these five principles and, over time, the right match for you will present itself:
1. Understand yourself, sexually and emotionally. If you have not done the work of understanding yourself emotionally and sexually, you will enter romantic relationships from an emotionally dependent place. You may have the unrealistic hope that someone else will know how to understand you and make you happy—even when you, yourself, may not know. Directly communicating to your partners about your emotions and your sexual side is important; hoping others will intuitively perceive who you are emotionally and what you need sexually is a fantasy. Make a conscious effort to become aware of your ongoing emotional reactions to the people and events in your life. Observe and label your emotional reactions. Reflect on your feelings and talk with people about how you feel or what you are noticing about yourself, without expecting them to put you back together again.
2. Believe what people show and say about themselves. It is common when attracted to someone to want to rationalize their poor behavior. If someone treats you with disrespect or chronically lets you down, take this as data about whom he or she is as a person. If you try to talk with someone and he or she dismisses you or rationalizes mistreatment of you, take this seriously; this may not be a suitable match. If a man says he is not looking for “anything serious” or he needs a lot of “space,” let him go. This person is not in the same place you are and may not want the same things you want. Believe what people communicate about themselves. If they are acting immaturely or disrespectfully, or saying things that hurt you, move on. It is not your job to show someone a better way; it is your job to work on growing as a person.
3. Avoid "sextimacy." As I describe in Having Sex, Wanting Intimacy (link is external), sextimacy is a cycle of working to achieve emotional intimacy through hastened sex. If you are hoping that a sexual relationship will eventually lead to a more emotionally intimate or committed relationship, cease and desist: Research shows relationships that start with sex before emotional intimacy is present typically do not become committed unions. You will spend your time hoping and working to get someone to change or "step up to the plate" when you could be putting your energy into growing as a person and finding someone who likes the person you have become.
4. Separate psychologically from your parents. This is no easy task and many think they have done so when, in reality, they have not. As an adult, if you continue to allow your parents to meet all of your emotional needs then you siphon off some of the energy that needs to go into your romantic attachments. As much as possible, little by little, work to be independent of your parents. This does not mean you can’t enjoy their company, spend time with them, and share what you wish with them about your life. It does mean: Work to become comfortable making your own decisions. Excessively asking for their opinion, reassurance, or guidance, or allowing them to control your life means you are not living for yourself. And if you allow your parents to continually do the heavy lifting for you, then you will not be a whole person when the right match presents itself. Entering into a romantic relationship believing that the person is going to take care of you in the way your parents have can turn a healthy match into a toxic one. You have to be in control of your own life, self-aware of your goals, needs and emotions.
5. Put yourself in new situations. A popular idea holds that in order to find the right partner one must first work alone on self-improvement—"I just need to do me for a while." In my experience, when women do this, they put themselves in arbitrary exile, where they feel sad and out of touch. With such a vague goal of "working on myself," enlightenment eludes and isolation compounds the misery. Work on yourself through developing greater emotional and sexual self-awareness. At the same time, you need new relationships with romantic partners and friends to truly know yourself. Each dating experience provides you with in-the-moment information about your preferences, weaknesses and strengths. If you continue to think and do the same things that you have always thought and experienced, you will remain stuck. Your brain has an extraordinary ability to adapt and grow—if you allow it. For the brain to grow you have to give it new stimulation and new experiences that challenge you on some level. Perhaps there are things that you like or have wanted to try but have been afraid to do so. As long as they reflect your genuine interest, work through the anxiety and put yourself in novel situations where you may meet different kinds of people and experience other aspects of your personality.

Jill P. Weber, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist and author of Having Sex, Wanting Intimacy—Why Women Settle for One-Sided Relationships (link is external). Click here (link is external) to follow Jill on Facebook (link is external) or here (link is external) to follow Jill on Twitter (link is external) @DrJillWeber (link is external)
copyright Jill P. Weber, Ph.D.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The sex Myth

 Sex is the purest form of self-expression, the most intimate way two people can give their love to each other—and when it goes wrong, it disrupts the entire relationship. What many couples forget is how deeply sex ripples out to the farthest reaches of their love. Every couple has less sex as time goes on, and that's not always a problem in itself. But if one partner longs for sex and the other doesn't want it, that's the most dire of relationship emergencies and requires immediate and zealous attention. Sex produces physical bonding that's unique, special, and important. In relationships, sex isn't just the icing on the cake. It is the cake.

Myth #1: A woman's hormones are the main driver of her desire.

Many people assume that if a woman rarely wants sex, it means there's something wrong with her libido—and that she needs medical treatment. "The biggest misconception is that low sexual desire is all hormonal," says Juan J. Remos, a doctor with the Miami Institute for Age Management and Intervention. "But libido is a lot more complex than that, and overlaps with every sphere of human experience, including vascular health, mental health, nutrition, body image, stress level, and the quality of your relationship generally." Taking medications like testosterone patches to boost your desire isn't going to work unless the problem is physiological—and low sexual desire in women is rarely the result of physiological causes. In most cases, the problem stems from how she feels about herself, her partner, and her relationship. So when a woman has low sexual desire, the first thing to do is to assess the relationship itself, and how it can be improved.

Myth #2: Emotional intimacy guarantees a good sex life.

"We've all been brainwashed to think emotional intimacy is the best thing," says Kathryn Hall, author of Reclaiming Your Sexual Self. "But lots of couples get really emotionally intimate and their sex life tanks anyway." For many couples, emotional intimacy makes them feel like they're best friends—but doesn't feed their desire. The solution is to give yourself permission to be playful, to take risks, to be less emotionally intimate and more sexy. For many people, a far greater turn-on than emotional intimacy is feeling desired. "The secret is to forget about doing what you think is normal, and instead embrace whatever it is that makes you feel fun and young and sexy," says Hall. "Feeling desired is a prelude to feeling desire."

Myth #3: If your partner wants sex but you don't, you can express your love in other ways.

We tend to think that people should be able to choose whether they want sex in a relationship—and we assume that if one partner doesn't want sex, the other partner should accept it and remain monogamous without complaint. "This is impractical, unfair, and unworkable, and often leads to infidelity," says Michelle Weiner-Davis, author of The Sex-Starved Marriage: A Couple's Guide To Boosting Their Marriage Libido. When people get married, they naturally have to come to compromises in many aspects of their lives—where to live, whether to have kids, and whose career to focus on, she explains. But they often neglect to talk about what their sexual relationship is going to be like, how often they're going to have sex, and how high the quality of their sex will be. "That's an oversight because sex is the tie that binds," says Weiner-Davis. "To think that only one person should be in charge of that decision is very short-sighted."
People have different "love languages," she explains. For some people, touch makes them feel loved; for others it's meaningful conversations, or how much time you spend together. "But if you're married to someone whose love language is touch, you can buy them expensive gifts or take them on vacations or say I love you until the cows come home, but it won't matter because it won't mean love," says Weiner Davis. "In good relationships, partners try to figure out each other's love language and speak it—even if it's different from their own. Good relationships are built on mutual caretaking."

Myth #4: Couples should deal with emotional problems before sexual problems.

When a couple has emotional problems—anger, resentment, a lack of communication—in addition to a poor sex life, most people assume they'll need to fix the emotional problems first. But for many people, the opposite is true. "I don't think sexual therapy is any longer separate from marital therapy," says Remos. "If you start analyzing the sexual relationship of a couple, you get to everything else and vice versa. Sex is the window into everything else about the relationship."
Addressing emotional problems first can often work. But if a couple tries to fix those problems and comes up empty, dealing with the sexual problems first may be the solution. "Often I take sex off the back burner and talk to couples about how to improve their physical relationship, whether they're in the mood or not," says Weiner-Davis. "When couples start touching again, they feel closer to each other, which puts them more emotionally on the same page and makes it easier to resolve other differences."

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Sex: The Love Limit

women's lips kissing

Can you max out on sex's body benefits?
By Lauren F. Friedman

Regular sex (and its primary side effect, orgasm) brings serious health benefits: It can cure insomnia, relieve pain, and reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, depression, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, bladder problems, and more, research suggests. Its power stems mostly from its aerobic element and stress-relieving effects. "You can't be worrying about a problem when you're having an orgasm," points out psychologist Laurie Mintz, author of A Tired Woman's Guide to Passionate Sex.
If sex is a wonder drug, though, few researchers are working out the best dosage—the amount needed for maximum benefit. While large studies examining orgasms' effects on mortality and health frequently find a linear relationship (more sex, better health, period), the research often deems two or more orgasms per week "frequent." Might an upper limit exist, unnoticed at the extreme end of the scale?
One study of 112 couples suggests that moderation is key. Carl Charnetski, a psychologist at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania, found that couples who got it on twice a week had 30 percent higher levels of an important bug-fighting antibody than did less sexually active pairs. But any additional romps—three or four times a week—vitiated the immunity boost.
Opioid peptides, which are released during pleasurable experiences, may account for Charnetski's rather befuddling (and, he adds, preliminary) results.
Normally, such peptides strengthen the immune system, but in excess they can act as immunosuppressants. It's unclear whether sex alone could amp up peptides to dangerous levels, but studies suggest a link between an excess of endorphins (an opioid peptide that increases during the deed) and depression, psychosis, and even immobility.
Don't adjust your schedule just yet, however: Men who ejaculate the least (zero to three times a month) and the most (21 or more times a month) have the lowest relative risk for prostate cancer. The groups right in the middle are most likely to develop the disease, according to a paper in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Since sex kicks off such a complex set of biological responses, pinpointing an optimal orgasm count is probably impossible—not to mention unsexy. "I haven't seen any research that shows there's some critical number you need," Mintz says. Her prescription? "Whatever works."

Bed Time

How much sex are Americans having? It's hard to say, since surveys rely on participants' memory—and honesty. But Debby Herbenick, a sex researcher at Indiana University, thinks subjects love to spill: "You can't always be that candid about your sexual behavior."
  • Most singles aren't swinging. Among 30-somethings, more than 77 percent of spouses have sex two-plus times a month. For singles, that's true of 36 percent of men and 17 percent of women.
  • Youngins get busy. Forty-three percent of married men in their late 20s have sex twice a week or more, while 7 percent of husbands older than 70 do.
  • The most active demo: married couples age 18-24. More than 60 percent get it on twice a week or more.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Silence: A Relationship Killer

Silence: A Relationship Killer

Over the many years that I’ve been practicing therapy, I’ve found that couples that are struggling in their relationships often succumb to the default mode of silence. Sometimes, it’s one person who defers to the unspoken, and at times it’s actually both. In either circumstance, such silence—not a healthy pause or meditative break—speaks to the absence of verbal and emotional intimacy. Unless we’re communicating on levels of extra sensory perception or body language, words are the only tools available to us to communicate let alone resolve our issues. There’s little sense to being in a relationship and resorting to silence. Not only does it sabotage the lifeline of a healthy coupling, it chokes your expressive needs.
When you can express what you’re feeling—in the moment that you’re experiencing it—there’s much less likelihood that you’ll act out on that feeling. Problematic feelings that go unexpressed tend to percolate and boil over—they take on energy of their own, and the ensuing conflict hours or days later may have little correlation to the original emotional insult. When this occurs there’s little chance of being validated, as there may be little correspondence between your hurt feelings and the disruption of the moment.
Telling someone that you feel angry, and explaining why you do, will ordinarily sever the reactive state of being angry or acting angrily. Furthermore, the non-verbalization and suppression of your feelings will—over time—result in substantial resentment, with the accompanying behavior that we might expect. If you don’t share your problematic feelings, there is a great probability that you’ll act out on them, in any number of unrelated ways. Having done so, you now become the problem in the other’s eyes. We’ve now entered into a negative spiral of silence and struggle.
Silence is Controlling
When we think of controlling people, we ordinarily conjure images of loud or aggressive individuals. They may, in fact, appear to be bullying and controlling of others. Yet we know exactly what we’re dealing with. There are no surprises. There’s a much more insidious type of control, however, which is predicated upon silence. When we don’t share our thoughts with each other, we are often doing so to control the other’s reactions and behavior. If they don’t know what we’re contemplating, then they can’t possibly respond. At times, people who are inclined to please others or avoid confrontation fall prey to this dilemma. The tendency is to choose silence rather than upset the other party.
When we resort to silence, we create an internal monologue, typically ascribing onto others our projection of how we assume they would respond if we actually shared our thoughts with them. In other words, we play out an entire script in which their role is predetermined. In doing so, we are locked into a state of stagnation, the communication stalls and the relationship has little chance to evolve. In such situations, it ordinarily withers. There’s certainly no opportunity for resolution, let alone growth.
At other times, silence is used to punish. By withdrawing from the relationship silence becomes a medium for anger, also obstructing the opportunity for resolution. In such cases, silence is employed to control the other’s behavior. It mutes our thoughts and feelings, and deprives the potential for authentic dialogue. There is no possibility of resolution. Silence in these circumstances is thoroughly non-participatory.
Besides creating an obvious roadblock to the health of the relationship, silence can lead to despair and depression. I’m not referring to healthy breaks of contemplative reflection, but to the chronic struggle people have in expressing their feelings. Silence chokes the breath of relationship. Manipulative silence is soul defeating; the expressing of one’s voice is life affirming.
People who default to silence may claim, “They won’t really listen” or “They will only throw it back at me and I don’t want to fight.” Although this thinking may be understandable, it is self-injurious. We invalidate ourselves when we shut down our own articulation. Fortunately, we don’t have to remain mired in the struggle with silence as we can improve our chances of actually being heard in such circumstances. Leaning how to be heard is an acquired skill. I'll address how you can develop that ability in my next post.
Mel will be teaching a live, interactive videoconference series, Learning the Tools for Successful Communicating, beginning Feb. 12th. To learn more, please visit (link is external). And to receive Mel’s next article in this series on communication, please join his mailing list (link is external)