Is sex addiction real or an excuse?

The debate continues with no clear conclusion. Estimates are that 5% of the population are compulsive sexually and use multiple partners for quick ego boosts -like eating chips when you’re really hungry for a meal. It’s more frightening to be vulnerable to your spouse than to have sex with someone you really don’t care about and can’t hurt you. For a good article on the sex addiction debate check out this article in the Wall Street Journal…. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122271778101187003.html

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Building Trust & Intimacy

Trust and intimacy go together. To be emotionally and physically intimate individuals have to let their guard down, be genuine and let their partner do the same. This requires a sense of emotional safety on both sides and a belief that one’s partner will not judge harshly or hurt you with what you have revealed about yourself. Trust is built on a foundation of emotional safety. How to build trust?

1. Say what you are going to do. Communicate plans openly. Don’t live your life in secret…share information about what you are doing.

2. Do what you say you’ll do. Actions must match words. When you say clearly what you are going to do and then do it, trust grows and strengthens over time.

3. Look at yourself. Is there something you are doing that is giving your partner the impression that you cannot be fully trusted? If so, bring that behavior into the open, and talk about it with your partner.

4. Live in the present. Do not bring up past behavior that is not happening now.

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Suggestions for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a day where we show our love with a card or token to a person we care about. Men often feel pressured to create a perfect day. And as always, when faced with perfectionism the worry is “I may not do it right” (causing stress), or there may be hurt feelings (resulting in anxiety), which could possibly lead to a fight about our relationship (causing fear that the day will be ruined by dredging up old, unresolved issues)!

Society sets many expectations around Valentine’s Day. You’re supposed to be and feel loving. You’re supposed to get the ideal card and gift for your Valentine. You’re supposed to have a special dinner and a “perfect” day…or else. Moreover, certain common stressors like, “Will my spouse be hurt if I don’t buy an extravagant gift or plan a special Valentine’s event?” or “Will my wife be really happy with just a card?” or “My boyfriend and I are not doing very well, so should we still celebrate?” make us dread Valentine’s Day, rather than look forward to it.

5 Suggestions:
1. Discuss how you want the day to unfold rather than how it’s “supposed” to be or how it “should” be. This will clarify each partner’s wishes and help you let go of the huge expectations surrounding the day, the gift, the dinner, the card or the perfect sentiment.

2. After the above discussion, express your feelings to your Valentine in your own unique way, not what Hallmark dictates. Do one special thing, rather than three or four.

3. Forget the dinner reservations at a crowded, pricey restaurant where you can’t even hear each other talk! Instead, either cook an intimate dinner together or order in for a romantic meal at home.

4. Use this day as an opportunity to remember what’s good in your relationship by telling your partner two things you appreciate about them. This will acknowledge how special you both are to each other.

5.Put the day it into perspective. When you feel anxiety, you’re usually over thinking something and making it bigger than it is. Remember, it’s only one day in the life of your relationship and doesn’t define it.

When too much pressure is placed on an event, it sets the stage for disappointment when the outcome isn’t what is envisioned. Initiate a discussion about the day in advance try to see it as an opportunity to express your love and appreciation to your partner in your own special way.

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Book on "Affair-Proofing" Your Relationship

I recommend this interesting book by M. Gary Neuman called ‘Emotional Infidelity – How to Affair-Proof Your Marriage and 10 Other Secrets to a Great Relationship’.  It has interesting observations about the need for dependence in relationships and why/how to set boundaries on relationships with opposite sex friends/colleagues.

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What about sex?

Asking this question gives important assessment information about a relationship. It indicates level of closeness and emotional intimacy and a willingness to be vulnerable and available. It’s also a great indicator of how much underlying anger there is simmering underneath from past emotional injury and resentment. Many modern couples see their sex life crowded out by demands of children, work pressures, not enough time alone — and simply not enough time. In a long-term relationship you just have to have a willingness to be sexual. You just need to respond to your partner’s overtures, even if at first you don’t feel desire. Desire grows with openness to our partner. And the more frequently you have sex and it is satisfying, the more that reinforces your willingness to do it again.” In other words, simply having sex can fuel desire.

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Finite Emotional Energy

We only have so much emotional energy to expend before we are depleted. For example, if we talk about the trials and tribulations of work with friends of the opposite sex, do we really feel like going over it all over again with our spouse when we get home? Probably not. And it this sharing of our lives that keeps us close to our partners – it’s how we become known to each other and thus create a foundation of emotional intimacy.

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How a texting affair begins….

A texting affair may or may not proceed to sex; nonetheless it qualifies as an ’emotional affair’ and can damage the foundation of trust in a couple relationship. It often begins as a flirtation – a way of staying in touch with an acquaintance or friend of the opposite sex outside of your relationship. It’s flattering to think that someone is thinking of you throughout your day. An intimacy develops with the written word that can be more intense than in verbal conversation and almost addictive. You know that your partner would not like it but it’s too much fun to stop. The choice to continue is a decision to be dishonest, thus begins the crack in the slab.

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Absence makes the heart….delusional?

Whether away on a business trip or having a long distance relationship via email, text and phone, when the object of our romantic interest is away we tend to hold an ideal vision of him/her the mind. Upon return there is a resettling phase where we reconcile the ideal and the real. “I forgot how annoying he is when he interrupts me/farts/watches tv too loud.” “Will she ever stop complaining about her weight?” Recognize and accept an adjustment period. Flesh and blood is always messier than fantasy.

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The Pursuer/Distancer Dance

Ever had the feeling that you wanted more from your partner emotionally and physically but she/he wants more independence and is just too busy? Or do you feel like you’re being smothered by your partner’s demands for connection – more talking, more time together? In every relationship, pushing communication and closeness forward and then slowing them down are necessary functions. But sometimes this pattern becomes rigid and polarizing causing anxiety, anger and resentment. Frequently the dynamic devolves into one partner complaining or accusing, and the other partner defending. The defending partner can rarely see that the nagging partner simply wants to get closer. A sudden ‘about face’ by the pursuing partner will often bring the distancer back into the dance. Where are you in your ‘Tango’ right now?

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Pointing fingers

When working with couples I’m struck by how the therapy process usually starts off with each partner pointing the finger at the other. He does this and she does that. How long this stage lasts can vary between one session and forever. For there to be real improvement in the relationship eventually that finger pointing to the partner has to turns back to point at the self. What am I doing that is contributing to this problem? What can I change? It’s a tipping point – beyond accusation to personal responsibility. Progress not perfection!

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