Am I More Hurt Than My Ex?

One late night, with a pint of ice cream, you are scrolling through your usual social media sites and you see pictures of your ex living it up soon after your break up. He/she is posing with other people, going out, brunches, drinks, the works. It looks like they are not phased by the break up at all, which sends you into a free fall of anger and hurt. Are these posts a true reflection of what’s going on in your ex’s life?

It is tough and unfair to make a judgment on who is more hurt in a break up. People can get very good at putting up a front and masking hurt. After a break up, there is a misconception that neither partner benefits from being vulnerable with one another. What’s the point of disclosing your hurt and sorrow ? You have broken up and now it’s a race to see who gets over it the fastest, or rather, who is the best at making it look like they got over it. But when we are not honest with ourselves, we hinder our healing process.

Social media is a big culprit in this deception. Through it, we are able to mislead others and ourselves that everything is fine. Posts and photos are often not an accurate reflection of what is really going on in any person’s life. As a society, we value being “impenetrable” and discourage real sharing and exposure.

The more we avoid what we are really feeling, the longer it’ll take to move on. Chances are that your ex is feeling crappy too, but turning it into a competition is useless. Focus on how you can be open about your hurt in a constructive way. Be vulnerable and share the ugly times too, in what ever way works for you.

The Mysteries of Falling In Love

Falling in love is a complicated human ability, including conscious and subconscious forces at work. Although we can chalk up falling in love with chemistry and attraction (pheromones, biology and such), there are much deeper reasons for why humans strive to attain love. Humans are wired to look for connection- it is a way for us to make sense of our lives, to share our lives with others and enrich our existence.

Falling in love is one of many ways to connect with another person, but we hope that developing love through that connection will provide an intensely satisfying, prolonged and lifelong experience. Through it, we can feel validated, which really means, adding meaning to our lives. Falling in love is one of the ultimate expressions of meaning-making and without meaning, what is life?

Read More

When cheating happens...

When cheating happens in a relationship, it can be a big eye opening and jarring experience for both partners. Once a partner violates the agreed upon “terms” of the relationship, it could become very difficult to trust and be open again. Even in the “best” relationships, partners can stray. We cannot be everything for everyone and this is especially true in intimate, sexual relationships. Nowadays, we are expected to fulfill every want, need and desire for our partner and vice versa, forever. So when cheating happens, it puts what we know about a relationship to the test. We believe and expect that the last thing our intimate partner would do is hurt us. But we ARE hurt, so now what?

Our reality gets questioned- what we think we know about our partner and our own self-worth. We think about ourselves in new ways: the victim, betrayed, abused and vulnerable. How do we come to terms with a partner who cheated? How do we accept that cheating happened in our relationship? In therapy, we try and foster an unconditional acceptance of the self, others and the world. This is difficult stuff! Learning that life happens not to us or for us, but just happens. We work to figure out our role in all of this. What we can control, how to define our feelings and the circumstances surrounding them. This process helps shape our narrative and how we chose to move forward, learning to shed the aforementioned definitions of ourselves. Using this experience as a chance to explore and have an open conversation about needs and wants. The meaning we create can help set realistic expectations and foster positive change in the relationship.

Sensate focus and its use in relationship counseling

Sensate Focus

The vicious cycle of sexual dysfunction: the more you try to get your body or mind to work during intimacy, the less successful your results. In order to combat this, sex and relationship therapists use a series of exercises called sensate focus. These exercises consist of four stages which build trust, communication, and mindfulness in intimacy. With a therapist, partners customize these exercises for their needs and intimacy style. The partners go home, try the exercises, process the experience as partners, and again with a therapist. Sensate focus exercises were originally developed in the 1960s by sex researchers Masters and Johnson. The exercises were created with cisgender, heterosexual, monogamous couples in mind, but can be modified to fit many different sexuality, intimacy, and relationship styles.

 

Stage one: Partners take turns touching each other, avoiding genital areas or the areas typically stimulated during your relationship’s intimacy. In this stage, focus on what feels good to touch and practice open communication with your partner, both verbally and non-verbally. Examples: Moan if it feels good to have your neck stroked, state “I like it when you touch my stomach”, ask “How touch it feel when I touch your hands like this?. The purpose of this stage is to practice being in the present during intimacy and also take the pressure off any party to become aroused or engage in intercourse. After sessions in this stage, partners can process what the experience was like, what worked for them, and what emotions were felt during the process. With a therapist, they can decide if moving onto the next stage is appropriate or if the partners need to spend more time in stage one.

 

Stage two: Partners again take turns touching each other and may include all body all body areas. The concepts of communication and mindful touching are the same as in stage one. It is important before this stage to have a conversation about what sexual behavior is permitted if one or more parties become aroused.  Will more involved intimacy be in the cards or will it be avoided regardless? One of the benefits of sensate focus is it can take pressure off any partner to perform. Just like the first stage, the partners and the therapist process the experience together and make needed adjustments.

 

Stage three: Partners touch each other at the same time. The same concepts from the previous two stages roll into stage three. This stage can be more complicated as partners are focusing on touching the others as well as how they are being touched. Again, try the best to keep yourself in the moment and continually communicate about what is working and what can be changed. This stage can spark some productive conversation between partners and the therapist.

 

Stage Four: Intercourse (or whatever the “main” sexual activity is between partners) is allowed to happen. Depending on the reasons for engaging in sensate focus exercises, it may be wise to ease slowly into intercourse. The specifics of this stage need to be discussed between partners and the therapist.

 

The goal of sensate focus is to reconnect partners. Often, especially in cisgender, heterosexual relationships, the principle of “penis in vagina” sex can become king. This mindset can perpetuate sexual dysfunction. Sensate focus allows each partner to explore their sexuality beyond their standard and develop new and more varied sexual connections. With the assistance of a therapist, sensate focus exercises can bring a new spark to relationships.

MyTherapist New York offers counseling and sex therapy to individuals and relationships.

The Wall Street Journal says young folks are more inclined to go to therapy

Note from Dr. DeMarco - As soon as I read or hear the word “millennial” I almost immediately dismiss the rest of the sentence. But if young people are seeing therapy as a normal part of life, then it’s a good thing. Therapy and counseling is for anyone, and isn’t a luxury. For some of us, it’s essential to trying to make our way while we’re still on the planet.

Read More

Is millennial depression on the rise? More like existential dread

Is millennial depression on the rise? More like existential dread

Depression is certainly one word for it.  In our therapy practice, it's more like existential dread, and no amount of xanax, or ketamin nasal spray for “treatment resistant depression” seems to help. 

Depression is certainly one word for it.  In our therapy practice, it's more like existential dread, and no amount of xanax, or ketamin nasal spray for “treatment resistant depression” seems to help. 

In a type of therapy called existential therapy (which has been around for decades), there are four main anxieties that people are trying to work out, with varying levels of success, before death.  And one of them is Death Anxiety. The others are isolation, meaninglessness, and freedom. Now consider the state of the world in the time these folks we condescendingly call “Millennials” have been on the planet.  The internet didn't actually give us meaning. App culture has us feeling more alone and isolated than ever before. Freedom? If you're rich, white and live in a city, maybe - but that also leads right back to isolation again, as people in cities tend to be more lonely and isolated than others (according to the Kurzgesagt videos, at any rate).  Since 2000, we've had, 9/11 and the W years (shudder), MySpace and Friendster have come and gone, and now we have Facebook and Twitter as our main social outlets.  Massive student loan debt, and the likelihood of financial freedom and like... owning a home and paying off that student loan debt- not likely.  And we want to know what new anti-depressant is out because the other ones aren't working (and their main side effect is suicidal ideation, by the way). Then there’s Post Trump Traumatic Disorder, as we call it in our practice. There has been a HUGE uptick in processing family relationships as well as struggling to deal with larger macro issues like trans people being banned from military service again, and such. We’re what, two minutes from midnight on the Doomsday Clock. What’s to be depressed about, right?

Existential Therapy, Psych Meds, or Both?

What to do? I'd say find counseling, but often community mental health has a waiting list, if they can accommodate you at all, and private practice therapists may offer a sliding scale for therapy, but even a sliding scale is sometimes too expensive for people. (I'm the tail end of Gen X- my student loan debt is ballooning, too, and you’d be shocked at how many google searches for “Free Psychology Services” and the like we get.) So we think- well, at least I have health insurance (lucky you!) so I’ll just find a therapist who takes my insurance. And then you get sucked into this medical model with diagnoses, referrals for psychiatry, where you almost surely will be prescribed medication and diagnosed with a corresponding mental illness until you realize you hate the medication and the sexual (and other) side effects, so you try quitting your psych meds without telling your doctor, or start taking them as needed instead of taken as prescribed. And we just do this unquestioningly because we trust that this whole system is in place to help us. Right? Medication is great- when used in a way supported by research, not as a silver bullet to help you do any sort of psychological or behavioral work to address the real issues, which for many folks, are existential issues. And existential issues can be addressed in therapy in real and tangible ways.

Read Also- “What really happens when you go off your meds?”


MyTherapist New York offers psychotherapy, counseling, and coaching for individuals, couples and other relationships that’s modern, effective and as affordable as we can make it and keep ourselves able to practice good therapy!

Read More

Finding therapy through Yelp, reading "testimonials", negative reviews for therapy - Part 1

It’s an unfortunate reality that we make our decisions based on the subjective opinion of other people, which actually robs us of having our own unique experience, and one of the worst ways this happens online is through sites like Yelp. The therapist was rad? Awesome! They might not help the next person AT ALL.

Read More

An interview with the late Dr. Albert Ellis, who dragged psychotherapy forward decades with REBT

Don’t write him off as a cranky old man. This guy was a sexologist, a marriage therapist, a psychoanalyst and THEN created rational emotive behavior therapy. He was a proponent of non-monogamy (and in non-monogamous relationships himself), and though his views in the 50’s of homosexuality were consistent with the time, he later had a more enlightened view of sexual identity. Mostly ahead of his time, this guy!

Read More