Self-Love in the Era of Pride

EVERY human has the right to self-expression. The fight to be recognized and accepted takes strength, endurance and most of all, self-love. Fighting so vehemently, for so long, can only come from an inner acceptance of the self. Although the struggle is far from over, we are living in a time where all genders, preferences and colors are starting to be recognized. When the LGBTQIA folks model self-love, it forces society to increase it’s recognition and acceptance of others.

Self-love means giving yourself a break and accepting yourself unconditionally. We are all prone to difficult life situations, but they do not take away from our value as humans. If we cannot accept ourselves, with all of our baggage, we can never achieve self-love. 

Learning to love yourself takes time. Often times, our self-deprecating words and thoughts are directly tied with how we love and accept ourselves. Sometimes, we have to undo years, if not decades, of negative self-talk, difficult childhood experiences and traumas. Going through this process alone might not be the best idea. It is very difficult to objectively look at yourself and shut off the negative self-talk that got you here in the first place. Therapy and support groups can be good tools for this journey. Staying in your own head doesn’t bode well- sometimes you need an outside perspective to reinforce your worth. Be compassionate to yourself in this process because it’ll be uncomfortable. Don’t set time restrictions on your progress and lean on a good friend or supportive family member when needed.

The LGBTQIA community can teach the world a lot about unconditional self-acceptance. Pride month is not only a time to revel in all the progress the community has achieved. It’s also a time to celebrate and appreciate the tremendous strength it takes to love yourself no matter what.

Coping With Disappointment

Disappointment is a natural reaction to any situation where the outcome doesn't meet expectations. It's an important reaction! Disappointment tells us when something is not quite how we want it and can be an opportunity to re-evaluate. However, we can't deny that it sucks to feel that way. So how do we handle when things don't turn out like we planned?

Check out this great article about how to handle disappointment. We’re quoted in it!

https://iamandco.com/blog/how-to-get-over-disappointment

I really like him..now what?

So you started seeing someone who you think is the one.  All the stars have aligned and you can see yourself starting a life with this person.  This can cause a various range of feelings including excitement, joy, and pure happiness. It can also leave you feeling scared and anxious.  So what do you ask before making the big leap? Here are a few things to consider when you start thinking about the future.

 

If you start seeing someone and you feel there could potentially be a future, it’s important to start asking questions sooner than later. First, it’s important to know what you are looking for in your ideal partner and what values are most important to you.  Sometimes we can confuse something that is “fun” with what is right for us.  Asking the right questions in the beginning of the relationship can help navigate to determine if this is what you’re looking for.

 In the “ getting to know you” stage, it is important to explore the individual and get an idea of who they are as a person.  You will constantly be learning new things about your potential significant other and it can be really exciting yet overwhelming at the same time. Asking questions about hobbies and life goals can give you a good idea of a person’s interests and what they value to see if they match up with yours for the long run.

 First date activities should consist of fun things that you both enjoy doing. Sometimes something as simple as a picnic in the park or a stroll in your neighborhood with a cup of coffee and good conversation can go a long way.

 The first few dates will navigate your road map for your potentially future relationship. Paying attention to any red flags in the beginning is important as they may likely come up again later on in the relationship.  If there is something that you question, make sure to ask further and allow the person to explain themselves in their own terms.

 Dating is a fun, unique experience.  Every experience is different.  Knowing when and what questions to ask can go a long way and can make sure you wind up with the right person for you.

3 Top Reasons People Cheat

 Cheating on your partner is something that can damage an existing relationship in a matter of seconds but people still find themselves in the situation and commit the act.  Why do people do it? There are many reasons as to why someone may turn to cheating on their partner(s), but we also have to define what is cheating?

The answer is a different as the people you ask. In relationship counseling, we’d define cheating as explicitly and on purpose not living up to the goals of emotional and/or sexual fidelity arrangements implicit in the current relationship.

 One of the issues of people who cheat in their everyday relationships is due to the lack of sexual intimacy that they have with their current partner. Sex is a physiological need for all human beings. When the need is not met, an individual will seek it elsewhere. This situation is one of the most common complaints of clients in long-term relationships who seek therapy.

 Another common issue is lack of communication. Clients often come in stating that they feel unheard by their partner which leads them to believe they are not loved in the way they long to be. This can lead to self esteem issues for an individual which can result in them straying away from their current partner to seek the satisfaction of feeling wanted by someone, although they do truly love their partner. It is important to be open about your sexual desires and needs in her current relationship.  Letting your partner know what you want should be something that is openly discussed. 

 One more reason people cheat is because they are simply bored in their relationship.  It is important to spice up your sex life and talk about what pleases your partner together. Many people often go stray on their significant other solely because they are no longer having fun and think that nothing can change when in fact, if the communication is right, the issue can be solved.

Everyday situations occur in the work place, on the street, or at the local grocery store. When there is mutual attraction and both parties are interested and willing to engage, the things list above will play a major factor in causing someone to turn to infidelity. Remember to discuss what is on your mind and compromise with your partner so both of your needs are met. If you are having constant arguments, having a third party, such as a therapist,  listen to help resolve your problems, is never a bad idea.

 

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?

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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.