Archives for Relationships

Addictions

Problematic Porn Use: Quantity vs. Consequences

A new study by Mateusz Gola, Karol Lewczuk, and Maciej Skorko, published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, looks at the factors that drive people into treatment for problematic porn use. In particular, Gola and his team wanted to determine if frequency of porn use or consequences related to porn use are more important. Unsurprisingly, as sex addiction treatment specialists like myself and Dr. Patrick Carnes have been stating and writing for more than a decade, when diagnosing and treating porn addicts the amount of porn a person uses is considerably less relevant than his or her porn-related consequences. In fact, Dr. Carnes and I have consistently defined porn addiction based on the following three factors:
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Pornography

Celebrity Hypocrisy – It’s Not Just Them

Same Story, Different News Cycle Fame: Reality TV star Josh Duggar of 19 Kids and Counting was an active, respected member of a highly visible conservative Christian church, and he served as Executive Director of FRC Action, a conservative Christian political group affiliated with and sponsored by the equally conservative Family Research Council. Reality: Duggar has admitted to molesting at least five underage girls, including two of his younger sisters, to repeatedly cheating on his wife, and to being a porn addict. Fame: Weight loss icon and Subway sandwich pitchman Jared Fogle presented himself as an advocate for childhood health and wellbeing via speeches and his Jared Foundation – an organization focused on raising awareness about childhood obesity through educational programs and tools provided to parents, schools, and community organizations. Reality: Fogle recently pled guilty to a variety of child porn charges and to crossing state lines to pay for sex with minors. These, of course, are just a few of the stories about supposedly exemplary people betraying the public trust. Think about Tiger Woods acting as a role model while cheating on his supermodel wife. Think about famed evangelical pastor Ted Haggard repeatedly condemning homosexuality while secretly having sex with male prostitutes. Think also about General David Petraeus, Congressman Anthony Weiner, Congressman Mark Foley, Senator Larry Craig, Senator John Edwards, Governor Eliot Spitzer, actor Rob Lowe, actor David Duchovny, actor John Travolta, biker Jesse James, President Bill Clinton, and dozens of other well-known men who’ve been caught with their pants down.
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Relationships

Dealing with Sexual Betrayal: 6 Things Therapists Need to Know

In the wake of the recent Ashley Madison hack and data dump, sexual infidelity is in the news more than ever. Because of this, a growing number of spouses are actively checking up on what their partners are doing with their free time. Smartphone apps, texts, emails, and the like are being surreptitiously (and sometimes overtly) checked, and countless scores of cheaters are being found out. Plus, some unfaithful spouses are using news of the hack as an opportunity to come clean about previously hidden sexual behavior by voluntarily disclosing their infidelity. As a result, therapists of all stripes are encountering a rising tide of betrayed spouses, nervous cheaters, and couples in crisis. For clinicians who don’t specialize in this type of work, the loaded, swiftly changing emotions that surround sexual and romantic betrayal can lead to a lot of clinical second-guessing. To help alleviate some of this anxiety, I’ve created a short “Infidelity FAQ” for therapists, presented below. This list is created based on existing research and more than 20 years of clinical experience – specializing in intimacy issues such as infidelity.
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Relationships

Conflict Evolution: Making Conflict Productive

As a psychotherapist, I am constantly amazed by the number of couples who either seem surprised that they don’t agree on every little thing, or who seem unable to healthfully resolve even the smallest of conflicts. What they fail to understand is that healthy intimate relationships are a bond between two different people, each with his or her own interests, thoughts and opinions. Yes, there is probably a lot of common ground, but two separate people will never be completely alike. Furthermore, people change throughout their lives, meaning that even if two people start out remarkably similar, differences will inevitably arise as they mature in different ways. As such, if intimate relationships are going to work over the long haul, both parties must we willing to learn, grow and adapt.
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Addictions

Does Your Client Have a Problem With Love Addiction?

It’s March. Valentine’s Day is a distant memory and wedding season looms. Essentially, this is the time when psychotherapy clients often want to review and discuss their romantic relationships. For clients who struggle with problematic behavioral choices related to love, attachment and intimacy, in particular love addiction (also known as romance addiction and relationship addiction), this can be a very difficult undertaking. These individuals see friends and loved ones finding relationship success, while they take one manic spin after another on the relationship merry-go-round – desperately hoping to find that one special person who can make them feel complete and worthwhile and loved for longer than a few days or weeks at a time.
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Relationships

When is a Relationship (Romance, Friendship, Whatever) Worth Saving?

A few weeks ago I was given a spreadsheet showing which of my online blogs and articles (on numerous websites) have gotten the most views. And no matter the website, the postings that topped the charts almost always dealt on some level with relationships and intimate emotional connections. And why not? After all, relationships help us to feel understood, loved, and part of – all of which are deeply important human needs. It’s only natural that people would be interested in this topic.
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Relationships

Some Clients Need a Dating Plan…

Not Everyone Knows How to Date For many psychotherapy clients, issues with relationships and intimacy are paramount. Typically, individuals seeking help with these issues display insecure attachment styles, usually the result of inconsistent, neglectful and/or abusive parenting – though many other forms of early-life (and even adult-life) trauma may also be in play. Sometimes these clients have turned to an addiction, either substance or behavioral, as a way to cope with the discomfort caused by adult-life relationships. In my practice I have dealt with many such people, primarily sexual addicts and co-occurring sex/drug addicts. For these clients, an integral (and somewhat advanced) part of the healing process is learning how to date in healthy ways. Oftentimes the creation of a “dating plan” is quite helpful.
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Relationships

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, Especially in the Digital Age

Relationship Drama: Digitally Enhanced Relationship breakups and the angst surrounding them have always been solid psychotherapeutic fodder. As we’re all aware, these issues are challenging in and of themselves, and they also tend to evoke deeper emotional and psychological issues that can be worked through over time in therapy. On the one hand, this can be quite productive, as a well-managed clinical crisis often leads to useful therapeutic insights and breakthroughs. On the other hand, the emotional pain of a disintegrating relationship is nearly always incredibly distressing for the client, particularly if that client is emotionally fragile to begin with.
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Relationships

Gaslighting: How Addicts Drive Loved Ones Over the Edge

What Is Gaslighting? Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where false information is presented to the victim by a spouse or another primary attachment figure, causing the victim to doubt his or her perceptions, judgments, memories, and even sanity. The term derives from the 1938 stage play, Gaslight, and a pair of film adaptions, one in 1940 and a more famous one in 1944 starring Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman. In the 1944 film, Boyer’s character convinces his wife (Bergman) that she’s imagining things, such as the occasional dimming of the house’s gas lights, as part of his ongoing effort to steal her deceased Aunt’s money and jewels. (The gas lights dim whenever he is in the attic, searching for the treasure.) Over time, his insistent and persistent lies cause her and others to question her sanity.
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