Rethinking infidelity ... a talk for anyone who has ever loved

Can a relationship survive infidelity? Many do. This is a wonderful and insightful talk about the whys and hows of surviving infidelity. 

Click on the Ted talk link to view Esther Perel's discussion of infidelity. 

Link to Ted Talk

Spice It Up! Erotic Romance Books Good For Marriage

Spice It Up! Erotic Romance Books Good For Marriage

Intimacy is essential to the health and connection in a marriage. Sometimes differing sex drives or comfort with intimacy can be a challenge for a couple. One way to address this outside of couples therapy is to incorporate erotic reading. I was quoted in this article that discusses the possible benefits of reading erotic romance novels.

By Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway, Posted: 05/27/2014

When I wrote my first erotic romance 20 years ago, it was sold in the secret back section of book stores, sex novelty shops, or by mail order, in a plain brown wrapper. How things have changed since Fifty Shades of Grey! These books are so much more accessible now due the advent of the e-reader, the convenience (and addictive nature) of technological wonders such as the Amazon "one click" buying method, and the explosion in self-published books in the erotic romance genre.

Today, women are proud devotees of the erotic romance novel and books in this category -- love stories with lots and lots of sex in them -- are regularly ending up on all the bestseller lists.

Why Erotic Romance Books Are Good For You

Can erotic romances be good for you? There are multiple reasons why these books can help you improve your love life beyond providing entertainment.

By Charlotte Rose

Although erotic romance books have been around for a long time, they have experienced an amazing resurgence since Fifty Shades of Grey.  And they have gone mainstream! 

When I wrote my first erotic romance 20 years ago, it was sold in the secret back section of book stores or sex novelty shops, or by mail order, in a plain brown wrapper. How things have changed!  Books are so much more accessible now due the advent of the e-reader, the convenience (and addictive nature) of technological wonders such as the Amazon “one click” buying method, and the explosion in self-published books in the erotic romance genre.

Cold Feet and Projection in Committed Relationships

Do you sometimes fee like your partner is wrong for you? This article explores whether this is exactly why they are right for you. by Alicia Muñoz, LPC  

Recently, I met a friend for coffee.  He and his fiancée had spent the last six months preparing for their upcoming wedding day, designing the invitations and menus, selecting flowers and photographers, mapping out the most dynamic seating arrangements for their guests. My friend had finally met a woman who gave him the space he needed to pursue his interests and dreams, but who also kept him close emotionally. She was uncomplicated and smart, passionate and kind, and they shared some important interests, including cross-country skiing, Sudoku puzzles, and gourmet cuisine. When I asked him how things were going, it was clear from the expression on his face that something was worrying him.

“I’ve been depressed,” he whispered, glancing furtively around the room. “Before you got married, did you get cold feet?”

“What exactly do you mean by cold feet?” I asked.

“Well,” he said, leaning closer but still whispering. “Suddenly, I’m not interested in hugging or cuddling or sex. It’s just – how can I put it? – my fiancée is boring.”

“Really,” I said.

“Yes,” he said. “I’m not sure I’m in love with her.”

“Well, it sounds like you’re right on track.”

“On track?” he said. “I feel awful. She’s wonderful and affectionate. She takes care of me. And I’m having these horrible thoughts.”

As a couples therapist, I have a different perspective on what might be considered deal-breakers or crisis moments in relationships. My friend was struggling with what virtually every couple I’ve ever worked with has had to deal with at some point, and for most couples, at many points in their relationship. I myself have certainly had my fair share of hands-on experience of the same phenomenon in my own marriage. It’s not so much “cold feet,” although plenty of research now proves that with time there is indeed a “cooling off” of the initial chemical love-rush that according to neuroscientists bears an uncanny resemblance to the high of synthetic drugs, activating the same regions of the brain associated with reward and euphoria. I think it’s more helpful to view what my friend was experiencing as the flip side of a projective process that goes hand in hand with falling in love.

When we commit to someone romantically, we can see our beloved as possessing positive traits we admire and perhaps even think we lack: patience, warmth, sensuality, spirituality, depth, strength, superior intelligence, charisma, worldly know-how. We amplify and focus exclusively on our beloved’s positive traits. This allows us to feel more complete, and perhaps less inadequate, when we are with them. Unfortunately, this idealization of our beloved also boomerangs in the opposite direction. Maybe it happens before the wedding, or maybe on the second day of the honeymoon when your wife snaps at you for misplacing the room key. Or maybe you get a longer grace period until the twins are born. The bottom line is, one day, you wake up next to Mr. or Mrs. Not-So-Right. He or she is stingy, insensitive, selfish, complacent, domineering, critical, negative, sloppy, arrogant, passive, or – as my friend had concluded about his fiancée a few weeks before they were scheduled to marry – boring. Your beloved can even seem a bit like the “enemy,” a hybrid version of people who have hurt you in the past: a critical mother, an absent father, an abusive aunt, or a shaming brother.

Of course people really do sometimes have major flaws, such as when partners are abusive or engage in destructive or dangerous behaviors, and if these problems can’t be worked through in therapy or with the assistance of other professional helpers, it may be best for the relationship to end. However, often the flaws we see have more to do with our own reactivity than with our partner’s inherent incompatibility with us.

In most couples therapy modalities being used in counseling offices today, an important part of the process of learning to resolve conflicts and find common ground involves understanding your own reactivity. This includes exploring how your past impacted what you view as good and bad ways of being in the world. If we can recognize and understand our judgments, we can admit they exist.

Engaging in this process is half the battle – or better said, half the healing. It can help with the shame couples experience about their feelings, or the terror that comes from thinking “I’ve made a big mistake.” It also offers partners an opportunity to reclaim their lost, denied, or disowned parts – the positive and negative characteristics and traits they unconsciously gave up in order to find acceptance within their families of origin and communities. When we explore the intensity of our reactivity to our partners, we often discover that the visceral revulsion we feel emotionally toward certain things they say or do is rooted not in them or even in the present, but in our own private history.

In other words, it didn’t really matter whether or not my friend’s bride-to-be was boring. Maybe she was; maybe she wasn’t. Her being boring or not boring wasn’t the point. What mattered was what being boring signified to my friend. As Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” By understanding what lies at the root of our judgments, we can put our reactivity in perspective and create enough space to love again with greater awareness.

“Come to think of it, being boring was a cardinal sin in my family,” my friend told me with a laugh. “I grew up surrounded by brilliant people: academics, artists, writers, musicians. You could be arrogant or self-destructive, you could even be a criminal and still belong. But you could not be boring.”

This put his feelings about his fiancée in a new light.

Ultimately, marriage and other committed relationships offer us the opportunity to see, make peace with, and embrace our full humanity. Our partners act as catalysts, bringing to the surface parts of ourselves we still reject and project onto others – the parts psychoanalyst Carl Jung conceptualized as the Shadow. The more we are able to understand ourselves with all our shadow impulses, fears, and desires, the more peace we can create in our marriages and relationships. This, in turn, extends out into our work as teachers, politicians, writers, executives, government workers, therapists, artists, poets, men and women in the military, pastors, nurses, doctors, and laborers of all kinds. Carl Jung believed that if we learn to deal with our own shadow, we are essentially activists shouldering a part “…of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day.” By no means an easy task, or one that can be perfectly accomplished, it’s a worthy aspiration and an ongoing spiritual practice.

References:  Jung, Carl (1938). Psychology and Religion: West and East. The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Volume 11. p.140

link to article

Mental Illness and Marriage

I was interviewed on how mental illness affects marriage and how to cope. Listen to the podcast.

What kind of impact does mental illness have on a marriage?

In today’s society, it’s becoming more and more common for individuals to be living with some sort of mental health condition or illness like anxiety or depression. And while there are many issues and conditions that present themselves in different, unique ways, oftentimes the effects on a marriage are very similar.

In addition to anxiety and depression, some people suffer from more extreme conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse problems. When these issues creep in without the proper treatment, their impact on a marriage and the individual can be fundamentally problematic. In some situations, the partner without the condition will have to pick up the slack for the other. And in many cases, couples will begin to suffer from tension and exhaustion within their marriage.

Our guest today is Dr. Nerina Garcia, a clinical psychologist with Williamsburg Therapy and Wellness in Brooklyn, NY. Nerina is here to give us some advice about how couples and individuals can learn to cope with mental illnesses within marriages while building a network of support.

To find out more about Nerina and her practice, visit her website or call (917) 816-4449.

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

Link to podcast

Money matters

This article touches on the stressor of money and its impact on marriages.  Money is a leading cause for separation, this article addresses the importance of dealing with it in therapy.

Psychologists are helping young couples stay afloat financially in increasingly turbulent economic waters.

By Rebecca Voelker

October 2012, Vol 43, No. 9

Print version: page 48

Psychologists are helping young couples stay afloat financially in increasingly turbulent economic waters

Troubled young couples who see Brad Klontz, PsyD, in his Kapaa, Hawaii, psychology practice often end up talking about more than their relationship with each other: They find themselves discussing their relationship with money, too.

"Some of the symptoms bringing them in—feeling depressed, feeling anxious, having panic attacks—they may not know how much the role of money is playing in those symptoms," says Klontz, a clinical psychologist and certified financial planner.

Unprecedented levels of student debt, high credit card debt and a dismal job outlook have presented some young couples with financial challenges their parents and grandparents didn't have to face. These days, more psychologists are stepping in to help couples tackle their financial burdens. Money stresses are nothing new for couples just starting out, but trying to resolve them in therapy is.

"There is a much greater awareness now among general psychologists that this is a very important issue to explore," says Philadelphia psychologist Maggie Baker, PhD, also an expert in financial issues.

To respond to the growing need for psychologists to talk to their clients about money management, Atlanta financial psychologist Mary Gresham, PhD, is spearheading an effort to launch an APA division of financial psychology. She's circulating a petition supporting its creation, and financial planners welcome her efforts.

"A trained, educated psychologist is a necessary component in certain financial planning relationships," says Paul Auslander, president of the Financial Planning Association. Some couples can benefit from behavior modification techniques to curb runaway spending or make spending compromises, he says. "But I suspect that there aren't enough financially trained psychologists to help couples coping with recession repercussions."

Combining households, combining money

A common scenario that brings on financial turmoil for newlyweds is that although they may have lived together before marriage, they failed to discuss their financial union before they said "I do," says Gresham. "They had operated under the roommate plan, where each one pays half of the expenses or one pays one set of bills and the other pays another set," she explains. But as they settled into married life, neither spouse knew what was going on with their partners' money. "Then they can't figure out how to collaborate, how to mix the money together."

Gresham looks at four issues with every couple: "math," values, emotions and process. To begin helping couples work through these issues, Gresham asks the couple to take an objective look at how they spend their money, using tracking software so they can see how their income is distributed among rent or a mortgage and other commitments. Baker takes a similar approach in beginning her work with couples. "It's important to get facts into the room," she says.

Seeing how much cash disappears in a $4 latte or a meal out can be a sobering experience. "The emotions start to come in all through this process," says Gresham. That's when she probes more deeply, asking couples about how their perceptions of money growing up affects them as adults. For example, children of cash-careful families may hoard their money as adults, while free-spending families may have kids who later on can't hang on to a paycheck. The reverse can happen, too.

"If a spender marries a hoarder, over time there's bound to be conflict," says Baker. "The spender loves the immediate gratification of spending, but for a hoarder it's almost painful to spend money."

A generational change

In Hawaii, Klontz is conducting research to understand couples and their finances, surveying 422 adults ages 18 to 80, with varying levels of income, education and net worth. His research, published last year in the Journal of the Financial Therapy Association, shows that younger adults are more likely than their parents or grandparents to have potentially damaging "money scripts"—subconscious beliefs that drive their financial behaviors. He found that adults 30 years old and younger were most likely to be "money avoiders" who become anxious, fearful or even disgusted when the conversation turns to money. Younger adults also were more likely to equate net worth with self-worth and to believe that the more money they have, the happier they will be.

These beliefs, Klontz says, are linked with lower income and net worth. People with these views may set themselves up for financial failure by simply ignoring money issues, giving assets away, gambling excessively or compulsively buying things they want but can't afford. "Very often in my work with couples, conflicts over money are really the result of conflicting money scripts," he says.

He uses a psychodynamic approach to examine clients' experiences with money in childhood. Living with a workaholic parent who pursued an ever-bigger paycheck but never was at home or being in a family that neglected life's necessities because parents hoarded cash could trigger present-day money troubles. "The more emotional the experience, the more rigidly these beliefs become locked in place," Klontz says.

Healing begins, he says, when a couple can open up to each other and be empathetic. "They may have very different attitudes about money, but if they can hear each other and respect each other, then they can come to a compromise" about sound money management.

"They become a money team instead of money adversaries," Gresham adds.

Link to article