The Heat of the Moment

Why is it that some things seem so right in the moment, but later you think to yourself, “How the hell did that happen”?  Living in the moment has it’s upside.  It can be fun to be spontaneous and carefree at times.  However, in the heat of the moment some people make choices they really live to regret.  A lot of the time I have students come into my office who are upset about cheating on their boyfriend or girlfriend in a moment of anger.  Why is it so easy to seek comfort from someone else even though you know you’ll probably regret it later?

Our emotions have a lot to do with why we act certain ways at different times.  If you have been in a relationship for more than a few weeks you know that it isn’t always always perfect.  It is normal to have disagreements and not always get along with the one you love.  You will have moments of anger and disappointment with the relationship and with one another.  It is in these moments of anger that you can easily veer off track.  The temptation to turn to someone else can be very alluring when you are angry or frustrated with your boyfriend or girlfriend.  Then, it’s only one more step before you’re doing something impulsive that can alter the course of your relationship if it ever became known to your partner.

Sometimes people don’t necessarily have sex with someone else in that impulsive moment, but they may have texted some things they now regret or said something to someone else that would be seen as a betrayal to their partner.  If you are feeling angry or upset it is very easy to convince yourself that you deserve to have this little bit of comfort, or that your partner deserves to hurt like you’re hurting.  You can justify any action in the moment. It is only later when you feel calm or less angry that you may regret the action you took.  When the dust settles and your anger goes away then the love for your current partner comes back.  This can make you feel very selfish and guilty for cheating either emotionally or physically while you were angry.

It is easy to forget that angry or frustrating moments pass.  Anger usually fades with a little time and perspective.  You wake up the next day and decide you still really love your partner and want to stay with them.  What do you do now?  Do you tell them about your momentary mental lapse in judgment?  Do you let it slide and pretend it never happened?  I can not answer this question for you.  I can tell you that you take a risk if you don’t say anything because it may come out to your partner anyway.  I can assure you being caught in a lie is definitely worse than coming clean.  Although, either way, your relationship will never be the same again.  Only you know what decision you can live with in this circumstance.  Of course from the outside, it would be easy for me to say be honest, but I’m well aware that it doesn’t always make everything okay in the end.

The one answer I can give you is this…What is done is done.  You can’t go back and change it.  We all make mistakes we have to learn from and forgive ourselves for.  The brain is just looking to make things fair.  If we’ve been hurt it is easy to justify hurting someone back.  The biggest thing to remember is that life isn’t fair and hurting someone else doesn’t usually take our own hurt away.  Anger is a gift that keeps on giving and usually ends up biting you back in the end.

It is better to deal with your anger in other ways that won’t hurt you or someone else.   If you can remember that your anger will pass if you give yourself some time, you can do things during that time to help you process your anger.  Some people like to write and use their blog or journal to vent.  Other people need physical exercise to work out their feelings.  You can run, walk, lift weights, do yoga, or play your favorite sport.  Sometimes just taking a nap or going to bed for the night will help you feel better.  You may wake up and feel a lot better.  You can also watch tv, play with a pet, or engage in a favorite hobby.  Whatever you do, find something you enjoy and will get your mind off of your anger for a little while.  There are a lot of healthier ways to deal with your feelings rather than turning to someone else.  Once you’ve dealt with your feelings, you can think through what you want to do about your relationship.  Is there something you need to discuss or do you need to work on letting something go?  The answer is usually more logical when you wait for your feelings to calm down.

I also suggest talking to one person of the same sex who you really trust if you are having problems in your relationship. Or talk to a counselor if there isn’t anyone you can trust.  I don’t recommend talking about your relationship with everyone you know when you’re angry because you don’t want to poison others against your partner.  It will be easier for you to forgive your boyfriend or girlfriend than for your friends or family to do the same.  Sometimes your anger won’t resolve itself.  At that time you may need to decide to leave the relationship, even though it may seem easier to turn to someone else and cheat.  However, most of the time, anger is temporary.  In those times, it may seem innocent at first to reach out to talk to a friend of the opposite sex.  Just remember that boundaries can be crossed really easily when you’re angry at your current partner.  It is too easy to want to be comforted or wanted by this person who is “listening” to you.  It seems like a good idea in the moment, but you may end up really regretting not waiting to see how you feel once your anger fades.  Deal with your feelings before making any decisions that may have a huge impact on the fate of your relationship.  It can be thrilling to live in the heat of the moment, but sometimes it can burn you so badly that you don’t recover.

The Fifty Shades of Grey Phenomenon

The Fifty Shades Trilogy has become a huge phenomenon.  I know many college women and maybe some curious guys are reading it.  What makes this trilogy so popular?  It seems to tap into those fantasies that a lot of people have about finding someone you are completely consumed with and can’t get enough of.  I have heard that this book started from another phenomenon called “Fan Fiction”.  I haven’t read or wrote any fan fiction, but a couple students  told me that it started with the “Twilight” series.  The writer’s of fan fiction use Bella and Edward as inspiration for characters and make up their own story about them.  Usually it is very sexual in nature.  “Fifty Shades of Grey” started out as a fan fiction novel on the internet.  It was so hugely popular that it became a book.  The author, E.L. James, changed the names of the characters from Bella and Edward to Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey.

First off, I’ll just come right out and say I’m one of the few women left on the planet that has not read the Fifty Shades Trilogy.  I think most people picked up the book because of curiosity and as they started to read it they became hooked.  I have read the Twilight series and I was hooked immediately by the first book.  I love the story of Edward and Bella.  Edward is so drawn to her that he denies his own instincts to be around her.  What woman wouldn’t be drawn to that?

That is the same kind of draw to the Fifty Shades series.  My guess is that it isn’t just the S&M and blatant pornographic scenes in the book that have hooked so many people into reading it.  I’ve heard that women are drawn to the main character, Christian.  He calls all the shots and doesn’t get emotionally involved.  Then Anastasia comes along.  He is intrigued by her and he realizes even though he is the dominant in the relationship, he isn’t completely in control anymore.  Him being so consumed by his need for her is what drives people to be hooked into the story.

When some people think of S&M, they only think of one person punishing or hurting the other one to becomes sexually aroused.  If this was true, then it wouldn’t be such a huge fantasy for so many people.  The reality is that S&M is all about choice.  It may look like one person is forcing his will, but ultimately the submissive is choosing that role.  He or she wants to be in that position.  It is an interesting dynamic.  One person really looks like they are in control, but if you look closer, you’ll see that it is an illusion.  A person can gain power in two ways.  They can take it by sheer force or they can be offered it by someone who freely gives it to them.  In the book Anastasia gets to Christian, but she freely gives him power over her.  Their feelings are mutual.

When it comes to sexual fantasies, many people can feel very ashamed.  There are a lot of mixed messages about sex in our culture and many people can become confused about their sexual feelings.  I don’t suggest that people open up to just anyone about those very private thoughts.  However, in a trusting relationship, it can draw two people closer together if they share their fantasies.  You can let your partner know if you aren’t comfortable with something they bring up without shaming them.  You also don’t have to try something just because your partner has had a sexual fantasy about it.  Not all fantasies are meant to be acted out in real life.  That doesn’t mean you can’t still use them to enhance your sex life with your partner.

The key is being open, honest and affirming.  Listening to your partner openly and being able to affirm that they have a right to feel or think the way they do, even if you don’t agree.  You both need to be okay with each other saying no and not feeling rejected as a person.  When acting out any sexual fantasy, both people involved have to be okay with the situation.  If one person feels coerced or forced, it will cause a lot of resentment to build.   It is okay to try something because you want to make your partner happy, even though it may make you feel a little uncomfortable.  Just know you can say no if you find out you don’t like it after you’ve tried it.  If your partner isn’t open to you saying no, then you have bigger problems than sexual compatibility in the relationship.

When reading the Fifty Shades trilogy, remember that you are reading fiction and that life doesn’t always work out the way it does in books.  Fantasies are great, but remember that reality doesn’t always live up to fantasies for a reason.   Not everyone is compatible.  It isn’t easy to find someone who wants you as much as you want them and then on top of that be completely sexually compatible.  The reality is that in real life people usually have to let something go or compromise to be in a successful relationship.   Just remember there isn’t something wrong with you if you like something and your partner doesn’t.  Be confident about yourself and how you feel.  If living out a particular fantasy is really important to you, you may need to be in a relationship with someone who feels the same way.  If your relationship is more important, than let go of living out that sexual fantasy and continue to use it in other ways to enhance your sex life.

Also, please remember that sex won’t be fulfilling if it isn’t mutual.  In the trilogy I’m pretty sure Christian isn’t forcing something that Anastasia is truly against.  Make sure you are confident enough to stand up for yourself and that your partner respects you enough to listen before you engage in any sexual activity.   To be safe, make sure you trust the person and know that you can say no at any time.  Not everyone out there should be trusted obviously.  It is no small thing to open up about your sexual fantasies, and you should be careful when choosing who to be vulnerable with.  Lastly, remember to use protection.  People do get STD’s in real life!

Dating in the Homosexual World

I’ve been reading One Gay At A Time’s Blog for quite awhile.  He writes very honestly about his coming out process and his dating life.  He recently wrote a post about how difficult it is to date and find love in the homosexual world.  I asked to borrow it for my blog to help those readers out there that identify as LGBT.  It is written from the male perspective, but I think it is helpful for anyone who reads it.  Please feel free to click on the link to his blog above if you want to read more about his dating adventures.

If you’ve read my blog, you obviously realize how difficult it is to date and find love in the homosexual world. There are many extremely difficult aspects of dating and sex for homosexual men, most of which exist purely because there are fewer opportunities for homosexual men to date and find other men. This is of course not to say that such opportunities don’t exist. However, the fact remains that most dating advice, venues, and even websites are designed primarily for heterosexual couples, leaving LGBT men and women out in the cold.

So, what are some good ways for homosexual men to be able to enjoy active dating and sex lives? Fortunately, there are increasingly many opportunities for such men to do just that. But here are a few tips that may help you to get some ideas:

• To begin with, being open and honest about your sexuality is a great place to start. This is obviously a lot to ask of homosexual men who are not already open about their sexualities, but at the same time it is a simple fact that dating and sex will be easier the more open you are about what you want and need. Society, unfortunately, has a long way to go before it is as accepting as the gay community deserves, but things are getting better, which has led to more opportunity. Just the other day, Vice President Biden expressed his viewpoints on the issue of gay rights, and immediately, the White House went into a tailspin of damage control. This wasn’t an issue they wanted to dig up right now, but now it is. We shall see how it plays out.

• Next, take advantage of places in your area that are meant to accommodate homosexual dating. There are numerous such clubs and bars in most cities. So, while it is sometimes less than ideal to have to seek these places out in the first place, they can also provide a great location and opportunity to meet other homosexual men. Maybe you’ll simply make a friend at the bar. Chances are that person has other gay friends. Friendships lead to relationships as well.

• You can also take advantage of the same types of opportunities online. These days, there are actually plenty of homosexual dating and sex related websites online, all of which can be helpful for meeting potential partners. These sites actually tend to have much higher success rates with leading people to sexual encounters, but it is also possible to find a lasting relationship on these sites as well.  To go a step beyond that, you can even find stuff on sites like adameve.com specifically designed for homosexual couples!

• Finally, the best advice for a homosexual man looking for relationships and sex in today’s society is not to treat yourself any differently from anyone else. Not long ago it was difficult for homosexual couples to feel comfortable in public, or doing certain things that heterosexual couples don’t think twice about. But again, society has progressed to some extent, and it is now far more common to see openly homosexual couples in public and in dating scenarios. Embracing this change can lead to a far more fulfilling relationship, and is something that should definitely be taken advantage of.

You need to manage your expectations and set limits. Know what you are looking for and don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked. It’s going to be a journey, but be sure to relax and enjoy the scenery while you’re searching for the love of your life.

Safe Sex- Where It All Began

I saw a post on Smart, Safe and Sexy’s Blog about how the concept of safe sex started and why.  I thought I would borrow parts of it and piggy back off of her post.

Richard Berkowitz, a gay man, who believed he was the first gay rights activist in his state of New Jersey in the 1970’s  is essentially the inventor of the concept of “safe sex” along with fellow activists Joseph Sonnabend and Michael Callen.   Berkowitz advocated for safe sexual practices in response to the AIDS epidemic in the early 80s.  His early work noted risk factors for infection such as drug use and having multiple sex partners, and he supported condom use for all who were sexually active.

Berkowitz, Cullen, and Sonnabend revolved their lives around safe sex, and despite their efforts to deliver positive messages, were persecuted by the public for being sex-negative and anti-gay.  Other gay activists were upset because they felt Berkowitz was linking being gay with safe sex and the AIDS epidemic.  The AIDS epidemic may have motivated Berkowitz to start the whole concept of safe sex, but he was interested in protecting all people, not just the LGBT community.  At the time it was very controversial since AIDS was then considered a gay disease.  Some people still think this way and believe they are safe from contracting HIV because they aren’t gay.  This is completely FALSE!  HIV and AIDS affect millions of people and most of those people are heterosexual.  People fighting for gay rights today are still trying to fight against the stigma of HIV and AIDS being linked to the LGBT community.

With years of perseverance Berkowitz was eventually successful in disseminating his message and enabling sexually active people to retain their sexual freedom and exploration while remaining safe and avoiding risky behavior.  Today the concept of safe sex is definitely not tied just to the gay community or to HIV.  The fact that high school and college age students are by far contracting the most STI’s every year is the reason the concept of safe sex is used today.  Promoting safe sex is helping to educate people about all of the sexually transmitted diseases, which affect millions of Americans each year.  The only 100% effective way of not contracting an STI is abstinence.  Using condoms are the best way to protect yourself from contracting a sexually transmitted infection if you are sexually active in any way.

The 2009 film Sex Positive by Daryl Wein documents Berkowitz’s life and the pioneering of safe sex.  It’s a really interesting story that sheds light into the lives of the sexually active community in the midst of the AIDS epidemic and of those who stood with and against Berkowitz during his quest for safer sex practices.  Berkowitz stated that “It’s never too late to start having safe sex”, and I could not have said it better myself!  His mission to stop the AIDS epidemic ultimately changed the practice of sex forever, and has made the concept of safe sex universally understood and widely appreciated by today’s generation.

Hats off to Berkowitz and his fellow activists who found a way to promote safe sex through positive messages and for making “safe sex” a household name.  Check out the trailer for the Sex Positive documentary here!  It’s truly an enlightening story that needs to be told and should be seen! http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi1057293081/

On the Rebound

“The quickest way to get over someone is to get under someone else”.  I’ve heard this quoted to me in the past and it made me stop and think.  A lot of people after a break up are just looking for a distraction right?  They don’t want to think about the pain they are in.   Sounds reasonable, but is this the best way to get over a break up?  Well, you are reading a blog by a counselor, so guess what I’m going to say???  No, I don’t think the quickest way to get over someone is to have sex with someone else.  What I think is that it can temporarily distract you from your pain, but it can’t magically make you all better.

The definition of a distraction is just that…it is a temporary break from reality.  It doesn’t last.  A few distractions during a break up is actually a good thing.  I don’t think it is healthy to sit in your pain for days on end.  Sometimes you have to go out with your friends and pretend you’re fine for a few hours.  You may even decide that hooking up with someone is a good distraction as well.  However, when you go to lay down in bed at night be prepared to have it all come back and hit you again.  Your life kinda sucks right now.  It is hard to really run away from that.  You can try to push it away, but eventually it will come back to bite you.  I also agree that what works as a distraction for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for someone else.  So, please be picky about the distractions you use during this time.  Some may make you feel worse, not better even temporarily.

This is why I am more discouraging about rebound relationships.  Some people say if you immediately jump into another relationship, you will never take the rebound seriously.  Why might this happen?  Because you haven’t resolved feelings from your recent ex.  Does this mean ALL rebound relationships fail?  No.  I will explain why in a minute.  However, most of the time it doesn’t work.  You may feel better at the moment because someone is flattering your ego by being into you, but realize the sadness is still inside you somewhere.

It may even start out as just as a hook up or someone to hang out with at first.  However, it becomes easy to just start dating this new person.  Let’s be honest, you have a hole to fill.  For the first month or so, you probably will be totally distracted and actually feel somewhat happy.  You may even believe that you weren’t as into your ex as you thought because it was so easy to get over them.  Then you get a text from your ex or accidentally run into him or her.  All those feelings suddenly rush back and you feel like your heart has dropped into your stomach.  You feel  a rush of emotions which you didn’t realize you were holding back this whole time.  You may even be shocked that you’re actually happy to see or hear from your ex, and are mad at yourself for realizing you would say yes if they asked you to hang out.

What if they do want to hang out?  Do you spend time with them even though you are now in a new relationship?  Do you tell your new partner you ran into your ex and had a conversation?  Do you mention they want to try to work things out?  This makes things complicated to say the least.  Maybe your ex doesn’t even want to get back together, but now you’re thinking about them again anyway.  Your partner may notice something is off with your mood, however you feel bad telling them about it because it concerns your ex.  How do you tell them you now realize you still have feelings for your ex, but not to worry, it doesn’t affect your feelings for them?

There is a proper time to grieve a relationship.  You need to give yourself that time.  If you try to push it away, then those feelings come back later when it is really inconvenient.  Your friends are going to look at you like your crazy for talking about your ex now, when you’ve told them you’ve been fine for the last few months.  They won’t understand why you are now missing your ex and even considering hanging out with them again.  Your new partner is definitely not going to understand unless they are the truly selfless type.

Zachary said it perfect in his blog when he stated, “There isn’t a formula to calculate the success rate of a potential relationship by multiplying the amount of time spent mourning a previous one.  If you truly feel ready to pursue another relationship, you shouldn’t let a few stupid relationship rules stop you.  This advice comes with a caveat: you must be certain you actually feel ready to commit yourself to another person before you start dating. Many rebound relationships fail, but this isn’t a “rule.” They fail because people pretend to be ready for another relationship, when really they just want to procrastinate mourning their last big love”.

Sometimes a person has really grieved the loss of someone before they are officially broken up.  If  you’ve gone through a long drawn out break up, you may be ready to really move on by the time it actually totally over.  A person can also get over someone pretty easily after a break up if they weren’t completely into the other person.  In certain situations you can jump right into a new relationship and have it work out just fine.  You can also jump too quickly into a new relationship,  go through the big mess I listed above, and be able to work through it with the “rebound” person who then actually becomes a real long term boyfriend or girlfriend.  It does happen, but it is smart to wait rather than jump into something and go through potential drama.

“Rebounds in life are just like rebounds in sports. They have potential, but they can be ruined by how we approach them.  If we receive a rebound while our mind is elsewhere, our distractions will lead us to drop the rebound just as quickly as we caught it.  But if we receive it with a clear and focused head: a rebound can be quite the game-changer”.   Zachary Austen

Love is Love

I’m wearing a wristband from the Human Rights Awareness week that says “Love is Love”.   I like this quote because it is basically saying that love is not bound by culture, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or any other thing we humans use to separate one another.   I heard a student say last night that it is human nature to want to categorize and put each other into groups.   I don’t mind being part of a group.  What I do mind is people believing I shouldn’t talk to, be friends with, date, have sex with or marry someone outside of that group.

I don’t really write on my blog about my personal beliefs too often.   This blog is about helping students and anyone else who may read it deal with relationship or sexual issues.   However, in today’s post I want to share my perspective on love and relationships.  I’m of the mind set “live and let live”.   I have my own beliefs about things, but I don’t like to impose those beliefs onto others.  If what you’re doing makes you happy and it isn’t hurting me in any way, then it really isn’t my business.   Some people think as a counselor it is my job to tell people what to do.  It is not.  It is my job to listen to people’s stories and try to understand where they are coming from.  I then try to offer my knowledge on the subject to help a person understand why certain things may be happening in their life.  I may ask questions or offer speculations based on past experience.  It is then up to the person in my office to use that information to make their own decisions about things.  Unless I think someone may hurt themselves or someone else, I usually don’t tell people what to do with their lives.

Like I said, my main job is to listen.  I have heard hundreds of personal stories.  I have been given a gift of being able to put myself inside those stories and feel, in a way, how those people felt.  It has really given me a unique perspective on life.  I feel like I experience a lot of things second hand that I myself may never live through.  Kind of like reading a book or watching a movie.  I can get caught up in someone’s story.  Because of this I feel like I have been in all types of relationships.  I have seen love cross all kinds of lines and cause people do things way outside of their character.  Love is an enormously powerful emotion.  This is why it bothers me when people want to put restrictions on it.  In my mind the only restriction is to protect yourself from someone who is trying to hurt you.  You may still love them, but you don’t deserve to be hurt by someone emotionally, physically or sexually.  That is the only line I draw.

I have watched all different types of couples in love.  Never once have I seen a couple and determined how much they were able to love each other by their skin color, sexual orientation, gender, age, religious faith or cultural background.  If you’re black does that mean you would have the best relationship with another black person?   Maybe, but maybe not.  Maybe you would relate or get along better with someone of a different racial background.  When people say a man loving another man isn’t “right”, I wonder what does that mean?  Right?  When I think of love being “right” I think of it as not being hateful.  My love isn’t “right” if I am being mean to the person.  Or if I’m ignoring their needs.  Or if I’m impatient with them.  Or if I hold a grudge against them.  Those aren’t “right” ways to love someone.

However, saying that two men loving each other isn’t right.  Or that an Asian man can’t love an Irish woman.   Or that there is no way a person could fall in love with both a man or woman (meaning they are bisexual).  Or a Christian shouldn’t love someone Jewish.  Really?  Who am I to make those claims?  I get to choose who I want to love and that is it.  I don’t get to choose for anyone else or define for them what love is.  America is supposed to be the land of the free.  You should be free to love whoever you want.  Why does anyone else care?  I’m not sure how to answer that question.

I do agree that crossing certain boundaries isn’t always the best or right decision for everyone.  It may not be good for you to marry someone outside of your culture or religion.  Your religion or cultural background may be a huge part of your life and you want to share that with the person you marry.  That is great and you should follow through with that decision.  However, don’t think everyone else feels the same way.  You may not “get” how a woman can be attracted to another woman.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t right for those who are.  What may seem strange or different for you, may be normal or good for someone else.  You get to determine what works for you.   I don’t believe you can put a boundary on love for other people, it just doesn’t work that way.

If you don’t understand or are afraid of something, then ask.  Educate yourself.  Listen to someone’s story and really hear what they are saying.  I get that privilege every day.  It has helped me to become a very accepting person.  I know people who write to prisoners who have committed serious crimes and are never getting out of prison.  Yet they fall in love anyway.  I don’t think I could do that, but who am I to think that it can’t or shouldn’t happen to someone else?  Different isn’t wrong, it’s just different.

My point is to try to be open to possibilities.  Try to accept that love is beyond some boundaries that you may not be comfortable with.  Again, you may not be able to love someone who is very different from you, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t happen.  Work to be more tolerant and kind to others and accept love in whatever form it may take.  I’ll get off my soapbox now.  Thanks for reading.

I Can’t Live Without You

Sometimes when you break up with someone it can feel like you are physically going through withdrawal without them in your life.  You can be super intelligent, pretty independent and otherwise emotionally stable and still have trouble with a break up.  Even if that person wasn’t very good for you.  Why does this happen?

Well in the scientific world there is this chemical called, oxytocin, which is released during orgasm.  Even cuddling and affection can release this chemical which supposed to help bond the relationship.  It is the same chemical that causes mothers and their babies to bond.  The more time you spend cuddling and having sex with someone, the more emotionally bonded you will feel.

This is a good thing for long term relationships because it helps the couple want to put in the effort to make the relationship work.  Oxytocin tends to bring out feelings of contentment, lessens anxiety, and can increase trust in a person.  This is why a break up can seem catastrophic.  Even if this person has emotionally hurt you, if you’re still having sex with them, you may still feel very bonded.  It then becomes easy to see why you might freak out if your boyfriend or girlfriend tries to leave you.  Your friends and family are quick to encourage you to move on, but you still feel like you’d do anything to get this person back.

You aren’t crazy, you just feel less anxiety initially when that person texts or Facebook messages you after you break up.  You feel calm and think all is right with the world.  However, tension and conflict can quickly increase again because the chemical oxytocin isn’t a miracle worker.  It won’t fix the problem or conflict, but it makes it hard for people to walk away from each other even when there is a ton of drama and conflict involved.

This is also why friends with benefits doesn’t always fly.  If you start having sex with someone often even though your intention is to keep it casual, your brain and heart could get mixed signals.  You may feel you really miss this person once they stop sleeping with you.  This is because you accidentally bonded with them.  If they were able to find someone else to “bond” with then you can feel like you were abandoned out in the cold.  Your head says you have no right to be upset because you knew the rules about keeping it casual.  However, your emotions didn’t quite get that message because oxytocin got in the way!

It is also true that men and women feel the effects of oxytocin in different degrees.  It is said that men’s levels of oxytocin rise 3-5 times higher during orgasm.  However, women’s rise even more plus continue to rise during subsequent orgasms.  Women also have more oxytocin neural receptors in their brain, so the effect can be more intense.  Women may feel somewhat down after casual sex.  This happens because of increased levels of oxytocin due to orgasm makes them want to stay bonded with the person, but there is no one to cuddle with afterwards.  One study implied women may also have more addictive relationship patterns because they feel love and loss in relationships more intensely due to increased oxytocin.

Does this mean women can’t have casual sex?  No, but it does mean you want to be informed about what can happen.  Be aware that it may be easier for women to become attached during casual sex.  Be firm with your boundaries and be smart about the risks you want to take.  It is also true that not all men and women are alike.  Some men may produce more oxytocin than normal, some women may produce less.  Know yourself and learn from your past relationships.  If you play, sometimes you’ll pay.  Sometimes you may feel a little sad.  Sometimes it’s worth it.  Other times it isn’t.

Also, be aware that break ups take some time to get over for this reason plus other complicating factors I’ve discussed in other posts.  If you hug your partner at least 20 seconds a day you will feel more bonded.  That is about how long it takes for the chemical to be released in your system.  If you’ve had that in your life for awhile and then suddenly it’s gone, it is going to hurt.  You will feel some withdrawal symptoms.  Give yourself some time to adjust and don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for a hug instead of advice when you are going through a break up.  A hug may help a whole lot more than them telling you to just get over it.

If you want to read more about oxytocin, this article in Psychology Today may be helpful to you.

The Other Woman

Or you can say, The Other Man.  Either way today’s post is about how it feels to be the person your significant other is cheating with.  Surprisingly I have had a few people come to counseling because they are in this position.  It’s easy to hate and judge this person.  Most people think, “How can you get involved with someone when you know they are in a relationship”?  There are some people out there with evil intentions.  This is true.  But don’t automatically judge without investigating a little further.

So, why do people choose to be with someone when they know they are in a relationship already?  Well let’s start with the most innocent people in this situation.  The ones who didn’t know, at least at first.  I have met with a few people who come in because they have fallen in love with someone only to find out this person is in another relationship.  Some people will leave immediately after finding out they’ve been lied to, but not everyone is so brave.  Some people are so blinded by a person that they give up their morals and values to please them.  They start to rationalize in their own head that they didn’t know so it isn’t their fault.  You also don’t always know what your own partner may be telling them.  They may think your partner is about to get out of your relationship.  I’ve met with men and women who have been manipulated into thinking that the other relationship is about to break up and they so they wait.  They really do hope and believe it is going to work out for them.  It is rare that it does work out, but hope can have a strong hold on a person anyway.

This also happens to people when they start listening to a friend, co-worker or someone from class talk about your relationship.  If your boyfriend or girlfriend starts opening up to someone else about your problems it can start to create intimacy between those two people.  The person who is at first just trying to be a good friend may start to develop feelings, even though they know your boyfriend or girlfriend is still in a relationship with you.  If your significant other reciprocates those feelings it doesn’t take long for things to develop.  Yes, both people are wrong in this situation.  However, I’ve talked about how emotions can make people do very illogical things.  This is one of those things.  People give into their feelings.  This other person hopes like the person above that your relationship will break up as sad as that sounds.

I know it sounds crazy from an objective point of view.  However, good people can make bad mistakes.  Some people really aren’t trying to hurt anyone.  They really get caught up in their emotions for someone that may cause them to cross lines they never thought they would cross.  The people I talk to come in and are full of guilt.  Many have tried to pull away, but it is easier said than done.  Unless both parties agree to never see each other or communicate again at the same time and remain vigilant about it, things start up again too easily.  If one person breaks down in a weak moment it can be very hard for the other person to say no.  These types of affairs can be just emotional or both sexual and emotional.  They are rarely just about sex.  That is what makes them so hurtful to the person being cheated on.

I also see people who are drawn to someone because they are in a relationship already.  This can happen subconsciously because they aren’t ready for a commitment, so they are attracted to people who can’t commit to them.  They may not think they deserve more so they are okay with being someone on the side.  Again, what they are doing isn’t okay, but their intentions really aren’t to hurt anyone.  Fear or low self-confidence is usually the motivating factor in this case.

I’m not trying to excuse the behavior of someone who is cheating, but I’m hoping to help you understand how someone can end up on this side of cheating and have a hard time getting out of it.  It seems like a person should be able to control who they fall in love with, but like anger, it is best controlled before it goes too far.  This is why I warn students to be careful how much they talk to someone who may be in a relationship.  Feelings can develop even though you meant to see someone just as a friend.  Once feelings go too far, it is hard to be more logical about the situation.  It is easier to walk away from someone sooner rather than later because attachment only grows.  If you are cheating with someone’s partner and feel guilty about it, find someone to talk to who can help you pull away without making you feel even worse.

Then there is the “other woman or man” who is just looking to take what they can get regardless of who is involved.  Some don’t even ask if your partner is in a relationship or don’t care.  They are only looking for sex and don’t really want to know any details about your partner.  Some may know your boyfriend or girlfriend is involved but are too selfish to care.  They only worry about themselves in the moment.  They believe it isn’t their responsibility if your boyfriend or girlfriend is cheating or not.  To be honest, it really isn’t.

This situation is complicated.  It can be easy to throw around blame.  You may think this person went after your boyfriend or girlfriend because they wanted to break you up.  Maybe this is true, but ultimately your partner is responsible for what happens in your relationship and how it affects you. You have choices to make when you find out your partner is cheating on you.  Find out how it started, how many times it happened, who was involved, whether it was it just sex or if an emotional attachment developed and then decide what you want to do.  If you need to get back at your partner then do it by breaking up with them.  If you choose to stay, then find a way to forgive them and build your trust again.  No one can tell you what is best and only you know if you can handle staying in the relationship after your partner has cheated.  There is no right answer.  Just remember to focus your energy on you and your partner and try not to waste too much anger on the other woman or man involved.

Am I Cut Out To Have A One Night Stand?

I love the show New Girl on FOX.  Zooey Daschanel cracks me up as Jess.  She is a very quirky teacher who lives with three guys.  I’m a little behind on my DVR so I just watched the Valentine’s Day episode where Jess is feeling “twirly”.  She wants to go out and have a one night stand because it is her first single Valentine’s Day in six years.  Except everyone who knows her, knows she gets too attached to people.

Her friend C.C. reminds her that she doesn’t have one night stands because she is able to become emotionally attached to a shoe on the side of the road.  Her roommate, Schmidt, and C.C. go with her to the bar because they don’t trust her to find an appropriate guy for a one night on her own.  They stop her when she meets a guy and realizes they are both from Oregon.  They remind her that she can’t have anything in common with the guy or she will become attached.  She then ends up meeting Oliver.  Oliver only talks about what he had for lunch, which turns out to be mostly tacos and Jess realizes she is totally bored.  Her friends finally concede that she can have a one night stand with this guy because there is zero chance for attachment.

However, because it is a sitcom, Jess’ plan is foiled and she doesn’t end up having a one night stand.  Although, she is prepared with a whole box of condoms.  At least she isn’t stupid.  It’s always better to be over prepared than under prepared right?  The reason I liked this episode so much, besides it being hilarious, is the fact that we all are not made equally.  I believe having a one night stand is harder for some people than others.  Why?

Well our personalities are all a little different.  Some people are born to take risks.  Nothing seems to scare them.  Other people are born more cautious.  They take longer to make decisions because they don’t want to make a mistake.  Some people are also more naturally sensitive and empathetic to others.  They might be more like Jess and get attached pretty easily.  I find you can push the limits on your personality a little bit, but it comes off very fake when you try to be someone you aren’t.  Having casual sex may seem like it is easy for your friends, but you may question if it really right for you.  This is a really good question.  It is too easy to compare yourself to others and then try to be more like the person you think is better, smarter, prettier, funnier or more interesting than you.  Instead of trying to be themselves, a lot of people work hard to be more like a person they admire.

It is not a good idea to have a one night stand because it helped your friend get over a break up.  Trust me, that doesn’t mean it will help you too!!  However, if you feel you want to push your boundaries and like Jess, you feel a little “twirly”, then here are some suggestions to help you be more successful.  By successful, I mean not get hurt or feel guilty the next day.

1.  Know your intentions.  Casual sex is one dimensional.  If you need to prove something or are secretly hoping for more, stop right there.  If you’re only trying to prove to yourself or someone else you can do this it will mostly likely leave feeling even more insecure.  If you’re secretly wanting to date this person you are getting too up close and personal which is last thing you want in a one night stand.  You will only feel hurt in the end.

2.  Do not look past physical attraction.  If you think the person is sweet, funny or even interesting it could get complicated very easily.  You will most likely feel disappointed when it doesn’t get past the one night part.  Jess’s friends are helping her when they encourage her to walk away from guys she may potentially become too attached to.

3. No cuddling.  Cuddling starts to drift into the affectionate lane.  This can cause emotions to develop at lightening speed.  Cuddling is a sign that you possibly want more from this person.  You don’t have to jump out of bed as soon as you “finish”, but you don’t want to linger too long either.

4.  Don’t use someone.  This means if you know this person has feelings for you, they are definitely NOT one night stand material.  It may seem easy for you, but you will cause big problems for yourself very quickly.  Don’t be selfish.  Find someone who has no attachment to you!

5.  Always Use Protection.  You may not need a whole box of condoms to get you through the night, but definitely don’t leave home without being prepared.  By definition this is not an exclusive relationship.  You don’t know where this person has been, and you should never take the risk to believe they are clean.

Lastly, keep the communication open.  Be honest about your expectations.  Find someone who is on the same page before you engage in any removal of clothing.  Also, be aware that this person may not be straight forward with you.  You are taking a risk that they are single and unattached.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you if their significant other walks in the room and starts World War III.

One night stands are a risk.  Don’t try to sugar coat it any other way.  Not everyone is cut out to live this lifestyle or even try it on for size just one time.  Remember, the first rule is to know yourself and your intentions.  Figure out what choices you want to make and then be confident about it.  You don’t have to have casual sex because all your friends think it’s a great time.  If you are someone who gets attached easily, then be realistic about the possibility of one night stands not being for you.  You also don’t have to apologize if you are more of a risk taker and this is something you want to do.  If you start to feel guilty, that is sign something is wrong and maybe you need to make some adjustments in the choices you are making.  However, be aware of not taking on other people’s guilt.

College is about figuring out who you are and what you want.  The hardest part about that is really separating your own voice from those you’ve grown up with and the people currently around you all the time.  It is hard to think for yourself sometimes and not feel pressured to do things because someone else thinks it is a great idea.  Be smart about your choices and make sure it is what you want before diving in.  If you’ve been reading my blog awhile, you know I’m all about learning from mistakes.  If you do decide to have a one night stand and it goes south, learn from it and move on instead of beating yourself up for the next three years.

Facebook Stalking, Status Changing and Other Things That Drive Us Crazy!

You know how internet porn has made more people seem like they have a sex addiction?  Well social media sites make more people seem like they have obsessive compulsive disorder.  It is because it’s too easy.  You could fight the urge to warm up your car in zero degree weather to do a drive by your ex’s house at 2am, but it doesn’t take much to hit the Facebook app on your phone to creep on your ex’s page right?  Then you see a picture, a status change or a comment on someone’s page that makes you freak out.

Now it’s 2:20am and you don’t know what to do with yourself.  So you start texting your ex about the information on their Facebook page.  You may hesitate a few seconds before sending it because you don’t want them to know you were on their page in the middle of the night.  You fear they may delete you from their page which would be the worst torture imaginable, but the fear of not knowing for sure what is going on compels you to send the text to confront them about what you saw.  Then, you either don’t get a text back, which drives you crazy, or they text you back accusing you of stalking their page, which drives you crazy, or they make up some excuse that you don’t believe, which drives you crazy.  Great.  That makes you feel so much better and you can go get a good night’s sleep right?  Wrong, it makes you feel even more hurt and you continue to obsess even more about what they’re doing and who they’re with.

Never mind that you look to see what their FB status is every other minute.  Changing your relationship status can be a big deal.  According to the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, Facebook relationship status is something that many people take VERY seriously.  Did the put that we’re in a relationship yet?  Don’t they want everyone to know they’re in a relationship?  Why don’t they want anyone to know?  Did they change their relationship status back to single?  Does everyone know that we broke up?  They did change their status!  How dare they broadcast our business to everyone we know!! 

Is this really something to break up over?  Obviously, it can be and then you turn into the “Facebook Stalker” who continuously checks to see if that person gets into a “relationship” with someone else.

So, which comes first?  The OCD or Facebook?  I guess I believe when it comes to relationships most people have obsessive compulsive tendencies.  Most people’s emotions are heightened beyond their logic when they first get together and usually when they are in the middle of a break up or in the immediate post break up stage.  The logical part of your brain says, “Take things slow.  You don’t need to see or talk to this person all the time.  They don’t need to change their Facebook status to ‘in a relationship’ to prove they want to be with me”.  Your emotions tell you, “Text them now!  I miss them already even though they just left 5 minutes ago.  I want everyone to know we are together”!

It is the same with a break up.  You desperately want to stop thinking about them, but you can’t.  Your logical brain says, “Let it go.  You’ll be fine.  Delete them from your phone contacts and your Facebook page”.  Your emotions just can’t shut up though.  Unfortunately they speak louder and more insistently at the worst times.  They constantly ask questions like, “I wonder if they are over me?  I wonder what they are doing right now?  I wonder if we only talked one more time would we be able to work things out”?  These questions are evil and make people feel obsessive.  Especially if you are used to constant communication.  To go from that to nothing can drive the most rational person insane.

Now you add in the availability of Facebook.  To be able to look up people’s information without them knowing.  The ease of sending a text without really having to face that person.  What person isn’t going to act a little compulsive?  Not too many people are strong enough to resist the temptation to be a voyeur and see what their new crush or most recent ex is up to.  The curiosity gets the best of most of us.  Even so, most people do have boundaries.  Like I said earlier, you may not go to the extremes of warming up your car when it is freezing outside so you can drive across town to see if your ex is home or not.  It takes more effort and is easier to resist.  You then live with the anxiety and force yourself to go to sleep.  You wake up the next day and usually feel better.  With technology you can stalk people way too easily.  You don’t learn to live with the anxiety and you wake up the next day feeling like a creeper.

So, how do you stop the OCD with so much technology available?  I have had some students have a trusted friend change their password and not let them onto their Facebook page for a little while.  This is an extreme decision, but can be very helpful.  You also can deactivate your page.  It is easy to activate it again, however, it’s a step in the right direction.  Plus, it keeps your ex from stalking you for awhile.  Distract yourself with something else.  You can’t stop doing one thing unless you replace it with something else.  Write a blog about your frustrations.  Writing slows down your brain and stops your thoughts from running circles in your brain.  If you don’t want to write a blog, at least write your thoughts down on paper.  You can rip it up or burn it if you don’t want others to find it.

You may want to decide to delete the relationship status off your FB page and make people actually ask you about your life in person.  Some people break up because their new partner refuses to change or put up a relationship status.  Instead you might want to be grateful they don’t post every little thing about your relationship on their page.  Then if you really did break up you can trust they won’t slam you publicly.  If you are having trouble with texting your ex, try not to take your phone with you everywhere.  Turn it off at night and try to keep it in a drawer.  If you can’t seem to relax, look up guided imagery.  You can listen to the person’s voice and it can help you to relax.  They are easy to download and can get you through a very anxious moment.  You won’t have to do this forever, but for a couple weeks it will really help you to not follow through with the compulsion to say “hey, what’s up?” to your ex.

The reasons these things work is that eventually your brain does let go.  It learns it can live without texting this person again.  It can stand it if it doesn’t know what is happening in on their Facebook page.  After a few days or weeks it does become easier to resist these temptations.  The more you give into the obsessions, the harder it is to fight the compulsions.  The more you resist giving in and do other things to get yourself through that really rough time, the easier it will be to continue to resist the compulsions.  It won’t be easy, but it is possible.  The other option is to just creep along until time does it’s thing you eventually move on.  The choice is up to you.

Once you stalk the fun don’t stop