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The V-Spot: I’m So Excited and…

Hey Yana,

I just read a list of codependent behaviors on the internet and realized a ton of them describe the ways I have navigated/still navigate my relationships. Particularly: getting upset/stressed about other people’s problems and trauma, abandoning my needs to cater to others, and getting strong dips in my self-worth/self-confidence when the people in my life aren’t totally happy/excited about me.

I realize these issues can’t be fixed without tons of work but do you have any “in the moment” solutions that can at least stave off these responses/emotions when I feel overwhelmed by them?

I ask because I’m seeing someone new and I really like them, like they are so dang cute and the time I spend with them feels great so I’d really like to keep that going and I’m starting to worry that these behaviors could really get in the way!

With excitement,

I Just Can’t Hide It

 

Dear I Just Can’t,

Oftentimes the ways we relate to people we are romantically and/or sexually attracted to run along tracks that are deeply grooved in our minds, emotions, and bodies so it can be tough to change those patterns by just saying “Hey! Cut it out, self!”

The ways we learned to get our emotional and physical needs met as small infants (professionally dubbed our “attachment style” by the likes of psychologists Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby) carry over into our adult relationships in ways that can be both beneficial and/or problematic. Your tendency to abandon your own needs in order to cater to others, for example, may have been a great efficient strategy to get what you needed as a child in relation to your caregivers but in your present adulthood, it’s no longer serving you as well.

This doesn’t mean that this tendency is bad or wrong, but it does mean it’s maladaptive and is now causing you more harm than good, more unhealthy relationships than healthy, and so might be due for a tune-up. Working with a therapist might help this exploration and shift.

Meanwhile, if you want to learn more about attachment styles and how they factor into adult relationships, check out Stan Tatkin’s easy-to-digest book Wired for Love (though I don’t agree with ALL he says in that book, overall it’s an interesting read and breaks down attachment theory well).

As for quicker-to-apply strategies, I’m noticing that many of the things you’ve listed above as “codependent behaviors” are actually primarily feelings or thoughts that might be leading you to codependency…continue reading…

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The V-Spot: My Partner is a Porn Addict, Now What?

Hi Yana,

My partner has struggled with a pornography/masturbation addiction since he was a teen. I’m not against self pleasure. In fact, I believe it’s important and wonderful for everyone to experience, even when partnered.

We’ve been together for 4 years, and our sex life is generally great. He was upfront with me about his issues with porn (his words) at an early point, but at the beginning he was contacting people outside of our monogamous relationship looking for sex. I was, as you’d expect, very hurt by this. He assured me that he would never have actually cheated but was just “seeking pleasure.”

Things have largely gotten better: he doesn’t contact people or seek interaction, but still indulges in porn on the regular. I find myself resenting this, despite believing that freedom of self pleasure is important. Our sex life is hugely affected by his masturbation habits and I’m afraid of how he’s sought out other people in the past.

I’m at a point now where I can’t help but wonder if it will ever change. Is it entirely wrong for me to want it to change at all? I’m trying to do right by him emotionally and sexually, but I’m also trying to do right by myself. Am I looking at it all wrong?

All the best,

Left Loveless

Dear Loveless,

Porn addiction (not officially included in the DSM-5, FYI) is a controversial animal in the therapeutic world. And without diving too deep into that debate here, I’ll tell you where my biases lie: I believe that porn — like many other substances and habits — can be used both in healthy and also in unhealthy ways. This unhealthiness, I believe, is largely in the eyes of the beholder and also in the impact it has on their lives.

Meaning, while there are more “traditional” addictions like those to alcohol and drugs, there are also many things we can use in unhealthy ways to cope with something/s that we feel like we currently can not cope with in other, perhaps healthier ways: sleeping, shopping, or even “socially acceptable” avenues like exercise or dieting, can all be used in compulsive or damaging ways without being labeled an official “addiction.”

Where my line is drawn in the sand around labeling this as problematic, Loveless, is here: Is the compulsive behavior causing distress for the person experiencing it and/or in that person’s significant relationships?

As you’ve described, this issue is at least certainly problematic: he himself considers his porn use an “issue” and you have clearly experienced some distress around the impact his porn use has on your relationship — a relationship that at one point he agreed to as being monogamous. He then broke that agreement when he secretly reached out to others…continue reading…

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The V-Spot: How Do I Make Sexual Suggestions?

Dear Yana,

I’m a 30-something guy in a long-term relationship with a bisexual woman. She’s got a high sex drive and wants to have sex almost constantly. My desire doesn’t really match up with hers but I wonder if the issue is really that her sexual techniques don’t really line up with my tastes. Her confidence seems tenuous and I’m worried that my requests will deflate her.

How could I best make suggestions towards what I want her to do and request changes to her existing approach without making her retreat from me or feel bad?

Thanks for any advice,

Cautious Critiquer

 

Dear Cautious,

I know for some readers this might sound shocking, but I was once a church youth group director. Okay, well, it was a Unitarian Universalist church youth group but still. One thing that’s really great about working with teenagers in an intentional, pure, community-building setting such as a UU church youth group is that they teach you how to be a nice, ethics-forward, person in the world.

What does this have to do with your sex life, Cautious? Well, not all sex advice is sexual in nature. Sometimes, learning how to communicate directly and kindly is just the skill set you need to further your sexual satisfaction. And with that, I introduce to you the The Compliment Sandwich, courtesy of my former church youth group days.

The Compliment Sandwich is a technique great for delivering constructive feedback in a way that strikes a nice balance between honoring your partner’s/friend’s/co-worker’s strengths, and being direct and clear about what you’d like to see change. In a Compliment Sandwich, compliments are the bread and your request/suggestion/critique is the meat (or vegan meat substitute, as it were).

For example: … continue reading…