Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Five Dimensions of Touch

The Five Dimensions of Touch: The Key to Bypassing Sexual Power Struggles By Barry McCarthy, Ph.D.
“Are we going to have sex or not?”
“How come every time we are affectionate you want to push sex?”

Far too many married couples fall into the power struggle trap regarding touching and intercourse. The positive role of sexual intimacy is to energize your marital bond and enhance feelings of desire and desirability. The key to a satisfying, stable marriage is a respectful, trusting commitment with sexuality playing a 15-20% role in enhancing couple vitality and satisfaction.
An empowering concept is to value the five dimensions of touch—affection, sensual, playful, erotic, and intercourse. Unfortunately, for many couples there are only two dimensions—affection and intercourse, which sets up an unnecessary and self-defeating power struggle.
The following exercise gives you a way of talking about touch as well as understanding the feelings and preferences of your spouse. Each person fills this out for him or herself—be forthcoming and genuine; don’t be “politically correct” or try to second-guess your spouse. Then combine answers and discuss areas of agreement as well as differences.
Touch Type 
Your current percent of touch:
He    She 
The percent of touch you want:
He    She
Affectionate Touch: Clothes on, warm, friendly, kissing, hand-holding, hugging    
Sensual Touch: Cuddling, embracing, gentle touch, soothing, non-genital touch    
Playful Touch: Inviting, flirting, seductive, dancing, mixing non-genital and genital touch, showering or bathing together, playing sexual games    
Erotic Touch: Manual, oral, rubbing stimulation, taking emotional and sexual risks, feeling turned–on, open to erotic flow to orgasm    
Intercourse Touch: Allowing pleasuring, arousal, erotic flow to transition to intercourse, enjoy intercourse connection and bonding, and be free to use multiple stimulation during intercourse    
In implementing learning from this exercise, the focus is on what dimensions of touch you want in the present and future. There is little value in arguing about the past or staying stuck in the power struggle. Intimacy, touching, and sexuality is a “team sport.” You want to experience your spouse as both your intimate and erotic friend.
However, being partners and on the same team does not mean you have to be clones of each other. Your sexual relationship will be stronger and more resilient when each of you is free to have your own “sexual voice.” For example, one spouse prefers hugging, and the other hand–holding. In the realm of intercourse touch, one spouse prefers woman–on–top position with in–out thrusting, while the partner prefers man–on–top with circular thrusting. Celebrate your differences, and use them to “spice up” your married sexuality.
The core issue is how you feel about sensual, playful, and erotic non–intercourse touch. Can you integrate these into your couple sexual style? Are these touching dimensions viewed as “foreplay” always leading to intercourse or are they valued for themselves? The traditional power struggle is men believe “sex=intercourse” and once aroused he feels cheated if touching doesn’t result in intercourse and orgasm. He says, “Don’t be a tease and start something you’re not planning to finish.” Traditionally, women value intimacy and affection. “Why does sensual or playful touch always have to lead to intercourse?” This power struggle results in less touching and less intercourse, as well as more hurt feelings and alienation.
We encourage each of you to value the different dimensions of touch, stay on the same intimate team, and each affirm the role of both intimacy and eroticism. Typically, the challenge for men is to learn to value sensual and playful touch for itself rather than as part of the build-up to intercourse. Typically, the challenge for women is to value her own “sexual voice,” specifically erotic, non-intercourse touch.
If the couple falls into the traditional pattern of “intercourse or nothing,” nothing will eventually win whether next year or thirty years from now. To prevent sexual problems you can learn to value a variable, flexible couple sexual style. Touch both inside and outside the bedroom and be aware that sensual, playful, and erotic touch has value. This need not and should not always lead to intercourse. The essence of marital sexuality is giving and receiving pleasure–oriented touch which includes all of the five dimensions of touch.
If you can learn this early in your marriage, it will inoculate you against sexual problems in your sixties, seventies, and eighties. Be good to yourself and your marriage–enjoy at least three dimensions of touch, and ideally all five dimensions. 
Questions for Reflection
  • Which of the “touches” which Dr. McCarthy describes is most important to you? Which do you feel least comfortable with?
  • Does sexual touching usually lead to intercourse in your relationship? How do you feel about this? 
  • Has the practice of Natural Family Planning enhanced your ability to enjoy sexual touching?
  • Read Song of Songs 7:7-14, in which God's love for his people is compared to the love a married couple have for each other. Does this lead you to a new understanding of God's desire for your marriage to be sexually intimate? 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Bliss in 22 Days

Buy it here: Bliss in 22 Days

“What do you want?”

Emphasis on the want

Every new client hears this question during our first meeting. I usually toss my query after hearing the subtext behind actions, and behaviors, and rarely feelings.

Wants. Desires.

We all have them.

Spoiler Alert: 90% of my clients say that want to be happy.

What will make you happy?

Is it getting that promotion you’ve been yearning for? Is it the high-powered vehicle cloaked in your garage? Is it losing those last five pounds?

Yes. Yes, because you’re successful when you’ve reached your goals…you’re happy you have a new promotion so that you can take that Tahitian vacation or pay off your high balance/high percentage school loans…you’re overjoyed as your shiny ponytail whips in the wind during an afternoon convertible drive zooming on desolate roads. . .you’re giddy you can finally fit into your 7-16 denim skinny jeans.

Are these fleeting experiences enough to feel happy?

Happiness…is it experienced intrinsically or extrinsically?

Psychologists have long toyed with the definition and interpretation of the word ‘happy.’  Finding your inner gaiety does not need to be laborious or far-reaching. You just need to change your brain.

Yes. Change it.

Throw out the concept of ‘positive thinking’ and embrace ‘realistic thinking.’  Express gratitude. Maybe you don’t have a glossy Red Monster of gas guzzling endorphins on four wheels parked in your driveway, but you do have a reliable mode of transportation to get you where you need to be. Maybe those over-priced denims are still hanging in the back of your closet, but you do have clothes that fit, are clean and are comfortable.

Yes, I realize I’m presenting you with a ridiculous scale of comparison, but the truth is that ‘happy’ can only be found from within you. Not somebody bringing you flowers, and not the layers of shoes stacked in your closet.

Wants. Desires.

I believe success lies in being happy. Happy with who you are and happy with what you have.

Finding your happy is a process; it’s a journey.

Happiness is perspective, reality and gratitude.

Don't wait to be happy. Don't try to find it in another person.

Happiness is a choice; it can only come from you. 

My journaling workbook will take you through a 22 day process to help you find your joy.

Always finding my happy,


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Issues that come up during the Holidays

4 Issues That Come Up In Couples Counseling During The Holidays

couple christmas tree ornaments
The holiday season can be a wonderful time of closeness with loved ones, but it also causes a lot of stress for many couples. Couples counseling can provide a safe space to work through many common issues that plague couples during the pressure-filled holiday season.
If you are in counseling, some of these issues might resonate with you. Maybe you can raise them in upcoming sessions. If you’re not seeing a therapist, and any of these issues have led to significant conflict in your relationship, it could be time to schedule an appointment with a counselor who can help you work through these concerns.

Whose Family “Gets” Which Holiday?

Particularly when kids enter the equation, deciding which set of grandparents “gets” Thanksgiving or Christmas (or whatever other holiday is celebrated) can lead to explosive fights.
Sometimes this argument is not only about the holidays themselves, but about deeper issues of which set of parents receives more of the couple’s time, effort and attention. When a person feels like their family is being given short shrift, this generally indicates a level of insecurity about their own position and priority in the couple unit.
Personality-level issues in in-laws can be exacerbated during the stress of the holidays. For example, narcissists may try to make the holidays about them, leading to massive frustration for their child or their child’s spouse.

How Much Should We Spend?

This is another issue that becomes more difficult with children. A couple might find it easier to agree on a budget for gifts and entertaining until they have children. At this point one partner might want to allot significantly more than the other to holiday spending. Because partners often start with different spending styles, the addition of a large stressor like the holiday season can lead to a sharp uptick in the frequency of arguments surrounding money.

How Much Should We Socialize?

Many couples are comprised of one introvert and one extrovert. These couples often find it hard to agree on the “right” amount of socializing during the holiday season.
Extroverts want to attend every party or get-together thrown by family, friends or co-workers. Introverts feel overextended almost after the first mandatory holiday-themed work event. Both partners may struggle with empathizing while getting their needs met for socializing versus recharge time.

Which Holiday Should We Focus On?

In dual-religion or dual-ethnicity couples that celebrate more than one holiday, it can be a struggle to figure out which holiday should take precedent in the case of overlap. This season, for example, Christmas and Chanukah come at the same time. This issue will become more salient for many couples where one partner is Christian and the other is Jewish.
These issues, and many others, can sap the holiday season of joy and relaxation. If these concerns are sabotaging your chance to enjoy the holidays, discuss them with a couples counselor. Getting concerns out in the open with a neutral third party can bring couples at least part of the way toward a resolution.
Dr. Samantha Rodman is in private practice in Maryland, and is the founder of DrPsychMom.com. She is a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Babble and PsychCentral. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @DrPsychMom. You can also order her upcoming book, “52 Emails To Transform Your Marriage.”

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Happiness is Overrated

Why Happiness is Overrated, According to a Therapist

green color pencil drawing smile on figures
Often times people come into therapy hoping to finally tackle issues like anxiety or depression. Clients have come into my office wishing for me to share my keys to “happiness.” Sometimes they are disappointed to find I actually don’t think happiness is a reasonable goal.
There is a lot of information, particularly in the positive psychology movement, about finding the keys to happiness. You can use affirmations and daily validations to help lift your mood. You can organize your life and change your behavior, all in an effort to secure this feeling of happiness.
There’s a lot of validity to those suggestions. Nonetheless, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to search for “happiness” to begin with.
Popular culture tells us happiness looks one specific way. What does happiness look like exactly? If you believe some advertising and commercials, happiness looks like a beautiful young woman with flowing blonde hair riding a bike in perfect, sunny weather. For others happiness looks like the jubilation we witness in our children’s faces as they open presents on Christmas morning.
If you don’t fit that mold of what happy looks like, you may feel like you’re failing. You might internalize that failure to mean something negative and dark about yourself. Somehow you must be inherently flawed and unable to feel happy. We easily forget that happiness is fleeting, not a constant state. The concept of “hedonic adaptation” helps explain this. Essentially the concept relates to how people adapt to new stimuli — whether good or bad — but always recentering to an emotional baseline. The famous study of lottery winners returning to their pre-winning emotional state is only one example of how chasing “happiness” can lead to frustration.
It’s important to remember that you’re not the one who is failing. It’s our culture that’s failing us. Because we have such a limited and rigid view of happiness that we all struggle to live up to, whenever we don’t fit this mold we find ourselves riddled with anxiety and struggling with despair. Happiness isn’t a fruitful goal at all.
I think we should be more focused on attaining peace.

Peace Above Happiness

Whereas happiness is a state of mind that exists moment by moment, I like to think of peace as a never-ending thread that can exist in your day-to-day life. When we feel peace, there is a sense of comfort and emotional security even when we are faced with difficult times.
Think about how hard it can be to try to be “happy” when you’re going through a divorce. How can you feel “happy” when you’ve recently lost a loved one to a serious illness? It’s common for those around us to push us to heal and be happier quicker than is reasonable.
Inner peace can give us a sense of acceptance no matter what comes our way. With inner peace, even if negative emotions pop up, we’ll be able to deal with them and power through.
Achieving a sense of peace requires both effort and time. One of the best ways I have found — and that I encourage my clients to use — is mindfulness. Mindfulness can not only reduce anxiety in the moment, but can also help produce an overall greater sense of inner peace and balance.

Mindfulness as a Key to Peace

Daily meditation or exercises like progressive muscle relaxation can be great tools in reducing your daily anxiety levels and preventing the impact of stressors on your day-to-day experience. Once these practices become routine, you may find yourself living more in the moment and enjoying life just a little bit more.
If you find yourself struggling with persistent feelings of anxiety and depression, I would recommend that you give yourself 10 minutes per day you can use to meditate, draw, create, or simply breathe.
Allowing yourself to have this quiet time for reflection can be the first step in achieving a sense of peace and emotional security that’s going to help you tackle life’s events as they come. You can also consider working with a therapist, who may have additional suggestions for finding peace and stability. They can act as a coach or advisor, while providing a useful sounding board during stressful times.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Tips for dating with PTSD

Note of tough love from a fellow victim: If you are single, living with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and have not been treated or seen a counselor, then you have no business dating or trying to start a new relationship until you get some guidance from a professional. You are not doing yourself or anyone else any favors by ignoring it.
70% of Americans have been through a traumatic event at some point in their life. About 20% of those people will go on to develop PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, that’s roughly 31.3 million people who are or have been afflicted. When most people think of PTSD, I think their mind goes to war veterans, but it is actually a more common struggle than you think. The National Institute of Health even called it “A growing epidemic.”
Maybe like me, you are one of these people and you understand the difficulties of navigating an invasive world that has little to no patience for people like us. You’ve been through trauma therapy and you know that “wherever you go, there you are” and incidentally so is your trauma. You’ve worked hard to face your demons and fears and you are in a good place but the truth is you will never be the same. Trauma changes you. The person you were before the traumatic event ceases to exist and you have to create a new self. Even with the most patient and accepting support systems and a stellar set of coping skills, “regular” life can be downright daunting at times. Especially when it comes to finding a romantic partner who loves and accepts you for who you are, trauma and all. Here are some things I have learned on the road to recovery and love.

1. Don’t unload the whole crazy wagon on the first date.

This is great common sense advice for anyone, “normal” and traumatized alike. A sane person without PTSD would never start a date with “So I was born…” and lay out their entire fucking life story before appetizers. While it is important to be upfront and you will need to tell the person eventually if you start seeing each other more seriously, it is ultimately your private business and it is up to you when you divulge that information. Plus, if you just come at them right out of the gate with “Yeah I have PTSD because when I was seven years old I was raped by a family friend…” you WILL scare them away because that is hella intense. Unless you have really severe symptoms, like a noticeable body tick, at least let them find out your favorite color or the name of your cat first.

2. Take it slooooow.

I mean it. Turtle with a broken leg slow. I’m not just talking about sex either. Whirlwind romances are not for people with PTSD. You have been through a terrible ordeal. Maybe even more than one. You are a strong survivor but you are also fragile. You have to be smart whom you give your heart to. A person can only take so much heartbreak in one lifetime. The more times your heart breaks the harder it gets to put it back together. I know this from experience. Just take your time and get to know each other. Be open about what you’re comfortable with and stay true to yourself. Don’t let anyone push you or pressure you into anything that feels wrong. Trust that gut of yours. Chances are your experiences have given you a new super intuition. Learn how to channel that. Just be sure to check yourself and make sure it really isn’t right for you and not just your avoidance symptoms kicking in. I have missed out on many opportunities social and professional because I let my “flight response” take control.

3. Don’t let your trauma define you.

Yes, I am a woman who has been through multiple traumas. I was sexually assaulted when I was seven years old and again at age twenty-two and that isn’t even all of it. However, I am also a woman, who has a BA in English Literature from the University of Central Florida, a social media manager, a vintage collector, an artist and craft enthusiast, a sister to three fantastic younger siblings, a mom to a rabbit and two crazy Chihuahuas, a loyal friend, candy connoisseur, avid tree climber, and so much more. Sometimes it’s easier to label yourself and let others label you as “Victim” but you are so much more than that! You are NOT your trauma. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Focus on all of the wonderful quirks and nuances that make you, you. If someone keeps trying to define you by the tragedies you survived, be it death, rape, assault, or fighting in a war, then they are not the guy or gal for you. The right one will see the real you and not just a rape victim.

4. You don’t always have to be polite.

“Were your parents not around much or something?”
“Yes they were around. Why?”
“Well then how did someone molest you?”
People, you would not believe the idiotic, insensitive crap that comes out of some moron’s mouths. It takes so much courage to be honest with someone about your past and put yourself out there. For most people with PTSD, just talking about it or telling the story is equal to reliving the entire episode or event. You are exposing the most vulnerable of wounds and the slightest bit of ignorance on another’s part can destroy you. You don’t have to put up with it. You have gone too long with out a voice. Speak up. Or if it doesn’t even dignify a response you can do what I did to handle the above conversation and just get up and walk out. The bottom line is people are ignorant and nosey. People are just going to blurt out whatever crap that comes to mind without thinking or ask rude prying questions that you don’t want to or have to answer. Don’t waste your time on them. The right people to have in your life are the ones who listen to you, tell you “I’m so sorry that happened to you,” and respect your privacy.

5. Never Forget: It’s Not Your Fault!

It is common for many people with PTSD to feel a great sense of shame or to blame themselves for what has happened to them. Which can definitely inhibit you and make it scary to enter the dating world. Not only that, but there are many stigmas placed on PTSD sufferers by non-traumatized individuals who are uninformed or simply don’t understand. Such as, “girls who were molested as children are totally fucked up,” “Don’t date her, she has issues, she was raped,” or “Sir we can’t hire you because you’ve killed people in the war in Afghanistan. “ Yes we have seen and experienced things most people only read about or watch on Television. Yes we experience symptoms such as, anxiety, body ticks, night terrors, depression, insomnia, avoidance, increased emotional arousal, even substance abuse, the list goes on…
That doesn’t mean we are broken, it doesn’t mean we are inherently damaged, it means our bodies, minds, and hearts are having a NORMAL reaction to trauma. You didn’t ask for it. You didn’t cause it. It happened and now you are putting yourselves back together and you deserve to find love too.
Kirsten Strickland

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Should I have broken up with my ex?

Breakups are the pits. I’ve been through it and it’s never fun.
The worst part is the nagging doubt that creeps in…often running circles in your mind…questioning your decision to move on.
Should you have ended it?
Rather than telling yourself not to think about it (good luck with that), ask yourself these questions to productively process if giving the relationship a second go is worth it.

1.  Are you in love with him or the idea of him?
Sometimes there’s a desire for an actual person, and other times there’s a desire to have a person fill the loneliness. And that’s okay. I don’t believe we’re really wired to be alone. Pay attention to your feelings and see if they are coming from a place of clarity. Sometimes getting caught up in the sudden loneliness of not having someone to text or having someone to take to an upcoming party causes you to lose perspective.

If you don't think it's just loneliness, really consider the qualities your person has. Too often the memory of a person we miss gets blown out of proportion in our minds; Are the things you love about this man reality, or just longing for who you desire him to be? What specifically do you miss?
2. What were the reasons that led you to break up in the first place?
You might miss him now, but there was a reason to end the relationship in the first place. Was it over something substantial like infidelity or religious beliefs? Has anything happened to make you think those issues have been resolved?
Did you have lousy communication?
Remind yourself of how those difficulties made you feel. That leads into the next question -

3. What would a relationship with him look like now?
If the reason was something like distance or a move, then think about what rekindling your relationship would look like now. If he's on one coast and you're on the other, is that something you're willing to make work? And if a larger mitigating factor, such as distance, isn't an issue, then assess if you're really ready for a fresh relationship. Sure, you know the guy already. Getting back together can be a fresh start, but it also doesn't magically fix lingering issues you had from your previous attempt.
4. Do you see a future together?
It’s possible that when looking at your relationship in a static way, any problems leading up to the breakup (or even post-breakup) don’t seem very large. Maybe you worked through some of your previous issues. But did you consider the biggest one: whether or not there's a foundation for a real future together? The first time around, it can be easy to get swept up in the feeling of falling in love. If you're going to take the effort to restart a previously sputtered romance, building it on a shared vision makes it more likely that this time around you two will make it.
Answer these questions honestly. Also, your ex is not the last man left on earth. You may be feeling sadness, regret or guilt now,  but try and use the lessons learned in your next relationship.

And if there is a chance to rekindle…by all means go for it! I believe in second chances (as long as no hard boundaries were crossed).

Five Dimensions of Touch

The Five Dimensions of Touch: The Key to Bypassing Sexual Power Struggles  By Barry McCarthy, Ph.D. “Are we going to have sex or not?” ...