Ask The Love Therapist: Relationship Advice and Counsel

 Relationship Advice and Counsel


Difficulty Separating  

Difficulty Separating  

 
Long Distance Love

Long Distance Love

 
Online Dating

Online Dating

 
Too high standards or dating duds?

Too high standards or dating duds?

 
Open Relationships vs. Monogamy 

Open Relationships vs. Monogamy 

 
Love Hate Relationships

Love Hate Relationships

 
Sexual Disconnection

Sexual Disconnection

 
Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile Dysfunction

Help Love Therapist!

          I'm a 25 year old guy who's  working as personal trainer in SF.  I have been seeing this woman for four months now, and I love her more than I have ever loved any women before in my life.  For a while, we were always together spending most of our time together, but now its different.  She always has excuses not to see me - it's so hard!  She says she still loves me and wants me, but its difficult because I don't want to see any woman if its not her - but I'm not happy with how little we see each other.  Is there something wrong with me? I can't sleep, don't feel like working out -  it's even hard to breath at times.  

A Mess

Dear "A Mess",

       Take a deep breath, it's okay.  Sounds like this change in your relationship is really challenging for you.  But there's hope!  You two are going through a natural process that happens in the first stage of relationships: The Honeymoon Stage.  

       The Honeymoon Stage is when partners romantically bond and discover their "we-ness".  It's a blissful time when differences are minimized and commonalities are emphasized.  Once the relationship is established, partners move into Stage 2: Differentiation

       Differentiation is the most difficult stage for couples because it involves sharing your individual desires, needs and values.  It can be a disillusioning and disappointing time as you notice each others imperfections.  

       It seems that your girlfriend is expressing a need for more space, which is healthy if you two were spending "all your time together".  Part of your work will be to manage the anxiety that separation induces.  Try to remember her words, that she wants to be with you.  Her space doesn't mean you will lose her.  It would be helpful for you to research and learn some anxiety regulation skills or join a codependancy support group in your local area.  Hang in there and let her know how hard this period is for you, not with the intention of changing her, but as a way to connect and lower your fear.  

The Love Therapist

 

Love Therapist, 

       I was dating a guy for 2 years and was infatuated. I'd never felt this way about anyone, and we knew from the beginning what we had was different to everyone else. He consumed every thought of every day, and we made each other feel invincible.

       But we are only 21, and when Matt went abroad for college, we separated to take off the pressure of long distance.  We both genuinely believed that we would be together again one day. There was no doubt in either of our minds.

       Four months into being apart, it was the hardest time of my life, but I chose to sleep with someone, for the first time. I confessed to my ex right away, and he confessed he had slept with someone also. We decided to rekindle the relationship and that we could move past it.

       However, only a day after deciding to stick it out, an older family advised my boyfriend that if he had slept with anyone else, then what we have isn't true love.  Is it true? I genuinely don't believe I'll find what we have with anyone else. Was the family member right?

Unsure In Love

 

Dear "Unsure In Love"

      I'm going to be blunt here: Trust your gut!  Part of growing up is growing into a strong sense of what is right or wrong for ourselves. Yes, you are young, but you seem to really love for this guy.  

     You are from a different generation than your partners older family members.  Casual dating and open relationships are more common now than they were 20-30 years ago.  Plus, you both slept with other people when you were split up.  There's nothing wrong with that and being celibate would have meant your bond was less strong or true.  That's a judgment call that you have to make.  

     My best advice is to stay present with what you're feeling when you're together.  Apart, you're head may spin with ideas.  But when you're together, feel into your guy, your body, your women's intuition.  That is the best source of information you can gather.  

The Love Therapist

 

Dearest Love Therapist,

            I do not get online dating.  I mean, I get it - I do it - but I'm not getting any responses.  I've been on OkCupid, Tinder, Match... and radio silence.  I do write beautiful girls regularly, but get little back, like "Awww, thanks"  Nothing to engage.  Are people online just flakes or shallow and looking for the hottest person? I guess I'm wondering what do I need to be doing to get some chat going, and dates? Photos, writing - how to write?  I must be missing something here, cause my brothers tell me that their having a blast on dates and having fun one night stands.  What the hell!    

Lost and Confused

 

Dear "Lost and Confused",

           Don't get pissed, get pro-active!  There are two important pieces to online dating: 1. The Profile 2. The Chat

           Lets start with your profile and look at some key areas.              

Photos:  Are your photos high quality? Is your face and eyes visible?  Research shows that singles are attracted to photos that show your personality and interests over sexy shots.     

Headline: This is the 2nd thing people look at after the photos.  Is yours short? Original and positive?  Witty and humorous goes a long way too. 

Write Up: If they're attracted and intrigued, the bio and write ups are the final piece to seal the deal and push them to contact you.  Keep it short and sweet:  Let them know what you're interested in and passionate about.  Share what you're looking for.  Tell a fascinating (short) story that speaks to your values.  Humor is also a big plus. 

             My last tip is about contacting cuties online.  Engage. Be sweet and be curious.  For example, "I loved what you wrote about your favorite food joints - have you been to Elisa's Italian on 4th?  I think you'd really enjoy it."  Get back on the horse, dating takes positive persistence! 

The Love Therapist

 

Help Love Therapist!

            I don't get why I've been single for 3 years!  I think I'm a catch: thoughtful, friendly, social, pretty attractive, in my 30's and making a six figure income: yet I don't seem to be able to get past the 3rd or fourth date.  I meet nice, attractive guys, but most often don't feel the spark.  I was in love once in college, but had my heart broken after a year of dating.  So I know what it's like to be in love, I just don't seem to feel it with guys in the city.  Sometimes they break it off, and sometimes I do. I see a pattern but I don't get it.  I've been trying to figure it out - am I too picky or just meeting duds?  

Craving Love

 

Dear "Craving Love",

           I hear a lot of frustration in your writing - dating struggles can be disheartening.  I don't know enough about you yet to know if your standards are crazy high or "duds" are attracted to you like moths to a flame.  What I can tell you, is that dating and relationships are a journey.  It's your choice whether you're going to be distressed that you haven't gotten to a "destination" or enjoy the path.  Sounds like you have a lot to be grateful for but you're not feeling it.  What if you took your attention off of getting the guy or your lack, and instead focused on enjoying your life to the fullest?  What would you be feeling emotionally, physically, spiritually?  Living this way is practicing trust and joy as a meditation.  When you feel good and are content, you will be creating an energy around you that may attract men who are in that place as well and are ready to share that way of being together.  

The Love Therapist

 

Hi Love Therapist,

            My boyfriend wants to open our relationship after 6 years together. He feels like we're in a lull and believes no one can meet a partner's every need... and so he wants to open it to "save the relationship"  And I can't help but be pissed off!  Why doesn't he want to work on improving our sex life verses go out and fuck strangers?  Maybe I'm old fashioned - but I just like being one guy with one guy - plus I don't want to get any STDs.  My boyfriend just doesn't see the risk to our health AND to our relationship.  Am I way off base here?  

Wanting Monogamy Still

 

Dear "Wanting Monogamy Still",

           I totally get where you're coming from. Opening a relationship can be very challenging after years of monogamy - and your partner might be seeing the fun ahead rather than the complication right in front of him.  I don't think you're "old fashioned" to want monogamy.  As gay men, we are often expected and pressured to have open or polyamorous relationships and the response is "what's the big deal, it's just sex."  Working on your relationship and sex life during a lull can help you evolve to another level.  On the other hand, open relationships, if done well, can improve a relationship and sex life.  The key is how you communicate, set up agreements and boundaries.   If there is clarity, trust and agreements through all the details of how you go about it, it can work.  I recommend you both read "The Ethical Slut" by Dossie Easton for more education on this.  You've got to both be comfortable with keeping monogamous or opening your relationship - have some heart to hearts after some education - I trust you'll find the right path together. 

The Love Therapist

 

Hey Love Therapist,

I have an ex boyfriend that I've been off an on again with for 3 years.  We were supposed to move down to SoCal together but I found out that he was practically bankrupt, so I moved here by myself.  There was and is issues that were also big red flags.  I have struck out again and again with dating, it's been tough, and it seems like every 2-3 months my ex and I get back into contact (he flew out and showed up at my door, I secretly visited him) But then we end up fighting and not speaking for some time.  My question is, does this mean we're meant to be or trapped in a bad pattern?

Desperately in Love?

 

Dear "Desperately in Love?",

It sounds like you're in a cycle of drawing in and pushing away.  I'm sure it's exhausting for both of you.  Did you get a chance to re-read what you wrote?  If you're not concerned, I definitely am.  I'm wondering what is drawing you back to someone who has "big red flags", two of which seem to be that he lives somewhere else and is bankrupt.  The fights, I imagine, are coming from the unstable and insecure nature of your connection.  Are you engaging because you fear not finding someone in SoCal and this is your "best option", sort of a guarantee?  I think you could find a relationship that's easier with someone that is more what you want.  If you take a risk and end this, you may open space to heal and draw someone new in.  

The Love Therapist

 

Love Therapist,

My wife and I have a fantastic relationship.  We have lots of laughs, great conversations, shared values - in almost all ways she's the perfect mate... except for the sex.  We are hit and miss, sometimes it's great, sometimes terrible.  It's like the connection everywhere else doesn't translate in the bedroom.  It seems like she isn't into foreplay, just wants intercourse and I often feel there's a real lack of emotional intimacy (I sound like the female here!)  She doesn't seem to know what the problem is either... help!

Desiring Connection

 

Dear "Desiring Connection",

I hear how frustrated you are and how much you want emotional and sexual intimacy with your wife.  I bet she wants it too, but clearly there's some blocks in the bedroom for you two.  Sexual issues can be really complicated, so it's hard for me to advise without more information.  Here are some questions for both of you:

  • The first big one: Is this a physical, emotional or relational issue - of a combination?  
  • Does she enjoy touch and physical pleasure together? 
  • Does your wife want to have sexual time that doesn't include intercourse?  
  • What thoughts and feelings come to mind when you both know you're going to have sex?  

During a low stress time, if would be helpful to open up a dialogue about your sex and offer curiosity and compassion in response to whatever she shares.  

Try experimenting with physical and sexual time, but one activity per session.  For example, laying on the bed with clothes on, holding each other and kissing.  After a short period (i.e 10 minutes) Stay holding each other but share about what that experience was/is like for both of you.  What are you noticing?  Feeling in your body?  Building in this time each week will really be eye opening as to what factors and in the way and how you can support each other to move into more emotional and physical intimacy.  

The Love Therapist

 

Dear Love Therapist, 

I have a girlfriend that I have been seeing for the last 3 months and I am a virgin (and so is she). I notice that when we get intimate that I cannot seem to have a full erection with her. I have been pleasuring her in other ways such as oral and fingering her. She is satisfied with that but she is starting to wonder why I dont want her to pleasure me with a blow job or a hand job. 

Before I was with her, I used to masterbate often but ever since I've been with her, I stopped masterbating as much to a point where I have not done it in the last 3 weeks (plus stopped watching porn). But still, I seem to have the same issue about not getting a full erection when I'm with her. Please help and thank you for your time. 

The Softy

 

Dear Softy,

There are many reasons why someone can have Erectile Dysfunction (ED).  For older men, they're often physical, while for younger men they're often emotional.  Do you experience an erection in the morning or while you sleep?  If so, this is probably not physical. Are you on medications?  Many, like certain anti-depressants, have side effects that make it hard to get hard.  Being overweight, not exercising and smoking can also have a negative impact on erections. It's always a great idea to check in with your health care providers about these types of issues. 

Since you are most likely young, in a new relationship and a virgin, it makes sense to me that you might be nervous when it comes to sexual activities.  We've all been there!  Stress, anxiety and depression can all contribute to difficulties getting an erection - these can be assessed by a therapist and talking to someone might be useful at this time.  Also, open and honest communication is important to establish right the beginning of a relationship - so go for it - and let your girlfriend know how much you're attracted to her and that you're having this issue.  Most girls will be understanding and be turned on by your vulnerability. 

The Love Therapist