NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Friday, September 30, 2022

Sexual Health: What is Arousal Nonconcordance?

Most people don't understand the concept of arousal non-concordance because they never learned about it in sex education class, so I want to clarify this concept in the current article because it's the source of many problems in relationships (see my article: Understanding Your Sexual Accelerators and Sexual Brakes).

What is Arousal Non-Concordance?

What is the Difference Between Arousal Concordance and Arousal NonConcordance?
Arousal concordance means that emotional, physical and mental sexual arousal are in synch so a person feels emotionally, mentally and physically aroused at the same time.

Arousal nonconcordance is a term often used in sex therapy to describe a common experience: A person is feeling physically but not mentally or emotionally turned on or feeling mentally and emotionally turned on but not reacting in the same way physically.  So one or more aspects are out of synch.

What is Arousal Non-Concordance?

For example, a woman could be mentally and emotionally turned on, but she doesn't experience vaginal lubrication, as described in the clinical vignette below. 

Or, she could experience vaginal lubrication, but she's not mentally or emotionally turned on and she's not interested in having sex.

Similarly, a man could experience arousal non-concordance when he has an erection, but he is not mentally or emotionally aroused and so on.

Physical Arousal is Not the Same as Consent
Since it's possible to experience physical arousal but not emotional or mental arousal, the only thing that counts with regard to sexual activity is verbal consent (see my article: What You Can Learn From the Kink Community About Consent).

Physical Arousal is Not the Same as Consent: No Means No

This is significant because men often assume that if a woman is physically aroused, it automatically means she wants to have sex.

There have been rape cases where the woman's physical arousal has been used against her in court to defend a rapist--even though the woman was clearly saying to him when he forced himself on her and she was trying to fight him off.  

No means no.

In addition, if there isn't clear verbal consent, consent should not be assumed.

A Clinical Vignette About Arousal Non-Concordance:
The following clinical vignette is a composite of many cases with all identifying information removed to protect confidentiality:

Mary and Bob
Mary and Bob were married for 23 years when they sought help in sex therapy because they were having sexual problems.

According to Bob, he felt discouraged about their sex life because, even though Mary would tell him that she was in the mood to have sex, he detected that she wasn't experiencing vaginal lubrication.

Bob said he believed Mary told him she felt sexually aroused just to appease him, which made him feel awful.  

He had a hard time believing she was turned on when she didn't get wet.  So, he stopped initiating sex and when Mary tried to initiate sex with him, he told her he wasn't in the mood because each time she didn't appear to be physically aroused, he felt he was being rejected.

When it was Mary's turn to speak, she told their sex therapist that she loved Bob very much, she still found him to be attractive and she was turned on by him.  She said she tried to explain to Bob that, since she was postmenopausal, she had difficulty getting wet the way she naturally did before menopause.  She wanted to use a lubricant, but Bob refused because he felt she was no longer sexually turned on by him.

After their sex therapist explained the concept of arousal nonconcordance and that this was a common experience, Bob was surprised and he finally believed Mary.

Subsequently, he felt better about Mary using lubrication to make sexual intercourse easier.  From then on, with assistance from their sex therapist, their sex life improved and they were happier in their relationship.

Arousal concordance is easier for most people to understand because it's how they normally think sex should be--everything aligns physically, emotionally and mentally.

What is Arousal Nonconcordance?

Arousal non-concordance can occur for many reasons.  Some people desire sex mentally and emotionally before they get physically aroused.  But once they begin to have sex, they also get physically aroused.  This is true for most women (85%) and some men (25%) according to the latest sex research.

There can be many other reasons why the physical, emotional and mental arousal don't align.  For example, as in the vignette above, a woman might not lubricate naturally--even though she is emotionally and mentally aroused.  

Nonconcordance can also occur for men, as mentioned above.

Communication is key.  Rather than rely on the physical signs of sexual arousal, ask your partner and be aware that if there is arousal nonconcordance, you should rely on your partner's word rather than assume you know how your partner is feeling.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.


Monday, September 26, 2022

Heterosexual Women Are Often Labeled as Having Low Sexual Desire When The Real Problem is Their Sexual Needs Aren't Being Met During Partnered Sex

There can be many reasons why a heterosexual woman might not be enjoying sex.  All too often these women are misdiagnosed as having low sexual desire when, in fact, the real problem is that their sex partner isn't meeting their sexual needs (see my articles: Closing the Orgasm Gap Between Women and Men - Part 1 and Part 2: How to Close the Orgasm Gap).

A Woman's Sexual Needs Aren't Being Met By Her Partner

The problem in these situations is often that the man either doesn't know what turns her on, she doesn't know how to talk to him about it or he's only focused on his own sexual satisfaction (see my article: Getting to Know Your Own and Your Partner's Sexual Turn-ons).

These problems often occur during casual sexual hookups where either the man's sexual pleasure is given priority or the two people just don't know each other well enough for the woman to have satisfying sex (see my articles: What is Good Sex? Part 1Part 2: Solace SexPart 3: Sealed Off Sex and Part 4: Synchrony Sex).

Generally speaking, the man won't have problems having an orgasm--even during a casual hookup because it's easier for a man to have an orgasm.

Every woman is going to be different, but most women don't orgasm from just PIV (penis in vagina) alone.  Most women need clitoral stimulation to reach an orgasm and this might not occur if the man isn't concerned about the woman's sexual satisfaction.

In many of these cases, when a woman doesn't enjoy PIV, both she and the man often believe there's something wrong with her.  But there's nothing wrong with a woman who doesn't enjoy sex that isn't satisfying for her.

What Are the Signs a Heterosexual Woman's Sexual Needs Aren't Being Met During Partnered Sex?
The following situations usually indicate a heterosexual woman's sexual needs aren't being met during partnered sex with a heterosexual man:
  • He expects her to perform oral sex (fellatio) on him, but he's either unwilling or doesn't know how to give her pleasure with oral sex (cunninlingus).  Since most women need clitoral stimulation to have an orgasm, this is a big problem.
  • He doesn't know where her clitoris is and he's not interested in finding out because it's not important to him.
  • He gets his "sex education" from watching porn and he doesn't realize that women in pornography are actors acting a role and not really being sexually satisfied.  He also believes that all women orgasm from PIV and he doesn't need to make much of an effort because he sees heterosexual women in porn having an orgasm quickly and without much effort from the man.
  • He thinks she should always be in the mood for sex without any effort on his part because that's what he's seen portrayed by the actors in porn (the female actors in porn are always ready to have sex because they're actors playing a part).

A Woman's Sexual Needs Aren't Being Met By Her Partner

  • He only cares about his own orgasm during sex.
  • He believes sex is over after he has an orgasm (even if she hasn't had an orgasm or hasn't even enjoyed sex).
  • He insists on having sex without a condom.  This is totally unacceptable because of the potential to get an STI (sexually transmitted infection).
  • He doesn't engage in cuddling or any type of affectionate behavior after he has an orgasm.
  • He becomes emotionally and/or physically distant after he has an orgasm.
  • He doesn't take care of his personal hygiene by showering before sex or "manscaping," but he expects her to take care of her personal hygiene for him.
  • He insists on certain sexual acts, kinks or fetishes he enjoys and he gets angry and resentful if she's not turned on by the same things.
  • He persists in asking for sexual acts she's made clear she doesn't like.
  • He makes negative and condescending remarks about her appearance (e.g., her weight, age, hair, makeup or lack of makeup, etc) and then he doesn't understand why she's not turned on or interested in having sex with him.
  • He gets impatient and angry if she has pain during PIV sex (e.g., dyspareunia, vaginismus, vulvodynia, post-menopausal pain) which can be due to many reasons, including but not limited to:
    • insufficient lubrication 
    • insufficient or no sexual arousal
    • medication
    • breastfeeding
    • urinary tract infection
    • other medical causes
  • He becomes offended and insecure when she wants to include sex toys during their sexual activities.
  • He blames her for his medical and/or psychological problems with erectile dysfunction or unreliable erection, and he refuses to get appropriate medical and/or psychological help to rectify his problem.
  • He becomes emotionally abusive by comparing her to other women he's known or threatening to see other women to belittle or pressure her to do what he wants sexually.

Heterosexual women are often labeled as having low sexual desire when the real problem is their sexual needs aren't being met during partnered sex.

Sometimes this occurs because the woman's male partner isn't sexually well informed or he doesn't know what turns on his partner.  

This problem is complicated by the fact that some women either don't know what they like or they feel too ashamed to talk about it (see my articles: Tips For Women on Sexual Self Discovery and How to Talk to Your Partner About Sex - Part 1 and Part 2).

Other times this occurs because the man is selfish and he's only focused on his pleasure.  This frequently occurs during hookups, which are often unsatisfying for heterosexual women.

If the man and the woman are in a relationship and they have been unable to work these issues out on their own, they could benefit from seeking help in sex therapy.

A Couple Attending Sex Therapy

If this problem is occurring during casual sex, the woman could benefit from being assertive about her sexual needs and not continuing to have sex with men who are only focused on their sexual satisfaction.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I am a sex-positive therapist who helps individual adults and couples.  One of my specialties is sex therapy (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.


Are Negative Thoughts Getting in the Way of Your Sexual Pleasure?

On a recent episode of the Sex and Psychology podcast called "Change Your Mind, Change Your Sex Life" the host, Dr. Justin Lehmiller and his guest, Dr. Kelly Casperson, a urologist, talked about how to get into the right mindset to have pleasurable sex (see my articles: Are You Distracted By Negative Thoughts About Yourself During Sex?Keeping the Sexual Spark Alive and Women's Sexual Self Discovery).

Negative Thoughts Can Keep You From Enjoying Sex

Distractions Keep You From Enjoying Sex
According to Dr. Lehmiller, people are accustomed to multitasking more than ever--like listening to a podcast while you're driving or cleaning the house.  

Similarly, some people multitask in their mind.  But multitasking in your head while you're engaging in sex gets in the way of your being fully present in the moment sexually.  It keeps you distracted and affects your ability to be present with a partner or during solo sex (see my articles: Reconnecting With Your Inner World Without Distractions).

Negative Thoughts That Can Rob You of Sexual Pleasure
Similarly, your negative thoughts could be robbing you of sexual pleasure.

Here are some common examples of negative thoughts that get in the way of sexual pleasure:
  • Having Frequent Thoughts About a Negative Body Image: If, instead of being focused on your pleasure, you're focused on negative thoughts about your body, you're not in the moment.  You're feeling bad about yourself and you might also be imagining your partner doesn't like how you look. Not only does this take you out of the present moment, it takes you into a negative mindset where you're feeling bad about yourself (see my article: Is a Negative Body Image Ruining Your Sex Life? and Are You Sabotaging Yourself With Negative Self Talk?)

Negative Thoughts About Body Image

  • Dismissing Your Own Pleasure Because You Believe Sexual Pleasure is Only For Your Partner and Not For You: Thinking of sexual pleasure as being for someone else and not for you keeps you stuck in a negative mindset before you even begin to have sex.  These thoughts can be hard to detect because they often operate just outside of your awareness.  While it's good to want to please a partner, your sexual enjoyment is also important. 
  • Distracting Thoughts About Other Things You Need to Do: If you're focused on things you need to do, your mind is somewhere else instead of being focused on sexual  pleasure.  These thoughts create stress which is the opposite of being relaxed enough to enjoy sex.  The reality is that whatever time you spend enjoying sexual pleasure probably won't make that much of a difference with whatever is on your to-do list.

Negative Thoughts About Your To-Do List

  • Worrying You Don't Have Time For Sex: This is related to distracting thoughts about other things you have to do.  It's a common negative thought that gets in the way for many people.  To put this in perspective, think about how much time you spend watching TV or on social media.  According to Dr. Lehmiller, sex research reveals that heterosexual couples spend 15 minutes (on average) and lesbian couples spend about 30 minutes each time they have sex, so in the scheme of things, sexual activity doesn't usually take that long (see my article: Accessing Sexual Energy).
  • Worrying About Not Getting Spontaneously Turned On: Everyone is different when it comes to sexual arousal. Some people can get turned on by just thinking about sex.  Other people, including most women, experience responsive desire, which means they need more time to get turned on--it doesn't happen for them spontaneously the way sex is portrayed in the movies. Whether you respond spontaneously or you're more responsive, it's all normal (see my article: Spontaneous Sexual Arousal and Responsive Sexual Arousal Are Both Normal).
  • Focusing on Sexual Performance:  This type of negative thinking is similar to worrying about not experiencing spontaneous desire.  The more you can let go of thoughts about performance and goal-oriented sex, the more you can relax and enjoy yourself.  Rather than worrying about having an orgasm, reframe the way you think about sex to focus on pleasure.  Enjoy the moment rather than focusing on a goal (see my article: What is Performative Sex?).

Focusing on Sexual Performance Instead of Pleasure

  • Worrying About Sexual Frequency:  A common negative thought involves sexual frequency--having enough sex or too much sex. Comparisons to other imaginary people who are "doing it right" becomes the focus. When you compare yourself to other people, you're taking yourself out of your own sexual experience. 

Feeling Guilty and Worrying About Sex
  • Feeling Guilty That Sex is "Bad" or Wrong: Whether these thoughts are coming from your family history, religion, culture or some other source, if you believe sex is wrong, you're probably going to have a hard time enjoying it.  Maybe you don't really believe this deep down anymore, but you could have old negative "tapes" going through your mind that don't allow you to enjoy sex.  These thoughts can intrude on your experience.  If they intrude to the point where they take you out of the experience, you could benefit from seeking help from a licensed mental health professional who has an expertise in this area.
The examples listed above are some of the most common negative thoughts that keep people from enjoying sex.  There are many more.

How to Overcome Negative Thoughts About Sex
The first step in making any change is usually to become aware of the problem because when the problem is outside your awareness, you can't change it. 

So, here are some suggestions about how to change a negative mindset to a more sex-positive mindset:
  • Take Time Before You Engage in Sex to Focus on Sexual Pleasure: Instead of relying completely on a partner to get you turned on, focus your thoughts on sexual pleasure.  This could mean taking a few minutes to watch a sexy movie, read an erotic story or listen to music to get you in the mood.  It doesn't have to be more than a few minutes--just enough time to help you to transition from whatever you were doing before to what you're about to experience sexually (see my articles: Sexual Pleasure and the Erotic Self - Part 1 and Part 2).
  • Write Down Your Thoughts About Sex: Thoughts can be fleeting.  Writing helps you to become aware of and capture your thoughts (see my article: What Are Your Core Erotic Themes?).  How do you really feel about sexual pleasure? Do you feel entitled to pleasure?  
Write Down Your Thoughts About Sex

  • Write About Your Sexual Fantasies: Most people have sexual fantasies and they aren't even aware of it.  They know they have erotic thoughts, but they don't think of them as fantasies.  Writing about sexual fantasies helps you to get into a positive mindset for sexual pleasure (see my articles: Exploring Sexual Fantasies Without Guilt or Shame and The 7 Core Sexual Fantasies).
  • Become More Sensually Aware: You can experience sensual pleasure in many ways when you engage your five senses, including what you see, hear, taste, feel (tactile), and smell:
    • Taking a bubble bath to relax and get back in touch with your body
    • Smoothing on your favorite lotion after you shower 
    • Enjoying certain scents that increase your sensual pleasure, like perfume or incense 
    • Savoring a delicious meal to increase your sensual awareness
    • Listening to music that relaxes you and puts you into a sensuous or sexual mood
    • Listening to an erotic audiobook
    • Watching a sexy movie
Becoming Sensually Aware

  • Use Affirmations to Help You to Change:  It's important to think of making this type of change as a process.  It's a journey.  It's not a one-and-done event. Taking small steps often helps more than trying to change everything at once. Affirmations can help you in the change process in terms of becoming aware of the change you want to make and actually making the change.  Dr. Casperson mentioned that it's important not to get caught up in toxic positivity where you're telling yourself you have already made the change.  Not only is this unhelpful--it's also disingenuous.  For instance, it's better to say something like, "I'm working on accepting my body" instead of "I love my body" when you're really struggling to accept your body image.
  • Become Aware of Your Sexual Motivation:  Dr. Lehmiller mentioned two different types of motivation when it comes to sexual pleasure: approach motivation and avoidance motivation.  An example of approach motivation is seeking love or pleasure, and an example of avoidance motivation is having sex solely to avoid your partner becoming resentful.  Approach motivation helps you to enjoy sex.  It can also give you a dopamine hit that is pleasurable.  Avoidance motivation takes you away from pleasure (see my article: Understanding Your Sexual Motivation).
  • Identify Your Sexual Accelerators and Brakes: For many people it's easier to identify the sexual brakes (e.g., worrying about unpaid bills, incomplete tasks, etc) instead of the turn-ons, which are the sexual accelerators.  If you know what turns you off, you can often just reverse it to come up with what turns you on.  For instance, if you know that being tense is a sexual turn-off, then you can think about a relaxing activity that might help you to get turned on (see my articles: Understanding Your Sexual Accelerators and Brakes - Part 1 and Part 2).
  • Breathe as a Way to Tune into the Sexual Mind-Body Connection: Focus on your pelvis area and image you can breathe in and out through your pelvis.  Not only can this help you to relax, but it can also make you more sexually aware mentally, physically and emotionally (see my article: Learning to Relax With Square Breathing).

Negative thoughts can come at any time--before, during and after sex.  It's a common experience for many people.  

You can overcome habitual negative thinking related to sex by taking steps to become aware of your thoughts and making an effort to change these patterns.

If you have been unable to change these patterns on your own, you could benefit from working with a licensed psychotherapist who has an expertise in sex therapy.

About Me
I am a New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I am a sex-positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

What Are the Benefits of Sexual Role Play?

Sexual role play can be a great way to spice up your sex life and introduce new sexual elements you and your partner(s) have never experienced before (see my articles: The Power of Novelty to Enhance Your Sex Life and The 7 Core Sexual Fantasies).

Sexual Role Play

What is Sexual Role Play?
First, before I discuss the other benefits, let's define the term "sexual role play."

Sexual role play is when two or more consenting adults act out roles while engaging in sexual activities.  

You can take on whatever persona you want and create whatever sexual scenario--as long as it's consensual among everyone involved.

You and your partner(s) can create a role play that is simple or elaborate depending on the sexual fantasy.

Some people use masks, costumes and other props to enhance the experience.  You can also use music and include backstories for each character.  

A common role play theme is to pretend to be strangers who meet at a bar, flirt and go home together to have passionate sex.

Examples of Sexual Role Play in Films and TV Programs
There are many examples of sexual role play in TV programs and movies.  

For example, a husband and wife role play BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Sadism, Submission, Masochism) scenes in the TV program, Billions, where the wife plays the role of a dominatrix. The husband, who is a high powered attorney general in his everyday life, is the submissive who gets off on being whipped, stepped on and humiliated by his wife (see my article: What is Sexual Power Play?).

There's a wonderful scene in the movie, Wings of the Dove, which draws the viewer in immediately and is a typical sexual role play.  

Sexual Role Play

The film opens with a scene with two strangers on a train who making eye contact.  Then, without saying a word, they both mysteriously get off at the same train station--the implication being they're going home together to have hot sex--which they do.  

In the movie, 9 1/2 Weeks, an attractive, mysterious man and a woman meet at a street fair.  He initiates a sexual affair, which includes BDSM role play, where he is the dominant partner and she is the submissive.  The affair, which is sexy and exciting, lasts 9 1/2 weeks (see my article: A Cornerstone of Eroticism: Searching For Power).

What Are the Benefits of Sexual Role Play?
There are many benefits to sexual role play, including:
  • Role play can be fun, exciting and sexy.
  • Role play allows you to step outside your everyday reality so it frees you to be characters you might have fantasied about but who you don't see yourself as in your everyday life.
  • You and your partner(s) get to be adventurous when you explore sexual fantasies.
  • Role play offers an opportunity to introduce novelty into your sex life.

The Benefits of Sexual Role Play
  • When you take on the role of a character, it can remove some of the guilt and shame you might feel if you enacted these fantasies as yourself.
  • Role playing, which is agreed upon beforehand, can enhance trust.
  • Role playing allows you to be more assertive or submissive than you normally would be in your everyday life--if you're normally submissive, you can act out a role where you are assertive and if you're normally assertive, you can be submissive (see my article: Destigmatizing Sexual Fantasies of Power and Submission).
  • Sexual encounters can be more fulfilling and intimate with role play, so it often brings people closer together.

Tips For Starting a Conversation About Sexual Role Play
Start by communicating with your partner(s) with these helpful tips.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples (see my article:  What is Sex Therapy?).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Ending a Long Term Relationship

I've written about breakups in prior articles (see my articles: Should You Stay or Should You Leave Your Relationship? and When Love Doesn't Conquer All).

Ending a Long Term Relationship

Ending a relationship isn't easy, but ending a long term relationship can be especially painful for everyone involved.   You and your partner have invested in the relationship on many levels so untangling your lives is challenging.

Tips For Ending a Long Term Relationship
  • Know That It's Normal to Go Through Different Emotional Stages: Initially, you might go back and forth about whether it would be better for you to stay or go.  Your ambivalent feelings can create an emotional roller coaster for you and your partner if they're aware of your changing feelings.  Even after you've made the decision that it would be best to end the relationship, you might feel guilty and ashamed about hurting your partner and, if you have children, about the emotional impact it will have on them.  You might also feel relieved at some point and then your feelings might change to grief, anger, disbelief and so on. Know that all of this is normal (see my article: Coping With the Stages of a Breakup).
  • Be Clear With Your Partner: One of the most confusing things is when the partner who wants to end the relationship gives the other partner mixed messages.  Usually these mixed messages aren't intentional.  They often involve ambivalence, guilt, shame and a mixture of other confusing emotions.  But once you have made up your mind, consider carefully what you want to say in advance, especially if you think your partner will be surprised.  It might help to write about it so you can get clear on how you feel and what you want to say.  Once you have thought about it, talk to your partner privately in a calm manner without blaming them.  Be prepared for a negative reaction or for your partner to want to bargain with you so you don't end the relationship.  If so, be firm but compassionate.

Ending a Long Term Relationship

  • Be Clear About Boundaries: This is the area where many people make mistakes.  Think carefully about how much contact, if any, you want to have with your partner after the relationship ends.  If you have children together, in most circumstances, you'll need to be in contact about them.  But, if you've made up your mind that you no longer want to be in the relationship, the conversations about the children shouldn't be used as a way to get emotionally involved again.  If there are no children and no other reasons for being in contact, you'll need to decide how to proceed.  If you think you want to try to be friends or, at least, remain amicable, be honest with yourself about why you want to do this.  Are you trying to maintain contact to give yourself the option of going back with your soon-to-be-ex?  This would definitely be a mixed message.  Also, avoid trying to get your partner back when you feel lonely. Breaking up again will be even more hurtful for both of you.

Ending a Long Term Relationship

  • Talk to Your Children Together: If you have children together, both of you need to agree on what you want to tell them.  Speak to them together in a calm and clear way giving them an age appropriate explanation about the big change they're about to go through.  They will need reassurance that you both still love them and will be there for them.  Prepare to answer their questions and to deal with sadness and anger about how this will affect them.  Under no circumstances should either of you blame the other or try to get your children to side with you. You want to avoid the hurt and pain of creating parental alienation or split loyalty (see my articles: Talking to Your Children About the Divorce and Co-parenting After the Divorce).
  • Be Prepared to Talk to Others About the Breakup: Initially, you probably want to tell only those who are closest to you and who will be emotionally supportive.  Loved ones will be concerned about your well-being, but not everyone needs to get a long, personal explanation about the breakup.  So, for the people who need to know but who aren't close to you, have a simple statement you give where you don't delve into personal details.  If people try to pry, be polite but set a boundary with them.
  • Avoid Looking at Your Ex's Social Media After the Breakup: It might be tempting to secretly follow your ex on social media to see what they're doing and whether they're seeing someone else, but if you do this, you'll make yourself miserable.  So, avoid the temptation to look.
  • Expect to Feel Many Confusing and Contradictory Emotions: It's normal to feel grief, anger, loneliness, confusion and second thoughts about your decision.  It's normal to feel fine about your decision one moment and then get caught up in self doubt the next moment.  Grief comes in waves and can come unexpectedly at any time. Try to stay calm and not be swayed by waves of emotion.  

Ending a Long Term Relationship

  • Practice Self Compassion: During this time, you'll need to be gentle with yourself.  It can be tempting to be hard on yourself when you're going through a breakup, so practice self compassion. Take extra self care in terms of making sure you eat well, get plenty of rest and take care of yourself in other ways (see my article: Developing Self Compassion).
  • Don't Allow Your Loved Ones to Pressure You to "Just Get Over It":  We live in a culture that often has little tolerance for emotional pain.  This is especially true for people who haven't dealt with their own unresolved emotions.  Your feelings will take as long as they take for you.  Everyone's process is different.  There's no right or wrong amount of time to grieve the loss of your relationship.
  • Get Help in Therapy: Close friends and loved ones can be emotionally supportive and you might also need the help of a licensed mental health professional to deal with the emotional stages you're experiencing.  There's no shame in asking for help.  A skilled psychotherapist can help you to cope and work through unresolved emotions (see my articles: Overcoming Your Discomfort With Asking For Help and Overcoming the Heartbreak of a Breakup).

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

What is Solo Polyamory?

In recent articles, I've been discussing ethical nonmonogamy, which can also be called consensual nonmonogamy (see my articles: What is an Ethical Nonmonogamous Relationship? and What is a Unicorn in a Nonmonogamous Relationship?).

These relationships are different from monogamous relationships, relationships which are supposed to be monogamous but where there's cheating, as well as other forms of relationships. 

What is Polyamory?
Before defining solo polyamory, let's define polyamory.

What is Polyamory?

Polyamory is a form of ethical nonmonogamy/consensual nonmonogamy.

Breaking down the word polyamory: Poly is from Greek and it means many.  Amory is Latin and it means love.

It's estimated that 4-5% of relationships in the United States are polyamorous relationships.  

This estimate might be low since many people don't reveal they are in a polyamorous relationship because there's often a stigma about being in non-traditional relationships.  So, there might actually be many more people who are polyamorists.  

Polyamorists are a diverse group:  Many polyamorists identify as either bisexual or pansexual (pansexual means there is no limit in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender or gender identity).  However, there are also many heterosexual, gay, lesbiantransexual, nonbinary (nonbinary people don't identify as being a gender that is exclusively male or female) and asexual polyamorists. 

There are also polyamorists who don't believe in any of these labels.

Polyamorists usually have multiple romantic relationships at the same time.  Many people who consider themselves to be "poly," consider it to be their sexual orientation.  

Usually the individuals all know about everyone involved and have given informed consent to be polyamorous where everything is honest and above board.  So, there are usually no casual relationships with individuals who are poly.

The values which are upheld in healthy polyamorous relationships include:
  • love
  • honesty
  • integrity
  • equality
  • communication
  • commitment
Polyamorists usually have rules, including rules about practicing safe sex, time spent together, and so on.

In a healthy polyamorous relationship there is usually ongoing discussions so that everyone involved continues to give informed consent.

There might be jealousy, as there might be in any relationship, so polyamorists try to find a way to work it out through the rules they have established or they might need to renegotiate the rules.  

Many polyamorists say they experience compersion, which is feeling happy that their partners are experiencing pleasure with others.  

What is the Difference Between Polyamory and Swinging?
Individuals who are in polyamorous relationships tend to focus on developing romantic relationships.  Their relationships are usually intentional among all parties involved.

Generally, swingers aren't focused on building romantic relationships.  They don't usually develop emotional or romantic ties with their partners (although there are exceptions--just like anything else).  They often engage in sexual activities at swingers parties, resorts and other events where they swap partners (if they're in a relationship) or they might go as a single person.

To complicate matters a bit: Some polyamorists engage in swingers events and some swingers might also be in polyamorous relationships.  But swinging and polyamory are usually different, as described above.

What is Solo Polyamory?
Solo polyamory is a form of polyamory.

What is Solo Polyamory?

Generally speaking, solo polyamory means:
  • Individuals are in multiple relationships, but they lead a single lifestyle.
  • They may or may not live with one or more of their partners.
  • They may or may not share finances.
  • They may or may not have children together.
What is Solo Polyamory?

  • Solo polyamorists might describe themselves as being "single-ish," but they're not single in the traditional sense of the word because they are in relationships.
  • Individuals might choose to engage in solo polyamory after getting out of a long term serious relationship.
  • They might not follow the traditions that people in monogamous relationships follow, which would include celebrating various milestones, like getting engaged, getting married or celebrating anniversaries.  However, this is an individual choice.

What is Solo Polyamory?

  • Some individuals have non-romantic/non-sexual polyamorous relationships.
  • Some partners might have friendships or relationships with each other.
What is Solo Polyamory?

  • Some individuals engage in solo polyamorous relationships for a period of time, and then they might opt to be in a traditional monogamous relationship or some other form of relationship (it depends on the individual and their circumstances).
Common Misconceptions About Solo Polyamorists:
  • Fear of Commitment: Solo polyamorists (and polyamorists practicing other forms of polyamory) usually aren't fearful of making a commitment.  Although this might be true in some cases, this isn't the main reason for being polyamorists.  Most people in polyamorous relationships believe it's the best relationship choice for them.
  • Cheating: Solo polyamory isn't cheating.  Partners usually know about each other and solo polyamory is a consensual choice between all partners involved.
  • Lack of Emotional Intimacy: Most people who are in solo polyamorous relationships would disagree with this.  Most believe they are capable of having a loving, intimate relationship with more than one person.  Also, since good communication is required to maintain healthy polyamorous relationships, polyamorists believe this honest communication actually adds to the emotional intimacy.
Many people believe polyamory is a sexual orientation, it's who they are and it's what works best for them.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?)

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.