NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Can Hookups Be Safer and More Sexually Satisfying For Heterosexual Women?

In my last article, Sex Research: Heterosexual Women Often Find Hookups Less Sexually Satisfying Than Men, I discussed some of the reasons why heterosexual women often feel less sexual pleasure during hookups than men. 

In this article, I'm focusing on how these hookups can be safer and more sexually satisfying for women.

Can Hookups Be Safer and More Sexually Satisfying For Women?

Let's face it: Regardless of how you feel about hookups, they're here to stay--for adolescents, college students and people in their 20s and beyond. 

So, for the purpose of this article, it's not a matter of stopping hookups or casual sex--it's more a matter of how to make hookups better for women who want to hookup.

Before going on, I want to clarify why I'm focusing on heterosexual women in particular. 

Based on sex research, compared to gay men, bisexual men, bisexual women and lesbians, heterosexual women have the least sexually satisfying sex, even in committed relationships, and even less satisfying during hookups and casual sex (see my articles: Closing the Orgasm Gap - Part 1 and Closing the Orgasm Gap - Part 2).  

More about this in the second half of this article.

Can Hookups Be Safer For Heterosexual Women?
Let's start by focusing on personal safety.

Personal safety is an important issue for heterosexual women who are much more at risk during hookups.  

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted in the United States.  

This is an astounding number.  It means that 20% of women in the US are sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.  

Considering that alcohol and drugs are often a part of hooking up, you can see where safety could be an issue when both people are impaired with regard to using good judgment and practicing consensual sex (see my article: What is Sexual Consent?).

    Tips For Safer Hookups
Although any hookup can be potentially unsafe, there are steps you can take as a woman to make them safer:
  • Share Your Location With Trusted Friends: Before you meet with the person you're hooking up with, share your location so, in case of an emergency, people know where you are and how to find you. You can do this through your iPhone or using Google Maps.
  • Keep Friends Informed: Share the first and last name of the person you're hooking up with and one of their social media accounts, like Instagram. Also, keep your friends posted with your whereabouts if you leave the place where you originally told them you would be.
  • Practice Safer Sex and Carry Your Own Condoms: You can't always rely on your sex partner to have condoms, so bring your own to protect your health and theirs as well.  If your partner refuses to use a condom, don't engage in fellatio or have intercourse.
  • Know Your Partner's Sexual Health Status: Even though it's good to use condoms, condoms aren't 100% safe when it comes to sexually transmitted infections and HIV. So, it's good for both you and your partner to get tested beforehand so you know each other's sexual health status.
  • Be Aware of  Your Alcohol Consumption: Be mindful of how much you drink and what you drink. Never take a drink that wasn't given to you directly by the bartender, especially if you don't know your hookup partner well, because someone could easily slip a drug into your drunk that will impair you.
  • Don't Walk Home Alone Late at Night: Make sure you have friends who can walk you home from wherever you were hooking up with your partner, especially if it's late at night or you're in a remote area.  If your friends aren't available, have enough money or a credit card with you to take a taxi or car service home.
  • Trust Your Instincts: If you get the feeling that something is off, don't hang around just to be polite. Trust your gut and leave without feeling guilty. This is about your personal safety.
Can Hookups Be More Sexually Satisfying For Heterosexual Women?
Now that I've discussed the safety precautions, let's focus on how hookups can be more sexually satisfying for women, which is so important considering the orgasm gap.

    Tips For More Sexually Satisfying Hookups
Since women often leave hookups without experiencing an orgasm or without even feeling sexual pleasure, here are some tips:
Know What You Like Sexually and Tell Your Partner

  • Tell Your Partner What You Like: You can learn to get comfortable talking about sex with a partner by practicing. The more you're able to talk about what's pleasurable to you, the easier it can get.  Don't assume your partner knows or is even concerned about your sexual satisfaction, especially if you don't know each other well. You're entitled to sexual pleasure, so don't settle for less (see my article: Finding Your Sexual Voice).
  • Take the Time to Get Sexually Aroused: Whether you experience spontaneous desire or, if you're like most women, you experience responsive desire, take the time to get aroused by kissing, touching, clitoral stimulation or doing whatever it is that gets you turned on (assuming your partner consents to it) before you engage in oral sex or intercourse. Don't allow your partner to rush you if you're not ready.
  • Make Sure You Use Lube: Even if you're very turned on and already wet, adding lubrication can help reduce the amount of friction that can make penetrative sex unpleasant and even painful. Remember that oil-based lubricants break down latex condoms.
  • Use Sexual Fantasies to Get Yourself Turned On: Sex starts in the brain, so if you want to get turned on, think about your sexual fantasies, including your peak erotic experiences.
  • Feel Free to Use a Vibrator to Have an Orgasm: Depending upon whom you're with, your partner might have an orgasm before you do. Some partners can be more sexually generous than others, but if you're with someone who is mostly focused on their own orgasm, feel free to use a vibrator to have your orgasm. There are now so many varieties to choose from, including small bullet vibrators that are so convenient that you can carry one in your pocket.
Hookups aren't for everyone, but they're not going away any time soon.

Since heterosexual women are more at risk than men, it makes sense to take basic precautions to ensure personal safety.

In addition, since heterosexual women tend to have less satisfying sex than men, knowing what you like and being able to tell your partner can help you to have more satisfying sex.

Getting Help in Sex Therapy
If you're having a sexual problem, seek help from a licensed mental health professional who is a sex therapist.

Sex therapy is a form of talk therapy (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?).

Individual adults and people in relationships seek help in sex therapy for a variety of reasons (see my article: What Are Common Issues Discussed in Sex Therapy?).

During sex therapy, there is no nudity, physical exam or sex during therapy sessions (see my article: What Are Common Misconceptions About Sex Therapy?).

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from a skilled sex therapist so you can have a more fulfilling sex life.

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

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Sex Research: Heterosexual Women Often Find Hookups Less Sexually Satisfying Than Men

While sexual hookups can be fun and exciting, it's often a lot less sexually satisfying for heterosexual women than it is for men.

Sex Research: Women Often Find Hookups Less Satisfying

What Are Hookups?
Sex researchers have often found the definition of hookups to be elusive.

For instance, researchers at the University of Montana found so many different definitions of hookups among college students that the concept was unclear.  

They discovered the definition of hookups might be strategically unclear so that people aren't revealing too many details about their sexual encounters.

Sex Research: Women Often Find Hookups Less Satisfying

But based on their findings, the researchers came up with their own definition of hookups:  

Hookups are sexual encounters, which can involve vaginal, anal or oral sex where the two people are not in a serious or even a dating relationship. 

There are no spoken commitments and no expectations about the future--although, based on my clinical experience, this can be a problem if one or both people become emotionally attached, especially people with an anxious attachment style (see my article: How an Anxious Attachment Style Can Affect Your Sex Life - Part 1 and Part 2).

Hookups are spontaneous sexual encounters that are often fueled by alcohol. There is often no consent, no communication about sexual health and no communication about sexually transmitted infections (STIs).  

In addition, there is often no condom use during hookups, which puts both people at risk for STIs whether the sex was penetrative or oral sex (Yes! Both men and women can contract STIs from oral sex!). So, in terms of sexual health, this places both people at risk.

Sex Research Reveals That Hookups Are Unlikely to Be Satisfying For Women
According to sex research presented at the annual meeting of the International Academy of Sex Research, heterosexual women are much more likely to have an orgasm in a serious relationship with a man than during a hookup (although, in terms of orgasms, the data isn't great for heterosexual women in serious relationships, as discussed below).

Sex research performed by Kim Wallen, a professor of Endocrinology at Emory University, revealed that, despite sexual liberation, the sexual playing field isn't equal between heterosexual men and women, when it comes to sexual satisfaction during hookups.  

This research is backed up by sociologist Paula England of New York University: Women were less than half as likely to have an orgasm during intercourse or oral sex during a hookup as compared to men.  Specifically, her study revealed that only 40% of women had an orgasm during hookups.  

What is the "Orgasm Gap" Between Heterosexual Men and Women?
In general, even among heterosexual couples who are in a committed relationship, there is an orgasm discrepancy, also known as the orgasm gap or as orgasm inequality.

According to researchers from the Archives of Sexual Behavior, who assessed sex research involving 52,500 adults, 95% of heterosexual men said they had orgasms during sexual intercourse but only 65% of heterosexual women said they had orgasms.

According to Laurie Mintz of the University of Florida, who is a sex educator and a psychologist in private practice, the orgasm gap is a cultural problem--not a problem to be blamed on men or women.  

The orgasm gap has been attributed to lack of understanding, among both heterosexual men and women, about women's anatomy, including the importance of the clitoris in terms of women's sexual satisfaction.

Why Do Heterosexual Women Often Find Hookups Less Sexually Satisfying?
One reason why heterosexual women don't find hookups as satisfying as men is that women are less likely to express their sexual needs during these sexual encounters (see my article: Finding Your Sexual Voice).

In addition, according to Sean Massey, associate professor of Women, Gender and Sexuality at Binghampton University of New York, many men might be more focused on their own sexual satisfaction during hookups and less concerned about pleasing their female partner.

Can Hookups Be Safer and Sexually Satisfying For Heterosexual Women?
According to Debby Herbenick, sex educator at the Kinsey Institute, an institute that focuses on sex research, hookups can be more fun and sexually satisfying for women.  

Getting Help in Sex Therapy
Sex therapy is a form of talk therapy where there is no physical exam, nudity or sex during therapy sessions (see my article: What Are the Most Common Misconceptions About Sex Therapy?)

If you're having sexual problems as an individual or as part of a couple, you're not alone.

Many individual adults and couples seek help in sex therapy for a variety of issues (see my article: What Kind of Issues Are Discussed in Sex Therapy?).

If you're having a problem with sex, seek help from a licensed mental health professional who is a sex therapist so you can have a more fulfilling sex life.

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.

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.

Finding Your Sexual Voice

This article will focus on what it means to find your sexual voice and discuss the steps you can take to develop this part of yourself (see my articles: Tips on Sexual Self Discovery and Sexual Self Discovery With Pleasure Mapping).

This article is focused mostly on heterosexual women because they often have problems with their sexual voice.  But this article is also relevant for heterosexual men and LGBTQ folks.

Finding Your Sexual Voice

What Does It Mean to Develop Your Sexual Voice?
Finding your sexual voice includes:
What Are the Benefits to Developing Your Sexual Voice?
Developing your sexual voice to communicate your needs to a partner is usually an empowering experience if you're with the right person (see my article: What is Sexual Self Esteem?).

Many heterosexual women have difficulty expressing their sexual desires because they've been conditioned to repress these sexual expression.  They might have been raised to believe that men should take the sexual initiative and women should be passive about sex.

In addition, based on sex research, most women experience responsive sexual desire, which means that they don't necessarily feel sexually turned on until they start having sex.  So, they're often unaware of what turns them on.  One possible way to overcome this problem is to look back on previous peak erotic experiences (see my article: What is Eroticism?).

According to Dr. Emily Nagoski, sex educator, about 15% of women experience spontaneous sexual desire where they're mentally aware of desiring sex which gets them physically turned on.

Even for heterosexual women who are in touch with their sexual desires, expressing their desires can feel too emotionally risky for many of them. Shame and worry that they'll be labeled a "slut" is an issue or that male partner might feel threatened if they are sexually assertive.

So, instead of expressing their sexual desires, they focus on pleasing their partner and put their own sexual needs last.  This is often due to the fact that many women are raised to be "people pleasers" so they focus on pleasing other people, including their sexual partners, instead of focusing on their own needs.

This can be especially problematic during casual sex when a heterosexual woman's partner might also be focusing only on his own sexual needs.  Then, both the man and the woman unknowingly collude in making sex an unsatisfying experience for the woman (see my article: Closing the Orgasm Gap Between Men and Women - Part 1 and Part 2).

Another issue is that many heterosexual women expect their partner to know what they want sexually without telling them, but their partner might be completely unaware of what they want.  Or their partner might assume that, in the absence of feedback from the woman, whatever they're doing is sexually satisfying when, in fact, it might not be.  

As a result, many of these women end up feeling sad, angry and resentful that their sexual needs aren't being met.  But this doesn't have to be the case as you'll see if you keep reading.

Why Is It Difficult to Find Your Sexual Voice?
Finding and using your sexual voice can be difficult, especially for women, in a society that emphasizes many false and unhelpful messages about sex, including:
  • Sex only involves penis in vagina (PIV) for heterosexual couples
  • Hard and fast sex is the only sex that is fun
  • Sex should be performative and always ends in orgasm
  • A cultural stigma that still exists against heterosexual women being sexually empowered
Let's explore each one of these issues:

    Sex Only Involves Penis in Vagina (PIV) For Heterosexual Couples:
Penis in Vagina (PIV) is also referred to as penetrative sex. 

Many individuals and couples have a limited definition of sex, which involves only PIV for heterosexual people. This is the message received in movies and TV programs.  In addition, sex education is generally so poor in the United States that many adolescents and adults never learn anything beyond PIV sex--if they even learn about that.

While there's nothing wrong with PIV, there are many more ways to have sexual pleasure and enjoy yourself, including kissing, erotic massage, oral sex and much more.  It's all a matter of using your imagination and being able to communicate what you want so you can expand your definition of sex.

In addition, some people don't like PIV.  For many people PIV becomes too goal oriented and adds too much pressure to sex.  In fact, many heterosexual women don't orgasm from PIV.  They prefer clitoral stimulation instead--either alone or in addition to PIV (see my article: Understanding Your Sexual Script).

    Hard and Fast Sex is the Only Sex That is Fun
Once again, in addition to mostly showing PIV sex, TV programs and movies usually portray sex between two people as being hard and fast ending in simultaneous orgasm for both people.  But while hard and fast can be fun for some people at times, other people prefer slow, loving and sensuous.  They prefer to ease into sex with touching and kissing.  Or some people alternate, depending upon their mood, between with wanting hard and fast and wanting slow, loving and sensuous.  So, there's no one-size-fits all (see my article: 

In addition, hard and fast sex places a lot of pressure on a heterosexual couple.  For men, hard and sex becomes anxiety-ridden performative sex, which can create problems with erectile dysfunction.  For women, hard and fast sex isn't always sexually satisfying. They feel the pressure to appear as if they've had an orgasm.  This leads to many women faking orgasm, which is a problem in itself because their partners don't learn what these women need to feel sexually satisfied.

    Sex is Performative and Always Ends in Orgasm
There are many reasons for having sex aside from deriving sexual pleasure.  For instance, many people feel the most emotionally and intimately connected with their partner when they have sex.  

Assuming you want to have more emotionally and physically satisfying sex, it's a good idea to move away from the idea of sex as a performance, as I mentioned above (see my article: What is Performative Sex?).

This also means that sex between you and your partner might not always end with an orgasm, but this doesn't mean that the experience wasn't pleasurable.  It's a matter of expanding your sexual repertoire to discover what is pleasurable for both of you.

    A Cultural Stigma That Still Exists Against Heterosexual Women Being Sexually Empowered
Unfortunately, there's still a cultural stigma in Western society against heterosexual women being sexually empowered.  In fact, women seem to lose either way--if they're sexually assertive, they're labeled as "whores" or "sluts" and if they're passive, they're labeled as being "frigid."  So, heterosexual women get mixed messages about being sexually empowered.

In addition, many women take their social cues about from social media where women are often objectified.  This results, in turn, in women objectifying themselves.  

Heterosexual women can't change this on their own. It's up to everyone to be aware of this stigma and create a culture that embraces all women's sexuality--whether they're heterosexual, lesbians, bisexual women or trans women.

How to Learn to Voice Your Sexual Curiosity and Desires
For many people talking about sex is fraught with problems--even when they're trying to communicate their sexual desires to a loving partner in a committed relationship. 

Finding Your Sexual Voice

People, especially women, are often overcome with shame when they try to talk about sex.  Often this is because they never learned how to talk about sex and/or they don't know what they like because they've never engaged in their own sexual self exploration.

Finding Your Sexual Voice
  • Understanding Your Motivation For Sex: Your motivation for sex can vary at different times and with different people.  If you're feeling sexually turned on, you might just want to have fun.  In other words, sex doesn't have to be loving and tender--it can be lusty and exciting or it can be both--depending upon what you want.  Sex should never feel obligatory or forced on you.  
Letting Go of Goals
  • Stop Approaching Sex in a Goal-Oriented Way: Sex between you and your partner isn't always going to end in simultaneous orgasms for both of you.  It's possible that neither of you will have an orgasm at times and, rather than being disappointed, consider the other pleasurable aspects of having sex. The pressure to achieve sexual goals is often a barrier to pleasurable sex. So, instead measuring sex based on a goal, focus on sexual pleasure for you and your partner.  In addition, become aware of your own and your partner's erotic blueprint so you can have more enjoyable sex.
  • Become Aware and Attuned to Your Own Sensations: While it's important to be attuned to your partner, if you don't know what turns you on sexually, you need to take time on your own to focus on yourself.  This can mean different things to different people.  In my prior article I provide suggestions on how to discover what is sexually pleasurable for you. In addition, keeping an erotic journal can help you to become more aware and attuned.
Communicating With Your Partner
Once you're aware and attuned to your own sensations, what you like sexually, and what you're curious to explore, you can communicate with your partner.

Communicating With Your Partner

As I mentioned earlier, talking about sex can be difficult for many people.  

If you have difficulty talking about your sexual desires, you and your partner can practice talking about your sexual fantasies or, if that's too difficult, watch erotic films or porn to discover what you both might enjoy (see my article: Exploring and Normalizing Sexual Fantasies Without Guilt or Shame).

Getting Help in Sex Therapy
Many people have problems discovering their sexual voice due to a variety of unresolved issues, including sexual anxiety, a discrepancy in sexual desire between partners, a history of sexual abuse, painful sexshame and guilt and a variety of other sexual problems (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?).

Getting Help in Sex Therapy

Sex therapy is a form of talk therapy for individual adults and couples. There is no physical exam, nudity or sex during sex therapy sessions (see my article: What Are the Most Common Misconceptions About Sex Therapy?).

Instead of struggling on your own, seek help from a licensed mental health professional who is a sex therapist so you can overcome the obstacles keeping you from having pleasurable sex.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex 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, March 23, 2023

Sexual Self Discovery With Pleasure Mapping

The term "pleasure mapping" was coined by Sex Educator Kenneth Play.  

Pleasure mapping can be done on your own if you want to discover for yourself what you like sexually or it can be done with a partner (see my article: Sexual Self Discovery).

What is Pleasure Mapping For Sexual Self Discovery?
There are many individuals who have difficulty answering the question, "So, what do you like?" when they're with a sexual partner because they haven't taken the time to get to know what gives them sexual pleasure.

Sexual Self Discovery With Pleasure Mapping

Pleasure mapping is a way to discover what gets you sexually aroused without the pressure of doing this in front of a partner if you don't feel comfortable at this point and without the pressure of trying to have an orgasm (see my article: Sexual Wellness: What is Performative Sex?).

What's the Difference Between Sexual Arousal and Desire?
Sexual arousal is when your body feels turned on.  Sexual desire is when you feel mentally turned on.

People who experience spontaneous sexual desire tend to feel turned on mentally first.  They think about sex and they're turned on physically.

People who experience responsive sexual arousal often don't feel turned on at first by thinking about sex, but once they get going physically, they usually feel sexual desire mentally as well as physically.  

Pleasure mapping can be good for everyone, and it's especially good for people who tend to experience responsive desire to set the mood and get themselves physically turned on so they feel sexual desire.

A Simple Guide to Pleasure Mapping
  • Set Aside at Least 30 Minutes of Uninterrupted Private Time: In order to explore your sexual turn-ons, you need time and privacy.  
  • Set the Mood: Context is important so choose a place in you home where you'll be comfortable and you can relax. Set the atmosphere with your favorite soothing music--whether it's sultry jazz, rhythm and blues or whatever you like to put you in a sexy and seductive mood.
Sexual Self Discovery With Pleasure Mapping

  • Collect Items That Will Aid You in Your Sexual Exploration: What feels sensuous to you? Maybe you like massage oil, your favorite moisturizer, a silky cloth, feathers, leather or whatever turns you on. You'll also want to have a hand mirror, notepad and pen, and possibly your favorite fruit (grapes, strawberries or whatever you like to eat) or something else that's pleasurable to eat.
  • Dim the Lights or Light Candles: Sitting or lying down under dimmed lights or candlelight can help you to relax.
  • Breathe to RelaxSquare Breathing can be relaxing. You can also try this type of breathing: Inhale in the count of 4, hold for 4 and exhale slowly to the count of 8.  Do this several times until you feel tension melting away.
  • Mindfully Touch Yourself: Once you feel relaxed, close your eyes and place your hands on the crown of your head. Allow your hands to move very slowly down your body to sense where you feel pleasure. Go beyond exploring the erogenous zones that you're already familiar with and become aware of what feels good. You might discover certain areas of the body, aside from the ones you already know, that start to turn you on. If you prefer, you can use massage oil to slowly explore your body all over.  If you start to feel uncomfortable, remember you're doing this privately and no one needs to know. 
  • Spend Time Touching Your Erogenous Zones: If you've discovered new erogenous zones that you were unaware of before, spend extra time touching those areas gently. Remember: This is a non-performative exercise, so you're not trying to have an orgasm. You're learning what it's like to discover sexual pleasure for yourself.
  • Use Your Mirror to Explore Your Genitals: Explore your genitals and use your hand mirror to discover what you look like. Take your time to observe in a gentle and nonjudgmental way.  You're not masturbating at this point.  You're just looking. Do your genitals look different when you're sexually aroused and when you're not?  What else do you notice?
  • Take Notes: After you have explored your body with touch, massage or how ever you explored your body, take notes:
    • What felt good?
    • What felt uncomfortable?
    • What type of touch did you prefer?
    • What parts of your body turned you on?
    • Did you discover new erogenous zones? What were they?
    • What did you like about pleasure mapping?
    • What didn't you like?
    • What added to your sexual experience?
    • What would you like to try again in the future?
    • What new areas would you like to explore?
Pleasure Mapping Can Enhance Your Sexual Self Esteem

Share Your Pleasure Mapping Experience With a Sexual Partner
The advantage of doing pleasure mapping on your own is that you discover for yourself what gives you pleasure. You're not relying on a partner, who might not know what you like, to get you turned on. 

Share Your Pleasure Mapping Experience With Your Partner

Pleasure mapping on your own can be sexually empowering.  You have control over what you do, how you touch your body, what you're using to get yourself in the mood, the type of pressure you use with your touch, and so on.

Sharing what you've discovered about your sexual pleasure with a partner can provide both of you with pleasurable experiences. If you're with a romantic partner, it can also bring you closer together.

Keep an Erotic Journal
Keeping an erotic journal is a good way to help you build sexual self awareness and keep track of what is sexually pleasurable to you (see my article: Keeping an Erotic Journal For Sexual Self Discovery).

Getting Help in Sex Therapy
It's not unusual for people to feel sexually blocked for a variety of reasons.

If you're having problems sexually, you can work with a skilled sex therapist who can help you to discover and overcome whatever blocks are getting in your way (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?).

Sex therapy is a form of talk therapy.  There is no physical exam, nudity or sex during a sex therapy session (see my article: What Are the Most Common Misconceptions About Sex Therapy?).

Sex therapy sessions are for individual adults or couples (see my article: What Are the Most Common Issues Discussed in Sex Therapy?).

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from a licensed mental health professional who is a sex therapist so you can have a meaningful and pleasurable sex life.

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

Sunday, March 19, 2023

How to Stop Cheating and Repair Your Relationship

In my previous article, What Are the Telltale Signs of Serial Cheaters?, I focused on the signs that identify people who cheat over and over again.  The prior article was intended mostly for people who are in a relationship with someone who has a pattern of cheating.

The current article is intended for people who are cheating on their partners and who want to stop (see my articles: Coping With Infidelity).

What is Cheating?
Cheating, which is also known as infidelity, is a form of betrayal.  

How to Stop Cheating and Repair Your Relationship

Cheating occurs when someone in a monogamous relationship has an emotional affair and/or a sexual affair with someone else without their partner's consent.

Unfortunately, cheating is common.  Research surveys have identified approximately 1 in 5 people who admit cheating--and those are only the people who admit to cheating, so that number might actually be much higher.

The definition of cheating is highly subjective.  Two people in a relationship might have completely different ideas about what cheating would be, and people often don't find out until one of them calls the other out for cheating.  

The list below includes activities that individuals in relationships in my private practice over the years have defined as cheating (Note: All of the items on the list aren't necessarily my definition of cheating). 

This list shows how subjective the definition of cheating is for many people:
  • Watching pornography secretly without the other partner's knowledge
  • Flirting with other people
  • Maintaining a codependent relationship with an ex that interferes with the current relationship
  • Having a separate close friendship without including the other partner
  • Having an emotional affair
  • Having secret sexual fantasies that aren't revealed to the other partner
  • Sexting with other people without the other partner's knowledge or consent
  • Refusing to allow a partner to see email, texts or phone messages due to secret affairs
  • Having secret phone numbers or email accounts with the goal of having affairs
  • Having secret social media accounts with the goal of having affairs
  • Having secret bank accounts or credit cards for the purpose of affairs (also known as financial infidelity)
  • Engaging in secret cyber affairs
  • Having secret in person sexual affairs 
I'm sure you could probably come up with other forms of cheating, but these are the most common ones I hear about in my New York City private practice.

Why Do People in Relationships Cheat?
The reasons why people cheat vary from individual to individual, including: 
I discussed some of the reasons why people cheat in prior articles, and there are many more reasons:       

How to Stop Cheating on Your Partner
  • Reassess Your Behavior and Your Long Term Goals: Cheating can occur without much thought. Often it's a matter of giving into an impulse or an attraction without much reflection on how it would affect your life. By reassessing your personal and relationship goals, you can think about how cheating will affect those goals.  For instance, if one of your goals is to be an honest person who has integrity, then cheating doesn't fit in with that goal.  Or, if you want to have children with your partner, bringing a child into an unstable relationship due to your infidelity doesn't fit in with that goal.  Stop and think about the impact cheating can have on who you want to be as an individual and what you want in your relationship and in your life.
Reassess Your Behavior and Your Goals: What About Integrity?
    • Ask Yourself the following questions and consider your answers:
      • How do you feel about your partner and your relationship?
      • How do you feel about being in a monogamous relationship?
      • If you're unhappy with monogamy, are you interested in a consensual nonmonogamy and is this something you can discuss with your partner?
      • Are you so unhappy in your relationship that you want to end it. Although it can be difficult, it's better to be honest with your partner than to cheat.
  • Identify the Reasons You Cheat: There is never a good reason for cheating, but there might be conscious and unconscious factors that contribute to your infidelity, including:
    • You're avoiding problems in your relationship.
    • You're unhappy in your relationship and you're hoping your affair will end it so you don't have to be proactive about breaking up.
    • You want to punish your partner.
    • You like the excitement you feel and how you feel about yourself when you have an affair with new people.
    • You have problems with impulse control so that you get involved with people outside your relationship without much or any thought beforehand.
  • End An Affair: Whether it's an emotional, romantic or sexual affair, take steps to end the affair in a way where you make amends and have closure with your partner(s).  
    • Don't ghost them or cut them off.  
    • Talk to them about what you appreciated about them and tell them you want to focus on your relationship now.
    • Make amends if you were stringing them along with the promise of developing an exclusive relationship with them.  
    • After there is closure, which shouldn't be dragged out, end contact.  If you maintain contact, you're likely to go back to them.
  • Stop Any Other Behavior That Leads to Cheating: Whether it's flirting, sexting or any other behavior you have identified as leading to infidelity, stop engaging in that behavior.  
  • If You Have Decided to Remain With Your Partner (assuming your partner wants to remain with you): 
    • Take steps to repair the hurt and pain you caused to your partner by asking your partner what they need from you to heal.  This might involve a period of time when your partner needs to be on their own (without you) to think about what they want to do.  Respect that.  
    • Make a commitment to be transparent with your partner, which includes allowing your partner to have full access to your phone, computer and other technology.
    • Know that it will take a long time, if ever, to fully regain your partner's trust.
    • Get into individual therapy to help you during this challenging time and also to understand and overcome underlying reasons for your infidelity. This can help you to make lasting changes so you don't cheat again. 
    • Get into couples therapy with your partner to work on repairing the relationship.
  • If You Have Decided to Leave Your PartnerIf you realize that part of the reason for your infidelity was that you weren't admitting to yourself or your partner that you're unhappy with the relationship and you want to leave:
    • Communicate empathetically with your partner face-to-face (no email, no texts or voicemail).
    • Take responsibility for your part in the deterioration of the relationship.
    • Be emotionally attuned to your partner and be willing to listen to their expressions of hurt and pain (this is part of your taking responsibility).
    • Consider couples therapy to end the relationship amicably, especially if you have children.

Get Help From a Licensed Mental Health Professional
As mentioned above, there are often conscious and unconscious reasons why people cheat. 

If you've been unable to stop cheating or you stopped and you don't want to backslide, get professional help.

Get Help in Therapy

You could benefit from working in individual therapy with a skilled psychotherapist who has experience in helping people who want to stop cheating.

You and your partner can also benefit from attending couples therapy to repair your relationship and rebuild trust or to end the relationship amicably.

Instead of remaining stuck, get help so you can live a more meaningful life with a sense of integrity.

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

I work with individual adults and couples and I have helped many clients to overcome problems with cheating.

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.