Relationships can shift and change throughout your life – some will grow and others will wilt; some will change in a positive way, others not so much… But all relationship experiences are important and diverse, enabling you to learn about yourself and others.

You, Your Partner, and… Porn?

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Hello again everyone! Since my last post was a bit of a sad one, I decided to do something a little less sad and a little more strange for my last post. It’s a topic I find very interesting: pornography and relationships.

It’s hard to traverse the internet without seeing ridiculous porn popup ads telling you to find Hot Singles In Your Area, and a simple Google search (or Bing search) will lead you directly to any kind of porn you can imagine. With pornography so readily available, has viewing it changed the ways our brains work? What kind of impact does it have our intimate relationships? How do you know if you’re watching too much porn?

First off, let’s start with what porn actually is.

Dictionary.com gives a simple explanation of what porn is:

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Across the world, many couples are trying to deal with pornography in their relationships. Some people try to completely avoid it, some say it enhances their relationship, and some don’t agree at all on whether or not they or their partner should use porn.

Some people view porn as completely recreational: a solo activity that is done outside the relationship and has not impact on their feelings for their partner. Their partner however, may sing a different tune. If you’re one of the people that views porn as recreational endeavor, Kevin Skinner from Psychology Today suggests that you consider the following:

  • Are there circumstances where viewing pornography triggers your partner?
  • How does viewing pornography influence day-to-day emotions and how does it affect your approach to relationships?
  • When does watching porn ruin a relationship?

Skinner also notes that women who find out that their partner is viewing pornography experience large amounts of fear and anxiety. Seventy-five percent of women report feeling intense fear; 80% feel anxious when seeing sexually suggestive images since discovering their partner’s behavior; 62% feel out of place in social settings; and 84% feel emotionally on edge after discovering their partner’s porn habits.

According to Time, however, in study conducted by Cosmopolitan 68.3% of women aren’t bothered by their partner’s erotic pastimes (although, in my opinion, this is statistic is due to the fact that those who read Cosmopolitan – a magazine that features sex tips – are not as affect as the general population).

So why does porn elicit such a strong response in some people but not in others?

Melissa Orlov talks about why women find porn to be damaging to relationships. The top two reasons she reports are:

Porn is impersonal: It crosses the monogomous relationship boundaries that may be set up with their spouse or partner. Sex has become something that is not just about two people, but also an added other. Many women feel that it’s a kind of infidelity and feel cheated on.

Porn is revolting to many women: That’s not to say the women don’t watch porn at all. In fact, when it comes to porn 21.3% of women prefer same-sex porn. But a large amount of porn is catered to men and degrades and objectifies women, which understandably makes women feel some sort of way (and not it’s not at all positive) about their partners watching porn.

And on that subject, the way porn degrades and objectifies women can lead to what’s called centerfold syndrome in men. Centerfold syndrome is a result of the socialization of men in our society. Men are raised to be in control of their emotions – limited expression of empathy, caring, connection thought emotion – which results in a lack of emotional development in many men. When men view pornography (typically when they are maturing but also into adult life), they associate sex with feelings of lust and turn to objectifying women. Centerfold syndrome is a dysfunctional mess of attitudes and behaviors that include:

  • Voyeurism
  • Objectification of women
  • Sex for masculinity validation (feeling manly and strong in relation to sexual power)
  • Trophyism
  • Fear of intimacy

For some lucky couples, however, pornography use in their relationship doesn’t give way to centerfold syndrome or feelings of fear and anxiety. How do they do it?

The answer is surprisingly simple: they talk about it!

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“Being honest about pornography use with a partner indicates that the person is comfortable with their own sexuality and the things that sexuality titillate, stimulate, arouse, and turn-on their excitation,” said Dr. Fran Walfish. She says that being honest and open holds people together. Keeping porn use a secret can lead to feelings of betrayal and suspicion and put distance between partners.

In a study published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, honesty and mutual porn use between partners, as well as honesty and mutual use as predictors of relationship satisfaction in heterosexual couples was investigated. Three hundred and forty women whose partners used porn took the Pornography Distress Scale and Couples Satisfaction Index. Distress in the study was defined as the “presences of disturbing perceptions associated with pornography, such as the belief that pornography use is a form of infidelity.”

The findings revealed that women whose partners were honesty about porn use had higher levels of relationship satisfaction and lower levels of distress. Pornography use that was mutual was also associated with lower distress, but not higher relationship satisfaction.

Walfish says that couples who watch porn together (with a mutual agreement on what’s appropriate and acceptable porn, of course) are likely to have flourishing relationships because of the communication. Porn for these couples can be an excited form of foreplay and can lead to a sense of adventure in explore new ideas and scenarios.

I bet your asking yourself, ‘but if porn doesn’t work in a person’s relationship like the examples above, why do people keep watching it? Shouldn’t it be easy to stop and repair the relationship?”

Well, you could say porn like an addiction.

Nobullying.com lists the symptoms and signs of porn addiction and how to seek help. The first symptom, of course, is the inability to stop using porn despite multiple attempts to quit.

For the last several years, addiction to pornography has been studied to determine if there is an actual reaction in the brain that is similar to drug addiction when people view porn. Sites like Your Brain on Porn, and Fight the New Drug promote the theory that porn is addictive.

recent study by German researchers found that watching a lot of porn during the course of a week correlated with reduction of grey matter in the brain that involved the reward and decision-making centers. This means that there are fewer nerve connections, which lead to desensitization – a numbed pleasure response. Essentially, watching porn all the live-long day wears out your reward system.

Research by Valerie Voon supports this study in the documentary Porn on The Brain. Her research shows that the brains of habitual porn users are similar to the brains of alcoholics. This is because the same pleasure pathways and reward centers are what light up when an alcoholic sees a picture of a drink.

Is there hope for those struggling with porn addiction? You bet there is!

Because of the rising issue with porn addiction, there are multiple ways people can seek treatment. Some of the most popular ones are group-based therapies that follow a similar 12 step model of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Other groups like SexualControl.com, which admittedly sounds like a BDSM website is in fact a site that has educational videos and a 48 chapter self-help book for porn and masturbation addiction. There is also a portion for how to talk to a partner that is addicted to porn and sex.

Additionally, LifeStar is a group based in Salt Lake City, Utah that implements and out-patient therapy for porn addiction and uses Christian-based beliefs in their model.

If you or someone you know are in need of help and none of these specific programs float your boat, look into local addiction programs in your area.

The issue of pornography is a little convoluted – some relationships benefit, some suffer; some people even become addicted to porn. It’s very very VERY important to be open and honest with your partner about porn use, whether it’s your hobby or theirs, so that you can both have a happy and healthy relationship. You may find that it works for you both, or that it doesn’t work, or that you disagree. In any situation, be sure to discuss your feelings without blame or anger. If you feel that you can’t come to a conclusion, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to seek the help of a couple’s therapist to help you work out your problems.

So go forth into your relationship and explore your options!

Stay safe everyone.

 

See you later!
~Alexa~

The Thirst is Real

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Welcome back to Relationshifts for the second and final installment of my vampire series.  The first post of this two-part adventure, The Fun Suckers, was about identifying and dealing with emotional vampires.  Emotional vampires seemed like a funny but frustrating subject that many people could relate to.  This post, however, is going to look at a far more peculiar side of the vampire world.  For my final post I’m going to talk about real vampires.

You must be thinking, “Pffft, real vampires…..vampires don’t exists outside of books and movies…right?”  Sadly, no…there are entire communities that identify themselves as truly being vampires and regularly practice different rituals such as blood letting and drinking.

These people that claim themselves to be real vampires may look like any other person you might see on the street, but the one thing that sets them apart from the rest is their need to ingest blood.  Many believe that there is a biological need for them to ingest blood or “energy” otherwise they will become both physically and emotionally compromised.  Blood ingesting is often referred to as “feeding” and is an activity between the vampire and their donors.  In an article by John Edgar Browning, a postdoctoral fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology, it is explained that all feeding activities must be done ethically through an agreement between the vampire and donor.  Each party must sign a document listed as the Donor Bill of Rights, a contract between the vampire and donor to uphold safety and well-being both physically and socially.

It’s, in a way, comforting to know that modern vampires are taking the steps to be ethical, but how does psychology relate to this?  There has been some research done over the years about some different reasons as to why these people may feel the need to ingest blood.  A lingering ‘diagnosis’ for these behaviors is known as Renfield’s syndrome or clinical vampirism.  Although its not listed in the DSM-5 or any medical reference as an actual disorder there were a number of articles that I read on this subject.  Clinical vampirism is a condition where people, generally males, have the want/need to taste or see blood.  It can manifest at a young age but usually comes about during the years of puberty and intensifies through three stages: autovampirism, zoophagia, and vampirism.

Autovampirism:  Consuming one’s own blood

Zoophagia:  consuming of blood from living creatures like bugs, dogs, deer, cats, and other animals

Vampirism:  drinking the blood of another person

It is thought that Renfield’s syndrome it is the result of a traumatic event in a young person’s life where they either tasted or saw blood.  It commonly becomes an obsession around puberty because blood becomes associated with sexual feelings and activity.  Another reason why this syndrome isn’t listed as it’s own disorder is because this obsession frequently occurs with schizophrenic symptoms.

A famous criminal case that popularized clinical vampirism took place in 1970’s.  Richard Trenton Chase, also known as “The Vampire Killer of Sacramento,” was a mentally ill man that was in and out of mental hospitals his entire life.  Chase had told many doctors that his pulmonary artery had been stolen, his heart would stop beating, and he claimed that his blood was turning to powder.  He was given the name ‘vampire killer’ because he murdered his victims, drank their blood, and consumed some of their flesh because he believed it was necessary for him to survive.  This is obviously am extreme case of this supposed Renfield’s syndrome, but it’s what one of the cornerstone cases that made people fear vampirism.

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Now, my intention in writing this is not to make the reader think that all people that practice vampirism are schizophrenic or necessarily have anything wrong with them. People that identify themselves as vampires say that they were born that way.  For them it’s not a matter of choice.  In fact, people that still identify as being vampires live lives with families, friends and jobs like a typical person except they have the urge to feed.  Many relationships between vampires and their donors are, in fact, romantically intimate which has lead vampirism to be listed as a type of paraphilia.

Vampirism as a paraphilia is mostly categorized as a sadistic practice if pain is involved, however, it doesn’t always have to involve pain.  Vampirism in the form of a paraphilia means that those that ingest the blood get sexual arousal from blood extraction.  This relationship is given more of a romantic twist as a vampire’s partner is known as a ‘swan.’  Swan is a fancy word for a donor and they enjoy giving their blood to their vampires.

From what I have read from a couple well known swans, they share the same story as their vampires, they were born to be donors.  Swans don’t just choose one day that they want to give their energy, but it’s a deep ache inside of them that needs to be released through feedings.  Just like there’s different types of vampires, there are also different types of swans.  Sanguine swans offer their blood, psi (short for psychic) offer their physical energy, and an amber swan is one that offers both.  David Moye has an interesting Huffington Post article about a couple that practices vampirism, so if you interested in that you can click here.

The important thing to understand is that these activities are between two consenting adults are not related to any specific disorder.  There seems to be a parallel between romantic vampirism and BDSM relationships in the sense that there is someone that takes and receives.  The analogy would go vampire:sadist :: swan:masochist.  In his book, Vampires Today: The Truth About Modern Vampirism, Dr. Joseph Laycock says that some vampires find their donors through special interest, subculture conventions like Dark Shadows.  Dark Shadows is a convention highlighting vampires, gothic culture, horror, occult, and BDSM interest and identities.  This is just one of many conventions the people may use to find other vampires and swans.

Modern vampirism isn’t something to be afraid of.  It’s a part of these people’s identities and is practiced safely between the partners involved.  Think of it as a twist any romance story…but it involves blood…I hope you enjoyed this last post and continue exploring interesting topics!

Signing off,

Brooke

Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open….. Legs?

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Jada Smith replied to Huff Post Live: “I’ve always told Will, ‘You can do whatever you want as long as you can look at yourself in the mirror and be OK. Because at the end of the day, Will is his own man,” she said. “It comes from respecting that you are in a partnership and that also you are an individual as well.”

Last time we talked about compatibility as different styles of love from John Lee’s, The Color of Love. Now ladies and gents, I want to discuss different types of love such as polyamory and open relationships. I want to start by defining these terms to lessen the confusion, because the terms are similar.

  • Polyamory– “the state or practice of having more than one open romantic relationship at a time” (Merriam-Webster).
  • Open Relationship– “a marriage or relationship in which both partners agree that each may have sexual relations with others” (Google).

In other terms, polyamory is when a person is in several relationships at one time. Don’t misconstrue the fact that these are relationships cannot be committed relationships. Dr. Gina Barreca described in Psychology Today that commitment is defined by the individual. The general consensus she noticed in her sessions was that it was about giving your word to be with that person. This term of commitment can apply to polyamorous relationships as well, just within each relationship that person has.

Although I may not have my own personal experience with polyamory, one of my best friends does. One summer, I messaged her to see how everything was going after she moved back home. I asked about her love life and replied happily that they all were going well. She said she was dating a lovely, young married couple while she was dating a man and a women. She had 3 separate relationships and couldn’t be happier.

This may sound shocking to some, but she was perfectly content with her love life. In fact, polyamory may be more popular than you think! According to psychologist Meg Manthos, who has specialized training for non-traditional relationships, about 30% of her clients were part of a polyamorous relationship. I’m not saying polyamory is a good option for everyone or is a way to “fix” a relationship. Jealousy is a terrible green monster that can destroy relationships, but polyamorous people have a different outlook. Stephanie Pappas describes in livescience that polyamorous people have a concept called “compersion.” This term means that a polyamorous person feels joy when their partner finds new love. This doesn’t mean that polyamorous people don’t feel jealousy from time to time, but when they are jealous, it’s discussed.

My advice is talking to your partner about bringing more people into your relationship. Communication is important for any relationship and must be established early. These relationships require a lot of communication and deep honesty. I suggest creating strong communication and then try something new. Don’t do it to “fix” your relationship, because more than likely it will only make things more complicated. If you need to spice up your love life, there are other ways to do so here. Polyamory is a life choice and these individuals see relationships and jealousy differently.

Jealousy can be a hard emotion to combat, but Angi Becker Stevens says, in Huffington Post, that some polyamorous people do this by having a primary. A primary is a designated partner who is their central relationship, such as the married couple my friend dated. The primary is usually the person they live with and can help combat jealousy by being a stable support system. This is helpful when someone gets broken up with for example. They have a shoulder to cry on and feel less rejected when they lean on their primary.

Now that you have an idea of polyamory, let’s move on to open relationships. This is similar to polyamory except as a couple you will decide to have sex outside the relationship. Unlike polyamory, you don’t have more than one partner. People in open relationships only have sex with the other people, no strings attached.

According to a national study done in 2015, about 4% of the US population are in open relationships. That’s about 12.8 million people, which includes celebrity couples such as P!nk and Carey Hart. The point is, it’s not weird or forbidden. People can have successful relationships outside society’s norms.

Okcupid, a popular dating app, includes the option to pick what type of relationship you are looking for. This may be helpful for those of you who are looking for a different type of relationship, but just are not sure how to bring it up. This could be a good resource to start your relationship or to see if it’s right for you.

I know on paper this sounds simple, but there are cons to any situation. Polyamory and open relationships may be different, but the cons are fairly similar. Sierra Black wrote a post called The 5 Worst Things about an Open RelationshipShe talks about how hard scheduling can be when you have several partners and how it seems everyone has a birthday coming up. There is also “spillover” into relationships. Meaning, when one thing goes wrong, everything seems to go wrong. To have several partners it takes a lot of emotional stability as well as confidence in yourself. People in open relationships as well as polyamorous relationships need to be able to multitask and organize their life fairly well. The hardest part is loss and jealousy when someone is broken up with, which I talked about above.

Another aspect to consider is safe sex. Anytime you have more than one sexual partner there is a higher risk of STDs. My blogmate Geoff discussed this in his post about swinging as well. It’s crucial for each person to have regular screenings and make sure you use protection such as condoms and dental dams.

Any relationship is difficult and love is hard work. Some people work differently than we do and there’s nothing wrong with that. If polyamory or an open relationship is something you want, then you need to talk to your partner early on. Trying to convince someone to change their values of a relationship is unlikely to work. If someone is uncomfortable then it’s not for them and that’s okay. So don’t stay with someone who doesn’t want the same things as you and don’t try to force someone to try it. These relationships depend on honesty and stable communication that needs to be started before the relationship starts. Establish a healthy communication first, then try something new. Compatibility of lifestyles is important for a long term relationship to work.

Here are some links if you do want to talk to your partner about an open/polyamorous relationship:
Our America with Lisa Ling
Polyamorous Person with Monogamist Partner
Dos and Don’ts of Non-Monogamy 
7 Ways to have an Open Relationship

If you want some more reading of polyamorous terms:
Glossary of Polyamory

Hope this helped!

-Elena

Swinging that doesn’t happen at a park

Well, last time I talked about some issues with complacency in a relationship, and even mentioned a couple of ways couples can avoid having a complacent marriage. I hope that may have opened up some eyes.  However if it open them up wide enough to look into this next topic proceed with caution these swingers play on a serous playground.

So let’s get on to the swinging, and I don’t mean that tire hanging from a tree in the back yard!

So to clarify what I am actually talking about, swingers, is a slang term that refers to couples who swap sexual partners.  Swingers are the people, swinging is the event, and there are really only two ways to swing .  In her Psychology today article Temma Ehrenfeld says that it’s either a “soft swap” or a “full swap”. what constitutes a  soft swap can be literally anything from flirting to oral sex ( if you’re familiar with baseball references that is going from being on deck to 3rd base). Full swap only happen when the couples have intercourse ( hit that home run).

Temma Ehrenfeld also sheds some light on how swingers aren’t the same as “poly-amorous” couples. poly-amorous couples have more than one relationship at a time, with possibility of more than just sexual relationships developing ( if this interest you look get ready for Elaina’s next post). Swingers prefer to do their activities as a couple and focus primarily on the fun short-term aspects.

(Now in my past posts I have had a good bit of personal experience, so I think that it’s only fair that I get this out early so no one gets too antsy for details. Since I started my relationship with my wife (who incidentally has a birthday today) the closest I have gotten to sleeping with another woman is when she had made drastic changes in her hairstyle.)

So how common is Swinging?

well as rusty as it might what we consider swinging, dates back to the early 1940s.  The next time you watch Pearl Harbor think about this.  Society for Human Sexuality (SHS) has  tracked the roots of swinging to a group of wealthy air force pilots moved into a tight-knit community where because of the high risk and higher than average mortality rate non-monogamy between the wives and other pilots became acceptable. After the Korean war these groups started moving away from the bases, and out to the suburbs.In 1957 the media caught wind of the activity and dubbed it ” Wife-swapping”. By the early 60’s magazines started popping up that allowed couples to advertise ( sending out the invites to the good old key parties). In the late 60’s the first brick and motor clubs started popping up that allowed couples to meet others with the same intentions. the swinging community continued to grow through the 70s and in  1975 the North American Swing Club Association (NASCA) (yes, there is an association) was formed with the idea that it would be a trade and standards organization for swing club owners.

As society becomes more tolerant of differences, swinging becomes one of those activities that becomes less ostracized. through the latter half of the 20th century it was estimated that percentage of couples in the U.S. that participated in swinging ranged from .5% to 2%.  But the activity has increased since the turn of the century.  Ask the loveologist claimed that, in 2010, 5% of couples in the U.S. participate in some type of swap, while at the same time the NASCA claimed that the number was much higher and closer to 15%.

the ABC documentary, Swingers: inside the secret world of provocative parties and couples who “swap” links the trend of later in life marriages with swinging. Since couples are waiting unit their late 20s and even 30s to marry they bring with them habits acquired over years of dating. It makes sense that if someone is promiscuous and does not hold a high value on sex, when they meet a lifelong companion it might be hard to just bed down with one person.

Is it good, bad, or does it go back and forth?

The Good

When I decided to push this topic ( get it swings, push) I figured that I would find scores of information on how regardless of whether you were trying it to save a marriage or spice one up, it would be like playing Russian roulette with a relationship. WOW! Was I wrong.

It wasn’t until I read an article by relationship specialist Dr. Seth Meyers  who stresses how important flexibility is to happiness and mental health. He said swingers are just more flexible towards sex than their monogamous counterparts (I would offer that being physically flexible would be a benefit also).

In a report from the National Counsel on Family Relations (NCFR) researchers swinging actually strengthens relationships. this is in part because couples the couples know that they are having extramarital sexual encounters and are able to talk openly about the experiences. Why Swing addresses some of other advantages to a swinging relationship like being able to shed sexual inhibitions.

The Bad.

I wrote a few weeks ago about complacency, and even thought swinging might seem like a great way to combat boredom and complacency it does have some risks.

First, hopefully most oblivious and to me most important is the threat of sexually transmitted diseases or infections (STD, STI). An article by Sam Savage claims that swingers are at higher risk of contracting STI than prostitutes. His found that in the Netherlands the rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea among prostitutes was around 5% while much higher at around 10% among swingers.

another big issue that faces swingers is jealousy. I like to think that is pretty obvious that if your spouse is going  to fornicate with a person other than you jealousy might come into play.

If you think that is not the case, i wish you best of luck, but would still recommend checking out some information by marriage expert Sheri Stritoff.  She might give you a heads up on whether jealousy is something you can handle. she also has a great list of, the consequences of jealousy.

here are a few more links to get ahead of the Big J.

Dealing with Jealousy When Swinging

How to Swing Without Jealousy

Let me be the first to say, Avoiding activities that may make your partner jealous might be a good place to start.

Of course, in order for swinging to work both parties  need to a similar mindset. An article in the New York Post Inside the strange, jealous world of a married swinger couple, emphasizes the importance of guidelines and per-established rules and boundaries. Rules like where the swapping can happen, and with who. also physical boundaries like reserving specific acts for each other only.

So if you are thinking this might be for you I recommend doing so due diligence.

Get Tested for STDs Know that swinging requires both parties in a couple to participate. If you are swinging and your spouse isn’t, really you’re just cheating.

Practice safe sex. dental dam, condoms, birth control. (If i were doing in I would look like I was from the CDC)

Communicate with your partner ahead of time.

Figuring out later that this was a group think idea prob isn’t the best route.

Be comfortable and if your not STOP.

And remember if you think something might go wrong it will. If there is any doubt i would recommend veering away from swinging.

Through all the reading I have done two things seem to transcend all the articles.  Successful swinging usually starts early on in a relationship. Even though there are middle age swingers (even older than that too, we. have to thank someone for the good old key parties) very few relationships pick up swinging after years of happiness and togetherness. Second is that swinging cannot fix broken marriages I like to say that you cannot pick up swinging in the middle of a marriage, but you can pick it up at the end of one.

I have a little video of swingers that may help you understand

Part 1: The Fun Suckers

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Halloween is upon us boys and ghouls and this week I have a special treat for you.  We are going to explore the world of vampires and how this centuries old creature exist today in 2015.

When I was explaining to my fellow classmates about wanting to write about vampiric lifestyles I got some weird looks, but that gave me more of a reason to shed some light on this oddity of a topic.  Most of my findings throughout the years have been mostly anecdotal and have conflicting opinions on what truly makes someone a vampire; however, I would like to apply some of my understandings of psychology to some popular practices and understandings of modern vampiric relationships.

Throughout most of my research, I have come across two main types of vampires: psychic (emotional) and physical (blood ingesting.)

Psychic vampires are those that possess the ability to absorb positive or negative energies (feelings) from their victims.  It is said that people around psychic vampires that feed off positive energies often report feelings of fatigue, anxiety, guilt, depression, and irritability.  On the flip side, there are psychic vampires that use their abilities to take away negative feelings, in turn, making their victims feeling more positive and energetic.  More “experienced” psychic vamps are supposed to be able to take and create positive and negative energies that they can send to and receive from their source.

While many psychic vampires relate their abilities to a form of spiritualism, we can still apply psychology to this phenomenon!

Another word that has been used to refer to psychic vampires is empath.  An empath is someone that has a highly developed sense of empathy.  Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  In psychology, empathy is considered a feeling that people develop in order to manifest pro-social or helping behaviors.  It is believed that if someone is able to “put themselves in another person’s shoes,” that they will be more willing to help others in need.  A study by Tibi-Elhanany and Shamay-Tsoory, found a connection between people with high social anxiety and higher levels of empathy.  While other studies have expressed that anxiety generally creates egocentrism, Tibi-Elhanany and Shamay-Tsoory’s study has shown that those with social anxiety may be hyper-sensitive to others feelings.  The results showed that high socially anxious people have elevated empathetic tendencies and high accuracy in assessing others feelings.  Pretty cool~

Other aspects of psychology that can relate to these type of emotional vampires are hyper-empathy and DSM-5 recognized personality disorders.  Hyper-empathy is a condition when a person has the sensation of actually feeling what they see happening to another person or even animals.  Hyper-empathy is a rare type of synesthesia that is experienced by those that have different empathy rooted disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.  It is a neurological condition when a synaesthete’s mirror system is over activated and their mind creates the physical sensation that they are seeing.

RELATED: I Feel Other People’s Pain

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The other idea of people being able to suck your emotional tank dry are the positive sucking “emotional vampires.”  Often times emotional vampires are depressed themselves or have other emotional/psychological parts that don’t function correctly.  Because they’re unable to regulate themselves properly on they’re own, they seek out “host” to feed off of.  It sounds strange put in these terms, but these problems can be linked to a very common problem known as poor boundary setting.

Boundary setting is often learned throughout a person’s life starting with parent attachment.  Often times, children that are in emotionally and/or physically abusive households can develop a variety of emotional problems that lead into their adult life.  Here are some attachment styles and adult characteristics…

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Boundary setting is about creating a healthy, mutual relationship between two people in both friendships and romantic partnerships.  People with poor boundary setting usually have major relationship difficulties because of low self-esteem and self-worth.  Individuals with low self-esteem often possess irrational thoughts, emotions, and actions that lead them to want to be needed or dependent on friends or partners.  Relating this to our vampire analogy, emotionally dependent people are the vampires and emotionally needed people are their host.  These relationships are cyclic in nature as the host lets the vampire suck them so emotionally dry that they shut themselves off from the person with rigid boundaries which later leads to guilt and the host becoming passive again.  The ironic thing about this is that I am personally learning this skill right now.  This is a diagram that my counselor gave to me and it’s helped me a lot in understanding how my passive, aggressive, and guilty behaviors have been cycling.  I would define myself as an emotional host.

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The goal with boundaries is learning to accept yourself as a person and assertively telling your vampires where the healthy line is.  If they can’t acknowledge your personal boundaries then it’s best to leave them in the emotional graveyard.  Many times vampires and host are attracted to each other because the partner has the traits that they desire, but it can also be a learning experience for the both of you.  If you would like to talk/learn more about boundary setting, leave me comment~

One last article that I want to talk about in this post is by Judith Orloff in Psychology Today called Who’s the Emotional Vampire in Your Life? has a great break down five types of emotionally exhausting people.

  1.  The Narcissist

These people are all about “me.”  They are extremely self-centered and want constant attention.  They have a lack of empathy (unfortunately) and are very hard to keep relationships with.  Narcissistic personality disorder is an actual diagnosis listed in the DSM-5, so loving yourself too much can actually be a problem.

2.  The Victim

These people want you to feel bad for them all the time.  Everything’s wrong and there’s nothing they can do about it…..

3.  The Controller

They tell you how to feel and constantly invalidate your emotions.  They need to learn how to chill out and listen to others.

4.  The Constant Talker

If you have someone that comes up to you all you can think is “please stop talking” then you know a constant talker…

5.  Drama Queen

Everything is blown out of proportion all the time and it’s just unfair.  Drama queens can make the smallest problems seem huge and it’s annoying.

The frustrating side of this is that most emotional vampires don’t realize what they’re doing.  I’m sure that all of us have encountered an emotional vampire at least once in our life whether they are a self-proclaimed psychic vampire or the bothersome co-worker that sits a cubicle away.  I hope you enjoyed part I of my vampire themed blog post and stay tuned for part II when I talk about the blood thirsty side of our vampire adventures.

I’ll get you next time my pretties

~Brooke~

The Name’s Bond, Love Bond

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We’ve talked about the two types of attraction, physical and emotional. In my past post about emotional attraction, I talked about personality types and how your brain chemistry can affect whether you pick someone similar to you or your opposite. This post is more about love bonds being formed and compatibility with different love types/love languages. Attraction can sometimes create a love bond that leads to a committed relationship. Dr. Rachel Needle said in The Psychology behind Love and Romance, falling in love is a powerful connection that stimulates your pleasure center. This makes your brain release chemicals such as oxytocin, phenylethylamine, and dopamine. Your love bond is more than a martini (shaken, not stirred), these chemicals make us act like we’re on amphetamines by making us excited.

We fall in love by creating connections in our hearts as well as our minds. These connections make love bonds and there many different types of love. Robert Sternberg created a theory of love involving three components: intimacy, passion, and commitment. Intimacy is the connection we feel towards our partner. Passion is what drives towards physical attraction and sex. Commitment is the long term bond we share with our partner. The 3 components make several types of love depending on what values you and your partner have. The ideal type of love (the type we see in movies) is consummate love, which has all 3 components.

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Not to say that one type of love is correct or bad, just different. Also commitment is defined by each couple individually, so whatever you both decide should be best for your unique relationship. Personally, I believe I have a companionate love relationship currently. We are very committed to each other and plan for events in the future. We also feel a deep connection of intimacy towards each other. Whatever stage you’re in, doesn’t mean that your relationship won’t fluctuate or change into consummate love. Also, any type of love is still love, so don’t be discouraged by this theory if you don’t fit what the movies show as “true love.”

A theory of compatibility is John Lee’s The Colors of Love, which develops a metaphor of love compared to the color wheel. Compatibility comes in many forms, but if we do not share the same idea of what love type we have with our partner things may get messy. The primary colors of love are Eros, Ludos, and Storge.

  • Eros – Loving an Ideal Person (The Rom Com such as The Princess Bride)
  • Ludos – Love as a game (Lots of partners like The Wedding Crashers)
  • Storge – Love as a friend (Loving your bestie like 13 going on 30) This also happens to be the longest lasting relationship found in studies.

An example of what I mean by ‘messy,’ is let’s say a women believes she and her partner have an Eros relationship. Meanwhile, the partner believes in having a Ludos relationship. The women would be upset to find out that her partner has several other partners. This is why compatibility of love types is important. If two people don’t share the same values of love, feelings could get hurt. I would suggest always talking to your partner about what you both want from the relationship.

This theory also explains that we can “mix” the primary colors of love to make complementary colors.

  • Eros + Ludos = Mania or Obsessive Love (*Cough Misery *Cough, but maybe not to that extent)
  • Ludos + Storge = Pragma or Realistic/Practical Love (Arranged marriages would be an example)
  • Eros + Storge = Agape or Selfless Love (Something pure like the ending in Pride and Prejudice)

This link has a video that explains the color wheel with some great examples of each love type.

Speaking of love types! Dr. Chapman talks about the 5 languages of love on how to show your partner love, because everyone values different things.  A love language is a specific form of love that a person values the most and feels the most loved. When a partner receives their love language, their ’emotional tank’ will be filled which creates more compatibility and connection.

An ’emotional tank’ is a figurative construct to explain the different levels of satisfaction a person feels in a relationship. The ’emotional tank’ is an important part of The 5 Love Languages because it is a way to measure how the other person is feeling. Certain love languages don’t work well together and one partner may not be fulfilled, while the other is satisfied. This is important in a relationship to be able to gauge how the other person is feeling and know if you are doing a good job as a partner. The fastest way to fill your partners’ an ’emotional tank’ is to speak their love language. This also helps to show your partner affection that they will respond to the best, making you more compatible!

For example…..

The first love language is ‘words of affirmation,’ which are words or phrases you can say to your partner as encouragement. For ‘words of affirmation’ to work, you must actually mean the words you say and give them at appropriate times. Your partner can tell when you do not actually mean what you say. If you say it when they’re frustrated, they may think you are being sarcastic. People who have this love language usually did not hear words of affirmation enough as a child and now as an adult need to be encouraged. This love language is actually one of mine, I deeply value when my partner gives me encouragement when I’m upset. It makes me feel important and valued as a person when he says things like “you’re smart and funny.”

The 5 Love Languages:
Words of Affirmation
Quality Time (Talked about in my emotional attraction post)
Physical Touch (Discussed in my post about physical attraction)
Acts of Service (Ex. I do the dishes for my partner because I know he hates to do it.)
Receiving Gifts (you know like when you wrap something up)

Now that you know my love language, I suggest taking the quiz with your partner! This could strengthen your relationship and fill each other’s emotional tanks by knowing your love languages.

Until next time,

-Elena

LGBT Bullying: Still Being Kept in The Closet?

Hi all! In the last few weeks we’ve dipped a toe into the vast ocean of gender and sexuality experiences, so this week let’s talk about experiences of LGBT youth in the school system and in general daily life. Relationships with peers, family, and friends are what shape a youth’s world as they grow up. Without proper support and understanding, LGBT youth are more susceptible to developing mental illnesses, substance abuse disorders, being abused, and becoming homeless.

TRIGGER WARNING: Bullying, suicide, drug use, family and relationship abuse, and homelessness are discussed in this post. If these topics may trigger you, please exercise caution in reading this post.

Bullying in Schools

In many schools across the U.S., students spend an average of 925 hours in school during a year. With all that time spent with peers and school staff, youth need to feel safe and cared about in their education system.

According to the 2013 National School Climate Survey report by GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network), hostile school climates continue to impact the safety, mental health, and educational outcomes for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students. Nearly 8,000 middle and high school students took part in this survey.

The following video highlights some of the most important findings of the study:

Despite a drop from 80% of students hearing homophobic remarks in 2001 to 60% in 2013, what was found is that nationwide in the U.S., an alarming number of LGBT students are being harassed: 74% were verbally harassed for sexual orientation, 53% for gender expression. Other students reported being physically harassed: 33% were pushed or shoved because of sexual orientation and 33% for gender expression; 17% were physically assaulted (punching, kicking, injured with a weapon) for sexual orientation and 11% for gender expression.

Because they felt uncomfortable or unsafe, 30% of LGBT students missed a full day of class in the month prior to taking the survey. 28% of LGBT youth stop going to school because of being bullied.

Fortunately, however, verbal and physical harassment reported for the 2013 survey were lower than in all prior years of the study, and physical assault has been decreasing since 2007.

But what are the affects of bullying for LGBT kids?

Suicide Ideation

In a study by Robinson and Espelage, straight, lesbian/gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning students were included in a survey. When asked if they had seriously thought about committing suicide in the past 30 days, it was found that 23% of the LGBT youth answered “yes, but rarely” or “yes, some of the time” compared to the 7.7% of straight youth. Bisexual youth showed the highest rate of considering suicide at 35.8% in comparison to other groups; 5.6% of bisexual youth said they considered it almost all of the time. One-third of suicide attempts that result in death are due to a crisis about sexual identity.

Substance Abuse

LGBT youth are also more susceptible to substance abuse that their heterosexual peers. Youth.Gov reports that substance abuse is a common coping mechanism for depression and anxiety that is higher than their heterosexual peers. It was found that youth who experienced a moderate amount of rejection by their family were 1.5 times more likely to use illegal substances than those who experienced little to no family rejection; youth experience higher levels of family rejection were 3.5 times more likely use illegal substances. Additionally, lesbian and bisexual girls were 9.7 times more likely than heterosexual girls to smoke cigarettes, while a one-fourth of young gay men reported regular binge drinking.

Additionally, transgender youth have higher rates for dependency issues and problems accessing proper behavioral health care due to clients and staff misgender them – calling them by the incorrect gender, making them wear clothes that do not fit their gender expression, and sleeping in areas that do not match their gender.

Family and Relationship Abuse and Homelessness

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (2001-2009) showed that 19-29% of gay and lesbian students experienced dating violence in the prior year. 14-31% of gay and lesbian students and 17-32% of bisexual students had been forced to have sexual intercourse at some point.

About 40% of homeless youth are LGBT youth that experience family rejection, and 32% were abused by their family.

LGBT-Homeless-Family-Rejection

 So, with all these depressing statistics, how can we help LGBT youth?

Hope for LGBT Youth!

Because there is still such a high prevalence of bullying and harassment of LGBT youth, we can all play a part in making schools and public spaces safer for them!

The CDC had a list of recommend things schools can do to help their LGBT students. One very important one is to have a “safe space.” A safe space is anywhere in the school – a designated classroom, a counselor’s office, or student organizations – where LGBT students can go for advice, support, or just to hang out with friends in a non-discriminatory space. Currently, many colleges use the Safe Zone Program to educate people on how to talk with LGBT students on campus who may ask for help.

Even the college I go has Safe Zone and sensitivity training that is required for all Residential Assistants who help campus residents in dorm buildings. Although I’m not an RA, I’ve participated in the Safe Zone program and I can tell that it’s very beneficial for those who don’t know much about the LGBT community. I also use Safe Zones on campus when I want to talk about personal topics with people who have the same experiences as me while knowing that I won’t be judged.

So far, Safe Zones are mostly used in colleges, but has been slowly being integrated into some high schools. The Albuquerque Public School system is one such school system that has integrated safe zones.

Doors are marked with signs that may look like this in order for students to easily identify where they can find a safe zone.

safe-zone

Also listed on the CDC website are resources for LGBT youth and their friends. It links to sites such as GLSEN, the GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) Network, and StopBullying.gov.

According to the Family Acceptance Project, having GSAs in schools benefited LGBT students even if they don’t use the space – just by knowing they have a place to go to resulted in a lower likelihood to have depression and higher likelihood to have higher self esteem.

Check out the GSA Network to learn how you can start a GSA in your school!

There are many more things you can do to help LGBT youth! Please check out these links for further tips on helping:

  • Tolerance.org – helping teachers be allies to LGBT students
  • Advocates for Youth – resources for parents discussing sex education and sexuality with their children
  • One Million Kids – spreading information about the LGBT community; volunteer opportunities; personal stories
  • Live Out Loud! – connecting youth to positive role models in the LGBT community in order to empower youth to build successful futures and relationships

Learn about the warning signs that someone is being bullied as well as tips for intervention:

If you managed to get through this entire post, thank you for reading! I know it’s a hard subject to discuss. I struggled with reading about all of these heart-breaking statistics… But these affects are things you can help change. You can always make a positive difference in people’s lives and it’s everyone’s responsibility to help end bullying.

Please feel free to add a comment talking about what you’ve done help someone who’s been bullied, how bullying has affect you, or what your school has/hasn’t done to help you or others who are bullied because of orientation.

Until next time (and hopefully with a happier topic),

Alexa

If you or someone you know are in need of help, please use the resources below:

For mental health or substance abuse issues:
SAMHSA
1-800-662-HELP (4357)
or visit online treatment locators

For suicide prevention:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK (8255)

For suicide prevention (LGBT):
The Trevor Project
866-488-7386
translifeline.org
United States: (877) 565-8860
Canada: (877) 330-6366