Strengthen Your Relationship With Role Models

Want to help strengthen the foundation of your relationship? Start spending time with other couples that exemplify the kind of relationship you would like to have.

We are a product of our environment, and who we spend time with can influence who we are as individuals. I would say that the same is true for couples. Not only can we gauge what we want our own relationships to be like, but we can see what a good relationship can be like.

bench-sea-sunny-man

Other couples can also provide great emotional support. They can give suggestions for how to overcome struggles within your relationship and give tips on how to move forward as a growing, evolving, changing, and loving couple.

Conversely, spending a lot of time with couples who have toxic ways of behaving, communicating, or loving, can create negative effects. On an individual scale someone may understand what is good and right within a relationship. Yet growing up only observing and interacting with negativity may influence their lived experiences.

This is not to say that your relationship should be strictly modeled after another relationship. Each couple has their own needs! But it can be helpful to seek those role models to help determine and then strengthen what you already have.

Do you spend any time with other couples? Do you find that your relationship positively benefits from spending time with other happy couples? 

Squirting: How Safe Are Our Fluids?

So I have a question about squirting. I recently started hooking up with a couple I met on Fetlife.  The woman and I are both subs and both bi, and he’s a dom, so it works well.   She orgasms so easily and so many times, sometimes just from the spanking and other foreplay activites, and often squirts.   After the first time we had sex she texted me the next day and asked if I had orgasmed at all the night before, which of course if you have to ask the answer is no.   I explained that I am one of those women who really struggles to orgasm.  Penetration never gets me off even though it feels great.   Oral can get me off but it takes a very long time if it works at all.  No amount of direction-giving makes a major difference, because most things my partners try feel amazing but just never tip over that edge.   Even alone I usually need porn or a vibrator to orgasm, often both.

She replied that she used to be the same way until her current partner came along, which I had a hard time believing and started to assume either that wasn’t true about before or that she’s faking now, but whatever not my business. She said next time we would try to see if I could squirt too and they would coach my through it.   I assumed that would never work but figured I’d humor them. So the next time we’re together after a bit of foreplay he started fingering me and pushing really hard in that “come hither” motion everyone talks about.  It felt good but would have felt better without that pressure level.   She told me to relax my muscles, which is tough because I often contract my kegels to help me orgasm.  Relaxing them changed the sensation, not better or worse.  She then said when it starts to feel really good to push.  When I started to feel extra pressure making me moan louder she told me to start pushing and totally squirted.  Like a lot.  The whole thing took about 1 minute. But the weird thing is I 100% did not have an orgasm.  

As soon as the squirting started it stopped feeling good.   It didn’t feel bad or anything, but the good sensations went away too, and before it started I didn’t feel that build up to an orgasm or like it felt anywhere near good enough that an orgasm was close. The sensation was not the same as peeing, and I know we often have to combat the idea that squirting is “just peeing,” but I’m wondering if that is what was happening in this particular case, seeing as I did not orgasm and it happened so fast. So, did I actually squirt or was that just pee?   Is it possible for a woman to squirt without having an orgasm or not even feeling particularly aroused or good at all for that matter?   Can that fluid really build up in under a minute?

Semi-related question: how worried do I have to be about coming into contact with her squirted fluid in terms of STDs?   They don’t exactly cover that in sex ed =p

These are great questions, but they’re also really tricky to answer. There haven’t been very many revealing studies done about female ejaculation. As far as I’m aware, there have been no studies that look specifically at sexually transmitted infections through female ejaculate. One reason for this is that studies often align with culture. There are a lot of studies that look at heterosexual couples and how things can be spread through vaginal penetrative intercourse, for instance, because for a long time thats what people thought of when they thought of sex. Now we’re speaking out about all these different ways in which people have sex with one another, so there is a need for studies that look into how risky those behaviors are or aren’t. There’s also a need for more same-sex sexual education in early education, but thats a different post.

I would follow these general rules:

  • know when your partners have been tested
  • get tested regularly yourself
  • use barrier methods like condoms and dental dams
  • remember that there is no such thing as safe sex, only safer sex.

Your first question is difficult to answer for the same reason. People are all over the place about female ejaculate, g-spot stimulation, and squirting. One day you’ll read an article detailing the many ways in which you’ve urinated on your partner, the next day you’ll read all about pre-orgasmic fluids. Some assert that squirting is tied completely to the g-spot. Others share lengthy stories about clitoral squirting. Even the wikipedia articles seem to send subtle shrugs.

I think it’s best to go off of your own experiences and your own truths. You were doing something that felt really good and some fluid came out. In that moment you know essentially as much as some top researchers know. That puts you (and the rest of us) in kind of a fun position. You can continuously explore new ways of doing things. New input, new output. The one thing about exploration is that you might not get the same experience the next time, even if you did do exactly the same thing.

As far as fluid building up, squirting without orgasming, and the strange-not-quite-expected sensations, these don’t seem unusual from what I’ve read and heard from other women. Again, you may go back and experience something completely different if you decide you want to try it again tomorrow. It all depends on how exciting, fun, interesting, or worthwhile you find that experience. Do you want to try it again? Does the uniqueness of the situation compel you in some way? Or did you leave finding a sense of… ambivalence?

What about you? What have your experience with squirting been like? Do you find it to be an important part of your self-love, interactions with your partner? Is it something that actively feels good, or is it more centralized around a release? Share your stories in the comments.

Do you have a question about sex or love? Submit at the top by hitting ask advice and I’ll answer it on my blog. 

Good Reads Cheat Sheet

You Just Got Out of Prison, Now What? (NYT)

Prison society is usually strictly segregated, so it was no small thing when Carlos, a Mexican, and Roby, an Asian guy, struck up a friendship. Roby would walk across the dorm to Carlos’s bunk and sit down on the other bed — oblivious to, or uninterested in, whether he was welcome on it — and they’d fall into long conversations about books and life.

st note: Prison takes an interesting note in our culture at this place/time. Check out this real account of what after prison life is like. 

There’s Nothing Boring About Women’s Sports (New Republic)

Feminist writer Amanda Marcotte sees a double standard in the “boring” label. “Men can call women’s sports ‘boring’ and that is an opinion treated with weight and merit,” she said. “But if a woman calls, say, football ‘boring,’ that is held out as evidence that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”

st note: Want to read more about sports? Check out the book Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto by Steve Almond. It’s an interesting book told from a male feminists perspective about a sport that can both be loved and hated all at once. Another great search is “women grunting in tennis” – yep. Tried to ban grunting. Too sexual. 

A Stunny Map of ATTs Phone Network From 1891 (Gizmodo)

Today, AT&T is regularly listed as one of the most hated companies in the United States. But back in 1891, two years after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, the company was just taking its first steps. This map of its network from that year is just beautiful. Think of it as AT&T’s baby picture.

st note: This photo is a little awe-inspiring. Imagine it in the context of relationships. We we can meet, who we do meet, and who we have the ability to remain in contact with has greatly expanded. That has changed who we meet, the people we come in contact with, and who we end up sharing relationships with. I think it also (maybe) makes us a little more compassionate?

House Republicans to Investigate Planned Parenthood Over Fetal Tissue (NYT)

House Republican leaders on Wednesday announced a congressional investigation of Planned Parenthood, a day after anti-abortion activists released a video of an unsuspecting official from the organization explaining how it provides fetal tissue to researchers.

Echoing the activists’ allegation, Speaker John A. Boehner and other top Republicans suggested that Planned Parenthood was selling fetal parts, which is illegal if done for profit. But Planned Parenthood said that while it charges for expenses such as processing and transporting, it makes no money from the fetal tissue donated by women who get abortions. The official shown in the video repeatedly says something similar to two activists posing as biotechnology representatives.

st note: But-Thats-None-Of-My-Business

What Leads to Infidelity?

For my senior thesis we were tasked to choose a topic that really interested us. Something we kept coming back to: isn’t there more to this? For me that was infidelity. The narrative of infidelity in our culture is very simple. People who cheat are bad. They cheat because they couldn’t control themselves. They hurt someone they cared about so that probably means they didn’t actually care about them. Don’t cheat.

But if that’s so simple, why do so many people cheat? Why do so many people cheat when they know they’re going to feel bad about it? Why do they keep cheating while they feel bad about it? I was specifically interested in women who have cheated and what their emotional experiences were. This was primarily because studies that look at infidelity only pay attention to men – even though women cheat just as much. Because of the information that is currently out there, I focused on ciswomen in heterosexual relationships.

My thesis garnered me an A and gave me the golden ticket to graduation. It also provided excellent blog fodder, and a challenge in the process. How can I make the complicated subject of infidelity more simplistic? For my first post, I present:

What leads to infidelity?

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1. Unhappiness

Unhappiness is largely the cause of women being unfaithful. Current research loves to pin women and men into separate categories. They say that men cheat largely for sexual reasons and women cheat largely for emotional reasons. I found this distracting in my research because the emotional and the sexual are irrevocably intertwined for many couples. A woman who has a sexual affair may be doing it because she is feeling emotionally withdrawn from her partner, for instance. A man may have an emotional affair because he is no longer feeling sexual chemistry with his partner. There are so many ways in which these two categories intersect. It belittles the importance of these studies to assume women are simply seeking a shoulder to lean on and men are only seeking something to put their penis into.

Unhappiness is not easy to pinpoint. Often times someone may not realize they are unhappy until so many factors have coalesced,  the origin of their unhappiness has vanished entirely. Perhaps communication has fallen in their relationship. Maybe they no longer look at one another when they talk. Maybe their phones have become a priority in their relationship and they no longer make jokes with one another. Maybe they haven’t made sex a priority and physical intimacy took a dive. When one thing begins to lack, others can fall in that same pit. It is often a balancing act. With two people – with two separate sets of needs – this can be even more difficult to manage.

For instance: a man who derives emotional intimacy from sexual intimacy and a woman who derives sexual intimacy from emotional intimacy. It sounds complicated, but it’s a common irritant in relationships. “I’m not feeling emotionally tended to enough to have sex – I’m not feeling sexually tended to enough to be emotional.”

Sometimes relationships just end because those two people no longer create the same relationship that they had once desired.

Unhappiness collides with the inability to communicate these unmet needs or desires. You may not see your unhappiness developing. You may become used to your unhappiness. You may excuse it. You may expect it. You may ignore it. Often times it may feel that your unhappiness is better waved away, a simple problem that will only cause more problems if you face it. You may not see how the problem builds over time.

The important question that arises is why don’t you just leave if you’re not happy? This is a question that will be covered more deeply in future posts in this series.

2. Opportunity

To be unfaithful you need to have the opportunity to be unfaithful. It is less likely that you will randomly leave your home one evening, grab the first person you stumble into, and go have an affair. There are many factors involved. Time away from your partner, the ability to get to know others well, a sexual or emotional attraction, an encouragement from friends or an outside source, and alcohol or other substances that lower your inhibitions. These among other things can create room for you to do things you may not have done otherwise.

Social Psychologists love to discuss things like personality when it comes to infidelity. There were a lot of small and specific studies in my research that tried to pull out who cheats. Is there a certain age, race, socioeconomic status, gender, sexuality (so forth…) that cheats more often than the rest? Who are they? We are obsessed with knowing the factors that make us more at risk. I was completely disinterested in these studies. Maybe it is my belief that we’re all influenced in so many different ways that it’s obvious that there will be some variation between our realities.

Evolutionary Psychologists, on the other hand, love to focus on hormones. They want to know if there might be something neurological about cheaters that makes them different. I find this fairly silly, too. We could certainly do some study that marks testosterone or menstruation to infidelity but at the end of the day I’m simply not interested in that either (If you are – go write a good paper about it.)

If you do leave your house one day it’s possible that your personality may make that extra nudge. Maybe you’re super outgoing and just happen to be ovulating that night, oh boy, watch out. But I feel that what is happening emotionally is far more important. Because of the sheer number of people that are unfaithful, I feel that all types of personalities must be involved in these scenarios.

Opportunity doesn’t seem like enough, though. Once you have unhappiness, and once you have opportunity, you also have a belief that you cannot leave your relationship. Some believe they cannot leave their relationship because they are in love. The belief that they are in love trumps everything – even common sense. In one story I read for my thesis, a woman cheated on her husband. She said that she loved him so much that that she felt guilty for cheating on him, and the guilt encouraged her to stay with her partner even more. The perception of love may be enough to make one believe it is impossible to leave. They can very literally not imagine a life without this person – even if it is one where they are less than satisfied.

Other reasons women may not leave their relationships: they are financially unable to do so, they have children together and are concerned about the wellbeing of the children, they do not believe in divorce or have religious obligations, they are afraid of breaking apart the family, they don’t know that they have anywhere else to go or have cut all ties with other family, they are physically or emotionally abused by their partner.

This is one thing I found particularly difficult about my research. Many women are physically or emotionally abused after being unfaithful to their partners even if they weren’t unfaithful and were just perceived to be unfaithful. Women have been murdered because of this perceived or real unfaithfulness. It can put the opportunity to receive real affection outside of the relationship into a different light. There is no one size fits all story about infidelity.

And, of course, some women don’t leave because they want to work it out, they just don’t know how or haven’t been able to.

Conclusion

If unhappiness (with the right context) leads to infidelity, it makes sense that we should be able to prevent infidelity if we learn to spot unhappiness and either prevent or ‘treat’ the unhappiness. This is why the emotional process of infidelity interested me so much. Current discussions about infidelity focus a lot on blame. They use the same preventative measures as abstinence educators. “Just don’t have sex!” works about as well as “Just don’t cheat!” Instead of discouraging infidelity, we should be encouraging happiness. We should be telling men and women that their needs are important and worth speaking out for. We should not be encouraging relationships as something that last forever in all cases if you’re doing it right – that’s not realistic. It sets up certain expectations that are broken over and over again.

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Following this post:

  • How can this information help us prevent infidelity? (3 post set) If we can spot unhappiness can we prevent infidelity?
  • When and why do women experience guilt because of infidelity? (3 post set) The experience of guilt throughout infidelity was the focal point of my thesis and will expand more deeply into the emotional process. 
  • The Language of Infidelity (1 post) Why are there so many words to describe women who cheat (homewrecker! mistresss! the other woman!) 
  • How we talk about Infidelity in the Media (1 post) How does the media talk about men and women when they cheat? How does that help us frame our understanding of infidelity?

If at any point you have questions regarding these posts, please leave them in the comments and I will respond there. If you have a specific question about infidelity that you would like answered in a post, see my ask advice page.

Good Reads Cheat Sheet

First Comes Sex Talk With These Renegades of Couples Therapy

In traditional couples therapy, which is about 50 years old, sex has often been shoved to the sideline. Practitioners are trained to work on underlying relationship issues, like blame or communication, many discussing sex only if the couple wants to talk about it. But in the last decade, as coupledom itself has been legally redefined, a chorus of provocative voices in couples therapy has emerged, emphasizing the importance of good sex in relationships and sometimes suggesting the radical idea that couples fix the sex before tackling other issues.

10 Things I wish I’d known About Gaslighting

Gaslighting does not require deliberate plotting. Gaslighting only requires a belief that it is acceptable to overwrite another person’s reality. The rest just happens organically when a person who holds that belief feels threatened. We learn how to control and manipulate each other very naturally. The distinguishing feature between someone who gaslights and someone who doesn’t, is an internalized paradigm of ownership.

The Aftermath Of Bill Cosby’s Admission? That’s Rape Culture.
The fact Cosby’s leaked confession holds more weight than the voices of over 40 women who have come out with accusations against him over the years, is horrifying. We needed “proof” before we could believe the victims.

No Sex, Please—I’m Asexual

I find it very comforting to be physically close to a partner, which can include holding hands, hugging, cuddling, and kissing. These actions are an expression or an extension of emotional intimacy, and they feel good. They just don’t have any connection to a desire to see someone naked or have sex with them.

We Must Put an End to Gender Conversion Therapy for Kids

Our role as therapists is to offer our gender-exploring and gender-nonconforming child patients empathy, understanding, respectful listening, and informed expertise as we help them explore and articulate who they are. Our job is never to simply rubber stamp whatever a child who initially shares about their gender, no questions asked.

Bonus:

Woman Takes Short Half-Hour Break From Being Feminist To Enjoy TV Show

Our Trip to Vegas: Sin City with a side of Pool

So, we went to Las Vegas for the first time. A good portion of our group was made of Vegas Newbies. It was the perfect experience that darn near encouraged us to never visit again with the idea that it couldn’t possibly get any better.

We stayed in the Aria Sky Suites right on the strip – which, I did not know, still means you have to take taxis everywhere. Vegas is built on stilts, right? After exploring a few other casinos/hotels/clubs I felt super happy with our arrangements. It was classy, but comfortable, and had a good mix of everything.

For me, the highlight of the trip was a strong four-way tie:

1. Going to Encore Beach Club

2. Laying in the sun at the Sky Suites Pool all day being gently misted, fed, and alcohol’d

3. Going to the Bellagio Hyde Club with bottle service, and getting splashed when the fountain went off

4. Eating at Rose. Rabbit. Lie. Caviar Pasta. Champagne. Live Entertainment. And my boyfriend led me out to the dance floor to sway to “At Last” (with a successful dip, I might add.) It’s been added to our list of songs.

I’d expected my favorite parts about Vegas would be the pools. That was more or less accurate. But I also really enjoyed being able to get a fruity cocktail at any hour of the day, walking into the pool with it in hand, and feeling almost completely out of place by the sheer excess dripping from every corner.

Coming home brings the stark realization that one should not need any of those things to be happy.

Finally I mentioned on my Twitter account that I came to understand the concept of a Vegas wedding. There were signs all over our hotel pointing to the Chapel. It wasn’t until we saw a bride dancing at Hyde that I understood, though. They probably spent less on a wedding. They probably had way more fun partying. It was probably a huge occasion. (A strong pass for me, but, you know, I leave with understanding, and I always like that.)

Finally, I did not get hungover once. Which was a huge plus and leaves me accepting the possibility that I might be back again some day.

Photos mine.

Back to your regularly scheduled blogging.

ST Reading List: The First 50-ish Books of 2015

Every year I try to read 100 books – and this year I’m on track! Here are the first 51 books I’ve read this year, with the books I’ve read most recently at the top. Instead of noting how I felt about each book, let me know if you’re curious about something, or if you need a recommendation!

I’m more than happy to chat about books all day / all night. Happy Reading!

  1. The Miniaturist (currently reading)
  2. Calling Dr. Laura
  3. Grey
  4. The Truth about The Harry Quebert Affair
  5. Finders Keepers
  6. Dept. Of Speculation
  7. The Maze Runner
  8. I Don’t Know: In Praise of Admitting Ignorance
  9. Warriors
  10. The Look of Love
  11. Mark Strand’s New Selected Poems
  12. Are Prisons Obsolete?
  13. The Flanders Panel
  14. Orphan Train
  15. Sex for One: The Joy of Selfloving
  16. How to Love by Thich Nhat Hanh
  17. A Dark and Twisted Tide
  18. Fashioning Fat
  19. The Politics of Women’s Bodies
  20. Playing the Whore
  21. A Clash of Kings
  22. Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition
  23. The Strange Library
  24. Like This For Ever
  25. Girls Like Us
  26. The Girl on the Train
  27. All The Light We Cannot See
  28. Dead Scared
  29. Trigger Warning
  30. Your Cat: The Owner’s Manual
  31. What Alice Forgot
  32. Moonwalking With Einstein
  33. The Cormorant
  34. Thumbprint
  35. A Load of Hooey
  36. Now You See Me
  37. The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted
  38. The Great God Pan
  39. Persepolis
  40. Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights
  41. Dark Places
  42. The Promise of a Pencil
  43. Redefining Realness
  44. All The Bright Places
  45. White Noise
  46. The Ultimate Guide to Sex After 50
  47. Skim
  48. What is Marriage For?
  49. Against Football
  50. Revival
  51. Ready Player One
  52. The Invention of Wings