Open Question: Porn in Relationships


Is the use of pornography in relationships harmful or helpful? Do you, or have you ever, watched porn with a partner?

Opinions on pornography and its effects are nearly as diverse as the industry itself. The most common beliefs, however, are opposing: some believe that the personal and widespread of use porn has hinder healthy and satisfying ideas of the opposite gender and intimacy. While others believe that porn is at worst a neutral industry and the natural outcome of human beings’ most intrinsic need, and at best a useful outlet for sexual expression.

But do these opinions still apply when the viewing of pornographic images and videos becomes not a solo act but a mutual endeavor? What are the possible effects of porn on a couple and their relationship?

Some couples who have viewed porn together say that it has been beneficial to their relationship — increasing intimacy, helping them to understand the others’ desires, and preventing monotony and boredom in their private life. Of course this is only one view on the issue; perhaps those who haven’t found it to be helpful are less vocal about their experiences.

My personal thoughts on the subject are that porn, like any other tool, can be helpful or harmful depending on who is using it, and their personality and tendencies. For some, the common use of porn can prove to be disastrous, while others may find ways to channel it in positive avenues in their intimate life.

What are your thoughts on the matter?


Emotional Cheating vs. Physical Cheating

blind-in-loveMost people would probably agree that cheating in a relationship isn’t generally the best thing to do, even if some of these same people have cheated in the past. But by cheating most are referring to physical infidelity — an intimate touch, a kiss, or more. What is less discussed and less clear to many is emotional cheating — the building of emotional and psychological intimacy with someone other than one’s partner, even while remaining physically faithful. Is emotional cheating actually cheating? Some say no, others say maybe, and I say yes.

Not only is emotional cheating as much of cheating as physical indiscretions are, I suspect that emotional cheating is the much more common form of cheating. This is supported by surveys that show that over half of men and women have formed an emotionally close yet physically platonic relationship with someone other than mate. Emotional affairs seem to be the way out for those who are no longer satisfied with their formal relationship but will not or can not be physically intimate with another. By creating closeness with someone else the cheater renews the spark of romance and feelings they once had, without the disruption of ending their current relationship or worrying about being caught cheating.

It may be much harder to definitively pin down what makes up emotional cheating, but many are aware of its existence. However, as with physical cheating, partners find ways to excuse emotional infidelity. Many turn a blind eye to emotional cheating with the thought that, “Well, s/he’s still going home with me.” Songs have been written describing this situation, the singer unabashedly proclaiming to the other woman or man that their partner will be with them in the end. All is well, as long as their partner remains with them, physically.

But it is my view that emotional cheating is as bad or even worse than physical cheating. Neither are preferable, but emotional cheating violates a relationship at the deepest level. By having an emotional affair, a cheater takes away from the intimacy of their relationship and is less emotionally available, if at all.

What their partner is left with is the shell of a relationship, little of substance remains. One may say the relationship no longer exists once the cheater checks out emotionally. Relationships may be dealt with in the physical realm, but they are created in the emotional realm.

What are your thoughts? Is emotional cheating still cheating and how does it compare to physical cheating?

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Why People Become Attached After Intimacy

after-sex-attachmentYou’re in love?

Oh, really?

It has been widely observed that people in relationships –or, more problematically, people who aren’t in relationships– become attached after physical intimacy. Suddenly, after sex, proclamations of love and living happily ever after become commonplace. Two people become more attached to each other than they ever were before (and one person may become more attached than the other). What is happening? Does sex create love or increase feelings of love? Not exactly, but it can certainly give rise to feelings that mimic true love.

The Biological Reasons

So why do these feelings of “love” and attachment occur? Biologically, a major influence are the release of hormones and neurochemicals, especially oxytocin (also known as “the love or cuddle hormone”), dopamine, and vasopressin.

Oxytocin is released upon intimate touch and greatly increases feelings of love, trust, security, and bonding. It also decreases feelings of stress. When you cuddle, kiss, or engage in other forms of significant physical contact with another person, oxytocin is released and bonding occurs.

In both sexes, oxytocin levels rise dramatically during orgasm. At the same time, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released. Dopamine creates a strong sense of pleasure, excitement, and well-being. Dopamine is addictive — we want more and more of whatever brings us that pleasurable feeling.

The combined effects of oxytocin and dopamine cause you to not only feel attached to your partner, but to associate your sexual partner with a sense of pleasure, trust, and happiness. In men, vasopressin acts similarly to oxytocin to increase feelings of attachment and love.

attached-huggingDo these loving feelings last?

In a word, no.

Oxytocin and dopamine levels drop after orgasm. How steep these drop are and when they happen depends on the person and their unique biochemistry. Oxytocin, however, can be kept at high enough levels to sustain feelings of bonding if two people remain in contact. The problem is with dopamine and an associated hormone called prolactin.

At first, due to the action of oxytocin and dopamine, physical intimacy causes you to want more physical contact — you want that high that comes with the person you are attached to. But with a drop in dopamine levels comes a sense of irritability and depression. Over time, these highs and lows may become associated with your sexual partner.

Prolactin adds to these negative feelings. Prolactin levels increase after orgasm and work to curb sexual desire. But such high levels of prolactin eventually cause moodiness and feelings of anxiety and depression. In combination with the “downs” involved in a decrease in dopamine, you begin to see your “love” for what it is — a biochemical high.

So you’re not in love?

Sex is not love and the feelings created by sex can not sustain a relationship. What you feel post-coital is not love, but a very  strong sense of attachment created by the action of molecules in the body. It would be helpful to keep this in mind before you declare your love for someone you barely know, begin shopping for wedding rings and a new home, or otherwise commit yourself to a sexual partner.

What are your experiences with this phenomenon? Have you ever become attached after physical intimacy?

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Why Friends With Benefits Does Not Work

high-heels-by-bedThe idea sounds simple enough — you’re single and not looking for a relationship or commitment. You’d like to be physically intimate with someone, but you’re not interested in strangers and one-night stands. You have a friend with whom you’ve always shared a mutual attraction. This friend is also more interested in the physical aspects of a relationship. Why not become “friends with benefits” (FWB) — friends who occasionally engage in non-committal sex? Isn’t this the best way to satisfy both of your needs without having to deal with the “messier” parts of relationships?

Not really. Friends with benefits arrangements aren’t as gratifying and easy as they seem to be. And while some people can maintain casual sexual relationships, just as many can not. In the long run, the benefits of having a friend with benefits may not outweigh the costs.

Being friends with benefits isn’t less stressful

A common reason cited for participating in FWB arrangements is that there is less of the stress that comes with a traditional relationship. No need to keep in constant contact, no need to pay any special attention outside of the bedroom, and no need to deal with emotions.

But studies on FWB relationships contradict this idea. In fact, one study found that friends with benefits deal with the same issues that those in traditional relationships do — worries like one partner becoming more attached than the other or becoming jealous. These fears are well-founded since one partner does tend to develop feelings in a FWB situation. Those who describe themselves as jealous are, ironically, more likely to participate in a FWB relationship.

The boundaries are not clear

In the ideal friends with benefits situation, both participants would be certain of what to expect from their affair. However, this is usually not the case. FWBs often jump into the arrangement without clearly defining the limits. This makes the situation more difficult later on.

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Your Partner Might Be Anxious If…


I, like an estimated fourth of the population, have an anxious attachment style (also known as a preoccupied style). What does this mean? Essentially, if you have an anxious attachment style you want, better yet, need to have a large amount of closeness and intimacy with your partner in a relationship. You live for the hugs, kisses, and long private discussions of a devoted relationship.

While anxious people can make the best and most committed partners, they are sensitive and demanding — their style of loving is not for everyone. They have certain needs in relationships that others may not. If your partner is anxious, it would help to recognize their unique approach to relationships. But how do you know you’re dealing with an anxious person? Your partner might be anxious if they..

7. Follow your lead

An anxious partner will let you set the pace of the relationship. They do this so they don’t get hurt by taking actions that are not reciprocated. For example, they will say I love after you say it (or hint at it) and agree to take the relationship to the next level if you suggest so.

6. Need to be reassured of your love and their place in the relationship

Anxious people are often worried about where they stand in relation to their partner — how important they are in their partner’s life, if their partner (still) feels the same way about them. They need physical or verbal reassurance of your feelings.

5. Try to keep you guessing/on your toes

At times a person with an anxious love style will play games or use extreme behavior to gain your attention if they feel neglected. They may pretend to be too busy to spend time with you or act uninterested and nonchalant. This is their way of expressing hurt (if in an established relationship) or of keeping their true anxious nature undercover (if dating or in a new relationship). They don’t simply tell you that they are feeling abandoned because they fear being seen as oversensitive or needy.

anxious-attachment-closeness4. Are unhappy when not in a relationship

Anxious people usually long to find a loving mate and be part of a relationship. In moments of closeness they may talk about how your relationship makes them or how they’ve always wished for someone like you. You can tell they feel incomplete when not in a relationship.

3. Are sensitive to any signs of rejection/easily hurt

The anxious person is sensitive to their partner’s moods and takes any perceived slights as a rejection of themselves. When the anxious person feels a threat they may act out, usually by acting out or withdrawing.

2. Want a lot of closeness

A hallmark of the anxious love style is the great need for a high amount of intimacy. This means spending a good part of your time together, lots of physical contact, and a desire to rearrange your lives around the relationship.

1. Are preoccupied with the relationship

Another name for the anxious love style is “preoccupied”. Your partner most likely has an anxious style if they spend a great deal of time and energy on your relationship. If your partner is always planning things to do together, talking about or thinking about the relationship when you two are apart, or constantly wanting to talk with you about the relationship, there is a near perfect chance they have an anxious attachment style.

Does your partner have an anxious love style? Do you?

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Ability To Love Is Not Equal

candy-heartsRecently I was asked if I believe in the transforming power of love. It’s a romantic notion that has survived the ages, this idea that love conquers all. No matter what the issue may be, love can make it work. My response is that while I believe this is a lovely concept, reality shows us that it rarely work out this way. There are basic personality differences that love can not overcome. Some people have a great desire and capacity for love, while others neither have the desire nor the ability to love in the way that it is described in fairy tales.

This isn’t something I’ve known forever. I had to learn the hard way that everyone is not capable of loving with the same intensity. And even if they have the ability to love, it doesn’t mean that they will love to this depth. For some people, deep love is not the goal of a relationship or marriage. Understanding these ultimate truths will save you a great deal of confusion and possible heartache, and help you realize the best love for you when you have it.

Love can transform, but it doesn’t have to

Finding true love can tame a free spirit and change a perpetual bachelor into a devoted partner. But this is the ideal result and life is rarely ideal. Often that overly flirtatious guy you’re dating will continue to flirt, or at least desire to, no matter how much love and understanding you show him. Love can not overrule inborn personality traits.

differences-in-loveRelationships are not the be-all and end-all for everyone

Many people have the goal of finding a life partner. But everyone does not have this dream — they prefer to be alone or see romantic relationships as less important than other aspects of life. Their views are not likely to change once in a relationship, if they ever settle into a long-term commitment.

Goals for relationships differ

Not only is the desire for a relationship not the same for everyone, but the goals for a relationship are different depending on the person. Some people enter relationships purely for love and intimacy. Others begin relationships as a means to another goal — social success, financial gain, physical support. For these people love is not the goal; their maximum ability to love will probably never be realized.

Being aware that people have varying degrees and requirements for love can help you to gain better results in dating and marriage. Instead of thinking “S/he’ll change in time” or “Maybe if I do this, s/he’ll love me the way I want”, you’ll accept their abilities and reach a compromise or find another person.

What do think? Do you believe in the transforming power of love? Or do you think that the capacity for love differs?