Friday, August 5, 2011

Another round of tough Q&A with Dr. Julie Gottman

Question 1

Dear Julie,

After divorcing from my husband in a marriage where we had an “alright” sex life, I became addicted to using a vibrator. I am currently dating again but sex with my new man just isn’t fulfilling for me, what can I do to change this?

It looks like your sexual organ, that is, your beautiful brain, has been trained to only respond to intense mechanized stimulation. When we consistently pair a stimulus with a given outcome (like an orgasm), our brain learns to trigger an orgasm only in the presence of that stimulus, and it takes awhile to change that pattern.  It's like moving to a new house.  When we've driven home by one route over and over again, we'll inadvertently follow that route back to our old house again unless we're paying close attention to our new route home. So be patient.  Focus on the sensual with your new man.  Try taking turns being the giver or the receiver, where one of you does the touching while the other simply receives.  Experiment with different kinds of touch - lighter, more firm, more textured with feathers, cloth, and lotions, or motions.  Just enjoy each other. The rest of our lives are typically so goal-oriented that we forget that lovemaking is for pleasure, not for performance.  Talk with him about what he likes, and what you like.  Then sit back, relax, and just enjoy yourselves.  The rest will come in time.

Question 2

Dear Julie,

I tried to forgive my husband for having an affair but truthfully, our sex life has never been the same because I am still mad. When I try to speak with him about it, he tells me that I just wont let it drop.

No wonder you're struggling.  It sounds like you forgave him too quickly, before the hard work got done.  It's not easy to recover from an affair.  A very wise American psychologist, Shirley Glass, noted that most of the betrayed women she treated suffered from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  So let me ask you....Do recurring images of your husband with the other woman pop into your mind unbidden?  Do flashes of anger or pain trouble you?  Do you catch yourself watching for signs that he may be cheating again?  Is your sleep troubled?  Do you sometimes feel down for no good reason, or at other times, just feel numb? These are all signs of post-affair PTSD.  Here's what's needed for your recovery and the rebirth of your marriage.  You may need to do these steps with a counselor, as they're very difficult to do on your own.  You need to revisit the affair - both of you.  You need to be able to ask your husband any question you want to, like when did it start, how did it start, etc.  I'd caution you not to ask him to detail the affair sexual activities, however, as these can burn indelible new traumatizing images into your brain that are hard to get rid of.  Instead, focus on the when's, where's and eventually, the why's.  You also need to express every feeling you've had about this affair.  That may mean getting angry over and over. He needs to listen, answer honestly, and empathize with your feelings. A counselor can support both of you while you thrash it out.  Then you need to deeply talk about what you both need to rebuild a new marriage.  The trust may never be the same, but that doesn't mean you can't build a different kind of trust and an even better marriage - one that is based on complete honesty, openness, and responsiveness to each other's needs. Try reading Shirley Glass's groundbreaking book,
Not Just Friends. It can help to guide you both.  Marriage #1 is gone, but with some good hard work, you can build marriage #2 into an even stronger and more loving union - one that is based on both of you not being perfect but being deeply beautifully human with strengths and flaws, too.

 Check back next Monday for more updates.
All for now,

The Gottman Institute 

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