Couple Family and Sex Therapy NYC

COUPLE FAMILY & SEX THERAPY NYC

CLICK HERE for an in person appointment New York City

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Gracie Landes, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Certified Sex Therapist will work with you to build solutions that fit you when you have:

the desire to improve any aspect of your life •  trouble adjusting to a new situation or life transition • conflicts that keeps you from being closer to people you care about • anxiety, lack of information or embarrassment about sex • questions about relationships or sexual health...

and you want to work with someone who is dedicated to providing counseling that is brief, respectful and effective, and to discovering what works

Open relationships = ongoing negotiations

As a therapist who often works with non-traditional lifestyles, I get a lot of calls from distressed clients struggling to navigate new relationship structures. The most common of these calls is from someone who thought they were in a monogamous relationship until their long term partner suddenly changed the game, unilaterally declaring the relationship open, their orientation polyamorous or something similar. To be clear, (which sudden game changers aren’t) polyamory is experienced by many people as a legitimate orientation and lifestyle...when it is practiced ethically, by mutual consent and ongoing negotiation. Real open or polyamorous relationships can exist only with trust, openness and ongoing negotiation. 

I work with many clients in open relationships because not enough therapists are familiar enough to work competently with this relationship structure. Such clients come to me with a variety of issues, often unrelated polyamory, simply because they know I won’t judge them.

Since both monogamy and polyamory are orientations (meaning the person didn’t choose to be that way), no monogamous or polyamorous individual should be criticized, shamed, belittled or coerced to change something they experience as innate. As therapist I think it’s important to make distinctions between a true orientation and sudden, unilateral or what could be called faux-polyamory, because of the harm it does, to unwitting participants and the concept of polyamory itself.

What follows is a typical scenario I see in my practice. A client comes in alone, trying to learn "how to become polyamorous” because their partner suddenly informed them of a wish to live that way. The client is a relationship they value, invested in and thought was stable. Now after learning otherwise, they:
- don’t know what to think, do, or or feel
- need a way to handle strong emotions they didn’t expect to be feeling
- are hurt, confused, especially if their partner was rational and persuasive about why they should accept this new arrangement
- want to find a way to hang on to the relationship
- don't want to be stigmatized, seen as uncool, controlling, inflexible or otherwise out-of-touch
- don’t want to feel stupid
- don’t want to be judged
- don’t know where to find reliable information
- read the book “Sex at Dawn" at their partner’s urging and are to open, if nervous, to see if can work.

Remember I said it can. Let’s start with how it fails though. Someone who sincerely invests their energy in a monogamous relationship by definition forgoes other relationships that could offer them other advantages. Entering into monogamy is an act of faith. It assumes neither person will break the agreement. There’s a tacit expectation that each person recognizes and accepts the opportunities gained and lost. When one person in such an agreement changes the game without warning, it’s a betrayal to this basic understanding and all that went with it: a lack of regard for their partner’s lost opportunities. In addition to the emotional toll taken, these lost opportunities might include housing (should someone now need to find a new place to live) finances (loss of shared resources), reproduction (when a woman loses precious time finding an appropriate partner to have children with), companionship (losing the time, attention and affection of a partner) and status (losing their position as primary partner). Most people wouldn’t accept such a loss without negotiation. The game changer appears to win by changing the rules mid-game. In most other contexts that’s recognized as cheating, and the person who breaks the rules doesn’t get to score. 

Shy should the winner take all when when they didn’t earn it? And why should there be such confusion, so many books, movies and internet site devoted to infidelity? Certainly It has become an common event, one that is no longer hidden, but talked, worried and obsessed over with great energy. For some the forbidden is thrilling and sexy. I know that there are a variety of relationship arrangements that can be compelling, sexy, and all the more energizing for the hard work, relentless honesty, competence, skill and self-knowledge they require of people.

Ethical non-mongamy involves confronting ongoing change, issues of fairness, shifting relationship dynamics, and a solid relationship with yourself. These are all skills one needs in any relationship, friendship or family. Whether you choose to leave a relationship that’s no longer working, or navigate a rapidly changing one, you will still retain your most important relationship, the one you have with yourself. Sometimes working with a therapist who gets all that can really help. 

In future posts I will write about people who made the right decisions for themselves, how they managed to practice ethical non-monogamy in ways that were right for them.

slow down your sex life to speed it up

Couples who eventually make it to see a trained sex therapist have usually been down the road of failed date nights, hokey mood music and sexy lingerie. They make to our offices discouraged and skeptical. Because of that and because the Internet is full of quick fixes that don't actually work, I'd like to discuss a slow one that does. Sensate focus exercises, designed by sex researchers Masters and Johnson, have been helping couples achieve greater sexual intimacy for decades. They do this paradoxically, by slowing people down and taking intercourse off the table for a while.

Here’s an broad overview of the steps:

- Disconnect from distractions like chores, TV, pets, children

- Refrain from recreational drugs or alcohol

- Spend about an hour alone with your partner 2-3 times a week, taking turns touching each other, focusing on your own sensations while you touch them, gradually adding in more mutual touch, more erotic touch, slowly building up to intercourse (or whatever you do that you call having sex, usually, but not necessarily some form of penetration), only when you are both ready, comfortable and confident. If that sounds hard to schedule, think about how you much time spend watching TV or surfing the internet looking for ways to spice your sex life.

- Between sessions, journal about what you are learning, talk to your partner about it, and notice how you are becoming intimately and erotically connected as a team in this joint project.

- Repeat and refine this process as directed by your sex therapist.

The actual instructions are very detailed, and with good reason: people easily get stuck in negative thoughts, misunderstandings and self-criticism. Slowing down and following instructions builds success into the process. It's best to work with a certified sex therapist who understands the process well enough to coach you through it and troubleshoot any difficulties you may experience.

Here’s why it works so well:

By allowing you to rediscover your natural curiosity in an an open, exploratory, non-pressured way, free from negative evaluation, you experience touch in a new way. Disconnecting sex and touching your partner from negative evaluation, you can become more able to enjoy pleasurable sensations again, negotiate how each of you does and doesn’t like to be touched and associate your partner and sex with openness and freedom. Think of it as mindfulness meditation for your sex life.

On just another mardi Gras day

The more things change the more they stay the same. Here's some classic music to appreciate this Mardi Gras day. Oh so long ago, the only way black people in New Orleans could mask at Carnival was to dress as American Indians. The connection between them was strong. Listen and be amazed at how Big Chief Jolly (George Landry) and crew made this classic recording that sounds so perfect in one take, all the musicians together in one room playing off each other. So grateful this moment was preserved:
https://www.wwoz.org/blog/201101

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More on the ongoing "sex addiction" controversy

I am heartened that I have  colleagues who continue to find ways to address this contentious issue, who are not willing to accept easy answers, who are dedicated, like I am to discovering what works, and to being opening to new information:

http://www.self.com/story/sex-addiction-treatment-therapy