Infidelity in Marriage; What is cheating?

A wife finds her husband looking at pornography. A husband learns that his wife has been sleeping with their neighbor. A woman admits to her new boyfriend that she still talks on the phone regularly with her ex. Which of these examples involves infidelity?

The answer is: sometimes, all of them; other times, none of them. What defines infidelity first and foremost is the presence of a secret outside the relationship, whether online or in person, sexual or emotional. The common element in all affairs is the presence of dishonesty.

In this brief video clip from my interview with Rich Simon, editor of the Psychotherapy Networker, I explain how porn-watching habits, sexual liaisons, and even meeting an old flame for coffee can be considered infidelity. The definition of cheating depends on the level of disclosure and a couple’s prearranged definitions of monogamy—and where the indiscretion falls on the monogamy continuum.

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In the next Psychotherapy Networker Webcast series The Changing Face of Marriage, I will share tips on how to help struggling couples recover from affairs. This series also covers everything you need to understand about the new norms surrounding intimacy, marriage, divorce, boundaries, privacy, and related issues. Plus you get “how-to” guidance on working confidently and effectively in a landscape of changing attitudes from leading innovators Esther Perel, William Doherty, Pat Love, Terry Real, Joe Kort and myself.

Remember: use code NELSON30 to redeem the extended early bird discount!

Are you in bed with a narcissist?

Working with Your Most Challenging Couples: Anger, Narcissism and Countertransference met today. Wendy Behary, LCSW, the Author of “Disarming the Narcissist… Surviving and Thriving with the Self-Absorbed” gave a fascinating presentation about how narcissists have a hard time maintaining intimacy because they choose a partner who makes them look good, or who mirrors their need for approval. But when they are confronted with the need for true emotional intimacy, they shut down. Unless their partner makes them feel good, they may withdraw into their core of shame and will do anything to avoid feeling their own inadequacy and defectiveness. In their sex lives, performance becomes a way to head off real intimacy and connection, and a way to avoid being seen. Sex is a platform for showing off prowess and can be used to disappear emotionally.

Wendy also talked about how narcissists can get overly involved in pornography, because it is quick, fast and they don’t have to feel empathy to use it. I added that in my experience working with narcissistic clients, porn can lead to real time affairs, where entitlement and a dismissiveness for the partners feelings can make couples therapy difficult, and affair recovery even harder. An attitude of “I deserved this” or this is “your fault” can contaminate the treatment.

Wendy has some great interventions for working with Narcissists in treatment, and for dealing with our own countertransference as well. Send in your questions and cases, and get all the downloadable recordings and handouts when you sign up now. To learn more about this series, and other Teleseminars with Dr Tammy Nelson, click here.

Pornography doesn’t make you a sex addict

Last week I attended the Lifestyle Interventions Conference in Las Vegas.

I talked about erotic recovery after an affair. There were a lot of questions after my talk about pornography and how erotic imagery on the computer can turn masturbation into a compulsive repetitive act that drains sexual energy out of the marriage. That’s true for some people. But it doesn’t have to be that way for all couples. Looking at pornography occasionally doesn’t make you a sex addict. In fact, some people use it to stay monogamous. They avoid the dilemma of long term committed partnership that can lead to boredom and sexual shutdown and they stay true to their partner by finding variety and adventure online without cheating in real time with a person outside of their marriage or committed partnership. But for those couples where a real time affair does occur, seeking out a therapist who has experience helping couples move through the stages of recovery is important. Both partners can feel frustrated and even hopeless after one partner cheats and they may need professional help. Find a therapist who can help. Click here: for more info on Intensives for couples after cheating.

To find out more about the three phases of recovery after an affair, read my article at Recovery.Org: The 3 Phases of Erotic Recovery After Infidelity

12 Types of Sex You Have in Your Late 20s

Finally, an article in Cosmo about sex that embraces intimacy and connection and isn’t just about performance and looking good in lingerie. This is comforting to me and I agree with everything they say. And I am not even quoted in this one.

12 Types of Sex You Have in Your Late 20s

BDSM can facilitate personal growth

Shifting gender roles and cultural messages about sexuality have created “nice guys” who find it difficult to meet their partner’s desire for dominating, rough, kinky sex. What they don’t know is it is entirely healthy and empowering to discuss and realize fantasies within the context of a consensual negotiated framework.

Galen Fous shares a beautiful example from his work as a sex-positive sexuality counselor wherein both partners learn to embrace and encourage their erotic power. She learned how to openly and honestly share her desires with her partner and he learned how to harness his masculine power and balance the different aspects of their relationship.

What To Do With Your Nice Guy When She Begs For Your Bad Boy