Part two of our discussions with renowned expert Robert Weiss on intimacy disorders and their prevalence today particularly among women. We’ve asked him what can women do to help prevent them from suffering from intimacy disorders and how they can foster healthy relationships?
RW: 1. Maintain close relationships with female friends. Women need to make it a priority to develop and maintain their close relationships with their female friends. I see women (and men, but especially women) do best when they have close social and intimate relationships with friends or “sisters,” if you will, who know them well, and who help them make decisions. It’s the women who see other women as competition or who treat their female friends as a means to an end that I worry about. Healthy women have deep and enduring relationships with other women. In fact, a big part of treatment for women is getting them to bond with other women, and to use that as a primary (and healthy) way of getting their emotional needs met. Think about Sex and the City; one of the reasons we loved that show was the women relied on each other, becoming a type of family that involved women being very close and sharing everything. Those are the relationships that keep women sane. It also reduces longing if women are single, and it makes them more willing to tolerate turning down the wrong guy because they don’t feel so alone.
2. Do not keep secrets. Have at least one or two people in your life that know everything about you. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have boundaries. What I mean is don’t carry anything around with you that you wouldn’t want someone else to know about. If I was out there having sex with strangers and I kept that to myself and went about my friendships and relationships like that wasn’t going on, then that would be a problem. Living a double life and compartmentalizing and keeping secrets should be avoided.
3. Meet your prospective partner’s friends as soon as possible. Do not choose someone as an intimate partner until you’ve met his friends and he’s met yours, because his interactions with those other people will show you who he really is. In reality, one-on-one is not the best way to get to know someone. Having other people around gives you more responses to that person. I work with a number of women who have partners that are incredibly verbally abusive to them, and they never even noticed until friends said, “You let him talk to you like that?” Having other people around to help you gauge the situtation is helpful.
4. Have safe sex. If you don’t have safe sex, you’re crazy. Guys lie like crazy. If they have an opportunity to get something they want sexually, they will tell half-truths in the moment when they’re all excited physically or emotionally to get it. Oftentimes, men don’t realize they can get diseases through oral sex that they might not show any symptoms of or even know they have but can still pass on to another woman. I have guys who get Chlamydia or HPV from oral sex outside their primary relationship and pass it on to their girlfriends or wives. Women can get cervical cancer from HPV. So if you’re casually sexual it’s very important to not assume that what your partner says is true.
5. If you’re looking for a relationship, wait to have sex. If you’re looking for a relationship, don’t immediately have sex with the person. There is a biological predisposition for women to bond when they are sexual. That’s when the oxytocin flows. It’s much harder for a woman to be objective about a relationship once she’s had sex with that person. Thus, it is easier to determine if a relationship is good for you if you wait multiple dates and get him to spend time with you and a few of your friends. If you just want to get laid, that’s fine, but if you’re looking for something more meaningful, it’s better to hold off. This has nothing to do with morality, it’s because sex reduces a woman’s ability to objectively make a decision about the person she’s involved with.
The process is different for men. Men don’t have that relational piece in place in the same way. Men are looking for visually arousing, objectified experiences that will bring them pleasure. If men are having sex with someone regularly and that person is meeting their emotional needs, they are going to bond. But women bond simply because they’ve been sexual with someone, regardless of whether their emotional needs are being met.
6. Date safely. If you’re going to hook-up with someone, take the appropriate safety precautions. Don’t go to a guy’s room or apartment because you met him on an app and the sexting was hot. Meet him in a safe, public space like a coffee shop or restaurant. Make sure you have his address and phone number and have emailed it to a friend. There are women who meet men online who they think seem great and then show up at the guy’s apartment and he’s completely different in person. Oftentimes women don’t talk about experiences like that because they feel as if they put themselves in that situation and they’re embarrassed by their poor decision making. This is also why keeping secrets can be so dangerous. Make sure you have friends who know what you’re up to.
7. Never include your face in a sext. Never send a sexual picture with your face in it to anyone. As an extreme example, a woman in the US met a man online in Europe and after three months of chatting she felt like they’d established a solid connection. He told her he was coming to the US to meet her in person, and wanted to see some sexy pictures of her before he came over. She sent the pictures, and the he threatened to forward the images to her employer if she didn’t send him a large sum of money. So remember, your pictures can easily be spread all over the Internet if you send them to people. If you feel that you must send pictures of your genitals, don’t include your face. Even better is not to sext at all so that information can’t be exploited.
The reality is technology can simulate very seductive and emotional experiences, such as when someone says the right thing in an email or text that resonates with you. It’s easy to get pulled into a situation emotionally even though it’s really just fantasy. Just know that whatever you feel in an online or digital experience should not be acted on impulsively, because it’s not reality.
We project our needs onto people like they’re blank canvases, turning them into an ideal person, and often we really don’t know who they are. It is part of the human condition to project onto others what we want and that person to be. But there’s a big difference between how you feel in your live experiences versus how you feel in your digital experiences. Trust the former, not the latter.
Robert Weiss is one of the leading experts in sexual disorders and addiction, Founder of The Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles and Director of Sexual Disorders Services at The Ranch Treatment Center in Tennessee. Robert has devoted his life to understanding intimacy disorders and treats men and women who suffer from a range intimacy issues, including sex addiction and abuse, as well as love addiction, which is most common in women, and even dysfunction related to men’s viewership of porn. Intimacy disorders have been on the rise, particularly as a result of technology and dating in the digital age. We recently spoke with Robert as part of a three-part series to learn more about intimacy disorders, understand the symptoms in women versus men and to help women form and maintain healthy relationships throughout their lives.
Thanks to Vixley for the post!
Alison Steedman is the editor at Dating & Hookup. She lives in Los Angeles with her boyfriend and their histrionic cat, Charles Dickens, where she still carries on a nostalgic and long-distance love affair with her 20's in Brooklyn, NY. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @yosteedman, and you can also send her your writing at [email protected], both of which make her very happy.
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