When Sexual Demands Constitute Abuse

Tuesday, June 5, 2012 21:54 | Filled in Body, Mind, and Spirit/Personal Growth

Dear Dr. Stormy,

        My husband wants to have an open marriage. I do not. The very idea is terribly upsetting to me. We already have sex 3-4 times a day and have a lot of variation in our sex life. My husband started up with this open marriage idea when I told him I was not entirely comfortable with a particular thing he suggested that we do. I rarely object to anything, so this seems unfair. He has gone so far as to say that if I do not agree to the open marriage, he will consider divorce. What can I do?


Dear Crushed,

        I think the thing that needs to be looked at here is not so much your sex life, but the quality of your marital relationship. Your husband’s insistence on an open marriage or possible divorce if you don’t comply with his sexual demands is insensitive, controlling, and downright sadistic. This is not the sort of thing that a husband says to a woman he loves and respects. Rather it shows a great lack of attunement and lack of concern for your needs. I think you should get more assertive and address this underlying issue with your husband. Perhaps he will come to see that there are two people in the relationship — not just him and his needs. On the other hand, he may not be able to acknowledge your needs at all, at which point you will have to get honest with yourself about whether or not you want to stay with someone who is only in a relationship with himself.

        Sexually speaking, having sex 3-4 times a day is well above the norm. This is okay if both partners enjoy it and there is mutual consideration. It is not okay, however, if it is not the desire of one of the partners and/or is only being done to appease a partner.

        Sometimes the need for extremely frequent sexual contact reflects a high level of anxiety for which sex gives temporary, immediate relief. However, if the roots of the anxiety are not addressed, the need for constant sexual contact will just keep coming. Few women want to serve as a receptacle for their partner’s ongoing anxiety relief. It’s too darn lonely.

        The need for constant sexual contact can also indicate self-esteem issues as well as attachment issues. In a healthy marriage these issues can be talked about and worked through. In an unhealthy one this may be more difficult and require professional help. In a marriage laced with bullying and emotional abuse, it is usually mission impossible.

        Crushed, take a good look at what you are dealing with — blackmail and emotional abuse. Stop being so passive and get to work on your own self-esteem issues. There is no reason whatsoever for you to comply with a demand for an open marriage that would most likely be both humiliating and denigrating for you. If your husband refuses to work on this relationship, maybe that divorce isn’t such a bad idea. Good luck.

Dr. Stormy

Self-Blame as an Anxiety Management Tool

Friday, April 27, 2012 15:41 | Filled in Uncategorized

Dear Dr. Stormy,

        I always think that everything is my fault. I try really hard to let others take responsibility for their own issues, but somehow the burden always comes back to me. I say to myself that certain things would never have happened if I had just been more aware, more understanding, or more loving. Intellectually I understand that this can’t possibly by true, but it sure feels like it. What can I do to lighten my load?


Dear Overburdened,

        Oftentimes we humans blame ourselves for whatever is happening because we just can’t face the fact that we don’t control everything. Powerlessness and its cousin helplessness are such intensely noxious feeling states for us to face that we will do almost anything to escape them. The anxiety surrounding them is just too great for us to bear. So we tell ourselves that we weren’t really powerless or helpless at all. We tell ourselves that there were plenty of other options — we just failed to choose the right one.

        Somehow this gives us a sense of control once again. The thought that there were other options from which to choose temporarily soothes our anxiety. Unfortunately, at the same time it puts the blame on us for whatever happened. Now we have terrible guilt or shame with which to contend.

         It would be better all around if we could just briefly acknowledge our feelings of powerlessness or helplessness. We won’t die from this. We might have to grieve or be sad for a little while, but at least we won’t have to concoct a story to convince ourselves that we actually were in control the whole time.

        Humans are a strange lot where powerlessness and helplessness are concerned. We would rather tell ourselves all kinds of crazy stories rather than acknowledge our reality. This, of course, stops us from attending to our feelings with presence and compassion. It also keeps us from formulating a plan for moving on, given whatever has happened.

        This phenomenon of creating a false sense of control in order to manage anxiety can be seen everywhere. It can be seen at a personal level, as you have described, right on up to an international level. For example, when one country is attacked by another, it is very common to hear people from the attacked country putting the blame on their own country. They might say that what happened was because their country was arrogant or had bad foreign policies. They might create conspiracy theories about their country’s culpability. They pretend that their country was the powerful center of everything and that all things are connected to it. Therefore, whatever happens must go back to the hub, to the epicenter of everything.

         Unfortunately, this is a bit of a narcissistic preoccupation. No person nor country, nor anything in between is the center of the universe. There are not invisible strings attached to every event that always lead back to oneself, one’s family, one’s city, or one’s country. The sooner we can come to terms with this the better. It may be frightening to think that we don’t have a say in every single thing in the universe, but it’s the truth. Some things happen because of other people’s issues, genetics, life experiences, cosmic life path, etc. Also, some events are simply accidental. We aren’t perfect.

        Since much free-floating anxiety is present because we are unable to identify the actual threat that we might be facing, I would suggest that you identify as much as possible what may be coming your way so that you can problem solve and fortify yourself with tools for dealing with the problem. Courageously face up to what’s in front of you. Remind yourself that you have the strength to deal with whatever life brings. If you feel like you don’t have the strength to deal with life, surround yourself with people who can advise you well. Remember to be realistic about what you face so that you can prepare and respond correctly. Finally, work on accepting what is rather than staying stuck on how you think things should have been. It’s always easier and more productive to problem solve what is. Also, humbly acknowledging that what is may be part of an overall growth plan for us can be very healing.

Dr. Stormy

Coping With Fear of the Future

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 1:21 | Filled in Body, Mind, and Spirit/Personal Growth

Dear Dr. Stormy,

        It’s 2012 and I’m feeling somewhat anxious over all the doomsday scenarios that are supposed to happen at the end of this year. Usually I disregard these sort of prophesies, seeing them as the rants of fanatics, religious zealots, or even the mentally ill. Yet with all the media hype about Dec. 21, 2012, I find myself to be vaguely uncomfortable. Too many sources seem to be corroborating these prophesies to allow me to ignore them. How can I feel less worried?

Unsure of the Future

Dear Unsure,

        For starters, you’re right about many predictions originating with questionable sources. This is a fact. Having said that, some predictions do come from more reliable sources and/or corroborating sources. It’s these that give us pause, particularly if there are spiritual overtones to the predictions. Here are a few thoughts on the matter.

        Many of us latch on to negative predictions/prophecies when we are feeling vulnerable, angry, powerless, and/or depressed. We project our own feelings outward onto our environment and end up seeing a reflection of our inner world in the external world. It’s like we’re movie projectors and the outer environment is our movie screen. Once we have beamed our feelings onto this screen, it can be difficult to identify them as ours. For example, if we are feeling powerless, enraged, and confrontational regarding our own plight, we will most likely see impending destruction, upheaval, and turmoil in society. However, this was not the unfolding of a prophesy; it came from within us.

        Also, I find that individuals whose lives are somewhat depressive or dull find a certain kind of excitement in focusing on stimulating new possibilities (even if those possibilities are negative ones). It takes the focus off of one’s own self for a while. For these individuals, a focus on negative prophesies can be a big adrenaline rush. It helps them to feel vital and alive. If deeply depressed, they may need extreme acts or possibilities in order to feel anything at all. Whatever the case, focusing on something other than our own lives helps us avoid looking at what we need to do to improve our own lives.

        Sometimes involvement in spiritual prophesies can help us feel connected to a greater whole. They help us feel less alone and a part of something far greater than self. This is not a bad thing because certainly we are all part of a greater whole. Yet in these instances we should look to see if there is more meaning that we can create within our own individual lives. We must not use our focus on a greater whole in order to help us avoid our own areas of responsibility. For example, if we are feeling disconnected and/or disenfranchised as individuals, we need to work on that problem within our own lives rather than look to an affiliation with a greater whole in order to provide us with that which is lacking in our lives.

        There can also be a narcissistic element to identification with prophesies (good or bad). Sometimes we tend to attach ourselves to prophecies because it gives us a sense of “specialness.” Here we’re the ones in the know. We’re the ones connected to a higher vision, force, or being. We’re the important ones. There can be a lot of spiritual ego involved in those of us who are preoccupied with prophecy, and this possibility needs to be within our awareness.

        Sometimes we get all wound up in prophesies because we desperately need someone — anyone — to know what is going on. We need someone to be running the show. No one wants to feel like he or she lives in an unpredictable and chaotic universe. No one wants to feel afraid and at risk. It’s better, though, to acknowledge our fears and work to better our own lives, even if we have to do that within a chaotic environment. Many of us have had to learn to do that in our families of origin and have survived quite nicely.

        Obviously if a negative prediction does come true, there is little to do other than work with the concept of acceptance. We would have to say to ourselves, “This is my reality. Now what do people with this reality do?” Then we would have to focus on the things within our lives that we do control. Simply, we would have to avoid trying to change the parts of our reality that we do not control and work on ourselves instead. Working on ourselves may include adopting an attitude of humility, holding reasonable expectations, choosing not to focus on “shoulds,” and agreeing to live simply.

        Not all concerns with prophesy are due to psychological processes within us. I think we definitely are going into an era of great change, and many can sense it ahead of time. I think, however, that what is coming may be more an era of enlightenment rather than one of unmitigated destruction. Yes, some things may have to fall of their own weight before better things can be erected, but that’s pretty much how the cycles of life work. No matter how much we resist change, the new often turns out to be better than the old ever was.

        My understanding of the end-of-times predictions is that we have been living on the “outbreath” of God for a long while, and after December 21, 2012 we will start living on the “inbreath” of God. This means that civilization has reached the peak of its negative functioning, i.e., it has gotten as far away from a Godlike existence as possible and will now start a movement back to a more balanced, spiritual way of life. This may involve certain changes in the physical world, but also may manifest as inner change more than outer ones. Whatever the case, I think we’re all going to be fine.

Dr. Stormy

Getting Ready for the Holidays without Losing Yourself

Friday, December 9, 2011 1:23 | Filled in Body, Mind, and Spirit/Personal Growth

Dear Dr. Stormy,

With Christmas right around the corner, I find myself feeling overwhelmed and resentful. It’s not that I don’t want to make a nice holiday for my family. I just feel like the effort that has to be expended is way too much. My husband is very helpful and my children are not overly demanding. Still, it’s all more than I can handle. I feel like a Grinch. Help!

Guilty Girl

Dear Guilty Girl,

Since your pressure to perform is coming more from within rather than without, the best thing you can do is to get in touch with your inner truth and follow it. Here is a list of questions you might ask yourself when attempting to determine your inner truth. They are from my latest book, Truths from the Self: Insights into Finding Wisdom in the Present Moment.

What reality do I most need to acknowledge at this time?
What do I require at this point in time?
What life path best serves me right now?
What fears block me from choosing a constructive path?
What action will leave me with a feeling of deep inner peace?
What action can I sustain right now, given my current capacities and state of mind?
What action is aligned with my deepest inner urgings?
What action does my body support?
What action do my emotions support?
What action will I look back on and feel content that I have chosen the right path?
What action feels solid at its core even if it carries difficulty?
What is the best creative use of my time and energy?

These are some pretty big questions, but the answers will come from within as a felt sense, as an emotional leaning, as a prevailing heart’s desire. They will reveal themselves in whatever brings you the greatest joy and in whatever most piques your interest. They will also make themselves known through an emotional shift that gives you the greatest sense of relief — not relief in the sense that you have managed to run from something, but relief in that you have chosen according to your deepest truth.

Since inner truth takes into account the urgings of the higher self as well as those of the personal self, your inner truth will probably lie somewhere in the middle of selfless service to others and attention to your own needs. Perhaps your inner truth will be that you want to create a beautiful Christmas for your family yet place firm limits on time spent cooking, cleaning, decorating, and buying. Maybe it will be to break with tradition and try something totally new and different (take a trip, eat out). Maybe your inner truth will be to omit certain things that you usually do (sending cards, attending the Nutcracker, throwing a holiday party, feeding too many people). Whatever it is, please get yourself in there somewhere. The best present to your family will be a peaceful, happy you.

Dr. Stormy

Dear Dr. Stormy,

It’s the holiday season again and, as usual, I can’t say no. I feel like I have to fulfill everyone’s wishes so they won’t be disappointed. Every year I tell myself that I’ll do things differently, but I always end up doing too much. What’s my problem?


Dear Pushover,

Difficulty in setting limits for ourselves usually stems from a fear of loss. We worry that setting limits for our own behavior will be so disappointing to others that they will withdraw their love if we don’t behave as they wish. This can be particularly distressing to us if it reminds us of times from our past when we felt alone and unloved. In such cases we’re responding more to a memory than a present-moment reality; we don’t need to let a painful memory dictate our behaviors today.

The thing to remember here is that negative feelings don’t kill us. They can be observed and tolerated and put in proper perspective. We certainly don’t have to see them as catastrophic. When observed with compassion, these feelings disappear rather quickly.

Expect to feel a bit guilty or ashamed or afraid when you set a limit for yourself. It’s normal. Just agree to feel uncomfortable for a little while and hold to your given path.

Also, you might consider the possibility that you don’t really need the extra love and approval that you get from doing so much for others. Maybe you are already loved and approved of enough. I know this sounds a bit strange, but think about it. We all seem to be on some sort of eternal quest to gain more and more love, adoration, and approval. It’s a quest from childhood; but we aren’t children. We’re adults, and we can we let what we have be enough.

Dr. Stormy