Weight loss not always beneficial for romantic relationships

Losing weight is generally beneficial for human health, but when one partner in a romantic relationship loses weight, it doesn’t always have a positive effect on the relationship. According to new research from North Carolina State University and the University of Texas at Austin, there can be a “dark side” to weight loss, if both partners are not on board with enacting healthy changes.

“People need to be aware that weight loss can change a relationship for better or worse, and that communication plays an important role in maintaining a healthy relationship,” says Dr. Lynsey Romo, an assistant professor of communication at NC State and lead author of a paper on the research.

For the study, researchers surveyed 21 couples – 42 adults – from across the country. One partner in each couple had lost 30 or more pounds in less than two years, with an average weight loss of about 60 pounds. Reasons for the weight loss ranged from changes in diet and exercise to medical procedures. The questionnaires asked each member of the couple about the impact of the weight loss on their relationship.

The researchers found that, after weight loss, the couples’ communication generally changed for the good. The partner who lost weight was more likely to talk about healthy behaviors and inspire his/her partner to maintain or enact a healthy lifestyle. Couples in which both partners were receptive to these healthy changes reported more positive interactions and increased physical and emotional intimacy.

However, in some cases, weight loss resulted in negative communication. Some partners who lost weight nagged their significant other to follow their lead, which caused tension in the relationship. Other partners who hadn’t lost weight reported feeling threatened and insecure by their partner’s weight loss. These participants were resistant to change in their relationships. They would make critical comments toward their significant other, be less interested in sex, or try to sabotage their partner with unhealthy food in order to derail their partner’s efforts and prevent the partner — and the relationship — from changing.

“This study found that one partner’s lifestyle change influenced the dynamic of couples’ interaction in a variety of positive or negative ways, tipping the scale of romantic relationships in a potentially upward or downward direction,” Romo says. “When both partners bought into the idea of healthy changes and were supportive of one another, weight loss appeared to bring people closer. When significant others resisted healthy changes and were not supportive of their partner’s weight loss, the relationship suffered.

“This study should not dissuade anyone from losing excess weight, but it should encourage people to be aware of the potential pros and cons of weight loss on their relationship,” Romo adds. “It is really important for the partner of someone trying to lose weight to be supportive of their significant other without feeling threatened by their health changes. This approach will help people lose weight without jeopardizing the quality of their relationship.”

The paper, “Weighty Dynamics: Exploring Couples’ Perceptions of Post-Weight-Loss Interaction,” was published online Oct. 24 in the journal Health Communication. The paper was co-authored by Dr. René Dailey of the University of Texas.


Texting may not help foster healthy relationship

Brigham Young University researchers Lori Schade and Jonathan Sandberg studied 276 young adults around the country and found that being constantly connected through technology can create some disconnects in committed relationships.      Researchers found that for women using text messages to apologize, work out differences or make decisions is associated with lower relationship quality. For men, too frequent texting is associated with lower relationship quality, the study found.      However, expressing affection through text enhances the relationship for both the genders, researchers found.      “Technology is more important to relationship formation than it was previously. The way couples text is having an effect on the relationship as well,” said Schade.      The study participants weren’t just casually dating – 38 percent said that they were in a serious relationship, 46 percent were engaged and 16 percent were married.      Each participant completed an extensive relationship assessment that included questions about their use of technology in the relationship. About 82 percent of them traded text messages with their partner multiple times a day.      Many of the couples used texting for stuff scholars call “relationship maintenance,” or the kind of conversations that help couples get on the same page. Ordinarily having these conversations is a good thing, but texting can get in the way and make things worse.      “Reaction to disappointment and reality testing occurs more quickly face to face. There is narrowness with texting and you don’t get to see the breadth of a person that you need to see,” Sandberg said.      For men, more texting doesn’t necessarily mean a better relationship. And they don’t just get tired of receiving texts; their relationship satisfaction is also lower when they send a lot of texts themselves.      The good news is that saying something sweet in a text works universally for men and women. In fact, sending a loving text was even more strongly related to relationship satisfaction than receiving one.      The study was published in the Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy.


– See more at: http://post.jagran.com/texting-may-not-help-foster-healthy-relationship-1383208079#sthash.tOoSY9hx.dpuf

Intropsective Questions, by Erin A. Alexander, LPC

IMG_0903Want to improve your ability to succeed? Want to build your self-esteem? Want to help get to know yourself, so that your relationships will be happy ones? Take time to periodically answer some introspective questions. I was brave enough to not only answer them, but to post the responses for you all to see.

1.How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are? Now that’s a brain twister! I think I’d probably be between 25 and 30. That sounds like a good age. I believe that by the time i got to that age range there was a pretty good level of maturity and wisdom.

2.Which is worse, failing or never trying? Never trying is the worse. I don’t mind failing when I realize that it’s part of the success process. Failure has to happen for learning purposes. If a person is too afraid of failure, and therefore does not make an effort, what kind of life is that? I like challenge.

3.If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do? Again, it’s all about the learning process. For example, a lot of healthy foods may not be a delicious as a fat cheeseburger or a thick, greasy pizza with extra cheese. But when we want good health, we substitute the good stuff for high fiber and low fat. And what if there’s a lab report from the doctor saying that the cholesterol is high or the blood sugar levels are high? Again, if we use good reasoning and judgment, we opt for the oatmeal and soy milk. Regarding the latter part of the question, I believe that a lot of us don’t do many things we like because we live in a fast paced world. There never seems to be enough time!

4.When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done? Absolutely not. I set attainable goals and make every effort to meet them. I’m a doer, not a talker.

5.What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world? I’d like to make education the highest priority. If that’s done, everything else will fall into place.

6.If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich? I like what I do now—being a mental health provider and a mentor.

7.Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing? I’m doing what I believe in for the most part. Regarding the level of pay, I’m settling. Not for long, though.

8.If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently? I think I’d have more fun. I would travel more.

9.To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken? Perhaps 70-85%. The course my life has taken is primarily based on the decisions I’ve made (good and bad). Of course there are things that I have no control over, like natural disasters and world events. These things influence decisions.

10.Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things? I’m not worried about either. I like to make sure that what I do is correct. I also like to do the right thing according to my conscience. It depends on the situation.

11.You’re having lunch with three people you respect and admire. They all start criticizing a close friend of yours, not knowing she is your friend. The criticism is distasteful and unjustified. What do you do? I’ll make a comment about how I don’t want to be at a luncheon with a bunch of negative gossiping people. I hate gossip. I’ll either do that or let that be my cue to leave.

12.If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be? Get your education!

13.Would you break the law to save a loved one? If I’m saving the person’s life, probably. There are laws that provide for extinuating circumstances. If it’s just about saving someone from getting into trouble, no. That’s on them and I want no part of it.

14.Have you ever seen insanity where you later saw creativity? Interesting question for a person in the mental health field. There are times when I see behaviors that appear to be “crazy” but really it’s about perspective. Most of the people diagnosed with ADHD and Bipolar Disorders fit into this category.

15.What’s something you know you do differently than most people? I know that I read people differently. For example, when others are judging, I’m evaluating and assessing.

16.How come the things that make you happy don’t make everyone happy? What makes me most happy is “me-time”, time alone. There are a lot of people who fear being alone. I love it.

17.What one thing have you not done that you really want to do? What’s holding you back? I want to live a more healthy lifestyle and I want my PhD. I’m in the process of doing both. I’m sure that as time goes on, there will be other challenges I want to tackle. Nothing is holding me back from living a healthy life, but lack of financial resources continue to prevent  me from actually finishing my education.

18.Are you holding onto something you need to let go of? I don’t think so. Not anymore. What’s the point? I’m happy now and I wouldn’t be happy if I was still holding grudges.

19.If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why? I think about moving to Vermont or one of the other New England states. It looks beautiful up there and the views up there seem less conservative than in Texas. I also would not mind living in Europe. People there seem so carefree. They slow down to enjoy life. Europeans also seem to be more libral than we are. A recent quiz suggested that Colorado is the state for me. I would not mind living there either.

20.Do you push the elevator button more than once? Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster? I’ve never thought about that. I only push it once and assume that it’s working properly if the door closes. I have seen people impatiently jamming their finger into the button as if the destination will arrive sooner. It reminds me of when I’m driving and an idiot speeds around me, racing to a red light. What a putz!

How would you respond to these questions? How well do you know yourself?

Playing the Victim, by Erin Alexander, LPC

IMG_0890We all know how children misbehave to get attention. We call that “attention-seeking behavior”. I was reading a section in Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, and it reminded me of how often people refuse to take responsibility for themselves and their emotions. Mr. Tolle wrote: “A very common role is the one of victim, and the form of attention it seeks is sympathy or pity or others’ interest in MY problems, “me and my story.”

“If no one will listen to my sad story, I can tell myself in my head, over and over, and feel sorry for myself, and so have an identity as someone who is being treated unfairly by life or other people, fate or God.”

Sounds pathetic, right? But we encounter people like this everyday! At work, standing in lines at the store, on some of the social media sites, and even in our own families.

My philosophy is, do what you need to do to be happy. Take some action. Change your thoughts. No one has control over that except you. Life may not be fair, but at least you have the potential to make your life what you want for it to be.

Are You a Good Communicator? by Erin A. Alexander, LPC

IMG_0925There are 4 types of communication: Passive, Aggressive, Passive-Aggressive, and Assertive.

You’ve heard of words like: manipulative, cynical, explosive, self-pitying, helpless, hostile, preachy, sarcastic, and condescending.

All of those words are they way we describe people we don’t like, or how we describe types of communication.

PASSIVE communication self-pitying, self-punishing, inhibited, self-denying, retreating, unresponsive, helpless, and withdrawn, We describe these people as crying, apologetic doormats who have poor eye contact, and who give up like martyrs. These people typically defer to someone else, setting aside their own thoughts and feelings.

AGGRESSIVE communication pushy, rude, bossy, hostile, preachy, contemptuous, and mean. We describe these people as dominating, overbearing, thoughtless, inconsiderate bullies who invade, belittle, and threaten others. These folks only want the communication to go one-way.
PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE communication resentful, bitter, malicious, indignant, phony, indirect, cynical, and two-faced. These individuals are manipulative, gossipy, devious, bullies who speak with double messages. They hide their intentions and mislead others in order to have control.

ASSERTIVE communication real, honest, well-bodied, appropriate, open, confident, and expressive. Assertive people openly express thoughts and feelings. They are able to  flexibly explore and create alternatives. These folks understand the importance of personal rights withing all of their relationships.

So what kind of communicator are you? Here are some good resources to help you:

People Skills, by Robert Bolton

Talk Like a Winner, by Steve Nakamoto

Messages, by Matthew McKay, PhD

The Communication Skills Workbook, by John J. Liptak

Self-Mastery, by Michael Winer

Communication Miracles for Couples, by Jonathan Robinson

Interesting Relationship Perspective, by Erin A. Alexander, LPC

IMG_0916I do a lot of couples counseling and healthy relationship counseling. I meet people who have some interesting and profound perspectives on things.

We’ve all heard about how the parties in a relationship feel justified in checking the other person’s emails, phones, and other accounts. They many times believe that they are entitled to have their partner’s passwords, just because they are in a relationship. Well, folks may not agree with my philosophy, but each person in the relationship deserves privacy. Just because you are in a relationship does not mean that you suddenly have to give up your privacy. Each person should have a CHOICE about INVITING the partner into the many areas of his/her life. No one has the right to just intrude on someone else. None of this facilitates a loving, trusting relationship.

Recently, I had a client who likened the situation to the criminal law process. He said that if the appropriate steps have not been taken to “search” his accounts, then he does not have to discuss anything. Whatever is found is “inadmissible”. The intent or motive for the search was for negative purposes, or it would not have been done in the first place. As we discussed this philosophy, I understood where he was coming from and agreed. If an officer does an “illegal search without a warrant”, meaning no permission was requested and granted, or if there has been no conversation initiated prior to the search, the partner’s “rights” (personal and emotional boundaries) have been violated, and there really can be no expectation of the normal “due process” or positive outcome. It will in essence, be a lose-lose situation.

The rationale for this thinking was that, first of all, boundaries are violated and there is no open communication. As I mentioned before, none of this behavior facilitates a loving, trusting relationship. For a healthy relationship, there must be open, assertive communication with active listening on both sides. There also must be respect for the boundaries of others, especially your partner.

Resources for Understanding Infidelity and Coping with Cheaters

•Relationship Infidelity Article Search – New Feature: Search the sites listed on this page for information about infidelity and cheating.
•American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy – Infidelity resources.
•Marriage Builders – Steps to recover from infidelity.
•WebMD – Article on how to prevent infidelity.
•NetDoctor – Practical advice for coping with an affair.
•Mayo Clinic – Article on mending a marriage after an affair.
•Infidelity-Cheaters.com – Basic information and advice on infidelity and cheating.
•E-Closure – Documenting break-ups, anonymously online.
•Love Fraud – How to know when love is a con.
•Berkeley Parents Network – Useful advice on marriage and infidelity.
•Truth, Lies and Romance Blog – One of our partner’s blogs on lying and cheating – includes a list of websites on infidelity.
•Yahoo – Extramarital Affairs – Information about cheating and affairs.
•Yahoo – Emotional Affairs – More resources on cheating and affairs.
•Coping with Infidelity in Marriage – Information on how to deal with the discovery of infidelity and cheating.
•Infidelity and Cheating – Resources for dealing with infidelity.
•Life After Infidelity – Psychology Today article on the topic.
•Ladies Home Journal – Infidelity resources.
•Women and Infidelity – Article on WebMD
•Life Challenges – Article on dealing with infidelity.
•iVillage – Sex, marriage and infidelity.
•About.com – Resources on infidelity.
•eNotAlone – Resources on cheating and infidelity.
•Surviving Infidelity – Forum for dealing with the discovery of infidelity.
•CouplesInTrouble.com – Resources for surviving infidelity.
•Discovery Health – Article on how to heal from the discovery of infidelity.

Search the sites listed above (and related sites):

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Questions to Ask in a Relationship, by Erin A. Alexander, LPC


Of course, all relationships are not the same. The questions in a new dating relationship are different than the questions you should ask in a serious relationship or a marriage. There are certain questions couples should ask themselves and discuss when planning the future. There are also vitally important questions you should ask yourself when entering a new relationship, or continuing with a difficult relationship.
I’ll include questions to ask before you enter a very committed relationship, questions to ask your new partner and questions you should ask yourself at various stages of a romantic relationship. I’ll put each set of relationship questions in their own category.

Family History Questions  (Some of these questions can actually be “small talk” and some should come up as the relationship progresses).

•Have your parents got along with your former boyfriend or girlfriend?
•How do you get along with your parents?
•Where do you eat your dinners? Dinner table? In front of television?
•What are your health habits? Eating habits? Exercise habits?
•How do you feel about my family?
•What kind of relationship do you want the grandparents to have with our children?
•How often do you want the in-laws to visit?
•Are you interested in having children? When do you want to have children?
•How will having children change our lives? What will we do on vacations?
•How many children do you want to have?
•Are you satisfied with the shared friends we have?
•How much do you want to socialize?
•Will you encourage our children to have hobbies? If so, what hobbies? If so, how will you approach this?
•What are your friendship needs outside our relationship?
•Who keeps your yard mowed and house cleaned?
•How will our house be maintained? How do you want to split chores?
•Will we have a television and/or laptops, etc., in our bedroom?
•Do you like and/or respect my friends?

Career and Finance Questions

Once again, these are questions for a more serious relationship, but they aren’t bad to start bouncing around in conversations after you’ve been dating a little while. Some are more personal than others, but the reaction to such questions should tell a lot about your boyfriend/girlfriend, even if they don’t give a straight answer. Don’t ask too many of these at once, or else you’ll come off looking like you’re obsessed with finances.
•What would you do if you won a million dollar lottery?
•Are you in debt?
•Where do you want to spend your life?
•What’s your dream job?
•How do you see your life in 10 years?
•How much money do you earn?
•Do you want joint bank accounts? Why?
•What are your financial goals? What’s your plan for reaching those goals?
•How many hours do you work a week?
•How ambitious do you consider yourself?
•What is your debt situation?
•What percentage of your income do you spend every payday?
•What are your financial obligations?
•If you or I were offered a lucrative job opportunity in some other region of the country, would you be prepared to move?

Spirituality Questions
To some people in a relationship, there’s no question more important than their new partner’s religious beliefs. You might care less about your life partner’s job or money, so long as he/she is a person of faith and has values or “high morals”.
Others might not be that spiritual or religious. Even then, these are important questions to ask in a relationship. If you see faith and religion as a waste of a good time, but your new boyfriend or girlfriend is deeply religious, you’ll have to deal with faith issues sooner or later. If you get serious about the relationship, the two of you are going to have to learn how to live with one another’s views. It might be better to know from the beginning your basic spiritual incompatibility.
•How does your family spend its favorite holiday?
•Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?
•What are your religious views?
•Do you share my religious views?
•Do you attend church or have other religious commitments?
•How serious is your family about its faith?

Sex and Romance Questions To Ask Your New Partner
There are any number of sexual questions you should ask in a relationship. We have a page or two about “sexual relationship questions”, but I wanted to include a few of the less intrusive questions to ask your new partner. It may seem odd to follow up the religious questions with sex questions, but just about every romantic relationship is going to deal with intimacy and intimate questions at some point. These are some things you just need to know.
•Could you describe your perfect mate?
•Are you interested in a serious relationship?
•Do you think I listen to you and consider your opinions?
•What were the primary reasons you broke up with your last ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend?
•Is there some activity you are not prepared to give up in a marriage?
•How comfortable are you discussing sex?
•Do you consider yourself affectionate?
•How often do you want sex?
•Have you always practiced safe sex?
•Are you comfortable with these questions?

Health Questions You Should Ask Your Partner
There are several health-related questions you should ask in a relationship, too. When asking these questions, you should volunteer your own health information. That way, your new partner will feel the two of you are sharing information, or even talking about your common problems or concerns.
•What is your health history? Your mental health history?
•Do you have current health issues? Are they serious ones and are you proactive about taking care of them?
•Do you have health insurance?

Questions Your Should Ask Yourself in a Relationship
Finally, you need to remember to ask yourself questions about your relationship. When you have “alone time”, you need to occasionally think about your current relationship and sort through your own feelings and opinions about it. Introspection and self-knowledge is important, not only when your relationship is having problems, but when you are deciding whether to take it to that next level. As the saying goes, know yourself. This is essential!
•Do we share common values?
•Do I feel safe with this person? Am I comfortable expressing my feelings?
•How does my partner treat other people?
•Is there something about my boyfriend/girlfriend that I hope to change?
•Do I still have feelings for my ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend?
•What do I really want from this relationship? What are my expectations?
•Why do I want to be in this relationship? Is it because I don’t want to be alone?
•Do I respect and like my partner?
•Do the two of us laugh when we’re together? Do I enjoy my time with this person?


Human Sexuality Research and Analysis
Applied to the Claudia and Joseph Study
Erin A. Alexander, LPC
Human Sexuality Research and Analysis Applied to the Claudia and Joseph Study
Human sexuality refers to the ways in which people experience and express themselves as sexual beings (Rathus, Nevid, & Fichner-Rathus (2011). This paper will address the following questions as they apply to the case study of Claudia and Joseph: How are the anatomy and physiology of the human female and male identified? What are the types of sexual desire and sexual arousal disorders, and how do these apply to Claudia and Joseph? How do any psychosocial contributions apply to the case? How would one analyze the biological, cultural, and psychosocial issues related to sexual behavior as it applies to Claudia and Joseph?
Introduction to the Female Anatomy and Physiology
The female anatomy includes the external sex organs, the internal sex organs, the breasts, and the menstrual cycle. The mons veneris, “the mound of Venus”, is the fatty tissue that covers the joint of the pubic bones in front of the body, below the abdomen and above the clitoris (Rathus, et al, 2011). During puberty, this area becomes covered with hair. The mons veneris provides a cushion during the sexual act. It also has a number of nerve endings, which can produce pleasurable feelings when touched. The labia majora are the large folds of skin that run down from the mons along the sides of the vulva (Crooks & Baur, 1996). The labia minora, or inner lips, are located within the outer lips and often protrude between them. They are hairless folds of skin that join at the clitoral hood, and extend downward past the urinary and vaginal orifices. They contain sweat and oil glands, blood vessels, and nerve endings (Crooks & Baur, 1996).
The clitoris includes the  external shaft and glans, and the internal crura. The word comes from the Greek word, “kleitoris”, which means hill or slope (Rathus, et al, 2011). It is the female counterpart of the penis. Both develop from the same embryonic tissue. The clitoris is very sensitive to sexual sensations. The vestibule refers to the area that contains the openings to the vagina and the urethra. Urine passes from the female’s body through the urethral opening, however, the other urinary organs are not related to the reproductive system. The vaginal opening lies below the urethral opening and is larger (Rathus, et al, 2011). The hymen is the fold of tissue across the vaginal opening, and is intact until the female engages in coitus. The perineum is the skin between the vaginal opening and the anus. It has many nerve endings, and stimulation of this area may heighten sexual arousal (Rathus, et al, 2011). Finally, there are structures that underlie the external organs, such as the vestibular bulbs and the Bartholin’s glands. The Bartholin’s glands secrete lubrication before orgasm (Crooks & Baur, 1996).
The internal sex organs for the human female include the vagina, the cervix, the uterus, the fallopian tubes, and the ovaries. The neck of the uterus is the cervix, and it opens to the birth canal, or vagina (Campbell & Reese, 2002). The vaginal wall has many blood vessels but not many nerve endings. The wall secretes substances that help regulate the pH levels in that area. The cervix also secretes these substances. The uterus, or womb, is the organ in which a fertilized egg implants and develops until birth. The uterus is suspended in the pelvis by ligaments, and like the vagina, it has three layers. The innermost layer is the endometrium, which sheds and some of the tissue is discharged through the vagina during menstruation (Campbell & Reese, 2002). The fallopian tubes extend from the upper end of the uterus towards the ovaries. Ova pass from the ovaries through the fallopian tubes. The two ovaries are almond-shaped organs that lie on either side of the uterus. They produce the ova, or egg cells, and the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle (Rathus, et al, 2011).
The breasts are considered secondary sex characteristics, which distinguish women from men. Each breast has milk-producing mammary glands, and each gland opens at the nipple (Rathus, et al, 2011). The breasts are sensitive to stimulation.
During menstruation, eggs are expelled from the ovaries. The cyclical bleeding that occurs is called menstruation. The follicle that releases the eggs (the corpus luteum) produces large amounts of hormones. The entire menstrual cycle is governed by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in the brain (Campbell & Reese, 2002). The changes in the menstrual cycle include changes in the uterine lining, changes in the follicles, changes in the ovarian hormones, changes in pituitary hormones, and changes in basal temperature (Rathus, et al, 2011). An egg can be fertilized during the ovulatory phase, but if it is not fertilized, the hormone levels decrease and the lining of the uterus sheds.
Introduction to the Male Anatomy and Physiology
The male anatomy seems to be less complicated. It includes the external organs, which are the penis and scrotum; and the internal organs, which are the testes, the vas deferens, the seminal vesicles, the prostate gland, and the Cowper’s gland.  The penis, like the vagina, is the sex organ used in sexual intercourse. Unlike the vagina, the penis is a passage way for both semen and urine (Rathus, et al, 2011).
The skin of the penis is hairless and loose, allowing expansion during erection or arousal. During sexual arousal, the corpora cavernosa and corpus spongiosum become congested with blood, causing the penis to enlarge and stiffen (Rathus, et, al, 2001).  The average size ranges from 3 inches in length to 4 inches when flaccid. The average size of an erection ranges from 5 to 7 inches. In the Western culture, the size of a man’s penis is often seen as a measure of his masculinity and his ability to please his partner (Rathus, et al, 2011). An Internet survey of 52,000 heterosexual men and women found that about 66% of the men rated their penises as average size, 22% of them rated them as large, and 12% rated their penises as small (Lever, Frederick, & Peplau, 2006).
The scrotum is a pouch of lose skin below the base of the penis. It has two compartments that hold the testes (Rathus, et, al, 2011). Each testicle is held in place by a spermatic cord, which is the structure that houses the vas deferens. The scrotal temperature tends to be about 5 degrees lower than the rest of the body so that sperm production can occur. The testes serve two purposes and are analogous to the female ovaries. They secrete sex hormones and produce germ cells. The hormones are androgen and testosterone (Rathus, et al 2011). Testosterone is the hormone that is responsible for a male’s secondary characteristics, such as facial hair, deep voice, and muscle mass.
The tube that lies against the back wall of the testicles is called the epididymis, and this is where the sperm is stored.  The small glands behind the bladder are the seminal vesicles; this organ secretes fluids that combine with the sperm during ejaculation. The prostate gland is located beneath the bladder and it is responsible for the secretion of the milky part of the seminal fluid. It also neutralizes the acidity of the vaginal wall during copulation, which helps to prolong the life of the sperm cells (Crooks & Baur, 1996). Fluid from the Cowper’s gland also helps to buffer acidity. It precedes ejaculation and usually contains sperm cells.
An erection is caused when the penis becomes engorged with blood. It acts as a funnel for depositing the sperm into the vagina (Rathus, et al, 2011). A man can experience the loss of an erection if he feels anxious. Tactile stimulation of the penis may trigger an erection through the spinal cord, but the sexual sensations come from the brain (Rathus, et al, 2011). Ejaculation is also a spinal reflex, and generally occurs with orgasm.
The Human Sexual Response
The human sexual response can be divided in to four phases: excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution (Campbell & Reese, 2002). During sexual intercourse, or coitus, vasocongestion occurs in the clitoris and the erect penis. There may also be enlargement of the testes, labia, and breasts. This phase is where the penis and vagina are prepared for intercourse. In the plateau phase, breathing increases and the heart rate rises as an involuntary response to the stimulation of the autonomic nervous system. The vagina continues to expand. Orgasm is when there are rhythmic and involuntary contractions of the reproductive organs in both the male and female. There is an expulsion of the semen in to the vagina. The orgasm is the shortest phase, lasting just a few seconds (Campbell & Reese, 2002). The resolution phase completes the cycle and reverses the responses back to normal, which includes the loss of the erection and muscle relaxation.
Introducing the Couple Case Study and Applying the Human Sexuality
The case of Claudia and Joseph talks about a seemingly ordinary couple in their mid-thirties. They have been married for 5 years. Joseph is having problems with getting past the excitement phase of sex. Claudia is unsatisfied and frustrated. Upon review of their sexual histories, it is discovered that Claudia grew up in a family that was very open about sexual matters. Joseph was raised in a family that rarely expressed affection. Sexual issues were not discussed in the home, so his first sexual experience resulted in his feelings of shame and embarrassment.
Male sex hormones are known to influence the sex drive and sexual response. James Barbaree and Ray Blanchard reviewed ethical considerations regarding the practice of chemical castration for sex offenders in 2008. They discovered that men who are chemically usually exhibit a gradual decrease in the incidence of sexual fantasies and loss of desire. Men also gradually lost the capacity to get an erection and ejaculate. In the case Claudia and Joseph, it is possible that he may have some issues with low hormone levels, however, based on the sexual history, Joseph’s problem sounds more psychosocial and psychological, not biological.
According to the study presented, Claudia and Joseph had a whirlwind courtship and married quickly. They did not talk about sexual roles or expectations before they married. There was not time during the dating period for “small talk”, which is a useful way for a couple to find a common ground (Rathus, et al, 2011). Small talk enables people to find similar attitudes and interests. Self-disclosure is essential to building a healthy relationship. This type of communication, or intimacy is a key ingredient to enhancing the passion in a relationship. In Sternberg’s triangular theory of love, intimacy is listed as one of the basic components of romantic love (Sternberg, 2004).  During intimacy, the couple would have the opportunity to discuss sexual roles, expectations, and cultural issues; Claudia was raised in a liberal New York community, while Joseph was raised in a traditional Latin Roman Catholic family.
In reading the case study, it was also noted that Claudia has continued to verbalize her frustration and disappointment regarding their sex life. Although she is engaging in communication, her comments seem to be negative in nature. Perhaps, it may be more beneficial if she were to approach her husband with word of affirmation, such as verbal compliments, encouraging words, and respectful words. He needs to be able to express himself without feeling punished. She could also encourage Joseph to spend more time being affectionate with her in ways that do not lead to sexual intercourse. She can also tell him what she likes in the bedroom, versus what she does not like.
There are 4 types of sexual dysfunction: sexual desire disorder, sexual arousal disorder, orgasmic disorder, and sexual pain disorder (Rathus, et al, 2011). Joseph seems to be suffering from sexual desire disorder; he is displaying a lack of interest in sex. Since Claudia has a higher sex drive, the couple may have to compromise. They can also participate in couples counseling to resolve issues within the relationship. Consulting a professional may also help them both to communicate more openly about sex.
Campbell, N. A. & Reece, J. B. (2002). Biology. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Education, Inc.
Crooks, R. & Baur, K. (1996). Our sexuality. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing.
Lever, J., Frederick, D. A., & Peplau, L. A. (2006). Does size matter? Men’s and women’s views
on penis size across the life span. Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 7(3), 129-143. Retrieved from http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/men/7/3/129/
Rathus, S. A., Nevid, J. S., & Fichner-Rathus, L. (2011). Human sexuality in a world of diversity.
Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Sternberg, R. J. (2004). A triangular theory of love. London: Taylor & Francis.

The Truth About Infidelity, by Erin A. Alexander, LPC

IMG_0892Often, as mental health professionals, we focus a great deal on the individual who was cheated on, versus the person who did the cheating. The general belief (and myth) is that the person who was unfaithful is 100% to blame for the dysfunction in the relationship. People usually see the cheating itself, which is actually one of the by-products of long-term, ongoing relationship dysfunction. As a mental health professional who works primarily with couples, it is important to have each party be accountable for his/her negative behaviors in the relationship, and decide what he/she is willing to do in order to sustain the relationship. Both parties must have very clear expectations moving forward. Yes, the unfaithful person must admit to wrong-doing and admit to causing emotional pain to the partner. The other person in turn must be willing to forgive and move past the transgression. There cannot be continued bringing up the past, or else there is no way to heal.