The Spark: What is it and How to Create it Despite Learning Differences?

Ah the spark. We don’t know how to describe it, but we do know when we have it! It’s just that feeling that comes after a date. Maybe it’s the thought that we just have to see that person again. Perhaps it’s the excitement of a beating heart. One writer states that, “it’s that certain magnetic pull between two people when you both feel mentally, emotionally, and physically, and energetically connected” (Mcclearly, 2015).  In today’s world of infinite possibilities and instant gratification, it is not uncommon to expect a spark on the first date. However, creating this phenomenon may be easier for some than others. If a man’s wit, a sense of humor, and assertiveness are seen as primal prerequisites of attraction for some women, men who struggle with social skills or reading body language may be at a disadvantage. Men with NVLD and on the spectrum have many qualities to offer in a relationship; some of the more commonly mentioned are kindness, loyalty, and honesty.  However, these characteristics may become more visible later in the dating process and be overlooked by someone looking for an initial spark. However, there are alternative forms of dating and techniques for building an initial chemistry that I describe below.

Suffice it to say that the spark is considered overrated by many dating experts. In my view, its overvaluation also prejudices in favor of certain daters over others: those who are witty, funny, and well-dressed rather than those who are kind, sensitive, and introspective. However, it is also the case that there are strategies for getting to know someone that deemphasize initial chemistry. In my dating skills groups, some participants have expressed more comfort and interest in meeting people in groups of people who share their interests. For example, one participant decided to join a robotics meetup group. By building a gradual connection with someone who shared his interests, he worked up the courage to ask her out for a cup of coffee. This strategy worked better for him than a first date with a stranger who may have expected an instantaneous spark.

Even while pursuing non-traditional dating strategies, it is important to implement verbal and     nonverbal strategies for creating a spark such as investing time in grooming and dress. They can also include preparing for a date in one’s grooming and dress, minding one’s table manners, and having a good night’s sleep beforehand. They can also evolve into more advanced strategies such as asking open-ended questions, listening and remembering what was said, and maintaining flirtatious eye contact. Implementing these skills can take some practice, but through role play, one can become more comfortable with them.

Part of the value of working on social skills is to build self-confidence. However, I am not defining self-confidence as it is often understood, but rather as a genuine self-acceptance that has little to do with being assertive, cocky, or arrogant.  One can be self-confident and also humble and empathetic.  Perhaps the most important aspect of self-confidence is taking the focus off of one’s self and onto the needs of the other. The psychologist Dr. Markway states, “Self-confidence can also breed deeper empathy. When you are fully present, you’re more likely to notice that your date seems a little down, or that a friend in the corner looks like she needs a shoulder to cry on. When you are not preoccupied with your own self-doubt, you can be the person who reaches out to help others” (Markway, 2018). For men with NVLD and on the spectrum, being able to concentrate on someone else’s or your date’s needs may help to overcome hindrances associated with understanding social skills and reading body language.

Whether it is online dating, romcom movies, or simply the belief that we can have what we want, building an initial spark has become an increasingly valued part of dating. While initial chemistry is important, its overvaluation can disqualify men who are otherwise attractive. Men with learning differences and on the spectrum may prosses many positive attributes, but have yet to develop some of the social skills necessary for creating a spark. However, there are contexts for meeting others that build on compatibility of interests and both de-emphasize initial chemistry and improve connection. With some foresight and practice, individuals with learning differences can develop strategies for dating that will lead them to have the success they desire.

Markway, D. B. (2018, September 20). Why Self-Confidence is More Important Than you Think: Self-Confidnece is Linked to Almost Every Element Involved in a Happy Life. Retrieved from Psychology Today : https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shyness-is-nice/201809/why-self-confidence-is-more-important-you-think

Mcclearly, S. (2015, October 22). Why ” The Spark” is Not a Solid Way to Gauge a A Lasting Relationship”. Retrieved from Elite Daily: https://www.elitedaily.com/dating/weighing-in-on-the-spark/1223675

IF YOU ARE A YOUNG MAN INTERESTED IN DEVELOPING YOUR DATING SKILLS, PELASE CONSIDER JOINING OUR DATING SKILLS GROUP THAT WILL AKE PLACE EVERY WEDNESDAY AT 8:00 PM VIA DOXY. PLEASE CONTACT ME AT BENJAMINMEYERLCSW@GMAIL.COM OR 3477683909 IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO FIND OUT MORE.      

Finding the Way Forward: How Young Adults with Learning Differences can Build Self-Esteem while Navigating Uncertainties.

Many young adults with learning differences manage uncertainties in employment, social life, and family responsibilities. Some ponder worrisome thoughts such as, “How should I prepare for a work meeting? How am I going to prioritize among different assignments? How do I get ready for a date?” These are valid questions. Sometimes, there may be no certain answers. However, tolerating uncertainty while also accepting and learning from mistakes with self-compassion is necessary for building a positive self-concept or self-understanding. Having a high self-esteem can help a young adult with learning differences to navigate the setbacks that they may experience.

            A research study from the United Kingdom of eight young adults with mild learning differences aimed to measure their self-concept. Many identified positive characteristics such as being “friendly and knowledgeable.” However, at least two also acknowledged feeling “anxious and slow” (Prestana, 2015). It concludes that that these young adults might benefit from working with practitioners who can help them to improve their self-esteem and self-concept, as well as their social skills. By building a positive self-image and interpersonal confidence, young adults can better manage an increasing amount of uncertainty.

            A primary anxiety that many of us face in our social lives is the possibility of rejection. Many young adults with learning differences are highly sensitive to this due to the fact that some may perceive themselves as operating on the outside of norms and expectations. In fact, the fear of being rejected may cause them to avoid socializing all together. However, by working with a therapist to manage the feelings associated with previous or anticipated rejection, they can overcome this anxiety. It is important to remember that no one is defined by those who reject him or her. Many people who do reject us do so out of their own ignorance and fear. We may want to be accepted, but as people who learn and process differently, not everyone will understand us. that’s ok. What matters is that we find the people who do. There are steps to wade through the uncertainty in the meantime. Getting to know a person gradually can help to manage the uncertainty of starting a new friendship. Also, building on one’s self-concept and self-esteem can help that person to manage the anxiety of getting to know someone new.

            There is also uncertainty in employment. What does my boss expect of me? When can I take a vacation? When can I bother a colleague? These are all sources of anxiety. However, by working with a therapist one can begin to build one’s self-esteem and self-confidence. The refrain of “I don’t know and that’s ok” holds true for many of us. As young adults with learning differences, we often feel overwhelmed in situations in which we are not sure of what to do. Perhaps we have faced similar situations before. Maybe we were criticized for being overwhelmed. However, by accepting that we are not sure of a specific protocol and or expectations, we may be better able to take the appropriate steps to manage this situation. This can take the form of asking colleagues or supervisors for clarification. It is also advisable  to read through a company handbook. However, sometimes by taking a step back and simply observing while reminding oneself at it may take time to integrate can be a significant step towards reducing your anxiety.

            The young adult years are filled with uncertainty. Individuals with learning differences face added challenges associated with navigating novel situations in their social and employment lives. Therefore, building a strong self-concept and self-esteem can help to navigate these uncertainties. Ultimately, by building social skills, accepting rejection, and observing and inquiring about protocols and expectations at work, young adults with learning differences can have success during an uncertain time in their lives.    

Teletherapy

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Therapy does not always need to be provided in an office setting. In fact, there are many times when it can be more convenient to speak to your therapist from the comfort of your own home. Teletherapy is an effective method for scheduling regular therapy sessions without onerous commutes. You an also plan sessions within the flexibility of your own schedule. In fact, teletherapy can be useful for individuals with busy lives. Some may find it useful to schedule sessions between assignments at work. Others may do so  during their lunch hour or from their living room.

It is also possible to choose to work with a therapist when you feel sick, need a snack, or want to avoid inclement weather. Let’s face it! Sometimes, it is simpler easier to avoid going to your therapist when you have to get into your car and drive there or take public transportation. Your reward for this is waiting in an anonymous waiting room. Therefore, having the ability to simply click on a screen to check in with your therapist is preferable for many.

It should be noted that studies regarding teletherapy have shown that it can be just as effective as in-office treatment. Therefore, as we all face this current crisis, why not consider teletherapy as an option for treatment? Through HIPPA compliant services clients can expect to have safe, reliable, and private connections with their therapists. Please contact me to discuss this service in greater depth.

COVID-19: Why is it so Hard for those who Learn Differently!

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These  are stressful and uncertain times. Practicing social distancing and good hygiene is essential! There is no question that individuals with learning differences must also do the same. However, these expectations may not be as easy for those who already struggle to recognize personal space and remaining organized. This is especially true for individuals with visual-spatial and executive functioning weaknesses such as Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NVLD). In fact, according to CRC Health, “people with NVLD do not understand the concept of personal space, and often make others uncomfortable by crowding in.” (CRC Health, 2000-20015) Of course, there is some variation within this population regarding how these characteristics manifest. Nevertheless, many would benefit from taking special precautions during this time period. It is also important to be proactive in addressing anxiety. This is something that many individuals with learning differences already struggle with.

We are all told to avoid crowds and shop from home. If we must go outside for essentials we are supposed to keep six feet between ourselves and others. However, the reality of grocery shopping, pharmacies, and sometimes just walking down the street is that we all must be vigilant. This is a challenge for somebody without visual spatial deficits. It is especially difficult it must be for someone with challenges in this area. However, you can plan ahead for these activities, such as having a friend accompany you who can serve as a physical or verbal guide in maintaining a safe distance between yourself and others. Even using a shopping cart to create a bubble of personal space can be helpful. Also, it is often advisable to shop during the least crowded time period. It is also wise to develop a list beforehand of all that you will need for an extended time period. Lastly, for many it is helpful to take the extra step of crossing them off as you go along. With the right preparation, you can make this time period a little bit easier.

This can be an anxiety provoking time for individuals with learning differences. They may also struggle with challenges adapting to changes and even new sensory experiences. Even long lines at the grocery store may be overwhelming. Therefore, many individuals with learning differences may benefit from psychotherapy during this time period. It can help to normalize the changes and stresses that are occurring, while challenging the cognitive distortions that are perpetuating anxiety. By working with a psychotherapist, you can improve your overall mental health. Although this is a challenging period for individuals with learning differences, they can get through it!

A Two-Pronged Approach: How and Why Individuals with Learning Differences Benefit from Coaching and Emotionally Focused Psychotherapy

 

A call with a potential client yesterday reminded me why I provide psychotherapy and coaching. He described how his challenges meeting deadlines and finding a professional path have provoked symptoms of depression. He was looking for concrete strategies to improve his organization. However, he did also genuinely want to rebuild his self-confidence and overall well-being. Experience and research tell us that learning differences are often co-morbid with mental illnesses (Silver, 2013). Therefore, mental health treatment is often highly indicated as part of the treatment plan for these individuals. Unfortunately, there is a false dichotomy among mental health professionals between coaching and psychotherapy. This may result in these individuals receiving these services from different providers. However, I have found that treatment for those with learning differences is often most effective when coaching and psychotherapy are offered. Ultimately, these services helps a person to achieve the success and outcomes he or she desires.

Many of the individuals I have worked with have stated that they found either exclusive psychotherapy or coaching to be ineffective. They may make statements such as “I felt like we talked about the same issues over and over again, but I never learned how to change my situation.” Another common statement is, “I feel like my coach wanted me to make all of these changes without understanding why it was so hard for me to make them to begin with.” In other words, psychotherapy was insufficient in offering concrete strategies for helping this person to manage the practical challenges they faced on a daily basis. On the other hand, coaching that does not take into consideration the emotional impact of a learning difference may be met with understandable resistance. This is due to the fact that person with mental health challenges may have obstacles that interfere with implementing the strategies mentioned by the coach. Emotionally focused psychotherapy, when it is combined with coaching, helps an individual to accomplish psychological and concrete goals.

A young woman I work with illustrates why it is effective to combine psychotherapy and coaching. When her parents contacted me, they explained that she had been recently diagnosed with Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NVLD). However, she still wanted to become a nurse. The beginning of my work with her centered on helping her to “Understand how my mind works.” In other words, she reported that she never had the opportunity to fully understand her specific strengths and weaknesses. Furthermore, how they might impact her during her nursing school training. I was able to provide her with some concrete strategies for achieving success. As treatment progressed, she was able to explore some of the anxiety she experienced regarding her potential academic performance; these included deep-seated fears of letting her parents down. A combination of psychotherapy and coaching helped me to better understand not only the practical challenges she faced but also the anxieties and internalized pressure she experienced. Combining psychotherapy and coaching provides her with comprehensive services she needs for reaching her goal.

I want to be clear in stating that I am not suggesting that psychotherapists become coaches or vice-versa. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, my training is primary in psychotherapy and mental health services, and not in coaching. However, I am suggesting that as a therapist who works with individuals with learning differences, I do think it is critical for me to provide some form of concrete support when appropriate. I suggest that therapists not only become more knowledgeable about learning differences, but also that they become more open to making practical suggestions that can help their clients to achieve success. Ultimately, psychotherapy that includes some coaching is most effective for assisting a young adult to overcome his or her obstacles.

Finding the True Man Within: Masculinity and Mental Health Challenges for Men with Different Types of Learning Differences

As a Bergen County psychotherapist and coach, I see many young men who are struggling with some aspect of their masculinity. For young men with learning differences, social rejection, challenges in school, and later difficulties maintaining employment can not only be acutely painful, but also shake the foundation of their manhood.  The intersection of disability and masculinity is eloquently captured by Erin Kelly when she states, “When you have society constantly telling you. ‘You can’t do that!’ It eats away at your soul-no matter who you are. When you have a disability, people aren’t telling you that because they think whatever you are doing is wrong or against the law. They’re most likely telling you because you don’t ‘look the ‘part,’ due to the fact that you have a wheelchair or what have you…for a disabled man to hear these things, I think it would be worse than any pill to swallow” (Kelly, 2015) Young men with “invisible” learning differences might “look the part,” but also feel emasculated when friends and family members shoot them slightly disapproving glances when they discover that  they are living at home after college, for example. As an individual and family therapist who often works with young adults with nonverbal learning disabilities, I know how important it is to support these young men reconnect with their masculinity. These are a few of my techniques.

Some of the young men who come to my practice feel “stuck.” They may feel overqualified for their job, unable to afford moving out from their parents, or missing meaningful social connections. These feeling infringes on a traditional sense of masculinity that emphasis self-agency and personal responsibility. Therefore, it is helpful for them to reclaim their personal power where they can. For example, one male client who was interested in exploring outdoor activities with other men described the satisfaction he would feel when he cut down a tree, finally seeing the tangible results of hard work and feeling as though there was something he could change in his tangible environment. Other young men describe feeling most competent when they go to the gym and build their strength and endurance, while some others become involved in developing new hobbies, such as fishing or music. In general, encouraging the young men I work with to imagine their own efficacy and power outside of their work lives has been helpful for them to develop their sense of masculinity and power.

In addition to encouraging self-efficacy and personal power, I have found that some young men respond positively to reframing their experiences as uniquely masculine. Indeed, for many of these young men, it took tremendous personal sacrifice to graduate from high school and college, for example.  I may often ask them, for example, to consider the fact that they never gave up and that they pushed through, characteristics that are traditionally associated with masculinity.  Some of the young men I work with are able to consider that overcoming challenges has led them to become more resilient and better able to face down what life throws their way, like a boxer who has taken multiple hits but keeps on fighting. This image has resurrected a sense of masculinity in some of the young men I work with.

I recognize that some concepts of masculinity include aspects with which I strongly disagree, such as sexism and patriarchy. However, while I do at times present alternative concepts, I think that it is important to keep in mind that some of these young men have felt beaten down, misunderstood, and not even recognized as whole and complete individuals. For them, an identity that includes traditional ideas and concepts of masculinity are essential for developing a wholeness to their identify, something that may have been stripped from them. In this context, exploring how they can define a masculine identity for themselves solidifies a therapeutic alliance, as part of their identify is validated by another male.

 

 

Dating Skills Group

 

Dating can be stressful for anyone, but for young adults with Asperger Syndrome and Nonverbal Learning Disorder, it can seem especially challenging. Through the implementation of a six- week curriculum, each participant will have the opportunity to support one another in exploring the world of dating, collaborating on new strategies through role-play and discussion, and trying out recently acquired techniques between sessions. This group emphasizes that dating can be fun and provides an open and supportive place in which to explore the process with others.

When: Wednesdays at 6:00 PM
LOCATION: 786 Grange Road, 07666

Image may contain: 5 people, people smiling, people standing and outdoor

Benjamin Meyer, LCSW
Bilingual Psychotherapist/Coach

 

The Present and the Past: How to Navigate the Complexity of Learning Differences in Couples Therapy

As learning differences have become better understood, a wider array of coaching and dating services have become available for young adults facing these challenges. However, what has been less researched, but is equally important to understand, are the long term emotional impacts of learning differences on a relationship. Many couples in which one or both partners have learning differences will not only face challenges in their daily lives: taking care of chores, leaving adequate time for activities, and managing finances, to name a few. In addition, they will confront challenges in navigating difficult and potentially emotionally charged conversations. I suggest that therapists working with these couples develop strategies for allowing these difficult issues to be expressed and shared during therapy sessions.

Although underlying emotional challenges are important to identify and discuss, with many couples, it is more helpful to begin with the practical. As suggested by the writer and editor Kate Kelly, there must first be an agreed upon time to meet and delegate daily responsibilities (Kelly, 2014-2017). During their busy lives, couples may forget to assign each other responsibilities, but doing so is especially important when one or both partners may easily forget, or become disorganized. These meetings are also helpful if they allow the time to consider the strengths and challenges of each person, and how to assign tasks accordingly. For example, if one partner struggles with folding laundry but enjoys reading, then maybe he or she would be best suited to the task of reading to the children at night. It also important to use a written schedule that will help with memory and keeping track of progress, as well as taking care of other daily responsibilities, such as finances.

While it would be ideal if every couple could communicate regarding navigating daily tasks, doing so may require a mutual level of trust and commitment. However, learning differences can create a unique strain on a relationship that can make even a more practical conversation difficult to have. Brita Miller, the Adult Issues Chair for the Learning Disabilities Association of California, states “A person with Learning Disabilities may be frustrated about the way a partner provides assistance by feeling stifled when too much is provided, which may give rise to the perception that he or she is stupid or being treated like a child.” She also states that the person without the disability “may experience resentment at having to continually tend to the needs of the other, while many of his/her needs seem to go unmet” (Miller, 2017 ). A couple may benefit from creating ground rules that guide difficult discussions, such as respecting and encouraging autonomy by asking before providing help, actively listening to a partner’s explanation of his or her needs, and refraining from advice giving. However, it is also important to acknowledge that being the significant other of somebody with learning differences presents unique challenges. At times, it may be a nuisance to have to pick up your partner’s socks on a regular basis, or return to the grocery store to pick up items your partner forgot, for example. The art of effective therapy with these couples is to provide a space for both the person with learning differences and his or her partner to express and listen to one another’s needs and frustrations, but reaching this place does take time, and it may help to start by analyzing the impact of past events.

Many individuals with learning differences are impacted by the past. For example, the feeling of being treated like a “child,” may stem from previous experiences of infantilization by educators, family members, and even in past relationships. However, if a person with a learning difference has the opportunity to explore these feelings with a significant other, not only will he or she feel more validated, but the partner may also begin to understand the sensitivity of someone with a learning difference, and what may be done to alleviate it, simply by making a conscientious effort not to repeat the perhaps well-intentioned but misinformed behaviors of others in the past. However, it is never easy to acknowledge these past feelings and experiences, and a therapist should be careful to allow each person to do so on his or her own timeline.

Part of what may make it a challenge to discuss the past for some couples in which one or both people have a learning difference are feelings of inadequacy and shame. Individuals with learning differences have often received the message that they are not good enough, whether at school, on the job, or in social relationships or dating. In fact, some individuals with learning differences may wonder if their partners would still find them attractive if they fully understood their struggles to read, tie their shoe laces, navigate social relationships, or even remember and follow through on directions. When an individual with a learning difference has the opportunity to express these feelings in therapy, his or her partner has the opportunity not only to express understanding, but also to look for ways to reassure him or her of their attractiveness despite whatever challenges he or she may have.

While it is critically important for a person with a learning difference to feel comfortable identifying and expressing how past challenges have impacted him or her, the reverse is also true. The partners of individuals with learning differences may at times not only feel frustrated by the challenges of their significant other, and the possible delays, reminders, and even arguments that they seem to cause, but may also be reminded of the times that they too may have felt ignored, burdened, or had to care for others. Although it may be a challenge for a person with a learning difference to hear and empathize with the partner’s own experience, doing so is important for building mutual understanding and compassion. A couple’s therapist, in this context, would be wise to reassure the person with a learning difference that validating how his or her challenges impact the partner does not take away or minimize his or her own personal challenges. Therefore, an effective couple’s therapist will work with both individuals on how the past impacts the present, creating a safe space for these painful experiences to be identified and explored.

 

 

Bibliography

Kelly, K. (2014-2017). 9 Ways to Keep Your Challenges from Affecting Your Relationship. Retrieved from Understood: For Learning and Attention Issues : https://www.understood.org/en/family/taking-care-of-yourself/do-i-have-learning-attention-issue/9-ways-to-keep-your-challenges-from-affecting-your-relationships

Miller, B. (2017 ). Dealing with Learning Disabilities in Relationships. Retrieved from LD Online: http://www.ldonline.org/article/6007

Unseen Challenges: The Unique Needs of Young Adults with “Invisible Disabilities” in the Work Place.

 

As learning differences are increasingly studied and new interventions have been created, a relatively new term has been devised to describe those with less noticeable cognitive, mental health, and health-related challenges: “invisible disabilities.” (Association, ND). While historically these individuals may have been under-supported in the academic context, as a result of increasing research and the breadth of understanding and applicability of the ADA (American with Disabilities Act) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act people with “invisible disabilities” are accessing higher education at a higher level than ever before, and universities are providing more services to accommodate them. As of 2016, 67% of students with learning differences are enrolling in college within eight years of high school graduation, which is similar to the percentage of the general population (Casteneda, 2016) However, what happens when these students graduate and enter the workforce, where the accommodations they may have grown accustomed to are no longer available? With only 46% of individuals with learning differences reporting full-time employment (Cortiella, 2014), it is clear that more support is needed. While there are comprehensive programs, both privately and publicly funded, designed to help young people on the autism spectrum and with visible cognitive and physical disabilities to prepare for and maintain employment, fewer services are available for those with invisible disabilities, whose challenges may require less clear or explicit accommodations. However, these individuals, who are frequently not diagnosed until early adulthood, also face challenges in the workplace, and although these challenges may be subtle, they can also be devastating. They may pertain to understanding the nuances of interpersonal relationships in the office, integrating into a workplace culture, or demonstrating the executive functioning skills essential to multitasking. I offer a few tips to help these young adults become successful.

A common complaint I hear in my practice is: “I interview so well,” but then when I start the job I have all of these challenges.” Some clients also report feeling that they have deceived and disappointed their employers, who may have picked up on a candidate’s intelligence and interview skills but discover later that he or she is struggling to integrate into the office culture, multitask under pressure, or simply understand his or her role in a specific positon.    Unfortunately, these deficits may lead to poor performance reviews and ultimately job termination. However, there are specific supports that these individuals would benefit from that are not offered in traditional employment training programs.

Individuals with invisible disabilities will sometimes feel overwhelmed by their job requirements, but this often stems from situations in which their job role is not clear. At times, employers will expect their employees to intuitively figure out the requirements and limits of their specific positions, as well as when to ask for guidance. Due to the nuances of job roles in today’s economy, employment training that would help those with invisible disabilities to gain confidence in asking for role clarification is a critical but often neglected service.

Individuals with invisible disabilities may feel anxious in the workplace when they are asked to multi-task in a fast-paced environment. Compounding this is the challenge that many face in understanding their employer’s implicit priorities. For example, an employer may view finishing an expense report, which is critical for the bottom line, as more important than working on the company website, but may assume that the employee understands this rather than communicating it directly. The employee, however, may have missed this message. Support programs therefore should work with employers as well as employees to facilitate clearer communication.

The challenges in the workforce are made more complex by increasingly nuanced social norms and expectations, which young adults with invisible disabilities may not pick up on. Specifically, they may be a challenge for them to figure out how and when to join a conversation or what topics are appropriate to bring up in a work setting, as opposed to a university or more informal setting. Some of these individuals may not realize that revealing personal information may be inappropriate at work, while others may not know how and when to contribute to a collegial conversation at work. Self-advocating and asking for support when assignments or tasks seem overwhelming, as well as handling criticism from a boss or colleagues, are critical tools that must be practiced over time. Working with a therapist or another kind of service provider who can help to address these issues through role-play and collaborative brainstorming is a critical step for developing strategies and self-confidence.

While there are many challenges that young adults with invisible disabilities face in the workforce, there are services that should and could be developed to assist them. I have outlined a few suggestions that may be helpful.

How to Be Honest: Discussing Physical Attraction Towards Others and Pornography Use in Relationships

Some of the most sensitive and challenging topics for couples are physical attraction towards others and pornography use. Couples will frequently avoid these topics for fear of provoking each other’s insecurities and jealousy. However, the truth is that the guilt and embarrassment that stop couples from sharing also hinders emotional and physical intimacy. With a Canadian study finding that women whose partners openly disclose pornography use are more likely to report relationship satisfaction and lower levels of distress (Borreli, 2014), many relationship experts are stating that discussing pornography and outside physical attraction is an essential ingredient for healthy relationships. However, what is less well-known is how to discuss this topic with your significant other. While every couple is different, and there is no prescription for everyone, I offer a few tips below.

  1. Make Sure It’s Not Just About You

Clarity in your intention plays a major role not only in helping your partner to hear that you may be attracted to others or use pornography from time to time, but also in preserving the trust and intimacy of the relationship. One simple step is to ask your partner how he or she feels about your sharing these topics, while realizing that doing so may elicit feelings of shame, embarrassment, and inadequacy. It is also important to ask yourself why you want to share. Do you want to deepen your trust and intimacy level with your partner by being honest, perhaps expressing your own feelings of guilt or shame, or do you simply want an occasion to objectify someone else? Are you also willing to hear from your partner about his or her attractions or pornography use? When we love somebody, that person may be able to intuitively discern what our motives are, so sharing, especially in the beginning, is best done by couples when the goal is to promote intimacy and connection. For example, there is a significant difference between stating that you always thought your co-worker was sexy and stating that you would like to be more open about your fantasies and desires to build honest and healthy communication between you. Choose your words wisely and make your intentions clear.

It may also help to empathize that your attraction may vary quite a bit; sometimes, you might admire someone who is skinny, and sometimes you might find somebody attractive who is slightly overweight. Explaining to your partner that the diversity of your attraction may lead you to be attracted to others, including those who are not glamorous or models, may humanize the process for both of you. One might say, for example, “I really find him/her attractive, even if they’re not skinny or athletic, although I appreciate those qualities in you.” The idea is not to take away from what your partner’s attractiveness, but to celebrate another person’s distinctive style and beauty as well, which does not make your partner any less beautiful in your eyes.

At times, there may be attractive qualities in someone else that your partner is also happy to develop. You may point out, for example, that a mutual friend is wearing a nice sweater, and that you believe it would look gorgeous on your partner as well. You can even suggest that a mutual acquaintance has developed a healthy physique and that you would like to begin working out with your partner so that both of you can get in shape. Again, the key is to articulate steps that empower you and your partner to engage in activities together that would increase your attraction for one another.

  1. Make Sure the Pornography Is Something You Can Share

Pornography can be many things: degrading, sexy, empowering, and kinky are some adjectives that come to mind. However, if you are into porn, think about how your fantasies may be able to include your partner. At times, it may be something you can share in the bedroom. If you have a fantasy that is ignited from a pornographic video, ask your partner if he or she might like to act it out with you. Sharing a voyeuristic fantasy, for example, may actually be a turn-on for your partner, especially if you are able to imagine viewing a specific act together. However, it is much too challenging to include your partner if the material is degrading and/or if you impose your porn use and fantasies without first exploring your partner’s openness to these topics. Ask your partner if your fantasy is something he or she is willing to explore with you and even if it may be exciting on some level.

  1. Reaffirm Your Love

There is a special reason why you choose a particular person. Yes, there may be attractions to others at different times, but there is really only one person that you choose to be with. However, we often forget to express this. When your partner feels loved and understands that he or she is the only one you have deep feelings of commitment for, insecurity is less likely to arise and can be more easily soothed. Therefore, it is important to articulate why you chose your specific partner over everyone else. Attraction does come and go, but love is something that can last if we bring our true and honest selves to it, difficult as that may be at times.

 

Borreli, L. (2014, January 7th). Why Couples Who Confess To Watching Porn Are Happier And Have Better Relationships. Retrieved from Medical Daily : http://www.medicaldaily.com/why-couples-who-confess-watching-porn-are-happier-and-have-better-relationships-266505

 

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