My Abusive Partner Promises They’ll Change. Will They?

Woman on bed with head in her hands

“I promise I’ll change.”

These are four words most people in a relationship with an abusive partner have probably heard. Longed-for yet dreaded, the words can offer both hope and disappointment. Hope that things really will get better this time, and disappointment when, inevitably, the abusive behavior—whether emotional, physical, or verbal—begins all over again.

We’ve all heard that a leopard can’t change its spots. But what about an abusive partner?

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Is It a Normal Fight or Verbal Abuse? Here’s How to Tell

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Even the most dynamic of duos has the occasional fight. Whether it begins with “Who forgot to take the dog out?” or “Do I really have to go to your brother’s birthday party?”, having arguments is a common — and healthy — part of any relationship.

But in some cases, what we call an “argument” is actually something worse. Ever had a partner who criticizes everything you do? Who shouts and uses cruel language when they get angry (and they may fly off the handle a lot)? Who makes you feel like you’re wrong or “too sensitive” when you try to speak up?

Continue reading Is It a Normal Fight or Verbal Abuse? Here’s How to Tell

What Is Second-Hand Anxiety?

Anxious young woman being comforted by a friend

Your friend comes over after a bad day. Huffing and puffing, he brings it all to you: His boss was a jerk, he accidentally deleted his presentation, and spilled coffee on a new white shirt. Suddenly, you find yourself tense, even though you were having a relaxed day.

What gives?

There’s a name for the phenomenon of stress spreading: second-hand anxiety. Second-hand anxiety, or second-hand stress, is not a psychological diagnosis, illness, or disorder. It is, rather, a neurological phenomenon that refers to the way emotions spread.

Understanding how second-hand anxiety works not only teaches us more about the social nature of emotions, but can also help us keep our cool when other people’s negative emotions overwhelm us.

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How Men Can Confront Toxic Masculinity (+ Why It’s Important for Mental Health)

Hip young man feeling frustrated and alone

With the #MeToo movement dominating the headlines over the past few months, many of us have had to ask tough questions about our own experiences of gender, power, and relationships. While women have taken the forefront of the movement, it’s also been a moment of reckoning for men.

The movement has not only provided an opportunity to confront more obvious acts of violence, but also how gender roles influence the way we treat one another in our own lives and relationships. This means confronting the role of toxic masculinity in our lives and relationships.

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The Psychology of the Orgasm Gap

Man and woman embracing at home

We know that women face a number of challenges to achieving equality. In the boardroom, we face the wage gap. And in the bedroom: The orgasm gap.

Researchers (and everyday people!) have found that a gap exists between the frequency with which men and women experience orgasm, especially during heterosexual sex. Specifically, women consistently have fewer orgasms than their male partners.

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Having Healthy Sex after Sexual Assault

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The summer I was nineteen, I researched and wrote a travel guide to Italy, journeying from Venice to the Cinque Terre armed only with a sundress and my handy dandy Macbook.

It sounds pretty ideal, and it was—except for the constant, terrifying, enraging sexual harassment. From being groped on the train to being kissed non-consensually by hostel owners and bartenders, the summer left me tan, skinny, with killer calf muscles — and with a feeling of total disconnect from my sexuality. After months of constant, unwanted attention and physical violation, I felt that my sexuality had become a weapon used against me rather than something for my own pleasure.

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How Psychology Stigmatized Female Orgasm (and How We Got It Back)

woman's hands on bedsheets

For most of us, orgasms are, simply, awesome. Yet from the origins of modern psychology in the late nineteenth century, a combination of cultural stereotypes, pseudoscience, and plain old misogyny created an enduring notion that women’s orgasms were a problem to be solved, rather than a normal part of sexual pleasure and mental wellbeing.

From the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, many psychologists, inspired by Freudian psychoanalysis, argued that women should only achieve orgasm through vaginal penetration by a man. Any other kind of female sexual pleasure — including masturbation, queer sexuality, and any stimulation of the clitoris — was considered a sign of “masculinity,” imbalance, or even insanity.

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How Mental Health Activists Are Fighting Racism

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During the Civil Rights Movement, white psychologists invented a so-called mental illness. Dubbing it “protest psychosis,” these psychologists used the racially-motivated “syndrome” to explain away the reasonable rage of black Americans demanding an end to segregation.

Sixty years later, racial disparities in the mental health care system remain, including lack of access to mental health services for communities of color, inadequate addressal of the real psychological trauma caused by racism, and racially-motivated diagnoses like the now-scrapped “protest psychosis.”

But that doesn’t have to be the case. Increasingly, anti-racist advocates in the mental health community are encouraging us all to recognize mental health as a racial justice issue. Continue reading How Mental Health Activists Are Fighting Racism

What Ethical Non-Monogamy Can Teach Us About Healthy Relationships

polyamory love triangle illustration

I’m not so hot on monogamy. It’s always been strange to me that society decides one way of doing romantic relationships: boy meets girl; boy and girl date; boy and girl marry; boy and girl never date or sleep with anyone else ever again. If we’re all unique, why should we accept a one-size-fits-all rule of monogamy?

I’m not the only one skeptical: Increasingly, many people are embracing ethical non-monogamy. In this model of relationship health, having a happy and loving relationship doesn’t depend upon romantic and sexually exclusivity. Rather, ethical non-monogamy emphasizes communication and consent.

Many psychologists argue that the skills people in ethically non-monogamous relationships develop to stay happy and healthy are important lessons for everyone. Here’s how to know if ethical non-monogamy is right for you — and what it can teach us all about mental health in relationships, however we choose to love. Continue reading What Ethical Non-Monogamy Can Teach Us About Healthy Relationships

How Much Effort Do Women Put Into Coping With Sexual Harassment in a Day?

women at work uncomfortable with male co-worker touching her on arm

It’s that knot of anxiety in the pit of your stomach when you walk down the street. You step off the train, your bag in front of your breasts, flinching lest the next passerby brush you “accidentally-on-purpose.”

It’s never knowing whether your boss is leaning just a little too close.

It’s turning the music up loud so you don’t hear the catcallers, or turning down an invitation to a work outing because the coworker who’s going has a reputation for getting handsy when he’s drunk. Continue reading How Much Effort Do Women Put Into Coping With Sexual Harassment in a Day?