#6 Lauren Dummit: The million dollar question: How do we fall in love?
This transcript was exported on Feb 5, 2021 - listen to the podcast here
Lauren Dummit: I think the honeymoon phase only lasts a certain amount of time and because I don't think it's real, I think it's fantasy. As the relationship develops, usually as it becomes more intimate, we again, see people warts and all, and it's so painful when people can see our deepest wounds, but it's so fulfilling when they can love us anyway.
Ashley Rivard: Hey, guys. I'm Ashley Dawn Rivard, and you are now Into The Dawn, a provocative podcast that looks at all things taboo, such as suicide, grief, sex, addictions, and more. Each week, I talk with experts who successfully investigate their areas of interest, and if you like what you hear, please remember to subscribe.
Ashley Rivard: Today, I'm talking with Lauren Dummit Schock, a licensed marriage and family therapist, certified sex addiction therapist, certified sex therapist, and trauma specialist. She is the Clinical Director and Co-Founder of Triune Therapy Group in Brentwood, Los Angeles, and Lauren's been trained in several somatic modalities, such as somatic experiencing, EMDR, neurofeedback and trauma sensitive yoga. Her mission is to help people heal their pain while evolving spiritually so they can experience fulfilling, connected relationships with themselves and as well with others. Lauren has been in this line of work for over 15 years helping children and adults.
Ashley Rivard: Thank you, Lauren, for being here.
Lauren Dummit: Thank you for having me. This is so much fun.
Ashley Rivard: Yeah, I'm so excited about this topic and you're so well versed in so many areas.
Lauren Dummit: Well, thank you.
Ashley Rivard: Yeah. I mean, this is such a prevalent... I don't want to call it... I guess like issues or, I mean, line of work you're doing.
Lauren Dummit: Well, thank you.
Ashley Rivard: There's never a shortage, I would assume.
Lauren Dummit: No. Well, and I think also, just the way technology is evolving, I think that was one of the things that you had talked about was intimacy and connection and how important that is for us as a society. We're relational beings, but with evolving technology it takes out the connection piece with a lot of people.
Ashley Rivard: Absolutely. With all of your expertise, like in addiction and with just being a marriage and family therapist, and with all your therapy in general, would you say that there is a common theme of perhaps like a lack of intimacy people are feeling either with themselves or others?
Lauren Dummit: Absolutely. I mean, first of all, I have heard addiction defined as an intimacy disorder or an attempt to control intimacy, but also, I've heard it said that the opposite of addiction is connection, so I definitely think there's a huge intimacy component. I think when people are using substances, essentially, they're using them in order to feel okay in their body.
Ashley Rivard: Right.
Lauren Dummit: Whether they've had overt trauma, which is something that's really obvious, like being raped or held at gunpoint, or covert trauma, which is more developmental or attachment or relational trauma from their childhood. I think frequently people are just wanting to feel okay in their skin, so often they're seeking something. The voice of addiction is often like I need, I need, I need, which is why it's so common for people to switch addictions. Essentially, if we can't self-regulate, which means being able to regulate our emotions and our nervous systems, so that we can feel safe and calm in our bodies, if we can't feel that way with ourselves it's really hard to be present and ultimately, to have intimacy with another human being.
Ashley Rivard: Yeah. What does intimacy look like then, like true intimacy?
Lauren Dummit: Well, I love that little catchphrase like in to see me. When I think about intimacy, it's about really revealing yourself and letting yourself be seen by another, warts and all, and not trying to just have them see a piece of you, but all of you. That requires a lot of vulnerability and that is really scary. I think it touches on our most primitive survival instincts and the need to be accepted and loved. If a mother doesn't swaddle and touch and love her baby, the baby will die of failure to thrive. I think it goes back to our basic core, so that's why I think that fear of intimacy sometimes is so profound. I know people that are so brave and have done all these things, but intimacy is probably one of the scariest things that people can face.
Ashley Rivard: Do you think that this could be... is the word sexist maybe, of like with men I see, men who are just go-getters and they can do anything, and they can go out and build businesses and travel and do extreme things, do you think there's part of them that is running from intimacy?
Lauren Dummit: Well, that's a really good question. I actually don't think it's sexist. I think part of it has to do with toxic masculinity and how we're socialized. I will just speak about this country, but I think men are raised to be tough and to not cry, so talking about feelings often is not a strong point for men or something they're comfortable with. I don't know whether that's innate or the way we're socialized. I think most of it has to do with the way we're socialized, so I think if we're letting ourselves be fully seen, that's about sharing, and sharing your feelings and your thoughts. That is not something that has been honored and encouraged in men in our society. Yes, I think because of that, they're often... I don't know if running from it, but often very uncomfortable with it because it threatens their identity as a man.
Ashley Rivard: I would say, I mean, I've just noticed I don't think women... not all women, but I'll say maybe in the older paradigm of relationships is a woman also has to stand for that.
Lauren Dummit: Right.
Ashley Rivard: You know?
Lauren Dummit: Right.
Ashley Rivard: If she meets a man at that level, but she's always miserable and complaining... you know.
Lauren Dummit: Right. Well, I think ultimately in relationships, it's not... someone once said to me, "Don't make him your everything because he'll inevitably fail you and then you'll resent him." I was like, "Wow, that was so profound." It's really up to us to get our needs met. We're only responsible for our own happiness and if someone can't meet our needs, it's up to us to advocate for that or to get our needs met somewhere else.
Lauren Dummit: For example, if your husband doesn't like to go to the ballet, not surprising, but then maybe you need to do that with your friends. It's important. We all have needs and wants and those are important. I think those are important to being satisfied in a relationship.
Ashley Rivard: As a therapist for relationships, if it is our job to meet our own needs, is there non-negotiables then?
Lauren Dummit: When I say it's... I don't think it's our responsibility to meet our own needs because I think there's some needs that we can't meet on our own. Like, maybe the need for affection. Hugging myself just isn't the same as getting a hug-
Ashley Rivard: Of course.
Lauren Dummit: ... from someone I see as like a support, but it's up to me to advocate for my needs. If I'm in a relationship and that's something I need and they're not giving me that, then I need to be able to talk about that and whether we can come to some type of arrangement or I need to get that need met somewhere else, or maybe we just decide we're not a good fit because this person can't meet my needs.
Ashley Rivard: Okay. Yeah.
Lauren Dummit: I recently just talked to one of my friends, he's a gay man and he had this boyfriend and they seemed like the perfect couple and they were so in love. The last time I talked to him he said they broke up. I was so sad to hear that, and he said, "You know, I just had to be true to myself and the truth was he wasn't meeting my needs and I don't know that he was capable of that." What he meant was like his needs for intimacy and affection and all of that. I thought, wow, that's so brave to be able to stand up for yourself that way because a lot of times we end up-
Ashley Rivard: Settling.
Lauren Dummit: ... dismissing our own needs. Yeah. I think a lot of that has to do with fear, like fear that we're not going to get that.
Ashley Rivard: The clients you see then with sex, how important really is that to a relationship? Is that number one or is that... is intimacy actually really what people want and sex is the icing on the cake?
Lauren Dummit: That's so interesting because I just was meeting with a patient who essentially has the perfect relationship, but there're some issues that are creating problems for them sexually. That was his question, how important is that? I would have to say that it is very individual. Each individual has different needs. For some people, sex is very important, but not for everyone. What I would say is, what I would ask, what is the meaning of sex for you?
Lauren Dummit: For example, if the meaning of sex for you is connection, then that could be one way to connect, but there might be many other ways. I would say that it really depends on what your needs are. You might be with someone who's not really that into sex and you might not be either. That doesn't mean you can't have an extremely satisfying, fulfilling relationship. I think it really is based on what each person needs and not subscribing to what your relationship should look like, so we should be having sex this much or if he really loved me, he'd want to have sex with me more. Everybody is different. Everybody has different needs and wants.
Ashley Rivard: What is then one of the number one issues that you see couples for? Is there a higher something going on that you see?
Lauren Dummit: Well, I definitely think that communication is a huge one because I think ultimately, the thing is, people defend themselves when they feel attacked and when we're triggered, we often don't express ourselves in an ideal way. For example, if you say something that triggers me, I might regress into my angry teenager or probably some time in my life where something happened that I was much younger and it's a similar dynamic. Often, it's like something that happened within your family of origin, but then I might react in a way that is rather immature and defensive. Then, that person feels attacked and they get defensive.
Lauren Dummit: I do so much work with people on communication and really coming from a place that wrong, right, or indifferent, this is just my experience and if we're going to have intimacy, I need to be able to share it with you. I don't need to make you wrong. For example, when I try to talk to you and you're watching TV and you're ignoring me, you're not bad for doing that. There's nothing wrong with that actually, but for me, it triggers me because it reminds me... and I'm just using an example, of when my dad would be constantly watching TV and I could never get him to play with me when I was a child. I could never get attention.
Lauren Dummit: If I'm not able to communicate that, I might just act that anger out and my partner might be so confused and just... so I think there's a lot of that that goes on. Like, really being able to communicate what's happening, why are we hurt, and recognize that, oh, my partner's hurting instead of going into defending ourselves against being wrong. I see like such beautiful shifts when people can do that, but it's really difficult because it requires us to be really vulnerable, to say, "I felt really hurt when you did that," instead of just getting mad.
Ashley Rivard: Would you say that is a key, though, to having a successful relationship?
Lauren Dummit: Communication?
Ashley Rivard: Yeah.
Lauren Dummit: Well, I know many people that have... well, not many, I shouldn't say that, but I have heard of people having successful relationships that don't even speak the same language, however, I'm guessing they have a different way of communicating, so I don't necessarily know that it has to do with language, but I definitely think the way we communicate is really important. Yes. Betrayal is another one.
Ashley Rivard: I was going to ask you that is how much infidelity? Is that betrayal you're talking about?
Lauren Dummit: Yeah, so when we talk about relational betrayal, infidelity is one of them.
Ashley Rivard: Okay.
Lauren Dummit: A big one.
Ashley Rivard: Yeah.
Lauren Dummit: It can also be financial betrayal and just more subtle betrayals. For example, I share with you something so intimate and so vulnerable, and then we're fighting, and you use that against me or I'm having a really serious problem and I've been so vulnerable and talked to you about it and then you go tell everyone. I think there's many different forms of betrayal, but I think financial and infidelity are two of the big ones.
Ashley Rivard: Why do you think people stray from relationships?
Lauren Dummit: Well, I think there's many different reasons that people stray from relationships and actually, if you're interested in that topic, I highly recommend Esther Perel's-
Ashley Rivard: Love her. Know her. Yeah.
Lauren Dummit: Why am I blanking on it?
Ashley Rivard: It's the...
Lauren Dummit: She has Mating in Captivity... oh-
Ashley Rivard: Mating, yep.
Lauren Dummit: ... and then State of Affairs, that's what it's called. It's fascinating analysis of why people stray. I think there's so many different reasons, but ultimately, I think it's about not having our needs met. When we're not able to communicate or work through that with our partner, then we also might look to someone else to meet that. A lot of times, it's just for attention because the truth is, when we're in a relationship with an intimate partner, we stop seeing them as an individual who might need attention. We just become... we take them for granted.
Ashley Rivard: Do you think it's possible to have longevity in relationships?
Lauren Dummit: I do, absolutely, but I think it takes work. People think to support a family you have to go to work and make money and it's hard, it's not comfortable, it's strenuous. To maintain your car, you have to take it to get serviced and do all these things. Just like anything, we have to do work to maintain our relationship. I just don't think it happens naturally. I mean, to be honest, when you have a roommate, even if our best friends as roommates and they've remained my best friends, but it's inevitable that you're going to fight with your roommate. It's hard to be in a relationship with other people. We're so different.
Ashley Rivard: Yeah, when you're that close. I luckily have good roommates. They're never around and I never-
Lauren Dummit: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:15:11] use that because often we develop an intimate relationship-
Ashley Rivard: Absolutely.
Lauren Dummit: ... and I think anytime intimacy is involved, it becomes... we have differences.
Ashley Rivard: Yeah. Then, like you were saying, when conflict arises-
Lauren Dummit: Right.
Ashley Rivard: ... it's so challenging because that's when you're starting to get stripped. Right?
Lauren Dummit: Right. We were talking about self-regulation and I think that is a huge piece. People that have had trauma, one of the biggest impacts is they are unable to self-regulate or self-soothe, so people with trauma often have more issues in relationships because if we can self-regulate and self-soothe, if I'm angry, I can actually slow down and take some deep breaths and maybe go take a hot shower and come back and express my feelings instead of just impulsively reacting and yelling.
Ashley Rivard: What are some tools that you use to teach self-regulation?
Lauren Dummit: Well, there's many. One of the things I talk about is internal and external resources, so internal resources are something that you don't need anyone for. That might be taking deep breaths or any type of breath work. It might be meditating, praying, maybe taking a hot shower, maybe using some affirmations and external resources might be like calling a sponsor or going to a meeting or walking on the beach.
Ashley Rivard: Therapist.
Lauren Dummit: Right. You have to look at what helps your nervous system and sometimes people have no idea. One of the exercises I give people sometimes is just over the course of a week, tune into your sensory experiences, so sound, sight, touch, smell, just start noticing what gives you pleasure and don't just notice it, but mindfully pay attention to it and how it affects your body and your nervous system. That helps people start to develop what could be a resource for them because it's really different for everyone. Some people might like a soft blanket, or some people might be soothed by music or the smell of chocolate chip cookies. I think knowing what speaks to you is really important.
Ashley Rivard: Yeah. Yeah, there's a lot, there's a lot of things you can do, but like you said, it's just slowing down and being mindful-
Lauren Dummit: Yeah. Right.
Ashley Rivard: ... to those situations. I want to touch on the part of sex addiction, and I know you said there's three phases to sex addiction but maybe that's jumping ahead. I guess what is... I mean, is there a definition for sex addiction?
Lauren Dummit: Yeah. I think the definition of addiction in general is that you begin compulsively using a substance or a behavior in order to feel better and it comes to a point where you are unable to stop despite negative consequences. I think a lot of times, people tell me they're watching porn, is that bad? Now, some people have judgements about that, but I don't think it's the behavior that's the problem, I don't think drinking is bad, I don't think watching porn is bad, I don't think having sex with strangers is necessarily bad if that's within your set of values, but what are the costs? I think you have to look at what it's costing you. Are there health costs, spiritual costs, relational costs, financial costs, and if you're experiencing multiple costs and you still can't stop, that's when you... I mean, it's a complex concept to define, but I think that's a pretty good definition.
Lauren Dummit: I also think usually because of that, because of not being able to stop despite the consequences, there's usually a lot of shame involved and that become cyclical. Shame is an extremely difficult emotion to tolerate and a lot of addicts can't cope with shame, so they use whatever it is. Then, because of their using and inability to stop, they feel more shame, which is intolerable and hence, it becomes a cycle.
Ashley Rivard: I mean, because I usually hear more of people have... I would say the common addiction would be alcohol... or is that just the most publicized?
Lauren Dummit: I would say the biggest fellowship in terms of recovery definitely is AA and I would say probably alcohol because it's so accessible. It's something that's mainstream in our society, so I think it's probably one of the easiest things to abuse, however, with our country's really distorted messages around body image and food and all of that, I think food issues are also becoming a huge problem, both with men and women. There's these messages that you need to look a certain way or be a certain size, and yet, we're like the fast-food nation. There's so many... and like there's just so many mixed messages, and I think a lot of times people get their sense of self-worth wrapped up in their body image and their appearance, I mean, especially in LA. I see a lot of people get sober from alcohol and then develop a food issue or an eating disorder or whatnot. Food is another thing that's really easily accessible.
Ashley Rivard: Under all these addictions is trauma.
Lauren Dummit: That's my opinion. Some people will say that it's... sometimes it's purely genetic and I do think genetics play a role. Again, then you get into the nurture and nature debate because if my dad was an alcoholic, did I inherit the alcoholism from him genetically or the way he parented me? Typically, when a baby comes into the world, they cannot self-soothe, and they need their caregivers to help them learn to self-regulate and the caregivers become their external regulator until they can learn to self-soothe. If a parent is not regulated themselves, if they're mis-attuned to their child's needs, if they're not physically or emotionally available, all this impacts the baby in a way that is traumatic because the baby is implicitly getting this message that their needs are not important or that they're not valuable. A lot of times, this type of trauma, which is considered developmental or attachment trauma, people don't remember.
Lauren Dummit: What happens is, someone never learns to self-soothe and then they're constantly seeking external regulators in order to self-regulate. What that means is to be able to feel calm and aligned and at peace in your own body, to be able to regulate your emotions so they're not huge and out of control. We talked about food, I think for children, and I myself developed an eating disorder at 11 years old. Well, I've had other addictions as well, but that was what was available to me.
Ashley Rivard: What kind of eating disorder?
Lauren Dummit: Well, I struggled with anorexia at that young age, and for me it was about control. Like, I don't have any power or control in this family maybe, but I can control what goes into my body. It gave me some power. I think sometimes it's also a way to dissociate, to escape reality, so often children develop issues with food because what happens is a child doesn't feel good in their body because they're nervous systems dysregulated and they think, "My body doesn't feel good, so my body is bad." Then, there's often an attempt to try to control the body.
Ashley Rivard: Right.
Lauren Dummit: Another common way that children self-regulate or self-soothe mal-adaptively would be like masturbation. That's another thing that's easily accessible to them. Sometimes it resolves itself. There's nothing... children don't have that sense of shame, they just explore their bodies, it feels good. It becomes mal-adaptive when it's excessive and their only coping skill and their only tool to self-regulate. Quite frequently, people develop other addictions as availability happens. Some people start drinking really early because it's accessible, but some people aren't introduced to it until later.
Ashley Rivard: So many fascinating-
Lauren Dummit: You hear people in AA all the time say, like when they had their first drink, it was like the clouds parted and the heavens opened, and I had arrived. This is how I want to feel all the time. Really, it's just this state of feeling okay.
Ashley Rivard: With the self-soothing and everyone wanting to be okay and how that also... I mean, as you mentioned, that's where our addictions come from, do you think that also... I think we had chatted about this, love is an addiction? Right?
Lauren Dummit: Love can certainly be addiction, an addiction.
Ashley Rivard: You have love addiction, sex addiction-
Lauren Dummit: Right. They're not necessarily the same, but they can coexist.
Ashley Rivard: What's the difference?
Lauren Dummit: I work with a lot of love addicts actually and a lot of love avoidants. I would say those are the opposite ends of the spectrum, however, there are many people that are on that spectrum and flip flop back and forth, but with love addiction I would say that underlying love addiction is ultimately a fear of abandonment, so there is this desire to get close, and then closer and closer because it feels so euphoric.
Lauren Dummit: Typically, a love addict, it could be with a friend, it could be with a lover or partner, they put this person up on a pedestal and they... because they don't have a solid sense of self, derive meaning about themselves from this person. If I'm friends with this person, I'll be more popular. If I am married to this man, it will raise my status. They fail to see this person as a whole. When we put them on a pedestal, we're only seeing their positive qualities and we're idealizing them, which is really unfair because there's only a fall that's possible from there.
Ashley Rivard: Right.
Lauren Dummit: As the love addict tries to get closer and closer, they often push the person away, and then they start perceiving abandonment and then they start perhaps engaging in all these behaviors to try, manipulative behaviors, to try to reinstate closeness. Ultimately, they either start realizing that this person is a human being with faults, and it's devastating to them, and I would say if the relationship ends, and it could be that the partner breaks up with them, or they realize that this isn't the person they thought and they end the relationship, it is devastating. Like, beyond devastating. Usually, love addiction withdrawal is so painful that quite frequently people come in to therapy because they're suicidal and they feel like they cannot live without the other person.
Ashley Rivard: All their worth is on that person.
Lauren Dummit: Right, right.
Ashley Rivard: It kind of goes back to guiding them to themselves.
Lauren Dummit: Right. Really what they're addicted to is the euphoria of that in-love feeling.
Ashley Rivard: Is that in-love feeling, now do you know how people talk about that in a start of a relationship, does it always go away?
Lauren Dummit: Well, another thing is, another love addict pattern might just be to relationship hop and as soon as it starts getting real, then they're over it because they like that initial in-love feeling. Does that always go away? I think so. I think the honeymoon phase only lasts a certain amount of time and because I don't think it's real. I think it's fantasy. I think that when we first meet someone, we're only showing each other our good sides and we're only being seen-
Ashley Rivard: You're not vulnerable.
Lauren Dummit: ... like, only my good points are being seen, which is euphoric. This person only sees my good qualities and, as the relationship develops, usually as it becomes more intimate, we again, see people, warts and all, and it's so painful when people can see our deepest wounds, but it's so fulfilling when they can love us anyway. That's where I think the in-love feeling starts turning to love. I think love is a deeper experience.
Ashley Rivard: Would you say that would be the difference of lust to love, lust is the beginning phase maybe?
Lauren Dummit: Could be, but you can be love addicted without necessarily having an extreme sexual attraction to a person.
Ashley Rivard: You just want that-
Lauren Dummit: Yeah, the closeness. That feeling of when I'm with this person, I feel... and that's what's euphoric and that's what's addicting. You might not even be having sex with them or even be that sexually attracted to them because you can certainly be love addicted to a friend that's not sexual.
Ashley Rivard: A love addict has abandonment issues and then, what is the other one, the avoidance?
Lauren Dummit: Love avoidance, and again, when I'm speaking about this, I'm speaking generally, but it's not for everyone. Love avoidance, sometimes it comes from... like a typical profile of a love avoidant would be someone who probably maybe had an enmeshed relationship with a parental figure, let's say a mother, and they became the mother's emotional caretaker. They experienced enmeshment as feeling suffocating, so the message they got was that love is suffocating. Their greatest fear is suffocation. The love addict is abandonment.
Lauren Dummit: They often end up with people that have more love addictive tendencies because they are used to being the caretaker and they get value in being put on a pedestal and being the caretaker. Quite frequently, there are people that can't set boundaries, so as someone continues to try to get closer and closer, they start feeling suffocated and pulling away. Instead of being able to set the boundary, they might feel a lot of anger and start acting it out. Sometimes they start acting it out by developing a sex addiction or some other addiction, which creates a wall to intimacy. It's like a barrier, so it depends what happens. I mean, if they're with someone who's a love addict, it often creates this explosive dynamic where they're going back and forth, but ultimately, it's about learning to be able to tolerate intimacy.
Lauren Dummit: For example, working with love avoidance that are in relationships, you might just suggest they do activities together where it's not so direct, but they learn to tolerate being close with someone without it being direct. Maybe going on hikes together, things like that. Ultimately, it's about learning to set boundaries and to not need to caretake.
Ashley Rivard: Do you think a lot of people, I've found this with myself, I have been single for 12-13 years and it's like I don't think it's because I'm avoiding it, I just think there's a certain... I don't feel the need to go out and date all these guys. For me, I'm like, I know it when I see it and it will just happen.
Lauren Dummit: I mean, to me, that sounds like a healthy outlet. One of the things I tell my clients that are in maybe Sex and Love Addiction Anonymous or they're dealing with intimacy issues, is they want to know when they can date. What I say is, I think we're ready to date when we are perfectly happy and content not being in a relationship, where we know how to make ourselves happy and we feel good about ourselves and we're not coming from a place of need. Now, we might have needs and want to be in a relationship, but it's very different than needing to be in a relationship to complete you or to make you happy because when we enter into a relationship from that perspective, the other person feels it and it ends up creating... feeling like a burden or creating dysfunction in a relationship.
Ashley Rivard: Have you heard from people that the way they might see a relationship is not how most people have relationships and that then creates a lot of unease with them? I'm talking about myself just in the sense like I was... again, like I said, I've been alone for so long, so I understand independence.
Lauren Dummit: Right.
Ashley Rivard: There's something that's very scary for... almost like a man.
Lauren Dummit: Right.
Ashley Rivard: Like, where if I get close to someone, it's like, how do I still have that independence and I don't become co-dependent, but then I notice I create situations that... I mean, there's a lot of space where we don't talk for a week and it's okay, but then I'm like, is it okay because everyone's telling me it's not okay. Then, I start to mess myself up and I go, this isn't right. Then, it's almost like I freak out. I've convinced myself this isn't right, but then I'm like, but I don't know how to do that. You know?
Lauren Dummit: Well, one thing I always tell people, if you want a recipe for unhappiness or depression, just start comparing yourselves to other people, but-
Ashley Rivard: For sure.
Lauren Dummit: ... I think again there's no shoulds, I think everybody is different. There might be a little avoidance in there. I mean, I think love avoidants typically value their independence over closeness, but I don't necessarily think that you're wrong for wanting to be independent or have your space. Again, everybody has their own needs, and it would be important for you to find someone who is also probably independent and... Two love avoidants can be very happy together, but they might not-
Ashley Rivard: That's interesting-
Lauren Dummit: ... have a very-
Ashley Rivard: ... because I need extreme intimacy, too.
Lauren Dummit: Yeah, they might not be very connected, but-
Ashley Rivard: No. Yeah, so it's-
Lauren Dummit: It's hard if you've been on your own for that long, too, to learn to let down... maybe let go of some of that independence because when you were talking about your fear of co-dependence, I think there is a level of healthy dependence that is a good thing when we're in relationships.
Ashley Rivard: What does that look like?
Lauren Dummit: Well, for example, they've done so many studies where when someone is with their partner, their heart rate slows down, they become more calm in their bodies. I think in relationships and partnerships, we rely on our partners to do certain things and to be there for us and to meet our needs. I think ultimately, it's healthy to be dependent upon someone else, that in the context of healthy dependence versus not being able to function on your own or needing that person to complete you or give you and identity.
Ashley Rivard: Fine line. It's a fine line.
Lauren Dummit: Yeah, it is.
Ashley Rivard: Then, let's talk about open relationships.
Lauren Dummit: Okay.
Ashley Rivard: Why... no, that's the wrong word to use. Well... I guess for me I've always wondered, and it's not... I don't want to make somebody who has it right or wrong, I guess I don't understand it so much of like why would you be committed to somebody but have somebody you see on the side, and how do you do that and have real intimacy? Do you understand? Like, there's-
Lauren Dummit: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, that's a really good question. Especially in our culture, I think, it's people are really uncomfortable with it because we are a culture that has been created around Christianity and the idea of the institution of marriage and commitment and fidelity. That being said, I think as we're progressing as a society, I think many people are shifting how they view relationships, how they view marriage, and is it better... affairs have been happening since the beginning of time, so is this a way to mitigate betrayal and dishonesty? I do see so many couples that have opened up their marriages and I will say, it is very, very difficult and risky. I would say most of the time... granted, I'm working with couples that are coming in for help, it gets really tricky and I think one of the key points to making it I guess as smooth as possible is being very, very clear about what your boundaries are and respecting each other's boundaries.
Lauren Dummit: For example, maybe we have an open relationship, but you're not kissing this person or having sex with this person or maybe we have an open sexual relationship, but I don't want you seeing this person when I'm not there. To each their own, everyone has difference on what they feel comfortable with and it could open a conversation to really increase vulnerability and connectedness. Again, I bring up Esther Perel because I love her, but she talks about that a lot in Mating in Captivity, about how we often become emotionally almost enmeshed with a partner after years of being with them, and it feels safe and secure, but there's not a lot of novelty and we are attracted to people like up to other. Right? We're not attracted to ourselves, so I think that there is sometimes that novelty is lost when we become too close and safe with each other. I think that sometimes people open up their marriage for that reason. I definitely think it can work; I think it's risky. I think it requires a lot of healthy communication, boundary setting and trust.
Ashley Rivard: Do you think... I was talking to somebody else about this. Oh, a guy was telling me that he cheated or he almost lost... got divorced twice, and he said he cheated, he asked for an open relationship, she didn't want any of this. He said he realized he was running from his trauma. When it would come up, he would want to go outside of the marriage, and once he started going within, all those feelings went away for women.
Lauren Dummit: Well, it's interesting because I do think often, not always, many sex addicts are love avoidant, and they can't tolerate intimacy, so they may love their wife, but not be able to tolerate true intimacy. A maladaptive way of getting their need met is by going and having sex or acting out sexually with other people because it creates a false sense of intimacy, but it never fills the void, so the need is insatiable.
Ashley Rivard: With that said-
Lauren Dummit: It creates a block, so as I said, often love avoidants who can't tolerate intimacy, will create a wall of intimacy by engaging in another addictive or compulsive behavior. That was a way that maybe he couldn't tolerate intimacy, so he was creating a wall by engaging in a behavior with someone else.
Ashley Rivard: Now that he is going for it, he's like, "Wow, this is pretty great." Right?
Lauren Dummit: Well, it sounds like first he needed to find intimacy with himself-
Ashley Rivard: With himself, yeah.
Lauren Dummit: ... so that he could be available to a partner.
Ashley Rivard: Yeah.
Lauren Dummit: Yeah.
Ashley Rivard: That whole thing, when you were talking about... I mean, just finding intimacy in other ways, I know you've brought up before... would you say it's more men, the intimacy with... they find it through porn or social media, like a false sense of that's what...
Lauren Dummit: I would say if you look at the statistics and numbers, I would say there are more male sex addicts than porn addicts, but certainly not all. I actually did a lecture on female porn addiction at the sex addiction conference in Arizona last year. It is definitely on the rise as well because... well, there's so many different reasons that people are becoming more attracted to porn these days, especially because it's so easily accessible and free, so there are many women who struggle with that as well. I just think the numbers are much lower.
Ashley Rivard: You can take that all back to basically what you said in the beginning, they're just trying to feel safe and soothed.
Lauren Dummit: Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think frequently women tend... I mean, there's probably women have more of a tendency towards love addiction with sexual acting out or a lot of times women use food as a way to have nurturing. Right?
Ashley Rivard: Yeah.
Lauren Dummit: It certainly not all women either, I mean, men definitely do the same, but we're looking at patterns and statistics, I think those are more commonalities.
Ashley Rivard: Would you say that maybe 99% of people have something like a vice? Anything. It could be simple as... I would say mine is I would reach more for caffeine.
Lauren Dummit: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I would say the majority of people do, but that doesn't necessarily mean that that vice becomes compulsive and once step further, addictive. Right? For example, if I have a bad day, I might want to come home and eat ice cream. Nothing wrong with that. I'd take my child to go get ice cream maybe when she has a bad day or something like that, but if every time I have a bad day, I need to get ice cream, then it's becoming compulsive. Then, sometimes that compulsive behavior can become an addiction when we're unable to stop despite the consequences.
Ashley Rivard: Yeah. That's great. How would you say... how do we fall in love?
Lauren Dummit: The biggest question.
Ashley Rivard: Yes. How do we do it?
Lauren Dummit: Well, I think there's so many different things that are involved in falling in love and a lot of it is happening neurochemically. I think when we are falling in love, there's a lot of endorphins that are released, so a lot of it is happening in our brains. I think, again, to truly fall in love, I think we have to reach a place where we can feel okay in our own skin and that we can be okay with ourselves, so that we're not needing the other person to complete us or define us. Having a solid sense of self and also being able to self-regulate is huge because if we can't, then it's really difficult to tolerate that intimacy, it's hard to be comfortable in our skin.
Lauren Dummit: A lot of it has to do with being emotionally present and available. I don't know exactly why we're attracted to certain people. I think attraction is a big part of it. I don't necessarily think it's always physical attraction. It might be we're attracted to someone's mind or their voice, something like that, but I do think part of it is just we're animals. Part of it is that. It might be our smell. There's so many different factors.
Ashley Rivard: Yeah. From a therapist point of view, do you have a... I don't want to say if it's a judgment or now, but if you hear somebody say... there's couples, there's people who meet somebody, that classic case. They meet, they're together all the time, oh my god, he's amazing, I love her, da, da, da, but it blows up. Right?
Lauren Dummit: Yeah, that's really common.
Ashley Rivard: Do you feel one works better than the other?
Lauren Dummit: In terms of it being quick or slow?
Ashley Rivard: Yeah. Almost like real. Do you feel that there's something, like a pattern or there's... when you get together and you need to be together all the time or maybe you want to be? I don't know. For me, I'm like, that's a red flag.
Lauren Dummit: Yeah. Well, I think it's different for everyone, again, and that might work for some people. I definitely know couples who met and immediately were kind of in that euphoric and love stage, wanted to be together all the time, and the relationship ended up working out.
Ashley Rivard: Oh, wow.
Lauren Dummit: They got married, but it doesn't mean they were in that phase forever.
Ashley Rivard: Got it.
Lauren Dummit: I definitely think it's something to be cautious about when someone comes in saying, "Oh, my god. I've found the one. We've been together every day this week." Just because it... I think moderation is the key and often when we are... that tends to seem like a little bit of an addictive behavior, so again, I think it's just important as my role just to help them slow down and examine. For example, when someone is in Sex and Love Addiction Anonymous, and they're working with a sponsor and doing the steps, they might be prescribed to take 90 days with no dating or no relationships, no flirting, whatever their specific issues are. When they are ready to date, they're often given a dating plan. The dating plan is very specific because I think the idea of the dating plan is it helps build healthy intimacy.
Lauren Dummit: The dating plan might involve no texting, except for logistics, no phone conversations longer than 30 minutes, no going over to each other's house until you've been dating at least 30 days, or you've had this amount of dates, so it really helps people have some boundaries because I think boundaries are really important relationship, both to protect ourselves, but also having containment boundaries. If I'm angry with you, I'm not just going to punch you in the face because I can contain my feelings and emotions and behavior. It's about both being able to contain ourselves and set boundaries to protect ourselves.
Ashley Rivard: That's awesome. That's good, I mean
Lauren Dummit: When we rush into it so quickly, we're opening ourselves up to vulnerability and we haven't gotten to know each other yet, so we're just setting ourselves up to get hurt because we're becoming so vulnerable. Then, as we get to know each other, it might not work out.
Ashley Rivard: Yeah.
Lauren Dummit: I think the concept of getting to know each other slowly as you build that intimacy helps create more of a foundation.
Ashley Rivard: As a married woman, do you feel it gets easier being vulnerable when you practice, or you know?
Lauren Dummit: Yes, and no. I think yes, certainly I feel like I can share any of my feelings with my husband, but I also think there's layers, so I think the more intimate you get, there's more layers that are shed and sometimes that's painful. I think you go deeper into what you're willing to share and expose, but I also think that's also such deep inner work for yourself. Right?
Ashley Rivard: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.
Lauren Dummit: I definitely think relationships are a big teacher for us.
Ashley Rivard: Yeah, yeah. That's awesome. I mean, so much knowledge. You are just so knowledgeable, and I-
Lauren Dummit: Thank you.
Ashley Rivard: ... am so excited that you came and talked with me and shared your expertise.
Lauren Dummit: Yeah. Well, I think you have great questions. I really enjoy speaking with you, so this is a great opportunity.
Ashley Rivard: Yay, thank you. Where can people find you?
Lauren Dummit: I'm on Instagram @LaurenDummit and Facebook Lauren Dummit Schock, and I also have a website. It's www.TriuneTherapy.com and that is T-R-I-U-N-E.
Ashley Rivard: Awesome. Yeah. I mean, it sounds like, based on your credentials, anything that anyone is looking for they could come to you and
Lauren Dummit: Well, definitely, and if it's not in my wheelhouse, I certainly know a multitude of professionals that have a very specific expertise, so I am happy to help someone get the specific help they need. Yes.
Ashley Rivard: Awesome. Thank you, Lauren.
Lauren Dummit: You're welcome. Thank you.
Ashley Rivard: That's it for today's podcast. Thank you so much for taking the time to listen today. Please let me know what you think. Leave a comment, share, and we'll be back next week with a new episode.
Please don’t forget to forward this article and podcast to someone whom it may serve.