Jump To:

1. Boundaries and limits

2. Substitution Behaviors

3. Mindfulness Skills

4. Planning for Challenges

Even after years of healing from compulsive social media use, I have found myself checking my notifications nonstop the past few days. When I come up for air after a work meeting or errand, I reflexively reach for anything that will help me feel some element of control with the state of the world and current events. Doomscrolling gives me the illusion that if I only know enough about the world I might have some power.

From past experiences with these behaviors, I knew they were an indicator of an underlying stressor or feeling. Instead of judging myself for regressing or losing progress, I took it as additional information and became curious about what might be happening for me internally and how I could help myself cope. 

In part one of this blog series, we tackled misnomers about “addictive” behavior, explored its connection to the LGBTQIA+ community, and explored questions to help us better understand the function and limitations of our behavioral habits. 

In part two, we will explore some tangible strategies that may help to curb behaviors that feel out of control. Please note that these strategies are not intended as medical guidance or therapeutic advice; if you have any issues requiring additional support, please reach out to appropriate resources. 

Harm reduction strategies are intended to limit the harms associated with specific behaviors. It is important when starting with harm reduction strategies to have knowledge of the potential harms and benefits associated with our behaviors, as covered in part one. Once you have some awareness of the harms and benefits, then it is possible to explore alternatives.

1. Boundaries and limits

There are many types of boundaries and limits that we can set that may proactively help us to curtail problematic behaviors. I like to set limits on the time spent with any specific behavior with a timer and immediately switch to something that requires my full attention when the timer goes off. Additionally, I may decide which settings may actually limit my ability to engage in the behavior. For example, with my example of compulsive internet use, I try to turn off my wifi by unplugging the router or go to a coffee shop that intentionally doesn’t offer that service.

2. Substitution Behaviors

When it comes to substitution behaviors, I like to consider what would be an effective distraction that helps to satisfy the same urge. It may take some creativity, but focusing on what needs are being met by the behavior can help inform which substitution behavior would work best for you specifically. If engaging in the behavior gives you a feeling of freedom, consider what might stimulate that same feeling with less harm. I had a friend once who described feeling free when riding her bike and chose to substitute that for online shopping whenever possible. 

3. Mindfulness Skills

There are so many incredible resources available for mindfulness, including a strategy called ‘urge surfing’, which allows us to intentionally ride the “wave” of an urge to complete a behavior. I love using, which is a free inventory of thousands of guided meditations and other related content. To learn more about urge surfing, consider reading the following steps:
– Recognize what urge(s) might be present.
– Become aware of what is happening in your body. Ask yourself what sensations are happening internally.
– Develop a mantra. For example, one helpful reminder is to think that you are allowed to have urges and that they are not dangerous. Another set of mantras might be “I can have this thought without acting on it” or “This will pass.”
– Distract yourself until the urge passes.

4. Planning for Challenges

Lastly, I have come to understand that nothing helps me with harm reduction more than advanced planning. If I can anticipate scenarios where I might be tempted to engage in doomscrolling, I can ask for support from others or plan to use the strategies above well in advance. I like to create a weekly calendar that highlights times of the day I might be most inclined to doomscroll with an alternative planned activity like reading a magazine or book. I also recommend working with a therapist to identify triggers and create comprehensive plans that involve customized coping strategies for each challenge.

There are so many ways that we can explore and manage process addictions. For further reading, consider reading the works of Dr. Gabor Mate, a world-renowned specialist in addictive behavior and processes. If you are searching for a space to process your specific needs or troubleshoot any concerns, the iAmClinic provides therapeutic services with a nonjudgmental, queer-affirming lens. 

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Men in Bed Texting

I’ll admit it—I was a novice at dating, but I tried my hardest to love the man who showered me with gifts. He provided me with European vacations, cars and an offer of lifetime commitment, but I couldn’t fully settle into our relationship. I was too wide-eyed and curious. I wanted to know what it would feel like to sleep with other people and date other personality types. I was desperately searching for the dream man I had made up in my head.

Without being fully conscious of it, I lived under the assumption that the perfect man was out there waiting for me. Even though my boyfriend of the time was enamored with me and my personality, his love was no match for my wild and unrestrained curiosity. 

I was caught in perpetual ambivalence: I wanted him so desperately, but I couldn’t commit. I loved him, but I didn’t know with certainty if I would be happy. I was ready to set down roots but leary that I might regret a permanent decision. I’m sad to say I was too uncertain in my value and my lovability. 

The poor chap. He made every attempt to convince me of his love, and yet, he could feel the energy of my rowdy desires and unsettled determination. It was in this emotionally chaotic and uncertain spell that he was deployed for 18 months as an Army reservist. He left feeling lonely, unimportant, valueless, and invisible. 

One and one-half years later, he walked in our apartment, returned from Iraq. I knew we had hit an all-time low. He was cold, seemingly irritated by my presence. Within 24 hours, he asked me to move out. He needed the room so that his new boyfriend could move in. 

Needless to say, I spent months reeling with the facts. He had cheated on me. I spent several months walking in a haze of confusion, pangs of floor-dropping anxiety and gut wrenching grief.

sad man on edge of bed

In the aftermath, I felt as though I was sitting in a crater where our home once stood. It was one of the darkest seasons of my life. The debilitating sorrow, however, forced me to reckon with the truth.

I realized that we had lived in a relationally dry climate for too long, and we alone were responsible for letting it get there. Our vulnerability was too low, our passion had diminished, and we had begun living separate lives. His healthy emotional desires had gone unseen, unacknowledged and unmet for too long. He had been emotionally starving with no sustenance in sight. I was a major contributor to our relational dynamic, often neglecting it, but he chose to respond to our bad situation in a very bad way. 

Sadly, this type of emotional hunger is all-too common for and often catalyzes those who cheat. 

The alarms of emotional hunger may not come all at once. But when important desires—belonging, love, thrill, satisfaction, joy, and romance—go unmet for long, partners find emotional resources elsewhere. Some reach for healthy options like close relatives, best friends or co-workers. 

Other partners may begin to scan for another lover who might be able to meet their emotional needs ‘perfectly.’ In the starvation phase, they often fantasize about the ideal partner and project that fantasy outside of their relationship. At the end of the day, they’re simply looking for someone who can fill up their emotional buckets.

Feeling silenced by the repeated rejection that leads to shame of their emotional or sexual yearnings, partners like my ex may be afraid to voice their true desires and needs. As a result of this lacking safety, they often meet their needs in secret—thus, cheating. In other words, discussing unmet needs with a neglectful or shaming partner is often much more difficult than seeking to meet their needs outside the relationship.

A new sexual partner—for a person in a dry emotional environment—is like an IV drip for a drastically dehydrated person. Sex is a major source of emotional connectedness and exciting vulnerability. Because emotional connectedness and sex oftne go hand in hand, it is no wonder an emtionally starved partner might reach for deeply sattisfying and thrilling sexual encounters. Playing out our emotional fantasies with a new sexual partner will reap short-term benefits because we feel immediately worthy, desired, and special, especially when someone is excited to sleep with us. If, for an emotionally hungry person, fantasizing is a medication, having sex is the buffet table. Again, cheating is a bad way to respond to a bad situation. 

Obviously, cheating as a type of emotional replenishing causes major damage to relational stability and trust. 

Men Holding Hands black and white

Understanding Why Infidelity Happened

While emotional starvation was a factor in my own experience, research shows there are various other potential causes of cheating in gay couples to understand. Some of these include:

  • Unresolved internalized homophobia leading to shame around needs.
  • Issues with sexual compatibility or mismatched libidos.
  • Different expectations about open relationships.
  • Lack of communication and emotional intimacy.
  • Substance abuse problems.
  • Childhood trauma and attachment issues.

It’s important not to make excuses for cheating, but understanding the nuanced causes in your particular situation can help you both heal. Be open to hearing your partner’s perspective without judgment. Infidelity often happens due to complex reasons.

Tips for the Unfaithful Partner

If you were the one who cheated, recovery starts with you fully owning your actions and making amends. Here are some steps:

  • Give your partner space if needed. Don’t pressure them to “just get over it.”
  • Be prepared to answer any questions they have with full honesty.
  • When it is the right time, tell your partner what was missing that you sought from an affair and work together to meet those needs appropriately.
  • Understand that rebuilding broken trust takes consistent action over time, not just words. Prove yourself trustworthy again, even if it takes longer than you expect.
  • Seek individual counseling to understand your reasons for cheating and change harmful behaviors.
  • Accept that full forgiveness may take a long time or not happen. Focus on being respectful and caring.

Guidance for the Betrayed Partner

Discovering a partner’s infidelity can be utterly devastating. Here is how to start healing:

  • Allow yourself to fully feel anger, hurt, and grief. Don’t minimize the damage done.
  • Confide in trusted friends and family for support if needed.
  • Consider if any issues in the relationship preceded the cheating and caused distance.
  • If you want to rebuild things, be clear on the boundaries and steps required to regain trust.
  • Communicate what your partner can do to help you feel safe in the relationship again.
  • Seek professional counseling solo or as a couple if you’re struggling to move forward.

Should We Stay or Should We Go? A Decision Framework/Checklist

If you’re uncertain if your relationship can or should recover from cheating, asking yourself these questions can provide clarity:

Assess the cheating partner’s mindset:

  • Are they fully owning the infidelity and showing genuine remorse?
  • What steps have they taken (or are they willing to take) to understand why it happened and change their harmful behaviors?
  • Do you believe their promises to be faithful moving forward?

Evaluate the state of the relationship:

  • How satisfying and emotionally connected were things before the cheating?
  • What unresolved issues or needs might have contributed to the distance between you?
  • Are you both willing to openly communicate and put in consistent effort to renew intimacy and trust?

Reflect on your own emotions:

  • When you imagine staying together, does it mostly feel exhausting or hopeful?
  • Can you envision regaining a sense of safety being vulnerable with this person again?
  • Do you believe you could regain passion and positivity in the relationship together?

Consider external factors:

  • Do you share finances, property, pets or children that would make separating more complicated?
  • Is there family pressure on either side to stay or leave?
  • Does the length of the relationship make it harder to let go?

Envision your futures:

  • If you split, do you feel confident you could heal and eventually find love with someone new?
  • If you stay, can you see yourself being happy and trusting your partner completely again?

Really dig deep and listen to your gut when answering these questions. While there are no absolute right or wrong answers, the wisdom you need is within you. Trust your intuition. Some relationships can heal stronger than before after infidelity, while others cannot. Make an informed choice of what is healthiest for you.

If you are currently seeking to repair damage caused from cheating, here are things to consider:

1. Create a safe environment for one hell of an apology.

Your partner will need to understand that your apology is sincere and not just an empty gesture to return things to normal. To set the mood and create a healthy repair, emotional responsibility and empathy should always be part of the formula. Here are the thought prompts to my 5-Step Apology:

  1. This what I did that hurt you. (Describe the boundary violations so that they know you mean what you say and that your grief and regret have merit.)
  2. This is how it affected you. (Describe how your actions affected your partner and what they might be feeling, emotions like unsafe, stupid, angry, hurt, untrusting, etc.)
  3. This is how I got to the point of hurting you. (Don’t make excuses! Own your shit, take responsibility, and tell your partner(s) about how you ended up making your decisions. Be honest and authentic.)
  4. This is what I am willing to do to protect you, myself and us from this happening again. (Tell your partner about the precautions and boundaries you will put in place, as well as the work you will do to repair your own emotional environment. You may need to be vulnerable. Ask your partner to work on their fair share to repair any stale emotional environment, but save requests for a later time.)
  5. Apologize with sincerity. 

Although an apology is only a beginning step, it is a major way to bring resolution. You may have to run through the 5-Step Apology over and over again because your partner may need to hear it several times as they process your betrayal and learn to trust you again. 

2. Practice Trusting

Trusting a partner who has cheated can be scary and utterly challenging. The practice of trusting your partner involves  setting proper and stable boundaries, accepting the 5-Step Apology and allowing time to pass so that you can heal. Trust must be earned, but if your partner has earned it, practice recognizing it and leaning into it. This is possibly the most challenging step in the recovery process because we must grieve  and work through very big anger before we are ready to trust again. I always recommend allowing the grief and anger to surface so that the emotionally environment is primed for trusting again.

3. Practice Vulnerability and Create Safety

Like my ex, I often hear cheaters, in couples’ sessions, defend their long-standing history of being vulnerable, asking for their needs to be met, and eventually feeling shamed by all the judgment they encountered.

Without vulnerability and safety relationships will be dry. They will not be able to reach the satisfaction and passion they once had. Although one person may have cheated, all involved are responsible for creating a safe and trustworthy space where any partner can share what they need and be comfortable doing so. Contrastingly, judgment and criticism will shut down vulnerability over time. Vulnerability is a practice of showing up with even the most disdained parts of yourself and trusting your partner to see and care for them. When romantic partners grow for one another, they reestablish their safety, connection and passion. In such a relational context, emotional satisfaction can abound.

Even if you wonder, “How can I move on after cheating?” you can reestablish a healthy, thriving relationship. Counseling professionals have walked through this process with other couples and can support you on your journey toward healing. Don’t hesitate to get the help you need. It will take work, but oftentimes our closest relationships are worth the fight. 

Ready for a change for you or a loved one? Schedule a Free 15 Minute Consultation today.

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Relationship advice for gay couples


After a long season of tolerating major stressors, my husband and I stared to spiral a bit. In all of our busyness we started to neglect one another and it was our emotional needs that suffered the most. He had shutdown and I had resorted to anger. We were both resentful. I had, slowly over time, forgotten to implement the stabilizing techniques upon which our relationship was built. It was our turn for couples therapy. Regardless if your a seasoned therapist like me, in a 20 year relationship, or a 2-month situationship, the following steps might just help you get your relationship up and running, but this time with a little more ease.

Step 1: Learn how to implement mature boundaries

LGBTQIA+ couples or polycules usually start their relationships, like everyone else, with the need to negotiate new boundaries. When we have poor boundaries we are convinced that we can manage someone else’s comfort- and more so that our partner should be capable and willing to manage ours. A mature boundary system is like a snow globe keeping our emotional temperature regulated no matter what happens on the other side of the glass dome. Demanding that our partner leaves their snow globe to adjust the thermostat inside our snow globes, we start to judge their performance based on how well they can keep us comfortable, happy, pleased, seen, etc. 

As a means of stopping repeating arguments and in attempt to create a healthy dynamic inside of your relationship(s), learn to regulate your emotional climate instead of demanding that your partner(s) do it for you. A poor boundary system will keeping you emotionally jabbing your partner for more in ways that don’t clearly communicate your needs. The jabs themselves are violations of normal and healthy boundaries and these violations can set your relationship up for resentment and escalating pain. A healthy boundary system will not only keep the emotional interactions organized and healthy, but you will also create a safety that will allow your partner(s) to grow in authenticity and vulnerability. Speaking of vulnerability…

Step 2: Practice vulnerability

Opening up emotionally has all sorts of  fears and baggage that come with it. As children our needs and wants, as well as our honesty and our insecurities might have been squashed. Dating and all the ways we’re trained to manage one another’s thermostats has convinced us that our needs and wants don’t matter. I have seen it time and time again: not talking about what you emotional crave will set you up to get it elsewhere. Cheating, lying, or building resentment that comes out as anger or criticism will be the new accessory to your relational decor. And trust me, you don’t want that. 

No matter where vulnerability went array or how, it is hard to find the safety to open up, especially about our emotional needs. Expressing your desire for more attention, more thrill, a deeper sense of connection, or the need to be seen in a more significant way can feel completely awkward and possibly even selfish. But don’t give up too soon. Vulnerability will not only change your relationship, it will change the ways you experience love, trust honesty, and grow in self-esteem. 

Step 3: Weekly Check-ins

Terrence Real, a world-class relationship expert, had an idea that transformed my marriage: Arena Times. 

Having a weekly meeting on your calendar to share your thoughts, express your pains, and articulate your needs and wants is a great opportunity to not only practice boundaries and vulnerability, but also to repair your relationship. 

Having a set weekly time for Arena Times not only helps stabilize your sense of being safe, but it will also keep your connection honest and—dare I say—sexy. Emotional intimacy will produce sexual intimacy.

In this blog entry I listed Arena Times after boundaries and vulnerability on purpose. You will need mature boundaries and healthy vulnerability before entering weekly check-ins. Let me give you one small, yet profound piece of advice: enter the arena willing to loose. When we enter to loose, we stay humble, we show up willing to grow, and we come prepared to be curious about our partner’s pain and needs- a curiosity that is like a healing balm for any relationship. Obviously, Arena Times can be very heavy at first, especially for a relationship that has a weak infrastructure. But once your structure is solid, Arena Times will decorate your relationship with safety, honesty, and a connection that will protect the relationship even through the roughest storms.

Don’t Let This Opportunity Slip Away – Take Control of Your Relationship Today!

If you’re ready to invest in your relationship and unlock its full potential, consider working with a licensed therapist or relationship coach. Professional guidance can provide invaluable insights, tools, and support tailored to your unique circumstances.

Take action today and commit to nurturing your relationship. Your future self will thank you for prioritizing this essential aspect of your life. Connect with us to schedule a consultation and embark on a journey towards a more fulfilling, emotionally connected partnership.

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Jump To:

1. What is a cyclone?

2. Stepping into the “cycle”

3. When the cycle is really a cyclone

4. How to escape the cyclone 

1. What is a cyclone?

A cyclone is a weather phenomena that forms when a cluster of thunderstorms over the ocean begin to rotate and gain heat, warming in a way that it can grow in size and intensity until it can become one of the most dangerous forms of storm on earth. Even when a cyclone is Category 1, also known as the weakest category, it still causes damage. Cyclones, while often “predicted” by meteorologists, are ultimately unpredictable, because just the right shift in conditions can either dissipate or exponentially exacerbate the storm.

2. Stepping into the “cycle”

The cycle of domestic violence is a constant circle with predictable phases. Tensions build, violence occurs, reconciliation happens, then things are calm; and so it begins again. This language, while easily understandable, is problematic and hurtful. It implies that the abuse in relationships is predictable, and survivors are often interrogated and blamed for the abuse because they didn’t leave during the “calm stage” the first time. They choose to stay and risk going through the violence again, because now they know the cycle and know that tension & violence come next. That doesn’t really sit well, does it?

3. When the cycle is really a cyclone

Domestic abuse encompasses a wide range of behavior – sometimes violent – meant to gain, and maintain, power and control over someone. Society stereotypes usually depict a romantic relationship where a (cis)woman is the ‘victim’ – also hurtful language – and (cis)man as the abuser. However, abuse can be inflicted on anyone, by anyone, and it is constant. In fact, the commonly termed ‘Honeymoon’ or ‘Calm’ phase should be much more appropriately referred to as a period of “manipulative kindness” (Owens, 2018), since it’s a purposeful act by the abuser to prevent the survivor from leaving, reporting, or doing anything else that might result in consequences for the abuser. The abuser may give gifts or elaborate displays – commonly called love bombing, make promises, or “let” the survivor do something or go somewhere for a change, which are subtle tactics of abuse, and not random acts of kindness. Rather than being a cycle, abuse exists in varying stages – think like the color stages of pandemic risk (green, blue, yellow, orange, red) – that can change in severity at any time and is unpredictable in how or when it shifts. 

4. How to escape the cyclone

Even with knowing all of this, leaving an abusive relationship is not easy. On average, survivors return to an abusive relationship seven times before deciding to permanently leave. There are many reasons why someone may stay or return to an abusive relationship: fear, normalized abuse, shame, intimidation, low self-esteem, lack of resources or support, disability, immigration status, cultural context, children or pets, and genuine care for the perpetrator are some of them. 

For individuals in the LGBTQIIA+ community, all these reasons apply with even more nuance around the lack of resources, fear of ostracization and discrimination because of sexuality or gender identity, and varying legal protections in general. One of the first steps, and possibly the most important, is determining whether it’s safe to leave and identifying supports in your community. Going back to the risk stages analogy, you are the best judge of when you’re in the ‘green’ where it’s safe to leave. When the time is right, you can prepare for leaving by doing things such as: making a go-bag that includes things like identification and medication, putting some money aside to support you during the tumultuous transition – whether holding it yourself or asking someone you trust to, and creating a safety plan for leaving and after you leave. If you have children, pets, or other dependents involved in the relationship as well, be sure to include them in your safety plan. This will help you be ready, if that’s truly possible, to leave the abusive relationship and free yourself. 

If you’re suffering through domestic violence, there’s help. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233, or The Network/La Red at 800-832-1901. If you need help creating a safety plan, the National Domestic Violence Hotline provides an interactive safety plan guide.

  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a nationwide hotline for individuals who are experiencing domestic violence, are survivors of domestic violence, or is a friend/loved one concerned for someone they believe or know is experiencing domestic violence. They now have access to Language Line, expanding their ability to help individuals in over 140 different languages. 
  • The Network/La Red is is a survivor-led, social justice organization rooted in anti-oppression principles that focuses on work dedicated to ending partner abuse in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, BDSM, polyamorous, and queer communities, and aims to create a world where all people are free from oppression. 

This article was written by our iAmClinic graduate student intern, Diluvio Palazzolo. They recently completed their Master’s in International Disaster Psychology, and are experienced with working with those who have experienced trauma. 


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