JustAnswer Love, Sex & Relationships Report

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Just as we’ve settled back down to work after the rush of holiday festivities, Valentine’s Day gives us a celebration of love and romance to look forward to in this otherwise slightly dreary winter season. At the same time, Valentine’s Day is also an occasion that can bring anxiety, heartbreak and disappointment for many people, depending on their current romantic relationship status and individual situation, given the heightened expectations and social pressure that comes along with this “celebration of love.” 

At JustAnswer, every year our therapists, doctors and even dream interpretation experts see a raft of queries from people seeking help during the lead-up to and following Valentine’s Day with all things love, sex and romance. In fact, so far this year, relationship questions are up 26% from last year (through Jan 23rd).

4 Most Common Relationship Questions on JustAnswer 

According to longtime JustAnswer Relationships & Mental Health Expert Jennifer Kelman (“Therapist Jen”), over her 11+ years working on the platform, the following four questions are hands-down the most common she encounters from people: 

1 – “My partner broke up with me. How can I get them back?”   

This is the biggest question by a mile, and it’s predominantly men who are asking. They are often feeling anxious, depressed and unable to function and just cannot seem to move on with their lives. They desire to figure out some kind of way to fix the situation. They are looking for the magic bullet answer, i.e., step-by-step directions to how they can repair a relationship and get someone to take them back  … which does not exist. They are quite distraught and are looking for hope and a way to quickly ease the pain of the loss. 

My suggestion in these consultations is always to give your ex time and space. If you keep entering their space and violating their boundaries, it will never work because the ex’s feelings will be validated, confirming their decision to leave. If you can honor your ex partner’s request for space, you have more of a chance they will come back on their own – though it’s never a guarantee. If they miss you, they WILL reach out. 

2 – “I cheated. My partner/spouse doesn’t know. I can’t live with myself. Should I tell them?” 

I never tell a person specifically they should do this or that. Instead, I begin by running through the scenario and discussing the pros/cons of being honest about the infidelity. In the end it is up to them to decide their comfort level and if they are ready to be forthright about the infidelity.  My job is to help them understand that each choice comes with risk, but my slant is always for open and honest communication.

If you’re keeping something that big covered up, you’re going to end up negotiating other difficult situations through the same lens of dishonesty from a communications standpoint. If it’s that simple to hide something that major, it will be even easier to cover up all kinds of things that are less critical – ultimately damaging to the relationship and bonds. You have established a pattern of disingenuous interaction with this person and there’s no way a relationship can thrive and grow in such an unhealthy environment. 

In therapy, I have counseled many around coming clean and figuring out a way to work through it. But this is a process, not a simple online advice-giving situation. So on the platform, it’s more of a subtle discussion so that they can think through the scenario more clearly and ultimately decide for themselves to choose the path of honesty. 

3 – “My spouse has fallen out of love with me. How do I make them love me again?”  

Just as the first question comes mostly from men, this question more often comes from women on JustAnswer. My counsel here is also toward helping people find a way to get their track intersecting again with their partner’s (instead of going parallel, which can happen in relationships, particularly long-term). I often suggest that they go back to the things you did on your first dates together to restimulate the original feelings. Whatever it takes to get you sharing and talking together, having shared experiences rather than living parallel lives, is the starting point here. 

4 – “My boyfriend/partner watches lots of porn. What should I do?” 

Basically, my advice here is that if this is not interfering with his job, your sex life or your emotional intimacy as a couple, then there’s really nothing you can or probably should do. The minute you tell your partners that they can’t look at it, they will probably just say “I’m out,” as they are likely to see this as overly controlling behavior. If, on the other hand, there seems to be an obsession with porn that is taking over your partner’s life, causing him to make poor decisions and neglect your relationship or other important commitments, then we are talking about a problem that needs to be addressed. 

Romance in the Digital Age: Instagram Infidelity 

Last year’s sexting scandal with married Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine getting caught sexting several Instagram models spotlighted a growing trend and dilemma in many modern relationships today: What constitutes infidelity today in an era of videochat coupling and erotic online chat via social media on our electronic devices? Is this trend really on the rise, and if so, why? Who are the most likely culprits of social media/Instagram cheating, and what are the red flags someone can look for to know if their partner is going down this road? 

According to Jennifer Kelman, so-called “Instagram Infidelity” is rampant: ““Emotional cheating is happening and it is happening a lot. I believe easy accessibility is one reason why we are seeing and talking about this more and more. Device use, social media use, text messaging, cheating apps, and are all right at our fingertips at any time, day or night.” 

The bottom-line, says Kelman, is that “If you are going elsewhere to get your needs met, this is cheating. It is no longer just about physical, in-person contact. You have pulled yourself away from your partner and your relationship.” 

Kelman also notes that “If you are in a relationship where you feel the need to check your partner’s phone, there is already an issue to be addressed in couples’ therapy. Even if nothing is going on, maybe a person has trust issues from a past situation that needs to be addressed.”  

So how can we tell that our partner is having an emotional affair via digital channels (or in “real life?)?  According to Kelman, it’s about “looking at their behaviors, changes in their behavior and if there is a shift in the connection between you.” Specifically, some cheating red flags may include: 

1- Changes in communication or disinterest in commonalities that once existed. If you were once the one that your partner shared things with and that has changed significantly, then it could mean that their emotional needs are being met elsewhere.

2- Your partner hides their phone, computer, and ipad or keeps it with them at all times. If there is nothing to hide, then why hide the phone etc.?

3- Your partner, while on the phone with a “work colleague,” acts giddy and silly. This might sound silly, but if you know your partner and they aren’t the most gregarious type or one that lets their guard down and acts silly and giddy, but now you hear this type of communication, it can signal a newfound connection to someone new.

4- Staying late at work or going to the gym more. If they are in contact with someone else and getting an emotional fill from them, they may try and be with them more at work if it is a colleague or hang around the gym more in the hope of connecting.

5- Communication between the two of you has changed and it becomes less easy to talk about all things. Yes, communication in relationships can be hard, and continued communication in all aspects of the relationship is a must, but a sudden breakdown in communication could be a signal that they are getting those needs met elsewhere.

6- Your partner becomes overly critical of many things about you. If they are connecting with someone else, they may begin to compare them to you and come down hard on you if they feel you aren’t measuring up anymore.

7- Intimacy changes. While their emotional affair may not be physical, it still could cause them to pull away from you physically. This could be because they feel they are “cheating” on their new person, or simply because they don’t feel an attraction to you as they develop intimate and emotional feelings for someone else.

8- Attacking you for being “paranoid” about things. Sometimes it may be easier for them to flip things around rather than look at their own behavior. They may also be doing this as a way to gaslight the situation, trying to make you seem crazy for worrying or accuse you of things that they are actually doing. They project their behavior and begin to defend against their behavior by accusing you of the same.

9 – A sudden love bombing type of interest that could cause one to question their thoughts around what they suspect to be an emotional affair.

Kelman says that the best way to deal with any warning sign or red flag is to open up communication between you and your partner. And when doing so, she suggests, “it is best to have these talks away from a heated moment and to focus on your feelings. Attacking or just laying the proof down in front of them might get them to dig deeper and hold onto the denial. But if you approach it with something like, ‘I notice we don’t talk or connect deeply like we used to and your mind seems elsewhere when we are together. I miss those moments and want to let you know that I love and care for you deeply and if you are feeling less close, then please let’s talk about it. My heart would be quite sad if you were connecting with someone else, but I would rather know so that we can tackle that together and decide what is best for both of us moving forward,’ you’re more likely to be heard and effect some change.”  

Valentine’s Day Loneliness and/or Disappointment 

Going out with your girlfriends for the night is great but it doesn’t solve the bigger issues of alienation and loneliness. I suggest that people get into therapy, take up activities that involve groups and other people with shared interests. 

But the bigger issue around Valentine’s Day, according to Kelman, is the pressure and expectations many face around doing something big on Valentine’s Day. “It becomes a big forced display of affection, when instead It should be about time spent, not money spent.” What people would be better focusing on, says Kelman, are “activities that help deepen your connection to each other. That could be as simple as putting the kids to bed and making dinner together. Or opening a bottle of wine and listening to an album with music that reminds you of earlier days in your relationship and gets you talking about those memories.” 

Sexy Dreams: What Do They Mean? Q&A with JustAnswer Dreams Expert Ashleigh Sacks

Dreams about sexual encounters are one of the three most common types of dreams people experience, according to JustAnswer Dream Interpretation Expert Ashleigh Sacks, who answers a ton of questions about these subconscious encounters on the platform. We interviewed her for details on what these dreams really mean, who has them and why. 

JA: Do sex dreams exist in a different area of the brain or subconscious as compared to regular dreams?

AS: The areas of the brain most responsible for dreams are those related to our emotions and specifically the limbic system. The least active part of the brain during dreams is the frontal lobes or the part of the brain responsible for logical thinking and higher-order functioning. 

Sex dreams often occur in the part of the brain called the Amygdala. The amygdala is in fact more active during sleep than when you are awake. This part of the brain is responsible for emotional regulation and so highlights one’s fears and desires. This part of the brain allows a person to consider who they are and what their interests may be on an emotional level. So sex dreams often allow a person to explore their emotions about a person, certain qualities and attractions.

JA: In what circumstances could someone have a dream about having sex? Are there any “triggers” so to speak?

AS: During our waking hours, the logical part of the brain and higher order functioning and thought is often “in-charge” this leads people to restrict thoughts and impulses in order to do the right and socially acceptable thing. But in our dream state, the more emotional parts of our brain or the limbic system take over and the dream is more commonly driven by emotion. The brain may focus on a fleeting or momentary thought it had during the day, which may include seeing someone attractive, a slight hand brush by a co-worker or a sexual thought that may act as a trigger for a sexual dream. These types of dreams can be a way for the subconscious to explore and even work through these events and the resulting emotions or they may be a form of escape not allowed by our logical mind during waking hours. Most research seems to indicate that these dreams may involve a person feeling more confident than usual. 

JA: Is this something you’ve spoken to clients about in the past—as in, do you often find that these scenarios are common among a certain demographic or age range?

AS: Sex dreams are very common, especially with those that are still defining their sexual identity, preferences and interests. Sex doesn’t just refer to or highlight a person’s physical pleasures but often represents qualities that a person wants in their lives, ways they want to feel and things they want to accomplish. 

Sex dreams although more present in teenagers working on their own sexual identity these dreams occur to anybody who may at even an older age be considering their desires, sexual interests or overall happiness within their relationship. 

As sex is the fulfillment of one’s desires any human desire may be masked by sex or sexual gratification. In other words, sex can resemble physical, mental and emotional desires, hangups or buried interests or insecurities. For this reason, clients often want to understand why they would have sex with someone they aren’t attracted to or haven’t had sexual thoughts of in real life and so these scenes often display other interests, insecurities or qualities that interests them. 

 JA: Why would someone dream of a scenario where they’re having sex with their boss?

AS: Dreaming of having sex with one’s boss doesn’t necessarily mean that you are attracted to your boss (or though it can mean this) but rather that you would like to see yourself in this role with all the benefits that come with being the boss. Sex often shows where someone’s desires are focused and so displays attraction to being in control,  not having to take orders from superiors and owning one’s time. Often those that have leadership qualities see themselves having sex with their boss in their dreams as they are highly attracted to the qualities that a boss represents including power, financial well-being, reaching the height of one’s profession or having skills to manage and control people to empower one’s business and financial stability. 

This dream very often suggests that the dreamer is ready to take on a greater leadership role in their life and would like to become more independent or free from the control of others. This often reflects qualities and personality traits that the dreamer wants to personify or improve on in real life.  

There is also the likelihood that the dreamer likes to be dominated in their relationship representing past relationships where the dreamer felt a lack of control or someone dominating the relationship from a place of superiority as so can also allude to a desire to feel inferior in a relationship where the dreamer feels their partner takes care of their every need. 

JA: Why would someone dream about a scenario where they’re having sex with a celebrity?

AS: The main reason why someone would have a dream of having sex with a celebrity is due to entertaining thoughts about this celebrity that excites the dreamer. When we fall asleep these thoughts about a celebrity that sticks out gain momentum as the dreamer considers what their life would look like dating and having sex with this celebrity. The imagination creates all types of desired pleasures that would come with living the life of a celebrity. This dream also allows the dreamer to consider who they would be if they were spending all their time in a celebrity lifestyle having the attention of the media and replicating the qualities, personalities and lifestyles of the rich and the famous. 

Sex with a celebrity can also define the type of lifestyle and personality traits that we would like to become or are envious of. This is why it’s a good idea to consider which qualities you find most appealing or attractive as the dreamer may have hopes to lead a similar lifestyle or exude characteristics that they find appealing about the celebrity in their dreams.  

JA: Why would someone dream about a scenario where they’re having sex involving BDSM?

AS: If a dreamer has sexual dreams of BDSM this may imply that the dreamer has an interest in experimenting with new sexual explorations within their relationship. BDSM in one dream can also come with the need to lose control or be in the complete submission of one’s partner’s desires which often mirrors past relationships or the role that one plays within their life. 

For example, a person who likes to be controlling in business or other aspects of their life may desire to be controlled and pushed around by someone dominating their every move and sexual satisfaction. Even a person that is timid may prefer being at the complete mercy of their partner as this reminds them of a role they used to play, are currently playing or would like to play out in a sexual experience. 

JA: Why would someone dream about a scenario where they’re having sex with a stranger?

AS: To dream of having sex with a stranger is firstly a reflection of a person’s desire for intimacy and a relationship. It’s important for the dreamer to consider what qualities, characteristics and personality traits this stranger displays. These dreams may guide the dreamer to consider what they find attractive, sexual or desirable in a future partner. 

The next important thing for the dreamer to consider is how they feel about this stranger does this person scare them or are they very comfortable with this stranger? If the dreamer feels happy and comfortable then this dream highlights things in a relationship that you are looking for and that would make you feel happy.

If on the other hand, the dreamer is apprehensive, scared or uncertain this may reflect things that you don’t want in your relationship or unhealthy habits to stay away from like the feeling of cheating on one’s partner with a stranger.

JA: What does it mean if you have recurring dreams about your college ex in your 30s? Does it mean you’re still in love with them? Is it a reflection of your current relationship? 

AS: A good starting point for any dream interpretation is to remember that dreams talk in the language of symbols. So a dream about your ex is a representational construct of something within you that needs to be understood and perhaps addressed.

The people in your dreams are representations of ideas, emotions and experiences within yourself. A good starting point is to ask yourself- when you think about your ex what feelings and thoughts come to mind? It’s these answers that offer you insight into something in your current life that may need to be addressed. 

Past exes are generally a reflection of one’s relationship do’s and dont’s. Your dream may focus on your college ex but that doesn’t mean you have feelings for your ex or are still in love with them. often more subconsciously represents your desires within a relationship and in respect to other aspects of your current life. 

These dreams can inform you of the way you felt, and the intimacy you would like to have in a relationship. This may also identify things that you feel are missing in your life. Things such as freedom, spontaneity, adventure or in contrast security, comfort and familiarity.  

Your dream about your college ex may also be a reflection of a single moment in the relationship that was destructive and something to stay away from in future relationships. In contrast, it may have been something that made you feel incredible and is something you want in a partner. 

These dreams are messages about your wants, needs and hopes about relationships and your life experience that may have been present at an earlier stage of your life and your subconscious is using this dream as a means to help you reflect on this. 

JA: What does a nightmare of a partner cheating mean?

AS: There are two main themes that this nightmare may represent. One theme relates to feelings of insecurity, unworthiness, low self-esteem, and the fear of abandonment or rejection. On the other hand, this type of dream can also represent the need to address a stress-related or anxiety-inducing issue in the dreamer’s relationship. 

Dreams of partners cheating may be the result of events that led to feelings of mistrust, lack of communication, or unaddressed conflict in the relationship. This type of dream can also refer to the dreamer not living up to their personal goals and life expectations, thus feeling inferior and unsatisfied with certain aspects of their life. 

The Flip Side: January + February = Divorce Season 

It’s common, popular wisdom that the first few months after the holidays – i.e, January and February – see a higher number of break-ups and divorce filings than any other time of the year. 

Certainly, JustAnswer sees a significant spike in divorce questions in these months – experts answered more than 25,000 divorce-related queries in Q1 2022 alone. 

But is the idea of “divorce season” just a myth? According to JustAnswer Family Law Expert Wendy Clar, who also works as a divorce and family law attorney in private practice, January in particular is one of the busiest months of the year for divorce filings. However, she points out that March (post-Valentine’s Day) and August (as kids are going off to college or back to school, after all the summer vacations are wrapped up) are also popular times that couples file for legal separations or divorce. 

Clar says that most of the divorce-related questions she sees on JustAnswer specifically center on misunderstandings around one of the following: 

  • The “Best Interest” Standard for determining child custody agreements. “There are so many misunderstandings about the factors for this standard, which differs by state,” explains Clar. “Especially in regard to the ‘wishes of the child’ and where and how that applies. 
  • Fault-based Divorce – As of 2019, all 50 US states are “no-fault” divorce states. However, the exact no-fault  “grounds” (reasons) for the divorce vary state-to-state. For example, your state’s no-fault grounds for divorce might be called: incompatibility or irreconcilable differences. 
  • Common Law spouses – what this means and how it pertains to the division of marital property in your state. And it’s important to note that not all states recognize “common law” marriages at all.  

If your have relationship questions, reach out to an Expert on JustAnswer now. 


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