Sunday, April 3, 2016

Hi-Tech Sex

© Hermes Solenzol, 2016
“¡Honey, I’m ho-ome!”

Michel let out the customary American husband greeting complete with its appropriate singsong tone when he stepped into his Beverly Hills mansion. Ashley loved his little game of pretending to be the husband in a TV program that she watched as a child. He announced his arrival and she ran to greet him with a welcome kiss at the door.

But not today, apparently. The only one to appear was Kurby, who proceeded to dance crazily around him and to put his front paws on his suit.

Where the heck was Ashley? Michel climbed the stairs to the bedroom followed closely by Kurby, who kept jumping all around him despite his efforts to ignore him. A wave of heat struck him when he opened the bedroom door. The fireplace was on and there were candles everywhere: on the chest of drawers, on the bedside tables, over the closet and, dangerously, on top of the 48-inch flat screen TV. Michel threw his jacket on the bed and looked for the remote to turn off the fireplace. He blew out the candles over the TV and put them on the chest of drawers.

“What are you doing, honey?”

Ashley came out of the bathroom wearing a pink night gown and her favorite slippers: fluffy bunnies complete with glass eyes and long ears. She was petite, with dangerous curves, short blond hair and sparkling blue eyes.

“Hey! Don’t turn off the candles!” she protested.

“Only these ones, chérie… They are going to get wax inside the TV, don’t you see?”

“And the fire! Why have you turned off the fireplace?”

“It’s too hot.”

“But it’s November! Next week is Thanksgiving and Christmas is just around the corner. What’s wrong with turning on the fireplace in the Fall?”

“Yeah, it’s Fall all right, but the Santa Anas are blowing. Have you been outside? It’s steaming hot!”

“I was just trying to create a nice ambiance for you… And then you come and spoil everything!” she whined.

Michel put his arm around her waist and brought her close to him.

“Oh, chérie, I really appreciate it! Does this mean that you have forgiven and we are going to make love again?”

“Yes, but…”

Michel didn’t let her finish. He pushed her to the bed until she fell on her back on it. He lifted up the pink night gown to uncover her perfect thighs and her pretty purple lace panties.

“Stop, Michel… Stop! … We need to talk first.”

Michel stopped and looked into her eyes.

“Yes, chérie?

Ashley sat up and patted the bed to make him sit beside her. Kurby, who had been running nervously around the room, took advantage of the opportunity to hump her leg. Michel tried to get him off her, but Kurby scared him off by fainting a bite and continued his task.

“Oh, that darned dog!”

“Don’t say that, Michel. He’s very affectionate, that’s all.”

“But, chérie, you can’t let him do that. It’s obscene! Didn’t we agree that you were going to take him to have him fixed?”

“Yeah, but this morning Tiffany gave me a better idea, so I took him to see Amanda.”

Without stopping his humping, Kurby insinuated his snout under Ashley’s night gown. That was too much, even for her. She peeled him off her leg, took him to the bedroom door and threw him out.

“And who the heck is Amanda?”

“She is a psychic animal psychologist who is able to make direct contact with the mind of pets. Many movie stars go to see her.”

“¡Oh, la-la, la-la, la-la! And did Amanda get in contact with the mind of Kurby?”

“Yes… Well, not exactly… She got his horoscope and read his cards. She saw that, indeed, Kurby has a strong sexual compulsion. The cards showed that it’s a serious problem that can cause him an untimely death. So we can’t have him fixed. That would kill him.”

“But then what are we going to do? You aren’t planning to…?”

“Of course not, Michel! We’ll have to get him some bitches to keep him satisfied.”

“Breed him, you mean? But who is going to want pups from Kurby? He isn’t even pure breed.”

“Of course he is! Kurby is a cockapoo, a design dog, one hundred per cent poodle and one hundred per cent Cocker Spaniel. My mother paid a small fortune for him.

“Ashley, a dog can’t be a hundred per cent one thing and a hundred per cent another…”

Ashley gave him that skeptical look that he knew so well. It was impossible to argue math with her.

“OK, let’s leave Kurby alone for the time being. What about us?”

“Of, yes, us… I also talked to Amanda about that.”

“With Amanda? But wasn’t she an animal psychologist?”

“She’s a people psychologist as well… Quite good, in fact. Since she is clairvoyant, she understands immediately what’s going on. I talked with her for almost two hours.”

“You didn’t tell her…”

“About Brittany? Of course I told her about Brittany! That’s the key issue, isn’t it?”

“But chérie, I’ve asked you to forgive me a thousand times. I haven’t seen Brittany for months!”

“Of course you don’t see her! She dumped you, didn’t she? Do you think I don’t know? Tiffany is a good friend of one of her best friends. She dumped you because you didn’t do the cunnilingus right. She seduced you because she thought that, being French, you’d be good at it. The slut!”

“Well, what did Amanda say? Did she tell you to make love with me? Because I imagine there has to be a reason for this”, he gestured to the candles burning all over the place.

“Yeah, that… You aren’t letting me explain, Michel… She said that I was right in trusting my intuition and not allow you to penetrate me, because the key of the problem is that we have a relationship that is too coitocentric… That’s the word she used: “coitocentric”. It means that penetration is a way for you to express your aggression and your will to dominate me. But that desire that you men feel to dominate is impossible to satisfy. You become addicted to it. You want more and more, so you need other women to…”

“But that’s not true, chérie! Making love is not expressing my desire to dominate, or my aggression, but the love I feel for you… Brittany was just a mistake. I let temptation get the best of me. It happens to a lot of people, but it won’t happen again, I swear. I love only you! You are the love of my life!”

“Then, if that’s true, you’ll have to respect my feelings about it… You’ll have to help me heal this wound.”

“And what do I have to do?”

Ashley gave him one of her most charming smiles, her eyes shining with excitement.

“Amanda had the most wonderful idea! You’ll see, let me show you…”

Ashley went to the chest of drawers and came back with two white cardboard boxes. She sat back on the bed with one of them on her knee. On the box was a picture of what looked like a sophisticated vibrator .

“A vibrator?”

“Yes. From now on we are going to practice hi-tech sex, healthy and clean. No more penetrations… Which, you have to agree, are quite disgusting, with all that yucky mucus and secretions.”

¡Mais tu es devenue complètement folle!

“Don’t talk to me in French, Michel. You know that I don’t understand it. Speak in English, we are in America.”

Mais, chérie, you always said that my accent is what you like the most about me… and that is very romantic when I talk to you in French.”

“Yeah, but not now, Michel. We are talking about something serious and I need to understand what you say.”

“Well, I just said that you have gone completely nuts. How are we going to make love with a vibrator? That’s completely artificial, fake, inhuman… How can you compare that with the intimacy of body to body contact, feeling our muscles tense and relax, being inside each other… All those mucus and secretions you mentioned are not disgusting, they are natural…”

“Oh, yeah? Who would have known, seeing how you react when you do that cunnilingus thing!”

“That was just that one time, chérie… I’ve explained it to you a thousand times. It was just that dinner didn’t seat to well with me.”

“Is that what you tell Brittany?”

Michel sighed.

“Why can’t we have a decent conversation without you bringing up Brittany?”

“That’s what I’m trying to do, but you are not listening. You said I was crazy without even letting me explain what this things does.”

“All right! What does it do?”

“It’s not just a vibrator, Michel, it’s much more sophisticated than that. It’s called the iCum and it’s able to unleash the most powerful orgasms.

“Really? How?”

“Oh, Michel, don’t ask me to explain how it works, you know how bad I am about technology! Amanda explained it to me with all sort of detail, but I can’t remember a thing. Look, here it explains everything…”

Ashley opened the box and brought out a thick instruction book. Michel browsed through it. It was so thick because it contained information in over a dozen different languages. The instructions in English were just four pages:
You are holding in your hand a technological marvel that will bring about a new Sexual Revolution! The iCum-F is the key to expand your sexual capacity beyond your wildest dreams! Don’t let appearances fool you, the iCum-F is not a simple vibrator! It is an instrument combining sophisticated sensors to measure your level of clitoral arousal with a whole gamut of stimulators able to recruit all and each one of the nerve fibers of the feminine sexual organ. Of course, the iCum-F is able to reproduce any type of vibration known to date. But there is much, much more! Or team of scientists discovered that mechanical vibration is not the most effective way to stimulate the clitoris. The real key to pleasure is electrical stimulation, which the iCum can modulate in both frequency and intensity to bring you to ecstasy. At the same time that it stimulates your nerve fibers, the iCum-F measures the impedance of the clitoral mucosa to assess your degree of arousal. In that function it is assisted by a laser pulse-oximeter able to measure at the same time your heart beat, blood oxygen, blood flow and arterial pressure. All this gets integrated in the brain of the iCum-F, a tiny computer that…
“Are you planning to spend the entire evening reading that?”

“No, no, of course!” said Michel closing the booklet. “You are right: it’s much more advanced than a simple vibrator.”

“See? You don’t trust me. Sometimes I feel like you think I’m dumb.”

“Please don’t say that, chérie! How could I think that of you! What’s in the other box?”

Ashely gave him a mischievous smile.

“The other box is for you, Michel. You wouldn’t think that I only cared about my own pleasure, would you?”

Ashely opened the other box and brought out a cylinder larger than the iCum-F.

“This is the iCum-M, for men. See? You put your ding-a-ling through this opening over here. At the end there is a device that stimulates the gland pretty much the same way that the iCum-F stimulates the clit. But there are a bunch of other things… Amanda explained them to me, but right now I can remember all the details.”

“Well, let’s take a look…”

Michel found the instruction booklet and started to read it.

“Hey, don’t start reading again!” said Ashley grabbing the manual from him. “Where do you think we are, in a library?”

“But we have to find out how this works,” protested Michel turning the iCum-M in his hands. “Can we open it? Because if I cum inside it would need to be cleaned, right?”

“Oh yes, that I can explain… See? That’s why we have these…”

Ashley took a plastic bag out of the iCum-M box. She open it and extracted a rubber disk from it.

“These are disposable inserts for your iCum-M, made of natural rubber. When you use it, you throw it away and the next time you put in a new one.”

“I see… disposable vaginas,” he said laughing at his own joke.

“Don’t be silly! As you can see, it’s quite an hygienic system. No more changing the sheets after making love.”

“And how much did you pay for these toys?”

“Nine hundred and ninety nine dollars… Plus taxes, of course.”

“Jesus! Both?”

“No, each one… Come on, Michel, you’re the one who always says that money doesn’t matter! What can be more important than our sex life?”

“But this is not about our sex life. These thingies are just to masturbate, which is different.”

“No, they are not for masturbating, they are for making love. Because you wouldn’t use your iCum when you are not with me, would you?”

The way Ashley was frowning, there was only one possible answer.

‘Of course not… But, chérie, even if we use the iCums at the same time, that wouldn’t be the same thing as making love…”

Ashley threw him on the bed and got on top of him, playfully.

“I know what you want, you dummy! You will be able to touch me everywhere: my ass, my tits, whatever you want… But instead of putting your cock inside me, you put it inside the iCum. It will treat it right, you’ll see.”

“That doesn’t sound very romantic…”

Ashley kissed him in the lips furiously.

“Come on! Don’t be so negative! Let’s try…”

After a frustrating delay because of some difficulties with putting the vagina insert in the iCum-M, they finally got it going. Michel started manhandling Ashley but, when she saw that he wasn’t going to take the lead, she pulled down her panties and rushed to apply her iCum-F to her clit. Michel just laid there, looking at her expression of ecstasy without knowing what to do. Finally, he grabbed his iCum-M, lubricated it and gingerly put his penis inside.

The device clamped around his cock like a vise, starting undulating motions up and down the shaft. It wasn’t unpleasant, just a bit threatening to feel trapped that way. But then the really good stuff got started. An exquisite electric discharge zapped his frenulum, followed by soft vibrations and delicious discharges of static. He thought that he would cum right away and again tried to take his penis out of the iCum, but the darned thing wasn’t going to let him go. Nevertheless, the intense stimulation stopped and was replaced by a soft massage up and down his shaft. Then it started all over again.

¡Ah, chérie, c’est vraiment magnifique!

But Ashely, lying at his side, wasn’t listening. She shook spasmodically in what looked like the most intense orgasm of her life.


“Honey, I’m ho-ome!”

Ashley heard the singsong greeting with which Michel announced his arrival. Long ago she had grown bored with playing that stupid game of pretending to be a 50s housewife but she didn’t want to spoil it for Michel, who obviously enjoyed it so much. Luckily, there was always Kurby to welcome him home when she was busy… Like she was right now. She listened, expecting to hear the sound of paws running over the wooden floor, but there was nothing… Where was that stupid dog? I’d had to be her who greeted Michel.

She left the two iCums on the bed with the bags of “vaginas”, as she and Michel had started to call them in jest. She looked at herself in the mirror to check her makeup, adjusted the strap on her nightgown over her shoulder and left the bedroom.

She had been waiting for him anxiously. They had gone three days without having sex and it was starting to get to her nerves. Michel’s parents had come from Paris to spend Christmas with them and she had to take her mother-in-law, who didn’t speak a word of English, shopping in Rodeo Drive. She didn’t speak any French, either, so she had no idea on how they were going to communicate, but Michel had insisted in leaving the two of them alone because shopping was a woman thing. After some tension resulting from her failure to convey to Madame Nicole how expensive those stores in Beverly Hills could be, her own mother had offered to take her.

On top of that, today, December 26, when everybody in their right mind took the day off, Michel had decided that he absolutely had to go to work.

The temptation of using the iCum by herself had been almost irresistible, but she had promised Michel that she’d only use it with him. To do otherwise would be like cheating on him. Or so she had told herself, and that way she had been able to keep the darned thing in its box all day long.

“Oh, darling, I missed you so much!” She screamed in his ear as she jumped on him to hug him with arms and legs. “Let’s go into the bedroom, I can’t stand it one more second!”

“Ah, chérie, neither can I! But, please, get me a bottle of Perrier from the fridge while I change. I’m so thirsty! We have the Santa Anas again.

Ashley was going upstairs with the bottle of Perrier when she heard Michel let out a bloodcurdling scream from the bedroom.

“Arrrg! My vaginas! Kurby has eaten my vaginas!”

When she opened the bedroom door she witnessed a devastating debacle: the bag of inserts for the iCum-M was laying on the bed, bitten into pieces. The “vaginas” were spread all over the bedroom floor. While she looked, Kurby grabbed one between his teeth. Holding the other end between his paws, he pulled until the insert tore with a loud “plop” .

“Kurby, bad dog! Very bad dog! Look what you have done!”

Kurby just wagged his tailed and looked back at her, excited with his new game. When she ran to him to grab him, Kurby grabbed the last intact insert between his teeth and, dodging her, ran out the door.

“OK, this is it!” shouted Michel, enraged. “I want that dog out of my house! I want him gone by tomorrow!”

“Calm down, Michel. You know very well that we can’t kick Kurby out. My mother is in love with him ever since she bought him for us. If we kick him out, the next day they’ll kick you out of your job.”

“Oh, God! Why did I ever let your parents hire me! What are we going to do now?”

Michel sat on the bed and buried his face in his hands. Ashley sat beside him and started massaging his shoulders.

“Come on! Come on! Don’t worry, there’s got to be an insert that you can use.

They spent the next half an hour going through the vaginas, inspecting them one by one. Kurby had been quite thorough, there wasn’t a single one left intact.

“OK, don’t worry, on Monday I’ll go see Amanda and I’ll get you a new bag of inserts.”

“On Monday? But today is Friday!”

“It’s all I can do. Amanda goes away on weekends to her house in Palm Springs.”

Michel looked dubiously at his iCum-M.

“You know, maybe it can be used without an insert. It shouldn’t be too hard to clean it afterward.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Michel…”

But Michel was already taking off his pants. The moment he was naked, he jumped on her and started touching her everywhere. She became instantly aroused, not because of his clumsy caresses and squeezes, but because the moment to use her beloved iCum-F was so close at hand. Pretty soon she could wait no more. She peeled off her panties and grabbed the iCum-F from the bedside table.

The first delicious pulsations starting teasing her clit. Through half-closed eyelids she saw Michel cautiously introducing his fully erected cock in his iCum-M. Exquisite electric discharges made her close her eyes. A dreadful scream from Michel made her open them again.

“Arrrg! Ouch! Ayayayay! How do you stop this thing? Ashley, please, turn it off!”

Michel was fighting like a madman to get his penis out of the device, which seemed equally determined not to let it go.

“You can’t turn it off, it’s automatic,” she said matter-of-factly.

“Then get the batteries out… Do something, for God sake!”

‘It has no batteries. It gets charged through the USB, you know that… I was going to tell you that without the insert the electric discharges could get a tad too intense.”

“No shit! And now you tell me? Ouch!”

Luckily, his torment didn’t last too long. His poor tortured cock didn’t take long to lose its erection as a result of the harsh treatment it was receiving, and so it could break free of the vise that was trapping it.

They looked at each other, not knowing what to say.

“Michel, please, I can’t wait anymore…” she pleaded.

 His anxious look made her fear the worse. She started praying for him not to say it.

“I know, chérie, I know… Go ahead and do it. I’ll just sit here and watch you cum. That’s pleasure enough for me.”

She let out a sigh of relief and hugged him.

“That’s what I expected of you, my love. You’ve always behaved like a perfect French gentleman. I love you so much!”

¡Mais bien sûr, chérie!

Ashely closed her eyes again and surrendered to the exquisite sensations that the iCum-F was giving her. She was so turned on! She was vaguely aware of the presence of Michel next to her, caressing her breasts, her belly, the inside of her thighs, but all of that was nothing compared to the strict discipline of pleasure that the iCum was delivering to her pussy, taking her to ever higher peaks… to let her fall from there at the last second. Vibrations and discharges ebbed to almost nothing just when she was about to reach her climax.

The third time it happened she realized that something had gone terribly wrong.

“What’s going on, Michel?” she moaned. “It stops just when I’m about to reach orgasm!”

“I don’t know… Well, it could be that… don’t you remember? The last time we used the iCums we decided to change the mode. We set them on “edging”.

“And what on Earth is “edging”?

“It’s keeping you close to orgasm without letting you get all the way there.”

“You’ve got to be kidding!”

“No, chérie. You asked for it because you said that we were finishing too soon.”

“You were finishing too soon, you dummy, not me! Why the fuck did you have to touch my iCum!”

“Don’t worry, chérie, it would just take a minute to reprogram it,” he said meekly.

“I’ll do it! I don’t trust you anymore!”

She got out of bed, got the USB cable from the bedside table drawer and used it to plug her iCum to her laptop.

“This stupid thing takes longer and longer to boot! You need to buy me a new laptop, I’ve told you a thousand times!”

Michel tried to massage her shoulders. She shook him off with an angry motion.

A message showed up in her screen:

New hardware 

Looking for drivers…

The window closed. A new one came up, larger and with black background.

“Nooo!” she screamed in frustration.

Michel squatted at her side to be able to read the screen. They both stared at the new message in disbelief:

System update

Please wait


At the bottom of the screen there was a black bar with a tiny green notch at the left. Over it, it said “1%”. After a while, the green bar grew a bit and the number changed to “2%”.

Unable to move, they kept staring at the screen as the green bar continued to move at glacial speed towards 100%.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Endorphins do not mediate the pain reduction produced by mediatation

For a while I have suspected that endorphins are not the only or the healthiest way in which the body decreases pain. This recent study lends support to that idea. It shows that mindfulness meditation reduces pain. However, when the subjects that were meditating were given injections of naloxone (an opioid antagonist that would block the effect of the endorphins) it did not decrease the pain reduction induced by meditation. Quite the opposite, it even increased it!

J Neurosci. 2016 Mar 16;36(11):3391-7. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4328-15.2016. 
Mindfulness-Meditation-Based Pain Relief Is Not Mediated by Endogenous Opioids.
Zeidan F1, Adler-Neal AL2, Wells RE3, Stagnaro E4, May LM5, Eisenach JC6, McHaffie JG2, Coghill RC7

Citation and abstract in PubMed:

The whole article can be read here:

Thursday, January 21, 2016

How to avoid hurting the one we love

It is quite ironic that the person who loves you the best is also the person who is able to hurt you most deeply. Apparently, romantic relationships entail a great deal of suffering. Everybody seems to think that this is unavoidable, that suffering is just the price of admission for being loved. However, I think that it doesn’t have to be this way, that if we hurt the person we love it’s because we must be doing something wrong. It seems that when we reach a certain degree of intimacy we start allowing ourselves some behaviors that bring conflict and emotional damage. Then, perhaps what we should do is to learn to recognize those behaviors and ways to avoid them. We should learn to love in a better, healthier way.

“Abuse” is a strong word. We tend to neatly divide the world between abusers, who deserve our scorn and even jail time; victims, who must be protected and healed, and then the rest of us, nice people who are neither abusers or victims. This classification works quite well when it comes to physical abuse, because physical damage is relatively easy to identify. Likewise, social taboos about unwanted sexual contact are normally clearly established within any given society. However, there are no such clear boundaries when it comes to emotional abuse. Whether a particular act is abusive or not depends not so much on the act itself but on context, intention, how often the act is repeated, and how resilient or vulnerable is the person on the receiving end. Perhaps this explains why we hurt the person we love so often, sometimes intentionally, sometimes inadvertently. When it comes to emotional damage, we all can be small-scale abusers and victims. Of course, there are the real psychological abusers, those who cause emotional damage in an intentional or habitual way with the objective of bringing the other person under their control. Emotional abuse could be defined as any behavior that causes psychological damage, produces dependence and decrease the self-esteem of the target person. It is based on using three key emotions, fear, guilt and shame, which are used to break the psychological balance of a person.

Here is a list of behaviors involved in emotional abuse:

  1. Coercion is defined as a demand that can’t be refused without bringing about serious negative consequences. One clear example is coerced sex; imposed, for example, under the threat of a fight. But coercion can be used to obtain many other things: going to a party, socializing with some particular people, choosing a vacation spot, how to decorate the house, or when to have children.
  2. Threats are one of the most direct forms of coercion. They evoke fear to get what we want. One of the most frequent threats in a couple is breaking up. This usually happen as a result of an unbalance of power based on one person valuing the relationship more than the other. It could be that she is more in love or that the relationship brings on advantages that he doesn’t want to lose. In these case, the impending threat of the break-up can become an unspoken but powerful coercion. It often happen that this threat is just a bluff. 
  3. Frightening. Threats are just one way of using fear to control a person. Emotional manipulation can prosper in an environment of high anxiety created by actions like screaming, throwing things, breaking things, risking safety or breaking the law. The simple presence of fear creates an environment of oppression. 
  4. Blackmail is a form of coercion that consist in threatening to do something that the other person doesn’t want us to do if he does not comply with our demands. The most familiar form of blackmail is the threat of telling about something. One clear example is “outing”: revealing that somebody is gay, bisexual, into BDSM, polyamorous, or any other form of sexuality not approved by society. 
  5. Emotional blackmail consists in using fear, obligation or guilt (sometimes this is abbreviated by the acronym FOG) with the goal of pressuring another person to do what we want. There are four types of emotional blackmail. The first consists in the threat of punishment. A classic example in couples is the withdrawal of sex or affection. The second type is self-punishment: the threat of harming oneself. An extreme but all-too-familiar case is the threat of suicide. A milder case is that sulking attitude when we don’t get what we want. The third type of emotional blackmail consists in engaging in acts of self-sacrifice with the goal of evoking guilt. These include all those acts of service that are done not out of goodwill or love, but to get something in exchange. The fourth type is perhaps the most difficult to recognize, because it consists in offering a price in exchange for getting what we want. A classic example is offering candy to a child in exchange for a kiss. In a couple, offering sex as a price may seem like a good idea at first, but in fact this is not very different from withdrawing sex when we don’t get what we want. It leads to the creation of a manipulative environment in which we don’t know why things are done.  
  6. Breaking boundaries. We all have things that we never want to do or want done to ourselves: those are our boundaries. In a healthy relationship each person defines what their boundaries are and respects the boundaries of the other. Problems arise either when boundaries are not clearly defined or when they are known but are broken nevertheless. 
  7. Sabotage. This includes instances of not respecting the work, family and social obligations of our lover. The most typical case is when a couple’s brawl leaves us so upset that we cannot focus on work. In this case the sabotage is involuntary and indirect. A step up from that is when somebody has so little respect for their partner that he gives no consideration to her work schedule or the time he needs to devote to family and friends. Time and attention can be misappropriated, for example, by forcing dates or phone conversations at inopportune times. In the more extreme cases of abuse, the abuser directly interferes with the work or social environment of the victim with the clear goal of undermining them. I know a case of a husband who called her wife’s boss to tell him the she was quitting the job, which was not her intention at all.  
  8. Lack of communication. Good communication is vital in any healthy relationship. It is hard even in the best situations, so it becomes nearly impossible when somebody sabotages it as part of a manipulative strategy. One example of this is the “silent treatment” (refusing to talk) or its modern version: blocking in social media. Another example is doing the opposite: talking continuously to create a “Wall of Words” that prevents the other person from talking. 
  9. Lying. Of course, the worst form of lack of communication is not telling the truth. Lying could be considered as a way of taking power away from somebody, because misinformation prevents that person from making the best decisions. Lying is considered the main offense in infidelity, but any form of lying or dishonesty is harmful in a relationship because it undermines trust.
  10. Gaslighting is an extreme form of psychological abuse consisting in the systematic manipulation of the information that is provided to a person. The goal is to weave of a web of lies, half-truths, secrets and deceptions that creates a distorted view of reality. This is often done with the goal of hiding a situation of generalized abuse. Gaslighting greatly harms the self-esteem and may cause the victim to question her own sanity. The name comes from the play Gas Light and its movie adaptations.
  11. Keeping secrets. The question of whether is OK to keep secrets from our partner is a delicate one. On the one hand, everybody has a right to his own privacy - some things are so intimate that we want to keep them from absolutely anybody. On the other hand, hiding some things that our partner has the right to know could be considered lying by omission. The most clear examples are STIs and adultery.
  12. Invading privacy. The other side of that coin is privacy. Everybody has a right to reveal things about themselves only if they want to, when they want to and how they want to. We also have a right that whatever we tell somebody in confidence is not revealed to third persons without our consent. Even if it is not right to keep some things secret, that doesn’t mean that we may use coercion to force somebody to reveal a secret. The most clear example of violation of privacy, unfortunately common these days, is to search a cell phone or a computer for information without the permission of the owner.
  13. Complaints and criticisms. Complaining is normal. If something is not going well in the relationship it is essential for good communication to talk about it. But there are many ways to say something. When complaints and criticisms are made with the intention of evoking shame and guilt, we have entered the territory of emotional mistreatment. Problems should be presented at the right occasion, preferably with enough time to discuss them without feeling rushed. There should be no intention of hurting and offending. Like in many other things, quantity matters: a long list of reproaches is offensive. We should also pay attention to two bad habits related to this. The first is to be easily offended, so that whoever talks to us is kept on edge, having to constantly self-censor. Obviously, this gets in the way of good communication. The other bad habit is to present oneself as the victim, a common strategy of psychological abusers. 
  14. Shaming. Even more than guilt, shame is the emotion that damages most the self-esteem. Consider, for example, all the cases of homosexual teenagers that are driven to suicide by shaming from their parents, their teachers, their classmates or religious authorities. One of the most common instances of emotional abuse are degrading comments and continuous criticism. A extreme case of shaming is cyber-bullying: the harassment and public shaming of individuals in social networks. Another form of shaming is to berate people not for what they do but for who they are, like their gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or culture. Here we enter on the territory of bigotry and intolerance. 
  15. Not apologizing. We all make mistakes, so we all should be ready to apologize when we hurt another person. A timely apology could mean the difference between a fight that is satisfactorily resolved and another that leaves scars for a lifetime. It could also mean the difference between a mistake done without malice or an act of deliberate abuse. When a person in a couple apologizes all the time and the other never does it, that is a sign that something is really wrong. 
  16. Not forgiving. Not accepting an apology can undermine the dignity of the person offering it and thus can be hurtful and aggressive. Of course, not everything could or should be forgiven. In fact, in many instances of abuse there is a pathological form or forgiveness based on co-dependency - the victim constantly forgives the abuser, even making far-fetched excuses for the abuse. A necessary condition for forgiveness should be that the deed to be forgiven has ended. We can’t forgive somebody who persists in the misbehavior. On the other hand, not granting forgiveness that has been earned can become emotional abuse when this is used to perpetuates the guilt of the person asking to be forgiven as a form of control. So maybe the right thing to do when something cannot be forgiven is to terminate the relationship, rather than to continue it in the climate of power unbalance brought by the feeling of guilt. A variant of this problem is when an apology is accepted but used later on, over and over, to remind the person of his past guilt. This is not true forgiveness. We should move on. 
  17. Passive aggressive behavior is an expression of hostility based on not doing things that we are supposed to do. It includes some of the problems that I mention above, like lack of communication, withdrawing affection, not apologizing and not forgiving. But there are many other ways of being passive aggressive, sometimes hard to identify. Even over-politeness or extreme compliance can be forms of passive-aggression. By the same token, it is easy to accuse a well-meaning person of being passive-aggressive and very difficult to defend ourselves against such an accusation. 
  18. Social isolation. A common technique to create emotional dependence in sects is to separate the new follower from his family and friends. This way the victim loses the frame of reference that would allow her to escape indoctrination. A similar situation can take place in a couple when a person is separated from her friends and social environment, usually because of jealousy. 
  19. Social pressure. I may also happen that one of the individuals in a couple becomes completely surrounded by the friends and family of the other. Then, when problems arise in the couple, these people would have a biased attitude about them. Social pressure can also come from cultural norms that favor one person over the other. One clear example is sexism, when society condones a man’s control over a woman’s behavior. Another case is when one person wants some kind of sexual freedom, like being kinky or polyamorous, and another person prevents it with the help of cultural norms and societal repression. This happens in instances of slut-shaming: harassing women because their sexual behavior infringes cultural norms.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I must confess that I have done some of the things in this list. Also, I had some of them done to me. Perhaps you think that you don’t do them just because you are a woman, or a feminist, or gay, or submissive. Well, think again, you may be in denial. After all, even hard-core psychological abusers don’t see themselves as such. Is all too easy to rationalize emotional abuse as self-defense, standing up for ourselves or even being funny. We should stop doing them because they really hurt that person that we claim to love. They also damage our relationship and gradually erode the love we seek. On top of that, when we engage in these behaviors we contribute to normalize them, making them harder to identify in cases of serious psychological abuse.

We all have been in a couple’s quarrel in which we have tried to scare or hurt the person that we love. We need to stop doing that, raise our ethical standards and, if we need to fight, at least fight fairly, without being manipulative or cruel. Emotional abuse should not be considered normal, even in its mildest forms. It leaves scars that undermine the relationship, setting the foundation for future fights and even turning the relationship into something toxic.

One of the worse things about psychological abuse is that it’s so hard to identify. In fact, I believe that there is a gradation between what is socially accepted behavior in a couple (but still wrong) and psychological abuse. Where our behavior falls in that gradient depends not only on what our intentions are but on how vulnerable is the other person. It’s way too easy to hurt somebody by mistake. Since it’s so easy to engage in emotional mistreatment, it often becomes mutual in a couple. This may lead to a toxic relationship where victim and abuser are not always easy to identify. So we should be mindful that, even if we are being mistreated, this does not justify retaliating with emotional abuse of our own. When emotional abuse has made a relationship toxic, the best solution is to break up. However, this can be surprisingly difficult to do because of trauma bonding.

I think that we all should examine carefully our behavior towards our loved one and carefully expunge any element of emotional abuse. When somebody opens their heart to us, this makes them extremely vulnerable. We should not betray their trust by using this vulnerability to hurt them or to exploit them. Even if we do it unconsciously, there is no excuse. If we want to be loved, we have to learn to love. And this consists in making the other person happy. Love should not hurt.