How a Coach Can Help You Assess the Viability of Your Relationship
|Posted by [email protected] on July 9, 2015 at 8:05 AM||comments (0)|
"How do I know if this relationship is right for me anymore?” Mary* asked.
“The fact that you’re even asking the question means that you probably already know the answer,” I responded.
We spent the rest of the hour going through the specific reasons why she was feeling unfulfilled. To the obvious question about whether she’d talked to her partner about her feelings, she told me that her girlfriend found it difficult to have discussions about emotional matters, which was just one more indication that these two were severely mismatched for long-term happiness since Mary deeply values deep emotional discussions. Don’t get me wrong, opposites often do attract, and usually for very good reasons. But if they don’t figure out how to appreciate how they complement each other, opposites can quickly become opponents, once the shiny wears off.
I also asked Mary to consider all the ways that her girlfriend is a good match, and to think about the things that drew her into this relationship. I asked her to weigh those against the negatives and the areas of perceived lack or mismatch. Which side is heavier? Do the positives outweigh the negatives? In an exploration like this, it’s important to note that there is no wrong answer here...what you’re doing is evaluating what’s best for yourself. And you will make the decision you need to make, even if it’s not one that I would make if I wore your shoes. If you decide to stay, there must be more for you to learn in this relationship or perhaps you’ve decided the negatives DON’T outweigh the positives.
Sometimes, all that’s needed is a listening ear and someone who’s not afraid to ask you the tough questions. Sometimes all we need is somebody who can point out patterns, or highlight where our words and actions are inconsistent. Some friends can do this, but a lot of times our friends are scared to hurt our feelings or they’re scared that if they are honest with us, the friendship could be damaged or ended. Enlisting the help of a professional ensures that the person you’re talking to has some skill in seeing patterns, has been trained in asking the right questions, does not have a personal stake in the outcome, and isn’t going to deflect the conversation to tell you all about themselves.
I’m not sure what Mary ultimately decided to do, whether to stay or leave that relationship. But the fact that I don’t know doesn’t really matter. I helped her to think through her situation and not simply react out of a place of heightened emotion. I enabled her to make the best possible decision for herself.
*Names and specific details changed to protect confidentiality.
On My Own Terms: You Have the Right (and the Power) to Protect Yourself From Toxic Interactions
|Posted by [email protected] on April 7, 2015 at 4:35 PM||comments (0)|
How do you reclaim your sense of personal power after a breakup, especially one in which you lost your sense of self or power or esteem? One of the ways in which to do this is to decide to deal with things on your own terms. Sometimes this means setting extreme personal boundaries regarding contact of any kind. Sometimes this means learning when to let (or make) things roll off your back. Sometimes it means acting as if you’re doing alright (even if you really aren’t yet). There is power in setting your own boundaries, in determinedly not obsessing over things, and pretending to be fine. All of these things will contribute to you eventually being okay, for real.
What Kind of Interaction Are You Willing to Accept
Setting personal boundaries is perhaps one of the most important things you can do to reclaim your sense of personal power. Look at your interactions with the other party and determine if they are usually additive and healthy for your mental and emotional stability. Or assess whether the majority of your interactions leave you feeling bad on some level, mildly guilty, drained, unsettled, or worse. If the average sense is that you feel more depleted than uplifted, then you may need to set some boundaries with this person. Determine when and how contact will be acceptable or at least at a level you can easily cope with. And then express those boundaries to the other person.
For instance, you may decide that you don’t wish to receive phone calls from them during the day while you’re at work, because you find that you’re less able to focus after such calls. Then let them know that this is a new boundary for you and ask them to respect your wishes in this regard. If they persist in trying to call you during these restricted times, you have a choice. You can either answer the call and participate in the conversation that is likely to distress you, thereby choosing to make yourself miserable. Or you can choose not to answer the phone and refuse to feel guilty for standing by your own boundary. If you answer the phone, even after setting and expressing your boundary, you’re teaching the other person that you’re not really serious about it. If you’re willing to break your own rule, then why should they bother observing it? You have every right to protect yourself from toxic interactions. And you have the power to do so, as well. But you must accept that right and that power and the fact that we teach people how to treat us. Treat yourself with no respect, and others will do the same. If on the other hand, you stand by your words and you enforce your own boundaries (in this case, by not giving in and answering the phone), then you begin to show others that you respect yourself enough to protect your own space. This will eventually teach others to do the same or to go away, since you’re no longer as easy a “mark.”
If It's Not Yours, Don't Pick It Up
Once you do have another interaction with this person, they may use all sorts of tactics to try and convince you that it is NOT alright for you to draw your own lines and protect your space, your heart, and your mental stability. People like this are masters of manipulation, but one of the tools you can develop to combat this onslaught of shaming, guilting, threatening behaviors, is to let it roll off your back. If it is honestly not yours, don’t pick it up. When someone tries to make you feel ashamed for ignoring their call, they’re really dealing with their own sense of low self-esteem and just trying to pawn that off on you. If you accept it, then they can convince themselves that perhaps you are actually at fault to “making” them feel a certain way. But we don’t have power over others’ emotions, only our own. So, for instance, let’s continue the example of setting a boundary around when you’re willing to accept phone calls from a particular person. Imagine that they’ve trying calling you during the day, anyway, even though you expressly requested that they not do so.
First of all, acknowledge at least to yourself, how that shows how little they respect you and your space and your wishes. Secondly, when you do accept their call later in the day, accept also that they’re likely to say something to try and make you feel bad about not answering the phone earlier. Practice in your mind, “it’s not about me, I let their drama roll off my back.” No matter what they say to you to try and make you feel badly, repeat this or a similar mantra to yourself. Even if you are beginning to feel badly, do whatever you have to in order to prevent them seeing how they’re affecting you. Instead, you can simply say, “Look, I hear that it was difficult for you not to be able to reach me today, but I will no longer be accepting phone calls during my work day.” Hold to your line. You needn’t be rude or disrespectful. You needn’t explain or defend yourself or your decision. Just calmly and firmly continue to repeat your boundary in response to whatever they throw at you trying to get you to change your boundary.
If the other person’s methods continue to be negative, aggressive, and distressing, you may consider ending the call altogether. “Look, if you can’t let this go, I’m going to have to end this conversation. I’m not changing my mind. Can we talk about whatever it is you wanted to talk about? If not, I need to hang up.” And then DO SO! Again, resist the urge to get drawn into defending yourself or answering their questions about your motives for drawing your boundary. You get to determine how, when, and how much you interact with anyone, without having to prove why you feel that might be necessary. Don’t rise to the bait. Stick by your words and end the call if they won’t let the issue go.
Fake It 'Til You Make It
Unfortunately, no matter how hard we might pretend not to be affected, we often are. These interactions can be so incredibly stressful and changing one’s behavior can lead to an increase in negativity from those around us until they adjust to the new boundaries and expectations. It can sometimes seem to be the easier way out just to cave in and allow the old disrespectful behaviors to go on, because at least then (we try to convince ourselves) we don’t have to deal with the drama associated with changing those behaviors (or at least changing what we’re willing to accept). But then we do have to deal with how bad we feel during and after toxic interactions. So it’s not really any easier. But pretending “as if” a thing is true, often leads to that thing eventually becoming actually true. So if I pretend to someone that their drama doesn’t affect me, then eventually that will be true - their drama will no longer affect me! And how glorious a day that is when it finally happens. When you can look up from the phone and honestly see that the drama is being created by the other person’s issues and that you’re not responsible for the toxicity they’re spewing, you will finally know what it is to be free.
You can step into your power, claim your voice, and protect your space and your heart. You needn’t accept responsibility for anyone else’s issues or emotionality. You do have the right to draw boundaries around the behavior you’re not willing to accept. You have the power to say no, not right now, or not in this way. People will begin to respect those boundaries if you respect yourself enough to defend your boundaries. And you will eventually feel better about yourself and attract into your life the kind of people who will naturally respect you.
Painful Sex & Endometriosis Awareness Month
|Posted by [email protected] on March 2, 2015 at 7:00 AM||comments (0)|
Did you know that March has been deemed Endometriosis Awareness Month? What do you think your awareness levels of this disease are? For instance, did you know that at least 6.3 million women and girls (about 1 in 10) suffer from this condition in the U.S. alone? Did you know that it typically takes women 6-11 years of living in pain before they receive an accurate diagnosis of endometriosis? Did you know that endometrial tissue has been found in the brain and the lungs? Did you know that men can develop endometriosis? Do you know what endometriosis is?
Most people, if they’ve heard of this disease, would probably know that it is generally associated with women and would be surprised to hear that some men have developed it. The endometrial lining of the uterus is the tissue that sloughs off and is expelled during a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle if no egg has been fertilized and implanted in that lining. Endometriosis is when that tissue grows in other places than the inside of the uterus, such as on the ovaries, on the outside wall of the uterus, along the vaginal wall, etc. A full description follows from the Endometriosis Association:
“This misplaced tissue develops into growths or lesions which respond to the menstrual cycle in the same way that the tissue of the uterine lining does: each month the tissue builds up, breaks down, and sheds. Menstrual blood flows from the uterus and out of the body through the vagina, but the blood and tissue shed from endometrial growths has no way of leaving the body. This results in internal bleeding, breakdown of the blood and tissue from the lesions, and inflammation -- and can cause pain, infertility, scar tissue formation, adhesions, and bowel problems.”
If you experience pain before or during your period, during sex, or painful urination or bowel movements during your period, and if you struggle with infertility , fatigue and other gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea or constipation, you may be suffering with endometriosis, too.
The site, endometriosis.org, reports that this condition is the one of the most common causes of pelvic pain and infertility in women. “More than half of all women with endometriosis experience intense pain during sex. What’s more, women who have such pain have a difficult time talking about the problem with their partners, making it even more frustrating,” according to Everyday Health. The pain a woman experiences during a sex can vary in intensity and varies depending on where the lesions are located. There are some strategies for reducing pain during sex if the pain is related to your endometriosis:
1 - Communicate! Don’t let your partner think that you’re just no longer interested in sex or in him or her personally. Let them in on what’s going on for you. In most cases, a woman’s partner is going to want to do whatever is needed to make sex pleasurable for her. Educate your partner(s) about your condition and even invite them to doctor’s appointments so they can more fully understand what it is you’re going through. And invite them to help you brainstorm ways to reduce your pain. These conversations can help bring you closer together, like a team against this painful invader. And it gives you the support you need to deal with this issue.
2 - Experiment and try different positions and different sex acts! This could be an opportunity to have fun with your sex life. It is frustrating to always experience pain during regular intercourse, but sometimes switching things up will let you find a position that does NOT hurt, or doesn’t hurt as much. And getting away from the idea that sex always has to involve vaginal penetration is another way to enjoy sexual pleasure without having to risk pain.
3 - Experiment with different times of the month! Chart your pain cycles and observe the patterns of when your pain is greatest and when it is lowest. Make sex dates during the low-pain times of the month and generate excitement between you and your partner(s) about those upcoming dates. Rather than only focusing on when sex might be most likely to hurt, instead look forward to the days when it’s most likely to be pleasurable.
4 - Get therapy or other individual and relationship support! Seeking help is not a sign of weakness; rather it’s an acknowledgment that you are dealing with something affecting your whole life, not just your sex life. Chronic pain conditions take a toll on one’s sleep, mood, ability to socialize, work, and relationships. The fact that endo pain can greatly impact one’s sex life and ability to have children compounds all those other difficulties. Help and support during treatment, both medical and mental, will help you and your partner(s) weather this storm together.
A fantastic article on what a partner (of any gender) can do to help a partner who suffers from endometriosis was posted on The Good Men Project website. Please disregard the heteronormative bias evident in the article; the advice is too valuable to ignore.
What COULD Work? Insights into Relationship Negotiation from Kink & Polyamory
|Posted by [email protected] on February 25, 2015 at 1:35 PM||comments (0)|
I recently co-presented a mini workshop/demo on how to negotiate a BDSM scene prior to engaging in one. And with the #50Shades movie still garnering a lot of attention, from both within and without the BDSM community, I thought this might make a good blog post, as well.
Engaging in negotiation in non-sexual and non-kinky contexts is different from what I presented on at that event, but there are overlaps and things we can learn from how kinksters communicate. What does negotiation mean, anyway? In vanilla (non-BDSM) crowds, “negotiation” often seems to be equated with “compromise.” That word “compromise” often leaves an unpleasant taste in one’s mouth, because it seems to imply that everyone has to give up something that’s important to them in order to get something that’s more important. It suggests that people who are in negotiations are at odds with one another.
To complicate matters further, just add people. Polyamorous households that consist of multiple adults in various intimate configurations who need to figure out how to live peacefully together soon become masters at negotiation, or the household soon dissolves.
Step one: Remember you’re on the same side
One of the first things to do when you realize a negotiation is due or necessary is to change your thinking about it. Instead of dreading the conversation and wondering what you’ll have to offer up in exchange for getting what you want out of it...try imagining you and the person/people you’re negotiating with are ON THE SAME SIDE. Rather than pitted against each other, every person for themselves, remember that you are partners, members of the same team. This is an opportunity to find the Win/Win solution to whatever thorny issue has cropped up.
The kinky crowd really gets this concept. When two kinksters are negotiating a scene, they both recognize the fact that they’re working together to create the best possible experience for BOTH of them. These negotiations are not conducted like a high-powered executive business meeting as portrayed in #50Shades. The movie did get one element right - these initial scene negotiations are conducted between equals, so that no one is acting from a place of feeling coerced or pressured due to an unfair power differential. It’s not until the negotiation is over, and satisfactory and agreed to by all parties, that the power exchange begins.
In a polyamorous family, the best outcomes are also achieved when all the members feel that they have an equal voice in a negotiation that affects the entire household. Issues between any set of individuals is not subject to group negotiation, but household functioning issues often are hammered out in family meetings. Any good group leader knows that even the quietest person needs to feel safe and empowered to offer their opinions and get their needs met.
Try a different position to shift the energy
If you’re finding it difficult to step out of the combative positions you and the other parties may have taken in order to protect your interests in a negotiation, try suggesting a change in your physical positioning. If these talks typically happen around a kitchen table, with everyone facing off, an alternative might be to throw some pillows on the living room floor and everyone lay down with their heads in the middle. This change of positioning changes the energy and the context and participants can experience an internal shift in how they show up for the discussion, as well as see a difference in how everyone treats each other.
Of course, this isn’t to suggest that kinky folk don’t also fall prey to the same mistakes everyone tends to make in relationships around communication, conflict management, and relationship negotiation..
Step two: Engage in active listening
Step two in your negotiation discussion is to allow each other the space to be heard, safely and completely. You already know what is most important to you about this issue. So clear your head and truly LISTEN to your partner(s) and engage in active listening, so that they feel heard and understood. Validating another’s words does not mean that you agree with them; instead it conveys understanding and acceptance, of both the message and the speaker.
Active listening involves being mindful of your verbal and non-verbal cues to the speaker that you’re paying attention. If you don’t already do this, then in more social situations (where a relationship is not at stake), practice tuning in to how you’re communication during a conversation while you’re not speaking. See what happens when you lean in toward the speaker slightly, widen your eyes, and make small murmurs of encouragement. Experiment with listening so intently to what the other person is saying that you can restate in your own words what you just heard, BEFORE trying to formulate a response. There are many other things involved with active listening, and learning to become adept at this can improve all of your relationships, whether kinky, poly, or vanilla.
Step three: Have a creative brainstorming session
Back to negotiating...step three is to engage in a creative brainstorming session. After each speaker has had a chance to fully describe what’s important to them about the current issue, pose the question, “What COULD work?”. Often, when we reach the solution-seeking portion of a negotiation, the other parties will engage in “devil’s advocate” games, in which every solution is picked apart and the reasons it WON’T work are highlighted. When the OBSTACLES are given more energy than the effort to find workable solutions, everyone will become frustrated and discouraged by the exchange. However, if you can engage the problem-seeking party in a solution-seeking discussion, the energy of the whole conversation changes and becomes more positive. This can lead to looking through doorways of possibility that may have remain closed before, allowing everyone in the discussion to entertain creative notions of how to get everyone’s needs met.
From here, it’s just a matter of continuing to take everyone’s needs into account as each option is evaluated. For help in learning to have these discussions, for moderation in situations that feel out of control, and for help in developing protocols for family discussions, scene negotiations, and important relationship talks, please contact us at The Sex Positive Coach. We will take your family’s needs and dynamics into account while we help you figure out how to resolve differences without dissolving your relationships.
The Hidden Gift of Jealousy
|Posted by [email protected] on February 19, 2015 at 12:00 PM||comments (0)|
The Hidden Gift of Jealousy
A recent set of studies, published in the Psychology & Sexuality journal, and reported on in Psychology Today, has revealed that “contact theory” (which states that the more exposure one has to something, the more favorable one is likely to be toward that thing) is true when it comes to polyamory as well. The study, “How to Make People More Accepting of Polyamory,” found that most people are fairly accepting of the concept of consensual nonmonogamy, although those interested in trying it are much fewer in number. One interesting find in this group of studies was the types of people more predisposed to be accepting of polyamory include those who are more adventurous, younger, liberal, and apparently weren’t as focused on their jealousy issues.
Myth: If you’re jealous, you’re not doing poly right, or you’re not really poly
It is a common myth both in and out of polyamorous circles that in order to be poly, you have to be one of those rare individuals who don’t feel jealousy at all, or you are supposed to swallow it and instead focus on learning compersion (the feeling of happiness as a direct result of your partner’s joy at being with someone else). However, jealousy is not necessarily a bad thing. All of our emotional states exist for important reasons. Our feelings give us clues about things occurring in our subconscious and can help us uncover deeper desires, limits, needs, or areas of confusion.
Myth: The jealous partner must be cut off or broken up with to prevent drama
Just because someone in your poly group is experiencing jealousy, this is not a reason to end the relationship, to request/require your partner to end their relationship with the jealous party, or to disregard, dismiss, or belittle the one having those feelings (Including if that person is YOU!). Instead, this is a prime opportunity to engage in more communication with one another. Allow yourself to open to the possibility that the jealous reactions of yourself or another are rooted in a place of pain, fear, or need. This is a chance to send messages of love, acceptance, safety, and trust. The gift of jealousy is that if offers the opportunity to deepen trust, solidify connection, and create an even more intimate relationship IF all parties can courageously meet the challenge of working through it together.
What IS Jealousy?
Usually, a feeling of jealousy is a result of EITHER a need not being met in the one experiencing those feelings, OR a boundary has been crossed so that the one feeling jealous winds up feeling less secure in the relationship. There can be other sources, but these are the two primary ones, in my experience. So it’s important to ask the person feeling jealous for more information about that feeling and about what has triggered the feeling. It requires the person having a jealous reaction to take a breath and a step back and to seriously and honestly analyze their reactions to a situation or a person to determine what exactly is going on inside of them.
Is There a Need Not Being Met?
We are only responsible for own feelings; no one can make us feel anything. So when we have a feeling, we need to develop the capacity to identify it, express is in a healthy manner, and resolve it. When it comes to jealousy, see what other feeling is also present - it could be a sense of sadness or (impending) loss, it could be grief, it could be pain, it could be fear of abandonment, it could be a feeling of inadequacy or low self-worth, or something else. This other feeling gives us a clue as to what else is lacking for the person, what need isn’t being met. This feeling could be compounded if the jealous person PERCEIVES that this need is being met for another person by the shared partner. It’s important to reiterate that fixing the jealous person’s feelings is NOT the responsibility of the other partner.
In this case, if there’s a need that isn’t being met, having an open and honest and non-blaming conversation about that could result in finding a new solution for that need to get met, either within the existing relationship or through some other outlet. Discussing the fear or the pain or the need and then exploring options together is the best bet for arriving at a satisfactory outcome.
Has a Boundary Been Crossed?
If the issue is more about boundaries being crossed, it’s very important to examine what lines might have been violated and if those lines had been explicitly agreed to by all parties, or if they were implicit boundaries, assumed to be understood and accepted by all parties. If the case is the latter, then the conversation needs to be about renegotiating boundaries, being very careful to be extremely explicit and detailed oriented in the discussion. Sometimes this means getting all the way down to defining terminology to make sure everyone is on the same page with what certain words (like “intimacy” actually mean. I’ve known some larger polyamorous households that created their own dictionary, where they would have a family meeting to discuss and come to agreement on whatever tricky words had come up for them.
If the issue is the former, and someone has crossed a line that was specifically and explicitly agreed to, then the focus must shift to the offending party. It is still the responsibility of each individual to manage their own emotional state, but the one who crossed the line must now be honest both within themselves and with their partner(s). What happened to facilitate that boundary-crossing and what can be done to mend the trust that crossing has caused?
No Matter What, Stay True to Yourself & Open to Hearing the Other
These are very difficult and delicate discussions. No matter what is going on to cause the jealousy, it is so very important for everyone involved to be true to themselves while being as open as possible to hearing the other(s) out. It’s important to give the benefit of the doubt; in most relationships, the partners are not trying to hurt each other, that was not the intent, but rather an unforeseen or unexpected consequence of getting some other need met.
Can You Ever Go Back to the Way It Was? Should You Even Want To?
All of the so-called “negative” emotions have a reason to exist, a purpose in our lives and relationships. The complex set of feelings we call “jealousy” combine to become a red flag. What need may not be getting met? What fear may have been triggered? What boundary might have been crossed? These are the places to start. And there is help...you don’t have to wade these murky waters alone. A coach like myself can help your family navigate this dark and bumpy terrain so that you wind up back in a place that is good for all involved. I can’t promise your relationship will return to the way it was. In fact, that’s nearly impossible. You know that old saying, “You can’t step in the same river twice” ? Anytime something difficult happens, it changes the people involved. This is an opportunity for growth. What can you do to facilitate the growth process?
Love & Courage: Do You Have Enough Heart to Love Well?
|Posted by [email protected] on February 17, 2015 at 10:05 PM||comments (0)|
Love is wonderful, it feels so good; but love is not enough to make a relationship successful. Relationships take time, attention, energy, work, and courage…oh so much courage. It takes courage to open up, to share one’s deepest self, to expose one’s vulnerabilities. It takes great courage to take risks with one another, to trust another with your wounded bits. It takes courage to listen and hold space for another. Courage, which means “with heart,” is one of the greatest things a person can bring to relationships. Do you have the courage to love? To trust? To risk? Do you have enough heart to expose your weaknesses? To be fully present for someone else while they expose theirs? Are you brave enough to withhold judgment? To explore your own dark places? To walk with another through the shadowy parts of their psyche?
Courage can be developed. Courage is not about not feeling fear. On the contrary, learning to “feel the fear and do it anyway” is the subject of a whole book (or several) and anyone who has ever worn the title “hero” can attest to the truth of this concept. Relationships can be incredibly scary, because they require us to open up, be vulnerable, expose our fears, hopes and dreams, and trust that the person we’re in relationship with doesn’t take advantage of us or hurt us or abandon us.
Unfortunately, those things do happen, to all of us. And knowing that can make the fears even worse. But you have a choice. You can choose to let those fears overwhelm you and keep you from the possibility of knowing the joy that can come from experiencing a deep, intimate, trusting relationship...or you can grasp that fear by the horns and ride it all the way through to the other side. The thing about feelings, and this includes fear, is that they are fleeting, they pass. If we allow them to. By fighting them or trying to ignore, dismiss, or stifle them, we give them energy to persist and sometimes worsen. But going ahead and allowing yourself to feel the feelings, even the fear, and learning to accept them without becoming attached to them...this will allow the fleeting sensations to fade and to eventually disappear altogether.
Once you decide not to allow fear to rule you, and you gather up your courage and take the risk, you will be blessed with a variety of experiences, all of which will teach you about yourself, your desires, your limits, and your expectations in a relationship. And once you’ve found one worth investing in, having the courage to take risks WITHIN the relationship will deepen your connection. The act of exposing your vulnerable bits to someone who has proven to be trustworthy serves to strengthen the trust between you, which also cements your bond to one another. It is when a partner shows up and accepts you for ALL of who you are, even the bits you normally keep hidden because you find them unacceptable for whatever reason, THIS is when you know that the love is true, that the connection has the potential to last.
What Makes a Healthy Relationship, Whether Kinky or Vanilla?
|Posted by [email protected] on February 13, 2015 at 9:15 AM||comments (0)|
Emotional manipulation, threats and threatening gestures, social isolation, unreasonable restrictions, undealt-with emotional baggage, evidence of similar patterns in past relationships, abuse of power or privilege - these are things that define a negative, unhealthy, dysfunctional relationship, much like the one that Ana and Christian have in the movie, “50 Shades of Grey.” That’s what many who dislike this story are talking about these days. So, I want to explore the opposite.
What makes for a healthy relationship, whether kinky or vanilla? Love, trust, and respect in both directions. Relationship agreements that are negotiated by all parties involved. Boundaries that can be expressed and are adhered to. Care and concern are present. The motivation to start and continue a relationship is not fear based. No one is coerced or manipulated into doing or feeling anything.
Healthy relationships are not defined by the gender or number of partners involved. A healthy relationship is not defined by the type of sexual interactions or power dynamics the parties choose to engage in together. Engaging in a mutually consensual D/s relationship or participating in mutually consensual BDSM scenes do NOT qualify, in and of themselves, as abuse or dysfunction. The DSM V (the psychological field’s manual of mental disorders, released in 2014) has finally recognized that simply being interested in or participating in BDSM activities is not automatically pathological. That is not to say that there is never any abuse in BDSM relationships, there is - but it’s not directly caused by the kinkiness of either partner.
A healthy relationship is defined, in part, by a secure connection, defined by all partners being able to confidently trust the other(s) will be there when it counts. A healthy relationship is one in which the partners are interested in helping each other, not just concerned with their own needs. A healthy relationship is reflected in the caring words used toward and about each other. A healthy relationship is deemed so when the partners are genuinely interested in each other and turn toward one another for love and support, trusting the other will usually be able to give it.
Most relationships have trouble in one or more areas, especially when the challenges of everyday life weigh on the partners and create stess. Most people are not trained in emotional intelligence, conflict resolution or management, communication and listening skills, etc. That’s where someone like me comes in. As a relationship coach, I can help individuals and partners in relationship learn and practice these skills. I can help identify the obstacles that throw partners off-course and give them the tools to navigate those muddy, rocky waters. If you’d like to schedule an initial session to see if we might be a good fit, please check out my availability and reserve your spot today. Let me know if you have any questions by sending me an email to [email protected].
Words Have Power - Choose Words that Empower Others
|Posted by [email protected] on February 12, 2015 at 8:05 AM||comments (0)|
Every day I focus on the words I use. I learned a long time ago how powerful words can be. As a language major during my undergraduate days, I wrote a paper discussing how thought influences language and how language simultaneously influences thought. You can learn a lot about the values promoted by a culture (or subculture) by examining the language used by that culture. For instance, does your native language have genderless pronouns? Do all nouns have gender embedded in them? If so, what kinds of words tend to be assigned masculine components and which feminine?
Awareness is the first step
When I started doing sex education more than a decade ago, I learned to change the discussion about STIs. In encouraging people to have the “safe(r) sex talk” with prospective new sexual partners, instead of asking each other if they were “clean” (the implication being that they were dirty if they carried something), I changed it to, "Do you have anything to report regarding STIs?"
I remember playing a game with my brother and sister when we were young where we would create a city on the floor out of whatever objects we happened to have on hand (toilet paper rolls, boxes, etc.). Then we would drive our matchbox cars around the city, stopping at “stores” and “banks” and whatnot. This game was called, “Guys,” for some reason, though I have no idea which of us dubbed it thus or why. But this has carried into my adult life, so that I still unthinkingly use masculine words (like “guys” to refer to groups of people regardless of gender (i.e. in gender-mixed groups or groups whose gender mix I don’t know).
I also discovered this week that I tend to default to "he" to refer to people whose gender remains unknown, such as drivers of cars (“Wow, he just ran a red light, didn’t he?”;). I’ve been feeling dismay at these realizations because I do make an effort to change my speech. But this is what becoming aware of privilege is about - continuously checking yourself for ways in which you unconsciously exhibit negative bias and perpetuate inequality, and then making conscious, mindful efforts to change these deeply-embedded actions, words, and thought patterns.
Making the choice to change is the second step
Learning to become aware of the oppressive speech patterns you learned and then choosing to find and use less oppressive or exclusionary words is one fairly easy but very important way you can use your privilege to help others who are less privileged. Just as your word choice can change the way you think, so too can your word choice have an effect on how others think as well, especially if you're a member of the dominant class.
I teach this to my clients, too, especially those whose partner is unwilling to come in for sessions. I tell my clients to be careful of their word choice so that they tell their subconscious and their partner's subconscious what they really want them to hear. Rather than "I can't" try "so far, I haven't learned to" and see if that changes things. In discussions that have some embedded power dynamic or privilege, be extra careful. Instead of chiding your son for “throwing like a girl” when what you mean is “not throwing with enough force” - figure out how to say the latter in a way that doesn’t shame or belittle your daughter at the same time.
Will you accept the challenge to examine & change your words?
Your words, my words, all of our words have power - the power to diminish others or to lift them up. We can empower others and help shift the language of inequality that we grew up with. We can take responsibility for our utterances and thus contribute to a more just and kind society, in which everyone receives respect and opportunity at the same level, regardless of skin color, gender, orientation, relationship structure, physical ability, etc. But it does take effort, practice, mindfulness, and acknowledgment that sometimes this process can be quite uncomfortable. Will you accept the challenge? What’s one word that you can work on removing from or changing in your automatic speech patterns to reflect your value of equality? I will be working on figuring out how to change “guys” when referring to groups of people, and perhaps to using “they” when referring to people in their cars.
Tweet: Your words, my words, all of our words have power - the power to diminish others or to lift them up. http://ctt.ec/flG0H+
Let me know if you’d like to schedule a session to work on your word choices or to help you become more aware of your privilege. We can discuss ways you can work to help those less privileged, or on how to overcome inherited attitudes and actions that can be oppressive and offensive to others. We can also work on how to bring the power of word choice into your interpersonal relationships to help you and your partner(s) learn to communicate more effectively. Click here to schedule a session today!
Quit SHOULDing All Over Each Other
|Posted by [email protected] on February 11, 2015 at 12:45 PM||comments (2)|
I try not to give advice. Advice usually comes with a should. Instead I try to give suggestions. Advice is about me, because I'm attached to the outcome. Counsel comes with suggestions which are about you. So many people listen to another share about their problems and instead of empathizing, they start telling the other person what they should do. And if the other person doesn’t take their advice, they often get quite insulted. Quit SHOULDing all over each other!
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It's not about me
When I work with a client, I may give some suggestions of things to try, but they’re always just that: suggestions. And I also often tell my clients to take what works for them and forget the rest. So if my suggestions don’t sound like something they can do or want to do, or if they forget the suggestion as soon as they leave my office, well then, perhaps I wasn’t enough in alignment with where they were to offer a suggestion that might actually work. But it doesn’t bother me, because it’s not about me. When I am with a client, the session is about them. Finding ways for them to help them out of the situation they find challenging or unendurable. If someone remains in a difficult situation, for whatever reason, they’re not doing so to spite me, to prove that my ideas don’t work. They’re not staying because they know it bothers me. It’s not about me.
Healthy concern versus unhealthy attachment
I am not attached to the outcome of my client’s sessions. I know that might sound somewhat callous, but it’s actually healthy. I’m concerned about my clients and their outcomes, but I’m not attached. The difference is that one expresses healthy levels of care about the other person, while attachment indicates that I have taken some measure of ownership of their problems and solutions, and reveals a codependent level of care. It is possible to care too much, if that care takes on codependent qualities.
Tweet: It is possible to care too much, if that care takes on codependent qualities. http://ctt.ec/VpdUv+
Don't fix, ask how you can help
This is true within other types of relationships, as well, not just the client-counselor one. If a friend or partner comes to you with their problems, they’re not necessarily asking you to fix those problems for them. They may simply be needing to vent, they may need to hear validating statements, or they may need expressions of empathy. Well, you ask, how are you possibly supposed to know what they’re needing in any given exchange? You’re not supposed to just know - you need to ask: “How can I help?” And the person might respond with, “I don’t know. Does my upset make sense to you?” - this indicates a need for validation. “I just need a listening ear” - this response suggests that they simply need to vent, to release their pent-up frustration. “I could really use a hug” is a request for empathy. You don’t need to assume you know the answer. You don’t need to assume responsibility for offering solutions. You don’t need to assume that they can’t figure this problem out for themselves. You don’t need to assume you know what they need in this moment. Throw out your assumptions and ask if there’s anything you can do to help.
Release your attachment to their outcomes
Occasionally, someone WILL say, “I need your advice,” or “Can you help me think through this?” or “What would you do in this situation?” Then you get to grease those fix-it wheels and jump in with your whole toolbox and work with them to figure out what might work best for them. But even in this situation, remember, it’s still THEIR problem and you don’t get to take ownership of the problem or the solution. Remember to release your attachment to their outcome.