You Asked, I Answered: What to Know About Working With Me

couples therapist portland sex therapist in portland sex counselor

I get asked a lot of great questions about my work.  Here's a short list of the most commonly asked questions about couples and relationship work with me.  

Read more of the most frequently asked questions by my clients here

sex therapist portland sex counselor for couples in portland couples therapist

How is coaching different from counseling?

Yes, I have completed a masters in counseling, but the work I do is not based You’ve tried therapy and stuck to it… but it’s time to apply the skills learned. Counseling is important reflective healing work, but my clients come to me hoping to take action for change.  That's where coaching comes in.

Counseling (the "assessment and treatment of mental health disorders") is about asking why something is happening.  Coaching doesn't assess or treat these disorders- my clients are healthy.  Instead we ask what you want to do differently.  How do you want to change? 

You're pretty friendly, how is this different from a friendship?

Having friendly relationships with my clients is important to me, but this isn't a friendship per se.  Whenever we meet I'm working for you providing facilitated space, open-mindedness, years of experience and training, and deep professional care.  

What's different than friendship is:

  • I bring ten years of professional expertise and training helping people build healthy relationships
  • I don't have personal attachment to your story so I won't offer judgment and you don't have to question my motives
  • You don't have to take care of my feelings or needs- this is a one-way relationship
  • I won't hit on you, sleep with you, or date you- our boundaries remain clear no matter how intimate our conversation
  • I won't search you online or in social media, what you choose to bring to session is up to you
  • The things you say to me remain strictly confidential (see more on this below)

How long are sessions?

Couples sessions are 75-90 minutes long.  I ask you to reserve 90 minutes for our meeting each time we schedule.  Many of my clients arrive 15 minutes early to collect their thoughts before session- I highly recommend it.

Individual sessions are 50 minutes long.  Many of my clients arrive 15 minutes early to collect their thoughts before session- I highly recommend it.

How often will we meet?

Most of my clients meet me every other week.  This gives you time to check in with your partner, your other partners, and (if you're in couples work) your individual therapist or coach.  It also gives a little more time to try out the skills we're working on before we meet again. 

A small number of my clients meet me weekly.  These are typically clients healing from affairs and experiencing extreme emotions.  Sometimes clients meet me weekly during stressful experiences (loss, break-up, new partner etc) or when they are making time-sensitive decisions (should we stay together, move to China, abort this pregnancy etc).

There's also a small number of clients who I have worked with for a while who want to invest in pro-active relationship maintenance.  We've generally cleared up the initial concerns they brought to my office, but they want a container to hold their conflicts with care moving forward.  We typically meet every third week for this kind of preventative relationship care work. 

How long do you meet with people?

Most clients work with me 4-6 months.  Many clients choose to stay on for monthly relationship maintenance meetings to help keep their relationships healthy.  

I'm proud that over 50% of my clients return years after working together to start up again when new issues arise.  They enjoyed our work together, found it helpful, and want to work with someone who knows their back story.

Where is your office/Where will we meet?

All my initial screening free consultations happen on the phone.  

Once we've decided to work together we may meet on the phone or in my office in Northeast Portland, OR.  My office is in the Overlook/Arbor Lodge neighborhoods at the corner of N Denver and N Killingsworth.  You can take the Max or the bus easily and there is ample street parking.

How much does this work cost?

I recommend budgeting between $175 and $800 each month for this work (depending on the frequency and type of meetings).  I offer some reduced rate spaces for clients who make a lower income.   

Initial phone consultations are free.  First sessions for couples are $200 and first solo sessions are $175.  Ongoing couples sessions are $175 and solo sessions are $125.  Again, let me know if this is too much for your household budget, I may have reduced rate sessions available.

Do you offer sliding-scale or reduced fee sessions?

I do reserve a small number of spaces for reduced rate clients who make a lower income.  Some of my clients also meet with me less frequently to make this work fit in their budgets.  Let me know if you need help affording our work.

Do you bill insurance?

I would never share your personal information with a corporation- so no, I do not bill insurance.  Some of my clients have used Flex Spending Accounts and Health Savings Accounts to work with me successfully.

Will you see either of us individually if we also see you as a couple?

I will see you individually to work on issues related to the relationship.  But if you want additional support for other areas of your life, or very intense self-work I will likely refer you out.

How does confidentiality work?

Everything you say to me in session is kept confidential on my end forever.  There are only a few exceptions to this:

  • If you are abusing someone in your care, or your partner, or yourself I'll likely have to report your abuses
  • If you are planning to kill yourself or another person I will report your plans
  • If you contact me using the internet, social media, email, or a smart phone I have no control over the confidentiality of the information you share (but google, facebook, etc will) 
  • I am currently receiving supervision for both a Sex Counselor and a Master Coach credential and will talk with my supervisor about my client work- but I will remove identifying information in these conversations.

How do you maintain boundaries with a community so interconnected?

It's not uncommon for one of my clients to have some familiarity with others.  But your confidentiality is of utmost importance.  If there's something that feels uncomfortable we'll talk about it, but I won't be able to share information about any of my other clients, famous or not, past or present.  

Your information is safe with me.

I also don't discuss my own personal connections, interests, desires, or activities with clients.  If I show up at an event and a client is in attendance I will probably leave.  I do this to maintain a professional relationship, instead of beginning a personal one (that could complicate our work together). I'd rather maintain extra distance than harm our work.  

What if we stop working together?

Your confidentiality is respected even if we stop working together.  Once you become one of my clients you can always return to our work, so your information will wait in a secure vault if (until) you decide to return.


sex therapist portland sex counselor for couples in portland couples therapist

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

She can help you:

  • rediscover passion in long-term relationships
  • repair trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • move past jealousy, insecurity or codependent patterns
  • open your relationship or practice polyamory with care
  • resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnect
  • break unhealthy communication patterns in your relationship

Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

Click here to download her free guides to strengthen your relationship (monogamous or not).

You Asked, I Answered: Questions About Polyamory

open marriage poly questions | polyamory advice | nonmonogamy | open relationships

I get asked a lot of great questions about my work- especially my work with polyamory and non-monogamy.  Here's a short list of the most commonly asked questions about open relationships.  

Read more of the most frequently asked questions by my clients here

poly questions | polyamory advice | nonmonogamy | open relationships

Do you believe polyamory or monogamy is healthier?

I don't think relationship health is determined by the number of partners involved- but I do believe it can be measured by the level of communication, empathy, trust, and connection experienced by partners.  

For some people open relationship structures are overwhelming.  And for others monogamy is stifling.  I don't think you always have to choose one or the other, but I want all my couples to be able to openly discuss these with kindness and ease.

How did you learn about open relationships?

I became interested in couples work when I was in graduate school studying couples counseling.  I was fortunate to study in a holistic program that emphasized non-traditional therapeutic styles.  I was also really lucky to intern at the Gottman Relationship Research Institute when I finished school and really learn about strengthening trust in relationships.  

I wrote my final research on non-monogamy in couples therapy and have only expanded my research and education since then.  I left the profession of mental health therapy in 2016 to focus on coaching this population.

Does non-monogamy really work?

Absolutely.  If you define "working" as being together a long time, I will tell you I've supported couples who are married or who have been together for 14, 17, 22, and over 40 years while practicing many forms of nonmonogamy.  

If you define "working" by being generally satisfied with your relationship, supporting one another's growth, feeling empathy and desire for your partner I will tell you I've supported couples who are married and/or who have been together for 4, 17, 22, and over 40 years while practicing many forms of nonmonogamy.

But to make non-monogamy work, you need to be willing to do some work.  That's where I can help you.

Do you work with monogamous couples?

Even for clients who choose monogamy, it can be important to know this is a specialty of mine. These clients love working with me because I apply the same open non-judgmental approach to my work with all couples.  

I love all kinds of love - monogamous love too!

What about affairs in polyamorous relationships?

Affairs happen in both monogamous and non-monogamous relationships.  I work with couples to rebuild trust and overcome jealousy every week in session.  I have helped hundreds of couples move forward after an affair.  (Read more about my work with infidelity here)

I can to help you build and repair trust no matter your relationship structure. Schedule a consultation to get started with me here. 

Are you poly/open/non-monogamous?

Yup.  But I won't give you a lot of information about my relationship structure beyond that because if we're going to work together I want to keep the focus on you.  


sex counselor in portland sex therapist | couples therapist portland sexuality counselor

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

She can help you:

  • rediscover passion in long-term relationships
  • repair trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • move past jealousy, insecurity or codependent patterns
  • open your relationship or practice polyamory with care
  • resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnect
  • break unhealthy communication patterns in your relationship

Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

Click here to download her free guides to strengthen your relationship (monogamous or not).

You Asked, I Answered: Supporting LGBTQ Relationships

lgbtq therapist portland queer therapist | lesbian therapist | glbt couples therapy

I get asked a lot of great questions about my work.  Here's a short list of the most commonly asked questions about being an LGBTQ knowledgeable and affirming provider.  

Read more of the most frequently asked questions by my clients here

lgbtq therapist portland queer therapist | lesbian therapist | glbt couples therapy

What qualifies you to work with LGBTQ clients?

I studied LGBTQ identity development and human sexuality in my first masters at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University a long long time ago.  From there I worked with queer resource centers on college campuses and LGBTQ nonprofits in Seattle.  I left education/nonprofit work to become a therapist because I wanted more transgender people to have access to letter writing therapists.

My professional training came when I completed my graduate internship at the nation's longest-running LGBTQ-focused mental health agency, Seattle Counseling Services (formerly Seattle Counseling Services for Sexual Minorities).  There I received excellent training on serving LGBTQ populations as a couples counselor.

Since then I have focused my private practice entirely on working with LGBTQ-identified clients.  Even as I shift from counseling to relationship coaching, my dedication and expertise in serving LGBTQ clients remains strong.  

Are you gay/queer/bi/trans/lesbian?

Yup.  But that's about all the information I'll share about my own relationship.  I like to keep the focus of our work on you.  

Do you write letters for transgender medical procedures or treatment?

Not since I stopped formally working as a mental health counselor (because my clients aren't unhealthy- and neither are you) but I do have a LONG list of mental health providers who can write one for you.

What do you know about transgender identities and relationships?

I have experience with trans identities and relationships both professionally and personally.  This means I have deep understanding of the unique themes facing transgender folks in relationships with cisgender partners.

That said, just like any other relationship each identity involved shapes the relationship dynamic, I'm happy to talk with you more about our unique gender identities and how they impact the connection you're building.

Do you work with straight couples?

Of course!  Many of my straight (or mostly-straight) couples are happy to know I work primarily with LGBTQ clients.  

They often feel even more comfortable sharing the less traditional parts of themselves with a provider who is open-minded and non-judgmental.   


sex counselor portland sex therapist portland oregon couples therapist

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

She can help you:

  • rediscover passion in long-term relationships
  • repair trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • move past jealousy, insecurity or codependent patterns
  • open your relationship or practice polyamory with care
  • resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnect
  • break unhealthy communication patterns in your relationship

Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

Click here to download her free guides to strengthen your relationship (monogamous or not).

You Asked, I Answered: About Being a Sex-Positive Provider

sex-positive therapist | sex therapist portland counselor for sexuality

I get asked a lot of great questions about my work.  Here's a short list of the most commonly asked questions about being a sex-positive provider supporting couples and individual clients in changing their relationships for the better.  

Read more of the most frequently asked questions by my clients here

sex positive portland therapist for sexuality

What is a sex-positive provider?

One of the best questions I get from new clients is about my listing as a sex-positive professional, or a kink-aware provider.  

Not all my clients engage in sex-positive community, but for some of my clients it is especially important to know I have eight years of expertise in working with clients from BDSM, fetish, and other kink scenes.  

This is important because there are a lot of well-intended professionals who will tell you they are sex-positive, but just having a sex-positive philosophy isn't enough- if you work with me you have someone with the philosophy, the skills, and the knowledge.

What if we're new to BDSM, kink, and/or don't know where to begin?

I work with a lot of clients who are just beginning to get creative and explore their sexuality.  Some of them just finished reading Fifty Shades of Grey, and others have held secret fantasies for years and are just now opening up to their partner.  

I'll meet with you to help you determine an integrity-based path that supports your physical and emotional health as well as your desires.  I can also refer you to a wide range of specific organizations, clubs, groups, teachers, and events in the Portland area to help grow your learning and your community in a way that feels as safe as possible for you.

What if only one of us is kinky?

Many couples choose to work with me when one partner is interested in kink and the other is not.  Let me help you figure out a path that is right for both of you.  

It can be helpful to work with a knowledgeable and non-judgmental professional to discuss and negotiate new sexual territory.

Are you kinky?

I think most people have some creative desires but I won't share my own sexual desires or activities with you because the focus of our work is on you- not me.

Will you demonstrate X act with/on/for us?

I don't do any hands-on work with clients.  But I know plenty of knowledgable professionals who do and I'm happy to refer you.

Do you work with vanilla couples too?

Absolutely!  Even clients who follow more mainstream or traditional sexual and sensual practices often find comfort knowing this is a specialty of mine.  

These clients love working with me because I apply the same open non-judgmental approach to my work with all couples- no matter how kinky.  

Do you coach sex-workers?

Yup.  If you want to know more about how I can support you in maintaining your work/life balance schedule a consultation so we can chat.


sex therapist portland couples therapy

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

She can help you:

  • rediscover passion in long-term relationships
  • repair trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • move past jealousy, insecurity or codependent patterns
  • open your relationship or practice polyamory with care
  • resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnect
  • break unhealthy communication patterns in your relationship

Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

Click here to download her free guides to strengthen your relationship (monogamous or not).

You Asked, I Answered: How to Get Over an Affair?

affair help | how to trust again | trust issues | cheated | infidelity

Lots of folks find me right after discovering their partner is having an affair. Here are some of the questions they ask.  

Read more of the most frequently asked questions by my clients here

husband cheating | wife cheated | get over an affair | trust issues

Can we get through this affair?

Even couple takes a different route through infidelity.  Some of my couples choose to split up- and in those cases I help them do so with respect and kindness.  

Most of my couples choose to stay together and though it isn't easy many of them make it through.  We work to repair broken trust and create communication that works for both of you moving forward.

Is infidelity normal?

Affairs happen in both monogamous and non-monogamous relationships.  Estimates range between 60% and 80% of all ("monogamous")couples experience infidelity.  So yeah, infidelity is pretty common. 

If you're asking is it normal to feel this way, please know it is completely "normal" to feel a lot of intense and conflicting feelings whether you are the partner who has an affair or the one who didn't.  Your feelings are valid.  Let me help you work through them with integrity.

I've helped hundreds of couples move forward after an affair.  I can help you repair trust no matter what you've been through. Set up a free consultation to see if we're a good match to work together.

I get asked a lot of great questions about my work.  Here's a short list of the most commonly asked questions from people who are recovering after an affair.  Read on to learn more.

Read more of the most frequently asked questions by my clients here

I feel crazy/overwhelmed after finding out my sweetheart/partner/spouse cheated.  Will this emotional roller coaster ever go away?

Finding out you've been betrayed brings up a surprising amount of intense emotions. Often they arise when we least expect and even more often they feel out of control. I offer this information to tell you you are not alone. Not at all.  

I've helped hundreds of folks get through all this intensity and I'm happy to help you stay grounded and clear so you can make decisions from a place of wisdom and connection- instead of unpredictable reactivity.

How do we rebuild trust?

I know the feelings that come up when trust is broken are intense and hard to sit with- but rebuilding trust takes time.  I recommend working with a professional to help you get a solid foundation laid or to patch cracks in that foundation with care.  I'm happy to talk more specifically about what you might need to build trust in a free consultation.


portland polyamory counselor open relationships sex therapy portland sex counselor

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

She can help you:

  • rediscover passion in long-term relationships
  • repair trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • move past jealousy, insecurity or codependent patterns
  • open your relationship or practice polyamory with care
  • resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnect
  • break unhealthy communication patterns in your relationship

Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

Click here to download her free guides to strengthen your relationship (monogamous or not).

Warm Up Your Communication

communication in relationships | communicate better

Compassion in Relationships

If you're looking for an easy way to improve your relationship one simple intention can make a huge difference.

Try to enter each interaction with warmth with your sweetie. Check resentment and crankiness, business, and distraction at the door.

We often start out with intentional, meaningful, fully-present communication in relationships.  We really listen, and we start each interaction with so much warmth and kindness.  But most of us get a little lazy with communication over time in long-term relationships.

Change the Conversation

Simply refocusing on warmth at the start of each conversation or interaction dramatically shifts interactions to more positive places.  Even in conflict, acting from kindness transforms the nature of the conflict- and makes it much more productive.

Try warmth instead and see what happens.


If you want more help improving communication in your relationship you might want to try Compassionate Communication (also called Nonviolent Communication).  

Enter your information below to receive my free Compassionate Communication Toolkit for Couples.

Name *
Name

Ask Me Anything: Opening a 15 Year Marriage?

relationship advice | polyamory advice | open relationship help

Ask me anything is a relationship advice column run by Gina Senarighi, a former therapist turned sex educator and sexuality counselor who offers online support for non-traditional couples.  

Submit your Ask Me Anything question right here.  Or Read more Ask Me Anything here.

This Week's Open Marriage Question:

In your professional opinion, is it even fathomable to think a marriage after 15 years could ever be an open one?

First, yes I think it's fathomable and possible to have a healthy open marriage after monogamy.  I help a lot of people do exactly that in my work every single day.

But my experience has shown there's a bit of work to do before opening up after so many years of monogamy.  Usually, one partner feels some surprise when it's brought up.  Often they thought they'd be monogamous their whole life and even talking about nonmonogamy feels like a huge foundational shift.  

So before we can get to practicing nonmonogamy we've got to work on even talking about opening your marriage without real emotional reactivity (jealousy, insecurity, shock, or anger) on one side and growing tension (resentment, frustration, and impatience) on the other.  

I've seen many couples choose to open their marriage and some who do not.  Either way, navigating this initial conversation often leads to greater connection and understanding.  

Instead of getting caught up in thinking through details of polyamory I invite you and your partner to use this as an opportunity to reconnect.  See if there's a way this can bring you closer together.  Many times the conversation has led away from practical non-monogamy and instead toward the need to create a new vision for your next chapter together.  

If your partner tells you they want an open marriage after many years of monogamy it can feel like you're no longer on the same page.  Starting from some shared visioning can help ease the pressure to nail down details of polyamory and instead will help you two get back on the same page.

Think about it this way, if you founded a business with someone fifteen years ago you would likely bring in an advisor or coach, maybe an accountant or bookkeeper, and likely a lawyer to create contracts and agreements you can uphold in your business partnerships.  Then (in a healthy business) you might meet with them and your partner annually to revisit your strategic plan, create new goals, and renegotiate your contracts with one another.  

Your business would grow and change a lot in fifteen years.  You would revisit your mission and vision for the work you do together on a somewhat regular basis- no big deal, just good business.

Lots of healthy businesses thrive this way- but we rarely apply this kind of intentionality in our personal relationships.  If you're like most relationships you may have assumed some baseline you set fifteen years ago would hold you together for life- without ever discussing it.  

But the truth is, neither of you is the same people you were fifteen years ago.  I'm asking you to consider this an opportunity to reinvest in your marriage and get closer to your wife by reestablishing your relationship vision and goals together (aside from the non-monogamy discussion).  

Get on the same page again, and then talk more about opening up.  Maybe it fits in your vision, and maybe it doesn't.  But most couples I see being up open marriages after many years need a little foundational repair before we can start a healthy conversation about openness.  

I hope that helps.  If you want to talk more please set up a free consultation, I'm happy to help.  


relationship advice \ open relationship advice column | polyamory advice

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, LGBTQ issues and infidelity.  

She can help you:

  • rediscover passion in long-term relationships
  • repair trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • move past jealousy, insecurity or codependent patterns
  • open your relationship or practice polyamory with care
  • resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnect
  • break unhealthy communication patterns in your relationship

Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

Click here to download her free guides to strengthen your relationship (monogamous or not).

Two Kinds of Boundaries in Relationships

Two Kinds of Boundaries in Relationships | Relationship Boundaries

I've gotten lots of questions in my Ask me Anything column lately related to healthy boundaries in relationships so I thought I'd spend a little time writing more about healthy relationship boundaries for a bit to help clear up a few common misconceptions.  

Before Diving in below, you might want to read the first two installments in this series:

Ten Common Myths About Boundaries

Boundaries Aren't Permanent

Two Essential Kinds of Boundaries

When I work with people to clarify and respect boundaries I find boundaries most often fall into one of two camps.  When we're envisioning them, boundaries either seem to be Hard Lines or Negotiables.  

Hard Line Boundaries

Hard lines are the kind of boundaries that feel especially important and/or tender to us.  They are the ones we'll react most strongly to if crossed.  

Hard line boundaries appear to be absolute or unmoveable.  We can't imagine they will ever shift.

Often these come up in initial conversations with words like never or always attached.  Here are some examples of hard line boundaries I've heard:

"If you cheat on me I will end this relationship."

"I'm vegan."

"I can't imagine I will ever want to be tied up."

"I don't like anal sex."

All of these examples are specific to behaviors and appear absolute or unchanging.  Trying to negotiate with these will risk annoying the person sharing their boundary.

There are several pros and cons to consider when using a hard line boundary:

Pros

Hard line boundaries are usually very clear.  The more clarity the easier to be sure you and a partner are on the same page.

Hard line boundaries can seem simpler to live by.  Often hard lines have an either-or kind of feel (see the first example above).

Cons

Hard line boundaries don't take into account the personal growth and relationship development that happens over time.  Even hard line boundaries will need revisiting in time.

It can be really easy to assume these boundaries are fixed- forever.  I've seen many individuals in the couples I work with feel blindsided when their partner wants to revisit a hard line boundary.  

For example, I've seen many people who thought they would end a relationship after an affair decide to repair and stay together.  Most of those folks would never have predicted they'd stay.

Flexible or Negotiable Boundaries

Flexible or negotiable boundaries are the gray area between an absolute yes or no to a specific behavior or context. There are many pros and cons to using flexible/negotiable boundaries.

Here are some examples from real relationships:

"I like rope play, but I don't like to bottom in group spaces. Let's talk about when and where we want to play."

This boundary is negotiable depending on location-specific behavior. I like this here but not there.  

"Sometimes I get really triggered when sexual content comes on tv.  If that happens I'll let you know by_____ and you could support me by _______."

This boundary might not even look like a boundary to most people- but boundaries are really about asking for what you need and setting expectations.  The part that is negotiable or flexible is the "sometimes" and "if" part of this boundary conversation.  There's room for it to flex and change depending on the situation (in this case tv content or stress I'm feeling).

"I like flirting with you via text but this week I have a huge project at work so I'm not going to be available to respond like I usually am."

This boundary is time-sensitive (the project is happening this week).  It's clear we may renegotiate in a week or shift back to our previous texting behaviors.

Pros

Negotiable boundaries can grow, change, and flex with you and your relationship over time.

Cons

Some people think negotiable boundaries don't deserve the same kind of care and respect.  Thinking because they're flexible negotiable boundary violations don't cause the same kind of harm.  This is just completely untrue.  All boundaries deserve respect and care.

Because they are more conscious of the grey area between absolute yes or no, it can be more difficult to be clear about negotiable boundaries.

You need to be willing to keep a conversation going about boundaries- and some people don't want to invest that much energy in relationship maintenance.

Questions to ask about Hard Line and Flexible/Negotiable Boundaries in Relationships

If you're not sure what kind of boundary you want to set ask yourself a few questions to find more clarity:

Is this boundary time-sensetive?

Is this boundary specific to a location or situation?

How might this boundary change as we get to know each other?

When will I be open to talking about this boundary again?

If you want any help clarifying or communicating boundaries, I'm happy to talk with you in a free consultation.  I love chatting about boundaries!


gina senarighi | boundaries in relationships | relationship boundary

Gina Senarighi offers non-judgmental sex-positive, gender-affirming, LGBTQ relationship support online and in the Pacific Northwest. 

She often says, “I love love, in all its forms!”

She’s helped thousands of couples deepen their sexual connection, repair trust, and build sustainable lasting partnerships.

She uses her multi-disciplinary professional training to teach communication skills and help her clients handle conflict with compassion.

Gina has supported many couples experimenting with open relationships based in trust and integrity. If you’re considering polyamory you should check out her online resources here.

Although most of her couples are experimenting with less traditional relationship structures, even her more mainstream clients appreciate her open-minded non-judgmental approach and diverse expertise.

If you’re interested in taking this work further contact her for a free consultation.

Boundaries Aren't Permament

Healthy Boundaries | Boundaries in Relationships

I've gotten lots of questions in my Ask me Anything column lately related to healthy boundaries in relationships so I thought I'd spend a little time writing more about healthy relationship boundaries for a bit to help clear up a few common misconceptions.  

Before diving in below, you might want to read the first installment in this series:

Ten Common Myths About Boundaries

A Common Misunderstanding: Boundaries Aren't Forever

The first thing most people misunderstand is that boundaries aren't permanent. They are always temporary and always shifting.  

For example, when you go on a first date you might have certain boundaries (no kissing, no sex, no talking about religion/money/politics) but over time these boundaries will shift or change depending on how the date goes.  

If your date goes well and you build trust you might want more affection and will likely talk about deeper more meaningful topics.  The boundaries you set on the first date will soften. 

If that same date goes poorly or trust isn't built your boundaries might grow or harden (don't call me anymore, blocking them on facebook, avoiding them at work = more rigid boundaries).

Or you might have one boundary in a specific context that is different in other settings.  For example, I hug my very close friends hello (and often goodbye) but I don't hug my clients or colleagues hello/goodbye.  Or the way I greet someone at a Pride Parade is different than the way I might at a professional conference.  

You can probably come up with some great examples of your own changing boundaries depending on the comfort you feel with an individual person and the context where you meet them.

So boundaries shift over time and between contexts.  But often when we talk about them we try to think in absolute terms.  

We want to think they're a binding contract we'll never need to revisit.  But since boundaries change we have to be willing to renegotiate them.  

Why am I telling you this?

Knowing that boundaries change can help your relationship in a couple significant ways:

1) You can be more aware of the different contexts, times, and trust levels that soften or harden your boundaries. 

2) You might be able to tell people what kinds of behaviors and contexts increase your sense of trust and safety (softening your boundaries) in order to improve relationships.

3) You can practice more self-compassion knowing it is completely normal to have boundaries change, grow, and shift.  There's nothing wrong with you.  

4) You might be able to communicate when and where your boundaries harden with folks around you so you both know what to expect and what you need.

5) If someone has a hard boundary and it's a challenge for you consider (or even better, ask) what might help them feel safer, more trusting or comfortable in that situation, act, or space with you.  I'm not saying try to convince them or wait it out, but use that boundary as a way to connect and get to know them better.  There's likely some great learning in there for you.  

Having trouble with changing boundaries in relationships?

If you're struggling with this don't worry- lots of people have trouble with boundaries growing and changing over time.  Shifting boundaries don't have to be the end of your relationship, but it can be really hard to see a way out if you're on your own.  

Please do call me or connect with another professional who has lots of experience with relationships like yours for help.  We can usually find a new way forward for the two of you that doesn't entail breaking up.  


Polyamory Counselor Portland | Portland Polyamory

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, LGBTQ issues and infidelity.  

She can help you:

  • rediscover passion in long-term relationships
  • repair trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • move past jealousy, insecurity or codependent patterns
  • open your relationship or practice polyamory with care
  • resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnect
  • break unhealthy communication patterns in your relationship

Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

Click here to download her free guides to strengthen your relationship (monogamous or not).

 

Myths About Boundaries

Myths About Boundaries | Boundary Myths

I've gotten lots of questions in my Ask me Anything column lately related to healthy boundaries in relationships so I thought I'd spend a little time writing more about healthy relationship boundaries for a bit to help clear up a few common misconceptions. 

So to start us off I'm listing the eight myths about boundaries that come up most often in my work.  They're super hard to combat because our culture reinforces them in a lot of funny ways (movies, tv, romantic fairytales...)

Holding on to these gets in the way of most of the relationships I see in my couples work.  Read on to see if any are holding you back in your own partnerships.

Relationship Boundary Myths:

Boundaries are permanent or forever

Boundaries shift and change depending on the situation and the relationship you have with each person you interact with.  So naturally, they change as you learn more about people and about yourself.  This is why we have to keep talking about them to keep our relationships healthy.

Boundaries should be the same across the board

Often in relationships, I see people compare the boundaries a partner has with other close friends to those in the relationship.  You might have a different set for your boss and your best friend.  

This kind of comparison just gets us off track because boundaries aren't the same across the board.  Boundaries just don't work that way.

Certain boundaries are to be expected

While there are some boundaries we culturally expect as a norm even these are based on assumption.  The more we can clear out assumption and get specific about what our partner needs the more we can really connect with them (and determine if we can respect their boundaries).

Start thinking about which boundaries you take for granted and check in with your partner about them.  

Boundaries are mean 

Boundaries aren't all about cutting people off or removing them from your life.  Boundaries are about getting clear with the people you love about how you can best support each other.  It takes real compassion and care to have a loving boundary.

You can't recover from a boundary violation

Many folks come to me after someone has broken trust in a big way in their relationship.  Often they've thought one boundary or another was a dealbreaker for them in relationships- but now they're stuck not wanting to break up with a partner who hurt them.  

I've been really touched by couples who work through really tough boundary crossing to repair hurt and rebuild trust.  You can learn to respect boundaries and change the way you negotiate them- it might just take a little help.

Boundaries are about yes or no

Most of us only think about boundaries when we're pushed to an extreme.  So we often think a boundary is all about saying no to something.  But boundaries can be much more nuanced- like asking for what we need, stating clear expectations, or asking people to slow down.  

Instead of a stoplight with only red and green there is a whole lot of yellow when it comes to boundaries.

You can change someone's boundary

It can be really hard when someone sets a boundary and that means I'm not going to get what I want.  I'll be disappointed at best, heartbroken at worst.  

And yet if I want to stay close or get closer to that person the only option for me is to respect their boundary as is- without pressuring them to change it.  Adding pressure by trying to convince them to change will only push them away, or force them to shift when they're not ready (leading to hurt or resentment later).

Some people are just naturally bad at boundaries

Nope.  This is just an excuse.  Few of us get any mentoring about boundaries as kids, some people have a much harder time respecting others' boundaries, and some people just don't care.  If you have trouble maintaining healthy boundaries or respecting others please call a professional for guidance.


gina senarighi | boundaries in relationships | relationship boundary

Gina Senarighi offers non-judgmental sex-positive, gender-affirming, LGBTQ relationship support online and in the Pacific Northwest. 

She often says, “I love love, in all its forms!”

She’s helped thousands of couples deepen their sexual connection, repair trust, and build sustainable lasting partnerships.

She uses her multi-disciplinary professional training to teach communication skills and help her clients handle conflict with compassion.

Gina has supported many couples experimenting with open relationships based in trust and integrity. If you’re considering polyamory you should check out her online resources here.

Although most of her couples are experimenting with less traditional relationship structures, even her more mainstream clients appreciate her open-minded non-judgmental approach and diverse expertise.

If you’re interested in taking this work further contact her for a free consultation.