trust in relationships

How to Spot a Relationship Expert

relationship expert open relationship coach polyamory coach nonmonogamy

GAH! Here I am trying to eat between sessions and I run into yet another set of terrible relationship advice by some online "expert!"

Folks giving out awful advice and opinions abound online, here's what you need to know to find someone who can actually help you.

BOUNDARIES

When you're seeking advice consider the source.  If you want ongoing support for your relationship you need someone who understands clear boundaries, expectations, and communication.  If they can't do it in a professional setting, be sure they can't help you learn to do it in a personal one.

Find someone with clear professional guidelines they follow. This helps them be sure they can support you without getting tangled up in your (or their own) shit.  

I outline my boundaries on my website, in contracts, in initial sessions, screening calls, and by following the ethics codes of two professional organizations.  If you're hoping to work with someone ask them about the boundaries of their work.

EXPERIENCE

Find someone with lived and professional experience related to whatever topics you want to focus on.  Lived experience helps them have empathy and deeper understanding.  Of course, if they have solid boundaries they're not going to use your time to go into great detail about their own stuff- but you can ask if they've experienced similar struggles.  

At the same time be sure they don't ONLY have personal life experience, but also PROFESSIONAL experience to back up their work.  There are far too many opinionated "experts" who just want to teach you the way they do relationships who don't actually know what they're talking about, or how to help you. Hire someone trained. 

You can ask them about their experience- or better yet, ask them how many folks they've supported (professionally) who are working on the stuff you want to focus on.  If they haven't had much experience hire someone else, you're not here to train them.

EDUCATION

Lived and professional experience is critical, but they are two of three critical pieces of this work. You also want someone who has studied or read a few things to back up whatever they're selling you.  Ask them what books, teachers, research, and training they draw from when they work with people.  Be sure you hire someone who knows what's up.

PROOF

Ask to see proof their work actually, well, works.  Do they have testimonials or data that shows they're good at what they're doing?  You don't want to hire someone who over-promises in an inauthentic program, but you need to know what to expect.  Ask how they measure success in their work.

NON-JUDGMENT

Finally (but probably most importantly) it is essential you find a professional who takes a non-judgmental approach.  Far too many therapists, coaches, and healers come to the table with their own biased agendas that will compete with your needs.

Are they pushing non-monogamy? Do they believe monogamy is the best path? Are they really shame-free about sexuality? If they've got hang-ups in these areas they're going to carry over into your work.

If you can't say things to them for fear of judgment, shame, or criticism, please please please hire someone who can set all of that aside and meet you with clear presence.

Thanks for reading through my rant.  I get protective of my clients and see far too many people who've had negative experiences with couples therapists, marriage counselors, and sex educators along the way.  It's super risky to reach out for help- I hope this helps you discern a solid fit for your vulnerability work.


Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

gina senarighi polyamory coach open relationship coach
  • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity
  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
  • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
  • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • shift stuck communication & codependent relationship patterns

I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online and in Portland, Oregon. 

Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

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

How to Establish Consent (Even When You've Been Together a LONG Time)

CONSENT IN RELATIONSHIPS | HOW TO GET CONSENT

What is consent?

Consent is a voluntary, sober, imaginative, enthusiastic, creative, wanted, informed, mutual, honest, and verbal agreement.

Critical elements of consent:

·      Consent is an active agreement- and can be revoked or amended at any time.

·      Consent cannot be coerced.

·      Consent is a process, which must be asked for every step of the way; if you want to move to the next level of sexual intimacy, just ask.

·      Consent is never implied and cannot be assumed, even in the context of a relationship. Just because you are in a relationship does not mean that you have permission to have sex with your partner.

·      The absence of a "no" doesn't mean a partner consents.

·      Both people should be involved in the decision to have sex

·      Consent is an important part of healthy sexuality

 

Let’s look at consent for the two of you…

Complete the following phrases:

When I want you to stop I will say…

 

 

When I like what you’re doing I will say…

 

 

When I want to check in with you I will say…

 

 

When you want me to stop, I want to hear…

 

 

When you like what I am doing, I want to hear…

 

 

When you want to check in, I want to hear…

 


Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

OPEN RELATIONSHIP COUNSELING | OPEN MARRIAGE THERAPIST | OPEN MARRIAGE COUNSELING
  • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity
  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
  • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
  • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • shift stuck communication & codependent relationship patterns

I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online and in Portland, Oregon. Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

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

What Counts as an Affair?

definition of affair | define cheating | infidelity definition

Hey y'all,

I've been working hard on the Opening Up Retreat I'm hosting and my online group coaching program (registration for both just opened- join us) so I haven't had as much time to write but I walked out of sessions tonight and made two quick videos about the most common question I've gotten lately. 

I thought they might be of use to you.  If you like them please check out my instagram because I'll be sharing more. 

More posts to come soon I promise!  - Gina


HOW DO YOU DEFINE AN AFFAIR?

WHAT COUNTS AS AN AFFAIR?

Being a supportive partner

meaningful support.jpgsupportive relationships \ support and trust in marriage | how to be supportive

Giving and receiving meaningful support is essential to lasting loving relationships.

Most relationships start out strong, but as time passes fewer and fewer people say they get the support they need from their partner.

The word “support” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  So one way to get more of the love and support you want is to clarify both your request and what you can offer.

Consider the six central themes of support here and ask yourself what you’re really looking for when you ask for help in situations with your sweetie.  You can use the examples here to get clearer with your partner. 

Ask yourself “What does meaningful support look like to me in this situation?” 

Or ask them, “What can I do to show you support in this situation?”

The clearer you become in your request, and in clarifying your partner’s requests, the better equipped you are to meet each other’s needs.

Here are a few more reflection questions to help you get clear. Take a moment to write out your thoughts on each to help you get clear before making requests of your partner.

  • What has meaningful support looked like in the past, in friendships and my family?
  • What actions would be most helpful? What could my partner do to make my experience easier?
  • When do I feel especially cared for in this partnership? What can I apply from that experience to this one? 
  • When do I feel respected in this relationship? What behaviors from my partner foster that feeling?
  • When do I feel most reassured and grounded in this partnership? Are there elements of that experience I would like in this situation?

I created a worksheet to help you dive deeper into this work and get even more clear.  Enter your information below to download it and get access to my full relationship tool library.

Name *
Name

Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

polyamory coach | open relationship counselor | nonmonogamy
  • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity
  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
  • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
  • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • shift stuck communication & codependent relationship patterns

I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online and in Portland, Oregon. Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

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

Trust in Relationships: Giving the Benefit of the Doubt

trust in relationships | trust and nonmonogamy | trust in polyamory

At dinner parties, hair salons, on airplanes, and grocery lines people LOVE talking about what I do for a living.

They always ask how I know if a couple needs help.  Like, how do I know when they REALLY need to see a counselor.  Everyone (I mean EVERYONE) asks this.  

One easy way to read the strength of a couple is to notice how present trust is this:

Can you give them the benefit of the doubt?

Giving someone the benefit of the doubt means you have a general baseline of goodwill and trust. 

Couples with a generosity of trust are better equipped to stay connected through tough times and handle conflict with less intensity.

Here are a fre examples of how the benefit of the doubt might show up.  Notice if any of these resonate for you:

You're able to hear a short tone in their voice and think "they don't mean to be short, they've probably had a hard day."

You ask your partner for help in the kitchen and don't get a response. You think "I bet they didn't hear me." 

They're late to arrive and before getting upset you think they must be stuck in traffic, or something important must have come up.

Bottom line: before taking something personally, jumping to negative conclusions, or getting defensive, you assume your partner has your best intentions at heart.

This generosity of trust will carry you through challenges unlike any other relationship skill. 

If those aren't present for you, it doesn't mean you have to end things, but we've got work to do. Perhaps trust has been broken in this relationship or others from your past and there's room for resolution. 

There are plenty of reasons this happens in relationships- but it's important to get out of this pattern sooner rather than later. Come in for a free consultation to talk about supporting your relationships health.


Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

Gina2018Headshot.jpgpolyamory coach | open relationship coach | open marriage coach
  • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity
  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
  • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
  • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • shift stuck communication & codependent relationship patterns

I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online and in Portland, Oregon. Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

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

Do We Really Need a Safe Word?

safeword sue | what is a safeword | safewords in relationships

What is a safeword anyway?

A safeword is a word or phrase that can be used to communicate when a person is nearing or crossing a physical, emotional, or ethical boundary.

They can be a shortcut to creating consent and can make communicating easier in moments of intense emotion or pleasure.

Some safe words are used to stop a situation outright, while others can request reduced level of intensity. Often people use red (stop), yellow (slow down or pause), and green (keep going) as an example of these.

I've recommended asexual safewords to clients when engaging in vulnerable potentially emotionally triggering situations as well as intimate situations. They can be a shorthand or code for nearing emotional overwhelm or tender topics and can help couples slow down conflicts when they arise.

Safewords originate in BDSM community where safety and consent are critical to ethical respectful play. Many organized BDSM and play groups and spaces have standardized safewords that members agree to use to avoid confusion at large group events. 

If they're going to work for you, safewords have to be discussed before you enter an intimate situation with a new partner. You can ask if they have a safeword they like, or you can offer words that work well for you. They can be playful, or direct depending on the mood or scene you're creating with your partner. For some people safewords can be an important part of sexual role play.

Here are some of the words my clients have chosen:

Pause

Foul ball

Don't stop

Banana bread

Strike one

Stop

FUCK

Mr. Big

Grandma

Yes please


Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

open relationship counselor | open relationship coach | polyamory coach
  • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity
  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
  • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
  • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • shift stuck communication & codependent relationship patterns

I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online and in Portland, Oregon. Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

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

Signs You Have a Boundary Problem

SIGNS YOU HAVE BOUNDARY ISSUES | BOUNDARY PROBLEMS | RED FLAGS

Setting clear personal boundaries is the key to ensuring relationships are mutually respectful, trustworthy and caring. Boundaries set the limits for acceptable behavior from those around you, determining whether they feel able to put you down, make fun, or take advantage of your good nature.

If you're often uncomfortable with other peoples' treatment of you, it's likely time to reset your boundaries. Weak boundaries leave you vulnerable and likely to be taken for granted.  They also cause you to build resentful distance between you and the people you love most.

Common Boundary Violations

With that said, it can be difficult to identify when boundaries are an issue for you.  Here are a few signals to look for if you want to see where boundary problems lie in your relationship:

  • Saying “yes” to your partner, when in fact you’d rather say “no”
  • Saying “no” when it might be perfectly appropriate to say “yes” – this is often done to keep a partner at arm’s length, or punish him or her.

Good boundaries require authenticity and honesty. Neither of these behaviors are honest ways to communicate.  They leave huge gaps for misunderstanding and missing intimacy.

  • Making your partner read your mind instead of saying specifically what you’re thinking or feeling
  • Trying to control your partner’s thoughts or behavior through aggressive or subtle manipulation

Again, using indirect communication is a surefire way to create misunderstandings.  Not saying what you really wants sets your partner up for failure- they're sure to let you down at some point.  Not asking for what you want directly won't give your partner the opportunity to learn the best ways to love you.

Both of these kinds of manipulations will lead to conflict and hurt eventually.  You can avoid the hurt by getting clear and being direct about what you want to see happen between you.

 

Here are some tips that can help you establish and maintain healthy boundaries:

  • Communicate your thoughts and feeling honestly, with specificity and clearly. Whenever possible, be honest but respectful in sharing your thoughts and feelings with your partner. Yes, this is a vulnerable action to take, but with careful communication vulnerability is the key to building trust in relationships.
  • Ask your partner what they are feeling instead of trying to guess. Mind-reading is not your responsibility.  And no matter how connected you are, it is impossible to know what your partner wants or is thinking in every situation. If each of you reflects on your own thoughts and feelings, and takes responsibility for putting them into words you will grow deeper understanding. 
  • Take responsibility for your actions. All relationship dynamics are co-created. Instead of blaming your partner for how you feel, ask yourself how your choices (intentional or otherwise) contributed to the situation.

Healthy boundaries take practice. Most of us were not trained to have these kinds of conversations in our families. But with practice you will be better able to identify where the boundary lines are between you.

As a result, trust and connection will only grow stronger and more secure between you over time.


boundaries in relationships | healthy relationship boundaries | how to have boundaries | boundary issues

Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  I can help you:

  • change communication & codependent relationship patterns
  • reconnect with passion & desire in long-term partnerships
  • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity & manage intense emotions
  • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity

I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online and in Portland, Oregon.  And I've created a HUGE free relationship tool library available online for couples worldwide.

Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

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

Taming Dragons: Responding to Vulnerability with Compassion

JEALOUSY AND VULNERABILITY IN RELATIONSHIPS | JEALOUS SPOUSE

Y'all, I've been talking about jealousy as dragon taming for a loooong time, and then today was talking with a colleague who told me Tara Brach has a similar approach.  

As I've said, jealousy often shows up like a dragon- fierce, rageful, vengeful, spitting fire, and leaving destruction.  Most folklore will tell us this.  But if we look to most of these stories, the dragon is actually tending and protecting something precious.  

When we shift our focus to that gold we're protecting the whole dynamic begins to change. Or so it has been in my work with jealousy (both personally and professionally).  

Tara Brach is a well-known author, meditation leader, and teacher.  She takes a different lens but comes to many of the same conclusions.  If you're struggling with jealousy (or other overwhelming reactive emotions) give this video a watch. 

Give the video your full presence and follow the meditation she leads.  Notice how applying kindness - yes, kindness- the more we can shift our experience, and often get at what we really want. 

WATCH HERE: 

Let me know what you think on my facebook page.  I'd love to hear from you!  

And if you'd like help working through difficult emotions, give me a call for a free consultation, I'm happy to be a support.  


jealousy and relationships | open relationships counselor | open marriage therapist

Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  I can help you:

  • change communication & codependent patterns
  • reconnect with passion & desire in long-term partnerships
  • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
  • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
  • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity

I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online and in Portland, Oregon.

Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

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

PRIVACY VS SECRECY IN RELATIONSHIPS

PRIVACY VS SECRECY IN RELATIONSHIPS

Several people have raised the issue of secret vs. private in session recently, wondering about the difference and how that plays out in healthy relationships.

While the dictionary does not make a clear distinction between the two, in practice they are different.

 

Here are my distinctions:

PRIVACY

Privacy is the state of being unobserved. That which I keep private, I am merely withholding from public view. Private matters are those traits, truths, beliefs, and ideas about ourselves that we keep to ourselves. They might include our fantasies and daydreams, feelings about the way the world works, and spiritual beliefs.

Privacy is a choice we make to have our own boundaries around what we will reveal or not reveal to our partner.  Privacy is the inner space that is like an inner sanctum protected from outsiders.  What we choose to keep to ourselves may be things that we want only for ourselves.

In time intimate relationship privacy boundaries usually soften. Sharing vulnerable or private information (trauma history, family issues, health concerns) often requires trust that must be built over time. Private matters, when revealed either accidentally or purposefully, give another person some insight into the revealer and should be treated with respect.

Sharing private information with a trustworthy partner can greatly deepen the connection between partners.

Which is why some people think sharing everything is the best path.  But respecting boundaries and honoring privacy is just as solid a path to trust in relationships.  A healthy couple has to find a balance between respecting privacy and sharing to build a foundation of trust.

Keeping something private is an act of choosing boundaries and staying comfortably within them.  Withholding private information has very little to no direct impact on your partner.

 

SECRECY

Secrecy is the act of keeping things hidden -- that which is secret goes beyond merely private into hidden. While secrecy spills into privacy, not all privacy is secrecy. Secrecy stems from deliberately keeping something from others out of a fear. 

Secrets information often has a negative impact on someone else-emotionally, physically, or financially. The keeper of secrets believes that if they are revealed either accidentally or purposefully,  the revelation may harm the secret-keeper and/or those they care about.

Withholding secret information likely has a direct impact on your partner's trust in you.  Often the impact on our partner is WHY we are being secretive.

Sometimes a secret is something kept from someone else to protect behavior that you don’t want to give up, but that you know your partner might not approve of. You may be, embarrassed about it or feel what you are doing might be questionable. We keep something secret out of fear and shame of what others would think if they knew. 

Often secrecy becomes more rigid and stress-inducing in time, rather than softening like privacy. Typically secrecy causes the secret-keeper incredible stress until discovered or sabotaged, leaving them in pieces. 

Secrecy is when we choose to keep something to ourselves knowing that there may be negative consequences if it were to be revealed. 

 

Here are a few examples:

SECRECY

I have an online gambling addiction.

I forged my degree.

I peek at other people getting dressed in the morning.

I take showers with other people.

I'm acting on a fetish I'm not telling you about.

I'm sleeping with a coworker you don't know about.

PRIVACY

I don't share my internet passwords.

I got terrible grades in high school.

I like to dance naked when I get dressed in the morning.

I sing in the shower.

I have a fetish I am not ready to share with you.

I talked to my friends about my concerns at work.

 

This difference between secrecy and privacy centers on the feelings about the information which is withheld and our motivation to withhold it. 

 

ASK YOURSELF

To get clear about the secrecy and privacy boundaries you're holding ask yourself the following questions.

 

How will this information help my partner?

Why is it important to keep this information to myself?

Do I imagine this boundary could soften or change?

Why do I want to know this information about my partner?

How will my partner's possible answers directly impact me or our shared life?

How will it impact me not to have this information from my partner?

How can I respect my partner's boundary even if I don't understand it?

 


Polyamory counselor | open relationships therapist | open marriage therapist

Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

  • reconnect with passion & desire in long-term partnerships
  • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
  • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
  • resolve sexual dysfunction & disconnect
  • change communication & codependent patterns
  • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity

I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online (and in Portland, OR).

Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

A Month of Kindness for Your Relationship

So many incredible couples reach out to me to help them reconnect with each other.  While there are lots of ways to get there, starting on the path of reconnection can be easier than you think.

The biggest challenge is shifting your patterns to take tiny daily actions that move you towards more meaningful connection in the smallest of ways.  Most long-term couples need a reminder and a serious commitment to change in order to re-establish these smallest connections.  

So I created a little calendar to help you two commit to daily action.  Click the image to download a copy to give it a try this month.  

As always, if you'd like help nurturing the connection between you, I'm happy to support you. Give me a call.