relationship advice

Relationship Tips: Get Their Attention

Communication Patterns in Successful Relationships

Loads of research has been done on the behaviors of successful couples and one of trend holds true: satisfied couples in happy relationships are more likely to bid for attention in a few key ways.

Read on to add these skills in your relationships.

Bids for Attention

We bid for each other's attention all the time.  We do this by gesturing, making eye contact, initiating affection, making a joke, pointing out something.  

For example I might turn to my sweetheart and say, "I really like your shirt."

Successful couples bid more frequently. But there is a second part of bidding that keeps them in a loop of communicating with kindness.  

Receiving Bids From Your Partner

When someone bids for attention we have four real options in our response.  I will give you examples for each.

Warm:  

"Thanks for noticing my shirt babe."  This is a kind or friendly response.  It invites more interaction.

Neutral:

"Oh." This isn't a kind or unkind response.  It doesn't invite more communication or connection, but it doesn't overtly harm the relationship.  However, over time it can divide a couple if it is the only response given.  

Cold:

"Why are you talking about my shirt?!?"  This might be an angry, defensive, or judgmental response.  This response doesn't invite more positive interaction and often leads to disconnection and conflict.  

Often we think this is the most problematic response- but when this response is handled respectfully couples can still grow.  

Non-response:

This is the most detrimental to the relationship.  When someone doesn't respond we feel ignored and we are far less likely to continue bidding for our partner's attention.  This gap in responses starts growing distance between people.

We fill in the gap with our assumptions, resentments and judgments and distance grows.  But sometimes our partner has innocently missed the bid- maybe they simply didn't hear us.  They don't even know how we've been hurt- and aren't able to effectively repair the missed bid. 

Your relationship challenge:

Notice the bids for interaction this week and work to respond with warmth as often as possible.  Notice how it shifts your relationship's energy.   

 


Healthy Relationships | Couples Therapist | Sex Therapist

Gina Senarighi has been supporting loving couples and healthy teams for nearly twenty years. As a former couples therapist turned retreat coach, workshop facilitator, and author she's transformed partnerships, leaders and communication strategy all over the world.  

Her uniquely non-judgmental, inclusive approach to couples work puts even the most concerned participants at ease.  She's not your average sit-and-nod supporter- she'll hold hope even when it's hard and always help you grow. 

Call for a consultation to see how she can help you deepen connection, communicate effectively, and passionately reignite your relationship.

ASK ME ANYTHING: IS IT TOO SOON TO OPEN OUR RELATIONSHIP?

Ask me anything is a relationship advice column written by Gina Senarighi, a retired couples therapist turned couples retreat leader who offers online support for non-traditional relationships of all sorts.  

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

 

This week's question: Do we need to be together longer before we open our relationship?

Here's the full question: I feel excited and terrified at the thought of opening up my relationship. I've been with my partner for 3.5 months and the topic came up a few times. Before meeting him I was curious about open relationships but when he brought it up, I was totally freaked out and felt very insecure.  Two weekends ago he had a panic attack and it ended with him breaking up with me.  Soon after I connected with another man. Two days later my partner came back.  We talked things through and decided to be together.

My questions are: is it a good idea to establish our relationship more, get to know and trust each other better, and again, before exploring an open relationship? Or better to have the early foundation of our relationship be that of an open one? 

I found you through your don't ask don't tell article. I don't know if I'm ready to kiss and connect with others (our agreement is that when we aren't together we can kiss others). I don't know how to talk to him about kissing someone else, I don't want to hurt or lose him, and I don't like the idea of hearing about him kissing someone else... But ultimately I'd love to feel good sharing things and being open, honest and happy for each other. Is it just too soon?

Are we not ready or is this just something we have to force ourselves to go through so we can learn from it and get to a place where we can be open and share experiences?

 

I'm so glad you wrote me!  I know it's a hard place to be in, but I'm hoping it helps to hear you are far from alone.  The tension you describe between being curious and terrified at the same time is all too common among people who are first starting to think about openness.  I meet with lots of couples who say trying to open their relationships felt like a wild emotional roller coaster ride (articulated in your panic attack/break up example).  

There are a couple phrases you used in your message that I want to point out to help respond.  You asked "is it too soon for us" in a number of different ways.  I find a lot of people get stuck on that question  because their individual truth is "this is too soon for me."  Check in with yourself- does that resonate?  Is it too soon for you?  

There is no exact right or wrong time to start negotiating openness in a relationship for the first time.  There are plenty of reasons it can be a struggle when you're just beginning with a new partner and I've seen lots of people struggle to open previously monogamous relationships as well.  

But a couple things you said made me think you might want to put on the brakes a bit for now.  First, hearing that the conversation about openness lead to panic attacks and break ups tells me you might want to ease in more gently and have stronger resiliency support around you both.  You also want to commit to working together instead of threatening break ups.  I would recommend sorting out those things for now, so your conversations about openness can feel less dramatic.  

Finally, your word choice "is this something we just have to force ourselves..." is really telling to me.  I often tell clients "you can't force anything good" and ask people I support to reconsider the "have tos" in their lives.  Relationships function better with want tos instead of have tos.  This more than anything tells me it's time for you to slow down.  

Please understand by slow down I am not saying you should stay monogamous now or forever- you can (and should) revisit this conversation often and with each new partner you build relationship with.  I'm saying it sounds like things have progressed more quickly than either of you may have anticipated and it's time to pause for more reflection before taking more action.  

It's not about how long you've been together, it's about the way you're being together dear one.



Gina Senarighi Oregon Couples Retreat Polyamorous Couples Retreat

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 codependecy
  • open your relationship and practice polyamory with care
  • resolve sexual dysfunction and disconnect
  • break unhealthy communication patterns 

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).

Can You Help My Fiance and I Decide About Polyamory?

polyamory advice

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

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

 

This Weeks Relationship Advice Question:

My fiance wants to do a poly and we have talked about and I've said maybe but honestly I'm scared and I feel he doesn't understand me. Is this something you'd be able to help with?

Simplest answer, YUP.  I've worked with hundreds of couples who are considering non-monogamy, polyamory, swinging, or other kinds of open relationships for the first time.

It's not uncommon for them to come to me with one partner who wants to try polyamory and another who is hesitant.  And I don't believe polyamory is for everyone, (neither is monogamy) so it often works well for us to talk through lots of options to help you decide if polyamory if right for you right now, and if so, what kind of boundaries and communications skills need to be in place for you to succeed.

It's also not unusual to feel some fear when thinking about non-monogamy for the first time.  Lots of people experience insecurity, jealousy, and fear related to relationship change.  Whether you two do choose nonmonogamy or not, you might want support just to work through the kinds of intense feelings that show up when people start this conversation.  I can support you in that or am happy to give you a referral to another provider.

I'm curious about why your partner is thinking about this now and I'm curious about your fears.  If you want to set up a consultation to talk more about working together or so I can send you specific resources for your situation please set up a free call here.

Submit your Ask Me Anything question right here.

Read more ask me anything here.


polyamory therapist in portland

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.

ASK ME ANYTHING: Workplace Crushes and High Emotionality

relationship advice | marriage advice | polyamory advice

Submit your question for Ask Me Anything right here.

Today's Relationship Advice Question:

My fiance's assistant professed her love for him and when he told her he didn't feel the same she began to hyperventilate and landed in the hospital. They're in a different country and work with classified and highly confidential materials in their work. He knows she can't do the job and would like to send her home. How do I support him and to help her?  We both feel stumped with this. I fear it could get uglier before it gets better.

First congratulations on your wedding!  I'm glad you found someone you want to commit time and energy to for a long time- that is something very special.  

Second, I want to commend your empathy for this woman.  Often when someone has feelings for our partner we can get caught up in jealousy, insecurity, and defensiveness.  What this woman needs is empathy (and mental health support) and I am so glad you and your fiance want to give that to her.  

She is heartbroken and losing her job after all.  

That said, y'all can give her referrals, recommendations, and plane tickets if you choose, but she's the only one who can take advantage of the supports out there.  Encourage her to take care of her emotional well-being and tell her honestly how concerned you both are.  You can refer to either of these sites (GoodTherapy or Psychology Today) to find great therapists anywhere in the US.  

As much as I recommend being very clear about your concerns for her well-being and safety, I also think it's important to set and keep clear boundaries about how much support you can realistically provide both from afar and in the workplace.  

It can be really easy to overcommit yourself to taking care of another person's emotional well-being in cases like this.  Neither of you are mental health professionals (I assume) and she's going to need to care for her heart with the support of people who aren't directly related to her hurt.  

I hope you can find a way to offer her compassionate boundaries and re-focus your attention on your long-distance connection to one another and planning your celebration.  

relationship advice | marriage advice | polyamory advice

polyamory counseling | relationship advice | relationship help

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).

ASK ME ANYTHING: Crushing on a Friend

relationship advice | marriage advice | polyamory advice

Submit your Ask Me Anything question right here.

Read more ask me anything here.

This Week's Relationship Advice Question:

Two months ago I got job and met a lady who I've been working with as a partner since. She's a beautiful lady and I love her so much. Right now we are friends and I'm really interested in her but I fear letting her know that will ruin our friendship. Please help- it's been giving me stress!

Okay, I know it may not help your stress, but I have to say it's really sweet you're having such strong feelings for her.  

There's really only one sure way to clear this up for you and that is is to tell her.  

Yes, tell her.  

Tell her you are worried about harming your friendship (it clearly means a lot to you).  And tell her you also have feelings for her.  

It's going to take some courage to be that vulnerable with someone, but vulnerability is also where we create the most authentic meaningful connections.  

And then listen to her.  She might need some space.  She might want a little time to think about it.  She might not know how to respond.  

You're going to need to sit with your anxiety about all of that in order to respect her and let her respond honestly.  Make a plan to keep yourself in check if you have to wait a while.  Call a friend.  See a movie. Go for a run.  Do all the self-care.

If she's into you, she'll tell you. In a perfect world she'd also tell you if she isn't interested.  I hope you have the kind of friendship that has space for honesty like that.  But in our culture girls and women are taught to be nice above all else- so we're often unclear with people when we need to say no or set a boundary. 

I'm not making an excuse for her here, but I want you to pay close attention to the behaviors she expresses in response to your big disclosure.  Our behaviors are often the clearest indicator of what's going on in situations where complicated feelings arise.  

If she's not into you, I hope you can still maintain your friendship.  It might take you a minute to soothe disappointment and hopefully she'll understand that.    

Hopefully your connection will continue to grow even stronger because of your courage and vulnerability in telling her the truth.  

Good luck brave friend.

relationship advice | marriage advice | polyamory advice

polyamory help | relationship advice | marriage advice | 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).

How to Build Trust in Relationships

Building Trust in Relationships | Uncommon Love Couples Counseling in Portland

In my time working with couples I have learned a lot about building and rebuilding trust.  So many partners come in times of trouble, after affairs and lies, hoping to make things better.  

I'm proud of the work I have done with them reconnecting in hard times.

But nothing has taught me more about trust that my own challenges this month.  After sharing my partner's cancer diagnosis with friends and family (and all of you) I have been touched by who and how my community has shown support for us.  And nothing grows trust like showing up authentically and reliably for another in difficult times.  

I am ever grateful for the support of my community during this difficult time.  And for the constant opportunity in my work to share my learning about trust and relationships.  

Based in both my formal learning and my personal experience, here's are the basics of building trust:

1.  Be Impeccable With Your Word

The first key to building trust is to be honest in the first place.  The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz asks us to "be impeccable with your word."  Be careful to speak only in truth to build trust with people you love.

2.  Show Up and Follow Through

Building trust takes tiny investments over time- like deposits in a bank.  When we faced challenges the most impactful support came from folks who just remembered something tough was going on and showed up.  They texted, send cute animal video links, and offered cooking.  They sent cards and hugs.  Tiny, quick actions meant huge investments in relationship trust accounts.

Walking your talk or following through on commitments is one of the simplest ways to build back trust.  When you make a commitment or promise be sure to see it through.  Every time you see things through you build credibility.

3.  Have Boundaries

Clear and consistent boundaries help us know what to expect in relationships.  The more honest we can be about our boundaries and expectations the greater trust will grow in relationships.

4.  Show Empathy

One of the most difficult steps in rebuilding trust is demonstrating empathy.  All too often we jump to defensiveness when we've hurt someone else- instead of connecting with their hurt feelings.  Showing true care for the emotions of the person we've wronged can be a critical salve to the trust wound.  Don't rush past this part of the process.

5.  Apologize

Similarly, we often forget to apologize directly and openly to the person we've hurt.  Most often we've been feeling so bad about hurting someone we've said it 100 times in our heads- but never out loud to our friend.  Don't overlook the importance of a genuine apology.  

Ask yourself where you can focus on building trust in your relationships this week.  Notice how bringing these five paths to trust into focus you strengthen the relationships around you.  

 


online couples counseling | relationship coach | portland relationship coach

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

She can help you:

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).

Three Ways to Know Your Relationship Needs Work

Does Yoru Relationship Need Work? Uncommon Love Couples Counseling in Portland

So many couples wait until they have done MAJOR damage before coming in to talk to a professional. 

Statistics show that most couples finally make an appointment six months after symptoms of dissatisfaction become a problem.  So how do you know if it’s the right time for you two to seek help?

Here are a few symptoms to watch out for so you can get support sooner rather than later.  Marriage therapy, couples counseling, and relationship coaching can be of great service to you if you get in to see someone early in the game.

Negativity – Continued negative contact over time makes it difficult to repair damage and return to sweetness together.  If you or your partner is having trouble seeing the bright side, or envisioning a positive future for the two of you now is a great time to call for professional help.  There are three key ways negativity shows up:

    • Resentment -- Built up (often unspoken) feelings of negativity toward your partner.  Usually this is a small voice inside your head saying “you never…”  Over time resentment eats away at the good stuff you have between you.
    • Criticism – Blame and critique of one another instead of solution finding.  When you find yourself here it’s important to find a place of mutual accountability.  For many couples that’s a struggle.  You may want help getting past blame.
    • Contempt – Attacks on each other’s character.  This is where it gets ugly.  When one or both of you is having a hard time seeing the good in the other it’s a real good idea to get some support.

Rigidity – Remaining open to the influence of your partner instead of becoming inflexible is critical to long-term relationship health.  If one or both of you is getting stubborn or inflexible you could use a little coaching to help shift things into a positive direction.

    • Defensiveness – Becoming defensive when in conflict (or otherwise).  This can mean there is some unresolved hurt in your partnership.  Professionals are trained to create a supportive environment where you can share with greater care.
    • Stonewalling – Withholding affection, ignoring or distancing from your partner.  There are a lot of reasons folks stonewall, but the long term effect of this is only to create more distance between you.   Patterns of stonewalling are more easily changed with the help of a coach or counselor.

Turning Away – While it is important to have independent time and space, turning away from your partner when they are requesting help or support can decrease the longevity of your relationship significantly.

    • Invalidation—denying the validity of one partner’s experience or feelings.  Ouch, it hurts to hear a partner put down or deny your experience.  Those hurts are costly in the long run.
    • Avoidance or Withdrawal – Physically or emotionally withdrawing from one another completely.  This leaves one or both of you lonely- and who wants to be lonely in a relationship?  The goal of relationship coaching is to help you move toward each other with kindness once again.

If you have noticed any of these signs and want to remedy your relationship, relationship coaching may be right for you. 

Remember, every relationship needs a tune-up now and again, just don’t wait so long you have to call AAA from the side of the highway! Invest in your relationship health now, and you can be even stronger together.

 

Looking for an LGBTQ professional in Portland?  Click here for a free consultation.


couples counseling in portland | online couples counseling

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

She can help you:

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).