jealousy

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.  

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.  

The Right Mindset for Creating Agreements in Open Relationships

 Mindset for creating open relationship agreements.jpg

Plenty of relationship research has shown the way a conversation begins often predicts the outcome in conflicts.  John Gottman coined the term "harsh start-up" to describe how frequently couples argue about nothing, meaning not the topic at hand, but how their partner is approaching the conversation.  

I've seen first hand this is especially true when couples start opening their relationship. So frequently the tone at the start leads to longer lasting more hurtful communication- right when connection and vulnerability is critically important. 

If you've noticed you and your sweetheart in a downward spiral each time you bring up nonmonogamy it might be time to shift your mindset in advance of the conversations to make sure you start things out right.  

In the last ten years supporting open relationships, I've noticed a critical difference in the folks who navigate these conversations successfully and those who don't.  I'll outline them below to help you move forward in your own negotiations.  

Effective Mindset for Open Relationship Negotiations

Self-Awareness and Compassion

Beginning a conversation about nonmonogamy can bring up lots of surprising reactions if you've never practiced consensual open relationship before. Even some of the most self-reflective skillful communicators find themselves managing overwhelming emotions and unpredictable reactions.

If you're experiencing those waves of emotion, you know all too well how ineffective conversation is when you're overwhelmed by a reaction.  And yet if you're like most folks you're probably trying to stuff or deny that reaction because it can feel so ugly.

The first step in managing that kind of reactivity is acknowledging it's there or "name it to tame it" (as we say in the field of psychology).  Name it and accept that the reactivity is a very normal part of this process.  

That doesn't mean you get to lose all control or be unkind when you feel reactive. But start noticing when it shows up and what you feel like right before it visits you.  By collecting a little self-awareness data on the specifics of your reactivity you can start to take action and negotiate agreements based on the information you pick up.

Developing more self-awareness about your reactivity also paves the way to humility- an essential ingredient for success in non-monogamy. When we stop trying to be perfect (and shadow-emotionless) we can connect with deeper authenticity to those we love.

Self-awareness and humility also foster forgiveness in relationships. Humility and humor help couples stay buoyant in conflict instead of sinking in difficult times.  While it's not uncommon to start catastrophizing in these conversations it's also not helpful.  Humility helps us remember everything isn't actually on the line.

If you're looking to shift the nature of your conversation be sure you're truly in a place to self-reflect and develop self-compassion.

Ask yourself:

  • How do I know when I am in a reactive headspace? 

  • How can I re-center myself when I feel off balance?  

  • Am I able to have this conversation without catastrophizing?  

Trying to navigate an open relationship for the first time often destabilizes folks for a bit. But if you want to create meaningful sustainable agreements create them from a stable headspace.

 

Personal Accountability

Mistakes are a natural part of developing authentic relationships.  But that doesn't mean they don't hurt.  And when we hurt a common defense mechanism is to blame others.  

Unfortunately (like all defense mechanisms) blame gets in the way of connection and learning.

It also shifts the focus from the things we can control (our behavior and choices) to things we can't control (our partner's behavior and choices) which leads to feeling more chaotic. 

To regain a sense of control, and move through difficult negotiations more easily work to notice when you start shifting to blame and instead notice where you can own your contribution to the issue.  

Ask yourself:

  • Am I willing to own my contribution to this dynamic?

  • Am I in a headspace to look at how I would behave differently in the future?  

If you're not, please pause before starting your conversation about agreements.

 

Benefit of the Doubt

Being able to give a partner the benefit of the doubt in difficult times is a baseline for trust in partnerships. It sounds like this, "I felt lonely when you were out and disappointed when you came home and didn't enthusiastically greet me.  But I know you would never intentionally hurt me." 

Starting from the benefit of the doubt creates openness for possibility and forces us to let go of assumption-making and resentment-building (both HUGE problems in relationships). It shifts our baseline from focusing on the negative to possibility.  

If I am in this kind of trusting headspace it is much easier to try to really see things from my partner's perspective.  Perspective-taking is a critical skill for couples (monogamous ones too) to get through challenging times.  It helps you keep a big-picture mindset (instead of getting stuck in negativity and unnecessary details) and most importantly it encourages empathy. 

If you can't empathize with your partner's emotional experience (read: this doesn't mean you avoid or fix all their negative experiences- but it does mean you deeply care about them) it is going to be very difficult to maintain connection as you begin practicing ethical non-monogamy.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I able to consider this situation from my partner's point of view?

  • Am I willing to connect with their emotional experience- even if it is a painful one? 

  • Is there anything standing in the way of giving them the benefit of the doubt?

If you're not able to connect with their point of view, or there's something standing between you and trust you may want to focus on repair work and rebuilding trust and empathy in your relationship before trying to navigate open relationship dynamics for the first time.

 

Fear into Gratitude

One of the most common experiences among folks attempting an open relationship for the first time is fear. Fear of losing someone, of heartbreak, or divorce, of comparison... fear can be completely overwhelming.

According to Gary Zukov, the antidote to fear is love. I started a practice helping folks shift from fear, jealousy, and insecurity to love seven years ago and I know it often sounds like fluff to folks who are immersed in anxiety when I first say it.  

But folks who try to create fear-based agreements are far less likely to sustain them, and far more likely to develop codependent patterns in their relationship (which are NOT sustainable either).   

To generate longer-lasting agreements, you need to come at them from a place of love and gratitude.  Instead of focusing on what you fear, look toward when you want to preserve. Instead of centering anxiety create a plan to reinforce the strengths you share with your partner. Instead of trying to avoid discomfort develop structures to reinforce the resilience, courage, and sweetness you share.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I able to set fear aside and focus on our strengths?

  • Can I identify when I want more of in this relationship? 

  • Am I willing to hear what my partner wants to nourish, bolster, and fortify between us?

Couples I've seen stay together through newly open marriages and relationships take on a positive pro-active mindset when they begin the conversation.  If you're not in a place to make that shift you might want to start by nourishing your strengths before you take on the conversation about openness.  

If you want to talk more about any of these considerations I'm happy to talk with you. I've got a few openings in my practice for online clients (video connections) and in-person Portland-area clients who are thinking about opening their relationship for the first time.  Give me a call.


 mindset for open marriage agreements

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.

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

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.

How to Get Over an Argument With Someone You Love

All of us face challenges in relationships.  No matter how beautiful the relationship, disagreement is an unavoidable part of loving another human.  

As a therapist I see clients every day who have lost family members and lovers to conflict.  So many of us can't figure out how to move past a fight.

One of the best books on forgiveness and reconciliation is Laura Davis' "I Thought We'd Never Speak Again"  I've read it and recommended it to clients and readers in difficult places more times than I can count.  

Although the book focuses on the experience of abuse survivors and their families, there are really amazing lessons on compassion for all of us regardless of our survived traumas.   It has helped my clients with break-ups, moves, family relationships and bad bosses.

I am not suggesting reconciliation is always the answer (neither does the author), only that it's important to move from pain toward compassion for our well-being.  But more and more scientific research is showing that carrying pain and resentment has real effects on our health and well-being.  

Compassion and healing are critical to our ability to create healthy partnerships, friendships, and long lasting relationships.

How to Get Over A Fight With Someone You Love

So how do you move toward compassion when you're in a place of hurt?  Here are a few tips based on my work as a marriage counselor for the last seven years.  

Pause and reflect on these six steps in a conflict in your life and then move with warmth and openness (I can't emphasize this part enough)  in each step when you are ready:

1.  Talk it out- say how you feel.

Shame often comes to visit either or both party after a disagreement and can work to isolate us further.  The greatest antidote to shame is to reach out to another for support or to offer a genuine apology.  It can be helpful to acknowledge how hard it is to reach out, and share that you still really want the connection even though it's hard.  

The more transparent and consistent you can be the better.   Even if time and shame have kept you apart reaching out (with warmth and openness) directly can help to repair broken bonds.

2. Humanize them.

Remember that everyone carries some hurt and often conflict comes out of misunderstood pain.  Listen authentically to their story with warmth and openness.  Demonstrate you are listening by offering to paraphrase back what you hear to be sure you are getting it and don't rush.  

Some hurts can take a while to surface clearly so be patient.  Remember the sweetness, good humor, and shared values that brought you together in the first place.

Also consider the ways you have shown the same behavior you have seen in your partner.  It's not easy to do, but we must remember that in certain circumstances we all have the capacity to do the wrong thing.  

We have all made mistakes in friendships and relationships.  Remembering this and forgiving ourselves for past similar wrongdoing helps us move forward.

3. Connect with sadness.

You cannot bandage a wound without looking at it and you cannot repair a relationship without looking at the sadness that happens when someone is hurt.  It is important for both parties to acknowledge and really connect with their sadness (no matter how small it may seem) to move forward with confidence.

4. Honor your memories.

Honor the greatness that you have in the past with care.  Some couples do this informally over conversation; some partners have shared memory books, one set of roommates I worked with painted memories on the walls of their co-op before moving on to a new place after much strife.  Whether formal or informal, honor your shared history before moving on to your next chapter.

5. Commit to future acts of service and creation.

Planning to make something beautiful or invest in others together can be a great way to heal together and individually.  These can be acts of service and creation within the relationship (planting a garden together, planning a trip) and acts directed towards your external community (hosting a dinner party, volunteering for a cause you care about.  Setting positive future plans together will change the nature of your time together fundamentally.

These steps can be taken whether you are single or in relationship.  Even if you never decide to connect with the other person, building compassion all on your own will be healing.  

Sharing your story with an empathetic ear, humanizing your "enemy," honoring your grief and meaningful memories, and taking part in service or creative acts will help your heart heal and will start to free you from the weight of heartbreak.  If you want me to be that ear, schedule a consultation here.

How do you get over a fight in your relationship?

 

Online Sex Counselor | Portland Couples Counseling | Counseling in Portland

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).


Ten Reasons to See a Couples Counselor

Ten Reasons to See a Couples Counselor | Uncommon Love Poly Counseling in Portland

Couples counseling helps couples reflect and take intentional action to create relationships filled with happiness, connection, and shared vision.  

There are many reasons couples decide to start working with me.  Here are ten of the most common.

Why See a Couples Counselor?

1.  Sweethearts considering marriage.

Pre-marital counseling and coaching is some of my favorite work.  You know you want to be together, now, the question is, HOW do you want to be together?  What kind of future do you want to build?  How will you navigate life changes with grace?  

Working with a couples therapist can help you get clear about the life you want to build as a committed couple.  While most therapists are trained as marriage therapists specific to monogamous more traditional couples.  Those of us who use couples therapist or relationship coach as a title are acknowledging marriage isn't the only kind of couple we see.

2.  Keeping the relationship fulfilling long term.  

You have probably heard me say it already, every relationship needs a tune up from time to time.  Keeping your relationship a priority amid the many responsibilities and obligations that come up can be difficult.  It's not uncommon to lose a little luster over time.  

Couples coaching can help provide time to re-assess how to sustainably keep the fire burning for a long long time.

3.  Getting back together after taking a break.

Little known fact: LOTS of couples break up and get back together.  When you are deciding to return to partnership it can be really helpful to work with a couples coach to both repair any gaps from your break, and work on forgiveness.  

You get to define what your relationship looks like- and no one combination works for every couple.  Your therapist will also help you determine how you want to move forward together and can help you tailor your agreements and communication skills to the relationship best suited for both of you.

4.  Thinking about becoming parents.

Parenting is an amazing journey, but it isn't for everyone and co-parenting doesn't come naturally.  Who do you want to be as a parent?  Is parenting something you both really want?  

When you and your partner are ready to start thinking about a family it can be a good idea to bring in a counselor as a facilitator to help guide you through the decision-making and planning processes.

5.  Starting a business with your life partner.  

So we know you and your partner have great ideas and can manage projects together well (that home remodel looks beautiful!) but are you ready to start a business together?  And if you are, how will you maintain your relationship strength as your business dreams come true?  

Contacting a couples counselor to help you as a consultant for your business partnership when it's also our romance partner.  This is especially important for non-monogamous couples, and polyamorous groups who want to share financial commitments to one another beyond the mainstream marital rights afforded legally married couples.

6.  Opening your relationship to non-monogamy.

Polyamory and open relationships are much more common than people think.  However, because we have strong cultural taboos around talking about open relationships, most couples are without support as they begin conversations about openness.  

Without support many couples struggle with unexpected triggers.  Working with a poly-affirming provider can help you get through those challenges with greater ease. 

Find an open-minded affirming provider using one of these lists.  You can find me there too!

7.  Adventuring in new sexual or sensual territory.

Dan Savage coined the phrase GGG meaning one should strive to be good in bed, giving "equal time and equal pleasure" to one's partner, and game "for anything—within reason."for things sexually and sensually.  For some people meeting this GGG standard is not easily done.  

Working with a relationship coach or couples counselor could help you and your partner explore new sensual connections and be even stronger together in the bedroom (and wherever else these adventures take you).  

Check these lists for a sex-positive (non-judgmental) provider near you.

8.  Repairing a relationship after an affair.  

An affair doesn't necessarily mean you have to end your relationship.  Many couples decide to stay together.  However, repairing from a violation of trust can require professional support.

Even open relationships have affairs- and having a therapist who understands the unique challenges non-monogamous folks face when repairing trust is critical to moving through the healing process.

Contact a relationship counselor or couples coach to help you rebuild connection and trust and decide if staying together is the best option for you.

9.  Re-imagining the relationship after things go blah.

Let's face it, relationships take work and it is not easy to razzle-dazzle your partner every day (nor is it a realistic expectation).  Work with a relationship coach or couples therapist to help reignite that spark and fascination that brought you together in the first place.

10.  Deciding to move in together.

Many people struggle with questions of balanceprivacy, space, and independence during these conversations.  It can be very helpful to have a neutral party's support and guidance as you transition to or from living together.

The bottom line is, if you are going to stay together for a long time, you are going to weather many changes to your life and relationship. Having knowledgeable professional support can very much help you move through growth more compassionately together.

Relationship counseling is like a vitamin boost for your relationship's health during times of stress and transition.  Give me a call for a free consultation to see if I can help you be stronger together.

*I closed my psychotherapy and couples counseling practice in 2016 to pursue coaching and consulting.  Contact me to learn more about this powerful change in my work.


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).