when to break up

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.

If You're Facing Relationship Betrayal Stop What You're Doing and LIsten to This

 cheating | infidelity | affairs | trust issues | cheat on me

Ugh, you guys betrayal in intimate relationships is just the worst.  It so often leaves both partners in a spiral of shame, under a heap of hurt, so far from the connection they so deeply long for to comfort them.  

It is simply one of the most painful experiences I see people through.  It's incredibly painful- and so deeply isolating.  What a terrible combination.

And because it's so isolating whenever I read or hear something really good about it I want to share it with you.  So when I listened to the most recent Where Should I Begin? podcast from Esther Perel, I had to share it with you.

The episode itself focuses on someone who believes he has a sex addiction and his wife.  He's been exploring his sexuality behind her back for decades and she's only recently found out and come to some clarity about it.  They're both hurting, and the therapist, Esther Perel, does an incredible job helping them through this painful time.

Even if sex addiction isn't part of the puzzle for you, the experience of betrayal is relatively universal.  If you've been on either side of betrayal I think a lot of the experiences shared here will resonate with you.

If you're dealing with the pain of betrayal in a relationship (whether you're the betrayer or the betrayed) find time to listen to this so you might feel a little less alone.

(Click the pink text above to listen on itunes)

And if you want to talk more about the betrayal you've been through I'm happy to help support you in working through it (whether you stay together or not).


 betrayal in relationships | trust in relationship | trust issues | cheating

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

  • 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, 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.  

 

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.  

How to Predict Your Break Up

 sex therapist open relationships therapist couples counseling for sexual difference desire and passion in marriage

What keeps couples together long-term?

It is not uncommon to go through phases of connection and disconnection in relationship.  But some of us stay together, and others break up. 

Some of the best training I have received to understand couples is studying the work of John Gottman. Gottman is based in Seattle and set out to see if you could measure relationship strength based on behaviors.  

Strong couples do things differently

Over time it became clear- strong couples do things differently.  In the video below John Gottman himself outlines one thing you can do today to improve your relationship.  

There are a lot of things you can do to improve your relationship, but if you really want just one step, getting curious about getting to know your loved one is a great place to start.  

When we think of the beginning romance phase of a relationship (when most of us are the most excited about our partners) we are often really invested in forming what Gottman calls a Love Map.  We do this by interviewing them and being fascinated by their answers.

"You love broccoli?!?  I love broccoli too!!!"  We are meant to be together. 

Over time we stop interviewing.  We assume old answers still hold true.  

But the truth is, we all change in time and most of our answers do too.  When we stop asking we stop seeing our partner as a growing being.  We miss out on opportunities to get to know them more fully.  

Challenge Yourself:

I created a few tools I use all the time with the clients I support specifically to address this issue.  You can use them totally free in your own relationship _ I'm confident they'll help! 

Add your email to get my regular messages and challenges to keep you connected with fascination, curiosity, and desire long-term.  


 couples therapy online couples counseling

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

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

Call me for a free consultation to rethink your relationship.

 

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

Is it about polyamory or do you just want to leave?

 polyamory counselor portland polyamory couples therapy

So your long-term monogamous partner just told you they want to open your relationship up.  Odds are you've wondered if they really want an open relationship, or if they're looking to leave you.  

This is one of the biggest fears people face when their partner brings up open relationships.  

It's a valid question, in ten years of working with couples opening up, about 30% ultimately decide they want to break up.  Lots of folks start dreaming of non-monogamy when what they're really dreaming about is escape or change.  

But that leaves nearly 70% of the couples I've seen who do want to stay together- and somehow add other people to the mix.  I want to emphasize that the majority of folks I see want to (and ultimately do) stay together.  

But how can you determine which group you fall into?  Here's what I look for when I work with newly open relationships.

Do you still have emotional energy to invest in this relationship?

All relationships require some emotional energy and maintenance work.  One of the simplest indicators of your interest to stay in a relationship is if you are willing to invest emotional energy in the relationship.  

If you're not willing to keep improving your current relationship and learning to love each other better this can be a pretty clear message you are ready to leave.

How will you continue to cultivate connection with your original partner?

The difference between typical dating and being in an open relationship is that there is a relationship in the picture.  If none of your dreams about life post-monogamy include your relationship this could be an indicator you want to leave.  

I'm not saying you have to include threesomes or shared partners in your vision of the future.  But if you can't think of tangible ways you will work to stay connected to your original partner it might be time to leave.

Are you still open to the input of your original partner?

There's been plenty of research on successful couples showing that accepting your partner's influence is critical in long-term happiness.  Here's what that actually means:

  • Do you care how your partner feels?  
  • Are you willing to talk with them about their emotions and experiences?
  • Will you take their input into your decision-making process?
  • Are you willing to really consider their perspective?  

Many of the couples I see in that 30% group want to pursue an "open relationship" where they each "do whatever they want" without talking.  It is extremely rare for that kind of open marriage to work out because it is not essentially an open relationship, it's likely dating or solo polyamory.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to date or practice solo-poly, but moving in that direction is usually in direct opposition to having an ongoing relationship.  Think about how much input and influence you really can be open to moving forward.  

Accepting influence from a partner is one of the cornerstones differentiating consensual non-monogamy from infidelity, dating, or solo-polyamory.

Why choose a relationship with this specific partner now?

This is the big one.  Every day you are in a relationship you choose to stay in it.  You have the power to chose to leave, to chose a single life, or to choose other partners- but for some reason you've chosen this partner right now.  

It's shocking how many times I ask this question and people can't identify a specific reason why they're staying with this person.  They tell me they're sure they love this person- but when I ask why they can't give me a reason. 

Or often the reason is outdated.  Maybe they used to love something about this partner and they're hoping that something will return.  Or they've changed over time but haven't updated their reasons to stay in this relationship with that personal growth.  

If you can't look at the person you're with and list clear and specific reasons you're choosing to commit to a relationship with them today, it's a good time to invest in some relationship work.  

Successful long-term couples work to stay curious about one another.  It's not easy, but staying invested in learning about your sweetie is another well-researched critical piece of relationship health.

Notice how interested you are in getting to know your partner again.  Are you curious about them?  Are you open to learning how they have changed in time?  There are lots of great ways to strengthen your partnership and reconnect (whether you decide to open things or not). - I help a lot of folks with this.  Call me if you want assistance.

A real lack of interest in getting to know your partner more might be an indicator you're moving in different directions.  

Next Steps

I hope these questions help you get some clarity about your interest in staying together.  I made a simple reflection guide to help you dive deeper into these questions.  

Download the relationship worksheet by clicking below.

If you want more personalized attention call me for a consultation.  I'm happy to talk with you about your relationship goals.


 polyamory counseling online couples therapist for non-monogamy

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

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

Call me for a free consultation to rethink your relationship.

 

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.

Stop Having the Same Argument Over and Over and Over and...

Stop Arguing With Your Partner

I wrote a post a couple weeks ago about cyclical arguments in relationships and have gotten so many great responses I wanted to talk about it a little more. I know these repetitive conflicts in relationships are some of the most frustrating.  

Maybe this has happened to you:

You can feel like you've said the same thing a hundred times and you're just not feeling heard. Meanwhile, your partner looks exasperated and seems to be bringing up the same points, issues, or topics you've heard before.  

No matter what you try in conversation it feels like you end without resolution.  

That's what a cyclical conflict feels like. Super stuck. Often ugly. And because they're rarely resolved they often lead to piles of resentment and distance.  

When I last mentioned Dr Susan Johnson I outlined her key questions to help couples get underneath the surface of these stuck conversations.  Today I want to outline three of the kinds of conflicts most couples experience to help you identify when your own cyclical conflicts come up.  

1.  Find the Bad Guy

So many great couples get stuck in a blame game that doesn't lead anywhere but stagnant hurt feelings.  When this shows up I hear couples use language of right or wrong, always and never, and good or bad when talking about each other's behaviors.  When we define our partner as somehow defective (uncaring, unwilling, etc) everyone loses.  

If you notice yourself stuck in blame, try moving to personal accountability.  However small each of us plays a role in every conflict we enter.  Notice if there is anything you could do different, or you might need to be held accountable for.  Take the high road and acknowledge your own behavior if you're stuck focusing on the behavior of another. 

2.  Protest Polka

A lot of couples counselors and relationship researchers have written about an attack-withdraw dance in couples (that often leads to divorce).  It's like two same-sided magnets that chase each other across a table.  The more one chases, the more the other withdraws.  

In these cases the partner demanding attention is really after connection, and the withdrawing partner is avoiding what seems like criticism.  Over time couples in this kind of conflict can feel hopeless and build even greater distance from each other.  

The first step to changing this pattern is noticing you are in it.  Most folks (especially the distancing partner) have a hard time noticing it because it can be incredibly subtle.  Start by writing out your pattern using the outline below.  

The more I ___ the more you __ and then the more I ___,

3.  Freeze and Flee

This kind of conflict can seem the most difficult of all.  It might look like a standstill or a standoff without a lot of connection or communication between partners.  It's usually a space where both of you feel hurt and hopeless.  

If you find yourself in a freeze and flee pattern it's a good time to call a professional to support you and your partner in reconnecting.  It might feel like you've tried everything you can on your own, and having a consultant halp you out with their expertise is a great step to trysomething different with support.  If you'd like to talk with me about helping you break out of the freeze set up a consultation here.  

None of these conflicts are un-resolvable, but each pattern takes care and awareness to change.  I hope this article can help you begin the change you'd like to see in your own relationship.


Sex Counselor Portland Relationship Therapist

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 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).