Access to Her Inner World with Open Communication | Couples Quickies #2

Access to Her Inner World with Open Communication | Couples Quickies #2

Do you have access to her inner world?

Open Door vs. Closed Door Communication 

Couple’s Quickie #2

There are two types of communication: open-door and closed-door.

Open-door communication is a direct and vulnerable sharing of your feelings, which gives the listener access to your inner world.

Closed-door communication is a self-protective way to share feelings by using protective behaviors such as criticisms, making up stories, accusations, explanations, and defensiveness.

If your partner shares a feeling with you, she is giving you a glimpse inside a world to which only she holds the key. When she unlocks this door for you, it is a gift. The views into her inner world may not always reflect back to you what you wish to see.

The gift is not about what you find inside her inner world.

The gift is that you are trusted with access to her inner world.

Imagine your workload is doubled and you have to work twice as much for a temporary period of time. Likely, both you and your wife will have feelings about this situation. If you are committed to open-door communication, you will come to each other from a vulnerable place and express your feelings in a direct and genuine way.

Open-door communication might sound like: “I miss you. Lately, I have been feeling lonely since you’ve had to work more.”

Closed-door communication might sound like this: “You work too much. I feel like you don’t care that I am alone all of the time.”

While the closed-door message is coming from the same vulnerable source of pain, the delivery is harder to hear. She is letting you know there is something going on in her inner world, but she’s keeping the door shut by using criticisms, in an effort to protect herself.

If she says she feels something, then she feels something. Unfortunately, it is a common communication mistake to hear feelings as complaints, disappointments, and criticisms. For example, the first statement, “I miss you,” might be heard as a complaint or a criticism.  You may hear it as if you are doing something wrong. That you should be home more than you are. This interpretation of “I miss you,” will likely provoke defensiveness.

When you interpret her feelings as a complaint, you are more likely to respond with a closed-door, such as: “I have no choice. I have to work.” This response misses the feeling she is expressing. This is a closed-door response to open-door communication.

If you heard “I miss you,” as a validation of your importance to her, you might respond with more softness. An open-door response may be as simple as, “I miss you, too. I can’t wait for work to slow down. Thank you for sharing that you feel the same way I do.”

It is not sufficient to add the word “feel” to your statements. When you say, “I feel THAT you…” or, “I feel LIKE you….” these are not feelings. These are opinions, stories, accusations, or potential criticisms. To truly share your feelings, you must be the subject of what you are sharing, not your wife or partner. A feeling statement will include a feeling word… I feel __________ (feeling word).

Feelings are never wrong, though they do change. They are also not accusations or criticisms. Sometimes we don’t fully understand our own feelings and all of the factors that contribute to them. The very best way to respond to your partner’s feelings is with open-door communication.

If she opens the door, appreciate and take good care of the access she is giving you to her inner world.

Got Questions?

7 + 6 =

ABOUT Michele O’Mara, LCSW, Ph.D.

Relationships are my thing. Some would say, my obsession. While I only scored an 83.75% on my own "How Lesbian Are You" test,  don't let that fool you. Since returning to school in the '90s for my MSW, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: help lesbian couples grow love. 

I am that person who has built her life around one thing: lesbian relationships and women loving women. For fun, I do things like create online quizzes at asklesbians.com, to learn more about real lesbians. Or I write books. like, "Just Ask: 1,000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship," to give couples an easy way to communicate. (www.1000question.app) And, now that our boys are young men, my love, and my wife, Kristen, and I are growing lesbian love through Lesbian Couples Retreats and The Lesbian Roadshow throughout the U.S. in awesome destinations where our motto is, "love out loud" with Adventures in Love.  You can learn more about those at lesbiancouples.co.

Lesbian Couples Quickies: Validation, Not Education

Lesbian Couples Quickies: Validation, Not Education

LESBIAN COUPLES QUICKIES:  VALIDATION, NOT EDUCATION

Couples Quickies #1

When your girl expresses a concern, need or frustration in her life (not about you), do not mistake this as her request for you to fix the situation, or fix her. If you are someone who often responds by telling her what you think, and what she should do, this quickie is especially for you.

In general, when we are hurting and we go to our spouse / partner with a painful situation, we are not asking for solutions, we are asking for support. We want to feel less alone with our pain. Often, we just want reassurance that we are okay.

lesbian couples, validation, validate, listen

Here’s a roadmap for those of you who are unsure how this might sound:

Let her talk. Don’t interrupt. Keep your questions to a minimum.

 

1. Let her know you’ve heard her.

“It sounds like … <repeat the highlights that you heard her share so she knows you were listening – don’t add your opinions or thoughts, just reflect back to her what you heard>”
 

2. Validate her feelings.

Let her know that when you look at the situation the way she’s looking at it (not the way you are), her feelings make sense (even if you disagree).

“Based on how you’ve described things, it makes sense that you feel <insert how she says she is feeling>, because <insert meaningful points she has shared that let her know that you were listening and validate why she’s feeling the way she is>…
 

3. Reassure her. 

Remind her that you are here for her. Reinforce that you are a safe person for her to talk with when she is struggling, and that even if you see things differently, your ultimate goal is to be a safe and supportive person for her to talk to.
 

“I see this situation a little differently than you do, but what matters to me the most is how I can be here for you, and make you feel supported.”

4. Inquire if she wants your perspective.

 

“Would you like to know my thoughts about this, or is it best for me to just listen?”

5. Share with her consent.

IF she says she wants your perspective, THEN, and only THEN, share your perspective.

 

“How I see this situation is … “

Focus more on understanding, less on being “right.” Remember, she has come to you to feel better, not worse.

Got Questions?

5 + 4 =

ABOUT Michele O’Mara, LCSW, Ph.D.

Relationships are my thing. Some would say, my obsession. While I only scored an 83.75% on my own "How Lesbian Are You" test,  don't let that fool you. Since returning to school in the '90s for my MSW, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: help lesbian couples grow love. 

I am that person who has built her life around one thing: lesbian relationships and women loving women. For fun, I do things like create online quizzes at asklesbians.com, to learn more about real lesbians. Or I write books. like, "Just Ask: 1,000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship," to give couples an easy way to communicate. (www.1000question.app) And, now that our boys are young men, my love, and my wife, Kristen, and I are growing lesbian love through Lesbian Couples Retreats and The Lesbian Roadshow throughout the U.S. in awesome destinations where our motto is, "love out loud" with Adventures in Love.  You can learn more about those at lesbiancouples.co.

A Feel Good Coming Out to Parents Story

 Coming Out to Parents

 

 

 

On Christmas Eve, 1988, I was home from college for winter break.  Like every other Christmas Eve, I was gathering inspiration and ideas to begin my holiday shopping.  Yes, begin.  My mom turned to me and asked, “How are things going at school?”  Though innocent enough, this was the kind of question that only seemed subtle.  I could sense something was up, I just didn’t know what.  I replied, “Great, why?”  Quickly, the subtle was no longer so, when she said, “Your father has been worried about you.  He tells me you seem more and more distant when you two talk.” 

I felt my stomach flip, then sink.  I think I know where this is headed. Coming out to parents is a terrifying experience for most of us, and I had the sneaky suspicion that my mom was rolling out the red carpet for me to finally say to her, I’m gay.

Testing the waters, I responded with, “Well what if I am just choosing to share less, because I don’t feel like dad will approve of what I am doing, or what I have to say, even if there’s nothing wrong with it?”  Unrelenting, my mom asks, “Like what?”

Suddenly I feel as though I am driving full-speed ahead toward an innocent animal trying to cross the road.  Gripping the steering wheel, eyes closed, I pray that no one gets hurt, including me.  I swerve, asking, “What if I am dating a man who is not Caucasian?”  Knowing that she would not have an issue if this were true, but my dad might, I give her yet another out, another path to safety for both of us.  I explain, “I don’t think dad would approve, but there’s nothing wrong with it, so why would I want to share that with him?”

Is the road clear?  You know that feeling, like you’ve done your best to avoid the vulnerable animal darting across the road, with the lingering guilt of not knowing.  Persisting, my  mom says, “Are you dating someone of a different ethnicity?”  Afraid to look in my rear view mirror, I move forward, feeling as though I may just vomit.  I muster up the courage to blurt out, “What if I am not dating men at all?”  There.  I said it.  Sort of.  Please let her know what I am saying because I can’t say those three words, I can not say, I am gay.

The dance is over.  My mom has managed to position herself perfectly to ask me the question she really wanted to ask when she started this conversation.  Without the slightest change in her demeanor, she simply asks me, “Are you gay?”  And I begin to cry.  Still unchanged, her silence is kind and patient, inviting my response.  Eventually, I managed to say, “Yes, I’m gay, and I’m sorry.  I am so sorry.  I never wanted you to know. I didn’t want to be, and I am so sorry to disappoint you.” 

All this time later, still etched in my mind, is her most amazing response. I quote: “Michele, you have nothing to apologize for.  You have done nothing wrong.”  I have my mom to thank for helping me unwrap the gift of freedom that Christmas.  A gift I’ll never exchange. 

If you are contemplating coming out to parents, here are some other articles that may interest you:

Coming Out Stages

Coming Out in Heterosexual Relationships

Coming Out

Being Out

Coming Out to Parents

 

Got Questions?

15 + 15 =

When to end a relationship? Do These 10 things first.

When to end a relationship?

Do these 10 Things to Do Before You Breakup.

 

Great relationships require hard work, useful information, and a lot of discipline. If you are wondering how to know when to end a relationship, or whether you should end your relationship, these 10 steps are for you.

1. If in doubt, stay. 
If you question whether you should break-up, chances are you are in the perfect position to heal old wounds and develop new skills to feel better about yourself, your relationship and your life. Ambivalence is a sign that you have more to learn. 

If you are 100% certain it’s time to end the relationship, move to number two. If you have doubt, you need to find the answer to this question: 

What do I need to know to feel confident about staying or about leaving? 

Most people leave a relationship before learning what they need to learn to be more successful in future relationships. 

2. Identify the reason(s) you want to leave (be specific)
Discernment Counseling is a clarification process (read more here) designed to help couples know when to end a relationship and when to keep trying. Usually, one partner is leaning out (wants to end things) and the other is leaning in (wants to work on things).

The three forks in the road are:

  1. End the relationship
  2. Commit to 6 months of intensive relationship work – going all in
  3. Choose to keep things the way they are (which can be a powerful recognition that you are indeed in this unhappy place by choice).

The discernment model describes “hard” and “soft” reasons to break up. Hard reasons to end a relationship include: ongoing affairs, physical abuse, addiction, and emotional cruelty. “Soft” reasons to end a relationship are things like, growing apart, lack of communication, and falling out of love. 

To move in any direction with certainty about your relationship, be sure you can identify what you are feeling and name the source of your pain as specifically as possible. “Hard reasons” do not require the same level of reflection or discernment as “soft reasons.” Knowing when to end a relationship is much easier with hard reasons than it is with soft reasons, but it still isn’t “easy!”


3. Close Exits.
Agree to close all exits. An exit is anything that takes you out of your relationship, despite the fact you haven’t left. These are things like drinking, excessive food intake, unhealthy relationships or friendships, and family relationships that encourage you to leave (for non-“hard” reasons). It is impossible to know when to end a relationship if you have a constant and intense distraction. You must cut all contact with any outside party when there is an emotional distraction, affair, or attraction that is negatively impacting your relationship. You can not fan the flames of a new love interest and expect to have the energy, interest, and motivation to re-ignite a fire with your existing one. I heard it described once that comparing a new love interest to your existing love interest is like comparing the joyful freedom of horseback ride in wide open, unexplored terrain to that of cleaning out the barn and grooming and feeding the horse. 


4. More Responsibility, Less Blame
Move your focus away from your questions about if or when to end your relationship. Suspend your thoughts about whether she offers you what you want and need. Instead, focus entirely on yourself with specific emphasis on what you want in your life, what your dreams and hopes are, and where you want your life to lead. This may require extensive self-examination through journaling, conversations with friends, spiritual leaders or associates, counseling, and meditation. 

5. Reality Check 
Once you can see the vision you hold for your own life, begin to explore whether you can make that vision a reality in the context of this relationship. Share your vision for your life, for your relationship, with your partner and have her do the same. Take an honest look at whether you can achieve those goals together and whether you are willing to work on a shared purpose that works for both of you.

6. Identify and Name the Obstacles 
If you feel you cannot reach your life dreams and goals in the context of this relationship, then turn your focus to the real obstacles. Name the actual barriers that are preventing you from reaching your dreams. For example, if a part of your life dream is to be an aquamarine scientist that requires you to live near an ocean, and your partner wants to stay in her landlocked hometown near her family, this may be an obstacle to your life dream. Be confident that it is the relationship which prevents you from realizing your vision for your life, and not something else. Are you limiting yourself in some way? 

7. Ask yourself the right questions. 
As you identify the obstacles to living the life you desire, experiencing the relationship you want, or achieving any goal, be sure you don’t stop at the obstacle. For every obstacle, ask yourself a “How..” question. If in the example about the aquamarine scientist, you need to be near an ocean and your partner is settled in her land-locked hometown, the question would be: “How can I pursue my dream of being an aquamarine scientist without my wife having to move away from her hometown.” When we focus on obstacles, we lose the creativity and openness necessary to identify solutions.


7. Notice What’s Already Great
It’s no secret that gratitude is a natural healer for most things. When you experience discomfort in a relationship it is natural to want relief. Unfortunately, for everything that feels bad in a relationship, we need five things to feel good to maintain a stable (not even happy) relationship. For a happy relationship, we need to find 20 things good for every one thing that feels bad. If you feel bad, chances are, there is significantly more that works than you realize because of the 20:1 ratio!

When something feels bad, we are more inclined to find evidence to validate the bad feeling, than we are to look for opposing evidence that much more is actually great. You wouldn’t be in this relationship if there isn’t some good somewhere. Chances are if you have 5 complaints about your relationship, you likely have 20 positives that you have stopped noticing.

8. Check your Stories
Most people end relationships because of beliefs they develop over time. “I’m not a priority,” “She doesn’t love me,” “I’m not good enough,” “Nothing I do is ever enough,” “She just wants to control me,” “She’s never happy with me,” “I don’t make her happy,” etc… Identify the stories you relate to. Once you have them, ask yourself this, “What do I feel in this relationship that I also felt as a child?” If you can relate to feeling in ways that are familiar to how you felt as a child, then your “imago” is alive and kicking and it is important to identify how much of your feelings are related to how you’ve always felt, and how much of your feelings are related to this specific relationship. Here is a quick imago quiz to familiarize you with this concept. (It’s relationship changing stuff, people!) 

9. Seek Understanding, Not Proof
Most couples who are considering a breakup do not understand one another. Many people lack the skills to deeply understand the behaviors, comments, and actions of others; and worse yet, are the false understandings which are worse than a lack of understanding.

  • It is easier to judge than it is to understand, seek understanding anyway. 
  • It is easier to criticize than it is to remain curious, be curious anyway.
  • It is easier to assume than it is to gather facts, gather facts anyway.


Most people who exit a relationship have a generic story, a surface understanding of their pain, and an interpretation of their relationship that has been thought for so long that they begin to believe it is true. Do not end your relationship because of stories, assumptions, false interpretations and lack of understanding. Get facts, be curious, lose judgment, and seek understanding.

10. Email me or Schedule with Me (the phone is not my favorite) 
Reach out to me, or another couple’s therapist who has at least one additional credential in couples counseling (Imago, Gottman, EFT, Discernment, etc). Put your relationship in a safe container and commit to doing the work needed to determine whether to work it out or break up. If you are not comfortable going to couple’s counseling with your partner (or she is not willing to go with you), consider going alone with the goal of organizing your thoughts and feelings. Though together is better, when one partner is in therapy, both partners can benefit.
 

Got Questions?

10 + 11 =

ABOUT Michele O’Mara, LCSW, Ph.D.

Relationships are my thing. Some would say, my obsession. While I only scored an 83.75% on my own "How Lesbian Are You" test,  don't let that fool you. Since returning to school in the '90s for my MSW, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: help lesbian couples grow love. 

I am that person who has built her life around one thing: lesbian relationships and women loving women. For fun, I do things like create online quizzes at asklesbians.com, to learn more about real lesbians. Or I write books. like, "Just Ask: 1,000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship," to give couples an easy way to communicate. (www.1000question.app) And, now that our boys are young men, my love, and my wife, Kristen, and I are growing lesbian love through Lesbian Couples Retreats and The Lesbian Roadshow throughout the U.S. in awesome destinations where our motto is, "love out loud" with Adventures in Love.  You can learn more about those at lesbiancouples.co.

Lesbians and Dog Custody: What happens to the dog when lesbians break up?

Lesbians and Dogs: Shared Custody With Ex’s?

 

Survey Visits: 389

Survey’s Completed: 159

The lesbians and dogs custody survey was reader-suggested. For this great topic, we are looking at the relationship between lesbians and their dogs.

For starters, the lesbians and dog custody survey inquired about how many lesbian couples adopted, purchased or acquired a dog with a female partner. A whoooping 74% said yes, and only 26% said no.

According to the 159 lesbians who complerted our survey, 26% report they got a dog with their female partner within the first year of their relationship. The majority (39%) of survey respondents report getting a dog together between years one and three. Twenty-six percent indicate they do not get a dog together.

What was the reason you wanted to adopt or purchase a dog with your partner?

      • My partner wanted one ~ 28%
      • I wanted one ~ 14%
      • We both wanted one ~ 50%
      • To feel like we “own” something together ~ 8%

In years one through three, 58% of lesbians report getting a dog because they both wanted one. This seems to be the most common reason and the most frequently reported time frame for getting one.

Interestingly, 18% of women who state the reason they got a dog was because their partner wanted one say they have kept, or will keep, the dog in the event of a separation, with 60% stating the partner wanting the dog keeps the dog, and 17% report joint custody of the dog. When asked how many different relationships lesbians aquired a new dog, only 27% indicate that they got a dog with a partner in more than one relationship. 

Who retained custody of the dogs, or will retain custody of the dog, if there is a break up?

  • I will keep, or have kept the dog ~ 24%
  • She will keep, or has kept, the dog ~ 25%
  • WE would have, or do have, joint custody 11%
  • I have experienced both situations where have gotten the dog, and I have lost the dog ~ 12%
  • Break up? We are in it for the U-Haul…I mean the long haul ~ 28%

Interesting observation: of those reporting they are in it for the long haul, 18% are in their first relationship, 27% are in their second relationship, 43% are in their 3rd to 5th relationship, 9% are in their 6th to 10th relationship and 2% are in their 11th or more relationship. Relationship optimism seems most prevalent among those in their 3rd to 5th relationship.

At what point in your relationship did you get dogs?

  • 0-3 months ~ 3%
  • 4-6 months ~ 9%
  • 7 -11 months ~ 14%
  • 1-3 years ~ 39%
  • 4+ years ~ 9%
  • Does not apply ~ 25%

What was the reason you wanted to adopt or purchase dogs with your partner?

  • My partner wanted one ~ 28%
  • I wanted one ~ 14%
  • We both wanted one ~ 50%
  • To feel like we “own” something together ~ 8%

 In years one through three, 58% of lesbians report getting a dog because they both wanted one. This seems to be the most common reason and the most frequently reported time frame for getting one.

Interestingly, 18% of women who state the reason they got a dog was because their partner wanted one say they have kept, or will keep, the dog in the event of a separation, with 60% stating the partner wanting the dog keeps the dog, and 17% report joint custody of the dog.

    In how many different relationships have you acquired new dogs with a female partner?

        • 0 ~ 35%
        • 1 ~ 39%
        • 2 ~ 22%
        • 3 ~ 4%
        • 4+ ~ 1%

    Who retained custody of the dogs, or will retain custody of the dogs, if there is a break up?

    • I will keep, or have kept the dog ~ 24%
    • She will keep, or has kept, the dog ~ 25%
    • WE would have, or do have, joint custody 11%
    • I have experienced both situations where have gotten the dog, and I have lost the dog ~ 12%
    • Break up? We are in it for the U-Haul…I mean the long haul ~ 28%

    Interesting observation: of those reporting they are in it for the long haul, 18% are in their first relationship, 27% are in their second relationship, 43% are in their 3rd to 5th relationship, 9% are in their 6th to 10th relationship and 2% are in their 11th or more relationship. Relationship optimism seems most prevalent among those in their 3rd to 5th relationship.

    How many lesbian relationships have you had?

    • 0 ~ 0%
    • 1 ~ 11%
    • 2 ~ 16%
    • 3-5 ~ 55%
    • 6-10 ~ 16%
    • 11+ ~ 3%

    What is your age?

    • 18-24 ~ 18%
    • 25-34 ~ 18%
    • 35-44 ~ 23%
    • 45-54 ~ 30%
    • 55+ ~ 10%

    ABOUT Michele O’Mara, LCSW, Ph.D.

    Relationships are my thing. Some would say, my obsession. While I only scored an 83.75% on my own "How Lesbian Are You" test,  don't let that fool you. Since returning to school in the '90s for my MSW, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: help lesbian couples grow love. 

    I am that person who has built her life around one thing: lesbian relationships and women loving women. For fun, I do things like create online quizzes at asklesbians.com, to learn more about real lesbians. Or I write books. like, "Just Ask: 1,000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship," to give couples an easy way to communicate. (www.1000question.app) And, now that our boys are young men, my love, and my wife, Kristen, and I are growing lesbian love through Lesbian Couples Retreats and The Lesbian Roadshow throughout the U.S. in awesome destinations where our motto is, "love out loud" with Adventures in Love.  You can learn more about those at lesbiancouples.co.

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