Three Essential Lesbian Relationship Goals for Lesbian Couples

Three Essential Lesbian Relationship Goals for Lesbian Couples

lesbian relationship goals, lesbian couple goals, lesbian goals

THREE ESSENTIAL LESBIAN RELATIONSHIP GOALS

FOR LESBIAN COUPLES

 

Start your relationship on the right foot with these three essential lesbian relationship goals. Much of what we learn in relationships comes from trial and error. However, there are also some great strategies that you can intentionally practice to increase your odds of a happy and satisfying relationship. These three lesbian relationship goals will get you headed in the right direction.

1. Seek Security Within Before Expecting it From a Relationship

Security is the result of accurately predicting what to expect from your partner and responding effectively to that which you are not anticipating. You will know that you are secure in your relationship with yourself when you have faith that no matter what life brings you, you will be able to make the next right choice to move you into a better place. Sometimes we are unable to predict what our partner will do, say, think or how she will behave because many variables in life are out of control for both of us. An unexpected accident on the interstate could make her late coming home from work. A canceled flight could prevent her from making it back in time for your birthday party. The key to finding security within is to have generally accurate predictions about what you can expect from your partner, and to allow room for logical and believable explanations when your predictions are off, or to respond with confidence when explanations are not believable.

On the other hand, when there is a lack of security within your self and within your relationship, the confidence that you can predict what to expect is replaced by expectations, demands, and a need for her to be a certain way, and do and say certain things, in order for you to feel safe with her. When you approach relationships from this perspective, you will notice yourself feeling more reactive, panicky, worried and angry when things do not go as you want. 

The best way to improve your sense of security is to recognize what is your business, or “in your lane,” and what is not. The only thing in this life that you can control or influence is that which is in your lane. Byron Katie, the author of Loving What Is, says all things in life fall in one of three categories: your business (what you can control), my business (what I can control), and the business of the universe or God (what is not controlled by humans).  When you get good at recognizing what is “my business,” you will feel increasingly more secure in this world. Insecurity stems from trying to control the uncontrollable. 

 

2. Maintain Your Interests, Hobbies, and Friendships

Maintaining friendships (with the exception of your ex), hobbies and interests are the second of three essential lesbian relationship goals. Because security is one of the most important things to women (not just lesbians) in relationships, women will often trade their independence for a sense of security. When this happens, the differentiation of who I am, and who you are, begin to breakdown and lesbian couples begin to think and operate very similarly, even if it is not authentically how each of them feels. This is referred to as “fusion,” or “merging,” and one of the adverse side effects of this is that there is not enough distance between partners to create the feeling of longing or desire. 

At the start of a relationship, you have the opportunity to see your partner from a distance, with more objectivity and curiosity. She is someone you want to know better. You are literally drawn to her, eager to move closer, closing the gap that exists when we do not know someone well.  You see her in HER environrment, doing her thing, being who she is – separate from you. I call this the desire gap. The desire gap is created by the independence you express in your relationship that produces enough distance, but not too much, between partners to generate a desire and longing for closeness. 

The instinct for lesbians is to bond rapidly, commit quickly, settle in and nest with her new partner, and to stop nurturing self-interests, hobbies, and friendships that are not shared. In time, this begins to close the desire gap, leaving little to no distance necessary for desire and longing. There must be a “you,” and there must be a “her,” separately, for you to experience desire for one another. It is difficult to generate longing and desire for a “we.”

If you are already in a relationship and have allowed your interests to fall away, you can make a movement toward this lesbian relationship goal by slowly returning to your natural interests and nurturing your friendships and hobbies. While you may be met with some resistance, suspicion or even anxiety at first, the benefits to you and your relationship, in the long run, are worth the discomfort involved in getting to this point. 

 

3. Allowing Emotional Wiggle Room

The third of three essential lesbian relationship goals is allowing. I call this giving one another the emotional wiggle room to have feelings without having to process and rid oneself of them immediately. In my work with lesbian couples over the past two decades, I have noticed a recurring pattern of aversion to any form of negative emotion among lesbians, whether it is directed toward a partner or elsewhere. 

In the presence of strong negative emotions, lesbian partners will often respond in one of two ways:

1) efforts to minimize or fix the negative feelings by acquiescing to what she believes her partner wants; or defensiveness and;

2) personalization of the negative emotions that can result in an extended conflict, brooding by one partner, or a hard withdrawal by both partners.

None of these responses offers the partner with the original feelings the time or space to process her experience and allow her emotions to run their course, or the opportunity to be understood by her partner for how she is feeling.

Interestingly, commonly cited research, by John Gottman, reports that during fights gay and lesbian couples take things less personally than heterosexual couples. This is not consistent with my experience in working with lesbian couples for the past two decades. In fact, it is quite common for women in relationships with women to take very personally all of the comments made by her partner, and for the two of them to spend countless hours processing these hurt feelings. I am inclined to think that the sample of only 12 lesbian couples in Gottman’s study is not large enough to accurately describe the common lesbian relationship experience. 

Women are emotionally attuned to one another more intensely than other couple pairings that involve men (gay or heterosexual). While emotional awareness and attunement to one another is generally a very positive relationship characteristic, there are times when it can create obstacles and limit emotional wiggle room in the context of relationships. To strengthen your ability to allow your partner emotional wiggle room, begin to notice when you are responding to her mood and not her words. If you find yourself wanting to ask, “what’s wrong?” or to “fix” her mood by pleasing her, instead, extend an invitation to talk when and if she wishes to. You might say, “Seems like something’s on your mind. I’m here if you want to talk about it.” If she says, “I’m fine,” and her body language screams “My mouth is saying I am fine, but I am not fine,” it is important to honor her words and let her come to you if she decides to. Your anxiety will make this difficult. Tend to your own feelings in these moments instead of hers, and see what a difference that makes.

More article by Michele O’Mara, PhD, LCSW

How to make relationships work when you have no common interests

5 Common Issues for Lesbian Couples

How to learn what your relationship imago is

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❤️ Michele O’Mara, LCSW, Ph.D. is an expert lesbian relationship coach with a comfortable obsession with all things related to love and relationships between women. She is particularly fascinated by lesbian couples in blended families, issues of infidelity, lesbian sexuality, and recovery from lesbian breakups. She is the author of Just Ask: 1,000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship, which is available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon, as well as an app on Itunes /Google play. Lastly, she and her wife Kristen host Lesbian Couples Retreats in various destinations, and you can learn more about those here.

The Secret to New Year’s Resolutions that Last Longer than A Diet

The Secret to New Year’s Resolutions that Last Longer than A Diet

The Secret to Creating New Year’s Resolutions that Last Longer than A Diet

 

New Year’s Resolutions are a fancy way of committing to change. Unfortunately, resolutions are a lot like diets. They are well-intended, often very prescribed or specific, and they are treated as a challenge, or a task to be accomplished. Both diets and resolutions are pursued with the hope of an overall positive outcome or to reach a particular goal. Unfortunately, resolutions, like diets, are usually not sustainable. Don’t fret, if you are a resolution-maker, I have a four-step process to help you transform your resolutions into meaningful and lasting strategies for long-lasting change.

Resolutions are designed to move you toward an improved feeling or life experience. More specifically, they are intended to shift the way you FEEL about yourself and your life experiences. Resolutions are the roadmap you create to move you toward what it is you want. The biggest problem with the most common resolutions is that they are not focused on how we wish to feel, they are concentrated on what we think we need to do. Common resolutions focus on tasks like, stop smoking, save money, and exercise. For a resolution to be effective, it must focus on the way we wish to feel rather than target the things we do.

New Year’s Resolutions are designed to scratch an itch. To be effective, you must first identify what itches. Resolutions are an effort to change something with the belief that it will lead to feeling a certain way. We decide, for example, if I lose weight, I will feel better. What “better” means to one person, however, is not the same as what “better” means to another person. If what is making you feel worse is related to stress at work or in your relationship, there are not enough carrots in the world that you can eat to make your relationship better or your work less stressful. Therefore, the resolution to lose weight may not actually be the best roadmap to reach the end goal of “feeling better.”

The resolution “to exercise” is like a scratch. The goal is to make resolutions that address the itch, not the scratch. Saving money is another scratch. It’s a strategy — a how-to — that we think will lead to feeling a certain way when we achieve this goal. Sometimes the goal to exercise is not even about how we feel about ourselves, it’s about how we think others feel about us, our body, and how we look. (See how this gets complicated)? Examples of different end goals or ways of feeling, that people want to experience through exercise may include: feel healthier and more energized, feel more powerful /physically stronger, feel sexier, feel more comfortable in your clothes, feel more desirable, feel good enough, feel more likable and feel better about yourself.

The secret to sustainable New Year’s Resolutions is in your awareness of and connection to how you wish to feel. If your goal is to feel healthier and more energized, what happens if you exercise every day for three months and still don’t feel more energized, or healthier? (Answer: you will stop exercising!) If, for example, you have trouble setting boundaries with others and you overextend yourself or surround yourself with people who are emotionally draining, you may not achieve your desired end goal of feeling more energized and healthier by merely exercising. There is no amount of exercise that will keep others from draining you. You may also need to learn to say “no,” to pay attention to what is energizing you and what is draining you, develop better sleep patterns, and get exercise. This is why most Resolutions are short-sighted and may miss the mark if they are focused on what we do instead of how we wish to feel.

New Year's resolutions

 

A Four-Step Formula to Creating More Effective New Year’s Resolutions

 

⦿ STEP 1: Identify goals that target the specific feeling you wish to experience.

Rather than making your goal specific to diet changes and weight loss (your preconceived notion about how to feel more energized), create a more flexible resolution that can grow and change with you. Take any of your New Year’s Resolutions and ask yourself: “How do I think I will feel by accomplishing this?” If you have not created resolutions yet, simply ask yourself, “How do I wish to feel?” 

To give you an example of how to build a resolution, we will use the goal of experiencing more energy. In this example, the focus of the resolution will be to feel more energized.

⦿ STEP 2: Notice what is already present, as well as that which adds to and takes away from the focus-feeling/end goal.

For your own resolution-making, ask yourself, “When do I feel <desired feeling>, and when do I feel <undesired feeling>?” This expands the developing New Year’s Resolutions to now include: to notice what increases my energy and what drains my energy.

⦿ STEP 3: Identify an action to respond to what you notice

Consider this question, “How can I experience more <desired feeling>?”in our example of feeling more energized, now that we have included noticing what expands our energy and what diminishes our energy, it makes sense to add an action step to do more of what expands our energy and less of what decreases our energy. Here is one way to say that: notice and lean into that which increase my energy and I notice and lean away from that which drains my energy. This is flexible and allows us to respond to how we are feeling in many different situations, which is the goal of a sustainable New Year’s Resolutions.

⦿ STEP 4: Describe your intention as if it is already a part of how you think and behave.

Creating present-tense New Year’s Resolutions treats your resolution as a reality that is happening right now rather than a target to reach. The final resolution becomes:“I notice and lean into that which increases my energy, and I notice and lean away from that which drains my energy.” 

If you want to take steps to feel better in the New Year, treat your resolutions like a journey, not a destination. Pay attention to the ride and course correct as needed along the way. Cheers to a wonderful journey in the coming year!

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❤️ Michele O’Mara, LCSW, Ph.D.is an expert lesbian relationship coach (www.lesbiancouples.coach) with a comfortable obsession with all things related to love and relationships between women. She is particularly fascinated by lesbian couples in blended families, issues of infidelity, lesbian sexuality, and recovery from lesbian breakups. She is the author of Just Ask: 1,000 Questions to Grow Your Relationship, which is available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon, as well as an app on Itunes/Google play. Lastly, she and her wife Kristen host Lesbian Couples Retreats in various destinations, and you can learn more about those here.

Why You Find Yourself Saying What You Don’t Mean

Why You Find Yourself Saying What You Don’t Mean

Do you ever find yourself saying what you don’t mean?

 

Have you ever noticed that when we are most afraid of getting emotionally hurt, our natural instinct is to behave in ways that actually make things worse, not better? 

When we feel we are being blamed, our instinct is to blame the other and often this involves saying what you don’t mean.

  • When our feelings are hurt, our instinct is to hurt the other’s feelings
  • When we feel rejected, our instinct is to reject the other
  • When we are feeling ignored, our instinct is to ignore the other
  • When anything makes us uncomfortably vulnerable, our instinct is to protect ourselves


So much for “two wrongs don’t make a right.” 

Saying what you don't mean
Saying what you don’t mean happens for a reason, and there is actually an explanation for how we can KNOW one thing (I know I don’t want to leave her.) and say or do another (tell her I’m over this, we are done.)? We actually have two different kinds of “knowing” that we experience. 

  • LOGICAL/CONSCIOUS KNOWING – One part of knowing occurs in our conscious mind, also called our cerebral cortex. This part of our brain is logical, conscious, and the problem-solving part of our brain. We hold conversations with ourselves here (it’s our inside voice).

 

  • INSTINCTIVE/UNCONSCIOUS KNOWING – The second kind of knowledge comes from our reptilian brain. This part of our brain is unconscious. There is no inside voice here. The unconscious mind is responsible for our instinctive reactions. This is like a massive network of shortcuts that our brain has been programmed with to ensure our ability to respond quickly in a crisis.


The unconscious reptilian brain is reactive and acts quickly without consulting our logical mind. This part of our brain is famous for it’s limited, but the speedy-fast selection of coping responses that include: fight, flight, freeze, play dead or submit.

For example, some unconscious programming may look like this:

  • touch hot stove > move hand away quickly
  • car driving toward you > leap out of the way
  • baseball flying toward your face > put your hand up to protect face or dodge the ball
  • someone is yelling at you > *depends on early programming
  • you fear rejection > * depends on early programming
  • your feelings are hurt > *depends on early programming

* When it comes to perceived threats such as someone using a raised voice with you, how you respond is based on how you learned to respond to this behavior as a child. Everyone’s experiences shape their responses according to what you learned was most effective with the people around you. The opposite of this is an open and curious mind. (Do you have an open and curious mind? Read more here.)

Your early life experiences taught you through trial and error how to negotiate different moods, behaviors, personalities, etc. to get what you wanted or needed to feel emotionally or physically safe. Once our brain identifies the best response (the one that results in what we want or need to survive), we will use this response repeatedly and without thinking about it, when we are in a similar future situation. We will continue using this response until we realize with BOTH parts of our brain (logical and instinctive) that this response is no longer working. 

Our logical mind and our automatic brain each have their own version of “knowing.” The cerebral cortex knows what it is taught, and this knowledge is cognitive, intellectual, and conceptual. Our reptilian brain, which is unconscious, knows what has worked in the past to keep us alive. This knowing is intuitive, felt, sensed, also learned, and automatic. Sometimes what we learn logically does not match what our unconscious brain learned instinctively a long, long time ago. 

For example, imagine that growing up you frequently heard your parents have loud conflicts. You felt your heart rate pounding in your chest, and you felt sick to your stomach with fear about what might happen. Eventually, one of them would then leave the house for an unexpected length of time after these fights. As a child, upon your parent’s return, you expressed your disapproval, hurt and feelings of abandonment by not engaging with the parent who left; by shutting them out. 

Eventually, either your parent would respond in a way that helped calm your system (come to you, apologize and reassure you that everything is okay) or the silence was useful in creating enough distance from the source of your pain that you could calm your system and you could eventually reenter a connection with that parent. The successful resolution of your pain by being silent sent your brain the message that this was a good strategy. Now your brain is wired with the shortcut: raised voices > silence.

Fast forward to adulthood. Imagine that your partner raises their voice. Your system is alerted to danger. When this happens, your body quickly releases a chemical cocktail designed to protect you. Your body is suddenly sweating, your heart is racing, and you feel sick to your stomach (look for a future message about this chemical process, and how affects you). Your logical brain may be telling you that your partner isn’t mad at you, she’s just trying to share her feelings with you. But soon your instinct is to shut down, to be silent. So you do, and you stay quiet until your system feels safe again.  

It doesn’t matter to you if you are saying what you don’t mean, even if you know that you are making things worse for your relationship. At this moment, your system is more concerned about surviving this PERCEIVED EMOTIONAL THREAT than it is concerned with responding to the issues being communicated with a raised voice.  

What’s important about this information is:

• We are all operating with two parts of our brain at the same time: one conscious, one unconscious, and both are designed to help keep us alive and feeling emotionally safe.

• When we become activated or feel unsafe, we are at risk of responding with the same skills we learned at age 6 or 12 or 15, etc. when our automatic responses were first programmed

• Our failed efforts to protect ourselves from hurt are a clue that we are allowing our unconscious brain to lead the show. What we learned as a child to keep us safe now needs to be updated because it’s no longer useful.

• Being sensitive to, and patient with ourselves and our partner will improve our ability to grow into new and improved responses to our pain. Believe them when they say they didn’t mean what they said… it’s likely true.

• Though you can not communicate directly with your reptilian/ unconscious brain, you can observe your body’s reactions/sensation and notice when you are responding with behaviors that don’t seem to work. For example, my heart rate increased when her voice got louder, and I had an overwhelming urge to disengage and be silent.

• With these observations, you can ask yourself this simple question, “When have I felt this way before?” The answers will give you insight into what kind of programming is filed in your unconscious brain.

• Once you get clarity about the trigger (raised voice), and you notice how you respond (silence), you can be more CONSCIOUS (that’s the key) of this dance you engage in and begin practicing new responses to see what will work better now that you are an adult and have access to more coping response options.

Do you know what your imago is and how it can help your relationship?

Imago Therapy and my Imago Match

Imago Therapy and my Imago Match

Because I am certified to provide imago therapy, and I help couples unravel how they become an imago match when a couple comes to me for help with their relationship, one of the first things I ask is, “What did you have for dinner last night?” It is amazing how much I can learn from this question, unearthing volumes of information about the couple without their even realizing it. 

Uh, you know I’m not being serious, right? 
 
While my obsession with relationships stems as far back as I can remember, my desire for couples-counseling-super-powers started when I read this book: Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix. This book changed everything. It was just one of those moments where I knew. I knew exactly who I was, who I was to become, and the path I needed to walk. I was immediately fascinated by the power of understanding our imago match, and how imago therapy can help improve relationships.

That’s the thing about therapy – it’s easy to believe that anything a therapist says. I tend to be that way with mechanics, plumbers, electricians, and web designers. I generally assume that if this is their specialty, they know what they are talking about. Sometimes, however, like the time I had my transmission “fixed,” specialists are not so special after all.

What you want to be sure of is that your therapist has some additional training (beyond their counseling degree), that is specifically focused on relationship counseling. This is a specialty in itself. Certifications to look for are – Imago Certified Therapist, Gottman Certified Therapists, and EFT Certified Therapists. I happen to be Certified in Imago therapy and Gottman trained with partial EFT training that I plan to continue pursuing (because if I long to have couples-counseling-super-powers). I am also a Discernment Counselor, but that’s for couples who don’t want couples counseling; instead, they want to “discern” whether or not they want to make their relationship work before actually committing to couples counseling.

I returned to the School of Social Work for my MSW, and for nearly two decades now, I am still as passionate about the Imago theory, and about working with couples – maybe even more so!

The Imago theory is explained in the book, Getting the Love You Want, and the more you understand the theory, the more you realize how easy it is to answer the following four questions:

imago therapy, imago match

 

  • With what type of person am I most likely to create a passionate relationship?
  • With what type of person am I most likely to feel safe in a relationship?’
  • What do I most want to experience in my relationships that my partner has the most trouble helping me experience?
  • How do I participate in NOT getting the love that I want

See if this Imago formula will help you begin to find answers to these questions. I’d love to hear your feedback!

Getting a HRT Referral Letter

Getting a HRT Referral Letter

Getting an HRT Referral Letter

Once you decide to take the step to begin medically supervised HRT, getting an HRT referral letter is necessary. The Standards of Care is the primary guide for professionals working with transsexual, transgender, and gender nonconforming people. The standards are self-described as providing “safe and effective pathways to achieving lasting personal comfort with their gendered selves, in order to maximize their overall health, psychological well-being, and self-fulfillment.”To begin HRT, you will first need to have an assessment by a mental health professional, which is someone with a master’s degree in a clinical behavioral science (such as a licensed MSW, a clinical sexologist, a licensed counselor or a psychologist) with specific expertise and knowledge about gender dysphoria. If you are currently working with a therapist and you do not feel like he or she is knowledgeable about gender care, here are some important questions to ask – even if (especially if) you have already been working with them for a while. If they are not able to answer these questions effectively, you may wish to seek alternative care.

 

CRITERIA FOR HRT

  • Persistent, well-documented gender dysphoria;
  • Capacity to make a fully informed decision and to consent to treatment;
  • Age of majority in a given country (if younger, follow the Standards of Care outlined in section VI);
  • If significant medical or mental health concerns are present, they must be reasonably well- controlled

CRITERIA FOR GENDER DYSPHORIA

In requirement one listed above, it is essential to meet the criteria outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM5an. Getting an HRT referral letter requires that you are experiencing at least two of the following conditions for at least the last six consecutive months or longer (American Psychiatric Association, 2013):

  • Noticeable incongruence between the how you see your gender, and the gender you were classified at birth
  • An intense need to do away with your primary (breasts and genitals) or secondary (hair, voice, body fat distribution, etc). sex features
  • An intense desire to have the primary or secondary sex features of the other gender, and to be of the other gender
  • A profound need for society to treat and view you as another gender (or some alternative gender different from the one you were assigned at birth)
  • A feeling that you have the typical feelings and reactions of another gender
  • These experiences cause you clinical distress and affect you socially, at work, and/or in other important life areas

How many sessions does it take to get a referral for HRT?

 

READINESS FACTORS

In some cases, you may find that you meet all of the criteria outlined above, yet there are still obstacles preventing you from getting an HRT referral letter. Once you start HRT it is not advisable to discontinue use. Therefore, it is important that you are in a life situation that will support the continuation of HRT use once you begin. Therefore, if you are dependent on others financially and they are not aware of your usage of HRT, you are at risk of having your financial support withheld if they respond poorly to this discovery.  In this case, you can either do the work of coming out to those on whom you depend financially, or you can make choices to be financially independent of others. Another similar concern is if you are married and your spouse is unaware of your desire to pursue HRT. If your relationship is important to you, it is essential to communicate your intent to start HRT before starting so that you are not faced with a relationship crisis once it is revealed that you are on HRT.

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?

 

A typical assessment process for me will range from one to three sessions. Rarely does an assessment, or getting an HRT referral letter more than two sessions. As long as you meet the criteria outlined above, and you are capable of affording HRT, and you have sufficiently made peace with your decision to feminize or masculinize your body, you are likely to have no obstacles getting a letter.  If you are already living full-time in your desired gender, or you have done a lot of work toward coming out and integrating your gender prior to getting an HRT referral letter, you will likely qualify for a one-session quick-assess where the assessment and letter are provided in the same day. To get an estimate of how long it will take for you to get a letter of referral for HRT, simply complete this form and I will give you a very accurate estimate of what to expect when working with me.

LEARN MORE ABOUT STARTING HRT

 

Join others who are experiencing gender dysphoria in a weekly video support meeting. More information here.

12 To-Do’s for a Better Year

12 To-Do’s for a Better Year

better year
Twelve To-Dos for a better year.


____Make a list of 100 things that bring me joy.
____Tell (email, call, write) 3 people and thank them for being them.
____Learn how to train my mind to work for me, not against me.
      (Sign up for The Law of Attraction class / register here)
____Become more authentic and actually be who I really am.  (Sign up
        for Michele’s Brand New class – DML Radically Authentic).
____Do at least one thing from my 100 joys list everyday.
____Smile more.
____Leave everything (people, places, and things) in better shape than  
       you find them.
____Follow your gut.
____Encourage others.  (Tell my lesbian couples friends to attend  
       Michele’s Lesbian Couples workshop on Jan 13-14th because it’s
       just good for them.
____Give someone a hug everyday (be sure they are consenting)!
____Learn something new, anything.
____Be more curious, less judgmental.

This should get you off to get your life pointed in a good direction, for a better year, starting today. 
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