How often do you respond to your partner’s feedback?
Oh how I wish I had a dollar for every partner I have heard say to the other, “You knew I was this way when we got together.” Here’s the deal. Committing to a relationship is not an agreement to stop growing. Happy lesbian couples realize that each partner is expected to continue developing as a human being and improving as a partner. It’s how we humans are built. We learn and grow as we experience life.
Securing a relationship is not an invitation to stop growing. In fact, you might find yourself kicked to the curb if you are more attached to remaining the same than you are attached to becoming the best version of yourself possible.
When you fall in love, you fall in love with both the person you see in the here and now, as well as the vision you have for who that person will become. You are making an investment in your future, feeling solid about the person you are committing to today, yet anticipating that your relationship investment will grow.
Two key ingredients affect how you grow in the context of your relationship. The first key to personal growth stems from the personal observations, insights, lessons, experiences you have, and the work that you do to grow yourself. This might occur through intentional efforts such as completing a degree, advancing your career, staying physically fit, learning new hobbies, engaging in personal growth activities such as reading, journaling, or therapy. The choices you have to enhance your life are endless!
The second key to personal growth in the context of your relationship is through the observations, insights, lessons, experiences and the work that your partner invests in herself to grow.
Often, your partner will observe in you characteristics with which you are not comfortable. You may reject her observations and actually accuse her of being mean or insensitive. If you reject your partner’s observations and feedback, you are rejecting one of the most valuable gifts your relationship has to offer you.
Your partner has the capacity to see you in ways that no one else can. And when she communicates her observations, you have the choice to respond to your partner’s feedback and grow. Because of this front-row view into your life, your partner is able to mirror for you, parts of yourself that you do not always want to see. You may hear complaints such as: “you are too generous,” “you work too much,” “you need to stop drinking so much,” “you are sleeping too much,” but in reality, these observations are invitations to improve your life. When you respond to your partner’s feedback, you are accepting an invitation to grow.
These invitations don’t always come in nice envelopes; sometimes they are wrapped in emotions such as anger, frustration, and disappointment. If the delivery of this feedback is insensitive, it can be hurtful. Though the facts usually remain, there are areas of your life that are in dire need of improvement. You can resist out of spite, hurt, or anger; or you can grab a hold of this gift, the gift of honest feedback, and use it to improve your life.
The question I encourage you to ask yourself, when your partner makes a request of you, is this: “Will doing this add to, or take away from my life?” If the answer is “add to” then it seems like a win-win. What do you have to lose?
If you are struggling with the concept of what “taking away” from you means, you can ask yourself this question: “If I honor this request, you are accepting an invitation to grow and work to change in the ways my partner is asking me to, am I compromising a core value that defines who I am and what I am about?” This helps separate the things that you simply don’t want to do—like clean the house or take out the trash—from things that take away from your core values or your core sense of self, such as asking you to change your religion to hers.
Be sure to clarify the difference between something that doesn’t feel good, and something that is not good for you. If you choose to respond to your partner’s feedback, you are accepting an invitation to grow. changing because it is no fun or you don’t like to do something, then you are likely rejecting an important opportunity to become a better version of yourself!
Happy Lesbian Relationship Strategy Four: Close the Exits
Relationships sustain on the energy, time, and shared resources that each partner contributes to the partnership. The relationship is nothing but a container to hold these contributions. Without your express involvement in a relationship, there isn’t much to it. Therefore, to sustain a happy lesbian relationship (and of course any relationship), you must be sure to close your exits.
Imagine your relationship is a car. The container that holds the energy, time, and shared resources and contributions to the relationship is your gas tank. If there is a leak in the gas tank you will want to close that up. The same is true for relationships.
Obviously, we need friends, hobbies, social outlets and opportunities to move in the world with independence and freedom. However, there is a difference between doing this in a way that ADDS to your relationship, and doing this in a way that TAKES AWAY from your relationship. To “close the exits” means that you refuse to make choices that take-away from your relationship.
Closing the exit may require you to set clearer boundaries with your families of origin, so that your new partnership is the priority. This may require you to address your addictions to food, drugs/alcohol, sex, and work. You may need to lessen or eliminate your involvement in friendships with people that distract or tempt you away from your partner. You may need to step away to your compulsive need to check Facebook and to put your phone down and spend more time in conversation with your partner.
Check for leaks. Close the exits.
In 1997, author don Miguel Ruiz wrote “A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” that he titled, “The Four Agreements.” His agreements are as follows:
- Be impeccable with your word
- Don’t take anything personally
- Don’t make assumptions
- Always do your best
I like that he came up with a succinct way to really target powerful behaviors that have the potential to influence your choices in a way that keep your life on track.
If I had only four things that I could use in this life to guide all of my choices and decisions, these are the agreements I believe will hold me to the highest standard
My four agreements would be:
- Know your truth
- Accept your truth
- Live your truth
- Be grateful
My agreements are obviously influenced by the work I do, and the damage I see when people do not know, accept and live their truth. I also come from a place of believing that all people are fundamentally good. It is only when we deviate from who we really are that we find trouble and engage in troubling behaviors. My definition of a deviant is someone who steps away from who they really are. Are you a deviant? It’s not too late to change your course.
KNOW your TRUTHTo me, there is nothing more powerful than accessing the truth of who we are. To do this we must lose the stories others have of us. “She’s so forgetful,” or “She’s afraid of commitments,” or “She’s not smart, but she sure is pretty,” etc. We must also lose the stories we’ve made up about ourselves. “I’m not good enough.” Or, “Once people get to know me, they will discover I am not as _______ as they think I am.”
One of the hardest parts of stepping into our truth is that we must be willing to take risks to disappoint those we love. These stories prevent us from accessing our truest self. Who are you without any stories, stereotypes, assumptions or other limiting thoughts? What would you be doing differently in your life (big and small things) if you were not worried about disappointing someone, anyone?
ACCEPT the TRUTH
When we access our truth, our next challenge is to accept it. Sometimes we discover things we are not comfortable with. I know that when I realized I was attracted to females, I didn’t want this to be true. I was in middle school. And I was gay when gay wasn’t cool. I spent years trying to make it not true. By rejecting my truth, I denied my gifts, I distanced from those I love, I convinced myself I was defective. This, my friends, is not the path to freedom. What are you denying or refusing to accept about yourself? What are you afraid to be, that you already are? What are you afraid to feel, that you already do?
LIVE your TRUTH
When we live our lives closely aligned to the truth of who we are, we find joy. Joy is the result of alignment with our truth. Joy doesn’t lie. When we are joyful, we are accessing our most fundamental, truest self.
Joy is not fleeting, like the pleasure of a good movie, a favorite food, or the purchase of a new Vespa
. It is an enduring sense of satisfaction and positive energy about our life and about our self in this life.
By accepting our truth, the path is clear to live authentically and happily. By accepting the truth that I am a lesbian, I was able to stop apologizing for who and what I am. Eventually, I even learned to celebrate and enjoy my identity. This is where the power is – the power is in the truth. When we make peace with the truth of who we are, we are free. We can go about our lives without apology, and in this, there is much for which to be grateful.
As you journey toward a life that is aligned with who you really are, make time to experience gratitude along the way. Anytime you experience life in a way that pleases you, pause long enough to give thanks. My favorite definition of gratitude is that it is like saying to the universe, “More of this please.”
Recently I opened an email in which I was asked, “How can I balance being true to myself while pleasing my partner?” That’s what we all want to know, isn’t it? How can I be in a relationship without compromising who I AM?
A relationship is an investment. In fact, I believe it is the most valuable investment we will ever make. We are essentially offering up ourselves to share with another person, believing that by doing so our life will be better. In order to have something to invest, though, we must acquaint ourselves with what we have to offer someone. This requires knowing who we are, what our needs are, and who we want to become in our lifetime. No small task, right?
The good news is that investing ourselves in a relationship has many rewards when we invest wisely! By combining our strengths with our partner’s strengths we are essentially expanding the resources from which we can both draw as we navigate life. Typically the strengths we have to offer are complimentary. For example, one partner may offer spontaneity and fun while the other provides security and stability.
Sounds good, right? So why does being in a relationship seem more complicated than that? Well probably because of a thing called the Power Struggle. This is a natural, healthy stage in relationship development that occurs when each partner works to establish his own identity within the relationship. The power struggle begins when differences start to surface. And herein lies the challenge. How do I maintain my independence and personal integrity while being a good partner?
In OUTstanding relationships, the question is never, will I be able to get my needs met? The question instead, is, what needs to happen so that we are both able to get our needs met without taking away from our relationship? The difficulty of course, is determining what exactly your needs are, (not your wants, mind you – but your needs which support your highest good!) We must evaluate the requests made of us by our partners, and determine when they are in our best interest and when they are not.
Cindy thinks her partner is controlling because she wants her to stop smoking marijuana. Is that controlling? Or is her partner tending to her most precious investment: her relationship with Cindy?
Kara says her partner wants her to open up and share her feelings more freely. Kara says she resents her partner’s sudden interest in her being more open and shouldn’t have to change who she has always been just to please her partner. Is Kara exercising self-care, or is she rejecting her partner’s invitation for her to grow?
Ed says his partner wants him to stop going to therapy because therapy is for the weak-minded. Is Ed’s partner making a healthy request, or possibly acting out of fear for the unknown of what might happen if Ed goes to therapy?
Often we confuse our highest high, with our highest good. Our highest high is that which feels good, at any cost! Our highest good, is that which moves us closer to being the person we want to be. In fact, behaving according to our highest good doesn’t always feel good. Take Kara for example. Because she is not used to sharing her feelings, it is scary and very uncomfortable for her to open up. Her fears and discomfort automatically makes her think it’s not a good thing for her to do. However, the pain involved does not mean it is not in her highest good, it simply means it is difficult. Just think about exercise! If we waited for working out to feel good, we might never run or lift weights! Likewise, just because something feels good, like smoking marijuana for example, doesn’t mean that we must cling to it in order to be “true to ourselves.”
Knowing the difference between our highest good and our highest high is critical! Now in Ed’s case, his partner wants him to stop going to therapy. He has decided it’s time to really explore why he’s unhappy. Therapy is an exercise in self-care for him, and because doing so does not take away from their relationship, Ed may have to confront the issue with his partner as an act of self-care.
Couple’s with OUTstanding relationships don’t confuse their partner’s healthy requests with efforts to change or control – they know that their partner is simply tending to her most precious investment: the relationship she shares with you.
What has your partner asked of you lately? Is this request something that will ultimately add to your life, or take away from your life? Is his request in line with the person you want to be, or does it conflict with who you want to be? Are you open to your partner’s healthy requests?
Your challenge, should you choose to accept it is to list the top three requests that you commonly hear from your partner, friends, and other loved ones and identify one thing from that list that you can start doing differently today.