Happy Lesbian Couples Strategy 12:  Regular Relationship Check-in

Happy Lesbian Couples Strategy 12: Regular Relationship Check-in

Do you engage in regular and simple relationship check-ins?

I recommend that every couple set aside a minimum of thirty minutes each week to do what I call a regular relationship check-in.  This is an important opportunity to remain mindful and aware of how your relationship is going.  When you allow life to fill up your schedule, and you cease to make time to connect with your partner, it is easy for the months to accumulate and to find yourself so far down the road that you don’t know how you got there.  Routine check-ins will help prevent this from happening.

Though there is no “right” way to do your check-ins, here are some guidelines to help you in the process of your regular relationship check-in.:

  1. Summarize your feelings about how you experienced the previous week. For example, “I feel like we’ve had a great week and I feel really connected to you.”
  2. Share your observations—both the good and the frustrating experiences in your relationship—about how things unfolded. For example, “I noticed that we were both taking more time to talk together and I think that really helped me feel more connected to you.”
  3. Communicate your insights about how you can use this as information to continue improving your relationship. For example, “I think it would be a great idea for us really to commit to spending more time just talking because I really want to feel connected to you on a regular basis.”

Your Partner’s Turn Now. Once you complete steps 1-3, then your partner shares her observations. Discuss any differences in your observations. This is simply a time where you literally observe how you are doing as a couple and what you like about how things are going and what you would like to see be different.  To make this a regular relationship check-in, it is essential to do this regularly, ideally on a monthly basis.

Helpful Guidelines

This time is NOT about:

  1. regular relationship check inproblem solving
  2. being defensive or sensitive
  3. criticizing or attacking

If you find yourself engaged in any of the above, chances are you have not selected the right time to do your regular relationship check-in, or, you have allowed too many issues to accumulate and not enough time to address them until now.  If you can not find a way to engage in a routine check-in, you may want to seek some support to help you over the hump.
This exercise is designed to create a much more conscious relationship by being as aware as possible about the influences on your connection with one another and on your relationship’s happiness.

Happy Lesbian Relationship Strategy 10:  Respond to Your Partner’s Feedback

Happy Lesbian Relationship Strategy 10: Respond to Your Partner’s Feedback

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.  respond to your partners feedback

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!

Find peace when you develop an observing, curious mind

Find peace when you develop an observing, curious mind

Is your mind inclined toward judgment or did you develop an observing, curious mind?

 

Somehow, when I think about an observing, curious mind, I think about my childhood home on a cul-de-sac.  I grew up in Bloomington, Indiana, in a large neighborhood, on a cul-de-sac. This was probably akin to today’s vinyl villages; only vinyl wasn’t a thing you built houses with then (even the three pigs knew that). My particular childhood cul-de-sac was a street that led to a stop sign, where you could either turn left or right to leave the neighborhood or continue forward to the other side of the same street, only to find yourself at another cul-de-sac.  So, essentially, you could circle my street as many times as you wanted without ever leaving the neighborhood, just pausing to cross the street that could actually take you somewhere new.

an observing, curious mindBear with me, this does relate to an observing, curious mind.  As a parent, I can appreciate that cul-de-sacs are great for safety.  There is rarely unexpected traffic because unless you live on that street, there is nowhere to go, except back from where you came.  The neighbors who travel down the street can likely predict which houses may have a little fella chasing a ball into the street, or the three little girls speeding in and out of driveways, pretending to be Charlie’s Angels on their bikes (flashback, sorry).  This makes a cul-de-sac much safer than a road that allows for new and unexpected traffic. 

Cul-de-sac THINKING, however, is not so safe. When you have one way of thinking that leads to the same dead end, you will always end up in the same place.  You cannot expand your mind without allowing in new information.  Unfortunately, the illusion of safety that comes with cul-de-sac thinking makes it very tempting to lean into judgment, rather than observation.  Judgment says, “I know.” Observation says, “I’m curious.”  Observation allows us to take in new information, to notice things in new ways, and to consider changing our thinking about our understanding of things.  The key is to develop an observing, curious mind.

Judgment is choosing to go straight at the stop sign, leading you right back to another cul-de-sac.  Judgment, or the stories we make up, keeps us closed to new information.

For many, the pain of what we know feels safer than the illusion of pain that accompanies the unknown.  For example, many people stay stuck in unsatisfying jobs, relationships, friendships, houses, cities, etc… because they fear they will not find something better; or worse yet, that they aren’t worthy of more.  This is an example of a judgment that keeps people stuck.  This is what people in pain do.  They engage in cul-de-sac thinking. They think the same thoughts over and over, convincing themselves that their pain is unchangeable.  How do we know what we don’t know?  How do we know that there are no more rewarding jobs (or occupations, for that matter) that can support us well, or ways to improve our relationships, or our location, etc?  We don’t.  We just convince ourselves we do.

What would happen if you turned left or right at the middle of those two cul-de-sacs, and actually left the neighborhood?  (Go left and you’ll head toward my best friend Kirsten’s childhood home, go right and you will find the YMCA – both very healthy choices).  Choosing a new direction requires you to ask yourself a different question.  Instead of viewing your pain as a permanent situation, you receive it as it is intended – as a signal that something must change for you to find relief.  You do not pre-judge what needs to change; you simply open your mind to the possibilities.

  • Notice what brings you pain.  (“I hate my job.”)  Pain is the signal from our self, to our self, that something needs our attention.  It is wise to be grateful for our pain because it offers us the contrast needed to know what it is we desire. Pain is not the focus though, it is the signal that tells us where to point our attention.
  •  Identify your desire, which is always the opposite of your pain: (“I love my job.”) You start with what it is you desire.   If what bring us pain is, “I hate my job.”  Relief is found in the opposite of this.  The goal on the opposite side of, “I hate my job,” is, “I love my job.”
  • Lastly, find a question that directs your brain toward positive problem solving: (“How can I love my job?”)  You will notice that this question is not, “How can I find a new and better job,” or “How can I get great benefits.”  This question is OPEN.  The question does not presume anything, it simply asks about the ultimate desire – to love my job.  This question can only be found by turning left or right at the stop sign in the middle of the cul-de-sac.

There are so many thoughts to think all of the time.  (Nope, that is not a Winnie the Pooh quote).  The beautiful thing about thoughts is, we actually get to decide what we think.  Try it.  You don’t have to think what your mind is thinking about.  You don’t stop the thoughts you have, you simply choose something else to think about.  What questions are you asking yourself?  Do they direct you down a road that ends in a cul-de-sac, or does it open you up for new information and new answers? Staying open to new information is an essential relationship skill (read more here about healthy relationship goals).

Last week, I was teaching this concept of thinking with an “observing mind,” rather than cul-de-sac thinking, to the staff of Cass and Company, a progressive hair salon in Avon that invests in the happiness and well-being of their stylists and staff! (Amazing, right?)  In my session with them this month, we were discussing the importance of “building an observing mind.”  While discussing how observation is power and judgment is a weakness, one of the stylists shared a story about a time in her life when all she did was observe.  The stylist, Lina, came to the United States from Lithuania many years ago.  She shared that when she first came to the United States, all she did was observe.  Her whole goal was to learn and understand the American culture.  She had no assumptions about anything.  In fact, she said, she was more inclined to believe she knew nothing, so she was 100% open to everything.  Jokingly, she said,  “Now that I’ve been here for so many years, I know everything.”

Wouldn’t it be interesting to approach every situation we are in with the curiosity of a visitor to a new country?  How would we see people, places, and things differently if we assumed nothing, judged nothing, focused on the facts, and stayed in the moment?  That is what an observing mind does.

I’ve always heard, Knowledge is Power, but it seems to me, Curiosity is the real power. Whatever you do, be open to taking a left or a right if you find yourself headed toward a cul-de-sac.

 

Do you know what your imago is and how it can improve your relationship? > find out here

The Kindest

Lana was telling a funny story when her wife, Autumn interrupted her to make sure she told the correct the time of day that this thing she was talking about happened. (Not that it changed the story).  Lana rolled her eyes and continued with the story.  Autumn left to get some snacks for halftime and when she came back, Lana criticized her for bringing a mustard packet for her hot dog.  “Why, after ten years together, would you think I’d want  mustard on my hotdog?” (Autumn has had two hotdogs in their lives together, and she couldn’t remember how she liked them.  She wanted to be safe, not sorry).  Have you ever been around a couple like this?

Often in relationships, we like to be right. Sometimes it feels like a win.  And yet, how can that be – if we are right, the one we love must be wrong.  Does it really feel good to believe that someone we love is wrong? Either we both win, or we both lose.  It’s never one of each.

When is the last time you were in competition with your partner to see who could be the kindest? When did you last think to yourself, I‘m going to allow her to have her opinions without having to insert mine? When did you last censor yourself to ensure that only loving and kind words crossed your lips? When did you last go out of your way to do something that made her feel loved, or special or a priority, or important, or valuable to you?  Leave her a love note, just because.  Offer to rub her back, just because.  Take her to that fancy restaurant you don’t really like, just because she does.

What we all want most is acceptance, attention, approval, affection, appreciation, freedom and security.

Unfortunately, we often go about getting these things in all the wrong ways.

We complain when we don’t get appreciation, “You didn’t even notice that I painted the entire exterior of our house, rebuilt the engine in our car, cooked a 12-course meal, and mowed the lawn while you were at work today.”

We distance when we don’t get attention. “Honey, I’ll be late tonight – don’t wait up.”

We pick fights when we don’t get affection. “You never touch me anymore.”

We accuse when we don’t feel a sense of security. “Why are you late?”

We withhold when we don’t get approval. “Nothing. I’m fine.”

We deceive when we don’t feel a sense of freedom. “I wasn’t out with my friends, I was working late.”

If this describes you, I have one question for you: “How’s that working for you?”

Behind every complaint is a desire.

Try this handy little trick. Every time you find yourself about to say something hurtful, do something cold or unfeeling, throw out some “fightin’ words,” or anything else not covered by the umbrella of kindness, challenge yourself to identify the good thing that you do want.  Think about what you desire.

Instead of complaining, say “I’d love to show you some things I did today because it’s important to me that you know how much pride I take in our home…”

Instead of distancing, call home and say, “Any chance we can spend some quality time together tonight if I can cut out of here on time because I want to feel connected to you again.”

Instead of accusing or fighting, say “I’ve missed you, and I’m glad you are here now.”

Instead of withholding or deceiving, be honest. Tell him what you are feeling, tell him what your desire is. Let him in. You didn’t partner with him to shut him out.

If you set your sights on being the kindest, most thoughtful, affectionate, appreciative, accepting and approving partner, I guarantee that your relationship will be a happier place, even if your partner doesn’t change one bit.

Keep it simple, kindness works like magic.

Lana was telling a funny story when her wife, Autumn interrupted her to make sure she told the correct the time of day that this thing she was talking about happened. (Not that it changed the story).  Lana rolled her eyes and continued with the story.  Autumn left to get some snacks for halftime and when she came back, Lana criticized her for bringing a mustard packet for her hot dog.  “Why, after ten years together, would you think I’d want  mustard on my hotdog?” (Autumn has had two hotdogs in their lives together, and she couldn’t remember how she liked them.  She wanted to be safe, not sorry).  Have you ever been around a couple like this?

Often in relationships, we like to be right. Sometimes it feels like a win.  And yet, how can that be – if we are right, the one we love must be wrong.  Does it really feel good to believe that someone we love is wrong? Either we both win, or we both lose.  It’s never one of each.

When is the last time you were in competition with your partner to see who could be the kindest? When did you last think to yourself, I‘m going to allow her to have her opinions without having to insert mine? When did you last censor yourself to ensure that only loving and kind words crossed your lips? When did you last go out of your way to do something that made her feel loved, or special or a priority, or important, or valuable to you?  Leave her a love note, just because.  Offer to rub her back, just because.  Take her to that fancy restaurant you don’t really like, just because she does.

What we all want most is acceptance, attention, approval, affection, appreciation, freedom and security.

Unfortunately, we often go about getting these things in all the wrong ways.

We complain when we don’t get appreciation, “You didn’t even notice that I painted the entire exterior of our house, rebuilt the engine in our car, cooked a 12-course meal, and mowed the lawn while you were at work today.”

We distance when we don’t get attention. “Honey, I’ll be late tonight – don’t wait up.”

We pick fights when we don’t get affection. “You never touch me anymore.”

We accuse when we don’t feel a sense of security. “Why are you late?”

We withhold when we don’t get approval. “Nothing. I’m fine.”

We deceive when we don’t feel a sense of freedom. “I wasn’t out with my friends, I was working late.”

If this describes you, I have one question for you: “How’s that working for you?”

Behind every complaint is a desire.

Try this handy little trick. Every time you find yourself about to say something hurtful, do something cold or unfeeling, throw out some “fightin’ words,” or anything else not covered by the umbrella of kindness, challenge yourself to identify the good thing that you do want.  Think about what you desire.

Instead of complaining, say “I’d love to show you some things I did today because it’s important to me that you know how much pride I take in our home…”

Instead of distancing, call home and say, “Any chance we can spend some quality time together tonight if I can cut out of here on time because I want to feel connected to you again.”

Instead of accusing or fighting, say “I’ve missed you, and I’m glad you are here now.”

Instead of withholding or deceiving, be honest. Tell him what you are feeling, tell him what your desire is. Let him in. You didn’t partner with him to shut him out.

If you set your sights on being the kindest, most thoughtful, affectionate, appreciative, accepting and approving partner, I guarantee that your relationship will be a happier place, even if your partner doesn’t change one bit.

Keep it simple, kindness works like magic.

If She Really Knew Me …

If She Really Knew Me …

If She Really Knew Me

Have you ever had the thought, “If she really knew me and what I was saying, she couldn’t possibly be responding to me the way she is?” Or, perhaps the opposite – “If she really knew me, she would never have said that in the first place?”

As it turns out when two people form a relationship it is a cross-cultural experience, almost an international event of sorts – even when you come from the same city, town, ethnicity, and religion.

If she really knew me

How can this be, you ask?

To help couples appreciate partner differences, and why you find yourself saying, “If she really knew me…”, there is a metaphor that helps this make sense. The metaphor is that when we partner, it’s as if we are coming from different countries. When you meet and fall in love, you are so focused on all of the ways you are alike that you often overlook your differences. That’s okay, according to Helen Fisher, author of, Why We Love, this initial blindness to our differences helps us fall in love and commit – we all do it. However, as that initial period of limerance fades, and you begin to learn more about one another, it soon becomes apparent that you have many differences, too.

These differences are not the issue, however. It is how you react to them, and your efforts to make your partner just like you, that causes the trouble in relationships. 

All families create a culture of how things are done, how love is communicated (or not), and what the expectations are for who you are becoming as you grow into adulthood. We all have our own very unique brew of life experiences from our respective home countries – which gives shape to our beliefs about how things should be, or perhaps how we expect they will be even if they aren’t when we get into a relationship.

In my home country, we always ate dinner together, at a table, TV off. We cleaned every Saturday morning and each of us had our separate chores. We always kissed each other before going to bed. We didn’t talk back, and we didn’t lie – or else! And college was just that thing you do after high school, no discussion. Our home had a revolving door, a very social place with friends and neighbors visiting most days. It was also common to have someone living with us (an exchange student, friends in transition, a family from out of state going to IU, etc…). We spent most evenings together watching TV, but the oldest person always controlled the remote control (and I was not only the youngest but for many of those years I was also the remote control!)

This is a small sampling of the way it was in my country growing up. It’s not right, it’s not wrong, but it was the way of my people. When we enter relationships we are faced with negotiating traditions, and ways of being, and being together. Whose way is going to be THE way that things are in our newly created melting pot of love? This is where it gets tricky.

What was it like in your home country?

When you find yourself asking, “If she really knew me…”, chances are, she wants to, but there are no slots for her to understand a cultural mindset (your home country’s way of seeing things) that she has not been exposed to, or learned yet.

There are other ways this shows up, besides, “If she really knew me…”  You might hear yourself also asking: “Why on earth does she_________?” Or “Who in her right mind would think that it’s okay to ________”. Or, “If she loved me she would __________.” These and similar thoughts are simply judgments. These are the thoughts that create a struggle in relationships. The goal in love is not to make each other a clone of oneself. The goal in a loving relationship is to cherish and respect one another for who she is and to help her become who she wishes to be (not who you wish her to be). We commit to a relationship in hopes that we can feel a certain way (secure, loved, desired, respected, appreciated, etc…), and when our differences surface, we are vulnerable to leading our partner to feel exactly the opposite of how she wishes to feel.

When you experience your partner doing, thinking, believing, or otherwise expressing herself in a way that seems odd or simply “not right,” to you, pause before reacting. For all of the times, you think to yourself, “If she really knew me…” your partner probably does too! Consider your differences. Seek to understand how this may be a byproduct of how she was raised, and how the people of her country taught her to be.

Spend some time learning one another’s love language, customs, and ways of being in the world, and in a relationship. Get real intentional and very conscious about your differences, and practice accepting that you were raised by different people, and taught different things. Are you rejecting the ways of her world? Are you expecting her to be fluent in a love language that is not native to her? Recognize your differences as opportunities to really know one another. Find ways to make room for these differences without judging one another as “right” or “wrong.” Do what works, and soon you may find that the two of you are no longer saying, “If she really knew me…” because even if she doesn’t know everything about you, you know that she wants to.

Big, happy, inclusive love to you and all of the people in your country and the countries of those you love!

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