Happy Lesbian Couples Strategy 11:  Show Respect Lesbian Couples

Happy Lesbian Couples Strategy 11: Show Respect Lesbian Couples

Happy Lesbian Couples show respect to their partners.

Respect is a fundamental ingredient in all happy relationships.

To show respect is the ultimate form of gratitude. Respecting your partner at all times is an act of love and gratitude. Respect is honoring your partner at all times—not just when you feel good about her.show respect

Respect shows up in happy lesbian couples when you appreciation, it says, “I admire you,” a
ou matter, and you are worth a lot to me.”

Respect is doing what you say you are going to do.  Happy lesbian couples  behave the same way in their partner’s presence as she does in her absence.  They are consistent, reliable, accountable to one another, and happy lesbian couples know that their love will only grow from truth, kindness and understanding.

Respect says, you are worthy, just as you are and I don’t need you to change a thing.  It says, I have your back, and I am grateful and honored to choose you, and to be chosen by you.

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.

Four Agreements

In 1997, author don Miguel Ruiz wrote “A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom” that he titled, “The Four Agreements.”  His agreements are as follows:
  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
  3. Don’t make assumptions
  4. 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:
  1. Know your truth 
  2. Accept your truth
  3. Live your truth
  4. 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.
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.”

Don’t Accuse Me of Being Normal

Don’t Accuse Me of Being Normal

I have never been accused of being normal.

It’s okay, I consider this a good thing.  Not that I have anything against normal – it’s just that, well, I don’t find much about being normal very desirable. Webster himself describes normal as being “characterized by average intelligence or development.”  He also describes normal as “occurring naturally,” or “not deviating from a norm.”

Isn’t this a contradiction?  If, for example, being above average intelligence occurs naturally, wouldn’t that then be normal?

The dangers that surround the word “normal” remind me of similar dangers that surround the word “healthy” in the world of mental health.  Therapists, like myself, are trained to look for “disorders.” Despite this training, I do not see others as “disordered.”  Actually, I find that word offensive.  A disorder is considered a disruption in “normal” functioning.  Remember, Webster says, “normal” is defined as “occurring naturally.”

Who, exactly, gets to decide what is normal functioning?

I propose that you decide this for yourself because when we rely on others to define our “normal,” we risk their getting it wrong.

The Mental Health Community Admitted Getting it Wrong

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM – now on the 5th edition), is the psychiatric bible used by clinicians to diagnose clients. Until 1973, homosexuality was listed as a disorder in the DSM.  The good news here is that I was only mentally ill with homosexuality until I was seven.  By my 8th birthday, I no longer suffered from this disorder because it was removed from the DSM (though not entirely until 1986).  Like magic, isn’t it?

Exodus International Admitted Getting it Wrong

Exodus International, led by Alan Chambers, makes a brave and public apology admitting wrongdoing in their 37-year long ministry designed to repair and remove the homosexual feelings from its members.  He boldly confesses, “We (the church) have been motivated by fear.”  “I spent the majority of my life pretending that I was something I am not because I was afraid of the church.”

These are examples of why I find it a dangerous business to ever assume that I can understand someone better than they can understand themselves.  I see my work as providing people the tools and resources to understand themselves.  I look at people with a keen interest in their life stories and their life experiences.  In my world, people do not have a disorder, they have a story.  Part of your story might include distressing thoughts, poor coping skills, feelings of depression, unwanted behaviors, and other concerns that could easily be found in the DSM.  However, those are just aspects of the story of who you are, these things do not define you, they are not the whole story, and certainly not the whole of who you are.

And here is what I believe,

When I take the time to know you –
who and how you are makes sense to me.
Just as when you take the time to know yourself –
who and how you are will make sense to you.
But, only always.

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Happy?

Consciously Seeking Happiness

Are you happy?  For some the question is irrelevant because happiness is not a goal.  If it is your goal to be happy, then consider these thoughts on happiness.

1.  Happiness is possible. Somewhere along the way we have come to see happiness as a sort of lofty goal, something almost unattainable.  Instead of focusing on how to achieve happiness, many people direct their efforts toward avoiding unhappiness.  Insuring that we are not unhappy does not insure happiness.  The two are different.  To achieve happiness, we must first believe that it is possible.

2. Happiness is personal.  Happiness to one person is not necessarily happiness to another. Therefore, it is essential that we define, for ourselves, what makes us happy.  For me, happiness is

  • a feeling of acceptance and calm about who I am and the relationships which help define me
  • creativity, a sense of aliveness and of being real
  • a fundamental belief that I am good and the world around me is good
  • believing that I have a place in this world; a place that welcomes me and celebrates what I have to offer
  • believing that who I am right now is exactly who I want to be – that I am just as I need to be
  • knowing that there is beauty in the imperfections of who I am
  • the ability to enjoy and celebrate what each day brings
  • being able to wake up with a sense of wonder about the unfolding of yet another day
  • love and a sense of connectedness to others; be it strangers, friends or my partner
  • believing that in the absence of answers I can live the questions
  • knowing that there is nothing wrong with my truths
  • knowing that there is nothing wrong with the way I feel, the things I think, or the things in which I believe

The creation of happiness is a process which occurs slowly as we become more aware of who it is we want to be.  Can you define what makes you happy?  Use as much detail as possible so that you can visualize yourself in a state of  happiness.  Finish the statement “happiness to me is…” as many times as you can and see what you find when you look for happiness.

3.  Happiness is not an event, it is a state of being. Many different things can create moments of happiness.  But moments are transient. Happiness is more permanent and enduring.  Happiness is a part of who I am and who I want to be.  To understand this, consider the reverse: Depression.  Many people in our society are dealing with a very real condition called depression.  Depression is a state of being where our emotions are depressed and leave us feeling tired, unmotivated, sad, hopeless, and even helpless.  This is a very real condition that for some requires medicinal assistance.  The condition, “Depression,” however, is very different than a moment of feeling “depressed.”  One can be “depressed” for a short period of time without having the condition, depression.  Happiness works in much the same way.  We can feel happy for a moment that is temporary in nature.  We can experience a happy time or event, but this does not become a condition of happiness, or a state of happiness – it is a passing feeling of happiness.  Also similar to depression, we can experience a “state of happiness” that is interrupted by a moment of sadness, hurt, anger or fear.  The question becomes, does being happy interrupt your normal state of  non-happiness; or does being sad, hurt, angry, or afraid interrupt your normal state of being happy?

4.  Happiness comes from that which we can control.  When we seek to find happiness through events or activities external to ourselves, we surrender our control over our happiness.  Activities like sex, gambling, drinking/drugs, dating, and working are all essentially unpredictable and out of our control.  The outcome of these activities is ultimately out of our control.  When we seek happiness in things over which we have no control, we risk never achieving it.  When our happiness is based on the outcome of something external to ourselves we are not in charge of our own happiness. Our happiness becomes a gamble for which we have no guarantees.

5.  Happiness comes from inside. The search for true happiness can not be achieved externally.  If our happiness revolves around the way we look, the car we drive, the home in which we live, or the type of job and income we have then our happiness is as variant as the weather and as fragile as a split-end.  When we source our happiness from material items, from style, status or hype, we compromise our potential for happiness.  A nice car, job, income, wardrobe and home can, however, augment or enhance our happiness.  These luxuries, though, do not ensure happiness.

6.  Happiness is a gift that requires hard work.  Expecting happiness is not enough to create happiness.  (Although expecting to not experience happiness is enough to prevent it from existing!)  It seems very few people achieve a state of happiness as their norm.  Why is this?  Happiness takes effort.  The belief that we are entitled to happiness is misleading.  Happiness is the result of knowing what you want, and working hard to achieve this.  Many people spend little time reflecting on the essence of what they really want.  It’s easy to consider our wants on a surface level. To say,  “I want a nice car and a speed boat” is just a starting place when we consider what we really want.  A nice car may actually mean, “I want respect. I want to be noticed. I want comfort.  I want speed and power.”  Or it may mean “I want others to notice my accomplishments and admire me.”  Or it may mean, “I want a date with so-and-so and my chances are better if I drive that car than the one I have.”  Few people spend time identifying what it is they REALLY want, and yet become very disappointed when they realize they don’t have it.

Have you ever wanted something really badly and then shortly after you got it you seemed to have little regard for it or interest in it? Chances are, what you wanted was what you thought the “something” would bring you (such as comfort, security, status, attention, etc); and when it didn’t, that “something” became less desirable.

7.  Happiness breeds happiness.  Creating happiness is easier when our environments allow for happiness.  You’ve heard the saying, “misery loves company,” well so does happiness.  There are certain environments which challenge one’s ability to feel a sense of happiness. Happiness can be threatening to others.  Do not apologize for feeling good.  Put yourself in situations that respect and support your desire for happiness.  Identify barriers to your happiness such as people who criticize you, or who belittle and take advantage of you.  As you “cleanup” your environment, and begin to rid yourself of situations and relationships that prevent your happiness, you will find it easier to maintain a sense of joy.

8.  Teach others how to treat you. Much of our lives are spent interacting with others.  In every interaction we have with someone, we teach others how to treat us.  How we care for ourselves sets the standard for how we expect others to care for us.  This “teaching” is often done on an unconscious level for most people.  If we approach people with a sense of shame or apology for who we are, then we give others permission to reject or shame us.  If we consistently focus on others at the expense of ourselves, then we teach others that our needs are not as important as theirs.  If we allow others to take advantage of us, then we teach them that it is okay.  Think about the people in your life that you respect and admire.  What have they taught you about how to treat them?  Think about the people in your life whom you do not respect.  What have they taught you about how to treat them?  Examine how you treat yourself.  If you do not treat yourself with respect, how can you teach others to do for you what you are unwilling to do for yourself?

9.  Believe that happiness is desirable.  There is so much sadness, hurt, and pain in our world that it seems unfair at times to focus on personal happiness.  We have been conditioned to believe that it is selfish to concern ourselves with how we feel, and whether or not we are happy. We are taught to “grin and bear it.”  We are taught to “pay our dues,” to “suffer through it,” to “get by.”  Who set these limiting standards for us? The assumption seems to be that in order to be a good person we are to focus on the needs of  others at the expense of ourselves!  I am unsure how we arrived at the conclusion that we can’t do both, simultaneously!  Who are we to not be happy?

10.  Appreciate happiness when it arrives. When you feel a moment of happiness, even if it is temporary, recognize and appreciate this feeling.  Invite this feeling back, make sure this feeling of happiness is respected and welcome.  As this feeling begins to occur more often, you just may be able to string together all of your moments of happiness to create a condition: Happiness.

©Michele O’Mara, LCSW, 2000

Self-Care or Selfish?

While I am not a fan of the over-used term, co-dependency, there are many good things to learn from this concept.  The art of self-care can be tricky business, especially if you have been led to believe that taking care of yourself, first, is selfish.  Maybe the problem is that “selfish” has been given a bad name, and that in some cases, being selfish is the best path.  No one on this earth is better equipped to care for the whole of who you are, then you.  You are the single greatest resource available to you in this life, and if you take care of you, and I take care of me, and she takes care of herself, and he takes care of himself – to the best of our ability, working together, interdependently, we can all achieve much greater happiness.

Here are signs that you may not be taking good care of yourself:

1.  Feeling good about myself is dependent on how YOU feel about me.

2. My good feelings about who I am stem from receiving approval from you.

3. Your struggle affects my serenity.  My mental attention focuses on solving your problems/relieving your pain.

4.  My mental attention is focused on you.

5.  My mental attention is focused on manipulating you to do it my way.

6.  My mental attention is focused on protecting you.

7. My self-esteem is bolstered by solving your problems.

8.  My self-esteem is bolstered by relieving your pain.

9. My own hobbies/interests are put to one side.  My time is spent sharing your hobbies/interests.

10. Your clothing and personal appearance are dictated by my desires and I feel you are a reflection of me.

11.  Your behavior is dictated by my desires and I feel you are a reflection of me.

12. I am not aware of how I feel.  I am aware of how you feel.

13. I am not aware of what I want- I ask what you want.  I am not aware- I assume

14. The dreams I have for my future are linked to you.

15. My fear of rejection determines what I say or do.

16. My fear of your anger determines what I say or do.

17. I use giving as a way of feeling safe in our relationship.

18. My social circle diminishes as I involve myself with you.

19. I put my values aside in order to connect with you.

20.  I value your opinion and way of doing things more than my own.

21. The quality of my life is in relation to the quality of yours.

22. We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves. This in turn enabled us not to look too closely at our faults.

23. We “stuff” our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts too much.

24. We are isolated from and afraid of people and authority figures.

25. We have become approval seekers and have lost our identity in the process.

26. We are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism.

27. We live from the viewpoint of victims and are attacked by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships.

28. We judge ourselves harshly and have a low sense of self esteem.

29. We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment. We will do anything to hold onto a relationship in order to not experience painful abandonment feelings which we received from living with people who were never there emotionally for us.

30. We experience guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others.

31. We confuse love and pity and tend to “love” people we can pity and rescue.

32. We have  become chemically dependent, and/or married a chemically dependent person.  (You can substitute any compulsive behavior, such as workaholism, compulsive overeating, gambling, etc.)

33. We have become addicted to excitement.

34. We are reactors in life rather than actors.

35. I have difficulty identifying what I am feeling.

36. I minimize, alter, or deny how I truly feel.

37. I perceive myself as completely unselfish and dedicated to the well being of others.

38. I have difficulty making decisions.

39. I judge everything I think, say, or do harshly, as never “good enough.”

40. I am embarrassed to receive recognition and praise or gifts.

41. I do not ask others to meet my needs or desires.

42. I value other’s approval of my thinking, feelings, and behaviors over my own.

43. I do not perceive myself as a lovable or worthwhile person.

44. I compromise my own values and integrity to avoid rejection or others’ anger.

45. I am very sensitive to how others are feeling and feel the same.

46. I am extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long.

47. I value others’ opinions and feelings more than my own and am often afraid to express differing opinions and feelings of my own.

48. I put aside my own interests and hobbies in order to do what others want.

49. I accept sex when I want love.

50. I believe most other people are incapable of taking care of themselves.

51. I attempt to convince others of what they “should” think and how they “truly” feel.

52. I become resentful when others will not let me help them.

53. I freely offer others advice and directions without being asked.

54. I lavish gifts and favors on those I care about.

55. I use sex to gain approval and acceptance.

56. I have to be “needed” in order to have a relationship with others.

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