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.:
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.”
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.”
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.
This time is NOT about:
being defensive or sensitive
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.
It feels so good to receive love. So, why is it so difficult sometimes to do so?
Try an experiment; out of the blue, come up with a list of things you love about your partner and share them with her. Say to her when she’s least expecting it, “Have I told you how much I love you lately?” And don’t stop there, go on to say, “And these are the reasons why I love you so…”
This experiment will give you an idea about how comfortable your partner is with receiving your love. She may respond by jokingly saying, “What do you want from me?” Or s/he may respond by minimizing or negating your comments, “I’m not always caring” or “Well then you are the only one who thinks I’m beautiful…” Or s/he may even be so uncomfortable s/he attempts to provoke a fight by saying something like “Why are you just now telling me this? It’s been months since you’ve said anything nice to me.”
If you do try this experiment, be sure to express completely genuine feelings, do not fabricate compliments or exaggerate your feelings—be honest and authentic. If your partner seems to be able to receive your love in this exercise, ask her how it felt to hear your words. Ask her what was most difficult to accept or embrace about what you shared.
When we learn the areas in which we reject love, we are closer to understanding what we need to work on to feel lovable and receive love.
A whole host of reasons may underline the fact that you or your partner might resist love. One of the most common obstacles to receiving love occurs when you do not have receptors for it. You create receptors by first loving your self.
If someone told me my skin was purple, I would reject that observation. When I look at my skin, I see white—pale white, actually. So the notion that my skin is purple doesn’t attach to anything inside of me because I don’t have a receptor for it. Perhaps, if twenty different people from various parts of my life made this same observation, I may begin to develop a receptor for it.
Likewise, if you do not feel attractive, generous, caring, honest, loving, sexy, smart, creative, or whatever else your partner may see in you, you do not have a receptor to receive the love your partner feels about those aspects of who you are. Therefore, if you convince yourself that you are unlovable or unworthy, you can not trust or believe when someone says, “I love you,” that they mean it.
In other cases, you may not be able to receive love because of messages you received from important people in your life. Perhaps you were neglected, abused or otherwise mistreated as a child, and left with the feeling that you must be unlovable. Or maybe you realized early in life that you are gay, and as you grew older you picked up messages everywhere you turned that being gay is bad and wrong. Many lesbians have internalized the messages that are prevalent in our culture that being gay is “bad,” “wrong,” and that as a result you are broken, sinful or unworthy. When you buy into this thinking, you prevent yourself from receiving love.
Another major obstacle with receiving love is the fear of losing it. Perhaps this fear is in place because you have a history of feeling unloved, rejected, or having had experiences in getting your heart broken.
If you have difficulty receiving your partner’s love you are rejecting the greatest gift he or she has to give. It is your responsibility to develop the receptors so that you can have a mutual exchange of love in your relationship. Ways to begin that process may include reading self-help books, deepening your spiritual connections, journal writing, talking with friends about your feelings, or seeking the guidance of a professional. To learn more about Receiving Love, Harville Hendricks has a book by this title.
If you have difficulty trusting or believing that you are loveable, you must begin putting energy into healing these wounds before you can expect to feel loved by a partner. It is not your partner’s job to convince you that you are loveable. It is up to you to develop self-love. When you do, your partner’s gifts can flow freely and you can find yourself in a happy relationship where love can move easily within and between you.
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.
Bear 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 the Happy Lesbian Couples Stages of a Relationship
Happy Lesbian Couples Stages of a Relationship is necessary so that you can keep your expectations in line with how a healthy relationship naturally develops.
There are three key stages of which you should be aware.
Although there are several different perspectives on relationship development, they all follow a similar path. The three stages discussed here were developed by Harville Hendrix in his best selling book, “Getting the Love You Want.”
STAGE I: Romantic Stage. We all know and love this stage. This is the part of your relationship where you feel passionately attracted to your newfound love. It is during this time that you are likely to spend every minute thinking about her and longing to be near her while chemically assisted in this phase of relationship development. If you want to know more about this, just read the fascinating book by Helen Fisher entitled, “Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love.”
Because of these chemicals, you often have more energy and can operate on much less sleep than usual. Your senses are alive and heightened so that everything tastes better, feels better, smells better, sounds better and as a result, is better. I bet if you sit for a minute you can remember foods, songs, scents and even visuals of times in your life when you were falling in love, whether you still nurture that particular love or not.
The entire purpose of this stage is to bring two people together for the purpose of committing. Your natural body chemistry responds to your attractions by flooding you with feel-good chemicals, long enough for you to decide that committing is a good idea!
STAGE II: Power Struggle. After the chemically assisted process of romantic love has done its job, and you have made a commitment, you are typically rocketed into the next stage, seemingly without warning, which is the power struggle.
The second stage of relationship development is designed to help both partners find themselves again after the romantic stage simmers down a bit. Often, at this time in a relationship, just after both of you feel more secure in your commitment and in your relationship, you come out of the chemically-assisted-love-fog, only to realize that you have spent so much time thinking about, spending time with, and focused on your new love, that you have neglected some key responsibilities in your life.
This stage is marked by enough security to begin examining all of the ways your partner is SO DIFFERENT from you, and here begins the struggle. It’s not so much the struggle fo r power, as the stage name suggests, but for the right to assert your individuality, and the desire for your partner to be a little more like you. We humans tend to think our way is the best way, and falling in love does not seem to exempt us from this thought. The sooner we realize there’s room for both of us to be right, the quicker we will move through the struggle and into a more satisfying love.
STAGE III: Real Love. When you arrive at a place in your relationship where you look at one another with respect and admiration without the need to change this or that about your partner; when you really accept who she is, inside and out, without judgment; and you realize that she feeling the same acceptance of you, then you have arrived at the most amazing place ever, called real love.
Real love is about helping your partner become the best version of herself while accepting, loving, supporting, and celebrating who she is along the way.
Have you ever seen a couple compete to be the kindest, not to be right?
I didn’t think so. Sadly, It’s more common that we see the following type of interaction. She was telling a funny story when she was interrupted by her partner who wanted to correct an insignificant detail in her story. (Not that it changed the story). Frustrated for being interrupted, she rolled her eyes and continued with the story.
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.
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?
Here’s a challenge for you: compete to be the kindest, not to be right.
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 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 his back, just because. Take her to that fancy restaurant you don’t really like, just because she does.
As adults, when we want something, and everyone in a relationship 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 Idid today because it’s important to me that you know how muchpride 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.
Happy Lesbian Couples Strategy Five: Inspire Only the Best
Aspire and Inspire Only the Best.
When you aspire to be your greatest self, and you inspire your partner to be her best, the two of you have achieved the most important function of a relationship.
The single greatest benefit to a great lesbian relationship is that your life is better because you are partnered. Why else would we make such a significant commitment to another human? Good must come from a relationship for a relationship to be good.
When you aspire to be your personal best, and you support your partner in doing the same, you are able to strengthen not only your individual selves, but your relationship.
Your relationship is only as healthy as those in it.