They are nothing but a shell, unless something is added.
Relationships don’t care what’s put inside, they will carry whatever they are given, good or bad.
You determine how full it will be.
You decide whether it is a glass half full or half empty.
When it comes to how we view our relationship, it is your thoughts that what give meaning to the experiences you have in life.
How you view any given situation will determine the feelings you have about it.
“A shoe factory sends two marketing scouts to a region of Africa to study the prospects for expanding business. One sends back a telegram saying, SITUATION HOPELESS – STOP. NO ONE WEARS SHOES.
The other writes back triumphantly, GLORIOUS BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY – STOP. THEY HAVE NO SHOES.”
– Benjamin Zander and Rosamund Stone Zander – The Art of Possibility
You are in complete control of how you interpret your life experiences.
You are not, however, always in charge of the circumstances that life presents you. What you have control over is the meaning you give them, and how your respond. You determine whether you are looking at a glass half full or a glass half empty.
Everything we experience is defined by the filters we use to interpret them. Because our brain is designed to look for signs of danger as a way of keeping us alive, we are inclined to look for potential harm (emotional or physical) in our life situations.
In relationships, it is common for our feelings to get hurt, believing that our partner did not consider us, was insensitive in her remarks, does not prioritize us, or finds criticism in everything we do. (Glass half empty). Much of these interpretations are rooted in fear, not reality. When we take the time to understand the whole story, the thoughts and fears our partner has that motivate her actions, we soon discover that she likely was acting in defense of her own hurt feelings, and her actions were not directed at harming us at all. (Glass half full).
OUTstanding couples develop the ability to give the very best meaning possible to the situations they encounter in their life and their relationship.
Outstanding couples stay curious and open. They work hard to notice facts and respond to what is, rather than make stories up about what might be going on, and reacting to the fears that come from the “what if’s.”
For example, when your partner is late coming home from work, you have the option to view that situation in many different ways. Through a lens of fear, you might think that she has been in an accident. Through the lens of insecurity, you might think she is being unfaithful. Through the lens of anger, you may think she’s being disrespectful. Through the lens of love, you may think that there are numerous reasons for her running late, none of which have to do with her love for you. Given the choice, which thought will lead to the most peaceful outcome? You get to decide: glass half full, glass half empty?
Creating the best meaning possible for the events in our life does not mean that you ignore facts and naively pretend that all is well when it is not.
Interpreting the best meaning possible requires honesty and openness.
If your partner is late from work every night and it is getting to be a pattern, then you have to work within the framework of the facts. These facts may suggest that your partner has poor discipline when it comes to managing time, or she is unaware of the impact her tardiness is having on you and your relationship. The point is not to create negative meanings in the absence of facts. If all of the data before you leads you to a conclusion that you don’t want to see, it is important to see it anyway!
Lastly, the best way to insure that your relationship glass is always half full, is to be sure that you are always contributing the very best of yourself, as fully as possible, so that there is always a half-full cup of goodness in your relationship.
We choose love, because unlike attractions, love is a choice. For gays and lesbians, the word “choice” can mean a couple of things. Let me clarify that in this context; I am not referring to the concept that you have a choice as to whom you are attracted, rather you have a choice as to how you nurture that attraction once it presents itself.
A commitment is a choice. The choice does not stop with the commitment. The commitment is the foundation for all of the choices that you continue to make each day. Everyday you have a choice about love, and a choice as to how you communicate your love for your partner.
To love is a decision, a choice; just as you can choose love, you can also choose to not love. Love is a verb. Remember this, when, in the midst of your long-term relationship, you unexpectedly find the new girl at work quite attractive, and she is flirting with you everyday. When you entertain thoughts of starting fresh, and flirting back, know that these are choices you make. An affair is not an accident. Infidelity is a choice. The decisions you make to be faithful are rooted in the same ability you have to make the decision to be unfaithful. Choose the behaviors that support the person you want to be, and the relationship you want to have. Choose love. I think when Sara Bareilles says, “I choose you,” she is choosing love. If only I could write blogs that sound like this….
I Choose You
Let the bough break, let it come down crashing Let the sun fade out to a dark sky I can’t say I’d even notice it was absent ‘Cause I could live by the light in your eyes I’ll unfold before you Would have strung together The very first words of a lifelong love letter
Tell the world that we finally got it all right I choose you I will become yours and you will become mine I choose you I choose You, yeah
There was a time when I would have believed them If they told me that you could not come true Just love’s illusion But then you found me And everything changed And I believe in something again
My whole heart Will be yours forever This is a beautiful start To a lifelong love letter
Tell the world that we finally got it all right I choose You I will…
What does the equity theory teach us about happy relationships?
Never swap teams. And, be sure to bring your best self to the sport. The equity theory evolved in the 60’s by a workplace psychologist, J. Stacy Adams. She discovered that people value fair treatment to continue feeling motivated in their relationships with both coworkers and the employer. What’s interesting about equity is that it is not the same as equal.
Equal says, we both make the same contributions (time, energy house cleaning, money making, lawn mowing, etc.), and we receive the same amount of benefits (love, affection, clothing budget, time for sleep, etc.). The equity theory, however, is focused on the ratio of contributions and the ratio of benefits. Just as with any team, the idea is that we will invest equal amounts of energy, effort and time, but they may consist of very different things. Equity says, mowing the lawn for two hours is a similar investment as cleaning the house for that long. Or, equity may say, the time I spend working outside of the home to earn income for our family, is in alignment with the amount of time you spend inside our home working to insure our comfort and ease of living.
A lifetime partnership with your mate is designed to add to your lives. When you share the assets you bring to your relationship, together you can experience greater comfort, excitement, benefits, enjoyment, learning and more, than you could otherwise experience alone. At least that’s the idea.
When your partner wins, you win. When you win, your partner wins. How you contribute may look very different, that is okay. When each partner is making equitable contributions to your relationship, and there is a mutual sense of respect and appreciation for these different contributions, you are both on a winning team – the same team.
Outstanding couples do what is best for the relationship (the team) regardless of what is “fair” or whose turn it is. If you were playing a game of ping-pong, you would not refuse to return the ball because the last three that crossed the net came to you instead of your teammate, would you? No. You do the next right thing for the relationship with the belief that in the end you will benefit from your investment in your relationship.
Sometimes we lose track of our contributions and where our energy is going. The thing about relationships, though, is that the partner who begins to feel like their ratio of contributions is higher will slowly begin to feel the stress and pain of this. If this happens, know that you can easily correct course if you communicate these concerns kindly and with care, and if you have a partner who is willing to hear you and respond to your concerns.
If you do not feel like the equity theory is at play in your relationship, and you find yourself in conflict more than at peace, you may be struggling with how to communicate effectively. Lesbians interested in learning skills to move from Conflict to Connection can join me in a one-day skill-building workshop on this topic. (More information here).
Lesbian Love Guide Strategy # 21: Focus on Outcome, Not Ego
In one of my Couple’s workshops, I had a couple share with me that when they found themselves in battle over something small, one of them would interrupt the argument with the question: “Would you rather be right, or in love?” I thought this was great fodder to add to my lesbian love guide – 52 Strategies for a Happy Relationship.
There are a million-and-one ways to achieve the same outcome. How you clean the house, for example, might be very different than how your partner cleans the house. Maybe you like to do it all at once. Perhaps your partner takes it a day at a time, bathrooms one day, dusting the next, windows the day after that, etc. until the cycle starts again. Is one way the right way? If you think so, think again.
Whenever two people from entirely different backgrounds, with very different life histories and experiences, partner and hold tightly to THEIR WAY, you can bet there’s going to be a struggle. When the focus remains on the outcome and not our ego, or how we want things to evolve, we are able to achieve far more in life and love. Outcome, Not Ego. That my friends, is Tip #21 from the Lesbian Love Guide.
If you have missed the first 20 strategies and suggestions for happy lesbian relationships, you can catch up here. I welcome your comments, and even your own tips and strategies that you would add to these.
From Conflict to Connection (Part I) (workshop access in-person and online)
SUNDAY, 9 APRIL 2017 | 09:00AM – 05:30PM
Description of From Conflict to Connection, Lesbian Couples Workshop (part I)
This is PART I of a two-part workshop. Each workshop is a stand-alone experience and does not require that you attend the other. However, if you do wish to take both, you receive a 15% discount on the second workshop (and the order doesn’t matter). This workshop offers you very specific research based skills to improve your relationship. The research has been conducted by John Gottman, author or many books on relationships, including, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.
In this two-part lesbian couples workshop, I will address 12 skills. We will cover six specific relationship skills in each of the separate one-day-workshops. Part of Dr. Gottman’s claim to fame is that he can predict a relationship’s demise by whether or not couples engage in certain behaviors.
In the Lesbian Couples Workshop Part I, you will learn the answers to the following questions:
How do we make our relationship a place that feels good to both of us?
What is the single most powerful change we can make to encourage a greater feeling of connection and mutual understanding?
How can we approach tough issues so that we are likely to hear and respect each other’s point of view?
What is the number one behavior that leads to a relationship breakup, and how can we protect ourselves from this?
If we feel like we are constantly being criticized by each other, how can we break that cycle and create greater understanding and a more positive outcome?
What is the number one way to eliminate defensiveness from our relationship?
Regarding sharing and self-disclosure.
This is a common question/concern for couples. However, it is up to each couple what and how much you decide to share. This is not a therapy group, as much as it is a relationship skill-building class. This is a content-heavy class, with a strong emphasis on research-based information that will be used to improve your relationship skills. There will be a lot of information to digest. We will not be processing individual couple’s issues, however, we will be discussing common experiences, frustrations and concerns that the new skills can help address.
What happens after the workshop?
Over the years I have learned that my workshops offer people a chance to make new couple friends, and I work to support your continued contact. I have also learned that if you do not put this information to use, you will not maximize your benefit. Toward that end, I provide the following two options for you once the workshop ends.
Connect with New Couple Friends: A hidden benefit of these workshops is the opportunity to connect with other couples. Toward that end, you will be invited to join a groupme text group with your fellow classmates, and communicate with them after class ends.
Email Reminders with Class Content and Exercises: I am planning to create a series of follow-up emails to give you reminders each week for six weeks following the workshop. These emails will offer you a reminder about the suggested activities for you to practice once you leave the training. You will also be provided with handouts.
Once you make payment, I will contact you with details about the WORKSHOP, “Lesbian Couples Workshop: From Conflict to Connection” Be sure you check your email associated with your Paypal Account, or email me if you would like me to contact you at a different email.
If you cancel within 15 days of the workshop your payment will be refunded. If you cancel within less than 15 days of the workshop the deposit will not be refunded unless there is an unforeseen emergency such as death or illness. Break-ups are not considered an unforeseen emergency – you can attend even if you have broken up. In fact, I recommend it!
While I have completed all three levels of the Gottman Clinical Training, I have not pursued Gottman certification, as I more closely align with the principles of Imago therapy. Thus, I am Gottman educated and Imago certified. Both schools of thought are valuable resources for couples wishing to depend their connection, and strengthen their relationship. As with most of my workshops, I have tailored this workshop to lesbian relationships, as that has been my area of speciality for the past two decades. Therefore, this workshop is not an Art & Science of Love workshop by Gottman, nor is it a Getting the Love You Want workshop by Harville Hendrix. This is a workshop designed specifically by me, based on my work with lesbian couples, emphasizing how to apply the research gathered by Dr. John Gottman.
Lesbian Couples (#19) – What can we learn about happy relationships from “This is us”?
Strategy 19: Give to Give. Not Give to Get.
Have you been watching “This is Us?” It’s a new (2016) NBC series and I love it. The entire show is based around a young couple who got pregnant with triplets, lost one during delivery and adopted a child who was serindipitously brought to the hospital that day after being abandoned at a local fire station. The series is based on the lives of this couple and their children and it flashes back and forth between their early marriage / childhood, and their elderly years (parents) and adulthood (the triplets). I have cried at least a little during each episode.
Almost always, they are joyful, albeit sentimental, tears. I almost always find myself missing my dad a lot (you can read about him here), and fondly recalling my own childhood. I thought it was just me, but as it turns out, most other people who watch the show get tearful, too.
One of the things I love most about the show is how well the characters love one another. I absolutely delight in the love that Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) has for Rebecca (Mandy Moore). He is playful, flirtatious, open, vulnerable, consistent, adoring, and consistently doing whatever it takes to be the best father and husband he can. It is clear his mission is to be the opposite of his own father; and so far, he is succeeding.
Strategy #19 for happy couples reminds me of Jack from This is Us. The best love there is comes with no expectations. When you load up your gifts with hidden expectations, both you and your partner are in for a disappointing outcome. For example, do not surprise your partner with a romantic candlelight dinner because you want to get her in the mood to make love. Do it because you want to nurture your partner and treat her to a delicious, romantic meal—no strings attached. If by chance your evening moves you to a more physically intimate place, enjoy it – don’t expect it. When you give, give to give: don’t give to get.
Mean what you give, and give what you mean.
If you give dinner, you must mean dinner. If what you really mean is an invitation to be sexual, extend an invitation to be sexual, and don’t disguise it as a dinner. And when you give, don’t keep score. Give because you want to give, not because you want to add points to your side of the scoreboard.
Giving to give is still giving to yourself. We ARE fifty-percent of our relationship. You cannot add to your relationship without also adding to yourself. What a great investment; one that always gives back. When you nurture your relationship, you nurture yourself.
This shift from giving to your partner, to giving to your relationship, makes giving easier. Your relationship is an investment container. Yes, a container. The relationship literally HOLDS that which the two of you have to offer. It is from this shared container (the relationship) that you draw from, whether it is resources you contributed or your partner contributed doesn’t matter – what matters is that the relationship container is full.
If you find yourself always giving, ask yourself if you are giving to your relationship—that which also enriches yourself—or if you are giving to your partner in hopes of getting something in return? If you are focused on your partner and adding to her life, you might be adding to her while taking away from yours. Ultimately, when we cease to take care of ourselves, we end up being a drain on our relationship, not an asset.
When you take care of your relationship, you both win. You cannot take care of each other if you are not first taking care of yourself. Just as players on a team can’t work out for each other; each has to strengthen their skills themselves.
What you can do, and must do, is take care of the relationship. The relationship is your shared resource. The investment offers you dividends and keeps on giving back to you if you keep giving to your relationship. Give to give and you will always receive in the end.
And, here is one of my favorite Jack (from This is Us) quotes to his adopted son, Randall who is not the same ethnicity as the rest of the family:
“You’re adopted, and we don’t talk about that enough. Because to me, you are every part my son. And maybe I don’t want you to feel like you stand out. But I need you to know something. I want you to stand out. I want all of you to be as different as you can possibly be, in all the best ways. I love you as much as a human heart can, kiddo. You are an exceptional young man. So don’t let your old man’s poor choices make you feel afraid to be different, OK? OK.