communication in relationships

Warm Up Your Communication

communication in relationships | communicate better

Compassion in Relationships

If you're looking for an easy way to improve your relationship one simple intention can make a huge difference.

Try to enter each interaction with warmth with your sweetie. Check resentment and crankiness, business, and distraction at the door.

We often start out with intentional, meaningful, fully-present communication in relationships.  We really listen, and we start each interaction with so much warmth and kindness.  But most of us get a little lazy with communication over time in long-term relationships.

Change the Conversation

Simply refocusing on warmth at the start of each conversation or interaction dramatically shifts interactions to more positive places.  Even in conflict, acting from kindness transforms the nature of the conflict- and makes it much more productive.

Try warmth instead and see what happens.

If you want more help improving communication in your relationship you might want to try Compassionate Communication (also called Nonviolent Communication).  

Enter your information below to receive my free Compassionate Communication Toolkit for Couples.

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Myths About Boundaries

Myths About Boundaries | Boundary Myths

I've gotten lots of questions in my Ask me Anything column lately related to healthy boundaries in relationships so I thought I'd spend a little time writing more about healthy relationship boundaries for a bit to help clear up a few common misconceptions. 

So to start us off I'm listing the eight myths about boundaries that come up most often in my work.  They're super hard to combat because our culture reinforces them in a lot of funny ways (movies, tv, romantic fairytales...)

Holding on to these gets in the way of most of the relationships I see in my couples work.  Read on to see if any are holding you back in your own partnerships.

Relationship Boundary Myths:

Boundaries are permanent or forever

Boundaries shift and change depending on the situation and the relationship you have with each person you interact with.  So naturally, they change as you learn more about people and about yourself.  This is why we have to keep talking about them to keep our relationships healthy.

Boundaries should be the same across the board

Often in relationships, I see people compare the boundaries a partner has with other close friends to those in the relationship.  You might have a different set for your boss and your best friend.  

This kind of comparison just gets us off track because boundaries aren't the same across the board.  Boundaries just don't work that way.

Certain boundaries are to be expected

While there are some boundaries we culturally expect as a norm even these are based on assumption.  The more we can clear out assumption and get specific about what our partner needs the more we can really connect with them (and determine if we can respect their boundaries).

Start thinking about which boundaries you take for granted and check in with your partner about them.  

Boundaries are mean 

Boundaries aren't all about cutting people off or removing them from your life.  Boundaries are about getting clear with the people you love about how you can best support each other.  It takes real compassion and care to have a loving boundary.

You can't recover from a boundary violation

Many folks come to me after someone has broken trust in a big way in their relationship.  Often they've thought one boundary or another was a dealbreaker for them in relationships- but now they're stuck not wanting to break up with a partner who hurt them.  

I've been really touched by couples who work through really tough boundary crossing to repair hurt and rebuild trust.  You can learn to respect boundaries and change the way you negotiate them- it might just take a little help.

Boundaries are about yes or no

Most of us only think about boundaries when we're pushed to an extreme.  So we often think a boundary is all about saying no to something.  But boundaries can be much more nuanced- like asking for what we need, stating clear expectations, or asking people to slow down.  

Instead of a stoplight with only red and green there is a whole lot of yellow when it comes to boundaries.

You can change someone's boundary

It can be really hard when someone sets a boundary and that means I'm not going to get what I want.  I'll be disappointed at best, heartbroken at worst.  

And yet if I want to stay close or get closer to that person the only option for me is to respect their boundary as is- without pressuring them to change it.  Adding pressure by trying to convince them to change will only push them away, or force them to shift when they're not ready (leading to hurt or resentment later).

Some people are just naturally bad at boundaries

Nope.  This is just an excuse.  Few of us get any mentoring about boundaries as kids, some people have a much harder time respecting others' boundaries, and some people just don't care.  If you have trouble maintaining healthy boundaries or respecting others please call a professional for guidance.

gina senarighi | boundaries in relationships | relationship boundary

Gina Senarighi offers non-judgmental sex-positive, gender-affirming, LGBTQ relationship support online and in the Pacific Northwest. 

She often says, “I love love, in all its forms!”

She’s helped thousands of couples deepen their sexual connection, repair trust, and build sustainable lasting partnerships.

She uses her multi-disciplinary professional training to teach communication skills and help her clients handle conflict with compassion.

Gina has supported many couples experimenting with open relationships based in trust and integrity. If you’re considering polyamory you should check out her online resources here.

Although most of her couples are experimenting with less traditional relationship structures, even her more mainstream clients appreciate her open-minded non-judgmental approach and diverse expertise.

If you’re interested in taking this work further contact her for a free consultation.

Consent Isn't Just Sexy

couples worksheet | worksheet for couples | couples therapy worksheet

Consent isn't just sexy

We talk about consent mostly when we're talking about sex, but if you're into care and balance or equality in relationships consent is critical well beyond sex. 

Too many couples I work with run on auto-pilot. They miss opportunities to check in, learn, and grow together all the time- practicing consent changes this up. 

Consent is not the same as permission. Typically, we define “consent” as the act of communicating to someone that it is okay for them to interact with us in a particular way. 

Instead try thinking of consent as a felt sense, an understanding that we're both making a conscious choice to participate in the relationship in specific ways.

Fuck yeah I want you

What if throughout the day you were giving enthusiastic consent in your partnership, "fuck yeah I want to eat breakfast and I want to do it with you." 

And if you got enthusiastic heartfelt consent from your partner, "I SO want to go for a walk and hold hands with you."- how would that feel? 

Check it out:

How might your relationship shift if you asked for consent when interacting with your partner throughout the day?

How might your life shift if you oriented only toward the 'fuck yeah' choices you make each day?

If you're interested in learning more about consent and moving toward a "Fuck Yeah"

Enter your information to download my free couples worksheet.  

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Basics of Compassionate Relationships

Compassionate Relationships | Uncommon Love Counseling for Open Relationships in Portland

How compassionate are you with your partner? Gifts and dates are great but if you don't bring compassion into play, you're only halfway there.

Compassion means something a little different for each of us.  

Think about what compassion means to you specifically.  Notice where it's lacking in your life, career, and relationship.  

How could increasing compassion improve connection in your relationship?

Build a compassionate relationship in 11 simple steps:

  1. Instead of asking, "What's wrong?" Ask, "What do you need from me in this moment?" Find ways to offer support and understanding instead of focusing on obstacles.

  2. Try embracing the moment and accepting things as they come.  Crappy days happen. Accept them, and be there for your partner when they have one.

  3. Ask your partner what compassion means to them. Just as you communicate about sexual desires, try communicating about compassion.  And just as your sexual needs may be different, your needs for compassion maybe as well.

  4. Take time to really listen to your partner.  Practicing fully present listening is one of the most important parts of compassion.  Put away distractions and make real listening a priority.

  5. Admit when you're wrong. Taking personal responsibility and apologizing with honesty is critical to long term relationship success and to compassion in practice.

  6. Instead of saying "I understand" or "I know how you are feeling" practice openness by asking "Tell me more about how you are feeling" and staying curious about your partner's experience- even if it is similar to one you have had- it is still different because it is theirs.

  7. Use the golden rule.  How often are you treating your partner the way you would like to be treated?

  8. Being compassionate doesn't mean putting your needs aside.  The most compassionate people are also some of the most boundaried.  Compassion doesn't mean over giving or co-dependency. Compassion simply allows you to care, without throwing yourself into your partner's business.

  9. Have fun. Compassion can be such a serious subject, a little laughter might be just what you need.  Try to experience the lighthearted parts of your relationship fully and increase them by sharing lighthearted fun with your honey.

  10. Respect your partner's space.  If your partner doesn't want to talk, give conversation a break.  One of the most compassionate things we can do is give each other space to not be, coddled, held, and doted over. Use the space to take care of yourself.

  11. Never forget: compassion is ever-changing. Like anything else in relationships, it's dependent on the present moment. What you each need will grow and change over time, so don't be afraid to re-evaluate and adjust.

This post was originally shared on Amplify Good.

polyamory counseling in portland | sex counseling portland

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a sex educator and relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationshipsjealousy, LGBTQ issues and infidelity.  

She can help you:

Contact her for a free consultation to see if working with her is right for you.

Click here to download her free guides to strengthen your relationship (monogamous or not).