CASE STUDIES

Why I Love LGBTQ Love

This year I'm celebrating 15 years supporting LGBTQ relationships professionally. It's been my joy to support hundreds of queer relationships through commitments, trust repair, communication struggles and more.

Y'all are pretty fabulous.

Here are ten things I love about LGBTQ love:

1. Because most of these folks have had to do a little reflection about how their love is different than most the folks in their life they're often more self-aware in partnership.


2. LGBTQ couples are far more likely to create balanced plans around their household responsibilities (this isn't just my expertise, this is a well-researched fact).


3. Children of LGBTQ couples do better in school, get more involved in their communities, and step into leadership more than others (this is researched, not just my opinion).


4. LGBTQ couples are far more jealousy-resilient for a large variety of reasons (again, there's plenty of research to back this up, beyond my experience).


5. More often than heterosexual couples these folks are willing to get creative sexually to get their needs met (again, this is well researched). 


6. More often than not these couples are willing to talk openly about their sexual needs (you know, and then they get them met) (again, this is well researched).


7. More often than other couples, LGBTQ partners are able to navigate open relationships with care.


8. LGBTQ folks are more likely to wait to marry/commit until they've explored some personally. This creates a possibility for more emotionally mature relationships.


9. More often than others, LGBTQ folks plan meaningful commitment ceremonies shaped around their unique core values (I just like these).


10. LGBTQ couples are more likely to use humor and humility in healthy ways in conflict (this is well-researched, not just my opinion).

Again, thank all of you who have shared your personal paths with me over the years. It's an honor to support your love.


Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

Gina Senarighi LGBTQ Couples Counselor
  • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity

  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 

  • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts

  • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty

  • shift stuck communication & codependent relationship patterns

I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online. 

Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

Navigating the Holidays for Open Relationships

I was so honored to be interviewed on the Hearts and Other Sex Parts Podcast last week specifically because we focused on one of the biggest topics of conversation in my practice this time of year: how to manage holidays when you have more than one partner.

For most people certain holidays carry real meaning- and Valentine’s Day is often a romantic holiday for couples (monogamous or otherwise). When you have more than one sweetie it can add pressure to plan for holidays because while love is infinite, time, money and energy are limited. And when scarcity arises often anxiety isn’t far behind.

Listen in to my conversation with podcast host Keely Helmick for a few tips on navigating the holidays with more than one partner and leave a comment on my page if you’ve got advice to share about managing multiple partnerships over holidays form your own life. I’d love to hear from you!

An Accurate History of Marriage?

I spend lots of time in sessions talking with folks who wonder why some of the most common ways we do committed relationships doesn’t work for them.

Why do we do marriage for love, and what is love anyway? What happens when love changes over time?

And why do we split household tasks the way we do? How can we create a more egalitarian breakdown than whatever our families modeled? How do we keep equality erotic?

How can we break out of these normative partnerships?

How do we build something intentional instead of defaulting to practices we know don’t work?

One of the first steps in intentional change is growing awareness, and WOW do I have a great resource for you this week. Hidden Brain, by Shankar Vedantam, recently covered the history of marriage and it is FULL of great information about how we ended up with many of the cultural norms about marriage that we currently practice.

Taking a closer look at the ways we practice love and commitment, the practices we consider “normal” helps us use discernment about if and when we want to choose them today.

Listen here:

And let me know what you think. How does knowing this history change what you want to practice? How does it affirm the practices you’ve already chosen? Which parts of this hostory apply to your relationship experiences?


Relationship Tips: Get Their Attention

Communication Patterns in Successful Relationships

Loads of research has been done on the behaviors of successful couples and one of trend holds true: satisfied couples in happy relationships are more likely to bid for attention in a few key ways.

Read on to add these skills in your relationships.

Bids for Attention

We bid for each other's attention all the time.  We do this by gesturing, making eye contact, initiating affection, making a joke, pointing out something.  

For example I might turn to my sweetheart and say, "I really like your shirt."

Successful couples bid more frequently. But there is a second part of bidding that keeps them in a loop of communicating with kindness.  

Receiving Bids From Your Partner

When someone bids for attention we have four real options in our response.  I will give you examples for each.

Warm:  

"Thanks for noticing my shirt babe."  This is a kind or friendly response.  It invites more interaction.

Neutral:

"Oh." This isn't a kind or unkind response.  It doesn't invite more communication or connection, but it doesn't overtly harm the relationship.  However, over time it can divide a couple if it is the only response given.  

Cold:

"Why are you talking about my shirt?!?"  This might be an angry, defensive, or judgmental response.  This response doesn't invite more positive interaction and often leads to disconnection and conflict.  

Often we think this is the most problematic response- but when this response is handled respectfully couples can still grow.  

Non-response:

This is the most detrimental to the relationship.  When someone doesn't respond we feel ignored and we are far less likely to continue bidding for our partner's attention.  This gap in responses starts growing distance between people.

We fill in the gap with our assumptions, resentments and judgments and distance grows.  But sometimes our partner has innocently missed the bid- maybe they simply didn't hear us.  They don't even know how we've been hurt- and aren't able to effectively repair the missed bid. 

Your relationship challenge:

Notice the bids for interaction this week and work to respond with warmth as often as possible.  Notice how it shifts your relationship's energy.   

 


Healthy Relationships | Couples Therapist | Sex Therapist

Gina Senarighi has been supporting loving couples and healthy teams for nearly twenty years. As a former couples therapist turned retreat coach, workshop facilitator, and author she's transformed partnerships, leaders and communication strategy all over the world.  

Her uniquely non-judgmental, inclusive approach to couples work puts even the most concerned participants at ease.  She's not your average sit-and-nod supporter- she'll hold hope even when it's hard and always help you grow. 

Call for a consultation to see how she can help you deepen connection, communicate effectively, and passionately reignite your relationship.

New to Polyamory? Here Are a Few Structural Options to Consider

polyamory structures | polyamory options | new to nonmonogamy

Hey there,

When I work with couples considering opening their relationships most are overwhelmed at the idea of opening up simply because they can't imagine what that will look like. 

Will we see three people? 

Will we date together?  

What will we call it?

As you know, healthy non-monogamy usually includes some flow and flexibility as your relationship needs (and the needs of each new partner) get added to the mix, grow, and change.  Relationships are ever-evolving, and non-monogamous ones have more variables to contend with.  

I found a diagram online I love because it outlines most the main options people employ when practicing ethical non-monogamy.  I'm pasting it below as a reference to all of you.  I hope it helps! 

And, of course, if you want to talk through the options and sort out which might be best for you give me a call, I'd love to support you on this journey.

Gina 

A VENN DIAGRAM OF POLYAMOROUS RELATIONSHIPS

examples of polyamory | how to be polyamorous

OPTIONS IN POLYAMORY | RELATIONSHIPS IN POLYAMORY

Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

  • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity
  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
  • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
  • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • shift stuck communication & codependent relationship patterns

I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online and in Portland, Oregon. Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

Being a supportive partner

meaningful support.jpgsupportive relationships \ support and trust in marriage | how to be supportive

Giving and receiving meaningful support is essential to lasting loving relationships.

Most relationships start out strong, but as time passes fewer and fewer people say they get the support they need from their partner.

The word “support” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  So one way to get more of the love and support you want is to clarify both your request and what you can offer.

Consider the six central themes of support here and ask yourself what you’re really looking for when you ask for help in situations with your sweetie.  You can use the examples here to get clearer with your partner. 

Ask yourself “What does meaningful support look like to me in this situation?” 

Or ask them, “What can I do to show you support in this situation?”

The clearer you become in your request, and in clarifying your partner’s requests, the better equipped you are to meet each other’s needs.

Here are a few more reflection questions to help you get clear. Take a moment to write out your thoughts on each to help you get clear before making requests of your partner.

  • What has meaningful support looked like in the past, in friendships and my family?
  • What actions would be most helpful? What could my partner do to make my experience easier?
  • When do I feel especially cared for in this partnership? What can I apply from that experience to this one? 
  • When do I feel respected in this relationship? What behaviors from my partner foster that feeling?
  • When do I feel most reassured and grounded in this partnership? Are there elements of that experience I would like in this situation?

I created a worksheet to help you dive deeper into this work and get even more clear.  Enter your information below to download it and get access to my full relationship tool library.

Name *
Name

Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

polyamory coach | open relationship counselor | nonmonogamy
  • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity
  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
  • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
  • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • shift stuck communication & codependent relationship patterns

I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online and in Portland, Oregon. Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

Free Love vs Consensual-Non-Monogamy

FREE LOVE AND NONMONOGAMY POLYAMORY OPEN RELATIONSHIP OPEN MARRIAGE

I spoke with a client today about the troubles she's having with her girlfriend, and while there are a few unique elements most of what they're struggling with I've seen a hundred times before. 

The girlfriend doesn't believe in agreements or negotiating expectations before they meet at events. 

"She's more of a go with the flow kind of person." my client tells me.  She doesn't want to be confined by rules and thinks they connote ownership over each other in the partnership. 

The girlfriend lives in the moment and trusts her intuition and inner compass to guide her toward behavior that won't hurt anyone. Her relationships don't need to be defined and she's beautifully unattached to outcome in all of them.  

It's both inspiring to my client (one of her partners) and intimidating.  I've been working with this client for a while and she follows a much more intentional approach, focusing on longer-term commitments and ongoing partnership building. 

She's used to communicating expectations, negotiating plans with partners, and using more careful discernment to move through a (relatively new to her) non-monogamous world.

Neither of them is wrong in the way they practice non-monogamy. They're both up front with partners about the ways they approach relationships.  But they're also not on the same page.

This leads them to miscommunication when they go out. One of them wanting to clarify if and when they might play with others at play parties. The other wanting to follow inspiration and let relationships unfold as they may. 

Sometimes they run into other partners. My client wants to be clear about how they share space, time, and information with other intimate partners.  Her girlfriend trusts all her partners will sort out their feelings for themselves. 

There are serious concerns in both approaches. My client can rely too heavily on partner's for emotional labor, gets jealous, and sometimes is perceived as uptight or clingy. Her girlfriend often unintentionally hurts partners who have specific expectations (spoken or implied) and finds herself mixed up in accidental miscommunications.

I wanted to write a little about them because they (like anyone) are working to find their way together in the world beyond traditional relationships- and it's not easy. Their polyamorous principles aren't right or wrong, but each has its own challenges and setbacks.

On one hand, we have a girlfriend who thinks she can set aside expectations in relationships.  I would say, this is more like solo-polyamory, where her primary relationship is with herself.

Even in solo-polyamory, we impact others with our behavior, and if we want ongoing relationships with partners we need to work with them to manage expectations and offer support.

On the other, my client practices more of a hierarchical polyamory, where she places importance on one relationship. This model is often reassuring to people who have had successful relationships in a more traditional monogamous format.

Without care, these relationships can become codependent and can replicate other unhealthy patterns from partner's pasts.

They're a perfect example of why getting relationship support can be useful for non-traditional relationships. With support, they're able to name the difference in their guiding principles and clarify what they need moving forward. 

If you're having trouble getting on the same page with a partner please don't hesitate to give me a call.  I'm happy to help you work out a plan that supports both your needs- no matter how different they seem.  


Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

polyamory counselor | open marriage therapist | open relationship counseling
  • reconnect with passion & desire in long-term partnerships
  • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
  • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
  • change communication & codependent patterns
  • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity

I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online (and in Portland, OR).

Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

Trust in Relationships: Giving the Benefit of the Doubt

trust in relationships | trust and nonmonogamy | trust in polyamory

At dinner parties, hair salons, on airplanes, and grocery lines people LOVE talking about what I do for a living.

They always ask how I know if a couple needs help.  Like, how do I know when they REALLY need to see a counselor.  Everyone (I mean EVERYONE) asks this.  

One easy way to read the strength of a couple is to notice how present trust is this:

Can you give them the benefit of the doubt?

Giving someone the benefit of the doubt means you have a general baseline of goodwill and trust. 

Couples with a generosity of trust are better equipped to stay connected through tough times and handle conflict with less intensity.

Here are a fre examples of how the benefit of the doubt might show up.  Notice if any of these resonate for you:

You're able to hear a short tone in their voice and think "they don't mean to be short, they've probably had a hard day."

You ask your partner for help in the kitchen and don't get a response. You think "I bet they didn't hear me." 

They're late to arrive and before getting upset you think they must be stuck in traffic, or something important must have come up.

Bottom line: before taking something personally, jumping to negative conclusions, or getting defensive, you assume your partner has your best intentions at heart.

This generosity of trust will carry you through challenges unlike any other relationship skill. 

If those aren't present for you, it doesn't mean you have to end things, but we've got work to do. Perhaps trust has been broken in this relationship or others from your past and there's room for resolution. 

There are plenty of reasons this happens in relationships- but it's important to get out of this pattern sooner rather than later. Come in for a free consultation to talk about supporting your relationships health.


Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

Gina2018Headshot.jpgpolyamory coach | open relationship coach | open marriage coach
  • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity
  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
  • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
  • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • shift stuck communication & codependent relationship patterns

I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online and in Portland, Oregon. Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

Do We Really Need a Safe Word?

safeword sue | what is a safeword | safewords in relationships

What is a safeword anyway?

A safeword is a word or phrase that can be used to communicate when a person is nearing or crossing a physical, emotional, or ethical boundary.

They can be a shortcut to creating consent and can make communicating easier in moments of intense emotion or pleasure.

Some safe words are used to stop a situation outright, while others can request reduced level of intensity. Often people use red (stop), yellow (slow down or pause), and green (keep going) as an example of these.

I've recommended asexual safewords to clients when engaging in vulnerable potentially emotionally triggering situations as well as intimate situations. They can be a shorthand or code for nearing emotional overwhelm or tender topics and can help couples slow down conflicts when they arise.

Safewords originate in BDSM community where safety and consent are critical to ethical respectful play. Many organized BDSM and play groups and spaces have standardized safewords that members agree to use to avoid confusion at large group events. 

If they're going to work for you, safewords have to be discussed before you enter an intimate situation with a new partner. You can ask if they have a safeword they like, or you can offer words that work well for you. They can be playful, or direct depending on the mood or scene you're creating with your partner. For some people safewords can be an important part of sexual role play.

Here are some of the words my clients have chosen:

Pause

Foul ball

Don't stop

Banana bread

Strike one

Stop

FUCK

Mr. Big

Grandma

Yes please


Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  Let me know if I can help you:

open relationship counselor | open relationship coach | polyamory coach
  • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity
  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity 
  • manage intense emotions that arise in conflicts
  • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • shift stuck communication & codependent relationship patterns

I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online and in Portland, Oregon. Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.  

Signs You Have a Boundary Problem

SIGNS YOU HAVE BOUNDARY ISSUES | BOUNDARY PROBLEMS | RED FLAGS

Setting clear personal boundaries is the key to ensuring relationships are mutually respectful, trustworthy and caring. Boundaries set the limits for acceptable behavior from those around you, determining whether they feel able to put you down, make fun, or take advantage of your good nature.

If you're often uncomfortable with other peoples' treatment of you, it's likely time to reset your boundaries. Weak boundaries leave you vulnerable and likely to be taken for granted.  They also cause you to build resentful distance between you and the people you love most.

Common Boundary Violations

With that said, it can be difficult to identify when boundaries are an issue for you.  Here are a few signals to look for if you want to see where boundary problems lie in your relationship:

  • Saying “yes” to your partner, when in fact you’d rather say “no”
  • Saying “no” when it might be perfectly appropriate to say “yes” – this is often done to keep a partner at arm’s length, or punish him or her.

Good boundaries require authenticity and honesty. Neither of these behaviors are honest ways to communicate.  They leave huge gaps for misunderstanding and missing intimacy.

  • Making your partner read your mind instead of saying specifically what you’re thinking or feeling
  • Trying to control your partner’s thoughts or behavior through aggressive or subtle manipulation

Again, using indirect communication is a surefire way to create misunderstandings.  Not saying what you really wants sets your partner up for failure- they're sure to let you down at some point.  Not asking for what you want directly won't give your partner the opportunity to learn the best ways to love you.

Both of these kinds of manipulations will lead to conflict and hurt eventually.  You can avoid the hurt by getting clear and being direct about what you want to see happen between you.

 

Here are some tips that can help you establish and maintain healthy boundaries:

  • Communicate your thoughts and feeling honestly, with specificity and clearly. Whenever possible, be honest but respectful in sharing your thoughts and feelings with your partner. Yes, this is a vulnerable action to take, but with careful communication vulnerability is the key to building trust in relationships.
  • Ask your partner what they are feeling instead of trying to guess. Mind-reading is not your responsibility.  And no matter how connected you are, it is impossible to know what your partner wants or is thinking in every situation. If each of you reflects on your own thoughts and feelings, and takes responsibility for putting them into words you will grow deeper understanding. 
  • Take responsibility for your actions. All relationship dynamics are co-created. Instead of blaming your partner for how you feel, ask yourself how your choices (intentional or otherwise) contributed to the situation.

Healthy boundaries take practice. Most of us were not trained to have these kinds of conversations in our families. But with practice you will be better able to identify where the boundary lines are between you.

As a result, trust and connection will only grow stronger and more secure between you over time.


boundaries in relationships | healthy relationship boundaries | how to have boundaries | boundary issues

Hi!  I'm glad you're reading.  I can help you:

  • change communication & codependent relationship patterns
  • reconnect with passion & desire in long-term partnerships
  • rebuild trust after infidelity or dishonesty
  • move beyond jealousy, fear, and insecurity & manage intense emotions
  • open your relationship & practice polyamory with integrity

I lead couples retreats, host workshops, and see private clients online and in Portland, Oregon.  And I've created a HUGE free relationship tool library available online for couples worldwide.

Call me for a free consultation to rethink the way you do relationships.

Gina Senarighi, MS, MA, CPC is a communication consultant, sexuality counselor and certified relationship coach specializing in polyamory, open relationships, jealousy, and infidelity.