communication

FREE CALL ANNOUNCEMENT: Six Forms of Intimacy and Deeper Connection in Relationships

MONTHLY FREE COACHING CALL

Every month I host a free call for a small group on topics essential to success in love and entrepreneurship. 

We focus the conversation on tangible skills you can easily implement in your relationship and small business to build the deeply connected life of your dreams.

One hour max.  Always fun.  Always free.

These events often fill quickly. Hop on the waitlist to get access to the recording and be notified when a space becomes available.

JOIN US

Join this month's very intimate free call to learn what you need to know to sustain intimacy in long-term relationships.

Here's what we'll cover:

1. The six forms of intimacy you need to sustain vibrant fulfilling relationships.

2. How to cultivate intimate friendships without breaking trust.

3. How to manage insecurity in relationships.

4. How to better balance independence and meaningful connection in intimate partnerships.

We'll end with a quick coaching session to answer your specific questions about intimacy in your own relationship!

Whether you join us or not, download these Ten Journal Prompts for

When you register I'll send you an access code for my free relationship tool library, which includes eight specific tools and guides for healthy communication and boundaries. It also hosts my consent and intimacy guides for passionate partnerships.

Sign up today and join the conversation!


ABOUT YOUR COACH

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

She coaches online clients all over the world and leads retreats in the U.S.

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

Four Agreements in Romantic Relationships

Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements transformed the way I think about communication with myself and with the people I love. I know for some the spiritual undertones can be off-putting, but for many of my clients over the years it has offered really powerful wisdom.

The overall theme is that four simple yet profound rules can have an enormous impact on our life and relationships. Focusing on each of them has helped me live a more intentional, integrity-fueled life and build more mindful connected relationships.

These agreements not only apply to life in general but are absolutely critical in dating. I’ll dive deeper into each of them below. You can also download this beautiful printout of all the agreements to help you keep them in focus.:


Agreement 1: Be Impeccable With Your Word

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using your words to speak against yourself or others. Use the power of your words to grow truth and love.

Being clear with your intentions, expectations, and boundaries in relationships is the best path to connection and the only way to avoid misunderstandings.

When I began to focus on this agreement I noticed many innocent lies I told throughout the day. I might run into someone I know and say “we should get together sometime” knowing I would never truly follow up. These white lies add up, and wear on us over time. And for many of us this culminates in a pattern of over-promising and over-committing in relationships. Committing to this agreement means being really honest with yourself and others all the time.

I also appreciate the focus of this agreement on being really mindful of the words we choose to create a life and commit to a narrative that works for us. The stories we tell ourselves have direct impact on our happiness and the ways people around us respond to us. Take care in choosing the stories you hold as true, and the ones you share.


Agreement 2: Don’t Take Anything Personally

Realize that nothing others do is because of you, but instead a projection of their own reality, self-work, and dreams. When you are immune to the opinions of others it will free you from needless suffering.

Let me be clear here: I’m not saying you should stop caring about anyone else. But most of us care a little too much. I see so many folks tied up in anxiety and conflict because they are too closely connected to their partner’s feelings- or worse, their perception of their partner’s feelings.

This is huge when dealing with rejection. Once you accept that rejection isn’t personal, it starts to roll off your back. Maybe your partner had a bad day, maybe someone in their past was a jerk, or maybe they’re just unhappy- unrelated to you.

Their emotional experience is beyond your control. You can help them feel a little better, but their choice to feel better does have to start from within. There’s no value in stressing about something that’s out of your hands and not about you.

Now, of course there are times something you’ve done will spark a reaction in someone else. You can still own your mistake or the impact you had on someone else without taking it personally. That might sound like responding “I’m sorry, I was running behind, and that resulted in you being late and nervous.” instead of “I am sorry I’m such a jackass. I always mess this stuff up.” Can you feel the difference?

It’s really important you take responsibility for your actions and work on improving it to minimize negative impacts on others. But don’t let it determine your self worth or define your character.

You can do better- and you will.


Agreement 3: Don’t Make Assumptions

Ask questions and communicate as clearly as you can about misunderstandings. Stay curious about yourself and the others around you to create room to honor each of your individuality and growth.

I’ve written extensively about this in the past, so I won’t bore you here, but staying curious about your sweetheart is the easiest way to avoid growing stagnant and bored in long-term relationships. Invest energy in understanding them instead of assuming they’ll never change.

The same goes for yourself. Stay curious about your thoughts, feelings, and reactions to others- there’s always plenty to learn and the more you assume you know, the less self-awareness you are likely practicing.

Most of the couples I see stuck in struggle are clinging to resentments, assumptions, and misinterpretations without really exploring them. These keep us disconnected and often lead to bitterness. Nobody wants that.

The path to fulfillment is learning and growth- neither of which will happen without a little curiosity.


Agreement 4: Always Do Your Best

Your best will change moment to moment (with your health, energy, and experience) but by investing the best of yourself you’ll avoid self-judgment and regret.

So often the regrets we beat ourselves up about are the times we didn’t act with intention, integrity- or as our best selves. Committing to doing your best all them time helps us avoid regretful missteps.

But committing to always doing your best doesn’t mean becoming a perfectionist, or striving for some high-level output 100 percent of the time. Doing your best also means being clear with yourself and those around you about what you can do, how you can show up, and what you can give moment-to-moment and say-to-day. The more mindful you are of your internal state, energy level, and competency in the different and changing areas of life, the better equipped you’ll be to communicate this with the people you care for.

If you enjoyed this, I highly recommend you pick up The Four Agreements as well as Don Miguel’s other books, The Mastery of Love and Voice of Knowledge. They are about forming healthy relationships and defeating inner voices that cause suffering and anxiety, respectively.


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

She leads workshops and couples retreats in the Midwestern United States and Pacific Northwest and consults with clients online. Access her free Relationship Resource Toolbox here, or join her next FREE Monthly Relationships Masterclass coaching call.

Connect with her on social media or schedule a free consultation to see if her support could help you build more fulfilling, connected partnerships.

Relationship Skills Practice: Healthy Boundaries With People Outside Your Relationship

Every few weeks I share easy tips to keep your relationship fresh and connected.

I draw from the best research in healthy relationships to help you grow the kind of love and intimacy you really want.

Love is built in the tiniest of moments and smallest interactions we share. Use these simple tools to improve your relationship in under ten minutes a week.

Each video includes a free downloadable PDF worksheet or reflection guide to help you keep the energy and momentum going. To get a copy of the worksheets sign up here.

If you need help implementing these, or have questions about how to adapt them to your style, please let me know. I’m happy to help you create stronger connections.

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THIS WEEK’S PRACTICE


Today we’re talking about how to have healthy boundaries with people outside your relationship. I’m going to share five basic guidelines that help my clients navigate boundaries with other people to avoid secrecy and infidelity.

Here’s how to navigate situations with your ex or your crush without threatening your current partner.

Basic healthy boundaries guidelines (in “don’t” format):

  • Don’t be unclear about your boundaries and expectations.

  • Don’t toe the line.

  • Don’t withhold information.

  • Don’t be sneaky.

  • Don’t get defensive.

Watch the video for more details and schedule a free consultation with me if you’re interested in learning more.

REFLECTION

  • How can I build more openness in my relationship to talk about people I find inspiring or interesting?

  • How can I be more open to hearing about my partner’s new crushes, attractions, interests, and inspirations without feeling threatened?

  • What can I do to interrupt myself if I feel sneaky, withholding, or defensive?

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KEEP IT UP

The truth about long-term relationships is (even though we may not want to admit it) we all get a little lazy about our communication and tending to our connection as the years pass.

We’re often highly attentive, intentional and attuned in the early phases of relationship. But as we build a life we can get caught up in other details, day-to-day hustle, career-building, and parenting- and get distracted from prioritizing our partnerships.

There’s nothing wrong with you or your relationship if this happens, but if (when) it does, use it as a call to action for the two of you to re-prioritize practices like these. Habits are changed only with attention, so use these tools to pay closer attention to your sweetie and your relationship.

Most of these exercises are designed to take under ten minutes. If you want to integrate them into a regular practice, try committing to them on a more regular basis and keep them in regular rotation even after you receive the next practice.

It’s not going to hurt you to have extra opportunities for connection and meaning.

And if you fall out of practice don’t lose heart- you can always start again. Just make sure you do.

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Finally, if you notice you have some internal resistance to these practices or tips stay curious about it. Often the things we resist have a lot to each us.

Notice if you just aren’t getting around to connecting with your partner or if you really don’t want to try these tools and tips with them and ask yourself what that’s all about. If you want support building self-awareness around your resistance, or creating a vision of change, I’m here to help.


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

She leads workshops and couples retreats in the Midwestern United States and Pacific Northwest and consults with clients online.

Access her free Relationship Resource Toolbox here, or join her next FREE Monthly Relationships Masterclass coaching call.

Connect with her on social media or schedule a free consultation to see if her support could help you build more fulfilling, connected partnerships.

Questions to Ask When Deciding to Break Up

Making the decision to break up isn't easy. Most of you reading this have good reasons to both stay and go. For the most part, people felt super ambivalent about their relationships even if the decision seems pretty obvious. Most people have baseline dealbreakers that often go out the window when they meet someone and feel a strong chemical reaction.

Over time we start wondering if compromising those standards and some of our independence was really worth it.

Others start feeling stuck in unresolved conflict and unaddressed resentments that block our ability to deeply connect.

It’s hard to end a relationship for many reasons. If nothing else, there’s no way to end a relationship without facing the reality of loss and grief. But sometimes loss and grief are what you both need to build fuller, more enriching lives apart.

Questions to Ask When Deciding If You Should Break Up

Breaking up is obviously never easy. However, these 18 questions are designed to help you find some clarity if you're having difficulty deciding what to do:

  1. Have I been feeling unsafe, intimidated or threatened in this relationship?

  2. Have I been criticized, degraded or disrespected on a consistent basis?

  3. Have I been regularly interrogated about who I talk to, where I go, how much money I spend and related issues?

  4. Have I been walking on eggshells because I’m fearful or uncomfortable speaking my mind in this relationship?

  5. Does my partner always blame me or others for their problems or things that go wrong?

  6. Is my partner excessively possessive, calling or texting constantly, visiting expectantly to check up on me?

  7. Does my partner make me feel inadequate?

  8. How is this ending going to improve my life? The other person’s life?

  9. Does my partner keep their word or promises? Do I?

  10. Does my partner take responsibility for their actions? Do I?

  11. Is my partner willing to see things from my perspective? Will I see theirs?

  12. Does this person make me happy or would I be happier by myself?

  13. Have I asked for my needs to be met directly and respectfully?

  14. Am I expecting my partner to be the only one who changes - am I willing to make serious changes in order to make this work?

  15. Have we adequately tried to resolve conflicts and stuck points? Are we willing to hire help if needed?

  16. Do we have the same values and goals for the future?

  17. Am I ready to walk-away or am I going to end it and get back together?

  18. Can I handle being single and finding other supports for my grief through this break up?

At the end of the day, no one can decide what you should do about your relationship but you. But if you really take the time to think it over, you'll make the right decision for you.

If you want help sorting through this decision please give me a call for a consultation. I’ve supported hundreds of great folks as they decide to stay or go and I’d be happy to help you.


Gina Senarighi Madison Couples Counselor

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

She co-hosts the Swoon podcast and coaches clients online all over the world and leads retreats in the Pacific Northwest and Midwest United states.

When she’s not working she’s tending her urban garden, traveling with her partner, raising her toddler, listening to podcasts or walking her little dog, Frida in Madison, Wisconsin.

Five Questions to Ask on Date Night This Week

Nearly every week couples ask me how to keep the passion alive in their long-term relationships. They see desire fatigue set in all around them, the more we build a comfortable stable life with someone, the less we connect with the fascination, intrigue, and spontaneity that usually comes so easily early in relationships.  

Those three elements fade away as we stop exploring ourselves and each other.  Over time we start assuming we know everything there is to know about our partner.  To that idea, I say:

How incredibly boring it must be to know everything about your love! How limiting it must be to have the person you desire think they know everything about you! 

I hope you never know everything there is to know about your partner. And if you really do, you're either spending too much time together (and need more independence) or aren't growing as humans (and need to start).

The simplest way to reconnect with that energy is to start getting curious about each other.  Start asking questions again and really answering one another.  No quick one-word responses.  No mumbled answers while scrolling your phone or playing a video game.  Turn towards one another with intention like you did way back when and start discovering one another again. 

You know I send out juicy questions to bring couples closer every week.  This week, try asking your honey these on date night:

  1. What do you daydream about most often?

  2. When do you fantasize about escape?

  3. What makes you cringe?

  4. What do you want more of in your daily life?

  5. What can I do to support you in making your dreams come true?

 


Gina Senarighi | :GBTQ Couples Counseling | LGBTQ Marriage Therapy

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.

The Five Love Languages for Successful Couples

WHY ARE THE 5 LOVE LANGUAGES SO IMPORTANT?

In all my years of counseling, diverse couples, marriages, and partners, it’s become clear that everyone benefits when they begin to apply them in all their relationships.

Rarely do couples share the same love language. It can create a lot of frustration when you think you are doing a good job expressing love and yet the other person is just not feeling it. If you don’t understand the love language concept, then you can feel stuck. But it, you understand that they speak a different language, then you can learn to speak that language.

 

WHAT ARE THE 5 LOVE LANGUAGES?

The love languages were originally written by marriage therapist Dr. Gary Chapman in his book, The Five Love Languages. The book has a religious theme that doesn’t resonate with many of my clients, but the foundation of this basic couples theory still offers important guidance. 

Basically, there are five main ways we demonstrate love in relationships.  Everyone has a need for all five languages, but each of us prefer one of these more than others. Usually each individual values one or two of the five more than the others.

Most of us communicate love to our partners primarily through our preferred love language- which doesn’t always match our partner’s preference. This miscommunication means sometimes our efforts go unacknowledged.  And sometimes we don’t see all the love our partner is throwing our way.

Sometimes we can have trouble connecting with love even if it is all around us.

IDENTIFYING YOUR LOVE LANGUAGE…

Think of a time you felt truly loved in your relationship. You were sure your partner loved you dearly. What were they doing? What specific actions did they take? Why were these actions important or meaningful to you?

Or think about daydreams or fantasies you have about being well-loved. What’s going on?  How does the person in your dream tell or show you they care?

Now read the languages below to see which best fits with the scenario you described above.

Most people enjoy all of these Love Languages but you will see one or two of them are especially important. Knowing which is your primary or favorite helps your partner better connect with you when showing love.

Knowing which is your least priority helps you identify loving practices you might overlook in partnership.

Your preferred Love Language can change over time, of course, so identifying it clearly and talking about it with a partner will help you two connect in more meaningful loving ways.  

Focus on the love you share this week with this framework in mind and watch what happens!  


entrepreneur relationships | couples who are entrepreneurs

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.

Stop Making Things Worse in Conflict

Okay, no one likes being stuck in negative conflicts with someone you love.  For too many couples, cyclical stuck arguments are all too familiar.  

I've been posting about conflicts in relationships for a couple weeks, so if you've been reading along you're familiar with the mindset necessary to shift stuck conflicts, but you might be looking for a step two.  You can get release judgment, but then what?

Imagine your conflict pattern is a train on a track.  Most of the couples I work with know every stop on the line, "First you say something grouchy, then I snap back.  Then you stomp around and sulk a while and I pick at the issue until you explode. Then we both yell until I cry. Then you storm off and we try to give it time. We're usually both totally pissed off at that point."

If you don't already know your typical conflict patterns it can be helpful to draw them out like a map.  Name each stop on your train track with a behavior one of you might take.  You might label, raised voice, stomped feet, sarcastic comment, attempted apologies, blame, name-calling, and so on.  Try to be as objective as possible as you name each stop.  

Imagine your conflict is a train speeding down that track. Notice (if your conflict is like anyone else's) how it picks up speed at each stop. Now imagine what might happen if you stopped the train before continuing to the known next stop. What might happen if you slow it down or stop the train completely?

In order to stop making the conflict worse, we have to identify our own contributions to the conflict pattern, imagine a different path or outcome, and start aligning our behaviors to the new path. I'll go into each of these more below:

IDENTIFYING YOUR CONTRIBUTION

Once you name the behaviors you can easily identify your contributions to the pattern.  When you start seeing yourself do these in real time try to slow down and be more intentional with your words and actions. 

Visualize the consequences of giving in to your destructive or impulsive urges in conflict. The clearer you can be about the unwanted results of your own contributions to the conflict the less likely you will be to repeat them.

When those urges arise try to sit with them and just observe your behavior.  Notice what happens in your body and where you find resolution or lodge resentment.  You can add this to your train map for deeper awareness.  

Be sure to notice what helps you release the tension or choose more peaceful responses.  That information can help you re-connect with yourself and stay grounded in future tough conversations.

You cannot change your partner's behavior, but you can shift yours.  Instead of defaulting to your usual pattern, try to slow your pace to create breathing room for new results.

IMAGINE A DIFFERENT PATH

Focus on the consequences of continuing to fight this way.  Notice the consequences of attacking back.  Recognize that each attack or defense you contribute continues the stuck pattern you say you want to shift.  Once again, you cannot change your partner's behavior, but you can shift yours.  

Reflect on the values you hold dear personally (you can download a values self-check here).  Ask how the stuck conflict pattern aligns with your values.  Notice which values are out of alignment with this pattern. 

Reflect on your desired outcome for the conflict, how does your pattern align with the outcome?  How could your behavior better align with what you really want?

Imagine instead of attacking and defending in the ways you have in the past, you interact in better alignment with your values.  Imagine yourself more courageously acting in alignment with the values you hold and the outcomes you desire. 

Imagine yourself feeling proud you changed your contribution to the conflict pattern.  Envision you and your partner more peacefully ending the conflict cycle.

ALIGN YOUR BEHAVIORS WITH INTENTION

If you haven't had a different kind of conflict in a while (or ever) it can be really challenging to change the way you engage in it.  Visualize the positive consequences of riding out your defensive or attacking urges.

Create a vision of yourself responding in a way that leaves you feeling confident (not righteous), understood, and connected to your partner.  Imagine what you might say to end the conflict with grace and care.

Start by rehearsing a new ending to your conflicts in your head.  Here are a couple phrases to try:

  • "I hate fighting the way we have in the past. I want to have a different kind of conversation with you."  
  • "I want to be more intentional in conflicts with you.  Let me take a break to think this through and come back to it in ten minutes when I have a cool head."
  • "I really care about you and us and I'm confused and overwhelmed in this conversation right now.  Let me take a minute to think."
  • "I don't like the way we fight and I don't want to keep fighting this way."
  • "I feel sad/afraid/lonely/confused and want to feel more sure/confident/connected/peaceful."
  • "I love you and feel like we're starting our usual conflict pattern.  I don't want to fight like that anymore."
  • "I think I'm heading to a negative/unkind/defensive place in this conversation.  Let me take a lap around the block to calm down and get in a better headspace."

Practice stepping back instead of into or against your partner's aggression in the conflict to realign with your values and desired outcome. How does this impact the result of your conflict?  

You can interrupt stuck conflict cycles, but it takes awareness, intention, and courage.  The more you become aware of the steps in your conflict pattern (yes, actually write or draw them out) the better equipped you will be to interrupt them.  And the clearer you are about the behaviors you'd like to choose instead of attacking or defending the more likely you'll employ more caring values-based actions.  


CHANGE YOUR COMMUNICATION PATTERNS

Are you inspired to change the way you communicate in conflicts?  Three ways to change your relationship to conflict for good:

  1. Lots of the information in this article draws from a great book on relationships.  Its a super quick read and a really easy listen to audiobook.  Get your copy of High Conflict Couple here (its' great even if you're not necessarily "high conflict").

  2. Download my Fight Better Guide for Couples.  Totally free.  Get it in my Relationship Resource Library right here

  3. Call me for a free consult.  Sometimes it helps to talk it through with a neutral third party to make changes that last.  I'll happily share resources or support you as a coach.  Let's talk.


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.

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.

Tools to Interrupt Conflict Patterns

Last week I wrote a post about conflict patterns that seems to have stirred things up for some of you.  Particularly when I talked about validation's role in resolving conflicts.  I wanted to write a little more this week to help you understand and implement validation effectively in your conflict cycles.

You can read what I wrote last week here.

Validation is not the same as agreement.  We can validate each other's perspective or experience and still disagree. 

You like anchovies on pizza and I do not is a great simple example.  If I won't validate your pizza preference I might ask you to explain why you like anchovies, or make fun of other people who like that topping, or belittle you for having that preference.  I can tell you how unreasonable it is or how I've never met anyone who really liked anchovies. 

Of course, none of that will help us order an actual pizza or feel close. Simply stating a perspective without judgmental language or interpretation can be validating.  "You prefer anchovies and I prefer cheese." Is a simple way of validating their perspective.

Although you're unlikely to take pizza choice personally, it's easy to see how we can disagree, acknowledge each other's perspective as valid at the same time. 

There are a number of ways we can validate a perspective.  Knowing these can give you options when you're feeling stuck in a conflict and want to find a way back to being connected.

Emotions

Understanding your partner's emotions is critical to connection and longevity in relationships. It's also the foundation of empathy, without which relationships cannot survive. Here are a few examples of validating emotions:

  • "You feel sad when we talk about this."
  • "I think what you're saying is, you're overwhelmed or worried about this.  Is that right?"
  • "So you're confused by this too." 
  • "Are you saying you're frustrated by ____?"

Beliefs

Everyone has opinions, and everyone is entitled to them.  But hen they become controversial in relationships it can be a real challenge to sort through and maintain connection.  Here are a few ways to validate their beliefs (even if you disagree):

  • "You absolutely have a right to your opinion."
  • "I know you have a different way of doing this."
  • "You've clearly got a solid opinion about this."
  • "I hear you've been thinking about this for a while."

Desires

Knowing your partner's wants or desires helps them feel heard and understood in conflict.  It also helps you support them in getting needs met or soothing when they're disappointed. You might say something like:

  • "You really want to go on that vacation."
  • "I know having quiet time together really matters to you."
  • "I hear you that you want more help around the house."
  • "Having more sex is important to connection for you."

Actions

All too often we overlook the specific actions and behaviors our partners take.  When we miss these they can feel unacknowledged and underappreciated and it can lead us to grow resentful.  Start taking note of specific actions to validate their experience.  Here are some options:

  • "I saw you reading. What's that book about?"
  • "You said your back hurt earlier.  How are you feeling now?"
  • "Thanks for bringing this up."
  • "I so appreciate you folding the laundry with me."

Pain

It can be super challenging to focus on our partner's pain or suffering (especially when we might have caused some of it).  Most of us work hard to avoid suffering and want to fix it right away.  However, by acknowledging the pain we can be vulnerable and deepen trust in the relationship.  Here are some examples for you to try:

  • "I can see you're hurting."
  • "I know this week has been really stressful."
  • "Honey, I'm sorry you're in pain."
  • "This has been so hard on you."

CHANGE YOUR COMMUNICATION PATTERNS

Are you inspired to change the way you communicate in conflicts?  Three ways to change your relationship to conflict for good:

  1. Lots of the information in this article draws from a great book on relationships.  Its a super quick read and a really easy listen to audiobook.  Get your copy of High Conflict Couple here (its' great even if you're not necessarily "high conflict").

  2. Download my Fight Better Guide for Couples.  Totally free.  Get it in my Relationship Resource Library right here

  3. Call me for a free consult.  Sometimes it helps to talk it through with a neutral third party to make changes that last.  I'll happily share resources or support you as a coach.  Let's talk.

SHIFT YOUR COMMUNICATION PATTERNS IN A FREE CALL

Relationship Coach  Communication Coach

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.

How to Let Go of Judgment in Relationships

I've been writing a series on conflict in relationships for a bit and wanted to take today to look more closely at the role of judgment in conflicts.  All too often when couples are stuck in a conflict stalemate judgment is playing a role.  

So learning to change the role of judgment can shift conflict patterns in significant ways.  Here's how to do it:

LEARN TO IDENTIFY JUDGMENTS

Before we can shift judgments role in our relationships we have to get confident at identifying when judgment is present.  You can use the following conversation flags to notice judgment is present:

  • Right/Wrong & Good/Bad - Narrows the focus of the conversation to defend against judgment
  • Should - Should implies right/wrong or good/bad and often results from unsolicited advice  
  • Enough/Not Enough - Measuring and evaluating are a great examples of judgment
  • Always/Never - Often indicate we're coming from a place of judgment
  • Comparison - is a form of evaluation that forces us to leave the present moment to think about other people or situations

RELEASING SELF-JUDGMENT

It is often easier to start implementing non-judgment practices within than with others.  Start by noticing your own experience without judgment. Just describe how things feel, taste, smell, or sound. 

Notice your body's experiences without trying to change or critique what's happening.  Just describe and experience it as is.

SORTING JUDGMENTS IN NEUTRAL MOMENTS

Before applying non-judgment in heated exchanges, use neutral situations to build your skills.  Notice your thoughts that evaluate, compare, measure or critique and start shifting them to observation. 

"This pizza is really good. The crust is perfect" (good and perfect are judgments) becomes "This pizza is hot, salty, and cheesy. The crust is crispy. It reminds me of slumber parties in my childhood. I want another piece."  

"The floor here is really gross. Do they ever clean?" (gross is a judgment, their cleaning practice is interpretation) becomes "The floor is sticky.  I can see drip marks and lint on it."

SAVOR YOUR RELATIONSHIP

Part of building patterns of non-judgment is learning to observe without interpretation even in non-conflictual situations.  Notice and describe your partner judgment-free in joyful and peaceful situations is just as important to cultivating new conflict skills as focusing on more challenging moments.  

Try describing what your partner is doing during even mundane moments (cooking, folding laundry, sleeping, or reading).  Commit yourself to observing instead of evaluating (right/wrong, good/bad) and when your reactions arise notice them but refocus back on observing your partner.

MINDFUL LISTENING

You can also begin a practice of mindful listening. Instead of planning your response or observing only your reactions, stay fully present with your partner's process while they talk. 

Listen for deeper understanding focusing only on your partner's thoughts, feelings, and desires.  If you notice your attention shift to yourself, the future, or the past, try to draw your attention back to simply hearing what's being said.

DESCRIBE IN HEAT

Once you've built up the practices above, start applying description instead of judgment when you notice anger or judgment between you and your partner.

"You're suck a jerk.  You always cut me off.  I hate the way you interrupt me!" becomes "I wasn't finished talking.  I want to finish what I was saying."

"Stop yelling. I hate when you lose control like this." becomes "I hear you raising your voice and I feel myself shutting down." 

 

CHANGE YOUR COMMUNICATION PATTERNS

Are you inspired to change the way you communicate in conflicts?  Three ways to change your relationship to conflict for good:

  1. Lots of the information in this article draws from a great book on relationships.  Its a super quick read and a really easy listen to audiobook.  Get your copy of High Conflict Couple here (its' great even if you're not necessarily "high conflict").

  2. Download my Fight Better Guide for Couples.  Totally free.  Get it in my Relationship Resource Library right here

  3. Call me for a free consult.  Sometimes it helps to talk it through with a neutral third party to make changes that last.  I'll happily share resources or support you as a coach.  Let's talk.

 

RELATIONSHIP COACH | COUPLES RETREAT

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.

Enhance Your Emotional Vocabulary

There are more words out there to describe how you feel besides sad, mad, and glad—in fact, there’s a whole world of words that can describe your emotions in incredibly specific ways. For most people, there's a significant deficit in our emotional vocabulary training growing up.

Having a rich emotional vocabulary means being able to recognize, label and understand feelings in ourselves and others.  Of course happy, sad, scared, and angry are four foundational emotions, but there are far more nuanced and complex emotions experienced regularly.

Having a solid emotional vocabulary helps us navigate complexity in relationships and deepen emotional intimacy.

Together the skills of identifying her emotions and reading and responding to other people’s emotions combine to create a skill known as emotional intelligence or emotional literacy.

Emotional literacy is necessary for us to regulate emotions, effectively connect with the people close to us, and manage social interactions successfully. The larger your emotional vocabulary the better equipped you are to discern different feelings, communicate your needs, and connect with the feelings of others. 

So how do you expand your emotional vocabulary?  Start by downloading this list. Use it for any of the activities below on your own or with someone you trust to expand your use and understanding of each word.  

How to use your feelings list

1) Choose one emotion each day and try to notice where you run into it throughout the day.  Maybe in a news story, or a book you're reading. Maybe someone talks about it on a podcast or you hear a story from a colleague at work. You might see it in a TV episode. Focus on noticing the places that emotion shows up for a day.

2) Choose one emotion at random and do a five-minute free write about where and when it has been present in your life. Think about the circumstances, players and resolution. Notice what physical sensations arise when focusing attention on this particular emotion. Notice if other emotions travel alongside the emotion you picked.

3) With someone you trust, randomly select an emotion from the list and tell a story about that emotion without naming the emotion itself. Have the other person guess what you're describing.  This practice helps you develop more effective empathetic communication.

4) Imagine the emotion as a living being and draw it. Give it a body and face and use color if helpful.  Notice if it's hairy or feathered, winged or legged. Most importantly, ask it what it wants most and how it might try to help you. Jot notes as needed to deepen your learning.  

5) Keep this list handy while you watch TV at night and during the commercial breaks try to guess what the main character is feeling using words from this list.  If you're watching with loved ones you can each choose a character to guess emotions for.

There are many other ways to deepen your emotional literacy but starting with these practices will help you expand your vocabulary and ultimately deepen your connection with yourself and those you love.  

If you'd like support deepening emotional intimacy and expanding your emotional vocabulary give me a call, I'd be happy to help.  


Gina Senarighi Relationship Coach | Couples Retreats Communication Skills

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.

How to Interrupt Stuck Conflict Communication Patterns (Part 1)

Look, I'll be the first to admit conflict is needed in healthy relationships.  It serves us to have boundaries and differ from our sweetheart.  It's critical we can say when something's not working, sit with that discomfort and come through it together.

But most of us have only experienced negative, unresolved and hurtful conflict.  It's hard to imagine what healthy conflict looks like in loving relationships. 

I've been focusing a large part of my work on shifting conflict and communication patterns in intimate relationships for ten years, and in that time I've rarely encountered anyone who feels confident in their conflict resolution skills.  

So I decided to spend a little more time focusing this blog on conflict in couples, with the hope I can help more of you face conflict directly and lovingly so you reach a resolution and connection more easily.  

I want to start by going over three critical global shifts you need to make to adjust the nature of conflicts in your relationships.  Once you and your love have a hold on these you will start seeing conflict resolve more quickly and compassionately in a very short time.  

Start Paying More Attention to Yourself Than Your Partner

The first issue most of us get caught in during conflict is a hyperfocus on what our partner is or isn't doing and the interpretations we're making about them.  The first issue this brings up is it leaves us out of connection with ourselves.  Often we can end up reacting to conflict from a pure state of emotion- without much grounded or rational thought.  

It also centers our interpretations, instead of what we want.  Interpretations are important, but they are often assumption-based and can be very unforgiving.  Notice what happens when you're interpreting or assuming vs when you're focused on your own experience, reactions, and behavior. 

Finally, focusing on them stops us from reflecting on our contributions to the problem.  The only way to unlock a cycle of blame in a conflict is to move toward personal accountability.  What can you do differently to move forward?  Ask this of yourself next time, instead of focusing on what you'd like your partner to do.

Stop Making Things Worse

Lots of conflicts become piles of hurt quickly due to quick thoughtless reactions and mounting hopelessness.  Let's look at how you can resolve things without adding more hurt to the mix. 

Start by committing to intentionality and mindfulness during the conflict. Notice when you've stopped being mindful and find ways to re-focus or take a break in the conflict to soothe and then return to the conversation later for resolution.  Don't just drop it or avoid it, but stay mindful of the outcome you'd like to see at the end of the conversation. 

You can also begin rethinking your bigger story about conflict between you.  Imagine what a healthy conflict might feel like.  Picture, in detail a gentler, more loving resolution.  And start practicing the emotional responses you're willing to contribute to moving in that direction.  

The more you can visualize the negative consequences of giving in to your reactive (sometimes destructive) urges, and the positive consequences of interacting differently, the more easily you'll start changing the way you show up in the conflict pattern.

Even if your partner isn't willing to change their patterns, just by shifting your contribution to the conflict your conflicts will begin to take new shape.  Stick with it.

Validation and Conflict Resolution

Couples who move more easily through conflict toward resolution more easily validate each other's perspective - even if they deeply disagree.  Learning to validate is essential to changing conflict patterns.  

So what if you disagree?  Validating a viewpoint is not the same as agreeing. 

If my partner wants to go out to brunch with friends, and I want to cancel to stay in bed and snuggle we can disagree while validating each other by saying "I know you really want to sleep in and we rarely get to do that anymore." and "We haven't been out to your favorite restaurant or seen those friends in a long time. I know it's your favorite Sunday activity." 

Notice the lack of "but" in those sentences.  We simply start by validating each other's viewpoint.  Adding "...but I still want to go out/stay in." takes the power out of the original validation. 

Of course this leaves us with more to discuss to resolve the issue, but it gets the conversation started in the right direction.  

Sometimes it's easy to get hooked into evaluating your partner's perspective.  One of you thinks the other's perspective is trivial or out of proportion with the situation.  Or you'd never react in that same way. 

No matter your judgment about it's validity or if you have the same perspective, accepting your partner's viewpoint is essential to move on.  Evaluating, judging, or comparing it to another's experience/viewpoint will only stall or stop the conflict on route to resolution (and likely leave more hurt).

CHANGE YOUR COMMUNICATION PATTERNS

Are you inspired to change the way you communicate in conflicts?  Three ways to change your relationship to conflict for good:

  1. Lots of the information in this article draws from a great book on relationships.  Its a super quick read and a really easy listen to audiobook.  Get your copy of High Conflict Couple here (its' great even if you're not necessarily "high conflict").

  2. Download my Fight Better Guide for Couples.  Totally free.  Get it in my Relationship Resource Library right here

  3. Call me for a free consult.  Sometimes it helps to talk it through with a neutral third party to make changes that last.  I'll happily share resources or support you as a coach.  Let's talk.


Gina Senarighi Relationship Coach | Communication Consultant

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.

Relationship Advice: Keep Your Conversation Fresh

One of the most important things we can do in a couple is continue to learn about one another.  When we stop being curious and start making assumptions about the people in our lives we start running into problems.  

Take some time over the weekend to get to know this person in a new way by asking these ten simple questions.

Even if you think you know their answer, ask and see if their response has changed or grown since you last checked in.  Try to accept their answers with warmth (the goal is to create openness for more sharing).  

It might be exciting to learn how your partner has changed over time.  These work well on a first date too!

Ask your sweetie:

1.  Do you look more like your mother or father?  How?

2.  Which of your parents are you closer to?

3.  Whats the most important lesson your parents taught you?

4.  What qualities make a good parent?

5.  Do you wish anything were different about your relationship with your parents?

6.  Who mentored you as a child?

7. Who was your hero growing up?

8. What influence should our families have in our relationship?

9.  What values have you held onto from your upbringing?

10.  If you could change anything about your childhood, would you?  What would you change?

(Check out previous conversation starters here)

I am so excited to hear from you about the conversations these ignite.  Leave a comment below and let me know!

Healthy Relationships: The Five Love Languages

In my coaching, I have found it particularly useful for couples to understand and integrate the Five Love Languages.  Gary Chapman (author of The Five Love Languages) says that there are five main ways individuals express and receive love.  Each of us has a preference for with language we receive.  We are also each more skilled in giving love in one of these ways than the other.

The trick is that we are most likely to give love in the forms that we most enjoy receiving.  But our partner may have a different preferred language and may miss our attempts at showing our love, or may give love in a way we aren't even realizing!

To clarify your preference take a few notes on the following questions:

1.  What is the sweetest thing your partner has ever done for you?  What made it so touching?

2.  What are the five most recent ways you showed your partner you love them?  How did they respond?

This information will help you determine your preferred love language.  Often we default to our own favorite love language when giving love to our partner.  However, its important to try to use a variety of ways to show your sweetheart you care.  Its even more helpful to learn their preference and try to work in ways they will really enjoy being loved.

The Five Love Languages are:

1.  Words of Love: Sweet things said or written to one another

There are many ways to share words of love.  It's really helpful to share affirmations and appreciations every day.  Tell your partner why they are special to you and what drew you to them.  Help them see how great they are in person and in writing.  Emails, texts, quick phone calls or Skype dates can quickly warm your loved ones' heart.  It can take a little creativity if this isn't your primary love language.  Make a list of all the ways you can tell them and begin making attempts every day.  You might want to make them a card, write it on a cake, read it in a poem, or shout it from the rooftop!

2.  Physical Affection: Nonverbal physical intimacy

Do you hold hands in the movies?  Do you kiss hello and goodbye?  hugging, cuddling, and sex is especially important to partners who prioritize this love language.  Increasing the amount of loving touch you share doesn't take much time, but may require a little thought, especially if this isn’t your primary love language or you didn’t grow up in a physically affectionate family.  Simply sitting close to each other as you watch TV requires no additional time, but can communicate your love loudly.

3.  Acts of Service: Actions providing care for the other

Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an a partner who highly values acts of service will speak volumes. Some of the words they most want to hear are, “Let me do that for you.”  Ask yourself, what chore or responsibility is your partner constantly nagging you about?  Your spouse is telling you this particular task as a really important thing to him or her.  Try it as a starting point for your acts of service.

4.  Quality Time: The gift of your undivided attention

Time is a strong communicator of love and all too often couples spend more time apart than together.   Because we are drawn in so many directions it is especially important to spend real-time focused on each other and your partnership.  In order to increase connection and communication for the partner who especially values quality time there are a few easy ways to improve the quality of your shared time.

  • Set your electronic devices aside for a set time (especially on dates and during conversations).

  • Maintain eye contact when your partner is talking

  • Try not to interrupt

  • Reflect your partners words back to them so they know you hear them.

  • Ask yourself, what your partner is experiencing, and try to confirm their emotional experience

5.  Gifts: Gestures and/or presents as symbols of your love

All five love languages challenge us to give to our spouse, but for some, receiving gifts, visible symbols of love, speaks the loudest.  This does not have to be a materialistic gesture.  Some of the most meaningful gifts can include tickets to a show you loved together, or a receipt from a date when you were just getting to know each other.  They can be flowers from your yard, or drawings, or poems.  Keep a note of your partners wish list (Evernote can be a great tool for this on your smart phone) so you always have ideas handy.

Understanding the five love languages and the ways they support your love can lead to greater creativity, interest, and most importantly awareness in your relationship.

Are We Gonna Make It?

"Are we gonna make it?"

The number one thing I get asked by clients, “Are we gonna make it?” can be a tough question to answer.  The real important answer to this question will come less from me and more from the actual members of the couple.  Do YOU think you will make it?  But that’s not why they’re asking.  They’re asking because they’ve hired me as a consultant.  They're paying me to assess what they’ve got as assets and where they need to improve in order to move forward.

Are you asking yourself now?

Here are a few questions you can ask yourself at home to start your own self-assessment. 

  • Do you know your partner's life dreams?  Do they know yours?
  • Does your partner fascinate you?  Do you captivate your sweetheart?
  • Is your sex life satisfying?
  • Are you able to resolve conflicts with humor and respect?  Are you able to agree to disagree?
  • Have you been happy, sad, and mad in front of your partner?  Have they with you?

If you answered no, or are even a little unsure about any of these it might be time for a tune up.   Any good business partnership renegotiates their contract from time to time.  Why don’t we view life partnerships with the same maintenance strategy?  Just coming to see a counselor or coach doesn't mean it's the end, it, think of it as contracting with a consultant.

Are you going to make it?  I hope so and I'm happy to help if you choose.

Couples Conversation Starters: Turn Up Summer HEAT

One of the most important things we can do in a couple is continue to learn about one another.  When we stop being curious and start making assumptions about the people in our lives we start running into problems.  Take some time over the weekend to get to know this person in a new way by asking these ten simple questions.

Even if you think you know their answer, ask and see if their response has changed or grown since you last checked in.  Try to accept their answers with warmth (the goal is to create openness for more sharing).  It might be exciting to learn how your partner has changed over time.

Ask your sweetie:

1.  Whats your favorite summer event?

2.  What has been the highlight of your summer this year?

3.  What is your favorite summer memory?

4.  How do you keep cool?

5.  Would you rather live year-round in a desert or frozen tundra?

6.  What is your experience camping?  

7.  Do you swim?  Whats your earliest memory playing in water?

8.  What summer sports entertain you?

9.  Do you celebrate Summer Solstice?  

10.  If you could attend any summer festival, anywhere in the world, where would you go?

(Check out previous conversation starters here)

I am so excited to hear from you about the conversations these ignite.  Leave a comment below and let me know!