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.

Seven Principles for Making Your Relationship Work

Hi!  I found a great summary of one of my all-time favorite relationship books, so I wanted to be sure to share it with you. 

Seven Principles of Making Your Marriage Work by John Gottman is excellent even if you're a couple who plans never to marry.  His 40+ years researching couples in everyday environments has build a critical foundation for understanding what makes love last. 

Check it out:

 

I'd love to hear what you think after watching or reading.  Pop over to my facebook page and leave a comment, or call me for a consultation to learn how to apply these principles in your own relationship.

 

Couples Who Dream Together: Insipre a Shared Vision in your Relationship

The importance of inspiring a shared vision as a leader and at work has been well-documented.  Leaders who can inspire that vision among team members can more easily motivate for success, re-organize in conflict, and see the vision through to completion.

Why wouldn't a shared vision be just as important in personal partnerships?

This week I'm leading a workshop with 22 entrepreneurial couples to help them apply business success principles in their personal relationships.  We'll be talking about the importance of shared dreaming (join us here).  

Business leaders who succeed prioritize visioning by setting aside time to create and nourish a vision among their teams. You can do this in your family by spending time imagining what things will be like for all of you in a year, and five. Dream up detailed stories of the adventures you'll take and the lessons you'll learn together. 

SHARED DREAMING

Another way to develop your vision as a couple is to start a relationship dream list. A shared dream list is like a bucket list. It collects the dreams you have for this lifetime in one place. If we fill this dream list with interest, growth, and adventure it can help us live life fully, courageously, and intentionally.

Most couples informally share ideas and dreams over time, but clearly committing to shared dreams can be a must more powerful action step in creating a shared future. The act of writing anything out longhand helps you focus and remember it.

WRITE IT DOWN

Use the page below to start your shared list. Dream up all the possibilities you want to experience together and write them down. No dream is too big or too small- if it’s yours commit to it on paper.

This is a list that grows with you, so when you know you want to add something, simply write it down on your list, make it real in your mind, and then consider how to fulfill your dream today, tomorrow, or someday...your list is there when you’re ready. You can reorganize together it any time- I recommend you revisit it together every year.

Having a dream list helps you invest in making them come true. Keep it in a visible place to remind and motivate yourself to reach for your lifelong goals. Every day is a new opportunity.

Download the free worksheet below to help you create a relationship dream list at home.  If you'd like help strengthening your partnership please give me a call for couples coaching.  I'd love to help you!   


 couples coach | couples who start businesses | successful couples | couples who work together

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.

Three Questions to Ask Your Partner This Week

Thank you to Danielle LaPorte for this week's questions.  If you don't know her already, Danielle wrote the Desire Map years ago and it became a foundation for the couples work I do to this day.  In it she helps people re-orient their days around what they want most in life. 

I've now walked hundreds of clients through her process to help them reconnect with their core values, clarify intentions, and take meaningful action individually and in partnership.  Check it out here.

She's about to launch a new podcast and I'm really excited about it.  Even before it launches (next week) she gave a sneak peek on itunes.  In the preview, she asks three questions, and while I heard them I thought of all of you. 

You know I send out juicy questions to bring couples closer every week.  This week, try hers:

  1. Whats the drag in your life?

  2. What do you love?

  3. What do you crave?

  4. What do you want?

  5. How do you think I can help with that?



Gina Senarighi Love Coach | Couples Retreats | Relationship 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.

Eight Questions Happy Couples Ask Each Other

Every week I send out conversation starters for couples.  If you'd like to receive them enter your information here.


Remember the sweet beginning of your relationship? Streams of texts and emails, all-night talks that will kept you starry-eyed well into the next day. Fascination, desire, mystery, and excitement fuel you through restless days and nights.

As time passes and you begin building a life with someone life and responsibilities often come between you and that sense of wonder.  As you fall into a rut of talking about housecleaning, bills, and childcare daily conversations usually shift from loving flirtation and curiosity to mundane logistics.

Most new couples vow that this will never happen to them. Yet far too many couples become emotionally disconnected even after making that pledge. But it doesn't have to be that way!

Couples who maintain a feeling of connectedness do things differently. They're deliberate about sustaining and engaging real and meaningful dialogue with each other. Their methods don't involve large displays of affection and don't take a ton of time or money. In fact, the littlest things are usually far more impactful than infrequent grand gestures.

One of the cheapest and easiest ways to reconnect is actually the best.  By asking meaningful, open-ended questions and staying fully present in conversations couples can rekindle and maintain that sense of chemical attraction, fascination, and desire from the start of their relationship.

The following eight questions are the foundation of happiness in lasting relationships.  Use them to start a conversation with your sweetheart this week.  Set aside distraction-free time to talk and really listen (like you used to).  And begin with the intention to be vulnerable, open, and kind as you begin getting to know one another again.

  1. Who of our friends has a relationship you admire and why?

  2. What three ways can I make your life easier this week?

  3. Does anything worry you that you haven't told me?

  4. What is the best part of being in a relationship with me?

  5. What do I do that most annoys you?

  6. What dreams are you hoping to fulfill this year?  How can I support you in reaching them?

  7. How can we make our sex life better?

  8. When do you feel most loved by me?

If you'd like to get conversation starters like these in your inbox once a week add your email address below.  I'm happy to share these tools with you!


Gina Senarighi | Couples Retreat | Communication Workshop

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.

Four Powerful Relationship Tips from Esther Perel's SXSW Keynote

"The quality of your relationships is what determines the quality of your life."

- Esther Perel, SXSW 2018

 

As you know I hold a deep love and respect for the work of Esther Perel.  So I was very excited to hear she was speaking at this year's South by Southwest event. 

As usual, her talk was provocative and incredibly informative.  I'm outlining a few of my favorite takeaways for you below.  I'd love to talk with you more about it if you're interested give me a call.

 

Conversations are the heart of relationships.

But most of us are shying away from direct communication, complex conversations, and fully present connections.  We text instead of call, we back out instead of showing up, and we dive into distraction every chance we get.

If we want to combat the epidemic of loneliness our culture is facing we need to start showing up more courageously in meaningful conversations.

 

The tension between change and stability is key to relationship success

Thriving relationships can reconcile these two fundamentally different needs (security and safety vs exploration and adventure).  Some of us emerge from families needing more autonomy and some needing more safety.  Which leads to one of us more afraid of losing the other and the other more afraid of losing themselves.

The more we can name and work through this tension together, the closer we become.  Couples and partnerships who can hold this tension and carefully balance it (not too much of either end of the spectrum of autonomy vs connection) build more fulfilling relationships.

 

"Soulmate" is a new concept

How do I know I have found the one?  My one and only.  We want one person to meet the needs that a whole village used to provide.  Soulmate used to be god, and many of us have replaced religion with expectations on a partner.  

 

When we listen deeply to the experiences of another we end up standing in front of a mirror.

And we get inspiration for the kinds of courage we need to have in our own lives. Prioritize relationship work, intimacy, and repair in order to combat loneliness.

We need complex and nuanced conversations to transform the nature of relationships.  To modernize relationship structures as we have outgrown the old paradigms of binary gender. Shifting the roles of men and supporting their complex emotional experiences will create opportunities for wholeness in relationships.

And in order to change the future of intimacy and connection in our society, we all need to courageously tend and show up in more of our relationships.

 

Watch the full talk below:

Please participate with the blindfold activity by closing your eyes.  


Gina Senarighi | Couples Retreats | Communication Workshop | Relationship 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.

Closer Relationships in Five Sentences

Every week I send out conversation starters for more meaningful connected relationships.  If you'd like to receive them enter your information here.


Vulnerability is the key to closeness in intimate relationships.  Most of us feel deeply connected to partners when they show us their most authentic selves.  We love the courage it takes to get real.

But most of us fear showing that same truth to others. My mentor, Brene Brown says "vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you, and the last thing I am willing to show in myself."  We fear sharing these pieces of ourselves because most of us have had bad experiences sharing them in unsafe environments. 

In order to create safer environments to show up authentically, we need to talk about vulnerability and support with specifics.  Getting more clarity will help you and the people around you show up authentically with greater safety.  

Finish the sentence stems below on your own and share responses with someone you care about this week.  I'd love to hear how it goes on my facebook page. 

I use these sentence stems not only with the romantic partners I support, but also in my work with business leaders and teams.  Vulnerability is the key to connection- and also invites space for innovation and growth.  you can use them in your workplace to cultivate greater authenticity too.

If you'd like support working through these in your partnership or on your team give me a call.  I'm here for you!

Finish these five sentences to bring you closer this week:

-       To me vulnerability is…

-       Vulnerability feels like…

-       I feel safer being vulnerable when…

-       What I learned about vulnerability growing up was…

-       To support me when I’m vulnerable you can…

 


Gina Senarighi | Relationship Coach | Couples Retreats | Team Facilitator

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.

36 Questions for Closeness in Relationships

Even if you’ve been with a partner for years, there is always something to learn about them. These questions came from a study by Arthur Aron and others designed to create interpersonal closeness. (You can see the entire study here). 

In the study, Aron worked with students to measure closeness and found with more meaningful conversation (initiated by these questions) they started to feel closer to those around them.  You can use the same questions below with your sweetheart, a colleague, or your kids to start feeling closer as well!

Set I

1. When was the last time you walked for more than an hour? Describe where you went and what you saw.
2. What was the best gift you ever received and why?
3. If you had to move from California where would you go, and what would you miss the most about California?
4. How did you celebrate last Halloween?
5. Do you read a newspaper often and which do you prefer? Why?
6. What is a good number of people to have in a student household and why?
7. If you could invent a new flavor of ice cream, what would it be?
8. What is the best restaurant you’ve been to in the last month that your partner hasn’t been to? Tell your partner about it.
9. Describe the last pet you owned.
10. What is your favorite holiday? Why?
11. Tell your partner the funniest thing that ever happened to you when you were with a small child.
12. What gifts did you receive on your last birthday?

Set II

13. Describe the last time you went to the zoo.
14. Tell the names and ages of your family members, include grandparents, aunts and uncles, and where they were born (to the extent you know this information).
15. One of you say a word, the next say a word that starts with the last letter of the word just said. Do this until you have said 50 words. Any words will do-you aren’t making a sentence.
16. Do you like to get up early or stay up late? Is there anything funny that has resulted from this?
17. Where are you from? Name all of the places you’ve lived.
18. What is your favorite class at UCSC so far? Why?
19. What did you do this summer?
20. What gifts did you receive last Christmas/Hanukkah?
21. Who is your favorite actor of your own gender? Describe a favorite scene in which this person has acted.
22. What was your impression of UCSC the first time you ever came here?
23. What is the best TV show you’ve seen in the last month that your partner hasn’t seen? Tell your partner about it.
24. What is your favorite holiday? Why?

Set III

25. Where did you go to high school? What was your high school like?
26. What is the best book you’ve read in the last three months that your partner hasn’t read? Tell your partner about it.
27. What foreign country would you most like to visit? What attracts you to this place?
28. Do you prefer digital watches and clocks or the kind with hands? Why?
29. Describe your mother’s best friend.
30. What are the advantages and disadvantages of artificial Christmas trees?
31. How often do you get your hair cut? Where do you go? Have you ever had a really bad haircut experience?
32. Did you have a class pet when you were in elementary school? Do you remember the pet’s name?
33. Do you think left-handed people are more creative than right-handed people?
34. What is the last concert you saw? How many of that band’s albums do you own? Had you seen them before? Where?
35. Do you subscribe to any magazines? Which ones? What have you subscribed to in the past?
36. Were you ever in a school play? What was your role? What was the plot of the play? Did anything funny ever happen when you were on stage?

Seven Critical Elements of Trust

Trust means far more than honesty.  If you're looking to build trust with a partner getting specific about which areas of trust you want to work on is key.  Ise the infographic below to identify your strengths and where you want to focus attention and grow.  

As always, if you want to talk more about trust in relationships give me a call, I'd love to chat with you.  

 Seven Elements of rust PDF - Brene Brown Worksheet - Couples Worksheet