My wife Jenn and I have been together since 1991. We've had our periods of relationship challenges over the years. Our decisions to stay together required a lot of intention from both of us. Either one of us could have called it quits and walked away. Neither of us was blameless in any of the challenges we've faced over the years.
I didn’t know then what I know now about relationships. There is not really very much info about our relationships out there even now. And I believe it really is different with two women in the mix.
It turns out there were a few things that made it possible for us to weather the storm and that research shows helps couples make it through rough times.
We communicated honestly, but weren’t brutal about it. We resisted the urge to get defensive and blame the other for our relationship issues. We forgave each other. We stated some clear boundaries. Frankly, we lucked into some skills that made it possible for us to mend the relationship and without them, I don’t think we would have made it.
Not all relationships last, nor should they. There are red flags that can signal major issues. And there are ways to get clear on what you want and how to start moving in that direction. Start with honest yet compassionate communication, staying open to hearing her concerns, resisting blame, and setting clear boundaries.
If you’d like to talk about what’s going on, I’m happy to help. Set up a free call by clicking this link.
I recently ran this photo on Facebook with the caption "Do you wonder about the health of your lesbian relationship?" I was sharing info about key indicators that may indicate you need to change some things up to get the relationship you want. I was really surprised at the number of angry, sad, shocked and laughy faces the post got. I was trying to reach lesbians specifically, but that's not actually possible with Facebook. So, I figured that if the content didn't apply to someone, they'd just move on. That’s what I do when I see stuff on social media that’s not for me. At first I was shocked at the level of vitriol that came barreling back. Some people were truly moved to rant at and troll the sight of TWO OLDER WOMEN RIDING BICYCLES WHO MIGHT BE A COUPLE. Of the 200 reactions, 130 were negative. 25 comments, 18 hate-filled. One person said she reported my post because it promoted violence. Good grief.
But then I did the math. According to Facebook, 3,120 people saw the post. According to a 2021 Gallup poll, 5.6% of the population identifies as LGBTQ, which means that 2,945 of the people who saw it were straight. Which means that most of the straight people who saw it DIDN’T lose their marbles. And only 4% of the total number of people who saw it felt so incensed that they had to give it some sort of negative reaction. So while it was pretty icky to have such awful things written about TWO OLDER WOMEN RIDING BICYCLES WHO MIGHT BE A COUPLE, most of the straight people were cool about it. I call that progress.
And if you want to take the quiz that can give you an indication of the health of your relationship, click this link. At the end of the quiz you'll be asked to share your email address. I promise nothing bad will happen. You'll get more info about what to look out for and ways you can work to strengthen your relationship.
CLICK THIS LINK FOR THE SURVEY.
Just checking in. There have been times when I absolutely craved real conversation about real feelings. Talking with someone who really heard me and saw me, who I felt like I could reveal even my less-than-attractive or less-than-socially-acceptable thoughts and feelings, and who wouldn't judge me, helped me turn some notable corners in my life.
I hope you have that. It can make a world of difference to be able to show up just as you are, no hiding, no apology.
I'm a grad school dropout. There, I said it.
I decided at about the age of 12 that I wanted to be a psychologist. I was then and still fascinated with how the mind works and why people are the way they are and act the way they do. In 1975 I wrote away to the American Psychological Association for brochures with titles like "Careers in Psychology". I checked books out of the library. I read about it in the 1972 World Book Encyclopedia.
While I was drawn to the subject intellectually, I think I was probably like a lot of people who gravitate to psychology. I wanted to understand and maybe fix the problems I saw in my family and myself. In my rural Oklahoma house there was alcoholism, attempted suicide, isolation, loneliness... so much pain. And on the face of it, it didn't make a lot of sense to my kid-brain. It didn't look like anything had gone wrong. We had a nice house. We lived in a pretty area. My parents had three neurotypical kids who got good grades in public school and who were on student council, in the band, ROTC (one of my brothers opted to be on the ROTC rifle team to get his gym credits.) I didn't feel like I fit in really, but I was a chameleon. I managed to get through my own bout of high school depression by toughing it out.
Fast forward six years and off to college I went, leaving behind the problems of my childhood home. I majored in psychology and did really well -- still really interested in the topic. But I discovered SOCIOLOGY, and liked it so much better! Groups! Not individuals! So I took more sociology classes, but kept my major as psychology.
Then one day, my favorite sociology professor handed out a survey in our Social Deviance class about sexual orientation! Eek! By this time I'd had a non-platonic relationship with another young woman, but this was Oklahoma, and 1984, and even handling a survey that had the word "lesbian" on it freaked me out. I couldn't turn it in. Whew. But the cat was out of my brain's bag. Coming out was something I'd get around to dealing with two years later when I was a senior. I still needed to finish school and figure out what next, but it was becoming clear to me that clinical psychology wasn't what I wanted to do. The closest field of study in psychology to sociology at that time was industrial/organizational psychology (later the programs got better and the language got hipper and it morphed into Organizational Dynamics.) So I set out to get into an IO psych program, and my chief criteria? Proximity to skiing.
After many a high school and college spring break, I loved Colorado and I loved skiing. I picked my grad school based on location. And I got a job as a hall director that paid 100% of my educational costs PLUS room and board. Colorado State, here I come!
Then two things happened. I fell in love with a real live out lesbian who was also into me, and I hated my grad school program. The details are not super important, but ultimately I dropped out of grad school after a year and a half and moved with my then-girlfriend to the East Coast.
No one plans to drop out of grad school. I had a lot of my personal identity tied up in the image I'd held for myself and my future as a PhD for more than a decade. I had a lot of elitist and classist stuff to work through. I quickly became under-resourced. I was starting over in deciding who I was going to be when I grew up. I had several pretty tough years. (I wish coaching had been available to me then!) But eventually I got my bearings and created an awesome new story for myself.
Is there a moral to the story? Ummm... It's okay to change your mind? What happened to you in the past is just part of who you are today? Once you're a few years away from it, it's not a thing anymore? Something that feels enormous won't always feel like that? Maybe do a little more research on grad programs before you decide?
Are you at that place of deciding what to do with your third third of life? Coaching can help. Sign up for a free session and get that extra assistance in sorting it out.
Spoiler: Feel your feelings and then find a thought that is equally believable that feels better.
My son Scott is about to fly the coop. He is a circus performer, and he's got a great opportunity that we expect will last many years. When I'm all practical and logical, I know that everything is just as it should be. Kids are supposed to grow up and move out and find their way in the world. Our guy is able to pursue his passion and because he's awesome and dedicated, I fully expect he will have a wonderful life-fulfilling career in the field of his dreams.
And yet some days I am super sad that this transition is upon us. In a week's time, everything will be different. The day-to-day relationship will come to an end. So much of the last 10 years was filled with driving him to classes or training or attending performances. We've gotten a little taste of him not being home much since he got his drivers license, but still, he comes home every night and wakes up here every morning. In a week, it will be over. Sad, right?
What's to be done when we feel sad? In our culture, we've pretty much been taught that feeling bad is unacceptable. "It feels bad. Please make it stop," our brain cries. When we were little we were told to not be a cry baby, or were offered some ice cream to cheer us up. Or worse, our feelings weren't acknowledged and we had no idea if we were even visible to the people around us. In the face of serious illness or the death of a loved one, most people are at a total loss about what to do or say, so maybe they offer platitudes or just disappear because it is too painful for them to manage. An opiate addiction public health crisis has blanketed our society, with the option of artificially blotting out pain becoming a preferable choice over living with and through what hurts.
If we are talking about emotional pain, what is it really? When we peel it all the way back, it is just a vibration in our bodies. I'm not saying it doesn't feel like it might actually kill us. But since we are still on this planet, then surely we have all demonstrated to ourselves that we can make it through some unpleasant emotions. And the truth of it is that the more we resist and distract from feeling the feelings, the longer they fester and continue to hurt.
So take a beat to feel it. I feel sad that Scott is moving away. In my body, that feels like a tightness in my chest. It feels like there is something blocking my diaphram from being able to take a full breath. It feels like heaviness behind my eyes. My throat is tight. On a 1-10 scale of unpleasantness, I give it a 6.5. Even in just a few minutes of identifying what's going on in my body, the intensity has lessened.
The point isn't to feel the feeling so that I can feel better (though it's definitely a by-product). It's so that I don't get stuck there. When I allow myself to just acknowledge and experience it without trying to soothe myself with distractions or food or some other external thing, I actually have given myself the opportunity to to connect with myself, which in turn helps me to feel closer to Scott. And I have opened a window to let in equally believable thoughts that feel better.
Instead of "Life as I know it will change for the worse," I can easily get to "Things will be different," which feels better. Can I get to believing the thought "It's going to be great to have Scott gone!" Absolutely not. Not even close to that. Can I get to "Maybe Scott and I will find a great new way of connecting even when he's far away"? Maybe, maybe not. Can I get to "When Scott has gone away for months at a time in the past, I figured out how to manage my feelings then"? I can believe that, though admittedly it's not too far up in emotional vibration from the original thought.
I can also not try to hit it so head on. Thoughts that are easy for me to believe that feel better about the whole thing include "We did a great job parenting him," and "How great that we were able to support him so that he can fulfill his dreams," and "It will be fun to travel to see him and watch him at work dazzling his audiences," and "How many parents are able to just show up at their kids' workplace and see them in action like we will be able to?" and "He knows that we will always be his home when he needs us," and "This is part of the deal in parenting and apparently it's not fatal." And I can plug into the knowledge that I don't need to think about forever, I just need to be present right now.
And just like that, I feel a little better.
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