Category Archives: Coaching/Counseling

Forgiveness in the New Year

Happy New Year! I hope your Holidays have been happy and warm, and full of love and joy!

My friend and colleague Francesca Gentille wrote a great post recently that I’d like to share with you, about Chapman’s The Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in all Your Relationships“.

I’ve written before about Chapman’s work, which I find very useful. His 5 Languages of Love is one of my favorite tools. [Sadly, Chapman’s publisher has asked me to remove the link to my gender-free 5 Love Languages Quiz (claiming copyright issues; I disagree but don’t have the resources to fight it), but if you write me privately I’ll send you a pdf version. In the meantime, you can find a link to their gendered official version here: http://blog.loveoutsidethebox.com/?page_id=199]

In addition to the 5 Love Languages Quiz, Chapman’s site includes another quick quiz to determine which Apology Language most resonates for you. As I said in the comments to my previous post about the Apology Languages, I think that trying to describe 5 Apology Languages (to be analogous to Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages) is stretching the metaphor a bit.  Still, I think the model is helpful food for thought.

Like Francesca, I think that practicing the art of forgiveness is an essential skill in relationships. Being able to “let go” of past hurts is essential to moving forward into the new year (or at any time) with grace and ease. In particular holding on to grudges and allowing yourself to stay in resentment is actively toxic to relationships (if you want to know more, there’s a link to one of John Gottman’s videos about resentment my post on Agreements Tip #4.)  I hope you enjoy reading Francesca’s post (below), and find the 5 Apology Languages a useful tool.

May you always love boldly, safely, and well!

~♥ Dawn

PS: Remember too that Reid Mihalko has a brand new series out to improve your relationships 10x in only 10 minutes a day.  You can watch a recording of last week’s Free Webinar by clicking here. And his 6 week program has only just started, so if you’re up for it, you can still hop on the bandwagon!

PPS: Want some 1:1 time with me? I’ve still got room for a couple more individual clients.  I’m happy to do a free 30 minute consultation, or a 1/2 price introductory hour! Contact me to set up a time to chat!

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2013 Dawn M. Davidson]

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Relationship 10x by Reid Mihalko

Relationship Tuneups: FREE Webinar with Reid, PLUS Dawn’s Coaching SALE

Relationship 10x by Reid Mihalko

Hey everyone!  I’m in Memphis, visiting my family. Mostly we’ve done ok so far, despite some of the usual communication challenges.  After all, they say your family knows just how to push your buttons… because they installed them!! If you’re having something like that experience as well, you might want to check out this free Relationship10x video from Reid Mihalko [TOMORROW December 27th at 8:30pm EST/5:30Pacific]. He’s got some great tips for better relationships, including not only your romantic relationships, but also the ones with your family. You can read lots more about the webinar below!

Don’t forget, too, that I’m still running some specials on my own 1:1 coaching. Call (510-686-3386) or email me to take advantage of my coaching package deal ($100 off of 4 hours of individual coaching), before I raise my rates on January 1st Not sure? Drop me a line and we’ll set up a time to do a free 30 minute consultation. In that thirty minutes, I’ll help you get clear on your next steps, as well as to send you my Jealousy Judo handout, just for spending the time with me. Whether you end up working with me, taking advantage of Reid’s snazzy new program, or something else, I’m committed to you getting what you need to create your own best life and relationships!

Hope your holidays are filled with all the love you want and need (and your relatives aren’t driving you TOO crazy! ;^)

~♥ Dawn

PS: I’m an affiliate of Reid’s, so if you choose to purchase something from him, I’ll get a percentage.  I never recommend anything I don’t think is truly worth your time and money, however, and Reid (and this program) is certainly no exception.  I wish I’d known some of his information YEARS ago! Check it out!

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How To Smoothly Relieve Conflict, Add Ease, and Invite Fun in Your Relationships While Juggling a Busy Life, Job, and Family
with Reid Mihalko of Relationship10x
December 27th at 8:30pm EST

Is your relationship out of tune? Are you feeling all the bumps and dips this holiday season?

Want to “pull over” and fix it, but you just can’t find the time?

It’s amazing how small changes in the right places can make the ride SO much nicer! If you could clear up that background buzz on the radio, restock the wiper fluid, and get the heater working in your car, the trip could go from annoying and wearing to enjoyable and relaxing! But when you’re juggling a busy life, it’s next to impossible to find the time, so you grin and bare it till the car breaks down and you HAVE TO.

The same is true for relationships. You may be out of alignment. Some old issues might be creating a lot of resentment and background noise, you may not be seeing everything clearly, and it may be getting pretty frosty… even downright frigid in the bedroom, but we grin and bare it with the best of intentions… Until it all explodes. And then it’s often too late to salvage anything and we scap the entire thing!

It doesn’t have to be that way. Ask yourself, Isn’t it time for a Relationship Tune-Up?

Why not exit 2012 and pull into 2013 with a smoother “relationship ride”…

If you’d like to learn how to warm things up and create more ease and laughter in your relationships, join Reid Mihalko, founder of Relationship10x, for an hour of easy to impliment and practical upgrades. You’ll love Reid’s humor and down-to-earth approach as he shares unexpected and powerful approaches that really work.

The best part is, the tools he teaches take very little time to use. In fact, you’ll find your life moving along with lots less friction and wear-and-tear!

On the call, Reid will cover:
– Three things you can do to lessen conflict in your day to day relationships (A.K.A. – What to do to get your partner to stop yelling at you!)
– Two common mistakes people make in their relationships that’s making them unnecessarily difficult.
– Why long term relationships are so difficult to keep “alive,” and the #1 thing you can do to reignite the feelings of passion, romance and FUN again!

PLUS: The difference between “erotic turn-on” and “sensual turn-on,” and how knowing the difference between the two can improve your bedroom experiences for all parties involved 10x!

If you’re tired of struggling along, feeling frustrated and lonely, spend an hour with Reid and discover the wonder of deep connection and authentic conversation. You deserve it. Your family deserves it. Give yourself this gift this holiday season and rediscover magic and delight in your relationships again.

Sign Up Now!
http://www.reidmihalko.com/link.php?af=1507864&u=www.relationship10x.com/fe/37693-r10-free-webinar

 

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson, except copy about Reid’s Webinar, which belongs to Reid!]

 

Heart equals OK

Love Is OK

Heart equals OK

Hi!  My name is Dawn Davidson, of LoveOutsideTheBox.com. I’m here to help polyamorous people and other relationship explorers to better connect to themselves and those they love, even if they’re feeling lost, alone, or like there’s something wrong with them for who and how they love.

Today I’m writing you a love letter of sorts.  It’s a love letter from my heart, to your heart, and the hearts of everyone you love.

I’m here today to tell you that love is OK.

“What?”  I can hear some of you saying, “Just OK?  Isn’t it better than that?”

Well, yes, of course, love is also wonderful, amazing, “all you need” and “what makes the world go ’round.”  I’m not disputing that!

Mostly though, what I’m here to say is that love is always OK.  No matter who and how many you love, no matter their gender, their body shape or size, their race or the color of their skin, their political affiliation, their talents and abilities, their spiritual or religious leanings, their education…

Love is ALWAYS OK.

All the rest? Honestly, those are just the details, the how and the why of your particular love.

Now, if you’re looking for help in those details — maybe around communication skills, or jealousy; maybe you need help making some Agreements, or you want to talk about how to talk about your new boyfriend to your existing girlfriend, or try to explain to your friend why you’d like to bring +2 instead of +1 to their next party — whatever those details, if you want help, I’m happy to listen. Once I’ve helped you figure out what your particular needs are, then I can offer you some coaching, some tools and resources, or point you in the direction of others who can help more. Whether you take me up on any of those offers is totally up to you, and we can talk about it in one of my free 1/2 hour consultations  if that’s what you want.

But it’s not what I’m really here about today.  Today I’m here to talk about the fact that Love is always OK. I’m guessing that if you’re alive and reading this now, that it’s a good bet that at some point in your life someone, somewhere, told you that there was something wrong about your love. Maybe you’ve been shamed for who and how you love, or told that it’s not ok to love more than one person at a time. Maybe someone else wants to put limits on your heart.  Maybe that someone is YOU! We’re often hardest on those closest to us… and that applies especially to ourselves in many cases. But whatever the reason, and whomever is speaking those words to you, I’m here to tell you that they’re wrong.  Love is always ok.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Sometimes it’s important to put limits on our behavior, or to moderate how we express those feelings. It isn’t ok to express love in a sexual way to someone for whom that would be toxic or damaging, for instance.  Nor is it ok to break existing Agreements (with your partner/s or yourself) just because you felt a chemical head rush in the heat of the moment. But there isn’t anything wrong with feeling love itself. That’s always ok.

Love is an amazing thing.  It can be a wild tempestuous journey, or a sweet, quiet smile between friends. It can make us feel the best and the worst that we ever feel in our lives. Love is often a teacher. Sometimes it’s a spiritual journey… or a crucible of change. We often don’t choose who and how we love, even though we can choose how and when to express that. But no matter what makes your love special, no matter how long or short that love is, no matter who and how many you love…

Love is always OK.  And so are YOU.

Thank you for sharing this moment with me today… this moment of love, and unconditional acceptance. Thank you for allowing me to share my heart with you, and for receiving my love. If you want to talk more with me about any of this, or if you’re interested in setting up a consultation session with me for any reason, you can fill out my contact form, and let me know how I can help you today.  Whoever you love, whatever forms that might take, or however many people you might love …

Love is OK.

And so are you. 🙂

 

May you always love boldly, safely, and well,

~♥ Dawn

PS: Want to talk more about this? I’m happy to listen! I offer coaching and counseling via phone, Skype, Google-hangout, or in person in the SF Bay Area. Drop me a note, and we’ll set up a time to talk, ok?  OK!

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson]

Agreements Tip #8: Write It Down

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.This is Tip #8: Write It Down, in my Agreements Workbook series.  Whether you write them in a fancy book or keep them in an online file, it’s a good idea to write down the Agreements that you make. Find out why and how in the entry below.

Questions or comments about any of these Agreements Workbook entries?  Feel free to comment below, contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box!

~♥ Dawn

PS:  Do you want to pick my brain about anything to do with poly? Get my help in creating Agreements between you and your partner/s?  If so, you’ll be glad to know I’m running some holiday specials!  Contact me through the end of December 15th and make arrangements for sessions to be completed by the end of December. I’d love to help YOU design your own best relationships!

PPS:  I’m raising my rates in January, so you might want to call me Real Soon Now. ;^)

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YES written in a notebook in pen

Agreements Tip #8: Write it down

One of the common issues with Agreements is that once they’re made, we eventually forget about them.  When you make the Agreement, you’re certain that you’ll never forget. But human memory being what it is — i.e., faulty! — eventually someone is going to forget something. (In fact, that’s the first of the Five Reasons Agreements Fail: Just Forgetting! We’ll come back to those on p.___.) Having a written copy will also help to avoid arguments about “that’s not what I meant!” The easiest way to deal with all of this is to simply write down your Agreements.

Keep Agreements all in one place

It’s a good idea to keep them all together in one place, whether that’s in a book, or on a computer, or up on the web somewhere.  The advantage of using (for instance) a bound blank book is that you can physically sign the page, to indicate that you’ve both/all seen and agreed to this. Having only one copy, however, can occasionally be inconvenient.

The advantage (and to some degree disadvantage) of having the Agreements in an electronic form is that it’s easier to make changes when you need to update things. If you want to keep a record of the various forms the Agreement has taken, it might be good to keep the document in some software that has the ability to “track changes” or keep a specific record of the revisions.

Keeping your Agreements in electronic form also makes it super simple to share your Agreements with prospective sex or relationship partners, for instance.  I have found that this sometimes reduces stress in those initial disclosure and negotiation discussions, as it’s clear that what you’re asking isn’t something that you made up just to annoy this prospective partner, but in fact are Agreements you came to regarding any prospective interactions with new partners.  It’s also helpful when negotiating with someone long-distance… or just someone who’s extremely busy!

hands writing in datebook

Date the Agreements

Writing the date on the Agreements will help with several things.  First, it provides a record of exactly when you made the Agreement. If you’re using a Time-limited Agreement (see Tip #9, p. ___), that’s crucial information so you know when to revisit the Agreement.  It can also help to show your progress, as you keep a record of the original Agreement and each modification. Sometimes it’s great to look back and see how far you’ve come!

Include Related Information

It can be very helpful to keep related information all in one spot with your Agreements.  You might want to include things like:

  • Your List of Needs (see exercise on p. ___)
  • Quiz and personality assessment results (e.g., Myers-Briggs, 5 Love Languages, Enneagram, astrological charts, etc.)
  • STI testing results
  • etc.

Include any information that you and/or your partner/s might find helpful in making future Agreements, or in explaining the existing ones.

 

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.

[Next Entry: Time Limited Agreements (Tip #9) ]

[Previous Entry: Tip #7: KISSable Agreements (aka, Keep It Simple, Silly!)]

[Return to the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]

YES written in a notebook in pen

21 Reasons to Be Yourself (and Other Thoughts on Identities)

“I’m speaking up for those who feel lost and alone, and who’ve been rejected by others for core pieces of their being, whether that’s paganism, poly, their bodies, kink, or whatever. I’m here to say “you are not alone,” and “you are fine, just the way you are,” and hand them some tools and roadmaps.”
— Dawn Davidson, Nov. 30, 2012

Over the past week and some I’ve been thinking a lot about the topic of Identity. Some of this thinking was, of course, spurred by Dan Savage and his post about how he doesn’t think that polyamory can be an identity. In his world, it’s just something you do, not something you are.  As discussed elsewhere, I disagree with him (though of course Your Mileage May Vary.)

But that’s not the only thing that has me thinking about Identity. See, there’s been a kerfluffle in my world that affects my recent ordination. It’s mostly not even about me, but instead, about my sponsoring priestess.  Apparently, They (the powers that be in the organization through which we were both ordained) became quite concerned with the fact that my sponsoring priestess both practices and teaches Sacred BDSM (aka Sacred Kink — see here for the excellent book on the topic, Sacred Kink: The Eightfold Paths Of BDSM And Beyond, by Lee Harrington.) The reasons for this are several, but the biggest reason appears to be that They have conflated what my sponsoring priestess does, with what happened at the Sedona Temple earlier this year. Please understand that I have nothing against Tantra either (I practice Western Tantra myself and recommend it as a path of connection for individuals, couples and even groups in some situations). What my sponsoring priestess does is a) legal, b) ethical, and c) not what brought the Sedona Temple down (which was accusations of prostitution.) Ultimately, the point of the whole thing isn’t the details of what she’s practicing or teaching, but the fact that They took action based on misinformation, incomplete information, and fear. They feared being “tarred with the same brush,” and chose to denounce the whole of BDSM as a whole, rather than having detailed conversations first and taking actions later.

Now, to be fair, some of the situation was exacerbated by a lack of communication and missed communications between the org and my sponsoring priestess. However, I feel that greater efforts at understanding could have been taken before they chose to denounce several personal sexual practices and choices, revoke the ordination of my sponsoring priestess, and invalidate the ordinations of all of her sponsorees (myself included.)

(By the way, I’m continuing at this time to not speak directly about this organization in this public blog, because I’m still hopeful that some sort of rapprochement might be possible. I do not wish to make the situation worse. Additionally, one of Their issues with me in particular was that I had linked to their site using their logo on my own webpage about my ministerial services without first asking permission. Oops, my bad. For now, I’ve removed the offending references pending resolution. However, none of this changes my basic feelings about the situation, and I’m certainly not against anyone with a stake in the matter speaking out about their own experiences and feelings, or writing on behalf of my sponsoring priestess. I’m just trying to not make things unnecessarily worse for myself, or for her. Write me privately if you would like further information, including templates for a letter writing campaign to educate this organization about sacred kink, or to speak out on behalf of my sponsoring priestess in particular.)

It’s also important (in my view anyway) to note that their action (in revoking my ordination and that of all of the sponsorees) does not actually affect either my mission as a counselor, as a priestess/minister, nor does it affect my ability to perform weddings (and other such ceremonies) here in California (and in some other states.) I was ordained on October 10th, 1989, through the Universal Life Church, and I have confirmed with the ULC that they still have a record of that ordination. My ordination through this other organization was intended mostly to create community ties, and a mutual network of support (hence my cross-linking). I’m sad to lose that, of course, but it has no bearing on my legal ability to serve as a priestess/minister.

Even more to the point, as I told them in my response:

I was also VERY clear during the ordination on Oct 7th that I received that transmission from the Goddess herself, and whatever choices are made here on the physical plane in the [national and international organizations], you (collectively) cannot remove from me that Divine blessing and calling to service. I was called into Her service, and in her service I remain, with or without your blessing, acknowledgment, or papers.

Of course, all of this recalls for me my experiences earlier this summer, in which I was asked to hide who I was in order to stay in a particular online course. As I wrote in another letter to the organization:

Honestly, when I wrote my piece “Coming Out About Love,” which described some of my soul searching while preparing for the ordination, I was afraid to post it publicly on my website… but what I feared at the time was getting pushback from the *poly* community about my *spirituality*.  It never in my wildest dreams occurred to me that the trouble might be the other way around! And yet, here we are.

… Imagine my dismay to find myself facing what appears to me to be the same core issue in the very pagan organization with which I thought to align myself: prejudice and blatant lack of understanding and compassion regarding personal choice, and the teaching of these personal choices as loving, valid forms of relating.

Here I sit, my friends, with egg on my face about my (mostly private) judgments earlier. I am reminded, forcefully, of the bumper sticker one of my partners used to have on his car, that read:

Fundies are fundies, whether they pray to the Lord or the Goddess.

So I offer my apologies to my Christian — and pagan, atheist, agnostic, etc — friends who are NOT judgmental and/or fearful of things they don’t understand. Thank you to all of you good-hearted folks out there striving to understand and accept things outside of your experience.  I appreciate you so much! Thank you for being yourselves, and allowing the space for others to be themselves as well, even when you don’t fully understand the whys and wherefores.

And to all of you — whatever sort of experiences you may have, and whatever ways you might identify, let me reiterate that you are not alone, and you are OK, just the way you are. Whoever you are and whatever choices you make — so long as those are done in Love and respect, and between consenting adults — that’s totally ok! We don’t all have to like the same things, do the same things, or go the same places.  If we did, the world would be boring, and we’d all be trying to squeeze into the same restaurant.  Ugh!

So in that spirit, let me offer you something I started brainstorming the other night (inspired by the awesome Samantha Bennett again). At the bottom of this post I’ve added 21 Reasons To Be Yourself. I think I’m just getting started on this list, so if you have other reasons to offer, please let me know! Feel free to comment below, contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box. I’d be happy to add your reasons, too.

Always remember how awesome you are!

~♥ Dawn

PS: If you’re interested in discussing issues around identity (or any other related topic, such as polyamory, kink, jealousy, Agreements, managing new relationship energy, etc), feel free to schedule a 1/2 hour free consultation with me.  BONUS: For a limited time, each FREE consultation comes with a Jealousy Judo pdf of tools to use to manage jealousy in yourself. Let me know how I can support YOU in being yourself, and speaking your own truth!

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ 

A 21 self-salute:
21 Reasons to be yourself

1) because no one else can do it — you are the only you there is

2) because you have something to say to the world

3) because your children (or your nieces, nephews, little siblings, etc) need you to — how else could you make it safe for them to be *themselves*?

4) because the world needs you to — it’s time for all of us to stop trying to be someone else, and to give up ransacking the world to “keep up with the Joneses”

5) because Deity (God, Goddess, the Universe, your higher self, the FSM…) put you here to do something.  You wouldn’t want to let God — or yourself — down, would you?

6) so all the other people like you don’t feel so much alone

7) because it isn’t anyone else’s business WHO you are, anyway

8) because otherwise, you’ll go to your grave thinking “what if?”

9) because THEY said you can’t do/be/say that

10) because it feeds your soul

11) because it makes you happy. And that’s enough, all by itself. Really.

12) because what if reincarnation is true, and you aren’t yourself this time, and have to come back and do it all over again?

13) because you’re ok — great, even — just the way you are

14) because you look silly in Julia Roberts’ clothes (I mean, unless you’re Julia Roberts, in which case, you look just fine!) Stop trying to be someone you’re not.

15) because otherwise, who’s going to [bake the cookies/fix the car/type the memo] if you’re off wasting energy elsewhere?

16) because somewhere, sometime, someone will be inspired by you

17) because otherwise, the terrorists (internal or external) will have won

18) because it’s a great way to silence that nasty voice in your head that says you’re “less than.”  By definition, nobody can be a better you than you!

19) because otherwise, how will the postal carrier know whom to deliver your mail to?

20) because *you matter*. Your thoughts, feelings, and actions in this world leave a mark in this world.  The lack of them would, too. Choose to make your mark.

21) otherwise, how could your college buddies find you on Facebook?

(Got more reasons to be yourself?  Share them with me!)

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson]

KISSable Agreements (Tip #7)

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.This is Tip #7: KISS: Keep It Simple, Silly! in my Agreements Workbook series.

Questions or comments about any of these Agreements Workbook entries?  Feel free to comment below, contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box!

‘Nuff said… ;^)

~♥ Dawn

PS: I’ve still got some slots available for a FREE 1/2 hour consultation. Right now, it’s the only way to get my “Jealousy Judo” handout, with a few quick tips on how to manage jealousy in yourself.  Interested? Click here to pick an appointment time now! It’s cheesy but true: These free sessions won’t last forever, so get ’em while you can.  Oh, and did I mention I’m raising my rates in January? But you can still get my old prices through the end of this month… 🙂

 

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7) KISS: Keep It Simple, Silly!

As with so many things in life, simpler is often better. Unfortunately, that’s often easier said than done.  Here are a few quick tips for KISSable Agreements.

Practice makes perfect!

Most people need practice making Agreements, so start with small, easy ones, preferably ones that don’t have a lot of emotional “charge.” For instance, you might make an Agreement about turning out the lights when you leave the room, or picking up clothes and putting them in the hamper.  Once you’ve made these Agreements, and seen how the process works, move on to some of the smaller Agreements with more charge. Perhaps you might agree to reserve a pet name for one partner, or to each partner having one coffee-date with a new person. Whatever is a little stretch is good, but not too difficult. If you have the time, it’s great to build your Agreement-making muscles slowly, so you gain confident along with your expertise.

Short, specific, and to the point

Brevity is the soul of Agreements, as well as wit. Keep focused. Pretend you’re writing the Ten Commandments Guidelines for your relationship, and they all have to fit on a single tablet.

Break it down

Three small agreements are much easier to meet than one big complex one. The human memory can only hold so much at one time, about 7 bits of discrete data [ref: How We Decide However, we do some interesting stuff with “chunking” data as well, to make it easier to remember. That’s why our US ten-digit phone numbers are divided up into three sections, including the area code, the local exchange (or central office code), and the four digits of the phone number itself. So break down complex Agreements into several smaller ones, and if you can, arrange related Agreements near to one another in your book or document.

Simplify

Conversely, if your Agreements book is starting to look like the US Tax Code—simplify.  Too many concurrent agreements will also be impossible to keep. It might be tempting to include everything you’ve ever been annoyed by in this or other relationships in one monster Agreement, but try to keep focused on the most important Agreements that really make a difference.

DO Try This At Home! — A Multi-tasking Exercise

When I present this material in a workshop, I often include this short exercise. I know you don’t want to get up from wherever you’re reading this, but it really does work better if you try it for real.

No, really. Get up and try it!

Part 1:

Do these things in order:

Stand up, both feet on the floor, head toward the ceiling or sky.

Take one hand (doesn’t matter which), and rub your tummy. Stop.

Take the other hand, and pat your head. Stop.

Hop up and down on one foot. Stop.

Whistle or hum.  Stop.

Part 2:

Now do all of those things in order again, but this time, don’t stop one before starting the next.

Stand up, both feet on the floor, head toward the ceiling or sky.

Next, take one hand and rub your tummy. Keep doing that,

AND take the other hand, and pat your head. Keep doing that,

AND hop up and down on one foot. Keep doing that,

AND whistle or hum as well.

Part 3:

Try to do all of them at once, starting all at the same time:

Hop up and down on one foot while patting your head with one hand, rubbing your tummy with the other, and whistling or humming at the same time.  Do NOT start one at a time; it has to be all at once. Go!

Part 4: Reflection

A few of you physically talented types will probably be able to complete the exercise without falling over.  Those few of you will just have to imagine my point, here. For most of us, though… Note how easy it is to do each activity one at a time.  Conversely, note how difficult it is to keep doing them all at once, despite the fact that you can quite easily do any one of the actions by itself.  Also notice that when you tried to do them all at once without working up to it, it was extremely difficult if not impossible to do.

The same is true in Agreements. Keep It Simple (Silly); start with small, easy Agreements and put them in place one at a time; work up to more complex Agreements; and don’t try to do too many of them all at once. You’ll find them easier to make, and to keep.

 

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.

[Previous Entry: Keep Physical and Emotional Agreements Distinct (Tip #6)]

[Return to the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]

 

Making Positive Changes [Agreements Tip #3: Additive Agreements]

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.

“The only constant is change.” — Heraclitus of Ephesus, c.535 BCE – 475 BCE

Right now, my life is undergoing some massive changes. I’m not really at liberty to discuss some of them, as they’re not my news, but suffice to say, they affect me and my family profoundly.  One result of this change, is that I’ve taken an immense “swan dive into the unknown” by taking another course (this one called Creative Genius CEO–how cool is that? :)) from my mentor Samantha Bennett.  Tangentially related, I’m participating in the National Obsession With Writing Month (aka WNFIN or NaNoWriMo) by attempting to finish a draft of my Agreements Workbook. So what this means is that you can expect to see significantly more of me in the upcoming weeks, for sure. I may not POST every day, but my goal is to attempt to WRITE (almost) every day on something related to the Workbook, and/or Sam’s course. And I’ll certainly be posting more often.

Therefore, without further ado, here’s the next installment in the Agreements Workbook, Tip #3:  “Additive Agreements, OR New Models for Old Situations,” which  is about providing positive options and positive frames for your Agreements.

As always, if you have any questions or comments about these Agreements Workbook entries, feel free to contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box.

“We might as well enjoy the ride” — James Taylor in “The Secret O’ Life

 

Here’s hoping your ride is at least as fun as it is full of twists and turns!

~♥ Dawn

PS: Want to talk more specifically about your own situation? I’ll be happy to do a mini-session for you for free. 🙂 Just drop me a line!

PPS: I’m a Really Big Fan (aka Affiliate) of Sam’s, so if you click on one of the links here to go to her website, I might eventually see a little money from anything you might choose to buy from her. But she’s worth it.  Not sure?  Check out one of her awesome poems totally for Free. 🙂

 

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3) “Additive” Agreements:  New models for old situations

In making effective Agreements, it’s important to “stay positive” in a couple of different ways.  First, in changing any behavior, especially a habitual one, it’s important to know what to do differently.  Otherwise, then the same situation arises, the default behavior will be the habitual one. So what happens when the same situation arises, and you don’t have a new action to substitute for the old habit? Most likely, you’ll do the old thing again, with added shame and guilt in addition to your feelings of failure!  Whee! So instead of that, it’s a great idea to figure out in advance what you’re going to do instead, the next time that thing happens. I call this making the Agreement “Additive,” because it adds new options in place of the old ones.

Another way it’s helpful to stay positive in Agreements is to phrase your intentions in a positive way.  Generally, people who like to do Daily Affirmations [e.g., http://www.positivelypositive.com/2012/04/20/the-art-of-affirmation/] advise that it’s best to frame those as positives, otherwise, you end up accidentally affirming exactly what you don’t want. I have also found this to hold true when making Agreements, which are essentially “relationship affirmations” of a sort — things both/all parties agree to affirm with their thoughts and actions.

So let’s look at this very simple example. Suppose you need to keep the bedroom neater.  It’s tempting to try to write this down as “I/we will stop leaving clothes on the floor.”  However, this isn’t a great Agreement for several reasons:

  1. There is no alternative action.  Where exactly does the laundry actually belong, then, on the bed?  In the bathroom?  Draped over the lamp? If you want it in the hamper, it’s best to say that.
  2. It’s framed as a negative, which will continue to affirm the behavior you don’t want, rather than energetically emphasizing what you do want.
  3. Also, by phrasing it in the future tense, you may never see the results, because they’ll always be in some nebulous future. When exactly will you stop the behavior?  Tonight?  Next week? When you get around to it? Phrasing it as something you are doing now is generally more effective.

So instead, you might try something more like “I/we agree that we will place dirty laundry into the laundry bin immediately upon taking it off.”  That is specific, positive, and timely, and includes a specific action to replace the one you want to change.  All these suggestions apply just as well to more complex or more “charged” Agreements — e.g., those around safer sex, or resource sharing amongst several lovers — as they do to this simple example.

 

 ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson, except the song “Secret of Life,” which is © 1977 by James Taylor]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.

[Next Entry: The Fun Factor in Agreements: Tip #4]

[Previous Entry: Agreements Tip #2c: Have Clear Consequences]

[Return to the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]

Have Clear Consequences [Agreements Tip #2c]

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.

This is the next entry in the Agreements Workbook, Tip #2c: Have Clear Consequences. I’ve been struggling with this one for a while, because the idea of “consequences” is pretty challenging in an egalitarian adult romantic relationship. Check out the entry below to see how I got myself past this personal bottleneck. (Hint: They need to be “Natural” and/or “Logical.”]

Do you have any questions or comments about these Agreements Workbook entries? Contact me here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box if you’d like to discuss your own situation. I’ll be happy to do a mini-session for you for free. 🙂

Here’s hoping all your consequences are good ones!

~♥ Dawn

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

Have clear consequences

In addition to being clear about the words and the goals of the Agreements, it’s also important to know what the consequences will be if an Agreement gets broken (see p. ___ for The Five Reasons Agreements Fail). In most cases, a broken Agreement will mean going back to the negotiating table and re-wording or re-working the Agreement.  In a few instances, though—e.g., a broken safer sex Agreement—there will need to be actual consequences. Without clear consequences the likely response is that the person/s who broke the Agreement might say “oops” (maybe, if they say anything at all), and then nothing happens and things proceed as usual… but with this uncleared “ick” in the middle of the relationship. Not fun. If the consequences are too severe, they’re likely to avoid talking about it completely for as long as possible, and then to lie about it. Again, not fun, once the truth comes out.  So how to find that happy medium?

Natural and Logical Consequences

Being clear about consequences and being willing and able to enact them can be very difficult to do.  After all, you don’t want to treat your partner/s as if they were young children unable to understand right from wrong, but you also need to have everyone actually follow the Agreements, otherwise, why have gone to the trouble to make them?  I have found that in relationship Agreements, (much the same as in interactions with kids, actually…) the key is to follow “Natural and Logical Consequences” [ref.] As much as possible, this means that any consequences should either follow naturally (i.e., forgetting to enter a date in your datebook means you don’t get to go on one!), or be “logical” ones that are in proportion to the “infraction,” and preferably related to the topic (e.g., if a partner has engaged in “risky behavior” they might be asked to a) stop the behavior, b) get re-tested, and c) follow a stricter set of rules until the testing is complete and/or a certain time has passed. See Appendix B on page ___ for some examples of “safer sex” Agreements [One Relationship Agreements example is here, and some more example Agreements are over here.]

Note that in my experience, punitive consequences — ones designed to “teach them a lesson,” or “make them suffer like I did” — tend not to work for kids OR adults, but especially not for adults. I have found that such consequences often increase resentment and lead to “acting out” in the future, in the form of lying, concealing information, “bending the rules,” or worse.  Probably not the result you were hoping for in making Agreements.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

I know you probably weren’t expecting to get references to parenting techniques in a book about adult relationships, and I know that this stance (Natural and Logical Consequences) is still somewhat controversial in some circles, even in a parent-child relationship, but it’s even more important, in my opinion, between two or more adults. The key in all of these cases is RESPECT. The person you’re making the Agreement with must respect you and your needs, and you must respect them and their needs.  If that isn’t the case, or if there’s something else interfering with the ability to make Agreements “between equals” (e.g., mental or physical illness, severe trauma or grief, or any sort of negotiations in bad faith), then no amount of writing and re-writing will help.  Respect, like honesty, is just that core in this process, and if one or more of the people involved can’t or won’t behave with integrity, then a lot more will be needed in the relationship beyond a book on making Agreements.

Fortunately, you’re going to behave with honesty and integrity, and respect all of your partners, right? I knew you would. ;^)

We’ll talk more about what happens when Agreements Fail starting on p. ____ [The Five Reasons Agreements Fail].

 ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2012 Dawn M. Davidson]

Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection.

[Next Entry: Agreements Tip #3: “Additive” Agreements]

[Previous Entry: Getting to Win-Win]

[Return to the Table of Contents for the Agreements Workbook Series]

[Return to the first text entry in the Agreements Workbook series]

Example of “Safer” Agreements [Workbook Appendix B, pt 2]

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.

[UPDATE: purchase the whole workbook here for only $10!] Safer Sex Agreements are one of those topics that arise frequently in polyamorous relationships, and they’ve come back around for another visit recently. We in the East Bay Poly Potluck and Discussion Group have been watching the Showtime “Polyamory” series recently, and Agreements of all sorts are regularly discussed on the show. And separately, when local “sexpert” and educator Venus (aka Dr. Melanie Rose) mentioned some of her own Agreements in a local Facebook group discussion, I was reminded that while I’d formatted these Agreements, I hadn’t yet shared them here. (Whoops!)

As I mentioned in that discussion, these particular Agreements were developed at a time when I was in a different relationship structure than I am now.  At the time (and these were first drafted in the late ’90’s, and last revised in about 2007…) I was in a marriage consisting of two co-equal primary partners, in a hierarchical “primary-secondary” type model. The Agreements are also fairly hetero-centric and vanilla (neither of which fit me well anymore, either!). While I still reference these Agreements, they’re not particularly suitable for my current relationship model, which is more of an open network wherein I’m “primary partnered to myself,” and where I no longer assume a preponderance of heterosexual relationships.

In other words, if you’re thinking of using these as a jumping off point for your own Agreements, please take them with appropriate salt, and some careful consideration of your own situation. In Agreements, like condoms, one size definitely does NOT fit all! They don’t have to be lengthy, complicated, or onerous, though. The most important thing in making and using these sorts of Agreements, in my opinion, is that you and your partner/s all sit down and discuss the topic, and hopefully come to some accord about what might be important to each of you, and what various words and concepts mean for each person as well.

I’ve got a few more examples in my files, and I’ll be gathering those up to post soon.  In the meantime, just know that there are more examples of Safer Sex Agreements to be had out there–a few longer; many shorter–and that these are by no means meant to be anything like the last word in such things. In fact, these days I think they provide as much insight into what we were missing at the time as they do into what we were covering!

Do you have any questions or comments about these Agreements? As always, I’m happy to answer questions or engage in discussion either here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box. I’m also happy to create coaching packages to help you create your own set of Agreements tailored to your situation. We can discuss your particular needs in a mini-consultation, if that floats your boat.

May you always love boldly, safely, and well!

~♥ Dawn

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

Safer Sex Agreements for “Example House”

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Line drawing of box with lid opening out into a heart which surrounds the box

Love Is Nothing To Be Ashamed Of

Love Outside the Box: Line drawing of box with lid opening out into a heart which surrounds the box

Love is nothing to be ashamed of.

That’s the thought I finally came to, at the end of my journey of processing the request made of me a few weeks ago, that in order to stay in an online course, I agree to never mention my niche or the word polyamory. I was honestly shocked to get this request; shocked and traumatized, all of my worst fears about being ‘out’ about poly come to life. Here I’d signed on to this course to become more confident in bringing my skills and talents to the world, and to help people understand the joys and challenges of polyamory and other “outside the box” forms of relating (at least as I’ve experienced them and learned over 15 years of intensive study) — and merely mentioning my niche brought down censure on my head. Was she (the course leader) right, that polyamory is “not G-rated” and inherently “squirmy”? Was I the one out of line, to think it would be ok to talk openly about polyamory?

We here in the Uncharted waters have had many a discussion (on lists, in discussion groups, on the web…) about whether sex is an inherent part of the definition of polyamory. I generally don’t think it’s required, though of course I think it’s by far the most common case that polyamory includes sex. In my definition, polyamory most often includes sex, in the exact same way that monogamy most often includes sex, but can be experienced without it; they’re both relationship styles after all. But just as it’s possible to have a celibate or sex-free monogamous relationship,  it’s quite possible that someone might identify as polyamorous but not be having sex or in a sexual relationship.  The presence or absence of  sex is not like a light switch after all. Otherwise, we’d all walk around changing our status whenever we had a sexual encounter (or didn’t): Now polyamorous, now celibate, momentarily monogamous, polyamorous again ….

Yes, of course, that’s a very extreme and somewhat silly example… but is it any more extreme and silly than presuming that because my context is “polyamorous people,” that when I talk about communication tools, they are necessarily about communicating about sex? What exactly makes polyamory “not G-rated”? For that matter, is sex itself automatically R-rated, never mentionable to anyone under 17? And if so, why do they teach about it in middle school?? I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t my mind making polyamory into a 24/7 lurid group-sex encounter. Though I will admit to amusement when viewing this old ad that was going around on Facebook a couple of weeks ago:

Hanky Panky at the Beach?

Good clean fun at the beach?

No, it seems pretty clear to me that the issue with polyamory being an unfit topic for polite dinner-table conversation was in the mind of that beholder … and unfortunately in a lot of other as-yet uneducated-about-poly minds out there. When she thought about polyamory, she felt “squirmy,” aka uncomfortable, aka shame. One of the pernicious characteristics of shame is that it is “contagious”–it spreads from person to person, often below the level of consciousness.  Her shame triggered my shame. It took me days and a lot of processing to get through it. And that’s AFTER working on this stuff for years. Shame is pretty powerful stuff.

At the Open-SF conference in June, the excellent Charlie Glickman presented a wonderful workshop entitled “Love, Sex, and Shame.” In it he talked about the manifestations of shame (e.g., closed posture, averted eyes/face, mumbling or silence, “shifty”/”squirmy”, energetic disconnection), vs. the manifestations of love (e.g., open posture, direct gaze, easy communication, groundedness/ease, energetic connection, etc). Pretty much, actively experiencing love is diametrically opposed to actively experiencing shame. It’s hard to experience both at the same time.  Isn’t that interesting?

Unfortunately, much of our culture holds that sex is inherently shameful. By extension, anything that leads to sex (with the possible exception of procreative sex between male and female spouses) is by extension inherently shameful. I think that viewpoint is de facto harmful. Certainly it was harmful to me to hear as a young person that my normal feelings and thoughts were somehow bad and wrong… that *I* was bad and wrong. It’s hard to feel love, and to express it in a healthy way, if at the core you believe yourself to be broken. It took me many years, and a lot of heartache (not to mention a lot of money spent on therapists…), to finally move beyond that toxic frame into the freedom and joy in both love and sex that I now believe to be my birthright (and that of every human being.)

For me, the path of healing wound its way through many places, starting with making a choice to find my own spirituality, and winding up most recently with me refusing to be shamed and silenced for who and how many I love. Each step has involved me finding a bit that has been shamed, and being willing to entertain the notion that it wasn’t ME who was bad and wrong… but instead the unnecessary shame that had been forced on me for no other reason than that who and what I was didn’t fit into the particular box that was on offer at the time.

Understand that I believe that not all boxes are wrong, either. Sometimes boxes (or containers, or marriages–use the word that fits for you…) are places of safety. They’re where we keep our most prized memories. They provide support and boundaries. Sometimes they’re very beautiful; sometimes strong; sometimes fragile. But not all things (nor all creatures, nor all people) fit inside of every box. You know how there’s often that one package at the holidays that just refuses to fit inside the standard boxes, so you end up wrapping a small box with a note in it, or giving them a card, or sticking a million bows on it and hiding it in the back hallway instead?  There’s nothing wrong with the gift for not fitting in that box — in fact, it might be THE best gift of them all because of the very thing that makes it not fit in the box! And there’s nothing wrong with the box either, just because that gift didn’t fit inside. It’s just a bad fit between that box, and that gift.

Well, that’s how I feel about polyamory, and about love. Polyamory is a great gift that doesn’t happen to fit the box that we got issued at the Universal Post Office. Polyamory is so chock full of LOVE that it spills out the sides and cannot be contained in the “usual” ways. (And lest you think I’m all sappy and Pollyanna (ha!) about poly, I also think that polyamory is sometimes the gift that proclaims “some assembly required” and for which the directions seem to be written in a foreign language.)  Polyamory is bold and beautiful and complicated and drama-filled and a damn AFGO (“Another F-ing Growth Opportunity!”), and the worst thing and the best thing that I’ve ever done, all at once. (No, I take that back. The best thing I’ve ever done is to birth my amazing daughter. But poly is a close second.) When you get right down to it, polyamory is just a whole lotta LOVE all squished into one package (some assembly required).

And love, my friends, is nothing to be ashamed of.

Go sing your own song. Go chart your own ways.

Bird Sculpture by Robriel Wolf, archangel.robriel@gmail.com

“A Little Bird Told Me”: Sculpture in wood, metal and glorious paint, by artist Robriel Wolf

Love boldly, safely, and well.

~♥ Dawn

PS: If you’re looking for some assistance in singing your own song, you can always drop me a line to ask for your own free 30-minute (or half-price 60 minute) session. I’m always happy to help others in the Uncharted waters (to mix a couple of metaphors!) 🙂

 

♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥∞♥

©2012, Dawn M. Davidson