Friday, September 27, 2013

Disagree….Yes! Disconnect….No!

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely hate arguing. I find heated exchanges to be unpleasant, uncomfortable, unsettling and most of all, unproductive. When tempers flare, logic, listening and love get tossed out the window. And without those 3 “L’s”, the proverbial gloves come off and people declare war! They hurl insults, throw daggers, use profanity, issue ultimatums, don’t listen and do and say whatever they need to do/say to “win”.

But after the emotional and verbal tsunami is over, relationships are ruined. Hearts are ruptured, feelings are hurt, boundaries are crossed, trust is violated and the most fragile parts of our souls are wounded. Emotional debris is everywhere and we are left saddened and sometimes shocked by the damage caused by our words, tone and tenor. Depending on the severity of the argument, we lose good friends. If we are lucky enough to keep the friends, our connections are weakened and our ability to feel emotionally safe is jeopardized. Things get shaky and real “friend stuff” like honesty, communication, support and vulnerability decline and/or cease.

But here is the saddest part: after the incendiary exchanges are over, the issue remains. The need/question/ subject that started the argument remains unresolved, unaddressed, unanswered and or unacknowledged. Nothing is gained but something very precious, and in some cases, very valuable, is lost. 

Since heated exchanges are not emotionally productive or spiritually healthy, I have decided not to argue. I have made a conscious and prayerful decision to only discuss and to respectfully debate. When I think about the emotional damage that I have done to people I love, it makes me more committed to converse in a disciplined, constructive and loving way. People who love me deserve my best. They deserve that I enter into conversations with Openness: an open heart, open head and with an open hand.

I believe that our lovers, friends, confidants and family always deserve our best. Even when we are upset, frustrated or irritated, they deserve our respect. Even when we vehemently disagree with them, they should expect that we will communicate with them in a space/spirit where real listening, learning and empathy take place. Those three ingredients are important expressions of love; they are love in action.

But engaging in a spirit of openness is not always easy, especially when emotions are involved. Just think about some of your verbal clashes. When feelings are hurt and when people feel threatened, hearts close, hands clench and minds shut down and/or off. We become blinded by rage and say things that consequently and unfortunately result in deep regret.
So how do you verbally disagree with someone you love or respect? That's a tough question but a good question. The bookshelves are filled with solutions and strategies that may help all of us. For now, I offer 4 actions to consider so that our mouths don’t t undermine our relationships. Let’s review.
 
Tip #1: Relax. Calm down, cool off, chill out, take a break and/or exhale so that you will not say or do something that you will regret. Step away and step aside so that your words don’t become emotional bullets that pierce hearts, injure spirits and wound souls. Pause, Wait and Stop! Remember this African proverb: Getting angry brings loss. So don’t risk losing your mind, your temper, her respect and her trust. The temporary relief of getting something off of your chest could have permanent consequences. Never forget that if what you say lands in her face, you both will face it again. Is it worth it?
 
Keep in mind that when you are no longer in control of your emotions, if you act, you become a detriment to yourself and to your partnership. Even if your feelings are valid and even if you didn’t start the fight, stop. If you feel overwhelmed, retreat. Words that are said in anger can never be recalled. Honor yourself and your partner by not talking and maintaining your composure.
 
Tip # 2: Reflect. After you relax, spend some time reflecting. Ask yourself the following questions:
  • Why am I angry?
  • Do I feel understood? If so why?
  • Did something hit my one of my “pain points”, areas where I feel extremely vulnerable or fragile?
  • Did something happen or was something said that reminded me of an old wound? If so how? 
  • What did I feel but could or did not express? Why?
  • What do I need to say to myself, the other person or someone from my past to feel heard or better?
  • Am I able to see the situation from another viewpoint? If not, what’s emotionally blocking my view? Why? 
  • What role is my ego playing? Is my imagination running wild?
  • What “story” am I creating about the exchange? 
  • How was her approach problematic for me? If so, what approach would work?  
  • What else is going on with me that may be influencing or intensifying my reaction to this current situation? My job? Children? Life pressures?
  • What and/or why am I hiding from? Jealously, a perceived threat, happiness?
  • How much power am I giving my pride?
These questions should help identify the source of your pain, frustration, annoyance or misinterpretation. Challenge yourself to go beyond the easy and expected reasons because the real answers are usually multi-layered and intermingled with lots of emotional baggage. Probe your spirit. Identify those hurts that are hidden in those protected places in your heart. Dig beyond the shame, insecurity, guilt, anger, feelings of worthlessness and any other residual emotions of feeling “less than”. Dig!

Many times it is behind those unexamined and unexpressed feelings where our rage resides and our wrath waits. It is behind those feelings or because of those feelings that we explode or implode and irrevocably damage our relationships. It is those emotions of feeling/being misunderstood and/or unheard that causes us to go off, get off and show off. Dig! Because hidden in the depths of our souls are the answers to our fury and pain. Hidden behind our masks, charades, egos and personas are the emotions/answers that need to released, reviewed, recounted and resolved. Dig!!! Be courageous because the answers can’t harm you; they can only heal you. Dig! The answers are already there waiting for you to explore, express and explain. It is your choice to give those emotions a voice. Courageously Dig!

If you really want to understand your emotions and reactions, dig! The African proverb says it best: To get rid of anger, first weed out the bitter root. What’s the bitter root of your rage, pain, insecurity or any other emotion that does not serve or support you? Do you really know?

 
Tip #3: Relate. After you have done your self-work, then and only then, it is time to talk and listen. “And” is the operative word because many of us are great at talking, but we are not as good as listening. Relating demands both; it requires honest dialogue. It requires that we tell our stories but also allow our loved ones to share their stories. We don’t have to agree but we do have to listen.

Relating demands that we honor each other’s communication styles even if the style is difficult for us. It may require us to stretch ourselves in ways that feel uncomfortable, unfamiliar and uneasy. We don’t have to be perfect but we do have to try.

It is also important to remember that your partner/friend is not you. I often hear people say “I treat people the way I wanted to be treated”. Hmmm…..but is that policy always helpful, hopeful or healing? I don’t think so. People are different; they come from different backgrounds, cultures and have different histories. As a result, if you love and value someone, it important to communicate in a way that helps them hear you and vice versa. I am not saying abandon who you are. Absolutely not! I am suggesting that your partner deserves the same or better accommodations than you give your boss, co-workers or strangers on the street. Think about it. When you get mad at your boss, you don’t holler, yell or hurl insults. You don’t tell your supervisor to kiss where the sun doesn’t shine. So why do you reserve that treatment for you partner?

Relating is not always easy, but it is always doable if you relax and reflect before you talk. It is helpful to have a plan or an intention when you revisit the topic or discuss the emotional meltdown too. Ask yourself: what do I want her to hear and how can I help her hear it? After you are clear about your message, determine a method (time, place and presentation) so that she hears you.

The African proverb says it best: To engage in conflict, one does not bring a knife to cut but a needle to sew. Before you engage, answer these questions: Am I bringing a knife or a needle to the conversation? Am I trying to mend a relationship, improve communication, strengthen the connection and recover trust? Or, do I want to fight, retaliate, get even or degrade? Do I want to be right or do I want to be in relationship? Your answer will determine your approach.

Tip #4: Release: Hopefully while relating, you are able to resolve, rectify and remedy the situation. After that it is done, RELEASE!!! Release any anger, resentment and hostility so that the healing process can begin. I think we all will agree that releasing or forgiving is easier said than done. When you feel slighted or feel emotionally bruised, it is easy to hold a grudge or maintain distance. But what is easy is not always expedient especially when it comes to healing and reconciliation. Release any negative feelings and willingly start anew.

At first, you may feel some uneasiness and awkwardness. Initially your conversations may be clumsy and you may feel some embarrassment about some of your disparaging comments. That is to be expected. However, don’t let your discomfort derail your attempts at burying the hatchet. Face the apprehension and move toward reconciliation. You are worth it and so is she.

Arguing is a part of life and is a normal part of healthy relationships. What is important is that you learn to express positions respectfully so that they don’t escalate into full-blown, take-no-prisoners verbal assaults. Good conflict is healthy but losing your connection is not. Take the time to fight fairly and respectfully so that you can CREATE LOVE that sees all, hears all and bears all. You deserve it and so does she.

I wish you well as you CREATE LOVE that serves, supports, satisfies and sustains you. If you have questions, be sure to post your question in “Ask Love”

Blessings!

SharRon  
www.createloveforwomen.com
www.icandependonme-sharronjamison.com
www.sharronjamison.com

Monday, September 23, 2013

Happy Single Highlight: Claudia

CLAUDIA MOSS
from Margate, Florida
 
Since you have been single, what have you learned about yourself? I have learned that I have been more guarded than I’d like to believe about myself. I have faced the fact that I would rather continue learning about who I am and what I prefer in a partner within the parameters of a relationship. I’ve had numerous opportunities to practice the art of compromise, and I, as Mariah sings, “want to know what love is,” what romantic love nestled in friendship is. I feel more than understand that my essence longs to intimately know another, yearns to connect on all the levels that two people can become one.

I know that I love life. That I want to discover the joys of each new day with a woman who makes my soul salute the power that called us into being. I want to know what it feels like to realize I desire to be with someone through the quick and thick of life, married by vows, bound by love. I realize this life is not half as redolent as it is when unconditional love underlies a relationship.


What are you doing now to prepare yourself for a healthy relationship? Each day I fall deeper in love with me so that I can more adequately love and adore another. I know that if I do not love and accept all aspects of myself, during times I judge myself good or bad, I can never really love and accept another like I’d want to be loved. I prepare myself for a relationship by observing others in my everyday experience, by reading about wholesome healthy unions on “The Create Love for Women” blog and by viewing the interactions of the couples I adore on YouTube.

What areas do you tend to struggle with most in relationships? Communication. Ironically, if I deem my opinions or thoughts might hurt someone, I won’t say anything at all, and when that happens, the relationship is over. Perhaps this is a coping mechanism that feeds into my former need to be liked, no matter what. In the past, if I was attracted to a person, I’d shut down, clam up and go stone unresponsive. I’m uncertain, but that may have been a coping mechanism as well---one that protected me emotionally from feeling rejected. And as a child, I came of age under the practice of children being seen and not heard. As a girl, I had even less of a voice, so I grew older learning to swallow my voice to keep what I thought was the peace or pieces of me. Today, I relish the blessing of my verbosity...though I’ve yet to taste that verbal delight in a loving relationship.

What characteristics and traits do you find most compatible? Which ones are most problematic and why? I find a humorous, gentle, soft-spoken, erotic, sensually raw, knowledgeable, generous, courageous, fun loving, respectful, trustworthy, family oriented, adventurous, direct, tactful and vulnerable spirit to be compatible with me. I adore acts of service and loving affirmations.

Characteristics and traits that are most problematic for me include: abrasiveness, a willingness to believe the worst, antagonistic, combative, rude, argumentative, verbally abusive, and being loudly abusive to others. Some people exhibiting these characteristics usually feel as if everybody is out to get them and they must fight to not feel as if they are being taken advantage of in some way. I will not spend my time at war with a beloved. I want to relish all the ways I can love her and she me.



What do you love about love? I love the effect love has on me, the way I want to express my love, the restorative power of love and the possibilities of love to help us save ourselves. I love the reality that once you open yourself to love and loving you want to love more and love more deeply, more richly.

I love that love possesses the power to bridge divides between people. I love that it is the most powerful force in the universe, that it truly covers a multitude of sins. I love that love allows people to be exactly as they are so that their growth process comes out of what they need from that inner wellspring of Divine energy.

What has being in a relationship taught you about you? Being in a relationship has taught me that I need more practice with learning to share myself more with my mate, to learn balance and patience. I have learned that being open and vulnerable is a good thing, that being free and cultivating a loving space in which to be nonjudgmental with oneself and others is the foundation for an unconditionally loving union.

What do you admire about yourself? I admire my joviality, my readiness to share my smile with the world, my ability to empathize with others and my proclivity to accept where I am and move forward with positivity. I love my legs, my breasts, my locs and my overall sensuality. I admire my propensity to explore, to walk where others might fear to go or to embrace people at whom others may frown.


How would your friends describe you? I think my friends would describe me as fun loving, adventurous, childlike, generous, eccentric, sensual and passionate. Most would say I’m creative and carefree, hardworking and caring and resourceful and spiritual.

What do you like to do for fun and why? I love the drive-in, preparing colorful meals, dancing, traveling, attending cultural events, playing on the beach and enjoying long leisurely walks. Since I am a movie person with a predilection for romances, the drive-in satisfies my itch for movies and romance in one divine location. Eating healthy, raw meals now allows me to honor my mind, body and soul as I savor a much more wholesome life. Today I know with a visceral knowing that eating raw is more than a diet; it’s indeed a lifestyle. A strong, healthy body in motion is beautiful, so dancing, playing on the beach and taking long walks titillate me. Traveling and attending cultural events feed my love for the beauty of art in people and places.

What is our love language and how did you learn that about yourself? My love language is acts of service and verbal affirmations. I love it when people to whom I am attracted are Present enough to do things for me that I adore. I love it when someone pays attention to the things I do and say, and I love sweet nothings in a telephone call, text, card and, definitely, in person. When I pay attention to how I feel when someone is exhibiting the above behavior towards me in a sincere attraction, it makes me feel warm and electric inside.

 Finish this sentence…..Before I die I want to ____. Before I die, I want to marry again and love my wife well, with a deep and passionate love. I want to experience life anew each day and night with her. Before I die, I want a long, lucrative career as an author, speaker, philanthropist and talk show personality. Before I die, I want to travel the world, to skinny dip on exotic shores, to drench my taste buds with foods from around the world, to read my work to appreciative audiences, to see my work on stages and screens and to make love on a Fiji beach. Before I close my eyes for the last time, most importantly, romantically, I want to love and be loved in return.


How important is spirituality to you? Spirituality is extremely important to me. I begin and end my days in a peaceful Stillness, in which I am seeking nothing from the Divine. My purpose is to simply abide in pure gratitude with the Universe in the oneness of love and light. When I open a space, conscientiously, for Spirit to manifest in my life, what I desire appears effortlessly. And I talk to the Divine and seek to listen more than I talk, preferring Silence. In this Stillness, answers appear, lessons clarify and perplexity bows. Now this does not mean I wake up with a winning lottery ticket under my pillow each morning. It simply means that I am precisely where I am supposed to be, learning the lessons I came to learn, experiencing things I am supposed to experience, and understanding that the most important aspect of it all is knowing that the Divine is my co-pilot on this exhilarating journey of mi vida.

What important lesson did you learn from your mother that has helped you in life and in relationships? Although my mother transitioned when I was in the tenth grade, before she left, she taught me to be the best that I can be in every situation and to not waste time complaining. My mother was a reading mother, so at her feet, I learned to cherish the voice and the power of words in a sacred place. Thus, I enjoy reading at midnight to a beloved, to set a romantic mood, to regale her with a good story and to share my own work with my beloved.

You inherited your love for the written and spoken word from your loving mother. What a blessing! Thank you, SharRon. My mother bought me a spiral-bound notebook when I was a preteen. In it, I wrote my first novel about a teenage girl, who traveled to Europe as an exchange student. I took the time, even then, to research the details of my setting, and when my mother read the piece, she praised me and the story and had me to share it with the family. From the start, she recognized my gift; she knew who I was, and she encouraged it. I was always verbal, and I excelled at anything word-based or language-based.

I admire your work. You are a talented writer, creative artist, powerful performer, insightful radio host and a discerning “spirit”. What inspires you to create? Again, many, many sweet thanks, SharRon! And to answer your question, I will capsule it in one word: Love! Love inspires me to create. Everything I do I want it to manifest Love in the world. Even when I go astray in my loving of myself or others, in my behavior or in my thoughts, the Power of Love brings me back to my loving self eventually. No matter if we, as people, have gone terribly astray in our “perceived” loving and actually leaped into hurting others, I believe, the Divine, on Divine Time, stands up, takes charge and has us to realize Love’s Presence and Grace.

You can also find Claudia at the following links:


Claudia Moss LIVE – www.Talkshoe.com
www.Facebook.com/claudia.moss.35

www.Twitter.com/TheLadySiren

www.Twitter.com/WandaBWonders
http://sistahsontheshelf.com/?p=4459

http://claudiamoss.wordpress.com/
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/search?q=claudia-moss

Books by Claudia Moss:

Wanda B. Takes the Cake: Another Wanda B. Wonders Affair (The Wanda B. Wondes Series)

If You Love Me, Come

Soft Tsunami
 
Claudia has contributed to several anthologies, including Purple Panties.


(Interview conducted by SharRon Jamison)

We thank you for sharing your journey of happiness in singlehood! Your story will encourage, inspire and uplift other singles. We wish you continued success and happiness. www.createloveforwomen.com

Create Love -- Founders

Imani Evans and SharRon Jamison

 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Forgiving The Unforgivable

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. Lewis B. Smedes


True forgiveness is a gift that cannot be doled out like mints in the waiting room of a doctor's office. Instead forgiveness is a conscious choice to clear pain, hurt, disappointment and anger out of your heart so that love takes its place. It is a not about the recipient of such grace, but rather an act of self-love. No heart suffers more than the one unable to forgive. It is, and should be, coveted by those who understand its healing power. 

Yet as much as we understand its necessity to heal, we often resist forgiving others. Why? Some people erroneously think of forgiveness as a "get out of jail free" pass to those who have caused immeasurable pain. Not true. Some people think of forgiveness as being synonymous with forgetting the damage caused by hurtful and harmful acts. Not true. Neither of these are valid for true forgiveness. To the contrary, forgiveness is the gateway to an emotional freedom from those people and experiences that have wounded us. 

We cannot begin to negotiate a new normal and transform our experiences without first forgiving. Regardless of the relationship that beckons your forgiveness, it is critical in order to move on without dragging forward the hurt from your past. Trust me, I know that there are some things that may seem unforgivable. There are some things that are so egregious and so heinous that we might wonder, is forgiveness really possible? I can tell you firsthand that even the most heinous acts of betrayal can be forgiven. The best way for me to illuminate this point is through my personal experience up close and personal with forgiveness.

My personal story of forgiveness:
I grew up with parents who struggled with their own identities, including what it meant to
be married and to be parents. My mom was only 16 years old when she had me and my dad was 21. They were young and ill-equipped for the life they had thrown themselves into. They, way too often, took their frustrations and ignorance of life out on me and my brother. 

My mother was angry and miserable with teenage parenthood and married life.  She married my father because she was forced, but she didn't love him. She projected that misery on us with an unmatched venomous tongue. As such, she was verbally and emotionally abusive. She called me names repeatedly and consistently enough that I was traumatized and my self-esteem was gravely impacted. "Fat ass" was often at the top of her name-calling list. 

Her anger was only matched by the physical fury that would rain down on us if she got mad enough. I remember being so terrified of her that when she walked passed us and simply reached for the phone we would jump in fear that she would hit us. You see, her anger often had no rhyme or reason. But the most memorable whipping was after my brother and I skipped school. We paid for that childhood stupidity with the lashes of an extension cord on our naked skin. I remember thinking that she must be trying to kill me. It seemed to go on forever. While the physical scars eventually healed, the terror left an indelible mark on my psyche and soul.

Now if the physical and emotional abuse wasn't enough, my father certainly held his own brand of insidiousness. I was sexually molested by my father until about 12 or 13 years of age. I was never clear on the exact beginning and ending because I blocked so much of this horror from my conscious mind in order to survive. What I do remember very clearly is feeling guilty and loathing my body for growing up faster than my years. It was a very confusing time for me and I turned my hatred inward for many years.

Needless to say that this history of abuse could very easily go in the category of unforgivable. And I tried that for years, which led me to an eating disorder, promiscuity, a love affair with alcohol and attempted suicide. Not forgiving them, obviously, wasn't working for me. More than that it was killing me slowly. In my mid-20s I made a different choice. I chose to search my heart for what it would take to forgive them and heal myself. That journey has taken me many places, including therapy, self confrontation, and an ultimate personal revolution!

My father had unfortunately died before I could confront him with my truth. So I wrote him a heartfelt letter that took six months to finish. I poured my heart and soul into that letter. I took out a picture of him and read the letter to his spirit, unleashing my anger, hurt, confusion and rage--without censorship.  I do not believe that we die and return to spirit with the same human flaws, so I know he heard and received my message. Then I burned the letter. I had released him and it. I had forgiven him.

My mother was a whole other beautiful experience. I confronted my mother with my truth. She listened with an open heart. Then the most amazing thing happened. She said, "I don't remember everything, but I know I was angry and I believe you... I am so sorry." We have spent subsequent years falling in love with the women we had both become. We have unveiled our souls together. I began to see her as not just my mother, but as a woman just like me. A woman who made mistakes; a woman who was scared, hurt and confused. I saw her as a flawed human being worthy of forgiveness. Today, we are best friends and I love her deeply. I have forgiven her. 


Forgiving my parents has helped me restore the good memories of my childhood.  I was able to readily recall times with both of them that were fun, educational and joyous.  I don't believe this would have happened had I not sought forgiveness first.

But the most challenging aspect of my forgiveness journey has been the road to forgiving myself.  I have forgiven myself for making choices that did not serve me, but rather degraded my soul. And because I have forgiven myself, I have been able to release the shame and guilt. I am not done with that yet, but each year it has gotten easier and, most definitely, better. I have extended grace and compassion to myself for not knowing how to make better choices for myself.  As they say, when we know better we can do better.

So now that you've witnessed my story, my hope is that you walk away believing that forgiveness is possible. I'd like to offer you some practical tips for forgiving the unforgivable in your life:

  • You can not embrace forgiveness if you are stuffing the emotions that must precede forgiveness, such as anger, hurt, etc. Stuffing your emotions and pretending not to hurt is not the same as forgiving. This is a futile exercise in denial that will undoubtedly show up somewhere else in your life. Let it go and know that God is big enough to handle ALL of your emotions.
  • Allow your pain to be witnessed by someone. This honors your heart. This validation of your pain is critical if you are to embrace forgiveness. Having your pain witnessed is also a way of releasing the shame; Shame is a barrier to forgiveness. It is an insidious dis-ease of the soul.
  • Remember that forgiving does not mean forgetting. As such, you may decide that the perpetrators of your betrayal do not need to be in your life. Only you can decide what is right and healthy for you. Sometimes boundaries are actually the most loving thing you can do for your self.
  • Don't rush forgiveness. It is not a race to see how quickly you can forgive. Forgiveness must be genuine and come from a place of authenticity. The only one who is fooled by a disingenuous approach to forgiveness is one who does not truly understand its purpose.
  • Be sure to put your self on your list of people to forgive. Too often, as women, we extend more compassion to others than we are willing to extend to ourselves. The guilt we carry weighs us down and permeates our lives. We must let it go, plain and simple!
  • Be willing to seek professional support as you seek to forgive the unforgivable. Whether it is your romantic relationship, friendships, or your family, forgiveness is worth the time and effort it requires. And sometimes the pain is so deep that we need support to navigate through it to the other side of love.

It is my deepest hope that this article, my truth, and my heart has been of some help to you as you embrace a journey to forgive and heal. I know that if it is possible for me, then it is possible for you-- for we are one heart.  I wish you great success as you embark on your journey to Create more LOVE IN YOUR LIFE!

Nya Akoma,
Imani Evans, MA

www.createloveforwomen.com
www.surviving2thriving.org
http://selfcarefordynamicwomen.blogspot.com
EMAIL: imani@surviving2thriving.org
PHONE: 404.944.6409

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Happy Couple Highlight: La-Shonda & Crystal

 La-Shonda Wilson and Crystal Harris 
from North Carolina

How long have you been together? About five years

How did you meet? Both: Through a mutual friend. Crystal: I always thought she was the most beautiful woman I had laid eyes on but I of never wanted my friends to know I was interested in a woman since I had only dated men. La-shonda: From the moment I met her I never wanted to be one moment out her sight. I thoroughly enjoyed her hilarious conversations and her outgoing personality not to mention her beauty!!

What was the initial attraction? Crystal: I was extremely drawn to her unique look and her lips. I saw her one day flying down the street near my previous neighborhood. And at that moment I knew I wanted her although at the time I was still dating a man. La-shonda: Man, where do I begin? This woman had a personality and sense of humor like no other. My lust for this woman was something serious.

La-Shonda, since Crystal had never dated women what made you pursue her? Initially I ran from the thought but I knew how I felt about her and I hoped that she would feel the same. I just felt love and I wanted to purse my feelings. I was scared but I didn’t want fear to make me miss out on an opportunity. When Crystal came around, her attention was the only attention I wanted. I was drawn to her. I had to be cautious though because I didn’t want to lose a friend.

Crystal, you had never dated women. What motivated you to get to know La-Shonda? I was drawn to her beauty; she had a unique look. La-Shonda had a glow. Her hair was wild and beautiful and her eyes were so pretty. I was certain that if I was going to be in love with a woman, that it would be her. I went with my gut and gave it a try.

What would you say is the key to success in your/our relationship? Both: Honesty. We believe that honesty is the main factor in any relationship. Without honesty we would not be together. Also, spontaneous acts keep our relationship thriving. We love role playing and coming up with comical things to say to each other. Crystal: Sometimes she calls me up at work and pretends to be a mistress/mysterious lover who needs and lusts after my love. Then she will end the conversation with “don’t tell your woman about us it’s just our little secret.”

I love the spontaneity and creativity. Why do you feel couples neglect or stop adding the spice to the relationship? Crystal: The spice stops because the creative sparks stop. The things that you use to do may not keep the spark going so you have to be innovative. You got to try things outside of the box to keep the desire and fire in the relationship. La-Shonda: You also have to be passionate about the person too because spice and sex is just extra. I am already drawn to Crystal so sex is just the extra icing on the cake.

How you deal with and face challenges that may come up in your relationship? Crystal: We talk a lot throughout our relationship. Sometimes we do not always have the most stress-free conversations but they are well needed. We rather talk about the situation than to leave it broken and untouched. For us saying nothing can cause more chaos than actually approaching the situation.

You said that saying nothing causes more chaos. Why do you feel that silence is so detrimental to relationships?
 Crystal: Silence is almost compared to death in relationships. When silence creeps in, it takes over. It creates a bad spirit and it causes couples to be detached. If only one person is talking, you have a relationship of 1 and the relationship suffers. La-Shonda: Silence is deadly. Once you stop communicating with your partner, you will find other means to communicate. You will start finding other outlets and you will start communicating more outside of relationships vs. inside of your relationship. Silence is dangerous. Crystal: I am more of the talker in our relationship. We have noticed that if I am silent, something is wrong and we have to fix it. And, we fix it right then. When partners don’t talk, both parties suffer. You start to get off track and you start living in two different lanes.

What role does spirituality play in the relationship? Crystal: It plays a major part in our relationship. We both come from religious backgrounds; both of our mothers are preacher/ ministers so praise and worship plays a major role in both our lives. La-Shonda: I totally agree. I love the Lord deeply and so does she. We pray together, we go to church together and we worship together.

Since you are both from religious backgrounds, how do you families support your relationship? La-Shonda: My family loves Crystal. They see a glow in me that they haven’t seen before. Spiritually, we both respect our spirituality. We keep God first. I pray for me and Crystal as friends and as individuals. We don’t venture too far away from God. Crystal: La-Shonda is totally out to her family. She’s out and they love her. Very few people in my family know. My mother does not know or she claims not to know, but she hasn’t come out and asked me. I have not come out to my family, but at family functions, La-Shonda is always there. We are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to this.

What role does sensuality play in the relationship? Crystal: Sensuality plays a huge part in our relationship. Before I leave every morning for work or vice versa, we always say I love you and have a great day over the exchange of kisses. La-Shonda: Yes, we do this almost every morning faithfully and if I do not hear those words coming from her before she leaves the house, I will walk outside to her car and make sure I get my kisses and words of love before she leaves. I’m persistent so I get those lips and butt slaps before she leaves me in the morning!! We both enjoy touching each other. Whether it’s through massages, love taps or some other form of intimacy, we just enjoy physical contact. We love wild and erotic sexual encounters with each other as well as role playing. Crystal: I love to be in control as much as she does, so sometimes we struggle with who will be submissive for the night. Sometimes it ends up that both of us take turns.

Fluidity in sexuality is an area where some couples struggle. How did you address the issue of mutual submission in your sex life? La-Shonda: That took a lot of growth because I had to grow to let my guard down. I now don’t understand the “touch me not” stud thing because I love being touch. But we both had to let our guards down so that we could explore each other to see what we both liked. Crystal: We both had to experience the problem before we could fix the problem. For example, at the beginning La-Shonda was a “don’t touch me” stud and that was causing a problem. I enjoyed her pleasing me but I wanted an opportunity to please her. I had never dated a woman before and I wanted to explore her. So after we both acknowledged the problem, we were able to come to a compromise.

What advice would you give other couples? Both: We would tell other couples to live, laugh and love each other. Get to know your partner both inside and out and respect each other’s boundaries and know which points to try to avoid.

Why do you believe that boundaries are important for couples? Crystal: Boundaries are important because they symbolize respect. If you love and respect your partner, you won't consistently cross her boundaries. Yes, we are human and boundaries may sometimes get crossed. But if you are always crossing them, then obviously there is no respect; it's more like the beginning of a disaster.

What about avoiding triggers? La-Shonda: I would run if the end result would fuel something or add fuel to the fire. But I realized that if we were going to grow then our emotions can't separate us. You have to care, be patient and accept what’s going on. Boundaries are great but you have to grow together.

What Relationship Rules do you have that support and ground your relationship? Crystal: Every morning, La-Shonda kisses me and tells me she loves me. Also, we always talk everything out. No one goes to bed angry. You might be frustrated, but not mad. We never sleep a part unless one of us is sick. We are physically touching every night. If we can’t be together or lay with each other, something is wrong. La-Shonda: We respect each other’s spaces. We don’t put our hands on each either. That breeds fear and that will impact your relationship. We express our emotions with words. Also, we don’t do “lesbian drama”. We hate drama.

What has your relationship taught you most about yourself? La-Shonda: This relationship has taught me so much about unconditional love. This relationship has helped me to love her even more than I love myself. We can easily become egocentric; however, this relationship has helped tremendously in that department. Crystal: This relationship has taught me to love me in spite of my flaws because we all have them and La-Shonda adores them. And, {I learned} to never hold my head down because I am beautiful in spite of my own perceived shortcomings.

What do you most admire about her? Crystal: I admire her passion. No matter what obstacle or how dim the situation seems, she always has a smiling face. She’s inspiring and I can grow and learn from her. La-Shonda: I admire her strength. She’s a very strong woman. I love seeing how she handles life and her strength has helped grow. She never over-indulges in problems; she is always focused on finding a resolution. Her strength makes me stronger.

If you could thank her for one thing, what would that be? La-Shonda: I would thank her for giving me an opportunity to grow with her. She went outside of her comfort zone to give me a chance. Now my entire life is about loving, laughing and living. It took her to change my life, and now my life will be changed forever. Crystal: I would thank her for the love she has showed me. She has showed me love through her gifts, love and quality time. Her love is unconditional and I couldn't ask for much more.

What one word describes or characterizes your love? La-Shonda: Fulfilling. I felt lost in the world until I met her. No matter what happens, we can grow together and together we can make our dreams come true. Crystal: Serenity. Every year we go to the mountains and the mountains are so symbolic of our relationship. When I am at the mountains, I feel serenity, beauty and peace of mind. When I go there, I feel right at home. That is how I feel in my relationship; I feel right at home.


(Interviewed by SharRon Jamison)
 

We thank you for sharing your love with us at Create Love! Your story will encourage, inspire and uplift other couples. We wish you continued success and happiness. www.createloveforwomen.com

Create Love Founders

Imani Evans and SharRon Jamison 

Friday, September 13, 2013

CREATE: Connection Points

Are You Connecting?


I love to observe people.  I like to notice how people talk to each other, touch each other and listen to each other. How people interact and engage each other is fascinating to me, and I enjoy taking a peek into their lives.  Some people may characterize me as nosey and I understand that. But I have found that observing people is extremely useful and helpful, especially in my line of work. 

From watching people I have learned that there are six important ways that people connect and bond that strengthen their relationships. Of course there may be more than six ways and you are probably doing all six already. But if you are like the rest of us, you may need a good relationship tune-up from time to time.  So if you are ready to connect or re-connect, let’s get started.

The first way to connect with your partner is through ACCEPTANCE. I have learned, and I know you have too, that people connect better when they feel accepted. Not a new flash, right? But even though we all agree that acceptance is essential for the health of relationships, how many of us consistently practice accepting people for who they are?  Yes, we attempt to accept our loved ones because acceptance is an admirable thing to do. But to some degree, we all struggle or have struggled especially if something about a person rubs us the wrong way. 

But if you want a loving and satisfying relationship, accepting your partner is key. Why? Because when you feel accepted you feel free safe to be authentic, to make mistakes, to be silly, to be successful, to be eccentric, to disagree and to just be you without the risk of rejection. You also feel safe to reveal and expose the most fragile parts you – your emotions, your history, your failures and your dreams - without the fear of rebuke and ridicule. When I interview couples for the Happy Couple Highlights, I frequently hear statements like “with her I can be exactly who I am”, “I never feel pressured to be something that I am not” and “she lets me be myself”.  Wow… acceptance! What a gift!  

Acceptance is not something we always do well. But the more we accept ourselves, flaws and all, the easier it is to accept others. Remember this: We often criticize traits in others that reflect what we don’t like about ourselves.  So if you have a strong aversion to something about your partner, check your own spirit first. Maybe the problem lies with and in you.
Acceptance, approval, tolerance, acknowledgement or however you define it - we all desire it and deserve it. I am confident that if you sincerely embrace your partner for who she is, she will most likely return the favor and accept you for who you are. Accept and connect. You will be happier and so will she.
The second way to connect with your partner is through Affirmation. Affirmation means the willingness/desire to emotionally encourage and support someone. Believe me, that’s important if you want to cultivate a happy relationship. Why? Because PRAISE is powerful; it is instructive and inspiring.  And, many times when you celebrate and applaud a person’s behavior you usually get more of the behavior you affirm. Just think about your own life. Have you noticed that when someone recognizes and compliments something that you do, you want to repeat it?

Even though affirmation is motivating and healing, I frequently hear partners say “why do I have to tell you that, you already know it”. Why do you have to compliment her? Good question.  Here’s the answer: affirming her has the ability to change your attitude toward her and to also change her attitude toward herself.  Even if Words of Affirmation is not her primary Love Language, words still matter. Words can create or crush. They can promote or demote. They can celebrate or aggravate.  They can encourage or enrage.

Words have life-giving and life-sustaining power so speak well to and about your partner. Generously give accolades and compliments to remind her that you find her physically, spiritually, intellectually and emotionally attractive.  Remember the more you encourage and reinforce your partner, the happier and healthier she and your relationship will be. As the saying goes, a happy wife makes a happy life. Since there are two wives, get ready for double the joy . 

Authentic affirmation is powerful and it is a loving way to honor/support your partner. I call it spiritual and emotional nutrition that feeds the soul and warms the heart. The good news is that when affirmation is coupled with acceptance people report higher levels of relationship satisfaction. That’s incentive enough to share a kind word.
The third way to connect with your partner is through Affection. Some people may not admit it, but we all know that affection is important. Everyone needs and desires some of it, especially from someone you love. Affection is vital because it communicates love in ways that words can’t convey. Consider your own relationships. When you are angry or have hurt feelings a single heartfelt touch can calm you. When you are tired or stressed, a loving massage can relax you. Just a kiss, hug or a passionate squeeze can let you know someone cares.

From our own experiences we know that little acts of affection are important. We know that touching, holding and kissing create a greater sense of closeness that touches the deepest parts of our hearts. So hug and kiss often.

Also remember to show affection in non-physical ways. For example, send a greeting card or an "I love you" note. Give flowers, share secret glances, smile often and use terms of endearment. Any way that you can express love, show concern and let her know that you still desire her will enhance your relationship.  Affection is an important expression of care so let her know that you care. She is worth it and so are you.
 
The fourth way to connect with your partner is through Availability. “Her presence was the best present”. I overhead this statement when a woman was talking about spending time with her wife. The statement resonated with me because in my twenties and thirties I was guilty of being everywhere except beside my partner. I wasn’t accessible or available and that cost me some wonderful relationships.

Thanks to a few heartaches, I have learned a few things. I have learned that being available or just “being there” means knowing that your partner will be reachable when you call or when you visit. It is an assurance that your partner will be around to willingly support you even when/if it is inconvenient, uncomfortable and challenging. Being available communicates that you are important, and on some level, we all want to feel like a priority. 

Not only is being physically available important, being emotionally available is essential too. Knowing that your partner is fully present when you are talking, sharing, crying and celebrating makes you feel heard; it reinforces love. Also believing that your partner can access and communicate her emotions/thoughts clearly, patiently and lovingly allows you to be more vulnerable; it promotes trust.  The Ethiopian proverb is true: If I know you are there, more of me can be there too. I wish I heard this proverb when I was younger. 

“Being there” is important, and I have learned that “being there” does not always equate to a specific time. It means quality time; however, what constitutes quality time is extremely variable. So talk with your partner. Let her know what quality time means or “looks like” for you. Be sure she understands when you most need her time and attention so that she can be there for you.  Remember that expectations are just resentments waiting to happen so express your needs clearly and frequently. Don’t assume that she already knows. 

Here is the take-away.  Be Present.  Give your wonderful partner your full emotional attention and your physical presence.  Let her see her own beauty in and though your eyes.  Let her find her own voice through your listening ears.  Help her discover her own greatness, strength and grace in your presence. Show that you care by just being there. 

The fifth way to connect is through Accountability. Accountability seems like a word that belongs in a business article and not a relationship article, right? Wrong. Accountability is an approach to relationships that means that both partners are solution-oriented rather than blame-oriented. When I am counseling a couple, it is easy to spot a connection based on mutual accountability because the the first question each partner asks is   “How am I contributing to this problem” or “what can I do to make this situation better?”  The couples don’t blame or point fingers. They don’t assign a larger portion of the issue to the other either. They acknowledge, assess and act to find resolution even if it requires some apologizing, soul-searching, compromising or relationship re-structuring.

The concept of accountability in love relationships is difficult to grasp because it is the very opposite of what we see every day. We see people ducking responsibility instead of admitting their mistakes. We see people using their emotional baggage to justify bad behavior. We see people finding fault and flaws in others without honestly reflecting on their own issues or dissecting their own motives. 
Accountability in love is critical because everything you say and do can have an impact on your partner. For example, if you don’t pay a bill, it can affect both of your credit histories. If you don’t listen to each other, you can duplicate efforts. If you don’t consult with each other, it can affect both of your schedules.  Trust me - if you are in partnership with someone, your choices and behavior not only affect you, but your choices also affect her. You are a team!! That is why it is important to be patient before you commit to a relationship because some people do not want or don’t know how to be accountable to themselves, let alone you.
Accountability is a relationship prerequisite because accountability promotes trust. Trust promotes vulnerability. Vulnerability promotes intimacy, N-2-Me-C. And Intimacy strengthens your connection. 
Accountability is the glue that keeps healthy organizations together.  It may not sound romantic to think of your relationship as an organization, but it is. It is an organization of two without children. Add a few kids, both the organization and the need for accountability increase.

Here some advice. If want your partner to love you and trust you, be accountable. If you want your partner to believe what you say, be accountable. If you want to demonstrate your commitment to her and the relationship, be accountable. It will strengthen your connection and deepen your bond.
 
The last way to connect with your partner is through Appreciation. Sometimes we overlook the value of it, but how do you feel when people say “thank you”? When people let me know that there are grateful and thankful for something that I have done it touches my heart. I feel seen, acknowledged and cherished.   

I believe that gratitude is important. It is not only important for us to feel it, it is important for us to express it, especially to people we love. Many times we take the people closest to us for granted or we assume they know that we appreciate what they do for us. But our partners are not mind readers so take time to give a sincere “thank you”.  Say for example, “I really appreciate you running errands today. You really made my day easier. Thank you.” Or, “Thank you for taking the time to talk to me about this issue. It really helped ease my mind.” Or. “Thank you for going out of your way to help me with my project. I know that you already have a lot on your plate. Thanks”. Don’t wait for a special day or occasion. If you appreciate their love, say thank you. 

Showing appreciation is one of the ways that you nurture your relationship. It is something that we easily neglect as we deal with all of the responsibilities and challenges we face in life. But it is also one of those little things that when/if we do well will reap tremendous benefits in the long run. As my grandma used to say “nobody has to be nice to you, so when they are, say thank you”. 

Acceptance, Affirmation, Availability, Affection, Accountability and Appreciation - 6 important ways to connect with your partner and 6 ways for her to connect with you.  Good luck connecting. Send me a message and let me know how the tips are working for you. Also, remember to send me and Imani your questions for “Ask Love”. We look forward to connecting and hearing from you as you CREATE LOVE .
Blessings!
SharRon  
www.createloveforwomen.com
www.icandependonme-sharronjamison.com
www.sharronjamison.com

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Happy Single Highlight: Carsini

 
Carsini Brooks from Rockhill, South Carolina

Since you have been single, what have you learned about yourself? Being single has allowed me to take the time to acknowledge and embrace my  likes/dislikes;  enhance my strengths; focus on my weaknesses, desires, passions, imperfections and fears. I have learned that it is ok to be me, my imperfectly perfect self.

What are you doing now to prepare yourself for a healthy relationship? At this point in my life I am focused on being a “better me” which in turn will prepare me for not only a relationship, but life’s challenges as well. I am surrounding myself with the right people/couples who will provide constructive criticism and support as needed and who genuinely care for me and my well being. I am also reading various literature and engaging in open discussions with friends, couples, mentors and life coaches. I do this to obtain mixture of views/knowledge/concepts/opinions that will give me insight and help me make better choices and/or decisions. To sum it up, I am learning how to enjoy life.

What books have you found most helpful? I gravitate toward books that help me on a professional level. I have an open-window of training opportunities at my job and I try to incorporate and apply what I learn on a professional level to my personal life. In our training sessions we are encouraged to think about our personal life skills and experiences which allows me to address issues of my past relationships with my family, friends and people I have dated. I realize that I have been successful in my professional life, but I have failed on a personal level.

I have read Crucial Conversations, Crucial Conflicts and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

From those books, what most resonated with you? From the 7 Habits, I like the statement “Begin with the End in Mind”.  Before I get into relationships, I now ask myself “where is this going” and “are we compatible”?   Sometimes we miss the red flags but now I take my time to really get to know the person. In my past, I sometimes got involved with people who were not good for me.

What areas do you tend to struggle with most in relationships? I have the tendency to ignore signs and not follow my instincts. There were several occasions that I knew/felt that the person and/or situation was not for me; yet I gave the individuals the benefit of the doubt and convinced myself that I was being open minded.  I do not have any regrets; however, moving forward I have vowed not to put myself in the same situation(s).

Our experiences are similar. If our guts said no, why do we say yes? I think that it is our nature; women are nurturers. We want to give the person the benefit of the doubt. Even though the signs are there, we still try. I am now trying to embrace the statement – “when people show you who they are, believe them”. 

Also, I am now asking different questions. I ask myself questions like “will this person compliment me in life”. I have learned that I need to see the bigger pictures. With the exception in my last relationship, I had to push and motivate people. Now I want a partner who will challenge me to be better. I want someone who will also motivate me.

What characteristics and traits do you find most compatible? Which ones are most problematic and why? I am most compatible with someone who is good communicator in every aspect (can speak in any given situation and use proper English), genuine, open minded, loyal, dependable, career and family oriented, confident, and sensual. Characteristics that I find problematic are as follows: immaturity, dishonesty, irresponsible, non communicator; a person who is loud, exceedingly flirtatious, insecure, selfish and self centered. At this stage in my life, I am very much aware of my wants and desires. The above problematic characteristics do not coincide with what I desire in my future partner.

What do you love about love? I love that fact that love is tangible; it is real. And with the right person it can be magical.

What do you mean by love being tangible? Even though my experience has not been the best, I still feel that love is in my grasp. I still believe in love at first sight. When the right person shows up, you will know it and you will feel it.

What has being in a relationship taught you about you? Being in a relationship has made me aware of the following characteristics about myself: I am very assertive, passionate, giving and loving. When in relationship, I am observant and very attentive to my partner’s needs; I aim to please.

We learn about ourselves in our relationships. What areas of growth or development did you identify?  I have learned that when I sense something, take heed. I have also learned that I need to get better at communicating my feelings. I need to learn to take my time and not rush into relationships. Learn to just let it flow so it is healthy. I now use the “90 Day Rule” to make sure I see what’s going on. That’s important because people can only put on a fa├žade for so long. I try not to get emotionally involved during that time too which makes it easier to walk away. In previous courtships I would get emotionally and physically involved too quickly which made it hard to accept the fact that I needed to move on when it was clear that the relationship was no longer an option.

What do you admire about yourself? I admire my determination, my willingness to try and fail in order to succeed, and my ability to lead/guide and direct.

How would your friends describe you? Okay! I will admit that I cheated on this question and asked my friends. My friends would describe me a passionate, enthusiastic, punctual, ambitious, intelligent, trustworthy, diligent, dependable, loyal, outgoing, courteous, competent, kind hearted and direct.

Based on your pictures, most would think that you were extremely feminine, but you are not. How has that affected your dating life? I am approached by fems and studs.  I am honest and tell them that I prefer fems. Even though I look fem and if I had to put a label on myself, I would say I am a soft stud.  But if you ask me what I am, I am a woman. I really don’t do labels.

What do you like to do for fun and why? I like to work out, spend time with family and friends, dance, and travel. The aforementioned takes me away from the demands of life’s daily hassle and hustle. I feel as though it is necessary to create a balanced life; it helps me feel calm, grounded, and keeps me motivated. In addition, it also, helps me relax, redirect, release, relate, and make new memories with family and friends.

 What is your love language and how did you learn that about yourself? My love language is Quality Time.  My motto is and has always been that actions speak louder than words.  I do not need one’s words, gifts, or services. When someone spends time with you they are essentially giving you a part of their life and that speaks volume to me.  It is the one thing that you cannot take back; it is an action that is done only if one desires to do so. And, it is frequently accompanied by the Physical Touch.  

Finish this sentence…..before I die I want to travel various parts of Europe.

How important is spirituality to you? Spirituality is essential for the health of the mind, body, and soul. Spirituality helps me see the beauty in life which directly affects my happiness; it helps me cope with stress.  It is the reason why I subconsciously changed my way of life in regards to my health and eating habits and it is one important ingredient to my anti-aging formulaJ.

What important lesson did you learn from your mother that has helped you in life and in relationships?  In life – Nothing in life is free; hard work and determination is a must in order to succeed at any given task/goal.  Be prepared to stand and fight for what you love and believe - if you do not stand for something you will fall for anything.

In relationships - Never lose yourself in the process of finding and/or falling in love.

(Interview conducted by SharRon Jamison)

We thank you for sharing your journey of happiness in singlehood! Your story will encourage, inspire and uplift other singles.  We wish you continued success and happiness. www.createloveforwomen.com

Create Love -- Founders

Imani Evans and SharRon Jamison