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Are you heading in different directions?

You're at a fork in the road, asking yourself- are we on the same path? It's a critical time for you together and you need to know where to turn for help. 

Maybe one of these thoughts resonates with you:

  • We've lost desire and can't seem to find ways to reconnect.

  • I love them, but I'm not sure I'm "in love." 

  • Sometimes I want to break up, but I'm not sure.

  • We keep having the same frustrating conflicts over and over and over.

  • I'm upset more often than I'm happy and I feel like we've tried everything to fix it.

  • They say they want to end it but I think we still have a chance.

  • I don't know how we can fix things, but I feel like we should try.

  • My partner brought up opening the relationship and I'm not sure.

  • My previously straight partner just came out (LGBTQ). I don't know how we can stay together.

Every couple goes through transitions - some more challenging than others.

But is this a transition you make together, or is it time to part?

I'm here to help you discern what's best for you individually and how you can creatively get your needs met together.

Or decide how to move on with care and respect.

I've seen many couples through incredible relationship transformations. Both staying together and breaking up.  Read below for more info on how we sort through these difficult times.

Call to learn how I can support you in this difficult time.

We’re back together. I’d say that’s a success.
I didn’t know if it would happen. And I definitely didn’t think it could be this good again.
— Michelle & Darla, San Jose, California
 
healthy relationship definition

WHAT THE DISCERNMENT PROCESS IS:

Discernment counseling was developed by Bill Doherty, PhD, as part of the Minnesota Couples on the Brink Program. Unlike marriage therapy, which focuses on saving the marriage, discernment work focuses solely on helping couples decide whether or not to continue their commitment.

Typically, this brief time-limited process is completed in five sessions or less. The goal is to get the couple unstuck and moving forward, in whichever direction they choose.

The goal-focused, action-oriented work is a coaching process.  We'll focus on your strengths and resiliency factors to help you move forward with integrity.

Discernment work is designed to help you answer, “Am I willing to work on changing my contributions to the relationship?”

If both partners answer yes, they move forward to start working more intensely in couples coaching.

 

WHAT DISCERNMENT WORK IS NOT:

CONVINCING - These sessions won’t force a spouse who is determined to divorce to change his/her mind.  I'm not here to convince either of you, though I ultimately will always hold out hope for your partnership.

JUDGEMENT - I'm not here to take sides or judge which of you is right or wrong.  And that wouldn't really help you anyway, would it?

HEALTHCARE - It's not mental health therapy (aimed at assessing, diagnosing or treating individual mental health conditions or substance use).  We're not going to wander through stories of your family of origin or trauma history.  We'll focus our relationship coaching at the specific issue at hand: should I stay or should I go?

MAGIC WAND - This process is not an immediate change creator.  Instead it helps you identify and understand what happened to the relationship and each of your contributions to the issues at hand.

THE ONLY STEP - It won’t create a perfectly harmonious relationship between spouses who have let their relationship deteriorate past the point of no return. If you're at this decision point you'll need to do work to make sustainable change in your relationship patterns. However, discernment work will help you identify where you need to focus your continued relationship work as a couple.

 
When we started working with Gina I wasn’t sure we would make it through. She got us back on the same team after we hadn’t really been talking for at least six years.
— Jade & Jesse, Troutdale, OR
how to break up

BENEFITS OF DISCERNMENT COUNSELING

  • It gives you a chance to review your relationship history and explore needs and concerns for the future.

  • It can be a powerful turning point for couples.  I've seen many clients experience a rebirth of connection. 

  • If one of you is certain you’d like to end things but the other is not, creating a holding environment to allow the other partner to “catch up,” can help you set a positive tone for your future relationship (which is especially important if you have children).

  • This kind of work can dramatically reduce the emotional conflict that arises like a tug of war between deciding whether to stay or to go. Discernment work has made the divorce process smoother with less fighting and legal fees for many of my clients.

  • Couples who commit to relationship coaching after going through discernment identify the core areas to work on and know what needs to change. This supports the following coaching process for those who decide stay together.

  • Getting clarity about your contribution to the challenges in your current relationship can help keep you from repeating the same mistakes in future relationships.


THE FLIP SIDE OF DISCERNMENT COUNSELING

  • Sometimes folks decide to split. Part of this work is acknowledging breaking up is a viable option- I’m here to help you decide when and if it’s right for you.

  • Sometimes the truth hurts. Maybe you don’t really want more awareness about your relationship, your partner’s experience, or perspective.

  • You may learn in this process that your partner is not as committed to staying together as you are- and that really can hurt.


 
I flip-flopped about this divorce for months. Working with Gina brought me the clarity to leave. Now I can’t believe the level of relief I feel!
— Kate, Clearwater Beach, Florida
 
Things aren’t perfect, but we’ve had the best divorce experience of anyone I’ve ever talked to. That’s thanks to the process we went through with Gina.
— Kate & John, Chicago, IL

WHAT IS CONSCIOUS UNCOUPLING?

Some of the people who begin this process of discernment realize they want to end part of their relationship and still stay in loving compassionate partnership or friendship at the same time.

There’s not a lot of support in our culture for more creative relationship transformations, but that is often what folks are seeking when we talk about conscious uncoupling.

Watch this Wanderlust talk by Katherine Woodward Thomas, author of the book Conscious Uncoupling about what this means if you think that may be a path forward for you.

 
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One day I am sure I should break it off, and then the very next day I'm sure I want to be with this person. What's the deal?

There are a lot of reasons you might feel like you're swinging between opposite poles moment to moment (lots of people feel this way, BTW).  Often this means there's still possibility to make it work (which is why sometimes you're sure it's working) but you might be really stuck in some outdated patterns- which is why getting help is critical right now.

Sometimes it feels like he'll change and then the very next day it feels like nothing ever will.  How long will it take for things to really change?

It's unbelievably frustrating to ride waves of change and setback. I see clients all the time who are weary from trying and talking and low from dashed hopes in this cycle of ups and downs. Changing long-standing patterns is really hard, but your question speaks to four critical elements:

1. You are starting to let hopelessness in. When you say words like ever/never it tells me you really need something concrete to pin your hopes to. If you want to stay together you need to start asking yourself if you have enough hope in your reserve tank to pull you through the work that needs to happen to get to the other side of resentment mountain.

2. You still want it to work. At least part of you does. Or you wouldn't be asking and you wouldn't be in it anymore.  But you're facing trying times and your patience is wearing thin... I think it's time to call for help.

3. Which brings me to the third piece, your patience is clearly getting worn here. If you're going to stay together and work it out (I'm sorry to tell you this but) there will be more ups and downs. Change doesn't happen in a direct linear path- there are always steps forward and at least small steps back until sustainable new patterns are formed. The question for you is- do you have the patience to weather positive growth that includes some minor setbacks?

4. I know you want/need your partner to change, and no doubt there are things they need to take a look at.  But, are you willing to look at your own contributions to the problem? Because the patterns that aren't working were co-created so to undo them we're going to have to co-create change. It can't be all one-sided. Do you really want to change your own ways?  Are you willing to take responsibility for your contributions?

Consider these four elements when you think about staying together and signing on to relationship work as a couple. Discernment is not an easy process, but it is often a very helpful one.

Should we break up?

It's not for me to decide.  When we first meet I'll give you frank feedback about the strengths I see in your connection, and the work we'll need to do to repair and reinvent parts of your connection moving forward. 

I try to be realistic about both pieces so you can assess if you really have the commitment, time, and energy to dedicate to making it work- or leaving lovingly.    

Can we get through this affair? Do couples stay together after cheating?

Even couple takes a different route through infidelity.  Some of my couples choose to split up- and in those cases I help them do so with respect and kindness.  

Most of my couples choose to stay together and though it isn't easy many of them make it through.  We work to repair broken trust and create communication that works for both of you moving forward.

I'm can help you repair trust no matter what you've been through.  

 

I'm happy to answer any questions you have about couples support in a free call.

Gina gave me the a-ha moment I needed to leave a really terrible relationship. I’m glad she tells it like it is.
— Kurt, Asheville, NC
 

COMPASSIONATE BREAK-UP RESOURCES

RECOMMENDED BOOKS

COUPLES ANNOUNCING THEIR BREAK-UPS

A NOTE FROM GINA

Hey there, Thanks for your interest in working with me. There are a few important things I want you to know about working with me when making a big decision like this one:

  • There are a lot of people who might try and pressure you into one route or the other- that’s not my job.

  • I won’t advocate for you or your partner’s position. I’m here to help you find what’s best for you.

  • I am not attached to the outcome of your decision. It doesn’t matter which path you choose- so long as you feel comfortable it’s in alignment with your values and vision.

  • I am attached to a process that is compassionate at heart. Though it may also be painful, my goal is that where ever you go from here you go feeling confident you showed up as your best and kindest self.

I share this because I know opening this conversation takes a lot of courage and doing it in a judgment-free space is essential to getting really clear about what you truly want and need. Let me know if you want to talk more! - Gina

 

ABOUT YOUR COACH

Gina Senarighi Madison Break Up Coach

Dr. Gina Senarighi, PhD, CPC is a certified relationship coach, retreat leader, speaker, and author specializing in human connection, intimacy, authenticity, shame-resilience, and alternative relationships. For over twelve years she has supported hundreds of clients creating fulfilling integrity-based relationships according to their own rules.

She earned her Master of Arts degree in Marriage and Family Therapy in 2010 from Saybrook University. She received her Bachelor degree in Education from the University of Wisconsin in 2002 and a Masters of Science in Education with a minor in Human Sexuality from Indiana University in 2004. In 2019 she completed her PhD in Spiritual Studies and Pastoral Counseling.

Gina was named Portland’s Best Life Coach in 2019 by Portland Business Recognition and has taught psychology courses, communication workshops, couples intimacy retreats, and guest lectured on alternative relationships and sex-positive therapy at universities across the US. Students love her no nonsense “real talk” presentation style.

Gina knows with better relationship and sex education we’d build a more compassionate, creative, confident, and fulfilled society.  She believes we are entitled to desire and we all need meaningfully connected relationships to thrive. She knows all relationships need a tune-up from time to time and has been praised by clients for her friendly non-judgmental approach to couples work. 

She understands first-hand the struggles creative and entrepreneurial couples face as they navigate the abundant joys and challenges that come with a high-achieving lifestyle. Her clients span the globe as they set forth to make the world a better place for us all.

When she’s not teaching, coaching or consulting you can find her in her gorgeous urban garden, hiking Door County with her tiny dog, cooking lavish dinners, playing with her two sweet kids, or traveling the world with her partner, Rae.

 

WHAT TO EXPECT WORKING WITH ME ...

WHAT I DO

  • Use a strengths-based approach to help you grow

  • Bring a decade of experience helping hundreds of incredible people deeply connect to themselves and the people they love

  • Help you listen and communicate effectively, end repetitive argument cycles, and let go of baggage

  • Use a sex-positive framework and vast sexuality knowledge to fan flames of passion between you

  • Identify ways to manage intense emotions

  • Rebuild trust and renew intimacy

  • Keep momentum and hope alive - even if it's hard for you to feel hopeful

  • Deeply care about your personal growth and well-being and at the same time hold you accountable to the goals you set for yourself

WHAT I DON'T DO

  • Sit and nod - instead, we'll take action. Be forewarned: I've been described as "direct and not-coddling."

  • Add shame or judgment to your experience (there's already WAY too much of that in the world)

  • Get stagnant. I will check in to see if this is working- focusing and refocusing on action and change in your life

  • Collude with your inner critics to let you stay small

  • Treat you like you're broken (because you're not)

  • Assume your experience is the same as mine or anyone else's

  • Pathologize you (I don't treat mental illness, so you won't receive a diagnosis, assessment or treatment for mental health conditions or substance use)