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Q My partner and I, both in our 20s, have been in a lesbian relationship for three years. When we fell in love, it was very difficult to tell our parents, as they assumed we would eventually marry men. My parents were planning an arranged marriage for me in India. After a lot of hard work, we moved in together. Our families do not verbally object to our being lovers. My partner and I both work hard and have had to fight for even marginal acceptance as lesbians. It seems this has made us angry and too serious. I have noticed that much of the laughter and play has disappeared from our relationship. I am afraid if we don’t have more pleasure together, we will stop wanting to be with each other. Yet, we are so mired in our challenges.

A The primary challenges you state stem from having had to come out to your parents as well as from the general homophobia of our culture. These are significant issues, and yet you are in a primary relationship with the woman you love. It seems that the hardships of partnering have colored your relationship, and it’s good that you want to change its emotional tenor. Although familial, cultural, and political challenges will continue, you may find more acceptance and support in certain places. Do you have friends who are also part of the lesbian/gay community who provide support and companionship? Are you involved in the various celebratory aspects of LGBT community?

You and your partner need to consciously define what your values are in your relationship. Successful relating means you are both enjoying the best of each other and are able to work through differences and misunderstandings in order to create a greater understanding and bond. Identify what you really love about each other and what is most fun and meaningful to you. Do something to symbolize your desire to accept more joy into your lives—taking a trip or having a celebration with the right friends and family. Rituals create joy in our lives and remove old patterns of stagnation.

Q I have been a manager in a software company for 20 years. I am of Indian descent in my mid-40s. In the last few years, employees have been reacting negatively to my personality. They say that I am not listening to them or understanding their viewpoints and needs. Other team leaders with less knowledge are getting more respect and building solidarity among workers. I don’t know how to make myself more effective with people.

A You are realizing that managerial skills are not only about organizational and technical knowledge, but also about relationship development. This is a different kind of learned ability that is challenging. Has something happened to decrease your emotional or social skills? Or is it that only recently employees verbalizing their true feelings and concerns?

There are various kinds of intelligence: technical, verbal, emotional, rational, intuitive, and social. In working with people on projects, we need to utilize all these intelligences. This requires an awareness of other people’s feelings. Make this a priority. Human beings are wired to connect with each other. People are constantly passing emotions back and forth, not only at home, but also at work. These are expressed through facial and body gestures, tonality and intonations, and direct feeling words. As you pay attention to these modes of communication, you will develop empathy—the hallmark of good relating. Reflect the feeling-content back into the conversation. Your colleagues will feel validated by you. Thus, they will trust you more and greater alliance will build. I recommend you read Social Intelligence: the New Science of Human Relationships by Daniel Goleman, Ph.D.

Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393.


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