ERP 350: Learning To Live Authentically In Love & Life — An Interview With Keely & Dani

By Posted in - Podcast December 13th, 2022 0 Comments

Have you ever felt like you were trying to fit into someone else’s shoes? Maybe you’ve wanted to do something that you know will make you happy but have been holding back out of concern for what people will think of you.

Well, you are not alone. Many people around the world are afraid to be who they truly are because they are scared of being rejected and abandoned. As a result, they hide and carry on living lives that are dictated by society, family, or friends.

But how would you like to live your life if there were no rules or judgment?

In this episode, Keely and Dani, the founders of Coming Out Happy, talk about their journey from their early struggles with sexuality and confidence to living the most authentic lives that they want to share with the world. They discuss overcoming insecurities and fears, self-love, and creating a safe space for queer adults so that they can grow closer as a community.

Dani and Keely created the world’s leading holistic mental wellness platform for queer adults. They help you achieve better relationship skills, healthier habits, and greater well-being. Instantly, you will find mind-body wellness tools, courses, and intentionally-designed exercises to help one increase their peace, happiness, and balance in life as a queer adult.

In this Episode

5:39 Dani’s inspiration for supporting the LGBTQ+ community: struggles with sexuality and confidence.

7:37 How Keely’s inability to express herself negatively affected her relationships.

8:21 Dani’s decision to quit her corporate job and start a membership for the LGBTQ+ community.

14:00 How the inner work of self-care and self-love can help you move into the world in a way that feels more true to you.

17:21 Making a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community?

31:03 How to work with insecurity and fears that will emerge in relationships

36:05 The importance of community and community-building.

45:49 How they resolve conflicts or when either feels triggered.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Do what makes you happy; redefine the rules.
  • Invest in yourself because that is the longest relationship you will ever have.
  • Always remember that you are valid for being you, regardless of how queer you perceive yourself to be.
  • Instead of looking for someone to make you feel more secure, learn to soothe yourself.
  • Find and join like-minded communities where you can be your authentic self.

Mentioned

Pride Amplified Program

Relationship Map To Happy, Lasting Love

ERP 349: Navigating Cultural Differences in Relationship — An Interview with Dr. Kathrine Bejanyan

Connect with Keely & Dani

Website: comingouthappy.com

TikTok: tiktok.com/@comingouthappyteam?lang=en

Facebook: facebook.com/comingouthappy

YouTube: youtube.com/c/ComingOutHappy

Instagram: instagram.com/comingouthappy

Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins

Facebook: facebook.com/EmpoweredRelationship 

Instagram: instagram.com/drjessicahiggins 

Podcast: drjessicahiggins.com/podcasts/

Pinterest: pinterest.com/EmpowerRelation 

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drjessicahiggins 

Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 

Website: drjessicahiggins.com  

Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Keely and Dani, thank you so much for joining us today.

Thank you for allowing us to be here, we’re so excited to be here with you.

Yeah. I know that we had a chance to meet before, and just appreciate both of your enthusiasm and passion and real desire to support people, specifically in the LGBT community. We’re going to be talking about that a little bit more today. I’m just curious, if you’re open to sharing so people can get to know you both a little bit better, what got you interested in supporting people?

So I’ve been doing this for a very long time, since 2017 or 2016, I believe. I always struggled with my own sexuality, my own confidence from a really early age. I remember there were just so many failed relationships that I had had growing up, with friendships, with romantic relationships. It came to a point where I was just so uncomfortable with myself, with the relationships that I was having, and I wanted to do something about it. So I went through my own personal transformation of trying to figure out how to love myself, how to take care of myself, how to just let go of the toxic relationships that I had so deeply held on throughout all of my life. 

So I decided to start doing the things that actually lit me up inside, which was music. I started writing music and putting it out there, and publishing it to Spotify and Apple Music. So people were loving it, because I was just talking about being open about who you are. Then it led to me making YouTube videos about how to be your most authentic self, because I wanted to share that message. Then from there, I decided to become a certified life coach. Because I was like, if I could do this, I want to help other people do this. There’s so many people like me who are struggling in who they are, and I wanted to be that one to support them through that. Because I hadn’t seen anyone supporting people the way that I wanted to be supported. So I became a coach. 

I started my company as a coach a long time ago, and I took a break, and I moved to California. I’m originally from New York, if you can hear a little bit of the accent. I moved to California, and I started to get other jobs, and I lost my way in supporting people. So I took a little bit of a break. Now I’ll let you kind of come in. Because this is where me and Keely, my partner in life and business, came together.

Partner in crime, you know. So we started dating, we were dating for about a year and a half, I think, at that point. I think really early on in our relationship, we were both struggling with toxic relationships. A little bit about my background. Grew up in a really religious conservative environment, and really struggled to express who I was until I was in my 20s, and just felt very uncertain and unsure of how I could really express myself. That poured into my relationships, because I never knew how to speak up for my needs. Then when I met Dani, I knew I wanted to do things a little bit differently. She also had that same vision and mindset. So from the very beginning, we really built such a strong foundation together. We weren’t really sure what we were doing. But we were figuring it out, and knew that we just wanted to support each other. 

Then pass a year and a half, COVID hit. I was working a marketing job in the grocery industry, which is nothing of what I do today, completely different, had no experience with supporting people in this way. I remember Dani at the time was doing her corporate job, and then wanted to figure out a way to sell pride masks.

This is at the beginning of the pandemic. I was like, I need to get back into helping people. I feel like I’m stuck in this corporate job, and I was not passionate about it. So I was like, let’s just figure out how to get back into this. So it started with making pride masks. 

I posted about it on TikTok, and it just blew up, completely blew up! I mean, we had thousands of orders we were fulfilling all over the world. I was at my job working from home, and she was at her job at that point working from home. But she asked me to kind of help her go to the post office and stuff, and that was my first involvement with Coming Out Happy. I really liked shipping out the orders and everything. But then I remember she was like, wow, like I feel competent enough to actually go back to what I was doing. I feel like financially, I’ve made enough money that I can walk away and take a little bit of a risk here. I was like, oh my gosh, you’ve got this! Like, I’m here to support you, no matter what. I have my job, very stable, I’ve been in it for a while, we’re going to be just fine. 

So COVID is really just getting more serious, nobody knows what’s going on. And she’s taking a risk, I’m here believing in her. I remember I met her on her last day of work. She was going to start a membership for the queer community to connect and just have community while we were in COVID. I remember I met her on her last day. For two weeks, we went to lunch together. And she looked at me, and I just saw so much passion in her and so much excitement and love to help people. But I also saw this fear, and she was so afraid for what she was about to embark on. I, again, looked at her and I was like, you’ve got this! Like, I know that you’re so passionate, you have done so many incredible things, you’ve accomplished so much at such a young age. I know that you’ve got this no matter what, you can do this. 

So I walked away from that, and I felt this feeling inside of me that was like, maybe you should make a little video about it. I really didn’t even know what she was going to do. But I had the general abstract languaging of like, my partner is going to do something amazing for the LGBTQ+ community. I took to TikTok. I had my account, it wasn’t even set up for coming out heavy or anything. I think it was my name, and I was making funny ones of our little miniature dachshund. But I went on there and I started speaking from my heart, I sat down with some good lighting that was coming in. I just said: Hey, my girlfriend, she’s going to start something incredible for the LGBTQ+ community, today is her last day at her job. If you want to go follow the Instagram Coming Out Happy, go give it a follow. I know that would just make her day, and you can be a part of this movement. 

I wasn’t really sure how that was going to go, or if anyone was going to see it. Turns out, in a little less than 24 hours, 100,000 people had seen the video. She had like 10,000 followers on Instagram. She was texting me and she’s like, do you know what’s going on? I was like, I don’t know. Then I looked at the page, and it was clear that it was all coming from that one video. By that time, she was getting ready to launch this membership she had been working on while she was working on her other corporate job; she was doing both at once. So she decided that she would open up this membership, and she had 300 people just banging on the door ready to sign up and join, and she needed my help. So I didn’t really know what I was doing, I jumped in. 

From there, we were just kind of leading people in community, weren’t really doing as much of the personal development. But I also found my passion, in my own healing journey, of somatic attachment, therapy and healing. I got certified, and I started learning about just non-traditional healing modalities. Because a lot of the talk therapy I was doing wasn’t really working for me, a lot of it was stuck in my body, and I saw many people were struggling with that as well. So we started incorporating it into our programs, and paired it with some of the life coaching Dani did with reflection. And really, we saw it transform hundreds of lives. So we’re like, wow, this really works, and we want to support people! Now we have the PRIDE Method™️ and the Pride Amplified™ Program and our membership. 

Yeah, it all started just from the pride masks, really. I mean, it started long before with all that you did. But for us to come together, it happened to be COVID and the masks.

It’s a digital wellness company just for LGBT adults, and it’s been a beautiful thing to run.

Oh my goodness. I’m looking at the both of you and the smiles, and it feels as though there’s such guiding principle that you both are so aligned with. That sounds like there’s a few things there. But one of the things, Keely, I’m hearing you speak to is just that affirmation and the vision and the belief. That sometimes it’s not pretty, but let’s be authentic, you both had this goal of really not needing it to look super-pretty and having it be really real and accessible. That’s something I really felt from when you were talking, Dani, about turning into this work or coming into this work from a place of real deep dive in yourself around self-confidence and really honoring self-care, and self-care specifically. That that helped you, almost from the inside out, find connection within that allowed you to start moving into the world in a way that felt more true to you. Is that fair to say?

Yeah. The most interesting thing that we have found through running this company over the last few years is that we can operate and make connections without doing the inner work. But the difference that it makes when you actually take the time to do the inner work is mind-blowing! Because you will have healthier relationships with everyone that you meet or everyone that you can, just because of what you’re feeling within yourself and how you perceive people, and how you perceive yourself and the world. The difference was, in the first community we created, there was no personal development, and we saw that there were unhealthy relationships just being created, even if in friendships. So there’s just such a difference. 

Everything that we do is placed on genuine self-love and taking care of ourselves, prioritizing our own well-being, creating the life that you want, however it looks. Giving everyone their own freedom to be the person that they want to be, while also operating in a way. We’ve made so many mistakes as business owners, but we will always show up authentically, and we will always provide the best tools, knowledge, and experience that we can. Because we’ve been there and want to help people just like us, navigate a world that maybe just wasn’t made for us. So that’s what we’re doing. 

Keely, I love that you were also able to be in alignment with this too, with recognizing the transformational model, as far as the somatic and the body-centered and being able to incorporate that. Because I do think a lot of these principles, when we consume through podcasts and videos and reading and articles, it can be easy to just get it on an insight level or an intellectual level. But to really be in the practice of how our body is experiencing and holding, and what information we can glean from the body, and how to use that as a guide and a source for transformation, it’s so afar.

Oh yeah, for sure. I think it was the most transformational thing that I learned about and studied. Because for so long, I was just stuck with so much anger and resentment and frustration, and I couldn’t figure out why. I really was unsure. I was doing all the things, and I was listening and reading and whatnot. But it wasn’t enough. I even saw it show up in our relationship, and I think that’s really where I just wanted to learn so much more. Uncovering somatic experiencing, and just the whole part of that your body and your mind is connected, changed my entire life. I am not the same person, I am so much happier; I’m a better partner, I’m a better friend. Because I was able to learn about how my body is connected and actually create a relationship and repair so much of what had been abandoned. So yeah, it was life-changing. I know you’ve incorporated it into your life, and our clients have changed their lives as well. I mean, people have done things they never thought were possible, because they feel so much trust and love within themselves.

Free Man and Woman Standing Under Flowering Tree Stock Photo

“It’s really just about letting go of only intellectualizing these feelings, and just coming into your body and realizing that we can create a safe place to be ourselves and it starts with us. Instead of looking for everyone else to heal us, it can be done within ourselves and within a safe community.”

They’re both necessary. What you were just saying, in a world that hasn’t been ready for us, and your own unique experiences coming from a very more religious background, and still having a lot of uncertainty and ambivalence or questions. I know you didn’t speak super-specifically, Dani, about your background. But on a wider context, that there hasn’t been as much safe space for the LGBTQ+ community. So really, what I’m hearing, and I don’t want to grossly stereotype or reduce this to anything. But the message I’m really hearing from the both of you is, there’s this really needing to connect with the authenticity and the health and the well-being from the inside. Because sometimes when the world does not affirm or reflect or welcome, that can be very damaging and toxic as you’re describing. And where do we anchor, where do we have a place of resource? There’s so many people doing great work, and I love the two of you are really providing a safe space and holding a path for the light of this. It sounds like the way you’ve come into it is through an inner dive. Is that true?

Oh yeah, 100%. I mean, I never thought I would be doing any of this, truly. But I think as I opened up the doors inside myself, and I think a little bit of my experience of being in marketing, managing, playing soccer my entire life, semi-professionally here in California, I’ve been a leader, but I didn’t know what kind. I think being able to step into this role has fulfilled so much of why I’m here for me and why I want to continue to do it. Because everything that I’ve been through has led me to this place, and has shown me that this is why you’re here, Keely, and you can continue to show people that they can find that light inside of themselves too and be the leader they want to be. Because you’re right, the world rejects us in a lot of ways. It’s still illegal to be queer in 69 countries, I think this changes all the time, but it’s around there, and it’s criminalized and the death penalty and many things like that. It’s very difficult. But I think for each of us individually, we need to take on our own inner work, and that’s where change begins. 

That’s really what we can control at the moment, and then working on creating a better future is also a part of it. So we can continue to create these safe places where people do feel like they can express their most authentic self and just be the person that they want to be.

We emphasize a lot on that, if you’re familiar, many of the queer spaces are bars. This started a long, long time ago. People didn’t want queer people to be in society, and there weren’t a lot of spaces. So they hid in bars, and they got together and they met. But we also realized that there’s not a lot of room for deep meaningful connection at a loud bar where there’s a lot of alcohol, and there’s things going on. Queer people need these spaces more than ever right now, and we want to provide that and have places all across the world someday.

It’s really focused on wellness. Like, we haven’t found many organizations or spaces that provide the wellness and the care for LGBT adults, the way that we wanted to create it, which is why it’s like, this is so necessary. If all everyone is seeing is just meeting in bars, it’s a little different than learning how to create a healthy relationship, setting boundaries, learning how to stop being a people-pleaser, and learning how to love who you are. Those are very different spaces. So it’s just a really necessary part. In both of our healing journeys as well, this has changed our lives. Because we get to also experience all of these things while teaching them at the same time. I can’t even tell you how incredible and confusing it is at the same time, to be navigating the self-love journey, whatever that looks like, while also teaching it. It’s very interesting.

Well, I can raise my hand here too. I’ve been everything I teach. Well, I struggle to say everything. I am so committed to the path as well, and I practice what I teach, and I do my best to very much be in the work. So there are times where I’m just in it along with everyone else, and it’s definitely challenging. I’m so in belief of it and what it provides, so I know that that continues to motivate and reinforce my efforts. I wouldn’t do it any other way, for sure. But it is an interesting thing. 

Coming back to just the specificity of the LGBTQ+ community. I have been in the field of psychology for so, so long, and so much of the messaging is, these relationship principles can be applied to any relationship. I know that’s true. And, there’s something very beautiful and special to have something made for people. Not that it’s necessarily super-different. But to have the examples and the language and the orientation be so, so focused on the LGBTQ+ community, would you agree?

Yeah. So the reason why we create every single thing that we do is, because we’ve seen that all of the clients who come to us may not feel exactly understood with someone that hasn’t walked in their shoes. So the identity focused-support that we give them helps them feel more understood, because we can talk to the same experiences of relationships. Yeah, relationship advice can be given, and it can be held in a space of, I understand what you’re talking about. But there’s just a deeper understanding when you’ve really walked in someone’s shoes. That’s why we’ve been so successful in helping queer adults, because they look to us as just one of the people who have also gone through the same things. So it’s really, really important to get identity-focused support.

I think another layer can be gender, and how people identify in some of the roles and relationships. I think with being queer, you break down every fricking rule there is, and you tear it apart. You go: Okay, let’s get out of this box, let’s move out of this box. Okay, what does it look like to be in a monogamous queer relationship and have queer friendships? What are the depths that you go to emotionally and share that experience with them? Whereas, it can be confusing, and you can look it up online and be like: Okay, well, what does it look like for a man who is married to a woman to go to a bar with another woman that’s single? These scenarios can be very confusing, and there’s a lot of stereotypes and a lot of societal things. We break it down from so many different layers, and try to understand how we all are humans and want to experience this life together and connect, and how there can be trust and communication, and you can still be in a healthy monogamous relationship and have all of that.

But things can be really different, and that’s why this is just so important. Because most of our clients come to us with expectations that have been put on from their family, that they have to be married by a certain age, and they have to have kids by a certain age. A lot of people who come to us are just breaking down these different beliefs that they’ve had from society or their family or religion, and they just get to create a new life for themselves that doesn’t have any written rules, which is really scary and really freeing at the same time. Because in our relationship, even as an example, there’s no man here, there’s no one person who’s providing that man role. So we get to create whatever relationship we want, because there’s no written rule here. It’s a cool thing. But also, it is so empowering. Because you get to rewrite the story of who you actually want to be, without having to fit into a box of what you’re supposed to look like. Which is why everything we do is really just based on how we feel in our bodies, how we want to navigate this life, and we’re learning how to create it. It’s just a very cool thing.

No kidding, no kidding! It sounds like there’s, again, the guiding principles that really help lead you in a way that feels so aligned. If you question it and you run up against something, it sounds like you’re so willing to be flexible and open around: what’s this, let’s look at this, and where’s this from? Dani, I really want to just acknowledge what you’re saying, as far as the queer adults that are navigating relationship, and what the support the two of you provide at your organization. That the understanding, having walked the walk. I can be an ally, and I can be supportive and loving and all the things, and I haven’t walked the walk. There’s something really special to be able to provide that. 

Keely, you’re saying it’s a unique experience. I was just meeting with a different guest on an interview earlier, and she was talking about cross-cultural relationships and what they have to navigate, and so many of the things that we just inherit or live within and don’t even question. It’s just a part of us. So when we’re having to straddle by culture, there’s so many things that require us to be conscious about: do we want this, do we not want this, or how do we want to be? I know that it’s very, very different. But the consciousness and the awareness of what you want to look at, and what you want to take with you, or what you want to leave behind, or what you want to create anew, that’s sometimes more effort. But it’s so much more expansive and liberating and empowering, and maybe there’s something so, so much better that hasn’t been created yet.

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“I would challenge even people who don’t identify as LGBT to get out there and redefine those rules. Because sometimes, you don’t want to fit into the box of who everyone told you to be, no matter who it’s from.”

So you get to rewrite rules. I mean, even just in careers, or in just the way people are going about any part of their life. Like, we all get to decide, and we’re trying to get to decide the life that we want to create. If we have the ability to make these changes, do what the hell makes you happy! Why are we trying to fit into these stereotypes and these molds? Like, we don’t have to. So let’s make a change.

Yeah, it does. It limits everyone really, when we’re all trying to operate in these more narrow boxes or confined spaces. So looking at how we can expand, and really, the invitation and the courage and the growth that comes from that.

Yeah, there’s a lot of growth that comes from that. I mean, just in having to present to the world in a different way. Not that coming out is simple, because obviously, this is extremely hard. But to be someone in society who you were not, it’s just not as accepted in society. So to be someone who may be seen as different, it’s hard. But we all get to figure out how to navigate, again, like I said earlier, just a world that is trying to be more inclusive. Just having conversations like this is just really important, because we all get to expand our knowledge on how to treat other people, how to be a better ally, how to just come into the world with an open mind. I mean, for all of us, it’s just really important.

Keely, do you want to chime in at all in this?

Yeah. I think it’s just so much of the work that we do is just centered around this, that it’s much bigger than us. This is a movement beyond what I could have ever imagined it to be, it’s huge. Every single person that does the work and is part of breaking down these barriers, is making such an impact; they’re affecting the person next to them, they’re affecting their relationships, every single thing that they’re doing. It really just has a domino effect. So anyone who’s even thinking about jumping on the journey of doing the work on yourself, it is so much bigger than just you, and it is one of the most beautiful things that you can do. 

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“I think people forget that the longest relationship we’ll ever have is the one that we have with ourselves, and when you can really put that into perspective, you can take time to start making yourself a priority.”

Thank you for just bringing that into our awareness, that the longest relationship that we’re going to have is with ourselves and the investment in that. Also, how we may impact another through our language, through our expression, through the example of how we’re being, that that does create change.

You never know who’s watching you. I mean, we talk about this all the time. We have 130,000 followers on TikTok and 20,000 on Instagram, you never know who’s watching. So to show up and be authentic, it could really impact someone. I know for me, it did. I saw someone show up and be their authentic self, and it inspired me to come out and inspired me. They probably don’t even know that they impacted me in that way, and now look at where I am and what I’m able to do because of that one interaction and seeing someone show up that way. So it makes the biggest difference. 

I know that for us in the queer community, it’s also a privilege to come out. I also want to bring light to that. It’s not always safe, it’s illegal in many places, and we all do the best that we can. I think at the end of the day, no matter if you can be out or not, you’re still valid in your queer identity. I just want anyone who is listening, because I’m sure you have listeners from all over the world, to know that and really know that you are valid. No matter how queer you think you are, you’re valid for just being you.

Thank you for saying that, and I want to pivot towards that. In my experience around self-regard and being in relationship, and both of you also talk about attachment and feeling secure in oneself, and also, how to work with insecurity and fears that will emerge in relationship. My understanding is that both self-regard and love, and the way people are responding to us and having safe people be able to reflect, and we can always get that. For healthy relationships, feeling a sense of belonging, feeling a sense of inner network or inner circle, or even another person that we can feel a sense of safe haven with, that that is so healthy for our nervous systems. I’m just curious if you want to speak to that, because you’re clearly really naming that some people don’t have the safety, and you’re really saying: You are still valid, I still affirm you and still want you to hold that with high regard and health, even if you can’t be received by your people in your life. So would love to hear from both of you on that. 

Yeah, 100%. I think, like with any concept, attachment can be limited in a lot of ways, and I want to acknowledge that too. It’s a concept that is White and educated. That’s something that we also think about is that it can give us great languaging, but may not apply in some ways to every single person, with the systems that we live in and how the world works. So I think for this specific topic and what we’re talking about here, for queer people who maybe can’t be themselves and can’t heal necessarily in community, I just want to encourage you to continue to trust just this relationship that you have right here. I know a lot of this, and for me, it was timing. It was getting out of this toxic environment that I was in and moving into a new environment, and it took 20 years. It took my entire life to move out of that. So I just want you to hold onto the fact that you right now can be there for yourself, and there may be one person. 

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“I truly believe that in my belief, that the universe puts people in our life, and there’s opportunities for us to just even have a little bit of connection of some sort to feel, even if it’s online.”

I mean, that’s why we do the online space. Because people all over the world, people that are in those countries, they are a part of this, and you can connect. Even if you’re following along, if you can just see something or anything, just hold on. Because this piece of you is here for a reason, and no one is here because they’re not supposed to be here. So I know with circumstances and privilege and the environments that we’re in, that can have a large impact on how we show up. But continue to trust. If you’re listening to this, hold onto the fact that you are feeling this way for a reason, and every single thing has led you here. It’s so important that you trust that little part of you that you know is feeling this way, because your feelings matter and they’re valid.

I was just going to say, community is so important, which is why if someone does have the opportunity to be involved in a community like ours, they’re able to navigate what it looks like to be in a community of people who are also growth-minded and working on becoming the best version of themselves, which is why it’s so important. Because most people may not have the in-person community that they want, depending on where they live. So that’s really what our mission is, is to help people work on creating that relationship with themselves, and providing them with people who are also doing the same thing. Because it’s very hard to find queer people around you sometimes, on top of the ones that are also working on becoming the best version of themselves. So that’s what we’re here to do.

You touched a little bit on just like, our nervous system feels safe when we can be received. A lot of the research that’s been done around this has been around animals. Many people know that usually in the wild, there’s always some other animal looking out, watching whatever the other animal is doing, is there. Because we’re constantly doing that, and our brains are wired the same way to look for threats. So if you have someone there that you feel safe and comfortable with, you’re able to kind of let that guard down and barrier down and not be looking for threats and slowly move into, I’m going to start really healing and allowing my body to do so, instead of staying in that fight-or-flight mode. Because many of us are stuck in fight-or-flight, and we are constantly stressed and overworked and not allowing yourself to break and come into that pause and reflection and trust. So being in communities is so important that are safe.

Even as the two of you are talking, I’m aware for research purposes, things need to be very separated and categorized, and in life, it’s typically not like that. So even with the attachment, I often think there’s a spectrum of we’re not necessarily insecure across the border, or we’re secure across the board. I might be more secure with my mom and less secure with my father or whatever, if my parents were in a heterosexual relationship. So I do understand that you both are validating the power of being reflected, and also the importance of community. There’s something else that I’m hearing, that even if it’s something that we can see in the world, that is a model, that is an expression, that resonates with us, there’s something there to follow a thread with or nurture. Like you said, Keely, there’s somebody, I don’t even know if that person knew that they sparked some permission and expression for you that was so profound. Or in community and online, to be able to have that contact and to feel positive, in the smallest ways, this can create a little bit of room to breathe.

It’s a really unfortunate thing. But because there may not be so much visibility of what we’re trying to do, you just kind of take what you can find. Like, when you were coming out or when you maybe saw someone coming out that inspired you, maybe you didn’t see that there were other people like you. So it’s really hard.

They weren’t even coming out actually, they were coming out about their eating disorder. I didn’t have that in my world, I grew up in such a religious environment. I mean, I was in private schools where we just didn’t have this, and to see that, oh my gosh! It was someone that I looked at, that had looked great on the outside. I mean, they had everything. They were going to Harvard, they were doing all the things and had scholarships and whatnot. So I saw for the first time, and what it was for me was that you don’t always have to look like you’re perfect. Not that being queer is not perfect, because I think it is. But to see that I could show more parts of myself and be vulnerable, because that’s just not talked about in religion. It’s showing up: God first, others second, yourself last. That’s really the messaging that I received my entire life. 

So visibility is just one of the most important things here. Because you never know who can be receiving this message and how you can be inspired as well, which is why I love social media and hate it at the same time. It just helps so many people, because we’re able to get the message as far as we possibly can. 

It’s like all we do right now really, and our focus is just education around queer identity-focused support. Because no one knows because they haven’t had it that they need it, or that it could really benefit them. Also, I think another thing that’s really under-researched and there isn’t a lot of information about is somatic healing, not everyone’s talking about the basic things that we have. Every single day, no matter where we go, no matter if we have clothes on or if we’re naked, we always have somatic healing and we have tools that we can regulate with, with our real nervous system. I mean, even giving yourself a little tight squeeze, your nervous system doesn’t know the difference if it’s someone else or you. You can regulate in so many ways, and just education and providing that for people and showing them that there is a different way, and if they’re stuck, they can move.

This is the thing that I was thinking earlier when I was asking about the real specific targeted support for the LGBTQ+ community, is that the practical application and the examples, and the visibility of that. Because I see myself in you, you’re helping me walk through what that looks like; we need teachers, we need guides, we need leaders to show us the terrain when we haven’t ever been there. So to have some examples, what it looks like, and how to implement it. So I’m really grateful.

We’re trying our hardest; we’re posting all the time. But all of our identities, they’re all different from the people that we work with, and we’re just trying to help in whatever way we can with whatever experiences and tools that we have. This is just so important to show people that you can grow and have healthy relationships, even though it may not be modeled around you. I mean, this goes for just anyone listening. Like, you deserve to have a life and relationships that just make you happy. Because this life is so short at the end of the day when you look at it, and it’s like, let’s just have the best time that we can, let’s make it. We have to take responsibility for the life that we’re creating, and if we have the ability to, make these changes that we’re able to.

I’m also getting a sense of who better to turn to than someone, again, who’s been able to question and be in a place of evaluating and discerning and expanding. I’m sure you serve primarily people that are identifying as queer and queer adults, but it sounds like you could serve many people that are willing and wanting to look at how to break out of the boxes they’ve been living in.

I mean, obviously, the main market that we work with are queer adults. But it’s anyone who’s questioning the traditional way of living, because we are non-traditional people. That’s the whole point. I hope everyone starts to question, just the overall question of like, are you happy? It’s just such a loaded question. But it’s like, we all deserve to question if we are happy with the life that we’re living. If we’re not, what are the things you can do to slowly make these changes? But it goes for everyone. Everyone deserves that question. It’s not easy to question every single thing that you’ve known. 

Sometimes we stay up all night talking.

Just talking about what if this, what if this. But I feel like this is what we’re here for, to question these beliefs, to question the roads that so many people have walked down and have just given the advice of like, I wish it did this differently. I wish I didn’t take this job because it just wasn’t what I wanted. Like, I wish I had done this earlier. So it’s like, we get to question this and help people at all different stages in life just come back into their own truth, whatever it looks like. That’s authenticity, that’s what we’re here for. It doesn’t even matter where they come from. Let’s question, let’s just question more.

Don’t get us wrong, it’s not the easiest thing. But sometimes, Dani and I’m like, today, do we have to challenge each other today, do we have to keep working on things? 

That’s our personal relationship, because we’re dating each other, and along with teaching, we’re actually applying this into our personal life and relationship, which is hard.

But I love it. But we’re also imperfect humans, and we are transparent about that. I never make it seem like our relationship is perfect. I can confidently say that we genuinely show up as the best versions of ourselves every single day, or try to be that and strive for that. Because we know, and on a much deeper level, that our souls are so connected and are here to do this work. She challenges me more than anyone I’ve ever met. But that’s the thing, that’s support. It’s like, we do the work outside, but I also do the work every day in my relationship. 

I think some people forget that. They’re like: Oh, I can’t wait till I find my person or my partners, whatever that looks like, and I’m super-excited for that to happen because I’m going to be happy finally. The truth is, it does make you happy, that’s great. But every single day, you will be challenged, and if you don’t have the tools, it can become a really vicious cycle situation, and a container that’s not really fun. You want to make it supportive. I always look at everything that we do in our company, with the people that we help, our relationship as we are nurturing the soil every single day; we are watering the plants, we are doing the things to make sure that we are building and growing. Instead of tearing the leaves, pulling apart, letting the soil dry up, we want to really nurture and see what can we add today that’s going to be beneficial and really support everyone involved. I think a relationship that is healthy, there can be many different definitions, but here’s one.

Free Men Lying on Blanket Stock Photo

“In a relationship that is healthy, not only do you have the energy to give to each other, but you have the energy to give back to the world. That doesn’t matter if you are going to drop something off at the neighbor’s house, you’re going to do something for a friend. But you have the energy together to do something more, all the partners that are involved, whether it’s monogamous or not. You really can support and give back to the world.”

Thank you so much. I’m also aware that we’ve talked a little bit about how we’re holding ourselves, but also how we’re being received. The two of you’re both so transparent about just the work that you’re both willing to do in your relationship, and then also what you do out in the world? What does this security or safety look like when perhaps either one of you are experiencing activation in your nervous system or feeling triggered, so to speak, or having a conflict? Are you open to sharing what you’re in practice with that?

I think this definitely shows up the most in queer, for us in our relationship and queer friendships. This is an interesting topic, because there’s many layers to it. Of course it can be anything, but insecurity that may come up for one of us. I’ll just use myself as an example. Of course, I still feel insecure sometimes, and there’s parts that I still need to understand and work with. But what I love about our relationship is that we really are able to identify for both of us, what are those triggers that we have. I actually write mine down, because it’s just very important; control, when I’m not in control all the different things. I write these things down, and Dani also is aware of them. 

So what we get to do together is we get to be really intentional when someone is experiencing an activation or a trigger, and we can use languaging to support that person. Because sometimes, I need a sentence, and I’ve worked on my sentence, and it’s: Hey, I just need to process through this for a moment, and I’ll be back at this time and then we talk about it. Dani knows what that means. So we’re very on the same page about what we need when we’re both activated. I know I’ve got to do my body scan, I’ve got to do my walk or my meditation, whatever it is. Dani knows that I’m not abandoning her, I am going to come back at a certain time that I say and we will work through it then. Same for her, when she’s feeling insecure or activated in a certain situation, I am providing that support for her to work through it. Because we are healing in relationship at the end of the day. 

We’re also dealing with these things on our own, to be able to comfort and self-soothe and everything.

Yeah, I’m not looking for her to fix my insecurities. I think that was the number one thing that was in the way in all of my past relationships is looking for that other person to fix how I’m feeling. I can now soothe myself, but then come together and regulate together. That’s really, really helpful. It’s been life-changing.

Well, I love that, and I agree. Because there’s some stability in getting the feet underneath us. Or I’ll just speak for myself. If I can get my footing and do some work to get clear, then I’m not just like grasping, grasping, or whatever I tend to do in the past with my significant other. Then I’m in a better place to be able to reveal more vulnerably, and that helps my partner be able to respond and be able to really turn towards me. It sounds like there is a coming back and a sense of willingness to share and be in connection and intimacy around it. Is that right?

Yeah, 100%.

We definitely connect after having arguments and having to self-soothe. It’s all about communication for each other, while also giving each other the space to figure out what we’re feeling. It’s not just all about figuring out together, but just who it is that we are separately and what it is that we want separately, and then coming together to figure out. Because we’re navigating life together, but also separately at the same time. So there’s a lot of communication involved.

And compromise, too. I think a lot of people don’t realize that when you get into a relationship, it is going to be compromise. That’s not giving up all your needs. It’s give and take. It’s like: Hey, Dani really likes to go out and be with people on the weekends, and I know she wants me there. I may not love to be out and socializing all the time. But I know for her, it’s so important, and I’m going to go spend two hours and go mingle with her friends and show that I really, really care, because this is important to her. Versus where I just want to stay at home or I want to go do a hike or whatever it is, Dani is going to come and hike with me. She’s from New York, she doesn’t do that. But she makes the compromise, and there’s this give and take and we show up for each other. It’s never about, well, I did this for you, so why aren’t you doing it for me? It’s like, I’m here to support you, I know this makes you really happy, and I also know that you do so many different things for me that make me happy, and we just really want to support each other. I think it’s been a journey to get to this place, though. It definitely has, we haven’t always been like this back and forth. But we finally feel like we’re at a really comfortable place now. I’m sure it’ll change and evolve over time, but we definitely are communicating more than ever.

Well, it sounds like you have a system more or less, a process in which you really fine-tune, that you both trust, that you both work, and you both feel so much benefit from, that you have that to rely on. Then through the process of doing your own self-work, and revealing to one another the natural impulses, I love you and I want to help, and if there’s a way that I genuinely feel like I can participate and support that need or that desire, then of course. Not to compromise myself in a way that isn’t authentic or compromises my well-being, but in a way that I genuinely want to give, and then, thus the cycle is generative.

Oh, yeah. It’s a different intention from the people-pleasing I’ve done in the past, where it’s like, I just want you to want me and I want to feel worthy, so I’m going to do this for you. That leads to resentment, whereas actually supporting Dani now, it’s coming from that place of: I’m not afraid that you’re going to leave me, I know that you’re here for me and I’m here for you. So let’s do this, whatever it is. It’s aligned with me, it’s aligned with you, and we can move forward. 

Dani, do you want to say anything?

No, I just think the safety was built over time. Just with that trust of, obviously, no relationship is ever promised. But with showing up with this dedication to ourselves and each other to work on this relationship. Like, this relationship has always been about trying, and it’s never just been easy. Like, I know you’re going to be there whatever I’m going to do, whatever I want. Relationships do require this work, and we’ve always shown that for each other and with each other, and also with other relationships that we have. So it’s just so important to build that trust, to build that safety, and to come back after we’re experiencing life, and just continue to build these relationships over time. 

Well, I was going to say, to add on to that one more layer, a lot of people get into relationships, and maybe they hit it off right from the start. We know, especially in queer relationships, things move really, really fast, especially with women, and you just kind of pick up. They make the joke about the U-Haul, because it’s usually there within the first couple of weeks, and you’re moving in together and unpacking your things. But something really interesting that we love to talk about is that we actually don’t know. 

Free Women Couple Prone Position in Bed Stock Photo

“The truth is like, I want to be with you as long as I possibly can. But things may change, and that’s okay. To take that pressure off and know that we are always going to be checking in and seeing how we’re feeling makes the biggest difference.”

Because we both know that we will be okay without each other, and I think that’s also what makes our relationship so strong. 

Just saying this, too. Like, verbally saying it out loud, and most people don’t ever say stuff like that. It’s okay if we ever don’t end up together.

I mean, I will definitely be very, very heartbroken. But at the same time, I know that we’re both doing the work, and we’re here to do this. If it’s not working at some point and it’s not aligned, we’re going to do everything we can to make it work. But if it’s not, we’re going to be okay, and that takes that pressure off of: Oh my gosh, we have to make this work, we have to figure this out right now. 

Even when it’s unhealthy, it’s not what we want to do. 

Exactly. So not to say give up if you’re not feeling it one day, because that’s not what relationships are. It’s a commitment to your significant other or partners. I think it’s just about taking that pressure off and knowing that you will be okay, no matter what. She’s not my other half. A lot of people are like, I’m looking for my other half. We are completing each other on our own, and we are great additions in each other’s lives, and we’re sufficient with or without a relationship. Anyone who is listening is.

Yeah, and it’s a real synergy when you have two people co-creating together. It sounds as though you’re really identifying that the commitment is that I’m continuing to commit with health. It’s not the commitment is the thing that keeps us together, and that I’m going to do that no matter what, and we have some vow or we have some promise or something we verbalized. But it’s the continual recommitting and the intention and the effort that’s brought in, that that’s the thing that we’re invested in.

And we choose each other every day, that is something that people forget. It’s like you think you just choose that person when you start dating. We consciously choose each other every single day, that’s something that we have practiced a lot.

Which inspires you to show up and be intentional. Just making sure that you’re really checking in, nothing is a given here. So it’s like we have to continue to try all the time.

Yeah. Well, is there anything you want to say here as we wind down? I know we could keep going. But is there anything else that you want to say that we haven’t touched on?

I don’t think so. I think we’ve hit a lot of really great points. Sorry, our dog is barking. We have a miniature dachshund, and she just loves to jump in whenever she can. She’s like, hello, you forgot about me! But yeah, I think we touched on a lot of great points. For anyone who is interested in learning more about what we do, we have a program called Pride Amplified™ that really takes people through breaking unhealthy relationship patterns, specifically for queer people who want to feel more confident, build that trust, do a lot of the nervous system education in there, and really show people how they can self-soothe and regulate. Because it’s going to show up in our relationships no matter what, and we need it with or without a relationship. 

So regardless if you’re in a relationship or not, that program is super helpful and can walk you through our entire framework of the PRIDE Method™️. The P stands for Prioritize, the R is Releasing unrealistic expectations, the I is Identifying the person that you want to become and really feeling your feelings, which not a lot of people do, and the D is going out and Developing that relationship with yourself, and the E is Exploring what it looks like to heal in relationship with others. So we really take you through that framework and process. I think a lot of people get stuck because they don’t have a framework to follow. Again, the languaging and support that we provide isn’t just like, here’s the many different things that we can talk about. But here’s how you can go from this point to this point, and here’s something that’s worked for hundreds of queer adults all around the world. 

But if you’re looking to join our community and be a part of everything that we do, we do live Q&As. There’s monthly experts that are not just us talking all the time, people that come in and speak about all different topics. That’s the Queer Happiness Collective, and you can join and see if you like it and jump right in. We have a free trial. So you can definitely just try it out and see if it’s for you.

Yeah, but everything can be found on ComingOutHappy.com, or on social media.

We have tons of free resources, too. We have an attachment guide, and we have a people-pleasing guide, and just so many different things that you can jump into. ComingOutHappy on Instagram. ComingOutTeam on TikTok. We’re not sure why it’s different. 

Wonderful! Well, I’ll make sure to have these links in the show notes, we’ll have a transcript and hopefully be able to help just get connected with you, whoever’s listening. Thank you both so, so, so much.

Thank you. 

Yes, thank you.

I hope you have enjoyed today’s interview with Keely and Dani. At one point during the interviewer, Keely mentions the attachment research coming out of a privileged place. I also want to mention, particularly with the Emotionally Focused Therapy, in my understanding, there’s a lot of research and a lot of implementation that that is being done globally, and that the attachment system and the ways in which people perceive one’s emotions is universal, through the nonverbals and the facial expression and body language and the eyes and the tone of voice. That the way in which two people respond to each other, that that is universal. There’s a lot of cultural influences, and yet, that attachment system is universal. So I do appreciate her bringing awareness to where sometimes the research comes from and that perspective, and also that there is a wider body of universal global research and application that I just wanted to also mention. 

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching