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Dr. Carleah East is a clinical psychotherapist, empowerment coach, speaker, and author with 20+ years experience. She has a “straight no chaser” philosophy; real solutions for real struggles, and she does it all with a mixture of love and humor.

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What would you say are the five key components to have in a strong relationship?

This is not a black and white answer. Every relationship has different expectations and compromises; however, I will give you the basic 6 that is a must.

  • Love: this equates to the commitment that each person makes to one another. It is demonstrated through, words, actions, and thoughts. It’s that feeling that is the baseline of any relationship and aids in keeping the relationship going; even though tough times
  • Communication: you have to be open with one another and actually talk. Not text. The openness allows both of you to feel safe when talking and not judged. This also includes body language.
  • Honesty: You have to be transparent with your mate. This person is supposed to be your best friend as well so there should not be any secrets between the two of you. Even if it’s difficult you cannot allow secrets to building distance in your relationship.
  • Trust: It’s a must to feel that you can count on or rely on your mate. It’s the feeling of knowing he/she would never try to harm you deliberately and vice versa. It’s keeping your word and being consistent with your intentions.
  • Respect / Acceptance: This is all about seeing the unique qualities in each other and find value in them. Remember equally yoked is not just about finances, but also mental and emotional states. So no name-calling, abuse of any kind or pettiness.
  • Patience: Each of you is still growing and developing. This means that sometimes there will be challenges and even some failures along the way, but ultimately this is what makes you stronger as a couple.

I recently came out to my friends (which was not a big surprise to them at all because they always suspected I was gay). But I am terrified of coming out to my family, specifically my parents. What do you think I should do, Dr. East?

First of all, I think it’s awesome that you are living your truth and I applaud you for choosing what is right for you over what others dictate is your fate! This is how I would handle it. You already have well-formed support via your friends, but yes family is a different animal. I would tell the family member or parent that you feel will be the most accepting first. This helps with the process of not being overly painful/difficult and allows you to have that additional support of your mom/dad/aunt/uncle when you communicate with others. In many cases, family members are aware on some level and choose to either ignore or deny due to their own fears and insecurities. Be prepared for questions, feelings of confusion, but also be prepared for love and acceptance. Remember, you are doing this for YOU. You want your family to be a part of your life’s journey. However, if they are initially unwilling to do so, show them the acceptance that you would like to have been shown. Lead by example and live by love.

I have just begun talking to this guy. We met about two months ago. It is fairly new and I am shameful to admit that I have been staying with him almost every night. Am I crazy? Is it too soon to be staying together this much?

#1 Don’t ever be ashamed of your actions. Own them and learn from them. #2 Crazy? No. Caught up in the rapture? Yes! I’m no prude and I feel that people have the freedom to “blend” with others when they want. With that said, my only concern for you is your ability to really get to know him without your vision being emotionally clouded. Emotional hazes often blur perceptions and realities can be delayed. If this guy is someone you truly feel connected with, then get to know who he is without all the sensual stuff (that should be a bonus.) You owe it to yourself to fundamentally know the person you are sharing your body with. Ask yourself, “Why was I so quick to be “Booed Up” with this guy?” Do I have voids in myself that he’s filling, instead of my healing?” Only time and experiences build trust and commitment in any relationship…take at that time. Inconsistencies are easily revealed when one simply waits.