Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

Rituals to Transition from Work to Play

March 28, 2016

Tips from Esther Perel on getting in the mood…


Rituals to Transition from Work to Play

This article is originally posted here on Esther Perel.


“I work long hours and at the end of the day I don’t feel like having sex. Any tips on how to shake off the stress to get myself in the mood?”  Claire, 41

When people used to work at the factory or on the farm, they came home from work. The separation between home life and work life was clear. But for so many of us today, the lines are blurred. It’s not uncommon for Claire to receive an email at 10:30 at night, and be expected to reply within 30 minutes.

We live in a goal-oriented society, where capitalism and productivity are top priority. Yet, play is an important part of life, and one that adults often neglect. Just as you nurture your career, you also need to nurture the erotic in your relationship. We can only play when we are finished working, and most of us today never feel like the work has ended. You can’t be sexual if you’re still in busy worker-bee mode.

Even people who look forward to being sexual with their partner must go through a transition from responsibility to pleasure. This is a difficult transition for many of us. There are two internal transitions that must occur before you can think about entering an erotic space:Professional → Partner then Partner → Lover.

Eroticism at home requires active engagement and willful intent; It doesn’t just happen. It requires that you create your own demarcation between pragmatism and pleasure and that you cultivate a space where a sense of intrigue and curiosity can emerge.

1. Build anticipation throughout the day
Committed sex is premeditated. Anticipation and imagination are the precursors and can be as enchanting as the act itself. For example, imagine you have tickets to go hear a favorite band. Throughout the day, you’ll be savoring the thought of the songs they may play, what you’ll wear, the memories that you will share, of other times you saw this band, etc. Unconsciously, you’re setting expectations and building anticipation for a wonderful night, and you feel energized and alive. It is the same sexually speaking.

  • Let your partner know that tonight, you want to create a digital free zone in the home and all devices are cut off at 9:30pm.
  • Send a suggestive text or email to your partner.
  • Buy wine, lube or flowers on your lunch break: whatever invites love-making in your unique dynamic.

2. Create and maintain a relaxing ritual at the end of the day
No matter whether you commute, or work from home, you must mark the end of your work day by entering a soothing ritual of your choice. It can be an indulgent, playful, or a guilty pleasure. Shift your context by sending a message to your brain: it’s time to start relaxing. If you spend most of your day sitting down, try incorporating any movement into your ritual. If you’re on your feet, try reading or listening to music. Go for a walk. Take a shower. Read a magazine. Whatever works for you. 

3. Connect with your partner when you get home
Are you the person who comes into the house and looks at the mail first, or checks the pets, or the plants, or the windows? If so, remember this: People first. It’s important to give your relationship your focused attention. Make it a habit to kiss your partner when you get home. It doesn’t need to be blatantly sexual. It’s the focused attention that invites the erotic. Even a loving gaze sets the right tone.

4. Change the mood and ambiance
Create the space in which you transition from your roles as parents/business partners/friends, into your roles as lovers. Shift from focusing on your responsibility for others to self care. Again, no pressure, even if there is no sex, you’ll enjoy being physical and sensual together. Here are some simple ideas to set the stage:

  • Put on your pre-set love making tracks
  • Take a short walk
  • Open a bottle of wine
  • Draw a bath
  • Light candles
  • Read out loud to each other (not about the election)These are not immediate turn ons, but they help you switch mindset, mood, and sensibility. The point is to create an erotic space where pleasure exists for its own sake, where “pleasure is the measure” and where sex can take place without pressure. By successfully managing the transition from work to home, you can create space to enter a playful erotic zone.

Dare ya!

What is the cue, code or ritual that you and your partner share between the two of you that helps you switch from your productive self to your erotic self?  Whatever is your special turn on, try it this week and make something happen! Hey Spring is here so why not get started with some sexy time!
Yours truly, T

Happy 2015 Valentine’s Day

January 29, 2015

Turtles in love

Hello Friends,

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Yes, once again it is that day of the year when we honour our partners and try and experience them as the lovers we fell in love with.

I know there is too much pressure put on this day. It seems as though the authentic romance we want to feel gets lost in the materialistic Hallmark day it has become. Have no fear…put the meaning back in by keeping things simple. Somehow simplicity can help to make it more memorable.

Here are some ideas for those of you who need inspiration:

  • Give your partner a love poem (you don’t even have to write it!)
  • Make a nice dinner at home and eat by candlelight on the floor
  • Just spend the evening in candlelight!
  • Go for a walk in the day and stop somewhere new for a coffee and surprise your lover with special chocolates with the coffee
  • Stay in bed together longer than usual in the morning!
  • FLIRT with your lover all day!
  • Give your lover a massage

Whatever you do, be loving, kind and have some fun because otherwise what’s the point?

Dare ya – You can use our ideas but we dare you to come up with your own unique idea for that special someone!  Spread the love around!

Love on V Day,


December 9, 2014

Receiving from our partners is a complicated business. Puzzling as the thought might be, it is difficult for many of us to receive even though we’re convinced we want it. What am I referring to when I say receive? It could be anything…. a spontaneous compliment, a gift, a surprise, a gesture, affection, anything! Receiving from a partner the things we want most from them is very tricky indeed.

It all starts with wanting to have our needs met. We want our partners to meet our needs. Yet this can lead to lots of trouble because we often have a hard time receiving what they are giving. I know this sounds crazy but we often reject the very things we say we want and that our partner may be trying to give us in order to meet our needs.

Why does this happen? Let me explain. For many of us, when our partner tries to meet our needs, their giving never feels quite right. It is as if WHAT we actually WANT, THEY never can get quite right! We then respond with disappointment and a cycle begins of us feeling let down, becoming critical and feeling annoyed. The next step in this out-of- sync dance is that we get mad at our partners for our unhappiness and that creates distance. This may be an over simplification but hopefully you get the picture and can relate to this.

This dynamic can become a perpetual theme in the life of a relationship and believe me, it is one of the best ways to build up resentment.

Imago founders Harville Hendrix and Helen La Kelly Hunt write about this phenomenon in their book, Receiving Love: Transform Your Relationship by Letting Yourself Be Loved. They suggest that the reason we cannot receive love in our adult intimate relationships is rooted in our childhood experience. They describe how we learn to dislike the parts of ourselves that our caretakers ignored or rejected in us. So, for example, if my family didn’t think I was very lovable, or even worse, told me I was unworthy, as a result of this childhood pain, I build up inner defenses . I learn to pretend that being seen as lovable isn’t very important. I disown that part of me.

This same sequence would apply to any personality trait or behaviour that children need to have validated in order to grow–it could be being sporty or social, attractive, smart, graceful, determined, hardworking, spiritual, artistic – you name it.

But, even though we are adults, a part of us still craves these needs to be met (and who better than by our partner! ). But because of our defences we are unable to receive what they give us and we often go one step further and blame our partner for not doing it right.

Here is an example to illustrate this complex dynamic.

Let’s say you want your partner to sometimes surprise you and demonstrate that they think about how special you are. First off, we often express this wish in a negative way, believing that being a being prickly porcupine will get us what we want (and where’s the logic in that!).

But we often believe we have a right to complain because our needs aren’t being met. So you complain to your Partner about how they don’t do this. Does this sound familiar at all – “How come you never surprise me with anything?” “don’t you care about me?” “aren’t I special to you ?” etc.)

Well, one day your partner shows up with a surprise bouquet of roses for you and gives them to you saying something like, “I saw these and thought of you because you’re so special to me”.

But our mind does weird things. We focus on the negative. You might become aware of noticing you are only half enthused because you hoped for something other than flowers, or you think your partner only did it because you complained in the first place. Or maybe you think your Partner spent too much money on the roses. Or you are disappointed because what you were really hoping for was a surprise dinner out not another night of cooking with roses on the counter!

So what is going on here? Why aren’t you receiving the surprise gift from your partner?

It could be….

As a child you did not feel special so now you want to feel that you are special and that you matter. Yet, when your partner does show you that you are special (by buying the flowers), you aren’t able to accept it due to your own defenses. It is very difficult to feel special in the here-and-now when there have been painful childhood experiences. You would rather reject your partner’s giving than have to feel the long- ago pain. For most of us, over the years we have built up defenses to protect ourselves from this pain so it becomes unconsciously automatic to reject instead of receive. Instead of being able to receive what they have to give us, we end up feeling continually annoyed and/let down by them.

A big part of being in an intentional relationship is to let go of our built up defenses and learn to receive what our partner has to give us – even if it isn’t exactly what we want. What we really want may not even exist anymore. We have to learn to recognize the childhood need that never got fulfilled and begin to stretch into a more conscious place.

Dare ya

Start by consciously examining if you have ANY trouble receiving what your partner has to give you. If so, read on…

Put yourself in your partner’s shoes and accept that whatever they have to give is for you. Without judgment, be grateful for it. Be gracious and let it in.

Begin with the smallest things- a hug, a cup of coffee, a phone call, a smile . Work up to the big ones!

That’s it for now.



November 4, 2014


Is it easier for you to Give or Receive?  Both? Neither? Of course, there is no right or wrong but it’s an interesting question to ask yourself because it will help you understand some of your relationship challenges.

This blog focus will focus on Giving in your relationship and the next post on Receiving.

Giving is a complicated business. For many of us, when we give to our partner, either consciously or unconsciously, we want something back. This is tricky because we rarely articulate what it is we want in return and usually end up feeling disappointed and let down  because we don’t think our partner has given back.

Giving, by the way, can be about almost anything  –  giving a massage, buying a surprise gift, making a meal, going to a partner’s work event, being extra nice…. the list goes on. The point is how often do you give hoping you will get something back? Are you even aware you have an expectation? If yes, do you know what you want to receive? Do you ever tell your partner about your expectations?

Or  do you do what most people do, sit back and wait? FYI- because this can be done at a very unconscious level, the only way you may become aware of it is when you start resenting your partner for not giving enough.

Perhaps the highest form of  giving is unconditional, but,  let’s be honest, how many of us are that evolved? We may like to think  we are but I am not sure how true that is. The  need to get something back, while not the most desirable way to be,  is quite human.

Of course a higher aim would be to give unconditionally but to do that one must be very conscious about not expecting or hoping for a return give.

To give to your partner unconditionally and in an authentic manner,  means you must believe that the giving is the gift itself. It’s an end point, put a period on it and move on . Do not expect anything to happen next.

Dare ya- Make a plan, give, enjoy it and move on. Try it this week with INTENTION!



Anxious in Love

May 26, 2014


At a recent meeting of Imago therapists, Harville Hendrix, the founder of Imago Relationship therapy, reminded us that most any rupture between a couple can be traced back to anxiety—our fears of being hurt and rejected.

“Anxiety,” he said, “is the greatest enemy faced by couples and learning to regulate  anxiety is very challenging yet crucial to relationship happiness.”

Both Tigers and Turtles can experience a lot of anxiety in relationship – typically one partner tends to carry more anxiety than the other.  Imago therapist Carolyn Daitch’s new book “Anxious in Love: How to manage your anxiety, reduce conflict and  reconnect with your partner” offers practical suggestions on reducing anxiety. She gives suggestions for calming activities to use during time outs and also has written a chapter to help the less anxious partner understand the world of high anxiety Dr Daitch is the director of the Center for Treatment of Anxiety disorders in Michigan. She is also the author of “The Affect Regulation Toolbox” and  “Anxiety disorders: The go to guide for clients and therapists”. Find out more about her work at

Don’t have an affair.

May 13, 2014


“The course of true love never did run smooth” – Shakespeare (A Midsummers Night Dream)

Well my friends, I know I can’t tell you what to do but I am going to tell you anyway…..don’t have an affair. I know this seems like a stupid statement, one that doesn’t even need to be stated because everyone already knows it but really….so many kind, good, confused and frustrated partners are having affairs!

Maureen and I have been seeing a rush of couples lately who are coping with the devastating fallout of affairs.

We know that no one wakes up and says “I’m going to embark on an affair today…” Instead you gradually move away from your partner and, at the time, your reasons seem justified.

It could be that you feel disconnected from your partner, or your sex life is in the gutter or you feel criticized at home all too often or you just don’t feel that spark anymore or you travel for work so much and get lonely or you find yourself spending too much time with someone from the office that truly believes in you or….fill in the blank. The reasons are endless  – still,  DON’T DO IT!

Shakespeare said it best: “Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practice to Deceive”.  Lies have short legs. When you lie you always get found out and then your life will be filled with regret. Believe me, you will cause yourself more pain and heartache than you can imagine. If you have children they too will be affected ultimately. One of the hardest things to work through post disclosure is coming to terms with the fact that you betrayed your partner.

I know you might not be happy in your relationship. You may even have been unhappy for a long time. I am just saying DON’T DEAL WITH YOUR UNHAPPINESS BY HAVING AN AFFAIR. Imago theory tells us that  affairs happen because lots of things in the relationship are not going well and having an affair helps you feel alive again. Affairs are the result of an already existing rupture that seems impossible to fix. Still DON’T DO IT;  it is not the answer. Maureen and I do know from working with couples for over 20 years that the worst and most painful thing to get past is an affair.

Instead of having an affair see if you can muster up the courage to  figure out why things feel so bad in your  relationship and begin to take steps to fix them. That might include coming for therapy or to our Getting the Love You Want workshop (next one is May 23-25 2014  – I promise it will begin transform your relationship).  It may include sitting down with your partner and having a difficult conversation about the state of things between the two of you. For some of you, it may even include taking a short term break from each other in order to decrease the tension. These are difficult conversations to have but they are honest.  Being honest, especially when it is  hard, says a whole lot more about you as a person than being deceitful does.

Finally – if you find yourself justifying your actions, keeping secrets and lying you are already on the slippery slope of no return. Don’t do it my friend; don’t have an affair.

Dare ya- Have the tough conversation about yourself and your experience in your relationship.

– Tamara

The greatest Valentine’s Day gift ever!! Quality time together

February 11, 2013

Don’t let your job or the kids or volunteer work or time with friends and extended family interfere with your committed relationship.

Many couples today find that being together doesn’t guarantee that they will have quality time with one another. If you are both busy, you have to plan to spend time together. Here are some ideas.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: Varies

What you need:  commitment and a calendar!

Here’s How:

  1. Schedule a weekend just for the two of you. Write it on your calendar, put it on your computer planner, etc. Don’t change it for any other event. You don’t have to go anywhere.
  2. Have lunch together once a week. On nice days, meet in a park.
  3. Let your children know that you two need time alone together. Tell them they can knock on your closed bedroom door only if there is blood.
  4. Walk around the block together.
  5. Do chores together like the dishes or weeding. It may not sound like quality time, but it can be.
  6. When you are running errands together, turn off the radio or CD player in the car and talk with one another.
  7. Take showers together.
  8. Spend 20 minutes a day in daily Imago dialogue. “How do I feel about today?” is a standard dialogue question. Remember, dialogue is a gift you give to one another. However, it is a gift with no strings attached.
  9. Arrange for a quiet evening at home alone once a month.
  10. Hire a babysitter to watch the kids for a couple hours even though you are home. This works wonders!
  11. Work out a deal with another couple to have them watch your kids overnight so you can have a romantic evening alone … then you watch their children for them.
  12. Schedule dates with one another. Having an evening or afternoon out together twice a month is a good beginning.
  13. Think about coming to one of Imago Vancouver’s updates for graduates of the Getting the Love You Want workshops.
  14. When you travel together, don’t take work on the plane or road trip. Spend that time talking with each other.
  15. Have a one-night stand with each other.

Bottom line: if you don’t schedule time for one another, you won’t have the time.

Dare ya –

What are you going to do to schedule a quality time date with your beloved? (Remember don’t wait for your partner to do it. You do it. Life happens while you are waiting).

Yours truly on Valentines 2013,


Hope Springs

September 19, 2012

Have you seen Hope Springs? – the movie starring Meryl Streep (as Kay) and Tommy Lee Jones (as Arnold) as a couple in a long-term, dead marriage?  It’s worth seeing because of the important lessons it teaches us about relationships.

Here’s what Ellyn Bader, the co-founder of The Couples Institute in California says about the movie:

“Kay and Arnold sleep in separate bedrooms. He’s gruff. She’s passive. She makes him the same eggs for breakfast every morning. He watches the golf channel. They rarely talk and never touch. LifSe goes on until the loneliness gets to be too much for Kay.”

The viewer is held in suspense – can love and sexuality really be re-ignited in a 30-year old marriage? And can Hollywood portray couples therapy in a positive light?

My verdict … they did an excellent job! There’s gut-wrenching authenticity about a disintegrating marriage. There are awkward and unsuccessful sex scenes. There’s confrontational directness from their therapist Dr. Bernie Feld (played by Steve Carell).

And instead of affairs, special effects, murders or explosions, real life lessons are sprinkled throughout the film:

Lesson 1: It’s usually one partner who finally has the courage to get the couple into a therapist’s office.

Kay had the courage to put their marriage on the line. She took the risk. She started something of a revolution by using her own money to buy airplane tickets and to purchase the couple’s intensive therapy getaway week. She did what needed to be done.

At one point early in the movie, before the intensive therapy week, Kay and a friend have a brief conversation about whether change is really possible in a marriage. Her friend declares that it’s not, but Kay doesn’t settle for that answer.

Lesson 2: A couple may never have discussed their problem before they walk into our offices. They may not even know what it is!

Even though Kay found the courage to put their marriage on the line, she could not talk to Arnold about her deep loneliness and frustration. Their relationship had a history of conflict avoidance. She didn’t have the tools or fortitude to embark on what surely would have been one enormous, unproductive fight had she persisted in addressing their issues without the help of a therapist. And like so many couples, a fight is what each dearly hoped to avoid.

Lesson 3: Even with your expert help, marriage repair takes time, and it will have ups and downs. It isn’t a linear progression. Each partner must take risks, and the risks are not always met or supported by the other.

Several of the therapy sessions in the intensive week did not go the way that Kay and Arnold, or even Dr. Feld (played by Steve Carrell), would have liked. The intensive couples therapy doesn’t even necessarily have a totally happy ending. Watch the movie to learn more, but the movie highlights setbacks are a normal part of the process.

Lesson 4: Couples do best with a therapist who has excellent confrontation skills, jaw-dropping directness, and the ability to remain calm while bringing up what the partners are avoiding.

Really, the biggest message I took from the movie is the message of courage.  The courage it takes to start change in a dying marriage, and the courage it takes to be a couple’s therapist who tells the truth openly with grace and dignity.

Dare Ya

If you haven’t seen this film yet, please do. If you have seen it I encourage you talk to your partner about what things you need to do in your own relationship to avoid a pattern of disconnection that the couple in the film so painfully illustrate.

Ideas might be how to execute a regular date time; to have a “deep” conversation about life and future; how to get back on track if you are starting to veer that way; why is it easier to disconnect than stay connected to your partner? Just some thoughts from me but you add your own.

Yours truly,


Are You Getting the Love You Want?

June 20, 2012

Re-posted from Your Tango and written by Tammy Nelson, author of  Getting the Sex You Want.

You choose the person you are with for a reason, never by accident. Why do they drive you so crazy?

The bestselling book, “Getting the Love You Want” written by Harville Hendrix, teaches couples a powerful form of healing that Hendrix calls Imago Relationship Therapy. This theory says that we never choose our partner by accident.

Our mate, for good or bad, helps us to heal from our childhood wounds, helps us to grow as a person and if we let them, becomes the one person ideally suited to propel us into adulthood. Attraction to a mate is based on our almost totally unconscious capacity to choose a partner who brings out the parts of us that are the most vulnerable and sensitive, and frankly, those we are the most blind to. The person we choose as a partner is ideally suited to help us find those places within us that need healing.

I can tell you that it is no mistake that we are with the person we have chosen, even though on certain days it can feel like we have made the biggest mistakes of our lives. Our partner helps us to find those places within that need love and tenderness. And we choose the perfect person to help us get that love that we need. We choose our mate because they help us finish off the unfinished business of our childhood. If we can make this person love us in the way we have always needed to be loved, then we imagine that finally, we will feel whole, cherished and adored in the way we have always longed to feel.

As adults, we want to feel like the most important person to that one special person. Sort of like we did when we were children and had that unique, exalted place with a mother. As adults, we assume that our spouse should love us unconditionally, like our mother or father did in the past (or like we wanted them to).

Yet, marriage and committed partnership is not unconditional. There are conditions to marriage. And although we promise to love each other regardless of our foibles and limitations, those frustrations become a power struggle almost from the moment the honeymoon ends.

And yet it is those very frustrations of a serious committed partnership that hold the key to our own growth. The things that your partner finds annoying about you may actually be the things in you that need changing. (I know, this is not what you want to hear. It is so much easier to blame them for their faults) Perhaps your partner sees in you the things that you need to change in order to grow into your highest and most developed self, and in the best of all worlds, in their most loving and gentle way, they place that gift in front of you in order for you to grow as a person.

However, in reality, most of us don’t present the gift well. We yell and scream and with our own frustrations and abandonment fears we demand that our partner change in order for us to be happy. And we all know how well that works.

And yet, we know somewhere deep down, that we chose this person because they hold the key to our emotional and developmental growth. We took on this relationship challenge because they are the perfect person to help us grow into our highest selves. But we still get really mad when they confront us with the truth – that we need to change parts of ourselves in order to grow into who we need to be – because we know somewhere deep down that they are right.  And it is painful and annoying to know that we really do have to change something in ourselves.

You choose the person you are with for a reason, never by accident. Why do they drive you so crazy?

It’s easier to think that they are the problem. Sometimes it’s just easier to fantasize about trading them in for someone else; maybe someone who won’t demand that we change, someone who will accept us for who we are, who will love us unconditionally like our moms and dads did. Ultimately, if we are honest with ourselves, somewhere deep down, we know that this is not the goal of a committed partnership.

Relationships are the key to healing. If we try, we can make each other feel cherished and adored. We can get the love that we want and we can give each other what we need and help each other to grow.

Using some of these basic theories of Imago therapy you can learn how to make your relationship more rewarding and find a new intimacy in your relationship.

But no one ever said it was going to be easy. Growing up never is.


May 22, 2012

Love knows not its depth until the hour of separation – Kahlil Gibran

(this blog post is a reminder to NOT let Kahlil Gibran’s message be your experience)

(In memory of dh)

Several blog posts ago, I wrote about people I know or know of, who were seriously ill at the time of that writing. My message was about gratitude and living our lives awake and in each and every moment.

It is with a very heavy heart that I write this post. The friend of my friend I wrote about passed away on Mother’s Day 2012 leaving behind a loving wife and two teenage children.

In my own life, a woman I have known for many years – the mother of a dear friend of my son’s, a good friend of my best friend’s, a woman part of our tightly knit Jewish community, a woman who worked tirelessly for disenfranchised people’s rights both in Vancouver and South Africa, the mother of two beautiful teen girls and a much loved and adored wife/partner just passed away after an extremely short battle with cancer.

It is so difficult to put into words what profound sadness feels like but I do know it sits in the body and aches. Words do not give voice to the depth of feeling when someone dies before their time.

What has stood out for me during the past number of weeks is the deep love and commitment the woman’s husband continually expresses to her and about her. He has kept our community aware of her condition through a beautifully written blog. In it, he writes about her cancer diagnosis, her treatment, her thoughts, his journey and sadly her passing. What stands out in every post and the many photos he shares, is his incredible LOVE for her and their marriage of over 20 years. His expression of devotion and love during this time of personal terror has taught me about love and vulnerability in the face of incredible powerlessness.

His message is about his deep love for her, his commitment to her, his witnessing of her courage and his invitation to those around them to support them. It is through this lens that my heart experiences the meaning of a conscious loving relationship. My tears are tears of grief and tears of awe, wondering how a relationship can endure such heartache. The unwanted experience that a life threatening illness presents and the devastating effect it has on a relationship is one of the lessons we may not want to learn and yet we must find a way to cope with such lessons. I do not know nor believe there are answers or even sure paths to take to deal with such unimaginable loss. The journey seems a very personal one that takes as long as it takes and is done however it is done.

As I write this my heart is still heavy. I am again reminded of the real possibility that exists – unwanted illness and even death can happen to great people we know. Wonderful people who live healthy lives and love others deeply and who do good work in the world. Marvelous people who are able to develop and maintain loving relationships with family and friends. People we aspire to be like because of their generosity of spirit and ability to love unconditionally. When we have the privilege of knowing even one person like this we learn a lot about what is important in life. When such a person becomes ill and passes on before they should we feel life doesn’t make much sense and seems completely unfair.

I mourn for the wonderful man I know who has just lost the love of his life and his two daughters who must find a way back to their own lives without their beloved mother. Life is beautiful and sad all at once, I am holding both of these feelings and it is not easy.

Dare ya –

Have a real look into your partner’s eyes and let your body feel the beauty you are beholding. Sometimes there are no words…..

For now,