Archive for the ‘Relating’ Category

Tennis Balls and Gifts

July 11, 2013

This post is by Tony Victor, Imago Faculty, and re-posted here with permission.


Here is an Imago Dialogue Riddle:  What is the difference between a tennis ball and a gift?  Well, when a tennis ball is served up to you, you are expected to put your own spin on the ball and send it right back over the net.  In fact your tennis partner expects you to try to return in such a way as to make it very difficult for her to receive it. However, if you partner does receive it be fully ready to have him put a new spin on it and send it back to you even more tenaciously than the first time he served it up to you.

A gift is just the opposite:  When a gift is served up to you, you are expected to receive it with gratitude and amazement, to admire the beautiful wrapping and the bow so delicately tied.  To, with wonder and awe, graciously unwrap it.  Just receive it — No putting your own spin on it — No sending it back.  Just receive it.

In part, Imago Dialogue is about receiving what your partner has to offer you.  The words your partner speaks are a precious gift–an opening into his heart.  When your partner speaks treat her words as precious gifts to be held, taken in, and cherished.

Even if those words are a bit painful.  Resist the urge to treat them like a tennis ball being served up to you — putting your own spin on them, and sending them right back.  Treating even painful words as a gift is the surest way to sooth the hurt for you and your partner.

This is especially important when the words are an affirmation.  Recently a couple who were making wonderful progress from their initial session began their session with her smiling, looking intently at him and saying “I love you.”  Immediately he responded “I love you too.”  This was an amazing moment of transformation for this couple.  Just a few weeks earlier they were ready to divorce and started counseling as a last ditch effort to avoid the lawyers.

I celebrated the moment with them.  Then I asked permission to try something a little different.  They agreed, I asked her to start again she looked at him and said “I love you.”  Before he had a chance to respond, I quickly asked him to just breath in the gift of her words.  Just take it in as you breath in.  Then mirror back, he said, “You love me.”  As he did his eyes welled up with tears and I knew that he was letting his defenses down.  This time he was accepting the gift not just returning the serve.  I used the above  riddle to help both partners understand this concept and how Imago dialogue is about gift giving rather than a tennis match.

While the rapid fire back and forth “I love you’s” was a wonderful step in a good direction, the pattern of communication more resembled a tennis match than a gift exchange.  As Imago therapists, I believe our role is to coach our couples to see their partners as serving up gifts not tennis balls to each other.

Tony Victor, D.Min., Imago Faculty Candidate, Certified Imago Consultant, and Certified Imago Workshop Presenter is available for Consultation either in person or via Skype or Facetime.  Dr. Victor has been in private practice for over 25 years.  He currently is the Owner and Director of a thriving group practice, The Midwest Relationship Center, LLC, located in Swansea, IL, just outside of St. Louis, MO.  If you would like to comment on this article or inquire about consultation, you can contact Dr. Victor by email drtony@themidwestrelationshipcenter.com or by calling 618-516-3338.

Dare y’a:

At the soonest possible moment, tell your partner you want to give her/him a gift and that s/he shouldn’t do anything except breathe it in for a few seconds….and then say “I love you” while gazing into their eyes.

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Interview with Imago Founders

May 22, 2013

Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt, co-founders of Imago Relationship Therapy, were recently interviewed by Carol Donahoe, Rhinebeck program director at the Omega Institute, about why couples fight and how to replace negativity in a relationship with curiosity.

Carol: How did you come to create Imago Relationship Therapy together? Did it happen because of your relationship or along with it?

Helen: On one of our first dates, Harville told me he wanted to write a book about why couples fight. He was exploring why couples who are drawn together and think they’re in love end up being each other’s worst enemies. We were both divorced, and I was mesmerized by the idea. The answer to this question is so important and significant for our well-being.

Harville: This was in 1977, and over the next couple of years I continued to do research and process my ideas with Helen. She has a background in psychology, so she was a great partner. I don’t think there was ever a decision to “do this together,” it just emerged out of our relationship. In 1979 we named it Imago Relationship Therapy, in 1982 we got married, and in 1988 Getting the Love You Want came out. Helen was busy working in the women’s movement and stewarding our family when I was away, but she was always part of Imago. Sometimes I’m not sure who came up with an idea. I will think it’s me and Helen will think it’s her and then we can know it probably came up in a conversation.

Helen: I was very happy not being overtly involved, but I’ve always feel like a partner.

Harville: Yes, it would have never happened without Helen and our conversations.

Carol: So why do couples fight?

Harville: When two people meet and fall in love, they idealize each other. They see each other as the person who will meet their needs. At first it seems true—people do all sorts of things they wouldn’t normally do because they’re trying to bond with someone, and we each end up with the impression that the other person is perfect and they’re going to do all we want them to do. But once a commitment is made—this often happens after a wedding—there is a desire to reclaim ourselves, to find some differentiation from the merger that happened during courtship, and we begin to act more like our true self. For example, when we’re dating, if you say vanilla is your favorite ice cream, I might eat vanilla ice cream, too, just to bond with you. But then we get married and you find out chocolate is really my favorite flavor and you wonder where the guy who liked vanilla went. It seems to you that I’m not the person you married, that I’m behaving differently or strangely, and you want that idealized person back, the one who was meeting all your needs.

Carol: Meanwhile, the same thing is happening with the other partner, right?

Harville: That’s right. Both parties are feeling disillusioned and entitled. Both people are trying to recover themselves and neither person wants the other to do that. Couples realize at that point that true intimacy is harder than they thought it might be, and the fear of this is what makes them fight.

Carol: This is the moment, then, that there is an opportunity for a couple to have a conscious relationship?

Helen: Yes. First, both partners have to realize that they each have wounds from childhood and that one of the purposes of marriage is to finish those childhood issues. We didn’t get our needs met by our original caretakers, and now is our chance to heal that. Second, it’s important to realize that incompatibility is grounds for marriage. Most people believe if you’re struggling in your marriage you’re married to the wrong person. We are convinced that if there is struggle, growth is trying to happen and it’s the perfect opportunity for a conscious relationship. At that point, both people need to move beyond the negativity and shift their focus from themselves to the space between. Couples experience a shift when they move from their own need for gratification and embrace the well being of their partner and the whole relationship. At that point a whole psycho-spiritual transformation begins to take place.

Carol: Imago has helped millions of people, but it also helped your relationship as well. How did you come to experience your own work?

Helen: We struggled a lot in our marriage, especially when the fame came. We probably would have limped along with a so-so marriage because neither of us is a perfectionist, but we realized there was a split between how others expected us to be and how we were at home.

Harville: You were great; it was me that was the problem.

Helen: Yes, I probably thought it was you but I had to learn it was me, too. So we used Imago therapy and through that process discovered another piece that transformed our relationship: we agreed to absolutely no negativity. It became the number one rule. It’s hard, but surprisingly transformative.

Carol: What if something seems negative to one person but not the other?

Helen: If your partner thinks it’s negative, then it’s negative. Harville and I were both raised in a culture that values critical thinking. We were both schooled to look at what’s not there, to be critical. It was a good quality to have. But in a relationship it can destroy any sense of safety.

Harville: You can’t have a great relationship unless it’s emotionally safe; it has to be predictable and reliable. You need to be able to count on the fact that when you’re around your partner you’re not going to get hurt or be criticized, put down, or shut out. When we first agreed to no negativity we though we needed to replace it with positivity. But that didn’t work. In the end, we replaced it with curiosity. If you’re curious about the other then it becomes exciting to learn about them and their inner world and when they open up you are able to be empathetic and they feel safe. Safety is essential to being able to connect, and when you’re connected you are joyful to be alive.

Carol: Helen, let’s say Harville did something that really annoyed you. How do you deal with it if you don’t want to be negative?

Helen: You use what we call in Imago “sender responsibility.” You figure out how to communicate what you’re feeling from your higher brain, from the highest degree of functioning, so there is a greater likelihood your partner will hear it. Use “I” language rather than “you.” Be selective with how much you bring up so you don’t flood your partner. Speak in a calm tone to increase the chances that your partner will hear you and respond positively.

Carol: Imago has been around for several decades now and has made a difference in many, many lives. Omega is interested in how individual transformation in turn changes society for the better. Have you seen this with Imago?

Harville: Yes, we have, and we’re working on an exciting project to bring Imago to an even wider audience. We are stripping out the part of Imago that can be used to educate the public on how to be in a committed partnerships or marriage. We’re working with a group of relational experts—John Gottman , Dan Siegel, Michele Weiner-Davis, Ellyn Bader, and Marion Soloman—to launch a global wellness movement that focuses on all relationships. Our first initiative is Project Dallas, where over the next few years we’ll bring this technique to the general public using social media, traditional media, and trainings. The goal is to saturate the environment with the idea that healthy relationships make for a healthy society. We’ll be filming what we do and will ultimately turn it into a documenatary.

Helen: The idea behind this was that if you want a driver’s license, you have to take a course and pass a test. If you want a broker’s license you have to take a course and pass a test. Bu if you want a marriage license you simply have to pay a small fee, yet marriage is one of the most important commitments you will ever make in your life. We think most couples wait too long to get help so we want to bring the simple practices of a conscious partnership into the mainstream so people know how to be in a marriage before they enter one. We believe we have the technology to end divorce if people can learn these principles of communication.

Harville: Yes, and Helen doesn’t mean just she and I think we can end divorce. All our partners in this endeavor feel the same. The point is there are a lot of couples who don’t need therapy. But there isn’t anyone that doesn’t need relationship education. Maybe 10-20% of the population had a happy enough childhood not to have a problematic marriage. But that means 80% of us are great candidates for relationship education. We’re going global with this and we think it’s going to change everything.

Spring Cleaning

April 30, 2013

We’re thrilled to feature a guest-post by Lisa Brooks Kift, MFT this week. Read on for some great tips for “spring cleaning” your relationship.

Having an hour more daylight and feeling spring in the air (in Northern California anyway), I can’t help but think about the meaning of spring. For many it’s a time of renewal and recharge, a sleepy-eyed yawn and waking up from a winter slumber of sorts. Many clean their homes, their cars and their work environments.

Marriages can also “fall asleep” and get into a rut. So let’s dust out the cobwebs and do some spring cleaning there too!

  • Take a walk down memory lane.  Do you remember when you met? Can you recall what drew you to each other? Take some time to reflect upon this time. Research shows that happier couples are the ones who can recall pleasant earlier memories. It can be an anchor for the relationship, a reminder of what you might have forgotten. ”Oh yea, that’s what I fell in love with…”
  • Get back to checking in. At one time you likely talked a lot, especially in the early stages of your relationship. As time goes on and life gets peppered with kid related responsibilities, family, social obligations and work, it’s easy to let the communication between you and your spouse get tossed out the window. Re-prioritize a daily relationship check-in, even if brief. ”How are you?…How are we?…Is everything ok?”
  • Look under the carpet for hidden resentments. One problem that can be a consequence of insufficient communicating in marriage is the build-up of negative emotions towards each other. If anger, disappointment or sadness go unchecked they can become toxic. Resentment can undermine the very fabric of the relationship. If there is something bothering you, bring it up. It’s useful to begin with “I statements” rather than using attacking language.
  • Check your assumptions. What if you were upset with your partner because you misunderstood what he/she said or meant? What if you never clarified this? Well, you’d be suffering for no reason. One of the best ways couples can avoid distress is to simply ask the other what they meant rather than assume you know. Otherwise, you will likely have a negative emotional response towards him/her, followed by a negative behavior – and all for nothing.
  • Create happy memories. If boredom, “same ‘ol, same ‘ol,” and a lack of fun has permeated your marriage, it’s time to have positive experiences together to lay down over the other. It’s kind of like the negativity bias of the brain; the more you internalize positive emotions, the more you can ease your brain away from the negative. Plan date nights, go out and play, take a walk or do something totally new and invigorating
  • If you broke it, fix it. We all make mistakes and can inadvertently hurt our partners. The important thing for the health of relationships is taking ownership when it’s appropriate.  John Gottman, PhD refers to successful repair attempts as “the happy couple’s secret weapon.”
  • More gratitude, please. There is a lot of research out there now on the power of gratitude, individually and in relationships. Express appreciation for each other when possible. Notice the good rather than focusing on the not so good. It’s easy for couples to slip into negative cycles together.  Make the effort to shift to a more positive (and reinforcing) cycle of support and gratitude for each other.
  • Take it up a notch if needed. If your marriage feels particularly “dusty” and in need of some TLC, get proactive and get access to the many tools available to help couples do just that; a local marriage weekend workshop or going through a marriage workbook or book might be just what you need.

It would be nice to imagine being able to do these things 365 days a year but this probably isn’t realistic for many.  At the very least, adding your marriage to your spring cleaning to-do list every year is one consistent way to put the focus back on you and your partner again. If you’ve slipped up and “fallen asleep” during the winter, you can get back to prioritizing your marriage again…and maybe make up for some lost time.

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of The Toolbox at LisaKiftTherapy.com, with tools for marriage, relationship and emotional health.  She is the author of The Marriage Refresher Course Workbook for Couples.  Lisa has a couples counseling practice in Marin County, CA.

Three stages of Relationship

April 12, 2013

This post is written by Joe Kort and re-printed here with permission. Imago Couples Therapy teaches partners that every relationship goes through stages. In this blog post, Imago therapist Joe Kort provides a tongue-in -cheek way to remember them! View a quick video of Joe Kort.

Couples Therapy Secret Stage #1—Call of the Wild

You see your partner-to-be across a crowded room, and the attraction is immediate. You want to be with each other; you can’t see enough of each other. The experience is a wild ride boosted by a pharmacy of natural chemicals flooding your system. Actually, you find yourself falling for familiar love: your partner reminds you of positive traits of your parents or whomever was important in raising you.

In this stage, you say:

“Something about you seems so familiar.”
“Have we met before?”
“Feels like I’ve always known you.”

Call of the Wild Alert:  People in couples counseling know that this stage won’t last. The call of the wild—a transient positive emotion designed to come to an end—lasts for between 6-18 months. Its purpose is to connect and bond two people, making them willing to stay together when things become more difficult in the relationship—as they inevitably will!

Couples Therapy Secret Stage #2 — Call of the Child

Where did our love go? Your partner’s charms are replaced by little differences that annoy you. Soon they aren’t so little. You hope to dispel them, or at least cope with them by arguing and defending yourself. But trying to change or “train” your partner won’t work. You consider couples counseling.  During this stage, unresolved issues from childhood resurrect. Couples project onto each other feelings from the times their parents acted poorly and disappointed them.

In this stage, you say:

  • “You’re so different! What happened to you?”
  • “If you loved me, you’d know what I need!”
  • “You tricked me. I was a fool to believe in you!”

Call of the Child Alert:  Every long-term couple goes through the call of the child. This stage is also supposed to happen and supposed to end, but lasts longer than the call of the wild. Even though the call of the child makes you feel like you’re with the wrong person, if this is happening, you are in fact with the right one.

Couples Therapy Secret Stage #3 – Call of the Mild

You value each other as you are, not as you might become. Even though you may wish that differences and disagreements would go away, you begin to understand that some will always be there—and you accept them. In this stage, ideally, you learn to give unconditionally, relate non-defensively, and relate with empathy and compassion.

In this stage, you say:

“I love you—warts and all!”
“We are different—and that’s okay!”

Call of the Mild Alert:  To revive the love of call of the wild and bring romance back into your relationship, your couples counselor might suggest you surprise your partner by doing the same things you did during the beginning of your relationship. That will remind you both of the old times when things were new and exciting—and let you feel how your love has endured.

A note about the author:

Dr. Joe Kort is a certified sex addiction therapist, certified Imago Relationship Therapist and a certified Sex Therapist providing mental health outpatient services for individuals and couples needing sex rehab as well as those struggling with depression and anxiety issues in the Rochester, Bloomfield, Birmingham and Novi areas. The Center for Relationship and Sexual Health – www.CRSH.com – provides this information written by its founder, Dr. Kort, in order to educate interested readers. (248) 399-7447

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,

TA

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,

T

Joy and Pain…Hold It!

April 13, 2012

So much about life is about holding two opposing experiences at once. Joy and pain always seem to go together but we usually just want to feel the joy part. When we experience painful feelings we usually try to shut them down or allow them to take over. When this happens we tend to stop feeling positive feelings and just feel the negative.

Let me give you an example.

In your relationship things can be going along okay. Then a few stressors get in the way. This can be anything from lack of sleep to work stress to a bad case of the flu in the house. Over time, and often this isn’t a very long time, we start to feel disconnected from our partner. Maybe this is as a result of some stress, perhaps you disagree about something and in just a moment it becomes a big deal. It turns into a fight and that turns into a great divide and both of you feel really BAD. Once the feeling of BAD sets in it is hard to put things back on track.  You have both lost perspective and all that is at play is big time reactivity. That’s when we feel NO joy.

Why is it so hard to remember the positive and what we love about our partner when this BAD feeling sets in.

Why can’t we feel a little bad but also hold the reality of our relationship, there is A LOT of good, a lot of love and definitely joy?

This is perhaps the most important part to understand. It seems that we are wired to be in connection with our partner and in fact when we aren’t, things go in the wrong direction in a nanosecond. In fact, we are so wired for this we can’t even control what is happening within us when the disconnection happens. That is why we can’t hold two opposing feelings at once.  Blame your brain not your partner. We are so driven to connect, to be close; to get along that it is very difficult to tolerate any feeling to the contrary. Yet isn’t this what life is about? To hold both experiences at once is definitely the key to happiness.

How can we do this? I have no idea! Really I do not know the answer I just know that we need to find it so we can live happier lives in our relationship. We need to learn to live with difference, we need to allow difficulty and pain and find a way to stay connected so we don’t always go off the rails.

Dare ya?

Try to hold two opposing experiences at once. Next time your partner pisses you off or irritates you try to allow yourself to appreciate them and remember the best thing about them. See if this is the day, allow the joy and the pain to coexist and let yourself be a grown up. Just try it. By the way this is not supposed to be an easy dare, it is a hard one.

Not easy I know!

T.A.

A Stronger, More Passionate Relationship — Four Minutes at a Time

February 29, 2012

We recently came across a new strategy to help couples build up and expand on the positive in their relationships. We want to share it with you because we’ve seen couples who use it be enormously successful at changing the tone of their relationship on a day to day basis. It is a great technique because when the tone shifts the foundation is set for couples to create a better, strong, more loving and passionate marriage.  It really can be a part of what makes happier marriages and relationships. No, it won’t make all the unresolved issues go away, but it can make you feel more connected to each other, more loving, and more hopeful about your relationship. With all those good feelings and good will, often negotiating the tough issues becomes a lot easier and sometimes, some of the issues do dissolve.

Most people are very busy these days. There are multiple commitments and obligations, kids after school schedules, work, to do lists, the tedious tasks of day to day living. Most of us certainly want a better, stronger, healthier and more passionate marriage but we forget that we need to take purposeful action to have a relationship or a marriage like that. Too many partners or spouses rarely have much couple time. What they have is often what is left over after most other things are taken care of. Just think about how much energy is being put into the relationship in a situation like that. It isn’t that most of us are bad or thoughtless people, it is just that we are pulled in so many directions and have to do more to stay or top of our lives than in any other time in history.

When we are so overworked and rundown it is like a car trying to run without gasoline. In that state it can be a little harder to see the good things around us.  We might more easily focus on what is not working or what is wearing us down. So this exercise, like many of its type, helps couples develop the positive in relationships.

This strategy was created originally by Linda Duncan, PhD, Professor and Director of the Professional Counseling Program and Tarleton State University. She has developed what she calls the Four Critical Moments Activity. Don’t worry. “Critical” in this case does not mean to criticize. It means “crucial” “important.” There are four critical moments during the day which can set the tone of your relationship for that day. These critical moments are:

  • The first four minutes you and our partner are awake in the morning
  • The last four minutes you and your partner spend together before leaving the house for the day
  • The first four minutes when you both get back home in the evening
  • The last four minutes before you go to sleep

First, do a little “interview” with your partner. Ask each other about what you would like most from each other during those critical moments. Think about what are the things that would make you feel loved, taken care of, nurtured. Maybe you really want to spend those four minutes before you get up just snuggling with your partner while you both are awake. Perhaps your partner making you a fresh cup of coffee or your favorite tea when you come downstairs makes you feel cared for.  It could be a long warm embrace and a brief overview of your plan before you leave the house. Or, a gentle shoulder rub when you walk in the door. You can get as creative as you’d like as long as it’s something your partner can reasonably do in four minutes. This helps ensure you both get to feel successful and see the rewards almost immediately.

After you’ve “interviewed” each other and made your lists, put it into practice. There may be times you don’t feel like doing it and do it anyway. Part of what makes us feel cherished is sometimes knowing what we are receiving takes some effort. Besides that shows a lot of commitment to the tone of the relationship. Think for a moment how it feels when your partner goes out of their way to do something nice for you.

After a couple of weeks of this activity, notice how the tone of your days have changed. Notice if there has been a domino effect and other things have begun to shift in your relationship. Some couples tell me they notice a big difference right away and others say they need a little more to shift some of the more serious issues between them. Either way it is a great place to start creating a stronger, healthier, more loving and more passionate relationship

Dare y’a:

(what have you got to lose?)

Why not try to develop a positive ritual you and your partner can do at one of the four times a day for two weeks. For example, upon waking lay in bed and cuddle for 5 minutes or before bed make eye contact before the lights go out and smile or…you decide!

Yours in relationship, Maureen and Tamara

Ten Steps to Happiness

September 13, 2011

Helen LaKelly Hunt and Harville Hendrix  were in new Zealand in February 2011 and the local paper  (New Zealand Herald)  interviewed them…

According to relationship expert Harville Hendrix a  few tips to ensure a lasting, happy relationship, are to: accept differences, not criticize and give and receive unconditionally.

The man whose been dubbed “Oprah’s Marriage Whisperer” says, “We all want a happy relationship. Few of us have one. I personally know of only a few couples who are genuinely happy, and their satisfaction with their relationship is a result of many years of hard work.”

“That is the magic word: work. That is what a happy relationship requires, but it is a very unpopular word.”

Harville Hendrix and his wife Helen LaKelly Hunt have developed 10 simple steps for couples to help in the journey to a relationship of their dreams. The pair has spent the past 30 years helping thousands of couples learn how to recapture that magical connection and strengthen and sustain it for a lasting and loving relationship. In the process they co-created Imago Relationship Therapy, which is practiced by more than 2000 therapists in 30 countries.

Imago first came to public attention through the New York Times best seller, Getting the Love You Want, co-written by Hendrix and his wife LaKelly Hunt (a famous philanthropist in her own right).

HE SAYS

Absolutely no criticism! All criticism, even “constructive criticism” not only fails to get us what we want but it’s a form of self-abuse since the traits we criticize in our partners are often projections of unpleasant truths about ourselves.

Instead of criticizing, explore why a particular trait in your partner bothers you so much. For example, perhaps him wanting “too much sex” is really about your own sexual inhibitions.

Accept that your partner is not you  We all understand – at least on the surface – that our partner is a separate human being. But deep down we often see and treat him/her as extensions of ourselves. Practice seeing and accepting your partner as someone with different perceptions, feelings, and experiences that are equally valid as your own.

Close all exits  Identify activities that you engage in that become an escape from the day-to-day intimacy of the partnership (any activity, thought, or feeling that decreases or avoids emotional or physical involvement with your partner). Exits can be functional (car-pooling, work, taking care of kids), motivated (watching TV, reading, sports, hobbies), and/or catastrophic (emotional or physical affairs, addictions). All exits, however, deplete the emotional reserves in a partnership.

Use “I” language Own your experience by saying how you feel rather than blaming your partner. For example, “I feel bad when …” rather than “You make me feel bad when …”

Give and receive unconditionally Offer gifts with no strings attached. The unconscious receives only unconditional gifts. It does not accept a “you rub my back and I’ll rub yours” attitude. Similarly, learn to accept gifts. Often we feel unworthy of receiving compliments from our partner and reject it. Instead of saying, “You don’t really mean that I’m beautiful/handsome/smart,” say “Thank you. It means a lot to me that you feel that way.”

SHE SAYS

Put play on your priority list Make a list of high-energy activities you would like to do for fun with your partner. Write down as many ideas as you can think of that you are currently doing, that you did in the early stages of your relationship and activities you would like to engage in. They should be activities that create deep laughter and/or that involve physical movement and deep breathing. Make a commitment to enjoy a playful activity at least once a week.

Amplify the positive resources in your relationship Flood your partner with compliments. On a regular basis, tell your partner what you love about him or her. Talk about his/her physical characteristics (“I love your eyes”), character traits (“You are really intelligent”), behaviours (“I love that you make coffee every morning for me”), global affirmations (“I am so happy I married you”).

Learn couple’s dialogue The most important and challenging step to becoming a conscious partner is changing the way you communicate. Imago Dialogue uses three basic techniques – mirroring, validating, and empathizing – to fortify the connection between partners. Check to make sure you understand what your partner is saying (mirroring), indicate that what your partner says makes sense, even if you don’t agree (validating) and recognize the partner’s feelings when s/he tells a story or expresses an opinion (empathizing).

Make dialogue a way of life Dialogue will not only improve the way you communicate with your partner, it will improve the relations with your children, and with everyone you come in contact with. Practice dialogue until it becomes a habit and a way of life.

See your relationship as a journey A committed partnership can become someone’s worst nightmare, but through intentionality and commitment, a marriage can also be a spiritual journey. If you married because you chose to marry, you are with the right person – especially if you feel incompatible. See your partner as the person who holds the blueprint for your journey to wholeness.

There’s gold in them der frustrations!

August 8, 2011

Flickr / D'Arcy Norman

If only we could begin to see frustrations as an opportunity.

If only we could welcome frustrations because they are a gift in disguise!

Every one of our frustrations contains gold. They are a double gift, healing for one and growth for the other.

Long ago, when you first were attracted to your partner, you didn’t realize that you were also hiring them to “push your buttons”.  This is to motivate you into completing your growing up.  So recognize (and maybe even admit it!) that you have hired your partner precisely to guide you on your growth journey.

So, it isn’t fair to hire someone for a job and fire them because they do it.

Remember that frustrations have long tentacles.  Their roots are in our growing up years. They reach into the recesses of our untold stories. Frustrations contain gold, a magical key.

Our frustrations are the key that unlocks the mystery of the past. Frustrations invite new behaviors. Frustrations knock at the door of psyches, saying: “C’mon, it’s time to grow, mature, and evolve.

Dare ya:

Try to identify something that frustrates or irritates you that your partner does and keep it to yourself. Ask YOURSELF some hard questions…. what is it about me that is getting activated when my partner does this? Does this bring up a childhood feeling or memory for me? How can I see this frustration as a gift for my growth instead of being irritated by it??? Do this as an internal process and do not share it with your partner until you have a new learning to share! Have fun.

Yours truly!

T & M