Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

Anxious in Love

May 26, 2014

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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 www.anxiety-treatment.com

Don’t have an affair.

May 13, 2014

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“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

A change in your relationship begins with a single step…

May 8, 2014

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In their book, 10 Lessons to Transform Your Marriage, John and Julie Gottman say “Happily married couples handle their conflicts in gentle, positive ways.  They recognize that conflict is inevitable in any marriage, and that some problems never get solved, never go away.  But these couples don’t get gridlocked in their separate positions.  Instead, they keep talking with each other about conflicts. They listen respectfully to their  partner’s perspectives and they find compromises that work for both sides.”  (p. 4) 

Conflict is inevitable in an intimate relationship. Yet conflict is not a sign of a bad relationship. In fact, Imago theory says that conflict is growth trying to happen. Our partner is calling for us to grow into some part of ourselves that has been denied or disowned as part of our growing up years. And some conflict areas will only shift in very small steps over a very long period of time.

The first step towards change is to understand.  Rather than fight endlessly or give up on the relationship, we can choose to get outside of our own automatic preferences. We can listen to and understand our partners. And the best way to do that? Invite them for an Imago dialogue of course!

We have to remember that you are two different people who have different perspectives. Listen carefully to your partner’s point of view. Seek to understand. Mirror frequently in order to check your understanding of your partner. This effort will open the door to new solutions.

Dare ya– think of 3 things that you and your partner feel differently about (keep them on the lower scale of differences i.e. Canucks vs Leafs or music genres) and just for fun and practice… Have an Imago dialogue about whatever the topic is where differences exist . See if you can have some fun with it and make sure you validate. It will help you both to walk in each other’s shoes!

Let us know how it goes!

‘Til the next time! Xo

– Maureen

Four Ways to express Gratitude in your Relationship

February 20, 2014

Join us February 21-24 for our next Getting the Love you Want weekend couples workshop. Learn more and register on our website.

Just because Valentine’s Day is over, it doesn’t mean that you should stop expressing gratitude to your partner. Read what researcher Amie Gordon has  to say about the powerful impact gratitude has on our intimate relationships.

Re-posted from the University of California, Berkeley Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life.

It’s easy to take loved ones for granted. But my research says couples who are grateful to and for each other tend to be happier and are more likely to stay together.  Try these four science-based tips to make sure you get the most out of your acts of kindness.

1. Focus on giving, not getting

It is easy to think about all the nice things our partner will get and do for us on Valentine’s Day. But to make the most of the day, think of February 14th as a day to show your partner how much you care.

Studies have found that giving to others makes us happier than spending time and money on ourselves; my own research shows that giving as a way to express gratitude is likely to help your partner see how great you are and want to do something nice to express gratitude in return.

By focusing on giving and being grateful instead of on getting, you may find that both of you get more in the end.

2. Give them what they want

There is a disconnect between what we want as gift givers and what we want as recipients.

Research finds that when we set out to buy a gift or do something nice for someone else, we tend to think that the more money and time we spend, the better our gift will be. But when we think about what we want to receive as a gift, the price doesn’t matter as much—we are most happy just getting what we want.

Trying to surprise your partner with something she didn’t even know she wanted might feel more special to you, but to maximize gratitude, it is best to give a gift on Valentine’s Day that reflects your partner’s wishes. If you know that your partner loves the simple things like chocolates and flowers, give your partner chocolates and flowers, even if you think that’s silly and you should buy them something expensive instead.

The more your acts of kindness reflect your partner’s wishes and desires (even if they come off an Amazon wish list), the more thoughtful those gifts will be perceived to be—and thoughtful acts promote the most gratitude.

3. Do something unexpected

Expectations are the bane of gratitude. When people expect an act of kindness, such as on Valentine’s Day, they are less grateful for it.

To maximize gratitude on a day filled with high expectations, try doing something unexpected. If you never cook, then make your partner breakfast (if you know that is something he likes). If you don’t like to go out, plan a weekend away. Or surprise your partner with a sweet gift or act of kindness on another day, when expectations are low.

But beware: When people expect an act of kindness and don’t receive it, they tend to feel resentful. So if you know Valentine’s Day is important to your partner, it is best not to neglect it completely!

4. Say “thanks” for who they are

Expressing gratitude when your partner does something nice can go a long way toward boosting your relationship—but to really capitalize on the gratitude, it is best to express your thanks in a way that let’s your partner know you are as grateful for them as you are for their gift.

Sure you love those striped socks your partner got you. But rather than just gushing over how excited you are to try them on, mention how much you appreciate that your partner knows you well enough to pick out a great gift for you, and how he or she always seems to be so good at getting you exactly what you want.

The bottom line: Focusing on your partner—and not just their act of kindness—can help you remember how great they are and help them feel truly appreciated.

Dare ya:

Send your partner an email or text telling them one reason you are grateful to have them in your life. It covers all four categories!

Enjoy !

Tamara

I’m Dating Someone Even Though I’m Married

February 6, 2014

Our latest guest blogger is Jarrid Wilson, husband, pastor, author, and blogger. He has made a confession that has everyone talking lately. You’ll see why in the post below.


I have a confession to make. I’m dating someone even though I’m married.

She’s an incredible girl. She’s beautiful, smart, cunning, strong, and has an immensely strong faith in God. I love to take her out to dinner, movies, local shows, and always tell her how beautiful she is. I can’t remember the last time I was mad at her for longer than five minutes, and her smile always seems to brighten up my day no matter the circumstances.

Sometimes she will visit me at work unannounced, make me an incredible lunch, or even surprise me with something she personally baked. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be dating someone even though I am married. I encourage you to try it and see what it can do for your life.

Oh! Did I mention the woman I am dating is my wife? What did you expect?

Just because you’re married, doesn’t mean your dating life should end.

I need to continue to date my wife even after I marry her. Pursuing my wife shouldn’t stop just because we both said, “I do.” Way too many times do I see relationships stop growing because people stop taking the initiative to pursue one another.

Dating is a time where you get to learn about someone in a special and unique way. Why would you want that to ever stop? It shouldn’t. Those butterflies you got on the first date shouldn’t stop just because the years have passed. Wake up each day and pursue your spouse as if you are still on your first few dates. You will see a drastic change for the better in your relationship.

When it comes to any relationship, communication and the action of constant pursuit is key. Nobody wants to be with someone who doesn’t want to pursue them whole-heartedly.

I encourage you to date your spouse, pursue them whole-heartedly, and understand that dating shouldn’t end just because you said, “I do.”

Dare ya:

See his website – http://jarridwilson.com/ for additional blogs.

Summer time and the living is easy!

August 6, 2013

We hope you are able to take advantage of some time off together and in that slower pace, perhaps you have time for a longer  conversation with your partner…..

Start with these questions to get to know your partner a little better, no matter how long you’ve been together:

  1.  What things do you look forward to each day?
  2. What experiences do you look forward to sharing together in the next 2-3 years?
  3. When do you wish you were better at saying “no”?
  4. Are there specific times when you wish you could say no more easily to me?

These questions come from Ellyn Bader and Pete Pearson, long time couples’ therapists and keynote speakers at the 2012 Imago conference in Vancouver.

Find more great questions from the Couple Institute website – Play 20 Questions With Your Partner.

Drs. Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson have specialized in helping couples since the early 1980s. They are co-founders and co-directors of The Couples Institute, and continually receive industry and media attention for their innovations in couples’s therapy. For more resources check out their website: www.couplesinstitute.com

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.

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