Relationship Blog

Friendships, Porcupines and Random Sunday thoughts

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
– Marcel Proust

I just spent the weekend with some dear friends, who are also therapists. This morning, we were deep in conversation about what it means to be and have good friends.

Yes, we have some things in common. Yes, we have fun together and laugh a lot. Yes, we care for one another in words and behaviors. We cheer each other on; we cheer for the same teams and have rich conversations about the things upon which we agree.

That is friendship, indeed. And, as we say in Imago-land, “there is more”.

Friendship also means that we can hear and experience the differences. We might have come from different backgrounds, or cheer for different teams. We don’t always agree; yet we are agreeable.

Connection isn’t just about seeing everything eye to eye. It’s the ability to see the differences in each other and stay CONNECT-ING. It’s who we’re BE-ING when we become aware of other-ness. It’s seeing and loving those parts of another person, even if we can’t identify it in our self.

Finally, friendship is about showing up, being authentically true to our self, while at the same time experiencing genuine compassion for each other.

It’s safe, trusting, caring acceptance of each other, whether we agree or disagree.

When we know we’re safe from the judgment of others, we can be who we are as less defended people. I’m definitely a better version of myself without my defenses.

As someone recently said, trying to hug a defended person is like trying to hug a porcupine. I’ll leave that there.

Be you. Be the best version of you. Show up. Love with all your heart. Receive the love of others. Be connecting.


Improving Your Relationship in 2017

It’s a new year, and like many people, you may be making resolutions toward better health, or improved habits for a better quality of life.

Here are a few suggestions for resolutions that will strengthen your relationship, and improve your connection to your partner.

  • Pay more attention to your partner. Listen to understand him / her.  Even when you disagree, rather than reply right away, find the sense he / she makes; e.g., “what you’re saying makes sense because…”
  • Notice the behaviors of your partner that make you feel loved, and tell him / her.
  • Do the behaviors that make your partner feel loved.
  • Notice the traits of your partner that you admire.  Make a list of them and tell him / her.
  • When your partner is dressed and ready to go someplace, notice and mention how nice s/he looks, paying particular attention to one or two details.  “I love your hair like that”; or “you look so nice in that dress”.
  • What is your partner’s love language?  For example, if it’s physical touch or affection, be sure to initiate a kiss or hug.  If it’s quality time, be the one to ask your partner to go on a date where you can pay attention to him / her.
  • Be more intentionally romantic.  Change up the bedroom.  Change the habits. Chances are one of you typically initiates sex. If you are not the one who fulfills that role, step into it by seducing your partner. Surprise!  If you are the one who most often initiates, change things up with something romantic that will help your partner feel deeply understood. You want your partner to want to want sex.  That is most likely going to happen when you stop pushing and start getting her / him. Go back to #1 above for a minute.  Feeling deeply understood is a powerful aphrodisiac.  Feeling “gotten” by your partner was likely part of your initial (and intense) attraction.  This is true in the bedroom.  It’s about both people feeling pleasure.
  • Plan a date that is fun for both of you.
  • If you’d like to be more connected and intentional about your relationship, consider attending a Getting the Love You Want weekend workshop for couples.
  • If you find that you have more negatives than positives, consider seeing an Imago Relationship Therapist.

Happy New Year!

When the Relationship Falls Apart

The condition of being “in Love” is among the strongest of all tugs we can experience. We are drawn like zombies into this state with reckless abandon, eschewing common sense or otherwise typical characteristics of decision making. But it is no wonder, really, when you consider what is happening in our brain: the blissful glow sought the world over overtakes us. We feel alive, complete, full of joy. We feel sexy, romantic, hyper-focused on our sensual experience. We are in LOVE!

This stage of relationship is an altered state. The drug was not ingested, except through your senses, but this limbic activity has made you deliriously happy (if high) in the company of your lover.

So here’s our brain on the love drugs: dopamine, oxytocin, vasopressin, phenethylamine (PEA), norepinephrine, and others! We feel amazing, and If that person made me feel this good, then sign me up for life!

Eventually, however, we habituate to the drug. Once it wears off, we want another hit, right? Of course! So how to go about getting our partner to love us the way they did the first few months we were together?

You would think that one would try to be seductive, listening, attending, complimenting, attractive, warm, welcoming, smiling, thoughtful and considerate.

But actually, we get mad, pout, cry, yell, throw a tantrum, withdraw and expect someone to come along and fix it for us. We do this unconsciously and irrationally. It doesn’t work, obviously.

We call this stage the power struggle, and it is also an altered state, except this time, it’s a bad, bad trip. What was in that stuff? We feel awful. We want out, and we become desperate to end the pain.

Here are our options:

Stay in this state. Not an option without something to ease the pain, right??

Leave and start over with someone new. Is this really a good option? Please accept this is a gentle reminder that it’s not about who we’re with; it’s about what we need to learn from this. Or else we’ll just go repeat the pattern with someone new.

Work through it and get to the good place together. The place where we grow, and can language our needs effectively. The place where we can hear and be heard.

Getting the Love You Want is a workshop for couples who want to journey out of the power struggle and into the stage of conscious love. This is the third and most satisfying stage of the relationship, because it involves waking up and growing together into a completely different and more desirable place, where we can actually get our needs met. The secret is full awareness that there are two of us; we are a we; not a me. The other secret involves learning the skills and abilities to grow toward happiness, using effective communication, and loving more intentionally without defenses. Listening, hearing, understanding, and caring.

Learn how in the next workshop September 18-20, 2015 at DuBose Conference Center in Monteagle, Tennessee. I would love to be your tour guide as we take this journey together.

The weekend is safe; you will never have to talk publicly about your personal relationship. No dirty laundry! I teach by leading discussions that are completely optional, and perhaps more importantly by giving you dialogues which are done in breakout I deliver the workshop with your privacy in mind at all times.

This will be my 41st workshop, and in all 40 workshops, I have never had anyone who said anything negative about it. Most common words are “safe”, “warm” “amazing” and “connected”. The most recent workshop yielded this comment in the evaluation: “This workshop saved my marriage”.

If you have questions or want to register, you can visit my website or contact me personally.


Learning to Love

“Learn to Love”. This was the message that gently pulled me into consciousness this morning. I was dreaming; yet I was also waking. I could hear it and see it in my sleepy transition. I opened my eyes, realizing these three little words perfectly answered my recent prayer: “God, please show me the way”. Answer: “Learn to Love”.

Indeed; these three words sum up answered prayers and new years Resolutions. They are the formula for addressing pain, anxiety, grief, sadness, violence, hate, war, hunger and poverty. They are the answer to existential questions. They call forth our potential. They provide a map for the future, and reconciliation for the past. They probably even answer the question of what we’re seeking when we open the refrigerator door, only to stare at its contents.

If Love is the answer (and it is), then learning to Love is the formula. Learning to Love is a practice of trying, failing, and trying again; gleaning just enough wisdom with each attempt to restore hope and keep us going. Learning to Love is a daily train ride with Curiosity as the Engineer. Rocking back and forth, we pass sights and sounds that display our imperfections; formidable to witness or experience, let alone address. Yet, when we learn to replace judgment and fear with Love, Curiosity takes us to new and meaningful places, which make so much more sense than our childish temper tantrums in futile attempts toward self-importance.

Learning to Love problems and challenges shrinks them, and makes room for the answers. Learning to Love when things go “wrong”, we find the elusive life lesson. Learning to Love when there is “not enough”, we discover profound peace in appreciating what we already have. Learning to Love instead of stress, we find enlightenment in the present moment. Even traffic jams and long lines provide the spaces between the notes that make the music. There is no such thing as “wasted time” when we slow down and notice what speed would otherwise blur into oblivion.

Learning to Love what we do, no matter what it is, leads us to Mastery, which is one stop before Joy on Curiosity’s train ride.
When we learn to Love that hamster spinning on the wheel in our brain, we slow the little guy down until he looks a lot like Buddha.
Learning to pour Love into the space between us and our perceived enemies, we discover there are no real enemies; only scared people. Fear is the enemy, hatred is its weapon; Love is the answer.

Learn to Love those who drive us nuts, push our buttons and get on our last nerve, because these are our esteemed teachers of patience. Curiosity is there to help.

Aging or sickness teach us to Love our body unconditionally. And unconditional love is what heals.

Learn to Love is often the advice of the dying person, who gets that learning to Love each other helps us grow up and find our place closer to God.

In 2015, I have one New Year’s resolution: Learn to Love. That should do it.
Happy New Year, with lots of Love!

Have Fun!

What is one surprise that would delight your partner?  It doesn’t have to be expensive, but shake the snow globe of brain chemistry.  Add some random fun.

l32140-surprise-gift-design-32409When we are associated with fun, safety and attractiveness for our partner (as opposed to… oh I don’t know… frustrated, grumpy, tired), then partner will respond.  If negativity has been choking the relationship for a while, partner may at first find it hard to trust, as in thinking you are an impostor.  Do it anyway.

Here are some ideas for surprises:  breakfast or coffee in bed, candlelight dinner, make a playlist of music you listened to when you were dating; make a valentine in August; give your partner a new experience (novelty = improved chemistry).  Be sure the experience is something your partner wants, though.  Offer a massage.  If you have a little extra money, suggest a getaway.   You get the point.

The chemistry of novelty made it all exciting once.  If it’s dull, predictable or negative now, you can change that.  Stop waiting for your partner to change.

Thoughts and behaviors create the feeling — not the other way around.

Want fun?  Be fun.

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