Here's your Monthly Digest packed full of amazing Imago Relationship Blogs and Relationship Tips. Learn how to get out of a relationship rut, create a healthy brain by showing appreciation, discover exercises to create lasting love, explore new lesbian relationship advice, explore what death teaches us, create healthy personal boundaries, unmask and become a more authentic partner, and dig underneath anger to understand how to manage it and heal what's really going on!
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Are you an established couple with the average number of ups and downs which would like to return your relationship to their original state of love, romance, adventure, and connection?
Or, are you in a new relationship, and curious about how to make love last?
Either way, there are seven key items with exercises and tips you'll need for a lasting love, which will likely lead to an immediate improvement if practiced.
Tip #1 - Return Your Relationship to Priority Status.
If you want the warm, juicy connection of love to last, you will have to make your partner your highest priority. Because we live in an age when an individual’s whims, wishes, and wants too often take precedence over his or her committed relationship, you may not even know what it truly means to put your relationship and your partner first. But when you were in the romantic stage of the relationship, you did this automatically. Now, you will need to set an intention. To return your partner to priority status will require a focused, conscious effort on your part. How do you make this “conscious” effort? It’s a two-step process...
As I started thinking about this question, I had to laugh. Why? What’s so funny about an angry spouse? Nothing, really.
I giggled because I know all too well about anger these days. Just this morning, my spouse asked me this question! “Honey, why do you seem so angry lately?” Well, here was my reply to him - via text message too!
"Because I’ve been stuck in this house for months. COVID-19 is still raging, and I know people who are sick and dying. The EU won’t let me into France so that I can visit my only grandchildren. Our country is racially, politically, and culturally divided like never before. I don’t feel safe at restaurants, my hair salon, or the gym. I miss my friends. I miss singing at church. I am worried that my elderly father and uncle might die before I see them again. I’m furious that my aunt’s funeral was on Zoom. I hate this Sheltering at Home weight around my middle. AND, frankly, you’re starting to really annoy me!"
As a Marriage Therapist working online through Zoom for the past five months, I’ve heard a lot about anger from the couples I see. One of my colleagues, Lee Miller, LMFT, taught me that the times we are living in are called VUCA. This is apparently a term used by military leaders to describe the climate of difficult situations and determine the best leadership strategy to move forward. The acronym VUCA stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. As she points out, we are certainly living in VUCA times!
You don’t have to look very far to see examples of anger in our culture. It shows up in the news as domestic violence, child abuse, and workplace disruption. We are angry, stressed-out people who don’t seem to know how to control ourselves very well.
Mental Health Professionals can View Anger as a “Secondary” Emotion. It’s like an overlay for softer, more vulnerable feelings. Sometimes anger is more energizing than the underlying emotions from which it tries to protect us. Soft emotions like sadness and fear can be debilitating. What feelings come up in you when you consider 2020 so far?
If you are looking for ways to create a deeper connection and better overall communication with your partner, Imago Relationship Therapists can assist with a powerful technique that takes only minutes each day.
The Imago Appreciation Practice is a simple daily practice that has a positive impact on the brain and therefore adds profound value to your relationship.
It's easy to learn and incorporate into your daily life too! You'll only need to take a few moments each day to think of three things you appreciate about your partner. These three things can be anything you value. Ideally, you'll include items you've taken for granted or do not mention often. You can consider and include:
Acts of service/kind deeds/chores
Keeping in mind, these are not items you typically say "thank you" for, like "I appreciate you handing me that fork." No. This is in addition to your daily good manners of "please" and "thank you."
The idea is that you create a sacred time together each day, sit face-to-face (in person if possible) to share and connect. And both people in the couple do this.[Read more...]
We are adjusting and re-adjusting to living in a new normal during the pandemic of COVID-19, and wearing a mask is no longer a once a year thing we enjoyed during October for Halloween parties.
This got me to thinking. Since we are now putting on our daily masks for health and safety and having to socially distance from those we used to hug and feel close, how has this shifted the masks we wear internally in all our relationships?
Many of us often hide the real versions of ourselves in a relationship for fear that if the person we're with, they truly knew the person behind the mask that they might run away in fear. These masks inevitably become embedded and morphed into our ideal selves. Our masks become the version of ourselves we project to the world to be accepted and even loved by others.
So how do we un-mask to allow others to see us authentically?
This is sometimes difficult for us to do, as it requires us to be vulnerable and allow our true selves to be seen or heard. For us to be vulnerable, it involves risk…and yes, it's scary but absolutely necessary if you want to be truly known and loved. When we step into vulnerability, we rid ourselves of external expectations often installed by societal norms.
It happens easily! Unconsciously and unintentionally we cross over the not so visible boundary lines with our partners, friends, colleagues, and children because we are not thinking.
We can even be on automatic pilot, distracted, angry, sad, scared, tired, or tense and before we know it…. We’ve said something or done something that dishonors both of us in the relationship.
Crossing boundaries can result in pain in our relationship and may just be a slip of an attitude, a word, or even an action. Unfortunately, these actions in boundary-crossing can cause BIG tears in the fabric of our marriages and relationships.
So, let’s take a closer look at some typical boundary violations that occur in relationships. Are any of these happening in your relationship today?
Four Types of Personal Boundaries
- Emotionally Intrusive/Rejective Messages...
It's normal to experience a relationship rut once we've "landed" our partner.
Our relationship excitement, and all the things we felt motivated us to "land it" become more of the background as time goes on. And, the rest of life becomes more of the foreground for both partners.
What we had, in the beginning, was actually called conscious intentionality. At the start of the relationship, we focused on our partner and thought about what would make them happy, please them, and make us alluring. We were mostly agreeable, pleasing, and looked for ways to let them know how important they were. Great stuff!
It can be beautiful and relaxing to settle into the reliability and familiarity that a committed relationship offers. Commitment can be very healthy. However, once we settle into a committed life together, other priorities can take over, and it's important not to "relax" too much where this dynamic starts to occur... "You're already mine, so I don't have to prove anything" and taking your partner for granted.
Here's an example of how easy commitment can turn into a dynamic where we take our partner for granted and stop trying...
Lesbian couples are different in many ways from their heterosexual and gay male couple peers. However, lesbian couples are not particularly different from one another.
There are some very common issues among female pairings, and I will be offering Relationship Advice for Lesbian Couples for five of the most common issues.
Despite the endless stereotyping about what a lesbian is, women who love women are impressively diverse. If you find yourself doubting that, it's because those who don't meet the lesbian stereotype go unnoticed. However, when it comes to lesbian relationships, we are remarkably similar in the types of issues we experience.
Unlike heterosexual women, lesbians do not have easy access to information about what a typical lesbian relationship looks like. Rare is the lesbian who finds herself in the break room at work, sharing stories about her wife and their relationship. Additionally, the experiences that heterosexual women describe are often not relatable for lesbians.
For example, how many heterosexual women do you hear expressing concern that her husband is best friends with the girlfriend he had before he married her? Or, how often have you heard a heterosexual woman express concern that her husband is constantly trying to read her mind and worries non-stop about whether or she's feeling okay?
So, here is today's Relationship Advice for Lesbian Couples...
There is no easy way to write about death that doesn't risk trivializing it or being overwhelmed by it. Fortunately, I have never suffered a tragedy, such as the loss of a child or spouse or family member before their natural time. You don't have to lose someone or face your own death to learn from it.
I have spent a lot of time personally and professionally with people who have had to grapple with the questions that none of us have answers:
Why did this happen?
What did I do wrong?
How can I make this pain go away?
If I could only have...
With all the pain of loss and grief, I do like one aspect of what death does to those left behind: it pushes out all the extraneous noise of our lives and forces us to deal with only that which really matters. Most often, someone who has been shattered by a loss is very, very real. It's almost like you're speaking to someone on a drug when what comes out is pure, true, and undefended.
I find such experience deeply grounding, and I enjoy being in an atmosphere of such truth. It is at such times that I understand what might draw someone to work in hospice care. The opportunity to work in an environment where everything is on the line, where there is no point in pretense, where life is stripped down to the bare essentials: it seems to me it's like a spiritual backpack trip. You have only what you really need to survive; everything else is extra baggage you don't want to carry. You are reminded of how little you really need, and how simple and pure life can be.
Sometimes when I'm working with a couple, and they're sniping at each other over the "he said/she said" of married life, I cut through the static with the following intervention:
I have them sit across from each other and fill in the blank to the sentence - "If I knew I was going to die tomorrow, what I would want you to know today is..."
We hope you've enjoyed reading our Imago Relationships health and wellness blogs & tips this month. If you love quizzes, be sure to check out our Imago Relationships Quizzes!
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