Why Does This Feel Vaguely Familiar?

Remember Mike and Genevieve from the last blog?  Here they are again talking about an idea developed by marriage and relationship therapists Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt.  They are the co-founders of Imago Relationship Therapy, and one of the foundations of this model is the idea that we carry an unconscious image or “imago”, that is an amalgamation of the positive and negative attributes of our parents or primary caregivers.  The story goes that we are unconsciously attracted to people who match up with the positives list in our “imago” and this is what pulls us into falling in love, only to find, as the rosy glow of early romance fades, that our lover also has a bunch of really annoying habits that match the negatives in our unconscious “imago”.

I like the saying “A theory is an idea in search of the truth”.  Imago theory and the idea of our partners being an “imago match” seems to hold up a lot of the time with the couples I work with.

Here are Mike and Genevieve talking about The Imago Match

Just Listen To Me For Once!

There you are, once again, trying to talk sense to your partner and all they can do is argue back!  Or maybe its the other way around, they are trying to get something across to you, but you have already got your back up and you are only listening long enough to be able to formulate your defence or counter-attack.  Sound familiar?

Several bodies of research show that most conflicts that have a painful “charge” are only 10% about the present situation and 90% about some past wound that is causing pain now.  We don’t tend to act very logically or consciously in situations that carry an emotional  charge, and consequently we often make matters worse when we would like them to be better.

When there is tension in the air we really owe it to ourselves, our partner, our relationship, to slow down, make a really conscious effort to be constructive and if you are on the receiving end, make a big effort to really understand your partner.

Now this is not an easy thing to do by any means.  Below is a neat little video of a real life couple demonstrating Imago Therapies “Couples Dialogue”.  This video can also be found as part of a series on the Imago International website here

Regards Ben.

PS Please leave a comment, or hit one of the social media buttons to help me share the love.

 

 

Who Wants to Change? Not Me!

Every time a couple tackles a thorny problem requiring change, they go through a predictable sequence of steps to make that change. I believe the same sequence happens when parents and children, or even flat-mates, are engaged in solving a problem that requires change.   The sequence of change involves a journey from denial to commitment and action; but its not a linear journey, it usually has its share of roadblocks, false starts, unhelpful detours etc, so commitment and perseverance are big factors in success.

Watch the video below to see Pete Pearson and Ellyn Bader go through the stages of change as they conquer the problem of clutter in their home. Pete and Ellyn are the co-founders of The Couples Institute in San Fransisco, and Ellyn was one of my teachers in couples therapy a few years back.

Please leave a comment by clicking on the reply button above, or in the box below, I would love to hear from you.

 

 

It’s Not About The Nail….

Do you tend to just jump right in to solving your partners problems as soon as you hear them, and then wonder why they get upset with you when all you are trying to do is be helpful?  Frustrating right?  If this is you the chances are you are a man, or the go-to problem solver type.

As a generalisation women tend to respond to a problem by turning to their friends, and sharing the problem.  The experience of the other person getting them and responding with understanding and empathy has a connecting and calming effect that’s facilitated by the production of feel-good chemicals in the brain such as oxytocin.  This calming effect reinforces connection in the face of a problem.

A majority of men on the other hand tend to respond to a problem as if it were a threat, something to be repelled or avoided rather than an opportunity for connection.  When we experience a real or perceived threat we get a shot of adrenaline, which is a fight or flight activator and pushes us towards action rather than connection or curiosity.  So we want to jump right in and solve the problem, but in doing this our partners are left feeling unseen and disconnected.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes our partners don’t just want us to listen.  Sometimes they would like some kind of help or advice, but you will be in a much better place to offer what’s needed or ask about that after you have really tuned in to them and got what it is they are experiencing.

Ask your partner to use the phrase “Its not about the nail…..” next time you are missing them, and the chance to connect, by being unhelpfully helpful.

Check out this great video to see this in action.

 

 

 

 

 

Maybe Your Apologies Fall On Deaf Ears

In my last post I wrote about how to give an effective apology, and many of you took the opportunity to download the free guide Three Steps to an Effective Apology. However, it’s always possible that although you practiced and then implemented the three steps outlined in the report, your apology seemed to fall on deaf ears. Your partner hardly noticed your attempt to make amends and just went right on sulking, fuming, nit-picking, criticising, yelling or whatever they where doing in the first place. Or maybe the shoe was on the other foot; your partner made a pretty good attempt at apologising to you, but you really didn’t feel like cutting them any slack at all!

Ironically couples in troubled relationships make more repair attempts (attempting to repair the damaged connection between them) than couples who are happy together, but their attempts repeatedly fail. They are met with defensiveness, sarcasm, blame etc or their attempts to reconnect just don’t get noticed because of the backlog of negativity between them.

If this is you, don’t despair, you don’t have to somehow magically become happy together in order to be heard. Here are a couple of things that you can do that will make a difference. Softening up your tone when you are making the attempt will help, or listen to the words rather than the tone if you are on the receiving end. Secondly, make your attempts obvious, maybe even a little formal, in order to cut through the negativity and make it obvious that you are wanting to get back on track. This is were the Three Steps to an Effective Apology comes into its own.

To finish off, here is a short list of less structured repair statements to use when you first notice things getting off track; “Can I take that back?”, “Ouch, that hurt”, “Did I say something wrong?”, “Lets start over again”, “lets take a little break”, “I need to calm down, give me a few moments”, “I’m feeling defensive, could you rephrase that”, “sorry, that came out wrong”, or in the right context a goofy smile, a warm touch or even a good humored salute can work wonders.

Cheers & catch you again soon, Ben.