Love, Communication & Touch
Clear communication is a window into the world of your partner; truly being heard is a powerful aphrodisiac
By Harvelle Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt
September 10, 2021
The Latin word “imago”—meaning “image”—refers to the “unconscious image of familiar love.” What we find is that there is frequently a connection between frustrations in adult relationships and early childhood experiences. As an example, individuals frequently criticized as a child will likely be highly sensitive to their partner’s criticism. Childhood feelings of abandonment, suppression or neglect will often arise in a marriage or committed relationship.
When such “core issues” repeatedly come up with a partner, they can overshadow all that is good in a relationship and leave one to wonder whether he or she has chosen the right mate.
Through Imago Relationship Therapy, couples can learn to understand each other’s feelings and “childhood wounds” more empathically, allowing them to heal themselves and their relationships so they can move toward a more “Conscious Relationship.”
As illustrated in Dr. Hendrix’s New York Times bestselling book, Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples, learning and teaching the “Imago Dialogue” allows couples to move from blame and reactivity, to understanding and empathy, so they can create a deeper and loving connection with each other.
From conflict to hope
At some point in their relationship, couples often find themselves struggling with anger and shock, despair and sadness. Some are newlyweds, and can’t understand how they have plummeted from the heights of love and glory into a swamp of hopelessness and conflict. Others have been married for many years, and though they have been slogging along – in calm or storm – their days of wine and roses are a dim memory. Even if life at home is relatively peaceful, couples lament that they have “nothing in common anymore.” And so they lead a disappointed or angry co-existence, each with their own friends and interests, in a marriage of convenience, or an arrangement they endure “for the sake of the children.”
Shattered dreams, whatever form they take, are painful. But there is hope. In fact, the pain and conflict of committed relationships arise not out of lack of love for our partners, but from a misunderstanding of what love relationships are about. Your conflict can be the very fuel for the fulfillment you seek.
Why do we fall in love?
What is really happening when we fall in–and out of–love?
What’s really going on when couples fight?
To gain insight into the hidden agenda of a relationship, we need to look at the complex process of human growth and development, and at how we human beings fit into the larger scheme of things.
We believe that we are creatures of nature, with the evolutionary program of our species encoded in our genes, and that we all begin life in a state of relaxed and joyful bliss. If our caretakers are attuned to our wants and needs, ready and able to provide warmth safety and sustenance, our feelings of aliveness and well-being are sustained. We remain whole.
But even in the best of circumstances, our parents are not able to maintain perfect standards, to be available every minute, to always understand exactly what is needed or to meet every demand. Tired, angry, depressed, busy, ill, distracted, afraid–our parents fail to sustain our feelings of security and comfort.
Every unmet need causes fear and pain and, in our infantile ignorance, we have no idea how to stop it and restore our feeling of safety. As a response, we adopt primitive coping mechanisms ranging from constant crying to get attention to withdrawing inward and denying that we even have needs. Meanwhile, throughout our childhood, we are also being socialized, molded by our caretakers and communities to fit into society. Observant and malleable, we learn what to do to gain love and acceptance. We repress or disown parts of ourselves that society finds unacceptable or unlovable. Our sense of “allrightness” diminishes, and we end up as shadows of our whole, true selves.
Most of us had “good enough” caretakers; we do all right. Some of us didn’t fare so well, and our lives are handicapped by deep hurts. All of us were wounded in childhood to some extent. We are now coping as well as we can with the world and our relationships, but parts of our true nature were suppressed in the unconscious. We look grown up–we have jobs and responsibilities–but we are walking wounded, trying to live life fully while unconsciously hoping to somehow restore the sense of joyful aliveness we began with.
When we fall in love, we believe we’ve found that sense of joyful aliveness! Suddenly, we see life in technicolor. We nibble each others’ ears and tell each other everything; our limitations and rigidities melt away. We’re sexier, smarter, funnier, more giving. We feel whole, we feel like ourselves. Finally we feel safe, and breathe a sigh of relieved deliverance. It looks like everything is going to turn out all right, after all.
Why does falling in love go wrong?
But inevitably–often when we marry or move in together–things just start to go wrong. In some cases, all hell breaks loose. The veil of illusion falls away, and it seems that our partners are different than we thought they were. It turns out they have qualities that we can’t bear. Even qualities we once admired grate on us. Old hurts are reactivated as we realize that our partners cannot or will not love and care for us as they promised. Our dream shatters.
Disillusionment turns to anger, fueled by fear that we won’t survive without the love and safety that was within our grasp. Since our partner is no longer willingly giving us what we need, we change tactics, trying to maneuver our partners into caring–through anger, crying, withdrawal, shame, intimidation, criticism–whatever works. We will make them love us. Or we may negotiate for time, love, chores, gifts.
The power struggle has begun, and may go on for many years, until we split. Or we settle into an uneasy truce.
What is going on here? Apparently you have found an Imago partner. Someone, I’m afraid, who is uniquely unqualified (at the moment), to give you the love you want.
Furthermore, this is what’s supposed to happen!
Let me explain. We all think that we have freedom of choice when it comes to selecting our partners. But regardless of what it is we think we’re looking for in a mate, our unconscious has its own agenda.
Our primitive “old” brain has a compelling, non-negotiable drive to restore the feeling of aliveness and wholeness that we came into the world with. To accomplish that, it must repair the damage done in childhood as a result of unmet needs, and the way it does that is to find a partner who can give us what our caretakers failed to provide.
You’d think, then, that we would choose someone who has what our caretakers lacked. If only that were so! But the old brain has a mind of its own, with its own checklist of desired qualities. It is carrying around its own image of the perfect partner, a complex synthesis of qualities formed in reaction to the way our caretakers responded to our needs. Every pleasure or pain, every transaction of childhood, has left its mark on us, and these collective impressions form an unconscious picture we’re always trying to replicate as we scan our environment for a suitable mate.
This image of “the person who can make me whole again” I call the Imago.
Though we consciously seek only the positive traits, the negative traits of our caretakers are more indelibly imprinted in our Imago picture, because those are the traits which caused the painful experiences we now seek to heal. Our unconscious need is to have our feelings of aliveness and wholeness restored by someone who reminds us of our caretakers. In other words, we look for someone with the same deficits of care and attention that hurt us in the first place.
So when we fall in love, when bells ring and the world seems altogether a better place, our old brain is telling us that we’ve found someone with whom we can finally get our needs met. Unfortunately, since we don’t understand what’s going on, we’re shocked when the awful truth of our beloved surfaces, and our first impulse is to run screaming in the opposite direction.
But that’s not all the bad news. Another powerful component of our Imago is that we seek the qualities missing in ourselves that got lost in the shuffle of socialization. If we are shy, we seek someone outgoing; if we’re disorganized, we’re attracted to someone cool and rational. But eventually, when our own feelings—our repressed exuberance or anger—are stirred, we are uncomfortable, and criticize our partners for being too outgoing, too coldly rational, to temperamental.
Why is conflict good!?
Being aware of ourselves is the key; it changes everything.
When we understand that we have chosen our partners to heal certain painful experiences, and that the healing of those experiences is the key to the end of longing, we have taken the first step on the journey to real love.
What we need to understand and accept is that conflict is supposed to happen. This is as nature intended it: Everything in nature is in conflict. Conflict is a sign that the psyche is trying to survive, to get its needs met and become whole. It’s only without this knowledge that conflict is destructive.
Divorce does not solve the problems of relationship. We may get rid of our partners, but we keep our problems, carting them into the next relationship. Divorce is incompatible with the intentions of nature.
Romantic love is supposed to end. It is the glue that initially bonds two incompatible people together so that they will do what needs to be done to heal themselves.
The good news is that although many couples become hopelessly locked in the power struggle, it too is supposed to end.
Regardless of what we may believe, relationships are not born of love, but of need; real love is born in relationships, as a result of understanding what they are about and doing what is necessary to have them.
You may already be with your dream partner, but at the moment, he or she is in disguise–and, like you, in pain. A Conscious Relationship itself is the practice you need to restore your sense of aliveness. The goal of Imago Practice is to change the power struggle and set you on the path of real love.
How to make conflict bring us closer
Many couples’ problems are rooted in misunderstood, manipulated, or avoided communications. To correct this, we have created the Imago Dialogue, the core skill of Imago Practice.
Using this effective communications technique, you can restructure the way you talk to each other, so that what you say to each other is mirrored back to you, is validated, and empathized with. You can use the Imago Dialogue to tell each other all about your childhoods, to state your frustrations clearly, and to articulate exactly what you need from each other in order to heal.
Clear communication is a window into the world of your partner; truly being heard is a powerful aphrodisiac.
Over time, we move from a staring at exteriors to a sharing of interiors, as we learn to participate in the emotional realm of the other, while holding onto our own, separate experience.
Initially, Dialogue may feel artificial. With practice, it will become seamless and connecting.
In the Dialogue, both partners cross a bridge into each other’s worlds, motivated not only by the Receiver’s desire to be “hear and understand” but also to meet the Sender’s need to be “heard and understood.” The Dialogue fosters intentionality, a commitment to slow down our lives and devote specific uninterrupted time to our relationships. The Dialogue ultimately says to the other, “I respect your otherness; I want to learn from it. And I want to share mine with you.”
One of the greatest learnings of Dialogue is the discovery of two distinct worlds. Whenever two people are involved, there are always two realities. These realities will always be different in small and large ways, no matter what. And the reality of the other person can be understood, accepted, valued, and even loved but not made to be identical to our own.
Finding true love
The Dialogue must also be turned into action: we give our partners what they need, and not just what is easy to give. Now we come to the heart of the matter: in a Conscious relationship we agree to change in order to give our partner what s/he needs. This is a radical idea. Conventional wisdom says that people don’t change, that we should simply learn to accept each other as we are. But without change, there is no growth; we are confined to the fate, to remaining stuck in our unhappiness.
Change is the catalyst for healing. In changing to give our partners what they need, we heal our own painful experiences. Our own behavior was born in response to our particular deprivations; it is our adaptation to loss. In giving our partners what is hardest for us to give, we have to bring our hidden selves out into the light, owning and enlivening parts of ourselves. When we change our behavior in response to our mate, we heal our partner and ourselves.
I call the process by which we alter our entrenched behaviors to give our partners what they need stretching, for it requires that we conquer our fears and do what comes unnaturally. Our resistance reflects our defenses. Often we may feel that we’re losing ourselves but we are not ourselves now; it is in the crucible of change that we regain ourselves.
Over the course of time, as our partners demonstrate their love for us, as they learn about and accept our hidden selves, and as we stretch to love our partners, our pain and self-absorption diminishes. We restore our empathic feelings for our partners, and our feelings of connection to the other that were lost in the pain of our childhood. Finally we learn to see our partners for themselves, with their own private world of personal meaning, their own ideas and dreams, and not merely as extensions of ourselves, or as we wish they were. We no longer say, “You liked that awful movie?”, but rather “Tell me why you liked that movie. I want to know how you think.”
Finally, we can relax; everything is all right.
A conscious relationship is a spiritual path which leads us home again, to joy and aliveness, to the feeling of oneness we started out with. All through the course of Imago Practice, we learn to express love as a behavior daily, in large and small ways: in other words, in stretching to give our partner what they need, we learn to love. The transformation of our relationships may not be accomplished easily or quickly; we are setting off on a lifelong journey.
The Surprising Benefits of Doing Nothing
Amid the ‘great resignation,’ some Americans are accomplishing more by doing less
By Sofia Jeremias Aug 25, 2021, 10:00pm MDT
Celeste Headlee pushed her nose right through the grindstone. After years of putting in long hours as a journalist and public speaker she decided it wasn’t worth it. Despite making good money, and having control of her schedule, she wasn’t enjoying the fruits of her labor. Headlee had become impatient and irritable, and she had stopped enjoying activities that used to bring her joy. Simply put, she wasn’t happy. She wanted to enjoy spending time with friends and family again, to realign her life around the things that mattered most.
She started researching the history of labor and work culture in hopes of healing herself. She realized it wasn’t going to be simple; the right app or a digital detox wouldn’t dissolve her malaise. After talking with friends and family members who also admitted feeling more tired and stressed out than ever, she used her research to write “Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving.”
The pandemic has encouraged many people to reevaluate their professional lives. Call it burnout, languishing or simply the realization that life is too short, but many workers are not thrilled to return to the status quo. Four million people in the U.S. quit their jobs in April, while 40% of the global workforce was considering quitting this summer as some employers started mandating that they return to the office. Many have cited feeling exhausted from overextending themselves through lockdown and other implications of COVID-19. Economists have taken to calling this shift the “great resignation.”
In an interview with Deseret, Headlee explains some of the key lessons of her book, how she’s been managing to take her own advice and how the global pandemic gave us an opportunity to recalibrate our values.
Deseret News: COVID-19 forced many people to work from home for the first time. Do you think the past year exacerbated the tendency to overwork? Or do you think it provided some folks the opportunity to slow down and reconsider their habits?
Celeste Headlee: When the pandemic hit, I was convinced that in order to cope with the incredible stress, trauma and anxiety of COVID we were going to make the wrong choices. I was right. People started working longer hours, taking more meetings and spending hours at a time at their computers without standing up. They allowed work to claim every part of their home. People also brought home their toxic productivity habits. They became someone who not only made sourdough bread, but baked the ultimate sourdough bread. But they also had a dawning realization that it was too much. There was a purpose to all the things our parents and grandparents used to do, from playing card games to stamp collecting to polishing rocks. The purpose was leisure.
DN: I love how you mention cross-stitching as an activity that brings you joy but isn’t productive. Why is it so important to have hobbies that are simply for pleasure?
CH: One study showed that people felt even more impatient while listening to beautiful music if you made them think about how much their hourly pay was. If you want to enjoy your life and what you do, stop thinking about whether it’s adding to your brand or making you money.
DN: In your book, you talk about the concept of “polluted time.” Can you explain what that is and why it’s harmful?
CH: “Polluted time” is when work creeps in on our free time. If you’re at dinner with a friend or a family member and a work notification comes in, even if you don’t check it, your focus is going to be pulled away and it will take about 15 minutes to fully refocus on that person. When you pollute your time you start to feel like you’re short on it. That’s going to make your empathy, compassion, patience, tolerance drop. When your brain has a sense of scarcity of any kind, your IQ declines by 13 or 14 points. This has a massive impact because you become more impulsive and make terrible decisions, resulting in an even greater sense of scarcity. Things become a crisis.
DN: You write about the “default mode network,” an important mental state where we put past events into context, imagine the future and make moral evaluations, and you say it can only be accessed when we allow our minds to wander. How do you activate your default mode network? And what benefits have you seen?
CH: It’s simple. I leave my phone in another room, I move away from all screens and I sit down. And I just sit there until I start to feel bored, which happens pretty fast. I’ll let that feeling of boredom wash over me, and it’s not pleasant. But your brain basically turns into this manic librarian, racing through the stacks of your mind pulling stuff out and saying, “Hey what about this?” And that’s when you start to have these creative thoughts, when you start to surprise yourself with what you remember.
DN: You mentioned that you have one untouchable day every week where you don’t look at your email or phone. Have you been able to keep it up?
CH: I have not been able to keep it up on a weekday because people have been so anxious during the time of COVID, and, if I don’t respond to somebody for a full 24 hours, they start to worry. But I do on the weekend. I log off my social media Friday afternoon, and I won’t look at my email inbox until Monday, and it’s the best thing ever. I gotta tell you, it’s hard at first to let go like that. But at one point I was outside walking my dog, wandering down this forest path and thinking, “I haven’t even thought about email for hours.”
DN: Disconnecting to that degree seems impossible for a lot of people. The only way I’ve figured out how to do it is by backpacking in places where I am forced to live without cell service. What would you say to people who feel they need to stay connected or who work at companies where that’s the expectation?
CH: Pretend that every Saturday or Sunday you’re taking a backpacking trip and on those days put an email notification on your inbox that says, “I’m away from the office today. If it’s urgent, call me. Otherwise I’ll get back to you tomorrow.” You’ll discover that nobody calls, which means nothing is urgent. It’s been about three years since I started doing untouchable days, and I’ve only gotten a couple calls during that time. All of my fears about what would go wrong never materialized.
DN: You write that humans can’t truly multitask, and that trying to do so is just slowing us down. What’s happening in the brain when we try to talk on the phone while checking our email?
CH: There’s maybe 1% or 2% of the world’s population that can truly multitask without seeing a massive loss of productivity and intellect, but over 70% of people think they’re in that group. Probably the worst effect is that it can cause real, lasting damage to your brain, and those who try to do it on a regular basis have a loss of brain density, specifically the area where you have self-control, empathy and compassion. And it’s not helping you get more things done. That’s an illusion.
| SENIORS WHO REUNITE WITH OLD FLAMES
August 15, 2021
Rekindling a romance has become trendy since the creation of web sites to find old classmates, people search engines, and now social networking websites, but it is not a new phenomenon. I have been researching rekindled romances since 1993. A majority of my survey participants (55 percent) chose to reunite with someone they loved when they were 17 or younger – their first loves. And another 29 percent chose a former sweetheart from late adolescence (ages 18 to 22).
Some individuals reported “returning” to people they considered lost loves from when they were 8, 9, or 10 years old. Participants older than 65, especially, reunited with these “puppy loves.” These reunions had the same high success rate as reunions of lost loves from high school or college.
The reunited couple grew up in the same community during their formative years, went to school together, shared a peer group, and were often close to their first love’s family. Descriptions of the rekindled romances invariably included “comfortable” and “familiar.” Lack of sexual involvement when these couples were teens neither increased nor diminished the adult couples’ success in the reunion.
Successful senior reunions
Thirty-seven percent of the participants were in their 40s and 50s when they reunited with their lost loves, 10 percent reconnected between the ages of sixty to seventy, and 4 percent were in their 80s or 90s. Longevity, of course, is a factor in the decreasing percentages with age.
Although the number of reunions decreased with age, the success of these reunions increased. In their written comments on the questionnaire, seniors attributed their success to their maturity: improved communication skills, a new-found ability not to “sweat the small stuff,” and knowing exactly how they wanted to spend their later years. They also commented that they lacked tolerance for arguments, so they avoided arguing. These factors have also been reported in research on relationships of seniors with their spouses and their old friends.
The couples’ love had endured through their many years apart and, in the case of widows and widowers, often through very happy intervening marriages. These older reunited couples were more spiritually inclined than the younger participants in the study. They often believed they were soul mates and that a Higher Power brought them back together. One man in his 70s wrote: Where we end up after death, only God knows. But we will surely be together.
Girlfriend draws up 17-page contract for Tinder flame after dating two weeks
September 12, 2021
She’s basically a modern-day Rachel Green, and they are definitely NOT on a break.
Annie Wright, 21, drafted a 17-page relationship contract after dating her now-boyfriend for only two weeks.
While it’s no 18-page letter to Ross Geller, Wright’s contract to her boyfriend Michael Head, 23, was just as extensive.
The contract came with four main objectives: honesty, communication, awareness of partner’s needs and clarity and alignment in their intentions.
“I made the idea as a joke, then he said, ‘No, seriously. We can do that and talk about it,’ ” Wright, an Atlanta, Georgia, native, told Kennedy News.
The couple met last October on Tinder after Wright left a toxic relationship, and she was determined to make this relationship with Head, a law student, work out.
“At the time, I had braces in college, and I was very embarrassed,” said Wright. “It was also pandemic time. But I got to the point where I was like ‘screw it — I’m going on dates with guys and don’t care anymore.’ I matched with almost anybody on Tinder and would tell my matches, ‘I’m going on a walk with my dog at 2 p.m. today — are you free?’ It was a fluke that I met him. I was going on three Tinder dates a week to go out there and meet people.”
Thankfully when Wright met Head they instantly clicked. “He was like, ‘I want us to be boyfriend and girlfriend,’ ” Wright said. “In order to be ready for that, we had to lay some serious ground rules.”
Within the 17-page document, Wright outlined all of her expectations for their relationship, which asked Head for no silent treatment, to pay for date nights and to not isolate her from her loved ones.
“We printed out terms and conditions, I went over to his place, we sat on either end of the bed and read them out loud,” she recalls. “I felt like the biggest issue I had in my last relationship was it felt like boundaries of mine were crossed that I never established. I was like, ‘This time I’ll write them out and no one can cross my boundaries.’ Michael’s also pre-law so he was pretty keen on the idea of making a contract.”
Additionally, she asked for “a romantic gesture once every two weeks” and to work out “at least five times a week.”
“We treat our relationship almost like a business interaction,” Wright told the Sun. “We deal with conflict like partners in business would. We sit down and treat it more like we’re partners in life, and love is an added bonus.”
Clearly something is working for the two of them as they are approaching their anniversary. Wright joked that her boyfriend will want to add a clause or two of his own, including taking off shoes in his apartment, which she “always forgets” to do.
“This has been a game changer,” said Wright, who is surprised more couples don’t draw up contracts. “I’d recommend all couples have one. It’s the best thing ever.
“People just fall into relationships,” said Wright. “This makes me know what I’m signing up for. I live in constant fear of waking up two years into a relationship and realizing my partner doesn’t have the same life plan as me. You’ve put one or two years into a relationship, but you don’t agree on the core things. If you don’t have that core connection, you’re wasting time and prolonging heartbreak. At this point, we update it every six months or so. We’ll visit it.”
The contract, Wright claims, is what contributes to their relationship success.
“We’re partners in this,” Wright said. “We’re agreeing to tackle life together and this is our game plan for doing it.”
| Happy Wife, Happy Life! A Positive Life Partner Fosters Strong Mental Health In Old Age
August 17, 2021
EAST LANSING, Mich. — Marriages and long-term relationships are rarely ever smooth sailing 100% of the time. A life-long partnership between two people is very much a journey that will inevitably experience peaks and valleys. That being said, as anyone who has been in such a relationship can attest, life is usually a whole lot more enjoyable when our significant other is in a good mood. Perhaps, then, we shouldn’t be all that surprised that a new study finds a positive partner will foster good health in their significant other.
Researchers at Michigan State University have concluded that as an individual grows old with a happy life partner, they will see their risk of developing dementia, cognitive decline, or Alzheimer’s disease steadily decline.
“We spend a lot of time with our partners,” comments William Chopik, assistant professor of psychology and co-author of the study, in a university release. “They might encourage us to exercise, eat healthier or remind us to take our medicine. When your partner is optimistic and healthy, it can translate to similar outcomes in your own life. You actually do experience a rosier future by living longer and staving off cognitive illnesses.”
Living with a particularly optimistic partner makes it easier to lead a healthier lifestyle. The research team say that happier partners are much more likely to support their significant other in self-improvement initiatives, such as quitting smoking or visiting the gym more regularly.
“We found that when you look at the risk factors for what predicts things like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, a lot of them are things like living a healthy lifestyle,” Chopik adds. “Maintaining a healthy weight and physical activity are large predictors. There are some physiological markers as well. It looks like people who are married to optimists tend to score better on all of those metrics.”
The study tracked close to 4,500 heterosexual couples, for as long as eight years in some cases. After analyzing the collected data, there was a clear connection between being married to an optimistic person and avoiding dementia or cognitive decline in old age.