n this 30 min. video Thea and I walk you through step by step one of the most transformative exercises you can do for your relationship by imagining it into the love affair of your dreams. You can also download the worksheets by [reading the article here...Huffington Post]
Thea and Duane Harvey, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapists
If you’ve ever wondered why so many New Years resolutions fail, you’re not alone. Part of the reason is doing it alone; the other part is futurizing. A goal is by definition something placed in the future. Therefore it never happens. Turning a goal into a vision, however, brings it into the present moment and stimulates new actions that create and support it. Also, fixing your mind on a goal requires willpower, which is a limited resource, quickly depleted. A vision, on the other hand, as anyone who practices guided mediation can tell you, refuels and replenishes the mind. A vision is a renewable source of energy.
Individual goals and aspirations are undoubtedly important, but why not utilize the most powerful resource you have: your partner. Our brain is, first and foremost, a social organ and functions optimally when in sync with another. Two logs burning on a fire generates more heat than one. So take each resolution, turn it into a relationship goal, and then envision it as if it were already true.
A conventional resolution such as I will lose five pounds has several problems. First the word will puts it perpetually out of reach. Second, the mind reacts strongly to the suggestion of losing anything, so you’ve instantly got an internal fight on your hands. Turn the I into a We, then turn the phrase “lose five pounds” into the action and benefit: We exercise regularly, enjoy healthy foods and fit into our favorite clothes.
When a couple can hold and express this sentence together, it becomes true almost effortlessly because they’ve tricked their brains into acting as if it were real now. It changes behavior.
A successful relationship, one that is inline with your dreams and ideals, requires a shared vision. This couples exercise was created by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt. A vision is a roadmap. It provides direction and focuses your energy and efforts on a goal that you and your partner create together.
When Thea and I first met we talked a lot about relationships, and when I told her about the Relationship Vision, and she burst out: “I’ve always wanted to make a vision board with a boyfriend.” She knew exactly what I was talking about. A Relationship Vision is a visual representation of what you want, a picture of the life you want to build together, but made out of words.
When you see a picture in your mind’s eye, the visual cortex in the brain lights up. It then interprets that image as a command and sends signals to the hypothalamus to start producing hormones and other fuels to get your muscles moving in that direction.
What you see is what you will get. So create a clear picture of where you want to go with your relationship. If you see disaster ahead most likely you will encounter disaster, or make it. If you see a picture of happiness and bliss your brain and body will do all it can to make it so. What you look at is where the muscles in your body, where your decisions, will lead you.
Without a vision your relationship is easily distracted and aimless, you become vulnerable to frequent disagreements and misunderstandings. It seems as if you are constantly at odds with one another. This can be exhausting and demoralizing, making it difficult to get back on track and repair conflicts. Defining your vision turns your energy away from the past, away from frustration and toward the future you want to create. It is a vision of the whole that unifies all the parts of your relationship. It gives direction to each decision and shapes every action.
The first thing to do is make your individual desires explicit and clear. Your own personal dream of a deeply satisfying relationship. If you are single, do this step to clarify what you want, and who you want to be in a relationship. This will focus your dating energies and help you make decisions in finding a mate.
Write about 10 to 15 positive statements in the present tense starting with the word We. (download Our Relationship Vision Form)
For example, We settle our differences peacefully. Rather than, We don’t fight. The “don’t” part of that sentence is struck out by the visual cortex because it is a grammatical construct and not an image. Saying We don’t fight is giving the command: Fight.
Include positive present tense statements that are already working within your relationship and qualities and activities you wish to add.
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email@example.com SUBSCRIBE Once you have your own Vision, make an appointment to share it with your partner. Decide who goes first. While one of you reads the items, the listening partner mirrors and then says “Yes.” When you mirror your partner you repeat back what your partner said without adding any intonation. You want to keep your face relaxed. Mirroring is a mindfulness practice because you are really listening to what your partner is saying rather than thinking about your response.
You say “Yes“, in the spirit of open-mindedness and infinite possibility. You are not agreeing to a time frame or a logistical action.
A Vision is about Dreaming, first and foremost, not about practical reality, at least not yet.
Bring all the items together, working out redundancy and adding important detail. Some items will be similar; some will be different. Everything gets included in one way or another unless it expressly violates a core value. For example: We have an open relationship does not get included unless it is something you both want. If an item does not make it to the co-created Vision, it is used in a different process we can address at another time. It is important to recognize that your partner is different from you and that we grow by including parts of their world and desires into ours. A shared Vision synthesizes your separate dreams and desires. Once you have a co-created Relationship Vision make several copies and post them around your house, on the refrigerator, inside the medicine cabinet, on your phone. For 30 days read it together like a prayer, or a meditation. Turn this into a ritual.
In some ways, a Vision is a mission statement for your relationship. But a statement alone does not have enough energy to convert a dream into reality. Next, we want to walk you through how to ground each item so it becomes real. (download Grounding Your Vision Form)
As an example we are going to walk you through one of our Vision items: We create novel, exploratory dates.
Scheduling novelty dates is vital to keep the passion alive in your relationship. Studies show that doing new activities together stimulate the hormones that keep us attracted to our partner (read our previous article: What Grown-up Marriage Looks Like). How many innovative outings did you experience with your partner last year? Now is the time to set an intention to schedule fresh and fun experiences.
First, turn your Vision item into a goal: To keep the excitement and passion alive by having new experiences and learning about new places, faces, fashion, design!
Next, we articulate the objective or purpose of this goal: To activate each other’s dopamine and norepinephrine receptors, and get the testosterone flowing between us. To experience new places, people, and things, stimulating more conversational and possibility.
Then, add a time frame. Ours is: Monthly, Saturday nights!
Now, write down specific strategies and tactics: Contact Duane’s sister to babysit, start researching newspapers and media outlets for new places around town, such as restaurants, bars, museums, art shows, performances, theater, films, dance clubs, potential friends for double-dating. Plan route, itinerary. Get well rested beforehand. Prepare for spontaneity.
To further ground the vision it is important to engage all five senses. Tuning in to the five senses is also a mindfulness practice to stay present and in the moment. The problem with most relationships is the inability to get out of the past.
The first sense we engage is sight. What would this look like? I wrote: bright lights, Thea’s eyes, people walking, couples, color, sexy dresses, short skirts, menus, food, glasses filled with sparkling liquid, stars, moon, neon art, window shopping displays…
We grounded our vision under sound and included: music, live guitar, street musicians, singing, radio songs, background bass beat, voices, foreign languages, conversations, exclamations, greetings, traffic, horns, background noise...
Under smells, Thea included: wine, beer, roses, gardenias, jasmine, ocean, salt, night mist….
For the tactile sense of touch I wrote: holding Thea’s hand, warmth, moist, tongue, tight, skin of her leg, arms, shoulders, squeeze, hug, face, hair.
Taste: sour, sweet, salty food, salty lips, salty skin, steak, grilled veggies, bitter IPA tang…
These sensory items can be anything that comes to mind, either literal or metaphoric associations. So make them as personal or idiosyncratic as you like.
Then we added the emotions experienced: exhilaration, thrill, surprise, arousal, delight, closeness, desire…satiation.
Next is the payoff, the consequence. What is the benefit of all this concentrated focus? For us, the payoff is: full aliveness, fresh conversations, the renewed vitality of romantic connection, new friends, new learning…
Then the progress report: How did it go? What would you change? What would you add? What would you delete? Overall we are doing pretty well: We could plan events better by scheduling earlier.
Lastly, revise the plan based on the progress report. Reaffirm, recommit, or amend the Vision or any part of the grounding process. For us, we need to keep it up and stay creative.
Your Relationship Vision is a living, evolving process, growing as your relationship grows. You and your partner will inevitably falter. This is your guide to realign your intentions.
By translating your goals into a vision and embedding that vision in your relationship you are fast-tracking your resolutions into reality.
Thea & Duane Harvey, Harvey Center for Relationships
MINDFULNESS IS THE LATEST WELLNESS BUZZWORD TO GO MAINSTREAM. KARI MOLVAR EXPLAINS HOW STAYING IN THE MOMENT CAN KEEP YOU RELAXED AND HAPPY WHILE PLANNING, ON THE BIG DAY—AND IN YOUR RELATIONSHIP. Paula Mallis clearly remembers her wedding day: The Los Angeles–based doula planned it in six months, dealt with intense opinions from family members (including a mother-in-law “with big feelings,” she says), and then, on the day itself, watched as the skies opened and it poured on her cli side gathering in Big Sur. “The umbrellas went to shit,” she says. “We ended up in one room with everyone sitting on the oor, soaking wet.” There in the room, Mallis broke out in tears—not the sad, why-me? kind but the happy-smiling-love kind. “Every- one was laughing, and everything was how my husband and I wanted it,” she says. Despite the downpour, they still had the amazing, crazy, fun day they’d wanted. Not everyone would laugh in the face of such stress, but Mallis had prepared herself. Her secret power? Being mindful, setting intentions, and upping her meditation practice during her engagement. “Weddings involve so much pres- sure and anxiety,” she says. Mindfulness helped her stay “calm, centered, and present.” To say mindfulness has caught on is an under- statement. At its most basic, “mindfulness is the act of bringing your full attention to the present moment,” says Ellie Burrows, founder of MNDFL, a meditation studio in New York. Granted, this isn’t exactly new: Mindfulness is rooted in Buddhist and Taoist practices that PHOTOGRAPHS BY COREY TOWERS BRIDES.COM date back thousands of years. Burrows says it’s about quieting your brain so it’s not constantly pinging with thoughts of the past or worries about the future. “If, for example, you’re talking with your ancé, then you are engaged in listen- ing.” That means putting the mute button on interruptions “about your to-do list, the next thing on your calendar, or checking your phone.” By not being at the mercy of a roving brain— or the incessant alerts from your phone, feeds, and followings—you’ll make better decisions, have more control over emotions and reactions, and forge stronger bonds with loved ones. If that sounds radically simple, it is. “Mindful- ness isn’t new; it’s just more talked about now,” says Khajak Keledjian, the founder of InScape meditation studio in New York City. The rise is tied to our recent obsession with various self- care practices—from crystal healing to sound baths—that have gone from mystical to main- stream. We’re craving what Suze Yalof Schwartz calls “solstice,” a kind of primal balance. Schwartz, founder of the UnPlug Meditation studio in L.A., says, “Our culture is plugged in 24/7. But we need silence and self-connection so we can be more creative, happier, and healthier,” she says. “Just as we recharge our phones, we need to recharge ourselves.” A mounting stack of research backs up the ben- e ts: Meditating can decrease anxiety-related CALLIGRAPHY BY HANDMADE LETTERS OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 247 MANTRA COURTESY OF CHRISTINE D’ERCOLE
cortisol levels, increase emotional intelligence, and sharpen mental focus. In fact, according to the National Business Group on Health, 22 per- cent of U.S. companies (like Apple and Nike) now o er mindfulness perks to employees. As Burrows says, “It’s no longer just monks in robes telling you that mindfulness is good. It’s your doctor, boss, or friends. Our lives can be quite chaotic, and mindfulness can help anchor us.” And there’s nothing like planning a wedding to throw your life into chaos. “The money, the relatives, the expectations—both personal and external—all contribute to serious stress,” says Schwartz. “I wish I’d meditated on my own wedding day. I was not really present.” Taking a beat to breathe helps you “build resilience in your brain so that you’re able to stop stress as it comes your way,” says Schwartz. It also lets you absorb all the happiness around you— so the day doesn’t speed by in a blur. A mindfulness practice can take many forms, says Mallis, who launched WMN Space, an all- woman wellness hub in L.A.—and can help you MINDFULNESS IS THE ENEMY OF MULTITASKING— THE DEFAULT MODE FOR SO MANY BRIDES-TO-BE. tap into your inner power as you navigate through the planning to the happily-ever-after part. First, take a breath—and read on. PLAN WITH PURPOSE Meditation is often the easiest gateway to mind- fulness, but if you’re new to it, start small. “Try meditating in the morning for 15 minutes. This way, you start your day centered, calm, and clear,” says Keledjian, who also recommends nding a consistent spot where you’re used to the sounds and sensory factors. “Fewer distrac- tions makes it easier to stay focused and present.” Meditation is simply a form of contemplation. InScape’s weekly Focus33 guided meditation class is just 33 minutes, takes place in a cocoon- like space lit with purple tones, and is popular with brides-to-be like writer Kate Erickson. A teacher leads the class through a series of breathing exercises. “I kind of felt like I was nodding o , and when it was over I really felt as if I had been transported—like when you’re get- ting a facial and dozing but really loving it,” Erickson says. Her goal was to “calm my thoughts for a bit. I expected to love wedding planning, but I nd it completely overwhelming.” What she’s picked up in class serves her well beyond the con nes of the purple cocoon: When presented with sorting out hundreds of reception-related details, “taking a moment to focus on my breath has saved me from many planning-related freak- outs.” (If you can’t make it to a class, apps like Headspace and Insight Timer o er guided medi- tations of varying durations.) Mindfulness is the enemy of multitasking, the default mode for so many brides-to-be. “Multitasking often means you’re doing many things at once in a shallow sense,” says Keled- jian. If you concentrate on one project at time, he says, “you’ll actually be more e cient. It’s about focusing your attention narrow and deep versus wide and shallow.” Chances are, you’ll immediately notice a mental shift: “What would it feel like if I talked to my wedding planner and wasn’t looking at a screen or driving or walking anywhere?” Burrows asks. “I would be more present for that conversation and make more thoughtful responses.” If you still nd yourself getting anxious while planning (and taking it out on everyone), Bur- rows recommends “intention setting,” which is when you purposefully try to cultivate a quality, like patience or openheartedness. Find a quiet spot and write down your goal—literally, “I want to be more patient.” (Think of it as a to-do list for your soul...and mood). Then start recogniz- ing opportunities to ex that emotional muscle. For brides who need a little extra coaching in the calm-yourself department, Padma Shankar Coram, a wellness coach at the Grace Belgravia spa in London (where Pippa Middleton is rumored to be a client), recommends EFT—or emotional freedom techniques. The alternative therapy is part of the spa’s wellness boot camp for brides and involves tapping on the body’s meridian points to release negative energy. This, coupled with visual-guided meditation (in which you imagine your desired outcome actually happening), “helps remove jitters regarding the big day,” Coram says. To nd an EFT class or practitioner in your area, check out the directory at thetappingsolution.com. Your bridesmaids can get in on the mindful vibes too, says Mallis, who hosts “blessing circles” over bachelorette weekends. “I led one where everyone wrote their wishes for the bride’s mar- riage. They wished for things like understanding, communication, and great sex,” says Mallis, who was surprised by how open the group was to what many consider a hippie-dippie activity. “This group was full-on partying; I didn’t expect them to be down. But they laughed and cried and said it was the weekend’s most magical moment.” STAY PRESENT, SAY “I DO” You have something borrowed, something blue. Now you need something...balanced. “Have a mantra for the day,” suggests motivational speaker Christine D’Ercole. “It helps you see the big picture and not stress over little stu . I like to use these eight words to begin a mantra: I am. I can. I will. I do. Then complete the phrase with words that capture the ideas you want to carry into the marriage.” Repeating the mantra keeps you from “getting caught up in the fuss over place settings or desserts. It’s critical to the success of the event you’re celebrating.” You’ll also be in a much happier mental place if you do a quick gratitude list. “Take up to 15 minutes before the ceremony to get centered,” says Keledjian. “Breathe deeply and take in the excitement and the love surrounding you. It’s a great time to remind yourself of what brought you to that moment.” During the day, pick two moments when you can steal away to connect with your partner. “Express your gratitude for the love that you feel, even if it’s just for ve minutes,” say Bur- rows, who suggests ducking out right after the ceremony and then again after dinner. Should a crisis pop up and you start to “wander o into bridezilla land—thinking, I hate my hair!— place your hands on your heart, close your eyes, and slow your breath,” Schwartz says. Inhale through your nose for four seconds, hold the breath for four seconds, and exhale through your mouth for four seconds. “Give thanks for the celebration, then think of three things you’re grateful for about your spouse and three things you’re grateful for about yourself. Then open your eyes. This will shift your mood,” says Schwartz. “Nothing is prettier than happiness, so do this before going down the aisle.” If you can remember to do only one thing? Turn on your senses. “Smell your bouquet, feel the texture of your wedding dress, really listen, and take in what people are saying during the toast,” says Thea Harvey, a meditation teacher in L.A. “When you do this, you’re in the present.” Then stay there by eliminating distractions. Give your phone to a bridesmaid. Hands free, heart open! BALANCED MARRIAGE Mindfulness skills can help your relationship too. “Meditation is the best thing you can do for your marriage,” Schwartz says. “Petty things won’t bother you as much. The toothpaste cap left o ? Dishes in the sink? No problem.” You can strengthen your bond simply by being an active listener. “In my relationship, we try to put away our phones when we connect after a long day apart and be mindful of our time together,” says Burrows. Such pauses can make you less fraz- zled. “I have a lot more space between my reaction and the trigger,” she says. “I’m a better partner.” Still, your partner might not jump into all your rituals right away. “I grew up with a much more spiritual outlook than my husband did,” Mallis says. But after 11 years together, he recently picked up on self-care habits to “remain centered and present.” Mallis says, “I’m like, ‘Good bae!’ I think he’s just getting it.” 248 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 BRIDES.COM BRIDES.COM OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017 249
We are delighted to be featured in this local publication.
Your partner is a pain in the ass. You probably already know this, but what you may not know is that this is the way it is supposed to be. Sorry, it’s unavoidable. Everyone is difficult close up, even you. “But this is so unfair!” you might think. “My friends are easy.” Marry them and they won’t be. This is usually the first thing relationship experts Harville Hendrix and Stan Tatkin point out.
Commitment creates a unique environment with its own law of physics. What goes on in the rest of world doesn’t apply. Primary partners get close, very close, and this is the problem.
Of course, you didn’t realize this when you first met, and neither did they. You didn’t notice because you both were high on drugs. Your pituitary glands secreted love hormones and you fed off each other with high excitement and obsession. You have so much in common. You are so much alike. Everything is wonderful. But it doesn’t last. The hormones fade and what you are left with is a partner who knows exactly how to try your last nerve.
There are three reasons why your partner gets under your skin.
The first has to do with shared space. You are more likely to bump into one another, more likely to step on each others toes, to get elbowed in the eye in the middle of night. But this isn’t just physical space, it’s psychological space. The fact that you’re actually very different people comes as a shock. We each have preferences, moods, rhythms, idiosyncrasies, to say nothing of bad habits. The very fact that you are different and locked in the same room provides plenty of opportunities to clash. You are on a space station together, you speak different languages and there is no gravity.
The second reason has to do with a special kind of memory called implicit memory, the kind we don’t recall in the usual sense. The brain likes to pare down and simplify the past so it converts stories into automatic reactions. Another name for this is procedural memory. The vast majority of our brain architecture was formed before we had the verbal capacity to label and recall events, therefore a great deal of our experience cannot be accessed directly. Instead of recalling early events we act them out, or sink into the feelings they inspired.
The most important characteristic of these early years is that we were utterly dependent on someone. Problems always arise with one-sided dependency, even in the best of situations. These same problems resurface as implicit memory when we enter into a committed adult relationship. Like it or not, commitment is dependency and dependency is scary. And to complicate matters, we are taught from a very early age that dependency is bad. We live in a counter-dependent culture. Dependency is natural and necessary, yet we are shamed by it.
The third reason your partner is frustrating is because they perform the job we enlisted them to do — to help us finish growing up. Were your parents annoying? Same thing. We have to be told what to do or we won’t do it.
Your partner has the blueprint for your personal growth, but the very idea that someone knows us better than we know ourselves is inherently offensive. But it’s true. Partnering is two-way parenting. It is in a relationship that we learn and mature.
Here are three things you can do to turn things around:
The part of the brain responsible for processing vision is called the occipital lobe.
The strange thing is that the occipital lobe defers to the hippocampus, the seat of memory, to decipher what we see. This means that for the most part what we see is the past. The brain has an evolutionary bias toward the negative, so what we think we see isn’t good. We must compensate for this by consciously visualizing our partner in a positive light. Research has demonstrated that happy couples delude themselves about their partners qualities. Get delusional.
The next step is to take that positive visualization and express it. When your partner does something you like, tell them. Remember, this is in your best interest. If you don’t tell them they are likely to stop doing it. Tell them what you appreciate — often. The most radical way to implement this is to combine three fresh appreciations a day together with a commitment of zero negativity. No criticism. That means if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
Commit to radically reducing your partner’s displeasure by eliminating one by one the things you do that frustrate them. Be curious as to what it’s actually like living with you. Exploring how your partner experiences you can be a real eye-opener. If you can swallow the idea that your partner holds the blueprint for your personal growth you will soon discover capacities and talents you didn’t know you had.
Practicing these three points is guaranteed to turn a pain in the ass partner back into the love of your life. And when they do annoy you, you won’t mind so much.
Follow Thea and Duane Harvey on Twitter: www.twitter.com/theaharvey
He said, “She never wants to have sex. She’s always complaining she’s too tired. It’s frustrating being turned down all the time.”
She said, “All he wants is sex. I’m exhausted after work and taking care of the kids. He never pitches in enough and when we do it’s all about what he wants.”
As couples therapists, we hear that a lot. Sex is often the source of deep frustrations because our earliest injuries are often sexual and shaming. Creating a connection that is mutually satisfying is two-pronged: eliminate the negative and enhance the positive. Less pain, more pleasure. A simple truth most couples find difficult to practice. As a married couple, as well as therapists, we believe we have found a winning combination of methods for doing just that. The combined processes of Imago Relationship Therapy and Tantra not only bridge the intimacy gap, but can take a great romance to the next level. (click here to read more...) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/thea-and-duane-harvey/relationship-tips_b_3175724.html
Read our simple five point suggestions on how to use your imagination to keep the flame alive.
How Couples Benefit From Sexual Fantasy By Thea and Duane Harvey Sex is an act of the imagination, and in committed romantic relationships imagination often is the first thing to wear out. Romance requires novelty and fantasy. The process of falling in love is the invention of the person we’re getting to know. There is always a bit of projection in romance. We take a few positive details and spin the rest in our minds. If we’re smart we never stop doing this. Here’s some tips to help re-cultivate the fantasy and re-circulate passion.
Pretend your partner is perfect. Strange as it may seem, it works. (read more here....http://www.huffingtonpost.com/thea-and-duane-harvey/sexual-fantasy-benefits_b_3379710.html)
It was an idyllic afternoon in the small town of Idyllwild, California. The sunlight glistened from the pine needles and the birds were sweetly chirping as Tahquitz Peak stood proudly in the distance. My husband, our six year old daughter, and I were visiting his mother, whose health was in decline.
We were enjoying a family shopping trip to the local stores when it happened. We were all trying on hats when Duane asked how his looked. I was distracted and annoyed as my daughter was hanging on me and I flippantly responded. My callous, “It looks fine!” did not land well. Duane took issue and said he did not like my tone. My tone? His comment set me fuming. Our exchange became heated until his mother approached and told him how much she loved the hat. We silently stewed as we continued shopping, the irritation mounting inside each of us. His parents drove back to the house while we walked. This gave us the opportunity to let the other one have it and release all the fury that was bottling up. Impervious to the presence of our daughter we were each determined to prove the other wrong.
Relentlessly, we argued back and forth like we were trying to win a point in a tennis match. We returned to his parent’s house with no apparent winner and barely hid our anger behind pleasantries as we ate dinner with the grandparents. But under the polite remarks we were both plotting our next round.
This second round never materialized. Instead after dinner we retreated into a passive aggressive silence and we both went to bed disgruntled. The next morning was soured by the day before as we remained distant and aloof.
What happened? What went wrong? What could we have done differently to avoid this caustic collision?
The following are a few playbook tips to mend your breakdown fast.
1. Benefit of the doubt
Always give your partner the benefit of the doubt. After all, commitment is about putting your life in their hands, so you might as well believe their intentions are good. We all have off moments. Daily stresses and aches and pains can cause us to be insensitive or unable to be our most loving selves. This is why we need to give our partners a pass whenever possible. Studies have shown that idealizing your partner is beneficial to committed relationships. Most conflicts are the result of misunderstandings, or mis-read cues. We think we know what our partner is thinking but we don’t. Be curious instead of reactive. Get the facts before you attack. Resist your automatic impulses, wait, step back, take a breath and respond compassionately. Chances are if your partner is acting badly toward you they are probably in pain. In retrospect I could see that Duane had not yet come to terms with his mother’s rapid decline in health.
Whatever the argument might seem to be about, it’s aways a breakdown in the quality of the connection. Duane did not really care whether or not I liked the hat, what he did care about was that I dismissed him, and what I cared about was that he accused me. The argument was about the sudden loss of a positive connection, and we were both vulnerable to this because of the surrounding circumstances.
2. Repair quickly
What distinguishes successful couples from those that break-up is the ability to repair swiftly. Hurt, injury, conflict are all normal, inevitable and necessary for growth within a relationship. The longer the connection is broken the harder it is to repair. The mind is a negative magnet and during the disconnect your partner is collecting every complaint that they have ever had of you, and re-constructing your identity. You don’t want to be mistaken for the person your partner creates in your absence. Projection can be a nasty thing and the best way to prevent it is to show up in a positive way.
3. Do the opposite
A good rule of thumb is to identify what you typically do when conflict arises, and then do the opposite. If you usually withdraw, approach and stay present. If you tend to pursue your partner around the house or text them relentlessly, let it rest, step back and wait. Another example of doing the opposite is relaxing the facial muscles. This immediately sends your partner a non-verbal cue that they are safe. Doing the opposite will be difficult and perhaps feel impossible, but you will discover it is relationship game-changer.
4. Do not set the record straight
It is important whenever conflict occurs NOT to set the record straight about what really happened. Neuroscientists have discovered that memory is unreliable. It is impossible to get an accurate account of what happened. Therefore because of the way the mind works, what happened is less important than what needs happen. No matter what your partner says or how they respond, do not defend or justify yourself. Do not expect your partner to take responsibility for their part. They will only see how they contributed to the problem after you have fully owned your own contribution.
5. Take Charge
In our private practice we have noticed a common confusion around the idea of taking responsibility. Seeing your part in creating or maintaining the disconnection is equated with giving in and taking blame. We all have a fundamental aversion to being wrong. The fear of being wrong is second only to the fear of being bad, because when we were growing up accusations of either exposed us to the danger of disapproval, and therefore threatened our sense of safety. But as adults when we refuse to take responsibility in our relationships we actually diminish our personal power and constrict our range of freedom.
6. Shake off the mood
The heavy sensation that lingers after we make-up is chemical. It results from the activation of the dorsal motor vagal complex. When our body is physically or emotionally injured the dorsal motor vagas floods the body with opiods and lowers our blood pressure causing us to feel deflated and withdrawn. It is an autonomic bodily protection response. However, to repair our relationship we need to shake off this stupor with laughter, silliness or sex. Even if it feels inauthentic, it is important to remember that it is nothing more than a chemical residue. Our true authenticity lies in our intention to reconnect, not in our moods.
What distinguishes successful couples is the ability to repair. How we handle the breakdown makes all the difference in the world. Don’t be discouraged by conflict. Whether disconnections are frequent or few and far between, they can deepen trust if you step into the repair mode promptly.
Please share with us your experience. We would love to hear from you!
Follow Thea and Duane Harvey on Twitter: www.twitter.com/theaharvey
Read the entire article at the Huffington Post here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/thea-and-duane-harvey/couples-repair-playbook_b_8431034.html
No one is emotionally grown-up all the time. Our earlier selves are not filed away as memories but cordoned off like a half dozen smaller siblings who think it isn’t fair that the biggest makes all the decisions. It doesn’t take much for any one of them to climb the furniture and take over. Marital maturity is not about suppressing these earlier stages, but recognizing when they show up in ourselves and in our partners, and then, before coaxing them back into the highchair, gently remove any sharp utensils they may be welding. As grown-ups, we protect our marriage from ourselves.
Good role models are hard to find. Although no marriage is perfect, we need to have a vision, however ideal, toward which we can direct our appetite for order and adventure. That is what this is: A simple five-course menu to satisfy the circumspect as well as the exploratory palate, with minimal disruption and mess.
Safety is built into the environment. There are no windows left open for someone to fall out of, and the air is fresh and free of pollutants. Marriage is no place for criticism or put-downs, however well intentioned. The unbreakableness of the bond, a kind of necessary illusion, is assumed. We are securely attached. We need a solid base. Emotional safety is a foundational tenet of both Imago Relationship Therapy and Safe Conversations. You can afford to take risks because you know the house won’t collapse. The freedom to deeply depend on another and the privilege of being deeply depended on is a kind of shared amnionic fluid. When we inevitably do let one another down, we recognize the hurt and quickly repair. In this way, the small woundings and salves can foster a growing sense of resilience. The mechanics of safety are commitment and trust. Not just trust in the upper case issues of Money and Sex, but in the small moments of on-going availability and responsiveness. It also helps to know that we interest our partner enough that we can draw on their prolonged undivided attention.
Roll the word erotic off your tongue and notice how it changes your mood, energizes your senses. It’s utterance evokes an electrical charge that makes an ordinary room or a meal magical and otherworldly. It provides energy, promotes focus and transcendence. If that sounds like a drug, it’s because it is. But this addiction is delicate and needs regular feeding. We mustn’t take desire for granted. Sex therapists report that low sexual desire is the fastest growing sexual dysfunction. Among the many contributing factors the one we can immediately do something about is laziness. Good chemistry takes planning. The more we scheme to give pleasure, the more pleasure there is to receive. If desire is already low, sex experts encourage us to simply bypass this first stage and move on to the second stage of arousal by engaging in pleasurable touch.
Even the greatest pleasure can become irritating with mindless repetition. Human beings are, as more than 100 studies show, prone to hedonic adaptation, an innate—and measurable—capacity to become habituated or inured to most life changes, positive or negative. Our senses grow dull to what is most familiar. Intimacy and desire have always felt mutually exclusive, even to researchers. The workaround is enlisting the imagination to discover the strangeness of our partner. Their familiarity is actually a comforting illusion designed to make us feel safe, but we are all ultimately unknowable and unpredictable. Looking at them as if we don’t know them can feel slightly dangerous. Looking at them the way others might see them, as a sexual object, can feel stirring and somehow off limits— in other words, erotic.
Dan Savage has a simple directive for keeping the flame alive: simply be Good, Game and Giving, that is, develop some basic sexual skills, be open to whatever your partner proposes, and in addition to focusing on their pleasure, I would add a fourth G of Greed, for the simple reason that desire begets desire.
Marriage is often mistaken for the end of possibility. But if you list and compare the activities of dating singles to committed couples, you will explode the myth of the spontaneity and daring of the dating scene. Dating activities are actually quite predictable and highly planned. When you don’t know the hidden desires and fears of your date you are likely to play it safe because doing otherwise is courting disaster. How were you supposed to know that a class in the seductive art of Japanese bonding would bring on a full blown panic attack? or that the skydiving instructor would remind her of that ex-boyfriend? Dating, to be successful, is a rather conservative game of trial and error. Married couples can experiment and push the limit because they know so much about each other’s threshold for excitement.
Novel experiences release dopamine, which elevates our energy and mood, and generates bonding. The research of social scientist Sonja Lyubomirsky names adventure as a key ingredient for happiness, especially between couples.
Although adventure can certainly promote eroticism, it’s also about tapping into that child-like curiosity toward everything around us. Experience has a tendency to contract on us unless we step out of our comfort zone and explore. Whether international travel, hang gliding, scuba diving, checking out sex shops, trying new restaurants, or trapeze lessons at the Santa Monica Pier, breaking with the safety of routine and habit opens up a depth of bonding that imprints pleasurable associations between people.
This one emits a sigh of relief. The project of self-improvement, when applied to our partner, has a limit. As important as it is to strive and grow, it is equality important to relent and relax into the human mess that we ultimately are.
If you have ever tried to teach your partner how to improve their ways hopefully, your experience with whatever aftermath that caused has guaranteed you will not try again. Believe it or not, acceptance is the best device there is for promoting change.
We all struggle with bad habits, bad attitude, rudeness, carelessness, self-righteousness, prejudice, narrow-mindedness, etc. Each one of us is a piece of work. We would do well to remember that we are the primary pain in the ass to those we love. These imperfections are what Dan Savage calls The Price of Admission to be with an otherwise wonderful person. Alain de Botton writes that in marriage “we must choose which sufferings we wish to endure.”
Focus on your partner’s assets and overlook their shortcomings. This applies to physical appearance, personality traits, and behaviors. Make a list all the things you adore about your partner in each of these three categories, review, and share it often. Allowing yourself and your partner to be flawed is liberating, and spurs unexpected growth. Relaxing on the behaviors we want changed, in ourself and our partner, is the first step, but not the last, to crafting new more effective ways of living.
How long is it reasonable to hold a grudge against a toddler who made you late for work because of a car seat inspired melt-down? Imagine what it would be like if you let your so-called adult partner off the hook just as quickly. Not easy. But with practice the ventral vagal nerve complex becomes toned and develops a wider range of responses, allowing you to actually choose how to respond to stress or hurt. If you want to let more things roll off your back, you have to practice. Choosing to let it go or address it is up to you, so long as it is a choice. Forgiveness can be learned. Choosing a posture of generosity toward your partner will create the goodwill required for them to switch out the behaviors that hurt you, for those that feel caring. Letting your partner off the hook doesn’t encourage bad behavior, it prevents it.
The easiest way to forgive is to see beyond the adult mask into the eyes of the child. No one is always grown up. Regression is nature’s evolutionary phase of rest before and after developmental strides. If you know your partner well enough to marry them, you should also know that they have no intention of causing you pain. It happens as a result of their own pain.
As grown-ups, we don’t get triggered, at least not often. And when we do we have the ability to listen to complaints while resisting the powerful urge to defend ourselves. Contrary to conventional wisdom, a defense, however well reasoned, only deepens the hole we have dug, or stumbled into. When we grow big our issues get small.
For a personal view into how Thea and I repair from a breakdown, see our Couples Repair Playbook.
Attending to any one of these five menu items makes each of the others easier to absorb. What your grown-up marriage looks like will be up to you. No two relationships are the same. The complexity of flavors we bring out in each other cannot be replicated. The romantic notion of lovers that their connection is absolutely unique is absolutely true. And most of the time that irreplaceable bond wants to grow up and be taken seriously because that’s where the real fun is.
Thea & Duane Harvey
Read the entire article at the Huffington Post here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/what-grown-up-marriage-looks-like_us_58b4b77be4b0658fc20f993d
I intend to use this as an informal sketchbook to map out my thoughts on the future of couples therapy, only accesible by invitation or specific search. More soon....