Relationship Tips

The Best Things in Life are not Things

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As I reflect on this carved wood inscription in my living room, I am viscerally reminded of what this really means. My best girl friend is leaving her body after a having a diagnosis of cancer that has metastasized to her organs. Sitting in the grief for the past while has informed me – “that the best things in life are not things”….they are Relationships. As I do a review of our friendship, the places I messed up, the things I did or not do, the regrets I have, I am able to find a place of sacredness and peace within because of our ‘eternal love’ for one another. I am very aware that her process of giving away her material possessions, ie clothing, jewelry, car etc. – those things that she will no longer need on the other side have lessened their importance. Things are just not that important on this level or perspective. What is important is what is left in my heart.

Facing this day has been hard and not easy at times. Accepting and letting go is never easy, however, when I do arrive at the place of acceptance of what is….. something emerges in me – that greater love, the greatness of our friendship and the gratitude for what we have shared together. All purposeful, timely and meaningful. She was my maid of honour at my wedding to Robert and her vitality and aliveness at our wedding showed her true essence – all that love she emanates from her soul.  Thank you sweetheart for all you have brought to my life. You will be missed and always loved. Your imminent death is moving me towards an appreciation for this life and all that it offers like never before.




Disconnection Hurts, Repair Heals

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Young couple in love outdoors

When we can’t repair or reconnect with our partner, we feel alone and isolated and unable to feel safe and secure. Lasting love and togetherness is a process in which individuals and couples connect, go through disconnection and then find each other again through the reconnection. When we don’t respond to a partners’ emotional hurts, we can get stuck in an angry response or shutting down, resulting in persistent unresolved conflicts that can lead to divorce or separation.

The moments of disconnects are palpable and painful. Recall a time when you reached for your partner or friend and they weren’t available or responsive to you. What did you do? What did you feel? How did you react? What did you tell yourself about you and the relationship? How did your reactions and dance moves then trigger your partner to be angry or turn away from you?  There is a predictable dance that humans go through at the moment of disconnection, whether we are coming from a young age just out of the cradle or approaching end of life. This response comes from the mammalian part of the brain and invokes each of us to reach and protest the disconnection through blame or criticism or withdrawing or turning away. Much of this dysregulation in the system occurs when the brain is flooded or hijacked by the triggered “panic alarm”, located in the amygdala. This panic invokes a reaction (ie flight, fight or freeze) with associative thoughts “Where are you? “I am alone”.  “I must get back into connection or I will die”.  Infants or partners left alone in isolation perceive this pain equal to DEATH and without touch, security and comfort will eventually die. Whether you are an infant or an adult, what is most important following the distressful, disconnections is an attuned response, in other words a REPAIR! Turning back towards one another, engaging, smiling, giving a hug or speaking in a soft voice: “I am here”, “I love you” are examples. The benefits are high as this makes a huge difference to the “panicked” brain. It can now settle and restore its equilibrium returning to a calm relaxed state. Nature designed it this way. We need each other to co-regulate our nervous systems.

As I write this, I am often reminded of scenes in movies that portray an individual that goes mad in isolation after time spent in “solitary confinement”. This makes so much sense. We are social creatures that are wired for connection. With the other, we feel relaxed, and cared for. Thus we will do much better and get along easier in the world when we are confident that “one” person has our back. Going against nature and trying to live in isolation or independently can be the basis or foundation for crime, poverty, and violence. The solution is responsiveness and attentiveness towards someone’s distress and their need for security and comfort. Relationships are the source, the root and the strength of our happiness. May you find relaxed joyfulness in a close connection with a primary partner, lover, a good friend or family member. We are wired for it. The END




10 Great Reasons to Give the Gift of a Couples Weekend or Advanced Couples Weekend this Valentine’s Day!

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1. Giving the gift of a Couples Weekend says more than flowers or chocolates. Inviting your “beloved” to a weekend to enhance your relationship tells you that you value one other and your relationship and want to maintain its longevity and aliveness.

2. Get away from the everyday distractions and life at home. A weekend away is a great opportunity and provides a change in pace and perspective, opening the energy for something new to transpire. You are not bombarded with work, kids, household chores and duties, thus focusing on each other is a gift for your connection.

3. Provides a structure/intent for your weekend. Doing a couples retreat helps you focus and tend to your relationship – more meaningful than just another weekend away.

4. Be with other couples. Being in the company of other couples, couples realize that they are not alone. This accelerates the growth process. A new perspective of not being alone helps couples face and normalize their struggles.

5. You learn about relationships and what it takes to be connected. Our culture and our caregivers are not always the best examples of relationships. To overcome other life challenges, we hire business, athletic coaches and financial analysts to learn new skills. Attending a Couples Weekend Retreat helps you to become skilled with each other – the most important relationship.

6. Experience true relational transformation in a safe, compelling learning environment. The weekend retreat teaches that a relationship is not a problem to be solved but an adventure to be lived and that every frustration in the relationship is a launching pad for growth. Couples get equipped for being successful in this adventure called “our relationship.”

7. Be inspired to dream the “wildest dream” for your relationship…. together. “When we dream alone a dream is but a dream, but when we dream together, it is the beginning of reality.” says a Brazilian proverb. At the end of the weekend retreat, every couple is prepared and keen to put on the horizon their biggest dream for the relationship.

8. Be motivated to live and renew your vows. The weekend retreat provides couples an atmosphere that rekindles their passion and gives joy, laughter and play; a new place in the relationship.

9. Learn guiding principles that empower you to have the “mightiest” bond ever. The weekend retreat teaches ritualsfor connection that when embraced and practiced, empower each couple not only to be a solid couple, lasting couple but also a creative and collaborative couple.

10. Have fun, sharing laughs and improve the space between you. Attending a Couples weekend offers many belly laughs and connecting moments. This translates in the “off” hours away from the program. Couples share with each other more than they have for years and the weekend becomes their aphrodisiac. 😉




How to Get out of the Disconnection Dance

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Loving young couple embracing and kissing on a summer day outdoors. Man hugging his girlfriend. Enjoying their summer vacation.

If you want to get out of the disconnection dance, blame and withdrawal are two behaviours that won’t allow this to happen. Even though both of these coping strategies are somewhat effective in giving space and being self-protective, they both lead to distancing and can trigger the other partner making the cycle worse. Moving away from each other is not the solution. Being more exposed, vulnerable and open (ie taking risks) leads to connection.

What is difficult for partners in relationship is taking risks, being open and more vulnerable. Blaming and withdrawing are easier and self-protecting. We learned these in our early days in childhood. Most of us learned these behaviours as they served us on some level. To be invisible could avoid punishment or to blame, (ie point the fault towards a sibling) also avoided punishment or pain. Wired in to avoid pain, these strategies can have a more adverse effect in relationships. When using these avoidance patterns they don’t allow you to take responsibility for your feelings nor do they invite you to reach for your partner for closeness or connection.

To avoid pain, evolution has also wired in another reason to not risk reaching for another when there is “risk of rejection”. What if we did reach for our partner, risk and be open and vulnerable and we are rejected or abandoned. These underlying fears are the crucibles to keep the blaming and withdrawal behaviours alive in our primary and most intimate relationships. To risk and to be rejected is synonymous to “death”. Brain scans show us that rejection is registered and experienced in the brain as if we were physically hit by a 2’x4’. The pain registers the same.

Turning away or not being there for someone when they most need the comfort and closeness is also painful. For example, a woman discovers she is having a miscarriage and her partner doesn’t know what to do when he sees the blood. He freaks out when she calls him. Instead of going towards her, he leaves to calm his nerves and goes into task mode, ie calls the hospital and taxi. In her most vulnerable moment, he moves away from her, and she feels rejected. What happens next is: she makes a decision, “I will never allow myself to need you that much again” and she shuts down from her partner, pulling in to never risk exposing herself. For years this goes on. She is no longer vulnerable or open to her partner.

Ultimately, he experiences her distancing behaviour, feels her lack of warmth, comfort, also experiencing his own version of

Side view of a couple standing on forest trail and hugging

rejection/abandonment. Not ever revisiting this event in a heartfelt way, they co-exist in their marriage dancing between their defenses and lack of openness. She is nasty and nitpicky, using blame as a way to keep herself protected and distant and he does the same. They become the “Bickersons”, living a life of judging and blaming, undermining one another.

Love is Risky Business

To remove or lower the defenses of blame and withdrawal, one must be willing to feel ones’ own vulnerability, be open to sharing this vulnerability and take risks. Using vulnerable language versus blame/criticism invites a partner in…. “I feel sad when you don’t look at me”, I long for you to hold me after we make love so that I can feel connected”, “I get afraid when I don’t hear from you while you are on the business trip” Of course, there is a risk in being this open and vulnerable. What if my partner thinks I am too needy? What if he won’t come to me when I call? Will I hurt more than I do now? Love doesn’t come without intimacy and therefore the very thing we are avoiding: “intimate connection” leads to disconnection.

You cannot heal wounds that you can’t open

Everybody is afraid of intimacy. Intimacy means exposing yourself. Intimacy brings you close to another. Dropping all of your defenses makes intimacy possible. However, the fear is we drop all our defenses, who knows what the other it going to do with you. Thus we are hiding from others and ourselves. It feels safer to keep the defense because the other can take advantage of your weakness, your vulnerabilities. Intimacy is an essential need. Everybody longs for it and wants the other to be intimate versus taking the risk to become intimate first. However, to heal our wounds, they must be seen, felt and held. Exposing these long held hurts and vulnerabilities is the path to liberating oneself from the endless suffering and energy it takes to suppress our vulnerabilities. Being intimate is a scary and risky, yet a necessary part of having authentic human connection.




10 Characteristics of a Conscious Partnership

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by Harville Hendrix – taken from Getting the Love you Want

You realize that your love relationship has a hidden purpose – the healing of childhood wounds

Instead of focusing entirely on surface needs and desires, you learn to recognize the unresolved childhood issues that under-lie them. When you look at relationships with this x-ray vision, your daily interactions take on more meaning. Puzzling aspects of your relationship begin to make sense to you, and you have a greater sense of control.

 

You create a more accurate image of your partner

At the very moment of attraction, you began fusing your lover with your primary caretakers. Later you projected your negative traits onto your partner, further obscuring your partner’s essential reality. As you move toward a conscious relationship, you gradually let go of these illusions and begin to see more of your partner’s truth. You see your partner not as your saviour but as another wounded human being, struggling to be healed.

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Try a Valentine Appreciations Dialogue

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(Send in a card, a text, email or verbal expression!)

  1. What I appreciate about you today on Valentine’s Day is….
  2. What attracts me to you still is….
  3. What I cherish the most about you is….
  4. What I appreciate about our LOVE for each other is….
  5. Today I want to gift you with…

Celebrate Valentine’s every day of the year by putting into practice Imago Dialogue and Appreciations daily. Gift yourselves with a Getting the Love You Want Weekend Retreat (Refresher) or an Advanced Couples Weekend Retreat that I offer periodically. Most of all enjoy each other as each day together is truly a blessing.




Be a Safe Harbour for Each Other This Holiday Season

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With the season upon us, the experience can be alive with energy as well as overwhelming for many. There are those who love the Holiday season and those who don’t.

Depending on memories from our past – unresolved family feelings may arise and occur.

 

So, what can you do as a couple to maintain the integrity of your relationship when the “going gets tough”.

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Conscious Couples Appreciate and Give Gratitude to One Another Daily

love, relationship, family and people concept - smiling couple hugging in autumn park Leave a comment

In any relationship, there are many things to be grateful for about your partner and the relationship. Taking the time to acknowledge and declare to one another is a necessary step in cultivating a place of appreciation and gratitude. Conscious couples do this regularly to maintain and sustain their vitality and aliveness.

As we have passed by the festive time of Thanksgiving aka “Giving of Thanks” – I am reminded of Gratitude, the Mother of All Emotions.  Why is gratitude the mother of all emotions? It is because with Gratitude, we experience, joy, our heart connection with another.   Furthermore, feelings of gratitude directly activate brain regions associated with the neurotransmitter dopamine.
Dopamine feels good to get, which is why it’s generally considered the “reward” neurotransmitter.
Can Gratitude be a launch pad for the heart connection we so desire in our primary relationships?  Expressing gratitude to a relationship partner has been positively associated with enhancing the expresser’s perception of the communal strength of the relationship. Being openly grateful for a relationship increases the motivation to respond to the partner’s needs and allows room to address any issues negatively affecting the relationship while framing the relationship in a positive light, therefore providing a route to strengthening the relationship even further.

And can we cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude to help foster and enhance our joyful aliveness and connection? Having a grateful heart for your partnership and your partner can make all the difference. Let us first explore think about the opposite of gratitude in relationships.

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Tune In To Your Children

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There is a NEW Imago Parenting Program in Alberta called Connected Parents, Thriving Kids. These workshops are facilitated by 2 colleagues of mine and help parents create a deeper connection with their children by better understanding their unique needs and feelings.

This workshop will teach you how to be a more effective and responsive parent and how to attune to what your child needs from you. Best on the bestseller “Giving the Love that Heals” by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D and Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D, the weekend workshop incorporates Imago Relationship theory with insights from the latest research into neuroscience and child development.

They are currently being offered in the Edmonton area (St. Albert) and in Calgary with weekend dates and times. To learn more check out the following brochures.

Calgary Imago Parenting Program                                          St. Albert Imago Parenting Program




What In The World Is A Secure Functioning Relationship?

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As much as we want to believe in the perfect marriage, all of them can be rocky. But knowing that it’s built on a bedrock of trust and compassion makes it known that it’s a safe place. That is a secure functioning relationship. Stan Tatkin explains more and how you can have one.