For those of you in a relationship, think back to the time when you first saw your partner. You see them across the room, and something inside you says, “They are the one.” There is a sense of excitement and passion in you. You eventually meet and start dating. You just cannot get enough of this person and you find yourself thinking about them all the time. Eventually you start having sex and it’s passionate and really hot. Eventually you become a committed couple, perhaps leading to engagement and marriage. Two years pass and one day you roll over, look at your partner and say, “Where did the passion go?”
Romantic love is nature’s way of bringing people together. Unfortunately, this phase does not last. It is why a number of us will find ourselves going from one relationship to another, seeking the high that comes from romantic love. Recreating these feelings in a committed relationship takes work. What kind of work might you ask? The kind of work that shows a commitment to keeping the passion and desire for one another alive. It includes thinking of your partner and their needs, consciously making choices that puts your partner first, doing things that your partner will see as loving behaviors and actions. This way of being is not easy for most of us. We want the other person to do it first. Sometimes, power struggles may get in the way of anyone going first.
The good news is that most of the power struggles we have can be overcome. Power struggles are opportunities for growth. They represent the issues we have yet to resolve from our childhood. If we can just put our reactivity on hold and engage in a constructive, safe, and open dialogue with our partner, we will eventually see that the conflict dissolves.
Imago therapy utilizes a structured process that helps couples dialogue about issues in a safe and non-threatening way. The process incorporates active listening and repeating back what is heard (mirroring). This is the first step in helping couples really listen to what is said. Otherwise, each person will listen to what is being said for about 30 seconds and then begin to formulate a response. This breakdown in communication often results in reactivity and defensiveness in both parties.
Try it for yourself. The next time you have a conversation with your significant other, take a moment before responding. Mirror back what you heard, followed by a “Did I get it?” Your partner will be delighted you asked.
© Copyright 2010 by Alan L. Marcus, PhD, therapist in Bethesda, Maryland. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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