This past weekend as part of the training for a certification I am doing in Imago relationship therapy, my husband and I had to partake in a “Getting the Love You Want” workshop, led by Carl Siegel, PhD and Rebecca Sears, MDiv, LPC of the Imago Center in Washington DC. This workshop is designed for couples who want to restore their warmth and connection in the relationship, learn better skills for communication and conflict resolution, deciding whether or not you should be in your relationship or marriage, or if you just want to boost some positivity into your relationship. The experience at the workshop was a transformative one for me. It reinforced concepts I strongly believe in when it comes to relationships but also deepened my connection with my husband (and I didn’t even believe that was possible as our connection was already very strong!).
Here are a few relationship tips that were strongly reinforced to me during this highly effective workshop:
Flexibility is VERY important in a relationship: We are often told to accept our partner as how they are and this is true. However, being able to adapt and be flexible is one of the most important skills you can have in a relationship. Many people run into trouble in their relationship when one person is unwilling to accept any responsibility or is unwilling to adapt a little to accommodate their partners needs. Relationships require willingness of both people to have an honest dialogue without defenses. We can’t be so set in our own ways that we do not adapt certain aspects of our lifestyles to our partners. Relationships are about bringing two often very different people together and that requires some adjustment. Willingness to listen to your partners needs and to try to honor them if they are fair and reasonable is one of the most important skills you can bring to your relationship. As we learned in the workshop, “Your partners frustrations are your blueprint for growth.”
Listening and empathy build strong connections: In the workshop we did exercises on how to listen effectively to your partner by what is called “mirroring” them. Mirroring is listening to your partner and repeating back to them what you heard. It may sound a little trite but it is an extremely powerful tool. You’d be surprised at how often you think you really hear your partner when you really aren’t getting it. When you mirror, you truly hear what your partner is saying and vice versa. Being open to listen to your partner and to try and understand where they are coming from helps have compassion for your partner. Compassion helps strengthen and deepen connection. Imagine how effective it would be to have your partner truly listen and try to understand what is must be like to have your feelings? Being able to give that back to them is one of the best gifts you can give in a relationship.
Self-awareness is one of the greatest gifts you give to yourself and your partner: A part of this workshop is to begin the process of discovering (if you haven’t already) how things that may have happened to you in your childhood, or messages you may have received could be playing out in your current relationship with your partner. Understanding where feelings are coming from not only helps figure out how to address them but sharing it with your partner also allows them to be empathic with you because they will begin to learn why you may act certain ways when you are angry, upset, scared, etc. Denial or not addressing feelings and unresolved conflicts in your life can play out negatively in your relationship. Developing self-awareness and having a curiosity about yourself is very important in maintaining a positive and fulfilling relationship.
We have a choice: We may not have control over a lot of what happens to us in life and we may not have control over other people. However, we have a choice as to how we decide to be in our relationships, with our children and how we are in the world. Knowing this is so empowering because it means that if both people in a couple put in an effort to maintain their love and connection, that they can get through a lot of hard stuff that life sometimes throws at us.
The next ‘Getting the Love You Want” workshop will take place in Takoma Park, Washington DC on November 12th and 13th. For more information please visit: http://imagocenterdc.com/workshop