February is famously known for Valentine’s Day- a day to celebrate love and the importance and sacredness of our love relationships.
The importance of celebrating the specialness of our adult love relationships and the one we love is critical to helping keep relationships meaningful and full of a sense of aliveness and passion.
According to Imago Relationship Therapy founded and developed by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. and Helen LeKelly Hunt, Ph.D. Relationships navigate through various stages in their evolution toward consciousness. The Romantic phase is the powerful elixir that allows us to bond and move forward into the magical mystery of adult love. It is often filled with a great sense of aliveness. There is a sense of familiarity, as if we know this person from another time in our lives. In addition, there is a sense of timelessness, as if we have known this person forever. Furthermore, there is a sense that we cannot live without this person in our lives as our sense of being depends on being in relationship with them. Finally, there is often a sense of wholeness that we get from being in romantic relationship as if we are whole and fully alive. Ah, how sweet it is!
Inevitably, Romantic Love ebbs away and it is replaced by us not only seeing all the positives of our partners, but we become aware of the parts of our partner that we don’t like or feel are misattuned to our needs and that are re-wounding or hurtful to us. Often, folks reply with despair and a sense of hopeless tothis ienvitiable phenomenon. More importantly, often couples get stuck in this stage of the journey leading to less contact and connection. It becomes a power struggle in which each partner tires to will their way in the relationship or withholds in reaction to the hurt or pain they are experiencing. It is a dark time and leads to feelings of unsafety and defensiveness cascading to even more disconnection and despair.
The good news is that there is hope beyond the Power Struggle. In Imago Theory it is referred to as “the Conscious Relationship”. A conscious relationship calls for a tool for partners to stay in connection and to recognize that they are one as a couple and yet have a separate experience than their partner and that each partners world needs to be heard and validated.
In addition, partners need to refuel their relationship by consciously re-introducing caring behaviors form the past (that were lost in the power struggle) as well as being curious and finding out from their partner the ways they feel cared for and loved. Furthermore, by listening to your partner’s desires and surprising them with those behaviors helps shift the neuro-chemistry of the brain from reactive/defensive behaviors into a safer and less defensives ways to experience each other. Safety allows partners to be more spontaneous and therefore experience more aliveness.
As Valentine’s day approaches, ask your partner how they feel loved and cared for. Then, do what you can, even stretch yourself, to help your partner know that you care enough to honor their needs. It is powerful step in creating a safe and passionate relationship with the one you love!