Harville, a long time fan of Star Trek and specifically of the Vulcan, Mr. Spock, says it was Spock’s good bye blessing that inspired him: “Live long and prosper and let peace be in your land.”
He then goes on to list any number of statistics showing that on average married people “are healthier, live longer, enjoy higher income, have better sex and more often, and raise healthier families”. These statistics are just for people who are married – what would they look like if the marriages were really healthy and people were living the relationship of their dreams.
The only way we can have lasting “peace in our land” and in our world is if the basic unity of society, the couple and then the family, learn how to live in peace.
My business card reads: “The tools are available in today’s world to have the relationship of your dreams”. I truly believe that but think about the conundrum. If my Crystal did not get certain needs met growing up, and then marries me who also cannot meet those needs (that is the crucial insight of Imago) will her needs every get met? That was the dilemma Harville was faced with in his own years of psychotherapy around his first marriage. He was basically told, grow up, you will never get the needs met you didn’t get met as a child.
Yet he somehow held on to the belief (he was a Baptist minister at the time and believed, as I do, that if there is a need, it is God expressing and there has to be a way to fulfill it) but he was stuck. When the answer came it was simple (although not necessarily easy). The only way my Crystal will get needs met that weren’t met as a child, is if I grow and stretch (into undeveloped areas of my own) and give them to her. In so doing I not only meet her needs, but I grow more whole myself.
That is the magic and mystery of Imago and now after 28 years and it didn’t take that long believe me, I truly believe most of my needs have been met and so also for Crystal. It is a pretty nice place to be. We can just hang out and it gets better and better. But you (we) have to be conscious! (which is what these blogs have been all about).
Be the Change You Want to See!
This chapter ends with this phrase. I think it is a very appropriate way to end the ten relationship saving truths. When I think about how we learn, it is by doing and by example. As a professor, I was always learning something new…if I wasn’t how would I expect my students to take learning seriously. As a psychotherapist, I need to be self-aware and working on my own issues to be a better therapist…even if I don’t always get it right. As a partner in an intimate relationship, I have a responsibility to be my best self. It is not my job to change my partner.
Too often we assume that our perspective on the world is the right one and we cajole and attempt to persuade our partner to see the world the way we see it. Life and relationships are all about perception.
Our conversations can create safety or not. Am I creating a safe space for my partner to be vulnerable? If not, I need to be the change I want to see. I have to start with me.
I have found that a great exercise is to imagine that the conversation I just had with John was reversed…how would I feel speaking to myself the way I just spoke to him. Would I feel loved, cherished, safe, empowered or defeated, ridiculed, always wrong, wondering what did I do now to deserve this. If you really want to get into this do the two chair gestalt exercise.
Sit in one chair and say what you would say to your partner who is the imaginary person in the chair opposite to you. Now switch chairs and you become your partner and you say how it felt to hear what was just said. You can go back and forth and in the safety of your own private world begin to get a glimpse of how you might be being with your partner.
I cannot emphasize more strongly how important it is to learn new skills together to create the relationship of your dreams. John and I have been working on this for years and we are still learning. The key is that both of you are committed to entering into the realm of vulnerability and giving up your egos. This work is not for the faint of heart. So be courageous, take the step and learn the skills to go beyond the mundane and recreate an amazing relationship…life is too short for anything else.
One more blog to come. There is an Afterword in the book labelled “The Relationship Revolution” which we will also comment on. Both Crystal and I have become more aware, more conscious, writing these blogs together. And we do appreciate the comments and feedback you have provided. Thank you.