1. Call your partner unexpectedly just to say you love him/her and were thinking of him/her.
2. Call your spouse/partner just to tell them one thing you appreciate about them.
3. Send your spouse/partner flowers (home, office, hotel room) “just because”, or ‘thank you for. . .”, or ‘because I love you’, etc..
4. Send a fax to work or hotel (or an e-mail) saying that you love your partner and can’t wait to be with him/her again.
5. Pick up flowers or dinner on the way home and surprise your partner. (If dinner, you might want to call and feel things out first!)
6. When you come home, find your partner and just hold him/her close for a moment (prolonged hug)–no words necessary.
7. Call your partner at 10:00am and tell them you are going to take them out to lunch.
8. Call your partner, tell them you’ll meet them for lunch, pick up cheese, crackers, and then find a place to make love!
9. When you walk by your partner at home, touch him/her, or give a hug, or caress.
10. Wake up to the day as if it was ‘the first time’ you were alone with your spouse. Greet him/her enthusiastically. Sit and just look lovingly at him/her for a few moments. Ask about them and their day and just listen and try to let them know you understand (even if you disagree)–no problem solving unless asked for!
11. Write a note and put it where your partner will find it during the day. Tell the person loving things.
12. Make a list of 10 things you love about your partner and leave it where they will find it (or mail it).
13. Try a new way to make your love-making more sensual and prolonged. (Can use candles, incense, longer foreplay, times of just kissing and holding, caressing, exploring each other’s bodies by touch, etc.)
14. When you go to bed, sleep naked together without sex. Just hold your partner or snuggle next to him/her so your bodies touch.
15. Just hold your partner in bed (can be dressed) without sex until one of you falls asleep.
16. Bring home balloons (or hide them and put them out at night after your partner goes to bed) with a note or sign with something like “I celebrate YOU!” “You are wonderful!” or something similar.
17. Pamper your partner one evening. (Examples: If watching TV, ask partner if would like anything–offer to put stool under feet or take off shoes and massage feet. If cooking dinner, volunteer to clean up, do dishes while partner just relaxes. Give back rub. Put on soothing music. Etc…)
18. Next time you kiss, pause, look into your partner’s eyes remembering what it was like when you first met. Touch his/her face. Trace his/her lips with your finger. Slowly bring your lips to theirs–first gently kissing his/her upper lip, then lower lip. Embrace your partner and gently kiss them fully, letting your lips part, and enjoy every second of it. After the kissing is finished, just hold each other a few moments longer.
19. Plan a ‘date’–arrange for baby-sitters, clear calendar, etc. (Good to do this one once a week or at least every two weeks!)
20. ‘Surprise’ your partner by taking them someplace they have said they wanted to go–a sporting event, a concert, a restaurant, a computer show, the mall, etc. Do it even if it isn’t something you like. Enjoy your partner enjoying it and do it simply for love.
21. Make a list of 10 romantic things to say to your partner and say them from time to time throughout the week.
22. Create a romantic dinner either out or in.
23. Take a bath together with bath oils, or bubbles, and candles.
24. Do what you would do for an anniversary on a regular day–just because.
25. Buy a gift for your partner–it can be a blouse or shirt s/he wanted–or something simple and inexpensive.
26. Plan a picnic in the park (or your own yard, or living room).
27. Even when you still have chores to do, take the day off, go to a movie or do something else fun.
28. Call your partner unexpectedly during the day (or at night if they are out of town) and talk sexy to him/her, telling them how much you long to feel him/her, etc.
29. Plan a surprise getaway weekend for just the two of you–arranging for baby-sitters, dogsitters, etc. Take your partner someplace you think he or she will love. You can go to a nice hotel in your own city!
30. Greet your partner at the airport with a balloon or flower and enthusiastic ‘welcome home’.
31. Take out an ad in the Lost and Found with something like “I’ve found love with you.” or something similar. Have a florist deliver a rose, the newspaper and a note telling him/her which page to turn to and where the ad is.
32. Make sure your partner can sleep in one weekend morning. Take care of telephone, kids, dogs, etc.
33. Leave your favorite romantic song (even if from when you first dated) on your partner’s voice mail or answering machine.
34. Give your partner a massage on any part or all of his/her body (if full body, create climate with candles, etc.)
35. Sit and talk about fun and romantic times in your relationship–when you were dating, first married, etc. Enjoy the memories and think about how to bring some of that into the present.
36. Write a short poem (even if it doesn’t rhyme and even if you think you could never write poetry) telling of your love. You can start with lines like, “Like the light of a harvest moon. . .” “Heart to heart. . .” “Like the water caresses the sand. . .” etc.
37. Lip sync a romantic song for your partner after dinner one night.
38. Bring home or to the office your partner’s favorite sweet thing.
39. Leave a flower on the pillow before your partner goes to bed–even if it is one you pick from your own yard.
40. Take the afternoon off and just go someplace with your partner.
41. Plan a ‘secret rendezvous’ in your own town, in the city where your partner is on business, etc.
42. Send your partner a postcard when you are out of town saying you were thinking of him/her and love him/her. It doesn’t matter if you get home before the postcard does!
43. Write a love letter as if you were just falling in love with the person.
44. Tell your partner you that instead of watching TV tonight (or doing work, or fussing with the kids, etc.), you simply want to be with them.
45. Go for a walk together after dinner, holding hands and remembering good times you’ve had.
46. Write “I love You!” on the bathroom mirror with lipstick or shaving cream.
47. Shower together.
48. Paint a heart or something else on your partner’s body or body part with whipped cream, chocolate syrup, and lick it off slowly, and saying “MMMMMMMmmmmmmm”.
49. Tell your partner before you go to bed, or before you leave in the morning, one of the things you love most about him/her (quality, physical characteristic, behavior).
50. Agree to meet at a social event or public place and act as if you are meeting each other for the first time—flirt, make ‘eyes’ at each other or other gestures from across the room, rub against each other when walking by, etc.
51. Go skinny dipping in pool or hot tub or at the beach.
52. Test drive a Porsche or a convertible with the top down and pretend you are seeing each other although it has been ‘forbidden’ by your parents.
53. When your partner is coming home late in the evening (after meeting, etc.), have bed turned down, hot bath ready with flower petals floating in it and candles.
54. Rent a video you know your spouse would like or liked in the past, make popcorn and have an evening together like teenagers.
55. Create your own ‘slumber party’ for just the two of you.
56. Drive to the beach (or spend the night) and go for walks on the beach holding hands.
57. When you have to go out of town on business, add an extra day and invite your spouse to join you for all or part of your trip.
58. Undress your partner as if it were the first time–slowly, touching their body as you go.
59. Make sexy comments to your partner throughout the evening.
60. Use your imagination—this is a person you are just falling in love with–be creative in ways to express that, be together, etc.
How would you like to reduce conflict in your dialogues by 25 to 50 percent? Prevent toxic meltdowns from happening or get up to speed again quickly when a breakdown occurs?
There is a tool for doing this. It’s simple enough to use. Start each dialogue with statements of positive intention. Mirror your partner’s statement of positive intention.
I recommend the following well-tested version: My intention is to stay in this dialogue until both of us feel understood.
Making such a statement at the beginning of your dialogue is like taking hold of the steering wheel of your car or the rudder of your boat. You wouldn’t dream of pulling out of your driveway with your foot on the gas and your hands in your lap. That would insure disaster.
So, too, unless you establish an intention to truly understand your partner at the very outset of dialogue — and renew that intention throughout — you’re going to end up in a head-on collision.
Intentional dialogue must be exactly that: intentional. I cannot emphasize this strongly enough.
I would like to see this point become part of standard Imago practice throughout our community: Intentional dialogue starts with statements of positive intention.
So now you have the key to successful dialogues, right? I can just end the article at this point.
Wrong. A simple statement of positive intention made as a mechanical opening to your dialogue will get you no better results than you’ve gotten in the past. Opening your dialogues with a statement of intention is only useful if it triggers a corresponding mindset in you and your partner.
That’s what the rest of this article is about — building the associations in your mind that make up the mindset that will get the best results for you in your relationship.
Several years ago I was working with a particularly challenging couple. These partners truly cared for each other but could set off emotional crises and high drama in one another in an instant. Somehow, despite the chaos, hurt feelings, rage and everything else that happened in session, I managed to help them walk out the door at the end feeling connected. This seemed miraculous. They would finish up each session — well, almost every session — on each other’s side.
As I analyzed what I was doing to help them get to this point, I began to see that I was mainly assisting them to understand each other. This didn’t, in itself, seem particularly remarkable. But as I continued to muse on the point, I came up with an observation that is key to all my work now: Conflict only exists when one or both partners are feeling misunderstood.
I thought back over every conflict I had observed and every one I’d been in. The constant was indeed the experience of feeling misunderstood. By contrast, when partners felt mutual understanding, their differences didn’t trigger conflict. They often experienced tensions around the differences, but not conflict.
Because of this observation, I started targeting breakdowns in understanding as my primary point of intervention. Then it occurred to me that conflict could be avoided altogether or greatly minimized if one used this insight to front load the dialogue process.
I was greatly aided in my thinking process by Jordan and Margaret Paul’s classic work, Do I Have to Give Up Me to Be Loved by You? I had to modify their formulations to bring these into line with my crucial observations. In addition, unlike the Pauls’, I had my clients state their positive intentions out loud and mirror their partner’s statements of intention.
In retrospect, I can’t believe this step has not been part of intentional dialogue from the very beginning because there is nothing more crucial to effective communication than understanding intentionality.
There are only two basic intentions you can have in communication:
To protect and defend (closed)
To understand and learn (open)
All the different ways you can handle conflict grow out of these two intentions.
By intentions I mean your motivation or purpose. You can be either aware or not aware of your intention. But you always have one. Learning the difference between the two is crucial, because you can never resolve conflict from the closed position, when you’re in “protect” mode. “You can’t there from here,” as the old saying goes.
You can only get to resolution from the open position, the “learning” mode.
you operate from the intention to protect whenever you are trying to defend against hurt. Maybe you see yourself as dangerous, and your partner as fragile, and you are afraid of hurting him or her. Or maybe you view yourself as vulnerable, and your partner as the dangerous one. When people act from the intention to protect, it can look like rage, or walking on eggshells, or anywhere in between.
The tactics of protection are closed, shut down, and lead to a dead end. Whether one tries seduction or coercion, without a genuine openness to learning more about what’s really going on for one’s partner, there can be no real intimacy.
The intention to understand, on the other hand, leads to the breaking down of walls, to closeness and a freedom to find new solution to problems, solutions that work for both partners.
Consider the following case:
Charlotte has a frustration with Eddie. It can be about almost anything. Charlotte is not one to let frustrations build. She wants to talk about these things. So she brings up the problem. What she gets from Eddie is a glassy-eyed fish stare. Silence hangs heavy between them. She can almost see the anger building up inside him, resentment, maybe even hatred. She explodes in anger, and he storms out of the room.
A few cycles of this, and Eddie begins to believe that Charlotte is impossible. She’s always critical, controlling and hysterical, the way she goes into a rage.
Charlotte feels Eddie is cold, angry withholding. She begins to believe he really has no desire or intention to do the work necessary for a relationship. He’s probably storing up rationalizations for walking out of the relationship.
They are experiencing each other’s intentions as hostile. Polarization has set in. The walls are building.
Both are mistaken. Charlotte just wants to make the relationship work. That’s why she brings up problems. Eddie just want to make the relationship work. That’s why he’s slow to answer her. He is surprised by Charlotte’s complaint, wants to run it around his mind a couple of times, to check it out, and most of all, he doesn’t want to say the wrong thing and provoke an argument. He hesitates — a long time. And Charlotte explodes.
Pretty soon, even though both want to make their relationship work, neither one believes that the other one does. What’s gone wrong for Charlotte and Eddie? They both want their relationship to work. What’s wrong is they have gotten off course. One of them needs to take hold of the steering wheel. One of them needs to take conscious control, and pull hard to get back on course — to get out out of the intention to protect, and to set course on the intention to understand.
Most partners think the problems they have in their relationship are the results of their differences. “We’re just so different,” they say, as though this explains the problems. “We want different things.” “We just can’t see eye to eye.” These partners were just as different when they fell in love as they are now. Only when the relationship works people say, “Opposites attract.”
Problems in relationship are not caused by differences, but by how those differences are handled.
What is really at the root of the problem is fear. you believe that if your partner is different that you want him/her to be, you won’t be able to get your needs met.
You won’t get the kind of sex you want the way you want it.
There won’t be enough money to spend on the really important things.
The kids will out all messed up.
You will end up doing all the dirty work around the house.
It is my contention, from my experience with families I work with, that the only way to solve these problems and make sure both parties’ needs are met is to take the time to really understand each other’s different point of view. Because when partner don’t know how to do this, one misunderstanding is heaped upon another.
It is not that partners don’t want to understand each other. Usually they have tired every way they know ho. But the hurts multiply. Partners become angry with one another. They become polarized. Pretty soon, what started out as a little misunderstanding leave them miles apart — with a thick all in between.
Polarization involves a certain sequence of beliefs:
Both partners progress down a similar track, becoming more and more distant.
This sequence gets triggered by partners when they are overwhelmed by fears and frustrations. Then, misunderstandings escalate into polarization, because of the intention to protect.
Establishing The Intention To Understand
If you want to improve your relationship, the single most important thing you can do is to take control of your intention and keep it positive in al your communications. This action has turned around seemingly hopeless situations. Even one partner acting without the cooperation of the other can often straighten out a deteriorating relationship by doing this.
Intention is the rudder. If you are in a long-term relationship where a lot of walls have been built up, it may take a while to reverse direction. Relationships, like boats, don’t have brakes. It is more like turning an ocean liner around. Take hold of the rudder, intentionally, which most partners don’t even know exists, and take charge of the direction you are going. An ocean liner comes around slowly, in a wide arc. But if you despair that you are not getting instant results and let go of the rudder, the forward momentum of the years will carry you in the same direction you have been going.
Less damaged and less polarized couples will get quicker results.
But exactly how does one go about establishing and maintaining a positive intent to understand?
The first step is to become aware. You already operate from both the intent to protect as well as the intent to understand. Become aware of the differences between these two. Become aware of how each one feels in your body. Notice how when you are operating from the intent to protect, your body may become tense, and you hold your breath. Notice how when you gently resume full exhalation and inhalation of your breath, and assume an open and relaxed body posture, this definitely will support your efforts to move more and more into understanding.
Notice, also, that the tendency to go into protect mode is automatic, while shifting to the intent to understand usually requires a conscious decision on your part. it is very easy to slip into the protective mode. To stay in understanding requires vigilance, determination, and patience with yourself and your partner.
Staying in understanding also requires humility on your part. By humility I mean a realistic view of both your strengths and limitations, and of what you can know what you don’t know. The more we explore ourselves, the more we realize how complicated our motivations are. We sometimes accuse others of having faults that are actually our own faults. We have blind spots. We commit to making changes we think will be easy, and then discover that our own stubborn natures resist being told to change. Or we ask for changes, and when we get them, we find ourselves irritated and unsatisfied with what we thought we wanted. Our memories are faulty. We misperceive events.
The second step then is to state your intention to understand out loud to your partner and to yourself.
For many years I taught intentional dialogue by simply explaining to the partners the differences between protection and understanding. The idea is easy to grasp. Most partners get the point quickly. So move on to the next point, right? But that didn’t work well for my clients or for me in my own relationship.
What was missing? The answer was simple. State your intention to understand out loud. But it was years before this simple point became obvious.
There is enormous power in the spoken word. When you agree to start any difficult discussion with a statement of positive intention, you move your relationship to a new level.
The method for doing this is simple. Make short statements that start with the phrase “I intend…” or “I am committed to…” or, “I want…”
Let’s start with the statement I began this article with: I am committed to staying in this dialogue until both of us feel understood. I recommend starting all your dialogues with this specific formulation. It makes sure that the focus is on both of you getting to the point of feeling understood. In my experience, if this is kept in mind as the primary goal, everything else works out. You can, however, individualize and add important variety to your openings with additional statements like:
Statements of intentionality should be broad and general. Don’t start by getting into the actual subject matter — for example sex, money, kids, in-laws, etc. — during the statement of intention. Doing that is likely to ignite an argument before you get started.
Make these general statements of intention clear and simple.
You can make the statement either about your “process” or about your “end goal.” “I want us to end up with a win-win solution,” or “…where we feel more connected,” is an end goal statement. “I intent to really listen to you,” or “I’m willing to keep working at learning to make our dialogues safe, ” is a process statement.
The third step is that if anywhere in your dialogue your process begins to break down, then immediately stop discussion of the issue, and go back and re-establish your intention to understand.
It is very easy to get off track. An unexpected misunderstanding can trigger lots of pain, and suddenly one or both partners are back into the intention to protect.
Stop the process. “We’re getting stuck here. Can we go back to the intention to understand each other?” Or, “We’re off track. Would you help me get us back on track?”
If you can catch yourselves off track early enough, it is a simple process to right your direction. If you are a more reactive couple, you may find yourselves in flare-ups where you need to separate physically to calm down. This is fine. When powerful emotions are triggered, all kinds of chemicals get dumped into the bloodstream that keep us on edge. Many partners need a space to calm down in.
But if you do need to take a break, be sure to make an appointment to come back to finish the dialogue. that can be ten minutes from now, or an hour, or the next day. You be the judge of what you can handle, and how long you need to get more centered. But the problem is not going to go away by itself. You don’t want to add your problems by stirring up your partner’s abandonment issues. Take the breaks you need, but always make the appointment to complete an interrupted dialogue — and then keep the appointment.
The three rules for establishing intentionality are:
These three rules are the cornerstone of effective communication for couples. With them you can take charge of the direction of your relationship, by controlling fears and establishing safety between you and your partner. they are your tools for learning to love in a deeper way.
NOTE: This material is adapted from How to Love Your Porcupine, available on the Internet for a fee at www.1stbooks.com.
by Dale Bailey, Th.D.
Imago Relationship Therapy posits that there are compelling reasons beyond the moral ones for honoring one’s wedding vows. One’s emotional well-being, physical health, and spiritual evolution are also at stake. It is well documented that married people live longer and are happier. But marriage is in essence therapy, and one’s partner’s needs charts one’s path to psychological and spiritual wholeness. Rather than leaving it to find oneself, one finds oneself through marriage. Here are some behaviors of conscious partners.
About the author:
Dale Bailey has been in practice for over 35 years. A licensed Psychologist and Marriage & Family Therapist, Dale is also an Advanced Clinician in Imago Relationship Therapy. Dale is also an ordained Presbyterian minister. You can visit his Website at: Therapy Corner
They communicate their needs and desires to each other in constructive ways — without criticism, provocation, or coercion.
They accept all of each other’s feelings, especially anger. Anger means pain usually rooted in childhood. Since spontaneous “dumping” is destructive, they learn constructive ways of expressing and containing anger and other negative emotions, which includes asking their partner for appointments for discussing them. This converts anger into passion and deeper bonding.
They are committed to healing each other’s wounds as the unconscious purpose of the relationship. They recognize their partner’s needs to be a blueprint for their own personal growth, and that to use that will require intentionality and hard work.
They educate each other about their childhood wounds. And taking inspiration from the romantic phase of their relationship, they commit themselves to target their behavior to meet their partner’s needs and heal their wounds — unconditionally — without asking for anything in return.
They accept each other’s absolute separateness and different perception of reality — as an equal. They explore each other’s reality — mirroring, validating, and empathizing with each other’s experience.
They keep the energy of the relationship within its bounds. When frustrated or uncomfortable, they bring their concerns to their partner rather than withdrawing or turning to outside compensations.
They learn to own their own negative traits instead of projecting them onto their partner. They accept, manage, and integrate those parts of themselves which they wish to disown and deny.
They develop their own and encourage their partner’s contra-sexual energy, breaking out of gender or sexual stereotypes. Each strives toward androgyny in the sharing of responsibilities — income, household chores, childcare, etc.
They develop their own lost strengths and abilities rather than relying on their partner to make up for these. They call each other to wholeness.
They care for others and the world with which they are able to experience their oneness. Being aware of their power, competence, caring, and capacity for intimacy with each other, they want to direct their excess energies to the world outside their relationship.