by guest blogger Harville Hendrix, PhD, clinical pastoral counselor, educator, public lecturer, author, and couples' therapist
It's hard to sustain love through the day-to-day grind of full-time jobs and the needs of children, pets, or aging parents. At times, tending to your closest relationship can seem like just another duty in a long list of weekly chores. Without trust that your partner will reciprocate your efforts, it can also seem like a risk to be the one to make the first attempt. From years of leading workshops with thousands of couples with my wife of more than 25 years, Helen, with whom I created the Imago therapy movement, I can say with certainty that a little investment (from your heart, not your wallet)--small changes in the way you treat your spouse--will not only lead to his or her happiness, but also to warmly returned, mutual support that will cushion you from your own life's daily blows and demands. Here's my three-step plan for saving relationships:
Change can only come through replacing frequent inattentive communication with less frequent, but more thoughtful, conscious, curious communication. When you do connect, really take the time to listen before responding. Reflect on what your partner says and relay your understanding back to him or her. Don't jump immediately to dispensing advice or bringing up your own related ideas. Demonstrate with your body language, your attentive gaze, and the questions you ask that you have really heard what's been said.
Ultimately, I've found that this whole process is kind of, well, sexy for couples. Something about reexperiencing that your partner is really present and there with you reignites the feelings you had when you were new to each other. So don't be surprised when this technique leads to new techniques between the sheets.
Harville Hendrix, Ph. D. co-created with his wife Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D. Imago Relationship Therapy, a therapy for couples now practiced by over 2000 certified therapists in over 30 countries. He and Helen have authored nine books on intimate relationships and parenting, including Harville's New York Times bestseller, Getting the Love You Want, which has sold over two million copies. Referred to by Oprah Winfrey as the "Marriage Whisperer," Harville has more than 40 years of experience as a therapist, educator, clinical trainer, and public speaker and is known internationally for his work with couples. Learn more at harvillehendrix.com
For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com
Follow Maria Rodale on Twitter: