Comings & Goings

How do you like to be greeted when you walk through the front door at the end of your day? How about when you wake up in the morning? How does it feel when you come home and your loved ones keep doing whatever it is they were doing, without a glance or a word in your direction? Do you do the same when you’re caught up in making dinner/sending that important email/reading that last page/etc?

One simple way we can really improve our relationships is to pause and pay attention to each other when we’re coming and going. Don’t let those moments get lost. Take advantage of them to look your partner or child or friend in the eye, and to greet them with a smile, with love in your face. Give a warm greeting. You can always go back to what you were doing one minute later, or maybe you’ll find that you’d rather talk to your partner about his or her day.

Transitions, those times when we’re moving from one mode to another, are often the times when our stored up irritations or concerns will rise to the surface. We find ourselves instantly reactive and pissed off because our partner didn’t stand at attention upon our arrival. And then our inner relationship investigator starts up: “See? I’m not that important to him/her. Just like I thought.” “I might as well just stay at work.” “Forget giving her a big kiss and hug, I’m going upstairs without saying a word.”

In bringing our awareness to these potentially vulnerable transitions in our day, we can avoid a negativity spiral and instead create more loving and caring routines with our loved ones. I used to wake my husband up with a shake and a cranky “It’s your turn!” kind of energy. Of course I know he’s not a great morning person, and I know he likes to stay up at night doing his man cave things. But I wanted him to have to be awake since I had to be. It took him mentioning it a number of times before I caught on that when I woke him up with a gentle touch, a quick snuggle or a soft whisper in his ear, we would immediately experience appreciation for one another and our day would go smoother.

Why not use these daily moments to build up your good will bank accounts with one another? It takes less than a minute to connect and to let your partner know they mean more to you than getting things done. And in the long run, you’ll have a stronger and more loving relationship that can withstand life’s ups and downs, whether you’re coming or going.

Sofia enjoys helping couples to find those delicious moments of connection and to deepen their relationships. Call her at 503-544-3559 or email sofia@peacefull.net to set up your first appointment today.

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Who’s On First?

My husband is mad this morning. I think I know why and I don’t like it. I get that he wants me to listen to him and to change one of my behaviors. And yet, I am struggling to be open to him and to hear him out. All the intellectual know-how is there but I’m still struggling.

As soon as he showed up with his anger I felt my body go into defense mode. For me that feels like a low simmer in my gut, a feeling of tenseness in my limbs, a dryness in my mouth and a brain that is off-line. I immediately went into my own internal dialogue – he’s being so unfair, he’s going about this the wrong way, it sucks that he is starting our morning off this way, I’m so hurt, etc. And I feel a sense of shame. Like I’ve been scolded like a little child.

So, we go about our morning routines with less talk, more stress, less connection and more negativity. We each are caught up in our mindstorms of frustration and loss.

How do we change this? How do we move back toward connection, love and understanding?

One of us must be brave and gracious and strong enough to say, “I see how upset you are. I care about you and am willing to listen to what’s going on for you. When can we talk?” In other words, one of us must stretch beyond our comfort zone and be willing to go second.

This takes work. In spite of our parents’ best efforts, most of us still want to be first and win the race. But as we grow up we discover that everyone wants to win the race, and you can’t win all of the time. Hopefully, we discover that when we are in an intimate relationship going second has its own rewards.

Having been here before, my husband and I have learned that having an Imago dialogue can really help. It makes a huge difference having a structure for processing our stuff. This way we’re both on the same page with the same end goal in mind. And for him, it’s a way to fix what’s wrong.

So, knowing that we can schedule a time and have a safe and productive dialogue about the incident helps. Having a process, a structure for handling our feelings and differences helps. And we both would much rather add to our closeness and trust than detract from it.

Now that I’ve had a few minutes to let my body settle down and to gather my wits, I can remember what’s in my heart. I remember that this is the person I share my life with, and who is really and truly my best friend.

So, now I’m ready to pick up the phone (or maybe text) and tell my husband how much I care. I’ll ask when he wants to talk about what happened this morning. I will tell him I’m ready to listen. And, that he’s up first.

Give Sofia a call at 503-544-3559 or email sofia@peacefull.net to set up your appointment and start learning how to do the Imago Dialogue for a more peaceful, fun and connected partnership.

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Are All Relationships the Same?

My handyman and I broke up today. I haven’t known him very long but I drove away feeling frustrated, confused, and oddly sad. It’s not like he was my dream handyman. And he did take care of what I needed, albeit not without some serious effort on my part.

So, why did this bother me so much? Well, for one thing, I was trying to tell him what I was upset about and what I needed from him, and apparently I didn’t do such a good job with that. Even though I phrased it as a request, and even though I told myself beforehand to be chill about it and take it lightly. But rather quickly I was reacting to his response (which was pretty minimal) and before I knew it I felt like I was having a fight with my husband. He even said things to me my husband has said in the past: “It’s not what you’re saying, but how you’re saying it.” “I listened to your whole thing, will you let me finish?” “I heard you. What do you want me to say?” “I’m done.”

Hmmm. It’s amazing how even a person who isn’t hugely important in our lives can have such a big impact on our state of mind. No wonder our significant others can send us over the edge! It got me wondering, are all relationships essentially the same? And what’s the common denominator here? Mmm, ummm, uh, ME!

So, how can this aha help me and others be more successful in our relationships, especially with our primary partner? Clearly, taking a look at our own reactions to things is a good starting place. When someone has done something wrong, made a mistake of some kind, intentional or not, there is that powerful space where we get to decide how to respond. Does pushing back on someone else, venting our frustration and upset, pointing fingers or being holier than thou, do anything at all to enhance our lives? I mean really. Anything?

Now I know this and of course, being imperfectly human, I will not always respond to things in my ideal way. But I definitely have found that using some basic tools has led me a long way towards minimal conflict and maximum enjoyment in my relationships, especially with my husband.

Here’s my list:
1) stop and do something else rather than respond from a place of upset (breathe, pray, sing, exercise, etc)
2) remind myself of what’s really important about the particular situation, what am I trying to achieve?
3) remind myself of ways that I appreciate and cherish the other person
4) make a respectful, specific, reasonable request and let go of the outcome
5) be mature and move on

You may have heard this a thousand times before, but here it is again: the only person you can really change, is you. So yes, in one way, all relationships are the same. The one you have with your own responses. And with a bit of regular effort and self-management you can make it the best relationship you’ve ever had.

While Sofia looks for a new handyman, she welcomes individuals and couples seeking better relationships at her SE office next door to the Laurelhurst Theatre. Call her at 503-544-3559, email sofia@peacefull.net or fill out the form on the contact page to set up a free 30-minute consultation.

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Three Little Words

It’s not what you’re thinking, although hearing “I love you” is always sweet.   When my husband started asking me, “Is there more?” during regular Imago dialogues I found myself nearly falling over with delight.

When we give our partner the gift of really listening, without an agenda or a need to intervene with our replies, it opens the door for greater intimacy and makes a huge deposit into our bank account of appreciation. So why don’t we all do it more often? Why is it so hard to listen to your partner sometimes, even though your intentions are good and you want to keep the peace?

I know that for B and I it took a third party to help us stretch and push and strive until we got into the habit of being willing to listen. It’s not that we couldn’t figure it out for ourselves eventually, but by having a neutral third party and a designated time and space for practice we were able to focus and commit more fully to the process. Like going to the gym or yoga class. Most people find it easier to develop regular habits by investing time and energy into a structured program. Imago provides that for couples.

Of course listening is way harder than talking. But there were many powerful moments for me when I felt such deep love and compassion for my husband that I was willing to give him all the time he needed to share. I experienced listening as a meaningful gift of generosity and love towards someone who I chose to be with in this life. I went from being defensive, angry, wanting to be heard, to being open and curious and sincerely present. And as my defenses dropped, so did his. Our connection grew and our communication muscles got stronger.

There are so many ways people try to show one another their love, but one of the absolute greatest gifts is to listen with an open and generous heart. So for me, hearing “I love you” will always be wonderful, but hearing “Tell me more” is like the icing on a cupcake – delicious and sweet!

Sofia Jamison welcomes couples at her office at Cypress Beauty & Wellness in Sellwood. One of her top priorities is helping partners listen to each other with love and compassion so they can resolve conflict and deepen their intimacy.

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Big Little Things

Have you ever found yourself exploding over finding socks on the floor or the blankets mussed up on the bed? In the television sitcom “Mad About You” there is a classic moment where Jamie sums up one of her frustrations with Paul in a short and impressionable manner.

While using humor may be a good strategy for expressing frustration there is often a complete disconnect for the receiving partner as to what actually matters to their “worked up” significant other. It’s easy to forget that beneath these “little” things are loads of history and some BIG associations.

Each of us carries around a collection of meanings we have either consciously, or more often, unconsciously assigned to various behaviors. When we suddenly respond in a huge way to something we are usually not reacting to what just happened but rather to the meaning or story we give it based on past associations. This can make it pretty, er, interesting for our partners in our day-to-day interactions.

It’s our job as loving and conscious partners to help each other understand what these Big Little Things actually mean to us. And the only way we can do that is to be aware of our own triggers. Les Brown, considered one of the all-time greatest motivational speakers, says we must continuously work on ourselves in order to be successful in the world. This is true for our relationships as well.

So how are you working on yourself? Do you take time to meditate, self-reflect, speak with a mentor/counselor/spiritual teacher, participate in a spiritual community or regular spiritual practice? Do you care for your body through fun and consistent physical activities, nourishing food and loving attention? Are you willing to look at yourself in the mirror and take responsibility for those areas where you are tender and vulnerable? Do you know how to soothe yourself when needed? Are you striving to grow as a person? Do you expect your partner to make you feel better or happy or confident or whatever? Are you able to ask your partner for reasonable, specific and doable support?

For me, those socks on the floor used to be a real trigger. I discovered that I was telling myself that when my partner left socks on the floor it meant, “I’m not important to him because he expects me to pick up after him. He thinks his time is more valuable than mine and he doesn’t care about me and what I have to do each day. He doesn’t take me very seriously.” (Wow, those are some very powerful socks!) After some of my own self-work and reflection I came to realize that the socks on the floor weren’t saying anything at all. I had a story about them from a relationship where I was not valued in the ways I deserved, and also from some experiences in my childhood when I felt I wasn’t really being seen and heard for my true self.

So with this new understanding, I could choose to pick up those socks and put them in the hamper, or not. I could choose to share with my partner how putting his socks away would be helpful and appreciated. I might tell him about what those socks mean to me and why. Or I might just let them lay where they are without saying anything. Perhaps he will put them away when he discovers that he has no clean socks because the dirty ones weren’t in the laundry room. Or maybe he never will be good at picking up his socks! If that’s true, what do I want to do about that?

The key is that once I uncover the trigger and recognize that the story I am telling myself is not accurate or helpful, there are choices. In Imago work we would have a dialogue about this and deepen our intimacy and connection through moving from blame, shame or criticism to empathy and understanding. We also might ask one another for a Behavior Change Request where we get to ask for a new behavior and our partner gets to decide what they are willing to do now that they understand what is underneath the frustration.

So I invite you to turn your Big Little Things into Big Loving Things with your partner and create new choices for yourself, and your relationship. And have some good laughs along the way!

Sofia works with couples and individuals to help them uncover their own triggers and stories so they can make more fulfilling choices in their relationships. Whether it’s socks, dishes or mowing the lawn you can turn your Big Little Things into Big Loving Things! Email her at sofia@peacefull.net or call her at 503-544-3559 to set up an appointment.

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