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.