It Takes Two to Tango

Now that I’ve been tango dancing for two years, I get the meaning of this old adage on a whole new level. But it took me a lot longer to really “get it” in my relationship.

Like many other folks I know, there have been times when I insisted that the main cause of problems in my relationship was the OTHER person. Oh sure, I played some part in the tiffs and unsuccessful attempts at communication. But mostly, it was his fault.

Years ago, during my master’s program in Spiritual Psychology at the University of Santa Monica, we were assigned the book Conscious Loving by Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks. Of the many books on relationships that I’ve read over the years, this one really spoke to me because it talked about how each person is 50% responsible for the relationship AND 100% responsible for SELF.

This puts a new groove on things. It means that although my partner may act in ways that aren’t helpful or that trigger conflict, I still have complete responsibility for my own behaviors and actions in response. No matter what circumstances we are in, we always have a choice about how we respond. (Give Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning a read for some serious and truly inspirational writing on this subject.)

It is far too easy to point fingers, hold resentments and make excuses for why our relationships are not working. But when we get serious about improving our partnership, and really commit to making it fulfilling and successful we have to take responsibility for our own choices. It is within that we have the greatest capacity for change and the power to create the relationship of our dreams.

In the book mentioned above, Frankl states that “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

While tango dancing, I find I have the best dance experiences when I am open, “listening” to my partner, letting go of expectations, and staying balanced on my own axis. No matter what kind of dance we have together, I have 50% of the responsibility for its fun factor and 100% of the responsibility for my own dancing style and experience.

So next time I find myself thinking that it’s all my husband’s fault, maybe I’ll just start dancing with him instead! Because after all, it takes two to tango 😉

Sofia Jamison enjoys helping couples at all stages of their relationship to improve their “dancing” skills and transform their relationship challenges into self-growth and deeper connection. Her private practice is located at Cypress Beauty & Wellness in Sellwood.

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Making Friends with Elephants

You come home to find your partner banging about in the kitchen, or closing doors more loudly than usual. You’re tired and you’d like nothing more than to kick back and relax, watch a movie, read a book. Preferably with an affectionate partner nearby. What do you do?

If you go about your business without checking in with your partner you’re quite probably adding to the stress of your relationship. Over time, unresolved conflict can erode your connection and intimacy, and hurt your chances for long-term fulfillment and longevity of your relationship.

Instead try making friends with the ‘elephant’ in the room. Go right up to your partner, give a hug and ask if they would like to talk about anything. Follow that up with letting them know that you need a few minutes to transition from your busy day and you’ll be ready in fifteen minutes.  Then go and do something small and simple to nourish yourself.

Most likely, during that time, your partner will be able to relax some knowing that you noticed their upset and took the time to let them know that it’s important to you to be there for them.  This makes a huge difference!

In Imago work, we use the Intentional Dialogue to accomplish this. It may seem familiar to folks who have done reflective listening and mirroring before, but it has some important distinctions. It takes the dialogue further, to a level of empathy and compassion that inevitably leads to a deeper connection.

Instead of growing resentment and anger, your partner gets a chance to unload, to appreciate your efforts, and to feel heard, seen and understood.  Within a relatively short period of time you’ve moved from tension and separation to connection.  That’s my kind of elephant!

Sofia E Jamison is in private practice in SE Portland, OR.  She offers Imago Relationship coaching for couples and hypnotherapy and soul-centered counsel for individuals.

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Do You do Pinball?

Showing our appreciation for our partner, on a regular and consistent basis, is not only helpful but essential. Just as our brains and bodies need regular exercise to remain agile and fit, our relationships need regular attention and “exercise” to remain strong and flexible as well.

Regular appreciations mean making and taking the time to express to your partner what you are grateful for about them. It means showing you care in small and big ways, regularly and genuinely. It means really getting what matters to them, in their world, and being willing to do many of those things, even if they are not your cup of tea.

For example, my husband really likes pinball. Now I have to admit, in the early days of our relationship, I would have embraced almost any activity that I knew he enjoyed simply to show him how great I was. But as time went on, some of the ways we had fun together got boring, silly or plain old uninteresting to me. Pinball was one of them.

Today, however, every now and again I ask him if he wants to go to the best arcade in Portland for a couple of hours. Sometimes it’s together, sometimes it’s not. His happiness and satisfaction at having some time to indulge in this enjoyment is apparent and it’s become one way that I show him that I know and love him. And to my genuine surprise, I too eagerly anticipate beating my highest score or unlocking new actions on the “Sopranos,” “Tales of the Arabian Nights” and even “Spiderman.”

There are so many ways we can share our love and appreciation for each other. Get creative, ask, listen, take notes and actually schedule loving gestures and activities into your calendar. Then follow up and do what you scheduled. Life is so much richer when we share the love and gratitude in our hearts with those we care about most.

Sofia E Jamison practices Imago Relationship coaching at her office in Sellwood, Oregon. She is part of the Cypress Beauty & Wellness group and enjoys working with couples at all stages of their relationships.

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“I can’t believe this. Is this really happening?”

“I’m done! I can’t live like this anymore!”

“I’d rather be alone than have to live like this. It will never work.”

“How could I have made such a horrible mistake?”

Those are some of the thoughts I had when my husband and I separated in the summer of 2008. I was in a state of mental and emotional disbelief and was ready to walk away from all the good and bad of our relationship. I never had imagined that I’d feel that way. We were once so in love and I waited so long to find the right person. I thought I had it figured out. And things had been so good at one time… But there I was, truly ready to move on and cut this person out of my life. Even though we had a son together. Even though I had made a commitment, vows, promises… Even though we tried counseling before.

Fast forward to today. We are together. Our relationship is strong, positive, intimate, fun, peaceful and growing. We still have conflict but we move through it and return to the heart of our connection more quickly and with little drama or resentment.

We are in love and our relationship works. We are connected.

How did we get here? Using Imago Relationship Therapy. We worked with a wonderful, qualified therapist, committed ourselves to the process, put in conscious effort and worked our way through. The Imago tools made a huge difference in our lives.

Seriously. I’ve been there. Don’t put it off any longer. Your relationship deserves to be a nourishing and joy-filled part of your life!

Sofia E Jamison is in private practice in Southeast Portland, Oregon. She works with couples and individuals doing Imago Relationship coaching, hypnotherapy and soul-centered counsel.

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