How is it possible for married partners to treat each other so badly?

Most marriages start with the wonderful feelings of romance but soon descend into a power struggle that can be brutal. 

That’s when we say things like:

‘If only you would change, I could be happy!’ 

‘You could meet all my needs if you wanted to. And since you don’t, you don’t love me.’

The unconscious reasoning is: 

‘If I cause you enough pain, you’ll change and meet my needs. Then we can go back to romantic love.’

How do we get to this place?

How is it possible to dish out such emotional abuse toward this person that we promised to always cherish and protect?

On the surface it makes no sense. But when we see what’s happening unconsciously, it makes perfect sense.

Dr. Harville Hendrix shared a seven-step process that explains how our marriage goes from empathy and connection to objectification and emotional abuse.

1. Disconnection produces ANXIETY

Whenever there is a feeling of disconnection in marriage the immediate result is ANXIETY. 

Anxiety is not a feeling or an emotion, but a sensation that runs through our bodies. 

It first occurred as a child with our primary caretakers. As the Still Face Experiment shows, when the rupture in connection between the child and parent occurs, the result is anxiety. When it is repaired, anxiety goes away, and the child feels alive and happy again.

But for some of us, that repair and reconnection was not consistent. And continued anxiety was the result. 

This dramatically affects our adult relationships. Whenever we feel a disconnection with our marriage partner, this same anxiety is triggered.

2. Anxiety replaces FULL-ALIVENESS

The anxiety produced by the disconnection replaces the previous sensation which was FULL-ALIVENESS.

As our neural system is flooded with anxiety we no longer sense the full-aliveness we experienced before.

3. Loss of full-aliveness gives birth to DESIRE

When anxiety shows up, it’s accompanied by DESIRE for what was lost, which is that feeling of full-aliveness that is no longer being experienced.

Buried in every criticism or frustration with your partner is a desire to reconnect and restore that feeling of full-aliveness.

So the beginning of desire occurs with the loss of connection and the appearance of anxiety.

From the time that this wounding first occurred in childhood, you have been on a journey to find someone who will help you complete what was missing in childhood and help you feel fully alive again.

That’s what Romantic Love is all about.

When you find a person who matches your parents’ positive and negative traits, you fall for that person and form a relationship. What you don’t realize is that deep in your mind is an unconscious agenda to heal childhood wounds.

And that’s what the Power Struggle is all about.

Because your partner is like the parent who wounded you, conflicts with your partner bring to the surface old wounds you need to heal.

Healing can only take place as you and your partner become conscious of what is happening and turn your criticism into a positive expression of your desire.

That proves difficult because…

4. Desire results in SELF-ABSORPTION

When we experience that rupture and the anxiety that goes along with it, we become self-absorbed.

SELF-ABSORPTION is the main feature of pain.

There was a little girl who loved the beach. One day she was enjoying all of its beauty – the sun, the water, the colors, the seagulls flying overhead, the warm sand’¦

…but then, suddenly, she stubbed her toe on a rock.

All the wonder of this amazing world outside disappeared, and all she was aware of was the pain that was throbbing within her.

Self-absorption is what happens psychologically to all of us when emotional pain is triggered.

When that pain is triggered, our brain stops taking in outside information. That’s when we lose awareness of other people.

When we are receiving information only from within our own psychoneural system, it’s not possible to see, acknowledge, or empathize with another person’s reality.

The emotional pain from childhood that our partner triggers floods our psyche. That’s when we lose sight of our partner and we become absorbed only in our own pain.

5. Self-absorption results in SYMBIOSIS

Because you’re not getting data about your partner from the outside, you start creating an image of your partner with the data you have inside.

You construct your partner with the figments of your own imagination.

You think you are experiencing your partner, but in reality you’re experiencing your own projections of your partner, not who your partner really is.

This is called ’emotional SYMBIOSIS’. It’s when you assign to your partner your inner world and you assume they are you – that they think and feel the way you do.

‘That’s a great song! Of course you like it too. Wouldn’t everyone?’

‘Who would ever want their living room painted green? Everyone can see that green is not a very attractive color!’

Self-absorption requires your partner to agree with you and see everything the way you do.

6. Symbiosis results in POLARIZATION

As you’re stuck in this self-absorbed, symbiotic state, you’re rattled whenever you encounter a difference in your partner.  

When your partner’s perspective, or opinion, or desire is different from your made-up image of him or her, it’s traumatic and POLARIZATION results.

That’s when you feel your partner is no longer someone you can talk to, no longer someone who is safe.

Soon you’re fully engaged in the Power Struggle Stage of your marriage. This is when you begin wanting your partner to change.

You feel like, ‘If my partner doesn’t change, I can’t be happy.’

7. Polarization results in OBJECTIFICATION

As polarization happens, you lose empathy for your partner. You are no longer in touch with what your partner is feeling.

That’s when OBJECTIFICATION occurs. Your partner has been effectively degraded to the status of a mere object.

When people become objects, we can treat them any way we want.

We can criticize them, yell at them, or label them. We can withdraw from them even if it makes them feel abandoned.

We can do anything to them we feel like, because they are no longer human. They are just things that serve us. And they become objects of our frustration.

This is how it’s possible for married partners to treat each other so badly.

So what can I do? 

The Imago Couple’s Dialogue is a tool that can help you restore empathy and reconnect with each other.

Here’s how the three steps of the Imago Couples Dialogue can help.


When you MIRROR your partner’s feelings, you begin to see who your partner really is. When your partner feels heard, she or he feels loved.


When you VALIDATE your partner’s feelings, you begin to see how their thoughts make sense from their perspective. Validation is not agreeing with your partner, but it’s seeing how their perspective makes sense according to their own inner logic. Validation results in differentiation and neutralizes the trauma so that polarization does not occur.


When you EMPATHIZE with your partner’s feelings, healing occurs and safety is restored. You see your partner as human and not as an object, and connection is possible. It’s impossible to criticize someone you are empathetic with.

CLICK HERE and print out two copies of the Couples Dialogue. Begin using it today to reconnect with each other and disrupt this tendency to treat each other so badly.

Subscribe below to receive my weekly post that will come to your email inbox every Saturday morning! 

    My goal is to provide free relationship tools and resources delivered to your inbox every week! 

    How one husband transformed his marriage from a storm of conflict into a refuge of healing!

    Debbie said she had only one problem in her marriage! It was her husband, Will!

    ‘Our counselor told us Will has to work on himself before we can ever have a healthy relationship!’

    Debbie and Will were in a storm of conflict and she was blaming it all on him.

    Will had ‘anger issues‘ so in Debbie’s eyes he was 100% to blame for their problems. He got labeled by their prior counselor as the ‘bad spouse’ and she was the ‘good spouse’.

    But we soon discovered that Debbie’s fear of intimacy was preventing her from connecting with Will. And her withdrawal from him during times of conflict was activating Will’s childhood feelings of rejection. That’s when he would react with  outbursts of anger.

    His anger, in turn, made her feel smothered until she would then blow up. And the raging storm of conflict continued!

    In a storm of conflict like this, the problem is not you or your partner, it’s the ‘space-between’.


    Their problem wasn’t Will. And it wasn’t Debbie.

    It was ‘the space between’!

    The ‘space between’ them was filled with negativity, making the relationship unsafe. Both were adding to that negativity in their own way. Will by his uncontrolled anger. Debbie by her fear of intimacy, retreating, and then blowing up.

    An intimate partnership is not just two individuals interacting. It’s two people plus the ‘space between’ them.

    A marriage relationship is like the physical universe in two ways: (1) everything is connected, and (2) the space between planets is not just empty space. There are massive energy fields at work to hold everything together.

    In the same way, you and your partner are connected, and the space between you is not just empty space.

    The space between you is filled with either positive or negative energy. And that’s what determines the quality of your relationship and your life. Whatever you put into that space has the power to shape and change your lives more than any other force.

    So, to fix your relationship, you can’t just fix your partner or fix yourself. You have to fix the ‘space between’.

    Filling the space between with positive energy makes it safe to reconnect. And when you reconnect all the problems you want to solve actually dissolve.

    That’s when the storm of conflict can be transformed into a refuge of healing.

    Here are three powerful steps Will took to turn their marriage from a storm of conflict into a refuge of healing.

    1. Commit to Zero Negativity

    If there is ANY negativity in the space between you in the form of criticism, judgement, an eye roll, or even going silent when your partner is overreacting, the relationship will not feel safe to either of you.  And negativity will always keep you from connecting with each other.

    So make a commitment to eliminate ALL negativity in the space between. Then, when you slip up, repair it immediately so you don’t fall back into the same old pattern of allowing negativity into the space between.

    Debbie could NOT stop her negative reactions, but Will tried hard to stick to it even when things turned ugly.

    As Will continued to refrain from any put downs, the space between began to slowly change.

    Will was demonstrating how one partner can change the dynamics of the relationship with a zero negativity commitment. Click on the link to download the tool.

    2. Share 3 ‘Appreciations’ with your partner every day.

    The way to get beyond the one negative thing you’re stuck on about your partner is to point out the myriad of things that are positive.

    What you focus on is what you will get.

    If you focus on what your partner does wrong all the neural pathways of anger and fear will continue to get reinforced. Then the accompanying neurochemicals of cortisol and adrenaline – the neurochemicals of fear and anxiety flood your system giving fuel to the storm of conflict.

    But if you focus on your partner’s positive qualities your brain releases the pleasure neurochemicals of dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin – neurochemicals of pleasure that make you feel safe, wonderful, and alive.

    Recent discoveries about the brain have given us new hope that we can change our way of relating and turn that storm of conflict into a refuge of healing.

    Turns out our brains are’ plastic’. This means that we can reshape our neural pathways. By choosing what you think about, you have the power to change your own brain and your feelings as well.

    The more we bring these appreciations into the ‘space between’, the more neurochemicals of well-being, wonder, and full-aliveness are released. And the more the space between is filled with positive energy and safety. Click here to download the Appreciation Tool.

    3. Use Safe Conversation skills

    Eliminating negativity doesn’t mean you don’t deal with negative issues.

    You have to talk about negative things, but you can do it in a positive way, keeping the space between you a negativity-free zone.

    Safe Conversations skills (aka The Couple’s Dialogue) can help you talk without put downs.

    It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it that makes it positive or negative.

    The Couple’s Dialogue will help you slow down and mirror (listening to 100% of what your partner is saying), validate (letting your partner know she or he makes sense), and empathize (feeling what your partner feels). Click here to download this tool.

    Will used these skills trying make it safe for Debbie, but it seemed to only escalate her anger.

    Debbie began accusing Will of things that simply ‘were not true’.

    It seemed like they would never catch a break from this storm of conflict.

    But a miracle happened as Will continued to regulate his own reactions by mirroring Debbie as she shared her feelings.

    Even though her accusations were unfair, and her feelings seemed unwarranted, Will continued to mirror, validate, and empathize with her until he literally dissolved all her criticism and negativity!

    That was a breakthrough! Why?

    Criticisms are simply a wish in disguise.

    Behind all Debbie’s hateful words and wrongful accusations was a hidden desire to be connected with Will.

    When it became safe for her to reconnect with him, all those criticisms melted away.

    When you make it safe for your partner to share ANYTHING, you can dissolve all their criticism, and melt all their accusations.

    Isn’t that better than defending yourself and trying to prove your partner wrong?

    What about you and your partner? Are you in a storm of conflict?

    • Get rid of ALL negativity.
    • Share 3 appreciations with your partner each day.
    • Use Safe Conversation skills to share your frustrations.

    And you can quell that storm of conflict and transform your marriage into a refuge of healing!

    Subscribe below to receive my weekly post that will come to your email inbox every Saturday morning! 

      My goal is to provide free relationship tools and resources delivered to your inbox every week! 

      Build your dream marriage part 6: Rid your relationship of “invisible abuse”

      Did you know that most marriage partners regularly abuse each other? And they do it without even realizing it.


      That’s right. There is an “invisible abuse” that keeps us from having our dream marriage.

      Experts tell us that any form of negativity in our relationship is emotionally abusive.

      If we want to build our dream marriage, we must rid our relationship of NEGATIVITY which is “invisible abuse”!

      The good news is that you and I can do it!

      And, when we eliminate negativity in our marriage, we can then extend it beyond ourselves – to our children, our workplace, and our city – making the world a better place.

      Drs. Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt wrote this:

      ‘We now think of negativity as an emotional disease on the order of cancer. It is pervasively destructive and ultimately kills the relationship. But unlike cancer, negativity can be stopped in an instant. You can decide now to stop all negativity. Act on that decision and everything will change. To be blunt: negativity is invisible abuse and is an addiction of the human race. When you eliminate this invisible abuse in your primary relationship, then you eliminate it in your relationships with your children, your friends, and the broader world.  You become a person of peace!’


      • Ruptures connection
      • Stimulates anxiety
      • Eliminates joy

      So, let’s get rid of it!

      Here are three powerful steps to eliminate negativity, and rid your relationship of this “invisible abuse”.


      Everything we achieve that is worthwhile begins with a commitment.

      I’m asking you today to make a pledge to eliminate 100% of all negativity from your relationship.

      You say, ‘Really? Get real, Chuck! Every relationship has negative issues to deal with. Not everything can be positive all the time.’

      That’s for sure! But here’s the rub…

      We can deal with all negative issues in a positive way, and thus completely eliminate negativity.

      It’s also true that no one’s perfect. We will all inevitably fail at some point in our attempts to eliminate negativity. So the Zero Negativity Pledge includes several methods to repair the relationship when you don’t succeed.

      How do we define negativity in a relationship?

      Negativity is any transaction your partner experiences as a ‘put down’.

      It’s any interaction that is experienced as devaluing or negating.

      Negativity may be intense: criticism, shame, blame, deflection, disempowering, accusations, and contempt.

      Negativity may be mild: in your tone of voice, an eye roll, or silence (ever heard of the ‘silent treatment’?).

      It may be intentional.  Or, it may be accidental.

      But, negativity in ANY FORM will keep us from our dream marriage.

      It’s like putting a drop of sewage in a clean glass of water. It’s only a drop, but it can contaminate the whole glass with harmful bacteria.

      In the same way, even a small amount of negativity can toxify your entire relationship.

      That’s why I’m asking us to make the ZERO NEGATIVITY PLEDGE.

      But what if we disagree over what is negative?

      There’s an easy way to identify negativity in your relationship…but you’re not going to like it.

      You really want to know? OK.

      If your partner says it’s negative it’s negative! Your partner is the authority.

      Your partner is the ‘canary in the mine’ alerting you to negativity.

      Same is true for you. If your partner says or does anything that feels negative to you, then it’s negative!

      So, here we go’¦

      Click here and print out two copies of The Zero Negativity Pledge, one for you, and one for your partner.

      Read it carefully and, when you’re ready, sign it!.

      On the second page of the printout, you’ll find The Zero Negativity Repair Process, which gives you several ways to repair your relationship should you blow it.

      Study it carefully, and decide ahead of time how you’re going to repair it when you fail. Because if you’re anything like me, you’re gonna need it!

      The sign of a healthy relationship is how quickly you can repair it once your connection is ruptured.

      Make the ZERO NEGATIVITY PLEDGE. And, if you would, please share your experience in the comment section below.

      A second step to rid your relationship of ‘silent abuse’ is…

      2. Share four powerful appreciations with your partner each day.

      Guess what happens to some couples when they stop all criticism and negative talk?

      They have nothing to say!

      When I was young I was told, ‘If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.’ So, there were many times, I said ‘nothing at all’.

      But this is a problem when we’re trying to eliminate negativity in our marriage.

      When we’re addicted to negativity, it’s a hard habit to break, in part because we have to fill that space with something.

      There is a tool I developed called ‘Four Powerful Appreciations’ that can help.

      Click here to print this tool out.

      Here’s how it works.

      Plan a moment with your partner four times a day…

      • when you first wake up
      • when you leave for the day
      • when you come home, and
      • before you go to bed

      Easy to remember, right?

      During these four crucial moments, find each other.

      Then give each other a one-minute, full body hug while you take 30 seconds each to say to each other, ‘One thing I appreciate about you is’¦’

      At first it may be hard to think of that many new things you appreciate about your partner.

      But the more things you share that you appreciate about your partner, the more things you’ll see that you appreciate about your partner.

      That’s the way it works.

      But you’ve got to START, and then STAY WITH IT! Four times a day!

      Soon negativity will be flushed out of the space between you by this constant influx of positivity.

      And your partner’s lower brain…you know, the part that has a negativity bias…will start to see you as a source of positivity and pleasure rather than a source of negativity and pain.

      This will go a long way toward building your dream marriage by increasing safety and the feeling of connection  in your relationship.

      If you find it hard to do it four times a day, join the crowd! Most of us find it hard. So start with one…then two…then three, etc.

      But START! And KEEP GOING! You’ll get there!

      A third step to rid your relationship of ‘silent abuse’ is…

      3. Turn your criticism into a positive request.

      Part of the ZERO NEGATIVITY journey is learning how to deal with negative issues in a positive way.

      It helps to know that…

      Negativity is simply a wish in disguise.

      Samantha was critical of her partner, Paul.

      Samantha: ‘You’re always late! I can never count on you to be on time!’

      Using of ‘always’ and ‘never’ unfairly labels a person and assaults their character. It’s negative, and it’s abusive.

      Through the Couple’s Dialogue, Samantha learned to express her frustration in the form of a positive request, rather than a negative criticism.

      Samantha: ‘When you arrive late, I don’t feel like I’m valued, and it makes me feel sad. Then I get angry.’

      Paul: ‘Let me see if I get what you’re saying. You said that when I arrive late, you don’t feel valued and it makes you sad and angry.

      ‘Did I get it? (checking for accuracy)

      ‘Is there more about that?’ (increasing curiosity)

      Samantha continued sharing with the focus on what she felt, rather on what Paul did.

      They continued the dialogue through the 3-fold process of mirroring, validating, and empathizing.

      Paul relayed the message to Samantha that she made sense, that he could see where his being late would make her feel “not valued” (validation). He could also empathize with her feelings of sadness and anger.

      Their defenses came down, and that made it safe enough for Samantha to share a request, and for Paul to hear the request and gladly grant it.

      Samantha: ‘The next time you are going to be late, will you call me ahead of time and tell me when you will arrive?’

      Paul was more than happy to do this.

      This is how Samantha turned her criticism into a request.

      What about you?

      Can you see where negativity is ‘invisible abuse’ in your relationship?

      Will you take the ZERO NEGATIVITY PLEDGE… replace negativity with REGULAR APPRECIATIONS… and then, turn your criticisms into POSITIVE REQUESTS?

      Here’s to taking another step toward our dream marriage!

      Next week we’ll look at the 7th and final part of our series…

      Build your dream marriage part 7: Learn to be honest rather than ‘nice’

      Subscribe below to receive my weekly post that will come to your email inbox every Saturday morning! 

        My goal is to provide free relationship tools and resources delivered to your inbox every week! 

        How a husband’s destructive anger was transformed into passionate love

        ‘My husband’s destructive anger is wrecking our family! I can’t deal with his abuse any longer!’

        Tears filled Gina’s eyes as she explained what her husband Gary’s anger was doing to her.

        This began a 7 step journey that transformed Gary’s destructive anger into passionate love.

        Recently, in an argument over how to deal with one of their children, Gary blew up at Gina and put his fist through the wall.

        Gary had not previously been physically violent toward Gina or their three children. But there were repeated times of yelling and name-calling.

        And now Gary had literally hit the wall. Where was it going to end?

        Gina was not only concerned for her own safety, but was really afraid of what this anger would do to their kids.

        In our first session, we began a structured dialogue that helped Gary and Gina take seven steps toward dealing with abusive anger.

        1. Set a boundary against uncontrolled anger.

        It was very important for Gina to say to Gary that uncontrolled anger is not ok. Gina must realize she does not have to tolerate it, and must be empowered to leave the abusive situation in any way necessary. This may include getting a restraining order.

        There are cases of emotional and physical abuse where the first step is for the victim to separate from the abusive partner and get professional help.

        Gina communicated this boundary in a Dialogue where Gary mirrored and validated her concern.

        It was very important that this boundary be communicated to Gary in a safe way. The Couples Dialogue helped him receive and accept it rather than feel judged by it.

        In Gary’s case, he was ready to get help, and fully accepted Gina’s boundary.

        For Gary and Gina, this act of violence was a wake up call to get help.

        Both of them were eagerly seeking change.

        They invited me to continue to facilitate this process of transforming anger into passionate love.

        2. Commit to “zero negativity”.

        After setting a boundary against violence, Gary and Gina agreed to sign the Zero Negativity Challenge.

        This is a pledge to stop all negative comments, criticisms, and uncontrolled expressions of anger.

        It is something I ask all my clients to sign whether violent anger is an issue or not.

        Because nothing can happen in a relationship unless it is safe.

        And it will never be safe if the tiniest bit of negativity is allowed in the space between the couple.

        Negativity in a relationship is like putting a drop of raw sewage into a glass of pure drinking water.

        Would you drink it even if I assured you it contained only a drop of sewage? 🙂

        Of course not! Because, even with a drop of bacteria infested sewage, it’s no longer safe to drink.

        In the same way, when a drop of criticism or unbridled anger is deposited into the space between a couple, it’s no longer safe to for either partner to open up to each other.

        Going forward Gary and Gina weren’t perfect, but this commitment to zero negativity was a good start down the right path.

        3. Avoid assigning labels to each other.

        “My partner is abusive!”
        ‘My husband is a narcissist!’
        ‘My wife has Borderline Personality Disorder!’

        Labeling like this produces enough negative energy to keep a person permanently bound in the role assigned to them.

        People live up to what we say about them.

        It’s important to drop the labels.

        And here’s another reason why.

        Gary and Gina are just two partners doing the best they can to manage their anxiety.

        What do you mean?

        When couples feel disconnected, the result is always anxiety.

        The human mind cannot handle anxiety for more than a few seconds. To cope we turn it into either anger or depression.

        So most people are not what we tend to label them. They’re just trying to manage their anxiety the best they can. Obviously some better than others.

        Of course there are true narcissists and there are violent aggressors that are unsafe people period.
        But in many cases where a someone claims their partner is a narcissist, it is a label unfairly assigned.

        During the Dialogue process, we often find that the “so-called narcissist” is perfectly capable of empathizing with his or her partner. It’s just that the relationship had never been safe enough for that to happen.

        We are all self-absorbed until we experience differentiation in our relationship.

        It’s the growth challenge of marriage that changes us from self-absorbed individuals into differentiated individuals capable of intimate connection.

        In many cases people are self-absorbed because they’ve never stepped up to the ‘growth challenge’ that every marriage presents.

        Therefore it’s important not to label.

        The Couples Dialogue process helps you reimage your partner as someone who is simply trying to manage their own anxiety the best they can.

        Some do it by exploding anger outwardly. Others by internalizing anger and becoming depressed.

        4. Listen to anger’s ‘cry for help”.

        As Gina mirrored Gary’s angry feelings, she learned that his anger was a cover for deeper emotions he was experiencing.

        Usually anger is not about what you say it’s about. It’s a way to protect yourself from your more vulnerable feelings.

        Like the tip of an iceberg, anger can be used to cover deeper emotions that we my not be conscious of.


        Gina and Gary’s big blow up was not really about differences over child discipline. It was about Gary not feeling important in the process.

        And at the very core was Gary’s hidden fear of losing his connection with Gina.

        As a child, Gary experienced feelings of abandonment from his early caretakers. Unknowingly, he had brought these wounds into his marriage.

        When he felt Gina withdrawing from him, his deep fear of abandonment was triggered.

        In an unconscious reaction he would then use anger to mask these feelings of abandonment.

        This in turn caused Gina to move even further from Gary.

        But Chuck, that doesn’t make sense. If Gary wanted to be connected with Gina, why would he yell and punch the wall?

        Why do kids throw temper tantrums?

        To get the attention of the parent they fear won’t be available to them when they need it most.

        Gary was doing an ‘adult version’ of this kind of behavior.

        So how does Gina ‘listen to anger’s cry for help’ and begin to understand Gary’s real emotion behind anger?

        It was through the structured Couples Dialogue that Gina felt safe enough to listen and validate Gary.

        And in the context of that safety, Gary got in touch with the fear of abandonment that was driving his explosive anger.

        And then, as we’ll see later, things went even deeper…

        5. Stay present rather than retreating.

        As Gina stayed present and listened to Gary, this had a powerful calming effect on him.

        It was Gina’s withdrawal that triggered the fear and anger in Gary.

        Most every day we walk our dog, Brie, in the neighborhood. There is a cat about a block away that Brie loves to chase. It goes like this.

        The cat sees Brie and takes off. When Brie sees the cat take off, she begins pursuit until she reaches the end of her leash. And then it’s all we can do to hold her back. We should have gone to dog training school.

        One day the cat saw Brie, and instead of running, he sat down in the driveway and began licking his paw.

        Brie was really troubled. And stood perfectly still. Why?

        We discovered that Brie will only chase if the cat retreats. If the cat doesn’t run, Brie waits.

        In the same way, Gina’s running away was one of the triggers for Gary to pursue her in anger.

        A dramatic change occurred when she remained present for Gary. His anger was diffused and he was able to express his fear in a safe dialogue.

        Gina was able to empathize with Gary’s feeling of abandonment, and that was when everything changed.

        Continuing to be curious in the Dialogue, Gina found out Gary’s hidden fear.

        Recently she had became more involved in her work as a school teacher. This meant more social engagement with her coworkers as well.

        As Gary saw her having fun with people that had more in common with her than he did, Gary feared that one day she wouldn’t need him and would leave him for good.

        So the anger wasn’t about the differences they had in parenting. It was about Gary’s deep fear of being left alone.

        Very often the problem you’re arguing about is not the problem. It goes much deeper.

        Both Gina and Gary got in touch with the real issue which was Gary’s hidden fear.

        This happened because Gina stayed present and curious in the process.

        6. Use your anger as a signal to stop and dialogue.

        The Couples Dialogue slows things down, enabling you to talk about your anger rather than exploding it.

        Anger does not have to be unhealthy. It doesn’t have to turn into destructive aggression.

        Anger can be an incredibly useful emotion.

        Anger serves as a stoplight – a signal that something is not right and you need to STOP.


        Gary learned to recognize when he was angry by noticing the sensations in his body.

        Sensations like a tensed body, clenched teeth, restlessness, or increased intensity of speech were the cues that helped him realize he was angry.

        If we can recognize anger before it’s expressed, it can be a signal to stop and use our safe conversation skills to talk about it.

        If we heed anger’s warning, it’s possible to return to love and connection. If we ignore its warning, our relationship will suffer.

        It’s a choice we have to make.

        7. Channel anger’s energy into passionate love.

        Anger and passionate love are opposite expressions of the same energy.

        When anger’s negative energy gets redirected in a safe conversation it transforms into passionate love.

        Gary took steps to moderate his anger, by talking it out rather than acting it out.

        Gina stretched in order to be present with Gary rather than withdrawing and triggering his feelings of abandonment.

        What happened as a result?

        Anger was transformed into passionate love.

        I saw evidence of this in the parking lot of my office after our last session as Gary and Gina stood by their car for what seemed like forever in a passionate hug and prolonged kiss.

        As people watched them, I thought, “They have no idea what’s behind this. If they only knew…”

        Gary and Gina not only learned to deal with destructive anger, but all of their feelings of love and passion returned.

        That’s because anger’s negative energy can be channeled in the opposite direction. And passionate love can be reborn.

        It can happen for you as well. If you need help, I can take you through the same process that Gary and Gina went through. Here’s more info.

        If you haven’t already, subscribe below to Relationship Resources and receive my weekly post emailed to your inbox every Saturday morning!