Why the best relationship tools to improve your marriage don’t work!

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My business is finding marriage tools that work! So why, after so many years, do these tools not work for some people?

Well, the answer is quite simple.

It’s not that the tools aren’t working. It’s that we’re not working the tools.

What do you mean?

Let’s consider a prime example – The Couple’s Dialogue from Imago Couples Therapy

(Click on the link below and print out two copies of this powerful tool – one for you and one for your partner. And get ready to find out how it works!)

The Couple’s Dialogue

This powerful tool is based on science. So when the process doesn’t work, we have to conclude that it’s because we’re not working the process.

The science of aerodynamics says you must take into account four factors of physics: lift, drag, thrust, and weight. I’m no scientist, but I know if you neglect even one of these factors in your design, you’re aircraft will never get off the ground.

In the same way, with The Couple’s Dialogue, you must take into account four factors: interest, curiosity, vulnerability, and safety.

If any of these are neglected it won’t fly.

When doing the dialogue…

Sometimes a partner will lose interest and the other partner feels abandoned or that their efforts are insincere.
Sometimes an emotional reaction will override curiosity and drown the process in negativity.
Or maybe a partner does not yet have the courage to be vulnerable.
Then, because the relationship is not safe, connection cannot happen.

So, if you neglect any of these basics, like a poorly designed plane, The Couple’s Dialogue will not get you off the ground.

And unfortunately the couple who crashes in a few failed attempts joins that crowd that says, “It didn’t work”. 🙁 Boo!

On the other hand…

The Couple’s Dialogue is what helps you channel interest, curiosity, vulnerability and safety in a structured way that makes connection as a couple possible.

So there you go.

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Here’s how Sandy and I are trying to make it work for us.

Make dialogue a lifestyle – something you do every day.

The Couple’s Dialogue should be the way I communicate with my partner everyday, in every conversation.

It should be a lifestyle – part of our “relationship DNA”. A regular way of communicating that always leads to closer connection.

“Hold on.” one of my couples said. “Who has time to stop and dialogue every time you have a conversation?”

And so this couple keeps coming back to me for therapy. That’s OK. It helps pay the bills.

But, my goal is for every couple to experience mature love ON THEIR OWN – a conscious relationship that becomes a partnership of mutual healing and growth.

The Couple’s Dialogue is the most powerful tool to help you get there. And you can do it on your own. And it WILL work.

Here’s how.

1. ALWAYS MIRROR each other.

That’s right – in every conversation.  I do this silently in my mind so it comes across very naturally rather than in a structured or stilted way.

When she’s talking, I seek to listen as if I’m going to repeat back to her what she said.

I’ll say in my mind. “Let me see if I got it. You’re saying…”

The point is – I’m listening with full engagement.

This helps me turn turn my interest toward her and hear 100% of what she’s saying.

“So you’re saying”… and I mirror her.

Then I check for accuracy –  “Did I get it?”

And then I continue with curiosity – “Is there more about that?”  

Mirroring says to your partner, “You matter.” “What you say matters.” “I see you.” It says, “I’m genuinely interested in you”. And that feels so good to your partner.

Nothing says “I love you” more powerfully than when you listen with full attention.

Well ok, if you were to push your partner out of the way of an oncoming train, and get run over yourself – that, too, would be a powerful way to say “I love you”.

But, hey, this is something you can do every day, and without getting killed!

And…without paying for expensive therapy!

So always mirror your partner.

Mirroring helps you regulate your defenses while creating safety for your partner.

2. ALWAYS VALIDATE each other.

To validate is to simply say, “You make sense and what makes sense is…” Then tell them from your heart what you see that makes sense according to their inner logic. Do this while maintaining your own inner logic which may, of course, be vastly different.

Validation facilitates “differentiation” which is necessary to feel a genuine connection.

What?

Whenever we discover our partner is “different” – has a different taste, or opinion, or perspective, our natural response is to polarize – to see them as wrong and then try to fix them.

That feels judgmental. It’s not safe. And conflict is the result.

Validation dissolves polarization and enables differentiation – the essential condition for genuine connection.

Finally…

3. ALWAYS EMPATHIZE with each other

Mirroring is about about meeting “mind to mind”. Validation is also “mind to mind” enabling differentiation.

But empathy is “heart to heart”.

Empathy is about entering your partner’s world on a “heart” level. Feeling their feelings. Fully realizing their pain, or joy, or fear, or anger.

And this is where your presence with your partner in their vulnerability is a powerful healing force. In that context, your partner can  process their wounded emotions and heal them.

So learn to MIRROR – VALIDATE – and EMPATHIZE in every conversation.

Make it a lifestyle – part of your relationship DNA.

Sandy and I are also working toward spending 15 minutes each evening engaged in the fully structured Couple’s Dialogue.

Why?

Why not?! It’s like free therapy!

The structured dialogue makes it safe for thoughts you’ve never thought, and feelings you’ve never felt to come to the surface, and become integrated into your relationship.

The Couple’s Dialogue is truly a transformative process. It helps you heal and grow like nothing else.

So, if you haven’t already, print it out now and go for it!

The Couple’s Dialogue

And please, let everyone know how you’re using this tool in the comment section below.

Share this blog with your friends as well and on social media. Let’s be part of a relationship revolution!

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Author: Chuck

Chuck Starnes is a relationship coach who is passionate about helping couples find the safety, connection, passion and full-aliveness they are looking for together. He also helps organizations become more productive by improving relationship skills.

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