With Valentine’s Day just behind us, many of us are more aware of our romantic relationships in February. And yet, the pandemic has truly upended our connections with our lovers and partners in strange and interesting ways. Esther Perel, famous psychoanalyst and couples therapist in New York City, has discussed the many ways that couples have been impacted by COVID19–from breaking under the pressure of isolation, to benefitting from more together time that is slower, softer and more satisfying. Yet, one thing is for certain—As humans in relationships, we need touch. And as humans in this pandemic, we need methods for maintaining creativity even in the bedroom. [see Esther Perel’s blogs at [Esther Perel].
But who feels creative during this long drawn out pandemic? Who else struggles to feel like a human with wants and needs beyond caring for the home, the children, the job, and even the pets? As a mom and therapist in DC, I know, I do! I know you, too, have noticed how little time there is to care for ourselves. I also realize that you likely lack energy to tend to your romantic relationship as well. That’s why I’m writing this–to offer a brief dialogue process that only takes 5 minutes. Consider it a tool to boost creativity, connection and possibly erotic moments in your relationship.
Tammy Nelson converts Harville Hendrix’s Imago Dialogue into a tool for couples who want to improve their communication and sexual connection. [Getting the Sex You Want: Shed Your Inhibitions and Reach New Heights of Passion Together – Dr. Tammy Nelson]. For those of you unfamiliar with the Imago Dialogue, simply put, it is a conversation that relies on intense mirroring and listening in order to achieve greater connection. This process can be applied to sexual conversations and nonsexual connection as well. Here’s how the dialogue process works.
- First one partner checks with the other about whether this is a good time to have an imago conversation–call it whatever you like. The point is to invite your partner into a few moments of connecting conversation.
- Once agreed, you sit eye to eye (Hendrix even directs partners sit knee to knee).
- Then you choose who will be the Sender (the person who will share “I statements.”) and who will be the Receiver (the person who will mirror only–which means simply summarizing back what the sender with no other comments or questions).
- After each statement the Sender says, the Receiver will mirror (in “You statements”)
- The Receiver will then ask, “Is there more?”
- This process will continue until the Sender answers “no.” The Sender will then thank the Receiver for listening.
Now this dialogue process sounds soooooo easy. It is simple, yet it is surprisingly challenging. As the Receiver, we have to listen with our feelings and without our thoughts or agendas in mind. We have to pass information back to the Sender without editing or answering or interpreting. As the Sender, we must stay focused on speaking our own thoughts and feelings rather than using “why” questions or “you statements,” which can create defensiveness in our partner. We also must allow ourselves to accept our partner’s reflection both so that we can reflect and then share more deeply with each pass.
You might ask, well what do we talk about? Here is a list of Conversation Topics that you can choose from.
- Appreciations-what you like and appreciate about your partner, either sexually or nonsexually.
- Conflicts–what your experiences are of that same old argument again and again.
- Worries–what keeps you up at night or distracts you during the day.
- Sexual Interests–what you like with your partner, want more of, less of etc.
- New Sexual Experiments or Desires–what you’d like to try or are curious about sexually (i.e. fantasies, dirty talk, sexting or phone talk)
- Sexual Appetites–positions, sexual attitudes and passions
These intimate conversations can lead you to feel more ready for expanding your creativity in the bedroom and with your partner sexually. Consider them as emotional lubrication to prepare you for sexual interest and erotic action.
There are a few caveats to consider as you use these tools. Sex needs to be customized per partner and per relationshp–it is not one size fits all. Sex also is one of the deeepest most vulnerable ways to connect, especially if there has been trauma or there is a lot of emotion playing out in one or both of the partners’ bodies. So go slow, throw out old notions of sexual “shoulds and should nots,” and learn to notice and rate how your emotions (both negative and positive) emerge during these conversations. Learn to rate them on a scale of 1-10 (0=no emotion, 10 extreme emotion). Learn to share that rating with your partner and then adjust for what you need in the moment. Refer to this blog [Psychotherapist Washington DC | The Anatomy of Emotions (thesibleygroupdc.com)] to learn more about self regulating emotions and to this series to understand the Anatomy of Emotions better [Psychotherapy Washington DC | The Anatomy of Emotions – Part III (thesibleygroupdc.com)].