i think it’s safe to say that the Imago dialogue has been one of the best tools for our relationship. While we’re not perfect at it, stumble through it most of the time, it has given us a framework to be heard and takes the volatility out of communicating our misunderstandings. This week we had a disconnect on communication and scheduling. i really started to feel i was not a priority to Maximus. And really, right now, it is hard to write this blog in much detail because it has been so diffused by our dialogue that it feels like a non-issue!
The crux of the issue were behaviors that made me feel that i was not a priority, not that i wasn’t a priority to Maximus–there is a huge difference there. But, as perception is reality, my feelings were MY reality. i shared my feelings about this with Maximus via text, but He was viewing this through His lens, His world, and responded by telling me all the reasons i’d not heard from Him, all the reasons our plans had been rescheduled. i could see that He was not considering my feelings and, in fact, i prompted Him to take some time to consider how it might be helpful for Him to mirror and validate and have some empathy about how i might be feeling rather than giving me a list of reasons that felt like He was invalidating what i felt, thus confirming my feeling of not unimportance. We were at an impasse, texting was not working, so the discussion was stopped until He would arrive the next day and we could do Imago.
Interestingly enough, by the morning, Maximus texted, “In reflecting upon yesterday I would like to profoundly apologize to you. I will work harder to better communicate to you regardless of the events that are surrounding Me at the time. you’re in My thoughts every moment of the day but I need to work harder at communicating that to you. Again, I apologize from the deepest part of My heart. I love you and I can’t wait to see you very soon.” i was still hurting and knew that texting or talking on the phone while He was driving down would not be effective, so i let Him know that i needed to wait until He arrived at my home to talk about this.
We went through the Imago dialogue process and it really helped Maximus understand how i was feeling. And it gave me a chance to feel heard, without blaming or critcizing Him. This seemed to help Maximus consider how He was prioritizing all areas of His life, Relationship, Family, Work, and Fitness, and realize that this was occurring in all four areas of His life, not just with me. We discussed strategies to help both of us.
This could have been a horrifically volatile event. But it wasn’t. Were there tears? Yes. Was there raging? No. Was there understanding? Absolutely. Is there carry-over resentment? Absolutely NOT! It’s so well communicated that i’m having trouble blogging about it now!
What’s the Conflict?
Once we are able to dialogue about issues, Maximus and i can move on without underlying static. It really is remarkable. i don’t feel there is any unfinished business, no unheard issues. This allows us to really be able to talk and share later, without grudges on old business, days later.
Last night, in a change of plans, Maximus and i decided to go out for happy hour and dinner. We ended up staying for hours, talking and talking and talking about us, how counseling was going, how the framework of Imago dialogue was helping. And we had some epiphanies, two in particular.
The first epiphany was about how Maximus and i define conflict. And it was really akin to Bill Clinton’s response during grand jury “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” Maximus was explaining that He visioned our relationship completely free of conflict–happy. This seemed completely unrealistic to me. As we sat at the bar, i decided to use an analogy to explain to Maximus how i felt having an expectation of a conflict-free relationship set us up for extreme failure. My analogy was about work, that overall, when He considers work, He finds it fulfilling, enjoyable, challenging, and that He really, really loves what He does. However, there are times when it is aggravating, frustrating, there are disagreements with others, conflict, and issues need to be dealt with, but that does not change the overall feeling that He loves His work. He did agree with that, but noted, “but there’s no conflict there.” This confused me, because i had just described a linear timeline of years of his work relationship with lots of little conflicts over the years that were dealt with but did not diminish His love for His job. i ran my finger along the bar in a timeline, showing a linear relationship of time with little stops of conflict all along, but that this did not divert from a feeling of happiness and satisfaction at the arrowhead at the end that was still moving forward through time. Maximus pointed about 3/4 through the line and said, “But there’s no conflict there,” and i pointed all along the line and said, “There was conflict here and here and here but it was dealt with.” And then we realized…i define conflict as a disconnect, something that requires an intervention of some sort to deal with a misunderstanding, a clarification, whatever, to prevent a catastrophic event; Maximus defines conflict as a fight, a rage, something damaging and huge, the catastrophic event!
What an amazing revelation! And how important is that? i’ve been thinking Maximus is unrealistically expecting a relationship free of misunderstanding, when He is describing a relationship free of damaging fighting. We completely agree on our relationship vision, we just define the words differently! He did not view disconnects or misunderstandings as conflicts, as i did–of course!
The final epiphany had to do with my communication needs. Maximus had been considering His communication style, in light of our dialogue the previous morning, in regards to me understanding the commitment in GOT. He shared that He thought He finally realized why i had trouble with this, something He felt was so clear and strong. He shared with me that He just couldn’t understand why i would have the question, “Why did You choose me?” when it was so obvious to Him. But that He is realizing now, that the question, “Why did You choose me?” was not questioning His decision to choose me, but that it was a request for validation, for Him to share what things led Him to choose me! This was a leap in thought for Him!
And this was clear to me! i started to giggle actually, because this became completely clear to me two weeks ago when we did the couples intake forms for Fern! i realized, when Maximus answered the question about what made Him fall in love with me, that we’d never discussed that before, and it made me cry to hear Him answer it. i know i’m great, a great catch, i just wanted to have that validated from Maximus.
We are back on track and better than before. We have developed techniques to enhance our communication and to deal with the occasional misunderstanding/conflict in order to avoid catastrophic conflicts. And we both feel we are ready now to have guided communication with Fern about the elephant in the room–Ms. W. The groundwork is done, the framework established, and we are ready to move forward.