communication

Forgiveness

forgiveness

Maximus and i were finally back together this morning. We took some time to dialogue two things that we needed to go over to finish the resolution of our conflict. The two things regarded eliminating absolutes and Ms. W.

Eliminating absolutes revolved around how my discovery that Maximus had lied and concealed His communications and meetings with Ms. W during the last two months while i worked on my rage set up a perfect storm of three major rage triggers that overwhelmed my ability to control my rage about it. The triggers were being lied to by my partner, having my partner conceal important issues from me, and abandonment. What do these have to do with absolutes? Well Maximus had told me from the beginning of, well actually before, our relationship that if He ever lied to His partner, the relationship would be over–this was how He described how important honesty and trust was to Him in a relationship. So when He admitted that He had lied to me, these triggers, especially the fear of abandonment, were just too much for me–i was simultaneously hurt, scared, terrified, and overwhelmed by my belief that He was now done with our relationship and i didn’t understand why. i had nothing to lose, He was going to leave me, and i raged–the worst rage ever. i acknowledged that He had made a choice to leave me and told Him to go, and then begged Him not to leave me, back and forth and back and forth. So in our dialogue today, we agreed that absolutes like that set us up for failure as they do not allow us to work on issues in our relationship that lead us to feel insecure, unsafe, and risk or lead to changes in our behavior that aren’t congruent with our morals. If y/You do _________, i/I will _________ doesn’t let us be human and recover from mistakes, and we ARE human and WILL make mistakes. Moreover, i really feel that i have made great headway against my raging, and had i not been confronted by this perfect storm of triggers, i don’t think i would have raged again.

In our talk about Ms. W. i shared with Maximus something that Fern had said to me at my last counseling session, something that i did not understand at the time but became clear yesterday after He and i had dialogued over the phone. Fern told me that Ms. W was a symbol for something. i didn’t agree with her, replying that no, Ms. W was a person, not a symbol. However, after doing some reflection about our phone dialogue yesterday, i realized that Ms. W WAS a symbol, a symbol of my fear of losing the emotional intimacy in our emotionally monogamous relationship. i had a belief that Maximus and Ms. W shared emotional intimacy, but that just isn’t the case, it isn’t fact. Ms. W may desire emotional intimacy with Him, but He has not, does not, doesn’t engage in that with her. The fact that Maximus had lied and concealed the continued contact with Ms. W reinforced my belief that not only did i think they were emotionally intimate, but were having an emotional affair; but when looked at factually, He had not had time to meet with Ms. W yet to go over with her the changes He was going to make in their relationship.

The significance of these two dialogues had to do with trust for both of us. First, a request for Maximus to trust in me that i am able to control my rage, that this was an isolated event due to extraordinary compounding of triggers for me. Second, my promise to trust in Maximus that He is not emotionally intimate with anyone other than me, that we are indeed emotionally monogamous.

At the end, i asked Maximus to forgive me for my mistrust and for my rage, and He forgave me. Maximus then asked me to forgive Him for lying to me and concealing the contact with Ms. W, and i forgave Him. Honestly, before yesterday afternoon, i did not even think forgiveness was going to be possible for weeks for me. In fact, prior to yesterday’s dialogue, my agenda for today’s discussion was going to be about confronting Maximus about the emotional affair He was having with Ms. W. i am so very thankful, again, for the courage Maximus had to initiate the dialogue yesterday that opened up my eyes, mind, and heart and allowed me to understand.

i am extremely hopeful that this, indeed, is the end of this chapter for us. This past week has been full of brutal truth. And as Gloria Steinem said,

The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.

Ending a chapter on brutal truth is so much better, in the long run, than ending a chapter on concealed truth. Even though it was painful, it got everything out on the table, in the open, for us both to see and deal with. It gives us a true clean slate to move on.

While this blog is my submissive journal and the main purpose is as an outlet for me to process my feelings and document how we develop in our D/s relationship, i do realize that it is public and we have had followers who came to it interested in the BDSM, D/s aspect, not relationship drama. So to those readers, if you are still with me after this two month period of drama, thank you for sticking with us, and we will be getting back to our regularly scheduled program! That being said, however, i do think that it is important for me to share the reality of developing a D/s relationship, in that it involves real people, with real emotions and real lives, and all the baggage that comes with that. D/s requires enormous trust and a grain of sand can cause enough irritation to hobble. Perhaps our story may help another couple dealing with their grain of sand whatever it may be, to help them seek counseling and learn to really communicate, really listen, and make it through the other side. And to not give up on each other.

Text from Maximus: Hey, I got a message from your ass saying it needed a butt plug. Just wanted to alert you…

Text reply from gabriella: KK. i’ll check in with my ass…my ass says “ahhhh, thank you Sir for informing g what i needed!”

butt message1

Looks like we’re back!

Categories: balance, BDSM relationship, communication, conflict, forgiveness, honesty, Imago, relationship, relationship needs, trust | 1 Comment

What Do i Do Now?

Ok, so i came to the conclusion in my last blog post, Can Trust be Restored?, that i should stay and give Maximus another chance.

i’m still hurt, still angry, still horribly disappointed, confused, lost, disoriented.

Kirshenbaum has another six questions for me to answer. These are the questions i need to answer in order to restore my feeling of trust. There is no timetable for this process, it varies for everyone, but they work as a guide:

  1. How will I ever cope with this?
  2. Does the other person really care about me?
  3. Can the other person really see me and understand how his betrayal hurt me?
  4. Can our relationship survive?
  5. Can we make things safer and better between us?
  6. Can I forgive him?

1. How will i ever cope with this?

It is normal to feel and act crazy–most people encounter an overwhelming sense of insanity when betrayed because someone we trusted to take care of us hurt or abandoned us. Nothing makes sense anymore. However, you are not actually crazy, it is what you are feeling, and it’s part of the natural healing process.

Now is when everyone is expecting the crazy, so you might as well give it to them.

You are coping, this is coping, hang in there. What you feel now is not an indicator of whether or not the relationship is worth healing. Don’t do anything you’ll regret.

If you still have any kind of relationship left by the time you start being a little less crazy, you’re in good shape…If you’re not blown apart, it means there is some glue, some degree of caring, and that makes all the difference here. Believe it or not, the trust-restoring process has begun.

i felt like i lost my mind when Maximus admitted to intentionally, justifiably lying to me about Ms. W. The rage was horrible, exhausting, frightening. i even told Him that i thought i had lost my mind. i truly felt i had lost my mind. This is what confused me about what to do next–if this relationship had gone to such an extreme that i lost my mind, went insane, why on earth would i want to stay in it? Why would i put myself in that position to permanently damage myself?

i eventually calmed down. But i still get swirls of anxiety. Swirls of extreme hurt. Swirls of solutions, things that seem like solutions anyway, that will do nothing but cause more hurt, to both of us. i feel like Odysseus tied to the ship’s mast, agonized by the Sirens’ songs of craziness. When will i get past earshot of the Sirens? Perhaps i am coping by the sheer fact that i have somehow tied myself to the mast, unable to break free and lose my mind.

But i’m also just overwhelmingly sad–and it upsets me that i’m so sad.

2. Does the other person really care for me?

The anger in the aftermath of betrayal is what people expect but find the most difficult to deal with. While anger is a feeling, it’s also a tactic, a way to sort out if the other person really cares about us. If the person who betrayed you can hang in there while you’re furious, they’ve passed the “do-you-care” test–they really do care.

…when you realize that the other person cares about you, however ignorant, confused, and clumsy he may be, then you’ll have the motivation you need to rebuild trust.

This may take weeks to figure out. You’re angry, you want to know why. You will grill them for answers. But the danger is that while anger makes you feel safer, makes the other person scared of you so they’ll never hurt you again, it makes them distance themselves in order to provide for their own feeling of safety. Don’t get into a cycle of anger where you hurt the other person, they hurt back in defense, you retaliate and hurt them more, and on and on and on. This will kill the relationship. The less anger we allow ourselves, the faster healing will happen.

Consider saying this to your partner:

Look, I know this is hard on you too. And I wish I had some kind of timetable or road map that would tell me when my anger will start to die down. But I just don’t know when that will happen. I do know that I want it to happen. I want to find a way to trust you again. And I know you want to be trustworthy. But here’s the thing. When you hurt me, that gave me the message that you don’t care about me. That I wasn’t worth your caring about me. But if you can hang in there with me while I’m still so angry, that will tell me that you do care, and that means everything to me.

Be aware that if you can’t trust each other, don’t trust each other, you’ll be watching every moment for an attack or scary gesture, causing you to bristle and attack. This is a mistrust cycle, where mistrust breeds more mistrust, just as the anger cycle breeds more anger. Break the mistrust cycle by sharing with your partner what you need to feel safe, and allow good things to happen. This lets your partner know that rebuilding trust is possible, that your anger is not infinite, that he can recover from his mistake.

i do believe that Maximus cares for me. i just am having trouble understanding why He did this. i want to be able to trust Him again. i know i am stuck in the mistrust cycle, that i am watching for proof, making Him feel under the microscope. my mistrust risks pushing Him away, which will make me feel more abandoned and give me proof that He’s not trustworthy and doesn’t care. This is a big step for me.

And it’s only been 4 days. i’m certainly not here yet. Kirshenbaum notes that it can take a month to get out of the anger stage, but i don’t think i can handle being there that long. And i don’t think these steps are particularly linear, that you have to complete one stage before going into the next one–i think they overlap, at least they seem to be for me.

So this is where i’m going to stop for today. i have a lot of work to do in these first two steps. i can’t rush this. i, we deserve that i not rush this. Just because the cast on a broken arm is awkward and itchy doesn’t mean it’s ready to come off–you only want it off because it’s unnatural, restricting, bulky and keeps you from doing things you regularly enjoy. You have to go through the healing process in order for things to heal correctly.

Maximus, i’m upset. i love you but i’m hurt. i want to trust You again and i know you want to be trusted again, without suspicion. i don’t know how long this will take. i felt like you didn’t care enough to really listen to my fears, didn’t care enough to protect me from repeating things that have harmed me in my past. i felt like i was given a false gift, a fake, a precious package that turned out to be a Jack-in-the-Box with a mocking jester that blew-up in my face and mocked me. But if you can hang with me, stay with me even while i’m hurt, when i need you the most, give me aftercare i need from this scene, it will show me that you do care, will start to put drops back into my love tank. That will mean everything to me and help me come back, help me trust you with my whole heart again.

Love,

gabriella.

Categories: aftercare, anger, balance, communication, conflict, counseling, trust | Leave a comment

Aftercare…not just for BDSM

spooning2

It’s been a hard couple of days.

i returned home after posting the last blog and promptly raged again. i feel full of poison. i understand how Maximus felt with my big rages two months ago where He felt poisoned and needed time for the toxin to clear His body. i don’t know what the half life of this toxin is, just as He didn’t know what the half life of that toxin was. i wish it wasn’t in my bloodstream, but it is.

We met with Fern yesterday afternoon. i’d texted her after the rage Sunday and made an appointment for us. i’m so very glad i did; so very glad Maximus agreed to go despite His busy schedule (He did begin to protest when i told Him to pick a time that worked best for Him, but He stopped Himself). She guided us through the Imago process. It was horribly hard. i felt so sick, so hurt. But it helped.

monkeyThe thing i really needed to start my healing process was for Maximus to hold me, i mean REALLY hold me. i’d asked Him for it several times, crawled into Him several times, but i just didn’t feel genuinely held. To me, it felt like i was being held by one of those wind-up toy monkeys, the ones with the cymbals where their arms mechanically crash the cymbals together–no feeling, just process. i talked about my need to be held during the session with Fern and i could see that Maximus still wasn’t understanding. i described the monkey and then said, “What i really need is Aftercare. Healing, restorative holding” And i saw His face instantly change, His body completely change. He got it…this He could understand.

“This would have prevented the rage this morning,” He replied. “I didn’t get that, but I get it now. It totally makes sense to me.”

We discussed the cyclical problem that my not being held in aftercare from this emotional beating had been. i was devastated, raged, needed healing, but He was afraid of this raging woman and pulled back, which made me need aftercare even more intensely and not receiving it, made me rage again. And so on.

He promised to take time for aftercare when we got home. And He did. And it helped.

We have healing to do. This was a big hit for me, one i didn’t see coming and it blindsided me. We will both be seeing Fern separately and together to work on this. i dropped Him off at the airport this morning so He could head to California for a backpacking trip through Yosemite with His brother. It’s going to be a good break for us both, an important break with time for us to think about our relationship and how to proceed. “I’m so sorry I’ve put you through this,” He said as we said our goodbyes at the airport. “We’ll get through it,” i replied. “Yes, we will. I love you,” said Maximus as we embraced.

Categories: aftercare, anger, communication, conflict, counseling, relationship needs | 1 Comment

Lies

The other night i noticed odd behavior from Maximus. He wouldn’t put His phone down, walked everywhere through the house with it, even while changing His clothes. When He went to bed He first put the phone on the charger in my office but after i got up shortly thereafter, He got up and put it next to Him in bed. He’d also revealed accidentally to me days before that He’d changed the access code as well. This made me uncomfortable.

So in the morning, i accessed His phone. And i found that He’d deleted years of text messages thread, everything actually, from Ms. W. Every text from everyone else for years was still there, all but hers. Next, I found an unread email from her in His inbox telling Him she missed Him and related details if His week. And on His sent folder, an email thread from the day after His epiphany all about Finding days to get together and details of His evening…that happened at a time i’d been unable to get a hold of Him.

He’s been telling me throughout our counseling that He’s not had any contact with her, not seen her, not talked or texted or emailed her. Not only has He been doing that, but He’s been continuing it after He had this supposed glorious breakthrough where He said He was going to move on and not contact her.

i started with Imago. And He said it was all true, that He had lied to me deliberately about this and felt justified in doing so as He felt it would keep us from resolving our issues.

Seriously?!? Containing an ongoing secret, lying affair with a woman which has been the crux of our relationship crisis would be helpful to resolving our issues? In what world does that make sense?

Furthermore, Maximus has continually told me that He believes in honesty and truth so much that if He ever lied to me, or anyone He was in a relationship with, it was proof that the relationship was over.

So, to me, He’s telling me that He’s deliberately lied to me and that means He’s done.

i have been completely bare and honest, both in counseling and on this blog. i have shared how lying and dishonesty in my past relationship has been so hurtful and harmed me so greatly that even the fear of it can cause me to rage. He’s fully aware if this. And He deliberately did that to me.

He thanked me for not raging. And then He tells me, when i remind Him of His promise about if He lies to His partner, that “I gave Myself a pass.”

And that’s where i raged. Threw all His stuff in bags, clothes, sex toys, gifts. Everything. i carefully put His computer away and then as i brought it to Him i wondered…how many times has He been with her during this process? How many times has He been fucking her? It’s not in His daytimer where He puts EVERYTHING. i ask Him over and over and He won’t answer. i pulled put His daytimer and pulled pages out.

He screams, “That’s My life! You’re destroying My life!” And years the daytimer out of my hands. i yell back, “it’s a daytimer, You are actually destroying my life, our relationship.”

It was ugly and awful and we yelled and struggled. Eventually we sat down and talked more. He didn’t leave and Ge helped clean up the mess we made of the house and unpacked the car.

i texted Fern and we have an appointment with her this afternoon.

But i’m furious. Emotionally, mentally, physically exhausted. And i was short with Him. Which pissed Him off and He packed up again. i told Him to stop and after some time He did.

We talked. He went to sleep and i couldn’t.

This morning He got up, didn’t touch me, didn’t acknowledge me, got showered, dressed, made coffee for himself and went into my office and started working.

i left.

i look at this and think, why should i continue this? How long do i wait for there to be an honest happy relationship with Him? It’s been 10 months of angst with 9 days of bliss, based on lies.

Guilt for breaking up Ms. W’s marriage? How about breaking up our relationship? Try THAT guilt on for size. It’s not a belief, this one is FACT.

Categories: anger, communication, conflict, counseling, intuition, lying | Leave a comment

Liar

Maximus has been lying to me about Ms. W.

i am devastated.

Categories: anger, bat shit crazy, BDSM relationship, communication, conflict, counseling, insecurities, intuition, lying, relationship | Leave a comment

Maximus’ Epiphany

aha moment

This is a very important post, a culmination of all the hard heart work Maximus and i have been doing these past couple of months.

Maximus had an epiphany, an “Aha Moment” yesterday.

Maximus had His first one-on-one appointment with Fern via Skype yesterday, but it wasn’t where He had the epiphany. After His appointment, He texted that it had gone very well and that He wanted to share with me. Due to our schedules, it took several hours before we had a chance to go over it.

Maximus had done a lot of work prior to the appointment to put together timelines and notes so He could explain to Fern His relationship history and the timeline of Ms. W within it. Much of the appointment, He shared, was Him going over this history. When He finished, Fern asked Him to share with her His feelings of these events rather than the timeline. At first, Maximus said He was kind of taken aback by this and had difficulty describing His emotions about His history. They spent quite a bit of time discussing the emotions He felt about JB and the breakup of their marriage, but nothing about Ms. W. After this discussion, Fern mentioned to Maximus that it seemed to her that i had not shared a lot of the details about this relationship with her and felt that perhaps Maximus had only shared the timeline of events rather than His feelings about the breakup with JB. She asked Maximus to consider sharing His feelings about the loss of His second marriage with me.

While Maximus was explaining His session and Fern’s request to me, i thought to myself, “Wow, how off-base was this session?” How have they so missed the mark?” And actually, i was kinda ticked off by this session because i truly understand the breakup of Maximus and JB, know every detail and emotion because Maximus HAS explained this very thoroughly with me. i have NO ISSUE at all with JB or Maximus’ emotions from the breakup or about her now. And i realized that the only time i had shared Maximus’ history with Fern was at my first session, which was a huge amount of me talking trying to get all of His and my relationship histories communicated to her. The rest of the sessions have focused on my rage response and unfinished emotional business from my previous marriages.

So i shared with Maximus, who wanted to go over His emotions about JB at this time, “i have no issue about JB and i have, what i think is, a thorough understanding of your emotions and feelings about the breakup of your relationship with her. The big issue is that i have no understanding whatsoever of your emotions and feelings toward Ms. W. And i’ve been asking for that for months. In fact, when i have asked you to explain your feelings toward her, you answer ‘I have no feelings about her. She’s taught me about birds, we’ve gone for hikes, but i have no feelings about her,’ and that has been extremely frustrating to me. Of course you have feelings about her, we all have feelings about everyone we encounter in our lives. You have feelings about The Englishman, You have feelings about SwimmerGuy. i feel that by telling me You have no feelings about Ms. W that you are evading the question and i feel frustrated and hurt by that.”

Maximus pondered this and then agreed, by way of an analogy about feelings about olives, that yes, we do have feelings and emotions about all people and things we encounter, emotional responses. And He realized that it was true, He had not answered my question about His feelings about Ms. W. And that He never understood why i kept asking the same question over and over as He thought He had answered it, but now realized that He never had. “I’ve been thinking you’ve been bat shit crazy asking me that over and over, and now I see why you’ve kept asking.”

So Maximus started in on His feelings about Ms. W. “I feel pain, anger, and guilt. And i feel support and friendship…” And then He continued on talking, and i needed to have Him explain these feelings as they were so radically spread out across the board from negative to positive feelings and i didn’t understand. Why does He feel anger and pain about her? So i stopped Him and asked Him to explain each feeling in detail as i needed to understand.

Maximus explained that He felt pain, anger, and guilt about Ms. W over the breakup of His marriage with JB. Pain, because He was deeply hurt by the breakup and angry about it. And He, “in the past,” felt an enourmous amount of guilt for introducing He and JB to Ms. W and Covert Ops, which led to the breakup of their marriage. “But I’ve worked through that, with the help of counselling, talking to Ms. W, The Englishman, and you, and that helped Me understand that I am not guilty and should not feel guilt about that. I don’t feel guilt anymore.”

“So what about support and friendship, then?” i inquired, “Explain that to me.” He responded that Ms. W and He had a common experience and shared information and supported each other during the divorce process. “I got a lot of support from her from the breakup until the spring, when you appeared in My life and grew to be more of my support than she was.”

“Ok,” i continued, “that’s all your feelings in the past. You’ve explained the pain, anger, and guilt you felt in the past at the time of the breakup, the support during the divorce process, but that doesn’t tell me how you feel about her NOW. How do you feel NOW?” Maximus went on to explain that He feels friendship, friendship of someone who has had a common experience, but that He does not and has never felt a connection with her, and has never felt love for her. “If I met her at a party and we started talking I would be bored. If she said, ‘Hey, we should get together and meet for coffee or drinks sometime’ and gave me her phone number, which she would never do, I would thank her for her number and say, ‘Sure, that’d be fun,’ but I’d never call her. I just don’t have a connection with her and never have.” He continued, “I have always struggled about not having an connection with Ms. W. I kept telling JB that I just didn’t feel any connection and she told me I needed to figure it out and ‘Don’t screw this up,’ so I just sucked it up for JB. And, as I’ve told you before, the sex is pedestrian, vanilla, boring.”

“So,” i replied, “would it be accurate, based upon what i am hearing you say, to say that You were taking one for the team with Ms. W?” Maximus exclaimed, “Yes!!! That’s exactly what it was!” And here is where i have my struggle and always have had. “So here is were i am completely confused in that, to me, Your words do not match Your behavior.” i continued, “You are no longer with JB….there is no team for You to take one for, yet You still have sex with Ms. W, which You describe as pedestrian and say You don’t enjoy; and you continue to do things with her, someone you don’t connect with. You don’t have repeat sexual encounters with anyone else that You’ve not enjoyed having sex with–only Ms. W. In fact, You did not enjoy sex with little e and have turned down play dates with her and Big E because of it. So to me, there has to be a reason, that You’re not telling me, some feeling, that makes You continue to engage in sexual activity that You have said over and over and over that You do not enjoy! Moreover, You tell me that there is no connection with her personality as well, that if You met her socially now, there would be no draw to her. This is the crux of my confusion, it makes no sense to me and makes me feel like You’re not being completely forthright about Your feelings about her. There has to be something that’s driving this, some feeling. What is this?”

Maximus replied, “you’re making me feel defensive about this.” And i responded, “Well, it’s not my intention to make You feel defensive, i’m just communicating how the incongruency of Your words and behavior make me feel. i’m sorry that it makes You feel defensive.” He then answered, “Well she calls me up and wants to fuck and she hasn’t got anyone else to fuck, so I do it. I don’t abandon people, you know that.” i replied, “That’s not Your responsibility. You don’t have to fuck her because she has no one else to fuck, that she’s not found anyone else to fuck. And she never will find anyone else to fuck as long as You continue to give her the impression that this is something you want and enjoy. You’re leading her on and it’s really inconsiderate, actually. She will never move on as long as this continues. Furthermore, i think You are doing this out of guilt, that while You say over and over that You no longer feel guilty, You are having sex with her to make up for the fact that You feel responsible, because of swinging, for the breakup of her marriage and You somehow owe it to her to make it up through sex. And as long as you continue to do this, she won’t be able to move on, You won’t be able to move on, and we won’t be able to move on. You aren’t abandoning her, You are allowing the friendship to take its natural course, honestly. Not having sex with her is not abandoning her.”

The phone was quiet for a moment and then Maximus said, “Oh My God, this is a break through. I’ve not considered this and I think you’re right. I’ve been saying over and over that I don’t feel guilty but my actions are saying it different. I am enabling her by doing this and that’s just wrong! I don’t enjoy sex with her, I don’t seek it out, but I am having sex, which I don’t enjoy, because she asks for it and I feel guilty. Oh My God. Here I’ve been thinking all along, why doesn’t gabriella get it, that i don’t have a connection with Ms. W, and now I get why you just haven’t gotten it. you must have been thinking, i love Him, i trust Him, but i just don’t get this, why is He acting this way?

And i responded that i had been trying to explain this for months. i’d ask Him to explain His feelings for Ms. W, get an evasive answer that He didn’t have feelings for her, try to explain my confusion, and getting nowhere, would eventually get so frustrated that i’d rage at Him. i just felt so frustrated and couldn’t articulate in a way that He understood. i got to feeling that He was avoiding answering or not being truthful about His true feelings for Ms. W and reverted back to the feelings I had during my relationship with OneGuy and his dishonesty and took it all out on Him. i’d try to be calm, but frustration took over and i exploded. That is why i raged every time we started talking about Ms. W. As he continued to insist that there was no connection with Ms. W, sexually or otherwise, it gave me an impression that His relationship was unconditional, that she could do no wrong and that there was a connection deeper than ours.

i also shared another thing that i had discovered about myself, and it wasn’t until i read The 5 Love Languages book that i realized this. Maximus, as a way of making up for His guilt in breaking up Ms. W’s marriage, would sneak food and money into Ms. W’s car and purse when she visited, as she had been forced out of her home by Covert Ops and JB and lived in a one room cabin with very little income. He felt responsible for that. He would also collect old magazines for her so she’d have something to read as she did not have internet or cable. i have felt jealous about his, especially the magazines, and it really bothered me that Him giving Ms. W old magazines made me feel jealous. Now i understand, though, that i was reacting to the feeling that those little gifts were gifts of love, as i was viewing them through the lens of my primary love language, when they were really gifts of enormous guilt. “Yes!” Maximus replied, “I was trying to repay her for the huge financial loss she had encumbered due to my breakup of their marriage! In fact, if she had asked for money, I would have gladly given it to her.”

We then reflected on what we had accomplished with this dialogue and how important it was. And we discussed the logistics of how Maximus was going to proceed with His friendship with Ms. W. “I can’t keep having sex with her, it’s just wrong to do that.” i shared that one of the reasons why it was so difficult for me to understand how Maximus could continue to have unenjoyable sex with Ms. W was because of a great non-sexual relationship i have with a couple i used to swing with, Crash and Double D. i had tried four separate times to have an enjoyable sexual encounter with him, and finally had to let them know that we weren’t going to be able to continue a sexual relationship together. We are wonderful friends, i’ve never had more devoted friends and their friendship means the world to me.

Maximus has asked for guidance from me on how to have the conversation with Ms. W about not continuing a sexual relationship with her. He is concerned that He will lose her friendship. And i shared with Him that honestly, He has no control over how she will respond to this, but He has to be true to Himself and her. That is what He owes her. i promised to work on writing down what i had said to Crash so Maximus has some ideas on what to say. In addition, Maximus will wait until she contacts Him again for another sexual encounter to have this discussion, in person, in private, not seek her out to tell her. They can remain friends, do things together, visit. We have both agreed that she can stay at His house, but not in the same bed together, as that would be midleading (Maximus’ words), and while she does do a good blow job, there can be no sexual contact, again, as it would cause confusion and hurt. And i trust Him in this. These were His plans and His decisions and i support Him in them.

i cannot entirely explain the relief from hurt i had from this dialogue. i have been carrying this confusion and pain of not understanding and not being able to articulate to Maximus in a way He could understand for months, since September, ten months, actually. It was like a sliver, something small that when brushed, even ever so slightly, caused pain and irritation and i just couldn’t dig it out to make it stop. Yesterday removed that splinter.

Maximus asked me to write this blog before His next session with Fern on Monday. i was absolutely emotionally spent after we were done and wasn’t sure i could write this, but today, i felt renewed. In fact, at the end of the conversation, Maximus said, while spent, He felt like an 11; i replied that if it wasn’t for being exhausted and having a headache, i’d be a 23. This blog is my act of service for Maximus, as i know that He really wanted a accounting of what happened, what was said, so He could refer to it as notes when recounting it to Fern. It was a pivotal dialogue.

Once He has His next session with Fern alone and we have our joint session this week, we really do think we will be done with this chapter. It has been a difficult one, a hard story, but one with many lessons. And i believe we are all the better for having gone through this. There is a reason we stayed with this, stayed with each other. It would have been easy to have just split, written us off as an incompatible relationship, me as some bat shit crazy chick and He as some philandering liar, and look back upon it as a failed relationship that ended in bad feelings. But it is always better to go with the difficult right than the easy wrong. We are stronger and closer because of it.

Categories: BDSM relationship, communication, conflict, counseling, honesty, relationship | Leave a comment

Our Book Club

Up Reading

OMG, so first of all, i ADORE the movie Up, from which this pic was taken. i love how Carl and Ellie loved each other and took care of each other. And i know it is a cartoon, but i always connected with the love and friendship and devotion they had for each other. So when i discovered this image when looking for something to use in this blog, i nearly teared up!

Maximus had a busy travel week, actually He’s had several busy travel weeks, with some extremely important corporate meetings. Generally, when He travels, He works on the plane, but He mentioned to me before He left that He was going to use this trip to read The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman that i had blogged about in Translation!! Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but we share the same Kindle account so we can share books with each other! i hadn’t asked Him to do that and i really appreciated that He wanted to use His time on something for us.

When He landed after the first flight, He texted, “Wow. Read most of the book. It nailed us. Amazing. Thanks so much for sharing this. Have lots to talk about regarding the book. Lots of questions.” i was very excited about this! He nearly finished the rest of the book during his second flight and made a point to stay up very late, given the time zone differences between us, so we could discuss it. He had highlighted passages all throughout the book and i was able to follow along as He went through it section by section as His highlights showed up on my Kindle too!

Here are some of the passages Maximus connected with and some of our discussion about them:

We cannot erase the past, but we can accept it as history. We can choose to live today free from the failures of yesterday. Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a commitment…I am amazed by how many individuals mess up every new day with yesterday.

We discussed letting bygones be bygones, both in experiences with previous relationships and in past resolved issues we have had with each other.

By “quality time,” I mean giving someone your undivided attention…When I sit with my wife and give her twenty minutes of my undivided attention and she does the same for me, we are giving each other twenty minutes of life. We will never have those twenty minutes again; we are giving our lives to each other. It is a powerful emotional communicator of love. It isn’t enough to just be in the same room with someone… A key ingredient in giving your spouse quality time is giving them focused attention…

Maximus made a commitment to better about not multi-tasking while we are talking, whether it be in person, over the phone, or via Skype. He does feel He does a good job at juggling other tasks while talking, but i feel He is distracted or that feels our discussion isn’t important enough to give His undivided attention to.

i also shared that when we are traveling, while we are sitting in an airplane at the gate or on the tarmac waiting to depart, i would prefer that He not play games or surf Twitter, etc., rather use the time to sit and talk. i’d not mentioned this to Him previously, but it has been something that’s bothered me when we’ve traveled together. i figured it was just habit from His frequent flying for work, and He concurred–it hadn’t even crossed His mind.

Recent research has indicated that the average individual listens for only seventeen seconds before interrupting.

We chuckled about this one. Maximus is learning to count seconds! And i’m paying more attention to not interrupting as well.

The “Babbling Brook.” For this personality, whatever enters into the eye gate or the ear gate comes out the mouth gate and there are seldom sixty seconds between the two. Whatever they see, whatever they hear, they tell.

Maximus is the poster child for the “Babbling Brook.” This is an area where we have had communication problems, in that He thinks aloud while talking in a conversation and i have gone along thinking a decision was made or a thought process completed and acted or responded accordingly, only to find that those were just thoughts and ideas, not the final product! i take things in and process them and then communicate final decisions or crafted responses–it is why i love writing so much, as i can dump ideas and then edit and move them around and fine tune them into a final product. Maximus is learning not to verbally dump, rather be more articulate, and i am learning to ask whether or not something is a thought in process or a final decision.

…establish a daily sharing time in which each of you will talk about three things that happened to you that day and how you feel about them.

i have learned that Maximus really, really values hearing about my day and sharing all the things that he did during His. i have misunderstood the meaning of Maximus’ daily recounting–i took it as reasons He was too busy to talk. And many times, in addition, Maximus has been such a Babbling Brook about His day that by the time He’s gotten around to ask about mine, i’m just so overwhelmed by all His words that i minimize my response to a few sentences. We are both working to improve in this area.

Quality activities may include anything in which one or both of you have an interest. The emphasis is not on what you are doing but on why you are doing it. The purpose is to experience something together, to walk away from it feeling, “He cares about me. He was willing to do something with me that I enjoy, and he did it with a positive attitude.” That is love, and for some people it is love’s loudest voice…The essential ingredients in a quality activity are: (1) at least one of you wants to do it,(2) the other is willing to do it, and (3) both of you know why you are doing it–to express love by being together. One of the by-products of quality activities is that they provide a memory from which to draw in the years ahead.

We both feel that this is an area where we perform very well. We will use this as a springboard to improve other areas that need work.

A gift is something you can hold in your hand and say, “Look, he was thinking of me,” or “She remembered me.” You must be thinking of someone to give him a gift. The gift itself is a symbol of that thought. It doesn’t matter whether it costs money. What is important is that you thought of him. And it is not the thought implanted only in the mind that counts but the thought expressed in actually securing the gift and giving it as the expression of love.

…symbols have emotional value...If receiving gifts is my primary love language, I will place great value on the [wedding] ring you have given me and I will wear it with great pride. I will also be greatly moved emotionally by other gifts that you give through the years. I will see them as expressions of love. Without gifts as visual symbols, I may question your love.

Gifts come in all sizes, colors, and shapes. Some are expensive, and others are free. To the individual whose primary love language is receiving gifts. the cost of the gift will matter little, unless it is greatly out of line with what you can afford. If a millionaire gives only one-dollar gifts regular, the spouse may question whether that is an expression of love. but when family finances are limited, a one-dollar gift may speak a million dollars’ worth of love…For the man who can afford it, you can purchase a beautiful card for less than five dollars. For the man who cannot, you can make one for free…If receiving gifts is his/her primary love language, almost anything you give will be received as an expression of love…You are investing in your relationship and filling your spouse’s emotional love tank, and with a full love tank, he or she will likely reciprocate emotional love to you in a language you will understand.

We had a lot of discussion about gifts, as it is my primary love language, and an area we have been miscommunicating in. i truly connect with the feeling that a gift shows that someone what thinking about you. This has been a topic of several discussions, disagreements, and dialogues, in that i just felt forgotten by Maximus. Most times, the gift i most wanted was a text that He was thinking about me, as simple as that. Other times, Maximus has mentioned He was going out to look for a gift for me, but then no gift ever appeared and it left me wondering what i had done to not deserve the gift He said He was shopping for. Or moreover, He would send me pictures of gifts that i never received. It was very confusing to me and i have felt hurt many times over it.

i did not understand my feelings about desiring gifts until i read this book. Because of this, i was embarrassed by wanting symbols or tokens of affection, thinking it would make me appear materialistic, which i absolutely am not. So, to temper this, i have told Maximus not to buy me expensive gifts, that i didn’t want them. But then i resented that i did not get anything! It’s not that i need expensive gifts, i just feel special and thought of when i receive a token of affection. It makes me feel special, and it’s ok to acknowledge that. Maximus has wanted nothing more than to give me gifts, but i have communicated to Him not to. He is excited to be able to follow His instinct now.

As my love language is gifts, i have been communicating my love Maximus by giving gifts to Him–but that is His least desired love language! So the ring i gave Him, meant the world to me, a symbol of my love for Him to wear, but did not have the same impact on Him. He now understands why i found it so devastating when He’d removed the ring after my last rage event–i was crushed by the symbolism that told me He no longer loved me, which was not the case at all. To Him, it was a ring. To me, it was my heart.

Physical presence in a time of crisis is the most powerful gift you can give if your souse’s primary love language is receiving gifts. Your body becomes the symbol of your love. Remove the symbol and the sense of love evaporates.

Huge revelation here for Maximus! One of my rage events stemmed around Maximus’ decision to come be with me after my grandmother passed away. He never thought for a minute about not going, but His Babbling Brook communication led me to believe that He was questioning going and was too busy to take the time to be there for me. This was a big eye-opener for Him.

Acts of service…doing things you know your spouse would like you to do. You seek to please her by serving her, to express your love for her by doing things for her.

This is Maximus’ primary love language. Now, i have been communicating to Maximus in what i thought were gifts: making meals, sewing a quilt, redecorating His home, painting, but it turns out, those really aren’t gifts, those are acts of service. To me, it was a gift of my time, energy, and expertise–to Him, they were actions that showed true love.

What is very interesting is that my submission in our D/s relationship is an act of service! Maximus feel immense love from this. What’s even more interesting is that i have felt it was my gift to Him–it’s even reflected in the name of my blog!

We really had a great conversation about this book. In fact, it met both of our primary love languages…a gift of His time to go through the book and share passages of meaning, quality “us” time, and an act of service from me to find something that would be so helpful for Him in our relationship. We have talked a lot about the information in this book and have employed a lot of the techniques and suggestions in it. And i got flowers delivered–the first time EVER any man has sent me flowers! It was heavenly and i’m still walking on air about them! Talk about a full love tank!

Categories: BDSM relationship, communication, relationship, relationship needs, The 5 Love Languages, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Translation!!

translation

Ugh. So i wrote the last blog and then Maximus and i had a communication breakdown. Ugh. And we both got mad at each other, pretty much the first time we have both been angry with each other. Oddly, i’m glad that Maximus got angry with me, and i know He doesn’t feel that way about it. Maybe it’s because i feel like He got locked and loaded engaged with the situation, maybe it’s because i don’t feel like the odd one out or the lesser person in the relationship because we were BOTH angry, maybe i can feel now that i have done something that made Him angry at me for a change…finally. Hopefully it’s also the last time, as i know Maximus really has been working to avoid getting mad at me, and i really don’t want to do that again either.

The issue was again me not feeling like a priority, as i described in Priorities, What’s the Conflict, and Leaps. And i was upset that it was happening again, that i felt that Maximus was too busy to even touch base with me all day. i tried to cue Him in with Imago words, but it didn’t seem to help. And then i just got ticked off and decided i was done trying Imago and just try a different way to get His attention…to be angry. i didn’t rage, but i was outwardly angry, intentionally.

So we were angry at each other and we got angry with the Imago process. i felt we’d already dialogued about this same issue and it hadn’t worked. i was angry that it felt like i’d not really had my feelings heard and that the process failed to make a change. So we ended up going partway through it, getting angry about it, and tossed it aside and just got mad.

…and we made it through.

What we learned, what we hadn’t learned last time we dialogued, was that Maximus and i were speaking different languages. He was speaking to me in a language that made Him feel thoughtful and caring and attentive, but i received the message as cold and a list of excuses, justifications on just how many things had more priority than i did. At one point, where we had the epiphany, Maximus explained that He always said GOT which was all encompassing that He was thinking about me, missing me, and loved me; but i exclaimed, “Then tell me You’re thinking about me, miss me, and love me! Tell me that! GOT doesn’t mean that to me.”

Aha!

The Five Love Languages

5 love languages

Interestingly enough, i had started reading, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman the day before. i’d seen a reference to it a few weeks ago. Chapman counsels that there are five ways people speak and understand emotional love:

Words of Affirmation

Acts of Service

Receiving Gifts

Quality Time

Physical Touch

People have a primary love language, or primary way of communicating and receiving love–it is that thing that makes you feel proof that someone loves and cares for you. If your mate communicates in their way, but it is not the way you prefer to receive love, you may feel shorted and unimportant. And, in turn, if you continually communicate your love to your partner in a way you prefer but they do not, you feel like you try and try and try and never get appreciated for all the things you’ve done to prove your love to them. And sometimes, one mate gets it right and the other wrong, leaving one feeling fulfilled and happy, and the other partner frustrated. Gosh, this sounded so familiar!

Interested in learning more, i found a quiz to help identify my primary and secondary love languages from The 5 Love Languages website. In doing this, i found that my primary love language was Receiving Gifts and secondary was Quality Time. In addition, the least desirable language for me was Acts of Service. i had an inkling after reading the chapters that this might be the case. i also considered Maximus’ languages, and thought it would be Physical Touch and Words of Affirmation.

So when we had the epiphany that we were having a language problem, i shared about The 5 Love Languages with Maximus, described what it was, what it meant, and what my languages were. And it made sense to us. i told Him that i had an idea what His were, but i wanted Him to take the quiz anyway; Maximus asked that i not tell Him what i thought they were until He’d taken the quiz, as not to bias Him.

Well i was wrong! Maximus’ languages are Acts of Service and Quality Time. More interestingly, is that his least desirable language is Receiving Gifts! So we are actually 180-degrees from each other. No wonder we feel this disconnect. No wonder Maximus is so frustrated when i say i just don’t feel important while He’s worked and worked and tried and tried to prove it to me–we’re not speaking the same language.

Remember the Golden Rule? “Do unto others as they would have done unto you”? Well i think that’s flawed, always have. It should read, “Do unto others as they would have done unto THEM”! Right? If someone tries to reward you with a foot massage because that’s what they love but you’re horribly ticklish, to the point that having your feet touched is torture, how is that the right thing for them to do??

So i have been showing my love how i needed it, by gifts of time, gifts of texts, material things, small and large, free or expensive, to communicate to Maximus just how much i loved Him–and then often disappointed that it didn’t seem to have the effect i wanted. And i’ve been waiting for those things in return.

Maximus

gabriella

Acts of Service

Receiving Gifts

Quality Time

Quality Time

Physical Touch

Physical Touch

Words of Affirmation

Words of Affirmation

Receiving Gifts

Acts of Service

This has been enlightening for us. And it makes sense. So now we are studying this, and working to learn how to show our love to each other in the language the other best receives. And you know, i’m the one having the struggle with how to do it. Maximus has been happy and has felt fulfilled, with a full love tank, but i know i’ve been communicating my love to him in the least desirable way. So, i have just flat out told Him i need His help to think of ways i can show my love to him through service, and He’s going to work on that for me.

Do you ever learn something and think, “Well, duh, that makes sense. Why didn’t i know that before?”

Categories: anger, BDSM relationship, communication, conflict, The 5 Love Languages | Leave a comment

Priorities, What’s the Conflict, and Leaps

priorities

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?

question marks

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!

whats the conflictWhat 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!

Leaps

leap

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.

Categories: balance, communication, conflict, counseling, Imago, relationship, relationship needs | Leave a comment

Beginning Imago

relationships

Maximus and i had our first couples counseling session with Fern. We did our session over Skype, He and i together and Fern remotely. It was a good session, setting a foundation for Imago therapy. Maximus was a bit confused, however, trying to figure out how we were supposed to use Imago to stop a rage event, but after He and i discussed it further after our session, we both understand that Imago is used to guide communication to resolve conflict prior to rage, to prevent me from having a raging event. This provides a framework for me to feel heard and for Him to not feel attacked.

Imago, developed by Harville Hendrix, PhD and his wife, Helen Lakelly Hunt, PhD, is based on theory that most conflicts are 90% triggered by past wounds and only 10% about the present situation. Furthermore, it is based upon your partner being the most ideal person to help you resolve those past wounds. Imago uses the connection between the partners to dialogue about issues rather than discussing them, in a safe space, at a time when both partners are able to fully be present for each other. The process  starts with one partner requesting an appointment to dialogue and then proceeding through a structure of Mirroring, Validation and Empathy.

Making an appointment is a crucial step in beginning this process. This requires the partner who has something to dialogue, be it an appreciation or a conflict, to request the presence of the other and to be able to articulate what the general topic would be. The other partner can either agree to discuss it right then, or request that they discuss it at a specific time later, when they are more able to commit to the process.

During mirroring, the sender articulates their thoughts, feelings, or requests using “I feel” or “I need” or “I love” statements, from their perspective, not shaming, blaming, or criticizing the receiver. The receiver listens mindfully, not interrupting, not stopping the sender. When the sender stops, the receiver starts by saying, “Let me see if I got what you’re saying…” and repeats back what the sender told them. This requires the receiver to really listen to what’s being said. The sender then can reply, “Yes, you got it,” or acknowledge things that were correct and  recommunicate things that were not picked up. When the receiver has mirrored back the sender’s communication correctly, the receiver asks, “Is there more?” The sender should ponder and add more if necesssary, and the cycle repeats, or acknowledge that they have communicated everything about this issue. At this point, if the sender is done, the receiver will then summarize what they have heard the sender communicate by starting, “So in summary, what I heard you say is…Did I get it?” The sender needs to listen and acknowledge or reiterate anything that was missed.

In the next step, validation, the receiver starts. In this step, the receiver acknowledges the sender’s perspective, but does not judge whether they believe it to be right or wrong. They are merely showing the sender respect for their reality, accepting that both partners may have different viewpoints. During validation, the receiver often starts, “That makes sense to me because…” and describing how their behavior or communication might have been received by the sender different than their intention.

The final step is empathy. Here, the receiver starts by communicating how they think their partner might be feeling. “I imagine you might be feeling….about this. Is that how you are feeling?” The sender now has a responsibility to acknowledge whether they got it or not, and if not, share what emotion they are feeling about the situation.

Imago Phrase Cues

SENDER
I would like to dialogue about . . .
Is now okay?
I feel . . .
I love . . .
I need . . .
What’s bothering me is . . .

RECEIVER
1. Mirroring
Let me see if I’ve got you.
I heard you say . . . or You said . . .
Am I getting you? or Did I get that?
Is there more about that?
Summary mirror
Let me see if I got it all . . .?
Am I getting you? Did I get all of that?
or Is that a good summary?

2. Validation
You make sense to me, and what makes sense is . . .
I can understand that . . .given that . . .
I can see how you would see it that way because sometimes I do . . .

3. Empathy

I imagine you might be feeling . . .
Is that what you’re feeling?

Maximus and i practiced this with Fern using an appreciation rather than a conflict. This allowed us to practice the steps without having to focus on a new way of communicating AND an issue. We stumbled through it. This is really a new way of communicating for us and we are not yet used to the structure of it. But, we did see the value in it. A big concern for Maximus is the empathy step, as he feels he is not an empathetic person and has difficulty assigning feelings to situations. Fern understood this and will be sharing a list of feelings with him for him to refer to in these situations. i don’t think Maximus is un-empathetic, i feel that the generation he was raised in devalued emotional/sensing/feeling response in males, seeing those as feminine qualities. i have, many times, been able to relate situations Maximus has encountered that were similar to something we are talking about, so He could put Himself back in that situation and remember how He felt at that time and apply that to our current situation and how i am feeling. This works if i know of a situation to relate it to, which isn’t always the case! i know Maximus IS empathetic, it will be a matter of developing that skill that was not valued, and i think Fern can be helpful in this.

Another thing we discussed with Fern, in context of Imago, was in regards to overcommunication. Maximus is still concerned about His overcommunication or oversharing and how i communicate better in writing and He communicates better orally. Fern shared that it is important to be able to contain ourselves when communicating, that we consider the impact of sharing every thought and thought-process rather than crafting the communication to share the thoughts more succinctly.  Maximus uses His communication to think out loud and that can be confusing for me, especially since as a writer, i present my thoughts on paper completely analyzed and edited to say exactly what i want to communicate–i don’t share the non-edited version. i take His communication as if it is edited, not a work in progress.

And it was a good thing we learned this concept and practiced Imago dialogue with Fern, because we had two instances to use this technique later that evening.

The first instance was right before dinner, about two hours after our session with Fern. Maximus and i had been discussing the session and playing with the Imago technique, summarizing our thoughts with each other. We had to cut the conversation short, however, as The Englishman came home before we were completely finished. When The Englishman wasn’t paying attention, Maximus shared with me how much He felt we were on the right track and held His hand up, wiggling His right index finger, and said, “And this [the ring i gave Him] will be back soon because of it!” The air was immediately sucked out of the room for me and i felt like i’d been sucker punched. i’d had no idea that He was not wearing the ring intentionally because of my last raging episode and worse, i’d not even noticed. i immediately excused myself to the bathroom to sit down and respond to this in private. i was horrified, sad, upset that i’d not noticed, upset that Maximus shared that when The Englishman was present (not that he’d seen it, but that i felt like i couldn’t talk to Maximus about it now and i felt set up for failure). i returned to the kitchen and motioned for Maximus to follow me. We went upstairs to the master bathroom and i asked Him if we could have a dialogue about the ring, and He agreed. We stumbled through the process and it really helped me to be able to calmly explain my feelings about it, feel heard, and for Maximus to understand my feelings, perspectives, and how that felt hurtful to me. He shared that His fingers had swollen in Las Vegas, which i knew, but that He had decided to wait to put it back on after we were back to normal, even though His fingers were no longer swollen, and do that with me ceremonially to celebrate our renewed togetherness. He had not, however, realized that i had not noticed He was not wearing it, assumed i knew He wasn’t, and it had not occurred to Him that i would feel hurt by Him not wearing it. This dialogue helped me feel heard, helped Him understand my feelings and perspectives, and make changes that benefited us both–He is wearing the ring. And no raging occurred. Raging would have most definitely occurred in the recent past with something like this.

The second instance was after we went to bed. While Maximus was on His business trip, He mentioned to me that He was planning on heading to Nordstrom to go see what He could find to get for me as a surprise. i thought this was wonderfully sweet and i was looking forward to seeing what might be in my drawer when i got to His home at the end of the week, which has been a thing that Maximus has done in the past to surprise me. He did not get a chance to go to the mall on that trip, however, but the expectation had been set up that He was planning on getting me something. There was nothing in my drawer when i arrived, but Maximus mentioned that He wanted to take me to the mall, to Nordstrom the next day and was very vague about it, so much so that i thought that was the new plan, to go together for that something for me. Unfortunately, our day got very full and the session with Fern went long, and we did not have time to go. As well, i had not brought clothes to go to the mall in and when we started out to go, Maximus felt He was peacocking me, overdressed in comparison, and then canceled our trip. i later asked what this trip was about and He said it was to go get Him some new dress slacks, which to me, seemed odd for Him to have been so vague about the trip if that was what it was about. By the time we went to bed, i was feeling that i had somehow disappointed Him with the session with Fern or how i’d dressed, and it caused Him to change His mind about getting me a gift. i ended up getting triggered about it during some rougher sex and excused myself to the bathroom to compose myself–Maximus allowed me this time to cry and breathe and return to Him to dialogue. i started by asking Him if we could dialogue about Nordstrom and then as we dialogued, i realized that my feelings were really about His overcommunicating. He actually thanked me for talking about this issue and how it made me feel; He had no idea that He was doing this, setting up my expectations for something that was on His list to do at some point, picking up a gift for me from Nordstrom. He’d not realized that His thinking out loud set me up to believe that i had a gift coming and could see how there being no gift and a canceled trip to Nordstrom would make me feel the way i did. “You’ve helped Me become a better person with this,” He shared.

It’s not intuitive yet and it’s not easy either, but we do see the merit in this process. It did help me not rage. i believe that it helps by requiring me to request a dialogue, knowing i’ll have His full attention, and that i have to give a topic of conversation, a focused conversation. Additionally, it allows me to talk without interruption and hear back from Him what He’s hearing, allowing me to clarify when we’re not on the same page. i feel heard and that my feelings are validated.

Categories: communication, conflict, counseling, Imago | Leave a comment

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