Francesca and Stan Levine have been married for almost 55 years, and they are still in love. Various patients have called them “The Love Doctors”, “Relationship Masters” and “Relationship Experts”. This is because they practise what they teach.
Francesca and Stan are always open to learning, both professionally and personally. They continuously search for different ways and approaches to teach their clients and themselves.
With couples, we explore what connects the 2 people and also what disconnects them. Usually what connects them is when each of them receives love in the way he/she needs to receive love (that person ‘s love language). However, most people offer love in the way they experience or did not experience love themselves – their own love language.
Much is made about love & the search for it; “ours is not to seek for love, but to seek and find the blocks within us [that prevent us accepting or giving love]” – Rumi
For the majority of couples, each has a different love language. Examples of love languages are physical touch; acts of service; words.
What actions from each of you show love in the way your partner recognises as love?
Love is a decision followed by action. It’s not just a feeling.
How do you know that you are loved and feel loved by your partner?
Francesca feels loved by expressions of validation and empathy. Stan feels loved by physical attention. However, when Stan perceives criticism, he is unable to give validation and empathy, and retreats into protective mode by making excuses. For Francesca, receiving empathy from Stan is a major part of intimacy – it makes her feel that Stan knows her deeply.
That creates disconnection for Francesca as she thrives on accountability & ownership of one’s behaviour. The effect of that on Francesca is that she withdraws. Both Francesca and Stan then disconnect for a while as a result of the “right/wrong” impasse.
Curiosity connects criticism disconnects.
How do they get back into connection? By way of a “safe conversation” (as designed by Dr. Harville Hendrix and his wife, Helen La Kelly Hunt). What is that? A “Couples Dialogue”, where each of you speaks in turn without interruption or comment, and the other person listens and mirrors what’s been said.
“We live in a connected universe. To not be connected is an illusion.” – Albert Einstein
Where control begins, love ends, so you have to GIVE UP THE POWER STRUGGLE of “being right” and focus on understanding yourself and your partner, forgive and heal.
You can be right or you can be in a relationship. The need to be right is the basis of most arguments between a couple.
There need to be processes to work through the triggered feelings. Feelings are authentic and need to be balanced with curiosity and understanding. The ongoing challenge for all is to practise witnessing, CHOOSING a response rather than reacting.
The power struggle is “growth trying to happen” (Dr.Harville Hendrix & Helen La Kelly Hunt). So, be curious and NOT critical; that will start the path to healing and loving connection.
A relationship is NOT just a series of problems as so many people appear to think; Francesca and Stan view it as a growthful adventure to be explored and lived. Problems are challenges to grow.
Growth is a very important part of life – grow or “die”; a relationship can flatline from boredom and lack of growth.
Our growth as psychologists/counsellors has never stopped – it’s an ongoing lifelong process.
Our major areas of growth this past year have been, for Francesca to slow down and be more understanding than distancing when Stan makes excuses; and for Stan to make fewer excuses and increase accountability. Francesca challenges Stan to grow.
Our ongoing challenges:
- Francesca needs to practise empathy for Stan, and to understand why he makes excuses. “Be the change you want” (Ghandi)
- Stan needs to offer more empathy to Francesca
- We want to continue leading full lives, and there is so much we want to achieve in our lifetimes, contributing, learning about ourselves and others, and teaching; none of us knows how long we have. So every couple needs to be grateful for each other and make every day count.
We give each other daily Appreciations; we don’t wait to feel good in order to do good – that doesn’t work: the reverse is true. We do good things for each other in order to help each other and ourselves feel good.
Make a commitment to give your partner 3 Appreciations daily and see the result. Examples of Appreciations:
- “One thing I appreciate about you is your unconditional love”
- “One thing I love about you are the loving looks you give me”
Communication – or, more accurately, MIS-communication is the most frequently presented issue between couples. Most people listen to themselves, with intention to respond – to prove the other person wrong. We teach safe conversations, i.e., teaching people how to listen with intention to understand and accept the differences between them: agreement is NOT necessary.
If you want to be in love again, then do what you did when you first fell in love – be romantic, give surprises, think more of the other person than yourself, open up yourselves to each other; practise IN-TO-ME-SEE (Intimacy)
Envision the most life-giving, awesome, and radiant reality – the most life-affirming dream for your future.
Published in Tribune Byte