Whenever a prospect calls to inquire about the Getting the Love You Want weekend workshop, it's usually a woman, and I hear the comment, "I want to attend the workshop but my husband doesn't." I know the scenario all too well.
I can only imagine what her partner is feeling and thinking because this was our scenario 14 years ago.
As usual, Betsy had found a great "growth experience," a workshop "just perfect for us" and she was now asking me if I would be willing to attend with her. (Other times, it had often been simply asking if I would be willing to read something she had read. But now it was a workshop! A whole weekend!)
The message I got once again was that I wasn't adequate, wasn't good enough. There was something about me that needed help! It felt as if she was trying to control me or change me. Actually, I thought she had far more problems that I did, so why should I go? As for me needing anything, I couldn't imagine what that would be.
So, my first thought was, "Here we go again." I didn't think we need it that badly, eventually we would work things out. Second of all, it's way too expensive. And third, I have too much other stuff to do.
Well, you know the ending to this story. I caved in and although I was somewhat anxious about going, I had convinced myself that I was doing this for her and that was a valid reason for attending. She was the "dragger" and I was the "draggee".
Well, Long story short: The space the workshop opened up for me was astonishing. I ended up glad I had "caved in".
Little did I know, prior to the weekend, what was in it for me. There I learned more about myself, Betsy, and our relationship in a weekend than I had known about me or us in a lifetime. All I can say is that learning the gift of the Couples' Dialogue was what we have had to thank ever since for making our relationship what it is today.
To get out of the "fixing, blaming and criticizing" mode was challenging but freeing for both of us. Have persisted now for many years in using the priceless tools of dialogue, we feel we have been able to create and sustain our current level of wellbeing and connection. With a way to take on all conflicts and disagreements, however large or small, many doors have been opened through dialogue that would otherwise remained shut tight.
Little did I suspect at first that deep listening could make such a huge difference or that I needed to have someone listen to me? I had done all my processing internally. I had learned to listen to myself. I had become very self sufficient, so when Betsy would say, "You don't listen to me," I really didn't get it. What could she benefit from me listening to her? After all, I didn't need it. Besides, I didn't like what I was hearing.
And if I didn't like what I was hearing, I would shut down, say nothing and then get blamed for not listening. What a vicious cycle! Actually I believed that processing internally was a great boon: why couldn't Betsy follow my lead on this? I could think whatever I wanted and no one heard it but me, and it would be ideal if I could only change Betsy so she would do the same!
However, of course that never worked all that well because she's not me. She’s a different person. She's not meant to just do it my way. So what she actually did was accuse me of not sharing my thoughts and feelings. What a trap!
The dialogue, then, was a giant way out of the trap. We learned to use its safe structure to acknowledge our differences without the necessity of agreeing or disagreeing about everything (or anything). I learned to listen to Betsy, to attend to her pain in a way that I didn't have to fix, and that allowed her to share the pain with me in a non-blaming way but in a way I could deeply understand and empathize with. The door this opened for me was the door of empathy, actually getting engaged with her life experience, understanding it (and avoiding trying to fix it unless she was specifically asking for help!). This was all actually a huge relief for me, relief from a false sense of responsibility – responsibility I felt but never actually had in the first place.
And for me dialogue structure also made it safe to open up to Betsy and give voice to my own life stories, knowing that Betsy too would listen, understand, and connect with my feelings. She was suddenly helping me me put together the pieces of what makes me the way I am, so that I'm pretty sure I now understand why I thought I never needed anything other than myself, or that I had to fix Betsy.
Another important piece for me was this understanding: Unlike much of everything else I dealt with in ordinary daily life, our relationship was not a problem to be figured out and solved once and for all, but an process to be experienced as an ongoing invitation to grow and heal ourselves and each other.
So we grow closer as we grow older, and do everything we can to safeguard the commitments and vows we made to each other so many years ago.
I want to say this to men who may be reading this with some interest or curiosity or sense of familiarity: The benefit of learning how to dialogue has been in many ways just as valuable for my own personal life outside my relationship with Betsy as with my relationship with her. I am less focused on myself and can listen to others without having to fix them, and thus be a true friend or colleague. And I realize most people want to be heard and not fixed.
That understanding in itself creates more freedom and allows me to take advantage of having an interdependent relationship with others rather than a dependent one or independent one. It's a cliché, but I just feel like a better person, the person I want to be.
When I hear couples of all ages and length of time together say that they have a good relationship, that they have some problems but they always figure them out and resolve them readily, or that they just choose never to fight, I have to say that I sometimes do wonder whether they are getting all they want out of the relationship, whether they even understand what they may be settling for, or whether they are just in denial or ashamed to acknowledge things might not be everything they the way they want them to be. I myself always avoided conflict. I had no idea that conflict was the actual opportunity for our relationship to grow. So I wonder.
So if any of what I have said speaks to you men out there, and you have questions, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd welcome a conversation with you and to hear what's on your mind as you read this. Life truly is a journey, not a destination, and we men deserve to reap all the benefits that the journey provides for us.
Betsy and Bruce Bergquist
Certified Getting The Love You Want Workshop Presenters (and married for more than 50 years!) www.BetsyandBruce.com
| IMAGO Vancouver is offered by Tamara Adilman, MEd, RCC and
Maureen McEvoy, MA, RCC, certified Getting the Love You Want Workshop
Presenters. For more information, contact us at email@example.com.