Overcoming Communication Challenges

Surefire Ways to Create an Honest and Connected Relationship
An Interview with Drs. Gay and Katie Hendricks.

I took the following notes while listening to Arielle Ford interview Gay and Katie Hendricks, relationship experts whom I highly respect. Much of my couples work is similar to theirs, and I am happy to share their insights with you. If you use these techniques, your relationship WILL improve!

This interview is shared with permission from Arielle Ford.  Arielle interviewed many other relationship experts (such as Harville Hendrix and John Gray) in The Art of Love Series.  If you would like to purchase digital downloads, CDs and transcripts, click here.

Imagine having the power to stop arguments with your partner in an instant so you can get back to that deep connection you crave in your relationship. After counseling tens of thousands of couples over the past 40 years, Gay and Katie have mastered getting back to the love FAST.

Interview  A = Arielle Ford   G= Gay Hendricks    K=Katie Hendricks

A:  You gave the example of a couple who talked to their divorce lawyers, and in one session, you got them committed again.  What made the difference?
G: The big thing to start with is this:  Start again at the level of commitment.  Ask: Is each of us still willing to make a commitment to the relationship?  Listen for the answer and watch all the non-verbal communication, not just the words.  Watch your partners breathing and movements.  Each partner needs to make a whole body commitment to being in the relationship.  We get the couple face to face. We have them say, “I commit to resolving this issue so I can be close to you.”  If they are not genuinely committed, their body language will shout. We feed it back to them. For example, if you moved your hand, we would say, “What does the scratch to your left cheek mean?”  We would keep processing like this until a connection is made. Gears begin to mesh again. We then stand back, and we cheer for the connection. It may have taken 10 years to get into the pattern, but it can take 10 seconds to get out of it.
A: How do you help couples break a cycle when they have been hating each for a while?
G:  One partner makes the decision to value the relationship over being right or wrong.  The key is to first develop unconditional love for yourself.  Love that part of yourself that hates the other person.  When you heal yourself, in that moment, you restore harmony in the relationship.
K: Another suggestion is to exaggerate your body posture. When people are stuck, they are stuck in a particular posture. It has become unconscious. With exaggeration, you allow your pattern to become conscious.   When you synchronize your breathing again, you can make different and healthier choices.

G: I’ll tell you a story – we call it the 7 year orgasm.  A woman and husband had not been getting along for many years.  She had not had an orgasm in 7 years. We did something in 10 minutes that caused her to have her first orgasm in 7 years. Do you want to know what it is?  We asked her “What was the thing you didn’t tell the truth about 7 years ago?” She answered, “I had a one night stand with my husband’s best friend.”  She had not told her husband. That secret squeezed the life out of her. She summoned the courage to tell her husband, and she had her first orgasm in 7 years.
A: Should you always tell the truth? That sounds scary.
K: When you express yourself freely, you experience aliveness in your body that you can’t get any other way. We call it “speaking from discovery.”  The truth isn’t something you package up for your partner in a neat little box tied up with a bow. It is a willingness to be transparent, not perfect. You don’t have to have it all figured out ahead of time. Start by speaking what you experience, step by step, and in the process, you will figure out what is going on inside of you. It is a joy to have someone with whom I can speak and discover. My husband wants to hear and listen to my discovery. It rekindles romance, expands flow and creativity and expands our ability to co-create.  This is how we increase vitality and keep our marriage exciting after 30+ years.
G: Honesty IS always the best policy. We sabotage our creativity when we are not being fully ourselves.  By keeping our agreements and being in integrity, we get to have aliveness not available in any other way.
A: Let’s pretend that Katie has an ex-boyfriend flirting with her on Facebook. Katie is flirting back and feeling guilty.
K: First of all, that would be an entirely made-up scenario. I have been happily married for many years. But as an example, I would say to Gay, my husband: “There’s something I haven’t shared with you, and I realize I feel scared just saying this. I am troubled by something and would like to share it with you. “
G: I am open to hearing about it.
K: This guy showed up on FB. I knew him years ago, and he looked pretty good on FB.  I was having fond memories about how I used to like him, but I had also had an icky feeling.
G: What was he dressed in?
K: Kind of Chip and Dale … kind of sleazy.
G: I feel nervous that you are striking up a relationship with this guy, but I am more committed to you expressing yourself.  What do you need?  What kind of support do you need from me? I want to listen to you.
K: Thank you for being willing to listen to me.  (We would continue the conversation.)
A:  For many couples, there are constant fights about sex or money. You say that we can have more of both without fighting. How?
G: With the amount of energy you are using to fight about sex and money, you can use that same energy to make both happen.  Fighting is like an addiction, it eats up your creative energy.  It becomes an unconscious habit.  Couples have 4 main areas of conflict: Sex, money, kids and chores. Underneath all the addiction to fighting is the same thing that is under all addictions: unresolved pain. AA says:  only when you stop drinking do you find out what made you start drinking in the first place.  If you are not committed to riding the energy of feeling your own emotions and taking responsibility for them, you dial up an addiction to manage it.  We say: The creative growth of both partners is trying to happen underneath the fighting and the addiction.
A:  You say we can reframe fighting by seeing it as creative spiritual growth wanting to happen. How do we make that shift?
K: It is all part of the one problem:  the upper limit problem. How much aliveness can you handle in your nervous system?  Historically, we have been good at noticing what is going wrong and we want to solve problems. We are wired to be in stress, and be on guard. Recently in history, we have time to notice what is going well.  When we have issues, we can re-commit to expanding our capacity to giving and receiving more love and being creative. We consider this the most important challenge on the planet.
 A: What if your partner is stuck, and you don’t get an answer from them?  What are the questions to ask to encourage them to open up?  How do you ask them questions to draw them out?
K:  Ask, are you willing to resolve this?  Are you willing to have my support?  Sometimes, people try to help without asking permission to engage.  If you partner thinks you are controlling, invite your partner to open by asking permission questions. “May I talk to you about this?”  Change doesn’t happen until the person decides to change.  You can send I Messages: “What I am experiencing is that I feel scared. I feel disconnected from you; I’d like to get it resolved.” That softens the barrier. Defenses are always about fear.  We recommend that people become aware of what is going on in their body. Drop into belly breathing.  When partners connect with synchronized breathing, they get present again.  They are less defensive.
A: You wrote the book “Conscious Loving”. What have you learned since then?
K: Creativity is the big pay-off for learning how to be honest, and taking responsibility for yourself and appreciating yourself and your partner. You spend less time in power struggles. We have not had a power struggle in 15 years.  We have a lot of open space for our creative impulses, and the collaborations that come up has accelerated more than we imagined was possible.   Our marriage has been our lab experiment.  Now there is no limit to closeness, fun and romance. I have more fun with Gay now, we have better sex, and more fun after 40 years of marriage.  Love can be fun.  It does not have to be hard. It can be become easy for you, and for all the peoples live you touch. When we are in a crowd, people always know where we are because we’re laughing so loud.
G: If you look at any relationship struggle, you will find creativity not being expressed. One person looks like the persecutor or victim, but both are conspiring against their own creativity. Look at repeated conflicts. Ask yourself, “If I weren’t burning up this energy in conflict, what would I be creating?” When you engage in meaningful creativity, new life is injected into the relationship. It has an effect on all partners.
A: How can each partner cultivate intimacy skills and mind sets necessary to keep a relationship growing?
K: Cultivate the kind of listening that invites your partner to reveal what is going on – appreciating your partner and their feelings.  Want to know what is going on with their body language, opening a space to really listen for the feelings and desires that they might not be saying. Listen for what they really want. This opens a space for discovery. All these exchanges are about love, or about love that wants to be expressed, maybe in a new way. Or the person is afraid that they don’t know how to love. We can always love our partners better than ourselves.  Loving our partner opens learning and intimacy. Use the relationship as a mirror to see what needs loving within yourself.   If I am bothered about something in our relationship, I realize that Gay is reflecting back a part of me to me, like a mirror. I can see where I am not loving myself.  For example, in the early years, I was withdrawing from my anger.  If I love myself in my anger and stay present vs. blaming Gay, I can open up.  The key commitment is the opening to learning vs. the power struggle.  When I make the commitment to make the relationship THE priority, I rekindle my aliveness.  I ask, “What is the mirror showing me today?” I am always learning something new.
A:  You call that generous listening.  What are the ways to get your partner to say more?
G: Here are some key questions:   Tell me more. I’d like to hear more about that. What happened next?
K: When I ask Gay, “What interests you most about that?” he gets tickled.  When I ask Gay, “What is emerging here? “  he becomes curious. That keeps him talking.
A: You guys like use the “wonder move.”  Tell us about that.
G: This is how to get yourself unstuck quickly.  Most the time there is blame when you are angry.  Catch yourself blaming, and then make the wonder move.  “I wonder how I contributed to this situation. I wonder what this says about me.” Use wonder, not blame.  Turn blame into wonder. Soon your wonder muscles will be well developed.
A:  What are your favorite daily practices to cultivate intimacy?
G: A 20 second hug. Research showed that it releases oxytocin, a chemical for bonding.  We encourage you to amplify the hug with 20 seconds of synchronized breathing.
K: We meditate together. We recommend a time during the day, even if it is for 10 minutes, when you are not doing anything. You breathe together, or lie on a hammock together.
 A: For the singles, what should they do to attract true love?
G: Ask yourself, “Are you genuinely committed to creating a close relationship, whatever it takes to make it happen? “  (1) We challenge their belief that it is not possible. We have to hug our through to get past the state of despair. However you feel now ask, “Are you willing to create true love?”  (2) Look for that part of yourself that has been blocking it. Not loving all parts of ourselves blocks creating love outside ourselves.  For example, a woman realized, “I was hating my loneliness, and then I loved the part of myself that was lonely.” Poof, everything changed. We have a tremendous power of attraction.  We attract that which we are radiating.
A: You know your soul mate is around the corner the moment you get OK with the idea that they may never show up.  …. Detachment.
G:  Yes, a person said, they cast the whole thing to the wind. 2 minutes later, they met a new man in a restaurant and now they have been dating for 2 months.
A: For those of us who are about ready to give up on relationship, tell us what is so great about being married?
G: The moment I made a heartfelt commitment to Katie, a part of me opened … a door to learning about myself.  Because of my commitment, I had everything on the line, body and soul.  Marriage opens new worlds that can’t be gotten into except through the gateway of commitment.
K: Marriage is the most fun!  You have a companion, a co-creator to share with, to do funny dances with in the kitchen, to celebrate the passing of seasons, to show new flowers in the garden, to share a path with. With Gay, every day I am getting to know him like I had just met him, and going deeper, and recreating a thrill when I see him … that is one of the big pluses for long term commitment.
A: Tell us how people can find you.
We are at www.Hendricks.com     Facebook.com/relationshipadvice
~ End of Interview ~ Printed with permission from Arielle Ford.

Arielle Ford interviewed many other relationship experts (such as Harville Hendrix and John Gray) in The Art of Love Series.  If you would like to purchase digital downloads, CDs and transcripts, click here.