TRI-LAKES AREA — Although today is not an “official” holiday, it’s National Kiss and Make Up Day, and it’s never too late to celebrate.
While the exact origins of the holiday are unknown, bringing to light the need for contrition and reconciliation in the pursuit of a healthy relationship is a timeless topic.
Licensed clinical social worker Gay Strakshus of Hot Springs has a passion for helping couples find their love language. As a certified Imago relationship therapist, she teaches the Imago dialogue, described as a new way of talking together.
The Imago dialogue is a way of listening and speaking that allows partners to know each other, Strakshus said.
Imago couples therapy teaches that there are three phases in every relationship.
“First, there is the romantic phase,” she said, “and we all do fine in that phase, but a healthy relationship will move into the conflict-power struggle stage.
It’s a signal that change is ready to happen. Somebody is growing in the relationship, and that is good, but now you have to hustle around and adapt to that change.” The true benefit of the conflict-struggle phase is that there is a concentrated effort to understand the other person, Strakshus said.
“And, of course, you can’t enter into the conscious relationship without a certain amount of conflict,” she said.
On the conscious-relationship level, partners learn about each other’s inner feelings.
“People forget to have those important conversations - the ones about dreams and wishes and hopes for the future,” Strakshus said. “In this stage, you listen to each other’s innermost thoughts and desires.” In every relationship, however, there is the need to set aside the ego, she said. “You have to agree to disagree.” Extolling the virtue of compassion in seeking a reconnect after conflict has arisen, she also taps into another relationship guru.
“John Gottman, author of The Seven Principles of Making Marriage Work, calls the attempt to reconnect a repair attempt,” Strakshus said.
“If my husband and I have an argument and he knows I’m mad at him, and he later brings me back my favorite drink from Sonic, then he is trying to reconnect or make a repair through a show of compassion. With every conflict, there has to be one person willing to take a move toward a reconnect.”
Knowing ways to reconnect is what one of the core relational components is all about, she said.
“Communication, continued commitment and curiosity are necessary in any relationship, and curiosity is concerned with a desire to know the other person so well as to understand how to show them love,” she said.
“It’s important,” Strakshus said, “that you go into a relationship with the realization that you can’t expect your partner to think the way you do.”
At the beginning of her relationship with her husband of nearly 34 years, she had a habit of sending him cards filled with sentimental notes, she said.
“My husband didn’t care anything about those cards. If I’d been curious enough to discover what would excite him, I could have expressed my love in a way he could have received it.”
Being respectful of those differences is necessary to foster an atmosphere of trust, she said.
“The trust I’m talking about is the kind that gives me room to explain myself without getting my head snapped off, and trust is also knowing I won’t be constantly shamed or berated by the stupid thing I did.”
Hard statistics indicate that many people are waiting much longer before marrying, Strakshus said.
“It’s possible that people who do enter into marriage relationships don’t do it with the same level of commitment as past generations. While there is some freedom in entering a relationship knowing that there is a way out, I wonder whether we’re losing the skills to reconnect.”
Reflecting on the current divorce rate, Strakshus said, “The divorce rate is 51 per cent, so obviously there is a lot of work we need to do. My grandmother used to tell me that when I got married, I didn’t need to let the sun go down on my anger, but you know, if one person in the relationship needs a day to think about the situation, yet you share the same bed or the same house that night, there is still a chance to make up.”
So, take the opportunity of Kiss and Make Up Day to end a spat, quench tension or issue an apology. After all, the fun is in the making up.
For more information about Imago Relationship Therapy, contact Strakshus at (501) 538-5171, or check out the following books: The Love You Want: A Guide for Couples; Keeping the Love you Find: A Personal Guide; and The Love That Heals: A Guide for Parents.
For extra leverage when asking for forgiveness, try making these iced brownies. There’s just something mysteriously seductive about a gift of chocolate.
ICED BROWNIES Ingredients: 1 cup sugar 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened 4 eggs 1 (16-ounce) can chocolate-flavored syrup 1 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 cup chopped nuts Icing: 1 1/4 cups sugar 6 tablespoons butter or margarine 6 tablespoons milk or light cream 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips Directions:
For brownies, cream sugar and butter in a mixing bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add syrup and flour; mix well. Pour into a greased 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Cool slightly.
For the icing, combine sugar, butter and milk in a small saucepan. Cook and stir until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla and chocolate chips until chips are melted. The mixture will be thin. Immediately pour over brownies. Cool completely before cutting.