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June 9,2021

Romantic Love May Be the Best Kind of Bait-and-Switch

You’ve likely heard of the “honeymoon” or “infatuation” stage of romantic love -- and you’ve almost definitely experienced it. This is the time when you feel like your partner is amazing and perfect and can do no wrong. When you want to be around them all the time and may even feel physical discomfort when you are apart. When you hunger for them. There is no denying that this is an amazing time and an incredible feeling. But it’s important to realize that it’s not really your partner who is creating those feelings. Not exactly. What is? Your brain. In the beginning stages of a romantic relationship, our brains practically drown us in all kinds of “feel-good” chemicals whenever we’re around our partner. Because it helps us to forge a strong connection to them. To bond closely and want to stay together. Why is it so important to understand this? Because once those chemicals have helped us become thoroughly enmeshed with each other… they go away. You’ve probably experienced this part of relationships, too. When you start noticing all of the annoying things your partner does and may even wonder if you’re falling out of love. You are not falling out of love. It is just that those chemical “support beams” have been taken away, forcing you to see each other in a more realistic light. And to reassess what love and connection really mean. Why in the world would our brains pull this strange bait-and-switch on us? Because they’re playing a deeper game. They need us to be so strongly connected to our partner to make it less likely that we’ll abandon each other throughout the hard work that comes next. What kind of hard work? Using each other to heal your personal wounds. How Romantic Love Reopens Childhood Wounds The “trick” of romantic love comes down to what it really is. Popular culture has taught us to think of it as a combination of happily ever after and sexual infatuation. But while those things are certainly part of the equation, they don’t encompass the totality of why we’re drawn to certain people.  Imago teaches us that we pick partners who are a combination of both the positive and negative qualities of the people who cared for us when we were young. Romantic love -- aided greatly by those chemicals -- is the powerful force that draws you to those types of people. Why in the world would your brain attempt to pair you with people who have the best and worst traits of your parents or caregivers? Because way down deep inside of all of us, we have wounds from childhood that we want to heal. Needs that were not met. Parts of ourselves that we had to give up or hide. So, in an attempt to heal those wounds, we find ourselves choosing partners who make us feel the same feelings we felt when we were kids. It’s why you might explode the first time your partner...

May 14,2021

What Does It Take to Create an Emotional Safety Zone for You and Your Partner?

Where are the “emotional safety zones” in your life?  These are relationships where you can express difficult emotions without fear of rejection. You may have experienced this with close family members, tight-knit friends, or even communities like a church, sangha, or group therapy. But perhaps the most important person you can share a safety zone with is your spouse or romantic partner. After all, they are who most of us are coming home to at the end of the day -- both physically and emotionally.  Unfortunately, it is all too easy to interact in ways that make you and your partner feel anything but safe with each other. (more…)

April 14,2021

How to Make a Plan to Be Surprising and Fun

Why should you make a plan to be surprising and fun with your partner? “Relationship” with a capital R can feel like a heavy obligation supported by serious conversations and continual compromise. Sometimes that’s true. At pivotal moments, we must work to maintain a healthy, committed relationship.  But there’s an often overlooked backbone that helps couples last. What is the glue that holds us together through thick and thin? The answer is simple: have fun and surprise each other! Of course, sometimes that's a lot easier said than done. "Be surprising and fun" can be a lot of pressure. What if you don't have any ideas? What if you're just not spontaneous? That's where the planning part comes in. That's right: you can make a plan to be surprising and fun. Seriously? A plan? Yep. Planning fun may seem counterintuitive, but it really does work -- if you do it the right way. Let's start by talking about what "fun" actually is. Back to Basics: What is Fun? Getting the Love You Want defines fun as “a high energy or intense activity that produces deep pleasure and/or laughter.” It sounds so technical, doesn’t it? Quite simply, “fun” encompasses the moments when our thinking brain takes a break. You’ve probably felt it on a boisterous night out with friends or when you laugh so hard it hurts…  We’re all human. We all know fun. But we don’t always know how to create it. Which can cause making a plan to be surprising and fun difficult. Often, because of how we grew up, we quash our natural urge to let loose. Your parents tried their best, but perhaps they held their own fears about life. Letting you behave in free and fun ways may have activated that fear. Rather than wallow in tragic interpretation of the past, we can reclaim our sense of fun in the present. And we can cultivate that practice in our relationship. How exactly do you make a plan to be surprising and fun? Be a Love Detective You want to surprise your partner in a way that feels welcome. But how? Become a Love Detective.  A skilled Love Detective relies on their eyes, ears, and intuition. Your partner will show you what brings them joy: foods that spark a smile, wishful comments, or activities that put them in a good mood. Listen, watch, take notes -- and not just mental ones. Jot down a list recalling how your partner hinted at secret desires and dreams.  Then... conspire to make it happen. You could have their grandmother’s old tea towels sewn into a keepsake quilt. Perhaps you plan a surprise trip to an old haunt they mentioned missing. Maybe you ask friends and family to “bomb” them with postcards extolling all their wonderful qualities. Recognizing little joys can mean a lot to your partner, too. Cook tacos for dinner, and serve them Mexico City style to harken back to a memorable vacation. Draw them into fun surprise sex...

March 17,2021

Stop Having Frustrations — Start Having Requests

Remember the last time a conversation reached an impasse in your relationship? Instead of seeing your partner as a teammate, you suddenly saw them as an obstacle to your happiness. It’s an unpleasant but universal occurrence as we grow closer in romantic relationships. When we first start dating, we are hyper-focused on our partner. This can give the impression of almost having ESP at first. But eventually this fades. As we grow more comfortable with each other, we actually become more neglectful of each other’s needs -- unintentionally, of course. This can lead to feeling frustrated. Because your needs aren’t being met. If you want to change this, you have to learn how to turn frustrations into requests. (more…)

February 22,2021

Why You Need to Close the Exits in Your Marriage

“Close the exits.” When you hear that phrase in reference to your marriage, what does it make you think about? Do you imagine someone getting a divorce? Having an affair? While those are certainly good examples of ways that people can “exit” a relationship, they’re just scratching the surface. Essentially, a marriage “exit” is anything that allows you to back away from dealing with an issue in your relationship. (more…)

January 25,2021

How to Recognize Your Relationship’s Power Struggle

It’s never fun to feel disappointed, frustrated, or angry with your partner. Many couples break up because one or both people can’t handle the constant push-pull of what they want from their partner and what they are actually getting. In Imago therapy, this is called the power struggle. This is a necessary and important process to go through -- both to grow closer to your partner and to gain a better understanding of yourself. What is a power struggle? (more…)

December 10,2020

What Is the Imago — and Why Does It Matter for Your Relationship?

Imago is Latin for “image,” and in Imago relationship therapy, the Imago is the unconscious image you carry with you of your perfect partner. That’s right -- at least subconsciously, you already think you know who Mr. (or Ms.) Right is. It’s why we’re drawn towards certain types of people in our love life. Which sounds like a good thing, right? Our brains are unconsciously pushing us towards the right person. The person who will be perfect for us and give us that “happily ever after” we’ve all been trained to want, right? Not exactly. (more…)

October 1,2020

Improve Communication with the Couples Dialogue

Do you feel like your partner never really listens to you? Do they complain that you don’t talk to them about things? You need to improve communication. Sounds familiar, right? We’ve been told over and over again that good, effective communication is one of the secrets of a strong, long-lasting relationship. But unfortunately, most of us just aren’t very good at it. Because it’s counter-intuitive! Well, just like anything else, communicating effectively is a skill. That means you can learn it. You just need the right tools. (more…)

September 18,2020

Couples Quiz: Our Visions for Our Relationship

You feel like your partner isn’t being romantic enough. They feel like you criticize them too much.  When there is dissatisfaction in a relationship, it is often because the reality isn’t matching up to your relationship vision -- what you believe that relationship should be. And here's the kicker -- many people don’t even realize they have a vision! In Imago, we have couples work to figure out what that vision is -- separately and then together. How does that work? With a couples quiz. (more…)

July 2,2020

The Mystery of Attraction

In some cases, people talk about their knees getting weak. Or being “drawn toward” someone. The attraction they feel is like some kind of seismic shift inside their very being — immediate and hard-hitting.  (more…)

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My first experience with Dana many years ago was so positive that I returned for more help this past year. I knew that she would be able to get to the heart of the problem quickly and to help me get on track toward a resolution.

Gloria P.

Before you give up on your relationship, let her try to help!


We are now able to communicate...in a constructive and loving way...

Shirley S.

Her explanation and application of the Imago technique was very practical and easy to grasp. She helped us immensely with some relationship issues that were quite deeply entrenched and painful.

Meg R.

Over the years I have come to find out parts of myself I didn't even know existed. The best thing I could say about Dana is I felt safe and compelled to open up more than I ever have before. And in doing so, I have started to love and accept myself just the way I am

Louella J.
Copyright @2020 Dana Cole, LMFT