It could be a movie title, don't you think? Let us get back to the title of the move "The Bridge Across the River of love" a bit lateron and begin instead with the subtitle "Going across the bridge for love". It alludes clearly to the old Swedish saying about going over the river for water.

It could be a movie title, don't you think? Let us get back to the title of the move "The Bridge Across the River of love" a bit lateron and begin instead with the subtitle "Going across the bridge for love". It alludes clearly to the old Swedish saying about going over the river for water.

We have never received a proper explanation by any person from the academic world that is familiar with the Swedish language and its history, but we assume that what this saying wants to tell us, is that sometimes we go too far in our search for what is already there.

We complicate things

In saying so, we literally step over what we are looking for without realizing that we are already there. We simply complicate things.

If this is fully consistent with what we mean here with the subtitle we leave unsaid, but in all cases it wants to highlight that sometimes we complicate things more than necessary. What is not fully true about the old saying in the case of this article, is that we will here make a point that we need to at least step ut onto the bridgre to find the love we often seek and want.

Going up to the crest of the bridge

We need to go pretty much exactly halfway up the bridge, that is, the bridge over the river of love, to it's crest. Below the bridge a vibrant, deep and glittering love is flowing, waiting for the conscious lovers who have learned how the bridge works.

In all cases, that is a way to describe one of the basic theses of what is called Imago Therapy, which is a form for working on a relationship so that the parties can find new ways to communicate with each other.

Markus: My partner and I chose to attend Imago therapy together after we had it recommended to us as a way to find new ways and means to communicate with each other.

It is an experience we highly recommend to other couples. It was, and still is, an emotional journey that led to new discoveries and new possibilities in our lives.

In the beginning there was love

Imagine a man and a woman, or if it fits you better a man and a man, or perhaps a woman and woman living together in a relationship. They originally met in some context, feelings are awoken inside of both of them, a mutual liking arises, love appears along with a series of expectations, both conscious and unconscious that we believe and hope that the other person will fulfill.

Time passes

So some time passes, the two have become a couple and spend much of their life together. After this time, there is a slow realization that some of the initial expectations will most like not be fulfilled. It turns out that my partner did not have some of those qualities I hoped and believed.

Maybe he or she might did not meet some of your expectations. Maybe you start arguing about things that you initially had indulgence with or turned a blind eye to. Perhaps you have come to see aspects and traits of your new partner that you in your previous relationships have been annoyed with.

The power struggle takes shape

You have begun leaving the land of infatuation and instead you spend more time in the domains of power struggles. Discussions may occur that in hindsight with a bit of distance and breathing space appear to be terribly unnecessary. Right and wrong become important, my way or your way, the need for control may begin to manifest itself in different ways.

You argue about little things or carry around unspoken irritations. When you are arguing or debating you rarely listen to something on deeper level than to prepare your own arguments, that you then deliver with laser sharp precision as soon as you get a chance. These aggressions are not always verbal but silence can also be used as a weapon in these encounters.

Back to the bridge

So let us return to the river and the bridge across it, especially the bridge. Let us assume, which is reasonable, that you are two individuals coming together. Each with his or her own history, each with your own possibilities, each with your own characteristics, each with your own emotional wounds.

And between you, you have built a bridge, a bridge in the form of your relationship. There are several metaphors of bridges and relationships. One is that there are three parties in a relationship, three things to attend, you, your partner and a the relationship between the two of you.

Taking responsibility for the third party

In order to make a relationship work, it is precisely the relationship, the third party that we need to take joint responsibility for. Ourselves we can only each be responsible for, but the bridge between us, we must both help with sweeping, maintaining and nurturing.

When our ears become smaller and our mouths become in times of power struggle, that's when we really need the bridge. Let's look each individual as their own land with a bridge linking the two countries. As we noted earlier, the two countries often have different histories, different traditions and different ways of doing things.

The moment the relationship begins to die

On the bridge, these two meet. When controversy arises, we are often quick to defend our own country. We are more focused on protecting our own perspective and approach than to with an open mind soaking up the other country's culture to increase the understanding between us.

We become suddenly stupid when conflicts arise. We stop listening. It is the moment the relationship begins to die slowly. It is the moment when the two countries take a step further towards the Cold War.

We hurt the ones we love

Often it is so that the other country's representative, your partner and life companion, load their arguments with the things that sting most in your wounds, which most latch on to the things that annoy you the most.

Earlier in the relationship you have most likely been so open and so unconditionally shown different aspects of ourselves that the other party knows you well enough, that they consciously or unconsciously, are able to focus their verbal, emotional and mental punch where it hurts most.

A choice that often triggers us

Often, we have unconsciously chosen our partner because they somehow match us in what we need to develop in order to become more whole as human beings, which means that the person often also represents those characteristics and traits that trigger us the most.

When it hurts, when it gets painful, we easily get focused mainly on strengthening our own defenses. We retreat to our own end of the bridge, determined to defend it.

The end of listening

Unconsciously, we stop listening.

Read the sentence again.

Unconsciously, we stop listening.

The two words of the utmost importance here is unconsciously and listening. We believe that we have listened. However, we have not listened with enough presence to understand the other country's customs and culture, the other country's way of thinking, feeling and behaving.

To formulate our own policy or cut the connection

We have only listened well enough to be able to formulate our own country's foreign policy in a way that we believe protects our end of the bridge and secures the values and qualities that we wish to be prevalent there.

Or, we have been listening to be able to make a decision about cutting the bridge and finding a new country that we can establish a similar connection to.

To leave our own behind us

To really listen, we need to let down our defenses for a while and go up onto the middle of the bridge. We need to leave our own country's views behind us, let go of our own principles, our own logic of how things are and how the world is constructed.

We do this knowing that a bit later on we are entirely free to go back to our country again, but for the moment we choose to put all this behind us to place ourselves on the crest of the bridge and direct all our attention toward the other country.

With an open mind

Filled with a desire to explore and discover we look into the other country without any attempt to interpret what we see but just observe, study and seek to understand.

We give the our own country's judicial system vacation for a while. We release the need to judge, create justice or decide what is right or wrong. We will only put on our biggest and brightest spectacles and clean our ears to the best of ability.

For whose sake?

As we stand there and gaze into our partner's world, when we stand there and listen to his or her feelings, thoughts and experiences, we can choose to stand there for our own sake, for ourselves, or we can choose to also be there for our partner's sake.

In particular, also for the sake of our relationship. If we can choose to embrace all these reasons, then it would be wise for us to adopt the function of a mirror.

Filippa: It can be a challenge to let go of you own thoughts and considerations, and just listen, but what I think is also a challenge is to really dare to say what I feel when I get listened to.

To really dare to trust that the other can take care of himself or herself even if I say things that I think might be hurtful for the other. Honesty is difficult and extremely important in a relationship.

The Mirror of Truth

A mirror never lies. It only reflects what is in front of it.

In the tale of Cinderella, her stepmother asked about who was most beautiful in the country, but the mirror never lied and pleased the stepmother. It persisted in that Cinderella was the most beautiful in the country.

Mirrors reflect but do not devote themselves to interpreting, distorting or questioning. The exception would possibly be the set of mirrors which can be found at amusement parks around the world, where the mirrors can distort your reflection to all sorts of funny and less funny shapes. If, however, we ignore these types of mirrors, our reasoning is a matter of fact.

The art of mirroring

How do you then do to mirror your partner?

How do you do to mirror the other country's customs and traditions?

To begin with, you leave your own concerns, preoccupations and thoughts behind you, beyond your your own end of the bridge as we mentioned above. Then you listen, fully present.

Controlling your urges

Then when your partner talks about something that happened, or did not happen, in your relationship and what he or she says grabs something in you like a hook and you get the urge to exclaim, "that is not how ti was" or "that is so unfair to say", then you just take a deep breath and remind yourselves that you have actively chosen to place yourself at the middle of the bridge to only mirror your partner and that you have given your own country's legal system a temporary holiday.

There is no need for defense right now, no need for explanations. Just let it just slip by, you do notget attached to your partner's comments.

The simple is often the most powerful

It may sound simple and of course it is, but when you have lived for some time together and started hooking on to each other, started your struggle for power and games of control, then this simple task may seem as challenging as climbing Mount Everest jumping on one leg in strong crosswinds.

So how do you actually do it?

So how do you do when you mirror? You listen and retell what you heard your partner say, without adding your own interpretations, without getting defensive or starting to explain yourself. You just focus on to act like a mirror, to curiously retell what you heard and seek to understand.

It may be by recounting similar words, or with slightly different wording. We are not aiming for a parrot that repeats word for word, sometimes it may be enough to summarize a longer piece.

Avoding the temptation of the problem

Of great importance is also to avoid the temptation to see what your partner says as a problem to be solved. No, what is said should only be mirrored. And when you have mirrored, you can ask "is that correct?" Or "have I understood you correctly?".

Your partner then assumes responsibility for saying "yes, that's right" or "no, that is not quite right", followed by a clarification and then you make another attempt at mirroring to get it "right".

Markus: Perhaps you are reading this right now and are hearing a voice in your head that says something like that "what will that be any good for?" Or "am I really supposed to not think myself, but just work on understanding and mirroring?".

If it is the case that you have problems in your relationship or you feel that it would enhance your relationship to find new ways to communicate, I have only one thing to say, the definition of insanity is to do the same things over and over and expect a different result.

If you do not have the quality of life, or in this case, the quality of your relationship, tha you wish for, it only comes down to two things, either you are lacking some knowledge or you are not using the knowledge you have.

The conscious love

To behave in this way towards each other is the basis for a conscious love. The conscious love where we are able to get the love we want.

The conscious love where we look past our hope that our partner will heal our wounds, or the expectation that our partner will have x-ray vision and understand our needs at any given time, or always have the longest of patiences.

The conscious love where we choose to live, love and grow together.

In conclusion

A useful reading on this subject if you and your partner want to immerse yourselves in this matter of the bridge and the method of mirroring, is a book called "Getting the Love You Want: A Guide of Couples" by Harville Hendrix.

For it is about a method, a skill that can be practiced and learned. And one that becomes more natural the more you learn it and use it.

A gift you give

To mirror your life companion is a gift you give to him or her that lets your companion feel both heard and seen, which gives him or her the opportunity to grow as an individual and that spreads the fertile soil that your relationship will thrive in.

We have been talking about this bridge in love relationships, but it works just as well in other relationships, at work, during leisure activities or with friends.

Homework Assignment

Read the book "Getting the Love You Want: A Guide of Couples" with your spouse or partner. Towards the end of the book there are a wide range of experiences and exercises that you and your partner can do to improve your communication, strengthen cooperation and increase your zest for life.

Couple with laptop studying relationships

Bridge across the river of love