Swim, Don't Sink! How I Created My Amazing Relationship

Nancy KalinaRelationships are everywhere. They are on TV, in magazines, on the Internet, and of course in movies. Yet, many of us still seem baffled at this dance we call the intimate relationship. When given a little thought, it makes sense that we are clueless as to what it takes to create a healthy, thriving relationship. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who taught you how to be in an intimate relationship?
  • What do you know about being in an intimate relationship?
  • How did you acquire this information?

For many of us, we dove into intimate relationships as if we were being thrown into a pool, and we were told to swim without actually having the tools necessary to perform that life-saving skill.

That is certainly what I experienced in my early years. I dated. I formed relationships with people, usually bumbling around in the dark searching for my way. When I met Kim, I was in my 30s, and I felt that I was done jumping into the deep end and giving it my best shot. Clearly, whatever I was doing was not working. I wound up feeling used, devalued, and unloved by the end of each relationship that I originally thought had real potential. When Kim and I met, I told her I wanted to go to therapy right off the bat. To this day, I have no idea how this thought entered my brain and came out my mouth, but it was a life-saving statement. While this scared Kim, she was open and agreed. We decided that we wanted to create an intentional relationship. We were both sick and tired of having relationships be a source of great joy but also a source of great frustration and stress. There had to be another way.

I am here to say that there is another way if two people are open to learning about themselves and each other. Kim and I started with typical therapy, but we eventually found Imago Therapy, which was refreshing to us both. Imago Therapy is a model for relationships developed by Harville and Helen Hendrix. They have collaborated on several books related to the theory, primarily Getting the Love You Want. Kim and I just returned from our second Imago workshop, and we feel more connected and rejuvenated in our nineteen-plus-year relationship than ever.

I would like to share with you some of the lessons we learned at this Imago workshop and in our past Imago experiences that have helped us create and maintain this relationship, which is my pride and joy and my largest accomplishment.

The first lesson was that couples who do the best in their relationships and are happiest, according to researchers John and Julie Gottman, are those who have five times as many positive interactions as negative ones. Wow! This is huge! So, intentionally building positive interactions into one’s relationship can make a huge impact. There are a number of ways to do this. One such way is to simply express gratitude to your partner for even the simplest of things. Kim and I have learned to say thank you regularly, which makes a big difference. It helps us bypass the landmine of taking the other for granted. It’s simple. It doesn’t cost anything. It merely takes intent. Think of all the little instances when you can express gratitude to your partner. Here are just a few.

  • Thank you for washing the dishes!
  • Thank you for looking up from your computer to listen to me!
  • Thank you for going to visit my family!
  • Thank you for getting my tea ready for me in the morning!
  • Thank you for doing the grocery shopping!
  • Thank you for going to the doctor with me!

Expressing gratitude is simple, yet makes a big impact. It lets your partner know that you are very aware and appreciative of what he or she is bringing to the relationship. It never gets old. I love hearing people thank me, and I think others do as well. Kim and I are creating our relationship on purpose, so the relationship itself is fulfilling, enjoyable, and sustaining for both of us. It’s like tending a garden; gardens require constant attention if they are to thrive. So, if you want your relationship to thrive, douse it with some expressions of gratitude for your partner. Trust me. Your partner will appreciate it, and so will you in the long run.


Sharing Corner

When Kim and I first began Imago therapy sixteen years ago, our first homework assignment was to read the book Getting the Love You Want by Harville and Helen Hendrix to each other. It was eye-opening and helped get us on the right path. I highly recommend it to anyone who would like to build an intentional, fulfilling relationship. Keep in mind that life is all about relationships, so Imago is not just for the intimate ones. It can be used to improve relationships in any part of your life (such as work, extended family, and friends).

I also wanted to inform you that I have begun to teach some of the dialogue tools used in Imago Therapy with individuals and with couples. I am not a therapist; however, I am a coach who has practiced these tools and has seen the benefits. If you are interested in learning to improve how you communicate with people, please email me at lifecoach@nancykalina.com. And be sure to stay tuned for future posts about relationships.



All relationships are journeys. We travel with our partner to parts unknown. We don’t know where we are going or where the relationship will take us. This song by Christy Moore, an Irish folk singer, gets to the heart of this concept so beautifully. I hope you enjoy Christy’s song and lyrics as much as I do.


Until next time,

Safe Space Life Coaching

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