About Imago Relationship Therapy
You and your partner didn’t fall in love with the intent to end up hurting and disappointing one another. But, that often happens, especially once the exhilarating romance phase has faded. Through therapy, you can learn why the very quality that attracted you to each other can later be the quality you don’t appreciate. You can also learn how to understand the deeper roots of your frustrations. You will discover ways to transform conflicts into resolutions, and alienation into connection.
Imago is the Latin word for “image.” This word depicts the idea that we have an unconscious picture of a partner that we are looking for. We may, therefore, select a person who is familiar based on our childhood experiences. Of course, we desire the positive attributes of that person (for example being strong); but we naively imagine that love will transform the negative attribute (for example being dominating). When this transformation doesn’t happen, we become disappointed and frustrated, and often try to get the person to change.
However, it is in the discovery of our Imago, that we can then learn how to become a better partner (for example, becoming more assertive); and we can identify the gift we can invite our partner to develop (for example, more empathy and compassion). An Imago Relationship Therapist can help both of you to understand the roots of your frustration, become more conscious of your choices, and create a more satisfying partnership.
Imago Relationship Therapy was created by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. and Helen Lakelly Hunt, Ph.D. Dr. Harville Hendrix wrote the best selling book, “Getting the Love You Want” and more. Together, both Harville and Helen recently wrote the book entitled, “Making Marriage Simple.”
Theory behind Imago Relationship Theory
At the beginning of most relationships, couples may experience the delicious and magical chemistry known as “Romantic Love.” Everything is blissful. The other person is perfect in all ways, always agrees with you, and you are convinced they will never hurt you.
As the relationship develops, (usually between six months to two years after “falling in love”), you begin to notice that the other person is flawed, disagrees with you, and is sometimes hurtful. As you face that unpleasant reality, you may become irritable and critical; and these feelings may escalate to anger and profound disappointment. In your struggle for power, you may try to coerce the other person to change which usually produces more resistance and quarreling. Conversely, you may begin to withdraw from the other person and become lonely. During this time, people become especially susceptible to having affairs. Many people may consider separation and/or divorce. Although some couples may stay together (perhaps for the children, or for other reasons), they may feel miserable, empty, and sad. Rather than giving up on the relationship, it’s an especially good time to seek help for resolving difficulties and creating something much more satisfying.
The good news about the power struggle is that it represents “growth trying to happen.” An Imago Relationship Therapist helps the partners understand what is happening psychologically in the power struggle, and also teaches effective communication skills to discuss their issues and identify their unconscious desires. Though this process, each partner can help the other partner to heal from disappointments and get more of what they both want. The partners experience more emotional safety, hope, and joy. We refer to this amazing reconnection as “Conscious and Compassionate Loving.”
What would if be like to be in Imago Relationship Therapy?
Imago Relationship Therapy facilitates growth and healing for a couple. The therapist assists partners in developing conscious, considerate, intimate and committed relationships. Most couples enter therapy when they are struggling and conflicted. They are usually emotionally distant from one another; and they may wonder if they will ever again feel love for their partner.
When partners better understand the unconscious process of selecting their mates, they can perceive the situation differently and then choose to respond differently to their disappointments. By doing so, they can dissolve a great deal of criticism, and then be better able to restore connection. Each person takes responsibility for strengthening and healing the relationship. Improving communication and resolving differences is at the heart of Imago Relationship Therapy. Reintroducing passion and joy as well as moving toward lasting intimacy is also an important component of the therapy.
Who is a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist?
In addition to their regular academic training, all Certified Imago Relationship Therapists and Educators have undergone a lengthy, thorough, and rigorous training which includes significant supervision. They individualize their expertise and training to best match the Imago theory to each couple’s unique situation.
“Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate but through being the right mate.”
Barnett R. Brickner