Partners begin their relationship with feelings of love and generosity towards each other. Over time as the romance fades, couples find themselves fighting more than they dreamed they would and blaming each other. In response to their disappointment and hurt, they may withdraw from each other and feel lonely. Imago therapy helps partners reconnect, rediscover what attracted them to each other in the first place, and evolve into their best selves in relation to each other.
Imago relationship therapy helps couples:
- utilize a structure for the safe expression of feelings
- develop new communication skills to break destructive cycles of interaction
- make the unconscious aspects of the relationship conscious
- build pathways to heal old hurts and wounds
- learn to make small behavioral changes that make a big difference to one’s partner and consequently to one’s own happiness in the relationship
- learn to create, repair and maintain connection
- transform conflict into opportunities for deeper intimacy, connection and trust
- learn to make your relationship a source of pleasure
Imago relationship therapy can help couples:
- recover from any betrayal – from an affair, emotional and/or sexual, or from any kind of dishonesty, i.e. financial infidelity
- process the deep hurt and betrayal
- examine their relationship issues, known or unknown
- move through the recovery process from betrayal to discovery, amends, forgiveness, and the gradual rebuilding of trust
- work toward a renewed vision for their relationship
Imago Theory and Practice
Imago theory is based on the premise that our childhood experiences with primary caregivers play a powerful role in the formation of our identity and with our choice of partner. The Latin word, imago, meaning image, refers to the “unconscious image of familiar love.” We are attracted to people who have some of the same strengths of our primary caregivers, but with whom we also experience some of the same hurts and disappointments that we experienced in childhood. When hurt, disappointed, or feeling threatened by our partner, we instinctively try to protect ourselves by lashing out or withdrawing which, in turn, frustrates our partner and leads to a cycle of fighting and disconnection. When such struggles repeatedly come up with a partner, they can overshadow all that is good in a relationship and leave partners wondering whether they have chosen the right mate.
Imago therapy provides a roadmap to move beyond the power struggle to a win-win strategy where the growth of each partner leads to greater intimacy and a more satisfying relationship for each individual.
The basic therapeutic tool of Imago therapy is the intentional dialogue. Poor communication is often identified by the couple as the problem. The intentional dialogue, the cornerstone of Imago therapy, provides a safe way for each person to express frustrations, hurts and desires. The intentional dialogue also provides a safe, structured way for partners to respond to each other’s concerns with empathy.
In addition to poor communication, we believe that lack of awareness of what lies beneath the identified problem is what keeps those surface tensions so seemingly irresolvable. Imago therapists help couples explore the hurt beneath the conflict. As couples begin to appreciate the main source of their own anguish and that of their partner, they stop blaming each other and are open to supporting each other’s healing and growth.
This transformation is a journey from an unconscious union to a conscious relationship. Imago therapy frees couples from the power struggle and the cycles of self-defeating behaviors and sets them on the path to adult love.
The theory and practice of Imago relationship therapy was originally developed by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. He wrote the New York Times’ best-seller, Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples which launched Imago relationship therapy as a viable theory and practice. Harville and his wife, Helen LaKelly Hunt, Ph.D., have co-authored many other books about Imago therapy since that time.
Imago theory and practice has been significantly enriched by a core of Master Trainers and IRI faculty members. Many therapists worldwide continue to refine and expand the theory and practice of Imago relationship therapy.
To find out more about Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt, click on The Founders.