when you first fell in love with your partner
and how the world was so rosy and your partner
was simply wonderful? And how you felt deeply
connected and understood? Ahhh, the joys of
the early part of relationship.
What we really want is to be truly understood.
And to be really seen by the person we care
about. To find someone who can read our minds
and meet our needs. To find true love and intimacy
that lasts a lifetime. To be loved unconditionally
by our partner. We want love especially when
we are angry and wounded by our partner. We
want to stay in that euphoric space of new love.
To get the 'Happy Ever After' promised by fairy
But despite our deep longing to be connected
with the one we choose to be with, Happy Ever
After rarely happens. Most often, when one partner
is angry, the other person becomes angry back
or shuts down. During conflict, the two partners
disconnect from each other. The relationship
suffers as people become disillusioned with
their partner. The two people may even secretly
start to look for exits from the relationship.
Common exits are addictions, silence and withdrawal,
increased fighting, self-blame and depression,
anxiety and threatening to leave the relationship.
The main purpose of a committed love relationship
is to become a responsible loving adult and
complete unresolved childhood issues says Harville
Hendrix, Getting the Love You Want--a Guide
for Couples and Keeping the Love You Get--a
Guide for Singles. Hendrix's approach, more
than any other current marriage-counseling model,
helps couples move their union towards a Conscious
Hendrix fashioned the name Imago Therapy to
illustrate how we fall in love with the image
that we put on another person. Imago is a Greek
word for illusion. We get caught up in those
euphoric brain chemicals that the rush of new
love brings. You have heard that love is blind?
It is true. We don t see the real person, imperfections
and all, but we put our illusion of what we
expect in a romantic relationship on the other
Later, when the bloom goes off the romance,
we have to deal with what the person is really
like. And often we try to exit the relationship.
Energy that is needed for the relationship building
is put elsewhere. Ask yourself, 'Where do I
put my energy when I am upset with my partner?'
What exits do you leave open to deal with your
Imago Therapy teaches major tools of communication
and connection to bond couples together.'The
job of each partner is to create a Conscious
Relationship where you learn to hang on and
reparent your partner. Blaming, criticizing,
withdrawing and pouting are the common distancing
defenses in relationships. The big challenge
for a happy relationship is to stop using these
destructive defenses! We can replace these negative
defenses with actions that keep us in partnership
even when time get rough.
'We all got wounded in relationship as children
with our parents and siblings,' Bonnie Brinkman,
Imago Therapist, explains.'The healing can only
come in relationship. We need our partners for
this. The old mom and dad stuff becomes the
template for selecting a partner. We choose
people to be in relationship with that represents
the best and worst of our parents. The psyche
holds an unconscious agenda to select the right
person who can help us heal. Our partner, with
all of their frustration about us. has the blueprint
for our healing.'
The heart of Imago Therapy is to use the relationship
to mend the pain of being hurt and disappointed
in childhood. Brinkman continues,' We are the
walking wounded. Our partner holds the blueprint
for our healing and growth. The elegance of
this process is that we heart flutter over only
a few people in the entire world. We fall in
like with some of them and then find a person
to fall in love with and hook up with. We unconsciously
pick the perfect partner to help us do the growing
up work. God, the Universe, Fate or whatever
you call it, helps us zero in on that perfect
partner who will push our buttons so we can
get on with our work. There are no accidents
why we get together with the person we choose
out of all the millions of potential partners.
The one we choose is someone who is familiar
to us--we have met aspects of him or her before
in our mother and father. That sets the stage
for doing the work of growing past our present
Soup Equals Love?
We are chemical beings as well as psychological
beings. The peptides--that feel-good stuff that
goes on in the brain that we call euphoria happens
when we fall in love. The chemistry goes off
when we find a person who can help us heal our
childhood pain. That s why love is blind, we
are so infatuated with the high emotional chemical
soup that we are in that we overlook the warts
of the partner. We fall in illusion!
Falling in love creates the Symbiotic Stage
of relationship where the people are joined
at the hip symbolized by 'You and I are One.'
Too often this turns into and 'I m the One and
you need to do what I say, resulting in big
time anger and pain.' Too often this stage turns
into in self absorption by one or both of the
partner with 'If you are don t see things the
way I do, then I must punish you so I can avoid
The high of the peptides wears off after about
six months--we are not meant to remain in this
chemical rush forever. The romantic stage lasts
about six months in most relationships then
wears off to settle down. As the high runs its
course, then the Power Struggle stage kicks
in. The Power Struggle Stage is illusion also.
Our illusion is that we are the nice guy. Our
partner, that wonderful one in the Symbiotic
Stage, is now the enemy. Suddenly the partner
s warts start to look REALLY warty! Things that
used to be cute in their partner now grate on
our nerves. The couple loses their feelings
of being connected. Each feel hurt. Conflict
happens. Big time Power Struggle! Distancing
The war of wills hits big time. Insistence on
having one s own way and struggle becomes the
order of the day. When the stuff really hits
the fan, each partner runs to their arsenal
of fighting tools--anger, distancing, domination
and submission. Oh yes, those dysfunctional
ways of dealing with threat that we learned
from our parents! Criticism, blaming, sarcasm,
withdrawal, and giving in with silent martyrdom
are the defenses of vying for control. We do
the grownup stuff that was modeled to us in
childhood from those people who raised us.
Sound familiar? In the Power Struggle stage,
the partners become stuck in trying to tell
the other what to do and gathering data to make
the other person wrong, at least in their own
eyes. Conflict sends grownups, back into the
defenses of their little child. There can be
symmetrical wounding as each person knows the
trigger points of the other and goes for them
pulling forth the defenses they learned as a
child. In power struggles, nobody wins. But
as the saying goes from The Course in Miracles,
'Would you rather be right or happy?'
So Imago Therapy tells you to hang in and learn
about yourself. You can put your energy into
distancing or you can put it into building intimacy.
Keep your energy for the really important things
in life--deep connection and growth. Close the
Exits. Use your energy to transform your relationship!
The 'No Exit' policy makes you become creative
in working things out. According to Brinkman,
there are four options that happen in relationships
where there are unresolved power struggles
1. Adios! Start the cycle over. Find someone
new with whom to move through chemical soup
into power struggles.
2. Have a silent divorce. Stay together for
religious or financial reasons or fear of being
alone and become roommates with passion for
3. Become the Bickersons and fight over everything,
constantly injuring each other emotionally.
4. Start to cooperate with the unconscious agenda
and use the volatile situations for growth.
Learn techniques to stay connected during conflict
and practice reconnection. This is the 'becoming
a grownup stage' called The Reality Love Stage.
Your Relationship Conscious
Everyone wants a Conscious Relationship, but
few couples achieve this high level of connection.
So what is real in Conscious Relationships?
How do we get there? We have to move on to the
next stage--The Reality Love Stage of relationship.
In this stage, we are presented with many challenging
opportunities to use each other to put the childhood
pain to rest. Like everything we have a fight--there
is another growth opportunity. But of course
it is an opportunity only if we choose to make
it one. Some couples never reach this stage,
switching partners when fighting get too toxic.
A new set of relationship skills and tools are
needed to get the Reality Love Stage. Moving
past the Power Struggle stage, the couples begins
to realize that not only is their job to grow
up but their other job is to help their partner
grow up. Imago Therapy presents safe ways of
relating to each other that help both partners
feel heard and understood by the other. It provides
a process to travel the path of creating a spiritually
Way to Keep Connected During Arguments
What creates intimacy? What we really want is
to be heard and feel safe with our partner.
Hendrix s technique of Intentional Dialogue
is a way of relating to your partner when he
or she is upset by something that you did. It
is a process that keeps the contact going even
in times of feeling threat and stress--IT KEEPS
THE COUPLE CONNECTED EVEN WHEN THEY DISAGREE!
Intentional Dialogue gives the partner the love
and attention they need when they most need
Intentional Dialogue is a process of communication
that you and your partner can learn to create
an atmosphere of safety. At times, it can be
exasperating. But using this tool of communication
with your partner really helps him or her feel
safe and listened too. It works if it is done
right to recreate that sense of connection that
you felt when you first fell in love. Intentional
Dialogue gives you a process of obtaining The
Five Freedoms that Virginia Satir, pioneer in
family therapy talked about:
FREEDOM to see and hear what is here, instead
of what should be, was, or will be.
FREEDOM to say what you feel and think,
instead of what you should.
FREEDOM to feel what you feel, instead of
what you ought.
FREEDOM to ask for what you want, instead
of always waiting for permission.
FREEDOM to take risks in your own behalf,
instead of choosing to be only "secure"
and not rock the boat.
Sound good? Well you can get it! You and your
partner can find the Happy Ever After, after
But . . . it takes learning a process of active
listening and hard work. It takes resolution
from both partners to do Intentional Dialogue
when friction starts to build up. It takes being
able to be vulnerable and stomach some uncomfortable
feelings. It takes you out of your comfort zone
into really being REAL! Ouch! It requires listening
and talking from the open heart; now that is
scary stuff. The pay off is that you and your
partner become a team actively working though
the rough spots in your relationship. It makes
you conscious in your relationship. You can
actually feel closer with your partner after
an argument when you stick to the dialogue.
And the technique works in all relationships,
not only in romantic relationships. It even
works with adolescents! Hendrix and his wife
recently wrote a book on parenting, Giving the
Love That Heals.
What we all really want is to be understood
and accepted for who we are. To really live
in Conscious Relationship, in my opinion, Intentional
Dialogue is the best tool for keeping love alive.
Having someone really listen to you is as close
to unconditional love we can get in our lifetime.
Empathy is the greatest gift you can give your
partner when he or she is hurting. It helps
a person be seen and feel totally understood.
The childhood wounds no longer are so deep when
we are truly heard and understood.
A recipe for having a Conscious Relationship
equals commitment, learning powerful, how-to-stay
-connected techniques during times of stress
and darn hard work. This formula is doable for
those determined to be happy in relationship.
The Imago Therapy Tools help you keep the love
you want and become a responsible, loving adult
secure in the knowledge that you are truly seen
For more information read the books, Getting
the Love you Want: A Guide for Couples and Keeping
the Love you Get: A Guide for Singles by Harville
Hendrix. To find a therapist trained in Imago
Therapy, do a web search.