Relationships. We all want our relationships to be meaningful, the place where we can be fully ourselves, be accepted and find happiness. Yet we look around and see a world filled with broken relationships – divorce, unstable relationships and marriages, escaping through addictions. It is often hard to feel any sense of hope in the midst of this experience.
Creating the Connection through Imago
Coming into couples therapy is about addressing those issues which are barriers to having that relationship of our dreams, but at a more fundamental level it is also about restoring hope. Relationship problems are not only about the inability to resolve conflict, but about the erosion of sharing positively with one another. A key component to couples work is building up this positive emotional reservoir in the relationship – the friendship, admiration and respect for your partner that built your relationship in the first place.
When conflict occurs, it is human nature to go into protective mode – we fight, flight, freeze, submit or hide. In any one of these places, it is virtually impossible to resolve the conflict because there is too much to risk, so we hold steadfastly to our agenda in the argument and are upset that the other cannot see things from our point of view. And these styles can continue on for years, until we risk growth, which comes from a willingness to be vulnerable.
A large part of couples therapy is developing healthier, more effective tools of communication to assist in resolving conflict. Providing a safe environment is foundational so that individuals can share the difficult emotions and the painful memories from the past that they evoke. Inherent in this work is learning a new way to dialogue that promotes sharing more fully of oneself and listening more fully into one’s partner. What emerges are the dreams for the relationship, the dreams which have remained hidden but can now be spoken because it is safe to be vulnerable. And from this place of safety and acceptance, we’re only too willing to want to fulfill those dreams for each other.
This approach I am describing is known as Imago Relationship Therapy. Imago is based on the bestseller, “Getting the Love You Want,” by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. (see description of book below). As a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist, I can provide you with the tools to restore the connection in your relationship. Key to the process is the Imago Dialogue – a simple, yet respectful way of speaking and listening that can help you get to the heart of what really matters.
A good way to get a feel for my philosophy is to look at the books I recommend and why. There are countless number of relationship books out there proclaiming to have “the answer” on relationships. I find most of them more harmful than helpful. Why? Because they tell you that you have to follow their rules, their set of actions. In essence, they tell you that you must be someone other than who you are in order to find a partner or have a relationship. I think this is damaging. In a healthy relationship, one should be able to be fully oneself and have a partner who can do the same. This is by no means easy, but with the proper tools and guidance can be done.
The top two books that I overwhelmingly recommend are both New York Times Bestsellers. They are both based on years of practice and research. Their authors have stood the test of time and are recognized as evolutionary in the field. They are:
Getting The Love You Want: A Guide for Couples
by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D.
Harville Hendrix, in partnership with his wife, Helen LaKelly Hunt, developed Imago Relationship Therapy, a process for promoting healing in relationships. Core to this process is the Imago Dialogue, a communication tool which promotes expression of one’s deeper feelings and desires in tandem with listening by one’s partner in a way which provides understanding, empathy and support. Also has an accompanying workbook.
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work
by John Gottman, Ph.D.
This “practical guide from the country’s foremost relationship expert” outlines the essential ingredients for a healthy relationship. Easy to read and includes homework exercises for the couple. Gottman has been studying couples for years in his “love lab” where he and his research team can observe couples’ interaction to learn what works, and what doesn’t work, in relationships.
Other recommended books:
- The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
- Wired for Love by Stan Tatkin
- Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson
- A Daring Promise: A Spirituality of Christian Marriage by Richard Gaillerdetz
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