Over the month of June, I will provide a series of blogs on the Imago Dialogue. The first blog will introduce the dialogue, and the following three will detail its steps – mirroring, validation, and empathy. The dialogue is a powerful communication tool that can transform your relationship. Want to learn more? The series sets the stage for the Start Right, Stay Connected workshop that I’ll be leading on June 24 where you’ll learn and practice this skill and more.
“I don’t know how you do what you do, but really good things are happening in our marriage.” James voiced these words to me after a few sessions of Imago therapy with his wife, Amelia.
James and Amelia were struggling in the adjustment of becoming parents and sought my help. After listening to their story, I told them, “There are a lot of strengths to build upon in your marriage. What we want to do is shift how the two of you communicate in order to work through the differences and restore the connection you both desire.” I explained to them the following:
“When couples are struggling, their communication looks like a game of ping pong. Two adversaries standing opposed to one another, each with their paddle batting the ball back and forth over the net trying to score points to win the argument.” As if on cue, James and Amelia began mimicking what appeared to be a very familiar game of ping pong.
“Good communication is like playing egg toss. Here, partners need to work together to make sure the egg is tossed back and forth without breaking. The sender is mindful to make sure the receiver is ready and of how they toss the egg. The receiver prepares and gently accepts the egg. There are no individual winners and losers; it’s a true team effort.” Since this wasn’t so natural to them, we practiced it in the office (using a small stuffed animal to avoid getting egg stains on their clothes or my carpet).
I then led them into a new way to communicate called the Imago Dialogue which was developed by Harville Hendrix in his groundbreaking New York Times bestseller, Getting the Love You Want. The dialogue embodies the same principles as egg toss. It is an intentional process designed to help the couple create a safe space in order to go deeper, work through their differences and experience greater connection. Just like egg toss, there are no individual winners and losers; it’s a true team effort, and it’s their marriage that wins.
In one dialogue, James connected something he was doing now to a childhood memory he hadn’t thought about in years. It helped them work through an issue frustrating to both of them. With an expression that said “I think you’re clairvoyant,” James looked at me and actually said, “I don’t know how you do what you do, but good things are happening in our marriage.” Was I clairvoyant? No. Did I know where the dialogue would lead? No, but I did have faith in the process, the dialogue process, that it would create the space to uncover the very thing we needed to find to unlock their frustration.
Just how does the Imago Dialogue work? Stay tuned as I elaborate on the three steps of the process – mirroring, validation and empathy– as the series continues.
Come learn how to play egg toss – and communicate more effectively – at my upcoming “Start Right, Stay Connected” workshop on June 24. This one-day workshop for committed, engaged and newly married couples will provide the knowledge and skills to transform your relationship. Click here for more details and registration.