Getting the Love You Want – Imago Relationship Therapy
In 1988, Harville and Helen published the first edition of Getting the Love You Want, which has sold over 4 million copies. In 2018, they republished the 30th-anniversary edition of their book. Within that time frame, they have trained over 2500 Imago Relationship Therapists in 53 countries.
In 1989, I had the privilege to be the first international therapist Harville Hendrix trained. For the past 30 years, I have been using Imago Relationship Therapy in my own relationship and with other couples. I was interested to see if there were changes to the theory since the publishing of the 20th-anniversary edition in 2008 and also if my own conclusions appearing in The Dream Relationship were still in line with their most recent thinking. Let’s explore if their theory still aligns with mine.
The Theory and The Focus
The theory has not changed, but from my perspective, the focus has a bit. Certainly, the emphasis on safety has been highlighted. As well, there is more focus on the space between as sacred ground – no blame, shame or criticism in the space between. A new insight for me was their assertion that it is the structure of the intentional dialogue process that ensures safety in a couple’s communication. This emphasized that couples need to learn to talk to each other in a safe way. The very structure of intentional dialogue – mirroring, validation and empathy – removes issues from the power struggle. Removing the “I am right, you are wrong” allows two people simply to express themselves.
I like that.
Interactions for Healing
Hendrix and Hunt shift away from the importance of insight, and more towards the significance of the couple’s interactions to facilitate healing. Traditionally, the focus in therapy has been insight, learning why I am the way I am. From their perspective, this is helpful for only about 25% of clients.
Imago theory puts more emphasis on how a couple interacts with each other. Of course, insight can help but how couples communicate with each other and treat each other is much more important for the healing process to occur. How couples communicate with each other becomes more important than what they talk about. This primary interactive behaviour and intentional dialogue process ensure a couple can communicate safely. Interaction and safe communication will help to facilitate healing.
The Use of Affirmations
The third emphasis is the use of affirmations. They encourage verbalizing affirmations like “Thanks, I appreciate that,” “You did a great job, “I love it when you … “, etc. Think about that from your old brain point of view. If you am constantly hearing positives from your partner, your old brain can relax. This is not the enemy over there, this is my ally, my friend.
I was excited to see that in my own book, that I am right in line with their most recent conclusions. As a relationship coach, I propose a three-step process to create your dream relationship.
3 Step Process
2 The Imago system
3 Four key skills
a) The dialogue process
b) Anything negative by appointment only
c) Remove all negativity – no blame, shame or criticism
d) Amplify the positives
#1, #2 and a, c and d of #3 are pretty well spot on with what they are emphasizing in their latest edition of Getting the Love You Want.
I like that too!!