Imago Exercise #5: Eliminating Negativity
On March 11, 2015, I was on Dr. Michelle Prince’s radio show Taking Charge of Your Health with Dr. Harville Hendrix and Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt, the creators of Imago Relationship Therapy. It has been years since I have talked with Dr. Hendrix and we had a great chat before and after we were on the air.
Making Marriage Simple
The main thrust of the show concerned their new book Making Marriage Simple (2013) which, as Harville states: “Takes the key concepts of our original book Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples (1988), and adds the most important relationship wisdom we have discovered since.”
One of the many pieces of advice I picked up from our time together, was the absolute necessity of eliminating negativity from a conscious relationship. Negativity is invisible abuse. Dr. Hunt explained that for them, the insight came from an astrology book on relationships. She states in Making Marriage Simple (p.72),
“Turning to the page that explained how our birth dates intersected, we read ‘You will destroy your relationship unless you end your negative scrutiny of each other … The truth of that statement cut to the heart of our problem. And we didn’t even have to pay for a therapist!”
Our Definition of Negativity
She explains, “Our definition of negativity is any words, tone of voice, facial expression (such as rolling your eyes), or behaviour your partner says feels negative to them.” I had read in their book how they used a calendar on the bathroom mirror and every day drew either a smiley face (no negativity) or a frowny face (if one or both had been negative) in the space for that day. I was surprised when they stated on the air that they continue to use this simple cure for their own negativity. As Helen states (p.79) “Yes, Harville and I – who have four degrees and ten books to our names – had to resort to smiley and frowny faces on a calendar to help break our addiction to negativity And guess what? It worked!”
At the very end of the show, Harville and Helen outlined three things couples must do if they want to have a great marriage and I encourage you to make them a part of your relationship.
- Learn to talk to each other in a safe way. (Use the couples dialogue process – mirroring, validation, and empathy).
- Eliminate all negativity.
- Amplify the positives by giving each other your full appreciation.