What distinguishes Imago Relationship Therapy from other types of therapy it that it provides an immediate, positive impact on relationships and tools to manage conflict in a way that feels safe and supportive. Imago consists of several important principles: we are born in relationship, wounded in relationship, and heal in relationship. In addition, we find ourselves attracted to someone who fits an unconscious profile of our primary caregivers and our lost parts.
Imago also stresses the idea that conflict with our partner is good because it presents us with an opportunity to grow, heal, and develop compassion. How a couple manages conflict is the key to everlasting love. The Imago intentional dialogue, a therapeutic tool, shifts the conversation away from blame, shame and criticism, into mutual support and understanding. A couple learns that all people make sense all of the time if we listen long enough.
Imago tenants are also helpful for those of us who are single. Imago invites singles to do some self-growth work, while possibly feeling broken-hearted, wanting a new relationship, or wanting to restore love in your relationship. We can all relate to feeling despair, disillusionment, and disappointment in love. Whatever your heartbreak, whatever your history, you can learn about what you need to know and what you can do to greatly improve your chances for finding and keeping love!
Imago gives us all something to think about, as it offers an enlightening perspective on being single. Singlehood needs to be accepted, understood, and encouraged. Singlehood is a time to explore life and people, learn who we are, take responsibility for ourselves, and identify our desires and needs. Singleness can be beneficial what ever your age. It is a time for healing, re-establishing priorities, becoming happy with yourself, developing friends and interests, possibly going to therapy, and learning how to live and care for yourself. In addition, singlehood is a stage in your growth, and when you successfully work through this stage, then you are ready to be in a long-term, committed relationship. It’s then that you will know yourself, be able to be intimate, and can take on the responsibilities of partnership.
Culturally and historically, having long years of singlehood is a relatively new social standard. There has been and currently is pressure to get married, and many people go from childhood straight into marriage. So it makes sense that it’s hard to know how to use singlehood well. Some of us struggle with the reality that we married too young, before getting to know ourselves as a single person, and without a clear sense of direction and what we want in life. This perspective helps you understand why you either haven’t found partnership or have experienced failed attempts in relationships. We need to authenticate singlehood as a part of our culture and educate singles of the purpose and benefits of this time of life.
So, why do most single people want to marry when the divorce rate is so high? Also, lots of people can be satisfied with the single life, and even lead an ideal single life. Singleness can be a choice, for example, if you don’t want to give up certain things and are worried that you would have to by being in a relationship. On the other hand, you can be single by default due to experiencing hurt in the past or repeatedly running into the same problems. You may conclude that your childhood scars continually affect your current relationships, so you’re better off alone. Research supports that there is a human need for relationship: singles as compared to those in relationship demonstrate more of a overall health decline, a higher likelihood of depression, a weaker immune system, a shorter life expectancy, have more difficulty in the work place, and don’t manage crisis as well. A key Imago principle states that human beings have an unconscious yearning for partnership. Relationship is essential for our fulfillment, to feel whole, and we all have an innate powerful desire for committed relationship.
People who marry because they are desperate to marry, or feel urged to fill up sense of emptiness, without experiencing the singlehood journey, may just be postponing their single years till after they are divorced. They may stay in a dead relationship or work very hard, too hard, in order to maintain their relationship. However, we have these desperations and urges to be in committed relationships because of the human need for wholeness and connection. Singles work on perfecting strategies for finding the perfect partner, but do not work on their inner self. Singles want to find the perfect partner, then work on their happiness, and should be the other way around. Around 50% of marriages that end in divorce, end because the couple may marry before examining their childhood baggage and learning how relationships work. You first work on yourself and make the necessary changes, then do the same work on your relationship. When you become healthier and more mature, you meet a healthier and mature lover.
As stated above, singleness is meant to be a stage, and not meant to be forever. Singleness denies meeting all of our needs, as certain issues heal in relationships, and certain issues are worked through in singlehood. What we long for are relationships, which can fulfill our needs. We have got to have a safe intimate enlivening partnership in order to feel whole and fully human, and to heal childhood wounds. We need long-term committed relationships to heal and grow.
Singlehood is difficult; many of us know this personally, especially experiencing rejection. It’s understandable that it’s easier to stay home, and not risk putting yourself out there. However, you need to in order to find true love. So, once you have successfully gone through the single stage, and experienced self-growth, and thus are ready to be in relationship, pick someone who is self-aware (like you) and willing to do work necessary for lasting love! By doing this work, it will be easier to find a partner who is able to commit to loving you for the long-term.
In conclusion, four things you need to do in preparation, as part of the process of becoming a conscious single:
- Educate yourself about relationships!
- Educate yourself about yourself!
- Train yourself in relationship skills!
- Change your behaviors and defenses that keep you from keeping the love you find!
(This information is based on the book, Keeping the Love You Find by Harvelle Hendrix)
**Grace McDonald models Imago’s intentional dialogue (video of Grace McDonald doing “Saying Goodbye to Past Partner” can be seen on www.healingpodtv.com): sometimes we are not really available for a new relationship because our energy is still attached to a past or current relationship that is over. We are holding on to the love, hurt or anger. Dialogue can be used as a process whenever you are feeling pain around an old relationship, either missing the good times or caught up in your anger at your past partner. You can use the intentional dialogue at home, aloud with a friend, your past partner, or by journaling**
Grace McDonald, M.A., RMFT, RCC