imago relationship therapy

See also   ·   imago, father figure, mother figure, therapy, relationship, distorted gender roles, role model

As well as I can tell, imago relationship therapy is an idea developed by the therapist Harville Hendrix, outlined in his book, Getting the Love You Want.

The gist of Imago theory is that we all have idealized (and usually distorted) notions about an ideal intimate partner that carry over from childhood. The idealized lover and partner is our Imago. We bond with someone who appears to fit that ideal, but often, perhaps because the imago includes many projections — bits of ourselves that we find difficult to accept and integrate — our relationships tend to hit a point of arrested development at some point.

Often, when this "stalling out" happens, couples break apart, and the process begins all over again, with different partners. Many of us will continue to search for and find someone who matches our imago well, but will end the relationship when it becomes too painful to deal with our ambivalence and conflict over what it is we want, both from ourselves and from our partner.

Lack of solid parental support, abuse, poor role models and aspects of our past may well be largely to blame for our troubles, and these factors certainly contribute, it is felt, to how we form our own particular imago. But the sense of imago therapy that I have is that whatever unfortunate events our past may contain, dealing with, accepting and moving through that painful place (and allowing our partner to see and understand their part in the process, with understanding, rather than "blame") is one of the few positive ways to hold onto and eventually mature into a lasting, mutually-supportive relationship.

Other choices include: going through serial relationships that repeat the same patterns, and end just as they are beginning to get interesting, giving us a chance — albeit one that can be very painful — of growing and maturing past our childhood wounds and frustrations. Another choice is to stay in a stalled relationship "for the children" or for other self-denying reasons that do not include or expect growth or maturity, but tend to build a hard wall of resentment and hurt between the members of the couple.

A related approach to relationship issues is outlined in David Schnarch's Passionate Marriage.

Note: The idea of the imago can probably be traced back, by the way, to Plato's Symposium, and its story of the origins of humans in their present form. According to Plato, originally we were beings with two (or four) of everything, both male and female (or, in some cases, both male and male, or female and female). As such, we were too strong and seen as a threat by the gods, and so were cleft in two, doomed to spend most of our time looking for our other half.


Revision notes
Drafted: August 25, 2000
Revised: August 25, 2000
First noded: August 25, 2000

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