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This week I thought I’d touch very briefly on a concept that helped me understand a LOT of things about my romantic relationships and my marriage to David. The “imago” relationship theory developed by Dr. Harville Hendrix and Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt appears in their joint-authored book “Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples,” and it’s been formally codified as IRT, Imago Relationship Therapy.
The word “imago” is derived from the Latin for “image,” referring to the unconscious image of “similar love,” or love that recreates early childhood experiences. If people in love say to each other, “it’s like I’ve known you forever,” it’s because, in a way, they do. Hendrix and Hunt found that when people seek romantic partners, they unconsciously recreate their childhood scenarios and the relationship they had with their parents. This often leads to unconsciously attempting to fix in their present relationship the things that were lacking in their past as a child (see episode 78) — not necessarily because they enjoy being attracted to people who are like one or the other of their parents or caregivers, but because it’s familiar.
As we recognize that our unconscious mind, informed by past relationships, is partially responsible for determining who we’re attracted to and why, we should both be aware and beware of unconscious roadblocks in our relationship path. I realized early on that if my siblings or friends suggested I do this or that thing, I could do it with no sweat — but if David asked me to do the same thing the same way, I felt reprimanded! I felt not-good-enough! It was like I was a child again, and it wasn’t even David’s doing!
Says psychologist Carl Jung (and I’m loosely paraphrasing here), “until we know our unconscious mind, it will direct our life and we will call it fate.” Remember that what your parents said and did in their interactions with you and how they treated you was not a reflection of your worth but a projection of their own insecurities upon you (see episode 45).
As you become aware of this and aware of your own imago dynamic in your relationship, you will be able to more clearly see and meet your own needs, which in turn will help you meet your spouse’s needs and your children’s needs. You’ve got this!
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