This story is put together as a composite from many of the typical couples who might benefit from Imago. Joan and George are a fictional couple.
Joan and George met in their mid-twenties, fell deeply in love, married, had two children and now, 20 years on, they are on the verge of breakup. They can't quite work out what went wrong, its just they seemed to gradually move apart, and then recently George started an affair, and Joan wants him out of the house, even though the affair is over.
In their first Imago therapy session, they were guided in using Imago Dialogue, just slowing down the discussion so that each person is really heard and mirrored. George shared how he hadn't felt noticed for a long time at home, but that suddenly in this session he felt really seen and heard, particularly about his fears of being able to provide for the family through the college years, something that had been really depressing him. Joan was touched to learn that underneath George's icyness he was hiding a deep concern for their children.
A couple of weeks into the therapy, Joan and George attended an Imago Weekend Workshop for couples. The two-days felt like two-years of therapy! George was initially quite opposed to the idea that part of the work was to explore their childhood together. 'I had a great childhood - with the best parents ever. Why would that have anything to do with my relationship today?" he asked. But fairly soon he began to realize there were things he learned to value in childhood that were important for him, like the way his father would really take care of the family and provide everything they needed, and that this made him very uncomfortable if he felt that his children weren't going to be completely cared for. He had married Joan because she seemed to bring a lot of fun into their life, balancing his serious and cautious outlook. But now he found her frivolous and irresponsible at a time when he needed to save hard for the children, and this had driven them apart.
Joan continued to be touched by the underlying warmth with which George revealed his caring, and it reminded her of how much she valued her parents warmth as a child. She had missed that side of George, but at the same time wanted to fight him every inch of the way to make sure they didn't miss out on having some fun - vacations, nights out etc: She realized that her parent's had always provided a fun filled life at home, and she missed this now, with George's tight and anxious moods about money and saving.
The best part of the weekend was using the Imago dialogue, so they could each share their story with the other partner, in a way that felt so positive and affirming. That first night, they even slipped off for a romantic meal, and giggled like teenagers with the feeling of relief.
Of course there was still plenty of work to do after the workshop. People don't change overnight. But they had each learned enough about it each other to be more understanding when they found themselves clashing, or moving apart. They could fall back on the dialogue they had learned at the workshop to talk through difficult issues, and week by week move back into a place where their relationship was richer and more rewarding than they could ever remember.