“O what a heaven is love! O what a hell!” said the 17th century poet, Thomas Dekker.
Does love ever feel like that to you? Given that 50% of marriages end in divorce, and all sorts of other grim statistics, I guess there’s a good chance that your answer is “Yes.”
But do you know why? Why should love have its dark side – other than to create a large market for romantic movies, paper handkerchiefs and voodoo dolls?
I decided to ask some experts. I’m in a good position to do that since I work with 1,200 couples therapists from around the world. They are no stranger to loving relationships that have turned nasty and taken the unfortunate turn to the dark side. I asked some of these amazing experts to help me write about what goes wrong in love. And more importantly, how to put it back together again when it falls apart.
This article introduces a series which features stories of real couples who have climbed back up the loving ladder to bliss. First let’s look at some of the most common issues couples bring to therapists, and some of the common elements that help couples restore their connection.
To begin, I asked Imago couples therapists about the situations they most often encounter. Their top list included the following issues:
• Rebuilding trust after an affair was near the top.
• Followed by couples whose new child had introduced tensions, especially when the parents fought over parenting styles.
• Finally, were couples whose sex life had become unsatisfying, or who had simply become bored with each other.
Then I had a conversation that changed everything.
“I don’t like looking at it that way” said Imago Couples Therapist, Pam Wood, “I don't work with situations, I work with connection”. Pam told me that using Imago therapy, her primary goal is to help the couple to improve the quality of connection to their partner. Once the connection is rebuilt, couples have the ability to work through pretty much any situation.
Imago Therapy was developed by Dr. Harville Hendrix and his partner Dr. Helen LaKelly Hunt. It’s a favorite of Oprah’s, as well as thousands of therapists worldwide. Harville is fond of saying “Conflict is growth trying to happen” because Imago views the current situation a couple is experiencing as a symptom of something deeper. Underneath there’s another story going on that’s all about the couple’s emotional needs. That’s the conversation that will make a real difference.