Lisa settles into the couch, rests her hand to her stomach, and smiles when she feels a tiny kick. Late afternoon sunlight filters across gleaming tables, and the neat array of family photos, and spotless ornaments.
Minutes later she’s on her feet screaming abuse at Geoff. How could he come home like that, dump his coat onto the chair, grab a beer, and once again put his shoes up on the coffee table! “Calm down honey” he says “it’s my home too! Hire a cleaner, and stop fussing so much.”
Soon enough their infant son is screaming too. Another day has brought yet another fight, and a long night sleeping angry and tearful in separate rooms.
Wendy is an Imago Therapist and Clinical Instructor, and she was able to guide Lisa and Geoff through a 5 step process, which helped them talk to each other in a way which brought them much closer together.
Step 1: Decide that this much pain is no longer acceptable
“The sad thing is that couples spend an average of 7 years experiencing this kind of pain before they do something about it” says Wendy “And often by then it’s too late. The damage is done.” Geoff and Lisa could go from blissful happiness to a full blown fight in 60 seconds, and Wendy’s advice to couples is to seek support from someone who can provide a safe environment for talking about what went wrong.
Their critical first step was to acknowledge the problem and seek help.
Step 2: Become aware of the cycle you are going through
At the heart of Imago couples therapy, is a way of talking to each other called the Imago Dialogue. “It’s really about listening carefully to your partner, so that you can learn what is really going on for them” Wendy explains. Using this approach Lisa and Geoff learned to step back from their fights, and see the pattern.
Geoff began to understand that when he wasn’t tidy about the house, Lisa read into this that it was because he didn’t love her or care for her. Lisa learned that Geoff saw her need for tidiness as a lack of love for him or appreciation for his need for a relaxed comfortable environment to chill out in.
Step 3: Own your part of the problem
“Nothing can change until you take responsibility for your part in it” says Wendy. Most couples who argue tend to blame the other partner. “If my partner loved me they wouldn’t do that…” is a phrase she hears only too often.