Using the Imago dialogue, Lisa and Geoff began to shift in the way they saw their contributions. Lisa would describe her frustration, and Wendy would ask Geoff “What do you think it felt like for her?” That invited Geoff to take a moment to see things through Lisa’s eyes. “I understand how important tidiness is to you, and it makes sense that when I come home and dump my clothes on the floor, you feel unloved” Geoff would say as he took responsibility for his part. In saying this, Lisa could hear that he was beginning to really see her, for who she was, and that he was connecting with her feelings. She also took her turn to understand and relate to him, and to take responsibility herself for her contributions.
Step 4: Practice with patience
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Wendy coached Geoff and Lisa through some profound dialogues where they learned how to listen deeply to each other. But old habits die hard, and soon they found themselves back home screaming at each other. “But that’s what happens” says Wendy “This work is hard and it takes time. The important thing is to learn how to recover when the wheels fall off.”
Wendy pointed out that in this stage of the process, things can feel worse than ever. That’s because as Geoff and Lisa begin to feel more connected again, when the arguments happen they are even more painful. They also feel like failures, because they know how to dialogue, but haven’t yet mastered how to fall back on it in the heat of the moment.
“It’s like learning anything new” says Wendy “You’ve to practice!”
Step 5: Make it part of your life
The core skill of Imago is the ability to talk with your partner about difficult things in a way that you are emotionally available and connected to them. That can be tough when a fight is starting, so the best approach is to make this an ever present part of who you are. “It happens when you use the new skill for a new purpose, not just in the original situation. For example, when Lisa was upset about her mother, Geoff was able to use the Imago dialogue to listen to her in a way that felt deeply supportive and caring”
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“A great relationship isn’t about not having fights” says Wendy “but it’s about building the competence to use those conflicts as a way to connect more deeply.” The couple that fights hardest, has the opportunity to convert all their negative energy into a deeper love.