Imago Relationship Therapy is a theory and therapy of committed romantic partnership that was developed by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt, authors of “Getting the Love You Want.”
Romantic Love is the first stage of love in which we feel ecstasy and infatuation. The chemical Phenylethylalamine (PEA) is released in our brain making us feel wonderful, whole, joyful and alive. When we first met our partner we felt a sense of comfort and familiarity. We said to ourselves “I feel so complete with you”, “I know we will live happily together forever” and “I feel like I have known you my whole life.” Imago Relationship Therapy believes that we are attracted to our partner because she/he has positive and negative traits and characteristics of our parents. This attraction, to what is familiar, takes place on an unconscious level.
Unfortunately, this wonderful stage of Romantic love only lasts for a maximum of 18 months. The second stage of the unconscious love relationship is The Power Struggle. Here we think and ask “What happened to the person I fell in love with”, “Why are you so different from the person I married” and “Where did it all go wrong?” We are now in shock that the relationship has changed so dramatically and we begin to feel angry, depressed, disillusioned and frustrated. We attempt to get our partner to behave differently through shame, blame, and criticism. Of course, these attempts do little to make things better and usually make things even worse. We think “I must be with the wrong person” and “I don’t understand what happened.” It is at this stage that couples either split up or stay together living in conflict or in a parallel marriage.
Imago Theory believes that we all have wounds and unmet needs from our childhood. Our partner has the opportunity to give us the gift of helping us to heal these wounds and have our unmet needs fulfilled. Making the commitment to the relationship and doing the work will lead to a conscious relationship and eventually a love filled with joy, safety, and passion. The next four stages of love are: Re-commitment, Doing the Work, Awakening, and Real Love.