Our team of marriage counselors help couples from all walks of life rediscover relationship growth, joy, and a deeper connection. We do this using Imago couples  therapy, a comprehensive and thoughtfully structured approach to  counseling that truly helps people feel seen, heard, validated, and loved  by their partners.

If you and your spouse have been thinking about trying Imago therapy—or are currently working with a relationship therapist—here are some things to know that will help you get the most out of your experience.

Roles & Rules of Imago Therapy (And Why They Help)

Unlike many other forms of therapy or marital counseling, Imago therapy doesn’t rely on the therapist giving advice or telling a couple what to do. Instead, Imago focuses on the interactions between spouses.

During Imago therapy exercises each partner takes turns being either the “sender” or the “receiver” of information. There is one major ground rule; only one person (the sender) speaks at a time, while the other person (the receiver) fully listens.

The therapist’s role is to help facilitate the sender/receiver dynamic, which is designed to contain and prevent any emotional reactivity from either partner. The Imago communication method minimizes hurtful outbursts and reactions that interrupt the speaker,  such as criticisms, accusations, excuses, interjections, interruptions, etc.)

To ensure each spouse truly gets the chance to express their thoughts and feelings, the listening/receiving spouse will agree to three main steps of what we call Imago dialogue. These steps include:

  • Mirroring
  • Validation
  • Empathy

The more each spouse gets the hang of effective listening, aka  receiving, the more you will each benefit from the therapy! Check out our in-depth article explaining the Imago dialogue script, plus 3 steps to master the Imago communication method.

A Lesson in Empathy, Patience, & Self Control

Every couple has at least one point of contention, just as each individual has experienced certain things that affect how we react during communication. We all have triggers; after practicing a few exercises with your spouse using the sender/receiver roles you will find out what yours are (and maybe what might trigger your spouse too). Triggers can be topics like money, intimacy, or

Knowing your triggers can help you learn to practice self-control and wait your turn to speak so that you can listen to everything your partner wants to share with you. It also helps your partner understand when it’s time to call a time out or take a break. Marriage work is hard work, but when you invest the time necessary to improve your relationship you will reap the rewards together.

It takes more than patience to master Imago communication; you must also learn to empathize with your partner even if you don’t agree with them or their behavior. You see, when your partner is triggered, they are experiencing a knee jerk reaction from trauma they experienced as a child.

If your spouse behaves reactively when you bring up finances, they may have experienced financial hardship as a child. Their parents may have lost money in the stock market, their home may have been foreclosed on, or their anxiety could be caused by emotional neglect.

People who experience emotional neglect as a child may also have chronic anxiety, depression, and self-doubt. They are also extremely sensitive to criticism and may respond reactively, in an unhealthy way. That’s where Imago exercises come in to help each of you send and receive in a constructive exchange of communication.

Expressing empathetic behavior toward your spouse when they are feeling vulnerable and/or reactive can be challenging but it is so important. Working together, you can get through the exercises and form a deeper bond and stronger connection.

Ready to See How Imago Therapy Can Impact Your Marriage?

You and your spouse know each other—and your marriage—better than anyone else. Discover the transformation you can create in your relationship when you’re treated as the true “experts” of your marriage and are fully supported on your mission to grow, reconnect, and learn together!

Contact The Marriage Restoration Project to schedule an online or in-person counseling session today.

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Jennifer Long

Jennifer Long is a writer, author, and multiple hat wearer with experience across many different industries.