How To Make Relationships Work!
Often, in Imago Relationship Therapy, we talk a lot about the space between a couple. It is that space which walks into the counselling office, and it is that space with which an Imago couples counsellor works.
Counselling via the dialogue technique taught in Imago Relationship Therapy (be that with couples, colleagues, family members or political groups) is not about siding with one person or another, nor is it about listening to one person recount the faults of another at length. Instead, it’s about re-connection – and re-connection happens by first noticing and then seeking to address exactly what is going on in the space between a couple.
In fact, many Imago Relationship Therapists say that they have one client not two, because their client is the ‘Space Between’ the relationship that walks through the door.
What is meant by the ‘Space Between’?
Often, in relationships, we are so concerned with protecting and defending our own fragile egos and identities, that the space between ourselves and the other person is of little relevance. It is almost as though two people exist, who each feel that they are the most important one of the two.
Yet, in any and every relationship that we create in life, there exists a ‘Space Between.’ This is the Psychological, Emotional and Sacred space that is created between You and I. It is NOT ‘Me’ and it is NOT ‘You,’ instead, it is a meeting of both.
It is in cultivating the Space Between, that any and every relationship can become fruitful, harmonious and long lasting, rather than bitter, argumentative, cranky and ultimately painful.
When I say any relationship – I do not mean only romantic relationships. An awareness of the Space Between, in the relationships you have with your friends, your family, your neighbours, your students, your audiences, your colleagues, your employees, your children and even your pets, is just as important!
Drawing parallels with the human body.
Picture your body. Notice how it is, how it moves, how healthy and how fit you feel it to be. Now, imagine that you feed this body of yours nothing but junk food for 5 years. 10 years. 15 years. Coca cola, chocolate, fatty processed cheese, alcohol, maybe even drugs.
How do you end up – if alive at all? Exhausted looking? Haggard? Weary? Addicted to something you know isn’t good for you mentally and physically?
Now, imagine that you crave junk like anybody else from time to time, especially when you’re feeling down and defenceless. But you make a decision to put your body first. You drink lots of water, you eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, you get to know what your body needs and you give it exactly those things – nothing more, nothing less.
You know what your body reacts negatively to, and you either avoid it, or you work on understanding where the negative reaction comes from (is it the ingredients in the food, or something to do with your psychology), and you heal it. In all, you end up with a great understanding of your physical form and how it works. You do the best you can for it over time and you make sure you exercise and stay fit as well as eating healthily.
What would be the impact of this approach? A clear mind? A strong and capable body? Positivity? Happiness? Self-awareness that you can pass on to others?
So, how does this link to relationships?
Imagine your relationship (any of your relationships which seem important right now) as an empty box. If the only things that you put into that box are ugly things – criticisms, putdowns, sarcasm, moods, rudeness and passive aggression, then you are creating a negative object inside that box. A scary object. Who wants to be around something like that? Better to throw it out!
Think about the following principles – which are key to all of the Imago Relationship Therapy Dialogues:
- Zero Negativity
- No Blame
- No Shame
- No Criticism
- Taking Responsibility
If you could fully commit to an attitude of no negativity and no blame, shame or criticism of the other over the course of a week, two weeks, or a month…what do you think may happen? And if the other person were also to commit to this? Would you be able to create something worth holding onto? Something that becomes a beautiful gift, rather than an object to dispose of?
This isn’t about forgetting your feelings. It’s about learning to voice them in a way that is safe and does not provoke negative reactions in the other. Try it! Ask your partner, your colleague, your child, your parent or somebody with whom you really have difficulties or differences of opinion to join you.
In effect, in committing to nourishing the Space Between with kindness and positivity, you are committing to nourishing your relationship itself…so that gradually (Rome wasn’t built in a day!) it may morph into something happier, more beautiful and definitely worth keeping!
Cultivating the space between…into the future
If you would like to create healthier relationships in your life, then look at what you are putting into them. Become aware of your own responsibilities to shape what is in that imaginary box you’re holding together with the other person. Imagine you’re creating a masterpiece, and like any work of art, it deserves respect, love, time and focus.
If you would like to experience Imago Relationship Therapy for yourself(ves), I offer the following:
- Private 1 or 2 day workshops for couples in my home near Athenry or in Galway. See here
- A weekend on 20th and 21st May for Therapists wishing to experience Imago, with a view to potentially using Imago Dialogues with clients later on. See here
- A 2 day intensive workshop in Manchester in June, open to all couples wishing to spend quality time together learning about and practising Imago Dialogues. This workshop will be co-led with Gary Janit of CBT Manchester. See here
- 1 hour and 1.5 hour weekly couples counselling sessions in Abbeyknockmoy and in Galway. See here
- As above, for any two people in relationship (i.e., work colleagues, friends, etc) wishing to harmonise and understand one another more.
There are also Imago Relationship Therapists in Dublin (Jane Ferguson) and in Tipperary, as well as one hour east of Athenry (Nancy St John). Please contact me if you would like to get in touch with them or with myself to arrange a session or book onto a workshop.