The cure for the common relationship.


By Angelica Shiels Psy.D.

In my post, “From crazy love to just plain crazy…” I described the reasons that seemingly good relationships eventually take a turn for the worst.  Now, as promised, I am going to describe some tried and true solutions to the common problem of relationship deterioration.

There are a few types of therapy that I like, but if you have read my blog at all, you probably know that I am partial to Imago Relational Therapy for most couples.  This is because Imago therapy includes five critical components that don’t just teach a couple to communicate, but actually draw a couple emotionally closer.

Remember how I said romantic love goes wrong because one person’s defense (i.e. ignoring) usually triggers the other person’s sensitivity (i.e. not being considered)  and vice versa? If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read this.  Wouldn’t it be great if each partner truly understood and empathized with the other’s core sensitivity, and genuinely was endeared-to and appreciated the other?  Imago is not just about saying and doing the right things; it is about truly understanding and conneting.

For Example:

Before Imago Therapy:

“My husband is such an immature child sometimes.  He barely ever helps out or is involved in what matters. I ask him for help, but he always messes it up or just forgets about it, and then I end up having to do everything. But of course he always makes time for golf or going out after work. He is totally selfish and doesn’t even care about me.”

After Imago Therapy:

“My husband drives me crazy sometimes with how he overlooks details that I think are important, but I respect that he just has a different way of thinking and I don’t assume that he doesn’t care.  It made me sad to hear stories about how he never felt “good enough” growing up and how that little boy inside of him hears my harsh voice as a criticism.  I understand why he would stop trying to please me and just started avoiding me if all he expected was my painful criticism and dissatisfaction.  I really believe that he wants to help; he has a good heart and has shown me that he cares by really stepping up now that he doesn’t feel compelled to avoid me any more.”

Before Imago Therapy:

“My wife is a crazy b– sometimes.  I don’t know why she’s so nit-picky and upset all the time.  It makes me not want to be around her.”

After Imago Therapy:

“I understand that my wife is more nit-picky  than I am, but I respect that as her unique way of thinking and don’t automatically consider it a criticism.  I was sad to hear that she always felt overlooked and not considered growing up in a large family, and I understand that every time I don’t follow-through, she feels worthless and not considered.  I also get how she used to manage that feeling by getting angry.  I want to make her feel loved and valuable, and now I am making efforts to make her feel those ways.  As a bonus, she is much more laid back and sweet to me.”

Here are the five aspects of Imago therapy:

  • Re-imaging your partner as a vulnerable person, dealing with discomfort and pain.
  • Re-romanticizing your relationship, through things like appreciations, caring, fun, and pleasurable surprises.
  • Restructuring your frustrations through converting complaints to requests. Watch this.
  • Resolving your rage (understanding and new communication work on this).
  • Re-visioning your relationship as a source of safety, fulfilment, and joy.

All five of these aspects work in conjunction with one another to improve communication and feelings of understanding, intimacy, and connection.


Curious about couples therapy?  Read what really goes on in couples therapy.

After such a serious article, do you want to read something dismissive and ridiculous (yet true) about couples therapy?  (Of course you do.  Who doesn’t?) Read this.

Don’t think you’ll be able to convince your significant other to go to therapy?  Read this.

Hope that helps!  As always, visit On The Yellow Couch on Facebook for more about couples, kids, and psychology!


3 thoughts on “The cure for the common relationship.

  1. Pingback: From crazy love to just plain crazy….What often goes wrong in relationships. | Maryland Family Psychology

  2. Pingback: What really goes on in couples therapy? | ON THE BIG YELLOW COUCH.

  3. Pingback: Mothers, smothers, and lovers. (Navigating separateness and togetherness in relationships.) | ON THE BIG YELLOW COUCH.

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