Imago Therapy: A Valid Theory?
Why is the rate of divorce so high in the United States? (50% of first marriages, 65% of seconds, 76% of thirds). One answer to that question is based on two facts, presumptions:
- we choose our mates, and
- we, as a culture, harbor a lot of romantic illusions
I will borrow from Harville Hendrix’s work — Getting the Love You Want — that promotes his “Imago” theory.
Simply, he posits that we choose our mates based on a series of unconscious attractions that, at their core, have to do with the illusion of getting our unmet childhood needs fulfilled in this new marriage. Oops.
Imago? It’s the amalgam, a composite, of the positive and negative attributes of our parents. We can easily spot the qualities (with our old brains – limbic, reptilian) without having to do much thinking.
So, in his theory, the first phase of the marriage is called “The Unconscious Marriage.” It will, eventually, lead to “The Power Struggle” when we realize that the illusion is not going to get met. From that point, we can move into the “conscious marriage” or…run away in a variety of forms: work; drugs & alcohol; affairs, and, of course; divorce.
Imago Therapy is not a cure-all: there has to be commitment and….love. Hendrix has struggled in his own marriage. My ex- and I practiced some of the methods and used imago therapists over a period of two decades. If it was a perfect system, I wouldn’t be writing this blog: I got scared and confused. I found it easier and less painful to run away and be on my own.
These theories and contributing facts are, in and of themselves, interesting. They’re particularly noteworthy for men because the research suggests that the male gender is more susceptible to negative health impacts from lack of closeness.
Beginning around the age of twelve years old, boys start teasing each other if something personal is shared. While girls are being encouraged to share, boys get the opposite message. Says Dan Montgomery, Ph.D. in his blog:
Unfortunately, then we don’t take the interpersonal risks that girls and women are actually encouraged to take. We become skittish about sharing our interior world, for fear that we’ll be judged as dumb, silly, or worse yet, sissy.
Men need love, just like other humans. (I know it sounds funny.) One way to get that love is to become more emotionally aware (see Daniel Goleman’s work: Emotional Intelligence): it will help dispel the notion that the cultural stereotypical back-slapping, football-watching “bonding” actually satisfies a deep need.