Episode 22 |

Find Romance that Stands the Test of Time with Imago Therapy with Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt

Subscribe Free on these Platforms

This Week’s Guest

Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt are two relationship experts that have worked to start conversations and educate people on the value of healthy, communicative relationships with a partner. They are the best-selling authors of Getting the Love You Want and Making Marriage Simple.


Helen and Harville want us to understand that the perfectly happily married couple is ultimately incompatible. The difference between the married couples that fail and those that succeed is not in their compatibility, but in the way they choose to understand their incompatibility.  After both Helen and Harville experienced a divorce of their own, they approached the beginning of their relationship asking the question “What makes some couples stay together and some fall apart?”. The result of their deep theorizing and research is Imago,  a relationship methodology they teach that strives to dig deep into our true motivations on how we become attracted to and choose partner, and fulfill our desires in a relationship. We discuss:

  • Why you are either a hailstorm or a turtle
  • The steps of listening successfully
  • You will only be attracted to someone you are incompatible with
  • The role of our parents and caregivers in deciding what we want in a relationship

Here’s what I learned:

What is Imago?

  1. The Latin word for Image.
  2. A constellation of memories created in childhood and infancy.
    • We have emotional memory up to age 4.
    • Event memory, when we actually remember people and things that happen, begins after age 4.
  3. The important parts of our memory is what mom and dad and other caregivers didn’t do to meet your needs.
  4. This creates a need that stays alive our whole lives.
  5. When we search for our partner in life, we tend to look for somebody who is similar in many ways to our caretakers.
    • You’re looking for somebody similar to your caretaker to get the needs met with that person in adulthood that didn’t get met by your caretakers in childhood.
  6. When you are immediately attracted to someone, it is because your Imago matches.
  7. We want to relive the wounding and fix it this time-that’s the goal.

The Power Struggle

  1. We can’t fulfill our goal, however, unless change occurs.
  2. The Power Struggle is an attempt to change your partner to give you the need and satisfaction you did not get with your parents.
  3. There is often mutual frustration between two incompatible people.
  4. Both people have to get their childhood needs clearly defined, and then need to stretch into responding to those needs.

When Helen and Harville Met

  1. They were both divorcees, and Helen asked Harville about his passions.
    • He said he wanted to learn about why couples fight and why a great marriage can turn sour.
    • He continued to develop his theory over time.
  2. There are stages in a relationship:  an illusion of love (the romantic period), a power struggle, and then real love over time.
  3. Have to dispel the myth that if you are struggling with your marriage you are with the wrong person.
  4. If you have this information on the stages of marriage from the beginning, you aren’t so upset with your partner when they start to change or act differently.
  5. Applying for a marriage license should be like applying for a drivers license, there should be a test that goes along with it.

How to Listen

  1. Focus on the alternation of conversation.
  2. The answer to most marital problems is just talking about it.
  3. Our culture is shaped to talk, but no one rewards you if you listen well.
  4. Listening can be a very active thing
  5. Show curiosity when you listen:
    • The magic question: is there more?
    • Shows you are interested in what they are saying.
  6. The summary:
    • You say “let me see if I got it all here” and summarize their point.
  7. Validation:
    • Tell your partner, “that makes sense” to validate their point.
  8. A dialogue is a mutual sharing of realities without judgment or criticism.
  9. You’ll always have the tension of opposites, but tension is not crucial.
  10. Power comes in listening-if you really want to produce an effect and regulate the affect of your partner, mirroring them will regulate their emotions.
    • Shows you that you aren’t being judged, attacked, or hurt.
  11. If you make a request, it lands better on your partner than expressing your frustration.
    • People don’t know that every complaint is an embedded wish.
    • Instead of complaining, reformat your complaint into a request.
    • i.e. instead of “why did you come home late?” use “I wish you would have been on time, I was so worried.”

Evolution and the Brain

  1. Rick Hanson wrote ‘Buddha’s Brain’ and found the brain’s bias toward the negative is an evolutionary status.
  2. We had to be suspicious of people and things to survive, thus we tend to be negative and make complaints rather than requests.

Nightly Ritual

  1. Share 3 appreciations with your partner every night.
  2. Helen used to share with Harville all the things he had forgotten to do, and he didn’t seem to be enjoying the relationship very much, so she switched to showing gratitude.

We are Maximizers or Minimizers

  1. A maximizer is the person who makes a lot of noise when they want something.
  2. A minimizer is the person who kind of shuts down and goes away when they want something
  3. They do it because it worked in childhood.
  4. Harville and Helen call the maximizer a hailstorm, and the minimizer a turtle.
    • hailstorms are attracted to turtles and vice versa.
    • the hailstorm asks why the turtle is so quiet and the turtle asks why the hailstorm is so loud
    • if you’re not the opposite as the other person, there is no long-term attraction
  5. The two move through their relationship like a dance that doesn’t trigger each others anxiety, keep things interesting and fun.

Get Optimized!

  1. Identify your own tendencies during conflict. Are you a person who shuts down or explodes when you can’t get what you want? According to Imago, you are either the minimizer or the maximizer in a relationship, and you can use this identification to help understand tendencies in your feelings.
  2. When the feelings of hot romance begin to fade in your relationship, recognize that it is not due to an ultimately doomed relationship. It is simply another stage of the relationship’s development, and can be worked through to find real, long-term love through listening and communication.
  3. Remember that simple communication without judgment can solve the majority of marital problems. Feeling neglected in your marriage? Talk about it calmly.

Links and Resources Mentioned

Safe Conversations
Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson
Making Marriage Simple
Getting the Love You Want

Dialogue One Page Sheet 


Thank you for listening!

As always, thank you for tuning in. Please feel free to contact me or leave a comment. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *