“At some point in their love relationships, most people discover that something about their partners awakens strong memories of childhood pain.”

 

When you hear the words “childhood pain”, you may immediately think about traumas such as physical abuse or the suffering of divorced parents, and for many people, this is a reality. However, Harville Hendrix states “even if you were fortunate enough to grow up in a safe, nurturing environment, you still bear invisible scars from your childhood.”

 

According to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, 78% of adults in the United States have experienced one or more childhood pains that are left unresolved in their older years. Hendrix argues that these pains carry into adulthood and affect our romantic relationships, but there is a solution.

 

Harville Hendrix’s internationally recognised relationship guide, Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples (1988), provides a step-by-step guide solution to a partners power struggle. His guide is more than advice, but a soulful practical handbook to help build a foundational template for relationships. With more than 4 million copies sold worldwide, and 17 appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Hendrix solidifies his credibility as an expert therapist and writer, with his revolutionary book.

 

In his guide, Hendrix explains how to revive romance and remove negativity from daily interactions:

  • Discover why you choose your partner.
  • Resolves the power struggle that prevents greater intimacy.
  • Learn to listen to your partner.
  • Begin healing early childhood experiences.
  • Become passionate friends with your partner.
  • Achieve a shared vision of your dream relationship.

 

Hendrix provides such a broad spectrum of advice, Imago Therapy explores the three stages of a relationship that will heal childhood pain:

  1. Romantic Love: Why do we choose the partners we do?
  2. The Power Struggle: Why do couples fight?
  3. The Conscious Relationship: break up or breakthrough?

 

Imago Therapy:

Historically, relationships were bonded for tribal, cultural, political or economic purposes. But as these structures shifted, so did the bonds of relationships. Romantic Love began and saw the culture of committed relationships for emotions and individuality. Just like that, relationships became complex.

 

So, Harville Hendrix created Imago Therapy. Hendrix quotes, Imago, “is a way couples relate to each other in such a way they connect beyond their differences.” It describes the process and techniques to help couples in places when their relationship gets complex and needs some tender loving care.

  1. Romantic Love: Why do we choose the partners we do?

 Everybody has preferences when it comes to their partners, whether that may be physical or emotional. For instance, some people may prefer their partners taller than them or have a strong sense of humour. Either way, everybody has a preference. But why do we have choices?

 

According to Imago, we are attracted to a potential romantic partner because we are actually choosing the person to help us work through our scars from childhood.

 

Hendrix states: “When you go on your ‘Search and Find’, aka ‘Falling in Love’, you do not know that there is a program running in and out of your awareness in the background that does match you with somebody similar to the caretakers.”

 

In other words, we subconsciously match with somebody similar to our caretakers, whether that is paternal or sibling figures. These figures shaped our experience, which creates an image in our mind about the primary people we should have in our lives. These caretakers become the ‘Love Script’ we follow when we begin our search for a partner.

 

Hendrix believes that many people are attracted to the search of love because when you find someone, you begin “romantic love” or more commonly understood as the “honeymoon stage”.

 

Romantic Love is an altered state of consciousness where one is blinded by lust, and does not realise our partners are temporarily covering the scars of our past. Many people find themselves addicted to this stage, jumping from one relationship to the next, to avoid the next step of a serious relationship, the power struggle.

 

  1. The Power Struggle: Why do couples fight?

 When yourself and partner are serious, often romantic love wears off. You move into the second stage of your relationship, the power struggle, where each partner tries to assert their own will, which often turns into a problem.

 

The main driving forces behind the power struggle are mostly unconscious, and it often leads to unhealthy communication habits like arguments, or ultimatums.

 

According to Hendrix, the factors that once attracted you to your partners are actually painful traits from your caretakers. Now, yourself and partner need to go on a journey through repressed childhood experiences to heal and grow together.

 

Hendrix states, “you will experience the worst frustrations that you had with your caretaker with your partner”. The power struggle is then a journey of conflict and change to reach pure serenity. So, when our relationships become unhealthy, we’re, in a sense, regressing to our childhood state.

 

Hendrix breaks down the power struggle into five stages – which takes a likeliness to grief:

  1. Shock
  2. Denial
  3. Betrayal
  4. Bargaining
  5. Despair

 

When couples enter the Power Struggle phase, it is likely they get stuck or end if they don’t learn to utilise ways of communicating. But Hendrix believes the power struggle stage is to not be feared.

 

Romantic Love is supposed to end to reveal your right partner. If yourself and partner can progress through the power struggle, you are capable of anything. If you cannot and are hopelessly locked in the second stage, that relationship is supposed to end. The goal of the power struggle stage is to set you on the path of real love.

 

  1. The Conscious Relationship: Break up or breakthrough?

Unfortunately, many couples break up during the power struggle before they reach the final stage of “Conscious Relationships”. But those who do progress to the final stage see the endless potential of two people coming together with mutual dignity, respect and commitment to each other.

 

Here, partnerships amend their childhood trauma and build towards a future of mutual, transparent communication, action and collaborative change. It is a relationship that is created purposeful, decisively, and with the right intent. It requires clarity and choice about how you want your relationship to be, feel, and how you want to be loved and to love.

 

Hendrix identifies the ten characters of a conscious relationship:

  1. You realise the relationship has a hidden purpose: the healing of your childhood wounds.
  2. As you begin to see your partner not as a saviour, but as a wounded human being, struggling to be healed, you recognise their truth alongside your own.
  3. You take responsibility for communicating your needs and desires to your partner.
  4. You become responsible for your interactions.
  5. You learn to value your partner’s needs and wishes as highly as you value your own.
  6. You accept your and your partner’s faults.
  7. You learn to satisfy your needs and desires.
  8. You learn to love your strengths.
  9. You accept your desire to be loved and to love.
  10. You accept the difficulty of creating a good relationship (or marriage), as you realise a good partnership requires commitment, discipline, and courage to progress.

 

Couples will not only experience growth as a partnership but as well as individual self-actualisation. Conscious Relationships is a safe space of bliss vulnerability, that fortunately some couples will achieve and unfortunately for many will not.

 

Harville Hendrix concludes that relationships don’t just happen, they take time and effort. There are obstacles, but when you progress, it makes life an odyssey, an odyssey of joy.

 

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