From Conflict to Connection

By Bonnie Brinkman, MA and Darcy Jack, MA, MC - September 2015

When couples arrive in an Imago therapist’s office, or when they attend a weekend workshop, they are often in a soup of anger, sadness, despair and disillusionment- the power struggle. Newlyweds, old timers, and those in between, wonder if they will ever feel the kind of love they had in the beginning. They often wonder if they should cut their losses, and find fulfillment with someone who offers one more chance at the love and security they long for.

Shattered dreams are painful. If a couple seeks coaching and counseling during this phase, they may just be hoping to reduce the pain. They quickly learn that in spite of the reality of their pain, there is much hope and potential hidden in their conflict. The pain and disillusionment are not due to a lack of love; rather a lack of knowledge of how intimate relationships mature. We are unaware that all relationships go through stages, and that one of those stages is the power struggle.  Fortunately, we can learn to respond in ways that do not reinjure our partner or ourselves.

Many of us are surprised to learn that the power struggle is an inevitable phase of a maturing love relationship.  When we feel pain in the presence of our partner, we assume our partner is the source of all the pain.  When we accurately identify our pain, we learn that most of it stems from our early history-long before we ever met our partner.

So how do the two of us go about disentangling ourselves from the mess, stay put, roll up our sleeves and reap the benefits of facing our differences? How do we learn to turn conflict into connection? By redesigning our relationship so we become passionate friends, and by restoring the full aliveness we felt in the beginning. Not an easy task. A lot of stretching will be required.

With the structure, information and skills of Imago processes, we learn to grow in knowledge and mutual respect.  We learn to rid our selves of negativity. We show care and love more consistently. We make decisions based on the needs of the relationship, not on just the needs of one or the other of us. We help each other to grow up and begin living life on life’s terms. This is a “we” proposition. Eventually, we learn to appreciate this process that helps us love ourselves and our partner, warts and all.

The goal of Imago Relationship therapy is to help us learn how to uncover our true, authentic self.  A conscious relationship has tremendous potential to correct the distortions created by early caregivers and socialization. It is a spiritual path, which leads us back to our own wholeness, allowing us to touch the world with compassion and full aliveness.

Many of us believe our world is on a path of repair and healing. Sharing in this awesome task through intimate partnership can be the opportunity of a lifetime.  We just need to be willing and open to change. Couples who use the conflict in their relationship for mutual healing co-create a lifelong adventure of learning, growing and loving.

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