VIDEO BLOG: How to turn marriage conflicts into healing and growth opportunities

Most of us see conflicts in our marriage as bad.

But did you know that conflicts can bring us to new levels of healing and growth we would never experience otherwise?

In the video below, the story of Mario and Rosa shows us how to turn marriage conflicts into healing and growth opportunities.

Take a few minutes to watch the video with your partner’¦

‘¦and then use the discussion questions below to talk about how you can turn your conflicts into healing and growth opportunities.

Discussion with your partner:

  1. What evidence do each of you see that you married your “Imago” match? (To explore further, fill out the “Brief Relationship Workup“, then transfer the info to “My Unconscious Relationship Agenda“. )
  2. Share with each other what needs for healing you see.
  3. In what specific ways will you both need to grow in order to bring healing to each other?

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    3 ways to help your partner overcome anxiety and depression that’s killing your marriage

    Mike’s anxiety and depression got so bad he finally hit a wall. Having almost lost his marriage, he can now barely even function at work.

    How did he get so stuck? And what can his wife Jen do to help?

    This article describes three ways Mike and Jen worked together to transform their marriage into a powerful agent of healing.

    The symptoms of anxiety and depression

    Mike’s symptoms were: 

    • could not work
    • could not maintain relationships
    • was abusing alcohol
    • felt sad
    • felt tired and slowed down
    • could not complete activities of daily living
    • things that used to interest him no longer had any appeal

    Sound familiar? 

    If you or your partner are weighed down by anxiety and depression, keep reading to learn three ways Jen and Mike worked together to overcome it. 

    The fundamental cause of anxiety and depression: DISCONNECTION

    Disconnection triggers anxiety. Anxiety triggers depression. And then depression triggers more anxiety until it becomes a vicious cycle.

    I often refer to Dr. Edward Tronick’s Still Face Experiment to demonstrate how disconnection results in anxiety.

    Feeling connected with a loved one who is attuned to us makes us feel alive and whole. Our brain triggers happy chemicals like dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin which makes us feel joyfully alive. 

    But when that connection is interrupted, the brain triggers the release of cortisol and the sensation of full aliveness is replaced with anxiety.

    If anxiety is not relieved, it can increase and become an anxiety disorder which is the most common mental illness in the USA. Anxiety disorders include panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

    In Mike’s case the anxiety and depression that began in childhood followed him into adulthood and his adult relationships.

    And now feelings of disconnection in his relationship with Jen were triggering those old wounds resulting in increased anxiety.

    Growing up, Mike’s parents valued intellectual development, but lacked in the emotional skills to help him feel connected. He grew up in a home where success was a high value. The stress at times was unbearable.

    If he got an A on a test, the message was you should have gotten an A+. Acceptance was conditional upon his being a good boy and performing well.

    Mike dealt with his anxiety by suppressing it and trying harder. Everyone applauded him as a high achiever. No one realized how little value he felt apart from what he did to please people.

    Fast forward 20 years. 

    Mike was a successful medical doctor. But he was stuck in a career he hated; one that provided the image of success, but had nothing to do what he was passionate about. He felt powerless to change his situation.. ‘What do you do when you’ve invested 10 years in medical school and another 10 years building your practice? You can’t just walk out on that and start over.’

    And yet, now things had taken a turn for the worse. Having taken a toll on his relationship with Jen, Mike could no longer function at work. He was finally forced to deal with it.

    He also feared what this would do to their children. Plus, there was a looming fear of what would happen if he were diagnosed with a mental disorder. How would that affect his career as a physician? All of these stresses added to his anxiety.

    In an attempt to deal with his depression Mike started drinking more alcohol. This led to increased feelings of isolation and disconnection, which in turn increased his anxiety.

    The fundamental cure for anxiety and depression: RECONNECTION

    If the fundamental cause of anxiety is the feeling of disconnection, can you guess what the fundamental cure is?

    That’s right! 

    The fundamental cure for anxiety is found in reconnecting with your marriage partner in a healing relationship.

    When Mike and Jen came to counseling, this was our goal through Imago Relationship Therapy.

    But what if depression, self medication, and lack of motivation are all working to keep them from reconnecting? Shouldn’t Mike work on himself first, and then work on the relationship? 


    The commonly held view that you should work on yourself before you can work on your relationship is simply not true.

    If the ultimate solution to anxiety and depression is found in connection with your intimate partner, then your therapeutic approach should be to help reconnect you, not separate you.

    We decided that Mike and Jen would work together – to use every effort to deepen their connection with each other, rather than having Mike work on himself without Jen.

    But you say, ‘What if Mike is too depressed to work on the relationship? What if his drinking is blocking their ability to reconnect?’

    We still have them work on those issues together. We are born in relationship. We were wounded in relationship. And we heal in relationship.

    At first this was not an easy sell. Jen was told by another counselor that Mike needed to deal with his ‘alcoholism’ before they could have a healthy relationship. I cautioned Jen about labeling Mike an ‘alcoholic’ because, if we do that prematurely, it can serve to reinforce negative brain pathways.

    Of course alcoholism can be a problem. But what if Mike’s increased alcohol use is simply an unconscious attempt to manage his anxiety? The solution would be short sighted if Mike were labeled an alcoholic and sent off by himself to fix that. Everyone could then blame Mike’s ‘alcoholism’ for their problems. On the other hand, if Mike’s deeper anxiety issue can be solved through reconnecting and processing everything with Jen, that might help resolve not only the drinking problem, but their other problems as well. 

    So here are the three steps I asked Mike and Jen to take together using Imago Relationship Therapy. 

    1. Lower your stress level

    ‘Mike, you gotta take a break.’ We’re talking about lowering stress levels by taking time off.

    At first Mike said, ‘But I can’t afford to do that.’

    My question was, ‘How are you going to afford it when you have a complete breakdown?’

    Why is taking a break important? To temporarily alleviate unnecessary external stress.

    Stress comes from the outside: work deadlines, etc. Anxiety comes from the inside: the body’s reaction to stress.

    Anxiety persists even after your stress has been reduced. But if you don’t reduce your stress, it will only create more anxiety which, in Mike’s case, was already overwhelming and debilitating.

    So Mike took a medical leave of absence. Jen was committed to this with him. And together they got on a regular program of 

    • physical exercise
    • healthy diet
    • regular sleep
    • relaxation exercises

    We also encouraged Mike to avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Jen was good with all of this except the caffeine part. We all have our limits. 🙂 

    2. Balance your brain chemistry

    A 50-yr old theory says that chronic depression might result from an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the body. One of those neurotransmitters is called serotonin

    Low levels of serotonin are linked to chronic depression. Mike’s serotonin level had become so low that his body could no longer restore it on its own. 

    This explained why Mike could not come out of his depression on his own. He needed medication that would help restore his serotonin. 

    His low levels of serotonin also helped explain why he started drinking more. Mike learned that alcohol was not a good way to cope, because alcohol decreases the brain’s absorption of serotonin. By raising Mike’s serotonin level through prescribed medication, his need to self-medicate with alcohol diminished. 

    SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat depression. They are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants.

    Examples include fluoxetine (Prozac), citalopram (Celexa), sertraline (Zoloft), Escitalopram (Lexapro), and Paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva).

    If you or your partner are in a similar place, check with your doctor about giving you a prescription, and always be aware of cautions and possible side effects.

    There is no reason for embarrassment if you need to take medication. 

    It does not mean that you are weak. Sometimes anxiety and depression get bad enough to become a brain chemistry issue rather than a psychological issue. At that point we need to address the biological side of it. 

    These medications are essentially food for the brain. They restore serotonin and other chemicals you can’t produce for yourself. 

    The good news is that medication can help you return to a point of being able to deal with your issues on a psychological level because the pain isn’t making you dysfunctional. 

    That’s what medication is for! 

    Medication is not to solve your problem! It’s to get you to a place where YOU can solve your problem. 

    Someone said, ‘It is hard to be a philosopher and have a toothache at the same time.’

    Sometimes you need to lower your pain level to a certain point in order to become functional again, so you can work on fixing the real problem.

    So Mike, with Jen’s support, took steps to lower his stress levels and balance his brain chemistry.

    3. Rewire your neural pathways 

    With anxiety and depression, the brain and the heart muscles have cells called neurons that can fire as a group. When this happens, they wire together and form a network, or ‘groove,’ which can become deeper and deeper. Therefore, negative thoughts literally shape the brain structure to form negative neural patterns. These habituated ‘grooves’ in our organs and regions of the body trigger us into feeling and acting in certain ways. These grooves produce habits. So, in part, anxiety and depression become habitual.

    How do you change these negative neural pathways related to anxiety and depression? 

    Imago therapy provides positive habit-forming behaviors that help reprogram your brain, heart, and nervous system.

    Most people underestimate the power of these simple marriage tools.

    A regular regimen of tools we use, including Safe Conversations, Appreciations, Caring Behaviors, One-minute Full Body Hugs, Positive Flooding all work to rewire brain pathways and kickstart the release of happy hormones like dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and norepinephrine.

    If you engage in these prescribed positive behaviors over and over again, you will ‘re-groove’ the muscle memory or the nervous system patterns, so that instead of automatically triggering self-destructive behavior, these new patterns orient you toward joyful aliveness and feeling connected. 

    Analysts have done brain scans showing that these kinds of exercises done over time can shift your default condition back to joyful aliveness rather than negativity, anxiety, and depression.

    Because we helped Mike and Jen deepen their connection with each other during the first two steps using Imago Dialogues, we were able to add these exercises that help rewire brain pathways.

    So how is this working for Mike and Jen? 

    It’s slow, but they are making progress. 

    And since their focus through this whole process was to reconnect with each other, they will tell you everything is better.

    Many things about their future are uncertain but one thing is for sure – they will face it together.

    How about you? 

    Please share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

    Until next week…

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      My goal is to provide free relationship tools and resources delivered to your inbox every week! 

      Is it marriage incompatibility…or do your differences have a deeper meaning?

      Like many couples, you may be asking…

      ‘How did I marry the most incompatible person on the planet?’

      ‘Why could I not see who this person really was?!

      ‘How did something so beautiful turn so ugly?!’

      Before you lose hope, consider the fact that this experience is NORMAL to some degree with most couples.

      Also, consider the possibility that your differences may have a deeper meaning and purpose.

      We are so much ALIKE!

      (The story of symbiosis and romantic love)

      Most marriages begin with  pretty intense romantic feelings. This is a season where you actually feel like you and your partner are ‘one soul and two bodies’, sharing the same beliefs, values, tastes, and desires.

      The term for this emotional state is ‘symbiosis‘. During the romantic stage of the relationship symbiosis is pleasurable. You feel like you’re in heaven.

      The problem is that, unconsciously, you are assuming that your partner is like you.

      Symbiosis is the illusion that your partner shares your thoughts and feelings.

      • You believe that when you are in love you must think, feel, and act alike.
      • You’re certain that it’s not possible to function as an individual and still be in a relationship.
      • You assume you can’t operate with clear boundaries and still be connected.

      I know this may sound absurd, but that’s what goes on unconsciously.

      And it’s like heaven as long as this  romantic symbiosis lasts and you believe that you and your partner are the same!

      But, after a while, some clues that your partner is actually different from you begin to surface.

      We are so DIFFERENT!

      (The story of symbiosis and the power struggle)

      ‘What happened?! Why did you have to change?! Why can’t we go back to the way it was when we were ‘in love’?!’

      When the symbiotic state of romantic love is disturbed by these indications of difference, marriage partners become anxious and reactive. Conflict occurs as they try desperately to retain the romantic illusion.

      • You get frustrated or irritated when your partner can’t read your thoughts.
      • You get disappointed because your partner doesn’t do things right.
      • You criticize your partner to get her or him to be more like you.
      • You become argumentative and dogmatic because ‘there’s only one way to think’.
      • You use guilt or shame in an attempt to get your partner to do things your way.
      • You say your partner is like you when he or she does something you like.

      This negativity and coercion only make matters worse, and you soon feel like your romantic dream has morphed into your worst nightmare!

      Symbiosis in the romantic stage is like heaven, but symbiosis in the power struggle is like hell.

      The wish to maintain the romantic illusion is so powerful, and its rupture so terrifying that a couple will start to unconsciously annihilate each other through many forms of negation, negativity, as well as verbal and even physical abuse.

      As things progress you realize you both have married someone who has the worst traits of your parents. We call this your Imago. You ask yourself, ‘Could I have possibly chosen someone more incompatible even if I had tried?!’

      That’s when we start thinking about ‘separation on the basis of incompatibility’.

      But are you really incompatible? Or do your differences have a deeper purpose?

      Actually, we are a PERFECT match!

      (The story of differentiation and connection)

      At this point a new commitment is required.

      A commitment to move from an unconscious to a conscious relationship. To move from symbiosis and self-absorption to differentiation and connection.

      If symbiosis in the power struggle seems like hell, differentiation will dissolve it and make your relationship feel like heaven again.

      But you must surrender your symbiotic wish, and engage in the process of differentiation.

      Here’s what can happen with differentiation:

      • You move into a new paradigm in which your relationship has priority over your individual needs.
      • But paradoxically, when you serve the needs of your relationship, the relationship serves your needs.
      • You will discover that your differences do have a deeper purpose: healing and growth.
      • Your relationship problems become maps that identify the places you have been wounded and need healing.
      • You discover that it’s the partner you’re with right now, your ‘Imago match’, that offers you the greatest opportunity to heal your childhood wounds and grow the underdeveloped parts of yourself. To separate from this person means that you miss this opportunity, and end up taking all your problems with you into your next relationship.
      • When you move from negativity to curiosity, you discover the amazing world of your partner. Your partner is not who you thought they were. Turns out they are even more amazing than you imagined.
      • Both of you are enormously enriched when you accept the fact that you live in two different worlds, and that you look at everything through different lenses.
      • You are no longer imprisoned by a mono-centric view of life. And this transforms other areas of your life – your parenting, your life work, your community involvement.
      • In sharing your stories with each other, you co-create a new story in which you actually co-create each other. You become a much better person together than you would be by separating.
      • And, finally, meeting each other at this level restores the feeling of original connection. And that is what heals you and restores your feelings of joyful aliveness.

      The Imago Dialogue process can help you and your partner discover that your problem is not really incompatibility. And you will see that your differences really do have a deeper meaning!

      Let me encourage you to find an Imago therapist in your area to help if you need it. Or contact me and I’ll walk you through it.

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        Want to live “happily ever after” in your marriage? Here’s something even better!

        Peter and Kathy had an amazing marriage breakthrough! But after a few months they found themselves stuck again in the same vicious cycle of blaming and defensiveness that almost ruined their marriage before. Only now it seemed worse.

        Here is a couple who was able to dissolve all the anxiety that was driving their Power Struggle and connect with each other in a deeper way than ever before!  Their marriage moved from the brink of failure to a picture of marital bliss! They were so happy! So was I as their coach!

        But a few months later all those feelings were gone. They felt like all the ground they had gained in their relationship had been lost. Once again they were considering separation.

        What happened?

        It was something that I discovered only recently.

        When a couple rekindles Romantic Love, it hurls them back into the Power Struggle!

        What?!! That’s right!

        Most marriages begin with Romantic Love. Then comes the Power Struggle.

        Then, with a commitment and the right tools, a couple can move through the Power Struggle to Mature Love and to the World Impact Stage where the changes in their marriage begin to positively impact their children and their world.

        Here is the graph I made to depict that journey.

        The problem with this model is that it suggests that when you get to the World Impact Stage you’ve arrived!

        Then your marriage is one of eternal bliss that continues ‘happily ever after’ as you ride off into the sunset to go out and change the world!


        I wanted to believe that! I really, really did!

        But that was not the case with Peter and Kathy. Actually it’s not the case with the other couples I help. And it’s certainly not the case with Sandy and me.

        Why? Because…

        Marriage is a journey of healing and growth that doesn’t end with the first breakthrough you have.

        There is no place of arrival where you are both healed and where you no longer need to grow.

        You and I will always long for new levels of healing. And we will always discover areas where we need to stretch and grow and discover lost and undeveloped parts of ourselves.

        And that’s why, when we rekindle Romantic Love, it hurls us right back into another round of the Power Struggle!

        So the Couple’s Journey actually looks more like this:

        Couple's Journey

        Instead of a linear path, the Couple’s Journey is a progressive cycle that repeats these four stages.

        As you go through this cycle, there is connection, rupture, repair, and then reconnection that occurs over and over again.

        Realizing that this is normal helped Peter and Kathy feel better, and regain hope that they could get back on their journey toward healing and wholeness.

        As we worked through this “second power struggle”, Peter and Kathy discovered some childhood adaptations that were fueling this new Power Struggle. Some unconscious defenses they had never been conscious of before.

        Peter realized he would withdraw from Kathy whenever she was ‘overreacting’. He did this without even knowing he was doing it.  Through the Couple’s Dialogue, we discovered that this defense was deeply connected to the way he felt smothered as a child by his mother.

        Kathy would explode when she felt Peter ‘leaving her’. This defense was deeply connected to the times when Kathy felt like her mother was not emotionally available to her when she was a child.

        Through the process Peter saw that his own unconscious reaction to Kathy was just as powerful as her outbursts. It’s just that his defense, which was to withdraw his emotional presence, was silent while Kathy’s was sometimes very loud.

        Why did they not see this before? I don’t know.

        But when they became conscious of these newer, deeper dynamics, two things happened.

        Peter began to grow by staying present with Kathy rather than leaving when she was upset. This immediately had a healing effect on her wound of rejection.

        Kathy began to grow by regulating her emotions, making it safe for Peter to stay present. This had a healing effect on Peter as he overcame his fear of intimacy and his childhood feelings of being smothered by his mother.

        This process of working through the second Power Struggle helped Peter and Kathy reconnect once again and get back on the path toward healing and wholeness. They were able to use the same skills they learned before to go even deeper this time.

        It feels like a game of Chutes and Ladders.

        Sandy once said that our progress felt like a game of Chutes and Ladders. Sometimes we land on a chute and slide all the down to where we were before.

        It sometimes feels like you’re starting over. But that’s not true. You’re actually going deeper.

        It’s something even better than ‘happily ever after’.

        Even though romantic love fades away, romance never has to end.

        Staying on the journey where you experience more and more healing and growth, and where you experience a greater and greater sense of safety, connection, and full-aliveness is even better than our fairytale concept of ‘happily ever after’.


        Because in the fairy tale ideal of ‘happy ever after’, there’s no program for healing and growth.

        Without conflicts brought about by the power struggle, our relationship would eventually die anyway. It’s a principle of nature that, if something is not growing, it’s dying.

        Also, relationship science tells us that, ironically, you and I would never really be happy with someone who doesn’t push our buttons and help us finish the work left undone in childhood.

        As Peter and Kathy made the choice to recommit and work through this second power struggle, they were encouraged by what happened.

        And they discovered it does actually get easier.

        They learned that each time around the cycle the rupture feels less catastrophic, the repair process happens faster, and the connection feels even deeper than before.

        Also as they continue around the cycle, the emotions connected with the Power Struggle become less toxic to the relationship as understanding, curiosity, and compassion grow.

        So this is WAY better than merely ‘happily ever after’!

        What about you? Have you had real progress in your marriage only to be set back?

        It happens. But like Kathy and Peter, you can stay on the journey no matter what.

        Even though it will recycle through the Power Struggle, and you may feel like you’re in a game of Chutes and Ladders, eventually you will get there!

        And you will have a marriage filled with safety, connection, passion and full-aliveness!

        Which is better than “happily ever after”!

        Subscribe below to receive my weekly post that will come to your email inbox every Saturday morning! 

          My goal is to provide free relationship tools and resources delivered to your inbox every week! 

          Build your dream marriage part 2: Turn conflicts into healing and growth opportunities

          We’ve been programmed to believe that conflicts in marriage are bad! That’s NOT true!! Conflicts in marriage can bring us to new levels of healing and growth we would never experience otherwise.

          A dream marriage is a true partnership where you find the healing and wholeness you’re looking for. Conflicts are what provide opportunity for that!

          There are four reasons conflicts provide our best opportunities to heal and grow.

          1. We marry our ‘IMAGO’.

          We marry our what?!

          Imago is Latin for ‘image’. Dr. Harville Hendrix coined the term to refer an image we carry around in our unconscious minds.

          In order for us to fall in love with someone, that person must match that image, or we simply won’t fall.

          The Imago consists of…

          (1) the positive and negative TRAITS OF OUR EARLY OUR CARETAKERS, and

          (2) the LOST PARTS OF OURSELVES; i.e. skills in our thinking, feeling, sensing, and doing that we never developed growing up.

          All the child development theories tell us that children create representations in their minds, pictures of their caretakers. This picture recedes into our unconscious and becomes what we now know, according to modern science, a neural network in our lower brain (brainstem and limbic system).

          Because this part of our brain only sees images, this ‘Imago’ is kind of like a Monet painting, a fuzzy image that is a composite of our parents’ positive and negative traits.

          As you seek a life partner, this image filters out of consideration everyone whose traits are not similar to your early caretakers.

          And it draws you to a person who not only matches your parents’ traits, but one who also exhibits those disowned, denied and lost parts of yourself.

          Are you kidding me? Can this be real?

          Sure! Let’s say you meet a person who is beautiful, or handsome, or smart. They seem compatible, and share common interests with you.

          Think of how many people you’ve met like that. Hundreds perhaps!

          But, have you noticed, no matter how great they are, if they don’t have, for example, your father’s anger, or your mother’s depression, or the withholding nature of a grandmother who helped parent you, they are absolutely, totally uninteresting?!

          Sure this is a theory, but I’m finding it to be true more and more as I continue to practice Imago Couples Therapy based on this concept.

          When a person comes along who matches these traits, especially the negative traits, your lower brain signals the release of the chemicals that cause you to fall blindly in love.

          Take Mario and Rosa for example.

          MARIO’S IMAGO

          Mario’s mother’s had many positive traits including LOYALTY, and some negative traits including DEPRESSION and DETACHMENT.

          As the third born of four children, Mario grew up feeling left out and invisible. Lost in the chaos surrounding a single mom struggling to meet the needs of four children, he often felt abandoned. His way of surviving that wound was to always be in control, and to be aggressive enough to get the attention he needed.

          So who does he marry?

          Rosa, who had traits similar to his mom. Mario was drawn to Rosa’s loyalty, and he later discovered her depression and ‘distant nature’ triggered his old wounds of abandonment.

          Rosa’s Imago

          Rosa’s father’s had many positive traits, including WORKING HARD, and some negative traits including ANGER and the need to be in CONTROL.

          She learned early on to stay out of the way, to detach emotionally, and avoid the conflict that seemed to always surround her dad.

          And who does she marry?

          Mario, who had traits similar to her dad. Rosa was drawn to Mario’s hard working nature, and she later discovered that his angry outbursts and controlling nature triggered her old wounds and fear of closeness.

          OK, wait! Why would I be drawn to someone who triggers my pain and brings out the worst in me?!

          Keep reading. This will all make sense. Trust me.

          The Romantic Stage

          When you meet your Imago, you become intensely attracted and fall in love, because your lower brain signals the ‘ok’ to release dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin into your system. That’s when you realize there’s ‘chemistry’ between you.

          When Rosa and Mario fell in love, they felt fully alive and saw life in vivid color! They felt they had finally arrived! They felt they had found someone who ‘not only understands me, but is willing to meet all my needs’!

          In this ‘drugged up state’ they were totally unaware of how their negative traits would eventually affect each other.

          Can you relate?

          This is called ROMANTIC FANTASY and it doesn’t last! The drugs wear off and the rose-colored glasses are soon ripped from your face.

          The Power Struggle Stage

          About nine months after Mario and Rosa said ‘I do’, their romance began to fade and the Power Struggle began.

          When Rosa felt the slightest inkling of Mario’s anger and control, she would detach emotionally in order to feel safe. This is what she learned to do growing up with a father who could explode at any provocation.

          Rosa’s withdrawal would then trigger more of Mario’s anger and controlling behavior. It activated the lonely feelings he felt when his mother couldn’t be there for him. He learned to be aggressive to get what he needed growing up.

          And, you can probably guess how it went down from there’¦

          Mario’s angry reaction triggered more withdrawal in Rosa causing him to become even more angry and controlling…

          And it was ‘game on’! The Power Struggle.

          A destructive cycle of cat and mouse!

          It was Mario, overly aggressive in his pursuit of connection, and Rosa, withdrawing in her fear of connection.

          Rosa and Mario fell in love not just because Rosa was beautiful and Mario was handsome, or any of those normal reasons we imagine, but mainly because they were an Imago match!

          Becoming aware of their Imago match was the first step toward seeing conflict as the key to healing and growth.

          The second step was to realize…

          2. Our unconscious relationship agenda is to HEAL the past.

          This matching of Imagos is driven by an agenda to heal past wounds.

          It’s actually two lower brains colluding to fulfill nature’s drive to heal wounded emotions.


          Rosa’s lower brain perceived Mario as one who, because he was similar to her dad, could activate the old wounds she experienced from her dad’s anger.

          OK Chuck, now you ARE talking crazy! How could this be a good thing?!!

          Because experts tell us our emotional wounds heal best when they are activated by someone similar to the one who caused the wound.

          If this person triggers that old pain, and then responds in a healing way rather than a hurtful way, there is nothing on the planet that can facilitate your healing better than this!

          This is why marriage is the best place to find healing. Better than any therapist alone can facilitate.

          Rosa’s need for healing

          Rosa’s unconscious relationship agenda was that Mario, when triggered, would not explode in anger, but respond in a different way. She needed Mario to be present with her making it safe for her to stay connected with him.

          Her hope (and her real reason for falling in love) was that Mario would heal the wound that her father’s anger inflicted.

          This is the love that Rosa always secretly longed for. And she discovered that the best person to give her that love and help her heal her past was Mario, the one who happened to have the greatest potential to bring her more pain!

          Mario’s need for healing

          Mario’s unconscious relationship agenda was that Rosa, when triggered, would not withdraw like his mom did, but respond differently and stay present with him.

          His hope (and his real reason for falling in love) was that Rosa’s presence would heal the wound that his mother’s emotional distance inflicted.

          This is the love Mario always secretly longed for. And he discovered that Rosa, while being the least capable person to give that love, was the best person on the planet to help heal his past!

          The Couple’s Dialogue

          The Couple’s Dialogue provided a process for them both to validate each other, and to empathize with each other in a way that began to turn their conflicts into this kind of healing connection.

          And here’s a wonderful reality that brings lots of hope!

          Our lower brain doesn’t register time. It exists in a constant present tense. Therefore, when you finally get the love you’ve always longed for, it doesn’t complain, ‘Well you’re about 15 years too late! That’s what I needed as a child!’

          No, it says, ‘Finally, I’m getting what I always needed!’ And the healing begins!

          So conflict becomes an opportunity for healing when we discover our unconscious agenda to heal the past.

          There’s a final reason to embrace conflict…

          3. Our unconscious relationship agenda is to GROW toward wholeness.

          Mario’s need for growth

          Rosa’s need for healing was a call for Mario to grow in the skills needed to regulate his anger, and patiently wait for Rosa to respond to his need for connection. It was Mario’s growth in this respect that would bring healing to Rosa.

          This required Mario to stretch grow and discover a part of himself that was there all along, but was lost or never developed growing up.

          As Rosa learned to voice her frustrations in the form of positive requests, Mario grew in his ability to regulate his anger, and to let go of his need to be in control. This made it safe for Rosa to stay present with him.

          Rosa’s need for growth

          On the other hand, Mario’s need for healing was a call for Rosa to grow in her ability to stay present with him and to overcome her fear of closeness. It was Rosa’s growth in this way that would bring healing to Mario.

          As Mario voiced his frustration in the form of positive requests, Rosa grew in her ability to lower her walls of protection and become vulnerable and emotionally present with Mario.  She learned the skills needed to share her feelings in a way that helped her gradually overcome her fear of intimacy.

          From Rosa’s and Mario’s example, we can see that’¦

          Your marriage partner’s need for healing provides a blueprint for your own growth, and vice versa.

          Conflict is a sign that growth is needing to happen. It’s a sign that something new is wanting to emerge in your life and relationship. It’s your partner’s need that points to the specific area you most need to grow.

          When you give your partner the very things you feel you just CAN’T give (because you never developed that ability), you end up getting a piece of yourself you never had before.

          Partners who grow by stretching into these new ‘caring behaviors’ often report feeling more fully alive than they ever have before. It seems they benefit even more than the partner who receives healing!

          What about you?

          Is your relationship in conflict?

          Has your romantic love faded, turning your dream marriage into a nightmare?

          Does it seem like falling in love was simply nature’s way of getting you to hook up permanently with the most incompatible person on the planet?  

          Are you asking ‘Why would nature drive me into the arms of someone who ends up frustrating me to no end?’

          Well, now you know!

          It was your inner drive to heal past hurts, and to discover and grow lost parts of yourself that caused you to fall in love.

          And there’s no better person to heal and grow with than the one you’re with right now!

          Click here to download a Brief Relationship Workup that will help you learn about your own Imago.

          Click here to use the Workup to discover your own Unconscious Relationship Agenda.

          Ping me if you’d like help and I’ll walk you through it!

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