Relationships are hard work. Even when a couple is conscious, committed, and loving with each other, great relationships don’t just happen. It’s kind of like having sex when you’re new parents; you have to plan for it.
I don’t know about you, but I felt kind of duped when I first realized that relationships are hard work. Growing up, I thought you either had a good relationship or a bad one. I thought those things just happened. It’s not like there was a class in high school that explained how relationships work, although it would have been a lot more useful than that calculus course I took.
I think relationships are hard work because it comes down to this: consciousness requires effort, and great relationships require consciousness. It’s not always easy to remain conscious; whether they mean to or not, your romantic partner will trigger you from time to time (or minute to minute). It’s the nature of the beast or, if you will, the nature of how the imago works.
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What's the "Imago"?
For those of you who may not yet be familiar with the imago, I’ll give you the Dale Carnegie version. The imago, which is a term coined by Dr. Harville Hendrix, is a word that describes your subconscious mind’s version of your ideal partner. The imago is made up of all the key positive and negative characteristics of your parents and early caregivers. It also includes the aspects of your own personality that you wanted to express but were told (verbally or non-verbally) not to. All of these personality traits are blended together to form the imago.
The imago is created by the subconscious mind as a chance for us to get a “do-over,” a chance for us to find someone who can give us the unconditional love we didn’t get from our parents. Even if your childhood was relatively trauma free, we all had experiences of not receiving unconditional love from our parents. The subconscious mind thinks it can get that love from another person, so it goes “looking for love in all the wrong places,” to quote Waylon Jennings.
Unfortunately, the person the subconscious mind chooses isn’t perfect, and can’t always give perfect, unconditional love. He or she (I’ll use “he” from now on, but it could be either) is human, just like your parents before him. But because of how the imago works, he’ll inevitably trigger your original wounds from childhood, and your relationship will be hard work.
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Now you have two choices: you can run from this version of the imago and hope to find a better match, or you can do the work with the person you are in a relationship with. The first choice will temporarily ease your pain. After all, new relationships aren’t hard work; they just get more challenging over time. But this first choice won’t really solve your problems, it will just postpone them. Eventually, you’ll find another partner who will ultimately turn into your nagging mother or your distant father.
The second choice is where consciousness comes in. In order to work with the imago, you have to bring your conscious attention to it and interrupt the subconscious patterns the imago is trying to heal.
I’ve developed a three step process that will help you to clearly see the negative dynamics that make your relationship hard work. Better yet, you’ll learn how to change them and stop the unconscious ways you sabotage yourself and your relationship.If you want to know more about the imago, I’m doing a 6 week tele-course that will explain it in much greater detail, or visit Romance Recovery.
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Johanna Lyman is a published author, an internationally known speaker and teacher, and a Spiritual Love Coach. She is a certified life coach (CCUG) trained by CoachUniversity. Johanna combines personal experience and esoteric studies in a humorous, practical and accessible style that empowers her clients to live the fullest expression of their lives.