The Kind of Person You Would Be,
If It Weren't for Your Feelings & Ego
published on February 25, 2011 in Psychology Today by Stephen Stosny
Steven Stosny writes regularly for Psychology Today's Blog. His blog is entitled Anger in
the Age of Entitlement. Click here to read the article that I am recommending.
Stosny did training for Imago therapists in this area about two years
ago. Periodically, Imago Relationship Therapy of Michigan (IRTM), the
professional organization for Imago therapists in Southeastern Michigan,
bring trainers in from elsewhere. Steven Stosny and Pat Love did three
days of training for us.
Schwarzenegger, Divorce, & an Old Joke about Directions
by Tim Atkinson, Director of Imago Relatioships International
break-up between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver reached such
epic proportions of tragedy this week, that I prefer to start this post
with a joke.
was visiting Washington, DC, and got horribly lost. I asked a passer-by
directions to the White House. He looked me up and down and finally
said "Well, I wouldn't start from here."
colleague and I were just talking about a study that's due to published
soon, which says that people who get divorced usually don't get any
happier as a result. So imagine yourself in the situation of the
ex-Governor of California and his delightful actress wife, with their 25
year-old marriage and four children. I guess you heard the news, it
turns out that there's a fifth child, by another woman, born over 8
years ago. Ms. Shriver only just heard about it. You can read all about
it in the NY Times and probably every other publication in the country.
a pretty spectacular "infidelity" story. But for most of us, lacking
the amazing thick skin and tolerance of major celebrities, it only takes
an affair, and perhaps a little lying to our partner, to put us right
at the kind of relationship low-point that appears to be a "Terminator"
(groan!) for this couple.
if you believe the stats that divorce isn't going to make you happier, I
would say that if you want to be happy in life, you probably don't want
to start off at the point where your partner is furious that you were
unfaithful, and has lost complete confidence in you because you lied
about it for a long time. Or even a short time. Although if you are in
that position we did recently publish an article in YourTango that can
show you the way forwards.
am talking from first-hand experience, from my first marriage. I did
divorce my first wife after she was unfaithful, and although the story
wasn't as spectacular as California's previous first family, it felt
pretty awful to me. And the divorce was followed by a ghastly period in
my life, until my second wife rescued me from misery. I've learned a
great deal about couples therapy since then, which is probably why I'm
enjoying my marriage more each day, after over a decade of wonderful
think there is a simple lesson from the news about Arnold
Schwarzenegger. Don't ever let if get that bad. I've been surveying
couples for quite a while now, and it seems to me that many of us have
quite a high tolerance for relationship problems. We will unhappily slog
on, putting up with coldness, distance, anger, fights and all the rest
of it, believing somehow it will sort itself out somehow. Meanwhile
things get worse, and that's when people get vulnerable to a kind word from an attractive, caring person, who provides the attention and admiration that they are missing from the marriage.
can blame a partner for seeking the love they need elsewhere, if they
can't get it from their spouse? But if you want to be happy, and most of
us do, it just doesn't seem to be the best way to go about it.
for many couples, they don't actually see much alternative. I surveyed a
couple of hundred visitors to our website, and asked them why they were
a bit hesitant to try out couples therapy. It turns out that most
people I surveyed are worried that their relationship is beyond hope,
because somehow they are with the wrong partner. They see therapy as a
process which will just stir up all sorts of hidden problems, and make
Gosh - there has to be some good news here somewhere. And there is!
hundreds of thousands of couples, who through Imago, discovered that
they really did get it right when they fell in love with their partner.
When people fall in love, we don't get it wrong. We're attracted to our
partner for very real and important reasons, often closely connected
with our past, and our emotional needs.
another piece of good news. Practically every couple goes through some
kind of struggle together - we call it the power struggle. The reason
that's good news, is because if you are in a struggle with your partner,
it means that you are just like all the rest of us. If your struggle is
harder or more challenging, then it might mean the forces that attract
you are stronger too. And if your energy has gone flat, and the
relationship feels dead, it might simply mean that you are the kind of
people who tend to protect yourselves against difficult emotions.
let's revisit the old joke about directions. If you want to be happy,
try to avoid having to start by picking up the pieces after infidelity.
If you want to be happy, a great place to start is where you first find
you are having problems in your relationship.
Your relationship problems are the direction arrows to deeper love and more connection.
when I read sentences like the one above, I often get a bit worried.
Maybe it sounds a bit too optimistic? A little too hopeful? Unrealistic?
in Imago. Imago is all about going underneath the problems and
frustrations in your relationship, and finding out what is really
happening at a deeper level of emotional need. It's a non-judgmental
process, no-one gets blamed, or comes out as the bad guy. You come out
feeling good, and finding ways to live your life in a richer way. It's
an amazing experience, getting to know your partner on a deeper level.
But please, if you want to be really happy, try it out when the problems
first come up. Don't let yourself get to a place where divorce seems
unavoidable, because the chances are breaking-up won't make you happier.