Practicing what I Preach
More than any other work I’ve done, being an Imago therapist means practicing what I preach. Throughout the training/certification process and beyond, Imago clinicians are encouraged and expected to integrate the principles of Imago Therapy into their own lives. One of the ways that we do this is through attending a Getting the Love You Want weekend workshop with our partner (or, if you are single, attending a Keeping the Love You Find workshop) as part of becoming certified Imago clinicians.
I’ll do yours, you’ll do mine.
This meant that I was in the position of having to pitch to my spouse that in order for me to become certified in this modality that I love, he would have to give up his entire weekend to sit in a room full of strangers and talk about his feelings. Luckily, my spouse is involved in the local theater scene, which often means that I am asked to give up my weekend to schlep furniture around a stage as part of a makeshift tech crew, and reminding him of this made it easier to get him onboard.
Weekend Workshop for the Win.
I was hopeful that it was going to be a reasonably good experience for us, and I was worried that it wouldn’t be. I believe in Imago Therapy and its power to connect couples, but I wondered how this experience was going to go specifically for the two of us. My spouse is autistic, and ahead of our workshop experience, I had not yet worked with or met any couples for whom neurodiversity played a role in their relationship who had tried Imago Therapy.
Incredibly, something I never could have even hoped for happened – my spouse started out the workshop as a skeptic and, two days later, he came out as a full Imago evangelist. Imago Therapy gave him – and gave us – a way to communicate that felt safe for him, and that made sense for his brain in a way he hadn’t experienced before. Imago Therapy works for him because it brings intentionality, rules, and time.
One of the most jarring things for my spouse is when we are going about our day and I spring an emotion-heavy question on him that he isn’t expecting. He absolutely loves that, in Imago Dialogue, we make an appointment to talk. He describes it as giving him the ability to intentionally access – and then put away – something that doesn’t come easy to him: ‘From 2 to 2:30, I’m going to talk about my feelings, and then we can be done and I can go back to operating as normal.’
My spouse thrives in environments in which he is given clear and specific guidelines for success. He loves following the “rules” of Imago – when he visits my world, he doesn’t bring his own world with him, and vice versa – and he is so good at it. (He also, parenthetically, loves reminding me when I am not following my own rules when we are dialoguing.)
He really appreciates the slow pace of Imago Dialogue – he has as much time as he needs to think about what he wants to say, and he always has the opportunity to correct himself if he needs to. He also has as much time as he needs to be able to get what I’m saying without feeling like he is being judged for not understanding me ‘fast enough.’
On the Spectrum.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is, obviously, just that – a spectrum. And, people experience it in individualized and nuanced ways. The things that worked for my spouse aren’t going to resonate with everyone. But ever since that workshop experience, I have worked with a variety of neurodiverse couples. Virtually all of my neurodiverse couples have felt that the Imago Dialogue helps them communicate and connect with their partner in a new way. Now, one of my great joys as a relationship therapist is getting to bring my personal experience and my professional expertise to neurodiverse couples. Using Imago Dialogue as a structure, couples find creative adaptations that work for connecting them.
If you are interested in learning more, contact me.