I met with a couple recently who spent the greater part of their session dialoguing about a topic they considered trivial. “Wow, I can’t believe we spent all that time talking about that…” she expressed. However, the structure of the Imago Relationship Dialogue they utilized had revealed several underlying emotions and hurts as well as associated meanings that, as long as they remained focused on the “that,” they would have never discovered. So, what they quickly came to realize was that the dialogue they had actually wasn’t about that at all! Not only did they realize that the content of their dialogue was not the real issue, but they realized that this was likely a pattern in most of the arguments they had been having. They realized they weren’t really ever getting to the real issues of their hearts. We then talked about how unconsciously, they were spending a great deal of time painfully processing that day’s event or incident, but missing the real, unresolved wounds that the events just happened to trigger for each of them.
According to Harville Hendrix’s book, Getting the Love You Want, here are some questions you can ask yourself to see if you might be in an unconscious relationship:
- Are you and your partner having the same argument over and over again and seeming to hit a brick wall? Do you continually rehearse this “core scene,” the fight that you’ve had so many times that you know your parts by heart?
- Do you tend to use negative tactics to try to force your partner to become more loving? For instance, do you withhold affection or become emotionally distant from them with hopes that they will respond with warmth and love?
- Do you become irritable and critical of your partner, and often resort to attack and blame? For example, do you often ask questions such as, “Why don’t you…?” “Why do you always…?” or “How come you never…?”
- Are you convinced that your partner has changed drastically from the day you met, or that you have been deceived all along by his or her true nature?
Contrastingly, in a conscious relationship:
- You begin to see your partner for who they really are, not as your unconscious ideal, and not as the composite of your negative criticisms, but as their truth. You also openly acknowledge the fact that you, like everyone else, have negative traits.
- Rather than criticizing each other for missing the boat, you take responsibility for communicating your needs and desires to your partner. You tell your partner in plain terms what you want (more affection, more attention, more lovemaking, or freedom)
- Rather than focusing on your surface needs and desires, you learn to recognize the unresolved issues which underlie them. In this way, your daily interactions take on greater meaning, and previously puzzling things begin to make more sense.
- You become more aware and accepting of your own natural desire to love and experience unity with others. However, you realize that in order to experience this unity and love in conscious relationship, the hard work of commitment, discipline and courage to change must ensue.
According to Hendrix’s terms, this couple was in an unconscious relationship, as so many couples are, and had just gotten a tiny glimpse of the potential level of connection and understanding they could have, but had literally been missing for so long. They had merely been introduced to the concept of a conscious relationship, and they realized that they had a great deal of untapped relationship potential. They also realized there was also a great deal of work to be done. It was mind-blowing for them. I asked the couple to imagine what might happen if their relationship were “conscious.” She smiled and asked, “You mean like woke?” I laughed and said, “Yes, exactly, woke.” Then he said, after a smirk and a pause (pregnant with consciousness), “Boom.”