When using Imago dialogue the first stage in the process is to make an appointment with your partner.
Why would you possibly need to do this? They are stood right in front of you ready to hear your wise ruminations aren’t they? Well, yes, and no! Has your partner ever launched into a frustration with you when you are just not in the mood? I know mine has! What I used to do is either half listen (equivalent of pouring petrol on an open fire) or argue back pretty quickly – kaboom!
The first option just reinforced the story my partner made up about me not listening and paying attention to her properly, and that made sense to me because I sometimes would not be fully focused on what she had to say if I was not in the mood to listen. The second option took us to disconnection and upset.
In the Imago process if you have something to say then you check that your partner is available and willing to listen to you. Really listen. Hopefully, because they will be used to the process and feel safe, they will be ok to hear what’s on your mind, be it good or bad. If they are not in the right place they can let you know and negotiate a time when they are in the right place to hear you. The aim is to hear the frustration as soon as possible, so if the frustration cannot be heard straight away we are ideally talking hours rather than reaching for your diary!
The frustration request should be clear and have no criticism attached to it, such as;
“I have a frustration I want to talk about with you, are you available to listen?”
At first this process can feel a bit scary as it’s so different to what you have probably done before. As you get used to doing this as a couple then it’s likely to lead to a much better relationship as you get to trust that you will be heard and you can temporarily “shelve” your concern.
If you want to read more about Imago Relationship Therapy my advice is to read Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples by Harville Hendrix, the founder of the Imago system.