My favorite relationship theory, the Imago Theory of Relationships, was created by Helen and Harville Hendrix. It was their original book (Getting the Love You Want, 1989) that inspired my return to school so that I could become a relationship therapist. I was convinced then, as I am now, that the Imago theory can transform relationships.

Now they have a new book out: Making Marriage Simple:
10 Truths for Changing the Relationship You Have into the Relationship You Want

While all 10 Truths are important, and relevant, two behaviors stand out to me as THE MOST powerful relationship changes you can make right now.

1. Zero Negativity. Essentially, if it doesn’t feel good to one or both of you, stop it. If your humor is biting, sarcastic and a poorly disguised method for saying what you really mean, stop it. If you are prone to saying what you think because you are
“just being honest,” even if what you think is mean, stop it. If you are critical, accusatory, condescending or otherwise unkind, stop it. If you are impatient, non-communicative (silent treatment), irritable, or otherwise create an unpleasant environment, stop it. If you are loud, aggressive, mean, or just not nice, stop it.

It seems like common sense. Yet, when it comes to relationships, we don’t rely on common sense. We rely on our “old brain,” the part of our brain that is unconscious, doesn’t have language, and was programmed many, many years ago in response to the environments in which we were raised.

What we did as a child to protect ourselves (pause here, think about it – what coping strategies did you use to deal with life growing up?) are the same behaviors we continue using as an adult, unless we consciously work to change. Often, how we learn to protect ourselves from getting hurt is exactly what causes us pain. If you are using negativity (and this is probably unconscious if you are) to protect yourself, it’s time to find new strategies that are less harmful to your relationship.

My favorite relationship theory, the Imago Theory of Relationships, was created by Helen and Harville Hendrix. It was their original book (Getting the Love You Want, 1989) that inspired my return to school so that I could become a relationship therapist. I was convinced then, as I am now, that the Imago theory can transform relationships.

Now they have a new book out: Making Marriage Simple:
10 Truths for Changing the Relationship You Have into the Relationship You Want While all 10 Truths are important, and relevant, two behaviors stand out to me as THE MOST powerful relationship changes you can make right now.

1. Zero Negativity. Essentially, if it doesn’t feel good to one or both of you, stop it. If your humor is biting, sarcastic and a poorly disguised method for saying what you really mean, stop it. If you are prone to saying what you think because you are
“just being honest,” even if what you think is mean, stop it. If you are critical, accusatory, condescending or otherwise unkind, stop it. If you are impatient, non-communicative (silent treatment), irritable, or otherwise create an unpleasant environment, stop it. If you are loud, aggressive, mean, or just not nice, stop it.

It seems like common sense. Yet, when it comes to relationships, we don’t rely on common sense. We rely on our “old brain,” the part of our brain that is unconscious, doesn’t have language, and was programmed many, many years ago in response to the environments in which we were raised.

What we did as a child to protect ourselves (pause here, think about it – what coping strategies did you use to deal with life growing up?) are the same behaviors we continue using as an adult, unless we consciously work to change. Often, how we learn to protect ourselves from getting hurt is exactly what causes us pain. If you are using negativity (and this is probably unconscious if you are) to protect yourself, it’s time to find new strategies that are less harmful to your relationship.

2. Daily Appreciations. Given the above suggestion, it is possible that without negative behaviors there may be a transitionary period where there is a lot of silence. (If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all). So, a remedy for this is appreciations. When we put our focus on what we appreciate, it is like saying to the universe, “More of this, please.” Set your sights on all of the things in your relationship that you love, that you appreciate, and make it a habit to say these things out loud, especially to your partner. You just might find that these things begin to multiply.

If you are successful with these two behaviors, you will notice that your relationship isn’t the only thing that is changed; you will be too.

Given the above suggestion, it is possible that without negative behaviors there may be a transitionary period where there is a lot of silence. (If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all). So, a remedy for this is appreciations. When we put our focus on what we appreciate, it is like saying to the universe, “More of this, please.” Set your sights on all of the things in your relationship that you love, that you appreciate, and make it a habit to say these things out loud, especially to your partner. You just might find that these things begin to multiply.

If you are successful with these two behaviors, you will notice that your relationship isn’t the only thing that is changed; you will be too.

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