Archive for September, 2011

Ten Steps to Happiness

September 13, 2011

Helen LaKelly Hunt and Harville Hendrix  were in new Zealand in February 2011 and the local paper  (New Zealand Herald)  interviewed them…

According to relationship expert Harville Hendrix a  few tips to ensure a lasting, happy relationship, are to: accept differences, not criticize and give and receive unconditionally.

The man whose been dubbed “Oprah’s Marriage Whisperer” says, “We all want a happy relationship. Few of us have one. I personally know of only a few couples who are genuinely happy, and their satisfaction with their relationship is a result of many years of hard work.”

“That is the magic word: work. That is what a happy relationship requires, but it is a very unpopular word.”

Harville Hendrix and his wife Helen LaKelly Hunt have developed 10 simple steps for couples to help in the journey to a relationship of their dreams. The pair has spent the past 30 years helping thousands of couples learn how to recapture that magical connection and strengthen and sustain it for a lasting and loving relationship. In the process they co-created Imago Relationship Therapy, which is practiced by more than 2000 therapists in 30 countries.

Imago first came to public attention through the New York Times best seller, Getting the Love You Want, co-written by Hendrix and his wife LaKelly Hunt (a famous philanthropist in her own right).


Absolutely no criticism! All criticism, even “constructive criticism” not only fails to get us what we want but it’s a form of self-abuse since the traits we criticize in our partners are often projections of unpleasant truths about ourselves.

Instead of criticizing, explore why a particular trait in your partner bothers you so much. For example, perhaps him wanting “too much sex” is really about your own sexual inhibitions.

Accept that your partner is not you  We all understand – at least on the surface – that our partner is a separate human being. But deep down we often see and treat him/her as extensions of ourselves. Practice seeing and accepting your partner as someone with different perceptions, feelings, and experiences that are equally valid as your own.

Close all exits  Identify activities that you engage in that become an escape from the day-to-day intimacy of the partnership (any activity, thought, or feeling that decreases or avoids emotional or physical involvement with your partner). Exits can be functional (car-pooling, work, taking care of kids), motivated (watching TV, reading, sports, hobbies), and/or catastrophic (emotional or physical affairs, addictions). All exits, however, deplete the emotional reserves in a partnership.

Use “I” language Own your experience by saying how you feel rather than blaming your partner. For example, “I feel bad when …” rather than “You make me feel bad when …”

Give and receive unconditionally Offer gifts with no strings attached. The unconscious receives only unconditional gifts. It does not accept a “you rub my back and I’ll rub yours” attitude. Similarly, learn to accept gifts. Often we feel unworthy of receiving compliments from our partner and reject it. Instead of saying, “You don’t really mean that I’m beautiful/handsome/smart,” say “Thank you. It means a lot to me that you feel that way.”


Put play on your priority list Make a list of high-energy activities you would like to do for fun with your partner. Write down as many ideas as you can think of that you are currently doing, that you did in the early stages of your relationship and activities you would like to engage in. They should be activities that create deep laughter and/or that involve physical movement and deep breathing. Make a commitment to enjoy a playful activity at least once a week.

Amplify the positive resources in your relationship Flood your partner with compliments. On a regular basis, tell your partner what you love about him or her. Talk about his/her physical characteristics (“I love your eyes”), character traits (“You are really intelligent”), behaviours (“I love that you make coffee every morning for me”), global affirmations (“I am so happy I married you”).

Learn couple’s dialogue The most important and challenging step to becoming a conscious partner is changing the way you communicate. Imago Dialogue uses three basic techniques – mirroring, validating, and empathizing – to fortify the connection between partners. Check to make sure you understand what your partner is saying (mirroring), indicate that what your partner says makes sense, even if you don’t agree (validating) and recognize the partner’s feelings when s/he tells a story or expresses an opinion (empathizing).

Make dialogue a way of life Dialogue will not only improve the way you communicate with your partner, it will improve the relations with your children, and with everyone you come in contact with. Practice dialogue until it becomes a habit and a way of life.

See your relationship as a journey A committed partnership can become someone’s worst nightmare, but through intentionality and commitment, a marriage can also be a spiritual journey. If you married because you chose to marry, you are with the right person – especially if you feel incompatible. See your partner as the person who holds the blueprint for your journey to wholeness.

Celebrating 25 years of Harville Hendrix on the Oprah Winfrey Show

September 1, 2011

This post has been kindly shared by Imago Relationships International.

Oprah Winfrey just released a special commemorative issue of her magazine to celebrate 25 years of the Oprah TV show, and Imago founder Harville Hendrix was featured as her #2 “Aha” moment.

(You can buy it at the newstands or through this link)

Oprah writes about how she saw her relationships in a completely new light after the 1988 TV show, when Harville taught that “you’re unconsciously drawn to your partner, because that person can heal your old unresolved wounds.”  Oprah saw that a relationship is more than a romance.  It’s a Spiritual Partnership, about growth and healing.

In 2005 Harville was dubbed “The Marriage Whisperer” in an Oprah magazine article, in which he is quoted as saying  ”For most couples, the romantic interlude of a new relationship leads to an inevitable truth,  a slow discovery of the other as ‘not the person I thought he was.’  The breaking of that illusion is one of the most shocking and terrifying experiences of married life.”   Harville explains  “In this power struggle, partners move from courtship into coercion, trying to get each other to surrender their otherness.”

Fortunately the relationship needn’t end in that power struggle.  Harville and his partner Helen LaKelly Hunt developed Imago to help couples move into a stage of romance they call simply “true love”. In a 2001 Oprah article, Harville explains how to use the Imago dialogue approach of mirroring, validating and empathising to work through the power struggle, and restore connection. Maybe that is why Oprah has occasionally let slip on TV that Harville is among her favorite couples therapists.  Imago not only makes relationships clear and easy to understand, it provides couples with practical solutions that they can apply too.  You can find some great information about Imago on the Oprah site, with practical guides on how to restore the romance to your relationship.

Harville’s message has had such a powerful influence on Oprah that in the intervening years she has invited him back to her show 17 times. In May 2011 when she reviewed her 25 greatest lessons from the show, Oprah described a 1993 show which changed her relationship with her partner Stedman, and attributed the survival of their relationship to Harville’s insights.

The Oprah magazine has brought some of Harville and Helen’s newer work to the public attention too, such as their work together on Receiving Love. In a touching personal article for the magazine, Helen shares her “Aha” moment when she and Harville were also struggling in their relationship, and discovering together just how hard many couples find it to actually let love into their hearts and overcome the resistance that often stems from deep rooted self-hatred.

“The common wisdom,” Harville and Helen write, “is that romantic relationships would stay happy if people did a better job of giving to each other. But that’s not what we’ve discovered. We’ve found that many people need to do a better job of receiving the gifts their partners are already offering.”

With 25 years of Imago on the Oprah show to celebrate, there’s new discoveries still emerging from Harville, Helen and the thousand or more professional therapists they have trained around the world.

Imago Relationships International congratulates Oprah Winfrey on 25 years of her show, and appreciates all that she has done to bring deeper connection to many couples, and thereby help bring peace to the world.