Imago at a glance – The Imago Relationship Fitness Q&A

Why is my partner so annoying at times?

We fall in love with someone, and imagine that now at last life will be full of peace, joy, companionship and hope. But after a while we often become aware that our partner seems to
stand in the way of us achieving our own dreams of peace and fulfillment. We become angry with our partner, because we feel they aren’t able to provide what we expected
of them, when we fell in love. And now we are committed to them – we can’t get those things from someone else either! They
stand between us, and the life we dreamed of.

That can make us very angry and frustrated.

Why doesn’t my partner love me a little better?

In our dreams, maybe we imagine the perfect partner to be the one who we fall in love with, and it carries on that way for ever. They understand us so well, they are there for us when we need
them, saying the right words, providing the right support that we need. Perhaps in our dreams we don’t have those big arguments, or disappointments. It really is “happily ever after!”

Why couldn’t we find that perfect partner? Maybe we secretly long that our partner was a little bit quieter, or noisier. We wish they were more generous, or better with money! We wish they liked
sex more, or left us alone occasionally

There’s a reason why we fall in love with the partner who doesn’t seem quite able to match our dreams. We see in them an ability to love us, in a way that we learned from people who loved us in our earliest years. (more…)

Hendrien van der Bijl

Resolving Negative Emotions

“Conscious couples replace all spontaneous expressions of anger and rage with containment by expressing their negative feelings to each other ‘by appointment only’. Containment allows the expression of long-buried childhood resentment, anger, and rage in a safe environment in a way that leads to mutual healing and growth.”

When attending an Imago course or session one of the tools we teach our couples is the Imago dialogue. The Imago dialogue is a tool we can use which involves both the ability to express and contain emotions.

Anger and aggression are present in all intimate relationships. Recent research shows that anger leads to more anger. The more negative affect is expressed in a relationship, the angrier the partners become. Angry outbursts activate and further facilitate the activation of the neural pathways that are involved in anger thus further amplifying the anger.

Conscious coupes use the Imago Dialogue to share their feelings without blame or criticism and use the Behaviour change request Dialogue to transform frustrations. When unmet needs from childhood are acknowledged and respond to by the Imago Match partner anger and rage, triggered by the rupture of connection and the helplessness to restore that connection, diminish. It is important for couples to develop self-regulatory strategies to manage and calm their own anger so that they can express it by appointment in ways that create the increased safety, deeper understanding, and empathy that lead to growth and healing.

-Imago Couple’s workshop manual.

We as Imago therapists are trained to support your relationship and teach couples a new way to deal with difficult, painful, and/or negative situations in their relationship. A way that leads to more growth, understanding, and safety.

The emphasis is on a new way because we believe if the way you have been working through difficult situations was successful, you would not get stuck at the same place over and over again. We need to do something different to arrive at a different place.

Also, it is a process. The Imago dialogue is a structured process. It is not just having a normal conversation. To work through difficult situations in the same way we have a normal day-to-day conversation only leads to more aggression, misunderstandings, reactivity, and as a result to more disconnection. We as therapists, teach and facilitate you and your partner to communicate to each other in a different way which leads to more connection, despite the pain or uncomfortableness of the topic.

If we are able to have the most difficult conversation with our partner AND feel more connected towards each other afterward, just imagine what new possibilities can arise.

If you are interested in learning a new way to communicate, which will allow you to express and be contained in any and every emotion you are currently experiencing and to feel more connected, contact us today to book your space for now of our available processes.

Go have a look at our website for more information

We have different options to cater to every need and every relationship. Head over to our website to find out more about our session options, upcoming workshops, or intensives.

Book one of our other processes here:

Workshop/ Intensive/ Sessions with:

Kobus van der Merwe
Hendrien van der Bijl
Dr Cornel vd Merwe (Medical aid)


Hendrien van der Bijl

More affordable, more value, more effective relationship work.

Technology makes Imago therapy more effective and affordable.

More affordable, more value, more effective

relationship work.​

We are very excited to announce that we now are now able to make the richness of Imago Relationship Therapy more accessible to many more couples who are in serious need of relationship support. Whether it’s time, distance, or finances that are keeping you and your partner from a happy marriage, we have an excellent solution.

We are introducing our new hybrid services. Hybrid is a mixture of the best of both worlds. On the one hand, couples need face-to-face contact for effective change. On the other hand, couples also need some information to be able to change and grow. We have several services where
we provide the information electronically so that the time spent live can be focused on processes. This means that couples can now get 60% more value at almost 50% lower fees. It’s a win-win option. More affordable, more value, more effective relationship work.

Self-study material is available in video material, presented by Kobus van der Merwe. It is presented in a way that you can absorb the information effectively and easily – on your own time in the privacy of your home or office. You can watch it on your TV, on your phone, computer, or tablet. Even more, you can go back and look at the material again if you want to review it again.

In the live workshops, you have direct contact with Kobus van der Merwe on Zoom. He discusses an overview of the information again and deals with any questions. The most important processes will then be demonstrated live. After that, you practice the given tools in your own privacy your own dialogues. This is a practical workshop where you learn and exercise. It is also a safe environment to work in your own privacy with painful and important processes accompanied by Kobus and colleagues. Demonstrations are done in groups and practice of dialogues are done in private rooms on your own.

Intensive and sessions there are no other couples. The sessions can take place directly at our office in Pretoria or online via Zoom.

The couples who still need the full services as always can still take part in that.

Hybrid services available:

Hybrid Sessions

  • 1-hour session
  • 1 to 2 hours pre-tutorial with video and pdf material.
  • Price R950 (66% discount on the full 2 ​​hours live session)
  • Sessions can be done either in my office in Pretoria or live on Zoom / Skype

How it differs from a normal full session: Sessions are 2 hours at R1500 per hour. No pre-study necessary.

Hybrid Workshops

  • 11 hours direct contact
  • 9 hours pre-tutorial with video and pdf material.
  • Price R 3999 (45% discount on a full workshop)
  • Workshops are done live on Zoom.

How is it different from ordinary full workshops? Workshops run over three days at R7500 with no prior self-study.

Hybrid Intensive

  • 11 hours direct contact
  • 9 hours pre-tutorial with video and pdf material.
  • Price R 7 999 (73% discount on a full workshop)
  • Intensive can be done either in my office in Pretoria or live via Zoom / Skype

How is it different from a regular full Intensive? Intensive stretch over three days at R30 000 with no advance

Go have a look at our website for more information 

We have different options to cater to every need and every relationship. Head over to our website to find out more about our session options, upcoming workshops, or intensives.

Book one of our other processes here:

Workshop/ Intensive/ Sessions with:


Hendrien van der Bijl

The Gift of Frustrations

“Frustration is a sign that something needs to change”

Did you know that some of the biggest frustrations you are currently experiencing in your relationship can also be one of the most beautiful gifts you can ever receive within your relationship with your partner?

Yes, you read it right. If you are currently feeling like you are ready to explode or like you are going to pull all the hair from your head because of frustration you have with your partner, to experience this ultimate frustration is not a sign that you made a mistake to be with the person you are today or that your relationship is busy failing. To be so irritated or frustrated with your partner is not a sign of the end but rather a sign that something needs to change in order for something new, and better to show up.

All relationships experience frustrations but it is possible to not get stuck to only focus on the negative but to move quicker through the frustration towards a mutual understanding. If you can start to realize that conflict and frustrations are part of your relationship and that every time an uncomfortable situation arises you are able to deal with it instead of denying it or running from it you will be able to discover something wonderful.

Like Harville Hendrix and Helen La Kelly wrote in one of their e-books, How to have a fight-free relationship:

“While conflict might make you uncomfortable, it can also invite you to reflect on your situation from a new perspective. You have a choice. You can act in ways that keep the conflict going. Or, you can turn the conflict into creative tension, which gives birth to new insights and talents. In fact, conflict is growth trying to happen.”

We believe that all frustrations contain a hidden desire.

“Dumping out your frustrations on your partner is toxic to the relationship but to break this destructive pattern of conflict requires effort. To have a fight-free relationship, you need to overcome your Autopilot responses and learn a new way of talking and listening. We call this intentional way of talking and listening to the “Imago Dialogue.” It is a structure to help facilitate partners a way of talking without criticism, listening without judging, and connecting through differences. Using this process, both the talker (the “Sender”) and the listening (the “Receiver”) will feel more respected and heard which begins to shift the negative patterns of relating.”

If we are able to listen to our partner’s frustrations without any judgment, criticism, or guilt, but just to listen to it we might come to understand where the frustration comes from and how we can start to act differently today. And if we are able to talk about our frustrations to our partners without only accusing them of experiencing the frustration, but if you are able to identify and own your own contribution to the situation and to explore it deeper to understand the actual fear or desire behind it- you as a couple can grow tremendously in ways you did not even know is possible.

But I hope you hear that is a co-creation, we need to listen in a certain way that invites our partners to also speak to us in a different way. If you are interested to learn more about how you and your partner can turn your ultimate frustrations into an ultimate growth opportunity for your relationship, please contact us to book your session today. We as Imago therapists specialize in helping couples to learn how to change the way they are speaking, the way they are listening in order to create a safe space where we are able to work through the difficult stuff that shows up in our relationships.


We have different options to cater to every need and every relationship. Head over to our website to find out more about our session options, upcoming workshops, or intensives.

Book one of our other processes here:

Workshop/ Intensive/ Sessions with:

Hendrien van der Bijl

How to build trust in relationship?

“A relationship without trust is like a car without gas, you can stay in it but it won’t go anywhere”.


How to build trust in a relationship?

Trust is a very important aspect of relationships. If we are able to trust each other completely, it creates a safe space where you and your partner are able to show up with all of who you are. If you trust each other it is as if the relationship gets easier and more fun. But without trust, the relationship can become quite difficult, painful, and even tiring. A relationship without trust does not add to a safe space and only creates more and more distance between two people.

So, let’s look at what does a healthy relationship looks like where trust is fostered, what factors can influence your trust in each other or in the relationship, and what we can do to change it.

What does trust look like in a healthy relationship?

Here are a few qualities:

•You feel committed to the relationship and to your partner.

•You feel safe with your partner and know they’ll respect physical and emotional boundaries.

•You know your partner listens when you communicate your needs and feelings.

•You don’t feel the need to hide things from your partner.

•You and your partner respect each other.

•You can be vulnerable together.

•You support each other.


What leads to trust being broken in a relationship?

When you think about circumstances that could lead you to lose trust in your partner, infidelity may come to mind right away. But cheating isn’t the only way to break trust in a relationship.

Other possibilities include:

•a pattern of going back on your word or breaking promises

•not being there for your partner in a time of need

•withholding, or keeping something back

•lying or manipulation

•a pattern of not sharing feelings openly

– Healthline Crystal Raypole “How to Rebuild Trust After a Betrayal”

What can we do to restore the trust within our relationship after it has been broken?

Building trust is a two-way process, it is important to trust and equally important to be trusted. That requires mutual effort and commitment. Before building trust, you need to understand each other’s expectations and what trust means to you. Here are some ways to build trust in your relationship:

Admit your mistakes: It’s natural to make mistakes, but owning them is not easy. The first thing on your agenda of building trust is to admit your mistakes. Don’t try to cover up your mistakes; the situation becomes messier if you do so. Repentance shows that you want to build trust.

Forgive each other: And when your spouse owns up his/her mistake, be humble enough to forgive. Don’t hold on to past fights, let go, accept, and make the most of ‘now’.

Earn your trust: Trust is not readily available in any relationship. You need to earn it by taking care of your behavior and actions.

Be exemplary: Behave the way you want your spouse to be. It’s as simple as that. Be truthful, responsible, faithful, caring, and honest; all these will influence your spouse to reciprocate.

Listen actively: When your spouse is talking to you, listen actively and without judging. They will also listen to you when you talk. This habit lays the foundation for establishing trust.

Keep your promises: When you make a promise make sure you stick to it. Don’t make promises just for the sake of keeping your partner happy because breaking a promise is one the easiest ways to breach trust.

Show interest: Know your partner’s tastes and hobbies. Show your genuine interest by being inquisitive, ask questions, and learn from them. If your spouse gets the vibes of your sincerity, you will earn their trust.

Be empathetic: Empathize with your partner, understand and fulfill their needs. Try to understand their problem by putting yourself in their shoes. That can help you gain a perspective and build trust.

Communicate transparently: Talk openly and honestly and make sure that you discuss important things in person instead of texting or talking on the phone. Messages can be misinterpreted. Talking face-to-face is easier as you can understand each other’s intentions, emotions, and body language. Effective communication is an important element in building trust.

Resolve rifts: Address the conflicts quickly as and when they arise. Don’t brush them under the carpet and let them pile up. Resolve them and move on.

Clear your doubts: If you have any doubts about your relationship talk to your partner about them instead of hesitating to ask them.

Judge less love more: Don’t criticize or judge your partner. Instead, put forth your opinions in a constructive way with the intention of helping your partner grow. Respect each other’s differences without judging.

Support each other: Being supportive is a given in any relationship. When you support your partner, they would want to try new things and are not hesitant to take up risks because they know that they can fall back on you for support.

– Written by Kalpana M “Trust In Relationship: Why Is It Important And How To Build It?”.


We as Imago therapists are well trained and equipped with various tools that we teach our couples in order to help them through the process where trust was broken and to help them restore it. It is possible to move beyond the pain and the suffering. It is possible to work through it and to get to a much better and healthier space, together.

We believe that conflict such as trust issues is something that, with the process and the right tools and knowledge, can bring you closer than you were ever before. We believe there is a better way to deal with such a painful conflict than just leaving the relationship. And we believe love and life send us someone to spend our lives with in the good and the bad, but not to get stuck in the bad places but to use it in order to learn more about ourselves, each other, and about life.

If you are in a space at the moment where you feel as if there is no way possible you can ever trust your partner again, remember

When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: You haven’t”.

Thomas Edison.

Let us support you and your relationship back to space where trust is blooming and where you spend more time enjoying life together. It is possible.

We have an upcoming Face-2-Face Afrikaans Workshop happening next weekend 29-31 January 2021, please visit our website to book your space or to view our different package options, or to view the different upcoming workshop dates.

We have different options to cater to every need and every relationship. Head over to our website to find out more about our session options, upcoming workshops, or intensives.

Book one of our other processes here:

Workshop/ Intensive/ Sessions with:

Hendrien van der Bijl

Reduce your marital conflict with 90% TODAY

If you are ready to reduce your marital conflict by 90%, we recommend our Imago Relationship Intensive Program.

If you are prepared to work hard to improve your relationship, then the Imago Couples Intensive is designed for you.

In these three, full days of highly structured and effective couples therapy, you will be guided by an experienced Imago couples’ therapist and work towards repairing your relationship and becoming reconnected to one another.

The process will help you to makes sense of the emotional turmoil and the difficulties in being ‘stuck in a rut’. With structured and researched processes, the therapist can assist in healing the pain that comes from being disconnected. Too often, couples tend to focus on the symptoms. By only changing these, the change will not be meaningful or last. The Imago Couples Intensive will take you to the root of the pain and conflict in your relationship. If you can heal and change that, then you will be able to make a meaningful difference in your lives.


For who is this process?

For any relationship that might be in serious trouble and both people are willing to work together to repair it;

Couples that feel stuck in old patterns and want to move to a new and more creative way of relating to one another;

One party wants to leave the relationship, but is willing to put in “one last effort” to make it work;

Couples that want to transform the energy of the power struggle into an energy-filled with passion; and

Couples that want to learn the art of being connected and alive with each other.


How does it work?

The Imago Intensive runs over three consecutive days from 09:00 to 17:00 with a 90-minute lunch break. This is not a group process. It is one therapist working with a couple. I am therefore present with each interaction and process. This means that every step will be in tune with your unique situation and is developed so you get what you need for your relationship to heal.

The process consists of 25% theoretical work and 75% practical relationship work. Through the Imago Dialogue, reconnection, healing, and repair takes place. This means that the work happens between you (as a couple) and myself (as the facilitator) with structured and emotionally safe processes.


Do we need to be in trouble before doing the Intensive?

Most definitely not. If you want to develop your capacity to love and to connect, then this is an amazing process to learn how to do so. In fact, the reason why we experience all sorts of problems in our lives is to push us into being more aware and whole with one another.

So, why must you wait for a crisis to accomplish this? Choose to grow and to be alive. A relationship is an amazing place where you can embark on this journey together. And the Intensive will facilitate this.


Take Action. Book your intensive here

Rescue your marriage

With the Imago Couples Intensive, you will get all the professional care that your marriage needs to heal and repair. Email Elmarie here or phone her at 081 559 9130

We have different options to cater to every need and every relationship. Head over to our website to find out more about our session options, upcoming workshops, or intensives.


Preparation For Imago Couples Therapy

Imago Relationship Therapy

When couples arrive at my office or workshop for counseling with Imago Relationship Therapy, they are often in a stew of anger and shock, despair and sadness. Some are newlyweds and can’t understand how they have plummeted from the heights of love and glory into a swamp of hopelessness and conflict. Others have been married for many years, and though they have been slogging along  – in calm or storm – their days of wine and roses are a dim memory, they are no less devastated by the shambles of their marriage, and the consequent lack of fulfillment in their lives. Even if live at home is relatively peaceful, couples lament that they have “nothing in common anymore”. And so they lead a disappointed or angry co-existence, each with their own friends and interests, in a marriage of convenience, or an arrangement they endure “for the sake of the children”.

They wonder if they will ever again feel love for their mate. Can they ever breach the chasm of silence, or anger, that has grown between them? Perhaps they should just cut their losses and find someone who loves and understands them, someone who offers one more chance at the love and security they long for.

Shattered dreams, whatever form the take, are painful. In seeking counseling, it is likely that you are also struggling to find love and meaning in your relationship. I assure you, as I assure other couples that have come to me, that there is hope. In fact the pain and conflict of committed relationships arise not out of love for our partners, but from misunderstanding of what love relationships are about. Your conflict can be the very fuel for the fulfillment you seek.

What’s really going on in relationships?



5 Imago tips to keep your marriage strong in 2020:

5 IMAGO tips that work!

  1. The first step in ensuring a strong and healthy marriage is to make a conscious decision to improve and maintain your marriage. Remember, what you don’t change you choose.
  2. Be an active listener when your spouse is talking; stay present in what they are saying- do not get lost in your in own thoughts. In order to ensure you heard everything that was needed to be heard, mirror back to your spouse what you heard them say. Start your mirroring by saying, “I heard you say…” and then continue by repeating what you heard.
  3. Practice your empathy by placing yourself in their shoes- this will make it easier to understand your spouse’s feelings and reactions.
  4. Be confident enough in your own feelings to be able to realize when you are feeling overwhelmed by a situation. When a situation feels too much for you, will your reaction to the situation most likely be destructive? Take a moment for yourself to calm down, take some deep breaths, and gather your thoughts about the situation at hand until you’re ready to calmly discuss it with your spouse.
  5. Most importantly, don’t forget why you fell in love in the first place with your spouse. As time progress is it quite easy to forget all the lovely things about one another, but make sure to stay aware, and in awe, of all the beautiful things of your spouse, do not make a habit thereof to overlook the good qualities. A nice addition to this step is to tell your spouse when you see something which you admire of them.

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Happy Marriage – Introduction to Imago therapy

Looking for a way to strengthen your marriage, to overcome the power struggles within your marriage, and to enjoy a happy marriage altogether? No need to search further for a solution, Imago therapy has the answers to all your questions!

What is Imago Therapy?

First off let’s start with the meaning of “Imago”; it is the Latin word for “image”. Imago therapy is based on the idea that one chooses a partner based on the images of love one begins to form at birth. Thus meaning, our imago, our picture of how love looks, is based on the love we have received from our primary caregivers.

Due to the fact of choosing a partner based on the love and care from our parents or caregivers, is it common to feel as if you and your partner have always known each other when you fall in love. The reason for this is, you and your partner have faced some of the same struggles as well as being challenged at the same stages of development. The difference between you and your partner is that each of you overcame the challenges in different ways. Where you may have decided to become quiet, your partner decided to become loud. You developed the ability to express your feelings and your partner learned themselves to ignore their feelings.

The differences between how you overcame your struggles and how your partner overcame their struggles, can cause a lot of discomfort in the marriage. Your actions make no sense to your partner and to you it seems as if your partner’s actions are deliberately careless. Although the differences can cause challenges within your marriage, don’t be fooled, it is because of the differences you fell in love with.

This is where Imago therapy comes in. Imago therapy can be described in one word, “consciousness”. With help from your Imago therapist can you become aware of your emotions and why you feel them, your partner’s emotions and why he/she feels them, and ultimately what the influence is of your emotions and the causes thereof on your marriage. When you become aware of how you learned to cope with your challenges and your partner’s coping strategies as well, will you achieve a better understanding of each other’s actions within the marriage? Through being aware of how and why your partner, as well as yourself, acts within the marriage, will you be able to make the conscious decision to understand and love them ultimately?

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Through Imago therapy will you be able to discover and develop the ability to love your partner consciously in order to enjoy a happy marriage together.

Book a session today.


Expressing your feelings in a healthy way.

Expressing your feelings in a healthy way will grow your relationship.

Quite often it can feel as if your partner does not understand what you want. No matter how
many times you tell him or her, they just don’t seem to get it. This can most probably because
of the way you are expressing your feelings. It is much easier to give recognition to the fact
that you are experiencing a feeling than it is to identify the exact feeling you are
experiencing. When you are not able to be specific about what you are feeling, it becomes
challenging to express what you want from your partner. Therefore, mixed expectations are
created which leads to unfulfilled desires.

How do I express my feelings in a healthy way?
The first step is to identify what exactly you are feeling. Do this by asking yourself: Where in
my body am I experiencing this feeling? How does this make me feel, good or bad? To help
with this, find one word to describe best what you are currently feeling, it does not have to
capture the intensity of what you are feeling, just a short, simple descriptive word. This can
be words such as; depressed, alone, sad, or worried.

After identifying what you are feeling, can you start to express it? Give the body and clarity to
your emotions by using “modifiers”.

Start expressing your emotions by defining what the word means to you. Use synonyms to
describe what you are feeling. The reason for this is, your understanding of a feeling/word is
different from how your partner understands/experience it. For example, being stressed is not
the same as your partner’s understanding of being stressed.

Learn the tools to communicate better with your partner.

After defining these emotions, describe the intensity. Are you a “little bit” angry or are you
“furious”? This will be linked to the next step; defining the duration of your emotion. State
how long you have been feeling the way you are. Here it is important to refer to a specific
time because it will help with putting your emotions into context. When placing your
emotions into context and subsequently identifying the cause, is it important to remember
not to blame your partner’s actions. Blaming your partner will only lead to self-defense, and
to them not hearing your feelings completely. Also, think about what does this feeling
reminds you of? Where in a time in your childhood have you experienced a similar emotion
or feeling? What we see is that what happened in the past has an ultimately affect on how and
what you are feeling today.

Your way of communication must be done in a “give and receive” manner. Communicate
your emotions effectively to have your needs met.

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Your differences are the reason why you are together. #7

Opposites attract!