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?



What is Imago?

Imago Relationship Therapy is a therapy process developed by Harville Hendrix to create safe, conscious relationships – especially marriage relationships. As he describes in his book “Getting the Love you Want” you will grow to a relationship where:

  1. You realize that your love relationship has a hidden purpose – the healing of childhood wounds. Instead of focusing entirely on surface needs and desires, you learn to recognize the unresolved childhood issues that underlie them. When you look at marriage with this X-ray vision, your daily interactions take on more meaning. Puzzling aspects of your relationship begin to make sense to you, and you have a greater sense of control.
  2. You create a more accurate image of your partner. At the very moment of attraction, you began fusing your lover with your primary caretakers. Later you projected your negative traits onto your partner, further obscuring your partner’s essential reality. As you move toward a conscious marriage, you gradually let go of these illusions and begin to see more of your partner’s truth. You see your partner not as your savior but as another wounded human being, struggling to be healed.
  3. You take responsibility for communicating your needs and desires to your partner. In an unconscious marriage, you cling to the childhood belief that your partner automatically intuits your needs. In a conscious marriage, you accept the fact that, in order to understand each other, you have to develop clear channels of communication.
  4. You become more intentional in your interactions. (more…)

Navigating Affair Recovery: Healing and Renewal with Imago Relationship Therapy


Affair recovery is a challenging journey filled with emotional turmoil and shattered trust. In the aftermath of an affair, couples face immense hurdles in rebuilding their relationship. However, Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT) offers a beacon of hope, providing a path towards healing, restoring trust, and creating a stronger partnership. This blog post explores the profound benefits of IRT in affair recovery, equipping couples with the tools and support needed to navigate this complex process.

Creating a Safe Space for Healing:

In the aftermath of an affair, both partners are grappling with intense emotions. Imago Relationship Therapy provides a safe and non-judgmental environment for partners to express their pain, share their emotions, and explore the underlying causes of the affair. With the guidance of a therapist, couples can foster empathy, understanding, and begin the healing process.

Understanding the Root Causes:

Imago Relationship Therapy delves deep into the underlying factors that contributed to the affair. By exploring unmet needs, unresolved issues, and breakdowns in communication, couples gain a deeper understanding of the relationship dynamics that fueled the affair. This newfound awareness allows for healing and growth, providing a solid foundation for rebuilding trust.

Rebuilding Trust and Transparency:

Transparency, honesty, and accountability are crucial aspects of affair recovery. Imago Relationship Therapy offers a structured framework for rebuilding trust. Open communication, establishing new agreements, and addressing concerns and fears are essential components of the healing process. With time and commitment, trust can be restored, paving the way for a renewed connection.

Developing Effective Communication Skills:

Effective communication is the cornerstone of affair recovery. Imago Relationship Therapy equips couples with constructive communication techniques to navigate difficult conversations related to the affair. Active listening, validating emotions, and expressing needs and concerns in a healthy and productive manner enable partners to rebuild a foundation of trust and understanding.

Healing Past Wounds and Trauma:

The aftermath of an affair leaves emotional wounds that require healing. Imago Relationship Therapy provides a supportive environment for individuals and couples to process the emotional impact of the affair. By addressing past wounds, traumas, and insecurities, partners can heal, rebuild self-esteem, and cultivate personal growth.

Rediscovering Emotional Connection:

Imago Relationship Therapy focuses on rebuilding emotional intimacy and connection between partners. Through exercises and strategies like the “Couple’s Dialogue,” couples foster vulnerability, empathy, and understanding. These practices facilitate a deeper emotional bond, enabling partners to reconnect and move forward together.

Working Towards Forgiveness and Moving Forward:

The journey of affair recovery often involves forgiveness. Imago Relationship Therapy supports this process by fostering understanding and empathy. By exploring the underlying factors that contributed to the affair, partners can develop compassion towards themselves and their significant other. Personal growth and a renewed commitment to the relationship become possible, guiding couples towards a brighter future.


Imago Relationship Therapy offers a guiding light in the challenging process of affair recovery. By providing a safe space for healing, understanding the root causes, rebuilding trust and transparency, developing effective communication skills, healing past wounds, rediscovering emotional connection, and working towards forgiveness, couples can navigate the path to healing and renewal. If you and your partner are navigating affair recovery, consider seeking the guidance of a qualified Imago Relationship Therapist. Together, you can rebuild trust, cultivate personal growth, and create a thriving partnership filled with love and connection.


Imago Relationship Therapy: Transform Conflict in Marriage


Conflict is an inevitable part of any relationship, especially in marriages. However, conflicts can also serve as opportunities for growth and deeper connection if addressed constructively. Imago Relationship Therapy (IRT) offers a transformative approach to conflict resolution, enabling couples to heal past wounds, improve communication, and strengthen emotional bonds. In this blog post, we will explore the key benefits of IRT and how it can help couples create a thriving and harmonious partnership.

Understanding the Root of Conflict:

Imago Relationship Therapy recognizes that conflicts are often rooted in unresolved childhood experiences and unmet needs. By identifying the emotional triggers and patterns that contribute to recurring conflicts, couples gain valuable insights into their dynamics. Through IRT, partners learn to view conflict as an opportunity to heal and understand each other better, fostering empathy and compassion.

Enhanced Communication Skills:

IRT equips couples with effective communication tools and techniques that promote understanding and empathy. Active listening, validation, and mirroring techniques are emphasized to ensure partners feel heard and validated. Dialogue exercises create a safe and supportive space for constructive conversations, enabling couples to express their thoughts, feelings, and needs openly.

Strengthening Emotional Connection:

Imago Relationship Therapy focuses on reestablishing emotional connections between partners. Through exercises like the “Couples Dialogue,” couples learn to express vulnerability, deepening their emotional bonds and fostering intimacy. The therapy encourages partners to acknowledge and meet each other’s emotional needs, creating a sense of belonging and acceptance within the relationship.

Healing Past Wounds:

One of the significant benefits of IRT is its ability to address unresolved traumas and wounds from the past. By understanding and processing past experiences, individuals and couples can heal and move forward. Imago Relationship Therapy promotes self-awareness and personal growth, enabling individuals to break free from negative relationship patterns and create healthier dynamics.

Building a Conscious and Intentional Partnerships with Imago:

Imago Relationship Therapy empowers couples to become more conscious and intentional in their relationship. It emphasizes co-creating a shared vision, values, and goals for the future. Through IRT, partners learn to align their aspirations and develop a deeper understanding of each other’s needs, fostering harmony, satisfaction, and mutual support.

Long-lasting Results of Imago Relationship Therapy:

The benefits of Imago Relationship Therapy extend far beyond the therapy sessions. The skills and insights gained can be applied throughout the lifespan of the relationship, ensuring long-term satisfaction and preventing future conflicts. By equipping couples with effective conflict resolution strategies and communication skills, IRT provides a solid foundation for maintaining a thriving partnership.


Imago Relationship Therapy offers a powerful and transformative approach to resolving conflict and creating a healthy, thriving relationship. By recognizing the root causes of conflicts, enhancing communication skills, strengthening emotional connections, healing past wounds, and building a conscious partnership, couples can experience long-lasting benefits. If you and your partner are struggling with conflict, consider seeking the guidance of a qualified Imago Relationship Therapist. Take the first step towards transforming your relationship and cultivating a deeper, more fulfilling connection.


The relationship cycle

Have you ever wondered why love sometimes feels wonderful and sometimes it is one of your worst nightmares?

Sometimes I hear people say: Life is a song, I have discovered the love of my life! Sometimes people say: I tried hard, but I wasn’t made for a relationship. It doesn’t work for me!

Research shows that relationships move in a cycle.

All relationships start with the in-love phase. Being in love can either be an exuberant recognition, or it can just be a quiet homecoming. In this phase, the Imago starts in and binds two different people.

After committing, couples move on to the power struggle. The power struggle is the place you realize: We are not the same. You are different from me. Initially, it was a big shock, because, while being in love, you were convinced you are the same: the same dreams, ideals, love the same holidays, etc. But suddenly you realize we each have our own reality. One deals with conflict, with silence, and the other with noise. One thinks we should spend more time with friends, the other feels it should be just the two of us. In the power struggle, there is only one solution: You are wrong, and I am right. You are wrong. It then becomes a power struggle: Who is right and who is wrong? In the Imago theory, we see that the power struggle is necessary and normal. It is an intelligent process. (read more about this). The power struggle can be a silent decency or it can be intense fighting.



The power struggle couple then moves over to the survival phase. One suddenly realizes I’m not going to get you to be like me. (more…)

Hendrien van der Bijl

How to implement your relationship vision?

“Your vision is your dream of the whole relationship as you want it to be. Goals are part of the vision that must be implemented to bring your vision into reality. To dream is essential, but to dream without a plan is fruitless.”



If you have some experience with Imago relationship therapy, you would know that to have a relationship vision and a plan to help you make that vision a reality is a very big part of our work.

We encourage couples to have a relationship goal or vision in order for them to know what is it that they want/wish for in a relationship. And then it is our goal as Imago Therapists to support couples to start putting together a plan in order to achieve that.

“Your relationship Vision brings purpose and direction to your relationship. If you haven’t found them yet, it makes it clear for you to see what you desire, where you are going, and what gifts and contributions you bring.” 


It is important to have a goal/vision/dream for your relationship. Because if you have a vision it gives life purpose. Then it makes today a very important day. Without a vision, today just becomes like any other day and there is nothing that makes it special. Just like anything in life, having goals set out helps you to stay on track and help you to make better decisions. It can help you see each day as a new opportunity to help you get closer to your goal.

So, it is important to know what it is that you and your partner need/ want or desire within your relationship because then we can explore together what the relationship is really about and give us a sense of direction. Without a vision for your relationship, we can remain aimless and frustrated because we are not getting what we want or we start to think we chose the wrong partner.

Marlene Tillhon wrote about how you can start writing a relationship vision of your own:

Check for Compatibility

A Relationship Vision helps you to check for compatibility: identify and compare your wishes, needs, views, and values so you can find out in which areas you and your partner differ. Once you know, you are able to figure out ways to complement each other and play to each other’s strengths.

Become a Team

We unite when we consciously work on a shared Relationship Vision. We bond over creating and working towards common short and long-term goals. We become part of a team that supports, motivates, and encourages each other. We both take responsibility for our relationship and take charge of moving it in a joint values-guided direction.

Unite in Love

When we unite in love we start to pull together. We start to become we-centered rather than me-centered. We start to create something bigger than ourselves. We start to fulfill our need for belonging.

Researcher Robert Levenson and colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, found that couples, who use the pronoun ‘we’ when talking about their relationship or when trying to resolve conflict are usually happier, calmer, more emotionally open and connected and experience less negative stress arousal than those who use the pronouns ‘you’, ‘me’ and ‘I’.

Whereas ‘we’ leads to connection, ‘you’ indicates separateness. ‘We’ strengthens trust and enhances affection. It shows us that we are not separate, no longer alone. ‘We’ are together. ‘We’ are a team.  ‘We’ sets in motion a connectedness program in our minds and bodies so instead of retreating into our threat systems we can relax, grow and open up to love.

Create a Dream

A Relationship Vision serves as a perfect guide to a shared life together. We are creating a plan and starting to work together as a team towards shared goals based on shared values. It serves as a vision of the perfect relationship we want to create for ourselves and our partner.

This is the perfect opportunity to be totally honest with ourselves and conjure up the most amazing relationship we can possibly imagine. We can face our expectations with honesty and get to know our deepest hopes and desires. At this point, we are not interested in the hows. We just want to imagine what we believe our most perfect relationship would look like.

Once we know, we can evaluate how possible, realistic and healthy our expectations are. From that point on we have an idea we can share with our partners to see how compatible our dreams are. We aim to be open-minded about our partner’s dreams so we can balance their needs with ours. And then we’re off creating our joint dream …

Love with Intention

In order to create something we truly value and love, we must first be clear about what it is that we want. It is too vague to ask for a happy and loving relationship. We must be clear about what ‘happy and loving’ looks like as ‘happy and loving’ can be expressed in many different ways. At this point, the ‘how’ comes in. Once you have a joint dream, we have to develop a clear mission that supports it. We need to identify priorities and employ helpful strategies and tasks to make it happen – one day at a time.

How shall I write it?

Phrase every statement

in the present tense

in a positive way – say what you want, not what you don’t want

by starting with ‘we’

being specific, concrete, and detailed

Here’s an example:

“We go out one night a week by ourselves to spend quality time together and engage in activities we both enjoy such as bowling or eating at a restaurant.”

Consider the following areas affecting your relationship and explore what you want from them:

  • romance and dating
  • companionship
  • attachment and connection
  • intimacy and sexuality
  • communication and conflict resolution
  • personal growth and individuality
  • family, children, and parenting
  • friends
  • money and economic considerations
  • work and education

Other questions to can ask yourself to get to know yourself and your needs better:

  • What do you want your life to be about?
  • In which ways do you feel supported?
  • What fulfills you?
  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • In which ways do you struggle?
  • What makes you feel loved?
  • What do you value?
  • How do you like to support others?
  • How do you express and show your love?
  • How do you support your partner?
  • How open are you to deal with uncomfortable feelings?

This may sound like a lot of effort for a silly exercise. But to have a relationship vision is a very important aspect of a relationship and important if you want to move forward and to achieve that vision you have been dreaming about.

It is possible to turn this vision into a reality. If you are interested in setting up a relationship vision with the help of a professional contact us today to book your session in order for us to explore your and your partner’s visions in depth.

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: