*FREE* Pre-Engagement Counseling E-course- 5 Things You Need to Know Before You Get Married, Installment #3

In the last installment of our Pre-Engagement Counseling E-course5 Things You Need to Know Before You Get Married, you learned about your relationship style and how the way you express your energy to make yourself safe has the opposite effect on your partner. This installment of the Pre-Engagement Counseling E-course will discuss the 3rd thing you need to know before you get married, the Imago Dialogue.

Pre-Engagement Counseling E-course Lesson #3 The Imago Dialogue

We mentioned in the last installment that creating safety in your relationship is the key to breaking the turtle/hailstorm pattern. When both sides feel safe they do not need to run away or attack to protect themselves. One of the best ways to create safety is through the Imago Dialogue.

The best candidates for dialogue

Engaged or newly married couples are often perfect candidates for learning the dialogue because they are usually less jaded and more motivated to learning new things to benefit their relationship. It can be fun to relate to each other in this new way. My wife and I sure wish someone had taught us about the dialogue process before we had to wait two years into our marriage. It would have helped us prevent small miscommunications from blowing up. It also could have helped us process our feelings when we were hurt. Finally, it would have helped us not take everything so personally when we realized that when the other is sharing it is primarily something we triggered in them from their own world.

How to dialogue

Here is a very concise summary of how it works. The first thing you want to do is make sure it is a good time to talk. The best way to do this is to arrange a time when you can both sit down and focus on each other.

Next, you want to choose who will be doing the talking. In a dialogue there is a sender- the one talking, and a receiver- the one listening. The dialogue process allows the sender to feel truly heard.  This is accomplished by having the receiver mirror what the sender says. The receiver simply repeats or paraphrases what their spouse says and then asks if they got it (“Did I get you?”), and if there is more (“Is there more?”) they want to share. This continues until the sender says everything they want to express.

After you have fully mirrored your spouse and there is no more he/she wants to share about the topic, you have reached the validation component of the Dialogue. This is when you let your spouse know that “what you said makes sense.” This does not necessarily mean that you agree, rather it is acknowledging that you understood him/her and accept that what he/she said is valid from their point of view.

Finally, it is time for empathy. This is where you truly get in your partner’s shoes.” I imagine you might be feeling … Is that right?” Try to pick two emotions that you think he/she is feeling and check in.

While there are some more advanced components to the dialogue as well as some deepening work that can be done with the help of a skilled facilitator, this installment of the Pre-Engagement Counseling E-course is to give you basic tools for safe communication.

Benefits for the listener

The dialogue creates safety because it requires the listener to hold their fire. While it requires a lot of discipline not to respond, it is worth the effort. It allows you to remain calm and not slip into reactivity. It gets you to feel safe enough to hear what the other is saying without taking it as a personal attack. Instead of every interchange penetrating your heart like a dagger, chipping away at your sense of well-being, you are holding up a mirror to reflect and deflect.

Benefits for the sender

Mirroring is also beneficial for the one being mirrored. Whenever there is conflict, reactivity, or resistance in a relationship, it is a sign that somebody is feeling unsafe. Mirroring defuses the emotional charge from the other side and allows one to feel safe. Your spouse no longer needs to prove his point or protect himself by being reactive. He feels that you heard him. The experience one feels when they are heard in a compassionate way is very calming. It moves us away from the reactive part of our brain into a more cognitive place.

Next time you are about to “turtle” or “hailstorm”, make a time to dialogue. It will help you relate to your partner in a more mature and adult way. Every relationship has issues and if you were to merely focus on problem-solving, once you solve one, another will arise. Learning this skill set that enables you to work through your issues in a safe and connected way is much more valuable.

Summary of what you learned in Lesson 3 of the Pre-Engagement Counseling E-course

  • The Dialogue process can help you avoid a lot of unnecessary hurt in your relationship.
  • There are three parts: mirroring, validation, and empathy
  • The listener, by not responding, is able to become safe and not take things personally
  • The sender, by feeling heard, is able to become safe and not feel the need to prove his/her point.
  • While you may have many issues, the key is to learn how to work with them.

I hope you’ve enjoyed lesson #3 of The Pre-Engagement Counseling E-course. If you need more assistance with your engagement and want to make sure you have all the tools necessary for your upcoming marriage, please don’t hesitate to call 443-570-7598.