Helping Couples Find A Connection

Helping Couples Find A Connection:

An Interview With Dr. Harville Hendrix

by Diane Cowen, Copyright 2009, Houston Chronicle April 23, 2009

Cowen: "Getting the Love You Want was published in 1988. Has much changed in 20 years?"

Hendrix: "The major statistical change is that there are more households of unmarried couples than of married couples. Also, there's an increasing cultural consciousness of the need and value of marriage education and that there are resources for help."

Cowen: "Your Imago Relationship Therapy focuses on traditional communication skills mirroring, validating and empathizing. How is it different from other therapy?"

Hendrix: "I've always had difficulty reducing it to a word. It helps couples become conscious of the impact of the past on the present. Their childhoods are active in the conflict of the present."

Cowen: "Can you explain the effect of a person's childhood?"

Hendrix: "There are two patterns of wounding by a parent or caretaker: being emotionally or physically unavailable, or a pattern of invasiveness. Invasiveness is when the parent is always telling the child how to behave, what to think. Those two patterns create all the defenses."

Cowen: "What are the problems couples most commonly bring to you?"

Hendrix: "A ruptured connection. That's the problem that crosses all relationships. There's a deep yearning for connection in a relationship, but no knowledge of how to establish and maintain that."

Cowen: "Your Web site refers to couples in crisis. What are their most common crises?"

Hendrix: "Sex and money. Those are the presenting circumstances, managing affection and resources. But what's underneath that, producing stress, is negativity. We get couples to shift to an affirmative relationship. Then you can move toward a co-created resolution."

Cowen: "Is there a time in marriage when problems begin? Is the seven-year itch truth or myth?"

Hendrix: "Helen Fisher, who is a cultural anthropologist, says the itch begins in the fourth year and is evolutionary. I think she's right about that. Divorces tend to occur around the seventh, 14th and 21st years of marriage. Every seventh year is critical."

Cowen: "Are relationship fundamentals different for religious couples?"

Hendrix: "Many couples who are faith-based depend on their faith and beliefs and, sometimes, on faith community support when they have difficulty. We offer our method as a way to operationalize the teaching of love. When we frame it as that the great healer is love the faith-based community is very interested."

Cohen: "If the divorce rate has remained constant, do spiritual couples have a better track record of staying together?"

Hendrix: "The people who do the counting of such things say that in religion, the people at extremes, those the most conservative and most liberal, have slightly higher divorce rates. The more stable marriages are among people in the middle. No one really knows why."

Cowen: "Do both people in the couple have to practice your method for it to work?"

Hendrix: "One person can make a tremendous difference. For years I said that you can't have a tennis game with only one person playing. Now I use the analogy that if one player changes his serve, the other has to shift."

Cowen: "And that works?"

Hendrix: "The other partner will become curious and the negative energy will go down most of the time. About 25 percent of the time one person might leave the relationship because they're too committed to the old game. But statistically, though, more partners stay."

Visit Dr. Hendrix's Website