An Oregon Marriage Counseling Tip: Take Recovery Time and Have a “Do-Over”

April 7, 2010 by

I’ve learned from years of Oregon marriage counseling that most couples come to learn communication skills to resolve their conflicts. The best skill I know of to accomplish this is the Imago Dialogue, created by Harville Hendrix. It allows both people to deeply listen to their partner and share their viewpoint on issues without criticism or blaming. When used during conflict it is transformative, and using the dialogue is low cost marriage counseling! In fact it is free.

Even the most practiced skills can go right out the window when a couple has an argument. A common pattern that couples experience during conflict is for one person to create distance by closing down (the Minimizer in Imago terms) while the other pursues and, figuratively speaking, smothers their partner (The Maximizer). The style of each partner triggers the others defensive response. The more the Minimizer distances from their partner, the more the Maximizer pursues them and visa versa.

Do it Yourself Oregon Marriage Counseling: the Do-Over

What can couples do when they find themselves triggered and defensive? Have a “do-over”! Here’s how it works:

  1. First, breathe deeply—this helps partners to self-soothe and calm down. After doing this if both partners feel ready, begin the “re-do” and use your dialogue skills. If not, go to step
  2. Take Recovery Time—if both or either partner is too “hot” or flooded with emotion, take a time out. Set a time you will be willing to come back for the “re-do”. This is crucial! Bad habits make the Minimizer avoid coming back and working it through and the Maximizer to go into pursuit mode. The fight will start again and both will feel discouraged, re-injured and defended.
  3. Minimizer should initiate—It usually works best for the Minimizer to initiate the “re-do” dialogue. This allows the Minimizer to feel safe enough to share their viewpoint and gives the Maximizer reassurance that the issue will be addressed. Over time both partners will come to know that arguments don’t need to derail their friendship and romance. Remember, Do-Overs=low cost marriage counseling.

If you would like to learn more about your defensive styles and what you can do about them I recommend taking our Imago couples workshop called Getting The Love You Want Workshop. To develop your relationship skills even further consider marriage counseling with an Imago Relationship therapist. 

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