Imago is the Latin word for "image", and here refers to the unconscious image we form in childhood of what someone who loves us will be like with us. Our IMAGO reflects the positive and negative characteristics of our caregivers coupled with how they interacted with us as children. When we grow up and begin to scan the world for someone to love us, the closer the match between the person and our inner image, the more powerful the attraction will be.

With the IMAGO blue-print in place, inevitably we will choose someone who bears a remarkable resemblance to our caretakers, someone who loves us but also, at times, hurts or re-wounds us – in the same familiar ways in which our parents did. For example, if we had a parent who was encouraging and yet critical, we will likely choose a partner who can be supportive and reassuring but who can also be condescending or critical.

That we unconsciously recreate the dynamics of our childhood may seem depressing and fatalistic at first glance. And you may be wondering why the hurt and betrayal we suffer from someone we deeply love can only be completely healed by the person who caused the pain.

The answer lies in Imago theory's basic premise: that the true purpose of adult relationships is to come together in order to help one another uncover and heal the worn-out emotional and behavioral patterns that keep showing up and getting in the way of getting the love you both want and deserve. To this endeavor, we unconsciously choose someone who will re-wound us in old, familiar ways to give us, with the help of our Imago partner , a second chance to heal the pain we have been carrying for most of our lives – long before our partner showed up.

In addition, our Imago partner will carry "lost parts" of our authentic selves that we had to repress as children in order to be loved or feel safe. Like clockwork, we will choose someone who carries and expresses those very parts of ourselves we had to give up. If, for example, we had to be very quiet, we will likely be attracted to someone who is animated or very social. If we had to keep our opinions to ourselves, we will couple with an out-spoken person – in other words, opposites tend to attract.

At first, it can feel wonderful. It’s as if we have all of our parts together at one time, especially the ones we lost and have now found. But - and there is a "but" - eventually we turn on our partner for the very qualities that we fell in love with. Being vivacious slowly becomes "Why do you always have to get so excitable about everything?" Being peaceful and serene becomes "Why do you always have to be so quiet, so boring?"

The reason for this has to do with that we cannot accept in another what we cannot accept in ourselves. But as part of the step-by- step healing process in Imago Therapy, we are better able to reclaim our lost parts and support one another to be our authentic selves within the relationship. We may not always like everything about our partner but we come to accept and live with our differences in a respectful, loving way.