How The Imago Dialogue Helps Couples Reconnect

The heart of Imago Relationship Therapy is the Imago Intentional Dialogue. It is in the dialogue that couples learn how to speak so that their partners can hear them; how to listen so that they may hear their partners; and how to mend the inevitable ruptures that arise in any relationship and reconnect with one another.

Basic Structure

The dialogue is structured in order to create safety for both parties. At each point there is one person speaking (“Sender”) and one listening (“Receiver”). Each plays a specific role with distinct tasks, which are described below.

Practice using the Imago Dialogue by identifying something that concerns you that you would like to share with your partner. You may want to start with something that is not a hot “trigger” for both of you as it may elicit strong emotions neither one of you is ready to handle.

A great way to start using the dialogue is to share something that you appreciate about your partner. It creates safety and connection, and it reminds you and your partner of the things you love and appreciate about each other.

For the Sender

The Sender’s role, simply, is to speak from his or her own experience focusing on how they feel and using “I” statements. No shaming or blaming their partner or focusing on what their partner did or did not do.

The Sender begins by asking for agreement to start the dialogue

I would like to dialogue about . . . Is now okay?

Once agreement is reached, the Sender focuses on his or her feelings and emotions using “I” statements:

I feel . . . I love . . .

I need . . .

What’s bothering me is . . .

After the Sender completes his or her thoughts, the Receiver steps in.

For the Receiver

The Receiver’s role is to listen attentively to the Sender and repeat back exactly what the Sender has said. Note that the Receiver does not have to agree with the statement, merely repeat it.

3 Steps to Getting the Love You Want

Step One: Mirroring

At the Mirroring Stage, the Receiver focuses on repeating what the Sender has said, completing the following sentence stems:

Let me see if I’ve got you. I heard you say . . . or You said . . .

Am I getting you? or Did I get that?

Is there more about that?

When the Sender feels there is nothing further to say, it is time for the Receiver to summarize the essence of what the sender has said:

Let me see if I got it all . . .? Am I getting you? Did I get all of that? or

Is that a good summary?

Step Two: Validation

At the Validation Stage, the Receiver steps into the Sender’s world and identifies the ways in which Sender’s actions make sense from his or her perspective.

The Receiver completes the following sentence stem:

You make sense to me, and what makes sense is . . . I can understand that . . .given that . . .

I can see how you would see it that way because sometimes I do . . .

Step Three: Empathy

At the Empathy Stage, the Receiver again steps into the Sender’s world in order to identify the feelings behind Sender’s experience.

The Receiver completes the following sentence stem:

I imagine you might be feeling . . . Is that what you’re feeling?


Adapted from

Jamie Rizzo

Jamie Rizzo

I am an LMFT serving the East Bay Area of California. My office is in Berkeley.