Relationship Realities: The safety and the challenge of adult love relationships! by Herb Tannenbaum, Ph.D.

Our romantic relationship are driven by many factors. Two of the most important dynamics that couples need to understand and appreciate are the need for safety and the need to grow and expand consciousness.

Imago Relationship Therapy was developed by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D and Helen LaKelly-Hunt. The underpinnings of Imago Relationship Therapy are expanded in the best selling book Getting The Love You Want by Hendrix and Hunt.

Imago theory postulates that the purpose of adult love relationships is to heal childhood wounds so that the psyche can utilize energy to expand consciousness and achieve a sense of full aliveness. So, what is needed for this to happen? Our adult love relationships need to have an aspect of security. A secure attachment includes a sense of reliability and warmth. Development psychologist have researched and documented the importance of secure attachment to an infant and child’s development and that need is timeless.

Romantic Love facilitates a sense of attachment as couples bond and experience a sense of timelessness, recognition and familiarity in their partner. What is really happening? The unconscious is sensing a recognition of the person with whom we are falling in love. The psyche is timeless and as it senses the familiarity of the character traits of our partners romantic love blinds us. It allows us to only see the positives in our partner and blinds us of seeing the character traits which we may find disturbing or rewounding.

The paradox is that the psyche is much more interested in the rewounding that we will inevitable experience. Not because we want to be rewounded, but because we are in a relationship of our choosing we can choose to learn more about our partners and them to learn more about us and our wounds and what we need for healing. When we receive the healing the behaviors we need from our partner the psyche because it is timeless does not discriminate the past from the present. It only knows that it is being healed and that is what it yearns for. It makes us very special to our partners and a unique source of safety

Thus, the challenge we all need to accept as partners is that in order to cooperate and help our partners heal, we will need to understand our partners needs and be willing to stretch are behavior repertoire to incorporate behaviors that will help our partner heal and feel safe.  The truth is, we can only feel as safe in a relationship as we make our partner feel. There is no negotiation on that.

We are challenged by our mission, yet it is this challenge that really makes our adult love relationships so special because in stretching to heal our partners and them us each partner reclaims lost, denied or disowned parts of themselves and regain the energy that has been used to repress or deny these aspects of our being.

This is a big deal! It helps provide a better understanding of the purpose and dynamics of adult love relationships and gives a road map for couples to cooperate with their partners’ and their own unconscious to help created the relationship of their dreams and move beyond the inertia and despair of the power struggle.


Herb Tannenbaum, Ph.D. is a certified Imago Therapist and a member of the faculty of the Institute for Imago Relationship Therapy. He can be contacted at






Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s