In previous blogs, I’ve talked a lot about the importance of dialoguing with your partner, and as a Houston marriage counselor and IMAGO therapist, I regularly help train people to engage in their dialogues. But one thing I’ve noticed is that the biggest challenge for many people is just initiating a dialogue in the first place. They may be nervous about how their partner will respond, worried that the conversation will seem unnatural, or just plain uncomfortable about starting anything.

Today I’d like to briefly talk about what couples can do to make that initiation easier.

First of All, What Is a Dialogue?

Before we get into the “how”, let’s back up and go over the “what” of the IMAGO dialogue.

According to IMAGO therapy founder Harville Hendrix, any good dialogue has three components: mirroring, validating, and empathizing. When you mirror, you listen closely to what your partner has to say and reflect their emotions. You validate them by processing and understanding the logic of what they’re saying, and you empathize by experiencing the emotions behind what they’re saying.

Dialogues are most effective when partners take turns being the “sender” and “receiver”. By engaging in these dialogues on a regular basis, couples can gain a greater understanding of who their partner is and ultimately become closer.

How to Start Dialoguing

Decide who will initiate. When you and your partner first decide to practice dialoguing, it may be easiest to designate who will start each day so you don’t both end up waiting for the other person to begin. Trade off so the same person doesn’t have the responsibility of initiating every time.

Pick a consistent time to dialogue. Find a time every day when you and your partner are alone and in a good state of mind to begin a dialogue. Maybe you and your partner won’t feel like dialoguing as soon as you get home from work, but you might feel prepared while you’re going for a walk together in the evening or getting ready to go to bed. Whatever time you choose, be consistent about dialoguing during that time every day—it will help you remember and put you in the right frame of mind.

Remind yourself why you want to dialogue. If you’re uncomfortable initiating a dialogue at first, take a moment to remind yourself why you’re doing this. Relationships take work and need to be given regular attention. You love your partner and want to make your relationship stronger, and dialoguing on a consistent basis is a great way to do this.

Talk to a Houston marriage counselor for more tips. Want to learn more about dialoguing and other IMAGO therapy exercises? Make an appointment to visit my Houston marriage counseling center, or visit the IMAGO Works website to learn more before you come in.