You hear it time and time again…

“You’re acting just like my mother!”

“I don’t need two fathers, thank you very much!”

“I feel so alone in this marriage… like I did when I was a child.”

Your Imago match

According to relationship psychologist Harville Hendrix, most people are attracted to mates who have their caregiver’s positive and negative traits. He coined the term ‘Imago’ from the Latin word for image, which he describes in his classic book, Getting the Love You Want. It’s the image of our caregivers that’s impressed in our unconscious that drives our partner selection—for better or for worse.

And, unfortunately, in most of Hendrix’s cases, the traits that matched up most closely between caregivers and partners were the negative ones. This is pretty bizarre, right?! If your parents wounded you by being overly controlling, the natural solution would be to choose a mate who gives you plenty of freedom and space.

But yet, more often than not, people choose just the opposite. They choose overbearing, controlling partners who resemble their parents.

Why on earth would we do this?

Well, for starters, it’s not our conscious minds that are at play in this scenario. No, it’s the unconscious that drives this type of behavior; and most of the time, we don’t even realize what’s happening until we find ourselves in a relationship that resembles the one we knew as we grew up.

And that’s exactly what happened to Mike and me.

Mike is my Imago match.

My friends used to laugh and say that my type was the “sensitive pony-tailed man.” And sans the ponytail, Mike was all of these things… sensitive, creative, artistic… kinda like my dad. He was also critical, like my dad, which felt comfortable to me.

Mike also can be stoic and withdrawn. This reminded me of my mom, who wasn’t always forthcoming with her emotions. On the positive side, Mike is also very loyal and committed, which was a lot like my mom.

I am Mike’s Imago match

Mike saw me as charismatic and “a mover and a shaker,” like his dad. I was also a little hot under the collar and bossy (I know, I’m working on it), and this was also like Mike’s dad.

I was also the “good girl,” Christian and somewhat conservative, like his mom. I also have a tendency to be the martyr, saddled with responsibility, which is like his mom as well—a working, single parent. I also have his mom’s sense of humor and love of laughter.

Now, it may seem maddening to be in a relationship with someone who resembles your caregivers. But it actually presents a huge opportunity for your mutual healing, which we’ll cover later in the next post.

▷▷▷ Part 3: The Power Struggle

How about you?

Is your partner your Imago match? Do they bear any resemblance to your caregivers? I’d love to hear all about your experience in the comments below.

Learn more about IMAGO and find a therapist at: