By Amanda Linan, Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Some couples who seek counseling worry that they may have waited too long. Can their relationship be saved or is it beyond repair?
That’s a tough question to answer for many reasons. Some may say it is never too late. Some may say that the end is when an affair or other betrayal happens. What I have seen and what the research through The Gottman Institute suggests is that even dying relationships can be saved.
According to Dr. John Gottman and Nan Silver in “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work,” there are four situations that could mean the end of a relationship:
- the problems seem severe to the couple,
- talking doesn’t seem to work so each person in the relationship looks for their own solutions,
- the couple leads two different lives and
- when one or both individuals feel a sense of loneliness.
Oftentimes couples in these situations will seek a divorce, some sort of betrayal will happen, or they will continue to lead two separate lives, essentially having a marriage only in name.
From my experience, couples in those situations can be saved. Whether they will or not is in large part up to the couple. If you feel you are in one of these situations, or if a betrayal has occurred, here are things you can do to try to save your relationship:
- Specialties count. Find a reliable, competent therapist that specializes in couples work. Specialists using Gottman Method Therapy is a strong bonus because you know you will be getting research- based interventions.
- Be ready to work in sesssions. Step 1 is not enough. If you and your partner decide to try therapy, you need to come to each session ready to WORK. This is not a time or place to vent and then leave. You need to show up ready to put the good of the relationship first. You need to be able to be honest and open. You need to be willing to speak about sensitive topics in a way that isn’t harmful to your partner and you need to be willing to listen about what your partner says upsets them without reacting in anger. You also need to be willing to make changes for the benefit of the relationship.
- Do your homework. You need to follow-through on whatever homework your therapist gives you and practice the tools you have been given. The therapist will help you and your partner learn to communicate and teach you new skills, and home is to implement the skills and build a positive foundation for a healthy, happy relationship.
- Friendship is key. Work to improve the friendship with your partner. Friendship is the foundation of a strong, healthy relationship. To enjoy time together, know each other, and value each other is really what is needed at the core of the relationship. Build upon that. Remind yourselves of what you used to love about the relationship in the beginning and try to recreate aspects of that. Approach each other with a renewed sense of curiosity; there is no way you know everything there is to know about your partner. Seek to learn something new and build back the joy you once shared