We are often asked what motivates us in our work to help distressed couples deal with their relationship problems and issues. The answer is surprisingly simple: we love to see dead or near-dead marriages come alive again. It is work that is hopeful and rewarding.
Couples with relationships on life support sometimes ask us if there is any sense in hoping that their marriages can ever be saved. To these couples, we reply that when the world says give up, hope says try one more time. And we share with them the following to challenge common misconceptions about healing and restoration.
1. The dying of your relationship is an invitation to growth and new life
Death is not just physical dying, but going to the full depth of things, hitting rock bottom, beyond where you are in control. Unfortunately, many couples turn bitter and look for someone to blame when their relationship hits rock bottom. If you choose instead to walk through those depths – even the depths of your own mistakes and brokenness – you and your partner will come out the other end transformed. Richard Rohr puts it best:
‘” If we are to speak of miracles, the most miraculous thing of all is that God uses the very thing that would normally destroy you—the tragic, the sorrowful, the painful, the unjust—to transform and enlighten you.’’
The dying of your relationship is an invitation to growth and new life. Rather than look for the exit signs, courageously accept the restoration gift.
2. It comes with doubts
Couples who have grown apart or long become stuck in unhealthy conflict can be forgiven for doubting whether healing is at all possible. It is OK to doubt – we all do it. But whilst the ride to restoration may be marked with doubt and uncertainty, the willingness to hope is all it takes for transformation to be sparked. Just be willing – and remember: couples who seek help early have a better chance of success.
3. It takes a tribe
All healing happens in the context of supportive relationships. The 1990s television series ‘Party of Five’ illustrated this well. It centred on the lives of five siblings who, following the loss of their parents in a car accident, develop a strong community of support around each other to both cope with and grow from their grief.
We believe the work of healing from relationship distress is likewise a partnership endeavour. It really does take a tribe. Perhaps the main value of our couple-to-couple counselling model is that it offers couples the perspectives of both a male and female therapist. Sometimes one of us will perceive things the other doesn’t; this can bring balance and enrich the therapeutic interventions.
The Party of Five series example is actually a good analogy. Healing happens in a party of five: two supportive counsellors, you and your spouse, and a God who is for you urging you to take up the invitation to mend.