How Do Couples Heal?
Updated: Nov 23, 2022
To discuss how couples heal without looking first at how couples deteriorate might be premature.
Coupleships form when two people meet and begin to develop an interest in each other. Usually, they begin in the typical “honeymoon” phase where everything just seems to work out well. There is excitement, genuine interest in learning about the other, and usually, a sense of having finally found someone who understands and appreciates us.
Each couple develops organically differently. There is no exact timeframe or structure that every couple follows. According to Brides.com “most couples date for two or more years before getting engaged, with many dating anywhere from two to five years. Once the question is popped, the average length of engagement is between 12 and 18 months.” https://bedbible.com/breakup-statistics/
As the coupleship evolves, and evolve it must, and I don’t know exactly why this happens, I just notice that it does seem to happen, many times, the things we were attracted to become annoyances. Maybe Jenny appeared extremely social and jubilant when we met, now after a couple of years and perhaps after a few career setbacks, that social ability and happy-go-lucky attitude look more like neediness and immaturity. Or maybe Joe’s strong work ethic begins to look more and more like selfish greediness. Who knows all the things that go from being a strength and asset to a pain in the butt?
Again, I don’t know why this happens or if it happens to everyone, but I meet a lot of couples that admit it does happen.
Compliments and kindnesses get exchanged for criticism and dreaded “to-do” lists. The sense of novelty wears off and the things that we initially found interesting may have lost their luster.
The couple, many times without knowing, gets caught up in the middle of a culture clash. In-laws, relatives, siblings, all get caught up in the mix. Outside influences begin to push decisions on to the couple, if children come along, relatives want to exert their influence. Grandparents want to put in their two cents. Many times, couples go along with compromises which usually turn out to become resentments. Many of these things seem to happen at the speed of light and before you know it, the marriage is under extreme stress and disorder.
At this point, it is common for each spouse to begin to blame the other for the stress and problems in the marriage. It is not uncommon for one or both spouses to begin to look for stress relief from very destructive things like drugs, alcohol, sex outside the marriage, workaholism, compulsive spending, lavish vacations, etc. These things seem to provide temporary relief. Unfortunately, they have very harmful side effects and consequences.
So, this is just a simple example of how I’ve seen couples get damaged. This is usually where I see the couples for the first time. They are bewildered, lost, and in pain. By this time, communication is either almost nonexistent or very dysfunctional. Divorce is the only solution that they can seem to envision. Yet, neither usually wants to divorce. They want to get better, but they have no idea how to do it.
Now. How do couples heal?
Again, this is difficult to explain because not every case is the same.
Usually, the first thing that happens is that Michelle and I tell our story with all its ugly details. We’ve been where many of these couples have been. We’ve waged the wars, used ineffective tools to resolve issues painfully, injuriously. We explain that we are no longer living on that battlefield of blame, pain, and misery.
If the couple is interested, we show them how to make a safe place to get better. We help them build this safe place. They don’t have to do anything alone.
Once a safe place is built, so to speak, we move on to demonstrate how family-of-origin issues are playing out in their marriage or coupleship. They begin to understand the many forces at play in their troubled relationship. The blaming diminishes. They begin to see themselves as allies again. They begin to feel a sense of hope. We show them how to laugh again, how to see themselves as worthy of happiness. We show them that no problem is too big to be overcome. We begin to seek solutions and opportunities for collaboration.
We work on practical, realistic, healthy communication skills. We demonstrate them not just teach them. We gladly give them every resource we’ve been given over the last 9+ years.
We work through developing trust if betrayal was present. We find solutions for financial problems. We teach the couple how to find resources outside themselves to support their ongoing healing. The coupleship learns how to make amends to others outside the marriage and then how to help other couples if they feel so inclined.
All of this can happen quickly when the couple is truly motivated to regain the love, they once felt for each other. There is no problem that cannot be solved, no pain that cannot be healed.
If this is something that you hope for in your marriage/coupleship please reach out and let’s see if we can’t get you back into the permanent honeymoon phase!