by Leon F Seltzer Ph.D.
6 Ways to Recreate, Not Just Salvage, Your Relationship
In my previous post, I emphasized that merely salvaging a relationship can’t lead to the kind of long-lasting change that transforms it. I argued that the primary problem with such “relationship rescuing” is that its focus is mostly on “containing” the negatives between the two beleaguered partners. But when a couple is on the verge of separation, what’s really needed is for them to fully grasp the deeper dynamics of their relational distress. Then they can pinpoint not only what’s led their couplehood to go awry but also how they need to recreate their relationship into something far more conducive to mutual happiness and contentment.
I’d like to get more specific now and delineate six ways that couples can consciously co-create a relationship offering them the emotional and mental (not to mention, physical) intimacy that’s so sadly been lacking between them. (And I’ll request that you excuse the inevitable repetition and overlap, for many of these suggestions aren’t simply complementary but deeply, inextricably, intertwined.)
In any case, here are some fundamental do’s and don’ts—or rather, don’ts and do’s:
1. Don’t try to bury your relationship past—actively explore its hurts, disappointments, and misunderstandings.
Salvaging a relationship frequently implies agreeing to ignore, or forget about, painful incidents from the past. But the problem with such “planned amnesia” is that much of what took place earlier may still be festering within you, your partner, or both of you. Whether right on the surface, or somewhere beneath it, certain memories may still harbor substantial negative residue.
Recreating your relationship entails attending to, and scrupulously striving to comprehend, past hurts—but from a far more empathic and compassionate perspective: One where the goal isn’t to evaluate or judge but to sympathetically understand and forgive. Exploring these admittedly noxious scenarios in a healthier, more healing manner enables fresh insights to emerge and assists both parties in grasping the other’s motives as less spiteful or malicious than originally assumed. It also helps past issues to get resolved in a way that couldn’t have happened earlier because your communication may have been laden with accusations and counter-accusations, verbal aggression, or hostility...